§ 1. What is meant by
§ 2.Polytheism. § 3.
§ 4. Materialism.
§ 5. Pantheism.
§ 1. What is meant
As Theism is the doctrine of an extramundane, personal
God, the creator, preserver, and governor of all things, any doctrine which
denies the existence of such a Being is anti-theistic. Not only avowed
Atheism, therefore, but Polytheism, Hylozoism, Materialism, and Pantheism,
belong to the class of anti-theistic theories.
Atheism does not call for any separate discussion. It
is in itself purely negative. It affirms nothing. It simply denies what Theism
asserts. The proof of Theism is, therefore, the refutation of Atheism. Atheist
is, however, a term of reproach. Few men are willing to call themselves, or to
allow others to call them by that name. Hume, we know, resented it. Hence
those who are really atheists, according to the etymological and commonly
received meaning of the word, repudiate the term. They claim to be believers
in God, although they assign to that word a meaning which is entirely
unauthorized by usage. Thus Helvetius1
says, "There is no man of understanding who does not admit an active principle
in nature; therefore there is no atheist. He is not an atheist who says that
motion is God; because in fact motion is incomprehensible, as we have no clear
idea of it, because it only manifests itself by its effects, and by it all
things are performed in the universe. Cousin2
says, " Atheism is impossible, because the existence of God is implied in
every affirmation. If a man believes that he exists, he must believe in the
power of thought, and that is God." In like manner Herbert Spencer claims to
be religious. He does not oppose religion, but dogmas. He acknowledges
inscrutable power. He reduces all our knowledge to the two facts, "That force
is," and "Force is persistent." Force, however, is perfectly inscrutable and
incomprehensible. On this principle he attempts to reconcile religion and
science. The ultimate principle of religion, that in which all religions
agree, is that there is an inscrutable power which is the cause of all things.
This also is the ultimate principle of science. They have therefore a common
ground. Nothing can be predicated of this cause; not consciousness; not
intelligence; not will; only that it is a force. This is all the God the new
philosophy leaves us.3
Language, however, has its rights. The meaning of words
cannot be changed at the pleasure of individuals. The word God, and its
equivalents in other languages, have a definite meaning, from which no man is
at liberty to depart. If any one says he believes in God, he says he believes
in the existence of a personal, self-conscious being. He does not believe in
God, if he only believes in "motion," in "force," in "thought," in "moral
order," in "the incomprehensible," or in any other abstraction.
Theists also have their rights. Theism is a definite
form of belief. For the expression of that belief, the word Theism is the
established and universally recognized term. We have the right to retain it;
and we have the right to designate as Atheism, all forms of doctrine which
involve the denial of what is universally understood by Theism.
Is Atheism possible?
The question has often been discussed, Whether Atheism
is possible? The answer to the question depends on the meaning of the term. If
the question be, Whether a man can emancipate himself from the conviction that
there is a personal Being to whom he is responsible for his character and
conduct, and who will punish him for his sins? it must be answered in the
negative. For that would be to emancipate himself from the moral law, which is
impossible. If, however, the question means, Whether a man may, by speculation
or otherwise, bring himself into such a state as to lose the consciousness of
the belief of God as written in his heart, and free himself, for a time, from
its power? it must be answered affirmatively. A man may, in this sense, deny
his individuality or identity; the real, objective existence of soul or body,
mind or matter; the distinction between right and wrong. But this is
unnatural, and cannot last. It is like deflecting a spring by force. The
moment the force is removed, the spring returns to its normal position. Men,
therefore, often pass in a moment from a state of entire skepticism to a state
of unquestioning faith; not of course by a process of argument, but by a
change in their inward state. This transition from unbelief to faith, though
thus sudden, and although not produced by an intellectual process, is
perfectly rational. The feelings which rise in the mind contain evidence of
the truth which the understanding cannot resist. It is also a familiar
psychological fact, that skepticism and faith may, in a certain sense, coexist
in the mind. An idealist while abiding by his theory has nevertheless an
inward conviction of the reality of the external world. So the speculative
atheist lives with the abiding conviction that there is a God to whom he must
render an account.
As the word implies, Polytheism is the theory which
assumes the existence of many gods. Monotheism was the original religion of
our race. This is evident not only from the teachings of the Scriptures, but
also from the fact that the earliest historical form of religious belief is
monotheistic. There are monotheistic hymns in the Vedas, the most ancient
writings now extant, unless the Pentateuch be an exception.
The first departure from monotheism seems to have been
nature worship. As men lost the knowledge of God as creator, they were led to
reverence the physical elements with which they were in conflict, whose power
they witnessed, and whose beneficent influence they constantly experienced.
Hence not only the sun, moon, and stars, the great representatives of nature,
but fire, air, and water, became the objects of popular worship. We
accordingly find that the Vedas consist largely of hymns addressed to these
These powers were personified, and soon it came to be
generally believed that a personal being presided over each. And these
imaginary beings were the objects of popular worship.
While the mass of the people really believed in beings
that were "called gods" (1 Cor. viii. 5), many of the more enlightened were
monotheists, and more were pantheists. The early introduction and wide
dissemination of pantheism are proved frcm the fact that it lies at the
foundation of Brahminism and Buddhism, the religions of the larger part of the
human race for thousands of years.
There can be little doubt that when the Aryan tribes
entered India, fifteen hundred or two thousand years before Christ, pantheism
was their established belief. The unknown, and "unconditioned" infinite Being,
reveals itself according to the Hindu system, as Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, --
that is, as Creator, Preserver, and Restorer. These were not persons, but
modes of manifestation. It was in this form that the idea of an endless
process of development of the infinite into the finite, and of the return of
the finite into the infinite, was expressed. It was from this pantheistic
principle that the endless polytheism of the Hindus naturally developed
itself; and this determined the character of their whole religion. As all that
is, is only a manifestation of God, everything remarkable, and especially the
appearance of any remarkable man, was regarded as an "avatar," or incarnation
of God, in one or other of his modes of manifestation, as Brahma, Vishnu, or
Shiva. And as evil is as actual as good, the one is as much a manifestation,
or, modus existendi, of the infinite Being as the other. And hence
there are evil gods as well as good. In no part of the world has pantheism had
such a field for development as in India, and nowhere has it brought forth its
legitimate effects in such a portentous amount of evil. Nowhere has polytheism
been carried to such revolting extremes.
Among the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans polytheism
assumed a form determined by the character of the people. The Greeks rendered
it bright, beautiful, and sensual; the Romans were more decorous and sedate.
Among barbarous nations it has assumed forms much more simple, and in many
cases more rational.
In the Bible the gods of the heathen are declared to be
"vanity," and "nothing," mere imaginary beings, without power either to hurt
or to save. (Jer. ii. 28; Isa. xli. 29; xlii. 17; Ps. cvi. 28.) They arc also
represented as daimo,nia (1 Cor. x. 20).
This word may express either an imaginary, or a real existence. The objects of
heathen worship are called gods, even when declared to be nonentities. So they
may be called "demons," without intending to teach that they are "spirits." As
the word, however, generally in the New Testament, does mean "evil spirits,"
it is perhaps better to take it in that sense when it refers to the objects of
heathen worship. This is not inconsistent with the doctrine that the gods of
the heathen are "vanities and lies." They are not what men take them to be.
They have no divine power. Paul says of the heathen before their conversion, "evdouleu,sate
toij fu,s uh. o=si qeoi/j" (Gal. iv. 8). The prevalence and persistency
of Polytheism show that it must have a strong affinity with fallen human
nature. Although, except in pantheism, it has no philosophical basis, it
constitutes a formidable obstacle to the progress of true religion in the
Hylozoism, from u[lh,
matter, and zwh,, life, is properly the
doctrine that matter is endued with life. And this is the form in which the
doctrine was held by many of its advocates. All matter, and every particle of
matter, besides its physical properties, has a principle of life in itself,
which precludes the necessity of assuming any other cause for the phenomena of
life exhibited in the world. In this form Hylozoism does not differ from
Most commonly, however, the term is used to designate a
system which admits a distinction between mind and matter, but considers them
as intimately and inseparably united, as the soul and body in man. God,
according to this view, is the soul of the world; an intelligent power
everywhere present, to which are to be referred all the manifestations of
design in the external world, and all the activity of the human soul. The
relation, however, of the soul to the body, is a very imperfect illustration
of the relation of God to the world according to the hylozoistic system. The
soul is really exterior to the body, and independent of it, at least for its
existence and activity. It is not the life of the body. It neither fashions
nor preserves it. It is not even conscious of the vital activity by which the
body is developed and sustained. Whereas according to the hylozoistic theory,
the soul of the world is its plastic principle, the inward source of all its
organizations and of all its activities.
The leading principles of this theory as developed by
the Stoics are, (1.) There are two constituent principles of the universe, one
active, the other passive. The passive principle is matter, without form and
without properties, i. e., inert. The active principle is mind,
dwelling in matter its organizing formative power, i. e., God. (2.) The
universe is therefore to be viewed under three aspects: (a.) As the
all-forming power; the natura naturans, or,
h`fu,sij tecnikh,. (b.) The world as formed by this living, inward
principle. The living ko,smoj, or natura
naturata. (c.) The identity of the two, as they form one whole. It is only
by an act of the mind that the one is distinguished from the other. Therefore
the world, as including both, or as the identity of both, is formed with the
greatest wisdom, and by a necessary process, for the laws of nature are the
laws of reason. Cicero,4 expounding this
system, says, "Natura, non artificiosa solum, sed plane artifex ab eodem
Zenone dicitur; consultrix, et provida utilitatum opportunitatumque omnium.
Censet [Zeno] enim artis maxime proprium est creare et gignere, quodque in
operibus nostrarum artium manus officiet id multo artificiosius naturam
(3.) The universe, therefore (The All-one), of which
God is the soul and Nature the body, is living, immortal, rational, and
perfect (zw/on avqa,naton,
logiko.n, te,leion). God, as the
controlling, operative principle in all things, acts according to necessary
although rational laws. (4.) The souls of men are of the same nature with the
soul of the world, but as individual existences, passing away when the life of
the body ceases. (5.) The highest end of life is virtue; and virtue is living
according to reason.5
This system in one of its forms is nearly identical
with Materialism, and in the other with Pantheism. There is no personal God to
whom we are responsible, no freedom of the will; therefore, no sin, and no
conscious existence after death.
§ 4. Materialism.
Materialism is that system which ignores the
distinction between matter and mind, and refers all the phenomena of the
world, whether physical, vital, or mental, to the functions of matter.
A. The Doctrine of Epicurus.
Epicurus taught, (1.) That as ex nihilo nihil fit,
the universe has always existed, and must continue to exist forever. (2.)
That space, and the number of bodies which it contains, are infinite. (3.)
These bodies are of two kinds, simple and compound. The simple bodies are
atoms possessing form, magnitude, and weight. They are indivisible,
unalterable, and indestructible. This is also the doctrine of modern science.
says, "A particle of oxygen is ever a particle of oxygen, -- nothing can in
the least wear it. If it enters into combination, and disappears as oxygen; if
it pass through a thousand combinations, animal, vegetable, and mineral -- if
it lie hid for a thousand years, and then be evolved, it is oxygen with its
first qualities, neither more nor less. It has all its original force, and
only that; the amount of force which it disengaged when hiding itself, has
again to be employed in a reverse direction when it is set at liberty." (4.)
These atoms have their peculiar forces, distinct from their mere gravity.
This, too, is the doctrine of modern science. It is included in what Faraday
says in the passage just quoted. "Molecules," say the scientific men of our
day, "have been endowed with forces which give rise to various chemical
qualities, and these never change either in their nature or in their amount."7
(5.) Epicurus taught that the quantity of matter, and of course the amount of
force in the world, is always the same. Neither can be increased or
diminished. (6.) The atoms, of which the number is infinite, move through
space with incredible velocity under the guidance of necessary physical laws.
(7.) By the combination of these atoms under the influence of gravity and
other physical forces, the universe was formed, and became a cosmos. This is
very nearly the nebular hypothesis. (8.) The soul is material; or, in other
words, all mental phenomena are due to the properties of matter. This, also,
is proclaimed as the last result of modern science. (9.) The soul, of course,
ceases to exist when the body dies; i. e., as death is the cessation of
the vital, so it is also of the intellectual functions of the individual. The
atoms of which the man is composed, with the forces which belong to them,
continue to exist, and may enter into the composition of other men. But the
man, as an individual, ceases to exist. This, almost in so many words, is the
avowed doctrine of many physicists of the present day. (10.) Sensation is for
us the only source of knowledge. By remembering former sensations, we form
ideas, and by the combination of ideas we form judgments. Almost the very
words of Hume, and the doctrine of the whole school of which he is the
representative. (11.) As Epicurus held that nothing is incorporeal except a
vacuum, he of necessity includes all the forms of existence under the head of
matter. As there is no mind or spirit, there is no God, and no moral law.
Virtue is only a prudent regard to happiness. In a certain sense he admitted
the existence of God's, but they were corporeal beings having no concern with
the affairs of men.8
A recent German writer,9
in Herzog's "Encyklopadie," under the head of Materialismus, says that
notwithstanding the great progress of modern science, the Materialists of our
day have not advanced a step upon the system of Epicurus. That system,
probably owing to the dominant influence of the higher philosophy of Plato and
Aristotle, did not exert much influence on the ancient mind, or on the
progress of human thought. It was not until modern times that Materialism
gained any great power as a philosophical theory.
B. Materialism in England during
the Eighteenth Century.
Hobbes (1588-1679) anticipated the movement towards
Materialism which manifested itself in England during the last century "He
made sensation the real basis of every mental operations the sole originator
of our ideas, the sole medium and test of truth.10
As, therefore, we can perceive through sensation only what is material, he
concluded that matter is the only reality, and that whatever exists to us must
accordingly be a part of the material universe. The whole process of
scientific investigation was thus reduced to the doctrine of bodies, beyond
which, he maintained, there can be no knowledge whatever accessible to the
human mind. This knowledge, however, does not refer simply to the existence of
bodies, but also to their changes, of all which changes the ultimate principle
is motion. The doctrine of bodies, therefore, includes the knowledge of all
phenomena in relation to their probable causes; and of all possible causes as
known from their observed effects. . . . The mind itself he viewed as wholly
material, the phenomena of consciousness being the direct result of our
organization. The one great and fundamental fact of mind is sensation, which
is nothing more or less than the effect of material objects around us, exerted
by means of pressure or impact upon that material organization which we term
the mind."11 Thus it appears that Hobbes
anticipated the great result of modern science, that all force may be resolved
The introduction of Materialism into England during the
last century is generally attributed to the influence of Locke's philosophy.
Locke himself was far from being a Materialist, and the advocates of his
system strenuously insist that his principles have no legitimate tendency to
obliterate the distinction between matter and mind. Locke, however, in
combating the doctrine of "innate ideas," in the sense of abstract truths,
seemed to deny that the mind was so constituted as to apprehend truth
intuitively, and beyond the range of experience. He compared the mind to a "tabula
rasa." This figure suggests that all our knowledge is from without,
as the slate contributes nothing to the matter written upon it. He defined
ideas to be "anything with which the mind is immediately occupied when we
think." The origin of these ideas, he said, was sensation and reflection. If
by reflection he meant the observation of the phenomena of the mind, his
theory is one thing. If it mean the process of recalling, combining,
analyzing, and otherwise elaborating the impressions upon us from without, his
theory is another. Probably Locke himself, and certainly many of his
followers, took it in the latter sense; and thus the two sources of ideas, or
of knowledge, are reduced to one, and that one is sensation. But as sensation
can give us the knowledge only of what is external and material, the theory in
this form seemed to leave no room for the higher ideas of eternal and
necessary truths. Locke attempts to account for our ideas, of time, space,
infinity, cause, and even of right and wrong, from observation, i. e.,
from observation of what is without, or from impressions made upon our senses.
It is a common criticism upon Locke's great work, that in it he does not
distinguish between the occasion and the source of our ideas. Our experience
furnishes the occasion, and it may be the necessary condition, of waking the
mind to the perception not only of the fact experienced, but also of the
intuitive apprehension of the universal and necessary truth which the fact
involves. If we did not see effects produced around us, and did not ourselves
exercise efficiency, we might never have the idea of causation; but the
conviction that every effect must have a cause is an intuitive judgment, which
experience can neither produce nor limit. It is not from the observed tendency
of some acts to produce happiness, and of others to produce misery, that we
get the idea of the essential distinction between right and wrong; but from
the constitution of the mind. Although Locke, and many of his disciples, were
satisfied with his method of accounting for our ideas of God, of spirit, and
of moral and religious truths, yet it is also certain that many of his
followers felt justified on his principles to discard them.
Hartley was a physician and a physiologist. Physiology
and psychology have intimate relations. It is perhaps natural that those who
devote themselves specially to the former, should make little of the latter.
It is the marked characteristic of our age, so far as physicists are
concerned, that it tries to merge psychology entirely into physiology. Hartley
adopted the principles of Locke, and endeavored to show how it is that
external things produce sensation and thought. This he did by his theory of
vibrations. "The objects of the external world affect in some manner the
extreme ends of the nerves, which spread from the brain as centre to every
part of the body. This affection produces a vibration, which is continued
along the nerve by the agency of an elastic 'ether, until it reaches the
brain, where it constitutes the phenomenon we term sensation. When a sensation
has been experienced several times, the vibratory movement from which it
arises acquires the tendency to repeat itself spontaneously, even when the
external object is not present. These repetitions or relics of sensations are
ideas, which in their turn possess the property of recalling each other by
virtue of mutual association among themselves."12
This doctrine of association of ideas is the most important part of his
system. He insists principally on the following law: "An idea is sometimes
associated with another through the medium of a third; but in process of time
this intermediate idea may be disregarded, and yet the connection between the
first and third may, notwithstanding, remain. Thus the idea of pleasure, which
is so indissolubly connected with money, arises from the conveniences which it
is able to procure, while in the mind of the miser the conveniences are lost
sight of, and the very possession of the money itself is regarded as
containing the whole enjoyment. In this way Hartley accounts for almost all
the emotions and passions of the human mind. The domestic affections, for
instance, arise from the transference of the pleasure derived from parental
kindness to the parent itself; the social and patriotic affections from
transferring the pleasures of society to the country which affords them; in
like manner, also, the moral and religious affections, the love of virtue and
the love of God, arise from the pleasures connected with virtuous and pious
conduct, being transferred to the law of action, or to the supreme Lawgiver,
from whom these pleasures have emanated."13
The connection of this theory with Materialism is obvious. If vibrations of
the brain constitute sensation, and if the relics, or spontaneous repetitions
of these vibrations constitute thought and feeling, then all mental and moral
acts are mere affections of our material organism. It is also obvious that,
according to this theory, there is no more freedom in volition than in
sensation. The former is a mode, or relic of the latter. Although this
tendency of his system was undeniable, and although his successors drew these
conclusions from his principles, Hartley himself was not a Materialist. He was
a very religious man. It is not at all uncommon for a man to hold a
speculative theory inconsistent with his faith.
following criticism of Hartley's doctrine from the "Edinburgh Review": "There
may be," says the reviewer, "little shakings in the brain, for anything we
know, and there may even be shakings of a different kind accompanying every
act of thought or perception ; -- but that the shakings themselves are the
thought or perception, we are so far from admitting, that we find it
absolutely impossible to comprehend what is meant by the assertion. The
shakings are certain throbbings, vibrations, or stirrings, in a whitish,
half-fluid substance like custard, which we might see perhaps, or feel, if we
had eyes and fingers sufficiently small or fine for the office. But what
should we see or feel, upon the supposition that we could detect by our
senses, everything that actually took place in the brain? We should see the
particles of this substance change their place a little, move a little up or
down, to the right or the left, round about or zigzag, or in some other course
or direction. This is all that we could see, if Dr. Hartley's conjecture were
proved by actual observation; because this is all that exists in motion,
according to our conception of it, and all that we mean when we say that there
is motion in any substance. Is it intelligible, then, to say, that this
motion, the whole of which we see and comprehend, is thought and feeling, and
that thought and feeling will exist, wherever we can excite a similar motion
in a similar substance? -- In our humble apprehension the proposition is not
so much false, as utterly unmeaning and incomprehensible."15
If history repeats itself, so does philosophy. What the
"Edinburgh Review" said of Hartley nearly seventy years ago, Professor Tyndall
says of the Materialists of our day. "The passage from the physics of the
brain to the corresponding facts of consciousness is unthinkable. Granted that
a definite thought and a definite molecular action in the brain occur
simultaneously; we do not possess the intellectual organ, nor apparently any
rudiment of the organ, which would enable us to pass, by a process of
reasoning, from the one phenomenon to the other. They appear together, but we
do not know why. Were our minds and senses so expanded, strengthened, and
illuminated, as to enable us to see and feel the very molecules of the brain;
were we capable of following all their motions, all their grouping, all their
electric discharges, if such there be; and were we intimately acquainted with
the corresponding states of thought and feeling, we should probably be as far
as ever from the solution of the problem. How are these physical processes
connected with the facts of consciousness? The chasm between the two classes
of phenomena would still remain intellectually impassable. Let the
consciousness of lose, for example, be associated with a right-handed spiral
motion of the molecules of the brain, and the consciousness of hate with a
left-handed spiral motion. We should then know when we love that the motion is
in one direction, and when we hate that the motion is in the other, but the
'Why?' would still remain unanswered. In affirming that the growth of the body
is mechanical, and that thought, as exercised by us, has its correlative in
the physics of the brain, I think the position of the 'Materialist' is stated
as far as that position is a tenable one. I think the Materialist will be able
finally to maintain this position against all attacks; but I do not think, as
the human mind is at present constituted, that he can pass beyond it. I do not
think he is entitled to say that his molecular grouping and his molecular
motions explain everything. In reality they explain nothing."16
Priestley owes his permanent reputation to his
important discoveries in the department of physical science. He was, however,
prominent during his life for the part he took in philosophical and
theological controversies. Devoted to science, the senses were for him the
great sources of knowledge; all others, except supernaturaI revelation which
he admitted, he distrusted. He adopted with enthusiasm the theory of Hartley
which resolved thought and feeling into vibrations of the brain. Hartley, he
said, had done more for the doctrine of mind than Newton accomplished for the
theory of the material universe. He did not hesitate to avow himnself a
Materialist. " Priestley," says Morell,17
"rested the truth of Materialism upon two deductions. The first was, that
thought and sensation are essentially the samne thing -- that the whole
variety of our ideas, however abstract and refined they may become, are,
nevertheless, but modifications of the sensational faculty. . . . The second
deduction was, that all sensation, and, consequently, all thought, arises from
the affections of our material organization, and therefore consists entirely
in the motion of the material particles of which the nerves and brain are
composed." He was a necessitarian, and in morals a utilitarian. Believing,
however, in God and in divine revelation, he admitted a future state of
existence. As the Bible teaches the doctrine of the resurrection of the body,
Priestley believed that man would be restored to conscious existence when that
event occurred. His principal works bearing on this subject are: "Examination
of Reid, Beattie, and Oswald," "Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity
Explained," "Disquisitions relating to Matter and Spirit," and "Hartley's
Theory of the Human Mind, with Essays relating to the subject of it."
Hume is regarded as their master by the most advanced
physicists of the modern scientific school, so far as their general principles
and method of philosophizing are concerned. He was neither a Materialist nor
an Idealist, but rather a Nihilist, as his great object was to show that no
certainty could be attained in any department of knowledge. He affirmed
nothing and denied everything. Such knowledge as we have comes fromn
sensation, therefore, he maintained that as we have no sensation of
efficiency, we can have no idea of it, and no evidence of its reality. A cause
is not that which produces an effect, but simply that which uniformly precedes
it. Consequently, anything can be the cause of anything. Again, as we have no
perception by the senses of substance, there can be no such thing. This
applies to mind as well as matter. Nothing exists to us but our thoughts and
feelings. We are "nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions,
which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in perpetual
flux and movement."
C. Materialism in Prance
during the Eighteenth Century.
The sensational philosophy, as it is called, found a
much more congenial soil in France than in England. Locke's "Essay" was
translated into the language of that country and made the subject of comments
and lectures. His leading principles were adopted without the limitations and
qualifications with which he had presented them, and conclusions drawn from
them which Locke would have been the first to repudiate.
