- “Mr. Emerson and Transcendentalism.” American Whig Review (March 1845).
- “The Bhagvat Gheeta and the Doctrine of Immortality.” American Whig Review (September 1845).
- “Human Pantheism.” Spirit of the Age, I, 349.
The first two essay were condensed into the 1849 pamphlet Transcendentalism, which was further condensed into “Human Pantheism,” and then revised into the 1871 Transcendentalism, which was reprinted in 1872 in The Blazing Star (probably from the same plates) with one additional, final paragraph added.
A full bibliographic essay and content analysis is in preparation.
MR. EMERSON AND TRANSCENDENTALISM.
I. PERHAPS some of our readers are still ignorant of the meaning of the term Transcendentalism. We will, for their sakes, attempt a definition. Transcendentalism is that form of Philosophy which sinks God and Nature in man. Let us explain. God, man, and nature, in their mutual and harmonious relations (if indeed the absolute God may be said ever to be in relations) are the objects of all philosophy; but, in different theories, greater or less prominence is given to one or the other of these three, and thus systems are formed. Pantheism sinks man and nature in God; Materialism sinks God and man in the universe; Transcendentalism sinks God and nature in man. In other words, some, in philosophising, take their point of departure in God alone, and are inevitably conducted to Pantheism;—others take their point of departure in nature alone, and are led to Materialism; others start with man alone, and end in Transcendentalism. It is by no means difficult to deny in words, the actual existence of the outward universe. We may say, for example, that the paper on which we write has no more outward existence than the thoughts we refrain from expressing; we may affirm that it has merely a different kind of existence within our soul. When I say I perceive an outwardly existing tree, I may be mistaken; what I call a tree may have no outward existence, but may, on the contrary, be created by my perception. Who knows that a thing which appears red to me may not appear blue to my neighbor? If so, then is color something which I lend to the object. But why stop at color? Perhaps hardness and weight have no existence save that which the mind gives. Whether nature enjoy a substantial existence without (says Mr. Emerson), or is only in the apocalypse of the mind, it is alike useful and alike venerable to me. Be it what it may, it is ideal to me so long as I cannot try the accuracy of my senses.” “What differs it to me (he asks on another page) whether Orion be up there in heaven, or some god paint the image in the firmament of the soul?”
Fabre d’Olivet believed the outward universe to be so dependent upon the individual soul that we might properly be said to create it ourselves. He thought that we ourselves produced all forms and the world, that we might create whatever we would, isolatedly and instantaneously, and hoped to construct a system of magic on this fact as a basis. In truth, if all outward things depend for their being and manner of existence upon ourselves, and upon our inward states, a change in those states involves a change in outward nature. If we discover, therefore, the connection of our thoughts and feelings with outward nature, the whole universe is in our power; and we may, by a modification of ourselves, change the world from its present state into what we all wish it might become. Mr. Alcott thinks the world would be what it should be were he only as holy as he should be; he also considers himself personally responsible for the obliquity of the axis of the earth. A friend once told me, while we watched the large flakes of snow as they were slowly falling, that, could we but attain to the right spiritual state, we should be able to look on outward nature, and say, “I snow, I rain.” To Mr. Emerson a noble doubt perpetually suggests itself, “whether nature outwardly exists.” In the eighth number of the Dial we find a beautiful poem touching upon this theory, from which we make an extract:—
“All is but as it seems
The round, green earth,
With river and glen;
The din and mirth
Of busy, busy men;
The world is great fever,
Throbbing for ever;
The creed of the sage,
The hope of the age,
All things we cherish,
All that live and all that perish,
These are but inner dreams
“The great world goeth
To thy dreaming.
To thee alone
Hearts are making their moan,
Eyes are streaming.
Thine is the white moon turning night to day,
Thine is the dark wood sleeping in her ray;
Thee the winter chills;
Thee the spring time thrills;
All things nod to thee—
All things come to see
If thou art dreaming on;
If thy dream should break,
And thou shouldst awake,
All things would be gone.
“Nothing is if thou art not.
Thou art under, over all;
Thou dost hold and cover all;
Thou art Atlas—Thou art Jove—
The mightiest truth
Hath all its youth
From thy enveloping thought.”
Thus man is made to he the only real existence, and outward nature a mere phenomenon dependent upon him. Man exists really, actually, absolutely; but nature is an accident, an appearance, a consequent upon the existence of the human soul. Thus is the universe sunk, swallowed up, in man. The concluding lines of the extract are an example of the Transcendental Theology, an example of the swallowing up of God in man.
“Thou art under, over all;
Thou dost hold and cover all;
Thou art Atlas—thou art Jove.”
Materialism makes man the result of organization, denying the existence of separate and individual souls, and thus sinks man in nature: it also identifies God with the active powers of the universe. As Pantheism sinks man and nature in God, as Materialism sinks God and man in the universe, so Transcendentalism sinks God and nature in man. It must be confessed, however, that our Transcendentalists are, by no means, consistent. Sometimes they express themselves in a way that leaves us in doubt whether they are not, at bottom, Materialists. For example, the poem from which the foregoing extracts are quoted, is followed by another, of the same author, made up of beautiful and clear statements, where, in the midst of explicit repudiations of Transcendentalism, traces of the sensual system of D’Holbach are distinctly visible. We quote a few lines:—
“Dost thou dream that thou art free,
Making, destroying, all that thou dust see,
In the unfettered might of thy soul’s liberty?
Lo! an atom crushes thee,
One nerve tortures and maddens thee,
One drop of blood is death to thee.
The mighty voice of nature,
Is thy parent, not thy creature,
Is no pupil, but thy teacher;
And the world would still move on
Were thy soul forever flown.
For while thou dreamest on, enfolded
In nature’s wide embrace,
All thy life is daily moulded
By her informing grace.
And time and space must reign
And rule o’er thee for ever,
And the outworld lift its chain
From off thy spirit never.”
Here the soul is evidently sunk in nature; it is, to use a mathematical expression, spoken of as a function of the universe.
II. Having spoken of some of the peculiar characteristics of the Transcendental school of philosophy, we shall now take occasion to say a few words concerning its origin and progress. But here it will be necessary to speak of the philosophy of Kant, a subject not easily handled. The fundamental postulate of the philosopher of Königsberg may, however, initiate the reader into the whole system. Here it is, as near as we recollect it.
“If any truth he present to the mind with a conviction of its universality and necessity, that truth was derived to the mind from its own operations, and does not rest upon observation and experience:
“And, conversely, if any truth be present to the mind with a conviction of its contingency, that truth was derived to the mind from observation and experience, and not from the operations of the mind itself.”
For example, we know that every effect must have its cause, and this truth lies in the mind with a conviction of its universality and necessity; this truth is derived, therefore, not from observation and experience, but from the operations of the mind itself; it is born not from outward nature, but in and, from the mind itself. In other words, to pass to the technology of the Scotch School, we are forced by the very constitution of our being, to admit this truth, so that the principle of causation may be said to be a law of our intellectual natures.
On the other hand, we say, we know the sun will rise to-morrow; but we are not absolutely certain of this fact. This second truth lies therefore in our minds with a conviction of its contingency, and not of its necessity, and is, consequently, not derived from a law of our intellectual natures, but from observation and experience.
By every fact of experience a revelation is made to the soul, not only of the idea which it has appropriated to itself, but also of those conditions of the external world, and of its own nature, which rendered that acquisition possible. For example, when we perceive moonlight, it is necessary, first, that there should be something out of us to produce the effect of moonlight upon our sensibility; and also, second, certain internal faculties which are receptive of the influences of moonlight. Without the outward object there is no perception, and without the inward faculties there is likewise no perception; for the moon shines upon the trees as well as upon me, but the trees do not perceive, being devoid of the perceiving faculty. Now the idea I have of moonshine might have been modified by a change either, first, in the outward object, or, second, in my perceiving faculty. Had the moonshine been different, it would have produced a different effect upon my sensibility, and, consequently, the idea would have been different. Had my perceiving power been different, the influence or effect of the moonshine would have been different, and the idea resulting would likewise have been different. All this is plain. Now the faculties of the mind are permanent, and always operate in the same manner; therefore, the truths given by the faculties, where nothing from the external world intervenes, are universal and necessary. But the outward world is always changing; therefore, the truths given by observation and experience are always contingent. Perhaps we can make this plainer by an illustration.
Our readers have undoubtedly seen machines for cutting nails; if they have not, the consequence is by no means grave, for the instrument may be easily described. A nail-machine is composed of a pair of shears, which are made to work up and down, sometimes by steam, sometimes by water-power. A man Stands before the machine and inserts the end of an iron plate between the two parts of the shears when they open—when the shears shut, they cut off a nail from this plate, and this nail depends for its size and shape upon the form of the shears—The machine is in operation. The plate is inserted, and the machine says, I perceive something hard, black, cold—what is this something I perceive Down come the shears, the nail is cut off, and rattles away into the box. Ah, ha! says the machine, I now begin to see into the mystery of those same perceptions of which I was conscious a moment ago. It was a tenpenny nail, it is long, four-sided, sharp at one end, and flat at the other. By this time the shears come down again, and the machine says, another tenpenny nail, by all that is glorious! This acquisition of knowledge is beginning to be interesting—I must know a little more of the philosophy of this business. So the machine goes on to soliloquise—Listen!
I have now, says the machine, in my experience, memory, or nailbox, several tenpenny nails., These were undoubtedly acquired from, the external world, and are all that I have as yet acquired from that world. Therefore, if aught beside tenpenny nails exist in the external world, I have no conception of such existence, and that world is, consequently, for me, a collection of tenpenny nails. The following appear, therefore, to be unvarying laws of actual existence: First, all things are long and four sided, and second, all things are sharp at one end, and flat at the other.
