[Lucifer, Vol. I, No. 6, February, 1888, pp. 507-512]
The editors have received the two following letters—one from the learned Founder of Hylo-Idealism, the other from a gentleman, a casual correspondent, of whom they know absolutely nothing except his most extraordinary way of expressing his thoughts in words and terms hitherto unheard by ordinary mortals. Both take the editors to task for using their undeniable right of criticism and editorial judgment. As Lucifer, however, is a magazine sui generis, and as its policy is the greatest possible tolerance and fairness to all parties concerned, it will abstain from its legal prerogative of leaving the letters without reply or notice. Lucifer hands them over, therefore, to the “ADVERSARY,” to be dealt with according to their respective merits. The editors have never pretended to an “understanding of Hylo-Idealism” nor do they entertain any such rash hope for the future. They belong to that humble class of mortals who labour to their dying day under the belief that 2 x 2 = 4, and can by no means, even hylo-idealistic, make 5. “C. N.” ’s letter placed-the new “philosophy” in an entirely different light; firstly, because it is written in good English, and because the style of the writer is extremely attractive; and secondly, because at least one point has now been made clear to the editors: “Hylo-Idealism” is, like modern spiritualism, the essence of transcendental materialism. If in Mr. Huxley’s opinion Comte’s Positivism is, in practice, “Catholicism minus Christianity,” in the views of the editors of Lucifer Hylo-Idealism is “Metaphysics minus psychology and—physics.” Let its apostles explain away its flagrant contradictions, and then Lucifer will be the first to render justice to it as a philosophy. Meanwhile, it can only acknowledge a number of remarkably profound thoughts that are to be found scattered in independent solitude throughout the letters of Dr. Lewins (Humanism versus Theism) and others, and—no more.
To the Editors of Lucifer.
Perhaps space may be found in the February or other early issue of your interesting and suggestive serial for the present curt communication. In a footnote of your January number I am coupled with Mr. H. Spencer as being more Atheist than Moleschott and Büchner—to say nothing of such compromising and irresolute scientists as Darwin, Huxley, and Co. Now, that atheistic or non-animist standpoint is the pivot on which my whole synthesis revolves; and is, I contend, the burning problem at this epoch—ethical and intellectual—of the human mind—thoroughly to establish on certain concrete, rational and scientific data, that is to say—not on the Utopias of Speculation and Metaphysics. My principle is exactly that of Kant (inter alia) when he formulates the “Thing in Itself.” But we have only to study the short and handy A Critique of Kant, referred to in your columns—by Kuno Fischer, translated by Dr. Hough, to see how fast and loose that “all-shattering” metaphysician played with his all-destructive theme. Not only does he entirely reverse it and its corollaries in his critique of the “Practical Reason,” and of “Judgment,” but also in the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason itself, in which originally, as its corollary, or rather concomitant, he, like myself, only on less sure premises, disposes of God, the Soul (Anima or Vital Principle), and Immortality—that is of another “personal” life after death. I hold with Lucretius, Epicurus, and others in ancient and modern times, of whom Shelley is a typical case, that no greater benefit can be bestowed on humanity than the elimination from sane thought of this ghastly and maddening Triune Spectre. God alone is quite “l’infâme” Voltaire dubs the Catholic Church. Looking through Nature “ red in tooth and claws “ to its pseudo-Author, we must expect to find a Pandemon. For any omnipotent Being who, unconditioned and unfettered in all respects, “willed” such a world of pain and anguish for sentient creatures, must be a Demon worse than mythology has fabled of Satan, Moloch, Mammon, or other fiends. It must be noted that in the classic Pantheon, the Fates, or Fatal Sisters, are “above” all the Immortals of Olympus, including Jove himself—a saving provision quite inadmissible in modern Monotheism, which endows its Divinity * with absolute omnipotence and fore-knowledge.
ROBERT LEWINS, M.D.
* Deuce, i.e., Devil, is the synonym of Deus.
To the Editors of Lucifer.
I have to thank you for your kind insertion of my note on above in January issue of the Magazine.
I have not the slightest desire to quarrel with your prefaced comments on my style of writing. It seems to you to be “turgid,” and you take advantage of some unkind epithets lately dealt out to Theosophy in the Secular Review to return the compliment to me with interest added. Be it so. It would seem but fair to, let me say, compliment those, and those only, who have directly complimented you; but I have no wish, as I have just said, to find fault with any comment on Hylo-Idealism or on the methods of its advocacy. All criticism is, I know, received by the excogitator of the system with thanks, and, save that both he and I think your note re “Theobroma” not a little at fault (for explanation I refer you to the well-known Messrs. Epps), I can say the same for myself.
