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mitting human life to clerical control. The apparently
destructive tendency of modern times, which arouses
fear and the foreboding of evil in the minds of many of
the best of men, seems to me to be not mainly an intel-
lectual movement. It has its intellectual side, but that
side is the least important, and touches comparatively
few souls. The true core of it is a firm resolve of men
to know the right at first hand, which has grown out of
the strong impulse given to the moral sense by political


freedom. Such a resolve is a necessary condition to
the existence of a pure and noble theism like that of
the third discourse, 1 which learns what God is like by
thinking of man's love for man. Although that doctrine
has been prefigured and led up to for many ages by the
best teaching of Englishmen, and what is far more
important by the best practice of Englishmen, yet it
cannot be accepted on a large scale without what will
seem to many a decline of religious belief. (For assuredly
if men learn the nature of God from the moral sense
of man, they cannot go on believing the doctrines of
popular theology. \ Such change of belief is of small
account in itself, for any consequences it can bring
about ; but it is of vast importance as a symptom of the
increasing power and clearness of the sense of duty.

On the other hand there is one ' decline of religious
belief,' inseparable from a revolution in human conduct,
which would indeed be a frightful disaster to mankind.
A revival of any form of sacerdotal Christianity would
be a matter of practice and not a matter of theory. The
system which sapped the foundations of patriotism in
the old world ; which well-nigh eradicated the sense of
intellectual honesty, and seriously weakened the habit of
truth-speaking ; which lowered men's reverence for the
marriage-bond by placing its sanctions in a realm out-
side of nature instead of in the common life of men, and
by the institutions of monasticism and a celibate clergy ;
which stunted the moral sense of the nations by putting
a priest between every man and his conscience ; this
system, if it should ever return to power, must be
expected to produce worse evils than those which it has

1 Dr. Martineau's.


worked in the past. The house which it once made
desolate has been partially swept and garnished by the
free play gained for the natural goodness of men. It
would come back accompanied by social diseases perhaps
worse than itself, and the wreck of civilized Europe
would be darker than the darkest of past ages.



BY a cosmic emotion the phrase is Mr. Henry Sidgwick's
I mean an emotion which is felt in regard to the
universe or sum of things, viewed as a cosmos or order.
There are two kinds of cosmic emotion one having
reference to the Macrocosm or universe surrounding
and containing us, the other relating to the Microcosm
or universe of our own souls. When we try to put
together the most general conceptions that we can form
about the great aggregate of events that are always
going on, to strike a sort of balance among the feelings
which these events produce in us, and to add to these
the feeling of vastness associated with an attempt to
represent the whole of existence, then we experience a
cosmic emotion of the first kind. It may have the
character of awe, veneration, resignation, submission ;
or it may be an overpowering stimulus to action, like
the effect of the surrounding orchestra upon a. musician I
who is thereby caught up and driven to play his proper '
part with force and exactness of time and tune. If, on
the other hand, we consider the totality of our own
actions and of the feelings that go with them or spring
out of them, if we frame the highest possible general-
ization to express the character of those which we call
good, and if we contemplate this with the feeling of

1 Nineteenth Century, October, 1877.


vastness which belongs to that which concerns all
things that all men do, we shall experience a cosmic
emotion of the second kind. Such an emotion finds
voice in Wordsworth's Ode to Duty :

Stern daughter of the voice of God !
O Duty, if that name thou love,
Who art a light to guide, a rod

To check the erring, and reprove ;
Thou who art victory and law
* When empty terrors overawe ;
From vain temptations dost set free
And calm'st the weary strife of frail humanity !

A special form of each of these kinds of cosmic
emotion has been expressed in a sentence by Immanuel
Kant, which has been perfectly translated by Lord
Houghton :

Two things I contemplate with ceaseless awe ;
The stars of Heaven, and Man's sense of Law.

For the star-full sky on a clear night is the most direct
presentation of the sum of things that we can find, and
from the nature of the circumstances is fitted to pro-
duce a cosmic emotion of the first kind. And the moral
faculty of man was thought of by Kant as possessing
universality in a peculiar sense ; for the form of all right
maxims, according to him, is that they are fit for uni-
versal law, applicable to all intelligent beings whatever.
This mode of viewing the faculty is clearly well adapted '
for producing cosmic emotion of the second kind.

