Quest of Supra-physical
Realities: Four Avenues
A crucial problem of Thought as also of Life is centered on the distinction between the physical and the supra-physical, on the possibility of transition from the physical to the supra-physical, and on establishing, if possible, the relation between the physical realities and supra-physical realities. It is, indeed, possible to question the existence of the supra-physical, and several systems of thought and philosophy have been built in the course of human history to convince the human mind that there is no such thing as the supra-physical, and that all that can be considered to be supra-physical is nothing else than an epiphenomenon of the physical. Even subjective experience which can be regarded as supra-physical is sought to be shown to be a twitch of the physical. But the human quest refuses to be permanently tied up to the physical and to the sensuous. The data of experience are so vast, so complex and so intriguing that persistent efforts have been made throughout the history of humankind to transcend the limitations of the physical realities. The human tendency to expect, to imagine, to generalize, to make inductive leap, to build concepts and theories is a minimum starting-point of the quest for the supra-physical. If we look at the world with fresh eyes and with wonder that
accompanies every impartial look at the world and events, we seem to be surrounded by something that is not physical and it betrays itself to be other than what it appears to be.
That the physical can be transcended and that there can be transition from the physical to the supra-physical, and even that there can be built up relations between the physical and supra-physical has been constantly affirmed and perceived by the study and practice of four avenues of human quest: religion, occultism, philosophy, and spiritual experience. These four lines of human quest have some kind of interdependence, but they have been pursued from time to time independently of each other or with predominance of one line of development in comparison with others. Of these four, the first three are approaches to the spiritual evolution of the human consciousness and being, but the last is the central avenue of entry.
It is difficult to define religion, considering that it is seen to have been manifested in various forms and at various levels. It has been conjectured that some kind of animism was the beginning of religion and that it developed in spiritism, totemism and in beliefs and experiences of gods and goddesses, and finally in the beliefs and experiences of one universal God or one universal principle of Being or Non-Being. At one stage, tribal religions with tribal gods and goddesses fought among themselves; at another stage, regional or national religions flourished; it was only at advanced levels that there have grown up universal religions, and even there, there have been claims and counter-claims regarding their universality. This complex history of the development of religion10 makes it difficult for us to define
religion in some precise terms. But it may be said that religion is that avenue of human quest which is marked by a belief or faith in reality or realities which are essentially supra-physical or invisible, which have super-human qualities and powers, and which can be invoked for aid in the growth of human life and in transgressing obstacles that lie in the process of what comes to be conceived as human fulfilment or human salvation or human perfection. But religions develop doctrines that tend to harden themselves into dogmas. A religious belief tends to develop a character that demands unquestioning faith and unquestionable acceptance on the ground that the truth that it claims cannot be proved rationally and can only rarely be verified, if at all, in experiences that lie beyond our senses and reason. Religion also tends to expand its domain of influence and tends to build up edifices, structures, forms by the help of which bridges can be built between humanity and that reality or those realities which are celebrated as of supreme importance. Religion is, therefore, conceived as something that binds humanity with God or gods or those beings or states of consciousness which are worthy of worship and celebration. In the process of building up these bridges, a prominent part is played by the growth of rituals and ceremonies' as also of prescribed acts, of laws of conduct and of institutions by the aid of which human life can be moulded in forms that are considered helpful to the growth of human life on the lines that can eventually be harmonized with the sacredness that is attributed to the highest reality or realities that are prescribed to be objects of faith, reverence, admiration, and worship. Religions tend to trace their origin in scriptures, in Words of Revelation or in inspired avenues of approach to the Ineffable, Incommunicable and Unknowable.
