Luther A Fox.

Evidence of a future life : from reason and revelation online

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above the understanding through faith in God.
The spirit, the innermost essence in us, comes from
God. He acknowledges a Christianity whose
essential element is faith in a personal God and
the eternity of human personality.

Schleiermacher, whose life ended in 1834, was
not onl}^ a great theologian but also a distinguished
philosopher. He has been charged with panthe-
istic tendencies. He said that the time will come
when the Father will be all in all, but that time is
out of all time. His influence has been deeply felt
in theological circles.

Schopenhauer is known widely from his pessi-
mism. He pronounced the world the worst of all
possible worlds. His study of the power of the
will prevented him from falling into the belief in
annihilation, but he shows great sympathy with
the early Christian ascetics, and with Hindu peni-
tents seeking relief from life in the unconsciousness
of Nirvana.

Herbart opposes absolutism, and has had a larger


number of disciples than any philosopher of the
century except Hegel. He taught that the soul is
a simple and real essence. If it were not simple
its ideas would lie outside of each other, and unity
of thought would be impossible. It is located at
a single point in the brain.

Beneke closely resembles the Scotch realists.
He developed a philosophy based on internal ex-
perience. We know ourselves through self-con-
sciousness and the world through the senses. The
soul is a perfectly immaterial being. The soul of
man differs from the soul of the brute by its spir-
itual character. The difference in the elementary
forces, the possession of hands, language and edu-
cation, are causes of the spiritual superiority of
men over the lower animals.

Trendelenburg taught that the essence of things
came from the creative thought. There is con-
structive motion directed by final causes. When
force and end coincide in the same subject, there is
personality. The soul is a self-realizing final idea.
It is not a result of natural forces, but a principle.
In man it thinks the eternal, and thus is elevated
above the brutes.

Ulrici, of Halle, has become distinguished by
his anti-materialistic discussions. He is recognized
as a master both in philosophy and natural science.


Lotze, of Gottingeii, ranks among the great
philosophers of our century. He was claimed at
first by the Materialists, but he is rather an Idealist.
He declared himself a believer in a personal God.
** Perfect personality is reconcilable only with the
conception of an Infinite Being, for in finite beings
only an approximation to this is attainable." He
held that the origin of the body and of the soul
were simultaneous, and that souls are immortal,
not because of the nature of the substance, but
because they realize such a degree of goodness that
they cannot be lost.

Materialism has had a prominent place in the
discussions in Germany. The Materialists have
been conspicuous in part for their ability, and
more from the boldness of the utterance of a few
of the most radical. Feuerbach, Moleschott, Buch-
ner, Vogt, Czolbe, are gross materialists. Feuer-
bach, first a Hegelian, then an atheist, said "the
ego is the only absolute," and that sensuous enjoy-
ment is the highest good of man. He denied
the immortality of men. Vogt said that "physi-
ology pronounces definitely against the idea of in-
dividual immortality, and indeed against all notions
founded upon that of an independent existence of
the soul." "Psychical activities are only func-


tions of the brain." Buchner took the same
ground. Czolbe was content with the natural
world, in which all that is true and good and
beautiful is found. He ascribes eternity to astro-
nomical bodies, but not to men. Moleschott said
*'a man is what he eats," but did not positively
deny all spiritual elements in us.

Among the more conservative materialists are
Liebig, Du Bois Reymond, Muller, Wagner, and
Virchow. The utterances of these men sometimes
appear grossly materialistic, but each of them in
other connections sets limits to the inferences to be
drawn from their statements of facts. Virchow,
who seems generally to be among the extremists,
announces the principle that science can testify
only to that which comes within its comprehension,
and leaves to faith all other matters. Liebig,
after saying "this mysterious vital principle can
be replaced by the chemical forces," and that "the
true cause of death is the respiratory process," says
"the higher mental phenomena in the present
state of science cannot be referred to their prox-
imate cause, and still less to their ultimate. We
know only that they exist." "Everything in the
organism goes on under the influence of a vital
force, an immaterial agent, which the chemist can-


