THE purpose of last lecture was partly to show that obligation to presuppose order and purpose in nature, as the condition of interpreting it, is independent of the question whether the cosmos had a beginning; for even if at birth we are ushered into a cosmos that had no beginning, we find ourselves now living and moving and having our being amidst surroundings that must be presupposed to be ultimately and essentially supernatural, or an expression of intelligent purpose, as the condition of their being adequately interpreted.
Nature and super-naturalness.
But of whose intelligence and purpose is this the expression? Of what sort is the ordering and designing principle? What is meant by its supernaturalness? Have we any example within our experience of a reality superior to the natural causation that is alone recognised in physical sciences? Does not the applicability to man of the idea of moral obligation involve supernaturalness in him, and thus supply an analogy to supernaturalness in nature? These questions lead to the subject of this lecture, which is concerned with the supernatural as presented in man, a moral and religious being, who shares as a responsible agent in the universal reason, and who, as a free spirit, is connected with the centre of a moral world, to which nature is in harmonious subordination. Under this final conception, advance of the natural sciences only deepens and enriches man's conception of God. When an event can be referred in science to a natural cause, it is not by this divorced from God, if all natural causation is the immediate manifestation of Divine Power. May I add that the idea of natural causation being essentially divine is not new to me. It pervades the thought which I have given to the world in the last five-and-twenty years, for it is implied in six volumes of which Berkeley was the text, and in three in which I have essayed a critical reconstruction of Locke.
I find the signal example of the divine in the spiritual being of man. For do we not see in man a being at once natural and supernatural, intermediate between brute and Deity, with an intelligence and experience that is neither nescience nor Omniscience,—equally unable, as Pascal suggests, to know all, and to be ignorant of all, who is great even in knowing himself to be miserable, and who constantly seeks to support the present by the future interpreted through the past? Let us examine the supernatural experience into which man may rise when he realises his true ideal.
External organic conditions not to be identified with the self-conscious life of which they may be the occasion.
The visible organic conditions under which consciousness makes its appearance in man, and in terms of which its gradual development may be expressed in biology, must not be identified with the moral and spiritual life, itself invisible, of which the organic motions are the natural occasion. Intelligence may be manifested in and through visible processes, in inorganic and in organic nature; but those visible processes are not the invisible conscious intelligence, nor are they the emotional and volitional life, which is blended with the intellectual, in a complete personal consciousness. The presumed interpretability of nature, and the fact that I find myself in an interpretable world, is something more or something other than the sense-presented phenomena themselves in their illimitable varieties. That these sense appearances are capable of being understood, I am mentally obliged to pre-judge; for this pre-judgment is the fundamental condition of the formation of natural sciences by man, as well as of every calculated movement in daily life. A chaos of letters of the alphabet, presented in a heap on a table, is not confounded with the same letters organised into a book, and therein so charged with meaning, that the reader finds the book in objective intellectual affinity with his own intelligence. Man in like manner treats nature on the hypothesis that, in trying to understand its phenomena scientifically, he is exercising himself in an intelligible, if not in an intelligent or personal cosmos—not in a meaningless chaos.
But living consciousness is more than potential intelligibility; more, too, than the sensuous signs in which the reason latent in nature receives expression. Meaning, abstracted from a living conscious thinker, is an unactual abstraction. Let us once more suppose all conscious life in the universe suddenly annihilated. What then becomes of the latent interpretability of natural phenomena; or of the phenomena themselves, which we are obliged to presuppose interpretable, and therefore in correspondence with our own intellectual constitution—the macrocosm in analogy with the microcosm?
Conscious life the light of the world.
