Page images

aris our actieligion, an age thoidual

every pursuit, and intellectual aims would become bounded and clear. The philosophical spirit in such an age would not be the popular spirit, but it would obtain a distinct existence. It would necessarily arise out of that attention to realities which a predominance of our active powers implies, and it would at least separate itself from religion, and pursue something of an independent course. In such an age thought itself like everything else would become an object of individual attention, and therefore it is the period from which Metaphysics would date its birth. Man indeed, the most individual object in nature, would gradually become the leading interest of man, and round himself everything would be made to revolve. Philosophy would separate itself from religious faith at first with great timidity, and take a veiled refuge in a mixture of the two, as we have reason to believe it did in the mysteries of Greece, until at last it would take courage to come out from within the robe of theology, and to stand alone. As with an individual this is the period of activity, so in the history of the race it would be the period of movement, freedom, political independence, democracy. Man would be everything, and impress himself on everything. Religion, where there was no revelation, would no longer lose itself in the infinite, but become an apotheosis of the finite. It would be no longer inaccessible and fixed, but free and varied. It would break loose from its overpowering generalities, its vague Monotheism, and attach itself to single forms and objects, and degenerate into Polytheism. It would delight in the deification of whatever object strikingly impressed it—of man, and of whatever in nature was dearest to man, and therefore Anthropomorphism would be its prevailing character. In such a period Art would be very individual in its aim, and therefore man would be its chief object, and sculpture perhaps would predominate over painting, and the beautiful be embodied rather than the sublime.

Now, if the oriental world and classical antiquity are in the history of the race, under natural religion, the counterparts of the period of Imagination and the period of the active powers in the history of an individual, we shall find that the race seems to have gone through this cycle twiceand that under Christianity the middle ages seem to hold the same place in reference to Modern History, which under natural religion the East does to Greece and Rome. It would seem as if, in the middle ages, Humanity had retrograded, but the truth is, it was only the cowering once . more of the philosophical spirit under the vast representations of a new faith. Philosophy was feeble so long as it was enve

loped in the religion of Antiquity. From the conclusions of . natural religion, from an imaginative Heathenism, it became in time strong enough to free itself, and to pursue an independent course. When revelation was given to the pagan world, man's reflective powers were not strong enough to connect Christianity with nature-Philosophy therefore ceased from her own rational form, connected herself with faith, and became once more dependent on religion. This state of things lasted as long as Christianity afforded materials for the dreaming and symbolizing and imaginative powers; and when these combinations were exhausted, the active powers began once more to predominate in the race, and to play the same part, but to play it better, under Christianity, in the prosecution of the practical and the useful which before they had played under Paganism. If this should appear a probable explanation of the apparent retrocession of our species during the middle ages, that it was owing to an expansion of revelation, which our reflective powers were not yet strong enough to bear, and to reduce to rationality—then such a period of oscillation need never be dreaded again, if, as we believe, all of the supernatural which God intends to display, is comprehended within Christianity.

The last period in the development of the mind of an individual is that in which the philosophical faculty begins to predominate. Philosophy, indeed, begins with our first serious reflection; but it is not the prevailing spirit until our fullest maturity. The philosophical faculty must come last in the progress of our development, partly because it includes all our knowledge, all our thoughts, and attempts their methodical explanation—and partly because the philosophical form of thought is the most perfect form, in short, pure thought, apprehending itself and separated from its symbols. Mind must be in full vigour before an individual is equal to this work—and he must not be absorbed in the excessive pursuit of practical and external good. The age in which the philosophical faculty predominates in the species will be the age of reflection—the age in which every other faculty and element of our being shall be taken into account, and all things harmonized. Imagination will not be overlooked, but it will not be suffered to dream-lofty truths will be its food—its golden light will rest upon facts-it will leave off sparkling upon fragments to take in a connected vision of our whole destiny, and bind the present to the future. Our active powers will not be neglected -but they will be employed, not in reference to a portion of our existence, but with a reference to its whole duration; and philosophy, which is the spirit of reflection, the spirit which accounts for every thing, will deem it part of its business to connect the actual with the ideal, and to put us practically into harmony with every relation of our nature to whatever exists, to whatever

is true. We perhaps are at the commencement of this last period of the life of the race. “ The philosophy of the nineteenth century,” says an annotator on Cousin, “and of all the centuries that will succeed it, must necessarily become a philosophy of ends and uses—and all sciences must become subordinate to a science of the correspondence of all things to the ends and uses for which they exist; but these uses must necessarily regard not only the development of all the elements of temporal humanity, but also and chiefly, the preparation of humanity by this development for that ultimate state of wisdom and love which must be regarded as their substantial and eternal dwelling-place.”

Cousin himself, in his history of philosophy, a work in which will be found, in another connexion, the substance of this article, makes the following calculation of those who reflect in the present age as compared with those which are past.

