Religion in the Making
A Series of Four Lectures delivered during February 1926,
 Body and Spirit
Web Publication by
Mountain Man Graphics, Australia
Religion and Metaphysics
Thus dispassionate criticism of religious belief is beyond all things necessary. The foundations of dogma must be laid in a rational metaphysics which criticises meanings, and endeavours to express the most general concepts adequate for the all-inclusive universe.
This position has never been seriously doubted, though in practice it is often evaded. One of the most serious periods of neglect occurred in the middle of the nineteenth century, through the dominance of the historical interest.
It is a curious delusion that the rock upon which our beliefs can be founded is an historical investigation. You can only interpret the past in terms of the present. The present is all that you have; and unless in this present you can find general principles which interpret the present as including a representation of the whole community of existents, you cannot move a step beyond your little patch of immediacy.
Thus history presupposes a metaphysic. It can be objected that we believe in the past and talk about it without settling our metaphysical principles. That is certainly the case. But you can only deduce metaphysical dogmas from your interpretation of the past on the basis of a prior metaphysical interpretation of the present.
In so far as your metaphysical beliefs are implicit, you vaguely interpret the past on the lines of the present. But when it comes to the primary metaphysical data, the world of which you are immediately conscious is the whole datum.
This criticism applies equally to a science or to a religion which hopes to justify itself without any appeal to metaphysics. The difference is that religion is the longing of the spirit that the facts of existence should find their justification in the nature of existence. "My soul thirsteth for God," writes the Psalmist.
But science can leave its metaphysics implicit and retire behind our belief in the pragmatic value of its general descriptions. If religion does that, it admits that its dogmas are merely pleasing ides for the purpose of stimulating its emotions. Science (at least as a temporary methodological device) can rest upon a naive faith; religion is the longing for justification. When religions ceases to seek for penetration, for clarity, it is sinking back into its lower forms. The ages of faith are the ages of rationalism.
The Contribution of Religion to Metaphysics
It is for this reason that in the previous lecture the broadest view of religious experience was insisted on. If, at this stage of thought, we include points of radical divergence between the main streams, the whole evidential force is indefinitely weakened. Thus religious experience cannot be taken as contribution to metaphysics any direct evidence for a personal God in any sense transcendent or creative.
The universe, thus disclosed, is through and through independent. The body pollutes the mind, the mind pollutes the body. Physical energy, sublimates itself into zeal; conversely, zeal stimulates the body. The biological ends pass into ideals of standards, and the formation of standards affects the biological facts. The individual is formative of the society, the society is formative of the individual. Particular evils infect the whole world, particular goods point the way of escape.
The world is at once a passing shadow and final fact. The shadow is passing into the fact, so as to be constitutive of it; and yet the fact is prior to the shadow. There is a kingdom of heaven prior to the actual passage of actual things, and there is the same kingdom finding its completion through the accomplishment of this passage.
But just as the kingdom of heaven transcends the natural worlds, so does this world transcend the kingdom of heaven. For the world is evil, and the kingdom is good. The kingdom is the in the world, and yet not of the world.
The actual world, the world of experiencing, and of thinking, and of physical activity, is a community of many diverse entities; and these entities contribute to, or derogate from, the common value of the total community. At the same time, these actual entities are, for themselves, their own value, individual and separable. They add to the common stock and yet they suffer alone. The world is a scene of solitariness in community.
The individuality of entities is just as important as their community. The topic of religion is individuality in community.
A Metaphysical Description
There are many ways of analyzing the universe, conceived as that which is comprehensive of all that there is. In a description it is thus necessary to correlate these different routes of analysis. First, consider the analysis into (1) the actual world, passing into time; and (2) those elements which go to its formation.
Such formative elements are not themselves actual and passing; they are the factors which are either non-actual or non-temporal, disclosed in the analysis of what is both actual and temporal.
They constitute the formative character of the actual temporal world. We know nothing beyond this temporal world and the formative elements which jointly constitute its character. The temporal world and its formative elements constitute for us the all-inclusive universe.
