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Thinking in Opposites
An investigation of the nature of man
as revealed by the nature of thinking

by Paul Roubiczek

Part III:
THE ABSOLUTE VALUES
and
THE INTERCONNECTED OPPOSITES

Chapter 9

THE ABSOLUTE VALUES



Paul Roubiczek Paul Roubiczek

Section 1

TRUTH, GOODNESS, and BEAUTY

The difficult problem of the absolute values cannot be adequately dealt with in a few pages. We shall not try, therefore, to find out their full meaning, but confine ourselves to those aspects of them which have a bearing upon thinking in opposites.

Truth, goodness and beauty are quite generally accepted as the only three absolute values. Let us consider these conceepts first, to clear away some of the ambiguities connected with their common usage.

Age-old wisdom has counted truth among the absolute values. We seem still to be doing the same, but actually are rarely conscious of what this implies and hardly believe in it any longer. Truth, for us, is not a value like goodness and beauty, but rather a statement of indubitable facts; it is more or less identified with a correct statement about external reality. If we think of truth, we most probably think first of the results of scientific investigation which can be tested experimentally. Even with regard to man we seek truth in those statements which, according to our definition, include man in external reality. From all we have said, however, it has become quite clear that no knowledge of external reality can ever lead to that comprehensive, fundamental and unshakable truth which has been considered as an absolute value and which we certainly still mean when we use the word in any important context. We shall distinguish, therefore, between correct statements and truth. Correct statements are those which can be tested within the realm of external reality and which any deviation from the known facts requires us to alter, as, for instance, 'this is a table' or 'the earth revolves round the sun'. Truth we shall use to mean that comprehensive and fundamental truth which has been considered as an absolute value. The statement that it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong, for instance, belongs to this category. (For a very good example of this distinction, though the author speaks in terms of different kinds of truth, see K. Jaspers, The Perennial Scope of Philosophy, p. 9.) But, before we can accept this distinction, we have to ask whether it is right to consider truth as a value.

That the search for truth leads us in the direction of value can be seen even within the realm of external reality. (I am following here H. H. Farmer's discussion of truth in God and Men, pp. 18 ff.) There, the nearest approach to truth is not scientific theories which, as we have seen, must not exclude possible future changes, but mathematical laws. These seem to be fundamentally true because they are not dependent on any knowledge of external facts; on the contrary, if we want to understand the facts, we have to bring them into agreement with these laws which are developed solely in accordance with their own inner consistency. All mathematics, however, is based on axioms which cannot be further proved; they have to be accepted because they are self-evident, because 'they shine in their own light'. Thus even here truth can only be established by statements which appeal to our sense of truth; we have to accept them as true because we cannot help believing them. But—and this also is important—such a statement will convince us of its truth only when we consider it in its proper context; unless we think in mathematical terms, any such truth will remain meaningless and have no conviction for us. Yet mathematics, though unshakable, is obviously not the right context for finding any comprehensive truth, for these abstract statements leave out the whole of our lives and of our actual experience of reality. We therefore have to look for truth in internal reality.

We are entitled to do this, for truth shows all the important characteristics of internal reality.

(1) As soon as we leave behind mathematical or logical knowledge which, being purely formal, is clearly insufficient, it becomes obvious that the necessary appeal to our sense of truth means an appeal to our feelings. Only the impact of an experience or knowledge on our feeling can give us the certainty that we have met truth. Thus, however, it has also to be our own experience and insight, for only then can its impact upon us make it shine in its own light. To be self-evident, truth has to convince us. A whole encyclopaedia of correct statements is not truth, nor does the Bible convey truth unless we believe it. (See J. Oman, Grace and Personality 4th ed., pp. 4, 257-8, and The Natural and the Supernatural, pp. 18 ff.) Our own participation is essential; we ourselves must see that the claim is true, otherwise we neither know nor experience truth. (This necessity for our own participation becomes obsious even in the simplest use of language. If somebody has stolen something, we shall say that he has done so; only if our statement is doubted so that our own belief or honesty is involved, shall we say that it is true that he has done so.)

