HYLO-IDEALISM — AN APOLOGY
by Robert Lewins
MY attention has been directed to a somewhat slighting notice of the above theory of human nature, on pages 72 and 75 of your issue for September, the contents of which are, doubtless, most suggestive of the nouvelles couches mentales at the basis of all nouvelles couches sociales, and which Physical Science, in its vulgar realism, has altogether missed.
My main position, to which all else is but subsidiary, is that the worlds both of thought and thing, which thus become identified and unified, must be a product of our own personality or Egoity, which thus constitutes each Ego Protagonist and Demiurge, from whose tribunal there can be no possible appeal. This being granted, and even Max Müller, in his “Science of Thought”, considers the position impregnable, it matters not one jot, at least in the first line and as far as my main object is concerned, whether the Ego be a Body or a “Spirit”. Our own individuality, as sum and substance of all “things”, is the only essential point of the question. So that it may be argued either on the somatic (hylo-zoic) or “Spiritual” hypothesis of life and mind. I have always contended that Hylo-Idealism, or Auto-centricism, is the only thorough and legitimate outcome of the phenomenal world theory — this representative Weltanschanunghaving been, for some generations past, the accredited creed both of physical science and philosophy. It is well summed up in Kant’s negation of “Das Ding an sich”. Vulgar Physical Science, as interpreted by its greatest hierophants, from Newton to Huxley and Darwin, from its incarnate dualism, is fatally handicapped in its search after the final “good, beautiful, and true”. Even Cardinal Newman is in a similar case, when he predicates two luminous spectra, God and Self, as the sole entities. The former Spectrum, on the Hylo-ideal, or visional, or phenomenal hypothesis, must be only the functional imago of the latter; Self being thus proved to be “Alpha and Omega, beginning and ending, first and last”. Beyond Self, it is manifest, mortal mind can never range. Whether Self be body or “spirit” is, I repeat, for my chief contention, quite immaterial — I sit on both sides of the stile, facing both ways.
by Herbert L Courtney
To the Editors of LUCIFER.
As a hostile notice of the above philosophy has appeared in your columns, will you kindly permit me to say a few words in its defence ? Not, of course, that I can hope in these few lines to really make clear to the casual reader the greatest change in human thought ever witnessed on earth (a change not merely as regards the form or matter of existence, but as regards its very nature) — yet [Page 324] I may hope that a few seasonable words may be the means of inducing at least a few to enquire further into a theory, the self-evident simplicity of which is so great, that, I am convinced, it needs but to be understood to command universal acceptance.
The term Hylo-Ideaism is no self-contradiction, but undeniable verity, based on the first two facts of all existence; viz., the assumption of the material on the one hand, and the actuality of the ideal on the other. The primary, undeniable and necessary assumption of the “reality” of existence supplies us with the first half of our designation, and the recognition of the correlative truism that this existence — based on our own assumption — is, therefore, only our own idea, completes our title, and amply vindicates the self-sufficiency of Hylo-Ideaistic philosophy. For here is not a mere unended argument, leaving us at both ends stranded on mere metaphysical speculation, but a self-sustaining circle [ Yet, unless metaphysical speculation comes to the rescue of the new philosophy, and, completing, explains it on the old Vedantic lines, the “circle”, instead of being a “self-sustaining” one, is more than likely to become a — “vicious circle” — Editor ] where both ends meet, and materiality and ideality are blended as one, and indissoluble.
It matters not on what basis we proceed, whether we speak of existence as material or ideal, or “spiritual” or anything else — a moment’s reflection is sufficient to establish us in a position of consistent monism. For all thought or knowledge is but sensation, and sensation is and must be purely subjective, existing in, and by, the ego itself. As now we cannot outstrip our own sensations (only a madman could controvert this proposition — which includeseverything) — therefore are we absolutely, and for ever, limited to self-existence, and the same holds good of all possible or imaginary existence whatsoever. For the first essential of any conscious existence — that which indeed constitutes it — is a sentient subject, and inasmuch as all connected with this subject — thought, knowledge, feeling, fancy, sentiment — are all purely subjective, i.e., in the subject itself, so must the subject be to itself the sum of all things, and objective existence only its own fancy by which it realises itself. This then utterly disposes of all fancied objective dualism by reducing all existence within the ring-fence of the ego itself, and this not as mere speculative theory but as positive fact, which, whether we recognise it or not, remains fact still — we are limited to Self, whether we know it or not.
Then finally, in self, we harmonise the antithesis between the material and the ideal by recognising the two as absolutely inter-dependent, each upon the other, and therefore one consistent and indivisible whole. The ideal (thought, fancy, sentiment) is, and must be, but the property and outcome of the material (the nominal reality), which, on the other hand, is itself (and can be) but the assumption of the ideal. Destroy reality and thought is dead, blind thought and reality is a blank; and thus are the ideal and the material but the two sides of one and the self-same shield, and the line of our argument joins itself in one consistent circle, which constitutes the existence of the Ego — He who creates light and darkness, heaven and earth, pleasure and pain, God and devil — who is, in Himself, the sum of all things, ( viz. “thinks”) beyond which is naught, [Page 325] naught, naught, for the fancy of His own which imagines a “beyond” is, itself, but fancy — self-contained in Self.
Thou Unity of force sublime,
Th’ eternal mystery of thy time
Runs on unstay’d for ever;
Yet, self-containing God of all,
As raptur’d at thy feet I fall
In thee myself I worship.
HERBERT L. COURTNEY.
Cambridge, November, 1887
[EDITOR’S NOTE. — In reference to the supposed “slighting remark” of which Dr. Lewins speaks, and the no less supposed “hostile notice”, as Mr. Herbert L. Courtney puts it — contained in our September number — we demur to the accusation. Both gentlemen will find it, however, fully answered in the “Literary Jottings” of this number; where, also, their respective pamphlets “AUTO-CENTRICISM”, “HUMANISM versus THEISM” and “The New Gospel of Hylo-Idealism” — are amply noticed by the “Adversary”]