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Title: Is Life Worth Living?
Author: Mallock, W. H. (William Hurrell), 1849-1923
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Is Life Worth Living?" ***

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       *       *       *       *       *

     'Man walketh in a vain shadow, and disquieteth himself in vain.'

     'How dieth the wise man? As the fool.... That which befalleth the
     sons of men befalleth the beasts, even one thing befalleth them; as
     the one dieth so dieth the other, yea they have all one breath; so
     that man hath no preeminence above a beast; for all is vanity.'

     '[Greek: talaipôros egô anthrôpos, tis me rudetai ek tou sômatos
     tou thanatou toutou];'

       *       *       *       *       *

182 Fifth Avenue





     My dear Mr. Ruskin,--You have given me very great pleasure
     by allowing me to inscribe this book to you, and for two reasons;
     for I have two kinds of acknowledgment that I wish to make to
     you--first, that of an intellectual debtor to a public teacher;
     secondly, that of a private friend to the kindest of private
     friends. The tribute I have to offer you is, it is true, a small
     one; and it is possibly more blessed for me to give than it is for
     you to receive it. In so far, at least, as I represent any
     influence of yours, you may very possibly not think me a
     satisfactory representative. But there is one fact--and I will lay
     all the stress I can on it--which makes me less diffident than I
     might be, in offering this book either to you or to the world

     The import of the book is independent of the book itself, and of
     the author of it; nor do the arguments it contains stand or fall
     with my success in stating them; and these last at least I may
     associate with your name. They are not mine. I have not discovered
     or invented them. They are so obvious that any one who chooses may
     see them; and I have been only moved to meddle with them, because,
     from being so obvious, it seems that no one will so much as deign
     to look at them, or at any rate to put them together with any care
     or completeness. They might be before everybody's eyes; but instead
     they are under everybody's feet. My occupation has been merely to
     kneel in the mud, and to pick up the truths that are being trampled
     into it, by a headstrong and uneducated generation.

     With what success I have done this, it is not for me to judge. But
     though I cannot be confident of the value of what I have done, I am
     confident enough of the value of what I have tried to do. From a
     literary point of view many faults may be found with me. There may
     be faults yet deeper, to which possibly I shall have to plead
     guilty. I may--I cannot tell--have unduly emphasized some points,
     and not put enough emphasis on others. I may be convicted--nothing
     is more likely--of many verbal inconsistencies. But let the
     arguments I have done my best to embody be taken as a whole, and
     they have a vitality that does not depend upon me; nor can they be
     proved false, because my ignorance or weakness may here or there
     have associated them with, or illustrated them by, a falsehood. I
     am not myself conscious of any such falsehoods in my book; but if
     such are pointed out to me, I shall do my best to correct them. If
     what I have done prove not worth correction, others coming after me
     will be preferred before me, and are sure before long to address
     themselves successfully to the same task in which I perhaps have
     failed. What indeed can we each of us look for but a large measure
     of failure, especially when we are moving not with the tide but
     against it--when the things we wrestle with are principalities and
     powers, and spiritual stupidity in high places--and when we are
     ourselves partly weakened by the very influences against which we
     are struggling?

     But this is not all. There is in the way another difficulty.
     Writing as the well-wishers of truth and goodness, we find, as the
     world now stands, that our chief foes are they of our own
     household. The insolence, the ignorance, and the stupidity of the
     age has embodied itself, and found its mouthpiece, in men who are
     personally the negations of all that they represent theoretically.
     We have men who in private are full of the most gracious modesty,
     representing in their philosophies the most ludicrous arrogance; we
     have men who practise every virtue themselves, proclaiming the
     principles of every vice to others; we have men who have mastered
     many kinds of knowledge, acting on the world only as embodiments of
     the completest and most pernicious ignorance. I have had occasion
     to deal continually with certain of these by name. With the
     exception of one--who has died prematurely, whilst this book was in
     the press--those I have named oftenest are still living. Many of
     them probably are known to you personally, though none of them are
     so known to me; and you will appreciate the sort of difficulty I
     have felt, better than I can express it. I can only hope that as
     the falsehood of their arguments cannot blind any of us to their
     personal merits, so no intellectual demerits in my case will be
     prejudicial to the truth of my arguments.

     To me the strange thing is that such arguments should have to be
     used all; and perhaps a thing stranger still that it should fall to
     me to use them--to me, an outsider in philosophy, in literature,
     and in theology. But the justification of my speaking is that there
     is any opening for me to speak; and others must be blamed, not I,

                 the lyre so long divine
         Degenerates into hands like mine.

     At any rate, however all this may be, what I here inscribe to you,
     my friend and teacher, I am confident is not unworthy of you. It is
     not what I have done; it is what I have tried to do. As such I beg
     you to accept it, and to believe me still, though now so seldom
     near you,

     Your admiring and affectionate friend,

                                                  W.H. MALLOCK.

     P.S.--Much of the substance of the following book you have seen
     already, in two Essays of mine that were published in the
     'Contemporary Review,' and in five Essays that were published in
     the 'Nineteenth Century.' It had at one time been my intention, by
     the kindness of the respective Editors, to have reprinted these
     Essays in their original form. But there was so much to add, to
     omit, to rearrange, and to join together, that I have found it
     necessary to rewrite nearly the whole; and thus you will find the
     present volume virtually new.

     Torquay, _May, 1879_.




The question may seem vague and useless; but if we consider its
real meaning we shall see that it is not so                             1

In the present day it has acquired a new importance                     2

Its exact meaning. It does not question the fact of human happiness     3

But the nature of happiness, and the permanence of its basis            4

For what we call the higher happiness is essentially a complex
thing                                                                   5

We cannot be sure that all its elements are permanent                   7

Without certain of its elements it has been declared by the wisest
men to be valueless                                                     8

And it is precisely the elements in question that modern thought
is eliminating                                                         11

It is contended that they have often been eliminated before; and
that yet the worth of life has not suffered                            13

But this contention is entirely false. They were never before
eliminated as modern thought is eliminating them now                   17

The present age can find no genuine parallels in the past              19

Its position is made peculiar by three facts                           19

Firstly, by the existence of Christianity                              19

Secondly, the insignificance to which science has reduced the
earth                                                                  23

Thirdly, the intense self-consciousness that has been developed
in the modern world                                                    25

It is often said that a parallel to our present case is to be found
in Buddhism                                                            27

But this is absolutely false. Buddhist positivism is the exact
reverse of Western positivism                                          29

In short, the life-problem of our day is distinctly a new and an as
yet unanswered one                                                     31



The worth the positive school claim for life, is essentially a moral
worth                                                                  33

As its most celebrated exponents explicitly tell us                    34

This means that life contains some special prize, to which morality
is the only road                                                       34

And the value of life depends on the value of this prize               35

J.S. Mill, G. Eliot, and Professor Huxley admit that this is a
correct way of stating the case                                        36

But all this language as it stands at present is too vague to be of
any use to us                                                          38

The prize in question is to be won in this life, if anywhere; and
must therefore be more or less describable                             39

What then is it?                                                       40

Unless it is describable it cannot be a moral end at all               41

As a consideration of the _raison d'être_ of all moral systems will
show us                                                                42

The value of the prize must be verifiable by positive methods          43

And be verifiably greater, beyond all comparison, than that of
all other prizes                                                       44

Has such a prize any real existence? This is our question              44

It has never yet been answered properly                                45

And though two sets of answers have been given it, neither of
them are satisfactory                                                  45

I shall deal with these two questions in order                         47



The positive theory is that the health of the social organism is
the real foundation of morals                                          49

But social health is nothing but the personal health of all the
members of the society                                                 51

It is not happiness itself, but the negative conditions that make
happiness for all                                                      51

Still less is social health any _high_ kind of happiness               54

It can only be maintained to be so, by supposing                       55

Either, that all kinds of happiness are equally _high_ that do not
interfere with others                                                  55

Or, that it is only a _high_ kind of happiness that can be shared
by all                                                                 56

Both of which suppositions are false                                   57

The conditions of social health are a moral end only when we
each feel a personal delight in maintaining them                       58

In this case they will supply us with a _small portion_ of the
moral aid needed                                                       59

But this case is not a possible one                                    60

There is indeed the natural impulse of sympathy that might tend
to make it so                                                          61

But this is counterbalanced by the corresponding impulse of
selfishness                                                            63

And this impulse of sympathy itself is of very limited power           63

Except under very rare conditions                                      63

The conditions of general happiness are far too vague to do more
than very slightly excite it                                           64

Or give it power enough to neutralise any personal temptation          66

At all events they would excite no enthusiasm                          67

For this purpose there must be some prize before us, of recognised
positive value, more or less definite                                  67

And before all things, to be enjoyed by us individually                67

Unless this prize be of great value to begin with, its value will
not become great because great numbers obtain it                       71

Nor until we know what it is, do we gain anything by the hope
that men may more completely make it their own in the future           72

The modern positive school requires a great general enthusiasm
for the general good                                                   73

They therefore presuppose an extreme value for the individual
good                                                                   74

Our first enquiry must be therefore what the higher individual
good is                                                                76



What has been said in the last chapter is really admitted by the
positive school themselves                                             77

As we can learn explicitly from George Eliot                           78

In _Daniel Deronda_                                                    78

That the fundamental moral question is, '_In what way shall the
individual make life pleasant?_'                                       79

And the right way, for the positivists, as for the Christians, is
an inward way                                                          80

The moral end is a certain inward state of the heart, and the
positivists say it is a sufficient attraction in itself, without
any aid from religion                                                  81

And they support this view by numerous examples                        82

But all such examples are useless                                      83

Because though we may get rid of religion in its pure form             83

There is much that we have not got rid of, embodied still in the
moral end                                                              84

To test the intrinsic value of the end, we must sublimate this
religion out of it                                                     86

For this purpose we will consider, first, the three general
characteristics of the moral end, viz.                                 88

Its inwardness                                                         88

Its importance                                                         89

And its absolute character                                             91

Now all these three characteristics can be explained by religion       93

And cannot be explained without it                                     96

The positive moral end must therefore be completely divested of
them                                                                  100

The next question is, will it be equally attractive then?             100



The positivists represent love as a thing whose value is
self-dependent                                                        101

And which gives to life a positive and incalculable worth             103

But this is supposed to be true of one form of love only              104

And the very opposite is supposed to hold good of all other forms     105

The right form depends on the conformity of each of the lovers
to a certain inward standard                                          105

As we can see exemplified in the case of Othello and Desdemona,
etc.                                                                  107

The kind and not the degree of the love is what gives love its
special value                                                         108

And the selection of this kind can be neither made nor justified
on positive principles                                                109

As the following quotations from Théophile Gautier will show us       110

Which are supposed by many to embody the true view of love            110

According to this view, purity is simply a disease both in man
and woman, or at any rate no merit                                    116

If love is to be a moral end, this view must be absolutely
condemned                                                             117

But positivism cannot condemn it, or support the opposite view        117

As we shall see by recurring to Professor Huxley's argument           118

Which will show us that all moral language as applied to love is
either distinctly religious or else altogether ludicrous              122

For it is clearly only on moral grounds that we can give that
blame to vice, which is the measure of the praise we give to
virtue                                                                123

The misery of the former depends on religious anticipations           124

And so does also the blessedness of the latter                        125

As we can see in numerous literary expressions of it                  126

Positivism, by destroying these anticipations, changes the whole
character of the love in question                                     128

And prevents love from supplying us with any moral standard           131

The loss sustained by love will indicate the general loss
sustained by life                                                     131



We must now examine what will be the practical result on life
in general of the loss just indicated                                 132

To do this, we will take life as reflected in the mirror of the
great dramatic art of the world                                       134

And this will show us how the moral judgment is the chief faculty
to which all that is great or intense in this art appeals             136

We shall see this, for instance, in _Macbeth_                         137

In _Hamlet_                                                           137

In _Antigone_                                                         137

In _Measure for Measure_, and in _Faust_                              138

And also in degraded art just as well as in sublime art               139

In profligate and cynical art, such as Congreve's                     140

And in concupiscent art                                               141

Such as _Mademoiselle de Maupin_                                      141

Or such works as that of Meursius, or the worst scenes in
Petronius                                                             142

The supernatural moral judgment is the chief thing everywhere         143

Take away this judgment, and art loses all its strange interest       144

And so will it be with life                                           145

The moral landscape will be ruined                                    145

Even the mere sensuous joy of living in health will grow duller       146

Nor will culture be of the least avail without the supernatural
moral element                                                         148

Nor will the devotion to truth for its own sake, which is the last
refuge of the positivists when in despair                             149

For this last has no meaning whatever, except as a form of
concrete theism                                                       152

The reverence for Nature is but another form of the devotion to
truth, and its only possible meaning is equally theistic              157

Thus all the higher resources of positivism fail together             161

And the highest positive value of life would be something less
than its present value                                                161



From what we have just seen, the visionary character of the
positivist conception of progress becomes evident                     163

Its object is far more plainly an illusion than the Christian
heaven                                                                164

_All_ the objections urged against the latter apply with far more
force to the former                                                   165

As a matter of fact, there is no possible object sufficient to
start the enthusiasm required by the positivists                      167

To make the required enthusiasm possible human nature would
have to be completely changed                                         168

Two existing qualities, for instance, would have to be magnified
to an impossible extent--imagination                                  169

And unselfishness                                                     170

If we state the positive system in terms of common life, its
visionary character becomes evident                                   172

The examples which have suggested its possibility are quite
misleading                                                            173

The positive system is really far more based on superstition than
any religion                                                          175

Its appearance can only be accounted for by the characters and
circumstances of its originators                                      175

And a consideration of these will help us more than anything to
estimate it rightly                                                   178

And will let us see that its only practical tendency is to deaden
all our present interests, not to create any new ones                 179



It is not contended that the prospect just described will, as a
fact, ever be realised                                                183

But only that it will be realised _if_ certain other prospects are
realised                                                              185

Which prospects may or may not be visionary                           186

But the progress towards which is already begun                       187

And also the other results, that have been described already          187

Positive principles have already produced a moral deterioration,
even in places where we should least imagine it                       187

As we shall see if we pierce beneath the surface                      189

In the curious condition of men who have lost faith, but have
retained the love of virtue                                           189

The struggle was hard, when they had all the helps of religion        190

It is harder now                                                      190

Conscience still survives, but it has lost its restraining power      191

Temptation almost inevitably dethrones it                             192

And its full prestige can never be recovered                          193

It can do nothing but deplore; it cannot remedy                       194

In such cases the mind's decadence has begun; and its symptoms
are                                                                   194

Self-reproach                                                         195

Life-weariness                                                        195

And indifference                                                      195

The class of men to whom this applies is increasing, and they are
the true representatives of the work of positive thought              196

It is hard to realise this ominous fact                               197

But by looking steadily and dispassionately at the characteristics
of the present epoch we may learn to do so                            198

We shall see that the opinions now forming will have a weight
and power that no opinions ever had before                            199

And their tendency, as yet latent, towards pessimism is therefore
most momentous                                                        200

If it is to be cured, it must be faced                                200

It takes the form of a suppressed longing for the religious faith
that is lost                                                          200

And this longing is wide-spread, though only expressed indirectly     201

It is felt even by men of science                                     202

But the longing seems fruitless                                       203

This dejection is in fact shared by the believers                     203

And is even authoritatively recognised by Catholicism                 204

The great question for the world now, and the one on which its
whole future depends, is, will the lost faith ever be recovered?      205

The answer to this will probably have to be decisive, one way or
the other                                                             206



What gives the denials of positivism their general weight, is the
impression that they represent reason                                 208

They are supported by three kinds of arguments: physical, moral,
and historical                                                        209

The two first bear upon all religion; the latter only on special
revelations                                                           210

Natural religion is the belief in God, immortality, and the
possibility of miracles generally                                     210

Physical science prefers to destroy natural religion by its
connection of mind with matter                                        210

1st. Making conscious life a function of the brain. 2nd. Evolving
the living organisms from lifeless matter. 3rd. Making this
material evolution automatic                                          210

Thus all external proofs of God are destroyed                         212

And also of the soul's immortality                                    213

External proof is declared to be the test of reality                  213

And therefore all religion is set down as a dream                     215

But we believe that proof _is_ the test of reality, not because
it is proved to be so, but because of the authority of those who
tell us so                                                            215

But it will be found that these men do not understand their own
principle                                                             216

And, that in what they consider their most important conclusions
they emphatically disregard it                                        217

One or other, therefore, of their opinions is worthless--their
denial of religion or their affirmation of morality                   219

But we shall see this more clearly in considering the question of
consciousness and will                                                220

We shall see that, as far as science can inform us, man is nothing
but an automaton                                                      220

But the positive school are afraid to admit this                      221

And not daring to meet the question, they make a desperate effort
to confuse it                                                         222

Two problems are involved in the matter: 1st. How is brain
action connected with consciousness                                   223

2nd. Is the consciousness that is connected with it something
separable from, and independent of it                                 223

The first of these problems has no bearing at all on any moral
or religious question. It is insoluble. It leaves us not in
doubt but in ignorance                                                224

The doubt, and the religious question is connected solely with
the second problem                                                    228

To which there are two alternative solutions                          228

And modern science is so confused that it will accept neither         228

As Dr. Tyndall's treatment of the subject very forcibly shows us      230

And Dr. Tyndall in this way is a perfect representative of the
whole modern positive school                                          231

Let us compare the molecules of the brain to the six moving
billiard-balls                                                        231

The question is, are these movements due to the stroke of one
cue or of two                                                         233

The positive school profess to answer this question both ways         234

But this profession is nonsense                                       236

What they really mean is, 1st. That the connection of consciousness
with matter is a mystery; as to _that_ they _can_ give no
answer. 2nd. That as to whether consciousness is wholly a
material thing or no, they _will_ give no answer                      237

But why are they in this state of suspense?                           238

Though their system does not in the least require the hypothesis
of an immaterial element in consciousness                             239

They see that the moral value of life does                            239

The same reasons that will warrant their saying it _may_ exist,
will constrain them to say it _must_                                  240

Physical science, with its proofs, can say nothing in the matter,
either as to will, immortality, or God                                242

But, on the other hand, it will force us, if we believe in will, to
admit the reality of miracles                                         243

So far as science goes, morality and religion are both on the same
footing                                                               243



Supposing science not to be inconsistent with theism, may not
theism be inconsistent with morality?                                 247

It seems to be so; but it is no more so than is morality with
itself. Two difficulties common to both:--1st. The existence of
evil; 2nd. Man's free will and God's free will                        248

James Mill's statement of the case represents the popular
anti-religious arguments                                              249

But his way of putting the case is full of distortion and
exaggeration                                                          250

Though certain of the difficulties he pointed out were real           251

And those we cannot explain away; but if we are to believe in
our moral being at all, we must one and all accept                    252

We can escape from them by none of the rationalistic substitutes
for religion                                                          252

A similar difficulty is the freedom of the will                       257

This belief is an intellectual impossibility                          258

But at the same time a moral necessity                                260

It is typical of all the difficulties attendant on an assent
to our own moral nature                                               260

The vaguer difficulties that appeal to the _moral imagination_ we
must meet in the same way                                             261



Should the intellect of the world return to theism, will it ever
again acknowledge a special revelation?                               264

We can see that this is an urgent question                            265

By many general considerations                                        265

Especially the career of Protestantism                                267

Which is visibly evaporating into a mere natural theism               268

And, as such, is losing all restraining power in the world            271

Where then shall we look for a revelation? Not in any of the
Eastern creeds                                                        275

The claims of the Roman Church are the only ones worth considering    276

Her position is absolutely distinct from that of Protestantism,
and she is not involved in its fall                                   277

In theory she is all that the enlightened world could require         279

The only question is, is she so in practice? This brings us to
difficulties                                                          282

1st. The partial success of her revelation; and her supposed
condemnation of the virtues of unbelievers. But her partial
success is simply the old mystery of evil                             282

And through her infinite charity, she does nothing to increase
that difficulty                                                       283

The value of orthodoxy is analogous to the value of true physical
science                                                               285

All should try to learn the truth who can; but we do not condemn
others who cannot                                                     286

Even amongst Catholics generally no recondite theological knowledge
is required                                                           287

The facts of the Catholic _religion_ are simple. Theology is the
complex scientific explanation of them                                288

Catholicism is misunderstood because the outside world confuses
with its religion--1st. The complex explanations of it                289

2nd. Matters of discipline, and practical rules                       290

3rd. The pious opinions, or the scientific errors of private
persons, or particular epochs                                         291

None of which really are any integral part of the Church              293

Neither are the peculiar exaggerations of moral feeling that have
been prevalent at different times                                     293

The Church theoretically is a living, growing, self-adapting
organism                                                              295

She is, in fact, the growing, moral sense of mankind organised
and developed under a supernatural tutelage                           295



We must now consider the Church in relation to history and external
historical criticism                                                  297

1st. The history of Christianity; 2nd. The history of other
religions                                                             298

Criticism has robbed the Bible of nearly all the supposed internal
evidences of its supernatural character                               298

It has traced the chief Christian dogmas to non-Christian sources     300

It has shown that the histories of other religions are strangely
analogous to the history of Christianity                              300

And to Protestantism these discoveries are fatal                      302

But they are not fatal to Catholicism, whose attitude to history
is made utterly different by the doctrine of the perpetual
infallibility of the Church                                           305

The Catholic Church teaches us to believe the Bible for her sake,
not her for the Bible's                                               305

And even though her dogmas may have existed in some form
elsewhere, they become new _revelations_ to us, by her
supernatural selection of them                                        306

The Church is a living organism, for ever selecting and
assimilating fresh nutriment                                          307

Even from amongst the wisdom of her bitterest enemies                 309

All false revelations, in so far as they have professed to be
infallible, are, from the Catholic standpoint, abortive
Catholicisms                                                          311

Catholicism has succeeded in the same attempt in which they
have failed                                                           313



The aim of this book                                                  315

Has been to clear the great question as to man's nature, and the
proper way of regarding him, from the confusion at present
surrounding it                                                        317

And to show that the answer will finally rest, not on outer
evidence, but on himself, and on his own _will_, if he have
a will                                                                319


In this book the words '_positive_,' '_positivist_,' and '_positivism_'
are of constant occurrence as applied to modern thought and thinkers. To
avoid any chance of confusion or misconception, it will be well to say
that these words as used by me have no special reference to the system
of Comte or his disciples, but are applied to the common views and
position of the whole scientific school, one of the most eminent members
of which--I mean Professor Huxley--has been the most trenchant and
contemptuous critic that 'positivism' in its narrower sense has met
with. Over 'positivism' in this sense Professor Huxley and Mr. Frederic
Harrison have had some public battles. Positivism in the sense in which
it is used by me, applies to the principles as to which the above
writers explicitly agree, not to those as to which they differ.


Is Life Worth Living?



    _A change was coming over the world, the meaning and direction of
    which even still is hidden from us, a change from era to
    era._--Froude's _History of England_, ch. i.

What I am about to deal with in this book is a question which may well
strike many, at first sight, as a question that has no serious meaning,
or none at any rate for the sane and healthy mind. I am about to attempt
inquiring, not sentimentally, but with all calmness and sobriety, into
the true value of this human life of ours, as tried by those tests of
reality which the modern world is accepting, and to ask dispassionately
if it be really worth the living. The inquiry certainly has often been
made before; but it has never been made properly; it has never been made
in the true scientific spirit. It has always been vitiated either by
diffidence or by personal feeling; and the positive school, though they
rejoice to question everything else, have, at least in this country,
left the worth of life alone. They may now and then, perhaps, have
affected to examine it; but their examination has been merely formal,
like that of a customs-house officer, who passes a portmanteau, which he
has only opened. They have been as tender with it as Don Quixote was
with his mended helmet, when he would not put his card-paper vizor to
the test of the steel sword. I propose to supply this deficiency in
their investigations. I propose to apply exact thought to the only great
subject to which it has not been applied already.

To numbers, as I have just said, this will of course seem useless. They
will think that the question never really was an open one; or that, if
it ever were so, the common sense of mankind has long ago finally
settled it. To ask it again, they will think idle, or worse than idle.
It will express to them, if it expresses anything, no perplexity of the
intellect, but merely some vague disease of the feelings. They will say
that it is but the old ejaculation of satiety or despair, as old as
human nature itself; it is a kind of maundering common to all moral
dyspepsia; they have often heard it before, and they wish they may never
hear it again.

But let them be a little less impatient. Let them look at the question
closer, and more calmly; and it will not be long before its import
begins to change for them. They will see that though it may have often
been asked idly, it is yet capable of a meaning that is very far from
idle; and that however old they may think it, yet as asked by our
generation it is really completely new--that it bears a meaning which is
indeed not far from any one of them, but which is practical and
pressing--I might almost say portentous--and which is something
literally unexampled in the past history of mankind.

I am aware that this position is not only not at first sight obvious,
but that, even when better understood, it will probably be called false.
My first care, therefore, will be to explain it at length, and clearly.
For this purpose we must consider two points in order; first, what is
the exact doubt we intend to express by our question; and next, why in
our day this doubt should have such a special and fresh significance.

Let us then make it quite plain, at starting, that when we ask 'Is life
worth living?' we are not asking whether its balance of pains is
necessarily and always in excess of its balance of pleasures. We are not
asking whether any one has been, or whether any one is happy. To the
unjaundiced eye nothing is more clear than that happiness of various
kinds has been, and is, continually attained by men. And ingenious
pessimists do but waste their labour when they try to convince a happy
man that he really must be miserable. What I am going to discuss is not
the superfluous truism that life has been found worth living by many;
but the profoundly different proposition that it ought to be found worth
living by all. For this is what life is pronounced to be, when those
claims are made for it that at present universally are made; when, as a
general truth, it is said to be worth living; or when any of those
august epithets are applied to it that are at present applied so
constantly. At present, as we all know, it is called sacred, solemn,
earnest, significant, and so forth. To withhold such epithets is
considered a kind of blasphemy. And the meaning of all such language is
this: it means that life has some deep inherent worth of its own, beyond
what it can acquire or lose by the caprice of circumstance--a worth,
which though it may be most fully revealed to a man, through certain
forms of success, is yet not destroyed or made a minus quantity by
failure. Certain forms of love, for instance, are held in a special way
to reveal this worth to us; but the worth that a successful love is thus
supposed to reveal is a worth that a hopeless love is supposed not to
destroy. The worth is a part of life's essence, not a mere chance
accident, as health or riches are; and we are supposed to lose it by no
acts but our own.

Now it is evident that such a worth as this, is, in one sense, no mere
fancy. Numbers actually have found it; and numbers actually still
continue to find it. The question is not whether the worth exists, but
on what is the worth based. How far is the treasure incorruptible; and
how far will our increasing knowledge act as moth and rust to it? There
are some things whose value is completely established by the mere fact
that men do value them. They appeal to single tastes, they defy further
analysis, and they thus form, as it were, the _bases_ of all pleasures
and happiness. But these are few in number; they are hardly ever met
with in a perfectly pure state; and their effect, when they are so met,
is either momentary, or far from vivid. As a rule they are found in
combinations of great complexity, fused into an infinity of new
substances by the action of beliefs and associations; and these two
agents are often of more importance in the result than are the things
they act upon. Take for instance a boy at Eton or Oxford, who affects a
taste in wine. Give him a bottle of gooseberry champagne; tell him it is
of the finest brand, and that it cost two hundred shillings a dozen. He
will sniff, and wink at it in ecstasy; he will sip it slowly with an air
of knowing reverence; and his enjoyment of it probably will be far
keener, than it would be, were the wine really all he fancies it, and he
had lived years enough to have come to discern its qualities. Here the
part played by belief and associations is of course evident. The boy's
enjoyment is real, and it rests to a certain extent on a foundation of
solid fact; the taste of the gooseberry champagne is an actual pleasure
to his palate. Anything nauseous, black dose for instance, could never
raise him to the state of delight in question. But this simple pleasure
of sense is but a small part of the pleasure he actually experiences.
That pleasure, as a whole, is a highly complex thing, and rests mainly
on a basis that, by a little knowledge, could be annihilated in a
moment. Tell the boy what the champagne really is, he has been praising;
and the state of his mind and face will undergo a curious
transformation. Our sense of the worth of life is similar in its
complexity to the boy's sense of the worth of his wine. Beliefs and
associations play exactly the same part in it. The beliefs in this last
case may of course be truer. The question that I have to ask is, are
they? In some individual cases certainly, they have not been. Miss
Harriet Martineau, for instance, judging life from her own experience of
it, was quite persuaded that it was a most solemn and satisfactory
thing, and she has told the world as much, in no hesitating manner. But
a part at least of the solemn satisfaction she felt in it was due to a
grotesque over-estimate of her own social and intellectual importance.
Here, then, was a worth in life, real enough to the person who found it,
but which a little knowledge of the world would have at once taken away
from her. Does the general reverence with which life is at present
regarded rest in any degree upon any similar misconception? And if so,
to what extent does it? Will it fall to pieces before the breath of a
larger knowledge? or has it that firm foundation in fact that will
enable it to survive in spite of all enlightenment, and perhaps even to
increase in consequence of it?

Such is the outline of the question I propose to deal with. I will now
show why it is so pressing, and why, in the present crisis of thought,
it is so needful that it should be dealt with. The first impression it
produces, as I have said, is that it is superfluous. Our belief in life
seems to rest on too wide an experience for us to entertain any genuine
doubt of the truth of it. But this first impression does not go for
much. It is a mere superficial thing, and will wear off immediately. We
have but to remember that a belief that was supposed to rest on an
equally wide basis--the belief in God, and in a supernatural order--has
in these days, not been questioned only, but has been to a great degree,
successfully annihilated. The only philosophy that belongs to the
present age, the only philosophy that is a really new agent in progress,
has declared this belief to be a dissolving dream of the past. And this
belief, as we shall see presently, is, amongst civilized men at least,
far older than the belief in life; it has been far more widely spread,
and experience has been held to confirm it with an equal certainty. If
this then is inevitably disintegrated by the action of a widening
knowledge, it cannot be taken for granted that the belief in life will
not fare likewise. It may do so; but until we have examined it more
closely we cannot be certain that it will. Common consent and
experience, until they are analysed, are fallacious tests for the
seekers after positive truth. The emotions may forbid us to ask our
question; but in modern philosophy the emotions play no part as organs
of discovery. They are facts in themselves, and as such are of course of
value; but they point to no facts beyond themselves. That men loved God
and felt his presence close to them proves nothing, to the positive
thinker, as to God's existence. Nor will the mere emotion of reverence
towards life necessarily go any farther towards proving that it deserves
reverence. It is distinctly asserted by the modern school that the right
state in which to approach everything is a state of enlightened
scepticism. We are to consider everything doubtful, until it is proved
certain, or unless, from its very nature, it is not possible to doubt

Nor is this all; for, apart from these modern canons, the question of
life's worth has, as a matter of fact, been always recognised as in a
certain sense an open one. The greatest intellects of the world, in all
ages, have been at times inclined to doubt it. And these times have not
seemed to them times of blindness; but on the contrary, of specially
clear insight. Scales, as it were, have fallen from their eyes for a
moment or two, and the beauty and worth of existence has appeared to
them as but a deceiving show. An entire book of the Hebrew Scriptures is
devoted to a deliberate exposition of this philosophy. In '_the most
high and palmy state_' of Athens it was expressed fitfully also as the
deepest wisdom of her most triumphant dramatist.[1] And in Shakspeare it
appears so constantly, that it must evidently have had for him some
directly personal meaning.

This view, however, even by most of those who have held it, has been
felt to be really only a half-view in the guise of a whole one. To
Shakspeare, for instance, it was full of a profound terror. It crushed,
and appalled, and touched him; and there was not only implied in it that
for us life does mean little, but that by some possibility it might have
meant much. Or else, if the pessimism has been more complete than this,
it has probably been adopted as a kind of solemn affectation, or has
else been lamented as a form of diseased melancholy. It is a view that
healthy intellects have hitherto declined to entertain. Its advocates
have been met with neglect, contempt, or castigation, not with
arguments. They have been pitied as insane, avoided as cynical, or
passed over as frivolous. And yet, but for one reason, to that whole
European world whose progress we are now inheriting, this view would
have seemed not only not untenable, but even obvious. The emptiness of
the things of this life, the incompleteness of even its highest
pleasures, and their utter powerlessness to make us really happy, has
been, at least for fifteen hundred years, a commonplace, both with
saints and sages. The conception that anything in this life could of
itself be of any great moment to us, was considered as much a puerility
unworthy of a man of the world, as a disloyalty to God. Experience of
life, and meditation on life, seemed to teach nothing but the same
lesson, seemed to preach a sermon _de contemptu mundi_. The view the
eager monk began with, the sated monarch ended with. But matters did not
end here. There was something more to come, by which this view was
altogether transmuted, and which made the wilderness and the waste place
at once blossom as the rose. Judged of by itself, this life would indeed
be vanity; but it was not to be judged of by itself. All its ways seemed
to break short aimlessly into precipices, or to be lost hopelessly in
deserts. They led to no visible end. True; but they led to ends that
were invisible--to spiritual and eternal destinies, to triumphs beyond
all hope, and portentous failures beyond all fear. This all men might
see, if they would only choose to see. The most trivial of our daily
actions became thus invested with an immeasurable meaning. Life was thus
evidently not vanity, not an idiot's tale, not unprofitable; those who
affected to think it was, were naturally disregarded as either insane or
insincere: and we may thus admit that hitherto, for the progressive
nations of the world, the worth of life has been capable of
demonstration, and safe beyond the reach of any rational questioning.

But now, under the influence of positive thought, all this is changing.
Life, as we have all of us inherited it, is coloured with the intense
colours of Christianity; let us ourselves be personally Christians or
not, we are instinct with feelings with regard to it that were
applicable to it in its Christian state: and these feelings it is that
we are still resolved to retain. As the most popular English exponent of
the new school says: '_All positive methods of treating man, of a
comprehensive kind, adopt to the full all that has ever been said about
the dignity of man's moral and spiritual life._' But here comes the
difficulty. This adoption we speak of must be justified upon quite new
reasons. Indeed it is practically the boast of its advocates that it
must be. An extreme value, as we see, they are resolved to give to
life; they will not tolerate those who deny its existence. But they are
obliged to find it in the very place where hitherto it has been thought
to be conspicuous by its absence. It is to be found in no better or
wider future, where injustice shall be turned to justice, trouble into
rest, and blindness into clear sight; for no such future awaits us. It
is to be found in life itself, in this earthly life, this life between
the cradle and the grave; and though imagination and sympathy may
enlarge and extend this for the individual, yet the limits of its
extension are very soon arrived at. It is limited by the time the human
race can exist, by the space in the universe that the human race
occupies, and the capacities of enjoyment that the human race possesses.
Here, then, is a distinct and intelligible task that the positive
thinkers have set themselves. They have taken everything away from life
that to wise men hitherto has seemed to redeem it from vanity. They have
to prove to us that they have not left it vain. They have to prove those
things to be solid that have hitherto been thought hollow; those things
to be serious that have hitherto been thought contemptible. They must
prove to us that we shall be contented with what has never yet contented
us, and that the widest minds will thrive within limits that have
hitherto been thought too narrow for the narrowest.

Now, of course, so far as we can tell without examining the matter,
they may be able to accomplish this revolution. There is nothing on the
face of it that is impossible. It may be that our eyes are only blinded
to the beauty of the earth by having gazed so long and so vainly into an
empty heaven, and that when we have learnt to use them a little more to
the purpose, we shall see close at hand in this life what we had been
looking for, all this while, in another. But still, even if this
revolution be possible, the fact remains that it is a revolution, and it
cannot be accomplished without some effort. Our positive thinkers have a
case to be proved. They must not beg the very point that is most open to
contradiction, and which, when once duly apprehended, will be most sure
to provoke it. If this life be not incapable of satisfying us, let them
show us conclusively that it is not. But they can hardly expect that,
without any such showing at all, the world will deliberately repel as a
blasphemy what it has hitherto accepted as a commonplace.

This objection is itself so obvious that it has not escaped notice. But
the very fact of its obviousness has tended to hide the true force of
it, and coming so readily to the surface, it has been set down as
superficial. It is, however, very constantly recognised, and is being
met on all sides with a very elaborate answer. It is this answer that I
shall now proceed to consider. It is a very important one, and it
deserves our most close attention, as it contains the chief present
argument for the positive faith in life. I shall show how this argument
is vitiated by a fundamental fallacy.

It is admitted that to a hasty glance there may certainly seem some
danger of our faith in life's value collapsing, together with our belief
in God. It is admitted that this is not in the least irrational. But it
is contended that a scientific study of the past will show us that these
fears are groundless, and will reassure us as to the future. We are
referred to a new branch of knowledge, the philosophy of history, and we
are assured that by this all our doubts will be set at rest. This
philosophy of history resembles, on an extended scale, the practical
wisdom learnt by the man of the world. As long as a man is inexperienced
and new to life, each calamity as it comes to him seems something unique
and overwhelming, but as he lives on, suffers more of them, and yet
finds that he is not overwhelmed, he learns to reduce them to their
right dimensions, and is able, with sufficient self-possession, to let
each of them teach some useful lesson to him.

Thus we, it is said, if we were not better instructed, might naturally
take the present decline of faith to be an unprecedented calamity that
was ushering in an eve of darkness and utter ruin. But the philosophy
of history puts the whole matter in a different light. It teaches us
that the condition of the world in our day, though not normal, is yet by
no means peculiar. It points to numerous parallels in former ages, and
treats the rise and fall of creeds as regular phenomena in human
history, whose causes and recurrence we can distinctly trace. Other
nations and races have had creeds, and have lost them; they have
thought, as some of us think, that the loss would ruin them: and yet
they have not been ruined. Creeds, it is contended, were imaginative,
provisional, and mistaken expressions of the underlying and
indestructible sense of the nobility of human life. They were artistic,
not scientific. A statue of Apollo, for instance, or a picture of the
Madonna, were really representations of what men aimed at producing on
earth, not of what actually had any existence in heaven. And if we look
back at the greatest civilisations of antiquity, we shall find, it is
said, that what gave them vigour and intensity were purely human
interests: and though religion may certainly have had some reflex action
on life, this action was either merely political or was else injurious.

It is thus that intense Greek life is presented to us, the influence of
which is still felt in the world. Its main stimulus we are told was
frankly human. It would have lost none of its keenness if its theology
had been taken from it. And there, it is said, we see the positive
worth of life; we see already realised what we are now growing to
realise once more. Christianity, with its supernatural aims and objects,
is spoken of as an '_episode of disease and delirium_;' it is a
confusing dream, from which we are at last awaking; and the feelings of
the modern school are expressed in the following sentence of a
distinguished modern writer:[2] '_Just as the traveller_,' he says,
'_who has been worn to the bone by years of weary striving among men of
another skin, suddenly gazes with doubting eyes upon the white face of a
brother, so if we travel backwards in thought over the darker ages of
the history of Europe we at length reach back with such bounding heart
to men who had like hopes with ourselves, and shake hands across that
vast with ... our own spiritual ancestors._'

Nor are the Greeks the only nation whose history is supposed to be thus
so reassuring to us. The early Jews are pointed to, in the same way, as
having felt pre-eminently the dignity of this life, and having yet been
absolutely without any belief in another. But the example, which for us
is perhaps the most forcible of all, is to be found in the history of
Rome, during her years of widest activity. We are told to look at such
men as Cicero or as Cæsar--above all to such men as Cæsar--and to
remember what a reality life was to them. Cæsar certainly had little
religion enough; and what he may have had, played no part in making his
life earnest. He took the world as he found it, as all healthy men have
taken it; and, as it is said, all healthy men will still continue to
take it. Nor was such a life as Cæsar's peculiar to himself. It
represents that purely human life that flourished generally in such
vigour amongst the Romans. And the consideration of it is said to be all
the more instructive, because it flourished in the face of just the same
conditions that we think so disheartening now. There was in those times,
as there is in ours, a wide disintegration of the old faiths; and to
many, then as now, this fact seemed at once sad and terrifying. As we
read Juvenal, Petronius, Lucian, or Apuleius, we are astounded at the
likeness of those times to these. Even in minute details, they
correspond with a marvellous exactness. And hence there seems a strange
force in the statement that history repeats itself, and that the wisdom
learnt from the past can be applied to the present and the future.

But all this, though it is doubtless true, is in reality only half the
truth; and as used in the arguments of the day, it amounts practically
to a profound falsehood. History in a certain sense, of course, does
repeat itself; and the thing that has been is in a certain sense the
thing that shall be. But there is a deeper and a wider sense in which,
this is not so. Let us take the life of an individual man, for instance.
A man of fifty will retain very likely many of the tastes and tricks
that were his, when a boy of ten: and people who have known him long
will often exclaim that he is just the same as he always was. But in
spite of this, they will know that he is very different. His hopes will
have dwindled down; the glow, the colour, and the bright haze will have
gone from them; things that once amused him will amuse him no more:
things he once thought important, he will consider weary trifles; and if
he thinks anything serious at all, they will not be things he thought
serious when a boy. The same thing is true of the year, and its changing
seasons. The history of a single year may be, in one sense, said to
repeat itself every day. There is the same recurrence of light and
darkness, of sunrise and of sunset: and a man who had lived only for a
month or two, might fancy that this recurrence was complete. But let him
live a little longer, and he will come to see that this is not so.
Slowly through the summer he will begin to discern a change; until at
last he can contrast the days and nights of winter with the days and
nights of summer, and see how flowers that once opened fresh every
morning, now never open or close at all. Then he will see that the two
seasons, though in many points so like each other, are yet, in a far
deeper way, different.

And so it is with the world's history. Isolate certain phenomena, and
they do, without doubt, repeat themselves; but it is only when isolated
that they can be said to do so. In many points the European thought and
civilisation of to-day may seem to be a repetition of what has been
before; we may fancy that we recognise our brothers in the past, and
that we can, as the writer above quoted says, shake hands with them
across the intervening years. But this is really only a deceiving fancy,
when applied to such deep and universal questions as those we have now
to deal with--to religion, to positive thought, and to the worth of
life. The positivists and the unbelievers of the modern world, are not
the same as those of the ancient world. Even when their language is
identical, there is an immeasurable gulf between them. In our denials
and assertions there are certain new factors, which at once make all
such comparisons worthless. The importance of these will by-and-by
appear more clearly, but I shall give a brief account of them now.

The first of these factors is the existence of Christianity, and that
vast and undoubted change in the world of which it has been at once the
cause and the index. It has done a work, and that work still remains:
and we all feel the effects of it, whether we will or no. Described in
the most general way, that work has been this. The supernatural, in the
ancient world, was something vague and indefinite: and the classical
theologies at any rate, though they were to some extent formal
embodiments of it, could embody really but a very small part. Zeus and
the Olympian hierarchies were dimly perceived to be encircled by some
vaster mystery; which to the popular mind was altogether formless, and
which even such men as Plato could only describe inadequately. The
supernatural was like a dim and diffused light, brighter in some places,
and darker in others, but focalised and concentrated nowhere.
Christianity has focalised it, united into one the scattered points of
brightness, and collected other rays that were before altogether
imperceptible. That vague '_idea of the good_,' of which Plato said most
men dimly augured the existence, but could not express their augury, has
been given a definite shape to by Christianity in the form of its Deity.
That Deity, from an external point of view, may be said to have acquired
His sovereignty as did the Roman Cæsar. He absorbed into His own person
the offices of all the gods that were before him, as the Roman Cæsar
absorbed all the offices of the state; and in His case also, as has been
said of the Roman Cæsar, the whole was immeasurably greater than the
mere sum of the parts. Scientifically and philosophically He became the
first cause of the world; He became the father of the human soul, and
its judge; and what is more, its rest and its delight, and its desire.
Under the light of this conception, man appeared an ampler being. His
thoughts were for ever being gazed on by the great controller of all
things; he was made in the likeness of the Lord of lords; he was of kin
to the power before which all the visible world trembled; and every
detail in the life of a human soul became vaster, beyond all comparison,
than the depths of space and time. But not only did the sense of man's
dignity thus develop, and become definite. The accompanying sense of his
degradation became intenser and more definite also. The gloom of a sense
of sin is to be found in Æschylus, but this gloom was vague and
formless. Christianity gave to it both depth and form; only the despair
that might have been produced in this way was now softened by hope.
Christianity has, in fact, declared clearly a supernatural of which men
before were more or less ignorantly conscious. The declaration may or
may not have been a complete one, but at any rate it is the completest
that the world has yet known. And the practical result is this: when we,
in these days, deny the supernatural, we are denying it in a way in
which it was never denied before. Our denial is beyond all comparison
more complete. The supernatural, for the ancient world, was like a
perfume scenting life, out of a hundred different vessels, of which only
two or three were visible to the same men or nations. They therefore
might get rid of these, and yet the larger part of the scent would still
remain to them. But for us, it is as though all the perfume had been
collected into a single vessel; and if we get rid of this, we shall get
rid of the scent altogether. Our air will be altogether odourless.

The materialism of Lucretius is a good instance of this. In many ways
his denials bear a strong resemblance to ours. But the resemblance
ceases a little below the surface. He denied the theology of his time as
strongly as our positive thinkers deny the theology of ours. But the
theology he denied was incomplete and puerile. He was not denying any
'All-embracer and All-sustainer,' for he knew of none such. And his
denial of the gods he did deny left him room for the affirmation of
others, whose existence, if considered accurately, was equally
inconsistent with his own scientific premisses. Again, in his denial of
any immortality for man, what he denied is not the future that we are
denying. The only future he knew of was one a belief in which had no
influence on us, except for sadness. It was a protraction only of what
is worst in life; it was in no way a completion of what is best in it.
But with us the case is altogether different. Formerly the supernatural
could not be denied completely, because it was not known completely. Not
to affirm is a very different thing from to deny. And many beliefs which
the positivists of the modern world are denying, the positivists of the
ancient world more or less consciously lived by.

Next, there is this point to remember. Whilst during the Christian
centuries, the devotion to a supernatural and extramundane aim has been
engendering, as a recent writer has observed with indignation, a
degrading '_pessimism as to the essential dignity of man_,'[3] the world
which we have been to a certain extent disregarding has been changing
its character for us. In a number of ways, whilst we have not been
perceiving it, its objective grandeur has been dwindling; and the
imagination, when again called to the feat, cannot reinvest it with its
old gorgeous colouring. Once the world, with the human race, who were
the masters of it, was a thing of vast magnitude--the centre of the
whole creation. The mind had no larger conceptions that were vivid
enough to dwarf it. But now all this has changed. In the words of a
well-known modern English historian, _'The floor of heaven, inlaid with
stars, has sunk back into an infinite abyss of immeasurable space; and
the firm earth itself, unfixed from its foundations, is seen to be but
a small atom in the awful easiness of the universe.'_[4] The whole
position, indeed, is reversed. The skies once seemed to pay the earth
homage, and to serve it with light and shelter. Now they do nothing, so
far as the imagination is concerned, but spurn and dwarf it. And when we
come to the details of the earth's surface itself, the case is just the
same. It, in its extent, has grown little and paltry to us. The wonder
and the mystery has gone from it. A Cockney excursionist goes round it
in a holiday trip; there are no

    _Golden cities, ten months journey deep,
    In far Tartarian wilds_;[5]

nor do the confines of civilisation, melt as they once did, into any
unknown and unexplored wonderlands. And thus a large mass of sentiment
that was once powerful in the world is now rapidly dwindling, and, so
far as we can see, there is nothing that can ever exactly replace it.
Patriotism, for instance, can never again be the religion it was to
Athens, or the pride it was to Rome. Men are not awed and moved as once
they were by local and material splendours. The pride of life, it is
true, is still eagerly coveted; but by those at least who are most
familiar with it, it is courted and sought for with a certain contempt
and cynicism. It is treated like a courtesan, rather than like a
goddess. Whilst as to the higher enthusiasm that was once excited by
external things, the world in its present state could no more work
itself up to this than a girl, after three seasons, could again go for
dissipation to her dolls. She might look back to the time of dolls with
regret. She might see that the interest they excited in her was,
perhaps, far more pleasing than any she had found in love. But the dolls
would never rival her lovers, none the less. And with man, and his aims
and objects, the case is just the same. And we must remember that to
realise keenly the potency of a past ideal, is no indication that
practically it will ever again be powerful.

