Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

such a world that we do not see it, or get any report of it. The sense of this came over me with great power as I once stood upon a spur of the Contra, Costa Range at New Almaden, and looked down upon the valley of Santa Clara that stretched away from its base, a floor of emerald, twenty miles to the Bay, and twenty miles between the enclosing mountains. A thin, blue haze -- the miracle of beauty in that land — spread gauze-like over the landscape, deepening to purple in the hollows of the hills, obscuring all traces of human habitations, and leaving visible only the vast stretch of fields without motion or sound or other indications of life, La visible world. But, I mused, how much more real is the world hidden under its distance and shroud of azure, the unseen world of human life, the play of passion, the strife of ambition, the ache of sorrow, the joy of hope, - a world unseen, but so real and intense as to blot the other into insignificance.

Were we to search for this sphere of the soul, we would not look for it in any refinement of matter, nor in any orb beyond the “flaming walls of the world,” but rather in an order over against this visible order, as mind stands over against the body. If, however, it be said that the mind must always have a body, or something like it, to hold it up, a sub-sto, - a something like quicksilver upon a mirror, to take up and turn back its operations, something to sustain reaction and perhaps necessary to yield consciousness, — we may follow a hint dropped by science in its latest suggestions. Physicists of the highest rank hold to the existence of a pure or non-atomic fluid filling all space, in which the worlds swim, a sort of first thing to which atomic matter is a second thing. But while science thus acknowledges a non-atomic fluid filling the interstellar spaces as a basis upon which the universe is a cosmos, or a united whole, it cannot impugn the analogy of a non-atomic soul fluid, or ether, as the basis or body upholding the mind, if we care to claim it. As we can imagine all the worlds from “ Blue-eyed Lyra's topmost star” to the smallest asteroid, swept together into some far-off corner of space — a not improbable result — and leave it clear of atomic matter yet filled with ether ready to float and unite another universe, so the material atomic body may be swept away and gathered to its original dust, leaving the immaterial body intact, a basis for the mind and its action as it had been before. Science and Revelation here draw very near to each other: science demanding a non-atomic substance as the only possible basis of conscious identity, and Revelation asserting “ there is a spiritual body;” and “God giveth it a body even as it pleased Him."

The subject leads us into a region of mystery, where indeed all truth conducts us, shading off in quicker or slower degree, according to the nature of the truth. What can you say of human life? Where will you get your terms for describing life? Where will you stand as you draw off and look at life — being? Make being objective, and where are you when you contemplate it? What upholds your

feet; what is the light of your eyes as you look at this fact of existence ? You cannot tell ; you are in a region of mystery. Outside of all our thinking lies this unknowable region, a land of mystery. Every true thinker reaches it quickly. It is ignorance to overlook this field, into which run paths from every department of study. A crystal of salt is as mysterious as conscience. Question it with What? Whence ? For what? and you are at once in the realm of darkness. As the mystery of space invests the physical creation, so do our thoughts lose themselves in mystery whenever certain crucial questions like these are connected with ourselves. But mystery implies faith ; they are correlatives. I do not mean faith in any specific sense, but rather that as all thought runs at once into mystery, all knowledge has in it an element of faith. And by faith, I mean a fixed hope that there is truth that cannot be attested except as it bears witness to itself. And no man is a thinker who shuts this faith-element out of his speculations. For no man can be called a thinker who does not follow the paths opened by the study of any fact or thing. The secret of thought lies in tracing the connections and bearings of truth. I go farther: no man is in any high sense a thinker upon whom these questions, Whence? Why? For what? are not pressing down for answer. The secret, the soul of thought, is not disclosed till, in the shrouded chambers of stillest meditation, these questions are raised in respect to whatever the hands touch and the eyes see and the ears hear. And whenever these questions, Whence? Why? For what ? are asked, the questioner finds himself in depths of mystery. If it be life that he questions, it is dumb before him. If it be, a crystal, its gleam dies out; it cannot tell whence it came, or whither it goes, or why it is. Into this region we are driven when once we begin to think, a region where we have no light but such as comes from our hopes, no assurance but such as is generated by the assertions of our own souls. Finding myself here, I question no longer the dumb unanswering world about me, but I question myself. I ask, as I have a right to ask, What do I want? What do I need? What is the meaning of these voices that never cease utterance, like the echoes of tides within sea-caverns, voices that speak of God and self and destiny. I question these, and though it be still a world of mystery about me, I get answers that are plainer, and that reach deeper down, and higher up, than when I look into the face of gleaming planets, or drop dredging plummets into the depths of the sea. I get, at least, affirmations that yield me repose, and take something of the vanity and jangle out of life. And if here I raise the question of destiny, I find myself at liberty to believe in what I want. I need life, and I take it, and no philosophy of matter or origin can pluck it out of my hand.

IMMORTALITY AND NATURE.

« ElőzőTovább »