Memories and Studies, by William James

XV

A PLURALISTIC MYSTIC26

Not for the ignoble vulgar do I write this article, but only for those dialectic-mystic souls who have an irresistible taste, acquired or native, for higher flights of metaphysics. I have always held the opinion that one of the first duties of a good reader is to summon other readers to the enjoyment of any unknown author of rare quality whom he may discover in his explorations. Now for years my own taste, literary as well as philosophic, has been exquisitely titillated by a writer the name of whom I think must be unknown to the readers of this article; so I no longer continue silent about the merits of Benjamin Paul Blood.

Mr. Blood inhabits a city otherwise, I imagine, quite unvisited by the Muses, the town called Amsterdam, situated on the New York Central Railroad. What his regular or bread-winning occupation may be I know not, but it can’t have made him super-wealthy. He is an author only when the fit strikes him, and for short spurts at a time; shy, moreover, to the point of publishing his compositions only as private tracts, or in letters to such far-from-reverberant organs of publicity as the Gazette or the Recorder of his native Amsterdam, or the Utica Herald or the Albany Times. Odd places for such subtile efforts to appear in, but creditable to American editors in these degenerate days! Once, indeed, the lamented W. T. Harris of the old “Journal of Speculative Philosophy” got wind of these epistles, and the result was a revision of some of them for that review (Philosophic Reveries, 1889). Also a couple of poems were reprinted from their leaflets by the editor of Scribner’s Magazine (“The Lion of the Nile,” 1888, and| “Nemesis,” 1899). But apart from these three dashes before the footlights, Mr. Blood has kept behind the curtain all his days.27

The author’s maiden adventure was the Anoesthetic Revelation, a pamphlet printed privately at Amsterdam in 1874. I forget how it fell into my hands, but it fascinated me so “weirdly” that I am conscious of its having been one of the stepping-stones of my thinking ever since. It gives the essence of Blood’s philosophy, and shows most of the features of his talent — albeit one finds in it little humor and no verse. It is full of verbal felicity, felicity sometimes of precision, sometimes of metaphoric reach; it begins with dialectic reasoning, of an extremely Fichtean and Hegelian type, but it ends in a trumpet-blast of oracular mysticism, straight from the insight wrought by anaesthetics — of all things in the world — and unlike anything one ever heard before. The practically unanimous tradition of “regular” mysticism has been unquestionably monistic; and inasmuch as it is the characteristic of mystics to speak, not as the scribes, but as men who have “been there” and seen with their own eyes, I think that this sovereign manner must have made some other pluralistic-minded students hesitate, as I confess that it has often given pause to me. One cannot criticise the vision of a mystic — one can but pass it by, or else accept it as having some amount of evidential weight. I felt unable to do either with a good conscience until I met with Mr. Blood. His mysticism, which may, if one likes, be understood as monistic in this earlier utterance, develops in the later ones a sort of “left-wing” voice of defiance, and breaks into what to my ear has a radically pluralistic sound. I confess that the existence of this novel brand of mysticism has made my cowering mood depart. I feel now as if my own pluralism were not without the kind of support which mystical corroboration may confer. Morrison can no longer claim to be the only beneficiary of whatever right mysticism may possess to lend prestige.

This is my philosophic, as distinguished from my literary, interest, in introducing Mr. Blood to this more fashionable audience: his philosophy, however mystical, is in the last resort not dissimilar from my own. I must treat him by “extracting” him, and simplify — certainly all too violently — as I extract. He is not consecutive as a writer, aphoristic and oracular rather; and being moreover sometimes dialectic, sometimes poetic, and sometimes mystic in his manner; sometimes monistic and sometimes pluralistic in his matter, I have to run my own risk in making him orate pro domo mea, and I am not quite unprepared to hear him say, in case he ever reads these pages, that I have entirely missed his point. No matter; I will proceed.

I

I will separate his diverse phases and take him first as a pure dialectician. Dialectic thought of the Hegelian type is a whirlpool into which some persons are sucked out of the stream which the straightforward understanding follows. Once in the eddy, nothing but rotary motion can go on. All who have been in it know the feel of its swirl — they know thenceforward that thinking unreturning on itself is but one part of reason, and that rectilinear mentality, in philosophy at any rate, will never do. Though each one may report in different words of his rotational experience, the experience itself is almost childishly simple, and whosoever has been there instantly recognizes other authentic reports. To have been in that eddy is a freemasonry of which the common password is a “fie” on all the operations of the simple popular understanding.

