Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Language is not adequate to express our ideas

Our greatest difficulty is, that language is not adequate to express our ideas; because our words refer to things, and are images of what is substantial and material. If we use the word “emanation,” our mind involuntarily recurs to something material, flowing out of some other thing that is material; and if we reject this idea of materiality, nothing is left of the emanation but an unreality. The word “thing” itself suggests to us that which is material and within the cognizance and jurisdiction of the senses. If we cut away from it the idea of materiality, it presents itself to us as no thing, but an intangible unreality, which the mind vainly endeavors to grasp. Existence and Being are terms that have the same color of materiality; and when we speak of a Power or Force, the mind immediately images to itself one physical and material thing acting upon another. Eliminate that idea; and the Power or Force, devoid of physical characteristics, seems as unreal as the shadow that dances on a wall, itself a mere absence of light; as spirit is to us merely that which is not matter.

Infinite space and infinite time are the two primary ideas. We formalize them thus: add body to body and sphere to sphere, until the imagination wearies; and still there will remain beyond, a void, empty, unoccupied SPACE, limitless, because it is void. Add event to event in continuous succession, forever and forever, and there will still remain, before and after, a TIME in which there was and will be no event, and also endless because it too is void.

Thus these two ideas of the boundlessness of space and the endlessness of time seem to involve the ideas that matter and events are limited and finite. We cannot conceive of an infinity of worlds or of events; but only of an indefinite number of each; for, as we struggle to conceive of their infinity, the thought ever occurs in despite of all our efforts–there must be space in which there are no worlds; there must have been time when there were no events.

We cannot conceive how, if this earth moves millions of millions of miles a million times repeated, it is still in the centre of space; nor how, if we lived millions of millions of ages and centuries, we should still be in the centre of eternity–with still as much space on one side as on the other; with still as much time before us as behind; for that seems to say that the world has not moved nor we lived at all.

Nor can we comprehend how an infinite series of worlds, added together, is no larger than an infinite series of atoms; or an infinite series of centuries no longer than an infinite series of seconds; both being alike infinite, and therefore one series containing no more nor fewer units than the other.

Nor have we the capacity to form in ourselves any idea of that which is immaterial. We use the word, but it conveys to us only the idea of the absence and negation of materiality; which vanishing, Space and Time alone, infinite and boundless, seem to us to be left.

We cannot form any conception of an effect without a cause. We cannot but believe, indeed we know, that, how far soever we may have to run back along the chain of effects and causes, it cannot be infinite; but we must come at last to something which is not an effect, bur the first cause: and yet the fact is literally beyond our comprehension. The mind refuses to grasp the idea of self-existence, of existence without a beginning. As well expect the hair that grows upon our head to understand the nature and immortality of the soul.

It does not need to go so far in search of mysteries; nor have we any right to disbelieve or doubt the existence of a Great First Cause, itself no effect, because we cannot comprehend it; because the words we use do not even express it to us adequately.

We rub a needle for a little while, on a dark, inert mass of iron ore, that had lain idle in the earth for many centuries. Something is thereby communicated to the steel–we term it a virtue, a power, or a quality–and then we balance it upon a pivot; and, lo! drawn by some invisible, mysterious Power, one pole of the needle turns to the North, and there the same Power keeps the same pole for days and years; will keep it there, perhaps, as long as the world lasts, carry the needle where you will, and no matter what seas or mountains intervene between it and the North Pole of the world. And this Power, thus acting, and indicating to the mariner his course over the trackless ocean, when the stars shine not for many days, saves vessels from shipwreck, families from distress, and those from sudden death on whose lives the fate of nations and the peace of the world depend. But for it, Napoleon might never have reached the ports of France on his return from Egypt, nor Nelson lived to fight and win at Trafalgar. Men call this Power Magnetism, and then complacently think that they have explained it all; and yet they have but given a new name to an unknown thing, to hide their ignorance. What is this wonderful Power? It is a real, actual, active Power: that we know and see. But what its essence is, or how it acts, we do not know, any more than we know the essence or the mode of action of the Creative Thought and Word of God.

And again, what is that which we term galvanism and electricity,–which, evolved by the action of a little acid on two metals, aided by a magnet, circles the earth in a second, sending from land to land the Thoughts that govern the transactions of individuals and nations? The mind has formed no notion of matter, that will include it; and no name that we can give it, helps us to understand its essence and its being. It is a Power, like Thought and the Will. We know no more.

