Humanity sees God, or the idea of God, as it sees all things else, from the point of view which its degree of vision, knowledge, etc. affords it capacity to see, and no more.
How far, far off, how pitiful and crude and mean, (to a better or fully developed mind,) how almost entirely human and anthropomorphic, how ready to sink and sure to dissipate utterly away like the flimsiest of cloud-figures, are the supposed portraitures of God held up in all ages to the peoples, in the present age and the current churches just as much as any.
Yet the idea of God is to be accepted on any terms and made the best of,
That idea seems to me to come out of the abysms.
The idea, in all history, poetic fables, and under all circumstances, is vertebral to the whole of the rest;
The best part of literature and religion are, in my opinion, the indirect results of these fables, these guesses at truth.
With all its shortcomings, errors, perturbations, and frantic insanities, that great idea has been, and will ever be, a principal factor in the complicated influences of individual belief and character, individual nobility, and the human race’s progress.
Grant all the harm that it has done in the history of man—
Then what would man be, or have been, without it?
O, theologian, come not to argue with me about God,
As to the Deific identity I know, perhaps as well as any one, how unknowable it is;
In the dispute on God and eternity I am silent,
With the mystery of God we dare not dally—we absolutely know nothing.
More than any priest, O soul, we too believe in God,
Yet understand God not in the least.
And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God.
No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God,
I hear and behold God in every object,
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then.
Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
Where will I, on the sea or on the land, be without the autograph of God?
I guess the grass is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say, Whose?
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d by God’s name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.
What black and stupid hour is that, while the unspeakable something in man’s eyes anywhere beams upon me, that I do not feel the hint and the ecstasy of the presence of God?
Time and space,
Or shape of Earth divine and wondrous,
Or some fair shape I viewing, worship,
Or lustrous orb of sun or star by night,
Be ye my gods.
Aught, aught of mightiest, best I see, conceive, or know,
All great ideas, the races’ aspirations,
All heroisms, deeds of rapt enthusiasts,
All that exalts, releases thee, my soul,
To break the stagnant tie—thee, thee to free, O soul,
Be ye my gods.
Priests! Until you can explain a paving stone, do not try to explain God,
There is more miracle in a wave, a rock, a tree than we were attributing to the whole of theology.
No man has ever been half devout enough,
None has ever adored or worship’d half enough,
The bull and the bug never worship’d half enough.
Did you think the demonstrable less divine than the mythical?
Scientific facts, deductions, are divine too—precious counted parts of moral civilization, and indispensable to it, to prevent fanaticism. For abstract religion, I perceive, is easily led astray, ever credulous, and is capable of devouring, remorseless, like fire and flame.
The candor of science is the glory of the modern. It does not hide and repress; it confronts, turns on the light;
With science, the old theology of the east, long in its dotage, begins evidently to die and disappear.
Science having extirpated the old stock-fables and widely prevailing, unspeakably tenacious superstitions, it is to be the greatest office of scientism, and of future poetry also, to free the spiritual, the religious, from fables, crudities, and enfeebling superstitions, and launch forth in renew’d faith and scope a hundred fold.
But science, grand as it is, stands baffled before the impenetrable miracle of the least law of the universe, and even the least leaf or insect.
I cannot join men of science in their silent or expressed contempt of the vulgar idea of God;
Not that it is true, but that, with all its violations of the rules of science, it is a faint indication, perhaps indirection (as much as the masses can hold,) of the all-enclosing truth, of the truth behind all science.
To me, the worlds of religiousness, of the conception of the divine, and of the ideal are just as absolute in humanity and the universe as the world of chemistry, or anything in the objective worlds.
The supreme and final science, where science becomes religion, is the science of God—
The new theology, lusty and loving, and wondrous beautiful—
What we call science being only its minister (as democracy is, or shall be, also.)
Science—and maybe such will prove its principal service—prepares the way for this noblest of religions,
Coming after all the religions that came before, indescribably grander.
It alone has perfect faith—faith not in a part only, but all.
Thought of the infinite—the All!
Be thou my God,
The general soul, nameless, ethereal, most solid,
Life of the great round world, the fibre and the breath,
Including all life, pervading all,
Fluid, vast identity, life of the real identities,
Holding the universe with all its parts as one,
Rapport of sun, moon, earth, and all the constellations,
Unseen force, centripetal, centrifugal, through space’s spread,
What central heart—and you the pulse—vivifies all? what boundless aggregate of all?
What subtle indirection and significance in you? what clue to all in you?
Thou O God, light of the light, my life hast lighted,
With ray of light, steady, ineffable, vouchsafed of thee,
Light rare untellable, beyond the light,
Beyond all signs, descriptions, languages,
Lighter than light, lighting the very light.
All the vastness of space-systems of suns, carried in their computation to the farthest that figures are able, then multiplied in geometrical progression ten thousand billion fold, do not more than symbolize the reflection of the reflection of the spark thrown off a spark, from some emanation of God.
Yes, I believe in the Trinity—
God reality, God beneficence or love, and God immortality or growth.
Thou mightier centre of the true, the good, the loving,
Life of the great round world,
The unseen something in all life,
Essence of forms, life of the real identities,
I have not once lost nor faith nor ecstasy in thee.
I will cling fast to thee, O God, though the waves buffet me—
Intentions, purports, aspirations mine,
As for the way things finally turn out, leaving results to thee,
Accepting all from thee, as duly come from thee.
The end I know not, it is all in thee,
Thee, thee at least I know.
O pensive soul of me—O thirst unsatisfied—waitest not there?
Waitest not haply for us somewhere there the Comrade perfect?
Thou moral, spiritual fountain—affection’s source—thou reservoir,
Bathe me O God in thee, mounting to thee,
I and my soul to range in range of thee,
Breathe, bathe myself once more in thee, commune with thee.