The Logic of Subjective Religion in Kant How such Religion arises in the Life of Individuals and Nations Development of Buddhism out of Vedic Pantheism The Absolute Self of the Upanishads The Great Deliverance of Buddha Its Negative Character Place of Universal Charity in its Moral Code Subjective Movement of Greek Thought in Anaxagoras and Socrates Partial Restoration of an Objective View of Things in Plato and Aristotle Final Triumph of Subjective Individualism Comparison, of Stoicism With Buddhism How Stoicism combines its Subjective Ethics with Religion.
IN the last Lecture I explained Kant's way of vindicating morality and religion against the doctrine of what is now commonly called Positivism. Positivism, as a philosophical system, seeks to universalise the principles upon which science explains the phenomena of matter, and thereby to exclude from the world, or at least from the knowable world, everything that does not fall under the necessity of nature. Kant answers, not by denying the validity of the principles upon which science is based, or by asserting the existence of any exceptions to the reign of law which it seeks to establish, but by showing that the system of nature implies a principle which is above nature. His first step, therefore, is to point out that all objects are relative to the conscious self, and that, this being so, the self cannot be brought under the laws it applies to objects. And his second step is to maintain that the pure consciousness of self is the source of a universal law, which binds us as subjects irrespective of special circumstances of our individual existence as objects, standing in definite relations to other objects. Furthermore, he maintains that with the consciousness of this law there necessarily goes a conviction of the possibility of realising it, and a belief in the existence of all the conditions that are required for such realisation. Thus, by our subjective consciousness of self we are lifted above the phenomenal world and all the limitations under which it exists as an object of knowledge; and, at the same time, we gain an insightincomplete indeed, but certaininto a reality which is not phenomenal. We rise to faith in a God, who is fulfilling in the outward world the law of our spirits, and, therefore, to a certainty that the moral end to which that law points is attainable, and, indeed, that it will necessarily be attained.
My object in thus dealing with the Kantian theory, however, was not to criticise Kant, but to show the nature of the subjective movement of reflexion, of which he is the greatest philosophical exponent. For the Kantian philosophy exhibits, in the clearest and most explicit form, the inner logic of the process which gives rise to the second of the three great types of religion of which we have spoken. In other words, it reveals to us the rationale of the change from objective to subjective religion. To the earliest consciousness of the individual and the race, nothing can present itself except in an external form. In this stage even the subject has to be conceived simply as one of its own objects; and, as a necessary consequence, God also, the absolute unity of subject and object, must find some outward form in which to reveal or to hide His infinitude. At the same time, even while this external way of representation prevails, it is not to be supposed that men are entirely satisfied with it. On the contrary, there is scarcely a single man who does not at times see or feel its inadequacy, although he may be at a loss to describe exactly what is wanting to it. Almost all men at some period or another,most frequently in the crisis of youth, in which they first become intellectually awakened to the mystery of life,recoil upon themselves from the inadequacy of the world. They may not be able, like Kant, to work out the objective view of things to its result, and explicitly to recognise where it fails. But the sense of the transitoriness, the illusiveness, and the imperfection of the world, as it is revealed in our outward experience of it, throws them back upon themselves, and makes them seek within for what they fail to find without. They become for the time like subjective idealists in their sense of the solitariness of the individual soul, and their own image seems to stand between them and the world. Still more clearly we may trace the same movement in the history of the race. Fichte in Germany, and Carlyle in this country, have made it almost a common-place of the philosophy of history that there are two periods in national development, a period of intuition and faith, and a period of reflexion and criticism. In the former period the nation is occupied in forming its national beliefs, and expressing them in appropriate outward symbols; in building up its characteristic type of national institutions and customs, and in asserting itself against the world. In the latter period there is a decay of faith, a growing spirit of criticism, a relaxation in the energy of the political life of the people, and a feeling of discord with circumstances in individuals. At this stage the higher minds show an inclination to turn back upon themselves, to separate themselves from their social environment, to quarrel with the religious ideas and institutions which have been evolved by the national genius, and to seek a kingdom in their own souls. The spiritual life of man thus takes on a subjective and individualistic colour. Morality ceases to be the acceptance of the social duties which arise out of the life of citizenship, and becomes the obedience of the individual to the inner law of his own being. Religion ceases to be the worship of God who is revealed in outward nature, or in the social order of the family and the State, and becomes a reverence for a divine power that speaks only, or mainly, in the soul of the individual.