Condillac, one of the first and most influential of the
disciples of Locke, in his first work, 'Essai sur l'Origine des Connaissances
Humaines," differed comparatively little from the English philosopher. But in
his "Traite des Sensations," he virtually discarded "reflection" as a source
of our ideas, and regarded all thoughts, feelings, and volitions as
"transformed sensations." "While he answered the question concerning the
relation between the soul and body, by assuming their identity, he took
theistic ground in accounting for the origin of the world. This middle ground
was occupied also, at least ostensibly, by Diderot and D'Alembert in the
French "Encyclopedie," who, notwithstanding their sensational theory as to the
source of our knowledge, and their making happiness the ground of morals and
end of life, not only maintained theistic principles, but insisted on the
necessity of a divine revelation. This, however, was probably more a matter of
prudence than of conviction."18
These, however, were only the first steps. The extreme
of materialistic atheism was soon reached and avowed. La Mettrie published his
"L'Histoire Naturelle de l'Ame" in 1745, his "L'Homme Machine," the same year,
and his "L'Homme Plante," in 1749. Helvetius
published his work "De l'Esprit" in 1758. His book entitled "De l'Homme" was
published after his death. The climax was reached by Baron d'Holbach in his "Syste.me
de la Nature," in which Materialism, fatalism, and atheism were openly avowed.
According to this system matter and motion are eternal; thought is an
agitation of the nerves; the soul the result of our corporeal organization;
the will the strongest sensation; the ground of morals a regard to our own
happiness. There is no freedom, no morality, no future existence, no God. When
these principles got hold of the popular mind, then came the end.
Comte, the author of the "Positive Philosophy," was
born in 1798, and died in 1859. The greater part of his life was passed in
poverty and neglect. His only occupation was teaching. Ten years were devoted
to the preparation of a course of lectures on philosophy which secured him
wealth and fame. He called his system "Philosophie Positive," because it
purported "to assume nothing beyond the content of observed facts."
The fundamental principle of the "Positive Philosophy"
is the one so often referred to, namely, that the senses are the only source
of our knowledge, hence nothing exists but matter. There is no mind distinct
from matter; no such thing as efficiency; no causes, whether first or final;
no God; no future state of existence for man. Theology and psychology are,
therefore, banished from the domain of science. Science is solely occupied in
the observation of facts, and in deducing from them the laws by which they are
determined. These laws, however, are not forces operating in a uniform manner,
but simply statements of the actual order in the sequence of events. This
sequence is not only uniform but necessary. Our business is simply to
ascertain what it is. The only method by which this can be done is
observation. This task is much easier in some departments than in others; for
in some the facts to be observed are less numerous and less complicated. In
mathematics and astronomy the facts are all of one kind; whereas in physiology
and sociology they are of very different kinds, and vastly more complicated.
The same rule, however, applies to all departments. In all, the sequence of
events is uniform and necessary; and if we can only, by a sufficient induction
of facts, ascertain what the law of sequence is, we shall be able to predict
the future as certainly in one department as in another. The astronoomer can
tell what will be the position of the stars and planets a century hence. The
Positivist will he able to foretell with equal certainty how a man will act in
any given circumstances, and what will be the progress and state of society in
time to come.
It follows, therefore, according to the Positive
Philosophy, (1.) That all our knowledge is confined to physical phenomena.
(2.) That all we can know of such phenomena is, that they are, and the
relations in which they stand to each other. (3.) That these relations are all
included under the heads of sequence and resemblance. (4.) These relations
constitute the laws of nature, and are invariable. (5.) As everything that
exists is material, these laws, or "invariable relations of succession and
resemblance," control all the phenomena of mind, as we call it, and of social
life and of history, as well as those of nature, in the common sense of that
word. (6.) As everything is included in the department of physics, everything
is controlled by physical laws, and there is no more freedom in human acts
than in the motions of the stars; and, therefore, the one can be predicted
with the same certainty as the other.
The following quotations from the "Philosophie
Positive," "freely translated and condensed by Harriet Martineau,"19
include all the points above mentioned.
"The first characteristic of the Positive Philosophy is
that it regards all phenomena as subjected to invariable natural laws. Our
business is, -- seeing how vain is any research into what are called causes,
whether first or final, -- to pursue an accurate discovery of these laws, with
a view to reducing them to the smallest possible number."20
"Our positive method of connecting phenomena is by one or other of two
relations, --- that of similitude or that of succession, -- the mere
fact of such resemblance or succession being all that we can pretend to know;
and all that we need to know; for this perception comprehends all knowledge
which consists in elucidating something by something else, -- in now
explaining, and now foreseeing certain phenomena, by means of the resemblance
or sequence of other phenomena."21
"If we regard these functions [of the mind] under their statical aspect,--
that is, if we consider the conditions under which they exist, -- we must
determine the organic circumstances of the case, which inquiry involves it
with anatomy and physiology. If we look at the dynamic aspect, we have to
study simply the exercise and results of the intellectual powers of the human
race, which is neither more nor less than the general object of the Positive
Comte is obliged to use the word "power," and to speak
of its exercise, yet all his philosophy denies the existence of any such thing
as efficiency. The laws which determine events are nothing more than facts of
uniform sequence. According to the passage just quoted, one department of
psychology (the statical) belongs to anatomy and physiology; the other (the
dynamic) to the observed sequence of certain facts called intellectual. The
sequence is invariable. The intervention of will is necessarily excluded,
because philosophy, at least Positivism, is nothing unless it secures the
power of prevision. But free acts cannot be foreseen by man. Hence Comte says,
"The arbitrary can never be excluded while political phenomena are referred to
will, divine or human, instead of being connected with invariable natural
laws."23 "If social events were always
exposed to disturbance by the accidental intervention of the legislator, human
or divine, no scientific prevision of them would be possible."24
Intellectual exercises being regarded as a function of
the brain, Comte says, "The positive theory of the intellectual and affective
functions is therefore henceforth unchangeably regarded as consisting in the
study, both rational and experimental, of the various phenomena of internal
sensibility, which are proper to the cerebral ganglia, apart from their
external apparatus. It is, therefore, simply a prolongation of animal
physiology, properly so called, when this is extended so as to include the
fundamental and ultimate attributes."25
Comte, being an ardent phrenologist, founded one of the
arguments for his system on the organization of the brain; but his great
dependence was upon the law of human development. He admitted no essential
difference between man and irrational animals. The superiority of man is only
in the degree of his intelligence, which is due to his better physical
organization. According to Comte, the whole human race, and every individual
man, passes through three distinct stages, which he calls the theological, the
metaphysical, and the positive. During the first stage all events are referred
to supernatural causes. In the first part of this stage of their progress, men
were fetich-worshippers; then they gradually became polytheists, and
monotheists. This he endeavors to prove historically in regard to the Greeks,
the Romans, and the inhabitants of western Europe. As men outgrew the fetich
age, so they outgrew the polytheistic and monotheistic forms of belief. That
is, they ceased to refer phenomena to the agency of supernatural beings.
During the metaphysical stage, phenomena are referred
to unseen causes, to occult powers, or forces, that is, to something which the
senses cannot detect. This also has passed away, and men have come to
recognize the great fact that there are no spiritual agencies in the universe,
no efficient causes, nothing but events to be arranged according to the laws
of sequence and resemblance. The order of events is invariable and necessary.
What it has been in the past, it will be in the future. As this is the law of
the development of the race collectively, so it is of the individual man.
Every one, in his progress from infancy to manhood, passes through these
several stages, the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive. We first
believe in supernatural agencies (witches, ghosts, souls, angels, etc.); then
in occult causes; then only in facts discerned by the senses. The history of
the race and the experience of the individual man are thus made the broad and
sure foundation of the Positive Philosophy.
1. Considering that the advocates of this philosophy
are a mere handful; considering that nine hundred and ninety-nine millions of
the thousand millions of our race still believe in God, it is a rather violent
assumption that mankind have reached the stage of Positivism. It may be
readily admitted that the progress of science and of Christianity has banished
alchemy, astrology, witchcraft, and necromancy from enlightened portions of
our race, but it has had a scarcely discernible effect in banishing belief in
mind as distinct from matter, or in efficient causes, or in God. Admitting,
therefore, the principle of the argument to be correct, the conclusion arrived
at is contradicted by facts.
2. The principle itself, however, is a groundless
assumption. There has been no such development of the race, and there is no
such development of the individual man, as the argument supposes. Much less is
it true, as Comte maintains, that these several methods of dealing with
phenomena are antagonistic and mutually exclusive; that if we believe in
spiritual agents, we cannot believe in unseen, metaphysical causes; and that
if we believe in the latter we cannot believe in the former. The fact is, the
great mass of mankind, educated and uneducated, believe in both. They believe
in God and mind, as well as in occult causes, such as electricity, magnetism,
and other physical forces; which, in Comte's sense of the word, are
With regard to this assumed law of progress, Prof.
Huxley, who is as completely emancipated from the trammels of authority as any
man of science now living, says, in the first place, that Comte contradicts
himself as to this fundamental principle. In proof he quotes a long passage
from the "Philosophie Positive," in which Comte teaches, -- "(a.) As a matter
of fact, the human intellect has not been invariably subjected to the
law of the three states, and, therefore, the necessity of the law cannot
be demonstrable a priori. (b.) Much of our knowledge of all
kinds has not passed through the three states, and more particularly,
as M. Comte is careful to point out, not through the first. (c.)
The positive state has more or less coexisted with the theological, from the
dawn of human intelligence. And, by way of completing the series of
contradictions, the assertion that the three states are 'essentially different
and even radically opposed,' is met a little lower on the same page by the
declaration that 'the metaphysical state is, at bottom, nothing but a simple
general modification of the first.'" "Men of science," he adds, "are not in
the habit of paying much attention to 'laws' stated in this fashion."26
After showing that the individual man does not pass
through these several states, Prof. Huxley says, "What is true of the
individual is, mutatis mutandis, true of the intellectual
development of the species. It is absurd to say of men in a state of primitive
savagery, that all their conceptions are in a theological state. Nine tenths
of them are eminently realistic, and as 'positive' as ignorance and narrowness
can make them."27
Besides, it is not true that the race of men now
existing on the earth, were in their primitive state fetich-worshippers, or
that they gradually rose to polytheism and monotheism. The reverse is true.
Not only revelation, but all history and tradition, go to show that the
primitive state of our race was its highest state, at least so far as religion
is concerned. Monotheism was the earliest form of religion among men. To that
succeeded nature-worship and pantheism, and to that polytheism. It is a
historical fact that monotheism was not reached by a process of development.
Monotheism was first; it gradually perished from among men, except as
miraculously preserved among the Hebrews, and from them diffused through the
medium of, or rather, in the form of, Christianity. It extends nowhere beyond
the influence, direct or indirect, of the supernatural revelation contained in
the Bible. This is a fact which scientific men should not overlook in their
3. Comte was guilty of the unfairness of confining his
survey to a small portion of the nations of the earth; and that the portion
too which had been brought under the influence of Christianity. If the law
which he sought to establish be universal and necessary, it must have operated
from the beginning in India and China as well as in Europe. The millions of
those regions have not reached the monotheistic, much less the metaphysical,
and still less the positive stage of development. India especially furnishes a
striking refutation of this theory. The Hindus are a highly intellectual race.
Their language and literature are on a par with those of Greece and Rome.
Their philosophers, nearly three thousand years ago, anticipated the highest
results reached by thie Schellings and Hegels of our day. Yet of all the
nations of the earth the Hindus are the least materialistic, or positive, in
their views of nature. With them the supernatural or spiritual is alone real.
The Hindus, therefore, cannot be subject to that universal and necessary law
of development which is assumed as the foundation of the Positive Philosophy.
4. It is of course presumptuous and idle to attempt to
reason men out of their senses, or to convince them that what their very
nature teaches them is true, is utterly false and untrustworthy. This,
however, Comte not only attempts, but his whole system is rounded on the
assumption that our nature is a delusion and a lie. That is, it is founded on
the assumption that intuitive truths are false. It is intuitively true that we
are free agents. This Comte denies. It is intuitively true that there is a
specific and essential difference between right and wrong. This is denied. It
is intuitively true that every effect has an efficient cause. This too is
denied. It is intuitively true that there is a God to whom men are responsible
for their character and conduct. This also is denied. Had all the intellect
and all the knowledge ever possessed by men and angels been concentrated in
the person of Comte, it had still been folly in him to attempt to found a
system involving the denial of such truths as these. The Christian is not
afraid to say one thing more. It is intuitively true, to all who have eyes to
see, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that his gospel is the wisdom of
God and the power of God unto salvation, and that it is absolutely impossible
that any theory which is opposed to these divine intuitions can be true.
Another illustration of the presumptuous character of
this philosophy is found in what it teaches concerning Sociology. Scientific
men of all countries have long been laboriously engaged in making
meteorological observations, and yet such are the number and complexity of the
causes which determine the state of the weather, that no man is able to
predict how the wind will blow forty-eight hours, much less, a year, in
advance. The causes which determine human action in the individual and in
society, are far more complex and inscrutable than those which determine the
state of the weather. Yet Comte assumes to have reduced Sociology to a
science, vying with mathematics in certainty. "I will venture to say," is his
confident assertion, "that Sociological science, though only established by
this book, already rivals mathematical science itself, not in precision and
fecundity, but in positivity and rationality."28
Practical Applications of
The practical applications of this philosophy are very
serious. Positivism claims the right of absolute and universal control over
all human affairs; over education, politics, social organization, and
religion. As the progress of science has banished all liberty of opinion or of
action from the departments of mathematics and astronomy, so it must banish it
from every other department of human thought and activity. Speaking of liberty
of conscience, Comte says: "Negative as we now see this dogma to be,
signifying release from old authority, while waiting for the necessity of
positive science, the absolute character supposed to reside in it gave it
energy to fulfil its revolutionary destination. . . . This dogma can never be
an organic principle; and, moreover, it constitutes an obstacle to
reorganization, now that its activity is no longer absorbed by the demolition
of the old political order. . . . Can it be supposed," he asks, "that the
most important and the most delicate conceptions, and those which by their
complexity are accessible to only a small number of highly prepared
understandings, are to be abandoned to the arbitrary and variable decisions of
the least competent minds."29
This argument is conclusive. If social life, the acts of men, are as much and
as certainly determined by physical laws as material changes, those who have
ascertained these laws are entitled to control all other men. As it would be
preposterous to allow men to build our houses or navigate our ships who would
not obey the laws of nature, so it would be absurd, on this hypothesis, to
allow those ignorant of social laws to govern society. Comte avows his
admiration, not of popish doctrine, but of the papal organization, which in
the new order of things he proposes to continue. "Papal infallibility," he
"was a great intellectual and social advance." Prof. Huxley pithily
characterizes Positivism, in this regard, as "Catholicism minus
Religion is not excepted from this absolute subjection.
The Positive Philosophy, as it denies the existence of the soul and the being
of God, would seem to leave no place for religion. Comte placed on the
title-page of his "Discours sur l'Ensemble du Positivisime," the announcement
that his design was to reorganize society "sans Dieu ni Roi." Nevertheless, as
men must have, as they always have had, some religion, a philosophy which
aspired to absolute dominion over all the departments of human life, must make
some provision for this universal, although imaginary, necessity of our
nature. Comte, therefore, published a catechism of religious belief, and a
ritual of religious worship. The object of worship was to be the aggregate of
humanity formed by the absorption of the successive generations of men. Every
great man has two forms of existence: one conscious before death; the other
after death, unconscious, in the hearts and intellects of other men. The God
of the Positive Philosophy is, therefore, the aggregate of the memories of
great men. "Undoubtedly," says Huxley, "'Dieu' disappeared, but the 'Noveau
Grand-Etre Supreme,' a gigantic fetich, turned out bran-new by M. Comte's own
hands, reigned in his stead. 'Roi' also was not heard of; but in his place I
found a minutely-defined social organization, which, if it ever came into
practice, would exert a despotic authority such as no sultan has rivalled, and
no Puritan presbytery in its palmiest days could hope to excel. While, as for
the 'culte syste,matique de l'humnanite,,'
I, in my blindness, could not distinguish it from sheer Popery,
with M. Comte in the chair of St. Peter, and the names of most of the saints
There are, however, to be two forms of worship, the one
private, the other public. The special object of the former is woman, because
she is the most perfect representative of humanity. As "Mother, she excites
veneration; as wife, affection, and as daughter, kindness. To excite these
sentiments, ideal woman is to be worshipped. Humanity, or the memory of great
men, is the object for public worship, regarding which minute details are
given. The new religion is to have ten sacraments, a peculiar architecture,
and an extended hierarchy, under the control of one absolute High Priest. Such
is the system which Comte was allowed to believe would supersede the gospel of
Jesus Christ. It has already almost passed away. Among the advanced men of
science in England there is scarcely one so poor as to do it reverence.32
E. Scientific Materialism.
The leading principles of the modern scientific form of
Materialism are embraced, by some at least, who do not consider themselves
Materialists. They, however, adopt the language of the system, and avow
principles which, in their generally accepted meaning, constitute what in the
history of human thought is known as Materialism.
The most important of these principles are the
following, many of which, however, are not peculiar to the system.
1. Matter and force are inseparable. Wherever there is
matter there is force, and wherever there is force there is matter. This
proposition, at least in the first instance, is to be understood only of
2. All physical forces, such as light, heat, chemical
affinities, electricity, magnetism, etc., etc., are convertible. Light may be
converted into heat, and heat into light; either into electricity, and
electricity into either; and so through the whole range. This is what is
called the correlation of forces. Count Rumford, in a communication to the
Royal Society of London, in 1798, satisfied that the heat generated in boring
cannon could not be otherwise accounted for, advanced the doctrine that heat
is a peculiar mode of motion. Since then the doctrine has been generalized,
and it is now the commonly received opinion that all the physical forces are
resolvable into motion. This generalization, however, is not accepted by all
scientific men. They find it impossible to conceive how gravitation, which
acts instantaneously at all distances, can he motion. It is simply a force
which tends to produce motion.
3. This motion, however, is not of a fluid, or ether,
or any other imponderable substance peculiar to each particular kind of force.
As sound consists in, or rather is produced by the vibrations ot the
atmosphere, it was natural to assume that light was the undulation of one
medium, heat of another, electricity of another. This theory is discarded. The
motion intended is motion in the molecules of the matter affected. When iron
is heated, nothing is added to it. There is no imponderable substance called
caloric. All that occurs is, that the molecules of the iron are agitated in a
particular way. If the iron be magnetized, it is only a different kind of
motion imparted to its constituent atoms. So of all other kinds of force.
When, however, light or heat is radiated from a distant object, the motion
which constitutes these forces must be transmitted through some medium. For
where there is motion, there must be something that moves. And, therefore, if
heat be motion in the molecules of the sun, that heat could not reach us
unless there was some material medium between us and the sun.
4. The physical forces are not only convertible one
into any of the others, but they are quantitively equivalent; that is, a given
amount of heat will produce an amount of light or of electricity, or of any
other force, which, if it could be utilized, would reproduce precisely that
amount of heat. A cannon-ball, when it impinges on a target, produces heat
enough to give it the velocity which it had at the moment of contact. A
certain amount of light and heat derived from the sun is expended in the
formation of a certain amount of wood or coal; that amount of wood or coal
will furnish precisely the amount of light and heat which was expended in its
production. Count Rumford experimented to determine the quantitive relation
between motion and heat, and arrived at very nearly the same conclusion as
that reached by Dr. Joule of Manchester, England, who found that one pound of
matter, falling seven hundred and seventy-two feet, will produce heat enough
to raise the temperature of a pound of water one degree of Fahrenheit. This is
now received as the unit of force.
5. Force is indestructible. It is never increased or
diminished What is lost in one form is taken up in another. Forces are,
therefore, indestructible, convertible, and imponderable agents. This
correlation and conservation of forces is declared by Dr. Carpenter, the
eminent physiologist, to be "now amongst the best established generalizations
of physical science," and the greatest scientific triumph of the age;
"thanks," as he says, "to the labors of Faraday, Grove, Joule, Thomson, and
Tyndall, to say nothing of those of Helmholtz and other distingtlished
Correlation of the Physical and
So long as this doctrine of the correlation of forces
is confined to the department of physics, it is a purely scientific question,
in which the theologian has no special interest. Unhappily it has not been
thus confined. Dr. Carpenter, in the paper just quoted, says, "Every
thoughtful physiologist must desire to see the same course of inquiry
thoroughly pursued in regard to the phenomena of living bodies."34
The first step in that direction, he adds, was taken by Dr. Mayer of Germany,
in his remarkable treatise on "Organic Movement in its Relation to Material
There appear to be three forms of opinion among
scientific men, of the "advanced" school, as to the relation between vital and
physical forces. First, there are some, of whom Dr. Carpenter is one, who hold
that the forces by which vital processes are carried in, are light, heat,
electricity, and so forth, but that these are directed or controlled by a
force of a different kind, called "a directing agency."
Dr. Carpenter's Theory.
Dr. Carpenter denies that there is any such thing as
vitality, or vital force, or nisus formativus, or Bildungstrieb. Two
germs may be selected between which neither the microscope nor chemical
analysis can detect the slightest difference; yet one develops into a fish,
another into a bird. Why is this? Dr. Carpenter answers because of a
"directing agency" residing in the germ. His language is: "The prevalent
opinion has until lately been, that this power is inherent in the germ; which
has been supposed to derive from its parent not merely its material substance,
but a nisus formativus, Bildungstrieb, or germ-force, in virtue of
which it builds itself up into the likeness of its parent, and manmtains
itself in that likeness until the force is exhausted, and at the same time
imparting a fraction of it to each of its progeny."35
This opinion he rejects; but adds, "When we look carefully into the question,
we find that what the germ really supplies, is not the force, but the
directive agency; thus rather resembling the control exercised by the
superintendent builder, who is charged with working out the design of the
architect, than the bodily force of the workmen who labor under his guidance
in the construction of the fabric."36
The conclusion at which he arrives is "that the correlation between heat and
the organizing force of plants is not less intimate than that which exists
between heat and motion. The special attribute of the vegetable germ is its
power of utilizing, after its own peculiar fashion, the heat which it
receives, and of applying a constructive power to the building up of its
fabric after its characteristic type."37
On this doctrine of Carpenter it may be remarked, (1.)
That it seems to be self-contradictory. He denies to the germ a nisas
formativus, or, Bildungstrieb, and attributes to it "a constructive
power." What is the difference? The English phrase is a literal translation of
the German word. (2.) He says that "heat and the organizing force of plants"
are correlated, i. e., they are convertible one into the other and are
quantitively equivalent; and yet the relation between them is analogous to
that between a superintending builder and the strength of the workmen.
According to this, the physical strength of the hod man is convertible into
the intellect of the builder and is its quantitive equivalent. We do not see
how this contradiction is to be avoided, unless he uses the phrases
"constructive force," "organizing force," sometimes for the "directing agency"
in the germ, and sometimes, for the physical forces which that agency
controls. But if he distinguishes between the "directing agency" and "the
organizing force," then there is no correlation between the physical force and
"the vital activity of the germ."
3. According not only to the common, but to the latest,
opinion of physiologists, the germ supplies something more than "a directing
agency" (which must itself be a force). It not only directs, but it effects,
or produces changes. It is an operative force, acting not by, but against
physical forces or chemical affinities; counteracting them as long as it
continues. As soon as the germ or plant or tissue dies, the physical forces
obtain ascendency and disintegration takes place. This Dr. Carpenter himself
admits. The most marked characteristic, he says, which distinguishes "vital
from every kind of physical activity," is, "the fact that a germ endowed with
life, develops itself into an organism of a type resembling that of its
parent; that this organism is the subject of incessant changes, which all
tend, in the first place, to the evolution of its typical form; and
subsequently to its maintenance in that form, notwithstanding the
antagonism of chemical and physical agencies, which are continually
tending to produce its disintegration; but that, as its term of existence is
prolonged, its conservative power declines so as to become less and less able
to resist these disintegrating forces, to which it finally succumbs, leaving
the organism to be resolved by their agency into the components from which its
materials were originally drawn."38
This does not mean that chemical agencies have no part to act in the growth
and development of plants and animals, but it certainly does mean that the
vital force or life is an agency or power different from any kind of physical
force. Life and physical force, therefore, are not identical. They are not
correlated. The former is not a mere form of the latter.
