THE NATURE OF THE INSPIRATIONAL PROCESS
Including the physical process of refraction as a model for the mental
process of illumination
Human Potential Research Project
Department of Educational Studies
University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 5XH
in association with:
British Postgraduate Medical
Federation (University of London) 33 Millman Street,
London WC1N 3EJ.
This paper was presented in a much abbreviated format a meeting, on 3 May
1967, of the Centre for Spiritual and Psychological Studies in London. It is
published here for the first time. I have made only a small number of minor
deletions, alterations and additions to the original text.
2. The Principle of Analogy
3. The Concept of Transphysical Matter
4. The Concept of Minds in Relation
5. Mental Individuation and Embodiment
6. The Refraction Theory of Illumination
7. Corollaries of the Refraction Theory of Illumination
THE NATURE OF THE INSPIRATIONAL PROCESS
1.1 There is a change of metaphor, between title and sub-title, from
inspiration to illumination. I wish to deal eventually with a particular kind of
inspiration or illumination, which I shall call ‘illuminism', and to introduce
by use of the principle of analogy a set of concepts and principles which may
perhaps help toward a. more careful and systematic study of it.
1.2 But in order properly to introduce this refraction theory of
illumination, I must lay its foundations carefully by examining the
presuppositions on which it is based. There are four such presuppositions which
together constitute an organic structure, a framework of interrelated ideas,
which I shall deal with in the following order:
1.2.1 The principle of analogy.
1.2.2 The concept of transphysical substance (ether, akasha).
1.2.3 The concept of minds in relation, of intermental fields.
1.2.4 Mental individuation and embodiment.
There will be considerable digression en route in order to develop these
ideas adequately. But first a few more introductory comments.
1.3 The metaphors of inspiration and illumination have become to a
considerable degree interchangeable and overlapping. Strictly speaking this is a
matter of analogical laxity, since there is a clear distinction between the
physical processes of inspiration and illumination.
1.4 As a metaphor, inspiration should perhaps more properly be reserved for
the infusion of vitality and life, or subtle energy (at whatever level) into the
human being from some supernatural source; while illumination should be reserved
more for the infusion of thought and awareness into the human psyche from some
supernatural agency. As it is, both terms in their figurative sense have tended
to acquire something like the second meaning.
1.5 Of course one can give no one precise account of how either of them are
actually used: each has a wide range of overlapping meanings depending on the
context of their use (cf. Wittgenstein's family resemblance theory of meaning).
I shall use them to some extent interchangeably, but I shall have particularly I
.mind throughout the illumination metaphor.
2 The principle of analogy
The principle of analogy, or the philosophy of analogy; sometimes called the
doctrine of correspondences; or organic philosophy; it has some affinities with
Jung's principle of synchronicity. It is in many ways a dangerous and difficult
area of thought. My own characterization of it, in outline, is as follows:
2.1 There are threads of meaning or intelligibility interwoven through a wide
range of phenomena so that in certain respects and to a certain degree the
without reflects the within, that is, external physical states and processes may
be seen as symbolic externalizations of internal psychomental states and
processes. This principle is an extension, across the objective-subjective
polarity, of the dictum stated by Emerson that ‘Nature is an endless
combination and repetition of a very few laws’, or as Bacon wrote, ‘the same
footsteps of Nature treading or printing upon several subjects or matters’.
Thus one may say that the laws of mind are analogous in their modes of operation
to those which regulate matter. Cf. the three gunas of the Samkhya system
(India, 7th century BC): active, restraining and equilibriating principles
evident both in the gross material realm and in the subtle psychomental realm.
‘Guna’ originally meant ‘thread’ or ‘cord’.
2.2 But although the laws operative within and without may be said to be
analogous, they cannot be said to be identical; because one cannot properly
reduce the objective to the subjective, or vice versa. All one can say, I
believe, is that correspondences can be established across the bridge of their
reciprocal interaction. This, of course, is the essence of the artistic and
poetic vision, of aesthetic inspiration; but any purely theoretic and
non-aesthetic handling of it has to be extremely cautious.
2.3 Obviously there are also correspondences within the objective physical
realm itself: thus in science, inductive reasoning and hypothesis formation are
rooted in analogy. And the principle of simplicity or unity is a guide-line of
the scientist's faith. In fact in some areas there is a mistaken and excessive
tendency to search for the very few unifying principles under which all
phenomena can be subsumed. Cf. the thoroughgoing matter-in-motion materialism of
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), and his contemporary descendants who seek to maintain
a purely behaviouristic view in psychology. This results from a failure to
2.3.1 The differentiation introduced by the subjective-objective polarity,
to which I have referred in 2.2 above.
2.3.2 The differentiation introduced by the principle of hierarchy.
2.4 The principle of hierarchy suggests that there are both differential
levels of awareness and differential levels of objective reality. Further, that
towards the apex of the hierarchy the subjective-objective contrast becomes
increasingly subsumed within the embrace of an ultimate unity. (Cf. Karl
Jaspers' concept of the Transcendent or the Encompassing - das Umgreifende -
'the presence of Being is in the movement which grasps and permeates subject and
object simultaneously’.) But in so far as there are such differential levels,
then if there are certain principles which operate at all levels, they do so at
each level in a distinctive mode; so that again one can only assert
correspondences between the levels, just as one can only assert correspondences
across the subjective-objective contrast.
2.5 One may summarize by paying that the principle of analogy suggests that
there are similar rhythms, structures and configurations, corresponding yet
distinct in their own mode, at different levels, both within and without, and as
between the two. Thus such notions as inertia, reciprocity, distillation,
sublimation, refining, latency, oscillation, polarization, diffusion,
refraction, etc., may have their analogues, corresponding yet distinct, among
all sorts of phenomena at all sorts of levels.
2.6 It is important to stress that this principle of analogy is just a
postulate. a principle of faith, or a guide-line to enquiry. Any particular
correspondence that is advanced must be shown to hold adequately - it must be
justified according to the appropriate criteria. These criteria include:
2.6.1 Comprehensiveness: the proposed analogy subsumes adequately all the
2.6.2 Internal coherence: the proposed analogy is stated in a manner that
is free of internal contradiction.
2.6.3 External coherence: the proposed analogy does justice to the nature
of the phenomena under consideration.
2.7 Analogical thinking is basic to the human species, is the primal mode of
human thought. It is the foundation of the development of language (cf. Owen
Barfield on early language). It characterizes dream work generally: cf. Freud's
primary process; Jung's concept of the activity of the collective unconscious
and the archetypes in dreams, myths, folklore, active imagination, etc. It is
endemic among primitive peoples: cf. M. Eliade, Myth and Reality and the
concept of mythopaeic thinking. It is traditional in oriental culture: cf.
Indian three guna theory, Chinese five element theory and Book of
Changes (I Ching). It is central in the processes of creative inspiration
among both artists and. scientists. It is, in short, a mode of thinking we need
to cultivate. But
2.8 It has great dangers lurking within it, and it is important to be clear
2.8.1 Excessive fascination for the idea that one can find out by some
dramatic imaginative and inspirational feat some set of notions which provide
the key to universal knowledge. (Yet even here one remembers the extent to
which the founders of modern science in the 16th and 17th centuries were
inspired by Platonic and Pythagorean ideas; especially Kepler whose three laws
of planetary motion were preceded by some extraordinary analogical hypotheses
based on the Platonic solids.)
