Essay in Refutation of Atheism, Pt. I (Brownson's Quarterly Review, Oct. 1873)

The age of heresy is virtually past.  Heresy, in its progressive developments, has successively arraigned and rejected every article in the creed, from “Patrem omnipotentem” down to “Vitam Aeternam.”  Following its essential nature, that of arbitrary choice among revealed mysteries and dogmas, of what it will reject or retain, it has eliminated one after another, till it has nothing distinctly Christian remaining, or to distinguish it from pure, unmitigated rationalism and downright naturalism.  It retains with the men and women of the advanced, or movement party, hardly a dim and fading reminiscence of the supernatural, and may be said to have exhausted itself, and gone so far that it can go no farther. 

No new heresy is possible.  The pressing, the living controversy of the day is not between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, which virtually ended with Bossuet’s “Histoire des Variations du Protestantisme,” and the issue is now between Christianity and infidelity, faith and unbelief, religion and no religion, the worship of God the Creator, or the idolatry of man and nature – in a word, between theism and atheism, for pantheism, so fearfully prevalent in modern philosophy, is only a form of atheism, and is substance differs not from what the fool says in his heart, Non est Deus.  Not all on either side, however, have as yet become aware that this is the real issue, or that the old controversy between the orthodox and the heterodox, or the church and the sects, is not still a living controversy; but all on either side who have looked beneath the surface, and marked the tendencies of modern thought and of modern theories widely received, in their principles if not in their developments, are well aware that the exact question at issue is no longer the church, but back of it in the domain of science and philosophy, and is simply, God or no God?

The scientific theories in vogue are all atheistic, or have at least an atheistic tendency; for they all seek to explain man and the universe or the cosmos, without the recognition of God as its first or its final cause.  Even the philosophical systems that professedly combat atheism and materialism, fail to recognize the fact of creation from nothing, assume the production of the cosmos by way of emanation, formation, or evolution, which is only a form of atheism.  Even philosophical theories which profess to demonstrate the existence of God, bind him fast or completely hedge him in by what they call “the laws of nature,” deny him personality or the last complement of rational nature, and take from him his liberty or freedom of action, which is really to deny him, or, what is the same thing, to absorb him in the cosmos.

The ethical theories of our moral philosophers have equally an atheistical tendency.  They all seek a basis for virtue without the recognition of God, the creative act, or the divine will.  Some place the ethical principle in self-interest, some in utility, some in instinct, some in what they call a moral sense, a moral sentiment, or in a subjective idea; others, in acting according to truth; others, in acting according to the fitness of things, or in reference to universal order.  Popular literature, written or inspired in no small part by women, places it in what it calls love, and in doing what love dictates.  The love, however, is instinctive, carries its own reason and justification in itself, refuses to be morally bound, and shrinks from the very thought of duty or obligation – a love that moves and operates as one of the great elemental forces of nature, as attraction, gravitation, the wind, the storm, or the lightning.  The Christian doctrine that makes virtue consist in voluntary obedience to the law of God as our sovereign, our final cause, and finds the basis of moral obligation in our relation to God as his creatures, created for him as their last end, is hardly entertained by any class of modern ethical philosophers, even when they profess to be Christians. 

 In politics, the same tendency to eliminate God from society and the state is unmistakable.  The statesmen and political philosophers who base their politics on principles derived from theology are exceptions to the rule, and are regarded as “behind the age.”  Political atheism, or the assumption that the secular order is independent of the spiritual, and can and should exist and act without regard to it, is the popular doctrine throughout Europe and America, alike with monarchists and republicans, and is at the bottom of all the revolutionary movements of the last century and the present.  Nothing can be said that will be received with more general repugnance by the men of the age than the assertion of the supremacy of the spiritual order, or the denial that the secular is independent – supreme.

If we glance at the various projects of reform, moral, political, or social, which are put forth from day to day in such numbers and with so much confidence, we shall see that they are all pervaded by one and the same atheistic thought.  We see in the late Robert Owen’s scheme of parallelograms, which avowedly assumed that the race had hitherto been afflicted by a trinity of evils of which it is necessary to get rid, namely, property, marriage, and religion; we see it in the phalanstery of Charles Fourier, based on passional harmony, or rather on passional indulgence; we see it also in the International Association of working men, who would seem to be moved by a personal hatred of God; finally, we see it in the mystic republic of the late Mazzini, who though he accepts, in name, God and religion, yet makes the people of God, and popular instincts religion.  The Saint-Simonians, with their Nouveau Christianisme, are decidedly pantheists, and the Comtists recognize and worship no God but the grand collective being, humanity; Proudhon declared that we must deny God, or not be able to assert liberty.

This rapid sketch is sufficient to bear out the statement that the living controversy of the day is not between orthodox and heterodox Christians, but between Christianity and atheism, or, what is the same thing, Christianity and pantheism.  The battle is not even for supernatural revelation, but for God, the Creator and End of man and the universe, for natural reason and natural society, for the very principle of intellectual, moral, and social life.  It is all very well for those excellent people who never look beyond their own convictions or prejudices to tell us that atheism is absurd, and that we need not trouble ourselves about it, for no man in his senses is, or can be, an atheist.  But let no one lay this “flattering unction to his soul.”  Facts, too, painfully certain to be disputed, and too numerous to be unheeded by any one who attends to all to what is going on under his very eyes, prove the contrary.  The fools are not dead, a new crop is born every year.

The Internationals are avowed atheists, and they boast that their association, which is but of yesterday, has already (1871) two millions of men in France enrolled in its ranks, and four million in the rest of Europe.  Is this nothing?  What their principles are, and what their conduct may be expected to be, the murders and incendiarisms of the Paris Commune, which their chiefs approved, have sufficiently taught us.  But, under the guise of science and free thought, men of the highest intellectual, literary, and social standing, like Ralph Waldo Emerson and his disciples, like Charles Darwin, Sir John Lubbock, Professors Huxley and Tyndall, Herbert Spencer, Emile Littre, and the Positivists or worshippers of humanity, to say nothing of the Hegelingians of Germany and the majority of the medical profession, are daily and hourly propagating atheism, open or disguised, in our high literary and cultivated classes.  The ablest and most approved organs of public opinion in Great Britain and the United States, France and Germany, either defend atheistic science, or treat its advocates with great respect and tenderness, as if the question they raise were purely speculative, and without any practical bearing on the great and vital interests of man and society.  There may be, and we trust there is, much faith, much true piety left in Christendom; but public opinion, we may say the official opinion – the opinion that finds expression in nearly all modern governments and legislation – is antichristian, and between Christianity and atheism there is no middle ground, no legitimate halting place.

It certainly, then, is not a work uncalled for, to subject the atheistic and false theistic theories of the day to a brief but rigid examination.  The problem we have to solve is the gravest problem that can occupy the human intellect or the human heart, the individual or society.  It is, whether there is a God who has created the world from nothing, who is our first cause and our last cause, who has made us for himself for our supreme good, who sustains and governs us by his providence, and has the right to our obedience and worship; or whether we are in the world, coming we know not whence, and going we know not whither, without any rule of life or purpose in our existence.  


An atheist is one who is not a theist.  Atheists may be divided into two classes, positive and negative.  Positive atheists are those who deny positively the existence of God, and profess to be able to prove that God is not; negative atheists are those, who, if they do not deny positively that God is, maintain that he is unknowable, that we have, and can have no proof of his existence, no reason for asserting it, for the hypothesis of a God explains and accounts for nothing.  Of this latter class of atheists are the Comtists and the Cosmists, or those who take August Comte for their master and those who swear by Herbert Spencer.

