The reality of idealism

An excerpt from Conversation: A New Theory of Language by Carl H. Flygt

In spirit I teach Kant, who lived from 1724 to 1804 in what is now Eastern Germany. I want to know if this great philosopher’s ideas about science, the world, and human consciousness are correct. These ideas say, among other important things, that the form of the world we experience, its actual geometry and its actual temporality, is the way it is because of the way our self-consciousness is as rational, formally intelligible and universalistic in both form and content. Presumably, on Kant’s program, if our rationality were to change in the right way, the world itself would come to have different properties. I believe this is a testable proposition.

Kant has never been fully answered in the normal circles of academic education and discourse, which I want to address by this theory. These circles are ill-equipped to answer Kant not because they lack the capacity for formal reasoning but because they instinctively, and for good reasons, shun occultism and occult knowledge. Until the advent of my theory, occultism has seemed the least testable, least controllable and most dangerous domain of human nature and the natural world. It represents, in comfortable and responsible society, a real can of worms, full of irresponsible craziness, recursivity and narcissism, and is simply taboo. As a result, there is a terrible gap between the contents of acceptable intellectual discourse and the normative education it produces, both of which belie the validity and the reality of spiritual aspiration, and the contents of the developing human soul or astral body, which as a matter of proper development and social valuation are occult and full of mystical wonderment and intrigue. Education, if it is to lead anything really valuable out of free individuals, must lead out these occult contents.

One pioneer of modern consciousness research, which aspires to be a consensualized form of occultism, holds a similar position with respect to normal academics. When it comes to exploring the real limits on human experience, limits that are actually penetrated by time-honored techniques like shamanism and the use of psychoactive substances, many of which Stanislav Grof (b. 1941) s studied in considerable detail, the proponents of normal science, notwithstanding their respect for Kant, are most prone either to ridicule or to pathologize. But in Grof’s view, and I think in the view of any honest confession of our basic humanity, the need for such experience is something he calls holotropic. Such experience is categorically necessary and perhaps organically instinctive in the human being—the human being simply needs to grow beyond the culture of materialist experience, and even the culture of faith and devotion, and into cosmic knowledge and cosmic wholeness. In the language of this text, the human being is an astral spirit, seeking to regain that status in and by means of language itself. Deny that need for intelligent and profound social experience and you sow the seeds of violence, greed and all manner of cultural and commercial vulgarity. Support it and you are apt to produce miracles.

The answer to Kant—it is clear to anyone who has experienced psychedelic drugs—is in occult knowledge. No one will think that the world in itself has the form we experience in the ordinary everyday. No one, for example, experiences a house simultaneously from all directions, inside as well as outside. Yet certainly that is what the house, at least in part, actually is. But it is plain why academic discourse, which represents intelligent discipline in the social and political use of language and linguistic products, has no use for the direct experience of the a priori causes of something being called “a house.” These causes, should they be actualized on an ongoing basis, would overwhelm the consciousness, and its capacities would be accordingly diminished. No one, can function well in an abstract, mechanical and material society when stoned on psychedelics and confronting the ontological profundity of a thing-in-itself. A culture that indulges this experience naively, the street culture of Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue, for example, is prone to mediocrity, pathology and its own intractable forms of vulgarity and social error.

A complete and astoundingly functional answer to Kant was formulated by the Austrian philosopher, clairvoyant, and educator Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Other notable occultists and clairvoyants taking their departure from Kant include P. D. Ouspensky (1878-1947), whose Tertium Organum is a work of great genius, the English magician and mystic Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), himself a social misfit but whose protégé’ Israel Regardie (1907-1985) is author of a marvelous study of magic, The Tree of Life, and C. G. Jung (1875-1961), whose contributions to analytic and depth psychology are well-known and highly influential. The name of G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) should also be mentioned in this connection, whose dialectical theory of rationality is a response to Kant as much as it is to the magical histories of Christianity and the Old Testament. A basic grasp of Kant, therefore, appears to be essential to anyone attempting a rational, if not a strictly consensual (i.e. socio-political) mastery of the occult nature of the human being.

Kant’s basic ontological position is idealism, as distinct from realism, ontological dualism or phenomenalism. Kant, like Plato before him, argued for the reality of ideas or things in the mind, and believed that experience or consciousness is in general a feature or a function of these things. Later in this essay I will endorse the position that these things in the mind are properly called institutions, and include the phenomena of language, of freedom, of truth, of social status and of spiritual experience in general. On my view, the reality of idealism is a reality devolving from a social background of cosmic proportions that produces a broad range of things-in-the-mind, and that thereby constitutes a broad range of possible experience. Kant does not treat social institutions as causes of anything, but is content simply to enumerate the categories and categorical functions that have devolved somehow to rational consciousness. These include categories of concept, the so-called categories of the understanding, and categories of will, the so-called categorical imperative. His philosophy is therefore a substantially nuanced critical idealism, as distinct from the dogmatic idealism (phenomenalism) of the theologian George Berkeley (1685-1753), who denied the existence of the world except in the imagination, and the empirical skepticism (also a phenomenalism) of the evidentialist David Hume (1711-1776), who denied the epistemological validity of the imagination.

Kant’s object was to set metaphysics, the attempt to know the true and ultimate causes of things in general, on the ground of a rigorous science. In doing this, he imagined a faculty of pure reason, logical thinking in the human modality but with no admixture of empirical content, and he derived his metaphysical system from that. That system denies that our intelligence, constituted as it is, is capable of knowing the true causes of appearances, the things themselves. On what that intelligence, differently organized, perhaps by means of a different social background, might reveal, Kant is silent. But the idea of breathing life into material nature by means of well-ordered institutions does appear in Kant’s political and moral writings.