The Times some time since published a series of papers, under the general caption of "Modern Thinkers," which have been collected and published in book form, with an introduction by Col. Robert G. Ingersoll. This introduction, with the author's preface, is published below. Grouped under the names of diverse and unlike schools of thought, the book presents virtually the successive postulates whose assertion and defense constitute the history of progress toward a social science during the past hundred years. The preface and introduction state who the leaders are. The essay on Swedenborg is, however, a brief history of the historical origin of some of the most vital beliefs in Christianity. That on Adam Smith is a condensed history of a political economy from Quesnay to Cary. That on Thomas Paine is an analysis of the function which the revolutionary spirit performs in developing civilization.
PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR
THIS book is both a product and a proof of the extent to which, in America, the daily press, owing to its greater wealth, circulation and enterprise, is performing for the people, as rapidly as the demand arises, the function which in Europe is performed by the reviews--viz., that of supplying discussions of the more abstract elements of politics and sociology, and rendering the reading public familiar to some extent with the philosophic systems of leading thinkers. The articles embraced in this volume were written for the Chicago Times, at the request of Mr. Story, its editor, and published in its Saturday edition, which has a circulation of some 60,000 copies, before being collected in book form. Most of them attracted very general attention, and letters of criticism, commendation and response came in to them from the most distant and unexpected quarters of the globe, as well as from points near at hand. One request for their publication in book form comes from a German residing in Egypt; another from a Frenchman in Quebec. The fact that the most experienced, enterprising and successful daily journalist now living should open his columns to expositions of current philosophic and sociological systems, requiring so much space, and that they should be widely read and preserved by those who have read them in this form, indicates that there is an increasing demand on the part of the public for thought that is independent of any and all forms of theological bias. The people demand to know, not merely what seers and prophets, oracles and men, acting under some form of hysterical infatuation or supernatural frenzy, have taught, for there is always a liability that these may be lunatics, but also what the calm scholars and rigid investigators, who were favored with no divine afflatus, have thought concerning man, his origin, duty and destiny. For, while a few of the latter, like Newton and Comte, have suffered from cerebral disease brought on by stress of mental labor, even those differ from seers like Swedenborg and Mahomet, in the fact that we are not indebted to their disease for their revelations. Philosophers as well as prophets may be the subjects of catalepsy or of lunacy; but a marked distinction still reigns, if the latter, like Mahomet, commune with angels only while foaming at the mouth, while the former, like Comte, elaborate their philosophic systems only after all signs of mental distress have disappeared.
No attempt has been made in the following volume to collect the views of merely speculative philosophers or metaphysicians -- those who undertake to consider the nature of knowledge, of being, or consciousness, of ideas, or of the sources of any of these. It has designedly nothing to say of Bacon, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Reid, Stewart, Hamilton, or any of the German metaphysicians from Spinoza to Hegel. It aims only to present a few of the leading thinkers upon social science; upon the great questions arising out of the evils that afflict society, and the supposed means of scientifically and philosophically counteracting them. It endeavors, however, to elucidate the systems of each more constructively and sympathetically than is usually done in histories of philosophy.
Swedenborg thought society would derive its greatest salvation from an entire renovation of the accepted creeds of Christianity. Spiritualizing what had become materialized and converting hell from a lake of flame into a love of self, and heaven from a jeweled city into an amiable character, he then adhered to the spiritualized word, thus obtained or created, as the most potent means of renovating society through the purification of its individual members. Though his means were theological, his end was social.
Adam Smith thought wealth, industry, division of labor, the introduction of money and freedom of exchange, to be the great progressive forces in society, though for eighteen centuries Christianity had been compelled, by the narrow social views which attended its origin, to decry wealth, and the love and pursuit of it as the source of all misery. Dr. Smith founded a school of economists whose views as to the method of counteracting the evils of society are none the less hostile to those of the sermon on the mount, from the fact that the economical writers seldom so much as deign to notice the hostility.
Jeremy Bentham discovered that crime was not an impulse of the devil, but a result of imperfect development, and taught mankind that the reform of many of our evils lay in governing men less and teaching them more. Both Smith and Bentham were as eminent positive scientific philosophers as if they had sat under the teachings of Auguste Comte.
