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ful Being, is changed at once into a perfect consensus or accord with the will of God, nay into perfect and unhesitating atoneness with even His most inscrutable counsels. So long as man stands face to face to God, conscious only of his own physical weakness and of the overwhelming power of what is above, and beneath, and around him, he may feel himself dependent only, a creature, a slave, a mere nothing ; but when he has discovered the omnipresence of the Divine, not only without but within himself, then that feeling of dependence is inevitably changed into a feeling of union, trust, and love, and he begins to understand what was called of old the liberty of the children of God.
So again, when the Agnostic says that we cannot know God, when he calls God the Unknown, nay even the Unknowable, he is perfectly right so long as he uses the verb to know in its ordinary sense. To know, in its ordinary sense, means first to perceive through the senses, and then to conceive by means of language. All our phenomenal knowledge is such and cannot be otherwise. Nihil est in intellectu quod non ante, or rather, quod non simul fuerit in sensul; and nihil est in intellectu quod non simul fuerit in lingua. Now to know the Divine by this knowledge, by the same knowledge with which we know a stone, or a tree, or a dog, would be tantamount to annihilating the Divine. A known God, in that sense, would ipso facto cease to be God. It would become a phenomenal object, an idol, if you like, or a fetish, or a totem, but not what we mean by God. Scitur Deus nesciendo.
1 This saying, commonly ascribed to Locke, I have traced back to Sir Thomas Bodley. I have seen it quoted also by M. Morus, in a letter to Descartes, March 5, 1649 (Descartes, Euvres, vol. x. p. 213), as cet axiome d'Aristote, il n'y a rien dans l'intellect qui n'ait passé par les sens,
But as soon as we recognise that the very concept of phenomenal is impossible without the correlative concept of the noumenal, or, in other words, that there can be no appearance without something that appears, and, behind its appearance, is or exists by and in and for itself; as soon as we have learnt to recognise the invisible in the visible, the eternal in the temporal, the infinite in the finite, the Divine Presence in nature and in man, then we can understand what Fichte meant when he called religion the highest knowledge, for it is religion in its truest sense which opens our eyes and makes us perceive the noumenal in the phenomenal, the supernatural in the natural, and thus changes the very veil of nature into a never-ceasing revelation of the Divine. All religions may be called endeavours to give expression to that sense of the real presence of the Divine in nature and in man. Philosophers called that sense the sensus numinis, and when Aristotle said that “all things are full of the gods 1, whatsoever appears before our sight, or our hearing, or any other sense,' he meant what we mean, that by knowing the finite we know the infinite, by knowing nature we know God, by knowing ourselves we come to know the Highest Self, that Self which poets and prophets have called by many names, but which, by its very essence, is and must be above all names, the Unknown, in one sense, and yet the fountain of all knowledge, in the truest sense of the word.
1 Διό και των παλαιών ειπείν τινες προήχθεσαν ότι πάντα ταύτά εστι θεών πλέα τα και δι' οφθαλμών ίνδαλλόμενα ημίν και δι' ακοής και πάσης aio hoews. Arist. ed. Didot, iii. p. 636, 1. 38. De Mundo, cap. vi.
Positivist Definitions of Religion. DESIDES the definitions which we have hitherto
D examined, and which all proceed from men who took an historical and impartial view of religion, there is another class which betray a decidedly polemical spirit, and which proceed chiefly from what are called positivist philosophers. Even they cannot deny that religion has a deep foundation in human nature, but they look upon it as a mistake, as a disease, as something that ought not to be, and they ascribe its origin, not to the noblest, but rather to the meanest and most selfish motives of our human nature.
Wundt. Professor Wundt, for instance, a most eminent German physiologist and psychologist, declares that all percepts and sentiments become religious as soon as they have reference to some ideal existence which can supply the wishes and requirements of the human heart 1. It cannot be denied that this is one side of religion; but it is not the whole of it, nor would it be true to say that all wishes, even the most selfish and sordid, were ever supposed to receive their fulfilment from that ideal existence which is postulated by religion.
1 Teichmüller, Religionsphilosophie, xxxiii ; Gruppe, Die Griechischen Culte und Mythen, 1887, p. 246.
Feuerbach. Feuerbach was more decided still, and declared that the gods were nothing but the wishes of men, conceived as realised. But there are wishes and wishes, and even admitting that some of the ancient gods represented the very lowest wishes of men realised, there would be others also, representing the realisation of the highest ideals which the human mind can conceive.
Generally speaking, positivist philosophers have added little to an historical study of religion. They have told us, not so much what religion has been, as what, according to their view of the development of the human mind, it ought or it ought not to have been.
Gruppe. There is one exception, however. In a decidedly learned work, published in 1887, Die Griechischen Culte und Mythen, Professor Gruppe has put forward a view of religion which deserves the most careful consideration, and which I, at all events, cannot pass over in silence, considering that the greater part of his first volume, consisting of more than 700 pages, is directed against myself. His book is certainly instructive, and though I differ from Professor Gruppe on almost every point, I cannot but admire his learning, nor should I ever wish for a better and more valiant antagonist. Let us hear then the worst that can be said of religion.
Selfishness the source of Religion. According to Dr. Gruppe, who may well be taken as the most powerful representative of the extreme
positive and, at the same time, negative school of philosophy, religion exists simply because it satisfies certain selfish instincts of man. It has no other raison d'étre. The rapid spreading of religion all over the world is likewise ascribed to a social instinct which is supposed to be gratified by certain advantages which all religions provide. Religions, we are told, do not only give pleasure, but they enable the individual members of a society to develop their faculties far better than the mere laws of family and state would allow. By an inner bond of thought and feeling which unites a religious community, the individual gains more power of resistance in the struggle of all against all. It is only because it answers these requirements of society that religion flourishes. It keeps the poor and miserable quiet by promising them pleasures in the world to come, and thus enables the rich and noble to enjoy their pleasures on earth in safety. It alone can strengthen law and morality in a state of society where there is no equality, and it would probably cease to exist altogether, if all inequalities on earth could be removed. Without accusing the founders of religion of selfish motives in the lowest sense, Professor Gruppe is nevertheless convinced that they were all unconscious egotists. They enjoyed the reverence shown them by the multitude to that extent that they did not shrink, as he thinks, even from a martyr's death. But generally, while professing to found a new kingdom of heaven, they succeeded in founding a kingdom of this world.
The three true causes of the wide and rapid spread of religion are therefore (1.c., p. 273), according to him