not employ at will." " Muller said much to re-
habilitate matter," says Prof. Bain. But Muller
bore this testimony: ''There is nothing in the
facts of natural science which argues against the
possibility of the existence of an immaterial prin-
ciple independent of matter, though its powers be
manifested in organic bodies." Wagner supposed
that the soul is a sort of ether in the brain, but he
assails the doctrine of Vogt, and asserts that science
is not sufficiently advanced to decide the question
in regard to the soul, and that the gap should be
filled up by the belief in a permanent mental indi-
vidual substance. He avows his belief in a local
existence after death and the possible return to the
earth in another body. Du Bois Reymond re-
garded the problem of sense-perception insoluble.
"What imaginable connection between distinct
movements of distinct atoms in my brain and facts
primitive for me, incapable of further definition,
beyond all possible denial — facts like these : I feel
pain, I hear the tones of an organ, I see something
red ; and the assurance just as directly flowing
from them: therefore, I am."

Efforts have been made to reconcile materialism
with the doctrine of immortality. Drossbach wrote
several works with this aim. Flugel supposed that


the mental functions are centered in a single atom.
Spiess thought it probable that a germ of higher
order is developed which will render possible indi-
vidual immortality. New systems have been pro-
posed by which the interests of science and relig-
ion might be conserved. A host of able men from
scientific ranks as well as from speculative philoso-
phy have appeared as champions of the old faiths.
When we review the period and sum up results,
we are surprised at the very small number who
have avowed the belief that there is nothing be-
yond the grave.

In France the sensational philosophy had in the
beginning of the present century a few representa-
tives. Cabanis soon died. Destutt de Tracy re-
cedes from the teaching of Condillac in his idea of
externality, which sensation alone cannot give.
De Gerando develops the sensational theory of
langtiage, but in the latter part of his life he
abandoned many of his former principles. The
reaction took two directions : the one from the
side of the Church, and is called the Theological
school ; the other from the side of philosophy,
and is known as the Spiritualistic or Eclectic
school. Keratry and Laromiquiere were forerun-
ners of these schools. Of the Spiritualistic, Royer-


Collard was the founder. He was succeeded by
M. de Biran. Cousin gave it the name of Eclec-
tic. He was the most profound as well as the
most eloquent expounder of its principles. His
philosophy has been charged with pantheistic ten-
dencies, but he disclaimed pantheism. Among his
pupils, Bouillier, Damairon, Jouffroy, Saisset and
Janet, have become eminent. The influence of
the school has been strong in England, America,
Switzerland, Holland, and been felt also in Ger-

Comte, the founder of the Positive Philosophy,
was very pretentious, and has had some following
in France and England. Ivcwes closes his history
with him. He professed to be neither an atheist
nor a theist. He discarded all metaphysics, and
knew nothing but phenomena and the causes im-
manent in the universe. He knew no greater being
than humanity. He had a religion, but its worship
was rendered to women representing the best of
humanity. If any place was left for a future life, it
is of very doubtful tenure.

Among the metaphysical writers now living,
Ribot is decidedly materializing. He predicts that
a day will come when we shall have a psychology
without a soul.


Scientific men, as Ciivier and Quatrefages, in
the name and interest of science alone, have re-
jected materialistic conclusions. The memory of
the results of the cry, "Death is an eternal sleep,''
is too fresh in the French mind to allow any hasty
return to it.

In Scotland the Common Sense Philosophy was
carried over from the last to the present century
by Dugald Stewart. He stoutly opposes material-
ism, but expresses himself cautiously in regard to
the philosophic evidence of another life. "Al-
though we have the strongest evidence that there
is a thinking and sentient principle within us
essentially distinct from matter, yet we have no
direct evidence of the possibility of this principle
exercising its various powers in a separate state
from the body. On the contrary, the union of the
two while it lasts is of the most intimate nature."*
He was succeeded by Dr. Brown, a decided spirit-
ualist, who taught Cosmothetic Idealism. After
Mackintosh, Sir William Hamilton was elected to
the chair of Philosophy in Edinburgh University,
and soon proved himself one of the greatest meta-
physicians of the age. He put Natural Realism
upon a firmer basis, and lifted into respectability

