The Absolute and Finite Self


Haldar, Hiralal. “The Absolute and the Finite Self.” The Philosophical Review 27, no. 4 (1918): 374. https://doi.org/10.2307/2178578


IN his great dialogue, the Parmenides, Plato argues that if the one has being, all other things are. The being of the one is not capable of being separated from the others. The existence of the one means the existence of the others which share in its being and are, therefore, whole and infinite without prejudice to their plurality. The others having parts must partake of the whole and be the whole of which they are the parts. Each part, that is to say, is also an absolute one. The result of the union of the others with the one, without which they would not be others than one, is that "the one appears to create a new element in them which gives to them limitation in relation to one another, whereas in their own nature they have no limit." The many, Plato means to say, in their distinction from each other are limited. Each is limited by the relations in which it stands to the others and to the whole, but inasmuch as it partakes of the whole, it, limited from one point of view, is the whole and infinite from another. In short, all particular beings are both finite and infinite.


The great truth to which Plato gives expression in his own way in the Parmenides is, I think, not sufficiently recognized by the speculative Idealism of to-day. What this Idealism has successfully done is to show that the world has being only as the objective expression of the Absolute* mind. Nature, as a systematic totality of interrelated things, presupposes a spiritual principle of unity of which it is the necessary manifestation. But what is the relation between the things which make up nature and the mind it reveals? We are told, and with truth, that the unity of mind and the differences of the world mutually imply each other, that unity is of differences, and differences have no meaning apart from the unity of the self in which they are centered. "The main result of modern philosophy and especially of modern idealism," Card tells us, “Has been to put a concrete in place of an abstract unity, or, in other words, to vindicate the essential correlation of the self and the not-self." The unity for which idealism pleads is not a unity beyond all difference but in difference. But if this unity is conceived as only the correlative of the many, it inevitably becomes distinguished from and, therefore, limited by the many, and is, in consequence, reduced to the level of one among many. The one regarded as the correlative of the many is what the many are not, and is, therefore, only a numerical unity. Of course, idealism goes further than the mere conception of the correlativity of the one and many and regards the many as the expression of an inclusive unity. But the full consequence of this view is not realized. The many which body forth the ultimate one partakes, as Plato saw so clearly, of the one; and each of them, despite the finitude arising from its distinction from and negative relation to the others, is, in virtue of its participation in the one, also whole and infinite. In other words, what we call things are also minds. They are, of course, not minds in isolation from each other Andon their own account, but as integral parts of the Absolute mind. If objects are real only as elements of the world-system and if that system is the embodiment of a universal mind, they cannot be mere objects but must be centers of an all-inclusive experience, individualized expressions of the one ultimate mind. The differences in which the Absolute finds expression are determinate forms of the Absolute itself, and each of them must, therefore, be conceived as an infinite mind, infinite, in Spinoza's language, in Suo genere and in the Absolute. What appears to us as things are in their inner being the centers from which the Absolute experiences and appreciates in infinite ways the one world in which it is revealed. They are like the monads of Leibniz, but not sundered and self-centered, conscious of the whole world not potentially but fully and adequately; and individuals, not in their own strength, but as included within and contributing to the life of the Absolute Individual. As Royce puts it: "Whoever conceives the Absolute as a self conceives it as in its form inclusive of an infinity of various but interwoven and so of intercommunicating selves, each one of which represents the totality of the Absolute in its own way, and with its own unity, so that the simplest conceivable structure of the Absolute life would be stable only in terms of an infinitely great variety of types of purpose and of fulfilment, intertwined in the most complex fashions .... We have to regard the Absolute in its whole comprising many selves in the most various interrelations."