In Hegel’s mind the vortex was at its liveliest, and any one who has dipped into Hegel will recognize Mr. Blood to be of the same tribe. “That Hegel was pervaded by the great truth,” Blood writes, “cannot be doubted. The eyes of philosophy, if not set directly on him, are set towards the region which he occupied. Though he may not be the final philosopher, yet pull him out, and all the rest will be drawn into his vacancy.”

Drawn into the same whirlpool, Mr. Blood means. Non-dialectic thought takes facts as singly given, and accounts for one fact by another. But when we think of “all fact,” we see that nothing of the nature of fact can explain it, “for that were but one more added to the list of things to be accounted for. . . . The beginning of curiosity, in the philosophic sense,” Mr. Blood again writes, “is the stare [Transcriber’s note: state?] of being at itself, in the wonder why anything is at all, and what this being signifies. Naturally we first assume the void, and then wonder how, with no ground and no fertility, anything should come into it.” We treat it as a positive nihility, “a barrier from which all our batted balls of being rebound.”

Upon this idea Mr. Blood passes the usual transcendentalist criticism. There is no such separate opposite to being; yet we never think of being as such — of pure being as distinguished from specific forms of being — save as what stands relieved against this imaginary background. Being has no outline but that which non-being makes, and the two ideas form an inseparable pair. “Each limits and defines the other. Either would be the other in the same position, for here (where there is as yet no question of content, but only of being itself) the position is all and the content is nothing. Hence arose that paradox: ‘Being is by nothing more real than not-being.’”

“Popularly,” Mr. Blood goes on, “we think of all that is as having got the better of non-being. If all were not — that, we think, were easy: there were no wonder then, no tax on ingenuity, nothing to be accounted for. This conclusion is from the thinking which assumes all reality as immediately given assumes knowledge as a simple physical light, rather than as a distinction involving light and darkness equally. We assume that if the light were to go out, the show would be ended (and so it would); but we forget that if the darkness were to go out, that would be equally calamitous. It were bad enough if the master had lost his crayon, but the loss of the blackboard would be just as fatal to the demonstration. Without darkness light would be useless — universal light as blind as universal darkness. Universal thing and universal no-thing were indistinguishable. Why, then, assume the positive, the immediately affirmative, as alone the ingenious? Is not the mould as shapely as the model? The original ingenuity does not show in bringing light out of darkness, nor in bringing things out of nothing, but in evolving, through the just opposition of light and darkness, this wondrous picture, in which the black and white lines have equal significance — in evolving from life and death at once, the conscious spirit . . . .

“It is our habit to think of life as dear, and of death as cheap (though Tithonus found them otherwise), or, continuing the simile of the picture, that paper is cheap while drawing is expensive; but the engraver had a different estimation in one sense, for all his labor was spent on the white ground, while he left untouched those parts of the block which make the lines in the picture. If being and non-being are both necessary to the presence of either, neither shall claim priority or preference. Indeed, we may fancy an intelligence which, instead of regarding things as simply owning entity, should regard chiefly their background as affected by the holes which things are making in it. Even so, the paper-maker might see your picture as intrusive!”

Thus “does the negation of being appear as indispensable in the making of it.” But to anyone who should appeal to particular forms of being to refute this paradox, Mr. Blood admits that “to say that a picture, or any other sensuous thing, is the same as the want of it, were to utter nonsense indeed: there is a difference equivalent to the whole stuff and merit of the picture; but in so far as the picture can be there for thought, as something either asserted or negated, its presence or its absence are the same and indifferent. By its absence we do not mean the absence of anything else, nor absence in general; and how, forsooth, does its absence differ from these other absences, save by containing a complete description of the picture? The hole is as round as the plug; and from our thought the ‘picture’ cannot get away. The negation is specific and descriptive, and what it destroys it preserves tor our conception.”

The result is that, whether it be taken generally or taken specifically, all that which either is or is not is or is not by distinction or opposition. “And observe the life, the process, through which this slippery doubleness endures. Let us suppose the present tense, that gods and men and angels and devils march all abreast in this present instant, and the only real time and date in the universe is now. And what is this instant now? Whatever else, it is process — becoming and departing; with what between? Simply division, difference; the present has no breadth for if it had, that which we seek would be the middle of that breadth. There is no precipitate, as on a stationary platform, of the process of becoming, no residuum of the process of departing, but between the two is a curtain, the apparition of difference, which is all the world.”