Thomas Paine was the representative critic, destroyer and revolutionist of his period, but his end at all times was such a reconstruction of society as would prevent the building up of an aristocratic governing class, by keeping the wheel of popular elections in perpetual revolution. His political ideas corresponded more closely with the actual form and structure of the American government than those of any of his contemporaries. This entitles him to a front rank as a social philosopher.
Charles Fourier and Herbert Spencer have made sociology their chief end and aim. Ernst Haeckel put in a scientific form the evidence of the spontaneous evolution of man, the individual, from the lower forms of life, thus knocking the last prop that sustained the toleological and supernatural theories of the evolution of society. He who writes a scientific genesis for man begins the true history and philosophy of society at its actual beginning. According to Haeckel, the child begins in the womb, where human society begins in its true Adam --viz., in a cell clothed in protoplasm. All the subsequent growth arises out of adaptation to its environment and heredity. The great powers, therefore, which make up progress are tact and talent. Tact is that which adapts each life to its environment, from the mote that basks in the sunbeam, to the millionaire that controls a railway. Talent is the growth which each life underwent in its parent, the original inheritance of caliber, vitality and force with which offsprings are born into this world. All creation, including the creation of society, is the evolution, by material forms, of these two innate powers, equally present in a worm and in a Webster; the extent and complexity of the environment upon which they act growing always with the diversity and complexity of the mechanism through which they act.
Auguste Comte could not have fitly closed the theological and metaphysical periods in his own person had he not by example boldly taught the world that the business of god-making was a legitimate branch of human industry. It was philosophically impossible for any man to imagine a god that would not be a product of human imagination. But Comte, as an ambitious and scientific manufacturer of Deity, could not be content with taking some fraction, or attribute, or type of humanity, whether Jewish, Greek or Roman, for his idol, but must embrace in one comprehensive act of worship the entire stock, whatever it might inventory. Comte attempted to substitute sociology for theology, sociolatry for idolatry, and sociocracy for democracy, plutocracy and ecclesiocracy.
Although but a century has passed since Swedenborg, Bentham, Adam Smith and Thomas Paine taught, the political ideas of the three last have passed into the creed of the common people, and the theologians of the present day would be extremely glad to compromise on Swedenborg's view of the Word, if they could thereby rescue it from its impending utter extinction as a power over human thought. The tendency of society for half a century past has rapidly been toward a complete realization of many of the social theories, both of Fourier and Comte, unlike as their views are in their details. Spencer and Haeckel expound evolution amidst the applause of the generation that hears them, with the assurance that all theological expositions, having already been banished from scientific minds, cannot long dwell in the popular mind.
To this state of facts the question that comes up from every quarter is, "What are you going to give us in place of the idols and myths you are destroying?" And to this the great thinkers answer, in substance, "We will give you the patience that is content to assume to know only that which human faculties have the capacity to reduce to knowledge. We will give you the knowledge which does all that has ever been done to adorn, bless, ennoble human life. If we should discover any fact concerning another life, we will give it to you as freely as we would give those concerning this life. We will give you all that the educated and scientific men of the world ever believed, vis., the accumulated results of all observation, experiment and comparison. We will impose upon you no guesses which nature has endowed us with no faculties for verifying."
"It took two hundred years," says Condorcet, "for Archimedes' and Apollonius' investigations in mathematics and astronomy to so perfect the science of navigation as to save the sailor from shipwreck." But when the science was perfected, it totally superseded the efforts of the human mind to control, through prayers and sacrifices, that divine mind which controlled the seas and the winds, or to secure safety for the ship by exerting a supernatural influence over its environment. So long as prayer strove to adapt the seas to the ship it went down. When science adapted the ship to the seas it sailed on. It cost a like period of study before chemists discovered that the basilisk which haunted cellars, which was invisible, but which killed all whom it looked upon, was carbonic acid gas. But when this was discovered the basilisk's dreadful eye was no longer fatal. The world is still filled with invisible basilisks, invisible save as knowledge makes them visible, but killing their millions. Epidemic diseases, cruel and false social theories, vast social wrongs and oppressions, great theological wastes of wealth relatively to no purpose, compared with the good it might effect, are among these basilisks. Incantations have been chanted over them, but they still kill. Anathemas and prayers have failed to exterminate them. Slowly but surely the world's great thinkers are exterminating them, for what they think to-day forms the creed of educated men to-morrow, and of all men on the day after.