2.8.2 Superstition based on surface resemblances: the blight of much
primitive and archaic thinking.
2.8.3 Uncritical credulity in the face of any apparent analogy: failure to
apply the criteria mentioned in 2.6 above.
2.8.4 Narrow a priori dogmatism and the imposition of patterns of rigid
thought onto nature and the universe.
2.8.5 With consequent failure to develop scientific methods of enquiry
based on actual observation and experiment. Such excessive reliance on narrow
and to some degree arbitrary analogical thinking held China back from
developing any adequate empirical sciences (cf. Dr Needham, Science and
Civilization in China, especially volume II). And resistance to the birth
of science in Europe stemmed largely from the absurdities of misplaced
analogical reasoning (Fr Sizzi and the moons of Jupiter as reported by L.S.
Stebbing in A Modern Introduction to Logic, 1933).
2..9 Finally, one may note that what particularly distinguished the founders
of modern science - Kepler, Galileo, Newton, etc. - was the combination of great
speculative boldness and analogical daring in framing hypotheses with great
patience in observation and/or with great insistence on rational canons of
method and evidence. It is the mutual fructification of rationality and
analogical insight which is potent.
3 The concept of transphysical matter
The second presupposition of the refraction theory of illumination is the
idea of material but non-physical levels of being. This notion has already been
implicitly introduced in 2.4 under the principle of hierarchy and the idea of
differential levels of objective reality. Basically this is the theory that
there are two fundamental kinds of stuff - physical matter and what I shall call
transphysical matter - a polarity of substances whose reciprocal interaction
constitutes the universal tension in the objective realm, and provides the
ambience for what Plotinus called ‘the way down' and 'the way up'. One uses
the term ‘matter’ as a convenient designation for what one thinks of
nowadays more as discrete packets of energy, or as a structure of elementary
actions (cf. David Bohm’s concepts in theoretical physics).
3.1 There are at least four theoretical models which I have formulated for
conceiving this transphysical matter: theories of attenuation, agglomeration,
etheric transformation, polaric substance. Without pausing to examine these
theories here, we may at least make a few hypothetical suggestions about
3.1.1 However conceived in detail, one may say it has the property of
greater rarefaction, of being less dense, than physical matter.
3.1.2 It has, within its own compass, differential orders of density which
constitute a groundwork for different levels of objective but non-physical
3.1.3 At its lower levels of density it constitutes a groundwork for
structures and processes in the realm of physical matter; hence it stands in
a significant relationship of potency to the physical realm.
3.1.4 It is peculiarly susceptible to the impress of the
"willing" of centres of consciousness; hence in many ways it may be
conceived as constituting a third realm, driving out the Cartesian bifurcation
of reality into the two mutually exclusive dimensions of thought and
extension. For the relation between mind and transphysical matter in its
refined modes may be such that it can be enunciated in the following
principle: no thought process without some transphysically extended effect.
3.2 However, the notion is so alien to our modern western world view, to what
C.D. Broad calls the basic limiting principles which delimit the range and
structure of our thought about the world (Religion, Philosophy and Psychical
Research, 1953), that I wish to give some account of its persistent
occurrence in various forms in the history of human thought, although I can only
do this in barest outline.
3.2.1 It appears in various guises in the animism, dynamism and shamanism
of so-called primitive religion. The mana of the kahunas of Polynesia: a
potent supernatural fluid which can be charged into objects, is an anchor or
foothold for spirits. Cf. also the orenda of the Iroquois, manitou
of the Algonquins, wakanda of the Sioux, the original meaning of kami in
Japan. For a contemporary account: G. Sandwith, Firewalkers of Fiji, Tonga
and Samoa, 1958. See also the symbolism involved in the shamanic ascent
into heaven (works of Mircea Eliade on shamanism).
3.2.2 But the concept has also occurred in the metaphysical and
cosmological systems of some of the greatest speculative intellects.
China The great Neo-Confucian thinker Chu Hsi (1131-1200 AD) ‘the
supreme synthetic mind in all Chinese history' (Needham, op cit) Two
basic concepts: li, the principle of organization, the universal cosmic
pattern containing in itself all smaller and more limited patterns; and chhi,
matter-energy, tenuous non-perceptible matter or aethereal waves, out of which
chih - solid, perceptible physical matter - is formed by gyration and
centrifugal coagulation. (Jesuit missionaries' accounts of Chu Hsi may have
influenced Descartes' theory of first matter and his vortical theory of
gravitation and cosmogenesis.)
India The ancient Samkhya system of philosophical realism, founded by
Kapila, 7th century BC: among the evolutes of prakriti (the one
universal substance or prius of all creation, alongside purusa or pure
spirit) are akasha and the five tanmatras, which together
constitute subtle matter, vibratory, radiant, full of energy, and out of which
gross physical matter evolves. The atomistic pluralism of the Vaisesika
system, another realist philosophy, c. 6th century BC: six basic explanatory
categories, one of which is that of substance; nine substances, one of which
is akasha - a continuous, simple, infinite substance, the substrate of
sound, binds gross physical. atoms together and provides their cohesive force.
see S. Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, 1931.
Ancient Greece Aristotle, 4th century BC: aether, celestial
matter, the fifth element - translucent, bright and incorruptible - out of
which is made the celestial spheres which carry the sun, moon, planets and
stars. God, the Unmoved Mover, starts everything into motion by acting on the
aether of the spheres. (Aristotle of course misapplies the concept, but it is
the sort of role it plays in his thought which is of interest.) Also pneuma,
analogous to his aether: a subtle, active material principle by means of which
the soul effects bodily movement and receives sense impressions from the body.
Both aether and pneuma act as intermediaries between the immaterial and
3.2.3 Finally, it is of interest, in the history of modern science, to
trace the history of the ether as an empirical concept, that is, as a
postulated substrate of certain physical processes. One strand in this concept
derived from Plato’s idea of a world-soul and the anima mundi of
mediaeval speculation; the other strand derived from the Aristotelian aether.