These formative elements are:
2. The realm of ideal entities, or forms, which are in themselves not actual, but are such that they are exemplified in everything that is actual, according to some proportion of relevance.
3. The actual but non-temporal entity whereby the indetermination of mere creativity is transmuted into a determinate freedom. This non-temporal actual entity is what men call God - the supreme God of rationalized religion.
The actual temporal world can be analyzed into a multiplicity of occasions of actualization. These are the primary actual units of which the temporal world is composed. Call each such occasion an "epochal occasion." Then the actual world is a community of epochal occasions. In the physical world each epochal occasion is a definite limited physical event, limited both as to space and time, but with time-duration as well as with its full spatial dimensions.
The epochal occasions are the primary units of the actual community, and the community is composed of the units. But each unit has in its nature a reference to every other member of the community, so that each other member of the community, so that each unit is a microcosm representing in itself the entire all-inclusive universe.
These epochal occasions are the creatures. The reason for the temporal character of the actual world can now be given by reference to the creativity and the creatures. For the creativity is not separable from its creatures. Thus the creatures remain with the creativity. Accordingly, the creativity for a creature becomes the creativity with the creature, and thereby passes into another phase of itself. It is now the creativity for a new creature. Thus there is a transition of the creative action, and this transition exhibits itself, in the physical world, in the guise of routes of temporal succession.
This protean character of the creativity forbids us from conceiving it as an actual entity. For its character lacks determinateness. It equally prevents us from considering the temporal world as a definite actual creature. For the temporal world is an essential incompleteness. It has not the character of a definite matter of fact, such as attaches to an event in past history, viewed from a present standpoint.
An epochal occasion is a concretion. It is a mode in which diverse elements come together into a real unity. Apart from that concretion, these elements stand in mutual isolation. Thus an actual entity is the outcome of a creative synthesis, individual and passing.
The various elements which are thus brought into unity are the other creatures and the ideal forms and God. These elements are not a mere unqualified aggregate. In such a case there could only be one creature. In the concretion the creatures are qualified by the ideal forms, and conversely the ideal forms are qualified by the creatures. Thus the epochal occasion, which is thus emergent, has in its own nature the other creatures under the aspect of these forms, and analogously it includes the forms under the aspect of these creatures. It is thus a definite limited creature, emergent in consequence of the limitations thus mutually imposed on each other by the elements.
God and the Moral Order
The boundless wealth of possibility in the realm of abstract form would leave each creative phase still indeterminate, unable to synthesize under determinate conditions, the creatures from which it springs. The definite determination which imposes ordered balance on the world requires an actual entity imposing its own unchanged consistency of character on every phase.
Thus creative indetermination attains its measure of determination. A simpler metaphysic would result if we could stop at this conclusion. A complete determinism would thus mean the complete self-consistency of the temporal world. This is the conclusion of all thinkers who are inclined to trust to the adequacy of metaphysical concepts.
The difficulty of this conclusion comes when we confront the theory with the facts of the world. If the theory of complete determinism, by reason of the necessity of conformation with the nature of God, holds true, then the evil in the world is in conformity with the nature of God.
Now evil is exhibited in physical suffering, mental suffering, and loss of the higher experience in favour of the lower experience. The common character of all evil is that its realization in fact involves that there is some concurrent realization of a purpose towards elimination. The purpose is to secure the avoidance of evil. The fact of the instability of evil is the moral order in the world.
Evil, triumphant in its enjoyment, is so far good in itself; but beyond itself it is evil in its character of a destructive agent among things greater than itself. In the summation of the more complete fact it has secured a descent towards nothingness, in contrast to the creativeness of what can without qualification be termed good. Evil is positive and destructive; what is good is positive and creative.
