God the Known and God the Unknown

God the Known and God the Unknown


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Project Gutenberg's God the Known and God the Unknown, by Samuel Butler This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: God the Known and God the Unknown Author: Samuel Butler Release Date: December 14, 2008 [EBook #2513] Language: English Character set encoding: ASCII *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK GOD THE KNOWN AND GOD THE UNKNOWN *** Produced by Elliot S. Wheeler, and David Widger GOD THE KNOWN AND GOD THE UNKNOWN By Samuel Butler Contents Prefatory Note GOD THE KNOWN AND GOD THE UNKNOWN CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION CHAPTER II. COMMON GROUND CHAPTER III. PANTHEISM. CHAPTER IV. PANTHEISM. CHAPTER V. ORTHODOX THEISM CHAPTER VI. THE TREE OF LIFE CHAPTER VII. THE LIKENESS OF GOD CHAPTER VIII. THE LIFE EVERLASTING CHAPTER IX. GOD THE UNKNOWN Prefatory Note "GOD the Known and God the Unknown" first appeared in the form of a series of articles which were published in "The Examiner" in May, June, and July, 1879. Samuel Butler subsequently revised the text of his work, presumably with the intention of republishing it, though he never carried the intention into effect. In the present edition I have followed his revised version almost without deviation.



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Project Gutenberg's God the Known and God the Unknown, by Samuel ButlerThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and withalmost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away orre-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.orgTitle: God the Known and God the UnknownAuthor: Samuel ButlerRelease Date: December 14, 2008 [EBook #2513]Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: ASCII*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK GOD THE KNOWN AND GOD THE UNKNOWN ***Produced by Elliot S. Wheeler, and David WidgerGOD THE KNOWNDNAGOD THE UNKNOWNBy Samuel ButlerContentsPrefatory Note GOD THE KNOWN AND GOD THE UNKNOWN
CHAPTER I.INTRODUCTIONCHAPTER II.COMMON GROUNDCHAPTER III.PANTHEISM.CHAPTER IV.PANTHEISM.CHAPTER V.ORTHODOX THEISMCHAPTER VI.THE TREE OF LIFECHAPTER VII.THE LIKENESS OF GODCHAPTER VIII. THE LIFE EVERLASTINGCHAPTER IX.GOD THE UNKNOWNPrefatory Note"GOD the Known and God the Unknown" first appeared in the form of aseries of articles which were published in "The Examiner" in May, June, andJuly, 1879. Samuel Butler subsequently revised the text of his work,presumably with the intention of republishing it, though he never carried theintention into effect. In the present edition I have followed his revised versionalmost without deviation. I have, however, retained a few passages whichButler proposed to omit, partly because they appear to me to render thecourse of his argument clearer, and partly because they contain characteristicthoughts and expressions of which none of his admirers would wish to bedeprived. In the list of Butler's works "God the Known and God the Unknown"follows "Life and Habit," which appeared in 1877, and "Evolution, Old andNew," which was published in May, 1879. It is scarcely necessary to point outthat the three works are closely akin in subject and treatment, and that "Godthe Known and God the Unknown" will gain in interest by being considered inrelation to its predecessors.R. A. STREATFEILDand GGOODD  TTHHEE  KUNNOKWNNOWN
CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTIONMANKIND has ever been ready to discuss matters in the inverse ratio oftheir importance, so that the more closely a question is felt to touch the heartsof all of us, the more incumbent it is considered upon prudent people toprofess that it does not exist, to frown it down, to tell it to hold its tongue, tomaintain that it has long been finally settled, so that there is now no questionconcerning it.So far, indeed, has this been carried through all time past that the actionswhich are most important to us, such as our passage through the embryonicstages, the circulation of our blood, our respiration, etc. etc., have long beenformulated beyond all power of reopening question concerning them—themere fact or manner of their being done at all being ranked among the greatdiscoveries of recent ages. Yet the analogy of past settlements would lead usto suppose that so much unanimity was not arrived at all at once, but ratherthat it must have been preceded by much smouldering [sic] discontent, whichagain was followed by open warfare; and that even after a settlement hadbeen ostensibly arrived at, there was still much secret want of conviction onthe part of many for several generations.There are many who see nothing in this tendency of our nature butoccasion for sarcasm; those, on the other hand, who hold that the world is bythis time old enough to be the best judge concerning the management of itsown affairs will scrutinise [sic] this management with some closeness beforethey venture to satirise [sic] it; nor will they do so for long without findingjustification for its apparent recklessness; for we must all fear responsibilityupon matters about which we feel we know but little; on the other hand wemust all continually act, and for the most part promptly. We do so, therefore,with greater security when we can persuade both ourselves and others that amatter is already pigeon-holed than if we feel that we must use our ownjudgment for the collection, interpretation, and arrangement of the paperswhich deal with it. Moreover, our