1889 237 [Religion without God: I. Positivism and Mr. Frederick Harrison, II. Agnosticism and Mr. Herbert Spencer, by William Arthur, author of "The Tongue of Fire," etc., etc. London: Bemrose & Sons, 23, Old Bailey; and Derby. 1888.]

Christ is the truth, nor is there any way to the Father but Himself. To Christ the Spirit is the living witness in chief and the sole power of making all the written word divinely available.

Till the soul is thus at rest in Christ, and satisfied with Him, it is dangerous to occupy oneself with error. Indeed, as an indulgence of curiosity, it is never safe; it becomes profitable only as a duty. In this spirit we would introduce Mr. Arthur's volume to readers not likely otherwise to hear of it, as a handling of this scheme, and withal religion! no less interesting than thorough, and everywhere characterised by the fear of God. Those who know of a call for its help in days when scepticism ensnares alike the old and young will be thankful to have the book brought before them. A few extracts will suffice to prove its ability and attractiveness, especially when we take into consideration the low and debasing nature of the evil which it seeks to expose and overthrow. Mr. A. wisely leaves behind for his authority the introduction and specious arguments of English apologists, and goes direct to the oracles of Auguste Comte, whose writings he has fully and carefully studied. Congreve, Lewes, Mill, and Miss Martineau, shirk somewhat the deliverances of their high priest in the religion of humanity. Comte himself seems unhesitating, and not the less doubtless because, however clever, he was crazy, and once or twice in his life actually deranged. He was an intensely narrow-minded Frenchman, who judged of Christianity by Gallican Popery, and, because the French as a nation believe not, counted the gospel obsolete and ready to vanish away.

Comte eliminated all belief in spiritual existence; God or devil, angel or soul: so he abolished heaven and hell as fictions. Yet even he avoided saying, as Mr. A. points out, There is no God, not out of wisdom, but with that method which often goes with madness. Humanity is all. "Our humble goddess is exempt from the diverse caprices proper to her almighty precursor. Her actions follow appreciable laws." One may study phenomena: but enquire into causes! never. Else the great First Cause might dawn on the dark mind. This at all costs must not be. Yet what after all is less logical? "It is of necessity that our intelligence should make us conceive of a power without us, so superior to us that to it must be always subordinated our existence" (Phil. Pos. ii. 12). "Our intelligence "! not conscience; for this would wake up sense of sin, and so of the God Who judges it. Mind can allow of sin as much as we please, with religious speculation and observances to any extent. Conscience refers sin to God's tribunal.

Mr. A. mentions another of C.'s postulates: — "In order to regulate us and combine us, religion must first of all subordinate us to an external power of which the irresistible supremacy does not leave us in any incertitude." Comte had evidently adopted Popish principles, putting humanity in place of the church, and the religious direction in the hands of his infidel school pupils as its priests. "Comte held that his [the Pope's] day was past, his creed exhaled away from human souls, his moral ascendency for ever lost. Therefore must there be another head, the High Priest of Humanity; who, and not the Bishop of Rome, should guide the whole of the reconstituted world. While at Rome they aimed at the perfecting of the machinery of reconstruction, in first passing a dogma without a General Council — thus setting up empirical autocracy — and next by getting a General Council to make a dogma of the pope's infallibility, thus establishing legal autocracy, Comte aimed at it by the monopoly of education: thus accepting from Rome her exterior circle of means, while, for her inner circle of dogma, substituting dogma of his own" (Arthur, p. 24).

But the dominant fact of the new High Priesthood is a centralisation in the head of Humanity far more complete than in the papacy. The succession to all clerical offices is to be in his hands alone, after carefully effacing all means of living from every other source! Never was tyranny so accentuated as in this wild and wicked dream.

If such be the polity, what are the principles? Mr. A. answers: — "An apparatus of expedients for forestalling deep thinking by providing men with makeshift explanations, and even by preventing them from seeking any explanation" (p. 39); "a system of universal science, professing to educe a philosophy from observed phenomena, but in reality preceding science by an à priori dogmatic philosophy, and limiting research in science to such points as could be made to illustrate that philosophy" (p. 41). "Law" is assumed to mean the same thing in morals, as in matter, so that men are no more responsible agents than the planets: a conclusion which is justly said to be facilitated by the assumption of certain principles, the most extraordinary ever passed by sane men as enunciated by a sane man. First: in the positive state of mind, man properly speaking, that is, the individual, does not exist, or is only a pure abstraction; what is real is humanity. Secondly: society is an organism; not an organisation merely, but an organism. Thirdly: in society no such thing as rights exist, only duties. The word [or notion,] 'rights' must be banished from morals, just like the word 'causes' from philosophy" (p. 42).

