Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/632

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have faith in the future of humanity, in the eventual evolution of a verifiable and complete science of life, such a mixture of the strands of religious consciousness will cause no uneasiness. For just as the earliest scientific psychology cheerfully recognized the two sides of the human mind the—rational and the irrational—as equally necessary, equally human, so in an altered sense we may say that the religion of humanity, as it springs from the human heart, must not only take cognizance of its justifiable aspirations, but of those hopes and fears also which in a strict sense of the word we might be tempted to call irrational, as in no sense founded on reason, if not in direct antagonism with it. Yet, we are not, for all that, obliged to postulate an essence above and beyond human reason, as the cause of these emotions and sentiments. Rather, they are the gropings of the human spirit in its efforts—efforts ever to be renewed and ever baffled—to comprehend the Unknowable. "Poor men, most admirable, most pitiable," cries "A Voice from the Nile"

 ". . . man
Has fear and hope and fantasy and awe
And wistful yearnings and unsated loves
That strain beyond the limits of his life,
And therefore Gods and Demons, Heaven and Hell;
This Man, the admirable, the pitiable."'

And therefore, we may add, recognizing the fact as fully as the adherents of the old faith, therefore does man differ from the other animals. But none the less are we bound to recognize also that in this special sphere, in religion, whose function it was to raise men above themselves by raising their thoughts to something higher than themselves, the center of gravity, so to speak, has changed. To the ancient mind, the highest truth lay in the region of idea; to the modern mind, in the world of fact. The religion of men in the middle ages was their poetry, their science, their consolation for the ills of life; it made mankind better, but did not consciously aim at making the world a better place to dwell in; their eyes were turned to a resting-place above, for which life on earth was at best a school of discipline. The supposition upon which these beliefs rested, "that our living nature will continue after death,"[1] we can rest upon with confidence no longer—it is at best but an aspiration; and our religion is nothing if it does not aim at the improvement of the world in which we live, if it does not ground itself upon a basis of fact. Yet, even so, the best advice is probably that of the great master of human wisdom, who,

  1. resolving that "we express our devout gratitude to Almighty God, the Giver of all good, for the brilliant successes granted to the British arms in Egypt; that we rejoice that our forces have by their courage and devotion added to the luster and renown which British valor has achieved in all quarters of the globe." The resolutions "were all carried unanimously, amid enthusiastic cheering."

  2. Butler's "Analogy," conclusion to Part I.