I am using my scissors somewhat at random on my author’s paragraphs, since one place is as good as another for entering a ring by, and the expert reader will discern at once the authentic dialectic circling. Other paragraphs show Mr. Blood as more Hegelian still, and thoroughly idealistic:—

“Assume that knowing is distinguishing, and that distinction is of difference; if one knows a difference, one knows it as of entities which afford it, and which also he knows; and he must know the entities and the difference apart — one from the other. Knowing all this, he should be able to answer the twin question, ‘What is the difference between sameness and difference?’ It is a ‘twin’ question, because the two terms are equal in the proposition, and each is full of the other . . . .

“Sameness has ‘all the difference in the world’— from difference; and difference is an entity as difference — it being identically that. They are alike and different at once, since either is the other when the observer would contrast it with the other; so that the sameness and the difference are ‘subjective,’ are the property of the observer: his is the ‘limit’ in their unlimited field . . . .

“We are thus apprized that distinction involves and carries its own identity; and that ultimate distinction — distinction in the last analysis — is self-distinction, ‘self-knowledge,’ as we realize it consciously every day. Knowledge is self-referred: to know is to know that you know, and to be known as well.

“‘Ah! but both in the same time?’ inquires the logician. A subject-object knowing itself as a seamless unit, while yet its two items show a real distinction: this passes all understanding.”

But the whole of idealism goes to the proof that the two sides cannot succeed one another in a time-process. “To say you know, and you know that you know, is to add nothing in the last clause; it is as idle as to say that you lie, and you know that you lie,” for if you know it not you lie not.

Philosophy seeks to grasp totality, “but the power of grasping or consenting to totality involves the power of thought to make itself its own object. Totality itself may indeed be taken by the naïve intellect as an immediate topic, in the sense of being just an object, but it cannot be just that; for the knower, as other or opposite, would still be within that totality. The ‘universe’ by definition must contain all opposition. If distinction should vanish, what would remain? To what other could it change as a whole? How can the loss of distinction make a difference? Any loss, at its utmost, offers a new status with the old, but obviously it is too late now to efface distinction by a change. There is no possible conjecture, but such as carries with it the subjective that holds it; and when the conjecture is of distinction in general, the subjective fills the void with distinction of itself. The ultimate, ineffaceable distinction is self-distinction, self-consciousness. . . . ‘Thou art the unanswered question, couldst see thy proper eye.’ . . . The thought that must be is the very thought of our experience; the ultimate opposition, the to be and not to be, is personality, spirit — somewhat that is in knowing that it is, and is nothing else but this knowing in its vast relations.28

“Here lies the bed-rock; here the brain-sweat of twenty-five centuries crystallizes to a jewel five words long: ‘The Universe has No Opposite.’ For there the wonder of that which is, rests safe in the perception that all things are only through the opposition which is their only fear.”

“The inevitable generally,” in short, is exactly and identically that which in point of fact is actually here.

This is the familiar nineteenth-century development of Kant’s idealistic vision. To me it sounds monistic enough to charm the monist in me unreservedly. I listen to the felicitously-worded concept-music circling round itself, as on some drowsy summer noon one listens under the pines to the murmuring of leaves and insects, and with as little thought of criticism.

But Mr. Blood strikes a still more vibrant note: “No more can be than rationally is; and this was always true. There is no reason for what is not; but for what there is reason, that is and ever was. Especially is there no becoming of reason, and hence no reason for becoming, to a sufficient intelligence. In the sufficient intelligence all things always are, and are rational. To say there is something yet to be which never was, not even in the sufficient intelligence wherein the world is rational and not a blind and orphan waif, is to ignore all reason. Aught that might be assumed as contingently coming to be could only have ‘freedom’ for its origin; and ‘freedom’ has not fertility or invention, and is not a reason for any special thing, but the very vacuity of a ground for anything in preference to its room. Neither is there in bare time any principle or originality where anything should come or go . . . .

“Such idealism enures greatly to the dignity and repose of man. No blind fate, prior to what is, shall necessitate that all first be and afterward be known, but knowledge is first, with fate in her own hands. When we are depressed by the weight and immensity of the immediate, we find in idealism a wondrous consolation. The alien positive, so vast and overwhelming by itself, reduces its pretensions when the whole negative confronts it on our side.29 It matters little for its greatness when an equal greatness is opposed. When one remembers that the balance and motion of the planets are so delicate that the momentary scowl of an eclipse may fill the heavens with tempest, and even affect the very bowels of the earth — when we see a balloon, that carries perhaps a thousand pounds, leap up a hundred feet at the discharge of a sheet of note paper — or feel it stand deathly still in a hurricane, because it goes with the hurricane, sides with it, and ignores the rushing world below — we should realize that one tittle of pure originality would outweigh this crass objective, and turn these vast masses into mere breath and tissue-paper show.” 30