Briefly, then, the positive school of to-day we see thus far to be in
this position. It has to make demands upon human life that were never
made before; and human life is, in many ways, less able than it ever was
to answer to them.

But this is not all. There is a third matter yet left to consider--a
third factor in the case, peculiar to the present crisis. That is the
intense self-consciousness that is now developed in the world, and which
is something altogether new to it. During the last few generations man
has been curiously changing. Much of his old spontaneity of action has
gone from him. He has become a creature looking before and after; and
his native hue of resolution has been sickled over by thought. We admit
nothing now without question; we have learnt to take to pieces all
motives to actions. We not only know more than we have done before, but
we are perpetually chewing the cud of our knowledge. Thus positive
thought reduces all religions to ideals created by man; and as such, not
only admits that they have had vast influence, but teaches us also that
we in the future must construct new ideals for ourselves. Only there
will be this difference. We shall now know that they are ideals, we
shall no longer mistake them for objective facts. But our positive
thinkers forget this. They forget that the ideals that were once active
in the world were active amongst people who thought that they were more
than ideals, and who very certainly did mistake them for facts; and they
forget how different their position will be, as soon as their true
nature is recognised. There is no example, so far as I know, to be found
in all history, of men having been stimulated or affected in any
important way--none, at any rate, of their having been restrained or
curbed--by a mere ideal that was known to have no reality to correspond
to it. A child is frightened when its nurse tells it that a black man
will come down the chimney and take it away. The black man, it is true,
is only an ideal; and yet the child is affected. But it would cease to
be affected the instant it knew this.

As we go on with our enquiry these considerations will become plainer to
us. But enough has even now been said to show how distinct the present
position is from any that have gone before it, and how little the
experience of the past is really fitted to reassure us. Greek and Roman
thought was positive, in our sense of the word, only in a very small
degree. The thought of the other ancient empires was not positive at
all. The oldest civilisation of which any record is left to us--the
civilisation of Egypt--was based on a theism which, of all other
theisms, most nearly approaches ours. And the doctrine of a future life
was first learnt by the Jews from their masters during the Captivity. We
search utterly in vain through history for any parallel to our own

I have spoken hitherto of those peoples only whose history more or less
directly has affected ours. But there is a vast portion of the human
race with which, roughly speaking, our progress has had no connection;
and the religions of these races, which are now for the first time
beginning to be accurately studied, are constantly being appealed to in
support of the positive doctrines. Thus it is urged by Mr. Leslie
Stephen that _'the briefest outline of the religious history of mankind
shows that creeds which can count more adherents than Christianity, and
have flourished through a longer period, have omitted all that makes the
Christian doctrine of a future state 'valuable in the eyes of the
supporters_;' and Dr. Tyndall points with the same delighted confidence
to the gospel of Buddhism, as one of '_pure human ethics, divorced not
only from Brahma and the Brahminic Trinity, but even from the existence
of God_.'[6] Many other such appeals are made to what are somewhat
vaguely called '_the multitudinous creeds of the East_;' but it is to
Buddhism, in its various forms, that they would all seem to apply. Let
us now consider the real result of them. Our positivists have appealed
to Buddhism, and to Buddhism they shall certainly go. It is one of the
vastest and most significant of all human facts. But its significance is
somewhat different from what it is popularly supposed to be.

That the Buddhist religion has had a wide hold on the world is true.
Indeed, forty per cent. of the whole human race at this moment profess
it. Except the Judaic, it is the oldest of existing creeds; and beyond
all comparison it numbers most adherents. And it is quite true also that
it does not, in its pure state, base its teaching on the belief in any
personal God, or offer as an end of action any happiness in any
immortal life. But it does not for this reason bear any real resemblance
to our modern Western positivism, nor give it any reason to be sanguine.
On the contrary, it is most absolutely opposed to it; and its success is
due to doctrines which Western positivism most emphatically repudiates.
In the first place, so far from being based on exact thought, Buddhism
takes for its very foundation four great mysteries, that are explicitly
beyond the reach either of proof or reason; and of these the foremost
and most intelligible is the transmigration and renewal of the existence
of the individual. It is by this mystical doctrine, and by this alone,
that Buddhism gains a hold on the common heart of man. This is the great
fulcrum of its lever. Then further--and this is more important
still--whereas the doctrine of Western positivism is that human life is
good, or may be made good; and that in the possibility of the enjoyment
of it consists the great stimulus to action; the doctrine of Buddhism is
that human life is evil, and that man's right aim is not to gratify, but
to extinguish, his desire for it. Love, for instance, as I have said
before, is by most Western positivists held to be a high blessing.
Buddhism tells us we should avoid it '_as though it were a pit of
burning coals_.' The most influential positive writer in England[7] has
said: '_I desire no future that will break the ties of the past_.'
Buddhism says that we should desire no present that will create any ties
for the future. The beginning of the Buddhist teaching is the intense
misery of life; the reward of Buddhist holiness is to, at last, live no
longer. If we die in our sins, we shall be obliged to live again on the
earth; and it will not be, perhaps, till after many lives that the
necessity for fresh births will be exhausted. But when we have attained
perfection, the evil spell is broken; and '_then the wise man_,' it is
said, '_is extinguished as this lamp_.' The highest life was one of
seclusion and asceticism. The founder of Buddhism was met, during his
first preaching, with the objection that his system, if carried out
fully, would be the ruin and the extermination of humanity. And he did
not deny the charge; but said that what his questioners called ruin, was
in reality the highest good.

It is then hard to conceive an appeal more singularly infelicitous than
that which our modern positivists make to Buddhism. It is the appeal of
optimists to inveterate pessimists, and of exact thinkers to inveterate
mystics. If the consideration of it tells us anything of importance, it
tells us this--that by far the largest mass of mankind that has ever
been united by a single creed has explicitly denied every chief point
that our Western teachers assert. So far then from helping to close the
question we are to deal with--the question as to the positive worth of
life, the testimony of Buddhism, if it be of any weight at all, can only
go to convince us that the question is at once new and open--new,
because it has never yet been asked so fully; and open, because in so
far as it has been asked, nearly half mankind has repudiated the answer
that we are so desirous of giving it. Mr. Leslie Stephen calls Buddhism
'a stupendous fact,' and I quite agree with him that it is so; but taken
in connection with the present philosophy of Europe, it is hardly a fact
to strengthen our confidence in the essential dignity of man, or the
worth of man's life.

In short, the more we consider the matter, and the more various the
points from which we do so, the more plain will it become to us that the
problem the present age is confronted by is an altogether unanswered
one; and that the closest seeming parallels to be found amongst other
times and races, have far less really of parallelism in them than of
contrast. The path of thought, as it were, has taken a sudden turn round
a mountain; and our bewildered eyes are staring on an undreamed-of
prospect. The leaders of progress thus far have greeted the sight with
acclamation, and have confidently declared that we are looking on the
promised land. But to the more thoughtful, and to the less impulsive, it
is plain that a mist hangs over it, and that we have no right to be
sure whether it is the promised land or no. They see grave reasons for
making a closer scrutiny, and for asking if, when the mist lifts, what
we see will be not splendour, but desolation.

Such, in brief outline, is the question we are to deal with. We will now
go on to approach it in a more detailed way.


[1] Vide Sophocles, _OEdipus Coloneus_.

[2] Professor Clifford, whose study of history leads him to regard
Catholicism as nothing more than an 'episode' in the history of Western

[3] Mr. Frederic Harrison.

[4] Mr. Froude, _History of England_, chap. i.

[5] Wordsworth.

[6] Quoted by Dr. Tyndall from Professor Blackie.

[7] George Eliot.



    '_The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field._'

Having thus seen broadly what is meant by that claim for life that we
are about to analyse, we must now examine it more minutely, as made by
the positive school themselves.

This will at once make evident one important point. The worth in
question is closely bound up with what we call _morality_. In this
respect our deniers of the supernatural claim to be on as firm a footing
as the believers in it. They will not admit that the earnestness of life
is lessened for them; or that they have opened any door either to levity
or to licentiousness. It is true indeed that it is allowed occasionally
that the loss of a faith in God, and of the life in a future, may, under
certain circumstances, be a real loss to us. Others again contend that
this loss is a gain. Such views as these, however, are not much to the
purpose. For those even, according to whom life has lost most in this
way, do not consider the loss a very important, still less a fatal one.
The _good_ is still to be an aim for us, and our devotion to it will be
more valuable because it will be quite disinterested. Thus Dr. Tyndall
informs us that though he has now rejected the religion of his earlier
years, yet granting him proper health of body, there is '_no spiritual
experience_,' such as he then knew, '_no resolve of duty, no word of
mercy, no act of self-renouncement, no solemnity of thought, no joy in
the life and aspects of nature, that would not still be_' his. The same
is the implicit teaching of all George Eliot's novels; whilst Professor
Huxley tells us that come what may to our '_intellectual beliefs and
even education_,' '_the beauty of holiness and the ugliness of sin_'
will remain for those that have eyes to see them, '_no mere metaphors,
but real and intense feelings_.' These are but a few examples, but the
view of life they illustrate is so well known that these few will
suffice. The point on which the modern positivist school is most
vehement, is that it does not destroy, but that on the contrary it
intensifies, the distinction between right and wrong.

And now let us consider what, according to all positive theories, this
supremacy of morality means. It means that there is a certain course of
active life, and a certain course only, by which life can be made by
everyone a beautiful and a noble thing: and life is called earnest,
because such a prize is within our reach, and solemn because there is a
risk that we may fail to reach it. Were this not so, right and wrong
could have no general and objective meaning. They would be purely
personal matters--mere misleading names, in fact, for the private likes
and the dislikes of each of us; and to talk of right, and good, and
morality, as things that we ought all to conform to, and to live by,
would be simply to talk nonsense. What the very existence of a moral
system implies is, that whatever may be our personal inclinations
naturally, there is some common pattern to which they should be all
adjusted; the reason being that we shall so all become partakers in some
common happiness, which is greater beyond comparison than every other

Here we are presented with two obvious tasks: the first, to enquire what
this happiness is, what are the qualities and attractions generally
ascribed to it; the second, to analyse it, as it is thus held up to us,
and to see if its professed ingredients are sufficient to make up the

To proceed then, all moral systems must, as we have just seen, postulate
some end of action, an end to which morality is the only road. Further,
this end is the one thing in life that is really worth attaining; and
since we have to do with no life other than this one, it must be found
amongst the days and years of which this short life is the aggregate. On
the adequacy of this universal end depends the whole question of the
positive worth of life, and the essential dignity of man.

That this is at least one way of stating the case has been often
acknowledged by the positive moralists themselves. The following
passage, for instance, is from the autobiography of J.S. Mill. '_From
the winter of 1821_,' he writes, '_when I first read Bentham.... I had
what might truly be called an object in life, to be a reformer of the
world.... I endeavoured to pick up as many flowers as I could by the
way; but as a serious and permanent personal satisfaction to rest upon,
my whole reliance was placed on this.... But the time came when I
awakened from this as from a dream.... It occurred to me to put the
question directly to myself: "Suppose that all your objects in life
realised; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you
were looking forward to, could be completely effected in this very
instant, would this be a very great joy and happiness to you?" And an
irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered "No!" At this my
heart sank within me: the whole foundation on which my life was
constructed fell down.... The end had ceased to charm, and how could
there ever again be any interest in the means? I seemed to have nothing
left to live for.... The lines in Coleridge's "Dejection" exactly
describe my case_:--

    "_O grief without a pang, void, dark and drear,
      A dreary, stifled, unimpassioned grief,
      Which finds no natural outlet nor relief
    In word, or sigh, or tear.

         *       *       *       *       *

    Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,
    And life without an object cannot live._"'

And the foregoing confession is made more significant by the author's
subsequent comment on it. '_Though my dejection,' he says, 'honestly
looked at, could not be called other than egotistical, produced by the
ruin, as I thought, of my fabric of happiness, yet the destiny of
mankind was ever in my thoughts, and could not be separated from my own.
I felt that the flaw in my life must be a flaw in life itself; and that
the question was whether, if the reformers of society and government
could succeed in their objects, and every person in the community were
free, and in a state of physical comfort, the pleasures of life being no
longer kept up by struggle and privation, would cease to be pleasures.
And I felt that unless I could see some better hope than this for human
happiness in general, my dejection must continue.'_ It is true that in
Mill's case the dejection did not continue; and that in certain ways at
which it is not yet time to touch, he succeeded, to his own
satisfaction, in finding the end he was thus asking for. I only quote
him to show how necessary he considered such an end to be. He
acknowledged the fact, not only theoretically, or with his lips, but by
months of misery, by intermittent thoughts of suicide, and by years of
recurring melancholy. Some ultimate end of action, some kind of
satisfying happiness--this, and this alone, he felt, could give any
meaning to work, or make possible any kind of virtue. And a yet later
authority has told us precisely the same thing. He has told us that the
one great question that education is of value for answering, is this
very question that was so earnestly asked by Mill. '_The ultimate end of
education_,' says Professor Huxley, '_is to promote morality and
refinement, by teaching men to discipline themselves, and by leading
them to see that the highest, as it is the only content, is to be
attained not by grovelling in the rank and steaming valleys of sense,
but by continually striving towards those high peaks, where, resting in
eternal calm, reason discerns the undefined but bright ideal of the
highest good--"a cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night_."' And these
words are an excellent specimen of the general moral exhortations of the
new school.

Now all this is very well as far as it goes; and were there not one
thing lacking, it would be just the answer that we are at present so
anxious to elicit. But the one thing lacking, is enough to make it
valueless. It may mean a great deal; but there is no possibility of
saying exactly what it means. Before we can begin to strive towards the
'highest good,' we must know something of what this 'highest good' is.
We must make this 'higher ideal' stand and unfold itself. If it cannot
be made to do this, if it vanishes into mist as we near it, and takes a
different shape to each of us as we recede from it; still more, if only
some can see it, and to others it is quite invisible--then we must
simply set it down as an illusion, and waste no more time in pursuit of
it. But that it is not an illusion is the great positivist claim for it.
Heaven and the love of God, we are told, were illusions. This 'highest
good' we are offered, stands out in clear contradistinction to these. It
is an actual attainable thing, a thing for flesh and blood creatures; it
is to be won and enjoyed by them in their common daily life. It is, as
its prophets distinctly and unanimously tell us, some form of happiness
that results in this life to us, from certain conduct; it is a thing
essentially for the present; and '_it is obviously_,' says Professor
Huxley, '_in no way affected by abbreviation or prolongation of our
conscious life_.'

This being the case, it is clearly not unreasonable to demand some
explicit account of it; or if no sound account of it be extant, to
enquire diligently what sort of account of it is possible. And let it be
remembered that to make this demand is in no way to violate the great
rule of Aristotle, and to demand a greater accuracy than the nature of
the subject will admit of. The 'highest good,' it is quite possible, may
be a vague thing; not capable, like a figure in Euclid, of being defined
exactly. But many vague things can be described exactly enough for all
practical purposes. They can be described so that we at once know what
is meant, and so that we can at once find and recognise them. Feelings,
characters, and personal appearance are things of this sort; so too is
the taste of food, the style of furniture, or the general tone and
tenour of our life, under various circumstances. And the 'good' we are
now considering can surely be not less describable than these. When
therefore our exact thinkers speak to us about the highest happiness, we
want to know what meaning they attach to the words. Has Professor
Huxley, for instance, ever enjoyed it himself, or does he ever hope to
do so? If so, when, where, and how? What must be done to get it, and
what must be left undone? And when it is got, what will it be like? Is
it something brief, rapturous, and intermittent, as the language often
used about it might seem to suggest to one? Is it known only in brief
moments of Neoplatonic ecstasy, to which all the acts of life should be
stepping stones? It certainly cannot be that. Our exact thinkers are
essentially no mystics, and the highest happiness must be something far
more solid than transcendental ecstasies. Surely, therefore, if it
exists at all we must be able somewhere to lay our hands upon it. It is
a pillar of fire by night; surely then it will be visible. It is to be
lifted up, and is to draw all men unto it. It is nothing if not this:
and we shall see more clearly if we consider the matter further.

This chief good, or this highest happiness, being the end of moral
action, one point about it is at once evident. Its value is of course
recognised by those who practise morality, or who enunciate moral
systems. Virtuous men are virtuous because the end gained by virtue is
an end that they desire to gain. But this is not enough; it is not
enough that to men who are already seeking the good the good should
appear in all its full attractiveness. It must be capable of being made
attractive for those who do not know it, and who have never sought it,
but who have, on the contrary, always turned away from everything that
is supposed to lead to it. It must be able, in other words, not only to
satisfy the virtuous of the wisdom of their virtue, it must be able to
convince the vicious of the folly of their vice. Vice is only bad in the
eye of the positive moralist because of the precious _something_ that we
are at the present moment losing by it. He can only convince us of our
error by giving us some picture of our loss. And he must be able to do
this, if his system is worth anything; and in promulgating his system he
professes that he can do it. The physician's work is to heal the sick;
his skill must not end in explaining his own health. It is clear that if
a morality is incapable of being preached, it is useless to say that it
is worthy of being practised. The statement will be meaningless, except
to those for whom it is superfluous. It is therefore essential to the
moral end that in some way or other it be generally presentable, so that
its excellence shall appeal to some common sense in man. And again, be
it observed, that we are demanding no mathematical accuracy. We demand
only that the presentation shall be accurate enough to let us recognise
its corresponding fact in life.

Now what is a code of morals, and why has the world any need of one? A
code of morals is a number of restraining orders; it rigorously bids us
walk in certain paths. But why? What is the use of bidding us? Because
there are a number of other paths that we are naturally inclined to walk
in. The right path is right because it leads to the highest kind of
happiness; the wrong paths are wrong because they lead to lower kinds of
happiness. But when men choose vice instead of virtue, what is
happening? They are considering the lower or the lesser happiness better
than the greater or the higher. It is this mistake that is the essence
and cause of immorality; it is this mistake that mankind is ever
inclined to make, and it is only because of this inclination that any
moral system is of any general value.

Were we all naturally inclined to morality, the analysis of it, it is
true, might have great speculative interest; but a moral system would
not be needed as it is for a great practical purpose. The law, as we all
know, has arisen because of transgressions, and the moralist has to
meddle with human nature mainly because it is inconstant and corrupted.
It is a wild horse that has not so much to be broken, once for all, as
to be driven and reined in perpetually. And the art of the moralist is,
by opening the mind's eye to the true end of life, to make us sharply
conscious of what we lose by losing it. And the men to whom we shall
chiefly want to present this end are not men, let us remember, who
desire to see it, or who will seek for it of their own accord, but men
who are turned away from it, and on whose sight it must be thrust. It is
not the righteous but the sinners that have to be called to repentance.
And not this only: not only must the end in question be thus
presentable, but when presented it must be able to stand the inveterate
criticism of those who fear being allured by it, who are content as they
are, and have no wish to be made discontented. These men will submit it
to every test by which they may hope to prove that its attractions are
delusive. They will test it with reason, as we test a metal by an acid.
They will ask what it is based upon, and of what it is compounded. They
will submit it to an analysis as merciless as that by which their
advisers have dissolved theism.

Here then is a fact that all positive morality presupposes. It
presupposes that life by its very nature contains the possibility in it
of some one kind of happiness, which is open to all men, and which is
better than all others. It is sufficiently presentable even to those who
have not experienced it; and its excellence is not vaguely apparent
only, but can be exactly proved from obvious and acknowledged facts.
Further, this happiness must be removed from its alternatives by some
very great interval. The proudest, the serenest, the most successful
life of vice, must be miserable when compared with the most painful life
of virtue, and miserable in a very high degree; for morality is
momentous exactly in proportion to the interval between the things to be
gained and escaped by it. And unless this interval be a very profound
one, the language at present current as to the importance of virtue, the
dignity of life, and the earnestness of the moral struggle, will be
altogether overstrained and ludicrous.

Now is such a happiness a reality or is it a myth? That is the great
question. Can human life, cut off utterly from every hope beyond
itself--can human life supply it? If it cannot, then evidently there
can be no morality without religion. But perhaps it can. Perhaps life
has greater capacities than we have hitherto given it credit for.
Perhaps this happiness may be really close at hand for each of us, and
we have only overlooked it hitherto because it was too directly before
our eyes. At all events, wherever it is let it be pointed out to us. It
is useless, as we have seen, if not generally presentable. To those who
most need it, it is useless until presented. Indeed, until it is
presented we are but acting on the maxim of its advocates by refusing to
believe in its existence. '_No simplicity of mind_,' says Professor
Clifford, '_no obscurity of station, can escape the universal duty of
questioning all that we believe_.'

The question, then, that we want answered has by this time, I think,
been stated with sufficient clearness, and its importance and its
legitimacy been placed beyond a doubt. I shall now go on to explain in
detail how completely unsatisfactory are the answers that are at present
given it; how it is evaded by some and begged by others; and how those
that are most plausible are really made worthless, by a subtle but
profound defect.

These answers divide themselves into two classes, which, though
invariably confused by those that give them, are in reality quite
distinct and separable. Professor Huxley, one of the most vigorous of
our positive thinkers, shall help us to understand these. He is going to
tell us, let us remember, about the '_highest good_'--the happiness, in
other words, that we have just been discussing--the secret of our life's
worth, and the test of all our conduct. This happiness he divides into
two kinds.[8] He says that there are two things that we may mean when we
speak about it. We may mean the happiness of a society of men, or we may
mean the happiness of the members of that society. And when we speak of
morality, we may mean two things also; and these two things must be kept
distinct. We may mean what Professor Huxley calls '_social morality_,'
and of this the test and object is the happiness of societies; or we may
mean what he calls '_personal morality_,' and of this the test and
object is the happiness of individuals. And the answers which our
positive moralists make to us divide themselves into two classes,
according to the sort of happiness they refer to.

It is before all things important that this division be understood, and
be kept quite clear in our minds, if we would see honestly what our
positive modern systems amount to. For what makes them at present so
very hard to deal with, is the fact that their exponents are perpetually
perplexing themselves between these two classes of answers, first
giving one, and then the other, and imagining that, by a kind of
confusion of substance, they can both afford solutions of the same
questions. Thus they continually speak of life as though its crowning
achievement were some kind of personal happiness; and then being asked
to explain the nature and basis of this, they at once shift their
ground, and talk to us of the laws and conditions of social happiness.
Professor Huxley will again supply us with a very excellent example. He
starts with the thesis that _both_ sorts of morality are strong enough
to hold their own, without supernatural aid; and when we look to see on
what ground he holds they are, we find it to consist in the following
explanation that _one_ is. '_Given_,' he says, '_a society of human
beings under certain circumstances, and the question whether a
particular action on the part of one of its members will tend to
increase the general happiness or not, is a question of natural
knowledge, and as such is a perfectly legitimate subject of scientific
inquiry.... If it can be shown by observation or experiment, that theft,
murder, and adultery do not tend to diminish the happiness of society,
then, in the absence of any but natural knowledge, they are not social

Now, in the above passage we have at least one thing. We have a short
epitome of one of those classes of answers that our positive moralists
are offering us. It is with this class that I shall deal in the
following chapter; and point out as briefly as may be its complete
irrelevance. After that, I shall go on to the other.


[8] Vide _Nineteenth Century_, No. 3, pp. 536, 537.



Society, says Professor Clifford, is the highest of all organisms;[9]
and its organic nature, he tells us, is one of those great facts which
our own generation has been the first to state rationally. It is our
understanding of this that enables us to supply morals with a positive
basis. It is, he proceeds, because society is organic, '_that actions
which, as individual, are insignificant, are massed together into ...
important movements. Co-operation or_ band-work _is the life of it_.'
And '_it is the practice of band-work_,' he adds, that, unknown till
lately though its nature was to us, has so moulded man as '_to create in
him two specially human faculties, the conscience and the intellect_;'
of which the former, we are told, gives us the desire for the good, and
the latter instructs us how to attain this desire by action. So too
Professor Huxley, once more to recur to him, says that that state of man
would be '_a true_ civitas Dei, _in which each man's moral faculty shall
be such as leads him to control all those desires which run counter to
the good of mankind_.' And J.S. Mill, whose doubts as to the value of
life we have already dwelt upon, professed to have at last satisfied
himself by a precisely similar answer. He had never '_wavered in the
conviction_,' he tells us, even all through his perplexity, that, if
life had any value at all, '_happiness_' was its one '_end_,' and the
'_test of its rule of conduct_;' but he now thought that this end was to
be attained by not making it the direct end, but '_by fixing the mind on
some object other than one's own happiness; on the happiness of
others--on the improvement of mankind_.' The same thing is being told us
on all sides, and in countless ways. The common name for this theory is
Utilitarianism; and its great boast, and its special professed strength,
is that it gives morals a positive basis in the acknowledged science of
sociology. Whether sociology can really supply such a basis is what we
now have to enquire. There are many practical rules for which it no
doubt can do so; but will these rules correspond with what we mean by

Now the province of the sociologist, within certain limits, is clear
enough. His study is to the social body what the study of the physician
is to the individual body. It is the study of human action as
productive, or non-productive, of some certain general good. But here
comes the point at issue--What is this general good, and what is
included by it? The positive school contend that it is general
happiness; and there, they say, is the answer to the great
question--What is the test of conduct, and the true end of life? But
though, as we shall see in another moment, there is some plausibility in
this, there is really nothing in it of the special answer we want. Our
question is, What is the true happiness? And what is the answer thus
far?--That the true happiness is general happiness; that it is the
happiness of men in societies; that it is happiness equally distributed.
But this avails us nothing. The coveted _happiness_ is still a locked
casket. We know nothing as yet of its contents. A happy society neither
does nor can mean anything but a number of happy individuals, so
organised that their individual happiness is secured to them. But what
do the individuals want? Before we can try to secure it for them, we
must know that. Granted that we know what will make the individuals
happy, then we shall know what will make society happy. And then social
morality will be, as Professor Huxley says, a perfectly legitimate
subject of scientific enquiry--then, but not till then. But this is what
the positive school are perpetually losing sight of; and the reason of
the confusion is not far to seek.

Within certain limits, it is quite true, the general good is a
sufficiently obvious matter, and beyond the reach of any rational
dispute. There are, therefore, certain rules with regard to conduct
that we can arrive at and justify by strictly scientific methods. We can
demonstrate that there are certain actions which we must never tolerate,
and which we must join together, as best we may, to suppress. Actions,
for instance, that would tend to generate pestilence, or to destroy our
good faith in our fellows, or to render our lives and property insecure,
are actions the badness of which can be scientifically verified.

But the _general good_ by which these actions are tested is something
quite distinct from happiness, though it undoubtedly has a close
connection with it. It is no kind of happiness, high or low, in
particular; it is simply those negative conditions required equally by
every kind. If we are to be happy in any way, no matter what, we must of
course have our lives, and, next to our lives, our health and our
possessions secured to us. But to secure us these does not secure us
happiness. It simply leaves us free to secure it, if we can, for
ourselves. Once let us have some common agreement as to what this
happiness is, we may then be able to formulate other rules for attaining
it. But in the absence of any such agreement, the only possible aim of
social morality, the only possible meaning of the _general good_, is not
any kind or any kinds of happiness, but the security of those conditions
without which all happiness would be impossible.

Suppose the human race were a set of canaries in a cage, and that we
were in grave doubt as to what seed to give them--hemp-seed, rape-seed,
or canary-seed, or all three mixed in certain proportions. That would
exactly represent the state of our case thus far. There is the question
that we want the positive school to answer. It is surely evident that,
in this perplexity, it is beside the point to tell us that the birds
must not peck each other's eyes out, and that they must all have access
to the trough that we are ignorant how to fill.

The fault then, so continually committed by the positive school, is
this. They confuse the negative conditions of happiness with the
positive materials of it. Professor Huxley, in a passage I have already
quoted, is caught, so to speak, in the very act of committing it.
'_Theft, murder, and adultery_,' all these three, it will be remembered,
he classes together, and seems to think that they stand upon the same
footing. But from what has just been pointed out, it is plain that they
do not do so. We condemn theft and murder for one reason. We condemn
adultery for quite another. We condemn the former because they are
incompatible with any form of happiness. We condemn the latter because
it is the supposed destruction of one particular form; or the
substitution, rather, of a form supposed to be less complete, for
another form supposed to be more complete. If the '_highest good_,' if
the best kind of happiness, be the end we are in search of, the truths
of sociology will help us but a very short way towards it. By the
practice of '_band-work_' alone we shall never learn to construct a
'_true_ Civitas Dei.' Band-work with the same perfection may be
practised for opposite ends. Send an army in a just war or an unjust
one, in either case it will need the same discipline. There must be
order amongst thieves, as well as amongst honest men. There can be an
orderly brothel as well as an orderly nunnery, and all order rests on
co-operation. We presume co-operation. We require an end for which to

I have already compared the science of sociology to that of medicine;
and the comparison will again be a very instructive one. The aim of both
sciences is to produce health; and the relation of health to happiness
is in both cases the same. It is an important condition of the full
enjoyment of anything: but it will by no means of itself give or guide
us to the best thing. A man may be in excellent health, and yet, if he
be prudent, be leading a degrading life. So, too, may a society. The
Cities of the Plain may, for all we know to the contrary, have been in
excellent social health; indeed, there is every reason to believe they
were. They were, apparently, to a high degree strong and prosperous;
and the sort of happiness that their citizens set most store by was only
too generally attainable. There were not ten men to be found in them by
whom the _highest good_ had not been realised.

There are, however, two suppositions, on which the general good, or the
health of the social organism, can be given a more definite meaning, and
made in some sense an adequate test of conduct. And one or other of
these suppositions is apparently always lurking in the positivist mind.
But though, when unexpressed, and only barely assented to, they may seem
to be true, their entire falsehood will appear the moment they are
distinctly stated.

One of these suppositions is, that for human happiness health is alone
requisite--health in the social organism including sufficient wealth and
freedom; and that man's life, whenever it is not interfered with, will
be moral, dignified, and delightful naturally, no matter how he lives
it. But this supposition, from a moralist, is of course nonsense. For,
were it true, as we have just seen, Sodom might have been as moral as
the tents of Abraham; and in a perfect state there would be a fitting
place for both. The social organism indeed, in its highest state of
perfection, would manifest the richest variety in the development of
such various parts. It might consist of a number of motley communes[10]
of monogamists and of free-lovers, of ascetics and sybarites, of saints
and [Greek: paiderastai]--each of them being stones in this true
_Civitas Dei_, this holy city of God. Of course it may be contended that
this state of things would be desirable; that, however, is quite a
different question. But whatever else it was, it would certainly not be
moral, in any sense in which the word has yet been used.

The second supposition I spoke of, though less openly absurd than this
one, is really quite as false. It consists of a vague idea that, for
some reason or other, happiness can never be distributed in an equal
measure to all, unless it be not only equal in degree but also the same
in kind; and that the one kind that can be thus distributed is a kind
that is in harmony with our conceptions of moral excellence. Now this is
indeed so far true, that there are doubtless certain kinds of happiness
which, if enjoyed at all, can be enjoyed by the few alone; and that the
conditions under which alone the few can enjoy them disturb the
conditions of all happiness for the many. The general good, therefore,
gives us at once a test by which such kinds of happiness can be
condemned. But to eliminate these will by no means leave us a residue of
virtue; for these so far from being co-extensive with moral evil, do in
reality lie only on the borders of it; and the condemnation attached to
them is a legal rather than a moral one. It is based, that is, not so
much on the kind of happiness itself as on the circumstances under which
we are at present obliged to seek it. Thus the practice of seduction may
be said to be condemned sufficiently by the misery brought by it to its
victims, and its victims' families. But suppose the victims are willing,
and the families complacent, this ground of condemnation goes; though in
the eye of the moralist, matters in this last will be far worse than in
the former. It is therefore quite a mistake to say that the kind of
happiness which it is the end of life to realise is defined or narrowed
down appreciably by the fact that it is a general end. Vice can be
enjoyed in common, just as well as virtue; nor if wisely regulated will
it exhaust the tastes that it appeals to. Regulated with equal skill,
and with equal far-sightedness, it will take its place side by side with
virtue; nor will sociology or social morality give us any reason for
preferring the one to the other.

We may observe accordingly, that if happiness of some certain kind be
the moral test, what Professor Huxley calls '_social morality_'--the
rule that is, for producing the negative conditions of happiness, it is
not in itself morality at all. It may indeed become so, when the
consciousness that we are conforming to it becomes one of the factors of
our own personal happiness. It then suffers a kind of apotheosis. It is
taken up into ourselves, and becomes part and parcel of our own personal
morality. But it then becomes quite a different matter, as we shall see
very shortly; and even then it supplies us with but a very small part of
the answer.

Thus far what has been made plain is this. General, or social happiness,
unless explained farther, is simply for moral purposes an unmeaning
phrase. It evades the whole question we are asking; for happiness is no
more differentiated by saying that it is general, than food is by saying
that everyone at a table is eating it; or than a language is by saying
that every one in a room is talking it. The social happiness of all of
us means nothing but the personal happiness of each of us; and if social
happiness have any single meaning--in other words, if it be a test of
morals--it must postulate a personal happiness of some hitherto
unexplained kind. Else sociology will be subsidiary to nothing but
individual license; general law will be but the protection of individual
lawlessness; and the completest social morality but the condition of
the completest personal un-morality. The social organism we may compare
to a yew-tree. Science will explain to us how it has grown up from the
ground, and how all its twigs must have fitting room to expand in. It
will not show us how to clip the yew-tree into a peacock. Morality, it
is true, must rest ultimately on the proved facts of sociology; and this
is not only true but evident. But it rests upon them as a statue rests
upon its pedestal, and the same pedestal will support an Athenè or a

The matter, however, is not yet altogether disposed of. The type of
personal happiness that social morality postulates, as a whole, we have
still to seek for. But a part of it, as I just pointed out, will, beyond
doubt, be a _willing_ obedience by each to the rules that make it in its
entirety within the reach of all. About this obedience, however, there
is a certain thing to remember: it must be willing, not enforced. The
laws will of course do all they can to enforce it; but not only can they
never do this completely, but even if they could, they would not produce
morality. Conduct which, if willing, we should call highly moral, we
shall, if enforced only, call nothing more than legal. We do not call a
wild bear tame because it is so well caged that there is no fear of its
attacking us; nor do we call a man good because, though his desires are
evil, we have made him afraid to gratify them. Further, it is not
enough that the obedience in question be willing in the sense that it
does not give us pain. If it is to be a moral quality, it must also give
us positive pleasure. Indeed, it must not so much be obedience to the
law as an impassioned co-operation with it.

Now this, if producible, even though no further moral aim was connected
with it, would undoubtedly be of itself a moral element. Suppose two
pigs, for instance, had only a single wallowing-place, and each would
like naturally to wallow in it for ever. If each pig in turn were to
rejoice to make room for his brother, and were consciously to regulate
his delight in becoming filthy himself by an equal delight in seeing his
brother becoming filthy also, we should doubtless here be in the
presence of a certain moral element. And though this, in a human
society, might not carry us so far as we require to be carried, it
would, without doubt, if producible, carry us a certain way. The
question is, Is this moral element, this impassioned and unselfish
co-operation with the social law, producible, in the absence of any
farther end to which the social law is to be subordinate? The positive
school apparently think it is; and this opinion has a seeming foundation
in fact. We will therefore carefully examine what this foundation is,
and see how far it is really able to support the weight that is laid
upon it.

That fact, in itself a quite undoubted one, is the possession by man of
a certain special and important feeling, which, viewed from its passive
side, we call sympathy, and from its active side, benevolence. It exists
in various degrees in different people, but to some degree or other it
probably exists in all. Most people, for instance, if they hear an
amusing story, at once itch to tell it to an appreciative friend; for
they find that the amusement, if shared, is doubled. Two epicures
together, for the same reason, will enjoy a dinner better than if they
each dined singly. In such cases the enjoyment of another plays the part
of a reflector, which throws one's own enjoyment back on one. Nor is
this all. It is not only true that we often desire others to be pleased
with us; we often desire others to be pleased instead of us. For
instance, if there be but one easy chair in a room, one man will often
give it up to another, and prefer himself to stand, or perhaps sit on
the table. To contemplate discomfort is often more annoying than to
suffer it.

This is the fact in human nature on which the positive school rely for
their practical motive power. It is this sympathy and benevolence that
is the secret of the social union; and it is by these that the rules of
social morality are to be absorbed and attracted into ourselves, and
made the directors of all our other impulses.

The feelings, however, that are thus relied on will be found, on
consideration, to be altogether inadequate. They are undoubted facts, it
is true, and are ours by the very constitution of our nature; but they
do not possess the importance that is assigned to them, and their limits
are soon reached. They are unequal in their distribution; they are
partial and capricious in their action; and they are disturbed and
counterbalanced by the opposite impulse of selfishness, which is just as
much a part of our nature, and which is just as generally distributed.
It must be a very one-sided view of the case that will lead us to deny
this; and by such eclectic methods of observation we can support any
theory we please. Thus there are many stories of unselfish heroism
displayed by rough men on occasions such as shipwrecks, and displayed
quite spontaneously. And did we confine our attention to this single set
of examples, we might naturally conclude that we had here the real
nature of man bursting forth in all its intense entirety--a constant but
suppressed force, which we shall learn by-and-by to utilise generally.
But if we extend our observations a little farther, we shall find
another set of examples, in which selfishness is just as predominant as
unselfishness was in the first set. The sailor, for instance, who might
struggle to save a woman on a sinking ship, will trample her to death to
escape from a burning theatre. And if we will but honestly estimate the
composite nature of man, we shall find that the sailor, in this latter
case, embodies a tendency far commoner, and far more to be counted on,
than he does in the former. No fair student of life or history will, I
think, be able to deny this. The lives of the world's greatest men, be
they Goethes or Napoleons, will be the first to show us that it is so.
Whilst the world's best men, who have been most successful in conquering
their selfish nature, will be the first to bear witness to the
persistent strength of it.

But even giving these unpromising facts the least weight possible, the
case will practically be not much mended. The unselfish impulses, let
them be diffused never so widely, will be found, as a general rule, to
be very limited in power; and to be intense only for short periods, and
under exceptional circumstances. They are intense only--in the absence
of any further motive--when the thing to be won for another becomes
invested for the moment with an abnormal value, and the thing to be lost
by oneself becomes abnormally depreciated; when all intermediate
possibilities are suddenly swept away from us, and the only surviving
alternatives are shame and heroism. But this never happens, except in
the case of great catastrophes, of such, for instance, as a shipwreck;
and thus the only conditions under which an impassioned unselfishness
can be counted on, are amongst the first conditions that we trust to
progress to eliminate. The common state of life, then, when the feelings
are in this normal state of tension, is all that in this connection we
can really be concerned in dealing with. And there, unselfishness,
though as sure a fact as selfishness, is, spontaneously and apart from a
further motive, essentially unequal to the work it is asked to do. Thus,
though as I observed just now, a man may often prefer to sit on a table
and give up the arm-chair to a friend, there are other times when he
will be very loth to do so. He will do so when the pleasure of looking
at comfort is greater than the pleasure of feeling it. And in certain
states of mind and body this is very often the case. But let him be
sleepy and really in need of rest, the selfish impulse will at once
eclipse the unselfish, and, unless under the action of some alien
motive, he will keep the arm-chair for himself. So, too, in the case of
the two epicures, if there be sufficient of the best dainties for both,
each will feel that it is so much the better. But whenever the dainties
in question cannot be divided, it will be the tendency of each to take
them furtively for himself.

And when we come to the conditions of happiness the matter will be just
the same. If without incommoding ourselves we can, as Professor Huxley
says, repress '_all those desires which run counter to the good of
mankind_,' we shall no doubt all willingly do so; only in that case
little more need be said. The '_Civitas Dei_' we are promised may be
left to take care of itself, and it will doubtless very soon begin '_to
rise like an exhalation_.' But if this self-repression be a matter of
great difficulty, and one requiring a constant struggle on our part, it
will be needful for us to intensely realise, when we abstain from any
action, that the happiness it would take from others will be far greater
than the happiness it would give to ourselves. Suppose, for instance, a
man were in love with his friend's wife, and had engaged on a certain
night to take her to the theatre. He would instantly give the engagement
up could he know that the people in the gallery would be burnt to death
if he did not. He would certainly not give it up because by the sight of
his proceedings the moral tone of the stalls might be infinitesimally
lowered; still less would he do so because another wife's husband might
be made infinitely jealous. Whenever we give up any source of personal
happiness for the sake of the happiness of the community at large, the
two kinds of happiness have to be weighed together in a balance. But the
latter, except in very few cases, is at a great disadvantage: only a
part of it, so to speak, can be got into the scale. What adds to my
sense of pleasure in the proportion of a million pounds may be only
taxing society in the proportion of half a farthing a head.
Unselfishness with regard to society is thus essentially a different
thing from unselfishness with regard to an individual. In the latter
case the things to be weighed together are commensurate: not so is the
former. In the latter case, as we have seen, an impassioned
self-devotion may be at times produced by the sudden presentation to a
man of two extreme alternatives; but in the former case such
alternatives are not presentable. I may know that a certain line of
conduct will on the one hand give me great pleasure, and that on the
other hand, if it were practised by everyone, it would produce much
general mischief; but I shall know that my practising it, will, as a
fact, be hardly felt at all by the community, or at all events only in a
very small degree. And therefore my choice is not that of the sailor's
in the shipwreck. It does not lie between saving my life at the expense
of a woman's, or saving a woman's life at the expense of mine. It lies
rather, as it were, between letting her lose her ear-ring and breaking
my own arm.

It will appear, therefore, that the general conditions of an entirely
undefined happiness form an ideal utterly unfitted to counterbalance
individual temptation or, to give even willingness, let alone ardour, to
the self-denials that are required of us. In the first place the
conditions are so vague that even in the extremest cases the individual
will find it difficult to realise that he is appreciably disturbing
them. And in the second place, until he knows that the happiness in
question is something of extreme value he will be unable to feel much
ardour in helping to make it possible. If we knew that the social
organism in its state of completest health had no higher pleasure than
sleep and eating, the cause of its completest health would hardly excite
enthusiasm. And even if we did not rebel against any sacrifices for so
poor a result as this, we should at the best be resigned rather than
blest in making them. The nearest approach to a moral end that the
science of sociology will of itself supply to us is an end that, in all
probability, men will not follow at all, or that will produce in them,
if they do, no happier state than a passionless and passive
acquiescence. If we want anything more than this we must deal with
happiness itself, not with the negative conditions of it. We must
discern the highest good that is within the reach of each of us, and
this may perhaps supply us with a motive for endeavouring to secure the
same blessing for all. But the matter depends entirely on what this
highest good is--on the end to which, given the social health, the
social health will be directed.

The real answer to this question can be given, as I have said before, in
terms of the individual only. Social happiness is a mere set of ciphers
till the unit of personal happiness is placed before it. A man's
happiness may of course depend on other beings, but still it is none the
less contained in himself. If our greatest delight were to see each
other dance the _can-can_, then it might be morality for us all to
dance. None the less would this be a happy world, not because we were
all dancing, but because we each enjoyed the sight of such a spectacle.
Many young officers take intense pride in their regiments, and the
character of such regiments may in a certain sense be called a corporate
thing. But it depends entirely on the personal character of their
members, and all that the phrase really indicates is that a set of men
take pleasure in similar things. Thus it is the boast of one young
officer that the members of his regiment all spend too much, of another
that they all drink too much, of another that they are distinguished for
their high rank, and of another that they are distinguished for the
lowness of their sensuality. What differentiates one regiment from
another is first and before all things some personal source of happiness
common to all its members.

And as it is with the character of a regiment, so too is it with the
character of life in general. When we say that Humanity may become a
glorious thing as a whole, we must mean that each man may attain some
positive glory as an individual. What shall I get? and I? and I? and I?
What do you offer me? and me? and me? This is the first question that
the common sense of mankind asks. '_You must promise something to each
of us_,' it says, '_or very certainly you will be able to promise
nothing to all of us_.' There is no real escape in saying that we must
all work for one another, and that our happiness is to be found in that.
The question merely confronts us with two other facets of itself. What
sort of happiness shall I secure for others? and what sort of happiness
will others secure for me? What will it be like? Will it be worth
having? In the positivist Utopia, we are told, each man's happiness is
bound up in the happiness of all the rest, and is thus infinitely
intensified. All mankind are made a mighty whole, by the fusing power of
benevolence. Benevolence, however, means simply the wishing that our
neighbours were happy, the helping to make them so, and lastly the being
glad that they are so. But happiness must plainly be something besides
benevolence; else, if I know that a man's highest happiness is in
knowing that others are happy, all I shall try to procure for others is
the knowledge that I am happy; and thus the Utopian happiness would be
expressed completely in the somewhat homely formula, '_I am so glad that
you are glad that I am glad_.' But this is, of course, not enough. All
this gladness must be about something besides itself. Our good wishes
for our neighbours must have some farther content than that they shall
wish us well in return. What I wish them and what they wish me must be
something that both they and I, each of us, take delight in for
ourselves. It will certainly be no delight to men to procure for others
what they will take no delight in themselves, if procured by others for
them. '_For a joyful life, that is to say a pleasant life_,' as Sir
Thomas More pithily puts it, '_is either evil; and if so, then thou
shouldest not only help no man thereto, but rather as much as in thee
lieth withdraw all men from it as noisome and hurtful; or else if thou
not only mayest, but also of duty art bound to procure it for others,
why not chiefly for thyself, to whom thou art bound to show as much
favour and gentleness as to others?_' The fundamental question is, then,
what life should a man try to procure for himself? How shall he make it
most joyful? and how joyful will it be when he has done his utmost for
it? It is in terms of the individual, and of the individual only, that
the value of life can at first be intelligibly stated. If the coin be
not itself genuine, we shall never be able to make it so by merely
shuffling it about from hand to hand, nor even by indefinitely
multiplying it. A million sham bank notes will not make us any richer
than a single one. Granting that the riches are really genuine, then the
knowledge of their diffusion may magnify for each of us our own pleasure
in possessing them. But it will only do this if the share that is
possessed by each be itself something very great to begin with. Certain
intense kinds of happiness may perhaps be raised to ecstasy by the
thought that another shares them. But if the feeling in question be
nothing more than cheerfulness, a man will not be made ecstatic by the
knowledge that any number of other people are cheerful as well as he.
When the happiness of two or more people rises to a certain temperature,
then it is true a certain fusion may take place, and there may perhaps
be a certain joint result, arising from the sum of the parts. But below
this melting point no fusion or union takes place at all, nor will any
number of lesser happinesses melt and be massed together into one great
one. Two great wits may increase each other's brilliancy, but two
half-wits will not make a single whole one. A bad picture will not
become good by being magnified, nor will a merely readable novel become
more than readable by the publication of a million copies of it. Suppose
it were a matter of life and death to ten men to walk to York from
London in a day. Were this feat a possible one, they might no doubt each
do their best to help the others to accomplish it. But if it were beyond
the power of each singly, they would not accomplish it as a body, by the
whole ten leaving Charing Cross together, and each of them walking one
tenth of the way. The distance they could all walk would be no greater
than the distance they could each walk. In the same way the value of
human life, as a whole, depends on the capacities of the individual
human being, as an enjoying animal. If these capacities be great, we
shall be eager in our desire to gratify them--certainly for ourselves,
and perhaps also for others; and this second desire may perhaps be great
enough to modify and to guide the first. But unless these capacities
_be_ great, and the means of gratifying them definite, our impulses on
our own behalf will become weak and sluggish, whilst those on behalf of
others will become less able to control them.

