Chapter 5--THE LIFE-FORCE, THE ABSOLUTE, OR GOD

SYNOPSIS

THE LIFE-FORCE

Bergson's conception of 'Creative Evolution' has popularised the idea that the Universe is the expression of an indwelling 'Life-Force'.

This is an advance on Materialism in three ways:

(1) It explains all that Materialism explains, and more also.

(2) It indicates a dynamic 'urge' capable of setting in motion, so to speak, the mechanism which Science reveals.

(3) It explains by means of a vera causa. Life is an organising principle; and it is the only known one. The Universe is a system, and therefore requires some organising principle to explain it.

But, if we are to think of Reality in terms of Life,, we must decide whether the conception of life we use is derived from the vegetable, the animal, or the human world.

Three reasons for declining to take as our norm life the 'simplest' form of life.

(1) Life in its lowest form is unknown, and perhaps undiscoverable.

(2) Life in itself (as distinguished from the material organism in which it is manifested) must be estimated qualitatively and in terms, not of complexity, but of intensity.

(3) To attempt to explain the higher forms of life in terms of the lower would be to repeat the error of Materialism-but with less plausibility. The nature of life cannot be understood until it is studied in its last and richest development, that is, in man.

The popular conception of the Life-Force-a kind of 'half-way house' between Materialism and Theism. This is untenable. The sole difficulty in accepting Theism is the existence of evil.

THE ABSOLUTE

The argument of the Idealist school of Philosophy from the fact that the Universe is an intelligible system to the existence of a Supreme Intelligence. But is there any reason to believe that intelligence can exist except concomitantly with feeling and will ?

In Greek, Indian and European thought the conception of the Absolute has found classical expression in various ways. Some of these are open to grave objection.

Brief remarks upon the view that (1) God can only be described by negatives; (2) Divine Perfection involves motionless impassibility; (3) Eternity implies that all things are determined, and the only activity of the Divine is intellectual contemplation.

If the Idealist doctrine that the Universe is the expression of Mind could be fused with a more or less Bergsonian conception of a Life-Force, the result would be something very like the vision of the Hebrew prophets -a Living God.

GOD

The naive anthropomorphism of primitive religion (and science) has ceased to be a danger ; reaction against it has gone too far. To reach a true conception of Reality we must make the fullest use of both the ways of knowledge discussed in the last chapter-the way of pure Science and the way of interpretation in terms of life.

Frankly, this means personification. But to ascribe personality to the Power behind phenomena is not so absurd as at first sight appears. The essential element in personality is quality ; to its ' greatness' considerations of size or 'foot-pounds' are simply irrelevant. Thus, supposing there is adequate reason to believe that love exists at all in the Ultimate, there is nothing absurd in equating the quality of that love with that shown in the character of Christ.

We must even go so far as to ascribe to the Divine personality something of that concrete synthetic character to which we give the name Individuality.

The danger of making God in the image of man. This only avoided if we select for the purpose the Ideal Man.

Answer to the objection that while personality implies variability, the Universe is the expression of a reign of law.

Is 'supra-personal' a better word than personal to apply to God ?

Pantheism is plausible only if Quality is an irrelevance.

The Anthropomorphism of Jesus.

So far our argument points to a living, not as yet to a loving, God. That is the further conclusion upon which the arguments-setting out from different startingpoints-of Chapters VI.-IX. will converge.

Chapter 5

THE LIFE-FORCE, THE ABSOLUTE, OR GOD

IN the beginning was IT-the infinite Unknown out of which have come, in which subsist, all things that are. In IT I live and move and have my being; and before ITS immensity and mystery I stand dumbfoundered-abashed, but questioning.

In the beginning was IT. Or, instead Of IT, should I have written HE ? . . . That is the question.

THE LIFE-FORCE

Bergson has compelled attention to the grand hypothesis of Creative Evolution-the expression of the ceaseless 'urge' of an e'lan vital or Life-Force ever finding its outlet in fresh experiment. On this view the individual living creature is also, on a small scale and in a derivative way, a focal centre of creation, a tiny taper, as it were, burning by its own flame, but lit from the universal bonfire. Largely through the influence of Bergson, the conception of the 'Life-Force' seems to be stepping into the place once occupied by Scientific Materialism in the popular semi-scientific thinking of to-day.

Into the details of the system of Bergson or his followers I do not propose to enter. But any philosophy which explains the Universe in terms of Life has certain conspicuous advantages.

(1) A Life-Force hypothesis will explain everything that Materialism tried to explain and more also. Life, as we know it, works only in and through the mechanism of living organisms. A living organism is a machine, with a difference. For certain purposes it is not amiss to think of the organism as an engine, but it is a self-stoking, self-repairing, self-preservative, selfadjusting, self-increasing, self-reproducing engine.'