On of the most eminent of living physiologists is Dr.
John Marshall, and he, although far from belonging to the old school,
distinctly takes the ground that there is a vital force which cannot be
resolved into any of the physical forces operative in the external, inorganic
world. He says:39
"All the strictly physical processes within the body, whether chemical,
mechanical, thermic, electric, or photic, are performed by modifications of
the common force which produces similar phenomena in the inorganic world
around us. There exists, however, in the living animnal, as in the living
vegetable organism, a special formative or organizing enemgy, evolving the
perfect animal or plant from the primitive ovum or ovule, developing its
various tissues and organs, and conserving them from the commencement to the
termination of its individual existence. The influence of this force,
moreover, extends from the parent to the offspring, generation after
generation." This is the commonly received doctrine, that physical phenomena
are to be referred to physical forces; vital phenomena to vital force; and
mental phenomena to mind. The new doctrine, however, is that all phenomena are
to be referred to physical forces, no other forces being either known or
The more advanced Opinions.
The second view adopted in reference to the relation of
physical to vital force, is, that if there be any difference it cannot be
known. Physical forces are known. They can be measured. They can not only be
converted one into another, but can be proved to be quantitively equivalent.
If any other kind of force be assumed to account for vital phenomena, the
assumption is gratuitous. It is taking for granted that something exists of
which we know, and can know nothing. It must, therefore, lie beyond the sphere
of science and is of no importance. Even Dr. Carpenter uses such language as
this: "Another class of reasoners have cut the knot which they could not
untie, by attributing all the actions of living bodies for which physics and
chemistry cannot account, to a hypothetical 'vital principle;' a shadowy
agency that does everything in its own way, but refuses to be made the subject
of scientific examination; like the 'od-force,' or the 'spiritual power 'to
which the lovers of the marvellous are so fond of attributing the mysterious
movements of turning and tilting tables."40
"If a man asks me," says Prof. Huxley, "what the politics of the inhabitants
of the moon are, and I reply, that I do not know; that neither I, nor any one
else, have any means of knowing; and that, under these circumstances, I
decline to trouble myself about the subject at all, I do not think he has any
right to call me a skeptic."41 It is thus he
banishes vitality from the sphere of science, because everything, except
matter and its functions, belongs to the region of the unknown and the
unknowable. Prof. Tyndall and Herbert Spencer take, at times, the same ground.
But, although such writers as Dr. Carpenter, in
apparent contradiction to their own admissions, acknowledge the existence of
"a directing agency" in the living germ, the majority of the writers of this
school refuse to recognize any such agency or force as a scientific truth. The
only difference between the second and third views on this general subject,
above referred to, is, that according to the one, the assumption of vital as
distinct from physical force, is regarded as gratuitous and unnecessary;
according to the other, any such assumption is declared to be unphilosophical,
and to be utterly discarded. The same writer sometimes takes one, and
sometimes the other of these grounds.
The Argument for the correlation
of Physical and Vital Forces.
Thus Prof. Huxley, although a few years since a firm
advocate of vital, as distinct from physical force, in his discourse on the
"Physical Basis of Life," takes the opposite ground. The argument is this: the
elements furnished by the mineral kingdom are taken up by the plant, and,
under the influence of light and heat, transformed into organized matter. The
products of vegetation, starch, sugar, fibrine, etc., are purely material.
This is true even of protoplasm, or living matter, or the physical basis of
life, as it is called, which is elaborated by the plant out of the lifeless
materials furnished by the soil and the atmosphere. There is indeed a great
difference between the products of vegetation and the lifeless elements out of
which they are formed. But so there is between the elements of water and water
itself. If an electric spark be passed through a volume of oxygen and hydrogen
gas, it becomes water, which weighs precisely as much as the volume of the two
gases of which it is composed. It is oxygen and hydrogen in combination, and
nothing more. Yet the properties of the water are entirely different from
those of the oxygen and hydrogen. In like manner there is a great difference
between the properties of the carbonic acid, the water, and the ammonia, of
which the plant is composed, and the living plant itself. But as it would be
unphilosophical to assume the existence of an unknown something called
aquosity to account for the difference between water and its elements, it is
no less unphilosophical to assume the existence of an unknown something called
vitality to account for the difference between it and the lifeless materials
of which living matter is composed.
In like manner all the phenomena of animal life are
referred to the physical forces inseparable from the matter which composes the
animal structure. It is true the functions of matter in the animal tissues are
higher than in those of the plant. But the advocates of the theory under
consideration, endeavor to reduce the difference between animal and vegetable
life to a minimum. It is only the upper surface of the leaf which is
susceptible of the peculiar effects of light. So it is only the optic nerve
that is affected in a way which is necessary to vision. The sensitive plant
contracts when touched; and so does the animal muscle when the proper
stimulus, nervous or electric, is applied. In short, as all the operations of
vegetable life are due to physical forces, so all the phenomena of animal life
are due to the same causes.
On this subject Prof. Huxley says: "The matter of life
is composed of ordinary matter, differing from it only in the manner in which
its atoms are aggregated. It is built up of ordinary matter, and again
resolved into ordinary matter when its work is done."42
By protoplasm, or matter of life, he sometimes means matter which exhibits the
phenomnena of life; and sometimes, matter which having been elaborated by the
plant or animal, is capable of supporting life. Hence he calls boiled mutton
The only difference between inorganic, lifeless matter,
and living plants or animals, is in the manner in which their atoms are
aggregated. "Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, are all lifeless bodies.
Of these, carbon and oxygen unite, in certain proportions, and under certain
conditions, to give rise to carbonic acid; hydrogen and oxygen produce water;
nitrogen and hydrogen give rise to ammonia. These new compounds, like the
elementary bodies of which they are composed, are lifeless. But when they are
brought together, under certain conditions they give rise to the still more
complex body, protoplasm, and this protoplasm exhibits the phenomena of life.
I see no break in this series of steps in molecular complication, and I am
unable to understand why the language which is applicable to any one term of
the series may not be used to any of the others. . . . When hydrogen and
oxygen are mimxed in a certain proportion, and an electric spark is passed
through them, they disappear, and a quantity of water, equal in weight to the
sum of their weights, appears in their place. There is not the slightest
parity between the passive and active powers of the water and those of the
oxygen and hydrogen which have given rise to it."43
"What justification is there, then, for the assumption of the existence in the
living matter of a something which has no representative, or correlative, in
the not living matter which gave rise to it? What better philosophical status
has 'vitality' than 'aquosity?' And why should 'vitality' hope for a better
fate than the other 'itys' which have disappeared since Martinus Scriblerus
accounted for the operation of the meat-jack by its inherent 'meat-roasting
quality,' and scorned the materialism of those who explained the turning of
the spit by a certain mechanism worked by the draught of the chimney? . . . .
If the properties of water may be properly said to result from the nature and
disposition of its component molecules, I can find no intelligible ground for
refusing to say that the properties of protoplasm result from the nature and
disposition of its molecules."44
The doctrine, therefore, is, that carbonic acid, water,
and ammonia, lifeless bodies, under certain conditions, become living matter,
not in virtue of any new force or principle communicated to them, but solely
in virtue of a different arrangement of their molecules. Of this living matter
all plants and animals are composed, and to the properties or physical forces
inherent in the matter of which they are composed, all the phenomena of
vegetable and animal life are to be referred. "Protoplasm," says Prof. Huxley,
"is the clay of the potter: which, bake it and paint it as he will, remains
clay, separated by artifice and not by nature, from the commonest brick or
As the brick, no matter what its shape or color, can have no properties not
inherent in the clay, so vegetable or animal organisms can have no properties
which do not belong to protoplasm, which, in the last analysis, is nothing but
carbonic acid, water, and ammonma.
Professor Huxley is not only a distinguished
naturalist, but a popular lecturer and preacher of "Lay Sermons," and thus has
become a representative man among the advocates of this new form of
Materialism. He is, however, very far from standing alone. "Some of the most
distinguished living physicists, chemists, and naturalists, says Dr. Beale,
"have accepted this physical theory of life. They have taught that life is but
a mode of ordinary force, and that the living thing differs from the
non-living thing, not in quality, or essence, or kind, but merely in degree."46
"So long," says the same writer, "as the advocates of the physical doctrine of
life contented themselves with ridiculing 'vitality' as a fiction and a myth,
because it could not be made evident to the senses, measured or weighed, or
proved scientifically to exist, their position was not easily assailed; but
now when they assert dogmatically that vital force is only a form or mode of
ordinary motion they are bound to show that the assertion rests upon evidence,
or it will be regarded by thoughtful men as one of a large number of fanciful
hypotheses, advocated only by those who desire to swell the ranks of the
teachers and expounders of dogmatic science, which, although pretentious and
authoritative, must ever be intolerant and unprogressive."47
Not only are the operations of vegetable and animal
life, according to the new doctrine, due to physical forces, but the same is
true of all mental operations. If the argument from analogy is valid in the
one case, it is valid in the other. If we must believe that the properties of
protoplasm, or living matter, are to be referred to the mode in which its
molecules are aggregated, because the properties of water are due to the
peculiar aggregation of the atoms of which its elements, hydrogen and oxygen,
are composed; then we must believe that all thought and feeling are due to the
molecular composition and movements of the brain atoms. Accordingly, Professor
Huxley, after saying that "vitality" has no better philosophical standing than
"aquosity," warns his readers that they cannot stop with that admission. "I
bid you beware," he says, "that in accepting these conclusions, you are
placing your feet on the first rung of a ladder, which in most people's
estimation is the reverse of Jacob's, and leads to the antipodes of heaven. It
may seem a small thing to admit that the dull vital actions of a fungus or a
foraminifer are the properties of their protoplasm, and are the direct results
of the nature of the matter of which they are composed. But if, as I have
endeavored to prove to you, their protoplasm is essentially identical with,
and most readily converted into, that of any animal, I can discover no logical
halting-place, between the admission that such is the case, and the further
concession that all vital action may with equal propriety be said to be the
result of the molecular forces of the protoplasm which displays it. And if so,
it must be true, in the same sense and to the same extent, that the thoughts
to which I am now giving utterance, and your thoughts regarding them, are the
expression of molecular changes in that matter of life which is the source of
our other vital phenomena."48
"Further," he says, "I take it to be demonstrable that it is utterly
impossible to prove that anything whatever may not be the effect of a material
and necessary cause, and that human logic is equally incompetent to prove that
any act is really spontaneous. A really spontaneous act is one which, by the
assumption, has no cause [i. e. no material cause, for he admits no
other]; and the attempt to prove such a negative as this is, on the face of
the matter, absurd. And while it is thus a philosophical impossibility to
demonstrate that any given phenomenon is not the effect of a material cause,
any one who is acquainted with the history of science will admit that its
progress has in all ages meant, and now more than ever means, the extension of
the province of what we call matter and causation, and the concomitant gradual
banishment from all regions of human thought of what we call spirit and
"After all, what do we know of this terrible 'matter,' except as a name for
the unknown and hypothetical cause of states of our own consciousness? And
what do we know of that 'spirit' over whose threatened extinction by matter a
great lamentation is arising except . . . that it is also a name for an
unknown and hypothetical cause or condition of states of consciousness? In
other words, matter and spirit are but names for the imaginary substrata of
groups of natural phenomena."50
"As surely as every future grows out of past and present, so will the
physiology of the future gradually extend the realm of matter and law until it
is co-extensive with knowledge, with feeling, and with action."51
He cites the often-quoted exhortation of Hume, and enforces "the most wise
advice" which it contains. "If we take in our hand," says Hume, "any volume of
divinity or school-metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, does it contain any
abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any
experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact or existence? No. Commit it,
then, to the flames; for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."52
The history of human speculation does not furnish a
more explicit avowal of Materialism than that contained in the above
quotations. All known effects are ascribed to material causes. Spirit is
declared to have only an imaginary existence. Spontaneity is pronounced an
absurdity. Necessity is affirmed to be inexorable and universal. Yet Huxley
says he is no Materialist. This in a sense is true. He is not a Materialist,
because he believes in neither matter nor spirit. He avows himself a disciple
of Hume, who taught that we know nothing but impressions and ideas. Substance,
whether material or spiritual, efficiency, and God, are banished from the
sphere of knowledge to that of "sophistry and illusion." He avows his
fellowship with Herbert Spencer, the fundamental principle of whose "New
Philosophy" is, that all we know, or can know, is, that force is and that it
is persistent, while force itself is absolutely inscrutable. This blots the
soul and God out of existence, except as those words indicate an unknown
force. But as he also holds that all forces are convertible, the distinction
between material and mental forces, whether humau or divine, is obliterated.
He avails himself of the common assumption that his theory does not degrade
spirit, but exalts matter. It is the verdict of history, however, as Julius
Maller truly says, "That every attempt to spiritualize matter ends in
materializing spirit." On this subject Spencer says: "Men who have not risen
above that vulgar conception which unites with matter the contemptuous
epithets 'gross' and 'brute,' may naturally feel dismay at the proposal to
reduce the phenomena of life, of mind, and of society, to a level with those
which they think so degraded. . . . The course proposed does not imply a
degradation of the so-called higher, but an elevation of the so-called lower."53
This at least is an avowal that the phenomena of life, mind, and society are
to be referred to material or physical causes. This, indeed, he repeatedly
asserts. After insisting on the transformation of physical forces into
chemical, and these into vital, he adds, "Many will be alarmed by the
assertion that the forces which we distinguish as mental, come within the same
generalization. Yet there is no alternative but to make this concession.54
. . . . Any hesitation to admit that between the physical forces and
the sensations there exists a correlation like that between the physical
forces themselves, must disappear on remembering how the one correlation like
the other, is not qualitive only, but quantitive."55
"Various classes of facts unite to prove that the law of metamorphosis, which
holds among the physical forces, holds equally between them and the mental
forces. . . . How this metamorphosis takes place -- how a force existing as
motion, light, or heat, can become a mode of consciousness," is mysterious;
but he adds, it is not a greater mystery "than the transformations of physical
forces into each other."56
Dr. Maudsley, a distinguished writer of the same
school,57 says, "Few, if any, will now be
found to deny that with each display of mental power there are correlative
changes in the material substratum; that every phenomenon of mind is the
result, as manifest in energy, of some change, molecular, chemical, or vital,
in the nervous elements of the brain." Again, he says,58
"With regard to the manifold phenomena of mind; by observation of them, and
abstraction from the particular, we get the general conception, or the
essential idea of mind, an idea which has no more existence out of the mind,
than any other abstract idea or general term. In virtue, however, of that
powerful tendency in the human mind to make the reality conformable to the
idea, a tendency which has been at the bottom of so much confusion in
philosophy, this general conception has been converted into an objective
entity, and allowed to tyrannize over the understanding. A metaphysical
abstraction has been made into a spiritual entity and a complete barrier
thereby interposed in the way of positive investigation."
The passages quoted above are a fair specimen of the
kind of reasoning in which scientific men frequently indulge. In the first
quotation, there are two clauses presented as equivalent, which are in fact
essentially different; and substituting the one for the other is just a silent
and subtle begging of the question. The first says that every mental act is
attended by a molecular change in the brain. The other in effect says, the
molecular change is the mental act. These two propositions are as different as
day and night. The theory is that a certain kind of molecular motion in iron
is heat; and a certain kind of molecular motion in the brain is
thought. And all the proof, as far as the latter is concerned, is that the one
attends the other. But the formation of an image on the retina attends sight,
and yet does not prove that the image is our consciousness when we see.
Again, in the second passage, Dr. Maudsley says that
"mind is an abstract idea," which has no existence outside "of the mind,"
i.e., outside of itself. An abstract idea has an abstract idea, which it
makes into an objective entity. Men who deny the objective existence of mind,
can no more think, speak, or write without recognizing its existence, than an
idealist can act without recognizing the existence of the external world. Any
theory which involves a denial of the laws of our nature is of necessity
The German Physicists.
As might be expected, the scientific men of the
continent are more outspoken in their Materialism than those of England. A
late German writer, Th. Otto Berger, Oberlehrer fur Mathematik and Physik,59
says: Materialism is the philosophy of the five senses, it admits nothing but
on the testimony of sensation, and therefore denies the existence of the soul,
of God, and of everything supersensuous. In its modern form, it teaches that
as the material is alone true and real, it is uncreated and eternal. It always
has been and always will be. It is indestructible, and, in its elements,
unchangeable. Force is inseparable from matter. According to the theory no
matter is without force, and no force is without matter. No force exists of
itself; and, therefore, there is none to which the creation of matter is to be
referred. The universe as it now is, is due to the gradual evolution of the
two elements, matter and force; which evolution proceeds under the operation
of fixed laws. The lower organisms are first formed; then the higher, until
man appears. All life, whether animal, vegetable, or spiritual, is due to the
working of physical and chemical forces in matter. As no power exists but in
matter, there can be no divine Being with creative power nor any created human
soul. Berger quotes Virchow as saying, "The scientific naturalist knows only
bodies and the properties of bodies." All that is beyond them he pronounces
"transcendental, and the transcendental is the chimerical." He also quotes B.
C. Vogt, as saying, "We admit of no creator, either in the beginning, or in
the course of the world's history; and regard the idea of a self-conscious,
extramundane creator as ridiculous." Man, according to these writers, consists
only of a material body; all mental acts and states are of the brain. When the
body dies, the man ceases to exist. "The only immortality," says Moleschott,
"is, that when the body is disintegrated, its ammonia, carbonic acid, and
lime, serve to enrich the earth, and to nourish plants, which feed other
generations of men."60
As Materialism, in its modern form, in all that is
essential to the theory, is the same that it was a thousand years ago, the old
arguments against it are as available now as they ever were. Its fundamental
affirmation is, that all the phenomena of the universe, physical, vital, and
mental, are to be referred to unintelligent physical forces; and its
fundamental negation is, that there is no such objective entity as mind or
spirit. If, therefore, it can be shown that unintelligent force cannot account
for all the phenomena of the universe; and that there is such an objective
entity or substance, as mind, the theory is refuted. There are two methods of
combating any given theory. The one is the scientific, which calls in question
the accuracy or the completeness of the data on which it is founded, or the
validity of the inferences deduced from them. The other is the shorter and
easier method of the reductio ad absurdum. The latter is just as
legitimate and valid as the former. It is to be remembered that every theory
includes two factors; facts and principles; or, facts and inferences drawn
from them. The facts may be admitted, when the principles or inferences may be
denied. Thus the facts on which Materialists insist may, for the most part at
least, be acknowledged; while the sweeping inferences which they draw from
them, in the eye of reason may not be worth a straw. All such inferences must
be rejected whenever they conflict with any well-established truth, whether of
intuition, experience, or of divine revelation.
Three general theories have been proposed to solve the
great problem of the universe: the Materialistic, the Pantheistic, and the
Theistic. According to the first all the phenomena of the universe are due to
matter and its forces; according to the second, in its most rational form, all
power, activity, and life, are the power, activity, and life of the one
universal mind. The third, or Theistic theory, assumes the existence of an
infinite, extramundane God, who created matter, endowed with forces, and
finite minds gifted with intelligence and will; and that all the ordinary
phenomena of the universe are proximately due to these physical and mental
forces as constantly upheld and controlled by the omnipresent wisdom and power
of God. It may be doubted whether any amount of argument can deepen the
conviction that the Theistic solution of this great problem is the true one.
It is seen to be true, because it is seen to be a solution. It satisfactorily
accounts for all the facts of consciousness and observation. It satisfies the
reason, the heart, and the conscience. It is in fact self-evidently true, in
the sense that no man to whom it has been once proposed, can ever permanently
shake off the conviction of its truth. The other theories are not solutions.
They may account for some classes of facts, but not for others. Our present
concern, however, is with Materialism.
Materialism contradicts the
Facts of Consciousness.
1. The primary principle of all knowledge is the
knowledge of self. This must be assumed. Unless we are we cannot
know. This knowledge of self is a knowledge that we are something; a real
existence; not merely a state or mode of something else; but that the self is
a substance, a real, objective entity. It is, moreover, a knowledge not only
that we are a substance, but also that we are an individual subsistence, which
thinks, feels, and wills. Here, then, is mind, i. e., an individual,
intelligent, voluntary agent, necessarily included in the first, and the most
essential of all truths. If this be denied, then Hume is right, and we can
know nothing. It is, moreover, included in this knowledge of the Self, that
the body is not the Ego. Although the body is intimately, and even vitally
united to the substance in which our personality resides, it is nevertheless
objective to it. It is the organ which the Self uses, and by which it holds
communion with the external world. That these are really facts of
consciousness, and not merely dicta, or arbitrary assumptions, is clear
because they are universally and of necessity recognized. They are imbedded in
all human languages; they are involved in all expressions of human thought;
they are of necessity assumed by those who theoretically deny them. The
Materialist cannot think, or speak, or write, without assuming the existence
of mind as distinct from matter, any more than the Idealist can live and act
without assuming the existence of the external world.
Our knowledge of mind, therefore, as a thinking
substance, is the first, and most certain, and the most indestructible of all
forms of knowledge; because it is involved in self-knowledge, or
self-consciousness, which is the indispensable condition of all knowledge.
That which knows is, in the order of nature, before that which is known. It is
impossible, therefore, that the Materialist can have any higher evidence of
the existence of matter, or of force, than that which every man has, in his
own consciousness, of the existence of mind. To deny the one is as
unreasonable as to deny the other. Neither can be denied, except
theoretically. As a matter of fact, every man believes in matter, and every
man believes in mind. What are our sensations which are relied upon so
confidently to give us knowledge of physical phenomena, but states of
consciousness? If consciousness is to be trusted in reporting the testimony of
the senses, why is it not to be trusted when it reports the facts of our
interior life? If it is believed when it says there is something visible and
tangible without us, why should it not be believed when it says there is
something which thinks and wills within us? If unreliable in the one case, it
is unreliable in the other; and if unreliable in either, the whole foundation
of knowledge and of all faith is swept away. Confidence in the veracity of
consciousness is our only security from the wildest, the most irrational, and
the most degrading skepticism.
It may be said, however, that the Materialist does not
deny that there is something within us that thinks and wills. He only says
that that something is the brain. This, however, is to ignore one half of the
testimony which consciousness really bears. It testifies not only that there
are such sensations as those of sight and touch, but that there is a real
objective substance which is tangible and visible. That is to say, we believe
in virtue of the constitution of our nature, and therefore of necessity, when
we see or touch, that the objects of our sense-perceptions have a real,
objective existence. This every man believes, and cannot help believing. And
in like manner, when he thinks, feels, or wills, he believes, in virtue of the
constitution of his nature, and therefore by a like necessity, that he himself
is an intelligent, feeling, and voluntary substance. That is, he believes that
the Self is mind, or spirit, to which the body is objective, and therefore
different front the Self. The belief in mind, therefore, is involved in the
belief of self-existence. Consciousness gives us the assurance that the Self
is an intelligent, voluntary agent, or spirit.
2. Another fact of consciousness which Materialism
denies, either avowedly or by necessary implication, is the fact of free
agency. This, indeed, is involved in what has already been said. Nevertheless
there are those who admit the existence of mind who deny that man is a free
agent. It needs no proof that consciousness attests that men have the power of
self-determination. Every man knows this to be true with regard to himself.
Every man recognizes the fact with regard to his fellow-men. This again is a
conviction which no obduracy of the conscience, and no sophistry of argument
can permanently obliterate from the human mind. This, however, Materialism
denies. Physical forces act necessarily and uniformly. In referring all mental
action to physical forces, Materialism cannot but exclude all freedom of
action. There is no spontaneity in chemical affinity, in light, heat, or
electricity; yet to these forces all vital and mental phenomena are referred.
If thought be a certain kind of molecular motion of the brain, it is no more
free than that other kind of molecular motion called heat. And this is the
more obviously true, if they are cordative, the one being changed into the
other. Accordingly Materialists, as a general thing, are avowed necessitarians.
