TEN years ago I warned Mr. Herbert Spencer that his Religion of the Unknowable was certain to lead him into strange company. "To invoke the Unknowable," I said, "is to reopen the whole range of Metaphysics; and the entire apparatus of Theology will follow through the breach." I quoted Mr. G. Lewes's admirable remark, "that the foundations of a Creed can rest only on the Known and the Knowable." We see the result. Mr. Spencer has developed his Unknowable into an "Infinite and Eternal Energy, by which all things are created and sustained." He has discovered it to be the Ultimate Cause, the All-Being, the Creative Power, and all the other "alternative impossibilities of thought" which he once cast in the teeth of the older theologies. Naturally there is joy over one philosopher that repenteth. The "Christian World" claims this as equivalent to the assertion that God is the mind and spirit of the universe; and the "Christian World" says these words might have been used by Butler or Paley. This is, indeed, true; but it is strange to find the philosophy of one who makes it a point of conscience not to enter a church described as "the fitting and natural introduction to inspiration!"
The admirers of Mr. Spencer's genius—and I count myself among the earliest—will not regret that he has been induced to lay aside his vast task of philosophic synthesis, in order more fully to explain his views about Religion. This is, indeed, for the thoughtful, as well as the practical, world, the great question of our age, and the discussion that was started by his paper and by mine has opened many topics of general interest. Mr. Spencer has been led to give to some of his views a certainly new development, and he has treated of matters which he had not previously touched. Various critics have joined the debate. Sir James Stephen has brought into play his Nasmyth hammer of Common Sense, and has asked the bold and truly characteristic question: "Can we not do just as well without any religion at all?" The weekly Reviews, I am told, have been poking at us their somewhat hebdomadal fun. And then Mr. Wilfrid Ward, "the rising hope of the stern and unbending" Papists, steps in to remind us of the ancient maxim—extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.
I can not altogether agree with a friend who tells me that contro-
- "Problems of Life and Mind," vol. i. Preface.
- "The Christian World," June 5 and July 3, 1884.
- H. Spencer, in "Nineteenth Century," January and July, 1884.
- F. Harrison, in "Nineteenth Century," March, 1884.
- Sir J. Stephen, in "Nineteenth Century," June, 1884.
- W. Ward, in "National Review," June, 1884.