Eastern Religions and Western Thought – S. Radhakrishnan – Chapter 7 – Greece, Palestine, and India


S. Radhakrishnan – Eastern Religions and Western Thought

Lectures Given in 1936-1938


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Chapter VII

GREECE, PALESTINE, AND INDIA

 

O what is this phenomenon of spiritual waywardness in the West due ? May it not be that it is motived by a deep instinct for self-preservation and a longing for world unity? The attraction of Eastern forms is probably due to a failure of nerve akin to what occurred at the begining of the Christian era, which experienced a similar phenomenon. We seem to be vaguely aware that in spite of our brilliant and heroic achievements we have lost our hold on the primal verities (true principles). The instability of life is manifesting itself in many forms. The affirmation of the sovereign State, owing allegiance to none and free to destroy its fellows, itself open to a similar fate without appeal, racial and national idolatries which deny the corporate life of the whole, the growing tyranny of wealth, the conflict between rich and poor, and the destruction of the co-operative spirit threaten the very existence of society. Insecurity of nations and destitution of peoples have always been with us, but periodic sanguinary upheavals have also been with us. The two are different sides of a social order which is really primitive in character. Greek culture was born in strife, in strife of city-States and against foreign foes.

Beezone inserts this review of James Hillman’s book, ‘A Terrible Love of War’ to reflect today’s understanding of S. Radhakrishnan’s words 80 years agowhich are MORE true today.

The Roman Empire was formed by a series of destructive and often savage wars, though it became the home and cradle of Western civilization. The period of the Middle Ages, when Europe had the formal unity of a common religion, was also the period of the most incessant war, It will not be an over-statement to say that never a day passes but the Great Powers are engaged in wars small or great in some part of their vast dominions. Even now we have the struggle within for juster and better conditions of life, and without for independence. Man has not grown worse, In some points he is an improvement on his predecessors, but we need not exult in it.


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When Mrs. Rosita Forbes (Mrs. Col McGrath) rvisited the penitentiary at Sao Paulo she asked if there were many thieves among the inmates. The warden was shocked. * 0h, no,’ he replied, ‘Brazilians are very honest. Nearly all these men are murderers.’

Augustine quotes with approval the reply of the pirate to Alexander the Great, ‘Because I do it with a littfe ship, I am called a robber, and you because you do it with a great fleet, arc called an emperor. The final test of every social system is the happiness and well-being of men and women.

 

Those who live for economic power and for the State are not concerned with the development of a true quality of life for the people and are obliged to adopt war as a national industry, Our habits of mind and our relations to our neighbours have not altered much, but the mutual antagonisms and reciprocal incomprehensions are turning out most dangerous in a closely knit world with new weapons of destruction. Enormous mechanical progress with spiritual crudity, the love of economic power, and political reaction, with all the injustice that it involves, have suddenly startled us out of our complacency.

We are asking ourselves whether the props by which society has hitherto maintained itself precariously are moral at all, whether the present order with its slave basis of society and petty particularism is based on canons of justice, When universal covetousness has outstripped the means of gratifying it; when the unnatural conditions of life demand for their defence the conversion of whole nations into mechanized armies; when the supremacy of power-politics is threatened by its own inherent destructiveness; when the common people feel in their depths ‘blessed are the wombs which never bare, the breasts that never gave suck’; it is a challenge to our principles and our faith. The perception of the tragic humiliation of mankind must make us think deeply.

The world is a moral Invalid surrounded by quacks and charlatans, witch-doctors and medicine men who are interested in keeping the patient in the bad habits of centuries. The patient requires drastic treatment. His mind must be led out of the moulds in which it has been congesting and set free to think in a wider ether than before. Ultimate reality cannot be destroyed. Moral laws cannot be mocked.


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George Macdonald has a parable In which a strong wind tried to blow out the moon, but at the end of it all she remained ‘motionless miles above the air’, unconscious even that there had been a tempest. It is because we have not developed the spiritual equipment to face facts and initiate policies based on truth and tolerance that we have to secure our injustices by the strength of arms. The alternatives are either a policy of righteousness and a just reorganization of the world or an armed world. That is the issue before us. It is of the utmost seriousness and greatest urgency, for it is even now upon us.

