Kant, Immanuel - Dreams of a Spirit Seer - 01 Chapter One
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
CHAPTER FIRST - A COMPLICATED METAPHYSICAL KNOT WHICH CAN BE UNTIED OR CUT ACCORDING TO CHOICE.
If we put all together, that the school-boy rehearses, that the crowd relates, and that the philosopher demonstrates about spirits, this would seem to constitute no small part of our knowledge. Nevertheless, I dare assert that all these smatterers could be placed in a most awkward embarrassment, if it should occur to somebody to insist upon the question, just what kind of a thing that is about which these people think they understand so much. ...... For we seldom hear at academies the comfortable and ofttimes reasonable “I do not know.” Certain newer philosophers, as they like to be called, overcome this question easily. A spirit, they say, is a being possessed of reason. Then it is no miracle to see spirits; for he who sees men, sees beings possessing reason. But, they continue, this being in man, possessing reason, is only a part of man, and this part, the animating part, is a spirit. Very well then. Before you prove that only a spiritual being can have reason, take care that first of all I understand what kind of conception I must have of a spiritual being.
Self-deception in this matter, while large enough to be seen with eyes half-open, is moreover of very evident origin. For, later on and in old age, we are sure to know nothing of that which was very well known to us at an early date, as children, and the man of thoroughness finally becomes at best a sophist in regard to his youthful delusions.
Thus I do not know if there are spirits, yea, what is more, I do not even know what the word “spirit” signifies. But, as I have often used it myself, and have heard others using it, something must be understood by it, be this something mere fancy or reality. To evolve this hidden meaning, I will compare my badly understood conception of it with sundry cases of application, and, by observing with which it conforms, and to which it is opposed, I hope to unfold its hidden sense.
Take, for example, the space of a cubic foot, and suppose something filling this space, i.e., resisting the intrusion of any other thing. Then nobody would call the substance occupying that space “spiritual.” It evidently would be called material, because it is expanded, impenetrable, and, like everything corporeal, subject to divisibility and to the laws of impact. Thus far we are still on the smooth track of other philosophers.
But imagine a simple being, and impart to it at the same time reason. Would that, then, comprise the meaning of “spirit?”
To discover this, I will leave to the aforesaid simple being reason as an inner quality, and will consider that being only in its external relations. And now I ask, if I want to place this simple substance in that space of one cubic foot, which is full of matter, would a single element have to make room for it, so that the spirit might enter? You think yes? Very well, then this supposed space would have to lose a second elementary particle—were it to take in a second spirit, and thus, if you keep on, a cubic foot of space would be filled with spirits whose mass exists just as well by impenetrability, as if it was full of matter, and, just like the latter, must be subject to the laws of impact.
But substances of this kind, although they might contain the power of reason, would not differ at all from the elements of matter of which also we know only the powers which they exert externally by their very existence, and do not at all know what might belong to their interior qualities.
Thus it is beyond doubt that simple substances of that kind, of which masses could be accumulated, would not be called spiritual beings. You will, therefore, be able to retain the conception of a spirit only if you imagine beings who can be present even in a space filled with matter, thus beings who do not possess the quality of impenetrability, and who never form a solid whole, no matter how many you unite. Simple beings of this kind would be called immaterial beings, and, if they have reason, spirits.
But simple substances which, if combined, result in an expanded and impenetrable whole, would be called material units, and their whole, matter. Either the name of a spirit is a mere word without any meaning, or, its significance is of the nature described.
We find in the works of philosophers many good and reliable proofs that everything which thinks must be simple; and that every substance which thinks according to reason, must be a unit of nature; and that the undivisible Ego could not be divided among many connected things which make up a whole.
My soul, therefore, must be a simple substance. But this proof leaves still undecided, whether the soul be of the nature of such things as, united in space, form an expanded and impenetrable whole; whether, therefore, it be material, or whether it be immaterial, and, consequently, a spirit; and, what is more, whether such beings as are called spirits, are possible.