(2) Our participation which helps to constitute truth is only the necessary method which enables us to discover it and is not in itself sufficient to guarantee that we have recognized truth. As in internal reality, our own experience must, at the same time, be the experience of something which stands over against us and which cannot be influenced by our wills or intentions. We reach truth when we have to acknowledge that it has an existence independent of our own and that the personal approach has been merely the necessary way of grasping something which transcends our persons.

The mistake of considering scientific discoveries representing a mixture of correct statements and theories as truth may be partially due to the fact that, in the beginning, these discoveries and the conclusions based on them transformed the whole conception of our world; thus they were of the greatest importance, were charged with feelings, and attracted an intense attention and personal participation. In the meantime, the development of science has shown that all such conclusions must remain theories because they have to be altered or replaced. It has become clear, therefore, that it is wrong to greet every new discovery as a further approach to truth, even if the person who does so is the scientist who has taken part in them and to whose feelings, therefore, they strongly appeal.

(3) Truth must be embodied in external reality. For the very reason that it has to become true for us, it cannot remain an abstract statement which we are not truly able to experience and can, at best, accompany with some vague feelings; we must meet truth embodied in a unique and compelling form which brings it to life for us. The truth, for instance, that love reveals our highest potentialities does not mean anything unless we experience love; the statement that God exists remains empty and meaningless unless we experience Him by an impact of external reality upon us, or within our personal relationships and with the help of feelings which are closely connected with our real lives. Some vague general feelings as well as abstract statements may help us to have such experiences or to discover the meaning of our experiences, but they can never replace the unique and definite form.

(4) This implies that no such external form can ever become a final embodiment of truth; it must always be experienced anew. Again, the knowledge of the forms in which we or others have experienced truth can help us greatly to experience it again or to experience it at all, but unless the form comes to a new life it is transformed into an abstract statement or an empty ceremony which no longer conveys truth. Our belief in God becomes meaningless if we do not live in face of God. As truth represents knowledge, it can be better preserved than the feelings themselves, for it can be embodied and stated, but the satements convey truth only when they awaken the right feelings and lead to the right experience.

(5) The nature of truth is also similar to that of feeling in so far as the single forms convey single truths; but to become true, each such special truth must participate in the whole truth. As truth has to be fundamental and comprehensive, nothing can be true in this sense unless it gives us some idea of the whole truth. It must appeal to our sense of truth, which means that we must recognize that we have at least touched the fundamental facts which underlie our existence. Correct statements can refer to details alone; true statements which refer to details must, at the same time, indicate their place in a comprehensive order. If we consider as true that love develops our highest potentialities, we imply that it is the highest expression of the nature of man and that it must play an important part in the order of the universe.

All this shows that truth has to be considered as an absolute value. It is a value because it has to convince us, and an absolute value because it has to convince us absolutely; only complete certainty can prove that we have met truth. As it has to be absolute, however, it can never be completely known in our actual experience; we have to meet it again and again to understand it better and more fully. Each single experience has to take part in the absolute, but naturally it can only take part in it and neither represent it once for all nor entirely.

As we are not concerned with the absolute values as such, we can accept the concept of goodness, as it is generally understood, as sufficiently clear to be used here without further definition. Whether we base our judgment on humanism or Christianity or another ethical or religious conviction, we know what we mean when we say that something is good. There is hardly any need to show that goodness, too, has all the characteristics of internal reality; most of the examples we have mentioned apply to goodness as well.

That beauty also is a value is hardly ever doubted; it is usually considered to-day as a matter of taste which makes it a value and dependent on our feelings. But this interpretation would exclude it from the absolute values; it is, in fact, no longer understandable why it should still be counted among them. The difficulty here is to see why we have to consider it as absolute.

