Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/257

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"COWARDLY AGNOSTICISM."

ment means, if it means anything, that the Unknowable has implanted in us one set of sympathies in a sense in which it has not implanted others: else the impulse to deny one's belief, and not to act on it, which many people experience, would be authorized by the Unknowable as much as the impulse to profess it, and to act on it. And according to Mr. Spencer's entire theory, according to Prof. Huxley's entire theory, according to the entire theory of modern science, it is precisely this that is the case. If it is the fact that the Unknowable works through any of our actions, it works through all alike, bad, good, and indifferent, through our lies as well as through our truth-telling, through our injuries to our race as well as through our benefits to it. The attempt to connect the well-being of humanity with any general tendency observable in the universe, is in fact, on agnostic principles, as hopeless as an attempt to get, in a balloon, to Jupiter. It is utterly unfit for serious men to talk about; and its proper place, if anywhere, would be in one of Jules Verne's story-books. The destinies of mankind, so far as we have any means of knowing, have as little to do with the course of the Unknowable as a whole, as the destinies of an ant-hill in South Australia have to do with the question of home rule for Ireland.

Or even supposing the Unknowable to have any feeling in the matter, how do we know that its feeling would be in our favor, and that it would not be gratified by the calamities of humanity, rather than by its improvement? Or here is a question which is more important still. Supposing the Unknowable did desire our improvement, but we, as Prof. Huxley says of us, were obstinately bent against being improved, what could the Unknowable do to us for thus thwarting its wishes?

And this leads us to another aspect of the matter. If consciousness of the Unknowable does not directly influence action, it may yet be said that the contemplation of the universe as the wonderful garment of this unspeakable mystery, is calculated to put the mind into a serious and devout condition, which would make it susceptible to the solemn voice of duty. How any devotion so produced could have any connection with duty I confess I am at a loss to see. But I need not dwell on that point, for what I wish to show is this, that contemplation of the Unknowable, from the agnostic's point of view, is not calculated to produce any sense of devoutness at all. Devoutness is made up of three things, fear, love, and wonder; but were the agnostic's thoughts really controlled by his own principles (which they are not) not one of these emotions could the Unknowable possibly excite in him. It need hardly be said that he has no excuse for loving it, for his own first principles forbid him to say that it is lovable, or that it possesses any character, least of all any anthropomorphic character. But