IN the January number of this Review is to be found an article on Religion which has justly awakened a profound and sustained interest. The creed of Agnosticism was there formulated anew by the acknowledged head of the evolution philosophy, with a definiteness such as perhaps it never wore before. To my mind there is nothing in the whole range of modern religious discussion more cogent and more suggestive than the array of conclusions the final outcome of which is marshaled in those twelve pages. It is the last word of the Agnostic philosophy in its long controversy with Theology. That word is decisive, and it is hard to conceive how Theology can rally for another bout from such a sorites of dilemma as is there presented. My own humble purpose is not to criticise this paper, but to point its practical moral, and, if I may, to add to it a rider of my own. As a summary of philosophical conclusions on the theological problem, it seems to me frankly unanswerable. Speaking generally, I shall now dispute no part of it but one word, and that is the title. It is entitled "Religion." To me it is rather the ghost of religion. Religion as a living force lies in a different sphere.
The essay, which is packed with thought to a degree unusual even with Mr. Herbert Spencer, contains evidently three parts. The first (pp. 1-5) deals with the historical Evolution of Religion, of which Mr. Spencer traces the germs in the primitive belief in ghosts. The second (pp. 6-8) arrays the moral and intellectual dilemmas involved in all anthropomorphic theology into one long catena of difficulty, out of which it is hard to conceive any free mind emerging with success. The third part (pp. 8-12) deals with the evolution of religion in the future, and formulates, more precisely than has ever yet been effected, the positive creed of Agnostic philosophy.
Has, then, the Agnostic a positive creed? It would seem so; for Mr. Spencer brings us at last "to the one absolute certainty, the presence of an Infinite and Eternal Energy, from which all things proceed." But let no one suppose that this is merely a new name for the Great First Cause of so many theologies and metaphysics. In spite of the capital letters, and the use of theological terms as old as Isaiah or Athanasius, Mr. Spencer's Energy has no analogy with God. It is Eternal, Infinite, and Incomprehensible; but still it is not He, but It. It remains always Energy, Force, nothing anthropomorphic; such as electricity, or anything else that we might conceive as the ultimate basis of all the physical forces. None of the positive attributes which
- See "Popular Science Monthly" for January, 1884.