We have already said that beauty cannot be merely a matter of taste; if someone denies that the poetry of Shakespeare is beautiful we shall be convinced he is wrong. (See Chapter 2, Section 4, paragraph 12.) This claim can only be understood when we remember the original meaning of the concept. It was hardly ever confined to a beauty which pleases our senses, but meant that a content had found a perfect expression. In this sense, the sculpture of an ugly man can be beautiful because the contrast can help to express his spiritual beauty, and thus ugliness may become its perfect form. But even the representation of a real monster can help us by its impact to deepen our appreciation of beauty and thus belong in this realm. The strong impression of the sculptures in Gothic cathedrals is frequently due to such contrasts, and the Greeks as well as the artistis of the Renaissance knew their power. Nor does the beauty of Shakespeare's tragedies or even comedies exclude the horrible. Any full realization of beauty transcends the merely pleasant impression; a pure beauty, too, appeals to deeper emotions. We shall use, therefore, the concept in its fuller original meaning. It is also this meaning alone which can adequately express the way in which the artist works. (The difficult problem of beauty in nature will be discussed later (see Chapter 11, Section 3, subsection c, paragraph 6). But obviously, if we are deeply moved by such an experience, we experience it at the same time as an expression of something which transcends what we actually see, though we do not always realize this.)

When beauty means this complete agreement between form and content, however, it must belong to the absolute values. Once more we are able to recognize this agreement only by our sense of beauty—that is, by its appeal to our feelings, and we shall recognize it by its compelling force, when we feel that there is no escape, that every detail of the form has grown out of the content and belongs to it, and that the content necessarily requires this special form. As their agreement has to be freely reproduced by our feelings, the completeness which represents a full experience of beauty can only mean that this reproduction leads to complete satisfaction and certainty. Any experience of beauty is either based on, or at least touches upon, such a complete identity between form and content.

There is, however, an obvious difficulty. While truth and goodness are concerned with single results, beauty presupposes the understanding of both form and content, and although the experience of beauty is absolute, the understanding of these two elements which leads to it remains dependent on temporal and individual conditions. This explains the great fluctuations in the judgment of what is beautiful. It is probably also important, in this context, to remember that the name 'absolute values' may be misleading. It is never the actual embodiment of any such value which is absolute—goodness remains dependent on the motive of the action, truth on our appreciation of it—but if such an embodiment is experienced as absolute value, it produces a meeting with the absolute which is perceived through it. We feel that this experience is compelling, that it can be neither influenced nor altered arbitrarily, that we cannot help accepting it. This applies also to beauty, once both its conditions—form and content—have been understood.

That our feelings have to react in such a definite way shows the inadequacy of mere pleasantness as a criterion for another reason, too. The beautiful has to represent something which is of importance for us; otherwise its impact could not evoke those feelings which can give us real certainty. There is undoubtedly a connection between the deterioration in the meaning of the concept and the fact that the later development of art and literature has tended to reach formal achievements independent of the importance of the subject. ('L'art pour l'art' becomes an articulate doctrine only in the nineteenth century.)

The nature of the absolute values explains why we have had to stress that we may be the only ones who recognize that something is true or good or beautiful and yet be right. (See Chapter 2, Section 4, paragraphs 12-14.) If these values have to appeal to our sense of truth or goodness or beauty, this sense must be of fundamental importance, and our sense can be more strongly developed than that of others, or the special embodiment of the absolute value can have some qualities which make it easily accessible to us because they agree with our particular gifts or sensitivity, and this can help us to see where others remain blind. It is usually such a coincidence between particular qualities of the values and the person experiencing them which opens the way towards a fuller knowledge of these values; the creative artist is entirely dependent on it.

These remarks may be sufficient to make clear what we mean when we talk about the absolute values, and so we can now proceed to discuss the relationship between them and the results of our investigation of the opposites.


Paul Roubiczek Paul Roubiczek

Section 2

THE MAJOR OPERATIONS OF THINKING

When we survey our investigation of the external and internal opposites, we recognize that, owing to the division into two realities, three operations of our thinking stand out as the fundamentally important ones.

