The Pantheistic Revolution

The battle of ideas, of the old and new, though often long protracted and fierce, is bloodless. It is not till the new seeks to be embodied in laws and institutions, and thus rule human conduct, that the battle comes to its final, and often bloody, stage. And the strife is bitter in proportion as the old is entrenched in the affections of a people through long usage, and intertwined with its traditions and hallowed memories. When the new presents itself in radical antagonism to the old, claiming higher authority for its representatives, the strife becomes one of life and death. Then the change is not a Reformation, but a Revolution. Of several such political revolutions history makes mention.

A change of principles necessarily brings with it a change of the institutions based upon them. The present institutions of Christendom were built upon Christian principles, the foundation of all being the recognition of one God, whose will when expressed is to be obeyed; and the authority of Christ's teachings. The three great institutions of the Family, the State, and the Church, have taken upon them in Christendom a distinctive religious character. Sanctified by the Spirit of God, and recognized as of Divine authority, they have been made the means of the highest blessings to men. In them, through His operations, have been preserved three unities, parental, governmental, and ecclesiastical, which are all essential to the good order of society, and to true individual development; and which must be preserved. Divested of Divine authority, regarded as merely natural institutions without spiritual life and power, these unities cannot be preserved. These several relations ceasing to be regarded as having a Divine sanction, and therefore permanent, become changeable at the will of the State, and finally at the will of the individual parties. Marriage becomes a contract for two to dwell together as husband and wife so long as is agreeable to them. Subjects obey their rulers so long as their administration pleases them; and members of the Church follow their leaders if they think it expedient. Without the Spirit of God, as the spirit of cohesion, all human unities dissolve into their individual elements.*

* If it be objected to this that the Family, the State, and the Church have always existed, and will continue to exist though the Christian Faith shall become extinct, it is to be noted that Christianity regards them as more than mere natural institutions. For man, put under a redemptive system from the first, these have always had in them a measure of spiritual power and grace. They have been the means, each in its degree, whereby God has kept men from that lowest depth of wickedness and misery into which they must have come had He wholly withdrawn His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is to all natural institutions what life is to the body, the living principle which keeps them from disintegration.

It may be added here that the primal Unity, and the foundation of all other unities, is that of the Trinity — the Three in One. Of the manifested unities, the first is that of the Father and the Incarnate Son ; the second, that of the risen Lord and His body the Church, embracing the unity of its members with one another. If this is not preserved, the lower unities of the Family and the State cannot be. The dissolution of bonds in all the relations of life inevitably follows if the Holy Ohost, the Spirit of life, is grieved and hindered in the Church.

For many centuries Christianity has moulded the legislation of Christendom, and continues so to do. In only one Christian State has there been an attempt to set it wholly aside, and to establish institutions upon other principles. In France the existence of God was denied, the name of Christ dishonoured, the Christian Era abolished, new feasts appointed to supplant the old religious festivals, and no worship sanctioned but that of "Liberty, Equality, and Eternal Truth." It was boasted that France had in one instant annihilated eighteen centuries of error. This madness was shortlived. The National Assembly soon declared a national recognition of a Supreme Being to be useful to the State, and decreed to Him a religious festival. A few years later Napoleon made the Concordat with the Pope, whereby Christianity became again the religion of France.

Remembering this disastrous failure to build permanent institutions upon the principles of a materialistic atheism, it will seem incredible to many that the experiment should be ever tried anew by the Christian nations, to find a foundation other than that which Christianity gives. Yet it may be affirmed in the light both of Scripture prophecy, and of the movements and tendencies of the times, that there will be another attempt in Christendom to establish new institutions upon new principles. We may designate it as the Pantheistic revolution, as distinguished from the earlier Atheistic revolution.

In considering this matter two points present themselves: First, the prevalence of pantheistic principles; secondly, their revolutionary power.

First. As to the former, some proofs have already been given showing that Pantheism, in some of its forms, not only pervades the current modern philosophy, but is more and more penetrating religion, science, literature, and all the departments of human thought. The multitude is made familiar with its principles through magazines and newspapers, through lectures and the pulpit. Its prevalence is shown in the rapidity with which such systems as those of Christian Science, Mental Science, Theosophy, and others kindred to them, have spread in Christian communities, for all have a Pantheistic basis. The moral atmosphere is full of its spirit, and many are affected by it unawares.* What shall we say of its diffusion in the future? To judge of this we must look upon its spread from another point of view, and consider its affinity with Democracy.

It is not to be questioned that social and political conditions have much influence in moulding religious opinions, and we assume that the democratic spirit will rule the future. What kind of religious influence is Democracy adapted to exert? In what direction does the democratic current run? According to De Tocqueville, it runs in the direction of very general ideas, and therefore to Pantheism. The idea of the unity of the people as a whole, as one, preponderates, and this extends itself to the world, and to the universe. God and the universe make one whole. This unity has charms for men living in democracies, and prepares them for Pantheistic beliefs. "Among the different systems, by whose aid philosophy endeavours to explain the universe, I believe Pantheism to be one of those most fitted to seduce the human mind in democratic ages; and against it all who abide in their attachment to the true greatness of man, should struggle and combine."*

*It is said by a very recent writer, Kulpe ("Introduction to Philosophy." Trans. 1897), "Pantheism is very widely held at the present day."

If these remarks of this very acute political observer are true, we may expect to see Pantheism enlarging its influence in Christendom as Democracy extends. It is not, however, necessary to suppose that the number of its advocates should become greater than that of its opposers. We are to bear in mind that, as France was by no means generally atheistic at the time of the Revolution, yet was controlled by Atheists, so Christendom need not be generally pantheistic. The leaders of revolutions are always in advance of their followers. The boldest and most logical in carrying out their principles control the hesitating and wavering masses.

Secondly. The revolutionary power of Pantheistic principles. Many who see political danger in the spread of Atheism, see none in the spread of Pantheism. We must, therefore, examine what destructive social forces lie hid in this system of belief; and to this end let us contrast Atheism and Pantheism. These are practically at one in denying the Father and the Son, but in their teaching in regard to man they widely differ; and, therefore, affect very differently individual character.

* That Pantheism is in its nature vague and obscure, presenting little to the intellect that is definite, may rather help than hinder its general diffusion, and make it more powerful. It is remarked by Coleridge, "The Friend," Essay xiv: "The truth of the assertion that deep feeling has a tendency to combine with obscure ideas in preference to distinct and clear notions, may be proved by the history of fanatics and fanaticism in all ages and countries." All students of the French Revolution know how the most abstract principles of human right and of government were themes for heated and angry discussions in the clubs and on the streets.

Atheism, by making man the product of material forces, degrades him; there is nothing in him spiritual or Divine. Pantheism, by making him a part of the Infinite Spirit, exalts him; he is in his own right Divine. These two antipodal conceptions of humanity must, each in its own way, powerfully affect human character and action. In the French Revolution, inspired by the teaching of Rousseau and others, the primary object was the elevation of all to the true dignity of manhood; and, therefore, all the old oppressive and degrading distinctions, political, social, religious, must be effaced. The natural rights of all must be acknowledged. But as God did not exist, men could stand in no relation to Him; all was human. Atheism makes life bare and empty. But in Pantheism, the relation of man to God gives a religious tone to all his life, and profoundly affects his relations to others. Because of the common Divinity there is established a more absolute equality between man and man than Democracy can give; and which, while in one way it favours democratic institutions, in another fosters a spirit which tends to make any voluntary form of social unity difficult if not impossible. This will be seen more clearly if we note in some detail the effect of the pantheistic conception on individual character.