Thus the notion of an ethereal medium played a prominent part in the
speculations of the founders of modern science (see E.A. Burtt, The
Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, 1925). Descartes, Boyle,
Gilbert, Newton in the 17th century all take seriously the probable role of
the ether as a basis of a variety of physical phenomena. Newton suggests it is
diffused through all space, like air but far more subtle, and that the whole
frame of nature is a condensation of it (in his letters to Boyle and
Oldenburg). He hypothesized that the force and action of the ether is the
explanatory basis of magnetic and electric phenomena, transmission of light,
physical sensation, and of the ability of the physical body to move at the
command of the will. He did not elaborate this hypothesis in his Principia
because of the insufficiency of experimental data. Thereafter, the concept of
the ether became closely connected with the phenomenon of light, and after the
determination of the finite velocity of light by the Danish astronomer Roemer
in 1675, became the luminiferous ether, the universal medium necessary for the
propagation of light waves. When Maxwell showed in 1864 that light is a
particular type of electromagnetic wave, the ether became the general vehicle
for electric and magnetic fields and the transmission of light. A great
experimental search for the ether began, on the fixed assumption that the
earth was moving through a stationary ether, hence there should be an ether
wind or ether drift in the opposite direction to the earth's motion. The
Michelson-Morley experiment of 1881, using an interferometer and repeated many
times, failed to detect the ether drift as having any effect on the behaviour
of light: light waves were apparently not at all affected by the movement of
the earth through space. The ether concept was finally interred in Einstein's
special theory of relativity in 1905: his first basic postulate was that the
ether cannot be detected (not, of' course, that it does not exist); and none
of his calculated results of the special theory involve any reference to an
ether. The result is that today the ether is, in orthodox science, commonly
regarded as ‘an unnecessary assumption' (Penguin Dictionary of Science);
and electromagnetic waves are simply stated as ‘not requiring any known
material medium for their propagation’
3.3 Thus the concept of the ether, even in the minimal form of an invisible
medium or substrate for certain physical effects, has disappeared from our
scientific world-view. which has reached a nadir point of conceptual parsimony.
Yet this particular issue in science is by no means closed, and for the
3.3.1 The Michelson-Morley experiment of 1881 (mentioned above) was
primarily responsible for the demise of the ether concept in science. But this
experiment was based on the assumption that the ether is stationary and the
moving earth drags some ether with it. But if one adopts a contrary assumption
that the earth is moving with the ether, is being carried in it, is
ether-borne - then the negative results of the experiment become more
intelligible, for on this assumption, no ether drift would be detectable. For
further development of this important idea see C.E. Last, Man in the
3.3.2 There are nests of problems both at the microscopic and the
macroscopic levels which are ripe for solution along hitherto unexplored
lines: the binding force of the atomic nucleus; problems arising from
Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle; problems concerned with entropy,
especially in living things; formation of gaseous nebulae, and so on.
3.4 However, the concept of transphysical matter, the ether, in its different
degrees, has been kept alive in important areas outside the somewhat arbitrary
limits involved in the prevailing conventional world-view. As an empirical
hypothesis, the notion of transphysical matter-energy has been developed in the
3.4.1 It has been conceived as providing a form and force field for the
building up of visible physical forms. Thus Sir 0. Lodge in Ether and
Reality, 1926; Beyond Physics, 1930. Dr Guenther Wachsmuth in The
Etheric Formative Forces, 1932: deals with the etheric-field theory for
terrestrial gravitation, rotation of the earth, tides, rise of sap in trees,
cold light, causes of colour and sound, shapes of things. See also G. Adams'
work on crystal formation and plant growth (Space and the Light of
Creation, The Plant between Sun and Earth). Important pioneer works
even if they prove to contain many errors.
3.4.2 It has been conceived as constituting a medium in its different
degrees for vitality, sensation and emotional and mental experience. This
ancient view (cf. the Samkhya system, Aristotle's pneuma, Newton's
view) has received an interesting-formulation in Some Unrecognized Factors
in Medicine (Transaction of the Theosophical Research Centre, 1949).
3.4.3 It has been conceived as constituting a medium for the transmission
of interpersonal vital energy. See L. Eeman in Cooperative Healing. I
think it may also be proposed as an important hypothetical intermediary for
the interfusion and exchange of interpersonal emotion and thought, and thus
has an important role to play in interpersonal psychology, the empirical study
of which is a comparatively recent development. For example, I believe there
is a transphysical component in perceiving and responding to the gaze of
3.4.4 It has been conceived as constituting the medium for extra-sensory
communication between one human being and another a medium, that is, for
telepathy, clairvoyance, etc. This view has been advanced by H.H. Price in an
article in Philosophy, 1940; and by Raynor Johnson in The Imprisoned
3.4.5 It has been conceived as constituting the medium which the discarnate
inhabit and in which they are embodied. This important notion needs much more
careful and systematic study than it has hitherto received. The hypothesis
here is that of the transphysical domain as the locus of surviving and higher
order sentients of different kinds. C.D. Broad, who has a very cautionary view
of survival, suggests (Lectures on Psychical Research, 1962) there may
survive a psi-component – ‘a kind of highly complex and persistent vortex
in the old fashioned ether’. John Hick in Theology Today (1960), has
put forward the thesis of a resurrection body in a resurrection world as part
of an argument for the so-called eschatological verification of religious
3.5 A mathematical model for conceiving the interaction of transphysical
forces with the physical realm has been put forward with some thoroughness by G.
Adams in terms of polar-Euclidean geometry. Whether this proves to be adequate
remains to be seen.
3.6 The metaphysical rationale of the hypothesis of transphysical matter is
3.6.1 It provides a bridge between the creative activity of mind or minds
and the realm of physical forms, since it is conceived as being peculiarly
sensitive to the impress of mind (see 3.1.4 above).
3.6.2 It provides an individuating principle which makes the survival of
physical death and the moral continuity of experience beyond this life
3.7 Among the various attitudes one may take to the notion of transphysical
matter are the following:
3.7.1 Deny its existence altogether. And this can be done in terms of
either philosophical materialism or philosophical idealism.
3..7.2 Subjectify it: regard it and its appearances as the projection of
subjective psychological processes. Jungian psychology has a tendency in this
direction, partly because of the very obscure metaphysical status to be
attached to Jung's concept of the collective unconscious.
3.7.3 Consider it another dimension of illusion or maya: the
attitude of some kinds of orientalism. Thus Sankara (died 820 AD) in some
moods in the advaita vedanta.
3.7.4 Accept its objectivity as a component of the real: Samkhya system,
Aristotle, Chu Hsi, etc. My own view.
4 The concept of minds in relation
This very important third presupposition of the refraction theory of
illumination holds that any individual mind stands in a contrasted but necessary
and interdependent relation with other minds. Further that the development of
the increasing relative autonomy of any individual mind necessarily involves a
reciprocal relation, or relation of mutuality, with other such minds: that is to
say, the autonomy and creative uniqueness of a person cannot properly be
considered apart from his or her relationship with other persons. Individual
autonomy of thought, creativity and outlook is correlative with interpersonal
reciprocity, both conceptually and in experiential fact. The theme of persons in
relation occurs in contemporary existentialism and phenomenology, e.g. in the
works of Martin Buber, Gabriel Marcel, Max Scheler, John Macmurray; but I wish
to apply it more extensively, particularly in the direction of subliminal
intermental fields (see below).
4.1 The contrasted but necessary relation between any individual mind and
other minds may be applied even to individual sensory perception if you regard
perception as a process of participating in the creative ‘consciring' or
activities of those higher order sentients who sustain both the natural world
and your own body and perceptual apparatus. Such a startling view is implicit in
Douglas Fawcett philosophy of imaginism (World as Imagination, 1916; Divine
Imagining, 1921); and lurks,. rather guardedly within Owen Barfield's Saving
the Appearances, 1957. More recently see James Hillman, Archetypal
4.1.1 Some thinkers have seen a gradual metamorphosis of consciousness in
man's perception of the world, commencing with a collective participation
(through perception) in the sentient life behind phenomenal appearances,
proceeding through a phase of extreme individual isolation and alienation from
the world in perceptual experience, toward a phase of conscious and controlled
perceptual participation of an individualized kind. (Barfield and colleagues;
this view is implicit in Buber's epistemology.).
