Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/235
THE AFFIRMATIVE SIDE OF AGNOSTICISM. 223
thing higher/ and that ' the Ultimate Power is no more repre- sentable in terms of human consciousness than human conscious- ness is representable in terms of a plant's functions/ " And again (p. 6Q, id.) : "Whereas, in common with his teacher Sir William Hamilton, Dean Mansel alleged that our consciousness of the Ab- solute is merely ' a negation of conceivability ' ; I have, over a space of ten pages, contended that our consciousness of the Abso- lute is not negative but positive, and is the one indestructible ele- ment of consciousness ' which persists at all times, under all cir- cumstances, and can not cease until consciousness ceases ' — have argued that while the Power which transcends phenomena can not be brought within the forms of our finite thought, yet that, as be- ing a necessary datum of every thought, belief in its existence has, among our beliefs, the highest validity of any : is not, as Sir W. Hamilton alleges, a belief with which we are supernaturally ' inspired/ but is a normal deliverance of consciousness."
These quotations are sufficient to show that, as he holds it, there is a positive and affirmative side to the doctrine of the Unknowable, or to agnosticism, as taught by Mr. Spencer ; and also that there is occasion for a word or words to express it.
In his article Agnosticism, published in The Popular Science Monthly for April, 1889, Prof. Huxley says :
" Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle. That principle is of great antiquity ; it is as old as Socrates ; as old as the writer who said, 'Try all things, hold fast by that which is good ' ; it is the foundation of the Reformation, which simply illustrated the axiom that every man should be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him ; it is the great principle of Descartes ; it is the fundamental axiom of modern science. Positively, the principle may be expressed : In matters of the in- tellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively : In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic faith, which, if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him.
" The results of the working out of the agnostic principle will vary according to individual knowledge and capacity, and accord- ing to the general condition of science. That which is unproved to-day may be proved, by the help of new discoveries, to-morrow. The only negative fixed points will be those negations which flow from the demonstrable limitation of our faculties. And the only obligation accepted is to have the mind always open to con- viction."