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followed Spencer in vigorous destructive criticism of the “Positive Philosophy,” that preposterous compound of atheism and Romanism. Indeed, he claims that, by Spencer and his fellow-workers, “a system of philosophy has been constructed, out of purely scientific materials and by the employment of scientific methods, which opposes a direct negative to every one of the theorems of which Positivism is made up." Again : “Mr. Spencer's philoso
a system which, without making appeal to data that are ontological or to agencies that are extra-cosmic, brings all known truths concerning the coexistence and succession of phenomena into relation with one another as the corollaries of a single primordial truth, which is alleged of the omnipresent Existence (ignored by Positivism) whereof the phenomenal world is the multiform manifestation."
These utterances are in the preface to “Cosmic Philosophy,”—utterances followed by such similar statements as: “The hostility between Science and Religion, about which so much is talked and written, is purely a chimera of imagination. Putting the case into other language, it may be said that to assert a radical hostility between our Knowledge and our Aspirations, is to postulate such a fundamental viciousness in the constitution of things, as the evolutionist, at least, is in no wise bound to acknowledge.
That Faith which makes the innermost essence of religion is indestructible. Were it not for the steadfast conviction that this is so, what could sustain us in dealing with questions
so mighty and so awful that one is sometimes fain to shrink from facing their full import, lest the mind be overwhelmed and forever paralyzed by the sense of its own nothingness.”
Mr. Fiske wrote thus in 1874, and the several chapters of his work elaborated these positions, among many others.
In 1884 and 1885 appeared the two other books to be mentioned here : “ The Destiny of Man, Viewed in the Light of his Origin ”; and “ The Idea of God as Affected by Modern Knowledge.” In the former the author applied the evolutionist's arguments, in which he implicitly believes, to the proof of personal immortality. The book was first delivered as lectures in that curious heterogeneous compound of wisdom and eccentricity, the Concord Summer School of Philosophy. The argument is : that man is and must remain the highest product of evolution on earth ; that the brain and its powers were evolved preponderatingly; and that with the increased strength of the brain came spirituality and morals, to gain until “ peace and love shall reign supreme. The dream of poets, the lesson of priest and prophet, the inspiration of the great musician, is confirmed in the light of modern knowledge. And as we gird ourselves up for the work of life, we may look forward to the time when in the truest sense the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever, King of kings and Lord of lords.” In the latter book Mr. Fiske follows the line of discussion further, and applies it to questions of theism in gen
eral, and the regulation of the universe. He rejects the Augustinian, Calvinistic, or other united and accurately-defined doctrines of God's existence, and finds that the immanence of the Great Cause is like the Force of the physicists. The mind of man, with its developed moral nature, mirrors and leads to the vastly different but similar mind of God, of which it is a type. Evolution and destiny, as viewed by Mr. Fiske, are the real thing of which foreordination and a scheme of salvation were imperfect definitions.
Since 1870 or 1880, in America, there has been a marked increase of strength of theistic and spiritual belief and argument, among scientific men, students of philosophy, religious “radicals,” and others. It is true that “orthodoxy” or “evangelicalism ” has not included any increased number of high intellects within its pale. Contemporary American literature and thought is, to a considerable extent, outside of the limits of the Trinitarian bodies, and not to be accounted orthodox by Roman Catholic,
High Church,” Calvinistic, or “ Reformed” standards. It is not hostile to Christianity; to the principles of its Founder it is, for the most part, sincerely attached; it complains of no priestcraft, which, in America, has so little power over the best mind that it is not even, as in France to Victor Hugo, an aggravation ; it complains now of no overbearing clerical conservatism, it simply lets modern denominations do their work, accepting what is good and permanent, and ignoring what it deems transient. But, on the other hand, material
ism has scarcely any hold upon it. Not one American book of the first class has ever been written by an atheist or denier of immortality. The very poet accepted as the incarnation of extreme “ Americanism "/Walt Whitman-accepts both theism and the doctrine of the future life. The detailmaps of heaven and hell, once owned by the popes and the Mathers, have become antiquated, and the pass-words are half-forgotten, but American thought remains loyal to “ God, freedom, and immortality.”
In the strictest estimate of the amount and value of the intellectual product of America, the work of Ralph Waldo Ralph Waldo Emerson is entitled to thor1803–1882. ough and respectful consideration. Who was the man, and what did he do? What was the purpose, and what the achievement, of the spoken and written words by which his message was given to the world?
Emerson was a descendant of a long line of New England ministers, representing the stern democratic aristocracy of Massachusetts—an aristocracy dependent only upon brain and achievement, and upon the respect bestowed upon the minister in the Congregational churches. “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate” was the command heeded by the English Puritans and Independents in the seventeenth century, as against the supporters of prelacy and kingcraft.
The same non-conformist pulse beat in the veins of Emerson, under new skies and in new days. The founders of New England were Protestants and Independents; they protested against assumptions unwarranted, as they believed, by Scrip