It is a fact of History that civilizations which are based on truly religious forces such as endurance, suffering, passive resistance, understanding, tolerance are long-lived, while those which take their stand exclusively on humanist elements like active reason, power, aggression, progress make for a brilliant display but are short-lived.

Compare the relatively long record of China and of India with the eight hundred years or less of the Greeks, the nine hundred years on a most generous estimate of the Romans, and the thousand years of Byzantium. In spite of her great contributions of democracy, individual freedom, intdleccual integrity, the Greek civilization passed away as the Greeks could not combine even among themselves on account of their loyalty to the city-Scates. Their exalted conceptions were not effective forces, and, except those who were brought under the mystery religions, the Greeks never developed a conception of human society in spite of the very valuable contributions of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics. The Roman gifts to civilization are of outstanding value, but the structure of the Empire of Rome had completely ceased to exist by a.d. 500.

Empires have a tendency to deprive us of our soul. Extension in space is not necessarily a growth in spirit. Peace prevailed under the Roman rule, for none was left strong enough to oppose it. Rome had conquered the world, and had no rival, none to struggle with or struggle for. The fax Romana reigned, but it was the peace of the desert, of sullen acquiescence and pathetic enslavement. The cement of the whole structure was the army. The head of the army was the head of the State, the Imperator, answering to our ‘Emperor’. In the middle of the third century all manner of upstart soldiers who were able to gather a few followers took over the governments, each in his own region and over his own troops. With the weakening of the Imperial government, moral anarchy increased. With the raids of pirates on the coast and of marauding bands on the frontiers, insecurity was rife. At the end of the third century, Diocletian attempted a reorganization of the whole State, but nothing could arrest the decline in standards.


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There are some scholars of the Renaissance who attribute the fall of Rome to the spread of the ‘superstition’ of Christianity, thus echoing the cry of the Chronicler of the pagan reaction under Julian the Apostate, The Christians to whom we owe all our misfortunes . . Possibly the appeal of Christianity grew stronger as outward fortunes sank lower.

The fall of Rome is not to be explained solely by the barbarian invasions. Treason from within was its cause quite as much as danger from without. Greed and corruption, growth of vast fortunes and preponderance of slaves threw society out of balance. It was a period of disorder, the collapse of the higher intellectual life and the decline of righteousness. European civilization had fallen so low that many thought that the end of the world was near.

‘The whole world groaned at the fall of Rome’, said Augustine. ‘The human race is included in the ruin ; my tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth and sobs choke my words to think that the city is a captive which led captive the whole world’, wrote St. Jerome from his monastery at Bethlehem. To Christian and pagan alike it seemed that the impossible, the unthinkable, had happened. Rome, the dispenser of destiny, the eternal city whose dominion was to have lasted for ever, fell.

The Empire was broken up into two parts, the Western with Rome for its capital and the Eastern with Constantinople. By the end of the fifth century the whole of western and north-western Europe was in the hands of the barbarians. Italy had fallen to the Ostrogoths; Gaul and a large part of what is now Germany to the Franks; northern Africa to the Vandals; and Spain to the Visigoths.

 

1. M. Renan says that ‘Christianity was a vampire which sucked the life- blood of ancient society and produced that state of general enervation against which patriotic emperors struggled in vain’ {Marc Aurih^ p. 589).

2 Mr, Stanley Casson writes: ‘The barbarian intrusions were more the consequence than the cause of her sickness. What had happened was that standards had fallen. Elements wholly alien to Roman rule and Roman freedom had emerged. In the letters of Sidonius we hear of censorship, of political murder disguised as accident, of bribery and corruption in high places, and evien of the persecution cf the Jews’ {Progress and Catastrophe p. 203),


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The Eastern Empire was called the Byzantine, as its capital, Constantinople, was founded by Constantine on the site of the ancient Byzantium, a town formed by nature to be the centre of a great empire. From its seven hills it commanded the approaches to both Europe and Asia. Its narrow straits joined East and West. In all this darkness the single ray of light which remained to kindle civilization once again was preserved within the narrow walls of Byzantium. Theodosius built the great fortress, and Justinian, who succeeded him, rebuilt its institutions. But the fear of attack by barbaric hordes from every part of the world was constantly present, and the values of spirit could not be fostered in an atmosphere of constant fear and imminent catastrophe. Philosophy failed, literature languished, and religion became rigid and superstitious.

