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Review of Religious Publications.
COURSE OF THE HISTORY OF MODERN PHI- | sponsibility, and the future, which thrust
LOSOPHY. By M. VICTOR Cousin. Trans- themselves upon all thinking minds; if, as to lated by O. W. Wight. Two vols. all practical purposes, it has proved utterly
London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co. unsatisfactory, that of the moderns, especially PHILOSOPHY has uniformly assumed to it of the German school, has been found equally self an air of superiority, and has seemed to Among the Germans, systems of philoclaim exemption from the infirmities and fail-sophy have followed each other in rapid sucures incidental to all other human pursuits ; cession ; but instead of rising in soundness and pbilosophers, conscious, doubtless, of the and felicity of adaptation to the wants of dignity of their vocation, and of the vis divina humanity, they have gone on uniformly dethat stirred within them, have generally looked generating, until at length they are nothing down with mingled feelings of pity and con- better than “ a sick man's dream," or “contempt on the profane vulgar, whom they re- fusion worse confounded." They have degarded as shut out from the privileges ac- scended, as every one knows, through the corded to them. To look at the general tone monadic dreams of Leibnitz, the mysticism and bearing of metaphysicians and ethical of Kant, the impiousness of Fichte, and the philosophers, one would imagine that they pantheism of Schelling, until they ve bad received a Divine commission to unlock reached the absolute and incomprehensible all mysteries, to rectify all errors, and to nonsense of Hegel. From Gerinan philosoanswer satisfactorily all perplexing questions phy, then, we can expect but little to meet touching“ fate, freewill, forek nowledge abso- the exigencies of our moral condition, or to lute.” Viewing thein at a distance, and re- guide our doubtful steps to immortality and ceiving their dogmas without inquiry, it would to God. Nor can we expect much more from be impossible not to deem them the most that Eclecticism, which selects from all syshighly favoured of the race-as the heaven- tems what is most prominent and distinctive, appointed teachers of mankind. But, alas forming a combination less offensive, it may for the dignity of philosophy, and the wisdom be at first sight, but certainly not less perof philosophers ! There is nothing in the nicious. Of the Eclectic school, indeed, we annals of mankind more melancholy or more should be more apprehensive, inasmuch as it humiliating than the history of metaphysics retains the deadliest forms of error, only renand ethical philosophy. It presents, from the dering them more insidious by modification earliest times down to the present, such an and embellishment, At the head of this endless complication of folly, extravagance, school stands M. Victor Cousin.
He is, solemn trifling, and idle speculation, often- doubtless, a man of genius, and is gifted with times running out into sheer nonsense, or a rich and persuasive eloquence, which impositive blasphemy, that the simple-hearted parts to abstractions life and reality, and is and thoughtful inquirer, who ponders the likely to give to error the guise and fascinagreat questions of sin, immortality, atonement, tion of truth. Many young and ardent and God, must be well-nigh overwhelmed minds, that would be shocked and repelled with emotions of shame, astonishment, and by the blasphemy of Fichte, who said to his regret. The field of philosophy and meta- class, “In to-morrow's lecture I am going to physical inquiry, wide as it is, instead of being create God ;” by the gross and undisguised luminous, peaceful, and pervaded by sounds pantheism of Schelling, and by the incompre"musical as Apollo's lute,” is overspread by hensible jargon of Hegel, the fundamental a kind of chaotic darkness, and echoes with principle of whose philosophy is, that the the menaces and denunciations of the last union of entity and nothing, or the lapse of comer in reference to all that went before the one into the other, constitutes actual exhim. Let any one who is competent to the istence, would be fascinated and bewildered task, cast his eye over the speculations of by the pantheistic views of Cousin, recomancient sages, the wranglings of school-men, mended as they are by an eloquence which and the various philosophical schemes of mo- breathes a spirit of awe, reverence, and love. dern times, and he cannot fail to be conducted in order, therefore, to guard our readers, to the conclusion, that metaphysics do not especially young men, against temptation, or tend to foster the charities of life, that philo- the possibility of being betrayed into the adopsophy is not likely to pave the way for the tion of the philosophy of M, Cousin, we shall approach of the Millennium, and that philo- glance at some of his leading principles, and sophers are not among the wisest of men. trace them to their legitimate results as to
But if the philosophy of the ancients and of morals and religion. school-men throws but little or no light on The lectures now before us, which are the the great questions respecting the soul, re- most important of M. Cousin's original pub
