« AnteriorContinua »
Here the Doctor notices that the theory exhibits a fault. To the Berkeleyan mind there is the withoutness of other minds. It is spiritualism rather than idealism. There is a mental, peopled universe, suggestive of Dante's Paradiso, with pearly atmosphere, and minds as moving lights
"As in flame
A sparkle is distinct, or voice in voice
I other luminaries saw, that coursed
In circling motion, rapid more or less,
As their eternal phases each impels" (viii. 20).
"It is the living world of human beings here in this London and elsewhere, with all which they inherit," answers Berkeley, who continues,-"Though we hold indeed the objects of sense to be nothing else but ideas which cannot exist unperceived, yet we may not hence conclude they have no existence except only while they are perceived by us; since there may be some other spirit that perceives them, though we do not. Whenever bodies are said to have no existence without the mind, I would not be understood to mean this or that particular mind, but all minds whatsoever. It does not therefore follow that bodies are annihilated and created every moment, or exist not at all during the intervals between our perception of them" (S$ 8-22).
With sturdy Samuel such a vague and crippled outcome of so much philosophical preluding would be certain to provoke a smile and an unmistakable taunt of "novators" and "nonsense." Berkeley, nevertheless, would maintain his position that no disproof had been adduced; the taunt he would retaliate by a polite rejoinder: "He must surely be either very weak, or very little acquainted with the sciences, who shall reject a truth that is capable of demonstration, for no other reason than that it is newly known and is contrary to the prejudices of mankind. It is strictly a question of experience: seeing is believing.' What you call the empty forms and outside of things seem to me the very things themselves. We all therefore agree in this, that we perceive only sensible forms; but herein we differ: you will have them to be empty appearances, whilst I hold them to be real things. You do not trust your senses; I do. I take things as I find them, and call them by their names. Substratum,' 'noumenon,' or so-called 'underlying reality,' I have no perception of, and therefore know nothing. about. Let us stick to realities-the things seen. It is purely a
matter of evidence-in the mind. If you can give me logical satisfaction otherwise, do so, but let us not attempt the absurd. I am not for changing things into ideas, but rather ideas into things; since those immediate objects of perception, which according to you are only appearances of things, I take to be the real things themselves. It is for you to prove they are not such. If you can but conceive it possible for one extended moveable substance, or in general, for any one idea, or anything like an idea, to exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving it, I will readily give up the cause" (§ 22).
"But," says Johnson, "surely there is nothing easier than for me to imagine trees in a park, or books in a closet, and nobody by to perceive them."
Berkeley answers, "You may do so; there is no difficulty in it. But what is all this, I beseech you, more than framing in your mind certain ideas which you call books and trees, and at the same time omitting to frame the idea of any one perceiving them? This only shows you have the power of imagining or framing ideas in your mind, but it does not show that you can conceive it possible the objects of your thought may exist without the mind. To make this out, it is necessary that you conceive them existing unperceived or unthought of, which is a manifest repugnancy. When we do our utmost to conceive the existence of external bodies, we are all the while only contemplating our own ideas" (§ 23).
"But," says Johnson, in the desperation of inability, "though the ideas themselves do not exist without the mind, yet there may be things like them whereof they are copies or resemblances, which things exist without the mind, in an unthinking substance."
Berkeley answers: "An idea can be like nothing but an idea; a colour or figure can be like nothing but another colour or figure; and I ask whether those supposed originals or external things of which our ideas are said to be the pictures or representations, be themselves perceivable or no? If they are, then they are ideas, and we have gained our point; but if you say they are not, I appeal to any one, whether it be sense to assert a colour is like something which is invisible, or a thing hard or soft, like a thing which is intangible?" (§ 8).
Here Johnson, no nearer conviction, yet incapable of denying the truth of the arguments brought forward, suggests: "But although we might possibly have all our sensations without bodies, yet perhaps it may be thought easier to conceive and explain the manner of their
production by supposing external bodies in their likeness rather than otherwise, and so it might at least be probable there are such things as bodies that excite ideas in our minds."
"Neither can this be said," replies Berkeley, "for though we give you materialists your external bodies, yet by your own confession ye are never nearer the knowing how our ideas are produced, since you own yourselves unable to comprehend in what manner body can act upon spirit, or how it is possible things should imprint an idea in the mind. And if we deny you the existence of matter, it is only the philosophers will miss it!" (§ 35.)
