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Kant, Immanuel - Dreams of a Spirit Seer - 10 Chapter Two



Type of Spiritual Experience





A description of the experience

Kant, Immanuel - Dreams of a Spirit Seer

Among the forces which move the human heart, some of the most powerful seem to lie outside of it.

They consequently are not mere means to selfishness and private interest, which would be an aim lying inside of man himself, but they incline our emotions to place the focus in which they combine, outside of us, in other rational beings. Thence arises a struggle between two forces, the proprium which refers everything to itself, and the public spirit by which the mind is driven or drawn towards others outside of itself.

I do not dwell upon that instinct which causes us to depend so much and so universally upon the judgment of others, to consider outside approbation or applause requisite to a good opinion of ourselves. Sometimes a mistaken conception of honour comes up in this matter, but nevertheless there is even in the most unselfish and open natures a secret leaning to compare with the judgment of others what we have by ourselves recognized to be good and true, so as to make both concordant; on the other hand there is an inclination to stop, so to speak, each human soul on its way to knowledge, when it seems to go another path than that upon which we have entered. All this comes, perhaps, from our perception of the dependence of our own judgment upon the common sense of man, and it becomes a reason for ascribing to the whole of thinking beings a sort of unity of reason.

But I pass over this otherwise not unimportant consideration, and, for the present, take up another which, as far as our purpose is concerned, is more obvious and pertinent.

When we consider our needs in relation to our environment, we cannot do it without experiencing a certain sensation of restraint and limitation which lets us know that a foreign will, as it were, is active in us, and that our own liking is subject to the condition of external consent.

A secret power compels us to adapt our intentions to the welfare of others, or to this foreign will, although this is often done unwillingly, and conflicts strongly with our selfish inclination. The point to which the lines of direction of our impulses converge, is thus not only in ourselves, but there are besides powers moving us in the will of others outside of ourselves. Hence arise the moral impulses which often carry us away to the discomfiture of selfishness, the strong law of duty, and the weaker one of benevolence. Both of these wring from us many a sacrifice, and although selfish inclinations now and then preponderate over both, these still never fail to assert their reality in human nature.

Thus we recognize that, in our most secret motives, we are dependent upon the rule of the will of all, and thence arises in the community of all thinking beings a moral unity, and a systematic constitution according to purely spiritual laws.

If we want to call the fact that we feel forced to adapt our will to the will of all, the sense of morality, we thereby describe only a manifestation of that which actually takes place in us, without settling upon its causes.

Thus Newton called the established law that all particles of matter have the tendency to approach each other, gravitation, because he did not want to have his mathematical demonstrations mixed up with possible philosophical disputes over the causes of gravitation. Nevertheless, he did not hesitate to treat gravitation as the true effect of a general interaction of matter, and therefore gave to it also the name of attraction. Should it not be possible to conceive the phenomenon of moral impulses in the mutual relations of thinking creatures as the consequence of an actual force, consisting in the fact that spiritual natures flow into each other?

The sense of morality then would be the sensation of this dependence of the individual will upon the will of all, and would be a consequence of the natural and universal interaction whereby the immaterial world attains its unity, namely, by conforming itself to a system of spiritual perfection, according to the laws of this sense of morality, which would constitute its mode of cohesion.

If we grant to these thoughts so much probability as to make it worth while to measure them by their consequences, we shall be drawn by their charm, perhaps unconsciously, into being partial to them. For in this case there seem to disappear most of the irregularities which otherwise, owing to the contradiction between the moral and physical relations of men here on earth, strike us as being so strange.

The moral quality of our actions can, according to the order of nature, never be fully worked out in the bodily life of men, but it can be so worked out in the spirit-world, according to spiritual laws.

The true purposes, the secret motives of many endeavours, fruitless by impotency, the victory over self, or the occasional hidden treachery in apparently good actions, are mostly lost as to their physical effect in the bodily state, but in the immaterial world they would have to be regarded as fruitful causes, and, consequently, according to spiritual laws and on account of the connection between the individual will and the will of all, they would mutually produce and receive effects appropriate to the moral quality of free will.

For just because the morality of an action concerns the inner state of the spirit, it naturally can only in the immediate communion of spirits have, an effect adequate to its full morality. Thus it would happen that man’s soul would already in this life have to take its place among the spiritual substances of the universe according to its moral state, just as, according to the laws of motion, the matter of the universe arranges itself into an order conformable to its material forces.

When finally through death the communion of the soul with the body-world is abolished, life in the other world would be only a natural continuation of such connections as were formed with it already in this life, and all the consequences of the morality exercised here we would find there in the effects which a being standing in indissoluble communion with the whole spirit-world would have already achieved, according to spiritual laws.

Present and future would be, as it were, out of one piece and constitute a continuous whole, even according to the order of nature.

This latter circumstance is of especial importance. For in a speculation based merely upon reasoning there is a great difficulty if, in removing the inconvenience which follows from the incomplete harmony of morality and its consequences in this world, we have to resort to an extraordinary idea of the divine will.

For, though our judgment of it might, according to our conceptions, be probable, a strong suspicion would remain that the weak conceptions of our understanding were applied to the Highest perhaps very erroneously. For it is incumbent upon man to judge of the divine will only from the harmony which he actually perceives in the world, or which, by the rule of analogy, according to the order of nature, he may suppose to be in it; he is not entitled to imagine new and arbitrary arrangements in the present or future world, according to some scheme of his own wisdom which he prescribes to the divine will.

The source of the experience

Kant, Immanuel

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