But whose is the originality? There is nothing in what I am treating as this phase of our author’s thought to separate it from the old-fashioned rationalism. There must be a reason for every fact; and so much reason, so fact. The reason is always the whole foil and background and negation of the fact, the whole remainder of reality. “A man may feel good only by feeling better. . . . Pleasure is ever in the company and contrast of pain; for instance, in thirsting and drinking, the pleasure of the one is the exact measure of the pain of the other, and they cease precisely together — otherwise the patient would drink more. The black and yellow gonfalon of Lucifer is indispensable in any spiritual picture.” Thus do truth’s two components seem to balance, vibrating across the centre of indifference; “being and non-being have equal value and cost,” and “mainly are convertible in their terms.” 31

This sounds radically monistic; and monistic also is the first account of the Ether-revelation, in which we read that “thenceforth each is all, in God. . . . The One remains, the many change and pass; and every one of us is the One that remains.”

II

It seems to me that any transcendental idealist who reads this article ought to discern in the fragmentary utterances which I have quoted thus far, the note of what he considers the truer dialectic profundity. He ought to extend the glad hand of fellowship to Mr. Blood; and if he finds him afterwards palavering with the enemy, he ought to count him, not as a simple ignoramus or Philistine, but as a renegade and relapse. He cannot possibly be treated as one who sins because he never has known better, or as one who walks in darkness because he is congenitally blind.

Well, Mr. Blood, explain it as one may, does turn towards the darkness as if he had never seen the light. Just listen for a moment to such irrationalist deliverances on his part as these:—

“Reason is neither the first nor the last word in this world. Reason is an equation; it gives but a pound for a pound. Nature is excess; she is evermore, without cost or explanation.

‘Is heaven so poor that justice
Metes the bounty of the skies?
So poor that every blessing
Fills the debit of a cost?
That all process is returning?
And all gain is of the lost?’

Go back into reason, and you come at last to fact, nothing more — a givenness, a something to wonder at and yet admit, like your own will. And all these tricks for logicizing originality, self-relation, absolute process, subjective contradiction, will wither in the breath of the mystical tact; they will swirl down the corridors before the besom of the everlasting Yea.”

Or again: “The monistic notion of a oneness, a centred wholeness, ultimate purpose, or climacteric result of the world, has wholly given way. Thought evolves no longer a centred whole, a One, but rather a numberless many, adjust it how we will.”

Or still again: “The pluralists have talked philosophy to a standstill — Nature is contingent, excessive and mystical essentially.”

Have we here contradiction simply, a man converted from one faith to its opposite? Or is it only dialectic circling, like the opposite points on the rim of a revolving disc, one moving up, one down, but replacing one another endlessly, while the whole disc never moves? If it be this latter — Mr. Blood himself uses the image — the dialectic is too pure for me to catch: a deeper man must mediate the monistic with the pluralistic Blood. Let my incapacity be castigated, if my “Subject” ever reads this article, but let me treat him from now onwards as the simply pluralistic mystic which my reading of the rest of him suggests. I confess to some dread of my own fate at his hands. In making so far an ordinary transcendental idealist of him, I have taken liberties, running separate sentences together, inverting their order, and even altering single words, for all which I beg pardon; but in treating my author from now onwards as a pluralist, interpretation is easier, and my hands can be less stained (if they are stained) with exegetic blood.

I have spoken of his verbal felicity, and alluded to his poetry. Before passing to his mystic gospel, I will refresh the reader (doubtless now fatigued with so much dialectic) by a sample of his verse. “The Lion of the Nile” is an allegory of the “champion spirit of the world” in its various incarnations.

Thus it begins:—

“Whelped on the desert sands, and desert bred
From dugs whose sustenance was blood alone —
A life translated out of other lives,
I grew the king of beasts; the hurricane
Leaned like a feather on my royal fell;
I took the Hyrcan tiger by the scruff
And tore him piecemeal; my hot bowels laughed
And my fangs yearned for prey. Earth was my lair:
I slept on the red desert without fear:
I roamed the jungle depths with less design
Than e’en to lord their solitude; on crags
That cringe from lightning — black and blasted fronts
That crouch beneath the wind-bleared stars, I told
My heart’s fruition to the universe,
And all night long, roaring my fierce defy,
I thrilled the wilderness with aspen terrors,
And challenged death and life . . . .”