It will be apparent farther from this, that just as happiness, unless
some distinct positive quality, gains nothing as an end of action,
either in value or distinctness, by a mere diffusion in the present--by
an extension, as it were, laterally--so will it gain nothing further by
giving it another dimension, and by prospectively increasing it in the
future. We must know what it is first, before we know whether it is
capable of increase. Apart from this knowledge, the conception of
progress and the hope of some brighter destiny can add nothing to that
required _something_, which, so far as sociology can define it for us,
we have seen to be so utterly inadequate. Social conditions, it is true,
we may expect will go on improving; we may hope that the social
machinery will come gradually to run more smoothly. But unless we know
something positive to the contrary, the outcome of all this progress may
be nothing but a more undisturbed ennui or a more soulless sensuality.
The rose-leaves may be laid more smoothly, and yet the man that lies on
them may be wearier or more degraded.

    _To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day;
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death._

This, for all that sociology can inform us to the contrary, may be the
lesson really taught us by the positive philosophy of progress.

But what the positivists themselves learn from it, is something very
different. The following verses are George Eliot's:

    _Oh may I join the choir invisible
    Of those immortal dead who live again
    In lives made better by their presence. So
    To live is heaven....
    To make undying music in the world,
    Breathing us beauteous order that controls
    With growing sway the growing life of man.
    So we inherit that sweet purity
    For which we struggled, groaned, and agonised
    With widening retrospect, that bred despair....
    That better self shall live till human time
    Shall fold its eyelids, and the human sky
    Be gathered like a scroll within the tomb
    Unread for ever. This is life to come,
    Which martyred men have made more glorious
    For us who strive to follow. May I reach
    That purest heaven, and be to other souls
    That cup of strength in some great agony,
    Enkindle generous ardour, feed pure love,
    Beget the smiles that have no cruelty,
    Be the sweet presence of a good diffused,
    And in diffusion ever more intense;
    So shall I join that choir invisible
    Whose music is the gladness of the world._

Here is the positive religion of benevolence and progress, as preached
to the modern world in the name of exact thought, presented to us in an
impassioned epitome. Here is hope, ardour, sympathy, and resolution,
enough and to spare. The first question is,--How are these kindled, and
what are they all about? They must, as we have seen, be about something
that the science of sociology will not discover for us. Nor can they
last, if, like an empty stomach, they prey only upon themselves. They
must have some solid content, and the great thing needful is to discern
this. It is quite true that to suffer, or even to die, will often seem
_dulce et decorum_ to a man; but it will only seem so when the end he
dies or suffers for is, in his estimation, a worthy one. A Christian
might be gladly crucified if by so doing he could turn men from vice to
virtue; but a connoisseur in wine would not be crucified that his best
friend might prefer dry champagne to sweet. All the agony and the
struggles, then, that the positivist saint suffers with such enthusiasm,
depend alike for their value and their possibility on the object that is
supposed to cause them. And in the verses just quoted this object is
indeed named several times; but it is named only incidentally and in
vague terms, as if its nature and its value were self-evident, and could
be left to take care of themselves; and the great thing to be dwelt upon
were the means and not the end: whereas the former are really only the
creatures of the latter, and can have no more honour than the latter is
able to bestow upon them.

Now the only positive ends named in these verses are '_the better
self_,' '_sweet purity_,' and '_smiles that have no cruelty_.' The
conditions of these are _beauteous order_,' and the result of them is
the '_gladness of the world_.' The rest of the language used adds
nothing to our positive knowledge, but merely makes us feel the want of
it. The purest heaven, we are told, that the men of any generation can
look forward to, will be the increased gladness that their right conduct
will secure for a coming generation: and that gladness, when it comes,
will be, as it were, the seraphic song of the blessed and holy dead.
Thus every present, for the positivist, is the future life of the past;
earth is heaven perpetually realising itself; it is, as it were, an
eternal choir-practice, in which the performers, though a little out of
tune at present, are becoming momently more and more perfect. If this be
so, there is a heaven of some sort about us at this moment. There is a
musical gladness every day in our ears, our actual delight in which it
might have been a heaven to our great-grandfathers to have anticipated
in the last century.

Now it is plain that this alleged music is not everywhere. Where, then,
is it? And will it, when we have found it, be found to merit all the
praise that is bestowed upon it? Sociology, as we have seen, may show us
how to secure to each performer his voice or his instrument; but it will
not show us how to make either the voice or the instrument a good one;
nor will it decide whether the orchestra shall perform Beethoven or
Offenbach, or whether the chorus shall sing a penitential psalm or a
drinking song. When we have discovered what the world's highest gladness
can consist of, we will again come to the question of how far such
gladness can be a general end of action.


[9] Vide _Nineteenth Century_, October, 1877.

[10] '_As Mr. Spencer points out, society does not resemble those
organisms which are so highly centralised that the unity of the whole is
the important thing, and every part must die if separated from the rest;
but rather those that will bear separation and reunion; because,
although there is a certain union and organisation of the parts in
regard to one another, yet the far more important fact is the life of
the parts separately. The true health of society depends upon the
communes, the villages and townships, infinitely more than on the form
and pageantry of an imperial government. If in them there is band-work,
union for a common effort, converse in the working out of a common
thought, there the Republic is._'--Professor Clifford, _Nineteenth
Century_, October, 1877.



    '_Who chooses me must give, and hazard all he hath._' Inscription on
    the Leaden Casket. _Merchant of Venice._

What I have been urging in the last chapter is really nothing more than
the positivists admit themselves. It will be found, if we study their
utterances as a whole, that they by no means believe practically in
their own professions, or consider that the end of action can be either
defined and verified by sociology, or made attractive by sympathy. On
the contrary, they confess plainly how inadequate these are by
themselves, by continually supplementing them with additions from quite
another quarter. But their fault is that this confession is, apparently,
only half conscious with them; and they are for ever reproducing
arguments as sufficient which they have already in other moments
implicitly condemned as meaningless. My aim has been, therefore, to put
these arguments out of court altogether, and safely shut the doors on
them. Hitherto they have played just the part of an idle populace, often
turned out of doors, but as often breaking in again, and confusing with
their noisy cheers a judgment that has not yet been given. Let us have
done, then, with the conditions of happiness till we know what happiness
is. Let us have done with enthusiasm till we know if there is anything
to be enthusiastic about.

I have quoted George Eliot's cheers already, as expressing what this
enthusiasm is. I will now quote her again, as showing how fully she
recognises that its value depends upon its object, and that its only
possible object must be of a definite, and in the first place, of a
personal nature. In her novel of _Daniel Deronda_, the large part of the
interest hangs on which way the heroine's character will develop itself;
and this interest, in the opinion of the authoress, is of a very intense
kind. Why should it be? she asks explicitly. And she gives her answer in
the following very remarkable and very instructive passage:

'_Could there be a slenderer, more insignificant thread,_' she says,
'_in human history, than this consciousness of a girl, busy with her
small inferences of the way in which she could make her life pleasant?
in a time too, when ideas were with fresh vigour making armies of
themselves, and the universal kinship was declaring itself fiercely:
when women on the other side of the world would not mourn for the
husbands and sons who died bravely in a common cause; and men, stinted
of bread, on one side of the world, heard of that willing loss and were
patient; a time when the soul of man was waking the pulses which had for
centuries been beating in him unheard, until their full sense made a new
life of terror or of joy._

'_What in the midst of that mighty drama are girls and their blind
visions? They are the Yea or Nay of that good for which men are enduring
and fighting. In these delicate vessels is borne onward through the ages
the treasure of human affections._'

Now here we come to solid ground at last. Here is an emphatic and frank
admission of all that I was urging in the last chapter; and the required
end of action and test of conduct is brought to a focus and localized.
It is not described, it is true; but a narrow circle is drawn round it,
and our future search for it becomes a matter of comparative ease. We
are in a position now to decide whether it exists, or does not exist. It
consists primarily and before all things in the choice by the individual
of one out of many modes of happiness--the election of a certain
'_way_,' in George Eliot's words, '_in which he will make his life
pleasant_.' There are many sets of pleasure open to him; but there is
one set, it is said, more excellent, beyond comparison, than the others;
and to choose these, and these alone, is what will give us part in the
holy value of life. The choice and the refusal of them is the Yea and
the Nay of all that makes life worth living; and is the source, to the
positivists, of the solemnity, the terrors, and sweetness of the whole
ethical vocabulary. '_What then are the alternative pleasures that life
offers_ me? _In how many ways am_ I _capable of feeling_ my _existence a
blessing? and in what way shall_ I _feel the blessing of it most
keenly_?' This is the great life-question; it may be asked indifferently
by any individual; and in the positivist answer to it, which will be the
same for all, and of universal application, must lie the foundation of
the positive moral system.

And that system, as I have said before, professes to be essentially a
_moral_ one, in the old religious sense of the word. It retains the old
ethical vocabulary; and lays the same intense stress on the old ethical
distinctions. Nor is this a mere profession only. We shall see that the
system logically requires it. One of its chief virtues--indeed the only
virtue in it we have defined hitherto--is, as has been seen, an habitual
self-denial. But a denial of what? Of something, plainly, that if denied
to ourselves, can be conveyed as a negative or positive good to others.
But the good things that are thus transferable cannot plainly be the
'_highest good_,' or morality would consist largely of a surrender of
its own end. This end must evidently be something inward and
inalienable, just as the religious end was. It is a certain inward state
of the heart, and of the heart's affections. For this inward state to
be fully produced, and maintained generally, a certain sufficiency of
material well-being may be requisite; but without this inward state such
sufficiency will be morally valueless. Day by day we must of course have
our daily bread. But the positivists must maintain, just as the
Christians did, that man does not live by bread alone; and that his life
does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses. And
thus when they are brought face to face with the matter, we find them
all, with one consent, condemning as false the same allurements that
were condemned by Christianity; and pointing, as it did, to some other
treasure that will not wax old--some water, the man who drinks of which
will never thirst more.

Now what is this treasure--this inward state of the heart? What is its
analysis, and why is it so precious? As yet we are quite in the dark as
to this. No positive moralist has as yet shown us, in any satisfactory
way, either of these things. This statement, I know, will be
contradicted by many; and, until it is explained further, it is only
natural that it should be. It will be said that a positive human
happiness of just the kind needed has been put before the world again
and again; and not only put before it, but earnestly followed and
reverently enjoyed by many. Have not truth, benevolence, purity, and,
above all, pure affection, been, to many, positive ends of action for
their own sakes, without any thought, as Dr. Tyndall says, '_of any
reward or punishment looming in the future_'? Is not virtue followed in
the noblest way, when its followers, if asked what reward they look for,
can say to it, as Thomas Aquinas said to Christ, '_Nil nisi te,
Domine_'? And has not it so been followed? and is not the positivist
position, to a large extent at any rate, proved?

Is it not true, as has been said by a recent writer, that[11] '_lives
nourished, and invigorated by_ [a purely human] _ideal have been, and
still may be, seen amongst us, and the appearance of but a single
example proves the adequacy of the belief_?'

I reply that the fact is entirely true, and the inference entirely
false. And this brings me at once to a point I have before alluded
to--to the most subtle source of the entire positivist error--the source
secret and unsuspected, of so much rash confidence.

The positive school can, and do, as we have seen, point to certain
things in life which have every appearance, at first sight, of adequate
moral ends. Their adequacy seems to be verified by every right feeling,
and also by practical experiment. But there is one great fact that is
forgotten. The positive school, when they deal with life, profess to
exhibit its resources to us wholly free from the false aids of
religion. They profess (if I may coin a word) to have _de-religionized_
it before they deal with it. But about this matter they betray a most
strange ignorance. They think the task is far simpler than it is. They
seem to look on religion as existing nowhere except in its pure form, in
the form of distinct devotional feeling, or in the conscious assents of
faith; and, these once got rid of, they fancy that life is
de-religionized. But the process thus far is really only begun; indeed,
as far as immediate results go, it is hardly even begun; for it is
really but a very small proportion of religion that exists pure. The
greater part of it has entered into combination with the acts and
feelings of life, thus forming as it were, a kind of amalgam with them,
giving them new properties, a new colour, a new consistence. To
_de-religionize_ life, then, it is not enough to condemn creeds and to
abolish prayers. We must further sublimate the beliefs and feelings,
which prayers and creeds hold pure, out of the lay life around us. Under
this process, even if imperfectly performed, it will soon become clear
that religion in greater or less proportions is lurking everywhere. We
shall see it yielded up even by things in which we should least look for
it--by wit, by humour, by secular ambition, by most forms of vice, and
by our daily light amusements. Much more shall we see it yielded up by
heroism, by purity, by affection, and by love of truth--by all those
things that the positivists most specially praise.

The positivists think, it would seem, that they had but to kill God, and
that his inheritance shall be ours. They strike out accordingly the
theistic beliefs in question, and then turn instantly to life: they sort
its resources, count its treasures, and then say, '_Aim at this, and
this, and this. See how beautiful is holiness; see how rapturous is
pleasure. Surely these are worth seeking for their own sakes, without
any "reward or punishment looming in the future."_' They find, in fact,
the interests and the sentiments of the world's present life--all the
glow and all the gloom of it--lying before them like the colours on a
painter's palette, and think they have nothing to do but set to work and
use them. But let them wait a moment; they are in far too great a hurry.
The palette and its colours are not nearly ready for them.

One of the colours of life--religion, that is--a colour which, by their
own admission, has been hitherto an important one, they have swept clean
away. They have swept it clean away, and let them remember why they have
done so. It may be a pleasing colour, or it may not: that is a matter of
taste. But the reason why it is to be got rid of is that it is not a
fast colour. It is found to fade instantly in the spreading sunlight of
knowledge. It is rapidly getting dim and dull and dead. When once it is
gone, we shall never be able to restore it, and our future pictures of
life must be tinted without its aid. They therefore profess loudly that
they will employ it no longer.

But there is this point, this all-important point, that quite escapes
them. They sweep the colour, in its pure state, clean off the palette;
and then profess to show us by experiment that they can get on perfectly
well without it. But they never seem to suspect that it may be mixed up
with the colours they retain, and be the secret of their depth and
lustre. Let them see whether religion be not lurking there, as a subtle
colouring principle in all their pigments, even a grain of it producing
effects that else were quite impossible. Let them only begin this
analysis, and it will very soon be clear to them that to cleanse life of
religion is not so simple a process as they seem to fancy it. Its actual
dogmas may be readily put away from us; not so the effect which these
dogmas have worked during the course of centuries. In disguised forms
they are around us everywhere; they confront us in every human interest,
in every human pleasure. They have beaten themselves into life; they
have eaten their way into it. Like a secret sap they have flavoured
every fruit in the garden. They are like a powerful drug, a stimulant,
that has been injected into our whole system.

If then we could appraise the vigour and value of life independent of
religion, we can draw no direct conclusions from observing it in its
present state. Before such observations can teach us anything, there is
a great deal that will have to be made allowance for: and the positive
school, when they reason from life as it is, are building therefore on
an utterly unsound foundation. It is emphatically untrue to say that a
single example in the present day, or for matter of that any number of
examples, either goes or can go any way towards proving the adequacy of
any non-religious formula. For all such formulæ have first to be further
analysed before we know how far they are really non-religious; and
secondly the religious element that will be certainly found existing in
them will have, hypothetically, to be removed.

It would be well if the positive school would spend in this spiritual
analysis but a little of that skill they have attained to in their
analysis of matter. In their experiments, for instance, on spontaneous
generation, what untold pains have been taken! With what laborious
thought, with what emulous ingenuity, have they struggled to completely
sterilise the fluids in which they are to seek for the new production of
life! How jealously do they guard against leaving there any already
existing germs! How easily do they tell us their experiments may be
vitiated by the smallest oversight!

Surely spiritual matters are worthy of an equally careful treatment.
For what we have here to study is not the production of the lowest forms
of animal life, but the highest forms of human happiness. These were
once thought to be always due to religion. The modern doctrine is that
they are producible without such aid. Let us treat, then, the beauty of
holiness, the love of truth, '_the treasure of human affection_,' and so
forth, as Dr. Tyndall has treated the infusions in which life is said to
originate. Let us boil them down, so to speak, and destroy every germ of
religion in them, and then see how far they will generate the same
ecstatic happiness. And let us treat in this way vice no less than
virtue. Having once done this, we may honestly claim whatever yet
remains to us. Then, we shall see what materials of happiness we can, as
positive thinkers, call our own. Then, a positive moral system, if any
such be possible, will begin to have a real value for us--then, but not
till then.

Such an analysis as this must be naturally a work of time; and much of
it must be performed by each one of us for ourselves. But a sample of
the operation can be given here, which will show plainly enough its
nature, and the ultimate results of it. I shall begin, for this purpose,
with reconsidering the moral end generally, and the three primary
characteristics that are ascribed, by all parties, to it, as
essentials. I shall point out, generally also, how much of religion is
embodied in all these; and shall then proceed to one or two concrete
examples, taken from the pleasures and passions that animate the life
around us.

These three characteristics of the moral end are its inwardness, its
importance, and, within certain limits, its absolute character.

I begin with its inwardness. I have spoken of this several times
already, but the matter is so important that it will well bear
repetition. By calling the moral end inward, I mean that it resides
primarily not in action, but in motives to action; in the will, not in
the deed; not in what we actually do, but in what we actually endeavour
to do; in the love we give, rather than in the love that we receive.
What defiles a man is that which comes out of his heart--evil thoughts,
murders, adulteries. The thoughts may never find utterance in a word,
the murders and adulteries may never be fulfilled in act; and yet, if a
man be restrained, not by his own will, but only by outer circumstances,
his immorality will be the same. The primary things we are '_responsible
for_,' observes a recent positive writer,[12] are '_frames of mind into
which we knowingly and willingly work ourselves_': and when these are
once wrong, he adds, '_they are wrong for ever: no accidental failure
of their good or evil fruits can possibly alter that_.' And as with what
is wrong or vicious, so with what is right or virtuous; this in a like
manner proceeds out of the mind or heart. '_The gladness of true
heroism_,' says Dr. Tyndall, '_visits the heart of him who is really
competent to say, "I court truth."_' It is not, be it observed, the
objective attainment of truth that creates the gladness. It is the
subjective desire, the subjective resolution. The moral end, for the
positivist just as much as for the believer, is a certain inward state
of the heart, or mind--a state which will of necessity, if possible,
express itself in action, but whose value is not to be measured by the
success of that expression. The battle-ground of good and evil is within
us; and the great human event is the issue of the struggle between them.

And this leads us on to the second point. The language used on all hands
respecting this struggle, implies that its issue is of an importance
great out of all proportion to our own consciousness of the results of
it, nay, even that it is independent of our consciousness. It is implied
that though a man may be quite ignorant of the state of his own heart,
and though no one else can so much as guess at it, what that state is is
of great and peculiar moment. If this were not so, and the importance of
our inner state had reference only to our own feelings about it,
self-deception would be as good as virtue. To believe we were upright,
pure, and benevolent would be as good as to be so. We might have all the
pleasures of morality with none of its inconveniences; for it is easy,
if I may borrow a phrase of Mr. Tennyson's, to become _so false that we
take ourselves for true_; and thus, tested by any pain or joy that we
ourselves were conscious of, the results of the completest falsehood
would be the same as those of the completest virtue.

But let a man be never so perfect an instance of a result like this, no
positivist moralist would contend that he was virtuous, or that he could
be said, at his death, to have found the true treasure of life. On the
contrary his career would be regarded as, in the profoundest sense, a
tragedy. It is for this reason that such a value is set at present upon
feminine purity, and that we are accustomed to call the woman ruined
that has lost it. The outer harm done may not be great, and may lead to
no ill consequences. The harm is all within: the tragedy is in the soul
itself. But--and this is more important still--even here the harm may
not be recognised: the act in question may lead to no remorse; and yet
despite this, the case will be made no better. On the contrary it will
be made a great deal worse. Any father or husband would recognise this,
who was not professedly careless about all moral matters altogether. It
would not, for instance, console a positivist for his daughter's
seduction to know that the matter was hushed up, and that it gave the
lady herself no concern whatever. It is implied in the language of all
who profess to regard morality, that whether the guilty person be
conscious or no of any remorse or sorrow, the same harm has been done by
what we call guilt.

There is, however (and this brings us to the third point), a very large
part of the world that, as a fact, no matter what it professes, really
sets upon morality no true value whatever. If it has ever realised at
all what morality is, it has done so only partially; it has been more
impressed with its drawbacks than with its attractions, and it becomes
practically happier and more contented, the more it forgets the very
idea of virtue. But it is implied, as we have seen, in the usual
language of all of us that, let the vicious be as happy as possible,
they have no right to such a happiness, and that if they choose to take
it, it will in some way or other be the worse for them. This language
evidently implies farther that there is some standard by which happiness
is to be measured, quite apart from its completeness, and from our
individual desire for it. That standard is something absolute, beyond
and above the taste of any single man or of any body of men. It is a
standard to which the human race can be authoritatively ordered to
conform, or be despised, derided, and hated, if it refuse to do so. It
is implied that those who find their happiness in virtue have a right to
order and to force, if possible, all others to do the same. Unless we
believed this there would be no such thing as moral earnestness in the
propagation of any system. There could, indeed, be no such thing as
propagandism at all. If a man (to use an example of Mill's) preferred to
be a contented pig rather than a discontented Socrates, we should have
no positive reason for thinking him wrong; even did we think so we
should have no motive for telling him so; even if we told him, we should
have no means of convincing him.

Those, then, who regard morality as the rule of action, and the one key
that can unlock for each of us the true treasure of life, who talk of
things being noble and sacred and heroic, who call our responsibilities
and our privileges[13] awful, and who urge on a listless world the
earnestness and the solemnity of existence--all those, I say, who use
such language as this, imply of the moral end three necessary things:
first, that its essence is inward, in the heart of man; secondly, that
its value is incalculable, and its attainment the only true happiness
for us; thirdly, that its standard is something absolute, and not in
the competence of any man or of all men to alter or abolish. That this
is true may be very easily seen. Deny any one of these propositions; say
that the moral end consists in something outward and alienable, not in
something inward and inalienable; that its importance is small, and
second to many other things; that its standard is not absolute, but
varies according to individual taste; and morality becomes at once
impossible to preach, and not worth preaching.

Now for all these characteristics of the end of life, the theism that
modern thought is rejecting could offer a strictly logical basis. And
first, as to its importance. Here it may be said, certainly, that theism
cuts the knot, and does not untie it. But at all events it gets rid of
it; and in the following way. The theist confesses freely that the
importance of the moral end is a thing that the facts of life, as we now
know them, will never properly explain to us. It can at present be
divined and augured only; its value is one of promise rather than of
performance; and the possession itself is a thing that passes
understanding. It belongs to a region of mystery into which neither
logic nor experiment will ever suffice to carry us; and whose secrets
are beyond the reach of any intellectual aeronaut. But it is a part of
the theistic creed that such a region is; and that the things that pass
understanding are the most important things of life. Nothing would be
gained, however, by postulating merely a mystery--an unknowable. This
must be so far known by the theist, that he knows its connection with
himself. He must know, too, that if this connection is to have any
effect on him, it must be not merely temporary, but permanent and
indissoluble. Such a connection he finds in his two distinctive
doctrines--the existence of a personal God, which _gives_ him the
connection; and his own personal immortality, which _perpetuates_ it.
Thus the theist, upon his own theory, has an eye ever upon him. He is in
constant relationship with a conscious omnipotent Being, in whose
likeness he is in some sort formed, and to which he is in some sort kin.
To none of his actions is this Being indifferent; and with this Being
his relations for good or evil will never cease. Thus, though he may not
realise their true nature now, though he may not realise how infinitely
good the good is, or how infinitely evil the evil, there is a day in
store for him when his eyes will be opened, and what he now sees only
through a glass darkly, he will see face to face.

The objectivity of the moral end--or rather the objective standard of
the subjective end--is explained in the same way. The standard is God's
will, not man's immediate happiness. And yet to this will, as soon as,
by natural or supernatural means, we discern it, the Godlike part of
our nature at once responds: it at once acknowledges it as eternal and
divine, although we can give no logical reasons for such acknowledgment.

By the light, too, of these same beliefs, the inwardness of the moral
end assumes an explicable meaning. Man's primary duty is towards God;
his secondary duty is towards his brother men; and it is only from the
filial relation that the fraternal springs. The moral end, then, is so
precious in the eyes of the theist, because the inward state that it
consists of is agreeable to what God wills--a God who reads the heart,
and who cannot be deceived. And the theist's peace or gladness in his
highest moral actions springs not so much from the consciousness of what
he does or is, as of the reasons why he does or is it--reasons that
reach far away beyond the earth and its destinies, and connect him with
some timeless and holy mystery.

Thus theism, whether it be true or no, can give a logical and a full
account of the supposed nature of the moral end, and of its supposed
importance. Let us turn now to positivism, and consider what is its
position. The positivist, we must remember, conceives of the moral end
in the same way, and sets upon it the same value. Let us see how far his
own premisses will give him any support in this. These premisses, so far
as they differ from those of theism, consist of two great denials:
there is no personal God, and there is no personal immortality. We will
glance rapidly at the direct results of these.

In the first place, they confine all the life with which we can have the
least moral connection to the surface of this earth, and to the limited
time for which life and consciousness can exist upon it. They isolate
the moral law, as I shall show more clearly hereafter, from any law or
force in the universe that may be wider and more permanent. When the
individual dies, he can only be said to live by metaphor, in the results
of his outward actions. When the race dies, in no thinkable way can we
say that it will live at all. Everything will then be as though it never
had been. Whatever humanity may have done before its end arrives,
however high it may have raised itself, however low it may have sunk

              _The event
    Will trammel up the consequence, and catch
    With its success surcease_.

All the vice of the world, and all its virtue, all its pleasures and all
its pains, will have effected nothing. They will all have faded like an
unsubstantial pageant, and not left a wrack behind.

Here, then, the importance of morality at once changes both its
dimensions and its kind. It is confined within narrow limitations of
space and time. It is no longer a thing we can talk vaguely about, or
to which any sounding but indefinite phrases will be applicable. We can
no longer say either to the individual or the race,

    _Choose well, and your choice is
    Brief, but yet endless._[14]

We can only say that it is brief, and that bye and bye what it was will
be no matter to anyone.

Still within these limits it may be said, certainly, that it is a great
thing for us that we should be happy; and if it be true that the moral
end brings the greatest happiness, then it is man's greatest achievement
to attain to the moral end. But when we say that the greatest happiness
resides in the moral end, we must be careful to see what it is we mean.
We may mean that as a matter of fact men generally give a full assent to
this, and act accordingly, which is the most obvious falsehood that
could be uttered on any subject; or we may mean--indeed, if we mean
anything we must mean--that they would give a full assent, and act
accordingly, could their present state of mind undergo a complete
change, and their eyes be opened, which at present are fast closed. But
according to the positivist theory, this hypothesis is in most cases an
impossibility. The moral end, as we have seen, is an inward state of the
heart; and the heart, on the showing of the positivists, is for each
man an absolute solitude. No one can gain admission to it but by his
assistance; and to the larger part no one can ever gain admission at

    _Thus in the seas of life enisled,
      With echoing straits between us thrown,
    Dotting the shoreless watery wild,
      We mortal myriads live alone._

So says Mr. Matthew Arnold; and the gentle Keble utters the same
sentiment, remarking, with a delicate pathos, how seldom those even who
have known us best and longest

    _Know half the reason why we smile or sigh._

Thus in the recesses of his own soul each man is, for the positivist, as
much alone as if he were the only conscious thing in the universe; and
his whole inner life, when he dies, will, to use some words of George
Eliot's that I have already quoted,

    _Be gathered like a scroll within the tomb,
    Unread for ever._

No one shall enquire into his inward thoughts, much less shall anyone
judge him for them. To no one except himself can he in any way have to
answer for them.

Such is the condition of the individual according to the positivist
theory. It is evident, therefore, that one of the first results of
positivism is to destroy even the rudiments of any machinery by which
one man could govern, with authority, the inward kingdom of another;
and the moral imperative is reduced to an empty vaunt. For what can be
an emptier flourish than for one set of men, and these a confessed
minority, to proclaim imperious laws to others, which they can never get
the others to obey, and which are essentially meaningless to the only
people to whom they are not superfluous? Suppose that, on positive
grounds, I find pleasure in humility, and my friend finds pleasure in
pride, and so far as we can form a judgment the happiness of us both is
equal; what possible grounds can I have for calling my state better than
his? Were I a theist, I should have the best of grounds, for I should
believe that hereafter my friend's present contentment would be
dissipated, and would give place to despair. But as a positivist, if his
contentment do but last his lifetime, what can I say except this, that
he has chosen what, for him, was his better part for ever, and no God or
man will ever take it away from him? To say then that his immoral state
was worse than my moral state would be a phrase incapable of any
practical meaning. It might mean that, could my friend be made to think
as I do, he would be happier than he is at present; but we have here an
impossible hypothesis, and an unverifiable conclusion. It is true enough
that I might present to my friend some image of my own inward state, and
of all the happiness it gave me; but if, having compared his happiness
and mine as well as he could, he still liked his own best, exhortation
would have no power, and reproach no meaning.

Here, then, are three results--simple, immediate, and necessary--of
positivism, on the moral end. Of the three characteristics at present
supposed essential to it, positivism eliminates two and materially
modifies the third.

In the first place, the importance of the moral end is altogether
changed in character. It has nothing in it whatever of the infinite, and
a scientific forecast can already see the end of it.

In the second place, it is nothing absolute, and not being absolute is
incapable of being enforced.

In the third place, its value, such as it is, is measured only by the
_conscious_ happiness that its possession gives us, or the conscious
pains that its loss gives us.

Still it may be contended with plausibility that the moral end, when
once seen, is sufficient to attract us by its own inalienable charm, and
can hold its own independently of any further theories as to its nature
and its universality. It remains now to come to practical life, and see
if this really be so; to see if the pleasures in life that are supposed
the highest will not lose their attractiveness when robbed of the three
characteristics of which the positive theory robs them.


[11] Vide _Pessimism_, by James Sully.

[12] Professor Clifford; 'Ethics of Belief,' _Contemporary Review_, Jan.

[13] '_An awful privilege, and an awful responsibility, that we should
help to create a world in which posterity will live!_'--Professor

[14] Goethe, translated by Carlyle.



    [Greek: Erôta de, ton tyrannon andrôn,
    Ton tas Aphroditas
    Philtatôn thalamôn
    Klêdouchon, ou sebizomen,

I will again re-state, in other words than my own, the theory we are now
going to test by the actual facts of life. '_The assertion_,' says
Professor Huxley, '_that morality is in any way dependent on certain
philosophical problems, produces the same effect on my mind as if one
should say that a man's vision depends on his theory of sight, or that
he has no business to be sure that ginger is hot in his mouth, unless he
has formed definite views as to the nature of ginger_.' Or, to put the
matter in slightly different language, the sorts of happiness, we are
told, that are secured to us by moral conduct are facts, so far as
regards our own consciousness of them, as simple, as constant and as
universal, as is the perception of the outer world secured to us by our
eyesight, or as the sensation formed on the palate by the application of
ginger to it.

Love, for instance, according to this view, is as simple a delight for
men in its highest forms as it is for animals in its lowest. What George
Eliot calls '_the treasure of human affection_' depends as little for
its value on any beliefs outside itself as does the treasure of animal
appetite; and just as no want of religious faith can deprive the animals
of the last, so no want of religious faith can deprive mankind of the
first. It will remain a stable possession to us, amid the wreck of
creeds, giving life a solemn and intense value of its own. It will never
fail us as a sure test of conduct. Whatever guides us to this treasure
we shall know is moral; whatever tends to withdraw us from it we shall
know is immoral.

Such is the positivist theory as to all the higher pleasures of life, of
which affection confessedly is one of the chief, and also the most
obviously human. Let us proceed now from generalities to special
concrete facts, and see how far this theory is borne out by them. And we
can find none better than those which are now before us--the special
concrete facts of affection, and of sexual affection in particular.

The affection of man for woman--or, as it will be best to call it,
love--has been ever since time was, one of the chief elements in the
life of man. But it was not till Christianity had very fully developed
itself that it assumed the peculiar importance that is now claimed for
it. For the ancient world it was a passion sure to come to most men, and
that would bring joy or sorrow to them as the case might be. The
worldly wisdom of some convinced them that it gave more joy than sorrow;
so they took and used it as long as it chanced to please them. The
worldly wisdom of others convinced them that it gave more sorrow than
joy, so they did all they could, like Lucretius, to school themselves
into a contempt for it. But for the modern world it is on quite a
different footing, and its value does not depend on such a chance
balance of pains and pleasures. The latter are not of the same nature as
the former, and so cannot be outweighed by them. In the judgment of the
modern world,

    '_Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all_.

To love, in fact, though not exactly said to be incumbent upon all men,
is yet endowed with something that is almost of the nature of a duty. If
a man cannot love, it is looked on as a sort of moral misfortune, if not
as a moral fault in him. And when a man can love, and does love
successfully, then it is held that his whole nature has burst out into
blossom. The imaginative literature of the modern world centres chiefly
about this human crisis; and its importance in literature is but a
reflection of its importance in life. It is, as it were, the sun of the
world of sentiment--the source of its lights and colours, and also of
its shadows. It is the crown of man's existence; it gives life its
highest quality; and, if we can believe what those who have known it
tell us, earth under its influence seems to be melting into, and to be
almost joined with, heaven.

All this language, however, about love, no matter how true in a certain
sense it may be, is emphatically true about it in a certain sense only,
and is by no means to be taken without reserve. It is emphatically not
true about love in general, but only about love as modified in a certain
special way. The form of the affection, so to speak, is more important
than the substance of it. It will need but little consideration to show
us that this is so. Love is a thing that can take countless forms; and
were not the form, for the modern world, the thing of the first
importance, the praise bestowed upon all forms of it would be equal, or
graduated only with reference to intensity. But the very reverse of this
is the case really. In our estimate of an affection, its intensity,
though doubtless of great importance, is yet of an importance that is
clearly secondary. Else things that the modern world regards as the most
abominable might be on a level with the things it regards as most pure
and holy; the lovers of Athens might even put to shame with their
passion the calm sacramental constancy of many a Christian pair; and the
whole fabric of modern morals would be undermined. For, according to
the modern conception of morals, love can not only give life its highest
quality, but its lowest also. If it can raise man to the angels, it can
also sink him below the beasts; and as to its intensity, it is a force
which will carry him in the one direction just as well as the other.
Kind and not degree is the first thing needful. It is the former, and
not the latter, that essentially separates David and Jonathan from
Harmodius and Aristogeiton, St. Elizabeth from Cleopatra, the beloved
disciple from Antinous. How shall we love? is the great question for us.
It comes long before, How much shall we love?

Let us imagine a bride and bridegroom of the type that would now be most
highly reverenced, and try to understand something of what their
affection is. It is, of course, impossible here to treat such a subject
adequately; for, as Mr. Carlyle says, '_except musically, and in the
language of poetry, it can hardly be so much as spoken about_.' But
enough for the present purpose can perhaps be said. In the first place,
then, the affection in question will be seen to rest mainly upon two
things--firstly, on the consciousness of their own respective characters
on the part of each; and, secondly, on the idea formed by each of the
character of the other. Each must have a faith, for instance, in his or
her own purity, and each must have a like faith, also in the purity of
the other. Thus, to begin with the first requisites, a man can only
love a woman in the highest sense when he does so with a perfectly clear
conscience. There must be no obstacle between them which shocks his
sense of right, or which, if known by the woman, would shock hers. Were
the affection indulged in, in spite of such an obstacle, its fine
quality would be injured, no matter how great its intensity; and,
instead of a moral blessing, it would become a moral curse. An exquisite
expression of the necessity of this personal sense of rightness may be
read into the well-known lines,

    _I could not love thee, dear, so well,
    Loved I not honour more._

Nor shall we look on _honour_ here as having reference only to external
acts and conditions. It has reference equally, if not more, to the
inward state of the heart. The man must be conscious not only that he is
loving the right woman, but that he is loving her in the right way. '_If
I loved not purity more than you_,' he would say to her, '_I were not
worthy of you_.'

And further, just as he requires to possess this taintless conscience
himself, so does he require to be assured that the like is possessed by
her. Unless he knows that she loves purity more than him, there is no
meaning in his aspiration that he may be found worthy of her. The gift
of her affection that is of such value to him, is not of value because
it is affection simply, but because it is affection of a high kind; and
its elevation is of more consequence to him than its intensity, or even
than its continuance. He would sooner that at the expense of its
intensity it remained pure, than that at the expense of its purity it
remained intense. Othello was certainly not a husband of the highest
type, and yet we see something of this even in his case. His sufferings
at his wife's supposed inconstancy have doubtless in them a large
selfish element. Much of them is caused by the mere passion of jealousy.
But the deepest sting of all does not lie here. It lies rather in the
thought of what his wife has done to herself, than of what she has done
to him. This is what overcomes him.

    _The bawdy wind, that kisses all it meets,
    Is hushed within the hollow mine of earth,
    And will not hear it_.

He could have borne anything but a soul's tragedy like this:

              _Alas! to make me
      A fixed figure for the time of scorn
    To point his slow unmoving finger at!
    Yet I could bear that too, well--very well:
    But there, where I have garnered up my heart,
    Where I must either live, or bear no life;
    The fountain from the which my current runs
    Or else dries up; to be discarded thence!
    Or keep it as a cistern for foul toads
    To knot and gender in!_

Whenever he was with her, Desdemona might still be devoted to him. She
might only give to Cassio what she could not give to her husband. But to
Othello this would be no comfort. The fountain would be polluted '_from
which his current runs_'; and though its waters might still flow for
him, he would not care to touch them. If this feeling is manifest in
such a love as Othello's, much more is it manifest in love of a higher
type. It is expressed thus, for instance, by the heroine of Mrs.
Craven's '_Récit d'une Soeur_.' '_I can indeed say_,' she says, '_that
we never loved each other so much as when we saw how we both loved
God:_' and again, '_My husband would not have loved me as he did, if he
had not loved God a great deal more._' This language is of course
distinctly religious; but it embodies a meaning that is appreciated by
the positive school as well. In positivist language it might be
expressed thus: '_My husband would not have loved me as he did, if he
would not, sooner than love me in any other way, have ceased to love me
altogether._' It is clear that this sentiment is proper, nay essential,
to positivist affection, just as well as to Christian. Any pure and
exalted love would at once change its character, if, without any
further change, it merely believed it were free to change it. Its
strongest element is the consciousness, not that it is of such a
character only, but that this character is the right one. The ideal
bride and bridegroom, the ideal man and wife, would not value purity as
they are supposed to do, did they not believe that it was not only
different from impurity, but essentially and incalculably better than
it. For the positivist, just as much as the Christian, this sense of
rightness in love is interfused with the affection proper, and does as
it were give wings to it. It far more than makes good for the lovers any
loss of intensity that may be created by the chastening down of passion:
and figuratively at least, it may be said to make them conscious that
'_underneath them are the everlasting arms_.'

Here then in love, as the positive school at present offer it to us, are
all these three characteristics to which that school, as we have seen,
must renounce all right. It is characterised as conforming to some
special and absolute standard, of which no positive account can be
given; the conformity is inward, and so cannot be enforced; and for all
that positive knowledge can show us, its importance may be a dream.

We shall realise this better if we consider a love from which these
three characteristics have, as far as possible, been abstracted--a love
which professes frankly to rest upon its own attractions, and which
repudiates all such epithets as worse or better. This will at once show
us not only of what various developments the passion of love is capable,
but also how false it is to imagine that the highest kind need naturally
be the most attractive.

I have quoted Othello, and Mrs. Craven's heroine as types of love when
religionized. We will go to the modern Parisian school for the type of
love when de-religionized--a school which, starting from the same
premisses as do the positive moralists, yet come to a practical teaching
that is singularly different. And let us remember that just as the ideal
we have been considering already, is the ideal most ardently looked to
by one part of the world, so is the ideal we are going to consider now,
looked to with an equal ardour by another part of the world. The writer
in particular from whom I am about to quote has been one of the most
popular of all modern romancers; and has been hailed by men of the most
fastidious culture as a preacher to these latter generations of a bolder
and more worthy gospel. '_This_,'[15] says one of the best known of our
living poets, of the work that I select to quote from--

    _This is the golden book of spirit and sense,
    The holy writ of beauty._

Of this '_holy writ_' the chief theme is love. Let us go on to see how
love is there presented to us.

'_You know_,' says Théophile Gautier's best-known hero, in a letter to a
friend, '_you know the eagerness with which I have sought for physical
beauty, the importance I attach to outward form, and how the world I am
in love with is the world that the eyes can see: or to put the matter in
more conventional language, I am so corrupt and blasé that my faith in
moral beauty is gone, and my power of striving after it also. I have
lost the faculty to discern between good and evil, and this loss has
well nigh brought me back to the ignorance of the child or savage. To
tell the plain truth, nothing seems to me to be worthy either of praise
or blame, and I am but little perturbed by even the most abnormal
actions. My conscience is deaf and dumb. Adultery seems to me the most
commonplace thing possible. I see nothing shocking in a young girl
selling herself.'... 'I find that the earth is all as fair as heaven,
and virtue for me is nothing but the perfection of form.' 'Many a time
and long_,' he continues farther on, '_have I paused in some cathedral,
under the shadow of the marble foliage, when the lights were quivering
in through the stained windows, when the organ unbidden made a low
murmuring of itself, and the wind was breathing amongst the pipes; and I
have plunged my gaze far into the pale blue depths of the almond-shaped
eyes of the Madonna. I have followed with a tender reverence the curves
of that wasted figure of hers, and the arch of her eyebrows, just
visible and no more than that. I have admired her smooth and lustrous
brow, her temples with their transparent chastity, and her cheeks shaded
with a sober virginal colour, more tender than the colour of a
peach-flower. I have counted one by one the fair and golden lashes that
threw their tremulous shade upon it. I have traced out with care in the
subdued tone that surrounds her, the evanescent lines of her throat, so
fragile and inclined so modestly. I have even lifted with an adventuring
hand the folds of her tunic, and have seen unveiled that bosom, maiden
and full of milk, that has never been pressed by any except divine lips.
I have traced out the rare clear veins of it, even to their faintest
branchings. I have laid my finger on it, to draw the white drops forth,
of the draught of heaven. I have so much as touched with my lips the
very bud of the_ rosa mystica.

'_Well, and I confess it honestly, all this immaterial beauty, this
thing so winged and so aerial that one knows well enough it is soon
going to fly away from one, has never moved me to any great degree. I
love the Venus Anadyomene better, better a thousand times. These
old-world eyes, slightly raised at the corners! these lips so pure and
so firmly chiselled, so amorous, and so fit for kissing! this low,
broad brow! these tresses with the curves in them of the sea water, and
bound behind her head in a knot, negligently! these firm and shining
shoulders! this back, with its thousand alluring contours! all these
fair and rounded outlines, this air of superhuman vigour in a body so
divinely feminine--all this enraptures and enchants me in a way of which
you can have no idea--you the Christian and the philosopher._

'_Mary, despite the humble air affected by her, is a deal too haughty
for me. It is as much as her foot does, swathed in its white coverings,
if it just touches the earth, now purpling where the old serpent
writhes. Her eyes are the loveliest eyes in the world; but they are
always turned heavenwards, or else they are cast down. They never look
you straight in the face. They have never served as the mirror of a
human form.... Venus comes, from the sea to take possession of the
world, as a goddess who loves men should--quite naked and quite alone.
Earth is more to her liking than is Olympus, and amongst her lovers she
has more men than gods. She drapes herself in no faint veils of mystery.
She stands straight upright, her dolphin behind her, and her foot upon
her opal-coloured shell. The sun strikes full upon her smooth limbs, and
her white hand holds in air the waves of her fair locks, which old
father Ocean has sprinkled with his most perfect pearls. One can see
her. She hides nothing; for modesty was only made for those who have no
beauty. It is an invention of the modern world; the child of the
Christian contempt for form and matter._

'_Oh ancient world! all that you held in reverence is held in scorn by
us. Thine idols are overthrown in the dust; fleshless anchorites clad in
rags and tatters, martyrs with the blood fresh on them, and their
shoulders torn by the tigers of thy circuses, have perched themselves on
the pedestals of thy fair desirable gods. The Christ has enveloped the
whole world in his winding-sheet.... Oh purity, plant of bitterness,
born on a blood-soaked soil, and whose degenerate and sickly blossom
expands with difficulty in the dank shade of cloisters, under a chill
baptismal rain; rose without scent, and spiked all round with thorns,
thou hast taken the place for us of the glad and gracious roses, bathed
with nard and wine, of the dancing girls of Sybaris!_

'_The ancient world knew thee not, oh sterile flower! thou wast never
enwoven in its chaplets of delirious perfume. In that vigorous and
healthy society they would have spurned thee under foot disdainfully.
Purity, mysticism, melancholy--three words unknown to thee, three new
maladies brought into our life by the Christ!... For me, I look on
woman in the old world manner, like a fair slave, made only for our
pleasures. Christianity, in my eyes, has done nothing to rehabilitate
her.... To say the truth, I cannot conceive for what reason there should
be this desire in woman to be looked on as on a level with men.... I
have made some love-verses in my time, or at least something that
aspired to pass for such ... and there is not a vestige in them of the
modern feeling of love.... There is nothing there, as in all the
love-poetry since the Christian era, of a soul which, because it loves,
begs another soul to love it back again; nothing there of a blue and
shining lake, which begs a stream to pour itself into its bosom, that
both together they may mirror the stars of heaven; nothing there of a
pair of ring-doves, opening their wings together, that they may both
together fly to the same nest._'[16]

Such is the account the hero gives of the nature of his love for woman.
Nor does he give this account regretfully, or think that it shows him to
be in any diseased condition. It shows rather a return, on his part, to
a health that others have lost. As he looks round upon the modern world
and the purity that George Eliot says in her verses she would die for,
'_Woman_,' he exclaims mournfully, '_is become the symbol of moral and
physical beauty. The real fall of man was on the birthday of the babe
of Bethlehem_.'[17] It will be instructive to notice further that these
views are carried out by him to their full legitimate consequences, even
though this, to some degree, is against his will. '_Sometimes_,' he
says, '_I try to persuade myself that such passions are abominable, and
I say as much to myself in as severe a way as I can. But the words come
only from my lips. They are arguments that I make. They are not
arguments that I feel. The thing in question really seems quite natural
to me, and anyone else in my place would, it seems to me, do as I

Nor is this conception of love peculiar to the hero only. The heroine's
conception is its exact counterpart, and exactly fits it. The heroine as
completely as the hero has freed herself from any discernment between
good and evil. She recoils from abnormal impurity no more than from
normal, and the climax of the book is her full indulgence in both.