4.2 The contrasted but necessary relation between individual mind and other
minds applies also of course at the psychosocial level: individuality emerges
from the collective consciousness of society, tribe and family; and is
thereafter in part constituted by the social relations which provide its frame
of reference and social identity. (For the primacy of intersubjective experience
see Max Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, Part III, 1954.)
4.2.1 A person, or individual mind, only emerges in terms of his or her
usage of a common language, common norms. of behaviour. and common
institutions; i.e. in terms of interpersonal or social relations.
4.2.2 In any social relation the individual person is also occupying one or
more social roles; and his self-identity or self-image is in part constituted
by how he thinks others estimate and characterize his various,
role-performances. (Cf. M.Argyle, The Psychology of Interpersonal Behaviour,
1967; also Laing, Ellerson and Lee, Interpersonal Perception, 1966.)
.4.2.3 The psychosocial uniqueness and creativity of a person is
inseparable, then, from standard norms and expectancies which attach to the
social roles he occupies. His uniqueness consists in his interpretation,
adaptation and possible alteration of these norms.
4.3 But the same principle of minds-in-relation or intersubjectivity can be
applied also, I believe, and in many ways much more crucially, at the level of
creative thinking in art, science, philosophy, etc., and at the level of
creative moral and spiritual behaviour. All such creative mental activity is the
product of a colloquium or at least a dialogue, in which advances made by an
individual are the product of a field of intermental transaction established
between the individual mind and other minds.
4.3.1 This intermental transaction may be between one human mind and
another or others, past and present. In conversation, reading, drama, art,
music: this is the cultural, hermeneutic field.
4.3.2 It may be between one human mind and a discarnate or transphysically
embodied mind or minds. In this case we have what I will call a ‘subliminal
intermental field’. The influence and significance of such subliminal
intermental fields in creative, moral and spiritual inspiration requires, I
believe, more attention than it has so far received.
4.3.3 Creative mental activity may involve both 4.3.1 and 4.3.2
simultaneously; but it involves at least 4.3.1, and I am inclined to think it
always involves 4.3.2 also.
4.3.4 But neither of these transactions precludes their being rooted, in
each individual mind concerned, in some basic interrelation between each mind
and the ultimate ground of its being. This is the Tao field.
4.3.5 It may be noted in parenthesis that where the mental transaction is
between human minds, this may occur at two levels: the level of verbal
interchange; and the level of unspoken thoughts, impressions and feelings.
4.4 I wish therefore to suggest that creative inspiration in its highest form
involves the following elements:
4.4.1 The autonomous activity of the imagination, mental power and judgment
of the individual creative mind.
4.4.2 Which among other things works on material and stimuli provided
directly or indirectly by other human minds, past and present.
4.4.3 And which is to a greater or lesser degree related to promptings from
the hidden and ultimate ground of its being.
4.4.4 And whose creative insights are a function, in part, of the field of
intermental transaction established between it and minds in the transphysical
These four elements in the inspirational process provide a basis for
distinguishing between different kinds of inspiration depending on which of the
four elements is emphasized.
4.5 Where the emphasis in the inspirational experience is on relation with
the ultimate ground, then we are concerned with the roots of religious
experience, and enter the field of mysticism. ' There is introvertive and
extrovertive mysticism - the inner way or the unifying vision (cf. W.T. Stace, Mysticism
and Philosophy. 1961; Rudolph Otto, Mysticism East and West, 1932).
4.5.1 Extrovertive mysticism or the unifying vision may include the
sense of intermental transaction between the individual mystic’s mind and
other transcendent minds. Cf. Plotinus' account of his vision of the world of
archetypal intelligences: "for each is the whole and is wholly all, yet
still it is not mingled but is again itself separate." Particular things
or minds are seen as embraced within the One, yet still retain their
4.5.2 But there seems to be considerable possible variation in the range
and level of this unifying vision. Thus Ramakrishna saw the immediate objects
of sense-perception ‘soaked as it were in bliss - the bliss of God', and
thereupon fed the food reserved for the temple image of the divine mother to
4.5.3 But at whatever level, and with respect to whatever content, the
vision operates, there seem to be two inseparable elements in the experience:
awareness of the Unity and awareness of the units - two elements which are
distinct yet inseparably conjoined and mutually enhancing.
4.5.4 Introvertive mysticism, the inner way or the way of unknowing, seeks
to attain a realization of that unmanifest principle ‘beyond all name and
form' (Upanishads), which transcends all empirical and conceptual
multiplicity. Any awareness of higher order intermental transaction seems to
be totally occluded or transcended by this type of experience. But
paradoxically this does not necessarily mean that such transaction is not
instrumental in providing the appropriate conditions for the experience.
4.5.5 In extrovertive mysticism, the emphasis is on an inspirational
relation with the ground of all being; in introvertive mysticism with the
ground of the individual mind.. But one may note that in neither case is the
distinctness of. the individual concerned lost: for one may overcome
separateness without losing distinctness of being (a distinction which the
Buddhist doctrine of anatta or non-existence of the soul fails to
4.5.6 There is a great divide between Greek thought, also oriental thought,
and Judo-Christian thought on the interpretation of the mystical relation. .
For the Greeks and Orientals, part of man participates in the divine nature;
for the JudoChristian thinkers there is an infinite dissimilarity in kind
between God and man.
4.5.7 The mystics' interpretation of their experience very much depends of
course on the philosophic and/or religious traditions of which they are a
part, that is, on their intermental transactions with other human minds. In
general, in order properly to assess mystics' experiences and their reports of
them, it is important I believe to take into account the influence of all four
elements mentioned in 4.4.
4.5.8 Finally there is the mysticism of action or voluntaristic mysticism,
which has received insufficient attention in the literature of the subject.
Here the creativity of the individual will is caught up in the creativity of
the primal source and issues forth in acts of great moral and spiritual
significance. But again one has to take into account here the influence of the
other three elements: the individuals own judgment, the impact of other human
minds, and the impact of subliminal intermental fields.
4.6 Where the main emphasis in the inspirational experience is on the
creative activity of the individual human mind (4.4.1), then we have what I will
call productive inspiration, that is the creative thinking of artists of all
kinds, scientists, inventors. The creative process is traditionally classified
into four stages: preparation, incubation, illumination, substantiation or the
working out and verifying of the illumination (G. Wallas, The Art of Thought,
1921). But still today not much is known about the illumination or insight
phase: we need initially a phenomenology of the creative process, that is, a
careful description of it just as it presents itself to those who undergo it,
particularly during the illumination stage. A groundwork for this is provided by
Rosamund Harding's Anatomy of Inspiration, 1942, which collects together
the comments of artists and scientists on the inspirational process.