Again:

“Naked I stood upon the raked arena
Beneath the pennants of Vespasian,
While seried thousands gazed — strangers from Caucasus,
Men of the Grecian Isles, and Barbary princes,
To see me grapple with the counterpart
Of that I had been — the raptorial jaws,
The arms that wont to crush with strength alone,
The eyes that glared vindictive. — Fallen there,
Vast wings upheaved me; from the Alpine peaks
Whose avalanches swirl the valley mists
And whelm the helpless cottage, to the crown
Of Chimborazo, on whose changeless jewels
The torrid rays recoil, with ne’er a cloud
To swathe their blistered steps, I rested not,
But preyed on all that ventured from the earth,
An outlaw of the heavens. — But evermore
Must death release me to the jungle shades;
And there like Samson’s grew my locks again
In the old walks and ways, till scapeless fate
Won me as ever to the haunts of men,
Luring my lives with battle and with love.” . . .

I quote less than a quarter of the poem, of which the rest is just as good, and I ask: Who of us all handles his English vocabulary better than Mr. Blood?32

His proclamations of the mystic insight have a similar verbal power:—

“There is an invariable and reliable condition (or uncondition) ensuing about the instant of recall from anaesthetic stupor to ‘coming to,’ in which the genius of being is revealed. . . . No words may express the imposing certainty of the patient that he is realizing the primordial Adamic surprise of Life.

“Repetition of the experience finds it ever the same, and as if it could not possibly be otherwise. The subject resumes his normal consciousness only to partially and fitfully remember its occurrence, and to try to formulate its baffling import — with but this consolatory afterthought: that he has known the oldest truth, and that he has done with human theories as to the origin, meaning, or destiny of the race. He is beyond instruction in ‘spiritual things.’ . . .

“It is the instant contrast of this ‘tasteless water of souls’ with formal thought as we ‘come to,’ that leaves in the patient an astonishment that the awful mystery of Life is at last but a homely and a common thing, and that aside from mere formality the majestic and the absurd are of equal dignity. The astonishment is aggravated as at a thing of course, missed by sanity in overstepping, as in too foreign a search, or with too eager an attention: as in finding one’s spectacles on one’s nose, or in making in the dark a step higher than the stair. My first experiences of this revelation had many varieties of emotion; but as a man grows calm and determined by experience in general, so am I now not only firm and familiar in this once weird condition, but triumphant, divine. To minds of sanguine imagination there will be a sadness in the tenor of the mystery, as if the key-note of the universe were low; for no poetry, no emotion known to the normal sanity of man, can furnish a hint of its primeval prestige, and its all-but appalling solemnity; but for such as have felt sadly the instability of temporal things there is a comfort of serenity and ancient peace; while for the resolved and imperious spirit there are majesty and supremacy unspeakable. Nor can it be long until all who enter the anaesthetic condition (and there are hundreds every secular day) will be taught to expect this revelation, and will date from its experience their initiation into the Secret of Life . . . .

“This has been my moral sustenance since I have known of it. In my first printed mention of it I declared: ‘The world is no more the alien terror that was taught me. Spurning the cloud-grimed and still sultry battlements whence so lately Jehovan thunders boomed, my gray gull lifts her wing against the night fall, and takes the dim leagues with a fearless eye.’ And now, after twenty-seven years of this experience, the wing is grayer, but the eye is fearless still, while I renew and doubly emphasize that declaration. I know, as having known, the meaning of Existence; the sane centre of the universe — at once the wonder and the assurance of the soul.”

After this rather literary interlude I return to Blood’s philosophy again. I spoke a while ago of its being an “irrationalistic” philosophy in its latest phase. Behind every “fact” rationalism postulates its “reason.” Blood parodizes this demand in true nominalistic fashion. “The goods are not enough, but they must have the invoice with them. There must be a name, something to read. I think of Dickens’s horse that always fell down when they took him out of the shafts; or of the fellow who felt weak when naked, but strong in his overcoat.” No bad mockery, this, surely, of rationalism’s habit of explaining things by putting verbal doubles of them beneath them as their ground!

“All that philosophy has sought as cause, or reason,” he says, “pluralism subsumes in the status and the given fact, where it stands as plausible as it may ever hope to stand. There may be disease in the presence of a question as well as in the lack of an answer. We do not wonder so strangely at an ingenious and well-set-up effect, for we feel such in ourselves; but a cause, reaching out beyond the verge [of fact] and dangling its legs in nonentity, with the hope of a rational foothold, should realize a strenuous life. Pluralism believes in truth and reason, but only as mystically realized, as lived in experience. Up from the breast of a man, up to his tongue and brain, comes a free and strong determination, and he cries, originally, and in spite of his whole nature and environment, ‘I will.’ This is the Jovian fiat, the pure cause. This is reason; this or nothing shall explain the world for him. For how shall he entertain a reason bigger than himself? . . . Let a man stand fast, then, as an axis of the earth; the obsequious meridians will bow to him, and gracious latitudes will measure from his feet.”