False theists or pantheists reject the name of atheists, and yet are not essentially distinguishable from them.  They are divided into several classes: 1, the emanationists, or those who hold that all things emanate, as the stream from the fountain, from the one only being or substance which they call God, and return at length to him and are reabsorbed in him; 2, the generationists, or those who hold that the one only being or substance is in itself both male and female, and generates the world from itself; 3, the formationists, or those who, like Plato and Aristotle, hold that God produces all things by giving form to a preexisting and eternal matter, as an artificer constructs a house or a temple with materials furnished to his hand; 4, the ontologists, or Spinozaists, who assert that nothing is or exists, but being or substance, with its attributes or modes: 5, the psychologists or egoists, or those who assert that nothing exists but the soul, the Ego, and its productions, modes, or affections, as maintained by Fichte. There are various other shades of Pantheism; but all pantheists coalesce and agree in denying the creative act of being producing all things from nothing, and all, except the formationists, represented by Plato and Aristotle, agree in maintaining that there is one substance, and that the cosmos emanates from it, is generated by it, or is its attribute, mode, affection, or phenomenon.   The characteristic of pantheism is the denial of creation from nothing, and the creation of substantial existences or second causes, that is, existences capable, when sustained by the first cause, of acting from their own center and producing effects of their own.  Plato and Aristotle approach nearer to theism than any other class of pantheists, and if they had admitted creation they would not be pantheists at all, but theists.

Omitting the philosophers of the Academy and the Lyceum, all pantheists admit only one substance, which is the substance or reality of the cosmos, on which all the cosmic phenomena depend for their reality, and of which they are simply appearances or manifestations.  Here pantheism and atheism coincide, and are one and the same; for whether you call this one substance God, soul, or nature, makes not the least difference in the world, since you assert nothing above or distinguishable from the cosmos.  Pantheism may be the more subtle form, but is none the less a form of atheism, and pantheists are really only atheists; for they assert no God distinct from nature, above it, and its creator. 

Pantheism is the earliest form of atheism, the first departure from theology, and is not regarded b those who accept it as atheism at all.  It undoubtedly retains many theistical conceptions  around which the religious sentiments may linger for a time; yet it is no-theism and no-theism is atheism.  Pantheism, if one pleases, is inchoate atheism, the first step in the descent from theism, as complete atheism is the last.  It is the germ of which atheism is the blossom or the ripe fruit.  Pantheism is a misconception of the relation of cause and effect, and the beginning of the corruption of the ideal; atheism is its total corruption and loss.  It is implicit not explicit atheism, as every heresy is implicitly though not explicitly the total denial of Christianity, since Christianity is an indivisible whole.  In this sense, and in this sense only, are pantheism and atheism distinguishable. 

Pantheism in some of its forms underlies all the ancient and modern heathen mythologies; and nothing is more absurd than to suppose that these mythologies were primitive, and that Christianity has been gradually developed from them.  Men could not deny God before his existence had been asserted, nor could they identify him with the substance or reality manifested in the cosmic phenomena if they had no notion of his existence.  Pantheism and atheism presuppose theism; for the denial cannot precede the affirmation, and either is unintelligible without it, as Protestantism presupposes and is unintelligible without the church in communion with the See of Rome against which it protests.  The assertion of the papal supremacy necessarily preceded its denial.  Dr. Draper, Sir John Lubbock, as well as a host of others, maintain that the more perfect forms of religion have been developed from the less perfect, as Professor Huxley maintains that life is developed from protoplasm, and protoplasm from protein, and Charles Darwin that the higher species of animals have been developed from the lower, man from the ape or some one of the monkey tribe, by the gradual operation for ages of what he calls “natural selection.”

It has almost passed into an axiom that the human race began, as to religion, in fetishism, and passed progressively through the various forms and stages of polytheism up to the sublime monotheism of the Jews and Christians; yet the only authority for it is that it chimes in with the general theory of progress held by a class of antichristian theorists and socialists, but which has itself no basis in science, history, or philosophy.  So far as history goes, the monotheism of the Jews and Christians is old than polytheism, older than fetishism, and in fact, as held by the patriarchs, was the primitive religion of mankind.  There is no earlier historical record extant than Genesis, and in that we find the recognition and worship of one only God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, as well established as subsequently with the Jews and Christians.  The oldest of the Vedas are the least corrupt and superstitious of the sacred books of the Hindoos, but the theology even of the oldest and purest is decidedly pantheistic, which, as we have said, presupposes theism, and never could have preceded the theistical theology.  Pantheism may be developed by way of corruption from theism, but theism can never be developed in any sense from pantheism. 

All the gentile religions or superstitions, if carefully examined and scientifically analyzed, are seen to have their type in the patriarchal religion – the type, be it understood, from which they have receded, but not the ideal which they are approaching and struggling to realize.  They all have their ideal in the past, and each points to a perfection once possessed, but now lost.  Over them all hovers the memory of a departed glory.  The genii, devs, or divi, the good and the bad demons of the heathen mythologies, are evidently travesties of the Biblical doctrine of good and bad angels. The doctrine of the fall, of expiation and reparation by the suffering and death of a God or Divine Person, which meets us under various forms in all the Indo-Germanic or Aryan mythologies, and indeed in all the known mythologies of the world, are evidently derived from the teachings of the patriarchal or primitive religion of the race – not the Christian doctrine of original sin, redemption, and reparation by the passion and death of Our Lord, from them.  The heathen doctrine on all these points are mingled with too many silly fables, too many superstitious details and revolting and indecent incidents, to have been primitive, and clearly prove that they are a primitive doctrine corrupted.  The purest and simplest forms are always the earliest.

We see, also, in all these heathen mythologies, traces or reminiscences of an original belief in the unity of God.  Above all the Dii Majores and the Dii Minores there hovers, so to speak, dimly and distinctly it may be, one supreme and ever-living God, to whom Saturn, Jupiter, Juno, Venus, Vulcan, Mars, Dis, and all the other gods and goddesses to whom temples were erected and sacrifices were offered, were inferior and subject.  It is true the heathen regarded him as inaccessible and inexorable; paid him no distinctive worship, and denominated him Fate or Destiny; yet it is clear that in the To En of the Alexandrians, the Eternity of the Persians, above both Ormuzd and Ahriman, the heathen retained at least an obscure and fading reminiscence of the unity and supremacy of the one God of tradition.  They knew him, but they did not, when they knew him, worship him as God, but gave his glory unto creatures or empty idols. 

We deny, then, that fetishism or any other form of heathenism is or can be the primitive or earliest religion of mankind.  The primitive or earliest know religion of mankind was a purely theistical religion.  Monotheism is, historically as well as logically, older than polytheism; the worship of God preceded the worship of nature, the elements, the sun, the moon, and stars of heaven, or the demons swarming in the air.  Christian faith is in substance older than pantheism, as pantheism is older than undisguised atheism.  Christian theism is the oldest creed, as well as the oldest philosophy of mankind, and has been from the first and still is the creed of the living and progressive portion of the human race.

Christianity claims, as everybody knows, to be the primitive and universal religion, and to be based on absolutely catholic principles.  Always and everywhere held, though not held by all individuals, or even nations, free from all admixture of error and superstition.  Yet analyze all the heathen religions, eliminate all their differences, as Mr. Herbert Spencer proposes, take what is positive or affirmative, permanent, universal, in them, as distinguished from what in them is negative, limited, local, variable, or transitory, and you will have remaining the principles of Christianity as found in the patriarchal religion, as held in the Synagogue, and taught by the Church of Christ.  These principles are all absolutely catholic or universal, and hence Christianity, in its essential principles at least, is really the universal religion, and in possession as such.  The presumption, as say the lawyers, is then decidedly in favor of the Christian and against the atheist. 

