distinction of elements within the whole, and when we turn our thoughts to the unity of the whole itself, we can find nothing by which to characterise it Even the attempt to characterise it by negation, as we have seen, is self-contradictory: for that which is negatively related to the finite, is still finite. Thus the inmost experience of our being is an experience which can never be uttered, or which becomes self- " contradictory whenever it is uttered.
This is the difficulty with which Plotinus is ever struggling, and we might say passionately struggling, using all the resources of intellect and imagination in the effort to exhibit and overcome it. To this he returns again and again from new points of view, as if driven by the pressure of a consciousness which masters him, which by its very nature can never get itself uttered, but which yet he cannot help striving to utter. He pursues it with all the weapons of a subtle dialectic, endeavouring to find some distinction which will fix it for his readers, and he is endlessly fertile in metaphors and symbols by which he seeks to flash some new light upon it Yet in all this struggle and almost agony of effort after expression, "he is well aware that he can never find the last conclusive word for it; and he has to fall back on the thought that it is unspeakable, and that his words can only be useful if they stimulate the hearer to make the experience for himself. "God," says Plotinus, "is neither to be expressed in speech nor in written discourse; but we speak and write in order to direct the soul to him, and to stimulate it to rise from thought to vision, like one who points the upward road which they who would behold him have to traverse. Our teaching reaches so far only as to indicate the way in which they should go, but the vision itself must be their own achievement."1 In other words, we can stimulate men and set them in the way to realise what is the' inmost fact of their being; but we cannot reveal to them what everyone must discover for himself, because it lies beyond sense, beyond imagination, and even beyond intelligence, and can only be realised in an ecstasy of unutterable feeling.
j There is, however, a certain ambiguity about such expressions/which it is important for us to,clear up fefox® we go further. For, up to a certain point, the language of Mysticism and the language of Pantheism are identical with each other, or separated only by subtle differences which it requires some dis-cwmination to detect Thus the words of Tennyson— " That -which we dare invoke to bless, Our dearest faith, our ghastliest doubt, He, They, One, All, Within, Without, The Power in darkness whom we guess"—
might seeni to express only that mingled certitude and despair with which Plotinus approaches the ultimate 'vi, 9, 4.
secret of spiritual life ; but they really indicate something more. They are the utterance of one who seeks God in the world and not out of it, though in. the failure of language to express the fulness of his consciousness of the Infinite in the finite, he is forced to borrow the language of an Agnostic. The positive meaning, however, is perceptible through the negation, though Tennyson is still something of a mystic.
But hear another voice in which the Pantheistic note rings out more clearly. When in Goethe's Faust Gretchen questions the hero of the play whether he believes in God or no, the answer is: " Who may name him, or who can venture to declare * I believe in him?' Who can feel him, and who can dare to say: * I believe in him not ?' The All-embracer, the All-sustainer, does He not embrace and sustain thee, me, himself ? Does not the heaven arch over us and the earth stand firm beneath ? And do not the eternal stars arise and look down upon us as wi|h the eyes of a friend ? Do not I see eye to eye with thee, and do not all things at once press home upon thy heart and brain, and weave themselves together in eternal mystery, visibly, invisibly, around thee? Fill thy heart full with it, and when thou art entirely wrapt up in the bliss of feeling, call it what thou wilt, call it joy, heart, love, God. I have no name for it: feeling is all in all; names are but noise and smoke clouding the glow of heaven."
All this seems at first closely akin to the ecstasy of Plotinus, but there is an essential difference which reveals itself when we look more closely. We have passed with Goethe from the transcendent God of Mysticism to the immanent God of Pantheism, from Plotinus to Spinoza. But the likeness and difference of the two systems is such that it may be useful to dwell for a slfort time upon the comparison of them.
