B E fiDl 7fi'^
A PANTHEISTIC VIEW OF THE UNIVERSE
VIEW OF THE
ARTHUR H. STOCKWELL LTD.
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY
BRISTOL TYPESETTING CO. LTD.
BARTON MANOR - ST. PHILIPS
CHAPTER I â€” The Need for Certainty
What we want to know
Why wc want to know
CHAPTER n â€” What is Truth ?
The rational view
Philosophical doubts about common sense
Reason versus intuition
A " personal " guide to truth
CHAPTER m â€” Mind and Matter
The " first " cause itself uncaused
Rebellion against Determinism
The Will to live
Evidence of purpose from evolution
Evidence of Mind from Beauty
The parts and the whole
Unity of Mind and Matter
CHAPTER IV â€” The Spirit of the Universe
Contradiction in current monotheism
A personal certainty
[ . 655
CHAPTER V â€” Freewill 67
The case for Determinism
No evidence of freewill from religion
A personal view
Determinism not the final answer
The paradox of freedom
CHAPTER VI â€” Evolution 77
The fallacy of perfection
Evolution as an end-in-itself
The present stage of evolution
Survival of the fittest
The competition between species
CHAPTER vn â€” Nature's Categorical Imperative 90
No universal mortality
The necessity for continuous struggle
The self-denying instinct
Unity of purpose
Man's place in evolution
The dangerous trend of evolution
CHAPTER vm â€” Values 104
Means and ends
A rational choice of values
Our hypocritical attitude to Nature's "brutalities'*
Our wrong approach to Reality
CHAPTER IX â€” The One Reality 120
Summary of certainties
Change of desire needed
Reasons versus conscience
"What's in a name?"
THE NEED FOR CERTAINTY
There are many things about this mysterious Universe
of ours which we should all like to know. Our concern
is not so much with the facts about the Universe supplied
to us by science as with the significance of these facts.
We want to know not only what the Universe is but
why it is what it is. This science fails to tell us.
What We Want to Know
Is the Universe a " fortuitous concourse of atoms " as
science sees and deals with it, or is there Mind and pur-
pose behind it all ? If there is, what kind of a mind and
Does God exist? If so, what connection is there be-
tween God and Nature?
Is the fzuniliar world we know through our senses the
" real " world or do our senses give us a distorted or
incomplete picture of it?
What do we mean when we say a thing is good or
bad ? Are the things we value of universal validity or are
8 A PANTHEISTIC VIEW OF THE UNIVERSE
they subjective judgements on our part ? Is what we call
the moral law, a law of universal application valid for
all times and all places and under all circumstances, or is
it merely a man-made code of conduct designed to further
Are we free agents in what we do? Am I, for example,
writing this book of my own free will or am I being com-
pelled to do so because I am what my genetic structure
and my environment have made me?
Why We Want to Know
The answers to many of these questions are still in
dispute. Philosophers and theologians have argued about
them for centuries. They have put forward their own
theories about the meaning of the Universe, but these
theories have, on the whole, been so contradictory that
they have had a tendency to cancel each other out.
Some agreement has been reached in the sphere of
Ethics (they all seem to agree that justice is better than
injustice), but even if we do satisfactorily solve the prob-
lem of human relationships we are still no nearer knowing
why the Universe is what it is.
These differences of opinion among the great thinkers
are inevitable from the nature of the questions asked.
The answers cannot be found by relying entirely on the
empirical methods of investigation used by science and
common sense. Too much has to be based on inference.
Science can give us facts about the Universe, the truth
of which can be verified by rational means, but the
meaning or significance of these facts is, and seemingly
always will be, a matter of speculation. How can science
THE NEED FOR CERTAINTY 9
or even commonsense prove to us what is ultimately good
or bad without having some reference point from which
to judge, a reference point which itself must be a matter
As the philosophers and theologians cannot agree
among themselves what is the common man to believe?