This instability of evil does not necessarily lead to progress. On the contrary, the veil in itself leads to the world losing forms of attainment in which that evil manifests itself. Either the species cease to exist, or it sinks back into a stage in which it ranks below the possibility of that form of evil. For example, a species whose members are always in pain will either cease to exist, or lose the delicacy of perception which results in that pain, or develop a finer and more subtle relationship among its bodily parts.
Thus evil promotes its own elimination by destruction, or delegation, or by elevation. But in its own nature it is unstable. It must be noted that the state of degradation to which evil leads, when accomplished, is not in itself evil, except by comparison with what might have been. A hog is not an evil beast, but when a man is degraded to the level of a hog, with the accompanying atrophy of finer elements, he is no more evil than a hog. The evil of the final degradation lies in the comparison of what is with what might have been. During the process of degradation the comparison is an evil for the man himself, and at its final stage it remains an evil for others.
But in this last point respecting the evil for others, it becomes plain that, with a sufficiently comprehensive view, a stable state of final degradation is not reached. For the relationships with society and the indirect effects have to be taken into account. Also destruction when accomplished is not an evil for the thing destroyed. For there is no such thing. Again the evil lies in the loss to the social environment. There is evil when things are at cross purposes.
The contrast in the world between evil and good is the contrast between the turbulence of evil and the "peace which passeth all understanding." There is a self- preservation inherent in hat which is good in itself. Its destruction may come from without but not from within. Good people of narrow sympathies are apt to be unfeeling and unprogressive, enjoying their egotistical goodness. Their case, on a higher level, is analogous to that of the man completely degraded to a hog. They have reached a state of stable goodness, so far as their own interior life is concerned. This type of moral correctitude is, on a larger view, so like evil that the distinction is trivial.
Thus if God be an actual entity which enters into every creative phase and yet is above change, He must be exempt from internal inconsistency which is the note of evil. Since God is actual, He must include in himself a synthesis of the total universe. There is, therefore, in God's nature the aspect of the realm of forms as qualified by the world, and the aspect of the world as qualified by the forms. His completion, so that He is exempt from transition into something else, must mean that his nature remains self-consistent in relation to all change.
Thus God is the measure of the aesthetic consistency of the world. There is some consistency in creative action, because it is conditioned by his immanence.
If we trace the evil in the world to the determinism derived from God, then the inconsistency in the world is derived from the consistency of God. Also the incompletion in the world is derivative from the completion of God.
The temporal world exhibits two sides of itself. On one side it exhibits an order in matter of fact, and a self-contrast with ideals, which show that its creative passage is subject to the immanence of an unchanging actual entity. On the other side its incompletion, and its evil, show that the temporal world is to be construed in terms of additional formative elements which are not definable in the terms which are applicable to God.
Value and Purpose of God
Value is inherent in actuality itself. To be an actual entity is to have a self-interest. This self-interest is a feeling of self-valuation; it is an emotional tone. The value of other things, not one's self, is the derivative value of being elements contributing to this ultimate self- interest. This self-interest is the interest of what one's existence, as in that epochal occasion, comes to. It is the ultimate enjoyment of being actual.
But the actuality is the enjoyment, and this enjoyment is the experiencing of value. For an epochal occasion is a microcosm inclusive of the whole universe. This unification of the universe, whereby its various elements are combined into aspects of each other, is an atomic unit within the real world.
Such an ultimate concrete fact is of the nature of an act of perceptivity. But, if we are speaking of the non-mental facts, such perceptivity is blind. It is without reflective consciousness; it is the self-value of its own microcosmic apprehension. The self-value is the unit fact which emerges. In calling it a perceptivity, or an apprehension, we are already analyzing it into the separate ingredients which go to form the one emergent thing. Each actual entity is arrangement of the whole universe, actual and ideal, whereby there is constituted that self-value which is the entity itself.
Thus the epochal occasion has two sides. On one side it is a mode of creativity bringing together the universe. This side is the occasion as the cause of itself, its own creative act. We are here conceiving the creation as the reverse of our analysis. For in our description we are holding the elements apart; whereas in the creation they are put together.