(1 J. A. Thomson, The System of Animate Nature vol. i. p. 157. (Williams and Norgate, 1920.)

Conceive Ultimate Reality, not as a Machine, but as an Organism, and you have explained everything in the Universe which resembles a machine-and some other things as well. Life will account for the thing we call mechanism, but mechanism will not easily account for the thing we call life.

(2) The e'lan vital expressed in evolution is dynamic; it is creative. Darwin, Mendel and others have discovered something of the mechanism by which Creative Evolution works, but without the Will to live, without, that is, an inward onward urge, the mechanism could never have come into action.

(3) A ' Life-force ' hypothesis satisfies Newton's demand for a vera causa; that is to say, it explains the fact that the Universe is a coherent system by referring it to a cause the existence of which is actually known. It is a first principle of science that, if a set of phenomena can be adequately accounted for by a known cause, it is idle to seek for an unknown. Now life is a known cause, and it is one which will adequately explain the coherence of the Universe-and no other known cause will do so.

This last point is one that I must develop further. In our more melancholy moments we are apt to compare life to the flame of a candle. No analogy could be more misleading. Flame is a visible accompaniment of the dissolution of the thing that burns, life is that which prevents the dissolution of the organism by constantly repairing loss: more than that, it is the thing which has actually built it up. The human body, the most complex of living organisms, starts from the conjunction of two microscopic cells. It becomes what it does solely by virtue of the fact that the principle of life within is at every stage selecting from the environment, transmuting, and so incorporating into its own substance, matter originally alien to itself. Life is a principle of organisation ; and it is that, not only in the way in which the plan of a building or the design of an engine may be said to exhibit the principle on which the various parts are arranged so as to form a single whole ; it is the active agent in bringing into being the whole so organised. Life is architect and workman both. And it not only brings into existence; it also keeps in repair. It is creative, preservative, curative. I have already had occasion (p. 90) to tilt against the notion of the Universal Life as a sort of fluid, the 'ocean of life', or as a kind of all-pervading 'atmosphere' which all sentient creatures breathe. Life is an active organising principle; it 'pervades' indeed the whole of an organism, but it does so, not as an atmosphere, but as a synthetic, directing and controlling power. Again, not only is Life a principle of synthesis and organisation, but Life -and Mind, which is a function of Life-is the only such principle of which we have any knowledge.

Now the Universe, whatever else it is, is an organised system; otherwise the elaborate structure of knowledge we call Science would be a cloud castle of the human mind having no correspondence with Reality. And Life is a thing that exists in the Universe, and as it is also the only principle of synthesis and organisation which we can anywhere detect, the hypothesis that Life is (or, at least, is a representative expression of) the synthetic organising, controlling principle, in the Universe is of all hypotheses so far propounded the most completely scientific. On this hypothesis the driving power behind the Universe is thought of, not as a dead, wholly unconscious, force comparable to an electric current, but as all-pervading Life. The totality of things is pictured no longer as a machine, but as an organism. The Universe becomes alive.

This sounds a much more promising solution of the riddle than the Materialism which it is at present in the process of superseding in the popular mind. But at once it raises one searching question. If the Ultimate Reality is to be thought of in terms of life, What kind of life ? For life is known to us in various forms.

There is life at the simplest vegetable stage; there is that freer, more intense, and, it would seem, more characteristic form of it shown in the conscious but unreflective life of the animal; and there is life as it appears, in an infinitely richer form, in the mind of man.

If we have given up the attempt to conceive the Universe in terms of dead matter and dead energy, and are asking if it can be explained in terms of life, the first question we have to raise is, Which of these manifestations of life are we to select as our type the simplest, or the richest ? The old Materialism selected the simplest kind of force we can imagine--force, that is, of the dead mechanical type, like gravitation or electricity as these are popularly conceived. If the attempt to explain the Universe in terms of that has broken down, ought we then to try the kind,of force which seems next simplest-i.e. unconscious life as it appears in the vegetable kingdom-and to say that the creative principle is a blindly groping Life-force ?

I submit that this procedure, though at first sight the most obvious, is radically unsound for three main reasons.

(1) Life in its lowest form is an unknown quantity.

(a) We only really know life as it exists in ourselves. Life as it exists in the animal or vegetable world is an entity the existence of which we postulate in order to explain certain effects, and which we assume to be a faint shadow of that conscious life we know of in ourselves.

(b) The most primitive kind of living organism, the parent of all now-existing organisms, has either ceased to exist or has not yet been discovered.

(c) If ever the gulf between organic and inorganic should be bridged, as is quite possible, Life and Energy may be shown to be continuous.

