Изображения страниц

it is not material; the actions of the body are qualified by good and evil only in proportion as they are actions of the spirit. Automatic or purely organic action, or the lower forms of mechanical action, cannot exhibit sensuality, or in any way call down blame or praise ; although according to the above metaphysicians, the deadest of things, for example, a stone, ought also to be the most vicious. But it is plain that the belief in matter, and in the necessary embodiment of the human spirit, has no bearing whatever upon the question of materialism considered in its moral relations. The only subject worth a moment's consideration is whether the persistent attribution of form, and body, and ultimately of mechanical and geometrical laws, to the human soul and spirit, does amount to materialism, or not. And here we at once answer that it does not. It is impossible to conceive matter without form,-impossible even for the most learned Aristotelian. Again, it is impossible to conceive form without substance,-impossible even to the Berkeleian and the Kantist.

“But materialism, as we understand it in the opprobrious sense, does not imply a belief in the formal and substantial existence of the mind (e.g. as a brain), but rather a predication of low and unworthy forms of the human essence.

“ Let us illustrate this by an example. If I ask you of the distinctive essence of Westminster Abbey, and you answer me that the stone of which it is built is that essence, I am in this case bound to accuse you pro tanto of materialism. For it is evidently the form of the Abbey, the architect's plan, which gives the building its individuality. The same stone might be ranged differently on other plans; but the same plan would continue the same in whatever latitude it was built, or with whatever materials. The very stone, it is true, has a form, and could you but see it in its intimate constitution, a stupendous form, but here its form is not made use of, excepting in so far as it lies at the root of the hardness, durability, &c., or the general properties, of the stone : conse uently it is the stone considered as mere matter, not as form, which enters into the construction of the Abbey. In every orderly gradation in which aught worthy to exist is founded and upraised, the subsidiary forms count but as matter to those above them, and these again, in their turn, as matter to others higher still; or to consider the descending scale, the highest forms enter into those beneath them, and group

them in their own manner; and the edifice or organ thus produced, enters into a lower series, and arranges its parts or matters into new groups; which thus become fresh forms capable of exerting corresponding operation upon other materials again; and 80 forth. Thus all things are indifferently matter, or form, according as they are circumstanced or viewed. And the only materialism for the understanding consists in attributing the operations of high forms to low and inadequate ones, i.e., to matter as a relative being. Thus, when the operations of the mind are said to depend upon the nervous pulp, we are at once struck with the materialistic animus of the expression. And why ?-simply because the construction of a pulp is felt to be lower than the form of the brain, which is the indubitable form and embodiment of the human faculties; and because the senses, to which the pulp is presented, are allowed to climb into that theoretical faculty by which the higher forms are discovered, and to insinuate that the pulpy appearance exhausts the reality, and that there is no wondrous order and mechanism penetrating the pulp, by which the brain is made receptive of its functions. In a word, it is not the bare annexation of form, quality, properties, space, and time, real or analogical, or matter either, to any subject, that can degrade it, but the misplacing of the various degrees of which these predicates consist, so that vegetable effects are assigned to the mineral, or animal effects to the vegetable, or human effects to animal organization, or lastly, divinity to nature."

Another early paper of Wilkinson's was one which earned him the friendship of the American writer Henry James, whose son, the novelist, is more popularly known than himself. Coleridge wrote in the margin of the Economia Regni Animalis, and De Cultu et Amore Dei, of Swedenborg, certain notes upon their author. Upon these Wilkinson wrote a string of comments, and Heraud put in the whole, the passages of Swedenborg, the notes, and the comments, as an article in his magazine in 1841. Coleridge's notes were given to Wilkinson by C. A. Tulk, who was about that time M.P. for Poole. Wilkinson had been introduced early in life to the writings of Swedenborg by his maternal uncle, who, with the late William Newbery, the publisher, introduced him to the Committee of the Swedenborg Society, of which he became a member, as also of the sub-committee for promoting the issue of a complete edition of Swedenborg's works on a standard page.

It might be thought that for a Swedenborgian to comment upon Coleridge would be to make moonshine still moonshinier, but strangely enough the Wilkinsonian tendency was to the concrete rather than toward absolute metaphysics. He thus discourses upon the system of Swedenborg, opposing Coleridge:—“Man is for ever an embodied creature. ... Abstractions are thus forced to annex themselves to substances—all things spiritual and natural are treated as objects or subjects indifferently—and subject and object, both equally as forms. Metaphysics proper have, of course, no place in the system, which is a doctrine of living form, and not a statement concerning life. Its very discipline excludes all questions of entity and quiddity.” Wilkinson was careful, however, to state that the system of the great seer was

not to be confounded with materialism, as it recognises a series of forms above nature, which are the subjects and objects of the spiritual man, attributing all life, and every form in nature, to the influx of these spiritual forms .... it makes no negations, but .. carries those conditions, that is those things which we know to be the means of our finiteness, in their least limited and most plastic form, into the immortal finite spirit." Judge Coleridge, it is said, was much aggrieved by these criticisms of the poetic philosopher, stating that it was a pity people could not let the solitary Swedenborg and the solitary Coleridge alone, without intervening between them.

In 1843 Wilkinson published his English translation of Swedenborg's Regnum Animale, which, with a weighty introduction, wherein he sets forth the claims of Swedenborg's scientific works upon the attention of modern science, cost him five years' labour. In this book is included also a very full record of the old Latin anatomists, a work which in itself implies a vast amount of research.

At this period, and since about 1839, Swedenborg's works had become the chief line of Wilkinson's life as regards literary work. His first translation was of a small work on “The Last Judgment;" following the Regnum Animale appeared, in 1845 and 1846, an English translation of the Economia Regni Animalis, a work which Emerson has described as “an honour to human nature.' The translation, in this instance, was originally by the Rev. A. Clissold, but the revision was so thorough as to make it almost a new work; and the preface is most elaborate and full of thought.