The investigation of the external opposites has shown that thinking, when concerned with external reality, always moves in the same direction. We automatically try to find out what is behind the external forms which we apprehend first; we try to penetrate the surface so as to be able to grasp the content. Right from the beginning, we have to use abstractions which force us in this direction, and most of the constructive concepts which are applied simultaneously—form and content, cause and effect, accident and necessity—serve the same purpose. Eventually we even try to exclude these concepts, too, to get at the content directly. The constructive concepts the One and the Many are the only ones which do not lead this way, and this explains why they have proved such an obstacle to all these attempts. But although they show that we cannot succeed in finding the content within external reality, they do not alter the direction of our endeavours; on the contrary, the great importance of mathematical formulae for the explanation of external reality encourages us more than anything else to continue in these efforts.

The investigation of the internal opposites has shown that thinking, when concerned with internal reality, also moves in one direction, but we could discern three distinct stages in this movement. These stages need not necessarily follow one upon the other, because the progress can be interrupted at any of them; we have, therefore, to consider them separately.

The first stage, the application of the opposites 'means' and 'end', is not of fundamental importance. We have seen that it makes external reality accessible for the application of internal opposites, but it does not disclose internal reality as such. It is true that we need these opposites to deal with external reality in a practical way as well as to enter into internal reality, but they still hover, so to speak, undecided between the two realities; we can either turn back to external reality or proceed to internal reality, and in both cases we must leave them behind if we want to understand either. So we need not take them into account here.

The second stage, that of the principles, is indispensable because it helps us to deal with those parts of internal reality which are embodied in the activities of our mind. We have seen that internal reality is first experienced as a continuous process; we think, feel and will, and it is by these actions and reactions that the existence of internal reality makes itself felt. But we cannot grasp it so long as it remains submerged in a continuous and elusive flux of thoughts, feelings and impulses; we have to establish some framework on which we can rely to be able to grasp the constant reality behind. The task of the principles is to give us this support. They establish laws and a necessity which, contrary to external laws and external necessity, do not refer to the past but to the future; they thus disclose internal reality, because they do not restrict the inner processes, but help us to understand their meaning. Even if we misunderstand or misapply them, internal reality remains involved and we must become aware of it.

The third stage is the finding of the unique form which expresses internal reality distinctly and definitely. This we have discussed at great length, so that there is no need to explain it further. Only if we find such a form shall we be able to understand the content to which the principles refer.

We can say, therefore, that to grasp the divided reality our thinking has to perform three major operations.

First, we have to try to penetrate the surface in order to get hold of the content.

Second, we have to establish principles in order to deal with the inner processes of thinking, feeling and willing.

Third, we have to find the form which expresses internal reality as perfectly as possible.

It needs hardly any further explanation to show that these three operations of thinking form, at the same time, the basis of the three absolute values; the fact that thinking has to perform these operations explains why there are three such values and not more nor less. The absolute values are experienced when these operations have been so successful that we are left in no doubt that we have met with the absolute; truth, if we discover, behind and underneath the surface of reality, a content which shines in its own light; goodness, if we succeed in establishing a principle on which we can absolutely rely and which proves completely adequate to deal with our motives and actions; beauty, if a content has found its perfect form and expression.

This basis of the absolute values helps us to understand why we have had to stress that these values, though absolute, are not quite satisfactory. We experience them as final and inexhaustible when we actually succeed in experiencing them, but as they are absolute we also expect them to lead to a complete knowledge on which we could always rely, and this expectation is not fulfilled. The mere fact that there are three such different values, which makes it impossible to unify them, show that they must be subject to certain limitations, and their basis in thinking explains the nature of these limitations.

