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A Pluralistic Mystic
by [?]

This is my philosophic, as distinguished from my literary, interest, in introducing Mr. Blood to this more fashionable audience: his philosophy, however mystical, is in the last resort not dissimilar from my own. I must treat him by “extracting” him, and simplify–certainly all too violently–as I extract. He is not consecutive as a writer, aphoristic and oracular rather; and being moreover sometimes dialectic, sometimes poetic, and sometimes mystic in his manner; sometimes monistic and sometimes pluralistic in his matter, I have to run my own risk in making him orate pro domo mea, and I am not quite unprepared to hear him say, in case he ever reads these pages, that I have entirely missed his point. No matter; I will proceed.


I will separate his diverse phases and take him first as a pure dialectician. Dialectic thought of the Hegelian type is a whirlpool into which some persons are sucked out of the stream which the straightforward understanding follows. Once in the eddy, nothing but rotary motion can go on. All who have been in it know the feel of its swirl–they know thenceforward that thinking unreturning on itself is but one part of reason, and that rectilinear mentality, in philosophy at any rate, will never do. Though each one may report in different words of his rotational experience, the experience itself is almost childishly simple, and whosoever has been there instantly recognizes other authentic reports. To have been in that eddy is a freemasonry of which the common password is a “fie” on all the operations of the simple popular understanding.

In Hegel’s mind the vortex was at its liveliest, and any one who has dipped into Hegel will recognize Mr. Blood to be of the same tribe. “That Hegel was pervaded by the great truth,” Blood writes, “cannot be doubted. The eyes of philosophy, if not set directly on him, are set towards the region which he occupied. Though he may not be the final philosopher, yet pull him out, and all the rest will be drawn into his vacancy.”

Drawn into the same whirlpool, Mr. Blood means. Non-dialectic thought takes facts as singly given, and accounts for one fact by another. But when we think of “all fact,” we see that nothing of the nature of fact can explain it, “for that were but one more added to the list of things to be accounted for. . . . The beginning of curiosity, in the philosophic sense,” Mr. Blood again writes, “is the stare [Transcriber’s note: state?] of being at itself, in the wonder why anything is at all, and what this being signifies. Naturally we first assume the void, and then wonder how, with no ground and no fertility, anything should come into it.” We treat it as a positive nihility, “a barrier from which all our batted balls of being rebound.”

Upon this idea Mr. Blood passes the usual transcendentalist criticism. There is no such separate opposite to being; yet we never think of being as such–of pure being as distinguished from specific forms of being–save as what stands relieved against this imaginary background. Being has no outline but that which non-being makes, and the two ideas form an inseparable pair. “Each limits and defines the other. Either would be the other in the same position, for here (where there is as yet no question of content, but only of being itself) the position is all and the content is nothing. Hence arose that paradox: ‘Being is by nothing more real than not-being.'”

“Popularly,” Mr. Blood goes on, “we think of all that is as having got the better of non-being. If all were not–that, we think, were easy: there were no wonder then, no tax on ingenuity, nothing to be accounted for. This conclusion is from the thinking which assumes all reality as immediately given assumes knowledge as a simple physical light, rather than as a distinction involving light and darkness equally. We assume that if the light were to go out, the show would be ended (and so it would); but we forget that if the darkness were to go out, that would be equally calamitous. It were bad enough if the master had lost his crayon, but the loss of the blackboard would be just as fatal to the demonstration. Without darkness light would be useless–universal light as blind as universal darkness. Universal thing and universal no-thing were indistinguishable. Why, then, assume the positive, the immediately affirmative, as alone the ingenious? Is not the mould as shapely as the model? The original ingenuity does not show in bringing light out of darkness, nor in bringing things out of nothing, but in evolving, through the just opposition of light and darkness, this wondrous picture, in which the black and white lines have equal significance–in evolving from life and death at once, the conscious spirit. . . .