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15: Monism

15
Monism1

WE may recall once more the conclusion which was reached in the examination of the Moral Argument. A comparison was drawn between the order of nature in accordance with which events occur and the mode of action of individual minds on the one hand, and the realm of moral values on the other hand; and the comparison showed that goodness was not realised in the existing world. The problem raised was how to interpret a universe which contained both the order of nature and the order of morality, but in which these two orders were in conflict. It was argued that the problem would be solved if we regarded the course of the world as purposive and held that its purpose consisted in the realisation of those values, especially the moral values, which can be realised only by intelligent agents who are free though finite. According to this solution the universal purpose is held to be the purpose of a Supreme Mind upon whom nature and finite minds depend. The term ‘mind’ thus used does not imply an exact similarity with mind as we are aware of it in our own life; but it does indicate that intelligence, will, and goodness are a less inadequate expression for that which we wish to name than any other expression. The doctrine that the world depends oil, mind, thus understood, is what is meant by Theism.

There are, however, many other theories about reality; and two of these seemed to call for examination, because they recognise, at least in some measure, the problem which confronts us. According to one of these theories what is alone ultimately real is a plurality of monads or selves, all of them finite; according to the other, theory, minds are only manifestations or modes of a single reality which, as a unity or whole, cannot be described as mind but, if any term fits it, may be better spoken of as law, order, or reason-provided these terms are not supposed to imply consciousness. The former is the theory of pluralism; the latter may be called monism or pantheism. It has been argued that pluralism must admit an order of the world beyond and above the finite monads or minds that are said to be the ultimate constituents of reality, and that in this way it tends to pass over into its opposite—monism. The latter theory has now to be examined, especially with regard to its explanation of the relation between the realm of nature and the realm of goodness.

For Western thought Spinoza's system is the typical example of monism or pantheism. It is almost an accident that it is presented, and is commonly regarded by the historians, as being, at the same time, the typical example of rigid demonstration in philosophy. In Spinoza two great qualities were combined: the logical power which has command of abstract reasoning and can weld arguments into system, and, along with this, the vision of a seer. In respect of logic and system, however, it is impossible to regard his work as a faultless specimen of demonstration. He did succeed in developing with far greater consistency than Descartes the conceptions which he found in the latter's philosophy; but his leading positions have only the appearance of being demonstrated: they are already contained in his definitions, especially the; definition of substance. His central idea of the All as One is not arrived at by ratiocination but by what he himself calls intuition. This is his vision, his point of view; and the compact body of propositions in which his thought is set forth is his impressive endeavour to show how the facts of material and mental existence can be seen from this point of view and find their place and explanation as modes of one eternal substance or reality.

Nature and God are one—merely different names for describing the sole ultimate reality, as conceived under different attributes or as seen from different points of view; all particular things, whether bodies or minds, can be nothing but modes of this one real being—if indeed they are more than illusions. This is the general thesis of pantheism, and it is not difficult to see that it may be interpreted in different ways according to the aspect from which it is regarded. Looked at from the side of nature the universe may be held to be simply the interconnected world of physical science. On the other hand this diversity itself may be said to be only an appearance; and reality may be interpreted as a unity somewhat after the fashion of the spirit of man, so that it may be possible for man to realise his being in union with the whole. In taking over from Descartes the doctrine that extension and thought have nothing in common, and in regarding them as two attributes of the One Substance, Spinoza brought into prominence, and attempted to bring into unity, these divergent interpretations. His own thought, however, is in unstable equilibrium between them, and. it oscillates uneasily from one interpretation to the other. On the one hand there is the tendency to lay stress on the aspect of extension and of the material bodies which are the modes of substance as extended. This region forms a mechanical system in which causal connexions can be traced and verified. And as the attribute of thought, and minds which are its modes, correspond exactly with this mechanical region, they also may be interpreted mechanically. Thus matter is given the primacy. This primacy is still further brought out by the point-to-point parallelism of matter and mind. For the ideas which makeup mind are—all of them—held to be ideas of the body; so that, although they have their own causal sequence, they are bound to body in a way in which body cannot be shown to be bound to mind. In this way it is not surprising that freedom should disappear, and that goodness should be regarded as merely a name for whatever is useful or the object of desire.