What is this power of gravitation that makes everything upon the earth tend to the centre? How does it reach out its invisible hands toward the erratic meteor-stones, arrest them in their swift course, and draw them down to the earth’s bosom? It is a power. We know no more.

What is that heat which plays so wonderful a part in the world’s economy?–that caloric, latent everywhere, within us and without us, produced by combustion, by intense pressure, and by swift motion? Is it substance, matter, spirit, or immaterial, a mere Force or State of Matter?

And what is light? A substance, say the books,–matter, that travels to us from the sun and stars, each ray separable into seven, by the prism, of distinct colors, and with distinct peculiar qualities and actions. And if a substance, what is its essence, and what power is inherent in it, by which it journeys incalculable myriads of miles, and reaches us ten thousand years or more after it leaves the stars? All power is equally a mystery. Apply intense cold to a drop of water in the centre of a globe of iron, and the globe is shattered as the water freezes. Confine a little of the same limpid element in a cylinder which Enceladus or Typhon could not have riven asunder, and apply to it intense heat, and the vast power that couched latent in the water shivers the cylinder to atoms. A little shoot from a minute seed, a shoot so soft and tender that the least bruise would kill it, forces its way downward into the hard earth, to the depth of many feet, with an energy wholly incomprehensible. What are these mighty forces, locked up in the small seed and the drop of water?

Nay, what is LIFE itself, with all its wondrous, mighty energies,–that power which maintains the heat within us, and prevents our bodies, that decay so soon without it, from resolution into their original elements–Life, that constant miracle, the nature and essence whereof have eluded all the philosophers; and all their learned dissertations on it are a mere jargon of words?

No wonder the ancient Persians thought that Light and Life were one; both emanations from the Supreme Deity, the archetype of light. No wonder that in their ignorance they worshiped the Sun. God breathed into man the spirit of life; not matter, but an emanation from Himself; not a creature made by Him, nor a distinct existence, but a Power, like His own Thought: and light, to those great-souled ancients, also seemed no creature, and no gross material substance, but a pure emanation from the Deity, immortal and indestructible like Himself.

What, indeed, is REALITY? Our dreams are as real, while they last, as the occurrences of the daytime. We see, hear, feel, act, experience pleasure and suffer pain, as vividly and actually in a dream as when awake. The occurrences and transactions of a year are crowded into the limits of a second: and the dream remembered is as real as the past occurrences of life.

The philosophers tell us that we have no cognizance of substance itself, but only of its attributes: that when we see that which we call a block of marble, our perceptions give us information only of something extended, solid, colored, heavy, and the like; but not of the very thing itself, to which these attributes belong. And vet the attributes do not exist without the substance. They are not substances, but adjectives. There is no such thing or existence as hardness, weight or color, by itself, detached from any subject, moving first here, then there, and attaching itself to this and to the other subject. And yet, they say, the attributes are not the subject.

So Thought, Volition, and Perception are not the soul, but its attributes; and we have no cognizance of the soul itself, but only of them, its manifestations. Nor of God; but only of His Wisdom, Power, Magnificence, Truth, and other attributes.

And yet we know that there is matter, a soul within our body, a God that lives in the Universe.

Take, then, the attributes of the soul. I am conscious that I exist and am the same identical person that I was twenty years ago. I am conscious that my body is not I,–that if my arms were lopped away, this person that I call ME, would still remain, complete, entire, identical as before. But I cannot ascertain, by the most intense and long-continued reflection, what I am, nor where within my body I reside, nor whether I am a point, or an expanded substance. I have no power to examine and inspect. I exist, will, think, perceive. That I know, and nothing more. I think a noble and sublime Thought. What is that Thought? It is not Matter, nor Spirit. It is not a Thing; but a Power and Force. I make upon a paper certain conventional marks, that represent that Thought. There is no Power or Virtue in the marks I write, but only in the Thought which they tell to others. I die, but the Thought still lives. It is a Power. It acts on men, excites them to enthusiasm, inspires patriotism, governs their conduct, controls their destinies, disposes of life and death. The words I speak are but a certain succession of particular sounds, that by conventional arrangement communicate to others the Immaterial, Intangible, Eternal Thought. The fact that Thought continues to exist an instant, after it makes its appearance in the soul, proves it immortal: for there is nothing conceivable that can destroy it. The spoken words, being mere sounds, may vanish into thin air, and the written ones, mere marks, be burned, erased, destroyed: but the THOUGHT itself lives still, and must live on forever.

