That the possession of the idea of God is essential to the social and moral elevation of man,—that is, to the civilization of our race, is most cheerfully conceded. That humanity has an end and destination which can only be secured by the true knowledge of God, and by a participation of the nature of God, is equally the doctrine of Plato and of Christ. Now, if humanity has a special end and destination, it must have some instinctive tendings, some spermatic ideas, some original forces or laws, which determine it towards that end. All development supposes some original elements to be unfolded or developed. Civilization is but the development of humanity according to its primal idea and law, and under the best exterior conditions. That the original elements of humanity were unfolded in some noble degree under the influence of philosophy is clear from the history of Greece; there the most favorable natural conditions for that development existed, and Christianity alone was needed to crown the result with ideal perfection.]
[Footnote 39: Max Muller, "Science of Language," p. 404, 2d series.]
Here the most perfect ideals of beauty and excellence in physical development, in manners, in plastic art, in literary creations, were realized. The songs of Homer, the dialogues of Plato, the speeches of Demosthenes, and the statues of Phidias, if not unrivalled, are at least unsurpassed by any thing that has been achieved by their successors. Literature in its most flourishing periods has rekindled its torch at her altars, and art has looked back to the age of Pericles for her purest models. Here the ideas of personal liberty, of individual rights, of freedom in thought and action, had a wonderful expansion. Here the lasting foundations of the principal arts and sciences were laid, and in some of them triumphs were achieved which have not been eclipsed. Here the sun of human reason attained a meridian splendor, and illuminated every field in the domain of moral truth. And here humanity reached the highest degree of civilization of which it is capable under purely natural conditions.
And now, the question with which we are more immediately concerned is, what were the specific and valuable results attained by the Athenian mind in religion and philosophy, the two momenta of the human mind? This will be the subject of discussion in subsequent chapters.
The order in which the discussion shall proceed is determined for us by the natural development of thought. The two fundamental momenta of thought and its development are spontaneity and reflection, and the two essential forms they assume are religion and philosophy. In the natural order of thought spontaneity is first, and reflection succeeds spontaneous thought. And so religion is first developed, and subsequently comes philosophy. As religion supposes spontaneous intuition, so philosophy has religion for its basis, but upon this basis it is developed in an original manner. "Turn your attention to history, that living image of thought: everywhere you perceive religions and philosophies: everywhere you see them produced in an invariable order. Everywhere religion appears with new societies, and everywhere, just so far as societies advance, from religion springs philosophy." This was pre-eminently the case in Athens, and we shall therefore direct our attention first to the Religion of the Athenians.
[Footnote 40: Cousin, "Hist. of Philos.," vol. i. p. 302.]
THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION.
All things which I behold bear witness to your carefulness in religion deisidaimonesterois.—ST. PAUL.
As a prelude and preparation for the study of the religion of the Athenians, it may be well to consider religion in its more abstract and universal form; and inquire in what does religion essentially consist; how far is it grounded in the nature of man; and especially, what is there in the mental constitution of man, or in his exterior conditions, which determines him to a mode of life which may be denominated religious? As a preliminary inquiry, this may materially aid us in understanding the nature, and estimating the value of the religious conceptions and sentiments which were developed by the Greek mind.
Religion, in its most generic conception, may be defined as a form of thought, feeling, and action, which has the Divine for its object, basis, and end. Or, in other words, it is a mode of life determined by the recognition of some relation to, and consciousness of dependence upon, a Supreme Being. This general conception of religion underlies all the specific forms of religion which have appeared in the world, whether heathen, Jewish, Mohammedan, or Christian.
That a religious destination appertains to man as man, whether he has been raised to a full religious consciousness, or is simply considered as capable of being so raised, can not be denied. In all ages man has revealed an instinctive tendency, or natural aptitude for religion, and he has developed feelings and emotions which have always characterized him as a religious being. Religious ideas and sentiments have prevailed among all nations, and have exerted a powerful influence on the entire course of human history. Religious worship, addressed to a Supreme Being believed to control the destiny of man, has been coeval and coextensive with the race. Every nation has had its mythology, and each mythologic system has been simply an effort of humanity to realize and embody in some visible form the relations in which it feels itself to be connected with an external, overshadowing, and all-controlling Power and Presence. The voice of all ancient, and all contemporaneous history, clearly attests that the religious principle is deeply seated in the nature of man; and that it has occupied the thought, and stirred the feelings of every rational man, in every age. It has interwoven itself with the entire framework of human society, and ramified into all the relations of human life. By its agency, nations have been revolutionized, and empires have been overthrown; and it has formed a mighty element in all the changes which have marked the history of man.
This universality of religious sentiment and religious worship must be conceded as a fact of human nature, and, as a universal fact, it demands an explanation. Every event must have a cause. Every phenomenon must have its ground, and reason, and law. The facts of religious history, the past and present religious phenomena of the world can be no exception to this fundamental principle; they press their imperious demand to be studied and explained, as much as the phenomena of the material or the events of the moral world. The phenomena of religion, being universally revealed wherever man is found, must be grounded in some universal principle, on some original law, which is connate with, and natural to man. At any rate, there must be something in the nature of man, or in the exterior conditions of humanity, which invariably leads man to worship, and which determines him, as by the force of an original instinct, or an outward, conditioning necessity, to recognize and bow down before a Superior Power. The full recognition and adequate explanation of the facts of religious history will constitute a philosophy of religion.
The hypotheses which have been offered in explanation of the religious phenomena of the world are widely divergent, and most of them are, in our judgment, eminently inadequate and unsatisfactory. The following enumeration may be regarded as embracing all that are deemed worthy of consideration.
I. The phenomenon of religion had its origin in SUPERSTITION, that is, in a fear of invisible and supernatural powers, generated by ignorance of nature.
II. The phenomenon of religion is part of that PROCESS or EVOLUTION OF THE ABSOLUTE (i.e., the Deity), which gradually unfolding itself in nature, mind, history, and religion, attains to perfect self-consciousness in philosophy.
III. The phenomenon of religion has its foundation in FEELING—the feeling of dependence and of obligation; and that to which the mind, by spontaneous intuition or instinctive faith, traces this dependence and obligation we call God.
IV. The phenomenon of religion had its outbirth in the spontaneous apperceptions of REASON, that is, the necessary a priori ideas of the Infinite, the Perfect, the Unconditioned Cause, the Eternal Being, which are evoked into consciousness in presence of the changeful and contingent phenomena of the world.
V. The phenomenon of religion had its origin in EXTERNAL REVELATION, to which reason is related as a purely passive organ, and heathenism as a feeble relic.
As a philosophy of religion—an attempt to supply the rationale of the religious phenomena of the world, the first hypothesis is a skeptical philosophy, which necessarily leads to Atheism. The second is an idealistic philosophy (absolute idealism), which inevitably lands in Pantheism. The third is an intuitional or "faith-philosophy," which finally ends in Mysticism. The fourth is a rationalistic or "spiritualistic" philosophy, which yields pure Theism. The last is an empirical philosophy, which derives all religion from instruction, and culminates in Dogmatic Theology.
In view of these diverse and conflicting theories, the question which now presents itself for our consideration is,—does any one of these hypotheses meet and satisfy the demands of the problem? does it fully account for and adequately explain all the facts of religious history? The answer to this question must not be hastily or dogmatically given. The arbitrary rejection of any theory that may be offered, without a fair and candid examination, will leave our minds in uncertainty and doubt as to the validity of our own position. A blind faith is only one remove from a pusillanimous skepticism. We can not render our own position secure except by comprehending, assaulting, and capturing the position of our foe. It is, therefore, due to ourselves and to the cause of truth, that we shall examine the evidence upon which each separate theory is based, and the arguments which are marshalled in its support, before we pronounce it inadequate and unphilosophical. Such a criticism of opposite theories will prepare the way for the presentation of a philosophy of religion which we flatter ourselves will be found most in harmony with all the facts of the case.
I. It is affirmed that the religious phenomena of the world had their origin in SUPERSTITION, that is, in a fear of unseen and supernatural powers, generated from ignorance of nature.
This explanation was first offered by Epicurus. He felt that the universality of the religious sentiment is a fact which demands a cause; and he found it, or presumed he found it not in a spiritual God, which he claims can not exist, nor in corporeal god which no one has seen, but in "phantoms of the mind generated by fear." When man has been unable to explain any natural phenomenon, to assign a cause within the sphere of nature, he has had recourse to supernatural powers, or living personalities behind nature, which move and control nature in an arbitrary and capricious manner. These imaginary powers are supposed to be continually interfering in the affairs of individuals and nations. They bestow blessings or inflict calamities. They reward virtue and punish vice. They are, therefore, the objects of "sacred awe" and "superstitious fear."
Whate'er in heaven, In earth, man sees mysterious, shakes his mind With sacred awe o'erwhelms him, and his soul Bows to the dust; the cause of things conceal Once from his vision, instant to the gods All empire he transfers, all rule supreme, And doubtful whence they spring, with headlong haste Calls them the workmanship of power divine. For he who, justly, deems the Immortals live Safe, and at ease, yet fluctuates in his mind How things are swayed; how, chiefly, those discerned In heaven sublime—to SUPERSTITION back Lapses, and fears a tyrant host, and then Conceives, dull reasoner, they can all things do, While yet himself nor knows what may be done, Nor what may never, nature powers defined Stamping on all, and bounds that none can pass: Hence wide, and wider errs he as he walks.
[Footnote 41: Lucretius, "De Natura Rerum," book vi. vs. 50-70.]
In order to rid men of all superstitious fear, and, consequently, of all religion, Epicurus endeavors to show that "nature" alone is adequate to the production of all things, and there is no need to drag in a "divine power" to explain the phenomena of the world.
This theory has been wrought into a somewhat plausible form by the brilliant and imposing generalizations of Aug. Comte. The religious phenomena of the world are simply one stage in the necessary development of mind, whether in the individual or the race. He claims to have been the first to discover the great law of the three successive stages or phases of human evolution. That law is thus enounced. Both in the individual mind, and in the history of humanity, thought, in dealing with its problems, passes, of necessity, through, first, a Theological, second, a Metaphysical, and finally reaches a third, or Positive stage.
In attempting an explanation of the universe, human thought, in its earliest stages of development, resorts to the idea of living personal agents enshrined in and moving every object, whether organic or inorganic, natural or artificial. In an advanced stage, it conceives a number of personal beings distinct from, and superior to nature, which preside over the different provinces of nature—the sea, the air, the winds, the rivers, the heavenly bodies, and assume the guardianship of individuals, tribes, and nations. As a further, and still higher stage, it asserts the unity of the Supreme Power which moves and vitalizes the universe, and guides and governs in the affairs of men and nations. The Theological stage is thus subdivided into three epochs, and represented as commencing in Fetichism, then advancing to Polytheism, and, finally, consummating in Monotheism.
The next stage, the Metaphysical, is a transitional stage, in which man substitutes abstract entities, as substance, force, Being in se, the Infinite, the Absolute, in the place of theological conceptions. During this period all theological opinions undergo a process of disintegration, and lose their hold on the mind of man. Metaphysical speculation is a powerful solvent, which decomposes and dissipates theology.
It is only in the last—the Positive stage—that man becomes willing to relinquish all theological ideas and metaphysical notions, and confine his attention to the study of phenomena in their relation to time and space; discarding all inquiries as to causes, whether efficient or final, and denying the existence of all entities and powers beyond nature.
The first stage, in its religious phase, is Theistic, the second is Pantheistic, the last is Atheistic.
The proofs offered by Comte in support of this theory are derived:
I. From Cerebral Organization. There are three grand divisions of the Brain, the Medulla Oblongata, the Cerebellum, and the Cerebrum; the first represents the merely animal instincts the second, the more elevated sentiments, the third, the intellectual powers. Human nature must, therefore, both in the individual and in the race, be developed in the following order: (1.) in animal instincts; (2.) in social affections and communal tendencies; (3.) in intellectual pursuits. Infant life is a merely animal existence, shared in common with the brute; in childhood the individual being realizes his relation to external nature and human society; in youth and manhood he compares, generalizes, and classifies the objects of knowledge, and attains to science. And so the infancy of our race was a mere animal or savage state, the childhood of our race the organization of society, the youth and manhood of our race the development of science.
Now, without offering any opinion as to the merits of the phrenological theories of Gall and Spurzheim, we may ask, what relation has this order to the law of development presented by Comte? Is there any imaginable connection between animal propensities and theological ideas; between social affections and metaphysical speculations? Are not the intellectual powers as much concerned with theological ideas and metaphysical speculations as with positive science? And is it not more probable, more in accordance with facts, that all the powers of the mind, instinct, feeling, and thought, enter into action simultaneously, and condition each other? The very first act of perception, the first distinct cognition of an object, involves thought as much as the last generalization of science. We know nothing of mind except as the development of thought, and the first unfolding, even of the infant mind, reveals an intellectual act, a discrimination between a self and an object which is not self, and a recognition of resemblance, or difference between this object and that. And what does Positive science, in its most mature and perfect form, claim to do more than "to study actual phenomena in their orders of resemblance, coexistence, and succession."
Cerebral organization may furnish plausible analogies in favor of some theory of human development, but certainly not the one proposed by Aug. Comte. The attempt, however, to construct a chart of human history on such an a priori method,—to construct an ideal framework into which human nature must necessarily grow, is a violation of the first and most fundamental principle of the Positive science, which demands that we shall confine ourselves strictly to the study of actual phenomena in their orders of resemblance, coexistence, and succession. The history of the human race must be based on facts, not on hypotheses, and the facts must be ascertained by the study of ancient records and existing monuments of the past. Mere plausible analogies and a priori theories based upon them, are only fitted to mislead the mind; they insert a prism between the perceiving mind and the course of events which decomposes the pure white light of fact, and throws a false light over the entire field of history.
2. The second order of proof is attempted to be drawn from the analogies of individual experience.
It is claimed that the history of the race is the same as that of each individual mind; and it is affirmed that man is religious in infancy, metaphysical in youth, and positive, that is, scientific without being religious, in mature manhood; the history of the race must therefore have followed the same order.
We are under no necessity of denying that there is some analogy between the development of mind in the individual man, and in humanity as a whole, in order to refute the theory of Comte. Still, it must not be overlooked that the development of mind, in all cases and in all ages, is materially affected by exterior conditions. The influence of geographical and climatic conditions, of social and national institutions, and especially of education, however difficult to be estimated, can not be utterly disregarded. And whether all these influences have not been controlled, and collocated, and adjusted by a Supreme Mind in the education of humanity, is also a question which can not be pushed aside as of no consequence. Now, unless it can be shown that the same outward conditions which have accompanied the individual and modified his mental development, have been repealed in the history of the race, and repeated in the same order of succession, the argument has no value.
But, even supposing it could be shown that the development of mind in humanity has followed the same order as that of the individual, we confidently affirm that Comte has not given the true history of the development of the individual mind. The account he has given may perhaps be the history of his own mental progress, but it certainly is not the history of every individual mind, nor indeed, of a majority even, of educated minds that have arrived at maturity. It would be much more in harmony with facts to say childhood is the period of pure receptivity, youth of doubt and skepticism, and maturity of well-grounded and rational belief. In the ripeness and maturity of the nineteenth century the number of scientific men of the Comtean model is exceedingly small compared with the number of religious men. There are minds in every part of Europe and America as thoroughly scientific as that of Comte, and as deeply imbued with the spirit of the Inductive Philosophy, which are not conscious of any discordance between the facts of science and the fundamental principles of theology. It may be that, in his own immediate circle at Paris there may be a tendency to Atheism, but certainly no such tendency exists in the most scientific minds of Europe and America. The faith of Bacon, and Newton, and Boyle, of Descartes, Leibnitz, and Pascal, in regard to the fundamental principles of theology, is still the faith of Sedgwick, Whewell, Herschel, Brewster, Owen, Agassiz, Silliman, Mitchell, Hitchcock, Dana, and, indeed of the leading scientific minds of the world—the men who, as Comte would say, "belong to the elite of humanity." The mature mind, whether of the individual or the race, is not Atheistical.
3. The third proof is drawn from a survey of the history of certain portions of our race.
Comte is far from being assured that the progress of humanity, under the operation of his grand law of development, has been uniform and invariable. The majority of the human race, the vast populations of India, China, and Japan, have remained stationary; they are still in the Theological stage, and consequently furnish no evidence in support of his theory. For this reason he confines himself to the "elite" or advance-guard of humanity, and in this way makes the history of humanity a very "abstract history" indeed. Starting with Greece as the representative of ancient civilization, passing thence to Roman civilization, and onward to Western Europe, he attempts to show that the actual progress of humanity has been, on the whole, in conformity with his law. To secure, however, even this semblance of harmony between the facts of history and his hypothetical law, he has to treat the facts very much as Procrustes treated his victims,—he must stretch some, and mutilate others, so as to make their forms fit the iron bed. The natural organization of European civilization is distorted and torn asunder. "As the third or positive stage had accomplished its advent in his own person, it was necessary to find the metaphysical period just before; and so the whole life of the Reformed Christianity, in embryo and in manifest existence, is stripped of its garb of faith, and turned out of view as a naked metaphysical phenomenon. But metaphysics, again, have to be ushered in by theology; and of the three stages of theology Monotheism is the last, necessarily following on Polytheism, as that, again, on Fetichism. There is nothing for it, therefore, but to let the mediaeval Catholic Christianity stand as the world's first monotheism, and to treat it as the legitimate offspring and necessary development of the Greek and Roman polytheism. This, accordingly, Comte actually does. Protestantism he illegitimates, and outlaws from religion altogether, and the genuine Christianity he fathers upon the faith of Homer and the Scipios! Once or twice, indeed, it seems to cross him that there was such a people as the Hebrews, and that they were not the polytheists they ought to have been. He sees the fact, but pushes it out of his way with the remark that the Jewish monotheism was 'premature.'"
[Footnote 42: Martineau's Essays, pp. 61, 62.]
The signal defect of Comte's historical survey, however, is, that it furnishes no evidence of the general prevalence of Fetichism in primitive times. The writings of Moses are certainly entitled to as much consideration and credence as the writings of Berosus, Manetho, and Herodotus; and, it will not be denied, they teach that the faith of the earliest families and races of men was monotheistic. The early Vedas, the Institutes of Menu, the writings of Confucius, the Zendavesta, all bear testimony that the ancient faith of India, China, and Persia, was, at any rate, pantheistic; and learned and trustworthy critics, Asiatic as well as European, confidently affirm that the ground of the Brahminical, Buddhist, and Parsist faith is monotheistic; and that one Being is assumed, in the earliest books, to be the origin of all things. Without evidence, Comte assumes that the savage state is the original condition of man; and instead of going to Asia, the cradle of the race, for some light as to the early condition and opinions of the remotest families of men, he turns to Africa, the soudan of the earth, for his illustration of the habit of man, in the infancy of our race, to endow every object in nature, whether organic or inorganic, with life and intelligence. The theory of a primitive state of ignorance and barbarism is a mere assumption—an hypothesis in conflict with the traditionary legends of all nations, the earliest records of our race, and the unanimous voice of antiquity, which attest the general belief in a primitive state of light and innocence.
[Footnote 43: "The Religions of the World in their Relation to Christianity" (Maurice, ch. ii., iii., iv.).]
The three stages of development which Comte describes as necessarily successive, have, for centuries past, been simultaneous. The theological, the metaphysical, and the scientific elements coexist now, and there is no real, radical, or necessary conflict between them. Theological and metaphysical ideas hold their ground as securely under the influence of enlarged scientific discovery as before; and there is no reason to suppose they ever had more power over the mind of man than they have to-day. The notion that God is dethroned by the wonderful discoveries of modern science, and theology is dead, is the dream of the "profond orage cerebral" which interrupted the course of Comte's lectures in 1826. As easily may the hand of Positivism arrest the course of the sun, as prevent the instinctive thought of human reason recognizing and affirming the existence of a God. And so long as ever the human mind is governed by necessary laws of thought, so long will it seek...
[Transcriber's note: In the original document, page 64 is a duplication of page 63. The real page 64 seems to be missing.]
....eur, and consequently to develop its true philosophy. Its fundamental error is the assumption that all our knowledge is confined to the observation and classification of sensible phenomena—that is, to changes perceptible by the senses. Psychology, based, as it is, upon self-observation and self-reflection, is a "mere illusion; and logic and ethics, so far as they are built upon it as their foundation, are altogether baseless." Spiritual entities, forces, causes, efficient or final, are unknown and unknowable; all inquiry regarding them must be inhibited, "for Theology is inevitable if we permit the inquiry into causes at all."
II. The second hypothesis offered in explanation of the facts of religious history is, that religion is part of that PROCESS OR EVOLUTION OF THE ABSOLUTE (i.e., the Deity) which, gradually unfolding itself in nature, mind, history, and religion, attains to the fullest self-consciousness in philosophy.
This is the theory of Hegel, in whose system of philosophy the subjective idealism of Kant culminates in the doctrine of "Absolute Identity." Its fundamental position is that thought and being, subject and object, the perceiving mind and the thing perceived, are ultimately and essentially one, and that the only actual reality is that which results from their mutual relation. The outward thing is nothing, the inward perception is nothing, for neither could exist alone; the only reality is the relation, or rather synthesis of the two; the essence or nature of being in itself accordingly consists in the coexistence of two contrarieties. Ideas, arising from the union or synthesis of two opposites, are therefore the concrete realities of Hegel; and the process of the evolution of ideas, in the human mind, is the process of all existence—the Absolute Idea.
The Absolute(die Idee) thus forms the beginning, middle, and end of the system of Hegel. It is the one infinite existence or thought, of which nature, mind, history, religion, and philosophy, are the manifestation. "The absolute is, with him, not the infinite substance, as with Spinoza; nor the infinite subject, as with Fichte; nor the infinite mind, as with Schelling; it is a perpetual process, an eternal thinking, without beginning and without end." This living, eternal process of absolute existence is the God of Hegel.
It will thus be seen that the Absolute is, with Hegel, the sum of all actual and possible existence; "nothing is true and real except so far as it forms an element of the Absolute Spirit." "What kind of an Absolute Being," he asks, "is that which does not contain in itself all that is actual, even evil included?" The Absolute, therefore, in Hegel's conception, does not allow of any existence out of itself. It is the unity of the finite and the infinite, the eternal and the temporal, the ideal and the real, the subject and the object. And it is not only the unity of these opposites so as to exclude all difference, but it contains in itself, all the differences and opposites as elements of its being; otherwise the distinctions would stand over against absolute as a limit, and the absolute would cease to be absolute.
God is, therefore, according to Hegel, "no motionless, eternally self-identical and unchangeable being, but a living, eternal process of absolute self-existence. This process consists in the eternal self-distinction, or antithesis, and equally self-reconciliation or synthesis of those opposites which enter, as necessary elements, into the constitution of the Divine Being. This self-evolution, whereby the absolute enters into antithesis, and returns to itself again, is the eternal self-actualization of its being, and which at once constitutes the beginning, middle, and end, as in the circle, where the beginning is at the same time the end, and the end the beginning."
[Footnote 44: Morell, "Hist, of Philos., p. 461."]
[Footnote 45: "Philos. of Religion," p. 204.]
[Footnote 46: Ibid., chap. xi. p. 24.]
[Footnote 47: Herzog's Real-Encyc., art. "Hegelian Philos.," by Ulrici.]
The whole philosophy of Hegel consists in the development of this idea of God by means of his, so-called, dialectic method, which reflects the objective life-process of the Absolute, and is, in fact, identical with it; for God, says he, "is only the Absolute Intelligence in so far as he knows himself to be the Absolute Intelligence, and this he knows only in science [dialectics], and this knowledge alone constitutes his true existence." This life-process of the Absolute has three "moments." It may be considered as the idea in itself—bare, naked, undetermined, unconscious idea; as the idea out of itself, in its objective form, or in its differentiation; and, finally, as the idea in itself, and for itself, in its regressive or reflective form. This movement of thought gives, first, bare, naked, indeterminate thought, or thought in the mere antithesis of Being and non-Being; secondly, thought externalizing itself in nature; and, thirdly, thought returning to itself, and knowing itself in mind, or consciousness. Philosophy has, accordingly, three corresponding divisions:—1. LOGIC, which here is identical with metaphysics; 2. PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE; 3. PHILOSOPHY OF MIND.
[Footnote 48: "Hist, of Philos.," iii. p. 399.]
It is beyond our design to present an expanded view of the entire philosophy of Hegel. But as he has given to the world a new logic, it may be needful to glance at its general features as a help to the comprehension of his philosophy of religion. The fundamental law of his logic is the identity of contraries or contradictions. All thought is a synthesis of contraries or opposites. This antithesis not only exists in all ideas, but constitutes them. In every idea we form, there must be two things opposed and distinguished, in order to afford a clear conception. Light can not be conceived but as the opposite of darkness; good can not be thought except in opposition to evil. All life, all reality is thus, essentially, the union of two elements, which, together, are mutually opposed to, and yet imply each other.
The identity of Being and Nothing is one of the consequences of this law.
1. The Absolute is the Being (das Absolute ist das Seyn), and "the Being" is here, according to Hegel, bare, naked, abstract, undistinguished, indeterminate, unconscious idea.
2. The Absolute is the Nothing (das Absolute ist das Nichts). "Pure being is pure abstraction, and consequently the absolute-negative, which in like manner, directly taken, is nothing." Being and Nothing are the positive and negative poles of the Idea, that is, the Absolute. They both alike exist, they are both pure abstractions, both absolutely unconditioned, without attributes, and without consciousness. Hence follows the conclusion—
3. Being and Nothing are identical (das Seyn und das Nichts ist dasselbe), Being is non-Being. Non-Being is Being—the Anders-seyn—which becomes as Being to the Seyn. Nothing is, in some sense, an actual thing.
Being and Nothing are thus the two elements which enter into the one Absolute Idea as contradictories, and both together combine to form a complete notion of bare production, or the becoming of something out of nothing,—the unfolding of real existence in its lowest form, that is, of nature.
The "Philosophy of Nature" exhibits a series of necessary movements which carry the idea forward in the ascending scale of sensible existence. The laws of mechanics, chemistry, and physiology are resolved into a series of oppositions. But the law which governs this development requires the self-reconciliation of these opposites. The idea, therefore, which in nature was unconscious and ignorant of itself, returns upon itself, and becomes conscious of itself, that is, becomes mind. The science of the regression or self-reflection of the idea, is the "Philosophy of Mind."
The "Philosophy of Mind" is subdivided by Hegel into three parts. There is, first, the subjective or individual mind (psychology); then the objective or universal mind, as represented in society, the state, and in history (ethics, political philosophy, or jurisprudence, and philosophy of history); and, finally, the union of the subjective and objective mind, or the absolute mind. This last manifests itself again under three forms, representing the three degrees of the self-consciousness of the Spirit, as the eternal truth. These are, first, art, or the representation of beauty (aesthetics); secondly, religion, in the general acceptation of the term (philosophy of religion); and, thirdly, philosophy itself, as the purest and most perfect form of the scientific knowledge of truth. All historical religions, the Oriental, the Jewish, the Greek, the Roman, and the Christian, are the successive stages in the development or self-actualization of God.
It is unnecessary to indicate to the reader that the philosophy of Hegel is essentially pantheistic. "God is not a person, but personality itself, i.e., the universal personality, which realizes itself in every human consciousness, as so many separate thoughts of one eternal mind. The idea we form of the absolute is, to Hegel, the absolute itself, its essential existence being identical with our conception of it. Apart from, and out of the world, there is no God; and so also, apart from the universal consciousness of man, there is no Divine consciousness or personality."
[Footnote 49: See art. "Hegelian Philosophy," in Herzog's Real-Encyc., from whence our materials are chiefly drawn.]
[Footnote 50: Morell, "Hist. of Philos.," p. 473.]
This whole conception of religion, however, is false, and conflicts with the actual facts of man's religious nature and religious history. If the word "religion" has any meaning at all, it is "a mode of life determined by the consciousness of dependence upon, and obligation to God." It is reverence for, gratitude to, and worship of God as a being distinct from humanity. But in the philosophy of Hegel religion is a part of God—a stage in the development or self-actualization of God. Viewed under one aspect, religion is the self-adoration of God—the worship of God by God; under another aspect it is the worship of humanity, since God only becomes conscious of himself in humanity. The fundamental fallacy is that upon which his entire method proceeds, viz., "the identity of subject and object, being and thought." Against this false position the consciousness of each individual man, and the universal consciousness of our race, as revealed in history, alike protest. If thought and being are identical, then whatever is true of ideas is also true of objects, and then, as Kant had before remarked, there is no difference between thinking we possess a hundred dollars, and actually possessing them. Such absurdities may be rendered plausible by a logic which asserts the "identity of contradictions," but against such logic common sense rebels. "The law of non-contradiction" has been accepted by all logicians, from the days of Aristotle, as a fundamental law of thought. "Whatever is contradictory is unthinkable. A=not A=O, or A—A=O." Non-existence can not exist. Being can not be nothing.
[Footnote 51: Hamilton's Logic, p. 58.]
III. The third hypothesis affirms that the phenomenon of religion has its foundation in FEELING—the feeling of dependence and of obligation; and that to which the mind, by spontaneous intuition of instinctive faith, traces that dependence and obligation we call God.
This, with some slight modification in each case, consequent upon the differences in their philosophic systems, is the theory of Jacobi, Schleiermacher, Nitzsch, Mansel, and probably Hamilton. Its fundamental position is, that we can not gain truth with absolute certainty either from sense or reason, and, consequently, the only valid source of real knowledge is feeling—faith, intuition, or, as it is called by some, inspiration.
There have been those, in all ages, who have made all knowledge of invisible, supersensuous, divine things, to rest upon an internal feeling, or immediate, inward vision. The Oriental Mystics, the Neo-Platonists, the Mystics of the Greek and Latin Church, the German Mystics of the 14th century, the Theosophists of the Reformation, the Quietists of France, the Quakers, have all appealed to some special faculty, distinct from the understanding and reason, for the immediate cognition of invisible and spiritual existences. By some, that special faculty was regarded as an "interior eye" which was illuminated by the "Universal Light;" by others, as a peculiar sensibility of the soul—a feeling in whose perfect calm and utter quiescence the Divinity was mirrored; or which, in an ecstatic state, rose to a communion with, and final absorption in the Infinite.
Jacobi was the first, in modern times, to give the "faith-philosophy," as it is now designated, a definite form. He assumes the position that all knowledge, of whatever kind, must ultimately rest upon intuition or faith. As it regards sensible objects, the understanding finds the impression from which all our knowledge of the external flows, ready formed. The process of sensation is a mystery; we know nothing of it until it is past, and the feeling it produces is present. Our knowledge of matter, therefore, rests upon faith in these intuitions. We can not doubt that the feeling has an objective cause. In every act of perception there is something actual and present, which can not be referred to a mere subjective law of thought. We are also conscious of another class of feelings which correlate us with a supersensuous world, and these feelings, also, must have their cause in some objective reality. Just as sensation gives us an immediate knowledge of an external world, so there is an internal sense which gives us an immediate knowledge of a spiritual world—God, the soul, freedom, immortality. Our knowledge of the invisible world, like our knowledge of the visible world, is grounded upon faith in our intuitions. All philosophic knowledge is thus based upon belief, which Jacobi regards as a fact of our inward sensibility—a sort of knowledge produced by an immediate feeling of the soul—a direct apprehension, without proof, of the True, the Supersensuous, the Eternal.
Jacobi prepared the way for, and was soon eclipsed by the deservedly greater name of Schleiermacher. His fundamental position was that truth in Theology could not be obtained by reason, but by a feeling, insight, or intuition, which in its lowest form he called God-consciousness, and in its highest form, Christian-consciousness. The God-consciousness, in its original form, is the feeling of dependence on the Infinite. The Christian consciousness is the perfect union of the human consciousness with the Divine, through the mediation of Christ, or what we would call a Christian experience of communion with God.
Rightly to understand the position of Schleiermacher we must take account of his doctrine of self-consciousness. "In all self-consciousness," says he, "there are two elements, a Being ein Seyn, and a Somehow-having-become (Irgendweigewordenseyn). The last, however, presupposes, for every self-consciousness, besides the ego, yet something else from whence the certainty of the same [self-consciousness] exists, and without which self-consciousness would not be just this." Every determinate mode of the sensibility supposes an object, and a relation between the subject and the object, the subjective feeling deriving its determinations from the object. External sensation, the feeling, say of extension and resistance, gives world-consciousness. Internal sensation, the feeling of dependence, gives God consciousness. And it is only by the presence of world consciousness and God-consciousness that self consciousness can be what it is.
We have, then, in our self-consciousness a feeling of direct dependence, and that to which our minds instinctively trace that dependence we call God. "By means of the religious feeling, the Primal Cause is revealed in us, as in perception, the things external, are revealed in us." The felt, therefore, is not only the first religious sense, but the ruling, abiding, and perfect form of the religious spirit; whatever lays any claim to religion must maintain its ground and principle in feeling, upon which it depends for its development; and the sum-total of the forces constituting religious life, inasmuch as it is a life, is based upon immediate self-consciousness.
[Footnote 52: Glaubenslehre, ch. i. Sec. 4.]
[Footnote 53: Dialectic, p. 430.]
[Footnote 54: Nitzsch, "System of Doctrine," p. 23.]
The doctrine of Schleiermacher is somewhat modified by Mansel, in his "Limits of Religious Thought." He maintains, with Schleiermacher, that religion is grounded in feeling, and that the felt is the first intimation or presentiment of the Divine. Man "feels within him the consciousness of a Supreme Being, and the instinct to worship, before he can argue from effects to causes, or estimate the traces of wisdom and benevolence scattered through the creation." He also agrees with Schleiermacher in regarding the feeling of dependence as a state of the sensibility, out of which reflection builds up the edifice of Religious Consciousness, but he does not, with Schleiermacher, regard it as pre-eminently the basis of religious consciousness. "The mere consciousness of dependence does not, of itself, exhibit the character of the Being on whom we depend. It is as consistent with superstition as with religion; with the belief in a malevolent, as in a benevolent Deity." To the feeling of dependence he has added the consciousness of moral obligation, which he imagines supplies the deficiency. By this consciousness of moral obligation "we are compelled to assume the existence of a moral Deity, and to regard the absolute standard of right and wrong as constituted by the nature of that Deity." "To these two facts of the inner consciousness the feeling of dependence, and consciousness of moral obligation may be traced, as to their sources, the two great outward acts by which religion, in its various forms, has been manifested among men—Prayer, by which they seek to win God's blessing upon the future, and Expiation, by which they strive to atone for the offenses of the past. The feeling of dependence is the instinct which urges us to pray. It is the feeling that our existence and welfare are in the hands of a superior power; not an inexorable fate, not an immutable law; but a Being having at least so far the attribute of personality that he can show favor or severity to those who are dependent upon Him, and can be regarded by them with feelings of hope and fear, and reverence and gratitude." The feeling of moral obligation—"the law written in the heart"—leads man to recognize a Lawgiver. "Man can be a law unto himself only on the supposition that he reflects in himself the law of God." The conclusion from the whole is, there must be an object answering to this consciousness: there must be a God to explain these facts of the soul.
[Footnote 55: Mansel, "Limits of Religious Thought," p. 115.]
[Footnote 56: Id., ib., p. 120.]
[Footnote 57: Id., ib., p. 122.]
[Footnote 58: Id., ib., pp. 119, 120.]
[Footnote 59: Id., ib., p. 122.]
This "philosophy of feeling," or of faith generated by feeling, has an interest and a significance which has not been adequately recognized by writers on natural theology. Feeling, sentiment, enthusiasm, have always played an important part in the history of religion. Indeed it must be conceded that religion is a right state of feeling towards God—religion is piety. A philosophy of the religious emotion is, therefore, demanded in order to the full interpretation of the religious phenomena of the world.
But the notion that internal feeling, a peculiar determination of the sensibility, is the source of religious ideas:—that God can be known immediately by feeling without the mediation of the truth that manifests God; that he can be felt as the qualities of matter can be felt; and that this affection of the inward sense can reveal the character and perfections of God, is an unphilosophical and groundless assumption. To assert, with Nitzsch, that "feeling has reason, and is reason, and that the sensible and felt God-consciousness generates out of itself fundamental conceptions," is to confound the most fundamental psychological distinctions, and arbitrarily bend the recognized classifications of mental science to the necessities of a theory. Indeed, we are informed that it is "by means of an independent psychology, and conformably to it," that Schleiermacher illustrates his "philosophy of feeling." But all psychology must be based upon the observation and classification of mental phenomena, as revealed in consciousness, and not constructed in an "independent" and a priori method. The most careful psychological analysis has resolved the whole complex phenomena of mind into thought, feeling, and volition. These orders of phenomena are radically and essentially distinct. They differ not simply in degree but in kind, and it is only by an utter disregard of the facts of consciousness that they can be confounded. Feeling is not reason, nor can it by any logical dexterity be transformed into reason.
[Footnote 60: Nitzsch, "System of Doctrine," p. 21.]
[Footnote 61: Kant, "Critique of Judg.," ch. xxii.; Cousin, "Hist, of Philos.," vol. ii. p. 399; Hamilton, vol. i. p. 183, Eng. ed.]
The question as to the relative order of cognition and feeling, that is, as to whether feeling is the first or original form of the religious consciousness, or whether feeling be not consequent upon some idea or cognition of God, is one which can not be determined on empirical grounds. We are precluded from all scrutiny of the incipient stages of mental development in the individual mind and in collective humanity. If we attempt to trace the early history of the soul, its beginnings are lost in a period of blank unconsciousness, beyond all scrutiny of memory or imagination. If we attempt the inquiry on the wider field of universal consciousness, the first unfoldings of mind in humanity are lost in the border-land of mystery, of which history furnishes no authentic records. All dogmatic affirmation must, therefore, be unjustifiable. The assertion that religious feeling precedes all cognition,—that "the consciousness of dependence on a Supreme Being, and the instinct of worship" are developed first in the mind, before the reason is exercised, is utterly groundless. The more probable doctrine is that all the primary faculties enter into spontaneous action simultaneously—the reason with the senses, the feelings with the reason, the judgment with both the senses and the reason, and that from their primary and simultaneous action arises the complex result, called consciousness, or conjoint knowledge. There can be no clear and distinct consciousness without the cognition of a self and a not-self in mutual relation and opposition. Now the knowledge of the self—the personal ego—is an intuition of reason; the knowledge of the not-self is an intuition of sense. All knowledge is possible only under condition of plurality, difference, and relation. Now the judgment is "the Faculty of Relations," or of comparison; and the affirmation "this is not that" is an act of judgment; to know is, consequently, to judge. Self-consciousness must, therefore, be regarded as a synthesis of sense, reason, and judgment, and not a mere self-feeling (coenaesthesis).
[Footnote 62: Cousin, "Hist. of Philos.," vol. i. p. 357; vol. ii. p. 337.]
[Footnote 63: Id., ib., vol. i. p. 88.]
[Footnote 64: Hamilton, "Metaphys.," p. 277]
A profound analysis will further lead to the conclusion that if ideas of reason are not chronologically antecedent to sensation, they are, at least, the logical antecedents of all cognition. The mere feeling of resistance can not give the notion of without the a priori idea of space. The feeling of movement of change, can not give the cognition of event without the rational idea of time or duration. Simple consciousness can not generate the idea of personality, or selfhood, without the rational idea of identity or unity. And so the mere "feeling of dependence," of finiteness and imperfection, can not give the idea of God, without the rational a priori idea of the Infinite, the Perfect, the Unconditioned Cause. Sensation is not knowledge, and never can become knowledge, without the intervention of reason, and a concentrated self feeling can not rise essentially above animal life until it has, through the mediation of reason, attained the idea of the existence of a Supreme Being ruling over nature and man.
Mere feeling is essentially blind. In its pathological form, it may indicate a want, and even develop an unconscious appetency, but it can not, itself, reveal an object, any more than the feeling of hunger can reveal the actual presence, or determine the character and fitness, of any food. An undefinable fear, a mysterious presentiment, an instinctive yearning, a hunger of the soul, these are all irrational emotions which can never rise to the dignity of knowledge. An object must be conjured by the imagination, or conceived by the understanding, or intuitively apprehended by the reason, before the feeling can have any significance.
Regarded in its moral form, as "the feeling of obligation," it can have no real meaning unless a "law of duty" be known and recognized. Feeling, alone, can not reveal what duty is. When that which is right, and just, and good is revealed to the mind, then the sense of obligation may urge man to the performance of duty. But the right, the just, the good, are ideas which are apprehended by the reason, and, consequently, our moral sentiments are the result of the harmonious and living relation between the reason and the sensibilities.
Mr. Mansel asserts the inadequacy of Schleiermacher's "feeling of dependence" to reveal the character of the Being on whom we depend. He has therefore supplemented his doctrine by the "feeling of moral obligation," which he thinks "compels us to assume the existence of a moral Deity." We think his "fact of religious intuition" is as inadequate as Schleiermacher's to explain the whole phenomena of religion. In neither instance does feeling supply the actual knowledge of God. The feeling of dependence may indicate that there is a Power or Being upon whom we depend for existence and well-being, and which Power or Being "we call God." The feeling of obligation certainly indicates the existence of a Being to whom we are accountable, and which Being Mr. Mansel calls a "moral Deity." But in both instances the character, and even the existence of God is "assumed" and we are entitled to ask on what ground it is assumed. It will not be asserted that feeling alone generates the idea, or that the feeling is transformed into idea without the intervention of thought and reflection. Is there, then, a logical connection between the feeling of dependence and of obligation, and the idea of the Uncreated Mind, the Infinite First Cause, the Righteous Governor of the world. Or is there a fixed and changeless co-relation between the feeling and the idea, so that when the feeling is present, the idea also necessarily arises in the mind? This latter opinion seems to be the doctrine of Mansel. We accept it as the statement of a fact of consciousness, but we can not regard it as an account of the genesis of the idea of God in the human mind. The idea of God as the First Cause, the Infinite Mind, the Perfect Being, the personal Lord and Lawgiver, the creator, sustainer, and ruler of the world, is not a simple, primitive intuition of the mind. It is manifestly a complex, concrete idea, and, as such, can not be developed in consciousness, by the operation of a single faculty of the mind, in a simple, undivided act. It originates in the spontaneous operation of the whole mind. It is a necessary deduction from the facts of the universe, and the primitive intuitions of the reason,—a logical inference from the facts of sense, consciousness, and reason. A philosophy of religion which regards the feelings as supreme, and which brands the decisions of reason as uncertain, and well-nigh valueless, necessarily degenerates into mysticism—a mysticism "which pretends to elevate man directly to God, and does not see that, in depriving reason of its power, it really deprives man of that which enables him to know God, and puts him in a just communication with God by the intermediary of eternal and infinite truth."
[Footnote 65: Cousin, "True, Beautiful, and Good," p. 110.]
The religious sentiments in all minds, and in all ages, have resulted from the union of thought and feeling—the living and harmonious relation of reason and sensibility; and a philosophy which disregards either is inadequate to the explanation of the phenomena.
IV. The fourth hypothesis is, that religion has had its outbirth in the spontaneous apperceptions of REASON; that is, in the necessary, a priori ideas of the infinite, the perfect, the unconditioned Cause, the Eternal Being, which are evoked into consciousness in presence of the changeful, contingent phenomena of the world.
This will at once be recognized by the intelligent reader as the doctrine of Cousin, by whom pure reason is regarded as the grand faculty or organ of religion.
Religion, in the estimation of Cousin, is grounded on cognition rather than upon feeling. It is the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of duty in its relation to God and to human happiness; and as reason is the general faculty of all knowing, it must be the faculty of religion. "In its most elevated point of view, religion is the relation of absolute truth to absolute Being," and as absolute truth is apprehended by the reason alone, reason "is the veridical and religious part of the nature of man." By "reason," however, as we shall see presently, Cousin does not mean the discursive or reflective reason, but the spontaneous or intuitive reason. That act of the mind by which we attain to religious knowledge is not a process of reasoning, but a pure appreciation, an instinctive and involuntary movement of the soul.
[Footnote 66: Henry's Cousin, p. 510.]
The especial function of reason, therefore, is to reveal to us the invisible, the supersensuous, the Divine. "It was bestowed upon us for this very purpose of going, without any circuit of reasoning, from the visible to the invisible, from the finite to the infinite, from the imperfect to the perfect, and from necessary and eternal truths, to the eternal and necessary principle" that is God. Reason is thus, as it were, the bridge between consciousness and being; it rests, at the same time, on both; it descends from God, and approaches man; it makes its appearance in consciousness as a guest which brings intelligence of another world of real Being which lies beyond the world of sense.
Reason does not, however, attain to the Absolute Being directly and immediately, without any intervening medium. To assert this would be to fall into the error of Plotinus, and the Alexandrian Mystics. Reason is the offspring of God, a ray of the Eternal Reason, but it is not to be identified with God. Reason attains to the Absolute Being indirectly, and by the interposition of truth. Absolute truth is an attribute and a manifestation of God. "Truth is incomprehensible without God, and God is incomprehensible without truth. Truth is placed between human intelligence, and the supreme intelligence as a kind of mediator." Incapable of contemplating God face to face, reason adores God in the truth which represents and manifests Him.
[Footnote 67: Cousin, "True, Beautiful, and Good," p. 103.]
[Footnote 68: Id., ib., p. 99.]
Absolute truth is thus a revelation of God, made by God to the reason of man, and as it is a light which illuminates every man, and is perpetually perceived by all men, it is a universal and perpetual revelation of God to man. The mind of man is "the offspring of God," and, as such, must have some resemblance to, and some correlation with God. Now that which constitutes the image of God in man must be found in the reason which is correlated with, and capable of perceiving the truth which manifests God, just as the eye is correlated to the light which manifests the external world. Absolute truth is, therefore, the sole medium of bringing the human mind into communion with God; and human reason, in becoming united to absolute truth, becomes united to God in his manifestation in spirit and in truth. The supreme law, and highest destination of man, is to become united to God by seeking a full consciousness of, and loving and practising the Truth.
[Footnote 69: Henry's Cousin, p. 511, 512.]
It will at once be obvious that the grand crucial questions by which this philosophy of religion is to be tested are—
1st. How will Cousin prove to us that human reason is in possession of universal and necessary principles or absolute truths? and,
2d. How are these principles shown to be absolute? how far do these principles of reason possess absolute authority?
The answer of Cousin to the first question is that we prove reason to be in possession of universal and necessary principles by the analysis of the contents of consciousness, that is, by psychological analysis. The phenomena of consciousness, in their primitive condition, are necessarily complex, concrete, and particular. All our primary ideas are complex ideas, for the evident reason that all, or nearly all, our faculties enter at once into exercise; their simultaneous action giving us, at the same time, a certain number of ideas connected with each other, and forming a whole. For example, the idea of the exterior world, which is given us so quickly, is a complex idea, which contains a number of ideas. There is the idea of the secondary qualities of exterior objects; there is the idea of the primary qualities; there is the idea of the permanent reality of something to which you refer these qualities, to wit, matter; there is the idea of space which contains bodies; there is the idea of time in which movements are effected. All these ideas are acquired simultaneously, or nearly simultaneously, and together form one complex idea.
The application of analysis to this complex phenomenon clearly reveals that there are simple ideas, beliefs, principles in the mind which can not have been derived from sense and experience, which sense and experience do not account for, and which are the suggestions of reason alone: the idea of the Infinite, the Perfect, the Eternal; the true, the beautiful, the good; the principle of causality, of substance, of unity, of intentionality; the principle of duty, of obligation, of accountability, of retribution. These principles, in their natural and regular development, carry us beyond the limits of consciousness, and reveal to us a world of real being beyond the world of sense. They carry us up to an absolute Being, the fountain of all existence—a living, personal, righteous God—the author, the sustainer, and ruler of the universe.
The proof that these principles are absolute, and possessed of absolute authority, is drawn, first, from the impersonality of reason, or, rather, the impersonality of the ideas, principles, or truths of reason.
It is not we who create these ideas, neither can we change them at our pleasure. We are conscious that the will, in all its various efforts, is enstamped with the impress of our personality. Our volitions are our own. So, also, our desires are our own, our emotions are our own. But this is not the same with our rational ideas or principles. The ideas of substance, of cause, of unity, of intentionality do not belong to one person any more than to another; they belong to mind as mind, they are revealed in the universal intelligence of the race. Absolute truth has no element of personality about it. Man may say "my reason," but give him credit for never having dared to say "my truth." So far from rational ideas being individual, their peculiar characteristic is that they are opposed to individuality, that is, they are universal and necessary. Instead of being circumscribed within the limits of experience, they surpass and govern it; they are universal in the midst of particular phenomena; necessary, although mingled with things contingent; and absolute, even when appearing within us the relative and finite beings that we are. Necessary, universal, absolute truth is a direct emanation from God. "Such being the case, the decision of reason within its own peculiar province possesses an authority almost divine. If we are led astray by it, we must be led astray by a light from heaven."
[Footnote 70: Cousin, "True, Beautiful, and Good," p. 40.]
[Footnote 71: Id., "Lectures," vol. ii. p. 32.]
The second proof is derived from the distinction between the spontaneous and reflective movements of reason.
Reflection is voluntary, spontaneity is involuntary; reflection is personal, spontaneity is impersonal; reflection is analytic, spontaneity is synthetic; reflection begins with doubt, spontaneity with affirmation; reflection belongs to certain ones, spontaneity belongs to all; reflection produces science, spontaneity gives truth. Reflection is a process, more or less tardy, in the individual and in the race. It sometimes engenders error and skepticism, sometimes convictions that, from being rational, are only the more profound. It constructs systems, it creates artificial logic, and all those formulas which we now use by the force of habit, as if they were natural to us. But spontaneous intuition is the true logic of nature,—instant, direct, and infallible. It is a primitive affirmation which implies no negation, and therefore yields positive knowledge. To reflect is to return to that which was. It is, by the aid of memory, to return to the past, and to render it present to the eye of consciousness. Reflection, therefore, creates nothing; it supposes an anterior operation of the mind in which there necessarily must be as many terms as are discovered by reflection. Before all reflection there comes spontaneity—a spontaneity of the intellect, which seizes truth at once, without traversing doubt and error. "We thus attain to a judgment free from all reflection, to an affirmation without any mixture of negation, to an immediate intuition, the legitimate daughter of the natural energy of thought, like the inspiration of the poet, the instinct of the hero, the enthusiasm of the prophet." Such is the first act of knowing, and in this first act the mind passes from idea to being without ever suspecting the depth of the chasm it has passed. It passes by means of the power which is in it, and is not astonished at what it has done. It is subsequently astonished when by reflection it returns to the analysis of the results, and, by the aid of the liberty with which it is endowed, to do the opposite of what it has done, to deny what it has affirmed. "Hence comes the strife between sophism and common sense, between false science and natural truth, between good and bad philosophy, both of which come from free reflection."
It is this spontaneity of thought which gives birth to religion. The instinctive thought which darts through the world, even to God, is natural religion. "All thought implies a spontaneous faith in God, and there is no such thing as natural atheism. Doubt and skepticism may mingle with reflective thought, but beneath reflection there is still spontaneity. When the scholar has denied the existence of God, listen to the man, interrogate him, take him unawares, and you will see that all his words envelop the idea of God, and that faith in God is, without his recognition, at the bottom, in his heart."
Religion, then, in the system of Cousin, does not begin with reflection, with science, but with faith. There is, however, this difference to be noted between the theory of the "faith-philosophers" (Jacobi, Schleiermacher, etc.) and the theory of Cousin. With them, faith is grounded on sensation or feeling; with him, it is grounded on reason. "Faith, whatever may be its form, whatever may be its object, common or sublime, can be nothing else than the consent of reason. That is the foundation of faith."
[Footnote 72: Cousin, "True, Beautiful, and Good," p. 106.]
[Footnote 73: "Hist. of Philos.," vol. i. p. 137.]
[Footnote 74: Ibid., vol. i. p. 90.]
Religion is, therefore, with Cousin, at bottom, pure Theism. He thinks, however, that "true theism is not a dead religion that forgets precisely the fundamental attributes of God." It recognizes God as creator, preserver, and governor; it celebrates a providence; it adores a perfect, holy, righteous, benevolent God. It holds the principle of duty, of obligation, of moral desert. It not only perceives the divine character, but feels its relation to God. The revelation of the Infinite, by reason, moves the feelings, and passes into sentiment, producing reverence, and love, and gratitude. And it creates worship, which recalls man to God a thousand times more forcibly than the order, harmony, and beauty of the universe can do.
The spontaneous action of reason, in its greatest energy, is inspiration. "Inspiration, daughter of the soul and heaven, speaks from on high with an absolute authority. It commands faith; so all its words are hymns, and its natural language is poetry." "Thus, in the cradle of civilization, he who possessed in a higher degree than his fellows the gift of inspiration, passed for the confidant and the interpreter of God. He is so for others, because he is so for himself; and he is so, in fact, in a philosophic sense. Behold the sacred origin of prophecies, of pontificates, and of modes of worship."
[Footnote 75: "Hist. of Philos.," vol. i. p. 129.]
As an account of the genesis of the idea of God in the human intelligence, the doctrine of Cousin must be regarded as eminently logical, adequate, and satisfactory. As a theory of the origin of religion, as a philosophy which shall explain all the phenomena of religion, it must be pronounced defective, and, in some of its aspects, erroneous.
First, it does not take proper account of that living force which has in all ages developed so much energy, and wrought such vast results in the history of religion, viz., the power of the heart. Cousin discourses eloquently on the spontaneous, instinctive movements of the reason, but he overlooks, in a great measure, the instinctive movements of the heart. He does not duly estimate the feeling of reverence and awe which rises spontaneously in presence of the vastness and grandeur of the universe, and of the power and glory of which the created universe is a symbol and shadow. He disregards that sense of an overshadowing Presence which, at least in seasons of tenderness and deep sensibility, seems to compass us about, and lay its hand upon us. He scarcely recognizes the deep consciousness of imperfection and weakness, and utter dependence, which prompts man to seek for and implore the aid of a Superior Being; and, above all, he takes no proper account of the sense of guilt and the conscious need of expiation. His theory, therefore, can not adequately explain the universal prevalence of sacrifices, penances, and prayers. In short, it does not meet and answer to the deep longings of the human heart, the wants, sufferings, fears, and hopes of man.
Cousin claims that the universal reason of man is illuminated by the light of God. It is quite pertinent to ask, Why may not the universal heart of humanity be touched and moved by the spirit of God? If the ideas of reason be a revelation from God, may not the instinctive feelings of the heart be an inspiration of God? May not God come near to the heart of man and awaken a mysterious presentiment of an invisible Presence, and an instinctive longing to come nearer to Him? May he not draw men towards himself by sweet, persuasive influences, and raise man to a conscious fellowship? Is not God indeed the great want of the human heart?
Secondly, Cousin does not give due importance to the influence of revealed truth as given in the sacred Scriptures, and of the positive institutions of religion, as a divine economy, supernaturally originated in the world. He grants, indeed, that "a primitive revelation throws light upon the cradle of human civilization," and that "all antique traditions refer to an age in which man, at his departure from the hand of God, received from him immediately all lights, and all truths." He also believes that "the Mosaic religion, by its developments, is mingled with the history of all the surrounding people of Egypt, of Assyria, of Persia, and of Greece and Rome." Christianity, however, is regarded as "the summing and crown of the two great religious systems which reigned by turn in the East and in Greece"—the maturity of Ethnicism and Judaism; a development rather than a new creation. The explanation which he offers of the phenomena of inspiration opens the door to religious skepticism. Those who were termed seers, prophets, inspired teachers of ancient times, were simply men who resigned themselves wholly to their intellectual instincts, and thus gazed upon truth in its pure and perfect form. They did not reason, they did not reflect, they made no pretensions to philosophy they received truth spontaneously as it flowed in upon them from heaven. This immediate reception of Divine light was nothing more than the natural play of spontaneous reason nothing more than what has existed to a greater or less degree in every man of great genius; nothing more than may now exist in any mind which resigns itself to its own unreflective apperceptions. Thus revelation, in its proper sense, loses all its peculiar value, and Christianity is robbed of its pre-eminent authority. The extremes of Mysticism and Rationalism here meet on the same ground, and Plotinus and Cousin are at one.
[Footnote 76: "Hist. of Philos.," vol. i. p. 148.]
[Footnote 77: Ibid., vol. i. p. 216.]
[Footnote 78: Morell, "Hist. of Philos.," p. 661.]
V. The fifth hypothesis offered in explanation of the religious phenomena of the world is that they had their origin in EXTERNAL REVELATION, to which reason is related as a purely passive organ, and Ethnicism as a feeble relic.
This is the theory of the school of "dogmatic theologians," of which the ablest and most familiar presentation is found in the "Theological Institutes" of R. Watson. He claims that all our religious knowledge is derived from oral revelation alone, and that all the forms of religion and modes of worship which have prevailed in the heathen world have been perversions and corruptions of the one true religion first taught to the earliest families of men by God himself. All the ideas of God, duty, immortality, and future retribution which are now possessed, or have ever been possessed by the heathen nations, are only broken and scattered rays of the primitive traditions descending from the family of Noah, and revived by subsequent intercourses with the Hebrew race; and all the modes of religious worship—prayers, lustrations, sacrifices—that have obtained in the world, are but feeble relics, faint reminiscences of the primitive worship divinely instituted among the first families of men. "The first man received the knowledge of God by sensible converse with him, and that doctrine was transmitted, with the confirmation of successive manifestations, to the early ancestors of all nations." This belief in the existence of a Supreme Being was preserved among the Jews by continual manifestations of the presence of Jehovah. "The intercourses between the Jews and the states of Syria and Babylon, on the one hand, and Egypt on the other, powers which rose to great eminence and influence in the ancient world, was maintained for ages. Their frequent dispersions and captivities would tend to preserve in part, and in part to revive, the knowledge of the once common and universal faith." And the Greek sages who resorted for instruction to the Chaldean philosophic schools derived from thence their knowledge of the theological system of the Jews. Among the heathen nations this primitive revelation was corrupted by philosophic speculation, as in India and China, Greece and Rome; and in some cases it was entirely obliterated by ignorance, superstition, and vice, as among the Hottentots of Africa and the aboriginal tribes of New South Wales, who "have no idea of one Supreme Creator."
[Footnote 79: We might have referred the reader to Ellis's "Knowledge of Divine Things from Revelation, not from Reason or Nature;" Leland's "Necessity of Revelation;" and Horsley's "Dissertations," etc.; but as we are not aware of their having been reprinted in this country, we select the "Institutes" of Watson as the best presentation of the views of "the dogmatic theologians" accessible to American readers.]
[Footnote 80: Watson, "Theol. Inst," vol. i. p. 270.]
[Footnote 81: Id. ib., vol. i. p. 31.]
[Footnote 82: See ch. v. and vi., "On the Origin of those Truths which are found in the Writings and Religious Systems of the Heathen."]
[Footnote 83: Ibid., vol. i. p. 274.]
The same course of reasoning is pursued in regard to the idea of duty, and the knowledge of right and wrong. "A direct communication of the Divine Will was made to the primogenitors of our race," and to this source alone we are indebted for all correct ideas of right and wrong. "Whatever is found pure in morals, in ancient or modern writers, may be traced to indirect revelation." Verbal instruction—tradition or scripture—thus becomes the source of all our moral ideas. The doctrine of immortality, and of a future retribution, the practice of sacrifice—precatory and expiatory, are also ascribed to the same source. Thus the only medium by which religious truth can possibly become known to the masses of mankind is tradition. The ultimate foundation on which the religious faith and the religious practices of universal humanity have rested, with the exception of the Jews, and the favored few to whom the Gospel has come, is uncertain, precarious, and easily corrupted tradition.
[Footnote 84: Watson, "Theol. Inst.," vol. ii. p. 470.]
[Footnote 85: Id. ib., vol. i. p. 11.]
[Footnote 86: Id. ib., vol. i. p. 26.]
The improbability, inadequacy, and incompleteness of this theory will be obvious from the following considerations:
1. It is highly improbable that truths so important and vital to man, so essential to the well-being of the human race, so necessary to the perfect development of humanity as are the ideas of God, duty, and immortality, should rest on so precarious and uncertain a basis as tradition is admitted, even by Mr. Watson, to be.
The human mind needs the idea of God to satisfy its deep moral necessities, and to harmonize all its powers. The perfection of humanity can never be secured, the destination of humanity can never be achieved, the purpose of God in the existence of humanity can never be accomplished, without the idea of God, and of the relation of man to God, being present to the human mind. Society needs the idea of a Supreme Ruler as the foundation of law and government, and as the basis of social order. Without it, these can not be, or be conserved. Intellectual creatureship, social order, human progress, are inconceivable and impossible without the idea of God, and of accountability to God. Now that truths so fundamental should, to the masses of men, rest on tradition alone, is incredible. Is there no known and accessible God to the outlying millions of our race who, in consequence of the circumstances of birth and education, which are beyond their control, have had no access to an oral revelation, and among whom the dim shadowy rays of an ancient tradition have long ago expired? Are the eight hundred millions of our race upon whom the light of Christianity has not shone unvisited by the common Father of our race? Has the universal Father left his "own offspring" without a single native power of recognizing the existence of the Divine Parent, and abandoned them to solitary and dreary orphanage? Could not he who gave to matter its properties and laws,—the properties and laws through whose operation he is working out his own purposes in the realm of nature,—could not he have also given to mind ideas and principles which, logically developed, would lead to recognition of a God, and of our duty to God, and, by these ideas and principles, have wrought out his sublime purposes in the realm of mind? Could not he who gave to man the appetency for food, and implanted in his nature the social instincts to preserve his physical being, have implanted in his heart a "feeling after God," and an instinct to worship God in order to the conservation of his spiritual being? How otherwise can we affirm the responsibility and accountability of all the race before God? Those theologians who are so earnest in the assertion that God has not endowed man with the native power of attaining the knowledge of God can not, on any principle of equity, show how the heathen are "without excuse" when, in involuntary ignorance of God, they "worship the creature instead of the Creator," and violate a law of duty of which they have no possible means to attain the barest knowledge.
2. This theory is utterly inadequate to the explanation of the universality of religious rites, and especially of religious ideas.
Take, for example, the idea of God. As a matter of fact we affirm, in opposition to Watson, the universality of this idea. The idea of God is connatural to the human mind. Wherever human reason has had its normal and healthy development, this idea has arisen spontaneously and necessarily. There has not been found a race of men who were utterly destitute of some knowledge of a Supreme Being. All the instances alleged have, on further and more accurate inquiry, been found incorrect. The tendency of the last century, arbitrarily to quadrate all the facts of religious history with the prevalent sensational philosophy, had its influence upon the minds of the first missionaries to India, China, Africa, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific. They expected to find that the heathen had no knowledge of a Supreme Being, and before they had mastered the idioms of their language, or become familiar with their mythological and cosmological systems, they reported them as utterly ignorant of God, destitute of the idea and even the name of a Supreme Being. These mistaken and hasty conclusions have, however, been corrected by a more intimate acquaintance with the people, their languages and religions. Even in the absence of any better information, we should be constrained to doubt the accuracy of the authorities quoted by Mr. Watson in relation to Hindooism, when by one (Ward) we are told that the Hindoo "believes in a God destitute of intelligence" and by another (Moore) that "Brahm is the one eternal Mind, the self-existent, incomprehensible Spirit". Learned and trustworthy critics, Asiatic as well as European, however, confidently affirm that "the ground of the Brahminical faith is Monotheistic;" it recognizes "an Absolute and Supreme Being" as the source of all that exists. Eugene Burnouf, M. Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire, Koeppen, and indeed nearly all who have written on the subject of Buddhism, have shown that the metaphysical doctrines of Buddha were borrowed from the earlier systems of the Brahminic philosophy. "Buddha." we are told, is "pure intelligence" "clear light", "perfect wisdom;" the same as Brahm. This is surely Theism in its highest conception. In regard to the peoples of South Africa, Dr. Livingstone assures us "there is no need for beginning to tell even the most degraded of these people of the existence of a God, or of a future state—the facts being universally admitted.... On questioning intelligent men among the Backwains as to their former knowledge of good and evil, of God, and of a future state, they have scouted the idea of any of them ever having been without a tolerably clear conception on all these subjects." And so far from the New Hollanders having no idea of a Supreme Being, we are assured by E. Stone Parker, the protector of the aborigines of New Holland, they have a clear and well-defined idea of a "Great Spirit," the maker of all things.