Religion and Occultism
Religions have an element of occultism, — sometimes this element is predominant, sometimes preserved only in rituals, sometimes even largely exiled or condemned. In modem times, as a result of excessive rationalization, there has come about a discrediting and condemnation of most of the occult elements which seek to establish communication with that which is invisible. In a sense, occultism aims at knowledge of secret truths and potentialities of Nature which enable man to lift himself out of slavery to his physical limits of being. It is an attempt in particular to possess and organize the mysterious, occult, and subliminal power of Mind upon Life and of both Mind and Life over Matter. Occultism also strives to know the secret of physical things, and in this striving the development of several sciences come to be promoted, particularly, astronomy, physics, chemistry, geometry and the science of numbers. In fact, the knowledge developed by physical sciences can also be regarded as a part of occultism, since that knowledge reveals the secrets of material forces of nature, and occultism basically means the science of secret knowledge and application of secret knowledge so as to make secret knowledge utilizable for enlargement of discoveries and utilization of forces of Nature. It is true that occultism is popularly associated with magic and magical formulae and supposed mechanism of forces which are supraphysical or supranatural. Often occultism is looked upon as a superstition, although for those who have looked deeply into the hidden aspects of Nature-Force or experimented with their possibilities, occultism is not altogether a superstition. Just as in physical science, formulas and their applications can be astonishingly effective, even so when the forces of Life and Mind are studied, one can discover secret formulas and
methods of their applications, and one can even develop a domain of mechanization of latent forces,—mental and vital — in a restricted and specialized sense.
Occultism: Science of the Subliminal Consciousness
Occultism is essentially the science of the subtle physical, vital and mental realities that pervade a large part of the inner being of subjective existence11 and a large part of the universe in its aspects of objective vital and mental existence. According to occultism, there are powers of the mind and the life-force which are potential and can be brought to bear upon material things and happenings or even brought in and added to the present systemization so as to enlarge the control of mind over our own life and body or to act on the minds, lives, bodies of others or on the movements of cosmic Forces. There are, indeed, phenomena which appear to be miraculous, but according to occult sciences, they can be explained as happenings which occur in the material world on account of the operations of the hidden powers of subtle Matter, Life, and Mind. Examples of hypnotism may appear to be anomalous, and examples of telepathy, telekinesis and many others which are anomalous can be explained by occultism in terms of growing knowledge of occult powers which otherwise touch us only by a casual or a hidden action whose process is unknown to us or imperfectly caught by a few; a systematized endeavor to understand these phenomena would fall within the province of occultism, and according to those who have explored larger provinces of occultism contend that there are wide and multiple fields and there are varied uses and processes of a vast range of domains which can be explored. Occultism discovers that we are all the time undergoing a battery of suggestions, thought suggestions, impulse
suggestions, will-suggestions, emotional and sensational suggestions, thought waves, life waves that come on us or into us from others or from the universal energy but act and produce their effects without our knowledge. Occultism is a systematized endeavor to know these movements and their laws and possibilities, to master and use the powers or Nature-forces behind them or to protect ourselves from them.
It is true, according to advanced seekers of occultism and of higher spiritual knowledge, that occultism has its own dangers, and just as several scientific discoveries can be misused or clumsily used by a humanity mentally and morally unready for the handling of the powers of these discoveries, even so discoveries of occultism can be perilous, particularly if attempts are made to explore mind and life processes only on the limited basis of knowledge of the material instrumentation and process of our normal and abnormal mind and life functionings and activities. The dangers can be even more perilous if the exploration and application of spiritual domains is ignored or if the spiritual knowledge is pursued as only one form of the knowledge of the mind. In the history of the development of occultism, one witnesses in some parts of the world how occultism deviated into white and black magic or into romantic or thaumaturgic paraphernalia of occult mysticism and the exaggeration of what was after all a limited and scanty knowledge. This deviation was the reason as to why it became easy to discredit the field of occultism. But in Egypt and the East, occultism arrived at a greater and more comprehensive endeavor, and one can notice ampler maturity even today in the remarkable system of the Tantras. Occultism is, according to those who have studied it and its developments in Egypt and in the East, not only a many-sided science of the supernormal but it supplied the basis of all the
occult elements of religion and even developed a great and powerful system of spiritual discipline and self-realization. In the larger sense of the term, occultism is a science of secrets, and in that larger sense, the secret knowledge of physical sciences, of the sciences of the vital plane and the mental plane, and the sciences of those domains which are beyond mind and which are domains of the spiritual powers and realities, can all be considered to be the domains of occultism. A study of the phenomena that occult sciences bring to our attention promises a new departure for the advancing movement of Knowledge in the increasing tide of inquiry. The idea that Matter is the sole truth of existence, when confronted with the data of occultism, will be constrained to give way to the idea that the universe, even physical universe, is constituted by quantum realities, as also by the magical and miraculous powers which escape the rigid formula of materialism. Modern science seems to be preparing itself for a scientific investigation of the still hidden secrets of powers of mind and life, of the subtle and of the psychic and of the abnormal or super-normal phenomena. At this important juncture of the new departure, it will be necessary to rediscover the restrictions and precautions that were developed by the wise sages and mystics. For the wisdom of the past that has been accumulated suggests that a mere development of the knowledge of the subtle matter, of life and of mind, should be subordinated and controlled by greater forces of the concealed spirit, which lies at levels that are deeper and higher than various levels of matter, life and mind.
