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that things are not huddled and lumped, but sundered and individual.” – p. 48.
“I expand and live in the warm day, like corn and melons.”
The purpose of the book, so far as it may be said to hare a purpose, is, to invite us to the observation of nature, and to point out manifestations of spirit in material existences and external events.
The uses to which the outward world is subservient are divided into four classes, — Commodity, Beauty, Language, and Discipline. These ends the writer considers as the final cause of every thing that exists, except the soul. To the consideration of each he allots a chapter, and displays, often with eloquence and a copious fund of illustration, the importance of the end, and the aptitude of the means provided for its attainment. In the latter part of the work, he seems disposed to neutralize the effect of the former, by adopting the Berkeleyan system, and denying the outward and real existence of that Nature, which he had just declared to be so subservient to man's spiritual wants. Of the chapters on “Spirit” and “Prospects," with which the work concludes, we prefer not to attempt giving an account, until we can understand their meaning.
From this sketch of the author's plan, it would seem, that he had hardly aimed at originality. What novelty there is in the work, arises not from the choice or distribution of the subject, but from the manner of treatment. The author is not satisfied with that cautious philosophy which traces the indirect influences of outward phenomena and physical laws on the individual mind, and contemplates the benevolence of the Deity in particular instances of the adaptation and subserviency of matter to spirit. He contemplates the Universe from a higher point of view. Where others see only an analogy, he discerns a final cause. The fall of waters, the germination of seeds, the alternate growth and decay of organized forms, were not originally designed to answer the wants of our physical constitution, but to acquaint us with the laws of mind, and to serve our intellectual and moral advancement. The powers of Nature have been forced into the service of man. The pressure of the atmosphere, the expansive force of steam, the gravity of falling bodies, are our ministers, and do our bidding in levelling the earth, in changing a wilderness into a habitable city, and in fashioning raw materials into products available for the gratification of sense and the protection of body. Yet these ends are only of secondary
importance to the great purpose for which these forces were created and made subject to human power. Spiritual laws are typified in these natural facts, and are made evident in the whole material constitution of things. Man must study matter, that he may become acquainted with his own soul.
"All the facts in natural history, taken by themselves, have no value, but are barren like a single sex. But marry it to human history, and it is full of life. Whole Floras, all Linnæus and Buffon's volumes, are but dry catalogues of facts; but the most trivial of these facts, the habit of a plant, the organs, or work, or noise of an insect, applied to the illustration of a fact in intellectual philosophy, or in any way associated to human nature, affects us in the most lively and agreeable manner. The seed of a plant, to what affecting analogies in the nature of man, is that little fruit made use of, in all discourse, up to the voice of Paul, who calls the human corpse a seed, — 'It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.' The motion of the earth round its axis, and round the sun, makes the day, and the year. These are certain amounts of brute light and heat. But is there no intent of an analogy between man's life and the seasons ? And do the seasons gain no grandeur or pathos from that analogy? The instincts of the ant are very unimportant considered as the ant’s; but the moment a ray of relation is seen to extend from it to man, and the little drudge is seen to be a monitor, a little body with a mighty heart, then all its habits, even that said to be recently observed, that it never sleeps, become sublime." --- pp. 35, 36.
Thus far, whatever we may think of the truth and soberness of the writer's views, he is at least intelligible. But his imagination now takes a higher fight, and the bewildered reader strives in vain through the cloud-capt phraseology to catch a glimpse of more awful truths. Who will be the Edipus to solve the following enigmas?
“This relation between the mind and matter is not fancied by some poet, but stands in the will of God, and so is free to be known by all men. It appears to men, or it does not appear. When in fortunate hours we ponder this miracle, the wise man doubts, if, at all other times, he is not blind and deaf;
Can these things be,
Without our special wonder?' for the universe becomes transparent, and the light of higher laws than its own shines through it. It is the standing problem which has exercised the wonder and the study of every fine genius since
the world began; from the era of the Egyptians and the Brahmins, to that of Pythagoras, of Plato, of Bacon, of Leibnitz, of Swedenborg. There sits the Sphinx at the road-side, and from age to age, as each prophet comes by, he tries his fortune at reading her riddle. There seems to be a necessity in spirit to manifest itself in material forms; and day and night, river and storm, beast and bird, acid and alkali, prierist in necessary Ideas in the mind of God, and are what they are by virtue of preceding affections, in the world of spirit. A Fact is the end or last issue of spirit. The visible creation is the terminus or the circumference of the invisible world. Material objects,' said a French philosopher, ' are necessarily kinds of scoriæ of the substantial thoughts of the Creator, which must always preserve an exact relation to their first origin; in other words, visible nature must have a spiritual and moral side.' - pp. 43,
44. In the chapter on “Discipline,” the lessons of Nature are enforced with great energy and directness. Man is not so constitutionally active, but that he must receive repeated monitions to labor, or the powers of body and mind will rust and decay. Wants and cravings are imposed upon him, some of which his very physical constitution imperatively requires to be satisfied, and immediate stinging pain is the punishment of neglect. Once gratified, they recur, and provision must again be made. To the knowledge of higher wants he arrives by more extended observation and by every advance in knowledge. Thus, the thirst for truth is insatiable, and increases from gratification. Nature entices us to toil, by offering to gratify the lust for power, and subjecting herself to our dominion. She assumes the barness, and allows us to guide the reins, that she may carry us onward. An exact correspondence exists between the constitution of the soul and of the universe. The love of beauty, of dominion, of comfort, find their appropriate food in the various relations of things, that first called these passions into being, or at least first made us conscious of their existence. Variegated colors, brilliant appearances, curious forms, call us away from the chamber and the couch, that we may walk abroad and admire. The desire of fame and the social instinct are adapted to each other. Either principle alone would be inefficient and useless. United, they are continually pressing us to action. Industry is the great lesson of life, and the universe is the teacher.
But man is not only an active, but a moral being. The constitution of society, the relations which connect him with his fellows, are his instructers in virtue. A hermitage is no school of morals, and were man a hermit from his birth, the terms right and wrong with him would have but an imperfect and narrow application. The moral teachings of nature, understanding by the term all that is distinct from spirit, are auxiliary, but insufficient. Mind must act upon mind. Man must stand in need of his fellow, before he can learn to love him. The mother, indeed, may love her child, before the infant is able to pay the first instalment of its debt to her, “risu cognoscere matrem.” But the feeling is instinctive, and as such, is not a subject of moral approbation, any more than when it exists in the brute. With this limitation, we accept the following remarks from the book before us.
" It has already been illustrated, in treating of the significance of material things, that every natural process is but a version of a moral sentence. The moral law lies at the centre of nature, and radiates to the circumference. It is the pith and marrow of every substance, every relation, and every process. All things with which we deal, preach to us. What is a farm but a mute gospel ? The chaff and the wheat, weeds and plants, blight, rain, insects, sun, it is a sacred emblem from the first surrow of spring to the last stack which the snow of winter overtakes in the fields. But the sailor, the shepherd, the miner, the merchant, in their several resorts, have each an experience precisely parallel and leading to the same conclusions. Because all organizations are radically alike. Nor can it be doubted that this moral sentiment which thus scents the air, and grows in the grain, and impregnates the waters of the world, is caught by man, and sinks into his soul. The moral influence of nature upon every individual is that amount of truth which it illustrates to him. Who can estimate this? Who can guess how much firmness the sea-beaten rock has taught the fisherman? how much tranquillity has been reflected to man from the azure sky, over whose unspotted deeps the winds for evermore drive flocks of stormy clouds, and leave no wrinkle or stain? how much industry and providence and affection we have caught from the pantomime of brutes ? What a searching preacher of self-command is the varying phenomenon of health!” — pp. 53, 54.
Having thus considered the uses of the material world, its adaptation to man's physical wants, to his love of beauty, and his moral sense, the author turns and aims a back blow at the universe, which he has been leading us to admire and love. The heavens are rolled together like a scroll, the solid earth cracks beneath our feet,
" Wide wilderness and mountain, rock and sea,
Peopled with busy transitory groups,"
are shadows, and exist only in mind. Matter is nothing, spirit is all. Man is alone in the vast inane with his God.
We have no quarrel with Idealism. Philosophers may form what dreams they choose, provided their speculations affect favorably their own faith and practice, and can never, from their very nature, command the belief, or bewilder the understanding of the mass of mankind. But we do protest against the implied assertion of the idealist, that the vulgar entertain opinions less philosophically just than his own. In the pride of opinion, he has overrated bis own success, which at the utmost amounts only to this, that he has shown the inconclusiveness of the arguments commonly adduced to prove the outward and independent existence of matter. But he has brought no positive arguments to disprove the existence of any thing exterior to mind. He has not shown, that the common opinion involves any repugnancy or inconsistency in itself. The bridge on which we relied for support may be broken down, but we are not whelmed in the waters beneath. The belief still exists, and its universality is a fact for which the idealist cannot account. This fact puts the burden of proof upon him, and it is a load which he cannot support. The infant forms this belief before it quits its mother's arms. It has existed in every age, as a postulate for the exercise of many affections and emotions, that form a part of the primitive constitution of mind. Nay, the philosopher himself, “when he mingles with the crowd, must be content to comply with common opinions, to speak as custom dictates, and to forget, as well as he can, the doubts and the doctrines which reason perhaps permits, which speculation loves, and which solitude encourages.”
On reviewing what we have already said of this singular work, the criticisin appears to be couched in contradictory terms; we can only allege in excuse the fact, that the book is a contradiction in itself. A fair notice of it would be in the vein of honest Touchstone's commentary on a shepherd's life. “Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself, it is a good life; but in respect that it is a shepherd's life, it is naught. In respect that it is solitary, I like it very well; but in respect that it is private, it is a very vile life. As it is a spare life, look you, it fits my humor well; but as there is no more plenty in it, it goes much against my stomach. Hast any philosophy in thee, shepherd?
But enough of the work itself; it belongs to a class, and may be considered as the latest representative of that class.