The Absolute experience is the totality of the experiences of the individuals embraced within it, in which its whole meaning disembodied. These individuals are relative wholes within the unity of the Absolute and contribute in various and unique ways to its total purpose. The Absolute purpose is realized in and through the purposes of its constituent individuals, and the several meanings of these individuals are coordinated with each other through their subordination to the life of the Absolute in its wholeness. This does not mean that the Absolute life and purposes are anything other than the meanings of the individuals in which it is realized, any more than the ideal and purpose of the State is other than the aims and ideals of its citizens which are “brought into coordination with each other through their subordination to it. Just as the others partaking of the One in Plato’s Parmenides are themselves one and whole having parts, each part being infinite, no matter to what proximate whole it may belong, so the individuals in which the Absolute is expressed, possessing its nature, are subordinate wholes realized in their own differences which, parts of parts as they are, retain, as integral elements of the Absolute, their inalienable property of being whole and infinite. The subordinate wholes do not necessarily exclude but may overlap each other in consequence of the same parts forming constituent moments of different wholes. As the same citizen may be a member of various corporations within the unity of the State, so the same self may belong to different individualized systems within the ultimate unity of the Absolute. The complex and comprehensive meaning of the whole controls and determines the distribution and organization into subordinate systems of the finite-infinite individuals in which the Absolute is realized, and, if that meaning requires it, the constitution of these systems may undergo changes through the rearrangement of the elements forming them.


The type of idealism outlined above is, of course, monism, for it insists upon the unity of the Absolute; but what is important to remember is that the Absolute is one, not in spite of but because of the differences in which it is expressed. These differences, to be sure, are objective existences, but objective existences which, by reason of the embodiment of the Absolute mind in them, are also selves. It, therefore, is by no means hostile to the principle for which pluralism contends, only it urges that the plurality of the finite but all-inclusive selves’ rests upon a unity in which they are all gathered up without detriment to their distinction from each other. The plurality of selves does not simply disappear in the Absolute, nor does the Absolute transcend these selves while sustaining and upholding them, as Lutze and others seem to suppose. The content of the Absolute is no other than the contents of its constituent selves, though it is not a mere sum of them. As the synthesis of them, it gives a new value to them but is not other than they. As a living organism consists only of its members but is not simply their aggregate, as society is made up of individuals but is not merely a collection of them, so the Absolute self is a complex unity which does not go beyond, and yet reinterprets and gives a higher significance to the experiences of the finite but perfect individuals that compose it. Speculative idealism, thus interpreted, incorporates pluralism into itself. The view that objects of experience are in their ultimate nature selves does not mean that they are reducible to ideas of the mind, or that there is no distinction between things and minds. Althing is a self only in the sense that, viewed from within, it is the subject to which the whole circle of objective experience, relatively opposed to it, is referred. It is one of the infinite points of view from which the Absolute contemplates and appreciates the world and thus ensures the richness and complexity of its experience. The external order of the physical world has for its counterpart a system of interpenetrating selves in which the Absolute is realized and of which it is the unity. The reality of nature as a system of reciprocally determining things is not denied. All that is done is to point out that such a system has for its presupposition an individualized system of minds. In his suggestive article on "Two Types of Idealism," Professor Creighton rightly insists upon the necessity of "maintaining the contrast between the material order of nature and the conscious order of mind." "Speculative idealism," he truly observes, "has to accept nature in very much the sense in which it is presented tours by the assumptions of common sense and the physical sciences as an objective order. I fail to find any logical compulsion in the supposed interest of monism to reduce matter to terms of mind, or to interpret it with panpsychism as at bottom composed of mind stuff or psychical entities. All that monism can legitimately demand is that there shall be a universe; it cannot on apriorism grounds require that this universe shall be all of one piece or stuff. The conception of nature and mind as complementary in character satisfies, it appears to me, all the legitimate demands of monism." Idealism can have nothing to say against the main contention of realism. Instead of reducing things to states of consciousness, it allies itself with realism in seeking to destroy the root from which this sort of speculation grows. What are called secondary qualities, it urges, belong to things quite as much as the primary qualities. To separate them from each other and to refer the former to the perceiving mind and the latter to external objects was the cardinal error of Descartes, Lockean others. Berkeley went further along this path of error by reducing primary qualities also to ideas of the mind. As against these views realism rightly urges that objects must be credited with the primary as well as the secondary qualities. Nay, we must go further still and perceive that besides the primary and secondary qualities, things also have what have been called tertiary qualities, viz., the aesthetic qualities revealed to the poet and the artist. But if realism is so bountiful and lavishes on things qualities of different sorts in such an ungrudging spirit, why should it not be more generous still and give to them minds in order to make it possible for them to enjoy their wealth of qualities? Idealism does not see why the fountain of realism's charity should suddenly run dry as soon as things are vested with diverse qualities. Surely it is intolerable that they should be supposed to have everything except that which alone can make all else worth having, viz., mind. So far then from reducing existing entities to ideas of the mind, idealism of the right kind does the very opposite: it carries mind over to things. It is so greatly in earnest with the doctrine that things are real that it has no patience with the futility of realism when it fails to see that things must have mind to understand that they are real. It, therefore, is in no way hostile to realism, but incorporates the truth of it into itself.