INTRODUCTION BY BOB INGERSOLL.
If others who read this book get as much information as I did from the advance sheets, they will feel repaid a hundred times. It is perfectly delightful to take advantage of the conscientious labors of those who go through volume after volume, divide with infinite patience the gold from the dross, and present us with the pure and shining coin. Such men may be likened to bees who save us numberless journeys by giving us the fruit of their own.
While this book will greatly add to the information of all who read it, it may not increase the happiness of some to find that Swedenborg was really insane. But when they remember that he was raised by a bishop, and disappointed in love, they will cease to wonder at his mental condition. Certainly an admixture of theology and "disprized love" is often sufficient to compel reason to abdicate the throne of the mightiest soul.
The trouble with Swedenborg was that he changed realities into dreams, and then out of the dreams made fact, upon which he built, and with which he constructed his system.
He regarded all realities as shadows cast by ideas. To him the material was the unreal, and things were definitions of the ideas of God. He seemed to think that he had made a discovery when he found that ideas were back of words and that language had a subjective as well as an objective origin--that is, that the interior meaning had been clothed upon. Of course a man capable of drawing the conclusion that natural reason cannot harmonize with spiritual truth because he had seen a beetle in a dream that could not use its feet, is capable of any absurdity of which the imagination can conceive. The fact is that Swedenborg believed the Bible. That was his misfortune. His mind had been overpowered by the bishop, but the woman had not utterly destroyed his heart. He was shocked by the lateral interpretation of the Scriptures, and sought to avoid the difficulty by giving new meanings consistent with the decency and goodness of God. He pointed out a way to preserve the old Bible with a new interpretation. In this way infidelity would be avoided, and, in his day, that was almost a necessity. Had Swedenborg taken the ground that the Bible was not inspired, the ears of the world would have been stopped. His readers believed in the dogma of inspiration, and asked not how to destroy the Scriptures but for some way in which they might be preserved. He and his followers unconsciously rendered immense service to the cause of intellectual enfranchisement by their efforts to show the necessity of giving new meanings to the barbarous laws and cruel orders of Jehovah. For this purpose they attacked with great fury the lateral text, taking the ground that if the old interpretation was right the Bible was the work of savage men. They heightened in every way the absurdities, cruelties and contradictions of the Scriptures for the purpose of showing that a new interpretation must be found, and that the way pointed out by Swedenborg was the only one by which the Bible could be saved.
Great men are, after all, the instrumentalities of their time. The heart of the civilized world was beginning to revolt at the cruelties ascribed to God, and was seeking for some interpretation of the Bible that kind and loving people could accept. The method of interpretation found by Swedenborg was suitable for all each was permitted to construct his own "science of correspondence" and gather such fruits as he might prefer. In this way the ravings of revenge can be instantly changed to mercy's melting tones and the murderer's dagger to a smile of love. In this way, and in no other, can we explain the numberless mistakes and crimes ascribed to God. Thousands of most excellent people, afraid to throw away the idea of inspiration, hailed with joy a discovery that allowed them to write a Bible for themselves. But, whether Swedenborg was right or not, every man who reads a book necessarily gets from that book all that he is capable of receiving. Every man who walks in the forest, or gathers a flower, or looks at a picture, or stands by the sea, gets all thy intellectual wealth he is capable of receiving. What the forest, the flower, the picture, or the sea, is to him, depends upon his mind and upon the stage of development he has reached. So that, after all, the Bible must be a different book to each person who reads it, as the revelations of nature depend upon the individual to whom they are revealed or by whom they are discovered.
