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The crucial point of our criticism must not be missed. Our words are directed against the belief which equates the criterion of truth with the unchecked and unpurified feeling of it--however mystical it be. We do not demand that feeling itself shall be ignored, or that its contribution--which is most important--toward truth shall be despised. Our criticism is not directed against emotion, but against that unbalanced attitude which sets up emotion almost as a religion in itself. We ask only that the reaction of personal feeling shall not be set up as the sole and sufficient standard of what is or is not reality and truth. When we speak of the unsatisfactory validity of feeling as providing sufficient proof by itself of having experienced the Overself, we mean primarily, of course, the kind of passionate feeling which throws the mystic into transports of joy, and secondarily, any strong emotion which sweeps him off his feet into refusal to analyse his experience coldly and scientifically. Three points may be here noted. First, mere feeling alone may easily be egoistic and distort the truth or be inflamed and exaggerate it or put forward a wanted fancy in place of an unwanted fact. Second, there is here no means of attaining certainty. Its validity, being only personal, is only as acceptable as are the offerings of poets and artists who can also talk in terms of psychological, but not metaphysical, reality. For instance, the mystic may gaze at and see what he thinks to be reality, but someone else may not think it to be so. Third, the path of the philosophical objection to appraising feeling alone as a criterion of truth and of our insistence on checking its intimations with critical reasoning may be put in the briefest way by an analogy. We feel that the earth is stable and motionless, but we know that it traces a curve of movement in space. We feel that it is fixed in the firmament, but we know that the whole heliocentric system has its own motion in space. The reader should ponder upon the implications of these facts. Are not the annals of mysticism stained by many instances of megalomaniacs who falsely set themselves up as messiahs merely because they felt that God had commissioned them to do so? This is why the philosopher is concerned not only with the emotional effects of inner experience, as is the mystic, but also with the truth about these effects.


-- Notebooks Category 20: What Is Philosophy? > Chapter 4: Its Realization Beyond Ecstasy > # 24

-- Perspectives > Chapter 20: What Is Philosophy? > # 51






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