Is he to accept a religious doctrine as final truth or is he
to carry on with the apparently hopeless task of finding
answers to his questions that meet his needs and are at
the same time intellectually satisfying?
Perhaps the most honest thing he could do would be
to admit that he does not and cannot know the answers.
If he accepts a religious belief as ultimate truth or comes
to the conclusion that science will eventually solve all
his problems for him, he is, in either case, being dog-
matic and making an affirmation without knowing all
the relevant facts.
The trouble with the doubters' " don't know " or
" cannot know " attitude to the problems of life is that
it fails to fulfil a human need. Sitting on the fence wait-
ing for more and more evidence to turn up before making
a decision is psychologically demoralising. Human nature,
if it is to fulfil itself needs certainty.
The agnostic may say that although he is sceptical
about anything which cannot be verified by rational
means he is still capable of leading the " good " life. He
can still make ethical judgements and act on these judge-
ments without beUeving in what to him is metaphysical
But can he or anyone else escape this metaphysical
nonsense? If the confirmed sceptic regards human wel-
10 A PANTHEISTIC VIEW OF THE UNIVERSE
fare as an end in itself (and most of them do), he still
cannot give reasons why human welfare is of value ex-
cept man's own desire for welfare. What he does is accept,
as a fact valid beyond dispute, that human welfare (or
human desire) is a good in its own right and needs no
intellectual justification. For his ultimate value, his end
in itself, he too has to enter the realm of metaphysical
nonsense. The sceptic's belief that human welfare (or
human desire) is good as an end in itself does not spring
from reason. In the last analysis it is an " act of
All men even agnostics have faith, i.e. an unshakeable
belief in some end-in-itself which cannot be justified by
reason. They cannot help themselves. Life would be im-
possible if we did not take something on trust.
These non-rational ends-in-themselves to which all
men subscribe may or may not be linked up with a
belief in the supernatural and do not necessarily have
" humane " consequences. An end in itself may be a
political ideology such as communism or a belief in the
superiority of the white (or black, or yellow) race. It may
be Humanism, which carries with it the conviction that
man's destiny lies in his own hands.
But whatever our end-in-itself may be it gives stability
and purpose to life. The believer in a benevolent deity
finds comfort in the thought. His hopes for the future
both in this world and in the next are high.
The atheist too has resolved his doubts. His hopes are
centred on this world, not on the next. Although his
convictions have led him to beHeve that there is no
heaven, they have also led him to the belief that there
THE NEED FOR CERTAINTY I I
is no hell. The atheist has reconciled himself to oblivion
in a determinist material Universe.
Both the atheist and the believer have " committed "
themselves to beliefs which in the last resort are non-
rational. But by doing so they have lost their ifs and
buts. They have achieved a peace of mind which only
comes with certainty. It is the uncommitted poor old
agnostic who is left crying in the wilderness not knowing
what the fates have in store for him.
It does seem, then, that we have to make up our minds
one way or the other on these fundamental questions
even at the risk of being wrong. Both the atheist and
the believer may be dogmatic but one of them at least
has found the right answer. Either there is a benevolent
Deity or there is not. Each has a chance of being right
and this chance the uncommitted man never gets. The
agnostic is a man who is at the mercy of every little
eddy and current in the stream of human ideas.
To satisfy my need for certainty, for something
definite in which to believe, is my sole justification for
writing these essays. I realise that all I can do is to say
how these problems appear to me and, as far as I can,
give my reasons â€” rational ones if possible. I may be
wrong in my assumptions. I do not know but neither
does anyone else for that matter. The final answers have
yet to be found. I realise that by saying: This is it!
I am hardening into certainties propositions which at best
may be no more than probabilities. Yet I feel that I have
a right and even an obligation to do so. The need for
certainty is so great.
WHAT IS TRUTH
We want to know the truth about the questions we ask
ourselves and, if we are to get the certainty we need, we
want the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We
want no half truths. We want no false assumptions,
traditional or otherwise, masquerading as truth. We want
no " personal " truths if we can help it. We want ob-
jective truth that is final and absolute â€” if we can get it.