Now, as I have already said, the second type of religion thus originated is, like the first, abstract and imperfect. It must, therefore, give rise to the same conflict of matter and form which was fatal to the objective type; for the subjective without the objective is as unreal as the objective without the subjective. Still it remains true that the subjective movement indicates a relative advance in man's consciousness of himself, of the world and of God. For, although the mind turned back upon itself may become troubled and unhealthy, yet its pain and disease are necessary steps in the way to a higher life. He who has never got beyond the simple objective view of things, never felt the pains of inner loneliness, nor the agony of a self that cannot escape from its own shadow, is incapable of rising to that highest feeling of peace with God and man, which is not a sense of untroubled unity, but the consciousness of a unity won out of division, not the mere instinct of natural affection, but a love born of the conquest of self. For the reflexion which breaks the immediate bonds of man to nature, and of man to man, is necessary to the development of that independent spiritual life, that consciousness of being a law and an end to ourselves, upon which alone a truly spiritual union can be based.
Now, if we confine our view to pre-Christian times,1 there are three important examples of this kind of subjective religion and subjective morality which I am describing. These are (1) Buddhism, (2) the philosophical religion of later Greece, and most important of all, (3) the ethical monotheism of the Jews, as it manifested itself in the later prophets and the psalmists. Each of these has special peculiarities of its own, but they are all examples of that kind of religion which arises when man turns back from the objective to the subjective, and finds the voice of God mainly in the inner shrine of the heart. In this lecture I shall speak of the two former, reserving for the following lectures what I have to say of the religion of the Jews.
In Buddhism we have the first and extremest instance of recoil upon the subjective, a recoil, the vehemence of which is made more intelligible to us by the modern reproduction of it in Schopenhauer. In a former lecture2 I spoke of the way in which the Vedic religion culminated in a pantheism which was also an akosmism, i.e., which regarded all the objective forms of nature as well as of human life, and all mythological idealisations of these forms which had been constructed by the imagination of the Vedic poets,all finite things and beings, and all the deities formed in their image,as parts of the great world-illusion. All this is an illusion of diversity and change, beneath which is concealed the one real being, permanent, unchangeable, and absolute; the one divine substance, of which, however, all we can say is, that it is. Such pantheism, as we have seen, the euthanasia of objective religion; for he who looks away from the particular to the universal, from sense to thought, must in the long run turn his eyes back from all objects to the self, as the one principle to which they are all equally related. Accordingly, in the Upanishads the absolute is already identified with the real Self, and the abstraction which lifts us above particular objects passes into the reflexion which makes us turn away from objects altogether, and direct our thoughts to the subject within us. As we read in the Katha-Upanishad,3 The Self-existent pierced the openings (of the senses) so that they turn forward; therefore man looks forward, not backward unto himself. Some wise man, however, with his eyes closed and wishing for immortality, saw the Self behind. The wise, when he knows that that by which he perceives all objects in sleep and in waking is the great omnipresent Self, grieves no more. As the sun, the eye of the whole world, is not contaminated by the external impurities seen by the eyes, thus the one Self within all things is never contaminated by the misery of the world, being himself without. There is one eternal thinker, thinking non-eternal thoughts, who, though one, fulfils the desires of many. The wise who perceive him within their Self, to them belongs eternal peace, not to others. On this view, the external world is the stuff that dreams are made of, and the outwardly directed eye sees not anything but illusion. Hence also the desires that objects awake in us are vain and illusive. For they are chains which, by uniting us to the transitory and illusory world, make us the victims of an outward fatality, and this fatality, according to the Indian belief, extends not only to one life, but to an unlimited series of lives, in which the individual returns again and again to the world of shows under different shapes. For, so long as desire continues, it binds him to the illusion of life. So long, therefore, he must revolve in the purposeless vicissitude of birth and death, escaping from one form of transitory existence only to be reimprisoned in another. He who forms desires within his mind is born again through his desires here and there.4 To escape this fate, we must cut through the links of the chain that binds us to the wheel of necessity; we must close the openings of sense through which the outward world affects us, and root out the desires that make us seek an unreal happiness in it. Then, when we have done this, we shall be identified with Brahman, with the Universal Self, the only Being which is absolutely real, and in which the satisfaction of the soul can be found. In this way alone can we reach that harmony with self which is at the same time harmony with God, and free ourselves from the false dream of individuality, which draws us onward through life after life in the endless vicissitude, yet endless repetition of the finite, continually tempting us with the hope of finding without, a good which can be found only within. For what we really seek far off in other objects is always near us: it is our very inmost self. Verily a wife is not dear that you may love the wife; but that you may love the Self, therefore a wife is dear. Verily the worlds are not dear that you may love the worlds; but that you may love the Self, therefore the worlds are dear.5
This creed, taught already in the final philosophic interpretation of the Vedas, is the fundamental conception from which the religion of Buddha starts, and which he works out fearlessly to its ultimate consequences. Struggle, pain, and evil are to Buddha the necessary results of desire, and desire itself is the necessary result of the illusion in which the soul that looks beyond itself is necessarily entangled. Hence the miserable existence of all finite creatures who permit themselves to be tempted onward through the endless transmigrations of a world of shows, in which they never meet with anything real or permanent. Who will deliver its from this endless vicissitude of emptiness? No one, answers Buddha, can deliver another, but each one by the aid of my doctrine, can deliver himself. In nothing is Buddha more emphatic than in thus sending everyone back upon himself. According to the Book of the Great Decease, which appears to be one of the most authentic records of early Buddhism, Buddha answered the last appeal of his followers for more instruction by dwelling upon his own weakness, as the mere earthen vessel through whom the great message had come, and by referring them to the light which each man can find in his own soul.
What, then, Ananda? Does the order expect that of me? I have preached the truth without making any distinction between exoteric and esoteric doctrine: for, in respect of the truths, Ananda, the Tathâgata,6 has no such thing as the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back. Surely, Ananda, should there be any one who harbours the thought, It is I who will lead the brotherhood, it is he who should lay down instructions in any matter concerning the order. Now the Tathâgata thinks not that it is he who should lead the brotherhood, or that the order is dependent upon him. Why then should he leave instructions in any matter concerning the order? I, too, O Ananda, am now grown old, and full of years, my Journey is drawing to a close, I have reached my sum of days, I am turning eighty years of age; and just as a worn-out cart can only with much additional care be made to move along, so methinks the body of the Tathâgata can only be kept going with much additional care. It is only, Ananda, when the Thatâgata, ceasing to attend to any outward thing, or to experience any sensation, becomes plunged in that devout meditation of heart which is concerned with no material objectit is only then that the body of the Tathâgata is at ease.
Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. Be ye a refuge unto yourselves. Betake yourselves to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth as a lamp. Hold fast as a refuge to the truth. Look not for refuge to any one but yourselves.7
Sir Edwin Arnold is therefore speaking in the true spirit of Buddha when he makes him exhort his followers to turn from outward seeming to the truth revealed within, in the following terms:
This is enough to know. The phantasms are
The heavens, earths, worlds, and changes changing them,
A mighty whirling wheel of shape and show
Which none can stay or stem.
Pray not. The darkness will not lighten. Ask
Nought from the silence, for it cannot speak!
Vex not your mournful mind with pious pains.
Ah! brothers, sisters, seek
Nought from the helpless gods by gift or hymn,
Nor bribe with blood, nor feed with fruit and cakes.
Within yourselves deliverance must be sought,
Each man his prison makes.
Ye suffer from yourselves, none else compels,
None other holds you that ye live and die,
And whirl upon the wheel of change and turn
Its spokes of agony.8
The deliverance of Buddha is simple. It is to accept the doctrine that shows the illusion to be an illusion, and so to wither up the springs of all desires which presuppose that it is a reality. But this deliverance, as it is conceived by the Buddhist, carries him a step farther. For the subjective consciousness, which is thus freed from the illusion of objective existence, is by the same process emptied of all its contents: those contents consisting just in its relations to objects. With the extinction of all relations, even negative relations, to objects, the subject itself would disappear. Hence for the Buddhist the last illusion to be destroyed is the existence of the individual self; for the desire that this individual self should be preserved is the root, or parent, of all other desires that enslave us to external things, and bind us on the wheel of change. The will to live is the root of all evil, and the last enemy to be destroyed by him who is seeking for freedom from the sorrow of the world. Hence in loosing itself from outward things, the will must finally loose itself from itself. The illusion of life is the whole content of life, and therefore the self will itself disappear along with the shows against which it fights. Peace and rest for the weary are to be found, not in self-mortification, though that is on the way to it: not even in utter unselfishness or universal benevolence to all things that live, though that is far on the way to it: but only in the absolute dying out of the light of self-consciousness for want of fuel, the extinction of life and thought through the extinction of the will to live, the peace of Nirvana which is untroubled with any breath of vain desire, the peace of the dewdrop which melts into the silent sea never to be distinguished from it again.
This is the strange faith in which many centuries ago India found healing for its pains, and deliverance from the aimlessness and meanness of a life in which men were no longer bound together by effective national bonds or animated by worthy social ambitions. The nobler spirits of Indiathrown back upon themselves from a world in which they could no longer see any divine power revealed, but only a vain cycle of meaningless change; in which an empty desire was ever re-awaking to be anew cheated by a transitory and unreal satisfactionsought to find peace just by ridding themselves of every thought and feeling that was bound up with such a world. Nor did they shrink when they found that even the self must be extinguished in order to be freed from its pain. Hence the Buddhist rises to an all-embracing love or charity for all beings, immersed like himself in the pains of existence, only in the end to lose himself and all his fellow creatures in the empty peace of Nirvana, which is only not death because it is conceived so to speak as the death of death, the extinction of a life which is worse than death. Such an attitude of mind is explicable only as the extreme of the religion of subjectivity, in which even subjectivity loses its meaning. And from this also we are able to explain why Buddhism had power only as a protest or as a negative deliverance from the world, which led to no positive regeneration of it. Subjective religion is valuable mainly as a stage of transition, from a lower religion which is merely objective, to a higher religion which is both objective and subjective. In the case of Buddha, however, the recoil was so violent that the movement of progress was broken off; and the result was to provoke a reaction against the creed which had emptied heaven of all its gods, and to bring about a return to the very superstitions which Buddhism had condemned and overthrown.
At the same time it is necessary to remember one thing in qualification of this judgment. It is always a little unfair to estimate any movement of religious thought in the light of its utmost logical consequences: for, at least in the first instance, the intellectual and moral value of such a movement depends mainly, not on the goal to which it tends but on the course which it takes in the endeavour to reach that goal; and also, we may add, on its relation to the earlier forms of religion which it opposes. Buddhism is primarily a protest against a superstitious polytheism, with the social disorganisation which accompanied it; but in its recoil upon the inner life of the subject, it overbalanced itself and ultimately lost all things, even the subject itself, in the silence of Nirvana. Yet, on the way to this result, it passes through many moral and religious experiences which point to a higher idea of good than that which it finally reaches. Escaping from the pitfall of mere asceticism and self-torture, into which the Indian devotee was so apt to fall, Buddha declares that tile austerities of the religious life may indicate the same impure and self-seeking spirit which is shown by the life of luxury, and, in short, that, bodily exercise in itself profiteth nothing. Not nakedness, nor platted hair, nor dirt, not fasting, nor lying on the earth, not rubbing with dust, not sitting motionless, can purify a mortal who has not overcome desires. He who, though dressed in fine apparel, exercises tranquillity, is quiet, subdued, restrained, chaste, and has ceased to find fault with other beings, he indeed is a Brahmana, an ascetic, a friar.9 The true self-abnegation consists in a detachment from the world which makes it impossible for any outward thing to become our Waster. Look upon the world as a bubble, look upon it as a mirage: the king of death does not see him who thus looks down upon the world.10 And this detachment from personal feeling and desire is viewed at the same time as involving a universal sympathy, which, as it makes the joys and sorrows of others affect us equally with our own, leaves no room which led to no positive regeneration of it. Subjective religion is valuable mainly as a stage of transition, from a lower religion which is merely objective, to a higher religion which is both objective and subjective. In the case of Buddha, however, the recoil was so violent that the movement of progress was broken off; and the result was to provoke a reaction against the creed which had emptied heaven of all its gods, and to bring about a return to the very superstitions which Buddhism had condemned and overthrown.
