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EXAMINATION OF DEFINITIONS.
something only when they are undivided, and because they are originally undivided.'
Hegel, 1770-1831. In opposition to this sentiment of dependence and devotion which, according to Schleiermacher and his numerous disciples, constitutes the essential character of religion, Hegel defines religion as perfect freedom. If the sense of dependence constituted religion, he says, the dog might be called the most religious animal1. Religion, with Hegel, is perfect freedom; it is in fact the Divine Spirit as becoming conscious of Himself through the finite spirit. Or again, ' Religion is the knowledge acquired by the finite spirit of its essence as absolute spirit.'
Fichte, 1762-1814. With equal boldness does another philosopher, Fichte, define religion, not as sentiment, but as knowledge. “Religion is knowledge,' he says. “It gives to man a clear insight into himself, answers the highest questions, and thus imparts to us a complete harmony with ourselves, and a thorough sanctification to our mind 2.'
1 What was considered a rather coarse joke of Hegel's has now become a serious doctrine. "The feeling of religious devotion,' Darwin writes, “is a highly complex one, consisting of love, complete submission to an exalted and mysterious superior, a strong sense of dependence, fear, reverence, gratitude, hope for the future, and perhaps other elements. No being could experience so complex an emotion until advanced in his intellectual and moral faculties to at least a moderately high level. Nevertheless we see some distant approach to this state of mind in the deep love of a dog for his master, associated with complete submission, some fear, and perhaps other feelings.' M. Houzian (Etudes sur les Facultés Mentales des Animaux, pp. 271-273) thinks that there are many persons and even peoples not so religious as dogs.' The monkeys of the Sunda Isles, we are told, gather shortly before sunrise in the highest treetops, and salute the rising sun with clamorous shouts. Open Court, 1889, p. 1458. ? Hibbert Lectures, p. 15. We must here remember that knowledge
. . How to account for these different definitions.
It may seem difficult to understand how it is possible that men whose knowledge and whose honesty of purpose admit of no doubt should have arrived at such different, nay contradictory, definitions of religion. How could Schleiermacher see in religion absolute dependence, when Hegel perceives in it the most absolute freedom ? How could Fichte define religion as the highest knowledge, while Agnostics in ancient as well as in modern times have represented the object of religion as beyond the sphere of human knowledge? Such contradictions have often been pointed out and made use of in order to prove the vanity of all human knowledge, or, at all events, the futility of philosophy, when applied to religious problems. But there is no reason to despair. I believe that the Science of Thought, as based on the Science of Language, supplies a solution to this as to many other riddles of philosophy. There is but one solution for them all, and this consists in our defining the words which we use in philosophical discussions.
At first sight dependence seems indeed the very opposite of freedom ; but we have only to define dependence as trust, and then dependence or trust in God as the wisest, the most perfect and most powerhas been used in very different senses, varying from mere ac. quaintance with a subject to a perfect understanding of it. Thus while most theologians use belief as different from or even as opposed to knowledge, Dr. Flint, in his Lectures on Theism (p. 86, Appen. dix X, On Intuition, Feeling, Belief, and Knowledge in Religion), declares that 'belief is inseparable from knowledge, and ought to be precisely co-extensive with knowledge. This may throw light on the real intention of his definition of religion. •Perhaps,' he says, ‘if we say that religion is man's belief in a being or beings, mightier than himself and inaccessible to his senses, but not indifferent to his sentiments and actions, we have a definition of the kind required.' (Theism, p. 32.) But can belief in what is inaccessible to our senses be rightly called knowledge ?
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, à 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?, 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 Διο και των παλαιών ειπείν τινες προήχθεσαν ότι πάντα ταύτα εστι θεών πλέα τα και δι' οφθαλμών ίνδαλλόμενα ημίν και δι' ακοής και πάσης aloohoews. 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.
i Teichmüller, Religionsphilosophie, xxxiii ; Gruppe, Die Griechischen Culte und Mythen, 1887, p. 246.