On the other side, the occasion is the creature. This creature is that one emergent fact. This fact is the self-value of the creative act. But there are not two actual entities, the creativity and the creature. There is only one entity which is self-creating creature.
The description of the variety of aspects, under which the various actual occasions enter into each other's natures, is the description of the various relationships within the real physical and spiritual worlds.
The mental occasion is derivative from its physical counterpart. It is also equally of the character of a perceptivity issuing into value-feeling, but it is a reflective perceptivity.
There are two routes of creative passage form a physical occasion. One is towards another physical occasion, and the other is towards the derivative reflective occasion. The physical route links together physical occasions as successive temporal incidents in the life a body. The other route links this bodily life with a correlative mental life. A mental occasion is an ultimate fact in the spiritual world, just as a physical occasion of blind perceptivity is an ultimate fact in the physical world. There is an essential reference from one world to the other.
There is no such thing as bare value. There is always a specific value, which is the created unit of feeling arising out of the specific mode of concretion of the diverse elements. These different specific value-feelings are comparable amid their differences; and the ground for this comparability is what is here termed "value."
This comparability grades the various occasions in respect to the intensiveness of value. The zero of intensiveness means the collapse of actuality. All intensive quantity is merely the contribution of some one element in the synthesis to this one intensiveness of value.
Various occasions are thus comparable in respect to their relative depths of actuality. Occasions differ in importance of actuality. Thus the purpose of God in the attainment of value is in a sense a creative purpose. Apart from God, the remaining formative elements would fail in their functions. There would be no creatures, since, apart from harmonious order, the perceptive fusion would be a confusion neutralizing achieved feeling. Here "feeling" is used as synonym for "actuality."
The adjustment is the reason for the world. it is not the case that there is an actual world which accidentally happens to exhibit an order of nature. There is an actual world because there is an order in nature. If there were no order, there would be no world. Also since there is a world, we know that thee is an order. The ordering entity is a necessary element in the metaphysical situation presented by the actual world.
This line of thought extends Kant's argument. He saw the necessity for God in the moral order. But with his metaphysics he rejected the argument from the cosmos. The metaphysical doctrine, here expounded, finds the foundations of the world in the aesthetic experience, rather than as with Kant in the cognitive and conceptive experience. All order is therefore aesthetic order, and the moral order is merely certain aspects of aesthetic order. The actual world is the outcome of the aesthetic order, and the aesthetic order is derived from the immanence of God.
Body and Mind
Now in some sense no one doubts but that there are bodies and minds. The only point at issue is the status of such bodies and minds in the scheme of things. Descrates affirmed that they were individual substances, so that each bit of matter is a substance, and each mind is a substance. He also states what he means by a substance. He says:
Created substances, however, whether corporeal or thinking, may be conceived under this common concept; for they are things which need only the concurrence of God in order to exist. . . . When we perceive any attribute, we therefore conclude that some existing thing or substance to which it may be attributed, is necessarily present.
These sentences are a summary of the presupposition of scientific thought in recent centuries: that the world is composed of bits of stuff with attributes. There are insuperable difficulties in Descartes' view which have led to attempts at simplification, keeping his general supposition of stuff with attributes.
Note that Descartes proof presupposes three types of substance namely, God, bits of matter, minds. Descartes' proof of the existence of God is accepted by very few philosophers, religious or otherwise. Indeed, given his starting point, it is difficult to see how any proof can be found.
The simplifications all concern dropping either one or two of these types of substances. For example, dropping God, and retaining only matter and mind; or dropping God and minds, and retaining the matter, as with Hobbes; or dropping matter, and retaining God and minds, as with Berkeley; or dropping matter and minds, and retaining God alone. In this latter case, the temporal world becomes an appearance forming an attribute of God.
But the main point of all such philosophies is that they presuppose individual substance, either one or many individual substances, "which requires nothing but itself in order to exist." This presupposition is exactly what is denied in the more Platonic description which has been given in this lecture. There is no entity, not even God, "which requires nothing but itself in order to exist."
