Nature preponderating over art begets coarseness; art preponderating over nature begets pedantry; art and nature united make a proper gentleman.
To men whose talents are above mediocrity we speak of superior things. To men whose talents are below the common we must speak things suited to their culture.
On being asked, "What is wisdom," the master replied, "To promote right thoughts and feelings among men; to honour the spirits of the dead." In reply to the question, "What is love?" the master answered, "Making most of self-sacrificing efforts but of success only in a subordinate degree."
Perfect virtue consists in keeping to the Golden Mean. He who has offended against Heaven has no one to whom he can pray.
Men should not murmur against Heaven, for all that Heaven does is good.
The master paid great attention to three things—piety, peace, and health.
If I have coarse rice to eat and pure water to drink, and my bent arm for a pillow, I am content and happy. But ill-gotten riches and honour are to me as a floating cloud.
If my life could be lengthened out by a few years, I would devote at least fifty years to the study of the "Yi King" [Book of Changes], then might I be purified from my sin.
ON POETRY, HISTORY, AND PROPRIETY
The master constantly talked about poetry, history, and the rules of propriety.
Tze-lu, on being asked about Confucius, gave no answer. The master asked about being present, said, "Why didst thou not say to him, 'Confucius is a man so eager in the pursuit of knowledge that he forgets his food, so jubilant in its attainment that he forgets his grief and grows old without knowing it'?"
I was not born in the possession of knowledge, but I am fond of the past and study it closely, and hence knowledge is coming to me.
My pupils, do not think that I hide anything from you. Whatever I think and do I tell you frankly and truly. I keep no secrets from my disciples.
The master used to teach four things: culture, morals, and manners, piety, and faithfulness.
In knowledge and in culture I am perhaps the equal of other men. I have not yet attained to perfection, nor are my knowledge and living consistent.
The master once being very ill, Tze-lu asked permission to pray for him. The master asked, "Is that customary?" "It is," replied the disciple, "for the memorials have it, 'Pray to the spirits in heaven above and on earth below.'" The master replied, "I have for long prayed for myself, and that is best."
The master was dignified, yet gentle. He was majestic, but inspired no fear. He was gentlemanly, but always at ease.
Poetry rouses the mind, the rules of propriety establish the character, music crowns a man's education.
It would be hard to meet a man who has studied for three years without learning something good.
Learn as though you felt you could never learn enough, and as though you feared you could not learn in your short life what is needful for conduct.
A man from a certain village once said, "Confucius is, no doubt, a very learned man, but he has not made himself a name in any special thing." When the master heard this, he said to his disciples, "What shall I undertake: charioteering, archery, or what? I think I shall become a charioteer, and thus get me a name."
A high officer asked Tze-kung, "May we not say that the master is a sage because he can do so many things?" To which Tze-kung replied, "Heaven has indeed highly endowed him, and he is almost a sage; and he is very many-sided."
On hearing this the master said, "Does the officer know me? Being of lowly birth when I was young, I learnt many a trade, but there was nothing great in that. The superior man may excel in one thing only, and not in many things."
Wishing to go and live among the nine wild tribes of the East, one of his friends remonstrated with the master and said, "They are low. How can you go and live among them?" To which he gave for answer, "Nothing that is low can survive where the virtuous and the good-mannered man is."
After I returned from Wei to Lu I found the music had been reformed, and that each song was given its proper place.
The master said, "To serve ministers and nobles when abroad, fathers and elder brothers when at home, to avoid neglect in offerings of the dead, and to be no slave to wine: to which of these have I attained?"
CONFUCIUS AT HOME AND AT COURT
In his own village Confucius looked homely and sincere, as if he had no word to say; but in the ancestral temple and in the court he was full of words, though careful in using them.
When waiting at court he talked with the lower officers frankly, but to the higher officers more blandly and precisely. When the sovereign was present he used to be respectful but easy, solemn yet self-possessed. When the sovereign bade him receive visitors his countenance changed, and his legs appeared to bend. Bowing to those beside him, he straightened his robes in front and behind, hastening forward with his elbows extended like a bird's wings. When the guest had retired he used to report to the prince, saying, "The guest does not any more look back." When he entered the palace gate he seemed to stoop as though it were not high enough for him. Ascending the dais, lifting up his robes with both hands, he held his breath as if he would cease breathing. As he came down his face relaxed after the first step, and looked more at ease. At the bottom of the steps he would hurry on, spreading out his elbows like wings, and on gaining his seat he would sit intent as previously.
He was never arrayed in deep purple or in puce-coloured garments. Even at home he wore nothing of a red or reddish colour. In hot weather he used to wear a single garment of fine texture, but always over an inner garment. Over lambs' fur he wore a garment of black, over fawns' fur one of white, and over foxes' fur one of yellow. His sleeping-dress was half as long again as his body. On the first day of the month he always went to court in court robes. On fast days he wore pale-hued garments, changed his food, and made a change in his apartment.
He liked to have his rice carefully cleaned and his minced meat chopped small. He did not eat rice that had been injured by heat or damp or that had turned sour, nor could he eat fish or meat which had gone. He did not eat anything that was discoloured or that had a bad flavour, or that was not in season. He would not eat meat badly cut, or that was served with the wrong sauce. No choice of meats could induce him to eat more than he thought right.
After sacrificing at the ancestral temple he would never keep the meat there overnight, nor would he keep it more than three days at home. If by any mishap it were kept longer, it was not eaten.
He never talked at meals, nor would he speak a word in bed. Though there were on the table nothing but coarse rice and vegetable soup, he would always reverently offer some of it to his ancestors. If his mat was not straight he would not sit on it.
ON LEARNING AND VIRTUE
Chung-kung asked about virtue. The master said: "It consists in these things: To treat those outside thine own home as if thou wert welcoming a great guest; to treat the people as if thou wert assisting at a high sacrifice; not to do to others what thou wouldest not have them do to thee; to encourage no wrongs in the state nor any in the home."
The master being once asked "Who is the virtuous man?" answered, "One that has neither anxiety nor fear, for he finds no evil in his heart. What, then, is there to cause anxiety or fear?"
The master, on being once asked by one of his disciples "On what does the art of government depend?" answered, "Sufficient food, troops, and a loyal people." "If, however," the same disciple asked, "one of them had to be dispensed with, which of the three could we best spare?" "Troops," said the master. "And which," the disciple then asked, "of the other two could be better spared?" "Food," said the master.
Tze-chang asked the master, "When may a scholar or an officer be called eminent?" The master asked, "What dost thou mean by being eminent?" To which the other answered, "To be famous throughout the state and throughout his clan." "But that," said the master, "is fame, not eminence. The truly eminent man is genuine and straightforward; he loves righteousness, weighs people's words, and looks at their countenances. He humbles himself to others, and is sincerely desirous of helping all. That is the, eminent man, though he may not be a famous one."
If a ruler can govern himself, he is likely to be able to govern his people. But how can a man who has not control of himself keep his people in subjection?
Tze-kung asked, "Is it proper that a man should be liked by all his neighbours?" "Certainly not," said the master. "Is it then proper," asked the same, "that a man should be hated by all his neighbours?" "Decidedly not," said the master. "The good man is loved by his good neighbours, and hated by his bad ones."
The virtuous man is hard to satisfy, but easy to serve. Nothing that thou doest to please him satisfies him unless it is strictly according to right. But in all his demands upon his servants he expects according to capacity, and is satisfied if the servant does his best, though it be little. The bad man is easy to satisfy, but hard to serve. He is satisfied with whatever pleases him, though it be not right; and he demands of his servants whatever he requires, making no allowance for capacity.
A scholar whose mind is set upon comfort is not worthy of the name.
"Where there's a will," said the master, "there's a way."
To refrain from speaking to a man who is disposed to hear is to wrong the man; to speak to a man not disposed to listen is to waste words.
"How can one in brief express man's whole duty?"
"Is not reciprocity such a word?" said the master; "that is, what thou dost not want others to do to thee, do thou not to others."
There are three things which the virtuous man has to guard against. In youth, lust; in full manhood, strife; and in old age, covetousness.
The highest class of men are those who are born wise; the next those who become wise by study; next and third, those who learn much, without having much natural ability. The lowest class of people are those who have neither natural ability nor perseverance. Men are very similar at birth; it is afterwards the great differences arise.
It is only the wisest and the silliest of men who never alter their opinions.
"My children," said the master once to his disciples, "Why do you not study the Book of Poetry [the Shih King]? It would stimulate your mind, encourage introspection, teach you to love your fellows, and to forbear with all. It would show you your duty to your fathers and your king; and you would also learn from it the names of many birds and beasts and plants and trees."
TA-HSIO, OR TEACHING FOR ADULTS
The "Ta-Hsio," or "Teaching for Adults," rendered also "The Great Learning," is really a treatise dealing with ethical, and especially with political, matters, the duties of rulers, ministers, etc. It is usually ascribed in part to "the master" himself, and in part to Tseng Tsan, one of the most illustrious of his disciples. This forms Book 39 of the "Li Ki," or "Book of Rites," and it is admitted by the best scholars to be a genuine specimen of the teaching of Confucius, though no one believes that "the master" is the author of the book as it now stands. The likeliest suggestion as to authorship is that which ascribes the present treatise, and also the "Chung Yung" (No. 28 of the "Li Ki") to Khung Chi, the grandson of Confucius.
The great Chinese philosopher Chang said of this book: "'The teaching for Adults' is a book belonging to the Confucian school, forming the gate through which youthful students enter the great temple of virtue. We should not have been able to ascertain the methods of learning pursued by the ancients if this book and the works of Mencius had not been preserved. Beginners ought to start their studies with this book, and then pass on to the harder books, after which the Five Classics should be read and pondered over."
The object of the "Ta-Hsio" is to illustrate outstanding virtue, to promote love of the people and their improvement in morals and manners. In order that these results may be obtained, this treatise must be patiently calmly, and thoughtfully studied.
HOW THE EMPIRE IS TO BE IMPROVED
The ancients, wishing to make their empire perfect, first endeavoured to make their states perfect. For this last purpose they exerted themselves to improve their famines, and to this end they took great pains to improve their personal character. In order to improve their personal character, they endeavoured to purify their hearts and to make their thoughts sincere.
From the Son of Heaven [the Emperor] to the masses of the people, the cultivation of personal character was regarded as the root of all amelioration. To know this has been called knowing the "root," which is the perfection of knowledge.
On Thang's bathing-tub these words were inscribed:
"Renovate thyself day by day, yea, every day renovate thyself." At the opening of his reign, Thang was exhorted to renovate his people.
In the Book of Poetry it is said that although Kau was an ancient state, yet it regarded Heaven's commands as ever new. In the same book we read that the thoughts of the Emperor Wan were deep, and his conduct firm. In all his relationships he was reverent and true. As a sovereign he was benevolent; as a minister respectful; as a son he exhibited filial piety; as a father he was kind and considerate; towards his subjects he was steadfastly faithful. This virtuous and accomplished sovereign, Wan, took great pains to sharpen his intellect and to make his heart more sensitive to all obligations. How majestic, how glorious was he; he shall ever be remembered by his grateful people at the ancestral shrine.
"The cultivation of personal character depends upon the regulation of the mind." What does this mean? If a man's passions are not kept under control, he will form wrong judgments about actions and never have a well-balanced mind. Therefore must man regulate his mind in order to cultivate himself. "The government of the family depends upon the cultivation of personal character." What does this mean? Where there is affection, judgment is distorted. We see the good qualities of those we love, but are blind to the bad ones. We see the bad qualities of those we hate, but are blind to the good ones. In order to be able to govern a family rightly, we must train our minds to judge fairly and impartially of those nearest to us—i.e., it requires careful self-training to be able to train a family.
"We must be able to govern the family before we can rule a state." What means this? If a man fails to teach the members of his own family to be obedient and loyal to their head, how can he train a nation to be united, obedient, and loyal?
Yas and Shun ruled with love, and the people became loving. Kieh and Kau ruled with violence, and the people became violent. The sovereign must have and exhibit the same qualities that he wishes his subjects to cultivate. Nor has he the right to expect his people to be free from bad qualities which are in himself. The ruler must himself be what he wants his people to be. Thus it is that the government of the state rests upon the proper government of the family.
"That the empire should have peace and prosperity depends upon the government of the constituting states." What does this mean?
When ruler and ministers treat their aged ones as they ought to, the inhabitants in general become filial. Similarly, the inhabitants learn to show respect towards their seniors and sympathy towards the young when their superiors set them the right example in these matters. No man should treat his inferiors as he would not like his superiors to treat him. What he disapproves of in his inferiors, let him not exhibit in his dealings towards his superiors.
In the Book of Poetry it is written, "The parents of the people are much to be congratulated. A sovereign whose loves and hates correspond with those of his people is his people's father." To gain the people is to gain the state; therefore a ruler's primary concern should be his own integrity, for thereby he wins his people's loyalty, and through that loyalty he obtains the state, and therewith the wealth of the whole country.
Virtue is the root, wealth but the branches. See first, therefore, to the root.
In the Records of Khu one reads, "The State of Khu values men, not gems nor robes."
A country is wealthy if it consumes less than it produces, and that man is rich whose income exceeds his expenditure.
The virtuous ruler gathers wealth on account of the reputation it can bring him. The wicked ruler seeks wealth for its own sake, sacrificing even virtue to obtain it.
A benevolent sovereign makes a just people. When the people are just the affairs of the sovereign prosper. The state's prosperity consists in righteousness, not in riches.
CHUNG YUNG, OR DOCTRINE OF THE MEAN
The "Chung Yung" is more correctly rendered "The state of equilibrium and harmony" (Legge, etc.) than by "The Doctrine of the Mean," its usual appellation. Other titles suggested have been "The Just Mean," "The True Mean," "The Golden Mean," and "The Constant Mean." The word "chung" means "middle," "yung" denoting "course" or "way." Hence, "Chung Yung" means literally, "The middle way." Compare Aristotle's doctrine of The Mean ("Ethics" Book II.).
This treatise occurs as Book 28 of the "Li-Ki" and by Chinese scholars has been declared to be the most valuable part of the Book of Rites. We have here the fullest account existing of the philosophy and ethics of the master. Apart from its value as such, the "Chung Yung" is exceedingly interesting as a monument of the teaching of the ancient Chinese. In its existing form the "Chung Yung" is arranged in five divisions, containing, in all, thirty-three chapters. No attempt is made in the epitomes that follow to retain these divisions and chapters. For the authorship and date of this third book see what is said in the introduction to the "Ta-Hsio."
THE GOOD MAN'S PATH
The sense of obligation has been implanted in man by Heaven. The path of duty is a life in accordance with this heaven-implanted intuition. Every man ought always to tread this path; the true doctrine teaches how this is to be accomplished. The good man will ever be on his guard lest he depart a hair's breadth from the right way.
The mental state of equilibrium is reached when a man is free from the distracting influences of anger and goodwill, joy and sorrow. When these emotions exist in due proportion and extent the state of harmony is attained. From the first proceed all great human enterprises. The state of harmony is the path along which all good men will go. When the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in their fulness gods and men receive their dues, and there is prosperity and happiness.
Kung-ni said, "The virtuous man embodies in himself the states of equilibrium and harmony, but the low man knows neither of these states." This perfect condition of human character in which there is complete equilibrium and harmony is reached but by few. Why is this so? It is because those who are wise consider these ideal states too commonplace, and they aim at things which the world values more highly. The low man, on the other hand, grovels in the dust and never rises to higher thoughts or nobler aims. Men could, if they would, distinguish the worthy from the unworthy, just as with a healthy palate they can tell good food from bad. But men's moral discernment has been blunted by a life of sensuality and sin, just as the physical palate loses its power of tasting when in a diseased condition.
In order to find out the Mean, our Father Shun, of blessed memory, used to question the people and study their answers, even the shallow ones. He used to encourage them to speak out by seeming to value the poorest answers. He would take the extremest sayings he heard, and from them deduce the Mean.
It is hard to keep in the middle way: men rule kingdoms and accept honours and emoluments who have yet signally failed to govern themselves by the rules of the Mean.
The good man's ambition is not to perform feats which startle the world and give him fame, but rather to live the life of the moderate and harmonious one; yet how often for lack of true discernment he fails! This middle path is not, however, hidden from the sincere and pure; even common men and women may know it, though in its highest reaches it baffles the wisest. The greatest and the wisest and the best find lodged within them unrealised ideals. Whoever strenuously aims at realising these ideals, though he fails, is near the right path.
"The good man has four difficulties," said the master, "and I have not myself been able to overcome them. (1) To serve my father as I should like my son to serve me. (2) To serve my ruler as I should like him to serve me were I his ruler. (3) To serve an elder brother as I should like him to serve me were he my younger brother. (4) To act towards a friend as I should like him to act towards me were our relations reversed."
The good man suits his conduct to his station in life. If he has wealth and high office he acts becomingly, never treating his inferiors with harshness or contempt. If he be poor and unrecognised, he never murmurs against heaven, or pines over his lot, or cringes before superiors, or does anything immoral for applause or gain. The virtuous man accepts heaven's allotments thankfully and uncomplainingly.
In order to attain to the middle path we must carefully perform the duties which lie nearest to us, not waiting to do great things. In the Book of Poetry we read of the love of wife, of children, and brothers. Cultivate this love on the home hearth, and thy charity will expand and take in mankind. [Note how charity, though beginning at home, travels far afield.]
Shun displayed his filial piety on a huge scale, and brought great honour to his parents and to himself. No wonder that such filial piety as his was rewarded with dominion, wealth, and fame. It is well said in the Book of Poetry, "The good man receives Heaven's benediction."
The Emperor Wan was the only man with no cause for grief, his father being the admirable Ki, and his son the equally admirable Wu. The father laid the foundation of all this excellence, the son transmitting it to his own son. The Emperor Wu retained the honour and distinction of his forebears Thai, Kai, and Wan. He had the dignity of the true Son of Heaven, and owned all within the Four Seas. He sacrificed regularly in the ancestral temple, and after death his successors sacrificed to him. The Duke of Kau continued the glorious traditions handed on by Wu. Both these great rulers realised the aspirations and wishes of their forefathers, restoring and improving the ancestral temple, renovating the sacred vessels and offering sacrifices suited to each year. In other ways also they perpetuated the good deeds of their ancestors, observed their religious rites, encouraged the study of music and poetry, honoured the honourable, and loved the lovable. They showed due respect to their departed ones, and thus discharged their duty to the living and the dead.
THE WORKS OF MENCIUS
Mencius is the Latinised form of "Mengtse," which means "the philosopher Meng," Meng (or Meng-sun) being the name of one of the three great Houses of Lu, whose usurpations gave so much offence to Confucius. His personal name was Ko, though this does not occur in his own works. He was born in B.C. 372, and died in B.C. 289 at the age of 83, in the twenty-sixth year of the Emperor Nan, with whom ended the long sovereignty of Kau (Chow) dynasty. He was thus a contemporary of Plato (whose last twenty-three years synchronised with his first twenty-three), Aristotle, Zeno, Epicurus, and Demosthenes, and he is well worthy of being ranked with these illustrious men.