First it shows why truth is the most difficult and perplexing of these concepts. Truth is based on that operation of thinking which leads to the knowledge of external reality, but we have seen that no knowledge of this reality can ever reach the absolute. Yet as we have to perform this operation o thinking, we expect truth to come within the definition of reliable external statements, and do not recognize it, or are not willing to acknowledge it, when it turns out to have all the characteristics of internal reality. Instead, we try desperately to find some truth of the nature of external reality—that is, we look for comprehensive metaphysical statements which, as we have shown, are bound to mislead or to disappoint us. (See Chapter 1, Section 1, paragraphs 15-19.) Truth can be found only in goodness or beauty or in those regions of belief which, though accessible to thinking, are not based on its discoveries. This we shall discuss later when we come to consider the final barrier which cuts us off from any absolute knowledge in external reality—the constructive concepts the One and the Many. For the time being it is sufficient to see the contradictory nature of truth which transforms it, agains our original expectations, into a continuous search. (See Chapter 9, Section 1, paragraph 10.) It is natural, even, that this searching should be more evident in our approach to truth than to the other values, for our search is constantly stimulated by the fact that we have to approach truth in the same way as external reality. We constantly go on, because we are looking for the unattainable—the definite truth which thinking alone cannot reach—and are not prepared to accept as final truth anything which we have always to experience anew.

It is this contradictory nature of truth which justifies Kant's saying that it is 'a device of nature' to combine the urge for metaphysical truth with the impossibility of finding it where we look for it, for thus this urge leads us away from external reality and into the realm of values. (See Chapter 5, Section 1, paragraph 4.) It even forces us in the end to transcend this realm too, and this, as we shall see in a moment, is of the greatest importance.

Goodness is the only absolute embodiment of the principles, and this means again a very strict limitation. We should expect to find principles for all the different spheres of life; we are constantly looking for aesthetic principles, for instance, and it would also be a great help to know principles which would allow us to give a clear definition of usefulness or which would make the search for truth safer. Principles should regulate all the inner processes we experience. But it is the principles of morality alone which can lead to a meeting with the absolute; all the others have only a very relative value. Truth can contribute to them in so far as truthfulness belongs to the moral world, but this must not be mixed up with the search for truth itself. This limitation, however, is natural, for as principles borrow their form from external events their hold upon internal reality remains uncertain and they can be safely applied only to those human intentions and actions in which this reality is inevitably involved. The limitation also implies that we cannot definitely transform this absolute value into a code of laws, for the other spheres influence our motives too; we must always experience goodness anew to make sure that no relative principle disguises itself as absolute—that we do not, for instance, mistake mere obedience to the law for morality. It is very important to be conscious of this limitation, for the similarity with other principles could lead to some such extension of the sphere of goodness to make it seem self-sufficient and comprehensive; but if it loses its distinctive quality, it can no longer lead to a meeting with the absolute. If we consider every detail of correct behaviour or of a ritual as an essential part of goodness, we easily forget to love our neighbour. (Compare Chapter 7, Section 3, paragraphs 15-16.)

Beauty is perhaps the most satisfactory of the absolute values, for as it refers to single objects and experiences we need not become aware of its limitations. But they exist, too, and are of no less importance. The deterioration in the meaning of the concept is no mere accident; owing to its limitation beauty is in danger of remaining too vague. As we are mainly concerned with the finding or understanding of the appropriate form, beauty is not in itself sufficient to grasp the content; it does not necessarily enable us to get a firm hold on internal reality. To find the right form, we must already know the content, and to understand the form fully, previous experiences must have at least enabled us to move towards the point from which the creator of the form started. Beauty alone does not enable us to understand beauty. Yet in spite of its limitation it remains of the utmost importance, for only the experience of the form can give us a full knowledge of the content. But it must be based on the right presuppositions; if it is, it can probably be considered as the highest of the three values; if it is not, it sinks to mere enjoyment. (The magnificence and glory of God, i.e. His beauty, are considered as the highest attributes of God. We shall see later that this reveals a deep insight. Cf. also the words of Christ, 'I am the way, the truth and the life.' The constant search for a comprehensive truth which we never finally reach is the way; goodness is the only truth which we are able to grasp with complete certainty, because it can be tested by our actions; but it comes to life only with the help of beauty, by being embodied in a perfect form. The 'I', at the same time, indicates that it is necessary to transcend the absolute values.)