4.6.1 Clearly the artistic and scientific achievements of other human minds
contributes a large part of the material upon which the productive inspiration
4.6.2 But I suggest that subliminal intermental fields are also crucially
relevant; that is, the new idea emerges out of a pregnant field or zone of
subliminal awareness in which the human creator's mind is participating. His
or her insights occur within the productive ambience provided by virtue of his
unconscious affinity with higher order minds in the transphysical domain.
Ideas are given him, drop into his mind; .or their emergence is preceded by a
great sense of expectancy and buoyancy and accompanied by an extraordinary
sense of elation, emancipation and sailing among the isles of the blest.
4.6.3 About such subliminal mental fields and the appropriate conditions
for productive human participation in them we know very little. I can only
point to this as a crucial area for study and investigation by enlightened
4.6.4 It would be entirely misleading to suppose that productive
inspiration is only at work in the artistic and scientific fields, in
philosophy, literature and so on. For it is at work in the whole sphere of
practice, that is to say in the world of social and interpersona1 relations,
in the fulfilling of one's various social roles: in the reinterpretation of
such roles, infusing them with creative originality; or in the creation of new
roles. We need to acquire the realization that it is in our social
performances, in relating to others, in creating and sustaining social groups
and institutions, that productive inspiration can take hold and create new
social forms and attitudes. And here again we have to take into account the
productive ambience provided by subliminal intermental fields.
4.7 Where the main emphasis in the inspirational experience is on the
relation with the products or activities of other human minds, then we have what
I will call spectator inspiration associated, for example, with the
contemplation of art forms, music, poetic images, philosophical concepts, also
with observing the actual real-life behaviour of other persons (or contemplating
related accounts of such behaviour). Spectator inspiration is of crucial
significance both educationally and recreationally, and is an important
component of any spiritual conception of life. I would like to make a few
comments about the contemplation of art forms.
4.7.1 An art form comprises in a unique way a synthesis of discrete
elements such that the distinct quality of each is enhanced by virtue of its
harmonious unity with every other: for example a vase, in which linear
contour, three-dimensional shape, colour and surface patterning, texture,
chiaroscuro, all mutually enhance each other's impact by virtue of the unity
sustained between them. The same can be said about images in a poem or the
mutual impact of word on word, and about the elements of a musical
composition, or the diverse aesthetic ingredients of a painting, etc.
4.7.2 This remarkable property of an art form may be regarded as a symbolic
expression of the same sort of relations characteristic one may suppose of
transcendent intermental fields - as revealed, for example, in the Plotinic
vision (4.5.1) - where the unique distinctness of each mind may be enhanced by
its reciprocal relations with every other in a mutually elevating harmony.
Music may become uniquely revealing if responded to in the light of this
hypothesis - a hypothesis which underlines the earlier suggestion that
productive inspiration in art occurs within a subliminal intermental field.
4.8 Where the main emphasis in the inspirational experience is on the
subliminal intermental field, that is to say, on relation with minds in the
transphysical domains, then we have the various forms of overt spiritism. The
lower reaches of this kind of inspiration I shall call ordinary spiritualism,
the middle and higher reaches I shall call 'illuminism’, for in this case
something significant in the way of knowledge and. awareness is usually claimed
as an outcome of the practice. In the refraction theory of illumination which
follows later, I am mainly concerned with the illuminist form of spiritism.
Ordinary 'good neighbour’ spiritualism I shall pass over as scarcely falling
within the scope of such terms as inspiration and illumination in their more
4.8.1 Illuminism, then, involves a conscious and overt transaction between a
human mind and a mind or minds in the transphysical domains somewhat beyond the
range of deceased-relative spiritualism. See 3.1.2.
4.8.2 These minds may exist at differential objective transphysical levels,
and may be of different degrees of spiritual elevation, knowledge and moral
stature. Given a hypothetical existence, there are no necessary assumptions to
be made about their integrity.
4.8.3 The mode of communication involved may be thought transference,
clairvoyance, clairaudience, automatic writing or various other types of
4.8.4 The content of what is thus received may give ostensible illumination
about the physical realm, about transphysical .realms and experiences, arcane
cosmology and transhuman destiny.
4.8.5 The various phases and forms of illuminist seership, the conditions
under which they operate, have received practically no serious and responsible
examination whatsoever. There are a host of important problems to consider:
220.127.116.11 The nature of the motivation of the human mind concerned; and in
general the psychological make-up of this type of individual.
18.104.22.168 The effect on transmission of the conscious and unconscious content
of the seer's or medium's mind; and the effect on transmission of the seer's
participation in human intermental fields.
22.214.171.124 The motivation, attitudes, psychological make-up and social
performance of the followers of illuminist doctrines.
126.96.36.199 Specifying the criteria for distinguishing between subjective and
objective content in any transmission received; and most important, specifying
the criteria for distinguishing between the true and the false, the probable
and the improbable, the acceptable and the unacceptable, etc., in any
clearly determined objective content.
188.8.131.52 The conditions of training for this kind of seership.
4.8.6 Finally, the justification for inviting this kind of inspiration must
be ' carefully examined; that is to say, one must set forth its proper relevance
for human affairs. I will assume here that it has such a relevance, since
illuminism may represent an important or perhaps the only means of acquiring a
closer understanding of those subliminal intermental fields' which I have
suggested 'are crucial in productive inspiration and a great deal that is of
value in human affairs may be attributed to productive inspiration.
4.8.7 Illuminism by no means excludes concurrent mystical
inspiration,; also it may perhaps occur in the mode of transphysical
communication without determinate content, i.e. in themode of communion; and it
may conceivably be a group as well as an individual practice, especially in this
4.9 This completes my survey of the four elements of the inspirational
process; and although in each case considered there is a primary emphasis on one
of the elements, I think it might reasonably be maintained that the other
unstressed elements are present in some form or another. And it is certainly an
interesting quest ion to ask to what extent they should be consciously
acknowledged to be present.
5 Mental individuation and embodiment
The third presupposition of the refraction theory of illumination holds that
an individuated mind, a mind with a distinct identity, is always necessarily
embodied, either in a physical or a transphysical vehicle.
5.1 The assumption here is that without bodies, physical or transphysical,
there is only Mind but no distinct minds. A bodily vehicle provides the means of
individuation for a mind.
5.2 It is only because we have bodies of which we have unique proprioceptive
awareness, and which provide us with a unique perspective on the world, that we
learn to distinguish our own experiences from those of other people, and thereby
acquire the sense of our own identity. This assertion has to be taken in
connection with 4.2.
5.3 Any intelligible notion of surviving physical death, if it is to be
survival of the same person, involves the notion of a transphysical body and a
transphysical realm for it to inhabit.
5.3.1 But if the conditions of personal identity are to be continuous
across the divide of physical death, then there must be some transphysical
vehicle which is (1) interwoven with the physical vehicle during physical
existence, but (2) survives the death of the physical vehicle, and (3) is the
non-physical foundation or storage place of memories acquired during physical
5.3.2 Thus we have the, important hypothesis that man is a doubly embodied
being; embodied, that is, both at a physical level and at a fairly dense or
gross transphysical level.
5.3.3 Hence the possibility of intermental fields at a transphysical level
both between human minds and other human minds, and between human minds and
minds outside physical existence.
