Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

With Fichte and his ideal projection of subjective images Jacobi felt considerable sympathy. Fichte's soul was quick to recognize the spiritual forces of the universe, but he did not perceive their objective character. At this point Jacobi resists again an apparently valid conclusion in the clear light of his own intuitions. He was sure he saw, in the moral order of the world, a Father's hand; Fichte saw only a reflection of his own volitional activity. Such intolerable consequences of the reasoning of his metaphysical contemporaries, Jacobi escaped by resorting to the oracles of a higher authority. "There dwells within us," he said, "a spirit sent immediately from God, constituting the most essential part of our human nature. As this spirit is present to man in his highest, deepest, and most personal consciousness, so the Giver of this spirit, God himself, is present to man through his heart just as nature is present to him through his senses. No sensible object can so seize upon the mind and irresistibly prove itself real, as those absolute objects, the true, the good, the beautiful, and the subUme, which can be seen with the eye of the spirit. We venture the bold speech that we believe in God because we see him, although he cannot be seen with the eye of this body." This spiritual vision is quite as clear as the physical; it is attended with no less feeling immediately produced in the soul, than comes to the soul through the office of the outward eye. It is not the eye that sees, but the soul by means of the eye. Such seeing is mediate, while Jacobi, if he sees God at all, must see him immediately, with no Moses and no organ of sense to stand between. Actual perception is not denied to sensation when it is referred to its cause. Who shall dispute that this intuition of an invisible Deity possesses at least as high claims to the character of a real perception as the sensations, exposed as they are to the defects of the physical body? May not the intuition even have some advantage, in the certainty of the objective existence over mediate knowledge, at least to the subject of it?

Sir William Hamilton maintains that in intuition cognition is given unconditionally as a fact, while, in all representative perception the cognition is problematical. Should it be objected that Hamilton assumed, in the intuition of which he speaks, that the mind is conscious of only its own modification without relation to any object beyond the sphere of consciousness, it ought to be sufficient to show that Jacobi's claims find ample room for realization under the careful definitions of this most astute philosopher. We do not understand Jacobi to claim that his intuitions reach to a cause, which, as perceived, is outside of himself, but rather that this knowledge is simple, and contains in it, as Hamilton himself says, "nothing beyond the mere consciousness, by that which knows, of that which is known." This consciousness of necessity cannot reach out and take hold of the external; but if the external be spiritual in its nature, as it cannot impress itself upon any physical sense, so no physical barrier can obstruct its approach to the center of thought and feeling. Accordingly, Jacobi can say that "God himself is present to man in the heart," and that the human spirit contains "a shadow of the divine knowledge and will."

In this light we can understand our philosopher's meaning when he maintains that man reveals God, while nature conceals him:

But is it unreasonable to confess that we believe in God, not by reason of the nature which conceals him, but by reason of the supernatural in man, which alone reveals and proves him to exist? Nature conceals God; for through her whole domain nature reveals only fate, only an indissoluble chain of mere efficient causes without beginnmg and without end, excluding with equal necessity both providence and chance. . . . Man reveals God,' for man, by his intelligence, rises above nature, and in virtue of this intelligence is conscious of himself as a power not only independent of but opposed to nature, and capable of resisting, conquering, and controlling her. As man has a living faith in this power, superior to nature, which dwells in him; so has he a belief in God, a feeling, an experience of his existence.

This doctrine is perfectly consistent, as Jacobi claims, with the criticism of Kant, though it cannot be harmonized with the doctrines of Spinoza. Indeed, Kant's demonstration that the pure reason finds no certainty in practical things, not only admitted but even called for Jacobi's doctrine of a direct in-, tuitive cognition of things-in-themselves. This intuition tram4 pies upon the mechanism theory of the universe, and, rising above the defects of demonstration, gazes boldly upon the revealed face of the one great Cause that reason had long ago declared to be immanent in all forms of being and becoming.

This noblest function of the soul Jacobi did not uniformly denominate "faith," especially in his later writings. This term was too liable to be understood to imply a blind, irrational belief on the mere authority of others. To avoid so great a misconception of his doctrine Jacobi used the term "reason," ( Vernunft,) meaning, not the logical faculty, but the power to perceive directly in contrast with the understanding which is confined to the range of the demonstrable. The term " faith," therefore, when used by Jacobi, implied the surest possible kind of knowledge, but a knowledge which in its very nature cannot be communicated to another by a syllogistic method. This is why the light in the heart was quenched when brought into the understanding. That light conveyed the divine image, which in the order of nature must be felt in order to be known. We cannot always describe what we have seen with our natural vision; much less can we expect to impart to another the first-fruits of our spiritual seeing. The Apostle Paul said it was not lawful to utter the things which were revealed to him when "caught up into paradise." Similarly, doubtless, is it unlawful—impossible on account of the disabilities of our nature—for a man to formulate and communicate to another all of the religious experiences of his heart, even after they have so entered into his being that torture and death cannot induce him to deny them. This is the philosophy of the believer's testimony, daily declared in the sanctuary and daily disputed in the mart, "I know that my Redeemer liveth."