But alongside of this there is an entirely different train of thought. Mind, which was first represented as merely an idea of its own body, may yet have an adequate knowledge of the attributes of God or substance; in so far as it has this knowledge it partakes of the eternity of its object; there is something in mind which does not disappear; with the body2—although mind is only an idea of the body3. And its blessedness is consummated in the intellectual love of God which is a part of the love wherewith God loves himself.

Since all is one, according to monism, it would seem that the system must needs display unity or harmony. But it is equally true for the theory that the One is all, and thus discord lurks within the harmony. The theory is put forward to show the unity behind and beneath all the diversity of appearance in the world; and thus, in an ethical regard, it would seem to point to the moral doctrine that the individual should seek his good in union with the whole. This has indeed been the burden of the teaching of the great pantheistic thinkers of every age and race. Yet there is another side to the doctrine of which some have not been slow to catch hold, and which appeals forcibly to the mass of men when such a doctrine can reach them at all. It is equally part of the theory that all the differentiations of the One are necessary. Whether we call them modes or appearances or even illusions, they cannot come by accident. Each thing and person has its appointed place, and therein—whether as mode or appearance or illusion—is as essential to the One as the One is to it. Degrees of illusoriness, or—what comes to much the same thing—degrees of reality, there may be. But all degrees are necessary, and why should one mode of reality or bit of illusion strive to alter its degree? Such striving must be vain; and if it were not vain, would it not be immoral as disturbing the harmony of the whole in which all degrees are necessary and together make up the perfect One and All?

Neither the philosophical elaboration of pantheism, as we find it in a writer like Spinoza, nor its working as a religious view of the world, can be rightly estimated if we neglect either of these sides of the doctrine—the side which points to mysticism or that which allies itself with naturalism. The doctrine is a doctrine of unity; but it is a unity which contains in itself all diversity and multiplicity. The absolute One is in strictness ineffable; determination of it implies negation and therefore interferes with its positive perfection; any assertion with the absolute as subject brings the absolute into relation to a predicate and thus destroys its absoluteness. The absolute One should be treated as strictly ineffable. But, if it is to be I described at all, it cannot be described otherwise than by means of that manifold world of appearance which is somehow its manifestation. Consequently, the doctrine must be understood by means of the way in which the concrete world is regarded as manifesting the one reality.

A view of the infinite, or of the whole, must be judged by the adequacy of the explanation which it is able to give of the finite or of the parts. We may therefore test it by its application to the different divisions of reality as finite which have been distinguished. In the first place, the realm of material things, living creatures, and persons will be regarded, on the monistic theory, as modes of the being of that one ultimate reality in which everything must have being. This is so far simple, as soon as we have granted that the Absolute can have and has modes. How this is possible—how the absolute One can manifest itself in a finite many—is not a whit easier to understand than the doctrine of creation or any other substitute for it. But particular things undoubtedly exist in some fashion; and, when their existence is explained by the theory that they are modes of a single absolute reality, what we have to do is to enquire how this explanation explains their particularity and their differences from one another. The problem is therefore how to draw lines of discrimination between the various modes. The distinction between modes of extension, or bodies, and modes of thought, or minds, goes a little way only in this direction; it entails difficulties of its own; and it applies chiefly to that special form of monistic doctrine which arose out of the dualism of Descartes.

