Page:The Idea of Progress.djvu/20

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16
THE IDEA

quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only with the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely build.' Man belongs to 'an alien and inhuman world', alone amid 'hostile forces'. What is man to do? The God who exists is evil; the God whom we can worship is the creation of our own conscience, and has no existence outside it. The 'free man' will worhsip the latter; and, like John Stuart Mill, 'to hell he will go'.

If I wished to criticize this defiant pronouncement, which is not without a touch of bravado, I should say that so complete a separation of the real from the ideal is impossible, and that the choice which the writer offers us, of worshipping a Devil who exists or a God who does not is no real choice, since we cannot worship either. But my object in qhoting from this essay is to show how completely naturalism has severed its alliance with optimism and belief in progress. Professor Huxley and Mr. Russell have sung their palinode and smashed the old gods of their creed. No more proof is needed, I think, that the alleged law of progress has no scientific basis whatever.

But the superstition has also invaded and vitiated our history, our political science, our philosophy, and our religion.

The historian is a natural snob; he sides with the gods against Cato, and approves the winning side. He lectures the vanquished for their wilfulness and want of foresight, sometimes rather prematurely, as when Seeley, looking about for an example of perverse refusal to recognize facts, exclaims, 'Sedet, aeternumque sedebit unhappy Poland!' The nineteenth-century historian