At the same time it is necessary to remember one thing in qualification of this judgment. It is always a little unfair to estimate any movement of religious thought in the light of its utmost logical consequences: for, at least in the first instance, the intellectual and moral value of such a movement depends mainly, not on the goal to which it tends but on the course which it takes in the endeavour to reach that goal; and also, we may add, on its relation to the earlier forms of religion which it opposes. Buddhism is primarily a protest against a superstitious polytheism, with the social disorganisation which accompanied it; but in its recoil upon the inner life of the subject, it overbalanced itself and ultimately lost all things, even the subject itself, in the silence of Nirvana. Yet, on the way to this result, it passes through many moral and religious experiences which point to a higher idea of good than that which it finally reaches. Escaping from the pitfall of mere asceticism and self-torture, into which the Indian devotee was so apt to fall, Buddha declares that the austerities of the religious life may indicate the same impure and self-seeking spirit which is shown by the life of luxury, and, in short, that, bodily exercise in itself profiteth nothing. Not nakedness, nor platted hair, nor dirt, not fasting, nor lying on the earth, not rubbing with dust, not sitting motionless, can purify a mortal who has not overcome desires. He who, though dressed in fine apparel, exercises tranquillity, is quiet, subdued, restrained, chaste, and has ceased to find fault with other beings, he indeed is a Brahmana, an ascetic, a friar.11 The true self-abnegation consists in a detachment from the world which makes it impossible for any outward thing to become our Waster. Look upon the world as a bubble, look upon it as a mirage: the king of death does not see him who thus looks down upon the world.12 And this detachment from personal feeling and desire is viewed at the same time as involving a universal sympathy, which, as it makes the joys and sorrows of others affect us equally with our own, leaves no room for hatred or uncharitableness, for anger or revenge. Not even in the New Testament do we find the royal law, not to return evil for evil but to over-come evil with good, more explicitly announced than in the ethical writings of the Buddhists. Thus in the Dhammapada (or Pathways of the Law) we read, He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,in those who harbour such thoughts hatred will never cease. He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred will cease. For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time; hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule.13 Let a man overcome anger by love, let him overcome evil by good; let him overcome the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth.14
At the same time it is necessary to notice that the ground upon which this unselfish spirit is inculcated is purely negative, i.e. it is not the worth of the higher life of love, but the worthlessness of the lower life of selfish desirethe unreality and transitoriness of all finite goodupon which the main emphasis is laid. The world does not know that we must all come to an end here; but those who know it, their quarrels cease at once.15 What is the use of quarrelling about that which is worthless because it passes away? If, therefore, it be asked whether the Christian idea of charity is a higher thing than the Buddhist conception of a sympathy which passes over every barrier of caste and race and circumstance, and which in its universality embraces all men and even all animals, there is a ready answer. Buddhism, like the abstract Pantheism it opposes, has no distinguishing respect for the spiritual nature of man. It is a levelling doctrine which meets the indiscriminate Whatever is, is right,of Brahmanism, with an equally indiscriminate Whatever is, is wrong. It cannot set the qualities that make a man, above those that make a beast. And if its love extends to all men, and, we may even say, to all living beings, it is not that it regards them as having any real value in their individual existence, but that it looks upon them as all equally sufferers from the misery of existing. Hence it might be said that the universal charity of the Buddhist was only his second highest virtue; and that it held even so high a place as this only because such charity is the negation of all special regard for individual things. In its absence of personal feeling universal charity is nearest to that absolute silence of thought and feeling which is the extinction of the personal self. But it is in this natural extinction of self, and not in the moral extinction of selfishness which opens the way to the larger life of love, that the Buddhist finds the highest bliss and perfection. Or, to take the most favourable view, these are not, in his mind, distinguished from each other.
