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worlds, and as we possess two sorts of instruments for acquiring knowledge, the senses and reason, we attain two kinds of ideas, those of experience and those of reflection, Hence we are ready to believe that our nature imposes on us a dualism from which we cannot escape, and which it is impossible for us to reduce to unity.
Yet the human mind is unwilling to remain in that dualistic state; it feels a need of finding a principle in which all contradictions will disappear, and which will be of itself competent to explain all. The numberless contradictions we perceive between the ideas obtained through the senses and those of the reason, the no less numerous oppositions we encounter between the ideas coming from the same source, puzzle and embarrass us. The history of philosophy is nothing else than the history of the efforts made by the human mind to reconcile them. Within us and without us we always find two principles, spirit and matter, continually present, in action and reaction, often in conflict. Are these two principles hostile only on their surface, so to speak, only in that in which they are apprehensible by us, whilst in their nature itself, in their substance, they are one, branches of a common stock, diverse manifestations of the same principle ? Or is their opposition rather in their very nature, and is there no common point, from which they both emanate ?
A sage and prudent philosophy knows well that it cannot answer those questions, and a multitude of others of a similar nature; it is, in effect, impossible for the human spirit to penetrate into the substance of things. But there is a number of systems less cautious, which regard dualism as an inferior view, and imagine themselves to have found the point where opposition ceases, and whence it proceeds.* The authors of these systems are evidently impelled by the necessity which the human mind feels of reducing everything to unity. We pretend not that here is the single cause of those systems, nor the principal ; but we think it contributes its proportion towards their formation. These systems establish their unity in two ways.
* We shall call these systems monistic, in distinction from the dualistic. The monistic systems are materialism, idealism, and pantheism.
of them deny the reality of one of the two terms, and seek to explain the phenomena appertaining to it, by the action of the single term which they affirm. Thus materialism arrives at unity by denying all qualitative difference between spirit and matter, regarding spirit as subtile matter, and representing intellectual phenomena as produced by matter endowed with an organization infinitely delicate. Idealism establishes unity by a similar process; it denies the reality of the sensible and considers the phenomena attributed to it, as the result of the action of spirit. These systems, by setting aside one half of all that is, simplify the problem and render its solution indeed much more easy ; but their disregard or their negation of one of the terms necessarily condemns them to error.
Pantheism, the other form of these systems, recognizes the existence of two factors, but treats them as two branches of a single trunk. It admits, in this way, duality, and reduces it to a unique principle. But this unique principle is but a supposition proposed to satisfy our need and our desire to get rid of the contradictions which are every where present. In fact, the point at which they suppose all contradictions cease, and which they hold to be the common source of spirit and matter, is not known to us either by the senses or by the reason. Were it a reality, did it verily exist, it would be to us as if it were not, since we have no means of knowing its existence. Schelling, indeed, says much of a superior faculty, by which we perceive that substance which manifests itself here as spirit, there as matter, and which is nevertheless neither matter nor spirit. But psychology has never discovered in the human spirit anything resembling that intellectual intuition, which this philosophy assumes. Hegel, feeling the impossibility of building on so fragile a basis, the system of absolute identity, considered himself more lucky in supposing that pure thought gives us the knowledge of that primary substance. But there again is a psychological fiction ; the faculty of thought is able to operate only on a subject provided for it; it is neither intuitive nor creative. That being, in which spirit and matter are identical, and which is their common substratum, has not been proved to exist; it is assumed; it is decreed. But that will not suffice in philosophy.
We should not disown the influence exercised on the formation of these systems by the need of unity felt by our spirits. In obedience to its impulse, the pantheists think to ascend higher in the explanation of things than those philosophers who are content to admit two principles, and who acknowledge the impossibility of sinking them in one higher unity, which, nevertheless, they do not deny, but which they do not affirm. All that the pantheists do besides, is a hypothesis which does not appear to us to have procured any benefit to philosophy. It is true that their systems are often less constrained than the dualistic, that they seem less defective, and that they explain some questions which a more circumspect philosophy leaves unresolved. But science derives no great advantages from solutions which are but hypotheses.