But stop! says the machine—let us beware of hasty inductions. An idea strikes me! About these same nails, I am not so clear that they were not formed by the concurrent action of two agents. Perhaps the material was furnished by external nature, while the form resulted from the law of my nature, the constitution of my shears, of my own nail-making being. The following conclusion, at least, cannot be shaken:—I may look upon every nail from two distinct points of view—first, as to its material, and second, as to its form; the material undoubtedly comes from without, and is variable; some nails are of brass, some are of iron; but the form is invariable, and comes from within. All my nails must belong, and four sided, and that universally and necessarily; but the material may vary, being sometimes brass, sometimes iron. This is plain; for I acquire all my nails according to the law of my nail-making being; that is, being translated from scientific into popular language, according to the form of my shears. After mature deliberation, I think I may take the following postulate as the foundation of all my ulterior philosophy.
“Whatever I may find in my nail-box, whether nails, or whatever else relating to nails, if I be convinced that it is what it is necessarily, and must be as it is universally, that same thing, whatever it be, was not derived to my nail-box from external nature, but finds the reason of its existence in the formation and shape of my shears.
“And, conversely, whatever I may find in that same nail-box, which is neither necessary nor universal, but variable and contingent, has its origin, and the reason of its existence, not in the formation and shape of my shears, but in the external world.”
Having relieved itself of this postulate, the machine continues its meditations in silence. The difference between the postulate of the nail-machine and that of the Königsberg philosopher, is by no means great. Let us use them both in endeavoring to get a clearer conception of the position of our transcendental friends. Do we not see all material objects under the relations of space? Is not space a necessary and universal form of all our sensible perceptions? But what says the postulate? The notion of space cannot come from the external world; for, if it did, it would not be attended with the conviction of universality and necessity with which it is attended. The notion of space comes then from the mind, and not at all from the outward world. (We speak as a Kantian.) Space then has no outward existence, and the supposition that it has, is the merest hypothesis imaginable. The arguments brought to prove such a position fall at once to the ground, for we have before proved that all our notion of space comes from within; and any inference from the within to the without, is utterly invalid. We may treat time in the same manner, for time is the medium in which, universally and necessarily, we perceive events. Sensible objects and events, are the iron, brass, the material of ideas—space and time are the form impressed by the shears. After all, what can we make of time and space? Simply this: time and space are the color of the intellectual spectacles through which we look on outward nature; they have no real existence, but are a distorting medium which we spread before our eyes whenever we look on the outward. (We give the Kantean statement.)
But it is impossible for any one to remain satisfied amid the skepticisms which arise from a denial of the real existence of space and time. If space and time are mere distorting media, through which we perceive outward nature, all our sensible perceptions are erroneous; and, if no new method of acquiring knowledge can be discovered, we may as well doubt of every thing. What shall we do then: This is the question asked by our Transcendentalists. The first course which presents itself to the mind is that of endeavoring to eliminate the elements of space and time from all our conceptions; but this is evidently impossible: we must, therefore, endeavor to transcend them. But how can we transcend space and time? This also is evidently impossible; and the nearest approach to such a transcendent position, is a self-deception by which we persuade ourselves that we have attained it, while we ignore every thing that tends to convince us that we are on the same standpoint with other men. The confused system of things seen from the point of view which seems to transcend space and time, gives us Transcendentalism. But why will this system sink God and nature in man? For this reason—When a man has cut himself off from every thing which is not himself, (which he must do if he attempt to transcend space and time) he must find the reason of all things in himself. But the reason of God and the universe are not to be found in man, and, if we seek them there, we shall deny both God and the universe, putting some chimera, which does find its reason in man, in their place and stead. Transcendentalism is, therefore, a sort of human Pantheism, requiring a conception of contradictions in the same subject.
To follow a transcendental writer, we must not endeavor to find the logical connection of his sentences, for there is no such logical connection, and the writer himself never intended there should he. We ought rather to transcend space and time (if indeed we can,) and follow him there. A transcendentalist never reasons; he describes what he sees from his own point of view. So the word Transcendentalism relates not to a system of doctrines but to a point of view; from which, nevertheless, a system of doctrines may be deduced. This explains to us why so many, whose desires were right, have been unable to read the writings of the new school. They have tried to find a system of doctrines where they ought to have looked for the point of view.
But to return to our postulate. We see every thing according to the law of cause and effect. The fact of causation is universal and necessary; for every fact of experience gives us, on one side, its material, which comes from the outworld, and on the other its form, which comes always in part from the law of causation. Let the reader turn for a moment to the postulate of the nail-machine. He will find that every truth which lies in the mind with a conviction of its universality and necessity, is derived to the mind from its own operations, and that it does not rest at all on observation and experience. But does not the truth that every effect must have its cause, lie in the mind with a conviction of its universality and necessity? The consequence is clear. The law of causation is another distorting medium through which we look upon the outworld, and we have no legitimate authority for affirming that the external world is in any way subjected to that law. It is true that we are forced to look upon nature under that relation, but the necessity of the case arises not from the fact of the reality of the law of causation, (we speak as a Kantian,) but from the constitution of our nature. But here all positive knowledge is annihilated. An idea is good and valid, if we may have any confidence in these forms of the soul; hut what is the relation of the form of the shears to the outward object independent of the machine? Who shall infer from the inward to the outward?
The system of Kant is one vast skepticism; admit the fatal postulate, and there is no dodging the conclusion. It will he seen that our transcendentalists have not been unfaithful to the thought of their master.
III. New systems of thought are propagated in various manners: sometimes by preaching, sometimes by private teaching, sometimes, as was the case with Mahometanism, by the sword. Neither of these methods has been adopted by the transcendentalists. Their doctrine has been a new religion rather than a new philosophy. Admission into their ranks has taken place by initiation rather than by instruction. In fact, many of the initiated seem to have remained ignorant, even to this day, of the peculiar doctrines of the school. The sect seems to have aspired to the construction of a new power in society, one that should maintain the rights of the instinctive tendencies of the soul against the encroachments of conventionalism. The force of the school has been much increased by the mystery which it threw around its operations—which were, indeed, the greater part of the time, no operations at all. Hence arose the form of action par coterie. Had the real character of the system been known, the curiosity of the world would have remained tranquil, and Transcendentalism, which, in a great measure, depended upon that curiosity for its actual existence, would have been stifled at its birth. There are, however, several objections against the form of operation par coterie. First, it is incompatible with the possession of powerful doctrines, for a sect holding to a strong creed is irresistibly impelled to preach it to the world and make converts. Secondly, a coterie inevitably forms a dialect for its own use, which cannot be understood by any except its own members, and a new conventionalism arises within the clique as bad as the conventionalism of the world; thus the main end of the establishment of the sect is defeated. Experience has shown that such is the natural course of events; for a cant has grown up and become current among the Transcendentalists which is worse, and more sickening, than that of the Millerites. Again, the ranks of a coterie are recruited, not by the earnest-minded, the thinking, but by those who are curious to dive into things shrouded in mystery, by those who are desirous of appearing to know more than their neighbors, of possessing some key to the secrets of the universe, of which the million are deprived. Thus, a movement beginning in strength degenerates into weakness; vain and airy speculation takes the place of philosophy, fancy that of imagination, and mystification that of reasoning. No poet can thrive in such an atmosphere, for the genuine poet speaks to universal humanity, and cannot be heard by a coterie, where they seek honor one of another. For these reasons, the transcendental movement, although commenced in strength, as a reaction against conventionalism, has totally miscarried. The strong members have left the coterie for the world, and those that remain keep up the form of existence without the power thereof.
A late reviewer of Mr. Emerson’s Essays remarks, that he (Mr. Emerson) has a large and constantly increasing circle of readers. It is well for Mr. Emerson that his works are confined to no such large and increasing circle; he speaks no longer to a coterie, to a private circle, however large and increasing. His works are beginning to he appreciated by his countrymen at large, and they will be judged, not by any conventional standard, hut according to their inherent merits. Private meetings of young ladies to settle the manner of the birth of the universe, the nature of social relations, and the basis of self-reliance, are no longer the only public to which he can appeal. The organization of the sect (and it has an organization, though without outward form and constitution) had a work to do which it has done. Its mission is past, let us call no names, but leave it to dissolve in peace. If the remains of a former vitality give it for a moment the form and appearance of life, let us respect its present insignificance, remembering the good it has done.
IV. The limits of this notice will not permit us to speak in order of each essay in Mr. Emerson’s new series. Like the ancient philosopher, who showed his customers a brick as a sample of the house he wished to sell, we shall select a small portion from the volume under consideration, as a specimen of Mr. Emerson’s whole edifice. Not that the parallel is by any means complete, for the portion we select, is, in itself, a living whole, and, although not a perfect exponent of the volume in which it is found, is, nevertheless ,a very good exponent of Mr. Emerson’s general doctrine. It might indeed be wished that the books of our Transcendental writers were somewhat more homogeneous. As they are now constructed, there is no connection between the beginning, the middle, and the end, no connection between the consecutive chapters. The Essay on “Experience,” however, seems to form a perfect whole, containing as much thought and poetry as any in the volume, and is, moreover, capable of being analysed: we select it therefore as the basis of our further remarks.