(2) The adjectives 'simple ' and 'complex ' are appropriate to describe the difference between a unicellular vegetable and a human being, considered merely as two different organisations of matter; they are not appropriate to describe the difference between the life which appears in. the one and in the other. The human body can be analysed into an infinite number of constituent parts ; not so the life that is in it. Numerically, so to speak, the life is one. If we are to express the difference between the life manifested in the more complex and in the simpler types of organism we can only do so by using adjectives implying quality. The difference between life in man and in a vegetable is not that between 'complicated' and 'simple'; it is the difference between 'intense' and 'faint', 'vivid' and 'pallid','vehement' and 'still', 'rich' and 'meagre'.

(3) The failure of Materialism was at least a magnificent failure; it sought to explain the Universe as the expression of force in the simplest form known.1

(1. Physicists (cf. p. 18) are now objecting to the use of the term 'force ' of things like gravitation or of the concept of 'energy'. But as the position I am criticising depends for its plausibility on the acceptance of the conceptions of 'force' and I energy' in what is practically the popular usage of those words, I feel justified -in conforming to that usage.)

To choose unconscious life, merely because it seems at the moment to be the next most simple, would be to repeat that errorbut in a less plausible and attractive way. For in what did the error of Materialism consist ? It consisted precisely in the fact that it took for granted that the simple is necessarily the explanation of the complex, and the earlier of the later. It saw that the body was a machine conforming to the laws of physics and mechanics; it assumed that it was only a machine. It saw that life was a force; it assumed that it was merely force. To assume that, because consciousness is life, it is merely life, is to repeat the fallacy. When or how life first appeared on this planet no man knows. Whether life is another manifestation of what physicists call energy, or whether it is a new thing superadded, is still uncertain. But the answer to these questions does not affect the present issue. If life is a manifestation of energy, then 'energy' must be something intrinsically richer than, and different in kind from, mechanical force as popularly conceived, or that abstract concept 'energy' with which physicist, theory operates. If, on the other hand, life is a new thing, superadded at a certain stage of the physical evolution of matter, then the Universe is shewn to have contained from the beginning something other than, and different in kind from, anything that had hitherto appeared on earth. In either case the nature of things, the real content of the Universe, is most likely to be deduced from a scrutiny of the nature of life.

But we cannot stop short here. What I have just said of the relation of life and energy, applies equally to the relation between 'life' and 'conscious life'. Those same considerations, which impel us to interpret the Power behind things in terms of life rather than of mechanical force, impel us to do this in terms of life in its most intense form, as exhibited in the developed consciousness of man, rather than in the attenuated form in which it appears in the vegetable. The question whether any hard-and-fast line can be drawn between the manifestations of life in the unconscious vegetable, in the conscious animal, and in the rational human, stage, is a much debated one. But, decide it how we will, we are left with a dilemma from which there is no escape. Either at each of these stages something new is superadded, in which case it follows that something in the Universe hitherto not seen on earth has just come into view; or we must say that what has become explicit in the later stage was already implicit though undeveloped in the earlier, in which case life is essentially something richer, freer and altogether different from what we should have supposed had we nothing but the vegetable world in which to study it. The eagle was once no more than an egg; but what should we know of the meaning, purpose and nature of that egg if we had never seen the grown bird in its soaring splendour ? Man is the last product of the immanent creative Life, but till he is studied, and that in his most perfect form, the nature of life is only half revealed. The real nature of a process, to use a formula as old as Aristotle, can only be understood by examining its highest product; and we shall miss the meaning of Creative Evolution unless we study the beginnings from the standpoint of the end achieved.

I would urge, therefore, for the three reasons given above, that, once Materialism is given up, we are logically compelled to give the most serious consideration to the hypothesis that the Ultimate Reality is certainly no less (and, if that, probably far more) alive and fully conscious than the highest of its products of which we have any knowledge-the mind and heart of man.

In the popular mind the conception of a Life-Force virtually 'splits the difference' between Materialism and Theism. I am not sure how far in Bergson's own view the e'lan vital is a half -way house of this kind. At any rate to me the hypothesis of a Life-Force which is purposive but purblind (like the life observable in a tree or an amoeba) seems neither plausible in itself nor to be borne out by the evidence. An hypothesis is plausible which purports to explain either the oak by the acorn, or the acorn by the oak; not so one that would explain both by the six-inch sapling. If the hypothesis of a Universal Life is demanded to explain the fact of life, then the hypothesis that in that Universal Life there is intelligence is required to explain the fact of reason.