The character of the emotion with which men con-
template the world, the temper in which they stand in
the presence of the immensities and the eternities, must
depend first of all on what they think the world is.


The theory of the universe, the view of things, preva-
lent at any time and place, will rouse appropriate
feelings in those who contemplate it ; not the same in
all, for temperament varies with the individual, and the
same facts stir differently different souls, yet so that, on
the whole, the character of cosmic emotion depends on
the nature of cosmic ideas.

When, therefore, the inevitable progress of know-
ledge has changed the prevalent cosmic ideas, so that
the world as we know it is not the world which our
fathers knew, the oldest cosmic emotions are no longer
found to fit. Knowledge must have been in men's
possession for a long time before it has acquired the
certainty, the precision, the familiarity, the wide diffu-
sion and comprehension which make it fit to rouse
feelings strong enough and general enough for true
poetic expression. For the true poetry is that which
expresses our feelings, and not my feelings only that
which appeals to the universal in the heart of each one of
us. So it has come about that the world of the poet, the
world in its emotional aspect, always lags a little behind
the world of science, not merely as it appears to the few
who are able to assist at the birth of its conceptions, but
even as it is roughly and in broad strokes revealed to
the many. We always know a little more than our
imaginations have thoroughly pictured. To some minds
'there is hope and renewing of youth in the sense that
the last word is not yet spoken, that greater mysteries
yet lie behind the veil. The prophet himself may say
with gladness, ' He that cometh after me shall be pre-
ferred before me.' But others see in the clearer and
wider vision that approaches them the end of all beauty


and joy in the earth ; because their old feelings are not
suited to the new learning, they think that learning can
stir no feelings at all. Even the great poet already
quoted, whom no science will put out of date, com-
plained of the prosaic effects of explanation, and said,
' We murder to dissect.'

I propose to consider and compare an ancient and a
modern system of cosmic ideas, and to show how the
emotions suited to the latter have already in part
received poetic expression.

In the early part of the fifth century of our era
the Neoplatonic philosopher Hierokles was teaching at
Alexandria. He was an Alexandrian by birth, and
had studied with Proklos, or a little before him, under
Plutarch at Athens. He was a man of great eloquence,
and of better Greek than most of his contemporaries.
He astonished his hearers everywhere, says Suidas, by
the calm, the magnificence, the width of his superlative
intellect, and by the sweetness of his speech, full of the
most beautiful words and things. A man of manly
spirit and courage ; for being once at Byzantium he
came into collision with the ecclesiastical authorities
(rots KpaTovcTi) and was scourged in court ; then, stream-
ing with blood, he caught some of it in his hand and
threw it at the magistrate, with this verse of the Odyssey":
' Here, Cyclops, drink wine, since you eat human flesh ! '
For which contempt of court he was banished, but sub-
sequently made his way back to Alexandria. Here he
lectured on various topics, foreknowledge, will, and fate,
expounding also some of the dialogues of Plato and other
philosophical writings.

But the matter of one course of lectures is preserved


to us. It is a commentary on a document in hexameter
verse belonging to the Pythagorean scriptures, dating
apparently from the third century B.C. These lines
were called by Jamblichus the Golden Verses ; but
Gregory of Nazianzum did them the honour to say they
were rather made of lead. They are not elegant as
poetry ; the form of verse seems to have been adopted
as an aid to the memory. More than half of them con-
sist of a sort of versified ' duty to God and my neighbour,'
except that it is not designed by the rich to be obeyed
by the poor, that it lays stress on the laws of health,
and that it is just such sensible counsel for the good
and right conduct of life as an English gentleman might
now-a-days give to his son. We need not be astonished
that the step from the Mediterranean to Great Britain,
over two thousand years of time, should make no great
difference in the validity of maxims like these. We
might go back four thousand years further, and find the
same precepts handed down at Memphis as the wisdom
of a hoar antiquity. ' There's some things as I've never
felt i' the dark about,' says Mrs. Winthrop, ' and they're
mostly what comes i' the day's work.'

There are curious indications that the point of view
of the commentator is not that of the verses themselves.
' Before all things honour the immortal Gods, as they
are ordained by law,' begin the verses, with the frank
Erastianism of the Greeks, who held that every man
should worship the Gods in the manner belonging to his
city and country ; that matter being settled for themselves
by the oracle of the Delphian Apollo. But this did not
suit the Neoplatonist of the fifth century, whom the
law of his country required to worship images of Mary



and her son (to be sure, they might be adapted figures
of Isis and Horus) and the miraculous toe-nails of some
filthy and ignorant monk. The law named in the verses
could not be that which had scourged and banished a
philosopher ; so it is explained to mean the demiurgic
law, which assigns to the Gods their several orders, the
law of the divine nature. We are to honour the im-
mortal Gods, says the commentator, in the order which
is assigned to them by the law of their being. For
Hierokles there is one supreme deity and three orders
of angels the immortal Gods, the illustrious heroes, and
the terrestrial daemons or partially deified souls of men.
The bishops, as we all know, multiplied these numbers
by three.

As to the kind of worship, our commentator quotes
some old Pythagorean maxims. You shall honour the
God best by becoming godlike in your thoughts. Whoso
giveth God honour as to one that needeth it, that man in
his folly hath made himself greater than God. The wise
man only is a priest, is a lover of God, is skilled to pray.
' For,' he says, ' that man only knows how to worship
who does not confound the relative dignity of worship-
ful things, who begins by offering himself as the victim,
fashions his own soul into a divine image, and furnishes
his mind as a temple for the reception of the divine
light.' 'The whole force of worship,' he says in another
place, 'lies in knowledge of the nature of that which is

(It is interesting to compare this last maxim with
the proposition of Spinoza : 1 ' He who clearly and dis-

1 Qui se suosque affectus clare et distincte inteUigit, Deum amat, et eo
magis, quo se suosque affectus magis intelligit.' Eth. v. prop. xv. Cf.
Affectuum definitiones ad fin. part. iii.


tinctly understands himself and his own emotions, loves
God, and that the more, the more he understands him-
self and his own emotions.' For to understand clearly
and distinctly is to contemplate in relation to God, to
the cosmic idea. When the mind contemplates itself
in relation to God, it necessarily rises from a lower to a
higher grade of perfection. Now joy is the passage from
a lower to a higher grade of perfection, and love is joy
associated with the idea of an external cause. He, then,
that rises to higher perfection in the presence of the
idea of God, loves God.)

But it is in the latter portion of the Golden Verses
that we find a general view of life and of nature assigned
as the ground of the precepts which have gone before.
There are in all seventy-one lines ; of the last thirty-two
I venture to subjoin a translation as nearly literal as is
consistent with intelligibility. 1

' Let not soft sleep come upon thy eyelids, till thou
hast pondered thy deeds of the day :

' Wherein have I sinned ? What work have I done ?
What left undone that I was bound to do ?

' Beginning at the first, go through even unto the last ;
and then let thy heart smite thee for the evil deed, but
rejoice in the good work.

' Work at these commandments, and think upon
them ; these commandments shalt thou love.

'They shall surely set thee in the way of divine
righteousness ; yea, by Him who gave into our soul the
Tetrad, well-spring of Nature everlasting.

1 The text followed is that of Mullach, in the Fragmenta PhUosoph&rum
Grcecorum, Paris, 1860, from the prolegomena to which my information is

s 2


' Set to thy work with a will, beseeching the Gods for
the end thereof.

' And when thou hast mastered these commandments,
thou shalt know the being of the Gods that die not, and
of men that die ; thou shalt know of things, wherein
they are diverse, and the kinship that binds them in one

' Know, so far as is permitted thee, that Nature in all
things is like unto herself :

' That thou mayest not hope that of which there is
no hope, nor be ignorant of that which may be.

' Know thou also that the woes of men are the work
of their own hands :

' Miserable are they, because they see not and hear
not the good that is very nigh them ; and the way of
escape from evil, few there be that understand it.

'Like rollers they roll to and fro, having endless
trouble ; so hath fate broken the wits l of mortal men.

' A baneful strife lurketh inborn in us, and goeth on
the way with us to hurt us ; this let not a man stir up,
but avoid and flee.

' Verily, Father Zeus, thou wouldst free all men from
much evil, if thou wouldst teach all men what manner
of spirit they are of.

' But do thou be of good cheer ; for they are Gods'
kindred whom holy Nature leadeth onward, and in due
order showeth them all things.

' And if thou hast any part with them, and keepest
these commandments, thou shalt utterly heal thy soul,
and save it from travail.

'Keep from the meats aforesaid, using judgment
both in cleansing and in setting free thy soul.

1 ' My brains are broken.' Sir Walter Raleigh.


{ Give heed to every matter, and set Keason on high,
who best holdeth the reins of guidance.

4 Then, when thou leavest the body, and coniest into
the free aether, thou shalt be a God undying, everlasting,
neither shall death have any more dominion over thee.'

It is worth while to notice the comment of Hierokles
on the self-judgment enjoined in the first of these lines.

' The judge herein appointed,' he says, ' is the most
just of all, and the one which is most at home with
us ; namely conscience itself, arid right reason. And
each man is to be judged by himself, before whom our
bringing-up has taught us to be more shamefast than
before any other. (As a previous verse commands ; of
all men be most shamefast before thyself: iravTuv 8e
/ictXio-r' aicrxyvto cravrov.) For what is there of which
one man can so admonish another, as he can himself?
For the free will, misusing the liberty of its nature,
turns away from the counsels of others, when it does
not wish to be led by them ; but a man's own reason
must needs obey itself.'

Whether the clear statement of this doctrine of the
conscience, dominans ille deus in nobis, as Cicero calls
it, is originally Stoic or Pythagorean, must be left
for the learned to decide. Hierokles, however, says
expressly that the image of Eeason guiding the lower
faculties as the charioteer guides his chariot was derived
by Plato from the Pythagoreans.

Very remarkable indeed is the view of Nature set
forth in the subsequent verses. 4 Know, so far as is
permitted thee, that Nature is in all things uniform '
(<f)V(j-Lv TTCJLVTOS bpoirjv). This conception of the
world as a great cosmos or order is the primary con-


dition of human progress. In the earliest steps of pri-
mitive men in the simplest arts of life there is involved a
dim recognition and practical use of it to the extent of
its application in that stage. Every step forward is
an increase in the range of its application. In the
industrial arts, in the rules of health, the methods of
healing, the preparation of food, in morals and politics,
every advance is an application of past experience to
new circumstances, in accordance with an observed
order of nature. Philosophy consists in the conscious

I recognition of this method, and in the systematic use of
it for the complete guidance of life. Aberration from
it is the death of the rational soul ; not, says Hierokles,
that it ceases thereby to exist, but that it falls away
from harmony with divine Nature and with reason. This
fatal falling away brings about endless waste and per-
version of strenuous effort ; a hoping for things of which
there is no hope, an ignorance of what may be ; a
perpetual striving to clamber up the back stairs of a
universe that has no back stairs.^Che Neoplatonists
were not wholly spotless in this regard. They had
learned evil things of the Egyptians : magic, astrology,
converse with spirits, theurgy, and the endeavour by
trances and ecstasies to arrive at feelings and ideas which
are alien to the healthy and wakeful mind. And so the
uniformity of nature gives our commentator some little
trouble, and requires to be interpreted.

'Know so far as is permitted thee (77 0ep,i$ e'crrt),' say
the verses. c For we ought not to yield to unreasoning
prejudice, and accommodate the order and dignity of
things to our fancies ; but to keep within the bounds
of truth and know all things as it is permitted, namely,


as the Demiurgic law has assigned to every one its

So the commentator, reading into the verses more
than the writer put there, not without edification. We,
then, on our part, may read into them this that it is
not ' permitted ' to regard the uniformity of nature as
a dogma known with certainty, or exactness, or univer-
sality : but only within the range of human conduct, as
a practical rule for the guidance of the same, and as |
the only source of beliefs that will not lead astray. For
to affirm any general proposition of this kind to be
certainly, or exactly, or universally true, is to make a
mistake about the nature and limits of human knowledge.
But at present it is a venial mistake, because the doctrine
of the nature of human knowledge, Erkenntniss-theorie,
Ken-lore, is only now being thoroughly worked out, so
that our children will know a great deal more about it
than we do, and have what they know much better and
more simply expressed. It is almost infinitely more
important to keep in view that the uniformity of nature
is practically certain, practically exact, practically
universal, and to make this conception the guide of our
lives, than to remember that this certainty, exactness,
and universality are only known practically, not in a
theoretical or absolute way.

How far away is the doctrine of uniformity from >
fatalism ! It begins directly to remind us that men |
suffer from preventible evils, that the people perisheth j
for lack of knowledge. ' Miserable are they, because
they see not and hear not the good that is very nigh
them ; and the way of escape from evil, few there be
that understand it.' The practical lesson is not that of


the pessimist, that we should give up the contest, recog-
nize that life is an evil, and get out of it as best we may ;
but on the contrary, that having found anything wrong,
we should set to work to mend it ; for the woes of men
are the work of their own hands.

' But be thou of good cheer, for they are of Gods'
kindred whom holy Nature leadeth onward, and in due
order showeth them all things.'

The expression (iepa Trpo^epovcra . . . SeiKvvcrLV
eKaa-ra) belongs to the rite of initiation into the mys-
teries. Nature is represented as the hierophant, the
guiding priest by whom the faithful were initiated into
the divine secrets one by one. The history of mankind
is conceived as such a mystic progress under the guid-
ance of divine Nature. It has been sometimes said
that the ancient world was entirely devoid of the con-
ception of progress. But like most sweeping antitheses
between ancient and modern, East and West, and the
like, when we come to look a little closely into this as-
sertion it becomes difficult to believe that any definite
meaning can ever have been assigned to it. Certainly
in the matter of physical science there is no case of
firmer faith in progress than that of Hipparchus, who
having made the great step of determining the solar and
lunar motions, and having failed to extend the same
methods to the planets, stored up observations in the
sure and certain hope that a more fortunate successor
would accomplish that work ; which indeed was done
by Ptolemy. And it is very important to notice that
the exact sciences were regarded as the standard to
which the others should endeavour to attain, as appears
by the commentary on a subsequent passage in these


very verses. On the phrase * using judgment both in
cleansing and in setting free thy soul,' Hierokles explains
that the cleansing or lustration of the rational soul
means the mathematic sciences, and that the upward-
leading liberation (a^aywyos Xucrts), the freedom that is
progressive, is scientific inquiry, or a scientific view of
things (StaXe/m/o) TUP OVTOJV eVoTrreia), the clear and
exact vision of one who has attained the highest grade
of initiation. Accordingly, the medical sciences never
lost the tradition of progress by continuous observation
impressed on them by Hippocrates ; and in the Alexan-
drian museum were trained that galaxy of famous phy-
sicians and naturalists .which kept the school illustrious
until the claims of culture were restored by the Arab
conquest. Nor is it possible to deny the conception and
practice of political progress to the great jurists of
Eome, any more than that of ethical progress to the
Stoic nxoralists. To the best minds, with whatever sub-
ject occupied, there was present this conception of
divine Nature patiently educating the human race,
ready to bring out of her storehouse good things with-
out number in the proper time.

Nor was this hope of continued progress altogether
a vain one, if we will only look in the right place for the
fulfilment of it. Greek polity and culture had been
planted in the East by Alexander's conquests from the
Nile to the Indus, there to suck up and gather together
the wisdom of centuries and of continents. When the
light and the right were driven out of Europe by the
Church, they found in the far East a home with the
Omaiyad and Abbasside Caliphs, whose reign gave peace
and breathing time to the old and young civilization that


was ready to grow. Across the north of Africa came
again the progressive culture of Greece and Eome, en-
riched with precious jewels of old-world lore ; it took
firm ground in Spain, and the light and the right were
flashed back into Europe from the blades of Saracen

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