But here a difficulty arises. The soul, as we have seen in the beginning of this notice, creates all—man, the universe, all forms, all changes; and this wonderful power is possessed by each individual soul. Will there not then be necessarily a confusion, a mixture of universes, arising from the conflict of the creative energies of distinct souls? This difficulty may be made to vanish. Suppose, for a moment, that I have a magical power over some great public building, the City Hall for example; suppose every one of its parts, by a pre-existing harmony, to be made obedient to my will, so that when I will the windows to open and shut, the doors to turn on their hinges, &c., they immediately do it. Would not this City Hall, thus immediately obedient to my will, be a new body with which I am invested? Suppose I have power over a dog in the moon, so that he barks, runs, wags his tail, according to the action of my will, am I not existing “in this dim spot which men call earth,” and also, at the same time, in “the orbed maiden whom mortals call the moon?” In the first case I exist as a man, in the second as an animal of the canine species. Without doubt, I may have millions of bodies; there is no difficulty in the matter; all that I operate upon by immediate magical power, by magia, to use the technology of Jacob Behmen, is to me a body. So I may be in this world a man, and in the moon a dog; yet am I not two, but one, for one soul animates the two bodies. But mark! While I am immersed in things of time and sense, paying no regard to the soul, which is under and behind all, I think the man who is now moving about, trading and traveling on earth, to be myself, and only after deep thought, fasting, and meditation, do I find that I am also a dog. But here mysteries thicken. I am not only both a man and a dog, I am also neither a man nor a dog; for I am the soul that speaks through both. “What we commonly call man (says Mr. Emerson)the eating, drinking, planting, counting man, does not as we know him represent himself, but misrepresents himself. Him we do not respect; but the soul, whose organ he is, would he let it appear through his action, would make our knees bend.” The man, therefore, who has attained to right knowledge, is aware that there is no such thing as an individual soul. There is but one soul, which is the “Over Soul,” and this one soul is the animating principle of all bodies. When I am thoughtless, and immersed in things which are seen, I mistake the person who is now writing this notice, for myself; but when I am wise, this illusion vanishes like the mists of the morning, and then I know that what I thought to be myself, was only one of my manifestations, only a mode of my existence. It is I who bark in the dog, grow in the tree, and murmur in the passing brook. Think not, my brother, that thou art diverse and alien from myself; it is only while we dwell in the outward appearance that we are two; when we consider the depths of our being, we are found to be the same, for the same self, the same vital principle, animates us both. (We speak as a Transcendentalist.) I create the universe, and thou, also, my brother, createst the same; for we create not two universes but one, for we two have but one soul, there is but one creative energy, which is above, and under, and through all.
Well—but all this is no new theory, and whatever reverent disciple may have imagined that Mr. Emerson, or any “favorite of the gods,” has herein shown a wonderful originality, betrays a most triumphant ignorance of what is, and what has been. Such a doctrine was well known in the East, before history began; no man can tell when it arose, it is as old as thought itself. “Rich, (say the Vedas) is that universal self, whom thou worshipest as the soul.” We should strive, therefore, to disentangle ourselves from the world of matter, from the bonds of time and space, that we may take our stand at once in the ‘Over-soul,’ which we are, did we but realise it. We are the Over-soul, and we come into our own native home, when we attain to our true point of view, where the whole universe is seen to be one body. Then do we know of a truth that it is we who think, love, laugh, bark, growl, run, crawl, rain, snow, &c. &c. Mr. Emerson has given a beautiful expression to this thought:
“There is no great and no small To the soul that maketh all: And where it cometh, all things are; And it cometh every where.
“There is one mind,” says Mr. Emerson, in his Essay on History, “common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same, and to all of the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason, is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand. Who hath access to this Universal Mind, is a party to all that hath or can be done, for this is the only and sovereign agent.”
It may easily be seen that this amounts to an identification of man with God; yet this system is by no means Pantheistic; perhaps, indeed, we may be permitted to coin a new term, and call it Human Pantheism. Pantheism sinks man in God—makes him to be a phenomenon of the Divine existence—but this system, so far from being an absorption of humanity in God, is an absorption of God into the human soul. A pantheistic friend once explained to me the difference between his system and that of the Transcendentalists.” I hold myself,” said he, “to be a leaf, blown about by the winds of change and circumstance, and holding to the extreme end of one of the branches of the tree of universal existence but these gentlemen (referring to the Transcendentalists),think themselves to be some of the sap.” But to return too the second series of essays. As we before said, we shall confine our remarks altogether to the essay on “Experience.” For the sake of connection and order, we will give a detailed analysis of the essay, stating the doctrine in our own words, but giving full quotations where the subject matter is interesting, that the reader may be enabled to judge of our faithfulness.
ILLUSION.—When a man wakes up, as it were, comes to a consciousness of his own existence, and asks himself the questions of his origin and destiny, as, whence came I? where am I going? why do I exist? he almost inevitably loses himself in the outworld. I am endeavoring, as the reader will remember, to state the substance of the Essay on Experience.) A chain of causes has preceded our birth and actions; and the deeds of this present time will be followed by a chain of results. But who knows any thing of these chains? “We find ourselves (says Mr. Emerson) in a series of which we do not know the extremes, and believe that it has none. We awake and find ourselves on a stair: there are stairs below us which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight.” We appear to possess no power, no creative energy, independent of these circumstances. The soul within seems to slumber, and we attribute all to what is without; but while we float on, half seeing, living in appearances, the soul silently and secretly performs its creative acts, so that we are astonished at the end of a day when we have done nothing, to find that real effects have been produced. We seem lost to ourselves, having faith only in appearances. Where we ourselves are, all is mean; but where others are, there is beauty; for who knows but the thing which gives dignity to life may be with them while we feel that it is far from us. “It is said, all martyrdoms looked mean when they were suffered. Every ship is a romantic object, except that we sail in. Embark, and the romance quits our vessel, and hangs on every sail in the horizon. . . . I quote another man’s saying; unluckily that other withdraws himself in the same way, and quotes me.” Even adversity, affliction, the death of friends, have not power to awaken us to ourselves. While our eyes are thus fixed upon the outworld, we are lost to the reality of existence; these things are not the soul, neither have they power to move it. “In the death of my son, now more than two years ago, I seem to have lost a beautiful estate—no more. I cannot get it nearer to me. If to-morrow I should be informed of the bankruptcy of my principal debtors, the loss of my property would he a great inconvenience to me, perhaps, for many years, but it would leave me as it found me—neither better nor worse.”
TEMPERAMENT.—But even here we obtain a glimpse of the supremacy of the soul. Man sees only what he brings eyes to see. “We animate what we can, and see only what we animate. It depends on the mood of the man whether he shall see the sunset or the fine poem.” Temperament must always be taken into consideration. It is in vain that the landscape he spread out, if the beholder be of a cold nature, and regard it not. We are not the creatures of the outworld, for the outworld acts on us only according to our temperaments; and, in this, we already see some pre-eminence of ourselves over nature. And these outward things are not so outward after all as we have supposed. Politics, creeds, conventionalisms of societies, are not themselves causes trammelling us, but ill-looking accidents we have impressed upon nature. “I knew a witty physician who found theology in the biliary duct, and used to affirm that if there was disease in the liver, the man became a Calvinist, and if that organ was sound he became a Unitarian.” A protest must, however, be entered against the consequences which flow from this doctrine of the temperaments. Temperament is final from the point of view of nature only, but a deeper insight will transcend it. The doctrine of temperaments, taken by itself, (says Mr. Emerson,) leads to physical necessity; but there is a door into every intelligence, which is never closed, through which the Creator passes, bringing with him light and higher knowledge.
SUCCESSION.—We are first deceived by the outworld, thinking it to be real, and ourselves a part of it; afterwards, when we have been undeceived by a consideration of temperament, we fall into new illusions, thinking temperament to be final. More thought will disclose to us the secret of this illusion also; it is this—each soul is constituted in a peculiar manner, subjected to moods and changes, and the soul, by its moods and changes, is the reason and ground of the temperaments, as these last are the reason and ground of outward nature. “The secret of the illusoriness is in the necessity of a succession of moods or objects.” Men are constituted each in his own way; there is little that is infinite in them. The nature of each creates his temperament, the temperament of each does its part in creating outward nature.” A man is like a bit of Labrador spar, which has no lustre as you turn it in your hand, until you come to a particular angle; then it shows deep and beautiful colors. There is no adaptation or universal applicability in men, but each has his special talent; and the mastery of successful men consists in adroitly keeping themselves where and when that turn shall be oftenest to be practised. We do what we must, and call it by the best names we can, and would fain have the praise of having intended the result which ensues.” If we take one man, two men, with their temperaments, natural character, or what you will, it is not enough; they cannot constitute the universal harmony. “Of course, it needs the whole society to give the symmetry we seek. The parti-colored wheel must revolve very fast to appear white.”
SURFACE.—Temperament finds its reason in the character of the individual man, and outward things are as the temperament of him who perceives them. But is this really so? Is the universe which we construct in thought, the same with that in which we have the good fortune, or the misery, to live? Nay, hut who art thou, O man, that askest? No good comes from too much prying into nature; the actual, it must be confessed, is against us, and, if we have faith in it, we lose our convictions of the supremacy of the soul. “Nature hates peeping, and our mothers speak her very sense when they say, Children eat your victuals, and say no more about it.” We find, when we think, either a contradiction in our thoughts, or a want of harmony with actual existence. We are therefore, of necessity, skeptics. Let us not, then, look too narrowly into philosophy and science, but live, as others, on the surface of things. “What help, indeed, from thought? Life is not dialectics. “We live amid surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well upon them.” The wise man will live in the present. He knows that the appearances are at least appearances; of other things he knows little. “Five minutes to-day, are worth as much to me as five minutes in the next millennium. Let us he poised and wise in our own to-day. Let us treat the men and women well: treat them as if they were real: perhaps they are.” This “perhaps they are,” is the profound sentence; we have proved them to be mere appearances, yet even the doubt presents itself—perhaps they are real. What shall we do amid these conflicting doubts? There is but one plan, enjoy the present, and let all these annoyances go by the board. Perhaps all is appearance, perhaps it is real, let us not look deep, but skate on the surface. “Great gifts are not got by analysis. Every thing good is on the highway.” Let us no longer be troubled by these high ethical questions which result in no good. Follow your own impulses and all will be well. How can a man have peace when he calls that crime which is no evil, but, on the contrary, according to nature? “Nature, as we know her, is no saint. The lights of the church, the ascetics, the Gentoos and Grahamites, she does not distinguish by any favor. She comes eating and drinking and sinning. Her darlings, the great, the strong, the beautiful, are not children of our law, do not come out of the Sunday School, nor weigh their food, nor punctually keep the commandments. If we will be strong with her strength, we must not harbor such disconsolate consciences, borrowed too much from the consciences of other nations. We must set up the strong present tense against all rumors of wrath, pastor to come.” Take things as they come, live in the present, enjoy the present, and ask no questions, “In the morning I awake, and find the old world, wife, babes, and mother, Concord and Boston, the dear old spiritual world, and even the dear old devil not far off. If we take the good we find, asking no questions, we shall have heaping measures.”