5.4 A further postulate is that any kind of intermental transaction between
two persons necessarily involves some kind of interaction between the vehicles
of those two persons.
5.4.1 This is because transmission of some determinate content or impact
presupposes some determinate configuration of the intervening medium. For
those outside physical existence, such interaction, especially in more
telepathic transactions, may occur at a very subtle level of the
transphysical; although of course it may also involve more obvious forms of
transphysical interaction equivalents of speech, gesture and so on.
5.4.2 Intermental transaction between humans may involve only transphysic
al mediation or interaction, as in interhuman ESP. But 'if it involves
physical interaction (via speech, gesture, touch, sight, etc.) then it always
and also involves transphysical interaction, interwoven with the former..
5.4..3 Intermental transaction between a human mind and a mind outside
physical existence, as inilluminism, involves an interaction between the more
refined transphysical at one end and the more gross transphysical-cum-physical
at the other.
5.5 Summarising these presuppositions with respect to the particular kind of
inspiration I wish to consider here, we have the following:
5.5.1 Illuminism involves a transaction between minds embodied in a more
refined transphysical dimension of being, and minds embodied in a more gross
transphysical-cum-physical dimension of being.
5.5.2 This transaction has as its necessary condition a transmission from
refined transphysical to near physical and physical states. Crudely put, the
illumination proceeds from and through a more rarefied medium to and through a
more dense medium.
5.5.3 I am now in a position to state- the refraction theory of
illumination, with special reference to illuminism.
6 The refraction theory of illumination
The theory draws an analogy between purely physical sources of illumination
on the one hand, and transphysically based but purely mental sources of
illumination on the other; and in particular between the purely physical
principles of refraction, diffusion and total reflection, and certain cognitive
and psychological principles about the reception of mental illumination from
minds outside physical existence.
6.1 The analogy is drawn primarily between an external physical process and
an intersubjective or interpersonal cognitive process; but it may also be drawn
secondarily between the external physical process and the transphysical to
physical processes which accompany the interpersonal cognitive process.
Thus there is a sense in which the analogy is drawn both across the
objective-subjective contrast, and across different hierarchical levels. As
6.2 Refraction in physics is concerned with the bending of light rays as they
pass obliquely from one medium into another of different optical density.
6.2.1 The principle of (physical) refraction may be stated as follows: if
you are situated in a dense medium (say water) and look up to a source of
light which is situated above you in a more rarefied medium (say air), then if
the rays of light from that source approach you obliquely (i.e. are at an
oblique and not a right angle to the boundary between the two media) then that
source will appear to be higher than it actually is. That is to say, the ray
is bent toward the vertical as it enters the denser medium.
6.2.2 Or it may be put this way: if you are situated in a dense medium and
you shine a ray of light obliquely upwards into a more rarefied medium, then
the ray will incline back toward the horizontal when it enters the more
rarefied medium, and it will appear that you are illuminating a higher region
in that rarefied medium than in fact you really are.
6.2.3 Or again: if you shine light into water at an oblique angle to the
boundary between the air and the water, any object you illuminate in the water
will appear to be higher than it actually is.
6.3 The analogue of this simple physical law is what I shall term purely for
convenience the law of transphysical refraction, which may be metaphorically
stated as follows: a ray of illumination passing obliquely from minds in
transphysical realms to human minds in denser and physical realms will incline
more towards the vertical as it enters the physical realm. Thus from the point
of view of the human mind in the physical realm the source of the ray appears to
be higher than it actually is.
6.3.1 This maybe regarded in a secondary sense as pointing to some fairly
direct analogy between physical refraction and the transphysical and physical
processes that are the necessary. condition of the intermental transaction of
6.3.2 But I regard it primarily as a metaphor for certain purely cognitive
distortions, which, unless allowance is made for them, will tend to condition
the reception or perception of illumination from minds outside physical
existence. The basic distortion here is that the intimations and inspirations
received by the human mind from transphysical realms and their occupants
appear to have a more remote and exalted origin than is in fact the case.
6.3.3 One effect is that the source of the illumination - the originating
mind or minds - may-be uncritically invested with an excess of status by the
human mind. Thus-the minds beyond may be mistakenly regarded as unimpeachable
authorities, and as infallible sources of arcane knowledge. Further, because
they appear to have such knowledge. it may be-mistakenly assumed they have
commensurate power and-ability. Finally, it may be mistakenly assumed that the
extended knowledge they appear to possess is a guarantee of their moral
integrity and of-the purity and soundness of their motivation. The conditions
of perception in this field, in short, tend to exaggerate the 'image' of the
6.3.4 Another effect is that the content of what is imparted, in so far as
it deals with ostensible arcana, may be regarded as so remote from, so far
beyond the range of, our earthly experience that it is exempt from any really
discriminating analysis in the light of appropriate canons of probability,
validity and credibility.
6.3.5 A related effect is that the content of what is imparted may appear
as inflated with more significance and meaning than it actually merits, so
that it tends to arouse an attitude of psychological conviction and an
intuitive certitude as to its self-evident truth. So again one may say
that-the conditions of perception in this field tend to create illusions of
insight and understanding. Hence if one believes anything at all in this
field, one tends to believe too much.
6.4 Examples of these effects are legion. Psychics, sensitives and seers
generally are well-known for being over-identified with and over-impressed and
over-convinced by their visions and insights. Followers and believers, who are
not overt psychics or seers, tend to show the same effects with respect to what
they hear and read in this field; that is to say, the same effects are operative
at a more unfocussed intuitive level of consciousness. I regard each of the
following as cases of illuminism, that is, of instances in which there was a
transaction between a human mind and a mind or minds outside physical existence
(in the ordinary sense); but in each case I believe there was a greater or
lesser degree of misperception, distortion and illusion involved in the
6.4.1 Swedenborg (1688-1772) and his followers regarded his illumination as
proceeding from the Central heaven presided over by ‘the Lord’, 'the
God-man’. See his The Divine Love and Wisdom, Heaven and Hell, etc.
6.4.2 Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the Mormon prophet, and his followers
regarded his visionary guidance as imparted by exalted and unimpeachable angel
6.4.3 Madame Blavatsky and her followers have regarded her teachings as
imparted by 'masters of wisdom' of great attainment and moral stature.
6.4.4 In the above instances we are concerned, I believe, with various
kinds of elevated distortions involved in the psycho-spiritual life, a kind of
pneuma-pathology, and in each cape different degrees of allowance have to be
made for these effects. I am not suggesting, of course, that everything
imparted is worthless, but some things are clearly suspect and the problem in
each case is to determine precisely what. Each of the three (and many other
cases could be cited).was consciously caught up in a subliminal intermental
field - but how valid were the moral and spiritual credentials of the
inspirers in each case? This whole area is due for a more systematic and
conscientious study than it has hitherto received.
6.4.5 In passing one may note that spiritualist groups in general often
tend to accord too much status and significance to controlling guides and/or
healers, etc.; and to be overimpressed by an inspirational rhetoric whose
actual substance is very slight.