This is not only true of the Positivists, but the doctrine that human action
is determined by necessary laws, is the foundation of their whole system of
Social Science. And Professor Huxley, as we have seen, pronounces a
spontaneous act, from the nature of the case, an absurdity. It is for him a
causeless effect. Every man, therefore, who knows that he is a free agent,
knows that Materialism cannot be true.
3. Materialism contradicts the facts of our moral and
religious Consciousness. Our moral perceptions are the clearest, the most
certain, and the most authoritative of all of our cognitions. If a man is shut
up to deny either the testimony of his senses or the truths of reason, on the
one hand, or the testimony of his moral nature on the other, all experience
shows that he will give up sense and reason, and bow to the authority of
conscience. He cannot help it. No man can free himself from the sense of sin,
or of accountability. These moral convictions involve in them, or, at least,
necessitate the belief in a God to whom we must give an account. But
Materialism, in banishing all mind in man, leaves nothing to be accountable;
and in banishing all mind from the universe, leaves no Being to whom an
account can be rendered. To substitute for an intelligent, extramundane,
personal God, mere "inscrutable force," is a mockery, an insult. Our whole
moral and religious nature declares any such theory to be false. It cannot be
true unless our whole nature be a lie. And our nature cannot be a lie, unless,
as Sir William Hamilton says, the whole universe be "a dream of a dream." To
call upon men to worship gravitation, and sing hallelujahs to the whirlwind,
is to call upon them to derationahize themselves. The attempt is as idle as it
is foolish and wicked.
This argument from the facts of consciousness against
Materialism, is met by the assertion that consciousness is not to be trusted.
Dr. Maudsley devotes the greater part of the first chapter of his book on the
"Physiology of the Mind," to the establishment of this point. He argues that
self-consciousness is unreliable in the information which it does give, and
incompetent to give any account of a large part of our mental activity. lt
gives no account of the mental phenomena of the infant, of the uncultivated
adult, and of the insane; no account of the bodily conditions which underlie
every mental manifestation; no account of the large field of unconscious
mental action exhibited, not only in the unconscious assimilation of
impressions, but in the registrations of ideas and of their associations, in
their latent existence and influence when not active, and their recall into
activity; and no account of the influence organically exerted on the brain by
other organs of the body. That is, consciousness does not tell us all things,
and sometimes tells us wrong. Cannot the same be said of the senses? Can they
inform us of everything which goes on in the body? Do they not often deceive
us? Are not the sensations of the delirious and the maniac altogether
untrustworthy? Does it follow from this that our senses are never to be relied
upon? What then becomes of the physical sciences, which are founded on the
trustworthiness of the senses. The fact is that if the testimony of
consciousness is not to be received as to our mental operations, it
cannot be received as to our sensations. If we have no trustworthy evidence of
the existence of mind, we have no valid evidence of the existence of matter;
and there is no universe, no God. All is nothing.
Happily men cannot emancipate themselves from the laws
of their nature. They cannot help believing the well-attested testimony of
their senses, and they cannot help believing the testimony of consciousness as
to their personal identity, and as to the real, objective existence of the
soul as the subject of their thoughts, feelings, and volitions. As no man can
refuse to believe that he has a body, so no man can refuse to believe that he
has a soul, and that the two are distinct as the Self and the Not-Self.
Materialism contradicts the
Truths of Reason.
1. It is intuitively true that every effect must have a
cause. This does not mean merely that every effect must have an antecedent;
or, as Hume says, that anything may be the cause of anything. Nor does it mean
merely that every effect must have an efficient cause. But it means that the
antecedent or cause of every effect must have that kind and degree of
efficiency which will rationally account for the effect.
There are two general classes of effects with which we
are familiar, and which are specifically different, and therefore must have
specifically different causes. The one class consists of effects which do not,
the other of those which do indicate design. In the latter we see evidence of
a purpose, of foresight, of provision for the future, of adaptation, of
choice, of spontaneity, as well as of power. In the former all these
indications are absent. We see around us innumerable effects belonging to each
of these classes. We see water constantly flowing from a higher to a lower
level; vapor constantly ascending from the sea; heat producing expansion, cord
contraction, water extinguishing fire, alkalies correcting acidity, etc., etc.
On the other hand, the world is crowded with works of human intelligence; with
statues, pictures, houses, ships, complicated machines for different purposes,
with books, libraries, hospitals prepared for the wants of the sick, with
institutions of learning, etc., etc. No man can help believing that these
classes of effects are specifically different, nor can he help believing that
they are due to causes specifically different. In other words, it is
self-evident that an unintelligent cause cannot produce an intelligent effect;
it cannot purpose, foresee, organize, or choose. Professor Joule may determine
through what space a weight must fall to produce a given amount of heat; but
can he tell how far it must fall to write a poem, or produce a Madonna? Such a
cause has no tendency to produce such an effect. And to suppose it to operate
from eternity, is only to multiply eternally, nothing by nothing, it is
If every man recognizes the absurdity of referring all
the works of human ingenuity and intellect to unintelligent, physical force,
how much greater is the absurdity of referring to blind force the immeasurably
more stupendous, complicated, and ordered works of God, everywhere indicative
of purpose, foresight, and choice. Of this absurdity Materialism is guilty. It
teaches, in its modern form, that to carbonic acid, water, and ammonia, with
the molecular forces they contain, is the causal efficiency to which all
organisms from the fungus to man, and all vital and mental phenomena, are to
be referred. This is the doctrine elaborately proposed and defended in
Professor Huxley's paper on the "Physical Basis of Life." That paper is
devoted to establishing two propositions. The first is, "That all animal and
vegetable organisms are essentially alike in power, in form, and in substance;
and the second, That all vital and intellectual functions are the properties
of the molecular dispositions and changes of the material basis (protoplasm)
of which the various animals and vegetables consist."61
He even intimates, after referring to a clock which marks the time, and the
phases of the moon, as an illustration of the vital and intellectual phenomena
of the universe, as produced by molecular motions and combinations, "that the
existing world lay potentially in the cosmic vapor; and that a sufficient
intelligence could, from a knowledge of the properties of the molecules of
that vapor, have predicted, say the state of the Fauna of Britain in 1869,
with as much certainty as one can say what will happen to the vapor of the
breath in a cold winters day."62
On this it is obvious to remark, in the first place, that it is not one whit
in advance of the theory of Epicurus propounded more than two thousand years
ago. As the whole mass of thinking men have turned their backs on that theory
from that day to this, it is not probable that the reassertion of it, however
confidently made, will have much effect upon men who have either heads or
hearts. In the second place, it gives no rational account of the origin of the
universe, and of the wonders which it contains. It violates the fundamental
intuitive truth that every effect must have an adequate cause, inasmuch as it
refers intelligent effects to unintelligent causes; all the libraries in the
world, for example, to "the properties of the molecules," of carbonic acid,
water, and ammonia.
2. A second truth of Reason which Materialism
contradicts is that an infinite succession of effects is as unthinkable as a
self-supporting chain of an infinite number of links. The modern doctrine is
that lifeless matter never becomes living except when brought into contact
with previous living matter. It is the office of the living plant to take up
the dead elements of the inorganic world and imbue them with life. The plant,
therefore, must either precede protoplasm, which is impossible, as it is
composed of protoplasm; or the protoplasm must precede the plant, which is
equally impossible, because the plant alone, in the first instance, can make
protoplasm; or there must be an infinite succession. That is, an infinite
number of causeless effects, which is no less impossible. The doctrine of
spontaneous generation, or of life originating out of dead matter, is
repudiated by the most advanced advocates of the modern form of Materialism.
Professor Huxley has done the cause of truth good service by his able
refutation of that doctrine.63
Whatever may be the ultimate decision of the question as to the origin of
life, it is enough for the present that the modern advocates of Materialism
admit that living matter can only come from matter already alive. This
admission, it is now urged, is fatal to their theory, as it necessitates the
assumption of an eternal effect. If dead matter can only be made alive by
previous living matter, there must be a source of life outside of matter, or
life never could have begun.
Materialism inconsistent with
the Facts of Experience.
It is generally admitted that in nature, i. e.,
in the external world, there are four distinct spheres, or, as they are
sometimes called, planes of existence. First, the common chemical compounds,
which constitute the mineral kingdom; second, the vegetable kingdom; third,
the irrational animal world; and fourth, Man. It is admitted that all the
resources of science are incompetent to raise matter from one of these planes
to another. The plant contains ingredients derived from the mineral kingdom,
with something specifically different. The animal contains all that is in the
plant, with something specifically different. Man contains all that enters
into the constitution of the plant and animal, with something specifically
different. The lifeless elements of the mineral kingdom, under "the influence
of preexistent living matter," and not otherwise, become living and life
supporting matter in the plant. The products of vegetable life, in like
manner, become the matter of animal tissues and organs, but only under the
influence of preexisting living animal tissues. So, also, the products of the
vegetable and animal kingdoms are received into the human system, and become
connected with the functions and phenomena of the intellectual and moral life
of man, but never otherwise than in the person of a man. This outstanding
fact, vouched for by the whole history of our globe, proves that there is
something in the plant which is not in lifeless matter; somethiing in the
animal which is not in the plant, and something in man which is not in the
animal. To assume, with the Materialist, that the organizing life of the plant
comes out of lifeless matter; that the sensitive and voluntary life of the
animal comes out of the insensible and involuntary life of the plant; or that
the rational, moral, and spiritual life of Man comes out of the constituents
of the animal, is to assume as a fact something which all experience
contradicts. We are not forgetful of the theories which refer these different
grades or orders of existence to some process of natural development. We here,
however, refer only to the outstanding fact of history, that, in the sphere of
human experience, lifeless matter does not become organizing and living, in
virtue of its own physical forces; nor the plant an animal; nor the animal a
man from anything in the plant or animal, but only in virtue of an ab extra
vital influence. It is indeed said that as the same chemical elements
combined in one way, have certain properties; and when combined in another
way, have other properties; so the same elements combined in one way in
lifeless matter and in other ways, in plants, animals, and man, may account
for all their distinctive characteristics. But it is to be remembered
that the properties of chemical compounds, however varied, are chemical, and
nothing more; whereas, in vital organisms the properties or phenomena are
specifically different from mere chemical effects. They have no relation to
each other, any more than gravity to beauty; and, therefore, the one cannot
account for the other.
Atheism is the denial of an extramundane personal God.
In saying that Materialism is Atheism, it is not meant that all Materialists
are atheists. Some, as for example, Dr. Priestley, confine the application of
their principles to the existing order of things. They admit the being of God
to whom they refer the creation of the world. The number, however, of such
illogical Materialists is small. Leaving out of view these exceptional cases,
the philosophers of this school may be divided into three classes, --
(1.) Avowed atheists. To this class belong the
Epicureans; the French skeptics of the last century; the Positivists; and a
large part of the physicists of the present generation, especially in Europe.
(2.) Those who repudiate the charge of atheism, because they admit the
necessary existence of an inscrutable force. But inscrutable force is not God.
In rejecting the doctrine of an extramundane Spirit, self-conscious,
intelligent, and voluntary, the First Cause of all things, they reject Theism;
and the denial of Theism is Atheism. (3.) Those whose principles involve the
denial of an extramundane God. To this class belong all those who deny the
distinction between matter and mind; who deny the "supersensual," and
"supernatural," who affirm that physical force is the only kind of force of
which we have any knowledge; and who maintain that thought is in such a sense
a product of the brain, that where there is no brain there can be no thought.
Buchner, who although an avowed atheist, is, as to this point, a fair
representative of the whole school, says that the fundamental principle (der
oberste Grundsatz) of our philosophy is, "No matter without force; and no
force without matter." "A spirit without a body," he adds, "is as unthinkable
as electricity or magnetism without the matter of which they are affections."64
This he makes the ground of his argument to prove the impossibility of the
existence of the soul after death. The principle, if admitted, is equally
conclusive against the existence of God. As Materialism leaves us no God to
reverence and trust, no Being to whom we are responsible; and as it denies any
conscious existence after death, it can be adopted only on the sacrifice of
the higher attributes of our nature; and its whole tendency must be to
demoralize and degrade.
The Correlation of Physical and
Vital and Mental Forces.
Besides the considerations urged above against
Materialism as a general theory, it may be proper to say a few words in
reference to its modern scientific form. It is admitted that it is the
province of scientific men to discuss scientific questions; and that much
injury to the cause of truth has followed the attempts of men not devoted to
such pursuits, undertaking to adjudicate in such caees. Physicists are wont to
take high ground on this subject, and to warn off as intruders all
metaphysicians and theologians, all who are devoted to the study of the
supersensuous and the supernatural. They are not allowed to be heard on
questions of science. The rule must work both ways. If metaphysicians and
theolegians must be silent on matters of science, then scientific men devoted
to the study of the sensuous, are not entitled to be dictatorial in what
regards the supersensuous. A man may be so habituated to deal with quantity
and number, as to become incapable of appreciating beauty or moral truth. In
like manner a man may be so devoted to the examination of what his senses
reveal, as to come to believe that the sensible alone is true and real. The
senses have their rights, and so have reason and conscience; and the votaries
of sense are not entitled to claim the whole domain of knowledge as
exclusively their own.
While, therefore, it is conceded that it belongs
specially to scientific men to deal with scientific subjects, yet other
classes have some rights which are not to be denied. They have the right to
judge for themselves on the validity of the arguments of scientific men; and
they have the right to appeal from one scientific man to another, and from the
few to the many. So far as the correlation of physical and vital forces is
concerned, it is not only a new doctrine, but as yet is adopted only by
"advanced thinkers," as they are called, and call themselves. Dr. H. B. Jones,
F. R. S., one of the more modest advocates of the doctrine,65
says, "We are only just entering upon the inquiry how far our ideas of
conservation and correlation of energy can be extended to the biological
sciences." And certain it is that the leading men of science, both in Europe
and America, are firm believers in vital and mental forces, as distinct
in kind, from all physical forces operative in the inorganic world.
The Arguments for such
Correlation are Invalid.
The Argument from Analogy.
It has already been stated on the authority of the
advocates of the theory, that their first and most important argument in its
support is from analogy. The physical forces are all correlated; one is
convertible into either of the others; all may be resolved into motion. This
creates, as it is said, a strong presumption, that all force, whatever its
phenomena, is essentially the same thing. If one kind of motion is heat,
another electricity, another light, it is fair to infer that vitality is only
another kind of motion, and thought and feeling another. As there is no reason
for assuming a specific force for light, and another for heat, therefore it is
unnecessary, and unphilosophical, to assume a specific kind of force to
account for vital or mental phenomena. Prof. Barker of Yale College, says,66
"Today, as truly as seventy-five years ago when Humboldt wrote, the mysterious
and awful phenomena of life, are commonly attributed to some controlling agent
residing in the organism -- to some independent presiding deity,
holding it in absolute subjection." This presiding agent is called "vital
fluid," "materia vitae diffusa," "vital force." "All these
names," he adds, "assume the existence of a material or immaterial something,
more or less separable from the material body, and more or less identical with
the mind or soul, which is the cause of the phenomena of living beings. But as
science moved irresistibly onward, and it became evident that the forces of
inorganic nature were neither deities nor imponderable fluids, separable from
matter, but were simple affections of it, analogy demanded a like
concession in behalf of vital force. From the notion that the effects of
heat were due to an imponderable fluid called caloric, discovery passed to the
conviction that heat was but a motion of material particles, and hence
inseparable from matter; to a like assumption concerning vitality [namely,
that it also is but a motion of material particles], it was now but a step.
The more advanced thinkers in science of today, therefore, look upon the life
of the living form as inseparable from its substance, and believe that the
former is purely phenomenal, and only a manifestation of the latter. Denying
the existence of a special vital force as such, they retain the term only to
express the sum of the phenomena of living beings."
The argument from analogy is presented, as we have
seen, in another form, by Huxley and others. The properties of water are very
different from those of the hydrogen and oxygen of which it s composed. Yet no
one supposes that those properties are due to anything else than the material
composition of the water itself. So also the phenomena of living matter, and
of the human brain, are very different from those of the elements which enter
into their constitution; but this affords no presumption that there is any
"vital force" or "mind" to account for this difference any more than the
peculiar properties of water justify the assumption of the existence of
anything distinct from its material element. Vitality and mind, we are told,
have no better philosophical status than aquosity.
states the case thus: "If it is by its mere chemical and physical structure
that water exhibits certain properties called aqueous, it is also by its mere
chemical and physical structure that protoplasm exhibits certain properties
called vital. All that is necessary in either case is, 'under certain
conditions,' to bring the chemical constituents together. If water is a
molecular complication, protoplasm is equally a molecular complication, and
for the description of the one or the other, there is no change of language
required. A new substance with new qualities results in precisely the same way
here, as a new substance with new qualities there; and the derivative
qualities are not more different from the primitive qualities in the one
instance, than the derivative qualities are different from the primitive
qualities in the other. Lastly, the modus operandi of preexistent
protoplasm is not more unintelligible than that of the electric spark. The
conclusion is irresistible, then, that all protoplasm being reciprocally
convertible, and consequently identical, the properties it displays, vitality
and intellect included, are as much the result of molecular constitution, as
those of water itself." This analogy is two-fold; having reference to chemical
composition on the one hand, and to the antecedent stimulus which determines
it on the other. "As regards chemical composition, we are asked, by virtue of
the analogy obtaining, to identify, as equally simple instances of it,
protoplasm here and water there; and, as it regards the stimulus in question,
we are asked to admit the action of the electric spark in the one case to be
quite analogous to the action of prexisting protoplasm in the other."
In answer to this argument Dr. Stirling goes on to show
that the analogy holds only as to chemical and physical properties. "One step
farther and we see not only that protoplasm has, like water, a chemical and
physical structure; but that, unlike water, it has also an organized or
organic structure. Now this, on the part of protoplasm, is a possession in
excess; and with relation to that excess there can be no grounds for analogy."
"Living protoplasm, namely, is identical with dead protoplasm," says Dr.
Stirling, "only so far as its chemistry is concerned (if even so much as
that); and it is quite evident, consequently, that difference between the two
cannot depend on that in which they are identical -- cannot depend on the
chemistry. Life, then, is no affair of chemical and physical structure, and
must find its explanation in somethng else. It is thus that, lifted high
enough, the light of the analogy between water and protoplasm is seen to go
Water and its elements, hydrogen and oxygen, are as to the kind of
power which they exhibit on a level. "But not so protoplasm, where, with
preservation of the chemical and physical likeness there is the addition of
the unlikeness of life, of organization, and of ideas. But the addition is a
new world -- a new and higher world, the world of a self-realizing
thought, the world of an entelechy."69
"There are certainly different states of water, as ice and steam; but the
relation of the solid to the liquid, or of either to the vapor, surely offers
no analogy to the relation of protoplasm dead to protoplasm alive. That
relation is not an analogy but an antithesis, the antithesis of antitheses. In
it, in fact, we are in the presence of the one incommunicable gulf -- the gulf
of all gulfs -- that gulf which Mr. Huxley's protoplasm is as powerless
to efface as any other material expedient that has ever been suggested since
the eyes of men first looked into it -- the mighty gulf between death
"The differences alluded to (they are, in order,
organization and life, the objective idea -- design, and the subjective
idea -- thought), it may be remarked, are admitted by those very Germans to
whom protoplasm, name and thing, is due. They, the most advanced and
innovating of them, directly avow that there is present in the cell 'an
architectonic principle that has not yet been detected.' In pronouncing
protoplasm capable of active or vital movements, they do by that refer, they
admit also, to an immaterial force, and they ascribe the processes exhibited
by protoplasm -- in so many words -- not to the molecules, but to
organization and life."71
"Was it molecular powers that invented a respiration --
that perforated the posterior ear to give a balance of air; that compensated
the fenestra ovalis by a fenestra rotunda; that placed in the
auricular sacs those otolithes, those express stones for hearing? Such
machinery! The chordae tendineae are, to the valves of the heart,
exactly adjusted check-strings; and the contractile columnae earneae
are set in, under contraction and expansion, to equalize their length to their
office. . . . Are we to conceive such machinery, such apparatus, such
contrivances, merely molecular? Are molecules adequate to such things --
molecules in their blind passivity, and dead, dull, insensibility? . . . .
Surely in the presence of these manifest ideas, it is impossible to attribute
the single peculiar feature of protoplasm -- its vitality, namely -- to mere
molecular chemistry. Protoplasm, it is true, breaks up into carbon, hydrogen,
oxygen, and nitrogen, as water does into hydrogen and oxygen; but the watch
breaks similarly up into mere brass, and steel, and glass. The loose materials
of the watch -- even its chemical material if you will -- replace its weight,
quite as accurately as the constituents, carbon, etc., replace the weight of
the protoplasm. But neither these nor those replace the vanished idea, which
was alone the important element."72There
is, therefore, something in protoplasm which cannot be weighed or otherwise
measured, and to which the vital phenomena are to be referred.
If then the argument from analogy fails in its
application to vital phenomena, there can be no pretence that it is valid in
its application to the phenomena of mind. If we refuse to take the first step,
even Professor Huxley cannot require us to take those which follow.
Further Arguments of the
Besides the analogical argument, Materialists insist
that there is direct evidence of the correlation of physical, with vital, and
mental force. Let it be remembered what this means. Correlated forces are such
as may be converted, the one into the other, and which are consequently in
their nature identical. The thing, therefore, in this case, to be proved is
that light, heat, etc., can be changed into life and thought, and that the
latter are identical with the former, both classes being resolvable into
motion of the molecules of matter.
The proof is substantially this. The animal body
generates heat by the combustion of the carbon of the food which it receives,
precisely as heat is produced by the combustion of carbon out of the body. And
it has been experimentally proved that the quantity of heat produced in the
body, is precisely the same due allowances being made, as the same amount of
carbon would produce if burnt out of the body. Vital heat, therefore, is
identical with physical heat.
Again, muscular force is produced precisely in the same
way as physical force. The potential energy of the fuel moves the steam
engine. Its work or power is measured and determined by the amount of power
stored in the wood or coal consumed in its production. The source and measure
of muscular power, are in like manner to be found in the food we eat. Its
potential energy, derived from the sun as is the case with the potential
energy of wood and coal, when liberated, produces its due amount, so much and
no more, of muscular power. Muscular power, therefore, is as purely physical,
produced in the same way, and measured by the same standard, as the power of
In like manner, "nervous energy, or that form of force,
which, on the one hand, stimulates a muscle to contract, and on the other,
appears in forms called mental," is merely physical. It comes from the food we
eat. It moves. The rate of its motion is determined to be ninety-seven feet in
a second. Its effects are analogous to those of electricity. It is, therefore,
for these and similar reasons, inferred that "nerve-force is a transmuted
potential energy." This is no less true of nerve-force when manifested in the
form of thought and feeling. Every external manifestation of thought-force,
argues Professor Huxley, is a muscular one, and therefore analogous to other
forces producing similar effects. Besides, it has been proved that every
exercise of thought or feeling is attended by an evolution of heat, which
shows that thought is resolved into heat. "Can we longer doubt, then, that the
brain, too, is a machine for the conversion of energy? Can we longer refuse to
believe that even thought is, in some mysterious way, correlated to the other
natural forces? and this, even in face of the fact that it has never yet been
To unscientific men of ordinary intelligence, to men
not devoted to the study of the sensuous, it is a matter of astonishment that
such arguments should be regarded as valid. Admitting all the above facts,what
do they prove? Admitting that animal heat is the same in source and nature
with heat outside the body; admitting that muscular power is physical in its
nature and mode of production; admitting that nerve-force is also physical;
what then? Do these facts give any solution of the mysteries of life, of
organization, alimentation, or reproduction? Do they in any measure account
for the formation of the eye or ear; for the mutual relations and
interdependence of the organs of the body? Admitting these forces to be
physical; who or what uses them? What guides their operation so as to answer a
preconceived design? Admitting muscular power to be physical, what calls it
into exercise at one time and not at another; beginning, continuing, or
suspending it, at pleasure? It is plain that the facts adduced, are no
solution either of vital or of voluntary phenomena. And when we come to
thought, admitting that mental action is attended by a development of heat,
does that prove that thought and heat are identical? When ashamed we blush,
when afraid we become pale; do these facts prove that shame and fear and their
bodily effects are one and the same thing? Does concomitancy prove identity?