“We may climb into the thin and cold realm of pure geometry and lifeless science, or sink into that of sensation. Between these extremes is the equator of life, of thought, of spirit, of poetry—a narrow belt.” Live on the surface, and ask no questions.
SURPRISE.—It would, undoubtedly, be pleasant, if it were possible, to live in this world as knowing something beyond the mere surface of existence. But it is in vain that we construct our positive systems. “Presently comes a day, or is it only a half hour, with its angel-whisperings, which discomfits the conclusions of nations and of years!” Our systems never cover the right matters, always is there a gap through which the reality oozes out. “Life is a series of surprises, and would not be worth taking or keeping if it were not. God delights to isolate us everyday, and hide us from the past and the future. We would look about us, and with great politeness he draws down before us an impenetrable screen of purest sky, and another behind us of purest sky. “You will not remember,” he seems to say, “and you will not expect.” We are not what we wish we were, we are not what we think ourselves to be. “The ardors of piety agree at last with the coldest skepticism —that nothing is of us or our works—that all is of God.” “The individual is always mistaken. He designed many things, and drew in other persons as coadjutors, blundered much, and something is done; all are a little advanced, but the individual is always mistaken. It turns out somewhat new, and very unlike what be promised himself.”
REALITY.—Temperament gives us the key to Illusion. Outward nature is as it is, because our temperaments are as they are. But, again, these temperaments are a new, and a higher illusion; they result from the necessity of succession in the moods of the soul But these moods also are finite and transient; where shall we look then for Reality? Nowhere but in the soul itself can it be found. We have described life as a flux of moods, but we must not forget there is that in us which is permanent and unchangeable. This unchanging principle is revealed to us by consciousness, and by it we are identified, now with the infinite God, now with the flesh of the body. So we may look upon ourselves from two distinct points of view; from the first, we are seen to be the absolute and unchanging God, from the second, we seem identified with perishable matter. “In our more correct writing, we give to this generalization the name of Being, and thereby confess that we have arrived as far as we can go. Suffice it for the joy of the universe, that we have not arrived at a wall, but at interminable oceans.”
SUBJECT OR THE ONE.—”It is very unhappy, but too late to be helped, the discovery we have made, that we exist. That discovery is called the Fall of Man. Ever afterwards we suspect our instruments. We have learned that we do not see directly, but mediately, and that we have no means of correcting these colored and distorted lenses which we are, or of computing the amount of their errors. Perhaps these subject-lenses have a creative power; perhaps there are no objects. Once we lived in what we saw, now, the rapaciousness of this new power, which threatens to absorb all things, engages us. Nature, art, persons, letters, religions,—objects, successively tumble in, and God is but one of its ideas. Nature and literature are subjective phenomena; every evil and every good thing is a shadow which we cast. . . . . .The great and crescent self, rooted in absolute nature, supplants all relative existence, and ruins the kingdom of mortal friendship and love. The soul is not twin-born, but the only begotten, and though revealing itself as a child in time, child in appearance, is of a fatal and universal power, admitting no co-life. Every day, every act, betrays the ill-concealed deity. We believe in ourselves as we do not believe in others. We permit all things to ourselves, and that which we call sin in others, is experiment for us. It is an instance of our faith in ourselves, that men never speak of crime as lightly as they think: or, every man thinks a latitude safe for him. self, which is nowise to be indulged to another. The act looks very differently on the inside and on the outside; in its quality, and in its consequences. Murder in the murderer is no such ruinous thought as poets and romancers will have it; it does not unsettle him, or fright him from his ordinary notice of trifles: it is an act quite easy to be contemplated, but in its sequel it turns out to be a horrible jangle and confounding of all relations. . . . Inevitably does the universe wear our color, and every object fall successively into the subject itself. The subject exists, the subject enlarges; all things, sooner or later, fall into place. As I am, so I see; use what language we will, we can never say any thing but what we are; Hermes, Cadmus, Columbus, Newton, Bonaparte, are the mind’s ministers.”
CONCLUSION.—”Illusion, Temperament, Succession, Surface, Surprise, Reality, Subjectiveness,—these are the threads in the loom of time, these are the lords of life.” First we wake up to a full conviction of the real existence of the outworld; this is Illusion.
Then we recognize that we see the outworld only according to the constitution of our natures, and find that much we considered real was a deception arising from our Temperament. Here commences the emancipation of the soul from the illusions of sense, here commences the doubt whether nature outwardly exists.
After this, we find in ourselves a law of consecutive changes, which unlocks new mysteries, showing us more clearly that we create the outworld and then deceive ourselves by supposing our own creation to have an outward existence; this is Succession.
Then comes the rule of life. If these things are mere appearances, they are at least appearances, and are real to us; let us therefore live in appearances, skate on them, but never again allow ourselves to be involved in them; this is Surface.
But always, whatever rule of life we may form for ourselves, the soul intervenes; new appearances, new forms, spring up, unexpectedly to ourselves, and the rule of life is found to be futile; this is Surprise.
This intervention of the soul reveals to us the fact that we are the absolute God; this is Reality.
After this, the full truth flashes upon us, that we are not only God, but also nature, that God and nature are but aspects of the individual soul; this is Subjectiveness.
V. Such appears to be the meaning and connection of Mr. Emerson’s Essay on Experience. The other essays contain the same thoughts, the same general material, expressed in a different manner. We do not conceive it necessary to enter into any general appreciation of the system; its partial and inadequate character is manifest, and its errors expose themselves.
We have called this system Transcendentalism; but only by a gross abuse of language. Idealism and Transcendentalism are very different from the doctrine we have been examining; and we regret that our misapplication of terms has been rendered necessary by the popular usage. We shall take occasion to speak farther of this matter in a future article.
THE BHAGVAT GEETA, AND THE DOCTRINE OF IMMORTALITY.
IT is written in the Vedas, “The soul should be known, that is, it should he distinguished from nature; for then it will not return, it will not return.” In this passage, under a form peculiar to the East, we find the enunciation of one of the fundamental problems of philosophy (that of the immortality of the soul) with an indication of its solution. It is the general belief of the Orientals, that the soul of a dying man, after leaving this present body, will be born again into the world under some new form. A man, in his next body, may he a horse, or a dog, and this re-birth, whether in the old or under a new form, is the return of the soul. The expiation of certain crimes consists, according to the description in the laws of Menû, in the soul’s living a thousand successive lives, in the bodies of a thousand different spiders. This is a specimen of the return. The prospect, therefore, is by no means agreeable, and we cannot wonder that the whole force of the Oriental mind should have been directed to the discovery of some means whereby the return of the soul might be avoided.
But, before we go further, let us examine this doctrine of the transmigration of souls, to see whether it really be so devoid of plausibility as we sometimes suppose. in all ages of the world there have been philosophers who held that the soul built the body, that is, that the character and form of the body was dependent on the character of the soul. The diametrically opposite doctrine is, indeed, more fashionable at this time, for many of our phrenologists and other materialists, believe that it is the body which builds the soul, that is, that the soul is a function of (dependent upon) some portion of the organism,—say the brain for example. An appeal is made, in both cases, to observation and experience, the phrenologist, from an examination of the skull, will give a pretty shrewd guess as to the character of its owner; the idealist will call our attention to the fact that the indulgence of certain passions will alter the conformation of the face, the expression of the figure. The man who acquires the disposition of a fox, will begin to look like a fox—will begin to become a fox as far as such a transformation is compatible with human nature. It is in the nature of Spirit, says the idealist, to express itself in some form, and, as we are all rendered free at death, why should we not, in the next birth, take the form best adapted to express our inward natures? Why should not the man, who is, in heart, a fox, take, in the next birth, the outward form of a fox? why should not a fierce bloody man be born the next time as a bull-dog; and a woman, who has no desire, except for dress and display, be born as a peacock ? Are their souls immortal? Yes, verily, but their present natures will remain with them, for their happiness or misery, throughout eternity. Conversely, a man of pure and angelic character begins inevitably to present a pure and angelic appearance, the countenance becomes placid, the manner sedate, and the soul of the man transforms the body till it becomes as angelic as is compatible with its present relations. And when it assumes a new form after death, what shall prevent it from assuming the one most appropriate to its nature?
Our Transcendentalists, hold not only that the soul builds the body, but that it builds all things, God, the universe, the body, other men, &c. “In the order of thought (says Mr. Emerson,) the materialist takes his departure from the external world, and esteems a man as one product of that. The Idealist takes his departure from his consciousness, and reckons the world as an appearance. . . . The experience of the Idealist inclines him to behold the procession of facts you call the world, as flowing perpetually outward from an invisible unsounded centre in himself, centre alike of him and of them, and necessitating him to regard all things as having a subjective or relative value, relative to that aforesaid unknown centre of him.” This doctrine of Mr. Emerson leads either to a denial of a future life, or to the doctrine of the transmigration of souls; for if the soul builds the body, and continues to live, it must inevitably assume, in the next state, a form appropriate to its nature. But, why, you ask, may not a Transcendentalist say that the soul assumes a spiritual body, in the old-fashioned heaven? If the Transcendentalist takes this ground, he will furnish at once the means, not only for the immediate destruction of a whole wing of the school, but also for ultimately sapping the entire system. For in admitting the old-fashioned heaven, he must acknowledge also the possibility of the old-fashioned special communications from the spiritual world to saints and prophets. He must thus admit the logical basis of the old-fashioned orthodoxy, inspiration, &c., and what will he do in the battle that ensues? But it is not necessary to push this inquiry; we know of no passage in the writings of any transcendental writer which asserts the doctrine of a future life. We have no reason to believe that any of them hold the doctrine. The future state is, for them, not one of life, but one of persistence of essence.
