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It is going too far to say with Huxley and Comte that the cosmic process bears no sort of relation to the ethical : this is not true, even if we only look at Nature “phenomenally.” The most important illustration is mentioned by Comte himself. The merely physical conditions of existence require the partial suppression of that natural animal egoism which at first is man's strongest impulse. Subsequently, prudence consciously ratifies this suppression, and recognises further positive advantages which accrue from exchange of services and even from unrequited helpfulness; and self - restraint, thus becoming voluntary, makes room for the emergence and control of the unselfish impulses. Huxley reminds us of this too, and remarks that even in animal life there is a foreshadowing of human morality :
Of course, strictly speaking, social life and the ethical process, in virtue of which it advances towards perfection, are part and parcel of the general process of evolution, just as the gregarious habit of innumerable plants and animals, which has been of immense advantage to them, is so. A hive of bees is an organic polity, a society in which the part played by each member is determined by organic necessities. . . . Among birds and mammals, societies are formed, of which the bond in many cases seems to be purely psychological ; that is to say, it appears to depend upon the liking of the individuals for each other's company. The tendency of individuals to over self-assertion is kept down by fighting. Even in these rudimentary forms of society, love and fear come into play, and enforce a greater or less renunciation of self-will. To this extent the general cosmic process begins to be checked by a rudimentary ethical process which is, strictly speaking, part of the former.
That the mere cosmic process itself should thus prepare the way for the ethical, is surely a fact of deep significance. It is one of those suggestions which Nature gives us—suggestions silently made and easy to overlook that beneath the “cosmic process" of relentless blind force, of seemingly aimless evolution and dissolution, of life, growth, and struggle, pain, decay, and death,-beneath this there is a deeper cosmic process which is verily related to man, and what is most fundamental in Nature is not foreign to human goodness and human ideals. If we are obliged to say of nature, regarded as “phenomenon,” “ We are earth of its earth, it is flesh of our flesh,” this is not the last word; our reason goes behind the phenomena to their Ground and Source, and there it finds that of which it can say
“We are heart of Thy Heart,
Thou art Soul of our soul !”
But we must not miss the truth which Comte's conception of a Divine Humanity expresses. I will venture to affirm that all the best religious thinking of modern times has this in common,—to regard God as revealed through or manifested in the human race : either in the whole history and achievements and ideals of humanity, or specially in one man, Christ, whose personal life is pictorially or symbolically taken as the type of Humanity at its best, as embodying the human Ideal. Comte's deification of humanity is a partial recognition of this great truth that God is revealed through man. George Eliot—who was a convinced Positivist-endeavoured to give in her books a pictorial expression of this partial truth, and even states it herself as clearly as could be wished :
My bo which I could life-namel Leen the pa
My books have for their main bearing a conclusion, without which I could not have cared to write any representation of human life namely, that the fellowship between man and man, which has been the principle of development, social and moral, is not dependent on conceptions of what is not man; and that the idea of God, so far as it has been a high spiritual influence, is the idea of a goodness entirely human—i.e., an exaltation of the huinan.
Far be it from me to deny the truth of any part of the principle here expressed; but it must be supplemented. We may affirm with confidence that the idea of an exalted human goodness could never have been a high spiritual influence, if men had actually thought of it as only an aspiration of their own hearts. They find a goodness, above their own, realised in their brethren, and however moving is the reverence it excites, this is not enough. “Their imperfections, the mingling in them of littleness and greatness, the alternations of sweetest affection with peevish jealousy, of sublime intelligence and trifling vanity, bring to us some of our saddest experiences, and dash our highest enthusiasms with humiliation. In the very moments of purest homage they extort from us the sigh for a perfect spirit, where our trust and love may be for ever safe.” Thus we are led to the idea of God, not as mean
ing only the highest achievements of our race in the past and our loftiest idea of its possibilities in the future, but as representing the deepest of realities, the everlasting foundation of all existence, which reveals itself in the inspiring power of our highest rational ideals. It is not a thing which is “not man,” but is an abiding reality immanent in humanity, and revealed through humanity. The best deeds of the human race are only broken lights of the Life Divine; but though broken, they are lights, - lights proceeding from the one perfect Light.