In proving the former, do you establish the latter? Do the facts adduced prove
that shame is heat and heat shame, and that the one may be converted into the
other? All the world knows that sorrow produces tears; but no one infers from
this coincidence that sorrow and salt water are identical. Even Professor
Tyndall, one of "the advanced thinkers," tells the Materialists, that when
they have proved everything they claim to prove, they have proved nothing.
They leave the connection between mind and body precisely where it was before.74
Direct Arguments against the
Theory of the Correlation of
Physical, and Vital, and Mental Forces
1. They are heterogeneous. All physical forces are
alike. They all tend to produce motion. They all tend to equilibrium. They are
all measurable, by weight, or velocity, or by their sensible effects. They are
all unintelligent. They act by necessity, without choice, without reference to
an end. In all these respects mental forces are directly the reverse. They do
not produce motion, they only guide and control it. They resist a state of
equilibrium. They counteract physical force. As soon as vitality is gone, the
chemical forces come into play and the plant or animal decays. They cannot be
measured. Forces which do not admit of measurement, do not admit of
correlation, for correlation involves sameness in quantity. "Thought," says
President Barnard, "cannot be a physical force, because thought admits of no
measure. I think it will be conceded without controversy that there is no form
of material substance, and no known force of a physical nature (and there are
no other forces), of which we cannot in some form definitely express the
quantity, by reference to some conventional measuring unit. . . . No such
means of measuring mental action has been suggested. No such means can be
conceived. . . . Now, I maintain that a thing which is unsusceptible of
measure cannot be a quantity; and that a thing that is not even a quantity,
cannot be a force."75
Again, vital and mental force act with intelligence,
with forethought, with freedom, and with design. Wherever the intelligence may
reside, it is perfectly evident that all vital operations are carried on in
execution of a purpose. Heat and electricity can no more fashion an eye than
brass and steel can make a watch, or pen and paper write a book. Intelligent
force, therefore, differs in kind from unintelligent force. They are not only
different, but contradictory; the affirmation of the one is the negation of
Professor Joseph Henry.
Prof. Joseph Henry, of the Smithsonian Institute, is
admitted to be one of the most eminent naturalists of the age; distinguished
not only for the thoroughness of his researches, but for soundness of
judgment, and for the rare gift of being able to appreciate different kinds of
evidence. He admits the correlation of physical forces, but protests against
the obliteration of the distinction between them and vitality and mind. "The
body," he says, "has been called 'the house we live in,' but it may be more
truly denominated the machine we employ, which, furnished with power, and all
the appliances for its use, enables us to execute the intentions of our
intelligence, to gratify our moral natures, and to commune with our fellow
beings. This view of the nature of the body is the furthest removed possible
from Materialism; it requires a separate thinking principle. To illustrate
this, let us suppose a locomotive engine equipped with steam, water, fuel, --
in short, with the potential energy necessary to the exhibition of immense
mechanical power; the whole remains in a state of dynamic equilibrium, without
motion, or signs of life or intelligence. Let the engineer now open a valve
which is so poised as to move with the slightest touch, and almost with a
volition to let on the power to the piston; the machine now awakes, as it
were, into life. It rushes forward with tremendous power; it stops instantly,
it returns again, it may be, at the command of the master of the train; in
short, it exhibits signs of life and intelligence. Its power is now controlled
by mind -- it has, as it were, a soul within it."76
This illustration holds just so far as it was intended to hold. The intellect
which controls the engine is not in it, nor is it affected by its changes.
Nevertheless, in the body, as well as in the engine, the controlling intellect
is equally distinct from the physical force, which both so wonderfully
In more direct reference to vitality, Professor Henry
says: "Vitality gives startling evidence of the immediate presence of a
direct, divine, and spiritual essence, operating with the ordinary forces of
nature, but being in itself entirely distinct from them. This view of the
subject is absolutely necessary in carrying out the mechanical theory of the
equivalency of heat and the correlation of the ordinary physical forces. Among
the latter vitality has no place, and knows no subjection to the laws by which
they are governed."77
Dr. Beale78 is
equally explicit. He constantly insists that what acts voluntarily, with
choice to accomplish an end, cannot be physical; and that in vital and mental
operations there is unquestionable evidence of such voluntary action. He says,
"I regard 'vitality' as a power of a peculiar kind, exhibiting no analogy
whatever to any known forces. It cannot be a property of matter, because it is
in all respects essentially different in its actions from all acknowledged
properties of matter. The vital property belongs to a different category
He argues also to prove that organization cannot be referred to physical
force. "It cannot be maintained that the atoms arrange themselves, and devise
what positions each is to take up, -- and it would be yet more extravagant to
attribute to ordinary force or energy, atomic rule and directive agency. We
might as well try to make ourselves believe that the laboratory fire made and
lighted it self, that the chemical compounds put themselves into the crucible,
and the solutions betook themselves to the beakers in the proper order, and in
the exact proportions required to form certain definite compounds. But while
all will agree that it is absurd to ignore the chemist in the laboratory, many
insist upon ignoring the presence of anything representing the chemist in the
living matter which they call the 'cell-laboratory.' In the one case the
chemist works and guides, but in the other, it is maintained, the lifeless
molecules of matter are themselves the active agents in developing vital
phenomena. . . . No one has proved, and no one can prove, that mind and life
are in any way related to chemistry and mechanics. . . . Neither can it be
said that life works with physical and chemical forces, for there is no
evidence that this is so. On the other hand it is quite certain that life
overcomes, in some very remarkable and unknown manner, the influence of
physical forces and chemical affinities."80
On a former page he had said, "In order to convince people that the actions of
living beings are not due to any mysterious vitality or vital force or power,
but are in fact physical and chemical in their nature, Professor Huxley gives
to matter which is alive, to matter which is dead, and to matter which is
completely changed by roasting or boiling, the very same name. The matter of
sheep and mutton and man and lobster and egg is the same, and, according to
Huxley, one may be transubstantiated into the other. But how? By 'subtle
influences,' and 'under sundry circumstances,' answers this authority. And all
these things alive, or dead, or roasted, he tells us are made of protoplasm,
and this protoplasm is the physical basis of life, or the basis of physical
life. But can this discoverer of 'subtle influences' afford to sneer at the
fiction of vitality? By calling things which differ from one another in many
qualities by the same name, Huxley seems to think he can annihilate
distinctions, enforce identity, and sweep away the difficulties which have
impeded the progress of previous philosophers in their search after unity.
Plants, and worms, and men are all protoplasm, and protoplasm is albuminous
matter, and albuminous matter consists of four elements, and these four
elements possess certain properties, by which properties all differences
between plants, and worms, and men, are to be accounted for. Although Huxley
would probably admit that a worm was not a man, he would tell us that by
'subtle influences' the one thing might be easily converted into the other,
and not by such nonsensical fictions as 'vitality,' which can neither be
weighed, measured, nor conceived."81
In the latter portion of his book Dr. Beale shows that
the brain is not a gland to secrete thought as the liver does bile; nor is
thought a function of the brain, nor the result of mechanical or chemical
action; nor is the brain a voltaic battery giving shocks of thought, as Stuart
Mill conjectures; but it is the organ of the mind, not for generating, but for
To quote unly one more authority, we refer to the
eminent naturalist Wallace, the friend and associate of Darwin, and the
zealous defender of his theory. "If," says he, "a material element, or a
combination of a thousand material elements in a molecule, are alike
unconscious, it is impossible for us to believe, that the more addition of
one, two, or a thousand other material elements to form a more complex
molecule, could in any way tend to produce a self-conscious existence. To say
that mind is a product or function of protoplasm, or of its molecular changes,
is to use words to which we can attach no clear conception. You cannot have,
in the whole, what does not exist in any of the parts; . . . either all matter
is conscious, or consciousness is something distinct from matter; and in the
latter case, its presence in material forms is a proof of the existence of
conscious beings, outside of, and independent of, what we term matter."82
Vital and Physical Forces not
2. A second argument against the doctrine of the
correlation of vital and physical forces is that in fact they are not
convertible. Motion and heat are said to be correlated, because one can be
changed into the other, measure for measure. But no one has ever changed death
into life, dead matter into living matter. This Professor Huxley admits. If
the simplest living cell once dies, all the science in the world cannot make
it alive. What is dead can be made alive only by being taken up and
assimilated by that which is still living. The life, therefore, is not due to
the chemical properties of that which is dead. So far as chemistry is
concerned, there is no known difference between protoplasm dead and protoplasm
alive; and yet there is all the difference between them of life and death.
That difference, therefore, is not chemical. Until scientific men can actually
change heat and electricity into life, and go about raising the dead, men will
be slow to believe that heat and life are identical; and until they can
transmute physical force into intelligence and will, they cannot convert
"thinkers" into Materialists.
3. Another argument against this theory is the
inadequacy of the cause to the assumed effect. The doctrine is that the
relation between correlated forces is quantitive; so much of the one will
produce so much of the other. But we know that great mental agitation may be
produced by the mere sight of certain objects, and that these mental states
may call into action violent muscular force. According to the hypothesis, the
impression on the nerves of sight or hearing is first transformed into mental
force, and that again into muscular and molar energy. This, President Barnard,
who presents this argument, pronounces to be absurd, "since it makes a small
force equivalent to a large one."83
President Barnard further argues against this theory
from the fact that the mental states produced by impressions on the senses
are, at least in many cases, obviously due not to the physical impression, but
to the idea therewith connected. If you insult a Frenchman in English, it
produces no effect; if the insult be expressed in his own language, it rouses
him to fury. The meaning of the words is not a physical force, and yet it is
to the meaning the effect is due. Dr. Barnard says, "when it is demanded of us
to pronounce as physicists that spiritual existence is an absurdity and
religion a dream, it seems to me that no choice is left us but to proclaim our
dissent, or to be understood by our silence to accept the doctrine as our own.
When such is the alternative, for one I feel bound to speak, and to declare my
conviction that as physicists we have nothing to do with mental philosophy;
and that in endeavouring to reduce the phenomena of mind under the laws of
matter, we wander beyond our depth, we establish nothing certain, we bring
ridicule upon the name of positive science, and achieve but a single
undeniable result, that of unsettling in the minds of multitudes convictions
which form the basis of their chief happiness."84
4. Physicists cannot carry out their own theory. Even
those least susceptible of the force of the supersensuous, are compelled to
admit that there is more in mental and vital action than blind physical force
can account for. Dr. Carpenter, as we have seen, assumes the presence of "a
directive agency;" the Germans of an "architectonic principle" unknown, and
uncorrelated, in living matter, to explain undeniable facts for which physical
force furnishes no solution. Others, whose spiritual nature is not so entirely
subjected to the sensible, break down entirely. Thus Professor Barker, of Yale
College, after devoting his whole lecture to prove that vital force and even
thought "are correlated to other natural forces" (i. e., identical with
them), comes at the end to ask: "Is it only this? Is there not behind this
material substance, a higher than molecular power in the thoughts which are
immortalized in the poetry of a Milton or a Shakespeare, the art creations of
a Michael Angelo or a Titan, the harmonies of a Mozart or a Beethoven? Is
there really no immortal portion separable from this brain-tissue, though yet
mysteriously united to it? In a word, does this curiously fashioned body
inclose a soul, God-given, and to God returning? Here science veils her face,
and bows in reverence before the Almighty. We have passed the boundaries by
which physical science is inclosed. No crucible, no subtle magnetic needle can
answer now our questions. No word but His who formed us can break the awful
silence. In the presence of such a revelation science is dumb, and faith comes
in joyfully to accept that higher truth which can never be the object of
It thus appears, after all, that there is in man a
soul; that the soul is not the body, nor a function of it; that it is the
subject and agent of our thoughts, feelings, and volitions. But this is
precisely the thing which the lecture is devoted to disproving. Thus Professor
Barker's science gives up the ghost at the feet of his religion. It quenches
its torch in the fountain of an order of truths higher than those which admit
of "physical demonstration." The prw/ton yeu/doj of
the whole theory is, that nothing is true which cannot be physically
demonstrated; that is, which cannot be felt, weighed, or otherwise measured.
Wallace, the Naturalist.
A still more striking illustration of the insufficiency
of materialistic principles is furnished by the distinguished naturalist,
Alfred Russel Wallace, above quoted. After devoting his whole book to the
defence of the doctrine of natural selection, which refers the origin of all
species arid genera of plants and animals to the blind operation of physical
forces, he comes to the conclusion that there are no such forces; that all is
"Mind." Matter has no existence. Matter is force, and force is mind; so that
"the whole universe is not merely dependent on, but actually is the WILL of
higher intelligences, or one Supreme Intelligence."86
He holds that instead of admitting the existence of an unknown something
called matter, and that mind is "another thing, either a product of this
matter and its supposed inherent forces, or distinct from, and co-existent
with it;" . . . it is a "far simpler and more consistent belief, that matter,
as an entity distinct from force, does not exist; and that force is a product
of MIND. Philosophy," he adds, "had long demonstrated our incapacity to prove
the existence of matter, as usually conceived, while it admitted the
demonstration to each of us of our own self-conscious, ideal existence.
Science has now worked its way up to the same result, and this agreement
between them should give us some confidence in their combined teaching."87
Thus, by one step, the gulf between Materialism and idealistic pantheism is
passed. This, at least, is a concession that physical forces cannot account
for the phenomena of life and mind; and that in conceding that Materialism as
a theory is false.
The great mistake of Materialists is that they begin at
the wrong end. They begin with blind, lifeless matter; and endeavor to deduce
from it and its molecular changes, all the infinite marvels of organization,
life, and intelligence which the universe exhibits. This is an attempt to make
everything out of nothing. The human mind, in its normal state, always begins
with God; who, as the Bible teaches us, is an Infinite Spirit, and therefore
self-conscious, intelligent, and voluntary; the creator of all things; of
matter with its properties, and of finite minds with their powers; and who
controls all things by his ever present wisdom and might; so that all the
intelligence indicated in unintelligent forces is only one form of the
infinite intelligence of God. This is the solution of the problem of the
universe given in the Scriptures; a solution which satisfies our whole nature,
rational, moral, and religious.
All works on Psychology, and on the history of
Philosophy, contain discussions on the principles of Materialism. Chapter iv.
of Dr. Buchanan's able work, "Faith in God and Modern Atheism Compared," is
devoted to the history and examination of that theory. See also chapter ii. of
the Introduction to Professor Porter's elaborate work, "The Human Intellect."
Professor Porter gives, on page 40, a copious account of the literature of the
subject. In Herzog's "Real-Encyklopadie," article Materialismus, an account is
given of the principal recent German works against the modern form of the
Among the most important works on this subject, besides
the writings of Comte and his English disciples, J. Stuart Mill, and H. G.
Lewes, are Herbert Spencer's "First Principles of a New System of Philosophy,"
and his "Biology" in two volumes; Maudsley's "Physiology and Pathology of
Mind;" Laycock (Professor in the University of Edinburgh), "Mind and Brain;"
Huxley's "Discourse on the Physical Basis of Life;" his "Evidence of Man's
Place in Nature" and "Introduction to the Classification of Animals:" and his
"Lay Sermons and Essays;" Professor Tyndall's "Essay on Heat;" "The
Correlation and Conservation of Forces: A Series of Expositions, by Professor
Grove, Professom Helmholtz, Dr. Mayer, Dr. Faraday, Professor Liebig, and Dr.
Carpenter; with an Introduction by Edward L. Youmans, M. D.; "Alexander Bain
(Professor of Logic in the University of Aberdeen), "The Senses and the
Intellect;" "The Emotions and the Will;" "Mental and Moral Science;" "Kraft
und Stofi von Ludwig Buchner. Zehnte Auflage. Leipzig, 1869." By the same
author, "Die Stellung des Menschen in der Natur in Vergangenheit, Gegenwart
und Zukunft. Oder Woher kommen wir? Wer sind wir? Wohin gehen wir? Leipzig,
1869." Also, "Sechs Vorlesungen uber die Darwin'sche Theorie von der
Verwandlung der Arten und die erste Entstehung der Organismenwelt. Leipzig,
§ 5. Pantheism.
A. What Pantheism is.
If the etymology of the word Pantheism be allowed to
determine its meaning, the answer to the question, What is Pantheism? is easy.
The universe is God, and God is the universe. To. pa/n
Qeoj e;sti. This is not only the signification of the word and
the popular idea usually attached to it, but it is the formal definition often
given of the term. Thus Wegscheider says, "Pantheismus [est] ea sententia, qua
mundum non secretum a numine ac disparatum, sea ad ipsam Dei essentiam
pertinere quidam opinati sunt."88
This, however, is pronounced by the advocates of the doctrine to be a gross
misrepresentation. The idea that the universe, as the aggregate of individual
things, is God, is, they say, a form of thought, which the earliest philosophy
of the East had surmounted. It might as well be said that the contents of a
man's consciousness, at any one time, were the man himself; or that the waves
of the ocean were the ocean itself. It is because so many Pantheists take the
word in the sense above indicated, that they deny that they are Pantheists,
and affirm their belief in the being of God. As the system which is properly
designated Pantheism, does exclude the popular view of the subject, derived
from the etymology of the word; and as it has been held in very different
forms, it is not easy to give a concise and satisfactory answer to the
question, What is Pantheism? The three principal forms in which the doctrine
has been presented, are, (1.) That which ascribes to the Infinite and
Universal Being, the attributes (to a certain extent at least) of both mind
and matter, namely, thought and extension. (2.) That which ascribes to it only
the attributes of matter, Materialistic Pantheism. (3.) That which ascribes to
it only the attributes of spirit, Idealistic Pantheism.
General Principles of the
For the purpose of theological instruction it is
sufficient to stat what these several systems unite in denying, and what they
substantially agree in affirming.
1. They deny all dualism in the universe. The essential
distinction between matter and mind, between soul and body, between God and
the world, between the Infinite and the Finite is repudiated. There is but one
substance, but one real Being. Hence the doctrine is called Monism, or, the
All One doctrine. "The idea," says Cousin,89
"of the finite, of the infinite, and of their necessary connection as cause
and effect, meet in every act of intelligence, nor is it possible to separate
them from each other; though distinct, they are bound together, and constitute
at once a triplicity and unity." "The first term (the infinite), though
absolute, exists not absolutely in itself, but as an absolute cause which must
pass into action, and manifest itself in the second (the finite). The finite
cannot exist without the infinite, and the infinite can only be realized by
developing itself in the finite."
All philosophy is founded, he says, on the ideas of
"unity and multiplicity," "of substance and phenomenon." "Behold," he says,
"all the propositions which we had enumerated reduced to a single one, as vast
as reason and the possible, to the opposition of unity and plurality, of
substance and phenomenon, of being and appearance, of identity and
All men, he says, believe, "as it were, in a combination of phenomena which
would cease to be at the moment in which the eternal substance should cease to
sustain them; they believe, as it were, in the visible manifestation of a
concealed principle which speaks to them under this cover, and which they
adore in nature and in consciousness."91
"As God is made known only in so far as he is absolute cause, on this account,
in my opinion, he cannot but produce, so that the creation ceases to be
unintelligible, and God is no more without a world than a world without God."92
It is one of the most familiar aphorisms of the German philosophers, "Ohne
Welt kein Gott; und ohne Gott keine Welt."
Renan in his "Vie de Je,sus,"
understands by Pantheism, materialism, or the denial of a living God. This
would exclude all the forms of the doctrines held by idealistic pantheists in
all ages. Dr. Calderwood pronounces Sir William Hamilton's doctrine of
creation pantheistic, because it denies that the sum of existence can either
be increased or diminished. Sir William Hamilton teaches that when we say God
created the world out of nothing, we can only mean that "He evolves existence
out of himself." Although all the forms of Pantheism are monistic, except
Hylozoism, which is properly dualistic, yet the mere doctrine of the unity of
substance does not constitute Pantheism. However objectionable the doctrine
may be that everything that exists, even unorganized matter, is of the
substance of God, it has been held by many Christian Theists. This does not
necessarily involve the denial of the essential distinction between matter and
2. However they differ as to the nature of the Infinite
as such, whether it be matter or spirit; or that of which both thought and
extension (potentially) can be predicated; or, whether it be thought itself,
or force, or cause, or nothing, i. e., that of which nothing can be
affirmed or denied; a simple unknown quantity; they all agree that it has no
existence either before or out of the world. The world is, therefore, not only
consubstantial, but coeternal with God.
3. This of course precludes the idea of creation;
except as an eternal and necessary process.
4. They deny that the Infinite and Absolute Being in
itself has either intelligence, consciousness, or will. The Infinite comes
into existence in the Finite. The whole life, consciousness, intelligence, and
knowledge, at any time, of the former, is the life, consciousness,
intelligence, and knowledge of the latter, i. e., of the world. "Omnes
(mentes)," says Spinoza, "simul Dei aeternum et infinitum intellectum
"God alone is, and out of Him is nothing."94
"Seine Existenz als Wesen ist unser Denken von ihm; aber seine reale Existenz
ist die Natur, zu welcher das einzelne Denkende als moment gehort."95
5. Pantheism denies the personality of God. Personality
as well as consciousness implies a distinction between the Self and the Not
Self; and such distinction is a limitation inconsistent with the nature of the
Infinite. God, therefore, is not a person who can say I, and who can be
addressed as Thou. As He comes into existence, intelligence, and consciousness
only in the world, He is a person only so far as He comprehends all
personalities, and the consciousness of the sum of finite creatures
constitutes the consciousness of God. "The true doctrine of Hegel on this
subject," says Michelet,96 "is not that God
is a person as distinguished from other persons; neither is He simply the
universal or absolute substance. He is the movement of the Absolute ever
making itself subjective; and in the subjective first comes to objectivity or
to true existence." "God," he adds, "according to Hegel, is the only true
personal Being." "As God is eternal personality, so He eternally produces his
other self, namely, Nature, in order to come to self-consciousness."
It follows of necessity from the doctrine, that God is
the substance of which the universe is the phenomenon; that God has no
existence but in the world; that the aggregate consciousness and life of the
Finite is, for the time being, the whole consciousness and life of the
Infinite; that the Infinite cannot be a person distinct from the world, to
whom we can say, Thou. On this point Cousin says, "Take away my faculties, and
the consciousness that attests them to me, and I am not for myself. It is the
same with God; take away nature, and the soul, and every sign of God
What the soul would be without faculties and without consciousness, that is
God without the universe. An unconscious God, without life, of whom nothing
can be predicated but simple being, is not only not a person, but he is, for
6. Man is not an individual subsistence. He is but a
moment in the life of God; a wave on the surface of the sea; a leaf which
falls and is renewed year after year.
7. When the body, which makes the distinction of
persons among men, perishes, personality ceases with it. There is no conscious
existence for man after death. Schleiermacher, in his "Discourses," says, the
piety in which he was nurtured in his youth, "remained with me when the God
and immortality of my childhood disappeared from my doubting sight."98
On this avowal, Mr. Hunt, curate of St. Ives, Hunts, comments: "The 'God and
immortality' - of his childhood disappeared. The personal God whom the
Moravians worshipped was exchanged for the impersonal Divinity of philosophy.
Nor did this theology seem impious. No, it was the very essence of true
religion." There is good reason to believe that with regard to the personal
existence of the soul after death, Schleiermacher sacrificed his philosophy,
as he certainly did in other points, to his religion. This, however, only the
more clearly shows how inconsistent the pantheistic view of the nature of God
is with the doctrine of conscious existence after death. The absorption of the
soul in God, of the Finite into the Infinite, is the highest destiny that
Pantheism can acknowledge for man.
