Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Comparison between them.

175

traces the essential connection between the visible and the invisible world. In Law's view, 'body and spirit are not two separate, independent things, but are necessary to each other, and are only the inward and outward conditions of one and the same being.' This Law rightly conceives to be totally opposed to the doctrine of Malebranche ; he represents both the schools of philosophy—that of Locke on the one side, and that of Descartes and Malebranche on the other—though they agreed in little else, as agreeing in this, that they supposed spirit and body not only without any natural relation, but essentially contrary to one another, and only held together in a forced conjunction by the arbitrary will of God.' Nay,' he adds indignantly, ‘if you was to say, that God first creates a soul out of nothing, and when that is done, then takes an understanding faculty, and puts it into it, after that a will, and then a memory, all as independently made as when a taylor first makes the body of a coat, and then adds sleeves or pockets to it; was you to say this, the schools of Descartes, Malebranche, or Locke could have nothing to say against it.'? The reason why Malebranche has to be gibbeted in such evil company as that of Locke, the arch-enemy of mysticism, is, that he has unhappily never sat at the feet of Jacob Behmen ! But this is anticipating.

In more respects than one there was a curious resemblance between Malebranche and Law, both in their tones of mind and, mutatis mutandis, in their circumstances of life. In the first place, there was in both that same strange intellectual inconsistency which made them depreciate the very points in which one secret of their strength lay. The study of languages was in the eyes of Malebranche worse than waste of time. It might be necessary to learn just

Spirit of Love, Works,' vol. viii. p. 33.

2 Ibid, p. 31.

176 Resemblances between Law and Malebranche.

enough Latin to read Augustine, but ‘as for Greek !-So many languages weary the brain and impede the reason. How is it possible to justify the passion of those who turn their heads into a library of dictionaries?' He would have made a clean sweep of all literature and sciences, with the exception of algebra and a little natural science ; history, geography, &c., are all pedantry and puerility. Adam was perfect, and he knew neither history nor chronology. He anathematised style as the product of sin, yet his own style was singularly polished and attractive ;' his own writings show in every page of them the mind of the well-read scholar as well as the profound thinker, and, strangest of all, they are constantly interlarded with most apposite quotations from those very classical authors whom he abjured. The same curious inconsistency has already been noticed in Law. It may be added that neither in Law nor in Malebranche is there the slightest trace of affectation or unreality in their inconsistency.

Again, in France during the latter half of the seventeenth century, and in England during the first half of the eighteenth, there were giants in the land.' Bossuet, Fénelon, Pascal, in France ; Butler, Waterland, Bentley, Sherlock, in England, -- were great names. Both Malebranche and Law fully reached the stature of the tallest of their contemporaries, but they were content, and they were allowed

| Even Enfield, who had no sympathy with Malebranche's system, and could only see in his theory of seeing all things in God' a singular and paradoxical dogma, still owns the work (Recherche de la Vérité) was written with such elegance and splendour of diction, and its tenets were supported by such ingenious reasonings, that it obtained general applause, and procured the author a distinguished name among philosophers and a numerous train of followers.' (ii. 534.)

Norris of Bemerton says of Malebranche: 'He is indeed the great Galileo of the intellectual world. He has given us the point of view, and whatever farther detections are made, it must be through his Telescope. He has search'd after Truth in the proper and genuine Seat and Region of it, has open'd a great many noble Scenes of the World we are now contemplating (the

Resemblances between Law and Malebranche. 177

to live and work and die unnoticed and unrewarded. Both Malebranche and Law were born for the recluse life, and both of them found it; for Malebranche was as much a recluse amid the hubbub of Paris as Law was amid the green fields of Northamptonshire. For simplicity and purity of life, for intense piety and self-denial, there was nothing to choose between these two saintly mystics. But in one point they differed widely. Malebranche was always the philosopher as well as the theologian. Law, though he was constantly accused of blending philosophy with religion, had in reality no taste for philosophy, for Behmenism can hardly be dignified, or, as Law would say, degraded, by that name. The study of mathematics, too, which was regarded by Malebranche as a sort of handmaid to mysticism, was not thus looked upon by William Law. But it is needless to pursue the contrast and comparison further.

With the great name of Malebranche this brief sketch of the mystics who influenced William Law may fitly close. There were many others, both sects and individuals, of a mystic tendency, with whom Law was brought into connection. But to treat of them under the head of mystics would be to encourage the very error against which a protest was entered at the beginning of this chapter. It would be to confound the mystics proper with those who, together with a large admixture of mysticism, blended much which, whether better or worse, was really a different element. Platonists, Philadelphians, Swedenborgians, Moravians, Quakers, will all have to come before us in connection with Law. All were tinged with mysticism ; but all were some

ideal world); and would perhaps have been the fittest Person of the age to have given a just and complete Theory of its Systems. But even this great Apelles has drawn this Celestial Beauty but half way, and I am afraid the excellent piece will suffer, whatever other hand has the finishing of it.'-- Theory of the Ideal World, vol. i. p. 4.

178

Other Semi-Mystic Systems.

thing more, and also something less, than mystics. Even Jacob Behmen was not, exclusively at least, a mystic; he has not therefore been mentioned in his chronological order among the mystics, partly for this reason, and partly also because his influence over Law was so great that he ought not to be confounded with the minor factors which contributed to form the totality of Law's mind, but deserves such prominence as a separate chapter devoted entirely to him can give.

Jacob Behmen.

179

CHAPTER XI.

ON JACOB BEHMEN.

The exact date at which Law first became acquainted with the writings of Jacob Behmen cannot be ascertained ; but it was certainly between the years 1733 and 1737, probably immediately after the former date. The circumstances and results of his first meeting with the Teutonic theosopher are happily known to us from his own words, reported by Mr. Okely. “In a particular interview,' writes this gentleman, 'I had with Mr. Law a few months before his decease, in answer to the question, when and how he first met with Jacob Behmen's works, he said that he had often reflected upon it with surprise that, although when a curate in London, he had perhaps rummaged every bookseller's shop and book-stall in that metropolis, yet he never met with a single book, or so much as the title of any book, of Jacob Behmen's. The very first notice he had of him was from a treatise called " Ratio et Fides.”! Soon after which he

i I imagine that this is the treatise described by Law himself in a letter to his friend Langcake, in 1759, in the following words : The name of the author of Faith and Reason is Mittenach, a German count. All his later works are in a book called Files et Ratio ; they are chiefly translations from Madam Guion.' But there is also a work by Peter Poiret bearing the same title. It is entitled in full, Fides et Ratio collata ac suo utraque loco redditæ adversus principia Johannis Lockii, published in 1707. It has already been seen that Poiret was not altogether a favourite of Law's, but they would be thoroughly at one in their disagreement with Locke's philosophy. Whether the work referred to in the text be Mittenach's or Poiret's I do not know ; probably the former.

« AnteriorContinuar »