Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 51.djvu/283

This page has been validated.

tional organizer. This is shown especially in his Plan for a Polytechnic School in Boston, and his labors in furtherance of the scheme, which resulted in the establishment of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His grasp of modern educational conditions is shown also in documents which he presented to the Legislatures of Virginia and Massachusetts in behalf of the institutions with which he was successively connected. Ability of the same sort appears in the part that he took in organizing the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association for the Promotion of Social Science, and the National Academy of Sciences. His death in 1882 closed a career of marked influence upon the advancement of science in America.


In order to judge fairly of the key to the problems of the universe furnished by Mr. Silberstein,[1] it is not only necessary for one with scientific habit of thought to subdue this mental temperament, but to place himself in that receptive frame of mind with which he should attend a séance or view an impressionist picture. However easy this may be for the metaphysician, it is almost impossible for the physicist or chemist, who, without his rule of verification, is more helpless than a rudderless ship at sea.

This comprehensive work is well divided into four chapters: The Idea of God, The Creation, Matter and Force, and Universal Mechanism.

As the conception of a machine precedes its manufacture by the mechanic, so the universe in its potential being antedates the physical universe which is individualized from it. The abstract concept of the universe as a whole is absolute intellectuality or God. This conclusion is reached by the a priori method of pure reason. The cognition of man, which concerns itself only with the perception of things manifest to the senses, is no knowledge at all. It teaches us nothing of true entities. We observe bread and man as two different things, and also that they are mutually convertible. If they were real existences, "how could they merge one into the other?" Hence "we are forced to assume that the entity of any compound object as it appears within the limits of time is not real. . . . Thus the science of experience and experiments alone, of which our naturalists are so proud, and which they call 'exact knowledge,' is a delusion." All the causes which exist in the universe are bound up together in the knowledge of the causes. If man knows one cause, he knows all causes of eternal existence. Man, however, knows that he does not know, and in this comprehends the whole knowledge of the entire universe. He thus arises to Divinity itself, and human intelligence is identically the same with the one absolute knowledge.

In regard to the Creation, we learn that the universe consists of two kinds of existence, sensual and intellectual. "The existence of any Creator before the creation in time, or behind it in space, is an impossibility." Matter can not contain in itself the absoluteness of existence. Man as a material being is an accident of changeable matter. The creation of the universe is an eternal emanation of the Absolute Intellectuality. The essence of the universe vibrates in spiritual waves. Physical waves, which appear in various forms of energy, magnetism, electricity, heat, and light, are contained in these.

In Matter and Force we are given a resume of the theories of various philosophers from Thales to Spinoza. Many modern philosophies are considered. They differ from that of Spinoza only in their names. "One calls his system Positivism, the other Materialism, the third Skepticism, the fourth Evolution, but they are all one in the Spinoza fanaticism." Among others Newton came, and through his mistaken theory of gravitation "reduced mankind to a still lower degree of pure wisdom." Chemists have also led the world astray with their inductions.

  1. The Disclosures of the Universal Mysteries. By Solomon J. Silberstein. New York: Philip Cowen, 1896. Pp. 298. Price, $2.