Before Byzantium fell to the Turks in a.d. 1453 she had succeeded in spreading in the Western world the light of civilization and culture derived from Greece and Rome. And modern civilization, which took its rise after the fall of Byzantium, seems to have worked itself out, for it is exhibiting today all the features which are strangely similar to the symptoms which accompany the fall of civilizations: the disappearance of tolerance and of justice; the insensibility to suffering; love of ease and comfort, and selfishness of individuals and groups; the rise of strange cults which exploit not so much the stupidity of man as his unwillingness to use his intellectual powers; the wanton segregation of men into groups based on blood and soil. A world bristling with armaments and gigantic intolerances, where all men, women, and children are so obsessed by the imminence of the catastrophe that streets are provided with underground refuges, that private houses are equipped with gas-proof rooms, that citizens are instructed in the use of gas-masks, is conclusive evidence of the general degradation*. Through sheer wickedness, by advocating disruptive forces, not co-operative measures, by allegiance to the ideals of power and profit, man is preparing to destroy even the little that his patient ingenuity has built up. Instead of progress in charity we have increase of hostilities. In order to live we seem to have lost the reason for living. World peace is a wild dream, and modern civilization is not worth saving if it continues on its present foundations.

* Daily life in Israel today

There were attacks by the Persians and the Arabs in a.d. 616, 675, 717, b7 the Bulgarians in a.d. 813, b7 the Russians in a.d. 866, 904, 936, 1043.


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The Chinese and the Hindu civilizations are not great in the high qualities which have made the youthful nations of the West the dynamic force they have been on the arena of world history, the qualities of ambition and adventure, of nobility and courage, of public spirit and social enthusiasm. We do not find their people frequently among those who risk their lives in scientific research, who litter the track to the North or the South Pole, who discover continents, break records, climb mountain heights, and explore unknown regions of the earths surface. But they have lived long, faced many crises, and preserved their identity. The fact of their age suggests that they seem to have a sound instinct for life, a strange vitality, a staying power which has enabled them to adjust themselves to social, political, and economic changes, which might have meant ruin to less robust civilizations.

India, for example, has endured centuries of war and invasion, pestilence, and human misrule. Perhaps one needs a good deal of suffering and sorrow to learn a little understanding and tolerance. On the whole, the Eastern civilizations are interested not so much in improving the actual conditions as in making the best of this imperfect world, in developing the qualities of cheerfulness and contentment, patience and endurance. They are not happy in the prospect of combat. To desire little, to quench the eternal fires, has been their aim. ‘To be gentle is to be invincible’ (Lao Tze). The needs of life are much fewer than most people suppose.

If the Eastern people aim at existence simplified and self- sufficient and beyond the reach of fate, if they wish to develop gentle manners which are inconsistent with inveterate hatreds, we need not look upon them as tepid, anaemic folk, who are eager to retreat into darkness. While the Western races crave for freedom even at the price of conflict, the Easterns stoop to peace even at the price of subjection. They turn their limitations into virtues and adore the man of few longings as the most happy being.


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Diogenes annoyed Plato with the taunt that if he had learned to live on rough vegetables he would not have needed to flatter despots. The future is hidden from us, but the past warns us that the world in the end belongs to the unworldly. A spiritual attitude to life has nourished the Eastern cultures and given them an unfailing trust in life and a robust common sense in looking at its myriad changes. A purely humanist civilization, with its more military and forceful mode of life like the modern, faced by the risk of annihilation, is turning to the East in a mood of disenchantment. In Greek mythology, young Icarus was made to fly too high until the wax of his wings melted and he fell into the sea, while Daedalus, the old father, flew low but flew safely home. This is not a mere whim. The qualities associated with the Eastern cultures make for life and stability; those characteristic of the West for progress and adventure.

