Page:The American Review Volume 02.djvu/286

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268
[Sept.,
The Bhagvat Geeta — Doctrine of Immorlality.

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 center; let all extensions contract into—into what, O 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 center 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