Abraham Kuyper.

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the life of that cosmos along with it, and by our life itself
we should have ruled it.

In this state of things, the imiversality and necessity,
which are the indispensable characteristics of our knowledge
of the cosmos if it is to bear the scientific stamp, would
not have clashed with our subjectivism. Though it is in-
conceivable that in a sinless development of our race all
individuals would have been uniform repetitions of the self-
same model ; and though it must be maintained, that only
in the multiform individualization of the members of our
race lies the mark of its organic character ; yet in the ab-
sence of a disturbance, this multiformity Avould have been as
harmonious, as now it works unharmoniously . With mutual
supplementation there would have been no conflict. And
there would have been no desire on the part of one indi-
vidual subject to push other subjects aside, or to trans-
form the object after itself. That this disturbance, alas, did
occur, from which subjectivism sprang as a cancer to poison
our science, comes under consideration later. Only let it here
be observed how entirely natural it is for thinkers who deny


the disturbance by sin, to represent science to this day as an
absolute power, and are thereby forced either to limit science
to the " sciences exactes," or to interpret it as a philosophic
system, after whose standards reality must be distorted.

The first tendency has prevailed in England, the second in
Germany. The first tendenc}', no doubt, arose also in France,
but the name of " sciences exactes^'''' as appears from the added
term exactes, lays no claim to science as a ivJiole. In England,
however, science^ in its absolute sense, is more and more the
exclusive name for the natural sciences ; while the honorary
title of "scientific" is withheld from psychological inves-
tigations. Herein lies an honest intention, which deserves
appreciation. It implies the confession that only that
which can be weighed and measured sufficiently escapes
the hurtful influence of subjectivism to bear an absolute, i.e.
an universal and necessary character; even in the sense that
the bare data obtained by such investigations, by repeated
experiments, are raised to infallibility, and as such are com-
pulsory in their nature. And such — we by no means deny
— all science ought to be. But however honestly this theory
may be intentioned, it is nevertheless untenable. First in so
far as even the most assiduous students of these sciences
never confine themselves to mere weighing and measuring^
but, for the sake of communicating their thoughts and of
exerting an influence upon reality and common opinion,
formulate all manner of conclusions and hypothetical propo-
sitions tainted by subjectivism, which are at heart a denial
of their own theory. Only remember Darwinism ; the fun-
damental opposition which it meets with from men of repute
shows that it has no compulsory character, and hence does
not comply with the demands of the sciences. But also in
the second place this theory is untenable, because it either
ignores the spiritual, in order to maintain the ponderable,
world, and thus ends in pure materialism, or it ignores every-
organic relation between the ponderable and the spiritual
world and thereby abandons the science of the cosmos as

The second tendency stands much higher, and, by reason of


the power of German thought, has ever led the van, and vigor-
ously maintained the demand that science should lead to an
organic knowledge of the entire cosmos, derived from one
principle. Unfortunately, however, this theory, which with
u sinless development would have been entirely correct,
and is still correct in an ideal sense, no longer meets
the actual state of things, partly because the investigating
subjects stand inharmoniously opposed to one another, and
partly because all sorts of anomalies have gained an entrance
into the object. Only think of human language and of the
conflict that has been waged abont analogies and anomalies
since the days of the Soi^hists and Alexandrians ! If, from
this point of view, the disturbance of the harmony in the
subject as well as in the object fails to be taken into ac-
count, and the effort is persisted in logically to explain the
discord from one principle, one ends in speculation which
does not impart an understanding of the cosmos, but either
imagines a cosmos which does not exist, or pantheistically
destroys every boundary line, till finally the very difference
betw^een good and evil is made to disappear.

Truly the entire interpretation of science, applied to the
cosmos as it presents itself to us now, and is studied by the
subject " man " as he now exists, is in an absolute sense gov-
erned by the question whether or no a disturbance has been
brought about by sin either in the object or in the subject of

This all-determining point will therefore claim our atten-
tion in a special section, after the character of the spiritual
sciences shall have been separately examined.

§ 42. Tlie jSpiritual /Sciences

If the cosmos, man included, consisted exclusively of pon-
derable things, the study of the cosmos would be much
simpler than it is now, but there would be no subject to
appropriate this knowledge. Hence science has no right to
complain that the cosmos does not consist of mere matter.
It is to this very fact that science owes its existence. Mean-
while we cannot overestimate the difficulty of obtaining a


science, worthy of the name, of the spiritual side of the
cosmos. This difficulty is threefold.