Idealism, as interpreted above, must not be confused with panpsychism, though it heartily endorses the view of Fechner and others that minds can be included in a larger and more comprehensive mind. As Professor Pringle-Pattison points out in his recent volume of Gifford lectures, panpsychism commends itself to many minds because it seems to spiritualize the universe through and through and to afford a way of escape from determinism. But, in avoiding the Scylla of determinism, it is possible to be driven to the Charybdis of irrational contingency mistaken for freedom. Genuine freedom is based upon the necessary order of nature and is impossible without it: The truth of necessity, in Hegel's words, is freedom. "The view of nature as a uniform and permanent system of natural laws," as Professor Creighton says, "is a necessary element in a rational experience. The contrast (and in a certain sense the opposition to subjectivity which we are conscious of when facing natural objects and forces) is an important influence and element in a sane and normal life. ... A steady dependable world so far from being an irritation or balking of reason appears to me to furnish the only possible basis for rationality. “It is in the fixed objective order "unmoved by our clamor, indifferent to our moods" That the freedom of the Absolute spirit, in which finite rational beings participate, is realized.


The other motive which inspires panpsychism is to spiritualize the universe, but in the end, it completely fails to affect this purpose. Taking its stand upon the law of continuity, it assumes that as we go down the scale of being, things are accompanied by diminishing degrees of consciousness, but that we never reach the zero point. There is nothing which has not at least an indefinite sort of consciousness or semi-consciousness. For this assumption, however, there is not a particle of empirical evidence. Whether or not objects have each a separate and limited consciousness is a question of fact and not a speculative problem, and must be decided, as all questions of fact are decided, by evidence. Apart from this, it is difficult to understand how out of the combination of consciousnesses of various grades and of different degrees of clearness and distinctness, ranging from the mere drop of consciousness of an atom to the clear consciousness of a wide-awake human being, the perfect consciousness of the Absolute can arise. There cannot be more in the total than is to be found in the elements put together. The Absolute mind is the totality of the finite minds; it does not contain any additional factor, nor has it the power to transform the dim and fragmentary consciousnesses of its component souls into its own distinct and adequate consciousness. How then does the perfect arise out of the imperfect, the clear out of the obscure? If the Absolute is composed of numberless units, most of which are only semi-conscious, are we not forced to the conclusion that in its own consciousness there must be shades along with light, dark patches of ignorance along with illuminated spots of knowledge? The Absolute can be regarded as a totality of selves or rather as an individualized system of selves only if we suppose that its constituent selves share, each in its own way, in the perfection of the Absolute life. Mind, according to panpsychism, is the self-appearance of matter and matter in the appearance of one mind to another. Althing, as seen from within, is a conscious being, but insofar as it is the object of knowledge of another conscious being, it is what we call matter. But if each object has a separate mind of its own, a mind which is itself from another point of view, how is it possible for it to go beyond itself so as to bring other things within the fold of its knowledge? How can panpsychism explain the self-transcendence of a conscious being without which the combination of minds into a larger mind would not be possible? If A's consciousness is confined within the limits of A, that of Within the limits of B and so on, it is difficult to understand how the gulf between A and B can be bridged so as to make the inclusive consciousness of a more comprehensive mind possible. One thing, in short, cannot possibly appear to another if the mental counterpart of it be supposed to be the counterpart only of itself. Its ideas, being wholly subjective, cannot bring it InTouch with realities other than and beyond it. Consistent panpsychism has to face the difficulty which confronted Leibniz when he attempted to explain the unity of the world. He could do it only by having recourse to the hypothesis of pre established harmony. But his path was smoothed by his profound doctrine that each monad in principle ideates the whole universe. This, in effect, amounted to the abandonment of the theory of the exclusiveness of the monads. Panpsychism, however, conceives of the units of the world-system as having ideas which are the subjective counterparts of themselves. With this doctrine, the view that lesser minds are comprised within the ultimate unity of the mind of the universe cannot be reconciled, for such inclusion involves the self-transcendence of each constituent mind.