I can see, however, in spite of the raillery with which you honour us, that a right understanding of Hylo-Idealism—I beg pardon, High-Low Idealism—is still very far from being yours. Why, in a recent issue of Lucifer, the old difficulty of, as I call it, the “Coincident assumption of Materiality” is started as if it had never before been thought of. It is, in point of fact, fully dealt with in my “Appendix” to the Auto-Centricism pamphlet, which has already passed under your review! It is not worth while to enter once more upon this point; suffice it then to say, in addition, that I explained it also, at full length, to a Theosophical writer—Mr. E. D. Fawcett *—in the Secular Review, some months ago. He had started the same venerable objection, but after my reply, he so far honoured me as not to return to the charge. Let him do so now, and then a Theosophical attack and a Hylo-Ideal defence will be before you. But, really, it is no argument against my position to extract some half-dozen lines of my writing from a contemporary and to follow this soupçon with three printer’s “shrieks.”
I shall wait with interest the promised letter from “C. N.,” placing Hylo-Idealism in a “new and very different light,” as you say. This is something quite new. Dr. Lewins, C. N., and I have, none of us, been able, hitherto, to find any material difference between our several presentations of the system.
I have the honour to be, Mesdames,
Your most obedient servant,
G. M. McC.
* [Vide the Bio-Bibliographical Index for information regarding him.—Compiler.]
TO DR. LEWINS, AND THE HYLO-IDEALISTS AT LARGE
The several learned gentlemen of the above persuasion, who have honoured Lucifer with their letters and articles, will please to accept the present as a collective Reply. Life is too short to indulge very often in such lengthy explanations. But “une fois n’est pas coutume.”
In “coupling” Dr. Lewins’ name with those he mentions—especially with Mr. Herbert Spencer’s—the Editors had assuredly no intention of saying anything derogatory to the dignity of the founder of Hylo-Idealism. They have called the latter system—its qualification of Idealistic notwithstanding—“atheistical,” and to this Dr. Lewins himself does not demur. Quite the contrary. If his protest (against a casual remark made in a footnote of two lines!) means anything at all, it means that he feels hurt to find his name associated with the names of such “compromising and [in atheism] irresolute scientists as Darwin, Huxley, and Co.” What is it that our erudite correspondent demurs to, then? Just that, and nothing more. His prefixed adjectives refer to the half-heartedness of these gentlemen in the matter of atheism and materialism, not surely, to their scientific achievements Indeed, these illustrious naturalists are timid enough to leave half-opened doors in their speculations for something to enter in which is not quite matter, and yet what it is they do not, or do not wish to know.
Indeed, they derive man, his origin and consciousness, only from the lower forms of animal creation and the brutes, instead of attributing life, mind and intellect—as the followers of the new System do—simply to the pranks played by Prakriti (the great Ignorance and Illusion) on our “diseased nervous centres”—abstract thought being synonymous with Neuropathy in the teachings of the Hylo-Idealists (see Auto-Centricism, p. 40). But all this has been already said and better said by Kapila, in his Sankhya, and is very old philosophy indeed; so that Messrs. Darwin and Co. have been, perhaps, wise in their generation to adopt another theory. Our great Darwinists are practical men, and avoid running after the hare and the eagle at
the same time, as the hare in such case would be sure to run away, and the eagle to be lost in the clouds. They prefer to ignore the ideas and conceptions of the Universe, as held by such “loose,” and—as philosophically expressed by our uncompromising opponent—”all-shattering metaphysicians” as Kant was. Therefore letting all such “metaphysical crack-brained theories” severely alone, they made man and his thinking Ego the lineal descendant of the revered ancestor of the now tailless baboon, our beloved and esteemed first cousin. This is only logical from the Darwinian standpoint. What is, then, Dr. Lewins’ quarrel with these great men, or with us? They have their theory, the inventor of Hylo-Idealism has his theory, we, Metaphysicians, have our ideas and theories; and, the Moon shining with impartial and equal light on the respective occiputs of Hylo-Idealists, Animalists, and Metaphysicians, she pours material enough for every one concerned to allow each of them to “live and let live.” No man can be at once a Materialist and an Idealist, and remain consistent. Eastern philosophy and occultism are based on the absolute unity of the Root Substance, and they recognise only one infinite and universal CAUSE. The Occultists are UNITARIANS par excellence. But there is such a thing as conventional, time-honoured terms with one and the same meaning attached to them all—at any rate on this plane of illusion. And if we want to understand each other, we are forced to use such terms in their generally-accepted sense, and avoid calling mind matter, and vice versa. The definition of a materialised “Spirit” as frozen whiskey is in its place in a humouristic pun: it becomes an absurdity in philosophy. It is Dr. Lewins’ argument that “the very first principle of logic is, that two ‘causes’ are not to be thought of when one is sufficient”; and though the first and the ultimate, the Alpha and the Omega in the existence of the Universe, is one absolute cause, yet, on the plane of manifestations and differentiations, matter, as phenomenon, and Spirit as noumenon, cannot be so loosely confused as to merge the latter into the former, under the pretext that one self-evident natural cause (however secondary in the sight
of logic and reason) is “sufficient for our purpose,” and we need not “transcend the proper conditions of thought” and fall back upon the lower level of “lawless and uncertain fancy”—i.e., metaphysics. (Vide Humanism versus Theism, pp. 14-15.)