And the extent of the revelation or discovery depends absolutely upon the intellectual and moral development of the person to whom, or by whom, the revelation or discovery is made. So that the Bible cannot be the same to any two people, but each one must necessarily interpret it for himself. Now, the moment the doctrine is established that we can give to this book such meanings as are consistent with our highest ideals ; that we can treat the old words as purses or old stockings in which to put our gold, then each one will an effect, make a new inspired Bible for himself and throw the old away. If his mind is narrow, lf he has been raised by ignorance and nursed by fear, he will believe in the literal truth of what he reads. If he has a little courage he will doubt, and the doubt will with new interpretations modify the literal text, but if his soul is free he will with scorn reject it all.
Swedenborg did one thing for which I feel almost grateful. He gave an account of having met John Calvin in hell. Nothing connected with the supernatural could be more perfectly natural than this. The only thing detracting from the value of this report is that if there is a hell, we know without visiting the place that John Calvin must be there.
All honest founders of religions have been the dreamers of dreams, the sport of in sanity the prey of visions, the deceivers of others and of themselves. All will admit that Swedenborg was a man of great intellect, of vast requirements, and of honest intentions, and I think it equally clear that upon one subject, at least, his mind was touched, shattered and shaken. Misled by analogies, imposed upon by the bishop, deceived by the woman, borne to other worlds upon the wings of dreams, having in the twilight of reason and the dawn of insanity, he regarded every fact as a patched and ragged garment with a lining of costly silk, and insisted that the wrong side, even of the silk, was far more beautiful than the right.
Herbert Spencer is almost the opposite of Swedenborg. He relies upon evidence, upon demonstration, upon experience, and occupies himself with one world at a time. He perceives that there is a mental horizon that we cannot pierce, and beyond that is the unknown--possibly the unknowable. He endeavors to examine only that which is capable of being examined, and considers the theological method as not only useless but hurtful. After all, God is but a guess, throned and established by arrogance and assertion. Turning his attention to those things that have in some way affected the condition of mankind, Spencer leaves the unknowable to priests and to the believers in the "moral government" of the world. He sees only natural causes and natural results, and seeks to induce man to give up gazing into void and empty space that he may give his entire attention to the world in which he lives. He sees that right and wrong do not depend upon the arbitrary will of even an infinite being, but upon the nature of things; that they are relations, not entities, and that they cannot exist, so far as we know, apart from human experience.
It may be that men will finally see that selfishness and self-sacrifice are both mistakes-that the first devours itself, that the second is not demanded by the good, and that the bad are unworthy of it. It may be that our rage has never been, and never will be, deserving of a martyr. Some time we may see that justic is the highest possible form of mercy and love, and that all should not only be allowed but compelled to reap exactly what they sow; that industry should not support idleness, and that they who waste the spring and summer and autumn of their lives should bear the winter when it comes. The fortunate should assist the victims of accident; the strong should defend the weak, and the intellectual should lead with loving hands the mental poor, but Justice should remove the bandage from the eyes long enough to distinguish between the vicious and the unfortunate.
Mr. Spencer is wise enough to declare that "acts are called good or bad according as they are well or ill adjusted to ends"; and he might have added that ends are good or bad according as they affect the happiness of mankind. It would be hard to overestimate the influence of this great man. From an immense intellectual elevation he has surveyed the world of thought.
He has rendered absurd the idea of special Providence, born of the egotism of slavery. He has shown that the "will of God" is not a rule for human conduct, that morality is not a cold tyrant; that by the destruction of the individual will a higher life cannot be reached, and that, after all, an intelligent love of self extends the hand of help and kindness to all the human race.
But had it not been for such men as Thomas Paine, Herbert Spencer could not have existed for a century to come. Some one had to lead the way, to raise the standard of revolt, and draw the sword of war. Thomas Paine was a natural revolutionist. He was opposed to every government existing in his day. Next to establishing a wise republic based upon the equal rights of man, the best thing that can be done is to destroy monarchy.
Paine had a sense of justice, and had imagination enough to put himself in the place of the oppressed. He had also what in these pages is so felicitously expressed, "A haughty intellectual pride and a willingness to pit his individual thought against the clamor of a world."