Different solutions have been offered of the problem of differentiation. Sometimes a very formal test has been offered: different things are discriminated from one another by their degree of freedom from self-contradiction. The Absolute alone is completely free from contradiction, completely harmonious and self-consistent; particular things, all more or less affected by the vice of contradiction, may yet be distinguished by their measure of comparative freedom from it. Again, the Absolute is the whole of reality: particular things may be distinguished by the amount or degree of reality which they manifest, Yet again, certain pantheistic cosmologies have favoured the doctrine of emanation: from the Absolute all things proceed; those things which are nearer the Absolute in this process of emanation are superior to or more perfect than those things which are further off. I cannot even pretend to examine these different views. But their resemblance to one another may be noted, Finite beings are distinguished according to the measure in which they approach the Absolute conceived as harmonious, as complete, or as first. What right the intellect of one of its finite modes can have to describe it thus or to describe it at all, I do not enquire; for if I did enquire there would be no answer to the query. But I do ask why we should assume that the finite modes can be distinguished from one another by any comparison with the One or Absolute. Have we any right to assume that any mode can in any way resemble, or be compared with, the Absolute, which is properly ineffable? And when we look closer, is the comparison at all justified? As long as each thing keeps its place, and does not pretend to be what it is not, is there any contradiction in it? Is any one thing less necessary to the whole than any other? and if not, why should we speak of it as less real or having a lower degree of reality? And is not the idea of emanation mere picture-thinking? Can anything be further off than another from that one reality which is in all and is all? To say, as Mr Bradley does4, that one thing is of a lower degree of reality than another if it would require a greater change to become the whole, seems to me to treat the whole as merely a sum of particulars and not as an Absolute. The Absolute, however defined or however indefinable, cannot be compared with particular things. No conceivable change of any particular thing would bring it, nearer to or further from the Absolute. In essence it just is the Absolute appearing in a certain position and with certain determinations which somehow are necessary to its manifestation. It could not be other than it is; and the idea of any change in it making it nearer the Absolute seems to me an invasion of the absoluteness of the Absolute.

The world-view of monism is thus disappointing in the light it sheds on the particulars of experience. Each particular, in its grade and place, is a manifestation of the One Which is also All. But no further light is thrown on the interrelations of the finite. Every thing is necessary in its place: mind and matter, man and worm, saint and sinner. Of all these we can only say what experience tells us, that there they are and that they are interrelated according to certain natural laws. Yet here, in what we gather from experience regarding the realm of law, we may find a manifestation of that fixed order which the monistic view leads us to expect. The view tightens the grip of law upon our consciousness, whether the law be that of nature or of logic. The doctrine that all is one can make no terms with contingency. The order of nature must be as necessary as the laws of logic; the processes of mind and society must have the same fixed order as mechanical necessity. Spinoza professed to treat the actions and desires of men just as if the question were of lines, planes, and solids5; and, from his point of view, he was perfectly justified; the unity of reality will be interfered with if necessary connexion is relaxed or room is left for individual initiative. If physical science aspires to be a philosophy, and is not content with naturalism, it may find in monism a fitting metaphysical refuge.

But when we pass from these relations to the diverse order of moral values and moral law, difficulties begin afresh. For in morality we have a discrimination of higher and lower, of good and evil, which does not find an easy explanation in a system where everything is equally essential. Yet it is from the ethical point of view that the system has to be approached here, as offering a solution of the problem of reality which might be accepted as an alternative to theism. God (if the word is used at all) may be regarded as the moral order of the universe: though we see now that this can hardly be a complete definition. If the natural order of the universe is real, then God must equally be this natural order; and, similarly, the logical order also. If we do not admit this view, and if we distinguish one of these orders from the others, then we must enquire into their relation. If each order has a different ultimate ground then we have no universe, only a multiverse; if they have the same ultimate ground and it transcends each of them, then we are on the highway towards theism. The doctrine of the All as One must in some way harmonise the natural, logical, and moral orders, and do so without going beyond them to the conception of consciousness or personality.

But can we in this way identify the moral order and the order of nature? “God or nature”—Spinoza's favourite phrase—conveys a meaning; “God or the moral order”—which might represent Fichte's view—also conveys a meaning; but if by “God” we mean at the same time both the natural and the moral order, are we not using the name to cover a contradiction?