We thus see that individuals, conceived as going beyond themselves in their knowledge and sharing in the perfection of the Absolute in which they are unified, are not mere psycho-physical entities or mind stuffs, but beings completely self-conscious and infinite, each in its own kind. In other words, they are differentiations of the Absolute, and if we are to call them parts of the Absolute at all, it is necessary to remember that they are parts equal to the whole. Panpsychism is quite right in conceiving of the Absolute as a unity of differences, but it errs in thinking that such a unity arises out of the composition of the fragmentary consciousnesses of which physical objects are the outer aspect. It is not a monadic unity but a self of selves, a one-in-many revealed in the world, the structure and organization of which bears witness to its nature.


Such a conception of the Absolute is by no means so novel as it may appear at first sight. As Berkeley claimed that his ideal theory is more in harmony with the convictions of the man in the street than the views of learned philosophers who talk about the 'that I know not what,' so we may say that the theory outlined above is, after all, the expression in philosophical language of what every pio.us man implicitly believes. Is not God present everywhere in the world complete and undivided, and she not the life and soul of everything in which he is? Does not this lead us, if we are consistent, to the conception that the One God, as the indwelling God of countless objects, is yet many? The God who is in the pen with which I write is the same and yet not the same with the God who is in the helmet of the Kaiser, the God in the tongue of the orator denouncing German barbarities is not quite the same as the God in the torpedo which sank the Lusitania. And yet these various Gods are the one and only God. If we ponder over such considerations is the conception of the Absolute as a self-differentiated into many selves likely to seem so very surprising?


The Absolute experience, we have seen, cannot be regarded as the synthesis of finite experiences: it is the finite selves, on the contrary, which arise out of the limitation of the Absolute life and experience. The existence of finite selves is, of course, an undeniable empirical fact and the only rational explanation of Themis that they are the manifestations, partial reproductions of themselves into which the Absolute is differentiated. It is not necessary to discuss at this time of day the theory of the creation of souls out of nothing by a God external to them. The difficulties of such a view is well known. The fundamental facts from which we must start are that human beings exist and that they are aware of their finitude. Now the consciousness of finitude, of limitation of any sort, implies the transcendence of it. A merely finite being would not know that it is finite. The fool does not think that he is a fool, nor does the lunatic know his condition. It is only a Socrates who can say, 'I know nothing’. the lunatic who begins to suspect that something is wrong with him is on the way to recovery. Man is notoriously conscious of his finitude; he has always made this the burden of his complaint. This is possible because, finite as he is, he is rooted in the infinite, wells up from the infinite. It is the infinite, in short, that is revealed in him. The idea of the infinite, as even Spencer has shown, is not a negative idea; it is a positive datum of thought, the presupposition and ground of the finite.


The finite self, we thus see, is a partial reproduction of the Absolute. No other explanation is consistent with its essential nature. But we have seen that the Absolute life is distributed into its component centers of experience and has no content over and above them. Man, therefore, can only be a fragmentary expression of a differentiation of the Absolute or of a subordinate system of such differentiations. Every object, we have already argued, is, ideally, a finite but perfect self in which the Absolutes realized. The human body, therefore, must be viewed as a center from which the Absolute experiences in a unique way the whole of existence. As such a center it is a determinate form of the Absolute self. The fragmentary being, man, is only a very limited area of this deeper self-detachment from it, and it is through it and not directly that he is included in the Absolute. The limited content of his mind is supplemented by that of his transcendental self and as so supplemented forms an element of the Absolute life and experience. The deficiencies of finite consciousnesses, that is to say, are made good before they are allowed to enter the sanctuary of the Absolute.