6.4.6 Finally one may note at both the spiritualist and the illuminist
levels that there is often a remarkable failure to apply adequate canons of
judgment and criticism to the teachings received. This is partly due to the
fact that (1) any excess of scepticism or misplaced criticism will disrupt the
operation of the intermental field whence the inspiration arises; (2) any
subliminal mental field consciously entered into tends, by virtue among other
things of its emotional impact, to disperse and lull the judgment and critical
acumen of the human minds involved. But the crucial question here arises: what
criteria are appropriate for evaluating the content of illuminist doctrines?
This is the central problem which stems from this paper, but it is too
important to deal with summarily and requires a paper on its own.
6.5 I return now to the second statement of the law of physical refraction
(6.2.2). There is a seer’s analogue of this which may be stated
metaphorically as follows: the ray of human vision, insight or understanding,
when it seeks to penetrate obliquely upwards from the physical into the
transphysical realms to reach the knowledge and experience of those therein,
inclines back toward the horizontal (back toward the physical) as it enters
those realms, and thus appears to be grasping higher (and more accurate)
realizations than is in fact the case.
6.5.1 Basically this may be stated as the tendency for transphysical states
and experiences and the ideas therefrom to appear before the human mind too
much in corporeal terms, in physically relevant concepts, categories and
patterns of thought. One may say this is an example of analogical insight not
allowing for hierarchical differentiation (2.4); a tendency to convert ‘vertical’
into ‘horizontal’ relations.
6.5.2 Perhaps one example of this effect is the theory of reincarnation,
which could be regarded as converting the notion of successive embodiments in
different transphysical realms into the notion of successive embodiments in
the physical realm. If this were so then the theory would convert an 'upward’
hierarchical progression into a purely ‘horizontal’ earthly progression.
6.5.3 Astrological theory may be cited as another example. Astrology may be
regarded as converting the notion of cosmic influences proceeding to the
physical earth from transphysical zones into the notion of planetary and
zodiacal influences conceived in terms of very simple astronomical patterns.
it is not difficult to expose the inconsistencies and geocentric
preoccupations :of astrology. But it may still be regarded as a distortion of
a deeper truth.
6.5.4 A much cruder example is the doctrine of eternal recurrence - the
idea that every physical event will be repeated in exactly the same form and
an infinite number of times. This has been advanced recently by the
Gurdjieff-Ouspensky school; it overcame Nietzsche with the force of an
obsessive revelation; and of course dates back to the doctrine of Apokatastasis
of the Stoics in the 3rd century BC. This may be regarded as converting
the notion of similarities in the cyclic patterning of events into notion of
identity of content within each cyclic pattern.
6.5.5 The theory of planetary rounds, which occurs in some schools, may be
6.5.6 Finally, of course, there is the tendency among some believers to
seek an unwarranted personal reference in intimations from the beyond.
6.6 There is also an analogue for the third form of the law of physical
refraction (6.2.3). If any mind in the transphysical realms seeks to illuminate
(obliquely) a human mind in the physical realm, then that human mind will tend
to appear higher in stature than it actually is.
6.6.1 Thus perhaps some persons in the transphysical (depending on the
angle of downward vision) may see the human beings they contact as having
greater spiritual and psychic capacities than in fact is the case, may perhaps
overestimate their motivation, commitment, etc.
6.6.2 Again, minds outside physical existence may not, in contacting human
minds, appreciate sufficiently and make proper allowance for the autonomy
of earthly existence, for the special conditions and principles that determine
the value of earthly performance, experience and realization.
6.6.3 Or it may be a failure to appreciate the peculiar practical and
psychological problems of physical existence. And so on.
6.7 To summarize: the law of transphysical refraction suggests, by analogy,
that the following effects are to be allowed for in any serious approach to
6.7.1 The human mind tends to overestimate the status and significance of
the transphysically based source of the illumination, and of the content of
6.7.2 Yet at the same time, the human mind in so far as it exercises its
insight and understanding upon the content received tends to conceive it too
much in earthly concepts and categories. Hence there is a curiously dual and
almost contradictory type of distortion: the content is spiritually vaunted
while being over-corporealized. Unless allowance is made for both these
tendencies, a subtle and disturbing sense of illusion remains.
6.7.3 Minds in the transphysical may tend to overestimate the status of the
human beings they illuminate, that is, to see them as spiritually more
elevated than in fact they are. While this may be uplifting and in a sense
helpful for the human persons concerned, yet, unless allowance is made for
this effect, it can breed sustained and subtle private illusions.
6.7.4 Finally, minds in the transphysical may tend to see human beings too
much as potential discarnates or embryonic spirits, and hence fall short of
according to physical experience its own proper value and autonomy.
6.8 It is considerations such as these, I believe, which must be taken into
account if illuminism is to be examined seriously not merely in a theoretical
but also in-a practical way. A subtle sort of discrimination is required. Excess
critical acumen can lead to outright sceptical rejection of the whole idea of
illuminism - this is intellect deformed by in-adequate insight; yet at the other
extreme we have excess exercise of intuitive modes of appraisal - with resultant
illusions of insight.
6.9 What, then, is the overall significance of the illusory effects outlined
above? In this connection one has to remember that belief in some sort of
transphysical realm has characterized the majority of literate and pre-literate
societies throughout the greater part of their history.
6.9.1 During the long phases of mankind's immaturity, these illusory
effects may have served to foster and sustain some degree of
spirituality, transphysical orientation and amenability to necessary influence
from transphysical realms, among human beings.
6.9.2 But if so, this result was achieved at the expense of superstition,
credulity, bigotry, fanaticism, fallacious doctrines, lack of adequate
physical knowledge, and a certain infection of the will.
6.9.3 Hence in the West at any rate, two processes arose historically to
veil the transphysical realms and progressively exclude them from the human
184.108.40.206 Christianity,which narrowed the field down to the Trinity and the
saints, with principalities and powers obscured by the dogma of the risen
Christ. Christianity also had either indeterminate or bizarre notions of the
life beyond physical existence.
220.127.116.11 The investigation of physical nature from the 16th century
onwards, which had to suppress and ostensibly overthrow the ancient doctrine
of occult and final causes behind the scenes of nature in order to make any
headway at all against archaic and immature modes of hierarchical and
6.9.4 The transphysical dimension of reality re-presented itself on the
human scene in a small way, and in a somewhat bizarre way, through . ordinary
spiritualism, starting in 1848 in America; and again in a rather bizarre way
through the doctrines of occultism in the last quarter of the 19th century.
But in both cases it has tended to devour the minds and souls of those
committed to it in the various groups and schools, because 1 believe that as
yet no proper allowance has been made by any of them for the sort of illusory
effects I have outlined. There are as yet no properly formulated criteria for
evaluating doctrines of illuminist origin.
6.9.5 Physical science has matured human judgment, cast out superstition,
by establishing criteria for distinguishing . between what seems to be the
case and what really is the case in the physical world. The transphysical
dimension of reality still awaits the same kind of approach: but the illusory
effects which await us here are likely to be much more subtle than for example
the illusory astronomical effects which delayed the appearance of the
heliocentric theory for so long. This, of course, is precisely the challenge -
and a source of unending interest for any questing human mind.