The Eastern civilizations are by no means self-sufficient. They seem today to be chaotic, helpless, and incapable of pulling themselves together and forging ahead. Their peoples, unpractical and inefficient, are wandering in their own lands lost arid half-alive, with an old-fashioned faith in the triumph of right over might. They suffer from weaknesses which are the symptoms of age, if not senility. Their present listless and disorganized condition is not due to their love of peace and humanity but is the direct outcome of their sad failure to pay the price for defending them. What they have gained in insight they seem to have lost in power. They require to be rejuvenated. So much goodness and constructive endeavour are lost to the world by our partial philosophies of life. If modern civilization, which is so brilliant and heroic, becomes also tolerant and humane, a little more under- standing, and a little less self-seeking, it will be the greatest achievement of history.

East and West are both moving out of their historical past towards a way of thinking which shall eventually be shared in common by all mankind even as the material appliances are. We can speak across continents, we can bottle up music for reproduction when desired, animate photographic pictures with life and motion; but these do not touch the foundations of culture, the general configuration of life and mind.


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These are cast in the old moulds which have never been broken, though new materials have been poured into them. They are now beginning to crack. The rifts which first made their appearance decades ago have now become yawning fissures. With the cracking of the moulds, civilization itself is cracking. Further growth in the old moulds is not possible. We need to-day a proper orientation, literally the values the world derived from the Orient, the truths of inner life. They are as essential for human happiness as outer organization. The restlessness and self-assertion of our civilization are the evidence of its youth, rawness, and immaturity. With its coming of age, they will wear off. The fate of the human race hangs on a rapid assimilation of the qualities associated with the mystic religions of the East. The stage is set for such a process. Till this era, the world was a large place, and its peoples lived in isolated comers. Lack of established trade-routes and means of communication and transportation and primitive economic development helped to foster an attitude of hostility to strangers, especially those of another race. There has not, therefore, been one continuous stream into which the whole body of human civilization entered. We had a number of independent sprint’s, and the flow was not continuous. Some springs had dried up without passing on any of their waters to the main stream. Today the whole world is in fusion and all is in motion. East and West are fertilizing each other, not for the first time. May we not strive for a philosophy which will combine the best of European humanism and Asiatic religion, a philosophy profounder and more living than either, endowed with greater spiritual and ethical force, which will conquer the hearts of men and compel peoples to acknowledge its sway.?

II

It may be asked whether Western civilization is not also based on religious values. Greek art and culture, Roman law and organization, Christian religion and ethics, and scientific enlightenment are sid to be the mouulding foreces of modern civilization. It will be useful if we consider the exact nature of the religious life of the West and the extent of its influence on Western civilization.


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At the risk of over- simplification, which is inevitable when we describe the development of centuries in a few paragraphs, it may be said that in the Western religious tradition three currents which frequently cross and re-cross can be traced. We may describe them for the sake of convenience as the Graeco- Roman, the Hebrew, and the Indian.

The Graeco-Roman has for its chief elements rationalism, humanism, and the sovereignty of the State. The spirit of speculation which questioned religious ideas and sought to follow truth regardless of the discomfort it might cause us started with the Greeks. Xenophanes fought hard to emancipate his people from superstition and lies. He preached against belief in gods who could commit acts which would be a disgrace to the worst of men. Democritus found the self-existent in the atom and Heraclitus in fire. The latter said: ‘The world was made neither by one of the gods nor by man ; and it was, is and ever shall be an ever-living fire, in due measure self-enkindled and in due measure self- extinguished.’ Nothing is, everything is becoming.

For Protagoras, man is the measure of all things, and as for God, He cannot be found even if He exists. He says : ‘Concerning the gods I can say nothing, neither that they exist nor that they do not exist; nor of what form they are; because there are many things which prevent one from knowing that, namely, both the uncertainty of the matter and the shortness of man’s life.’