This theory that the soul builds the body, is connected with a vast system, which we have not time to examine, but a little thought will convince the reader that it is as plausible and as true as the other doctrine, that the body builds the soul; in short, subjective-idealism is just as true as materialism, and we may add, just as false. As was shown in the March number of this Review, if we start with man alone, our reasonings will leave us, at the end, in New England Transcendentalism, (subjective-idealism,) and, if we take our departure in nature alone, we end of necessity in material-realism; both partial, exclusive, and inadequate systems. The fact is, the body builds the soul, and the soul builds the body, but it is God who builds both.
II. What reasoning, what train of thought, lay in the minds of the writers of the Vedas when they explained the method to be followed by men desirous of avoiding a return into this evil mansion of pain? Why did they suppose that a distinction of the soul from nature, by the exercise of thought, would be sufficient to overcome this necessity of a return? We shall endeavor in the following pages to give an answer to these questions. But it will be necessary to explain some of the peculiarities of the Oriental philosophy, that the reader may readily understand the somewhat obscure text we shall find it necessary to quote.
What is the invisible world of the Orientals? This invisible world, is identical with the world of potential existences of Aristotle; it is identical with the abyss of Jacob Behman and John Pordage. These three expressions, the invisible world, the potential world, and the abyss, (which last term we prefer, as being more expressive,) are names indicating one identical thing in the universe of reality—we do not say in the universe of actuality.
What then is meant by the term, the abyss? Suppose, in thought, this visible universe to be broken. Let all the qualities by which we distinguish the differences subsisting among the different bodies of nature, cease to manifests themselves. Let all properties, all activities in nature, reënter into themselves. Let all that by which each manifests its own proper existence, reënter the virtual state, so that all properties, all activities, exist no longer in act, but only in the power of acting. Like a circle that contracts more and more till it vanishes in its own centre; let all extensions contract into—into what, 0 ye Powers! Let all qualities derived from extension, or which are manifested to us through extension, enter again into themselves. Let, in short, all properties of things be only in potentiality of manifestation. The reader must endeavor to effect these operations in thought.
But perhaps it will be well to define some of our terms. What is essence? What is existence? What is the difference in signification between the words essence and existence? Essence is pure being, without efflux or manifestation. Existence involves out-going or manifestation. The soul of man, and every other substance, according to the foundation of its being, according to its centre or root, is; but according to its out-goings, manifestations, or operations, it exists.
What is potential existence? What is actual existence? What is the difference between potential and actual existence? A thing exists potentially, or in potentia, when it is possible only. This same thing exists actually when it has not only this possible (potential) existence, but also a real existence in fact.
A thing is, when in potentia, or when possessing only a possible existence; but it exists, when it has not only its root of substance or being, but also an actual manifestation.
When all outward things exist only in potentiality of manifestation, or, in short, when all things exist only in potentia, man also must cease from all actual existence; and must reënter the potential state In fact, how does man act, how does he manifest himself? He moves, eats, drinks, thinks, wills, remembers, hopes, loves, desires, &c. But can a man eat without eating something, or can he drink except he drink something? Can he move without moving through some space, pr moving something, viz: his body? Can he love, hope, desire, think, without thinking, hoping, loving, desiring, something? When all things are in the potential state, this something, which is necessary to all his actions, is withdrawn, and, as man cannot act or manifest himself, without the concurrence of this something, he must also himself cease from all action, all manifestation—he must himself, in like manner reënter the potential state. Conceive, if you can, that you are removed into some distant region of space where nothing can come into contact with you, where the light of the stars of heaven is extinguished, where the undulations of the all-pervading ether cease to operate, where all motion, all change, all springing sources, have reëntered into themselves; conceive, also, your memory to he so blotted out that the voices of the past sound no longer; conceive that no fact remains present to the mind on which to base an inference in regard to the future Would you live, act, think or desire? Of what would you think, or what would you desire? All these objects of thought and desire have entered, according to the supposition, into the potential state, and manifest themselves no longer to you. Evidently you have entered, as far as is possible this side the gates of death, into the potential state, into the invisible world, into the abyss.
When we thus conceive this universe to he broken, to have returned into its original essence, but non-existence—when we conceive man also to have ceased from all actual existence—we shall perceive all our representations, humanity, the outward world, ourselves, all thought, all desire, reëntering into each other, so as to exist thenceforth only in germ, only in potentiality of existence. Man and the universe will be effaced together—all things will enter the potential state simultaneously; for the human intelligence reflects the universe, and the reëntering of the universe into the potential state will he marked by the smooth surface of the mirror (the mind of man) which gives thenceforth no reflection, which marks thenceforth no change.
Thus beings have become one being, in potentiality of manifestation. Yet when we say one being, our words must riot be taken with too much strictness. Nature and man have reëntered into themselves, and all things exist only in potentia; they have become one being, insomuch as each is now a cause existing in potentiality of operation—one being, inasmuch as these causes are undistinguishable the one from the other, since all that can effect a distinction is swallowed up in the abyss of potentiality. But they are many beings, insomuch as they are the potentiality of a world involving diversity and change.
This one being, this world in potentia, is the abyss of Jacob Behman, the invisible world of the Orientals.
“I am (says Kreeshna, in the Bhagvat Geeta,) in like manner, that which is the seed of all things in nature; and there is nothing, whether animate or inanimate, which is without me. But what, 0 Arjoon, hast thou to do with this manifold wisdom? I planted the universe with a single portion and stood still. [The son of Pandoo then beheld within the mighty compound being, within the body of the God of gods, standing together, the whole universe, divided forth into its vast variety.] I see thyself (says Arjoon) on all sides of infinite shape, formed with abundant arms, and bellies, and mouths, and eyes; but I can neither discover thy beginning, thy middle, nor again thy end, 0 universal Lord, form of the universe!”
The following passage is clear, and shows the distinction between the potential and actual worlds, the first being the substance and seed of the latter, and the latter being the former drawn out into actual relations.
“They who are acquainted with day and night, know that a day of Brahma is a thousand revolutions of the Yoogs, and that his night extendeth for a thousand more. On the coming forth of that day all things proceed from invisibility to visibility; so, on the approach of night, they are all dissolved away into that which is called invisible. The universe even, having existed, is again dissolved; and now again, on the approach of day, by divine necessity, it is reproduced. That which, upon the dissolution of all things else, is not destroyed, is superior and of another nature from that visibility; it is invisible and eternal. He who is thus called invisible and incorruptible, is even he who is called the supreme abode; which men, having once obtained, they never more return to the earth: that is my mansion. That supreme being is to be obtained by him that worshipeth no other gods. In him is included all nature, by him all things are spread abroad.”
We will give a few more extracts from the Bhagvat Geeta, and then pass at once to the doctrine of creation.
“The great Brahm (says Kreeshna) is my womb. In it I place my foetus, and from it is the production of all nature. I am generation and dissolution; the place where all things are reposited, and the inexhaustible seed of all nature. I am sunshine, and I am rain. I now draw in, and I now let out. I am death and immortality. I am entity and non-entity. The ignorant, being unacquainted with my supreme nature, which is superior to all things, and exempt from decay, believe me, who am invisible, to exist in the visible form under which they see me. . . . I am the creation and the dissolution of the whole universe. There is not anything greater than I; and all things hang on me, even as precious gems on a string. I am moisture in the water, light in the sun and moon, invocation in the Vedas, sound in the firmament, human nature in mankind. In all things I am life, and I am zeal in the zealous; and know, 0 Arjoon, that I am the eternal seed of all nature. . . . . . I will now tell thee what is Gnea, or the object of wisdom, from which understanding thou wilt enjoy immortality. This is that which has no beginning and is separate, even Brahm, who can neither be called sat (eus) nor asat (non eus). Unattached, it containeth all things, and without quality, it partaketh of every quality. It is undivided, yet in all things it standeth divided. It is wisdom, that which is the object of wisdom, and that which is to be obtained by wisdom.”
III. Some of the heretical sects supposed the abyss, the invisible or potential world, to be the supreme God. It is evident, that the Bhagvat Geeta, from which the foregoing extracts are made, is not exempt from the influence of this error. But the abyss cannot be God; for God is alive, while the abyss is unquestionably dead. The abyss has only a nugatory and potential existence, itself being the mere potentiality of the universe, while God, on the other hand, exists always in act. But, perhaps, it may be said that the abyss is alive, and that, in truth, it is itself the only life, that it passes always, by virtue of inhering necessity, into act, imparting life by that passage to all vital agents in the visible universe. This would be a statement of the fatal pantheism which has always reigned in the East, a pantheism somewhat similar to that of the Hegelians, and almost identical with that of a portion of our New England Transcendentalists. We will endeavor to render this matter a little more clear.
We read in the writings of Dupuis, the materialist, “amid the shadows of a dark night, when the heavens are covered with a thick cloud, when all bodies have disappeared from our eyes, and we seem to dwell alone with ourselves and with the black shadows which surround us, what is then the measure of our existence; flow much does it differ from an entire annihilation, especially when memory and thought do not surround us with the images of objects which the day had revealed to us. All is dead to us, and we ourselves are, in a certain manner, dead to nature. What can give us life, and draw our souls from this mortal weakness which chains down its activity in the shadows of chaos? A single ray of light can restore us to ourselves, and to nature, which seemed so far removed from us. Behold the principle of our true existence, without which our life would he but the sentiment of a prolonged ennui. It is this need of light, it is its creative energy, which has been felt by all men, for they have seen nothing more frightful than its absence. Behold their first Divinity, whose brilliant splendor, sparkling forth from the bosom of chaos, caused to proceed thence man and the universe, according to the theological principles of Orpheus and of Moses.” The thought here expressed is simple, but its power is inexhaustible, infinite! We will not dwell on the view of the nature of Life which is so clearly and beautifully expressed, nor upon the misapprehension of the theology of Moses, so manifested in the concluding line. But we would ask Dupuis, is there nothing but light which can expel this obscure gloom? is there nothing but light which can deliver man from this migratory abyss of potential existence? flow much is involved in the expression, “especially when memory and thought do not surround us with the image of objects which the day had revealed to us?” A single ray of light would indeed restore us to reality, to communion with nature, but would not the remembrance of a single object seen through the day, awaken the soul to a real and intense life, though not to an immediate communion with nature? while we are in this state of darkness and of silence, this state of dreaming without dreams, the whole expanse, if we may so speak, of memory, is spread before the inner eye, but without form, and, as it were, void. No distinct image is present to the mind, and all our conceptions lie in the memory and imagination, (which is another form, or rather a modification of memory,) in the mere potentiality of existence as actual conceptions. if we begin to act mentally, if we begin to form to ourselves a picture or conception, the facts of memory rise up before us, and, taking the isolated parts, we bring them together, perhaps in new forms, by the exercise of imagination, perhaps in the reproduction of some well known collocation, by the exercise of simple memory.
This vast, and apparently empty, (as in the case supposed by Dupuis,) expanse of memory, which stretches out before the inward eye when we seem to cease from all thought, is as the invisible or potential world, as the abyss. This empty expanse, containing the germ of all our conceptions, is a similitude, a correspondency, with the invisible world of the Orientals. But the invisible world is the seed of all nature, while the vacant expanse, or world, of memory and imagination, is finite, and the seed of the conceptions of the individual man only. As the whole universe is contained, in potentia, in the abyss, so, in this field of memory, are contained potentially all those elements which go to make up the conceptions formed by the mind when it entered into operation. It will be well, for the reader to look again at the passages relating to the invisible world, already quoted from the Bhagvat Geeta making those changes which a reference of the texts to the finite instead of the infinite abyss, will render necessary.
But to proceed. God is a self-existent (that is, a self-living) being. We shall endeavor, in some future article, to make it evident that God is not only Essence, but also Existence; for the present, we content ourselves with a simple assertion of the fact, being confident that our renders perceive the absurdity of denying it. But to obviate all objection, we will give a simple demonstration. If God be pure essence, without existence, it would be absolutely impossible that there should be any visible world, as there would be no reason why any thing should be drawn forth from the abyss into actual existence; but there is a visible world, therefore, &c. God is self-living, therefore having power to create. Man, by virtue of his energy as a living essence, has the power of originating new conceptions, the power of creating in a finite manner; but God, possessing an infinite life, has an infinite creative power.
By virtue of this creative power, the universe is evidently, from all eternity, possible; that is, the universe must have existed, from all eternity, in potentia.
This possibility is, therefore, itself uncreated; for God, being self-living, cannot, by any possibility, exist without the power to create. For when we say that a thing exists in possibility, or is possible, we mean that some active agent has the power to bring it to pass. The words possible and power, come from the same root.
The abyss, the invisible or potential world, exists, therefore, from eternity; it is uncreated, dependent not upon the will, but upon the being of the self-living God.
But, perhaps, this explanation, as it now stands, is not altogether satisfactory. We say then that the abyss, the potential world, the original possibility of things, is uncreated. Why? For this reason— if God created the original possibility, that creation of the original possibility, was itself possible with God; here a new possibility rises up behind the possibility first considered, and this new possibility is a prior condition requisite to the very being of the possibility first considered. If we treat this new possibility, (which we have formed on the hypothesis that the original possibility was created, to be prior to that original possibility itself), if we treat this new possibility as we did the other, still another possibility will rise up behind this new possibility, and so on to infinity. If, therefore, the original possibility was created, that possibility was by no means original, for it must have been preceded by another possibility, and this last by another; all which is evidently absurd.
The possibility of a particular act of creation is a condition logically prior to the creative act itself; for if the particular creation be impossible, it will evidently never take place. The possibility is not made to be by the very fact of creation, for the particular creation would have remained possible, although the actual creation had never taken place. The greater portion of the abyss, the greater part of the possibilities of things, have indeed not yet been realized, and, in all probability, they never will he. The possibility of an act of creation is therefore a condition logically prior to, and independent of, that act itself; and this reasoning applies as well to the first act of creation as to any other. The possibility of creation, the universe in potentia, the abyss, therefore, existed before the very first act of creation and is, therefore, itself uncreated—the proposition that was to be proved.
We are now able to see the bearing of a profound expression recorded in the Vedas. “Waters [fluids in most of the ancient systems represented the abyss,] waters alone there were; this world originally was water. In it the Lord of creation moved, having become air: he saw this earth, and upheld it, assuming the form of Varacha. The Lord of creation meditated profoundly upon the earth, and created the Gods, the Vasas, the Rudras, and the Adityas: these gods addressed the Lord of creation, saying, How can we form creatures? He replied, as I created you by profound contemplation, so do you seek in devotion the means of multiplying creatures.” Thus, according to the Vedas, this visible universe was created out of the abyss of essence, but non-existence, by the profound contemplation of the Lord of creation, that is, by a method analogous to that of the production of conceptions and images in human thought. As the facts in the memory of man are distinct from, though dependent upon, him, so the invisible world, or the abyss, (which is, as it were, the vacant expanse of the infinite memory,) is distinct from God, though dependent upon him; and as it requires a living and personal man to create a poem, or other work of memory and imagination, so it requires a living and personal God, to create this transcendent poem which we call nature and man, or the visible universe. So this world is the thought of God, but that thought rendered firm and stable, in its manifold relations, by the simple volition of the Divine mind; for the worlds were created by the will of God.
But here, a confusion of thought, leading to pantheism, must be noticed; and this more especially as the Oriental philosopher invariably became bewildered, and identified God with the Abyss. We wish the reader to bear in mind that in this assertion of the self-existence of God, superior to the Abyss, we separate ourselves from the Oriental systems. The writers of the Vedas undoubtedly believed in the personality of God, but when they came to write, they found the thought too powerful for them, and sought to shelter their weakness in the pantheistic hypothesis. Nearly all the writers who gathered their systems from the sacred books, adopted this hypothesis, but abandoned the element of truth which was more vaguely expressed. We are far from endeavoring to vindicate the Oriental systems, yet we think the writers of the Vedas ought to have the credit of half seeing the truth we have been endeavoring to explain. But to proceed when we form a conception, we gather the detached portions together in the memory, and the complete conception starts up, as it were, before us. But we can bring no element into our conception which we have not previously acquired by experience, which we do not retain as a fact of memory; all things must exist in the memory before they can enter and become a part of the conception. When, however, the conception is formed, we recognize that it is distinct from us, that it is not ourselves, but an image, a mental picture, dependent upon us for its continuance in existence. If we withdraw our attention it vanishes. It depends upon us for our existence, but our existence does not depend upon it. We do not flow into the conception, it does not partake of our essence, yet we sustain it, and, if we withdraw our sustaining energy, it returns again into the potential state in the vacant expanse of memory; it will no longer be a picture actually existing before our minds. We would here remark, by the way, that no picture, no representation, can exist in the mind; for the mind is simple, and therefore without any capacity of including space, and, where there is no space, the use of the word within is absurd. The picture is present to the mind, not in the visible world, but in the invisible world of memory and imagination, where indeed there is space, but of another order from the space of the visible world. A further investigation of this matter would require psychological developments wholly incompatible with the nature of this article; we are concerned at this moment, not with psychology, but with ontology.
The early Hindoo philosophers knew very well that God was self-living, and superior to the Abyss, but they always became entangled in their speculations, till they confounded the Abyss with the Divine Nature itself. Sometimes they say the Abyss is. God, which is atheism, for the Abyss is evidently dead, and to say that God is dead, is but another way of saying that there is no God. This is not the doctrine of the Orthodox sects, but of the heretics, the Buddhists for. example. Sometimes, however, the most Orthodox writers affirm, in the same passage, the self-living, personal, existence of God, and the divinity of the Abyss; the assertion of contradictory things produces inextricable confusion. An example may be found in the beginning of the Laws of Menû:—
“This universe existed only in the first Divine idea, yet unexpanded as if involved in darkness, imperceptible, undefinable. undiscoverable by reason, and undiscovered by revelation, as if it were wholly immersed in sleep.
“He, having willed to produce various beings from his own divine substance, first with a thought created the waters, and placed in them a productive seed.
“The seed became an egg, bright as gold, blazing like the luminary with a thousand beams; and in that egg he was born himself, in the form of BRAHMA , the great forefather of all spirits.
“The waters were called nara, because they were the production of NARA , or the Spirit of God; and since they were his first ayana, or place of motion, he thence is named NARAYANA , or moving on the waters.
“From THAT WHICH IS , the first cause, not the object of sense, existing everywhere in substance, not existing to our perception, without beginning or end, was produced the divine male, famed in all worlds under the appellation of BRAHMA .
“He whose powers are incomprehensible, having thus created both me and this universe, was again absorbed in the Supreme Spirit, changing the time of energy for the time of repose.
