IMMANUEL KANT AND PSYCHICAL RESEARCH
By C. D. Broad
The Proceedings of The Society for Psychical Research,
Part 178, Vol. XL1X, July 1950
It is plain that at a certain period of his life, viz. in the sixth decade of the eighteenth century, Kant became interested in the experiences and speculations of another Immanuel, the Swedish seer Swedenborg. At that time Kant was about 40 years old. He had begun to lecture as privat dozent in the university of Konigsberg in 1755 or 1756, and he did not become professor until 1770. He had already thought and written much about physics, astronomy, and geography, and had devoted himself to the old- fashioned metaphysics in which he had been brought up. But the system of "Critical Philosophy for which he was to become world-famous, was still in the future. The first sketch of it is contained in his inaugural dissertation on becoming professor in 1770.
Swedenborg was 72 in 1760. The only work of his to which Kant refers is the Arcana Coelestia. This had been published anonymously in London by John Lewis of Paternoster Row in eight large quarto volumes from 1749 to 1756. According to Signe Toksvig, Swedenborg's recent biographer, the authorship was first acknowledged in 1768. Presumably it had been an open secret for some time ; for Kant, in a work published in 1766, takes it for granted that Swedenborg is the author, and makes no suggestion that the Arcana Coelestia was anonymous.
So far as I am aware, there are two and only two known writings of Kant which are concerned with Swedenborg and his doctrines. One is a letter to Miss Charlotte von Knobloch, the other is a book entitled Traume eines Geistersehers erlautert durch die Traume der Metaphysik. The " Geisterseher " is Swedenborg. The letter contains about 1900 words, the book about 20,000. Kant lacked the art of condensation ; he was, to put it plainly, terribly long-winded. The letter abounds in stilted compliments, and the book in elephantine badinage.
(1) Questions of dating. The book was published anonymously in Konigsberg and in the same year in Riga by another publisher. There is no doubt that the date of publication was 1766. But there is a serious muddle about the date of the letter, which I will now briefly consider.
The letter appears to have been first published by Kant's biographer Borowski, and it was alleged to be dated "Konigsberg, 10 August, 1758". It is printed with that date in Vol. II of Hartenstein's edition of Kant's works. But, unless Kant was an even more remarkable seer than Swedenborg himself, this date is impossibly early. Hartenstein's attention was called to the point, and in the preface to Vol. III he discusses the question of the correct date. He quotes arguments by Kuno Fischer and Ueberweg which seems to show conclusively that it must have been 1763.
We need not go into elaborate detail, but the following fact suffices to make any date earlier than 1762 impossible. Kant refers in the letter to an incident in which Swedenborg seemed to show supernormal knowledge of a matter private to a certain princess in Stockholm. There is no doubt that this lady was Lovisa Ulrika, sister to Frederic the Great and wife to king Adolf Fridrik of Sweden. Now in his book, in which he also refers to this incident, Kant says that it happened late in 1761. This statement has been confirmed by the fact, which came to light many years later, that the Swedish courtier, Count Tessin, recorded the incident in his diary on Nov. 18th 1761 as having happened three days earlier. (My authority for this is Signe Toksvig's book.) It is plain, then, that news of it cannot have reached East Prussia much, if at all, before the beginning of 1762. Moreover, in his letter to Miss von Knobloch, Kant says that he had learned the story from a friend, that they had corresponded about it, and that he had instituted various enquiries. All this would plainly take some time.
I think that we may accept the arguments of Fischer and Ueberweg to show that the letter to Miss von Knobloch cannot have been written before 1763. Hartenstein states and adduces evidence that she married in July 1764 and became Frau von Klingsporr. Now Kant addresses her in the letter as "gnadiges Fraulein ", which would have been absurd if she had been married at the time. So we may take it that the letter was written some time in 1763, i.e., about three years before the publication of the book.
We do not know precisely when the book was written, but I think that it is certain that it was written after the letter. In the letter there is no suggestion that Kant has read any of Swedenborg's writings. He says that he is eagerly awaiting the appearance of the book which Swedenborg is about to publish in London, and that he has made arrangements to get it as soon as it leaves the press. Now it is certain that Kant had carefully read Swedenborg's Arcana Coelestia before writing Traume eines Geistersehers. So it is reasonable to conclude that he wrote the latter book some time after 1763 and some time before 1766.
I have gone in some detail into the question of the relative dates of writing the letter and the book, for the following reason. Where the contents of the two overlap they seem to express a very different attitude towards Swedenborg and his alleged supernormal gifts and achievements. The letter is rather strongly favourable, whilst the book is completely agnostic in its conclusions and decidely sneering and condescending in tone. In view of the fact that the book must have been written after, and cannot have been written long after, the letter, this contrast is of some interest.
I will now give a general account of the contents of the two writings.
(2) The Letter. It is plain that Miss von Knobloch had written to Kant some time before, to ask his opinion about a story which she had heard concerning a certain display of ostensibly supernormal knowledge on Swedenborg's part. It is evident from the context that the story concerns queen Lovisa Ulrika's letter to one of her brothers, and it will be as well at this point to give an account of the events from independent Swedish sources which were not available to Kant or to Miss von Knobloch. In what follows I base my statements on Signe Toksvig's book on Swedenborg.
Count Tessin, a Swedish nobleman connected with the court at Stockholm, kept a diary, which has since been published. On November 18th 1761 he made an entry to the following effect. A story had been going around Stockholm concerning a recent feat of ostensible clairvoyance performed by Swedenborg with reference to the queen. Tessin asked Swedenborg for the details on November 18th. Swedenborg thereupon gave the following account to Tessin. About three weeks earlier he had had a conversation with the king and queen, and had told them of some of his experiences in confirmation of his theories. The queen asked him jokingly to try to bring her a message from her dead brother (the late Prince of Prussia), if he should happen to meet him in the spirit-world. On the Sunday before November 18th Swedenborg again presented himself at the palace and asked for an audience with the queen. He then told her something privately, which he had been enjoined not to mention to anyone else. The queen was much moved, and exclaimed : " That is something which no-one could have told except my brother!" On his way out, Swedenborg said, he met Councillor von Dalin and asked him to inform the queen that he would try to follow up the matter further for her.
So far Swedenborg's story to Tessin. He added that the queen had had a great shock, and that he would not venture to disturb her again until at least ten or twelve days had gone by.
Tessin, on his own account, states that the queen's consternation at Swedenborg's message is testified by all who were present. He mentions in particular Councillor Baron von Scheffer. He adds that the queen's account of the incident tallies with Swedenborg's, and that she has herself put Swedenborg to a new test. It should be mentioned that there is no evidence that Swedenborg ever did approach her again on this topic. It is, however, alleged (on what evidence I do not know) that, whenever she was asked about the incident in later life, she either acknowledged the truth of the story or changed the subject in an embarrassed way.
Signe Toksvig states that, after the queen's death, Count A. J. von Hopken, a Swedish statesman and friend of Swedenborg's, wrote an account of the incident. It appears from what he says that the queen had been carrying on a secret correspondence with this brother, notwithstanding that Sweden and Prussia were at war with each other at the time. Hopken's story is that the message which Swedenborg delivered referred to the last letter written by the queen to her brother before his death. Swedenborg, who claimed to have made contact with the spirit of the deceased prince, conveyed an apology from him for not having answered the letter and an appropriate reply to it. According to von Hopken, the queen said : " No-one but God knows this secret! "
We can now return to Kant and Miss von Knobloch. Kant begins by apologizing for his delay in answering her enquiry. He says that he thought it desirable to investigate the matter further before writing. He states that he is by no means inclined to accept such stories lightly. He thinks that it is a sound rule to take a negative attitude towards even the best-attested of them. He does not indeed deny the possibility of such alleged facts, for we know so little about the nature of a spirit, if such there be. But he thinks that, taken as a whole, such stories are not adequately attested. Then, again, the alleged phenomena are so unintelligible, and, even if genuine, so useless, that it is hard to accept them. Lastly, there are so many instances of proved fraud and credulity. Kant sums up this part of his letter by saying that, until he became acquainted with the stories about Swedenborg's feats, his attitude towards alleged supernormal phenomena was completely negative.
He then proceeds to tell how he was brought in touch with these stories, and how he tried to investigate them.