I cannot believe that he wrote the letters of Junius, although the two critiques combined in this volume, entitled "Paine and Junius," make by far the best argument upon that subject that I have ever read. First-Paine could have had no personal hatred against the men so bitterly assailed by Junius. Second-He knew at that time but little of English politicians, and certainly had never associated with men occupying the highest positions, and could not have been personally acquainted with the leading statesmen of England. Third-He was not an unjust man. He was neither a coward, a calumniator, nor a sneak. All these delightful qualities must have lovingly united in the character of Junius. Fourth-Paine could have had no reason for keeping the secret after coming to America.
I have always believed that Junius, after having written his letters, accepted office from the very men he had maligned, and at last became a pensioner of the victims of his slander. "Had he as many mouths as Hydra, such a course must have closed them all." Certainly, the author must have kept the secret to prevent the loss of his reputation.
It cannot be denied that the style of Junius is much like that of Paine. Should it be established that Paine wrote the letters of Junius it would not, in my judgment, add to his reputation as a writer. Regarded as literary efforts, they cannot be compared with "Common Sense," or "The Crisis," or "The Rights of Man."
The claim that Paine was the real author of the Declaration of Independence is much better founded. I am inclined to think that he actually wrote it, but whether this is true or not, every idea contained in it had been written by him long before. It is now claimed that the original document is in Paine's handwriting. It certainly is not in Jefferson's. Certain it is that Jefferson could not have written anything so manly, so striking, so comprehensive, so clear, so convincing and so faultless in rhetoric and rhythm as the Declaration of Independence.
Paine was the just man to write these words, "The United States of America". He was the just great champion of absolute separation from England. He was the first, to urge the adoption of a federal Constitution, and more clearly than any other man of his time he perceived the future greatness of his country.
He has been blamed for his attack on Washington. The truth is, he was in prison in France. He had committed the crime of voting against the execution of the king. It was the grandest act of his life, but at that time to be merciful was criminal. Paine being an American citizen asked Washington, then President, to say a word to Robespierre in his behalf . Washington remained silent. In the calmness of power, the serenity of fortune, Washington, the President, read the request of Paine the prisoner, and with the complacency of assured fame consigned to the waste basket of forgetfulness the patriot's cry for help.
"Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,
Wherein he puts alms for oblivion
A great-sized monster of ingratitudes
Those scraps are good deeds past, which are devoured
As fast as they are made, forgot as soon As done"
In this Controversy my sympathies are with the prisoner.
Paine did more to free the mind, to destroy the power of ministers and priests in the new world, than any other man. In order to answer his arguments the churches found it necessary to attack his character. There was a general resort to falsehood in trying to destroy the reputation of Paine the churches have demoralized themselves. Nearly every minister has been a willing witness against the truth. Upon the grace of Thomas Paine the churches have sacrificed their honor. The influence of the hero-author increases every day, and there are more copies of the "Age of Reason" sold in the United States than of any work written in defense of the Christian religion. Hypocrisy, with its forked tongue, its envious and malignant heart, lies coiled upon the memory of Paine, ready to fasten its poisonous fangs in the reputation of any man who dares defend the great and generous dead.
Leaving the dust and glory of revolutions, let us spend a moment of quiet with Adam Smith.
I was glad to find that a man's ideas upon the subject of protection and free trade depend almost entirely upon the country in which he lives or the business in which he happens to be engaged, and that, after all, each man regards the universe as a circumference of which he is the center. It gratified me to learn that even Adam Smith was no exception to this rule and that he regarded all "protection as a hurtful and ignorant interference," except when exercised for the good of Great Britain. Owing to the fact that his nationality quarreled with his philosophy, he succeeded in writing a book that is quoted with equal satisfaction by both parties. The protectionists rely upon the exceptions he made for England and the free traders upon the doctrines he laid down for other countries. He seems to have reasoned upon the question of money precisely as we have of late years in the United States, and he has argued both sides equally well. Poverty asks for inflation, wealth is conservative, and always says there is money enough. Upon the question of money this volume contains the best thing I have ever read. The only mode of procuring the services of others, on any large scale, in the absence of money, is by force, which is slavery Money, by constituting a medium in which he smallest services can be paid for, subsitutes wages for the lash and renders the liberty of the individual consistent with the maintenance and support of society". There is more philosophy in that one paragraph than Adam Smith expresses in his whole work. It may truthfully be said that without money liberty is impossible. No one, whatever has views may be, can read the article on Adam Smith without profit and delight.