action is thus made to appear as if itreceived collective sanction; and by so appearing it receives it. Almost anysettlement, again, is felt to be better than none, and the more nearly a mattercomes home to everyone, the more important is it that it should be treated asa sleeping dog, and be let to lie, for if one person begins to open his mouth,fatal developments may arise in the Babel that will follow.It is not difficult, indeed, to show that, instead of having reason to complainof the desire for the postponement of important questions, as though the worldwere composed mainly of knaves or fools, such fixity as animal and vegetableforms possess is due to this very instinct. For if there had been no reluctance,if there were no friction and vis inertae to be encountered even after atheoretical equilibrium had been upset, we should have had no fixed organsnor settled proclivities, but should have been daily and hourly undergoingProtean transformations, and have still been throwing out pseudopodia likethe amoeba. True, we might have come to like this fashion of living as well asour more steady-going system if we had taken to it many millions of ages agowhen we were yet young; but we have contracted other habits which havebecome so confirmed that we cannot break with them. We therefore now hatethat which we should perhaps have loved if we had practised [sic] it. This,however, does not affect the argument, for our concern is with our likes anddislikes, not with the manner in which those likes and dislikes have comeabout. The discovery that organism is capable of modification at all hasoccasioned so much astonishment that it has taken the most enlightened partof the world more than a hundred years to leave off expressing its contempt
for such a crude, shallow, and preposterous conception. Perhaps in anotherhundred years we shall learn to admire the good sense, endurance, andthorough Englishness of organism in having been so averse to change, evenmore than its versatility in having been willing to change so much.Nevertheless, however conservative we may be, and however much aliveto the folly and wickedness of tampering with settled convictions-no matterwhat they are-without sufficient cause, there is yet such a constant thoughgradual change in our surroundings as necessitates correspondingmodification in our ideas, desires, and actions. We may think that we shouldlike to find ourselves always in the same surroundings as our ancestors, sothat we might be guided at every touch and turn by the experience of our race,and be saved from all self-communing or interpretation of oracular responsesuttered by the facts around us. Yet the facts will change their utterances inspite of us; and we, too, change with age and ages in spite of ourselves, so asto see the facts around us as perhaps even more changed than they actuallyare. It has been said, "Tempora mutantur nos et mutamur in illis." Thepassage would have been no less true if it had stood, "Nos mutamur ettempora mutantur in nobis." Whether the organism or the surroundings beganchanging first is a matter of such small moment that the two may be left to fightit out between themselves; but, whichever view is taken, the fact will remainthat whenever the relations between the organism and its surroundings havebeen changed, the organism must either succeed in putting the surroundingsinto harmony with itself, or itself into harmony with the surroundings; or mustbe made so uncomfortable as to be unable to remember itself as subjected toany such difficulties, and therefore to die through inability to recognise [sic] itsown identity further.Under these circumstances, organism must act in one or other of these twoways: it must either change slowly and continuously with the surroundings,paying cash for everything, meeting the smallest change with acorresponding modification so far as is found convenient; or it must put offchange as long as possible, and then make larger and more sweepingchanges.Both these courses are the same in principle, the difference being only oneof scale, and the one being a miniature of the other, as a ripple is an Atlanticwave in little; both have their advantages and disadvantages, so that mostorganisms will take the one course for one set of things and the other foranother. They will deal promptly with things which they can get at easily, andwhich lie more upon the surface; those, however, which are moretroublesome to reach, and lie deeper, will be handled upon more cataclysmicprinciples, being allowed longer periods of repose followed by short periodsof greater activity.Animals breathe and circulate their blood by a little action many times aminute; but they feed, some of them, only two or three times a day, and breedfor the most part not more than once a year, their breeding season beingmuch their busiest time. It is on the first principle that the modification ofanimal forms has proceeded mainly; but it may be questioned whether what iscalled a sport is not the organic expression of discontent which has been longfelt, but which has not been attended to, nor been met step by step by asmuch small remedial modification as was found practicable: so that when achange does come it comes by way of revolution. Or, again (only that it comesto much the same thing), a sport may be compared to one of those happythoughts which sometimes come to us unbidden after we have been thinkingfor a long time what to do, or how to arrange our ideas, and have yet beenunable to arrive at any conclusion.
