PANTHEISM.* _ THERE is something attractive in this book, but
we cannot call it, without qualification, a good one. Its charm seems to be con- nected with the personality of the anonymous author. A certain aroma of modesty, sincerity, mild spiritual enthusiasm, lends fascination to his sentences, giving us the impression that we are in the company of one who is ingenuously interested in the highest questions, who is incapable of vulgarity in taste or in ambition, and who has read a good deal in philosophy, or perhaps rather in the history of philosophy. Bat the volume is not satisfactory. The arrangement is loose, the treatment desultory, there is more extensive quotation than is legitimate in an original work, and what is still worse, there is a lack of penetrating insight, and of capacity to perceive the exact issue between conflicting systems. The subject might lead us to expect that the book would be ponderously instructive, but de- ficient in interest ; on the contrary, the interest is strong enough to carry the reader pleasantly enough to the end of the volume, but the express result in the way of instruction is slight.
In treating of Pantheism, under the three divisions of Oriental Pantheism, Greek Pantheism, and Modern Pantheism (to the age of Spinoza), our author surveys the entire field of ancient philo- sophy and speculation. At considerable length, he discusses the speculative efforts of the schools of Greece. To these a quite inexhaustible interest belongs. The cloudland of Oriental theo- sophy, and the wilderness of Egyptian mysticism and grotes- querie, have hardly a practical hold upon the mind of the West. These strike one vaguely as pertaining neither to philosophy nor to religion, but as a shadowy prefiguration of both ; the Greek thinkers were perplexed by the same questions which are vehe- mently debated among us at this hour. What was the result of their philosophising is one question, and a question of great interest, but the fact that they philosophised at all seems to us more important still. Here was a race of fine, clear, symmetri- cally developed intellect, a race which, as compared with the peoples of India and of Egypt, had reached the platform of a typically complete civilisation, a race in which humanity first shines out crowned with the distinctive glories of man as a species, —poetry, art, philosophy, science ; and among this symmetrically gifted, eminently sane and healthy-minded people, we see man after man relinquishing every common aim of life, rising above the desire of wealth and political distinction, and devoting his energies to the enterprise of obtaining some definite knowledge of man's essential nature, final cause, supreme duty, and highest relations. Century after century the quest for light continued. What did it mean ? Why did the Greeks begin or carry on such a search? Why could not the human creature content himself with what sufficed the most highly developed animal, namely, to follow the track of its prey, with eyes fixed upon the ground ? Why should man alone pause, and bethink him, and begin to hunt a nobler game ? Here at last, in the procession of organic life, is an animal that refuses to walk in the leading-strings of nature,—that turns round and asks what nature is, what he himself is, what is the highest law of his existence, what is the meaning of those aspirations that reach beyond the stars and the grave, and wing their flight, as if in wistful search for some ark of refuge, down the eternity of the past and into the eternity of the future. It is to the ever fresh and indestructible interest of this fact, that we impute the gratified attention with which, for the fiftieth time, even though there is no special felicity in the manner of telling it, one listens to the story of Greek philosophy.
Our author is so possessed with a belief in the truth and the beneficence of Pantheism, that he finds his beloved system in every religious or philosophical opinion with which he particu- larly agrees. Pantheism, he says, is of two kinds,—proper, and not proper. The pantheist proper "believes God and Nature to be one and the same thing." The pantheist not proper "refuses to give an opinion upon the nature of God, whether He be Creator alone, or whether He be Creator and Creation in one," but "be- lieves a true knowledge of nature to be in reality a true know- ledge of God." The position of the second pantheist seems inconsistent with common-sense. If he has no opinion, that is to say, if he believes no opinion to be attainable, as to what God is, how can he know whether a knowledge of nature is a knowledge of God or not ? If his position is that no
* General Sketch of the History of Pantheism. In Two Volumes. Vol. L London Deacon and Co. 1878. true knowledge is possible either of nature or of God, but that if he once knew nature, he would also know God, he obviously makes a mere conjecture, shoots an arrow into the dark, for until he has a true knowledge of nature, he cannot say what nature will hide from him, or what nature will reveal to him.
The distinctive merit of Pantheism, proceeds the writer, "as depicted by both these schools," is that it "has ever refused, even in its crudest forms, to make idols of wood and of stone, still less of books and traditions." This high merit we maintain to have been characteristic of the Hebrew and the Christian religion in pure form--the religion of Spirit—the reli- gion whose God is, was, and will be "unseen and eternal ;" and we maintain, further, that it cannot possibly be characteristic of Pantheism, if rationally defined, for Pantheism is distinctively the system which identifies God with the visible universe, and if it worships at all, worships the Universe, and is therefore, as com- pared with the religion of the Invisible Spirit, always and necessarily idolatrous. Having thus turned the tables upon the writer in the matter of religion, we must deal as hardly with his pet pantheism in respect of science. "Pantheism," he exclaims, with unaffected fervour, "has one inestimable advantage over all other religions, however sublime they may be,—it is never in antagonism to science." On the contrary, it is always in antagonism to science. It is distinctly at a disadvantage in relation to science, as com- pared either with spiritual monotheism or with atheism. Atheism gives no trouble to science, for science deals with material forces, with second causes, with those sequences which are all that the senses can detect. In like manner, the doctrine that God is the eternal Spirit, immaterial, beyond cognisance of the senses, leaves science at perfect liberty to classify second causes. But Pantheism offends science by insisting that the second causes, the physical forces, the mere motions and sequences of nature, are themselves God,—by expatiating, in vague flourishes, on what science, searching nature with scalpel and microscope, can neither see, nor touch, nor bring under any material category, namely, a divine life in waves and stones and trees. Pantheism is the cloudy refuge of the great mixed multitude who shrink from definitions ; but if the system can be marked off from atheism on the one hand and from spiritual theism on the other, it tells us that, when the sand is running down in an hour- glass, the particles of sand are God, and the force of gravitation, in virtue of which they fall, is also God. It is, in fact, a sham consecration of nature, and its votaries annoy the man of science with exclamatory assertions of a dynamic energy, and a life, and • a mysterious sanctity, in matter, of which the senses afford no verification.
Our author is convinced that many portions of the New Testa- ment, and " the majority of the more spiritual psalms of David,
are pervaded with Pantheistic ideas," but this arises from his constant failure to distinguish between Pantheistic nature-worship and the spiritual worship of an omnipresent but personal Creator. He fancies that there is Pantheism in the following passage, which be quotes from the General Scholium at the end of the third book of Newton's Principia:— "The Supreme God exists necessarily, and by the samo necessity he exists always and evvywhere. Whence also he is all-similar—all eye, all ear, all brain, all arm, all power to perceive, to understand, and to act; but in a manner not at all human, not at all corporeal, in a man- ner utterly unknown to us. As a blind man has no idea of colours, so have we no idsa of the manner by which the all-wise God perceives and understands all things. He is utterly void of all body and bodily figure, and can, therefore, neither be seen, nor touched, nor heard, nor ought to be worshipped under the representation of any corporeal thing. We have ideas of his attributes, but what the real substance of anything is we know not."
This we look upon as a most ingenious attempt to express in language what language is confessedly unable to express with adequacy,—the nature and mode of action of the universal Spirit ; but since the pantheistic hypothesis is that everything seen, everything touched, everything heard—in one word, the whole framework of nature—is God, it would" be difficult to construct a formula that should more pointedly exclude Pantheism. Acting, as the human spirit does, through the mechanism of sense, we cannot conceive how the Infinite Spirit, who is subject to no such limitation, operates ; but inasmuch as the exertion of our own will must be looked upon by us as analogous to the exertion of the divine will—else how are we to believe in the spiritual power of the universe as a fact ?—Newton seems to us too sweeping in his negation of resemblance between the opera- tions of the finite spirit and those of the Infinite Spirit. It is a great mistake to let ourselves be driven, by anthropo- morphic representations of God, into the opposite and still more
injurious error of forgetting that, as compared with the rest of the visible universe, organic and inorganic, man is Go'd's image.
What precisely this author's own doctrine of God is we are un- able to say. Ile proclaims himself a Pantheist, but the exact purport of his Pantheism we cannot determine. On the whole, however, we are disposed to think that he would finally decide that God is motion, and that motion is God. "I know not how," he says, "or in what we could more worthily conceive the First Cause, than by thus identifying Him with motion." From the corpuscles in our blood to the suns and systems of the firmament, all things are in motion. In the mind, motion discloses itself "with as much wondrous power as in any physical phenomena," for we range in thought over scores of years, and over thousands of miles. "By no force of will that we can exert, are we able to keep our thoughts for more than a few minutes at a time without travelling and rapidly moving." The truth of this remark is painfully obvious ; it is difficult even for writers on philosophy to keep their minds fixed upon one point, or upon the knot of one problem, for a sufficient time ; but the mere fact that it is in regulated, rhythmic motion, or in the origin of motion, not by any means in the mere play of anarchic motions, that we discern anything godlike, might have suggested that motion itself cannot be God. Motion in the physical world is, we grant, the announcement of God, but the mode in which it announces Him is by imperiously compelling us to demand a cause for what the fundamental dicta of our reason forbid us to regard as self-caused, and what cannot be traced to an ultimate source among those material forces with which science deals. The nearest approach to an actual origin of motion afforded in ex- perience is the obedience of the human arm to the human will ; and it is this simple but supremely important experiment, that affords natural theology the first stepping-stone towards a rational and impregnable conception of God as the personal and spiritual Creator of the universe.