In the first place all the psychic, taken in the ordinary
sense, is amorphic, from which it follows that the morpho-
logic capacity of our consciousness, by which we form an
image of the object and place it before us, must here remain
inactive. Thus while, in the tracing of relations in all that
is ponderable, our understanding finds a point of support
in the representation of the elements among which these
relations exist, here this point of support is altogether want-
ing. This does not imply that the object of these sciences
is unreal ; for even with the sciences of ponderable objects
your understanding never penetrates to the essence. In
your representation you see the form (^fjLopcf)'^} ; you follow
the relations (Jtvac^opai) with your thinking ; but the essence
{ovaia') lies bej'ond your reach. This does not imply that
tlie spiritual objects may not have something similar among
themselves, to what in the non-spiritual we understand b}'^
liop^rj ; the forma in the Avorld of thought rather suggests
the contrary ; but in either case these forms are a secret to
us, and our consciousness is not able to take them up and
communicate them to our ego. And since as somatic-psychic
beings we are naturally inclined to assimilate every object
both plastically and logically, we certainl}^ feel a want with
respect to this in the spiritual domain. This want induces
us all too easily to interpret this entire realm logically only,
and so to promote a false intellectualism or a dangerous

The second difficulty under which the spiritual sciences
labor is the instability of their object. You can classify
minerals, plants and animals, and though in these classi-
fications you must ever be prepared for variations and
anomalies, nevertheless certain fixed marks can be deter-
mined to distinguish class from class. But with the
spiritual sciences, which constantly bring you in touch
with man, this rule evades you. Even the classification
according to sex frequently suffers shipwreck upon effemi-
nate men and mannish women. In " man " only does there


assert itself to its fullest extent that individuality which
principle resists every effort to generalize, and thus obstructs
the way to the universal and necessary character of your
science. You find a certain number of phenomena in
common, but even these common properties are endlessly
modified. And the worst is that in proportion as an indi-
vidual is a richer object, and thus would offer the more
abundant material for observation, the development of his
individuality is the stronger, and by so much the less does
such an individual lend himself to comparison. From a
sharply defined character there are almost no conclusions
to be drawn.

And along with this amorphic and unstable characteristic a
third difficulty is that in most of the spiritual sciences you are
dependent upon the self-communication of your object. It
is true, you can study man in his actions and habits. His
face tells you something ; his eye still more. But if it is
your desire to obtain a somewhat more accurate knowledge
of the spiritual phenomena in him, in order to become ac-
quainted with him, there must be in him : (1) a certain
knowledge of himself, and (2) the power and will to reveal
himself to you. If, then, as a result of all such self-communi-
cation you desire to form some opinion on the spiritual phe-
nomenon which you investigate, especially in connection
with what has been said above, such self-communication
must be made by a great number of persons and amid all
sorts of circumstances. Moreover, many difficulties arise
in connection with this self -communication of your object.
(1) Most people lack sufficient self-knowledge. (2) So
many people lack the ability to impart to you their self-
knowledge. (3) Much is told as though it were the result
of self-knowledge, which is in reality only the repetition
of what others have said. (4) Man}^ do not want to
reveal themselves, or purposely make statements that mis-
lead. (5) Self-knowledge is frequently connected with inti-
mate considerations or facts which are not communicable.
(6) With the same individual this self-communication will
be wholly different at one time from another. And (7) a right


understanding of what one tells you requires generally
such a knowledge of his past, character, and manner of life
as is only obtained from a very few persons. It is most
natural, therefore, that in recent times the young child has
been taken as the object of observation, for the reason that
with the child these difficulties are materially lessened ; but
this is balanced again by the fact that, because of its im-
maturity, the child expresses so little.

Thus we find that the difficulty in the way of the spiritual
sciences does not lie in the mystery of the essence of their
object. With the exact sciences the essence is equally mjs-
terious. Neither does the difficulty of these sciences lie
simply in the amorphic character of their object, or, if you
please, in the lack of tangible elements. But the knowledge
of the relations of the object of these sciences is so difficult
to be obtained, because these relations are so uncertain in
their manifestation and are therefore almost always bound to
the self-communication of the object. It is noteworthy how
slow the progress of these sciences is, especially when com-
pared with the rapid progress of the exact sciences ; and the
more so since the effort has been made to apply to them the
method of the natural sciences.