8. As man is only a mode of God's existence, his acts
are the acts of God, and as the acts of God are necessary, it follows that
there can be no freedom of the will in man. Spinoza says,99
"Hinc sequitur mentem humanam partem esse infiniti intellectus Dei: an proinde
cum dicimus, mentem humanam hoc vel illud percipere, nihil aliud dicimus, quam
quod Deus, non quatenus infinitus est, sed quatenus per naturam humanae mentis
explicatur, sive quatenus humanae mentis essentiam constituit, hanc vel illam
habeat ideam." "In mente nulla est absoluta sive libera voluntas. Mens certus
et determinatus modus cogitandi est adeoque suarum actionum non potest esse
"Eodem hoc modo demonstratur, in mente nullam dari facultatem absolutam
intelligendi, cupiendi, amandi, etc."101
Cousin says, "We are thus arrived then in the analysis
of the me, by the way of psychology still, at a new aspect of ontology, at a
substantial activity, anterior and superior to all phenomenal activity, which
produces all the phenomena of activity, survives them all, and renews them
all, immortal and inexhaustible, in the destruction of its temporary
Thus our activity is only a temporary manifestation of the activity of God.
All our acts are his acts.103
Mr. Hunt, analyzing Spinoza's system, and using mainly
his language on this point, says, "Spinoza ascribed to God a kind of freedom:
a free necessity. But to created existences even this kind of freedom is
denied. 'There is nothing contingent in the nature of beings; all things on
the contrary are determined by the necessity of the Divine nature, to exist
and to act, after a certain fashion. 'Nature produced' is determined by
'nature producing. It does not act, it is acted upon. The soul of man is a
Spiritual automaton. . . . There can be nothing arbitrary in the necessary
developments of the Divine essence."104
As Pantheism makes creation an eternal, necessary, and
continuous evolution of the Infinite Being, all liberty of second causes is of
necessity excluded. A distinction may be made between the necessity by which a
stone falls to the ground, and the necessity by which a mind thinks; but the
necessity is as absolute in the one case as in the other. Liberty in man is
rational self-determination, that is, spontaneity determined by reason. But
reason in man is impersonal, according to Pantheism. It is God as explicated
in us. All the acts of the human mind are the acts of God as determined by the
necessity of his nature. The same doctrine of fatalism is involved in the idea
that history is merely the self-evolution of God. One idea, or phase of the
Infinite Being, is exhibited by one age or nation, and a different one by
another. But the whole is as much a necessary process of evolution as the
growth of a plant.
Sir William Hamilton, therefore, says that Cousin
destroys liberty by divorcing it from intelligence, and that his doctrine is
inconsistent not only with Theism but with morality, which cannot be founded
"on a liberty which at best only escapes necessity by taking refuge with
chance."105 And Morell, a eulogist of
Cousin, says, that according to Cousin: "God is the ocean, we are but the
waves; the ocean may be one individuality, and each wave another; but still
they are essentially one and the same. We see not how Cousin's Theism can
possibly be consistent with any idea of moral evil; neither do we see how,
starting from such a dogma, he can ever vindicate and uphold his own theory of
human liberty. On such Theistic principles, all sin must be simply defect, and
all defect must be absolutely fatuitous."106
9. Pantheism in making man a mode of God's existence,
and in denying all freedom of the will, and in teaching that all "phenomenal
activity" is "a transient manifestation" of the activity of God, precludes the
possibility of sin. This does not mean that there is in man no sentiment of
approbation or disapprobation, no subjective difference between right and
wrong. This would be as absurd as to say that there is no difference between
pleasure and pain. But if God be at once God, nature, and humanity; if reason
in us be God's reason; his intelligence our intelligence, his activity our
activity; if God be the substance of which the world is the phenomenon, if we
are only moments in the life of God, then there can be nothing in us which is
not in God. Evil is only limitation, or undeveloped good. One tree is larger
and finer than another; one mind is more vigorous than another; one mode of
action more pleasurable than another; but all alike are modes of God's
activity. Water is water, whether in the puddle or in the ocean; and God is
God, in Nero or St. John. Hegel says that sin is something unspeakably higher
than the law-abiding motion of the planets, or the innocence of plants. That
is, it is a higher manifestation of the life of God.
Spinoza teaches that "sin is nothing positive. It
exists for us but not for God. The same things which appear hateful in men are
regarded with admiration in animals. . . . It follows then that sin, which
only expresses an imperfection, cannot consist in anything which expresses a
reality. We speak improperly, applying human language to what is above human
language, when we say that we sin against God, or that men offend God."107
It is the necessary consequence of the doctrine that
God is the universal Being, that the more of being the more of God, and
therefore the more of good. And consequently the less of being, the less of
good. All limitation, therefore, is evil; and evil is simply limitation of
being. Spinoza108 says, "Quo magis
unusquisque -- suum esse conservare conatur et potest, eo magis virtute
praeditus est; contra quatenus unusquisque -- suum esse conservare negligit,
eatenus est impotens." In the demonstration of this proposition, he says, "Virtus
est ipsa humana potentia,"109 making power
and goodness identical. Professor Baur of Tubingen,110
says: "Evil is what is finite; for the finite is negative; the negation of the
It is only, as just said, another form of this doctrine
that power, or strength, is in man the only good. This does not mean the
strength to submit to injury; the strength of self-sacrifice; the strength to
be humble and to resist evil passion, but the power to carry out our own
purposes in opposition to the will, interests, or happiness of others. That
is, that might is right. The victor is always right, the vanquished is always
wrong. This is only one manifestation of God, suppressing or superseding a
less perfect manifestation. Spinoza's doctrine is, "To the pursuit of what is
agreeable, and the hatred of the contrary, man is compelled by his nature, for
'every one desires or rejects by necessity, according to the laws of his
nature, that which he judges good or bad.' To follow this impulse is not only
a necessity but it is the right and the duty of every man, and every one
should be reckoned an enemy who wishes to hinder another in the gratification
of the impulses of his nature. The measure of every one's right is his power.
The best right is that of the strongest; and as the wise man has an absolute
right to do all which reason dictates, or the right of living according to the
laws of reason, so also the ignorant and foolish man has a right to live
according to the laws of appetite."111 A
more immoral and demoralizing principle was never expressed in human language.
To say that it is the duty of every man to seek his own gratification, to
satisfy the impulses of his nature; that he is an enemy who attempts to hinder
that gratification; that the only limit to such gratification is our power;
that men have the right, if so inclined, to live according to the laws of
appetite, is to say that there is no such thing as moral obligation; no such
thing as right or wrong.
Cousin repeats ad nauseam the doctrine that
might is right; that the strongest is always the best. "We usually see in
success," he says, "only a triumph of force,. . . . I hope I have shown that,
inasmuch as there always must be a vanquished party, and in asmuch as the
vanquished party is always that which ought to be vanquished, to accuse the
vanquisher and to take part against victory, is to take part against humanity,
and to complain of the progress of civilization. It is necessary to go
further; it is necessary to prove that the vanquished party deserves to be
vanquished; that the vanquishing party not only serves the cause of
civilization, but that it is better, and more moral than the vanquished
party." "Virtue and prosperity, misfortune and vice, are in necessary harmony
." "Feebleness is a vice, and, therefore, it is always punished and beaten."
"It is time," he says, "that philosophy of history put beneath its feet the
declamations of philanthropy."112 It must,
of course, be true, if God is the life of the world, all power his power,
every act his act, not only that there can be no sin, but that the most
powerful are always morally (if that word has any meaning) the best; and that
might is right. This is the theory on which hero worship is founded, not only
among the heathen, but among Christians, so called, of our day.
10. Pantheism is self deification. If God comes to
existence only in the world, and if everything that is, is a manifestation of
God, it Follows that (so far as this earth is concerned, and so far as
pantheists allow or acknowledge) the soul of man is the highest form of the
existence of God. As the souls of men differ very much one from another, one
being much superior to others, the greater the man the more divine he is, i.
e., the more does he represent God; the more of the divine essence does he
reveal. The highest step of development is reached only by those who come to
the consciousness of their identity with God. This is the precise doctrine of
the Hindus, who teach that when a man is able to say, "I am Brahm," the moment
of his absorption into the infinite Being has arrived. This is the ground on
which the pantheistic philosophers rest their claim of preeminence; and the
ground on which they concede the preeminence of Christ. He, more than any
other man, saw into the depths of his own nature. He was able to say as no
other man could say, "I and the Father are one." But the difference between
Christ and other men is only one of degree. The human race is the incarnation
of God, which is a process from eternity to eternity. "Mankind," says Strauss,
"is the Godman; the key of a true Christology is, that the predicates which
the Church gives to Christ, as an individual, belong to an idea, a generic
11. There is only one step further, and that is, the
deification of evil. That step Pantheists do not hesitate to take; so far as
evil exists it is as truly a manifestation of God as good. The wicked are only
one form of the self-manifestation of God; sin is only one form of the
activity of God. This dreadful doctrine is explicitly avowed.
"Die dritte Consequenz endlich ist die, dass Gott der Sohn auch als identisch
gesetzt ist mit dem Subject, in welchem die religiose Vorstellung den Ursprung
des Bosen anichaut, mit dem Satan, Phosphoros, Lucifer. Diese Verschmelzung
begrundet sich darin, dass der Sohn innerhalb Gottes das Moment der
Unterscheidung ist, in dem Unterschied aber die Moglichkeit der
Entgegensetzung und Entzweiung angelegt ist. Der Sohn ist der selbstbewusste
Gott." Such a sentence as the foregoing has never been written in English,
and, we trust, never will be. The conclusion it avows, however, is
unavoidable. If God be everything, and if there be a Satan, God must be Satan.
Rosenkranz says, that the mind is horrified at such language, only because it
does not recognize the intimate connection between good and evil; that evil is
in good, and good in evil. Without evil there can be no good.
It me because of this deification of evil, that a
recent German writer115
said that this system should be called Pandiabolism instead of Pantheism. He,
if we mistake not, is the author of the article in Hengstenberg's "Kirchen-Zeitung,"116
in which it is said. "this is the true positive blasphemy of God -- this
veiled blasphemy -- this diabolism of the deceitful angel of light -- this
speaking of reckless words, with which the man of sin sets himself in the
temple of God, showing himself that he is God. The Atheist cannot blaspheme
within such power as this; his blasphemy is merely negative. He merely says:
'There is no God. It is only out of Pantheism that a blasphemy can proceed, so
wild, of such inspired mockery, so devoutly godless, so desperate in its love
of the world, -- a blasphemy so seductive, and so offensive that it may well
call for the destruction of the world."
Pantheism, however, becomes all things to all men. To
the pure it gives scope for a sentimental religious feeling which sees God in
every thing and every thing in God. To the proud it is the source of
intolerable arrogance and self-conceit. To the sensual it gives authority for
every form of indulgence. The body being a mode of God's extension, according
to Spinoza's theory, as the mind is a mode of the divine intelligence, the
body has its divine rights as well as the soul. Even some of the most
reputable of the Pantheistic school, do not hesitate to say in reference to
the trammels of morality: "It is well that the rights of our sensual nature
should, from time to time, be boldly asserted."117
This system, therefore, as even the moderate Tholuck says, "comes to the same
result with the materialism of French encyclopedists, who mourned over mankind
for having sacrificed the real pleasures of time for the imaginary pleasures
of eternity, and the protracted enjoyments of life, for the momentary
happiness of a peaceful death."
Pantheism, therefore, merges everything into God. The
universe is the existence-form of God; that is, the universe is his existence.
All reason is his reason; all activity is his activity; the consciousness of
creatures, is all the consciousness God has of himself; good and evil, pain
and pleasure, are phenomena of God; modes in which God reveals himself, the
way in which He passes from Being into Existence. He is not, therefore, a
person whom we can worship and in whom we can trust. He is only the substance
of which the universe and all that it contains are the ever changing
manifestation. Pantheism admits of no freedom, no responsibility, no conscious
life after death. Cousin sums up the doctrine in this comprehensive paragraph:
"The God of consciousness is not an abstract God, a solitary monarch exiled
beyond the limits of creation, upon the desert throne of a silent eternity,
and of an absolute existence which resembles even the negation of existence.
He is a God at once true and real, at once substance and cause, always
substance and always cause, being substance only in so far as He is cause, and
cause only so far as He is substance, that is to say, being absolute cause,
one and many, eternity and time, space and number, essence and life,
indivisibility and totality, principle, end, and centre, at the summit of
Being and at its lowest degree, infinite and finite together, triple, in a
word, that is to say, at the same time God, nature, and humanity. In fact, if
God be not everything, He is nothing."118
History of Pantheism.
Pantheism has proved itself to be the most persistent
as well as the most wide-spread form of human thought relative to the origin
and nature of tIme universe, and its relation to the Infinite Being, whose
existence in some form seems to be a universal and necessary assumption.
Pantheistic ideas underlie almost all the forms of religion which have existed
in the world. Polytheism, which has been almost universal, has its origin in
nature worship; and nature-worship rests on the assumption that Nature is God,
or, the manifestation, or existence form of the infinite unknown. Of course it
is only the briefest outline of the different forms of this portentous system
of error, that can be given in these pages.
B. Brahminical Pantheism.
Ethnographically the Hindus belong to the same race as
the Greeks, Romans, and other great European nations. In prehistoric periods
one division of the great Aryan family spread itself westward over the
territory which now constitutes Europe. Another division extended south and
east and entered India, displacing almost entirely the original inhabitants of
that large, diversified, and fertile region.
Long before Greece or Rome became cultivated
communities, and when Europe was the home only of uncivilized barbarians,
India was covered with rich and populous cities; the arts had reached the
highest state of development; a literature and language which, in the judgment
of scholars, rival those of Greece and Rome, had been produced, and systems of
philosophy as profound, as subtle, and as diversified as the human mind ever
elaborated, were already taught in her schools.
The Hindus number nearly two hundred millions of souls.
They are now, in the essential principles of their philosophy, their religion,
and their social organization, what they were a thousand years before the
birth of Christ. Never in the history of the world has a form of religious
philosophy been so extensively embraced, so persistently adhered to, or so
effective in moulding the character and determining the destiny of a people.
Few questions of the kind, therefore, are of deeper
interest than what the true character of the Hindu religion actually is. The
decision of that question is not free from difficulty; and it has, therefore,
received very different answers. The difficulty in this case arises from
1. The religious books of the Hindus are not only
written in Sanskrit, a language unintelligible, except to a small class of
learned men, but they are exceedingly voluminous. The Vedas, the most ancient
and authoritative, fill fourteen volumes folio. The Institutes of Menu, the
Puranas, and the sacred poems, "Ramayana" and "Mahabhrata," are equally
extensive. The former of these poems consists of a hundred thousand verses,
and the latter of four hundred thousand, while the Aeneid has only twelve
thousand, and the Iliad twenty-four thousand. Sir William Jones said that the
student of the Hindu literature and religion, found himself in time presence
2. lt is not only, however, the voluminousness of the
authoritative sacred books, but the character of their contents, which creates
the difficulty of getting a clear idea of the system which they teach. The
Vedas consist mainly of hymns of various ages, interspersed with brief
obscure, philosophical or theological explanations and comments. The Puranas
are filled with extravagant legends; which are to be interpreted historically,
and which mythically, it is difficult to decide.
3. The spirit of exaggeration is so characteristic of
the Hindu mind that statements meant to be understood literally shock the mind
by their extravagance. Thus their books make the earth a circular plane one
hundred and seventy millions of miles in diameter; they speak of mountains
sixty miles high, and of periods of four thousand millions of millions of
The Religion of the Hindus not
It is a common opinion that the Hindu religion was
originally and for centuries monotheistic; that out of monotheism gradually
rose the present complicated and monstrous polytheism, and that
contemporaneously among the philosophical class, were developed the different
forms of Pantheism. But this is contrary to well established facts, and is
altogether unsatisfactory as a solution of the great problem of Hindu life.
It is indeed true, as we know from the Bible, that
monotheism was the earliest form of religion among men. And it is also true in
all probability that the Vedas, which are collections of ancient hymns,
contain some which belong to the monotheistic period. Most of those, however,
which appear to assume the existence of one God, are to be understood in a
pantheistic and not in a theistic sense. These recognize one divine Being, but
that one includes all the other forms of being. The history of religion shows
that when monotheism failed among men because "they did not like to retain God
in their knowledge," it was replaced by the worship of nature. This
nature-worship assumed two forms. The different elements, as fire, air, and
water, were personified, endowed with personal attributes and divine powers,
giving rise to polytheism. Or nature as a whole was the object of worship,
giving rise to Pantheism.
It is evident that among the highly intellectual Aryans
who settled in India, between one and two thousand years before Christ, the
pantheistic view had obtained the ascendency, not as a philosophical theory
merely, but as a religious doctrine. It became, and has continued until this
day, the foundation of the religious, civil, and social life of the Hindu. It
is this which gives it its paramount importance. It stands alone in history.
In no other case, among no other people, has Pantheism become the controlling
form of religious belief among the people, so as to determine their
institutions and to mould their character. The Hindus, therefore, have an
interest for Christians and for the religious philosopher which attaches to no
other heathen nation. They show, and were doubtless intended to show, what are
the legitimate effects of Pantheism. That doctrine has had dominant control
for millenniums over a highly cultivated and intelligent people, and in their
character and state we see its proper fruits.
It was Pantheistic.
That the religion of the Hindus is fundamentally
pantheistic, is evident --
1. From what their sacred writings teach of the Supreme
Being. It is designated by a word in the neuter gender, Brahm. It is never
addressed as a person. It is never worshipped. It has no attributes but such
as may be predicated of space. It is said to be eternal, infinite, immutable.
It is said to have continued for untold ages in the state of unintelligent,
unconscious being. It comes to existence, to consciousness, and life, in the
world. It unfolds itself through countless ages in all the forms of finite
existence; and then by a like gradual process all things are resolved into
unconscious being. The illustrations of the origin of the world commonly
employed are sparks issuing from a burning mass; or, better, vapour rising
from the ocean, condensing and falling back to the source whence it came.
Being as such, or the Infinite, is, therefore, viewed in three aspects: as
coming to existence, as developing itself in the world, as receiving
everything back into the abyss of simple being. These different aspects are
expressed by the words, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, to which our terms,
Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer, answer very imperfectly.
We have here the constantly recurring pantheistic
formula, Thesis, Analysis, Synthesis; Being. Development, Restoration. The
Infinite, the Finite, and their Identity. The principal difference between the
Brahminical system and the theories of the later pantheists, is that the
latter make the universe co-eternal with God. The Infinite from eternity to
eternity develops itself in the Finite. Whereas, according to the former,
there was an inconceivably long period of repose antecedent to the process of
development, and that process after millions of millions of ages, is to be
followed by a like period of unconsciousness and rest.
Relation of Infinite Being to
2. The relation of God to the world, or rather of the
Infinite to the Finite, is the same in the Brahminical, as in other
pantheistic systems. That relation has been already intimated. It is that of
identity. The world is the existence-form of God. God is every thing, good and
evil; and everything is God. But in very different degrees. There is more of
Being (i. e., of God) in a plant than in unorganized matter; more in an
animal than in the plant more in man than in either; more in one man, or race
of men, than in another.
Relation of Pantheism to
3. The vast polytheistic system of the Hindus is
founded on Pantheism and is its logical consequence. In the first place, as
just remarked, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, commonly called the Hindu Trinity,
are not persons, but personifications, or different aspects under which
Infinite Being is to be regarded. In the second place, as the Infinite Being
manifests itself in different degrees in different persons and things,
anything extraordinary in nature, any remarkable man, is regarded as a special
manifestation or embodiment of God. Hence the frequent avatars or
incarnations of the Hindu mythology. In this way the gods may be, and have
been indefinitely multiplied. Any person or thing, or quality, may be deified
as a manifestation of infinite Being. In the third place, this accounts for
the facts that the Hindu gods are regarded as destitute of moral excellence,
and that even evil, as under the name of Kali, the goddess of cruelty
and patroness of murderers, may be the special object of reverence. In the
fourth place, no god, not even Brahma or Vishnu, is, according to the Hindu
system, immortal. All gods and goddesses are at length to be merged in the
abyss of infinite, unconscious Being.
Effect of Pantheism on Religion.
4. Pantheism, as it makes being, God, as it recognizes
no attribute but power in the objects of worship, divorces morality from
religion. It is not in the power of any system, however sincerely embraced, to
reverse the laws of our nature. And, therefore, in despite of the prevalence
of a doctrine which denies the possibility of either sin or virtue, and makes
everything dependent on fate, or the power of arbitrary being, the people in
various ways recognize the obligation of the moral law and the excellence of
virtue. But this has nothing to do with their religion. The great object of
all religious observances was final absorption in God; their proximate object
was to propitiate some power by which the worshipper would be raised one or
more steps toward the state in which that absorption is possible. On this
point Professor Wilson says:119
"Entire dependence upon Krishna, or any other favorite deity, not only
obviates the necessity of virtue, but it sanctifies vice. Conduct is wholly
immaterial. It matters not how atrocious a sinner a man may be, if he paints
his face, his breast, his arms with certain sectarial marks; or, which is
better, if he brands his skin permanently with them with a hot iron stamp; if
he is constantly chanting hymns in honor of Vishnu, or, what is equally
efficacious, if he spends hours in the simple reiteration of his name or
names; if he die with the word Hari, or Rama, or Krishna on his lips, and the
thought of him in his mind, he may have lived a monster of iniquity, -- he is
certain of heaven." "Certain of heaven," is a Christian form of expression,
and conveys an idea foreign to the Hindu mind. What such a worshipper hopes
and expects is that when next born into the world it may be in a higher state
and so much the nearer his final absorption. As Professor Wilson is not only
moderate, but almost apologetic in the account which he gives of the religion
of the Hindus, the above quoted statement cannot be suspected of unfairness or
Character of the Hindu Worship.
The two leading characteristics of the Hindu worship
are cruelty and indecency. And these are sufficiently accounted for by the
Pantheism which underlies the whole system. Pantheism denies the distinction
between virtue and vice; it recognizes no attribute but power; it deifies
evil; it "sanctifies vice;" passion, sensual or malignant, is as much a mode
of divine manifestation as the most heroic virtue. Indeed, there is no room
for the idea of moral excellence. Hence the prescriptions of religion have
reference almost exclusively to rites and ceremonies. The Brahmin when he
rises must bathe in a certain way, stand in a certain posture, extend his
fingers in a prescribed manner; he must salute the rising sun, resting on one
foot; he must repeat certain words. When he eats, the dish must be placed
according to rule; he must make prescribed motions with his hands, and so on
through the whole day. Every act is prescribed, everything is religious;
everything either defiles or purifies, ceremonially, but of moral defilement
or purity there seems to be in their religion no recognition.
The Anthropology of the Hindus.
5. The anthropology of the Hindus proves the
pantheistic character of their whole system. Man is only a part of God, a mode
of his existence. He is compared to a portion of sea-water inclosed in a
bottle and thrown into the ocean. The water in the bottle is the same in
nature as that without. As soon as the bottle is broken the water within it is
lost in the surrounding ocean. Another illustration of the destiny of the soul
is that of a lump of salt thrown into the ocean, which immediately disappears.
Its individuality is lost. This absorption of the soul is the highest
beatification which Pantheism offers to its votaries. But this, in the case of
the vast majority of men, can be attained only after a long process of
transmigrations extending, it may be, through millions of years. If a man be
faithful and punctilious in his religious observances, he comes into the world
after death in a higher state. Thus, a Soudra may become a Brahmin. But if
unfaithful, he will be born in a lower form, it may be, in that of a reptile.
It is thus, by these alternations, that the wished for absorption in Brahm is
ultimately attained. With regard to the sacred, or Brahminical caste, the
process may be shorter. A Brahmin's life is divided, according to the
Institutes of Menu, into four periods: childhood, student life; life as
householder; and finally, the ascetic period. As soon as a Brahmin feels the
approach of old age, he is directed to retire from the world; to live as a
hermit; to subsist only on herbs; to deny himself all business and enjoyment,
that by continued self-negation he may not only destroy the power of the body,
and free himself from the influence of the things seen and temporal, but also
lose the consciousness of his individuality, and be able at last to say, "I am
Brahm," and then be is lost in the infinite.
The Hindu life is dominated by this doctrine of
absorption in God after a long series of transmigrations, and by the division
of the people into castes, which has in like manner its foundation in their
theory of the relation of God to the world, or, of the Infinite to the Finite.