(i) The Queen's Letter. This incident was first brought to Kant's notice by a Danish officer, a friend of his who had formerly attended his lectures. The account given by this Danish officer to Kant was as follows. (I shall add explanatory historical notes in square brackets. They are based on statements in the preface to Vol. III of Hartenstein's edition of Kant's works.)
The Austrian ambassador in Copenhagen, Dietrichstein [who held office from 1756 to 1763], received a letter from Baron von Liitzow, the ambassador from Mecklenburgh to the court of Stockholm. In this letter von Liitzow stated that he, together with the Dutch ambassador to Stockholm, had been present at what Kant calls " the curious history which you" (Miss von Knobloch) " have already heard concerning Swedenborg ". (I take this to mean that the two ambassadors had been present at the queen's reception when Swedenborg made his communication to her.) Dietrichstein in Copenhagen had either read or shown this letter to the Danish officer and other guests at a party.
Kant says that he thought it unlikely that one ambassador would send to another a false account of an incident concerning the sovereign to whose court he was attached, and would moreover send it in a letter intended to be communicated to others. He therefore wrote to the Danish officer and made further enquiries of him.
The officer said in his answer that he had again spoken to Dietrichstein on the matter, that the facts really were as stated, and moreover that Professor Schlegel had assured him that there was no possibility of doubt. (I do not know what weight, if any, is to be attached to this confirmation by Schlegel. It must be regretfully admitted that " what the Professor said " is not, as such, evidence.) The officer added that he was about to depart to the army under General St. Germain, and he advised Kant to write directly to Swedenborg. [St. Germain became a Danish field- marshal in 1760. The Danish army was mobilized in 1762 to meet a threatened attack by the czar Peter III.] Kant accordingly wrote to Swedenborg, and the letter was handed in by an English merchant in Stockholm. Swedenborg had received the letter favourably and had promised to answer it, but no answer had as yet come.
So much for the Danish officer. In the meanwhile Kant had made the acquaintance of a certain Englishman who had been in Konigsberg in the summer before the date of writing. Kant describes him as " a fine man ", says that he had become very friendly with him, and obviously has great confidence in him. This Englishman was about to visit Sweden, and Kant asked him to go into the whole question of Swedenborg's alleged marvels while there. (Signe Toksvig seems to assume without question that this man was Kant's great friend, the English merchant Green. I do not know if there is any evidence for this. No name is given to him in the letter.)
The Englishman did as Kant had asked him and wrote to Kant several letters describing his investigations and impressions. In his first letter he said that the statements of all the most distinguished persons in Stockholm supported the story about Swedenborg and the queen. He had not yet met Swedenborg, but hoped to do so shortly. He found it hard to believe the stories which highly sensible persons in Stockholm were telling about Swedenborg's intercourse with the unseen world.
In later letters the Englishman said that he had met Swedenborg and had been in his house. He describes the seer as a pleasant open-hearted man and a scholar. Swedenborg told him that God had given him the power to communicate at will with departed spirits, and he appealed to quite notorious evidence in support of this. When reminded of Kant's letter to him, Swedenborg said that he had received it. He was going to London in the May of that year and would there publish a book in which a complete answer to Kant's questions would be found. (According to Signe Toksvig, Swedenborg visited Amsterdam in 1762 and again in 1763. He was in England on a short visit in 1763, during which he delivered copies of his printed books to the Royal Society. But he did not visit England in 1762 and he published no such book as he had spoken of to the Englishman.)
Kant then proceeds to relate, on the evidence of his English friend, two other stories of ostensibly supernormal cognition on Swedenborg's part. These are the incidents of the lost receipt for Mme de Marteville's silver tea-service and of the fire on Sodermalm in Stockholm. They are well known and often quoted ; but, so far as I am aware, there is no extant evidence for them except this letter of Kant's, quoting statements from letters of his unnamed English correspondent. Kant says in his letter to Miss von Knobloch that " the whole living public " is witness to these events, and that his friend, who relates the stories, " has been able to investigate them on the spot ". I will now reproduce Kant's account of these two incidents as reported by his English correspondent.
(ii) The lost Receipt. M. de Marteville was ambassador from Holland at the court of Stockholm. [He died April 25th, 1760.] Some time after his death the goldsmith Croon demanded from the widow payment for a silver service which her late husband had bought of him and which had been duly delivered. She was convinced that the bill had been paid ; but she could not find the receipt, and was in considerable distress, as the sum was a large one. She invited Swedenborg to call, explained the circumstances to him, and asked him to try to get in touch with the spirit of her husband. Three days later Swedenborg called on Mme de Marteville at a time when she had company to coffee. He said that the receipt was in a certain bureau upstairs. She answered that this was certainly a mistake, for that bureau had been cleared out and thoroughly searched and the receipt was not among its contents. Swedenborg answered that, if she would pull out the left-hand drawer, she would notice a certain board. If this were pulled out, a secret compartment would be disclosed, containing not only the receipt but also the late ambassador's private Dutch correspondence. The whole company adjourned to the room, the drawer was opened, and everything was found as Swedenborg had foretold.
Two points are worth mentioning. In the letter the name of the ambassador is given as Harteville, but in the book it is given correctly as Marteville. The second point is that, if the incident happened at all, it must have done so in the latter part of 1760. If the correct date of Kant's letter is 1763, his friend was presumably in Stockholm some time in 1762. So about two years would have elapsed between the incident itself and the Englishman's enquiries about it.
(iii) The Stockholm Fire. Kant says that this story seems to him to have the greatest probative force of them all, and that it is free from all possible doubt. He gives the date as "towards the end of September 1756 ". Dates seem not to have been Kant's strong point, for in Traume eines Geistersellers he assigns it "towards the end of 1759 Hartenstein gives the date of the fire as July 19 1759, and quotes as his authority P. 77 of Part 121 of a German periodical called Neue genealogische-historische Nachrichten for 1760. It would be worth while, if it has not already been done, for some Swedish investigator to enquire whether there is any contemporary account of the alleged incident in public or private records either in Stockholm or in Goteborg. It should be remarked that serious fires were very common in Swedish towns, which were largely built of wood, and that presumably Stockholm was no exception. It should also be noted that the distance between Goteborg and Stockholm is about 285 miles by the present main-line railway.
The story in Kant's letter is as follows. Swedenborg landed at Goteborg from England at 4 p.m. on a certain Saturday. He was invited by a Mr Wm. Castell to dine at the latter's house with a party of fifteen persons. At about 6 p.m. Swedenborg left the company for a short while and returned looking pale and alarmed. He said that a dangerous fire had broken out on Sodermalm in Stockholm, where his own house stood. He was restless and went out several times. He said that the house of a certain friend, whom he named, was already in ashes, and that his own was in danger. At 8 p.m. he again came in after a short absence and said that the fire had been quenched at the third door from his house. These statements of Swedenborg's were reported the same evening to the Governor of Goteborg. Next morning, i.e., Sunday, the Governor interviewed Swedenborg, who described the fire in some detail and said how it had begun and how long it had lasted. On the Monday evening came a messenger, who had left Stockholm on the Saturday while the fire was going on. He brought letters with him, in which the fire was described in a way which tallied with Swedenborg's statements. On the Tuesday morning the royal courier from Stockholm arrived at the Governor's house with a precise account of the damage and a statement that the fire had been put out at 8 p.m. on the Saturday.
Kant says that his English friend has investigated all this, not only in Stockholm, but also during a stay of about two months in Goteborg, where he is acquainted with the chief business houses. Kant adds that, in the short time which has elapsed since 1756, most of the eye-witnesses are still alive. (If the correct date is 1759, the time-lapse is considerably shorter, for the English friend was presumably in Sweden in 1762.)
Kant ends his letter to Miss von Knobloch by mentioning that his English friend has told him something of Swedenborg's accounts of his intercourse with the spirits of the dead and of conditions in the spirit- world. Kant says that he wishes that he could himself have interrogated Swedenborg on these matters, because his English friend is not skilled in framing and putting those questions which would throw most light on essential points.
(3) Traume eines Geistersehers. We can now leave the letter and consider the book. This is a very curious production in itself. Moreover, a comparison of it with the letter raises interesting, but perhaps insoluble, questions about Kant's motives for writing it at all, for publishing it anonymously, and for adopting towards the subject in general and Swedenborg in particular the bantering contemptuous attitude which he does adopt.