So with politics, the smaller the matter the prompter, as a general rule, thesettlement; on the other hand, the more sweeping the change that is felt to benecessary, the longer it will be deferred.The advantages of dealing with the larger questions by more cataclysmicmethods are obvious. For, in the first place, all composite things must have asystem, or arrangement of parts, so that some parts shall depend upon and begrouped round others, as in the articulation of a skeleton and the arrangementof muscles, nerves, tendons, etc., which are attached to it. To meddle with theskeleton is like taking up the street, or the flooring of one's house; it so upsetsour arrangements that we put it off till whatever else is found wanted, orwhatever else seems likely to be wanted for a long time hence, can be doneat the same time. Another advantage is in the rest which is given to theattention during the long hollows, so to speak, of the waves between theperiods of resettlement. Passion and prejudice have time to calm down, andwhen attention is next directed to the same question, it is a refreshed andinvigorated attention-an attention, moreover, which may be given with thehelp of new lights derived from other quarters that were not luminous whenthe question was last considered. Thirdly, it is more easy and safer to makesuch alterations as experience has proved to be necessary than to forecastwhat is going to be wanted. Reformers are like paymasters, of whom there areonly two bad kinds, those who pay too soon, and those who do not pay at all.CHAPTER II. COMMON GROUNDI HAVE now, perhaps, sufficiently proved my sympathy with the reluctancefelt by many to tolerate discussion upon such a subject as the existence andnature of God. I trust that I may have made the reader feel that he need fear nosarcasm or levity in my treatment of the subject which I have chosen. I will,therefore, proceed to sketch out a plan of what I hope to establish, and this inno doubtful or unnatural sense, but by attaching the same meanings to wordsas those which we usually attach to them, and with the same certainty,precision, and clearness as anything else is established which is commonlycalled known.As to what God is, beyond the fact that he is the Spirit and the Life whichcreates, governs, and upholds all living things, I can say nothing. I cannotpretend that I can show more than others have done in what Spirit and theLife consists, which governs living things and animates them. I cannot showthe connection between consciousness and the will, and the organ, muchless can I tear away the veil from the face of God, so as to show wherein willand consciousness consist. No philosopher, whether Christian or Rationalist,has attempted this without discomfiture; but I can, I hope, do two things:Firstly, I can demonstrate, perhaps more clearly than modern science isprepared to admit, that there does exist a single Being or Animator of all livingthings—a single Spirit, whom we cannot think of under any meaner namethan God; and, secondly, I can show something more of the persona or bodilyexpression, mask, and mouthpiece of this vast Living Spirit than I know of ashaving been familiarly expressed elsewhere, or as being accessible to myselfor others, though doubtless many works exist in which what I am going to sayhas been already said.