Materialism we found to be 'mechanomorphism,' and therefore, since machinery is a man-made thing, to be anthropomorphism at second hand. The conception of a purblind Life-Force-in that it likens the Power behind the Universe to life as it exists in the brute creation-might by analogy be styled 'theriomorphism'; and since we only know brute life by inference from our own, theriomorphism. also is anthropomorphism at second hand. Since, then, we must have anthropomorphism,let it be at first hand; and if we apply the category of life to explain the Universe, let us start from life as it exists in man. Life can only be anthropomorphically conceived ; and if, lacking knowledge of any alternative explanation, we adopt the provisional hypothesis that Life is the principle of Organisation of the Universe,we are forced to choose between two forms of that hypothesis. We must face the decision, Is the Universe more or less alive than ourselves ? Which of these two hypotheses will best explain all the facts remains to considered; but if life is the principle of Organisation the Universe, there is at least an a' priori presumption that this Universal Life is as much more intense than life as it appears in man, as life in man is than life in an amoeba. There are those who are prepared to maintain that man is greater than the Universe, since in him life is of a higher order than in It; but, I would urge, it is for them to prove their case.

And they have a case. It can be summed up in single word-Evil. As life becomes more intense, cognition becomes more acute; purpose, therefore, become more fully conscious. If, then, the Life of the Whole is more intense than that of man, It must know more clearly than does man at what It is aiming and what It is actually effecting. It cannot but be cognisant of the world's pain. Our problem, then, will not be solved till we have found either purpose in that pain, or remedy for it.

THE ABSOLUTE

It is impossible to avoid some reference to that classical tradition in Philosophy, having a pedigree going back to Plato, which reigned in Oxford in my student days and in which I first found an intellectual refuge from the Agnosticism which is a stage-both intellectually and morally, I think, a healthy stage--through which most men who think at all must pass.

Philosophical Idealism has rarely made much appeal to men of Science ; nor have its exponents ever succeeded in stating it in a way that is readily comprehensible to the plain man.'

(1. Certain aspects of the argument are stated with admirable clarity by W. Temple, The Faith and Modern Thought, chap. i.)

It has assumed so many phases that to profess to expound, would be as presumptuous as to criticise, it in half a dozen pages. I prefer, therefore, to incur only the guilt of the lesser presumption of stating, without attempting to justify my contentions, (a) where it seems to me to be successful in establishing its main position, and (b) some objections to certain ideas which are, or have been, associated with the conception of the Absolute. But to any reader who has no previous acquaintance with philosophy, I would suggest that, at a first reading of the book, he skip this section, and begin again on p. 133 with the section headed 'GOD'.

Fundamentally, Philosophical Idealism is based on an analysis of the presuppositions of thought. The Universe is admittedly a system intelligible to thought-that follows, if from nothing else, from the fact that Science can foretell. It is argued that this would not be possible unless the system itself were the expression of Mind. The argument has been acutely debated over a long period of years ; nevertheless, in my opinion, it is one that so far has held out against all attempts to refute it. The conclusion that the Universe is the expression of Mind is one of which the importance cannot possibly be exaggerated.

But the Idealist philosophers of the last century had formed their conception of the nature of thought and its place in the Universe mainly through reflection on the materials and methods of Sciences like Mathmatics, Physics and Astronomy. A very considerable change of emphasis is necessitated, if we turn towards the Biological Sciences and especially to recent Psychology. Thought is now seen as a function of Life. As give us in experience, it is never separable from desire and will; and to think of the Universe as the expression of Creative Thought, is, I would submit, less happy than to think Of IT as the expression of Creative Life, that is, of Creative Desire and Creative Will, guided and informed by supreme Intelligence. This change of emphasis is of special importance in our approach to the concepts of Goodness and Beauty. Goodness and Beauty, to the unsophisticated observer, appear to be more closely related to will and desire than they are to abstract thought. Idealist philosophers have made heroic endeavours to substantiate the ultimate reality of Goodness and Beauty by making them objects of the Divine Contemplation but the undue emphasis in their general system on the primacy of thought has made their arguments on this point, even if logically sound, psychologically a little unconvincing.

Philosophers in this tradition very frequently tend to conceive of the Power behind Things as ' The Absolute '. This conception, formulated as Brahma, has behind it the prestige, not only of much of modern European, but also of Greek and of Indian, Philosophy. In a mitigated form it has succeeded in asserting itself in the writings of many Christian and Mohammedan Theologians whose orthodoxy is reckoned to be beyond dispute. Great systems of thought cannot be dismissed in an epigram or a paragraph; but, even at the risk of appearing to suffer from that delusion, I will set down the heads of some objections to the concept of The Absolute in the form in which that concept has often been understood. I must, however, add that very few, if any, now living representatives of the Idealist school hold it in precisely that form.