The book begins with a preface, and the rest of it is divided into two Parts. Part I, which is subdivided into four Sections, may be described as an able and elaborate general discussion of the philosophical problems involved in the notion of a disembodied spirit, of a world of such spirits, and of the relations of body and soul in human individuals, and in claims by certain men to be in touch with the inhabitants of the spirit-world. It is not directly concerned with Swedenborg or his experiences. Part II is subdivided into three Sections. The first of these repeats the three stories of Swedenborg's alleged feats of ostensibly supernormal cognition which were discussed in the letter. The second Section contains an elaborate account of the doctrine as to the nature and laws of the spirit- world which Swedenborg professed to have derived by personal observation and from conversations with spirits. This account is based upon the contents of the eight quarto volumes of Arcana Coelestia, which Kant had bought and evidently studied carefully. So far as I can judge, Kant's synopsis of Swedenborg's main doctrines is adequate, accurate, and clear. The third Section is entitled Practical Conclusion of the Whole Treatise. The practical conclusion is, roughly, that we should cultivate our gardens, and not waste our time with either what metaphysics or what self-styled mediums claim to tell us about the spirit-world. Speculation about that world is fruitless. It can give no support to genuine morality, whilst, on the other hand, any morally good man feels assured of human survival without recourse either to metaphysics or to alleged mediumistic evidence.
I will now consider in somewhat greater detail the part of the book which covers the same ground as the letter, viz. Part II Section I. In the letter, as we have seen, the story of queen Lovisa Ulrika's interview with Swedenborg about her brother is told on the authority of the Danish officer reporting a letter from von Luetzow in Stockholm to Dietrichstein in Copenhagen. The other stories are told on the authority of the Englishman, who has interviewed Swedenborg and investigated the evidence for the tales of his exploits at Kant's special request. The impression which one gets from the letter is that Kant was satisfied with the evidence, at any rate as regards the Stockholm fire.
In Part II Section I of the book Kant introduces the topic by saying that "the whole question is neither important enough nor sufficiently well prepared to enable one to come to any decision about it", and that he presents these stories " with complete indifference to the favourable or unfavourable judgment of the reader.Ó
As regards the story about queen Louisa Ulrika, he does not mention her by name, but speaks of her as " a princess . . . whose great intelligence and insight would make it almost impossible that she should be deceived in such matters ". The authority for the story is stated to be a letter from an ambassador at her court to another ambassador in Copenhagen. Kant adds that the story agrees with what has been elicited in answer to special enquiries. There is no mention of the Danish officer, but Kant is no doubt referring to his correspondence with him.
The story about the missing receipt is now correctly referred to Mme de Marteville instead of Harteville. Kant now says that this tale "has no other testimony than common report, which is very inadequate proof.Ó
As regards the story of the Stockholm fire, Kant says that it is "of a kind which could very easily be completely proved or disproved ". At the end of this Section, after a great deal of palaver, he says that it would be worth while for anyone, who had money enough and nothing better to do, to go and investigate these and similar stories at first hand. He gives no hint that a friend of his, of whom he has a very high opinion, has personally investigated the evidence for the story of the Stockholm fire both in Stockholm and Goteborg ; that this friend was persuaded of its truth ; and that Kant himself, in a recent letter dealing expressly with this topic, had described the story as free from all possible doubt. In fact the Englishman, who first brought the second and third of the stories to Kant's notice, and who had investigated the whole question of Swedenborg's alleged supernormal feats at Kant's special request, is never mentioned in the book. Kant does indeed admit, in the Preface, that he himself has made some investigations into the truth of such stories. But he almost apologizes for having done so, and he asserts that he "found— as is usual where there is nothing to seek—nothing".
Towards the end of Part I Section IV Kant says that he would not venture to deny all truth in such stories. He doubts each severally, but is inclined to give some credence to them taken collectively. He remains "serious and undecided" in view of them. Nevertheless, he ends this Section by saying that for the future he will "abandon investigations which are altogether in vain". (This remark, in view of its place in the book, may refer rather to the metaphysical speculations about spirits in Part I than to the alleged empirical evidence in Part II.) Towards the end of his synopsis of Swedenborg's teachings about the nature and laws of the spirit-world (Part II Section II) Kant says that one might be inclined to attach some weight to his unverifiable statements about the next world, if and only if one could appeal to testable instances of alleged supernormal knowledge by him, and if one were to find that they are supported by living witnesses. "But ", Kant adds, "this one never finds". How this last remark is to be reconciled with statements which I have quoted from Kant's letter to Miss von Knobloch, I do not profess to conjecture.
At this point we may well ask ourselves what Kant's motives could have been for writing and publishing Traume eines Geistersehers. In the Preface he gives two reasons. One is that he wrote the book at the instigation of friends, known and unknown. Towards the end of Part II Section II he repeats that he was put on to this thankless task through the importunities of idle and curious friends. From their point of view the enquiry has led to nothing and has been mere waste of time. The second reason which he gives in the Preface is that he had bought and read through a big book, viz. Swedenborg's Arcana Coelestia, and did not want all his work to be wasted. Early in Part II Section II he describes this book as consisting of "eight quarto volumes of nonsense". Later in the same Section he remarks that he has saved the curious reader from spending £7 sterling in satisfying a little idle curiosity.
Obviously these cannot have been Kant's main motives. He was not at all a wealthy man and he was a very busy one. It is most unlikely that he would have spent £y on the Arcana Coelestia and then ploughed through it and given a careful synopsis of its teachings about the spirit-world merely to satisfy the idle curiosity of some or to save the pockets of others. We must remember the statement in the letter to Miss von Knobloch that he is impatiently awaiting the book which Swedenborg is about to publish in London and that he has made arrangements to get it as soon as it leaves the press.
I would suggest very tentatively that what may have happened is this. Instead of getting the book which he was expecting, viz., an account by Swedenborg of those of his ostensibly supernormal cognitions which were open to verification in this world, together with adequate testimony for them, he was landed with the eight volumes of the Arcana Coelestia. This is largely occupied with an elaborate symbolic interpretation of every word and sentence in the books of Genesis and Exodus. It may fairly be described as one of the most boring and absurd productions of any human pen. After reading it Kant may well have been inclined to dismiss with contemptuous impatience the alleged supernormal feats of a person who could devote a large part of his life to writing such stuff, and to ignore the fact that he himself had very recently been fully persuaded of the veridical nature of some of them, through the testimony of the Danish officer and the English friend. It was as if one had heard on very good evidence that Mr. X had made certain bold but highly ingenious emendations to difficult passages in classical texts, and had then found that he was a British Israelite whose published works were mainly devoted to proving, by help of measurements on the Great Pyramid, that the earth is flat and that Bacon wrote all the works commonly attributed to Shakespeare. If Kant could have picked up Swedenborg's De Coelo et Inferno, a single volume published in London in 1758, he would not indeed have got what he was expecting, but he would have found a tolerably succinct account of Swedenborg's doctrine of the spirit-world, and would have been saved much time and money and justifiable irritation.
However this may be, Kant says explicitly that he had a different end in view from that of the friends whose idle curiosity set him upon writing the book. His subject is metaphysics. That science has two functions. One is to try to answer the questions which enquiring minds raise when they seek to investigate by reason the more deeply hidden properties of things. The other is to consider whether such questions are concerned with anything that we can possibly know, and to see what relation they bear to our empirical concepts, on which all our judgments must ultimately be founded. The essential service which it renders in its second capacity is to show that we must keep within the bounds of ordinary sense- perception and ordinary reasoning. The upshot of the book is to reinforce that conclusion in reference to claims, such as Swedenborg's, to empirical knowledge beyond those limits.
Lastly, we might raise the question: Why did Kant publish the book anonymously? If there had been a good chance of the anonymity being preserved, one could think of excellent reasons. Kant no doubt wished to keep a good reputation as a level-headed burgher, scholar, scientist, and philosopher, and not to incur the contempt of his colleagues and fellow- townsmen or to prejudice his chances of eventual election to a professorship. Even in England and the U.S.A. to-day an acknowledged addiction to even the most respectable branches of psychical research would probably be somewhat detrimental to the professional prospects of a young biologist and still more to those of a young psychologist. In Sweden, unless I am much mistaken, it would still be almost fatal to one's chances of a professorship in many subjects. It is reasonable to suspect that, in "enlightened" academic circles in East Prussia in the middle of the eighteenth century, a reputation for having carefully read Swedenborg's writings and having paid serious attention to the evidence for his alleged feats of clairvoyance, would be enough to condemn a privat dozent to remain in that position for the rest of his life.
