Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/40

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


32 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Accepting the prevalent Brahmanical doctrine tliat the whole cosmos, celestial, terrestrial, and infernal, with its population of gods and other celestial beings, of sentient animals, of Mara and his devils, is incessantly shifting through recurring cycles of pro-

the first importance on knowledge ; but it was no longer a knowledge of God, it was a clear perception of the real nature, as they supposed it to be, of men and things. And it added to the necessity of knowledge, the necessity of purity, of courtesy, of uprightness, of peace, and of a universal love far reaching, grown great and beyond measure." (Rhys Davids, Hib- bert Lectures, p. 29.)

The contemporary Greek philosophy takes an analogous direction. According to Hera- cleitus, the universe was made neither by gods nor men ; but, from all eternity has been, and to all eternity will be, immortal fire, glowing and fading in due measure. (Mullach, Heracliti Fragmeuta, 27.) And the part assigned by his successors the Stoics, to the knowl- edge and the volition of the " wise man " made their Divinity (for logical thinkers) a sub- ject for compliments, rather than a power to be reckoned with. In Hindu speculation the " Arahat," still more the " Buddha," becomes the superior of Brahma : the stoical " wise man " is, at least, the equal of Zeus.

Berkeley affirms over and over again that no idea can be formed of a soul or spirit : " If any man shall doubt of the truth of what is here delivered, let him but reflect and try if he can form any idea of power or active being ; and whether he hath ideas of two principal powers marked by the names of will and understanding distinct from each other, as well as from a third idea of substance or being in general, with a relative notion of its supporting or being the subject of the aforesaid power, which is signified by the name wul or spirit. This is what some hold : but, so far as I can see, the words loiU., soul, spirit, do not stand for diiferent ideas, or in truth for any idea at all, but for something which is very different from ideas, and which, being an agent, can not be like unto or represented by any idea what- ever [though it must be owned at the same time, that we have some notion of soul, spirit, aad the operations of the mind, such as willing, loving, hating, inasmuch as we know or understand the meaning of these words "]. (The Principles of Human Knowledge, Ixxvi. See also Ixxxix, cxxxv, cxlv.)

It is open to discussion, I think, whether it is possible to have " some notion " of that of which we can form no " idea."

Berkeley attaches several predicates to the " perceiving active being mind, spirit, soul, or myself " (Part I, II). It is said, for example, to be " indivisible, incorporeal, unextended, and incorruptible." The predicate Indivisible, though negative in form, has highly positive consequences. For, if " perceiving active being " is strictly indivisible, man's soul must be one with the Divine spirit ; which is good Hindu or Stoical doctrine, but hardly orthodox Christian philosophy. If, on the other hand, the "substance" of active perceiving "being" is actually divided into the one Divine and innumerable human entities, how can the predi- cate " indivisible " be rigorously applicable to it ?

Taking the words cited, as they stand, they amount to the denial of the possibility of any knowledge of substance. " Matter " having been resolved into mere affections of " spirit," " spirit " melts away into an admittedly inconceivable and unknowable hypostasis of thought and power consequently the existence of anything in the universe beyond a flow of phenomena is a purely hypothetical assumption. Indeed, a pyrrhonist might raise the objection that if " esse " is " percipi " spirit itself can have no existence except as a per- ception, hypostatized into a " self " or as a perception of some other spirit. In the former case, objective reality vanishes ; in the latter, there would seem to be the need of an infi- nite series of spirits each perceiving the others.

It is curious to observe how very closely the phraseology of Berkeley sometimes ap- proaches that of the Stoics : thus (cxlviii) : " It seems to be a general pretense of the un- thinking herd that they can not sec God. . . . But, alas ! we need only open our eyes to see

�� �