Now one might reply to this argument, in the first place, that even if it be granted that 'otherness' is a progressively less significant character in the development of selfhood, we are still not justified in inferring its complete negligibility in self or mind 'at its highest.' Bosanquet's admission that for finite mind, mind as we know it, 'otherness' never wholly vanishes, suggests that the inference is at least extremely bold.
'Mind as we know it' is, on the evidence offered, approaching asymptotically to a condition in which the aspect of 'unity' swallows up completely the aspect of 'otherness.' But it is difficult to see that an asymptotic approach warrants the belief that the thing concerned exhibits 'in its real nature' the condition of the ideal limit. Rather it would seem then to have passed into another nature. After all, though 9 asymptotically approaches 1, we do not suppose that 9 is 'at its highest' or 'in its real nature' 1.
I think, however, that criticism of Bosanquet's thesis may begin earlier, and assail the premises themselves. Is it so certain that our 'higher experiences' show a decreasing sense of 'otherness'? Does it not rather appear, when we look closer, that otherness and unity are complementary aspects of the life of mind, the one no less vital than the other? This seems to me to be the truer view. And to see that it is so, appeal may be made to that same sphere of artistic experience which was cited to support the contrary opinion. The kernel of the matter may be put in a question: 'Admitting that the self in other of artistic appreciation is one of our higher experiences, must we not yet say that a higher experience still is that in which we have come to realise that the admired work is (as every such work must be) an expression, however perfect, of a mere stage in the development of the self's full nature - a realisation in which we become conscious once more, therefore, of self and other?' An illustration should make the point plain enough. I shall name no special work of art, for in principle any work of art will do. No such work can fail to be inadequate in some measure to the fullness of spiritual growth. Its informing spirit, however lofty and enlightened, is inescapably limited by the cultural context of the age. And the discovery of that limitation, when it is discovered, is the rebirth of that self and other which, I am arguing, is as vital in the life of mind as 'self in other'.
Let us suppose, then, some person who in his callow youth has become acquainted with a great poem, a poem magnificent in the technique of expression but, perhaps on account of its relative antiquity, inspired by a Weltanschauung which harmonises only too well with the crude conceptions of its juvenile reader. Our youth finds in it that overwhelming emotional satisfaction which is only possible where concord between the spirit of author and reader permits of a true and deep marriage of minds. In this state of spiritual absorption the mind is in so intimate a union with its object that it will be quite true to say that our youth is hardly, if at all, conscious of his finitude, hardly conscious of an 'other' over against the self. Unity dominates otherness without question. But now let us go on to suppose that the same person returns to the poem perhaps twenty years later, a man of mature culture, who has probed far, with the help of all that is best in art, religion, and philosophy, into the depths of the problem of man and his place in the cosmos. The philosophy which inspires the poem, we may suppose, seems to him now to be shallow and misguided, belonging to a level of thought with which he was himself once content but which he has outgrown. He finds himself no longer able to merge his whole being in the poem. Its informing spirit he will feel to be definitely inadequate to the expression of his own spirit. By an effort of abstraction he will be able to place himself at the poet's standpoint and appreciate how perfect is the expression of the spiritual attitude. He will not be barred from a definite aesthetic enjoyment; but a part of himself, and that the profounder part, will remain without. No longer is the all-sufficing harmony, the complete unity of self with other, possible for him. The awareness of the spiritual limitation dwells with him as he reads, bringing acute consciousness of the 'other' which the artistic experience fails to include.
Now can we possibly maintain that the man who has come to recognise the spiritual inadequacy of a work (assuming, of course, that he has solid grounds for his attitude), and who consequently cannot banish the sense of the 'other' from the experience which it evokes, is at a lower level of experience than the boy who found in the work a complete expression of his soul, and in whose experience the sense of 'otherness' was consequently not present? There can surely be but one answer. All would agree that the self has genuinely grown, developed itself, in the intervening years. It is a 'higher' self in the second experience. And yet here, in opposition to what Bosanquet takes to be the rule, the higher experience shows increased and not diminished sense of 'otherness'.
It would be absurd to suggest, of course, that the exact opposite of what Bosanquet maintains is the truth, and that the sense of 'otherness' is the true mark of spiritual growth. Viewing the development of spiritual experience in the large, it is evident that the next higher stage after the disruption of a complacent unity, with its attendant discord, is the new synthesis which provides a temporary solution of the problem and brings a new sense of unity. But since such solutions must, in the very nature of finite life, be but temporary, the next higher stage again is the recognition of the achieved solution's inadequacy and the sense of 'otherness' once more. We have to recognise, I think, that neither aspect, neither unity nor otherness, can claim precedence over the other. They are rather complementary and alternating characteristics of the development of mind. There is a sense, indeed, in which unity or harmony is the 'ideal' of mind, and it is easy to construe this as meaning that unity is the essence or real nature of mind. But just because the ideal of unity is in principle unachievable by finite mind, the recognition of 'otherness,' which is inherent in the nature of self-transcending process, retains forever its essentiality for mind as we know it. The essence of the mind or self-conscious self, we must say, lies not in unity, but in the process of self-transcendence which aims at unity, a process in which sense of 'unity' and sense of 'otherness' are (to repeat the previous expressions) complementary and alternating characteristics.