(1) The doctrine that a true idea of God can only be arrived at by the way of negation appears to me to be a rather misleading way of stating something which, so far as it is true, is a truth of secondary importance. Of course no adjective or substantive can be predicated of the Divine in exactly its ordinary sense, for the simple reason that words were invented to fit, and derive their meaning from their appropriation to, the things of everyday life. But to admit this does not carry with it the admission that all we can say of God is that He is not this, and not that . I may speak of a prize-fighter as a powerful man ; if I apply the same adjective to a Prime Minister I use it in a different sense; while if I speak of God as powerful, I use the word in yet another sense, but in one that is analogous. It is absurd to say that I must not ascribe power to God because His power is not of a kind and quality that operates by means of biceps or of rhetoric.

(2) Curiously enough, a tradition of thought which has vigorously protested against describing God by positive attributes has made an unfortunate exception in the case of the attribute 'perfection '. It is argued that, since God is perfect, He must be absolutely incapable of change. Change may be either for the better or the worse ; but what is already perfect cannot change for the better, while anything that can change for the worse must already have in itself some element of decay and therefore of imperfection. This is very pretty word-play, but it overlooks the fact that perfection is, as its derivation (i.e. completely finished) implies, a wholly static conception. A billiard ball may be (for practical purposes) a perfect sphere, the Venus de Milo may be a perfect work of art-but they are both dead. God is alive, and the essence of life is movement. Surely it would be a better analogy to liken God, not to the perfect work of art, but to the perfect Artist. But if we do that, at once we think of Him as One who is always experiencing and always creating, 'My Father worketh even until now, and I work '. And I would urge that, although we may hold that in the eternal experience of God ' death is swallowed up in victory ', yet His experience of suffering must somehow be real. Were the attitude of God towards the world's sorrow and the world's sin merely that of an unfeeling onlooker, then the 'perfection' which our theory saved would not be a moral one.

(3) No competent thinker would ever have maintained the view just criticised apart from a doctrine, which does , at first blush, seem to qualify, if not to rebut, the objections I have mentioned. The doctrine that the Ultimate Being is not subject to the time process has commended itself to the vast majority of idealist Philosophers and is deeply imbedded in Christian theology. It is only recently that it has become philosophically respectable to question it. To the consciousness of God, it is held, all things, past, present and to come, are simultaneously present, all coexist in one Eternal Now. The Divine mind does not apprehend in terms of Time, but of Eternity-a word which does not mean a period of time infinitely extended in both directions, but absolute timelessness.

To this view it is no valid objection that the conception of Eternity is one that we cannot conceive ; it would be strange if we could conceive the mode of being of the Infinite. But it is, I think., sometimes forgotten that from an inconceivable conception no logical consequence can properly be deduced. Thus from the verbal definition of Eternity it might seem logically to follow that all things are strictly determined. For if all things co-exist together in the mind of God, nothing that has been, is, or will be, could be otherwise than it is. To the audience at the cinema, pictures on the screen look like a series of successive happenings, but on the film they were all there fixed and final. Eternity must not be so conceived. Nor again may it be inferred that the only activity left for God, in His changeless impassibility, is a ceaseless intellectual contemplation of His own infinite perfection. Aristotle's contention that oewpia (Greek letters), intellectual contemplation, is the sole occupation worthy of the gods implied a fine protest against taking seriously the grossness and puerility in the legends of the Greek deities. But it was a conception which could be alluring only so long as Ultimate Reality was conceived of in terms of pure intellect. It ceases to attract if, as modern thought impels us, we substitute life for pure intellect, and recognise that, in all living minds, feeling and will are concomitant with contemplative thought.

The philosophical conception of Eternity does, I readily admit, elude a number of difficulties which at once arise if we consider the ultimate nature of Time. It is obvious that Time cannot mean to God what it does to man. Even to Einstein it does not mean the same thing as it does to the man in the street. A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday is probably good metaphysics as well as noble poetry ; and the term Eternity is of great value as a symbol to remind us of the limitations of all our thought about Time. But if it is taken to be a clear-cut conception of the kind from which strict logic can draw conclusions, the use of the word becomes not a solution, but an evasion, of difficulties-and an apparent support for wrong notions about God.

So far I have been mainly concerned to criticise conclusions of the more extreme Absolutist wing of the Idealist school; but, before leaving the subject, I would reiterate my own belief in the soundness of the Idealist argument from the intelligibility of things to an Intelligence behind them. The somewhat abstract intellectualism of the classical Idealism makes its worldview seem a trifle jejune beside a vivid Life-Force conception like that of Bergson; but its demonstration that it is a necessity of thought to postulate an ultimate' Intelligence makes it a most valuable complement to, and corrective of, his philosophy. For this demonstration entirely disposes of the possibility, left open by Bergson, that the Life-Force may be only a purblind groping monster, a mere Will to live at best half-conscious of Its aims. If, then, we can correlate the principles for which Bergson and the Idealists respectively argue, in such a way that these will no longer conflict with but supplement one another, we reach a conception of the Universe as the expression of Desire and Willbut of rational Desire and intelligently directed Will. Idealist Philosophy has at times seemed to point us to a conception of the Reality behind Appearances as an Absolute of which nothing but negatives can be predicated-changeless, colourless, motionless, feelingless, and therefore, for all that is argued to the contrary, really dead. Creative Evolution, on the other hand, pictures a Universe really alive, but leaves us wondering how far the e'lan vital is, or is not, more than an aimless Will to live. Combine the two conceptions, and we are on the verge of that splendid concrete vision of the ancient Hebrew prophets-a Living God.

GOD

I anticipate that not a few of those who read this chapter will be conscious of a growing misgiving that they are being stealthily decoyed into an untenable Anthropomorphism, into a reversion to the standpoint of pre-scientific and pre-philosophic ages when man made God in his own image. By the simple savage or by half-civilised man this may be done with a good conscience, but we are the heirs of all the ages ; noblesse oblige, intellectually at least we must be respectable !

This particular misgiving is one which, if I am at liberty to quote my own experience, I may say that I have lived through and lived down. My reasons for this change of view are set out in the previous chapter. For the last century and more, educated men-in acute reaction against the Anthropomorphic Deism of popular Christianity-in speaking of the Ultimate Being have instinctively preferred to use words of an impersonal connotation, such as the Supreme Being, the Absolute, the All Pervading, the Veiled Being, and the like. But in philosophy, as in politics, reaction against one extreme may easily result in another just as bad or, maybe, even worse. The category of personality is not only religiously the most inspiring that we can apply to the Power behind the Universe, it is also intellectually the least inadequate. In olden days a crude anthropomorphism was a danger to be feared ; in our age what the philosopher wants is the courage to advance further, and to advance more confidently, towards what, abandoning all shamefacedness, I Will style the Higher Anthropomorphism.

So long as Materialism seemed to the majority of scientists to give an adequate account of the phenomena of life, consciousness could only be regarded as an ' epiphenomenon '-a curious and useless shadow cast by the solid substance of Reality. But, once we are driven by further observation of the facts of organic life including, of course, those studied by Psychology to postulate something like a Life-Force behind the Universe, the case is altered. Those 'bits' of individuals, those aspects of the living mind which the generalisations of physical science are bound to leave out of their purview, and also that inexplicable 'individuality' which even Psychology cannot include, must somehow or other be brought back upon the ledger before the final accounts are passed. The subtler qualities of life not only may, but must, be brought into consideration. Thought, feeling, the sense of value things which cannot be seen, counted, or weighed-and that psychic entity we call individuality, may well turn out to be just those elements which will supply a key to the understanding of the Whole. It is not merely legitimate to bring these things in, it is illegitimate to leave them out.

To reach a true conception of Reality we must, as we have seen , combine in a single comprehensive scheme all that can be discovered along each of two different ways of knowledge. First comes the investigation of the material Universe by the methods of pure Science. Secondly, there must be carefully controlled inference as to the nature and quality of that indwelling Creative Life which is partially expressed in all living organisms. In man that Life finds expression in an intenser, and therefore probably a more representative, form; and this is also a form of which we have direct knowledge in our own inner experience.

To use this knowledge to interpret Creative Life is, I frankly admit, in effect to personify the Power behind things. But personification, provided always it is checked and controlled by the results of scientific observation, is not only a legitimate, it is a necessary mode of conception. If I am to interpret any life other than human I must, to however limited an extent and with whatever degree of qualification and hesitation, use my own inner experience as a key ; that is, I must 'personify' it. If I affirm of a dog that it is affectionate, frightened, ill-tempered or disappointed, I speak of the dog as if it were a person. But the personality which I thus ascribe to the dog must be understood to have, as it were, a large minus quantity appended. If I attribute such qualities to a rabbit, I am still implicitly ascribing to it personality, but with an increase in the appended minus quantity. But, instead of looking downwards, I may look up ; I may venture to use my own experience of the inner quality of life to interpret the quality of the Universal Life. Then I am ascribing personality to it ; but in that case it is with a large plus.

This brings us up against a difficulty. Granted that it is admissible to ascribe personality to the Power behind the Universe, provided that conception be used with a meaning indefinitely enlarged-must not that enlargement be so enormous as to dwarf to the point of insignificance the original meaning of the term ' person'? Granted that it may be more appropriate to speak of that Power as 'HE ' than as ' IT', yet if HE and IT are both conceived as infinite, is there, for our poor human intellects, any practical difference between them ? Have not both pronouns lost all real meaning ?