Symbolism, mythology, personification, and also poetry,
music and almost all the fine arts render us invaluable ser-
vice as interpretations of what is enacted within the spiritual
realm, but by themselves they offer us no scientific knowl-
edge. Symbolism is founded upon the analogy and the
inner affinity, which exist between the visible and invisible
creation. Hence, it is not only an imperfect help, of which
we may avail ourselves since our forms of thought are bor-
rowed from the visible, but it represents a reality which is
confirmed in our own human personality by the inner and
close union of our somatic-psychic existence. Without
that analogy and that inner affinity there would be no
unity of perception possible, nor unity of expression for
our two-sided being as man. Your eye does not see ; your
ego sees, but through your eye ; and this use of your eye
could not effect the act of your seeing, if in the reflection


of light in your eye there were no actual analogy io that
which your ego does when you see something through
your eye. And thougli this analogy may weaken when ap-
plied to the other parts of the cosmos, in proportion as their
affinity to man becomes more limited, we cannot escape
from the impression that this analogy is everywhere present.
With the aid of this symbolical tendency mythology seeks to
represent the spiritual powers as expressions of mysterious
persons. And though with us the life of the imagination is
subjected too greatly to the verification of our thinking, for
us to appreciate such a representation, we constantly feel the
need of finding in personification useful terms for our utter-
ances and for the interpretation of our feelings. In fact, our
entire language for the psychic world is founded upon this
symbolism. Although in later days, without remembrance
of this symbolism, many words have purposely been formed
for psychical phenomena, the onomatopepoiemena excepted, all
words used to express psychical perception or phenomena are
originally derived by the way of symbolism from the visible
world. And where poetry, music, or whatever art comes in to
cause us to see or hear, not merely the beautiful in the form,
but also the interpretation of the i^sychic, it is again on the
ground of a similar analogy between the visible and invisible,
that they cause us to hear something in verse or in musical
rhythm, or to see something by means of the chisel or the
pencil which affects our psychical life or teaches it to under-
stand itself. Indeed, in the affinity between the visible
and invisible part of the cosmos, and in the analogy founded
on it, there lies an invaluable means of affecting the psychi-
cal life and of bringing it to utterance ; but however richly
and beautifully the world of sounds may be able to inter-
pret and inspire our inner life, it offers no building material
for scientific knowledge. Moreover, with all these expressions
of art you must always reckon with the individuality of the
artist who enchants your eye or ear, which sometimes expresses
itself very strongly, so that with all the products of art, inde-
pendent of sin and falsehood, which have invaded this realm
also, the above-mentioned objection of individuality returns.


If the empiricism of symbolism is of very limited service
to us, the empiricism of the more general expressions of the
psychic life is equally unhelpful. The method of tracing the
expressions of the intellectual, ethic, social, juridic, esthetic
and religious life among the different nations through the
course of time is justifiable, and it must be granted that the
similarity and the similar process of these phenomena among
different nations warrant certain conclusions concerning the
character of these life-utterances ; but by itself this historic-
comparative study offers no sufficiently scientific knowledge
of the psychical life itself. Because you know that water
descends upon the mountains mostly in the form of snow ;
that there it forms glaciers ; that these glaciers melt ; and
that first as foaming torrents, and then as a navigable
stream, the Avater puslies forward to the ocean, your scien-
tific knowledge of water is not yet complete. And really
this historic -comparative study of the moral, social and re-
ligious life of the nations teaches us not much more. Hence
though we would not question for a single moment the rela-
tive right and usefulness of these studies, we emphatically
deny that these studies constitute the real prosecution of the
spiritual sciences. You may excel in all these studies, and
not know the least thing about your own soul, which subject-
ively forms the centre of all psychic investigation. And
what is more serious still, in this way you run a great risk
of, unknown to yourself, falsifying the object of your sci-
ence, if not of denaturalizing it. Apply, for instance, this
method to the science of law, and you must form the conclu-
sion that existing law only is law. Since this existing law
constantly modifies itself according to the ideas of law
that are commonl}^ accepted, all antithesis between laAvful
and unlawful becomes at last a floating conception, and
law degenerates into an official stipulation of the tempora-
rily predominating ideas concerning mutual relationships.
Thus you deprive law of its eternal principles ; you falsify
the sense of law, which by nature still speaks in us ; and
your so-called study of law degenerates into a study of
certain phenomena, which you mark with the stamp of


law. For though it is asserted that the idea of law de-
velops itself with an inner impulse in the process of these
phenomena; yet this may never be taken naturalistically, in
the form of a physiological process; and you should know
the idea of law, which is entirely different from these phe-
nomena, before you will be able critically to analyze the
phenomenon of law. And thus we see in fact the simplest
principles of law pass more and more into discredit, and the
rise of two factions which, each in turn, call lawful what
the other condemns as unlawful. This antithesis is especially
prominent in its application to the conceptions of personal
property and capital punishment. One wants violated law to
be revenged on the murderer, while to the other he is simply
an object of pity, as a victim of atavism. Every existing law
(jus constitutum) declares, that property must be protected
by law, but the anarchist declares that in the ideal law
(jus constituendum) all property must be avenged as theft.
Though, therefore, without hesitation we concede that the
dominion of symbolism points to a strong analogy between
things " seen " and " unseen " ; and though we readily grant
that the naturalistic method, by historic comparative study,
is productive of rich results also for the spiritual sciences; we
emphatically deny that the study of the spiritual sciences
can be entirely bound to the method of the natural sciences.
The cause of this difference is that the science of things
" seen " is built up (1) from the sensuous perception or ob-
servation of the elements by our senses, and (2) from the
logical knowledge of the relations which exist among these
elements by our thinking. This, however, is impossible
with the spiritual sciences. In the object of this science
the same distinction must be made between the real ele-
ments and their relations. But, fitted to bring us in con-
nection with the elements of the things " seen," our senses
refuse to render this service with reference to the elements
of the things "unseen." Moreover, it is self-evident that
the logical knowledge of the relations, which by itself
would be insufficient, becomes floating, while the elements
among which they exist are not known. The plastic ca-