Mencius was reared by his widowed mother, whose virtue and wisdom are still proverbial in China. The first forty years of his life are virtually a blank to us, so that we know very little of his early education. He is said, however, to have studied under Khung Chi, the grandson of Confucius.
In the hundred and six years between the death of Confucius (B.C. 478) and the birth of Mencius (B.C. 372), the political and moral state of China had altered greatly for the worse. The smaller feudal states had been swallowed up by larger ones, the princes were constantly at war with one another, and there was but little loyalty to the occupant of the imperial throne; moreover, the moral standard of things had lowered very much. At about the age of forty-five Mencius became Minister under Prince Hsuan, of the Chi state. But as his master refused to carry out the reforms he urged, he resigned his post and travelled through many lands, advising rulers and ministers with whom he came in contact. In the year B.C. 319 he resumed his former position in the state of Chi, resigning once more eight years later. He now gave himself up to a life of study and teaching, preparing the works presently to be noticed. His main purpose was to expound and enforce the teaching of Confucius. But his own doctrine stands on a lower level than that of the master, for he views man's well-being rather from the point of view of political economy. He was justly named by Chao Chi "The Second Holy One or Prophet"—the name by which China still knows him.
The treatise called "The Works of Mencius" is a compilation of the conversation and opinions of Mencius, having a similar relation to that great philosopher that the Analects (or "Lun Yu") have to Confucius. It is arranged in seven books. According to tradition the work, in its existing form, is as it came from the philosopher himself.
VIRTUE, NOT PROFIT, TO BE THE CHIEF QUEST
When Mencius visited King Hui, of Liang, the latter asked him what counsel he could give to profit his kingdom. The philosopher replied, "Why does your majesty use the word profit? The only things which I have to counsel are righteousness and goodwill. If the king seeks mainly the profit of his kingdom, the great officers will seek the profit of their families and the common people that of theirs. The chief things to be aimed at by king and people are virtue and benevolence. All else is as nothing. No benevolent man has neglected his parents, nor has any virtuous man slighted his sovereign."
"How comes it," asked the king, "that my state Tsin has deteriorated since I became its ruler, and that calamities many and great have fallen on it?" Mencius answered, "With so great an extent of territory as thine prosperity ought to be within easy reach; but in order to procure it your majesty must govern thy subjects justly and kindly, moderating penalties, lightening taxes, promoting thus and otherwise their industries, increasing their comforts as well as lessening their burdens, deepening the faithfulness of the people to one another and to the throne. Then will thy people be loyal to thee and formidable towards thy foes. Thou shalt make thy subjects loyal friends, for the benevolent one has no enemy."
A PROSPEROUS RULER THE FRIEND AND FATHER OF HIS PEOPLE
On one occasion the Emperor Hsuan of Chi visited Mencius in the Snow Palace, and asked him, "Do the people find enjoyment in music and in the chase?" "Certainly," answered Mencius; "it is when ruler and people share each other's joys and sorrows that the sovereign attains to his highest dignity. Moreover, a ruler, when moving amongst his people ought to copy the ancient sovereigns. In the good old days, when the ruler made a tour of inspection among his people he was received with great acclamation everywhere, for joy and gladness came in his train. In the spring he inspected the ploughing and supplied all that was lacking in the way of seed. In the autumn he examined the reaping and made up for any deficiency in the yield. It was a common saying during the Hsia dynasty, 'If the Emperor visiteth not, what will become of us?' But now, may your majesty permit me to say, matters are very different, for, when in these days a ruler visits his people he is accompanied by a huge army, who with himself and suite have to be maintained by the people visited. And so it comes to be that the hungry are robbed of their food, and the toilers are wearied with the extra tasks imposed upon them. If a ruler wishes to have the hearts of his people, and to' be regarded as their father, he must consider their needs and endeavour to supply them."
MENCIUS USES STRATAGEM TO BRING HOME TO THE EMPEROR HIS GUILT
Mencius said on one occasion to Hsuan, King of Chi, "Suppose one of thy ministers were to entrust his family during his absence to a subordinate, and that the latter neglected his duty so that the wife and children were exposed to great suffering and danger. What should that minister do?"
"Dismiss him at once," was the royal reply.
"But," continued the philosopher, "suppose that the government of your own kingdom were bad, the people suffering and disunited and disloyal on account of their king's bad rule. What then should be done?" The king, looking this way and that, turned the conversation to other themes.
IT MAY BE RIGHT TO KILL A SOVEREIGN
King Hsuan asked Mencius, "Is it true that Thang banished his own sovereign, Kieh [the last king of the Hsia dynasty], and that Wu attacked the tyrant Emperor Kau-hsin and slew him?" "It is true," said Mencius, "for it is so written in the 'Shu King.' But if a sovereign acts as Kieh did he is no longer a sovereign but a robber, and to be dealt with as such. And if a ruler is, like Kau-hsin, the enemy of his people, he is no longer their ruler, and therefore to be put out of the way, and how better than by death?"
THE GIFTS THAT MAY AND THOSE THAT MAY NOT BE ACCEPTED
Chan Tsin spoke to Mencius as follows:
"The King of Chi once offered thee a present and thou declinedst it, but didst accept gifts offered at Sung and at Hsieh. Why this inconsistency? If it were right to refuse in the first case it was equally right to refuse in the other two. If it were right to accept in the latter two cases, it was equally right to accept in the first case." The philosopher answered, "I acted rightly and consistently. The gifts at Sung were to provide me with what was needed for a long journey which I was about to undertake. Why should I refuse such gifts when needed? At Hsieh I was in some personal danger and needed help to procure the means of self-defence. The gifts were to enable me to procure arms. Why should I have refused such needed help? But at Chi I needed no money, and therefore refused it when offered, for to accept money when it is not needed is to accept a bribe. Why should I take such money?"
WRONG CONDUCT SHOULD BE ENDED AT ONCE
A distinguished officer of Sung, called Tai Ying-chib, called upon Mencius and said, "I am unable as yet to dispense with the tax on goods and the duties charged at the frontier passes and in the markets, though this is a right and proper thing to do. But it is my intention, until the next year, to lighten the tax and the duties, and then next year I shall remove them altogether." The philosopher replied, "Here is a man who daily steals a score of his neighbour's fowls. Someone remonstrates, and, feeling that he is guilty of acting dishonestly, he says, 'I know that this stealing is wrong, but in the future I shall be content with stealing one fowl a month. But next year I will stop stealing fowls altogether.' If," continued Mencius, "this task and these duties are, as you admit, wrong, end them at once. Why should you wait a year?"
THE INHERENT GOODNESS OF HUMAN NATURE
Kao Tzu said to Mencius, "Human nature resembles running water, which flows east or west according as it can find an outlet. So human nature is inclined equally to what is good and to what is bad." "It is true," answered Mencius, "that water will flow indifferently to the east or to the west. But it will not flow indifferently up or down; it can only flow down. The tendency of human nature is towards what is good, as that of water is to flow downwards. One may, indeed, by splashing water, make it spurt upwards, but that is forcing it against its true character. Even so, when a man becomes prone to what is evil it is because his Heaven-implanted nature has been diverted from its true bent."
PEOPLE FIRST, KINGS LAST
"The people," said Mencius, "are first in importance; next come the gods. The kings are last and least."
EVERY MAN SHOULD ACCEPT HIS LOT
Mencius said, "Every man's lot is fixed for him, and it is a proof of wisdom to accept it uncomplainingly. He who does this faces misfortune and even death unmoved."
WHAT THE GOOD KING DELIGHTS IN MOST
"The virtuous king," said Mencius, "is glad to have a large extent of territory and a numerous people to rule over; but his heart is not on these things. To be at the head of a great kingdom and to see his people loyal, united, and flourishing, gives the good king joy; but his heart is not on these things. It is on benevolence, justice, propriety, and knowledge that the good king's heart is set."
THE INFLUENCE OF EXAMPLE
Mencius said, "In the good days of old, men of virtue and talent abounded in the land, and their influence for good was great upon their fellows. But now, alas, the masses of the people are ignorant, and depraved, and their dominant influence is bad."
COUNSELLORS SHOULD LOVE RIGHTEOUSNESS RATHER THAN RICHES
Mencius said, "Those who counsel men in high places should feel contempt for their pomp and display. I have no wish for huge and gorgeous halls, for luxurious food with hundreds of attendants, or for sparkling wine or bewitching women. These things I esteem not; what I esteem are the rules of propriety handed down by the ancients."
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THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Francois de Salignac de la Mothe Fenelon was born at the chateau of Fenelon, in the ancient territorial division of Perigord, France, August 6, 1651. At twenty-four he became a priest. He was for many years a friend of his celebrated contemporary Bossuet, but later Bossuet attacked a spiritual and unworldly work of Fenelon, who was condemned by the Pope. He died on January 17, 1715, leaving behind him many books, of which the "Treatise on the Existence of God," first published in 1713, is the masterpiece. This noble and profound work, though it accepts the "argument from design," which the discovery of universal evolution necessarily modifies, does so with such rare philosophical insight as to stand for ever far above any other works of the kind. Fenelon can scarcely be called a mystic, for his reason was of the finest, and never surrendered its claims; but, though a strictly rational thinker, he had the insight of the mystic or the idealist who sees in external nature, and in the mind of man alike, what Goethe called "the living garment of God."
I.—THE HAND THAT MAKES EVERYTHING
I cannot open my eyes without admiring the art that shines throughout all nature; the least cast suffices to make me perceive the Hand that makes everything.
Men the least exercised in reasoning, and the most tenacious of the prejudices of the senses, may yet with one look discover Him who has drawn Himself in all His works. The wisdom and power He has stamped upon everything He has made are seen, as it were, in a glass by those that cannot contemplate Him in His own idea. This is a sensible and popular philosophy, of which any man free from passion and prejudice is capable.
If a great number of men of subtle and penetrating wit have not discovered God with one cast of the eye upon nature, it is not matter of wonder, for either the passions they have been tossed by have still rendered them incapable of any fixed reflection, or the false prejudices that result from passions have, like a thick cloud, interposed between their eyes and that noble spectacle.
A man deeply concerned in an affair of great importance, that should take up all the attention of his mind, might pass several days in a room treating about his concerns without taking notice of the proportions of the chamber, the ornaments of the chimney, and the pictures about him, all of which objects would continually be before his eyes, and yet none of them make any impression upon him. In this manner it is that men spend their lives. Everything offers God to their sight, and yet they see Him nowhere.
They pass away their lives without perceiving that sensible representation of the Deity. Such is the fascination of worldly trifles that obscure their eyes. Nay, oftentimes they will not so much as open them, but rather affect to keep them shut, lest they should find Him they do not look for. In short, what ought to help most to open their eyes serves only to close them faster. I mean the constant duration and regularity of the motions which the Supreme Wisdom has put in the universe.
But, after all, whole nature shows the infinite art of its Maker. When I speak of an art, I mean a collection of proper means chosen on purpose to arrive at a certain end; or, if you please, it is an order, a method, an industry, or a set design. Chance, on the contrary, is a blind and necessary cause, which neither sets in order nor chooses anything, and has neither will nor understanding. Now, I maintain that the universe bears the character and stamp of a cause infinitely powerful and industrious; and, at the same time, that chance—that is, the fortuitous concourse of causes void of reason—cannot have formed this universe.
Who will believe that so perfect a poem as Homer's "Iliad" was not the product of the genius of a great poet, but that the letters of the alphabet, being confusedly jumbled and mixed, were by chance, as it were by the cast of a pair of dice, brought together in such an order as is necessary to describe, in verses full of harmony and variety, so many great events; to place and connect them so well together; to paint every object with all its most graceful, most noble, and most affecting attendants; in short, to make every person speak according to his character in so natural and so forcible a manner? Let people subtilise upon the matter as much as they please, yet they never will persuade a man of sense that the "Iliad" was the mere result of chance. How, then, can a man of sense be induced to believe, with respect to the universe, what his reason will never suffer him to believe in relation to the "Iliad"?
II.—EARTH, THE MOTHER OF ALL LIVING
After these comparisons, about which I only desire the reader to consult himself, without any argumentation, I think it is high time to enter into a detail of nature. I do not pretend to penetrate through the whole. Who is able to do it? Neither do I pretend to enter into any physical discussion. Such way of reasoning requires a certain deep knowledge, which abundance of men of wit and sense never acquire; and therefore I will offer nothing to them but the simple prospect of the face of nature. I will entertain them with nothing but what everybody knows, which requires only a little calm and serious attention.
Let us, in the first place, stop at the great object that first strikes our sight—I mean the general structure of the universe. Let us cast our eyes on this earth that bears us.
Who is it that hung and poised this motionless globe of the earth? Who laid its foundation? Nothing seems more vile and contemptible, for the meanest wretches tread it under foot; but yet it is in order to possess it that we part with the greatest treasures. If it were harder than it is, men could not open its bosom to cultivate it; and if it were less hard it could not bear them, and they would sink everywhere as they do in sand, or in a bog. It is from the inexhaustible bosom of the earth we draw what is most precious. That shapeless, vile, and rude mass assumes the most various forms, and yields alone, by turns, all the goods we can desire. That dirty soil transforms itself into a thousand fine objects that charm the eye. In the compass of one year it turns into branches, twigs, buds, leaves, blossoms, fruits, and seeds, in order, by those various shapes, to multiply its liberalities to mankind.
Nothing exhausts the earth; the more we tear her bowels the more she is liberal. After so many ages, during which she has produced everything, she is not yet worn out. She feels no decay from old age, and her entrails still contain the same treasures. A thousand generations have passed away, and returned into her bosom.
Everything grows old, she alone excepted; for she grows young again every year in the spring. She is never wanting to men; but foolish men are wanting to themselves in neglecting to cultivate her. It is through their laziness and extravagance they suffer brambles and briars to grow instead of grapes and corn. They contend for a good they let perish. The conquerors leave uncultivated the ground for the possession of which they have sacrificed the lives of so many thousand men, and have spent their own in hurry and trouble. Men have before them vast tracts of land uninhabited and uncultivated, and they turn mankind topsy-turvy for one nook of that neglected ground in dispute. The earth, if well cultivated, would feed a hundred times more men than she does now. Even the unevenness of ground, which at first seems to be a defect, turns either into ornament or profit. The mountains arose and the valleys descended to the place the Lord had appointed for them. Those different grounds have their particular advantages, according to the divers aspects of the sun. In those deep valleys grow fresh and tender grass to feed cattle. Next to them opens a vast champaign covered with a rich harvest. Here, hills rise like an amphitheatre, and are crowned with vineyards and fruit-trees. There, high mountains carry aloft their frozen brows to the very clouds, and the torrents that run down from them become the springs of rivers. The rocks that show their craggy tops bear up the earth of mountains just as the bones bear up the flesh in human bodies.
There is scarce any spot of ground absolutely barren if a man do not grow weary of digging, and turning it to the enlivening sun, and if he require no more from it than it is proper to bear. Amidst stone and rocks there is sometimes excellent pasture, and their cavities have veins which, being penetrated by the piercing rays of the sun, furnish plants with most savoury juices for the feeding of herds and flocks. Even sea-coasts that seem to be the most sterile and wild yield sometimes either delicious fruits or most wholesome medicines that are wanting in the most fertile countries. Besides, it is the effect of a wise over-ruling Providence that no land yields all that is useful to human life. For want invites men to commerce, in order to supply one another's necessities. It is therefore that want which is the natural tie of society between nations; otherwise, all the people of the earth would be reduced to one sort of food and clothing, and nothing would invite them to know and visit one another.
All that the earth produces, being corrupted, returns into her bosom, and becomes the source of a new production. Thus she resumes all she has given in order to give again. Thus the corruption of plants, and of the animals she feeds, feed her, and improve her fertility. Thus, the more she gives the more she resumes; and she is never exhausted, provided they who cultivate her restore to her what she has given. Everything comes from her bosom, everything returns to it, and nothing is lost in it. Nay, all seeds multiply there.
Admire the plants that spring from the earth; they yield food for the healthy, and remedies for the sick. Their species and virtues are innumerable. They deck the earth, yield verdure, fragrant flowers, and delicious fruits. Do you see those vast forests that seem as old as the world? Those trees sink into the earth by their roots, as deep as their branches shoot up to the sky. Their roots defend them against the winds, and fetch up, as it were by subterranean pipes, all the juices destined to feed the trunk. The trunk itself is covered with a tough bark that shelters the tender wood from the injuries of the air. The branches distribute, by several pipes, the sap which the roots had gathered up in the trunk. In summer the boughs protect us with their shadow against the scorching rays of the sun.
The farther we seek through the universe the more sure is her teaching. That which we learnt from the earth and from plants is taught us again by water, by the air, and by fire. It is the lesson of the skies, and of the sun and the stars. The whole animal world teaches us the same. If we turn from things that are large, we shall find wonders no less in the infinitely little; if we turn from the bodies of animals to the study of their instincts, their sleep, their food, the persistence of their races from age to age—though all individuals are mortal—again we find evidence of the skill and power of the Author of all things.
Still more wonderful is the body of man, his skin and veins, his bones and joints, his senses, tongue and teeth, the proportions of his body, and, above all things, his soul, which alone among all creatures thinks and knows and is sovereign master over the body.
It is this reason that is in man which, above all, demonstrates the residence of God in us.
III.—GOD IN THE MIND OF MAN
It cannot be said that man gives himself the thoughts he had not before; much less can it be said that he receives them from other men, since it is certain he neither does nor can admit anything from without, unless he finds it in his own foundation, by consulting within him the principles of reason, in order to examine whether what he is told is agreeable or repugnant to them. Therefore, there is an inward school wherein man receives what he neither can give himself, nor expect from other men who live upon trust as well as himself.
Here, then, are two reasons I find within me, one of which is myself, the other is above me. That which is myself is very imperfect, prejudiced, liable to error, changeable, headstrong, ignorant, and limited; in short, it possesses nothing but what is borrowed. The other is common to all men, and superior to them. It is perfect, eternal, immutable, ever ready to communicate itself in all places, and to rectify all minds that err and mistake; in short, incapable of ever being either exhausted or divided, although it communicates itself to all who desire it.
Where is that perfect reason which is so near me, and yet so different from me? Surely it must be something real, for nothing cannot either be perfect or make perfect imperfect natures. Where is that supreme reason? Is it not the very God I look for?
We have seen the prints of the Deity, or, to speak more properly, the seal and stamp of God Himself, in all that is called the works of nature. When a man does not enter into philosophical subtleties, he observes with the first cast of the eye a hand, that was the first mover, in all the parts of the universe, and set all the wheels of the great machine agoing. Everything shows and proclaims an order, an exact measure, an art, a wisdom, a mind superior to us, which is, as it were, the soul of the whole world, and which leads and directs everything to His ends, with a gentle and insensible, though ever an omnipotent force.
We have seen, as it were, the architecture and frame of the universe; the just proportion of all its parts; and the bare cast of the eye has sufficed us to find and discover even in an ant, more than in the sun, a wisdom and power that delights to exert itself in polishing and adorning its vilest works.
This is obvious, without any speculative discussion, to the most ignorant of men; but what a world of other wonders should we discover should we penetrate into the secrets of physics, and dissect the inward parts of animals, which are framed according to the most perfect mechanics.
Let a man study the world as much as he pleases; let him descend into the minutest details; dissect the vilest of animals; narrowly consider the least grain of corn sown in the ground, and the manner in which it germinates and multiplies; attentively observe with what precautions a rose-bud blows and opens in the sun, and closes again at night; and he will find in all these more design, conduct, and industry than in all the works of art. Nay, what is called the art of men is but a faint imitation of the great art called the laws of nature, which the impious did not blush to call blind chance. Is it, therefore, a wonder that poets animated the whole universe, bestowed wings upon the winds, and arrows on the sun, and described great rivers impetuously running to precipitate themselves into the sea and trees shooting up to heaven to repel the rays of the sun by their thick shades? These images and figures have also been received in the language of the vulgar, so natural it is for men to be sensible of the wonderful art that fills all nature.
Poetry did only ascribe to inanimate creatures the art and design of the Creator, who does everything in them. From the figurative language of the poets those notions passed into the theology of the heathens, whose divines were the poets. They supposed an art, a power, or a wisdom, which they called numen [divinity], in creatures the most destitute of understanding. With them great rivers were gods, and spring naiads. Woods and mountains had their particular deities; flowers had their Flora; and fruits, Pomona. After all, the more a man contemplates nature, the more he discovers in it an inexhaustible stock of wisdom, which is, as it were, the soul of the universe.
What must we infer from thence? The consequence flows of itself. "If so much wisdom and penetration," says Minutius Felix, "are required to observe the wonderful order and design of the structure of the world, how much more were necessary to form it!"
If men so much admire philosophers because they discover a small part of the wisdom that made all things, they must be stark blind not to admire that wisdom itself.
IV.—A PRAYER TO GOD
O my God, if so many men do not discover Thee in this great spectacle Thou givest them of all nature, it is not because Thou art far from any of us. Every one of us feels Thee, as it were, with his hand; but the senses, and the passions they raise, take up all the attention of our minds. Thus, O Lord, Thy light shines in darkness; but darkness is so thick and gloomy that it does not admit the beams of Thy light.
Thou appearest everywhere; and everywhere inattentive mortals neglect to perceive Thee. All nature speaks of Thee, and resounds with Thy holy name; but she speaks to deaf men, whose deafness proceeds from the noise and clatter they make to stun themselves. Thou art near and within them; but they are fugitive, and wandering, as it were, out of themselves. They would find Thee, O Sweet Light, O Eternal Beauty, ever old and ever young, O Fountain of Chaste Delights, O Pure and Happy Life of all who live truly, should they look for Thee within themselves. But the impious lose Thee only by losing themselves. Alas! Thy very gifts, which should show them the hand from whence they flow, amuse them to such a degree as to hinder them from perceiving it. They live by Thee, and yet they live without thinking on Thee or, rather, they die by the Fountain of Life for want of quenching their drought in that vivifying stream; for what greater death can there be than not to know Thee, O Lord? They fall asleep in Thy soft and paternal bosom, and, full of the deceitful dreams by which they are tossed in their sleep, they are insensible of the powerful hand that supports them.
If Thou wert a barren, impotent, and inanimate body, like a flower that fades away, a river that runs, a house that decays and falls to ruin, a picture that is but a collection of colours to strike the imagination, or a useless metal that glistens, they would perceive Thee, and fondly ascribe to Thee the power of giving them some pleasure, although in reality pleasure cannot proceed from inanimate beings, which are themselves void and incapable of it, but from Thee alone, the true spring of all joy. If, therefore, Thou wert but a lumpish, frail, and inanimate being, a mass without any virtue or power, a shadow of a being, Thy vain fantastic nature would busy their vanity, and be a proper object to entertain their mean and brutish thoughts. But because Thou art too intimately within them, and they never at home, Thou art to them an unknown God; for while they rise and wander abroad, the intimate part of themselves is most remote from their sight. The order and beauty Thou scatterest over the face of Thy creatures are like a glaring light that hides Thee from them and dazzles their sore eyes. In fine, because Thou art too elevated and too pure a truth to affect gross senses, men who are become like beasts cannot conceive Thee, though man has daily convincing instances of wisdom and virtue without the testimony of any of his senses; for those virtues have not sound, colour, odour, taste, figure, nor any sensible quality.
Why, then, O my God, do men call Thy existence, wisdom, and power more in question than they do those other things most real and manifest, the truth of which they suppose as certain, in all the serious affairs of life, and which, nevertheless, as well as Thou, escape our feeble senses? O misery! O dismal night that surrounds the children of Adam! O monstrous stupidity! O confusion of the whole man! Man has eyes only to see shadows, and truth appears a phantom to him. What is nothing is all; and what is all is nothing to him. What do I behold in all nature? God. God everywhere, and still God alone.
When I think, O Lord, that all being is in Thee, Thou exhaustest and swallowest up, O Abyss of Truth, all my thoughts. I know not what becomes of me. Whatever is not Thou disappears; and scarce so much of myself remains wherewithal to find myself again. Who sees Thee not never saw anything; and who is not sensible of Thee, never was sensible of anything. He is as if he were not. His whole life is but a dream. Arise, O Lord, arise, Let Thy enemies melt like wax and vanish like smoke before Thy face. How unhappy is the impious soul who, far from Thee, is without God, without hope, without eternal comfort! How happy he who searches, sighs, and thirsts after Thee. But fully happy he on whom are reflected the beams of Thy countenance, whose tears Thy hand has wiped off, and whose desires Thy love has already completed.
When will that time be, O Lord? O fair day, without either cloud or end, of which Thyself shalt be the sun, and wherein Thou shalt run through my soul like a torrent of delight! Upon this pleasing hope I cry out: "Who is like Thee, O Lord? My heart melts and my flesh faints, O God of my soul, and my eternal wealth."
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THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE
Galileo's treatise on "The Authority of Scripture in Philosophical Controversies" was written at a time when the Copernican theory of the constitution of the universe was engaging the attention of the world. A Benedictine monk, Benedetto Castelli, called upon to defend the theory at the grand-ducal table of Tuscany, asked Galileo's assistance in reconciling it with orthodoxy. His answer was an exposition of a formal theory as to the relations of physical science to Holy Writ. This answer was further amplified in the "Authority of the Scripture," addressed in 1614 to Christina of Lorraine, Dowager Grand-Duchess of Tuscany, an able and acute defence of his position. A year later another monk laid Galileo's letter to Castelli before the Inquisition, whereupon the philosopher was summoned by Pope Paul V. to the palace of Cardinal Bellarmine, and there warned against henceforth holding, teaching, or defending the condemned doctrine. Nevertheless, in a few years Galileo (see SCIENCE, vol. XV) had to suffer trial and condemnation by the Inquisition for publishing his "Dialogues on the System of the World," which gave the Ptolemaic theory its death-blow.
I.—THE DEFENDERS OF FALLACY
Some years ago I discovered many astronomical facts till then unknown. Their novelty and their antagonism to some physical propositions commonly received by the schools did stir up against me many who professed the vulgar philosophy, as if, forsooth, I had with my own hand placed these things in the heavens to obscure and disturb nature and science. These opponents, more affectionate to their own opinion than to truth, tried to deny and disprove my discoveries, which they might have discerned with their own eyes; and they published vain discourses, interwoven with irrelevant passages, not rightly understood, of the sacred Scriptures. From this folly they might have been saved had they remembered the advice of St. Augustine, who, dealing with celestial bodies, writes: "We ought to believe nothing unadvisedly in a doubtful point, lest in favour of our error we conceive a prejudice against that which truth hereafter may discover to be nowise contrary to the sacred books."
Time has proved every one of my statements, and proving them has also proved that my opponents were of two kinds. Those who had doubted simply because the discoveries were new and strange have been gradually converted, while those whose incredulity was based on personal ill-will to me have shut their eyes to the facts and have endeavoured to asperse my moral character and to ruin me.
Knowing that I have confuted the Ptolemaic and Aristotelian arguments, and distrusting their defence in the field of philosophy, they have tried to shield their fallacies under the mantle of a feigned religion and of scriptural authority, and have endeavoured to spread the opinion that my propositions are contrary to the Scriptures, and therefore heretical. To this end they have found accomplices in the pulpits, and have scattered rumours that my theory of the world-system would ere long be condemned by supreme authority.
Further, they have endeavoured to make the theory peculiar to myself, ignoring the fact that the author, or rather restorer, of the doctrine was Nicholas Copernicus, a Catholic, and a much-esteemed priest, who was summoned to Rome to correct the ecclesiastic calendar, and in the course of his inquiries reached this view of the universe.
The calendar has since been regulated by his doctrine, and on his principles the motions of the planets have been calculated. Having reduced his doctrine to six books, he published them under the title of "De Revolutionibus Coelestibus," at the instance of the Cardinal of Capua, and of the Bishop of Culma; and, since he undertook the task at the order of Pope Leo X., he dedicated the work to his successor Paul III., and it was received by the Holy Church and studied by all the world.
In the end of his dedicatory epistle Copernicus writes: "If there should chance to be any mateologists who, ignorant in mathematics yet pretending to skill in that science, should dare, upon the authority of some passage of Scripture wrested to their purpose, to condemn and censure my hypothesis, I value them not, and scorn their inconsiderate judgment. For it is not unknown that Lactantius (a famous author though poor mathematician) writes very childishly concerning the form of the earth when he scoffs at those who affirm the earth to be in form of a globe. So that it ought not to seem strange to the intelligent if any such should likewise now deride us. The mathematics are written for mathematicians, to whom (if I deceive not myself) these labours of mine shall seem to add something, as also to the commonweal of the Church whose government is now in the hands of Your Holiness."
It is such as Lactantius who would now condemn Copernicus unread, and produce authorities of the Scripture, of divines, and of councils in support of their condemnation. I hold these authorities in reverence, but I hold that in this instance they are used for personal ends in a manner very different from the most sacred intention of the Holy Church. I am ready to renounce any religious errors into which I may run in this discourse, and if my book be not beneficial to the Holy Church may it be torn and burnt; but I hold that I have a right to defend myself against the attacks of ignorant opponents.
The doctrine of the movement of the earth and the fixity of the sun is condemned on the ground that the Scriptures speak in many places of the sun moving and the earth standing still. The Scriptures not being capable of lying or erring, it followeth that the position of those is erroneous and heretical who maintain that the sun is fixed and the earth in motion.
It is piously spoken that the Scriptures cannot lie. But none will deny that they are frequently abstruse and their true meaning difficult to discover, and more than the bare words signify. One taking the sense too literally might pervert the truth and conceive blasphemies, and give God feet, and hands, and eyes, and human affections, such as anger, repentance, forgetfulness, ignorance, whereas these expressions are employed merely to accommodate the truth to the mental capacity of the unlearned.
This being granted, I think that in the discussion of natural problems we ought to begin not with the Scriptures, but with experiments and demonstrations. Nor does God less admirably discover Himself to us in nature than in Scripture, and having found the truth in nature we may use it as an aid to the true exposition of the Scriptures. The Scriptures were intended to teach men those things which cannot be learned otherwise than by the mouth of the Holy Spirit; but we are meant to use our senses and reason in discovering for ourselves things within their scope and capacity, and hence certain sciences are neglected in the Holy Writ.
Astronomy, for instance, is hardly mentioned, and only the sun, and the moon, and Lucifer are named. Surely, if the holy writers had intended us to derive our astronomical knowledge from the Sacred Books, they would not have left us so uninformed. That they intentionally forbore to speak of the movements and constitution of the stars is the opinion of the most holy and most learned fathers. And if the Holy Spirit has omitted to teach us those matters as not pertinent to our salvation, how can it be said that one view is de Fide and the other heretical? I might here insert the opinion of an ecclesiastic raised to the degree of Eminentissimo: That the intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how we shall go to Heaven, and not how the heavens go.
II.—SCRIPTURAL AND EXPERIMENTAL TRUTH
Since the Holy Writ is true, and all truth agrees with truth, the truth of Holy Writ cannot be contrary to the truth obtained by reason and experiment. This being true, it is the business of the judicious expositor to find the true meaning of scriptural passages which must accord with the conclusions of observation and experiment, and care must be taken that the work of exposition do not fall into foolish and ignorant hands. It must be remembered that there are very few men capable of understanding both the sacred Scriptures and science, and that there are many with a superficial knowledge of the Scriptures and with no knowledge of science who would fain arrogate to themselves the power of decreeing upon all questions of nature. As St. Jerome writes: "The talking old woman, the dotard, the garrulous sophist, all venture upon, lacerate, teach, before they have learnt. Others, induced by pride, dive into hard words, and philosophate among women touching the Holy Scriptures. Others (oh, shameful!) learn of women what they teach to men."
I will not rank among these same secular writers any theologists whom I repute to be men of profound learning and sober manners, and therefore hold in great esteem and veneration; yet it vexes me when they would constrain science by the authority of the Scriptures, and yet do not consider themselves bound to answer reason and experiment. It is true that theology is the queen of all the sciences, but queen only in the sense that she deals with high matters revealed in noble ways, and if she condescends not to study the more humble matters of the inferior sciences she ought not to arrogate to herself the right to judge them; for this would be as if an autocratic prince, being neither physician nor architect, should undertake to administer medicines and erect buildings to the danger of the lives of his subjects.
Again, to command the professors of astronomy to confute their own observations is to enjoin an impossibility, for it is to command them not to see what they do see, and not to understand what they do understand, and to find what they do not discover. I would entreat the wise and prudent fathers to consider the difference between matters of opinion and matters of demonstration, for demonstrated conclusions touching the things of nature and of the heavens cannot be changed with the same facility as opinions touching what is lawful in a contract, bargain, or bill of exchange. Your highness knows what happened to the late professor of mathematics in the University of Pisa—how, believing that the Copernican doctrine was false, he started to confute it, but in his study became convinced of its truth.
In order to suppress the Copernican doctrine, it would be necessary not only to prohibit the book of Copernicus and the writings of authors who agree with him, but to interdict the whole science of astronomy, and even to forbid men to look at the sky lest they might see Mars and Venus at very varying distances from the earth, and discover Venus at one time crescent, at another time round, or make other observations irreconcilable with the Ptolemaic system.
It is surely harmful to souls to make it a heresy to believe what is proved. The prohibition of astronomy would be an open contempt of a hundred texts of the Holy Scriptures, which teach us that the glory and the greatness of Almighty God are admirably discerned in all His works, and divinely read in the open book of the heavens.
III.—FACT AND FAITH
It may be said that the doctrine of the movement of the sun and the fixity of the earth must de Fide be held for true since the Scriptures affirm it, and all the fathers unanimously accept the scriptural words in their naked and literal sense. But it was necessary to assign motion to the sun and rest to the earth lest the shallow minds of the vulgar should be confounded, amused, and rendered obstinate and contumacious with regard to doctrines of faith. St. Jerome writes: "It is the custom for the pen-men of Scripture to deliver their judgments in many things according to the common received opinion that their times had of them." Even Copernicus himself, knowing the power of custom, and unwilling to create confusion in our comprehension, continues to talk of the rising and setting of the sun and stars and of variations in the obliquity of the zodiac. Whence it is to be noted how necessary it is to accommodate our discourse to our accustomed manner of understanding.
In the next place, the common consent of the fathers to a natural proposition should authorise it only if it have been discussed and debated with all possible diligence, and this question was in those times totally buried.
Besides, it is not enough to say that the fathers accept the Ptolemaic doctrine; it is necessary to prove that they condemned the Copernican. Was the Copernican doctrine ever formally condemned as contrary to the Scriptures? And Didacus, discoursing on the Copernican hypothesis, concludes that the motion of the earth is not contrary to the Scriptures.
Let my opponents, therefore, apply themselves to examine the arguments of Copernicus and others; and let them not hope to find such rash and impetuous decisions in the wary and holy fathers, or in the absolute wisdom of him that cannot err, as those into which they have suffered themselves to be hurried by prejudice or personal feeling. His holiness has certainly an absolute power of admitting or condemning propositions not directly de Fide, but it is not in the power of any creature to make them true or false otherwise than of their own nature and de facto they are.
In my judgment it would be well first to examine the truth of the fact (over which none hath power) before invoking supreme authority; for if it be not possible that a conclusion should be declared heretical while we are not certain but that it may be true, their pains are vain who pretend to condemn the doctrine of the mobility of the earth and the fixity of the sun, unless they have first demonstrated the doctrine to be impossible and false.
Let us now consider how we may interpret the command of Joshua that the sun should stand still.
According to the Ptolemaic system, the sun moves from east to west through the ecliptic, and therefore the standing still of the sun would shorten and not lengthen the day. Indeed, in order to lengthen the day on this system it would be necessary not to hold the sun, but to accelerate its pace about three hundred and sixty times. Possibly Joshua used the words to suit the comprehension of the ignorant people; possibly—as St. Augustine says—he commanded the whole system of the celestial spheres to stand still, and his command to the moon rather confirms this conjecture.
On the Copernican system interpretation is simplified; for if we consider the mobility of the sun and how it is in a certain sense the soul and heart of the universe, it is not illogical to say that it gives not only light, but also motion to the bodies round it. In this manner, by the standing still of the sun at Joshua's command, the day might be lengthened without disturbing the order of the universe or the mutual positions of the stars. This interpretation also explains the statement that the sun stood still in medio coeli. Had the sun been in the middle of the heavens in the sense of rising and setting, it had hardly been necessary to check its course; but in medio coeli probably signifies in the middle or centre of the universe where it resides.
I have no doubt that other passages of the Scriptures could be likewise interpreted in accordance with the Copernican system by divines with knowledge of astronomy. They might say that the word "firmament" very well agrees, ad literam, with the starry sphere. Ad literam, if they admit the rotation of the earth, they might understand its poles, when it is said Nec dum terram fecerat, et flumina, et cardines orbis terrae. [Nor yet had He created the earth, or the rivers, or the hinges for the globe of the earth.] Surely cardines, or "hinges," are ascribed to the earth in vain if it be not to turn upon them.
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GEORG WILHELM FRIEDRICH HEGEL
THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
Hegel's "Philosophy of Religion" was published the year following the philosopher's death, at Berlin, in 1832; and the rugged shape and uneven construction of some of it may fairly be attributed to the fact that, as it stands, it is largely an editorial compilation. Such faults, however, as Dr. Edward Caird has remarked, "if they take from the lectures as expressions of their author's mind, and from their value as scientific treatises, have some compensating advantages if we regard them as a means of education in philosophy; for in this point of view their very artlessness gives them something of the same stimulating, suggestive power which is attained by the consummate art of the Platonic dialogues." The importance of the work is evidenced by the influence it has exercised over the mind of a later generation; and many readers, to whom Hegel (see Vol. XIV) is little more than a name, will certainly find here the sources of much that has become familiar as an essential part of the religious atmosphere of a later day, and of the apologies of modern speculative theology.
I. THE RELATION OF PHILOSOPHY TO RELIGION
The object of religion is the same as that of philosophy; it is the external verity itself in its objective existence; it is God—nothing but God and the unfolding of God. Philosophy is not the wisdom of the world, but the knowledge of things which are not of this world. It is not the knowledge of external mass, of empirical life and existence, but of the eternal, of the nature of God, and of all which flows from His nature. For this nature ought to manifest and develop itself. Consequently, philosophy in unfolding religion merely unfolds itself, and in unfolding itself it unfolds religion. In so far as philosophy is occupied with the eternal truth, the truth which is in and for itself; in so far as it is occupied with this as thinking spirit, rather than in an arbitrary fashion and in view of a particular interest, philosophy has the same sphere of activity as has religion. And if the religious consciousness aspires to abolish all that is peculiar to itself and to be absorbed in its object, the philosophic spirit likewise plunges with the same energy into its object and renounces all particularity.