But what is this absolute truth we are so anxious to find
and how are we to recognise it as such ? When we say that
a certain statement is true, how do we know it to be so ?
Is it because we have " immediate " knowledge of its
truth, as we do when we see without any shadow of
doubt that two plus two equal four and always will do ?
Or is it because we have carefully weighed up the
evidence for and against and passed a reasoned judge-
ment on it ? Or do we just feel in our bones that it must
It seems there are different ways in which we arrive
at the truth, and the whole question of how we get our
WHAT IS TRUTH? 1 3
knowledge, and what reliance we can place on it when
we have got it, is full of perplexing difficulties.
The Rational View
Common sense might say that truth is simple. If a
statement is true it corresponds to facts. Just that, no
more, no less. If I say that I travelled on a bus this
morning; that the sun rose at six a.m. yesterday; that
the battle of Waterloo was fought in 1815, I am making
statements which common sense regards as true if they
can be verified.
Common sense also thinks of these statements as being
true for all time. If it was true in 1 8 1 5 that the battle of
Waterloo was fought in that year, it was still true in
1915, and will still be so in 2015. A lapse of time in
itself does not affect the truth of any of the above state-
Science takes a similar view. Science collects its facts
by observation. These it studies, notes their similarities
and differences, and generaHses them into " laws of
Nature ". By doing so it finds pointers to new " facts "
as yet outside the range of observation. These new un-
tried facts it sets up as hypotheses and subjects them to
a barrage of criticism and experiment. If they pass this
test they come to be regarded as " true " facts. If they
do not they are discarded.
Science moreover, by studying its data, is enabled not
only to say what is, but also what will be, as witness the
remarkable degree of accuracy with which it predicts
an eclipse. The range of science not only covers the past,
but stretches out into the future.
14 A PANTHEISTIC VIEW OF THE UNIVERSE
The methods science uses to achieve these remarkable
results is organised common sense. Science ignores meta-
physical propositions as these can be neither verified nor
falsified by rational means. To science they are meaning-
less. Science will have no truck with suppositions. Truth
has to be demonstrated.
The scientific common-sense way to truth is eminently
satisfying. It fits into our way of thinking and is clear
and unambiguous. Moreover, it works.
Science and common sense may think they have the
last say; that no method of getting at the truth is, or can
be, superior to theirs. But let us see what philosophy has
Philosophical Doubts about Common Sense
Philosophers, or at least some of them, maintain that
there is no certainty about the facts and predictions of
science. At best they are only probabilities. They point
out that any statement we make can be proved to be true
only if it refers to past events. We may make shrewd
guesses about the future, and our guesses may turn out
to be right, but of this we have no certainty. The in-
dubitable truth about any future event cannot be known
prior to the event. All it is possible for us to be sure about
it that which has already happened. It follows that the
whole truth about the Universe in its totality, i.e. as a
living thing having duration, cannot be known until all
future events have taken place. How, for example, can
we know for what purpose (if any) the Universe serves
until it has fulfilled that purpose?
Yet wc persist in thinking of a truth that is the whole
WHAT IS TRUTH? 1 5
truth and nothing but the truth; a truth that is valid
for all times and places under all circumstances, and
which corresponds to permanent facts. But we try to
find this " eternal " truth in a Universe in which the
facts are not permanent.
The Universe itself and the conditions in it are con-
tinually changing. Physically, psychologically, and spiritu-
ally the whole cosmos is in a state of flux. What was
true of the Universe in the past is less so now, and pre-
sumably will be still less so in the future. Moreover as
times goes on and we acquire more knowledge, " facts "
which we once regarded as true have to be modified
and in some cases are shewn to be false.
The changes that are taking place in the Universe
can be seen in the earth itself pointed out to us by
geologists; in biological differences brought about by
evolution; and in our moral ideas which our record of
past events tells us are different now from what they
were even a few hundred years ago.