We have nothing whatever, I say it again, against “Hylo-Idealism” with the exception of its compound and self-contradictory name. Nor do we oppose Dr. Lewins’ earlier thoughts, as embodied in “C. N.’s” Humanism versus Theism. That which we permit ourselves to object to and oppose is the later system grown into a Bifrontian, Janus-like monster, a hybrid duality notwithstanding its forced mask of Unity. Surely it is not because Dr. Lewins calls “Spirit—a fiction,” and attributes Mind, Thought, Genius, Intellect, and all the highest attributes of thinking man to simple effects or functions of Hylo-zoism, that the greatest problem of psychology, the relation of mind to matter, is solved? No one can accuse “The Adversary” of too much tenderness or even regard for the conclusions of such rank materialists as the Darwinians generally are. But surely no impartial man would attribute their constant failure to explain the relations of mind to matter, and the confessions of their ignorance of the ultimate constitution of that matter itself, to timidity and irresoluteness, but rather to the right cause: i.e., the absolute impossibility of explaining spiritual effects by physical causes, in the first case; and the presence of that in matter which baffles and mocks the efforts of the physical senses to perceive or feel, and therefore to explain it, in the second case. It is not, evidently, a desire to compromise that forced Mr. Huxley to confess that “in strictness we [the Scientists] know nothing about the composition of matter,” but the honesty of a man of science in not speculating upon what he did not believe in, and knew nothing about. Does J. Le Conte insult the majesty of physical science by declaring that the creation or destruction, increase or diminution of matter, “lies beyond the domain of science?” * And to whose prejudices does
* Correlation of Vital with Chemical and Physical Forces. Appendix.
Mr. Tyndall pander, he, who once upon a time shocked the whole world of believers in spiritual existence, by declaring in his Belfast address that in matter alone was “the promise and potency of every form and quality of life” (just what Dr. Lewins does) * when he maintains that “the passage from the physics of the brain to the corresponding facts of CONSCIOUSNESS is unthinkable,” and adds:
Granted that a definite thought and a molecular action in the brain occur simultaneously; we do not possess the intellectual organ nor apparently any rudiments of the organ, which would enable us to pass by a process of reasoning from one to the other. They appear together, but we do not know why. Were our minds and senses so expanded, strengthened and illuminated, as to enable us to see and feel the very molecules of the brain; were we capable of` following all their motions, all their groupings, all their electric discharges, if such there be; and were we intimately acquainted with the corresponding states of thought and feeling, we should be as far as ever from the solution of the problems. “How are these physical processes connected with the facts of consciousness?” The chasm between the two classes of phenomena would still remain intellectually impassable.†
To our surprise, however, we find that our learned correspondent—Tyndall, Huxley & Co., notwithstanding—has passed the intellectually impassable chasm by modes of
* [To alter Tyndall’s words, as quoted by H. P. B., would only confuse the sentence and obscure the argument. So we have left them unaltered. However, the actual words of Tyndall in his “Belfast Address” delivered in 1874 (Vide his Fragments of Science, 5th ed., New York, D. Appleton, 1884, p. 524) are somewhat different, and run as follows:
“. . . . Believing as I do, in the continuity of nature, I cannot stop abruptly where our microscopes cease to be of use. Here the vision of the mind authoritatively supplements the vision of the eye. By an intellectual necessity I cross the boundary of the experimental evidence, and discern in that Matter which we, in our ignorance of its latent powers, and notwithstanding our professed reverence of its Creator, have hitherto covered with opprobrium, the promise and potency of all terrestrial life.”