* Quoted bv Bain.


and power a school hitherto decried. He taught
theism and a future life. His most eminent dis-
ciple was Mansel. Calderwood, while dissenting
from Hamilton's Philosophy of the Conditioned,
teaches the Scotch philosophy. His short argu-
ment for a future existence is good.*

James Ferrier, Professor in St. Andrews, criti-
cised the philosophy of Reid, but was idealistic.
Prof. Bain, of Aberdeen, belongs to the Associa-
tional school of England. He emphasizes the in-
fluence of the body upon the mind, and strengthens
the materialistic tendency, but neither affirms nor
denies the distinct substance of the mind.

The Associational school started by Hartley con-

* After he concludes the argument he makes a distinction be-
tween the idea of a future life and immortality. He sa5^s that
"Immortality can not be proven from the immateriality of the
soul, nor its ceaseless activity, nor the ideas of abstract beauty
and goodness, nor its simplicity of being. The finite is not self-
sufiicient. Dependent it must be, dependent for its continu-
ance. Futurity of existence is clearl}^ involved in the facts of
the present; eternity of existence must depend upon the divine
will, and can be known only as a matter of distinct revelation,
not as a matter of metaphysical speculation. All that is great-
est in us points to an immeasurable future. Thither we look
for the solution of many of our dark problems. But immor-
tality, if it be ours, must be the gift of God." — See Handbook
Moral Philosophy^ p. 259.


tinues to live. James Mill brought it over into the
present century. Bentham expounded the morai
principles involved. Grote and other philosophic
writers in history accepted its philosophy. Lewes
combined with it the spirit of Comte. J. Stuart
Mill ranks among its greatest advocates. He
thought that the hope of a future life was phil-
osophically defensible. Herbert Spencer is now
recognized as the chief metaphysician of the
school. He carried its principles into the support
of Evolution.

Huxley, Tyndal, and Darwin, so far as they
accept metaphysical principles, are Association-
alists. The common name applied to them all,
and accepted at least by Huxley, is Agnostics.
They have taken from Hamilton the doctrine of
the relativity of knowledge, and they deny that we
can know anything of the nature of being which
lies back of phenomena. As expressed by J. S.
Mill, we know only series of phenomena. We do
not know what mind is in itself. They claim to
be incompetent to determine anything in regard
to the destiny of the soul. They have accordingly
avoided in general any expression of opinion upon
the subject.

Among writers of materialistic influence are the


younger Ferrier, Maudsley and Carpenter.
Ferrier is the more pronounced. Maudsley, true
to the principle of the Agnostic philosophy, says
*'the nature of mind is a question which science
can not touch," but he proceeds to give an ac-
count of the faculties, including conscience, which
the grossest materialist might accept.

The Evolution theory has its bearing upon the
doctrine of another life. Tylor has attempted in
its interest to account for the belief among
savages. The ablest exponents do not find in the
theory anything necessarily opposed to the hope
of immortality. Darwin is reported to have
written in a private letter near the close of his life
that he did not believe in Theism, but in the early
part of his work said repeatedly that there is no
good reason why his theory should shock the
religious feelings of any one. Mivart very decidedly
asserts that the theory is reconcilable with the
contents of Christianity. Richard Owen agrees
with him. Wallace in a recent work, while
bringing out new facts and principles in support
of the laws of which he was contemporaneously a
discoverer with Darwin, re-affirms the fact that the
human mind does not fall within the theory.

