Abstract

In ordinary life, we are not aware of the unity of all things, but divide the world into separate objects and events. This division is useful and necessary to cope with our everyday environment, but it is not a fundamental feature of reality. It is an abstraction devised by our discriminating and categorising intellect. To believe that our abstract concepts of separate ‘things’ and ‘events’ are realities of nature is an illusion.

Two things must be distinguished in consciousness; first, the fact that I know; secondly, what I know. In self consciousness these are merged in one; for Spirit knows itself. It involves an appreciation of its own nature, as also an energy enabling it to realise itself; to make itself actually that which it is potentially. According to this abstract definition it may be said of Universal History, that it is the exhibition of Spirit in the process of working out the knowledge of that which it is potentially. And as the germ bears in itself the whole nature of the tree, and the taste and form of its fruits, so do the first traces of Spirit virtually contain the whole of that History.

There is plenty of courage among us for the abstract but not for the concrete.

Evil is the product of the ability of humans to make abstract that which is concrete.

For, as I have suggested, disruption of the unity of the self is not limited to the cases that come to physicians and institutions for treatment. They accompany every disturbance of normal relations of husband and wife, parent and child, group and group, class and class, nation and nation. Emotional responses are so total as compared with the partial nature of intellectual responses, of ideas and abstract conceptions, that their consequences are more pervasive and enduring. I can, accordingly, think of nothing of greater practical importance than the psychic effects of human relationships, normal and abnormal, should be the object of continues study, including among the consequences the indirect somatic effects.

Praise or blame has but a momentary effect on the man whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic on his own works.

I've noticed a facinating phenomenon in my thiry years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelvant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don't really teach anyting except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the instituion overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers to care and do work very, very hard, the instituion is psychopathic -- it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.

Clearly, mythology is no toy for children. Nor is it a matter of archaic, merely scholarly concern, of no moment to modern men of action. For its symbols (whether in the tangible form of images or in the abstract form of ideas) touch and release the deepest centers of motivation, moving literate and illiterate alike, moving mobs, moving civilizations.

Whole and part—partly concrete parts and partly abstract parts—are at the bottom of everything. They are most fundamental in our conceptual system. Since there is similarity, there are generalities. Generalities are just a fundamental aspect of the world. It is a fundamental fact of reality that there are two kinds of reality: universals and particulars.

I suspect it was...the old story of the implacable necessity of a man having honour within his own natural spirit. A man cannot live and temper his mettle without such honour. There is deep in him a sense of the heroic quest; and our modern way of life, with its emphasis on security, its distrust of the unknown and its elevation of abstract collective values has repressed the heroic impulse to a degree that may produce the most dangerous consequences.

Language is simply alive, like an organism. We all tell each other this, in fact, when we speak of living languages, and I think we mean something more than an abstract metaphor. We mean alive. Words are the cells of language, moving the great body, on legs. Language grows and evolves, leaving fossils behind. The individual words are like different species of animals. Mutations occur. Words fuse, and then mate. Hybrid words and wild varieties or compound words are the progeny. Some mixed words are dominated by one parent while the other is recessive. The way a word is used this year is its phenotype, but it has deeply immutable meanings, often hidden, which is its genotype.... The separate languages of the Indo-European family were at one time, perhaps five thousand years ago, maybe much longer, a single language. The separation of the speakers by migrations had effects on language comparable to the speciation observed by Darwin on various islands of the Galapagos. Languages became different species, retaining enough resemblance to an original ancestor so that the family resemblance can still be seen.

Language is simply alive, like an organism. We all tell each other this, in fact, when we speak of living languages, and I think we mean something more than an abstract metaphor. We mean alive. Words are the cells of language, moving the great body, on legs. Language grows and evolves, leaving fossils behind. The individual words are like different species of animals. Mutations occur. Words fuse, and then mate. Hybrid words and wild varieties or compound words are the progeny. Some mixed words are dominated by one parent while the other is recessive. The way a word is used this year is its phenotype, but it has deeply immutable meanings, often hidden, which is its genotype.

Forgetting that beauty and happiness are only ever incarnated in an individual person, we replace them in our minds by a conventional pattern, a sort of average of all the different faces we have ever admired, all the different pleasures we have ever enjoyed, and thus carry about with us abstract images, which are lifeless and uninspiring because they lack the very quality that something new, something different from what is familiar, always possesses, and which is the quality inseparable from real beauty and happiness. So we make our pessimistic pronouncements on life, which we think are valid, in the belief that we have taken account of beauty and happiness, whereas we have actually omitted them from consideration, substituting for them synthetic compounds that contain nothing of them.

Our vanity, our passions, our spirit of imitation, our abstract intelligence, our habits have long been at work, and it is the task of art to undo this work of theirs, making us travel back in the direction from which we have come to the depths where what has really existed lies unknown within us.

Because they claim to be concerned with the welfare of whole societies, governments arrogate to themselves the right to pass off as mere abstract profit or loss the human unhappiness that their decisions provoke or their negligence permits. It is a duty of an international citizenship to always bring the testimony of people's suffering to the eyes and ears of governments, sufferings for which it's untrue that they are not responsible. The suffering of men must never be a mere silent residue of policy. It grounds an absolute right to stand up and speak to those who hold power.

Plainly, contemporary Western science’s description of an astronomical universe of such vast magnitude that distances must be measured in terms as abstract as light-years is not new to Hinduism whose wise men, millennia ago, came up with the term kalpa to signify the inconceivable duration of the period elapsing between the beginning and end of a world system.

Don’t talk to me of goodness, of abstract justice, of natural law. Necessity is the highest law.

There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature.

So we find that the three possible solutions of the great problem of increasing human energy are answered by the three words: food, peace, work. Many a year I have thought and pondered, lost myself in speculations and theories, considering man as a mass moved by a force, viewing his inexplicable movement in the light of a mechanical one, and applying the simple principles of mechanics to the analysis of the same until I arrived at these solutions, only to realize that they were taught to me in my early childhood. These three words sound the key-notes of the Christian religion. Their scientific meaning and purpose now clear to me: food to increase the mass, peace to diminish the retarding force, and work to increase the force accelerating human movement. These are the only three solutions which are possible of that great problem, and all of them have one object, one end, namely, to increase human energy. When we recognize this, we cannot help wondering how profoundly wise and scientific and how immensely practical the Christian religion is, and in what a marked contrast it stands in this respect to other religions. It is unmistakably the result of practical experiment and scientific observation which have extended through the ages, while other religions seem to be the outcome of merely abstract reasoning. Work, untiring effort, useful and accumulative, with periods of rest and recuperation aiming at higher efficiency, is its chief and ever-recurring command. Thus we are inspired both by Christianity and Science to do our utmost toward increasing the performance of mankind. This most important of human problems I shall now specifically consider.

Abstract art is only painting. And what’s so dramatic about that? There is no abstract art. One must always begin with something. Afterwards one can remove all semblance of reality; there is no longer any danger as the idea of the object has left an indelible imprint. It is the object which aroused the artist, stimulated his ideas and set of his emotions. These ideas and emotions will be imprisoned in his work for good... Whether he wants it or not, man is the instrument of nature; she imposes on him character and appearance. In my paintings of Dinard, as in my paintings of Purville, I have given expression to more or less the same vision... You cannot go against nature. She is stronger than the strongest of men. We can permit ourselves some liberties, but in details only.