The generality so prefer the trivial to the recondite, that it is pro. bable that the subjects upon which Dr. Wilkinson has chosen to discourse have prevented his having due literary recognition as a master of English prose. The following, from his introduction to the Economy of the Animal Kingdom, may serve as a specimen of his style.

“Accordingly he [Swedenborg] gives no bond to reconstruct society; nor professes to be able to drag the secrets of truth into day by an unerring or mechanical method ; but having obtained a sufficiency of doctrinal instruments for present use, and mindful that active life is the best lot of man, and the finest means of improvement, he builds such an edifice as his materials and opportunities permit, and arrives at such an end as a good man may be satisfied with. The perfecting of instruments he knows must be successive, but that the use of them must not be postponed, and therefore he lays out his possessions to the best advantage, in the confidence that this is the true way to benefit posterity.”

The following passages from the same work will instance both philosophy and style :

“Reason is as the hand of man, but imagination is the palpus or tentaculum of animal nature. Reason beholds the same surfaces as imagination, only it does not stop with the surface, but penetrates to

the form and mechanism underlying the colour and shape of the object, being in fact that power which acknowledges the intrinsic solidity of nature."

“Great confusion has undoubtedly been introduced by regarding body as the same with matter. For body is the necessary ultimatum of each plane of creation, and thus there is a spiritual body as well as a natural body, and by parity of fact there is a spiritual world as well as a natural world : but matter is limited to the lowest plane, where alone it is identical with body. There is no matter in the spiritual world, but there is body notwithstanding, or an ultimate form which is less living than the interior forms ; which is the solid in relation to the fluid; the fibre and the skin and the membrane relatively to the living blood in its various degrees."

“ It is wrong therefore to attempt to transcend the fact of embodi. ment; the hope is mistaken that would lead us to endeavour thus after pure spirituality. The way to the pure spiritual is the moral, and the moral delights to exhibit itself in actions, and body is the theatre of actions, and by consequence the mirror and continent of the spiritual."

The following may be of help to some who are tempted to shrink back from the exercise of reasonable thought, for fear of the dangers to their peace of mind arising from the shifting sands of opinion: “We desire also to reassure those who, with every disposition to accept the truth, are tormented by a fear that scientific investigation will from time to time present new facts which are irreconcilable with their cherished principles. Let these remerh ber the Sabbath-day, which is a station of rest, as well as a point in progress, and in which, as here represented by the enjoyment of truth, affirmation has full scope, outward labour ceases, and the stranger that is within the gate—the experience which is not in perfect accord with the truth, or what is the same thing, the truth that is imperfectly embodied in experience-partakes the security and repose of the household. Now, such a Sabbath may be permanent notwithstanding our week-day toils. Or, to drop the metaphor, the hold on principles may be constantly maintained, and yet their application be constantly advancing. For the world is, and always was, in possession of numerous truths, respecting which the question occurs, not whether they are true but how they are true ? All science is but an analysis of the truths of the senses, and philosophy is a further analysis of the truths of science. Therefore both science and philosophy presuppose the general truth of that of which they discern the particulars and universals; for scepticism on this point would paralyze or annul them. Consequently, rest in principles is essentially necessary to progress in the understanding of them. Or, to put the matter in another light, principles themselves admit of modification; they may rise higher and become truer in proportion; since truth, like nature, allows of degrees : and in their

elevation they will appear dissimiliar to the lower correspondents from which they arise.” The idea of a Sabbath element of spiritual calm which should have its place in the very midst of the work day clash and turmoil, which also has its place, is a poetical and helpful one.

Strange as it may seem to those who would thoughtlessly class Swedenborg with Boehmen, and theosophists, gnostics, or transcendentalists; his influence upon his most eminent pupil is essentially an influence in the direction of the practical. And the reason is this: Swedenborg saw principles in a spiritual activity which reached down to the world we are in, and took form in it; these forms of our own life thus logically becoming the true study, not only of science, but of religion. It is the dissociation of practical and every-day facts of life from spiritual or mystic thought that has made the gulf, on one side of which is materialism, on the other false mysticism, mere contemplation, and empty metaphysics. No doubt the terminology of Swedenborg has stood in his way with modern students. It requires some persistence to pass through even Wilkinson's setting of Swedenborg's thoughts, and see that beneath their doctrinal form, they are at times both simple and philosophic. The following, for instance, will illustrate what we have asserted as to the tendency of really wholesome mysticism, if its eyes are not hooded by fanaticism, to come down to the realities immediately around us as the right field for work, and the present plane on which & healthy meliorism may expand its energies :

“The doctrine of influx involves the manner in which the lower substances, forms and forces of the body subsist, as they at first existed, from the higher and the highest, and in which the body itself subsists from the soul, as it at first existed, and the natural world from the spiritual. But there is not only an influx from within, but also from without; and by virtue of both, the body, which otherwise would be a mere power, is raised into an active force. The doctrine of Correspondence and Representation teaches that the natural sphere is the counterpart of the spiritual, and presents it as in a mirror; consequently, that the forms and processes of the body are images of the forms and activities of the soul, and when seen in the right order, bring them forth and declare them. It shows that nature is the type of which the spiritual world is the ante-type, and therefore is the first school for instruction in the realities of that which is living and eternal.”

This is from Wilkinson's introduction to his translation of the Animal Kingdom. The same practicality is more fully exemplified in his introduction to Swedenborg's work on the Infinite. This preface is really a treatise in itself, and to that part of it which treats of the present times as a mechanical age Emerson has confessed himself addicted. It will perhaps be startling to many to find mysticism claiming the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »