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THE CONCILIATION OF ANTINOMIES
“ The whole round earth is every way
TENNYSON: MORTE D'ARTHUR.
The conciliation of antinomies a law of the universe-Man the union of
antinomical forms— The idea of the Indefinite-conciliates religion and philosophy-speciality leads to error- the method of Hegel-applied to man-Life is motion between ever-moving poles-Advance toward the absolute–The existence of God follows the acceptance of the Hegelian axiom- The three moments—the three phases of the Ideal– The good, the true and the beautiful are inseparable— The application to Christianity of the Hegelian method-Its fertility.
We may say
IIE world presents us with a picture of unity and dis
tinction-unity without uniformity, and distinction without antagonism.
that the law of the universe seems to be infinite analysis infinitely synthesized. There is universal antinomiy, universally conciliated.
But when we examine man, a creature with free will, we find that he is capable of turning distinction into opposition, of making scission and separation; and then duality and contradiction begin.
Let us study that law, not in its deviation producing duality, but in its antinomical conception, producing unity.
Everywhere, around us and within us, we see that radical antinomy. The whole astronomic order resolves itself into attraction and repulsion-a centripetal and a centrifugal force; the chemical order into the antinomy of positive and negative electricity, decomposing substances and recomposing them. The whole visible universe presents the antinomy of light and darkness, movement and repose, force and matter, heat and cold, the one and the multiple. The order of life is resumed in the antinomy of the individual and the species, the particular and the general; the order of our sentiments in that of happiness and sorrow, pleasure and pain; that of our conceptions in the antinomy of the ideal and the real; that of our will in the conditions of activity and passivity.
If we specialize one of these features and oppose it to the other, we break the order of the universe; we introduce antagonism where there was only antinomy.
In considering man, made up of body and spirit, we must not regard him as body alone, or as spirit alone. The analysis of his body by the anatomist and chemist is satisfactory so long as it is not opposed to the analysis of the spirit by the metaphysician. It is not the body composed of flesh and blood and bones which I feel to be the 1-myself; it is not the soul, composed of reason, will, and feeling, which I consider as the I-myself; but it is the two combined. My feeling in this matter is in perfect accordance with the law of the universe noted above.
The true definition of man is the union of two complex terms, not the specializing of one term to the exclusion of the other.
In the former chapter I pointed out another antinomy in man, faith and reason. The philosopher is impressed with a desire to separate reason from faith, and put it by
itself apart, and then erect it into a totality excluding and annihilating faith. I have shown that such an attempt inevitably breaks down. The theologian, on the other hand, endeavours to oppose authority to reason, to make all demonstration deductive, to erect revelation into a fatal criterium of all truths. His attempt must result in a revolt of the intellect.
If we look about for a simple and indecomposible idea which may harmonize these complex terms, and serve as the proportional mean between them, we shall find it in the idea of the indefinite, or that which is incessantly defining itself, without being ever completely successful, and which has therefore two faces, one intelligible to reason, the other accessible to the sentiment by faith.
Religion and philosophy are not two contradictory systems, but are the positive and negative poles, of which the axis uniting and conciliating them is the idea of the indefinite, which, expressing two complex terms, the body and the spirit, the finite and the infinite, represents the constitutive and fundamental nature of man.
The idea of the indefinite at once supposes and excludes limitation. The consciousness man has of his own personality distinguishes him to himself from everything else. This consciousness implies, whilst it denies, limitation. It is what I call the sentiment of the indefinite. When he aftirms himself, he distinguishes himself from another. To recognise another is to place a limit at which his own personality halts and finishes. But although his personality halts and finishes at a limit through relation to others, it is in itself unlimited; and though having a beginning, it is, or conceives itself to be, without end. To conceive the annihilation of the conscious self is simply impossible. If you doubt this, make the experiment.
Thus, the idea of personality implies limit at the same time that it excludes it.
If man could regard himself as the absolute I-myself, without limitation, he would be the infinite; he would be God.
If he could only regard himself as limited, he would be an animal, nothing more.
But as he has the consciousness of the indefinite, the perfect, he cannot be limited only, to the exclusion of the unlimited-I do not say the infinite, but the indefinite, or unlimited in one direction.
How it is that these two things, the limited and the unlimited, personality and distinction, subsist in one and the same being, simply and indivisibly, is the mystery of human life.
This is what psychologists have termed the Ego, the non-ego and their relation—terms not only inseparable, but indivisible, though perfectly distinct in their simultaneity. But, failing to perceive this unity, they have separated them, making of the Ego, man; of the non-ego, the world; and of their relation, the idea. A fatal mistake to scind what is by its nature indivisible. The secret of life consists in man bearing within him the world, and the idea, without the possibility, of their identification with himself. The world is not me, nevertheless I bear in my body the unity and the synthesis of the world and its laws. Nor is the idea me; it is the link uniting me to the not-me. Thus, in myself I am unlimited; in my relation to others I meet with limitation.
Suppose that I recognise only one of these modes of being, I deny the unlimited, and concentrate my attention on all that limits me, on the material objects of nature. What is the logical result? I fade into that universal matter, which alone I recognise; I fall from materialism to atheism, and as a final conclusion, to universal negation, because I refuse to acknowleilge that invisible force within which insurges against all bounds. But if, on the other hand, I allow myself to be carried away in the current of that power which rolls towar is the infinite, I lose sight of the banks, and I disappear in the abyss of the infinite; I become a pantheist. So true is it the division produces ruin, desolation, and death.
Man will never be truly known either by examining him in his finite aspect as a creature, one of the animated atoms of the world, or by investigating him in his infinite aspect as a spiritual force, an active intellect. The animals are limited; they find their life, their repose, their happiness within limits; but limitation stifles man. Let him try to abstract himself from limits, and, like the Buddhist ascetic, he falls into nirvana, which is zero, a simple negation. Limitation is requisite to constitute his personality; illimitation is necessary to make that personality progressive.
But whence does man obtain his unlimited personality? It cannot have been given him by anything that he touches, that surrounds him, for all matter is by its nature limited. This is the problem which religion solves, by laying down as a fundamental axiom the absolute existence of God, the source and author of the existence of man. Man created by God is placed between the infinite and the finite; he is the middle term uniting them through his conscience of the indefinite. Obedient to his true nature, bounded on all sides and in his own faculties, he inclines towards the indefinite; and transpiercing all limits, as electricity penetrates all bodies, he rises by a progression without term towards the infinite.
Life is not a mere exterior movement, the movement of