It was because Kant was impressed by the discrepancy between the realm of nature with its strict causal connexions and the moral order with its categorical imperative, that he postulated a God transcending the natural order and yet with the power required to bring that order into harmony with morality When this view came before us in another connexion something was said about the assumed opposition of the two orders and in the direction of qualifying the completeness of this opposition. It may perhaps appear, therefore, as if their unity had been already in principle admitted. But this would be to misunderstand the drift of the argument. The argument was not, that the order of nature and the moral order agree in their manifestations. On the contrary, it started from the fact that there are values which have no actual existence in the world, that the moral law is often broken, that the moral ideal is something unrealised. The argument was that the natural order might be shown to be adapted to the moral order, but only upon two conditions: first, if nature were interpreted as a purposive system, and secondly, if it were recognised that morality required for its realisation the free activity of individual persons. The existing discrepancies between fact (or nature) and morality were admitted. But, if morality is something that needs to be achieved through freedom, then discrepancy must be expected on the way to harmony, and the existing world will need to be a fit medium for the exercise of this freedom and the ultimate realisation of goodness that is to say, it must be held to be working out a purpose. But these two ideas—purpose and freedom—are just the ideas which are most alien to any monistic scheme. How it deals with them, and how it construes the moral universe without them, has to be shown.

Let us take first the idea of purpose. The two ideas, those of freedom and of purpose, are not dealt with in quite the same way in the monistic scheme. For, while freedom is rejected completely as altogether inconsistent with the unity of the whole, it is difficult to deny the existence of purpose somewhere within the whole, namely, in human activity. At the same time, it is held that to apply the conception of purpose to the world as a whole is illegitimate, being a fashioning of the world after the likeness of man, who is conscious of the end he seeks before he attains it. Each individual thing, Spinoza thinks, seeks to preserve its being—a truth equally manifested by the stone which offers resistance to the blows of the hammer and by the animal or man that resists disease or death. But it is clear that mere inertia does not express the whole truth about any living being, as contrasted with the inorganic thing. The living being seeks not merely preservation but growth or expansion—greater fulness or excellence of being. Here growth (though growth followed by decay) is the law, as change of a regular kind is the law in the inorganic realm; and in the life of mind the growth is mediated by an idea of value—a purpose. But from our conception of the world as a whole the idea of purpose is excluded. The world must be regarded as eternally complete and not as tending towards a more perfect state.

Purpose then is excluded. The world must not be interpreted by means of the result which it is fitted to bring forth in the fulness of time. Time cannot thus be of its essence. We must view it as it is, and in this view the moment of time at which we regard it is indifferent. It is a whole and, as a whole, must be perfect: for perfection means simply completeness of reality; and all reality is here. As substance or essence, reality is one; as manifestation or appearance—what Spinoza6 calls facies totius universi—it is seen as a changing manifold, but a manifold to which nothing can be added and from which nothing can be taken away. It is the perfect manifestation of the One. The whole world is essential to this perfect manifestation; we cannot dispense with any part. Sin and suffering are there, constitutive fragments of the whole; and as such they must be accepted as belonging to it and contributing to its perfection. From the point of view of natural law this conclusion creates no difficulty. But it is inconsistent with the conditions of moral law, which requires the conquest of sin or evil and the realisation of goodness. The moral order and the natural order are therefore in conflict; and no provision is made for transcending their opposition

A consistent monism, accordingly, cannot admit the equal validity of the order of natural law and of that of moral law. It must throw over one or the other. It may conceivably adopt the heroic device of discarding the whole realm of nature and the laws of nature as an illusion; but the illusion is too insistent in our experience to allow of this alternative being carried out fully. We cannot look upon the moral order as the only reality. Even if we are willing to declare that pain is no evil, it is harder to say that sin does not exist. Evil of all kinds, sin among the rest, may indeed be held to be mere negation, without any share in positive reality. But, even as negation, evil is a failure to give actual existence to those values which demand realisation; it is still an incompleteness, an imperfection, in the manifestation of the moral order: and as such is an obstacle to consistent monism. And if the natural order is not sacrificed to the moral, then the moral order must be sacrificed to it, and morality must be allowed to lapse into naturalism. This was the line taken by Spinoza when he followed out the implications of his point of view as a logical thinker. Good and evil become, in this way, as they became for him7, mere figments of our way of thinking—shadows cast by our desires upon the impenetrable barrier of natural law. To the order of the universe as a whole these conceptions do not belong. The claim of the moral order to a validity independent of human feeling and desire is relinquished. ‘Ought’ and ‘value’ and ‘good’ involve distinctions which unfit them as names for a universal objective order. They must be given up when we speak of the whole or of the order which constitutes the whole. Here ‘is’ is the only word; and our monistic view no longer pretends to make morality an ultimate constituent of reality.

