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Kant, Immanuel - Dreams of a Spirit Seer - 07 Chapter Two



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Chapter Two continued

This immaterial world, therefore, can be regarded as a whole existing by itself, and its parts, as being in mutual conjunction and intercourse without the instrumentality of anything corporeal.

The relation by means of things corporeal is consequently to be regarded as accidental; it can belong only to a few; yea, where we meet with it, it does not hinder even those very immaterial beings, while acting upon one another through matter, from standing also in their special universal relationship, so that at any time they may exercise upon one another mutual influences by virtue of the laws of their immaterial existence. Their relation by means of matter is thus accidental, and is due to a special divine institution, while their direct relation is natural and insoluble.

By combining in this way all principles of life in the whole of nature, as so many ‘incorporeal substances, communicating with each other, partly also united with matter, we conceive of the immaterial world as a great whole, an immeasurable but unknown gradation of beings and active natures by which alone the dead matter of the corporeal world is endued with life.

But to which members of nature life is extended, and which those degrees of it are which are next to utter lifelessness, can, perhaps, never be made out with certainty.

Hylozoism imputes life to everything; materialism, carefully considered, kills everything.

Maupertuis attributed to the organic particles of the nutriment of all animals the lowest degree of life, other philosophers see in them nothing else but dead masses which serve only to augment the lever-apparatus of animal machines. The undoubted characteristic of life in that which appeals to our external senses is, I may say, the free movement which shows that it is arbitrary, but the conclusion is not certain that, wherever this characteristic is not found, there is no degree of life. Boerhave says somewhere: The animal is a plant which has its roots in the stomach (inside). Another might, perhaps, play without censure with these conceptions by saying: The plant is an animal which has its stomach in the root (outside).

The plants, therefore, may lack the organs of arbitrary movement, and thus the external characteristics of life. These are necessary to the animals, because a being which has the instruments of nourishment inside must be able to move about according to its needs; but a being where these are outside and planted in the nourishing element, is already sufficiently maintained by external forces. Such a being contains indeed a principle of inner life in the fact of vegetation, yet it does not need an organic apparatus for external free activity.

I do not propose to use any of these considerations as evidence, for, aside from the fact that I could say very little in favour of such conjectures, they have the ridicule of fashion against them, as being dusty antiquated fancies.

The ancients, namely, thought that they could assume three kinds of life, the vegetable, the animal, and the reasonable. In uniting in man the three immaterial principles of those kinds of life, they very likely erred; but so far as they distributed the three principles among the three kinds of growing beings which propagate their kind, they indeed said something undemonstrable, but not, on that account, unreasonable, especially not in the judgment of one who considers the close relation of the polyps and other zoophytes with the plants, or who takes into account the special life belonging to the separated parts of some animals, irritability—that quality of the fibres of an animal body and of some plants, so well demonstrated, and, at the same time, so inexplicable.

But, after all, the appeal to immaterial principles is a subterfuge of bad philosophy.

Explanations of that kind should be avoided as much as possible, so that those causes of the world’s phenomena which rest on the laws of motion of matter alone, and which solely and alone are capable of being conceived, may be recognized in their full extent.

Nevertheless, I am convinced that Stahl, who likes to explain animal processes organically, is often nearer to the truth than Hofmann, Boerhave, and others, who leave immaterial forces out of their plan and keep to mechanical reasons. Yet these follow thereby a more philosophical method, which sometimes perhaps fails, but oftener proves right, and which alone can be applied to advantage in science.

For the influence of beings of incorporeal nature can only be said to exist, but it can never be shown how it proceeds, nor how far its efficiency extends.

The source of the experience

Kant, Immanuel

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