The discussion of the money question is in every respect admirable, and is as candid as able. The world will, sooner or later, learn that there is nothing miraculous in finance; that money is a real and tangible thing, a product of labor, serving not merely as a medium of labor but as a basis of credit as well; that it cannot be created by an act of the legislature; that dreams cannot be coined, and that only labor, in some form can put upon the hand of want Aladdin's magic ring.
Adam Smith wrote upon the wealth of nations, whale Charles Fourier labored for the happiness of mankind. In this country few seem to understand communism. While here it may be regarded as vacuous idleness, armed with the assassin's knife and the incendiary torch, in Europe it is a different thing. There is a reaction from feudallsm. Nobillty is communism in its worst possible form. Nothing can be worse than for idleness to eat the bread of industry. Communism in Europe is not the "stand and deliver" of the robber but the protest of the robbed. Centuries ago kings and priests -that is to say thieves and hypocrites--divided Europe among themselves. Under this arrangement the few were masters, and the many slaves. Nearly every government in the old world rests upon simple brute force. It is hard for the many to understand why the few should own the soil. Neither can they clearly see why they should give their brain and blood to those who steal their birthright and their bread. It has occurred to them that they who do the most should not receive the least, and that, after all, an industrious peasant is of far more value to the world than a vain and idle king.
The communists of France, blinded as they were, made the republic possible. Had they joined with their countrymen, the invaders would stall have occupied the throne. Socialism perceives that Germany has been enslaved by victory, whale France found liberty in defeat. In Russia the nihlilsts prefer chaos to the government of the bayonet, Siberia and the knout, and these intrepid men have kept upon the coast of despotism one beacon-fire of hope. As a matter of fact, every society is a species of communism-a kind of cooperatlon in which selfishness, in spite of itself, benefits the community. Every industrious man adds to the wealth not only of his nation but to that of the world. Every inventor increases human power, and every sculptor, painter and poet adds to the value of human life.
Fourier, touched by the sufferings of the poor, as well as by the barren joys of hoarded wealth, and discovering the vast advantage of combined effort and the immense economy of cooperation, sought to find some way for men to help themselves by helping each other. He endeavored to do away with monopoly and competition and to find some method by which the sensuous, the moral and the intellectual passions of man could be gratified.
For my part, I can place no confidence in any system that does away or tends to do away with the institution of marriage. I can conceive of no civilization of which the family must not be the unit. Societies cannot be made, they must grow. Philosophers may predict, but they cannot create. They may point out as many ways as they please, but, after all, humanity will travel in paths of its own. Fourier sustained about the same relation to this world that Swedenborg did to the other. There must be something wrong about the brain of one who solemnly asserts that "the elephant, the ox, and the diamond were created by the sun, the horse, the lily and the ruby, by Saturn; the cow, the jonquil, and the topaz, by Jupiter, and the dog, the violet, and the opal stones, by the earth itself."
And yet, forgetting these aberrations of the mind, this lunacy of a great and loving soul, for one, I hold in tenderest regard the memory of Charles Fourier, one of the best and noblest of our race.
While Fourier was in his cradle, Jeremy Bentham, who read history when three years old, played on the violin at five, "and at fifteen detected the fallacies of Blackstone," was demonstrating that the good was the useful; that a thing was right because it paid in the highest and best sense, that utility was the basis of morals, that without allowing interest to be paid upon money commerce could not exist, and that the object of all human governments should be to secure the greatest happiness of the greatest number. He read Hume and He1vetius, threw away the thirty-nine articles, and endeavored to impress upon the English law the fact that its ancestor was a feudal savage. He held the past in contempt, hated Westminster, and despised Oxford. He combated the idea that governments were originally founded on contract. Locke and Blackstone talked as though men originally lived apart, and farmed societies by agreement. These writers probably imagined that at one time the trees were separated like telegraph poles, and finally came together and made groves by agreement. I believe it was Puffendorf who said that slavery was originally founded on contract. To which Voltaire replied "If my lord Puffendorf will produce the original contract signed by the party who was to be the slave, I will admit the truth of his statement".
