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§ 1. The Indifference of Criticism rejected.

IT has been often said that, in order to true inquiry, we must take nothing for granted.2222   [Voraussetzungslosigkeit: “freedom from presuppositions.”] Of late this statement has been reiterated anew, with special reference to the exposition of the Life of Christ. At the outset of our work we refuse to meet such a demand. To comply with it is impracticable; the very attempt contradicts the sacred laws of our being. We cannot entirely free ourselves from presuppositions, which are born with our nature, and which attach to the fixed course of progress in which we ourselves are involved. They control our consciousness, whether we will or no; and the supposed freedom from them is, in fact, nothing else but the exchange of one set for another. Some of these prepossessions, springing from a higher necessity, founded in the normal order of the universe, and derived from the eternal laws2323   Of which, says Sophocles, beautifully,    ὧν ὄλυμπος
πατὴρ μόνος, οὐδέ νιν θνατὰ
φύοις ἀνερων ἔτικτεν, ὀυδὲ
μάν ποτε λάθα κατακοιμάσει
μέγας ἐν τούτοις θεὸς
οὺδὲ γηράσκει.
of the Creator, constitute the very ground and support of our nature. From such we must not free ourselves.

But we are ever in peril of exchanging these legitimate sovereigns of our spiritual being, against which nothing but arbitrary will can rebel, for the prepossessions of a self-created or traditional prejudice, which have no other than an arbitrary origin, and which rule by no better title than usurpation. But for this peril, the way of the science of life would be as safe as the way of life itself. Life moves on in the midst of such diversified and ever-commingling prepossessions, especially in our own time, which, torn by contrarieties (contrarieties, however, which subserve a higher wisdom by balancing each other), forms the period of transition to a new and better creation. On the one hand we behold efforts to bring the human mind again into bondage to the host of arbitrary prejudices which had long enough enslaved it; and 2on the other, we see a justifiable protest against these prejudices running into the extreme of rejecting even those holy prepossessions which ought to rule our spiritual being, and which alone can offer it true freedom.

What, then, is the duty of Science? Must she dismiss all prepossessions, and work out her task by unassisted thought? Far from it. From nothing nothing comes; the Father of spirits alone is a Creator. Empty indeed is that enthusiasm which seeks only the mere sound of truth—abstract, formal truth.2424   It is one of Pascal’s best thoughts, that “On se fait une idóle de la vérité même; car la vérité hors de la charité n’est pas Dieu; c’est son image, et une idóle, qu’il ne faut point aimer, ni adorer, et encore moins faut-il aimer ou adorer son contraire, qui est le men songe. This absolute abnegation of all prepossessions would free the soul from those holy ties by which alone it can connect itself with its source—the source of all truth—and comprehend it by means of its revelations in humanity. The created spirit cannot deny its dependence upon God, the only creative Spirit; and it is its obvious destination to apprehend the revelation of God in creation, in nature, and in history. So, the work of science can only be to distinguish the prepossessions which an inward necessity constrains us to recognize, from such as are purely voluntary. Indeed, the healthfulness of our spiritual life depends upon our ridding ourselves of the latter, and, at the same time, yielding in lowliness and singleness of heart to the former, as the law of the Creator, as the means by which light from heaven may be conveyed to our minds. All that the intellect has to do in regard to these last is to demonstrate their necessity, and to show that our being contradicts itself in rebelling against them.

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