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Title: The Idea of God as Affected by Modern Knowledge
Author: Fiske, John
Language: English
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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 "The Idea of God as Affected by Modern Knowledge" ***

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    John Fiske's Writings.

 =MYTHS AND MYTH-MAKERS=: Old Tales and Superstitions interpreted by
 Comparative Mythology. 12mo, $2.00.

 =OUTLINES OF COSMIC PHILOSOPHY.= Based on the Doctrines of Evolution,
 with Criticisms on the Positive Philosophy. In two volumes, 8vo, $6.00.

 =THE UNSEEN WORLD=, and other Essays. 12mo, $2.00.


 =DARWINISM=, and other Essays. 12mo, $2.00.

 =THE DESTINY OF MAN=, viewed in the Light of His Origin. 16mo, $1.00.

 =THE IDEA OF GOD=, as affected by Modern Knowledge. A Sequel to "The
 Destiny of Man." 16mo, $1.00.

[asterism] _For sale by all Booksellers. Sent by mail, post-paid, on
receipt of price, by the Publishers_,


 =AMERICAN POLITICAL IDEAS=, viewed from the Stand-point of Universal
 History. 12mo, $1.00. HARPER & BROTHERS, New York.


    [Illustration; Decorative symbol]


    [Illustration; Decorative panel]

    The Riverside Press, Cambridge

    Copyright, 1885,

    _All rights reserved._

    _The Riverside Press, Cambridge_:
    Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co.


    MY WIFE,

    I now dedicate it.

           *       *       *       *       *

    +Arghyrion kai chrysion ouch hyparchei
    moi; ho de echô, touto soi didômi.+


When asked to give a second address before the Concord School of
Philosophy, I gladly accepted the invitation, as affording a proper
occasion for saying certain things which I had for some time wished to
say about theism. My address was designed to introduce the discussion
of the question whether pantheism is the legitimate outcome of modern
science. It seemed to me that the object might best be attained by
passing in review the various modifications which the idea of God
has undergone in the past, and pointing out the shape in which it is
likely to survive the rapid growth of modern knowledge, and especially
the establishment of that great doctrine of evolution which is fast
obliging us to revise our opinions upon all subjects whatsoever.
Having thus in the text outlined the idea of God most likely to be
conceived by minds trained in the doctrine of evolution, I left it for
further discussion to decide whether the term "pantheism" can properly
be applied to such a conception. While much enlightenment may be got
from carefully describing the substance of a philosophic doctrine,
very little can be gained by merely affixing to it a label; and I
could not but feel that my argument would be simply encumbered by the
introduction of any question of nomenclature involving such a vague and
uninstructive epithet as "pantheism." Such epithets are often regarded
with favour and freely used, as seeming to obviate the necessity for
that kind of labour to which most people are most averse,--the labour
of sustained and accurate thinking. People are too apt to make such
general terms do duty in place of a careful examination of facts, and
are thus sometimes led to strange conclusions. When, for example, they
have heard somebody called an "agnostic," they at once think they know
all about him; whereas they have very likely learned nothing that is
of the slightest value in characterizing his opinions or his mental
attitude. A term that can be applied at once to a Comte, a Mansel, and
a Huxley is obviously of little use in the matter of definition. But,
it may be asked, in spite of their world-wide differences, do not these
three thinkers agree in holding that nothing can be known about the
nature of God? Perhaps so,--one cannot answer even this plain question
with an unqualified yes; but, granting that they fully agree in this
assertion of ignorance, nevertheless, in their philosophic attitudes
with regard to this ignorance, in the use they severally make of the
assertion, in the way it determines their inferences about all manner
of other things, the differences are so vast that nothing but mental
confusion can come from a terminology which would content itself
by applying to all three the common epithet "agnostic." The case is
similar with such a word as "pantheism," which has been familiarly
applied to so many utterly diverse systems of thought that it is
very hard to tell just what it means. It has been equally applied to
the doctrine of "the Hindu philosophers of the orthodox Brahmanical
schools," who "hold that all finite existence is an illusion, and life
mere vexation and mistake, a blunder or sorry jest of the Absolute;"
and to the doctrine of the Stoics, who "went to the other extreme,
and held that the universe was the product of perfect reason and in
an absolute sense good." (Pollock's "Spinoza," p. 356.) In recent
times it has been commonly used as a vituperative epithet, and hurled
indiscriminately at such unpopular opinions as do not seem to call
for so heavy a missile as the more cruel term "atheism." The writer
who sets forth in plain scientific language a physical theory of the
universe is liable to be scowled at and called an atheist; but, when
the very same ideas are presented in the form of oracular apophthegm or
poetic rhapsody, the author is more gently described as "tinctured with

But out of the chaos of vagueness in which this unhappy word has been
immersed it is perhaps still possible to extract something like a
definite meaning. In the broadest sense there are three possible ways
in which we may contemplate the universe.

_First_, we may regard the world of phenomena as sufficient unto
itself, and deny that it needs to be referred to any underlying and
all-comprehensive unity. Nothing has an ultimate origin or destiny;
there is no dramatic tendency in the succession of events, nor any
ultimate law to which everything must be referred; there is no
reasonableness in the universe save that with which human fancy
unwarrantably endows it; the events of the world have no orderly
progression like the scenes of a well-constructed plot, but in the
manner of their coming and going they constitute simply what Chauncey
Wright so aptly called "cosmical weather;" they drift and eddy about in
an utterly blind and irrational manner, though now and then evolving,
as if by accident, temporary combinations which have to us a rational
appearance. This is Atheism, pure and unqualified. It recognizes no
Omnipresent Energy.

_Secondly_, we may hold that the world of phenomena is utterly
unintelligible unless referred to an underlying and all-comprehensive
unity. All things are manifestations of an Omnipresent Energy which
cannot be in any imaginable sense personal or anthropomorphic; out
from this eternal source of phenomena all individualities proceed, and
into it they must all ultimately return and be absorbed; the events
of the world have an orderly progression, but not toward any goal
recognizable by us; in the process of evolution there is nothing that
from any point of view can be called teleological; the beginning and
end of things--that which is Alpha and Omega--is merely an inscrutable
essence, a formless void. Such a view as this may properly be called
Pantheism. It recognizes an Omnipresent Energy, but virtually
identifies it with the totality of things.

_Thirdly_, we may hold that the world of phenomena is intelligible
only when regarded as the multiform manifestation of an Omnipresent
Energy that is in some way--albeit in a way quite above our finite
comprehension--anthropomorphic or quasi-personal. There is a
true objective reasonableness in the universe; its events have
an orderly progression, and, so far as those events are brought
sufficiently within our ken for us to generalize them exhaustively,
their progression is toward a goal that is recognizable by human
intelligence; "the process of evolution is itself the working out of
a mighty Teleology of which our finite understandings can fathom but
the scantiest rudiments" ("Cosmic Philosophy," vol. ii. p. 406); it is
indeed but imperfectly that we can describe the dramatic tendency in
the succession of events, but we can see enough to assure us of the
fundamental fact that there is such a tendency; and this tendency is
the objective aspect of that which, when regarded on its subjective
side, we call Purpose. Such a theory of things is Theism. It recognizes
an Omnipresent Energy, which is none other than the living God.

It is this theistic doctrine which I hold myself, and which in the
present essay I have sought to exhibit as the legitimate outcome
of modern scientific thought. I was glad to have such an excellent
occasion for returning to the subject as the invitation from Concord
gave me, because in a former attempt to expound the same doctrine I
do not seem to have succeeded in making myself understood. In my
"Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy," published in 1874, I endeavoured to
set forth a theory of theism identical with that which is set forth
in the present essay. But an acute and learned friend, writing under
the pseudonym of "Physicus," in his "Candid Examination of Theism"
(London, 1878), thus criticizes my theory: In it, he says, "while I am
able to discern the elements which I think may properly be regarded as
common to Theism and to Atheism, I am not able to discern any single
element that is specifically distinctive of Theism" (p. 145). The
reason for the inability of "Physicus" to discern any such specifically
distinctive element is that he misunderstands me as proposing to
divest the theistic idea of every shred of anthropomorphism, while
still calling it a theistic idea. This, he thinks, would be an utterly
illegitimate proceeding, and I quite agree with him. In similar wise my
friend Mr. Frederick Pollock, in his admirable work on Spinoza (London,
1880), observes that "Mr. Fiske's doctrine excludes the belief in a
so-called Personal God, and the particular forms of religious emotion
dependent on it" (p. 356). If the first part of this sentence stood
alone, I might pause to inquire how much latitude of meaning may be
conveyed in the expression "so-called;" is it meant that I exclude the
belief in a Personal God as it was held by Augustine and Paley, or as
it was held by Clement and Schleiermacher, or both? But the second
clause of the sentence seems to furnish the answer; it seems to imply
that I would practically do away with Theism altogether.

Such a serious misstatement of my position, made in perfect good faith
by two thinkers so conspicuous for ability and candour, shows that,
in spite of all the elaborate care with which the case was stated in
"Cosmic Philosophy," some further explanation is needed. It is true
that there are expressions in that work which, taken singly and by
themselves, might seem to imply a total rejection of theism. Such
expressions occur chiefly in the chapter entitled "Anthropomorphic
Theism," where great pains are taken to show the inadequacy of
the Paley argument from design, and to point out the insuperable
difficulties in which we are entangled by the conception of a Personal
God as it is held by the great majority of modern theologians
who have derived it from Plato and Augustine. In the succeeding
chapters, however, it is expressly argued that the total elimination
of anthropomorphism from the idea of God is impossible. There are
some who, recognizing that the ideas of Personality and Infinity are
unthinkable in combination, seek to escape the difficulty by speaking
of God as the "Infinite Power;" that is, instead of a symbol derived
from our notion of human consciousness, they employ a symbol derived
from our notion of force in general. For many philosophic purposes the
device is eminently useful; but it should not be forgotten that, while
the form of our experience of Personality does not allow us to conceive
it as infinite, it is equally true that the form of our experience
of Force does not allow us to conceive it as infinite, since we know
force only as antagonized by other force. Since, moreover, our notion
of force is purely a generalization from our subjective sensations of
effort overcoming resistance, there is scarcely less anthropomorphism
lurking in the phrase "Infinite Power" than in the phrase "Infinite
Person." Now in "Cosmic Philosophy" I argue that the presence of God
is the one all-pervading fact of life, from which there is no escape;
that while in the deepest sense the nature of Deity is unknowable by
finite Man, nevertheless the exigencies of our thinking oblige us to
symbolize that nature in some form that has a real meaning for us; and
that we cannot symbolize that nature as in any wise physical, but are
bound to symbolize it as in some way psychical. I do not here repeat
the arguments, but simply state the conclusions. The final conclusion
(vol. ii. p. 449) is that we must not say that "God is Force," since
such a phrase inevitably calls up those pantheistic notions of blind
necessity, which it is my express desire to avoid; but, always bearing
in mind the symbolic character of the words, we may say that "God is
Spirit." How my belief in the personality of God could be more strongly
expressed without entirely deserting the language of modern philosophy
and taking refuge in pure mythology, I am unable to see.

There are two points in the present essay which I hope will serve to
define more completely the kind of theism which I have tried to present
as compatible with the doctrine of evolution. One is the historic
contrast between anthropomorphic and cosmic theism regarded in their
modes of genesis, and especially as exemplified within the Christian
church in the very different methods and results of Augustine on the
one hand and Athanasius on the other. The view which I have ventured
to designate as "cosmic theism" is no invention of mine; in its most
essential features it has been entertained by some of the profoundest
thinkers of Christendom in ancient and modern times, from Clement of
Alexandria to Lessing and Goethe and Schleiermacher. The other point is
the teleological inference drawn from the argument of my first Concord
address on "The Destiny of Man, viewed in the Light of his Origin."

When that address was published, a year ago, I was surprised to find it
quite commonly regarded as indicating some radical change of attitude
on my part,--a "conversion," perhaps, from one set of opinions to
another. Inasmuch as the argument in the "Destiny of Man" was based
in every one of its parts upon arguments already published in "Cosmic
Philosophy" (1874), and in the "Unseen World" (1876), I naturally could
not understand why the later book should impress people so differently
from the earlier ones. It presently appeared, however, that none of
my friends who had studied the earlier books had detected any such
change of attitude; it was only people who knew little or nothing
about me, or else the newspapers. Whence the inference seemed obvious
that many readers of the "Destiny of Man" must have contrasted it, not
with my earlier books which they had not read, but with some vague and
distorted notion about my views which had grown up (Heaven knows how or
why!) through the medium of "the press;" and thus there might have been
produced the impression that those views had undergone a radical change.

It would be little to my credit, however, had my views of the
doctrine of evolution and its implications undergone no development
or enlargement since the publication of "Cosmic Philosophy." To carry
such a subject about in one's mind for ten years, without having
any new thoughts about it, would hardly be a proof of fitness for
philosophizing. I have for some time been aware of a shortcoming
in the earlier work, which it is the purpose of these two Concord
addresses in some measure to remedy. That shortcoming was an imperfect
appreciation of the goal toward which the process of evolution is
tending, and a consequent failure to state adequately how the doctrine
of evolution must affect our estimate of Man's place in Nature. Nothing
of fundamental importance in "Cosmic Philosophy" needed changing, but
a new chapter needed to be written, in order to show how the doctrine
of evolution, by exhibiting the development of the highest spiritual
human qualities as the goal toward which God's creative work has from
the outset been tending, replaces Man in his old position of headship
in the universe, even as in the days of Dante and Aquinas. That which
the pre-Copernican astronomy naively thought to do by placing the home
of Man in the centre of the physical universe, the Darwinian biology
profoundly accomplishes by exhibiting Man as the terminal fact in that
stupendous process of evolution whereby things have come to be what
they are. In the deepest sense it is as true as it ever was held to be,
that the world was made for Man, and that the bringing forth in him of
those qualities which we call highest and holiest is the final cause
of creation. The arguments upon which this conclusion rests, as they
are set forth in the "Destiny of Man" and epitomized in the concluding
section of the present essay, may all be found in "Cosmic Philosophy;"
but I failed to sum them up there and indicate the conclusion, almost
within reach, which I had not quite clearly seized. When, after long
hovering in the background of consciousness, it suddenly flashed
upon me two years ago, it came with such vividness as to seem like a

This conclusion as to the implications of the doctrine of evolution
concerning Man's place in Nature supplies the element wanting in the
theistic theory set forth in "Cosmic Philosophy,"--the teleological
element. It is profoundly true that a theory of things may seem
theistic or atheistic in virtue of what it says of Man, no less than
in virtue of what it says of God. The craving for a final cause is so
deeply rooted in human nature that no doctrine of theism which fails to
satisfy it can seem other than lame and ineffective. In writing "Cosmic
Philosophy" I fully realized this when, in the midst of the argument
against Paley's form of theism, I said that "the process of evolution
is itself the working out of a mighty Teleology of which our finite
understandings can fathom but the scantiest rudiments." Nevertheless,
while the whole momentum of my thought carried me to the conviction
that it must be so, I was not yet able to indicate _how_ it is so, and
I accordingly left the subject with this brief and inadequate hint.
Could the point have been worked out then and there, I think it would
have left no doubt in the minds of "Physicus" and Mr. Pollock as to the
true character of Cosmic Theism.

But hold, cries the scientific inquirer, what in the world are you
doing? Are we again to resuscitate the phantom Teleology, which we had
supposed at last safely buried between cross-roads and pinned down with
a stake? Was not Bacon right in characterizing "final causes" as vestal
virgins, so barren has their study proved? And has not Huxley, with
yet keener sarcasm, designated them the _hetairæ_ of philosophy, so
often have they led men astray? Very true. I do not wish to take back a
single word of all that I have said in my chapter on "Anthropomorphic
Theism" in condemnation of the teleological method and the peculiar
theistic doctrines upon which it rests. As a means of investigation
it is absolutely worthless. Nay, it is worse than worthless; it is
treacherous, it is debauching to the intellect. But that is no reason
why, when a distinct dramatic tendency in the events of the universe
appears as the _result_ of purely scientific investigation, we should
refuse to recognize it. It is the object of the "Destiny of Man"
to prove that there is such a dramatic tendency; and while such a
tendency cannot be regarded as indicative of purpose in the limited
anthropomorphic sense, it is still, as I said before, the objective
aspect of that which, when regarded on its subjective side, we call
Purpose. There is a reasonableness in the universe such as to indicate
that the Infinite Power of which it is the multiform manifestation is
psychical, though it is impossible to ascribe to Him any of the limited
psychical attributes which we know, or to argue from the ways of Man to
the ways of God. For, as St. Paul reminds us, "who hath known the mind
of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor?"