For Critias, “nothing is certain except that birth leads to death and that life cannot escape ruin”. According to Gorgias, every man was free to fix his own standard of truth. Unless Plato is wholly unfair, certain of the Sophists were prepared to justify philosophically the doctrine that might is right. The orthodox suspected even Socrates and accused him of impiety and corrupting the youth of Athens. Doubts run through the poetry of Euripides, the rationalism of the Stoics, the schools of the sceptics, and the materialism of the Epicureans. In spite of a different tendency, both the Stoics and the Epicureans adopted physical explanations of the universe. They treated the world, including man’s soul, as something material.

 

 

 

Epicurus revived the atomic view of Democritus. He aimed at constructing a world on scientific principles to free men’s minds from fear of the gods and the evils of superstition. Man’s soul at death dissolves again into the atoms which made it. He conceded to popular beliefs when he admitted the existence of the gods, but they did nothing except serve as models of ideal felicity. They are indifferent to human affairs and so prayers to them are futile. Faith in gods could not last when gods were being made before men’s eyes.

The Ptolemies of Alexandria were freely spoken of as gods. In an inscription at Calchis as early as 196 b.c. Quinctius Flamininus was associated in inscriptions with Zeus, Apollo, Heracles, and the personified Roma. Julius Caesar received divine honours even in his life; and the day after his death, the Senate decreed that he should be treated as a god; in 44 b.c. a law was passed assigning him the title of divus and the great Augustus dedicated in 29 b.c. the new temple of Divus Julius in the Forum.* All this confirmed the scepticism of Euhemerus that the gods were only great men deified.

Though classical Rome was far less speculative than Greece, it produced one of the greatest sceptics of antiquity, Lucretius. With the fervour of a religious enthusiast he attacked religion and hurled defiance and contempt on it. Through his poem De Rerum Natura he tried to free men’s minds from the fears which beset and haunted them. He accustomed men to the idea of complete annihilation after death. In the early days of the Roman Empire even such an austere Stoic as Marcus Aurelius looked upon the Chris- tian religion with fear and contempt. Independent thought was efficiently suppressed by the tyranny of the Church till the period of the Renaissance, though in the thirteenth century the Emperor Frederick II declared, if the story be true, that the world had been deceived by three impostors, Moses, . Jesus, and Mohammad. Roger Bacon was a definitely sceptical thinker. Machiavelli in his Prince revived the old conception that religion is an instrument for keeping the people in subjection. He did not disguise his intense dislike of Christianity. Rabelais (1690) was impatient with asceticism and conventional religion.

* See Cyril Bailey, Phases in the Religion of Ancient Rome (1932)1 pp. 138-40.

 

 

Science in the Middle Ages was largely occultism and magic; nature was full of spirits and to meddle with it was to risk damnation. Friar Bacon was imprisoned as a sorcerer. The scientific movement of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with such names as those of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Harvey, and Newton, discouraged the supernatural explanations of natural phenomena and led to the conception of the universe as a great machine working by rigidly determined laws of causation.

The thrill of new discoveries and mental activities raised great expectations. Men seemed to be on the eve of surprising the last secrets of the universe and building a stately fabric of enduring civilization. They seemed to become the Lords of creation, though not the heirs of heaven. While some of the leading representatives of the scientific movement, like Descartes and Boyle, Bacon and Newton, were not anti-religious, the movement as a whole encouraged free thinking.

The religious conflicts which followed the Reformation contributed to the growth of scepticism and wars. The Church was split up into a number of sects and disputes; persecutions and wars became more frequent. Montaigne (1533-92) was nominally a Catholic but was really an Agnostic. He says; ‘Death is no concern of yours either dead or alive: alive because you still are\ dead because you are no longer.’ Leonardo da Vinci rejected every dogma that could not be tested and was a complete sceptic. Shakespeare was no better. J. R. Green writes: ‘The riddle of life and death he leaves a riddle to the last, without heeding the theological conclusions around him.’ For Francis Bacon ‘the mysteries of the Deity, of the Creation, of the Redemption’ are ‘grounded only upon the word and oracle of Grod, and not upon the light of nature’.^ Hobbes’s scorn of super- naturalism and revealed religon is undisguised. All that we can legitimately say of God is that He is the unknown cause of the natural world, and so our highest duty consists in implicit obedience to the civil law. He reduced religion to a department of State and held that the sovereign power was absolute and irresponsible.* Locke defended theism more on pragmatic grounds. It was necessary for social security.

