The System of Feeling?

We all know the conflict between our thoughts and our feelings; we all have experienced the disorder of both. Often, especially by Myers-Briggs T (Thinking) types, subjective reason is taken as the arbiter of feelings in conflict, whether between persons or within one mind; the same, I expect, is true of F (Feeling) types, that subjective feeling judges thoughts in conflict, whether between persons or within one mind. As a T with little skill in using ‘the heart’ to judge between feelings, I tend to use my reason instead. But against the totalizing claims of rationalism, Pascal speaks in his Pensées of something beyond reason, something inaccessible to reason:

It is the heart that feels God, not reason: that is what faith is. God is felt by the heart, not by reason.

The heart has its reasons which reason itself does not know: we know that through countless things.

I say that the heart loves the universal being naturally, and itself naturally, according to its own choice. And it hardens itself against one or the other, as it chooses. You have rejected one and kept the other: is it reason that makes you love yourself?

The only knowledge which is contrary to both common sense and human nature is the only one which has always existed among men.

But reason and feeling, without being separated, each have their proper object:

The heart feels that there are three dimensions in space and that there is an infinite series of numbers, and then reason goes on to prove that there are no two square numbers of which one is double the other. The principles are felt, and the propositions are proved, both conclusively, although by different ways, and it is as useless and stupid for reason to demand of the heart proofs of its first principles as it is for the heart to demand of reason a feeling of all the propositions it proves, before accepting them.

There is, we might say, a T logic and an F logic: the one is syllogistic reason, the other the intuitive faith of the heart. Some truths can be concluded by the one, some by the other, but – or Pascal’s apologetic fails – the two logics, used soundly, will not conflict. That is, faith’s premises aren’t rationally demonstrable, but it’s reasonable nonetheless.

My problem here is that thinking can be translated into a public matter, with a systematic language, but feeling, as far as I know, cannot. Socially, then, thinking with all its hidden commitments can be contested and defended, but I know of no such thing in feeling, precisely because it is such an internal thing, in its link to God seemingly unmediated. The life, death and resurrection of the Son of God can historically be reasoned and contested; the faith given by the Holy Ghost cannot be resisted or contested. But between the testimony of spirits, between the Spirit of God and unclean spirits, there is no judgement, except this only: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God. The regenerate heart, trusting and desiring and choosing God, is to know the premise that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and meanwhile the rational faculty is to measure spirits against this premise.

But this gets me nowhere for method. I control nothing. Whence my first principles? When I am wrong here, and my heart wills idolatry, I will be wrong until the Holy Ghost should change my scornful heart. In reason, the realm of words, there is skill; but here, in the secret pool of winds, the only skill is to listen to the word and obey and be virtuous, which is to love. As for systems, there is not one system here but two: love of God and love of self, rule of God and rule of self, icon of God and idol of self.


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