Notes from the “Old Philosopher’s ” lecture.
Human wisdom must always be limited and incorrect; and even right opinion is only a something intermediate between ignorance and knowledge. The normal condition of man is that of progress. Philosophy is a kind of journey, ever learning, yet never arriving at the ideal perfection of truth. A man should, like the wise Socrates, assume the modest title of a “lover of wisdom”; for he must ever long after something more excellent than he possesses, something still beyond his reach, which he desires to make eternally his own.
Thus the philosophic sentiment came to be associated with the poetical and the religious, under the comprehensive name of love. Before the birth of Philosophy, love had received but scanty and inadequate attention. Fearlessly launching into the problem of universal being, the first philosophy attempted to supply a compendious and decisive solution of every doubt. To do this it was obligated to make the most sweeping assumptions; and as poetry had already filled the vast void between the human and the Devine, by personifying its Deity as man, so philosop1y bowed down before the supposed reflection of tile divine image in the mind of the tile inquirer, who, in worshiping his own notions, had unconsciously deified himself. Nature thus was enslaved to common notions and notions very often to words.
The World’s being is a becoming, a being created and continued. It is so now, and was so, incalculable and unimaginable millions of ages ago. All this is philosophy, the unavoidable conclusion of the human mind. It is not the opinion of Coleridge and Kant, but their science; not what they guess, but what they know.
In virtue of this in-dwelling of God in matter, we say that the world is a revelation of Him, its existence a show of His. He is in His work. The manifold action of the Universe is only His mode of operation, and all material things are in communion with Him. All grow and move and live in Him, and by means of Him, and only so. Let Him withdraw from the space occupied by anything, and it ceases to be. Let Him withdraw any quality of His nature from anything, and it ceases to be. All must partake of Him, lie dwelling in each, and yet transcending all.
The failure of fanciful religion to become philosophy, does not preclude philosophy from coinciding with true religion. Philosophy, or rather its object, the divine order of the Universe, is the intellectual guide which the religious sentiment needs ; while exploring the real relations of the finite, it obtains a constantly improving and self- correcting measure of the Perfect law of the Gospel of Love and Liberty, and a means of carrying into effect the spiritualism of revealed religion. It establishes law, by ascertaining its terms ; it guides the spirit to see its way to tile amelioration of life and the increase of happiness. While religion was stationary, science could not walk alone ; when both are admitted to be progressive, their interests and aims become identified.
Aristotle began to show how religion may be founded on an intellectual basis ; but the basis he laid was too narrow. Bacon, by giving to philosophy a definite aim and method, gave it at the same time a safer and self-enlarging basis. Our position is that of intellectual beings surrounded by limitations; and the latter being constant, have to intelligence the practical value of laws, in whose investigation and application consists that seemingly endless career of intellectual and moral progress which the sentiment of religion inspires and ennobles. The title of Saint has commonly been claimed for those whose boast it has been to despise philosophy ; yet faith will stumble an(l sentiment mislead, unless knowledge be present, in amount and quality sufficient to purify the one and to give beneficial direction to the other,
Theories and notions indiscriminately formed and defended are the false gods or “idol s’’ of philosophy. For the word idolon means image, and a false mind-picture of God is as much an idol as a false wooden image of Him. Fearlessly launching into the problem of universal being,. the first philosophy attempted to supply a compendious and decisive solution of every doubt. To do this, it was obliged to make the most sweeping assumptions; and as poetry had already filled the vast void between the human and the divine, by personifying its Deity as man, so philosophy bowed down before the supposed reflection of the divine image in the mind of the inquirer, who, in worshiping his own notions. had unconsciously deified himself. Nature thus was enslaved to common notions and notions very often to words.
Thus, from every direction,-from metaphysics, aesthetics, and morality above all, we rise to the same Principle, the common centre, and ultimate foundation of all truth, all beauty, all good. The True, the Beautiful, tile Good, are but diverse verse revelations of the same Being. Thus we reach the threshold of religion, and are in communion with the great philosophies which all proclaim a God; and at the same time with the religions which cover the earth, and all repose on tile sacred foundation of natural religion; of that religion which reveals to us the natural .light given to all men, without time aid of a particular revelation. So long as philosophy does not arrive at religion, it is below all worships, even the most imperfect; for they at least give man a Father, a Witness, a Consoler, a Judge. By religion, philosophy connects itself with humanity, which, from one end of the world to the other, aspires to God, believes in God, hopes in God. Philosophy contains in itself the common basis of all religious beliefs; it, as ut were, borrows from them their principle, and returns it to them surrounded with light, elevated above uncertainty, secure against all attack.
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