The Brahminical, or sacred class, is a higher manifestation of God than the
military class; the military, than the mercantile; the mercantile, than the
servile. This is popularly expressed by saying that the first proceeds from
the head, the second from the arms, the third from the body, and the fourth
from the feet of Brahm. The member of one of the lower castes cannot pass into
either of those above him, except that by merit (ritual observances) he may on
his next birth into the world be advanced to a higher grade; and one of a
higher caste, by neglect of the prescribed rule of living, may at his next
birth find himself degraded into a lower caste, or even into a beast or a
reptile. Hence the horror of losing caste, which places a man out of the line
of advancement, and consigns him to an almost endless state of degradation.
The Effect of Pantheism on the
Social Life of the Hindus.
6. The whole religious and social life of the Hindu is
controlled by the radical principle that all things are God, or modes of his
existence, and all destined to return to Him again. To a Hindu his individual
existence is a burden. It is a fall from God. Hence to get back, to be lost in
the Infinite, is the one great object of desire and effort. As this end is not
to be attained by virtue, but by asceticism, by propitiation of the gods,
their religion is simply a round of unmeaning ceremonies, or acts of
self-denial, or self-torture. Their religion, therefore, tends to destroy all
interest in the present life, which is regarded as a burden and degradation.
It cuts the nerves of exertion. It presents no incentive to virtue. it
promotes vice. It has all the effects of fatalism. The influence of the
worship of deities without moral excellence, some of them monsters of
iniquity; the belief that cruelty and obscenity are acceptable to these
deities, and secure their favor, cannot be otherwise than debasing. The world,
therefore, sees in India the practical working of Pantheism. The system has
been in unrestricted operation, not as a philosophy, but as a practical
religious belief, for thousands of years, and among a people belonging to the
most favored of the various races of men, and the result is before our eyes.
"Greece and India," says Max Muller,120
"are, indeed, the two opposite poles in the historical development of the
Aryan man. To the Greek, existence is full of life and reality; to the Hindu
it is a dream, an illusion. . . . The Hindu enters this world as a stranger;
all his thoughts are directed to another world; he takes no part even where he
is driven to act; and when he sacrifices his life, it is but to be delivered
from it. No wonder that a nation like the Indian cared so little for history;
no wonder that social and political virtues were little cultivated, and the
ideas of the useful and the beautiful scarcely known to them. With all this,
however, they had what the Greek was as little capable of imagining as
they were of realizing the elements of Grecian life. They shut their eyes to
this world of outward seeming and activity, to open them full on the world of
thought and rest. Their life was a yearning after eternity; their activity a
struggle to return into that divine essence from which this life seemed to
have severed them. Believing as they did in a divine and really existing
eternal Being (to. o;ntwj o;n), they could
not believe in the existence of this passing world. If the one existed, the
other could only seem to exist; if they lived in the one, they could not live
in the other. Their existence on earth was to them a problem, their eternal
life a certainty. The highest object of their religion was to restore that
bond by which their own self (atman) was linked to the eternal Self (paramatman);
to recover that unity which had been clouded and obscured by the magical
illusions of reality, by the so-called Maya of creation."
In order to show "How largely this idea of the Atman,
as the Divine Spirit, entered into the early religious and philosophical
speculations of the Indians," he quotes from one of the Vedas a Dialogue in
which, among other things, one of the speakers says: "Whosoever looks for this
world, for the gods, for all beings, for this universe, elsewhere than in the
Divine Spirit, should be abandoned by them all. This Brahmahood, this kshatra-power,
this world, these gods, these beings, this universe, all is the Divine
The illustrations used by the speaker to show the relation of the phenomenal
universe to God, are derived from the sounds issuing from a drum or a lute,
smoke rising from a fire, vapour from the sea. He adds, "It is with us, when
we enter into the Divine Spirit, as if a lump of salt was thrown into the sea,
it becomes dissolved into the water (from which it was produced), and is not
to be taken out again. But wherever you take the water and taste it, it is
salt. Thus is this great, endless, and boundless Being but one mass of
knowledge. As the water becomes salt, and the salt becomes water again, thus
has the Divine Spirit appeared from out the elements and disappears again into
them. When we have passed away, there is no longer any name."122
There can therefore be no reasonable doubt that
Pantheism lies at the foundation of all the religion of India. There is,
indeed, the same difference between the present complex and corrupt polytheism
of the Hindus and the teachings of the Vedas, that there is between the Roman
Catholicism of our day and primitive Christianity. There is, however, this
important distinction between the two cases. Popery is a perversion of
Christianity by the introduction of incongruous elements derived from Jewish
and heathen sources, whereas the religion of modern India is the legitimate
and logical result of the principles of the earliest and purest of the Hindu
The most accessible sources of information on the
literature and religion of lndia, are the writings of Sir William Jones; the
writings of Colebrooke; the Journal of the Asiatic Society; the works of Prof.
Wilson of Oxford, specially his "Essays and Lectures on the Religion of the
Hindus"; Max Muller's work just quoted. Dr. Duff's "India and Indian
Missions," and the histories of India, by Macaulay, Elphinstone. et al.
C. Grecian Pantheism.
The remark of Max Muller, that "Greece and India are
the two opposite poles of the development of the Aryan man," is strikingly
correct. The Greek believed in, and lived for the present and the visible; the
Indian believed in, and lived for the invisible and the future. Nevertheless
there was a tendency in the higher minds among the Greeks to adopt the same
speculative views as to God and the universe, the Infinite and the Finite, as
prevailed in India. With the Greek, however, it was a matter of speculation;
with the Hindu, it was a practical religious belief.
Speaking in general terms, the different forms of
Grecian philosophy are characterized by the effort to reduce all the forms of
existence to unity; to discover some one substance, principle, or power, to
which all modes of manifestation of being could be referred. Sometimes this
one substance was assumed to be material; sometimes spiritual; sometimes the
obvious incompatibility between the phenomena of mind and those of matter,
forced the admission of two eternal principles: the one active, the other
passive; the one spiritual, the other material. The fundamental principle or
idea, therefore, of the Grecian philosophy was pantheistic, either in its
materialistic, spiritualistic, or hylozoistic form.
The Ionic School.
The earliest school among the Greeks was the Ionic,
represented by Thales the Milesian, Anaximander and Anaximenes also of Miletus,
and Heraclitus of Ephesus. These philosophers flourished from about 600 to 500
B. C. They were all materialistic in their theories. With Thales the one
primal universal substance was water; with Anaximenes it was air; with
Heraclitus it was fire. "It was the endeavour of this oldest of the Ionic
philosophies, to reduce the origin of all things from one simple radical
cause, a cosmical substance, in itself unchangeable, but entering into the
change of phenomena; and this was why these philosophers had no room in their
doctrine for gods, or transmundane beings, fashioning and ruling things at
will; and, in fact, Aristotle also remarked of the old physiologists, that
they had not distinguished the moving cause from matter."123
Of Heraclitus, Dollinger, in his able work "The Gentile and the Jew in the
Courts of the Temple of Christ," says he "meant by his 'fire,' an ethereal
substance as primal matter, the all-pervading and animating soul of the
universe, a matter which he conceived to be not merely actual fire, but
caloric, and this being at the same time the only power at work in the world,
all-creative and destructive in turns, was, to speak generally, the one real
and veritable existence among all things. For everything had its origin only
in the constant modification of this eternal and primal fire: the entire world
was a fire dying out and rekindling itself in a fixed succession, while the
other elements are but fire converted by condensation or rarefaction into a
variety of forms. Thus the idea of a permanent being is a delusion; everything
is in a state of perpetual flux, an eternal-going to be (Werden), and in this
stream spirit is hurried along as well as body, swallowed up and born afresh.
. . . Heraclitus, as any thorough-going Pantheist would, called the common
soul of the world, the all-comprehending primal fire, Zeus; and the flux of
perpetual change and tendency to be, into which it enters, he termed
poetically Zeus playing by himself."124
Cousin says, "For the Ionic school in both its stages,
there was no other God than nature. Pantheism is inherent in its system. What
is Pantheism? It is the conception of the universe, to.
pa/n, as alone existing, as self-sufficient, and having its
explanation in itself. All nascent philosophy is a philosophy of nature, and
thus is inclined to Pantheism. The sensationalism of the Ionians of necessity
took that form; and, to speak honestly, Pantheism is nothing but atheism."125
Cousin frames the definition of Pantheism so as to
exclude his own system. With him the material universe alone is not God. He
believes in "God, nature, and humanity." But these three are one. "If God," he
says, "be not everything, He is nothing." This, however, is as truly Pantheism
(although in a more philosophical form), as the Materialism of the Ionians.
The Eleatic School.
The Eleatic or Italian school, of which Xenophanes,
Parmenides, and Zeno, are the principal representatives, was inclined to the
other extreme of denying the very existence of matter. Of these philosophers,
Cousin says, "They reduced everything to an existence absolute, which
approached nearly to Nihilism, or the denial of all existence."126
Of Xenophanes, born in Colophon 617 B. C., Dollinger127
says, "With all his assertions of monotheistic sound, he was still a
Pantheist, and, indeed, a material Pantheist, and is universally understood to
be such by the ancients. Certainly there was present to his mind the idea of a
being, one and spiritual, embracing the whole complement of existence and
thought within himself; yet this being was in his view but the general
nature-power; the unity of God was to him identical with the unity of the
world, and this again but the manifestation of the invisible being, called
God, and therefore also he explained it to be uncreate, everlasting, and
imperishable." It is hard to see how this differs from the modern pantheistic
doctrine, that God is the substance of which the world is the phenomenon; or
why Xenophanes should be regarded as a materialist more than Schelling or
Parmenides of Elea about 500 B. C. was more of an
idealist. He attained to the idea of a pure and simple being in opposition to
the material principle of the Ionic school. This "being," however, was not a
"pure metaphysical idea, for," says Dollinger, "he so expressed himself as to
seem to represent it at one time as corporeal, and extended in space, at
another as thinking. 'To think, and the object of which the thought is, are
one and the same, was a saying of his. . . . There was no bridge for
Parmenides that had led from this pure simple 'being' to the world of
phenomena, of the manifold, and of motion; and therefore he denied the reality
of all we see; the whole world of sense owed its existence only to the
illusions of sense and the empty notions of mortal men built thereon."128
Thus Parmenides anticipated Schelling in teaching the identity of subject and
The Stoics take their origin from Zeno of Cittium, in
Cyprus (840-260 B. C.). Their doctrine has already been noticed under the head
of Hylozoism. Dollinger, indeed, says, "The Stoic system is utter Materialism,
built upon Heraclitic doctrine. It adopted corporeal causes only, and is only
acquainted with two principles -- matter, and an activity resident in matter,
from eternity, as power and giving it form. Everything real is body; there are
no incorporeal things, as our abstractions, space, time, etc., have merely an
existence in our thoughts; so all that really exists can only be known through
This judgment, however, is modified by what he says elsewhere. It is very
plain that the later Stoics, especially among the Latins, as Seneca and Marcus
Aurelius, regarded the general principle which animated matter as having all
the attributes of mind. On this point Dollinger says, "The two principles,
matter and power, are to the Stoics but one and the same thing viewed in
different relations. Matter required for its existence a principle of unity to
give it form and keep it together; and this, the active element, is
inconceivable without matter, as a subject in and on which it exists and
dwells, and in which it works and moves. Thus, the positive element is matter;
yet conceived without properties; the active one, running through and
quickening all, is God in matter. But in truth, God and matter are identical;
in other words, the Stoic doctrine is hylozoic Pantheism." "God is, therefore,
the world-soul, and the world itself no aggregate of independent elements, but
an organized, living being, whose complement and life is a single soul, or
primal fire, exhibiting divers degrees of expansion and heat. . . . God, then,
in his physical aspect, is the world-fire, or vital heat, all-penetrating, the
one only cause of all life and all motion, and, at the same time, the
necessity that rules in the world: but, on the other side, as the universal
cause can only be a soul full of intelligence and wisdom, he is the
world-intelligence, a blest being, and the author of the moral law, who is
ever occupied with the government of the world, although he is precisely this
"The one substance is God and nature together, of which all that comes into
being, and ceases to be, all generation and dissolution, are mere
modifications. Seneca explains Zeus or God's being at once the world and the
world's soul by pointing to man, who feels himself to be a single being and
yet again as one consisting of two substances, body and soul."131
The Stoics adopted the Hindu doctrine of the
dissolution of all things, and the redevelopment of God in the world, after
long successive periods. "In the great conflagration which takes place after
the expiration of a world period or great year," all organized beings will be
destroyed, all multiplicity and difference be lost in God's unity; which
means, all will become ether again. But forthwith, like the phoenix recovering
life from his own ashes, the formation of the world begins afresh; God
transforms himself once more by a general renovation into a world in which the
same events, under similar circumstances, are again to be repeated down to the
minutest detail. Many of these great catastrophes have already happened, and
the process of burning by fire will follow again upon this regeneration, and
so on ad infinitum.132
This system as well as every other form of Pantheism,
excludes all moral freedom: everything is under the law of absolute necessity.
It therefore precludes the idea of sin. "Acts of vice, Chrysippus said, are
movements of universal nature, and in conformity with the divine intelligence.
In the economy of the great world, evil is like chaff falling, -- as
unavoidable and worthless. Evil also was said by this school to do the service
of making the good known, and yet at last all must resolve itself into God."133
Thus the Ionic, the Eleatic, and the Stoic forms of
Grecian philosophy were in their fundamental principles pantheistic. The two
great philosophic minds of Greece, and of the world, however, were Plato and
Aristotle, the one the philosopher of the ideal world, and the other of the
natural. The latter was the disciple of the former, although in most points of
doctrine, or at least of method, his antagonist. It is only with the views of
these mind-controlling men, concerning the nature of the supreme Being, and of
his relation to the phenomenal world, that the theologian as such has anything
to do. And this, unfortunately, with regard to both, is the point in regard to
which their teachings are the most obscure.
Plato united in his comprehensive intellect, and
endeavoured to harmonize the elements of the different doctrines of his
predecessors in the field of speculation. "The Socratic doctrine of the
absolute good and beautiful, and of the Deity revealing himself to man as a
kind Providence, formed the basis on which he started. As channels for the
Heraclitic doctrine of the perpetual coming into being and flux of all things,
together with the Eleatic one of the eternal immutability of the one and only
Being, the dogma of Anaxagoras of a world-ruling spirit was serviceable to
him, and with it he had the skill to connect the Pythagorean view of the
universe, as an animated intelligent whole, in a spiritualized form."134
These are sufficiently incongruous materials. An intelligent Deity exercising
a providential control over the world; the Heraclitic doctrine which involved
the denial of all reality and resolved everything into a perpetual flow of
phenomena; the Eleatic doctrine of a one and only Being; and the Pythagorean
idea of the universe as an animated and intelligent whole. It was not possible
but that first one, and then another of these elements should be made the more
prominent, and consequently that the great philosopher should speak sometimnes
as a Theist and sometimes as a Pantheist. Neither was it possible that these
incongruous elements should be moulded into a consistent system. It is not,
therefore, a matter of surprise that Dollinger, one of the greatest admirers
of Plato and one of the ablest expounders of his writings, should immediately
add to the passage above quoted. "Plato never arrived at a finished system,
rounded off and perfect in itself; nevertheless there is unmistakable evidence
in his works of a continual progress, an effort after an increasing depth of
foundation, and a stronger internal articulation, joined to a wonderful
exuberance of ideas, often excessively bold."135
Plato was not a Theist, in the ordinary and Christian
sense of that word. He did not recognize the existence of an extramundane God,
the creator, preserver, and governor of the world, on whom we are dependent
and to whom we are responsible. With him God is not a person. As Anselm and
the Realists generally admitted the existence of "rationality" as distinct
from rational beings; a general principle which became individual and personal
in angels and men; so Plato admitted the existence of an universal
intelligence, or nou/j, which becomes
individualized in the different orders of intelligent beings, gods, demons,
and men. God with him was an Idea; the Idea of the Good; which comprehended
and gave unity to all other ideas.
What then were ideas in Plato's sense of the term? They
were not mere thoughts, but the only real entities, of which the phenomenal
and sensible are the representations or shadows. He illustrated their nature
by supposing a man in a dark cave entirely ignorant of the external world,
with a bright light shining behind him, while between him and the light there
continually passes a procession of men, animals, trees, etc. The moving
shadows of these things would be projected on the wall of the cavern, and the
man would necessarily suppose that the shadows were the realities. These ideas
are immutable and eternal, constituting the essence or real being of all
phenomenal existence. "Plato teaches that for as many general signs of our
conceptions as we have, there are so many really existing things, or Ideas, in
the intelligible world corresponding: to man these are the only solid and
worthy objects of thought and knowledge; for they are eternal and immutable,
existing only in themselves, but separate from all things and individual,
while their manifold copies, the things perceptible by sense, are ever
fluctuating and transitory. Independent of time and space, as well as of our
intellect and its conceptions, Ideas belong to a world of their own, of
another sphere, transcending sense. They are not the thoughts of God, but the
objects of his thought; and, according to them, He created the world in
matter. They only and God are really existing beings; and therefore earthly
things have but the shadow of an existence, and that only derived from a
certain participation in the Ideas, their types."136
The Relation of Ideas, in
Plato's Philosophy, to God
What is the relation of these ideas to God? This is the
decisive question so far as the theology of Plato is concerned. Unfortunately
it is not a question easily answered. It is a point about which the
commentators differ; some saying that Plato leaves the matter undecided,
sometimes identifying ideas with God, and at others representing them as
distinct; others say that he clearly identifies ideas with God, or includes
them in the divine essence; while others again understand him as making a
marked distinction between God and the ideas after which the universe was
moulded. It is not easy to reconcile what Dollinger says on this subject. In
the passage above quoted he says that ideas are not the thoughts of God, but
the objects of his thought. But on the same page137
he says, "These Ideas are not to be conceived as beside and external to God.
They are founded in God, and God is the all comprehensive Idea, embracing all
partial archetypes in an unity." He had before said, that with Plato Ideas and
God are the only "really existing beings." If this be so, and if God is "the
all comprehensive idea, embracing all others in unity," then God is the only
really existing Being; and we have pure Pantheism. According to Cousin, Plato
not only gave ideas a real and proper existence, but, "en dernie.re
analyse il les place dans la raison divine: c'estla qu' elles existent
Dollinger, in commenting on a passage in the Timaeus, in which "God is styled
the Father, who has begotten the world like a son, as an image of the eternal
gods, i. e., ideas," says, "Had Plato ready intended here to explain
the idea of procreation as a communication of essence, he would have been a
Plato, however, he says140
"is no Pantheist; matter is, with him, entirely distinct from God; still he
has a pantheistical bias in his system; for all that there is of intelligence
in the world, down even to man, belongs, in his view, to the divine
substance." Plato, therefore, escapes Pantheism only by admitting the eternity
of matter; but this eternal matter is as near nothing as possible. It is not
corporeal. It is "something not yet entity."
As Plato made ideas eternal and immutable; as they were
all included in the idea of God, i. e., in God; and as they constitute
the only really existing beings, all that is phenomenal or that affects the
senses being mere shadows of the real, it can hardly be denied that his system
in its essential character is really pantheistical. It is, however, an ideal
Pantheism. It does not admit that matter or evil is a manifestation of God, or
mode of his existence. Only what is good, is God; but all that really is, is
The cosmogony of Plato.
Plato's cosmogony and anthropology confirm this view of
his theology. Nothing has ever been created. All that is, is eternal; not
indeed in form, but in substance. Matter, something material, has always
existed. This in itself is lifeless, but it has "a soul," an
unintelligent force by which chaotic or disorderly agitation or motion is
produced. This unintelligent force God endowed with a portion of his own
intelligence or nou/j, and it becomes the
world-soul, i. e., the Demiurgus, the formative principle of the world.
God is not therefore himself even the framer of the world. This is the work of
the Demiurgus. This world-soul pervades the visible universe, and constitutes
one living, animated whole. This "world-soul" is individualized in star-gods,
demons, and human souls. Thus Plato's system makes room for polytheism.
The Nature of the Soul.
The soul, according to this theory, consists of
intelligence which is of the substance of God, and of elements derived from
the world-soul as distinguished from the nou/j
which did not originally belong to it. All evil arises from the connection of
the divine element in man with matter. The object of life is to counteract
this evil influence by contemplation and communion with the ideal world. Plato
taught the preexistence as well as the immortality of the soul. Its state in
the present stage of existence being determined by its course in its previous
forms of being. It is, however, according to his common mode of
representation, strictly immortal. "Plato's monotheistic conception of God,"
"is one of the most refined to which ante-Christian speculation attained; yet
he contributed nothing whatever to the knowledge of the perfect, living,
personality of God, and its absolute and unconditional liberty." His
monotheism, it would seem, consisted in the acknowledgment of a universal
intelligence which manifested itself as reason in all rational beings.
Aristotle, although the disciple, was the great
opponent of Plato and his philosophy. He rejected Plato's doctrine of ideas as
chimerical, as a hypothesis which was unnecessary and without evidence. In
like manner he denied the existence of preexistent matter out of which the
world was fashioned. He believed the world to be eternal both in matter and
form. It is, and there is no reason to doubt that it always has been and
always will be. He admitted the existence of mind in man; and, therefore,
assumed that there is an infinite intelligence, of which reason in man is a
manifestation. But this infinite intelligence, which he called God, was pure
intelligence, destitute of power and of will; neither the creator nor the
framer of the world; unconscious, indeed, that the world exists; as it is
occupied exclusively in thought of which it is itself the object. The world
and God are coeternal; and yet, in a certain sense, God is the cause of the
world. As a magnet acts on matter, or as the mere presence of a friend stirs
the mind, so God unconsciously operates on matter, and awakens its dormant
powers. As the universe is a cosmos, an ordered system; and as innumerable
organized beings, vegetable and animal, exist in the world, Aristotle assumed
that there are "forms" inherent in matter, which determine the nature of all
such organizations. This is very much what in modern language would be called
"vital force," "vitality," "vis formativa,""Bildungstrieb," or
Agassiz's "immaterial principle," which is different in every distint species,
and which constitutes the difference between one species and another. The soul
is the "forma" of the man. "It is the principle that gives form,
motion, and development to the body, the entelecheia of it; i. e., that
substance, which only manifests itself in the body which is formed and
penetrated by it, and continues energizing in it as the principle of life,
determining and mastering matter. Thus, the body is nothing of itself; it is
what it is, only through the soul, the nature and being of which it expresses,
to which it stands in the relation of a medium in which the object, the soul,
is realized; and so it cannot be imagined without the body, nor the body
without it; one must be produced contemporaneously with the other."142
Of course there can be no immortality of the soul. As no plant is immortal, as
the vital principle does not exist separately from the plant, so the soul has
no existence separate from the body. The two begin and end together. "The
really human in the soul, that which has come into being, must also pass away,
the understanding even; only the divine reason is immortal; but, as the memory
belongs to the sensitive soul, and individual thought depends on the
understanding or passive nous only, all self-consciousness must cease
"Thus, then, Aristotle's doctrine of the soul shows that his defect, as well
as that of Plato, and indeed of all antiquity, was his imperfect acquaintance
with the idea of personality; and on that head he cannot be acquitted of a
"His God is not a really personal one, or is only an imperfect personality."145"The
nous, or reason, allows souls, with their bodies, to sink back into
nothingness, from which they severally issued. It alone exists on, ever the
same and unalterable, for it is no other than the divine nous in
individual existence, the divine intelligence enlightening the night of human
understanding, and must be conceived just as much the prime mover of human
discursive thought and knowledge, as of his will."146
This brief review of the Grecian philosophy in its
relation to theology, shows that in all its forms it was more or less
pantheistic. This remark will not be recognized as correct by those, who with
Cousin, limit the use of the word Pantheism to designate either the doctrine
which makes the material universe God; or that which denies the existence of
anything but matter and physical force, which is atheism; nor by those who
take the word strictly as meaning the theory which admits of only one
substance, which is the substance of God; and which consequently makes matter
as much a mode of God's existence as mind. Its correctness, however, will be
admitted by those who mean by Pantheism the doctrine which makes all the
intelligence in the world the intelligence of God, and all intellectual
activity modes of the activity of God, and which necessarily precludes the
possibility of human liberty and responsibility.
