In recent years science has revolutionized the traditional concept of the universe, providing new vistas for philosophy. The line of demarcation between what is spiritual and what is material now calls for re-examination and, possibly, elimination.
Is the world we live in destined either for the breeding of human worms or Godlike men? Does it have a dual purpose — part good and part bad, absolutely material or absolutely spiritual?
Around us we see a great variety of living forms and shapes, such as rocks, plants, trees, fish, animals, which we have been led to regard as being material in nature. The question arises, is it reasonable to suppose that God created anything of a material nature? Common sense tells us that matter cannot create Spirit: that an effect cannot produce its cause. Are we right in assuming, as we have hitherto done, that Spirit can create matter: that spiritual causation can produce a material effect? The Law of Nature is that all seed shall bear fruit after its kind. An acorn produces an oak which yields acorns, and acorns only. A fig tree produces figs. Figs do not grow on grape vines. Dogs breed dogs, like produces like, and from this law there is no exception. Granted that Spirit is the First Great Cause, then it is only reasonable to expect Spirit to produce something of a spiritual nature after its own order. What we have to discover is the transition of Spirit into this so-called matter, and a clue is supplied by what is known as vibration.
The ancients used to teach that the universe was created and sustained in the same way as sound and music are created, by the power of rhythm. Modern science has reverted to this idea, substituting the word "vibration," the meaning of which is in many respects identical. We know that everything within and around us is in a state of vibration. Were vibrations to cease the universe would dissolve. Density of matter is caused by vibrations of low frequency. Water, for instance, is a fluid substance which when frozen becomes a dense mass of ice, and when exposed to heat evaporates in steam, disappearing in the air. At one end of the scale is a dense mass, at the other end a substance that has become invisible.
A similar phenomenon is noticeable in sound. The vibrations of sound must be as numerous as twenty-four per second, or the ear would not be able to unite them in a continuous sound. Similarly, if sound vibrations exceed 35,000 per second they fail to make any sensation upon the ear. The fact that we can detect sounds only within this vibratory range does not justify us in saying that no other sounds exist; indeed, mechanical devices are now demonstrating that sounds exist both below and above man's normal range of hearing. By the same token it is wise to admit that matter also may exist with such a high vibratory rate as to render it invisible.
Seventy years ago Lord Kelvin declared that matter is made up of thought-forces. Scientific research since his day has supported his assertion. In the field of radio-active substance, energy and substance are interchangeable: energy transmutes itself into substance, and substance into energy. Sir James Jeans says the tendency of modern physics is to resolve the whole universe into bottled-up waves which we call matter, and unbottled waves which we call energy. He adds that in all probability these waves and the ether itself exist only in our minds; but their objectivity to us arises from the fact that they subsist in the mind of the Eternal Spirit.
Had Sir James based his theory on Holy Writ he would inevitably have come to the same conclusion. The pages of Scripture rotate around the concept that both man and the universe subsist as an idea in the mind of God. All evidence points to the fact that the universe is a spiritual system. What we call matter is thought solidified. It is Spirit assuming form and shape through being reduced to a very low vibration. This is not a denial of the existence of a material universe. One may claim the universe to be a spiritual system, and at the same time admit what appears to be the existence of matter and material laws which are a part of the vast system, and necessary to it.
Nothing in Scripture is more definite than the assertion that man is made "in the image of God," a spiritual being, reproducing the Divine Nature on the scale of the individual; that he is born into a world of unreality, in which "things which are seen are temporal," on which he gazes as "through a glass darkly."
The universe appears to be both objective and subjective. It swims before our eyes as an objective form in space; it subsists in our minds as an idea in whose light we examine the objective form. It is a world of consciousness, a world of ideas expressed in form. Without the idea the form could not exist. The ancient Egyptians, who probed far deeper into this problem than we have done, used to say, "The idea of the thing represents its soul." Plato in his study of Archetypal Ideas advances the same theory, namely: Every external fact must have a spiritual origin, an internal energizing principle, which causes it to exist in its particular form.
