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alternatives we were driven to a solution of the universe which seemed at once more easy and more rational-a solution which did not violate any principle of nature, and which did not contradict any testimony of consciousness; we inferred that the movements of the universe must themselves be the manifestations of a Power beyond the universe. But what we want now to emphasise is the fact that the process by which we arrived at this conclusion was itself a purely natural process. We did not reach it by any transcendentalism, we did not come to it by any mysticism ; we were driven to it by the barred gate of our own experience. It was the limits of our own senses that compelled us to seek a solution of the universe which invoked the presence of a Power beyond them. Experience, and nothing but experience, was the source of our information that nature was inadequate to account for her own existence. No transcendental logic, no mystical power of abstraction, no special faculty conversant with the things beyond experience, could ever in this matter have possessed one tithe of the authority which was wielded by the testimony of experience itself when it told us that the domain of visible nature was too narrow and limited to account for what we see.
Here, then, is a point which has been ignored by both the Gnostic and the Agnostic. Our knowledge that there is a supernatural is not suggested
by the supernatural; it comes from those very limits of experience which the Gnostic and the Agnostic alike hold to be barriers to our view of God. The stone which each of these builders has rejected is that which has been made the head of the corner. This is not a matter of theory ; it is a matter of Positivism, of fact, of experience. We may, if we will, deny the existence of the supernatural, but we cannot deny that there have been times when we have dreamed of its existence. That dream was at the very least an idea, and the idea is here the thing that needs to be accounted for. However illusory it may have been, however short-lived it may have been, however soon it may have been supplanted by another and a contrary thought, it remains an eternal fact that it once was there. That at any moment of our lives there should have been present in the mind the conception that there is something which transcends the limits of nature, nay, that at any moment there should have entered the mind the idea that nature has a limit at all—this is the real problem that needs to be explained. And what we wish to emphasise is the fact that the explanation has been found, not in the exercise of a transcendental faculty, but in that sober study of the things of experience which the Positivist declares to be the boundary of human knowledge. It is from nature herself that we have learned the limits of nature, and it is in learning the limits of nature that we have caught a glimpse of that region which is illimitable.
We have now considered the first of the positions by which it has been proposed to deny that the object of faith can be an object of knowledge. We have seen that if there be any barrier to an intellectual communion between the human and the Divine, it does not lie in the nature of the human—so far, at least, as that nature is viewed simply as finite. It is, of course, quite possible to hold that the human nature may have so debased itself by sin as to render it naturally incapable of communing with the Divine, but that is an ethical and not an intellectual barrier. We are here considering simply the position that the fact of man being a finite being debars him from attaining to a knowledge of God-and we have found that position to be untenable. We have seen that the moment a man reaches the idea of his finitude, he has already attained the thought of something beyond it, or, in other words, that the very recognition of a barred gate implies the recognition of something on the other side against which it is barred. There is, therefore, nothing in the fact of man being finite which renders it impossible for him to arrive at Divine knowledge; it is by the knowledge of his finitude that he reaches the idea of a Divine existence. And this brings us to the second of those arguments by which it has been attempted to deny the possibility that man should know God. It is said that the nature of infinitude itself precludes such a possibility, that the moment the infinite were known it would from that very fact cease to be infinite. Let us try to explain this position a little more fully.
And let us begin by adverting again to the contrasted standpoints of Gnosticism and Agnosticism. The Gnostic and Agnostic are not only opposed in their views of man's capacity for knowing; they are also at variance in their doctrine of the nature of that object which is to be known. They have a totally different notion of what constitutes infinitude. Let us begin with the view of the Gnostic. To him the only infinite thing in this universe was spirit. All matter in his eyes was essentially a limit; infinitely extended matter would have been to him simply an infinitely extended limitation. The soul in this world was limited just because it was embodied ; the Spirit of the universe was unlimited or infinite just because it was not embodied—just because it could not be represented by any visible likeness either in heaven, or on earth, or in the waters under the earth. Whenever, therefore, the human soul was able to disembody itself, it was thereby able to commune with God. And, according to the Gnostic, such disembodiment was quite possible even
in the present world. A man did not need to wait for it until he came to die; he might find it now and here. He had only to retire within himself, to withdraw himself from the things and desires of time, to keep his thoughts fixed upon those abstract and bodiless truths which were independent of the seen and temporal, and he would thereby be elevated into that illimitable region which was the very home of the Infinite; when he had freed his thoughts from the images of sight, he would reach the knowledge of Him whom eye hath not seen.
Now it is asserted by the Agnostic, that if there be in the nature of God an infinitude of this description, it is certainly a species of infinitude which could never be an object of knowledge to any human soul. The Agnostic maintains that the very idea of human knowledge implies a material or bodily limitation. We cannot, he says, think of anything except under the limits of space and time. Even ideas which we call spiritual are never separated from the thought of matter. Our notion of virtue is uniformly associated with one or more virtuous acts. Our conception of beauty is inseparable from the concrete image of some beautiful form. Even our idea of holiness is intimately connected with our remembrance of certain bodily temptations which, through the power of a higher spirit, we were enabled to resist. God Him