Occultism, in a restricted and precise sense, is limited to the domains of subliminal consciousness as distinguished from the domains of the Spirit, provided that we mean by the
subliminal to cover those domains which lie behind the surface appearances and extend to the realms of the subtle Matter, Life and Mind. In this definite scope, occultism excludes those domains which are psychic and spiritual, — since the psychic reality belongs to the domain that is profounder than the mind, and the spiritual is higher than the mind. Occultism may thus be described as the science of the subliminal, which is distinguishable from the psychic and the spiritual. In terms of Indian psychology, the subliminal domains of knowledge like the physical domains of knowledge stress the phenomena of multiplicity rather than those of unity. The subliminal consciousness is, indeed, a vaster field of knowledge than the field of the knowledge of Matter, but still it is a domain of mixed Ignorance and Know ledge, considering that by knowledge is meant primarily the knowledge of unity or oneness, and by ignorance is meant primarily the preoccupation with multiplicity that ignores unity. If we focus on the central domains of occultism, we shall find that they are particularly centered on the study of Subtle Matter, life-forces and mind-forces, even though they attempt to enter also into the phenomena of the inmost soul or psychic being that is claimed to be discoverable by transcending the deeper depths of the inner life and inner mind. Occultism also aims at application of the knowledge that it gathers of the subjective inner being as also of the corresponding objective reality which can be contacted by the inner being.
In order to understand occultism, it would be convenient to distinguish between the surface consciousness, inner consciousness, (which can be called subliminal consciousness), inmost consciousness, higher consciousness, and highest consciousness. There is, also, a large domain of the
subconscious and the unconscious, which has come to be studied increasingly in the modem times under the influence of psychologists like Freud, Jung and Adier.12 The surface consciousness is limited to the awareness that is excited by the sense experience, impulses, and operations of observing mind which aim at understanding, criticizing and organizing for purposes of dealing with life. This surface consciousness is sustained by self-experience, memory and ego, and although its limits can be expanded indefinitely, it remains ordinarily limited and confined to demands of physical life which admit a large gamut of emotional and mental life, farthest reaches of which fall short of the awareness that is normal to the dwelling in the subliminal consciousness, higher consciousness, and the subconsciousness. The inner or subliminal consciousness, which is the central domain of occultism, consists of the awareness of the subtle physical being, inner vital being and inner mental being, as also the awareness of what is cognized by these inner beings. It is recognized that it is always difficult for surface consciousness to open up to inner or subliminal consciousness; surface consciousness is normally unaware of the presence of the inner or subliminal consciousness, just as it is unaware of subconscious and unconscious. The inner or subliminal consciousness is a larger consciousness behind the surface; it is a more organized consciousness, and it is aware of what is in surface consciousness and aware also of limitations of surface consciousness. The psychic consciousness, which is the inmost consciousness, is a consciousness of the secret organizer and builder of outer and inner personality, and it is the secret ruler, although most often unrecognized, of the physical, vital and mental personality, which are considered and utilized by the psychic being as its instruments. A vast knowledge of the secret laws of human growth in the material
world becomes accessible only when one enters into psychic consciousness and one begins to dwell more and more consciously in that inmost consciousness. Higher consciousness is the proper domain of what is normally called spiritual consciousness, although named differently in different traditions. It is the domain of cosmic and transcendental consciousness, the knowledge and the power of which varies according to the various levels of higher consciousness. The various levels of higher consciousness have been differently classified in different traditions, but in the latest classification which has been presented by Sri Aurobindo, these levels are distinguished from each other and described in an ascending order starting from Higher Mind and rising up to Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind, Overmind and Supermind. The subconscious and inconscience are states of involved consciousness, not itself aware of all that is involved but it acts with some kind of automatic intelligence, and when it evolves there is a great deal of groping and chaotic functioning, although there are seeds in it of the powers of sight, sensibility and even of conceptions.
