Philosophy and Religion - Six Lectures Delivered at Cambridge
by Hastings Rashdall
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Six Lectures Delivered at Cambridge



D. Litt. (Oxon.), D.C.L. (Dunelm.) Fellow of the British Academy Fellow and Tutor of New College, Oxford

London: Duckworth & Co. 3 Henrietta St. Covent Garden 1909 All rights reserved



Man has no deeper or wider interest than theology; none deeper, for however much he may change, he never loses his love of the many questions it covers; and none wider, for under whatever law he may live he never escapes from its spacious shade; nor does he ever find that it speaks to him in vain or uses a voice that fails to reach him. Once the present writer was talking with a friend who has equal fame as a statesman and a man of letters, and he said, 'Every day I live, Politics, which are affairs of Man and Time, interest me less, while Theology, which is an affair of God and Eternity, interests me more.' As with him, so with many, though the many feel that their interest is in theology and not in dogma. Dogma, they know, is but a series of resolutions framed by a council or parliament, which they do not respect any the more because the parliament was composed of ecclesiastically-minded persons; while the theology which so interests them is a discourse touching God, though the Being so named is the God man conceived as not only related to himself and his world but also as rising ever higher with the notions of the self and the world. Wise books, not in dogma but in theology, may therefore be described as the supreme {vi} need of our day, for only such can save us from much fanaticism and secure us in the full possession of a sober and sane reason.

Theology is less a single science than an encyclopaedia of sciences; indeed all the sciences which have to do with man have a better right to be called theological than anthropological, though the man it studies is not simply an individual but a race. Its way of viewing man is indeed characteristic; from this have come some of its brighter ideals and some of its darkest dreams. The ideals are all either ethical or social, and would make of earth a heaven, creating fraternity amongst men and forming all states into a goodly sisterhood; the dreams may be represented by doctrines which concern sin on the one side and the will of God on the other. But even this will cannot make sin luminous, for were it made radiant with grace, it would cease to be sin.

These books then,—which have all to be written by men who have lived in the full blaze of modern light,—though without having either their eyes burned out or their souls scorched into insensibility,—are intended to present God in relation to Man and Man in relation to God. It is intended that they begin, not in date of publication, but in order of thought, with a Theological Encyclopaedia which shall show the circle of sciences co-ordinated under the term Theology, though all will be viewed as related to its central or main idea. This relation of God to human knowledge will then be looked at through mind as a communion of Deity with humanity, or God in fellowship {vii} with concrete man. On this basis the idea of Revelation will be dealt with. Then, so far as history and philology are concerned, the two Sacred Books, which are here most significant, will be viewed as the scholar, who is also a divine, views them; in other words, the Old and New Testaments, regarded as human documents, will be criticised as a literature which expresses relations to both the present and the future; that is, to the men and races who made the books, as well as to the races and men the books made. The Bible will thus be studied in the Semitic family which gave it being, and also in the Indo-European families which gave to it the quality of the life to which they have attained. But Theology has to do with more than sacred literature; it has also to do with the thoughts and life its history occasioned. Therefore the Church has to be studied and presented as an institution which God founded and man administers. But it is possible to know this Church only through the thoughts it thinks, the doctrines it holds, the characters and the persons it forms, the people who are its saints and embody its ideals of sanctity, the acts it does, which are its sacraments, and the laws it follows and enforces, which are its polity, and the young it educates and the nations it directs and controls. These are the points to be presented in the volumes which follow, which are all to be occupied with theology or the knowledge of God and His ways.

A. M. F. 'O.'



These Lectures were delivered in Cambridge during the Lent Term of last year, on the invitation of a Committee presided over by the Master of Magdalene, before an audience of from three hundred to four hundred University men, chiefly Under-graduates. They were not then, and they are not now, intended for philosophers or even for beginners in the systematic study of philosophy, but as aids to educated men desirous of thinking out for themselves a reasonable basis for personal Religion.

The Lectures—especially the first three—deal with questions on which I have already written. I am indebted to the Publisher of Contentio Veritatis and the other contributors to that volume for raising no objection to my publishing Lectures which might possibly be regarded as in part a condensation, in part an expansion of my Essay on 'The ultimate basis of Theism.' I have dealt more systematically with many of the problems here discussed in an Essay upon 'Personality in God and Man' contributed to Personal Idealism (edited by Henry {x} Sturt) and in my 'Theory of Good and Evil.' Some of the doctrinal questions touched on in Lecture VI. have been more fully dealt with in my volume of University Sermons, Doctrine and Development.

Questions which were asked at the time and communications which have since reached me have made me feel, more even than I did when I was writing the Lectures, how inadequate is the treatment here given to many great problems. On some matters much fuller explanation and discussion will naturally be required to convince persons previously unfamiliar with Metaphysic: on others it is the more advanced student of Philosophy who will complain that I have only touched upon the fringe of a vast subject. But I have felt that I could not seriously expand any part of the Lectures without changing the whole character of the book, and I have been compelled in general to meet the demand for further explanation only by the above general reference to my other books, by the addition of a few notes, and by appending to each chapter some suggestions for more extended reading. These might of course have been indefinitely enlarged, but a long list of books is apt to defeat its own purpose: people with a limited time at their disposal want to know which book to make a beginning upon.

The Lectures are therefore published for the most {xi} part just as they were delivered, in the hope that they may suggest lines of thought which may be intellectually and practically useful. I trust that any philosopher who may wish to take serious notice of my views—especially the metaphysical views expressed in the first few chapters—will be good enough to remember that the expression of them is avowedly incomplete and elementary, and cannot fairly be criticized in much detail without reference to my other writings.

I am much indebted for several useful suggestions and for valuable assistance in revising the proofs to one of the hearers of the Lectures, Mr. A. G. Widgery, Scholar of St. Catherine's College, Cambridge, now Lecturer in University College, Bristol.


NEW COLLEGE, OXFORD, Jan. 6, 1909.




MIND AND MATTER, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

1. Is Materialism possible? There is no immediate knowledge of Matter; what we know is always Self + Matter. The idea of a Matter which can exist by itself is an inference: is it a reasonable one?

2. No. For all that we know about Matter implies Mind. This is obvious as to secondary qualities (colour, sound, etc.); but it is no less true of primary qualities (solidity, magnitude, etc.). Relations, no less than sensations, imply Mind, . . . . . . . . . . . 8

3. This is the great discovery of Berkeley, though he did not adequately distinguish between sensations and intellectual relations, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

4. But Matter certainly does not exist merely for our transitory and incomplete knowledge: if it cannot exist apart from Mind, there must be a universal Mind in which and for which all things exist, i.e. God, . . . . . . . 16

5. But Theism is possible without Idealism. The impossibility of Materialism has generally been recognized (e.g. by Spinoza, Spencer, Haeckel). If the ultimate Reality is not Matter, it must be utterly unlike anything we know, or be Mind. The latter view more probable, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

6. It is more reasonable to explain the lower by the higher than vice versa, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26


THE UNIVERSAL CAUSE, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

1. We have been led by the idealistic argument to recognize the necessity of a Mind which thinks the world. Insufficiency of this view.


2. In our experiences of external Nature we meet with nothing but succession, never with Causality. The Uniformity of Nature is a postulate of Physical Science, not a necessity of thought. The idea of Causality derived from our consciousness of Volition. Causality=Activity, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

3. If events must have a cause, and we know of no cause but Will, it is reasonable to infer that the events which we do not cause must be caused by some other Will; and the systematic unity of Nature implies that this cause must be One Will, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41

4. Moreover, the analogy of the human mind suggests the probability that, if God is Mind, there must be in Him, as in us, the three activities of Thought, Feeling, and Will, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

5. The above line of argument can be used by the Realist who believes matter to be a thing-in-itself; but it fits in much better with the Idealistic view of the relations between mind and matter, and with the tendency of modern physics to resolve matter into Force, . 48

6. Testimony of Spencer and Kant to the theory that the Ultimate Reality is Will, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

7. Is God a Person? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54


GOD AND THE MORAL CONSCIOUSNESS, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58

1. The empirical study of Nature ('red in tooth and claw') can tell us of purpose, not what the purpose is. The only source of knowledge of the character of God is to be found in the moral Consciousness.

2. Our moral judgements are as valid as other judgements (e.g. mathematical axioms), and equally reveal the thought of God, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62

3. This does not imply that the moral consciousness is not gradually evolved, or that each individual's conscience is infallible, or that our moral judgements in detail are as certain as mathematical judgements, or that the detailed rules of human conduct are applicable to God, . . 63


4. Corollaries:

(a) Belief in the objectivity of our moral judgements logically implies belief in God, . . . . . . . . . . . 69 (b) If God aims at an end not fully realized here, we have a ground for postulating Immortality, . . . . . . 77 (c) Evil must be a necessary means to greater good, . . 79

5. In what sense this 'limits God.' Omnipotence=ability to do all things which are in their own nature possible, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81


DIFFICULTIES AND OBJECTIONS, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87

1. Is the world created? There may or may not be a beginning of the particular series of physical events constituting our world. But, even if this series has a beginning, this implies some previous existence which has no beginning.

2. Is the whole-time series infinite? Time must be regarded as objective, but the 'antinomies' involved in the nature of Time cannot be resolved, . . . . . . . . 90

3. Are Spirits created or pre-existent? The close connexion and correspondence between mind and body makes for the former view. Difficulties of pre-existence—heredity, etc., . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93

4. An Idealism based on Pre-existence without God is open to the same objections and others. Such a system provides no mind (a) in which and for which the whole system exists, or (b) to effect the correspondence between mind and body, or (c) to allow of a purpose in the Universe; without this the world is not rational, . 96

5. The human mind (i.e. consciousness) not apart of the divine Consciousness, though in the closest possible dependence upon God. The Universe a Unity, but the Unity is not that of Self-Consciousness, . . . . . . . . . 101

6. There is no 'immediate' or 'intuitive' knowledge of God. Our knowledge is got by inference, like knowledge of our friend's existence, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106


7. Religion and Psychology. It is impossible to base Religion upon Psychology or 'religious experience' without Metaphysics, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111

8. Summary: the ultimate nature of Reality, . . . . . . . . 118

Note on Non-theistic Idealism, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128


REVELATION, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127

1. There is no special organ of religious knowledge, but religious knowledge has many characteristics which may be conveniently suggested by the use of the term 'faith,' especially its connexion with character and Will.

2. The psychological causes of religious belief must be carefully distinguished from the reasons which make it true. No logic of discovery. Many religious ideas have occurred in a spontaneous or apparently intuitive way to particular persons, the truth of which the philosopher may subsequently be able to test by philosophical reflection, though he could not have discovered them, but they are not necessarily true because they arise in a spontaneous or unaccountable manner, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134

3. False conceptions of Revelation and true. All knowledge is in a sense revealed, especially religious and moral knowledge: but spiritual insight varies. Need of the prophet or religious genius, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139

4. Reasoned and intuitive beliefs may both be 'revealed,' . . 143

5. Degrees of truth in the historical religions. Dependence of the individual upon such religions. Christianity occupies a unique position, because it alone combines an ethical ideal which appeals to the universal Conscience with a Theism which commends itself to Reason. The truth of Christianity is dependent upon its appeal to the moral and religious consciousness of the present, . . . . . . . 148



CHRISTIANITY, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157

1. The claim of Christianity to be the special or absolute Religion not dependent upon miracles.

2. Ritschlian Theologians right in resting the truth of Christianity mainly upon the appeal made by Christ to the individual Conscience: but wrong in disparaging (a) philosophical arguments for Theism, (b) the relative truth of non-Christian systems, (c) the value of Doctrine and necessity for Development, . . . . . 161

3. Christian doctrine (esp. of the Logos) is an attempt to express the Church's sense of the unique value of Christ and His Revelation. The necessity for recognizing development both in Christian Ethics and in Theology, . . 164

4. Some reflections on our practical attitude towards Christian doctrine. Some means of expressing the unique position of Christ wanted. The old expressions were influenced by philosophy of the time, but not valueless. Illustrations. Need of re-interpretation and further development, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168

5. The doctrine of continuous Revelation through the Spirit is a part of Christianity, and the condition of its acceptance as the final or absolute Religion, . . . 185





I have been invited to speak to you about the relations between Religion and Philosophy. To do that in a logical and thoroughgoing way it would be necessary to discuss elaborately the meaning first of Religion and then of Philosophy. Such a discussion would occupy at least a lecture, and I am unwilling to spend one out of six scanty hours in formal preliminaries. I shall assume, therefore, that we all know in some general way the meaning of Religion. It is not necessary for our present purpose to discuss such questions as the definition of Religion for purposes of sociological investigation, or the possibility of a Religion without a belief in God, or the like. I shall assume that, whatever else may be included in the term Religion, Christianity may at least be included in it; and that what you are practically most interested in is the bearing of Philosophy upon the Christian ideas concerning the {2} being and nature of God, the hope of Immortality, the meaning and possibility of Revelation. When we turn to Philosophy, I cannot perhaps assume with equal confidence that all of you know what it is. But then learning what Philosophy is—especially that most fundamental part of Philosophy which is called Metaphysics—is like learning to swim: you never discover how to do it until you find yourself considerably out of your depth. You must strike out boldly, and at last you discover what you are after. I shall presuppose that in a general way you do all know that Philosophy is an enquiry into the ultimate nature of the Universe at large, as opposed to the discussion of those particular aspects or departments of it which are dealt with by the special Sciences. What you want to know, I take it, is—what rational enquiry, pushed as far as it will go, has to say about those ultimate problems of which the great historical Religions likewise profess to offer solutions. The nature and scope of Philosophy is best understood by examples: and therefore I hope you will excuse me if without further preface I plunge in medias res. I shall endeavour to presuppose no previous acquaintance with technical Philosophy, and I will ask those who have already made some serious study of Philosophy kindly to remember that I am trying to make myself intelligible to those who have not. I shall {3} not advance anything which I should not be prepared to defend even before an audience of metaphysical experts. But I cannot undertake in so short a course of lectures to meet all the objections which will, I know, be arising in the minds of any metaphysically trained hearers who may honour me with their presence, many of which may probably occur to persons not so trained. And I further trust the Metaphysicians among you will forgive me if, in order to be intelligible to all, I sometimes speak with a little less than the akribeia at which I might feel bound to aim if I were reading a paper before an avowedly philosophical Society. Reservations, qualifications, and elaborate distinctions must be omitted, if I am to succeed in saying anything clearly in the course of six lectures.

Moreover, I would remark that, though I do not believe that an intention to edify is any excuse for slipshod thought or intellectual dishonesty, I am speaking now mainly from the point of view of those who are enquiring into metaphysical truth for the guidance of their own religious and practical life, rather than from the point of view of pure speculation. I do not, for my own part, believe in any solution of the religious problem which evades the ultimate problems of all thought. The Philosophy of Religion is for me not so much a special and sharply distinguished branch or department of {4} Philosophy as a particular aspect of Philosophy in general. But many questions which may be of much importance from the point of view of a complete theory of the Universe can be entirely, or almost entirely, put on one side when the question is, 'What may I reasonably believe about those ultimate questions which have a direct and immediate bearing upon my religious and moral life; what may I believe about God and Duty, about the world and its ultimate meaning, about the soul and its destiny?' For such purposes solutions stopping short of what will fully satisfy the legitimate demands of the professed Metaphysician may be all that is necessary, or at least all that is possible for those who are not intending to make a serious and elaborate study of Metaphysic. I have no sympathy with the attempt to base Religion upon anything but honest enquiry into truth: and yet the professed Philosophers are just those who will most readily recognize that there are—if not what are technically called degrees of truth—still different levels of thought, different degrees of adequacy and systematic completeness, even within the limits of thoroughly philosophical thinking. I shall assume that you are not content to remain at the level of ordinary unreflecting Common-sense or of merely traditional Religion—that you do want (so far as time and opportunity serve) to get to the bottom of things, {5} but that you will be content in such a course as the present if I can suggest to you, or help you to form for yourselves, an outline—what Plato would call the hypotyposis of a theory of the Universe which may still fall very far short of a finished and fully articulated metaphysical system.

I suppose that to nearly everybody who sets himself down to think seriously about the riddle of the Universe there very soon occurs the question whether Materialism may not contain the solution of all difficulties. I think, therefore, our present investigation had better begin with an enquiry whether Materialism can possibly be true. I say 'can be true' rather than 'is true,' because, though dogmatic Materialists are rare, the typical Agnostic is one who is at least inclined to admit the possibility of Materialism, even when he does not, at the bottom of his mind, practically assume its truth. The man who is prepared to exclude even this one theory of the Universe from the category of possible but unprovable theories is not, properly speaking, an Agnostic. To know that Materialism at least is not true is to know something, and something very important, about the ultimate nature of things. I shall not attempt here any very precise definition of what is meant by Materialism. Strictly speaking, it ought to mean the view that nothing really exists but matter. But the existence, in some sense or {6} other, of our sensations and thoughts and emotions is so obvious to Common-sense that such a creed can hardly be explicitly maintained: it is a creed which is refuted in the very act of enunciating it. For practical purposes, therefore, Materialism may be said to be the view that the ultimate basis of all existence is matter; and that thought, feeling, emotion—consciousness of every kind—is merely an effect, a by-product or concomitant, of certain material processes.

Now if we are to hold that matter is the only thing which exists, or is the ultimate source of all that exists, we ought to be able to say what matter is. To the unreflecting mind matter seems to be the thing that we are most certain of, the one thing that we know all about. Thought, feeling, will, it may be suggested, are in some sense appearances which (though we can't help having them) might, from the point of view of superior insight, turn out to be mere delusions, or at best entirely unimportant and inconsiderable entities. This attitude of mind has been amusingly satirised by the title of one of Mr. Bradley's philosophical essays—'on the supposed uselessness of the Soul.'[1] In this state of mind matter presents itself as the one solid reality—as something undeniable, something perfectly intelligible, something, too, which is pre-eminently {7} important and respectable; while thinking and feeling and willing, joy and sorrow, hope and aspiration, goodness and badness, if they cannot exactly be got rid of altogether, are, as it were, negligible quantities, which must not be allowed to disturb or interfere with the serious business of the Universe.

From this point of view matter is supposed to be the one reality with which we are in immediate contact, which we see and touch and taste and handle every hour of our lives. It may, therefore, sound a rather startling paradox to say that matter—matter in the sense of the Materialist—is something which nobody has ever seen, touched, or handled. Yet that is the literal and undeniable fact. Nobody has ever seen or touched or otherwise come in contact with a piece of matter. For in the experience which the plain man calls seeing or touching there is always present another thing. Even if we suppose that he is Justified in saying 'I touch matter,' there is always present the 'I' as well as the matter.[2] It is always and inevitably matter + mind that he knows. Nobody ever can get away from this 'I,' nobody can ever see or feel what matter is like apart from the 'I' which knows {8} it. He may, indeed, infer that this matter exists apart from the 'I' which knows it. He may infer that it exists, and may even go as far as to assume that, apart from his seeing or touching, or anybody else's seeing or touching, matter possesses all those qualities which it possesses for his own consciousness. But this is inference, and not immediate knowledge. And the validity or reasonableness of the inference may be disputed. How far it is reasonable or legitimate to attribute to matter as it is in itself the qualities which it has for us must depend upon the nature of those qualities. Let us then go on to ask whether the qualities which constitute matter as we know it are qualities which we can reasonably or even intelligibly attribute to a supposed matter-in-itself, to matter considered as something capable of existing by itself altogether apart from any kind of conscious experience.

In matter, as we know it, there are two elements. There are certain sensations, or certain qualities which we come to know by sensation, and there are certain relations. Now, with regard to the sensations, a very little reflection will, I think, show us that it is absolutely meaningless to say that matter has the qualities implied by these sensations, even when they are not felt, and would still possess them, even supposing it never had been and never would be felt by any one whatever. In a world in which {9} there were no eyes and no minds, what would be the meaning of saying that things were red or blue? In a world in which there were no ears and no minds, there would clearly be no such thing as sound. This is exactly the point at which Locke's analysis stopped. He admitted that the 'secondary qualities'—colours, sounds, tastes—of objects were really not in the things themselves but in the mind which perceives them. What existed in the things was merely a power of producing these sensations in us, the quality in the thing being not in the least like the sensations which it produces in us: he admitted that this power of producing a sensation was something different from, and totally unlike, the sensation itself. But when he came to the primary qualities—solidity, shape, magnitude and the like—he supposed that the qualities in the thing were exactly the same as they are for our minds. If all mind were to disappear from the Universe, there would henceforth be no red and blue, no hot and cold; but things would still be big or small, round or square, solid or fluid. Yet, even with these 'primary qualities' the reference to mind is really there just as much as in the case of the secondary qualities; only the fact is not quite so obvious. And one reason for this is that these primary qualities involve, much more glaringly and unmistakably than the secondary, something which is not mere sensation—something which {10} implies thought and not mere sense. What do we mean by solidity, for instance? We mean partly that we get certain sensations from touching the object—sensations of touch and sensations of what is called the muscular sense, sensations of muscular exertion and of pressure resisted. Now, so far as that is what solidity means, it is clear that the quality in question involves as direct a reference to our subjective feelings as the secondary qualities of colour and sound. But something more than this is implied in our idea of solidity. We think of external objects as occupying space. And spaciality cannot be analysed away into mere feelings of ours. The feelings of touch which we derive from an object come to us one after the other. No mental reflection upon sensations which come one after the other in time could ever give us the idea of space, if they were not spacially related from the first. It is of the essence of spaciality that the parts of the object shall be thought of as existing side by side, outside one another. But this side-by-sideness, this outsideness, is after all a way in which the things present themselves to a mind. Space is made up of relations; and what is the meaning of relations apart from a mind which relates, or for which the things are related? If spaciality were a quality of the thing in itself, it would exist no matter what became of other things. It would be quite possible, therefore, {11} that the top of this table should exist without the bottom: yet everybody surely would admit the meaninglessness of talking about a piece of matter (no matter how small, be it an atom or the smallest electron conceived by the most recent physical speculation) which had a top without a bottom, or a right-hand side without a left. This space-occupying quality which is the most fundamental element in our ordinary conception of matter is wholly made up of the relation of one part of it to another. Now can a relation exist except for a mind? As it seems to me, the suggestion is meaningless. Relatedness only has a meaning when thought of in connection with a mind which is capable of grasping or holding together both terms of the relation. The relation between point A and point B is not in point A or in point B taken by themselves. It is all in the 'between': 'betweenness' from its very nature cannot exist in any one point of space or in several isolated points of space or things in space; it must exist only in some one existent which holds together and connects those points. And nothing, as far as we can understand, can do that except a mind. Apart from mind there can be no relatedness: apart from relatedness no space: apart from space no matter. It follows that apart from mind there can be no matter.

It will probably be known to all of you that the {12} first person to make this momentous inference was Bishop Berkeley. There was, indeed, an obscure medieval schoolman, hardly recognized by the historians of Philosophy, one Nicholas of Autrecourt, Dean of Metz,[3] who anticipated him in the fourteenth century, and other better-known schoolmen who approximated to the position; and there are, of course, elements in the teaching of Plato and even of Aristotle, or possible interpretations of Plato and Aristotle, which point in the same direction. But full-blown Idealism, in the sense which involves a denial of the independent existence of matter, is always associated with the name of Bishop Berkeley.

I can best make my meaning plain to you by quoting a passage or two from his Principles of Human Knowledge, in which he extends to the primary qualities of matter the analysis which Locke had already applied to the secondary.

'But, though it were possible that solid, figured, moveable substances may exist without the mind, corresponding to the ideas we have of bodies, yet how is it possible for us to know this? Either we must know it by Sense or by Reason.—As for our senses, by them we have the knowledge only of our sensations, ideas, or those things that are immediately perceived by sense, call them what you will; but they do not inform us that things exist {13} without the mind, or unperceived, like to those which are perceived. This the Materialists themselves acknowledge.—It remains therefore that if we have any knowledge at all of external things, it must be by Reason inferring their existence from what is immediately perceived by sense. But what reason can induce us to believe the existence of bodies without the mind, from what we perceive, since the very patrons of Matter themselves do not pretend there is any necessary connexion betwixt them and our ideas? I say it is granted on all hands—and what happens in dreams, frenzies, and the like, puts it beyond dispute—that it is possible we might be affected with all the ideas we have now, though there were no bodies existing without resembling them. Hence, it is evident the supposition of external bodies is not necessary for the producing our ideas; since it is granted they are produced sometimes, and might possibly be produced always in the same order we see them in at present, without their concurrence.

* * * * * *

'In short, if there were external bodies, it is impossible we should ever come to know it; and if there were not, we might have the very same reasons to think there were that we have now. Suppose—what no one can deny possible—an intelligence without the help of external bodies, to be affected with the same train of sensations or ideas that you are, imprinted in the same order and with like vividness in his mind. I ask whether that intelligence hath not all the reason to believe the existence of corporeal substances, represented by his ideas, and exciting them in his mind, that you can possibly have for believing the same thing? Of this there can be no {14} question—which one consideration were enough to make any reasonable person suspect the strength of whatever arguments he may think himself to have, for the existence of bodies without the mind.'[4]

Do you say that in that case the tables and chairs must be supposed to disappear the moment we all leave the room? It is true that we do commonly think of the tables and chairs as remaining, even when there is no one there to see or touch them. But that only means, Berkeley explains, that if we or any one else were to come back into the room, we should perceive them. Moreover, even in thinking of them as things which might be perceived under certain conditions, they have entered our minds and so proclaimed their ideal or mind-implying character. To prove that things exist without the mind we should have to conceive of things as unconceived or unthought of. And that is a feat which no one has ever yet succeeded in accomplishing.

Here is Berkeley's own answer to the objection:

'But, say you, surely there is nothing easier than for me to imagine trees, for instance, in a park, or books existing in a closet, and nobody by to perceive them. I answer, you may so, there is no difficulty in it; but what is all this, I beseech you, more than framing in your mind certain ideas which you call books and trees, and {15} at the same time omitting to frame the idea of any one that may perceive them? But do not you yourself perceive or think of them all the while? This therefore is nothing to the purpose: it only shews you have the power of imagining or forming ideas in your mind; but it does not shew that you can conceive it possible the objects of your thought may exist without the mind. To make out this, it is necessary that you conceive them existing unconceived or unthought of, which is a manifest repugnancy. When we do our utmost to conceive the existence of external bodies, we are all the while only contemplating our own ideas. But the mind, taking no notice of itself, is deluded to think it can and does conceive bodies existing unthought of or without the mind, though at the same time they are apprehended by, or exist in, itself. A little attention will discover to any one the truth and evidence of what is here said, and make it unnecessary to insist on any other proofs against the existence of material substance.'[5]

Berkeley no doubt did not adequately appreciate the importance of the distinction between mere sensations and mental relations. In the paragraph which I have read to you he tends to explain space away into mere subjective feelings: in this respect and in many others he has been corrected by Kant and the post-Kantian Idealists. Doubtless we cannot analyse away our conception of space or of substance into mere feelings. But relations imply mind no less than sensations. Things are no mere {16} bundles of sensations; we do think of them as objects or substances possessing attributes. Indeed to call them (with Berkeley), 'bundles of sensations' implies that the bundle is as important an element in thinghood as the sensations themselves. The bundle implies what Kant would call the intellectual 'categories' of Substance, Quantity, Quality, and the like. We do think objects: but an object is still an object of thought. We can attach no intelligible meaning to the term 'object' which does not imply a subject.

If there is nothing in matter, as we know it, which does not obviously imply mind, if the very idea of matter is unintelligible apart from mind, it is clear that matter can never have existed without mind.

What then, it may be asked, of the things which no human eye has ever seen or even thought of? Are we to suppose that a new planet comes into existence for the first time when first it sails into the telescope of the astronomer, and that Science is wrong in inferring that it existed not only before that particular astronomer saw it, but before there were any astronomers or other human or even animal intelligences upon this planet to observe it? Did the world of Geology come into existence for the first time when some eighteenth-century geologist first suspected that the world was more than six thousand years old? Are all those ages of past {17} history, when the earth and the sun were but nebulae, a mere imagination, or did that nebulous mass come into existence thousands or millions of years afterwards when Kant or Laplace first conceived that it had existed? The supposition is clearly self-contradictory and impossible. If Science be not a mass of illusion, this planet existed millions of years before any human—or, so far as we know, any animal minds—existed to think its existence. And yet I have endeavoured to show the absurdity of supposing that matter can exist except for a mind. It is clear, then, that it cannot be merely for such minds as ours that the world has always existed. Our minds come and go. They have a beginning; they go to sleep; they may, for aught that we can immediately know, come to an end. At no time does any one of them, at no time do all of them together, apprehend all that there is to be known. We do not create a Universe; we discover it piece by piece, and after all very imperfectly. Matter cannot intelligibly be supposed to exist apart from Mind: and yet it clearly does not exist merely for our minds. Each of us knows only one little bit of the Universe: all of us together do not know the whole. If the whole is to exist at all, there must be some one mind which knows the whole. The mind which is necessary to the very existence of the Universe is the mind that we call God.


In this way we are, as it seems to me, led up by a train of reasoning which is positively irresistible to the idea that, so far from matter being the only existence, it has no existence of its own apart from some mind which knows it—in which and for which it exists. The existence of a Mind possessing universal knowledge is necessary as the presupposition both of there being any world to know, and also of there being any lesser minds to know it. It is, indeed, possible to believe in the eternal existence of limited minds, while denying the existence of the one Omniscient Mind. That is a hypothesis on which I will say a word hereafter.[6] It is enough here to say that it is one which is not required to explain the world as we know it. The obvious prima facie view of the matter is that the minds which apparently have a beginning, which develope slowly and gradually and in close connexion with certain physical processes, owe their origin to whatever is the ultimate source or ground of the physical processes themselves. The order or systematic interconnexion of all the observable phenomena in the Universe suggests that the ultimate Reality must be one Being of some kind; the argument which I have suggested leads us to regard that one Reality as a spiritual Reality. We are not yet entitled to speak of this physical Universe as caused {19} by God: that is a question which I hope to discuss in our next lecture. All that I want to establish now is that we cannot explain the world without the supposition of one universal Mind in which and for which all so-called material things exist, and always have existed.

So far I have endeavoured to establish the existence of God by a line of thought which also leads to the position that matter has no independent existence apart from conscious mind, that at bottom nothing exists except minds and their experiences. Now I know that this is a line of thought which, to those who are unfamiliar with it, seems so paradoxical and extravagant that, even when a man does not see his way to reply to it, it will seldom produce immediate or permanent conviction the first time he becomes acquainted with it. It is for the most part only by a considerable course of habituation, extending over some years, that a man succeeds in thinking himself into the idealistic view of the Universe. And after all, there are many minds—some of them, I must admit, not wanting in philosophical power—who never succeed in accomplishing that feat at all. Therefore, while I feel bound to assert that the clearest and most irrefragable argument for the existence of God is that which is supplied by the idealistic line of thought, I should be sorry to have to admit that a man {20} cannot be a Theist, or that he cannot be a Theist on reasonable grounds, without first being an Idealist. From my own point of view most of the other reasons for believing in the existence of God resolve themselves into idealistic arguments imperfectly thought out. But they may be very good arguments, as far as they go, even when they are not thought out to what seem to me their logical consequences. One of these lines of thought I shall hope to develope in my next lecture; but meanwhile let me attempt to reduce the argument against Materialism to a form in which it will perhaps appeal to Common-sense without much profound metaphysical reflection.

At the level of ordinary common-sense thought there appear to be two kinds of Reality—mind and matter. And yet our experience of the unity of Nature, of the intimate connexion between human and animal minds and their organisms (organisms governed by a single intelligible and interconnected system of laws) is such that we can hardly help regarding them as manifestations or products or effects or aspects of some one Reality. There is, almost obviously, some kind of Unity underlying all the diversity of things. Our world does not arise by the coming together of two quite independent Realities—mind and matter—governed by no law or by unconnected and independent systems of law. {21} All things, all phenomena, all events form parts of a single inter-related, intelligible whole: that is the presupposition not only of Philosophy but of Science. Or if any one chooses to say that it is a presupposition and so an unwarrantable piece of dogmatism, I will say that it is the hypothesis to which all our knowledge points. It is at all events the one common meeting-point of nearly all serious thinkers. The question remains, 'What is the nature of this one Reality?' Now, if this ultimate Reality be not mind, it must be one of two things. It must be matter, or it must be a third thing which is neither mind nor matter, but something quite different from either. Now many who will not follow the idealistic line of thought the whole way—so far as to recognize that the ultimate Reality is Mind—will at least admit that Idealists have successfully shown the impossibility of supposing that the ultimate Reality can be matter. For all the properties of matter are properties which imply some relation to our sensibility or our thought. Moreover, there is such a complete heterogeneity between consciousness and unconscious matter, considered as something capable of existing without mind, that it seems utterly impossible and unthinkable that mind should be simply the product or attribute of matter. That the ultimate Reality cannot be what we mean by matter has been admitted by the most naturalistic, {22} and, in the ordinary sense, anti-religious thinkers—Spinoza, for instance, and Haeckel, and Herbert Spencer. The question remains, 'Which is the easier, the more probable, the more reasonable theory—that the ultimate Reality should be Mind, or that it should be something so utterly unintelligible and inconceivable to us as a tertium quid—a mysterious Unknown and Unknowable—which is neither mind nor matter?' For my own part, I see no reason to suppose that our inability to think of anything which is neither matter nor mind but quite unlike either is a mere imperfection of human thought. It seems more reasonable to assume that our inability to think of such a mysterious X is due to there being no such thing.[7]

Our only way of judging of the Unknown is by the analogy of the known. It is more probable, surely, that the world known to us should exhibit something of the characteristics of the Reality from which it is derived, or of which it forms a manifestation, than that it should exhibit none of these characteristics. No doubt, if we were to argue from some small part of our experience, or from the detailed characteristics of one part of our experience to what is beyond our experience; if, for instance {23} (I am here replying to an objection of Hoeffding's), a blind man were to argue that the world must be colourless because he sees no colour, or if any of us were to affirm that in other planets there can be no colours but what we see, no sensations but what we feel, no mental powers but what we possess, the inference would be precarious enough. The Anthropomorphist in the strict sense—the man who thinks that God or the gods must have human bodies—no doubt renders himself liable to the gibe that, if oxen could think, they would imagine the gods to be like oxen, and so on. But the cases are not parallel. We have no difficulty in thinking that in other worlds there may be colours which we have never seen, or whole groups of sensation different from our own: we cannot think that any existence should be neither mind nor matter, but utterly unlike either. We are not arguing from the mere absence of some special experience, but from the whole character of all the thought and experience that we actually possess, of all that we are and the whole Universe with which we are in contact. The characteristic of the whole world which we know is that it consists of mind and matter in close connexion—we may waive for a moment the nature of that connexion. Is it more probable that the ultimate Reality which lies beyond our reach should be something which possesses the characteristics of mind, or that it should {24} be totally unlike either mind or matter? Do you insist that we logically ought to say it might contain the characteristics of both mind and matter? There is only one way in which such a combination seems clearly thinkable by us, i.e. when we represent matter as either in the idealistic sense the thought or experience of mind, or (after the fashion of ordinary realistic Theism) as created or produced by mind. But if you insist on something more than this, if you want to think of the qualities of matter as in some other way included in the nature of the ultimate Reality as well as those of mind, at all events we could still urge that we shall get nearer to the truth by thinking of this ultimate Reality in its mind-aspect than by thinking of it in its matter-aspect.

I do not believe that the human mind is really equal to the task of thinking of a Reality which is one and yet is neither mind nor matter but something which combines the nature of both. Practically, where such a creed is professed, the man either thinks of an unconscious Reality in some way generating or evolving mind, and so falls back into the Materialism which he has verbally disclaimed; or he thinks of a mind producing or causing or generating a matter which when produced is something different from itself. This last is of course ordinary Theism in the form in which it is commonly {25} held by those who are not Idealists. From a practical and religious point of view there is nothing to be said against such a view. Still it involves a Dualism, the philosophical difficulties of which I have attempted to suggest to you. I confess that for my own part the only way in which I can conceive of a single ultimate Reality which combines the attributes of what we call mind with those of what we know as matter is by thinking of a Mind conscious of a world or nature which has no existence except in and for that Mind and whatever less complete consciousnesses that may be. I trust that those who have failed to follow my sketch of the arguments which lead to this idealistic conclusion may at least be led by it to see the difficulties either of Materialism or of that kind of agnostic Pantheism which, while admitting in words that the ultimate Reality is not matter, refuses to invest it with the attributes of mind. The argument may be reduced to its simplest form by saying we believe that the ultimate Reality is Mind because mind will explain matter, while matter will not explain mind: while the idea of a Something which is neither in mind nor matter is both unintelligible and gratuitous.

And this line of thought may be supplemented by another. Whatever may be thought of the existence of matter apart from mind, every one will {26} admit that matter possesses no value or worth apart from mind. When we bring into account our moral judgements or judgements of value, we have no difficulty in recognizing mind as the highest or best kind of existence known to us. There is, surely, a certain intrinsic probability in supposing that the Reality from which all being is derived must possess at least as much worth or value as the derived being; and that in thinking of that Reality by the analogy of the highest kind of existence known to us we shall come nearer to a true thought of it than by any other way of thinking possible to us. This is a line of argument which I hope to develope further when I come to examine the bearing upon the religious problem of what is as real a part of our experience as any other—our moral experience.

I will remind you in conclusion, that our argument for the existence of God is at present incomplete. I have tried to lead you to the idea that the ultimate Reality is spiritual, that it is a Mind which knows, or is conscious of, matter. I have tried to lead you with the Idealist to think of the physical Universe as having no existence except in the mind of God, or at all events (for those who fail to follow the idealistic line of thought) to believe that the Universe does not exist without such a Mind. What further relation exists between physical nature and this Universal Spirit, I shall hope in the next lecture {27} to consider; and in so doing to suggest a line of argument which will independently lead to the same result, and which does not necessarily presuppose the acceptance of the idealistic creed.


The reader who wishes to have the idealistic argument sketched in the foregoing chapter developed more fully should read Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge. For the correction of Berkeley's sensationalistic mistakes the best course is to read Kant's Critique of Pure Reason or the shorter Prolegomena to any future Metaphysic or any of the numerous expositions or commentaries upon Kant. (One of the best is the 'Reproduction' prefixed to Dr. Hutchison Stirling's Text-book to Kant.) The non-metaphysical reader should, however, be informed that Kant is very hard reading, and is scarcely intelligible without some slight knowledge of the previous history of Philosophy, especially of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, while some acquaintance with elementary Logic is also desirable. He will find the argument for non-sensationalistic Idealism re-stated in a post-Kantian but much easier form in Ferrier's Institutes of Metaphysic. The argument for a theistic Idealism is powerfully stated (though it is not easy reading) in the late Prof. T. H. Green's Prolegomena to Ethics, Book I. In view of recent realistic revivals I may add that the earlier chapters of Mr. Bradley's Appearance and Reality still seem to me to contain an unanswerable defence of Idealism as against Materialism or any form of Realism, though his Idealism is not of the theistic type defended in the above lecture. The idealistic argument is stated in a way which makes strongly for Theism by Professor Ward in Naturalism and Agnosticism—a work which would perhaps be the best sequel to these lectures for any reader {28} who does not want to undertake a whole course of philosophical reading: readers entirely unacquainted with Physical Science might do well to begin with Part II. A more elementary and very clear defence of Theism from the idealistic point of view is to be found in Dr. Illingworth's Personality Human and Divine. Representatives of non-idealistic Theism will be mentioned at the end of the next lecture.

[1] Mind, vol. iv. (U.S.), 1885.

[2] I do not mean of course that in the earliest stages of consciousness this distinction is actually made; but, if there are stages of consciousness in which the 'I' is not realized, the idea of matter or even of an 'object' or 'not-self' existing apart from consciousness must be supposed to be equally absent.

[3] I have dealt at length with this forgotten thinker in a Presidential Address to the Aristotelian Society, printed in their Proceedings for 1907.

[4] Principles of Human Knowledge, pt. i., Sections 18, 20.

[5] Principles of Human Knowledge, pt. 1., Section 23.

[6] See Lecture IV., pp. 96-101, 123-6.

[7] I have attempted to meet this line of argument somewhat more adequately, in the form in which it has recently been taken up by Professor Hoeffding in his Philosophy of Religion, in a review in the Review of Theology and Philosophy for November, 1907 (vol. iii.).




In my last lecture I endeavoured to show that matter, so far from constituting the ultimate Reality, cannot reasonably be thought of as existing at all without mind; and that we cannot explain the world without assuming the existence of a Mind in which and for which everything that is not mind has its being. But we are still very far from having fully cleared up the relation between the divine Mind and that Nature which exists in it and for it: while we have hardly dealt at all with the relation between the universal Mind and those lesser minds which we have treated—so far without much argument—as in some way derived from, or dependent upon, that Mind. So far as our previous line of argument goes, we might have to look upon the world as the thought of God, but not as caused by Him or due to His will. We might speak of God as 'making Nature,' but only in the sense in which you or I make Nature when we think it or experience it. {30} 'The world is as necessary to God as God is to the world,' we are often told—for instance by my own revered teacher, the late Professor Green. How unsatisfactory this position is from a religious point of view I need hardly insist. For all that such a theory has to say to the contrary, we might have to suppose that, though God is perfectly good, the world which He is compelled to think is very bad, and going from bad to worse. To think of God merely as the Mind which eternally contemplates Nature, without having any power whatever of determining what sort of Nature it is to be, supplies no ground for hope or aspiration—still less for worship, adoration, imitation. I suggested the possibility that from such a point of view God might be thought of as good, and the world as bad. But that is really to concede too much. A being without a will could as little be bad as he could be good: he would be simply a being without a character. From an intellectual point such a way of looking at the Universe might be more intelligent or intelligible than that of pure Materialism or pure Agnosticism; but morally and religiously I don't know that, when its consequences are fully realized, it is any great improvement upon either of them.[1] {31} Moreover, even intellectually it fails to satisfy the demand which most reflecting people feel, that the world shall be regarded as a Unity of some kind. If God is thought of as linked by some inexplicable fate to a Nature over which He has no sort of control—not so much control as a mere human being who can produce limited changes in the world,—we can hardly be said to have reduced the world to a Unity. The old Dualism has broken out again: after all we still have God and the world confronting one another; neither of them is in any way explained by the other. Still less could such a world be supposed to have a purpose or rational end. For our own mere intellectual satisfaction as well as for the satisfaction of our religious needs we must go on to ask whether we are not justified in thinking of God as the Cause or Creator of the world, as well as the Thinker of it.

This enquiry introduces us to the whole problem of Causality. The sketch which I gave you last time of Bishop Berkeley's argument was a very imperfect one. Bishop Berkeley was from one point of view a great philosophic iconoclast, though he destroyed only that he might build up. He destroyed the superstition of a self-existing matter: {32} he also waged war against what I will venture to call the kindred superstition of a mysterious causal nexus between the physical antecedent and the physical consequent. On this side his work was carried on by Hume. Berkeley resolved our knowledge into a succession of 'ideas.' He did, no doubt, fall into the mistake of treating our knowledge as if it were a mere succession of feelings: he ignored far too much—though he did not do so completely—that other element in our knowledge, the element of intellectual relation, of which I said something last time. Here, no doubt, Berkeley has been corrected by Kant; and, so far, practically all modern Idealists will own their indebtedness to Kant. Even in the apprehension of a succession of ideas, in the mere recognition that this feeling comes after that, there is an element which cannot be explained by mere feeling. The apprehension that this feeling came after that feeling is not itself a feeling. But can I detect any relation between these experiences of mine except that of succession? We commonly speak of fire as the cause of the melting of the wax, but what do we really know about the matter? Surely on reflection we must admit that we know nothing but this—that, so far as our experience goes, the application of fire is always followed by the melting of the wax. Where this is the case we do, from the point of view of {33} ordinary life, speak of the one phenomenon as the cause of the other. Where we don't discover such an invariable succession, we don't think of the one event as the cause of the other.

I shall be told, perhaps, that on this view of the nature of Causality we ought to speak of night as the cause of day. So perhaps we should, if the result to which we are led by a more limited experience were not corrected by the results of a larger experience. To say nothing of the valuable correction afforded by the polar winter and the polar summer, we have learned by a more comprehensive experience to replace the law that day follows night by the wider generalisation that the visibility of objects is invariably coincident upon the presence of some luminous body and not upon a previous state of darkness. But between cases of what we call mere succession and what is commonly called causal sequence the difference lies merely in the observed fact that in some cases the sequence varies, while in others no exception has ever been discovered. No matter how frequently we observe that a sensation of red follows the impact upon the aural nerve of a shock derived from a wave of ether of such and such a length, we see no reason why it should do so. We may, no doubt, make a still wider generalization, and say that every event in Nature is invariably preceded by some definite complex of conditions, {34} and so arrive at a general law of the Uniformity of Nature. And such a law is undoubtedly the express or implied basis of all inference in the Physical Sciences. When we have once accepted that law (as the whole mass of our experience in the purely physical region inclines us to do), then a single instance of A B C being followed by D (when we are quite sure that we have included all the antecedents which we do not know from other experience to be irrelevant) will warrant our concluding that we have discovered a law of nature. On the next occasion of A B C's occurrence we confidently predict that D will follow. But, however often we have observed such a sequence, and however many similar sequences we may have observed, we are no nearer to knowing why D should follow ABC: we can only know that it always does: and on the strength of that knowledge we infer, with a probability which we do no doubt for practical purposes treat as a certainty, that it always will. But on reflection we can see no reason why a wave of ether of a certain length should produce red rather than blue, a colour rather than a sound. There, as always, we discover nothing but succession, not necessary connexion.

These cases of unvaried succession among phenomena, it should be observed, are quite different from cases of real necessary connexion. We don't want to examine thousands of instances of two {35} added to two to be quite sure that they always make four, nor in making the inference do we appeal to any more general law of Uniformity. We simply see that it is and always must be so. Mill no doubt tells us he has no difficulty in supposing that in the region of the fixed stars two and two might make five, but nobody believes him. At all events few of us can pretend to such feats of intellectual elasticity. No amount of contradictory testimony from travellers to the fixed stars, no matter whether they were Bishops of the highest character or trained as Professors of physical Science, would induce us to give a moment's credence to such a story. We simply see that two and two must make four, and that it is inconceivable they should ever, however exceptionally, make five. It is quite otherwise with any case of succession among external phenomena, no matter how unvaried. So long as we confine ourselves to merely physical phenomena (I put aside for the moment the case of conscious or other living beings) nowhere can we discover anything but succession; nowhere do we discover Causality in the sense of a necessary connexion the reversal of which is inconceivable.

Are we then to conclude that there is no such thing as Causality, that in searching for a cause of everything that happens, we are pursuing a mere will o' the wisp, using a mere vox nihili which has {36} as little meaning for the reflecting mind as fate or fortune? Surely, in the very act of making the distinction between succession and causality, in the very act of denying that we can discover any causal connexion between one physical phenomenon and another, we imply that we have got the idea of Causality in our minds; and that, however little we may have discovered a genuine cause, we could not believe that anything could happen without a cause.

For my own part, I find it quite possible to believe that a phenomenon which has been followed by another phenomenon 9999 times should on the 10,000th time be followed by some other phenomenon. Give me the requisite experience, and belief would follow; give me even any adequate evidence that another person has had such an experience (though I should be very particular about the evidence), and I should find no difficulty in believing it. But to tell me that the exception to an observed law might take place without any cause at all for the variation would seem to be pure nonsense. Put the matter in another way. Let us suppose an empty world, if one can speak of such a thing without contradiction—let us suppose that at one time nothing whatever had existed, neither mind nor matter nor any of that mysterious entity which some people find it possible to believe in which is {37} neither mind nor matter. Let us suppose literally nobody and nothing to have existed. Now could you under these conditions rationally suppose that anything could have come into existence? Could you for one moment admit the possibility that after countless aeons of nothingness a flash of lightning should occur or an animal be born? Surely, on reflection those who are most suspicious of a priori knowledge, who are most unwilling to carry their speculations beyond the limits of actual experience, will be prepared to say, 'No, the thing is utterly for ever impossible.' Ex nihilo nihil fit: for every event there must be a cause. Those who profess to reject all other a priori or self-evident knowledge, show by their every thought and every act that they never really doubt that much.

Now, it would be just possible to contend that we have got the bare abstract concept or category of Causality in our minds, and yet that there is nothing within our experience to give it any positive content—so that we should have to say, 'Every event must have a cause, but we never know or can know what that cause is. If we are to talk about causes at all, we can only say "The Unknowable is the cause of all things."' Such a position can be barely stated without a contradiction. But surely it is a very difficult one. Nature does not generally supply us with categories of thought, while it gives us no power {38} or opportunity of using them. It would be like holding, for instance, that we have indeed been endowed with the idea of number in general, but that we cannot discover within our experience any numerable things; that we have got the idea of 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., but have no capacity whatever for actually counting—for saying that here are three apples, and there four marbles. And, psychologically, it would be difficult to find any parallel to anything of the kind. Nature does not first supply us with clearly defined categories of thought, and then give us a material to exercise them upon. In general we discover these abstract categories by using them in our actual thinking. We count beads or men or horses before we evolve an abstract idea of number, or an abstract multiplication table. It is very difficult to see how this idea of Cause could possibly have got into our heads if we had never in the whole course of our experience come into any sort of contact with any actual concrete cause. Where then, within our experience, if not in the succession of external events, shall we look for a cause—for something to which we can apply this category or abstract notion of causality? I answer 'We must look within: it is in our experience of volition that we actually find something answering to our idea of causal connexion.' And here, I would invite you not to think so much of our consciousness of actually {39} moving our limbs. Here it is possible to argue plausibly that the experience of exercising causality is a delusion. I imagine that, if I will to do so, I can move my arm; but I will to stretch out my arm, and lo! it remains glued to my side, for I have suddenly been paralysed. Or I may be told that the consciousness of exerting power is a mere experience of muscular contraction, and the like. I would ask you to think rather of your power of directing the succession of your own thoughts. I am directly conscious, for instance, that the reason why I am now thinking of Causality, and not (say) of Tariff Reform, is the fact that I have conceived the design of delivering a course of lectures on this subject; the succession of ideas which flow through my mind as I write or speak is only explicable by reference to an end—an end which I am striving to bring into actual being. In such voluntarily concentrated purposeful successions of thought I am immediately exercising causality: and this causality does further influence the order of events in physical nature. My pen or my tongue moves in consequence of this striving of mine, though no doubt for such efforts to take place other physical conditions must be presupposed, which are not wholly within my own control. I am the cause, but not the whole or sole cause of these physical disturbances in external nature: I am a cause but not an uncaused cause. {40} My volition, though it is not the sole cause of the event which I will, is enough to give me a conception of a cause which is the sole cause of the events.

