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Observations placeholder

Kant, Immanuel - Dreams of a Spirit Seer - 11 Chapter Two



Type of Spiritual Experience


I think Kant experienced everything he wrote about here, as his description is perfect in every detail when you compare it with all the other thousands of people n this site.

But he is so careful, so careful about what he says.

A description of the experience

Kant, Immanuel - Dreams of a Spirit Seer

We now turn our consideration again into the former path, and approach the aim which we have set before ourselves.

If the facts of the spirit-world be such as we have stated, and the share of our soul in it be truly pictured in the sketch just made, then scarcely anything appears more strange than that communion with spirits is not quite a common and ordinary thing; and what is extraordinary about it is rather the scarcity of apparitions than their possibility.

This difficulty is tolerably easy to remove and already has been partly removed.

For the conception which the soul of man has of itself as of a spirit, which, moreover, it has obtained through contemplation of the immaterial, i.e., by observing itself in its relation to beings of similar nature, this conception is entirely different from that where its consciousness conceives itself as a man, by means of an image originated in the impression of corporeal organs and conceived of in relation to none but corporeal things.

It is, therefore, indeed one subject, which is thus at the same time a member of the visible and of the invisible world, but not one and the same person; for, on account of their different quality, the conceptions of the one world are not ideas associated with those of the other world, thus, what I think as spirit, is not remembered by me as man, and, conversely, my state as man does not at all enter into the conception of myself as a spirit. Moreover, my ideas of the spirit-world may be ever so clear and perspicuous, still that would not suffice to make me, as a man, conscious of that world; and so, however clear an idea one may, by reasoning, derive of himself, i.e., of his soul, as a spirit, still, this idea is with no man an object of actual sight and experience.

This difference, however, in the nature of spiritual ideas and those belonging to the body-life of man must not be considered so great an obstacle as to remove all possibility of becoming, sometimes, conscious of the influences of the spirit-world even in this life. For spiritual ideas can pass over into the personal consciousness of man, indeed, not immediately, but still in such a way that, according to the law of the association of ideas, they stir up those pictures which are related to them and awake analogous ideas of our senses. These, it is true, would not be spiritual conceptions themselves, but yet their symbols.

For, after all, it is one and the same substance which is a member both of this world and the other, and both kinds of ideas belong to the same subject and are connected with each other. How this is possible can be made intelligible by considering how our higher conceptions of reason, which approach the spiritual pretty closely, ordinarily assume, as it were, a bodily garment to make themselves clear. Thence it is that the moral qualities of deity are represented by the ideas of anger, jealousy, mercifulness, revenge, &c.; for the same reason poets personify the virtues, vices, and other qualities of human nature, though this is done in such a way that the true idea of the meaning shines through; in the same way the geometrician represents time by a line, although time and space have comformity only by relation and therefore agree, indeed, according to analogy, but never according to quality.

This is the reason why the idea of divine eternity assumes even with philosophers the appearance of infinite time, be they never so careful not to mix them up; and one great cause why mathematicians are generally loath to admit the monads of Leibnitz may be that they cannot help but imagine these monads as little masses.

Thus it is not improbable that spiritual sensations can pass over into consciousness if they act upon correlated ideas of the senses. In such a way ideas which are communicated by spiritual influx, would clothe themselves with the signs of that language which man uses for his other purposes. Thus the sensation of the presence of a spirit becomes converted into the picture of the human figure; the order and beauty of the immaterial world into fantasies which, under other circumstances, give pleasure to our senses in this life, &c.

Nevertheless this kind of apparition cannot be a common and ordinary thing but can occur only with persons whose organs have an unusual sensitiveness for intensifying, by harmonious motion, according to the inner state of the soul, the pictures of the imagination, to a higher degree than is usually the case, and should be the case, with healthy persons. Such abnormal persons would be confronted, in certain moments, with the appearance of many objects as if they were outside of themselves.

They would think that spiritual natures present with them were affecting their bodily senses, while yet this is only a delusion of the imagination, occurring, however, in such a way that its cause is a true spiritual influence, not, indeed, perceivable immediately, but revealing itself to consciousness by correlated pictures of the imagination which assume the appearance of sensations.

Conceptions derived from education and all sorts of fancies that have crept into the mind would exercise their influence here, where delusion is mingled with truth, a real spiritual sensation being, indeed, the foundation, but converted into phantoms of sensuous things.

It will further be admitted that the power to thus develop the impressions of the spirit-world into the clear perception of this world can hardly be of any use, because in such a process the spiritual sensation becomes necessarily so closely interwoven with the fancies of the imagination that it cannot be possible to distinguish the truth from the gross surrounding delusions.

Such a state would likewise indicate a disease, because it presupposes an altered balance of the nerves, which are put into unnatural motion merely by the activity of purely spiritual sensations of the soul. Finally, it would not be at all strange to find the spirit-seer to be at the same time a dreamer, at least in regard to the mental pictures which he makes of his visions; because ideas, unknown to him by their very nature and incompatible with those of his bodily state, crowd in and drag into external sensation badly adjusted pictures, creating thereby wild chimeras and curiously distorted figures, which float in trailing garments before the senses, deceiving them in spite of the fact that such chimeras may be based upon a true spiritual influence.

Now we need no longer be at a loss to give apparently rational causes for the stories about apparitions which so often cross the path of philosophers, as well as to account for all sorts of influences from spirits of which the rumour goes here and there. Departed souls and pure spirits can indeed never be present to our external senses, nor communicate with matter in any other way than by acting upon the spirit of man, who belongs with them to one great republic.

The spirits must act in such a way that the ideas which they call up in man’s mind clothe themselves in corresponding pictures according to the law of imagination, thus causing any objects which fit into the picture to appear as if they were outside of him. This deception can affect any one of the senses, and, however mixed it may be with incongruous fancies, it should not keep one from supposing spiritual influences in it. I should encroach upon the penetration of the reader if I should stop to apply this mode of explanation. For metaphysical hypotheses are possessed of such an immense flexibility that one must be very awkward not to be able to adapt this one to any story he hears even before investigating its truthfulness, which is in many cases impossible, and in still more is impolite to the narrator.

But if we balance against each other the advantages and disadvantages which might accrue to a person organized not only for the visible world, but also, to a certain degree, for the invisible (if ever there was such a person), such a gift would seem to be like that with which Juno honoured Teiresias, making him blind so that she might impart to him the gift of prophesying.

For, judging from the propositions above made, the knowledge of the other world can be obtained here only by losing some of that intelligence which is necessary for this present world.

I am not sure if even certain philosophers can be freed entirely from such a hard condition, when they turn their metaphysical telescopes upon such far-off regions and tell us of miraculous things. At least I do not grudge them their discoveries.

But I am afraid that some man of sound sense but little polish might intimate to them what the coachman answered to Tycho Brahe, when, one night, the latter suggested to the man he might drive the shortest way by directing his course according to the stars:
“My dear master, you may be an expert as to the sky, but here on earth you are a fool.”

The source of the experience

Kant, Immanuel

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Symbol system

Activities and commonsteps



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