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But we have not yet answered the question: What is it? This question may be answered in part, very easily. It is a merely physical power. It acts unconsciously, and towards whatsoever ends it may be working, it has, itself, no end. It is a blind force acting from necessity.
Moreover, it has an absolute unity; and, in fact, the only true substance, being alone eternal, and immutably perpetuating change. From it, all attraction and repulsion has proceeded, affinities that draw atoms together, and the gravitation that rules worlds, the energies that operate in light, and in heat, in nerves, brains, souls; nay, the very forces themselves which constitute the hardness of things hard, and that repellancy which is the impenetrability of matter, the organic principle which is the central essence of vegetable and animal life, and even the intelligent and affectional free agency, in which the personal will has being. These all are but effluences, expansions, as it were, of this one power; are eternally resident therein, and taken with all the other forces that are real, or can be, they essentially constitute it. The power is itself to be conceived, however, as, in the absolute beginning, but a point ; any, the least, diffusion is as fatal to this hypothesis as omnipresence itself; as having mere position, without size, and as eternally active. Now, what is this power?
First: What is its original position? Granted, that it is now extended, and exists wherever anything is, but, in the beginning, where is it? Ans. In a point. But where is that point? Has the philosopher any reason for saying that
but strictly bound to the method of " cause and effect.” The whole universe is in it — all there — each part sure to be “caused” in its time, each in turn, a necessary factor in causing its successor, and there is no thing, and no act, that is not strictly an “effect,” and that does not "cause.” This same law is everywhere; and there is nothing anywhere, nor can there be, which is not subject thereto, and which does not, in all its operation, act thereby. There is, and there can be, no free agent in the universe. The objector is imprisoned within walls of adamant to this conclusion. He is shut up within his own premises; an honorable and courteous constraint perhaps, when gracefully yielded to, but in this
case a secure one.
The “ Original,” then, proposed by the matrist is incapable of fulfilling its function. It cannot originate the universe.
it is here, rather than there? None. Or, anywhere, rather than anywhere else? None. But it must be somewhere; and where it is, there it is by necessity; for, by supposition, this is not a voluntary power.
Wherever it is, some necessity compels it to be there; and there is a cause of its presence at that point, and of its absence from every other. Now, where is it?
But here is another difficulty. The "original power” has been proved omnipresent; that is, to be either in act, or else (in case it be a voluntary power) potentially present everywhere. But the power of which we are now speaking, is purely physical. If, at every moment and eternally, it can act at all points of space, then must it be acting eternally at all points. For, if, at any instant, it is not acting at any one point, then it was impossible for it to be acting there, at that time. But, if the objector says that it is acting at all points eternally, then he asserts the eternal existence of an infinite
of power, as the cause of the universe; and so falls back into that “great sea" where his argument was drowned once, and there it is drowned again, and is twice dead.
But the question still pursues us : What is this Power ? Let us return and consider. We are told, here, of a force which is somewhere, and that necessary, and yet without any cause, or any reason for being there rather than elsewhere ; which is in one particular point only, and this by a necessity that is absolute, while there is no possible cause supposable that could exclude it from any or from every other point; and while, furthermore, it is omnipresent. It is there, within space, yet not occupying space, although a real physical force. Since it occupies no space, the point where it is might be supposed to be surrounded, and in fact to be occupied, by some other physical power, which should yet meet with no opposition from this force already there, because this is so wonderful a force that it has no extent. It is there, and has never moved, nor will it move thence, for there is nothing to move it (and it acts from necessity alone), but there it remains, permanently creating and constituting the whole universe, through all mutations ; it is just there, and could
not have been and can never be elsewhere, and yet no agency limits it, or, being anterior to it, dictated its position. It is an absolute unity, a one pure element of the most perfect simplicity; and yet has, by an inner necessity, unfolded this pure simplicity of its self into all things; and all the diversities that are or can be, are eternally contained within this single and simple force. It has ever acted by necessity; and, at every successive step, was compelled to do as it did; and yet, it has ever been the sole original and absolutely supreme Power, wholly unconfined, unconstrained, passive in nothing, the first spring of all possible activity ; in fact, active from eternity without reaction, every energy being but a radiance from itself. And notwithstanding it is a unity by being a punctum, it is also a diversity in being an immensum; for, in its eternal action, it is eternally omnipresent. What is this original physical Force ? We cannot say.