Spinoza, like Plotinus, rises to the assertion of the one substance by negation of all that is finite, and for him all that is determined is finite. It is his doctrine that c determinatio est negation and that, therefore, to get rid of all negation we must drop all determination. But thus the ultimate reality will be absolutely indeterminate, and in seeking for a purely positive or affirmative being, a substance which is beyond all limitations, we seem to be landed in the most abstract of all negations. Spinoza, however, immediately identifies the idea of the indeterminate with that of the self-determined, the causa sui, which is perfectly determined by itself, and, therefore, receives no determination from without, but is rather the, source of the determination of all other tilings. And, on this basis, he proceeds to treat the one substance as manifesting itself in an infinity of attributes and modes. It is, indeed, an important question, whether in this second process he does not contradict the first or, in other words, whether, in the movement downwards, he can consistently reassert the reality of that which in his movement upwards he has denied to' be reaL But for my present purpose I need not farther explain or criticise the logic of his system. I need not ask whether Spinoza has justified his transition from the indeterminate to the self-determined, or whether, in his negation of the limits of the finite, he still leaves it open to himself to admit a reality in finite things, which is not negated: whether, in other words, he has a right on his own principles to conceive of the absolute substance as manifesting itself in attributes and modes. In any case it is very clear that he does so conceive it, and that for all those finite things, which he treats as negative and illusory in themselves, he finds in God a ground of reality, .of a self-assertive, self-determining, self-maintaining being, which can as little be destroyed or annihilated as the divine substance itself. Nay, we may even say that for Spinoza the divine substance is not, except as it is in them. Spinoza's philosophy is, therefore, a true pantheism. Everything is lost in God, yet in a sense everything is again found in him. And God, as is indicated in the oft-quoted phrase Deu$ sive Natwra, is conceived as the immanent principle of the universe; or perhaps we should rather say the universe is conceived as immanent in God. When» therefore, it is said that Spinoza is f not an Atheist but an Akosmist,' in other words, that he denies the reality of the world but not of God, this, if it be the truth, is not the whole truth. For to Spinoza both movements of thought—the movement by which he dissolves the finite in the infinite, and the movement by which he finds the finite again in the infinite—are equally essential. If for. him the world be nothing apart from God, on the other hand, God is nothing apart from his realisation in the world.
Now this Spinozistic solution of the difficulty is not possible for Plotinus. With him the via negativa involves a negation of the finite or determinate in all its forms, which makes it impossible to find the finite again in the infinite. The Absolute One decisively repels the many, and cannot in any way admit difference or multiplicity into itself. Its unity, therefore, must be conceived not as immanent but as transcendent. And if it be still connected with the determinate and manifold, it must be only as its external cause or source, and not as a principle which manifests itself therein. The One must, indeed, be the fountain from which all being springs, but it cannot be the reality into which all other existence is taken up and absorbed. Plotinus is, therefore, not a pantheist but a mystic; and though he refers everything to God, yet he cannot, like Spinoza, treat either the material the spiritual world, either extension or thought, as the attributes of God. Hence, if in the upward movement of his logic, Plotinus distinctly leaves behind every order of being, even the intelligence, and in a sense condemns them all as unreal, yet this with him is no merging of all or any form of finitude in the infinite. Thus we have the strange paradox that the Being who is absolute, is yet conceived as in a sense external to the relative and finite, and that He leaves the relative and finite in a kind of unreal independence, an independence which has no value, and yet from which it as finite cannot escape. These words, indeed, as we shall see afterwards, do not express the exact thought of Plotinus, but they may serve sufficiently to indicate that aspect of his system which I am trying to illustrate, namely, that while he thinks the true attitude of the soul to be one in which the light of reason is extinguished in the ecstasy of union with God, he at the same time regards the spiritual world as in some way cowing out from God, and even as repelled into difference fro® him. The soul seeks to lay down the burden of it»*; finitude, to escape from the body and to rise above all the interests of its finite life; even of its very consciousness of self it would divest itself, as of something that still shuts it out from God. But this last barrier is so strong that the soul cannot, exceptor a few favoured moments, forget its separate existence. Thus we have, on the one side, a life which is nothing apart from God, and which, nevertheless, can never be united to him, except as it loses itself altogether; and, on the other side, an Absolute, which yet is not immanent in the life which it originates, but abides in transcendent separation from it. It is this contradiction which gives a kind of troubled intensity to the writings of Plotinus and makes them the supreme expression of Mysticism.
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