« PredošláPokračovať »
wickedly that I am such a one as thyself:''God dwelleth not in temples made with hands, neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed anything.' Nay, the present writer-who probably sits under a great many more sermons in the course of the year than Mr. Spencer does-is firmly persuaded that every curate in the Church of England, and every Nonconformist minister, are perfectly aware of these great truths and on suitable occasions preach them; and that what they want to be taught is something beyond all this ABC and all this negation-viz. what are the fundamental conceptions on which they may securely build up, not their philosophical negations, but their popular assertions about religion. For a religion of mere negations is as good as no religion at all. It seems hardly worth while to go down Sunday after Sunday to St. George's Hall, or to any other Hall, simply to be told that Heaven has nothing whatever to say to us. We cannot believe that we are physically so well cared for as we are-naturally selected, evolved, provided with every possible adaptation to our material environment, and given the prize at last as the fittest of all possible beings to survive '-and then are left utterly in the lurch as regards all our higher wants. No, our instinct revolts against such a supposition; and we crave to know on what grounds something can be said, as well as on what grounds almost everything can be denied.
3. Now, Mr. Spencer could help us in this quest, if he would. His analysis, in First Principles, of our religious conceptions shows what he could do. He there while carefully warning us that all our knowledge is merely relative, and that our reasoning faculties do not present to us truth as it is, but only as it is reflected on the mirror of our mind-places nevertheless such confidence in those faculties that he allows them, in Buddhist fashion, to strip away feature after feature, as it were, from our religious conception of God, and to reduce it to a grim skeleton labelled 'Everlasting Force.' But why Force' only? To begin with, surely this also is a ' conception.' It is engendered by a multitude of observations blending into a higher unity and taking at last a definite shape. And the only sanction it has to rest upon is, not (ex hypothesi) any certainty or absolute truth in human logic, but simply an ineradicable faith that, to us at any rate, the notions of permanence' and 'force' sufficiently represent, though they may not actually be, the truth. We seem, then, already to have made the grand transition from reasoning to conceiving, from destruction to construction, from restless analysis to quiet synthesis, and from logic to belief that the great Unknown is, in one word, Power- an infinite and eternal energy.'
4. But just as we draw from the stores of our own consciousness this idea of Power,' of force, of muscular or mental energy, precisely in the same way we are justified in drawing the idea of 'purpose' in the direction of that energy. In fact, we cannot anyhow conceive
of force without direction' of some kind; and our instincts imperatively demand of us, when we think of force in the highest and sublimest way we can, that we impregnate that idea with another product of our plastic imagination, and conceive it as efficiently directed to some worthy end-in short, as power and wisdom combined. This may be, and undoubtedly is, quite as human and relative and provisional a conception as that of a pure blind unguided Force would be. But while the mind shrinks with unmitigated horror from the notion of 'an infinite and eternal Energy,' loose as it were in the universe, without any rational purpose or aim, but wielding portentous cosmic forces at haphazard, as a madman or a rogue-elephant might do, the mind rests and is satisfied when it can once feel assured that all is guided and has perfect efficiency for (what we can only call) some worthy design.' The word is, of course, utterly inadequate when things of such a scale are in question. But can Mr. Spencer or anyone else deny that, whatever sanction the human and relative conception of 'power' draws from the inner certainties of our own sensations, that same, or a still higher, sanction can also be claimed for the conception of an infinite and eternal 'Wisdom'? And if so, it appears that if the Agnostic lines which had reached the one conception were prolonged a little further, they would also reach the other; and that so the magnificent idea would be recovered for mankind of an Intelligent Being, with whom our infinitesimal yet kindred minds can enter into relations, and the wonder of whose works we can-as surely men of science above all others do-appreciate and assimilate as a kind of nutriment to ourselves.
5. But even then the imperative instinct which demanded the integration of nature's observed forces into a conception of Infinite Power, and which was irresistibly borne on to add wisdom also to that Power—even then it is not pacified. It clamours for one more quality; and then it will be still. Relative, human, provisionalcall it what you will-nevertheless this third and complementary conception will no more take a denial, will no more obey a frown and waive its right to rush into the inevitable combination, than matter will politely waive its chemical affinities. As the human mind is stupefied with terror at the bare idea of swift and gigantic energy abroad in the universe without purpose or intelligence (as we inadequately say) to guide it, so assuredly the human heart stands still in palsied horror at the frightful thought of an infinite and eternal force,' guided indeed by an infinite cunning, but checked by no sort of goodness, mercy, or love. In short, no authority on earth-not even that of all the philosophers and scientists and theologians that have ever lived-could impose upon any man, who thought Mr. Herbert Spencer's First Principles out to their ultimate conclusion, the portentous belief in an eternal, almighty and omniscient DEVIL. And therefore to add goodness to the other two factors of power and
wisdom, which we are compelled by the constitution of our nature to attribute to the Great Unknown, is pardonable because inevitable. But if so, it seems that Agnosticism--if allowed to develop freely on its own lines, without artificial hindrance-must needs become a 'Christian Agnosticism.' And it only remains to ask, why in the world should not such an Agnostic go to Church,' fall in with the religious symbolism in ordinary use, and contribute his moral aid to those who have taken service under the Christian name on purpose to purify gross and carnal eyes, till they become aware of the Great Unknown behind the veil, and so come to relatively know what absolutely passes knowledge?