Is it not within the rational consciousness of man, not in the natural phenomena presented to our senses in the organism of the human body, that we are to look for the true key, or at least the best within man's reach, for his final interpretation of the universe? Those very sciences which express some part of what the physical universe in which we live is saying to us, are themselves products of rational consciousness; not of unconscious, nor even of merely sentient, life. And rational consciousness in man is not yet proved experimentally to have its natural equivalents in phenomena of matter; but even if this could be physiologically proved, so that the scientific equivalent for every conscious state could be found in the organism, this spurious monism leaves unaffected the constructive principles of reason as criteria for the determination of truth. Whether conscious perception by man is a transitory or a permanent fact in the universe, matter, apart from all perception of it, is an empty, unactual abstraction. Conscious life is the light of the world. The sciences themselves—physical, chemical, biological—have their concrete existence only in the conscious life of a person; so that it is only through invisible personal life and agency that the mysterious reality of existence is actualised into sense and science. Living science is a function of invisible conscious life. The biologist, in his living science, reads the symbols of that life in the form of visible organic processes. Each discovery of all instance of physical causality in the constitution of the world is a mental act. Success in science depends upon the amount of intellectual development in the individual discoverer. The validity of his discoveries depends at last upon mental presuppositions, which something in his mind obliges him to make, and not merely upon the transitory visible phenomena. He is obliged to presume, without proof, an orderly constancy in nature, for apart from this, expectation and scientific verification have no ground to rest on. Sensuous experience is only of the past: it cannot be identified with the future, in the way that inductive science virtually identifies it, without this disposition to take its orderly constancy, or rationality, for granted. The very power the biologist claims of concluding that he is himself a natural issue of the evolution of the material world is refunded into rational consciousness. This makes man the most significant, and indeed his only known organ, for a revelation of what God is, that the universe contains. Man, the microcosm, is the unique example of the supernatural, in which, if anywhere within experience, religion finds the type of the infinite supernatural Macrocosm. The ideal man, including his body, is for us the symbol of God in nature. The spirit of man, incarnate in his body, is the symbol of Infinite Spirit, incarnate in the universe presented in time. As containing what is highest in human experience, the spiritual life of man, in its full development, may be said to signify to man what is final or supreme in existence—in short, what we call God—in the only form in which God can by us be apprehended.
The necessary inadequacy of all merely biological or other natural interpretation of existence.
Hence the philosophical inadequacy of all merely natural or biological interpretations either of nature or of man,—their inadequacy, I mean, even to our modest intellectual resources, as well as our needs, moral and religious. A physiological account of the so-called “action” and “reaction” between man's animal organism and its material environment, under a law, let us say, of natural selection, omits man's supernatural intelligence and moral agency as revealed to reflection. It overlooks that in man which distinctively reveals God,—so far as the infinite principle of the universe can be revealed to an intelligence intermediate between nescience and the perfect intuition of the Omniscient. Is it not in and through that which is found by reflection in man's invisible life of consciousness, not through that which is presented to any or all of his five senses, that the world is finally interpretable by him?
The language of Nature and Comte's maxim.
The progress of the physical sciences themselves is an evidence that natural evolution is a continual address to man, expressed in the significant language of caused causes; for those sciences, so far as they go, are an interpretation of this language. Scientific intercourse with the natural universe is virtually intelligence in intercourse with intelligence—the mind of man learning to think the thought or reason that is latent in things. Yet curiously it was a maxim of Comte, that the heavens declare no other glory than that of Hipparchus, Kepler, Newton, and the other illustrious astronomers, who have interpreted the causal language that is uttered by the masses of matter that occupy space. On this principle the glory of Newton's ‘Principia’ was not the glory of Newton, but only of those readers of the ‘Principia’ who are able to appreciate its physical theory and demonstrations. If the Book of Nature receives the meaning which it is supposed to express only from the astronomical discoverer, must not the book which was supposed to make Newton illustrious receive its meaning, not from Newton, but only from its intelligent interpreters?
Reason and will in man are supernatural, because self-determined, not externally determined.
But it is in man's life as a moral being, in the responsible exercise of deliberate will, not in man as purely intellectual, that the facts of his experience seem to resist the limitations of physical evolution, and refuse to be read exclusively in terms of a natural action and reaction between the individual organism and its surroundings. The inadequacy remains even when we take account also of the inherited results of organic and extra-organic interaction, as contained in the history of the animal ancestors of the individual organism, or even in the previous history of the whole material world, of which a living body is of course a part. It is in the exercise of morally responsible will that man so rises, as a person, above all that is merely physical and impersonal, that the divine principle at the heart of existence seems to be illustrated in him. And if so, it is then illustrated in a way that does not admit of sufficient expression in the terms, or under the conditions, of sciences which only formulate the customary processes of visible nature. Is not the responsible will in man supernatural: self-determined, not determined from without: so that man may be said to hold the unique position of being at once an outcome of the physical evolution, and a creative agent in respect of all in his history and surroundings that he is morally responsible for? For rational consciousness blended with volitional consciousness cannot be identified with any processes of natural causation: in spiritual action man seems to erect himself, as a personal agent, above himself, as merely an event in the succession of natural occurrences. Unless above himself, as merely a part of visible nature, he can erect himself into an active, and therefore rational or supernatural spirit, how mean a thing is man. If he is under an absolute obligation to obey moral law, he cannot be in every respect part of the dependent causal mechanism. The way of looking at the universe that makes visible nature and natural causation the sole measure of reality must, if man is a moral agent, be inadequate as a philosophical theory.
Science and morality in man imply more than natural sequence.
Thus science and morality in man both seem to involve more than physical sequence. The dogma of the speculative naturalist, that an outer world of interpretable things acts upon a human intelligence mechanically, as bodies in motion “act” upon bodies at rest, so that the scientific interpretation of this experience by a discoverer is itself only a physical effect of the causality of the body,—is a dogmatic postulate, which seems to leave out of account man's participation in intuitive reason, and power of distinguishing between fancy and reality, in which the essence of our knowledge and its certainty consists. Defect in the dogma is still more obvious, when the speculative naturalist argues that the relation of motives to acts for which a human agent is responsible must be the same in kind as the causal relation which one body bears to another body, when motion in one physically follows impact by another in motion; for this leaves out of account the difference between that superiority to physical nature which responsibility attributes to all agency that is either moral or immoral, and the dependence that is only natural and non-moral: for a natural cause is not held morally responsible for any of its physical effects, whether it is a sentient or insentient cause. The intellectual power of distinguishing between transitory appearances and the deeper realities which they signify—between immediate sense and even natural science—is a power in which the intellectual man erects himself, as supernatural, above himself, as merely sensuous and a part of nature. But the power of morally responsible choice between good and evil in action is emphatically that in which man is free either to erect himself above physical law and dependent causation, or to let his proper personality be wholly merged in nature.
The ultimate mysteries of infinite temporal regress and a moral causality.
Thus in man two ultimate mysteries seem to meet—the mystery of natural causation, and the mystery of moral or immoral will. In natural causation we find intelligible signs of an order with which nature is charged. Here we are involved in the mystery eternal succession: since no natural cause can be self-determined, each physical antecedent presupposes one anterior, of which it has been in its turn the physical effect or equivalent. Self-determining intelligence, and responsibility for what is personally determined, seems to contradict the presupposed universality of natural causation, and puts us face to face with an originative cause, as that to which alone power is rightly attributed.
Natural or dependent, and moral or independent, causality.
Man, intermediate between the nescient and the omniscient, can neither imagine nor comprehend the final reality in either of these two ways. He cannot comprehend an unbeginning and unending series of causal metamorphoses of dependent phenomena, all connected under physical laws, and as means to ends; nor can he comprehend a universe of self-determining spiritual agents. Natural causation in its ultimate implicates, and morally responsible agency in its ultimate implicates, are both alike incompletely intelligible, at the scientific point of view. Each conception, necessarily incomplete, is therefore necessarily mysterious for an intelligence that can comprehend and judge only in part, and not at the eternal or infinite centre. But this human incompleteness deprives man of the right in reason to conclude, that natural causation, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, morally responsible acts of which the human agent, not the Active Reason immanent in all natural causation, is the originating source—are two contradictory conceptions. Man's conception of natural causation is not complete enough to justify the conclusion that a sinful action must be determined by the Power revealed in the sequences of nature;—not by the person who is regarded by the moral reason as morally responsible for it. The presence in the universe of agents who are responsible for what ought not to enter into existence, and therefore had not any material necessity for existing, is accordingly intellectually possible: man's experience of remorse is a practical proof that man's supernatural independence is true in fact. Conscience points to supernatural agency, in the form of intending self-conscious acts of persons, whose self-originating causality can be brought home to them by their moral experience. This experience introduces a deeper meaning into causality than that which this word connotes when it is affirmed of a merely natural or caused cause. An immoral act must originate in the immoral agent; a physical effect is not known to originate in its physical cause.
Cosmic faith and moral faith.
Thus cosmic faith and moral faith are both alike concerned with what is incompletely intelligible under the conditions of physical reasoning; therefore neither can be scientifically proved to be so related to the other as to be incapable of mutual reconciliation under a higher principle. Scientific faith in physical necessity need not subvert moral or religious faith in what is higher than physical necessity, yet not necessarily inconsistent with it.
The relation between natural changes and personal agency.