† John Tyndall, Scientific Addresses, New Haven, Conn., 1871: “On the Methods and Tendencies of Physical Investigation,” pp. 16-17.
perception, “anti-intellectual,” so to speak. I say this in no impertinent mood; but merely following Dr. Lewins on his own lines of thought. As his expressions seem absolutely antiphrastic in meaning to those generally accepted by the common herd, “anti-intellectual” would mean with the Hylo-Idealists “anti-spiritual” (spirit being a fiction with them). Thus their Founder must have crossed the impassable chasm—say, by a hylo-zoistic process of perception, “starting from the region of rational cogitation” and not from “that lower level of lawless and uncertain fancy,” as Theosophists, Mystics, and other hoi polloi of thought, do. He has done it to his own “mental satisfaction,” and this is all a Hylo-Idealist will ever aspire to, as Dr. Lewins himself tells us. He “cannot deny that there may be behind [?] nature a ‘cause of causes,’ * but if so, it is a god who hides himself, or itself, from mortal thought. Nature is at all events vice-regent plenipotentiary, and with her thought has alone to deal.” Just so, and we say it too, for reasons given in the footnote. “There is a natural solution for everything,” he adds “Of course, if there be no ‘cause,’ this solution is the arrangement and co-ordination of invariable sequences in our own minds rather than an ‘explanation’ or ‘accounting for’ phenomena. Properly speaking we can ‘account for’ nothing. Mental satisfaction—unity between microcosm and macrocosm, not the search after ‘First Causes’. . . . is the true chief end of man.” (Humanism versus Theism, p. 15.)
This seems the backbone of Hylo-Idealistic philosophy, which thus appears as a cross breed between Epicurianism and the “Illusionism” of the Buddhist Yogachâryas. This stands proven by the contradictions of his system. Dr. Lewins seems to have achieved that to do which every mortal scientist has hitherto failed firstly, by declaring (in Human. vs. Theism, p. 17) the
* We Theosophists, who do not limit nature, do not see the “cause of causes” or the unknowable deity behind that which is limitless, but identify that abstract Nature with the deity itself, and explain its visible laws as secondary effects on the plane of Universal Illusion.
whole objective world—“phenomenal or ideal,” * and “everything in it spectral” (Auto-Centricism, p. 9), and yet admitting the reality of matter. More than this. In the teeth of all the scientific luminaries, from Faraday to Huxley, who all confess to knowing NOTHING of matter, he declares that———”Matter, organic or inorganic . . . is now fully known” (Auto-Centricism, p. 40)!!
I humbly beg Dr. Lewins’ pardon for the rude question; but does he really mean to say what he does say? Does he want his readers to believe that up to his appearance in this world of matter, thinking men did not know what they were talking about, and that among all the “Ego Brains” of this globe his brain is the one omniscient reality, while all others arc empty phantasms, or spectral balloons? Besides which, matter cannot surely be real and unreal at the same time. If unreal—and he maintains it—then all Science can know about it is that it knows nothing, and this is precisely what Science confesses. And if real—and Dr. Lewins, as shown, declares it likewise—then his Idealism goes upside down, and Hylo alone remains to mock him and his philosophy. These may be trifling considerations in the consciousness of an Ego of Dr. Lewins’ power, but they are very serious contradictions, and also impediments in the way of such humble thinkers as Vedantins, Logicians, and Theosophists, toward recognising, let alone appreciating, “Hylo-Idealism.” Our learned correspondent pooh-poohs Metaphysics, and at the same time not only travels on purely metaphysical grounds, but adopts and sets forth the most metaphysical tenets, the very gist of the PARA-metaphysical Vedanta philosophy, tenets held also by the Buddhist “Illusionists” —the Yogachâryas and Madhyamikas. Both schools maintain that all is void (sarva śûnya), or that which Dr. Lewins calls spectral and phantasmal. Except internal sensation or intelligence (vijñâna) the Yogachâryas regard everything else as illusion. Nothing that is material can have any but a spectral existence with them. So far, our “Bauddhas” are at one with the Hylo-Idealists, but they part at
* We call the noumenal—the “ideal.”