It is in this sense that I accept Mr. Spencer's doctrine of the
Unknowable. How far my interpretation agrees with his own I do not
undertake to say. On such an abstruse matter it is best that one should
simply speak for one's self. But in his recent essay on "Retrogressive
Religion" he uses expressions which imply a doctrine of theism
essentially similar to that here maintained. The "infinite and eternal
Energy from which all things proceed," and which is the same power that
"in ourselves wells up under the form of consciousness," is certainly
the power which is here recognized as God. The term "Unknowable" I have
carefully refrained from using; it does not occur in the text of this
essay. It describes only one aspect of Deity, but it has been seized
upon by shallow writers of every school, treated as if fully synonymous
with Deity, and made the theme of the most dismal twaddle that the
world has been deluged with since the days of mediæval scholasticism.
The latest instance is the wretched positivist rubbish which Mr.
Frederic Harrison has mistaken for criticism, and to which it is almost
a pity that Mr. Spencer should have felt called upon to waste his
valuable time in replying. That which Mr. Spencer throughout all his
works regards as the All-Being, the Power of which "our lives, alike
physical and mental, in common with all the activities, organic and
inorganic, amid which we live, are but the workings,"--this omnipresent
Power it pleases Mr. Harrison to call the "All-Nothingness," to
describe it as "a logical formula begotten in controversy, dwelling
apart from man and the world" (whatever all that may mean), and to
imagine its worshippers as thus addressing it in prayer, "O _x_^n,
love us, help us, make us one with thee!" If Mr. Harrison's aim were
to understand, rather than to misrepresent, the religious attitude
which goes with such a conception of Deity as Mr. Spencer's, he could
nowhere find it more happily expressed than in these wonderful lines of

    "Weltseele, komm, uns zu durchdringen!
    Dann mit dem Weltgeist selbst zu ringen
          Wird unsrer Kräfte Hochberuf.
    Theilnehmend führen gute Geister,
    Gelinde leitend, höchste Meister,
          Zu dem der alles schafft und schuf."

Mr. Harrison is enabled to perform his antics simply because he happens
to have such a word as "Unknowable" to play with. Yet the word which
has been put to such unseemly uses is, when properly understood, of the
highest value in theistic philosophy. That Deity _per se_ is not only
unknown but unknowable is a truth which Mr. Spencer has illustrated
with all the resources of that psychologic analysis of which he is
incomparably the greatest master the world has ever seen; but it is not
a truth which originated with him, or the demonstration of which is
tantamount, as Mr. Harrison would have us believe, to the destruction
of all religion. Among all the Christian theologians that have lived,
there are few higher names than Athanasius, who also regarded Deity
_per se_ as unknowable, being revealed to mankind only through
incarnation in Christ. It is not as failing to recognize its value
that I have refrained in this essay from using the term "Unknowable;"
it is because so many false and stupid inferences have been drawn
from Mr. Spencer's use of the word that it seemed worth while to show
how a doctrine essentially similar to his might be expounded without
introducing it. For further elucidation I will simply repeat in this
connection what I wrote long ago: "It is enough to remind the reader
that Deity is unknowable just in so far as it is not manifested to
consciousness through the phenomenal world,--knowable just in so
far as it is thus manifested: unknowable in so far as infinite and
absolute,--knowable in the order of its phenomenal manifestations;
knowable, in a symbolic way, as the Power which is disclosed in every
throb of the mighty rhythmic life of the universe; knowable as the
eternal Source of a Moral Law which is implicated with each action
of our lives, and in obedience to which lies our only guaranty of
the happiness which is incorruptible, and which neither inevitable
misfortune nor unmerited obloquy can take away. Thus, though we may
not by searching find out God, though we may not compass infinitude
or attain to absolute knowledge, we may at least know all that it
concerns us to know, as intelligent and responsible beings. They who
seek to know more than this, to transcend the conditions under which
alone is knowledge possible, are, in Goethe's profound language, as
wise as little children who, when they have looked into a mirror, turn
it around to see what is behind it." ("Cosmic Philosophy," vol. ii. p.

       *       *       *       *       *

The present essay must be regarded as a sequel to the "Destiny of
Man,"--so much so that the force of the argument in the concluding
section can hardly be appreciated without reference to the other
book. The two books, taken together, contain the bare outlines of a
theory of religion which I earnestly hope at some future time to state
elaborately in a work on the true nature of Christianity. Some such
scheme had begun vaguely to dawn upon my mind when I was fourteen years
old, and thought in the language of the rigid Calvinistic orthodoxy
then prevalent in New England. After many and extensive changes of
opinion, the idea assumed definite shape in the autumn of 1869, when
I conceived the plan of a book to be entitled "Jesus of Nazareth and
the Founding of Christianity,"--a work intended to deal on the one
hand with the natural genesis of the complex aggregate of beliefs and
aspirations known as Christianity, and on the other hand with the
metamorphoses which are being wrought in this aggregate by modern
knowledge and modern theories of the universe. Such a book, involving a
treatment both historical and philosophical, requires long and varied
preparation; and I have always regarded my other books, published from
time to time, as simply wayside studies preliminary to the undertaking
of this complicated and difficult task. While thus habitually shaping
my work with reference to this cherished idea, I have written some
things which are in a special sense related to it. The rude outlines of
a very small portion of the historical treatment are contained in the
essays on "The Jesus of History," and "The Christ of Dogma," published
in the volume entitled "The Unseen World, and Other Essays." The
outlines of the philosophical treatment are partially set forth in the
"Destiny of Man" and in the present work.

It amused me to see that almost every review of the "Destiny of Man"
took pains to state that it was my Concord address "rewritten and
expanded." Such trifles help one to understand the helter-skelter way
in which more important things get said and believed. The "Destiny of
Man" was printed exactly as it was delivered at Concord, without the
addition, or subtraction, or alteration of a single word. The case is
the same with the present work.

 PETERSHAM, _September 6, 1885_.


  _I. Difficulty of expressing the Idea of God so
  that it can be readily understood_                  _35_
  _II. The Rapid Growth of Modern Knowledge_          _46_

  _III. Sources of the Theistic Idea_                 _62_

  _IV. Development of Monotheism_                     _72_

  _V. The Idea of God as immanent in the World_       _81_

  _VI. The Idea of God as remote from the World_      _87_

  _VII. Conflict between the Two Ideas, commonly
  misunderstood as a Conflict between Religion
  and Science_                                        _97_

  _VIII. Anthropomorphic Conceptions of God_         _111_

  _IX. The Argument from Design_                     _118_

  _X. Simile of the Watch replaced by Simile of
  the Flower_                                        _128_

  _XI. The Craving for a Final Cause_                _134_

  _XII. Symbolic Conceptions_                        _140_

  _XIII. The Eternal Source of Phenomena_            _144_

  _XIV. The Power that makes for Righteousness_      _158_



_Difficulty of expressing the Idea of God so that it can be readily

In Goethe's great poem, while Faust is walking with Margaret at
eventide in the garden, she asks him questions about his religion. It
is long since he has been shriven or attended mass; does he, then,
believe in God?--a question easy to answer with a simple yes, were
it not for the form in which it is put. The great scholar and subtle
thinker, who has delved in the deepest mines of philosophy and come
forth weary and heavy-laden with their boasted treasures, has framed a
very different conception of God from that entertained by the priest at
the confessional or the altar, and how is he to make this intelligible
to the simple-minded girl that walks by his side? Who will make bold
to declare that he can grasp an idea of such overwhelming vastness as
the idea of God, yet who that hath the feelings of a man can bring
himself to cast away a belief that is indispensable to the rational
and healthful workings of the mind? So long as the tranquil dome of
heaven is raised above our heads and the firm-set earth is spread forth
beneath our feet, while the everlasting stars course in their mighty
orbits and the lover gazes with ineffable tenderness into the eyes of
her that loves him, so long, says Faust, must our hearts go out toward
Him that upholds and comprises all. Name or describe as we may the
Sustainer of the world, the eternal fact remains there, far above our
comprehension, yet clearest and most real of all facts. To name and
describe it, to bring it within the formulas of theory or creed, is
but to veil its glory as when the brightness of heaven is enshrouded
in mist and smoke. This has a pleasant sound to Margaret's ears. It
reminds her of what the parson sometimes says, though couched in very
different phrases; and yet she remains uneasy and unsatisfied. Her mind
is benumbed by the presence of an idea confessedly too great to be
grasped. She feels the need of some concrete symbol that can be readily
apprehended; and she hopes that her lover has not been learning bad
lessons from Mephistopheles.

The difficulty which here besets Margaret must doubtless have been
felt by every one when confronted with the thoughts by which the
highest human minds have endeavoured to disclose the hidden life of the
universe and interpret its meaning. It is a difficulty which baffles
many, and they who surmount it are few indeed. Most people content
themselves through life with a set of concrete formulas concerning
Deity, and vituperate as atheistic all conceptions which refuse to be
compressed within the narrow limits of their creed. For the great mass
of men the idea of God is quite overlaid and obscured by innumerable
symbolic rites and doctrines that have grown up in the course of the
long historic development of religion. All such rites and doctrines had
a meaning once, beautiful and inspiring or terrible and forbidding, and
many of them still retain it. But whether meaningless or fraught with
significance, men have wildly clung to them as shipwrecked mariners
cling to the drifting spars that alone give promise of rescue from
threatening death. Such concrete symbols have in all ages been argued
and fought for until they have come to seem the essentials of religion;
and new moons and sabbaths, decrees of councils and articles of faith,
have usurped the place of the living God. In every age the theory or
discovery--however profoundly theistic in its real import--which has
thrown discredit upon such symbols has been stigmatized as subversive
of religion, and its adherents have been reviled and persecuted. It
is, of course, inevitable that this should be so. To the half-educated
mind a theory of divine action couched in the form of a legend, in
which God is depicted as entertaining human purposes and swayed by
human passions, is not only intelligible, but impressive. It awakens
emotion, it speaks to the heart, it threatens the sinner with wrath to
come or heals the wounded spirit with sweet whispers of consolation.
However mythical the form in which it is presented, however literally
false the statements of which it is composed, it seems profoundly
real and substantial. Just in so far as it is crudely concrete, just
in so far as its terms can be vividly realized by the ordinary mind,
does such a theological theory seem weighty and true. On the other
hand, a theory of divine action which, discarding as far as possible
the aid of concrete symbols, attempts to include within its range
the endlessly complex operations that are forever going on throughout
the length and breadth of the knowable universe,--such a theory is to
the ordinary mind unintelligible. It awakens no emotion because it
is not understood. Though it may be the nearest approximation to the
truth of which the human intellect is at the present moment capable,
though the statements of which it is composed may be firmly based upon
demonstrated facts in nature, it will nevertheless seem eminently
unreal and uninteresting. The dullest peasant can understand you when
you tell him that honey is sweet, while a statement that the ratio
of the circumference of a circle to its diameter may be expressed by
the formula +p+ = 3.14159 will sound as gibberish in his ears;
yet the truth embodied in the latter statement is far more closely
implicated with every act of the peasant's life, if he only knew it,
than the truth expressed in the former. So the merest child may know
enough to marvel at the Hebrew legend of the burning bush, but only
the ripest scholar can begin to understand the character of the mighty
problems with which Spinoza was grappling when he had so much to say
about _natura naturans_ and _natura naturata_.

For these reasons all attempts to study God as revealed in the workings
of the visible universe, and to characterize the divine activity in
terms derived from such study, have met with discouragement, if not
with obloquy. As substituting a less easily comprehensible formula for
one that is more easily comprehensible, they seem to be frittering
away the idea of God, and reducing it to an empty abstraction. There
is a further reason for the dread with which such studies are commonly
regarded. The theories of divine action accepted as orthodox by the
men of any age have been bequeathed to them by their forefathers of an
earlier age. They were originally framed with reference to assumed
facts of nature which advancing knowledge is continually discrediting
and throwing aside. Each forward step in physical science obliges us to
contemplate the universe from a somewhat altered point of view, so that
the mutual relations of its parts keep changing as in an ever-shifting
landscape. The notions of the world and its Maker with which we started
by and by prove meagre and unsatisfying; they no longer fit in with the
general scheme of our knowledge. Hence the men who are wedded to the
old notions are quick to sound the alarm. They would fain deter us from
taking the forward step which carries us to a new standpoint. Beware of
science, they cry, lest with its dazzling discoveries and adventurous
speculations it rob us of our soul's comfort and leave us in a godless
world. Such in every age has been the cry of the more timid and halting
spirits; and their fears have found apparent confirmation in the
behaviour of a very different class of thinkers. As there are those
who live in perpetual dread of the time when science shall banish God
from the world, so, on the other hand, there are those who look forward
with longing to such a time, and in their impatience are continually
starting up and proclaiming that at last it has come. There are those
who have indeed learned a lesson from Mephistopheles, the "spirit that
forever denies." These are they that say in their hearts, "There is
no God," and "congratulate themselves that they are going to die like
the beasts." Rushing into the holiest arcana of philosophy, even where
angels fear to tread, they lay hold of each new discovery in science
that modifies our view of the universe, and herald it as a crowning
victory for the materialists,--a victory which is ushering in the happy
day when atheism is to be the creed of all men. It is in view of such
philosophizers that the astronomer, the chemist, or the anatomist,
whose aim is the dispassionate examination of evidence and the
unbiased study of phenomena, may fitly utter the prayer, "Lord, save me
from my friends!"

Thus through age after age has it fared with men's discoveries in
science, and with their thoughts about God and the soul. It was so
in the days of Galileo and Newton, and we have found it to be so in
the days of Darwin and Spencer. The theologian exclaims, if planets
are held in place by gravitation and tangential momentum, and if the
highest forms of life have been developed by natural selection and
direct adaptation, then the universe is swayed by blind forces, and
nothing is left for God to do: how impious and terrible the thought!
Even so, echoes the favourite atheist, the Lamettrie or Büchner of
the day; the universe, it seems, has always got on without a God, and
accordingly there is none: how noble and cheering the thought! And as
thus age after age they wrangle, with their eyes turned away from the
light, the world goes on to larger and larger knowledge in spite of
them, and does not lose its faith, for all these darkeners of counsel
may say. As in the roaring loom of Time the endless web of events is
woven, each strand shall make more and more clearly visible the living
garment of God.


_The Rapid Growth of Modern Knowledge._

At no time since men have dwelt upon the earth have their notions about
the universe undergone so great a change as in the century of which we
are now approaching the end. Never before has knowledge increased so
rapidly; never before has philosophical speculation been so actively
conducted, or its results so widely diffused. It is a characteristic
of organic evolution that numerous progressive tendencies, for a long
time inconspicuous, now and then unite to bring about a striking and
apparently sudden change; or a set of forces, quietly accumulating
in one direction, at length unlock some new reservoir of force and
abruptly inaugurate a new series of phenomena, as when water rises in
a tank until its overflow sets whirling a system of toothed wheels.
It may be that Nature makes no leaps, but in this way she now and then
makes very long strides. It is in this way that the course of organic
development is marked here and there by memorable epochs, which seem
to open new chapters in the history of the universe. There was such
an epoch when the common ancestor of ascidian and amphioxus first
showed rudimentary traces of a vertebral column. There was such an
epoch when the air-bladder of early amphibians began to do duty as a
lung. Greatest of all, since the epoch, still hidden from our ken,
when organic life began upon the surface of the globe, was the birth
of that new era when, through a wondrous change in the direction of
the working of natural selection, Humanity appeared upon the scene.
In the career of the human race we can likewise point to periods in
which it has become apparent that an immense stride was taken. Such a
period marks the dawning of human history, when after countless ages
of desultory tribal warfare men succeeded in uniting into comparatively
stable political societies, and through the medium of written language
began handing down to posterity the record of their thoughts and
deeds. Since that morning twilight of history there has been no era
so strongly marked, no change so swift or so far-reaching in the
conditions of human life, as that which began with the great maritime
discoveries of the fifteenth century and is approaching its culmination
to-day. In its earlier stages this modern era was signalized by
sporadic achievements of the human intellect, great in themselves and
leading to such stupendous results as the boldest dared not dream of.
Such achievements were the invention of printing, the telescope and
microscope, the geometry of Descartes, the astronomy of Newton, the
physics of Huyghens, the physiology of Harvey. Man's senses were thus
indefinitely enlarged as his means of registration were perfected; he
became capable of extending physical inferences from the earth to the
heavens; and he made his first acquaintance with that luminiferous
ether which was by and by to reveal the intimate structure of matter in
regions far beyond the power of the microscope to penetrate.

It is only within the present century that the vastness of the changes
thus beginning to be wrought has become apparent. The scientific
achievements of the human intellect no longer occur sporadically: they
follow one upon another, like the organized and systematic conquests
of a resistless army. Each new discovery becomes at once a powerful
implement in the hands of innumerable workers, and each year wins over
fresh regions of the universe from the unknown to the known. Our own
generation has become so wonted to this unresting march of discovery
that we already take it as quite a matter of course. Our minds become
easily deadened to its real import, and the examples we cite in
illustration of it have an air of triteness. We scarcely need to be
reminded that all the advances made in locomotion, from the days of
Nebuchadnezzar to those of Andrew Jackson, were as nothing compared to
the change that has been wrought within a few years by the introduction
of railroads. In these times, when Puck has fulfilled his boast and put
a girdle about the earth in forty minutes, we are not yet perhaps in
danger of forgetting that a century has not elapsed since he who caught
the lightning upon his kite was laid in the grave. Yet the lesson of
these facts, as well as of the grandmother's spinning-wheel that stands
by the parlour fireside, is well to bear in mind. The change therein
exemplified since Penelope plied her distaff is far less than that
which has occurred within the memory of living men. The developments
of machinery, which have worked such wonders, have greatly altered the
political conditions of human society, so that a huge republic like
the United States is now as snug and compact and easily manageable
as the tiny republic of Switzerland in the eighteenth century. The
number of men that can live upon a given area of the earth's surface
has been multiplied manifold, and while the mass of human life has thus
increased its value has been at the same time enhanced.

