Skip to main content

Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

See other formats

First Principles                 325

are seized by the grass and converted into more grass; but
God does not mow the grass and make hay of it. It is Paul
and Apollos who plant and water, but God who giveth the
increase. We never say that God does anything which we
can do ourselves, or ask him for anything which we know
how to get in any other way. As soon as we understand a
thing we remove it from the sphere of God's action.

As long as there is an unknown there will be a God for all
practical purposes; the name of God has never yet been
given to a known thing except by way of flattery, as to
Roman Emperors, or through the attempt to symbolise the
unknown generally, as in fetish worship, and then the priests
had to tell the people that there was something more about
the fetish than they knew of, or they would soon have ceased
to think of it as God.

To understand a thing is to feel as though we could stand
under or alongside of it in all its parts and form a picture of
it in our minds throughout. We understand how a violin is
made if our minds can follow the manufacture in all its
detail and picture it to ourselves. If we feel that we can
identify ourselves with the steam and machinery of a steam
engine, so as to travel in imagination with the steam through
all the pipes and valves, if we can see the movement of each
part of the piston, connecting rod, &c., so as to be mentally
one with both the steam and the mechanism throughout
their whole action and construction, then we say we under-
stand the steam engine, and the idea of God never crosses
our minds in connection with it.

When we feel that we can neither do a thing ourselves,
nor even learn to do it by reason of its intricacy and diffi-
culty, and that no one else ever can or will, and yet we see
the thing none the less done daily and hourly all round us,
then we are not content to say we do not understand how
the thing is done, we go further and ascribe the action to
God. As soon as there is felt to be an unknown and ap-
parently unknowable element, then, but not till then, does
the idea God present itself to us. So at coroners' inquests
juries never say the deceased died by the visitation of God if
they know any of the more proximate causes.

It is not God, therefore, who sows the cornówe could
sow corn ourselves, we can see the man with a bag in his hand