Buddhism, then, may be taken as the reductio ad absurdum of subjective religion, for it is that extreme form of it in which it most clearly shows its onesidedness and imperfection; in which indeed the subjective movement is carried so far as to break off all connexion with the object, and therefore to empty the subjective life itself of all contents. It not only sets the ideal against the real, but absolutely opposes the former to the latter, and, as a necessary consequence, it makes the ideal purely negative. Hence also it distinguishes itself in a peculiar way from other religions of the subjective type. For, while their general defect lies in thisthat they represent the Divine Being, who is properly the unity of object and subject, under the guise of an abstract subject, Buddhism carries the opposition of the subject to the object so far that it cannot admit their unity under any guise whatever. It is, therefore, a religion without a God. We might even say, it is an ethics without a religion, were it not that the pure negative movement of thought tends in its logical result to dissolve the moral as well as the religious life; for the opposition of the moral to the natural loses all its force when it is made absolute. When consciousness is thus brought into complete discord with itself, atonement is not possible. The only resource left is that, in the language of the Buddhists themselves, the light of consciousness should be blown out.
In Greece the subjective movement of thought took a higher character, as it was a recoil from a much higher kind of objective religiona religion in which the object worshipped was represented almost exclusively in the form of man. For, as man is a thinking subject as well as an object, so the worship of anthropomorphic deities was already a disguised worship of a spiritual principle; and with the advance of Greek art and poetry this disguise became more and more transparent. The unity of nature which shone through the diversity of the Vedic polytheism, was indeed concealed and lost in the multiplicity of the humanised gods; but as the consciousness of the ideal meaning of these fair humanities of old religion awoke, it could not but prepare men's minds for the conception of the spirituality of God. In this way the diversity of gods which have emerged from the unity of nature, tend again to lose themselves in the unity of spirit. This tendency manifests itself in the history of Greek religion by the early exaltation of Zeus, who is placed at the head of all the other gods as an absolute monarch, while the other divine powers are reduced into his ministers; but it reaches its logical result only in the philosophy of Greece.
The earliest Greek philosophy sought to discover an objective principle of unity in the world; but the only unity it reached was the pantheistic unity of a highest principle or substance, which remains one with itself through all the changes of phenomena. In the philosophy of Heraclitus the leading thought is still that of a law of necessity, which subjects to itself the endless play of the contingent; just as the humanised gods were subordinated to an inscrutable fate which they could not avert or alter. But with Anaxagoras the idea of a brute necessity subjecting all to itself disappears, and in its place comes the idea of a pure spiritual principle, which subdues the necessity of nature and uses it as its own instrument. All things were in chaos till reason came and arranged them. It is the judgment of Aristotle that in giving utterance to this principle, Anaxagoras was speaking the first sober word of Greek philosophy, while all before him had been like men talking at random. In truth, the era of subjective reflexion began with this saying; and Socrates was only following out the same idea in a new application when he made conscious reason the main authority in morals, and demanded that all institutions, customs, and rules should justify themselves before its bar. Like Buddha, Socrates called upon men to be their own deliverers:
Once read thine own breast right,
And thou hast done with fears,
Man gets no other light,
Search he a thousand years.
Sink in thyself! There, ask what ails thee, at that Shrine.16
Socrates, indeed, did not set the subjective against the objective. On the contrary, according to Xenophon, he tried to prove by the argument from design that the world is the manifestation of intelligence. But he was the first to lay emphasis on the subjective, and to teach, as it was expressed by a later writer, that it is by the god within that we know the god without. For he set up the reason of the individual as the highest authority and guide of his moral life, and demanded that the law of the state should vindicate itself before the inward tribunal.