This seems to be Blood’s mystical answer to his own monistic statement which I quoted above, that “freedom” has no fertility, and is no reason for any special thing.33 “Philosophy,” Mr. Blood writes to me in a letter, “is past. It was the long endeavor to logicize what we can only realize practically or in immediate experience. I am more and more impressed that Heraclitus insists on the equation of reason and unreason, or chance, as well as of being and not-being, etc. This throws the secret beyond logic, and makes mysticism outclass philosophy. The insight that mystery — the Mystery, as such is final, is the hymnic word. If you use reason pragmatically, and deny it absolutely, you can’t be beaten; be assured of that. But the Fact remains, and of course the Mystery.” 34

The “Fact,” as I understand the writer here to mean it, remains in its native disseminated shape. From every realized amount of fact some other fact is absent, as being uninvolved. “There is nowhere more of it consecutively, perhaps, than appears upon this present page.” There is, indeed, to put it otherwise, no more one all-enveloping fact than there is one all-enveloping spire in an endlessly growing spiral, and no more one all-generating fact than there is one central point in which an endlessly converging spiral ends. Hegel’s “bad infinite” belongs to the eddy as well as to the line. “Progress?” writes our author. “And to what? Time turns a weary and a wistful face; has he not traversed an eternity? and shall another give the secret up? We have dreamed of a climax and a consummation, a final triumph where a world shall burn en barbecue; but there is not, cannot be, a purpose of eternity; it shall pay mainly as it goes, or not at all. The show is on; and what a show, if we will but give our attention! Barbecues, bonfires, and banners? Not twenty worlds a minute would keep up our bonfire of the sun; and what banners of our fancy could eclipse the meteor pennants of the pole, or the opaline splendors of the everlasting ice? . . . Doubtless we are ostensibly progressing, but there have been prosperity and highjinks before. Nineveh and Tyre, Rome, Spain, and Venice also had their day. We are going, but it is a question of our standing the pace. It would seem that the news must become less interesting or tremendously more so —‘a breath can make us, as a breath has made.’”

Elsewhere we read: “Variety, not uniformity, is more likely to be the key to progress. The genius of being is whimsical rather than consistent. Our strata show broken bones of histories all forgotten. How can it be otherwise? There can be no purpose of eternity. It is process all. The most sublime result, if it appeared as the ultimatum, would go stale in an hour; it could not be endured.”

Of course from an intellectual point of view this way of thinking must be classed as scepticism. “Contingency forbids any inevitable history, and conclusions are absurd. Nothing in Hegel has kept the planet from being blown to pieces.” Obviously the mystical “security,” the “apodal sufficiency” yielded by the anaesthetic revelation, are very different moods of mind from aught that rationalism can claim to father — more active, prouder, more heroic. From his ether-intoxication Blood may feel towards ordinary rationalists “as Clive felt towards those millions of Orientals in whom honor had no part.” On page 6, above, I quoted from his “Nemesis”—“Is heaven so poor that justice,” etc. The writer goes on, addressing the goddess of “compensation” or rational balance; —

“How shalt thou poise the courage
That covets all things hard?
How pay the love unmeasured
That could not brook reward?
How prompt self-loyal honor
Supreme above desire,
That bids the strong die for the weak,
The martyrs sing in fire?
Why do I droop in bower
And sigh in sacred hall?
Why stifle under shelter?
Yet where, through forest tall,
The breath of hungry winter
In stinging spray resolves,
I sing to the north wind’s fury
And shout with the coarse-haired wolves?

* * * * * *

What of thy priests’ confuting,
Of fate and form and law,
Of being and essence and counterpoise,
Of poles that drive and draw?
Ever some compensation,
Some pandering purchase still!
But the vehm of achieving reason
Is the all-patrician Will!”

Mr. Blood must manage to re-write the last two lines; but the contrast of the two securities, his and the rationalist’s, is plain enough. The rationalist sees safe conditions. But Mr. Blood’s revelation, whatever the conditions be, helps him to stand ready for a life among them. In this, his attitude seems to resemble that of Nietzsche’s amor fati! “Simply,” he writes to me, “we do not know. But when we say we do not know, we are not to say it weakly and meekly, but with confidence and content. . . . Knowledge is and must ever be secondary, a witness rather than a principal, or a ‘principle’! — in the case. Therefore mysticism for me!”