Of course I am drawing out the consequences in a way Spinoza did not do. But I am saying nothing which is not implied in the statements of one portion of his Ethics, And we may see a confirmation of the soundness of his logical processes when we. observe the fate of monism on the wider field of the history of human and popular creeds. When a pantheistic doctrine has ceased to be a monopoly of the intellectual élite, and has become common and public property as the creed of a race, it has not, I believe, been accompanied by a specially strong hold on the importance of moral values or the binding obligation of moral law.

The conclusion, accordingly, is that a monism such as Spinoza's or any similar doctrine, does not provide the view of reality of which we are in search—a view in which the moral order as well as the natural order will be recognised as valid. And the reason for the failure of the doctrine may be traced back to its denial of any real purpose in the universe. We may therefore look back and ask whether, after all, it may not be possible to interpret the world as purposive and yet to understand it as one, after the manner of the monist. At first sight, at any rate, it does not appear impossible. For it has to be admitted that purpose does enter into the world in the actions of human beings. Why should we limit its operation to them? This is not a question of the evidence for its presence elsewhere, but only of the logical conceivability of that presence. Seeing that the One Absolute Reality manifests itself as a time-process, why should we say that purpose may appear in one part of the time-process, namely, human activity, but not in any other part of it? There seems no good reason. And if the notion may be extended to any portion of the time-process, may it not also be applied to the time-process as a whole?

How time or change can enter at all into the manifestation of the Absolute Reality is, of course, an unsolved problem; and as such may be allowed to pass without further remark. But it is a fact that the “appearance of the whole universe” (to use Spinoza's phrase) as known to us, is in process of change; and there does not seem to be any graver logical difficulty in conceiving it under the conception of purpose than in conceiving it (as we must) under the conception of change. The fundamental notion in Spinoza's philosophy—that of Substance—may be inconsistent with purpose in the sum-total of the modes of Substance, but it is also hard to reconcile with change within this sum-total, or with purpose anywhere in it—both of which he is obliged to admit. And, if we discard Substance as the fundamental notion, and substitute for it the notion of activity or that of subject, the idea of purpose may appear more in harmony with the general world-view.

Let us suppose then that the idea of purpose is relevant to the total manifestation of the world. This will obviate the difficulty caused by the lack of harmony between the existing phenomena of the world and the moral order, seeing that the purpose and ultimate issue of these phenomena may be the confirmation of that moral order and its manifestation in the world. The question then remains, is this idea of purpose consistent with the world-view which we are examining? What do we mean by purpose? In our experience it always involves two things: first, that an idea of the end precedes the activity or attainment, and secondly, that the activity is determined by the idea. Can these characteristics be valid for the relation of the time-process as a whole to its ground or to the Absolute? It is clear that the first cannot. We cannot conceive the time-process as a whole proceeding from an idea—or from anything—that is antecedent to it in time: for that would be to bring its antecedent ground also within the time-process. But this temporal antecedence of idea to end or manifestation is not the most important characteristic of purpose; it is a feature of purpose only in so far as both idea and activity are distinguishable factors within the time-process. The characteristic which is essential, and without which purpose would lose its meaning altogether, is that the idea is the determining condition of the activity or manifestation. To look upon the world as purposive we must therefore postulate an idea of its final issue in the ultimate ground of the world. That is to say, we attribute to the Absolute an idea; and this idea is of the world as in harmony with the moral order, or as manifesting and realising goodness. Hence the dilemma: If we do not interpret the world as purposive, our view of it cannot find room for both the natural order and the moral order. If we do interpret it as purposive, we must attribute an idea and a purpose of good to the ground of the world, that is, our theory may still assert the unity of reality; but it recognises mind as fundamental and as working towards an end; its unity is the unity of the good, and the theory will be an ethical theism.

With regard to the second idea mentioned as belonging to our conception of the moral order—the idea of freedom—the monistic view of the world does not admit of any doubt. The unity of the world leaves no room for individual freedom. For my view—as I think it does for any view—the question arose, How comes it that the world as manifested, especially in persons and their relations, shows so defective a correspondence between its existing order and what we have recognised as the moral order? How is it that there is so large a mixture of evil with the good in the world? or indeed that there is any evil at all? My answer was that goodness is something that can be realised by free beings only: that freedom is a condition of the production of good, and that it involves a possible choice of evil: while, on the other hand, the order of the world must be such as to provide a medium not for the activities of perfect beings, but for the training of persons towards the free choice and thus the realisation of goodness. The world must be purposive in. order to fashion and confirm the value of human souls; men must be free in order to attain the highest values. When freedom is shut off from the outset as an impossibility, what is the effect upon our view of morality?

How are we to characterise the unfree world? The question is not really difficult; and yet there is a strange reluctance to face the answer—or perhaps the reluctance is not strange. At any rate almost as much ingenuity has been spent in arguing that the absence of freedom makes no difference, as in proving that freedom cannot possibly be present. Thus we find it argued that, although a man's actions are pre-determined, it is his own character that determines, them, and that he can change or modify his character, The point is overlooked that it is only by his actions that he can modify his character, and that if these actions are all part of a rigidly determined sequence, the modification of character is as much determined for him as any particular action. The simple truth is that, on the determinist view, both character and action in all cases proceed from two cooperating causes and from no others, These two are heredity and environment. Heredity provides the characteristic disposition of the finite person as it is when his individual life first begins; everything else results from the way in which the forces of the environment play upon this plastic material. The whole contents of mind and will are the result of the primitive reactions of the individual organism or of the individual mind to external stimuli. Given its initial constitution and given, all the circumstances in which it is placed, then the future history of every individual mind could be read like a finished book. Everything is pre-determined from the beginning of the time-process, if it had a beginning, or from eternity, if it had none: a man's choice between good and evil, as much as the fall of a stone or the orbit of a planet. The point is too obvious to need further argument; it might have been too obvious for statement, were it not for a. prevailing unwillingness to admit it—an unwillingness, however, which was not shown by a fearless thinker like Spinoza. The question remains, what bearing the denial of freedom has upon the validity of the moral order and its relation to the causal order of phenomena.

In the first place, we must give up the idea that value is in any way connected with personal freedom in its pursuit or attainment. The man who drifts before each gust of passion or breeze of desire is neither less nor more determined than the strong-willed man who bends circumstances to his purpose. The environment acting upon different kinds of material produces divergent results in the two cases by the same process of unerring causal connexions. It is false to say that the one man might have been strong or that the other might have shown himself weak. Neither of them could have been different from what he was; and the values which their lives showed or failed to show were due to conditions over which there was no personal control. Goodness, and value generally, must be unconnected with the free effort or the free choice of the selves in whom it may be realised.