pacity of our mind, which, by means of the senses, is able
to take up into itself the elements of the things "seen,"
remains here inactive, and the logical capacity is insuf-
ficient by itself to form conceptions and judgments. If,
nevertheless, the effort is made to treat these spiritual
sciences after the method of things " seen," a double
self-deception is committed : unknowingly one changes the
object and unconsciously one chooses his point of support in
something not included in this method. The object is
changed when, as in Theology for instance, not God but
religion is made the object of investigation, and religion only
in its expressions. And something is chosen as point of de-
parture which this method does not warrant, when the notion
or the idea of religion is borrowed from one's own subject.

The question therefore is, what renders the service in
the spiritual sciences, which the representation-capacity
in connection with the senses effects in things "seen."
Since the object of the spiritual sciences is itself spiritual,
and therefore amorphic, our senses not only, but the repre-
sentation-capacity as well, render here no service. If no
other means is substituted, the spiritual object remains be-
yond the reach of our scientific research, and spiritual phe-
nomena must either be interpreted materialistically as the
product of material causes, or remain agnostically outside of
our science, even as the present English use of the word science
prescribes. This result, however, would directly conflict
with what experience teaches. Again and again it appears
that there are all sorts of spiritual things which we know
with far greater certainty than the facts which are brought
us by the observation of things " seen." The sense of right,
the sense of love, the feeling of hatred, etc., appear again and
again to have a much more real existence in our consciousness
than many a member of our own body. And though the
idealism of Fichte in its own one-sidedness may have outrun
itself, you nevertheless cease to be man when the reality of
spiritual things is not more certain to you than what by in-


vestigatioii you know of plant and animal. If we maintain
the etymological root-idea of science, in the sense that what
is known forms its content, you maim your science when you
deny it access to spiritual objects.

There is no other course therefore than to construct tlie
spiritual sciences /row the subject itself ; provided you do not
(verlook that the subject of science is not this ini[uirer or
that, but the human consciousness in general. It was seen
that with visible things all distinguishing knowledge would
be inconceivable, if the archetypic receptivity for these
objects were not present, microcosmically, in the human
consciousness. And with reference to spiritual objects it
may in a like sense be postulated, that the presence of such
an archetypic receptivity for right, love, etc., is also found
in our consciousness. Otherwise, these would simply have
no existence for us. But with this receptivity by itself the
task is not ended. An action must be exerted by the object
of your science upon this receptivity. It is indifferent for the
present whether this action comes to you mediately or im-
mediately. We do not become aware of right, for instance,
as a poetic product of our own spirit, but as a power which
dominates us. We perceive the working of that power even
when our feeling for right is not aroused, as in a concrete
case by an occurrence outside of us. Entirely independently
of the revelation, violation or application of right in given
circumstances, we know that we must do right; and this
sense cannot be in us, except that power of right, to which
we feel ourselves subjected, moves and touches us in our
inner being. This becomes possible since we possess the re-
ceptivity for right, but is only established when right itself,
as a power which dominates us, works upon that receptivity,
and by it enters into our consciousness. The question lying
back of this, whether right itself exists as universal, or is
simply an expression for what exists in God, need not detain
i,is. It is enough as long as we but know that in the
taking-up of the object of the spiritual sciences as well as
in the perception of the ol)ject of the natural sciences, we
must distincruish in the object lietween the element and its


relations, and in our consciousness between the correspond-
ing perception of the element and examination of its rela-
tions. Always with this difference in view, that in the
world of matter the element works upon our consciousness
through the senses, Avhich provokes the action of the power
of representation ; while with the spiritual sciences the
element does not work upon the senses, neither through the
representation, but in keeping with its spiritual nature
affects our consciousness subjectively, and finds a recep-
tivity in our subject which renders this emotion possible.
And this emotion may be constant, and thus result in a
permanent sense, or it may be accidental, in which case it
falls under the conception of inspiration. In the trans-
mission of the object of the spiritual sciences into our
consciousness the same process takes place as in the dis-

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 10 of 64)