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of the field of consciousness and limited our
knowledge to that of the phenomena. In de-
claring the noumena to be in themselves unknow-
able he wisely followed Aristotle, who had said,
H uXt) ayvwaToq xaff aurr^v^ Matter in itself is Un-

Admitting, then, that the mind has no imme-
diate dealing with matter, are we shut up to
eternal ignorance of the outer world ? It is by
some said that Kant should have been so con-
sistent with himself as to reject the things in

* Henry Smith, Thought. " Metaph., vii. (vi.), chap. x.


themselves and to hold a purely idealistic ground ;
but there is some reason to doubt the positions
taken by those who came after him in this re-
spect ; and this for the simple reason that a purely
subjective idealism, unfruitful of any knowledge
of aught above or aught below itself, is as unsat-
isfactory in its way as Spinozism, which finds its
single ground in the Divine and ignores both
spirit and matter ; or again as materialism, which
ignores everything above its plane, whether
finitely spiritual or absolutely Divine. We must
hold Kant to be consistent when he says, " Be-
hind phenomena are things in themselves which,
though hidden, are the conditions of phenomena.^
. . . The conception of noumena is not only possi-
ble, but necessary.^ . . . By means of practical
postulates we learn that there are objects corre-
sponding to ideas." ^

If, then, matter cannot be ignored without
turning our ideas into phantasies, and if never-
theless it is impossible to know matter immedi-
ately, how can we know it ? The answer is, of
course, that we know it through our sensations

1 Pure Eeason, p. 307. ^ Practical Keason, p. 46.

» Page 141.


whicli come over a wire, as it were, at one end
of which the mind is and at the other that which
originates the sensation, namely, the body. This
is common philosophical ground. For example,
in Walter's " Perception of Space and Matter"
we read, "By ordinary inference from ideas,
sensations, and perceptions we are able to gain
a trustworthy knowledge of matter. In the
muscular sense something resists our volition.
Touch gives magnitude."^ Bain says in his
" Senses and Intellect," " The sum total of all
the occasions for putting forth active energy, or
for conceiving this as possible to be put forth, is
an external world. This leads us to form to our-
selves an abstraction that comprehends all our
experience, past and present, and all the experi-
ence of others, which abstraction is the utmost
that our minds can attain to respecting an ex-
ternal or material world." ^ Bascom, with equal
care, speaks thus in his " Science of Mind,"
" What the mind directly knows must be purely
mental, what it indirectly knows are the phe-
nomena interpreted by its own experience. Did
not perception constantly involve inference, per-

1 Boston, 1879, p. 405. 2 jq-gw York, 1879, p. 377.


ception and consciousness would give but one
and the same set of data, and the distinction
would disappear." ^

Thus it would appear that by an inference,
which it would be insanity not to make, the
material world is known, of course most inti-
mately by every one in his own body, and less in-
timately, but not less accurately, in other forms.
All scientific knowledge is immediately of ideas
alone, but inferentially and accurately of beasts
and trees and rocks.

If it be granted that nescience as to the mate-
rial world is irrational, and that matter is indeed
knowable, a brief survey of our possible knowl-
edge of the Divine may next be made.

"No one will deny that we can know another,
for example, a near friend from whom we derive
information and in whose companionship we find
joy. The ideas which come to us by hearing
while our eyes are looking upon a beloved face
never bring with them any doubt of the reality
of the friend unless we have previous reason for
indulging a temporary doubt of the healthful
working of our organs. "When a man says that

1 New York, 1881, p. 113.


he knows another, he means that by experience
he has been made certain of his existence, has
at first perceived him only externally, but has
gradually been made aware of the emotions and
thoughts of his friend, who has not only con-
vinced him thus of his possession of a distinct
personality, but has also displayed that similarity
of purpose or sympathetic quality of heart which
has made the two one in a real sense. Pythago-
ras defined friendship as one soul in two bodies.
They are, of course, not one, but at one.