“Remember that nothing goes back, every thing advances. Philosophy gained in passing from the east into Greece: it gained immensely in passing from Greece to modern Europe; it cannot but gain in future. I trust that a futurity, as yet wholly unknown to us, awaits us, in which the spirit of philosophy will extend and develope itself still more—until it constitute the final accomplishment of the human race, the cul

um for his Pollowing is day, evepr

thinking beings, who in consequence of being able to think were certainly in possession of some truth, there was one (I use numbers by way of illustration) who sought to account to himself for his perceptions of truth, and to understand his own thoughts. Following out this calculation, in Greece there were perhaps three. At this day, even in the infancy of modern philosophy, we may say there are probably seven or eight, who seek to comprehend themselves—who reflect. The number of thinkers, of free spirits, of philosophers, will increase unceasingly, until they predominate and become the majority of the human race. But not to-morrow, gentlemen, will that day shine forth

upon thBut not to-mate and besophers,

J. H. T.


To the man of cultivated understanding, and elevated feeling, no possession is so precious as his belief in immortality. Deprive him who has acquired a taste for pure and intellectual enjoyments, who,-unfettered by the present and visible,— has penetrated beyond the confines of the tomb, and fixed his hopes upon the future—the unseen, the Eternal ; deprive such a man of his belief in immortality; convince him that he has been cherishing a mere delusion,-a phantom of the imagination; prove to him that there is no life beyond the present,—that death is annihilation; and you rob him of his highest good, the purest source of all his joy; you render his existence a hateful intolerable burden.

It is difficult for the mind which has been educated in the belief of a future life, to realize the condition of that being on whom the hope of immortality has never dawned; the state of the rude untutored savage, who desires only to enjoy the passing hour, and who is wholly ignorant of another world. And yet, even in the present age, a clear and consistent view of the doctrine of immortality is, by no means, an universal possession; and there must have been a time when it had no existence in the human mind. Among some barbarous people the idea never became developed; it was only an undefined presentiment, flitting before the imagination. · It is both interesting and instructive to trace the progress of the human mind: to examine the order in which one idea succeeds another: and to observe the gradual expansion of the mental conceptions. But the circumstances which may cause the many chords in the human breast to vibrate,—which may awaken the slumbering faculties and excite them to activity, --are so numerous and so various, that it is extremely difficult to trace out the exact path by which the mind has attained to intellectual and moral truths.

The discovery of the notion of immortality cannot be attributed to any individual mind. It is probable that, owing to an entire dissimilarity of external circumstances, the idea developed itself very variously among different people. History bears testimony to the fact, that a notion of immortality existed at a very early period, and that it entered into the philosophical sys

* The substance of this article is taken from “ Geschichte des Glaubens an Unsterblichkeit,” by C. W. Flügge, Theologian and Preacher to the University of Gottingen.

tems of the ancients, long before it was known to the Jewish people. In those books of the Old Testament which were written before the Exile, there is no trace of a belief in immortality. Some passages have, in modern times, been compelled to receive a New Testament meaning ; but the entire character of the Books opposes the forced interpretation. The whole Mosaic system of faith and worship derived its sanction from those blessings and cursings with which Jehovah would visit his people during this life : the promised rewards and threatened punishments are altogether temporal, and refer exclusively to this world. Even in the book of Job, in the Psalms, and in Ecclesiastes, though we perceive a struggle with the gloomy belief of the utter hopelessness of man's condition at death, there is no expression of an anticipation of immortality. Nothing can be more cheerless and melancholy than the language of these writers respecting death, and Scheol : the abode of the deceased: the region of darkness and forgetfulness. It must therefore be concluded, that the idea was originated and developed by the natural course of things. That system of belief which refers everything immediately to the deity, and reduces man to a mere machine-depriving him of the merit of that self-cultivation, through which alone he raises himself to the rank of a rational being,—is most pernicious in its tendency, and highly derogatory to man, and to the Supreme. The widespreading volume of nature lay open for man's instruction; but he was to read its pages, and interpret their meaning, by the aid of his own reason. Man was to be his own teacher, a condition of his being which at once determined the extreme slowness of his mental development.

The historical, poetical, and philosophical records of antiquity, shed no light on the earliest ages of the world, and the most ancient traditions and mythi which have been transmitted to us cannot be relied on, since their original meaning became wholly obscured by the many additions of after times. If, therefore, we would attempt to trace out the origin of the notion of immortality, or rather to discover some of the most probable means by which the idea may, in the first instance, have been suggested, we must trust to the guidance of experience and analogy.

In the infancy of mankind the youthful savage felt himself alive, and delighted in his existence; but he troubled himself neither respecting that which thought and acted within him, nor concerning what should become of him in the future. Enchained by sensual enjoyments, he had no desire to overstep the circle in which he was accustomed to move. His

therefore, wemortality, shathe idea

« PreviousContinue »