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we have passed beyond Agnosticism. But, then, this extent is only negative; it is simply the recognition that there is a region beyond our experience into which we are forbidden to travel.
The question is, Can this region be known? Can we reach any other or any further knowledge of it than the fact that its gates are barred? Can · the supernatural become to us anything more than a negation, anything more than a limit which says to the exercise of human thought,“ Hitherto shalt thou go, and no further”? We do not here inquire whether, in point of fact, the supernatural has or has not revealed itself, or whether, as a matter of history, there is or is not adequate evidence for its revelation; that is an investigation which belongs specially to the sphere of the theologian. Our inquiry is a more outward and a more preliminary one, and one without the settlement of which the other cannot even be entered upon. We want to consider not whether the supernatural has revealed itself, but whether it could reveal itself, to the mind of man. If, as Agnosticism says, there be a great gulf fixed between our human experience and that which transcends experience—if the supernatural be in its very nature the antithesis and contrary of the natural—if there be no possible channel of communication by which the idea of a supersensuous world can be imparted to the world of sense,—we are precluded on the very threshold from considering the claims of any revelation ; we are debarred from entertaining for a moment any testimony of actual history which declares that, at any time, God made Himself known.
Now, if there be such an impossibility of the supernatural communing with the natural, it must lie in one or other of two things,-either in the nature of the finite, or in the character of the infinite. If there be an incompatibility between nature and the supernatural, it must consist either in the deficiencies of nature, or in the infinitude of that which lies beyond nature. As both of these positions have been taken by Agnosticism, we propose briefly to consider them each in turn.
And, first, it is averred that man has no faculty which gives him any knowledge of the supersensuous. We are told, again and again, that all the powers of the human mind are correlated with certain bodily impressions, and are unable to transcend the limits of these impressions. Every idea which enters the mind is an idea limited by the boundaries of earthly experience, and entirely incapable of soaring beyond that sensuous atmosphere which originally gave it birth. It is here that the main difference lies between the Agnostic and the Gnostic—the men of the nineteenth century who say they do not know, and the men of the second century who said they knew all about it. The difference lies in the fact that the Gnostic believed himself to possess a special faculty for communing with Divine things; the Agnostic denies that he has any faculty which is not exclusively concerned with the interpretation of the sensuous and the human. The Gnostic held that there were in the human mind possibilities of a state of ecstasy whereby it could transcend the records of its own experience, and soar into a region with which the earth had no concern; the Agnostic holds that the only ecstasy of which the human mind is capable is one that directly arises from contemplating the things of time. The Gnostic affirmed that the clearest light we have comes from our moments of mysticism, when we are lifted above the visible and enabled to commune with the eternal and the unseen; the Agnostic declares that these moments of mysticism are themselves but the dimness of the outer senses, the temporary clouds that obscure our perception of the visible and actual world.
Here is a very striking difference amounting to nothing less than a direct antithesis. And yet we would call attention to the fact that antithetical as these two systems undoubtedly are, there is one essential point on which they are agreed. They both take for granted that our sole hope in the possibility of obtaining Divine knowledge rests upon our possession of a faculty which transcends the limits of earthly experience. They both assume that if there be no such faculty, there can be no means whatever whereby man can attain to any knowledge of the supernatural. The Gnostic claims to have such a knowledge, because he claims to possess a mysterious inner eye which beholds supersensuous things; the Agnostic maintains that he can have no such knowledge, because he feels that he does not possess any power which is capable of transcending the limits of sense or surpassing the boundaries of finite experience. The two are at one on their main position—that our recognition of a supernatural world depends on our possession of a supersensuous power.
i We have already pointed out this in the anonymous article “ Agnosticism” in the Scottish Review,' April 1883.
But now, what if it could be shown that in this position, whose certainty is tacitly assumed, the Gnostic and the Agnostic are alike wrong? What if it could be shown that instead of being recognised by a special faculty, our evidence for the supernatural is actually suggested by the very limits of human experience itself ? Such a discovery would not affect the question whether there be or be not a special power which communes with the Divine; it would leave that still an open question, but it would make its solution a matter of much less consequence. It would
prove that in order to establish their respective theories the Gnostic and the Agnostic have alike gone out of their way. It would then be possible to hold that the Gnostic was wrong in his premiss and right in his conclusion—wrong in believing in a supersensuous faculty, yet right in maintaining that he had a knowledge of the supernatural. It would then be possible to hold that the Agnostic was right in his premiss and wrong in his conclusion-right in asserting that he had no supersensuous faculty, but wrong in inferring thence that he could have no knowledge of the supernatural.
And yet, this is the very conclusion, the inevitable conclusion, to which we have been led by the investigation of the previous chapter. We there found that our idea of the supernatural was an idea directly suggested, not by any transcendental faculty nor by any supposed communion with transcendental things, but simply and solely by a study of the limits of nature herself. We found that we were necessitated to seek a supersensuous solution of the universe from the simple fact that the natural laws were unable, without violating themselves, to account for their own origin. We saw that to introduce the hypothesis of chance was to formulate the idea of a violation of the law of nature; that to adopt the conception of an unbeginning world was to deny the existence of any law of nature at all. By the exigency of these