This theory bears resemblance to that worked out by Royce, and it is encouraging to feel that in making these venturesome excursions into the difficult regions of speculative philosophy, one has the support of so eminent an authority. "Ingo, in the eternal world, and in unity, yet in contrast with all other individual lives," argues Royce, "my own self whose consciousnesses here so flickering attains an insight into my own reality and uniqueness." "We accordingly assert that our life, as hid from us now, in the life of God has another form of consciousness than the one which we now possess, so that while now we see through a glass darkly, in God we know even as we are known." In answer to the question, what is the nature of the completed self in the eternal world, as distinguished from the human individual who is a finite being with a beginning in time, Royce says: "The plain answer of course is that, as the complete expression of a self-representative system of purpose and fulfillment is there, viz., in the eternal world, no longer finite but infinite. Yet it differs from the Absolute self in being partial to requiring the other individuals as its own supplement and in distinguishing itself from them in such a way as to make their purposes not wholly and in every sense its own. It is, as Spinoza would have said of his divine attributes, 'infinite in its own kind,' only that, to be sure, its existence is not independent of that of the other individuals, as the Sciolistic attributes are independent of one another. For it is not related to these other selves merely through the common relation to God. On the contrary, it is just as truly related to God by means of its relation to them. Its life with them is an eternally fulfilled social life, and the completion of this eternal order also means the self-conscious expression of God, the individual of individuals who dwells in all as they in him."


The Absolute, as the individual of individuals of which human selves are only adumbrations, contains the contents of these selves as integral parts of itself. They, as elements of the Absolute experience, no doubt acquire a new meaning, but the Absolute experience is what it is, not through the exclusion but the inclusion of them. There is, therefore, no barrier, no difference of kind, between reality and appearance. The dualism between noumena and phenomena, the world of verities as known to God and the world of appearances as presented to us, has, in one former another, dominated philosophical thought since the days of Plato, though no one has realized the difficulties of this view more clearly than Plato himself. Parmenides, in the dialogue named after him, asks Socrates, "Will God, having absolute knowledge, have a knowledge of human things?" "Why not answers Socrates. "Because, Socrates," rejoins Parmenides, “we have admitted that the ideas are not valid in relation to human thought, nor human things in relation to them, the relations of either are limited to their respective spheres. And if God has this perfect authority and perfect knowledge, his authority cannot rule us, nor his knowledge know us, or any human thing; just as our authority does not extend to the gods nor our knowledge know anything which is divine, so by parity of reasoning, they, being gods, are not our masters, neither do they know the things of men." "Yet surely," answers Socrates, almost in despair, "to deprive God of knowledge is almost monstrous. “Plato sees quite clearly that the only solution of the problem is to break down the barrier between divine knowledge and human knowledge, though how this is to be done he does not indicate in definite terms and with decision.


Kant's distinction between the world of 'things in themselves ‘as the object of a perceptive understanding and the world of our experience is, in principle, the same as the Platonic distinction. The theory of Kant, however, is in a state of unstable equilibrium and, closely scrutinized, is found to contain elements which make the surmounting of its dualism inevitable. If we consider only the teaching of the Analytic, we shall have to say that the objective world is strictly relative to our intelligence and does not in any way represent the thing-in-itself. It is a veil which conceals from us the intelligible world, and reason has no power to draw it aside. The forms of perception and thought have no application to, and do not express the nature of the world beyond phenomena. Of the noumenon we cannot say anything except that it is. And yet it is impossible to pin Kant down to this view. His discussion of the third and fourth antinomies brings out the truth that phenomena, as combined into a series of causes and effects, suggest that they are grounded on intelligible principles analogous to self. Objects, it would seem, have a double character, an intelligible character and an empirical character in inseparable union with each other. This means that noumena are not exclusive of phenomena but include theming their own being. The view of the phenomenal world as an intelligible system expressive of mind is still more explicitly suggested in the Critique of Judgment. Nature is here conceived as a system of things adapted to the cognitive faculties of man and it is in this conception that we find a solution of the baffling problem of the Analytic regarding the possibility of a manifold of sense being made to conform to the categories. The sensations can be subsumed under the categories because, after all, they are not a chaotic manifold, but elements of a purposive unity already connected harmoniously with each other. What is this but today that our knowledge of nature is the self-communication to us of the spirit immanent in it? Kant, of course, does not say this in so many words, but if we are to take seriously the doctrine that the phenomena of nature respond to our forms of knowledge, we must regard them as elements of a noumenon akin to and in fellowship with our spirit. The idea of objects as capable of relation to intelligence leads to the idea of them as produced by the self determination of a subject. Kant's whole theory of knowledge rests upon the doctrine that in order to the possibility of experience sensations must be brought under the categories, and it becomes an impossible doctrine unless we assume that reality is so constituted that it answers to the principles of the understanding. How otherwise can understanding so control sense as to make it conform to itself? Imagination can combine sensations agreeably to the categories only if sensations do not resist and come prepared for the synthetic operation. This Is exactly what the Critique of Judgment affirms, and if the validity of this view is to be upheld, the doctrine of the relativity of knowledge, so prominent in the Analytic, must go by the board.