A contract back of society is a myth manufactured by those in power to serve as a title to place, and to impress the multitude with the idea that they are, in some mysterious way, bound, fettered, and even benefited by its terms.
Many scientists have favored the theologians. They have admitted that these questions could not, at present, be solved. These admissions have been thankfully received by the clergy, who have always begged for some curtain to be left, behind which their God could still exist. Men calling themselves "scientific" have tried to harmonize the "apparent" discrepancies between the Bible and the other works of Jehovah. In this way they have made reputations. They were at once quoted by the ministers as wonderful examples of piety and learning. These men discounted the future that they might enjoy the ignorant praise of the present. Agassiz preferred the applause of Boston, while he lived, to the reverence of a world after he was dead. Small men appear great only when they agree with the multitude.
The last scientific congress in America was opened with prayer. Think of a science that depends upon the efficacy of words addressed to the unknown and unknowable!
In our country, most of the so-called scientists are professors in sectarian colleges, in which Moses is considered a geolgist and Joshua an astronomer. For the most part their salaries depend upon the ingenuity with which they can explain away facts and dodge demonstration.
The situation is about the same in England when Mr. Huxley saw fit to attack the mosaic account of the creation, he did not deem it advisable to say plainly what he meant. He attacked the account of creation as given by Milton, although he knew that the Mosaic and Miltonic were substantially the same. Science has acted like a guest without a wedding garment, and has continually apologized for existing. In the presence of arrogant absurdity, overawed by the patronizing airs of a successful charlatan at has played the role of a "poor relation," and accepted, while setting below the salt, insults as honors.
There can be no more pitiable sight than a scientist in the employ of superstition dishonoring himself without assisting his master. But there are a multitude of brave and tender men who give their honest thoughts, who are true to nature, who give the facts and let consequences shirk for themselves, who know the value and meaning of a truth, and who have bravely tried the creeds by scientific tests. Among the bravest side by side with the greatest of the world in Germany, the land of science, stands Ernest Haeckel, who may be said to have not only demonstrate the theories of Darwin, but the Monistic conception of the world. Rejecting all the puerile ideas of a personal creator; he has had the courage to adopt the noble words of Bruno "A spirit exists in all things and no body is so small but it contains a part of the divine substance within itself and by which it is animated." He has endeavored-and I think with complete success-to show that there is not, and never was, and never can be, the creator of anything. There is no more a personal creator than there is a personal destroyer. Matter and force must be existed from eternity, all generation must have been spontaneous. and the simplest organisms must have been ancestors of the most perfect and complex.
Haeckel is one of the bitterest enemies of the church, and is, therefore, one of the bravest friends of man.
Catholicism was, at one time, the friend of education--of an education sufficient to make a Catholic out of a barbarian. Protestantism was also in favor of education of an education sufficient to make a Protestant out of a Catholic. But now, at having been demonstrated that real education will make freethinkers, Catholics and Protestants both are the enemies of true learning.
In all countries where human beings are held in bondage, it is a crime to teach a slave to read and write. Masters know that education is an abolitionist, and theologians know that science is the deadly foe of every creed in Christendom.
In the age of faith a personal god stood at the head of the department of ignorance, and was supposed to be the king of kings, the rewarder and punisher of individuals, and the governor of nations.