Mr. A. thus illustrates the superficial absurdity of Comtism, which allows only phenomena and laws to be studied. "You see a mail coach, you are to note its appearance, length, breadth, height, colour, and so forth. Farther, you are to search for its law — eight miles an hour, or nine, or ten. Having learned these, you have learned all that a thing like you was made to learn. Dare not to assume that the appearance, though a perfectly trustworthy index of a coach, is not the coach, and never professed to be. The coach itself, remember, is a phenomenon, an appearance. Dare not to say that the very use of the appearance is to make you aware of the presence of much that does not appear, and to remind you of the existence of many things not here present. Dare not to say that the phenomenon tells you of a post-office, a correspondence, a commerce, a community, a legislation, and an Executive Head. Perhaps you may reply: Not to tell me of anything but its shapes, colours, sections, and the law of velocity, would be to put myself in the place of the dog who stares at the show. Even he, after he has heard it several times, knows more, knows better, than that the law of the coach lies in any rule of proportion between the rate of velocity and the horse-power. Of such rule he may know nothing; but he does know that the law of the coach is in the coachman, who no sooner sets foot on the step than off bounds the dog, anticipating velocity as the result of command. The village boy knows that if the law of the coach lies in the coachman, the law of the coachman lies in the Postmaster-General, and the law of the Postmaster-General in the Sovereign. But neither dog nor boy could know what they do know, were the rules of Comtism the law of even animal mind. It is perfectly true that in practice the rule laid down is not observed by Comte or anyone else; but that does not recall the laying of it down, nor prevent the attempt to work according to it from bridling the movement of mind and warping its direction" (pp. 43, 44).

The truth is that Positivism, far from real progress, is a retrograde movement, so extreme in principle that the human mind can be made to sink no lower, with a bombastic veil of words to hide its sores and rags. What is Comte's "Law of the Three States"? That by invariable necessity the human mind in every one of our principal conceptions, in every branch of our knowledge, passes successively through three different theoretic states: first, the theological or fictitious state; secondly, the metaphysical or abstract state; thirdly, the scientific or positive state. In the first stage the mind studies the nature of things with their causes, originating or final; in the second, or transition stage, the mind replaces supernatural agents by abstract forces, real entities inherent in different things; in the positive stage, all is renounced save the pursuit of their invariable relations of succession and similitude, i.e., phenomena and laws. Comtism will have you to ask, not Why, but How only. You are simply to rank each particular under its class, the height of knowledge! and alone true!! Classing a thing is all you are to know or seek; though it really supposes knowledge of the thing and of classification before you can class it with certainty. It is a mere cheat of infidelity, child of the revolution which was the monstrous reaction from popery.

Mr. A. shows clearly that the assumption of the three is folly. For, first, it is untrue that the Three States are universal, many branches of knowledge not passing successively through these stages. Next, they are not necessary, being not universal. Thirdly, they are therefore not necessarily successive. All, as far as true, may concur simultaneously, or they may never all three succeed or coexist. They are not axioms, but unfounded. And Positivism, the desired result, is just limitation to the lowest degree of knowledge, an absolute interdict on all below the surface or above us in time or for eternity, the exclusion of all truth beyond the senses or the mind's inferences, save on the laws of phenomena. It supposes a race without a Why, without a responsible soul yet more, and most of all without God. It is the materialism of Lucretius, of Epicurus, of the most audacious evil-workers among men. The sophistry of its living English representative, Mr. Harrison, is well laid bare in this book. He, too, is not open, replying to Sir Fitzjames Stephen that "There is no godhead now in humanity." Did he not know that his master laid down (and no Pope ever had or claimed such infallibility) that humanity is a goddess to be worshipped only through her best organs, which to a man are mother, wife, and daughter, to a woman father, husband, and son? No doubt it is the language of Bedlam; but Mr. H. as a Comtist is not free to repudiate it.

Thus Paris is "the metropolis of the regenerated Occident"; and "the august functionary who presides over that everlasting see, governing his clergy everywhere, and directing all nations," is to receive £2,400, besides allowances for his ecumenical administration, with four national Superiors, presiding over the Italian, Spanish, German, and British "churches." The French have the High Priest himself (the highest elsewhere being those four Provincials), who more autocratic than the Pope nominates his own successor, now a M. Pierre Lafitte. if the four are not unanimous, the opinion is to be taken of the 2,000 "deans," or heads of as many "Sacred Colleges." Each college consists of seven priests and three vicars, and stands besides a temple of humanity, surrounded by a "sacred grove," where, selected by a judgment conducted seven years after death by the priests, lie the dead canonised, i.e., counted worthy of incorporation with the Goddess of Humanity. The priest ordainable at 42 is entitled to £480, besides travelling expenses, but must renounce private property and earn nothing else; also must be married, but, if widowed, abides so for life. The Vicars receive £240 a year, only preach or teach by dispensation, enter at 35, and fall under the same laws of property and marriage as the priests. The Aspirants are unlimited in number, not younger than 28, and receive £120 a year; but their giving up property is provisional, and they exercise no spiritual functions. The clergy include medical work, and all the social organs of intellectual life, even coinage, regulation of measures, etc. This hierarchy is to be shortly. Before the end of the nineteenth century France is to be divided into 17 small republics; Scotland, Ireland, and Wales are to be separated from England; and the, like everywhere.

The Patriciat and the Prolétaires compose the new temporal power, for which words of Comte Mr. A. substitutes capitalists and working men. But our readers may well be spared more of this sort of trash.