But could Kant possibly have hoped to preserve his anonymity? This seems to me almost incredible. I should have thought that the style of the book as a whole and the contents of the philosophical part of it would have betrayed the authorship to colleagues in Konigsberg almost at once. Moreover, the "idle and curious friends", who had urged Kant to make a study of Swedenborg, could hardly have felt any doubt as to the authorship of an anonymous book on the subject in which they are explicitly referred to, and they could hardly be relied upon to keep their suspicions to themselves. I can only suggest that the conventions of the time and place permitted a privat dozent to flirt with this disreputable subject, provided that he made an honest man of himself by maintaining the form of anonymity and by adopting a sufficiently bantering and condescending tone towards the alleged phenomena and the persons of whom they were narrated. If these were the conditions, Kant certainly complied with them.
I shall now consider Kant's philosophical discussion of the problems raised by Swedenborg's theories and claims. It seems to me that it is of some interest to do this. We have at our disposal nowadays much more varied, better attested, and more carefully investigated data than Kant had, but there has been very little discussion by first-rate philosophers of their theoretical implications. Kant was certainly one of the greatest philosophers of all time ; he combined to an extraordinary degree critical acumen and constructive fertility and originality. He had also a most remarkable capacity for "sitting on the fence" and stating the strong and the weak points of opposing concepts. This is very noticeable in his discussion of mechanism and vitalism in the Critique of Judgment, and it is almost equally prominent in Traume eines Geistersehers.
(1) What is a Spirit? Kant begins by raising the question : What do we understand by a "spirit"? We often use this word, so presumably it means something, even if it expresses only a fictitious idea.
We cannot have derived the notion of a spirit from instances of it which we have ourselves observed, for we can use the word intelligibly even if we doubt or deny that there are spirits. Kant remarks here that many of our notions, though not derived from specific experiences in the direct way in which, e.g., the notion of "red " or of "man" is derived, yet arise on the occasion of certain experiences by a kind of unwitting inference. Such notions may be called "surreptitious" (erschlichene). They may be in part mere fictions of the imagination ; but they may be in part applicable to reality, for these unwitting inferences need not always be mistaken.
In order to understand Kant's attempted definition or description of a " spirit " it will be best to begin with a brief account of his doctrine of matter. (A theory on the same lines was worked out in considerable detail by Boscovich and published in 1763 at Venice.) For his account of spirits is developed in comparison and contrast with the notion of matter. I shall state what I understand to be Kant's view in my own way. He assumes that any finite body consists of a number of simple material substances. Each of these is, in a certain sense, located at some one geometrical point at each moment, though it may be located at different points at different moments. He further assumes that no two such substances can be located at the same geometrical point at one moment, though one of them may at a later moment be located at the point at which another was located at an earlier moment.
Now Kant equates the proposition that two simple material substances cannot be located at the same point at the same moment with the proposition that any such substance exerts upon any other a repulsive force, which increases rapidly as the distance between the points at which they are located is diminished beyond a certain critical amount, and which would become infinite if this were reduced to zero. He points out that, although a simple material substance is indivisible and is in one sense located at a point, yet there is an important sense in which it occupies a finite volume. This is obvious enough. I have so far talked of a punctiform element of matter located at a point and surrounded by a certain field of repulsive force. But one could more properly identify the elementary material substance with this field, and say that it is present with more or less intensity at any point within the sphere in which the repulsive force is appreciable. The essential fact is that there is a field of repulsive force which is at each moment symmetrical in all directions about a certain singular point at which it is infinite. If one identifies the elementary substance with this symmetrical field of force, then one can say that it is located at any moment at the centre of this field, and one can say that it dynamically occupies at any moment, with systematically different degrees of intensity, every point within a small sphere around that centre.
Kant remarks that all this is consistent with the statement that a simple element of matter is unextended. To say that a thing is extended implies that it would be significant to say that it would occupy a volume even if nothing but it had existed. But the field of repulsive force associated with a single element of matter is a mere fiction unless there is at least one other element of matter. Repulsion in accordance with a certain law of variation with distance is meaningless unless we conceive that there are at least two elementary substances to repel each other.
It should be remarked that Kant gives the following reason for associating a finite sphere of repulsive force with each simple element of matter. A continuous macroscopic body fills a finite volume, and Kant argues that any substance which is a genuine part of it must therefore occupy a volume which bears a finite proportion to that which is occupied by the body as a whole. Now a point is a limit in, not a part of, a volume. Therefore a continuous macroscopic body could not consist of elementary particles which were punctiform and nothing more. I take it, therefore, that his final theory is that a continuous macroscopic body is composed of a finite number of spherical fields of repulsive force, each centred around a different point within the volume which the body fills, each having appreciable intensity only within quite a small radius, and each increasing rapidly towards infinite intensity as the distance from the centre decreases towards zero.
We are now in a position to consider Kant's definition of a "spirit". In view of the account just given of elementary material substances, it is plainly useless to define a spirit as a simple rational substance. For its simplicity will not distinguish it from an elementary material substance. And the addition of "rational" will not help. For, Kant says, we know nothing about the internal properties of elementary material substances. So far as we know, there is nothing to prevent such a substance being rational, though there is also nothing to suggest that any of them are so.
Accordingly Kant adds two negative characteristics to distinguish a spirit from an elementary material substance. The first is that the presence of a spirit in a region of space would not involve any resistance to the entry of an elementary material substance into that region. The second is that, if we imagine each of the elementary material substances which together make up a finite continuous body to be replaced by a spiritual substance, the resulting aggregate would not be a body occupying the volume occupied by the original body. The second feature evidently follows from the first. If the volume were occupied after the change, in the way suggested, by a collection of spirits, there would be no reason why matter from outside should not freely enter it; since a spiritual substance does not oppose the entry of an elementary material substance into the region which it occupies. But, on the other hand, to say that the region was continuously occupied by a body after the change, would entail that matter could not enter it from outside without either shifting the present contents or encountering ever-increasing opposition if they could not be shifted.
So, in effect, Kant's proposed definition of a "spirit" is a rational simple substance whose presence in a region of space does not offer any resistance to the simultaneous presence of an elementary material substance within that region. And an immediate consequence of this is that the presence of any number of spirits within a region, however they might be located within it, would not eo ipso constitute a body continuously filling that region.
(2) Are there Spirits? The next question is whether there is anything answering to this definition. Kant holds that philosophers have proved satisfactorily that anything which thinks must be simple, and that the ego of each one of us cannot be a whole composed of a plurality of interconnected substances. So each of us can be sure that his soul is a simple substance. But it does not follow that it is a spirit in the sense defined. For there is nothing in these arguments to show that it would not oppose the entry of any material substance into any region in which it was present. And so there is nothing to show that a suitable aggregate of human souls would not constitute a finite continuous body.
The question now arises whether " spirits ", in the sense defined, are even possible existents. I think that the essential points in Kant's argument might be put as follows. The question comes to this. Is there any inconsistency in supposing that there might be simple substances which, like elementary material substances, are or may be present in space in a sense which does not involve their being extended, but which, unlike them, do not offer any resistance to the entry of elementary material substances into the regions which they occupy?
Now Kant distinguishes between cases where one has a positive rational insight into the possibility of something, and other cases where one has no such insight and one's only ground for saying that so-and-so is possible is that experience provides us with actual instances of so-and-so. He does not give any examples of the first alternative, but I think that it is quite easy to do so. One has rational insight into the fact that five and only five forms of regular solid are possible in Euclidean space, and that one of these possibilities is the regular icosahedron. One does not just find oneself forced to admit that the icosahedron is a possible form of regular solid because actual instances of such a solid have been observed. (It is in fact very doubtful if instances existed until they were constructed by makers of mathematical models in order to illustrate the already recognized possibility.) On the other hand, one has no rational insight into the fact that blue is one of the possible colours; one knows that it is so merely because one has seen blue objects.