The worshipers of this god have always regarded the men in love with simple facts as atheists in disguise. And it must be admitted that nothing is more atheistic than a fact. Pure science is necessarily godless. It is capable of worship. It investigates, and cannot afford to shut its eyes even long enough to pray. There was a time when those who disputed the divine right of kings were denounced as blasphemous, but the time came when liberty demanded that a personal god should be retired from politics. In our country this was substantially done in 1776, when our fathers declared that all power to govern came from the consent of the governed. The cloud theory was abandoned, and one government has been established for the benefit of mankind. Our fathers did not keep God out of the Constitution from principle but from jealousy. Each church, in colonial times, preferred to live in single blessedness rather than see some rival wedded to the state. Mutual hatred planted our tree of religious liberty. A constitution without a god has at last given us a nation without a slave.
A personal god sustains the same relation to religion as to politics. The Diety is a master, and man a serf, and this relation is inconsistent with true progress. The universe ought to be a true democracy-an infinite republic without a tyrant and without a chain.
Auguste Comte endeavored to put humanity in the place of Jehovah, and no conceivable change can be more desirable than this. This great man did not, like some of his followers, put a mysterious something called law in the place of God which is simply giving the old master a new name. Law is this side of phenomena not the other. It is not the cause, neither is it the result of phenomena. The fact of succession and resemblance, that is to say, the same thing happening under the same conditions, is all we mean by law. No one can conceive of law existing apart from matter, or controlling matter, any more than he can understand the eternal procession of the Holy Ghost, or motion apart from substance. We are beginning to set that law does not and cannot exist as an entity, but that it is only a conception of the mind to express the fact that the same entities, under the same conditions, produce the same results. Law does not produce the entities, the conditions, or the results, or even the sameness of the results. Neither does it affect the relations or entities nor the result of such relations, but it stands for the fact that the same causes under the same conditions, eternally have, and eternally will, produce the same results.
The metaphysicians are always giving us explanations of phenomena which are as difficult to understand as the phenomena they seek to explain; and the believers in God establish their dogmas by miracles, and then substantiate the miracles by assertions.
The designer of the toleologist, the just cause of religious philosopher, the vital force of the biologist and the law of the half orthodox scientist are all the shadowy children of ignorance and fear.
The universe is all there is. It is both subject and object, contemplator and contemplated; creator and created, destroyer and destroyed; preserver and preserved, and within itself are all causes, modes, motions and effects.
Unable in some things to rise above the superstitions of his day, Comte adopted not only the machinery but some of the prejudices of Catholicism. He made the mistake of Luther. He tried to reform the Church of Rome. Destruction is the only reformation of which that church is capable. Every religion is based upon a misconception, not only of the cause of phenomena but of the real object of life--that is to say, upon falsehood; and the moment the truth is known and understood these religions must fall. In the field of thought, they are briers, thorns and noxious weeds; on the shores on intellectual discovery, they are sirens, and in the forests that the brave thinkers are now penetrating they are the wild beasts, fanged and monstrous. You cannot reform these weeds. Sirens cannot be changed into good citizens, and such wild beasts, even when tamed, are of no possible use. Destruction is the only remedy. Reformation is a hospital where the new philosophy exhausts its strength nursing the old religion.
There was in the brain of the great Frenchman the dawn of that happy day in which humanity will be the only religion, good the only god, happiness the only object, restitution the only atonement, mistake the only sin, and affection, guided by intelligence, the only savior of mankind. This dawn enriched his poverty, illuminated the darkness of his life, peopled his loneliness with the happy millions yet to be, and filled his eyes with proud and tender tears.
A few years ago I asked the superintendent of Pere La Chaise if he knew where I could find the tomb of Auguste Comte. He had never heard even the name of the author of the positive philosophy. I asked him if he had ever heard of Napoleon Bonaparte. In a half-insulted tone he replied - "Of course I have, why do you ask me such a question?" "Simply," was my answer, "that I might have the opportunity of saying that, when everything connected with Napoleon, except his crimes, shall have been forgotten, Auguste Comte will be lovingly remembered as a benefactor of the human race."
The Jewish God must be dethroned! A personal deity must go back to the darkness of barbarism from whence he came. The theologians must abdicate, and popes, priests and clergymen, labeled as "extinct species," must occupy the mental museums of the future.
In my Judgment, this book, sustaining original thought, will hasten the period of that blessed time.
ROBERT G. INGERSOLL.
Washington, D.C, Nov. 29, 1879.