The attempt is of course sometimes made, as it was made by Hume, to explain away this immediate consciousness of volition, and to say that all that I immediately know is the succession of my subjective experiences. It may be contended that I don't know, any more than in the case of external phenomena, that because the thought of my lecture comes first and the thought of putting my pen into the ink to write it comes afterwards, therefore the one thought causes the other. Hence it is important to point out that I have a negative experience with which to contrast the positive experience. I do not always, even as regards my own inward experiences, assume that succession implies Causality. Supposing, as I speak or write, a twinge of the gout suddenly introduces itself into the succession of my experiences: then I am conscious of no such inner connexion between the new experience and that which went before it. Then I am as distinctly conscious of passivity—of not causing the succession of events which take place in my mind—as I am in the other case of actively causing it. If the consciousness of exercising activity is a delusion, why does not that delusion occur in the one case as much as in the other? I hold then that in the consciousness of {41} our own activity we get a real direct experience of Causality. When Causality is interpreted to mean mere necessary connexion—like the mathematical connexion between four and twice two or the logical connexion between the premisses of a Syllogism and its conclusion,—its nature is fundamentally misrepresented. The essence of Causality is not necessary connexion but Activity. Such activity we encounter in our own experience of volition and nowhere else.[2]

Now, if the only cause of which I am immediately conscious is the will of a conscious rational being, is it not reasonable to infer that some such agency is at work in the case of those phenomena which we see no reason to attribute to the voluntary actions of men and animals? It is well known that primitive man took this step. Primitive man had no notion of the 'Uniformity of Nature': it is only very gradually that civilized man has discovered it. But primitive man never doubted for one instant the law of Causality: he never doubted that for any change, or at least for any change of the kind which most frequently attracted his attention, there must {42} be a cause. Everything that moved he supposed to be alive, or to be under the influence of some living being more or less like himself. If the sea raged, he supposed that the Sea-god was angry. If it did not rain to-day, when it rained yesterday, that was due to the favour of the Sky-god, and so on. The world for him was full of spirits. The argument of primitive man's unconscious but thoroughly sound Metaphysic is well expressed by the fine lines of Wordsworth in the Excursion:

Once more to distant ages of the world Let us revert, and place before our thoughts The face which rural solitude might wear To the unenlightened swains of pagan Greece. —In that fair clime, the lonely herdsman, stretched On the soft grass through half a summer's day, With music lulled his indolent repose: And, in some fit of weariness, if he, When his own breath was silent, chanced to hear A distant strain, far sweeter than the sounds Which his poor skill could make, his fancy fetched, Even from the blazing chariot of the sun, A beardless Youth, who touched a golden lute, And filled the illumined groves with ravishment. The nightly hunter, lifting a bright eye Up towards the crescent moon, with grateful heart Called on the lovely wanderer who bestowed That timely light, to share his joyous sport: And hence, a beaming Goddess with her Nymphs, Across the lawn and through the darksome grove, (Not unaccompanied with tuneful notes By echo multiplied from rock or cave), {43} Swept in the storm of chace; as moon and stars Glance rapidly along the clouded heaven, When winds are blowing strong. The traveller slaked His thirst from rill or gushing fount, and thanked The Naiad. Sunbeams, upon distant hills Gliding apace, with shadows in their train, Might, with small help from fancy, be transformed Into fleet Oreads sporting visibly. The Zephyrs fanning, as they passed, their wings, Lacked not, for love, fair objects whom they wooed With gentle whisper. Withered boughs grotesque, Stripped of their leaves and twigs by hoary age, From depth of shaggy covert peeping forth In the low vale, or on steep mountain side; And, sometimes, intermixed with stirring horns Of the live deer, or goat's depending beard,— These were the lurking Satyrs, a wild brood Of gamesome Deities; or Pan himself, The simple shepherd's awe-inspiring God![3]

Growing experience of the unity of Nature, of the interdependence of all the various forces and departments of Nature, have made such a view of it impossible to civilized and educated man. Primitive man was quite right in arguing that, where he saw motion, there must be consciousness like his own. But we have been led by Science to believe that whatever is the cause of any one phenomenon (at least in inanimate nature), must be the cause of all. The interconnexion, the regularity, the order observable in phenomena are too great to be the result of chance or of the undesigned concurrence of a number of {44} independent agencies: and perhaps we may go on further to argue that this one cause must be the ultimate cause even of those events which are directly and immediately caused by our own wills. But that is a question which I will put aside for the present. At least for the events of physical nature there must be one Cause. And if the only sort of cause we know is a conscious and rational being, then we have another most powerful reason for believing that the ultimate reality, from which all other reality is derived, is Mind—a single conscious Mind which we may now further describe as not only Thought or Intelligence but also Will.[4]

Let me add this additional consideration in support of the conclusion that the world is not merely thought by God but is also willed by God. When we talk about thought without will, we are talking about something that we know absolutely nothing about. In all the consciousness that we know of, in every moment of our own immediate waking experience, we find thought, feeling, willing. Even in the consciousness of animals there appears to be something analogous to these three sides or aspects of consciousness: but at all events in developed human consciousness we know of no such thing as thinking without willing. All thought involves attention, and to attend is to will. If, therefore, on the grounds {45} suggested by the Hegelian or other post-Kantian Idealists, we have been led to think that the ultimate Reality is Mind or Spirit, we should naturally conclude by analogy that it must be Will as well as Thought and—I may add, though it hardly belongs to the present argument to insist upon that—Feeling. On the other hand if, with men like Schopenhauer and Edouard von Hartmann,[5] we are conducted by the appearances of design in Nature to the idea that Nature is striving after something, that the ultimate Reality is Will, we must supplement that line of argument by inferring from the analogy of our own Consciousness that Will without Reason is an unintelligible and meaningless abstraction, and that (as indeed even Hartmann saw) Schopenhauer's Will without Reason was as impossible an abstraction as the apparently will-less universal Thinker of the Hegelian:[6] while against Schopenhauer and his more reasonable successor, Hartmann, I should insist that an unconscious Will is as unintelligible a contradiction as an unconscious Reason. Schopenhauer and Hegel seem to have seen, each of them, exactly {46} half of the truth: God is not Will without Reason or Reason without Will, but both Reason and Will.

And here I must try to meet an inevitable objection. I do not say that these three activities of the human intellect stand in God side by side with the same distinctness and (if I may say so) irreducibility that they do in us. What feeling is for a Being who has no material organism, we can form no distinct conception. Our thought with its clumsy processes of inference from the known to the unknown must be very unlike what thought is in a Being to whom nothing is unknown. All our thought too involves generalization, and in universal concepts (as Mr. Bradley has shown us) much that was present in the living experience of actual perception is necessarily left out. Thought is but a sort of reproduction—and a very imperfect reproduction—of actual, living, sensible experience. We cannot suppose, then, that in God there is the same distinction between actual present experience and the universal concepts employed in thinking which there is in us. And so, again, willing must be a very different thing in a being who wills or creates the objects of his own thought from what it is in beings who can only achieve their ends by distinguishing in the sharpest possible manner between the indefinite multiplicity of things which they know but do not cause and the tiny fragment {47} of the Universe which by means of this knowledge they can control. Nevertheless, though all our thoughts of God must be inadequate, it is by thinking of Him as Thought, Will and Feeling—emancipated from those limitations which are obviously due to human conditions and are inapplicable to a Universal Mind—that we shall attain to the truest knowledge of God which lies within our capacity. Do you find a difficulty in the idea of partial and inadequate knowledge? Just think, then, of our knowledge of other people's characters—of what goes on in other people's minds. It is only by the analogy of our own immediate experience that we can come to know anything at all of what goes on in other people's minds. And, after all, such insight into other people's thoughts, emotions, motives, intentions, characters, remains very imperfect. The difficulty is greatest when the mind which we seek to penetrate is far above our own. How little most of us know what it would feel like to be a Shakespeare, a Mozart, or a Plato! And yet it would be absurd to talk as if our knowledge of our fellows was no knowledge at all. It is sufficient not merely to guide our own thoughts and actions, but to make possible sympathy, friendship, love. Is it not so with our knowledge of God? The Gnosticism which forgets the immensity of the difference between the Divine Mind and the human is not less unreasonable—not {48} less opposed to the principles on which we conduct our thinking in every other department of life—than the Agnosticism which rejects probabilities because we cannot have immediate certainties, and insists on knowing nothing because we cannot know everything.

