WHAT IS MANICHEISM ?
ITO THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR."]
February 5, 1866. SIR,—Is a man who attributes the evil in himself to his own nature, and not to a Spirit of Evil distinct from that nature and its Creator, or ought he logically to be, a Manichee ? I hope not, although this seems to be the conclusion of Mr. Maurice in his interesting letter on the " Personality of Evil " published in your current number. For I certainly do thus explain the evil of which I am conscious, and yet I should be very loth to admit the Manichee doctrine that this evil is unconquerable, that only by " ceasing to be " a man I can hope to escape from it. I will not repeat what I have said as to the view of nature and its upholder, by which I endeavour to reconcile the propositi9ns that the evil in me belongs to my nature, and yet is " an assaulter " of that which by this nature ought to govern, because Mr. Maurice does not impugn my reasoning. But in reply to his observations on the evidence for a personal Devil implied in such expressions as " A Devil of Indolence," " Devil's Work," &c., I would ask what am I to think of the passions of animals? Are they not indolent, gluttonous, vain, proud, obstinate, jealous, envious, cowardly, treacherous, spiteful, cruel, &c., as is man, with the difference that for them there is no escape from these passions, no controlling power, no chance of passing from being the " children of im- pulse" (Opyijc), into "the glorious liberty of the children of God," no hope of being "born again ?"
If the impulses of human nature which in their natural unregu- lated state produce evil are due to the action of a Devil on the human will, to what source are the similar impulses of animals to be ascribed? If to the Devil, then, considering the gradual transi- tion of animal into plant, and plant into crystal, must not this amount to handing over to the Devil the whole visible Uni- verse, that is, to pure Manicheism ? If we shrink, as no one, I believe, more than Mr. Maurice would shrink, from such a conclu- sion, if we allow that the impulses which constitute the animal spirit proceed from the Spirit of " Absolute Goodness," if we allow, as I am sure Mr. Maurice would allow, that in the present state of geological and physiological science it is idle to suppose any change in the nature of animals consequent upon the supposed " fall of man," then how can we avoid ascribing the same qualities in man to the actions of this same Spirit, who in this case has " provided the remedy ?"
To my thinking, the special function of the Christian teacher at the present day is, holding fast the ancient Catholic faith in the continual presence of God's Spirit with His Church, to bring before us the deep spiritual truths contained in the Scriptures, divested of the dress thrown around them by the imagination of the unscientific races and ages whence we receive them, —a func- tion which no one could fulfil better than Mr. Maurice, if he Would allow himself to criticize the ancient forms of thought with a freedom corresponding to the degree in which he enters into the spirit clothed in them. I believe great evils to be now caned by the insensibility of our clergy to this duty. The spiritual is in danger of being treated as unreal, because our religious teachers will persist in treating the mythical as history. Is it not to the absence of the union of criticism with faith in the spiritual food commonly served up to us, that we must at- tribute, on the one hand, the readiness to believe in "spirits that touch fingers and play antic tricks with tables ;" on the other, that scientific " atheism," noticed by you elsewhere, which con- verts Nature into a God, because it is required to believe in a God