Christianity, again, not only asserts God and his providence as its fundamental principle, but claims to be the law of God, supernaturally revealed to man, or the revelation which he has made of himself, of his providence, of his will, and of what he exacts of his rational creatures.  Then, again, Christianity asserts, in principle, only the catholic or universal belief of the race.  The belief in God, in providence, in supernatural power, and in supernatural intervention in human affairs in some form, is universal.  Even the atheist shudders at a ghost story, and is surprised by sudden danger into a prayer.  Men and nations may in their ignorance or superstition misconceive and misrepresent the Divinity, but they could not do so, if they had no belief that God is.  Prayer to God or to gods, which is universal, is full proof of the universality of the belief in Divine Providence and in supernatural intervention.  Hence, again, the presumption is in favor of Christian theism and against the atheist. 

Of course, this universal belief, or this consensus hominum ,is not adduced here as full proof of the truth of Christianity, or of the catholic principles on which it rests; but it is adduced as a presumptive proof of Christianity against atheism, while it undeniably throws the burden of proof on the atheist, or whoever questions it.  It is not enough for the atheist to deny God, providence, and the supernatural; he must sustain his denial by proofs strong enough, at least, to turn the presumption against Christianity, before he can oblige or compel the Christian to plead.  Till then, “So I and my fathers have always held,” is all the reply he is required to make to any one that would oust him.


But can the atheist turn the presumption, and turn it against the theist?  It perhaps will be more difficult to do it than he imagines.  It is very easy to say that the universal fact which the Christian adduces originated in ignorance, which the progress of science has dissipated; but this is not enough: the atheist must prove that it has actually originated in men’s ignorance, and not in their knowledge, and that the alleged progress of science, so far as it bears on the question, is not itself an illusion; for he must bear in mind that the burden of proof rests on him, since theism is in possession and the presumption is against him.  Is it certain that Christians have less science than atheists?  As far as my observation goes, the atheist may have more of theory and be richer in bold denials and in unsupported assertions, but he has somewhat less of science than the Christian theologian.  The alleged progress of science, be it greater or less, throws no light one way or another on the question; for it is confessedly confined to a region below that of religion, and does not rise above or extend beyond the cosmos.

The latest and ablest representatives of the atheistical science of the age are the Positivists, or followers of Auguste Comte, and the Cosmists, or admirers of Herbert Spencer, and neither of these pretend that their science has demonstrated or can demonstrate that God is not.  Mr. John Fiske, who last year (1870) was a Comtist, and who is this year (1871) a Cosmist, says, in one of his lectures before Harvard College, very distinctly, that they have not.  He says, speaking of God and religion: “We are now in a region where absolute demonstration, in the scientific sense, is impossible.  It is beyond the power of science to prove that a personal God either exists or does not exist.”  This is express, and is not affected by the interjection of the word personal, for an impersonal God is no God at all, but is simply nature or the cosmos, and indistinguishable from it.  The lecturer, after admitting the inability of science  to prove that there is no God, proceeds to criticize the arguments usually adduced to prove that God is, and to show that they are all inconclusive.  Suppose him successful in this, which, by the way, he is not, he proves nothing to the purpose.  The insufficiency of the arguments alleged to prove that God is, does not entitle him to prove that God is not, and creates no presumption that he is not.  He cannot conclude from their insufficiency that science is capable of overcoming the great fact the Christian adduces, and which creates presumption against atheism.

It is, no doubt, true, that both the Comtists and Cosmists deny that they are atheists; but they are evidently what we have called negative atheists; for they do not assert that God is, and maintain that there is no evidence or proof of his existence.  If they do not positively deny it, they certainly do not affirm it.  They admit, indeed, an infinite power, Force, or Reality, underlying the cosmic phenomena, and of which the phenomena are manifestations; but this does not relieve them of atheism, for it is not independent of the cosmos or distinguishable from it.  It is simply the cosmos itself – the substance or reality – that appears in the cosmic phenomena.  It, then, is not God, and they do not call it God, and avowedly reject what they call the “theistical hypothesis.”  

Yet both sects agree in this, that they have no science that disproves the “theistical hypothesis,” or that does or can prove the falsity of the great catholic principles asserted in the universal beliefs of the race.  Mr. Fiske, in his lecture, says: “We cannot therefore expect to obtain a result which, like a mathematical theorem, shall stand firm thorough mere weight of logic, or which, like a theorem in physics, can be subjected to a crucial test.  We can only examine the arguments on which the theistic hypothesis is founded, and inquire whether they are of such a character as to be convincing and satisfactory…If it turns out that these arguments are not…satisfactory, it will follow that, as the cosmic philosophy becomes more and more widely understood and accepted, the theistical hypothesis will generally fall into discredit, not because it will have been disproved, but because there will be no sufficient warrant for maintaining it.”  But, if science cannot disprove theism, the presumption remains good against atheism, and the Christian theist is not required to produce his title deeds or proofs.  Till then, the argument from prescription or possession is all the warrant he needs.

But the confession that science cannot prove that God is not, is the confession that the atheist has no scientific truth to oppose to Christian theism, but only a theory, an opinion, a “mental habit,” without any scientific support.  In the passage last quoted from Mr. Fiske we have marked an omission.  The part of the sentence omitted is, “none who rigidly adhere to the doctrine of evolution, who assert the relativity of all knowledge, and who refuse to reason on the subjective method.”  There can be no doubt that the doctrine of evolution and the relativity of all knowledge is incompatible, as Mr. Fiske and his master, Herbert Spencer, maintain, with Christian theism, or the assertion that God is.  But as science cannot prove that God is not, it follows that the doctrine of evolution and the relativity of all knowledge, which the Cosmists oppose to the existence of God, is not and cannot be scientifically proved, and is simply a theory or hypothesis, not science, and counts for nothing in the argument.  In confessing their inability to demonstrate what the fool says in his heart, NON EST DEUS, God is not, they confess their inability to demonstrate their doctrine of evolution, and the relativity of all knowledge.  They also thus confess that they have no science to oppose to theism, and they expect it to perish, in the words of Mr. Fiske, “as other doctrines have perished, through lack of the mental predisposition to accept it.”  This should dispose of the objection to Christian theism drawn from pretended science, and it leaves the presumption still against theism, as we have found it.

It is hardly necessary to remark that the presumption in favor of theism cannot be overcome, and the burden of proof thrown on the theist by any alleged theory or hypothesis which is not itself demonstrated or proved.  The atheist must prove that his theory or hypothesis is scientifically true, which of course the cosmic philosophers, who assert the theory of evolution and the relativity of all knowledge, cannot do.  If all knowledge is relative, there is then no absolute knowledge; if no absolute knowledge, the Cosmists can neither absolutely know nor prove that all knowledge is relative.  The proof of the theory of the relativity of all knowledge would consequently be its refutation; for then all knowledge would not be relative, to wit, the knowledge that all knowledge is relative.  The theory is then self-contradictory, or an unprovable and an uncertain opinion; and an uncertain opinion is insufficient to oust theism from its immemorial possession.  The atheist must allege against it positive truth, or facts susceptible of being positively proved, or gain no standing in court.