* Advancement of Learning, \i. * See further, p. 388.

 

 

His work on The Reasonableness of Christianity aims at proving that the tenets of the Christian religion are in accordance with reason. It is assumed that their rationality is what makes them worthy of acceptance. So for him reason is a completely reliable source of knowledge and an infallible guide in the quest for certainty. But the materials on which reason works are provided not in a rational intuition which penetrates into real being but in sensation and reflection on sense data. If these are the only material for knowledge, it follows that religious truths lie beyond the scope of man’s reason. Locke admits the reality of revealed knowledge, though he himself would prefer rational knowledge even in the realm of religion. He believes that the central concep- tions of religion can all be proved rationally.^ Toland, Locke’s young Irish disciple, defends the deistic position and finds support for it in the Gospels.^ ‘All men will own the verity I defend if they read the sacred writings with that equity and attention that is due to mere humane works, nor is there any different rule to be followed in the interpretations of scripture from what is common to all other books.’

The Deists contend that all the truths necessary for a religious life could be gained rationally and such a natural religion is the only one worthy of the respect of men. ‘All the duties of the Christian religion’, says Archbishop Tillotson, ‘which respect God, are no other but what natural light prompts men to, excepting the two sacraments, and praying to God in the name and by the mediation of Christ.’ ‘And even these’, Anthony Collins observes, ‘are of less moment than any of those parts of religion which in their own nature tend to the Happiness of human Society‘. We cannot be sure that Christianity is a revealed religion, when no one seems to know what is revealed or perhaps everybody seems to know that his own version of the faith is the true revelation and everything else a deadly error.

 

Since the precepts of natural religion are plain, and very intelligible to all mankind, and seldom seem to be controverted; and other revealed traths which are conveyed to us by books and languages, are liable to the common and natural obscurities and difficulties incident to words: methinks it would be- come us to be more careful and diligent in observing the former, and less magisterial, positive and imperious in imposing our own sense and interpreta- tions on the latter’ {Essay Concerning Human Understanding, m. k. 23). * Christianity not Mysterious, ii. iii. 22 (1696). 3 Discourse of Free-thinking {I’ji’i’jt’p. 136.

 

 

The fact that the Bible is an inspired document has not prevented its official interpreters from disagreeing on all fundamentals. Deism developed, and the Deists are rationalists with a feeling for religion. Their rationalism took them away from orthodoxy and their religion kept them from atheism. According to some seventeenth-century Nonconformists a clergyman answered their demand for the scripture texts on which the Thirty-nine Articles were based by quoting 2 Timothy iv. 1 3 : ‘The cloak I left at Troas, . . . bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.’ If Timothy had not been remiss in executing St. Paul’s command we would have had the parchments which provided the missing authority. When Anthony Collins was asked why, holding deistical opinions, he sent his servants to churches, he answered: ‘That they may neither rob nor murder me!’

Lord Bolingbroke considered Christianity a ‘fable’, but held that a statesman ought to profess the doctrines of the Church of England.* Thomas Woolston in his six Discourses on the Miracles of Christ (1727-9) maintained that the Gospel narratives were a ‘tissue of absurdities’. Hume declared that miracles were impossible and accepted arguments for the existence of God were untenable. Baron d’Holbach stood for a materialistic conception of the universe and denied the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. Voltaire, Mr. Noyes tells us, was a theist, but there is no doubt that he was a bitter critic of the Church, which he looked upon as the instigator of cruelty, injustice, and inequality. Look at his prayer which breathes the humanitarianism of the French enlightenment: ‘Thou hast not given us a heart that we may hate one another, nor hands that we may strangle one another, but that we may help each other to bear the burden of a wearisome and transitory life; that the small distinctions in the dress which covers our weak bodies, in our inadequate languages, in our absurd usages, in all our imperfect laws, in all our senseless opinions, in all our social grades, which to our eyes are so different and to thine so alike, that all the fine shades which dififerentiate the “atoms” called “men” may not be occasions for hate and persecution.’