It is their very limitation, however, which makes the absolute values fruitful; though often disappointing or even painful, both the limitation and the uncertainty connected with them are, in fact, very positive elements. Being values, they belong to internal reality, and thus they cannot be the final embodiment of knowledge; the absolute cannot possibly belong to one part of the divided reality, but must belong to, or be identical with, primary reality. It would be a grave mistake to identify these values with the absolute itself, and this mistake is prevented by their limitations.

The three major operations of thinking include external and internal reality, and the absolute values, based on them, lead onwards from external to internal reality. Thus they stress, on the one hand, the existence of internal reality which we are in danger of overlooking; as the absolute values conform to the nature of this reality and yet lead to the meeting with the absolute, they confirm that we can trust our method of grasping this reality. On the other hand, the limitations of these values make it quite clear that the absolute, nevertheless, cannot be found in internal reality and that we merely meet with it there; we cannot doubt that it must be different and transcend both realities. Without their limitation and uncertainty, the absolute values would most probably mislead us; we could consider internal reality as the whole of reality and lose sight of everything else. By being absolute and limited at the same time, they leave room for external reality as well as for a further progress of thought and experience.


Paul Roubiczek

Section 3

THE CORRECT APPLICATION OF THE ABSOLUTE VALUES

The problem whose solution we are still seeking is that of testing the absolute values. If we consider something as true, good or beautiful, we bestow a value upon it, but obviously it must also in fact be true, good or beautiful, so as not to mislead us but to be capable of representing this value. We must at least be able to distinguish between the real meeting with the absolute and the misleading intrusion of feeling, for the reaction of our feeling in both cases is almost identical. Yet if truth does not mean correct statements which can be tested experimentally, if goodness has always to be experienced anew so that we cannot rely on laws alone, and if beauty means something more important than is commonly assumed, then the possibility of testing these values has still to be found.

This problem seems to create insuperable difficulties. The only test of the absolute values would lie in their confrontation with the absolute itself, for only this would enable us to see whether they represent it correctly; but as we are unable to grasp the absolute in any more direct way, such a confrontation remains impossible. We possess no more immediate knowledge of the absolute; even revelation, as we have seen, remains dependent on belief. (See Chapter 9, Section 1, paragraph 6.) When we look back on our explanation of the absolute values, however, we can see that this problem creates these difficulties because it is stated in a wrong way.

The absolute values belong to internal reality. This is the fundamental fact which we must never overlook. It has just helped us to explain some of the difficulties which beset the problem of these values, and it also helps us to see which is the real problem and thus contributes to its solution.

The fact that the absolute values belong to internal reality implies that following reservations.

(1) These values, although they are absolute, cannot lead to a comprehensive explanation of the whole of existence. We have seen that the abstract explanations of these values can perhaps help us to experience them, but that they remain meaningless without this experience; they can lead to it, but never replace it. Naturally, an explanation of such a limited significance must not be mistaken for an explanation which would apply to both realities; we must not mistake internal knowledge, moreover, for a statement about external reality. The universe is neither good nor true nor beautiful in any sense we are able to give to these concepts, for we are dependent on single experiences to disclose this meaning, and we cannot become entirely independent of these experiences, for they only disclose this meaning gradually and never finally. We can believe, of course, in an absolute truth, goodness, and beauty, which transcend internal reality and apply to the whole universe, but then they must also transcend our understanding and so they do not explain anything. There is great wisdom in the teaching of religions that these qualities of God are not discovered by ourselves, but revealed to us; this we shall discuss later. In any case our knowledge of the absolute values must not be mistaken for a general knowledge of the universe which explains it.

(2) As the absolute values do not explain the universe, they cannot be tested by a confrontation with it. Whether the course of events seems to agree with, or to contradict, our mistaken generalizations derived from the absolute values is of no consequence. They belong to internal reality and can be tested only within this reality.

