Modern Dualism: Scientific and Philosophic Aspects
, under all its phases, is a totally different phenomenon from the Pessimism which we had occasion to consider in connection with our first course of Lectures. The pessimist sees in the universe nothing but evil. God is evil, man is evil, the world is evil, and there is no hope of improvement. The best thing were that whatever exists ceased to be, and that nothing remained but an infinite eternal void. Dualism, on the other hand, believes in good, above all in a good God. The very rationale of theistic dualism is zeal for the goodness of God, the wish to relieve the Divine Being of responsibility for whatever evil may be in the world. Various expedients may be resorted to for that end; but their common aim is to guard the moral purity of Deity against stain, and to maintain intact the creed that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. This is an attitude which all can honour, even when not convinced that the need for guarding the divine character is as great as the dualist supposes. Nor can the opinion of those who think the need is urgent be treated lightly, when it is remembered that it has been entertained by some of the greatest religious and philosophic thinkers of the past, such as Zoroaster in Persia, and Plato among the Greeks. The Zoroastrian method of guarding the divine purity was to invent an antigod, an evil spirit supposed to be the ultimate author of all the evil in the world, the good being credited to the benign spirit, Ahuramazda. Plato's method was different. He conceived of matter as existing independently of God, a datum
for the divine Architect of the cosmos, unalterable in its essential character, and presenting a certain intractableness to divine Power, so that, with the best intentions, God could not make the world absolutely good.1
By comparison with this Greek idea the device of Zoroaster may appear crude, but even it commands our respect in virtue of its aim. And when, amid such diversity in the nature of the solutions, we find the great thinkers of both peoples agreed in the feeling that there was a problem to be solved, we must pause before waiving the question aside as not worthy of consideration.
The mental activity of our age has given birth not only to a theistic dualism kindred to that of ancient times, but to what may be characterised as an agnostic dualism, of which the chief representative is Mr. Huxley. This distinguished scientist took a pessimistic view of nature, seeing in its methods of pursuing its ends in the process of evolution a brutal indifference to morality, which, apart from all other grounds of doubt, made the hypothesis of a divine Creator hard of credence. Yet Mr. Huxley was not a pessimist out and out. What saved him from sinking to that level was, besides his English good sense, his robust manly faith in the supreme worth and imperious obligations of morality. He was a dualist after a fashion: the conflict in his theory of the universe being not between a good God and a bad God, as Zoroaster conceived, or between a good God and an intractable primitive matter, as Plato imagined, but between Evolution and Ethics, or between a physical nature entirely innocent of morality and man, in so far as earnestly-minded to realise an ethical ideal. Man ethically-minded is a gardener cultivating a small patch of ground wherein he seeks to rear the fruits and flowers of human virtue, striving heroically to keep out the weeds of the wilderness beyond the fence, that is to say the moral barbarism of Nature. In the value which it sets on moral endeavour this agnostic dualism is Christian, though in his temper its author and advocate is a disciple of the Stoics rather than of Christ. The zeal for morality which it inculcates may well appear an alien phenomenon in a universe which is, so far as we know, without a good God or indeed a God of any kind, and is itself the product of a cosmic process that has no sort of relation to moral ends;2
and one may very reasonably doubt whether such zeal can long survive the theistic creed of which it forms an integral part. But let us be thankful that it does still survive here and there in agnostic circles, and acknowledge those who, without the support of faith, manfully fight for the right as friends, not foes, to the great cause which all true theists have at heart.
With this passing reference to a type of thought which discovers no divine element in the world save in man, I pass to speak more at length of dualism in the proper sense of the term, that is to say, of the religious philosophy which, believing in a Deity, makes it its business to protect his character from being compromised by evil. The view of Nature entertained by the representatives of this philosophy is not so dark as that of Mr. Huxley. It discovers some good in the cosmic process whereon an argument may be founded for goodness as an attribute of the Great First Cause. But it discovers also so much that is not good that it professes itself unable to retain faith in the divine goodness except on the hypothesis that its beneficent purpose has been thwarted by some counterworking power.
