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The Life-spiral

( Originally Published 1916 )


Man includes, in his genesis, the cell-life below him ; are there higher entities likewise inclusive of him? Zeitgeist, mob-mind, class spirit may well be more than metaphors. We seek to breathe a spiritual meaning into the material forms of the old mythologies ; rather we should seek to know the spiritual entities of our own thought-cosmos.

The social pressure about us is enormous. The supremacy of the self is constantly threatened, not only by uprisings in the subconscious part of the realm, but by the domination of new powers from its supra-conscious borders. Long-suppressed, forgotten elements within would combine with unknown, mythical creatures from without for its complete overthrow. While it is a question how much the individual mind should fall back upon the collective one out of which it has risen to self-recognition, it is a still greater question to what extent it should relegate its power to the forming of higher complexes of thought-activity.

In the course of any development there may be movement which is not toward the highest goal ; that which today lies in the line of our potentialities, may, by the misdirected effort of to-morrow, be lost forever. The monkey can never attain the pinnacle now occupied by man, though for his progenitors, some wons back, that height was a possibility. That is not progress, whatsoever advance it may mark, which does not leave the way open to further attainment. The evolutionary road had its col-lateral branches as well as its main line ; there are doubtless many ways that one may go astray on the involution road. The vegetable kingdom stands a monument to that very error. The integration of the social insects has seemingly reached its goal. While the groups have differentiated to a certain extent, there is no apparent involution. As an in-stance of the same sort among men, the caste system of India has not tended to national growth. These group involutes were based on so low a degree of individualisation that there has not been impetus sufficient to carry them beyond a slight variation.

The problem of socialism for us today is the problem that has confronted the structural unit in every development serial with our own, howsoever remote the period. It comes to us in a somewhat different form perhaps from that which it assumed for the polyp in the ages past; but, from a biological point of view, the question at issue is the same: namely, collective versus individual consciousness.

Nature's one increasing purpose through all her creatures is the forming of an ever higher type of consciousness. We cannot assert that purpose to culminate in man. There may be, as Shaler says, system within system of individualities in indefinite extension into the infinite of the minute as into the infinite of the great. Our senses enable us to perceive but a small range of the gamut of sight and sound; it were strange if we were not likewise limited in our perception of life.



It is not the resultant of physiochemical forces, but of the directing idea behind them. The inward life of ideals, the purposes, the loyalties, of the component elements, determine the outward life of forms, customs and institutions of the larger unit. Through the realisation of individuality on the part of its elements, is established the form of that organic unity which is the end of the involution. Herein lies the strongest argument to be found for the desirability of democratic over other institutions.

For the hypothesis of involution, personality is a creative purpose, acting through a hierarchal series to the end that the series shall attain the unity of a synthetic whole. Being is not something complete and static, and therefore separate from mat-ter, but is a process of becoming. Matter and concept are relative terms, neither of which may exist without the other. Matter is the involutionary process looked at from the side of potentiality of that which is as yet unrealised, but which has the possibility of the unification. Form, or the concept, is the same process seen from the side of actuality the unification realised ; it is the inner purpose or idea expressing itself concretely in material form. The transition from the potential, the differentiated, to the actual, the integrated, is involution.

Being, therefore, for involution, as for Aristotle, is not something apart from the phenomenal world, but is its entelechy a possibility made real, the potential actualised. For involution also, as for Aristotle, the idea and the matter may be in a way distinct in that the idea is not complete ; that is, the purpose is not known to the self .3 The involute, in that case, is subject to disintegration. Matter and form are one: the unit, or element, is matter to what lies above it in the scale ; the complex, or integrand, is form to what lies below it. This leads to a graded series of entities necessitating the time-process for their culmination.

That which seems reality to us now, will lapse again into appearance ; truth into error ; perfection into imperfection ; to integrate again into higher forms.

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