Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

vast might be his abilities, is sufficient for the exploration of Causes; the world's general experience is required (A. K., 460), The actuality of a natural brain outside the mind is one of the truths which is thus placed upon the basis of unquestionability. But we must turn to our Author's prose Epic of Creation—" The Worship and Love of God”— to fairly see what this involves. Here, in describing the genesis of perception in the First-born, Swedenborg has the following exquisite passage-each line an inlet into entire fields of instructive speculation :

“ The Soul, from the sanctuaries or centres of her Olympus [within],—that she might continually meet those beautiful forms which, like new guests, insinuated themselves through the doors and chambers of vision,-attenuated by degrees her most splendid light, and girded herself with a less shining mantle, and at length descended to the ultimate door-post, (where] she clothed herself in a shadowy but still pellucid robe, adding also gems, but crystalline : thus she always compounded herself anew, even to the meeting of images, which borrow their form from the rays of solar light, and which, having seen, she received with friendly kisses and embraces, under the very threshold, about the last step of her ladder. But these images, when they had returned the salutation, instantly felt themselves re-formed, so that, when they looked at each other, they could no longer distinguish themselves as sisters; for that goddess [the Soul], by her kiss and embrace, infused life into them from her own life, so that they no longer appeared as images, but ideas. She also converted their harmonies into beauties, and whatsoever at its admission smoothed and soothed the hinge of the introductory doorpost, she changed into gratifications and delights. In like manner all the modifications of that light, by the mere breathing of her life, were converted into sensation" (47).

The locating of these ideas in an interior constituting Memory; the vitalizing of them “with the breath of new and purer life," so that they were transformed into Rationals; the further operation by which they were raised into Intelligence and Wisdom; the harmonies, beauties and goodnesses connected with these phases of perception ;-all this Swedenborg next (and also in other places) describes with a verisimilitude and in a wealth of imagery which makes Berkeleyism, as contrasted therewith, the merest philosophism.

That the five senses are opened at birth, when the inversion of life takes place, and that they convey the forms of the world inward to the Soul,—also that each sense submits its gifts to a kind of vision

[ocr errors]

analogous to ocular vision, and carries them into the memory ;—these are further principles with Swedenborg: while, with respect to the teachings of Experience—“it is this that supplies the objects of rational analyses and the individual links of the chain, and, as it were, the materials for building the edifice. For nature and the visible world flow with these as their treasures, first into the organs of the senses, and through their open doors to the general sensorium, and at length present them for adaptation into analytic series as so many rational ideas and quantities. Each sense brings its gifts and its treasures, and submits them to a kind of vision, not dissimilar to ocular vision, and thus carries them to the memory, into the little cells or receptacles, thereof, from the gathered stores of which the rational mind chooses whatever suits its purposes, and takes it out and mingles it with its reasons. But to explore causes from effects this way, ends from means, consequences from premises, or those things that are hidden from those that are apparent—this is indeed an arduous and vast undertaking. The experience of one man's five senses, although he should outlive the years of Nestor, is slender and poor indeed. We need accumulations of effects and phenomena, collected by numerous labourers in the field, and during successive lifetimes, and even centuries ; for we must be instructed by all things of one thing, if we are to know that one thing thoroughly" (A. K., 460).

In the accumulations of Experience, thus co-ordinated by Science and “ transformed by the renewing of the mind,” lie the possibilities for our race, of that philosophy most different of all from that of Berkeley_Universal Mathematics, as known by the wisest angels, and from which, under the Lord, they “contemplate and govern all lower things, as placed in the circumferences. To them it is given to descend by the path of synthesis, or from the prior to the posterior sphere, and through the veriest principles, and thus through the mysteries of our human sciences.” “They see all things, in one complex, as at once beneath them and in them; they view the last things from the first, the lowest from the highest, the outermost from the innermost; in a word, all the circumferences from the centre; consequently, the

very

effects of the world from their causes. Not so human minds, which derive from the senses, or absorb through the senses, all the materials which they have to reason upon” (A. K., 461).

It was from a settled conviction of the truth of this system of Established Harmony that, to the latest period of his life, Swedenborg was

able to see that the universe is as a theatre, on which the evidences of the existence of a God and His unity are continually exhibited (T. C. R. 12), yet that nature in itself is dead (T. C. R. 77); that God is the sole Operator by and through nature (T. C. R. 12); that nature in itself is altogether inert,-—life acts on it, according to the change induced on its form (D. L. W. 166); that all the objects of the natural world are fixed, thus that while in the spiritual world creation is instantaneous, in the natural it is by successive propagations (T. C. R. 78)—in short, that nature serves the spiritual principle which is from God, in fixing the things that continually flow into nature; but that natural things, because they are material, cannot enter into spiritual things, which are substantial (D. L. W. 344 ; C. L. 328). “Nature with all and everything appertaining to it is dead. The appearance of Nature as alive in men and animals is owing to the life which accompanies and actuates Nature” (D. L. W. 159): “it is separate from God, yet God is omnipresent therein; in like manner as life is present in every substantial and material part of a man, although it does not mix and unite with them; or as light is in the eye, sound in the ear, and taste in the tongue” (T. C. R. 30).

We will now leave with the reader three declarations of Berkeley, and will then turn from the subject of his idealism.

The first is this: “I do not think that either what philosophers call matter, or the existence of objects without the mind, is anywhere mentioned in Scripture” ($ 82). Thus the Bishop was prepared to preach, as the central fact of the everlasting Gospel, the belief that the Bethlehem in which our Saviour once lay cradled; the Egypt in which His mind received its earliest discipline; the Jordan in which He was baptized ; the Jerusalem over which He wept; the Calvary on which He died; the human body which He glorified, -were all ideas, the events which connect these incidents, processions of ideas, the sphere of their evolution and ultimation,-mind, and mind alone! “Their esse is percepi, nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them.”

The second declaration is, that “the soul is indivisible, incorporeal, unextended, and consequently incorruptible . . . such a being therefore is indissoluble by the force of nature, i.e., the soul of man is naturally immortal” (§ 141). The student of Swedenborg will see here a strange confusion of thought for so solemn a theme.

But it is to Berkeley's next statement that we would ask the reader's special attention, because it is not only upon the most import

[ocr errors]

1

ant of all subjects, but also exhibits Berkeleyism at the severest strain of test.

"The far greater part of the ideas or sensations perceived by us are not produced by, or dependent on, the wills of men. There is therefore some other spirit that causes them, since it is repugnant that they should subsist by themselves. But if we attentively consider the constant regularity, order, and concatenation of natural things

we shall clearly perceive that they belong to the aforesaid spirit, who works all in all, and by whom all things consist [to say exist might imply a degree of externality ill comporting with Berkeleyism]. Hence it is evident that God is known as certainly and immediately as any other mind or spirit whatsoever distinct from ourselves. We may even assert that the existence of God is far more evidently perceived than the existence of men; because the effects of nature are infinitely more numerous and considerable than those ascribed to human agents" ($ 146-7). Compared with the sublime theosophy of the ancient book of Job, what feeble conjecturings of a seeker dimly groping his way through the “ chambers of his own imagery” we find here exhibited in these modern instances !

And yet the fact is unquestionable that Berkeley has never been refuted! It is equally unquestionable that he has seldom, if ever, convinced one! To declare that he who, in philosophizing, restricts himself to the evidence of things in the senses must reach an idealist's conclusion; to affirm that to confine oneself altogether to the evidence of consciousness is to know all the objects of thought but as ideas ;this is to state facts : but to limit our knowledge to this is to embondage Intellect and deprive it of its fair heritage of the experience of ages. It runs counter to the irresistible beliefs of men, and mankind has an instinctive repugnance to the doctrine. It rests as much upon an assumption as any other form of creedism, for it virtually postulates at the outset that the objects perceived as ideas are only ideas perceived as objects, and that there is no underlying reality. This has never been proved: nor would the confirmation of such an assumption yield contentment to the human race ; for History, Theology, Philosophy and Science would in much be revoked into doubt thereby. Scepticism would overcloud so broad a tract that the rest would be dulled with its shadow: human progress would be impossible.

In the year 1724, Berkeley-recently married and now Dean of Derry-published “A Proposal for the better supplying of Churches in our Foreign Plantations, and for converting the Savage Americans to Christianity, by a College to be erected on the Summer Islands, otherwise called the Isles of Bermuda.” The College should rise in the centre of a beauteous city, and should be dedicated to St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles. It should present advantages for missionary culture and effort such as had hitherto been undreamt of. There should be a little Rome with its Vatican, Architecture should breathe inspiration, the tree-lined streets convey the breezes of health. There should be columns and monuments, cloisters and sacred halls. There should even be the “Walk of Death,” with its monitory structures, telling that “we are strangers and sojourners” here below, “and that there is none abiding.”

The project was favourably received by those in power. Even the King looked hopefully upon the matter; while Walpole, his minister, promised substantial help on the part of the Government. Berkeley, his wife, and others, set out for their “ New Atlantis :” but Walpole failed in the fulfilment of his promise, and the scheme fell to the ground. Berkeley took up his abode at Rhode Island for a time, and here wrote his “Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher:" then, at the end of four years of ineffectual hoping, he returned home; visited London, found he was somewhat popular, and would be benefited by remaining there a while. In 1734 he was made Bishop of Cloyne, to which district he next removed, and there remained until the year 1752, when he and his family went and settled at Oxford : here, in the January following, he suddenly died in the sixty-eighth year of

A review of his career will impress whosoever makes the survey with the pleasing fact that the man erred mainly in his theoretical view, and that in the practicalities of daily life he was a genial and noble character, expansive, charitable and heroic.

his age.

PLEASURE : ITS USE AND ABUSE.

THERE is considerable obscurity among religious people regarding the kinds and degrees of natural pleasure which religion sanctions. The notion that the more we crucify the natural man the more we promote the growth and strength of the spiritual has been carried to the extent of denying every appetite and passion as far as can be done without absolutely depriving the body of life. Although

« AnteriorContinuar »