In these various applications of physical theory to the industrial
arts, countless minds, of a class that formerly were not reached
by scientific reasoning at all, are now brought into daily contact
with complex and subtle operations of matter, and their habits of
thought are thus notably modified. Meanwhile, in the higher regions
of chemistry and molecular physics the progress has been such that
no description can do it justice. When we reflect that a fourth
generation has barely had time to appear on the scene since Priestley
discovered that there was such a thing as oxygen, we stand awestruck
before the stupendous pile of chemical science which has been reared
in this brief interval. Our knowledge thus gained of the molecular
and atomic structure of matter has been alone sufficient to remodel
our conceptions of the universe from beginning to end. The case of
molecular physics is equally striking. The theory of the conservation
of energy, and the discovery that light, heat, electricity, and
magnetism are differently conditioned modes of undulatory motion
transformable each into the other, are not yet fifty years old. In
physical astronomy we remained until 1839 confined within the limits of
the solar system, and even here the Newtonian theory had not yet won
its crowning triumph in the discovery of the planet Neptune. To-day
we not only measure the distances and movements of many stars, but by
means of spectrum analysis are able to tell what they are made of.
It is more than a century since the nebular hypothesis, by which we
explain the development of stellar systems, was first propounded by
Immanuel Kant, but it is only within thirty years that it has been
generally adopted by astronomers; and among the outward illustrations
of its essential soundness none is more remarkable than its surviving
such an enlargement of our knowledge. Coming to the geologic study
of the changes that have taken place on the earth's surface, it was
in 1830 that Sir Charles Lyell published the book which first placed
this study upon a scientific basis. Cuvier's classification of past
and present forms of animal life, which laid the foundations alike of
comparative anatomy and of palæontology, came but little earlier. The
cell-doctrine of Schleiden and Schwann, prior to which modern biology
can hardly be said to have existed, dates from 1839; and it was only
ten years before that the scientific treatment of embryology began with
Von Baer. At the present moment, twenty-six years have not elapsed
since the epoch-making work of Darwin first announced to the world the
discovery of natural selection.

In the cycle of studies which are immediately concerned with the career
of mankind, the rate of progress has been no less marvellous. The
scientific study of human speech may be said to date from the flash
of insight which led Friedrich Schlegel in 1808 to detect the kinship
between the Aryan languages. From this beginning to the researches of
Fick and Ascoli in our own time, the quantity of achievement rivals
anything the physical sciences can show. The study of comparative
mythology, which has thrown such light upon the primitive thoughts
of mankind, is still younger,--is still, indeed, in its infancy. The
application of the comparative method to the investigation of laws
and customs, of political and ecclesiastical and industrial systems,
has been carried on scarcely thirty years; yet the results already
obtained are obliging us to rewrite the history of mankind in all its
stages. The great achievements of archæologists--the decipherment
of Egyptian hieroglyphs and of cuneiform inscriptions in Assyria
and Persia, the unearthing of ancient cities, the discovery and
classification of primeval implements and works of art in all quarters
of the globe--belong almost entirely to the nineteenth century. These
discoveries, which have well-nigh doubled for us the length of the
historic period, have united with the quite modern revelations of
geology concerning the ancient glaciation of the temperate zones, to
give us an approximate idea of the age of the human race[1] and the
circumstances attending its diffusion over the earth. It has thus at
length become possible to obtain something like the outlines of a
comprehensive view of the history of the creation, from the earliest
stages of condensation of our solar nebula down to the very time in
which we live, and to infer from the characteristics of this past
evolution some of the most general tendencies of the future.

All this accumulation of physical and historical knowledge has not
failed to react upon our study of the human mind itself. In books of
logic the score of centuries between Aristotle and Whately saw less
advance than the few years between Whately and Mill. In psychology the
work of Fechner and Wundt and Spencer belongs to the age in which we
are now living. When to all this variety of achievement we add what has
been done in the critical study of literature and art, of classical
and Biblical philology, and of metaphysics and theology, illustrating
from fresh points of view the history of the human mind, the sum total
becomes almost too vast to be comprehended. This century, which some
have called an age of iron, has been also an age of ideas, an era of
seeking and finding the like of which was never known before. It is
an epoch the grandeur of which dwarfs all others that can be named
since the beginning of the historic period, if not since Man first
became distinctively human. In their mental habits, in their methods
of inquiry, and in the data at their command, "the men of the present
day who have fully kept pace with the scientific movement are separated
from the men whose education ended in 1830 by an immeasurably wider
gulf than has ever before divided one progressive generation of men
from their predecessors."[2] The intellectual development of the human
race has been suddenly, almost abruptly, raised to a higher plane
than that upon which it had proceeded from the days of the primitive
troglodyte to the days of our great-grandfathers. It is characteristic
of this higher plane of development that the progress which until
lately was so slow must henceforth be rapid. Men's minds are becoming
more flexible, the resistance to innovation is weakening, and our
intellectual demands are multiplying while the means of satisfying
them are increasing. Vast as are the achievements we have just passed
in review, the gaps in our knowledge are immense, and every problem
that is solved but opens a dozen new problems that await solution.
Under such circumstances there is no likelihood that the last word will
soon be said on any subject. In the eyes of the twenty-first century
the science of the nineteenth will doubtless seem very fragmentary
and crude. But the men of that day, and of all future time, will no
doubt point back to the age just passing away as the opening of a
new dispensation, the dawning of an era in which the intellectual
development of mankind was raised to a higher plane than that upon
which it had hitherto proceeded.

As the inevitable result of the thronging discoveries just enumerated,
we find ourselves in the midst of a mighty revolution in human thought.
Time-honoured creeds are losing their hold upon men; ancient symbols
are shorn of their value; everything is called in question. The
controversies of the day are not like those of former times. It is
no longer a question of hermeneutics, no longer a struggle between
abstruse dogmas of rival churches. Religion itself is called upon to
show why it should any longer claim our allegiance. There are those
who deny the existence of God. There are those who would explain
away the human soul as a mere group of fleeting phenomena attendant
upon the collocation of sundry particles of matter. And there are
many others who, without committing themselves to these positions of
the atheist and the materialist, have nevertheless come to regard
religion as practically ruled out from human affairs. No religious
creed that man has ever devised can be made to harmonize in all its
features with modern knowledge. All such creeds were constructed
with reference to theories of the universe which are now utterly and
hopelessly discredited. How, then, it is asked, amid the general wreck
of old beliefs, can we hope that the religious attitude in which from
time immemorial we have been wont to contemplate the universe can any
longer be maintained? Is not the belief in God perhaps a dream of the
childhood of our race, like the belief in elves and bogarts which once
was no less universal? and is not modern science fast destroying the
one as it has already destroyed the other?

Such are the questions which we daily hear asked, sometimes with
flippant eagerness, but oftener with anxious dread. In view of them
it is well worth while to examine the idea of God, as it has been
entertained by mankind from the earliest ages, and as it is affected by
the knowledge of the universe which we have acquired in recent times.
If we find in that idea, as conceived by untaught thinkers in the
twilight of antiquity, an element that still survives the widest and
deepest generalizations of modern times, we have the strongest possible
reason for believing that the idea is permanent and answers to an
Eternal Reality. It was to be expected that conceptions of Deity handed
down from primitive men should undergo serious modification. If it can
be shown that the essential element in these conceptions must survive
the enormous additions to our knowledge which have distinguished the
present age above all others since man became man, then we may believe
that it will endure so long as man endures; for it is not likely that
it can ever be called upon to pass a severer ordeal.

All this will presently appear in a still stronger light, when we have
set forth the common characteristic of the modifications which the idea
of God has already undergone, and the nature of the opposition between
the old and the new knowledge with which we are now confronted. Upon
this discussion we have now to enter, and we shall find it leading
us to the conclusion that throughout all possible advances in human
knowledge, so far as we can see, the essential position of theism must
remain unshaken.


_Sources of the Theistic Idea._

Our argument may fitly begin with an inquiry into the sources of
the theistic idea and the shape which it has universally assumed
among untutored men. The most primitive element which it contains
is doubtless the notion of _dependence_ upon something outside of
ourselves. We are born into a world consisting of forces which sway
our lives and over which we can exercise no control. The individual
man can indeed make his volition count for a very little in modifying
the course of events, but this end necessitates strict and unceasing
obedience to powers that cannot be tampered with. To the behaviour of
these external powers our actions must be adapted under penalty of
death. And upon grounds no less firm than those on which we believe in
any externality whatever, we recognize that these forces antedated our
birth and will endure after we have disappeared from the scene. No one
supposes that he makes the world for himself, so that it is born and
dies with him. Every one perforce contemplates the world as something
existing independently of himself, as something into which he has
come, and from which he is to go; and for his coming and his going, as
well as for what he does while part of the world, he is dependent upon
something that is not himself.

Between ancient and modern man, as between the child and the adult,
there can be no essential difference in the recognition of this
fundamental fact of life. The primitive man could not, indeed, state
the case in this generalized form, any more than a young child could
state it, but the facts which the statement covers were as real to him
as they are to us.[A] The primitive man knew nothing of a world, in
the modern sense of the word. The conception of that vast consensus of
forces which we call the world or universe is a somewhat late result of
culture; it was reached only through ages of experience and reflection.
Such an idea lay beyond the horizon of the primitive man. But while
he knew not the world, he knew bits and pieces of it; or, to vary the
expression, he had his little world, chaotic and fragmentary enough,
but full of dread reality for him. He knew what it was to deal from
birth until death with powers far mightier than himself. To explain
these powers, to make their actions in any wise intelligible, he had
but one available resource; and this was so obvious that he could not
fail to employ it. The only source of action of which he knew anything,
since it was the only source which lay within himself, was the human
will;[3] and in this respect, after all, the philosophy of the primeval
savage was not so very far removed from that of the modern scientific
thinker. The primitive man could see that his own actions were prompted
by desire and guided by intelligence, and he supposed the same to
be the case with the sun and the wind, the frost and the lightning.
All the forces of outward nature, so far as they came into visible
contact with his life, he personified as great beings which were to be
contended with or placated. This primeval philosophy, once universal
among men, has lasted far into the historic period, and it is only
slowly and bit by bit that it has been outgrown by the most highly
civilized races. Indeed the half-civilized majority of mankind have by
no means as yet cast it aside, and among savage tribes we may still see
it persisting in all its original crudity. In the mythologies of all
peoples, of the Greeks and Hindus and Norsemen, as well as of the North
American Indians and the dwellers in the South Sea islands, we find
the sun personified as an archer or wanderer, the clouds as gigantic
birds, the tempest as a devouring dragon; and the tales of gods and
heroes, as well as of trolls and fairies, are made up of scattered and
distorted fragments of nature-myths, of which the primitive meaning had
long been forgotten when the ingenuity of modern scholarship laid it

  [A] See note A at the end of the volume.

In all this personification of physical phenomena our prehistoric
ancestors were greatly assisted by that theory of ghosts which was
perhaps the earliest speculative effort of the human mind. Travellers
have now and then reported the existence of races of men quite
destitute of religion, or of what the observer has learned to recognize
as religion; but no one has ever discovered a race of men devoid of
a belief in ghosts. The mass of crude inference which makes up the
savage's philosophy of nature is largely based upon the hypothesis
that every man has _another self_, a double, or wraith, or ghost.
This "hypothesis of the _other self_, which serves to account for
the savage's wanderings during sleep in strange lands and among
strange people, serves also to account for the presence in his dreams
of parents, comrades, or enemies, known to be dead and buried. The
other self of the dreamer meets and converses with the other selves
of his dead brethren, joins with them in the hunt, or sits down with
them to the wild cannibal banquet. Thus arises the belief in an
ever-present world of ghosts, a belief which the entire experience of
uncivilized man goes to strengthen and expand."[5] Countless tales and
superstitions of savage races show that the hypothesis of the other
self is used to explain the phenomena of hysteria and epilepsy, of
shadows, of echoes, and even of the reflection of face and gestures in
still water. It is not only men, moreover, who are provided with other
selves. Dumb beasts and plants, stone hatchets and arrows, articles of
clothing and food, all have their ghosts;[6] and when the dead chief is
buried, his wives and servants, his dogs and horses, are slain to keep
him company, and weapons and trinkets are placed in his tomb to be used
in the spirit-land. Burial-places of primitive men, ages before the
dawn of history, bear testimony to the immense antiquity of this savage
philosophy. From this wholesale belief in ghosts to the interpretation
of the wind or the lightning as a person animated by an indwelling soul
and endowed with quasi-human passions and purposes, the step is not a
long one. The latter notion grows almost inevitably out of the former,
so that all races of men without exception have entertained it. That
the mighty power which uproots trees and drives the storm-clouds across
the sky should resemble a human soul is to the savage an unavoidable
inference. "If the fire burns down his hut, it is because the fire is
a person with a soul, and is angry with him, and needs to be coaxed
into a kindlier mood by means of prayer or sacrifice." He has no
alternative but to regard fire-soul as something akin to human-soul;
his philosophy makes no distinction between the human ghost and the
elemental demon or deity.

It was in accordance with this primitive theory of things that the
earliest form of religious worship was developed. In all races of men,
so far as can be determined, this was the worship of ancestors.[7]
The other self of the dead chieftain continued after death to watch
over the interests of the tribe, to defend it against the attacks of
enemies, to reward brave warriors, and to punish traitors and cowards.
His favour must be propitiated with ceremonies like those in which
a subject does homage to a living ruler. If offended by neglect or
irreverent treatment, defeat in battle, damage by flood or fire,
visitations of famine or pestilence, were interpreted as marks of his
anger. Thus the spirits animating the forces of nature were often
identified with the ghosts of ancestors, and mythology is filled with
traces of the confusion. In the Vedic religion the _pitris_, or
"fathers," live in the sky along with Yama, the original _pitri_ of
mankind: they are very busy with the weather; they send down rain to
refresh the thirsty earth, or anon parch the fields till the crops
perish of drought; and they rush along in the roaring tempest, like the
weird host of the wild huntsman Wodan. To the ancient Greek the blue
sky Uranos was the father of gods and men, and throughout antiquity
this mingling of ancestor-worship with nature-worship was general.
With the systematic development of ethnic religions, in some instances
ancestor-worship remained dominant, as with the Chinese, the Japanese,
and the Romans; in others, a polytheism based upon nature-worship
acquired supremacy, as with the Hindus and Greeks, and our own Teutonic
forefathers. The great divinities of the Hellenic pantheon are all
personifications of physical phenomena. At a comparatively late date
the Roman adopted these divinities and paid to them a fashionable
and literary homage, but his solemn and heartfelt rites were those
with which he worshipped the _lares_ and _penates_ in the privacy of
his home. His hospitable treatment of the gods of a vanquished people
was the symptom of a commingling of the various local religions of
antiquity which insured their mutual destruction and prepared the way
for their absorption into a far grander and truer system.[8]


_Development of Monotheism._

Such an allusion to the Romans, in an exposition like the present
one, is not without its significance. It was partly through political
circumstances that a truly theistic idea was developed out of the
chaotic and fragmentary ghost theories and nature-worship of the
primeval world. To the framing of the vastest of all possible
conceptions, the idea of God, man came but slowly. This nature-worship
and ancestor-worship of early times was scarcely theism. In their
recognition of man's utter dependence upon something outside of himself
which yet was not wholly unlike himself, these primitive religions
contained the essential germ out of which theism was to grow; but it is
a long way from the propitiation of ghosts and the adoration of the
rising sun to the worship of the infinite and eternal God, the maker
of heaven and earth, in whom we live, and move, and have our being.
Before men could arrive at such a conception, it was necessary for
them to obtain some integral idea of the heaven and the earth; it was
necessary for them to frame, however inadequately, the conception of
a physical universe. Such a conception had been reached by civilized
peoples before the Christian era, and by the Greeks a remarkable
beginning had been made in the generalization and interpretation of
physical phenomena. The intellectual atmosphere of Alexandria, for two
centuries before and three centuries after the time of Christ, was
more modern than anything that followed down to the days of Bacon and
Descartes; and all the leaders of Greek thought since Anaxagoras had
been virtually or avowedly monotheists. As the phenomena of nature
were generalized, the deities or superhuman beings regarded as their
sources were likewise generalized, until the conception of nature as a
whole gave rise to the conception of a single Deity as the author and
ruler of nature; and in accordance with the order of its genesis, this
notion of Deity was still the notion of a Being possessed of psychical
attributes, and in some way like unto Man.

