IT has been the endeavor in this narrative to group Edison's
Under these circumstances, organism must act in one or other of these two ways: it must either change slowly and continuously with the surroundings, paying cash for everything, meeting the smallest change with a corresponding modification so far as is found convenient; or it must put off change as long as possible, and then make larger and more sweeping changes.
Both these courses are the same in principle, the difference being only one of scale, and the one being a miniature of the other, as a ripple is an Atlantic wave in little; both have their advantages and disadvantages, so that most organisms will take the one course for one set of things and the other for another. They will deal promptly with things which they can get at easily, and which lie more upon the surface; those, however, which are more troublesome to reach, and lie deeper, will be handled upon more cataclysmic principles, being allowed longer periods of repose followed by short periods of greater activity.
Animals breathe and circulate their blood by a little action many times a minute; but they feed, some of them, only two or three times a day, and breed for the most part not more than once a year, their breeding season being much their busiest time. It is on the first principle that the modification of animal forms has proceeded mainly; but it may be questioned whether what is called a sport is not the organic expression of discontent which has been long felt, but which has not been attended to, nor been met step by step by as much small remedial modification as was found practicable: so that when a change does come it comes by way of revolution. Or, again (only that it comes to much the same thing), a sport may be compared to one of those happy thoughts which sometimes come to us unbidden after we have been thinking for a long time what to do, or how to arrange our ideas, and have yet been unable to arrive at any conclusion.
So with politics, the smaller the matter the prompter, as a general rule, the settlement; on the other hand, the more sweeping the change that is felt to be necessary, the longer it will be deferred.
The advantages of dealing with the larger questions by more cataclysmic methods are obvious. For, in the first place, all composite things must have a system, or arrangement of parts, so that some parts shall depend upon and be grouped round others, as in the articulation of a skeleton and the arrangement of muscles, nerves, tendons, etc., which are attached to it. To meddle with the skeleton is like taking up the street, or the flooring of one's house; it so upsets our arrangements that we put it off till whatever else is found wanted, or whatever else seems likely to be wanted for a long time hence, can be done at the same time. Another advantage is in the rest which is given to the attention during the long hollows, so to speak, of the waves between the periods of resettlement. Passion and prejudice have time to calm down, and when attention is next directed to the same question, it is a refreshed and invigorated attention-an attention, moreover, which may be given with the help of new lights derived from other quarters that were not luminous when the question was last considered. Thirdly, it is more easy and safer to make such alterations as experience has proved to be necessary than to forecast what is going to be wanted. Reformers are like paymasters, of whom there are only two bad kinds, those who pay too soon, and those who do not pay at all.
I HAVE now, perhaps, sufficiently proved my sympathy with the reluctance felt by many to tolerate discussion upon such a subject as the existence and nature of God. I trust that I may have made the reader feel that he need fear no sarcasm or levity in my treatment of the subject which I have chosen. I will, therefore, proceed to sketch out a plan of what I hope to establish, and this in no doubtful or unnatural sense, but by attaching the same meanings to words as those which we usually attach to them, and with the same certainty, precision, and clearness as anything else is established which is commonly called known.
As to what God is, beyond the fact that he is the Spirit and the Life which creates, governs, and upholds all living things, I can say nothing. I cannot pretend that I can show more than others have done in what Spirit and the Life consists, which governs living things and animates them. I cannot show the connection between consciousness and the will, and the organ, much less can I tear away the veil from the face of God, so as to show wherein will and consciousness consist. No philosopher, whether Christian or Rationalist, has attempted this without discomfiture; but I can, I hope, do two things: Firstly, I can demonstrate, perhaps more clearly than modern science is prepared to admit, that there does exist a single Being or Animator of all living things - a single Spirit, whom we cannot think of under any meaner name than God; and, secondly, I can show something more of the persona or bodily expression, mask, and mouthpiece of this vast Living Spirit than I know of as having been familiarly expressed elsewhere, or as being accessible to myself or others, though doubtless many works exist in which what I am going to say has been already said.
Aware that much of this is widely accepted under the name of Pantheism, I venture to think it differs from Pantheism with all the difference that exists between a coherent, intelligible conception and an incoherent unintelligible one. I shall therefore proceed to examine the doctrine called Pantheism, and to show how incomprehensible and valueless it is.