the crucial moment. The New School teaches that the Brain (the originator of consciousness) is the only factor and Creator of the visible Universe; that in it alone all our ideas of external things are born, and that, apart from it, nothing has real existence, everything being illusion. Now what has that Brain, or rather the material its particles and cells are composed of, distinct in it from other matter that it should be rendered such honours? Physically, it differs very little indeed from the brain stuff and cranium of any anthropoid ape. Unless we divorce consciousness, or the EGO, from matter, one materialistic philosophy is as good as the other, and none is worth living for. What his Brain-Ego is, Dr. Lewins does not show anywhere. He urges that his “atheistic or non-animist (soulless) standpoint is the pivot” on which his “whole synthesis revolves.” But as that “pivot” is no higher than the physical brain with its hallucinations, then it must be a broken reed indeed. A philosophy that goes no further than superficial Agnosticism, and says that “what Tennyson says of Deity may be true, but it is not in the region of natural cogitation; for it transcends the logical Encheiresis naturae” (Human. vs. Theism)—is no philosophy, but simply unqualified negation. And one who teaches that “savants, or specialists, are the last to reach the summa scientiae, for the constant search after knowledge must ever prevent its fruition” (ibid.), cuts the ground himself under his feet, and thus loses the right. not only to be considered a man of science, but likewise his claim to the title of philosopher, for he rejects all knowledge. Dr. Lewins, quoting Schiller, to the effect that truth can never be reached while the mind is in its analytic throes, shows the poet-philosopher saying that:—“To capture the fleeting phantom he (the analyst) must fetter it by rules, must anatomatise its fair body into concepts, and imprison its living spirit into a bare skeleton of words”—and thus brings this as a prop and proof of his own arguments that we need not trouble ourselves with the “cause of causes.” But Schiller believed in spirit and immortality, while the Hylo-Idealists deny them in toto. What he says above is accepted by every Occultist and
Theosophist, simply because he refers to the purely intellectual (not Spiritual) analysis on the physical plane, and according to the present scientific methods. Such analysis, of course, will never help man to reach the real inner soul-knowledge, but must ever leave him stranded in the bogs of fruitless speculation.
The truth is, that Hylo-Idealism is at best QUIETISM— only on the purely material plane. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” seems its motto. Dr. Lewins tells us that he holds his views with Epicurus. I beg leave to contradict again. Epicurus insisted upon the necessity of making away with an unphilosophical, anthropomorphic deity—a bundle of` contradictions—and so do we, the Theosophists. But Epicurus believed in gods, finite and conditioned in space and time, still divine when compared to objective ephemeral man: again, just as we, Theosophists, believe in them.
We feel sorry to have to say unpleasant truths. The Founder of Hylo-Idealism is evidently a marvellously well-read man, his learning is great and undeniable; and, we have always had an instinctive respect for, and sympathy with, thinkers of his calibre. But, we have been sent pamphlets and books on Hylo-Idealism for review, and one would be truant to his duty to conceal one’s honest and sincere views on anything. Therefore, we say that, contradictions and inconsistencies in the Hylo-Idealistic system apart, we find in it a mass of ideas and arguments which come forcibly home to us, because they are part and parcel of the Eastern Idealism. Our premises and propositions seem to be almost identical in some respects, but the conclusions we come to disagree in every point, the most important of which is the true nature of matter. This, which “has been fabled as ‘Spirit,’ ” writes Dr. Lewins in 1878, “is really merely the ‘vis insita’ of matter or ‘nature’—the latter a misnomer if creation or birth is a delusion, as it must be on the hypothesis of the eternity of matter.”
Here the Doctor speaks evidently of “Spirit” from the Christian stand-point, and criticises it from this aspect. And from this stand-point and aspect he is perfectly right;
but as wrong from those of Eastern philosophy. Did he but view Spirit, as one with eternal matter, which, though eternal in esse is but finite and conditioned during its periodical manifestations, he would not so materialise its vis insita—which is vis vitae but when applied to individual manifestations, the living subjects of illusion, or animated bodies. But this would lead us too far, and we must close the subject with one more protest. There is a casual remark in Humanism versus Theism to the effect (on the authority of Ueberweg) that “the early Greek thinkers and Sages were Hylo-Zoists.” Aye, learned Doctor; but the early Greek thinkers understood Hylo-Zoism (from “Hyle” primordial matter, or what the greatest chemist in England, Mr. Crookes, has called “protyle,” undifferentiated matter, and “Zoe,” life) in a way very different from yours. So are we, Theosophists and Eastern Occultists, “Hylo-Zoists”; but it is because with us “life” is the synonym both of Spirit and Matter, or the ONE eternal and infinite LIFE whether manifested or otherwise. That LIFE is both the eternal IDEA and its periodical LOGOS. He who has grasped and mastered this doctrine completely has thereby solved the mystery of BEING.
P.S.—We have in type a very excellent article by Mr. L. Courtney, which could not find room in this present number, but will appear in March. In it, the writer says all that he can possibly say in favour of Hylo-Idealism, and that is all one can do. Thus, Lucifer will give one fair chance more to the new System; after which it will have gained a certain right to neither answer at such length, nor accept any article on Hylo-Idealism that will go beyond a page or so.—“A.”