This knowledge of another is as trustworthy
as the knowledge of one's own body, and is even
more easy to gain than a knowledge of matter
in general, because the other, being a spirit, is
on the same plane of life. With our eyes of
flesh we see only the friend's body, but we may
know him as to his spirit much more thoroughly
than we know his body. Indeed, we may never
have seen the general of our army or the presi-
dent of our nation, and yet we may have come
to know this one or that by other means suffi-
ciently to put a rational trust in the honesty, or to
feel a well-grounded distrust in the dishonesty
or incapacity, of general or president.

iJTow, if we are to know the Divine at all, it


must be as another whom we have not seen in
His person. Knowledge of the Divine is more
than an inference as to its existence. It is more
than an examination of the arguments which
were reviewed above in their own place. We
may conclude that there is every reason for be-
lieving that Washington did exist or that Glad-
stone does exist without having any knowledge
of them except remotely and partially; but if
we are to know God or man sufficiently to justify
the use of the word knowledge, we must have
some relation with them. Experience must
enter into the acquaintance. We must know
" not because of thy saying," ^ as the Samaritans
said to the woman, but must know actually,
rationally, indisputably.

We certainly cannot know God in His un-
manifested infinity ; of that which so far tran-
scends us we can only use negative terms, —

" Being above all beings ! Mighty One

Whom none can comprehend and none explore I

"Who fill'st existence with thyself alone, —
Embracing all, supporting, ruling o'er, —
Being whom we call God and know no more !

And thought is lost ere thought can soar so high,

Even like past moments in eternity.'"

* John iv. 42. ' Derzhavin.


But this impossibility of adequately conceiving
of the Divine should not lead men, as before
remarked, to suppose that they can know in
religion only rules of conduct. Even in the
material world we find a limit beyond which it
is too vast for us. But the scientist, knowing
but little of the world, knows enough to affirm
it and to claim acquaintance with it. Even with
a friend it is not necessary to know everything
of his secret thoughts before we can feel at one
with him. It is not necessary to be as wise as
God in order to know Him sufficiently and very
much as a child knows its parent whose vastly
greater wisdom it does not fathom.

The boundlessness of the Divine qualities is no
bar to our knowledge, if they be qualities lead-
ing to friendship and not to aversion. To say,
" Thou art great and doest wondrous things.
Thou art God alone," ^ is not to confess inability
to know Him with sufficient certainty, but rather
to declare that the mind rests in a sense of its
inferiority to Him as contentedly as in a sense of
its superiority to the body.

It is not only reasonable to conclude that the

* Psalm Ixxxvi. 10.
M 23


God who made all things is most like the most
perfect of His creations, namely, man ; but it is
also easy to conclude that His capacity is such
that He can make Himself known, and that He
has in man the most adequate means of mani-
festing Himself. A finite man would, to he sure,
reveal God only in the very inadequate degree
seen in Moses or Socrates ; but one of such an
origin as the Christ might reveal Him fully, or
with increasing fulness as He grew in grace, till
at length the glorified Christ, with face as the
sun, would reveal God as fully as man can ask.
" All mine are thine and thine are mine." ^

Avoiding a repetition of what has been already
said as to this manifestation, let me only meet
the question. Can we know the Christ ? If He
be known only historically we do not know
Him, and thus do not know the Divine in any
adequate sense. We may not doubt that the
Gospel account is true, but to assent to it is not
to know the Divine as we know ourselves, our
friends, and the external world.

In his " Oriental Christ" Mozoomdar gives
this experience : "I sat near the large lake in

* John xvii. 10.


the Hindu College compound, in Calcutta. It
was a week-day evening. I was meditating on
the state of my soul, on the cure of all spiritual
wretchedness, the brightness and peace unknown
to me, which was the lot of God's children. I
prayed and besought Heaven. Suddenly, it
seemed to me, let me own, it was revealed to me,
that close to me there was a holier, more blessed,
more loving personality, upon which I might
repose my troubled head. The response of my
nature was unhesitating and immediate. Jesus,
from that day, to me became a reality whereon I
might lean." ^

Such was the experience of the Oriental, for
no one can doubt that the account is truthful.
Varied according to temperaments, it would be
that of all those who can truly say that they
know God in the Christ. The zealot, on his way
to Damascus as a Jewish hater of Christians, was
quickly convinced of his error, and could never
thereafter doubt nor be " disobedient unto the
heavenly vision." ^ The language of Thomas k
Kempis is not extravagant : " All the glory and

1 Published Boston, 1883, p. 11.

2 Acts xxvi. 19.

268 1's:e human and its

beauty of the Christ are manifested within . . .
and the peace that He brings passeth all under-
standing."^ All the way down the Christian
centuries there have been some who could say,
even under threats of martyrdom, that they
knew the Christ, and, though once called mystics
with a degree of contempt, they have endured,
and their numbers have increased. I^atural re-
ligion, with its general perception of the imma-
nent God in nature, needs to have no scorn for
that more intimate, even personal, relation which
the Christ enables one to form with the Divine, —
a relation unknown to idolatrous antiquity and
unknovni to Christian formalism, but definitely
promised by the Christ, — " I am with you always : ^
where two or three are gathered together in my
name, there am I in the midst of them," ^ and
so easily realized that a writer says with truth,
" Christ never was more really in the world than
He is now. He is as much to those who love
Him and believe on Him as He was to the
friends in Bethany. . . . "We may form with
Him an actual relation of personal friendship

* Imitation of Christ. ^ Matthew xxviii. 20.

' Matthew xviii. 20.


wliich will grow closer as the years go on,
deepening with each new experience." ^

The philosopher must remove himself from
all that is irrational, whether it goes under the
name ot Christian theology or otherwise, but to
regard the Christ as the greatest of all teachers
is to bring the reason into the largest light and
the ftillest liberty, " the liberty of the glory of
the children of God."^

" All knowledge is a gathering into one," said
Priscianus, and these knowables, the spirit, the
Christ, and the flesh, are not to be thought as
three disjoined worlds, but as mutually related,
reciprocally active, and finding their meeting
point in that which is midway between the
Divine and the material, namely, the spirit, the
mind. It looks upward to its Lord in prayer
and in service, it looks inward with the ability
which man alone of all created forms of life
possesses and which makes him a philosopher,
and it looks downward and outward to the flesh
and the world. In its relation to the Divine it
finds the purposes of life, in its own intelligence

1 Silent Tunes, by J. E. Miller, D.D., p. 23.

2 Romans viii. 21.



it finds tlie means of realizing those purposes,
and in the outer world it produces from its pur-
poses by the means or causes which the mind
supplies the effects, which are words and deeds.
So is humanity one from its Source to its out-
mosts. The worlds of spirit and matter are one
because they are the homes of men, and the
Creator and created are one because both are
human, the one absolutely such, the other finitely
such; but here is no mystery, for the Word,
which was with God and which was God, and by
which all things were made, and in which was
life, " was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of
grace and truth." ^ " For of Him and through
Him and unto Him are all things." ^

" All human knowledge," says Morell, " rests
upon the three notions of nature, man, and
God."^ And this is only repeating the great
first note of Holy Scripture : " In the beginning
God created the heavens and the earth ;" * for
man, while he dwells upon the earth, is not in
place if he be earthy, and in the heavens — that is,
in a spiritual life — he is truly a man. " Knowl-

^ John i. 1, 14. ^ Romans xi. 36.

' Modern Philosophy, ii. 466. * Genesis i. 1.


edge," said Spencer, "is permanent conscious-
ness." ^ Precisely, it is the permanent conscious-
ness of the self in its relations upward and
downward; it is a consciousness which is "a
temple of the living God," ^ — " a house not made
with hands, eternal in the heavens." ^

" That we do know" is the distinct and per-
manent self, its recipiency, its reagency, its free
agency, its inheritance which affects but does
not determine its acts, its trinal form, its rela-
tions testifying of the Divine, its immortality, —
aspects which are fully presented in the teach-
ings of the Christ, — in whom we have certain
knowledge of God and spirit and matter. When
the Christ said to Mcodemus, " "We speak that
we do know and testify that we have seen," He
used the plainest terms to declare what was
known to Him, and what any man may know by
the aid of the Christ Whose light lighteth every
man that cometh into the world, and Who prom-
ised that His disciples should know the truth.

1 First Principles, p. 142. ^ 2 Corinthians vi. 16.

* 2 Corinthians v. 1.

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Online LibraryTheodore Francis WrightThe human and its relation to the divine ... → online text (page 13 of 13)