Owing to a lack of this experience the unbelieving naturally question the legitimateness of this faith, or at least ask the believer to prove a necessary connection between the mental phenomena on which he rests his faith and any objective cause. Suppose we make a similar demand of themselves. Can they show any necessary connection between the best established facts in science and any objective cause? All knowledge hangs upon a chain, some links of which are hidden, so that, without the exercise of a large practical faith, no science would be possible. "When we trace the phenomena involved in a single perception of an outward object through the eye, we are charmed with the delicate offices of different parts of that organ; but when the light, in obedience to optical laws, has painted a beautiful inverted image of the object on the fine tissue of the

Fourth Series, Vol. XXXIL—33

retina, the physical phenomena of vision can be traced no farther; they cease or disappear as motion, or physical change, and re-appear at once as intellectual perception—something which bears no discoverable resemblance to any of the physical phenomena of seeing. The chain of causes in all perceptions goes out of sight, some links are hidden.

According to Lotze,* "We shall never be able to prove that it lies in the nature of any motion ... of itself to cease as motion and be reproduced as illuminating brilliancy, as sound, or as sweetness of taste." The motion here referred to is the sensible or physical part of the phenomena of sensation. The causal nexus between a wave, whether in the eye or in the air, and the mental conception of light, no man has ever discovered, but the scientist and the philosopher alike, together with universal humanity, accept with a practical assurance that cannot be shaken the testimony of their consciousness to the objective reality of the things perceived through any organ of sense. In nnscientiiic terms, then, we may say that we know the things within reach of our senses because we feel them.

Feeling is the function of all the afferent nerves, and in some mysterious way we hear, taste, see, etc., by feeling. All the mechanism of our organs of sense is necessary to bring-the physical within the grasp of the spiritual. By the aid of this mechanism we feel, as science insists, not the^ object, but some quality of the object appropriate to the sense in exercise. The universal consciousness, however, will have it that we feel a body thus and thus conditioned or qualified. Science says we feel the broad waves of light, or, practically, the redness of a physical body. Consciousness maintains that we see a red body. It is hazardous to quarrel with universal consciousness. Moreover, it would be unreasonable to reject, concerning the character of the phenomena, the testimony of the only authority by which its actuality had been, or could be, established. We dare not, therefore, banish the physical universe from our philosophy; we cannot banish it from our consciousness. God himself, in fashioning us so that we are thus compelled to recognize in our daily lives an objective universe, has involved his own veracity in the validity of these intuitions of our consciousness.

"Milcrolcotmus, vol i, p. 161 ; Leipzig. 1856.

If we admit, as we seem forced to, that mind and matter can communicate, while their natures are so very unlike, much less should it be thought incredible that mind should be able to convey thought to another mind of the same nature. No mechanism can simplify or explain the perception of the physical; it simply makes it mysteriously possible. The same intuitional power that magically reveals to us a physical universe and enforces its acceptance may similarly discover the Cause of the universe and enforce a belief in that Cause. This it does, and no human race is known that has not some notion of God.

Clearer and more full than this universal faith are the direct revelations to the spiritually minded, who, like Socrates and Jacobi, seem to have found a shorter way to the knowledge of God than through the regularly accredited prophets. This personal inspiration seems to resemble, in the strength of the conviction which it carries, that instinct which Kant has denominated "the voice of God." Brute instinct is concerned with nothing but what is essential to the well-being of the species. All this it fails not to supply. Birds know how to build nests, but they do not know how they know, or what principles require them to build as they do. Men know no more about the instincts that supplement reason in their own species. God supplies whatever is out of reach that is essential to any of his creatures. In endowing man with a soul God fixed upon him another necessity quite as urgent as the preservation of his body, namely, the preservation of his soul. The Creator is, then, under an equal, or still greater, obligation to supply whatever is demanded by the interests of our spiritual nature. It is not unreasonable, therefore, that we should listen for the voice of God in a new revelation. Jacobi and millions more say they hear it. They find revealed in it the Almighty and an endless life. They touch, as it were, the suprasensible, and know it by a sort of spiritual empiricism. They are profoundly convinced. The demonstrations of the spirit are irresistible, but if denied, they can no more be forced upon a skeptic than the axioms of geometry.

We cannot too highly applaud the opinion of Victor Cousin, that "the error of Jacobi's school was not to see that this truthspeaking enthusiasm is only a purer and higher application of reason, in such manner that faith has its root in reason." This

« IndietroContinua »