In America, we have some philosophic men


whose names have gone into history: Jonathan
Edwards, Upham, Wayland, Hickok, Mark Hop-
kins, Mahan, Chadbourne, Agassiz, Asa Gray,
Payne, Channing, Bowen and Emerson. Among
those now living, McCosh and Porter are most
widely known. There are a large number of
younger men of great ability, who are studying
the problems of the age. Every one whose name
is here given, except perhaps Emerson, who was
a pantheistic philosophic essayist, was a firm be-
liever in a personal immortality. Not a single
man whose ability as a philosopher has com-
manded recognition, has avowed a contrary faith.
Recently, Dr. McCosh asserted that every professor
of physical science under thirty years of age, in
our respectable colleges, accepts the doctrine of
evolution. If it be true, it is not evolution of the
atheistic type. Prof Fiske, himself a zealous ad-
vocate of the Darwinian theory, finds in it a proof
of immortality. It "shows us distinctly for the
first time how the creation and perfecting of man
is the goal towards which nature's work has all the
while been tending. It develops tenfold the sig-
nificance of human life, places it upon a loftier
eminence than poets or prophets have imagined,
and makes it seem more than ever the chief object


of that creative activity which is manifested in the
physical universe."

From the nature of the proof, it is among phil-
osophers that we expect most doubt in regard to
another life. This review shows us how very few
comparatively of those who have attained distinc-
tion have not regarded it as most probable, if not
certain. Some of those who have denied it have
attracted attention simply by the boldness and
rashness of their utterances. The voice of philos-
ophy as given by her greatest interpreters is very
emphatically for our future existence. We have-
no fears that when the facts being gathered by
natural science shall be summed up, and the
legitimate inference drawn, the result will be dif-
ferent from the intuitive hope of mankind.



'T^HE Pyrrhonist is wrong. There is at least
^ some truth accessible to human minds. We
are sure that we know some things. Life is not a
complete delusion. If we know nothing more, we
are certain, even upon the supposition of skepti-
cism, that it is best to adjust ourselves to circum-
stances and make the most of them. Manifestly
the world is not a haphazard aflfair. There are
some laws, some principles, bringing uniformities
upon which we may form opinions and determine
our conduct. If philosophic theories are all wrong,
and speculative philosophy impossible, there are
some great practical truths which we can never
disregard with safety. The man of aflfairs must
obey the laws of economy, or fail in business. The
court must observe the rules of evidence determin-
ing innocency and guilt, or it inflicts the greatest
wrongs. The student must regard the laws of
mental acquisition, or he remains in ignorance.
Disregard of the laws of hygiene brings disease and
early death. No one really doubts the facts of


experience. Practical result is a test of truth.
Nothing is false which brings always good results,
and nothing is true which always bears bad fruits.
The test is not directly applicable to a large part
of speculative philosophy; but so far as it can be
applied, the world has no hesitation in forming its
opinion, and no doubt as to the correctness of its
judgment. Experience and reason unite to con-
demn as false a principle whose consequences are
always hurtful. The decision rendered in the light
of practical influences is final. We will try the
doctrine of another life by this criterion.

The disbelief in a future life is injurious to moral
character. In a perfect state, men may do right
because it is right. Persons trained in a moral
atmosphere, with ideas of right and wrong formed
tinder the influence of the doctrine of the immor-
tality of man, may find a beauty and good in virtue
that sustain a beautiful character without any re-
spect to ends beyond the present life. But that is
not the character of men as they appear in history.
They "see and approve the better, but follow the
worse." The insubordinate passions need to be
restrained by law; but there can be no law, at least
for disordered nature, without penalty. The de-
sign of penalty is to secure obedience; and the


greater and more certain the punishment, the more
uniform the obedience. Great penalties are neces-
sary to hold in check the inordinate desires of our
corrupt nature. But if this life is all, every punish-
ment is temporary, every reward transient, and
death swallows up guilt and innocence, pain and
pleasure, in utter annihilation. Retribution may
often be escaped in this world, and even if the
worst comes it is soon over; but if there is another
life, escape is no longer possible, and the punish-
ment is forever prolonged. How much the world
needs this restraint is seen from the corruptions in
society in spite of the belief of everlasting penalty.
The lovely character of a few who have abandoned
the belief in a future life, offers no serious difficulty
to this conclusion; for both their character and idea
of virtue have been formed under other influences,
and remain in defiance of the natural consequences
of their new faith. The philosophy which per-
suades men that they die like beasts, cannot long
sustain them in a life above that of the beast.