lications, were delivered in 1828-29, imme- of something else. And as if to leave no diately on his return to Paris, after an exile room for doubt as to the extent and misof eight years. They were published some chievous character of his idealism, he does eighteen years ago, in the form in which they | not besitate to maintain that ideas constitute were delivered, and therefore, perhaps, some the nature of God, thus resolving the great allowance must be made for a redundancy of I Am into an abstraction, or what Hegel calls ornament, and the flimsy, if not unphiloso- " the eternal, all-comprehending process of phical, form in which some of the topics are the absolute idea." treate l. An oration, let the subject be never Of philosophy M. Cousin entertains the 80 profound, delivered before a numerous most exalted conceptions. He regards it as assembly, cannot possibly be distinguished by the apex and consummation of human great. that calmness and severity of style in which ness-as "the liglit of lights, the authority of the productions of the closet naturally clothe authorities." He tells us, indeed, that “Christhemselves. Besides, the style and manner tianity is the philosophy of the people;" bat suitable to the chair of philosophy in France, to remove all doubt as to what is meant by must be widely different from those prevalent this, we are assured that the esoteric philoin an English or Scotch university, and hence, sophy—the pantheism, at which M. Cousin, however excellent this translation may be, we and a few kindred spirits besides, have arshould not be justified in speaking in a tone rived, " is contented to offer gently its hand of critical severity of the manner occasionally to Christianity, and to aid it in ascending to adopted by M. Cousin. When looking at a higher elevation.” And what, it may be these lectures as a whole, we cannot doubt, asked, are the distinguishing characteri-tics as Sir William Hamilton says, that their of this philosophy of which M. Cousin is so " delivery excited an unexampled sensation deeply enamoured—which is the glory of the in Paris." What may be the sensation pro. world, and which, in the spirit of condescend. duced by them among “ the young men of ing patronage, deigns “ to assist Christianity America,” for whose special benefit Mr. Wight in rising to a higher position?" Its source is has made the translation now before us, we reflection, or the action of the mind upon will not pretend to predict. This much, how itself; and the channels through which its ever, we may venture to say, that no young results flow are sensibility, will, and reason. man in England or America, who is not pre- Now all this is simple enough, and may seem pared to adopt the philosophy of Schelling to involve nothing objectionable, as it cerand Hegel, can receive that of Cousin, fortainly can lay claim to nothing original or the pantheism that destroys all moral dis- imposing. It is in the strange and arbitrary tinctions, and precludes the necessity of reve- development and application of these simple lation, is the distinguishing and all-pervading elements that the mischievous nature of Couelement of the one and the other.
sin's philosophy will be found. Nor does it M. Cousin professes to base his philosophy require much skill or metaphysical acuteness on principles of pure and universal eclecti- to perceive this. The simplest and plainest cism; but a basty glance at these lectures, of our readers are perfectly competent to combined with the facts that he is the trans- judge in the matter. The sensibility of M. lator of Plato, and was the friend of Hegel, Cousin is just sensation, and nothing more ;-of must convince every inquirer that his system it, therefore, he could not possibly say any. is one of decided idealism, running out into thing new. Will with him is not merely volithe extravagance, mysticism, and mischief of tion, or a personal control over our thoughts pantheism. So decided, indeed, are his pre- and actions, but the great and exclusive ele. dilections in favour of the ideal system of ment of personality, without the exercise of philosophy, that he has misunderstood and which all individualism is lost, and the misrepresented Locke on several important myriads of mankind are virtually absorbed points. This is so strikingly the case in into the All-one of Schelling, or the Absolute some instances, that one is compelled to Idea of Hegel. Reason, in his philosophy, on charge M. Cousin with the dulness that can- the contrary, is in no respect a personal attrinot comprehend, or the prejudice that is de bute belonging to us as individuals. It has termined to pervert, the statements of the no individuality, but is a universal, all-perEnglish philosopher. The great abilities of vading. common principle, in which all, from Cousin constrain us to accuse him of the God himself down to the lowest intelligence, latter, and hence to deny to him all title to a share as they best may, and use as certain pure and universal eclecticism, and to stamp mysterious laws shall direct. him, not merely as the opponent of the philo- | And this reason, which is represented as a sophy of sensation, but as the partisan of grand generalization or eternal idea, wbich German idealism in its worst and most ob- we cannot gra-p or comprehend, when viewed noxious form. He is, indeed, so much at one as a faculty of the human mind, acts volunwith Hegei as to contend, that ideas are real tarily and spontaneously. In the former case, existences, and not the mere signs or images or when controlled and directed by volition, it