It is impossible for us to find a truth that is valid for
all times and places and under all circumstances and
which corresponds to permanent facts unless we can find
a hard core of unchanging facts to which it can corre-
spond. Many people think there are things about the
Universe, such as the laws of Nature and moral prin-
ciples, which never change and that the absolute truth
about these laws and principles it is possible to find. But
with what justification do they hold this view ?
The laws of Nature are not " necessary " laws. They
are of our making. Over a long period of time we have
noticed the uniform manner in which Nature acts and
1 6 A PANTHEISTIC VIEW OF THE UNIVERSE
these uniformities we have come to regard as " eternal "
laws, applicable in all times and places and under all
But our observations of Nature only cover its work-
ings in the past. It may seem highly probable that Nature
will continue to act in the same uniform manner in the
future but of this we cannot be sure. Is it not possible
that in a Universe where everything else is changing the
so-called laws which govern it will also change? And
could not some cosmic upheaval play havoc with our
neatly packaged laws of Nature?
The same thing applies to what we call ' moral
principles *. When we say to anyone " Be good ", we are,
or think we are, asking them to conform to a self-evident
moral principle that is valid for all times and places and
which corresponds to permanent facts; in this case, to
ethical facts. But where can we find an ethical fact that
is not modified or completely changed with the passage
of time ? If there is such a thing as a permanent ethical
fact it is one we have still to find. It is nonsense to regard
the injunction, " Be good ", as an expression of some
fixed moral principle until we have finally estabUshed
what good is. Nowhere in our record of past events can
we trace a moral principle that has remained constant
even up to the present where our observation ends. What
justification then have we for postulating a moral
principle that was fixed and immutable in the past and
will still be so in the future?
To confuse us still further in our search for truth some
philosophers throw doubt on the validity of the facts
about the material Universe which we have accumulated
WHAT IS TRUTH? 17
through our senses; facts which we believe correspond
to reality as we can, or think we can, verify them. They
maintain that the world we perceive through our senses
is not the real world at all; that we never perceive an
object, even such a familiar object as a chair, as it truly
They point out the difference between the object as
perceived and the underlying " substance " of the object,
sometimes referred to as the thing-in-itself .
When we examine a material object we gain know-
ledge of it through our senses. We see it, feel it, smell it,
taste it, hear it, and so on. But the knowledge we gain
is not of the " substance " of the object but only of the
qualities this substance exhibits, such as colour, hardness,
smell, taste, and so on. The substance itself does not make
any impression on our senses. For all we can know this
underlying substance does not exist. All we do know
about a spatial object, such as a chair, are its qualities
which are not spatial. The thing-in-itself cannot be de-
Common sense â€” if it thinks about it â€” ^will retort that
an object must consist of something of the same size and
shape as the object viewed to which the qualities we
perceive belong. But if we can know only of the qualities
can common sense tell us what this substance is ?
According to another theory the mind of the perceiver
is never in direct contact with the object. Intervening
are what are called sense data. These are impressions
such as a patch of colour, a feeling of hardness, a smell,
a taste and so on, which the mind receives through the
senses. From this confused bundle of sensations the mind
1 8 A PANTHEISTIC VIEW OF THE UNIVERSE
" constructs " what it believes to be an image of an
But the mind has no guarantee that the sense data
it receives truly represents an object at all. This data may
be provided from memory by the mind itself, as when we
imagine we see an object, or when we dream of one. In
both cases there is an image of an object in the mind
but no external object to which it corresponds.
As the mind has only sense data from which to con-
struct an image and as the image can be present in the
mind, without an object to perceive, how can the mind
know that any image it constructs is a true representation
of anything external to itself?
Common sense might say that if the mind is in any
doubt about an image it has constructed from sense data
it can refer to other minds for confirmation. But here
again a doubt is thrown in. No two people viewing the
same object receive identical sense data, as no two people
are alike. Their perceptions are coloured by personal
idiosyncrasies, by the state of their health, by colour
blindness, and other defects in the apparatus of sense.