According to the Cosmists, there is no absolute science, and science itself is a variable and uncertain thing.  Mr. Fiske tells that in 1870 he was a Comtist or Positivist, and defended, in his course of lectures of that year (1871) he holds and defends the cosmic philosophy, which he says “differs from it almost fundamentally.”  The Comtean philosophy absorbs the cosmos in man and society; the cosmic philosophy includes man and society in the cosmos, as it does minerals, vegetables, animals, apes, and tadpoles, and subjects them all alike to one and the same universal law of evolution.  This, our cosmic or Spencerian philosopher assures us, is science today.  But who can say “what it will be in fifty years hence, or what modifications of it the unremitted investigations of scientific men into the cosmic phenomena and their laws will necessitate.”  There is and can be no real, invariable, and permanent science, yet the cosmic philosophers see no absurdity in asking the race to give up its universal beliefs on the authority of their present theory, and nothing wrong in trying to spread their ever-shifting, ever-varying science and make it supersede in men’s minds the Christian principles of God, creation, and providence, although they confess that it may turn out on inquiry to be false. 

There is no doubt that, if the cosmic philosophers could get their pretended science generally accepted, they would do much to generate a habit or disposition of mind very unfavorable to the recognition of Christian theism, as Mr. Fiske insinuates; but that would be no argument for the truth of their science or philosophy.  The Cosmists – a polite name for atheists – fail to recognize theism, not because they have or pretend to have any scientific evidence of its falsity, but really because it does not lie in the sphere of their investigations.  “I have never seen God at the end of my telescope,” said the astronomer, Lalande; yet perhaps it never occurred to him that if there were no God, there could be no astronomy.  The Cosmists confine their investigations to the cosmic phenomena and their laws, and God is nether a cosmic phenomenon nor a cosmic law; how then should they recognize him?  They do not find God, because he is not in the order of facts with which they are engrossed, though not one of those facts does or could exist without him.


Theism being in possession, and holding from prescription, can be ousted only be establishing the title of an adverse claimant.  This, we have seen, the atheist cannot do.  The cosmic philosophers confess that science is unable to prove that God is not.  They confess, then, that they have no scientific truth to oppose to his being, or that contradicts it.  It is true, they add, that science is equally unable to prove that God is; but that is our affair, and perhaps we shall, before we close, prove the contrary.  But it is enough for us at present to know that the Cosmists or atheists confess that they have no scientific truth that proves that God is not.

Indeed they do not propose to get rid of Christian theism by disproving it, or by proving their atheism, but by turning away the mind from its contemplation, and generating in the community habits of mind adverse to its reception.  Take the following extract from one of Mr. Fiske’s lectures in proof:

“It is, indeed, generally true that theories concerning the supernatural perish, not from extraneous violence, but from inanition.  The belief in witchcraft, or the physical intervention of the devil in human affairs, is now laughed at; yet two centuries have hardly elapsed since it was held by learned and sensible men, as an essential part of Christianity.  It was supported by an immense amount of testimony which no one has ever refuted in detail.  No one has ever disproved witchcraft, as Young disproved the corpuscular theory of light.  But the belief has died out because the scientific cultivation has rendered the mental soil unfit for it.  The contemporaries of Bodin were so thoroughly predisposed by their general theory of things to believe in the continual intervention of the devil, that it needed but the slightest evidence to make them credit any particular act of intervention.  But to the educated men of today such intervention seems too improbable to be admitted on any amount of testimony.  The hypothesis of diabolic interference is simply ruled out, and will remain ruled out.

“So with Spiritualism (spiritism), the modern form of totemism, or the belief in the physical intervention of the souls of the dead in human affairs.  Men of science decline to waste their time in arguing against it, because they know that the only way to destroy it is to educate people in science.  Spiritualism (spiritism) is simply one of the weeds which spring up in minds uncultivated by science.  There is no use in pulling up one form of the superstition by the roots, for another form, equally noxious, is sure to take root; the only way of assuring the destruction of the pests is to sow the seeds of scientific truth.  When, therefore, we are gravely told what persons of undoubted veracity have seen, we are affected about as if a friend should come in and assure us upon his honor as a gentleman that heat is not a mode of motion.

“The case is the same with the belief in miracles, or the physical intervention of the Deity in human affairs.  To the theologian such intervention is a priori so probable that he needs but slight historic testimony to make him believe in it.  To the scientific thinker it is a priori so improbable, that no amount of historic testimony, such as can be produced, suffices to make him entertain the hypothesis for an instant.  Hence it is that such critics as Strauss and Renan, to the great disgust of theologians, always assume, prior to argument, that miraculous narratives are legendary.   Hence it is that when the slowly dying belief in miracles finally perishes, it will not be because any one will ever have refuted it by an array of syllogisms – the syllogisms of the theologian and those of the scientist have no convincing power as against each other, because neither accepts the major premise of the other – but it will be because the belief is discordant with the mental habits induced by the general study of science.

“Hence it is that the cosmic philosopher is averse to proselytism, and has no sympathy with radicalism or infidelity.  For he knows that the theological habits of thought are relatively useful, while skepticism, if permanent, is intellectually and morally pernicious; witness the curious fact that radicals are prone to adopt retrograde social theories.  Knowing this, he knows that the only way to destroy theological habits of thought without detriment is to nurture scientific habits – which stifle the former as surely as clover stifles weeds.”

A more apt illustration would have been, “as sure as the weeds stifle the corn.”  But it is evident from this extract that the cosmic philosophers are aware of their inability to overthrow Christian theism by any direct proof, or by any truth, scientifically verifiable, opposed to it.  They trust to what in military parlance might be called “a flank movement.”  They aim to turn the impregnable position of the theist, and defeat him by taking possession of the back country from which he draws his supplies.  They would get rid of theism by generating mental habits that exclude it, as the spirit of the age excludes belief in miracles, in spiritism, and the supernatural in any and every form.  This is an old device.  It was attempted in the system of education devised for France by the Convention of 1793-’94; that devised the new antichristian calendar; but it did not prove effectual.  The Prince and Princess Gallitzin brought up their only son Dmitri after the approved philosophy of the day, in profound ignorance of the doctrines and principles of religion; but eh became a Christian notwithstanding, a priest even, and died a devoted and self-sacrificing missionary in what were then the wilds of Western Pennsylvania.  And after a brief saturnalia of atheism and blood, France herself returned to her Christian calendar, reopened the churches she had closed, and reconsecrated the altars she had profaned. 

The belief in miracles may have perished with the Cosmists, but it is still living and vigorous in the minds of men who yield nothing, to say the least, in scientific culture and attainments, to the cosmic philosophers themselves.  The belief in a personal devil, who tempts men through their lusts, and works in the children of disobedience, has not perished, and is still firmly held by the better educated and the more enlightened portion of mankind; and scientific men in no sense inferior to Mr. Fiske, Herbert Spencer, or Auguste Comte, have investigated the facts alleged by the spiritists – not spiritualists, for spiritualists they are not -  and found no difficulty in recognizing among them facts of a superhuman and diabolical origin.  The first believers in spiritism I ever encountered were persons I had previously known as avowed atheists or cosmic philosophers.  The men who can accept the Cosmic philosophy may deny God, may deny or accept anything, but they should never speak of science.

That miracles are improbable a priori to the Cosmists may be true enough; that they are so to men of genuine science is not yet proven.  Before they can be pronounced improbable or incapable of being proved, it must be proved that the supernatural or supercosmic does not exist; but this the Cosmists admit cannot be proved.  They own they cannot prove that God does not exist, and if he does exist, he is necessarily supercosmic or supernatural; and the cosmos itself is a miracle, and a standing miracle, before the eyes of all men from the beginning.  A miracle is what God does by himself immediately, as the natural is what he does mediately, through the agency of second or created causes, or does as causa causarum, that is, as causa eminens.  A miracle, then, is no more improbable than the fact of creation, and no more incapable of proof than the existence of the cosmos itself.  Hume’s assertion that no amount of testimony is sufficient to prove a miracle, for it is always more in accordance with experience to believe the witnesses lie, than it is to believe that nature goes out of her way to work a miracle, is founded on a total misapprehension of what it meant by a miracle.  Nature does not work the miracle; but God, the author of nature, works it; nor does nature in the miracle go out of her way, or deviate from her course.  Her course and her laws remain unchanged.  The miracle is the introduction or creation of a new fact by the power that creates nature herself, and is as provable by adequate testimony as is any natural fact whatever.

The Cosmists should bear in mind that when they relegate principles and causes, all except the cosmic phenomena and the law of their evolution, to the unknowable, the unknowable is not necessarily non-existent, and should remember also that what is knowable to them may be not only knowable but actually known to others.  Our own ignorance is not a safe rule by which to determine the knowledge of others, or the line between the knowable and the unknowable.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

For aught the Cosmist can say, there may be in the unknowable, principles and causes which render miracles not only possible but probable, and the supernatural as reasonable to say the least, as the natural.

Indeed, the cosmic philosophers themselves, when it suits their purpose, distinguish between the unknowable and the non-existent, and contend that they are not atheists, because, though they exile God to the dark region of the unknowable, they do not deny that he exists.  They deny what they call the “Christian theory of a personal or anthropomorphous God,” but not the existence of an infinite Being, Power, Force, or Reality, that underlies the cosmic phenomena, and which appears or is manifested in them.  They actually assert the existence of such Being and concede that the cosmic phenomena are “unthinkable” without it, though it is itself absolutely unknowable.  Here is the admission at least that the unknowable exists, and that without it there would and could be no knowable.

But the theory they deny is not Christian theism.  The Christian theist undoubtedly asserts the personality of God, but not that God is anthropomorphous.  God is not made in the image of man, but man is made in the image and likeness of God.  Man is not the type of God, but in God is the prototype of man; that is to say, man has his type in God, in the idea exemplaris in the divine mind, and as the idea in the divine mind is nothing else than the essence of God, the schoolmen say Deus similitudo est rerum omnium.  Personality is the last complement of rational nature, or suppositum intelligens.  An impersonal God is not God at all, for he lacks the complement of his nature, is incomplete, and falls into the category of nature.  So in denying the personality of God, the Cosmists do really deny God, and are literally atheists.

The unknowable Infinite Being, Power, Force, or Reality, the Spencerian philosophers assert, is not God, and they neither call nor regard it God.  IN the first place, if absolutely unknowable, it is not, in any sense, thinkable, or assertible, but must be to our intelligence precisely as if it were not.  In the next place, if these philosophers mean by the unknowable the incomprehensible, not simply the inapprehensible, which we charitably suppose is the fact, they still do not escape atheism; for the power or force they assert is not distinct from the cosmos, but is the reality, being, or substance of the cosmos, or the real cosmos of which the knowable or phenomenal cosmos is the appearance or manifestation.  It is the assertion of nothing supercosmic or independent of the cosmos.  Nothing is asserted but the real in addition to the phenomenal cosmos.  Certainly the cosmic philosophers are themselves deplorably ignorant of Christian theology, or else they count largely on the ignorance of the public they address.  Perhaps both suppositions are admissible. 

The Cosmists, who present us the latest form of atheism, divide all things into knowable and unknowable.  The unknowable they must concede is at least unknown, and consequently all their knowledge or science is confined to the knowable; and according to them the knowable is restricted to the phenomenal.  Hence their science is simply the science of the phenomenal, and this is wherefore they assert the relativity of all knowledge.  But there is no science of phenomena alone.  Science, strictly taken, is the reduction of facts or phenomena to the principle or cause on which they depend, and which explains them.  Science, properly speaking, is the science of principles or causes, as defined by Aristotle, and where there are no known causes or principles there is no science.  The Cosmists, and even the Positivists, place all principles and causes in the unknowable, and consequently neither have nor can have any science.  They therefore have not, and cannot have any scientific truth or principle, as we have already shown, to oppose to Christian theism.

The Cosmists restrict all knowledge to the knowledge of the cosmic phenomena, and their laws, which are themselves phenomenal; but phenomena are not knowable in themselves, for they do not exist in themselves.  Regarded as pure phenomena, detached from the being or substance which appears in them, they are simply nothing.  They are cognizable only in the cognition of that which they manifest, or of which they are appearances.  But Herbert Spencer places that, whatever it is, in the category of the unknowable, and consequently denies not only all science, but all knowledge of any sort or degree whatever.

It is a cardinal principle with the Spencerian school that all knowledge is relative, that is, knowledge of the relative only.  But the assumption of the relativity of all knowledge is incompatible with the assertion of any knowledge at all.  Sir William Hamilton indeed maintains the relativity of all knowledge, but he had the grace to admit that all philosophy ends in nescience.  The relativity of all knowledge means either that we know things not as they really are, a parte rei, but only as they exist to us, as affections of our own consciousness; or that we know not the reality, but only phenomena or appearances.* [*The relativity of knowledge may also mean, and perhaps is sometimes taken to mean, that we know things not absolutely in themselves, but in their relations.  This is true, but it does not make the knowledge relative, or knowledge of relations only, for relations are apprehensible only in the apprehension of the relata.]   The Cosmists take it in both senses; but chiefly in the latter sense, as they profess to follow the objective method as opposed to the subjective.  In either sense they deny all knowledge.  Consciousness is the recognition of myself as cognitive subject, in the act of knowing what is not myself, or what is objective.  If no object is cognized, there is no recognition of myself or fact of consciousness, and consequently no affection of consciousness.  The soul does not know itself in itself: since, as St. Thomas says, it is not intelligence in itself, therefore it can know itself only in acting; and having only a dependent, not an independent existence, it has need, in order to act, of the counter activity of that which is not itself.  Hence every thought is a complex act, including, as will be more fully explained farther on, simultaneously and inseparably, subject, object, and their relation.  If no object, then no thought; and if no thought then, of course, no knowledge.

In the second sense, they equally deny all knowledge.  Phenomena are relative to their being or substance, and are knowable only in the intuition of substance or being, and relations are cognizable only in the relata, for apart from the relata they do not exist, and are nothing.  The relative is therefore incognizable without the intuition of the absolute, for without the absolute it is nothing, and nothing is not cognizable or cogitable.  By placing the absolute, that is, real being or substance, in the unknowable, the Cosmists really place the relative or the phenomenal also in the unknowable.  If, then, we assert the relativity of all knowledge, and restrict the knowable to the relative and phenomenal, as did Protagoras and the other Greek sophists castigated by Socrates or Plato, we necessarily deny all knowledge and even the possibility of knowledge. 

Plato maintained that the science is not in knowing the phenomenal, but in knowing by means of the phenomenal the idea, substance, or reality it manifests, or of which it is the appearance, or image.  He held that the idea is impressed on matter as the seal on wax, but that the science consists in knowing, by means of the impression, the idea or reality impressed, not in simply knowing the impression or phenomenal.  Hence he held that all science is per ideam, or per imaginem, using the word idea to express alike the reality impressed, and the impression or image.  He teaches that there is science only in rising, by means of the image impressed on matter – the mimesis in his language, the phenomenal in the language of our scientists  - to the methexis, or participation of the divine idea, or the essence of the thing itself, which the phenomenal or the sensible copies, mimics, or imitates.  Aristotle denies that all knowledge is relative, and teaches that all knowledge is per speciem or per formam, substantially Plato’s doctrine, that all knowledge is per ideam; but he never held that science consists in knowing the species, whether intelligible or sensible.  The science consisted in knowing by it the substantial form represented, presented, as I should say, by the species to the mind.

Certain it is that there is no knowledge where there is nothing known, or where there is nothing to be known.  The phenomenon is not the thing any more than the image is the thing imaged, and apprehension of the image is science only in so far as it serves as a medium of knowing the thing it represents.  We know nothing in knowing the sign, if we know not that which it signifies.  A sign signifying nothing to the mind is nothing, not even a sign.  So of phenomena.  They are nothing save in the reality they manifest, or of which they are the appearances, and if they manifest or signify nothing to the understanding, they are not even appearances.  If, then, the reality, the noumenon, as Kant calls it, is relegated to the unknowable, there is no phenomenon, manifestation, or appearance in the region of the knowable, and consequently nothing knowable, and therefore no actual or possible knowledge. 

Either the phenomenal is the appearance or manifestation of some real existence, or it is not.  If it is, then it is a grave mistake to relegate the real being or substance to the category of the unknowable; for what appears, or is manifest, is neither unknowable or unknown.  If it is not, if the cosmic phenomena are the appearance or manifestation of no reality, then in knowing them, nothing is known, and there is no knowledge at all.

The Positivists differ from the Cosmists, unless their name is ill chosen, in asserting that, as far as it goes, knowledge is positive, and not simply relative; but then they have no ground for the unity of science, which they assert, or for the coordination of all the sciences under one superior science which embraces and unifies them all, and which they profess to have discovered, and on which they insist as their peculiar merit.  They reject all metaphysical principles, and among them the relation of cause and effect, and then must, if consistent, reject genera and species, and regard each object apprehended as an independent and self-existent being, or as an absolute existence; that is to say, they must assert as many gods as there are distinct objects or unit individualities intellectually apprehensible, for no existence dependent on another is apprehensible except under the relation of dependence.  The contingent is apprehensible only under the relation of contingency, and that relation is apprehensible only in the apprehension of its correlative; therefore the contingent is not apprehensible without intuition of the necessary and independent.  Things can be positively known by themselves alone, only on condition that they exist by themselves alone.  This, applied to the cosmos, would deny in it, or any of its parts, all change, all movement, all progress of man and society, which the Positivists so strenuously assert.  The Positivists, by rejecting the relation of cause and effect, and all metaphysical relations which are real not abstract relations, really deny, as do the Cosmists, all real knowledge, for all knowledge, every affirmation, every empirical judgment, presupposes the relation of cause and effect.

The Cosmists are so well aware that there is no science of the phenomenal alone, that they abandon their own principles, admit that the relative is unthinkable without the absolute, and concede that we are compelled, in order to think the phenomenal, to think an infinite reality on which the phenomenal depends.  What is thinkable is knowable, and therefore they assume that their unknowable is knowable, and deny their cardinal principle that all knowledge is relative.  An extract from another lecture by Mr. Fiske bears out this assertion.

“Upon what grounds did we assert of the Deity that it is unknowable?  We were driven to the conclusion that the Deity is unknowable because that which exists independently of intelligence and out of relation to it, which presents neither likeness, difference, nor relation, cannot be cognized.  Now, by precisely the same process, we were driven to the conclusion that the cosmos is unknowable only in so far as it is absolute.  It is only as existing independently of our intelligence and out of relation to it, that we predicate unknowableness of the cosmos.  As manifested to our intelligence, the cosmos is the universe of phenomena – the realm of the knowable.  We know stars and planets, we know the surface of our earth, we know life and mind in their various manifestations, individual and social; and while we apply to this vast aggregate of phenomena the name universe, we can by no means predicate identity of the universe and the Deity.  To do so would be to confound phenomena with noumena, the relative with the absolute, the knowable with the unknowable.  It would be, in short, to commit the error of pantheism. 

“But underlying this aggregate of phenomena, to whose extension we know no limit in space or time, we are compelled to postulate an absolute Reality, a Something whose existence does not depend on the presence of a percipient mind – which existed before the genesis of intelligence and will continue to exist even though intelligence vanish from the scene.  In other words, there is a synthesis of phenomena which we know as affections of our consciousness. Instead of regarding these phenomena as generated within our consciousness, and referable solely to it for their existence, we are compelled to regard them as the manifestations of some absolute reality, which, as knowable only through its phenomenal manifestations, is in itself unknowable.  This is the whole story; and whether we call this absolute reality the Deity or the objective world of noumena, seems to me to depend solely upon the attitude, religious or scientific, which we assume in dealing with the subject.”

The cosmic philosopher shows here that in order to know phenomena he is compelled to postulate an absolute reality as the ground or substance of the phenomena, and which is knowable through their manifestation; consequently, to restrict the knowable to the phenomenal and relative is only declaring that all knowledge is impossible.  The Cosmists concede it, and therefore make what they declare to be absolutely unknowable, in a certain degree at least, knowable, concede that we may and do know that it is, and what it is in relation to the cosmic phenomena, though not what it is in itself.  But what are we compelled to postulate the absolute reality, but because the phenomena are not knowable  without intuition of the reality which they manifest?  Or because in apprehending the phenomenal we really have intuition of the absolute or the reality manifested?

Mr. Fiske, however, even after abandoning the doctrine that the absolute or real is unknowable, by no means escapes atheism.  The absolute reality, Force, or Something which he asserts as underlying the aggregate of the cosmic phenomena, which aggregate of phenomena he calls universe, is not God, as he would have us admit, but is merely the cosmic reality of which the cosmic phenomena are the appearance, and distinguishable from it only as the appearance is distinguishable from that which appears.  It is, as we have already shown, only the real cosmos, the being or substance of which the cosmic phenomena are the manifestation.  It makes the “Deity” it asserts identically the substance of the cosmic phenomena, which is either pure pantheism or pure atheism, as you call it either God or cosmos, that is, nature, since it is indistinguishable from the real cosmos, and distinguishable only from the cosmic phenomena.  The cosmic philosophy does not, then, as it pretends, solve the religious problem and reconcile atheism and theism in a higher generalization than either, as Herbert Spencer maintains.

Herbert Spencer, in his First Principles of a New System of Philosophy, says, “that with regard to the origin of the universe or cosmos, three verbally intelligible suppositions may be made: 1, the universe is self-existent; 2, the universe is self-created; and 3, the universe is created by an external” – or, as we should express it, a supercosmic – “agency.”  He rejects all three as absolutely inconceivable.  If the cosmos is neither self-existent nor self-created, nor yet created by an external agency, that is, by a power above it and independent of it, it cannot exist at all, and Mr. Spencer simply asserts universal nihilism and of course universal nescience; for where nothing is or exists, there can be no knowledge or science.  Negation is intelligible only by virtue of the affirmation it denies.

The author refutes the first two of the three suppositions conclusively enough, and we grant him that the cosmos is neither self-existent nor self-created.  Then either it does not exist, and then no cosmic science; or it is created by an independent, supercosmic agency or power, and then it is contingent, and dependent on its cause, or the power that creates it.  If so, there can be no purely cosmic science; for the dependent is not cognizable without intuition of the independent, nor the contingent without intuition of the necessary, as we shall prove at length, when we come to the positive proofs of Christian theism.