In external reality, the test of our correct apprehension consists, as we have shown, in its agreement with the laws of our thinking, and the test of these laws in the agreement of the results to which they lead with our actual apprehension. (See the note at the end of Chapter 2, Section 1; and Chapter 5, Section 3, paragraphs 5-6.) In internal reality th main organ of knowledge is feeling, and thus the test can only be that we satisfy our feelings completely and that this satisfaction stands the test of further experiences. But as feelings have always to be experienced anew, this test cannot be the test for which we are looking, nor can we possibly find it so long as we have to rely on feeling alone.

(3) If the absolute values, however, are absolute only as values, they cannot represent the final embodiment of knowledge, for this would have to refer to both realities. Therefore the real problem is not whether we can test these values as such, but whether we can progress further. If we can, the problem would be solved, for by forcing our thinking to develop towards the absolute we could make sure that no short cut occurs in our thought at this stage and that these values are applied correctly. The right question to ask is whether we can get beyond them.

To be able to answer this question, we must look in the right direction. We can never hope to grasp primary reality directly, for the division into two realities remains the inescapable condition of all correct thinking. The nearest approach to primary reality is the establishing of the right opposition between external and internal reality. As the division is our only way of apprehending reality at all, the perfection of this division must represent the highest perfection we are able to achieve.

We have said already that such a progress is possible—that we can discover the interconnected opposites which refer directly to the division and thus enable us to find a more definite basis for all our thought. We shall discuss them presently. But to understand how they can help us, we must again know what help we can possibly expect from them and what we must not expect, and this we can recognize best when we ask how we can secure the right application of the absolute values.

The tests within external and internal reality which we have just mentioned give us certainty, because they show that the two realities fit together and agree with each other. In external reality, where we need only formal knowledge, the agreement is established between our apprehension and the constructive concepts transferred from internal reality, and this gives us certainty because it can be stated in abstract terms of general validity. In internal reality, where we grasp the content, the agreement is established with the help of external forms transferred and adapted to fit the content, and the certainty is felt when our experience confirms that the external form fits the content completely. Every single value beomes convincing only when we feel that that upon which we have bestowed the value really represents it. The absolute values give the highest certainty, but it is still of the same kind, in their case we feel that our single experience must be in accordance with the true nature of the universe.

Owing to the division into two realities, this kind of certainty is the only one which we can achieve. As there is no way of getting hold of the absolute or primary reality, we are only able to approach it by creating or experiencing an agreement between the two realities.

Both the agreements within the two realities show obvious shortcomings. In external reality, where we have only formal knowledge, the agreement remains purely formal, and so it lacks the compelling force which alone can give us the feeling of complete certainty. In internal reality, it is feeling which makes the content accessible, and so the certainty is compelling, but it is restricted to single personal experiences. It lacks, even in the case of the absolute values, that general validity which would lift it above the level of personal experience; it cannot be made generally compelling. (See Chapter 3, Section 1, paragraphs 14-15 .)

We cannot hope to overcome these shortcomings completely. The agreement between the two realities can never become comprehensive and definite, for to fit them together entirely and once for all we would have to grasp both of them as a whole and simultaneously. This would mean that we would establish, at last, the all-inclusive unit; but there is hardly any need to explain that this escape from the division also is quite impossible. Our ways of apprehending the two realities are too different; the formal knowledge of external reality does not provide us with the form which we need to embody internal reality, nor does this form give us sufficient knowledge of external reality. We have to know the two realities separately; the agreement can only be established within single experiences and achievements.

Nor can we hope to transcend the sphere of internal reality altogether. As it is there that we grasp the content, it must remain of greater importance for all those experiences whose meaning we want to understand, and so we have to experience them always anew. The absolute values can be neither overcome nor excluded; they remain the most important help in bringing about a meeting with the absolute.