But there was another cause, besides scientific generalization, which
led men's minds toward monotheism. The conception of tutelar deities,
which was the most prominent practical feature of ancestor-worship,
was directly affected by the political development of the peoples of
antiquity. As tribes were consolidated into nations, the tutelar gods
of the tribes became generalized, or the god of some leading tribe
came to supersede his fellows, until the result was a single national
deity, at first regarded as the greatest among gods, afterwards as the
only God. The most striking instance of this method of development is
afforded by the Hebrew conception of Jehovah. The most primitive form
of Hebrew religion discernible in the Old Testament is a fetichism, or
very crude polytheism, in which ancestor-worship becomes more prominent
than nature-worship. At first the _teraphim_, or tutelar household
deities, play an important part, but nature-gods, such as Baal, and
Moloch, and Astarte, are extensively worshipped. It is the plural
_elohim_ who create the earth, and whose sons visit the daughters of
antediluvian men. The tutelar deity, Jehovah, is originally thought
of as one of the _elohim_, then as chief among _elohim_, and Lord of
the hosts of heaven. Through his favour his chosen prophet overcomes
the prophets of Baal, he is greater than the deities of neighbouring
peoples, he is the only true god, and thus finally he is thought of
as the only God, and his name becomes the symbol of monotheism. The
Jews have always been one of the most highly-gifted races in the
world. In antiquity they developed an intense sentiment of nationality,
and for earnestness and depth of ethical feeling they surpassed all
other peoples. The conception of Jehovah set forth in the writings of
the prophets was the loftiest conception of deity anywhere attained
before the time of Christ; in ethical value it immeasurably surpassed
anything to be found in the pantheon of the Greeks and Romans. It was
natural that such a conception of deity should be adopted throughout
the Roman world. At the beginning of the Christian era the classic
polytheism had well-nigh lost its hold upon men's minds; its value had
become chiefly literary, as a mere collection of pretty stories; it
had begun its descent into the humble realm of folk-lore. For want of
anything better people had recourse to elaborate Eastern ceremonials,
or contented themselves with the time-honoured domestic worship of the
_lares_ and _penates_. Yet their minds were ripe for some kind of
monotheism, and in order that the Jewish conception should come to be
generally adopted, it was only necessary that it should be freed from
its limitations of nationality, and that Jehovah should be set forth
as Sustainer of the universe and Father of all mankind. This was done
by Jesus and Paul. The theory of divine action implied throughout the
gospels and the epistles was the first complete monotheism attained
by mankind, or at least by that portion of it from which our modern
civilization has descended. Here for the first time we have the idea
of God dissociated from the limiting circumstances with which it had
been entangled in all the ethnic religions of antiquity. Individual
thinkers here and there had already, doubtless, reached an equally
true conception, as was shown by Kleanthes in his sublime hymn to
Zeus;[9] but it was now for the first time set forth in such wise as
to win assent from the common folk as well as the philosophers, and to
make its way into the hearts of all men. Its acceptance was hastened,
and its hold upon mankind immeasurably strengthened, by the divinely
beautiful ethical teaching in which Jesus couched it,--that teaching,
so often misunderstood yet so profoundly true, which heralded the time
when Man shall have thrown off the burden of his bestial inheritance
and strife and sorrow shall cease from the earth.[10]

We shall presently see that in its fundamental features the theism of
Jesus and Paul was so true that it must endure as long as man endures.
Changes of statement may alter the outward appearance of it, but the
kernel of truth will remain the same forever. But the shifting body of
religious doctrine known as Christianity has at various times contained
much that is unknown to this pure theism, and much that has shown
itself to be ephemeral in its hold upon men. The change from polytheism
to monotheism could not be thoroughly accomplished all at once. As
Christianity spread over the Roman world it became encrusted with pagan
notions and observances, and a similar process went on during the
conversion of the Teutonic barbarians. Yuletide and Easter and other
church holidays were directly adopted from the old nature-worship; the
adoration of tutelar household deities survived in the homage paid to
patron saints; and the worship of the Berecynthian Mother was continued
in that of the Virgin Mary.[11] Even the name _God_, applied to the
Deity throughout Teutonic Christendom, seems to be neither more nor
less than _Wodan_, the personification of the storm-wind, the supreme
divinity of our pagan forefathers.[B]

  [B] See note B. at the end of the volume.

That Christianity should thus have retained names and symbols and
rites belonging to heathen antiquity was inevitable. The system of
Christian theism was the work of some of the loftiest minds that have
ever appeared upon the earth; but it was adopted by millions of men
and women, of all degrees of knowledge and ignorance, of keenness
and dullness, of spirituality and grossness, and these brought to it
their various inherited notions and habits of thought. In all its
ages, therefore, Christian theism has meant one thing to one person,
and another thing to another. While the highest Christian minds have
always been monotheistic, the multitude have outgrown polytheism but
slowly; and even the monotheism of the highest minds has been coloured
by notions ultimately derived from the primeval ghost-world which have
interfered with its purity, and have seriously hampered men in their
search after truth.

In illustration of this point we have now to notice two strongly
contrasted views of the divine nature which have been held by Christian
theists, and to observe their bearings upon the scientific thought of
modern times.


_The Idea of God as immanent in the World._

We have seen that since the primitive savage philosophy did not
distinguish between the human ghost and the elemental demon or
deity, the religion of antiquity was an inextricable tangle of
ancestor-worship with nature-worship. Nevertheless, among some
peoples the one, among others the other, became predominant. I think
it can hardly be an accidental coincidence that nature-worship
predominated with the Greeks and Hindus, the only peoples of antiquity
who accomplished anything in the exact sciences, or in metaphysics.
The capacity for abstract thinking which led the Hindu to originate
algebra, and the Greek to originate geometry, and both to attempt
elaborate scientific theories of the universe,--this same capacity
revealed itself in the manner in which they deified the powers of
nature. They were able to imagine the indwelling spirit of the sun or
the storm without help from the conception of an individual ghost. Such
being the general capacity of the people, we can readily understand
how, when it came to monotheism, their most eminent thinkers should
have been able to frame the conception of God acting in and through
the powers of nature, without the aid of any grossly anthropomorphic
symbolism. In this connection it is interesting to observe the
characteristics of the idea of God as conceived by the three greatest
fathers of the Greek church, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and
Athanasius. The philosophy of these profound and vigorous thinkers
was in large measure derived from the Stoics. They regarded Deity as
immanent in the universe, and eternally operating through natural laws.
In their view God is not a localizable personality, remote from the
world, and acting upon it only by means of occasional portent and
prodigy; nor is the world a lifeless machine blindly working after
some preordained method, and only feeling the presence of God in so
far as he now and then sees fit to interfere with its normal course
of procedure. On the contrary, God is the ever-present life of the
world; it is through him that all things exist from moment to moment,
and the natural sequence of events is a perpetual revelation of the
divine wisdom and goodness. In accordance with this fundamental view,
Clement, for example, repudiated the Gnostic theory of the vileness
of matter, condemned asceticism, and regarded the world as hallowed
by the presence of indwelling Deity. Knowing no distinction "between
what man discovers and what God reveals," he explained Christianity
as a natural development from the earlier religious thought of
mankind. It was essential to his idea of the divine perfection that
the past should contain within itself all the germs of the future;
and accordingly he attached but slight value to tales of miracle, and
looked upon salvation as the normal ripening of the higher spiritual
qualities of man "under the guidance of immanent Deity." The views of
Clement's disciple Origen are much like those of his master. Athanasius
ventured much farther into the bewildering regions of metaphysics.
Yet in his doctrine of the Trinity, by which he overcame the visible
tendency toward polytheism in the theories of Arius, and averted the
threatened danger of a compromise between Christianity and Paganism,
he proceeded upon the lines which Clement had marked out. In his very
suggestive work on "The Continuity of Christian Thought," Professor
Alexander Allen thus sets forth the Athanasian point of view: "In
the formula of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as three distinct and
coequal members in the one divine essence, there was the recognition
and the reconciliation of the philosophical schools which had divided
the ancient world. In the idea of the eternal Father the Oriental
mind recognized what it liked to call the profound abyss of being,
that which lies back of all phenomena, the hidden mystery which lends
awe to human minds seeking to know the divine. In the doctrine of the
eternal Son revealing the Father, immanent in nature and humanity as
the life and light shining through all created things, the divine
reason in which the human reason shares, there was the recognition
of the truth after which Plato and Aristotle and the Stoics were
struggling,--the tie which binds the creation to God in the closest
organic relationship. In the doctrine of the Holy Spirit the church
guarded against any pantheistic confusion of God with the world by
upholding the life of the manifested Deity as essentially ethical or
spiritual, revealing itself in humanity in its highest form, only in so
far as humanity recognized its calling and through the Spirit entered
into communion with the Father and the Son."

Great as was the service which these views of Athanasius rendered in
the fourth century of our era, they are scarcely to be regarded as a
permanent or essential feature of Christian theism. The metaphysic in
which they are couched is alien to the metaphysic of our time, yet
through this vast difference it is all the more instructive to note
how closely Athanasius approaches the confines of modern scientific
thought, simply through his fundamental conception of God as the
indwelling life of the universe. We shall be still more forcibly struck
with this similarity when we come to consider the character impressed
upon our idea of God by the modern doctrine of evolution.


_The Idea of God as remote from the World._

But this Greek conception of divine immanence did not find favour with
the Latin-speaking world. There a very different notion prevailed,
the origin of which may be traced to the mental habits attending
the primitive ancestor-worship. Out of materials furnished by the
ghost-world a crude kind of monotheism could be reached by simply
carrying back the thought to a single ghost-deity as the original
ancestor of all the others. Some barbarous races have gone as far as
this, as for example the Zulus, who have developed the doctrine of
divine ancestors so far as to recognize a first ancestor, the Great
Father, Unkulunkulu, who created the world.[12] The kind of theism
reached by this process of thought differs essentially from the theism
reached through the medium of nature-worship. For whereas in the latter
case the god of the sky or the sea is regarded as a mysterious spirit
acting in and through the phenomena, in the former case the phenomena
are regarded as coerced into activity by some power existing outside
of them, and this power is conceived as manlike in the crudest sense,
having been originally thought of as the ghost of some man who once
lived upon the earth. In the monotheism which is reached by thinking
along these lines of inference, the universe is conceived as an inert
lifeless machine, impelled by blind forces which have been set acting
from without; and God is conceived as existing apart from the world in
solitary inaccessible majesty,--"an absentee God," as Carlyle says,
"sitting idle ever since the first Sabbath, at the outside of his
universe, and 'seeing it go.'" This conception demands less of the
intellect than the conception of God as immanent in the universe.
It requires less grasp of mind and less width of experience, and it
has accordingly been much the more common conception. The idea of the
indwelling God is an attempt to reach out toward the reality, and as
such it taxes the powers of the finite mind. The idea of God external
to the universe is a symbol which in no wise approaches the reality,
and for that very reason it does not tax the mental powers; there is an
aspect of finality about it, in which the ordinary mind rests content
and complains of whatever seeks to disturb its repose.

I must not be understood as ignoring the fact that this lower species
of theism has been entertained by some of the loftiest minds of
our race, both in ancient and in modern times. When once such an
ever-present conception as the idea of God has become intertwined with
the whole body of the thoughts of mankind, it is very difficult for the
most powerful and subtle intelligence to change the form it has taken.
It has become so far organized into the texture of the mind that it
abides there unconsciously, like our fundamental axioms about number
and magnitude; it sways our thought hither and thither without our
knowing it. The two forms of theism here contrasted have slowly grown
up under the myriad unassignable influences that in antiquity caused
nature-worship to predominate among some people and ancestor-worship
among others; they have coloured all the philosophizing that has
been done for more than twenty centuries; and it is seldom that a
thinker educated under the one form ever comes to adopt the other
and habitually employ it, save under the mighty influence of modern
science, the tendency of which, as we shall presently see, is all in
one direction.

Among ancient thinkers the view of Deity as remote from the world
prevailed with the followers of Epikuros, who held that the immortal
gods could not be supposed to trouble themselves about the paltry
affairs of men, but lived a blessed life of their own, undisturbed
in the far-off empyrean. This left the world quite under the sway of
blind forces, and thus we find it depicted in the marvellous poem of
Lucretius, one of the loftiest monuments of Latin genius. It is to
all appearance an atheistic world, albeit the author was perhaps more
profoundly religious in spirit than any other Roman that ever lived,
save Augustine; yet to his immediate scientific purpose this atheism
was no drawback. When we are investigating natural phenomena, with
intent to explain them scientifically, our proper task is simply to
ascertain the physical conditions under which they occur, and the less
we meddle with metaphysics or theology the better. As Laplace said, the
mathematician, in solving his equations, does not need "the hypothesis
of God."[13] To the scientific investigator, as such, the forces of
nature are doubtless blind, like the _x_ and _y_ in algebra, but this
is only so long as he contents himself with describing their modes of
operation; when he undertakes to explain them philosophically, as we
shall see, he can in no wise dispense with his theistic hypothesis. The
Lucretian philosophy, therefore, admirable as a scientific coördination
of such facts about the physical universe as were then known, goes but
very little way as a philosophy. It is interesting to note that this
atheism followed directly from that species of theism which placed God
outside of his universe. We shall find the case of modern atheism to
be quite similar. As soon as this crude and misleading conception of
God is refuted, as the whole progress of scientific knowledge tends
to refute it, the modern atheist or positivist falls back upon his
universe of blind forces and contents himself with it, while zealously
shouting from the housetops that this is the whole story.

To one familiar with Christian ideas, the notion that Man is too
insignificant a creature to be worth the notice of Deity seems at
once pathetic and grotesque. In the view of Plato, by which all
Christendom has been powerfully influenced, there is profound pathos.
The wickedness and misery of the world wrought so strongly upon Plato's
keen sympathies and delicate moral sense that he came to conclusions
almost as gloomy as those of the Buddhist who regards existence as
an evil. In the Timaios he depicts the material world as essentially
vile; he is unable to think of the pure and holy Deity as manifested
in it, and he accordingly separates the Creator from his creation by
the whole breadth of infinitude. This view passed on to the Gnostics,
for whom the puzzling problem of philosophy was how to explain the
action of the spiritual God upon the material universe. Sometimes the
interval was bridged by mediating æons or emanations partly spiritual
and partly material; sometimes the world was held to be the work of
the devil, and in no sense divine.[14] The Greek fathers under the lead
of Clement, espousing the higher theism, kept clear of this torrent of
Gnostic thought; but upon Augustine it fell with full force, and he was
carried away with it. In his earlier writings Augustine showed himself
not incapable of comprehending the views of Clement and Athanasius; but
his intense feeling of man's wickedness dragged him irresistibly in
the opposite direction. In his doctrine of original sin, he represents
humanity as cut off from all relationship with God, who is depicted
as a crudely anthropomorphic Being far removed from the universe and
accessible only through the mediating offices of an organized church.
Compared with the thoughts of the Greek fathers this was a barbaric
conception, but it was suited alike to the lower grade of culture
in western Europe, and to the Latin political genius, which in the
decline of the Empire was already occupying itself with its great and
beneficent work of constructing an imperial Church. For these reasons
the Augustinian theology prevailed, and in the Dark Ages which followed
it became so deeply inwrought into the innermost fibres of Latin
Christianity that it remains dominant to-day alike in Catholic and
Protestant churches. With few exceptions every child born of Christian
parents in western Europe or in America grows up with an idea of God
the outlines of which were engraven upon men's minds by Augustine
fifteen centuries ago. Nay, more, it is hardly too much to say that
three fourths of the body of doctrine currently known as Christianity,
unwarranted by Scripture and never dreamed of by Christ or his
apostles, first took coherent shape in the writings of this mighty
Roman, who was separated from the apostolic age by an interval of time
like that which separates us from the invention of printing and the
discovery of America. The idea of God upon which all this Augustinian
doctrine is based is the idea of a Being actuated by human passions
and purposes, localizable in space and utterly remote from that
inert machine, the universe in which we live, and upon which He acts
intermittently through the suspension of what are called natural laws.
So deeply has this conception penetrated the thought of Christendom
that we continually find it at the bottom of the speculations and
arguments of men who would warmly repudiate it as thus stated in its
naked outlines. It dominates the reasonings alike of believers and
skeptics, of theists and atheists; it underlies at once the objections
raised by orthodoxy against each new step in science and the assaults
made by materialism upon every religious conception of the world; and
thus it is chiefly responsible for that complicated misunderstanding
which, by a lamentable confusion of thought, is commonly called "the
conflict between religion and science."


_Conflict between the Two Ideas, commonly misunderstood as a Conflict
between Religion and Science._

In illustration of the mischief that has been wrought by the
Augustinian conception of Deity, we may cite the theological objections
urged against the Newtonian theory of gravitation and the Darwinian
theory of natural selection. Leibnitz, who as a mathematician but
little inferior to Newton himself might have been expected to be easily
convinced of the truth of the theory of gravitation, was nevertheless
deterred by theological scruples from accepting it. It appeared to him
that it substituted the action of physical forces for the direct action
of the Deity. Now the fallacy of this argument of Leibnitz is easy to
detect. It lies in a metaphysical misconception of the meaning of the
word "force." "Force" is implicitly regarded as a sort of entity or
dæmon which has a mode of action distinguishable from that of Deity;
otherwise it is meaningless to speak of substituting the one for the
other. But such a personification of "force" is a remnant of barbaric
thought, in no wise sanctioned by physical science. When astronomy
speaks of two planets as attracting each other with a "force" which
varies directly as their masses and inversely as the squares of their
distances apart, it simply uses the phrase as a convenient metaphor by
which to describe the manner in which the observed movements of the two
bodies occur. It explains that in presence of each other the two bodies
are observed to change their positions in a certain specified way,
and this is all that it means. This is all that a strictly scientific
hypothesis can possibly allege, and this is all that observation can
possibly prove. Whatever goes beyond this and imagines or asserts a
kind of "pull" between the two bodies, is not science, but metaphysics.
An atheistic metaphysics may imagine such a "pull," and may interpret
it as the action of something that is not Deity, but such a conclusion
can find no support in the scientific theorem, which is simply a
generalized description of phenomena. The general considerations
upon which the belief in the existence and direct action of Deity is
otherwise founded are in no wise disturbed by the establishment of any
such scientific theorem. We are still perfectly free to maintain that
it is the direct action of Deity which is manifested in the planetary
movements; having done nothing more with our Newtonian hypothesis than
to construct a happy formula for expressing the mode or order of the
manifestation. We may have learned something new concerning the manner
of divine action; we certainly have not "substituted" any other kind
of action for it. And what is thus obvious in this simple astronomical
example is equally true in principle in every case whatever in which
one set of phenomena is interpreted by reference to another set. In no
case whatever can science use the words "force" or "cause" except as
metaphorically descriptive of some observed or observable sequence of
phenomena. And consequently at no imaginable future time, so long as
the essential conditions of human thinking are maintained, can science
even attempt to substitute the action of any other power for the direct
action of Deity. The theological objection urged by Leibnitz against
Newton was repeated word for word by Agassiz in his comments upon
Darwin. He regarded it as a fatal objection to the Darwinian theory
that it appeared to substitute the action of physical forces for the
creative action of Deity. The fallacy here is precisely the same as in
Leibnitz's argument. Mr. Darwin has convinced us that the existence of
highly complicated organisms is the result of an infinitely diversified
aggregate of circumstances so minute as severally to seem trivial or
accidental; yet the consistent theist will always occupy an impregnable
position in maintaining that the entire series in each and every one of
its incidents is an immediate manifestation of the creative action of