Now here we have a specimen of love raised to intensity, but divested as
far as possible of the religious element. I say divested as far as
possible, because even here, as I shall prove hereafter, the process is
not complete, and something of religion is still left fermenting. But it
is quite complete enough for our present purpose. It will remind us in
the sharpest and clearest way that love is no force which is naturally
constant in its development, or which if left to itself can be in any
way a moral director to us. It will show us that many of its
developments are what the moralist calls abominable, and that the very
worst of these may perhaps be the most attractive, and be deliberately
presented to us as such by men of the most elaborate culture. We shall
thus see that love as a test of conduct, as an aim of life, or as an
object of any heroic devotion, is not love in general, but love of a
special kind, and that to fulfil this function it must not only be
selected from the rest, but also removed from them, and set above them
at a quite incalculable distance. And the kind thus chosen, let me
repeat again (for this, though less obvious, is more important still),
is not chosen because it is naturally intense, but it becomes intense
because it is the chosen one.

Here then lies the weak point in the position of the positive moralists,
when they hold up such love to us as so supreme a treasure in life. They
observe, and quite correctly, that it is looked upon as a treasure; but
the source of its preciousness is something that their system expressly
takes from it. That choice amongst the loves, so solemn and so imperious
and yet so tender, which descends like a tongue of flame upon the love
it delights to honour; which fixes on a despised and a weak affection,
taking it like Elisha from his furrows, or like David from his
pastures, setting it above all its fellows, and making it at once a
queen and prophetess--this is a choice that positivism has no power to
make; or which, if it makes, it makes only a caprice, or a listless
preference. It does not, indeed, confound pure love with impure, but it
sets them on an equal footing; and those who contend that the former
under these conditions is intrinsically more attractive to men than the
latter, betray a most naïve ignorance of what human nature is.
Supposing, for argument's sake, that to themselves it may be so, this
fact is not of the slightest use to them. It is merely the possession on
their part of a certain personal taste, which those who do not share it
may regard as disease or weakness, and which they themselves can neither
defend nor inculcate. It is true they may call their opponents hard
names if they choose; but their opponents can call them hard names back
again; but in the absence of any common standard, the recriminations on
neither side can have the least sting in them. Could, however, any
argument on such a matter be possible, it is the devotees of impurity
that would have the strongest case; for the pleasures of indulgence are
admitted by both sides, while the merits of abstention are admitted by
only one.

Let us go back, for instance, in connection with this matter, to what
Professor Huxley has told us is the grand result of education. It leads
us away, he says, from '_the rank and steaming valleys of sense_,' up to
the '_highest good_,' which is '_discerned by reason_,' '_resting in
eternal calm_.' And let us ask him again, what, as uttered by a
positivist, these words can by any possibility mean. '_The rank and
steaming valleys of sense_'! Why are they rank and steaming? Or, if they
are, why is that any condemnation of them? Or, if we do condemn them,
what else are we to praise? The entire raw material, not of our
pleasures only, but of our knowledge also, is given us, say the positive
school, by the senses. Surely then to condemn the senses must be to
condemn life. Let us imagine Professor Huxley talking in this way to
Théophile Gautier. Let us imagine him frowning grimly at the licentious
Frenchman, and urging him with all vehemence to turn to the _highest
good_. The answer will at once be, '_That is exactly, my dear Professor,
what I do turn to. And, listen_,' he might say--the following is again a
passage from his own writings--'_to the way in which I figure the
highest good to myself. It is a huge building, with its outer walls all
blind and windowless; a huge court within, surrounded by a colonnade of
white marble; in the midst a musical fountain with a jet of quick-silver
in the Arabian fashion; leaves of orange-trees and pomegranates placed
alternately; overhead the bluest of skies and the mellowest of suns;
great long-nosed greyhounds should be sleeping here and there; from time
to time barefoot negresses with golden ankle-rings, fair women servants
white and slender, and clad in rich strange garments, should pass
between the hollow arches, basket on arm, or urn poised on head._[19]
_Three things give me pleasure, gold, marble, and purple--brilliance,
mass, and colour. These are the stuffs out of which my dreams are made;
and all my ideal palaces are constructed of these materials._'[20] What
answer could Professor Huxley make to this that would not seem to the
other at once barbarous and nonsensical? The best answer he could make
would be simply, '_I do not agree with you_.' And to this again the
answer would at once be, '_That is because you are still hampered by
prejudices, whose only possible foundations we have both removed; and
because I am a man of culture, and you are not._'

Let us also consider again that other utterance of Professor Huxley's,
with which I began this chapter. According to the positive view of
morals, he says, those special sets of happiness that a moral system
selects for us, have no more to do with any theory as to the reason of
their selection, than a man's sight has to do with his theory of vision,
or than the hot taste of ginger has to do with a knowledge of its
analysis. That is a most clear and succinct statement of the whole
positive position; and we shall now be able to profit by its clearness,
and to see how all that it does is to reveal confusion. In the first
place, Professor Huxley's comparisons really illustrate the very fact
that he designs them to invalidate. It is precisely on his theory of
vision that a man's sight practically does depend. All sight, so far as
it conveys any meaning to him, is an act of inference; and though
generally this process may be so rapid that it is not perceived by him,
yet the doubt often felt about distant or unusual objects will make him
keenly conscious of it. Whilst as to ginger and the taste produced by
it, the moral question is not whether it is hot or not; but whether or
no it will be for our advantage to eat it; and this resolves itself into
two further questions; firstly, whether its heat is pleasant, and
secondly whether its heat is wholesome. On the first of these Professor
Huxley throws no light whatever; whilst as to the second, it really
hangs entirely on the very point that he cited as indifferent. We must
have some knowledge, even though it be only vague and negative, of the
nature of a food, before we know whether it will be well for us in the
long run to habitually eat it, or to abstain from it.

Let us apply this illustration to love. Professor Huxley's ginger shall
stand for the sort of love he would most approve of; and love, as a
whole, will be represented by a varied dessert, of which ginger is one
of the dishes. Now what Professor Huxley has to do is to recommend this
ginger, and to show that it is divided by an infinite gulf--say from
prunes or from Huntley and Palmer's biscuits. But how is he to do this?
To say that ginger is hot is to say nothing. To many, that may condemn
instead of recommending it: and they will have as much to say for their
own tastes if they rejoin that prunes and biscuits are sweet. If he can
prove to them that what they choose is unwholesome, and that if they eat
it they will be too unwell to say their prayers, then, supposing they
want to say their prayers, he will have gained his point. But if he
cannot prove that it is unwholesome, or if his friends have no prayers
to say, his entire recommendation dwindles to a declaration of his own
personal taste. But in this case his whole tone will be different. There
will be nothing in it of the moral imperative. He will be only laughed
at and not listened to, if he proclaims his own taste in sweetmeats with
all the thunders of Sinai. And the choice between the various kinds of
love is, on positive principles, only a choice between sweetmeats. It is
this, and nothing more, than this, avowedly; and yet the positivists
would keep for it the earnest language of the Christian, for whom it is
a choice, not between sweetmeats and sweetmeats, but between a
confectioner's wafer and the Host.

It may perhaps be urged by some that, according to this view of it,
purity is degraded into a bitter something, which we only accept
reluctantly, through fear of the consequences of its alternatives. And
it is quite true that a fear of the consequences of wrong love is
inseparably connected with our sense of the value of right love. But
this is a necessity of the case; the quality of the right love is in no
way lowered by it, and it will lead us to consider another important

It is impossible to hold that one thing is incalculably better than
others, without holding also that others are incalculably worse than it.
Indeed, the surest test we can give of the praise we bestow on what we
choose, is the measure of condemnation we bestow on what we reject. If
we maintain that virtuous love constitutes its own heaven, we must also
maintain that vicious love constitutes its own hell. If we cannot do the
last we certainly cannot do the first. And the positive school can do
neither. It can neither elevate one kind of love nor depress the others;
and for this reason. The results of love in both cases are, according to
their teaching, bounded by our present consciousness; and our present
consciousness, divorced from all future expectation, has no room in it
for so vast an interval as all moral systems postulate between the
right love and the wrong. Indeed, if happiness be the test of right, it
cannot, as a general truth, be said that they are practically separable
at all. It is notorious that, as far as the present life goes, a man of
even the vilest affections may effectually elude all pain from them.
Sometimes they may injure his health, it is true; but they need not even
do that; and if they do, it necessitates no moral condemnation of them,
for many heroic labours would do just the same. Injury to the health, at
any rate, is a mere accident; so is also injury to the reputation; and
conditions are easily conceivable by which both these dangers would be
obviated. The supposed evils of impurity have but a very slight
reference to these. They depend, not on any present consciousness, but
on the expectations of a future consciousness--a consciousness that will
reveal things to us hereafter which we can only augur here.

    _I do not know them now, but after death
    God knows I know the faces I shall see:
    Each one a murdered self with last low breath,
    'I am thyself; what hast thou done to me?'
    'And I, and I thyself!' lo each one saith,
    'And thou thyself, to all eternity.'_[21]

Such is the expectation on which the supposed evils of impurity depend.
According to positive principles, the expectation will never be
fulfilled; the evils therefore exist only in a diseased imagination.

And with the beauty of purity the case is just the same. According to
the view which the positivists have adopted, so little counting the cost
of it, a pure human affection is a union of two things. It is not a
possession only, but a promise; not a sentiment only, but a
_pre_-sentiment; not a taste only, but a foretaste; and the chief
sweetness said to be found in the former, is dependent altogether upon
the latter. '_Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God_,'
is the belief which, whether true or false as a fact, is implied in the
whole modern cultus of love, and the religious reverence with which it
has come to be regarded. In no other way can we explain either its
eclecticism or its supreme importance. Nor is the belief in question a
thing that is implied only. Continually it is expressed also, and this
even by writers who theoretically repudiate it. Goethe, for instance,
cannot present the moral aspects of Margaret's love-story without
assuming it. And George Eliot has been obliged to presuppose it in her
characters, and to exhibit the virtues she regards as noblest, on the
pedestal of a belief that she regards as most irrational. But its
completest expression is naturally to be found elsewhere. Here, for
instance, is a verse of Mr. Robert Browning's, who, however we rank him
otherwise, is perhaps unrivalled for his subtle analysis of the

    _Dear, when our one soul understands
      The great soul that makes all things new,
    When earth breaks up, and heaven expands,
      How will the change strike me and you,
    In the house not made with hands?_

Here, again, is another, in which the same sentiment is presented in a
somewhat different form:

    _Is there nought better than to enjoy?
      No deed which done, will make time break,
        Letting us pent-up creatures through
        Into eternity, our due--
    No forcing earth teach heaven's employ?_

    _No wise beginning, here and now,
      Which cannot grow complete (earth's feat)
        And heaven must finish there and then?
        No tasting earth's true food for men,
    Its sweet in sad, its sad in sweet?_

To the last of these verses a singular parallel may be found in the
works of a much earlier, and a very different writer, only the affection
there dealt with is filial and not marital. In spite of this difference,
however, it will still be much in point.

'_The day was fast approaching_,' says Augustine, '_whereon my mother
was to depart this life, when it happened, Lord, as I believe by thy
special ordinance, that she and I were alone together, leaning in a
certain window that looked into the garden of the house, where we were
then staying at Ostia. We were talking together alone, very sweetly, and
were wondering what the life would be of God's saints in heaven. And
when our discourse was come to that point, that the highest delight and
brightest of all the carnal senses seemed not fit to be so much as named
with that life's sweetness, we, lifting ourselves yet more ardently to
the Unchanging One, did by degrees pass through all things
bodily--beyond the heaven even, and the sun and stars. Yea, we soared
higher yet by inward musing. We came to our own minds, and we passed
beyond them, that we might reach that place of plenty, where Thou
feedest Israel for ever with the food of truth, and where life is the
Wisdom by which all these things are made. And whilst we were
discoursing and panting after her, we slightly touched on her with the
whole effort of our heart; and we sighed, and there left bound the first
fruits of the spirit, and came back again to the sounds of our own
mouths--to our own finite language. And what we then said was in this
wise: If to any the tumult of the flesh were hushed, hushed the images
of the earth and air and waters, hushed too the poles of heaven, yea the
very soul be hushed to herself, and by not thinking on self transcend
self, hushed all dreams and imaginary revelations, every tongue and
every sign, and whatever exists only in transition--if these should all
be hushed, having only roused our ears to Him that made them, and He
speak alone, not by them but by Himself, that we might hear His word,
not through any tongue of flesh, nor angel's voice, nor sound of
thunder, nor in the dark riddle of a similitude, but might hear Him,
whom in these things we love--His very self without any aid from these
(even as we two for that brief moment had touched the eternal
Wisdom)--could this be continued on, and other visions, far unlike it,
be withdrawn, and this one ravish and absorb and wrap up its beholders
amid these inward joys, so that life might be for ever like that one
moment of understanding, were not this, Enter thou into the joy of thy
Lord? And when shall that be? Shall it be when we rise again, but shall
not all be changed?_'[22]

In this exceedingly striking passage we have the whole case before us.
The belief on which modern love rests, and which makes it so single and
so sacred is, as it were, drawn for us on an enlarged scale: and we see
that it is a belief to which positivism has no right. The belief,
indeed, is by no means a modern thing. Rudiments of it on the contrary
are as old as man himself, and may represent a something that inheres in
his very nature. But none the more for this will it be of any service to
the positivist; for this something can only be of power or value if the
prophecy it inevitably developes into be regarded as a true one. In the
consciousness of the ancient world it lay undeciphered like the dark
sentence of an oracle; and though it might be revered by some, it could
not be denied by any. But its meaning is now translated for us, and
there is a new factor in the case. We now can deny it; and if we do, its
whole power is paralysed.

This when once recognised must be evident enough. But a curious
confusion of thought has prevented the positive school from seeing it.
They have imagined that what religion adds to love is the hope of
prolongation only, not of development also; and thus we find Professor
Huxley curtly dismissing the question by saying that the quality of such
a pleasure '_is obviously in no way affected by the abbreviation or
prolongation of our conscious life_.' How utterly this is beside the
point may be shown instantly by a very simple example. A painter, we
will say, inspired with some great conception, sets to work at a
picture, and finds a week of the intensest happiness in preparing his
canvas and laying his first colours. Now the happiness of that week is,
of course, a fact for him. It would not have been greater had it lasted
a whole fortnight; and it would not have been less had he died at the
week's end. But though obviously, as Professor Huxley says, it in no way
depends on its prolongation, what it does depend on is the belief that
it will be prolonged, and that in being prolonged it will change its
character. It depends on the belief on the painter's part that he will
be able to continue his painting, and that as he continues it, his
picture will advance to completion. The positivists have confused the
true saying that the pleasure of painting one picture does not depend on
the fact that we shall paint many, with the false saying that the
pleasure of beginning that one does not depend on the belief that we
shall finish it. On this last belief it is plain that the pleasure does
depend, largely if not entirely; and it is precisely this last belief
that positivism takes away.

To return again, then, to the subject of human love--we are now in a
position to see that, as offered us at present by the positive school of
moralists, it cannot, properly speaking, be called a positive pleasure
at all, but that, it is still essentially a religious one; and that when
the religious element is eradicated, its entire character will change.
It may be, of course, contended that the religious element is
ineradicable: but this is simply either to call positivism an
impossibility, or religion an incurable disease. Here, however, we are
touching on a side issue, which I shall by and by return to, but which
is at present beside the point. My aim now is not to argue either that
positivism can or cannot be accepted by humanity, but to show what, if
accepted, it will have to offer us. I wish to point out the error, for
instance, of such writers as George Eliot, who, whilst denying the
existence of any sun-god in the heavens, are yet perpetually adoring the
sunlight on the earth; who profess to extinguish all fire on principle,
and then offer us boiling water to supply its place; or who, sending
love to us as a mere Cassandra, continue to quote as Scripture the
prophecies they have just discredited.

Thus far what we have seen is this. Love as a positive pleasure, if it
be ever reduced to such, will be a very different thing from what our
positivist moralists at present see it to be. It will perform none of
those functions for which they now look to it. It will no longer supply
them, as now, with any special pinnacle on which human life may raise
itself. The one type of it that is at present on an eminence will sink
to the same level as the others. All these will be offered to us
indiscriminately, and our choice between them will have no moral value.
None of the ethical epithets by which these varieties are at present so
sharply distinguished from each other will have any virtue left in them.
Morality in this connection will be a word without a meaning.

I have as yet dealt only with one of those resources, which have been
supposed to impart to life a positive general value. This one, however,
has been the most important and the most comprehensive of all; and its
case will explain that of the others, and perhaps, with but few
exceptions, include them. One or two of these others I shall by and by
treat separately; but we will first enquire into the results on life of
the change we have been considering already.


[15] Mr. A.C. Swinburne.

[16] _Mademoiselle de Maupin_, pp. 213-222. Ed. Paris. 1875.

[17] _Mademoiselle de Maupin_, p. 223.

[18] _Ibid._, p. 225.

[19] _Mademoiselle de Maupin_, p. 222.

[20] _Ibid._, p. 211.

[21] Dante Gabriel Rosetti.

[22] Aug. Conf., lib. ix. In the earlier part of the passage the extreme
redundancy of the original has been curtailed somewhat. In the rendering
here given I have to a great extent followed Dr. Pusey.



    '_If in this life only we have hope_--'

What we have now before us is a certain subtraction sum. We have to take
from life one of its strongest present elements; and see as well as we
can what will then be the remainder. An exact answer we shall, of
course, not expect; but we can arrive at an approximate one without much

What we have to subtract has been shown in the previous chapter; but it
may again be described briefly in the following way. Life in its present
state, as we have just seen, is a union of two sets of feelings, and of
two kinds of happiness, and is partly the sum of the two, and partly a
compromise between them. Its resources, by one classification, are
separable into two groups, according as in themselves they chance to
repel or please us; and the most obvious measure of happiness would seem
to be nothing more than our gain of what is thus pleasant, and our
shirking of what is thus painful. But if we examine life as it actually
exists about us, we shall see that this classification has been
traversed by another. Many things naturally repellent have received a
supernatural blessing; many things naturally pleasant have received a
supernatural curse; and thus our highest happiness is often composed of
pain, and our profoundest misery is nearly always based on pleasure.
Accordingly, whereas happiness naturally would seem the test of right,
right has come supernaturally to be the test of happiness. And so
completely is this notion engrained in the world's consciousness, that
in all our deeper views of life, no matter whether we be saints or
sinners, right and wrong are the things that first appeal to us, not
happiness and misery. A certain supernatural moral judgment, in fact,
has become a primary faculty with us, and it mixes with every estimate
we form of the world around us.

It is this faculty that positivism, if accepted fully, must either
destroy or paralyse; it is this, therefore, that in imagination we must
now try to eliminate. To do this--to see what will be left in life to
us, without this faculty, we must first see in general, how much is at
present dependent on it.

This might at first sight seem a hard task to perform; the interests we
shall have to deal with are so many and so various. But the difficulty
may be eluded. I have already gone to literature for examples of special
feelings on the part of individuals, and under certain circumstances.
We will now go to it for a kindred, though not for the same assistance;
and for this end we shall approach it in a slightly different way. What
we did before was this. We took certain works of literary art, and
selecting, as it were, one or two special patches of colour, we analysed
the composition of these. What we shall now do will be to take the
pictures as organic wholes, with a view to analysing the effect of them
as pictures--the harmony or the contrast of their colours, and the
massing of their lights and shadows. If we reflect for a moment what art
is--literary and poetical art in particular--we shall at once see how,
examined in this way, it will be of use to us. In the first place, then,
what is art? and what is the reason that it pleases us? It is a
reflection, a reproduction of the pleasures of life, and is altogether
relative to these, and dependent on them. We should, for instance, take
no interest in portraits unless we took some interest in the human face.
We should take none in statues if we took none in the human form. We
must know something of love as a feeling, or we should never care for
love-songs. Art may send us back to these with intenser appreciation of
them, but we must bring to art from life the appreciation we want
intensified. Art is a factor in common human happiness, because by its
means common men are made partakers in the vision of uncommon men.

Great art is a speculum reflecting life as the keenest eyes have seen
it. All its forms and imagery are of value only as this. Taken by
themselves, '_the best in this kind are but shadows_.' We have to
'_piece out their imperfections, with our thoughts_;' '_imagination has
to amend them_,' and '_it must be our imagination, not theirs_.'[23] In
examining a work of art, then, we are examining life itself; or rather,
in examining the interest which we take in a work of art, in examining
the reasons why we think it beautiful, or great, or interesting, we are
examining our own feelings as to the realities represented by it.

And now remembering this, let us turn to certain of the world's greatest
works of art--I mean its dramas: for just as poetry is the most
articulate of all the arts, so is the drama the most comprehensive form
of poetry. In the drama we have the very thing we are now in want of. We
have life as a whole--that complex aggregate of details, which forms, as
it were, the mental landscape of existence, presented to us in a
'_questionable shape_,' at once concentrated and intensified. And it is
no exaggeration to say that the reasons why men think life worth
living, can be all found in the reasons why they think a great drama

Let us turn, then, to some of the greatest works of Sophocles, of
Shakespeare, and of Goethe, and consider briefly how these present life
to us. Let us take _Macbeth_, _Hamlet_, _Measure for Measure_, and
_Faust_. We have here five presentations of life, under what confessedly
are its most striking aspects, and with such interests as men have been
able to find in it, raised to their greatest intensity. Such, at least,
is the way in which these works are regarded, and it is only in virtue
of this estimate that they are called great. Now, in producing this
estimate, what is the chief faculty in us that they appeal to? It will
need but little thought to show us that they appeal primarily to the
supernatural moral judgment; that this judgment is perpetually being
expressed explicitly in the works themselves; and, which is far more
important, that it is always pre-supposed in us. In other words, these
supreme presentations of life are presentations of men struggling, or
failing to struggle, not after natural happiness, but after supernatural
right; and it is always pre-supposed on our part that we admit this
struggle to be the one important thing. And this importance, we shall
see further, is based, not on the external and the social consequences
of conduct, but essentially and primarily on its internal and its
personal consequences.

In _Macbeth_, for instance, the main incident, the tragic-colouring
matter of the drama, is the murder of Duncan. But in what aspect of this
does the real tragedy lie? Not in the fact that Duncan is murdered, but
in the fact that Macbeth is the murderer. What appals us, what purges
our passions with pity and with terror as we contemplate it, is not the
external, the social effect of the act, but the personal, the internal
effect of it. As for Duncan, he is in his grave; after life's fitful
fever he sleeps well. What our minds are made to dwell upon is not that
Duncan shall sleep for ever, but that Macbeth shall sleep no more; it is
not the extinction of a dynasty, but the ruin of a character.

We see in _Hamlet_ precisely the same thing. The action there that our
interest centres in, is the hero's struggle to conform to an internal
personal standard of right, utterly irrespective of use to others, or of
natural happiness to himself. In the course of this struggle, indeed, he
does nothing but ruin the happiness around him; and this ruin adds
greatly to the pathos of the spectacle. But we are not indignant with
Hamlet, as being the cause of it. We should have been indignant rather
with him if the case had been reversed, and if, instead of sacrificing
social happiness for the sake of personal right, he had sacrificed
personal right for the sake of social happiness.

In _Antigone_ the case is just the same, only there its nature is yet
more distinctly exhibited. We have for the central interest the same
personal struggle after right, not after use or happiness; and one of
the finest passages in that whole marvellous drama is a distinct
statement by the heroine that this is so. The one rule she says, that
she is resolved to live by, and not live by only, but if needs be to die
for, is no human rule, is no standard of man's devising, nor can it be
modified to suit our changing needs; but it is

    _The unwritten and the enduring laws of God,
    Which are not of to-day nor yesterday,
    But live from everlasting, and none breathes
    Who knows them, whence begotten._

In _Measure for Measure_ and _Faust_ we can see the matter reduced to a
narrower issue still. In both these plays we can see at once that one
moral judgment at least, not to name others, is before all things
pre-supposed in us. This is a hard and fixed judgment with regard to
female chastity, and the supernatural value of it. It is only because we
assent to this judgment that Isabella is heroic to us; and primarily for
the same reason that Margaret is unfortunate. Let us suspend this
judgment for a moment, and what will become of these two dramas? The
terror and the pity of them will vanish instantly like a dream. The
fittest name for both of them will be '_Much Ado about Nothing_.'

It will thus be seen, and the more we consider the matter the more
plain will it become to us--that in all such art as that which we have
been now considering, the premiss on which all its power and greatness
rests is this: The grand relation of man is not first to his brother
men, but to something else, that is beyond humanity--that is at once
without and also beyond himself; to this first, and to his brother men
through this. We are not our own; we are bought with a price. Our bodies
are God's temples, and the joy and the terror of life depends on our
keeping these temples pure, or defiling them. Such are the solemn and
profound beliefs, whether conscious or unconscious, on which all the
higher art of the world has based itself. All the profundity and
solemnity of it is borrowed from these, and exists for us in exact
proportion to the intensity with which we hold them.

Nor is this true of sublime and serious art only. It is true of cynical,
profligate, and concupiscent art as well. It is true of Congreve as it
is true of Sophocles; it is true of _Mademoiselle de Maupin_ as it is
true of _Measure for Measure_. This art differs from the former in that
the end presented in it as the object of struggle is not only not the
morally right, but is also to a certain extent essentially the morally
wrong. In the case of cynical and profligate art this is obvious. For
such art does not so much depend on the substitution of some new object,
as in putting insult on the present one. It does not make right and
wrong change places; on the contrary it carefully keeps them where they
are; but it insults the former by transferring its insignia to the
latter. It is not the ignoring of the right, but the denial of it.
Cynicism and profligacy are essentially the spirits that deny, but they
must retain the existing affirmations for their denial to prey upon.
Their function is not to destroy the good, but to keep it in lingering
torture. It is a kind of spiritual bear-baiting. They hate the good, and
its existence piques them; but they must know that the good exists none
the less. '_I'd no sooner_,' says one of Congreve's characters, '_play
with a man that slighted his ill-fortune, than I'd make love to a woman
who undervalued the loss of her reputation_.' In this one sentence is
contained the whole secret of profligacy; and profligacy is the same as
cynicism, only it is cynicism sensualized. Now we have in the above
sentence the exact counterpart to the words of Antigone that I have
already quoted. For just as her life lay in conformity to '_The
unwritten, and the enduring laws of God_,' so does the life of the
profligate lie in the violation of them. To each the existence of laws
is equally essential. For profligacy is not merely the gratification of
the appetites, but the gratification of them at the expense of something
else. Beasts are not profligate. We cannot have a profligate goat.

In what I have called concupiscent art, the case might seem different,
and to a certain extent it is so. The objects of struggle that we are
there presented with are meant to be presented as pleasures, not in
defiance of right and wrong, but independently of them. The chief of
these, indeed, as Théophile Gautier has told us, are the physical
endearments of a man and a woman, with no other qualification than that
they are both of them young and beautiful. But though this art professes
to be thus independent of the moral judgment, and to trust for none of
its effects to the discernment between good and evil, this really is
very far from being the case. Let us turn once again to the romance we
have already quoted from. The hero says, as we have seen already, that
he has completely lost the power of discernment in question. Now, even
this, as might be shown easily, is not entirely true; for argument's
sake, however, we may grant him that it is so. The real point in the
matter to notice is that he is at any rate conscious of the loss. He is
a man tingling with the excitement of having cast off some burden. The
burden may be gone, but it is still present in the sharp effects of its
absence. He is a kind of moral poacher, who, though he may not live by
law, takes much of his life's tone from the sense that he is eluding it.
His pleasures, though pleasurable in themselves, yet have this quality
heightened by the sense of contrast. '_I am at any rate not virtuous_,'
his mistress says to him, '_and that is always something gained_.'
George Eliot says of Maggie Tulliver, that she liked her aunt Pullet
chiefly because she was not her aunt Gleg. Théophile Gautier's hero
likes the Venus Anadyomene, partly at least, because she is not the

Nay, let us even descend to worse spectacles--to the sight of men
struggling for enjoyments that are yet more obviously material, more
devoid yet of any trace of mind or morals, and we shall see plainly, if
we consult the mirror of art, that the moral element is present even
here. We shall trace it even in such abnormal literature of indulgence
as the erotic work commonly ascribed to Meursius. We shall trace it in
the orgies of Tiberius at Capri; or of Quartilla, as Petronius describes
them, at Neapolis. It is like a ray of light coming in at the top of a
dark cavern, whose inmates see not _it_, but _by_ it; and which only
brings to them a consciousness of shadow. It is this supernatural
element that leavens natural passion, and gives its mad rage to it. It
creates for it '_a twilight where virtues are vices_.' The pleasures
thus sought for are supposed to enthral men not in proportion to their
intensity (for this through all their varieties would be probably nearly
equal) but in proportion to their lowness--to their sullying power.
Degradation is the measure of enjoyment; or rather it is an increasing
numeral by which one constant figure of enjoyment is multiplied.

    _Ah, where shall we go then, for pastime,
    If the_ worst _that can be has been done?_

This is the great question of the votaries of such joys as these.[24]

Thus if we look at life in the mirror of art, we shall see how the
supernatural is ever present to us. If we climb up into heaven it is
there; if we go down into hell it is there also. We shall see it at the
bottom of those two opposite sets of pleasures, to the one or the other
of which all human pleasures belong. The source of one is an impassioned
struggle after the supernatural right, or an impassioned sense of rest
upon attaining it; the source of the other is the sense of revolt
against it, which in various ways flatters or excites us. In both cases
the supernatural moral judgment is the sense appealed to, primarily in
the first case, and secondarily if not primarily in the second. All the
life about us is coloured by this, and naturally if this be destroyed or
wrecked, the whole aspect of life will change for us. What then will
this change be? Looking still into the mirror of art, the general
character of it will be very readily perceptible. I noticed just now,
in passing, how _Measure for Measure_ and _Faust_ would suffer in their
meaning and their interest, by the absence on our part of a certain
moral judgment. They would become like a person singing to a deaf
audience--a series of dumb grimaces with no meaning in them. The same
thing is equally true in all the other cases. Antigone's heroism will
evaporate;[25] she will be left obstinate only. The lives of Macbeth and
Hamlet will be tales of little meaning for us, though the words are
strong. They will be full of sound and fury, but they will signify
nothing. What they produce in us will be not interest but a kind of
wondering weariness--weariness at the weary fate of men who could
'_think so brainsickly of things_.' So in like manner will all the
emphasis and elaboration in the literature of sensuality become a
weariness without meaning, also. Congreve's caustic wit will turn to
spasmodic truism; and Théophile Gautier's excess of erotic ardour, into
prolix and fantastic affectation. All its sublimity, its brilliance, and
a large part of its interest, depend in art on the existence of the
moral sense, and would in its absence be absolutely unproducible. The
reason of this is plain. The natural pains and pleasures of life,
merely manipulated by the imagination and the memory, have too little
variety or magnitude in them without further aid. Art without the moral
sense to play upon, is like a pianist whose keyboard is reduced to a
single octave.

And exactly the same will be the case with life. Life will lose just the
same qualities that art will--neither more nor less. There will be no
introduction of any new interests, but merely the elimination of certain
existing ones. The subtraction of the moral sense will not revolutionise
human purposes, but simply make them listless. It will reduce to a
parti-coloured level the whole field of pains and pleasures. The moral
element gives this level a new dimension. Working underneath it as a
subterranean force, it convulses and divides its surface. Here vast
areas subside into valleys and deep abysses; there mountain peaks shoot
up heavenwards. Mysterious shadows begin to throng the hollows; new
tints and half-tints flicker and shift everywhere; mists hang floating
over ravines and precipices; the vegetation grows more various, here
slenderer, there richer and more luxuriant; whilst high over all, bright
on the topmost summits, is a new strange something--the white snows of
purity, catching the morning streaks on them of a brighter day, that has
never as yet risen upon the world below.

With the subtraction, or nullifying, of the moral force, all this will
go. The mountains will sink, the valleys be filled up; all will be once
more dead level--still indeed parti-coloured, but without light and
shadow, and with the colours reduced in number, and robbed of all their
vividness. The chiaro-oscuro will have gone from life; the moral
landscape, whose beauty and grandeur is at present so much extolled,
will have dissolved like an insubstantial pageant. Vice and virtue will
be set before us in the same grey light; every deeper feeling either of
joy or sorrow, of desire or of repulsion, will lose its vigour, and
cease any more to be resonant.

It may be said indeed, and very truly, that under favourable
circumstances there must always remain a joy in the mere act of living,
in the exercising of the bodily functions, and in the exciting and
appeasing of the bodily appetites. Will anything, it may be asked, for
instance, rob the sunshine of its gladness, or deaden the vital
influence of a spring morning?--when the sky is a cloudless blue, and
the sea is like a wild hyacinth, when the pouring brooks seem to live as
they sparkle, and the early air amongst the woodlands has the breath in
it of unseen violets? All this, it is quite true, will be left to us;
this and a great deal more. This, however, is but one side of the
picture. If life has its own natural gladness which is expressed by
spring, it has also its own natural sadness which is expressed by
winter; and the worth of life, if this is all we trust to, will be as
various and as changing as the weather is. But this is not all. Even
this worth, such as it is, depends for us at present, in a large
measure, upon religion--not directly indeed, but indirectly. This life
of air, and nerve, and muscle, this buoyant consciousness of joyous and
abounding health, which seems so little to have connection with faiths
or theories, is for us impregnated with a life that is impregnated with
these, and thus their subtle influence pervades it everywhere. There is
no impulse from without which stirs or excites the senses, that does not
either bring to us, or send us on to, a something beyond itself. In each
of these pleasures that seems to us so simple, floats a swarm of hopes
and memories, like the gnats in a summer twilight. There is not a sight,
a sound, a smell, not a breath from sea or garden, that is not full of
them, and on which, busy and numberless, they are not wafted into us.
And each of these volatile presences brings the notions of right and
wrong with it; and it is these that make sensuous life tingle with so
strange and so elaborate an excitement. Indirectly then, though not
directly, the mere joy in the act of living will suffer from the loss of
religion, in the same manner, though perhaps not in the same degree, as
the other joys will. It will not lose its existence, but it will lose
zest. The fabric of its pleasures will of course remain what it ever
was; but its brightest inhabitants will have left it. It will be as
desolate as Mayfair in September, or as a deserted college during a long

We may here pause in passing, to remark on the shallowness of that
philosophy of culture, to be met with in certain quarters, which, whilst
admitting all that can be said as to the destruction for us of any moral
obligation, yet advises us still to profit by the variety of moral
distinctions. '_Each moment_,' says Mr. Pater for instance, '_some form
grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or sea is choicer
than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual
excitement, is irresistibly real and attractive for us_.' And thus, he
adds, '_while all melts under our feet, we may well catch at any
exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge, that seems by a
lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of
the senses, strange dyes, strange flowers, and curious odours, or the
work of the artist's hand, or the face of one's friend_.' It is plain
that this positive teaching of culture is open to the same objections,
and is based on the same fallacy, as the positive teaching of morals. It
does not teach us, indeed, to let right and wrong guide us in the choice
of our pleasures, in the sense that we should choose the one sort and
eschew the other; but teaching us to choose the two, in one sense
indifferently, it yet teaches us to choose them as distinct and
contrasted things. It teaches us in fact to combine the two fruits
without confusing their flavours. But in the case of good and evil, as
has been seen, this is quite impossible; for good is only good as the
thing that ought to be chosen; evil is only evil as the thing that ought
not to be chosen; and the only reasons that could justify us in
combining them would altogether prevent our distinguishing them. The
teachings of positive culture, in fact, rest on the naïve supposition
that shine and shadow, as it were, are portable things; and that we can
take bright objects out of the sunshine, and dark objects out of the
shadow, and setting them both together in the diffused grey light of a
studio, make a magical mosaic out of them, of gloom and glitter. Or such
teachings, to put the matter yet more simply, are like telling us to
pick a primrose at noonday, and to set it by our bed-side for a

It is plain therefore that, in that loss of zest and interest, which the
deadening of the moral sense, as we have seen, must bring to life, we
shall get no help there. The massy fabric of which saints and heroes
were the builders, will never be re-elected by this mincing moral

But there is another last resource of the modern school, which is far
more worthy of attention, and which, being entirely _sui generis_, I
have reserved to treat of here. That resource is the devotion to truth
as truth; not for the sake of its consequences, but in scorn of them.
Here we are told we have at least one moral end that can never be taken
away from us. It will still survive to give life a meaning, a dignity,
and a value, even should the pursuit of it prove destructive to all the
others. The language used by the modern school upon this subject is very
curious and instructive. I will take two typical instances. The common
argument, says Dr. Tyndall, in favour of belief is the comfort and the
gladness that it brings us, its redemption of life, in fact, from that
dead and dull condition we have been just considering. '_To this,_' he
says, '_my reply is that I choose the nobler part of Emerson when, after
various disenchantments, he exclaimed "I covet_ truth!" _The gladness of
true heroism, visits the heart of him who is really competent to say
this._' The following sentences are Professor Huxley's: '_If it is
demonstrated to me,_' he says, '_that without this or that theological
dogma the human race will lapse into bipedal cattle, more brutal than
the beasts by reason of their greater cleverness, my next question is to
ask for the proof of the dogma. If this proof is forthcoming, it is my
conviction that no drowning sailor ever clutched a hen-coop more
tenaciously than mankind will hold by such dogma, whatever it may be.
But if not, then I verily believe that the human race will go its own
evil way; and my only consolation lies in the reflection that, however
bad our posterity may become, so long as they hold by the plain rule of
not pretending to believe what they have no reason to believe, because
it may be to their advantage so to pretend, they will not have reached
the lowest depths of immorality._' I will content myself with these two
instances, but others of a similar kind might be multiplied

Now by a simple substitution of terms, such language as this will reveal
at once one important fact to us. According to the avowed principles of
positive morality, morality has no other test but happiness. Immorality,
therefore, can have no conceivable meaning but unhappiness, or at least
the means to it, which in this case are hardly distinguishable from the
end; and thus, according to the above rigid reasoners, the human race
will not have reached the lowest depths of misery so long as it rejects
the one thing which _ex hypothesi_ might render it less miserable.
Either then all this talk about truth must really be so much irrelevant
nonsense, or else, if it be not nonsense, the test of conduct is
something distinct from happiness. The question before us is a plain
one, which may be answered in one of two ways, but which positivism
cannot possibly answer in both. Is truth to be sought only because it
conduces to happiness, or is happiness only to be sought for when it is
based on truth? In the latter case truth, not happiness, is the test of
conduct. Are our positive moralists prepared to admit this? If so, let
them explicitly and consistently say so. Let them keep this test and
reject the other, for the two cannot be fused together.

    [Greek: oxos t' aleipha t' egcheas tautô kutei
    dichostatount an ou philoin prosennepois.]

This inconsistency is here, however, only a side point--a passing
illustration of the slovenliness of the positivist logic. As far as my
present argument goes, we may let this pass altogether, and allow the
joint existence of these mutually exclusive ends. What I am about to do
is to show that on positive grounds the last of these is more hopelessly
inadequate than the first--that truth as a moral end has even more of
religion in its composition than happiness, and that when this religion
goes, its value will even more hopelessly evaporate.

At first sight this may seem impossible. The devotion to truth may seem
as simple as it is sacred. But if we consider the matter further, we
shall soon think differently. To begin then; truth, as the positivists
speak of it, is plainly a thing that is to be worshipped in two
ways--firstly by its discovery, and secondly by its publication. Thus
Professor Huxley, however much it may pain him, will not hide from
himself the fact that there is no God; and however bad this knowledge
may be for humanity, his highest and most sacred duty still consists in
imparting it. Now why should this be? I ask. Is it simply because the
fact in question is the truth? That surely cannot be so, as a few other
examples will show us. A man discovers that his wife has been seduced by
his best friend. Is there anything very high or very sacred in that
discovery? Having made it, does he feel any consolation in the knowledge
that it is the entire truth? And will the '_gladness of true heroism_'
visit him if he proclaims it to everyone in his club? A chattering nurse
betrays his danger to a sick man. The sick man takes fright and dies.
Was the discovery of the truth of his danger very glorious for the
patient? or was its publication very sacred in the nurse? Clearly the
truths that it is sacred to find out and to publish are not all truths,
but truths of a certain kind only. They are not particular truths like
these, but the universal and eternal truths that underlie them. They are
in fact what we call the truths of Nature, and the apprehension of them,
or truth as attained by us, means the putting ourselves _en rapport_
with the life of that infinite existence which surrounds and sustains
all of us. Now since it is this kind of truth only that is supposed to
be so sacred, it is clear that its sacredness does not depend on itself,
but on its object. Truth is sacred because Nature is sacred; Nature is
not sacred because truth is; and our supreme duty to truth means neither
more nor less than a supreme faith in Nature. It means that there is a
something in the Infinite outside ourselves that corresponds to a
certain something within ourselves; that this latter something is the
strongest and the highest part of us, and that it can find no rest but
in communion with its larger counterpart. Truth sought for in this way
is evidently a distinct thing from the truth of utilitarianism. It is no
false reflection of human happiness in the clouds. For it is to be
sought for none the less, as our positivists decidedly tell us, even
though all other happiness should be ruined by it. Now what on positive
principles is the groundwork of this teaching? All ethical epithets such
as sacred, heroic, and so forth--all the words, in fact, that are by
implication applied to Nature--have absolutely no meaning save as
applied to conscious beings; and as a subject for positive observation,
there exists no consciousness in the universe outside this earth. By
what conceivable means, then, can the positivists transfer to Nature in
general qualities which, so far as they know, are peculiar to human
nature only? They can only do this in one of two ways--both of which
they would equally repudiate--either by an act of fancy, or by an act of
faith. Tested rigidly by their own fundamental common principles, it is
as unmeaning to call the universe sacred as to say that the moon talks

Let us however pass this by; let us refuse to subject their teaching to
the extreme rigour of even their own law; and let us grant that by some
mixed use of fancy or of mysticism, they can turn to Nature as to some
vast moral hieroglyph. What sort of morality do they find in it? Nature,
as positive observation reveals her to us, is a thing that can have no
claim either on our reverence or our approbation. Once apply any moral
test to her conduct, and as J.S. Mill has so forcibly pointed out, she
becomes a monster. There is no crime that men abhor or perpetrate that
Nature does not commit daily on an exaggerated scale. She knows no sense
either of justice or mercy. Continually indeed she seems to be tender,
and loving, and bountiful; but all that, at such times, those that know
her can exclaim to her, is

          _Miseri quibus
    Intentata nites_.

At one moment she will be blessing a country with plenty, peace, and
sunshine; and she will the next moment ruin the whole of it by an
earthquake. Now she is the image of thrift, now of prodigality; now of
the utmost purity, now of the most revolting filth; and if, as I say,
she is to be judged by any moral standard at all, her capacities for
what is admirable not only make her crimes the darker, but they also
make her virtues partake of the nature of sin. How, then, can an
intimacy with this eternal criminal be an ennobling or a sacred thing?
The theist, of course, believes that truth _is_ sacred. But his belief
rests on a foundation that has been altogether renounced by the
positivists. He values truth because, in whatever direction it takes
him, it takes him either to God or towards Him--God, to whom he is in
some sort akin, and after whose likeness he is in some sort made. He
sees Nature to be cruel, wicked, and bewildering when viewed by itself.
But behind Nature he sees a vaster power--his father--in whom
mysteriously all contradictions are reconciled. Nature for him is God's,
but it is not God; and '_though God slay me_,' he says, '_yet will I
trust in Him_.' This trust can be attained to only by an act of faith
like this. No observation or experiment, or any positive method of any
kind, will be enough to give it us; rather, without faith, observation
and experiment will do nothing but make it seem impossible. Thus a
belief in the sacredness of Nature, or, in other words, in the essential
value of truth, is as strictly an act of religion, as strictly a
defiance of the whole positive formula, as any article in any
ecclesiastical creed. It is simply a concrete form of the beginning of
the Christian symbol, '_I believe in God the Father Almighty_.' It rests
on the same foundation, neither more nor less. Nor is it too much to
say that without a religion, without a belief in God, no fetish-worship
was ever more ridiculous than this cultus of natural truth.

This subject is so important that it will be well to dwell on it a
little longer. I will take another passage from Dr. Tyndall, which
presents it to us in a slightly different light, and which speaks
explicitly not of truth itself, but of that sacred Object beyond, of
which truth is only the sacramental channel to us. '"_Two things," said
Imanuel Kant_' (it is thus Dr. Tyndall writes), '"_fill me with awe--the
starry heavens, and the sense of moral responsibility in man." And in
the hours of health and strength and sanity, when the stroke of action
has ceased, and when the pause of reflection has set in, the scientific
investigator finds himself overshadowed by the same awe. Breaking
contact with the hampering details of earth, it associates him with a
power which gives fulness and tone to his existence, but which he can
neither analyse nor comprehend._' This, Dr. Tyndall tells us, is the
only rational statement of the fact of that '_divine communion_,' whose
nature is '_simply distorted and desecrated_' by the unwarranted
assumptions of theism.

