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Chapter 1: The Belief as a Problem in the Philosophy of Nature

§ I. The Ideas of Nature and the Supernatural

THE real and initial difficulty the modern mind feels in the face of the apostolic doctrine as to the Person of Christ is its radical incompatibility with the scientific view of Nature. It was an easy thing to men who had no conception of natural order or law, and who habitually thought in the terms of the miraculous, to say, “We believe in a supernatural Person.” Their view of the universe was not, in our sense, normal, but was rather a compound of the extraordinary and exceptional. Natural things were explained by supernatural causes; gods were as numerous as men; dreams had more significance than observation or experience; the commonest events were ascribed to Divine interference; while to seek a physical reason for disease or health, or states of ecstasy or trance, was regarded as highly profane. But the instinctive faith of the modern temper may be expressed in the formula, “I believe in an order that admits no miracle and knows no supernatural.” Nature is to us the realm of law; we suspect the abnormal, and tend to deny promptly whatever postulates for its being a force we cannot analyze or measure. The creed common to modern man we might describe by the word “Naturalism,” were not the term so illusory and so incapable of a fixed meaning. In a sense, we are all Naturalists; we speak and think as those who live and move and have their being in a nature which represents to us all we know of reality and life. For the Nature we describe as dead is a mere abstraction, without any being in our conscious experience. Spinoza distinguished “natura naturans,” from “natura naturata”: the former was causative, creative, efficient nature, the latter nature as caused, created, produced. But the distinction was subjective and arbitrary; it represented no objective reality. We do not know this “natura naturata” by itself; it is the “natura naturans” viewed as a realized or embodied order. Nor are we able to separate the “naturans,” from the “naturata,” for it is only the system we know conceived through the causal idea, a system charged with the energies which as efficient are the sufficient reason for its continuance. But whether we think of “Nature” as causative or as caused, what we mean is a system whose reason is in itself, which would be disturbed or broken up by the intervention of any higher power or will, superseding its forces and accomplishing something beyond their capacity or scope. So universal and instinctive has this notion become that we feel as if a supernatural Person—especially in so exaggerated a form as we have in Jesus Christ—were an idea we could as little conceive in thought as represent in imagination.

2. This is too great a question to be argued as if it concerned the old and exhausted commonplaces as to the possibility and credibility of miracles. There never was a more unreal discussion raised in any School, or by men who had less right to raise it. Hume was a dexterous dialectician, and in nothing was his dexterity so apparent as in the way in which he concealed, if not from himself, at least from his opponents, the incompatibility of his argument against miracles with the first principles of his own philosophy. That philosophy was the purest and most consistent of all modern scepticisms, and Hume was the most subtle and logical of all modern empiricists. His apparatus was simple, his analysis of the material contained in Locke's two sources of knowledge was thorough, and his deduction complete. The originals of all knowledge were two—impressions and ideas. Impressions denoted the direct and vivid appearance of Nature in and through sense; while ideas were remembered impressions,—as it were their faint echo or image. ‘Now,’ Hume argues, ‘since these two are the sources and only realities of knowledge, and since we never find ourselves without an impression or idea, we have no independent existence, and are nothing but the series of our impressions and ideas. It follows that as we—or the succession of images we mistake for ourselves—can never have impressions of more than single things, we can never have any impression of self, which, so far from being a single thing, is an infinite multitude of things existing in either arbitrary or determined relations. It further follows that as we perceive only external occurrence and not internal causation, we can never have any impression of cause or perceive anything more than antecedence and sequence or the coexistence and association of contiguous things. But where we have no impressions we can have no ideas; and therefore we cannot speak of causation or causes as real things. Nor, for the same reason, can we have any impression or any consequent idea of so vast a thing as space, or of so multitudinous a thing as time. The ideas of self, causation, space, time are, therefore, all unrealities, begotten of the tendency to feign, i.e. they are mere fictions of the phantasy. All the knowledge that comes to man is given in individual impressions, and all that legitimately remains is the echo of these in single or associated ideas.’

Now let us take the principles supplied by this method and apply them to the ideas or beliefs which underlie Hume's famous argument against miracles. Miracles, he says, have two things against them: (α) they are impossible, for they imply a violation of the order or the laws of nature, and (β) they are incredible because they contradict our human experience. Well, then, could the first argument stand against Hume's own method of criticism? Let us begin with the idea of Nature. Where did we get it? and what does it mean? Had we ever an impression of Nature? How could we have it? We may have an impression of single things, say, of cold, of heat, of taste, of smell, of light, of sound. But Nature is not a single thing, but rather the vast, multifarious, complex aggregate of all real and possible perceptions; it is, therefore, not capable of being the object or occasion of an impression, and so it can only be by an entirely illicit process that we form the fictitious idea of Nature as a connected and coherent whole. How then can we say that Nature is? Still more how can we tell what Nature is? Can we even by analysis tell the immense number of things which the term Nature means? It is (α) the total infinite multitude of those impressions which make up the world without us, whose cause no man can discover; (β) the whole army of associated ideas within, which we mistake for ourselves, but which is only a stream, or series, or succession of units in perpetual flux, moving and changing with inconceivable rapidity; and (γ) it is all these unresolved but associated units bound into a system by some unintelligible principle in some inexplicable mode. There can be no such thing, therefore, as an idea of Nature, for of Nature we can have no impression, and what is so named is only an accidental aggregation of ideas. Hence, all reasoning based upon the notion of Nature as a known thing or system of things is illicit.

But let us see whether the idea of Order will fare any better in the hands of this criticism: can we have any impression of it? Here difficulties of another kind meet us: for order implies time and its sequences. And so to have a notion of order we must be ourselves continuous; but we are on Hume's premisses without any permanent personal identity, nothing indeed but a momentary taste or fragrance, an affection of heat or cold, a sensation of colour or resistance; in a word, only a series of impressions and ideas, with no existence save such as they can give. If, then, we are to receive an impression of order, we must have the whole infinite series summed up in one single sensation, which would imply a sensory as vast as the universe. As the thing is so manifestly impossible we can have no conception of order, and, therefore, cannot reason as if we had. Again, take another term in Hume's argument, Violation; but how can we have a conception of violated order if we have no notion of the order said to be violated, any more than we can have any conception of Nature or Self, when both nature and self have been dissolved? Therefore, to argue that miracles are a violation of the order or laws of Nature, is to assume a multitude of ideas which experience has been proved incapable of giving, and psychology unable by any analytical process to discover, leaving as the only possible conclusion the assumption that man first gave them to Nature. The result is that Hume's argument is so fundamentally opposed to his own first principles in philosophy as to be broken, split, and ended by the very criticism he himself brought to bear upon personal identity, upon causation, upon space, upon time, upon the very ideas on which his argument against miracles rests, and which gave to it all its apparent validity.