“Reason,” he prints elsewhere, “is but an item in the duplex potency of the mystery, and behind the proudest consciousness that ever reigned, Reason and Wonder blushed face to face. The legend sinks to burlesque if in that great argument which antedates man and his mutterings, Lucifer had not a fighting chance . . . .

“It is given to the writer and to others for whom he is permitted to speak — and we are grateful that it is the custom of gentlemen to believe one another — that the highest thought is not a milk-and-water equation of so much reason and so much result —‘no school sum to be cast up.’ We have realized the highest divine thought of itself, and there is in it as much of wonder as of certainty; inevitable, and solitary and safe in one sense, but queer and cactus-like no less in another sense, it appeals unutterably to experience alone.

“There are sadness and disenchantment for the novice in these inferences, as if the keynote of the universe were low, but experience will approve them. Certainty is the root of despair. The inevitable stales, while doubt and hope are sisters. Not unfortunately the universe is wild — game flavored as a hawk’s wing. Nature is miracle all. She knows no laws; the same returns not, save to bring the different. The slow round of the engraver’s lathe gains but the breadth of a hair, but the difference is distributed back over the whole curve, never an instant true — ever not quite.”

“Ever not quite!”— this seems to wring the very last panting word out of rationalistic philosophy’s mouth. It is fit to be pluralism’s heraldic device. There is no complete generalization, no total point of view, no all-pervasive unity, but everywhere some residual resistance to verbalization, formulation, and discursification, some genius of reality that escapes from the pressure of the logical finger, that says “hands off,” and claims its privacy, and means to be left to its own life. In every moment of immediate experience is somewhat absolutely original and novel. “We are the first that ever burst into this silent sea.” Philosophy must pass from words, that reproduce but ancient elements, to life itself, that gives the integrally new. The “inexplicable,” the “mystery,” as what the intellect, with its claim to reason out reality, thinks that it is in duty bound to resolve, and the resolution of which Blood’s revelation would eliminate from the sphere of our duties, remains; but it remains as something to be met and dealt with by faculties more akin to our activities and heroisms and willingnesses, than to our logical powers. This is the anesthetic insight, according to our author. Let my last word, then, speaking in the name of intellectual philosophy, be his word. —“There is no conclusion. What has concluded, that we might conclude in regard to it? There are no fortunes to be told, and there is no advice to be given. — Farewell!”

26 Written during the early summer of 1910 and published in the Hibbert Journal for July of that year.

27 “Yes! Paul is quite a correspondent!” said a good citizen of Amsterdam, from whom I inquired the way to Mr. Blood’s dwelling many years ago, after alighting from the train. I had sought to identify him by calling him an “author,” but his neighbor thought of him only as a writer of letters to the journals I have named.

28 “How shall a man know he is alive — since in thought the knowing constitutes the being alive, without knowing that thought (life) from its opposite, and so knowing both, and so far as being is knowing, being both? Each defines and relieves the other, each is impossible in thought without the other; therefore each has no distinction save as presently contrasting with the other, and each by itself is the same, and nothing. Clearly, then, consciousness is neither of one nor of the other nor of both, but a knowing subject perceiving them and itself together and as one. . . . So, in coming out of the anaesthetic exhilaration . . . we want to tell something; but the effort instantly proves that something will stay back and do the telling — one must utter one’s own throat, one must eat one’s own teeth, to express the being that possesses one. The result is ludicrous and astounding at once — astounding in the clear perception that this is the ultimate mystery of life, and is given you as the old Adamic secret, which you then feel that all intelligence must sometime know or have known; yet ludicrous in its familiar simplicity, as somewhat that any man should always perceive at his best, if his head were only level, but which in our ordinary thinking has grown into a thousand creeds and theories dignified as religion and philosophy.”

29 Elsewhere Mr. Blood writes of the “force of the negative” thus:—“As when a faded lock of woman’s hair shall cause a man to cut his throat in a bedroom at five o’clock in the morning; or when Albany resounds with legislation, but a little henpecked judge in a dusty office at Herkimer or Johnstown sadly writes across the page the word ‘unconstitutional’— the glory of the Capitol has faded.”