The rudiments of this dualistic theory may be discovered in Mr. John Stuart Mill's Three Essays on Religion
. The author of these posthumous essays is indeed far from being a satisfactory representative of the theory. He is almost as pessimistic in his conception of Nature as Mr. Huxley, and he is at the best a very faint-hearted and hesitating theist. The indictment he brings against the physical system of the universe for the brutalities it daily perpetrates is tremendous, and his summing up of the net results of Natural Theology on the question of the divine attributes is very disenchanting. Here it is. A Being of great but limited power, how or by what limited we cannot even conjecture; of great, and perhaps unlimited intelligence, but perhaps, also, more narrowly limited than his power: who desires, and pays some regard to, the happiness of his creatures, but who seems to have other motives of action which he cares more for, and who can hardly be supposed to have created the universe for that purpose alone.3
The summation is not only meagre in its total, but it adds together attributes suggestive of incompatible conceptions. The phrase of great but limited power fits into the hypothesis of a Being absolutely good in his intentions, but unable to do all he wishesthe conception proper to dualism. On the other hand, the formula in the last part of the statement referring to the divine motives of action goes on the assumption that the power of Deity is unlimited, that he is therefore responsible for all that happens, and that his moral character is to be judged accordinglyan idea emphatically negatived by the dualist.
The interest and value of Mr. Mill's views lies not in their adequacy or in their consistency, but in the fact that he was a man feeling his way. With an open, unprejudiced eye, and without the blinders of a philosophical or theological theory, he looked all round on the world, trying to learn from the things he observed what sort of a Being its Maker must be, assuming that it has one, and then honestly reported how it struck him. Every statement in the report of such an observer is worth noting, whether it agree with other statements or not. Accordingly, I note with interest what I have called the rudiments of a dualistic theory in the essay on Nature
. It is contained in this significant sentence: If we are not obliged to believe the animal creation to be the work of a demon, it is because we need not suppose it to have been made by a Being of infinite power.4
The facts to which the suggestive remark refers are those alluded to in the sentence preceding, which runs thus: If a tenth part of the pains which have been expended in finding benevolent adaptations in all nature had been employed in collecting evidence to blacken the character of the Creator, what scope for comment would not have been found in the entire existence of the lower animals, divided, with scarcely an exception, into devourers and devoured, and a prey to a thousand ills from which they are denied the faculties necessary for protecting themselves!5
It is implied that the blackening process might be carried the length of making out the Creator to be a very demon, and the suggested escape from that unwelcome conclusion is limitation of the Creator's power by what we may suppose to be the thwarting power of another demon. Malign influence is at work somewhere. If God be not the demon, then he must be discovered in an antigod of diabolic nature.
There is no evidence that Mr. Mill seriously entertained the project of reviving Persian dualism as the best possible solution of the problem raised by the conflicting phenomena of the universe. The notion of a demon counterworking the Good Spirit seems to have been a passing thought thrown out by an active mind fertile in suggestion.6
But one can never be sure that the stray hint of one thinker will not become the deliberate theory of another, especially in a time like the present, when men are extensively leaving the safe havens of traditional opinions and launching out on new voyages of discovery. At such a time long-extinct theories may be revived with the ardour and confidence inspired by fresh revelations, and crude notions propounded with all the gravity of scientific method. It is not the part of wisdom to treat such escapades of modern religious thought with contempt. They at least serve to show that there is some problem troubling men's minds which has not yet received a generally accepted solution, and when a sincere thinker frankly tells us that he is among the malcontents and has something better to offer, the least we can do is to listen respectfully. Ardent optimists may exclaim: After Browning who would have expected a recrudescence of dualism, not to speak of pessimism! Yet dualists may make their appearance just because there are men amongst us who have learned the lesson of Browning too well, and who judge the world by the standard of an extravagant abstract optimism for which the great poet cannot be held responsible.
A really capable and well-reasoned defence of a dualism of the Persian type has recently been given to the world in a book entitled Evil and Evolution
, by the author of The Social Horizon
. Its sub-title is: An attempt to turn the light of modern science on to the ancient mystery of evil. The author accepts without reserve the theory of evolution by the survival of the fittest, involving struggle and the destruction of the less fit, as true to the actual facts of this universe. But he does not regard the actual as the only possible, or the necessary, state of matters. Something, he holds, went wrong in the evolutionary process at a far-back stage, whence came in all the dark features which have perplexed theists and supplied writers like Mill with copious material for a Jeremiad against Nature. And who or what caused the wrong? The unhesitating answer of our author is: The devil. As a man living in the nineteenth century, imbued with the scientific spirit, and aware that in the view of many the idea of a devil is finally and for ever exploded, he feels that an apology is due to his readers for reviving so antiquated a conception. His apology is that that conception renders the origin and nature of evil comparatively simple and intelligible, and that to eliminate Satan is to make the moral chaos around us more chaotic, the darkness more impenetrable, the great riddle of the universe more hopelessly insoluble, while retention of belief in his existence is the only condition upon which it is possible to believe in a beneficent God.7
For taking up this position he has received the thanks of reviewers in religious periodicals, not so much, apparently, because it offers a satisfactory solution of a vexed question, as because it is in one point a return to old-fashioned orthodoxy. But he himself professes no interest in orthodoxy as such. He rests his claim to consideration solely on the arguments by which he endeavours to show that the hypothesis of a devil or an antigod, bent on doing all the mischief he can, throws light on phenomena connected with the evolution of the universe not otherwise explicable, and irreconcilable with that goodness of God in which he firmly believes.
The author of Evil and Evolution
is not so pessimistic in his view of Nature as Mr. Huxley or even Mr. Mill. He believes the good to be the stronger force in the world.8
He is not inclined to exaggerate the physical evils of the animal world; he is rather disposed to believe that they are enormously less than they are often represented. The well-known phrase to which Tennyson gave currency: Nature red in tooth and claw, conveys, he thinks, a very false impression. Nature on the whole, he maintains, is nothing of the kind. Nature is all aglow with pleasuredashed with pain just here and there. The rule everywhere is the prevalence of happiness. Evil is the comparatively trivial exception. It cannot reasonably be disputed that, taking the world all over, and all its phases of life, the laws of Nature are overwhelmingly productive of good, and that evilthough frightful enough in the aggregate regarded absolutelyis after all only what might be produced by a very slight disturbance of the perfect adjustment of things.9
He finds in the animal kingdom not merely voracity, but altruism, at work. It came in just at the point where it was needed, at that stage in the evolution of the animal world when it became possible for selfishness to be in any sense an evil.10
He sees the evidence of the presence and power of the new principle of love in the predominance of parental affection over selfishness, in the case of animals with their young, and in the attachments which, apart from parental affection and sexual passion, animals are capable of towards one another.
On the whole, the world is so good that one cannot sufficiently wonder why it is not better. It cannot be the Creator's fault. The prevalence of happy life, and the inbringing of a beneficent principle counteractive of selfishness just at the proper point, reveal what the Creator aimed at. His benignant will is further shown in other instances in which, when a law of nature is in danger of becoming a source of evil, its action is suspended by the action of another law. A case in point is: water contracting and becoming denser by cold down to a certain temperature, below which it begins to expand and grow lighter, having for result that ice floats on the surface instead of sinking to the bottom, to lie there for ever and go on accumulating till the sea became a solid mass and life impossible.11
Such facts, it is argued, show what the world might have been, and would have been, had the Creator been able to carry out his intention: laws always modified or counteracted when in danger of becoming hurtful; love made so strong as to keep in due subjection the selfishness which has filled the animal world with internecine strife.
Whence the great miscarriage? From the interference of a being possessing the intellect and the power of a god and the malignity of a devil.12
He is to be conceived as looking out upon the work of creation, watching his chance of doing mischief on a great scale, and finding it at the point where, in the slow unfolding of life, love and selfishness first came into conflict.13
Not that that is supposed to be the time at which the Satanic monster began to exist, or even to act suo more
. Both his existence and his malign activity are dated as far back as the day-dawn of creation, or shortly after.14
But his first serious stroke of business as a marrer of God's work consisted in altering the relative strength of selfishness and love, so as, against the Creator's intention, to secure for selfishness the predominance. If you ask how that was done, the modern reviver of Persian dualism cannot tell; he can only speak of the fell achievement as a disturbance of the divinely ordered adjustment by some inscrutable modification of law. The Satanic method generally is to bring about maladjustment. He is not a law-maker, or a worker according to law, but a disturber of law. The good Spirit, the Creator, works, we are told, by means of law and only by means of law, but his arch-enemy works by the disturbance of law to the effect of producing flaws and failures in the established order of nature.15
This one disturbance of the divinely intended balance between the principle of selfishness and the counter-principle of love was momentous and tragic enough. We have only to imagine what evolution without this maladjustment might have been, to realise in some degree the extent of the mischief. In the unmarred world of God the struggle for existence would have had no place. In consequence of that, birds and beasts of prey would not have been evolved.16
Tigers and hyænas, vultures and sharks, ferrets and polecats, wasps and spiders, puff-adders and skunks, would have been as conspicuous by their absence as Neros and Buonapartes and millionaires.17
For it is the struggle for existence that has produced birds and beasts of prey, and in all probability it is the malignity of the struggle that has produced the venom of so many reptiles.18
Then, in a world in which there was no wholesale destruction there would be no need for the immense fertility that characterises many species of living creatures, which at once supplies food for foes and makes foes necessary to keep teeming life within bounds. The cod-fish would produce only as many young as are left after its predatory enemies have done their utmost to destroy its millions of progeny. For the fertility of the actual world is to be conceived as the result of the destruction that goes on, and the destruction in turn as the effect of the fertility. Destruction demands and produces superabundance, and superabundance destruction.19
Within the human sphere, in the world of divine intention, the state of things would have corresponded to that of the ideal animal world. War would have been unknown. Animals would not have been killed for food. The hunting and pastoral occupations of primitive society would have had no existence. Men would have been content to live on such fruits and vegetables as they could find till they learned the arts of agriculture. Vegetarianism would have been the order of the day.20
Verily a different world from the one we actually live in! And all the difference is due to the one act of interference whereby a malignant spirit secured for the selfish principle preponderant power in the universe.
How are we to conceive this malevolent being, and what precise place are we to assign him in the scale of being? At first view he appears mightier than God, possessed of skill and power to get and keep the reins of the universe in his hands. How he ever came to be is a question that will have to be looked at hereafter; meantime we wish to know what idea we are to form of his nature and endowments. Our guide here must be his achievements; and these suggest a being of very imposing attributes. The modern dualist, accordingly, while careful to place him beneath God, invests him with very godlike qualities. The Satan of most recent invention is a being after this fashion. He was in existence from the beginning of the world, and from the beginning was on evil bent, not, like Milton's Satan, a good angel at first, who subsequently fell.21
He has a nature akin to that of God; is, like God, a spiritual power endowed with similar faculties combining the intellect and energy of God with the malignity of a devil.22
He has godlike perception, enabling him to comprehend the intricacies of the cosmic system, the possibilities latent in primordial matter, and the hidden nature of all physical forces such as that of gravitation.23
He can impose his will on the elementary particles of matter, lay down laws, fit one law for modifying or balancing another, and disturb the adjustments made by the Creator.24
He cannot wreck creation, but his power is equal to unsettling the balance and seriously disturbing the divine adjustment of things.25
He has been engaged in this bad work during the millions of years that have elapsed since the world began, and, as we must suppose that the good Spirit would gladly have put an end to his evil influence long ago, if it had been possible, the inference is that the wicked Spirit is too potent to be readily subdued and overcome; that his power, indeed, approximates to that of the Supreme Being himself.26
Yet this approximation must be taken cum grano
. The supremacy of the Great First Cause must be guarded, and in order to that it must be held as an article of faith, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, that between the potency of the evil Spirit and that of the good Spirit there is an infinity of difference.27
Satan could neither create a world, nor prevent another from creating it; he could only mar a world already made.28
And though he be so strong that the Maker of the Universe, however desirous, cannot destroy him and his influence offhand, yet his doom is eventual defeat and destruction. The time will come in the far future when the benignant Creator shall reign with a sway absolutely undisputed.29
In proceeding to criticise this latest attempt at a dualistic theory of the universe, I frankly own at the outset that it deserves at least the praise of ingenuity. The modern Satan is skilfully constructed. The construction proceeds on the inductive method of modern science. First, all the good elements and beneficent aspects of the universe are picked out, and from these are formed the idea of the Being to whom is assigned the honourable position and name of the Creator. Then the remaining features, forming the dark side of nature, are collected and examined. From their wholly diverse character it is inferred, in the first place, that they must owe their existence to a Being whose spirit is absolutely antagonistic to that of the Creator. From the proportion which the evil element bears to the good, and from the relation in which the former stands to the latter, the status, attributes, and modus operandi of the evil Spirit are determined. The whole process bears a look of patient investigation which seems to justify the claim made for Evil and Evolution that it is an attempt to turn the light of modern science on to the ancient mystery of evil.
The attempt, however, is very open to criticism.
1. I remark in the first place, that the scheme of thought whereof an outline has been given has for its underlying postulate what may be characterised as an extravagant optimism of a peculiar type. There are at least three distinguishable forms of optimism. There is the type of which Browning is the best-known modern representative, which says: In the actual world there is much wrong, but all is in course of becoming right, and thinks that enough to justify God and content reasonable men. Then there is the optimism of the pantheist, which says: The actual world as it is is right. There is, finally, the optimism of the modern dualist, which differs from both the preceding types: from pantheistic optimism by maintaining that in the actual world there is much that is wrong, and from optimism of the Browning type by maintaining that the mere fact that the wrong is in course of being set right does not furnish a sufficient vindication of Providence. Faith in an absolutely good God it holds to be untenable on the hypothesis that God is responsible for the actual world, though all the evil that is in it be destined to be ultimately eliminated. Therefore it takes refuge in the ideal world, the world of might-have-been
, and which would have been if God had got his own way. That world, as it lives in the dualistic imagination, might be described as a paradise never lost, and therefore not needing to be regained. Pain practically unknown, predatory instincts non-existent, the wolf dwelling with the lamb, and the leopard lying down with the kid; man from the beginning a perfect creature in a perfect environment,30
thinking always right thoughts on questions of good and evil, showing no desire to do wrong; even primitive man utterly free from savagery, and innocent of hunting and warring propensities; development possible but ever normal and free from sin, and deriving its moral stimulus, not from pain and sorrow, but from pleasure and joy.31
In that happy, harmless world death would not be unknown, but it would come merely as sleep after a long day's work, or like the fading of a flower, the dropping of fruit in the late autumn, the dying out of the light of day to the dreamy music of the birds and the babbling of the brooks.32
It would be as easy to die in such a world as in a world of perfect health, there is abundant reason to believe, it would be to be born.33
It would be such a delightful world, indeed, that merely to live in it for, say, a hundred years, would satisfy all legitimate cravings for existence; a hereafter would not be felt to be necessary.34
Such is the ideally best world of dualistic dreams. It may be a very good world, so far as sentient happiness is concerned, but is it in any true sense a moral world? The demand of the theory is that in the lower animal creation there shall be little pain,35
and in the human sphere not only little pain but no sin
. It postulates not merely that there may
be a world without sin, but that there must,
be, in so far as divine intention is concerned, if we are to believe that God is good. Such is the kind of world we should have had but for diabolic interference. The author of Evil and Evolution
assumes that at this point he is in accord with the author of Genesis. He credits the book of Genesis with the view that God made man absolutely perfect, and that man would have continued such had not Satan seduced him into evil.36
There is reason for thinking that, following the example of scholastic theologians, our author has read into the story of Adam a meaning which its statements will not bear. But there can be no doubt that the opinion he imputes to the sacred writer is at least his own. He believes that the primitive man, the outcome of a slow secular process of evolution, was in the strict sense morally perfect. This conception raises some hard questions. How did it come about that a morally perfect man was so easily tempted even by a tempter of diabolic skill? Ought not a morally perfect being to be temptation-proof? Then, if, as is supposed, the good God was able to conduct the evolution of the human creature, with entire success, up to that point, in spite of all Satanic attempts at marring the great work of making a morally perfect being, why should he encounter such fatal frustration after that consummation had been reached? Lastly, and above all, one is forced to ask: Is this notion of a moral subject made perfect and guaranteed against lapse by Divine power not destructive of morality? The reality of moral distinctions may be undermined in more than one way. One way is that of the pantheist who affirms that moral evil, so called, is in its own place good. But another way is that of the modern dualist, who in effect affirms that in a divinely ordered universe moral evil would be impossible. May one not venture to say that the actual universe, full though it be of wrong, is preferable to the imaginary universe from which wrong is excluded by divine omnipotence? Compulsory holiness is not holiness; it is simply the mechanical service of a tool.
2. The exemption of the good Spirit from responsibility for the misery and sin of the actual world is purchased at a great price. That price is not merely, or even chiefly, the sacrifice of divine omnipotence; it is rather the reluctant acceptance of the repulsive, hideous conception of an absolutely bad, unmitigatedly malignant antigod. One's whole soul rises in rebellion against this revolting notion. Is it possible to believe that such a being, evil from the beginning, can exist? How could he ever come to be? The author of Evil and Evolution
declines to look at this question, but it cannot be evaded by any radical advocate of dualism. There are just two alternatives: either the evil Spirit, like the good Spirit, is unoriginated, eternal;37
or he owes his being, like all other creatures, to the good Spirit. The former alternative amounts to this, that good and evil are both alike divine; a position which involves at once the cancelling of moral distinctions and the destruction of Deity. If good and evil be both alike divine, then there is no ground for preferring good to evil save personal liking. If there be two gods with equal rights, though radically opposed to each other, then there is no god. Two rival gods, like two rival popes, destroy each other, and leave the universe without a divine head.
With the other alternativeSatan the creature of the good Spiritwe are in an equally hopeless predicament. What is gained by relieving God of responsibility for all other evil in the world, if we end by making him responsible for the existence of the malign being by whom all the mischief has been wrought? Is not the presence in the universe of such an absolutely wicked spirit an infinitely greater evil than all the other evils put together? Better make God the Creator of evil under mitigated forms than the Creator of a hideous being who is an unmitigated evil, and through whose diabolic agency He becomes indirectly the cause of all the evil that happens. There is, doubtless, one door by which the Deity may seem to escape responsibility for the badness of Satan and his work, viz., by the hypothesis that Satan was created good and afterwards lapsed into evil. But it is observable that our author does not avail himself of this way of escape. He could not, consistently with his view of God's relation to moral agents as that of one able and willing to guard a moral world conceived as good against the intrusion of evil. If Satan was once good, why did not God keep him from falling?
3. The dualistic scheme under review, while making pretensions to scientific method, is unscientific, in so far as it destroys the unity of the universe. The universe ceases to be the homogeneous result of a uniform process of evolution, and becomes the heterogeneous effect of two processes counterworking each other. And the two processes are not only opposite in tendency, but discrepant also in their method of working. The Creator works only by law, his antagonist works by occasional disturbance of law. The Creator's action is natural, that of his antagonist is unnatural, and in a sense supernatural or miraculous. The Creator is immanent in the world, and works in it from within through its inherent laws and forces. His antagonist is transcendent, and works upon the world from without as a disturbing influence. The whole conception implies a separation between the evil and the good in nature which has no existence. The two in reality are closely interwoven, and are to be regarded as complementary effects of the same causes. Such is the judgment of Mr. John Stuart Mill, who, while not committing himself to the dualistic hypothesis, has, more than any other scientific man of modern times, expressed himself favourably regarding it. Discussing the attributes which observation of nature justifies us in ascribing to God, he thus writes: The indications of design point strongly in one directionthe preservation of the creatures in whose structure the indications are found. Along with the preserving agencies there are destroying agencies, which we might be tempted to ascribe to the will of a different Creator; but there are rarely appearances of the recondite contrivance of means of destruction, except when the destruction of one creature is the means of preservation to others. Nor can it be supposed that the preserving agencies are wielded by one Being, the destroying agencies by another. The destroying agencies are a necessary part of the preserving agencies: the chemical compositions by which life is carried on could not take place without a parallel series of decompositions. The great agent of decay in both organic and inorganic substances is oxidation, and it is only by oxidation that life is continued for even the length of a minute.38
The conclusion to be drawn from such facts is expressed by Mr. Mill in these terms: There is no ground in Natural Theology for attributing intelligence or personality to the obstacles which partially thwart what seem the purposes of the Creator.39
4. The advocates of dualism may justly be charged with morbid views of the evil that is in the world. They look on some things as evil that are not, they exaggerate the evils that do exist, and they largely overlook the fact that evil is good in the making, or a possible good not understood. The author of Evil and Evolution
regards vegetarianism as a necessary feature in the world as it ought to be. Is that dictum to be accepted as final? He reckons birds and beasts of prey as creatures of the evil Spirit. Have they not some useful functions in the worldthe vulture, e.g.
, as one of Nature's scavengers? Of the exaggerative habit we have an interesting instance in Mr. Mill's remarks on childbirth, which are as follows: In the clumsy provision which she (Nature) has made for that perpetual renewal of animal life, rendered necessary by the prompt termination she puts to it in every individual instance, no human being ever comes into the world but another human being is literally stretched on the rack for hours or days, not unfrequently issuing in death.40
Compare with this the saying of Jesus: A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.41
Which of these two utterances is the healthier in sentiment and the truer to the feelings of the sufferers concerned?