§ II. Nature and Thought

1. But it were altogether inconsistent with the gravity of the discussion on which we are entering, to conduct it as a mere argumentum ad hominem against a man who confessed that he did not live up to his own philosophy. It is evident, indeed, that a position so a priori and final as this, that we live under an order or system which has no room for a supernatural Person, must be discussed as a principle involved in the most fundamental of all questions, viz., in what terms must we interpret this order or system? What does Nature mean and what include? Does man make it, or does it make man? Is thought the product of experience, or is experience made possible by factors which transcend it? These are radical questions, as old as the attempt to explain all that we mean by the term Knowledge, its genesis and conditions, its limits and reality; and they may seem as insoluble as they are ancient. But it does not follow that the more fundamental a problem becomes the less soluble it grows, or that, though perhaps beyond a final speculative solution, it is incapable of a rational answer. And the fundamental character of these questions is seen in the way in which they determine all our thinking, our attitude to what is termed Nature, our interpretation of the phenomena we call History. For what they really mean is this—whether we are to find the ultimate factors of knowledge in personality or in the impersonal forces we co-ordinate under the phrase “system or order of nature.” The intellectual result will indeed be very different as we make Nature or Thought the ultimate term in our logical process. If “Nature,” taken in the sense of the system of forces that surround us, be conceived as the method and the measure for the interpretation of man, it means that he is to be construed as part of a universe which knows antecedence and sequence, but not rational causation, i.e. it is a universe of co-ordinated phenomena, not of connected and intelligible being. In such a system man may be conceived as a succession of similar or dissimilar states of consciousness, but not as a concrete and coherent person, i.e. a continuous and self-identical being. The successive conscious states which he may identify with himself, will be governed by forces operating from without and independently of what he may call himself, i.e. the conscious states which he is pleased to regard as constituting the only personality he knows, will represent the action of forces he does not know. He thus becomes in the strict sense not a cause, but an effect or result; his concrete and conscious being, his character and mind, appear as the creations of powers and circumstances which he can neither discover nor name, though he must conceive them as necessitating; yet to say that they were necessitated would be to transcend experience. His thoughts, his feelings, and his actions are thus regulated by laws as absolute as those which determine the ebb and flow of the tides, the movement of the planets or of the stars, the moulding of the tear or of the dewdrop.

But if Nature be thus used for the interpretation of man, two things follow. First, the man who emerges from this speculative process is not the man we know, i.e. he is not a free and conscious reason who can act from choice and for an end he can state in terms now moral, now intellectual, now emotional, and who even distinguishes himself as a person from the things, events, and circumstances amid which he moves. And, secondly, the Nature which is invoked to explain him ceases herself to be intelligible, is without any explicable relation to the intellect, and has nothing rational either in her order or in her phenomena. There is, indeed, no single idea on which science prides herself which could be received from Nature alone; for even if mind were regarded as a simple receptivity, a mere tabula rasa or sheet of white paper, it would be necessary to invest it with the power of reading the things that are written upon its clean or figured surface; and the power to read implies what we may term the whole grammar of natural intelligence. For the thing written is something which conveys thought to thought; i.e. it is a language which one mind speaks and another mind understands.

But to a language three things are necessary: it must express reason, contain reason, and speak to reason. If thought did not make it, thought could never interpret it, for nothing but the work of thought is intelligible to thought. But thought is the most distinctive attribute and exercise of personality; only in a person does it originate, and only by a person can it be understood. For how an intelligible can be without an intelligence, both creative and receptive, is a thing which experience does not know and thought cannot conceive. If, then, we eliminate Personality from Nature—either objectively, as interpretable; or subjectively, as interpreted—we are left without a nature we can regard as intelligible. Personality thus becomes the very condition through which Nature, as known to science, is, while it is also the factor through which all the sciences which explain Nature have come to be and are able to continue in being. But the organ through which all natural forces are known cannot be itself a mere unit of force; i.e. the co-ordinating genius cannot be one of the co-ordinated atoms. In other words, the Personality which makes Nature was not made by the Nature it makes.

2. But in order that the position so summarily stated may appear to be not without reason, and that the drift and purpose of the argument which is to be built upon it may be made more apparent, it will be necessary to attempt a more detailed discussion of the relations between Personality and Nature as factors of the intelligible which Nature constitutes and Personality interprets. We are accustomed to distinguish Nature as the realm of necessity from Personality as the seat of freedom. We conceive uniformity to be the note of the one, but reason and will to be the notes of the other. What is termed causation reigns in Nature, where the law of antecedence and sequence is held to be invariable; but Personality is itself a cause; i.e. it has the power of initiative or of breaking into the sequences which Nature follows, but can neither interrupt nor evade. Now what relation exists between the Personality which is conceived as thought or reason, as freedom or will, and the Nature which is conceived as uniform and necessitated? Or, to express our question otherwise, Can what we term Nature exist without the Personality which construes it, and, in a sense, constitutes it?

Now certain things may here be said to be perfectly obvious, for it will be conceded that they are due to the modification of the senses through which we hold intercourse with the outer world. We refer to the psychology of those qualities which are regarded as peculiarly secondary, like colour. The eye distinguishes objects by their special colours or distinctive hues, and we speak as if these colours inhered in the things themselves, and were quite independent of the spectator. But subtract the man who looks at the objects, and what would become of their hues and colours? Here, for example, stand three men; in the centre is one with the eye of the artist, sensitive to every shade and delicacy of hue, finding variety where men with a less sensitive organ can see only sameness. But on his right hand stands a man whose reds are all green, whose yellows are all browns, or to whom all colours appear only as a sort of yellowish white; and we ask, why Nature wears such a different complexion to him from what it possesses to the artist, and we are told that he is colour-blind. Again, on the left hand stands a man who can take no part in the controversy, for he is blind, and to him colours are not; and were we to ask him what scarlet is like, he might reply in the language of the blind man in Locke, that it is like the sound of a trumpet. Colour then does not inhere in things; Nature by herself is without it. It is there because man is there, possessed of the sense by which it is not simply perceived, but, in a sense, constituted.

But what is true of colour is no less true of sound. We may think of it as the result of purely natural causes, concerning in an equal degree the physicist who speculates about energy, and the physiologist who studies the senses in relation to the external world. If we ask the physicist, he will explain the mode of its transmission; he will draw a parallel between the movement of light and of sound, and theorize as to the length of the wave by which they travel, or the rapidity by which the waves of sound move from the place of origin to the tympanum on which they break. But how far can he carry us? How much does he explain? Here again stand three men. One man has the sensitive ear of the musician. He listens to the oratorio and can detect each separate instrument in the orchestra, tell whether it be well or ill played, and what it contributes to the collective harmony; he can note the tones of each singer's voice, and, as he hears the wonderful march of the music, he can combine into a whole the world that had moved in the master's mind. He sees, through his hearing as it were, the mortified anger and shame of the defeated priests of Baal and the mocking laughter of the prophet; the mustering of angelic hosts; the tramp of disciplined armies; the gathering of the dead to the sound of the last trump; the agony and infinite yearning of the soul that cries to God out of the depths; and the jubilant and exulting speech of the spirit that stands justified before the Eternal Judge. Not a sound escapes him, and out of their harmonies come visions and dreams such as only the master can create and the soul of the sensitive disciple can see. But on his right hand stands a man who listens with impatience or doubt or bewilderment. These instruments to him make but a jangling of confused sounds; the voices that rise and fall and tremble in song have less significance than if they had been lifted in prosaic speech. The enthusiasm of his neighbour is to him extravagant and foolish; his call for admiration seems sheer impertinence; the whole thing is utter weariness and distress. What is the matter? In current phrase, the man has no ear. He knows sound, he can interpret speech; but music has for him no charm, or even any being. While the man on the right hand so feels, what of the man on the left? His face is a blank; he looks round curiously but without any sign of intelligence; he watches faces that teach him nothing, and he only knows from gesture and action that there is proceeding between the other two a discussion in which he can take no part. Their controversy concerns a point on which he cannot adjudicate, for he has heard no sound; he is deaf. And what does this total difference of attitude to what we regard as the physical phenomena of sound mean but this—that sound is not without but within man; that he can educe sounds from the waves which have been set in motion by the vibrating body, and can weave them into harmonies such as Nature never made, speaking of things more glorious than the heart of Nature could have conceived or imagined? And he is able to do this and to compel Nature to lend him the means of doing it, because it is only through him and his power to interpret and to combine them that all the factors and conditions of sound are realized.

