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Modern History Sourcebook:
Ernst Haeckel:
The Confession of Faith of a Man of Science, 1892

At the outset I am entirely at one with that unifying conception of nature as a whole which we designate in a single word as monism. By this we unambiguosly express our conviction that there lives "one spirit in all things" and that the whole cognizable world is constituted, and has been developed, in accordance with one common fundamental law. We emphasize by it, in particular, the essential unity of inorganic and organic nature, the latter having been evolved from the former only at a relatively late period. We cannot draw a sharp line of distinction between these two great divisions of nature, any more than we can recognize an absolute distinction between the animal and the vegetable kingdom, or between the lower animals and Man. Similarly, we regard the whole of human knowledge as a structural unity; in this sphere we refuse to accept the distinction usually drawn between the natural and the spiritual. The latter is only a part of the former (or vice versa); both are one. Our monistic view of the world belongs, therefore, to that group of philosophical systems which from other points of view have been designated also as mechanical or as pantheistic.....

I would therefore crave the permision of this assembly briefly to lay before it on this occasion a frank confession of faith. This monistic confession has the greater claim to an unprejudiced consideration in that it is shared, I am firmly convinced, by at least nine tenths of the men of science now living....

The monistic idea of God, which alone is compatible with our present knowledge of nature, recognizes the divine spirit in all things. It can never recognize in God a "personal being," or, in other words, an individual of limited extension in space, or even of human form. God is everywhere.

As Giordano Bruno has it: "There is one spirit in all things, and no body is so small that it does not contain a part of the divine substance whereby it is animated." Every atom is thus animated, and so is the ether; we might, therefore, represent God as the infinite sum of all natural forces, the sum of all atomic forces and all ether vibrations. It comes virtually to the same thing when God is defined as "the supreme law of the universe," and the latter is represented as the "working of universal space." In this most important article of belief it matters not as to the name but as to the unity of the underlying idea; the unity of God and the world, of spirit and nature. On the other hand, "homotheism," the anthropomorphic representation of God, degrades this loftiest cosmic idea to that of a "gaseous vertebrate.".....

But now, at last, it is given to the mightily advancing human mind to have its eyes opened; it is given to it to show that a true knowledge of nature affords full satifaction and inexhaustible nourishment not only for its searching understanding, but also for its yearning spirit.

Monistic investigation of nature as knowledge of the true, monistic ethic as training for the good, monistic aesthetic as pursuit of the beautiful---these are the three great departments of our monism by the harmonious and consistent cultivation of these we effect at last the truly beatific union of religion and science, so painfully longed after by so many today. The true, the beautiful, and the god, these are the three august divine ones before which we bow the knee in adoration; in the unforced combination and mutual supplementing of these we gain the pure idea of God. To this "triune" divine ideal shall the coming twentieth century build its altars.


Source:

From: Ernst Haeckel, The Confession of Faith of a Man of Science, trans. J. Gilchrist, (London, 1903), pp. 3-4, 59-60, 78-87.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.


This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

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© Paul Halsall, November 1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu