THE SUBJECT PROPOSED
Our subject to be Personality and especially the place to be assigned to it in our conception of God. Individuality, but not Personality, has already been treated by Gifford Lecturers. The distinction illustrated by the difference of view between Lotze and Mr. Bosanquet, the former attributing Personality, the latter denying Personality but attributing Individuality to the Absolute. Personality in God to be discussed before Personality in man. This order of treatment defended on grounds historical and philosophical. The problem of Personality indicated by Dr. Merz as that to which we are invited by the course taken by the history of thought during the last half-century. Embarrassment alike of the scientific and the philosophical movements of this period in the presence of this problem; which has also been raised for many in an acute manner by the present war. The fact that the history of the notion of Personality will compel us to deal with the theological doctrines of Christianity suggests a digression on the attitude to be adopted in these Lectures towards those doctrines. Programme of the following Lectures.
HISTORY OF THE NOTION OF PERSONALITY IN GENERAL
Persona in classical Latin. The modern meaning of the word Person is conditioned by its theological use as equivalent to ὑπόστασις. Original meaning of ὑπόστασις. Substantia, though probably at first intended as a translation of it, comes to be used render οὐσία. History of the philosophical use of ὑπόστασις and its relation to οὐσία. and ὑποκειμένον. Difference in meaning between οὐσία and ὑπόστασις utilized in the formulation of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Substantia being already appropriated to represent οὐσία, in Latin, another word was required to correspond with ὑπόστασις and was found, probably by Tertullian, in persona; of which πρόσωπον, in its theological use, seems to be a translation. The words persona and ὑπόστασις, as applied to the distinctions recognized by Christian theology within the Godhead, supplement one another, each suggesting something which the other fails to suggest. The philosophical use of Person begins in its theological use and is expressed in the definition of Boethius, Persona est naturae rationabilis individua substantia. The attribution to the Absolute of Personality by Lotze, and of Individuality, but not of Personality, by Mr. Bosanquet, is partly explained by the adherence of the latter to the juridical associations of the word Person, which for Lotze do not determine its meaning. The history of the notion of Personality after the time of Boethius marked by the stress laid successively on incommunicability (among the Schoolmen), on self-consciousness (since Descartes), and on will (since Kant), as characteristics of Personality.
HISTORY OF THE NOTION OF PERSONALITY AS APPLIED TO GOD
The expression ‘Personality of God’ of modern origin. In Christianity, the only religion which has expressly affirmed Personality to be in God, this affirmation was until recent times made only in connexion with the doctrine of the Trinity; for even the Socinian assertion that God is one person was originally brought forward merely as a correction of the Trinitarian formula, not as the enunciation of an important fundamental truth. Influences tending during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to detach the thought of Personality in God from Trinitarian associations, and so preparing the way for the now familiar expression ‘Personality of God.’ An examination of various accounts of the divine nature, undertaken with the view of satisfying ourselves whether they could be described as accounts of a ‘personal God,’ leads to the result that only so far as personal relations are allowed to exist between the worshipper and his God can that God be properly described as ‘personal’; and that such personal relations are excluded alike by extreme stress on the ‘immanence’ and by extreme stress on the ‘transcendence’ of the object of worship. This conclusion is illustrated by a review of certain great religious systems.
PERSONALITY AND INDIVIDUALITY
The Boethian definition being taken as a provisional starting-point, the question is raised of the relation of Personality to Individuality, which is there described as a factor in it. All persons are individual but only rational individuals are persons. The antithesis of individual and universal is considered, and while certain ways of thinking which appear to rest on a confusion of the two are criticized, it is maintained that reality is throughout and at every point both the one and the other. Persons are individuals conscious of universality, such consciousness occurring only when Individuality has attained a certain level of development or evolution. The thought of a perfect Individuality, in comparison with which our Personality is imperfect, raises again the question at issue between Lotze and Mr. Bosanquet, whether such an Individuality should be called ‘personal.’ It is found that the answer will depend upon the rank assigned to ethical predicates in the scale of values.
PERSONALITY AND RATIONALITY
Rationality the other factor in Personality beside Individuality recognized in the Boethian definition. Yet what is rational seems to be that in which personal differences disappear, and we are apt to explain as especially personal what is not rationally explicable in human conduct. This ‘irrationality of the personal’ the chief inspiration alike of the demand for a personal God and of the reluctance of many to admit that demand to be legitimate. This reluctance natural from the point of view of Natural Science, which treats the ‘personal equation’ as something to be discounted, of a philosophy which looks on Natural Science as the type of true knowledge, and also of such a philosophy as Fichte's, which represents the supreme system of Reality as a ‘moral order.’ But a philosophy like Mr. Bosanquet's, which does not so represent it, will refuse to ascribe personality to the Ultimate Reality, because it must transcend moral distinctions, whereas Personality and Morality go (as we saw) together. It is admitted on all hands that finite personality cannot be ascribed to the Absolute; but what is really meant by the attribution of personality to God is the affirmation that reciprocal personal relations may exist between the worshipper and him; and it is sometimes sought to evade the difficulty of affirming this in the case of the Absolute by distinguishing God from the Absolute and allowing God to be a finite person. The next Lecture to be devoted to the consideration of this suggestion.
THE DOCTRINE OF A FINITE GOD
It is sometimes thought that the doctrine of a Finite God would satisfy the claims at once of Religion and of Metaphysics. This conception appears in several forms. Three of these we may conveniently associate with the names of Mr. Bradley, Dr. Rashdall, and Mr. H. G. Wells respectively. The second and third of these, it is contended, fail because they abandon the attempt to identify God with the Absolute, and in so doing, abandon what is essential to Religion when once the stage of intellectual development is reached at which the question of this identification can be raised. By Mr. Bradley, on the other hand, this failure is admitted and the consequence proclaimed that Religion, like other forms of experience, is bound to break down under metaphysical criticism and stand convicted of involving a contradiction. After a full examination of this view, which leads incidentally to a discussion of the antithesis of ‘immanence’ and ‘transcendence,’ the conclusion is reached that Religion implies a paradox but not a contradiction, and that there is no necessary inconsistency between the recognition that the object of religious experience is the supreme Reality and the recognition that this experience is an experience of personal relations with its object; nor yet between a personal intercourse of the worshipper with his God and the immanence of that God in his worshipper. The difficulties encountered in the course of this examination nevertheless press upon us the problem of the best language for expressing the dependence upon the Divine Spirit of the finite spirits which are conscious of standing in personal relations with him.
THE PROBLEM OF CREATION
Of metaphors which may be used to express the relation of the Divine Spirit to our spirits, that of creation emphasizes the difference, and those of generation and emanation the identity between the two terms of the relation. Thus the first will be appropriate to a doctrine which lays stress on divine transcendence. Such Scholasticism is said to have been, and we see an extreme recoil from its position in this respect in the philosophy of Signor Croce, which does not allow Religion to be anything but an immature form of Philosophy. An attempt to unite the advantages of the metaphors of creation and procreation by the conception of a Mediator, who is the Son of God and so distinguished from created spirits. Such a conception may be objected to as (1) mythological, (2) logically leading to an infinite regress.
1. It may be regarded as a myth, but in the sense which Plato gives to the word, a sense in which myth has a legitimate place in philosophy. As is shown by the examination of Plato's usage, it is proposed to employ it just where Plato would employ a myth, in dealing with the nature of the Soul, which is the meeting-place of Universal and Individual, of Philosophy and History. The conception will be found apt to help us in expressing our relation to God in terms which avoid encouraging either an irreligious pride or an abject servility.
2. It need not lead to an infinite regress. Such a regress only becomes inevitable when there is no ground for introducing a middle term between two others which is not equally a ground for introducing a further middle term between the first middle term and either of the extremes. But in the present instance this is not the case. The Mediator represented as the archetype and ideal completion of the nature found to exist imperfectly in finite souls. But a new complication is introduced when the latter are regarded as not only imperfect but sinful; and we are constrained to pass on to the problem of Sin.
THE PROBLEM OF SIN
A general discussion of the Problem of Evil not to be attempted here, but only of the bearing of our consciousness of moral Evil or Sin upon our conception of Divine Personality. It is true that what would be a criminal act, if brought about by a person, is not blamed when due to a natural force or the activity of an irrational animal. But to extend this to an assertion that there is no question of Evil in the world, if the cause of the world be not regarded as personal, is a piece of illegitimate reasoning The question of the significance to be assigned to our moral consciousness in the formation of a general view of the world cannot be put aside altogether. To a view which assigns it no significance beyond the sphere of human action the world must appear fundamentally irrational and incoherent. Hence the denial of Divine Personality does not enable us to rid ourselves of the problem of the existence of Evil. On the other hand a religious experience which implies a personal relation of our souls to God, if it gives to the sense of Sin a peculiar poignancy, yet provides it with a more intelligible setting than it has in any other connexion. Those who, while attributing personality to God, would relieve him of responsibility for the evil in the world by refusing to identify him with the Absolute, do so at the cost of denying him Godhead in the true sense of the word. After a consideration of the extent to which our consciousness of Sin must modify the conception adopted in the last Lecture of the relation between our spirits and the Divine Spirit, we pass to an examination of Signor Croce's teaching with its extreme doctrine of immanence and reach the conclusion that a religious experience implying a personal relation of our souls to God affords a clue to the solution of the antinomy between a realized perfection and an eternal activity in God, and that in the light of this experience the mystery involved in that antinomy will be found not so much to baffle reason as to enlarge its scope and opportunity.
RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY
The problem of Personality in God is at bottom the same as that of the distinction of God from the Absolute, and also as that of the relation of Religion to Philosophy. Though Religion may exist apart from the affirmation of Personality in God, yet the presence of an emotion of reverence akin to that experienced towards persons is a mark distinguishing Religion from Philosophy, which are both of them concerned with the Supreme Reality; for although what is known to be less than this may receive religious honour, only to that which is taken to be this can the greatest religious reverence be paid in the end; nor can the religious consciousness forbear the demand that the Supreme God should be the Supreme Reality. On the other hand, apart from the religious consciousness the Absolute cannot be known as God. Hence Religion and Philosophy are intimately connected, yet always distinct. The Absolute being the ultimate principle of unity reached in the search characteristic of Philosophy for the One in the Many, we may inquire what light can be thrown upon its nature by the study of subordinate principles of unity, and how far it can be described in terms borrowed from our acquaintance with any of these. It cannot be adequately described as the Universal or as Substance, or even, despite the eloquent advocacy of M. Bergson, as Life; although this last description may serve a useful purpose in purging from undesirable accretions what is yet in the end the more satisfactory account of it as Reason and Goodness in that close mutual union assigned to them in the Platonic philosophy. Yet even this account, as given by Plato, calls for a further development, which is in principle supplied in the identification, established with the help of religious experience on a Platonic foundation by Christian theology, of the living God, who in Plato's system is to the end less than the Good, with the Good which is in that system the Supreme Reality. Here we reach a definite contribution made by religious experience to our conception of the supreme principle of unity.
Religious Experience, on which it is rightly claimed that theology should be based, is not to be sought only in records of conversion or of mystical raptures, but in the public theologies and ecclesiastical polities wherein may be read “writ large” the normal religious experience of the peoples among whom they have arisen. The student of Natural Theology should seek to discover the universal significance of the tradition which he himself inherits; and need not suppose that to classify religious experiences as ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ is to abandon the ideal of Natural Theology as expressing the outcome of reflection on the whole religious experience of mankind. He must, however, use for his classification a suitable criterion; which is to be found in the capacity of a religion to encourage and be encouraged by moral and intellectual progress in its votaries, yet only so far as this is done by exhibiting the specific nature of Religion in a particular manner. No historic religion has maintained and developed itself in an atmosphere of higher intellectual and moral culture than Christianity, which more than any other has laid stress upon personality in God; and this stress is no extrinsic or accidental feature of this religion, but the fuller development of a factor to some degree present in all Religion, viz. the doctrine of divine transcendence. The recognition of personality in God adds to the intelligibility and moral efficacy of such religious ideas as those of Sin, Forgiveness, Justice, Sacrifice, Union; and although the language of Religion is always metaphorical, we must distinguish the metaphor with which it can dispense without danger to its claim to be real experience and that which is its only means of describing it. The difficulty of ascribing Personality to God, arising from what we called in a former lecture ‘the irrationality of the personal,’ met by the consideration that Reason as manifested in the artist affords a better analogy for use in that connexion than Reason as manifested by the mathematician or the moralist; especially if the notion of Evolution is to be taken seriously. The Lecture concludes with some remarks on the relation of this account of Divine Personality to that contained in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.