“When that Power awakes, (for though slumber be not predicable of the sole eternal Mind, infinitely wise, and infinitely benevolent, yet it is predicated of BRAHMA , figuratively, as a general property of life,) then has this world its full expansion; but when he slumbers with a tranquil spirit, then the whole system fades away:
“For while he reposes, as it were, in calm sleep, embodied spirits, endued with principles of action, depart from their several acts, and the mind itself becomes inert.
“And when they are once absorbed in that supreme essence, then the divine soul of all beings withdraws his energy, and placidly slumbers.
“Then, too, this vital soul of created bodies, with all the organs of sense and of action, remains long immersed in the first idea, or in darkness, and performs not its natural functions, but migrates from its corporeal frame. . . . . .
“Thus the immutable Power, by waking and reposing alternately, revivifies and destroys, in eternal succession, this whole assemblage of locomotive and immovable creatures.”
The Orientals held, as a very general thing, the Abyss to be God. The visible universe is nothing other than the Abyss itself, proceeding from the potential state into actual relations—proceeding from invisibility to visibility. Hence the invisible world, if it have a substantial existence, (which it must have, if it he identical with God,) is the substance of the visible, so that there would be but one substance or being in the universe; for the Abyss, as has been already shown, is one. The universe, therefore, while in the potential state, would be God, but after it has proceeded forth from invisibility to visibility, it is the actual world. Thus God is supposed to be the substance of the visible world. While things are in their actual relations, they are not God, but when they return into their primordial source, they are God; for each thing according to its potential existence is of the Abyss, and it is the whole Abyss, for the very being of the Abyss consists in this, that all which distinguishes one thing from another is swallowed up, destroyed. It is probably, for these or similar reasons, that some of our subjective Idealists (Transcendentalists) affirm that “they are God when they are out of the body, but not God when in the body.”
In fact, our Transcendentalists believe, as we have already seen, “that this visible universe is a procession from some unknown centre in the Transcendentalist himself.” Is it not evident, therefore, that when the universe enters its primordial source, it will enter the Transcendentalist himself, since it is from him that all things originally proceed? This is the genesis of Transcendentalism. The thinker identifies the Abyss with himself, calling the Abyss God, and then says that he creates and destroys the universe, by alternating seasons of energy and repose. He uses the words of Kreeshna, saying, “There is not anything greater than I; and all things hang on me, even as precious gems on a string. I am entity and nonentity; I am death and immortality. I now draw in, and I now let out.” And evidently, if the Transcendentalist enters the potential state, he is the whole Abyss; for be can enter that state only by destroying every quality which distinguishes him from the rest of the universe. But by what right does he affirm himself to be the whole actual universe, even though grant that he is the whole universe in potentia? If a man enter the potential state, as is very evident from the preceding considerations, he dies, and does by no means become greater than he was. A Transcendentalist ought not, therefore, to affirm himself to be all things, hut rather, on the contrary, to affirm himself to he dead. The following lines, quoted from the Dial, will show that our Transcendental friends have not always manifested this wisdom:
“Nothing is if thou art not. From thee, as from a root, The blossoming stars upshoot, The flower-cups drink the rain. Joy and grief and weary pain Spring aloft from thee, And toss their branches free. Thou art under, over all; Thou dost hold and coverall; Thou art Atlas, thou art Jove!”
We will make another quotation from the Bhagvat Geeta, and then pass to the next general head:
“This whole world was spread abroad by me in my invisible form, All things depend on me, and I am not dependent upon them. Behold my divine connection. My creative spirit is the keeper of all things, not the dependent. Understand that all things rest in me as the mighty air, which passeth everywhere, resteth in the ethereal space. At the end of the formation, at the end of the day of Brahma, all things, o son of Koontas, return into my primordial source, and, at the beginning of another formation, I create them all again. I plant myself in my own virtue, and create, again and again, this assemblage of beings, this whole, from the power of nature without power. Those works confirm not me, because I am like one that sitteth aloof, uninterested in those works. By my supervision, nature produceth both the movable and the immovable. It is from this source, 0 Arjoon, that the universe resolveth.”
How different is this doctrine from that of the Vedas! The text of the sacred hooks is intermixed with errors, hut still they assert the existence of a creative God; while here, in the Bhagvat Geeta, the Deity is identified with the Abyss—. that is, his being is denied.
“As the spider spins, and gathers hack its thread (say the Vedas); as plants sprout out of the earth; as hairs grow on a living person; so is this universe produced from imperishable nature. By contemplation the Vast One germinates.” In the first sentence we have indeed the procession of all things from the Abyss, the visible resting its substantial being upon the invisible; but in the second, we find the assertion of a living and personal God; for, it is by contemplation that the Vast One germinates, that is, the Vast One is a contemplative agent, a living person. But the Vast One is identified with the Abyss, the Abyss is made to be alive, and from this admixture of incongruous thoughts flows forth, as usual, an inextricable confusion.
IV. After these somewhat extended preliminary observations, we are able to examine the question of the soul’s immortality. First, then, what is death, or the transition from this life to that which is to come? Death is not the contrary of being or of existence, for the contrary to being is nonentity, and the contrary to existence is non-existence; death is contrary to life, and hardly that. Death is the passage of a vital agent from one state of existence to another. A man when he leaves this present state for the future world is said to die, though it is not to be supposed that his soul ceases for a moment to live. Is the death of the soul conceivable? Endeavor to conceive of yourself as dead—make the attempt. Do you not still find yourself as a living agent, contemplating some imaginary picture, which you have conjured up before your mind, and which represents yourself as dead. Make the attempt again. Evidently it is fruitless; no man can conceive of himself as dead. We may indeed conceive of ourselves as dead to this present state, as having departed from the present body, but not as totally dead. A man may die as to this present body, but he is immediately horn into a new, a higher state; for the soul, speaking without reference to the particular state of existence, does not cease to live. To die, therefore, is not to cease from all life, but to cease from this present form of life which we enjoy in the body. The soul, absolutely speaking, never dies, it merely dies relatively, it merely dies in relation to that form of life which it lived in the body.
The philosophical arguments, however, which are generally adduced in favor of the immortality of the soul, are good for nothing, Perhaps it will be well to examine a few of them. The first is derived from the simplicity of the soul; this is the metaphysical argument. The soul is simple, that is, not made up of parts, therefore indecomposable, therefore indestructible. Granted. But this only proves that the soul, quod being, will never cease; the same may be said of every particle of matter. When the body is destroyed the particles are not destroyed; they go into new relations; what was once wheat or grain is now a man, and what was once a man is now some animal—”all flesh is grass,” but does this proverb prove that each particle of matter enjoys immortality? The question is, whether the soul in its future state will continue not merely to be, but to live. The question is not concerning persistence in being, but concerning future life. The metaphysical argument proves nothing in relation to immortality. The soul lives now in the body, is dependent upon the body for its communion with outward nature, it cannot learn or know anything of the visible world except through the medium of the senses, and without the cunning organization of the ear, human speech and the communion of man with man, and therefore, human sympathies, and, in short, human life, would be impossible. Who does not know the influence of spiritous liquor, tobacco, and opium, upon the memory? Do these material agents act directly on the soul? Evidently not; hut they act on the body, and this weakening of the memory by material agents operating on the body shows us that the soul is dependent, for the continuance of the exercise of memory and imagination, to a certain extent, upon its connection with the body. Who shall say, with the metaphysical argument only to sustain him, that the soul, on its separation from the body does not enter the Abyss, does not enter the potential state? Is there any life there, any immortality in the Abyss, which men would desire? Again, there is the Platonic argument, which goes on the ground that man existed in some celestial region before he was born of a woman. But this fact must be made good before it can he used in any argument ; this we believe has never yet been done. Then comes the argument from consciousness. Some say they are conscious they will live hereafter. Consciousness, we believe, gives us knowledge concerning the immediate operations of our own minds, and concerning these only. The argument from consciousness, is, therefore, not absurd, but ridiculous. We know a lady who denies the Christian miracles, and when asked why she denies them, she answers, “I am conscious that they never happened.” This is a specimen of the argument from consciousness. The fact is, our friends really mean, when they say they are conscious of the reality of a fact concerning which they have no certain knowledge, that their belief in that direction is strong. But strong belief is no valid philosophical argument; for many false opinions have been firmly held, and all creeds, the false as well as the true, count their martyrs who have sealed their faith in their blood. For ourselves, we know of no good argument for the immortality of the soul, except the one so philosophically set forth by our Saviour and the Apostle Paul. But this will lead us perhaps too far into the dark region of theological controversy. We will, however, say a few words in relation to the metaphysics of the Christian doctrine of immortality, and, in so doing, we shall be careful to trespass on the limits of no sect—to say nothing which could justly be condemned by an intelligent man of any religious denomination. The Hindoo theologians say that man’s life is generated from the bread he eats: Moses gives a nobler expression to this thought, saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” What is Life? We do not conceive it necessary to answer this question, although we think it one by no means difficult to answer. The manner in which life is sustained is the question which now concerns us. We are not upon the problem of the nature of life, but upon that of immortality, the continuance of life.
A man lives a sort of vegetable life, a life similar to that of the plants, according to which the involuntary functions, such as the circulation of the blood, the action of the stomach, are performed. He lives also a sort of animal life, a life similar to that of the brutes, according to which he gratifies his animal passions, and lives in the enjoyment of sensual pleasures. He lives also a social life, which he has in common with other men and women, according to which he gratifies the tendencies proper to man. This analysis is incomplete, and, in fact, altogether erroneous; for man has naturally but one life, which is human life; yet these distinctions will enable us to express our thought more clearly. Man’s life is sustained by the bread he eats. A plant deprived of light, air, and moisture, dies; in like manner a man, deprived of the same, dies, for his physical system cannot hear up under the privation. Now light, air and moisture are the bread which the plant eats. An animal deprived of the means of living according to the nature of animals, dies, or if he continues to live, it will he a sort of dumb life, like that of a vegetable: so it is with man. These means of gratifying the natural tendencies, are the bread which the animal eats to sustain the life peculiar to animals. A man deprived of society dies to all social life, and becomes a mere brute. Take, for example, those men who have become idiotic in solitary confinement: some indeed hold out longer than others, hut let the confinement he continued, and human nature cannot resist it. Now society is the bread which a man eats to sustain his social life.