It might help to cure the dualistic mood if those who suffer from it would make a study of the good that is in evil. They might take a course of lessons from Emerson, and con well such a passage as this: Wars, fires, plagues, break up immovable routine, clear the ground of rotten races and dens of distemper, and open a fair field to new men. There is a tendency in things to right themselves, and the war or revolution or bankruptcy that shatters a rotten system allows things to take a new and natural order. The sharpest evils are bent into that periodicity which makes the errors of planets and the fevers and distempers of men self-limiting. Nature is upheld by antagonism. Passions, resistance, dangers, are educators. We acquire the strength we have overcome. Without war, no soldier! without enemies, no hero! The sun were insipid if the universe were not opaque. And the glory of character is in affronting the horrors of depravity to draw thence new nobility of power
And evermore in the world is this marvellous balance of beauty and disgust, magnificence and rats. Not Antoninus, but a poor washerwoman, said, The more trouble the more lion; that's my principle. 42
From the same master the dualist might learn how many so-called evils are evil only relatively to man's ignorance. The world for the savage is full of devils which become good angels for the man who knows their use. Water, air, steam, fire, electricity, have all been devils in their time. Steam, writes Emerson, was, till the other day, the devil which we dreaded. Every pot made by any human potter or brazier had a hole in its cover to let off the enemy, lest he should lift pot and roof and carry the house away. But the Marquis of Worcester, Watt, and Fulton bethought themselves that where was power was not devil, but was God; that it must be availed of, and not by any means let off and wasted.43
This is wholesome teaching, though it come from one whose optimism may be deemed extreme. I had rather think with Emerson than with Huxley and Mill concerning Nature. Of Huxley one has said that he is as positive, and, one might add, as enthusiastic, in his faith that all things work together for evil to those who love, as Plato and Paul were that all things work together for good.44
It is easy to see on which side the superior sanity of thought lies.
But at this point we may be reminded that there was a dualistic element both in the Platonic and in the Pauline system; and the fact may be pointed to in proof that even with the utmost desire to take an optimistic view of things strenuous and candid thinkers find dualism in some form unavoidable. Plato believed in an intractable matter, Paul in a Satan; not identical, indeed, in all respects with the Satan of modern invention, still occupying a somewhat similar position in the universe as the malignant marrer of God's work.
The statement cannot be denied, and it certainly suffices to show that to carry out the programme of absolute optimism is difficult if not impossible. The intractable matter of the Greek philosopher and the Satan of the Christian apostle testify to the presence in the physical and moral universe of a perplexing mystery which speculative reason finds it hard to clear up. Whether either of the solutions does more than confess the mystery and call it by a peculiar name is another question. We may, if we choose, consider which of the two names is to be preferred. The impersonal abstraction of Plato is more in accordance with Western habits of thought, while the embodiment of evil in a malignant personality commended itself to the realistic Semitic mind. Then the suggestion that the imperfection of the world is due to the unmanageableness of the raw material out of which it was built, is free from the moral repulsiveness attaching to the conception of an intelligent agent absolutely devoted to the bad vocation of doing all the mischief in the world he can. But the more important question is, Whether our minds can find final rest in either of the suggested solutions of the problem? The intractableness of matterwhy intractable? Because matter is independent of God, and with its inherent properties pre-exists as a ready-made datum
for the divine Architect who proposes as far as may be to turn it into a cosmos
. Can reason rest in this view of God's relation to the world? How much more satisfactory to think of the physical universe, whether eternal or not, as having its origin in God, as existing through spirit and for spirit, and thoroughly plastic in the hands of its divine Maker? On this view the intractableness vanishes; there is nothing in matter which God has not put there, and which He cannot use for His purposes.45
Turn now to the Semitic conception of a personal obstructer, which may or may not have come into Jewish theology from Persia, and consider how far it offers a final resting-place for thought wrestling with the problem of evil. We note first, with satisfaction, that the Biblical Satan has a much more restricted range of action than the Satan of modern dualism. The latter begins to meddle almost at creation's dawn, and becomes specially active at the point where the principle of altruism first makes its appearance in the animal worldthat is to say, ages before the evolution of life culminated in man. The Satan of Scripture, on the other hand, becomes active, for the first time, in the human sphere, his one concern being to wreck the moral world whose possibility was provided for by the advent of man. The writer of Genesis conceives of the creation up to that point as good, no fault to be found in the inanimate or lower animate world; herein differing both from Plato, who imagined that even the primitive hyle was not free from fault, and from the author of Evil and Evolution, who places Satanic activity far back in the history of creation. Satan appears in Scripture as the enemy of moral good, as an unbeliever in it, and as a tempter to moral evil. In Genesis the conception of an external tempter, in the mythological guise of a serpent, is employed to make more easily comprehensible the origin of sin, the doing of wrong by human beings previously free from transgression. In later Scriptures the same being, now called Satan, appears in the same capacity, endeavouring to seduce good menDavid, Job, Jesusto do evil actions contrary to their character.