Aware that much of this is widely accepted under the name of Pantheism, Iventure to think it differs from Pantheism with all the difference that existsbetween a coherent, intelligible conception and an incoherent unintelligibleone. I shall therefore proceed to examine the doctrine called Pantheism, andto show how incomprehensible and valueless it is.I will then indicate the Living and Personal God about whose existence andabout many of whose attributes there is no room for question; I will show thatman has been so far made in the likeness of this Person or God, that Hepossesses all its essential characteristics, and that it is this God who hascalled man and all other living forms, whether animals or plants, intoexistence, so that our bodies are the temples of His spirit; that it is this whichsustains them in their life and growth, who is one with them, living, moving,and having His being in them; in whom, also, they live and move, they in Himand He in them; He being not a Trinity in Unity only, but an Infinity in Unity,and a Unity in an Infinity; eternal in time past, for so much time at least that ourminds can come no nearer to eternity than this; eternal for the future as longas the universe shall exist; ever changing, yet the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. And I will show this with so little ambiguity that it shall beperceived not as a phantom or hallucination following upon a painful strainingof the mind and a vain endeavour [sic] to give coherency to incoherent andinconsistent ideas, but with the same ease, comfort, and palpable flesh-and-blood clearness with which we see those near to us; whom, though we seethem at the best as through a glass darkly, we still see face to face, even aswe are ourselves seen.I will also show in what way this Being exercises a moral government overthe world, and rewards and punishes us according to His own laws.Having done this I shall proceed to compare this conception of God withthose that are currently accepted, and will endeavour [sic] to show that theideas now current are in truth efforts to grasp the one on which I shall hereinsist. Finally, I shall persuade the reader that the differences between the so-called atheist and the so-called theist are differences rather about words thanthings, inasmuch as not even the most prosaic of modern scientists will beinclined to deny the existence of this God, while few theists will feel that this,the natural conception of God, is a less worthy one than that to which theyhave been accustomed.CHAPTER III. PANTHEISM.THE Rev. J. H. Blunt, in his "Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, etc.," definesPantheists as "those who hold that God is everything, and everything is God."If it is granted that the value of words lies in the definiteness and coherencyof the ideas that present themselves to us when the words are heard orspoken-then such a sentence as "God is everything and everything is God" isworthless.For we have so long associated the word "God" with the idea of a LivingPerson, who can see, hear, will, feel pleasure, displeasure, etc., that wecannot think of God, and also of something which we have not beenaccustomed to think of as a Living Person, at one and the same time, so as to
connect the two ideas and fuse them into a coherent thought. While we arethinking of the one, our minds involuntarily exclude the other, and vice versa;so that it is as impossible for us to think of anything as God, or as forming partof God, which we cannot also think of as a Person, or as a part of a Person,as it is to produce a hybrid between two widely distinct animals. If I am notmistaken, the barrenness of inconsistent ideas, and the sterility of widelydistant species or genera of plants and animals, are one in principle-sterilityof hybrids being due to barrenness of ideas, and barrenness of ideas arisingfrom inability to fuse unfamiliar thoughts into a coherent conception. I haveinsisted on this at some length in "Life and Habit," but can do so no furtherhere. (Note: Butler returned to this subject in "Luck, or cunning?" which wasoriginally published in 1887.}In like manner we have so long associated the word "Person" with the ideaof a substantial visible body, limited in extent, and animated by an invisiblesomething which we call Spirit, that we can think of nothing as a personwhich does not also bring these ideas before us. Any attempt to make usimagine God as a Person who does not fulfil [sic] the conditions which ourideas attach to the word "person," is ipso facto atheistic, as rendering theword God without meaning, and therefore without reality, and therefore non-existent to us. Our ideas are like our organism, they will stand a vast amountof modification if it is effected slowly and without shock, but the life departs outof them, leaving the form of an idea without the power thereof, if they arejarred too rudely.Any being, then, whom we can imagine as God, must have all the qualities,capabilities, and also all the limitations which are implied when the word"person" is used.But, again, we cannot conceive of "everything" as a person. "Everything"must comprehend all that is to be found on earth, or outside of it, and we knowof no such persons as this. When we say "persons" we intend living peoplewith flesh and blood; sometimes we extend our conceptions to animals andplants, but we have not hitherto done so as generally as I hope we shall someday come to do. Below animals and plants we have never in any seriousnessgone. All that we have been able to regard as personal has had what we cancall a living body, even though that body is vegetable only; and this body hasbeen tangible, and has been comprised within certain definite limits, or withinlimits which have at any rate struck the eye as definite. And every part withinthese limits has been animated by an unseen something which we call soulor spirit. A person must be a persona—that is to say, the living mask andmouthpiece of an energy saturating it, and speaking through it. It must beanimate in all its parts.But "everything" is not animate. Animals and plants alone produce in usthose ideas which can make reasonable people call them "persons" withconsistency of intention. We can conceive of each animal and of each plantas a person; we can conceive again of a compound person like the coralpolypes [sic], or like a tree which is composed of a congeries of subordinatepersons, inasmuch as each bud is a separate and individual plant. We can gofarther than this, and, as I shall hope to show, we ought to do so; that is to say,we shall find it easier and more agreeable with our other ideas to go fartherthan not; for we should see all animal and vegetable life as united by a subtleand till lately invisible ramification, so that all living things are one tree-likegrowth, forming a single person. But we cannot conceive of oceans,continents, and air as forming parts of a person at all; much less can we thinkof them as forming one person with the living forms that inhabit them.