enables us to think, reflect, compare, and could not exist as an intelligent being, is the iudge; and in the latter, when altogether un- same in essence, and power of discernment, influenced by the will, or left to expıtiate in whether possessed by him, or any other ina kind of dreamy mesnieric state, it becomes telligence, then he really, and of necessity, invested with infallibility and God-like power; becomes a God to himself. There is no one its visions are unclouded, and its knowledge that can claim essential superiority to him, is gathered, not from signs or simple pheno- or pretend to a deeper insight into truth. mena, but from realities,
His knowledge is immediate, infallible, indeNow this spontaneous exercise of reason is pendent. The secrets of the universe lie the distinguishing and vicious element of exposed to his glance, and all things are Cousin's philosophy. Strip it of this, and we possible to him. He can, therefore, in reality, cannot help thinking it would become a harm- have no God; for to acknowledge a God is less, unimposing thing, commanding no atten- to worship him ; but worship, when the tion, and quietly sliding into forgetfulness. parties are essentially the same, is idolatry, What is there, indeed, we ask, novel or pe- and that must be impossible to the intuitions culiar in the philosophy of M. Cousin beyond of spontaneous reason, inasmuch as it involves this wild, pantheistic speculation? There are the errors of usurpation on the one hand, and unquestionably bold, and it may be, success- debasement on the other. Cousin and his ful attempts at simplicity in analyzing mental followers are then, we think, justly obnoxious phenomena, at generalization, and at system to the charge of virtual Atheism. atizing the speculations of the past; nor is Another consequence resulting from this there wanting an earnest and eloquent advo- | philosophy is, the denial of all external or cacy of what seems the just, the beautiful, wrilten revelation. When, according to Couand the true. But the distinguishing charac- sin, our reason is permitted to act spontaneteristic—the vicious element--the dead fly ously, we have a deep and immediate insight in the ointment," is the spontaneous reason, the into truth; and, consequently, a written or oneness of human intelligence with the Divine, external revelation must be an impertinence, the deep insight or clairvoyance of the soul or an impossibility. We need no voice from when left, without chart or compass, to hearen, no communication from God, no inder through eternity." Nor, after all, is this spired teacher to shed light upon our minds, peculiar to the philosophy of Cousin. It is to solve any perplexing question, or to unfold found baptized with an almost endless variety to us anything hidden or mysterious in the of nanes, running throughout the specula- Diviue government. Every man is inspired tions of all the pantheistic philosophers of through the instrumentality of reason, and Germany, and those of their imitators in this is, therefore, independent of all foreign incountry. M. Cousin designates it “ sponstruction. No prophet or apostle, or angel taneous faith,” “ inspiration," " veritable re. from heaven, indeed, could reveal to us any velation;" others speak of it as "natural new doctrine, or give to us any insight into induction," intuition," “ intuitional con- truth, for whatever is external appeals merely sciousness," "insight,” “instinct of reason," to voluntary reason, through which channel, “ spontaneity," &c. But, however great the it appears, no fresh revelation or Divine light variety in the nomenclature, the thing in- is communicated to the soul. Spontaneous tended is the same. It is the oneness of the reason, which is the source of inspiration, and human soul in essence, nature, and capability the channel through which all truth is preto discover and understand truth with God sented to the mind, forbids everything like himself.
interference, even on the part of God himself. Such, we think, is the spirit of Cousin's To touch it is to paralyse its power, or dim philosophy, and, however much it might its vision; and hence the adherents of Tranamuse as a piece of extravagant speculation, scendental philosophy must not only deny, it ought to call forth the united and unyield- but deprecate the possibility of a written reing opposition of all good men, inasmuch as velation. We do the intuitionists, therefore, it involves conseqnences hostile to religion no injustice--nay, we think that they will and morals. Nor must it be said that we are look upon it as a compliment-when we hy pooritical, or influenced by groundless pre- affirm, that they must regard the Bible as "& judices in charging the philosophy of the mockery, a delusion, and a snare," when it Transcendentalists, whatever shape or nomen- pretends to communicate Divine light, or a clature it may assume, with such conse- revelation of the things of God to the soul, quences. They must be obvious to all dis- A third consequence of this philosophy is, passionate minds that have any acquaintance the denial of the existence of sin, and of the with the dogmas of that philosphy.