Religion and philosophy are thus at one in having one and the same object. Philosophy, in fact, also is the adoration of God, it is religion; for, seeing that God is its object, it involves the same renunciation of every opinion and every thought that is arbitrary and subjective. Philosophy is, in consequence, identical with religion. Only it is religion in a peculiar manner, and this it is which distinguishes it from religion commonly so called. So philosophy and religion are both religion, and that which distinguishes one from the other is no more than the characteristic mode in which respectively they consider their object, God.
Here is the difficulty of understanding how philosophy can make but one with religion, a difficulty which has even been mistaken for impossibility. Thence also arise the fears which philosophy inspires in theology and the hostile attitudes which they assume towards each other. What brings about this attitude is, on the side of theology, that for her philosophy does nothing but corrupt, pull down, and profane the content of religion, and that she understands God in a totally different manner from that after which religion understands Him. It is the same opposition which long ago among the Greeks caused a free and democratic people like the Athenians to burn books and to condemn Socrates. In our own day, however, this opposition is considered a thing which it is natural to admit—more natural indeed than the other opinion concerning the unity of religion and philosophy.
Diverse religions offer us, it is true, only too often the most bizarre and monstrous representations of the divine essence. But we must not confine ourselves to a superficial consideration and consequent rejection of these representations and the religious practices which follow upon them as being engendered by superstition, by error, or by imposture, or even by a simple piety, and so neglect their essential value. There is need to discover in these representations and in these practices their relation with truth.
II.—GOD THE UNIVERSAL
For us, who have religion, God is a familiar being, a substantial truth existing in our subjective consciousness. But, scientifically considered, God is a general and abstract term. The philosophy of religion it is which develops and grasps the divine nature and which teaches us what God is. God is a familiar idea, but an idea which has still to be scientifically developed.
The result of philosophic examination is that God is the absolute truth, the universal in and for itself, embracing all things and in which all things subsist. And in regard to this assertion, we may appeal in the first place to the religious consciousness, and to its conviction that God is the absolute truth whence all things proceed, whither they all return, upon which all things depend, and in respect of which nothing can possess a true and absolute independence.
The heart may very well be full of this representation of God, but science is not built up of what is in the heart. The object of science is that which has arisen to the level of consciousness, and of thinking consciousness that is, in other words, that which has attained to the form of thought.
In so much as He is the universal, God is, for us, in relation to development, Being enclosed in itself, Being at unity with itself. When we say God is Being enclosed in itself, we enunciate a proposition which is bound to a development which we await. But this envelopment of God in Himself which we have called His universality we must not conceive, relatively to God Himself and His content, as an abstract universality, outside of which, and as opposed to which, the particular has an independent existence.
So we must consider this universal as an absolutely concrete universal. This sense of fulness is the sense in which God is one, and there is but one God—that is to say, God is not one merely by contrast with other gods, but because it is He that is the One, that is, God.
The things which are, the developments of the worlds of nature and of mind, show a multiplicity of forms and an infinite variety of existences. But whatever may be their difference of degree, of force, of content, these things have no true independence; their being is consequent, and, so to speak, contingent. When we predicate being of particular things, it is not of Being which is absolute that we speak—Being of and from itself; that is, God—but a borrowed being, a semblance of being.
God in His universality—that is, this universal Being which has no limit, no bounds, no particularity—is a Being which subsists absolutely, and which subsists alone; all else which subsists has its root in this unity, and by this alone subsists. In thus representing to ourselves this first content we may say that God is absolute substance, the only veritable reality. For not everything which has a reality has a reality of its own, or subsists by itself. God is the only absolute reality, and thereby the absolute substance.
If we stop at this abstract thought we have Spinozism, for in Spinozism subjectivity is not yet differentiated from substantiality, from substance as such. But in the presupposition just made there is also this thought—God is spirit, absolute and eternal; spirit which comes not forth from itself in differentiation. This ideality, this subjectivity of spirit, which is transparency, ideality excluding all particular determination, is precisely the universal, pure relation to self, Being which remains absolutely within itself.
If we halt at substance, we fail to grasp this universal under its concrete form. In its concrete determination spirit always preserves its unity, this unity of its reality which we call substance. But one should add that this substantiality, the unity of the absolute reality with itself, is but the foundation, but a moment in the determination of God as spirit. Hence, principally, arises the reproach which is directed against philosophy—to wit, that philosophy, to be consistent with itself, is necessarily Spinozism, and consequently atheism and fatalism. But at the beginning we have not yet determinations distinguished one from another as aye and nay. We have the one but not the other.
Consequently, what we have here is, to start with, content under the form of substance. Even when we say, "God," "spirit," we have only words, indeterminate representations. The essential point is to know what has been produced in the consciousness. And that is, first, the simple, the abstract. Here, in this first simple determination, we have God only under the form of universality. Only we do not halt at this moment.
Nevertheless, this content remains the foundation of all further developments, for in these developments God comes not forth from His unity. When God creates the world—to use the expression of every day—there comes not into existence an evil, a contrary, existing in itself independently of God.
III.—GOD EXISTS FOR THOUGHT
This Beginning is an object for us or a content in us. We possess this object. Immediately the question arises, Who are we? We, I, spirit—here also is a complex being, a multiplied being. I have perceptions; I see, I hear, etc. Seeing, hearing; all this is I. Consequently, the precise sense of this question is, Which among these determinations is it in accordance with which this content exists for our minds? Idea, will, imagination, feeling—which is the seat, the proper domain of this content, of this object?
If we accept the common answers to this question, God will abide in us as the object of faith, of feeling, of representation, of knowledge.
We shall have to examine more closely later on in a special fashion with respect to this point, these forms, faculties, aspects of ourselves. In this place we shall not seek a reply to this question; nor shall we say, basing our answer on experience and observation, that God is in our feeling, etc. But, to begin with, we will confine ourselves to what we have actually before us, to this One, to this universal, to this concrete Being.
If we take this One, and ask for what power, for what activity of our mind does this One, this absolutely universal Being, exist, we cannot but name the one activity of mind which corresponds to it as constituting its proper natural domain. This activity, which corresponds to the universal, is thought.
Thought is the field in which this content moves; it is the energising of the universal, or the universal in the reality of its activity. Or, if we say that thought embraces the universal, that for which the universal is will still be thought.
This universal which can be produced by thought, and which is for thought, may be a quite abstract universal. In this sense it is the unlimited, the infinite, the being without bounds, without particular determination. This universal, negative to begin with, has its seat not elsewhere than in thought.
To think of God is to rise above the things of sense, exterior and individual, above simple feeling into the region of pure being; being at unity with itself—that is to say, into the pure region of the universal. And this region is thought.
Such is the substratum for this content considered on the subjective side. Here the content is that Being in which is no difference, no schism; Being which abides in itself, the universal; and thought is the form for which this universal is.
Thus we have a difference between thought and the universal which we have called God. It is a difference which in the first place belongs only to our reflection, and is by no means to be found in the content on its own account. There is the result to which philosophy comes—a result already comprised in religion as under the form of faith—to wit, that God is the sole veritable reality, the Being without which no other reality would exist.
In the unity of this reality, in this cloudless shining, the reality and the distinction which we call thinking-being have as yet no place.
What we have before us is this absolute unity. This content, this determination we cannot yet call religion because to religion belongs subjective spirit consciousness. Thought is the seat of this universal, but this seat is, to begin with, absorbed in this being which is one, eternal, in and for itself.
This universal constitutes the beginning and the point of departure, but only as unity which so abides. It is not a mere substratum whence differences are born; rather, all differences are included in this universal. No more is it an abstract and inert universal, but the absolute principle of all activity, the matrix, the infinite source whence all things proceed, whither all things return, and in which they are eternally preserved.
Thus the universal is never separated from this ethereal element, from this Unity with itself, this concentration within itself.
IV.—WHAT IS EVIL?
As the universal, God could not find Himself faced by a contrary whereof the reality should pretend to rise above the phantasmal level. For this pure unity and this perfect transparency matter is nothing impenetrable, and spirit, the ego, is not so independent as to possess a true, individual, substantiality of its own.
There has been a tendency to label this idea pantheism. It would be more exact to call it the conception of substantiality. God is first determined as substance only. The absolute subject spirit is also substance; but it is determined rather as subject. This is the difference generally ignored by those who assert that speculative philosophy is pantheism. As usual, they miss the essential point and disparage philosophy by falsifying it.
Pantheism is commonly taken to mean that God is all things—the whole, the universe, the collection of all existences, of things infinite and infinitely diverse. From which notion the charge is brought against philosophy that it teaches that all things are God; that is to say, that God is, not the universal which is in and for itself, but the infinite multiplicity of individual things in their empirical and immediate existence.
If you say God is all that is here, this paper, etc., you have indeed committed yourself to the pantheism with which philosophy is reproached; that is, the whole is understood as equivalent to all individual things. But there is also the genus, which is equally the universal, yet is wholly different from this totality in which the universal is but the collection of individual things, and the basis, the content, is constituted by these things themselves. To say that there has ever been a religion which has taught this pantheism is to say what is absolutely untrue. It has never entered any man's mind that everything is God; that is to say, that God is things in their individual and contingent existence. Far less has philosophy ever taught this doctrine.