To ask this of us is like asking us to see the bowl and the water in whichthree gold-fish are swimming as part of the gold-fish. We cannot do it anymore than we can do something physically impossible. We can see the gold-fish as forming one family, and therefore as in a way united to the personalityof the parents from which they sprang, and therefore as members one ofanother, and therefore as forming a single growth of gold-fish, as boughs andbuds unite to form a tree; but we cannot by any effort of the imaginationintroduce the bowl and the water into the personality, for we have never beenaccustomed to think of such things as living and personal. Those, therefore,who tell us that "God is everything, and everything is God," require us to see"everything" as a person, which we cannot; or God as not a person, whichagain we cannot.Continuing the article of Mr. Blunt from which I have already quoted, I read:"Linus, in a passage which has been preserved by Stobaeus, exactlyexpresses the notion afterwards adopted by Spinoza: 'One sole energygoverns all things; all things are unity, and each portion is All; for of oneinteger all things were born; in the end of time all things shall again becomeunity; the unity of multiplicity.' Orpheus, his disciple, taught no other doctrine."According to Pythagoras, "an adept in the Orphic philosophy," "the soul ofthe world is the Divine energy which interpenetrates every portion of themass, and the soul of man is an efflux of that energy. The world, too, is anexact impress of the Eternal Idea, which is the mind of God." John ScotusErigena taught that "all is God and God is all." William of Champeaux, again,two hundred years later, maintained that "all individuality is one in substance,and varies only in its non-essential accidents and transient properties."Amalric of Bena and David of Dinant followed the theory out "into athoroughgoing Pantheism." Amalric held that "All is God and God is all. TheCreator and the creature are one Being. Ideas are at once creative andcreated, subjective and objective. God is the end of all, and all return to Him.As every variety of humanity forms one manhood, so the world containsindividual forms of one eternal essence." David of Dinant only varied uponthis by "imagining a corporeal unity. Although body, soul, and eternalsubstance are three, these three are one and the same being."Giordano Bruno maintained the world of sense to be "a vast animal havingthe Deity for its living soul." The inanimate part of the world is thus excludedfrom participation in the Deity, and a conception that our minds can embraceis offered us instead of one which they cannot entertain, except as in a dream,incoherently. But without such a view of evolution as was prevalent at thebeginning of this century, it was impossible to see "the world of sense"intelligently, as forming "a vast animal." Unless, therefore, Giordano Brunoheld the opinions of Buffon, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck, with moredefiniteness than I am yet aware of his having done, his contention must beconsidered as a splendid prophecy, but as little more than a prophecy. Hecontinues, "Birth is expansion from the one centre of Life; life is itscontinuance, and death is the necessary return of the ray to the centre oflight." This begins finely, but ends mystically. I have not, however, comparedthe English translation with the original, and must reserve a fuller examinationof Giordano Bruno's teaching for another opportunity.Spinoza disbelieved in the world rather than in God. He was an Acosmist,to use Jacobi's expression, rather than an Atheist. According to him, "theDeity and the Universe are but one substance, at the same time both spiritand matter, thought and extension, which are the only known attributes of the
Deity."My readers will, I think, agree with me that there is very little of the abovewhich conveys ideas with the fluency and comfort which accompany goodwords. Words are like servants: it is not enough that we should have them-wemust have the most able and willing that we can find, and at the smallestwages that will content them. Having got them we must make the best and notthe worst of them. Surely, in the greater part of what has been quoted above,the words are barren letters only: they do not quicken within us and enable usto conceive a thought, such as we can in our turn impress upon dead matter,and mould [sic] that matter into another shape than its own, through thethought which has become alive within us. No offspring of ideas has followedupon them, or, if any at all, yet in such unwonted shape, and with such want ofalacrity, that we loathe them as malformations and miscarriages of our minds.Granted that if we examine them closely we shall at length find them toembody a little germ of truth-that is to say, of coherency with our other ideas;but there is too little truth in proportion to the trouble necessary to get at it. Wecan get more truth, that is to say, more coherency-for truth and coherency areone-for less trouble in other ways.But it may be urged that the beginnings of all tasks are difficult andunremunerative, and that later developments of Pantheism may be moreintelligible than the earlier ones. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Oncontinuing Mr. Blunt's article, I find the later Pantheists a hundredfold moreperplexing than the earlier ones. With Kant, Schelling, Fichte, and Hegel, wefeel that we are with men who have been decoyed into a hopeless quagmire;we understand nothing of their language-we doubt whether they understandthemselves, and feel that we can do nothing with them but look at them andpass them by.In my next chapter I propose to show the end which the early Pantheistswere striving after, and the reason and naturalness of their error.CHAPTER IV. PANTHEISM.The earlier Pantheists were misled by the endeavour [sic] to lay hold of twodistinct ideas, the one of which was a reality that has since been grasped andis of inestimable value, the other a phantom which has misled all who havefollowed it. The reality is the unity of Life, the oneness of the guiding andanimating spirit which quickens animals and plants, so that they are all theoutcome and expression of a common mind, and are in truth one animal; thephantom is the endeavour [sic] to find the origin of things, to reach thefountain-head of all energy, and thus to lay the foundations on which aphilosophy may be constructed which none can accuse of being baseless, orof arguing in a circle.In following as through a thick wood after the phantom our forefathers fromtime to time caught glimpses of the reality, which seemed so wonderful as iteluded them, and flitted back again into the thickets, that they declared it mustbe the phantom they were in search of, which was thus evidenced as actuallyexisting. Whereon, instead of mastering such of the facts they met with ascould be captured easily-which facts would have betrayed the hiding-placesof others, and these again of others, and so ad infinitum-they overlooked what
was within their reach, and followed hotly through brier and brake after animaginary greater prize.Great thoughts are not to be caught in this way. They must presentthemselves for capture of their own free will, or be taken after a little coynessonly. They are like wealth and power, which, if a man is not born to them, arethe more likely to take him, the more he has restrained himself from anattempt to snatch them. They hanker after those only who have tamed theirnearer thoughts. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to feel that the earlyPantheists were true prophets and seers, though the things were unknown tothem without which a complete view was unattainable. What does Linusmean, we ask ourselves, when he says:—"One sole energy governs allthings"? How can one sole energy govern, we will say, the reader and thechair on which he sits? What is meant by an energy governing a chair? If byan effort we have made ourselves believe we understand something whichcan be better expressed by these words than by any others, no sooner do weturn our backs than the ideas so painfully collected fly apart again. No matterhow often we go in search of them, and force them into juxtaposition, theyprove to have none of that innate coherent power with which ideas combinethat we can hold as true and profitable.Yet if Linus had confined his statement to living things, and had said thatone sole energy governed all plants and animals, he would have come nearboth to being intelligible and true. For if, as we now believe, all animals andplants are descended from a single cell, they must be considered as cousinsto one another, and as forming a single tree-like animal, every individual plantor animal of which is as truly one and the same person with the primordial cellas the oak a thousand years old is one and the same plant with the acorn outof which it has grown. This is easily understood, but will, I trust, be made toappear simpler presently.When Linus says, "All things are unity, and each portion is All; for of oneinteger all things were born," it is impossible for plain people-who do not wishto use words unless they mean the same things by them as both they andothers have been in the habit of meaning-to understand what is intended.How can each portion be all? How can one Londoner be all London? I knowthat this, too, can in a way be shown, but the resulting idea is too far to fetch,and when fetched does not fit in well enough with our other ideas to give itpractical and commercial value. How, again, can all things be said to be bornof one integer, unless the statement is confined to living things, which canalone be born at all, and unless a theory of evolution is intended, such asLinus would hardly have accepted?Yet limit the "all things" to "all living things," grant the theory of evolution,and explain "each portion is All" to mean that all life is akin, and possessesthe same essential fundamental characteristics, and it is surprising hownearly Linus approaches both to truth and intelligibility.It may be said that the animate and the inanimate have the samefundamental substance, so that a chair might rot and be absorbed by grass,which grass might be eaten by a cow, which cow might be eaten by a man;and by similar processes the man might become a chair; but these facts arenot presented to the mind by saying that "one energy governs all things"-achair, we will say, and a man; we could only say that one energy governed aman and a chair, if the chair were a reasonable living person, who wasactively and consciously engaged in helping the man to attain a certain end,unless, that is to say, we are to depart from all usual interpretation of words, inwhich case we invalidate the advantages of language and all the sanctions of
morality."All things shall again become unity" is intelligible as meaning that allthings probably have come from a single elementary substance, sayhydrogen or what not, and that they will return to it; but the explanation of unityas being the "unity of multiplicity" puzzles; if there is any meaning it is toorecondite to be of service to us.What, again, is meant by saying that "the soul of the world is the Divineenergy which interpenetrates every portion of the mass"? The soul of theworld is an expression which, to myself, and, I should imagine, to mostpeople, is without propriety. We cannot think of the world except as earth, air,and water, in this or that state, on and in which there grow plants and animals.What is meant by saying that earth has a soul, and lives? Does it move fromplace to place erratically? Does it feed? Does it reproduce itself? Does itmake such noises, or commit such vagaries as shall make us say that itfeels? Can it achieve its ends, and fail of achieving them through mistake? If itcannot, how has it a soul more than a dead man has a soul, out of whom wesay that the soul has departed, and whose body we conceive of as returningto dead earth, inasmuch as it is now soulless? Is there any unnatural violencewhich can be done to our thoughts by which we can bring the ideas of a souland of water, or of a stone into combination, and keep them there for longtogether? The ancients, indeed, said they believed their rivers to be gods, andcarved likenesses of them under the forms of men; but even supposing this tohave been their real mind, can it by any conceivable means become ourown? Granted that a stone is kept from falling to dust by an energy whichcompels its particles to cohere, which energy can be taken out of it andconverted into some other form of energy; granted (which may or may not betrue) also, that the life of a living body is only the energy which keeps theparticles which compose it in a certain disposition; and granted that theenergy of the stone may be convertible into the energy of a living form, andthat thus, after a long journey a tired idea may lag after the sound of suchwords as "the soul of the world." Granted all the above, nevertheless to speakof the world as having a soul is not sufficiently in harmony with our commonnotions, nor does it go sufficiently with the grain of our thoughts to render theexpression a meaning one, or one that can be now used with any propriety orfitness, except by those who do not know their own meaninglessness.Vigorous minds will harbour [sic] vigorous thoughts only, or such as bid fair tobecome so; and vigorous thoughts are always simple, definite, and inharmony with everyday ideas.We can imagine a soul as living in the lowest slime that moves, feeds,reproduces itself, remembers, and dies. The amoeba wants things, knows itwants them, alters itself so as to try and alter them, thus preparing for anintended modification of outside matter by a preliminary modification of itself.It thrives if the modification from within is followed by the desired modificationin the external object; it knows that it is well, and breeds more freely inconsequence. If it cannot get hold of outside matter, or cannot proselytise [sic]that matter and persuade it to see things through its own (the amoeba's)spectacles-if it cannot convert that matter, if the matter persists in disagreeingwith it-its spirits droop, its soul is disquieted within it, it becomes listless like awithering flower-it languishes and dies. We cannot imagine a thing to live atall and yet be soulless except in sleep for a short time, and even so not quitesoulless. The idea of a soul, or of that unknown something for which the word"soul" is our hieroglyphic, and the idea of living organism, unite sospontaneously, and stick together so inseparably, that no matter how often wesunder them they will elude our vigilance and come together, like true lovers,