30 Elsewhere Blood writes:—“But what then, in the name of common sense, is the external world? If a dead man could answer he would say Nothing, or as Macbeth said of the air-drawn dagger, ‘there is no such thing.’ But a live man’s answer might be in this way: What is the multiplication table when it is not written down? It is a necessity of thought; it was not created, it cannot but be; every intelligence which goes to it, and thinks, must think in that form or think falsely. So the universe is the static necessity of reason; it is not an object for any intelligence to find, but it is half object and half subject; it never cost anything as a whole; it never was made, but always is made, in the Logos, or expression of reason — the Word; and slowly but surely it will be understood and uttered in every intelligence, until he is one with God or reason itself. As a man, for all he knows, or has known, stands at any given instant the realization of only one thought, while all the rest of him is invisibly linked to that in the necessary form and concatenation of reason, so the man as a whole of exploited thoughts is a moment in the front of the concatenated reason of the universal whole; and this whole is personal only as it is personally achieved. This is the Kingdom that is ‘within you, and the God which ‘no man hath seen at any time.’”

31 There are passages in Blood that sound like a well-known essay by Emerson. For instance:—“Experience burns into us the fact and the necessity of universal compensation. The philosopher takes it from Heraclitus, in the insight that everything exists through its opposite; and the bummer comforts himself for his morning headache as only the rough side of a square deal. We accept readily the doctrine that pain and pleasure, evil and good, death and life, chance and reason, are necessary equations — that there must be just as much of each as of its other.

“It grieves us little that this great compensation cannot at every instant balance its beam on every individual centre, and dispense with an under dog in every fight; we know that the parts must subserve the whole; we have faith that our time will come; and if it comes not at all in this world, our lack is a bid for immortality, and the most promising argument for a world hereafter. ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.’

“This is the faith that baffles all calamity, and ensures genius and patience in the world. Let not the creditor hasten the settlement: let not the injured man hurry toward revenge; there is nothing that draws bigger interest than a wrong, and to ‘get the best of it’ is ever in some sense to get the worst.”

32 Or what thinks the reader of the verbiage of these verses? — addressed in a mood of human defiance to the cosmic Gods —

“Whose lightnings tawny leap from furtive lairs,
To helpless murder, while the ships go down
Swirled in the crazy stound, and mariners’ prayers
Go up in noisome bubbles — such to them; —
Or when they tramp about the central fires,
Bending the strata with aeonian tread
Till steeples totter, and all ways are lost —
Deem they of wife or child, or home or friend,
Doing these things as the long years lead on
Only to other years that mean no more,
That cure no ill, nor make for use or proof —
Destroying ever, though to rear again.”

33 I subjoin a poetic apostrophe of Mr. Blood’s to freedom:

“Let it ne’er be known.
If in some book of the Inevitable,
Dog-eared and stale, the future stands engrossed
E’en as the past. There shall be news in heaven,
And question in the courts thereof; and chance
Shall have its fling, e’en at the [ermined] bench.

* * * * * *

Ah, long ago, above the Indian ocean,
Where wan stars brood over the dreaming East,
I saw, white, liquid, palpitant, the Cross;
And faint and far came bells of Calvary
As planets passed, singing that they were saved,
Saved from themselves: but ever low Orion —
For hunter too was I, born of the wild,
And the game flavor of the infinite
Tainted me to the bone — he waved me on,
On to the tangent field beyond all orbs,
Where form nor order nor continuance
Hath thought nor name; there unity exhales
In want of confine, and the protoplasm
May beat and beat, in aimless vehemence,
Through vagrant spaces, homeless and unknown.

* * * * * *

There ends One’s empire! — but so ends not all;
One knows not all; my griefs at least are mine —
By me their measure, and to me their lesson;
E’en I am one —(poor deuce to call the Ace!)
And to the open bears my gonfalon,
Mine aegis, Freedom! — Let me ne’er look back
Accusing, for the withered leaves and lives
The sated past hath strewn, the shears of fate,
But forth to braver days.
O, Liberty,
Burthen of every sigh! — thou gold of gold,
Beauty of the beautiful, strength of the strong!
My soul for ever turns agaze for thee.
There is no purpose of eternity
For faith or patience; but thy buoyant torch
Still lighted from the Islands of the Blest,
O’erbears all present for potential heavens
Which are not — ah, so more than all that are!
Whose chance postpones the ennui of the skies!
Be thou my genius — be my hope in thee!
For this were heaven: to be, and to be free.”

34 In another letter Mr. Blood writes:—“I think we are through with ‘the Whole,’ and with ‘causa sui,’ and with the ‘negative unity’ which assumes to identify each thing as being what it lacks of everything else. You can, of course, build out a chip by modelling the sphere it was chipped from; — but if it was n’t a sphere? What a weariness it is to look back over the twenty odd volumes of the ‘Journal of Speculative Philosophy’ and see Harris’s mind wholly filled by that one conception of self-determination — everything to be thought as ‘part of a system’— a ‘whole’ and ‘causa sui.’— I should like to see such an idea get into the head of Edison or George Westinghouse.”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 21:17