In this connection it is worth while to state explicitly what is the
true province of scientific explanation. Is it not obvious that since a
philosophical theism must regard divine power as the immediate source
of all phenomena alike, therefore science cannot properly explain any
particular group of phenomena by a direct reference to the action of
Deity? Such a reference is not an explanation, since it adds nothing
to our previous knowledge either of the phenomena or of the manner of
divine action. The business of science is simply to ascertain in what
manner phenomena coexist with each other or follow each other, and
the only kind of explanation with which it can properly deal is that
which refers one set of phenomena to another set. In pursuing this, its
legitimate business, science does not touch on the province of theology
in any way, and there is no conceivable occasion for any conflict
between the two. From this and the previous considerations taken
together it follows not only that such explanations as are contained
in the Newtonian and Darwinian theories are entirely consistent with
theism, but also that they are the only kind of explanations with
which science can properly concern itself at all. To say that complex
organisms were directly created by the Deity is to make an assertion
which, however true in a theistic sense, is utterly barren. It is of no
profit to theism, which must be taken for granted before the assertion
can be made; and it is of no profit to science, which must still ask
its question, "How?"[15]

We are now prepared to see that the theological objection urged
against the Newtonian and Darwinian theories has its roots in that
imperfect kind of theism which Augustine did so much to fasten
upon the western world. Obviously if Leibnitz and Agassiz had been
educated in that higher theism shared by Clement and Athanasius in
ancient times with Spinoza and Goethe in later days,--if they had been
accustomed to conceive of God as immanent in the universe and eternally
creative,--then the argument which they urged with so much feeling
would never have occurred to them. By no possibility could such an
argument have entered their minds. To conceive of "physical forces" as
powers of which the action could in any wise be "substituted" for the
action of Deity would in such case have been absolutely impossible.
Such a conception involves the idea of God as remote from the world
and acting upon it from outside. The whole notion of what theological
writers are fond of calling "secondary causes" involves such an idea
of God. The higher or Athanasian theism knows nothing of secondary
causes in a world where every event flows directly from the eternal
First Cause. It knows nothing of physical forces save as immediate
manifestations of the omnipresent creative power of God. In the
personification of physical forces, and the implied contrast between
their action and that of Deity, there is something very like a survival
of the habits of thought which characterized ancient polytheism.
What are these personified forces but little gods who are supposed
to be invading the sacred domain of the ruler Zeus? When one speaks
of substituting the action of Gravitation for the direct action of
Deity, does there not hover somewhere in the dim background of the
conception a vague spectre of Gravitation in the guise of a rebellious
Titan? Doubtless it would not be easy to bring any one to acknowledge
such a charge, but the unseen and unacknowledged part of a fallacy
is just that which is most persistent and mischievous. It is not so
many generations, after all, since our ancestors were barbarians and
polytheists; and fragments of their barbaric thinking are continually
intruding unawares into the midst of our lately-acquired scientific
culture. In most philosophical discussions a great deal of loose
phraseology is used, in order to find the proper connotations of which
we must go back to primitive and untutored ages. Such is eminently the
case with the phrases in which the forces of nature are personified and
described as something else than manifestations of omnipresent Deity.

This subject is of such immense importance that I must illustrate
it from yet another point of view. We must observe the manner in
which, along with the progress of scientific discovery, theological
arguments have come to be permeated by the strange assumption that
the greater part of the universe is godless. Here again we must go
back for a moment to the primeval world and observe how behind every
physical phenomenon there were supposed to be quasi-human passions
and a quasi-human will. Now the phenomena which were first arranged
and systematized in men's thoughts, and thus made the subject of
something like scientific generalization, were the simplest, the
most accessible, and the most manageable phenomena; and from these
the conception of a quasi-human will soonest faded away. There are
savages who believe that hatchets and kettles have souls, but men
unquestionably outgrew such a belief as this long before they outgrew
the belief that there are ghost-like deities in the tempest, or in
the sun and moon. After many ages of culture, men ceased to regard
the familiar and regularly-recurring phenomena of nature as immediate
results of volition, and reserved this primeval explanation for
unusual or terrible phenomena, such as comets and eclipses, or famines
and plagues. As the result of these habits of thought, in course of
time, Nature seemed to be divided into two antithetical provinces. On
the one hand, there were the phenomena that occurred with a simple
regularity which seemed to exclude the idea of capricious volition;
and these were supposed to constitute the realm of natural law. On
the other hand, there were the complex and irregular phenomena in
which the presence of law could not so easily be detected; and these
were supposed to constitute the realm of immediate divine action.
This antithesis has forever haunted the minds of men imbued with the
lower or Augustinian theism; and such have made up the larger part of
the Christian world. It has tended to make the theologians hostile to
science and the men of science hostile to theology. For as scientific
generalization has steadily extended the region of natural law, the
region which theology has assigned to divine action has steadily
diminished. Every discovery in science has stripped off territory from
the latter province and added it to the former. Every such discovery
has accordingly been promulgated and established in the teeth of
bitter and violent opposition on the part of theologians. A desperate
fight it has been for some centuries, in which science has won every
disputed position, while theology, untaught by perennial defeat, still
valiantly defends the little corner that is left it. Still as of old
the ordinary theologian rests his case upon the assumption of disorder,
caprice, and miraculous interference with the course of nature. He
naively asks, "If plants and animals have been naturally originated,
if the world as a whole has been evolved and not manufactured, and if
human actions conform to law, what is there left for God to do? If not
formally repudiated, is he not thrust back into the past eternity, as
an ultimate source of things, which is postulated for form's sake, but
might as well, for all practical purposes, be omitted?"[16]

The scientific inquirer may reply that the difficulty is one which
theology has created for itself. It is certainly not science that has
relegated the creative activity of God to some nameless moment in the
bygone eternity and left him without occupation in the present world.
It is not science that is responsible for the mischievous distinction
between divine action and natural law. That distinction is historically
derived from a loose habit of philosophizing characteristic of ignorant
ages, and was bequeathed to modern times by the theology of the Latin
church. Small blame to the atheist who, starting upon such a basis,
thinks he can interpret the universe without the idea of God! He is but
doing as well as he knows how, with the materials given him. One has
only, however, to adopt the higher theism of Clement and Athanasius,
and this alleged antagonism between science and theology, by which so
many hearts have been saddened, so many minds darkened, vanishes at
once and forever. "Once really adopt the conception of an ever-present
God, without whom not a sparrow falls to the ground, and it becomes
self-evident that the law of gravitation is but an expression of a
particular mode of divine action. And what is thus true of one law
is true of all laws."[17] The thinker in whose mind divine action is
thus identified with orderly action, and to whom a really irregular
phenomenon would seem like a manifestation of sheer diabolism, foresees
in every possible extension of knowledge a fresh confirmation of his
faith in God. From his point of view there can be no antagonism between
our duty as inquirers and our duty as worshippers. To him no part
of the universe is godless. In the swaying to and fro of molecules
and the ceaseless pulsations of ether, in the secular shiftings of
planetary orbits, in the busy work of frost and raindrop, in the
mysterious sprouting of the seed, in the everlasting tale of death and
life renewed, in the dawning of the babe's intelligence, in the varied
deeds of men from age to age, he finds that which awakens the soul to
reverential awe; and each act of scientific explanation but reveals an
opening through which shines the glory of the Eternal Majesty.


_Anthropomorphic Conceptions of God._

Between the two ideas of God which we have exhibited in such striking
contrast, there is nevertheless one point of resemblance; and this
point is fundamental, since it is the point in virtue of which both
are entitled to be called theistic ideas. In both there is presumed
to be a likeness of some sort between God and Man. In both there is
an element of anthropomorphism. Even upon this their common ground,
however, there is a wide difference between the two conceptions. In
the one the anthropomorphic element is gross, in the other it is
refined and subtle. The difference is so far-reaching that some years
ago I proposed to mark it by contrasting these two conceptions of God
as Anthropomorphic Theism and Cosmic Theism. For the doctrine which
represents God as immanent in the universe and revealing himself in
the orderly succession of events, the name Cosmic Theism is eminently
appropriate: but it is not intended by the antithetic nomenclature
to convey the impression that in cosmic theism there is nothing
anthropomorphic.[18] A theory which should regard the Human Soul as
alien and isolated in the universe, without any links uniting it
with the eternal source of existence, would not be theism at all. It
would be Atheism, which on its metaphysical side is "the denial of
anything psychical in the universe outside of human consciousness."
It is far enough from any such doctrine to the cosmic theism of
Clement and Origen, of Spinoza and Lessing and Schleiermacher. The
difference, however, between this cosmic conception of God and the
anthropomorphic conception held by Tertullian and Augustine, Calvin
and Voltaire and Paley, is sufficiently great to be described as a
contrast. The explanation of the difference must be sought far back
in the historic genesis of the two conceptions. Cosmic theism, as we
have seen, was reached through nature-worship with its notion of vast
elemental spirits indwelling in physical phenomena. Anthropomorphic
theism is descended from the notion of tutelar deities which was
part of the primitive ancestor-worship. In the process by which men
attained to cosmic theism, physical generalization was the chief
agency at work; but into anthropomorphic theism, as we have seen,
there entered conceptions derived from men's political thinking. For
such a people as the Romans, who could deify Imperator Augustus in
just the same way that the Japanese have deified their Mikado, it was
natural, and easy to conceive of God as a monarch enthroned in the
heavens and surrounded by a court of ministering angels. Such was the
popular conception in the early ages of Christianity, and such it has
doubtless remained with the mass of uninstructed people even to this
day. The very grotesqueness of the idea, as it appears to the mind of
a philosopher, is an index of the ease with which it satisfies the
mind of an uneducated man. Many persons, no doubt, have entertained
this idea of God without ever giving it very definite shape, and many
have recognized it as in great measure symbolic: yet nothing can be
more certain than that untold thousands have conceived it in its
full intensity of anthropomorphism. Alike in sermons and theological
treatises, in stately poetry and in every-day talk, the Deity has
been depicted as pleased or angry, as repenting of his own acts, as
soothed by adulation and quick to wreak vengeance upon silly people
for blasphemous remarks. In those curious bills of expenses for the
mediæval miracle-plays, along with charges of twopence for keeping up a
"fyre at hell mouthe," we find such items as a shilling for a purple
coat for God. In one of these plays an angel who has just witnessed
the crucifixion comes rushing into Heaven, crying, "Wake up, almighty
Father! Here are those beggarly Jews killing your son, and you asleep
here like a drunkard!" "Devil take me if I knew anything about it!" is
the drowsy reply. Not the slightest irreverence was intended in these
miracle-plays, which were the only dramatic performances tolerated
by the mediæval church, for the sake of their wholesome educational
influence upon the common people. In the light of such facts, one sees
that the representations of the Deity as an old man of august presence,
with flowing hair and beard, by the early modern painters, must have
meant to all save the highest minds much more than a mere symbol. Until
one's thoughts have become accustomed to range far and wide over the
universe it is doubtless impossible to frame a conception of Deity that
is not grossly anthropomorphic. I remember distinctly the conception
which I had formed when five years of age. I imagined a narrow office
just over the zenith, with a tall standing-desk running lengthwise,
upon which lay several open ledgers bound in coarse leather. There
was no roof over this office, and the walls rose scarcely five feet
from the floor, so that a person standing at the desk could look out
upon the whole world. There were two persons at the desk, and one of
them--a tall, slender man, of aquiline features, wearing spectacles,
with a pen in his hand and another behind his ear--was God. The other,
whose appearance I do not distinctly recall, was an attendant angel.
Both were diligently watching the deeds of men and recording them in
the ledgers. To my infant mind this picture was not grotesque, but
ineffably solemn, and the fact that all my words and acts were thus
written down, to confront me at the day of judgment, seemed naturally a
matter of grave concern.

If we could cross-question all the men and women we know, and
still more all the children, we should probably find that, even in
this enlightened age, the conceptions of Deity current throughout
the civilized world contain much that is in the crudest sense
anthropomorphic. Such, at any rate, seems to be the character of the
conceptions with which we start in life. With those whose studies
lead them to ponder upon the subject in the light of enlarged
experience, these conceptions become greatly modified. They lose their
anthropomorphic definiteness, they grow vague by reason of their
expansion, they become recognized as largely symbolic, but they never
quite lose all traces of their primitive form. Indeed, as I said a
moment ago, they cannot do so. The utter demolition of anthropomorphism
would be the demolition of theism. We have now to see what traces of
its primitive form the idea of God can retain, in the light of our
modern knowledge of the universe.


_The Argument from Design._

The most highly refined and scientific form of anthropomorphic theism
is that which we are accustomed to associate with Paley and the authors
of the Bridgewater treatises. It is not peculiar to Christianity,
since it has been held by pagans and unbelievers as firmly as by the
devoutest members of the church. The argument from design is as old as
Sokrates, and was relied on by Voltaire and the English deists of the
eighteenth century no less than by Dr. Chalmers and Sir Charles Bell.
Upon this theory the universe is supposed to have been created by a
Being possessed of intelligence and volition essentially similar to the
intelligence and volition of Man. This Being is actuated by a desire
for the good of his creatures, and in pursuance thereof entertains
purposes and adapts means to ends with consummate ingenuity. The
process by which the world was created was analogous to manufacture, as
being the work of an intelligent artist operating upon unintelligent
materials objectively existing. It is in accordance with this theory
that books on natural theology, as well as those text-books of science
which deem it edifying to introduce theological reflections where they
have no proper place, are fond of speaking of the "Divine Architect" or
the "Great Designer."

This theory, which is still commonly held, was in high favour during
the earlier part of the present century. In view of the great and
sudden advances which physical knowledge was making, it seemed well
worth while to consecrate science to the service of theology; and
at the same time, in emphasizing the argument from design, theology
adopted the methods of science. The attempt to discover evidences
of beneficent purpose in the structure of the eye and ear, in the
distribution of plants and animals over the earth's surface, in the
shapes of the planetary orbits and the inclinations of their axes, or
in any other of the innumerable arrangements of nature, was an attempt
at true induction; and high praise is due to the able men who have
devoted their energies to reinforcing the argument. By far the greater
part of the evidence was naturally drawn from the organic world, which
began to be comprehensively studied in the mutual relations of all its
parts in the time of Lamarck and Cuvier. The organic world is full of
unspeakably beautiful and wonderful adaptations between organisms and
their environments, as well as between the various parts of the same
organism. The unmistakable end of these adaptations is the welfare
of the animal or plant; they conduce to length and completeness of
life, to the permanence and prosperity of the species. For some time,
therefore, the arguments of natural theology seemed to be victorious
along the whole line. The same kind of reasoning was pushed farther
and farther to explain the classification and morphology of plants and
animals; until the climax was reached in Agassiz's remarkable "Essay
on Classification," published in 1859, in which every organic form was
not only regarded as a concrete thought of the Creator interpretable
by the human mind, but this kind of explanation was expressly urged as
a substitute for inquiries into the physical causes whereby such forms
might have been originated.

In its best days, however, there was a serious weakness in the argument
from design, which was ably pointed out by Mr. Mill, in an essay
wherein he accords much more weight to the general argument than could
now by any possibility be granted it. Its fault was the familiar
logical weakness of proving too much. The very success of the argument
in showing the world to have been the work of an intelligent Designer
made it impossible to suppose that Creator to be at once omnipotent
and absolutely benevolent. For nothing can be clearer than that Nature
is full of cruelty and maladaptation. In every part of the animal
world we find implements of torture surpassing in devilish ingenuity
anything that was ever seen in the dungeons of the Inquisition. We
are introduced to a scene of incessant and universal strife, of which
it is not apparent on the surface that the outcome is the good or
the happiness of anything that is sentient. In pre-Darwinian times,
before we had gone below the surface, no such outcome was discernible.
Often, indeed, we find the higher life wantonly sacrificed to the
lower, as instanced by the myriads of parasites apparently created for
no other purpose than to prey upon creatures better than themselves.
Such considerations bring up, with renewed emphasis, the everlasting
problem of the origin of evil. If the Creator of such a world is
omnipotent he cannot be actuated solely by a desire for the welfare of
his creatures, but must have other ends in view to which this is in
some measure subordinated. Or if he is absolutely benevolent, then he
cannot be omnipotent, but there is something in the nature of things
which sets limits to his creative power. This dilemma is as old as
human thinking, and it still remains a stumbling-block in the way of
any theory of the universe that can possibly be devised. But it is an
obstacle especially formidable to any kind of anthropomorphic theism.
For the only avenue of escape is the assumption of an inscrutable
mystery which would contain the solution of the problem if the human
intellect could only penetrate so far; and the more closely we invite a
comparison between divine and human methods of working, the more do we
close up that only outlet.