Ancient philosophy affirmed that the universe is sustained by two principles: the principle of mind and the principle of non-mind, which is called matter. Around this idea of dualism conflict has raged through all the centuries. Parmenides held that mind and matter are identical, that matter is the product of mind. Aristotle taught that mind inheres in matter. The Epicureans believed that mind has power to influence matter through ideas impressed upon it; while the Stoics regarded mind as similar to matter, distinct from matter only in degree, being of finer texture. Paracelsus held that mind could control matter and would ultimately master it. Berkeley maintained that mind only is real, that if there were no consciousness there could be no matter. Locke saw a dualism between mind and matter, each existing as real things, but interacting upon each other. Herbert Spencer declared that "matter, motion, and force are not the reality, but symbols of reality." "To speak of matter as something existing by itself is mere mythology," declared Max Muller. "The universe, as known to us, consists wholly of mind, and matter is a doubtful and uncertain inference of the human intelligence," wrote Grant Allen. Spinoza saw in mind and matter two aspects of one Divine Substance running parallel to each other, yet independent of everything, for it contains everything. To Spinoza both mind and matter are spiritual. The entire universe is God, and God is the universe. That giant among philosophers, Immanuel Kant declared:
This world's life is only an appearance, a sensuous image of the pure spiritual life, and the whole world of sense only a picture swimming before our present knowing faculties like a dream, and having no reality in itself. For if we should see things and ourselves as they are, we should see ourselves in a world of spiritual natures with which our entire real relation neither began at birth nor ends with the body's death.
Here we find Kant, the philosopher and Jeans, the scientist, backed by the most profound thinkers of the ages, with one voice declaring that the phenomenon we call matter has no reality in itself; it exists objectively because of its relatedness to time and space, while subsisting solely as an idea in our minds.
A philosopher like other men is the product of his age, his ideas colored by the prevailing thought of his age; thus it should excite no surprise to find in our materialistic twentieth century that the spiritual view of the universe shared by Kant and Spinoza is at present under an eclipse, and that the school of Realism, of Positivists and Pragmatists is in the ascendant. Only an intellectual giant like Kant can insulate himself from the spirit of his age. Only a God-intoxicated man like Spinoza would prefer expulsion from the synagogue in order to express the vision of his soul. The belief in an anthropomorphic God, which led many philosophers to ignore the existence of God, has also had a blighting effect on philosophy. Thus early Christianity taught that matter is the source of all evil; while medieval Christianity, in order to exalt the authority of Mother Church, taught that the human mind is full of error, therefore untrustworthy (which is to some extent correct).
So long have we been accustomed to regard matter as "solid" that it is difficult for us fully to realize the modern scientific concept of it. Imagination has to be stretched to the limit to embrace the idea that matter, far from being solid, is full of vast empty spaces.
Astronomers tell us that there are 100,000,000,000 suns in our galaxy alone, that there are at least 1,000,000,000,000 galaxies, and that these galaxies exist in space extending outward from our earth 12,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles. A microscopic view reveals similar unmeasurable spaces where protons, neutrons, and mesons operate within the nucleus of an atom. The size of the particles in proportion to the distance at which they rotate within the nucleus is said to be as great as the distance from the earth to the sun. Sir Oliver Lodge, lecturing to a Birmingham audience, made this comparison. "The chemical atom," he said, "is as small in comparison to a drop of water as a cricket-ball is compared to the globe of the earth; and yet this atom is as large in comparison to one of its constituent particles as Birmingham town hall is to a pin's head."
Mathematicians may figure on paper such vast distances, but none can comprehend them. The mind of man reels and staggers as he attempts to do so, while terror seizes hold of him, making comprehension impossible. To quote Sir James Jeans,
We find the universe terrifying because of its vast meaningless distances, terrifying because of its inconceivably long vistas of time which dwarf human history to the twinkling of an eye, terrifying because of our extreme loneliness, and because of the material insignificance of our home in space — a millionth part of a grain of sand out of all the seas of the world.
Knowledge of such vast distances, although valuable in scientific research, valuable also in exciting the imagination, is actually meaningless. It is an attempt to discover by the senses what the senses are incapable of comprehending. If the universe were built of the fabric we call matter it might come within our comprehension. The mystery surrounding matter suggests its spiritual nature. Pure Spirit it certainly is not, but spiritual it must be, whether it exists as an objective symbol of reality, or as a universal concept.
According to Pope's well-known aphorism, "The universe is one stupendous whole, whose body nature is, and God the soul." If the universe were one stupendous whole of disparate parts, some parts might conceivably be material and others spiritual, but the Law of Unity vetoes such an idea. If God is the soul of the universe, and Nature the body of the universe, "the living visible garment of God," as Carlyle defines it, then God must dwell in both soul and body, for nothing can exist, neither man nor mountain, plant nor planet, noumenon nor phenomenon, without the Spirit of God sustaining and indwelling it.
Back Issues Menu