Now let us try to consider accurately what Dr. Tyndall's statement
means. Knowledge of Nature, he says, associates him with Nature. It
withdraws him from '_the hampering details of earth_,' and enables the
individual human being to have communion with a something that is beyond
humanity. But what is communion? It is a word with no meaning at all
save as referring to conscious beings. There could be no communion
between two corpses; nor, again, between a corpse and a living man. Dr.
Tyndall, for instance, could have no communion with a dead canary.
Communion implies the existence on both sides of a common something. Now
what is there in common between Dr. Tyndall and the starry heavens, or
that '_power_' of which the starry heavens are the embodiment? Dr.
Tyndall expressly says that he not only does not know what there is in
common, but that he '_dare_' not even say that, as conscious beings,
they two have anything in common at all.[26] The only things he can know
about the power in question are that it is vast, and that it is uniform;
but a contemplation of these qualities by themselves, must tend rather
to produce in him a sense of separation from it than of union with it.
United with it, in one sense, he of course is; he is a fraction of the
sum of things, and everything, in a certain way, is dependent upon
everything else. But in this union there is nothing special. Its
existence is an obvious fact, common to all men, whether they dwell upon
it or no: and though by a knowledge of Nature we may grow to realise it
more keenly, it is impossible to make the union in the least degree
closer, or to turn it into anything that can be in any way called a
communion. Indeed, for the positivists to talk about communion or
association with Nature is about as rational as to talk about communion
or association with a steam-engine. The starry skies at night are
doubtless an imposing spectacle; but man, on positive principles, can be
no more raised by watching them than a commercial traveller can by
watching a duke--probably far less: for if the duke were well behaved,
the commercial traveller might perhaps learn some manners from him; but
there is nothing in the panorama of the universe that can in any way be
any model for the positivist. There are but two respects in which he can
compare himself to the rest of nature--firstly, as a revealed force;
and, secondly, as a force that works by law. But the forces that are
revealed by the stars, for instance, are vast, and the force revealed in
himself is small; and he, as he considers, is a self-determining agent,
and the stars are not. There are but two points of comparison between
the two; and in these two points they are contrasts, and not
likenesses. It is true, indeed, as I said just now, that a sense of awe
and of hushed solemnity is, as a fact, born in us at the spectacle of
the starry heavens--world upon luminous world shining and quivering
silently; it is true, too, that a spontaneous feeling connects such a
sense somehow with our deepest moral being. But this, on positive
principles, must be feeling only. It means absolutely nothing: it can
have no objective fact that corresponds to it. It is an illusion, a
pathetic fallacy. And to say that the heavens with their stars declare
to us anything high or holy, is no more rational than to say that
Brighton does, which itself, seen at night from the sea, is a long braid
of stars descended upon the wide horizon. All that the study of nature,
all that the love of truth, can do for the positivist is not to guide
him to any communion with a vaster power, but to show him that no such
communion is possible. His devotion to truth, if it mean anything--and
the language he often uses about it betrays this--let us know the worst,
not let us find out the best:--a wish which is neither more nor less
noble than the wish to sit down at once in a slop upon the floor rather
than sustain oneself any longer above it on a chair that is discovered
to be rickety.

Here then again, in this last resource of positivism we have religion
embodied as a yet more important element than in any of the others; and
when this element is driven out of it, it collapses yet more hopelessly
than they do. By the whole positive system we are bound to human life.
There is no mystical machinery by which we can rise above it. It is by
its own isolated worth that this life must stand or fall.

And what, let us again ask, will this worth, be? The question is of
course, as I have said, too vague to admit of more than a general
answer, but a general answer, as I have said also, may be given
confidently enough. Man when fully imbued with the positive view of
himself, will inevitably be an animal of far fewer capacities than he at
present is. He will not be able to suffer so much; but also he will not
be able to enjoy so much. Surround him, in imagination, with the most
favourable circumstances; let social progress have been carried to the
utmost perfection; and let him have access to every happiness of which
we can conceive him capable. It is impossible even thus to conceive of
life as a very valuable possession to him. It would at any rate be far
less valuable than it is to many men now, under outer circumstances that
are far less favourable. The goal to which a purely human progress is
capable of conducting us, is thus no vague condition of glory and
felicity, in which men shall develop new and ampler powers. It is a
condition in which, the keenest life attainable has continually been
far surpassed already, without anything having been arrived at that in
itself seemed of surpassing value.


[23] 'Hippolyta.--_This is the silliest stuff I ever heard._
Theseus.--_The best in this kind are but shadows, and the worst no
worse, if imagination amend them._ Hippolyta.--_It must be your
imagination then, not theirs._'--Midsummer's Night's Dream, Act V.

'_Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts._'--Prologue to Henry

[24] Seneca says of virtue, '_Non quia delectat placet, sed quia placet
delectat_.' Of vice in the same way we may say, '_Non quia delectat_
pudet, _sed quia_ pudet _delectat_.'

[25] It will be of course recollected that in this abstraction of the
moral sense, we have to abstract it from the characters as well as

[26] '_When I attempt to give the power which I see manifested in the
universe an objective form, personal or otherwise, it slips away from
me, declining all intellectual manipulation. I dare not, save
poetically, use the pronoun_ "He" _regarding it. I dare not call it a_
"Mind." _I refuse even to call it a_ "Cause." _Its mystery overshadows
me; but it remains a mystery, while the objective frames which my
neighbours try to make it fit, simply distort and desecrate it._'--Dr.
Tyndall, '_Materialism and its Opponents_.'



Glendower. _I can call spirits from the vasty deep._

Hotspur. _Why so can I, or so can any man,
         But will they come when you do call for them?_
                                          Henry IV. Part 1.

General and indefinite as the foregoing considerations have been, they
are quite definite enough to be of the utmost practical import. They are
definite enough to show the utter hollowness of that vague faith in
progress, and the glorious prospects that lie before humanity, on which
the positive school at present so much rely, and about which so much is
said. To a certain extent, indeed, a faith in progress is perfectly
rational and well grounded. There are many imperfections in life, which
the course of events tends manifestly to lessen if not to do away with,
and so far as these are concerned, improvements may go on indefinitely.
But the things that this progress touches are, as has been said before,
not happiness, but the negative conditions of it. A belief in this kind
of progress is not peculiar to positivism. It is common to all educated
men, no matter what their creed may be. What is peculiar to positivism
is the strange corollary to this belief, that man's subjective powers of
happiness will go on expanding likewise. It is the belief not only that
the existing pleasures will become more diffused, but that they will, as
George Eliot says, become '_more intense in diffusion_.' It is this
belief on which the positivists rely to create that enthusiasm, that
impassioned benevolence, which is to be the motive power of their whole
ethical machinery. They have taken away the Christian heaven, and have
thus turned adrift a number of hopes and aspirations that were once
powerful. These hopes and aspirations they acknowledge to be of the
first necessity; they are facts, they say, of human nature, and no
higher progress would be possible without them. What the enlightened
thought is to do is not to extinguish, but to transfer them. They are to
be given a new object more satisfactory than the old one; not our own
private glory in another world, but the common glory of our whole race
in this.

Now let us consider for a moment some of the positive criticisms on the
Christian heaven, and then apply them to the proposed substitute. The
belief in heaven, say the positivists, is to be set aside for two great
reasons. In the first place there is no objective proof of its
existence, and in the second place there is subjective proof of its
impossibility. Not only is it not deducible, but it is not even
thinkable. Give the imagination _carte blanche_ to construct it, and
the imagination will either do nothing, or will do something ridiculous.
'_My position [with regard to this matter]_' says a popular living
writer,[27] '_is this--The idea of a glorified energy in an ampler life,
is an idea utterly incompatible with exact thought, one which evaporates
in contradictions, in phrases, which when pressed have no meaning._'

Now if this criticism has the least force, as used against the Christian
heaven, it has certainly far more as used against the future glories of
humanity. The positivists ask the Christians how they expect to enjoy
themselves in heaven. The Christians may, with far more force, ask the
positivists how they expect to enjoy themselves on earth. For the
Christians' heaven being _ex hypothesi_ an unknown world, they do not
stultify their expectations from being unable to describe them. On the
contrary it is a part of their faith that they are indescribable. But
the positivists' heaven is altogether in this world; and no mystical
faith has any place in their system. In this case, therefore, whatever
we may think of the other, it is plain that the tests in question are
altogether complete and final. To the Christians, indeed, it is quite
open to make their supposed shame their glory, and to say that their
heaven would be nothing _if_ describable. The positivists have bound
themselves to admit that theirs is nothing _unless_ describable.

What then, let us ask the enthusiasts of humanity, will humanity be like
in its ideally perfect state? Let them show us some sample of the
general future perfection; let them describe one of the nobler, ampler,
glorified human beings of the future. What will he be like? What will he
long for? What will he take pleasure in? How will he spend his days? How
will he make love? What will he laugh at? And let him be described in
phrases which _when pressed_ do not _evaporate in contradictions_, but
which have some _distinct meaning_, and _are not incompatible with exact
thought_. Do our exact thinkers in the least know what they are
prophesying? If not, what is the meaning of their prophecy? The
prophecies of the positive school are rigid scientific inferences; they
are that or nothing. And one cannot infer an event of whose nature one
is wholly ignorant.

Let these obvious questions be put to our positive moralists--these
questions they have themselves suggested, and the grotesque unreality of
this vague optimism will be at once apparent. Never was vagary of
mediæval faith so groundless as this. The Earthly Paradise that the
mediæval world believed in was not more mythical than the Earthly
Paradise believed in by our exact thinkers now; and George Eliot might
just as well start in a Cunard steamer to find the one, as send her
faith into the future to find the other.

Could it be shown that these splendid anticipations were well founded,
they might perhaps kindle some new and active enthusiasm; though it is
very doubtful, even then, if the desire would be ardent enough to bring
about its own accomplishment. This, however, it is quite useless to
consider, the anticipations in question being simply an empty dream. A
certain kind of improvement, as I have said, we are no doubt right in
looking for, not only with confidence, but with complacency. But
positivism, so far from brightening this prospect, makes it indefinitely
duller than it would be otherwise. The practical results therefore to be
looked for from a faith in progress may be seen at their utmost already
in the world around us; and the positivists may make the sobering
reflection that their system can only change these from what they
already see them, not by strengthening, but by weakening them. Take the
world then as it is at present, and the sense, on the individual's part,
that he personally is promoting its progress, can belong to, and can
stimulate, exceptional men only, who are doing some public work; and it
will be found even in these cases that the pleasure which this sense
gives them is largely fortified (as is said of wine) by the entirely
alien sense of fame and power. On the generality of men it neither has,
nor can have, any effect whatever, or even if it gives a glow to their
inclinations in some cases, it will at any rate never curb them in any.
The fact indeed that things in general do tend to get better in certain
ways, must produce in most men not effort but acquiescence. It may, when
the imagination brings it home to them, shed a pleasing light
occasionally over the surface of their private lives: but it would be as
irrational to count on this as a stimulus to farther action, as to
expect that the summer sunshine would work a steam-engine.

If we consider, then, that even the present condition of things is far
more calculated to produce the enthusiasm of humanity than the condition
that the positivists are preparing for themselves, we shall see how
utterly chimerical is their entire practical system. It is like a
drawing of a cathedral, which looks magnificent at the first glance, but
which a second glance shows to be composed of structural
impossibilities--blocks of masonry resting on no foundations, columns
hanging from the roofs, instead of supporting them, and doors and
windows with inverted arches. The positive system could only work
practically were human nature to suffer a complete change--a change
which it has no spontaneous tendency to make, which no known power could
ever tend to force on it, and which, in short, there is no ground of
any kind for expecting.

There are two characteristics in men, for instance, which, though they
undoubtedly do exist, the positive system requires to be indefinitely
magnified--the imagination, and unselfishness. The work of the
imagination is to present to the individual consciousness the remote
ends to which all progress is to be directed; and the desire to work for
these is, on the positive supposition, to conquer all mere personal
impulses. Now men have already had an end set before them, in the shape
of the joys of heaven, which was far brighter and far more real to them
than these others can ever be; and yet the imagination has so failed to
keep this before them, that its small effect upon their lives is a
commonplace with the positivists themselves. How then can these latter
hope that their own pale and distant ideal will have a more vivid effect
on the world than that near and glowing one, in whose place they put it?
Will it incite men to virtues to which heaven could not incite them? or
lure them away from vices from which hell-fire would not scare them?
Before it can do so, it is plain that human nature must have completely
changed, and its elements have been re-mixed, in completely new
proportions. In a state of things where such a result was possible, a
man would do a better day's work for a penny to be given to his unborn
grandson, than he would now do for a pound to be paid to himself at

For argument's sake, however, let us suppose such a change possible. Let
us suppose the imagination to be so developed that the remote end of
progress--that happier state of men in some far off century--is ever
vividly present to us as a possibility we may help to realise. Another
question still remains for us. To preserve this happiness for others, we
are told, we must to a large extent sacrifice our own. Is it in human
nature to make this sacrifice? The positive moralists assure us that it
is, and for this reason. Man, they say, is an animal who enjoys
vicariously with almost as much zest as in his own person; and therefore
to procure a greater pleasure for others makes him far happier than to
procure a less one for himself. In this statement, as I have observed in
an earlier chapter, there is no doubt a certain general truth; but how
far it will hold good in particular instances depends altogether on
particular circumstances. It depends on the temperament of the person
who is to make the sacrifice, on the nature of his feelings towards the
person for whom he is to make it, and on the proportion between the
pleasure he is to forego himself, and the pleasure he is to secure for
another. Now if we consider human nature as it is, and the utmost
development of it that on positive grounds is possible, the conditions
that can produce the requisite self-sacrifice will be found to be
altogether wanting. The future we are to labour for, even when viewed in
its brightest light, will only excel the present in having fewer
miseries. So far as its happiness goes it will be distinctly less
intense. It will, as we have seen already, be but a vapid consummation
at its best; and the more vividly it is brought before us in
imagination, the less likely shall we be to '_struggle, groan, and
agonize_,' for the sake of hastening it in reality. It will do nothing,
at any rate, to increase the tendency to self-sacrifice that is now at
work in the world; and this, though startling us now and then by some
spasmodic manifestation, is not strong enough to have much general
effect on the present; still less will it have more effect on the
future. Vicarious happiness as a rule is only possible when the object
gained for another is enormously greater than the object lost by self;
and it is not always possible even then: whilst when the gains on either
side are nearly equal, it ceases altogether. And necessarily so. If it
did not, everything would be at a dead-lock. Life would be a perpetual
holding back, instead of a pushing forward. Everyone would be waiting at
the door, and saying to everyone else, '_After you_.' But all these
practical considerations are entirely forgotten by the positivists. They
live in a world of their own imagining, in which all the rules of this
world are turned upside down. There, the defeated candidate in an
election would be radiant at his rival's victory. When a will was read,
the anxiety of each relative would be that he or she should be excluded
in favour of the others; or more probably still that they should be all
excluded in favour of a hospital. Two rivals, in love with the same
woman, would be each anxious that his own suit might be thwarted. And a
man would gladly involve himself in any ludicrous misfortune, because he
knew that the sight of his catastrophe would rejoice his whole circle of
friends. The course of human progress, in fact, would be one gigantic
donkey-race, in which those were the winners who were farthest off from
the prize.

We have but to state the matter in terms of common life, to see how
impossible is the only condition of things that would make the positive
system practicable. The first wonder that suggests itself, is how so
grotesque a conception could ever have originated. But its genesis is
not far to seek. The positivists do not postulate any new elements in
human nature, but the reduction of some, elimination of others, and the
magnifying of others. And they actually find cases where this process
has been effected. But they quite forget the circumstances that have
made such an event possible. They forget that in their very nature they
have been altogether exceptional and transitory; and that it is
impossible to construct a Utopia in which they shall exist at all. We
can, for instance, no doubt point to Leonidas and the three hundred as
specimens of what human heroism can rise to; and we can point to the
Stoics as specimens of human self-control. But to make a new Thermopylæ
we want a new Barbarian; and before we can recoil from temptation as the
Stoics did, we must make pleasure as perilous and as terrible as it was
under the Roman emperors. Such developments of humanity are at their
very essence abnormal; and to suppose that they could ever become the
common type of character, would be as absurd as to suppose that all
mankind could be kings. I will take another instance that is more to the
point yet. A favourite positivist parable is that of the miser. The
miser in the first place desires gold because it can buy pleasure. Next
he comes to desire it more than the pleasure it can buy. In the same
way, it is said, men can be taught to desire virtue by investing it with
the attractions of the end, to which, strictly speaking it is no more
than the means. But this parable really disproves the very possibility
it is designed to illustrate. It is designed to illustrate the
possibility of our choosing actions that will give pleasure to others,
in contradistinction to actions that will give pleasure to ourselves.
But the miser desires gold for an exactly opposite reason. He desires it
as potential selfishness, not as potential philanthropy. Secondly, we
are to choose the actions in question because they will make us happy.
But the very name we give the miser shows that the analogous choice in
his case makes him miserable. Thirdly, the material miser is an
exceptional character; there is no known means by which it can be made
more common; and with the moral miser the case will be just the same.
Lastly, if such a character be barely producible even in the present
state of the world, much less will it be producible when human
capacities shall have been curtailed by positivism, when the pleasures
that the gold of virtue represents are less intense than at present, and
the value of the coveted coin is indefinitely depreciated.

Much more might be added to the same purpose, but enough has been said
already to make these two points clear:--firstly, that the positive
system, if it is to do any practical work in the world, requires that
the whole human character shall be profoundly altered; and secondly,
that the required alteration is one that may indeed be dreamt about, but
which can never possibly be made. Even were it made, the results would
not be splendid; but no matter how splendid they might be, this is of no
possible moment to us. There are few things on which it is idler to
speculate than the issues of impossible contingencies. And the
positivists would be talking just as much to the purpose as they do now,
were they to tell us how fast we should travel supposing we had wings,
or what deep water we could wade through if we were twenty-four feet
high. These last, indeed, are just the suppositions that they do make.
Between our human nature and the nature they desiderate there is a deep
and fordless river, over which they can throw no bridge, and all their
talk supposes that we shall be able to fly or wade across it, or else
that it will dry up of itself.

    _Rusticus expectat dum defluat amnis, at ille
    Labitur et labetur, in omne volubilis ævum._

So utterly grotesque and chimerical is this whole positive theory of
progress, that, as an outcome of the present age, it seems little short
of a miracle. Professing to embody what that age considers its special
characteristics, what it really embodies is the most emphatic negation
of these. It professes to rest on experience, and yet no Christian
legend ever contradicted experience more. It professes to be sustained
by proof, and yet the professions of no conjuring quack ever appealed
more exclusively to credulity.

Its appearance, however, will cease to be wonderful, and its real
significance will become more apparent, if we consider the class of
thinkers who have elaborated and popularised it. They have been men and
women, for the most part, who have had the following characteristics in
common. Their early training has been religious;[28] their temperaments
have been naturally grave and earnest; they have had few strong
passions; they have been brought up knowing little of what is commonly
called the world; their intellects have been vigorous and active; and
finally they have rejected in maturity the religion by which all their
thoughts have been coloured. The result has been this. The death of
their religion has left a quantity of moral emotions without an object;
and this disorder of the moral emotions has left their mental energies
without a leader. A new object instantly becomes a necessity. They are
ethical Don Quixotes in want of a Dulcinea; the best they can find is
happiness and the progress of Humanity; and to this their imagination
soon gives the requisite glow. Their strong intellects, their activity,
and their literary culture each supplements the power that it
undoubtedly does give, with a sense of knowing the world that is
altogether fictitious. They imagine that their own narrow lives, their
own feeble temptations, and their own exceptional ambitions represent
the universal elements of human life and character; and they thus expect
that an object which has really been but the creature of an impulse in
themselves, will be the creator of a like impulse in others; and that in
the case of others, it will revolutionise the whole natural character,
whereas it has only been a symbol of it in their own.

Most of our positive moralists, at least in this country, have been and
are people of such excellent character, and such earnest and high
purpose, that there is something painful in having to taunt them with an
ignorance which is not their own fault, and which must make their whole
position ridiculous. The charge, however, is one that it is quite
necessary to make, as we shall never properly estimate their system if
we pass it over. It will be said, probably, that the simplicity as to
worldly matters I attribute to them, so far from telling against them,
is really essential to their character as moral teachers. And to moral
teachers of a certain kind it may be essential. But it is not so to
them. The religious moralist might well instruct the world, though he
knew little of its ways and passions; for the aim of his teaching was to
withdraw men from the world. But the aim of the positive moralist is
precisely opposite; it is to keep men in the world. It is not to teach
men to despise this life, but to adore it. The positions of the two
moralists are in fact the exact converses of each other. For the
divine, earth is an illusion, heaven a reality; for the positivist,
earth is a reality, and heaven an illusion. The former in his retirement
studied intensely the world that he thought real, and he could do this
the better for being not distracted by the other. The positivists
imitate the divine in neglecting what they think is an illusion; but
they do not attempt to imitate him in studying what they think is the
reality. The consequence is, as I have just been pointing out, that the
world they live in and to which alone their system could be applicable,
is a world of their own creation, and its bloodless populations are all
of them _idola specûs_.

If we will but think all this calmly over, and try really to sympathise
with the position of these poor enthusiasts, we shall soon see their
system in its true light, and shall learn at once to realise and to
excuse its fatuity. We shall see that it either has no meaning whatever,
or that its meaning is one that its authors have already repudiated, and
only do not recognise now, because they have so inadequately
re-expressed it. We shall see that their system has no motive power at
all in it, or that its motive power is simply the theistic faith they
rejected, now tied up in a sack and left to flounder instead of walking
upright. We shall see that their system is either nothing, or that it is
a mutilated reproduction of the very thing it professes to be
superseding. Once set it upon its own professed foundations, and the
entire quasi-religious structure, with its visionary hopes, its
impossible enthusiasms--all its elaborate apparatus for enlarging the
single life, and the generation that surrounds it, falls to earth
instantly like a castle of cards. We are left simply each of us with our
own lives, and with the life about us, amplified indeed to a certain
extent by sympathy, but to a certain extent only--an extent whose limits
we are quite familiar with from experience, and which positivism, if it
tends to move them at all, can only narrow, and can by no possibility
extend. We are left with this life, changed only in one way. It will
have nothing added to it, but it will have much taken from it.
Everything will have gone that is at present keenest in it--joys and
miseries as well. In this way positivism is indeed an engine of change,
and may inaugurate if not complete a most momentous kind of progress.
That progress is the gradual de-religionizing of life, the slow
sublimating out of it of its concrete theism--the slow destruction of
its whole moral civilisation. And as this progress continues there will
not only fade out of the human consciousness the things I have before
dwelt on--all capacity for the keener pains and pleasures, but there
will fade out of it also that strange sense which is the union of all
these--the white light woven of all these rays; that is, the vague but
deep sense of some special dignity in ourselves--a sense which we feel
to be our birthright, inalienable except by our own act and deed; a
sense which, at present, in success sobers us, and in failure sustains
us, and which is visible more or less distinctly in our manners, in our
bearing, and even in the very expression of the human countenance: it
is, in other words, the sense that life is worth living, not
accidentally but essentially. And as this sense goes its place will be
taken by one precisely opposite--the sense that life, in so far as it is
worth living at all, is worth living not essentially, but accidentally;
that it depends entirely upon what of its pleasures we can each one of
us realise; that it will vary as a positive quantity, like wealth, and
that it may become also a various quantity, like poverty; and that
behind and beyond these vicissitudes it can have no abiding value.

To realise fully a state of things like this is for us not possible. But
we can, however, understand something of its nature. I conceive those to
be altogether wrong who say that such a state would be one of any wild
license, or anything that we should call very revolting depravity.
Offences, certainly, that we consider the most abominable would
doubtless be committed continually and as matters of course. Such a
feeling as shame about them would be altogether unknown. But the normal
forms of passion would remain, I conceive, the most important; and it
is probable, that though no form of vice would have the least anathema
attached to it, the rage for the sexual pleasures would be far less
fierce than it is in many cases now. The sort of condition to which the
world would be tending would be a condition rather of dulness than what
we, in our parlance, should now call degradation. Indeed the state of
things to which the positive view of life seems to promise us, and which
to some extent it is actually now bringing on us, is exactly what was
predicted long ago, with an accuracy that seems little less than
inspired, at the end of Pope's _Dunciad_.

    _In vain, in vain: the all-composing hour
    Resistless falls! the muse obeys the power.
    She comes! she comes! the sable throne behold
    Of night primæval and of chaos old.
    Before her, fancy's gilded clouds decay,
    And all its varying rainbows die away.
    Wit shoots in vain its momentary fires,
    The meteor drops, and in a flash expires.
    As one by one, at dread Medea's strain,
    The sickening stars fade off the ethereal plain;
    As Argus' eyes, by Hermes' wand oppress'd
    Clos'd one by one to everlasting rest;
    Thus, at her felt approach and secret might,
    Art after art goes out, and all is night.
    See skulking truth to her old cavern fled,
    Mountains of casuistry heap'd o'er her head.
    Philosophy, that lean'd on heaven before,
    Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more._

    _Physic of metaphysic begs defence,
    And metaphysic calls for aid on sense!
    See mystery to mathematics fly.
    In vain: they gaze, turn giddy, rave, and die.
    Religion, blushing, veils her sacred fires;
    And, unawares, morality expires.
    Nor public flame, nor private, dares to shine,
    Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine.
    Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos! is restor'd,
    Light dies before thy uncreating word,
    Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;
    And universal darkness buries all._

Dr. Johnson said that these verses were the noblest in English poetry.
Could he have read them in our day, and have realised with what a
pitiful accuracy their prophecy might soon begin to fulfil itself, he
would probably have been too busy with dissatisfaction at the matter of
it to have any time to spare for an artistic approbation of the manner.


[27] Mr. Frederic Harrison.

[28] The case of J.S. Mill may seem at first sight to be an exception to
this. But it is really not so. Though he was brought up without any
religious teaching, yet the severe and earnest influences of his
childhood would have been impossible except in a religious country. He
was in fact brought up in an atmosphere (if I may borrow with a slight
change a phrase of Professor Huxley's) of Puritanism minus Christianity.
It may be remembered farther that Mill says of himself, '_I am one of
the very few examples of one who has not thrown off religious belief,
but never had it_.'



    _Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck....
    Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell._

    Shakespeare, _Sonnet XIV_.

The prospects I have been just describing as the goal of positive
progress will seem, no doubt, to many to be quite impossible in its
cheerlessness. If the future glory of our race was a dream, not worth
dwelling on, much more so, they will say, is such a future abasement of
it as this. They will say that optimism may at times have perhaps been
over-sanguine, but that this was simply the exuberance of health;
whereas pessimism is, in its very nature, the gloom and languor of a

Now with much of this view of the matter I entirely agree. I admit that
the prospect I have described may be an impossible one; personally, I
believe it is so. I admit also that pessimism is the consciousness of
disease, confessing itself. But the significance of these admissions is
the very opposite of what it is commonly supposed to be. They do not
make the pessimism I have been arguing one whit less worthy of
attention; on the contrary, they make it more worthy. This is the point
on which I may most readily be misunderstood. I will therefore try to
make my meaning as clear as possible.

Pessimism, then, represents, to the popular mind, a philosophy or view
of life the very name of which is enough to condemn it. The popular
mind, however, overlooks one important point. Pessimism is a vague word.
It does not represent one philosophy, but several; and before we, in any
case, reject its claims on our attention, we should take care to see
what its exact meaning is.

The views of life it includes may be classified in two ways. In the
first place, they are either what we may call critical pessimisms or
prospective pessimisms: of which the thesis of the first is that human
life is essentially evil; and of the second, that whatever human life
may be now, its tendency is to get worse instead of better. The one is
the denial of human happiness; the other the denial of human hope. But
there is a second classification to make, traversing this one, and far
more important. Pessimism may be either absolute or hypothetical. The
first of these maintains its theses as statements of actual facts; the
second, which is, of its nature, prospective mainly, only maintains them
as statements of what will be facts, in the event of certain possible
though it may be remote contingencies.

Now, absolute pessimism, whether it be critical or prospective, can be
nothing, in the present state of the world, but an exhibition of ill
temper or folly. It is hard to imagine a greater waste of ingenuity than
the attempts that have been made sometimes to deduce from the nature of
pain and pleasure, that the balance in life must be always in favour of
the former, and that life itself is necessarily and universally an evil.
Let the arguments be never so elaborate, they are blown away like
cobwebs by a breath of open-air experience. Equally useless are the
attempts to predict the gloom of the future. Such predictions either
mean nothing, or else they are mere loose conjectures, suggested by low
spirits or disappointment. They are of no philosophic or scientific
value; and though in some cases they may give literary expression to
moods already existing, they will never produce conviction in minds that
would else be unconvinced. The gift of prophecy as to general human
history is not a gift that any philosophy can bestow. It could only be
acquired through a superhuman inspiration which is denied to man or
through a superhuman sagacity which is never attained by him.

The hypothetical pessimism that is contained in my arguments is a very
different thing from this, and far humbler. It makes no foolish attempts
to say anything general about the present, or anything absolute about
the future. As to the future, it only takes the absolute things that
have been said by others; and not professing any certainty about their
truth, merely explains their meaning. It deals with a certain change in
human beliefs, now confidently predicted; but it does not say that this
prediction will be fulfilled. It says only that if it be, a change, not
at present counted on, will be effected in human life. It says that
human life will degenerate if the creed of positivism be ever generally
accepted; but it not only does not say that it ever will be accepted by
everybody: rather, it emphatically points out that as yet it has been
accepted fully by nobody. The positive school say that their view of
life is the only sound one. They boast that it is founded on the rock of
fact, not on the sand-bank of sentiment; that it is the final
philosophy, that will last as long as man lasts, and that very soon it
will have seen the extinction of all the others. It is the positivists
who are the prophets, not I. My aim has been not to confirm the
prophecy, but to explain its meaning; and my arguments will be all the
more opportune at the present moment, the more reason we have to think
the prophecy false.

It may be asked why, if we think it false, we should trouble our heads
about it. And the answer to this is to be found in the present age
itself. Whatever may be the future fate of positive thought, whatever
confidence may be felt by any of us that it cannot in the long run gain
a final hold upon the world, its present power and the present results
of it cannot be overlooked. That degradation of life that I have been
describing as the result of positivism--of what the age we live in calls
the only rational view of things--may indeed never be completed; but let
us look carefully around us, and we shall see that it is already begun.
The process, it is true, is at present not very apparent; or if it is,
its nature is altogether mistaken. This, however, only makes it more
momentous; and the great reason why it is desirable to deal so rudely
with the optimist system of the positivists is that it lies like a misty
veil over the real surface of facts, and conceals the very change that
it professes to make impossible. It is a kind of moral chloroform,
which, instead of curing an illness, only makes us fatally unconscious
of its most alarming symptoms.

But though an effort be thus required to realise our true condition, it
is an effort which, before all things, we ought to make; and which, if
we try, we can all make readily. A little careful memory, a little
careful observation, will open the eyes of most of us to the real truth
of things; it will reveal to us a spectacle that is indeed appalling,
and the more candidly we survey it, the more shall we feel aghast at it.
To begin, then, let us once more consider two notorious facts: first,
that over all the world at the present day a denial is spreading itself
of all religions dogmas, more complete than has ever before been known;
and, secondly, that in spite of this speculative denial, and in the
places where it has done its work most thoroughly, a mass of moral
earnestness seems to survive untouched. I do not attempt to deny the
fact; I desire, on the contrary, to draw all attention to it. But the
condition in which it survives is commonly not in the least realised.
The class of men concerned with it are like soldiers who may be fighting
more bravely perhaps than ever; but who are fighting, though none
observe it, with the death-wound under their uniforms. Of all the signs
of the times, these high-minded unbelievers are thought to be the most
reassuring; but really they are the very reverse of this. The reason why
their true condition has passed unnoticed is, that it is a condition
that is naturally silent, and that has great difficulty in finding a
mouthpiece. The only two parties who have had any interest in commenting
on it have been the very parties least able to understand, and most
certain to distort it. They have been either the professed champions of
theism, or else the visionary optimists of positivism; the former of
whom have had no sympathy with positive principles, and the latter no
discernment of their results. The class of men we are considering are
equally at variance with both of these; they agree with each in one
respect, and in another they agree with neither. They agree with the one
that religious belief is false; they agree with the other that unbelief
is miserable. What wonder then that they should have kept their
condition to themselves? Nearly all public dealing with it has been left
to men who can praise the only doctrines that they can preach as true,
or who else can condemn as false the doctrines that they deplore as
mischievous. As for the others, whose mental and moral convictions are
at variance, they have neither any heart to proclaim the one, nor any
intellectual standpoint from which to proclaim the other. Their only
impulse is to struggle and to endure in silence. Let us, however, try to
intrude upon their privacy, even though it be rudely and painfully, and
see what their real state is; for it is these men who are the true
product of the present age, its most special and distinguishing feature,
and the first-fruits of what we are told is to be the philosophy of the
enlightened future.

To begin, then, let us remember what these men were when Christians; and
we shall be better able to realise what they are now. They were men who
believed firmly in the supreme and solemn importance of life, in the
privilege that it was to live, despite all temporal sorrow. They had a
rule of conduct which would guide them, they believed, to the true end
of their being--to an existence satisfying and excellent beyond anything
that imagination could suggest to them; they had the dread of a
corresponding ruin to fortify themselves in their struggle against the
wrong; and they had a God ever present, to help and hear, and take pity
on them. And yet even thus, selfishness would beset the most unselfish,
and weariness the most determined. How hard the battle was, is known to
all; it has been the most prominent commonplace in human thought and
language. The constancy and the strength of temptation, and the
insidiousness of the arguments it was supported by, has been proverbial.
To explain away the difference between good and evil, to subtly steal
its meaning out of long-suffering and self-denial, and, above all, to
argue that in sinning '_we shall not surely die_,' a work which was
supposed to belong especially to the devil, has been supposed to have
been accomplished by him with a success continually irresistible. What,
then, is likely to be the case now, with men who are still beset with
the same temptations, when not only they have no hell to frighten, no
heaven to allure, and no God to help them; but when all the arguments
that they once felt belonged to the father of lies, are pressed on them
from every side as the most solemn and universal truths? Thus far the
result has been a singular one. With an astonishing vigour the moral
impetus still survives the cessation of the forces that originated and
sustained it; and in many cases there is no diminution of it traceable,
so far as action goes. This, however, is only true, for the most part,
of men advanced in years, in whom habits of virtue have grown strong,
and whose age, position, and circumstances secure them from strong
temptation. To see the real work of positive thought we must go to
younger men, whose characters are less formed, whose careers are still
before them, and on whom temptation of all kinds has stronger hold. We
shall find such men with the sense of virtue equally vivid in them, and
the desire to practise it probably far more passionate; but the effect
of positive thought on them we shall see to be very different.

Now, the positive school itself will say that such men have all they
need. They confessedly have conscience left to them--the supernatural
moral judgment, that is, as applied to themselves--which has been
analysed, but not destroyed; and the position of which, we are told, has
been changed only by its being set on a foundation of fact, instead of a
foundation of superstition. Mill said that having learnt what the sunset
clouds were made of, he still found that he admired them as much as
ever; '_therefore_,' he said, '_I saw at once that there was nothing to
be feared from analysis_.' And this is exactly what the positive school
say of conscience. A shallower falsehood, however, it is not easy to
conceive. It is true that conscience in one way may, for a time at
least, survive any kind of analysis. It may continue, with undiminished
distinctness, its old approvals and menaces. But that alone is nothing
at all to the point. Conscience is of practical value, not only because
it says certain things, but because it says them, as we think, with
authority. If its authority goes, and its advice continues, it may
indeed molest, but it will no longer direct us. Now, though the voice of
conscience may, as the positive school say, survive their analysis of
it, its authority will not. That authority has always taken the form of
a menace, as well as of an approval; and the menace at any rate, upon
all positive principles, is nothing but big words that can break no
bones. As soon as we realise it to be but this, its effect must cease
instantly. The power of conscience resides not in what we hear it to be,
but in what we believe it to be. A housemaid may be deterred from going
to meet her lover in the garden, because a howling ghost is believed to
haunt the laurels; but she will go to him fast enough when she discovers
that the sounds that alarmed her were not a soul in torture, but the cat
in love. The case of conscience is exactly analogous to this.

And now let us turn again to the case in question. Men of such a
character as I have been just describing may find conscience quite equal
to giving a glow, by its approval, to their virtuous wishes; but they
will find it quite unequal to sustaining them against their vicious
ones; and the more vigorous the intellect of the man, the more feeble
will be the power of conscience. When a man is very strongly tempted to
do a thing which he believes to be wrong, it is almost inevitable that
he will test to the utmost the reasons of this belief; or if he does not
do this before he yields to the temptation, yet if he does happen to
yield to it, he will certainly do so after. Thus, unless we suppose
human nature to be completely changed, and all our powers of observation
completely misleading, the inward condition of the class in question is
this. However calm the outer surface of their lives may seem, under the
surface there is a continual discord; and also, though they alone may
perceive it, a continued decadence. In various degrees they all yield to
temptation; all men in the vigour of their manhood do; and conscience
still fills them with its old monitions and reproaches. But it cannot
enforce obedience. They feel it to be the truth, but at the same time
they know it to be a lie; and though they long to be coerced by it, they
find it cannot coerce them. Reason, which was once its minister, is now
the tribune of their passions, and forbids them, in times of passion,
to submit to it. They are not suffered to forget that it is not what it
says it is, that

    _It never came from on high,
      And never rose from below_:

and they cannot help chiding themselves with the irrepressible

    _Am I to be overawed
      By what I cannot but know,
    Is a juggle born of the brain?_

Thus their conscience, though not stifled, is dethroned; it is become a
fugitive Pretender; and that part of them that would desire its
restoration is set down as an intellectual _malignant_, powerless indeed
to restore its sovereign.

    _Invalidasque tibi tendens, heu non tua, palmas._

Conscience, in short, as soon as its power is needed, is like their own
selves dethroned within themselves, wringing its hands over a rebellion
it is powerless to suppress. And then, when the storm is over, when the
passions again subside, and their lives once more return to their wonted
channels, it can only come back humbly and dejected, and give them in a
timid voice a faint, dishonoured blessing.

Such lives as these are all of them really in a state of moral
consumption. The disease in its earlier stage is a very subtle one; and
it may not be generally fatal for years, or even for generations. But
it is a disease that can be transmitted from parent to child; and its
progress is none the less sure because it is slow; nor is it less fatal
and painful because it may often give a new beauty to the complexion. On
various constitutions it takes hold in various ways, and its presence is
first detected by the sufferer under various trials, and betrayed to the
observer by various symptoms. What I have just been describing is the
action that is at the root of it; but with the individual it does not
always take that form. Often indeed it does; but oftener still perhaps
it is discovered not in the helpless yet reluctant yielding to vice, but
in the sadness and the despondency with which virtue is practised--in
the dull leaden hours of blank endurance or of difficult endeavour; or
in the little satisfaction that, when the struggle has ceased, the
reward of struggle brings with it.

An earlier, and perhaps more general symptom still, is one that is not
personal. It consists not in the way in which men regard themselves, but
in the way in which they regard others. In their own case, their
habitual desire of right, and their habitual aversion to wrong, may have
been enough to keep them from any open breach with conscience, or from
putting it to an open shame. But its precarious position is revealed to
them when they turn to others. Sin from which they recoil themselves
they see committed in the life around them, and they find that it
cannot excite the horror or disapproval, which from its supposed nature
it should. They find themselves powerless to pass any general judgment,
or to extend the law they live by to any beyond themselves. The whole
prospect that environs them has become morally colourless; and they
discern in their attitude towards the world without, what it must one
day come to be towards the world within. A state of mind like this is no
dream. It is a malady of the modern world--a malady of our own
generation, which can escape no eyes that will look for it. It is
betraying itself every moment around us, in conversation, in literature,
and in legislation.

Such, then, is the condition of that large and increasing class on which
modern thought is beginning to do its work. Its work must be looked for
here, and not in narrower quarters; not amongst professors and
lecturers, but amongst the busy crowd about us; not on the platforms of
institutions, or in the lay sermons of specialists, but amongst
politicians, artists, sportsmen, men of business, lovers--in '_the tides
of life, and in the storm of action_'--amongst men who have their own
way to force or choose in the world, and their daily balance to strike
between self-denial and pleasure--on whom the positive principles have
been forced as true, and who have no time or talent to do anything else
but live by them. It is amongst these that we must look to see what
such principles really result in; and of these we must choose not those
who would welcome license, but those who long passionately to live by
law. It is the condition of such men that I have been just describing.
Its characteristics are vain self-reproach, joyless commendation, weary
struggle, listless success, general indifference, and the prospect that
if matters are going thus badly with them, they will go even worse with
their children.

Such a spectacle certainly is not one that has much promise for the
optimist; and the more we consider it, the more sad and ominous will it
appear to us. Indeed, when the present age shall realise its own
condition truly, the dejection of which it is slowly growing conscious
may perhaps give way to despair. This condition, however, is so
portentous that it is difficult to persuade ourselves that it is what it
seems to be, and that it is not a dream. But the more steadily we look
at it, the more real will its appalling features appear to us. We are
literally in an age to which history can show no parallel, and which is
new to the experience of humanity; and though the moral dejection we
have been dwelling on may have had many seeming counterparts in other
times, this is, as it were, solid substance, whereas they were only
shadows. I have pointed out already in my first chapter how unexampled
is the state in which the world now finds itself; but we will dwell
once again upon its more general features. Within less than a century,
distance has been all but annihilated, and the earth has practically,
and to the imagination, been reduced to a fraction of its former size.
Its possible resources have become mean and narrow, set before us as
matters of every-day statistics. All the old haze of wonder is melting
away from it; and the old local enthusiasms, which depended so largely
on ignorance and isolation, are melting likewise. Knowledge has
accumulated in a way never before dreamed of. The fountains of the past
seem to have been broken up, and to be pouring all their secrets into
the consciousness of the present. For the first time man's wide and
varied history has become a coherent whole to him. Partly a cause and
partly a result of this, a new sense has sprung up in him--an intense
self-consciousness as to his own position; and his entire view of
himself is undergoing a vague change: whilst the positive basis on which
knowledge has been placed, has given it a constant and coercive force,
and has made the same change common to the whole civilised world.
Thought and feeling amongst the western nations are conforming to a
single pattern: they are losing their old chivalrous character, their
possibilities of isolated conquest and intellectual adventure. They are
settling down into a uniform mass, that moves or stagnates like a
modern army, and whose alternative lines of march have been mapped out
beforehand. Such is the condition of the western world; and the western
world is beginning now, at all points, to bear upon the east. Thus
opinions that the present age is forming for itself have a weight and a
volume that opinions never before possessed. They are the first
beginnings, not of natural, or of social, but of human opinion--an
oecumenical self-consciousness on the part of man as to his own
prospects and his own position. The great question is, what shape
finally will this dawning self-consciousness take? Will it contain in it
that negation of the supernatural which our positive assertions are at
present supposed to necessitate? If so, then it is not possible to
conceive that this last development of humanity, this stupendous break
from the past which is being accomplished by our understanding of it,
will not be the sort of break which takes place when a man awakes from a
dream, and finds all that he most prized vanished from him. It is
impossible to conceive that this awakening, this discovery by man of
himself, will not be the beginning of his decadence; that it will not be
the discovery on his part that he is a lesser and a lower thing than he
thought he was, and that his condition will not sink till it tallies
with his own opinion of it.

If this be really the case, we shall not be able to dispose of
pessimism by calling it a disease; for the disease will be real and
universal, and pessimism will be nothing but the scientific description
of it. The pessimist is only silenced by being called diseased, when it
is meant that the disease imputed to him is either hypochondriacal or
peculiar to himself. But in the present case the disease is real,
deep-seated, and extending steadily. The only question for us is, is it
curable or incurable? This the event alone can answer: but as no future
can be produced but through the agency of the present, the event, to a
certain extent, must be in our own hands. For us, at any rate, the first
thing to be done is to face boldly our own present condition, and the
causes that are producing it. To become alive to our danger is the one
way to escape from it. But the danger is at present felt rather than
known. The class of men we are considering are conscious, as Mr. Matthew
Arnold says, '_of a void that mines the breast_;' but each thinks that
this is a fancy only, and hardly dares communicate it to his fellows.
Here and there, however, by accident, it is already finding unintended
expression; and signs come to the surface of the vague distrust and
misgiving that are working under it. The form it takes amongst the
general masses that are affected by it is, as might be expected,
practical rather than analytical. They are conscious of the loss that
the loss of faith is to them; and more or less coherently they long for
its recovery. Outwardly, indeed, they may often sneer at it; but outward
signs in such matters are very deceiving. Much of the bitter and
arrogant certitude to be found about us in the expression of unbelief,
is really like the bitterness of a woman against her lover, which has
not been the cause of her resolving to leave him, but which has been
caused by his having left her. In estimating what is really the state of
feeling about us, we must not look only at the surface. We must remember
that deep feeling often expresses itself by contradicting itself; also
that it often exists where it is not expressed at all, or where it
betrays rather than expresses itself; and, further, that during the
hours of common intercourse, it tends, for the time being, to disappear.
People cannot be always exclaiming in drawing-rooms that they have lost
their Lord; and the fact may be temporarily forgotten because they have
lost their portmanteau. All serious reflections are like reflections in
water--a pebble will disturb them, and make a dull pond sparkle. But the
sparkle dies, and the reflection comes again. And there are many about
us, though they never confess their pain, and perhaps themselves hardly
like to acknowledge it, whose hearts are aching for the religion that
they can no longer believe in. Their lonely hours, between the intervals
of gaiety, are passed with barren and sombre thoughts; and a cry rises
to their lips but never passes them.

Amongst such a class it is somehow startling to find the most unlikely
people at times placing themselves. Professor Clifford, for instance,
who of all our present positivists is most uproarious in his optimism,
has yet admitted that the religion he invites us to trample on is, under
certain forms, an ennobling and sustaining thing; and for such theism as
that of Charles Kingsley's he has expressed his deepest reverence.
Again, there is Professor Huxley. He denies with the most dogmatic and
unbending severity any right to man to any supernatural faith; and he
'_will not for a moment admit_' that our higher life will suffer in
consequence.[29] And yet '_the lover of moral beauty_,' he says
wistfully, '_struggling through a world of sorrow and sin, is surely as
much the stronger for believing that sooner or later a vision of perfect
peace and goodness will burst upon him, as the toiler up a mountain for
the belief that beyond crag and snow lie home and rest_.' And he adds,
as we have seen already, that could a faith like what he here indicates
be placed upon a firm basis, mankind would cling to it as '_tenaciously
as ever a drowning sailor did to a hen-coop_.' But all this wide-spread
and increasing feeling is felt at present to be of no avail. The wish to
believe is there; but the belief is as far off as ever. There is a power
in the air around us by which man's faith seems paralysed. The
intellect, we were thinking but now, had acquired a new vigour and a
clearer vision; but the result of this growth is, with many, to have
made it an incubus, and it lies upon all their deepest hopes and wishes

                  _Like a weight
    Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life._

Such is the condition of mind that is now spreading rapidly, and which,
sooner or later, we must look steadily in the face. Nor is it confined
to those who are its direct victims. Those who still cling, and cling
firmly, to belief are in an indirect way touched by it. Religion cannot
fail to be changed by the neighbourhood of irreligion. If it is
persecuted, it may burn up with greater fervour; but if it is not
persecuted, it must in some measure be chilled. Believers and
unbelievers, separated as they are by their tenets, are yet in these
days mixed together in all the acts and relations of life. They are
united by habits, by blood, and by friendship, and they are each obliged
continually to ignore or excuse what they hold to be the errors of the
other. In a state of things like this, it is plain that the conviction
of believers can have neither the fierce intensity that belongs to a
minority under persecution, nor the placid confidence that belongs to an
overwhelming majority. They can neither hate the unbelievers, for they
daily live in amity with them, nor despise altogether their judgment,
for the most eminent thinkers of the day belong to them. By such
conditions as these the strongest faith cannot fail to be affected. As
regards the individuals who retain it, it may not lose its firmness, but
it must lose something of its fervour; and as regards its own future
hold upon the human race, it is faith no longer, but is anxious doubt,
or, at best, a desperate trust. Dr. Newman has pointed out how even the
Pope has recognised in the sedate and ominous rise of our modern
earth-born positivism some phenomenon vaster and of a different nature
from the outburst of a petulant heresy; he seems to recognise it as a
belligerent rather than a rebel.[30] '_One thing_,' says Dr. Newman,
'_except by an almost miraculous interposition, cannot be; and that is a
return to the universal religious sentiment, the public opinion, of the
mediæval time. The Pope himself calls those centuries "the ages of
faith." Such endemic faith may certainly be decreed for some future
time; but_ _as far as we have the means of judging at present,
centuries must run out first._'[31]

In this last sentence is indicated the vast and universal question,
which the mind of humanity is gathering itself together to ask--will the
faith that we are so fast losing ever again revive for us? And my one
aim in this book has been to demonstrate that the entire future tone of
life, and the entire course of future civilisation, depends on the
answer which this question receives.

There is, however, this further point to consider. Need the answer we
are speaking of be definite and universal? or can we look forward to its
remaining undecided till the end of time? Now I have already tried to
make it evident that for the individual, at any rate, it must by-and-by
be definite one way or the other. The thorough positive thinker will not
be able to retain in supreme power principles which have no positive
basis. He cannot go on adoring a hunger which he knows can never be
satisfied, or cringing before fears which he knows will never be
realised. And even if this should for a time be possible, his case will
be worse, not better. Conscience, if it still remains with him, will
remain not as a living thing--a severe but kindly guide--but as the
menacing ghost of the religion he has murdered, and which comes to
embitter degradation, not to raise it. The moral life, it is true, will
still exist for him, but it will probably, in literal truth,

                    _Creep on a broken wing
    Through cells of madness, haunts of horror and fear._

But a state of things like this can hardly be looked forward to as
conceivably of any long continuance. Religion would come back, or
conscience would go. Nor do I think that the future which Dr. Newman
seems to anticipate can be regarded as probable either. He seems to
anticipate a continuance side by side of faith and positivism, each with
their own adherents, and fighting a ceaseless battle in which neither
gains the victory. I venture to submit that the new forms now at work in
the world are not forms that will do their work by halves. When once the
age shall have mastered them, they will be either one thing or the
other--they will be either impotent or omnipotent. Their public
exponents at present boast that they will be omnipotent; and more and
more the world about us is beginning to believe the boast. But the world
feels uneasily that the import of it will be very different from what we
are assured it is. One English writer, indeed, on the positive side, has
already seen clearly what the movement really means, whose continuance
and whose consummation he declares to us to be a necessity. '_Never_,'
he says, '_in the history of man has so terrific a calamity befallen the
race as that which all who look may now behold, advancing as a deluge,
black with destruction, resistless in might, uprooting our most
cherished hopes, engulfing our most precious creed, and burying our
highest life in mindless desolation._'[32]

The question I shall now proceed to is the exact causes of this
movement, and the chances and the powers that the human race has of
resisting it.


[29] '_For my own part, I do not for one moment admit that morality is
not strong enough to hold its own._'--Prof. Huxley, _Nineteenth
Century_, May, 1877.

[30] These words may no doubt be easily pressed into a sense which
Catholics would repudiate. But if not pressed unduly, they represent
what will, I believe, be admitted to be a fact.

[31] A letter to the Duke of Norfolk, by J.H. Newman, D.D., p. 35.
Pickering: 1875.

[32] A Candid Examination of Theism. By Physicus. Trübner & Co.: 1878.



                    _I am Sir Oracle,
    And when I ope my mouth let no dog bark._

Before beginning to analyse the forces that are decomposing religious
belief, it will be well to remark briefly on the means by which these
forces are applied to the world at large. To a certain extent they are
applied directly; that is, many of the facts that are now becoming
obvious the common sense of all men assimilates spontaneously, and
derives, unbidden, its own doubts or denials from them. But the chief
power of positivism is derived otherwise. It is derived not directly
from the premisses that it puts before us, but from the intellectual
prestige of its exponents, who, to the destruction of private judgment,
are forcing on us their own personal conclusions from them. This
prestige, indeed, is by no means to be wondered at. If men ever believed
a teacher '_for his works' sake_,' the positive school is associated
with enough signs and wonders. All those astonishing powers that man has
acquired in this century are with much justice claimed by it as its
works and gifts. The whole sensuous surroundings of our lives are its
subjects, and are doing it daily homage; and there is not a conquest
over distance, disease, or darkness that does not seem to bear witness
to its intellectual supremacy. The opinion, therefore, that is now
abroad in the world is that the positive school are the monopolists of
unbiassed reason; that reason, therefore, is altogether fatal to
religion; and that those who deny this, only do so through ignorance or
through wilful blindness. As long as this opinion lasts, the revival of
faith is hopeless. What we are now about to examine is, how far this
opinion is well founded.

The arguments which operate against religion with the leaders of modern
thought, and through their intellectual example on the world at large,
divide themselves into three classes, and are derived from three
distinct branches of thought and study. They may be distinguished as
physical, moral, and historical. Few of these arguments, taken
separately, can be called altogether new. Their new power has been
caused by the simultaneous filling up and completion of all of them; by
their transmutation from filmy visions into massive and vast realities;
from unauthorised misgivings into the most rigid and compelling of
demonstrations: and still more, by the brilliant and sudden annihilation
of the most obvious difficulties, which till very lately had neutralised
and held their power in check.

Of these three sets of arguments, the two first bear upon all religion,
whilst the third bears upon it only as embodied in some exclusive form.
Thus the physicist argues, for example, that consciousness being a
function of the brain, unless the universe be a single brain itself,
there can be no conscious God.[33] The moral philosopher argues that sin
and misery being so prevalent, there can be no Almighty and all-merciful
God. And the historian argues that all alleged revelations can be shown
to have had analogous histories; and that therefore, even if God exists,
there is no one religion through which He has specially revealed
Himself. These are rough specimens solubly, _so far as observation can
carry us_, mind with matter. The great gulf between the two has at last
been spanned. The bridge across it, that was so long seen in dreams and
despaired of, has been thrown triumphantly--a solid compact fabric, on
which a hundred intellectual masons are still at work, adding stone on
ponderous stone to it. Science, to put the matter in other words, has
accomplished these three things. Firstly, to use the words of a
well-known writer, '_it has established a functional relation to exist
between every fact of thinking, willing, or feeling, on the one side,
and some molecular change in the body on the other side_.' Secondly, it
has connected, through countless elusive stages, this organic human body
with the universal lifeless matter. And thirdly, it claims to have
placed the universal matter itself in a new position for us, and to
exhibit all forms of life as developed from it, through its own
spontaneous motion. Thus for the first time, beyond the reach of
question, the entire sensible universe is brought within the scope of
the physicist. Everything that is, is matter moving. Life itself is
nothing but motion of an infinitely complex kind. It is matter in its
finest ferment. The first traceable beginnings of it are to be found in
the phenomenon of crystallisation; we have there, we are told by the
highest scientific authority, '_the first gropings of the so-called
vital force_;' and we learn from the same quarter, that between these
and the brain of Christ there is a difference in degree only, not in
kind: they are each of them '_an assemblage of molecules, acting and
re-acting according to law_.' '_We believe_,' says Dr. Tyndall, '_that
every thought and every feeling has its definite mechanical
correlative--that it is accompanied by a certain breaking up and
re-marshalling of the atoms of the brain_.' And though he of course
admits that to trace out the processes in detail is infinitely beyond
our powers, yet '_the quality of the problem and of our powers_,' he
says, '_are, we believe, so related, that a mere expansion of the latter
would enable them to cope with the former_.' Nowhere is there any break
in Nature; and '_supposing_,' in Dr. Tyndall's words, '_a planet carved
from the sun, set spinning on an axis, and sent revolving round the sun
at a distance equal to that of our earth_,' science points to the
conclusion that as the mass cooled, it would flower out in places into
just such another race as ours--creatures of as large discourse, and,
like ourselves, looking before and after. The result is obvious. Every
existing thing that we can ever know, or hope to know, in the whole
inward as well as in the whole outward world--everything from a star to
a thought, or from a flower to an affection, is connected with certain
material figures, and with certain mechanical forces. All have a certain
bulk and a certain place in space, and could conceivably be made the
subjects of some physical experiment. Faith, sanctity, doubt, sorrow,
and love, could conceivably be all gauged and detected by some
scientific instrument--by a camera or by a spectroscope; and their
conditions and their intensity be represented by some sort of diagram.

These marvellous achievements, as I have said, have been often before
dreamed of. Now they are accomplished. As applied to natural religion,
the effect of them is as follows.

Firstly, with regard to God, they have taken away every external proof
of His existence, and, still more, every sign of His daily providence.
They destroy them completely at a sudden and single blow, and send them
falling about us like so many dead flies. God, as connected with the
external world, was conceived of in three ways--as a Mover, as a
Designer, and as a Superintendent. In the first two capacities He was
required by thought; in the last, He was supposed to be revealed by
experience. But now in none of these is He required or revealed longer.
So far as thought goes, He has become a superfluity; so far as
experience goes, He has become a fanciful suggestion.

Secondly, with regard to man, the life and soul are presented to us, not
as an entity distinct from the body, and therefore capable of surviving
it, but as a function of it, or the sum of its functions, which has
demonstrably grown with its growth, which is demonstrably dependent upon
even its minutest changes, and which, for any sign or hint to the
contrary, will be dissolved with its dissolution.

A God, therefore, that is the master of matter, and a human soul that is
independent of it--any second world, in fact, of alien and
trans-material forces, is reduced, on physical grounds, to an utterly
unsupported hypothesis. Were this all, however, it would logically have
on religion no effect at all. It would supply us with nothing but the
barren verbal proposition that the immaterial was not material, or that
we could find no trace of it by merely studying matter. Its whole force
rests on the following suppressed premiss, that nothing exists but what
the study of matter conceivably could reveal to us; or that, in other
words, the immaterial equals the nonexistent. The case stands thus. The
forces of thought and spirit were supposed formerly to be quite distinct
from matter, and to be capable of acting without the least connection
with it. Now, it is shown that every smallest revelation of these to us,
is accomplished by some local atomic movement, which, on a scientific
instrument fine enough, would leave a distinct impression; and thus it
is argued that no force is revealed through matter that is not
inseparable from the forms revealing it. Here we see the meaning of that
great modern axiom, that verification is the test of truth; or that we
can build on nothing as certain but what we can prove true. The meaning
of the word '_proof_' by itself may perhaps be somewhat hazy; but the
meaning that positive science attaches to it is plain enough. A fact is
only proved when the evidence it rests upon leaves us no room for
doubt--when it forces on every mind the same invincible conviction; that
is, in other words, when, directly or indirectly, its material
equivalent can be impressed upon our bodily senses.

This is the fulcrum of the modern intellectual lever. Ask anyone
oppressed and embittered by the want of religion the reason why he does
not again embrace it, and the answer will still be this--that there is
no proof that it is true. Granting, says Professor Huxley, that a
religious creed would be beneficial, '_my next step is to ask for a_
proof _of its dogmas_.' And with contemptuous passion another well-known
writer, Mr. Leslie Stephen, has classified all beliefs, according as we
can prove or not prove them, into realities and empty dreams. '_The
ignorant and childish_,' he says, '_are hopelessly unable to draw the
line between dreamland and reality; but the imagery which takes its rise
in the imagination as distinguished from the perceptions, bears
indelible traces of its origin in comparative unsubstantiality and
vagueness of outline_.' And '_now_,' he exclaims, turning to the
generation around him, '_at last your creed is decaying. People have
discovered that you know nothing about it; that heaven and hell belong
to dreamland; that the impertinent young curate who tells me that I
shall be burnt everlastingly for not sharing his superstition, is just
as ignorant as I myself, and that I know as much as my dog._'[34]

Such is that syllogism of the physical sciences which is now supposed to
be so invincible against all religion, and which has already gone so far
towards destroying the world's faith in it. Now as to the minor premiss,
that there is no proof of religion, we may concede, _at least
provisionally_, that it is completely true. What it is really important
to examine is the major premiss, that we can be certain of nothing that
we cannot support by proof. This it is plain does not stand on the same
footing as the former, for it is of its very nature not capable of being
proved itself. Its foundation is something far less definable--the
general character for wisdom of the leading thinkers who have adopted
it, and the general acceptance of its consequences by the common sense
of mankind.

Now if we examine its value by these tests, the result will be somewhat
startling. We find that not only are mankind at large as yet but very
partially aware of its consequences, but that its true scope and meaning
has not even dawned dimly on the leading thinkers themselves. Few
spectacles, indeed, in the whole history of thought are more ludicrous
than that of the modern positive school with their great doctrine of
verification. They apply it rigorously to one set of facts, and then
utterly fail to see that it is equally applicable to another. They apply
it to religion, and declare that the dogmas of religion are dreams; but
when they pass from the dogmas of religion to those of morality, they
not only do not use their test, but unconsciously they denounce it with
the utmost vehemence. Thus Mr. Leslie Stephen, in the very essay from
which I have just now quoted, not only has recourse, for giving weight
to his arguments, to such ethical epithets as _low_, _lofty_, and even
_sacred_, but he puts forward as his own motive for speaking, a belief
which on his own showing is a dream. That motive, he says, is devotion
to truth for its own sake--the only principle that is really worthy of
man. His argument is simply this. It is man's holiest and most important
duty to discover the truth at all costs, and the one test of truth is
physical verification. Here he tells us we find the only high morality,
and the men who cling to religious dream-dogmas which they cannot
physically verify, can only answer their opponents, says Mr. Stephen,
'_by a shriek or a sneer_.' '_The sentiment_,' he proceeds, '_which the
dreamer most thoroughly hates and misunderstands, is the love of truth
for its own sake. He cannot conceive why a man should attack a lie
simply because it is a lie._' Mr. Stephen is wrong. That is exactly what
the dreamer can do, and no one else but he; and Mr. Stephen is himself a
dreamer when he writes and feels like this. Why, let me ask him, should
the truth be loved? Do the '_perceptions_,' which are for him the only
valid guides, tell him so? The perceptions tell him, as he expressly
says, that the truths of nature, so far as man is concerned with them,
are '_harsh_' truths. Why should '_harsh_' things be loveable? Or
supposing Mr. Stephen does love them, why is that love '_lofty_'? and
why should he so brusquely command all other men to share it? _Low_ and
_lofty_--what has Mr. Stephen to do with words like these? They are part
of the language of dreamland, not of real life. Mr. Stephen has no right
to them. If he has, he must be able to draw a hard and fast line between
them; for if his conceptions of them be '_vague in outline_' and
'_unsubstantial_,' they belong by his own express definition to the land
of dreams. But this is what Mr. Stephen, with the solemn imbecility of
his school, is quite incapable of seeing. Professor Huxley is in exactly
the same case. He says, as we have seen already, that, come what may of
it, our highest morality is to follow truth; that the '_lowest depth of
immorality_' is to _pretend to believe what we see no reason for
believing_;' and that our only proper reasons for belief are some
physical, some _perceptible_ evidence. And yet at the same time he says
that to '_attempt to upset morality_' by the help of the physical
sciences is about as rational or as possible as to '_attempt to upset
Euclid by the help of the Rig Veda_.' Now on Professor Huxley's
principles, this last sentence, though it sounds very weighty, is, if so
ungracious a word may be allowed me, nothing short of nonsense. It would
be the lowest depth of immorality, he says, to believe in God, when we
see that there is no physical evidence to justify the belief. And
physical science in this way he admits--he indeed proclaims--has upset
religion. How then has physical science in the same way failed to upset
morality? The foundation of morality, he says, is the belief that truth
for its own sake is sacred. But what proof can he discover of this
sacredness? Does any positive method of experience or observation so
much as tend to suggest it? We have already seen that it does not. What
Professor Huxley's philosophy really proves to him is that it is true
that nothing is sacred; not that it is a sacred thing to discover the

We saw all this already when we were examining his comparison of the
perception of moral beauty to the perception of the heat of ginger. It
is the same thing with which we are again dealing now, only we are
approaching it from a slightly different point of view. What we saw
before, was that without an assent to the religious dogmas, the moral
dogmas can have no logical meaning. We have now seen that even were the
two logically independent, they yet belong both of them to the same
order of things; and that if our tests of truth prove the former to be
illusions, they will, with precisely the same force, prove the same
thing of the latter.

But the most crucial test of all we have still to come to, which will
put this conclusion in a yet clearer and a more unmistakable light. Thus
far what we have seen has amounted to only this--that if science can
take from man his religious faith, it leaves him a being without any
moral guidance. What we shall now see is that, by the same arguments,
it will prove him to be not a moral being at all; that it will prove not
only that he has no rule by which to direct his will, but also that he
has no will to direct.

To understand this we must return to physical science, and to the exact
results that have been accomplished by it. We have seen how completely,
from one point of view, it has connected mind with matter, and how
triumphantly it is supposed to have unified the apparent dualism of
things. It has revealed the brain to us as matter in a combination of
infinite complexity, which it has reached at last through its own
automatic workings; and it has revealed consciousness to us as a
function of this brain, and as altogether inseparable from it. But for
this, the old dualism now supposed to be obsolete would remain
undisturbed. Indeed, if this doctrine were denied, such a dualism would
be the only alternative. For every thought, then, that we think, and
every feeling or desire that we feel, there takes place in the brain
some definite material movement, on the force or figure of which the
thoughts and feelings are dependent. Now if physical observations are to
be the only things that guide us, one important fact will become at once
evident. Matter existed and fermented long before the evolution of mind;
mind is not an exhibition of new forces, but the outcome of a special
combination of old. Mental facts are therefore essentially dependent on
molecular facts; molecular facts are not dependent on mental. They may
seem to be so, but this is only seeming. They are as much the outcome of
molecular groupings and movements as the figures in a kaleidoscope are
of the groupings and movements of the colored bits of glass. They are
things entirely by the way; and they can as little be considered links
in any chain of causes as can the figure in a kaleidoscope be called the
cause of the figure that succeeds it.

The conclusion, however, is so distasteful to most men, that but few of
them can be brought even to face it, still less to accept it. There is
not a single physicist of eminence--none at least who has spoken
publicly on the moral aspects of life--who has honestly and fairly
considered it, and said plainly whether he accepts it, rejects it, or is
in doubt about it. On the contrary, instead of meeting this question,
they all do their best to avoid it, and to hide it from themselves and
others in a vague haze of mystery. And there is a peculiarity in the
nature of the subject that has made this task an easy one. But the dust
they have raised is not impenetrable, and can, with a little patience,
be laid altogether.

The phenomenon of consciousness is in one way unique. It is the only
phenomenon with which science comes in contact, of which the scientific
imagination cannot form a coherent picture. It has a side, it is true,
that we can picture well enough--'_the thrilling of the nerves_,' as Dr.
Tyndall says, '_the discharging of the muscles, and all the subsequent
changes of the organism_.' But of how these changes come to have another
side, we can form no picture. This, it is perfectly true, is a complete
mystery. And this mystery it is that our modern physicists seize on, and
try to hide and lose in the shadow of it a conclusion which they admit
that, in any other case, a rigorous logic would force on them.

The following is a typical example of the way in which they do this. It
is taken from Dr. Tyndall. '_The mechanical philosopher, as such_,' he
says, '_will never place a state of consciousness and a group of
molecules in the position of mover and moved. Observation proves them to
interact; but in passing from one to the other, we meet a blank which
the logic of deduction is unable to fill.... I lay bare unsparingly the
initial difficulty of the materialist, and tell him that the facts of
observation which he considers so simple are "almost as difficult to be
seized as the idea of a soul." I go further, and say in effect: "If you
abandon the interpretation of grosser minds, who image the soul as a
Psyche which could be thrown out of the window--an entity which is
usually occupied we know not how, among the molecules of the brain, but
which on due occasion, such as the intrusion of a bullet, or the blow
of a club, can fly away into other regions of space--if abandoning this
heathen notion you approach the subject in the only way in which
approach is possible--if you consent to make your soul a poetic
rendering of a phenomenon which--as I have taken more pains than anyone
else to show you--refuses the ordinary yoke of physical laws, then I,
for one, would not object to this exercise of ideality." I say it
strongly, but with good temper, that the theologian who hacks and
scourges me for putting the matter in this light is guilty of black

Now if we examine this very typical passage, we shall see that in it are
confused two questions which, as regards our own relation to them, are
on a totally different footing. One of these questions cannot be
answered at all. The other can be answered in distinct and opposite
ways. About the one we must rest in wonder; about the other we must make
a choice. And the feat which our modern physicists are trying to perform
is to hide the importunate nature of the second in the dark folds of the
first. This first question is, Why should consciousness be connected
with the brain at all? The second question is, What is it when
connected? Is it simply the product of the brain's movement; or is the
brain's movement in any degree produced by it? We only know it, so to
speak, as the noise made by the working of the brain's machinery--as the
crash, the roar, or the whisper of its restless colliding molecules. Is
this machinery self-moving, or is it, at least, modulated, if not moved,
by some force other than itself? The brain is the organ of
consciousness, just as the instrument called an organ is an organ of
music; and consciousness itself is as a tune emerging from the
organ-pipes. Expressed in terms of this metaphor our two questions are
as follows. The first is, Why, when the air goes through them, are the
organ-pipes resonant? The second is, What controls the mechanism by
which the air is regulated--a musician, or a revolving barrel? Now what
our modern physicists fail to see is, not only that these two questions
are distinct in detail, but that also they are distinct in kind; that a
want of power to answer them means, in the two cases, not a distinct
thing only, but also an opposite thing; and that our confessed impotence
to form any conjecture at all as to the first, does not in the least
exonerate us from choosing between conjectures as to the second.

As to the first question, our discovery of the fact it is concerned
with, and our utter inability to account for this fact, has really no
bearing at all upon the great dilemma--the dilemma as to the unity or
the dualism of existence, and the independence or automatism of the life
and will of man. All that science tells us on this first head the whole
world may agree with, with the utmost readiness; and if any theologian
'_hacks and scourges_' Dr. Tyndall for his views thus far, he must,
beyond all doubt, be a very foolish theologian indeed. The whole bearing
of this matter modern science seems to confuse and magnify, and it
fancies itself assaulted by opponents who in reality have no existence.
Let a man be never so theological, and never so pledged to a faith in
myths and mysteries, he would not have the least interest in denying
that the brain, though we know not how, is the only seat for us of
thought and mind and spirit. Let him have never so firm a faith in life
immortal, yet this immortal has, he knows, put on mortality, through an
inexplicable contact with matter; and his faith is not in the least
shaken by learning that this point of contact is the brain. He can admit
with the utmost readiness that the brain is the only instrument through
which supernatural life is made at the same time natural life. He can
admit that the moral state of a saint might be detected by some form of
spectroscope. At first sight, doubtless, this may appear somewhat
startling; but there is nothing really in it that is either strange or
formidable. Dr. Tyndall says that the view indicated can, '_he thinks_,'
be maintained '_against all attack_.' But why he should apprehend any
attack at all, and why he should only '_think_' it would be
unsuccessful, it is somewhat hard to conceive. To say that a
spectroscope as applied to the brain might conceivably detect such a
thing as sanctity, is little more than to say that our eyes as applied
to the face can actually detect such a thing as anger. There is nothing
in that doctrine to alarm the most mystical of believers. In the
completeness with which it is now brought before us it is doubtless new
and wonderful, and will doubtless tend presently to clarify human
thought. But no one need fear to accept it as a truth; and probably
before long we shall all accept it as a truism. It is not denying the
existence of a soul to say that it cannot move in matter without leaving
some impress in matter, any more than it is denying the existence of an
organist to say that he cannot play to us without striking the notes of
his organ. Dr. Tyndall then need hardly have used so much emphasis and
iteration in affirming that '_every thought and feeling has its definite
mechanical correlative, that it is accompanied by a certain breaking-up
and re-marshalling of the atoms of the brain_.' And he is no more likely
to be '_hacked and scourged_' for doing so than he would be for
affirming that every note we hear in a piece of music has its definite
correlative in the mechanics of the organ, and that it is accompanied by
a depression and a rising again of some particular key. In his views
thus far the whole world may agree with him; whilst when he adds so
emphatically that in these views there is still involved a mystery, we
shall not so much say that the world agrees with him as that he, like a
good sensible man, agrees with the world. The passage from mind to
matter is, Dr. Tyndall says, unthinkable. The common sense of mankind
has always said the same. We have here a something, not which we are
doubtful how to explain, but which we cannot explain at all. We have not
to choose or halt between alternative conjectures, for there are
absolutely no conjectures to halt between. We are now, as to this point,
in the same state of mind in which we have always been, only this state
of mind has been revealed to us more clearly. We are in theoretical
ignorance, but we are in no practical perplexity.

The perplexity comes in with the second question; and it is here that
the issue lies between the affirmation and the denial of a second and a
supernatural order. We will see, first, how this question is put and
treated by Dr. Tyndall, and we will then see what his treatment comes
to. Is it true, he asks, as many physicists hold it is, '_that the
physical processes are complete in themselves, and would go on just as
they do if consciousness were not at all implicated_,' as an engine
might go on working though it made no noise, or as a barrel-organ might
go on playing even though there were no ear to listen to it? Or do
'_states of consciousness enter as links into the chain of antecedence
and sequence which gives rise to bodily actions?_' Such is the question
in Dr. Tyndall's own phrases; and here, in his own phrases also, comes
his answer. '_I have no power_,' he says, '_of imagining such states
interposed between the molecules of the brain, and influencing the
transference of motion among the molecules. The thing_ eludes all mental
presentation. _But_,' he adds, '_the production of consciousness by
molecular motion is quite as unpresentable to the mental vision as the
production of molecular motion by consciousness. If I reject one result,
I reject both. I, however, reject neither, and thus stand in the
presence of two Incomprehensibles, instead of one Incomprehensible._'

Now what does all this mean? There is one meaning of which the words are
capable, which would make them perfectly clear and coherent; but that
meaning, as we shall see presently, cannot possibly be Dr. Tyndall's.
They would be perfectly clear and coherent if he meant this by
them--that the brain was a natural instrument, in the hands of a
supernatural player; but that why the instrument should be able to be
played upon, and how the player should be able to play upon it, were
both matters on which he could throw no light. But elsewhere he has told
us expressly that he does not mean this. This he expressly says is '_the
interpretation of_ grosser _minds_,' and science will not for a moment
permit us to retain it. The brain contains no '_entity usually occupied
we know not how amongst its molecules_,' but at the same time separable
from them. According to him, this is a '_heathen_' notion, and, until we
abandon it, '_no approach_,' he says, '_to the subject is possible_.'
What does he mean, then, when he tells us he rejects neither result;
when he tells us that he believes that molecular motion produces
consciousness, and also that consciousness in its turn produces
molecular motion?--when he tells us distinctly of these two that
'_observation proves them to interact_'? If such language as this means
anything, it must have reference to two distinct forces, one material
and the other immaterial. Indeed, does he not himself say so? Does he
not tell us that one of the beliefs he does not reject is the belief in
'_states of consciousness_ interposed between _the molecules of the
brain, and influencing the transference of motion among the molecules_'?
It is perfectly clear, then, that these states are not molecules; in
other words, they are not material. But if not material, what are they,
acting on matter, and yet distinct from matter? What can they belong to
but that '_heathen_' thing the soul--that '_entity which could be thrown
out of the window_,' and which, as Dr. Tyndall has said elsewhere,
science forbids us to believe in? Surely for an exact thinker this is
thought in strange confusion. '_Matter_,' he says, '_I define as that
mysterious something by which all this is accomplished_;' and yet here
we find him, in the face of this, invoking some second mystery as well.
And for what reason? This is the strangest thing of all. He believes in
his second Incomprehensible _because_ he believes in his first
Incomprehensible. '_If I reject one result_,' he says, '_I_ must _reject
both. I, however, reject neither_.' But why? Because one undoubted fact
is a mystery, is every mystery an undoubted fact? Such is Dr. Tyndall's
logic in this remarkable utterance: and if this logic be valid, we can
at once prove to him the existence of a personal God, and a variety of
other '_heathen_' doctrines also. But, applied in this way, it is
evident that the argument fails to move him; for a belief in a personal
God is one of the first things that his science rejects. What shall we
say of him, then, when he applies the argument in his own way? We can
say simply this--that his mind for the time being is in a state of such
confusion, that he is incapable really of clearly meaning anything. What
his position logically must be--what, on other occasions, he clearly
avows it to be--is plain enough. It is essentially that of a man
confronted by one Incomprehensible, not confronted by two. But, looked
at in certain ways, or rather looked _from_ in certain ways, this
position seems to stagger him. The problem of existence reels and grows
dim before him, and he fancies that he detects the presence of two
Incomprehensibles, when he has really, in his state of mental
insobriety, only seen one Incomprehensible double. If this be not the
case, it must be one that, intellectually, is even weaker than this. It
must be that, not of a man with a single coherent theory which his
intellect in its less vigorous moments sometimes relaxes its hold upon,
but it must be that of a man with two hostile theories which he vainly
imagines to be one, and which he inculcates alternately, each with an
equal emphasis.

If this bewilderment were peculiar to Dr. Tyndall, I should have no
motive or meaning in thus dwelling on it. But it is no peculiarity of
his. It is characteristic of the whole school he belongs to; it is
inherent in our whole modern positivism--the whole of our exact and
enlightened thought. I merely choose Dr. Tyndall as my example, not
because there is more confusion in his mind than there is in that of his
fellow-physicists, but because he is, as it were, the _enfant terrible_
of his family, who publicly lets out the secrets which the others are
more careful to conceal.

But I have not done with this matter yet. We are here dealing with the
central problem of things, and we must not leave it till we have made it
as plain as possible. I will therefore re-state it in terms of another
metaphor. Let us compare the universal matter, with its infinity of
molecules, to a number of balls on a billiard-table, set in motion by
the violent stroke of a cue. The balls at once begin to strike each
other and rebound from the cushions at all angles and in all directions,
and assume with regard to each other positions of every kind. At last
six of them collide or cannon in a particular corner of the table, and
thus group themselves so as to form a human brain; and their various
changes thereafter, so long as the brain remains a brain, represent the
various changes attendant on a man's conscious life. Now in this life
let us take some moral crisis. Let us suppose the low desire to cling to
some pleasing or comforting superstition is contending with the heroic
desire to face the naked truth at all costs. The man in question is at
first about to yield to the low desire. For a time there is a painful
struggle in him. At last there is a sharp decisive pang; the heroic
desire is the conqueror, the superstition is cast away, and '_though
truth slay me_,' says the man, '_yet will I trust in it_.' Such is the
aspect of the question when approached from one side. But what is it
when approached from the other? The six billiard balls have simply
changed their places. When they corresponded to low desire, they formed,
let us say, an oval; when they corresponded to the heroic desire, they
formed, let us say, a circle. Now what is the cause and what the
conditions of this change? Clearly a certain impetus imparted to the
balls, and certain fixed laws under which that impetus operates. The
question is what laws and what impetus are these? Are they the same or
not the same, now the balls correspond to consciousness, as they were
before, when the balls did not correspond to it? One of two things must
happen. Either the balls go on moving by exactly the same laws and
forces they have always moved by, and are in the grasp of the same
invincible necessity, or else there is some new and disturbing force in
the midst of them, with which we have to reckon. But if consciousness is
inseparable from matter, this cannot be. Do the billiard-balls when so
grouped as to represent consciousness generate some second motive power
distinct from, at variance with, and often stronger than, the original
impetus? Clearly no scientific thinker can admit this. To do so would be
to undermine the entire fabric of science, to contradict what is its
first axiom and its last conclusion. If then the motion of our six
billiard balls has anything, when it corresponds to consciousness,
distinct in kind from what it always had, it can only derive this from
one cause. That cause is a second cue, tampering with the balls and
interfering with them, or even more than this--a second hand taking them
up and arranging them arbitrarily in certain figures.

Science places the positive school on the horns of a dilemma. The mind
or spirit is either arranged entirely by the molecules it is connected
with, and these molecules move with the same automatic necessity that
the earth moves with; or else these molecules are, partially at least,
arranged by the mind or spirit. If we do not accept the former theory we
must accept the latter: there is no third course open to us. If man is
not an automaton, his consciousness is no mere function of any physical
organ. It is an alien and disturbing element. Its impress on physical
facts, its disturbance of physical laws, may be doubtless the only
things through which we can perceive its existence; but it is as
distinct from the things by which we can alone at present perceive it,
as a hand unseen in the dark, that should arrest or change the course of
a phosphorescent billiard-ball. Once let us deny even in the most
qualified way that the mind in the most absolute way is a material
machine, an automaton, and in that denial we are affirming a second and
immaterial universe, independent of the material, and obeying different
laws. But of this universe, if it exists, no natural proof can be given,
because _ex hypothesi_ it lies quite beyond the region of nature.

One theory then of man's life is that it is a union of two orders of
things; another, that it is single, and belongs to only one. And of
these theories--opposite, and mutually exclusive, Dr. Tyndall, and
modern positivism with him, says '_I reject neither_.'[35]

Now this statement of their position, if taken as they state it, is of
course nonsense. It is impossible to consider matter as '_that
mysterious something by which all that is is accomplished;_' and then to
solve the one chief riddle of things by a second mysterious something
that is not material. Nor can we '_reject_,' as the positivists say they
do, an '_outside builder_' of the world, and then claim the assistance
of an _outside_ orderer of the brain. The positivists would probably
tell us that they do not do so, or that they do not mean to do so. And
we may well believe them. Their fault is that they do not know what they
mean. I will try to show them.

First, they mean something, with which, as I have said already, we may
all agree. They mean that matter moving under certain laws (which may
possibly be part and parcel of its own essence) combines after many
changes into the human brain, every motion of which has its definite
connection with consciousness, and its definite correspondence to some
state of it. And this fact is a mystery, though it may be questioned if
it be more mysterious why matter should think of itself, than why it
should move of itself. At any rate, thus far we are all agreed; and
whatever mystery we may be dealing with, it is one that leaves us in
ignorance but not in doubt. The doubt comes in at the next step. We have
then not to wonder at one fact, but, the mystery being in either case
the same, to choose between two hypotheses. The first is that there is
in consciousness one order of forces only, the second is that there are
two. And when the positive school say that they reject neither of these,
what they really mean to say is that as to the second they neither dare
openly do one thing or the other--to deny it or accept it, but that they
remain like an awkward child when offered some more pudding, blushing
and looking down, and utterly unable to say either yes or no.

Now the question to ask the positive school is this. Why are they in
this state of suspense? '_There is an iron strength in the logic_,' as
Dr. Tyndall himself says, that rejects the second order altogether. The
hypothesis of its existence explains no fact of observation. The scheme
of nature, if it cannot be wholly explained without it, can, at any
rate, be explained better without it than with it. Indeed from the
standpoint of the thinker who holds that all that is is matter, it seems
a thing too superfluous, too unmeaning, to be even worth denial. And yet
the positive school announce solemnly that they will not deny it. Now
why is this? It is true that they cannot prove its non-existence; but
this is no reason for professing a solemn uncertainty as to its
existence. We cannot prove that each time a cab drives down Regent
Street a stick of barley-sugar is not created in Sirius. But we do not
proclaim, to the world our eternal ignorance as to whether or no this is
so. Why then should our positivists treat in this way the alleged
immaterial part of consciousness? Why this emphatic protestation on
their part that there may exist a something which, as far as the needs
of their science go, is superfluous, and as far as the logic of their
science goes is impossible? The answer is plain. Though their science
does not need it, the moral value of life does. As to that value they
have certain foregone conclusions, which they cannot resolve to abandon,
but which their science can make no room for. Two alternatives are
offered them--to admit that life has not the meaning they thought it
had, or that their system has not the completeness they thought it had;
and of these two alternatives they will accept neither. They could tell
us '_with an iron strength of logic_' that all human sorrow was as
involuntary and as unmeaning as sea-sickness; that love and faith were
but distillations of what exists diluted in mutton-chops and beer; and
that the voice of one crying in the wilderness was nothing but an
automatic metamorphosis of the locusts and wild honey. They could tell
us '_with an iron strength of logic_' that all the thoughts and moral
struggles of humanity were but as the clanging whirr of a machine, which
if a little better adjusted might for the future go on spinning in
silence. But they see that the discovery on man's part that his life was
nothing more than this would mean a complete change in its mechanism,
and that thenceforward its entire action would be different. They
therefore seek a refuge in saying it _may_ be more than this. But what
do they mean by _may be_? Do they mean that in spite of all that science
can teach them, in spite of that uniformity absolute and omnipresent
which alone it reveals to them, which day by day it is forcing with more
vividness on their imaginations, and which seems to have no room for
anything besides itself--do they mean that in spite of this there may
still be a second something, a power of a different order, acting on
man's brain and grappling with its automatic movements? Do they mean
that that '_heathen_' and '_gross_' conception of an immaterial soul is
probably after all the true one? Either they must mean this or else they
must mean the exact opposite. There is no third course open to them.[36]

Their opinion, as soon as they form one, must rest either on this
extreme or that. They will see, as exact and scientific thinkers, that
if it be not practically certain that there is some supernatural entity
in us, it is practically certain that there is not one. To say merely
that it _may_ exist is but to put an ounce in one scale whilst there is
a ton in the other. It is an admission that is utterly dead and
meaningless. They can only entertain the question of its existence
because its existence is essential to man as a moral being. The only
reason that can tempt us to say it _may_ be forces us in the same moment
to say that it _must_ be, and that it _is_.

Which answer eventually the positive school will choose, and which
answer men in general will accept, I make as I have said before, no
attempt to answer. My only purpose to show is, that if man has any moral
being at all, he has it in virtue of his _immaterial_ will--a force, a
something of which physical science can give no account whatever, and
which it has no shadow of authority either for affirming or for denying;
and further, that if we are not prevented by it from affirming his
immaterial will, we are not prevented from affirming his immortality,
and the existence of God likewise.

And now I come to that third point which I said I should deal with here,
but which I have not yet touched upon. Every logical reasoner who admits
the power of will must admit not only the possibility of miracles, but
also the actual fact of their daily and hourly occurrence. Every
exertion of the human will is a miracle in the strictest sense of the
word; only it takes place privately, within the closed walls of the
brain. The molecules of the brain are arranged and ordered by a
supernatural agency. Their natural automatic movements are suspended, or
directed and interfered with. It is true that in common usage the word
_miracle_ has a more restricted sense. It is applied generally not to
the action of man's will, but of God's. But the sense in both cases is
essentially the same. God's will is conceived of as disturbing the
automatic movements of matter without the skull, in just the same way as
man's will is conceived of as disturbing those of the brain within it.
Nor, though the alleged manifestations of the former do more violence to
the scientific imagination than do those of the latter, are they in the
eye of reason one whit more impossible. The erection of a pyramid at the
will of an Egyptian king would as much disturb the course of nature as
the removal of a mountain by the faith of a Galilean fisherman; whilst
the flooding of the Sahara at the will of a speculating company would
interfere with the weather of Europe far more than the most believing of
men ever thought that any answer to prayer would.

It will thus be seen that morality and religion are, so far as science
goes, on one and the same footing--of one and the same substance, and
that as assailed by science they either fall together or stand
together. It will be seen too that the power of science against them
resides not in itself, but in a certain intellectual fulcrum that we
ourselves supply it with. That its methods can discover no trace of
either of them, of itself proves nothing, unless we first lay down as a
dogma that its methods of discovery are the only methods. If we are
prepared to abide by this, there is little more to be said. The rest, it
is becoming daily plainer, is a very simple process; and what we have to
urge against religion will thenceforth amount to this. There is no
supernatural, because everything is natural; there is no spirit, because
everything is matter; or there is no air, because everything is earth;
there is no fire, because everything is water; a rose has no smell
because our eyes cannot detect any.

This, in its simplest form, is the so-called argument of modern
materialism. Argument, however, it is quite plain it is not. It is a
mere dogmatic statement, that can give no logical account of itself, and
must trust, for its acceptance, to the world's vague sense of its
fitness. The modern world, it is true, has mistaken it for an argument,
and has been cowed by it accordingly; but the mistake is a simple one,
and can be readily accounted for. The dogmatism of denial was formerly a
sort of crude rebellion, inconsistent with itself, and vulnerable in a
thousand places. Nature, as then known, was, to all who could weigh the
wonder of it, a thing inexplicable without some supernatural agency.
Indeed, marks of such an agency seemed to meet men everywhere. But now
all this has changed. Step by step science has been unravelling the
tangle, and has loosened with its human fingers the knots that once
seemed _deo digni vindice_. It has enabled us to see in nature a
complete machine, needing no aid from without. It has made a conception
of things rational and coherent that was formerly absurd and arbitrary.
Science has done all this; but this is all that it has done. The
dogmatism of denial it has left as it found it, an unverified and
unverifiable assertion. It has simply made this dogmatism consistent
with itself. But in doing this, as men will soon come to see, it has
done a great deal more than its chief masters bargained for. Nature, as
explained by science, is nothing more than a vast automaton; and man
with all his ways and works is simply a part of Nature, and can, by no
device of thought, be detached from or set above it. He is as absolutely
automatic as a tree is, or as a flower is; and is an incapable as a tree
or flower of any spiritual responsibility or significance. Here we see
the real limits of science. It will explain the facts of life to us, it
is true, but it will not explain the value that hitherto we have
attached to them. Is that solemn value a fact or fancy? As far as proof
and reason go, we can answer either way. We have two simple and opposite
statements set against each other, between which argument will give us
no help in choosing, and between which the only arbiter is a judgment
formed upon utterly alien grounds. As for proof, the nature of the case
does not admit of it. The world of moral facts, if it existed a thousand
times, could give no more proof of its existence than it does now. If on
other grounds we believe that it does exist, then signs, if not proofs
of it, at once surround us everywhere. But let the belief in its reality
fail us, and instantly the whole cloud of witnesses vanishes. For
science to demand a proof that shall convince it on its own premisses is
to demand an impossibility, and to involve a contradiction in terms.
Science is only possible on the assumption that nature is uniform.
Morality is only possible on the assumption that this uniformity is
interfered with by the will. The world of morals is as distinct from the
world of science as a wine is from the cup that holds it; and to say
that it does not exist because science can find no trace of it, is to
say that a bird has not flown over a desert because it has left no
footprints in the sand. And as with morals, so it is with religion.
Science will allow us to deny or to affirm both. Reason will not allow
us to deny or affirm only one.


[33] The argument has been used in this exact form by Professor

[34] _Dreams and Realities_, by Leslie Stephen.

[35] The feebleness and vacillation of Dr. Tyndall's whole views of
things, as soon as they bear on matters that are of any universal
moment, is so typical of the entire positive thought of the day, that I
may with advantage give one or two further illustrations of it. Although
in one place he proclaims loudly that the emergence of consciousness
from matter must ever remain a mystery, he yet shows indication of a
hope that it may yet be solved. He quotes with approval, and with an
implication that he himself leans to the view expressed in them, the
following words of Ueberweg, whom he calls '_one of the subtlest heads
that Germany has produced_.' '_What happens in the brain_, says
Ueberweg, '_would in my opinion not be possible if the process which
here appears in its greatest concentration, did not obtain generally,
only in a vastly diminished degree. Take a pair of mice, and a cask of
flour. By copious nourishment the animals increase and multiply, and in
the same proportion sensations and feelings augment. The quantity of
these preserved by the first pair is not simply diffused among their
descendants, for in that case the last would feel more fully than the
first. The sensations and the feelings must necessarily be referred back
to the flour, where they exist, weak and pale, it is true, and not
concentrated, as in the brain._' '_We may not_,' Dr. Tyndall adds, by
way of a gloss to this, '_be able to taste or smell alcohol in a tub of
fermented cherries, but by distillation we obtain from them concentrated
Kirschwasser. Hence Ueberweg's comparison of the brain to a still, which
concentrates the sensation and feeling pre-existing, but diluted, in the

Let us now compare this with the following. '_It is no explanation_,'
says Dr. Tyndall, '_to say that objective and subjective are two sides
of one and the same phenomenon. Why should phenomena have two sides?
There are plenty of molecular motions which do not exhibit this
two-sidedness. Does water think or feel when it runs into frost-ferns
upon a window pane? If not, why should the molecular motions of the
brain be yoked to this mysterious companion consciousness?_'

Here we have two views, diametrically opposed to each other, the one
suggested with approval, and the other implied as his own, by the same
writer, and in the same short essay. The first view is that
consciousness is the general property of all matter, just as motion is.
The second view is that consciousness is not the general property of
matter, but the inexplicable property of the brain only.

Here again we have a similar inconsistency. Upon one page Dr. Tyndall
says that when we have '_exhausted physics, and reached its very rim, a
mighty Mystery stills looms beyond us. We have made no step towards its
solution. And thus it will ever loom._' And on the opposite page he says
thus: '_If asked whether science has solved, or is likely in our day to
solve, the problem of the universe, I must shake my head in doubt._'

Further, I will remind the reader of Dr. Tyndall's arguments, on one
occasion, against any outside builder or creator of the material
universe. He argued that such did not exist, because his supposed action
was not definitely presentable. '_I should enquire after its shape_,' he
says:--'_Has it legs or arms? If not, I would wish it to be made clear
to me how a thing without these appliances can act so perfectly the part
of a builder?_ He challenged the theist (the theist addressed at the
time was Dr. Martineau) to give him some account of his God's workings;
and '_When he does this_,' said Dr. Tyndall, '_I shall "demand of him an
immediate exercise" of the power "of definite mental presentation."_' If
he fails here, Dr. Tyndall argues, his case is at once disproved; for
nothing exists that is not thus presentable. Let us compare this with
his dealing with the fact of consciousness. Consciousness, he admits, is
not thus presentable; and yet consciousness, he admits, exists.

Instances might be multiplied of the same vacillation and confusion of
thought--the same feminine inability to be constant to one train of
reasoning. But those just given suffice. What weight can we attach to a
man's philosophy, who after telling us that consciousness may possibly
be an inherent property of matter, of which '_the receit of reason is a
limbec only_,' adds in the same breath almost, that matter generally is
certainly not conscious, and that consciousness comes to the brain we
know not whence nor wherefore? What shall we say of a man who in one
sentence tells us that it is impossible that science can ever solve the
riddle of things, and tells us in the next sentence that it is doubtful
if this impossibility will be accomplished within the next fifty
years?--who argues that God is a mystery, and therefore God is a
fiction; who admits that consciousness is a fact, and yet proclaims that
it is a mystery; and who says that the fact of matter producing
consciousness being a mystery, proves the mystery of consciousness
acting on matter to be a fact?