According to the doctrine of this lecture, every entity is in its essence social and requires the society in order to exist. In fact, the society for each entity, actual or ideal, is the all inclusive universe, including its ideal forms.
But Descartes has the great merit that he states facts which any philosophy must fit into its scheme. There are bits of matter. and there are minds. Both matter and mind have to be fitted into the metaphysical scheme.
Now, according to the doctrine of this lecture, the most individual actual entity is a definite act of perceptivity. So matter and mind, which persist through a route of such occasions, must be relatively abstract; and they must gain their specific individualities from their respective routes. The character of a bit of matter must be something common to each occasion of its route; and analogously, the character of a mind must be something common to each occasion of its route. Each bit of matter, and each minds, is a subordinate community in that sense analogously to the actual world.
But each occasion, in its character of being a finished creature, is a value of some definite specific sort. Thus a mind must be a route whose various occasions exhibit some community of type of value. Similarly a bit of matter or an electron must be a route whose various occasions exhibit some community of type of value.
Again in such a route material or mental the environment will also partially determine the forms of the occasions. But that which the occasions have in common, so as to form a route of kind or a route of matter, must be derived by inheritance from the antecedent members of the route. The environment may favour this inheritance must be in the background so that there is a real transmission of the common element along the route.
In the case of men and animals, there are obviously routes of mind and routes of matter in the very closest connection, which we will consider more particularly in a moment. In the case of a bit or inorganic matter, any associate route of mentality seems to be negligible.
A belief in purely spiritual beings means, on this metaphysical theory, that there are routes of mentality in respect to which associate material routes are negligible, or entirely absent. At the present moment the orthodox belief is that for all men after death there are such routes, and that for all animals after death there are no such routes.
Also at present it is generally held that a purely spiritual being is necessarily immortal. The doctrine here developed gives no warrant for such a belief. It is entirely neutral on the question of immortality, or on the existence of purely spiritual beings other than God. There is no reason why such a question should not be decided on more special evidence, religious or otherwise, provided that it is trustworthy. In this lecture we are merely considering evidence with a certain breadth of extension throughout mankind. Until that evidence has yielded its systematic theory, special evidence is indefinitely weakened in its effect.
The Creative Process
It survives because the universe is a process of attaining instances of definite experience out of its own elements. Each such instance embraces the whole, omitting nothing, whether it be ideal form or actual fact. But it brings them into its own unity of feeling under gradations of relevance and of irrelevance, and thereby by this limitation issues into that definite experience which it is.
Accordingly, any given instance of experience is only possible so far as the antecedent facts permit. For they are required in order to constitute it. The maintenance, throughout ages of life history, of a given type of experience, in instance after instance of its separate occasions, requires, therefore, the stable order of the actual world.
The creative process is thus to be discerned in that transition by which one occasion, already actual, enters into the birth of another instance of experienced value. There is not one simple line of transition from occasion to occasion, though there may be a dominant line. The whole world conspires to produce a new creation. It presents to the creative process its opportunities and its limitations.
The limitations are the opportunities. The essence of depth of actuality - that is of vivid experience - is definiteness. Now to be definite always means that all the elements of a complex whole contribute to some one effect, to the exclusion of others. The creative process is a process of exclusion to the same extent as it is a process of inclusion. In this connection "to exclude" means to relegate to irrelevance in the aesthetic unity, and "to include" means to elicit relevance to that entity.
The birth of a new instance is the passage into novelty. Consider how any one actual fact, which I will call the ground, can enter into the creative process. The novelty which enters into the derivative instance is the information of the actual world with anew set of ideal forms. In the most literal sense the lapse of time is the renovation of the world with ideas. A great philosopher CF. Alexander, has said that time is the mind of space. In respect to one particular new birth of one centre of experience, this novelty of ideal forms will be called the "consequent." Thus we are now considering the particular relevance of the consequent to the particular ground supplied by one antecedent occasion.
