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respects anthropomorphous, is now considered impious by men who yet hold themselves bound to think of the Creative Power as in some respects anthropomorphous ; and who do not see that the one proceeding is but an evanescent form of the other. It is alike our highest wisdom and our highest duty to regard that through which all things exist as The Unknowable.
This passage seems to combine important truths with serious errors. First, we must ask, what sort of “religion” is this? The doctrine that we cannot form even an approach to a conception of that which underlies phenomena” means, as we saw, that the absolute has nothing in common with the finite,— God has nothing in common with man, nor man with God. The best qualities of our nature may develop to the uttermost, but by this we come to have less in common with the Absolute, less resemblance to it, than the formless life of feeling in which consciousness began; and our knowledge may grow to any extent without coming any nearer to a knowledge of the Absolute. But if so, surely the very existence of the Absolute is best forgotten, and our energies turned to the many interests arising out of the region which can
be known. Suppose we were gazing in the dead face of a sphinx,-a face without motion, expression, or life,—would it not be mere imbecility to indulge a feeling of awe and reverence ? Even so would it be to reverence “the unknowable Energy from which all things proceed,” if it is utterly unknowable. We should have to recognise that what Spencer calls “the truly religious element in religion” would be little more than a form of mental disease. If we try to exalt the Absolute into a region beyond thought and beyond expression, we shall have to return to the view of Comte and Hume, that the Absolute does not exist for us: we could no more indulge feelings towards it than we could indulge them in the questions at issue in “lunar politics.” Professor Huxley expressed the legitimate conclusion when he said :
If a man asks me what the politics of the inhabitants of the moon are, and I reply that I do not know; that neither I, nor any one else, have any means of knowing ; and that, under these circumstances, I decline to trouble myself about the subject at all, I do not think he has any right to call me a sceptic. On the contrary, in replying thus, I conceive that I am simply honest and
truthful, and show a proper regard for the economy of time. So Hume's strong and subtle intellect takes up a great many problems about which we are naturally curious, and shows us that they are essentially questions of lunar politics, in their essence incapable of being answered, and therefore not worth the attention of men who have work to do in the world. And he thus ends one of his Essays : “If we take in hand any volume of divinity, or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence ? No. Commit it then to the flames; for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”
But Spencer, notwithstanding the inconsistency, is driven to recognise the reality of an infinite Power, everywhere present and active; and Huxley, notwithstanding these brave words, finds that if we stay by the positivist view of Nature, knowing nothing but her outward events, we have an inexplicable mystery on our hands. The great value of his Romanes Lecture on Evolution and Ethics lies in its forcible assertion of the divergence between the “ethical process” which the human spirit has created, and the phenomenal cosmic process. Whence comes this imperious tendency in man's
nature to construct a kingdom of his own, independently of the outwardly unmoral and inhuman forces of Nature, and sometimes in direct opposition to them? Nay, set aside all other forms of the human ideal, and consider the realisation of knowledge only. How is it that the human race never falls into lasting intellectual despair, but attacks its problems with renewed energy again, and ever again, with irresistible undying confidence in its power of reaching real knowledge at last ? Positivism itself does homage to this tendency, and practically recognises its ideal as supreme; and the question, What is its meaning, whence comes it? presses for an answer. According to the religious view of the world, it is the “Infinite and Eternal Energy from which all things proceed,” seeking to express and realise itself through a human ideal. So, too, we regard our ideals of Love and Goodness, and of Beauty, as affording interpretative insight into the Nature of the Absolute. This is not an evanescent form of the “anthropomorphism” of savages; it is an “anthropomorphism” which is capable
of growing in depth and critical power with the growth of human nature.
This brings us once more to see the strength of Comte's view, that the object of religion is Humanity. It is true that he missed an essential factor when he refused to allow that this object is an abiding and complete reality. The Religion of Humanity confines the divine life to the short process of human history; and the tendency of this limitation is to undermine the very sentiment of reverence which prompted it, and to deaden our sense of the infinite greatness and infinite mystery of the world. But none the less it is profoundly true that our highest conception of the Divine must be a conception derived directly from what is best in the human. This gives us a deeper and a truer “relativity of knowledge” than the one which Spencer has in view ; one which the author of an ancient book expressed thus :
“How shall we have strength to glorify Him? For he is himself greater than all his works. Many things greater than these are yet to be revealed; for we have seen but