The Doctrine of Life: With Some of Its Theological Applications/The Transcendental World

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The Doctrine of Life: With Some of Its Theological Applications.
IV—The Transcendental World.
Back. William B. Greene. Forward.

NOTWITHSTANDING their difference in size, all circles agree in certain particulars; they all follow one law,—they are all formed on the same principle.

When we see an actual circle, we see behind it an ideal circle, which is, as it were, incarnated in the actualization. But behind this ideal circle, we see that in obedience to which it becomes an ideal circle,—which is what we may call the circular principle.

This principle is what is expressed in the differential equation of the circle, an equation from which all constants have been eliminated. The formula, the sum of the squares of the abscissa and ordinate are equal to the square of the radius, is the equation of the ideal circle; but the differential equation, which is derived from this, is the equation of the principle itself of the circle.

If I conceive of a woman so transcendingly beautiful that upon her beauty no improvement can be made, I do not conceive of the principle itself of beauty, but only of its incarnation. In the woman, and through her, I perceive that by virtue of which she becomes beautiful. When I see a beautiful woman, I see in her e more beautiful woman still; for in every person we find some fault, and by eliminating the fault, we attain nearer to perfection. But in and through that more beautiful woman still, I perceive that which gives the character of beauty. But this principle can never be perceived directly in itself; it can be perceived only when manifesting itself in some person or thing, and even then only as transcending.

When I see a circle, I perceive in it the ideal circle which is manifested through it; and, in the ideal circle, I perceive the principle which makes it al ideal circle. But never, except through the ideal circle, do I perceive this principle, and even then I perceive it only as transcending I have now in my mind a conception of the most beautiful thing I know, that in which the beautiful in itself is most strongly manifested. I perceive in my conception this transcending principle; and, at the same time, in the same manner, I perceive myself as perceiver.

Immediately I assert that the beautiful in itself is an existing reality, (aye, a substance, if people would only cease to confuse the words substance and matter.) an existing reality out of me, and distinct from me.

For I perceive the beautiful in itself, as distinct and separate from me, in the same act of consciousness in which I perceive myself; and, if I am justified in asserting my own existence, on the authority of consciousness, I am equally justified in asserting the distinct existence of such principles as justice, virtue, &c., on the same authority. For the evidence in the one case is exactly the same as in the other,—that evidence is the immediate perception found in consciousness. I am as certain, therefore, of the distinct existence of these principles, out of me, as I am of my own existence.

These principles, which give a character to every thing through which they manifest themselves, are, by most writers, called ideas, and the highest conception of these ideas is called the ideal.

We would here draw attention to the fact, that justice, virtue, and, in general, all those principles which lie at the foundation of practical morality, are perceivable only through human conduct. We cannot say, that a curve is just and good, nor that a moral action is circular or elliptical; but we say that the curve is circular, and that the action is just or virtuous.

The principle which makes a curve n circle, is nowhere perceivable out of the world of space; and the principle which makes an action just or virtuous, is nowhere perceivable out of the range of human conduct. This fact should be remembered. From all that has been said, we conclude that man lives at once in three worlds,—the world of space,—the world of time,—and the world transcending space and time; in other words, in the world of eternity.

If, now, we call that which is furnished by the actor, by the being that lives, subjective, and that which is furnished by the object in which he lives, objective, we may easily sum up the substance of what has been said in the foregoing pages, in the two short formulas which follow:

1st. All life is at once subjective and objective.<ref> Leroux: De L'Humanité.</ref> (Here we have three terms, the subject, the object, and the fact of life. For it is not enough that we have the subject and object, they must be in relation; we must have the life, which is at once subjective and objective.)

2d. The transcendental world, the world of ideas, is objective.