Individuality And Experience
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Experience is a knowing. We know as follows: Every human self knows the self only in action. The self is known, therefore, as actor. Beyond this we cannot know self. The self acts — is an actor. That is the essence of personal life — to act. No other essence is "knowable."
The actor is Will. Reversed, the statement is: the self exists only as it acts; the self, then, is the Will. The Will is the self — primarily.
Body expresses Will. Body is established manifestation of the Will-Self.
The body is not the self — the Will. So far as the self is concerned, the body must take its place among other external objects. It is therefore known as any object is known.
Nevertheless, so intimate is the body to the self that the self could be at home, could live, indeed, in no other body, and no other body could long hold together with any foreign self in control.
We know external objects indirectly, through the senses. The world about us exists for us only as idea — innumerable ideas. Body, as part of the world, exists for its self only as complex idea. In all cases the mental idea compels belief in corresponding reality. World and body are real, but we know them only through mental reaction — action in response to action not of the psychic self.
It appears, then, that our knowing relates to (a) the self and (b) a world that is not self.
The world we know also indirectly through the senses. But the self we know — (it is insisted by many, directly through consciousness, but I here say) — indirectly through its activities. There is no self-consciousness independent of some act of psychic self. Self-consciousness is self-action accompanied by some running mate of other-action. Consciousness may obtain in any intelligence, but self-consciousness can only arise after reaction-cognition of a not-self as such.
If we know self only as it acts, and if each act of the self expresses Will, and if things exist only as they act, the Universe, like the body, is an expression of Will.
The Universal Will seems to be striving toward final expression of the highest idea of which physicopsychic existence is capable. The individual Will knows itself, but exists for the realization of its highest possible idea. The pure, unwarped Will is that idea, and that idea in purity is the Will. The Universal Will knows itself and exists for the realization of its supremest Idea. The Idea which is God is Will, and the Universal Will is the Idea which is God. Since the realization of the highest idea of which an existence is capable cannot be an absolute thing, but must ever be a relative thing — relative to developing experience — God grows. A standstill God is utterly impossible. Perfection does not consist in realizing the whole of possibility now, but in the realization now of all now-possibility. In other words, perfection is not a matter of quantity, but is a matter solely of quality. The quality of perfection in an intelligent being is the now-possession of all now-possibilities which minister to completeness. The Infinite Will, so far as this Universe is concerned, can only be realized as each individual Will comes to know itself and to realize from now-to-now its highest endowments.
The goal of all worlds is individuality attained through experience with the external Universe and realized in consciousness of self as completed individual for any now-period of existence. We are here to grow a soul individualized by the complete realization of all its powers at any now-period, recognized as of the self, and especially of the climacteric idea which gives the individual its possible history — that which distinguishes the person from all other individuals.
This brings us to