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So far, then, we acquiesce; but when he proceeds to tell us what our answer must be, we demur. How is Theism to say that space arose? It is to say that "space was be made in the same manner that matter was made." So! But let us save our interjections, however staggered we may be by this ready-made creed, for Spencer immediately adds, "But the impossibility of conceiving this is so manifest that no one dares to assert it." Theism dare not give the only answer open to it! Truly our philosopher does speak us comfortably, for it appears a foregone conclusion that Theism can answer nothing, or at best (or at worst) can only think an answer it is afraid to utter: convicted, i.e. of knowing its answer to be none; thus before gods and men denuded of its miserable rags of lies, and told to its face that it is a conscious imposition. It is something to know how we are thought of, even if the best construction of the criticism point only to a logical incapacity. But why then does no one dare on the part of Theism to assert this origin of space? Because its origin would imply its previous non-existence, which is as inconceivable as its creation. From which it follows, that not this supposed theistic idea only, but any idea of the origin of space must be inconceivable, for the argument does not apply to the making of space "in the same manner" as matter merely, but to the formation of it at all: "The non-existence of space cannot by any mental effort be imagined." See the argument here in plain words: space never had a beginning; but Theism professes to teach the beginning of things; therefore Theism must tell us the beginning of space! By what right does Spencer affirm that space never had a beginning, and in the same breath demand that Theism to be true must account for its beginning? Because his fundamental assumption is that the beginnings of things are essentially unknowable, and he would here make Theism face one unaccountable verity, and so acknowledge its defeat. But to some the retort will always be open. If Spencer knows that space never had a beginning, why should he hinder, or what can possibly prevent, theists from knowing the same? His argument, it appears, proves too much: it is a settled fact among us, 66 one of the most familiar truths, that the idea of space is not for a moment to be got rid of," therefore Theism, though a professed account of the origin of things, is held exempt from accounting for space. If Theism be a theory of the beginning of things, most assuredly it never can be held accountable for those that we know never had a beignning. If Spencer merely says, pointing to space, "Theist, account for this," we are willing to try; but if he says, "We know the account of it already," we answer, "Then, you don't need us to tell you; and it would be honourable either to profess no knowledge, or forbear to make parrots of us by a useless repetition."
But supposing the question still open, are theists bound to answer it as Spencer says they must, by affirming that "space was made in the same manner that matter was made?" No more than they are shut up to the supposed alternative of creation from nothing. Between these two positions-"space is eternal," and, "space is a created entity"—is there not this medium, that space is no entity at all, but a result of creation-the inevitable appearance of extension produced by the impact of contrasted material particles? Were there no such material particles, what should we know of space? Nay, if they were not juxtaposed, were it not for their continuity of position, what should we know of space? Were there a vacuum between our earth and the sun, should we see the sun? Assuredly not: i.e. the distance between our earth and the sun would be blank; in other words, there would to us be no such distance, or, plainly, no space. But would there not be "an immeasurable void," for which, in 'the words of Spencer, "explanation would be needed as much as now?" And pray, what is "an immeasurable void?" Surely, a metaphysical bugbear, which Spencer ought to have "got rid of" before now: the argument is entirely unworthy of him. "An immeasurable void" is manifest nonsense: it presents no idea to man's mind. If it were a "void," we could know nothing of it, and how then could we know it to be "immeasurable?" If we could not know this, how could we know what it was, or know it to be a "void" at all? And if we could not know that it was anything, would it not be to us nothing? Precisely what "an immeasurable void" isa metaphysical nonentity, the very nothingness of nothing. I need not say how much of an idea "nothing" gives us.
Yes, but if the universe were non-extstent, would there not, as a matter of fact, be left this immeasurable void? I answer that if the universe were non-existent there would, as a matter of fact, be to us positively nothing. But is this "nothing" not space? By what right, I reply, do you transfer and attach to "nothing" an idea generated, and only to be generated, by and amongst continuous material particles? Surely space as known to us is measurable extension, the very antithesis of "an immeasurable void?" In what sense of space and time known to us are they predicable of an immeasurable void? Clear it is that Spencer here transfers his present conception of things, bounded as it is by the adhesion thereto of nature with its inseparable conditions of space and time, transfers this conception back to a supposititious void, leading into it, from his present experience, what as a matter of fact is not there. He may tell us that he cannot "get rid of" the idea of space as existing were the universe
absent; but this only shows us how impregnated even the mind of a philosopher may be with educational prejudices, and how difficult it is even for the best minds to "get rid of" the radical bias so produced, and of which John Stuart Mill warned them with repeated urgency. For how do our ideas of space and time arise? What should we know of space were it not for compacted particles or co-existence? and what of time were it not for movement among these particles, or sequence? It is surely only from their co-existence that the idea of extension is derived, and surely only from their sequence that we derive the idea of duration? That extension and that duration are to us existent only by and through these particles and their movements, have no reality for us apart from these, and thus are by no means the pre-existent entities which the bias of education too readily assumes them. They are appearances resulting from and accompanying the generation and distribution of matter; and the inconceivability of their non-existence is also an appearance or fallacy of the senses, the product of our inhering experiences of nature with her conditions of space and time, an appearance which a true idea would help even a philosopher to "get rid of," or at least prevent him from attributing to "nothing" two of the essential conditions of matter. Again, then, what are space and time? They are abstract names, or mental signs, for the human idea of THE WHOLE extension and duration resulting from the compacted particles, and the movements, of matter. The process is three-fold and the abstraction two-fold: the basis of fact exists in the compaction (co-existence) and movements (sequence) of matter; which in turn produce the ideas of extension and duration, or the first plane of abstractions from things; which abstractions (of extension and duration) are the bases of the last or highest generalizations called space and time. The only things or entities are material particles.1 Whatever, then, "an immeasurable void" may be, it is certainly not space as we know it; and if any still have a difficulty in getting rid of the fallacy here, I would ask them whether they think that "void " contains time also, whether they think that too existed before creation; and, if not time, why space? Are the two not in the same category.
