Chapter 2 The Desire For Knowledge


    Two souls reside,
       alas,
          within my breast,
       And each one
          from the other
        would be parted.
 
    The one holds fast,
       in sturdy
          lust for love,
       With clutching organs
          clinging
             to the world;

    The other
        strongly rises
           from the gloom

    To lofty fields
        of ancient heritage.
 
    Faust I,
       Scene 2,
          lines 1112-1117.
 
    [1] In these words Goethe
        expresses
           a characteristic feature
              which
                 is deeply rooted
               in human nature.

    Man is not organized
        as a self-consistent unity.

    He always demands more than
          the world,
       of its own accord,
          gives him.

    Nature
        has endowed us
           with needs;
       among them
          are some that
             she leaves
           to our own
              activity
          to satisfy.

    Abundant
         as are the gifts
            she has bestowed upon us,
       still more abundant
          are
             our desires.

    We seem
        born
           to be dissatisfied.

    And
         our thirst for knowledge
            is
         but a special instance
            of this dissatisfaction.

    We look twice
        at a tree.

    The first time
          we see its branches
             at rest,
       the second time
           in motion.

    We are not satisfied
        with this observation.

    Why,
       we ask,
          does
             the tree
                appear
           to us
               now at rest,
       now in motion?

    Every glance at Nature
          evokes in us
             a multitude
                of questions.

    Every phenomenon we meet
          sets us a new problem.

    Every experience
        is
           a riddle.

    We see
          that
         from the egg
            there emerges
         a creature like
            the mother animal,
       and
          we ask the reason
             for the likeness.

    We observe
        a living
       being
          grow and develop
        to a certain degree
           of perfection,
      and
         we seek the underlying conditions
            for this experience.

    Nowhere are
          we satisfied
             with what
                Nature spreads out
               before our senses.

    Everywhere
         we seek
            what
               we call the explanation
                  of the facts.
 
    [2] The something more which
         we
            seek in things,
       over and above
          what is immediately given
             to us in them,
       splits our whole
          being
         into two parts.

    We become conscious
        of our antithesis
            to the world.

    We confront the world
        as independent beings.

    The universe
        appears
           to us
               in two opposite parts:
       I and World.
 
    [3] We erect
          this barrier
             between ourselves
                and the world
               as soon
                   as consciousness first dawns
                       in us.

    But
         we never cease to feel
            that,
           in spite of all,
              we belong
                 to the world,
           that there is a connecting
              link between it and us,
           and
         that we
            are beings
           within,
              and
                 not without, the universe.

    [4] This feeling
        makes us strive
           to bridge over this antithesis,
       and
          in this
             bridging
            lies ultimately
               the whole spiritual striving
                   of mankind.

    The history
        of our spiritual life
           is
          a continuing
              search
           for the unity
               between ourselves
                   and the world.

    Religion,
       art
          and science follow,
             one and all,
           this aim.

    The religious believer
        seeks
           in the revelation
         which
             God grants him
                the solution
           to the universal riddle
              which his I,
       dissatisfied
           with the world
               of mere appearance,
       sets before him.

    The artist
        seeks
           to embody
              in his material
             the ideas
                that are in his I,
       in order to reconcile
          what lives
             in him
                with the world outside.

    He too feels dissatisfied
        with the world
            of mere appearance
               and seeks
                  to mould
                     into it that something more which
                        his I,
                           transcending it,
                        contains.

    The thinker
        seeks the laws
           of phenomena,
       and strives
          to penetrate
             by thinking
         what
             he experiences
           by observing.

    Only when we
         have made
            the world-content into our thought-content
        do we
           again find
              the unity
                 out of which we
                had separated ourselves.

    We shall see later
         that this goal
            can be reached only
         if
             the task
                of the research
                   scientist
                      is conceived
           at a much deeper level
          than
             is often
          the case.

    The whole situation
          I have described
              here presents itself
           to us
               on the stage
                   of history
                       in the conflict
                           between the one-world theory,
                              or monism,
                                 and the two-world theory,
       or dualism.

    Dualism pays attention
        only to the separation
            between
               I and World
      which the consciousness of man
         has brought about.

    All its efforts
          consist
             in a vain struggle
          to reconcile
               these
           opposites,
       which
          it calls now spirit
             and matter,
       now subject
          and object,
       now thinking
           and appearance.

    It feels
          that there must be a bridge
             between the two worlds
         but is not
            in a position
               to find it.

    In
         that man
            is aware
           of himself
               as "I",
       he cannot
          but think of this
             "I" as being
                on the side
                   of the spirit;
       and
          in contrasting
             this
         "I" with the world,
       he is bound
           to put on
              the world's side
          the realm of percepts
             given
           to the senses,
       that is, the world
           of matter.

    In doing so,
       man puts himself
          right
             into the middle
                of this antithesis
               of spirit and matter.

    He is
        the more compelled
       to do so
      because
          his own
             body belongs
            to the material world.

    Thus the "I",
       or Ego,
          belongs
             to the realm
                of spirit
                   as a part
                       of it;
       the material
          objects
             and
                events
                   which
                      are perceived
                   by the senses
            belong to the "World".

    All the riddles
         which
              relate
           to spirit
              and matter,
       man must inevitably rediscover
           in the fundamental riddle
               of his own nature.

    Monism pays attention
        only to the unity
           and tries either
              to deny
            or
               to slur over the opposites,
      present
         though they are.

    Neither
        of these two points
            of view
               can satisfy us,
      for
         they do not do justice
            to the facts.

    Dualism
        sees
           in spirit (I)
              and matter
                 (World) two fundamentally different entities,
                    and cannot,
                   therefore,
       understand how
          they can interact
             with one another.

    How should
          spirit be aware
             of what
            goes on
               in matter,
       seeing
          that the essential nature
             of matter
            is quite alien
           to spirit?

    Or how in these circumstances
        should
           spirit
              act
           upon matter,
       so
          as to translate
             its intentions
           into actions?

    The most ingenious
        and the most absurd hypotheses
       have been propounded
          to answer these questions.

    Up to the present,
       however,
          monism
        is not
           in a much better position.

    It has tried
        three different ways
           of meeting the difficulty.

    Either it denies spirit
        and becomes
       materialism;
      or
         it denies
             matter
          in order to
             seek its salvation
                in spiritualism;
      or
         it asserts
        that
           even in the simplest entities
          in the world,
      spirit
         and matter
       are indissolubly bound
          together
        so that
           there is
         no need to marvel
            at the appearance
               in man of these
          two modes
              of existence,
      seeing
         that they
            are never found apart.
 
    [5] Materialism
        can never offer
           a satisfactory explanation
              of the world.

    For every attempt
        at an explanation
           must begin
              with the formation
                 of thoughts
                about the phenomena
                    of the world.

    Materialism thus
        begins
           with the thought
               of matter
                   or
                      material processes.

    But,
       in doing so,
          it is already confronted
             by two different sets
                of facts:
       the material world,
          and the thoughts
             about it.

    The materialist
        seeks to make
           these latter intelligible
              by regarding them
                 as purely material processes.

    He believes that thinking
        takes place
           in the brain,
       much
          in the same way
             that digestion takes place
           in the animal organs.

    Just
         as he attributes mechanical
            and organic
               effects to matter,
       so
          he credits
             matter
           in certain circumstances
               with the capacity
              to think.

    He overlooks that,
       in doing so,
          he is merely shifting the problem
             from one place
                to another.

    He ascribes
        the power
           of thinking
       to matter instead
            of
        to himself.

    And thus
         he is
              back
          again
         at his starting point.

    How does matter
        come
           to think
              about its own nature?

    Why is
          it not simply satisfied
             with itself
                and content
          just
             to exist?

    The materialist
        has turned
           his attention
              away from the definite subject,
           his own I,
              and has arrived
                 at an image
               of something
          quite vague and indefinite.

    Here the old riddle
        meets him again.

    The materialistic conception
        cannot solve
           the problem;
       it can only shift it
           from one place
               to another.

    [6] What
         of the spiritualistic theory?

    The genuine spiritualist
        denies
           to matter all
               independent existence
            and regards it merely
           as a product
               of spirit.

    But
         when
             he tries to use
                this theory
              to solve
                  the riddle
           of his own human nature,
       he finds himself
          driven
             into a corner.

    Over against the "I"
        or Ego,
       which
          can be ranged
             on the side
                of spirit,
       there
          stands directly
             the world
                of the senses.

    No spiritual approach to it
        seems open.

    Only with the help
        of material
           processes
         can
       it be perceived
          and experienced
             by the "I".

    Such material
        processes
           the "I"
              does not discover
           in itself so long
              as it regards
          its own nature
             as exclusively spiritual.

    In what
          it achieves spiritually
             by its own effort,
       the sense-perceptible world
          is never
             to be found.

    It seems
          as if the "I"
              had to concede
                 that the world
                    would be a closed
        book
           to it
              unless
                 it could establish
                    a non-spiritual relation
               to the world.
 
    Similarly,
       when
          it comes
             to action,
       we have
          to translate
             our purposes
           into realities
               with the help
                   of material things
                       and forces.

    We are,
       therefore,
          referred
        back
           to the outer world.

    The most extreme spiritualist
       -- or rather,
          the thinker
             who
                through his absolute idealism
                   appears
           as extreme spiritualist --
              is
                  Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

    He attempts
          to derive
             the whole edifice
                of the world
               from the "I".

    What
         he has actually accomplished
            is a magnificent thought-picture
               of the world,
       without any content
           of experience.

    As little
         as it
            is possible
               for the materialist
              to argue the spirit away,
       just
          as little is it possible
             for the spiritualist
          to argue away
             the outer world
           of matter.
 
    [7] When man
        reflects
           upon the "I",
       he perceives
           in the first instance
              the work
           of this
         "I" in the conceptual elaboration
            of the world
               of ideas.

    Hence
         a world-conception
             that inclines
                towards spiritualism
                   may feel tempted,
       in looking
           at man's own essential nature,
       to acknowledge
          nothing of spirit
         except this world
            of ideas.