One person sees a patch of colour which he has been
taught to call green. Another person sees the same patch
of colour which he too has been taught to call green. But
we have no means of knowing whether both persons
receive the same sense impressions of what is admittedly
the same patch of colour. They both call it green not
because the impressions this patch of colour makes are
the same in both cases, but because both of them have
been taught to put the same label on what, as far as we
know, are different bundles of sense data.
WHAT IS TRUTH? 1 9
How then can we know with any certainty what an
object really is if we have only sense data to provide us
with information? If sense data vary between one in-
dividual and another, how can we know which, or whose,
data corresponds to facts?
When we examine a chair we see it, or think we see it,
as a solid durable object existing in time and space. But
does this solid durable object have an independent
existence outside ourselves, or is it just an idea in the
mind ? If the mind is cut off from the external world by
a screen of sense data, and as we have no means of
knowing whether or not these sense data correspond to
facts, what grounds have we for assuming that the ex-
ternal world exists at all?
Philosophy also criticises with considerable justifica-
tion science's analytical method of dealing with reality.
When science wants to know what a chair really is, it
pulls it to pieces and analyses it. It strips the wood to its
fibres, studies these in a laboratory and finds they
are made up of chemical elements. The physicist
then takes over and splits these chemical elements into
atoms, which, after further splitting, he claims are no
more than particles of electricity whirling about in
During this process of analysis the quahties we perceive
(or think we perceive) in a chair such as colour, hardness,
etc. disappear. An exhaustive analysis leaves nothing to
perceive. Splitting a chair into " parts " and studying
the parts in detail gives precise information about the
parts but falsifies the truth about the chair as an inte-
grated whole. A chair, like any other material object,
20 A PANTHEISTIC VIEW OF THE UNIVERSE
is qualitatively something more than the sum of its parts.
One cannot sit on a motion in space.
The common sense scientific approach to truth and
philosophical speculations to achieve the same end have
one thing in common. Both are mental processes. Each
relies in its own way exclusively on the mind for its
findings. Both are rational.
But does the mind with all its juggling with sense data
and its speculations about these data give us all the
knowledge we get and need? It seems not. There is
another channel to truth which we call intuition.
Intuition does not spring from sense data and specu-
lative reason. It is " immediate " instinctive knowledge.
It is a feeling we have that such and such a prosposition
must be true or such and such a course of action must
be right. Intuition is, in a sense, non-rational, as intuitive
truths cannot be verified by intellectual means.
But in spite of this we cannot ignore intuitive know-
ledge. If we do how can we account for values? How
can reason tell us what is ultimately good or bad ? Reason
may be able to explain why such and such course of
action is good for, say, human welfare, but it cannot tell
us why human welfare itself is of value. Human welfare
is an end in itself which we intuitively believe carries
its own justification.
We rely on intuition far more than common sense
would like to admit. Rationalists should not forget that
all trains of reasoning whether philosophical, theological,
or even scientific, have to start from a given standpoint ;
WHAT IS TRUTH? 21
from some self-evident truth which is apprehended in-
tuitively. Decartes found his starting point in his famous
" I think therefore I am ". Theology starts from " re-
vealed " knowledge which it accepts as induitably true.
Even the hard-headed scientist gets a " hunch " now and
then and makes a jump ahead of the images he has
constructed from sense data. It is intuition which pro-
vides him with his hypotheses.
At deeper levels intuition merges into instinct. The
difference between the scientist's hunch and a primary
instinct like the instinct of self-preservation is one of
degree not of kind. Both provide us with extra-sensory
Although a hunch and instinct are the opposite poles
of intuition both are fairly rehable guides to truth. But
they seem to serve different purposes. A hunch very often
leads to new knowledge whereas instinct is, in the main,
concerned with the knowledge of how to preserve life,
with maintaining the evolutionary status quo. The former
is progressive, the latter is not.
The lower animals such as insects rely exclusively on
instinct. Their actions are automatic. They have no