The same thought runs through all the works of his great followers, Plato and Aristotle. Both of these maintain that the world is a rational system which reaches its culminating manifestation in the life of man. They admit, indeed, that reason must speak to man from without, through the visible world of nature and also through the laws and customs of civil society, ere it can be awakened to speak within him. They even admit that the majority of men are not capable of rising to the stage of self-conscious reason at all, and that they can have reason developed in them only so far as to accept its dictates from others. Still, the ultimate authority and motive power of social life is for them the conscious reason of the philosopher. And they hold that that reason never can speak to men from without with the clear self-evidencing power with which it speaks within, to those who are capable of hearing it. It is in the nature of things that practice should fall short of the truth of theory.17 Facts will not conform to ideas: but so much the worse for the facts. In the outward world there is a resisting powera brute necessity, which in another point of view is contingencyand this makes it impossible that pure reason should ever realise itself there. For, though reason, in the metaphorical language of the Timaeus, tries to persuade necessity, its persuasions are never quite successful. In Aristotle, we even find an anticipation of the doctrine of development, or at least the idea of a scale of being which reaches its summit in man. But the rational principle in man is not included in this hierarchy of nature. The pure reason in man is severed from the lower life of sense and desire, somewhat in the same way in which God, as pure self-consciousness, is separated from the world of change and contingency. Hence also God cannot be adequately revealed in nature, either in its parts or in the whole system of finite things. And, for the same reason, the moral activity of man, which has to do with the regulation of his passions and the ordering of his outward social life, is regarded as essentially inferior to the pure activity of thought in its inner converse with itself.
Thus we may fairly say that in Aristotle and Plato, as in Socrates, the original naïve confidence of man in the outward manifestation of reason in nature and in human life, has been lost; and its place is only imperfectly supplied by the idea of a reason which, in order that it may realise itself, subdues and transforms a foreign matter, but is never able perfectly to assimilate and absorb the material upon which it works. In these philosophies, therefore, the subjective movement of Greek thought is only for a moment arrested. In morals, the attempt to restore the limited social order of the Greek state on the basis of conscious reason, was doomed to failure, and the magnificent effort of two great philosophers to recombine the new principle with the old form, could only hasten the natural process of decay. The political idealism of Plato and Aristotle was a gigantic attempt to pour new wine into old bottles. Nor need we wonder that, after Aristotle, philosophy becomes purely individualistic and subjective, and that morality and religion begin to be conceived as bound up, not with the consciousness of objects, but almost exclusively with the consciousness of self.
Stoicism, which is the highest form of this subjective and individualistic philosophy, is a product of the same movement of recoil upon the self which we find exemplified in Buddhism; but it differs from Buddhism as the Greek religion and the Greek social morality differed from the Brahmanic polytheism and the caste system of India. It agrees with Buddhism in its subjective tendency; for, as the Buddhist rejected the limitations of the system of caste18 and fell back upon the inner life of the self which is the same in all, teaching that he is the true Brahman who purifies his soul, whatever may be his caste or outward rank; so the Stoic taught that the highest good is open to the slave Epictetus as to the emperor Marcus Aurelius. It agrees with Buddhism further in its abstract benevolence; for the universal pity and charity which was enjoined on the Buddhist towards all mankind, and even toward all living creatures, is closely akin to the philanthropy which made the Stoic count nothing human alien to him, and regard himself as a citizen not of any particular state but of the world. The difference was that, along with the Universalism which made the Stoic condemn his own passions and all the objects and ends to which they were directed, there went a distinct conviction that the universal principle of reason is realised in each man as an individual self. The Stoic was not, therefore, in danger of thinking that the highest good lies in the extinction of self-consciousness, the loss of the individual in the universal. Rather, he held that the individual man as such is universal, that each man is embodied reason, and that therefore the absolute good is realised, or is capable of being realised, in him. In this centre-point of selfhood all the good of the universe is concentrated, and the exclusion of all extraneous interests from its life is desirable, only because it enables it to be a law and an end to itself. The Stoic empties his life of objective interests, but it is because he has in his own inner consciousness an interest which outweighs and includes them all. His morality is, therefore, not the morality that loses the self in the absolute, but the morality that sees the absolute in the free determination of the self by its own law.