Kant argues that we have no rational insight into the possibility of the connexion between being a simple substance and being located at a point in space and occupying a sphere around it with a field of repulsive force of a certain kind. We ascribe this punctual location and this sphere of repulsive force to the elements of matter merely because of certain facts which we observe when we perceive and operate with matter in bulk. Still less do we perceive any necessary connexion between the various factors in the notion of an elementary material substance. As regards the concept of a spirit, we have no rational insight into either the possibility or the impossibility of a simple substance occupying a region of space and yet not being located at the centre of a field of repulsive force. Thus, so far as regards rational insight into the possibility, impossibility, or necessity of the combination of certain factors in a concept, the concept of a spirit is in precisely the same position as that of a simple element of matter. We have no such insight in either case. The only advantage enjoyed by the latter over the former is that we have certain perceptual experiences which establish its possibility by providing actual instances of it. Kant's conclusion is that the possibility of " spirits as defined by him, can never be refuted. But there is no hope of ever getting rational insight into it, and, unlike the concept of simple material substances, its possibility can never be established through instantiation by sense-perception.
(3) The human Soul and its Body. As we have seen, Kant holds that, although it is certain that a human soul is a simple substance, it is by no means certain that it is a " spirit " in the sense defined. For, so far as we can tell, it might be a simple material substance endowed with rationality. We must now consider his further discussion of the embodied human soul.
Suppose that the human soul were a spirit in the sense defined. Then the question could be raised : What is its place in the material world? Kant answers that the place occupied by the body which a person calls his body would be the place occupied by his soul. Suppose that we then raise the question which would run in my terminology as follows : At what point within the place occupied by a person's body is his soul located? Then Kant suspects that the question is based on mistaken presuppositions. If I may put the matter in my own way, the mistake might be expressed as follows. In the case of a simple element of matter one can distinguish a certain geometrical point, within the region which it dynamically occupies, as the point at which it is located. One can do this because of the peculiar structure of the field of repulsive force which is characteristic of an elementary material substance. The peculiarity is that the force falls off in intensity in all directions symmetrically from a certain singular point at which it would be infinite. But a spirit has been defined as a simple substance which is not associated with a field of repulsive force of that kind. Yet, except on the assumption that it is so associated, the question: "At what point is a spirit located within the region which it dynamically occupies?" is meaningless.
Now, so far as empirical facts go, Kant thinks that it would be reasonable to say that a person's soul is present equally at every place at which it would be natural to locate any of his sensations. As he puts it: "I feel the painful pressure when my corn pains me, not in a nerve in my brain, but at the end of my toe." In general, Kant holds that there is nothing in our experience to support the Cartesian view that the soul is located at a certain point in the region occupied by the brain. He says that he knows of nothing which would refute the Scholastic doctrine that a person's soul is present as a whole in his body as a whole and in every part of it. This would not make the soul extended. For its immediate presence throughout a whole volume would imply only a finite region of immediate action and passion, as in the case of a simple element of matter, and not a plurality of parts logically independent of each other.
Kant then proceeds to discuss the Cartesian view that the soul is located at a point within the region occupied by the brain. He asserts that the only empirical evidence for this is that, after hard thinking, one is liable to feel characteristic sensations of stress and pressure in one's head. But a similar argument, starting from other empirical facts, would locate the soul in other parts of the body, e.g., in the heart or the diaphragm. Kant suggests that the reason why hard thinking is felt to take place in the head may be the following. It always takes place by means of symbols, and these are always visual or auditory images. Now visual and auditory sensations are specially connected with the head, because the eyes and ears are part of it; and it is very likely that visual and auditory imagery involves the same, or nearly the same, parts of the brain as the corresponding kinds of sensation. For my own part I should have thought that the grounds, whether they be good or bad, for the Cartesian view are certain anatomical and pathological facts, which seem to show that the sensory nerves are transmissive conditions, without which stimuli that affect the peripheral parts of the body fail to produce sensations in the soul.
Kant holds that it is scarcely worth while to discuss direct arguments for and against the Cartesian view of the location of the soul, because we know so little of the soul's nature that any such arguments are inevitably very weak. It is more profitable to consider certain implications of the theory.
He thinks that the following would be one of them. On the Cartesian view the soul would not be distinguished from an elementary material substance by the way in which it is in space. Each could properly be said to be located at a point, though each would also be dynamically present throughout a certain small volume surrounding that point. Now reason is a purely internal property, which we should not be able to perceive with our senses in elementary material substances even if they possessed it. There would therefore be no empirical objection to supposing that the simple elements of matter are all endowed with reason, and that a person's soul is just one such simple material substance among the millions of others which together make up his body. Its outstanding position would be due merely to the special situation which it occupies in a certain natural machine (the body), viz., at the place where the connexions of neural paths enable its inner faculties of thinking and choosing (which it shares with all other elementary material substances) to affect and be affected by the outer world. If this were so, would not the most reasonable conclusion be that a human soul (which would be just a simple material substance that has, by an extraordinary chance, come to occupy this special position in an appropriate natural machine) would revert after death for the rest of eternity to its normal condition of a simple element of matter?
Another consequence of the Cartesian view would be this. There would be a certain one tiny bit of a person's brain, the removal of which would suffice to de-animate him. Kant then points to the fact that there are plenty of cases where a man has lost a fair proportion of his brain without losing his life or his power of thinking. He does not elaborate the argument; and, as it stands, I do not think that it proves anything against the Cartesian. Let us suppose, however, that it were true that for a certain part P1 of the brain there is an instance of a man who survived and continued to think after that part, or a larger part containing it, had been removed. Suppose that a similar proposition is true for parts P2 P3. . Pn. Lastly, suppose that P1 P2. . Pn together cover the whole of a human brain. (They might to some extent overlap each other ; the important point is that they should be collectively exhaustive, not that they should be mm finally exclusive.) Then, it seems to me, the Cartesian theory would begin to look very shaky. But whether there is such a set of empirical, facts, I do not know.
So much for Kant's reactions to the Cartesian doctrine. He confesses that, as a matter of personal conviction, he is much inclined (i) to assert the existence of spirits, in the sense defined, and (ii) to regard his soul as such a substance. He adds that, whatever reasons there may be for these convictions, they apply equally to all living beings. It seems to Kant that the essential peculiarity of a living organism is to be to a certain extent spontaneous and active from within, i.e., to have some power of determining its own actions and modifying itself by something analogous to choice in human beings.
Now it is characteristic: of inorganic matter that it occupies space by a non-voluntary force which is limited by external counteraction. So it is difficult to believe that living organisms would have the features of limited self-determination and quasi-choice if they were composed entirely of elementary material substances. The upshot of the discussion is that Kant thinks it likely that there is something analogous to a spiritual substance wherever there is a living organism, or at any rate an animal organism. We cannot possibly expect to have clear ideas of the various possible grades of such little-understood entities as non-material simple substances. But at any rate we can distinguish those which are at the basis of the manifestations of purely animal life from those which include reason as part of their spontaneous activity. Only the latter would properly be called "spirits".
If a human soul is a spirit, then the connexion between it and the organism which animates is a great mystery. On the one hand, it has to be conceived as forming, together with the body which it animates, a whole of a peculiar kind, viz., a certain human individual. On the other hand if the soul be a spirit, none of the well-known kinds of combination, e.g., that of the parts of an organism or of a crystal or of an artificial machine., can be characteristic of this whole. How can a bodily substance act on a spirit, which, by hypothesis, offers no resistance to its entry into the place which it occupies?
Kant says that it would seem necessary to suppose that a spirit acts on the simple elements of a body, not in respect of the external repulsive forces by which such elements interact with each other, but directly in respect of their inner states. It seems obvious to him that every substance must have inner states, and undergo a series of inner changes which are the foundations of its external relations and their changes. Leibniz, as is well known, held that these inner states are of the nature of perceptions. Kant says that the numerous philosophers who have laughed at this theory may be invited to say (i) whether they think that there could be substances with no internal states but only variable external relations to other substances, and (ii) if not, whether they can think of any better account of the inner states, on which the external actions depend, than to say that they are analogous to perception. To say that every simple element in a body has inner states which are somewhat analogous to perceptions would not of course imply that the body as a whole has anything of the kind.
