Universal Brotherhood Path April 1901

THE UNIVERSE A LIVING SOUL H. T. Edge

Our philosophy rejects the dead mechanical view of the Universe and Nature fostered by modern science, and favors the far more widespread, ancient, and reasonable notion of the Universe being a conscious and intelligent Soul. The mechanical way of regarding Nature, which has grown up under the auspices of modern physical science, is to be regarded as a particular phase of human thought peculiar to the periods of material prosperity. Modern science has grown up in such a period, and the commercialism, luxury, individualism, and general ugliness and want of idealism of our civilization have led to the sceptical and materialistic theories which alone such circumstances can engender.

It would seem more natural that man, being himself conscious and intelligent, should infer a similar consciousness and intelligence for the universe of which he is a part; rather than resort to such abstract unrealities as "force" and "atoms" for an explanation of the workings of nature. In fact our own mind is the one positive and indisputable fact that we have from which to start our speculations, whereas the premises of modern physics are mere abstractions having no real existence. Hence the auto-mechanical theory of the universe hangs in midair and has no root in fact; whereas the theory that Nature is conscious is based on the ultimate fact of our own consciousness.

The absurdity of the materialistic position becomes more obvious when these reasons go the length of trying to explain the phenomena of human thought and feeling in terms of their "force" and "matter;" for then they become involved in a vicious circle of reasoning which represents the atoms of the brain engaged in mechanically weaving a theory about themselves.

Considerations like the above can very easily show us that materialistic science is based on abstractions, and that its inferences lead to contradiction and absurdity. This demonstration has been made fully and in detail in books dealing with that special subject, (1) and need not be more fully entered into here. But the results that such a mistaken view inevitably leads to are even more indicative of its falsity. These results are to be found in many of the crying evils in our midst today. For instance: the horrors of the vivisection room may be traced to the wrong notions with regard to the body and the nature of vitality, which lead to the attempt to discover the laws of life by mechanical operations and scrutiny of the material structure; and to the hardened and blunted state of the mind which makes all questions of sympathy, kindness and respect for intelligent life subservient to a morbid intellectual curiosity, The exaggerated worship of money and of all material comforts that it brings and the sacrifice of all art and beauty to a hideous "utilitarianism" are the outcome of this perverted materialistic view of life. In short, materialism tends rapidly towards ugliness and meanness, towards doubt and uncertainty, towards dreariness and its accompaniment of sensual excess; and away from the inspiring, the poetical, and the beautiful. We educate our children to these materialistic ideas and then wonder why their conduct takes color therefrom and why they lack the reverence of their parents. The truth is that no one dares to live consistently with such ideas, or all basis for morality would be lost. No arguments for virtue and self-sacrifice can be drawn from the postulates of modern scepticism; and so we unconsciously and inconsistently cling to the principles of conduct that are derived from an older and more spiritual philosophy of life, and whose rightness we recognize though we may have forgotten their rationale. In other words our conduct shows that we do not believe in the nonsense we teach, and we often act, in spite of ourselves, as men who are divine and know it.

It is natural to children, and to all minds that have not been tinctured with civilized artificiality of thought, to look upon nature as alive and sentient. Ancient literature shows us that most people have seen in Nature intelligent powers and beings, where we descry only "blind forces" whatever these may be. Certainly it takes a cultivated mind to conceive of forces acting blindly and of themselves, like our forces of attraction, heat, etc. Intelligent action, volition, will, desire, are easy to understand; we feel them in ourselves. Where we see design we should infer the presence of a mind; and where we see motion and growth, we should infer volition and conscious life. Otherwise we must invent abstractions like "force" and "affinity" that have no actual meaning.

The true philosophy then depicts the Universe as a mighty Soul, what is visible, being the body, organs and functions thereof, just as our own body is the visible manifestation of our own Soul. Every tree and plant is alive and has a consciousness, though that consciousness is different from ours, just as the form is different. It is not very unfamiliar even to modern speculation to suppose intelligence in plants, so obvious is the absurdity of trying to account for their behavior on any other theory. But how can a line be drawn anywhere between what we may choose to consider conscious life and what blind force, between intelligence and whatever else science substitutes for it? Why cannot the very stones and soil be alive and intelligent? Why not the waves and the winds, and above all the sun and the stars. If part of the universe is ensouled, must not the other part be so, too? And if not, in what other condition can it be?

No sane and reasonable philosophy of existence can tolerate such abstractions as chance, destiny, affinity, and the other mysterious words used to denote materialistic substitutes for mind and will. The only conception that harmonizes with sane and consistent philosophy of life is that of an intelligent Universe, of a great World-Soul, of which our own souls are part; of a universal Intelligence in which we partake; of an omnipresent Will from which our own wills derive their force.

Surely the all-pervading order, beauty, and design of the Universe compels the belief in a Mind and an intelligent will behind it. Any other theory results in the substitution of meaningless words like the terms of science for words like "mind" and "purpose" which everybody understands.

But there is no need, in acknowledging the existence of a universal Intelligence, to accept along with it all the theological dogmas which any particular religious tradition may entwine around it; nor to suffer our conceptions of eternal power and wisdom to be narrowed/and dwarfed by the stunted notions of meaner minds. Let us learn the grandeur of the creative Intelligence from the results which we see and feel manifested all around us.

FOOTNOTE:

1. See Stallo's Concepts of Modern Physics and H. P. Blavatsky's Writings. (return to text)


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