This is sufficient to prove that there is and can be no purely cosmic science, even by the confession of the latest atheistic school we are acquainted with.  It is idle then to pretend to controvert Christian theism in the name of science; for if it be denied, all science, all knowledge is denied.  The Spencerian philosophy is therefore simply elaborated ignorance, and pure emptiness.


It is not pretended that atheists, Cosmists, or Comtists, have, as a matter of fact, no science; that they have made no successful cosmic investigations, or hit upon no important discoveries and inventions in the material or sensible order.  It is readily admitted that the patient labors and unwearied researches and explorations of the scientists, both theists and non-theists, in the fields of physical science, have enlarged the boundaries of our knowledge, and given to man a mastery over the forces of nature on which no little of what is called modern civilization depends.  What is denied is, that the scientists, Comtists, or Cosmists, have discovered or attained to any scientific truth that conflicts with Christian theology, and that on their own principles they have or can have any science at all.

The Cosmists and Comtists have senses and intellect as well as others; and there is no reason in the world, while they confine themselves to the observation and classification of physical facts, and so long as they allow free scope to their intellectual faculties and do not attempt to force their action to conform to their preconceived theories, why they should not arrive at sound inductions.  The human mind is truer than their theories, and broader than their so-called science; and when suffered to act according to its own laws proves its natural object is truth.  So long as they confine investigations within the perspective fields of the special sciences, and use the natural faculties with which they are endowed, they can and often do labor successfully.  Lalande was a respectable astronomer; the “Mecanique Celeste” of the atheist, La Place, is more than respectable for the mathematical genius and knowledge it displays; Alexander von Humboldt’s “Cosmos” is an encyclopedia of physical sciences, as they stood in his day; but in all these and other instances the human mind holds intuitively principles which transcend the finite and phenomenal, and without which there could have been no science; but principles which both the cosmic and Comtean theories exclude from the realm of the knowable.  It is not the facts alleged that are objected to, but the false theories advanced in explanation of them, the conclusions drawn from them, and the application of these conclusions to an order that transcends the order to which the facts belong, and which, if valid, would exclude the facts themselves. 

 The atheistic scientists exclude theology and metaphysics from the knowable simply because they are too ignorant of those sciences to be aware that without the principles which they supply there could be no physical science; or to know that in asserting physical science they really assert the very principles they theoretically deny.  Professor Huxley asserts protoplasm as the physical basis of life; yet he denies that there is any cognition or even intuition of the relation of cause and effect.  How then can he assert any nexus or causal relation between protoplasm and life?  He does not pretend that protoplasm is life; he only pretends that it is its physical basis.  But how can it be its physical basis if there is between it and life no necessary relation of cause and effect?  Or if protoplasm is not known to be the principle or basis of life, how can it be known to produce or support it?  But principles and relations, we are told, are metaphysical, and therefore excluded from the knowable.  Protoplasm, the professor owns, is dead matter; how, then, without a cause of some sort vivifying it, can it become living matter?  What is protested against is not the assertion of protoplasm as the physical or material basis of life – though I believe nothing of the sort, for protein is as imaginary as the plastic soul dreamed of by Plato and adopted by Cudworth and Gioberti – but the denial of the principle of cause and effect, and then assuming it as the principle of our conclusions, or asserting as scientific, conclusions which can have no validity without it.

Professor Huxley follows Hume, who denies that we have any knowledge, by experience, of causative force, or that the antecedent produces the consequence.  Dr. Thomas Brown, who succeeded Dugald Stewart in the chair of philosophy in the Edinburgh University, maintains the same, and resolves the relation of cause and effect into the relation of invariable antecedence and consequence, or simply a relation of time.  Yet if the antecedent only goes before the consequent, without producing or placing it, no conclusion is possible.  Induction is reasoning as much as deduction, and all reasoning is syllogistic in principle, if not in form; and there is no syllogism without a middle term, and there is no middle term without the principle of cause and effect, which connects necessarily the conclusion with the premises, the antecedent with the consequent, as cause and effect.  Deny causality and you deny all reasoning, all logical relations, and can assert no real relation between protoplasm, or anything else, and life.

The atheist and Sir William Hamilton exclude the infinite from the cognizable and declare it incogitable; and yet either in his geometry will talk of lines that may be infinitely extended, which cannot be done without thinking the infinite.  If there is no infinitely real, how can there be the infinitely possible?  If there is no infinite being, there can be no infinite ability; if no infinite ability, there is no infinitely possible, and then no infinitely possible geometrical lines.  Truly, then, has it been said, “an atheist may be a geometrician, but if there were no God, there could be no geometry.”  In mathematics, which is a mixed science, there is an ideal and apodictic element on which the empirical element depends, and the apodictic is not cogitable without intuition of infinite being and its creative act, any more than is the empirical itself; yet both Cosmists and Comtists hold mathematics to be a positive science.

Herbert Spencer asserts the relativity of all knowledge, and he, Sir William Hamilton, and Dr. Mansel deny that the absolute can be known.  But both relative and absolute are metaphysical conceptions, and connote one another, and neither can be known by itself alone, or without cognition or intuition of the other.  Other instances might be adduced, and will be soon, in which the Cosmists use, so to speak, principles which they either deny or declare to be unknowable, and which are really theological or metaphysical principles, and it is by those principles that they are able to know anything at all beyond the intelligence they have in common with the beasts that perish.  Not heeding these, they fall, in the construction of their theories, systematically into errors, which when they trust their own minds and follow their common sense, they avoid as do other men.

As Cousin somewhere remarks, there may be less in philosophy than in common sense, in reflection than in intuition, but there can never be more.  The intuitions, or what Cousin calls the primitive or spontaneous beliefs of mankind, are the same in all men; and the differences among men begin the moment they begin to reflect on the data furnished by intuition, and attempt to explain them, to render an account of them to themselves, or, in other words, to philosophize.  The scientists have the same intuitions, though atheists, that other men have, and in the field of the special sciences they are equally trustworthy; it is only when they leave the field of the sciences and enter that of philosophy, which with us is the name for what is commonly called natural theology, and which is the science of principles, that they err.  Habituated to the study of physical facts alone, they overlook or deny an order of facts as real, as evident, as certain, as any of the physical facts they have observed and classified according to their real or supposed physical laws, and even ulterior, and without which the physical facts and laws would not and could not exist.  It is not as scientists the specially err, but as philosophers and theologians, that is, in the account they render of the origin, principles, and meaning of the cosmic facts they observe and classify.

It is not with science  or the cultivation of the sciences that philosophers and theologians quarrel, and it is very possible that philosophers and theologians have at times been too indifferent to the study of physical facts or the cultivation of the so-called natural sciences, and have, in consequence, lost with the physicists much of the influence they might otherwise have retained.  Yet it is a great mistake, not to say a calumny, to accuse them of holding that the facts of the physical order can be determined, a priori, by a knowledge of metaphysical or theological principles.  The scholastics of the middle ages held this no more than did my Lord Bacon himself.  Observation and induction were as much their method as they were his.  Bacon invented or discovered no new method, as is conceded by Lord Macauley himself; all he did was to give an initial impulse to the study of material nature, towards which the age in which he lived was already turning its attention, as a necessary consequence of Luther’s movement in an untheological direction.  Yet Bacon maintained strenuously that the method which he recommended to be followed in the study of the physical sciences is wholly inapplicable to the study of metaphysical science or philosophy.  His pretended followers have overlooked what he had the good sense to say on this point; have assumed that his method is as applicable in the study of principles as in the study of facts, and, consequently, have made shipwreck of both philosophy and science.  The result of their error may bee seen in Herbert Spencer’s theory of evolution, which is only the revival of the doctrine of the Greek sophists, refuted by Plato and Aristotle, especially by Plato in his Thaetetus.