The upshot of Kant's discussion of this topic could perhaps be stated as follows. A change in the inner state of material element A produces a change in that of material element B only indirectly. It does so by being correlated with a change in the external field of force of A, which is correlated with a change in the external field of force of B, which is correlated with a change in the inner state of B. But a change in the inner state of a spiritual substance affects the inner state of the material elements of the body which it animates directly by a kind of telepathic rapport. A fortiori this must be the way in which one spiritual substance affects another spiritual substance.
Kant says that he does not pretend to understand how a certain spirit and a certain body come to form one human individual at conception, nor how this union comes eventually to be dissolved on the occasion of fatal accident or disease.
(4) The Spirit-world. We can now pass from Kant's discussion of the nature of a spiritual substance and the problems raised by embodied spirits to his discussion of the notion of a world of inter-related spirits.
The phenomena of inorganic matter can be explained satisfactorily in terms of extension, figure, motion, impenetrability, and various natural forces expressible in mathematical terms and subject to the laws of mechanics. But there are also living organisms in the world. As we have seen, Kant thinks that there must be substances of a special kind behind vital phenomena. These cannot be regarded as subject to the laws of motion in general or impact in particular. On the contrary, they seem to govern themselves and to organize non-living matter by their own inner activity.
Kant admits that the only satisfactory explanations of particular phenomena in physiology, etc., are in physico-chemical terms ; though he thinks that men like Stahl (who used vitalistic conceptions and terminology) have often been led to discover important facts which were overlooked by men like Boerhaave (who carefully eschewed them). We do not know how far life extends in what we take to be inorganic matter, and in any case the most that we can know of the influence of immaterial agencies in organic nature is that it exists, not how it operates or how far it extends. But Kant holds that, subject to these limitations, we can conclude, with reasonable though not demonstrative certainty, from vital phenomena to immaterial organizing entities obeying peculiar laws of their own, In so far as these laws are concerned with the effects produced by these entities in living matter, they may be called organic laws ; in so far as they refer to the mutual interactions of such entities, they may be called pneumatic laws.
Now it would hardly be plausible to suppose that these immaterial entities are connected only indirectly with each other, through the inter-connections of the various bodies with which they are severally connected. For it might well be argued that at any moment only a comparatively small proportion of the immaterial substances are connected with bodies ; that even these are also directly interconnected; and that their connexion with bodies is contingent and transient, whilst their direct interconnexions are intrinsic and permanent. So it is plausible to suppose that all these immaterial substances are interconnected directly to form a single system, which we could call the immaterial or spiritual world.
This world would include (i) all finite intelligences, some of which would be united to living organisms to constitute persons, and others not; (ii) the sensitive souls of all animals ; and (iii) all organizing entities in nature, even when the vital phenomena which evince them do not include spontaneous movements. All these three kinds of immaterial substance would form a system which does not depend on the peculiar conditions which govern the relations of bodies. Here, e.g., spatial and temporal separations, which make the great clefts in the material world, would be non-existent, though there might be other conditions of separation. A human soul during its earthly life would be a member of two worlds. As embodied, it would be especially associated with a certain region of space and stretch of time, and it would perceive clearly and affect voluntarily only certain limited portions of the material world. But, as a member of the spiritual world, it would not be located in physical space-time, and there is no reason to think that spatio-temporal categories of any kind would be applicable to it. In that capacity it would receive and impart influences of an immaterial kind. At death only the direct relations with other immaterial substances would remain, and the soul would become clearly aware of them.
We can now conceive the following possibilities, (i) That, even in this life, each human soul is in close connexion with the rest of the immaterial world, acts on it, and receives influences from it. But under normal conditions it is unaware of these actions and passions, (ii) That disembodied spirits have no conscious sense-perception of the material world. For such a spirit is not connected with any particular organic body to form a person, and thus has no location in the material world and no bodily organs through which to perceive and act upon it. (iii) That disembodied spirits can influence and be influenced by souls which are animating human bodies, since these are of the same nature as they and stand in direct mutual relations with them. But disembodied spirits could not receive and assimilate those ideas in embodied souls which depend upon the body and its relations to the rest of the material world. Conversely embodied souls could not receive and assimilate the intuitive cognitions which disembodied spirits have of themselves and of other immaterial entities. At best each party could receive such ideas from the other only in a symbolic form.
Kant then considers certain psychological and ethical facts about men, which he thinks fit in very well with the hypothesis that our souls live in these two worlds. I am bound to say that I do not find his argument at all clear or convincing at this point.
One set of facts which he adduces is this. Each of us strongly desires certain kinds of unity and co-operation with other men, and feels strong pro-emotions towards such relationships, not as a mere means to his own preservation or happiness, but for their own sake. Such desires and emotions often conflict with others which are purely self-confined, such as desire for one's own happiness, fear of death, etc. Each man, e.g., quite directly desires and values the recognition and approval of himself and his actions by others. He likes to compare what he thinks good and true with what others think good and true ; he is disturbed if there is a difference of opinion ; and he tries to secure agreement. Kant says that all this is
perhaps a feeling of the dependence of one's own judgments upon the universal human understanding, and a means of creating a kind of unified reason for the whole thinking being". I take "the universal human understanding " to mean the supposed system of directly interconnected human spirits, embodied and disembodied ; and I take " creating a kind of unified reason for the whole thinking being " to mean increasing the unity of that system in such a way and to such an extent that it constitutes a kind of rational super-individual mind. If that is Kant's meaning, it seems to me to be an hypothesis which is barely intelligible in itself and derives little support from the empirical facts adduced in its favour.
Kant then passes from these to another set of facts which he considers to be "more illuminating and easier to see" for the present purpose. These facts seem to me to be a strange mixture, and the interpretation of them which Kant proposes is far from clear to me.
I think that it will be best to translate the main passages. They run as follows. "If we consider outer things in reference to our needs, we cannot do so without at the same time feeling ourselves to be bound and limited by a certain feeling which makes us notice that a foreign will, as it were, is active in us and that a necessary condition for our own will and pleasure (Belieben) is the concordance (Beistimmung) of others. A secret power compels us to direct our intentions to the welfare of others or in accordance with the choice of others, although this often goes against the grain and strongly conflicts with selfish inclinations. . . . From this arise moral motives . . . the rigid law of obligation and the weaker one of benevolence, both of which extort many sacrifices from us. In consequence of this we perceive ourselves to be dependent in our innermost motives on the rule of the universal will. From this there arises in the world of all thinking beings a moral unity and a systematic constitution according to purely spiritual laws. If we like to give the name moral feeling to this felt compulsion on one's own will to adjust itself to the universal will, we are peaking of it merely as a phenomenon which does in fact occur in us, without expressing any view as to its causes".[ The italics throughout are Kant's.] (Kant then compares this to Newton's use of the word "gravitation" to describe the mathematical formula to which the mutual attraction of matter does in fact conform, and not to suggest or imply any particular theory as to the causes of this phenomenon. But, he says, Newton had no doubt that the phenomenon of gravitation does evince a fundamental and universal activity of matter.) The quotation now continues as follows. "Would it not be possible to think of the phenomena of moral motivation in thinking beings, in respect of their mutual relationships, as a consequence of a genuine active force by which spiritual beings influence each other? In that case moral feeling would be the felt dependence of one's private will on the universal will. It would be a consequence of the natural and universal interaction, by which the immaterial world attains its moral unity as it develops into a system of spiritual completeness in accordance with the laws of its own interconnexions."
I would make the following comments on the passage which I have quoted, (i) As regards the first sentence, I will say only that it is highly obscure in the original and that my translation has been made after consulting an English colleague who is an expert in the German tongue. When this sentence is taken in its context the interpretation which I have put upon it seems to be the most plausible which the words and phrases will allow.
(ii) The phrase in the second sentence about directing our intentions "in accordance with the choice of others is highly ambiguous. We do this, e.g., when we obey an order purely through fear, when we fall in with another person's choice because we like him and desire to gratify his wishes, and when we follow the advice of a person, such as a doctor or a lawyer, whom we believe to be an expert. The second alternative might, perhaps, with a little stretching, be said to come under the "weaker law of benevolence"; but none of them would seem to come under "the rigid law of obligation".