    In this
          way spiritualism
              becomes one-sided idealism.

    Instead of
        going on
           to penetrate
              through the world
                 of ideas
                    to the spiritual world,
       idealism
          identifies
             the spiritual world
           with the world
               of ideas itself.

    As a result,
       it is compelled
          to remain
             fixed
           with its world-outlook
               in the circle
                   of activity
                       of the Ego,
       as if bewitched.
 
    [8] A curious variant
        of idealism
           is to be found
              in the view
      which Friedrich Albert Lange
         has put forward
        in his widely read History
           of Materialism.

    He holds
         that the materialists are
            quite
               right
           in declaring all phenomena,
              including
          our thinking,
             to be
         the product
            of purely
         material processes,
            but,
           conversely,
       matter and
          its processes
              are for him
           themselves the product
               of our thinking.
 
    "The senses
        give us only the effects
           of things,
              not true copies,
           much less
              the things themselves.

    But
         among these mere effects
             we must include
                the senses themselves
           together
              with the brain
                 and the molecular vibrations
         which
             we assume
           to go on there."
 
    That is,
       our thinking
          is produced
             by the material
            processes,
       and
          these
         by the thinking
            of our I. Lange's philosophy
               is thus nothing
         more than the story,
            in philosophical terms,
               of the intrepid Baron Münchhausen,
       who holds himself
           up
              in the air
                 by his own pigtail.
 
    [9] The third form of monism
        is the one which finds
           even in
               the simplest entity (the atom)
          both matter
             and spirit already united.

    But nothing
          is gained by this either,
       except
          that the question,
       which
          really originates
             in our consciousness,
       is shifted
           to another place.

    How comes
          it that the simple entity
              manifests itself
                 in a two-fold manner,
       if it
          is
             an indivisible unity?
 
    [10] Against all these theories
         we must urge
             the fact that
                 we meet
           with the basic
              and primary opposition
                 first in our own consciousness.

    It is
         we ourselves
             who break away
           from the bosom
              of Nature and
            contrast ourselves as "I"
               with the "World".

    Goethe
        has given
           classic expression
              to this
           in his essay Nature,
       although
          his manner
              may
                 at first sight
                    be considered quite unscientific:
        "Living
           in the midst
               of her (Nature)
             we are strangers
           to her.

    Ceaselessly
         she speaks to us,
       yet betrays none of
           her secrets."

    But
         Goethe
            knows
           the reverse side
              too:
        "Men are all
           in her and
              she in all."
 
    [11] However true it
        may be
           that we
              have estranged ourselves from Nature,
       it is none
           the less true
         that
             we feel
                 we are
           in her and
              belong to her.

    It can be only
          her own working which pulsates
             also in us.
 
    [12] We must find
        the way back
           to her again.

    A simple reflection
        can point
           this way out
              to us.

    We have,
       it is true,
          torn ourselves away
             from Nature,
       but
          we must none
             the less
                  have taken
               something
           of her
              with us
                 into our own being.

    This element
        of Nature in us
       we must seek out,
      and
         then
            we shall find
               the connection
          with her once more.

    Dualism
        fails to do this.

    It considers
        human inwardness
           as a spiritual entity
              utterly alien
            to Nature,
      and
         then attempts somehow
            to hitch
               it on
          to Nature.

    No wonder
          that it
              cannot find the connecting link.

    We can find Nature
        outside us
       only
      if we
           have first learned
       to know her within us.

    What is akin
        to her
           within us
         must be
       our guide.

    This marks
        out our path
            of enquiry.

    We shall attempt
         no speculations
            concerning the interaction
           of Nature and spirit.

    Rather shall
          we probe
             into the depths
                of our own being,
       to find there
          those elements
         which
             we saved
           in our flight
               from Nature.

    [13] Investigation
        of our own
           being
              must give us
       the answer
          to the riddle.

    We must reach
        a point
       where
          we can say to ourselves,
       "Here
            we are
                no longer merely
            'I',
          here is something
         which is more than 'I'."
 
    [14] I am well aware
         that many
             who have read thus far
                will not find my discussion
                   "scientific",
       as this term
          is used today.

    To this
          I can only reply that
         I have so far been concerned not
            with scientific
               results
                  of any kind,
       but
          with the simple description
             of what
                every one
               of us
                  experiences
           in his own consciousness.

    The inclusion
        of a few phrases
            about attempts
           to reconcile
       man's consciousness
          and the world
         serves solely
            to elucidate
                the actual facts.
 
    I have therefore made
          no attempt
             to use
           the various expressions
         "I",
            "Spirit",
           "World",
              "Nature",
       in the precise way
          that is usual
             in psychology
                and philosophy.

    The ordinary consciousness
        is unaware
           of the sharp distinctions
              made
                 by the sciences,
       and my purpose
          so far has been solely
             to record
                the facts
           of everyday experience.

    I am concerned,
       not with the way
          in which science,
             so far,
           has interpreted
          consciousness,
       but with the way
          in which
             we experience it
           in every moment
               of our lives.