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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/255

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241
"COWARDLY AGNOSTICISM."

to the diffusion of phenomena, we are unable to think of limits to the presence of this power; while the criticisms of science teach us that this power is incomprehensible. And this consciousness of an incomprehensible power, called omnipresent from inability to assign its limits, is just that consciousness on which religion dwells."[1] Now Prof. Huxley, it will be remembered, gives an account of religion quite different. He says it is a desire to realize a certain ideal in life. His terminology therefore differs from that of Mr. Spencer; but of the present matter, as the following quotation will show, his view is substantially the same.

"Let us suppose," he says, "that knowledge is absolute, and not relative, and therefore that our conception of matter represents that which really is. Let us suppose further that we do know more of cause and effect than a certain succession; and I for my part do not see what escape there is from utter materialism and necessarianism." And this materialism, were it really what science forces on us, he admits would amply justify the darkest fears that are entertained of it. It would "drown man's soul," "impede his freedom," "paralyze his energies," "debase his moral nature," and "destroy the beauty of his life."[2] But, Prof. Huxley assures us, these dark fears are groundless. There is indeed only one avenue of escape from them; but that avenue truth open to us.

"For," he says, "after all, what do we know of this terrible 'matter,' except as a name for the unknown and hypothetical cause of states of our own consciousness? And what do we know of that 'spirit' over whose extinction by matter a great lamentation is arising, . . . except that it also is a name for an unknown and hypothetical cause or condition of states of consciousness? . . . And what is the dire necessity and iron law under which men groan? Truly, most gratuitously invented bugbears. I suppose if there be an 'iron' law it is that of gravitation; and if there be a physical necessity it is that a stone unsupported must fall to the ground. But what is all we really know and can know about the latter phenomena? Simply that in all human experience stones have fallen to the ground under these conditions; that we have not the smallest reason for believing-that any stone so circumstanced will not fall to the ground; and that we have, on the contrary, every reason to believe that it will so fall. . . . But when, as commonly happens, we change will into must, we introduce an idea of necessity which . . . has no warranty that I can discover anywhere. . . . Force I know, and Law I know; but who is this Necessity, save an empty shadow of my own mind's throwing?"

Let us now compare the statements of these two writers. Each states that the reality of the universe is unknowable; that just as surely as matter is always one aspect of mind, so mind is equally one aspect of matter; and that if it is true to say that the thoughts of man are material, it is equally true to say that the earth from

  1. "First Principles," p. 99.
  2. "Lay Sermons," pp. 122, 123, 127.