It is possible to conceive of the relation between noumena and phenomena in three different ways: (i) We may suppose that the noumenal world is different from and unrelated to the phenomenal world to which the forms of our consciousness do not apply; (2) the noumenon may be regarded as the phenomenal world viewed as the manifestation of the self for which it is;(3) the phenomenal world may be regarded as only a part of a larger world in which the Absolute mind is adequately revealed. Our modes of thought and perception express the nature of a section and not the whole of reality, that section which acts upon our organism and to which we have to adapt ourselves in order to live. Kant is inclined to favor the first view, but his teachings not only are not inconsistent with but agrees better with the third view. The view that in nature, as we know it, the Absolute is completely revealed, is, despite the philosophical garb in which it is dressed, an utterly indefensible kind of anthropomorphism. If nature related to our intelligence is the full revelation of the Absolute spirit, that spirit can only be an enlarged edition of the finite spirit and will be of no avail for the purpose of solving the problems to which the imperfections of our consciousness give rise. The categories of the human understanding, for example, are not a completely unified system; and if the contents of the Absolute consciousness are not richer and more coherent than the contents of the human consciousness, we must admit that even for the Absolute the lacunae of thought and experience are not filled up and, therefore, the different elements of them are not brought into perfect accord with each other. The antinomies of thought arise because we, so to speak, view the circle of reality from a point at the circumference and not from the center. If we could survey the world from the center we should see more, the field of observation would be wider than is possible for us when located in the circumference. There is more in reality than is revealed through our modes of perception and thought, and if we could live the life of the Absolute, all the rough edges of experience would be smoothed, and all its blanks filled up. The singleness of comprehension in which the differences of centers of experience are at once preserved and annulled, the continuity of interpenetration of its integral components, the intuitive perception of the meaning of the whole in each part and of the fulfillment the part in the whole, the complete harmony of the universals of thought with the particulars of experience which must characterize the Absolute, are only an ideal for us and our type of consciousness, however much it may adumbrate the Absolute, and can only be regarded as the germ of which the latter is the full development. The ultimate form of all reality, self-consciousness, is indeed in us, but the content of our consciousness, though a part of the whole is not the whole. The categories are only partial views of a reality which they sketch but do not paint.


If it is impossible to equate the content of the Absolute consciousness with nature, it is equally impossible to set up a barrier between the intelligible world and the sensible world. If the noumenon excluded the world of our experience, we, living in this world, could not even think of the noumenon; and if we do think of the noumenon, it is because we are related to the principle of which the phenomenal world is an integral element. A noumenon that includes the phenomenal world within itself would be more of a noumenon than one which does not. The Absolute is, no doubt, a self, but it is a self which is manifested in an infinite number of ways in an infinite number of things. It is a whole which is completely and indivisibly present in each particular thing, in virtue of which all things are also perfect selves and forma unity of system, and through these selves is bound up with and constitutes the essence of finite selves. It is for this reason that in each act of cognition; we are in touch with the whole and mean the whole. As organically related to the infinite, we are informed of the infinite, and this is the reason why at every step the process of our cognition is guided, implicitly or explicitly, by the idea of the whole. But in content what we know forms only an element of the total wealth of the Absolute consciousness. The categories of our thought and the matter of our perception enable us to comprehend some aspects of the portion of reality with which we have specially to deal during this life and are in this sense subjective. They neither constitute the whole content of the Absolute nor screen the intelligible world from our view. They truly define, not the Absolute life as lived by the Absolute, but certain modes of its manifestation and are valid so far as they go. With the growth of our mind other aspects of the Absolute reality may come within the purview of our knowledge, for the proper interpretation of which other categories than we have at our disposal at present will, no doubt, be needed. This, however, does not mean that the categories which serve us at the present level of our experience will then be invalidated, but that they will become absorbed and transformed into others, richer and more adequate. But at each stage of its development the finite self is a whole and, as such, is in indivisible union with the complete whole.