It is evident, therefore, that man is dependent for the continuance of his life upon something which is not himself. lie cannot always have food given him. There is no life in the Abyss where all relations have vanished; there is no life in pure essence, but only in existence. The true question then is, What shall prevent man, on the dissolution of the body, from going hack into the Abyss? What shall man do to inherit, not continuance of being, but eternal life?
If nourishment be withdrawn, a man must die to all those powers which are deprived of nourishment. But the body, as we have seen, is the means whereby man assimilates to himself this various nourishment. When, therefore, this earthly tabernacle is withdrawn, it is to he feared that man dies altogether, for the means whereby he assimilated the nourishment of his life is withdrawn. The man, therefore, who has no life higher than that which is nourished by the things of this world, has no true and well-grounded hope of immortality; for he will one day be withdrawn from this world, and then there will no longer he any nourishment for him.
The question again recurs, What then must we do in order to inherit eternal life? Evidently we must, at once, commence to live a life dependent upon nothing in this present perishing world; we must begin to feed immediately, that is, without the intervention of the body, on something altogether independent of sensible things; in other words, we must begin to live, not by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God. But where is this spiritual bread? where is this nourishment altogether independent of things which perish? where is this nourishment which the soul can eat without the intervention of the body? Our Saviour says, “I am the bread of life. . . . If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever. . . . . Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, bath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” But mark! these words have a mystical meaning. “It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing; the words which I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.”
In order now that Christ should be able to give nourishment to those that live in him, so that they who are in him may have eternal life, three things are necessary: 1st. That he himself should have attained to eternal life; 2d. That he should have ascended above all perishable and transitory things; 3d. That his disciples may live in him without the intervention of the body. Let us examine these separately.
1st. Our Saviour himself describes his qualifications, so far as his own attainment of eternal life is concerned. “As the living Father hath sent me, (he says,) and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.”
2d. If it can be proved against Strauss and his followers, and against the Rationalists, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Father on high, the second condition is abundantly fulfilled. The reader must bear in mind that we confine ourselves purposely to the philosophy of immortality, that we do not intend to trench upon theological ground in any direction, and that we express no opinion whatever as to the validity or non-validity of any fact.
3d. If it can be proved, from the experience of private Christians, that there is an immediate relation between Christ and the individual soul, the third condition also is abundantly fulfilled. The soul must be in constant relation with some nourishment, and it will live according to the nature of that nourishment. If the nourishment be material, the man will live a natural and perishable life; if it be spiritual, he will live a spiritual life. But if man, while living a natural life, lives a spiritual life also, and that spiritual life be the immediate, direct communion of the soul with something transcending all perishable things, the spiritual life will continue to subsist, though the body and the nourishment of the natural man both enter the Abyss, both enter into mere potential existence.
The Christian argument appears to be this: Our Lord represents himself as living spiritually, and yet literally, upon God as his nourishment; for the passage quoted is connected with those [6th of John] relating to the bread of life. We quote the text again: “As the living Father bath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” Here Christ is represented as living on (by) the Father, and his disciples as living, in a like manner, upon him. His disciples are represented as living spiritually, and yet literally, upon him as the nourishment of their souls—”so he that eateth me,” &c,. Some analogies to this method of obtaining life by nourishment, may be found in the teachings of Zoroaster. It was the living Father that sent Christ; that is, the self-living Father, “who alone bath immortality” in himself, as St. Paul says. But Christ lived in God, so that his life was in two imperishable things—his soul, which was the vital agent, and the Father, who was the nourishment of his soul. Our Lord, therefore, was in communion, or relation, with something which could never cease from actual existence; and, although the world should enter the abyss, and his life as far as the world was concerned should cease, for want of nourishment, his life which was in God could never cease. We are saved therefore in Christ, “not by the law of a carnal commandment, but by the power of an endless life.” But whosoever eats our Lord spiritually, even he shall live by that same nourishment. This is clear, for the soul itself is imperishable; this can be proved by the metaphysical argument already noticed, although that argument is impotent in relation to the continuance of life. The soul of man is imperishable, (quoad being,) and Christ, the nourishment of the soul, is imperishable also, by reason of his connection with the Father; the life, therefore, between two imperishable things, is also imperishable. “He that believeth on me, (saith our Lord,) though he were dead, yet shall he live, and he that liveth and believeth on me shall never die.” It is in this way that we explain the saying of the Saviour, “Because I live, ye shall live also; and at that day, ye shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you ;” and also the passage in the writings of Paul, “Your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory ;” and scores of other passages which want of space compels us to omit.
But the Oriental doctrine in no way resembles this. The Christian doctrine gives a true continuance of life in actual relations; but the Oriental theory makes the future state of the soul to consist in either, 1st. The return of the soul into the present forms of existence, in the bodies of men or animals, or, 2d. A total absorption into the abyss. The first condition, or that of transmigration, fills the mind with terror; and it is the chief design of the Hindoo theology to furnish some means whereby it may be avoided.
We read, in the Laws of Menû, in relation to this doctrine:
“Action, either verbal, mental, or corporeal, bears good or evil fruit, as itself is good or evil; and from the actions of men proceed their various transmigrations in the highest, the mean, and the lowest degree. . .
“For sinful, corporeal, a man shall assume after death a vegetable or mineral form; for such acts mostly verbal, the form of a bird or beast; for acts mostly mental, the lowest of human conditions. . .
“By the vital souls of those men, who have committed sins in the body reduced to ashes, (it was the custom to burn dead bodies,) another body composed of nerves with five sensations, in order to be susceptible to torment, shall certainly be assumed after death.
“And, being intimately united with those minute nervous particles, according to their distribution, they shall feel, in that new body, the pangs inflicted in each case by the sentence of YAMA . . .”
But we are more interested in the other form of the doctrine, viz: the method of escape from this necessity of migrating from body to body. This is by a return into the abyss. A man must, in this world, crucify every affection, every tendency, and endeavor to be always in the state described in the quotation from Dupuis. When a man thus without affection comes to die, he has no particular character, or tendency, and therefore will not take any form, but will at once enter the potential state; in which indeed he now really is as far as existence in the body will permit. This reentrance into the potential state is annihilation rather than immortality. When the soul distinguishes itself from nature, it destroys, as far as in it lies, its actual relations, and thus commences to disentangle itself from those things which tend to necessitate a return. Thus the soul, when it is known, that is, distinguished from visible nature, and from actual relations, does not return. Kreeshna is the Abyss, and the highest state of future happiness, held out by the Bhagvat Geeta, consists in a return into Kreeshna. In this state of essence without existence, we are indeed free from the danger of migration, for we are thenceforth free from all relations whatever; hut no future life is compatible with such an order of being. We should like to know how our Transcendentalists answer the objections brought against the doctrine of the Bhagvat Geeta. Their whole desire is to reënter into themselves, to he absolved from all dependency upon anything which is not themselves, flow do they escape the Abyss? How do they avoid a return into Kreeshna, into “the Supreme Abode?” Their only argument for immortality is the metaphysical one, derived from the fact of the soul’s simplicity; hut this proves only that the soul’s being is imperishable, it proves nothing in relation to a future life.
“He, O Arjoon, (says Kreeshna,) who, from conviction, acknowledges my divine birth and actions to be even so, doth not upon his quitting his mortal frame, enter into another, for he entereth into me. . . Those men of regulated lives, whose sins are done away, being, freed from the fascination arising from contending passions, enjoy me. . . At the end of time, he, who having abandoned his mortal frame, departeth, thinking only of me, without doubt, goeth unto me; or else (if he think not of me, but of other things) whatever nature he shall thus call upon at the end of life, when he shall quit his mortal frame, he shall go into it (transmigrate.)”
These Oriental doctrines have in other respects a great analogy with the truths of Christianity; for example, the doctrine of regeneration is well known in the East. Our Lord says: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and in him.” The following passage from the Bhagvat Geeta has at least a verbal resemblance to this saying: “They who serve me with adoration (it is Kreeshna that speaks,) I am in them, and they in me.”
But what practical conclusion can we draw from the considerations, brought to view in this article? For it is without doubt unbecoming in philosophers, which we take both ourselves and our readers to be, to waste so much paper, ink, time, and nervous fluid, on a question of history, and mere question of curiosity. What practical conclusion can we draw? It seems to us that we may be justified in concluding that the theory of the future existence of the soul, independent of any body, spiritual or material, is unphilosophical, and unworthy of being believed by any well instructed man. The Scriptures teach the resurrection of a body, not the natural body, indeed, but a spiritual body. “it is sown a natural body (says St. Paul); it is raised a spiritual body.”
What in fact is meant by this term body? A thing producing certain effects upon us, as hardness, weight, existence, color, &c. Abstract these qualities, or modes of activity, from the particular body, and what remains? Evidently nothing but the potential existence of that same body. Now the soul, in order to communion with other souls, must have some mode of activity, and some means of recognizing the activities of other souls; that is, it must exist in actual relations, that is, again in a body, either spiritual or material—it must not have entered the Abyss. For the existence of the body, as we have seen, consists in these actual relations; as, for example, color, hardness, weight, &c., in the case of material bodies. As for this term spiritual body, its meaning is not altogether plain; it probably signifies a body having a real existence, but an existence entirely different from any with which we are now acquainted. We would not he misunderstood; we do not believe the soul to be the substance of the body. We hold that the soul and body are distinct, though not separate; at some future time, we may, perhaps, endeavor to explain the nature of their union.