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in its whole extent, cannot have had for its sole or even principal object the good of human or other sentient
What is most disheartening is the reflection that to all appearance this contradiction (real or apparent) between the inward voice of the soul and the voice of Nature must not only continue, but become continually more clearly pronounced. There seems no chance at all that we shall ever find a better solution of any one of the “riddles of the painful earth” than we possessed before Science set them in array; and, on the other hand, there is every reason to believe that year by year, as the human conscience grows more enlightened, and sympathy with every form of suffering becomes stronger and more universal, the pain conveyed to us by the sight of pain will become more acute, and our revolt at the seeming injustices of Providence consequently more agonizing
In the second Essay in this little book I have endeavoured to shew that historically we may trace an enormous and hitherto little suspected development in the Social Sentiment of man, and that, to judge from irresistible analogy, every future generation will have a livelier sympathy with the joys and sorrows of all sentient beings, such as scarcely in their tenderest hours the most loving souls of former ages experienced. This is, I conceive, the great Hope for the future of humanity on earth, as the Immortal Life of Love is, I believe, that of each human soul after passing through the portals of the grave. But with this fresh growth of sympathy has already come upon us quite a new sense of the vast extent and the terrible depth of the sufferings and wrongs existing around us; and the easy complacency wherewith our fathers regarded many of them, and the thanksgivings they returned for being “given more ” than others while conscious they did not deserve it, are wellnigh disgusting to us. Especially the sufferings of animals torture us, seen in the light of our new knowledge of their kindred sensibilities; and we stand aghast before the long panorama of misery unrolled before us by the theory of the Struggle for Existence and the Survival of the Fittest at the expense of the unfit.
* Essays on Religion, p. 65.
Much of the scepticism of the present day-so grave, so regretful, combined so often with the noblest philanthropy—is beyond a doubt the result of nothing else than the rapid growth of tenderer sentiments of compassion for unmerited suffering, and livelier indignation at suspected injustice. And if this be so, future generations, as they become more just and more merciful, will also become more sceptical-nay, more Atheisticunless some different method be found for treating the dread difficulty than any of those which have been tried and have broken down. Even for us now there is nothing more futile and disastrous than the attempt either to treat Doubt as “devil-born,” instead of springing from that which is most divine in us, or to silence
it, like the Dog of Hell, with a few handfuls of dry dust of commonplace. The man to whom the fact of the evil of the world first comes home in the hour of trial, and to whom are presented as explanations the platitudes in ordinary use by divines, is like one of those hapless persons of whom we heard not long ago, who stood waiting at the upper window of a burning house for means of escape, and when the ladder was lifted, the brittle toy collapsed and shivered in fragments on the pavement, and with a never-to-be-forgotten cry of despair the victims fell back into the fiery gulf behind them, and were seen no more.
How, then, ought the dread mystery of the existence of Evil in creation to be treated ? Historically, since men were far enough advanced to find that it is a problem, and to feel the incongruity in the alternate beneficence and severity of the unseen Powers, which they had before contentedly supposed to be wayward and passionate as themselves, it has been explained in many different ways 1st, by the Judaic, Greek and Christian doctrine of a Fall, succeeding to a Golden or Saturnian Age of Innocence and Happiness; 2nd, by the Zoroastrian, Egyptian and Manichæan hypotheses of an Ahriman or Typhon, Evil Principles the rival of Ormuzd and Osiris; and the Hebrew doctrine of a Satan subordinate to Jehovah, but permitted to work mischief in His creation ; 3rd, by the Gnostic hypothesis of the intractable properties of Hylé (Matter), wherewith the Demiurge often contends ineffectually; 4th, by the orthodox Catholic doctrine which, in addition to the Fall and Satan, refers Evil to the necessity for the presence of pain in a world intended to be one of trial ; 5th, by the doctrine of Leibnitz (and substantially also that of Archbishop King), that the world is as good as it was possible to make it,-every contingency other than those which it actually presents involving either greater evils or insuperable contradictions; 6th, by the doctrine of Theodore Parker, which is simply the vehement affirmation on a priori grounds that, in the creation of a God all-good and omnipotent, Evil must be illusory, and a mere needful step to the highest good for every creature; lastly, by the doctrine, often timidly approached by previous thinkers, but for the first time, I believe, frankly stated by Mr. Mill, that supposing God to be, in any sense, Good, His character and dealings are explicable only on the hypothesis that He is possessed of very limited power and wisdom.
Such are the largest waves of human thought which for countless ages have dashed themselves against this cloud-capped rock. For us, in our day, few of them bear much significance; none can be said to be wholly satisfactory.
To explain natural evil and injustice by postulating the enormous injustice of punishing the whole human and animal creation for the sin of Adam, would be held absurd, even had not geology superabundantly demonstrated the existence of the greatest natural evils before Man, or even before the order of Mammalia, came into being
The hypothesis of a Great Bad God, whose opposition mars perpetually the work of the Good Creator, though even yet accepted by a few minds of high philosophic cast, seems to the majority of us only to darken the dark mystery.
The God who could create a Satan would be himself a Satan; and an uncreated Ahrimanes, issuing out of “Time without Bounds," would be in Morals what a Circular Triangle would be in Mathematics—a self-contradiction. When we have postulated eternal Existence, Wisdom and Power, we have by our definition excluded Malevolence, Cruelty and Injustice.*
The “intractable properties of Matter” may possibly indicate a class of causes which may stand for much in the solution of the riddle of Evil; but till we have arrived at some conception of how the law of Evolution is worked by the Lawgiver, and find the equivalent in modern scientific terminology for the earlier "Creation” and the later “Contrivance,” it is little better than cheating ourselves with words to speak of Matter as either "intractable" or otherwise in the hands of God. When all is said, we are not far, yet, beyond the philosophy which taught that
“All are but parts of one stupendous Whole,
* “ The notion of an absolutely Evil Principle is an express contradiction. For as the Principle resists the Good One, it also must be independent and infinite. But the notion of a Being infinitely evil, is of one infinitely imperfect; its knowledge and power therefore must be absolute ignorance and impotence.”. Law's Notes to King's Origin of Evil.