But one step more. If man could, prior to experience of the conditions of matter, suppose "an immeasurable void," would space and time be natural conceptions to him then? Would they be even conceivable? From what could the conceptions arise? There would be no this or that by which to tell a consequent here and there: there
1 Some will say that these, too, are ideas. It is true that if they were not we could know nothing of them; but the text is sufficiently accurate. To discuss the ultimate philosophy is not here our province.
would be no means by which the conception could enter his mind, and the difficulty now of "getting rid of" space would be exchanged for the difficulty of conceiving it-such poor creatures of imperative circumstance are we. The conception of space, I say, would be a necessary impossiblity of his thought, as inconceivable as it is now (apparently) indestructible. And as to time, where would be his measuring line for it? Could we have any idea of time where there is no revolution of solid bodies? Truly, only in so far as you bring back nature into your thought of this-shall we say "void" or nonentity?—would or does the conception of space or of time assert itself, or indeed any conception at all. For who, in truth, can have any conception of nothing?
Before the creation of matter, then, one sees that there was, in the ultimate plane of life, nothing. Show us that space and time are anything else than our highest abstractions for the whole of that extension and duration recognized in part in certain juxtaposed and moving bodies near us, and it may be thereafter admissible to speak of what existed before anything existed. To read backward the characteristics of material extension as the characteristics of “an immeasurable void" or nothing, is an illustration of a fallacy too common to be wondered at except in Spencer. Thus theists escape his sword a second time. By their theory, matter came not from nothing, but from God, the primal substance; and by their theory, space is not a pre-existent entity, but a product of creation as perceived by mind. And these are all the arguments that Spencer has to urge against the Doctrine of Creation.
It would appear then, that this position of Theism, though assailed, like its primary position of a Personal God, by such a foe, and with such forces, is in reality defensible enough. The sum of Spencer's argument against that primary position is, the inconceivability of self-existence and the consequent inconceivability of a self-existent One. For those who have thought it worth while to study the article on the conceivability of a Personal God, this argument of Spencer's against the fundamental half of Theism has, we trust, been there answered. They will see that underived existence is the antithetic correlative of derived existence, as the infinite is of the finite, or the absolute of the conditioned; and that as, by Spencer's own showing, correlatives are both conceivable else neither could be, we have a conception of self-existence also, as of the Infinite, though indefinite and merely symbolic. In this way, Spencer's argument, touching the very life of Theism, halts; nay, the limb will not move, for its leading muscles are severed. The Doctrine of a Personal God is already shown conceivable; and as to the
Doctrine of Creation here considered, what are the arguments which assail it? These, namely-That matter could not be made from nothing; and, That space could not be so created as matter is thus supposed to be! Neither of which, verily, did ever a rational theist, think of doubting; to both of which we do give our most unfeigned assent and consent, rejoicing to find the fallacies of a defunct theology so clearly exposed, and not displeased to point out the deeper fallacies which would cut true Theism to the roots. As to both, we would cast their cords from us: Theism is by no means to be bound by these bands of death, whether of the older theology or of the newer science.
At any rate there is hope for the future in this, that Science and true Theism are one in burying the dead theological past, though by no common consent, from opposite points of view, yet from not unlike reasons. But Fate itself could not alter the fact that over that grave they have met, coming from the apparently opposite poles of spiritual and natural truth. Shall we call this accident, or shall we call it Providence? There they stand, at least one blind, the other seeing.
In one other thing there is hope-the radical agreement, in the deepest or fundamental principles of reason, between these two-the Church, the true Church, and Science.
In one thing also there is work-the pointing out, the preparing, the welding together, the making consistent, harmonious, complete, these fundamental principles of reason on which alike the Church and Science are essentially based, and already unconsciously agree.
Being Selections from the Unpublished Writings of the Rev. O. P. HILLER. Edited by FREDERICK ALLEN. London: James Spiers. 1876.
THOSE Who know the writings, and especially those who have listened to the preaching of the amiable and talented author of these sermons and essays, selected from the remains which he left behind him, will prize them as the sweet utterances of one who, though dead, yet speaketh. The circumstances connected with his removal from earth to heaven, for which he was so well prepared, lend the interest of a tender melancholy to the perusal of these productions of his pen, which will help us to enter more fully and lovingly into their spirit and meaning. When we mention that the volume is published for the benefit of his widow and her children, we give an additional motive to purchase and circulate the work. We may say, in conclusion, that Mr. Allen, who justly admired the talents and character of the author, has done his part with great judgment.