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Whoever has examined even superficially the vast fabric of mysticism must be struck by the opposition it displays toward science. This opposition, however, is not so marked in its teaching as in its spirit. Everywhere in the writings of Theosophists and mystics is manifested a sort of contempt for modern science. Why is this? There is no real opposition in their teachings, for mysticism concerns itself mainly with matters with which science does not deal. Why, then, are they opposed? The reason is to be found in their different methods, a brief examination of which will enable us to see clearly the difference between them and the cause of their antagonism.
The scientific method is well known. It consists of reason and observation. The method of mysticism, on the other hand, employs intuition. The cause of the employment by the mystic of a method at variance with that of science is either that according to him this method is limited to the visible world or that intuition furnishes a better and safer method of reaching the truth concerning spiritual things. The idea that the method of science is limited to the visible world is by no means peculiar to the mystic—it is very common. Tennyson has expressed it in the lines :
"We have but faith: we cannot know;
And he has also stated the practical consequences of this limitation:
"Behold, we know not anything.
If, then, we aspire to know more than the external world we must according to this theory either employ some different method or accept some revelation. The great majority of men have practically chosen one of these, for agnosticism is not a doctrine with which any considerable part of mankind can be content; few, indeed, can say, calmly and peacefully, with Ingersoll: “We do not know—we hope and wait.” Men require some kind of an answer to questions regarding their nature and destiny. The answer can be obtained in the ways suggested; that is, supposing the limitation of the scientific method to hold good. If, then, we set aside the theory of revelation, we have left only the method of intuition.
What is intuition ? The word comes from the Latin intuitio, of which the German term anschauung is a translation.
But the meaning of the German and the English words is entirely different. The term intuition was borrowed from scholastic theology, wherein it signified a knowledge of God supernaturally obtained. In mysticism it is held that the soul of a man that has reached the proper phase of development can perceive truth directly, without the aid of reason or the senses; and this transcendental faculty is called intuition.
In connection with intuition, two questions suggest themselves : First, is it necessary to call in the aid of such a faculty, and, second, can we know that such a faculty exists? The necessity of such a faculty rests on the assumption that the
scientific method cannot give us any information upon such subjects as the soul and a future life. These two problems are very closely connected; for, if we could satisfactorily determine the nature of the soul, we could probably solve the difficulty. Can we by reason and observation determine the nature of the soul? The reason usually given (leaving out of consideration such metaphysical reasons as those of Kant) is that scientific knowledge is only possible concerning the visible world. This assertion is entirely unfounded. A large part of science is concerned with things we do not see; as, for example, atoms and ether. Both are invisible, but science firmly believes in their existence.
If, from the facts of the physical world, science can determine something concerning the nature of the ether, why may not science from the facts of psychology determine something concerning the nature of the mind? It may, of course, be true that the soul lies forever outside the realm of science, but we have surely no a priori reason for saying so. The very fact that we attempt to exclude science on the ground that it deals only with the material shows that we have assumed that the soul is not material; that is, we have assumed the very thing we are trying to find out. We have, then, no real ground as yet for the exclusion of the scientific method.
The only reason we can find is that in the past science has given us no information concerning the soul or a future life; but this can prove nothing as to what science may do in the future, for w cannot assume that merely because a thing has not been it may not be. Indeed, in the race of the great interest now being taken in psychical research, which has only just begun, we have reason to hope that the future may contain important revelations. Still, the progress of science is slow, and many do not wish to wait.
Granting that science may some time tell us all about the soul, can we not learn it now by a different process? in other words, does intuition exist? Until recently science has ad