According to occult knowledge, there is in the inner realms of consciousness, a larger inner mental being, a larger inner vital being, even a larger inner subtle physical being distinguishable from surface body consciousness. Occultists in different traditions have developed varieties of methods by which one can enter into inner consciousness. If one succeeds in entering into these domains of inner consciousness, one can observe the springs of one's thoughts and feelings, the sources and the motives of one's action and the operative energies that build up one's surface personality. One discovers in oneself, the inner being that secretly thinks and perceives, the vital being that secretly feels and acts upon life through oneself,
and also the subtle physical being that secretly receives and responds to the context of things through one's body and its organs. In the subliminal being one can find the means of 'directly distinguishing between what rises from within and what comes to us from outside, from others or universal Nature. One can even arrive at the development of the powers to exercise control, choice, power of reception, rejection and selection, and even powers of self-building and harmonization. As one enters into the depths of the subliminal being, one is able to formulate oneself more luminously in one's life in the physical universe.
There is found in the subliminal being, a subtle sense of vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste; but these are not confined to the creation of images of things belonging to the physical environment, since the subliminal being is capable of receiving vibration of things beyond the restricted range of the physical senses or belonging to other planes or spheres of existence. A study of the subliminal consciousness points out that it is the subliminal consciousness and not the outer consciousness that possesses the powers of telepathy, clairvoyance, second sight and other super normal faculties whose occurrence in the surface consciousness is due to opening in the wall erected by the outer personality's unseeing labour of individualization and interposed between itself and the inner domain of our being.
The processes of transition from the surface consciousness to the subliminal consciousness and the operations of the subliminal on the outer and of the outer on the subliminal are complex. Owing to this complexity, the action of the sub-liminal sense can be confusing or mis-leading, especially if it is interpreted by the outer mind to which the secret of its operations is unknown and its principle of sign construction
and symbolic figure languages is foreign. Advanced occultists and wise mystics, therefore, counsel the need to develop a greater inner power of intuition, tact and discrimination.