[36] It is true that one of the favourite teachings of the positive
school is, that as to this question the proper attitude is that of
Agnosticism; in other words, that a state of perpetual suspense on this
subject is the only rational one. They are asked, have we a soul, a
will, and consequently any moral responsibility? And the answer is that
they must shake their heads in doubt. It is true they tell us that it is
but _as men of science_ that they shake their heads. But Dr. Tyndall
tells us what this admission means. '_If the materialist is
confounded_,' he says, '_and science rendered dumb_, who else is
prepared with an answer? _Let us lower our heads and acknowledge our
ignorance, priest and philosopher--one and all._' In like manner,
referring to the feeling which others have supposed to be a sense of
God's presence and majesty: this, for the '_man of science_,' he says is
the sense of a '_power which gives fulness and force, to his existence,
but which he can neither analyse nor comprehend_.' Which means, that
because a physical specialist cannot analyse this sense, it is therefore
incapable of analysis. A bishop might with equal propriety use just the
same language about a glass of port wine, and argue with, equal cogency
that it was a primary and simple element. What is meant is, that the
facts of the materialist are the only facts we can be certain of; and
because these can give man no moral guidance, that therefore man can
have no moral guidance at all.

Let us illustrate the case by some example that is mentally presentable.
Some ruined girl, we will say, oppressed with a sense of degradation,
comes to Dr. Tyndall and lays her case before him. '_I have heard you
are a very wise man_,' she says to him, '_and that you have proved that
the priest is all wrong, who prepared me a year ago for my confirmation.
Now tell me, I beseech you tell me, is mine really the desperate state I
have been taught to think it is? May my body be likened to the temple of
the Holy Ghost defiled? or do I owe it no more reverence than I owe the
Alhambra Theatre? Am I guilty, and must I seek repentance? or am I not
guilty, and may I go on just as I please?' 'My dear girl_,' Dr. Tyndall
replies to her, '_I must shake my head in doubt. Come, let its lower our
heads, and acknowledge our ignorance as to whether you are a wretched
girl or no. Materialism is confounded, and science rendered dumb by
questions such as yours; they can, therefore, never be answered, and
must always remain open. I may add, however, that if you ask me
personally whether I consider you to be degraded, I lean to the
affirmative. But I can give you no reason in support of this judgment,
so you may attach to it what value you will._'

Such is the position of agnostics, when brought face to face with the
world. They are undecided only about one question, and this is the one
question which cannot be left undecided. Men cannot remain agnostics as
to belief that their actions must depend upon, any more than a man who
is compelled to go on walking can refrain from choosing one road or
other when there are two open to him. Nor does it matter that our
believing may in neither case amount to a complete certitude. It is
sufficient that the balance of probability be on one side or the other.
Two ounces will out-weigh one ounce, quite as surely as a ton will. But
what our philosophers profess to teach us (in so far as they profess to
be agnostics, and disclaim being dogmatists) is, that there is no
balance either way. The message they shout to us is, that they have no
message at all; and that because they are without one, the whole world
is in the same condition.



    _Credo quia impossibile est._

If we look calmly at the possible future of human thought, it will
appear from what we have just seen, that physical science of itself can
do little to control or cramp it; nor until man consents to resign his
belief in virtue and his own dignity altogether, will it be able to
repress religious faith, should other causes tend to produce a new
outbreak of it. But the chief difficulties in the matter are still in
store for us. Let us see never so clearly that science, if we are moral
beings, can do nothing to weaken our belief in God and immortality, but
still leaves us free, if we will, to believe in them, it seems getting
clearer and yet more clear that these beliefs are inconsistent with
themselves, and conflict with these very moral feelings, of which they
are invoked as an explanation. Here it is true that reason does confront
us, and what answer to make to it is a very serious question. This
applies even to natural religion in its haziest and most compliant form;
and as applied to any form of orthodoxy its force is doubled. What we
have seen thus far is, that if there be a moral world at all, our
knowledge of nature contains nothing inconsistent with theism. We have
now to enquire how far theism is inconsistent with our conceptions of
the moral world.

In treating these difficulties, we will for the present consider them as
applying only to religion in general, not to any special form of it. The
position of orthodoxy we will reserve for a separate treatment. For
convenience' sake, however, I shall take as a symbol of all religion the
vaguer and more general teachings of Christianity; but I shall be
adducing them not as teachings revealed by heaven, but simply as
developed by the religious consciousness of men.

To begin then with the great primary difficulties: these, though they
take various forms, can all in the last resort be reduced to two--the
existence of evil in the face of the power of God, and the freedom of
man's will in the face of the will of God. And what I shall try to make
plain with respect to these is this: not that they are not
difficulties--not that they are not insoluble difficulties; but that
they are not difficulties due to religion or theism, nor by abandoning
theism can we in any way escape from them. They start into being not
with the belief in God, and a future of rewards and punishments, but
with the belief in the moral law and in virtue, and they are common to
all systems in which the worth of virtue is recognised.

The vulgar view of the matter cannot be better stated than in the
following account given by J.S. Mill of the anti-religious reasonings of
his father. He looked upon religion, says his son, '_as the greatest
enemy of morality; first, by setting up fictitious excellences--belief
in creeds, devotional feelings, and ceremonies, not connected with the
good of humankind, and causing them to be accepted as substitutes for
genuine virtues_; but above all _by radically vitiating the standard of
morals, making it consist in doing the will of a being, on whom, indeed,
it lavishes all the phrases of adulation, but whom, in sober truth, it
depicts as eminently hateful. I have a hundred times heard him say that_
all ages and nations have represented their gods as wicked _in a
constantly increasing progression; that mankind had gone on adding trait
after trait, till they reached the most perfect expression of wickedness
which the human mind can devise, and have called this God, and
prostrated themselves before it. The_ ne plus ultra _of wickedness he
considered to be embodied in what is commonly presented to mankind as
the creed of Christianity. Think (he used to say) of a being who would
make a hell--who would create the human race with the infallible
foreknowledge, and therefore with the intention, that the great majority
of them, should be consigned to horrible and everlasting torment._'
James Mill, adds his son, knew quite well that Christians were not, in
fact, as demoralised by this monstrous creed as, if they were logically
consistent, they ought to be. '_The same slovenliness of thought (he
said) and subjection of the reason to fears, wishes, and affections,
which enable them to accept a theory involving a contradiction in terms,
prevent them from perceiving the logical consequence of the theory._'

Now, in spite of its coarse and exaggerated acrimony, this passage
doubtless expresses a great truth, which presently I shall go on to
consider. But it contains also a very characteristic falsehood, of which
we must first divest it. God is here represented as _making_ a hell,
with the express intention of forcibly putting men into it, and His main
hatefulness consists in this capricious and wanton cruelty. Such a
representation is, however, an essentially false one. It is not only not
true to the true Christian teaching, but it is absolutely opposed to it.
The God of Christianity does not _make_ hell; still less does He
deliberately put men into it. It is made by men themselves; the essence
of its torment consists in the loss of God; and those that lose Him,
lose Him by their own act, from having deliberately made themselves
incapable of loving Him. God never wills the death of the sinner. It is
to the sinner's own will that the sinner's death is due.

All this rhetoric, therefore, about God's malevolence and wickedness is
entirely beside the point, nor does it even touch the difficulty that,
in his heart, James Mill is aiming at. His main difficulty is nothing
more than this: How can an infinite will that rules everywhere, find
room for a finite will not in harmony with itself? Whilst the only
farther perplexity that the passage indicates, is the existence of those
evil conditions by which the finite will, already so weak and wavering,
is yet farther hampered.

Now these difficulties are doubtless quite as great as James Mill
thought they were; but we must observe this, that they are not of the
same kind. They are merely intellectual difficulties. They are not moral
difficulties at all. Mill truly says that they involve a contradiction
in terms. But why? Not, as Mill says, because a wicked God is set up as
the object of moral worship, but because, in spite of all the wickedness
existing, the Author of all existences is affirmed not to be wicked.

Nor, again, is Mill right in saying that this contradiction is due to
'_slovenliness of thought_.' Theology accepts it with its eyes wide
open, making no attempt to explain the inexplicable; and the human will
it treats in the same way. It makes no offer to us to clear up
everything, or to enable thought to put a girdle round the universe. On
the contrary, it proclaims with emphasis that its first axioms are
unthinkable; and its most renowned philosophic motto is, '_I believe
because it is impossible_.'

What shall it say, then, when assailed by the rational moralist? It will
not deny its own condition, but it will show its opponent that his is
really the same. It will show him that, let him give his morality what
base he will, he cannot conceive of things without the same
contradiction in terms. If good be a thing of any spiritual value--if it
be, in other words, what every moral system supposes it to be--that good
can co-exist with evil is just as unthinkable as that God can. The value
of moral good is supposed to lie in this--that by it we are put _en
rapport_ with something that is better than ourselves--some '_stream of
tendency_,' let us say, '_that makes for righteousness_,' But if this
stream of tendency be not a personal God, what is it? Is it Nature?
Nature, we have seen already, is open to just the same objections that
God is. It is equally guilty of all the evil that is contained in it. Is
it Truth, then--pure Truth for its own sake? Again, we have seen already
that as little can it be that. Is it Human Nature as opposed to
Nature?--Man as distinct from, and holier than, any individual men? Of
all the substitutes for God this at first sight seems the most
promising, or, at any rate, the most practical. But, apart from all the
other objections to this, which we have already been considering in such
detail, it will very soon be apparent that it involves the very same
inconsistency, the same contradiction in terms. The fact of moral evil
still confronts us, and the humanity to which we lift our hearts up is
still taxable with that. But perhaps we separate the good in humanity
from the evil, and only worship the former as struggling to get free
from the latter. This, however, will be of little help to us. If what we
call humanity is nothing but the good part of it, we can only vindicate
its goodness at the expense of its strength. Evil is at least an equal
match for it, and in most of the battles hitherto it is evil that has
been victorious. But to conceive of good in this way is really to
destroy our conception of it. Goodness is in itself an incomplete
notion; it is but one facet of a figure which, approached from other
sides, appears to us as eternity, as omnipresence, and, above all, as
supreme strength; and to reduce goodness to nothing but the higher part
of humanity--to make it a wavering fitful flame that continually sinks
and flickers, that at its best can but blaze for a while, and at its
brightest can throw no light beyond this paltry parish of a world--is to
deprive it of its whole meaning and hold on us. Or again, even were this
not so, and could we believe, and be strengthened by believing, that the
good in humanity would one day gain the victory, and that some higher
future, which even we might partake in by preparing, was in store for
the human race, would our conception of the matter then be any more
harmonious? As we surveyed our race as a whole, would its brighter
future ever do away with its past? Would not the depth and the darkness
of the shadow grow more portentous as the light grew brighter? And would
not man's history strike more clearly on us as the ghastly embodiment of
a vast injustice? But it may be said that the sorrows of the past will
hereafter be dead and done with; that evil will literally be as though
it had never been. Well, and so in a short time will the good likewise;
and if we are ever to think lightly of the world's sinful and sorrowful
past, we shall have to think equally lightly of its sinless and cheerful

Let us pass now to the secondary points. Opponents of theism, or of
religion in general, are perpetually attacking it for its theories of a
future life. Its eternal rewards and punishments are to them permanent
stumbling-blocks. A future life of happiness they think an unmeaning
promise; and a future life of misery they think an unworthy and brutal
threat. And if reason and observation are to be our only guides, we
cannot say that they do not argue with justice. If we believe in heaven,
we believe in something that the imagination fails to grasp. If we
believe in hell, we believe in something that our moral sense revolts
at: for though hell may be nothing but the conscious loss of God, and
though those that lose Him may have made their own hell for themselves,
still their loss, if eternal, will be an eternal flaw and disease in the
sum of things--the eternal self-assertion against omnipotence of some
depraved and alien power.

From these difficulties it is impossible to escape. All we can do here,
as in the former case, is to show that they are not peculiar to the
special doctrines to which they are supposed generally to be due; but
that they are equally inseparable from any of the proposed substitutes.
We can only show that they are inevitable, not that they are not
insoluble. If we condemn a belief in heaven because it is unthinkable,
we must for the same reason, as we have seen already, condemn a Utopia
on earth--the thing we are now told we should fix our hopes upon,
instead of it. As to the second question--that of eternal punishment, we
may certainly here get rid of one difficulty by adopting the doctrine of
a final restitution. But, though one difficulty will be thus got rid of,
another equally great will take its place. Our moral sense, it is true,
will no more be shocked by the conception of an eternal discord in
things, but we shall be confronted by a fatalism that will allow to us
no moral being at all. If we shall all reach the same place in the
end--if inevitably we shall all do so--it is quite plain that our
freedom to choose in the matter is a freedom that is apparent only. Mr.
Leslie Stephen, it seems, sees this clearly enough. Once give morality
its spiritual and supernatural meaning, and there is, he holds, '_some
underlying logical necessity which binds_ [a belief in hell]
_indissolubly with the primary articles of the faith_.' Such a system of
retribution, he adds, is '_created spontaneously_' by the '_conscience.
Heaven and hell are corollaries that rise and fall together.... Whatever
the meaning of [Greek: aiônios], the_ fearful _emotion which is
symbolised, is eternal or independent of time, by the same right as the_
ecstatic _emotion_.' He sees this clearly enough; but the strange thing
is that he does not see the converse. He sees that the Christian
conception of morality necessitates the affirmation of hell. He does not
see that the denial of hell is the denial of Christian morality, and
that in calling the former a dream, as he does, he does not call the
latter a dream likewise.

We can close our eyes to none of these perplexities. The only way to
resist their power is not to ignore them, but to realise to the full
their magnitude, and to see how, if we let them take away from us
anything, they will in another moment take everything; to see that we
must either set our foot upon their necks, or that they will set their
feet on ours; to see that we can look them down, but that we can never
look them through; to see that we can make them impotent if we will, but
that if they are not impotent they will be omnipotent.

But the strongest example of this is yet to come: and this is not any
special belief either as to religion or morals, but a belief underlying
both of these, and without which neither of them were possible. It is a
belief which from one point of view we have already touched upon--the
belief in the freedom of the will. But we have as yet only considered it
in relation to physical science. What we have now to do is to consider
it in relation to itself.

What, then, let us ask, is the nature of the belief? To a certain extent
the answer is very easy. When we speak and think of free-will
ordinarily, we know quite well what we mean by it; and we one and all of
us mean exactly the same thing. It is true that when professors speak
upon this question, they make countless efforts to distinguish between
the meaning which they attach to the belief, and the meaning which the
world attaches to it. And it is possible that in their studies or their
lecture-rooms they may contrive for the time being to distort or to
confuse for themselves the common view of the matter. But let the
professor once forget his theories, and be forced to buffet against his
life's importunate and stern realities: let him quarrel with his
housekeeper because she has mislaid his spectacles, or his night-cap,
or, preoccupied with her bible, has not mixed his gruel properly; and
his conception of free-will will revert in an instant to the universal
type, and the good woman will discern only too plainly that her master's
convictions as to it are precisely the same things as her own.
Everywhere, indeed, in all the life that surrounds us--in the social and
moral judgments on which the fabric of society has reared itself, in the
personal judgments on which so much depends in friendship and
antipathies--everywhere, in conduct, in emotion, in art, in language,
and in law, we see man's common belief in will written, broad, and
plain, and clear. There is, perhaps, no belief to which, for practical
purposes, he attaches so important and so plain a meaning.

Such is free-will when looked at from a distance. But let us look at it
more closely, and see what happens then. The result is strange. Like a
path seen at dusk across a moorland, plain and visible from a distance,
but fading gradually from us the more near we draw to it, so does the
belief in free-will fade before the near inspection of reason. It at
first grows hazy; at last it becomes indistinguishable. At first we
begin to be uncertain of what we mean by it; at last we find ourselves
certain that so far as we trust to reason, we cannot possibly have any
meaning at all. Examined in this way, every act of our lives--all our
choices and refusals, seem nothing but the necessary outcome of things
that have gone before. It is true that between some actions the choice
hangs at times so evenly, that our _will_ may seem the one thing that at
last turns the balance. But let us analyse the matter a little more
carefully, and we shall see that there are a thousand microscopic
motives, too small for us to be entirely conscious of, which, according
to how they settle on us, will really decide the question. Nor shall we
see only that this is so. Let us go a little further, and reason will
tell us that it must be so. Were this not the case, there would have
been an escape left for us. Though admitting that what controlled our
actions could be nothing but the strongest motive, it might yet be
contended that the will could intensify any motive it chose, and that
thus motives really were only tools in its hands. But this does but
postpone the difficulty, not solve it. What is this free-will when it
comes to use its tools? It is a something, we shall find, that our minds
cannot give harbour to. It is a thing contrary to every analogy of
nature. It is a thing which is forever causing, but which is in itself

To escape from this difficulty is altogether hopeless. Age after age has
tried to do so, but tried in vain. There have been always metaphysical
experts ready to engage to make free-will a something intellectually
conceivable. But they all either leave the question where they found
it, or else they only seem to explain it, by denying covertly the fact
that really wants explaining.

Such is free-will when examined by the natural reason--a thing that
melts away inevitably first to haze, and then to utter nothingness. And
for a time we feel convinced that it really is nothing. Let us, however,
again retire from it to the common distance, and the phantom we thought
exorcised is again back in an instant. There is the sphinx once more,
distinct and clear as ever, holding in its hand the scales of good and
evil, and demanding a curse or a blessing for every human action. We are
once more certain--more certain of this than anything--that we are, as
we always thought we were, free agents, free to choose, and free to
refuse; and that in virtue of this freedom, and in virtue of this alone,
we are responsible for what we do and are.

Let us consider this point well. Let us consider first how free-will is
a moral necessity; next how it is an intellectual impossibility; and
lastly how, though it be impossible, we yet, in defiance of intellect,
continue, as moral beings, to believe in it. Let us but once realise
that we do this, that all mankind universally do this and have done--and
the difficulties offered us by theism will no longer stagger us. We
shall be prepared for them, prepared not to drive them away, but to
endure their presence. If in spite of my reason I can believe that my
will is free, in spite of my reason I can believe that God is good. The
latter belief is not nearly so hard as the former. The greatest
stumbling-block in the moral world lies in the threshold by which to
enter it.

Such then are the moral difficulties, properly so called, that beset
theism; but there are certain others of a vaguer nature, that we must
glance at likewise. It is somewhat hard to know how to classify these;
but it will be correct enough to say that whereas those we have just
dealt with appeal to the moral intellect, the ones we are to deal with
now appeal to the moral imagination. The facts that these depend on, and
which are practically new discoveries for the modern world, are the
insignificance of the earth, when compared with the universe, of which
it is visibly and demonstrably an integral but insignificant fragment;
the enormous period of his existence for which man has had no religious
history, and has been, so far as we can tell, not a religious being at
all; and the vast majority of the race that are still stagnant and
semi-barbarous. Is it possible, we ask, that a God, with so many stars
to attend to, should busy himself with this paltry earth, and make it
the scene of events more stupendous than the courses of countless
systems? Is it possible that of the swarms, vicious and aimless, that
breed upon it, each individual--Bushman, Chinaman, or Negro--is a
precious immortal being, with a birthright in infinity and eternity? The
effect of these considerations is sometimes overwhelming. Astronomy
oppresses us with the gulfs of space; geology with the gulfs of time;
history and travel with a babel of vain existence. And here as in the
former case, our perplexities cannot be explained away. We can only meet
them by seeing that if they have any power at all, they are
all-powerful, and that they will not destroy religion only, but the
entire moral conception of man also. Religious belief, and moral belief
likewise, involve both of them some vast mystery; and reason can do
nothing but focalise, not solve it.

All, then, that I am trying to make evident is this--and this must be
sufficient for us--not that theism, with its attendant doctrines,
presents us with no difficulties, necessitates no baffling
contradictions in terms, and confronts us with no terrible and piteous
spectacles, but that all this is not peculiar to theism. It is not the
price we pay for rising from morality to religion. It is the price we
pay for rising from the natural to the supernatural. Once double the sum
of things by adding this second world to it, and it swells to such a
size that our reason can no longer encircle it. We are torn this way and
that by convictions, each of which is equally necessary, but each of
which excludes the others. When we try to grasp them all at once, our
mind is like a man tied to wild horses; or like Phaeton in the Sun's
chariot, bewildered and powerless over the intractable and the terrible
team. We can only recover our strength by a full confession of our
weakness. We can only lay hold on the beliefs that we see to be needful,
by asking faith to join hands with reason. If we refuse to do this,
there is but one alternative. Without faith we can perhaps explain
things if we will; but we must first make them not worth explaining. We
can only think them out entirely by regarding them as something not
worth thinking out at all.



    '_The scandal of the pious Christian, and the fallacious triumph of
    the infidel, should cease as soon as they recollect not only_ by
    whom, _but likewise to whom, the Divine Revelation was

And now let us suppose ourselves convinced, at least for the sake of
argument, that man will always believe in himself as a moral being, and
that he will, under no compulsion, let this belief go. Granting this,
from what we have just seen, thus much will be plain to us, that theism,
should it ever tend to reassert itself, can have no check to fear at the
hands of positive thought. Let us, therefore, suppose further, that such
a revival of faith is imminent, and that the enlightened world, with its
eyes wide open, is about to turn once again to religious desires and
aims. This brings us face to face with the second question, that we have
not as yet touched upon: will the religion thus turned to be a natural
religion only, or is it possible that some exclusive dogmatism may be
recognised as a supernatural re-statement of it?

Before going further with this question it will be well to say a few
words as to the exact position it occupies. This, with regard to the
needs of man, is somewhat different to the position of natural theism.
That a natural theism is essential to man's moral being is a proposition
that can be more or less rigidly demonstrated; but that a revelation is
essential as a supplement to natural theism can be impressed upon us
only in a much looser way. Indeed, many men who believe most firmly that
without religion human life will be dead, rest their hopes for the
future not on the revival and triumph of any one alleged revelation, but
on the gradual evanescence of the special claims of all. Nor can we find
any sharp and defined line of argument to convince them that they are
wrong. The objections, however, to which this position is open are, I
think, none the less cogent because they are somewhat general; and to
all practical men, conversant with life and history, it must be plain
that the necessity of doing God's will being granted, it is a most
anxious and earnest question whether that will has not been in some
special and articulate way revealed to us.

Take the mass of religious humanity, and giving it a natural creed, it
will be found that instinctively and inevitably it asks for more. Such a
creed by itself has excited more longings than it has satisfied, and
raised more perplexities than it has set at rest. It is true that it
has supplied men with a sufficient analysis of the worth they attach to
life, and of the momentous issues attendant on the way in which they
live it. But when they come practically to choose their way, they find
that such religion is of little help to them. It never puts out a hand
to lift or lead them. It is an alluring voice, heard far off through a
fog, and calling to them, '_Follow me!_' but it leaves them in the fog
to pick their own way out towards it, over rocks and streams and
pitfalls, which they can but half distinguish, and amongst which they
may be either killed or crippled, and are almost certain to grow
bewildered. And even should there be a small minority, who feel that
this is not true of themselves, they can hardly help feeling that it is
true of the world in general. A purely natural theism, with no organs of
human speech, and with no machinery for making its spirit articulate,
never has ruled men, and, so far as we can see, never possibly can rule
them. The choices which our life consists of are definite things. The
rule which is to guide our choices must be something definite also. And
here it is that natural theism fails. It may supply us with the major
premiss, but it is vague and uncertain about the minor. It can tell us
with sufficient emphasis that all vice is to be avoided; it is
continually at a loss to tell us whether this thing or whether that
thing is vicious. Indeed, this practical insufficiency of natural theism
is borne witness to by the very existence of all alleged revelations.
For, if none of these be really the special word of God, a belief in
them is all the more a sign of a general need in man. If none of them
represent the actual attainment of help, they all of them embody the
passionate and persistent cry for it.

We shall understand this more clearly if we consider one of the first
characteristics that a revelation necessarily claims, and the results
that are at this moment, in a certain prominent case, attending on a
denial of it. The characteristic I speak of is an absolute
infallibility. Any supernatural religion that renounces its claim to
this, it is clear can profess to be a semi-revelation only. It is a
hybrid thing, partly natural and partly supernatural, and it thus
practically has all the qualities of a religion that is wholly natural.
In so far as it professes to be revealed, it of course professes to be
infallible; but if the revealed part be in the first place hard to
distinguish, and in the second place hard to understand--if it may mean
many things, and many of those things contradictory--it might just as
well have been never made at all. To make it in any sense an infallible
revelation, or in other words a revelation at all, _to us_, we need a
power to interpret the testament that shall have equal authority with
that testament itself.

Simple as this truth seems, mankind have been a long time in learning
it. Indeed, it is only in the present day that its practical meaning has
come generally to be recognised. But now at this moment upon all sides
of us, history is teaching it to us by an example, so clearly that we
can no longer mistake it.

That example is Protestant Christianity, and the condition to which,
after three centuries, it is now visibly bringing itself. It is at last
beginning to exhibit to us the true result of the denial of
infallibility to a religion that professes to be supernatural. We are at
last beginning to see in it neither the purifier of a corrupted
revelation, nor the corrupter of a pure revelation, but the practical
denier of all revelation whatsoever. It is fast evaporating into a mere
natural theism, and is thus showing us what, as a governing power,
natural theism is. Let us look at England, Europe, and America, and
consider the condition of the entire Protestant world. Religion, it is
true, we shall still find in it; but it is religion from which not only
the supernatural element is disappearing, but in which the natural
element is fast becoming nebulous. It is indeed growing, as Mr. Leslie
Stephen says it is, into a religion of dreams. All its doctrines are
growing vague as dreams, and like dreams their outlines are for ever
changing. Mr. Stephen has pitched on a very happy illustration of this.
A distinguished clergyman of the English Church, he reminds us, has
preached and published a set of sermons,[38] in which he denies
emphatically any belief in eternal punishment, although admitting at the
same time that the opinion of the Christian world is against him. These
sermons gave rise to a discussion in one of the leading monthly reviews,
to which Protestant divines of all shades of opinion contributed their
various arguments. '_It is barely possible_,' says Mr. Stephen, '_with
the best intentions, to take such a discussion seriously. Boswell tells
us how a lady interrogated Dr. Johnson as to the nature of the spiritual
body. She seemed desirous, he adds, of "knowing more; but he left the
subject in obscurity." We smile at Boswell's evident impression that
Johnson could, if he had chosen, have dispelled the darkness. When we
find a number of educated gentlemen seriously enquiring as to the
conditions of existence in the next world, we feel that they are sharing
Boswell's_ naïveté _without his excuse. What can any human being outside
a pulpit say upon such a subject which does not amount to a confession
of his own ignorance, coupled, it may be, with more or less suggestion
of shadowy hopes and fears? Have the secrets of the prison-house really
been revealed to Canon Farrar or Mr. Beresford Hope?... When men search
into the unknowable, they naturally arrive at very different results._'
And Mr. Stephen argues with perfect justice that if we are to judge
Christianity from such discussions as these, its doctrines of a future
life are all visibly receding into a vague '_dreamland_;' and we shall
be quite ready to admit, as he says, in words I have already quoted,
'_that the impertinent young curate who tells [him he] will be burnt
everlastingly for not sharing such superstitions, is just as ignorant as
[Mr. Stephen himself], and that [Mr. Stephen] knows as much as [his]

The critic, in the foregoing passages, draws his conclusion from the
condition of but one Protestant doctrine. But he might draw the same
conclusion from all; for the condition of all of them is the same. The
divinity of Christ, the nature of his atonement, the constitution of the
Trinity, the efficacy of the sacraments, the inspiration of the
Bible--there is not one of these points on which the doctrines, once so
fiercely fought for, are not now, among the Protestants, getting as
vague and varying, as weak and as compliant to the caprice of each
individual thinker, as the doctrine of eternal punishment. And Mr.
Stephen and his school exaggerate nothing in the way in which they
represent the spectacle. Protestantism, in fact, is at last becoming
explicitly what it always was implicitly, not a supernatural religion
which fulfils the natural, but a natural religion which denies the

And what, as a natural religion, is its working power in the world? Much
of its earlier influence doubtless still survives; but that is a
survival only of what is passing, and we must not judge it by that. We
must judge it by what it is growing into, not by what it is growing out
of. And judged in this way, its practical power--its moral, its
teaching, its guiding power--is fast growing as weak and as uncertain as
its theology. As long as its traditional moral system is in accordance
with what men, on other grounds, approve of, it may serve to express the
general tendency impressively, and to invest it with the sanction of
many reverend associations. But let the general tendency once begin to
conflict with it, and its inherent weakness in an instant becomes
apparent. We may see this by considering the moral character of Christ,
and the sort of weight that is claimed for His example. This example, so
the Christian world teaches, is faultless and infallible; and as long as
we believe this, the example has supreme authority. But apply to this
the true Protestant method, and the authority soon shows signs of
wavering. Let us once deny that Christ was more than a faultless man,
and we lose by that denial our authority for asserting that he was as
much as a faultless man. Even should it so happen that we do approve
entirely of his conduct, it is we who are approving of him, not he who
is approving of us. The old position is reversed: we become the patrons
of our most worthy Judge eternal; and the moral infallibility is
transferred from him to ourselves. In other words, the practical
Protestant formula can be nothing more than this. The Protestant teacher
says to us, '_Such a way of life is the best, take my word for it: and
if you want an example, go to that excellent Son of David, who, take my
word for it, was the very best of men._' But even in this case the
question arises, how shall the Protestants interpret the character that
they praise? And to this they can never give any satisfactory answer.
What really happens with them is inevitable and obvious. The character
is simply for them a symbol of what each happens to think most
admirable; and the identity in all cases of its historical details does
not produce an identity as of a single portrait, but an identity as of
one frame applied to many. Mr. Matthew Arnold, for instance, sees in
Jesus one sort of man, Father Newman another, Charles Kingsley another,
and M. Renan another; and the _Imitatio Christi_, as understood by
these, will be found in each case to mean a very different thing. The
difference between these men, however, will seem almost unanimity, if we
compare them with others who, so far as logic and authority go, have
just as good a claim on our attention. There is hardly any conceivable
aberration of moral licence that has not, in some quarter or other,
embodied itself into a rule of life, and claimed to be the proper
outcome of Protestant Christianity. Nor is this true only of the wilder
and more eccentric sects. It is true of graver and more weighty thinkers
also; so much so, that a theological school in Germany has maintained
boldly '_that fornication is blameless, and that it is not interdicted
by the precepts of the Gospel_.'[39]

The matter, however, does not end thus. The men I have just mentioned
agree, all of them, that Christ's moral example was perfect; and their
only disagreement has been as to what that example was. But the
Protestant logic will by no means leave us here. That alleged
perfection, if we ourselves are to be the judges of it, is sure,
by-and-by, to exhibit to us traces of imperfection. And this is exactly
the thing that has already begun to happen. A generation ago one of the
highest-minded and most logical of our English Protestants, Professor
Francis Newman, declared that in Christ's character there were certain
moral deficiencies;[40] and the last blow to the moral authority of
Protestantism was struck by one of its own household. It is true that
Professor Newman's censures were small and were not irreverent. But if
these could come from a man of his intense piety, what will and what do
come from other quarters may be readily conjectured. Indeed, the fact is
daily growing more and more evident, that for the world that still calls
itself Protestant, the autocracy of Christ's moral example is gone; and
its nominal retention of power only makes its real loss of it the more
visible. It merely reflects and focalises the uncertainty that men are
again feeling--the uncertainty and the sad bewilderment. The words and
the countenance, once so sure and steadfast, now change, as we look at,
and listen to them, into new accents and aspects; and the more earnestly
we gaze and listen, the less can we distinguish clearly what we hear or
see. '_What shall we do to be saved?_' men are again crying. And the
lips that were once oracular now merely seem to murmur back confusedly,
'_Alas! what shall you do?_'

Such and so helpless, even now, is natural theism showing itself; and in
the dim and momentous changes that are coming over things, in the vast
flux of opinion that is preparing, in the earthquake that is rocking the
moral ground under us, overturning and engulfing the former landmarks,
and re-opening the graves of the buried lusts of paganism, it will show
itself very soon more helpless still. Its feet are on the earth, only.
The earth trembles, and it trembles: it is in the same case as we are.
It stretches in vain its imploring hands to heaven. But the heaven takes
no heed of it. No divine hand reaches down to it to uphold and guide it.

This must be the feeling, I believe, of most honest and practical men,
with regard to natural religion, and its necessary practical
inefficiency. Nor will the want it necessarily leaves of a moral rule be
the only consideration that will force this conviction on them. The
_heart_, as the phrase goes, will corroborate the evidence of the
_head_. It will be felt, even more forcibly than it can be reasoned,
that if there be indeed a God who loves and cares for men, he must
surely, or almost surely, have spoken in some audible and certain way to
them. At any rate I shall not be without many who agree with me, when I
say that for the would-be religious world it is an anxious and earnest
question whether any special and explicit revelation from God exist for
us; and this being the case, it will be not lost time if we try to deal
fairly and dispassionately with the question.

Before going further, however, let us call to mind two things. Let us
remember first, that if we expect to find a revelation at all, it is
morally certain that it must be a revelation already in existence. It is
hardly possible, if we consider that all the supernatural claims that
have been made hitherto are false, to expect that a new manifestation,
altogether different in kind, is in store for the world in the future.
Secondly, our enquiries being thus confined to religions that are
already in existence, what we are practically concerned with is the
truth of Christianity only. It is true that we have heard, on all sides,
of the superiority of other religions to the Christian. But the men who
hold such language, though they may affect to think that such religions
are superior in certain moral points, yet never dream of claiming for
them the miraculous and supernatural authority that they deny to
Christianity. No man denies that Christ was born of a virgin, in order
to make the same claim for Buddha: or denies the Christian Trinity in
order to affirm the Brahminic. There is but one alleged revelation that,
_as a revelation_, the progressive nations of the world are concerned
with, or whose supernatural claims are still worthy of being examined by
us: and that religion is the Christian. These claims, it is true, are
being fast discredited; but still, as yet they have not been silenced
wholly; and what I propose to ask now is, what chance is there of their
power again reviving.

Now considering the way in which I have just spoken of Protestantism, it
may seem to many that I have dismissed this question already. With the
'_enlightened_' English thinker such certainly will be the first
impression. But there is one point that such thinkers all forget:
Protestant Christianity is not the only form of it. They have still the
form to deal with which is the oldest, the most legitimate, and the most
coherent--the Church of Rome. They surely cannot forget the existence of
this Church or her magnitude. To suppose this would be to attribute to
them too insular, or rather too provincial, an ignorance. The cause,
however, certainly is ignorance, and an ignorance which, though less
surprising, is far deeper. In this country the popular conception of
Rome has been so distorted by our familiarity with Protestantism, that
the true conception of her is something quite strange to us. Our divines
have exhibited her to us as though she were a lapsed Protestant sect,
and they have attacked her for being false to doctrines that were never
really hers. They have failed to see that the first and essential
difference which separates her from them lies, primarily not in any
special dogma, but in the authority on which all her dogmas rest.
Protestants, basing their religion on the Bible solely, have conceived
that Catholics of course profess to do so likewise; and have covered
them with invective for being traitors to their supposed profession. But
the Church's primary doctrine is her own perpetual infallibility. She is
inspired, she declares, by the same Spirit that inspired the Bible; and
her voice is, equally with the Bible, the voice of God. This theory,
however, upon which really her whole fabric rests, popular
Protestantism either ignores altogether, or treats it as if it were a
modern superstition, which, so far from being essential to the Church's
system, is, on the contrary, inconsistent with it. Looked at in this
way, Rome to the Protestant's mind has seemed naturally to be a mass of
superstitions and dishonesties; and it is this view of her that,
strangely enough, our modern advanced thinkers have accepted without
question. Though they have trusted the Protestants in nothing else, they
have trusted them here. They have taken the Protestants' word for it,
that Protestantism is more reasonable than Romanism; and they think,
therefore, that if they have destroyed the former, _à fortiori_ have
they destroyed the latter.[41]

No conception of the matter, however, could be more false than this. To
whatever criticism the Catholic position may be open, it is certainly
not thus included in Protestantism, nor is it reached through it. Let us
try and consider the matter a little more truly. Let us grant all that
hostile criticism can say against Protestantism as a supernatural
religion: in other words, let us set it aside altogether. Let us suppose
nothing, to start with, in the world but a natural moral sense, and a
simple natural theism; and let us then see the relation of the Church of
Rome to that. Approached in this way, the religious world will appear to
us as a body of natural theists, all agreeing that they must do God's
will, but differing widely amongst themselves as to what His will and
His nature are. Their moral and religious views will be equally vague
and dreamlike--more dreamlike even than those of the Protestant world at
present. Their theories as to the future will be but '_shadowy hopes and
fears_.' Their practice, in the present, will vary from asceticism to
the widest license. And yet, in spite of all this confusion and
difference, there will be amongst them a vague tendency to unanimity.
Each man will be dreaming his own spiritual dream, and the dreams of all
will be different. All their dreams, it will be plain, cannot represent
reality; and yet the belief will be common to all that some common
reality is represented by them. Men, therefore, will begin to compare
their dreams together, and try to draw out of them the common element,
so that the dream may come slowly to be the same for all; that, if it
grows, it may grow by some recognizable laws; that it may, in other
words, lose its character of a dream, and assume that of a reality. We
suppose, therefore, that our natural theists form themselves into a kind
of parliament, in which they may compare, adjust, and give shape to the
ideas that were before so wavering, and which shall contain some
machinery for formulating such agreements as may be come to. The common
religious sense of the world is thus organized, and its conclusions
registered. We have no longer the wavering _dreams_ of men; we have
instead of them the constant _vision_ of man.

Now in such a universal parliament we see what the Church of Rome
essentially is, viewed from her natural side. She is ideally, if not
actually, the parliament of the believing world. Her doctrines, as she
one by one unfolds them, emerge upon us like petals from a half-closed
bud. They are not added arbitrarily from without; they are developed
from within. They are the flowers contained from the first in the bud of
our moral consciousness. When she formulates in these days something
that has not been formulated before, she is no more enunciating a new
truth than was Newton when he enunciated the theory of gravitation.
Whatever truths, hitherto hidden, she may in the course of time grow
conscious of, she holds that these were always implied in her teaching,
though before she did not know it; just as gravitation was implied in
many ascertained facts that men knew well enough long before they knew
that it was implied in them. Thus far, then, the Church of Rome
essentially is the spiritual sense of humanity, speaking to men through
its proper and only possible organ. Its intricate machinery, such as its
systems of representation, its methods of voting, the appointment of its
speaker, and the legal formalities required in the recording of its
decrees, are things accidental only; or if they are necessary, they are
necessary only in a secondary way.

But the picture of the Church thus far is only half drawn. She is all
this, but she is something more than this. She is not only the
parliament of spiritual man, but she is such a parliament guided by the
Spirit of God. The work of that Spirit may be secret, and to the natural
eyes untraceable, as the work of the human will is in the human brain.
But none the less it is there.

                  _Totam infusa per artus
    Mens agitat molem, et magno se corpore miscet._

The analogy of the human brain is here of great help to us. The human
brain is an arrangement of material particles which can become connected
with consciousness only in virtue of such a special arrangement. The
Church is theoretically an arrangement of individuals which can become
connected with the Spirit of God only in virtue of an arrangement
equally special.

If this be a true picture of the Catholic Church, and the place which
the only revelation we are concerned with ideally holds in the world,
there can be no _à priori_ difficulty in the passage from a natural
religion to such a supernatural one. The difficulties begin when we
compare the ideal picture with the actual facts; and it is true, when we
do this, that they at once confront us with a strength that seems
altogether disheartening. These difficulties are of two distinct kinds;
some, as in the case of natural theism, are moral; others are
historical. We will deal with the former first, beginning with that
which is at once the profoundest and the most obvious.

The Church, as has been said already, is ideally the parliament of the
whole believing world; but we find, as a matter of fact, that she is the
parliament of a small part only. Now what shall we say to this? If God
would have all men do His will, why should He place the knowledge of it
within reach of such a small minority of them? And to this question we
can give no answer. It is a mystery, and we must acknowledge frankly
that it is one. But there is this to say yet--that it is not a new
mystery. We already suppose ourselves to have accepted it in a simpler
form: in the form of the presence of evil, and the partial prevalence of
good. By acknowledging the claim of the special revelation in question,
we are not adding to the complexity of that old world-problem. I am
aware, however, that many think just the reverse of this. I will
therefore dwell upon the subject for a few moments longer. To many who
can accept the difficulty of the partial presence of good, the
difficulty seems wantonly aggravated by the claims of a special
revelation. These claims seem to them to do two things. In the first
place, they are thought to make the presence of good even more partial
than it otherwise would be; and secondly--which is a still greater
stumbling-block--to oblige us to condemn as evil much that would else
seem good of the purest kind. There are many men, as we must all know,
without the Church, who are doing their best to fight their way to God;
and orthodoxy is supposed to pass a cruel condemnation on these, because
they have not assented to some obscure theory, their rejection or
ignorance of which has plainly stained neither their lives nor hearts.
And of orthodoxy under certain forms this is no doubt true; but it is
not true of the orthodoxy of Catholicism. There is no point, probably,
connected with this question, about which the general world is so
misinformed and ignorant, as the sober but boundless charity of what it
calls the anathematising Church. So little indeed is this charity
understood generally, that to assert it seems a startling paradox. Most
paradoxes are doubtless in reality the lies they at first sight seem to
be; but not so this one. It is the simple statement of a fact. Never was
there a religious body, except the Roman, that laid the intense stress
she does on all her dogmatic teachings, and had yet the justice that
comes of sympathy for those that cannot receive them. She condemns no
goodness, she condemns even no earnest worship, though it be outside her
pale. On the contrary, she declares explicitly that a knowledge of '_the
one true God, our Creator and Lord_,' may be attained to by the
'_natural light of human reason_,' meaning by '_reason_' faith
unenlightened by revelation; and she declares those to be anathema who
deny this. The holy and humble men of heart who do not know her, or who
in good faith reject her, she commits with confidence to God's
uncovenanted mercies; and these she knows are infinite; but, except as
revealed to her, she can of necessity say nothing distinct about them.
It is admitted by the world at large, that of her supposed bigotry she
has no bitterer or more extreme exponents than the Jesuits; and this is
what a Jesuit theologian says upon this matter: '_A heretic, so long as
he believes his sect to be more or equally deserving of belief, has no
obligation to believe the Church ... [and] when men who have been
brought up in heresy, are persuaded from boyhood that we impugn and
attack the word of God, that we are idolaters, pestilent deceivers, and
are therefore to be shunned as pestilence, they cannot, while this
persuasion lasts, with a safe conscience hear us._'[42] Thus for those
without her the Church has one condemnation only. Her anathemas are on
none but those who reject her with their eyes open, by tampering with a
conviction that she really is the truth. These are condemned, not for
not seeing that the teacher is true, but because having really seen
this, they continue to close their eyes to it. They will not obey when
they know they ought to obey. And thus the moral offence of a Catholic
in denying some recondite doctrine, does not lie merely, and need not
lie at all, in the immediate bad effects that such a denial would
necessitate; but in the disobedience, the self-will, and the rebellion
that must in such a case be both a cause and a result of it.

In the light of these considerations, though the old perplexity of evil
will still confront us, it will be seen that the claims of Catholic
orthodoxy do nothing at all to add to it. If orthodoxy, however, admit
so much good without itself, we may perhaps be inclined to ask what
special good it claims within itself, and what possible motives can
exist for either understanding or teaching it. But we might ask with
exactly equal force, what is the good of true physical science, and why
should we try to impress on the world its teachings? Such a question, we
can at once see, is absurd. Because a large number of men know nothing
of physical science, and are apparently not the worse for their
ignorance, we do not for that reason think physical science worthless.
We believe, on the whole, that a knowledge of the laws of matter,
including those of our organisms and their environments, will steadily
tend to better our lives, in so far as they are material. It will tend,
for instance, to a better preservation of our health. But we do not for
this reason deny that many individuals may preserve their health who are
but very partially acquainted with the laws of it. Nor do we deny the
value of a thorough study of astronomy and meteorology because a certain
practical knowledge of the weather and of navigation may be attained
without it. On the contrary, we hold that the fullest knowledge we can
acquire on such matters it is our duty to acquire, and not acquire only,
but as far as possible promulgate. It is true that the mass of men may
never master such knowledge thoroughly; but what they do master of it we
feel convinced should be the truth, and even what they do not, will, we
feel convinced, be some indirect profit to them. And the case of
spiritual science is entirely analogous to the case of natural science.
A man to whom the truth is open is not excused from finding it because
he knows it is not so open to all. A heretic who denies the dogmas of
the Church has his counterpart in the quack who denies the verified
conclusions of science. The moral condemnation that is given to the one
is illustrated by the intellectual condemnation that is given to the

If we will think this over carefully, we shall get a clearer view of the
moral value claimed for itself by orthodoxy. Some of its doctrines, the
great and picturable parts of them, that appeal to all, and that in some
degree can be taken in by all, it declares doubtless to be saving, in
their own nature. But for the mass of men the case is quite different
with the facts underlying these. That we eat Christ's body in the
Eucharist is a belief that, in a practical way, can be understood
perfectly by anyone; but the philosophy that is involved in this belief
would be to most men the merest gibberish. Yet it is no more unimportant
that those who do understand this philosophy, should do so truly and
transmit it faithfully, than it is unimportant that a physician should
understand the action of alcohol, because anyone independent of such
knowledge can tell that so many glasses of wine will have such and such
an effect on him. Theology is to the spiritual body what anatomy and
medicine are to the natural body. The parts they each play in our lives
are analogous, and in their respective worlds their _raison d'être_ is
the same. What then can be shallower than the rhetoric of such thinkers
as Mr. Carlyle, in which natural religion and orthodoxy are held up to
us as contrasts and as opposites, the former being praised as simple and
going straight to the heart, and the latter described and declaimed
against as the very reverse of this? '_On the one hand_,' it is said,
'_see the soul going straight to its God, feeling His love, and content
that others should feel it. On the other hand, see this pure and free
communion, distracted and interrupted by a thousand tortuous reasonings
as to the exact nature of it. What can obscure intellectual
propositions,_' it is asked, '_have to do with a religion of the heart?
And do not they check the latter by being thus bound up with it?_' But
what really can be more misleading than this? Natural religion is
doubtless simpler in one sense than revealed religion; but it is only
simple because it has no authoritative science of itself. It is simple
for the same reason that a boy's account of having given himself a
headache is simpler than a physician's would be. The boy says merely,
'_I ate ten tarts, and drank three bottles of ginger-beer._' The
physician, were he to explain the catastrophe, would describe a number
of far more complex processes. The boy's account would be of course the
simplest, and would certainly go more home to the general heart of
boyhood; but it would not for that reason be the correctest or the most
important. And just like this will be the case of the divine communion,
which the simple saint may feel, and the subtle theologian analyse.

But it will be well to observe, further, that the simplicity of a
religion can of itself be no test of the probable truth of it. And in
the case of natural religion, what is called simplicity is in general
nothing more than vagueness. If _simplicity_ used in this way be a term
of praise, we might praise a landscape as simple because it was
half-drowned in mist. As a matter of fact, however, the religion of the
Catholic Church, putting out of the question its theology, is a thing
far simpler than the outside world supposes; nor is there a doctrine in
it without a direct moral meaning for us, and not tending to have a
direct effect on the character.

But the outside world misjudges of all this for various reasons. In the
first place, it can reach it as a rule through explanations only; and
the explanation or the account of anything is always far more intricate
than the apprehension of the thing itself. Take, for instance, the
practice of the invocation of saints. This seems to many to complicate
the whole relation of the soul to God, to be introducing a number of new
and unnecessary go-betweens, and to make us, as it were, communicate
with God through a dragoman. But the case really is very different. Of
course it may be contended that intercessory prayer, or that prayer of
any kind, is an absurdity; but for those who do not think this, there
can be nothing to object to in the invocation of saints. It is admitted
by such men that we are not wrong in asking the living to pray for us.
Surely, therefore, it is not wrong to make a like request of the dead.
In the same way, to those who believe in purgatory, to pray for the dead
is as natural and as rational as to pray for the living. Next, as to
this doctrine of purgatory itself--which has so long been a
stumbling-block to the whole Protestant world--time goes on, and the
view men take of it is changing. It is becoming fast recognized on all
sides that it is the only doctrine that can bring a belief in future
rewards and punishments into anything like accordance with our notions
of what is just or reasonable. So far from its being a superfluous
superstition, it is seen to be just what is demanded at once by reason
and morality; and a belief in it to be not an intellectual assent only,
but a partial harmonising of the whole moral ideal. And the whole
Catholic _religion_, if we only distinguish and apprehend it rightly,
will present itself to us in the same light.

But there are other reasons besides those just described, by which
outsiders are hindered from arriving at such a right view of the
matter. Not only does the intricacy of Catholicism _described_, blind
them to the simplicity of Catholicism _experienced_, but they confuse
with the points of faith, not only the scientific accounts the
theologians give of them, but mere rules of discipline, and pious
opinions also. It is supposed popularly, for instance, to be of Catholic
faith that celibacy is essential to the priesthood. This as a fact,
however, is no more a part of the Catholic faith than the celibacy of a
college fellow is a part of the Thirty-nine Articles, or than the skill
of an English naval officer depends on his not having his wife with him
on shipboard. Nor again, to take another popular instance, is the
headship of the Catholic Church connected essentially with Rome, any
more than the English Parliament is essentially connected with

The difficulty of distinguishing things that are of faith, from mere
pious opinions, is a more subtle one. From the confusion caused by it,
the Church seems pledged to all sorts of grotesque stories of saints,
and accounts of the place and aspect of heaven, of hell and purgatory,
and to be logically bound to stand and fall by these. Thus Sir James
Stephen happened once in the course of his reading to light on an
opinion of Bellarmine's, and certain arguments by which he supported it,
as to the place of purgatory. It is quite true that to us Bellarmine's
opinion seems sufficiently ludicrous; and Sir James Stephen argued that
the Roman Church is ludicrous in just the same degree. But if he had
studied the matter a little deeper, he would soon have dropped his
argument. He would have seen that he was attacking, not the doctrine of
the Church, but simply an opinion, not indeed condemned by her, but held
avowedly without her sanction. Had he studied Bellarmine to a little
more purpose, he would have seen that that writer expressly states it to
be '_a question where purgatory is, but that the Church has defined
nothing on this point_.' He would also have learned from the same source
that it is no article of Catholic faith, though it was of Bellarmine's
opinion, that there is in purgatory any material fire; and that, '_as to
the intensity of the pains of purgatory, though all admit that they are
greater than anything that we suffer in this life, still it is doubtful
how this is to be explained and understood_.' He would have learned too
that, according to Bonaventura, '_the sufferings of purgatory are only
severer than those of this life, inasmuch as the greatest suffering in
purgatory is more severe than the greatest suffering endured in this
life; though there may be a degree of punishment in purgatory less
intense than what may sometimes be undergone in this world_.' And
finally he would have learned--what in this connection would have been
well worth his attention--that the duration of pains in purgatory is
according to Bellarmine, '_so completely uncertain, that it is rash to
pretend to determine anything about it_.'

Here is one instance, that will be as good as many, of the way in which
the private opinions of individual Catholics, or the transitory opinions
of particular epochs, are taken for the unalterable teachings of the
Catholic Church herself; and it is no more logical to condemn the latter
as false because the former are, than it would be to say that all modern
geography is false because geographers may still entertain false
opinions about regions as to which they do not profess certainty.
Mediæval doctors thought that purgatory might be the middle of the
earth. Modern geographers have thought that there might be an open sea
at the North Pole. But that wrong conjectures have been hazarded in both
cases, can prove in neither that there have been no true discoveries.
The Church, it is undeniable, has for a long time lived and moved
amongst countless false opinions; and to the external eye they have
naturally seemed a part of her. But science moves on, and it is shown
that she can cast them off. She has cast off some already; soon
doubtless she will cast off others; not in any petulant anger, but with
a composed determined gentleness, as some new light gravely dawns upon

Granting all this, however, there remains a yet subtler characteristic
of the Church, which goes to make her a rock of offence to many; and
that is, the temper and the intellectual tone which she seems to develop
in her members. But here, again, we must call to our aid considerations
similar to those we have just been dwelling on. We must remember that
the particular tone and temper that offends us is not necessarily
Catholicism. The temper of the Catholic world may change, and, as a
matter of fact, does change. It is not the same, indeed, in any two
countries, or in any two eras. And it may have a new and unsuspected
future in store for it. It may absorb ideas that we should consider
broader, bolder, and more rational than any it seems to possess at
present. But if ever it does so, the Church, in the opinion of
Catholics, will not be growing false to herself; she will only, in due
time, be unfolding her own spirit more fully. Thus some people associate
Catholic conceptions of extreme sanctity with a neglect of personal
cleanliness; and imagine that a clean Catholic can, according to his own
creed, never come very near perfection. But the Church has never given
this view her sanction; she has never made it of faith that dirt is
sacred; she has added no ninth beatitude in favour of an unchanged
shirt. Many of the greatest saints were doubtless dirty; but they were
dirty not because of the Church they belonged to, but because of the age
they lived in. Such an expression of sanctity for themselves, it is
probable, will be loathed by the saints of the future; yet they may none
the less reverence, for all that, the saints who so expressed it in the
past. This is but a single instance; but it may serve as a type of the
wide circle of changes that the Church as a living organism, still full
of vigour and power of self-adaptation, will be able to develop, as the
world develops round her, and yet lose nothing of her supernatural

To sum up, then; if we would obtain a true view of the general character
of Catholicism, we must begin by making a clean sweep of all the views
that, as outsiders, we have been taught to entertain about her. We must,
in the first place, learn to conceive of her as a living, spiritual
body, as infallible and as authoritative now as she ever was, with her
eyes undimmed and her strength not abated, continuing to grow still as
she has continued to grow hitherto: and the growth of the new dogmas
that she may from time to time enunciate, we must learn to see are, from
her own stand-point, signs of life and not signs of corruption. And
further, when we come to look into her more closely, we must separate
carefully the diverse elements we find in her--her discipline, her pious
opinions, her theology, and her religion.

Let honest enquirers do this to the best of their power, and their views
will undergo an unlooked-for change. Other difficulties of a more
circumstantial kind, it is true, still remain for them; and of these I
shall speak presently. But putting these for the moment aside, and
regarding the question under its widest aspects only--regarding it only
in connection with the larger generalisations of science, and the
primary postulates of man's spiritual existence--the theist will find in
Catholicism no new difficulties. He will find in it the logical
development of our natural moral sense, developed, indeed, and still
developing, under a special and supernatural care--but essentially the
same thing; with the same negations, the same assertions, the same
positive truths, and the same impenetrable mysteries; and with nothing
new added to them, but help, and certainty, and guidance.


[37] It is curious to reflect that what Gibbon said as a sarcasm, is
really a serious and profound truth, and leads to conclusions exactly
opposite to those drawn from it in that witty and most fascinating
chapter from which the above words are quoted.

[38] _Our Eternal Hope._ By Canon Farrar.

[39] See Döllinger's _Continuation of Hortig's Church History_, quoted
by Mr. J.B. Robertson, in his _Memoir of Dr. Moehler_.

[40] See _Phases of my Faith_, by Francis Newman.

[41] It is difficult on any other supposition to account for the marked
fact that hardly any of our English rationalists have criticised
Christianity, except as presented to them in a form essentially
Protestant; and that a large proportion of their criticisms are solely
applicable to this. It is amusing, too, to observe how, to men of often
such really wide minds, all theological authority is represented by the
various social types of contemporary Anglican or dissenting dignitaries.
Men such as Professors Huxley and Clifford, Mr. Leslie Stephen, and Mr.
Frederic Harrison, can find no representatives of dogmatism but in
bishops, deans, curates, Presbyterian ministers--and, above all,
curates. The one mouthpiece of the _Ecclesia docens_ is for them the
parish pulpit; and the more ignorant be its occupant the more
representative do they think his utterances. Whilst Mr. Matthew Arnold
apparently thinks the whole cause of revealed religion stands and falls
with the vagaries of the present Bishop of Gloucester.

[42] Busenbaum, quoted by Dr. J.H. Newman, _Letter to the Duke of
Norfolk_, p. 65.



    _Oh the little more, and how much it is,
    And the little less, and what worlds away!_--Robert Browning.

And now we come to the last objections left us, of those which modern
thought has arrayed against the Christian Revelation; and these to many
minds are the most conclusive and overwhelming of all--the objections
raised against it by a critical study of history. Hitherto we have been
considering the Church only with reference to our general sense of the
fitness and the rational probability of things. We have now to consider
her with reference to special facts. Her claims and her character, as
she exists at present, may make perhaps appeal overpoweringly to us; but
she cannot be judged only by these. For these are closely bound up with
a long earthly history, which the Church herself has written in one way,
binding herself to stand or fall by the truth of it; and this all the
secular wisdom of the world seems to be re-writing in quite another.
This subject is so vast and intricate that even to approach the details
of it would require volumes, not a single chapter. But room in a chapter
may be found for one thing, of prior importance to any mass of detail;
and that is a simple statement of the principles--unknown to, or
forgotten by external critics--by which all this mass of detail is to be

Let us remember first, then, to take a general view of the matter, that
history as cited in witness against the Christian Revelation, divides
itself into two main branches. The one is a critical examination of
Christianity, taken by itself--the authorship, and the authenticity of
its sacred books, and the origin and growth of its doctrines. The other
is a critical examination of Christianity as compared with other
religions. And the result of both these lines of study is, to those
brought up in the old faith, to the last degree startling, and in
appearance at least altogether disastrous. Let us sum up briefly the
general results of them; and first of these the historical.

We shall begin naturally with the Bible, as giving us the earliest
historical point at which Christianity is assailable. What then has
modern criticism accomplished on the Bible? The Biblical account of the
creation it has shown to be, in its literal sense, an impossible fable.
To passages thought mystical and prophetic it has assigned the
homeliest, and often retrospective meanings. Everywhere at its touch
what seemed supernatural has been humanized, and the divinity that
hedged the records has rapidly abandoned them. And now looked at in the
common daylight their whole aspect changes for us; and stories that we
once accepted with a solemn reverence seem childish, ridiculous,
grotesque, and not unfrequently barbarous. Or if we are hardly prepared
to admit so much as this, this much at least has been established
firmly--that the Bible, if it does not give the lie itself to the
astonishing claims that have been made for it, contains nothing in
itself, at any rate, that can of itself be sufficient to support them.
This applies to the New Testament just as much as to the Old; and the
consequences here are even more momentous. Weighed as mere human
testimony, the value of the Gospels becomes doubtful or insignificant.
For the miracles of Christ, and for his superhuman nature, they contain
little evidence, that even tends to be satisfactory; and even his daily
words and actions it seems probable may have been inaccurately reported,
in some cases perhaps invented, and in others supplied by a deceiving
memory. When we pass from the Gospels to the Epistles, a kindred sight
presents itself. We discern in them the writings of men not inspired
from above; but, with many disagreements amongst themselves, struggling
upwards from below, influenced by a variety of existing views, and
doubtful which of them to assimilate. We discern in them, as we do in
other writers, the products of their age and of their circumstances. The
materials out of which they formed their doctrines we can find in the
lay world around them. And as we follow the Church's history farther,
and examine the appearance and the growth of her great subsequent
dogmas, we can trace all of them to a natural and a non-Christian
origin. We can see, for instance, how in part, at least, men conceived
the idea of the Trinity from the teachings of Greek Mysticism; and how
the theory of the Atonement was shaped by the ideas of Roman
Jurisprudence. Everywhere, in fact, in the holy building supposed to
have come down from God, we detect fragments of older structures,
confessedly of earthly workmanship.

But the matter does not end here. Historical science not only shows us
Christianity, with its sacred history, in this new light; but it sets
other religions by the side of it, and shows us that their course
through the world has been strangely similar. They too have had their
sacred books, and their incarnate Gods for prophets; they have had their
priesthoods, their traditions, and their growing bodies of doctrine:
there is nothing in Christianity that cannot find its counterpart, even
to the most marked details, in the life of its founder. Two centuries,
for instance, before the birth of Christ, Buddha is said to have been
born without human father. Angels sang in heaven to announce his advent;
an aged hermit blessed him in his mother's arms; a monarch was advised,
though he refused, to destroy the child, who, it was predicted, should
be a universal ruler. It is told how he was once lost, and was found
again in a temple; and how his young wisdom astonished all the doctors.
A woman in a crowd was rebuked by him for exclaiming, '_Blessed is the
womb that bare thee_.' His prophetic career began when he was about
thirty years old; and one of the most solemn events of it is his
temptation in solitude by the evil one. Everywhere, indeed, in other
religions we are discovering things that we once thought peculiar to the
Christian. And thus the fatal inference is being drawn on all sides,
that they have all sprung from a common and an earthly root, and that
one has no more certainty than another. And thus another blow is dealt
to a faith that was already weakened. Not only, it is thought, can
Christianity not prove itself in any supernatural sense to be sacred,
but other religions prove that even in a natural sense it is not
singular. It has not come down from heaven: it is not exceptional even
in its attempt to rise to it.

Such are the broad conclusions which in these days seem to be forced
upon us; and which knowledge, as it daily widens, would seem to be
daily strengthening. But are these altogether so destructive as they
seem? Let us enquire into this more closely. If we do this, it will be
soon apparent that the so-called enlightened and critical modern
judgment has been misled as to this point by an error I have already
dwelt upon. It has considered Christianity solely as represented by
Protestantism; or if it has glanced at Rome at all, it has ignorantly
dismissed as weaknesses the doctrines which are the essence of her
strength. Now, as far as Protestantism is concerned, the modern critical
judgment is undoubtedly in the right. Not only, as I have pointed out
already, has experience proved the practical incoherency of its
superstructure, but criticism has washed away like sand every vestige of
its supernatural foundation. If Christianity relies solely, in proof of
its revealed message to us, on the external evidences as to its history
and the source of its doctrines, it can never again hope to convince
men. The supports of external evidence are quite inadequate to the
weight that is put upon them. They might possibly serve as props; but
they crush and crumble instantly, when they are used as pillars. And as
pillars it is that Protestantism is compelled to use them. It will be
quite sufficient, here, to confine our attention to the Bible, and the
place which it occupies in the structure of the Protestant fabric.
'_There--in that book,_' says Protestantism, '_is the Word of God;
there is my unerring guide; I listen to none but that. All special
Churches have varied, and have therefore erred; but it is my first axiom
that that book has never erred. On that book, and on that book only, do
I rest myself; and out of its mouth shall you judge me._' And for a long
time this language had much force in it; for the Protestant axiom was
received by all parties. It is true, indeed, as we have seen already,
that in the absence of an authoritative interpreter, an ambiguous
testament would itself have little authority. But it took a long time
for men to perceive this; and all admitted meanwhile that the testament
was there, and it at any rate meant something. But now all this is
changed. The great Protestant axiom is received by the world no longer.
To many it seems not an axiom, but an absurdity; at best it appears but
as a very doubtful fact: and if external proof is to be the thing that
guides us, we shall need more proof to convince us that the Bible is the
Word of God, than that Protestantism is the religion of the Bible.

We need not pursue the enquiry further, nor ask how Protestantism will
fare at the hands of Comparative Mythology. The blow dealt by Biblical
criticism is to all appearances mortal, and there is no need to look
about for a second. But let us turn to Catholicism, and we shall see
that the whole case is different. To its past history, to external
evidence, and to the religions outside itself, Protestant Christianity
bears one relation, and Roman Christianity quite another.

Protestantism offers itself to the world as a strange servant might,
bringing with it a number of written testimonials. It asks us to examine
them, and by them to judge of its merits. It expressly begs us not to
trust to its own word. '_I cannot_,' it says, '_rely upon my memory. It
has failed me often; it may fail me again. But look at these
testimonials in my favour, and judge me only by them._' And the world
looks at them, examines them carefully; it at last sees that they look
suspicious, and that they may, very possibly, be forgeries. It ask the
Protestant Church to prove them genuine; and the Protestant Church

But the Catholic Church comes to us in an exactly opposite way. She too
brings with her the very same testimonials; but she knows the
uncertainty that obscures all remote evidences, and so at first she does
not lay much stress upon them. First she asks us to make some
acquaintance with herself; to look into her living eyes, to hear the
words of her mouth, to watch her ways and works, and to feel her inner
spirit; and then she says to us, '_Can you trust me? If you can, you
must trust me all in all; for the very first thing I declare to you is,
I have never lied._ _Can you trust me thus far? Then listen, and I will
tell you my history. You have heard it told one way, I know; and that
way often goes against me. My career, I admit it myself, has many
suspicious circumstances. But none of them positively condemn me: all
are capable of a guiltless interpretation. And when you know me, as I
am, you will give me the benefit of every doubt._' It is thus that the
Catholic Church presents the Bible to us. '_Believe the Bible, for my
sake_,' she says, '_not me for the Bible's_.' And the book, as thus
offered us, changes its whole character. We have not the formal
testimonials of a stranger; we have instead the memoranda of a friend.
We have now that presumption in their favour that in the former case was
wanting altogether; and all that we ask of the records now is, not that
they contain any inherent evidence of their truth, but that they contain
no inherent evidence of their falsehood.

Farther, there is this point to remember. Catholic and Protestant alike
declare the Bible to be inspired. But the Catholics can attach to
_inspiration_ a far wider, and less assailable meaning: for their Church
claims for herself a perpetual living power, which can always
concentrate the inspired element, be it never so diffused; whereas for
the Protestants, unless that element be closely bound up with the
letter, it at once becomes intangible and eludes them altogether. And
thus, whilst the latter have committed themselves to definite
statements, now proved untenable, as to what inspiration is, the
Catholic Church, strangely enough, has never done anything of the kind.
She has declared nothing on the subject that is to be held of faith. The
whole question is still, within limits, an open one. As the Catholic
Church, then, stands at present, it seems hard to say that, were we for
other reasons inclined to trust her, she makes any claims, on behalf of
her sacred books, which, in the face of impartial history, would prevent
our doing so.

Let us now go farther, and consider those great Christian doctrines
which, though it is claimed that they are all implied in the Bible, are
confessedly not expressed in it, and were confessedly not consciously
assented to by the Church, till long after the Christian Canon was
closed. And here let us grant the modern critics their most hostile and
extreme position. Let us grant that all the doctrines in question can be
traced to external, and often to non-Christian sources. And what is the
result on Romanism? Does this logically go any way whatever towards
discrediting its claims? Let us consider the matter fairly, and we shall
see that it has not even a tendency to do so. Here, as in the case of
the Bible, the Church's doctrine of her infallibility meets all
objections. For the real question here is, not in what storehouse of
opinions the Church found her doctrines, but why she selected those she
did, and why she rejected and condemned the rest. History and scientific
criticism cannot answer this. History can show us only who baked the
separate bricks; it cannot show us who made or designed the building. No
one believes that the devil made the plans of Cologne Cathedral; but
were we inclined to think he did, the story would be disproved in no way
by our discovering from what quarries every stone had been taken. And
the doctrines of the Church are but as the stones in a building, the
letters of an alphabet, or the words of a language. Many are offered and
few chosen. The supernatural action is to be detected in the choice. The
whole history of the Church, in fact, as she herself tells it, may be
described as a history of supernatural selection. It is quite possible
that she may claim it to be more than that; but could she vindicate for
herself but this one faculty of an infallible choice, she would
vindicate to the full her claim to be under a superhuman guidance.

The Church may be conceived of as a living organism, for ever and on all
sides putting forth feelers and tentacles, that seize, try, and seem to
dally with all kinds of nutriment. A part of this she at length takes
into herself. A large part she at length puts down again. Much that is
thus rejected she seems for a long time on the point of choosing. But
however slow may be the final decision in coming, however reluctant or
hesitating it may seem to be, when it is once made, it is claimed for it
that it is infallible. And this claim is one, as we shall see when we
understand its nature, that no study of ecclesiastical history, no study
of comparative mythology can invalidate now, or even promise to
invalidate. There is nothing rash in saying this. The Church knows the
difficulties that her past records present to us, especially that of the
divine character of the Bible. But she knows too that this divinity is
at present protected by its vagueness; nor is she likely to expose it
more openly to its enemies, till some sure plan of defence has been
devised for it. Rigid as were the opinions entertained as to Biblical
inspiration, throughout the greater part of the Church's history, the
Church has never formally assumed them as articles of faith. Had she
done so, she might indeed have been convicted of error, for many of
these opinions can be shown to be at variance with fact. But though she
lived and breathed for so many centuries amongst them, though for ages
none of her members perhaps ever doubted their truth, she has not laid
them on succeeding ages: she has left them opinions still. A Catholic
might well adduce this as an instance, not indeed of her supernatural
selection, but of its counterpart, her supernatural rejection.

And now, to turn from the past to the future, her possible future
conduct in this matter will give us a very vivid illustration of her
whole past procedure. It may be that before the Church defines
inspiration exactly (if she ever does so), she will wait till lay
criticism has done all it can do. She may then consider what views of
the Bible are historically tenable, and what not; and may faithfully
shape her teaching by the learning of this world, though it may have
been gathered together for the express purpose of overthrowing her.
Atheistic scholars may be quoted in her councils; and supercilious and
sceptical philologists, could they live another hundred years, might
perhaps recognise their discoveries, even their words and phrases,
embodied in an ecclesiastical definition. To the outer world such a
definition would seem to be a mere natural production. But in the eyes
of a Catholic it would be as truly supernatural, as truly the work of
the Holy Spirit, as if it had come down ready-made out of heaven, with
all the accompaniments of a rushing mighty wind, and of visible tongues
of flame. Sanguine critics might expose the inmost history of the
council in which the definition was made; they might show the whole
conduct of it, from one side, to be but a meshwork of accident and of
human motives; and they would ask triumphantly for any traces of the
action of the divine spirit. But the Church, would be unabashed. She
would answer in the words of Job, '_Behold I go forward, but He is not
there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; but He knoweth the way
that I take; when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Behold
my witness is in heaven, and my champion is on high._'

And thus the doctrine of the Church's infallibility has a side that is
just the opposite of that which is commonly thought to be its only one.
It is supposed to have simply gendered bondage; not to have gendered
liberty. But as a matter of fact it has done both; and if we view the
matter fairly, we shall see that it has done the latter at least as
completely as the former. The doctrine of infallibility is undoubtedly a
rope that tethers those that hold it to certain real or supposed facts
of the past; but it is a rope that is capable of indefinite lengthening.
It is not a fetter only; it is a support also; and those who cling to it
can venture fearlessly, as explorers, into currents of speculation that
would sweep away altogether men who did but trust to their own powers of
swimming. Nor does, as is often supposed, the centralizing of this
infallibility in the person of one man present any difficulty from the
Catholic point of view. It is said that the Pope might any day make a
dogma of any absurdities that might happen to occur to him; and that the
Catholic would be bound to accept these, however strongly his reason
might repudiate them. And it is quite true that the Pope _might_ do this
any day, in the sense that there is no external power to prevent him.
But he who has assented to the central doctrine of Catholicism knows
that he never _will_. And it is precisely the obvious absence of any
restraint from without that brings home to the Catholic his faith in the
guiding power from within.

Such, then, and so compacted is the Church of Rome, as a visible and
earthly body, with a past and future history. And with so singular a
firmness and flexibility is her frame knit together, that none of her
modern enemies can get any lasting hold on her, or dismember her or
dislocate her limbs on the racks of their criticism.

But granting all this, what does this do for her? Does it do more than
present her to us as the toughest and most fortunate religion, out of
many co-ordinate and competing ones? Does it tend in any way to set her
on a different platform from the others? And the answer to this is,
that, so far as exact proof goes, we have nothing to expect or deal with
in the matter, either one way or the other. The evidences at our
disposal will impart a general tendency to our opinions, but no more
than that. The general tendency here, however, is the very reverse of
what it is vulgarly supposed to be. So far from the similarities to her
in other religions telling against the special claims of the Catholic
Church, they must really, with the candid theist, tell very strongly in
her favour. For the theist, all theisms have a profound element of truth
in them; and all alleged revelations will, in his eyes, be natural
theisms, struggling to embody themselves in some authorised and
authoritative form. The Catholic Church, as we have seen, is a human
organism, capable of receiving the Divine Spirit; and this is what all
other religious bodies, in so far as they have claimed authority for
their teaching, have consciously or unconsciously attempted to be
likewise; only the Catholic Church represents success, where the others
represent failure: and thus these, from the Catholic stand-point, are
abortive and incomplete Catholicisms. The Bethesda of human faith is
world-wide and as old as time; only in one particular spot an angel has
come down and troubled it; and the waters have been circling there,
thenceforth, in a healing vortex. Such is the sort of claim that the
Catholic Church makes for herself; and, if this be so, what she is, does
not belie what she claims to be. Indeed, the more we compare her with
the other religions, her rivals, the more, even where she most resembles
them, shall we see in her a something that marks her off from them. The
others are like vague and vain attempts at a forgotten tune; she is like
the tune itself, which is recognised the instant it is heard, and which
has been so near to us all the time, though so immeasurably far away
from us. The Catholic Church is the only dogmatic religion that has seen
what dogmatism really implies, and what will, in the long run, be
demanded of it, and she contains in herself all appliances for meeting
these demands. She alone has seen that if there is to be an infallible
voice in the world, this voice must be a living one, as capable of
speaking now as it ever was in the past; and that as the world's
capacities for knowledge grow, the teacher must be always able to unfold
to it a fuller teaching. The Catholic Church is the only historical
religion that can conceivably thus adapt itself to the wants of the
present day, without virtually ceasing to be itself. It is the only
religion that can keep its identity without losing its life, and keep
its life without losing its identity; that can enlarge its teachings
without changing them; that can be always the same, and yet be always

All this, of course, does not prove that Catholicism _is_ the truth; but
it will show the theist that, for all that the modern world can tell
him, it may be. And thus much at least will by-and-by come to be
recognised generally. Opinion, that has been clarified on so many
subjects, cannot remain forever turbid here. A change must come, and a
change can only be for the better. At present the so-called leaders of
enlightened and liberal thought are in this matter, so far as fairness
and insight go, on a level with the wives and mothers of our small
provincial shopkeepers, or the beadle or churchwarden of a country
parish. But prejudice, even when so virulent and so dogged as this, will
lift and disappear some day like a London fog; and then the lineaments
of the question will confront us clearly--the question: but who shall
decide the answer?

What I have left to say bears solely upon this.



     '_Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for

Arguments are like the seed, or like the soul, as Paul conceived of it,
which he compared to seed. They are not quickened unless they die. As
long as they remain for us in the form of arguments they do no work.
Their work begins only, after a time and in secret, when they have sunk
down into the memory, and have been left to lie there; when the
hostility and distrust they were regarded with dies away; when,
unperceived, they melt into the mental system, and, becoming part of
oneself, effect a turning round of the soul. This is true, at least,
when the matters dealt with are such as have engaged us here. It may be
true, too, of those who discern and urge the arguments, just as well as
of those upon whom they urge them. But the immediate barrenness of much
patient and careful reasoning should not make us think that it is lost
labour. One way or other it will some day bear its fruit. Sometimes the
intellect is the servant of the heart. At other times the heart must
follow slowly upon the heels of the intellect.

And such is the case now. For centuries man's faith and all his loftier
feelings had their way made plain before them. The whole empire of human
thought belonged to them. But this old state of things endures no
longer. Upon this Empire, as upon that of Rome, calamity has at last
fallen. A horde of intellectual barbarians has burst in upon it, and has
occupied by force the length and breadth of it. The result has been
astounding. Had the invaders been barbarians only, they might have been
repelled easily; but they were barbarians armed with the most powerful
weapons of civilisation. They were a phenomenon new to history: they
showed us real knowledge in the hands of real ignorance; and the work of
the combination thus far has been ruin, not reorganisation. Few great
movements at the beginning have been conscious of their own true
tendency; but no great movement has mistaken it like modern Positivism.
Seeing just too well to have the true instinct of blindness, and too ill
to have the proper guidance from sight, it has tightened its clutch upon
the world of thought, only to impart to it its own confusion. What lies
before men now is to reduce this confusion to order, by a patient and
calm employment of the intellect. Intellect itself will never re-kindle
faith, or restore any of those powers that are at present so failing and
so feeble; but it will work like a pioneer to prepare their way before
them, if they are ever revived otherwise, encouraged in its labours,
perhaps not even by hope, but at any rate by the hope of hope.

As a pioneer, and not as a preacher, I have tried to indicate the real
position in which modern knowledge has placed us, and the way in which
it puts the problem of life before us. I have tried to show that,
whatever ultimately its tendency may prove to be, it cannot be the
tendency that, by the school that has given it to us, it is supposed to
have been; and that it either does a great deal more than that school
thinks it does, or a great deal less. History would teach us this, even
if nothing else did. The school in question has proceeded from denial to
denial, thinking at each successive moment that it had reached its final
halting-place, and had struck at last on a solid and firm foundation.
First, it denied the Church to assert the Bible; then it denied the
Bible to assert God; then it denied God to assert the moral dignity of
man: and there, if it could remain, it would. But what it would do is of
no avail. It is not its own master; it is compelled to move onwards; and
now, under the force of its own relentless logic, this last
resting-place is beginning to fail also. It professed to compensate for
its denials of God's existence by a freer and more convincing
re-assertion of man's dignity. But the principles which obliged it to
deny the first belief are found to be even more fatal to the
substitute. '_Unless I have seen with my eyes I will not believe_,'
expresses a certain mental tendency that has always had existence. But
till Science and its positive methods began to dawn on the world, this
tendency was vague and wavering. Positive Science supplied it with solid
nutriment. Its body grew denser; its shape more and more definite; and
now the completed portent is spreading its denials through the whole
universe. So far as spirit goes and spiritual aspirations, it has left
existence empty, swept and garnished. If spirit is to enter in again and
dwell there, we must seek by other methods for it. Modern thought has
not created a new doubt; it has simply made perfect an old one; and has
advanced it from the distant regions of theory into the very middle of
our hearts and lives. It has made the question of belief or of unbelief
the supreme practical question for us. It has forced us to stake
everything on the cast of a single die. What are we? Have we been
hitherto deceived in ourselves, or have we not? And is every hope that
has hitherto nerved our lives, melting at last away from us, utterly and
for ever? Or are we indeed what we have been taught to think we are?
Have we indeed some aims that we may still call high and holy--still
some aims that are more than transitory? And have we still some right to
that reverence that we have learnt to cherish for ourselves?

Here lie the difficulties. The battle is to be fought here--here at the
very threshold--at the entrance to the spiritual world. Are we moral and
spiritual beings, or are we not? That is the decisive question, which we
must say our Yes or No to. If, with our eyes open, and with all our
hearts, it be given us to say Yes--to say Yes without fear, and firmly,
and in the face of everything--then there will be little more to fear.
We shall have fought the good fight, we shall have kept the faith; and
whatever we lack more, will without doubt be added to us. From this
belief in ourselves we shall pass to the belief in God, as its only
rational basis and its only emotional completion; and, perhaps, from a
belief in God, to a recognition of His audible voice amongst us. But at
any rate, whatever after-difficulties beset us, they will not be new
difficulties; only those we had braved at first, showing themselves more

But that first decision--how shall we make it? Who or what shall help
us, or give us counsel? There is no evidence that can do so in the
sensible world around us. The universe, as positive thought approaches
it, is blind and dumb about it. Science and history are sullen, and
blind, and dumb. They await upon our decision before they will utter a
single word to us: and that decision, if we have a will at all, it lies
with our own will--with our will alone, to make. It may, indeed, be said
that the will has to create itself by an initial exercise of itself, in
an assent to its own existence. If it can do this, one set of obstacles
is surmounted; but others yet confront us. The world into which the
moral will has borne itself--not a material world, but a spiritual--a
world which the will's existence alone makes possible, this world is not
silent, like the other, but it is torn and divided against itself, and
is resonant with unending contradictions. Its first aspect is that of a
place of torture, a hell of the intellect, in which reason is to be
racked for ever by a tribe of sphinx-like monsters, themselves
despairing. Good and evil inhabit there, confronting each other, for
ever unreconciled: _there_ is omnipotent power baffled, and omnipotent
mercy unexercised. Is the will strong enough to hold on through this
baffling and monstrous world, and not to shrink back and bid the vision
vanish? Can we still resolve to say, 'I believe, although it is
impossible'? Is the will to assert our own moral nature--our own
birthright in eternity, strong enough to bear us on?

The trial is a hard one, and whilst we doubt and hesitate under it the
universal silence of the vast physical world itself disheartens us. Who
are we, in the midst of this unheeding universe, that we can claim for
ourselves so supreme a heritage; that we can assert for ourselves other
laws than those which seem to be all-pervading, and that we can dream
of breaking through them into a something else beyond?

And yet it may be that faith will succeed and conquer sight--that the
preciousness of the treasure we cling to will nerve us with enough
strength to retain it. It may be that man, having seen the way that,
unaided, he is forced to go, will change his attitude; that, finding
only weakness in pride, he will seek for strength in humility, and will
again learn to say, '_I believe, although I never can comprehend_.' Once
let him say this, his path will again grow clearer for him. Through
confusion, and doubt, and darkness, the brightness of God's countenance
will again be visible; and by-and-by again he may hear the Word calling
him. From his first assent to his own moral nature he _must_ rise to a
theism, and he _may_ rise to the recognition of a Church--to a visible
embodiment of that moral nature of his, as directed and joined to its
one aim and end--to its delight, and its desire, and its completion.
Then he will see all that is high and holy taking a distinct and helping
form for him. Grace and mercy will come to him through set and certain
channels. His nature will be redeemed visibly from its weakness and from
its littleness--redeemed, not in dreams or in fancy, but in fact. God
Himself will be his brother and his father; he will be near akin to the
Power that _is_ always, and _is_ everywhere. His love of virtue will be
no longer a mere taste of his own: it will be the discernment and
taking to himself of the eternal strength and of the eternal treasure;
and, whatever he most reveres in mother, or wife, or sister--this he
will know is holy, everywhere and for ever, and is exalted high over all
things in one of like nature with theirs, the Mother of grace, the
Parent of sweet clemency, who will protect him from the enemy, and save
him in the hour of death.

Such is the conception of himself, and of his place in existence, that,
always implicit in man, man has at last developed. He has at last
conceived his race--the faithful of it--as the bride of God. Is this
majestic conception a true one, or is it a dream only, with no abiding
substance? Is it merely a misty vision rising up like an exhalation from
the earth, or does a something more come down to it out of heaven, and
strike into it substance and reality? This figure of human dreams has
grown and grown in stature: does anything divine descend to it, and so
much as touch its lips or its lifted hands? If so, it is but the work of
a moment. The contact is complete. Life, and truth, and force, like an
electric current, pass into the whole frame. It lives, it moves, it
breathes: it has a body and a being: the divine and the eternal is
indeed dwelling amongst us. And thus, though mature knowledge may seem,
as it still widens, to deepen the night around us; though the universe
yawn wider on all sides of us, in vaster depths, in more unfathomable,
soulless gulfs; though the roar of the loom of time grow more audible
and more deafening in our ears--yet through the night and through the
darkness the divine light of our lives will only burn the clearer: and
this speck of a world as it moves through the blank immensity will bear
the light of all the worlds upon its bosom.

Thinkers like Mr. Leslie Stephen say that such beliefs as these belong
to dreamland; and they are welcome if they please to keep their names.
Their terminology at least has this merit, that it recognises the
dualism of the two orders of things it deals with. Let them keep their
names if they will; and in their language the case amounts to this--that
it is only for the sake of the dreams that visit it that the world of
reality has any certain value for us. Will not the dreams continue, when
the reality has passed away?

G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS have in preparation a series of volumes, to be
issued under the title of



The series will be edited by Edward L. Burlingame, and is
designed to bring together, for the convenience of readers and for a
lasting place in the library, those important and representative papers
from recent English periodicals, which may fairly be said to form the
best history of the thought and investigation of the last few years. It
is characteristic of recent thought and science, that a much larger
proportion than ever before of their most important work has appeared in
the form of contributions to reviews and magazines; the thinkers of the
day submitting their results at once to the great public, which is
easiest reached in this way, and holding their discussions before a
large audience, rather than in the old form of monographs reaching the
special student only. As a consequence there are subjects of the deepest
present and permanent interest, almost all of whose literature exists
only in the shape of detached papers, individually so famous that their
topics and opinions are in everybody's mouth--yet collectively only
accessible, for re-reading and comparison, to those who have carefully
preserved them, or who are painstaking enough to study long files of

In so collecting these separate papers as to give the reader a fair if
not complete view of the discussions in which they form a part; to make
them convenient for reference in the future progress of those
discussions; and especially to enable them to be preserved as an
important part of the history of modern thought,--it is believed that
this series will do a service that will be widely appreciated.

Such papers naturally include three classes:--those which by their
originality have recently led discussion into altogether new channels;
those which have attracted deserved attention as powerful special pleas
upon one side or the other in great current questions; and finally,
purely critical and analytical dissertations. The series will aim to
include the best representatives of each of these classes of expression.

It is designed to arrange the essays included in the Series under such
general divisions as the following, to each of which one or more volumes
will be devoted:--


Among the material selected for the first volume (International
Politics), which will be issued immediately, are the following papers:

    Archibald Forbes's Essay on "The Russians, Turks, and Bulgarians;"
    Vsct. Stratford de Redcliffe's "Turkey;" Mr. Gladstone's
    "Montenegro;" Professor Goldwin Smith's Paper on "The Political
    Destiny of Canada," and his Essay called "The Slaveholder and the
    Turk;" Professor Blackie's "Prussia in the Nineteenth Century;"
    Edward Dicey's "Future of Egypt;" Louis Kossuth's "What is in Store
    for Europe;" and Professor Freeman's "Relation of the English People
    to the War."

Among the contents of the second volume (Questions of Belief), are:

    The two well-known "Modern Symposia;" the Discussion by Professor
    Huxley, Mr. Hutton, Sir J.F. Stephen, Lord Selborne, James
    Martineau, Frederic Harrison, the Dean of St. Paul's, the Duke of
    Argyll, and others, on "The Influence Upon Morality of a Decline in
    a Religious Belief;" and the Discussion by Huxley, Hutton, Lord
    Blatchford, the Hon. Roden Noel, Lord Selborne, Canon Barry, Greg,
    the Rev. Baldwin Brown, Frederic Harrison, and others, on "The Soul
    and Future Life." Also, Professor Calderwood's "Ethical Aspects of
    the Development Theory;" Mr. G.H. Lewes's Paper on "The Course of
    Modern Thought;" Thomas Hughes on "The Condition and Prospects Of
    the Church of England;" W.H. Mallock's "Is Life Worth Living?"
    Frederic Harrison's "The Soul and Future Life;" and the Rev. R.F.
    Littledale's "The Pantheistic Factor in Christian Thought."

The volumes will be printed in a handsome crown octavo form, and will
sell for about $1.50 each.

G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS, 182 Fifth Avenue, New York.


=A History of American Literature.= By Moses Coit Tyler, Professor of
English Literature in the University of Michigan. Volumes I and II,
comprising the period, 1607-1765. Large 8vo, about 700 pages, handsomely
bound in cloth, extra, gilt top, $5.00; half calf, extra, $9 50

     The History of American Literature, now offered to the public, is
     the first attempt ever made to give a systematic and critical
     account of the literary development of the American people. It is
     not a mere cyclopædia of literature, or a series of detached
     biographical sketches accompanied by literary extracts: but an
     analytic and sustained narrative of our literary history from the
     earliest English settlement in America down to the present time.
     The work is the result of original and independent studies
     prosecuted by the author for the past ten years, and gives an
     altogether new analysis of American literary forces and results
     during nearly three centuries. The present two volumes--a complete
     work in themselves--cover the whole field of our history during the
     colonial time.

     "An important national work."--_New York Tribune._

     "The literary event of the decade."--_Hartford Courant._

     "A book more interesting than half the new novels."--_The Nation._

     "A work of great and permanent importance."--_New York Evening

     "One of the most valuable publications of the century."--_Boston

     "A book actually fascinating from beginning to end."--Prest.
     J.B. Angell.

     "As the work stands, it may rightfully claim a place on the library
     table of every cultivated American."--_New York Times._

     "No work of similar scope and magnitude and erudition exists, or
     has been attempted in this country."--_New York Evangelist._

     "A unique and valuable work."--_Chicago Tribune._

     "A work which will rank with those of Sismondi, Ticknor, and
     Taine."--_New York Evening Express._

     "It is this philosophical character of the work which brings it not
     far distant from the works of Taine, of Buckle, and of
     Lecky."--_Buffalo Express._

     "One can hardly speak too strongly in praise of these
     conscientious, careful and successful volumes, which deserve to be
     studied alike by scholars and patriots."--_Rev. Henry Martyn
     Dexter, D.D._

     "But the plan of Professor Tyler's book is so vast and its
     execution so fearless, that no reader can expect or wish to agree
     with all its personal judgments. It is a book truly admirable, both
     in design and in general execution; the learning is great, the
     treatment wise, the style fresh and vigorous. Here and there occurs
     a phrase which a severer revision would perhaps exclude, but all
     such criticisms are trivial in view of so signal a success. Like
     Parkman, Professor Tyler may almost be said to have created, not
     merely his volumes, but their theme. Like Parkman, at any rate, he
     has taken a whole department of human history, rescued it from
     oblivion, and made it henceforward a matter of deep interest to
     every thinking mind."--T.W. Higginson, in _The Nation_.

     "The work betrays acute philosophical insight, a rare power of
     historical research, and a cultivated literary habit, which was
     perhaps no less essential than the two former conditions, to its
     successful accomplishment. The style of the author is marked by
     vigor, originality, comprehensiveness, and a curious instinct in
     the selection of words. In this latter respect, though not in the
     moulding of sentences, the reader may perhaps be reminded of the
     choice and fragrant vocabulary of Washington Irving, whose words
     alone often leave an exquisite odor like the perfume of sweet-briar
     and arbutus."--George Ripley, in the _Tribune_.

     "Professor Moses Coit Tyler's 'History of American Literature,' of
     which the first two volumes have just been issued, will take rank
     at once as a book of lasting value, even though the author should
     advance no further than he has already done in the scheme of his
     work. We are not unmindful of the eminent historians this country
     has produced, when we express our opinion that his history is the
     best study of American historic material that has been written by
     an American. There has been manifestly no limit to the enthusiasm,
     conscientiousness and industry with which he has possessed himself
     of the entire body of the literature of which he treats, and at the
     same time he has displayed the qualities of a true literary artist
     in giving form, color and perspective to his work."--Daniel
     Gray, in the _Buffalo Courier_.

=VAN LAUN. The History of French Literature.=

By Henri Van Laun, Translator of Taine's "History of English
Literature," "the Works of Molière," etc.

Vol I. From its Origin to the Renaissance. 8vo, cloth
extra                                                           $2 50

Vol. II. From the Renaissance to the Close of the Reign
of Louis XIV. 8vo, cloth extra                                  $2 50

Vol. III. From the Reign of Louis XIV. to that of
Napoleon III. 8vo, cloth extra                                  $2 50

The set, three volumes, in box, half calf, $15.00; cloth extra,  7 50

     "We have to deal with a people essentially spirited and
     intellectual, whose spirit and intellect have been invariably the
     wonder and admiration, if not the model and mold of contemporary
     thought, and whose literary triumphs remain to this day among the
     most notable landmarks of modern literature." * * *--_Extract from
     Author's Preface._

     "Mr. Van Laun has not given us a mere critical study of the works
     he considers, but has done his best to bring their authors, their
     way of life, and the ways of those around them, before us in a
     living likeness."--_London Daily News._

     "This history is extremely interesting in its exposition of the
     literary progress of the age, in connection with the social and
     political influences which helped to mould the character and the
     destinies of the people."--_Boston Daily Globe._

     "It is full of keenest interest for every person who knows or
     wishes to learn anything of French literature, or of French
     literary history or biography. Scarcely any book of recent origin,
     indeed, is better fitted than this to win general favor with all
     classes of persons."--_N.Y. Evening-Post._

=THIERS= (Louis Adolphe) =Life of.= By Francois Le Goff,
Docteur-és-lettres, Author of a "History of the Government of National
Defense in the Provinces," etc. Translated, from the author's
unpublished manuscript, by Theodore Stanton, A.M. Octavo, with
Portrait, cloth extra. (In Press.)

     This book is written especially for the American public by M.
     Francois Le Goff, of Paris, a French publicist of the
     Conservative-Republican school, who knew Thiers personally and who
     is thoroughly conversant with the history and politics of France.
     Besides the biographical narrative, which is enlivened by many
     fresh anecdotes, the writer attempts to present such a connected
     view of French political history for the last fifty years, as will
     throw light upon the present crisis in France, so incomprehensible
     to most Americans. The work will also be interesting as an able
     defense of the unity of Thiers' political life, a position rarely
     assumed by even the most ardent friends of the great statesman. It
     is illustrated by a fac-simile of his handwriting and autograph, a
     view of his home, etc.

=BRIEF BIOGRAPHIES.= First Series. =Contemporary Statesmen of Europe.=
Edited by Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

They are handsomely printed in square 16mo, and attractively bound in
cloth extra. Price per vol.                                     $1 50

Vol.  I. English Statesmen. By T.W. Higginson.
 "   II. English Radical Leaders. By R.J. Hinton.
 "  III. French Leaders. By Edward King.
 "   IV. German Political Leaders. By Herbert Tuttle.

     These volumes are planned to meet the desire which exists for
     accurate and graphic information in regard to the leaders of
     political action in other countries. They will give portraitures of
     the men and analysis of their lives and work, that will be vivid
     and picturesque, as well as accurate and faithful, and that will
     combine the authority of careful historic narration with the
     interest attaching to anecdote and personal delineation.

     "Compact and readable * * * leaves little to be desired."--_N.Y.

Transcriber's Note:

Page 232--Changed spelling of conquerer to conqueror.

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