 

Leslie Stephen in his English Thought in the Eighteenth Century writes, referring to the later Deistic period: ‘Scepticism widely diffused through the upper classes, was of the indolent variety, implying a perfect willingness that the Churches should survive though the Faith should perish’ (vol. i, p. 375).

 

 

He was certainly not an orthodox churchman. During an illness towards the close of his life he was visited by a priest, who summoned him to confession. ‘From whom do you come ?* inquired the sick man. ‘From God’, was the reply. When Voltaire desired to see his visitor’s credentials, the priest could go no farther and withdrew.

Diderot and the Encyclopaedists had unqualified contempt for conventional religion. Diderot cried out at the end of his Interpretation oj Nature : ‘O God, I ask nothing from Thee; if Thou art not, the course of nature is an inner necessity; and if Thou art, it is Thy command; O God, I know not whether Thou art, but I will think as though Thou didst look into my soul, I will ask as though I stood in Thy presence. … If I am good and kind, what does it matter to any fellow creatures whether I am such because of a happy constitution or by the free act of my own will or by the help of Thy Grace ?’

There is little in common between Rousseau’s sentimental theism and Christian orthodoxy. Leibniz rejoiced in the ‘religion without revelation’ of China. Kant tells us that there can be no theoretical demonstration of the existence of God, though we need Him for practical life. Hegelian dialectics have no place for a God to whom we can pray and offer worship. The Prussian State was for him ‘the incarnation of the divine idea as it exists on earth’. National Socialism continues the Hegelian tradition and looks upon, not the Prussian State, but the Nordic race, as the ultimate and noblest self-expression of the cosmic intelligence. Its official philosopher, Herr Rosenberg, in his book on The Myth of the Twentieth Century (1930), makes it clear that he has no faith in the transcendent God of the theist. His deity is the human spirit and the racial society. Fichte in his Addresses to the German Nation developed at length the notion of an ‘elect race’. His doctrine is continued in the work of Gobineau and his well-known theory of the inequality of human races. In Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s Foundations of the 19th Century the racialist legends reappears in a psyeudo-scientific setting.

 

 

Rosenberg’s Myth is the classic on the question. Each race has its particular soul in which its most intimate being is expressed. Its special virtues are regarded as the specific qualities of the blood. The human species is an abstraction : we have only a number of races determined by differences in the hereditary composition of the blood. Human races are not only diverse but of unequal value. The superior race is the Nordic. Its branches are to be recognized in the Amorites of Egypt, the Aryans of India, the Greeks of the early period, in the ancient Romans, and above all in all the Germanic peoples, whose chief representatives are the Germans. The spirit of this race is personified in the god Wotan, who embodies their spiritual energies. Con- tamination with inferior races is the great danger which menaces the superior race in all periods of universal history. India and Persia, Greece and Rome are witnesses to the process of racial degeneration. A religion of universalism is foreign to the Nordic race. Catholic religion. Freemasonry, Communism are the enemies of Nordic; superiority. The Germanic soul will be manifested in the Third Reich with the symbol of the Swastika in place of the Cross. The aim of the National Socialist Party is to rescue from contamination and develop this precious Nordic element,

Lessing conceives the whole religious history of mankind as an experiment of divine pedagogy. He declares that accidental historical truths can never be the evidence for eternal and necessary rational truths. Hamann observes that Kant’s moralism meant the deification of the human will and Lessing’s rationalism the deification of man’s reason. Nietzsche drew a distinction between the morality of masters and that of slaves. The Romans are for him the strong and the whole, the aristocratic and the noble. Christianity is the moral rebellion of the slaves based upon the resentment of the weak against the strong. Their victory over Rome was the victory of the sick over the healthy, of the slaves over the noble. Out of a feeling of resentment the slave decided to be the first in the Kingdom of Heaven. Auguste Comte put Humanity in the place occupied by God. A morality of service in a godless universe is the ideal of the positivists.