If morality is anything more than a wider pru-
dence it is founded upon eternal truth, and the
obligation is eternal. But if this life is all, our
relations are limited and temporal, and for us there
can be no true morality. We are only more saga-


cioiis animals, and moral character is a delusion.
Right and wrong are priestcraft and statecraft, and
we may rid ourselves of the shackles, and disregard
these laws, when we can do so without serious per-
sonal injury. If a man believes in a life hereafter
he will be more correct in his character, both be-
cause of the penalty and the higher conception of
moral obligation, than he will be if he does not.
An infidel may, from the force of early training,
be a better man than another who believes; but
the same man will have a better character because
of his faith in a future life than he will without it.
As this is true of individuals, it must be true of
society. The loss of faith in a future life must
therefore degrade society.

Philosophic men have frequently noted the rela-
tion of the belief in another life to moral character.
Polybius said that there is a need of the dread of the
invisible to keep in subordination the insubordi-
nate passions. He praised the ancients who intro-
duced among the people the belief of the gods and
the things of a future world. He pronounced the
superstition with which the Roman people had
been reproached the firmest pillar of the Roman
State.* Strabo, the celebrated geographer, agreed

* Neander.


with the great historian. He said that the multi-
tude of women and the entire mass of common
people cannot be led to piety by philosophy. For
this purpose superstition is necessary, which must
call in the aid of myths and tales of wonder.
These things the founders of the States employed
as bugbears to awe childish people. * So the states-
men of that day, when they had lost faith in the
popular religion and pronounced it superstition,
upheld the public worship as a necessary means of
restraining the masses. Voltaire regarded the be-
lief in an avenging and rewarding God as the
necessary support to morals, and said: *'If God did
not exist it would be necessary to invent one." f
Condorcet said that "Voltaire remained in almost
absolute uncertainty as to the spirituality of the
soul and its permanence after the death of the
body; but as he believed the last opinion useful,
like the belief in the existence of God, he rarely
allowed himself to show his doubts, and almost
always insisted more on the proofs than the objec-
tions." t Robespierre declared before the French
National Convention, that "the idea of a Supreme

* Geography In. Ch. 2, Sec. 8.
t Ueberweg, History of Philos.
t Cairns, Rationalism of XVIII. Cen.


Being and of the immortality of the soul is a con-
tinual call to justice, and no nation can succeed
without the recognition of these truths."* Fred-
erick the Great fostered atheism, and lived long
enough to observe its fruits upon the morals of his
people. When an old man he said he would give
his best battle to restore the popular faith as it was
at the time of his father's death. Mazzini ob-
served that "the doctrine of materialism is the
philosophy of all epochs which are withering to
the grave, and of all nations sinking to ex-
tinction." The causes which make materialism
acceptable to a people, find in it when intro-
duced a most powerful ally in their destructive
work. Huber said, "We dare not allow the spirit
of the idealistic philosophy to be lost, if we are to
have any guarantee of a great and happy future for
our native land." Rudolph Wagner, the eminent
German naturalist, in a controversy with Vogt,
maintained the belief in a future life as necessary
to moral order. He said at the meeting in Gottin-
gen, "The morality which flows from scientific
materialism may be comprehended within these
few words : 'lyCt us eat and drink, for to-morrow
we die.' All noble thoughts are but vain dreams,

* Hurst, History of Rationalism.


the effusions of automata with two arms, running
about on two legs, which, being finally decom-
posed into chemical atoms, combine themselves
anew, resembling the dance of lunatics in a mad-
house." To the address of which this was a part,
Vogt replied only with sneers.

Some of the materialistic and skeptical philoso-
phers have ventured to give utterance to some of
the moral ideas which follow from the denial of a
future life, and indicate the character which issues.
Hobbes said that the civil law is the only founda-
tion of right and wrong, and every man has a right
to all things, and may get them if he can with
safety to himself. Bolingbroke said that as long as
sensuality and avarice can be safely indulged they
may be lawfully gratified; that as man lives only
in this world, he is only a superior animal, and that
the chief end of man is to gratify the inclinations

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Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 18 of 19)