7 Corollaries of the refraction theory of illumination
Following through the analogical implications of the above theory, one may
consider metaphorically the angle of vision of human understanding and seership,
the obliquity of the ray of illumination from a transphysical source, and some
analogues of the physical principle of diffusion of light.
7.1 There is a corollary to the law of physical refraction and this is the
principle of total reflection.
7.1.1 It involves the notion of the critical angle, which is the limiting
angle of incidence (angle between incident ray and normal or line at right
angle to the surface) in a denser medium resulting in an angle of refraction
of 90 degrees (the angle of refraction is the angle between the refracted ray
and the normal). Thus for water the critical angle is 48.5 degrees, so that a
ray of light passing obliquely upward through water at this angle will not
pass out of the water.
7.1.2 Now if the angle of incidence of a ray of light passing, say, from
water to air is increased beyond the critical angle, no part of the incident
ray will enter the air, but the ray is totally reflected from the water
boundary. In general, if you are situated in a dense medium and shine a light
obliquely upward into a more rarefied medium at an angle of incidence beyond
the critical angle of incidence for the denser medium, then it will simply
reflect back into the medium from which you shine it.
7.2 A rather obvious cognitive analogy can be drawn from this principle of
7.2.1 If you attempt to understand the transphysical dimension of reality
in terms of concepts that are too horizontal, that is, if' the ray of your
insight is only slightly supra-earthly in its orientation, then it will
disclose nothing but the physical realm from which it originates. That is to
say, the principle of total visionary reflection is at work.
7.2.2 This leads me to the theory that, to speak in purely metaphorical
terms, each human being has, from the point of view of his or her
understanding of the transphysical dimension of reality, a characteristic
angle of incidence - that is, certain limits are set on his capacity for
upward vision, these limits being determined by relative density of embodiment
and a variety of other factors.
7.2.3 For very large numbers of people, this angle of incidence seems to be
increased beyond the critical angle, so that their vision, when directed
toward higher dimensions of being, simply curves or is reflected back to earth
- they see, feel or hear nothing of a higher kind.
7.2.4 For others the upward vision is orientated so that it is refracted at
the critical angle: their vision skims, as it were, along the boundary between
the two-realms, and they glean intimations of other dimensions of being in
art, nature, science, etc.
7.2.5 For a minority of true seers and illuminates, their higher vision is
orientated more steeply upwards so that the incident ray of their insight is
refracted into the transphysical universe. And these, I think, we must divide
into two kinds:
18.104.22.168 Those who are insufficiently aware of the illusions of insight
and so fail to make adequate allowance for these refractive illusions in
relaying and interpreting the illumination received.
22.214.171.124 Those, a minority, who do make allowance for these illusions so
far as they are able.
7.2.6 Finally, perhaps, there are those whose vision pierces straight
upwards, who have as it were no oblique line of regard into the transphysical
and therefore are not subject to the illusions we have examined.
7.3 One may indeed ask, if such a theory is anything like correct, why there
is this kind of variation; and why in particular in so many people there appears
to be a total lack of higher vision.
7.3.1 Perhaps the answer lies in something like Bergson's theory of the
function of the physical brain: its task is to screen out a mass of
transphysical impressions that are not relevant to the achievement of a
relatively autonomous zone of experience in the physical realm.
7.3.2 But this filtering role of the physical brain has not always operated
as effectively as it does today in the West, and even today the brain is much
more porous, so to speak, lets more through among certain oriental and
primitive peoples than in our western culture. Hence we must consider the
possibility that the screening or filtering effect of the brain can be very
considerably accentuated by cultural, i.e. environmental and educational,
influences - human intermental fields.
7.3.3 Such influences are particularly acute in our culture. Our world-view
- which permeates our whole cultural life, in education, the home and
elsewhere - is one which severely accentuates any purely biological tendency
to screen out transphysical impressions. On the one hand this makes for
certain forms of vigorous and robust human judgment; but on the other hand I
suspect that many people in our culture suffer an inappropriate degree of what
might be called visionary inhibition: that is to say, their capacity for
significant upward vision it thwarted and blocked by the constraints of our
current worldview. These constraints may stem from a narrow theology as well
as from the basic limiting principles of contemporary science.
7.4 In presenting the various analogues of the law of physical refraction the
notion of obliquity was maintained: the line of inspiration or ray of
illumination was regarded as proceeding obliquely from the transphysical to the
physical realms. This notion provides a convenient metaphor for distinguishing
between different orders of minds beyond physical existence.
7.4.1 There will be those at a lower transphysical level who will direct a
very oblique ray of illumination toward the physical realm - resulting in
considerable illusion of the kinds already mentioned.
7.4.2 There may be those at somewhat higher transphysical levels who direct
more vertical ray of illumination, resulting in much less distortion and
7.4.3 From the latter one might reasonably expect that any comprehensive
set of ideas imparted would include self-correcting notions, such as:
126.96.36.199 Possible criteria for human minds to apply in evaluating the
188.8.131.52 Detailed disposition or geography of transphysical states as an
aid to human orientation.
184.108.40.206 Emphasis on verification through techniques of human seership.
7.4.4 Finally, one may speculate on the metaphor of a truly vertical line
of inspiration, free of any distorting or illusory effects.
7.5 The final corollary stems from an analogue with the physical principle of
diffusion of light.
7.5.1 Physically, when light falls on a rough, irregular surface, it will
be scattered or diffused, that is, reflected in many different directions.
Similarly, the sun's rays are diffused or scattered by dust particles in the
atmosphere otherwise there would be near total darkness in the shade and
dazzling glare in the light.
7.5.2 Diffusion can be increased by transmitting light through
semi-transparent substances such as frosted glass, semitransparent paper,
glass blocks, etc. This prevents glare.
7.6 By analogy one may suggest a law of illuminative diffusion.
7.6.1 Illumination passing from the transphysical into the physical realm
will tend to be diffused and scattered. This metaphor may be developed in
7.6.2 There is the cognitive principle that attempts by the human mind to
express and develop in conceptual form the intimations of illuminism may tend
initially to suffer from ambiguity, confusion, inconsistency, sometimes a near
chaotic profusion of inadequately cohered and interrelated concepts.
7.6.3 But there is a positive form of this principle to the effect that
illumination from minds beyond achieves its most effective spread at the human
level in terms of conceptual diffusion, that is, when developed in terms of a
wide range of organically interrelated concepts.
7.6.4 One may also suggest that a certain looseness of structure or open
mesh to systems of ideas that refract intimations from the transphysical
domains provides for more effective illumination. A certain porosity of
thought structure is required. If the structure of ideas is too tight, the
mesh too fine, the excursus of argument too persistent, then illumination from
beyond is occluded. There is a maximum reflection and diffusion of light if
the explicating ideas are well spread out with generous facets facing in
diverse directions. To achieve this is a matter of fine judgment and
discrimination, and is certainly no invitation to careless thinking.
7.6.5 It is not so much the arguments that are advanced in support of some
idea that are important, it is rather the organic coherence of this idea
within the whole system of ideas of which it is a part. Of course good reasons
must be given for this idea or that idea, but it is basically the
comprehensiveness, the internal and external coherence (2.6) of the set of
ideas as a whole that is of paramount importance.