6. There is only one obstacle in the way; and that is of so unworthy a character, that it passes comprehension how men of cultivation can allow it a moment's influence upon their conduct. The objection referred to has never been more clearly expressed than by one whom we all delight to honour and to listen to, Professor Tyndall. He wrote as follows in the pages of this Review a few years ago (November 1878): It is against the mythologic scenery, if I may use the term, rather than against the life and substance of religion, that Science enters her protest.' But how, in the name of common sense and charity, is religion-that special provision for bringing strength to the feeble-minded, elevation to the lowly, and wisdom to the ignorant-to be brought home to all mankind, without the use of even coarse symbolism, which is as 'relative' to the masses for whom it is intended as scientific conceptions are to philosophers? In both cases the realities behind are most imperfectly represented; and a higher intelligence, if it were not loving as well as intelligent, would certainly display impatience with Professor Tyndall's own kindly effort a few pages further on, where he says 'How are we to figure this molecular motion? Suppose the leaves to be shaken from a birch-tree; and, to fix the idea, suppose each leaf to repel and attract,' and so on. Is it not clear that the Professor is here doing the very same thing, in order to bring science home (all honour to him!) to the unlearned, which he refuses to the ministers of religion when they try to bring home the Gospel to the poor? How can such subtle ideas, such far-reaching thoughts, as those of theology be brought home to the mass of mankind without the boldest use of symbol and of figured speech? How can that most precious result of Christianity, a unity of general conceptions about mankind and about the Great Unknown, be secured without a symbolism of the very broadest and most striking kind? Panoramas cannot be painted with stippling brushes. Nor, indeed, does any sort of painter aim to compete with the bald truthfulness of photography. He does not imitate he merely hints. He throws out out things φωνάντα OVVETOîow. He summons the imagination of the spectators themselves to his aid and awakens their finer susceptibilities. And by
this means a 'picture,' which is in itself the most unreal of all unrealities, becomes in skilful hands a fruitful reality for good, perhaps to a hundred generations.
If, then, any scientific man does not for himself need rituals and symbols, still let him remember how invaluable an aid these things are to the mass of mankind. Let him reflect how the purest and loftiest ideas of the Eternal lie enshrined within every form of Christian adoration, and how the most touching memories speak in every Christian Sacrament. Is it nothing, too, to be brought in contact with the boundless gentleness and tolerance of Christ; to hear such words as 'He that is able to receive it, let him receive it,' and He that is not against us is on our side'? Is it nothing to feel the sympathy of such a devoted benefactor of Europe as St. Paul, and to accept his judgment that He who regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it'? Nay, is it nothing to bow the knee in acknowledged brotherhood beside the simple and the lowly; to submit to learn from them, as we all learn from our children in the nursery; and to feel ourselves, in spite of our divergent views and notions, in the attitude of common adoration before the Great Unknown? Better this, surely, by far than to cover with philosophic scorn ministrants whose days are given to soothing every form of human distress, amid whose simplest teaching can always be detected in undertone the deep thoughts of Hebrew prophets and apostles, and to despise whom is to crown once more, with paper or with thorns, the meek head of CHRIST.
H. G. CURTEIS.
THE oldest historic reference to the rainbow is known to all: 'I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. . . . And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I shall look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.' To the sublime conceptions of the theologian succeeded the desire for exact knowledge characteristic of the man of science. Whatever its ultimate cause might have been, the proximate cause of the rainbow was physical, and the aim of science was to account for the bow on physical principles. Progress towards this consummation was very slow. Slowly the ancients mastered the principles of reflection. Still more slowly were the laws of refraction dug from the quarries in which nature had embedded them. I use this language, because the laws were incorporate in nature before they were discovered by man. Until the time of Alhazan, an Arabian mathematician, who lived at the beginning of the twelfth century, the views entertained regarding refraction were utterly vague and incorrect. After Alhazan came Roger Bacon and Vitellio,' who made and recorded many observations and measurements on the subject of refraction. To them succeeded Kepler, who, taking the results tabulated by his predecessors, applied his amazing industry to extract from them their meaning—that is to say, to discover the physical principles which lay at their root. In this attempt he was less successful than in his astronomical labours. In 1604, Kepler published his Supplement to Vitellio in which he virtually acknowledged his defeat, by enunciating an approximate rule, instead of an all-satisfying natural law. The discovery of such a law, which constitutes one of the chief corner-stones of optical science, was made by Willebrord Snell, about 1621.2
A ray of light may, for our purposes, be presented to the mind as a luminous straight line. Let such a ray be supposed to fall vertically upon a perfectly calm water surface. The incidence, as it
1 Whewell (History of the Inductive Sciences, vol. i. p. 345) describes Vitellio as a Pole. His mother was a Pole; but Poggendorff (Handwörterbuch d. exacten Wissenschaften) claims Vitellio himself as a German, born in Thüringen. Vitellio' is described as a corruption of Witelo.
2 Porn at Leyden 1591; died 1626. VOL. XV.-No. 84.