The quarrel with the scientists is with them, not as scientists or physicists, but with them as philosophers and theologians; and as philosophers and theologians, because they give us philosophy or theology only as an induction from physical facts.  In their induction were strictly logical it could not be accepted, because the physical facts do not include all the elements of thought, and, in fact, constitute only a part, and that the lowest part, either of the real or of the knowable.  Their theories are too low or too narrow for the real, and exclude the more elevated and universal intuitions of the race.  Induction is drawing a general conclusion from particular facts.  To its validity the enumeration of particulars must be complete, and it is only by virtue of a principle that is universal and necessary that the conclusion can be drawn, otherwise it is a mere abstraction.  The induction from physical facts may be perfectly valid in the order of physical facts, as applied to the special class physical facts generalized, and yet be of no validity when applied beyond that class and to a different order of facts.  The induction of the chemist, the mechanic, the electrician, may be perfectly just when applied to dead matter, and yet be wholly inadmissible when applied to the living subject.  This is the mistake into which Professor Huxley falls in regard to his physical basis of life.  His analysis of protoplasm may be very just, but it is operated on a dead subject, and no conclusion from it, applied to the living subject, is valid; for in the living subject is an element or a fact that no chemical analysis can detect, and hence no chemical synthesis can recombine the several components the analysis detects so as to reproduce living protoplasm.  The induction is not valid, for it does not enumerate all the facts, and also because it exceeds the order of facts analyzed.  So when Herbert Spencer tells us in his Biology that “life is the result of the mechanical, chemical, and electrical arrangement of the particles of matter,” he draws a conclusion which goes beyond the facts he has analyzed, and assumes it to be valid even when applied to a different order of facts.  The physiologist commits the same error when he infers the qualities of the living blood from the analysis of dead blood – the only blood which, from the nature of the case, he can analyze.  Hence, chemical physiology is far from being scientific, and the pathology founded on morbid anatomy, or the dissection of the dead subject, is far from being uniformly trustworthy.

Many theologians fall into an analogous error, and seek to infer God by way of induction from the physical facts observed in nature – the very facts from which the atheist concludes there is no God.  The late Pere Gratry, in his “Connaissance de Dieu,” contends with rare earnestness and eloquence that the existence of God is proved by induction.  Dr. McCosh, resting the whole argument against the atheist on marks of design, which is an induction from particular facts, does the same.  Induction is really only an abstraction or generalization, and at best the God obtainable by induction can only be a generalization, and God as a generalization or an abstraction is simply no God at all; for he would be nothing distinct from or independent of the facts generalized.  Pere Gratry was a mathematician, and arrived at God in the same way that the mathematician in the calculus arrives at infinitesimals, that is, by eliminating the finite.  But supposing there is intuition of the finite only, the elimination of the finite would give us simply zero, not the infinite.

Then there is another difficulty; the finite and infinite are correlatives, and correlatives connote each other, the one cannot be known without the other, nor can either be logically inferred from the other.  The principle of induction, when it means anything more than classification or abstraction, is the relation of cause and effect.  But cause and effect, again, are correlatives – though not, as Sir William Hamilton asserts, reciprocal – and therefore connote each other, and cannot be known separately.  The argument from design, otherwise called the teleological argument or argument from the end of final cause, is open to a similar objection.  The final cause presupposes a first cause, and if we know not that there is a first cause, we cannot assert a final cause, and therefore are unable to infer design.  The argument from design has its value when once it is determined that the universe has a first cause, or has been created, and the question is not as to the existence, but as to the attribute of that cause.  Till then it simply begs the question.

The induction of the physicists within the order of facts observed, and when strictly logical, are valid enough, as every day proves, by bringing them to the test of experiment; but in making them the physicist actually avails himself of the principle or the relation of cause and effect, which he is able to do, because, as a matter of fact, he holds it from intuition represented by language, though it is only the metaphysician or philosopher that takes note of it, or is able to verify it.  The inductions of the Cosmists drawn professedly from physical facts alone, are invalid on their own principles, because the Cosmists reject, at least as cognizable, the relation of cause and effect, the principle of all induction or synthetic reasoning; and are invalid also on any principle when opposed to the metaphysician or theologian, because they are drawn from physical facts alone, and do not include the facts of the intelligible and moral order, in which are the principle and cause of the physical facts themselves.

This is still more the case, when we add to philosophy or natural theology, the supernatural order, made known to us by supernatural revelation.  The Cosmists recognize and study only the facts, or phenomena as they improperly call them, of the physical universe, and from these only physical inductions are possible.  They have only a physical world, and their reasonings and conclusions, even when true within that world, are inapplicable to anything beyond and above it, and therefore can never prove anything against theology, natural or supernatural, and on their own principles, as we have seen, their inductions are of no value beyond the limits of the physical world itself.  They err in taking a part of the real or a part of the knowable for the whole.  They may say that they do not deny the reality of what they call the unknowable, that is, being, principles, causes, etc.; but they have no right to say that all that transcends the order of physical facts and their laws, the special subject of their study, is unknowable.  It may be known to them, but it may be both knowable and known to others.  Also, by not knowing what lies beyond the range of their own studies, they may and do give a false account of their own science.  This is, in fact, really the case with them.  Many of their inductions are valid in the physical order, as experiment proves; but without the intuition of the metaphysical relation of cause and effect the mind could make no induction, consequently they are wrong, and the very truth of their inductions proves that they are wrong, in declaring that the relation pertains to the unknowable.

The Cosmists do not err chiefly as physicists, but as philosophers and theologians, and as long as they are contented to be scientists and report simply the result of their scientific researches and explorations there can be no quarrel with them on the part either of theologians or philosophers; but the quarrel, as has been shown, begins when they attempt to theorize, or to construct with their physical facts alone a cosmic philosophy, and to say it cannot embrace, because no philosophy based on physical facts alone can embrace, the principle of all the real and all the knowable, since the physical is neither the whole nor the principle of the whole; nor is it commensurate with the reality presented intuitively to every mind.

Undoubtedly, neither the philosophy nor the theology can be true that contradicts any physical fact, if fact it be, nut no explanation or theory of physical facts is admissible that contradicts or denies any metaphysical or theological principle.

There are no physical facts that contradict or in the slightest degree impugn Cristian theism, as we hope to show in this or a future essay.  In point of fact, atheists, pantheists, Cosmists, or Positivists, do not oppose or pretend to oppose any facts to what they call “the theistical hypothesis,” they only oppose to it their inductions, their theories and hypotheses, or their explanation of the class of facts that have come under their observation. These, we have seen, are untenable, for without the principles they are intended to deny they cannot even be constructed.  Now, theories that contradict their own principle can make nothing against Christian theism, cannot disprove it, or cause in any mind that understands the question, the slightest doubt of it, and the theist has a perfect right to treat them with sovereign contempt.  At least, they assign no reason why Christian theism should be ousted from its possession.  They cannot overcome the argument from prescription, and place Christian theism on its defence, or compel it to produce its deeds.

Here our refutation of atheism properly ends, and no more need be said; but while we deny that we are bound to do anything more, we are disposed to produce out title-deeds and prove positively, by unanswerable arguments, the falsity of atheism, or to demonstrate, as fully as logic can demonstrate, Christian theism.