(iii) I think it may well be true that many persons are inclined to interpret their sense of obligation to do something which goes against the grain as involving a kind of conflict between their own will and a foreign will. And I think they would feel that the only proper solution is, not a recalcitrant external obedience to that foreign will, but a transformation of their own will into conformity with it. But, in so far as a person puts this interpretation on his feelings of moral obligation, I should have thought that he regards the foreign will as that of some individual—in the last resort God—who has a moral right to such inward conformity of our desires to his. Now Kant cannot here mean by the "universal will" the will of God. It seems plain that he must regard it as a kind of collective will,' belonging to the system of all the inter-related finite spirits, considered as a kind of super-individual mind. Now I do not believe that this is an intelligible hypothesis; and, even if it be so, I see no reason to think that a person naturally interprets his experiences of moral obligation in terms of a conflict and a conformity between his private volitions and the volitions of a collective mind composed of all the spirits that there are.
(iv) What are we to make of the analogy with the Newtonian theory of universal, gravitation? What is supposed to be analogous to the phenomenal facts which Newton explained, and what is supposed to be analogous to the underlying causes by which he explained them?
(a) I think that the answer to the second part of the second question is fairly1 obvious. Newton's explanation was in terms of a system of material particles attracting each other in accordance with a certain law, and subject in all their movements to the three laws of motion. Kant's explanation is to be in terms of a system of spirits in some kind of direct rapport with each other, so that changes in the inner state of each telepathically produces correlated changes in the inner states of all the rest in accordance with "pneumatic'' laws.
(b) What Newton explained by his theory of gravitation was a number of striking terrestrial and celestial rhythms, e.g., the tides, the orbital motions of the planets in accordance with Kepler's laws, and so on. He further explained what might be called "second-order" rhythms, e.g., the precession of the equinoxes. He thus showed that a set of particles, each of which moves under the joint influence of its own originally impressed momentum and the gravitational attraction of all the rest, will (if the originally impressed momenta fall within certain limits) settle down into a stable system, characterized by certain large-scale rhythmic regularities and by minor variations on these themes which are themselves regular and rhythmic.
Now compare the originally impressed momentum of a particle to the "private will" of an individual spirit; and compare the gravitational held, due to the attraction of all the other particles, to the telepathic influence of the inner states of all other spirits on the inner state of this spirit. Then I take Kant's suggestion to be that the latter is felt by the individual in the peculiar form of a feeling of "moral obligation". It is, one might perhaps say, almost as if each were subject to a kind of hypnotic suggestion, exercised telepathically and unwittingly by all the others, and received by the individual without conscious awareness of its source. Kant suggests, if I understand him aright, that a set of spirits, each of which acts under the joint influence of its private will and the telepathically exercised hypnotic influence of all the rest, will settle down into a stable system, characterised by some kind of moral and spiritual pattern analogous to the rhythmic spatio-temporal pattern of the solar system.
(5) Eschatological Consequences. Kant thinks that such a theory as has been sketched above would help to remove a difficulty which is very commonly felt about the lack of correlation in this life between well-doing and well-being and between ill-doing and ill-being.
There is no special connexion between the rightness or wrongness of a volition and the consequences which it has in the material world. A precisely similar series of bodily movements, and therefore precisely similar results in the material world, might be initiated carelessly or deliberately, and, if deliberately, either from a good motive or an evil one. But these different causes, with the same effects in the material world, might have very different effects in the spiritual world. For the moral character of an act concerns the inner state which lies behind it in the agent; and so it can have its full effect, in respect of the features which make it morally good or evil, only by its immediate telepathic influence on the inner states of other spirits. Their reaction, influencing telepathically the original agent, might make a great difference to his well-being or ill-being as a denizen of the spiritual world. In particular, the moral goodness or badness of an embodied spirit's acts in this world might determine his relationships of closer or less intimate rapport with other spirits, embodied and disembodied. Evil acts may lay one open to the telepathic influence of evil spirits, and put one out of telepathic rapport with good ones, and vice versa.
When the soul is separated at death from the body which it has been animating, its life in the spirit-world will be merely a continuance of those relations with other spirits in which it has already been standing. The goodness or badness of its acts done in the flesh will already have produced their consequences in the spiritual world, of which it has always been a member ; and those consequences will now be manifest to it in the nature of the spiritual "environment" in which it will find itself. It will wake up on the spiritual bed which it has made for itself, and on which it has all the while been unwittingly lying during its dream-life in the world of matter. This, Kant rightly thinks, is a great improvement on the popular religious theory which regards future rewards and punishments as causally contingent to virtue and vice, and as accruing only in consequence of God's special volitions.
(6) Our Cognitions as Members of the two Worlds. Kant deals next with the following prima facie objection. If there is this community of spirits, and if each of us is at all times a member of it, is it not very odd that the fact is not perfectly well known to us all? Kant's solution is as follows. Each human soul has two quite different ideas of itself, (i) It knows itself as a spirit by means of a kind of non-sensuous intuition, through which it is aware of itself in relation to other spirits, (ii) It knows itself as an embodied self through an image which originates from impressions arising from the stimulation of the sensory organs, internal and external, of the body. By this means only material things and its relations to them can be presented to it. It is indeed one subject, which belongs both to the spiritual and the material world. But it is not one and the same person in its two capacities. Its cognitions in one capacity do not link up with its cognitions in the other. What one cognizes as a spirit is not remembered by one as an embodied self, and one's cognitions of one's own states as an embodied self do not enter into one's cognitions of one's state as a spirit. However clear and intuitive one's awareness of the spirit-world may be to one as a member of it, this does not enable one as an embodied self to perceive it. In this life, under normal conditions, one can have no more than an abstract discursive conception of the spirit-world, reached by reasoning such as Kant has offered ; one cannot have an intuitive awareness or an empirically derived concept of it.
Kant compares the situation with that of the same man awake and dreamlessly asleep. No-one, he thinks, would have any difficulty in admitting that, when a man is asleep, he may have clear conscious cognitions which he cannot recall when awake. He adduces the acts of sleep-walkers, which are often more intelligent than those of the same person when awake, in support of this opinion. Indeed, Kant is inclined to think that mental activity in dreamless sleep is likely to be clearer and more efficient than it can ever be in waking life, because disturbance from the outer and inner bodily senses is at a minimum. But, for this very reason, cognitions had by the soul in dreamless sleep cannot be recalled in waking life. In order for such recall to be possible there would have to be some sensory link between the cognition in dreamless sleep and some sensation in present waking life. This would have to take the form of some sensation in dreamless sleep, which was associated at the time with the cognition and might be revived by a sufficiently similar waking sensation. But in dreamless sleep sensation, both from within and without the body, is in abeyance. Kant remarks that dreams, which he defines for the present purpose as experiences had by a person when sleeping and remembered by him when awake, are here irrelevant. The dreamer may be said to be not fully asleep. He is wrapping up the cognitions which he has as a spirit in the impressions of his outer or inner bodily senses.
In spite of this we cannot wholly rule out the possibility that our experiences as spirits may occasionally insinuate themselves into our normal waking consciousness. A spiritual cognition may do this through evoking by association sensory ideas which are related to it, viz., images or even hallucinatory quasi-sense-perceptions which are symbolical of the spiritually cognized fact or object. After all, both modes of cognition, the pi ritual and the sensory, belong to the same thinking substance. We may compare this possibility with the admitted fact that the higher rational concepts generally need to be clothed in sensory symbols if they are to be intelligible to us. Kant refers, in this connexion, to the representation of duration by a line, that of eternity by endless time, and the representation of divine moral attributes in terms of human emotions, such as pity, anger, etc.
But, even if this seeping of spiritual cognitions in symbolical form into everyday consciousness be possible, it might be expected to be rare. It would be likely to happen only in persons whose brains are specially excitable, and thus more likely than those of most men to generate imaginative or quasi-sensory phantasies symbolical of spiritually cognized facts or objects. Such persons are apt to be presented with numerous objects which they take to be things of a spiritual nature actually present to their senses. Really they are subject to an illusion of the imagination or an hallucination of the senses, but its ultimate origin is a genuine influence from the world of spirits upon them as members of that world.