Such is the function of Satan in the Bible. Waiving the ontological question of objective reality, what we have to ask is, Does the idea of a superhuman tempter really solve the problem as to the origin of evil in the first man or in any man? Who can understand his errors? asks the Psalmist. Sometimes it is not easy; and in such cases we may employ the hypothesis of a transcendental tempter as a way of expressing the difficulty which impresses the imagination while it fails to satisfy the reason. This is all that it does, even in the case of Adam. Who, we naturally inquire, can understand his error? the error ex hypothesi of a previously errorless man. But do we understand it even with the aid of the tempting serpent, on any view of the primitive state? If it was a state of moral perfection in the strict sense, ought not the first man to have been temptation-proof, especially against such rudimentary forms of temptation as are mentioned in the story? If it was only a state of childish innocence, does not the introduction of supernatural agency invest with an aspect of mystery what is in itself a comparatively simple matter, the lapse of an utterly inexperienced person? The same remark applies to the case of David. In the pages of the Chronicler David appears as a saint, his moral shortcomings, faithfully recorded in the earlier history, being left out of the account; and Satan is represented as tempting him to number the people, as if to make conceivable how so good a man could do an action displeasing to God. But it is not difficult to imagine how even a godly king might be betrayed into a transaction of the kind specified by very ordinary motives. In the case of saints generally it may be remarked that their moral lapses would not appear so mysterious as they are sometimes thought to be, if the whole truth as to their spiritual state were known. The habit of referring these lapses, as otherwise incomprehensible events, to Satanic temptation is not free from danger. It tends to self-deception, and to the covering over of some hidden evil in the heart which urgently needs looking after.
Such abuses of the Biblical idea of a supernatural tempter are carefully to be guarded against. But the mischief they work is a trifle compared with the havoc produced by ascribing to Satanic agency the whole moral evil of mankind. That means that, but for Satanic interference, the page of human history would have been a stainless record of the lives of perfect men kept from falling by the gracious power of God. Such a view carries two fatal consequences. It convicts God of impotence, and it relieves men of responsibility. The one mighty being, and the one sinner in the world, is Satan. The story of our race is dark enough, but it is not so dark as that. It is the story of a race of free moral agents who are not the puppets of either Deity or devil. The sin of man is not a witness to a frustrated God, but to a God who would rather have sin in the world than have a world without sin because tenanted by beings physically incapacitated to commit it. The very transgression of a free responsible being is in God's sight of more value than the involuntary rectitude of beings who are forcibly protected from going wrong. If there is to be goodness in the world, it must be the personal achievement of the good. Not indeed of the good unaided. The Divine Being is more than an onlooker. He co-operates in every way compatible with due respect for our moral personality. Our Redeemer, from everlasting, is Thy name. That
, God has been from the first, and throughout the entire history of man. Morean absolute preventer of evil, e.g.
He cannot be, simply because He values morality. But a Redeemer He truly is, and His work as such cannot be frustrated by any number of Satans, ancient or modern. If a Satan exists, it must be because it is always possible for a moral subject to make a perverted use of his endowments. If such a perverted being tempt man, his malign influence is simply a part of the untoward environment amid which they have to wrestle with evil. He cannot do more than make a subtle use of the evil elements in our own nature, with which alone we need concern ourselves. Let us watch our own hearts, and Satan will never have a chance. If he do gain an advantage over us, it may be for our ultimate benefit by showing where unsuspected weakness lies. Let us throw off the incubus of an omnipotent devil conjured up by modern dualism, and go on our way with good hope, and full faith that God is with us, and that He is stronger than all powers, visible or invisible, that may be arrayed against us.46