necessity of repentance and atonement. As One of the consequences of the philosophy the philosophy of Cousin, and that of the of Cousin is virtual Atheism. If reason, that German school, whether found in this coun. attribute which gives to man his place in the try or elsewhere, teach that intuitional con. intelligent universe-that without which he sciousness, or the capability of discerning
truth, and, consequently, the power of dis- with the folly, or something worse, involved tinguishing between right and wrong, are in the employment of the term "spiritual" essentially the same in God and man; as, as descriptive of a succession of books such moreover, we are conducted to the discern- as we may expect from the sample now bement and appreciation of truth, not by any
If, indeed, the succeeding volumes conscientious effort on our part, but by an are to teach the same doctrines, and advocate involuntary, spontaneous, mesmeric exercise the same views, as are put forth in "The of reason, it is evident there can be no moral Religion of Good Sense,"—which, we prelaw, no tribunal to which we are amenable, sume, is to be looked upon as a sort of and no sin exposing to punishment, and de- preface,-nothing more absurd in speculation, manding repentance and expiation. There unscriptural in principle, or more thoroughly may, indeed, be defect, imperfection, a less the opposite to what we understand by clear insight into truth in some cases than in "spiritual," has, for some time, issued from others; but that is not sin; it is merely non- the press. If the term “spiritual” is signidevelopment; it is simply a scantier enjoy- ficant of the denial of the distinctive dooment of spontaneous reason, over which we trines of Christianity,-of the most monstrous can have no possible control. The existence perversion of common sense,—and of the of evil is a dream, and the commission of allegorizing absurdities of moon-struck dreamsin a delusion. And hence, where there is no ers, then this volume and its successors may wrong, and where there cannot be the con- be designated “The Spiritual Library." As, sciousness of any, repentance is not only not however, we are inclined to think that bat demanded, but becomes impossible; and the few beyond the walls of a lunatic asylum idea of an atonement is of necessity a simple would be disposed to subscribe to this signifi. absurdity.
cation of the term, we think Mr. Chap These consequences are sufficiently start- man, aided by Edward Richer, of Nantes, ling, for they involve not only the extinction and his fellow-authors of the German school, of Christianity, but of every vestige of natural might have stumbled on a predicate savourreligion. Nor, as must be seen from what we ing a little more of fitness and “good sense. have written, are these consequences sug
If we might venture to suggest, and if the gested by a morbid imagination, or drawn parties more immediately concerned in the by a false and uncharitable criticism from forthcoming “Library” would listen to our the philosophy of Cousin and the intuitional suggestion, we think they might, in justice to school. They must thrust themselves on the themselves and with advantage to the public, attention of every careful and dispassionate adopt some such designation as the following: reader, and, moreover, are avowed and de- “ The Sibyl's Library," The Moon-struck fended by not a few, who acknowledge Cou- Series,” “ Readings of Children of the Mist," sin as their master, and look upon his phi- “Gleanings from Cloud-land." Any of losophy as forming an epoch in metaphysical these titles would have the twofold merit of and ethical science.
honesty and distinctiveness; whereas, that which has been adopted is altogether inappro
priate, and proclaims itself to be a piece of THE RELIGION OF Good SENSE.
bungling deception. EDWARD Richer, of Nantes.
This volume prosesses to be of continental London: John Chapman.
authorship; and certainly the stream of mys
ticism, extravagance and anti-scriptural spe We have sometimes been struck, and not a culation running through its pages could not little amused, with the perverted and igno- | fail to lead the reader to the great fatherland minious uses to which certain well-known of dreams and mythic absurdity, or some of words in our language are not unfrequently its dependencies. The book is indeed, put. To what base purposes, for example, throughout a very singular mixture of allethe words “ splendid,” “ brilliant," "sublime,” gory, superstition, mesmerism, false theology, &c., have been applied! They have been spurious sentimentality, and mock philosopby. applied to things having no virtue or quality Its allegorical interpretations of Scripture of which they could, in any sense, be de- exceed in absurdity those of the most fanscriptive. Their application is caricature. tastic of the Fathers; its mysticism is not a But it is not merely potatoe merchants and whit behind that of Swedephorg; and its bacon vendors that take unwarrantable liber- | philosophy, such as it is, is after the fashion ties with the English language ; book sellers, of Hegel and Fichte. We have had, for the and bookmakers, are guilty oftentimes of the last few years, a variety of strange importasame grave offence. Some time ago we took tions from cloud-land, and not a few articles occasion to notice the egregious misapplica. in the infidel and superstitious line bare tion of the word “ Catholic" to a series of issued from the warehouse of Mr. Chapman ; one-sided, mischievous volumes issued by Mr. but we do not recollect to have met with Chapman; and now we cannot but be struck anything more thoroughly absurd, or more
directly subversive of the great cardinal doc- | furnishes a master-key to the miracles of trines of Christianity than this volume. Christ and his apostles, it unlocks the mys
In the matter of allegory, Edward Richer teries of the spiritual world, and clothes its does not do things by halves. With one fell subject with a power that penetrates beneath allegorical swoop the entire Mosaic narration, the mere letter of the word, and draws forth and every thing in the shape of fact, are swept the Divine sense. Adam before his fall, away. The heavens and the earth, with all prophets, Christ and his apostles, were all their garniture, Adam and Eve, Cain and great masters in the science of mesmerism. Abel, Methuselah and all the Patriarchs, the It would appear, indeed, from Mr. Richer's temptation, the fall, and the malediction, all views of the matter that they must have been vanish into thin, impalpable allegorical sym- perpetually in a kind of catalepsy themselves, bols. Of the creation of the world, as re- and must have been constantly dabbling in corded by Moses, he coolly says, “ The experiments on their fellow-men.