This objection is crushing-until we realise that the essence of personality and of its inward life does not consist in quantity but in quality. A man's passion for his ladylove takes up no more room in space than his affection for his great-aunt ; the difference is one of intensity and quality, not of size. The difference between the kind of disapprobation with which a fashionable undergraduate regards a man who wears the wrong tie and that with which Elijah viewed the prophets of Baal, is a difference which may be called ' world-wide '-but that does not imply that it is one to which the diameter of the earth is in the smallest degree relevant. Once grasp the point that personality and its characteristics are a matter of quality, not of quantity, and we can brave that 'astronomical intimidation' to which otherwise from the mere size of the material Universe we might succumb. If the essence of personality had anything at all to do either with size, or with capacity to exert foot-pounds of physical force, any analogies or inferences from human to divine personality would be ridiculous. But when St. John, for instance, maintains that the quality of love as manifested in the personality of Christ may be an adequate representation of a quality inherent in the Divine, his contention, whether we accept it or not, is at least not inherently absurd.

To personify the Power behind things is not, as so many fear, a ' pathetic illusion ' ; it is a necessity of thought. It is sometimes said that Philosophy demands an Impersonal Absolute, Religion a Personal God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless the argument outlined above is wholly fallacious, any Philosophy which does not conceive the Infinite as in some sense concretely personal is intellectually blind at one essential point. I have argued that individuality is the synthetic focus of the living organism, and that in the ascending scale of evolution individuality and freedom increase as life reveals itself in forms ever intenser and more highly organised. Analogy suggests that this principle applies also to the Life in the Universe. The Universe is a coherent system otherwise Science could not interpret It in terms of Law-and It is the expression of a Living Power; then is It not of living organisms the most highly organised of all?, Unless,then, we are to conceive that Life as less vital than our own, we must ascribe to it that element in personality which makes it a focus of synthetic activity, originative, directive, co-ordinative. We must not think of It as an ' ocean of life', or even as 'a stream of consciousness', but as a closely knit, highly centralised, self consistent, fully self-conscious, eternally creative Unity. That is, we must not regard the Ultimate Reality as merely in a vague way personal ; we must ascribe to IT, what, for want of a richer word, we can only call Individuality.

Indeed, I would go so far as to maintain that to individualise the Deity by the use of a proper name like Allah or Jehovah is, up to a point, philosophically more sound than to think of Him exclusively in abstract impersonal terms like ro' oelov or the Absolute.

But though to personify the Power behind things is a necessity, it is a dangerous necessity. Man cannot be trusted to make God in his own image. Pass in review all the things that man has imagined his Deity to demand or to approve-human sacrifice, temple prostitution, grotesque asceticism, the rack and the stake, not to mention the endless routine of senseless ritual and trivial superstition. Tantum, religio potuit suadere malorum! A religion which personifies unworthily the Power behind things will do far more to retard than to advance the highest welfare of the race. That is why an epoch in human progress dates from the suggestion, perhaps first made by St. Paul, that instead of picturing God in their own image, or in the image traditional in a particular community, men should picture Him in the image of Jesus Christ. Historic Christianity has never quite risen to this conception. Hitherto it has always compromised ; its teachers have lacked the insight or the courage to reject out and out certain elements in the conception of God derived from earlier beliefs. But just in so far as Christianity has risen to its heritage and has conceived of God in terms of Jesus Christ, it has put before the world a personification of the Divine which at least is not unworthy. How far it is also true, we shall examine later.

To all this there is an objection, raised less by the professional philosopher than by the average educated man. Personality in human experience is associated with limitation, idiosyncrasy and caprice. The Power behind Things, whatever else it may be, is not such : does It not, above all, manifest Itself in a reign of law ? The reign of law seems incompatible with the idea that the Power of whose activity it is the expression is one to which the term 'personal ' can properly be applied ; for in the popular notion the essence of personality seems to be freedom to change one's mind or vary one's conduct. But human beings chop and change about, not because they are persons, but because they are persons subject to infirmity of purpose, or liable to be confronted with unforeseen or unforeseeable emergencies and these are negative conditions of human life, not positive qualities of personality as such. If we speak of the Power behind Things as personal, we must attribute to It a steadiness of purpose and a range of knowledge infinitely transcending ours. Should we not then expect Its activities to function in ways calculable and consistent, which to us must appear as necessary and unalterable laws-' God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent'. We are apt to forget that no conception and therefore no word which we can apply to God can be really appropriate. Ideas, and the words in which we express them, derive what meaning they have from things and conditions of which we have experience. What idea or word appropriate to our limited experience could be adequate to describe the Infinite ? But, unless the whole argument of this chapter is fallacious, personality is much the least inadequate. The idea of personality is, as it were, the window through which we look out upon the limitless Beyond; it is the smoked glass through which alone we can behold the Sun.

Some thinkers would prefer to use the word 'Suprapersonal' '; and, if this were to become current coin, it might do well enough. Still, in my judgment, 'personal ' is really the better, because the safer, word. It is at least full of concrete meaning-incidentally, it does justice to the testimony of religious experience and it can be used without danger of intellectual error because no educated person is likely to forget that in speaking of God as personal we are expanding the idea of personality to meet this special case. On the other hand, if we refuse to call God personal, and conscientiously use words like ' supra-personal ', we are pretty certain to end by thinking of Him as impersonal. Thought in the last resort is controlled by imagination, and it does matter whether the word we use seems to stand for He or It; and to the imagination ' supra-personal ' inclines to stand for It. It is better to do a slight violence to language than to impoverish thought; it is preferable to expand the idea of personality rather than to contract our idea of God. To think or speak of the Infinite in abstract and impersonal terms is unconsciously to liken Him to forces lower, poorer and less full of vitality than ourselves, such as the electric current or the life principle in a tree. To say that God is ' personal but something more' is to say that the Creative Principle must be higher than the highest, richer than the richest, more full of life than the alivest of all the things It has produced-and that surely is merely common sense.

To the 'pure reason' God must always be that which transcends comprehension ; no concept derived from human experience can be applied to Him, except in an analogical sense. In so far, then, as its intellectual content is concerned, any language in which we speak of God must be in the last resort symbolic. But life is a thing which we know, not by the 'pure reason', but from direct inner experience; and this knowledge, though imperfect, is not symbolic ; for that which knows is homogeneous with that which is known. And what we so know about life is its qualitative character. If, then, Life is a representative expression of Reality, the qualitative knowledge we have of life in its richest form (i.e. in personality) is up to a point knowledge of Reality. The most original contribution of Christianity towards philosophic thinking is the assertion that in the personality of the Ideal Man the qualification ' up to a point' is no longer needed. Such an assertion requires, and in the next two chapters will receive, examination. But if it can be sustained, it follows that, although for thought God transcends all comprehension, qualitatively He can be known ; to the intellect He is the 'Veiled Being'; but to the heart the mystery has been revealed. I This then is the message . . . which we declare unto you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.'

If, then, we apply to God the concept 'personality' it must be with the stress laid, not on any intellectualised definition of that word, but on its qualitative content. The same thing holds of concepts like Life or Mind. If these are taken abstractly, that is, if they are thought rather than intuited, the logical result is Pantheism. If the Universe is the expression of Life (or even of Mind) conceived abstractly, whatever is, is equally divine. But Life and Mind are known to us at first hand only in personality; and there they are apprehended concretely and intuitively. In such apprehension quality is always the essential element. Pantheism, then, rests on the fallacy of abstraction. But if from the existence of Life or Mind it is legitimate to draw any inference at all as to the nature of the Universe, it can only be the Theistic inference-all things proceed from God and exist in Him, but they are not all equally expressive of His nature in which quality must be essential.

By purely intellectual considerations such as the foregoing I myself have been gradually led farther and farther away from the tempered Absolutism of the school of T. H. Green, in the direction of what I have called the Higher Anthropomorphism. But it was only after I had actually penned the first draft of this chapter that it flashed across my mind that of all the great religious teachers of the world Christ is the most unashamedly anthropomorphic. From primitive physical Anthropomorphism He was, it goes without saying, as far removed as were Confucius or the Buddha, Zeno or Zoroaster. His anthropomorphism was completely spiritual; but, just for that reason, it could be absolutely thoroughgoing. He told men to speak and think of God as Father. Many before Him had applied that name to God; Christ alone would have men to -use no other, to think out fully all its implications, and to apply them to every circumstance of life. 'If ye being evil know how to give good gifts -unto your children, how much more your Father in heaven.' The whole basis of Christ's practical religious teaching is just one great anthropomorphic thought. God is our Father, only He is as much better than the best, as He is wiser than the wisest and stronger than the strongest, of human parents-let man believe this, and act accordingly.

Christ's view of God was not the result of philosophic speculation; it was the intuition of supreme religious genius, interpreting, we may surmise, unique personal experience. And the line of argument we have followed out has not yet brought us anything like as far as that. It is pointing us in the direction of the conception of a Living God-not as yet towards that of a Loving God. That is the further conclusion upon which the arguments of the next four chapters-setting out from very different starting points-seem all to converge. But just so far as it is recognised to be a necessity for thought to conceive the Power behind phenomena as concretely personal, the anthropomorphism of Jesus becomes intellectually more acceptable than the rationalised abstractions of a Hegel, a Haeckel or a Herbert Spencer.

Chapter 4 Table of Contents Chapter 6