The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 20
Religions of Men
Religions of Men.
The harmonialist affirms that there is nothing in the professedly revealed religions existing among mankind but what the human mind could either discover or invent.
That the evolution of religious thought follows the exact law of man's development.
The faculty of wonder lying immediately over the animal faculties which constitute the basis of man's nature, comes into operation before the higher organs of intellect, and thus gives birth to the mysterious, which in its turn begets the theological—the first outgoings of mind on the road of progress—the second stage of progress turns the mind in upon itself, and gives birth to the metaphysical. Still onward, and the mysterious and metaphysical become modified by the analytical process of the mind. These stages must of necessity all remain imperfect until the intellect by direct knowledge reduces the mysterious, the theological, and the metaphysical to their proper value in the currency of exact science, a feat which the harmonialist alone seems capable of accomplishing. The harmonialist avers that nothing tends more to damp the soul and produce ungenial and inharmonious thoughts than a stern and gloomy creed. That all conceptions of a future state of existence partake of the mental idiopathy, and moral and intellectual state of the conceptionalist. The great faith of the Harmonialist in the supreme fountain of all wisdom appears to lay at the basis of all his chief enioyments, and, in anticipating his future advancement, he reasons thus: "In our present state the greatest among us can take in but a small portion of clear knowledge as respects the vast universe around us, but we perceive the all comprehending mind, and our rational nature suggests that the intellectual desires of all his creatures will as assuredly be satisfied, as their appetites, for natural desires are nowhere falsified in the plan of nature. "Without this satisfaction life would be a fragment without a design, a delusion and a misfortune." He follows up this train of thought by saying "The greater portion of the human family are born, live sensuously, feel, and die in darkness and ignorance, understanding not, nor being understood. Millions of illuminated insects whose span of life is short; just long enough to page 8 transmit their feeble rays to others short-lived as themselves." And is this all there is to relieve the intensity of the darkness which surrounds us? Can such be the end of the all wise in bringing into life a comprehending intelligence? He answers, "No," and proceeds synthetically to prove his position, not by vague hyphotheses but by facts cognizable to the senses, and proofs made intelligible to reason.
It is no part of our present purpose to enter into an examination of these proofs, but simply to state that millions of living witnesses, men and women of virtue and intelligence, bear witness to the truth and variety of spirit communications.
In reviewing this philosophy we find it to be peculiar in its freedom from dogmatism." It lays no claim to infallibility, sets up no fixed standard of thought; beyond the bounds of which you may not pass; professes not to have displayed the whole of truth, but leaves the future generations of the race to ascend still higher in the great temple of mind, that riches vast and invaluable, from the inexhaustible recourses of the mighty university may be added to its store."
It recognises no direct antagonism in any of the systems of Religion or Philosophy, which have gone before it, nor stands at direct variance with any of the systems which occupy men's minds at the present day, but sees a measure of good and truth in all, even the simplest and meanest, and propounds, as a fact arrived at by retrospective investigation, that the durability and permanence of every system depends upon the measure of Truth which it contains. That Truth alone is permanent—hath a never ending existence—that Thought Ideas, and Principles alone contain Truth in its purity—that men, and parties of men, are only imperfect symbols, and the strongest union of these symbols must come to an end. If bad, their glory will be shortlived, if possessing a large measure of truth they will endure much longer, but no longer than until the race outgrows them. When that period arrives they must yield their old spirit and commence a new life, or perish of neglect as a part refusing to unite with the whole in its advancing changes.
The Harmonialist believes that the whole order of the universe originated in the divine unity, and that, when its cycle is complete, t'will be resolved again into perfect unity, and that all the deviations page 9 in the course of creative force between the two points, are but accidents in this cycle course, but that, "still beneath this, endless variety in the individual atoms and entities exists as the inner life of all Unity and Harmony."
In all matters of judgment the Harmonialist takes reason as the standard of appeal, he admits that errors may arise, but these arise from imperfect knowledge, and not generally from any defect in the faculties. Correct knowledge will lead to correct reasoning.
In matters connected with morality and virtue he acknowledges with Jocobi, the authority of conscience, although it is no absolute test in matters of right, owing to its impersonal and subjective quality; yet it possesses considerable value, and may be appealed to, except in the case of the hardened offender who denies its existence.
He agrees with Bentham that "virtue has no reality apart from the rational pursuit of happiness," and with Bentham's opponents that a disinterested act produces the greatest amount of internal pleasure.
He agrees with Kant and Hegel and Shelling, and many of the German Idealists, that reason and conscience are impersonal, and may be corrected and adjusted by an appeal to the collective reason and conscience, in history and external nature, since all are in harmony.
He defines Truth as the relation of things as they are, and Error as the relation of things as they are not." Facts as things which are, done, and can be attested by the senses. History he regards as a relation of facts, mingled with the myths of past ages, still he does not impugn the veracity of old authors, well knowing that no man can entirely free himself from the prejudices and frailties of the age in which he lives.
To sum up our definitions. The Harmonial Philosophy is not so much a letter, a word, a system of principles or ethics, or spoken thoughts and sentiments, as a life, a true religion of action, recognizing the law of God as stamped in and upon universal nature, and obeying that perfect law as written in the human soul. It encourages the utmost freedom of thought and bows in bondage to no fixed creed, daring to scrutinize all systems of faith, well knowing that truth and science can never imperil true faith, nor can God's house ever be divided against itself.