At this point we can imagine Swedenborg, who had been most of the time a silent listener, stepping forward with two of the Bishop's books in his hands. "Have ye then," he asks, "so completely forgotten the old Greek epilogue of the Cave, within which, from childhood, chained mortals had lived-their faces turned from the light of day-the objects of their sight rendered visible but by a fire burning afar off and behind them? Do you not remember how that between the fire and those in chains there was a road above, along which ran a lengthy wall, by whose side, and on whose top, there toiled small groups of human beings amidst statues of stone and of wood?"
"You are proposing," says Berkeley, "a most absurd comparison, and absurd captives also!"
"Such as resemble yourselves," answers Swedenborg; "for think you that such as these would have seen anything else of themselves or one another except the shadows that fall from the fire on the opposite side of the cave? And if they had been able to talk with each other, do you not suppose they would think it right to give names to what they saw before them? And if this prison-cave had an echo on its opposite side-when any person present spoke, think you they would imagine anything else addressed them except the shadow before them? And would not such persons deem truth to be nothing else but the shadows of exhibitions? What, then, if such persons were liberated and carried up towards the true light-what would they say when the effects of the sudden change had ceased-when the dizziness and dazzlement were over? Would they not confess that they had formerly seen but shadows and mere empty visions in the cave our Plato describes?"
Here Swedenborg opens one of the volumes; it is Berkeley's Commonplace-Book. He reads from it the two statements; "Mind is a congeries of perceptions. Take away perceptions and you take away
the mind. Put the perceptions and you put the mind." "Sensual pleasure is the summum bonum; this is the great principle of morality." He then opens the same author's "Treatise on Motion," and reads: "We find by experience that there is a thinking, active being, the source of motion, which we call soul, mind or spirit; and we also find there is a being extended, inert, moveable, which differs altogether from the other, and constitutes a new class." The travelled Seer tells Berkeley he is better than his theory with its sensual summum bonum; wiser than his idealism would show by this mentally impossible "being, extended, inert, moveable." He commends Johnson for his earnestness and Berkeley for his allegiance to supposed truths; but the latter thinker he counsels to retrace his steps, and from the fact of the idea of God in self-consciousness, and from a higher knowledge of the nature of the human mind, to make a new departure. "Whenever affirmative reasoning is applied to a preconception, an infinity of particulars, all voting the same way, fly to its assistance, both the decrees of ratiocinative philosophy, and the phenomena of the world, laid hold of in the fallacious light of the senses. Indeed, there is nothing but may form a constituent part in different series of reasonings, if not directly, at least obliquely, as a single colour in an infinity of pictures; thus the legitimate may be engrafted upon the spurious and so falsehood assumes the form of truth, and the measure of the fiction increases by meditation. At length, when the phantom is led forth upon the theatre of what is called the learned world, multitudes run to it, passionately admire it, favour and appland it; nay, numerous connoisseurs embellish it with paint and new decorations, so that it looks like a phantom no longer, but like a beautiful Venus. Hence errors, mental obscurity, fallacies and strife; civil wars between the soul and the body; scholastic contentions about straws and trifles; the flight and exile of truths; and stupor and thick darkness in those very things where the light is most brilliant: and this to such an extent that the very altars and their sacred fire are contaminated (An. Kingdom, i. 9). 'With Jehovah is the fountain of life: in His light we see light"" (Ps. xxxvi. 9).
TO THE REV. CHAUNCEY GILES,
"The Chrysostom of the New Church, the 'golden mouth'd' teacher of the golden truths of the Golden City."-REV. W. BRUCE, 11th Oct. 1875.
WITH the golden cords of a golden love
Our willing hearts are bound,
To the heart of him whose lips distilled
THE doctrines of the New Church were revealed to the world to inaugurate the reign of universal love and charity; that love to the Lord which will induce mankind to regard Him as, in very deed, the "Father of all," in a far more holy sense than the poet ever dreamt of; and that charity which will lead them to look upon one another as "His children," as brethren united in the endearing ties of mutual love and charity. It is, nevertheless, but too apparent that, however anxiously we may long in theory for the realization of so desirable a state of society, we contribute very little in the way of individual effort towards bringing it about, forgetting, or seeming to forget, that the aggregate is made up of individual particles, and seemingly content with looking at that state of society as one to be realized only in the remote future, and to be hastened only by means of our prayers, and by letting our light so shine before men, that they, seeing our good works, may glorify our Father who is in heaven. Now, most certainly,
we are far from undervaluing the test of a holy life as one by which to judge of the purity of the principles that influence it. But the question is, Will this be accepted as an infallible test of the truth of our doctrines? Is it not rather repudiated as such by those to whom it is offered? Are we not continually being told that " we are better than our creed?" That, besides, however conscientiously we may, in humble dependence on the Lord, perform our duty towards our neighbour, by " doing unto all men as we would they should do unto