The second point follows from the first. As value does not depend upon personal freedom, the discrepancy between the natural order and the moral order cannot be explained or justified by appealing to the need for a medium which will evoke, test, and confirm the free efforts of individuals and societies to realise value. Had the order of the world been such as to make it easy instead of difficult to restrain selfish and sensual desire and to cherish only the things that are more excellent, the only value that would have been lost is freedom (and that we are assuming not to be a value any more than a reality), and many values would have been gained. A universe without pain or evil, in which there is no discord between desire and satisfaction, or between one man and his neighbour, is easy enough to imagine. Spencer has provided us with a picture of an ultimate social state in which everything and every one will be perfectly adapted to everything else, and there will be neither pain nor evil. The spirit of adventure rebels against his complacent ideal of a future in which automatism has supplanted life, as much as it does against the soda-water paradise of Chautauqua satirised by William James8. But that is because we set store upon the sense of freedom and the values which freedom alone can bring. And, at any rate, the picture does not represent the world as we know it. Here almost all degrees of value and lack of value are to be found; the interest lies in the struggle for the increase of values; and the struggle is supported by the hope of victory for the best.

The monistic world-view does not deny the existence of the conflict. That would be impossible. But it throws over it an air of futility, of unreality. For the combatants are but modes of the one real being, blindly imagining themselves to be free, and he that strikes and he that feels the blow are equally modes of the one substance that knows neither discord nor change. For these modes themselves there is no reason to expect that the illusory turmoil in which their lives are spent will lead to a better order of things, or to think that now or in the future the world is or will be more in harmony with the moral order than it was at any previous epoch. Freedom and purpose disappear together; and we must either falsify experience by saying that the existing world is perfect, or confess that the so-called moral order has not a valid place in reality.

It is this sense of the inadequacy of the world to the values on which the human mind sets greatest store that has given strength to the mystical tendency found in all the higher representatives of that spiritual form of monism which we call pantheism. And this tendency is best illustrated by Spinoza himself. Discarding the imaginative picture of things which suffices for common sense, looking beyond even the rational or scientific view of phenomena in their causal connexions, he seeks intellectual satisfaction in his vision of the substance of all things, a substance which is One and is by him called God. Whatever happens, he will endeavour to understand it as proceeding from one of the infinite attributes of God, and thus understanding it his mind will be filled with an intellectual satisfaction or intellectual love; and as this love is part of the love wherewith God loves himself, he will both be, and feel himself to be, one with the infinite whole. Anything whatever—whether we call it good or evil in our experience—can be made contributory to this mystic union. We have only to understand it as proceeding from God, and the understanding moves us to joy and love.

This attitude, be it noted, is not a moral but a religious attitude. Pantheism has always been much stronger as a religious than as a moral theory. In it everything leads to God, as everything comes from God; the distinctions of our rational consciousness are all submerged in the One Being. Other religions have to proceed by selection. Not all things are equally on the way to the divine life. And in the ethical religions, the problem is acute: for the selection has to be made within the region of human experience: good has to be sifted out from evil, and to be recognised as the line of approach to the knowledge of God and to union with God. The difficulty in them is to vindicate all reality for God—a difficulty which, obviously, cannot arise for the other view.

Reverence for the moral order may possibly lead the pantheist into the mystic way; but morality itself is lost on the road. For all things point to the One: all lofty things terminate there; and there is no path so foul but that, if we understand its essence, it will lead to the same goal. And, when the goal is reached, we are absorbed in a Being beyond good and evil; and, knowing that all things are in essence one, we may well be indifferent to the claims of one event rather than another in the illusion which we call the world.

  • 1.

    The term Monism is used here, as Lotze used it (Metaphysic, § 69), for the theory that “there cannot be a multiplicity of independent things, but all elements…must be regarded as parts of a single and real being.” For the same meaning Professor Ward prefers the term Singularism, using Monism to signify only the qualitative sameness or similarity spiritualistic; materialistic, or neutral) of everything that is real. See his Realm of Ends, p. 24.

  • 2.

    Spinoza, Ethica, v, 23.

  • 3.

    Spinoza, Ethica, ii, 13.

  • 4.

    Appearance and Reality, p. 401.

  • 5.

    Ethica, iii, pref.

  • 6.

    Epist. 64, Opera, ed. Van Vloten and Land, vol. II, p. 219.

  • 7.

    Ethica, iv, pref.

  • 8.

    Talks to Teachers and to Students (1899), p. 269.