The argument which infers that God is Will from the analogy of our own consciousness is one which is in itself independent of Idealism. It has been used by many philosophers who are Realists, such as Reid or Dr. Martineau, as well as by Idealists like Berkeley, or Pfleiderer, or Lotze. It does not necessarily presuppose Idealism; but it does, to my mind, fit in infinitely better with the idealistic mode of thought than with the realistic. If you hold that there is no difficulty in supposing dead, inert matter to exist without any mind to think it or know it, but that only a Mind can be supposed to cause change or motion, you are assuming a hard and fast distinction between matter and force which the whole trend of modern Science is tending to break down. It seems to imply the old Greek conception of an inert, passive, characterless hule which can only be acted upon from without. The modern Physicist, I imagine, knows nothing of an inert matter which can neither attract nor repel, even if he does not definitely embark on the more speculative theory which actually defines the atom or the electron {49} as a centre of force. Activity belongs to the very essence of matter as understood by modern Science. If matter can exist without mind, there is (from the scientific point of view) some difficulty in contending that it cannot likewise move or act without being influenced by an extraneous Mind. If, on the other hand, with the Idealist we treat the notion of matter without mind as an unintelligible abstraction, that line of thought would prepare us to see in force nothing but a mode of mental action. The Idealist who has already identified matter with the object of thought will find no difficulty in going on to see in force simply the activity or expression or object of Will. And if he learns from the Physicist that we cannot in the last resort—from the physical point of view—distinguish matter from force, that will fit in very well with the metaphysical position which regards thought and will as simply two inseparable aspects of the life of mind.

And now I will return once more for a moment to the idealistic argument. I have no doubt that many of you will have felt a difficulty in accepting the position that the world with which we come in contact is merely a state of our own or anybody else's consciousness. It is so obvious that in our experience we are in contact with a world which we do not create; which is what it is whether we like it or not; which opposes itself at every turn to our desires and {50} inclinations. You may have been convinced that we know nothing of any external world except the effects which it produces upon consciousness. But, you will say to yourselves, there must have been something to cause these effects. You are perfectly right in so thinking. Certainly in our experience of the world we are in contact with a Reality which is not any state of our own mind, a Reality which we do not create but simply discover, a Reality from which are derived the sensations which we cannot help feeling, and the objects which we cannot help thinking. So far you are quite right. But very often, when the Realist insists that there must be something to cause in my mind this appearance, which I call my consciousness of a table, he assumes all the while that this something—the real table, the table in itself—is there, inside or behind the phenomenal table that I actually see and feel; out there, in space. But if we were right in our analysis of space, if we were right in arguing that space is made up of intellectual relations[7] and that {51} intellectual relations can have no being and no meaning except in and for a mind which apprehends them, then it is obvious that you must not think of this Reality which is the cause of our experience of external objects, as being there, as occupying space, as being 'external.' If space be a form of our thought, or (in Kantian language) a form of our sensibility, then the Reality which is to have an existence in itself, cannot be in space. A reality which is not in space can no longer be thought of as matter: whatever else matter (as commonly conceived) means, it is certainly something which occupies space. Now we know of no kind of existence which is not in space except Mind. On the idealistic view to which I have been endeavouring to lead you, we are, indeed, justified in saying that there is a Reality which is the underlying cause or ground of our experiences, but that that Reality is one which we may describe as Thought no less than as Will.

It may interest some of you to know how near one who is often considered the typical representative of naturalistic, if not materialistic, modes of thought, ultimately came to accepting this identification. Let me read to you a passage from one of Mr. Spencer's later works—the third volume of his Sociology:—

'This transfiguration, which the inquiries of physicists continually increase, is aided by that other {52} transfiguration resulting from metaphysical inquiries. Subjective analysis compels us to admit that our scientific interpretations of the phenomena which objects present, are expressed in terms of our own variously-combined sensations and ideas—are expressed, that is, in elements belonging to consciousness, which are but symbols of the something beyond consciousness. Though analysis afterwards reinstates our primitive beliefs, to the extent of showing that behind every group of phenomenal manifestations there is always a nexus, which is the reality that remains fixed amid appearances which are variable;[1] yet we are shown that this nexus of reality is for ever inaccessible to consciousness. And when, once more, we remember that the activities constituting consciousness, being rigorously bounded, cannot bring in among themselves the activities beyond the bounds, which therefore seem unconscious, though production of either by the other seems to imply that they are of the same essential nature; this necessity we are under to think of the external energy in terms of the internal energy, gives rather a spiritualistic than a materialistic aspect to the Universe: further thought, however, obliging us to recognize the truth that a conception given in phenomenal manifestations of this ultimate energy can in no wise show us what it is.'[8]

Now, I think this is one of the passages which would justify Mr. Bradley's well-known epigram, that Mr. Herbert Spencer has told us more about the Unknowable than the rashest of theologians has ever ventured to tell us about God.


Even Kant, who is largely responsible for the mistakes about Causality against which this lecture has been a protest—I mean the tendency to resolve it into necessary connexion—did in the end come to admit that in the large resort we come into contact with Causality only in our own Wills. I owe the reference to Professor Ward, and will quote the paragraph in which he introduces it:—

'Presentation, Feeling, Conation, are ever one inseparable whole, and advance continuously to higher and higher forms. But for the fact that psychology was in the first instance studied, not for its own sake, but in subservience to speculation, this cardinal importance of activity would not have been so long overlooked. We should not have heard so much of passive sensations and so little of active movements. It is especially interesting to find that even Kant at length—in his latest work, the posthumous treatise on the Connexion of Physics and Metaphysics, only recently discovered and published—came to see the fundamental character of voluntary movement. I will venture to quote one sentence: "We should not recognise the moving forces of matter, not even through experience, if we were not conscious of our own activity in ourselves exerting acts of repulsion, approximation, etc." But to Maine de Biran, often called the French Kant, to Schopenhauer, and, finally, to our own British psychologists, Brown, Hamilton, Bain, Spencer, is especially due the merit of seeing the paramount importance of the active side of experience. To this then primarily, and not to any merely {54} intellectual function, we may safely refer the category of causality.'[9]

I may add that Professor Ward's Naturalism and Agnosticism, from which I have quoted, constitutes the most brilliant and important modern defence of the doctrine which I have endeavoured very inadequately to set before you in this lecture.

It is a remarkable fact that the typical exponent of popular so-called 'scientific' Agnosticism, and the founder of that higher metaphysical Agnosticism which has played so large a part in the history of modern Philosophy, should before their deaths have both made confessions which really amount to an abjuration of all Agnosticism. If the ultimate Reality is to be thought of as a rational Will, analogous to the will which each of us is conscious of himself having or being, he is no longer the Unknown or the Unknowable, but the God of Religion, who has revealed Himself in the consciousness of man, 'made in the image of God.' What more about Himself we may also hold to be revealed in the human spirit, I hope to consider in our next lecture. But, meanwhile, a word may be uttered in answer to the question which may very probably be asked—Is God a Person? A complete answer to the question would involve elaborate discussions, but for our present purpose the question may be answered very {55} briefly. If we are justified in thinking of God after the analogy of a human soul—if we are justified in thinking of Him as a self-conscious Being who thinks, feels, and wills, and who is, moreover (if I may a little anticipate the subject of our next lecture) in relation with, capable of loving and being loved by other such beings—then it seems most natural to speak of God's existence as personal. For to be a self-conscious being—conscious of itself and other beings, thinking, willing, feeling, loving—is what we mean by being a person. If any one prefers to speak of God as 'super-personal,' there is no great objection to so doing, provided that phrase is not made (as it often is) an excuse for really thinking of God after the analogy of some kind of existence lower than that of persons—as a force, an unconscious substance, or merely a name for the totality of things. But for myself, I prefer to say that our own self-consciousness gives us only an ideal of the highest type of existence which it nevertheless very imperfectly satisfies, and therefore I would rather think God is a Person in a far truer, higher, more complete sense than that in which any human being can be a person. God alone fully realizes the ideal of Personality. The essence of Personality is something positive: it signifies to us the highest kind of being within our knowledge—not (as is too often supposed) the mere limitations {56} and restraints which characterize human conscious life as we know it in ourselves. If we are justified in thinking of God after the analogy of the highest existence within our knowledge, we had better call Him a Person. The word is no doubt inadequate to the reality, as is all the language that we can employ about God; but it is at least more adequate than the terms employed by those who scruple to speak of God as a Person. It is at least more adequate and more intelligent than to speak of Him as a force, a substance, a 'something not ourselves which makes for righteousness.' Things do not 'make for righteousness'; and in using the term Person we shall at least make it clear that we do not think of Him as a 'thing,' or a collection of things, or a vague substratum of things, or even a mere totality of minds like our own.[10]

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