A Human Thought, then, is an actual EXISTENCE, and a FORCE and POWER, capable of acting upon and controlling matter as well as mind. Is not the existence of a God, who is the immaterial soul of the Universe, and whose THOUGHT, embodied or not embodied in His WORD, is an Infinite Power, of Creation and production, destruction and preservation, quite as comprehensible as the existence of a Soul, of a Thought separated from the Soul, of the Power of that Thought to mould the fate and influence the Destinies of Humanity?

And yet we know not when that Thought comes, nor what it is. It is not WE. We do not mould it, shape it, fashion it. It is neither our mechanism nor our invention. It appears spontaneously, flashing, as it were, into the soul, making that soul the involuntary instrument of its utterance to the world. It comes to us, and seems a stranger to us, seeking a home.

As little can we explain the mighty power of the human WILL. Volition, like Thought, seems spontaneous, an effect without a cause. Circumstances provoke it, and serve as its occasion, but do not produce it. It springs up in the soul, like Thought, as the waters gush upward in a spring. Is it the manifestation of the soul, merely making apparent what passes within the soul, or an emanation from it, going abroad and acting outwardly, itself a real Existence, as it is an admitted Power? We can but own our ignorance. It is certain that it acts on other souls, controls, directs them, shapes their action, legislates for men and nations: and yet it is not material nor visible; and the laws it writes merely inform one soul of what has passed within another.

God, therefore, is a mystery, only as everything that surrounds us, and as we ourselves, are mysteries. We know that there is and must be a FIRST CAUSE. His attributes, severed from Himself, are unrealities. As color and extension, weight and hardness, do not exist apart from matter as separate existences and substantives, spiritual or immaterial; so the Goodness, Wisdom, Justice, Mercy, and Benevolence of God are not independent existences, personify them as men may, but attributes of the Deity, the adjectives of One Great Substantive. But we know that He must be Good, True, Wise, Just, Benevolent, Merciful: and in all these, and all His other attributes, Perfect and Infinite; because we are conscious that these are laws imposed on us by the very nature of things, necessary, and without which the Universe would be con-fusion and the existence of a God incredible. They are of His essence, and necessary, as His existence is.

He is the Living, Thinking, Intelligent Sour, of the Universe, the PERMANENT, the STATIONARY [Εστως . . Estos], of Simon Magus, the ONE that always IS [Το Ον . . TO ON] of Plato, as contradistinguished from the perpetual flux and reflux, or Genesis, of things.

And, as the Thought of the Soul, emanating from the Soul, becomes audible and visible in Words, so did THE THOUGHT or GOD, springing up within Himself, immortal as Himself, when once conceived,–immortal before, because in Himself, utter Itself in THE WORD, its manifestation and mode of communication, and thus create the Material, Mental, Spiritual Universe, which, like Him, never began to exist.

This is the real idea of the Ancient Nations: GOD, the Almighty Father, and Source of All; His THOUGHT, conceiving the whole Universe, and willing its creation: His WORD, uttering that THOUGHT, and thus becoming the Creator or Demiourgos, in whom was Life and Light, and that Light the Life of the Universe.

Nor did that Word cease at the single act of Creation; and having set going the great machine, and enacted the laws of its motion and progression, of birth and life, and change and death, cease to exist, or remain thereafter in inert idleness.

FOR THE THOUGHT OF GOD LIVES AND IS IMMORTAL. Embodied in the WORD, is not only created, but it preserves. It conducts and controls the Universe, all spheres, all worlds, all actions of mankind, and of every animate and inanimate creature. It speaks in the soul of every man who lives. The Stars, the Earth, the Trees, the Winds, the universal voice of Nature, tempest, and avalanche, the Sea’s roar and the grave voice of the waterfall, the hoarse thunder and the low whisper of the brook, the song of birds, the voice of love, the speech of men, all are the alphabet in which it communicates itself to men, and informs them of the will and law of God, the Soul of the Universe. And thus most truly did “THE WORD BECOME MESH AND DWELL AMONG MEN.”

God, the unknown FATHER [Πατὴρ Ἄγνωστος . . Pater Agnōstos], known to us only by His Attributes; the ABSOLUTE I AM: . . The THOUGHT of God [Ἕννοια . Ennoia], and the WORD [Λόγος; . . . . Logos], Manifestation and expression of the Thought; . . . . Behold THE TRUE MASONIC TRINITY; the UNIVERSAL SOUL, the THOUGHT in the Soul, the WORD, or Thought expressed; the THREE IN ONE, of a Trinitarian Ecossais.

Morals and Dogma: Prince Of Mercy, or Scottish Trinitarian, Pg. 569-575