Nearly related to the cause, which we have just pointed out, we may mention two others, each of which is manifested in a different species of pantheism. This view is presented under two principal forms, which sometimes commingle in one and the same system, but which are, however, distinct, and one of which prevails even there, where the two are amalgamated. Pantheism appears in history, sometimes as a system essentially religious, sometimes as essentially speculative and dialectic. As a religious system we find it in India, amongst the three sects of the Brahmins, the Buddhists, and the Jains; in China, in the doctrine of Fohi; in Persia, in Sufism. The pantheism of the Cabbala, that of the Neoplatonists, and that of most of the mystics of the middle ages, bear in general the same character. As an exclusively speculative system, it is met with in the sect of the Eleatæ, in Giordano Bruno, in Spinosa and in the modern German schools. Each of these two forms has a different source. Religious pantheism is produced by an exaltation of the religious sentiment abandoned to the imagination and without the guidance of reason. Speculative pantheism is the result of an exclusive speculation, badly directed, badly developed ; of a purely logical exercise of the judgment.
We say, in the first place, that religious paniheism is generated by a religious sentiment, borne away by the imagination, and freed from the control of reason.
A few considerations will suffice to make this apparent.
The profoundly religious man possesses an unceasing desire for communion with God. Nothing more laudable, nothing better. But if he give no heed to the voice of reason, which tells him that that union can only be a moral one, that it consists only, in sensible beings, such as we are, of the sentiments of the heart; if he allow himself to be carried away by his imagination; if he seek, instead of that moral union, a substantial union with God, he will find himself inevitably drawn into pantheism. Every mystic doctrine which proposes the identification of the soul with God, which aims at the absorption of my individual self into the bosom of Deity, must necessarily consider God as the sole real being, the world as an illusion which must be dissipated in the eternal light, and the soul of man as a part of the sole being. *
History, on this point, presents us numerous examples, and we apprehend that, in all places and in all times, mysticism, when freed entirely from the empire of reason, has ended in pantheism.
Amongst pagan nations, it shows us in the East a multitude of mystic sects, all preaching pantheism, and proposing to themselves, as the ultimate ain, the absorption of the soul in the Deity, besides whom there is nothing real.t
In the West, it gives us an example of that union of mysticism and pantheism, in Neoplatonism. The Deity with whom Plotinus had the felicity of being so often united, is also the sole real existence, manifesting his being in the infinite variety of things.
It presents before us in Mohammedism, which, notwithstanding its materialism and the precautions of its founder 10 exclude mysticism, has not been able to escape from it, a
* “The key to the release of the soul is in these words, which those false philosophers must repeat over and over without cessation, with a pride beyond that of Luciser: I am the supreme being, aham ava param Brahma.” Lettres éditiantes, xxvi, 247. Similar language sometimes occurs amongst the pantheists of the West, and of modern times.
† See Colebrook's essays on the systems of India, also the Bhagavad-Ghita, of which there is an indifferent French translation,
Mohammed, considering monachism as the source of mysticism, excluded it from his religious institutions. That there cannot be monks in Mohammedism, is a common saying, even a proverb with every good Mussulman.
pretty large mystic sect, known under the name of Sufism, * proposing as its supreme end, a union with God, the only real being, besides whom all is smoke.f
In the bosom of Christianism, whose spirit, nevertheless, is so opposite to pantheism, it has often followed in the wake of mysticism. All the mystic sects of the middle ages are, at the same time, pantheists. It is sufficient to mention the Beghards, the Brothers of the free spirit
, the Friends of God, the Brothers of the cominon life, etc. If we may believe that the greater part of those who composed those sects were carried away by a blind zeal, excited by the evils of the times, and urged on by some fanatical preachers, the same excuse cannot be made for those who, more enlightened, have been impelled into pantheismı merely by the high excitement of their religious sentiment, which exposes itself clearly as the cause and source of their pantheistic notions. We can cite, for example, some men like Eckart, Tauler, Suzo, Ruysbrock. Finally, it might be proved that the mystics, who have not avowed pantheism, were not so far removed from it as they thought, and that they were preserved from those fatal excesses only by their practical judgment. This remark applies particularly to those mystics of the middle ages, who, attaching much greater importance to the practical life than to the gloomy speculation of the schools, were thus saved from the ordinary consequences of their manner of thinking. In this number must be ranged the Victorists, Bonaventure, and some others whose religious sentiment took a practical direction.
Speculative pantheism proceeds from another source. It has its origin in an exclusive employment of the faculty of reflection, depending on it alone, and discarding the aid of
* Tholuck has written in Latin a remarkable work on this philosophical religious sect.
+ Tholuck, Sufismus, p. 247, 219, 142, 153, etc.
# Tauler teaches positively, that God alone exists; that besides him all is nonentity, and that in the abyss of his divinity, from which the soul has emanated, and into which it must be absorbed again, all temporal contradictions will one day be dissolved in a perfect identity. Ch. Schmidt, Essay on the mystics of the fourteenth century, p. 77.