Spinozism itself, as such, as well as Oriental pantheism, contains this doctrine: that the divine in all things is no more than that which is universal in their content, their essence; and in such sense that this essence is conceived of as a determinate essence.
When Brahma says, "In the metal I am the brightness of its shining; among the rivers I am the Ganges; I am the life of all that lives," he thereby suppresses the individual. He says not, "I am the metal, the rivers, the individual things of various kinds as such, nor in the fashion of their immediate existence."
Here, at this stage, what is expressed is no longer pantheism; but rather that of the essence in individual things.
In the living being are time and space. But in this individual being it is only the changeless element that is made to stand out. "The life of being that lives" is in this latter sphere of life the unlimited, the universal. But if it be said "God is all things," here we understand individuality with all its limitations, its finity, its passing existence. This notion of pantheism arises out of the conception of unity, not as spiritual unity but abstract unity; and then, when the idea takes its religious form, where only the substance, the One, is possessed of true reality, there is a tendency to forget that it is precisely in presence of this unity that individual and finite things are effaced, and to continue to place these in a material fashion side by side with this unity. They will not admit the teaching of the Eleatics, who, when they say "There is only One," add expressly that non-entity is not. All that is finite would be limitation, a negation of the One, but non-entity, the boundary, term, limit, and that which is limited, exist not at all.
Spinozism has been accused of atheism. But Spinozism does not teach that God is the world, that He is all things. Things have indeed a phenomenal existence—that is, an existence as appearances. We speak of our existence, and our life is indeed comprised in this existence, but to speak philosophically the world has no reality, it has no existence. Individual things are finite things to which no reality can be attributed; it may be said of them that they have no existence.
Spinozism—this is the accusation directed against it—involves by way of consequence that, if all things make but one, good and evil make but one; there is no difference between them; and thereby all religion is destroyed. In themselves, it is said there is no difference between good and evil; consequently it is a matter of indifference whether one be righteous or wicked. It may be granted that in themselves—that is, in God, who is the sole veritable reality—the difference between good and evil disappears. In God there is no evil. But the difference between good and evil can exist only on condition that God is the evil. But it cannot be allowed that evil is an affirmative thing, and that this affirmation is in God. God is good, and nothing else than good; the distinction between good and evil is not present in this unity, in this substance, and comes into existence only with differentiation.
God is unity abiding absolutely in itself. In the substance there is no differentiation. The distinction of good and evil begins with the distinction of God from the world, and particularly from man. It is the fundamental principle of Spinozism with regard to this distinction of God and the world that man must have no other end than God. The love of God, therefore, it is that Spinozism marks out for man as the law to be followed in order to bring about the healing of this breach.
And it is the loftiest morality that teaches that evil has no existence and that man is not bound to permit the substantial existence of this distinction, this negation. Yet it is possible for him to desire to maintain the difference and even to push it to the point of sheer opposition to God, who is the universal, self-contained and self-sufficing. In this case man is evil. But, alternatively, he may annul this distinction and place his true existence in God alone and in his aspiration towards Him; and in this case he is good.
In Spinozism there is indeed the difference between good and evil, opposition between God and man; but side by side with it we have also the principle that evil is to be deemed a non-entity. In God as God, in God as substance, there is no distinction. It is for man that the distinction exists, as also for him exists the distinction of good and evil.
V.—THE DETERMINATION OF UNITY
The superficial method of appraising philosophy is exemplified also in those who assert that it is a "system of identity." It is perfectly true that substance is this unity at one with itself, but spirit no less is this self-identity. Ultimately, all is identity, unity with itself. But when they speak of the philosophy of identity they have in view abstract identity or unity in general; and they neglect the essential point, to wit, the determination of this unity in itself; in other words, they omit to consider whether this unity is determined as substance or as spirit. Philosophy from beginning to end is nothing else than the study of determinations of unity.
In the sphere of the Notion many unities are comprised. The combination of water and earth is a unity, but this unity is mixture. If we bring together a base and an acid, we have as the result a crystal; also water; but water which cannot be discerned and which gives no trace of humidity. Here the unity of the water and of this matter is a unity different from the mixture of water and earth. The essential point is the difference of these determinations. The unity of God is always unity, but what is of primary importance is to know the modes and forms of the determination of this unity.
Manifestation, development, determination do not go on to infinity, nor yet do they stop accidentally. But in the course of its true development the Notion completes its course by a return upon itself, whereby it has attained the reality adequate to it. So it is that the manifestation is infinite in nature, that the content is adequate to the Notion of spirit, and that the phenomenal world exists, like spirit, in and for itself. In religion, the Notion of religion has become its own object. Spirit which is in and for itself has now no longer in its development individual forms and determinations, it knows itself no longer as spirit in such determinability or such a limited moment; but it has triumphed over these limitations and this finiteness, and is for itself that which also it is in itself. This cognisance in which spirit is for itself what it is in itself constitutes the in-and-for of spirit which is in possession of knowledge, the perfect and absolute religion, in which is revealed what spirit is, what God is. That is the Christian religion.
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THE BOOKS OF HINDUISM
THE VEDANTA SUTRAS
Hinduism, though usually understood to include Brahmanism (q.v.), is, in fact, a later development of it. Its central doctrine is the trinity, or Trimurti, which embraces the three-fold manifestation of the god-head as Brahma, the one supreme being, the Creator; Vishnu the Preserver; and Siva the Destroyer. The three principal books of Hinduism are the "Vedanta Sutras," the "Puranas," and the "Tantras," of which only the first is epitomised here. The "Sutras" are the earliest. The "Vedanta" (literally "goal" or "issue of the Veda") is a purely pantheistic and monastic philosophical system, and by far the most prevalent in Modern India. It is ascribed to Badarayana, sometimes called Vyasa, though this last is really a generic name denoting "a collector." The word "sutra" denotes literally "threads," and is used by Brahmanic writers for short, dry sentences, brief expositions. "Vedanta Sutras" means literally "compendious expressions of the Vedantic (not Vedic) doctrine." The second great division of Hindu sacred literature is the "Puranas," the last and most modern of the books of Hinduism. The word "Purana" means "old," and in ancient Sanscrit writings it has the same meaning as our "cosmology." The "Puranas," however, are ill-arranged collections of theological and philosophical reflections, myths and legends, ritual, and ascetic rules. They depend very much on the two great epics, especially the Mahabharata. The Sanscrit writings called "Tantras" are really manuals of religion, of magic, and of counter-charms, with songs in praise of Sakti, the female side of Siva.
The Vedanta is sometimes called the Mimamsa (= philosophical reflections). The aphorisms of which the Vedanta Sutras consist are in themselves almost as unintelligible as the Confucian "Book of Changes," the compiler having been only too successful in aiding the memory of the Hindu student by a system of multum in parvo.
It is usual to accept the interpretation put on the Sutras by the Sanscrit commentator Sankara, commonly called Sankara Karya, who flourished about A.D. 700. There are, however, many other commentaries, notably that of Ramanuga. George Thibaut, in the "Sacred Books of the East" (vols. 34, 38, and 48), gives the interpretation of Sankara, and also that of Ramanuga when it differs essentially. On the whole it may be said that Sankara is a thorough-going Vedantist and pantheist. Ramanuga, on the other hand, has leanings towards the dualism of the Sankhya philosophy, and endeavours to make the Vedanta Sutras support his opinions.
The Vedanta Sutras embrace five hundred and fifty-five aphorisms, or Sutras, arranged in four books (Adhyay), each having four-chapters (Pada), the chapters being severally divided into sections (Adhikarana). These Sutras are of the utmost importance, as nearly all Hindu sects base their belief and practices on them. It should be remembered that these Sutras form a collection, and that they are the work of many hands, and belong to different periods.
BOOK I.—BRAHMAN, THE SUM AND SUBSTANCE OF EVERYTHING
The ego and the non-ego differ in themselves and in their attributes. It will be found, however, that the non-ego depends on the ego, and is its product. Individual souls, on the other hand, representing so many egos, are themselves but manifestations of the supreme universal soul—Brahman; that is, Brahman and the Atman [the individual soul] are identical, the latter being the product of the self-revealing of the former. [With this one may compare the "ontological ideas" of Plato, the "absolute substance" of Spinoza, and the "absolute idea" of Hegel; all of them standing for the One only existing Being which manifests itself to thought and to sense in various forms.]
"What, then," asks the Vedantist, "is Brahman"?
The word comes from brih, "to be great." Hence Brahman is something, or someone, transcendently great. The word may be defined as connoting that whence all things proceed. This implies absolute, unoriginated origin, absolute subsistence, and also reabsorption, for as all things go forth from Brahman, so shall all things return to that whence they started forth.
The Scriptures [Vedas] lay most stress on Brahman as the source and origin of all things. What qualities there are in the world inhere in Brahman, or they could not be in the world which has sprung from him. There could be no intelligent souls without a previously existing intelligent Brahman. That Brahman, the Supreme Being, is all-knowing is proved from the fact that the Veda itself, the source and centre of what is knowable, proceeds from Him as its one, only author.
This Brahman, as set forth in the Vedanta texts as the cause of the world, is therefore intelligent, and by no means to be identified with the non-intelligent Pradhana (Prakriti) which the Sankhya [atheistic] philosophy makes to be the world's cause. What looks like a separate, conscious, individual soul or mind is really but the outworking of Brahman, the highest and first of beings.
The difference is apparent, but not real. So teaches Sankara; but his rival commentator, Ramanuga, endeavours to show that Brahman, the supreme self of the universe, is absolutely free from the effects of conduct. But the individual selves, which we call souls, are not, for it is the effect of conduct in a previous state of existence [Karma] that decides the character and form of the new life to be lived, or whether there is to be a new life lived at all, since conduct sufficiently good entitles to absorption in the one all—Brahman.