 

 

G. H. Romanes (1848—94) in his A Candid Examination of Theism writes : ‘It is with the utmost sorrow that I find myself compelled to accept the conclusions here worked out: I am not ashamed to confess that, with the virtual negation of God, the universe has lost to me its soul of loveliness.’ He later abandoned this position.^ Even the Christian thinkers themselves tried to reinterpret Christianity. Schleiermacher reduced religion to a feeling of dependence on God. Ritschl meant by redemption the belief that God has revealed an ideal for man to work towards.* To many Christians their religion meant only love of man and unselfish service, Even though the orthodox may use the old terminology of grace, communion, and redemption, they stress only pure morality or humanitarian ethics. The works of Strauss and Renan, Karl Marx and Nietzsche, and the scientific doctrines of evolution have made atheism popular. A general tendency to irreligion is in the air. Unbelief is aggressive and ubiquitous.

The strain of scepticism has been a persistent feature of the Western mind. It takes many forms, modernism in religion, scientific humanism, or naturalism. Modernism is not confined to movements which assume that name. All those who wish at the same time to be traditionally religious and rational-minded are modernists in different degrees. In the Introduction to the Report of the Commission on Christian Doctrine in the Church of England the- Archbishop of York writes : ‘In view of my own responsibility in the Church I think it right here to affirm that I wholeheartedly accept as historical Acts the Birth of our Lord from a Virgin Mother and the Resurrection of his physical body from death and the tomb. But I fully recognise the position of those who sincerely affirm the reality of our Lord’s Incarnation without accepting one or both of these two events as actual historical occurrences, regarding the records rather as parables than as history, a presentation of spiritual truth in narrative form.’* What we accept of revelation depends on our piety and intellectual conscience. The issue, however, relates not to this or that item of belief but the way in which any part of the content of religion is arrived at and justified. It is not a question of the articles of belief but of the intellectual habits and methods.

 

See p. 389. * ‘By the Kingdom’, according to Dr. A. E. Garvie, Ritschl means ‘the moral ideal for the realization of which the members of the community bind themselves to one another by a definite mode of reciprocal action’ {Encyclo- paedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. x, pp. 8 1 2—20). * Doctrine in the Church of England (1938), p. 12.

 

 

There is only one method for ascertaining fact and truth, the empirical method. While modernism and humanism are more or less compromises, dialectical materialism is its boldest expression. It has its own cos- mogony, its own interpretation of the origin and nature of man, its own economic and social scheme, and its own reli- gion. It proclaims a passionate plea for the spread of light steady and serene which will help us to get out of the dark- ness and barbarism of a monkish and deluded past, to shake oflF the imbecility of blind faith with its fogs and glooms, and get on to the broad highway of sanity, culture, and civilization. When we speak of heaven and God we ‘give to airy nothing a local habitation and a name’. They are outworn superstitions, subjects of antiquarian interest. Reli- gions have rendered a useful service in that they have exhausted all the wrong theories in advance. Everything can be explained in terms of matter and motion. Marx accepts the Hegelian view of an immanent reality unfolding itself by an inner dialectic. But he substitutes matter for Hegel’s immanent spirit. Matter is invested with the power of self-movement, auto-dynamism. A self-determining movement whose highest expression is human personality is regarded as material, and the self of man is denied freedom and responsibility. Criminals and sinners who were once upon a time consigned to eternal damnation are capable of being turned into healthy and moral citizens, not by the grace of God, but by a supply of iodine to the thyroid. Hell or heaven depends on the twist of heredity or proportion of phosphorus. Even though man is a product of material •forces, he is still deified. As the individual man is obviously too small to be deified, human society gets the honour.

With the Greeks, we reaffirm that the true line of progress lies in positive action, concrete reasoning, and public spirit. We oppose nature to custom and repudiate the latter as a fraud and an imposture. The elaborate framework of cus- toms which we call morality, which we have built up in our rise from savagery, and to which we attribute an absolute

 

 


 


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