Speculative idealism has been adversely criticized in recent times on the ground that it renders change and evolution unmeaning and makes genuine novelties impossible. It is supposed to take all life and movement away from the world and to reduce it to a static, timeless, block universe. But to say that the Absolute as an all-inclusive whole does not itself change is not to deny that it is realized in and through the successive events of flowing time. Surely, to maintain that the world as a whole is not an event at a particular moment of time is not tantamount to affirming that events do not occur and are not comprised within the unity of the Absolute. One may go the whole length with the apostles of time and change without forgetting that the presupposition of the temporal order is an eternal order which contains change as a necessary element of itself. The Absolute is timeless only in the sense that it knows the whole of time all at once, and this presupposes the occurrence of change. Just as a man who intelligently carries out a day's plan of work has all along the whole plan in view even though he realizes it step by step in the course of the day, so the Absolute eternally knows the meaning of the world drama progressively unfolded in time. M. Bergson has made himself the champion of a continuously flowing time, of what he calls duree reelle which "is the continuous progress of the past which gnaws into the future and which swells as it advances." This is simply to emphasize one-sidelight continuity of time at the expense of its discreteness. Times not simply a continuous flow any more than it is a mere sum of discrete moments. M. Bergson commits the mistake of separating continuity from discreteness. As for the view that the movement of time is not towards any goal nor guided by any purpose, the apparent plausibility which it has arises from the fact those finite beings like us are often unable to discern the trend of events or to discover their meaning. But to infer from this that the flow of reality is not determined by any final purposes like arguing that because the hearer may not know what the speaker is driving at, the speaker himself is ignorant of it. It is not easy to say what exactly in M. Bergson's view the ultimate reality is. Only this we know with certainty, that it is in a state of ceaseless and continuous flux. But an aimless flux, a becoming without an end, is an altogether irrational conception.


It must, however, be admitted that the conception of the Absolute as apprehending the whole of time in one glance, as it were, is not wholly free from difficulties. There remains the puzzle, how an unending series in which there is neither a first nor a last event can be completed even for the Absolute insight. The only solution would seem to be that the Absolute has a form of consciousness in which time is superseded without being annulled. As Professor Pringle-Pattison says: "The time processes retained in the Absolute and yet transcended. Retained income form it must be, if our life experience is not to be deprived of all meaning and value. The temporal process is not simply nonexistent from the Absolute point of view."1 But "although the experience and the relations of time must be represented in the infinite experience this must be in a way which transcends our human perspective." How precisely the eternal order exists for the Absolute it is not possible for us to say.


As for the objection that genuine novelties and progress in time are incompatible with monistic idealism, it rests upon the preconception that the Absolute is complete without the finite selves and their life history. James who urges this objection with great force himself suggests the answer. Finite minds, he points out, may be regarded not as useless repetitions of what the Absolute already contains but as constituents, organic members of it. But after making the suggestion he runs away from it with the remark that this is "employing pluralistic weapons and thereby giving up the Absolutist case." But has the Absolutist, who understands his business, ever fought shy of plurality? Has it ever been his contention that the Absolute exists apart from the activities and struggles, the joys and sorrows, the successes and failures of finite lives? "The one will of God," Royce, for temple, tells us, “Is expressed through the many individual wills; . . . simple unity is a mere impossibility. God cannot be one except by being many. Nor can we various selves be many unless in Him we are One."1 It is true that human selves are fragmentary expressions of the perfect selves of which the Absolutes the unity, but this does not mean that they are mere imperfect copies of them. The finite self comes from the Absolute, owes its existence to the self-limitation of the Absolute, but by reason of this it acquires a new meaning and value and is never a superfluous repetition of what already is. It, no doubt, draws the materials of its life from the infinite riches of the Absolute thought and experience, but once detached from the Absolute it, while resting securely in it, sets up its own household and contributes its own humble but unique share to the total meaning of the Absolute life. As an element of the whole, it has its appointed place in it, which cannot remain vacant and must be filled in due time. What that place is, the Absolute eternally knows. Just as the contents of the finite consciousness, as supplemented in God, get a new significance, so the finite emanating from the infinite becomes a fresh individual with its own distinctive meaning. The Absolute as an individualized system of the perfect selves into which it is differentiated for the realization of its own purpose, expresses itself in the finite selves, and through the life-processes of these selves, their varied experiences, cooperative activities and progressive achievements, of which history is the record, returns, in man's religious consciousness and in his philosophical knowledge, into itself. As such it is the Absolute Spirit