Poetic Values: Their Reality and Our Need of Them

Poetic Values: Their Reality and Our Need of Them

Poetic Values: Their Reality and Our Need of Them

Poetic Values: Their Reality and Our Need of Them

Excerpt

In the following lectures, prepared for a university audience, I have undertaken to suggest for the common-sense man, who sometimes doubts the wisdom of the prevailing view of life, a means by which he might come to think of poetic values as real, and necessarily integral in the scale of practical values. It will be seen that by the term "poetic values" I refer to something more important than a literary form.

I should feel less hopeful about my purpose if my claim to originality were greater. Most of the things I have to say have been said in one form or another; but, so far as I know, they have not been said together and related for the present purpose. The view I take of human consciousness is as old as the older Upanishads and as new as modern psychology; and were it merely old I would not have taken it. It is the empirical nature of the new and its correspondence with the old, within the range of our experience, that seems to indicate the possibility of a practical synthetic view of our values. My debt to F. W. H. Myers is the debt of modern psychology; and it would be well if my readers were familiar with the third chapter of Human Personality. In the 80's, Charles Howard Hinton, in a series of works, notably 4 New Era of Thought, undertook some such synthesis of values as is here suggested; but his argument was based upon the conception of higher space and multiple dimensionality, an interesting but vague conjecture likely to convince no one. Recently, P. D. Ouspensky, in Tertium Organum, greatly elaborated Hinton's theory, his purpose being that of the idealistic monist. He undertakes to demolish science, and restates, in substance, the Oriental conception of the universe as consciousness. In the course of his argument he accounts ingeniously for the genesis of higher values; but one wonders why he should be concerned with values at all, since he reasons toward a negation of all that we can know of the world. The conscious states that he employs, by way of proceeding from the illusion of finite dimensionality to the universal negation of the infinite, are not those of experimental psychology, but are mere abstractions, unrelated to our experience. They are merely phases of decreasing illusion in Universal Consciousness, of which my reader and I know nothing. Such speculations as those of Hinton and Ouspensky are valuable in that they tend to engender healthy doubts as to the necessary validity of our customary thought-patterns; and both have suggested thought-patterns to me, which I have employed, however, to an end differing from theirs as experimental psychology differs from metaphysics.

Perhaps most practical men would regard any discussion of reality as a waste of time. But our conception of values, by which we live, must grow out of our genuine belief as to what is real. As to the conception of reality employed in the following pages, it will be seen to be based upon a higher Vedanist view, though I have undertaken to state it in terms of our psychology. Ananda Coomaraswamy, in his chapter on the Vedanta in Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism, states it thus: "Seen from the standpoint of our empirical consciousness, it is veritably the real that is reflected through the doorways of our senses, and takes the forms of our imagination. Here the phenomenal world is not without significance, but has just so much significance as the degree of our enlightenment allows us to discover in it. . . . Our partial view is false in so far, and only in so far, as it is partial."

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