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THE NATURE AND GROUNDS OF PANTHEISM.
How it differs from
A GENERAL definition of pantheism may be Definition of
given in few words. It is the doctrine that pantheism.
God includes all reality, and is identical with it, nothing besides him really existing. To use the Greek phrase, he is zò ēv xal iò av — the One and the All. Spinoza's way of stating it is, “ Besides God, no substance can exist, or be conceived to exist.” 1
The doctrine thus enunciated will be made theisun and clearer, perhaps, by comparing it with theism
and atheism. The theist separates nature from God, in his system, and recognizes the existence of both; the atheist starts from nature, and denies the existence of God; the pantheist starts from God, and denies the existence of nature. Atheists and pantheists · agree in opposing the theist, alleging that his doctrine involves a species of dualism, not the dualism of Zoroaster and the Manichæans, which asserts the eternity of matter and of moral evil, but that distinction between the Creator and the creation which admits of secondary causes in nature, and of free-will in the rational creature. The dualism is only that which is necessary in order to moral govern
1 Ethics, Part 1, Prop. xiv.
ment and responsible action. Yet objection is made to it, as not evolving all reality out of a single principle; as implying an ethical universe, whereas all existence is embraced under the natural, and must be so regarded, or there can be no simple and perfect philosophy. The atheist and pantheist are alike in starting with a single postulate, which, they claim, is all-inclusive; and they throw out the matter of freedom and responsibility for the assumed philosophical advantage of entire unity of system. But though alike in standing upon a basis of monism, they seem nevertheless to be in direct and necessary antagonism to each other. One of them does not believe in any God, the other believes in nothing but God. This hostility is apparent rather than real, however, at least in its religious aspect; is not so much in ideas as in language. When the atheist has explained what he means by the word “nature,” and the pantheist defines that which he chooses to call “God,” it is often clear that they both mean the same thing; that they occupy common ground in their attitude towards Christianity, although their methods of philosophizing may be opposite. One denying nature, and the other everything but nature, it is clear that they must alike.reject the super-natural. The uninitiated reader gets a profound impression of the piety of Spinoza while reading the pages in which Novalis extols
“the God-intoxicated man;” but when he learns that the “God” which produced this intoxication was only an impersonal substance constituting the universe, he knows that he has been misled by a verbal juggle. Piety quite as good as this might be legitimately felt, and no doubt was, by Auguste Comte, if not also by Baron d’Holbach.
Wherein atheism and pantheism agree.
And here we discover, at the very threshold of pantheists often
of its temple, one of the vices of pantheism. It ambiguous.
is less honest than atheism. Has it at first sight a somewhat noble and captivating look? This is because it puts on disguises. It uses the language of theism, and even of Christianity, to inculcate a doctrine which no Christian or theist can for a moment think of entertaining. Herder and Schleiermacher, pointing to the verbal dress in which Spinoza's thoughts were at times put, might seem to have a warrant for insisting that he was a Christian; and Schleiermacher might say that he was not as impious as his critics declared him to be, when once in the midst of a sermon he exclaimed, “ Offer up
with me a lock of hair to the manes of the rejected but holy Spinoza.” It would seem, however, from the manner in which it is here proposed to honor Spinoza, that the enthusiastic preacher, to say nothing of the philosopher himself, was in a state of mind bordering on paganism. Justly does Mr. Morell say, speaking of the theistic language of Spinoza, “ A being to whom understanding, will, and even personality is denied; a being who does not create, but simply is; who does not act, but simply unfolds; who does not purpose, but brings all things to pass by the necessary law of his own existence, -such a being cannot be a father, a friend, a benefactor; in a word, cannot be a God to man, for man is but a part of himself. It may be more correct to term the philosophy of Spinoza a pantheism than an atheism ; but if we take the common idea or definition of Deity as valid, then assuredly we must conclude that the God of Spinoza is no God, and that his pantheism is only a more imposing form of atheism.” There is a tradition
that Spinoza, when about to publish one of his pantheistic writings, showed it to a friend, and that the word “God” was not to be found in it, but only the term “nature,” where the other word stood in the printed volume. His friend, it is said, induced him to make this change wherever he could, substituting the theistic for the atheistic term, fearing that if he did not, the treatise would make no disciples, but only arouse dangerous hostility. It is easy enough to see that Spinoza uses these terms interchangeably. He says, in the Introduction to the Fourth Part of the Ethics, “ The eternal and infinite being whom we call God or Nature, as he exists of necessity, so does he act of necessity.” He therefore might have altered his manuscript to mislead or conciliate a class of readers. But the story may well be doubted; for Spinoza, whatever must be said of his system, was a thoroughly fearless man, despising hypocrisy, and scorning to turn his hand over in the hope of disarming opposition. The tradition may have arisen from the fact that some of his works were published under fictitions names in various parts of Europe, though without consultation with him, and with such changes as his admiring disciples thought would help to give them currency in the philosophical world. This extraordinary use of language, even if
Many names not intentionally dishonest, has, as a matter of for one
thing. fact, deceived many. It also enables the pantheist to make a show of denying, and indignantly repelling, any charges of irreverence or impiety that may be brought against him. He can subscribe to the whole Christian vocabulary, without making it apparent, except to those who understand his system and his definitions, that he resolves all religions, together with everything else, of whatever claims or appearance, back into an eternal nature-process. · Any terminology, from that of apostolic fervor down to the hardest scholastic barbarisms, can be made to serve his turn. John Sterling, replying to a remark made to him one day by his friend Thomas Carlyle, said, “That is flat pantheism.” “And what if it were pot-theism, if it were true?” was Carlyle's rejoinder. The audacious hero-worshipper was utterly indifferent to terms. They were but the “clothes ” of philosophy to his view, and might be changed never so often, he cared not how often or in what way, so long as the substance within them remained intact. In the biography of Sterling which Carlyle wrote, and in which he labors so hard to make Sterling out a religious doubter essentially at one with himself, he shows that he was not above playing the juggler, and that, too, with so sacred a matter as his friend's religious convictions. His complaint of Archdeacon Hare for emphasizing the Christian faith of Sterling, might, so far as it implies a one-sided treatment of the subject, be more properly made against him. Among the terms frequently used by pantheists, and which they regard as synonymous, or nearly so, are Father, All-Father, Heavenly Father, Nature, Substance; God, Subject-Object, WorldEgo, Indifference of the Subjective and Objective, the Identity-Point of Existence and Non-existence. The language hardly seems a caricature, in which an English Satirist represents the later disciples of Spinoza as saying,