The practical solution oftenest adopted has been that which sacrifices
the Creator's omnipotence in favour of his benevolence. In the noblest
of the purely Aryan religions--that of which the sacred literature
is contained in the Zendavesta--the evil spirit Ahriman exists
independently of the will of the good Ormuzd, and is accountable for
all the sin in the world, but in the fullness of time he is to be bound
in chains and shorn of his power for mischief.[19] This theory has
passed into Christendom in the form of Manichæism; but its essential
features have been adopted by orthodox Christianity, which at the same
time has tried to grasp the other horn of the dilemma and save the
omnipotence of the Deity by paying him what Mr. Mill calls the doubtful
compliment of making him the creator of the devil. By this device the
essential polytheism of the conception is thinly veiled. The confusion
of thought has been persistently blinked by the popular mind; but among
the profoundest thinkers of the Aryan race there have been two who
have explicitly adopted the solution which limits the Creator's power.
One of these was Plato, who held that God's perfect goodness has been
partially thwarted by the intractableness of the materials he has had
to work with. This theory was carried to extremes by those Gnostics
who believed that God's work consisted in redeeming a world originally
created by the devil, and in orthodox Christianity it gave rise to the
Augustinian doctrine of total depravity, and the "philosophy of the
plan of salvation" founded thereon. The other great thinker who adopted
a similar solution was Leibnitz. In his famous theory of optimism the
world is by no means represented as perfect; it is only the best of all
possible worlds, the best the Creator could make out of the materials
at hand. In recent times Mr. Mill shows a marked preference for this
view, and one of the foremost religious teachers now living, Dr.
Martineau, falls into a parallel line of thinking in his suggestion
that the primary qualities of matter constitute a "datum objective to
God," who, "in shaping the orbits out of immensity, and determining
seasons out of eternity, could but follow the laws of curvature,
measure, and proportion."[20]

But indeed it is not necessary to refer to the problem of evil in
order to show that the argument from design cannot prove the existence
of an omnipotent and benevolent Designer. It is not omnipotence that
contrives and plans and adapts means to ends. These are the methods of
finite intelligence; they imply the overcoming of obstacles; and to
ascribe them to omnipotence is to combine words that severally possess
meanings into a phrase that has no meaning. "God said, Let there be
light: and there was light." In this noble description of creative
omnipotence one would search in vain for any hint of contrivance. The
most the argument from design could legitimately hope to accomplish
was to make it seem probable that the universe was wrought into its
present shape by an intelligent and benevolent Being immeasurably
superior to Man, but far from infinite in power and resources. Such an
argument hardly rises to the level of true theism.[21]


_Simile of the Watch replaced by Simile of the Flower._

It was in its own chosen stronghold that this once famous argument
was destined to meet its doom. It was in the adaptations of the
organic world, in the manifold harmonies between living creatures
and surrounding circumstances, that it had seemed to find its chief
support; and now came the Darwinian theory of natural selection, and
in the twinkling of an eye knocked all this support from under it.
It is not that the organism and its environment have been adapted to
each other by an exercise of creative intelligence, but it is that
the organism is necessarily fitted to the environment because in the
perennial slaughter that has gone on from the beginning only the
fittest have survived. Or, as it has been otherwise expressed, "the
earth is suited to its inhabitants because it has produced them, and
only such as suit it live." In the struggle for existence no individual
peculiarity, however slight, that tends to the preservation of life
is neglected. It is unerringly seized upon and propagated by natural
selection, and from the cumulative action of such slight causes have
come the beautiful adaptations of which the organic world is full. The
demonstration of this point, through the labours of a whole generation
of naturalists, has been one of the most notable achievements of modern
science, and to the theistic arguments of Paley and the Bridgewater
treatises it has dealt destruction.

But the Darwinian theory of natural selection does not stand alone. It
is part of a greater whole. It is the most conspicuous portion of that
doctrine of evolution in which all the results hitherto attained by
the great modern scientific movement are codified, and which Herbert
Spencer had already begun to set forth in its main outlines before
the Darwinian theory had been made known to the world. This doctrine
of evolution so far extends the range of our vision through past and
future time as entirely to alter our conception of the universe. Our
grandfathers, in common with all preceding generations of men, could
and did suppose that at some particular moment in the past eternity
the world was created in very much the shape which it has at present.
But our modern knowledge does not allow us to suppose anything of the
sort. We can carry back our thoughts through a long succession of
great epochs, some of them many millions of years in duration, in each
of which the innumerable forms of life that covered the earth were
very different from what they were in all the others, and in even the
nearest of which they were notably different from what they are now.
We can go back still farther to the eras when the earth was a whirling
ball of vapour, or when it formed an equatorial belt upon a sun two
hundred million miles in diameter, or when the sun itself was but a
giant nebula from which as yet no planet had been born. And through all
the vast sweep of time, from the simple primeval vapour down to the
multifarious world we know to-day, we see the various forms of Nature
coming into existence one after the other in accordance with laws
of which we are already beginning to trace the character and scope.
Paley's simile of the watch is no longer applicable to such a world as
this. It must be replaced by the simile of the flower. The universe is
not a machine, but an organism, with an indwelling principle of life.
It was not made, but it has grown.

That such a change in our conception of the universe marks the greatest
revolution that has ever taken place in human thinking need scarcely
be said. But even in this statement we have not quite revealed the
depth of the change. Not only has modern science made it clear that the
varied forms of Nature which make up the universe have arisen through a
process of evolution, but it has also made it clear that what we call
the laws of Nature have been evolved through the self-same process.
The axiom of the persistence of force, upon which all modern science
has come to rest, involves as a necessary corollary the persistence of
the relations between forces; so that, starting with the persistence
of force and the primary qualities of matter, it can be shown that all
those uniformities of coexistence and succession which we call natural
laws have arisen one after the other in connection with the forms which
have afforded the occasions for their manifestation. The all-pervading
harmony of Nature is thus itself a natural product, and the last inch
of ground is cut away from under the theologians who suppose the
universe to have come into existence through a supernatural process of
manufacture at the hands of a Creator outside of itself.


_The Craving for a Final Cause._

It appears, then, that the idea of God as remote from the world is not
likely to survive the revolution in thought which the rapid increase
of modern knowledge has inaugurated. The knell of anthropomorphic or
Augustinian theism has already sounded. This conclusion need not,
however, disturb us when we consider how imperfect a form of theism
this is which mankind is now outgrowing. To get rid of the appearance
of antagonism between science and religion will of itself be one of the
greatest benefits ever conferred upon the human race. It will forward
science and purify religion, and it will go far toward increasing
kindness and mutual helpfulness among men. Since such happy results
are likely to follow the general adoption of the cosmic or Athanasian
form of theism, in place of the other form, it becomes us to observe
more specifically the manner in which this higher theism stands related
to our modern knowledge.

To every form of theism, as I have already urged, an anthropomorphic
element is indispensable. It is quite true, on the one hand, that
to ascribe what we know as human personality to the infinite Deity
straightway lands us in a contradiction, since personality without
limits is inconceivable. But on the other hand, it is no less true
that the total elimination of anthropomorphism from the idea of God
abolishes the idea itself. This difficulty need not dishearten us, for
it is no more than we must expect to encounter on the threshold of such
a problem as the one before us. We do not approach the question in
the spirit of those natural theologians who were so ready with their
explanations of the divine purposes. We are aware that "we see as
through a glass darkly," and we do not expect to "think God's thoughts
after him" save in the crudest symbolic fashion. In dealing with the
Infinite we are confessedly treating of that which transcends our
powers of conception. Our ability to frame ideas is strictly limited by
experience, and our experience does not furnish the materials for the
idea of a personality which is not narrowly hemmed in by the inexorable
barriers of circumstance. We therefore cannot conceive such an idea.
But it does not follow that there is no reality answering to what such
an idea would be if it could be conceived. The test of inconceivability
is only applicable to the world of phenomena from which our experience
is gathered. It fails when applied to that which lies behind phenomena.
I do not hold for this reason that we are justified in using such an
expression as "infinite personality" in a philosophical inquiry where
clearness of thought and speech is above all things desirable. But I
do hold, most emphatically, that we are not debarred from ascribing
a quasi-psychical nature to the Deity simply because we can frame no
proper conception of such a nature as absolute and infinite.

The point is of vital importance to theism. As Kant has well said,
"the conception of God involves not merely a blindly operating Nature
as the eternal root of things, but a Supreme Being that shall be the
author of all things by free and understanding action; and it is this
conception which alone has any interest for us." It will be observed
that Kant says nothing here about "contrivance." By the phrase "free
and understanding action" he doubtless means much the same that is here
meant by ascribing to God a quasi-psychical nature. And thus alone, he
says, can we feel any interest in theism. The thought goes deep, yet
is plain enough to every one. The teleological instinct in Man cannot
be suppressed or ignored. The human soul shrinks from the thought
that it is without kith or kin in all this wide universe. Our reason
demands that there shall be a reasonableness in the constitution of
things. This demand is a fact in our psychical nature as positive and
irrepressible as our acceptance of geometrical axioms and our rejection
of whatever controverts such axioms. No ingenuity of argument can bring
us to believe that the infinite Sustainer of the universe will "put
us to permanent intellectual confusion." There is in every earnest
thinker a craving after a final cause; and this craving can no more be
extinguished than our belief in objective reality. Nothing can persuade
us that the universe is a farrago of nonsense. Our belief in what we
call the evidence of our senses is less strong than our faith that in
the orderly sequence of events there is a meaning which our minds could
fathom were they only vast enough. Doubtless in our own age, of which
it is a most healthful symptom that it questions everything, there are
many who, through inability to assign the grounds for such a faith,
have persuaded themselves that it must be a mere superstition which
ought not to be cherished; but it is not likely that any one of these
has ever really succeeded in ridding himself of it.

According to Mr. Spencer, the only ultimate test of reality is
persistence, and the only measure of validity among our primary beliefs
is the success with which they resist all efforts to change them. Let
us see, then, how it is with the belief in the essential reasonableness
of the universe. Does this belief answer to any outward reality? Is
there, in the scheme of things, aught that justifies Man in claiming
kinship of any sort with the God that is immanent in the world?

The difficulty in answering such questions has its root in the
impossibility of framing a representative conception of Deity; but it
is a difficulty which may, for all practical purposes, be surmounted by
the aid of a symbolic conception.


_Symbolic Conceptions._

Observe the meaning of this distinction. Of any simple object which
can be grasped in a single act of perception, such as a knife or a
book, an egg or an orange, a circle or a triangle, you can frame a
conception which almost or quite exactly _represents_ the object.
The picture or visual image in your mind when the orange is present
to the senses is almost exactly reproduced when it is absent. The
distinction between the two lies chiefly in the relative vividness of
the former as contrasted with the relative faintness of the latter.
But as the objects of thought increase in size and in complexity of
detail, the case soon comes to be very different. You cannot frame
a truly representative conception of the town in which you live,
however familiar you may be with its streets and houses, its parks and
trees, and the looks and demeanour of the townsmen; it is impossible
to embrace so many details in a single mental picture. The mind must
range to and fro among the phenomena in order to represent the town
in a series of conceptions. But practically what you have in mind
when you speak of the town is a fragmentary conception in which some
portion of the object is represented, while you are well aware that
with sufficient pains a series of mental pictures could be formed
which would approximately correspond to the object. That is to say,
this fragmentary conception stands in your mind as a _symbol_ of
the town. To some extent the conception is representative, but to a
great degree it is symbolic. With a further increase in the size and
complexity of the objects of thought, our conceptions gradually lose
their representative character, and at length become purely symbolic.
No one can form a mental picture that answers even approximately to the
earth. Even a homogeneous ball eight thousand miles in diameter is too
vast an object to be conceived otherwise than symbolically, and much
more is this true of the ball upon which we live, with all its endless
multiformity of detail. We imagine a globe and clothe it with a few
terrestrial attributes, and in our minds this fragmentary notion does
duty as a symbol of the earth.

The case becomes still more striking when we have to deal with
conceptions of the universe, of cosmic forces such as light and heat,
or of the stupendous secular changes which modern science calls us to
contemplate. Here our conceptions cannot even pretend to represent
the objects; they are as purely symbolic as the algebraic equations
whereby the geometer expresses the shapes of curves. Yet so long as
there are means of verification at our command, we can reason as safely
with these symbolic conceptions as if they were truly representative.
The geometer can at any moment translate his equation into an actual
curve, and thereby test the results of his reasoning; and the case is
similar with the undulatory theory of light, the chemist's conception
of atomicity, and other vast stretches of thought which in recent times
have revolutionized our knowledge of Nature. The danger in the use of
symbolic conceptions is the danger of framing illegitimate symbols
that answer to nothing in heaven or earth, as has happened first and
last with so many short-lived theories in science and in metaphysics.
Forewarned of this danger, and therefore--I hope--forearmed against it,
let us see what a scientific philosophy has to say about the Power that
is manifested in and through the universe.


_The Eternal Source of Phenomena._

We have seen that before men could arrive at the idea of God, before
out of the old crude and fragmentary polytheisms there could be
developed a pure and coherent theism, it was necessary that physical
generalization should have advanced far enough to enable them, however
imperfectly, to reason about the universe as a whole. It was a faint
glimpse of the unity of Nature that first led men to the conception
of the unity of God, and as their knowledge of the phenomenal fact
becomes clearer, so must their grasp upon the noumenal truth behind it
become firmer. Now the whole tendency of modern science is to impress
upon us ever more forcibly the truth that the entire knowable universe
is an immense unit, animated throughout all its parts by a single
principle of life. This conclusion, which was long ago borne in upon
the minds of prophetic thinkers, like Spinoza and Goethe, through
their keen appreciation of the significance of the physical harmonies
known to them, has during the last fifty years received something like
a demonstration in detail. It is since Goethe's death, for example,
that it has been proved that the Newtonian law of gravitation extends
to the bodies which used to be called fixed stars. That such was the
case was already much more than probable, but so lately as 1835 there
were to be found writers on science, such as Comte, who denied that
it could ever be proved. But a still more impressive illustration
of the unity of Nature is furnished by the luminiferous ether, when
considered in connection with the discovery of the correlation of
forces. The fathomless abysses of space can no longer be talked of as
empty; they are filled with a wonderful substance, unlike any of the
forms of matter which we can weigh and measure. A cosmic jelly almost
infinitely hard and elastic, it offers at the same time no appreciable
resistance to the movements of the heavenly bodies. It is so sensitive
that a shock in any part of it causes a "tremour which is felt on
the surface of countless worlds." Radiating in every direction, from
millions of centric points, run shivers of undulation manifested in
endless metamorphosis as heat, or light, or actinism, as magnetism or
electricity. Crossing one another in every imaginable way, as if all
space were crowded with a mesh-work of nerve-threads, these motions
go on forever in a harmony that nothing disturbs. Thus every part of
the universe shares in the life of all the other parts, as when in the
solar atmosphere, pulsating at its temperature of a million degrees
Fahrenheit, a slight breeze instantly sways the needles in every
compass-box on the face of the earth.

Still further striking confirmation is found in the marvellous
disclosures of spectrum analysis. To whatever part of the heavens we
turn the telescope, armed with this new addition to our senses, we find
the same chemical elements with which the present century has made us
familiar upon the surface of the earth. From the distant worlds of
Arcturus and the Pleiades, whence the swift ray of light takes many
years to reach us, it brings the story of the hydrogen and oxygen, the
vapour of iron or sodium, which set it in motion. Thus in all parts
of the universe that have fallen within our ken we find a unity of
chemical composition. Nebulæ, stars, and planets are all made of the
same materials, and on every side we behold them in different stages
of development, worlds in the making: here an irregular nebula such as
our solar system once was, there a nebula whose rotation has at length
wrought it into spheroidal form; here and there stars of varied colours
marking different eras in chemical evolution; now planets still partly
incandescent like Saturn and Jupiter, then planets like Mars and the
earth, with cool atmospheres and solid continents and vast oceans of
water; and lastly such bodies as the moon, vapourless, rigid, and cold
in death.

Still nearer do we come toward realizing the unity of Nature when we
recollect that the law of evolution is not only the same for all these
various worlds, but is also the same throughout all other orders of
phenomena. Not only in the development of cosmical bodies, including
the earth, but also in the development of life upon the earth's surface
and in the special development of those complex manifestations of life
known as human societies, the most general and fundamental features of
the process are the same, so that it has been found possible to express
them in a single universal formula. And what is most striking of all,
this notable formula, under which Herbert Spencer has succeeded in
generalizing the phenomena of universal evolution, was derived from
the formula under which Von Baer in 1829 first generalized the mode of
development of organisms from their embryos. That a law of evolution
first partially detected among the phenomena of the organic world
should thereafter not only be found applicable to all other orders of
phenomena, but should find in this application its first complete and
coherent statement, is a fact of wondrous and startling significance.
It means that the universe as a whole is thrilling in every fibre with
Life,--not, indeed, life in the usual restricted sense, but life in
a general sense. The distinction, once deemed absolute, between the
living and the not-living is converted into a relative distinction; and
Life as manifested in the organism is seen to be only a specialized
form of the Universal Life.

The conception of matter as dead or inert belongs, indeed, to an order
of thought that modern knowledge has entirely outgrown. If the study
of physics has taught us anything, it is that nowhere in Nature is
inertness or quiescence to be found. All is quivering with energy.
From particle to particle without cessation the movement passes on,
reappearing from moment to moment under myriad Protean forms, while
the rearrangements of particles incidental to the movement constitute
the qualitative differences among things. Now in the language of
physics all motions of matter are manifestations of force, to which
we can assign neither beginning nor end. Matter is indestructible,
motion is continuous, and beneath both these universal truths lies
the fundamental truth that force is persistent. The farthest reach in
science that has ever been made was made when it was proved by Herbert
Spencer that the law of universal evolution is a necessary consequence
of the persistence of force. It has shown us that all the myriad
phenomena of the universe, all its weird and subtle changes, in all
their minuteness from moment to moment, in all their vastness from age
to age, are the manifestations of a single animating principle that is
both infinite and eternal.

By what name, then, shall we call this animating principle of the
universe, this eternal source of phenomena? Using the ordinary language
of physics, we have just been calling it Force, but such a term in no
wise enlightens us. Taken by itself it is meaningless; it acquires
its meaning only from the relations in which it is used. It is a mere
symbol, like the algebraic expression which stands for a curve. Of
what, then, is it the symbol?

The words which we use are so enwrapped in atmospheres of subtle
associations that they are liable to sway the direction of our thoughts
in ways of which we are often unconscious. It is highly desirable
that physics should have a word as thoroughly abstract, as utterly
emptied of all connotations of personality, as possible, so that it
may be used like a mathematical symbol. Such a word is Force. But what
we are now dealing with is by no means a scientific abstraction. It
is the most concrete and solid of realities, the one Reality which
underlies all appearances, and from the presence of which we can never
escape. Suppose, then, that we translate our abstract terminology into
something that is more concrete. Instead of the force which persists,
let us speak of the Power which is always and everywhere manifested
in phenomena. Our question, then, becomes, What is this infinite and
eternal Power like? What kind of language shall we use in describing
it? Can we regard it as in any wise "material," or can we speak of its
universal and ceaseless activity as in any wise the working of a "blind
necessity"? For here, at length, we have penetrated to the innermost
kernel of the problem; and upon the answer must depend our mental
attitude toward the mystery of existence.

The answer is that we cannot regard the infinite and eternal Power as
in any wise "material," nor can we attribute its workings to "blind
necessity." The eternal source of phenomena is the source of what we
see and hear and touch; it is the source of what we call matter, but
it cannot itself be material. Matter is but the generalized name we
give to those modifications which we refer immediately to an unknown
something outside of ourselves. It was long ago shown that all the
qualities of matter are what the mind makes them, and have no existence
as such apart from the mind. In the deepest sense all that we really
know is mind, and as Clifford would say, what we call the material
universe is simply an imperfect picture in our minds of a real universe
of mind-stuff.[22] Our own mind we know directly; our neighbour's mind
we know by inference; that which is external to both is a Power hidden
from sense, which causes states of consciousness that are similar
in both. Such states of consciousness we call material qualities,
and matter is nothing but the sum of such qualities. To speak of the
hidden Power itself as "material" is therefore not merely to state
what is untrue,--it is to talk nonsense. We are bound to conceive
of the Eternal Reality in terms of the only reality that we know,
or else refrain from conceiving it under any form whatever. But the
latter alternative is clearly impossible.[23] We might as well try to
escape from the air in which we breathe as to expel from consciousness
the Power which is manifested throughout what we call the material
universe. But the only conclusion we can consistently hold is that this
is the very same power "which in ourselves wells up under the form of

In the nature-worship of primitive men, beneath all the crudities of
thought by which it was overlaid and obscured, there was thus after
all an essential germ of truth which modern philosophy is constrained
to recognize and reiterate. As the unity of Nature has come to be
demonstrated, innumerable finite powers, once conceived as psychical
and deified, have been generalized into a single infinite Power that
is still thought of as psychical. From the crudest polytheism we have
thus, by a slow evolution, arrived at pure monotheism,--the recognition
of the eternal God indwelling in the universe, in whom we live and move
and have our being.

But in thus conceiving of God as psychical, as a Being with whom the
human soul in the deepest sense owns kinship, we must beware of too
carelessly ascribing to Him those specialized psychical attributes
characteristic of humanity, which one and all imply limitation and
weakness. We must not forget the warning of the prophet Isaiah: "My
thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith
the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my
ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Omniscience, for example, has been ascribed to God in every system of
theism; yet the psychical nature to which all events, past, present,
and future, can be always simultaneously present is clearly as far
removed from the limited and serial psychical nature of Man as the
heavens are higher than the earth. We are not so presumptuous,
therefore, as to attempt, with some theologians of the anthropomorphic
school, to inquire minutely into the character of the divine decrees
and purposes. But our task would be ill-performed were nothing more
to be said about that craving after a final cause which we have seen
to be an essential element in Man's religious nature. It remains to
be shown that there is a reasonableness in the universe, that in the
orderly sequence of events there is a meaning which appeals to our
human intelligence. Without adopting Paley's method, which has been
proved inadequate, we may nevertheless boldly aim at an object like
that at which Paley aimed. Caution is needed, since we are dealing with
a symbolic conception as to which the very point in question is whether
there is any reality that answers to it. The problem is a hard one, but
here we suddenly get powerful help from the doctrine of evolution, and
especially from that part of it known as the Darwinian theory.


_The Power that makes for Righteousness._

Although it was the Darwinian theory of natural selection which
overthrew the argument from design, yet--as I have argued in another
place--when thoroughly understood it will be found to replace as much
teleology as it destroys.[24] Indeed, the doctrine of evolution, in
all its chapters, has a certain teleological aspect, although it does
not employ those methods which in the hands of the champions of final
causes have been found so misleading. The doctrine of evolution does
not regard any given arrangement of things as scientifically explained
when it is shown to subserve some good purpose, but it seeks its
explanation in such antecedent conditions as may have been competent to
bring about the arrangement in question. Nevertheless, the doctrine
of evolution is not only perpetually showing us the purposes which
the arrangements of Nature subserve, but throughout one large section
of the ground which it covers it points to a discernible dramatic
tendency, a clearly-marked progress of events toward a mighty goal.
Now it especially concerns us to note that this large section is just
the one, and the only one, which our powers of imagination are able
to compass. The astronomic story of the universe is altogether too
vast for us to comprehend in such wise as to tell whether it shows any
dramatic tendency or not.[25] But in the story of the evolution of life
upon the surface of our earth, where alone we are able to compass the
phenomena, we see all things working together, through countless ages
of toil and trouble, toward one glorious consummation. It is therefore
a fair inference, though a bold one, that if our means of exploration
were such that we could compass the story of all the systems of worlds
that shine in the spacious firmament, we should be able to detect a
similar meaning. At all events, the story which we can decipher is
sufficiently impressive and consoling. It clothes our theistic belief
with moral significance, reveals the intense and solemn reality of
religion, and fills the heart with tidings of great joy.

The glorious consummation toward which organic evolution is tending
is the production of the highest and most perfect psychical life.
Already the germs of this conclusion existed in the Darwinian theory
as originally stated, though men were for a time too busy with other
aspects of the theory to pay due attention to them. In the natural
selection of such individual peculiarities as conduce to the survival
of the species, and in the evolution by this process of higher and
higher creatures endowed with capacities for a richer and more varied
life, there might have been seen a well-marked dramatic tendency,
toward the _dénouement_ of which every one of the myriad little acts of
life and death during the entire series of geologic æons was assisting.
The whole scheme was teleological, and each single act of natural
selection had a teleological meaning. Herein lies the reason why the
theory so quickly destroyed that of Paley. It did not merely refute it,
but supplanted it with explanations which had the merit of being truly
scientific, while at the same time they hit the mark at which natural
theology had unsuccessfully aimed.

Such was the case with the Darwinian theory as first announced. But
since it has been more fully studied in its application to the genesis
of Man, a wonderful flood of light has been thrown upon the meaning of
evolution, and there appears a reasonableness in the universe such as
had not appeared before. It has been shown that the genesis of Man was
due to a change in the direction of the working of natural selection,
whereby psychical variations were selected to the neglect of physical
variations. It has been shown that one chief result of this change
was the lengthening of infancy, whereby Man appeared on the scene as
a plastic creature capable of unlimited psychical progress. It has
been shown that one chief result of the lengthening of infancy was the
origination of the family and of human society endowed with rudimentary
moral ideas and moral sentiments. It has been shown that through
these coöperating processes the difference between Man and all lower
creatures has come to be a difference in kind transcending all other
differences; that his appearance upon the earth marked the beginning
of the final stage in the process of development, the last act in the
great drama of creation; and that all the remaining work of evolution
must consist in the perfecting of the creature thus marvellously
produced. It has been further shown that the perfecting of Man
consists mainly in the ever-increasing predominance of the life of the
soul over the life of the body. And lastly, it has been shown that,
whereas the earlier stages of human progress have been characterized
by a struggle for existence like that through which all lower forms of
life have been developed, nevertheless the action of natural selection
upon Man is coming to an end, and his future development will be
accomplished through the direct adaptation of his wonderfully plastic
intelligence to the circumstances in which it is placed. Hence it has
appeared that war and all forms of strife, having ceased to discharge
their normal function, and having thus become unnecessary, will slowly
die out;[26] that the feelings and habits adapted to ages of strife
will ultimately perish from disuse; and that a stage of civilization
will be reached in which human sympathy shall be all in all, and the
spirit of Christ shall reign supreme throughout the length and breadth
of the earth.

These conclusions, with the grounds upon which they are based, have
been succinctly set forth in my little book entitled "The Destiny of
Man viewed in the Light of his Origin." Startling as they may have
seemed to some, they are no more so than many of the other truths which
have been brought home to us during this unprecedented age. They are
the fruit of a wide induction from the most vitally important facts
which the doctrine of evolution has set forth; and they may fairly
claim recognition as an integral body of philosophic doctrine fit to
stand the test of time. Here they are summarized as the final step in
my argument concerning the true nature of theism. They add new meanings
to the idea of God, as it is affected by modern knowledge, while at the
same time they do but give articulate voice to time-honoured truths
which it was feared the skepticism of our age might have rendered dumb
and powerless. For if we express in its most concentrated form the
meaning of these conclusions regarding Man's origin and destiny, we
find that it affords the full justification of the fundamental ideas
and sentiments which have animated religion at all times. We see Man
still the crown and glory of the universe and the chief object of
divine care, yet still the lame and halting creature, loaded with a
brute-inheritance of original sin, whose ultimate salvation is slowly
to be achieved through ages of moral discipline. We see the chief
agency which produced him--natural selection which always works through
strife--ceasing to operate upon him, so that, until human strife shall
be brought to an end, there goes on a struggle between his lower and
his higher impulses, in which the higher must finally conquer. And in
all this we find the strongest imaginable incentive to right living,
yet one that is still the same in principle with that set forth by the
great Teacher who first brought men to the knowledge of the true God.
As to the conception of Deity, in the shape impressed upon it by our
modern knowledge, I believe I have now said enough to show that it is
no empty formula or metaphysical abstraction which we would seek to
substitute for the living God. The infinite and eternal Power that is
manifested in every pulsation of the universe is none other than the
living God. We may exhaust the resources of metaphysics in debating
how far his nature may fitly be expressed in terms applicable to the
psychical nature of Man; such vain attempts will only serve to show
how we are dealing with a theme that must ever transcend our finite
powers of conception. But of some things we may feel sure. Humanity is
not a mere local incident in an endless and aimless series of cosmical
changes. The events of the universe are not the work of chance,
neither are they the outcome of blind necessity. Practically there
is a purpose in the world whereof it is our highest duty to learn
the lesson, however well or ill we may fare in rendering a scientific
account of it. When from the dawn of life we see all things working
together toward the evolution of the highest spiritual attributes of
Man, we know, however the words may stumble in which we try to say
it, that God is in the deepest sense a moral Being. The everlasting
source of phenomena is none other than the infinite Power that makes
for righteousness. Thou canst not by searching find Him out; yet put
thy trust in Him, and against thee the gates of hell shall not prevail;
for there is neither wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the



In the presence of the great mystery of existence, the thoughts of
the untutored savage are not always so very unlike those of civilized
men, as we may see from the following pathetic words of a Kafir, named
Sekese, in conversation with a French traveller, M. Arbrouseille, on
the subject of the Christian religion:--

"Your tidings," said this uncultivated barbarian, "are what I want,
and I was seeking before I knew you, as you shall hear and judge for
yourself. Twelve years ago I went to feed my flocks; the weather was
hazy. I sat down upon a rock and asked myself sorrowful questions; yes,
sorrowful, because I was unable to answer them. Who has touched the
stars with his hands--on what pillars do they rest, I asked myself.
The waters never weary, they know no other law than to flow without
ceasing from morning till night and from night till morning; but where
do they stop, and who makes them flow thus? The clouds also come and
go, and burst in water over the earth. Whence come they--who sends
them? The diviners certainly do not give us rain; for how could they
do it? and why do not I see them with my own eyes when they go up to
heaven to fetch it? I cannot see the wind; but what is it? who brings
it, makes it blow and roar and terrify us? Do I know how the corn
sprouts? Yesterday there was not a blade in my field, to-day I returned
to the field and found some; who can have given to the earth the
wisdom and the power to produce it? Then I buried my head in both my
hands."--Cited in PICTON, _Mystery of Matter_, p. 222.


None of the dictionaries offer a satisfactory explanation of the word
_God_. It was once commonly supposed to be related to the adjective
_good_, but Grimm long ago showed that this connection is, to say
the least, very improbable. It has also been sought to identify it
with Persian _Khodâ_, from Zend _qvadata_, Skr. _svadata_, Lat. _a se
datus_, in which the idea is that of self-existence; but this fanciful
etymology was exploded by Aufrecht. The arrant guesswork of Donaldson,
who would connect _God_ with +kalos+, and +theos+ with +tithêmi+ (New
Cratylus, p. 710), scarcely deserves mention in these days. Among the
more scientific philologists of our time, August Fick, in treating of
the "Wortschatz der germanischen Spracheinheit," simply refers _God_
to a primitive Teutonic _gutha_, and says no more about it. (Vergl.
Woerterbuch der indogermanischen Sprachen, III. 107.) He is followed
by Skeat (Etymological Dictionary, p. 238), who adds that there is
"no connection with _good_." Eduard Müller says: "So bedenklich die
zusammenstellung mit _good_, so fraglich ist doch auch noch die
urverwandtschaft mit pers. _Khodâ_ gott, oder skr. _gûdha_ mysterium,
oder skr. _guddha_ purus; Heyne: 'als sich verhüllender, unsichtbarer,
vgl. skr. _guh_ für _gudh_ celare.'" (Woerterbuch der englischen
Sprache, p. 456.)

Max Müller has much more plausibly suggested that _God_ was formerly a
heathen name for the Deity, which passed into Christian usage, like the
Latin _Deus_. (Science of Language, 6th ed. II. 317.) Following this
hint, I suggested, several years ago (North Amer. Review, Oct. 1869,
p. 354), that _God_ is probably identical with _Wodan_ or _Odin_, the
name of the great Northern deity, the chief object of the worship of
our forefathers. This relation of an initial _G_ to an initial _W_ is
a very common one; as for example _Guillaume_ and _William_, _guerre_
and _war_, _guardian_ and _warden_, _guile_ and _wile_. The same thing
is seen in Armorican _guasta_ and Ital. _guastare_, as compared with
Lat. _vastare_, Eng. _waste_; and in the Eng. _quick_, Goth. _quivs_,
Lat. _vivus_. In Erchempert's Historia Langobardorum, 11, Pertz, III.
245, we find _Ludoguicus_ for _Ludovicus_. Not only is this relation
a common one, but there are plenty of specific instances of it in the
case of _Wodan_. In Germany we have the town names of _Godesberg_,
_Gudenberg_, and _Godensholt_, all derived from _Wodan_. In the
Westphalian dialect, _Wednesday_ ("day of Wodan") is called _Godenstag_
or _Gunstag_; in Nether-Rhenish, _Gudenstag_; in Flemish, _Goenstag_.
See Thorpe, Northern Mythol. I. 229; Taylor, Words and Places, 323; and
cf. Grimm, Gesch. der deutschen Sprache, 296. The Westphalian Saxons
wrote both _Guodan_ and _Gudan_. _Odin_ was also called _Godin_ (Laing,
Heimskringla, I. 74), and Paulus Diaconus tells us that the Lombards
pronounced _Wodan_ as _Guodan_. In view of such a convergence of
proofs, I am surprised that attention was not long ago called to this

Wodan was originally the storm-spirit or animating genius of the wind,
answering in many respects to the Greek Hermes and the Vedic Sarameyas.
See my Myths and Myth-makers, 19, 20, 32, 35, 67, 124, 204; and cf.
Mackay, Religious Development of the Greeks and Hebrews, i. 260-273.


 M. M., Myths and Myth-makers, 1872; C. P., Outlines of Cosmic
 Philosophy, 1874; U. W., The Unseen World, 1876; D., Darwinism and
 Other Essays, 1879; E. E., Excursions of an Evolutionist, 1884; D. M.,
 The Destiny of Man, 1884; A. P. I., American Political Ideas, 1885.

[1] E. E. 56-77.

[2] C. P. i. 230.

[3] C. P. i. 157, 177-179.

[4] M. M. 18-21, _et passim_.

[5] M. M. 220.

[6] M. M. 232.

[7] M. M. 236; E. E. 251.

[8] A. P. I. 78, 81.

[9] U. W. 10.

[10] D. M. 104-107.

[11] E. E. 262.

[12] M. M. 236.

[13] C. P. ii. 383.

[14] U. W. 118.

[15] D. 5-8; C. P. ii. 283.

[16, 17] C. P. ii. 428.

[18] C. P. i. 183; ii. 449.

[19] M. M. 122.

[20] C. P. ii. 405.

[21] C. P. ii. 381-410.

[22] E. E. 327-336.

[23] C. P. ii. 449.

[24] D. M. 113; cf. C. P. ii. 406.

[25] D. 103.

[26] D. M. 77-95; A. P. I. 101-152.




 =OUTLINES OF COSMIC PHILOSOPHY=, based on the Doctrine of Evolution.
 With Criticisms on the Positive Philosophy. 2 vols. 8vo, pp. 465, 523,

Mr. DARWIN, after reading this work, wrote as follows to Mr.

 "You must allow me to thank you for the very great interest with which
 I have at last slowly read the whole of your work.... I never in my
 life read so lucid an expositor (and therefore thinker) as you are;
 and I think that I understand nearly the whole, though perhaps less
 clearly about cosmic theism and causation than other parts. It is
 hopeless to attempt out of so much to specify what has interested me
 most, and probably you would not care to hear. It pleased me to find
 that here and there I had arrived, from my own crude thoughts, at some
 of the same conclusions with you, though I could seldom or never have
 given my reasons for such conclusions."

 This work of Mr. Fiske's may be not unfairly designated the most
 important contribution yet made by America to philosophical
 literature.... His theory of the influence of prolonged infancy
 upon social development (Part II., chap. xxii.) entitles Mr.
 Fiske's work to be considered a distinctly important contribution
 to the theory of the origin of species, and of the origin of man in
 particular.--_Academy_ (London).

 His most important suggestion, that of the influence of the long
 period of feeble adolescence upon man's social development, is, we
 think, a permanent contribution to the development theory.--_Nation_
 (New York).

 He recognizes Mr. Spencer as his teacher and guide; but he has moulded
 the doctrines of his master into a popular form, surrounded them
 with fresh and vivid illustrations, pointed out their bearing upon
 great practical questions of the day, and amply supplied the reader
 with materials for forming an intelligent judgment with respect
 to their merits. Mr. Fiske is himself a thinker of rare acuteness
 and depth; his affluent store of knowledge is exhibited on every
 page; and his mastery of expression is equal to his subtlety of
 speculation.--GEORGE RIPLEY, in _Tribune_ (New York).

 Mr. Fiske's work ... is the first important contribution made by
 America to the evolution philosophy, ... and is well worth the study
 of all who wish to see at once the entire scope and purport of the
 scientific dogmatism of the day.--_Saturday Review_ (London).

 The author asserts that a system of philosophy has been constructed,
 out of purely scientific materials, ... which opposes a direct
 negative to every one of the theorems of which Positivism is made
 up.--_Scotsman_ (Edinburgh).

 Mr. Fiske is not a mere compiler from Mr. Spencer's works, nor is
 he simply a popularizer of an abstruse theory. He works his way to
 the chief results of Mr. Spencer's argument with independence and
 self-reliance. In many places he has presented his master's doctrine
 in new aspects or carried it forward to new conclusions, while
 throughout he adds something to the original from which he draws by
 freshness of illustration and individuality of literary style.... It
 is curious to note the almost fierce persistence with which the author
 returns again and again to an attack on the doctrines of Comte....
 The most striking part of Mr. Fiske's social speculations is the
 hypothesis by which he proposes to bridge over the gulf which divides
 the merely gregarious and sympathetic brutes from morally constituted
 man (Part II., chap. xxii.).--JAMES SULLY, in _Examiner_

 Mr. Fiske is a disciple who thinks for himself, and who has no
 hesitation, when necessary, in criticising him whom he acknowledges as
 master.... He is so thoroughly imbued with the philosophic spirit that
 his work merits a careful perusal; it has the especial attraction of
 being written in excellent temper and admirable English.--_Daily News_

 Mr. Fiske's work shows a complete and independent mastery of the
 subject in all its bearings, together with a power of lucid and
 vigorous exposition unexcelled in any philosophical work with which we
 are acquainted.--_Daily Globe_ (Boston).

 It is our best American book on the evolution philosophy, and deserves
 to rank with the productions of the great English thinkers.--_Index_

 =DARWINISM AND OTHER ESSAYS.= New Edition, enlarged. 12mo, pp. 283,

CONTENTS: Darwinism Verified; Mr. Mivart on Darwinism; Dr.
Bateman on Darwinism; Dr. Büchner on Darwinism; A Crumb for the "Modern
Symposium;" Chauncey Wright; What is Inspiration? Modern Witchcraft;
Comte's Positive Philosophy; Mr. Buckle's Fallacies; Postscript on Mr.
Buckle; The Races of the Danube; Liberal Education; University Reform;
A Librarian's Work.

 If ever there was a spirit thoroughly invigorated by the "joy of right
 understanding" it is that of the author of these pieces. Even the
 reader catches something of his intellectual buoyancy, and is thus
 carried almost lightly through discussions which would be hard and
 dry in the hands of a less animated writer.... No less confident and
 serene than his acceptance of the utmost logical results of recent
 scientific discovery is Mr. Fiske's assurance that the foundations
 of spiritual truths, so called, cannot possibly be shaken thereby....
 Warm personal admiration and acute critical discernment could not
 well be blended in finer proportions than in the article on the
 lamented Mr. Wright.... The article on Mr. Buckle's Fallacies has
 one aspect more remarkable than all the rest. It was written and
 published when the "History of Civilization" was new,--that is to
 say, when the writer was nineteen years of age; and the years--almost
 nineteen more--which have elapsed since then have rather confirmed
 than detracted from its value as a piece of criticism. The judgment
 of posterity on the most ambitious book of its generation, and one of
 the most bewildering, was actually anticipated by a stripling, and its
 final rank assigned with singular fairness and precision. Scarcely
 even in the style is there a trace of immaturity.... The essay on the
 Races of the Danube forcibly suggests the idea that Mr. Fiske has
 qualities of mind, almost unused hitherto, which would make him an
 exceptionally valuable writer of history.--_Atlantic Monthly._

 The article on the Races of the Danube shows that Mr. Fiske has a
 special talent for history.--_Nation_ (New York).

       *       *       *       *       *

 =MYTHS AND MYTH-MAKERS=: Old Tales and Superstitions interpreted by
 Comparative Mythology. 12mo, pp. 251, $2.00.

CONTENTS: The Origins of Folk-Lore; The Descent of Fire;
Werewolves and Swan-Maidens; Light and Darkness; Myths of the Barbaric
World; Juventus Mundi; The Primeval Ghost-World.

 Mr. Fiske has given us a book which is at once sensible and
 attractive, on a subject about which much is written that is crotchety
 or tedious.--W. R. S. RALSTON, in _Athenæum_ (London).

 This volume is not a text-book of scientific mythology. It contains
 seven essays crowded with quotations and examples, in the abundant
 use of which the writer's learning is not more conspicuous than his
 literary skill. Not everybody can shape and control such wealth of
 material.--_Christian Union_ (New York).

 He has, as we must admit, one qualification for attaining his object,
 in being completely master of his subject, and in knowing also how
 to treat it in an attractive manner.--FELIX LIEBRECHT, in
 _Academy_ (London).

 It is extremely interesting for its happy combination of psychologic
 analysis with a study of the primitive beliefs of mankind.... A
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 Mr. Fiske is a master of perspicuous explanation.--_World_ (New York).

 Its weight of sense and its lucidity will extend Mr. Fiske's
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 With the capacity for profound research and the power of critical
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 It is both an amusing and instructive book, evincing large research,
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       *       *       *       *       *

=THE UNSEEN WORLD, AND OTHER ESSAYS.= 12mo, pp. 349, $2.00.

CONTENTS: The Unseen World; The To-morrow of Death; The
Jesus of History; The Christ of Dogma; A Word about Miracles; Draper
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Dante; Paine's St. Peter; A Philosophy of Art; Athenian and American

 We think every one will remark, while examining this volume, the
 variety of subjects treated; and if anybody has formed an opinion that
 Mr. Fiske is a man who cares for nothing but myths and philosophy, he
 will find occasion to correct it. Many of these papers are critical
 reviews of important books widely different in their subjects; but
 to each study the writer seems to have brought, besides an excellent
 quality of discriminating judgment, full and fresh special knowledge,
 that enables him to supply much information on the subject, whatever
 it may be, that is not to be found in the volume he is noticing. To
 the knowledge, analytical power, and faculty of clear statement,
 that appear in all these papers, Mr. Fiske adds a just independence
 of thought that conciliates respectful consideration of his views,
 even when they are most at variance with the commonly accepted
 ones.--_Boston Advertiser._

 Of all the criticism and discussion called forth both in this country
 and in England by that remarkable little book, "The Unseen Universe,"
 Mr. John Fiske's "Unseen World" is at once the most profound, the most
 comprehensive, and the most lucid.... The mere statement of a thought
 in his perspicuous and translucent language gives it, in most cases, a
 new meaning and an added force.--_Appletons' Journal._

 They are all striking compositions, and deserving of a place in the
 fore rank of this kind of literature. It is not often that more robust
 and healthy reading can be found between the covers of a single
 volume.--_San Francisco Bulletin._

 The vigor, the earnestness, the honesty, and the freedom from cant and
 subtlety in his writing are exceedingly refreshing. He is a scholar, a
 critic, and a thinker of the first order.--_Christian Register._

 Mr. Fiske has won for himself a foremost place among American writers
 on physical science; and the present volume of essays bears testimony
 not only to his ability as a physicist, but to his versatility of mind
 and critical powers as well.--_Canadian Monthly._

 He is one of our foremost religious thinkers.--_Times_ (New York).

 The line of argument is so plain that all can follow it, and the style
 is wondrously charming.--_Index_ (Boston).

 Mr. John Fiske is a devoted student of Dante. The review of Mr.
 Longfellow's work is an admirable essay upon translating Dante,--an
 essay showing a very fine critical feeling and thorough knowledge of
 the subject.--_Transcript_ (Boston).

 He is a scholar profoundly versed in ancient and modern lore, a
 thinker familiar with all shades of thought, an observer who studies
 men as well as books, and withal a writer of the purest and most
 graphic English.--_Inter-Ocean_ (Chicago).

 He finely exposes the materialistic character of the book called the
 "Unseen Universe," which has been so highly extolled by the "Southern
 Cross" and other papers.--_Advertiser_ (Maryborough, Australia).

 The book has a unity and charm in the clearness of the thought and
 the beauty of such a style as was perhaps never before brought to
 the illustration of the topics with which Mr. Fiske habitually
 deals. There is something better still in the admirable spirit of
 his writing; it is of all writing of its sort, probably, the most
 humane.... He has already achieved a place as wholly his own as it is
 eminent.--_Atlantic Monthly._

       *       *       *       *       *

=EXCURSIONS OF AN EVOLUTIONIST.= 12mo, pp. 379, $2.00.

CONTENTS: Europe before the Arrival of Man; The Arrival of Man in
Europe; Our Aryan Forefathers; What we learn from Old Aryan Words; Was
there a Primeval Mother-Tongue? Sociology and Hero-Worship; Heroes of
Industry; The Causes of Persecution; The Origins of Protestantism; The
True Lesson of Protestantism; Evolution and Religion; The Meaning of
Infancy; A Universe of Mind-Stuff; In Memoriam: Charles Darwin.

 Among our thoughtful essayists there are none more brilliant than Mr.
 John Fiske. His pure style suits his clear thought. He does not write
 unless he has something to say; and when he does write he shows not
 only that he has thoroughly acquainted himself with the subject, but
 that he has to a rare degree the art of so massing his matter as to
 bring out the true value of the leading points in artistic relief. It
 is this perspective which makes his work such agreeable reading even
 on abstruse subjects, and has enabled him to play the same part in
 popularizing Spencer in this country that Littré performed for Comte
 in France, and Dumont for Bentham in England. The same qualities
 appear to good advantage in his new volume, which contains his later
 essays on his favorite subject of evolution.... They are well worth
 reperusal.--_The Nation_ (New York).

 These essays are all full of thought and worthy of preservation,
 while several of them are entitled to rank among the very best
 essays of American writers. For depth of thought, scholarship,
 literary taste, critical ability, and the power of clear and vigorous
 exposition _combined_, Mr. Fiske has no equal in this country and but
 few equals among European writers. He does not write on a subject
 until he has acquainted himself with it; and then he presents his
 thought, which often has the merit of originality, with a lucidness
 and attractiveness of style which make it easy to follow him in his
 treatment of even difficult topics. It is a pleasure to turn from
 our merely literary writers to the essays of Mr. Fiske, whose clear
 thought, discriminating judgment, and philosophic spirit, together
 with his fine taste and perspicuity of style, make his writings both
 instructive and entertaining.--_Index_ (Boston).

 The vividness and directness of the style is second only to the
 bracing and stimulating quality of the matter. This book comes
 nearer than anything we now think of among American publications to
 successfully popularizing the results of science without debilitating
 or misinterpreting the same. The first papers of the book particularly
 emulate the clearness of Huxley.... It compels assent to the dreaded
 "new way of looking at things," but in such a way that when the
 assent is given the dread is all gone. It is a good book for the busy
 preacher on account of its wealth of facts, so arranged as to reveal
 the thought that lies back of each fact. Each conclusion suggests a
 lesson.--_Unity_ (Chicago).

 Mr. Fiske, under the above title, makes his excursions through the
 realms of science, and evolves "evolution" in a most admirable
 manner--physical and psychical--by the "testimony of the rocks,"
 and with wonderful wisdom explains the origin of matter and man so
 truthfully possible that it is accepted as exceedingly probable, if
 not certain, by the thoughtful reader. It is fascinating to read his
 proofs and speculations upon a subject grown so interesting, and the
 reader is disposed to apply the same term of praise upon his work as
 he bestowed upon Clifford: "Such scientific exposition as this is as
 beautiful as poetry."--_Hartford Post._

 Mr. Fiske is the master of an extremely lucid and attractive literary
 style, and brings to all questions which he discusses the fruits of a
 very industrious reading and examination of authorities.... Whether
 one agrees with him or not one cannot fail to receive much instruction
 and definite intellectual impulse from the reading of this volume....
 While heartily dissenting from many of the views advanced in this
 book, we commend it to all students who care for the honest judgment
 of an honest man.--_Christian Union._

 =THE DESTINY OF MAN=, viewed in the Light of his Origin. 16mo, pp.
 121, $1.00.

CONTENTS: Man's Place in Nature as affected by the Copernican Theory;
As affected by Darwinism; On the Earth there will never be a Higher
Creature than Man; The Origin of Infancy; The Dawning of Consciousness;
Lengthening of Infancy and Concomitant Increase of Brain Surface;
Change in the Direction of the Working of Natural Selection; Growing
Predominance of the Psychical Life; The Origins of Society and
Morality; Improvableness of Man; Universal Warfare of Primeval Men;
First checked by the Beginnings of Industrial Civilization; Methods of
Political Development and Elimination of Warfare; End of the Working
of Natural Selection upon Man; Throwing off the Brute-Inheritance; The
Message of Christianity; The Question as to a Future Life.

 Mr. Fiske has long held rank as one of the most profound and exact
 of American thinkers, and his little monograph will serve to extend
 that deserved fame among a class of readers who are not ordinarily
 interested in the literature of science. Mr. Fiske's book is, in
 a word, a plea for faith in the immortality of man, based on the
 doctrine of evolution. With a superb command of all the knowledge
 bearing upon the philosophy of Darwinism, to which he has himself been
 a noteworthy contributor, Mr. Fiske sums up in eloquent periods the
 process of evolutionary creation from the origin of infancy to the
 beginnings of industrial and political development which have made
 human society what it is to-day; and then, looking into the future, he
 foretells how natural selection, working on the lines already marked
 out, shall attain its perfect work. The whole argument, or rather
 exposition, is a marvel of condensation.--_Boston Traveller._

 Mr. Fiske has given us in his "Destiny of Man" a most attractive
 condensation of his views as expressed in his various other works. One
 is charmed by the directness and clearness of his style, his simple
 and pure English, and his evident knowledge of his subject.... Of one
 thing we may be sure, that none are leading us more surely or rapidly
 to the full truth than men like the author of this little book, who
 reverently study the works of God for the lessons which he would teach
 his children.--_Christian Union_ (New York).

 Professor Fiske is always interesting. His exposition, step by
 step, of the doctrine of evolution, is admirably adapted for those
 prejudiced against it to read--simple, pleasant, and clear, and
 expressly designed to disarm hostility by showing that it is by no
 means absolutely incompatible with accepted religious beliefs--at
 least, with their essential qualities.--_Overland Monthly_ (San

 It is a remarkable contribution to the literature of religious
 thought.... It will prove that evolution is at least not
 irreverent.... It is packed full of learning and suggestion, in a
 style at once simple and beautiful, and is worth a dozen volumes of
 ordinary sermons.--_Philadelphia Press._

 This essay will and should attract wide attention, founded as it
 is upon modern science and marking the way in an advanced path in
 religio-scientific inquiry. Mr. Fiske is acknowledged one of the first
 of scientific thinkers, and his conclusions have more than the usual
 weight.--_Albany Journal._

 His little volume will be highly prized by those who enjoy seeing one
 of the most profound themes which can occupy the attention treated
 with eloquence and strength, with scientific insight and imaginative
 vigor.--_Buffalo Commercial Advertiser._

 The reverent spirit of the book, the wide range of illustrations, the
 remarkable lucidity of thought and style, and the noble eloquence
 that characterizes it, render this book one of striking value and
 interest.--_Salem Gazette._


This essay is a sequel to "The Destiny of Man." Its object is to show
that the indications of Science and Philosophy are theistic, not
atheistic; that while the idea of God has been greatly modified by
modern knowledge, it has not been lost or belittled, but magnified and
illuminated. The essay is prefaced by a long Introduction of remarkable
interest, and the whole book is full of significance and charm for all
thoughtful minds.


       *       *       *       *       *

  Transcriber's Notes

  Variations in spelling and punctuation are as in the original, except
  in cases of obvious typographical error.

  Each chapter of the book begins and most end with a decorative panel.
  These have not been referenced in this text.

  Italics are represented thus _italic_ bold thus =bold= and Greek thus

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