Self-Consciousness and the Infinite: Part 3, Personality

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Personality is evidently in self-consciousness. Reality, that is, material reality, is that which hinders in its nature my will from finding nothing. I cannot of course have the consciousness of another's personality or self-consciousness; but I can see that he is one who has it, and know what it is by my own self-consciousness. Is a person in a swoon? I have lost part of the evidence of what shows personality. And if personality be lost in a swoon or like state, it only shows we do not know by reason what constitutes it, the link between soul and body being momentarily suspended; but the spring from which to reason is gone, has ceased, so that there can be none: I cannot say “I,” which begins reasoning. I have no doubt it is the soul. But if the swoon was forever, and I knew there was no self-consciousness, I could not conceive of it as a person. Yet if a soul was there and it could be two hundred years asleep with the body, I should conceive of it as a person. If I did not know it had a soul, I should say I could not tell.
Mansel's notion of body is merely the scholastic notion of substance. I say there is matter because according to my constitution two bodies cannot be in the same place. I cannot go through a door (a spirit can); but by God's will it is such that what I meet resists my will without any will of its own.
Nor do I say consciousness molds, nor that we only know phenomena, as Kant, &c., though there be apparent truth in this. God has so constituted things, and me, and others, that certain things produce certain effects and impressions on me. If a man with jaundice sees yellow, it is merely that he for the moment is so constituted, being in an abnormal state; but the knowledge of the constitution in both is in the same thing producing regularly the former effect.
To say with Kant, that the object is a phenomenon is nonsense, because the phenomenon includes the perception in me. If it appears, it appears to some one. But a thing is what produces the effect. If it be asked, What is it I cannot tell. Not a phenomenon, but what has produced a certain idea in me and others. What I think of first is my perception; but perception makes me think of what produces it. A dream only shows that memory and combination, without the conscious will, may continue in that state.
That the truths as to God are only regulative is abominable and untrue. Truths do not regulate passions; and in religion, if true, God is revealed in His absolute nature: not as material extension, of course, it is a low material idea, but as He is. He is light—He is love; Christ is the perfect revelation of Him. It does not satisfy philosophy, because philosophy has nothing to do with it—it has only ideas, and no idea is love. “He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” To say that action, not knowledge, is man's destiny is very bad indeed. The knowledge of God—that is, the Father—and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, is eternal life. And we have fellowship with them. Action is a mere consequence in its place, because we are then, as partaking of the divine nature, like God, and have to act in love in our little sphere. And this correspondence with the Absolute is exactly what, if not required, is given. We know God and are imitators of God; we are dependent, no doubt, but truly.
The energy of matter is said to be motion; of mind, consciousness. I doubt this. Mansel always leaves out self-consciousness—its truest and deepest name. Will is the energy of the soul. For either consciousness or will we cannot find the link with matter. There are pairs of nerves, one of sensation (consciousness), another of motion. But the energy in Mansel's sense—analogous to motion—is clearly in the latter. No man can discover the link, it is true, how will raises my hand. But Mansel is infected with what he reasons against. Gracious kindness, goodness, relationship with man according to divine qualities, is not inferior to the natural notions of infinitude, &c., which are really material.
It may be alleged that will is no action of the mind. This is a matter to be decided by the definition of mind. If taken strictly as the thinking power, thinking (not consciousness) is its energy. Mansel has blundered all through, because he has judged thought to be the first element of mind, and infinitude to relate to matter or space where God is spoken of. In the last he has fallen into the trap of the enemy.
As to cause, it is power operating by design; not that the design and the power are necessarily united in the agent producing. The design may be in one only mind, and power set in motion in another. Hence causes have been distinguished in nature, inaccurately perhaps in division, but justly, into causa causans and causa causata. Will, design, power in activity are a cause. The how may not be known; but this does not hinder my seeing a cause and effect. When I say cold causes water to swell, God is supposed to have so constructed as to design, His will to have led Him so to form it, and the power is seen in effect. How it comes about physical science may or may not discover, but can only come at last to created ordinances. God may have produced uniformly or universally operative force, which we call a law, and sustains that continually by His will. It can only be so at any moment by His will. When He does not will it, it ceases. Laws need not be changed for a miracle, but that the same will should operate sovereignly by those laws. Thus suppose the presence of the soul in a body according to a given law animates it in a given way which we call life. A person dies. God calls the soul back into the body to be perfect according to the given law. No law is changed, but a miracle is performed. Supposing nerves and muscles operate in a particular way where communication is established with the brain, the communication has been interrupted, never formed. By one word (that is, by His will) God, or one acting by His command, restores the communication. No law is changed, but a miracle is performed. It is not a mere general law. It is the will which formed the law acting, not in suspending it in any case, but causing by an act of power the existence of a case in which its operation was renewed or begun where it did not before. A body specifically heavier than water sinks. The attractive power of the earth is not changed, but the body is so constructed by will and power for a time that it does not operate on it, and a man walks on the water. This does not suppose the action of the will and power of God; that is a miracle, but not a change in the laws of nature. The will of God may withdraw an individual from the power of a law without changing the law as a law at all. The exception only proves the rule. Men have said, If God stopped the earth for Joshua, so as to make the sun and moon stand still for Joshua, all would have been flooded and destroyed; just as if He would not have stopped the motion of all at the same time (that is, the action of the moving power). What stopped the earth stopped all with it, my head as well as my heels. This is ridiculous. The question is, Can God will? He is not God if He cannot. Can I?
(Continued from page 304)