As pointed out above, subliminal consciousness is the domain of Knowledge — Ignorance, since even though it opens up vaster ranges of cognition and action, it still belongs to the domain of multiplicity and therefore subject to the ignorance of the underlying unity and of the essential knowledge of the true relationship between the individual consciousness, universal consciousness and transcendental consciousness. Great perils of occultism arise from great mixtures of knowledge and ignorance that are found in the domains in which occultism normally dwells. Occultism provides a very large field of self-knowledge and world-knowledge; it enables the individual to go behind his own surface consciousness and also penetrate behind the appearances of the physical world; occultism provides an entry and even mastery of the knowledge and powers of the inner mental, vital, and physical being and their powers and movements and the universal laws and the processes of the occult Mind and Life which are claimed to be standing behind the material front of the universe; but owing to the perils of the occult field of knowledge and action, religion has sometimes banned occultism or reduced its own occult element to minimum; philosophy, too, has also often rejected all aid of occult knowledge, and declared its distrust in the evidence provided by occultism. Philosophy often points out that the operations of the occult field are exposed to a mixed function and they are in danger of illuminating confusion rather than clarifying truth and that the mixed functioning of occultism is dangerous when men with unchastened minds and unpurified sensibilities attempt to rise into the subliminal
domains of consciousness. The main argument of philosophies which are unfavorable to occultism point out that the regions of occultism are regions of unsubstantial cloud and semi-brilliant form or a murk visited by flashes which blind more than they enlighten. There are number of spiritual disciplines also which have discouraged occult knowledge and power as dangerous lures and entangling obstacles, and they insist on the pure pursuit of the pure truth of the spirit. Nonetheless, with all the perils and limitations of occultism, there are a number of religions, philosophies and disciplines of spirituality which have acknowledged the value, however limited it may be, of the fund of knowledge and evidence that occultism has provided to the realities and the functionings of the subliminal consciousness and of the domains of the inner mind, inner vital and subtle physical being. Indeed, it can safely be affirmed that occultism does provide adequate data the explanation of which necessitates the admission of the possibility and even of reality of experiences which escape entirely from the rigid hold, the limiting dogmatism, of the materialist formula. In any case, any-quest of truth and knowledge, if it is to be as comprehensive as it can be and which is not weary of the effort that is required in exploring and systematizing various possible avenues of search and their results, cannot justifiably ignore the data and claims that occultism has provided to the paths which have been made and which need to be made for arriving at the highest possible perfection on the earth.
For that aim to be achieved, there have been vast and profound efforts in the past; much experience and knowledge have been accumulated, but much more still remains to be done. In that work of the future, while the past and modem fields of research and modem methods of research will need
to be continued, new domains of research also are bound to be developed.
Spiritual Experience and Yoga
We stand today at a point of great transition where domains such as those which transcend the limitations, not only of science, but also of religion, occultism and philosophy, too, will need to be developed. It is in that context that yoga, which is practical psychology and science of direct spiritual experience, promises to be a quest of the highest utility. It is true that spiritual experience is the final aim and achievement of religion, although the history of religion shows how many religious systems have also tended to reduce to a minimum or dispensed with spiritual realization and experience. It is also true that occultism has sometimes put forward a spiritual aim as its goal, and followed occult knowledge and experience as an approach to it, but it has to be acknowledged that more often it has confined itself to occult knowledge and practice without spiritual vistas. On the other hand, spiritual experience has used religion as a starting-point; it has also used occultism as a starting-point; it has used philosophy too as a starting-point. But spiritual experience has also relied on its own pure strength, and it has often discouraged occult knowledge and powers as dangerous lures and entangling obstacles, and it has sought only the pure truths of the spirit; it has also put behind it all religious creed, worship and practice, it has tended to regard them as an inferior stage or first approach; it has passed on, leaving behind it all these religious supports, and it has laid down suprareligious paths that lead to the sheer contact of the spiritual reality. As stated earlier, spirituality has also acknowledged philosophy or spiritual philosophy as a starting-point, and spiritual philosophy has, in its turn,
acknowledged as its source, spiritual experience and realization or built its structures as an approach to it. On the other hand, pure spiritual-quest has often dispensed with philosophy, and it has arrived at spiritual experience through the heart's fervor or a mystic inward spiritualization.
Role of Philosophy
Nonetheless, in the multi-sided effort of humanity, the role of philosophy as a means of effecting a transition from the physical to supra-physical has made contributions which can be considered to be of capital importance.
