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If this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?
I infer that God’s decrees, and the necessity of event flowing thence, neither destroy the true free-agency of men, nor render the commission of sin a jot less heinous. They neither force the human will, nor extenuate the evil of human actions. Predestination, foreknowledge, and providence, only secure the event, and render it certainly future, in a way and manner (incomprehensibly indeed by us; but) perfectly consistent with the nature of second causes.
A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
I have discovered a universal rule which seems to apply more than any other in all human actions or words: namely, to steer away from affectation at all costs, as if it were a rough and dangerous reef, and (to use perhaps a novel word for it) to practise in all things a certain nonchalance [sprezzatura] which conceals all artistry and makes whatever one says or does seem uncontrived and effortless.
The great wheel of fire of ancient wisdom, silence and word engendering the myth of the origin, human action engendering the epic voyage toward the other; historical violence revealing the tragic flaw of the hero who must then return to the land of origin; myth of death and renewal and silence from which new words and images will arise, keeps on turning in spite of the blindness of purely lineal thought.
[Religion] attacks us in our deepest integrity – the core of our self-respect. Religion says that we would not know right from wrong, we would not know an evil, wicked act from a decent human act without divine permission, without divine authority or without, even worse, either the fear of a divine punishment or the hope of a divine reward. It strips us of the right to make our own determination, as all humans always have, about what is and what is not a right human action.
Free-will doctrine-what does it? It magnifies man into God. It declares God’s purposes a nullity, since they cannot be carried out unless men are willing. It makes God’s will a waiting servant to the will of man, and the whole covenant of grace dependent on human action. Denying election on the ground of injustice, it holds God to be a debtor to sinners.
The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected. The commonplace person begins to play, and shoots into the empyrean without effort, whilst we look up, marvelling how he has escaped us, and thinking how we could worship him and love him, would he but translate his visions into human words, and his experiences into human actions. Perhaps he cannot; certainly he does not, or does so very seldom.
Human judgment of human actions is true and void , that is to say, first true and then void…. The judgment of the word is true, the judgment in itself is void…. Only he who is a party can really judge, but as a party he cannot judge. Hence it follows that there is no possibility of judgment in the world, only a glimmer of it.
In every civilization, life grows easier. Men grow lazier in consequence. We have a picture of what happened to the individual Greek. (I cannot look at history, or at any human action, except as I look at the individual.) The Greeks had good food, good witty talk, pleasant dinner parties; and they were content. When the individual man had reached that condition in Athens, when the thought not of giving to the state but of what the state could give to him, Athens’ freedom was doomed.
I cannot stand forward, and give praise or blame to any thing which relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a simple view of the subject as it stands stripped of every relation, in all the nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction. Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour, and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind.