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thought of this power. Outward matters give us the occasion which awakens consciousness, and spontaneous nature leads us to something higher than ourselves and greater than all eyes behold. We are bowed down at the thought. . Thus the sentiment of something superhuman comes naturally as breath. This primitive spiritual sensation comes over the soul, when a sudden calamity throws us from our habitual state ; when joy fills our cup to its brim; at a wedding or a funeral, a mourning or a festival; when we stand beside a great work of nature, a mountain, a waterfall; when the twilight gloom of a primitive forest sends awe into the heart; when we sit alone with ourselves and turn in the eye, and ask, What am I? Whence come I? Whither shall I go? There is no man who has not felt this sensation, this mysterious sentiment of something unbounded.” - Discourse, pp. 16, 17.
Ergo, we are conscious of a special religious element which is an essential part of man's constitution ; ergo, again, the religious phenomena depend on a fact or principle of human nature !
We have inserted this passage because it is a favorable specimen of Mr. Parker's style and method of argumentation. In reading it, one is led to ask, Is the writer of this, who allows man the ability only to know that he knows nothing, the same man who sneers at the notion of supernatural revelation, — who assumes to sit in judgment on all ages and nations, on even our blessed Saviour himself, — who contends that man has an intuitive knowledge of God, and bears about with him absolute religion as the standard by which to try even the Christian religion itself, and who tells us we may and ought
to approach the Infinite One face to face" ? - p. 5. It is a great convenience to be freed from the necessity of maintaining consistency in one's own views.
But this is foreign to our present purpose. The point Mr. Parker was required to establish in this passage was, that we are conscious that the religious element, for which he contends, is an element or principle of our nature.
"We feel this element within us.' Does he prove this ? Not at all. He simply proves that there are facts in all men's experience which prove that we are not sufficient for ourselves, and that, finding we are not sufficient for ourselves, we are very naturally led to ask if there is not a power above us. All this may be very true, but is nothing to his purpose. For, 1. He makes the fact of our own insufficiency a deduction from certain other facts which he enumerates and to which we come by experience ; whereas, the fact of our insufficiency should, on his ground, be a fact of immediate consciousness, arrived at without any aid of discursive reason at all. 2. The consciousness of our own insufficiency, according to the paragraph quoted, does not of itself give us religion, or the objects of religion. It does not give us God immediately, but is simply a fact from which we are led to ask if there be not a God, or, at most, from which we infer there is and must be something above and beyond us. But his doctrine is not that we may rationally conclude from the facts of our nature to the existence of God and the necessity or propriety of religion, but that religion is given immediately, without any process of reasoning, by a special law, element, or principle of our nature, bearing the same or an analogous relation to spiritual objects that the bodily senses do to material objects. Admit, therefore, that we are conscious of our own insufficiency, and that we may rationally conclude from this insufficiency to the existence of a power that is all-sufficient, this does not prove that we have a special religious element, — far less, that we are conscious of the existence of such element. 3. Even assuming that we are conscious, immediately conscious, which is more than Mr. Parker proves, of our own insufficiency, it does not follow that we are conscious of the religious element; for our insufficiency is not an element or principle of our nature. An element or principle of nature is something positive, constitutive of that nature ; but insufficiency is a mere negation, and is not included in what our nature is, but in what it is not. Consciousness of it, therefore, is not, and cannot be, consciousness of an element within us, or an element of our nature, an essential part of our constitution.'
5. According to Mr. Parker, philosophical analysis of man's nature gives us the element in question. This analysis, in his hands, gives us the sense of dependence ; and the sense of dependence, in the last analysis, he tells us, is the religious element. But philosophical analysis cannot give us the sense of dependence as an element or principle of nature, for the best of all reasons, - because it is not and cannot be such element or principle.' The sense of dependence is a fact of human life or experience, —not a fact, element, or principle of human nature. That our nature is dependent is a fact, but not an element or principle of that nature, for the same reason that insufficiency is not such element or principle. The word sense is, or may be, ambiguous. When we say sense of sight or
hearing, we mean a principle, or rather power or faculty, of human nature. But we cannot use the word in this sense, when we say sense of dependence, any more than when we say sense of danger. Sense in this case is not a power or faculty, is not an element or principle of nature, but a simple fact of experience. It means simply, that we mentally apprehend, perceive, or are conscious of the fact that we are dependent. It is an intellectual fact, a product of the activity of the intelligent subject, not an element of its nature. Consequently, it is idle to pretend, that, if the religious element be rightly defined the sense of dependence, it is an element or principle of our nature.
But Mr. Parker, though he officially defines the religious element to be the sense of dependence, tells us that he is not tenacious of that definition. - Others,” he says, “may call it the consciousness of the infinite ; I contend less for the analysis than for the fact of a religious element in man.” — p. 18, note. But, my dear Sir, how, unless you tell us what you mean by this religious element, are we to determine whether
you have proved it to be an element of man's nature or not? We cannot allow you to write thus loosely. You affirm that there is a religious element in man, and that philosophical analysis of man's nature can detect it. If you have not determined what this element is, if you know not its characteristic, how do you know philosophical analysis can detect it ? We hold you to your definition, or to the alternative you give us. According to you, it is the sense of dependence, or, at least, the consciousness of the infinite. The first it cannot be, and, if held to that, you are evidently wrong. We will give you the advantage of the second, but we will give you no other advantage. Say, then, the ultimate principle of
. religion is the consciousness of the infinite.” The infinite
“.' is not an element or principle of man's nature, for man's nature is finite. Consciousness is not a principle of nature at all, but simply the act or state of being conscious. It is a fact of life, not an element of nature. Consequently, the consciousness of the infinite, even admitting it to be a fact of our intellectual life, is no more, than the sense of dependence, an element or principle of human nature.
But perhaps we shall be told that it is not contended, strictly speaking, that the consciousness of the infinite is an element or principle of human nature, but that we are conscious of the infinite by virtue of a special principle or power
of our nature. This is, we suppose, the real doctrine of the Transcendentalists. Hence, Mr. Parker contends that we have spiritual senses, and that the idea of God is an intuition of reason. They question the unity of the intelligent principle in man,
and seem to lay down the doctrine, that our knowledge does not differ objectively only, but subjectively also, — that we know one class of objects by virtue of one subjective intelligent power or principle, and another class by another. It is this doctrine which misleads them and involves them in the greater part of their errors and absurdities. But this doctrine we have refuted in our last Review, as well as on several previous occasions. The faculty of intelligence is not complex, but simple. It may have various degrees and conditions, but in itself is one and the same, whatever the degree or sphere of knowledge. The subjective power, by which I know an object to be a tree or a house, is one and the same with the power by which I know the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, or that I ought to love my neighbour as myself. Consciousness is nothing but a peculiar modification of knowing, and is the same subjectively considered, whatever the object of which I am conscious. If, then, I am conscious of the infinite, I am conscious of it by my general power of consciousness, and this consciousness differs from any other consciousness only in so far as its object is different.
Strictly speaking, however, to say I am conscious of the infinite is absurd ; for I can be conscious only of myself as the subject of my own phenomena, whether voluntary, sentient, or intellectual. The fact of consciousness is restricted by all accurate psychologists to the recognition of myself, as subject in the intellectual phenomenon to which Leibnitz gives the name of apperception. In every act I perform, that is, in every actus humanus, I always recognize myself as subject or actor, as distinguished both from the act and the object to which I act. This recognition is the fact of consciousness, and the only fact to which the term is ever rightly applied. Consequently, to say I am conscious of the infinite is to affirm my own infinity, which is false and absurd. Instead of saying we are conscious of the infinite, we should say we perceive, or mentally apprehend, the infinite, - that is, the infinite
is an object of our knowledge, or, in other words, we know the infinite.
But waiving these remarks on consciousness, which are conclusive in themselves, we deny that the consciousness of the VOL. II. NO. IV.
infinite is an element or principle of our nature, for the simple reason, that we have no consciousness of the infinite. The infinite is conceived, but it is no object of knowledge. Knowledge of the infinite would be infinite knowledge, and infinite knowledge is possible only to an infinite subject, which man is not. Man is finite, and his knowledge is necessarily finite, and therefore limited to the finite.
This is a point we commend to the very serious attention of the Transcendentalists. They seem on many occasions, and when it suits their purpose, to be duly aware of the limited nature of our faculties, and the littleness and emptiness of our knowledge, as we see in the passage quoted from Mr. Parker, in which he is endeavouring to establish the fact of our own insufficiency for ourselves. Yet, with a consistency purely Transcendental, they contend that we may see God face to face, may have intuitive vision of the infinite !
The great endeavour of several of the later German metaphysicians, and of some of our own, as it was with the old Alexandrians, is to find in man's subjective power of cognition a faculty or principle by which he can cognize intrinsically the mysteries of faith. They find mankind believing in certain mysteries, which unquestionably transcend the reach of the ordinary understanding. These are believed, not by the few only, — the élite of the race, men of rare genius and cultivation, — but by the simple and uncultivated, — the shepherd watching his flocks, and the rustic following his plough; and often by these more sincerely and more firmly than by the gifted and enlightened few. Whence is this ? Surely these simple, unlettered, and unreasoning masses have not demonstrated to their own minds the intrinsic truth of these mysteries, and reasoned themselves into the belief of them ; for few, if any, of them can assign even a tolerable reason for their belief, or render any satisfactory account of it. Is this belief a delusion, and is the human race wholly deceived in its faith? We dare not say it. To say so would be to blaspheme humanity, and, in blaspheming humanity, to blaspheme humanity's Maker. To assume that it is a delusion would be to deny all criterion of truth and falsehood, and to plunge into the ocean of universal doubt. Moreover, it would be anti-philosophical to make such assumption, for it would be to assume the reality of an effect, and a most stupendous effect, without conceding it any actual or even possible cause.
This faith, then, must have a solid and imperishable ground