Could men so apparently antipodal as these in temperament, utterance, and life have a thought or doctrine in common? Yet it was the great paradox of the Victorian era that the heart of their mystery, the source and pivot of their teaching, was the same dominating idea. The same idea led one man to insist on the value of the oldest clothes, and led the other to insist on getting rid of them. This dominating principle was the “Doctrine of the Unconscious.”〖For an extended account see Professor J. B. Fletcher’s article “Newman and Carlyle” in the “Atlantic Monthly,” Vol. XCV, p. 669.〗

Carlyle first expounded this doctrine in his essay “Characteristics.”〖H. C., xxv, 319.〗 “The truly strong mind,” he says, “view it as Intellect, as Morality, or under any other aspect, is nowise the mind acquainted with its strength; here as before the sign of health is unconsciousness. In our inward, as in our outward, world what is mechanical lies open to us; not what is dynamical and has vitality. Of our thinking, we might say, it is but the mere upper surface that we shape into articulate Thoughts; underneath the region of argument and conscious discourse lies the region of meditation; here, in its quiet mysterious depths, dwells what vital force is in us; here, if aught is to be created, and not merely manufactured and communicated, must the work go on. Manufacture is intelligible, but trivial; Creation is great, and cannot be understood.” What is intuitive and spontaneous should be our guide. “The healthy understanding is not the Logical, argumentative, but The Intuitive.” “The characteristic of right performance is a certain spontaneity, an unconsciousness; ‘the healthy know not of their health, but only the sick.”’ On this idea Carlyle bases his doctrines of Work and Heroes. By work the spontaneous self has a chance to reveal itself. Heroes are those Great Men who are spontaneous and sincere, those masters of their time who draw up into themselves the thoughts of masses of men.

Newman’s belief in the power of the unconscious was equally firm and thoroughgoing. In his sermon on “Explicit and Implicit Reason,” he means by “implicit reason” “unconscious meditation.” “Reasoning is a living, spontaneous energy within us, not an art.” “Progress,” he said later, “is a living growth, not a mechanism; and its instruments are mental acts, not the formulas and contrivances of language.” “As each individual has certain instincts of right and wrong antecedently to reasoning, on which he acts—and rightly—so has the world of men collectively. God gave them truths in His miraculous revelations.... These are transmitted as the ‘wisdom of our ancestors.”’ It was Newman’s staunch belief in what is intuitive and instinctive that made him accept the wisdom of the race as more trustworthy than the reason of the individual. Consequently he believed that Christian truth is preserved not by the reasoning of the individual but by the diversified powers, insight, and feeling which are found in a long-continuing society. For Newman, therefore, the Catholic Church was the articulate voice of the body of Christian believers in the past—“the concrete representative of things invisible.”〖Readers interested in Newman should see the new “Life” by Wilfrid Ward.〗

These two great men, who did not understand each other, based their teachings on the same initial principle—the “doctrine of the unconscious.” However far apart they were at the end, they insisted with graceful pleading or with tumultuous eloquence on these high moral truths: faith in what is spontaneous and sincere in one’s own nature, and spontaneous and instinctive submission to those highly endowed men whose innate sincerity will redeem the world.

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