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Lives through all life, extends through all extent,
If such language as this may be corrected, in the light of other expressions by the same author, so as to leave him still a believer in the essential truths of Christianity, we certainly may suppose that at least some of the ancient authors, from whom pantheistic fragments only have come down, spoke other words, now lost, without which they cannot be fairly judged. I do not deny that some of them were clear and thorough-going pantheists; but the opinion of those best able to form a judgment in the case, has for years been inclining to the view, that not a little of what was once loosely called the pantheism of the ancients, was the more or less vagne tradition of a primeval monotheism. In rejecting the many gods of paganism, and insisting on the divine unity, of which dim remembrances had been handed on to them, they may have used terms which we falsely regard as anticipating the theory of Spinoza.
One of the first movements in religious philosophy which here attracts our notice, is the
Neo-Platonism of Alexandria. Perhaps we ought not to feel any hesitation in charging pantheism upon
the teachers of that famous school. For we find them holding such language as this : “God is the only existence; he is the real existence, of which we, and other things, are but transitory phenomena." The greatest of the Alexan
drine masters was Plotinus, who went to Rome, and founded a school there, where he had among
The Alexandrian masters.
his pupils the celebrated Porphyry. He died towards the close of the third century of our era. The following is from him : “How doth wisdom differ from that which is called nature ? Verily in this manner, that wisdom is the first thing, but nature the least and lowest ; for nature is but an imitation or image of wisdom, the last thing of the soul, which hath the lowest impress of wisdom shining upon it; as when a thick piece of wax is thoroughly impressed on a seal, that impress, which is clear and distinct in the superior superficies of it, will in the lower side be weak and obscure; and such is the stamp and signature of nature; compared with that of wisdom and understanding, nature is a thing which doth only do, but not know." Thus did he seem to identify the essence of nature with that of intelligence; and this latter he appears to have held as one with the Godhead; for even in the agonies of death he exclaimed, “I am struggling to liberate the divinity within me.” He wrote two books to prove that all being is one and the same; and the reason which he gave for not sacrificing to the gods was, that it became the gods, since he too was divine, to sacrifice to him. Views essentially the same as those of Plotinus, were taught by his successor Iamblichus at Alexandria ; and as late as the year 529, at Athens, by Proclus and those who followed him in the school of that city. For a more full account of these masters and their philosophy than can be given here, the work of Butler may be consulted. “It is the perpetual
1 Cudworth's Intellectual System of the Universe, Vol. I., p. 240.
2 Ancient philosophy, by William Archer Butler (Philadelphia, 1857), Vol. II., pp. 320-335.
lesson of Plotinus,” says Butler, “ that the object of reason is not, cannot be, external to reason; that truth is not in the conformity of thoughts with things, but of thoughts with each other. Intelligence is at once the object conceived, the subject conceiving, and the act of conception. To rest on self is to commune with the universe.” In his theory of knowledge, and of the world, which he helds to be an efflux of the divine substance, the teaching of Plotinus is such as to give the impression that he anticipated the doctrine of Spinoza.
This notice of the Alexandrine school brings
us, by association, to Plato himself, from whom they claimed to derive the germs of their system. Butler says that Proclus “found in Plato all he wished to find;' and that “the dreamy theories of Alexandria were not unnatural results of certain tendencies discoverable in the writings of Plato himself — tendencies for which his own well-balanced intellect, doubtless, provided sufficient counterpoise, but which too closely suited peculiar temperaments not to have been soon exalted into exclusive or predominant principles of speculation."1 Plato seems to have tried to mediate between the empiricists of his day and pure rationalists of the Eleatic school; yet the transcendental element in his writings is that which most powerfully affected his followers, and which was especially laid hold of by the Alexandrine teachers. They treated him
very much as Philo treated Moses ;” very much as some of the Christian fathers, trained at Alexandria, treated the New Testament writings. Whatever we find among the Neo-Platonists, therefore, we can trace back to Plato only
1 Ancient Philosophy, Vol. II., p. 55.
in some such sense as the Alexandrine Jew might trace it to the writings of Moses, or the Neo-Platonic Christian to the words of Christ and the apostles. Even in Aristotle there are statements which
Aristotle. have a pantheistic look, though his genius was of the empirical cast. In his treatise on psychology, he seems to regard the soul as a principle pervading nature, which exists in the plants and animals no less than in the philosopher. Dr. South says he taught, “that there was one universal soul belonging to the whole species or race of mankind, and indeed to all things according to their capacity; which universal soul, by its respective existence in, and communication of itself to each particular man, did exert in him those noble acts of ratiocination and understanding proper to his nature; and those also in a different degree and measure of perfection, according as the different disposition of the organs of the body made it more or less fit to receive the communication of that universal soul; which soul only he held to be immortal, and that each particular man, both in respect of body and spirit, was mortal.” We must perhaps accept this as monism ; though, clearly enough, it anticipates the science of the Comtian school, rather than the metaphysics of Spinoza. Other expressions of Aristotle would indicate to us that it ought not to be interpreted too rigidly; and, even admitting that Dr. South caught the proper force of his words, they may have been simply his strong expression of dissent from the polytheism of the times. Earlier than the age of Plato and Aristotle
Xenophanes lived Xenophanes, the founder of the Eleatic the Eleatic. school of philosophy. He, according to Grote, "con
ceived nature as one unchangeable and indivisible whole, spherical, animated, endued with reason, and penetrated , by, or indeed identical with God: he denied the objective reality of all changes, or generation, or destruction, which he seems to have considered as only changes or modifications in the percipient, and perhaps different in one percipient and another.” The Eleatics may have been pantheists; yet we should bear in mind that this language is not theirs, so much as Grote's commentary on the teachings of their founder. The same may be remarked
of Heraclitus, a pupil of Xenophanes, who was
called “the weeping philosopher," and in whose teachings Hegel claimed to find the germs of Hegelianism. The decisive question in regard to him, as in regard to many others both before and after him, — a question impossible to answer, — is this : Had he any clear knowledge of the one living and true God? If not, his utterances about the Divine Reason, and the One, are very probably pantheistic. But if he had such knowledge, those same utterances may indicate a more or less pure monotheisin. Py
thagoras, who lived in the fifth century before Pythagoras.
Christ, agreed apparently with the two thinkers last named; though his method is peculiar. “Numbers," said he,
are the cause of the material existence of things.” In the development of this theory of numbers, we find traces of what has been commonly held to be pantheism; for he represents all things as the forthputtings of one eternal unit, held together by its underlying and pervasive power, and returning constantly by absorption into it. The doctrine of metempsychosis, which is associated with his name, seems to have grown out of this general theory,