Reason is the central instrument of philosophy, and it enables the formation of perceptions and conceptions which can be obtained by penetrating appearances of the phenomena. It is true that in its mixed action, Reason confines itself to the circle of sensible experience and to the appearances of things in their relations, processes and utilities. But Reason asserts its pure action when, even while accepting human sensible experiences as a starting-point, it refuses to be limited by them; it goes behind, judges, works in its own right and strives to arrive at generalizations and even at unalterable concepts which attach themselves not to appearances of things, but to that which stands behind their appearances. The most important function of pure Reason is to correct the errors of the mind which is normally tied up with the senses. It is by the complete use of the pure Reason that one can arrive from physical to metaphysical knowledge, which is the highest contribution of philosophy.13
Philosophy aims at embracing vastest possible ranges of facts, physical and psychological, and, in an attempt to ascertain truths behind appearances, it develops criteria of
validity of knowledge. In this process, philosophy tends to criticize and control experience and it criticizes itself and strives to question all that is dogmatically assumed in all domains of experience, knowledge and utilities. The formulations of philosophy follow standards of intellectual know-ledge, and philosophy may be regarded as only a way of formulating to ourselves intellectually in their essential significance the psychological and physical facts of existence and their relation to any ultimate reality that may exist.
The basic problem of philosophy is not only related to its role as a critique of experience and as a critique of Reason, but in collecting data of existence as comprehensively as possible. Reason aims at comprehensiveness, but in its haste to arrive at conclusions, it tends to ignore some important segments of experience, and this is one of the main reasons why philosophical systems are riddled with claims and counter-claims, and battles of logomachy.
In search of comprehensive data, philosophy is obliged to consider the claims of occultism, religion and spiritual experience. Occultism, if admitted, provides a vaster field of experience, but at the best, occultism points to a field of spiritual experience which lies beyond its proper domains of enquiry. Religion tends to claim the knowledge of spiritual realities; it pronounces its judgments based on intuitions and revelations that are proper to spirituality and spiritual experience. But religion tends to set itself in opposition to the demands of Reason and rational enquiry, and it tends to claim even that intuitions and revelations or inspirations of spiritual experiences are rather rare and cannot be and ought not to be subjected to strict demands that science and philosophy make in regard to the validity of knowledge. Religion prescribes faith as a method of holding on to the truths which have been
claimed to have been received in rare states or in rare individuals where revelations, intuitions or inspirations have flowered. In regard to those rare occurrences of illuminations, religion tends to formulate doctrines and puts them forward as dogmas, which are not defensible in terms of rationality but which are yet declared to be unquestionably valid. Religion and philosophy, religion and science stand in conflict on this very important issue. Philosophy and science often tend to reject the claims of religion, or while admitting their own limitations in arriving at conclusive statements of truths, they create double standards of truth: those relevant to science and philosophy and those relevant to religion, or else, there develops theological reasoning which provides justification for acceptance of the dogmas of religion and yet apply rational methods in explaining those phenomena of the world which can be sensibly and rationally verified but which are ultimately sought to be explained in the light of supra-rational revelations and dogmatic doctrines.
This entire field of philosophy in its interaction with religion and spiritual experience has been a field of interminable debates and even violent disagreements. Philosophy has therefore often tended to end these debates and disagreements by excluding altogether the realms of religion and spiritual experience.
Philosophy has sometimes striven to subtlise Reason to such a degree of refinement that it opens up to its deepest recesses where it discovers incorrigible intuitions, and it is found that it is capable of such catholicity and flexibility that the truths of intuitions and revelations can even be grasped by a logic that can formulate truths of spiritual experiences, not by resorting to dogmas, but by the cultivation of a larger Reason or by Reason where concepts of Reason and concepts
derived from spiritual experience can meet together in harmony. There are, indeed, problems in arriving at that harmony, and these problems need to be confronted in order that humanity can eventually be pushed to greater inquiry and discovery of such a wide totality that it is enabled to resolve conflicts between religion, science and philosophy, conflicts among religions themselves, conflicts among religions and spiritual experiences and conflicts in the field of direct spiritual experiences. In the meantime, it is to be admitted that philosophy has played a role of a bridge between the spirit and the intellectual Reason, and it has shown that the light of a spiritual or at least a spiritualized intelligence is necessary for the fullness of our total inner evolution, and without it, if another deeper guidance is lacking, the inner movement may be erratic and undisciplined, turbid and mixed with unspiritual elements or one-sided or incomplete in its catholicity.