Yet, as this law is one that springs, not from the nature of the self as this individual, but from the universal reason in him, the subjective morality of the Stoic has a side which is essentially connected with religion, and, indeed, it easily becomes itself a religion. In the consciousness of self we have a principle, which is one and the same in every rational being, and which, as it is conceived by the Stoic as an absolute principle, must be to him at once the source and the end of all things. Hence, for the Stoic, pure self-determinationthat determination by the inner law of reason which he substitutes for all determination by objective endsis one with determination by God, who is the principle of unity alike in the inner and in the outer world, the source of the universe, and the end for which it exists. The paradox of Stoicism is this immediate conversion of that which is most individual into that which is most universal, of the subject into the object, of self-determination into an obedience to God. For, deo parere libertas est; to be, free or determined by our inmost self is to be guided by a divine hand. Stoicism is thus a curious illustration of the truth that absolute opposites convert into each other. It is a self-isolation which turns at once into universal sympathy; a self-exalting pride that seems to rest wholly on itself, and which yet at a turn of the hand is changed into the humble sense of being a mere instrument in the hand of a higher power. It is a pessimism which finds unreason and evil in all particular things, in the whole course of the outward world, and which, therefore, withdraws itself from the outward upon the inner life. But at the same time, in virtue of the absoluteness of the inner principle on which it falls back, it becomes an optimism in general, a belief that the whole universe is the manifestation of a divine reason. In fact, the development of Stoicism is just the exhibition of the contradiction of seeking the absolute in the subject as opposed to, and exclusive of, the object; while, by its very definition as the absolute, it must transcend this distinction.
But, in spite of this innate and incurable contradiction, Stoicism has in it an element of the highest truth, if only we view it in the light of the idea of development, and consider it, therefore, not as a result in which the mind of man can rest, but as a stage in its spiritual growth. For, though the subject as altogether severed from the object is an empty abstraction, it is through the recoil upon the subject in opposition to the object that man first becomes conscious of his freedomconscious of that in him which lifts him above all objects he knows, and which unites him to the divine principle of all existence and of all thought. It is through this recoil alone that he can realise his spiritual individuality, and thereby break away from the power of nature, and also of the naturalistic forms in which truth is at first revealed to him. It is only through this recoil that he learns to recognise that the simple bond of humanity is a real bond, and that it is deeper than all ties of family and nation, just because the self is that in him which is most universal and independent of all particular characteristics or relations of his being. While, therefore, it is not true that morality depends upon the self-isolation of the individual from all other men and things, it is true that he who never thus isolates himself will never find his way to the deepest sources of moral strength. It is not true that within himself man is absolutely alone, but it is true that he who never has felt the solitude of an inner life, will never discover the real nature of the tie that binds him to nature, to his fellowmen, and to God.
- 1. It will be shown in the sequel that there is a modified repetition both of the objective and of the subjective type of religion in the history of Christianity.
- 2. Vol. i., p. 262.
- 3. Sacred Books of the East, xv. 15-19.
- 4. Sacred Books of the East, xv. 40.
- 5. Sacred Books of the East, p. 109, cf. 163 seq.
- 6. One of the names given to Buddha. Ananda is the beloved disciple of Buddha, who stands nearest to his person.
- 7. Sacred Books of the East, xi. 37. Cf. the Dhammapada § 165: Sacred Books of the East, x. 46: By oneself the evil is done, by oneself one suffers; by oneself evil is left undone, by oneself one is purified. Purity and impurity belong to oneself, no one can purify another. Cf. the rest of ch. 12.
- 8. The Light of the East.
- 9. Dhammapada, §§ 141-2: Sacred Books of the East, x. 38.
- 10. Dhammapada, § 170.
- 11. Dhammapada, §§ 3-5.
- 12. Dhammapada, § 223.
- 13. Dhammapada, § 6.
- 14. Matthew Arnold, Empedocles on Etna.
- 15. Plato, Republic, 473 A.
- 16. Buddhism, it is to be observed, did not seek to overturn caste. It treated it as an external and indifferent distinction. It dealt with it in the same way in which St. Paul deals with slavery (1. Cor. vii. 21).
- 17. 17
- 18. 18