“Clairvoybeginning mentioned by Moses is the com- ance," he says, “ both earthly and spiritual, mencement of an epoch in the history of appears to be the primitive mode of percephumanity, and at this epoch God created for tion, and when this mode of perception reapman a new moral heaven and a new intel- pears, we may, as it were, perceive the state lectual earth,"— of the first man, and Eve bis of man as he was before the fall.” Again he help-meet, his moral and intellectual com- says, “ We are to conclude that the sacred panion, the mother of us all, he gravely af. books of the Scripture were produced by perfirms that “ Adam is a collective name,” and sons in a state of extasis or spiritual clairvoy“ is taken in a general sense;" that "the ance, and are filled with images, which can sacred Scripture speaks of neither husband only be comprehended by a profound study nor wise: it speaks of man in general, and of of the modes of perception in that state.” his two constituent faculties. The male sex When speaking of the iniracles of Christ, his represents the understanding, and the female words are: “ I ascribe them all to the effects love." Of Cain and Abel, to our utter aston- of spiritual medicine, which was well known ishment, he tells that the one is faith and the to the ancients. Jesus in touching those who other love, saying, “ It was then that Cain, or approached him only produced effects resultfaith alone, killed Abel his brother, in whom ing from this spiritual medicine.” Thus the the Divine love in man is typified. You see, in inspiration of prophets, and the miracles of fact, in these two allegorical personages the Christ, were nothing more than certain forms distinguishing characteristics of charity and of mesmeric development and application; faith.” Of Methuselah and all the patri- and consequently are as much within the archs he distinctly declares, “ They are, like power of Mr. Richer and his fellow-philosowise, names of particular societies,” and that phers as they were within that of Isaiah and this "explains admirably the long lives of the Son of God. What do our readers say to these patriarchs;" and of Noah's ark and the this? We cannot help thinking that they flood, he gives us the following infinitely curi- will agree with us in proncuncing Edward ous allegorical explanation: “ Picture to your- Richer of Nantes, as destitute of common self the human race swallowed up in a sea of sense, that element of mind which is essential stormy passions, and in the restless billows of to the philosopher and the divine; and in retheir thoughits. A single individual preserves garding him as utterly incompetent to instruct his heart from these corruptions. This heart, his fellow-men as to what is good sense in the abode of sentiments which alone are religion. worthy of being preserved by God, is the ark; On other points, such as redemption, spiritthe animals represent the affections which ual forms, Jesus Christ the only God, the find a refuge there." These, and other volume abounds in what is mystic, erroneous, samples that might be given, will furnish to and absurd. The redemption of which it our readers some idea of the wild allegorical treats is effected without mediation, sacrifice, mania to which Edward Richer of Nantes has or the shedding of blood; the spiritual forms surrendered himself, and they will be able to set forth and pleaded for are just the pictures judge for themselves, whether Mr. Chapman of the fancy catching their hue and comwould not as efficiently promote the interests plexion from the circumstances in which men of the great reading public by lending himself are placed, and the moods of mind by which to the publication of such hallucinations as they chance to be distinguished; and the might be sent him from Bethlehem, Hanwell, Deity of Christ contended for is nothing better or St. Luke's.
than the most naked form of Sabellianism, On the subject of mesmerism, which he de. which, as every one must know, is destructive signates extasis, spiritual medicine," &c., of the harmony, and, indeed, of the possibility Mr. Richer speaks with great distinctness, if of redemption. not with great wisdom. In his view it ex- Against all such books, then, whether applains every question connected with inspira- pearing singly or as “ Libraries," and by tion and reduces it to the simplest form. It whatever specious and deceptive names they