The authorities on this subject are, so far as Plato
and Aristotle are concerned, of course their own writings; with regard to
those philosophers whose works are not preserved, or of which only fragments
are extant, their systems are more or less fully detailed by the ancient
writers, as Plutarch and Cicero. The general reader will find the information
he needs in one or more of the numerous histories of philosophy; as those of
Brucker, Ritter, Tenneman, and Cousin; among the latest and best of which is
Dollinger's "The Gentile and the Jew in the Courts of the Temple of Christ,"
D. Mediaeval Pantheism.
Pantheism, as it appeared in the Middle Ages, took its
form and character from Neo-Platonism. This was an eclectic system in which
the Eleatic doctrine of the unity of all being was combined with the Platonic
doctrine concerning the phenomenal universe. The philosophers recognized as
the representatives of this school are Plotinus (A. D. 205-270), Porphyry
(born A. D. 233), Jamblichus in the fourth century, and Proclus in the fifth.
Neo-Platonism was monism. It admitted of only one universal Being. This Being
considered in itself was inconceivable and indescribable. It was revealed, or
self-manifested in the world-soul, and world-reason, which constituted a
trinity; one substance in different aspects or modes of manifestation. The
world is therefore "the affluence of God," as fire emits heat. The soul of man
is a mode of God's existence, a portion of his substance. Its destiny is
absorption in the infinite Being. This was not to be attained by thought, or
by meditation, but by ecstasy. This constituted the peculiar feature of the
Neo-Platonic school. "Union with God" was to be attained by "a mystical
self-destruction of the individual person (Ichheit)" in God.147
says: "From the introduction of Christianity monism has been the character and
the fundamental tendency of the whole modern philosophy." This remark, coming
from an advocate of that theory, must be taken with no small amount of
allowance. It is, however, true that almost all the great departures from the
simplicity of the truth as revealed in the sacred Scriptures, have assumed
more or less distinctly a pantheistic tendency.
John Scotus Erigena.
The most pronounced Pantheist among the schoolmen was
John Scotus Erigena. Little is known of his origin or history. From his name
Scotus and designation Erigena (son of Erin), it has been generally assumed
that he was an Irishman. It is known that he enjoyed the protection and
patronage of Charles the Bald of France, and that he taught in Paris and
perhaps in England.
His principal work is that "De Divisione Naturae." By
nature he means all being. The fourfold divisions which he makes of nature,
are only so many manifestations or aspects under which the one Being is
revealed or is to be contemplated. Those divisions are: (1.) That which
creates and is not created. (2.) That which creates and is created. (3.) That
which does not create but is created. (4.) That which neither creates nor is
created. "This division of nature," says Ritter,149
"is made simply to show that all is God, since the four natures are only
revelations of God."
Scotus agreed with most philosophers in making
philosophy and religion identical, and in admitting no higher source of
knowledge than human reason. " Conficitur," he says, "veram esse philosophiam
veram religionem, conversimque veram religionem esse veram philosophiam."150
The leading principles of his philosophy are the
following: (1.) The distinction with him between being and not-being, is not
that between something and nothing, between substantial existence and
non-existence, but between affirmation and negation. Whatever may be affirmed
is; whatever is denied is not. (2.) All being consists in
thought. Nothing is but as it exists in the mind and consciousness. (3.) With
God, being, thought, and creating are identical. God's being consists in
thinking, and his thoughts are things. In other words, the thought of God is
the real being of all that is. (4.) Consequently the world is eternal. God and
the world are identical. He is the "totum omnium."
His system is, therefore, a form of idealistic
Pantheism. Ritter devotes the ninth book of his "Geschichte der Christlichen
to the exposition of the philosophy of Scotus. The few following passages from
the "De Divisione Naturae," are sufficient to show the correctness of the
above statement of his principles.
"Intellectus enim omnium in Deo essentia omnium est.
Siquidem id ipsum est Deo cognoscere, priusquam fiunt, quae facit, et facere,
quae cognoscit. Cognoscere ergo et facere Dei unum est."152
"Maximus ait: Quodcunque intellectus comprehendere potuerit, id ipsum fit."153
"Intellectus enim rerum veraciter ipsae res sunt, dicente Sancto Dionysio, 'Cognitio
eorum, quae sunt, ea, quae sunt, est.'"154
"Homo est notio quaedam intellectualis in mente divina aeternaliter facta.
Verissima et probatissima definitio hominis est ista: et non solum hominis,
verum etiam omnium quae in divina sapientia facta sunt."155
Omnis visibilis et invisibilis creatura Theophania, i. e., divina
apparitio potest appelari.156
"Num negabis creatorem et creaturam unum esse?"157
"Creation [with Erigena] is nothing else than the Lord of creation; God in
some ineffable manner created in the creation."158
Scotus translated the works of the so-called St.
Dionysius, the Areopagite, and in so doing prepared the way for that form of
mystical Pantheism which prevailed through the Church down to the period of
the Reformation. The pseudo-Dionysius was a Neo-Platonist. His object was to
give the doctrine of Plotinus a Christian aspect. He adopted the principle of
the unity of all being. All creatures are of the essence of God. But instead
of placing the self-manifestation of God in nature, in the world-soul, he
placed it principally in the hierarchy of rational being, -- cherubim,
seraphim, thrones, principalities, and powers, and souls of men. The destiny
of all rational creatures, is reunion with God; and this reunion, as the
Neo-Platonists taught, was to be attained by ecstasy and the negation of Self.
It was this system, which, in common with all other forms of Pantheism,
precluded the idea of sin, which was reproduced by the leading mystics of the
Middle Ages, and which, when it found its way among the people as it did with
the Beghards and Brethren of the Free Spirit, produced, as substantially the
same system has done in India, its legitimate fruits of evil. Of the mystical
Pantheism of the Middle Ages, however, enough has already been said in the
Introduction, in the chapter on Mysticism
E. Modern Pantheism.
The revival of Pantheism since the Reformation is
principally due to Spinoza; he was born at Amsterdam in 1634, and died at
Ghent in the forty-fourth year of his age. He was descended from a wealthy
Jewish Portuguese family, and enjoyed the advantage of a highly finished
education. He early devoted himself to the study of philosophy, and was at
first a disciple of Des Cartes. Leibnitz characterizes the system of Spinoza
as Cartesianism run wild. Des Cartes distrusted the testimony of the senses.
His starting-point was the consciousness of existence, "I think." In that
proposition the existence of a thinking substance is necessarily included. The
outward world produces impressions on this thinking substance. But after all,
these sensations thus produced, are only states of self-consciousmiess. Self,
therefore, and its varying states, are all of which we have direct knowledge.
It is not all, however, that Des Cartes believed actually existed. He was a
sincere Catholic, and died in communion with the Church. He acknowledged not
only the existence of mind, but also of God and of matter. Our knowledge,
however, of God and of matter as substances distinct from our minds, was
arrived at by a process of reasoning. The validity of that process Spinoza
denied. He admitted the existence of only one substance, and gave such a
definition of the word as precluded the possibility of there being more
substances than one. With him substance is that which exists of itself, of
necessity, and is absolutely independent. There is, therefore, but one
substance possible. We come, however, everywhere into contact with two classes
of phenomena: those of thought and those of extension. Thought and extension,
therefore, are the two attributes of the one infinite substance. Individual
things are the modes under which the infinite substance is constantly
manifested. In Spinoza's system there are the three radical ideas of
substance, attribute, and mode. Of these that of substance alone has any
reality. The other two are mere appearances. If we look at anything through a
glass colored red the object will appear red; if the glass be blue, the object
will appear blue; but the color is not really an attribute of the object. Thus
substance (the one) appears to us under one aspect as thought and under
another as extension. The difference is apparent and not real. The finite has
therefore no real existence. The universe is sunk into the Infinite; and the
Infinite is a substance of which nothing can be affirmed. Of the Infinite
nothing can be denied, and therefore nothing can be affirmed for "omnis deter
minatio est negatio." The Infinite, therefore, is practically nothing
A sufficient account of modern Pantheism in its general
features as represented by Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, and their successors
and disciples, has been given already at the commencement ol this chapter.
More detailed information may be found in the numerous recent histories of
philosophy, as those of Morell, Schwegler, Michelet, and Rosenkranz, and in
Hunt's "History of Pantheism."
The fact that Pantheism has so extensively prevailed in
every age and in every part of the world, is a proof of its fascination and
power. Apart from a divine revelation, it seems to have been regarded as the
most probable solution of the great problem of the universe. Nevertheless it
is so unsatisfactory, and does such violence to the laws of our nature, that
it has never to any extent taken hold on the hearts of the people. India may
be regarded as furnishing an exception to this remark. But even there,
although Pantheism was the ground form of the popular religion, it had to
resolve itself into polytheism in order to meet the necessities of the people.
Men must have a personal god whom they can worship and to whom they can pray.
The most obvious remark to be made of the whole system
is that it is a hypothesis. From its very nature it is incapable of proof. It
is a mere theory assumed to account for the phenomena of the universe. If it
did satisfactorily account for them, and did not contradict the teachings of
the Bible, it might be safely admitted. But it is not only inconsistent with
all that the Scriptures reveal concerning the nature of God and his relation
to the world, but it contradicts the laws of belief which God has impressed on
our nature, subverts the very foundation of religion and morality and involves
even the deification of sin.
Had we no divine revelation on the subject, Theism
merely as a theory could not fail to secure the assent of every devout mind in
preference to Pantheism. Theism supposes the existence of a personal,
extramundane God, the creator and preserver of the universe; everywhere
present in his wisdom and power, directing all events to the accomplishment of
his infinitely wise designs. It supposes the material universe to be distinct
from God, dependent on his will, upheld by his power, and pregnant with
physical forces ever active under his control. It supposes that man is the
creature of God, owing his existence to the will of God, created after his
image, a free, rational, moral, and accountable agent, capable of knowing,
loving, and worshipping God as a Spirit infinite in his being and perfections.
Although this theory may have, for the reason, some problems, such as the
origin and prevalence of evil, without a satisfactory solution, yet as it
meets and satisfies all the demands of our nature, and solves the problem as
to the origin and nature of the universe, it commends itself to the reason,
the heart, and the conscience with a force which no sophistry of speculation
Pantheism, on the other hand, does violence to our
nature, and contradicts the intuitive convictions of consciousness.
1. We are conscious that we are free agents. This is a
truth which no man can deny with regard to himself, and which every man
assumes with regard to others. This truth Pantheism denies. It makes our
activity only a form of the activity of God, and assumes that his acts are
determined by necessity as much as the development of a plant or animal.
2. It is intuitively certain that there is a real
distinction between moral good and evil: that the one is that to which man is
bound to be conformed, and the other that which he is bound to hate and to
avoid; that the one deserves approbation, and that the other deserves
disapprobation, and merits punishment. These are convictions which belong to
the rational nature of man; and they cannot be destroyed without destroying
his rationality. Pantheism, however, pronounces these convictions delusions;
that there is no such thing as sin, in the sense above stated; that what we
call sin is mere weakness; imperfect development, as unavoidable as feebleness
in an infant. It goes further: it pronounces evil good. It makes the sinful
acts and passions of men as much the acts and states of God as holy acts and
holy feelings. There is no good but being; and the men of power are the men of
being; and, therefore, the strongest are the best; the weak are to be
despised; they deserved to be conquered and trodden under foot. Hence where
Pantheism has become a religion the deities who represent evil are the most
honoured and worshipped.
3. Pantheism not only destroys the foundation of
morals, but it renders all rational religion impossible. Religion supposes a
personal Being endowed not only with intelligence and power, but with moral
excellence; and to be rational, that Being must be infinite in all his
perfections. Pantheism, however, denies that an infinite Being can be a
person; that it is intelligent, self-conscious, or possessed of moral
attributes. It is just as impossible to worship such a Being as it is to
worship the atmosphere, or the law of gravitation, or the axioms of Euclid.
4. It is no extravagance to say that
Pantheism is the worst form of atheism. For mere atheism is negative. It
neither deifies man nor evil. But Pantheism teaches that man, the human soul,
is the highest form in which God exists; and that evil is as much a
maniestation of God as good; Satan as the ever-blessed and adorable Redeemer.
Beyond this it is impossible for the insanity of wickedness to go.
5. Man, according to this system, is no more immortal
than the leaves of the forest, or the waves of the sea. We are transient forms
of universal Being.
Our nature is indestructible; as it is impossible that
we should not believe in our own individual existence, in our free agency, in
our moral obligations; in our dependence and responsibility to a Being capable
of knowing what we are and what we do, and of rewarding and punishing as He
sees fit, so it is impossible that Pantheism should ever be more than a
philosophical speculation, where the moral nature of man has once been
developed by the knowiedge of the living and true God.
1. “De l’Homme.” Works, edit. Paris, 1793, vol. iii.
2. Introduction to the General History of Philosophy, vol. i. p. 169.
3. See First Principles of a New System of Philosophy, by Herbert
4. De Natura Deorum, ii. 22, p. 1116, edit. Leipzig, 1850.
5. See Rixner’s Geschichte der Philosophie, vol. i. sect. 120.
6. See Youman’s Conservation and Correlation of Forces, p. 372.
7. Croonian Lectures on Matter and Force. Given at the Royal College of
Physicians, in 1868. By Henry Bruce Jones, A.M., M.D., F.R.S., London, 1868,
8. Rixner’s Geschichte der Philosophie, i. 303-318. Ritter’s History
of Philosophy, translated by A. J. W. Morrison, iii. 399-447.
9. F. Fabri
10. Leviathan, chap. i.
11. Morell’s History of Modern Philosohy, New York, 1848, pp. 71, 72.
12. Observations on Man, chap. i. sect. 2, and Morell, p. 98.
13. Morell, p. 92.
14. Morell, p. 97.
15. Edinburgh Review, Oct. 1806, p. 157.
16. “Address before British Association,” Athenaeum, for August 29, 1868.
Quoted by Perowne’s Hulsean Lectures, for 1868. Appendix. Note A.
17. Page 102.
18. F. Fabri in Herzog’s Real-Encyclopadie, art. “Materialismus.”
19. New York, 1855.
20. Vol. i. p. 5.
21. Philosophie Positiva, vol. ii. p. 515.
22. Vol. i. p. 11.
23. Vol. ii. p. 47.
24. Ibid. p. 73.
25. See Prof. Porter’s Human Intellect, p. 54.
26. Lay Sermons, pp. 174, 175.
27. Huxley’s Lay Sermons, Addresses, etc., London, 1870, No. VIII. “The
Scientific Aspects of Positivism.” p. 178.
28. Philosophie Positive, vol. ii. p. 516.
29. Philosophie Positive, vol. ii. pp. 14, 15.
30. Ibid. vol. ii. p. 268.
31. Lay Sermons, etc., p. 164.
32. Professor Huxley says: “For these sixteen years, it has been a periodical
source of irritation to me to find M. Comte put forward as a representative of
scientific thought; and to observe that writers whose philosophy had its
legitimate parent in Hume, or in themselves, were labelled ‘Comtists,’ or
‘Positives,’ by public writers, even in spite of vehement protests to the
contrary. It has cost Mr. Mill hard rubbings to get that label off; and I
watch Mr. Spencer, as one regards a good man struggling with adversity, still
engaged in eluding its adhesiveness, and ready to tear away skin and all,
rather than let it stick. My own turn might come next; and, therefore, when an
eminent prelate of the other day gave currency and authority to the popular
confusion, I took an opportunity of incidentally revindicating Hume’s property
in the so-called ‘New Philosophy’ and at the same time of repudiating Comtism
on my own behalf.” – Ut Supra, p. 165. The mistake complained of as a very
natural one, as Comte and Hume have so much in common. Professor Huxley’s
quotation from Faust is in point here: –
“Ungefahr sagt das der Pfarrer auch
Nur mit ein bischen andern Worten.”
33. See Correlation and Conservation of Forces. A
collection of papers by distinguished scientific men. By Edward l. Youmans,
M.D. New York, 1865, p. 405.
34. Ibid. p. 405.
35. See Correlation and Conservation of Forces, p. 411.
36. Ibid. p 413.
37. Ibid. p. 119. Also, New Quarterly Journal of Science for 1864.
38. Youman’s, p. 407.
39. Outlines of Physiology, Smith’s Philadelphia edition, 1868, p. 932.
40. Youman’s, p. 402.
41. “Physical Basis of Life” in his Lay Sermons, p. 158.
42. Lay Sermons, p. 144.
43. Ibid. p. 149.
44. Lay Sermons, p. 151.
45. Ibid. p. 142.
46. Protoplasm; or Life, Matter, and Mind, by Lionel S. Beale, M.B.,
F.B.S. Second edition, London, 1870, p. 3.
47. Protoplasm, p. 4.
48. Lay Sermons, pp. 151, 152.
49. Lay Sermons, pp. 155, 156.
50. Ibid. p. 157.
51. Ibid. p. 158.
52. Hume, Works, edit. Edinburgh, 1826, iv. p. 193.
53. First Principles, New York, 1869, p. 556.
54. Ibid. p. 211.
55. Ibid. p. 212.
56. Ibid. p. 217.
57. Physiology and Pathology of Mind, Lond. 1868, p. 42.
58. Ibid. p. 43.
59. Evangelischer Glaube. Romischer Irrglaube. Und weltlicher Unglaube. Gotha,
60. See Berger, I. iii. 5; part i. pp. 264 to 271.
61. As regards Protoplasm in relation to Professor Huxley’s Essay on the
Physical Basis of Life, by James Hutchison Stirling, F.R.C.S., LL. D.
Edit. New Haven, p. 15.
62. See Life, Matter, and Mind, by Lionel S. Beale, M.B., F.R.S.,
London, 1870, p. 17. Dr. Beale quotes from a paper by Professor Huxley in the
first number of the Academy, p. 13.
63. See his Address as President of the British Association, reported in the
London Athenaeum, September 17th, 1870. The little that is necessary to say on
the subject of spontaneous generation in such a work as this, is reserved
until the question concerning the origins of man comes up for consideration.
64. Kraft und Stoff, Zehnte Fluflage, Leipzig, 1869, p. 209.
65. Croonian Lectures, p. 66.
66. Correlation of Vital and Physical Forces, p. 5.
67. As Regards Protoplasm in Relation to Professor Huxley’s Essay on the
Physical Basis of Life, by James Hutchison Stirling, F.R.C.S., LL. D.
Edinburgh, Blackwood & Sons. Republished as one of the Yale University series,
p. 39. This is considered to us the best refutation of the theory of the
correlation of physical and vital force.
68. As Regards Protoplasm, etc., pp. 41, 42.
69. Ibid. p. 42.
70. Ibid. p. 42.
71. Ibid. p. 43.
72. As regards Protoplasm, etc., pp. 47, 48.
73. See Professor Barker’s Lecture, above referred to, for a summary of these
arguments, page 24.
74. Athenaeum for August 29, 1868, quoted Hulsean Lectures for 1868; Appendix,
75. The Recent Progress of Science, with an Examination of the asserted
identity of the Mental Powers with Physical Forces. An Address before the
American Association for the Advancement of Science. August, 1868. By
Frederick A. P. Barnard, S. T. D., LL. D., pp. 41, 42.
76. Paper in the Agricultural Report, 1854-1855, p. 448.
77. Page 441.
78. Protoplasm; or Life, Matter, and Mind. By Lionel S. Beale,
M. B., F. R. S. Second Edition. London, J. Churchill & Sons, 1870, Dr. Beale
is an authority in the department of Physiology. His book, How to work with
the Microscope, has reached a fourth edition.
79. Page 103.
80. Protoplasm, etc., pp. 116, 117.
81. Ibid. p. 16.
82. Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection. A series of
Essays. By Alfred Russel Wallace, author of The Malay Archipelago, etc., etc.
McMillan & Co., London, 1870, p. 365.
83. Barnard’s Address, p. 45.
84. Ibid. p. 49.
85. Barker’s Lecture, pp. 26, 27.
86. Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, p. 368.
87. Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, p. 369.
88. Institutiones Theologiae, fifth edit., Halle, 1826, p. 215.
89. Pyschology, by Henry, first edition, p. xviii.
90. History of Philosophy, translated by Wight, N.Y. 1852, p. 78.
91. Ibid. p. 121.
92. Psychology, fourth edition, N.Y. 1856, p. 447.
93. Ethices, v. xl. schol. Jena, 1803, p. 297.
94. Fichte, Von seligen Leben, p. 143, edit. Berlin, 1806.
95. Strauss, Dogmatik i. p. 517.
96. Geschichte der letzen Systeme der Philosophie in Deutschland, vol. ii. p.
97. Lectures on the True, the Beautiful, and the Good, trans. Wight,
N.Y. 1854, p. 365.
98. Hunt’s Essay on Pantheism, London, 1866, p. 312.
99. Ethices, part ii. prop. Xi. coroll., vol. ii. p. 87, edit. Jena,
100. Ibid. prop. xlviii. Demon. vol. ii. p. 121.
101. Ibid. Scholium.
102. Elements of Psychology, translated by Henry, N.Y. 1856, p. 429.
103. Princeton Review, 1856, p. 368.
104. Essay on Pantheism, p. 231.
105. Hamilton’s Discussions, p. 43.
106. History of Modern Philosophy, N.Y. 1848, p. 660.
107. Hunt, p. 231.
108. Ethices, iv. prop. xx., vol. ii. p. 217, edit. Jena, 1803.
110. In the Tubingen Zeitschrift, Drittes Heft, p. 233.
111. Hunt, p. 233.
112. Cousin’s History of Modern Philosophy, translated by Wight, New
York, 1852, vol. i. pp. 186, 187, 189.
113. Dogmatik, ii. p. 215.
114. Encyklopadie, p. 51.
115. Leo, the historian, we believe.
116. 1836, p. 575.
117. Bischer, quoted in Evangelische Kirchen-Zeitung, 1839, p. 31.
118. Philosophical Fragments, Preface to First Edition. See History
of Modern Philosophy, translated by Wight, N.Y. 1852, vol. i. pp. 112.
119. Essays and Lectures chiefly on the Religion of the Hindus, vol.
ii. p. 75; edit. London, 1862.
120. A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, so far as it illustrates
the Primitive Religion of the Brahmans, pp. 18, 19.
121. History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, etc., p. 23.
122. Ibid. p. 24.
123. Dollinger, The Gentile and the Jew, translated by Darnell, London,
1862, vol. i. p. 250.
124. Ibid. vol. i. p. 252.
125. Histoire Generale de la Philosophie, Paris, 1863, vol. i. p. 107.
126. Historie Generale de la Philosophie, Paris, 1867, vol. i. p. 116;
edit. 1863, p. 111.
127. The Gentile and the Jew, vol. i. p. 260.
128. Ibid. vol. i. p. 261.
129. The Gentile and the Jew, vol. i. p. 349.
130. Ibid. pp. 349-350.
131. Ibid. p. 350.
132. The Gentile and the Jew, vol. i. p. 351.
133. Ibid. p. 351.
134. Ibid. p. 307.
135. The Gentile and the Jew, p. 307.
136. The Gentile and the Jew, vol. i. pp. 308 and 309.
137. Ibid. p. 309.
138. Historie Generale de la Philosophie, Paris, 1863, p. 122.
139. The Gentile and the Jew, vol. i. p. 339.
140. Ibid. p. 312.
141. The Gentile and the Jew, p. 329.
142. The Gentile and the Jew, p. 338.
143. Ibid. p. 339.
144. Ibid. p. 340.
145. Ibid. p. 336.
146. Ibid. p. 339
147. History of Philosophy. Translated from the German by Julius H.
Seelye, p. 157.
148. Ibid. p. 158.
149. Geshichte der Christlichen Philosophie, vol. iii. p. 224.
150. De Praedest. cap. i. 1, Migne, Patr. vol. cxxii. p. 358, a
151. Vol. iii. pp. 206-296.
152. De Divisione Naturae, II. 20; edit. Westphalia, 1838, p. 118.
153. Ibid. I. 9, p. 9.
154. Ibid. II. 8, p. 95.
155. Ibid. IV. 7, p. 330.
156. Ibid. III. 19, p. 240.
157. Ibid. II. 2, p. 88.
158. Ritter, vol. iii. p. 234.