The derivative includes the fusion of the particular ground with the consequent, so far as the consequent is graded by its relevance to that ground.
In this fusion of ground with consequent, the creative process brings together something which, at its entry into that process, is not actual. The process is the achievement of actuality by the ideal consequent, in virtue of its union with the actual ground. In the phrase of Aristotle, the process is the fusion of being with not-being.
The birth of a new aesthetic experience depends on the maintenance of two principles by the creative purpose:
2. The novel consequent must be graded in relevance so as to preserve some contrast with the ground in respect to that same identity of character.
Thus the consequent must agree with the ground in general type so as to preserve definiteness, but it must contrast with in respect to contrary instances so as to obtain vividness and quality. In the physical world, this principle of contrast under an identity expresses itself in the physical law that vibration enters into the ultimate nature of atomic organisms. Vibration is the recurrence of contrast within identity of type. The whole possibility of measurement in the physical world depends on this principle. To measure is to count vibrations.
Thus physical quantities are aggregates of physical vibrations, and physical vibrations are the expression among the abstractions of physical science of the fundamental principle of aesthetic experience.
Another example of this same principle is to be found in the connection between body and mind. Both mind and body refer to their life-history of separate concrete occasions. So the connection which we seek is to be found in the creative process relating a physical occasion, in the life of the body, to its corresponding mental occasion in the life of the mind.
The physical occasion enters into the mental occasion, as already actual, and as contributing to its ground. The reversion from its ground, which the consequent of ideal novelty must exhibit, is now of the most fundamental character. The reversion is the undoing of the synthesis exhibited in the ground. Thus the transition from bodily occasion to mental occasion exhibits a new dimension of transition from that exhibited in the transition from bodily occasion to bodily occasion. In the latter transition there is the novelty of contrast within the one concept of synthesis. In the former, the contrast is the contrast of synthesis itself with its opposite, which is analysis.
Thus in the birth of the mental occasion the consequent of ideal novelty enters into reality, and possesses an analytic force over against the synthetic ground. Ideal forms thus synthesized into a mental occasion are termed concepts. Concepts meet blind experience with an analytic force. Their synthesis with physical occasion, as ground, is the perceptive analysis of the blind physical occasion in respect to its degree of relevance to the concepts.
The phrase "immediate experience" can have either of two meanings, according as it refers to the physical or to the mental occasion. It may mean a complete concretion of physical relationships in the unity of a blind perceptivity. In this sense "immediate experience" means an ultimate physical fact.
But in a secondary, and more usual, sense it means the consciousness of physical experience. Such consciousness is a mental occasion. It has the character of being an analysis of physical experience by synthesis with the concepts involved in the mentality. Such analysis is incomplete, because it is dependent on the limitations of the concepts. This limitation arises from the grading of the relevance of the concepts in the mental occasion. The most complete concrete fact is dipolar, physical and mental. But, for some specific purpose, the proportion of importance, as shared between the two poles, may vary form negligibility to dominance of either pole.
The value realized in the mental occasion is knowledge-value. This knowledge-value is the issue of the full character of the creativity into the creature world. There is nothing in the creativity which fails to issue into the actual world. Thus the creativity with a purpose issues into the mental creature conscious of an ideal Also God, as conditioning the creativity with his harmony of apprehension, issues into the mental creature as moral judgement according to a perfection of ideals.
The order of the world is no accident. There is nothing actual which could be actual without some measure of order. The religious insight is the grasp of this truth: That the order of the world, the depth of reality of the world, the value of the world in its whole and in its parts, the beauty of the world, the zest of life, the peace of life, and the mastery of evil, are all bound together - not accidentally, but by reason of this truth: that the universe exhibits a creativity with infinite freedom, and a realm of forms with infinite possibilities; but that this creativity and these forms are together impotent to achieve actuality apart from the completed ideal harmony, which is God.