Pantheism, Its Story and Significance Part 5

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[Sidenote: Pantheistic Morality.]

[Sidenote: The Law of the Whole.]

For, between the infinite and the infinitesimal the human experience realizes itself in surroundings which, when observed and reflected on, make the impression of ordered relations of parts. By a necessity of our finite and individual existence as centres of action--a necessity of which we can give no account--we present those relations to ourselves in forms of time and s.p.a.ce. Then, when our experience is large enough and ripe enough, being enriched and stimulated by the stored-up experience of humanity, as recorded in tradition, custom, Bibles, and Epics, we attain to the moral sense, and realize that we are bound to be loyal to something greater than self. That "greater" may be the tribe, the nation, humanity or G.o.d. But in far the larger number of cases in which this sense of willing loyalty is aroused, its cause is the appeal to us of some whole of which we form a part. Certainly this is so with the patriot and the philanthropist. Indeed, it would be difficult, or impossible, to find any human relations.h.i.+p, from the family upwards, through the wider circles of school, club, munic.i.p.ality, nationality, in which this sense of loyalty or devotion to the law of the whole is not the best incentive to devotion.

[Sidenote: Of that Law of the Whole Loyalty to G.o.d in the Supreme Application.]

Yet, when we come to contemplate the final and supreme object of devotion, the Eternal Himself, it has been almost the universal custom to make a surprising exception, and to regard religion as maintainable only by recognition of a tremendous outward authority, to which only such loyalty is possible as in barbarous times was fostered towards a personal chieftain, or feudal king. Now Pantheism holds this to be an error, and regards obedience and devotion to G.o.d as the ultimate and most inspiring application of that principle of the loyalty of the part to the whole which runs through all morality.

[Sidenote: Conclusion.]

Why should we be supposed to be without G.o.d because we acknowledge Him to be superpersonal, and "past finding out"? Or why should we be suspected of denying the divinity of evolution because we do not believe the Eternal All to be subject to it? This instinct of loyalty, in the sense of self-subordination to any greater Whole of which we are part, the distinction of right and wrong thence arising, and the aspiration after a moral ideal, are not of man's invention. Speaking, as we cannot help doing, in terms of time, I hold that the germs of this higher creature-life were always in the divine unity out of which man is evolved. And in pursuing the inspirations of that higher life, as experience suggests them, humanity has always had a guide and a saviour in the Living G.o.d, of whom the race life-time of man is an infinitesimal phase. In such an interpretation of man's relations to G.o.d there is nothing necessarily hostile to any form of genuine religion.[24] True, there are in the creeds many statements which we cannot accept in the letter. But there are few which have not some spiritual suggestion for us. And if we can attain to that intellectual love of G.o.d in which Spinoza was absorbed, we have no quarrel with any mode of sincere devotion. Pious Catholic, Protestant, Vedantist, Mohammedan--all, by the implicit, though unrecognised necessities of their faith, wors.h.i.+p the same G.o.d as ourselves. But the wrangles of sectarian zeal no longer concern us: for we have pa.s.sed

"To where beyond those voices there is peace."


[Footnote 22: Quoted by Dr. J. Hunt, in his _Essay on Pantheism_, p.


[Footnote 23: See _The Religion of the Universe_, pp. 128-30.]

[Footnote 24: Limitations of s.p.a.ce must be my apology for reference to an enlargement of this topic in "A Pantheistic Sermon" at the end of _The Religion of the Universe_.]

Pantheism, Its Story and Significance Part 5

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Pantheism, Its Story and Significance Part 5 summary

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