This is also confirmed by the three major operations of thinking. They represent the three possibilities of reaching an agreement between the two realities. As our knowledge of external reality is confined to that of the form and our knowledge of internal reality to that of the content, the agreement between the two realities has to be between form and content. This we can reach either by starting from the form and by trying to discover the content, or by starting from the content and by trying to find its most adequate form. Both realities, moreover, consist of events, and thus we can also try to fit together external and internal events. If we aim at grasping the absolute, however, all these operations must aim at internal reality. To find the content behind the forms is the operation which originally serves the apprehension of external reality, but we have seen that it can lead to truth only in internal reality. Beauty, the fitting of the form to the content, naturally belongs to internal reality. The agreement between the events is established in external reality too, for we explain external events with the help of the laws of thinking, but the principles which lead to goodness have to apply external forms to internal reality, because it is there that we can understand the events and processes which we experience.

But we can hope for something different which is of no less importance—we can hope to establish a limited agreement between the two realities consciously and intentionally and thus to become independent of accidental experiences in reaching the absolute values. We can hope to be enabled to oppose external and internal reality to each other in such a way that we can control their agreement and thus make sure that their opposition leads to the absolute values.

The interconnected opposites represent further opposites which refer to the relationship between the two realities, and as they thus enable us to see how certainty can be found, we can confront the absolute values with them. Such a confrontation is of the utmost importance, for without it the absolute values, as they remain completely dependent on personal experiences which we are unable to control, hover indeed in the void. If experienced correctly, they prove that an agreement between the two realities has been achieved, but we cannot be sure that we have had the right experience. It is only the interconnected opposites which, by disclosing the conditions of a genuine agreement, allow us to recognize that the values have really been experienced correctly. These opposites thus prevent, on the one hand, any falsification of the absolute values by misleading feelings: we can no longer mistake an intrusion of feeling for an experience of these values; on the other hand, they prevent our being misled by the absolute values themselves, for we are shown how to come into harmony with the absolute.

Without the interconnected opposites, we are always in danger of being led by the absolute values, so to speak, into a blind alley. We feel the absolute behind them, but as we are unable to approach it in any other way we are inclined to confine ourselves entirely to these values. Yet this, a frequent form of pure humanism, means a profound inconsistency, for thus we neglect or deny the more comprehensive absolute which transcends any value and which we have already met in them, and as we are not aware of this inconsistency the absolute values, too, can no longer be truly understood and experienced; they become more and more formal and empty. Only if we advance further and thus remain conscious of the absolute as such are the values themselves kept alive.

It is also true that these opposites—because they refer to the two realities—do not explain the universe or the absolute itself, but they represent abstract concepts of general validity, and though these can never replace our personal experience—which has to confirm that the interconnected opposites have really led to certainty—they provide the absolute values with a background which enables us to see to it that we interpret our experience reliably.

The importance of this further step can be seen in many ways. If we are able to create the absolute values with certainty, we can make them the basis of all our valuations, which we have found necessary, and thus become certain that we grasp internal reality correctly. We still cannot test them, for the interconnected opposites do not disclose the absolute, but the absolute values themselves can become an important test; when we know how they ought to come into being, our actual experience of them will confirm that we have applied all the opposites correctly, for the interconnected opposites presuppose the correct application of external and internal opposites. The interplay between the absolute values and interconnected opposites will, finally, help us to test belief, for though neither of them can tell us what to believe, a belief in the absolute can obviously only be correct if these values, based on the right agreement between the two realities, confirm that this agreement has in fact been reached. (We shall see later that all this confirms the statement that, on the one hand, 'morality, without religion, lacks a wide heaven to breathe in', while, on the other hand, 'religion, without morality, lacks a solid earth to walk on'. J. Oman, Grace and Personality, p. 62.)

But we see once more what we must not expect from them—abstract solutions and definite results. They do not represent the absolute as such and, therefore, cannot overcome our dependence either on internal reality or on belief. They are a method of thinking; they transform it into a constant activity and force us to oppose again and again to each other the two realitits, to experience their opposition always anew and to test it by the absolute values. They thus contribute to the constant and never-ending development of our experience of the absolute and help us, by making us gradually more and more aware of it, to control thinking even in these regions. We can make sure that our personal experiences and our feelings are developed in the right direction.

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go to: Chapter 10, "The Interconnected Opposites"

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