Imágenes de página
[blocks in formation]

renewed, nor the physical energy at its command, which is derived entirely from the inanimate world, but is the personality resident in the body and in control of it. There is no other interpretation of the difference between a man alive one moment and dead the next, which, in spite of the great advances in the interpretation of the mechanism of life made by biology, altogether eludes apprehension in terms of the other fundamental conceptions to which our inquiries into ourselves and our environment have led.

In science we regard that which is indestructible as having real existence. In philosophy and religion that which has a real existence has been from time immemorial regarded as immortal, and it seems to be truly in accordance with the laws of thought, which in science has led to some of the grandest and most fruitful generalisations, to find the idea of personal immortality running like a thread through religious beliefs, even down to the most primitive. I make no pretence to using, in their correct technical philosophical meaning, such terms as consciousness, personality and spirit. All I am concerned, for my argument, to state is that in passing from the phenomena of the inanimate world to those of life in general we have to admit at least one fundamental

conception which cannot be connected with the Conscionin

conceptions of the inanimate world, and which it now seems most unlikely ever will be.

I have already warned you that from physical samt premises it is not possible or easy to proceed very

far, and I make no pretence of discussing whether the personality, conscience and soul of a man is or is not, without any entirely new fundamental conception, capable of being regarded as the further development of the simple consciousness, or awareness, of its existence as a separate creature, possessed by the



lowly organism. I accept the, to my mind, complete My break of continuity between the animate and infasilim

animate worlds, as being all that is really demanded lvaciend by our present knowledge. If I am told that unless exacity

I make another such break between man and the
animals, I weaken the argument I have suggested
in accounting for the origin of the belief in the
immortality of the soul, by including therein all living
creatures, however humble, it is only necessary to
say that the general doctrine of evolution of man
from the lower animals seems to point unmistakably
in this direction, u, w tlie deirelin qa pumalitas le

Conserved iminentally.
It is a nice question whether it is easier for the
religious man to connect his system of thought with
that of science, or for a scientific man to find the due
relationship between his conclusions and the common
current outlook upon ethical and spiritual, if not
specifically theological, beliefs. I would have thought
that just as it is easier for a coachman to learn to
drive a motor-car than for a chauffeur to learn to
handle horses, so it ought to be easier for those
whose concern has always been with human person-
ality rather than its mechanism to master the
essential principles that have led to the mechanistic
philosophy of science. But that is probably mere
personal bias. The two studies belong to different
worlds, as the poles apart, so far as they concern
humanity, but men can afford to neglect neither.
It is the priests, not religion, it is difficult for
scientific men to live with, and science cannot co-
exist with priest-craft. The scientific man seeks
truth as a continually developing revelation, and he
changes his outlook on the world according as it
unfolds itself before his eyes. The priest teaches



that in some remote period of the world God Himself
revealed Truth once and for all time, and his profession
is to guard it against all comers. I do not believe
that the soul any more than the mind can stagnate.
It must grow or decay. Christianity cannot be
crystallised into a creed binding for all time and,
least of all, into a creed dating back to the century !
that preceded the relapse of Europe into intellectual
barbarism. The world changes and has changed in
the last hundred years out of all recognition, not on
account of anything contained in the Mosaic or
Christian revelations, but on account of the new
revelations of science. Though these have come
about by a process the reverse of supernatural, by
laborious experiment and measurement, by slow ac-
cumulation of knowledge and honest and unbiassed
weighing of the evidence, they constitute an essential
part of the whole truth, be our religious convictions
what they may.

There is another important difference between
what is understood by truth in the realms of science
and religion respectively. A truth that claims to
be a divine revelation must necessarily be supposed
to be the absolute or ultimate truth, which, by
common consent, is unattainable by any of the
methods of human inquiry. What a scientific man
conceives to be the truth is, in reality, something
quite distinct. He is not concerned, and, indeed, it
is hardly too much to say that he is not even greatly €.
interested, in ultimate, absolute and unattainable

Strace truth. He frames a hypothesis and tests it in every possible way. So long as every known or to be discovered fact is in accord with the hypothesis, and no other hypothesis is in accord with them, it is all he seeks to know. If, in the external universe, every event and phenomenon occurs in the precise and often predicable way it would occur if the hypothesis

[ocr errors]

were true, that hypothesis is regarded as the truth, until something occurs which proves it to be in error. There is sometimes loose talk—even among scientific men attempting to generalise concerning other subjects than those in which they have won their position that the scientific hypotheses of one age become the laughing stock of the next, but such talkers are often the laughing stock of their own age to those best qualified to form an opinion. As a matter of fact, there is a steady and increasingly rapid advance being made into the foundations of knowledge, which is impressive in no way more than in the continuous evidence it affords that these foundations have been well and truly laid.

The methods of science in winning knowledge are of course its own. No one desires to suppose that they are the only methods by which Truth is to be sought or found. But when it comes to the modes of imparting knowledge already won, to educating the growing citizen to a knowledge of himself and his environment, we find differences as great.

In matters of science we do not start a child upon fundamentals. We do not say that in all the varied happenings of the universe the sum of half the product of the mass into the square of the velocity and of the product of the distance into the force remains constant. We do not start with the conception of energy and from it deduce mechanical, thermal, electrical and chemical phenomena. The conception of energy belongs to the generalised philosophy of physical science and is the end result of generations of scientific thinkers. But the priests, of sections at least of the Christian religion, get hold of the child and confront it with all the end products of the philosophy of the childhood of the world, God and the soul, heaven and hell, angels, spirits, and the mysteries of the Trinity, almost before it can walk.


Philosophies, whether scientific or humane, are the end and not the beginning of wisdom. They are the epitomised expressions of the understanding of the age in which they originated, and, in themselves, or at any other age, they are as little intelligible as shorthand would be to one who has not learnt longhand. They are in no sense the stepping-stones from which a totally immature or uneducated mind can leap to the inheritance of the ages. It leaps rather into chaos and absurdity. Especially when there occurs, as did occur with the triumph of barbarism at the close of the fourth century, an almost total break of intellectual continuity between the age they served and that to which they survive, they are apt to convey meanings as remote from the original as the conception of energy is from that of the Deity.

MAN AS THE LINK. Science and religion could afford to ignore one another entirely, if sought entirely for their own sake and if the ordinary man was not the link between them. A Hindu mystic or a monk in one of the ascetic orders of the Roman Catholic Church, who has withdrawn himself from the world and practised starvation, celibacy and general mortification of the body, aspires to reach a spiritual plane from which the world, either in its mechanical or its vital aspect, can be left behind and forgotten as a distraction and a curse. Far be it from me to libel a calling I do not profess to understand. My criticism merely is concerned with the value to humanity of the results attained. For whatever pinnacle of pure contemplative philosophy that may thus ultimately be reached, little that is communicable or of general value to the life or thought of the world seems to have been the result.


« AnteriorContinuar »