Page images

self-acting with a certainty far greater than any reasoning to the contrary can produce, we have a guarantee that the pantheism which includes fatalism is false,—and there is, properly speaking, no other pantheism.

Pantheism is, as regards the relation of God to the world, the opposite extreme to what apologetic writers call deism. The latter theory represents God as a personal Being who exists only above and apart from the world, and the world as a something which, although created by God, is now independent of Him, and capable of sustaining and developing itself and performing its work, without His aid, in virtue of its own inherent energies. It not only distinguishes God from the world, but separates and excludes Him from the world. Pantheism, on the contrary, denies that God and nature either do or can exist apart. It regards God without nature as a cause without effect or a substance without qualities, and nature without God as an effect without a cause or qualities without a substance. It sees in the former an abstract conception of a power without efficiency-and in the latter, of a shadow which is cast by no reality. It therefore represents God and nature as eternally and necessarily coexistent, as the indissoluble phases of an absolute unity, as but the inner and outer side of the same whole, as but one existence under a double aspect. Theism takes

an intermediate view. It maintains with deism that God is a personal Being, who created the world intelligently and freely, and is above it and independent of it; but it maintains also with pantheism that He is everywhere present and active in the world, “upholding all things by the word of His power," and so inspiring and working in them that “in Him they live, and move, and have their being.” It contradicts deism in so far as that system represents the universe as independent of God, and pantheism in so far as it represents God as dependent on the universe. It excludes what is erroneous and retains what is correct in both deism and pantheism. It is thus at once the pure truth and the whole truth.

Pantheism has appeared in a far greater variety of phases, and has presented a far richer combination of elements, than materialism. It has always endeavoured to comprehend and harmonise aspirations and facts, ideas and realities, the infinite and the finite. It has tried all methods of investigation and exposition, and has assumed a multitude of forms. It has had great constructive skill displayed on it, and has been adorned with all sorts of beauties. But just because its history is far broader and richer than that of materialism, it is also one which it is far more difficult worthily to delineate. It is not much to be wondered at that I cannot attempt to trace even the general course of that history, and yet I cannot wholly ignore the subject, seeing that pantheism can only be understood through the study of its actual development. Nothing can be more delusive than an estimate of pantheism based exclusively on a definition or general description."

It is an error to regard India as the sole fountainhead of pantheism. Wherever we find traces of speculation on the origin of things, there we also find traces of pantheism. But nowhere was the soil so congenial to it as in India, and nowhere else has it flourished so luxuriantly. It has overspread the whole land — overgrown the whole Hindu mind and life. The pantheism of India, however, has always been to some extent combined or associated with theism. There are hymns in the Rig-Veda, relative to creation, which are distinctly more monotheistic than pantheistic. In many passages of the Upanishads, the national epics, and the philosophical soutras and commentaries, the Universal Soul is certainly not described as strictly impersonal. But theism in India was never either strong or pure, and has never been

1 See Appendix Xxxiv, : ..

able even to hold its own against the deeply and firmly rooted pantheism of the land.

The literature of India shows us the successive stages through which its religion has passed. The earliest is that disclosed to us in the oldest Vedic hymns. It was a phase of religious naturalism. The objects and aspects of the universe, and especially light and its manifestations, assumed in the imaginations and feelings of the primitive Aryan settlers in India a divine character. The bright sky, the sun, the dawn, the fire, the winds, the clouds, were deemed by them to be instinct with life, thought, and affection-beings to whom prayers and sacrifices ought to be offered—agents at once physical and divine. With such deities, however, the mind could not long rest in a progressive society. They were too vague and indeterminate; they wanted character and individuality. The intellect, the imagination, the heart, craved for more definite personalities, and gradually developed naturalism into, or replaced it by, anthropomorphism. Elemental deities yielded to human deities. The two states indicated are, however, merely stages of a single process. The naturalism by no means wholly excluded the attributing of human qualities to the deified natural powers, and the anthropomorphism absorbed into itself much of the naturalism out of which it had grown. It would also seem that a certain consciousness of an ultimate unity underlying the worshipped powers and persons- of a common Divine source, of which they were the issues and expressions—was never entirely extruded or extinguished by the polytheism of either of these two stages. It was in greatest danger, perhaps, of being lost under the latter, when imagination was actively creating anthropomorphic deities; but even then the craving of mind and heart after unity was seen in the exaltation of some one of the gods to supremacy. This led, however, only to selfcontradiction and confusion; now one god, and now another—now Varuna, now Indra, now Agnibeing represented and revered as the highest, or even the absolute, deity. With the rise and predominance of a cultured, thoughtful, speculative class, the priestly class, a more elevated, abstract, and comprehensive unity was conceived of—Brahma. The idea of Brahma is that of a being indefinable in itself, but perceptible in its forms, the substantial reality of all that exists, the universal life in which the world is absorbed and from which it issues. This idea was the natural result of the whole course of religious thought represented in the Vedas, although in the Vedas it is only found in a quite rudimentary condition. All subsequent Hindu speculation, however, contributed either directly or indirectly to evolve it. To explain in detail how and why, would be to write the longest

« PreviousContinue »