1. Although based on universalism — the presence of the one Infinite Spirit in all men — it tends to produce an intense individualism or egoism, and a self-exaltation which contemns and resists all legal restraints. Every man, being Divine, is a law to himself. The Divinity in him rules and guides him. He asks nothing from others, he will not be ruled by others, he is sufficient for himself. He owes nothing to the past, no thanks, no reverence. As said by Emerson, who continually presents this type of character for our admiration: "Nothing is sacred but the integrity of our own mind. What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions if I live wholly from within? ... No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. ... If I am the devil's child, I will then live from the devil. ... I shun father and mother, and wife and brother, when my genius calls me." "Jesus was better than others because He refused to listen to others, and listened at home." It follows that what Jesus did, all who are conscious of the Divinity within them should do; listen to and obey the inward voice. Why hearken to the voices of the past? Why listen to the utterances .of an old Bible? "If a man claims to know and to speak of God, and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him not." In other words, it is nothing to me what God has said by Moses or Paul; I am concerned only with what He says to me to-day.*

Of the effect of the belief in man's Divinity upon his individual character and action, we have seen some illustrations in what has been said of the Deification of humanity. This effect is pointed out by Mr. H. R. Hutton: "The difference between Pantheism and Theism is this, that genuine Theism humbles the mind, while Pantheism inflates it. . . . Pantheism is an inebriating faith, of which vanity or sensationalism is apt to be the first word, though not the last." ..." When you put the Unities, and Immensities, and Abysses in the place of God, you are very apt indeed to feel what a wonderful fellow you must be to front the World and the Eternities in that grand way."

* Mr. Emerson gives an illustration in his own person how he made his feelings to be the guide of his action. He said in reference to the administration of the Lord's supper: "If I believed that it was enjoined by Jesus on His disciples, and that he even contemplated making permanent this mode of commemoration as in every way agreeable to an Eastern mind, and yet on trial it was disagreeable to my own feelings, I should not adopt it."

The pantheistic man, as here described, has the characteristic features of the lawless one of St. Paul; and lawlessness must reign in all pantheistic communities. If every man has his own oracle within him, there can be no imposed obedience to a common law. No law can be sacred to any man, but that of his own nature. Let every man obey his own Divine impulses. Pantheism and lawlessness have thus a very close relation. But always, even among the lawless, the strongest will must rule when supported by an intellect of surpassing ability, an energy which never tires, and a courage which fears neither heaven, nor earth, nor hell. As the lawless one par excellence, the man of sin is able to rule the lawless.

2. Pantheism gives a deeper foundation for the demand of human rights. Atheism in France made much of the rights of man as man, but Pantheism demands the rights of man as Divine. The practical effect of this distinction was seen by Heine: "Bread is the people's right," now becomes, " Bread is man's Divine right." This Divine right extends to all human relations; and Divine rights are not to be asked for, they are to be taken, and by force if necessary.

This possession of a Divine humanity gives to all who would reform or reconstruct society, a high vantage ground. The many evils which now afflict our humanity are unworthy of it, and ought not to exist. The old, with its many burdens, has no right to bind us. Why bear longer with inherited imperfection? The present voice of the Divinity in man is to decide his present action; not ancestral traditions, not transmitted customs, not legal precedents. The God in humanity cannot be bound; and, therefore, to-day is better than any day before it; it is supreme.

The effect of this is to bring in radical changes by making an almost total breach with the past. In this respect Pantheism is more revolutionary than Evolution, or even Atheism. Reformation holds to the past, but modifies it; Revolution breaks with it. Philosophical evolutionism affirms continual progress upward; but the new comes out of the old, is a development of it, and may, therefore, be called reformatory rather than revolutionary. Atheism breaks, indeed, with the past, and yet retains it, or goes back to it, because it has no creative principle in itself. Pantheism is revolutionary in its very nature. It repudiates the authority of the past, because the voice of God speaking to-day must overrule all His earlier utterances. His present word is allcontrolling. It is, therefore, of no importance what men have said or done in the past; what their laws, their customs, their institutions. The way is open for new political institutions, a new social order. We may make all things new.

3. Thus while Pantheism puts away old religions, it presents a new. This Atheism could not do. When the atheistic movement in France had affirmed its negations of God, of immortality, of worship, there was only blank nothingness before it. Between these negations and the restoration of Christianity there was no alternative. Men must go back, they could not go forward. Napoleon could not build a church on new foundations, he must rebuild on the old. The Church, therefore, with its doctrines of sin, redemption, and judgment, must be restored to its place.

In estimating the power of Pantheism over men, and its possibilities of future action, we must remember that it is far more than a religious philosophy. It is a faith—faith in the guidance of humanity through the Divinity dwelling in it. No great deeds are done except by those who have faith in their cause, and, therefore, in themselves. We find an illustration of this in the wars of the French Revolution when the semi-religious worship of Democracy, as establishing the rights of man, filled its armies with marvelous endurance and a terrible energy. Pantheism is a faith, and can serve as an impulse to mighty deeds. Its mission is to bring in a condition of things worthy of our Divine humanity; and its first step is to uproot and destroy all that stands in its way. Nothing is to be spared which hinders the realization of its great end. Religious systems in conflict with it, and especially Christianity which teaches the sinfulness of man, are doomed to destruction. It will be satisfied with nothing less than the submission of Christendom to its authority, and with its homage paid to its great representative.

Turning to the revolutionary forces of Pantheism; these are found in its radical and irreconcilable antagonism to the fundamental facts and principles of the Christian Faith. Christianity affirms a personal God; a Supreme Lawgiver; the sinfulness of man; the necessity for a Mediator; the sending of such a Mediator; and salvation through His cross. Pantheism denies all this. God is not personal; man is not sinful; there is no need of any mediatorship; nor is there any Mediator; human nature is itself Divine. It is plain that just so far as the facts and principles of Christianity have affected the laws and institutions of Christendom, Pantheism must recast them, and fill them with its own spirit. The two cannot exist together in peace.

We have already seen in speaking of Christendom as set forth under the symbol of Babylon in The Revelation, that the Christian Church, as connected with the State, and the Christian State fall together. New principles must express themselves in corresponding institutions, and the old must give place to the new. Nor is this change to be effected without violence. Of the symbol we are told (Rev. xviii, 21), "With violence shall that great city, Babylon, be thrown down." It is not that all rejoice in this overthrow; on the contrary, there is much wailing and weeping over it. But the Lawless One, and those with him, prevail. The ground is cleared for the erection of a new kingdom and a new church, to be united under one head.

It is in the rejection of all authority over him by the individual man, that we find the political and social bearing of Pantheism. Not being under God but a part of God, why submit himself to the will of another? The kingdom of the Lawless One must be in its nature a kingdom of violence, in which the strongest will and strongest arm will be master. It is this sufficiency of each man for himself that gives impulse and power to the revolutionary forces of Pantheism. This was clearly seen by Mr. R. W. Emerson.

"It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance, a new respect for the Divinity in man, must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men; in their religion, in their education, in their pursuits, their modes of living, their associations, in their property, in their speculative views." "Let a Stoic arise who shall reveal the resources of man, and tell men that with the exercise of self-trust new powers shall appear; that a man is the word made flesh, born to shed healing to the nations, . . . and at the moment he acts for himself, tossing the laws, the books, and customs out of the window, we thank and revere him; and that teacher shall restore the life of man to splendour, and make his name dear to all history."

This bearing of Pantheism, when fully developed in individual men, upon the destiny of Christendom through its revolutionary forces, was clearly seen by Heine, who in his "Germany" (Trans.) thus expresses himself: "These doctrines have develoi>ed revolutionary forces which only await the day to break forth and fill the world with terror, and with punishment." Speaking particularly of Germany, he says: "Should that subduing talisman, the Gross, break, then will come crashing and roaring forth the world-madness of the old champions, the insane Berseker rage. . . . That talisman is brittle, and the day will come when it will pitifully break. . . . Thought goes before the deed, and lightning precedes thunder. German thunder will come, and ye will hear it crash as naught ever crashed before in the whole history of the world. . . . Then will be played in Germany a drama, compared to which the French Revolution will be only an innocent idyl. Just now all is tolerably quiet. The great actors have not yet appeared upon the stage, the great army of gladiators. The hour will come."

How far these predictions of Heine will be realized in any particular country, time must show, but that they will be realized in Christendom we see already the most significant signs. History never repeats itself; we shall see no repetition of the French Revolution. Atheistic materialism is out of date. Men are not now tempted to deny a God. On the contrary, humanity is Divine, and the first step is to make this real to ourselves. It is faith in this humanity which is the impulse to establish a new order of things that shall be worthy of it.