And we could go from sense to sense, from ear and eye to taste and smell, and by analysis enlarge and confirm the conclusion that the qualities which our senses perceive are not things merely of external Nature; but that either they could not be or could not seem to be without the constitutive faculty or the interpretative Personality of man. In other words, Nature in her own right is, if not a void, yet at most a mere aggregate of mechanical properties; her pomp and beauty, her voice and all her harmonies she owes to Mind. We receive from her what we have given to her, and without us she would not be what she is.

3. But it must not be supposed that this argument avails only as regards the qualities we term secondary. There is no conception so necessary to the modern idea of Nature as that of Energy, for without it no change and no continuity would be possible. For Nature would be simply an inert, unmoved, and unmovable mass, if indeed, to our modern way of thinking, these terms do not denote ideas too contradictory to be placed together. Energy is the cause, and its convertibility the form, of all physical changes. It is held to be constant in quantity, indestructible and persistent in essence, but infinitely varied in mode: while ever changing its form, it yet never ceases to be capable at once of a permutation which knows no rest, and a continuance which knows no break. But there is a question which underlies all our reasoning concerning the behaviour and permanence of energy; to wit, how do we come by the idea of it? This does not simply mean, what evidence have we for the existence of force? but rather this: how can we think, nay, why must we think, that there is in Nature that power of doing work which we name Energy? If we explain it by our experience of resistance,—i.e. by our knowledge that whenever we exercise effort there is something without that resists us, presses against us, overcomes our effort, or is overcome by it,—what does this theory as to the origin of the idea mean? Does it not signify that in order to the knowledge of energy without we must posit free power within? If we could not put forth effort we could never meet resistance; the energy that resists would therefore remain unknown. But is not this to argue that we know causation, because we are ourselves causes; and that it is through our own power of acting that the notion that Nature has power to act is gained and formed? It means that we derive the notion of energy from our own conscious freedom,—that the idea of causation in Nature is a clear, or even inevitable, deduction from Will? In other words, a world of necessitated beings could not form or conceive the notion of energy; for the very experiences that make the notion of it possible, the faculties to which it could be presented, and in whose terms it could be represented, would be absent; and such thought as there was would be too purely mechanical—i.e. too unconscious of any power that could be exercised within and resisted without,—to be able to conceive a universe whose surest datum was the consciousness of “Matter, Motion, and Force.” If, then, we speak of Energy and attempt to interpret Nature through it, what are we doing but constituting Nature in the terms of Personality, using what is given within as the key to open the mysteries or reveal the realities which exist without? We conclude, therefore, that Energy in Nature is the correlate of Freedom in man; and were he not free, he could neither think nor speak of energy, for he would be without the intellectual powers needed for its recognition or discovery.

4. But secondary qualities like colour and sound, or special and definite conceptions like causation, whether represented by physics as energy, or by metaphysics as will or cause, are not the only sort of terms which Personality supplies for the interpretation of Nature; it supplies also what is even more fundamental—the forms under which we perceive the phenomena which, we may say, constitute the many-featured face it turns towards our senses, and the categories through which it becomes intelligible to our thought. We have already argued, in effect, that the intelligibility of Nature implies both an intelligence through which it is, and an intellect to which it is, the one creative, the other interpretative, of the thought embodied in Nature. The real world of the intellect is, of course, the intelligible, and neither could exist without the other; i.e. there could be no intellect without an intelligible; no intelligible apart from the intellect. We may expand this proposition into a series of inferences which may be stated thus: (1) since the intellect can interpret Nature, Nature is intelligible; (2) since Nature is intelligible, there must be some correspondence or correlation between its laws or methods and the rational processes in us; (3) since there is this correlation between the intelligible world and the interpretative intellect, they must embody one and the same intelligence. What these terms respectively mean and what the argument aims at proving may be made obvious by an illustration. Language is capable of translation or interpretation by reason just in the degree that it expresses reason. The speech of the mad is ridiculous to the sane, the speech of the sane has no meaning to the mad. The traveller or missionary who discovers and settles among a hitherto unknown tribe, may learn its tongue, however rudimentary and formless, may get to understand its beliefs and customs, its views of nature and life, however barbarous and uninformed; but he can do so only so far as he finds in the savages a reason so akin to his own that he can stand, as it were, within the tribe's consciousness, and look out at the world through its eyes. Scholars of this century have, by the help of bilingual or trilingual inscriptions, recovered to historical and literary knowledge several long-forgotten languages; but no ingenuity could have deciphered into literature or worked into history figures that were mere fortuitous scratchings, freaks of Nature, or accidental lines drawn by some wandering horde. So the very fact of the intelligibility of Nature, or the possibility of its interpretation by mind, means that it embodies or expresses intelligence,—is the medium or vehicle of ideas which the human intellect can discover and think as if they were its own.

But this argument admits a further development. The human intellect could not live unless embosomed by a universe which was in its constitution and contents as rational as itself. Reason could not live in a world where no reason was. If the world became mad, if its physical forces were now conserved and now destroyed; if continuity governed one day and accident the next; if gravitation now ruled, and all rivers flowed to the sea and all lighter bodies fell towards the heavier; if, again, levitation reigned, and the sea turned itself into the rivers, and rose above the mountains, and the heavier bodies flew away from the lighter—what would the effect of this mad world be on the sane mind? Could mind in its presence maintain its sanity? Or, to reverse the supposition, if the world were beautiful and orderly, a scene of grander order and higher law than we now know it to be, but if all' the men within and upon it were mad—would it be to them a sane world? Would not their madness make its very sanity more mad and more vain than the worst insanity would be? And does not this signify that we must have the correlation of the intellect and the intelligible before we can have either a rational mankind or any science of nature? But it signifies one thing more, viz., that the Intelligence which is embodied in this intelligible Nature, is in kind and quality one with the intelligence embodied in its interpreter. The Reason that lives in Nature, speaks a language that the reason personalized in man can understand and translate. The mathematics which have controlled and guided the Builder of the heavens, are identical with the mathematics which the astronomer in his study deduces from the idea of space given in his own thought, and which he proves by the processes of his own reason. If he looks at this fine correspondence from the subjective or dialectical side, he may say with Plato, “The Creator in His act of creation has geometrized”; but if he regard it from its objective or observational side, he will say with Kepler, “In reading the secrets of Nature I am thinking the thoughts of God after Him.” But whether he speaks with Plato or with Kepler he means the same thing: there is such a correspondence between the mind and the universe, between the intelligible we think and the intellect we think by, that their relation can only be explained by identity of source, i.e. by both being expressions of a single supreme Intelligence.

§ III. Mind and the Process of Creation

The principle then which underlies the discussion so far as it has proceeded may be expressed thus: The problem of personal experience is one with the problem of universal existence; and from this principle we have attempted to deduce the conclusion: the only postulate from which we can derive an intelligible Nature or a rational experience is thought. In other words, since we can conceive Nature only through the forms and in the categories supplied by the interpretative Personality, we are bound to infer that the Nature which none but a personal Intellect can interpret, none but a personal Intelligence could create.

1. But this conclusion supplies us with a premiss for a new discussion, and this discussion will as much concern the nature that the biologist interprets as our past discussions have concerned the nature that the physicist conceives. We may state the new premiss, which follows from the conclusion of the previous argument, thus: The real Nature that needs to be explained is not the phenomenal, but the noumenal; not the world which appears to reason, but the reason which organizes, into an intelligible whole, the world of appearances, making it real to experience through its reality to thought. The meaning of this principle is that the real problem of Evolution in the organic kingdom is the genesis and the development of mind as it is realized in the individual and has been exercised by the race. Certain masters of scientific exposition have written as if the serious problem of evolution concerned the origin and succession of living forms. They have thought it enough to prove the mutability of species, the parts played by the factors of organism and environment in the development of the powers that best fitted for success and survival in the struggle for life. It has been imagined that we could, by the comparison and correlation of forms, exhibit the process of their evolution, or the mode and the order in which our planet came to be peopled with the busy tribes of flesh and blood. I raise no question as to the mode or as to the order; what I do question is, whether a theory as to the evolution and the succession of biological forms has any claim to be regarded as a theory adequate to the explanation of the facts of the case; i.e. to be considered a scientific hypothesis as to how the whole of nature, inclusive of every form and quality of life, came to be.

The theory may indeed be described as essentially concerned with the creational mode rather than with the creational cause; but the mode cannot exist without the energies or the forces that—operating either in the organism or the environment, or in both—accomplish the evolution. Indeed, the theory expressly proceeds upon the principle that the only forces it knows or reckons with are those called natural, though it conceives Nature in a strictly limited and exclusive sense. While, then, evolution, so far as it is a scientific doctrine, is a theory of the creational mode, yet where it is represented as an adequate account of the history of life upon this planet, it becomes also a theory of the creational cause. The theory is thus philosophical as well as scientific; and though the philosophy may be implicit, yet it never ceases to be both active and determinative in the science. The degree in which this is the case will become more obvious as we proceed.

We may say that we understand evolution in the field of organic life to mean the emergence of such new organs or such a modification of old organs in the struggle for existence as secures the survival of the fittest, and through it the development of new species. We need not too curiously describe or consider the changes in Darwin's hypothesis by later and younger men of science like Weismann. It is enough to say that the more the process is simplified the more complex does it require the cause or the sufficient reason of the movement to be; and the more urgent does the demand become that the action of the cause be immediate, continuous, universal. The less we insist on the transmission of acquired characters, the more do we insist on the sufficiency of the more strictly natural and impersonal causes that are at work; the less emphasis we lay on the achievement of the individual for the good of the whole, the more emphasis are we compelled to lay on the operation of the whole, and of the forces it represents on each and every individual.

So far then as concerns our present discussion, there are in the theory three ideas or positions that must be noted—Cause, Process, End. These terms may here be distinguished thus: “Cause” expresses the sufficient reason alike for the result achieved and the means necessary for its realization; “Process” denotes the way or method in which this cause does its work; while “End” means the collective result, not nature as it terminates in biological forms, but nature as it culminates in mind, and as it lives in the intelligence of man, with all its experience and all its history. The problem, therefore, that arises is this: Are we able, by the process of an evolution, conducted strictly within the terms of Nature and by purely natural forces, to account for the origin of human reason and the history of all its achievements? In other words, what evolution has to explain is not nature and life but Man and Mind and History.

Now one thing is evident: the more severely natural the process is, the less can we allow anything to emerge in its course which is not really contained within the terms of the Nature which inaugurated the process, forms the bosom within which it proceeds and the energies which move it onward. What Nature evolves, Nature must have involved; and to emphasize as natural both the process that leads to the end, and the end to which it leads, is to bind ourselves to find in the primary or causal term of the process the sufficient reason for all that follows.

2. In working out the problem which has just been stated we may follow two methods which may be termed respectively the regressive and the egressive. The regressive method starts from the completed process and proceeds backward step by step in search of the factors and the forces which have produced the completion; and this regressive movement cannot terminate till the sufficient reason or the ultimate cause be reached. If we follow the egressive method, we simply reverse the procedure, and reason downward from the beginning or assumed cause through its successive achievements to its ultimate issue. Let us take each method in succession.


Here we must note the starting-point or premiss of the argument: it is the term which Nature, in the process of her long development, has reached—the final page, which now lies unfolded before us, of her vast and varied history. That end is not represented by the inter-relations of plants and animals under domestication, nor is it represented by the organisms, that exhibit the highest forms of structural excellence. The point from which we have to start is Man, and man is Mind. And it is not individual man. He is a small being, even though he be a universe in miniature; he is a simple problem, even though he be the measure of all things. The man we mean is vaster and more complex—collective man, with his arts, his letters, his empires, his intellectual achievements, his ethical ideals, his laws and his religions. It is man with all the qualities that mark him as a race, which, though made up of an infinite multitude of units, is yet a great organic unity.