At the highest summit of philosophical thought, pure reason comes to conceive infinity and eternity. All end and beginning presuppose something beyond the end or beginning. In the first place, infinity is conceived in terms of Time and Space, an eternal duration, interminable extension. In the philosophy oflmmanuel Kant,14 for instance, Time and Space are conceived as conditions of consciousness under which we arrange our perceptions of phenomena. But existence — in itself has to be conceived as something beyond Time and Space, if the antinomies that attend on Time and Space, as also those in respect of other categories of quantity, quality, relation and modality, are to be avoided. In the philosophy of Bradley,15 which describes the movement of Pure Reason in the analysis of appearances, we find self-contradictions inherent in all appearances, including Time
and Space. Eternity comes to be conceived as the same all-containing ever-new moment, and infinity comes to be conceived as the same 'all-containing, all pervading point without magnitude. It is admitted that there is here a conflict of terms, even a violent conflict, and yet these terms express quite accurately what is perceived or conceived by Pure Reason of Space and Time, and this perception or conception ends in conceiving Reality as Other than Thought, as some thing incorrigibly Real, transcending the limitations of Space and Time and all other appearances that are found to be in the universe. It is, indeed, possible to question the need of positing the conception of Infinity and Eternity and the conception of Timeless-eternity and Spaceless-infinity, although to the Pure Reason they are incorrigible concepts carrying with them rational certainty. But it is possible to go farther and to deny the very concepts of Pure Reason formulated by rationalists and to conceive of Reason in empirical terms. The empirical concept of Reason, however, is a fluctuating concept, considering that empiricism16 itself has varying forms. Nonetheless, the strength of empiricism lies in the fact that the concepts of Pure Reason do not in themselves fully satisfy the demand of our integral being. Just as our physical body sees things through two eyes always, even so, the integrality of our nature demands integral seeing as consisting of ideative conception and factuality verified in experience. Mere ideative conception or mere ideative certainty of the Reality caught in conception as actually existing beyond thought remains to the demand of our integral nature incomplete and at least to a part of our nature almost unreal until it becomes an experience. This is the ground on which empiricism finds its perennial source of strength.
But empiricism, as formulated in the materialistic or allied
systems of thought, confines itself to the deliverances of sensuous experiences; it avoids self-criticism and tends to develop some land of dogmatism in regard to the incorrigibility of sensuous experience. Or else, if it develops self-criticism, it tends to develop fallibilism, even solipsism, or utter skepticism. Or at a more reasonable and at a more irrefutable level, it acknowledges the deliverances of scientific knowledge but pronounces that knowledge to be valid until it comes to be contradicted or modified in the light of further advances of scientific knowledge. This attitude is truly skeptical in character, and although it avoids any extreme position of skepticism, it refuses to grant the possibility of human Reason to arrive at any irrefutable certainty.
But human nature cannot for ever rest in a state of uncertainty. Even the needs of human survival demand the quest of certainty, and realizing that philosophy is unable to provide that kind of certainty, unless our ordinary limits of consciousness are transcended in supra-sensuous experiences, there arises, at the borders of philosophical thought, an irresistible urge to expand the capacities of human experience.
Philosophy and Spiritual Experience
This is where philosophy tends to admit the relevance of the realm of direct spiritual experience, — the realm of intuitive experience, inspirational experience, and revelatory experience. There are, however, great difficulties in under-standing this realm of spiritual experience, mainly because it is a field traversed by rare individuals,17 and hardly in its purity, since it is over-whelmingly mixed up with religion or gets confined to the limits of occultism or to those occasional experiences of flashes which fail to illumine in some steady light of verifiability and comprehensiveness. And yet, it is
precisely this field of direct spiritual experience to which we are obliged to turn, if we are earnest in our inquiry and if we have patience to endure the persistence that is demanded by the inescapability of our need to know and our need to apply our knowledge to the problems of practical life in the midst of which we find ourselves poised uncomfortably and even painfully.