It is proper now, however, that we inquire into the origin of all this confusion, and endeavor to understand whence this amazing chaos of contradictions has sprung. It comes, we think, from the effort to conceive of a material spirit, of a physical will, of a necessity-God; to find the beginning; in other words, in that which is merely natural, and under the law of cause and effect.
The materialist clings to the notion that nature is all. He believes that natural science can compass all; that necessity rules the universe, and that the world's great problem is to be solved like any in mechanics or chemics, its peculiar difficulty arising merely from the seemingly vast number and complexity of its factors. He proposes, then, to account for all things and all events, without conceding a spiritual personal Creator.
Of necessity, however, he must ascribe to his supposed Original, all the natural attributes of a personal God. In the very beginning of his statement, he must set forth to our view a something, a real power, which is eternal, immutable, omnipresent, omnipotent, ever-active. More than this : he finds himself obliged to deny to this “ First Cause” almost all the peculiar attributes which characterize matter ; for,
matter being, in some sense at least, its product, cannot be identical with it. But his own argument will not suffer him to rest even here. Compelled to affirm the unity of his
Original Power,” he is at last driven to divest it of all material attributes whatsoever, except that one which could not be surrendered without giving up materialism altogether, and ascribing to his “ Original" the distinctive trait of spirituality, viz. freedom. He still holds fast to “necessity.” To such extremes does he find himself constrained to go, towards acknowledging a personal Cause, that he even denies to his First Power the relation of space, so far as that can be denied (and farther than it can be intelligibly denied) to what is physical. He strips it of all extent; and, though compelled to give it position, is unable to assign it any particular position ; and is, in fact, logically necessitated to lift it altogether out of the relation of space; which, however, he is, by a logical necessity equally stringent, forbidden to do, because his main proposition is, that the power is a physical
Thus he has denied to his original Being all the attributes of matter save one, necessity; and endeavors to ascribe to it all spiritual attributes save those involved in one, viz. moral freedom, or personality ; and after all finds himself, not surprisingly, in a net of contradictions. Surely this is not strange ; for is it not plain that he is endeavoring to form a conception of a being which shall be, at once, independent and enslaved, absolute and yet under constraint of absolute law; of a “force," which yet occupies no space; of a one pure natural element, which is yet the involution whence an infinite diversity shall evolve itself; of a beginning, in short, which being in all things necessitated, needs itself to be begun, and, in its helpless unity, must forever wait in vain for something to change it, and enable it to become something more? In a word, he is predicating attributes specifically spiritual, of that which he assumes to be merely material. He is striving, in brief, to conceive of a material spirit, of a physical will, of a necessity-God.
The truth is, that no unity can be supposed to be omnipresent
save a spiritual one ; that there is no “absolute beginning” conceivable, except in will; that there is, even, no pure "unity" whatsoever, save that which we behold in a "person;
person ;” nor any possible “Original" for the world, save a personal God, who is not the world, nor the cause" of the world, but the author, the sustainer, and the ruler of it. These statements, however, each demand some further elucidation.
First: No POWER WHICH IS A UNITY CAN BE OMNIPRESENT, UNLESS IT IS A SPIRITUAL POWER.
The very object of our argument is to find the one from which (or whom) the universe came, and whence it forever depends. Our " original,” therefore, must be a unity.
Again, it has been proved that the “First Power” is omnipresent, in the sense that it must be conceived of as present, in the beginning, as much at one place as another, and as at least capable of acting at every place. Now if a natural power is, at any given moment, not acting in any particular place, then how can it, or could it, at that moment, act there? Wherever it operates it operates by an absolute necessity. Wherever it does not operate, there it is inoperative, also by necessity, and cannot act. The only conception, then, of an omnipresent physical force, is of one which is really acting everywhere; a conception i. e. of an infinite sea, or abyss, of natural power. This, as has been shown, is not a unity. No physical unity, then, can be omnipresent; and the “ First Cause,” which philosophy is searching after, cannot be a physical cause, and so cannot be, strictly, cause at all. But,
Secondly : THERE IS NO ABSOLUTE BEGINNING CEIVABLE, EXCEPT IN WILL.
The“ beginning" cannot be begun; neither can there be anything anterior to it, which, by acting upon it, shall stir it up to make a beginning. The “ beginning" must be purely and strictly self-active. Matter is not so; neither this matter about us, nor any other possible substance, which, like it, is under the law of necessity. For, by this law, there is no action without a cause; and the action of the cause precedes the action which is its effect, and then that causal activity it