Jewish Conception of the Relation of the Moral Ideal to the Objective World, in Contrast with the Buddhist and the Christian Conceptions — That in Buddhism Spirit absolutely excludes, and in Judaism dominates Nature — But in Christianity Spirit is the Highest Manifestation of the same Principle revealed in Nature — Union of Monotheistic and Pantheistic Ideas in Christianity — Difficulties arising from this Synthesis — Solution of them by means of the Ideas of Organic Unity and Evolution — The Moral Ideal as Prophetic — How Judaism passes into Christianity.
IN the last lecture I spoke of the Jewish religion as a religion of subjectivity. It is a religion which recoils upon an inward ideal, as opposed to the immediate aspect of the external world and the immediate phenomena of human life; but which, at the same time, rises to the belief in a God who will ultimately bring the course of things into harmony with that ideal. And I showed how the crude synthesis of goodness and happiness, which was the first expression of this religious idea, was gradually purified and expanded by a higher view of both its terms, and also of what is meant by their connexion. Thus the development of goodness was seen to involve an inward struggle with the natural self, and an outward discipline of suffering and sacrifice; and, as this process lengthened, it put to a greater distance the fruition of joy to be earned from the harmony of the soul with itself and God. The consummation, therefore, could not be reached by the individual who had to suffer, but was only to be won by him for future generations of men. Or, if it was to be enjoyed by the individual at all, it could only be in another life beyond this. Or, finally, if it was to be attained by him in this life, it only was in a sense which made it independent of all outward success, as a joy and peace in God which could be felt even in the midst of the utmost outward calamity, the joy and peace of a life that had in itself the consciousness of its own permanence, its own eternal completeness.
Now, we have already seen that such a subjective religious attitude is the expression of a higher principle than that which is involved in what we have called objective religion. The mind, as it turns back upon itself, discovers within it a principle of unity which is presupposed in all objective experience, but which, at the same time, reaches beyond such experience. In its recoil upon its own inner life, it rises to an ideal law and an ideal end, which in the outer life are very imperfectly realised. And not only does it thus originate new principles for the guidance of its own activity, but it learns to regard those principles as a more perfect manifestation of the ultimate law of the universe, and of the nature of its divine source, than can be found in the immediate facts of outward experience Hence it cannot but believe that the law which it feels obliged to obey, and the end after which it feels bound to strive, have an objective as well as a subjective validity. In this point of view, the ideal which the mind sets up for itself is no mere arbitrary fancy, no mere wish that things might be other than they really are. The wants of the subject are, or may be, the expression of something deeper, and even, in a sense, more real than the facts to which they seem to be opposed. For, just in so far as man's beliefs and hopes spring purely out of his moral ideal, and contain nothing but the conception of that ideal as realised and of the conditions necessary to its realisation, they may fairly claim for themselves an authority which is higher than that of experience, and cannot, therefore, be refuted by it. They are what Kant calls ‘postulates of practical reason,’ beliefs and hopes that are bound up with our existence as rational beings, and which, therefore, we cannot disown except by being untrue to ourselves.
In saying so much, however, we must guard against a possible misunderstanding. The attitude of mind which is characteristic of Judaism is not that which regards the future good as the necessary development of the good which is already working in the present. Rather, the Jewish prophet is inclined absolutely and directly to oppose the ideal good he prophesies, to the actual state of things which he sees around him; and to look forward to the change which he is sure must come, as one that is to be brought about by the direct agency of the divine power miraculously interfering in the world. He feels God within, and he believes that one day He will reveal Himself without. He appeals from the judgment of his contemporaries to a divine judgment, which he is sure will be the same with the judgment of his own heart and conscience. He expects, therefore, that God will, in time, bring about the salvation of His people, not by the evolution of principles already at work in the world, but by an immediate intervention from above, which shall destroy the evils that oppress them and establish a reign of righteousness upon earth.
In order to illustrate this difference, which is closely related to the difference between Judaism and Christianity, I shall put the matter in another form. When we say that subjective religion is higher than objective religion, or that it gives men a truer and more comprehensive view of their relations the world and to God, we are using terms that are somewhat ambiguous; for the words, ‘truer,’ ‘higher,’ ‘more comprehensive,’ are indefinite expressions, which may be understood in different ways. There are, indeed, no less than three possible interpretations of them, all of which have been exemplified in the history of religion. The Indian pantheism ends in setting the subjective above the objective, but so in their way do also Judaism and Christianity; and it may help to make our subject clearer, if we consider what were the respective characteristics of these three ways of appealing from the outward to the inward.
In the first place, then, the assertion of the superiority of the subjective may be and has been taken to mean that the inner life is the exclusive sphere of religion, or, in the language of Iphigenia, that is “only through our hearts that God speaks to us.” On this view the natural world is undivine, unspiritual, external, a body of death which conceals rather than reveals the infinite. Everything outward is shadowy, evanescent, illusive—such ‘stuff as dreams are made of’; and truth is to be found only in abstracting from it, in severing the ties that bind us to it, in escaping from its deceptions into the silence of the inner life of thought. In this extreme we find subjective religion represented by the Upanishads, with their assertion of the illusiveness of all objective existence and their identification of the self with the absolute. But the religion of subjectivity no sooner emerges in this form, than, as we have seen,1 it begins to turn its arms against itself. For the subject that thus seeks to free his soul from all that is not itself, to expel all objective interests as vain and illusive, is really seeking to rid itself of all contents or interests whatsoever. It soon comes to be seen that the inner life of ideas is a repetition of the vain show of the outward world; and, in order to escape from all illusion, the soul finds it needful to rid itself of the former as well as of the latter. If life, the inner as well as the outer life, is but a mad struggle for shadows, the only way to reality is the path of death. But in this view there is no truer life beyond death; hence there is no dying to live, but only a “shuffling off this mortal coil,” a sleep of Nirvana so profound that no “dream can ever come” to disturb it.
The subjective religion of the Jews was not of this absolute type. It indeed exalts the subjective above the objective, the ideal of the soul above the facts of the outward life; but it does not sever them from each other. It subordinates the external world, or demands that it should subordinate itself, to a law derived from within; but it does not, like Buddhism, treat the outward universe as an illusive semblance, an unreal and deceiving show. Starting with conception that the whole system of finite things is the product of God's creative power, which He has called into existence with a word, and which with a word He can destroy, and which meantime rests as a passive instrument in His hands, the Jewish prophet regards it as idolatry to confuse the creature with the Creator, to think of God as immanent in the world, or to regard nature as able to contain God or to reveal Him. For him, therefore, the authentic voice of God is not in the stormwind or the earthquake or the fire, though these are the highest natural expressions of Him. It is within, in the imperative of duty and the protest of the heart against the injustice of the world. However widely, therefore, he may separate between God and nature, however high he may raise Him above the life of man, yet he never thinks of imitating the quietism of the Indian devotee, who is content to withdraw into himself and to regard the outward scene as a dream and a shadow from which he is to be delivered simply by treating it as nought. On the contrary, he always thinks of the world and the outward history of man as the true sphere in which God is to show His power and His goodness; and his demand always is, not that the outward world should vanish away, but that it should be harmonised with the will of God as that is known to the hearts of His servants. His hope and aspiration is not for Nirvana, nor yet for the peace of the grave, where the “wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest,” but for the final victory of right over wrong, for the ultimate manifestation of God in a world brought into conformity with the divine law, which already manifests itself within us. The final relation, therefore, in which God is conceived as standing towards the world, is neither that the world is lost in God, nor that He is immanent in it, but that it, while still remaining separate, is externally subordinated to His wisdom and His justice. The manifestation of divine power may, indeed, be delayed for the trial of His people; but it is certain to come in the fulness of time, to the dismay of His enemies, and the joy of His saints, who have been ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel.’ “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass. And He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgement as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”2 The Judaic faith, therefore, is that God externally overrules the course of nature and history, or, at least, that He certainly will one day overrule it, in order to bring it into harmony with the demands of the spirit. As, in the system of Kant, it is postulated that God will join happiness to goodness, although immediately they seem to have no natural or necessary connexion; so here it is prophesied that He will restore again by an external force the unity of the world without and the world within. Hence the realisation of the ideal is conceived not as present but future. The present is a time of division in which the original unity is lost, and the ultimate reconciliation can only be an object of faith and not of vision or fruition.
It is easy to see that neither of these conceptions of the relation of the inward to the outward, the subjective to the objective, is finally satisfactory. The Buddhist nihilism logically ends in the negation or extinction of that very subjective life which it begins by exalting. And if the religion of Israel saves itself from this extreme result of a onesidedness which refutes itself, if it still tries to bind inward and outward together by a divine necessity, yet this necessity is only that of a deus ex machina. Thus the Jewish tendency to insist on the spirituality of God as a Being revealed only in, and to, the spirits of men, makes it impossible to conceive His relation to the outward world as any other than one of external dominance. But this implies that the Divine Being is still thought of as an abstract subject, and not, in the full sense of the word, as a spiritual principle who is above this and all other differences. For a being who is external to anything, or to whom anything is external, does not agree with the idea of God. In this sense we may admit Goethe's saying that the Jewish religion is “the highest of ethnic religions but still ethnic.” For, as has been shown before, that which makes man a religious being, his primary need for a God, arises from the presence in, if not to, his consciousness of a unity which is beyond the division of subject and object; and, till he realises this primary element in his idea of God, the form and the matter of that idea must be at variance. Even the conception of God as an abstract subject, therefore, does not yet satisfy the fully developed religious sense. And the conception of such a subject as externally overruling the objective world can only imperfectly and temporarily supply this defect, in so far as an external combination can be a substitute for a living unity. But so soon as it is seen or felt that there is a vital connexion between the inward and the outward life, which cannot be broken without impoverishing both, so soon the idea of a God who ‘gives the world a push from without or lets it spin round His finger,’ becomes unsatisfactory; and religion if it would continue to exist, must rise to a more comprehensive idea of God than that which is afforded even by ethical monotheism, and indeed must combine the monotheistic idea with that which it has often regarded as its greatest enemy, the spirit of pantheism.3
Now, it is at once obvious that a religion which should attempt this, which should seek to do justice at once to the unity, and to the opposition of spirit and nature, would have a much more difficult problem before it than was ever encountered either by subjective or by objective religion. Such a religion must see God at once without and within us, yet it must be able to discriminate the higher sense in which He is within and not without. It must see God in nature, without losing Him in nature's manifoldness; and in history, without making outward success the criterion of His favour. It must find a still higher revelation of Him in the protest of the conscience against the fact of successful injustice, and the demand of the heart for a more perfect state than has ever been empirically realised on earth; yet it must not set that which ought to be absolutely against that which is, or suppose that the judgment of God is a future judgment, which is not executing itself now and here.
Now, the distinctive character of Christianity arises from the fact that necessarily, by the circumstances of its origin, it had to try to solve this problem. Jewish in its birthplace, Greek in its first written expression or interpretation, it had for its task to combine elements of the spiritual life of man which had never been combined before. It came in the fulness of time, in an age when the world was ready for a universal religion. The expanding thought of Greece had broken the national mould in which it had at first been cast, and had gradually prepared the world for cosmopolitanism. The empires of Alexander and of Rome had cast down the outward walls of division between all the nations which could be said to have a civilisation. Jew and Gentile, Greek and Barbarian, were confused together in a common subjection, and assimilated by the gentle but steady and almost irresistible pressure of a universal law, which took no account of their racial, social, or religious differences. The Jews themselves, who alone stubbornly held to their native traditions, had their exclusiveness neutralised by the lessons of their greatest prophets; and in Alexandria they had even gone so far as to use platonic philosophy for the interpretation of the Old Testament. In such an era of universalism it was impossible that religion should remain sectional, national, or exclusive. The prejudices of race and tradition, the religious and social antipathies of ages could not, indeed, be rooted out in a day, least of all among a nation of such a stubborn tenacity as the Jews; but the spirit of the time was against them, and if, at last, made desperate by the growing sense of their powerlessness, the Jewish people rose in violent revolt against their oppressors, their fanatical outbreak could only be destructive to themselves. When the great tidal wave of human life and thought is setting strongly in one direction, it is only those spiritual forces that are working along with it and contributing to it, that can have real influence. “No individual by himself,” says Goethe, “can effect anything considerable, but only he who unites with many, at the right time.” A religion which is to take hold of the mind of man must supply its deepest want, and act along the lines of its deepest stream of tendency: and this, in the first century of the Christian era, undoubtedly meant that religion must free itself from every limitation, outward or inward, and speak directly to that in man which is most universal and ideal. It must take hold of the highest principle of unity in the human consciousness, and use it as a means of reconciling man to the world and to himself. Nor could it reach this result by the path of a vague pantheism, whose unity was simply the negation of all distinctions. Jewish prophecy had so deepened and intensified the moral consciousness, that it was no longer possible for men to be content with any religion which did not maintain the spirituality of God and the responsibility of man. If it was henceforth impossible that any God should be worshipped who was not a God of the whole earth, any God who was here and not there, who was revealed to the prophets of a nation, and not to the universal consciousness of man, or even revealed in thought and not in perception and imagination, in the soul and not in outward nature; yet it was equally impossible that those who had known the tenderness and depth of a spiritual worship such as finds expression in the Psalms, should be content to confuse spirit with nature in the all-embracing, all-dissolving unity of pantheism. If, therefore, in such an epoch, universality and unity was the first condition of thought, and the necessary characteristic of any great religious movement, yet it must be secured, not by the sacrifice of that moral elevation which had been the result of the long religious development of Israel, but rather by a farther development, which should start from the highest point which Israel had reached. Nothing could meet the want of the time but a religion which should unite the immanence of pantheism with the transcendence of monotheism; a religion which should rise to a divine principle of all things, and yet be able to conceive that principle as a living God, the inspiring source and eternal realisation of the moral ideal of man.
Is such a demand reasonable? Does it not contradict itself? And can the religion that satisfies or tries to satisfy it, be anything more than a chaotic combination of inconsistent elements? This is a fundamental question of the philosophy of religion, a question the answer to which must determine not only the rationality of Christianity, but also the rationality of all religion. For it is at any rate obvious that only a religion which is able to satisfy these demands can now be anything to us. Moderns cannot accept any but a universal religion. They cannot believe in a God who is the God of this nation and not of that, or who is revealed in this object and not in that. They cannot believe in a Divine Power who is without and not within man, or within man and not without him. Hence there are many motives which drive us to break down the limits between different religious conceptions of the past and accept the facile toleration of Pope's universal prayer—
“Father of all in every age,
In every clime adored,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!”
Or in the nobler words of a later writer—
“Name by what name you will, there is a Power,
Ammon, Jehovah, Zeus, or Jupiter,
That searches nations, and in kindred hearts,
Finding a mirror, fills them with Himself.”4
But such toleration might, at least, mean levelling down; and a God who is equally in all things is in nothing truly; a God who equally accepts all worships cannot be ‘of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.’ The moral distinction, like every other distinction, would vanish in His presence, and the many names we are allowed to give Him would confuse each other. His very universality would make Him the unknown and unknowable God, whose worship could have no positive value for thought, no inspiring influence on the will. Hence the same progress of thought which has carried us beyond all partial conceptions of the divine, and compelled us to think of God as God, as the Being who is all in all, has brought us in sight of a gulf of nescience, in which religion is in danger of being submerged. If, therefore, the effort of Christianity to maintain—on the level of universality, and at a stage of thought when onesided subjective and onesided objective conceptions have equally become impossible—the idea of God as a living spiritual power, whose influence guides and sustains the moral life of man—if such an effort results, and must necessarily result, in self-contradiction and absurdity, then we shall be obliged to admit that religion has become permanently impossible to men, and that it will necessarily disappear so soon as the consciousness of its futility has been generally diffused.
We may put this difficulty more clearly by saying that it is possible to reach the idea of a unity which embraces and overcomes all differences only in two ways—either by the way of abstraction, or by a way which involves the idea of evolution or development. Spinoza, and in more recent times, Mr. Spencer, have shown us what comes of the former method. Just as in an earlier time an objective pantheism was reached by the thought of India, which gradually rose above all particular objects, even the highest, and confused them together in the one Being, of whom everything, and therefore nothing, can be said; so in later times Spinoza, rising above the opposition of thought and extension—themselves the ultimate abstractions of the subjective and the objective, the inner and the outer worlds—sought the divine in an absolute substance which, indifferently, was conceived as either having an infinite number of attributes or none at all. And, in like manner, as I showed in a former lecture, Mr. Spencer finds God only in the unknowable infinite, which is beyond even the difference of subject and object, the last symbols by which we can represent or determine anything for ourselves. In this way it is possible to turn the idea of the God as a universal principle against subjective and objective religion alike, and to return upon a higher level to that pantheism from which subjective religion had furnished the means of escape. Nor is there wanting a certain plausibility in this way of solving the difficulties, into which we are driven by the effort to correct the opposite defects of the two great forms of earlier religion. Forced as we are by the movement of modern thought to conceive God as above every exclusive form, even the form of subjectivity, we seem to be driven by the same movement to deprive Him of every positive predicate. We cannot conceive Him as one merely objective force among other forces; for we should be immediately obliged to regard that force as absorbing and annihilating all other forces, and even the subject for which it is. Thus he who conceives God as an object is obliged, by the notion of God and the universality which attaches to it, to destroy the very notion of an object. He is driven to repeat the logic whereby polytheism is changed into pantheism, and pantheism into the Buddhist nihilism. Again, it is equally impossible for us to recall or to maintain the attitude of mind of the pure monotheists, for whom God was merely one subject among other subjects; and though lifted high above them, the source of all their life, was yet related to them as an external and independent will. Our idea of God will not let us conceive of Him as external to anything, least of all, to the spirits who are made in His image, and who live and move and have their being in Him. We cannot, therefore, avoid thinking of God as a principle who is within as He is without us, present in self-consciousness as in consciousness, the presupposition, the life, and the end of all. But no sooner is this realised than it seems as if the attempt to say anything definite of Him must involve the contradiction of excluding Him from other things, or other things from Him. Hence Mr. Spencer is led to the conclusion that the God who is thus universal—and there obviously can be no other God for us—must be unknowable. And Comte, who appreciated the value of the Christian idea of a divine humanity, and in a way of his own tried to preserve it, yet maintains that the Christian attempt to unite monotheism with pantheism, and positively to define the principle of the universe by the aid of that idea, only ends in heaping together inconsistencies and contradictions. Thus the Divine Being, conceived as the principle of unity in the world, is supposed to be beyond the reach of human thought, just because in thinking it we should be obliged to gather and concentrate in one, all the differences and oppositions which manifest themselves in the world. A God who was one object among others, who took the form of a plant, an animal, a man, or even of the all-embracing heaven, was capable of being apprehended in perception or imagination. A God who was a spiritual subject, even if He refused to take on ‘the likeness of anything in the heavens above or in the earth beneath or in the waters under the earth,’—refused in short to be represented in any external form of perception or imagination,—could yet be grasped by the same reflexion whereby we become conscious of the self within us. But what, it is asked, can we make of a Being who is neither to be perceived or imagined as object, nor to be conceived and determined as a subject, but only as the unity in which all difference begins and ends? Must we not content ourselves with the bare acknowledgment of such a Being, and bow our heads before the inscrutable? and when Christianity attempts to present God to us as the absolute Being, and at the same time as a Logos, or self-revealing spirit who manifests Himself in a special manner in and to man as the source of his higher life, shall we not say that it is obeying a necessity which comes with the growth of man's thought in religion, but a necessity which carries with it an impossibility?
Now in dealing with Mr. Spencer's theory I have, in a former lecture, suggested a partial answer to this despairing view. But it is well that we should recognise the full force of the reasons for it, and how naturally it arises out of the very development of thought which has produced the highest form of religion. It has arisen just because men have more clearly recognised than they ever did before what it is that they mean by speaking of God, and have therefore been led entirely to discard the imperfect ways of determining the idea of God with which they were satisfied in earlier times. By this development they are debarred from representing God under the purely objective or subjective forms which are their most familiar modes of consciousness, and therefore it seems as if they were debarred from representing Him in any way whatsoever. To the command of monotheism, that they should not make to themselves any graven image of the Divine Being, or in any way envisage Him under the likeness of an outward object, the advance of reflexion seems to have added the new command that they should not make to themselves any abstract conception of Him as a subject: what then remains but to bow before Him as the inscrutable ground of existence, who, just because He is equally in all things, is nowhere apprehensible to the spirit of man? His very universality, which is the reason why we are willing to worship Him as God, lifts Him out of our reach, out of the reach of any intelligent worship.
Now, in the following lectures, we shall trace how, in the development of the religion of Christ out of the religion of Israel, a practical solution of this problem was reached. Here I wish rather to point out the general principle which must underlie any such solution. It is to be found, as I have already indicated, in the use of the two kindred ideas of organic unity and evolution. The former idea satisfies our demand for universality, in so far as it enables us to think of the world, as pantheistic religion thought of it, as one great whole or system, whose principle of unity lies in God; but at the same time to conceive this unity, not as absorbing all the differences of the world into itself, not as fatal to the independent individual existence of any of God's creatures, but as a principle of life manifested in each and all of them. In the words of Goethe, it enables us to conceive God as a Being who “fosters nature in Himself, Himself in nature, so that nothing that lives and moves and has its being in Him ever forgets His force or His spirit.” On the other hand, the idea of evolution enables us to escape from the conception of this unity as a substance, to which all things are equally related, and which, therefore, is not truly revealed in anything. For a God who, in the language already quoted from Pope, is ‘as full and perfect in a hair as heart,’ is one before whom all the differences of finite existence disappear, and of whom, just because we can in a sense attribute everything to Him, we cannot say anything distinctive. But the idea of evolution carries with it the conception that, while all existences manifest their Divine Original, they do not all manifest Him equally; but that there are grades of existence, rising from the inanimate to the animate, and from the animal to man, and in man's history from the stage in which he is nearest to the animal to a more and more full realisation of that which distinguishes him as man. It bids us regard the highest point to which creation reaches as the clearest revelation of what it all means. It bids us, in short, to find the key to the beginning in the end, and not the key to the end in the beginning. Hence, also, it justifies monotheism in treating the wishes and hopes of the best of men, not as mere wishes but also as prophecies; and that, not because they take us away from reality or protest against it, but because they enable us to see through superficial appearances to a principle of good, working in the world and turning evil into its instrument.
For man, on this view, is not regarded simply as one being in the world among others, an object standing on the same level with them, and to be treated in the same way; but rather as, in a sense, including in himself the life of all the others, and reaching beyond it. He is a microcosm, for the whole process of nature is summed up in him; but he is more, because it culminates in him. In him the natural world comes to self-consciousness, and a new spiritual process of life begins, which through all his history is working toward a higher expression of itself.5 Hence we are not to take as unreal and subjective anything in him which reaches beyond what is already realised in the world. It is true that, as he has subjective fancies which have no reference to anything that exists, so he has subjective impulses which point to nothing that ever will, or can, exist. But, as it would be a mistake to say that every thought in us that goes beyond immediate experience is illusive, so it would equally be a mistake to think of every desire as futile that cannot find any object ready for its satisfaction. Self-consciousness, by the very nature of it, reaches beyond consciousness; and, as we return upon ourselves from the world, we rise above it. But we do not rise into empty air; we rise to the consciousness of something in us and in the world, which has not yet been realised, and for which all that has been realised may be regarded as a preparation. For if the process of the world is an evolution, the progressive manifestation of a principle that reveals itself more and more fully as the process advances, then the right way of looking at such desires—desires that are bound up with highest moral consciousness of man,—is to treat them as the first step towards their own realisation. As the wise man looks through the surface phenomena of life, and sees in apparent prosperity the seeds of decay and revolution, or in the small beginnings of an enterprise which attracts no outward attention, the promise of a great movement which will transform and elevate the lives of men; so the visions, longings, and aspirations of the good, of those who seek not themselves but the weal of mankind, are not only prophetic, but they are the beginning of the fulfilment of prophecy. They are themselves the germs or firstfruits of a future which has become visible to them, not because they have yielded more than other men to subjective dreams and idle wishes for the impossible, but because, more than other men, they have got beyond such dreams; because their faithfulness has raised them to a point where the future good, which to all others is, so to speak, below the horizon, is already made visible. Their desire is thus not the mere wish of an individual, but the “spirit of the years to come yearning to mix itself with life.” “Surely,” says the prophet Amos, “the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth the secret to His servants the prophets.”6 Such an expression might be taken in the sense that the prophet is a soothsayer, miraculously gifted with the power of foretelling particular events to come; but its higher meaning is that which was indicated in the words of Christ, that the souls of men, who are not ‘hypocrites’ but true to themselves, can be trusted ‘to discern the signs of the times,’ and to see beneath their imperfection the promise of a better future.7 Nay, even apart from seeing the promise of good without them, such men have it within them. For their own revolt against the evil of their day, their own aspiration after a better state of things, is itself the greatest of all ‘the signs of the times,’ as it is the first revelation of the power that will destroy the evil and bring about the good they desire.
Now, it is by these principles that we can explain how the Jews came to be the great prophetic nation of the world. They were prophets of a better time, because their dissatisfaction with the present was not simply the ordinary disappointment with life, which makes so many men into pessimists, who
“Sit beside the poisoned springs of life,
Waiting for the morrow that shall free them from the strife.”
It was not merely the dissatisfaction of those whose selfish hopes are defeated, or to whom their fulfilment has not brought the happiness they had expected. Their disappointment was not barren; because in their recoil upon themselves, they rose to the idea of a ‘just God and a Saviour,’ who must fulfil the hopes He has awakened in the hearts of His children. Their consciousness of a spiritual law within them passed immediately into the consciousness of a spiritual power above them; hence they could not regard the discord of the outward world with the demands of the spirit as a permanent fact, or as anything but a trial of their patience and their faith. Thus the ruin of all their earthly hopes did not with them produce a selfish despair, such as darkened the declining life of other ancient nations; it only gave occasion for that last and highest effort of prophecy which is preserved for us in the later chapters of Isaiah, in which, on a background of the darkness of a time of war and disorder, the prophet paints the unselfish ideal of a kingdom of peace and righteousness, into which all nations shall be admitted. Of one of the greatest men of the modern time—Oliver Cromwell—who was deeply impregnated with the spirit of the Old Testament, we are told by one who knew him that, “in the dark places of the war, in the high places of the field, hope shone in him like a pillar of fire after it had gone out in every one else.” So we may say of the nation of Israel that its undying wrath at evil, its steadfast refusal to believe that it is a final or ultimate fact, its unquenchable hope for the regeneration of man, and its immovable trust in the divine justice, made it far greater in defeat and disaster than other nations have been in their highest hours of triumph. It, and perhaps it alone, showed the power of turning the decay and destruction of its political existence into the basis for a higher spiritual life. And this of itself enables us to understand how it was only out of Judah that the religion of humanity could arise.
NOTE A. ON THE UNITY OF PANTHEISM AND MONOTHEISM.
It is impossible here to discuss all the difficulties connected with this conception; but it may be useful to show a little more definitely how such an application of the ideas of organic unity and development, as is suggested in the preceding lecture, may assist in solving them. The question, as ordinarily stated, relates to what is termed the Personality of God. Apart, however, from the theological use of the term Person in the doctrine of the Trinity, which makes it unsuitable to express the Unity of the Divine Nature, the word Personality seems to me to call up misleading legal associations. When we apply it to man, it almost compels us to regard him in one limited aspect of his being, as a subject of rights; hence we might say that even man is much more than a person. And when we apply it to God, it suggests that He is to be conceived, as He was conceived by Judaism, as an abstract subject who is not immanent in the world. While, however, the word may be objected to, we cannot blink the question which is connected with it, whether God—the ultimate principle of unity in the universe, is to be regarded as an intelligent or self-conscious Being. It has been maintained by many critics that it is a necessary consequence of modern Idealism to dissolve the individuality of God, and, indeed, also the individuality of man, in a universal impersonal Thought, which is attached to no Thinker; and that, therefore, such Idealism is in result identical with the Spinozistic philosophy, which merges all finite existence in the absolute substance, To this charge I venture to answer that an Idealism which has taken up into itself the principle of evolution can avert, and, so far as I see, it alone can avert such a logical result. This follows from what has been said in the preceding lecture. For it has there been shown that it is only on the basis of such a theory that we can think of God—as He must be thought of—as the principle of unity in all things, and yet conceive Him as a self-conscious, self-determining Being. For, on the one hand, those who, like Spinoza and Mr. Spencer (see Vol. I. p. 104), have realised the idea of God as an absolute and infinite being—the ultimate unity of all existence and of all thought—have generally been led to deny the possibility of regarding Him as revealed to us by any one form of finite existence more than another, and therefore the possibility of knowing Him at all. And a God who is “as perfect in a hair as heart,” who is as near to, and as far from man, as He is from a tree or a atone, may be said, indifferently, either to have every predicate or none at all. The predicates by which we could determine Him neutralise each other, and leave us with the empty idea of an abstract being or power. On the other hand, those who cling to the idea that there is an absolute principle of individuality in man and in other finite substances, seem necessarily to be led to a denial of all real connexion or relation between such substances. And if, like Leibniz and his greatest modern disciple, Lotze, they still introduce the idea of God, as a principle of unity or relation between finite substances, they are forced in doing so to contradict themselves, and to use the language of that very pantheistic theory which they began by repudiating. Thus Leibniz, as I have shown elsewhere,8 begins by asserting that every monad is “like a separate world,” and that it is “as durable, as self-sufficient, and as absolute as the universe itself”; and he goes on to maintain that the only connexion of monads with the world is that they represent it, i.e. that they have merely ideal and not real relations to the other monads; but he ends with the pantheistic assertion that “God alone is the primitive unity, or simple originative substance, of which all created or derivative monads are the productions, born as it were of the continual figurations of divinity from moment to moment.”9 And Lotze, in like manner, after coming very close to atomism in his account of individual finite substances, finds that he can account for reciprocal action between such substances only by regarding them “as parts of a single and real being,”10 or, as he elsewhere puts it, as the acts of the Divine Substance. In particular, I would notice how the Berkeleian doctrine that each individual is immediately conscious only of his own ideas, as states of his own consciousness—a doctrine that naturally goes along with Lotze's Individualism—leads him to deny or to overlook relativity of the self to the not-self, and therefore makes it impossible for him to admit that in any sense we can “see all things in God,” or, in other words, that we can be conscious of them as determined by the idea of God. Thus, by a kind of logical nemesis, those who begin with the abstract Individual are forced to end with the abstract Universal.
But if, in accordance with the principles of idealism, we regard the infinite not as an abstraction, but as a self-determining principle (cf. Vol. I. Lecture IV.), if we follow out the doctrine of the correlation of inner and outer experience (see Lecture V.), and if we interpret that doctrine in the light of the idea of evolution, and the consequences which have been drawn from it (Lectures VI., VII., and the preceding Lecture),—viz., that nature comes to self-consciousness in man, and that, therefore, the process of man's life is a continuation of the self-revelation of the Absolute Being which begins in nature—it then becomes possible to think of God as the principle of unity in all things, and yet as a living God in whose image man is made. And, on the same view, it becomes possible to think of man as “a partaker in the divine nature,” and, therefore, as a self-conscious and self-determining spirit, without gifting him with an absolute individuality, which would cut him off from all union and communion with his fellow creatures and with God. I do not deny that there are many difficulties in this view, difficulties with which I have not attempted to deal. But it seems to me this is the only line of thought which, makes it possible to escape the opposite absurdities of an Individualism which dissolves the unity of the universe into atoms, and an abstract Monism which leaves no room for any real individuality either in God or in man: not to speak of the still greater absurdity of holding both of these onesided views at once.
- 1. Vol. I. p. 353 seq.
- 2. Psalm xxxvii. 5-7.
- 3. It will be shown in a subsequent lecture that the later development of Jewish religion led to this result negatively by producing a dualistic view of the world, which scarcely falls short of the world-despair of the Buddhist. For the thought of a God who externally dominates over the course of nature and history is a compromise which cannot permanently be maintained In the long run, a religion based on such a conception must advance to the idea of a spiritual principle which is immanent in the object as it is in the subject, or else it must carry the opposition of the subject to the object to the point at which the latter is contemplated as purely evil or negative. That which is outside of God is necessarily that which is opposed to Him, and that which is opposed to the divine must be evil, so far as it can be regarded as having any positive existence at all. We may illustrate this process of thought by the development of the Kantian philosophy, as it is shown, on the one side, in the pessimism of Schopenhauer, and, on the other side, in the optimism of Schelling and Hegel. The former is the necessary result, if Kant's first tendency to oppose reason to sense, and consequently the subject to the object, be insisted on, and carried out to its consequences. This opposition forces Kant himself to conceive the realisation of the moral ideal as a progressus ad infinitum: but even infinite time is not enough for the impossible task of uniting the moral with the natural, the sensuous desires with the law of reason. Hence it was open for schopenhauer to argue that they could not be united at all. On the other hand, if we admit the postulate of Kant, that the moral ideal must be realised, and if we go on with him to recognise, as he recognises in the Critique of Judgment and the Essay on the Idea of Universal History, that in a sense it is realised already, or is progressively realising itself in nature and history, then we must advance beyond Kant in a different direction. We must reduce the opposition between sense and reason, or between consciousness and self-consciousness to a relative opposition, which exists in order that it may be transcended. In other words, we must adopt something like the evolutionary optimism of Hegel.
- 4. Professor Nichol's Hannibal Prologue, Sc. 4. Cf. the words of Tennyson (Akbar's Dream):—
“That Infinite,Within us, as without, that All-in-all,And over all, the never-changing OneAnd ever-changing Many, in praise of WhomThe Christian bell, the cry from off the mosque,And vaguer voices of PolytheismMake but one music, harmonising ‘Pray.’”
- 5. Cf. the end of Browning's Paracelsus for a powerful expression of this idea:
“All tended to mankind,
And, man produced, all has its end thus far;
But in completed man begins anew
A tendency to God.”
- 6. Amos iii. 7.
- 7. St. Matthew xvi. 3.
- 8. Critical Philosophy of Kant, i. 64.
- 9. Erdmann's Leibniz, p. 708. Manadologie, § 47.
- 10. Lotze's Metaphysics, i. 165 (Eng. Transl.). Lotze's theory in this and other respects comes very near to the early theory of Kant explained in the Dissertation (De mundi sensibilis et intelligibilis forma et principiis). Cf. Crit. phil. of Kant, i. 168 seq.