(i.) If, now, we are to apply evolution as a theory descriptive of the strictly natural process or method of creation, we shall have to explain everything that has come to be through what was before it and what is around it. Let us begin, then, by going backwards from man one single step and coming to the animal. And here our question is as large as it is direct:—Is evolution, as a theory of the creational process moving within strictly natural lines and appealing to none but natural forces, able to account for man by the upward struggle of those beneath him? Some years ago we had eager and even angry discussions as to man's place in Nature. It was argued that “man was separated by no greater structural barrier from the brutes than they are from one another”; and it was further argued that “if any process of physical causation can be discovered by which the genera and families of ordinary animals have been produced that process of causation [and we note the term ‘causation’] is amply sufficient to account for the origin of Man.”1 And this process was said to have been discovered in the theory which will ever be honourably associated with the name of Darwin. A still more audacious thinker with a wider outlook than Huxley had, like him, argued from the structure of the man-like ape, from similarity in the greater organs, from the skull and cranial capacity, from hand and foot and teeth, from texture and size of the brain, that the ape might be called the older form of the man, and that there was no insuperable barrier between the man and the ape.2

Now let us understand precisely what an argument of this kind amounts to. There are, on the one hand, when man and the ape are regarded simply as organisms, similarities and differences of structure; but, on the other hand, when the persons or beings organized are taken into account, there are between them specific differences of history and achievement without any corresponding specific similarities. Now, the organic or structural affinities are obvious enough, and the consequences they involve may be drawn without any recourse to a too heroic logic. What is more flagrantly apparent, and more in need of adequate explanation, are the historical and personal differences. Is it argued that the structural similarities imply such a genetic relation that the man must be regarded as the descendant of the manlike ape? If so, is it also argued that the structural differences which make the man a new species, are the causes of his superior excellence? If not so, it is obvious that the real point at issue is not simply a question of structure, but of personality and its history. For let us see the facts that have to be explained. Here is a man-like ape. He is, as far as history is concerned, an older being than man; he can boast a more venerable ancestry; he is a more ancient inhabitant of our planet, and has had, therefore, the greater opportunities a longer course of time have supplied, in which to develop, the resources that are in him and achieve his man-like apehood. But how stands the case? He stands to-day precisely where his most ancient ancestor stood; he cracks his nuts and feeds himself in the ancestral manner; he practises the old arboreal architecture; he lives in the old home in the old way, swings himself from tree to tree by the same organ and with the same dexterity; he emits sounds of alarm or ferocity or affection, cries of defiance or of solicitation, which men may try to imitate but can only understand by ceasing as much as possible to be men and becoming apes. In a word, he began as a brute and a brute he remains.

But what of man? He may have begun by dwelling in caves and holes of the earth, but he has not continued to dwell there. He has built for himself the hut and the wigwam; he has designed and erected the stately pleasure-house; he has reared the palace and has embosomed it in beauty; he has dreamed of temples for his gods and cathedrals for worship, and he has realized these in stones which seem even more lordly than his dreams. His earliest essays in art may have been rude pictures on the walls of his cave, or on the bones of some animal he had slain and eaten, or on his own limbs or face, to make him beautiful to his friends or hideous to his foes. But he has not stayed at the stage where he first used tools; on the contrary, he has disciplined and trained himself in art until there has arisen under his chisel the shape of a man so passing fair that it seemed to need only speech to be the man it seemed, or an image of his deity so sublime, so godlike and august, that men who have looked upon it have said, “Lo! we have beheld God face to face”; or he has trained himself so to mix his colours and so to handle his brush as to make flowers bloom and landscapes to unfold their beauty on canvas, until men have seen through his eyes and from the work of his hands more in Nature than they had ever discovered for themselves. Man's social life may have begun in a state of savage war, where the strong man reigned and the weak man went to the wall; he may then have lived as the animal that devours its foes, even though of its own kind, and lives by plunder, by rapine, and by a killing that is no murder. But out of that savage state he slowly and painfully emerged into social and political order, built him up states governed by laws which judges impartially interpret and magistrates administer with justice—laws which protect the weak, punish the criminal, secure freedom to those who love it and safety to those who have known how to multiply the wealth and increase the graces of life. He has created great empires that have lived through centuries, developed civilization, broadened culture, and made history. Then his speech may have begun in rude cries, mere interjections, now of alarm, now of enjoyment, now of discovery, even as brute may call unto brute, sounding the note of danger or the signal for prey found; but he, by-and-by, learned to weave words into language—the most marvellous of all man's creations—and language into tales, to represent it by pictures, to create for it symbols and signs that made the transient word a thing imperishable. From his rude tales have come great literatures: the epic, with its heroes and its battles, its march of armies or its wandering sages, its pictures of grand shapes that have been or of terrible fates yet to be; the lyric, with its cry of love, man yearning after woman, woman after man, and both after God; the tragedy, with its tales of will in conflict with destiny, of character at war with circumstance. And this literature he has made thousandfold, mysterious, immortal, in many tongues and in many times. He may have started on his new career as a being with a capacity for religion, one who feared powers invisible impersonated in a blasted tree, a rude stone, a whitened bone, or a running stream, but he has not stood fixed in that rude faith; he has made him religions to comfort and to uplift his soul; he has believed in gods who could do gracious or awful things; he has come to think of a God majestic, sole, holy, ineffable, who inhabiteth eternity; to think of man as one who looks before and after, and who follows his thought into the eternity towards which it has ever aspired. Man has been a wonderful creator, and his creations have only just begun. No day dawns that does not see some new wonder added to the wondrous history of the race; the century which has just ended being for invention, for discovery, for its marvellous enlargement of knowledge and increased sovereignty over Nature, the most extraordinary of all the crowded and glorious centuries of his existence.

In the face, then, of their contrasted histories, let us now put man and the man-like ape together and ask, What is the problem they offer to science? Do the eloquently minimized differences which we find in the structure of the man as distinguished from the man-like ape, explain the differences in their histories? If they do, then we ought to be told how such small differences in structure have become causes of effects so wondrously and vastly opposite. If they do not, then why speak as if man and the man-like ape stood in the same system, and were in any tolerable sense related as ancestor and progeny? When their respective histories are viewed together and honestly compared, is it true that man is in faculty as in structure one with the brutes? Must it not rather be affirmed that man starts with some endowment which the brute has not? If Darwin needed his first form before he could trace the genesis of species, so no less is it true that we must have mind before the history of man becomes possible or capable of intellectual realization. But if it be mind that constitutes the differentiation of man from brute, then to imagine that the distance between them is reduced by the discovery of similarities in their organic structure, is a mere irrelevance of thought.

But we have come by another way to the very conclusion which was reached by our previous argument: the reason or mind which distinguishes man from the brute, relates him to the heart or secret of the universe. The same intellect which separates him from the animal, binds him to the intelligible in Nature and to the Intelligence which is above both and explains both. Where he is distinguished from the lower he attains kinship with the higher; and so our premiss, changed in form but unchanged in essence, emerges as the reasoned conclusion of the discussion, viz., the noumenal and not the phenomenal explains man, and shows the substance of his being to be one with the essence of the universe which he perceives and construes.

(ii.) But we have as yet taken only a single step in the regressive process, and so must further proceed with our backward search for the sufficient reason of the Nature we know. The stages would indeed be many and our progress both slow and toilsome were we to pause over each and there pursue our analytic quest—the birth of consciousness, the dawn of sentient life, the advent of the animal and the vegetable. But instead let us at once step across the successive periods and down the descending species of the organic kingdom until we enter the inorganic. Our question now is, whether it be possible to find in the physical energies or forces which science supposes to have preceded life, the cause of life, with all its forms, its infinite possibilities and multitudinous activities? Can we imagine anything within the terms of Nature as Nature was before life or mind were, or as we must conceive it to have then been, which would be a Sufficient Reason for the history that was to be? Darwin, as we have just seen, asked to be allowed to assume a first or a few forms in order that he might show how the earth, as it pursued its silent way through space, was tenanted with living beings and became the arena of all their works. But simple as his request seemed, it was a tremendous assumption that he asked leave to make, for it meant that he wanted to start from an unexplained Something, a mystery, a miracle—originated life, though how and why it had originated, what cause adequate to its production was lying behind, he did not know and did not presume to enquire. He asked, in short, no less a gift in the form of a premiss than the old theologian asked when he meekly took for granted the creation of Adam, in order that he might deduce from him mankind and all their works. For Darwin asked permission to posit not only the few forms whose being had just begun, but also the environment within which they lived, i.e. the whole conception of created forms and a creative Nature already at work upon them. He thus, under this explicit petitio principii, smuggled in two of the largest conceptions which can be formed by the mind of man, the very conceptions which have perplexed the race into belief in all the cosmogonies. But it enabled him to do another and no less important thing, viz., conceal from himself the distinction between a simplified cause and a simplified process; and this was the more to be regretted as the rigorous simplicity he intended to illustrate in his natural process of creation enormously increased the complexity of the cause he so quietly assumed. For let us attempt to imagine the vision that might have come to a prescient mind watching those parent forms in their first blind struggles for a hardly discernible life, while yet foreseeing all that was to be. The vision would start with the spectacle of a steaming earth waiting to become the fruitful mother of all living things, with the simplest germs of organic being bedded deep in her hot and hardening slime. As the earth cooled and the moisture folded the minute organisms in its damp but fertilizing embrace, new and higher forms were seen to multiply, vegetation became abundant, gigantic trees and vast forests stood rooted in the rich soil and raised their branches into the warm and liquid air; while there moved through deep lagoons immense reptiles, which Nature, in her first endeavours at protection, clothed in coats of mail, seeming to think that they would not die because their enemy could not reach the centre of their life. But climatic changes come. The huge creatures vanish, the mammal appears, and the process of evolution goes on till Nature teems with myriad forms of organic life. And then the supreme moment approaches, man steps upon the scene and forthwith begins to modify the nature which has been so creative, to subdue the animals that have been so mighty, to build himself cities, to form states, to speak with tongues, to develop arts, to create literatures, to formulate laws, to realize religions,—in a word, to create the society and the civilization that we know so well. Now what in the inorganic mass which it surveyed could the prescient mind discover capable of accomplishing these things? Nothing; unless he conceived the mass as, though inorganic, yet capable of creating organic being, of thinking like himself so as to create thought. But how could he so conceive it without changing it from a mass of conserved and correlated forces into the seedplot or seminal garner of all that was to be? But how could that womb which was thus pregnant with all the organs, all the organisms, all the minds of the future, be described as dead? Was it not rather quick with all the germs of all the forms that were waiting the touch of time to live, laden with all the potencies and all the qualities and all the lives of the future? If, then, we attempt to conceive what was before life and mind as the condition or cause or factor of their being, we must invest it with the qualities which enable it to do its work. And what is this but turning it from dead matter into living spirit?


(i.) But the question which has just been raised as to the relation of the primordial inorganic forces to the creation and development of organic forms, can be better discussed under the head of the egressive than of the regressive method. How shall we conceive, how define or describe, the stuff which was before life and was the father of all living things? It would be hard to set man a severer or less soluble problem than this: to imagine or discover within Nature as known to him a physical substance, or any concourse or combination of physical elements or qualities, that could, within a universe that knew no life, cause life to begin to be. The frankest terms are here the soberest and the truest: the thing is inconceivable. It is not simply that the primary generation would have to be spontaneous, i.e. self-caused, i.e. miraculous in the superlative degree,—for spontaneous generation is a thing unknown to experimental science, and to biological observation, and is, at best, but a form under which the operation of an unknown cause is disguised; but also because matter cannot be defined save in terms that imply mind. Whether mind may be conceived without matter, is a point that may be argued; but matter can be represented in no form which does not imply mind. And this may be stated in the form of what may be described as a curious and instructive law in philosophy, whether ancient or modern. The highest speculations concerning the ultimate cause have been expressed in the terms of the intellect or the reason, while those which have ventured to use physical or material terms have had all the rarity of the exception which proves the rule. And this law is made the more impressive by the fact that the exceptions apply mainly to the childhood of speculation, but the rule to its manhood or maturity.

One of the most characteristic things in modern thought is the history of the ultimate causal idea in the school whose fundamental principles forbade them the use of transcendental terms. It would be traversing too familiar and well-beaten paths to trace the genesis and examine the basis of Hume's scepticism; but this may be said: within the circle which accepted his first principles and followed his method there happened what can only be described as a paralysis of the speculative faculty, and the reduction of philosophy to the limits and the problems of a more or less conjectural psychology. Its members assumed, not willingly but from sheer logical compulsion, an attitude of ignorance or impotence towards the problems, which had, by simply though imperiously demanding solution of the reason, been perhaps the most potent educative agencies in the history of our race; and confined themselves to the question as to how our ideas came to be associated, and so to bear to man the appearance of a reasonable order. Thus we have the elder Mill attempting an “Analysis of the Human Mind,” in its essence a confession that a psychology was the only possible philosophy; and that concerning the relations of thought and being, or of the cause and end of being, “nothing whatever could be known.” Comte, too, had, if not a speculative soul, the hunger of the true system-builder, satiable only by an order that could be formulated, ambitious to classify and organize knowledge, to demonstrate the laws of human progress, and to create the only real and possible conditions of human happiness. But he understood the empirical philosophy he inherited from Hume, and knew well the iron lines it had drawn, the blank impenetrable walls it had built round the spirit, and he loved logic too dearly to seek to escape into a freer air. So he declared phenomena to be all that man could know, proclaimed the search after a First Cause vain, placed the very word “cause” under a rigorous ban, dismissed psychology from the circle of the sciences, and planted physiology in its stead. And his early English interpreters were here specially emphatic. One brilliant scholar G. H. Lewes, wrote a History of Philosophy, expressly to prove that metaphysics was the search after the illusive, that their reign had ceased, that the birth of Positivism was the dawn of a millennium when barren problems should cease to trouble and only fruitful facts and phenomena occupy mind. The subtle and assimilative intellect of John Stuart Mill felt the same paralyzing influence. He loved to be constructive, and was so, though in a less degree than he desired, in politics, in economics, and in formal logic; but when he came to metaphysics, he was content with mere analytic criticism and inconclusive psychology. And even before he could get to it he had to postulate three great things: the mind, the tendency of the mind to expectancy, and the laws of association; and then on this vast assumed and unreasoned basis he attempted to explain the relation of mind to the outer world. Yet he did not, like Kant, frankly recognize that these assumptions of his were transcendental principles, a priori forms of perception, categories of thought or factors of knowledge which he had no right to use. But he hid meekly—as it were under a proposition he need not argue—the most fundamental of all possible questions: What was mind? Why had mind expectancy? How was it that in mind the laws of association worked? And higher and more transcendental still was the question, Whence did the idea come, and how was it that it came to mind, and was by thought turned into something absolutely different from the Nature that sent it? And when he proceeded to define matter as “the permanent possibility of sensation,” what did he define it as being? Something subjective, dependent on mind. If matter be “a permanent possibility of sensation,” how, without the sentient consciousness, could we have matter? And when, later, he resolved mind into “a permanent possibility of feeling,” he carefully forgot that he had assumed mind, its expectancy and associative laws, in order that he might explain matter as “the permanent possibility of sensation.” In a word, Mill's analysis was too purely governed by the old empiricism to allow him to reach either subjective or objective reality. He would have been more consistent had he, with Berkeley, confessed spirit to be the one solid and enduring entity, and matter a mere idea. This was what he meant, but what he could not say without being forced to the theistic conclusion of his great predecessor. And so instead we had both the subject and the object of knowledge reduced to the permanent possibilities of things unknown.

But science was suddenly seized with a speculative passion, begotten of two great doctrines—the Conservation of Energy and Evolution. Sleight of tongue is a more illusive art than even sleight of hand, and metaphysics do not become physics by being stated in the terms of “matter, motion, and force,” nor do they turn into biology by being expressed in the formulæ of natural selection. So impelled by the speculative passion which made physical terms the vehicle of metaphysical ideas, thinkers like Mr. Lewes forgot their paralyzed nescience, and began to lay the “foundations of a creed.” Men of science became adventurous world-builders; awed us by natural histories of creation, overawed us by visions of our long descent, and the easy elegance with which they could leap the boundary which divided the organic from the inorganic kingdom, and find in matter “the promise and the potency of every form and quality of life.” Their difficulties and our perplexities began when they tried to define matter, or to find it without assuming the mind it was to explain, or to leave it in any sense the matter known to science and yet deduce from it a living and organic Nature, Goethe's words were gratefully recalled: “Matter can never exist and be operative without spirit, nor spirit without matter.” So were Schlcicher's: “There is neither matter nor spirit in the customary sense, but only one thing which is at the same time both.” Then we had the despairing but descriptive phrase of the late Professor Clifford, “mind-stuff,” and Professor Bain's, “One substance with two sets of properties; two sides, the physical and the mental; a double-faced unity.” But what is this save carrying back into the beginning the dualism of the living consciousness? It did not define or describe the primordial stuff which constituted and created the world, but only expressed a distinction which came into being with the conscious Self. “Two sets of properties” imply a mind through whom they are perceived; “a double-faced unity” implies eyes to which the faces appear; and these are but attempts to get the effects of mind out of the primordial matter without conceiving the matter as mind.

(ii.) But suppose we abandon all logical reservations and make a present of the conception of matter to the venturesome thinker who would deduce from it the Nature we know, are his difficulties ended? Nay, they are only about to begin. He is at once faced by the questions: When and why did the creative process commence? What moved the atoms toward their miraculous work? What had they been about before? Why did they begin then? Why not earlier? Why not later? Matter on this hypothesis has always been; it is eternal, it is indestructible, and in its existence that of its properties is involved. Now however far back the primary movement is carried, eternity lies beyond it. Why in that eternity did not the eternal matter work itself into a world? Why at this specific moment was it started on its creative career? We may, with Democritus, imagine atoms, quantitatively but not qualitatively different, falling through the void, the heavier by colliding against the lighter causing a lateral movement that results in their aggregation and combination, and in the generation of the heat without which we can have no life. But to conceive atoms tumbling for ever through infinite space, meeting, and by impact causing heat and changing direction or form, yet ever acting according to their mechanical properties, is not to come one whit nearer the understanding of how this inorganic mass became the parent of all organic being. It is significant that neither modern physics, perhaps the most audacious in speculation of all the sciences, nor chemistry, possibly the most skilled in the secrets of Nature, has advanced us here a single step beyond Democritus: instead of his αναγκή men may use the terms “chance” or “unknown” but they all mean the same thing: to matter, as science must conceive it, causation of life, not to speak of mind, is a sheer impossibility.

But now suppose the transition is made from a world of inorganic force to a world of living forms, how are we to explain their increase and development? For one thing, it is impossible to imagine that the power which produced the first form exhausted itself in the effort and thenceforward ceased to act. The growth, the multiplication, and the differentiation of organisms are but the forms under which the original creative energy continues to operate. The inexplicable element in the origination survives through all the later processes, though hidden away in the ample folds of the immense mantle which our ignorance names the environment. And here one instructive fact deserves to be noted: in order that the struggle for life may be attended with survival, attributes and acts of intelligence are ascribed to unintelligent creatures, processes, or things. Thus Mr. Alfred Wallace praises Darwin because of the brilliant generalization he gives in his work on Orchids, viz., “that flowers have become beautiful solely to attract insects to assist in their fertilization.” But this generalization implies the capacity in the flower to feel, if not to observe, what pleases the insect; the ability to appeal to this pleasure, the desire to use it for personal ends, and the instinct or intuition that can turn personal into altruistic acts. If it were not for the metaphors he borrows from mind, the biologist would never be able to make his processes seem natural. And this means that Nature is to him alive with intelligence; that it is able to accomplish its end—the increase of life and development of living forms—only because it appears, when all its parts are taken together, a sort of incorporated Mind.

But though organic life has been produced, Nature is not yet: before she can be a further step must be taken forward into Mind. But this last, the most inexorable step of all, is the most completely beyond our rational capacity. For there is nothing that physiology has been so little able to do as to discover the relation between organization and consciousness. As Tyndall once said, a man can as little prove any causal relation between these two as he can lift himself by his own waistband. The phenomena may be parallel, but they do not stand respectively in the relations of cause and effect. We are left, then, with a natural process that leaves, as regards explanation, the main thing precisely where it was found. Mind, in its action and its origin, is a great enigma. How it emerges is as insoluble a mystery as what it has achieved. But one thing seems evident, that it can be got out of Nature only by being deposited in Nature; that what constitutes Nature has constructed Nature, that what makes her capable of interpretation is one with the condition that makes the process of knowledge real and actual.

§ IV. Conclusions and Inferences

The issue of this discussion, then, seems to be that we cannot conceive either Nature or its creative work otherwise than through Mind. The metaphysic of knowledge is one with the metaphysic of being. We may therefore express our conclusion thus: The transcendental cannot be excluded from our view of the universe, but the transcendental in philosophy is the correlate of the supernatural in theology, The former uses abstract speech, the latter employs concrete terms; but it is only when the abstract becomes concrete that it receives application and reality. To affirm the transcendence of thought is to affirm the priority of spirit, for spirit is but thought made concrete—translated, as it were, into a personal and creative energy; it is mind as opposed to matter, a known as distinguished from an unknown, conceived as the cause of all dependent being. And how can we better express this thought in its highest concrete form than by the ancient name God?

But now what is the bearing of this discussion and conclusion on the question with which we started, Whether the idea of a supernatural Person be compatible with the modern conception of Nature?

1. Let us attempt to state what seem the fair and logical deductions from our argument.

A. Nature takes a larger and richer sense than is known to the physical sciences; it includes thought, the whole mysterious kingdom of the spirit through which it is and for which it is. From this point of view the distinction between the natural and the supernatural ceases, or becomes thoroughly unreal. For the supernatural, as commonly taken, denotes a cause or will outside as well as above Nature, opposed to it and supersessive of its laws; but here it denotes a cause which is as native to Nature as reason or thought is to man. Withdraw or paralyze this cause, and Nature as its effect ceases, i.e. without the supernatural the natural can neither begin nor continue to be. But how can we conceive Nature without the idea which is necessary to its very being as a complete and self-contained whole? And as it is only when our view takes in the whole that Nature is rationally conceived, we can never regard that as a scientific interpretation of Nature which applies mathematical processes or laws to the behaviour of bodies in space, but forgets the mind that compels man to think the pure ideas of his reason; which speaks of energy or force but ignores the will through which man knows it is; and which imagines it sufficient to exhibit the genesis of a form without feeling it needful to find a sufficient reason for that process of continuous creation which we call the history of man. Nature, then, is not rationally conceived when the supernatural is excluded, but only when it is viewed as standing in and through the supernatural, i.e. when Nature is conceived as constituted not by forces that can be measured or by energies that struggle for life, but by the thought which makes it and which finds it intelligible, that is, organizes and articulates it into a coherent and rational Idea.

B. As the only concrete term which can adequately describe the creative Mind or Intelligence is God, and as the created intellect is man, two things follow: (α) the intrinsic character of the creation to which God is related, and (β) the quality and nature of His relation.

(α) The real creation of God is Spirit; and if we attempt to conceive His creative action simply under physical categories, or to state it in the terms of physics, we shall never either truly conceive or rightly describe it. In the strictest sense matter has no independent being, but spirit has, for independence is made by two things—the ability to know and the capacity of being known. Neither attribute belongs to matter per se. It is a mere abstract till mind has, by investing it with qualities, made it concrete; and thus were mind withdrawn, there would be no matter. But while mind may be necessary to the concrete being of matter, for matter mind has no being; neither can share the other's life; for where knowledge does not meet knowledge there can be no fellowship, no reciprocity or correlativity of being. And where there is no knowledge the highest, if not the sole, reality is absent; for what does not know does not really exist; it may have being for another but has none for itself. It follows that God and man both are, since both are capable of knowing and of being known, i.e. each is real both to himself and to the other; but neither is real to the matter which owes all its actuality to mind. Hence the real presence of God must be stated not in physical but in spiritual terms; it belongs to the sphere of rational experience, and not to the field of mechanical energies. The latter may be an arena within which the Divine will may operate; but the former, as accessible to spirit, can receive and feel and realize the Divine presence; in other words, matter may be through God's will and to His reason, but mind is open to Himself. He can fill, possess, and live within it just because He can be for it; and this intercommunal life is the beatitude of God in the creature and of the creature in God.

(β) What then constitutes the universe a reality to God are the spirits He has created to inhabit it, exactly as a house is a house to a man by virtue not of its rooms and its furniture, but of the persons who there live in and through and for him, though the more he cares for the persons the less will he be indifferent to the furniture and the rooms. But if this be so, we may fairly infer that God will not become a mere curious spectator of their ways and works, as a man may be of the architecture and industry displayed by a hive of bees; but that He will remain in positive and active relations with them, all the more present that He may be totally unperceived. For only thus can He complete His creation, since, according to its very nature, Spirit cannot be made all at once, but only by such a continuous process of discipline and instruction as will bring it under the law and fill it with the illumination of God.

C. God, then, as the Perfect Reason and Almighty Will through whose action and by whose energy Nature was and is, cannot be conceived as otiose or inactive; omnipresence is not an occasional, but a permanent attribute of Deity, omnipotence is not incidental or optional. He must be everywhere, and wherever He is He must be operative. Omniscience simply means the omnipresent intellect in exercise. God is the thought that is diffused through all space and active in all time. And this involves the consequence that the form under which His relation to Nature ought to be conceived is immanence, though not as excluding transcendence; for the very reason that requires the interpretative intellect to be transcendent, requires also the causal Intelligence to be the same. But it is the active intercourse of these two that constitutes Nature as an intelligible whole. For the Divine immanence in Nature is inseparable from the same immanence in mind. There is, so to speak, a constant process of intercommunication, God with man and man with God. And this means that His beneficence becomes a universal and continuous activity. We could not imagine a Being with any grace of character creating for any motives save such as could be described as good, still less could we conceive Him proving unstable and in the course of His providence changing to another and lower will than He had in the beginning. If He were moved to create, it could only be that He might through creation find a richer beatitude; and if the creature was needful to His blessedness, He must be still more needful to its. But if this be so, it can only mean that His creative action never ceases: the sabbath of the Creator is found in an activity which is ever beneficent and never tires.

D. Creation then, is here conceived not as a finished but as a continuous process. The will of God is the energy of the universe: uniform and permanent in quantity, yet expressing itself in modes of an infinite variety. Nature without the supernatural Will were a vaster miracle, or rather an infinite series of vaster miracles, than Nature realized through it; but a concluded creation would be more miraculous still, for it could only signify an exhausted universe and a dead Deity. What do the theories of energy and evolution mean but the continuance of the creative process? But if new forms in biology have emerged,—if from however mean an origin, in a mode however low, Mind once began to be, why may not new and higher types appear in the modes and forms of being known to history as politics, ethics, religion? In other words, may not the very Power which determined the appearance of the first form, and the whole course of evolution from it, determine also the appearance of creative Persons in history and of all the events which may follow from their appearance? Might we not describe the failure of the fit or the needed man to appear at some supreme moment as a failure which affects the whole creation? And would not the work he did for God be the measure of the degree of the Divine Presence or quantity of the Divine energy immanent within him?

2. It seems, then, fair to conclude that so far from the idea of a supernatural Person being incompatible with the modern idea of Nature, it is logically involved in it. That idea lives and moves and has its being in the mysterious or, let us frankly say, the miraculous. We begin in mystery; we live in mystery; and in mystery we end; and what are we but symbols or parables of the vaster life of the whole? But yet the key of all mysteries is man. The first and last, the highest and the surest thing in Nature, is the thought which explains Nature, but which Nature cannot explain. And the thought which Nature embodies has been progressive, has moved upwards to Mind, and a mind that feels its kinship with the Source, the Secret, and the End of all this mysterious system. Would it not be absolutely consistent with the whole past history of the creative action as written in the living forms which have dwelt and struggled on our earth, that the Creator should do for the higher life of man what He has done for the lower—create the first form,—i.e. first not in the chronological but in the logical and essential, or typical and normative, sense—the form after and from and through which the higher life may be realized? Whether He has done so is a question which must be investigated and determined like any other reputed matter of fact. It is enough if our argument here has prevented it being decided by a high and rigorous method of a priori logic or presupposition.

  • 1.

    Huxley, Man's Place in Nature, p. 146.

  • 2.

    Haeckel, Hist. of Creation, cc. xxii. xxiv—Anthropogenie (Vierter Abschnitt); cf. Confession of Faith of a Man of Science, p. 38.