The profound question of the relation between persons morally responsible for acts and the order of nature is suggested by some sentences in Professor Huxley's interesting essay on the hypothesis that animals may be automata,—including, of course, the human animal. “It seems to me,” he says, “that in men as in brutes there is no proof that any state of consciousness is the cause of change in the motion of the matter of the organism…It follows that our mental conditions are simply the symbols in consciousness of the changes which take place automatically in the organism; and that, to take an extreme illustration, the feeling we call volition is not the cause of a voluntary [overt] act, but the symbol of that state of the brain which is the immediate cause of that act.” As viewed in this statement, men are only organisms, not persons,—visible and tangible things, with each of which conscious life is inexplicably found connected,—consciousness in men being more fully developed, under its natural causes, than the sentient intelligence which is associated with the organisms of other animals on this planet. But in all animals conscious life is impotent: it is discounted as wholly irrelevant in this scientific explanation of man. The metamorphoses which the inorganic and organised material world undergoes, in the persistent processes of natural causation which science tries to register and formulate, are all independent of conscious “agency” as a factor. Man is not entitled, on account of his felt responsibility for his acts or otherwise, to be included as a factor of actions, or even among those conditions of events which constitute collectively, in each case of change, what natural science means by a “cause.” For conscious self-determination is not found to be an ingredient in the constitution of physically conceived causes, the external process of transforming these into the new relations that are called their effects being alone of scientific interest. Absolute origination is not an imaginable condition which is connected, in the way a physical cause is, with the occurrence of events in the historical evolution of the universe. We are deluded, it seems, when we suppose personal or self-contained agency; for no volition of which one is conscious can either increase or diminish molecular motion in the brain, as its physical cause: all cerebral changes must be naturally caused by motions, organic or extra-organic, external to themselves, which it is the office of biological science to observe and formulate.
The relation of “spirit and spontaneity” to the physical order.
But although biology may reasonably confine itself in this way to the natural causation of physical phenomena, and may thus banish from biological thought the hyper-physical ground of the moral relations of persons, either to one another or to the physical phenomena they are commonly supposed to modify, I am unable to see with Mr Huxley that this justifies “the gradual banishment from all regions of human thought of what we call spirit and spontaneity;” for by “spontaneity” I suppose he means acts which, when regarded as morally referable to an agent, are inferred to be free or independent of natural causation, on account of the agent's exclusive responsibility for them. Instead of this banishment of “spontaneity,” biology, as well as every science of visible nature, seems to place us face to face with an ulterior reality, suggested by the intellectual and ethical correlation between the material world and the intelligent and intending person to whom moral responsibility is referred. It makes us ask, what the presumed agreement between human intelligence and natural causation means. It also makes us ask, how the numerous seeming “interferences” of moral and immoral agents with the otherwise customary course of nature can be reconciled with the exclusive sufficiency of visible causation, illustrated in inorganic and in organised processes, which biological naturalism confines itself to. The certainty of human knowledge surely implies some deeper connection between what are commonly called “conscious” agents and the molecular motions in the brain of the supposed agent, then, through the brain, with molecular motions throughout the universe. Moral responsibility for a human act depends upon the agent who is morally praised or blamed for it being an independent or self-contained power, so far as that act is moral or immoral,—so far, therefore, independent of the natural causation to which “states of the brain” are subject. A community between the intelligence that is manifested consciously in man, and the intelligence that is latent in nature, signified to man in interpretable sensuous signs, is the explanation of human sciences of nature. The postulate of a self-contained power that is above the conditions of physical causation, seems to be indispensable for any act of which the agent can be morally praised or blamed; although the relation of man's moral or immoral acts to the supreme natural order and purpose must be only imperfectly intelligible, if both the idea of physical causality and the idea of free agency are ultimately incomplete or mysterious.
Some curious paradoxes.
The exclusion of questions of this order, not only from biology as a special science, but also from “all human thought,” seems to land the persistent thinker in some curious paradoxes. If blended rational and volitional life, and all that is involved in this, are irrelevant accidents in the inorganic and organic causal history or evolution of the universe, it seems to follow that all changes in the material world would have occurred exactly as they have occurred, even if rational and volitional consciousness had never arisen. The contrivances in nature with which men are credited or discredited must all be placed, in that case, to the credit or discredit of the Power manifested in nature. Commonly supposed products of the human spirit must be conceived of as only part of the natural history of human organisms. The books contained in the world, for example, might have become what they are by a law of natural selection, under which their visible contents might have been evolved as we have them, yet without consciousness on the part of the supposed authors and printers. The brilliant additions to scientific literature for which we are grateful to Professor Huxley, when we refer them to his self-conscious agency, are only the natural issue of an organism, itself one of the issues of the gradual evolution of the material universe: his published works might have existed exactly as they exist now, if neither his conscious life nor any other had ever made its appearance in the universe. If consciousness and postulated personal activity are really irrelevant accidents in the procession of molecular motions, what proof can I have that at this moment mine is not the solitary conscious life in an unconscious world? On what reasonable ground can I assert that I am now speaking in the presence of conscious persons; or how can each hearer know that the words which he hears are not undulations of the air, that have been naturally caused by molecular motions in a visible organism, themselves the natural issues of molecular changes in organic or extra-organic nature, conveyed under the natural laws of sound to the organ of hearing in human organisms? Perhaps I am now in the presence of unconscious automatic organisms.
Sense phenomena significant of other self-conscious persons.
In Berkeley's ‘Minute Philosopher,’ Euphranor, one of the interlocutors, in a dialogue concerning the religious conception of the universe, argues that we have at least as clear, full, and immediate certainty of the supernatural existence of an infinitely wise and powerful Spirit as each of us has of the existence of any other self-conscious life besides his own. “What!” rejoins Alciphron, the other interlocutor, “What! do you pretend you can have the same assurance of the being of a God that you can have of mine, whom you actually see standing before you and talking to you?” “The very same, if not greater,” is the reply. “How do you make this appear?” asks Alciphron. “By the person Alciphron,” Euphranor replies, “is meant an individual thinking person, and not the hair, skin, or visible surface, or any part of the outward form, colour, or shape of Alciphron.” “This I grant,” replies the sceptic. “And in granting this,” Euphranor argues, “you grant that in a strict sense I do not see Alciphron, but only such visible signs and tokens as suggest and infer the being of that invisible thinking principle or soul, Even so, in the self-same manner, it seems to me that, though I cannot with the eyes of flesh behold the invisible God, yet I do in the strictest sense behold and perceive, by all my senses, such operations as suggest, indicate, and demonstrate an invisible God, as certainly and with the same evidence as other signs, perceived by sense, do suggest to me the existence of your soul, spirit, or thinking principle,—which I am convinced of only by a few signs or effects, and the motions of one small organised body; whereas I do at all times and in all places perceive sensible signs which evince the being of a God.”
The agency of Mind in the universe
The argument here is, that the universe must be the expression of Universal Mind, because of the order, and relations of means to ends, which mark the course of its events: we have the same sort of evidence for the Universal Mind, although that Mind is invisible, as we have for the existence of other self-conscious human persons in the phenomena of their visible organisms, which are reasonably taken to signify their invisible self-conscious existence. Just as I am assured that the intending activity of another human being is the explanation of the audible words and visible actions which I refer to him, so I am bound in reason to recognise, with at least equal assurance, the existence of supreme intending Will, as the explanation of the order and purpose presupposed in a scientifically interpretable world. Divine spirit is embodied in the great sense-symbolism of the world, just as human spirits are embodied in the little sense-symbolisms presented to us in the history of the small organised bodies which resemble what we each call “our own body.” But if, even in the case of human organisms, there is no possibility that self-determined conscious agency is the origin of any of their motions, it follows that the ordering and designing purpose of a man is as illogically concluded from the words and actions of a human organism as Divine Purpose from the laws and ends with which the infinite organism of the universe seems to present. There is as little room for originative human agency as for originative divine agency. All that is commonly attributed to a calculating consciousness in men is explicable, it seems, as the natural issue of the unconscious processes of natural causation in organisms. The human race, and the whole animal world, with all their so-called works, may be part of an unconscious evolution of which I am the solitary conscious spectator. Morally responsible personality, with free intending will as its implicate, is a practically superfluous adjunct of the organism I call mine, and a like superfluity if it is annexed to other organisms as well as to mine. But I have no proof that the other organisms are also connected with conscious life, if all their words and overt actions might be what they are, only through organic and inorganic natural causality. The unconscious natural succession of molecular changes in each human organism, without the “interference” of any conscious intelligence and will, would be a sufficient explanation of this printed essay on animal automatism. Neither world-making nor watchmaking would presuppose spiritual activity; for worlds and watches are equally the issue solely of the natural orderly evolution of the visible and tangible phenomena that form into watches and into worlds. Each is an ultimately meaningless natural growth; and the “adaptations” in each are at last merged in unexplained and inexplicable original variations in atoms, which therein appear to exemplify a law of unconscious natural selection.
Matter, inorganic and organic, presupposes mind; but mind does not equally presuppose matter.
But what, I would again ask, are natural automatic changes in an organism, and through organisms extra-organic things, when the changes and their subjects are totally abstracted from perception and consciousness? What is the ‘Principia,’ or what the ‘Essay Concerning Human Understanding,’ without conscious intelligence and intending purpose in Newton and Locke, who are responsible for them, and without conscious activity in their supposed readers? The words printed on the pages of a book become significant only when consciousness makes its appearance. The continuous drama of natural creation, in the course of which the visible ‘Principia’ is supposed duly to take its place, has proceeded in harmony with an immanent reason; so that although I have no physical proof, on account of its appearance, that another mind is responsible for it, I yet find the sensible signs so in harmony with my own conscious intelligence that I cannot resist the conviction that a great intelligence was the author. Whether the relation between another person and the visible evolution is called a relation of cause and effect or not, it is a relation such as that the visible appearances are accepted as a reasonable guarantee for the invisible and foreign intending mind. I cannot banish the latter, and then fully think out my experience on the hypothesis of the exclusive reality of the former. A human intending will is responsible for the sensuous signs of meaning and purpose which a human organism presents. The immoral act for which the individual murderer is held morally responsible cannot be shifted off to the non-moral organism, and thus finally to the Power that is supreme in nature.
Natural causation is descriptive of processes; conscience is the index which points to their originating cause.
When the meaning of the words “matter” and “force” is considered, in the light of sensuous and spiritual experience, it would appear that the discovery of the natural sign of a change is no real explanation of it; and also that our idea of originating power on which change finally depends is got from reflection upon our own irresistible conviction of moral responsibility for all deliberately intended acts, which must therefore be self-originated. “I ought, therefore I can,” is the moral index which points to the agency of persons as man's highest conception of causality or power in himself and in the universe. Consciousness of the moral ideal is consciousness of duty or moral obligation; but there can be no obligation of duty unless there is, so far as duty, absolute power within the agent either to obey or to disobey. The human subject of a moral obligation must, as capable of the obligation, be free from a divine mechanism of natural causation. The act must be his own, not merely a term in that chain of physical causes and effects, which is otherwise conceived as the continuous metamorphoses which the Supreme Power makes visible nature gradually pass through. The only ultimate or originative power that enters into human experience seems to be moral or spiritual, so that this is the only sort of ultimate explanation of the universe causation that man can apprehend.
The supernatural in man.
Intelligent self-originated volition—under obligation of duty,—necessarily involved in personal responsibility,—is that in man which I call supernatural. As a merely sentient being, he is wholly, or almost wholly, an event in the orderly natural system, as empty of supernatural causality as any other phenomenon in the passive natural sequences. In his moral acts man appears to exemplify that final principle on which natural order ultimately depends; and in the elements of his moral personality we seem to have what man may take as (for him) the type of the supreme supernatural principle of the universe—a principle deeper than, yet consistent with and presupposed in, cosmic faith in natural uniformity, and called God when conceived as the ever active moral Reason. See the contrast between the mechanism of nature and supernatural agency in the familiar words of our great religious poet:—
“Look up to heaven! the industrious sun
Already half his race hath run;
He cannot halt, nor go astray,
But our immortal spirits may.”
Causality and conscience.
The final meaning of cause is thus reached through conscience, and in the ethical conception of the universe we seem to have a deeper and truer hold of reality than when it is treated only as a scientifically interpretable system of sense signs. Man at his highest, acting freely under moral obligation, with its implied intellectual and moral postulates, is suggested as a more fitting key to the ultimate interpretation of things than man only as an animal organism, abstracted from the moral experience that is often unconscious in the human individual, but is realised fully in the Ideal Man, and can be disclaimed by imperfect men only by disclaiming human responsibility.
The Macrocosm in analogy with the human microcosm.
The Macrocosm in analogy with the microcosm—the supreme Power in nature in analogy with what is highest in man, the homo mensura, when the homo means the moral and spiritual, as well as the merely sensuous man,—in this analogy, for which the contents of consciousness supply the materials, we seem to have the best light within man's reach for the true philosophy of the universe.
The ‘Ascent of Man.’
I do not know whether the leading suggestion of this lecture, indeed of this whole course, is or is not in contradiction to the thesis of Professor Drummond, when he announces “natural law in the spiritual world,” and especially in his ‘Ascent of Man,’ because I do not fully understand its philosophical meaning. If this implies that the natural world of things, as distinguished from the moral world of persons, is a continual and immediate manifestation of God, it is a fundamental conception which I am trying to recommend. But if it were meant to subordinate spiritual life to natural causation conceived only physically, and so to make physical causation the final mode of looking at the universe, with a sufficient explanation of the spiritual world in organised matter, the ‘Ascent’ would be a fanciful historical exposition of Universal Materialism. Perhaps the intention is to suggest that no hypothesis regarding changes merely in the material organism can be inconsistent with the supremacy of spiritual law throughout the perennial evolutionary struggle in the natural world.
The religious instinct in man
The religious consciousness in man is nearly connected with the consciousness of moral obligation, and implied power to make personal action conform or not conform to the ideal of duty. I suppose that religion postulates the faith that nature is an ally dependent on active moral reason, and this for us at least means dependence on a personal agent, along with the state of feeling and will which is the accompaniment of this faith, in its different degrees of intensity and intelligence. As a feeling religion includes reverential trust in the principle that is supreme in the universe; and for those with whom a merely cosmic faith in uniformities of natural order is the deepest principle which they recognise, this faith is, in a manner, their religion. But when faith goes no deeper than the cosmic postulate; when it is emptied of the ingredients contributed by man's experience of himself as a moral or supernatural being—this non-moral faith contains no absolute guarantee that intelligence may not be in the end put to confusion, even in the scientific application of an ultimate trust in physical uniformity. Seeming cosmic order may in the end be physical and moral anarchy, and life intrusted to a faith so thin and shallow is, after all, not worth living. Pessimist despair, instead of religious hope and reverence, is not uncongenial to the worship of a wholly physical causality, that god of agnostic science. So that although this cosmic faith in an impersonal or non-moral universe, when it is the final trust of any, may be called their religion, it is not religion in the full meaning of the word. It falls short of it, in so far as religion involves reconciliation through what is spiritual or supernatural being at the heart of things. Now man's rational and volitional consciousness contains the only example, in his experience, of what the words moral and supernatural mean. This makes it true that on earth “there is nothing great but man;” and that “in man there is nothing great but mind” or personal consciousness, with its implicates of reason and will and love. Does not the scientific agnosticism which explains away or overlooks this destroy the only foundation for a final faith that is absolute?
The verification of the moral interpretation of the universe by the religions of the world.
The religious instinct which interprets the final Power practically as perfect moral personality, not merely non-moral physical mechanism, must itself be taken into account as a verifying experience, for justifying the final interpretation of ourselves and things around us. As developed in the religious experience which has found its highest expression in Hebrew and Christian Scripture, it gives therein the verification of facts to the theistic interpretation of the universe. But even in other forms, and in lesser degrees, a mental experience of religious faith is a fact in the history of mankind so widespread and persistent, that it claims recognition as a legitimate factor in the solution of the universal problem; with as much reason as data of sense and cosmic faith receive recognition in the physical interpretation of nature and in common life. The misery of man when the divine centre is lost or obscured receives eloquent expression in the ‘Pensées ’ of Pascal: the distress may be taken as part of the proof in experience that when religious faith and thought are dormant, an essential condition of harmony between the man and his surroundings is absent, and that his true ideal and chief end in the system of the universe is not recognised. The religious instinct, in its many forms, but especially in its Christian, has been the chief factor in the history of mankind. It is a motive in human conduct, in no way less notable than the cosmic faith which I believe that it is able to assimilate with itself, and in assimilating to humanise, by showing that the spiritual conception of the universe is more fully philosophical for man than the merely physical. If cosmic faith is the assurance that the material world will not in the end put to intellectual confusion those who rely on the universality of its natural order, this blended moral and religious faith not only guarantees the physical faith itself, but is the absolute assurance that the Supreme Power will not put to permanent moral confusion those who strive permanently to realise the ideals of truth and beauty and goodness; or who trust absolutely in infinite love, in and through which all things somehow work together for good to those who thus live. The God represented in the Ideal Man is thus for man the available revelation and guarantee of God or goodness on the throne of the universe.