For many years I lived with Russell's view of
mysticism. Mysticism was, he suggested, useful for the occasional insight,
and he was very far from dismissing the authenticity of mystical claims,
but as a man of reason and ultimately as a Lord of the Realm, he saw it as
unreliable in the hunt for precision.
This was enlightenment, I thought. This was a
person who would not genuflect to the unknown, because on a favorable reading
of his thought, he was a man for whom things had to be demonstrated.
In his later years I get the sense that events of history sowed their
seeds of doubt, pushed him into corners, left him with a dim view of that
'special sort of matter' he called life.
Invariably this is the lot of analysis. The
ideas form, solutions appear to emerge. Good things are achieved.
Bad things happen. But ask say a doctor what life is and he will
tell you what death is.
While I was amongst Russell's view of mysticism I was inclined
to hold the opinion that a belief in a higher power was either a frailty of
mind or it was a sort of social club. Here there are those who become
quite irrational, I have even heard it said that we are somehow hardwired to
believe in a God.
On the other side there are those who have described reason
in such a way as to make it appear as though it too is a temple. Such
a view reckons to know what reason is and in that assumption there is a
subjective quality that leaves a mind disillusioned in old age. They
become old men, or women staring out of the photograph, almost like
My current inclination is to look for a better understanding
of what it is to think, rather than what it is that thinking produces.
I am pompous to the extent that I have given it a name. I call it "time as quality". The root of
this expression is a
rude combination of that early idea "soul is a quality", which
later was so mangled by faith, and that
muddle that passes for my understanding of "time in physics".
This gives me a most material thing upon which to rest
the question why. And oddly, while I have no answer, the process has
given me a better and very useful understanding of why men sometimes chose to believe in
Which is I suppose how Bergson saw it.