Such symbolical but veridical phantasies would almost certainly be blended with ideas derived from education, tradition, etc., and in some cases with products of mere mental or bodily derangement. It must always be very hard to disentangle the spiritual fact or object, symbolically presented, from the wrapping of phantasy and hallucination. Again, this state of "permeability", in which the brain and nervous system are activated in an abnormal way by the purely spiritual cognitions of the soul, would involve something which might fairly be called nervous instability. It would therefore be quite likely that a genuine "spirit-seer" would be subject to mere delusions and hallucinations, with no spiritual significance, along with his veridical symbolic experiences. In this connection Kant compares the gift of seership with Juno's gift to Tiresias. In order to confer on him the spiritual insight which enabled him to foresee the future she deprived him of his bodily eyesight
(7) Connexion with Swedenborg's Doctrines. Now Swedenborg claimed to occupy a unique position both among men and among disembodied spirits, in that he and he alone lived consciously and almost continuously in both worlds. He was thus in a position to investigate the spirit-world for himself, to cross-question its inhabitants and detect the errors and illusions to which they are subject, and to describe its nature and structure in ordinary human language on the basis of the information thus obtained. Now, as Kant points out, the information which Swedenborg claimed to have got "straight from the horse's mouth" (if it be permissible to use such an expression in this context) agrees remarkably with the theory which Kant had reached by the reasoning outlined above. Kant does not give Swedenborg much credit for this ; he says that it is " as if a poet when he raved happened to prophesy truly". It might strike an impartial observer that the agreement may not be wholly disconnected with the fact that Kant had carefully read and epitomized Swedenborg's doctrine at the time when he was pursuing his metaphysical speculations on this topic.
(8) The psycho-physiological Conditions of waking sensory Hallucinations.
Kant devotes Section III of Part I of the book to an elaborate discussion of the psycho-physiological conditions of waking sensory hallucinations. The essential points may be stated as follows.
The case to be considered is that of a man who is perceiving by ordinary sight, touch, hearing, etc., his own body and the various external objects which other waking men in his neighbourhood perceive, but who also and simultaneously seems to himself to be perceiving other objects, imperceptible to his neighbours, located at various places outside his body. This case must be distinguished from ordinary dreaming. There the subject does not perceive his own body by the external senses of sight and touch, and he does not perceive any of the objects which waking men in his neighbourhood perceive. It must also be distinguished from the case of a waking man who experiences very vivid images or even quasi- sensations but does not locate their objects in external physical space or regard them as existing independently of himself.
The "ghost-seer" is an instance of the case under discussion. But so too is a person in delirium or madness. Suppose that the ghost-seer's experience is delusive, in the sense that there is no physical object located at the place where the ghost is ostensibly seen to be and emitting or reflecting light to the seer's eyes. Then, even if there should be a spiritual cause at the back of the ghost-seer's experience, and if his experience should be veridical in the sense of symbolizing that spiritual cause, essentially the same problem is raised by ostensible ghost-seeing and the waking hallucinations of delirium or madness. It may be stated as follows. How can a person project imaginative or quasi-sensory contents, which are not evoked by physical stimuli impinging on his sense-organs from certain places in external physical space, into determinate external positions, so that they appear to him to stand in determinate spatial relations to his own body and to other objects of normal sense-perception?
Kant puts forward tentatively a physiological answer to this question in terms of the old theory of "animal spirits ", i.e., the theory that the interstices in the brain and the supposed pores in the nerves are filled with a very subtle fluid whose motions are correlated with our sensations and volitions. I suppose that his theory could probably be recast in terms of present-day views of neural impulses as transmissions of electrical or chemical states rather than translatory motions of a fluid.
So far as I can understand it, the suggestion may be put as follows. The motions of the animal spirits in one's brain and nerves, which are involved in an actual sensation of sight or hearing, follow lines within the body which, if produced, converge to a point or a limited region outside the body. The motions of the animal spirits which are involved in having a visual or auditory image normally follow lines which converge to a point or a limited region within the body. But in madness or delirium the normal equilibrium of the brain and nervous system is upset in such a way that the motions of the animal spirits which are correlated with an image follow lines which converge to a point or a limited region outside the body. Thus one seems to see objects, located in external space, corresponding to images had under such conditions.
Now it often happens that only one kind of sensible experience, viz., the visual, is disturbed, whilst the others, and in particular the tactual and the muscular, are not. Thus one seems to see objects located in external space, which yet offer no resistance and are intangible. Now this is what is commonly told of ghosts. It also corresponds to the philosophical notion of a spirit, viz., a substance which can occupy a region of space without offering any resistance to the entry of matter into the place which it occupies.
Kant remarks that it is likely that traditional stories of ghosts provide some of the materials for the hallucinations of delirium or madness. If a man were in the same psycho-physiological condition, but lacked this background of tradition, his hallucinations might take a very different form.
(9) The Conclusion of the whole Matter. Kant was much too intelligent a man to think that a psycho-physiological theory of the modus operandi of waking sensory hallucination disproves the existence of spirits, or that it deposes of the claim that some such experiences are initiated by the telepathic action of a spirit on the soul of the experient and that they express in a symbolic form the spiritual event which initiated them. Though Kant does not explicitly say so, it is obvious that the test in each case is, not the mere fact of ostensibly seeing an apparently independent figure localized in physical space outside the body, but the question whether the particular details of the experience itself and the particular circumstances under which it happened strongly suggest that it was initiated supernormally.
But, since the waking sensory hallucinations of delirium and madness involve the same psycho-physiological mechanism, and since most persons who claim to be mediums are obviously to some extent unbalanced physically and mentally, it is tempting to treat them all alike as merely pathological phenomena requiring no supernormal explanation. Kant says that anyone who takes this line will enjoy three advantages. He will be able to make up his mind easily and quickly without needing to bother about detailed investigation of particular cases. He will be explaining the facts on the basis of materials provided by common experience instead of having recourse to the doubtful speculations of reason. And, above all, he will avoid exposing himself to ridicule. For these reasons Kant will in no way blame anyone who regards every professed ghost-seer, not as a half-citizen of another world, but as a candidate for a mental hospital. But he carefully refrains from saying that this is his own view. For him the general plausibility of the theory of a world of spirits and of our double citizenship in this world and in that is enough to keep him "serious and undecided " in view of such stories.
Yet, very characteristically, he half takes away with one hand what he has so grudgingly given with the other. Were it not for our hope of a future life (which, he says, he cannot and would not eliminate) no-one would attach any weight to the abstract possibilities which he has developed in the metaphysical part of the book. It would be much more reasonable, apart from that hope, to ascribe all these ostensibly supernormal phenomena to natural causes than to postulate agents and modes of action so utterly unlike anything to which our senses bear witness. The fact is that we are, and are doomed to remain, equally ignorant concerning the three problems of (i) the animation of a human body by a human soul at conception, (ii) the connexion of a soul with its body during life, and (iii) its separation at death and its subsequent existence. Were it not for our hopes and fears about the future, we should be as content to refrain from speculation concerning the third problem as most men have always been with regard to the other two.
Kant's final conclusion is completely agnostic. Beyond the bare abstract possibilities outlined in the metaphysical sections we can make no further progress either by rational speculation or by experiment and observation. Genuine scientific hypotheses are concerned with the details of agents and forces which are already known to be possible because they are already shown by sense-experience to be actual But, in speculating about non-material thinking beings, standing to each other in non-spatio-temporal relations and interacting telepathically in accordance with pneumatic laws, we are postulating agents and modes of action which we cannot: know to be even possible. We have neither the guarantee of rational insight (as we sometimes have in pure mathematics) nor that of instantiation by sense-perception (as we have in natural science).
Admittedly, in the case of ghost-stories we have certain alleged: experiences of a quasi-sensory nature. But, Kant says, the lack of agreement and uniformity which is characteristic of such experiences makes them useless as a foundation for any proposed laws concerning which reason might pass judgment. They show only certain anomalies and irregularities in the functioning of the senses, and, as such, it is reasonable to discount them.
Kant seems never to have contemplated the possibility of an experimental investigation of ostensibly supernormal cognitive and active powers, He does not even envisage the careful investigation and comparative study of the sporadic cases, such as was first attempted in Phantasms of the Living, nor a synoptic survey of the whole field of normal, abnormal, and ostensibly supernormal mental phenomena such as Myers made in his Human Personality. The fact that so great a man, speculating seriously on this topic, did not consider these possibilities, and that they have been in so large a measure realized, should increase our gratitude and admiration for the pioneers of psychical research in England, America, and the continent of Europe. It is, perhaps, permissible to conclude with the phantasy that news of these later developments has seeped through in a symbol form to the disembodied spirit of the sage of Konigsberg and that he has received it. with interest and approval.