• God: Interaction or Intervention

    God: Interaction or Intervention

  • 1

But Brothers who up Reason's Hill

Advance with hopeful cheer, ---

O! loiter not these heights are chill,

As chill as they are clear;

And still restrain your haughty gaze,

The loftier that ye go,

Remembering distance leaves a haze

On all that lies below

 

In this stanza from his poem "The Men of Old", Richard Monckton Milnes (aka Lord Houghton) seems to be warning his early nineteenth century contemporaries of the dangers of climbing "Reason's Hill". By doing so, he thought, they would lose sight of the more simple and important view of life, faith and duty that had served their ancestors so well. Milnes was, by all accounts, a thoroughgoing theist and devoted Churchman. Of course, as a freethinking deist I would not be expected to agree with his sentiment here, but I do think his imagery can teach us something important: that the approach to a reasoned view of reality is neither easy nor lazy.

Reasoning out your own view of God or creation requires courage and your efforts may not always be well received. Galileo, for example, found himself on trial for challenging the official Church view of the earth as the static centre of the universe, and finally recanted. Not that Galileo was by any means the first to be censured for challenging the prevailing worldview of his time. Heraclitus was characterized by Diogenes Laertius as "a complete misanthrope" [1] for challenging the more mainstream views of Pythagoras, Hesiod and Homer. Socrates apparently chose hemlock over capitulation when he was tried for allegedly corrupting the youth of the city by the impious acts of "failing to acknowledge the gods that the city acknowledges" and introducing "new divinities or spiritual agencies in their stead."[2] Galileo was not the last either – John Toland's first book, Christianity not Mysterious was burned by the public hangman in Dublin because it contained "heretical doctrines" that were "contrary to the Christian religion".[3] Reportedly, one cleric suggested that Toland himself should have been burned.
So is it worth the effort? Why put yourself "on the rack" when you could easily choose one of the convenient off-the-rack God-models already in existence and settle for that? Why not, as Milnes would have us believe is best, just stick to the ways and thoughts of "the men of old"?

Well, Galileo may have recanted, but as Catherine Faber notes in the lyrics of her song The Words of God, "the earth is moving still" and the view he described has successfully guided generations of astronomers and physicists that have come after him to even more astonishing discoveries. Heraclitus may have been despised and ignored – styled "the Obscure" by fellow philosophers who failed to grasp the meaning behind his words – but modern ideas of process philosophy have, at least to some degree, vindicated and illuminated his view of ever-changing reality. And how many freethinking people today would seriously question Toland's rejection of supernatural divine intervention or the absolute authority of the Church? They resolutely climbed "Reason's Hill" and each saw a view few, if any, others had seen before them. Toland wrote in his own epitaph: "He was an assertor of liberty, a lover of all sorts of learning ... but no man's follower or dependent." [4] He charted his own course of reason, becoming the first to be labeled a "freethinker" and advanced with justified "hopeful cheer" until he reached the peak of his own understanding.

The view from the top of Mount Reason is probably not as hazy as Milnes would have us believe. The air may be rarefied and chill, but it is fresh and each new breath of understanding can be a delight in itself. And even if you still don't see with perfect clarity, it is surely better to have seen the view from the top for yourself, than to have sat idly in the valley wondering what it must be like with only someone else's fashionable, but ill-fitting, hand-me-down descriptions to give you any idea. The view from the top is not the result of an unrestrained "haughty gaze", but the culmination of an honest, personal effort to appreciate and identify with the reality of our own individual experience. Mount Reason has many peaks, and it is really up to each one of us to choose our own track and follow it wherever reason leads. Every now and again, one or other of us will top out at a point few others have ever reached before and describe a view of reality that is as revitalizing and invigorating as a cool draft of clear mountain air.

REFERENCES

[1] Diogenes Laertius, The Lives and Opinions of the Eminent Philosophers, (translated by C.D.Yonge, 1853), p.376

[2] Plato, Apology, (translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1871)

[3] J. N. Duggan, John Toland: Ireland's Forgotten Philosopher, Scholar...and Heretic, 2010, p.5

[4] Quoted in J. G. Simms, "John Toland (1670-1722): A Donegal Heretic," Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 16, Issue 63, March 1969, 318 (available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/30005344) – quoted from a manuscript (apparently not in Toland's hand) in the British Museum BM Add. MS 4295 fol.76.

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

0
terms and condition.

People in this conversation

  • Guest - mike

    Poem is very nice after the read post i pick the some important point Which is helpful for me. I share your post Climbing Mount Reason with others They are all like it Thanks for sharing keep sharing more.

    Comment last edited on about 10 months ago by siti
  • Guest - Jake William

    I always feel difficult in explaining the stanzas in my examination because I was not interested in poems. I never paid much focus on them. I was looking to pay someone to do my Help with Essay and I landed here, so I managed time to read the explanation of this stanza and I am happy that it is explained well. I will get the assistance from the websites whenever I feel it difficult in understanding the stanza, is there any website to get help?

  • Guest - Rigsby

    Wow. Cool. Just love your writing and your poetry. The thing is climbing mount reason is such a wonderful stuff to read. You know the thing is essay order online will help you in making this kind of situation so much better by sharing it with people. Thanks for the cool stuff.

  • Guest - Eleston

    This is a wonderful article, given so much info in it. These types of articles keeps the users interest in the website, and keep on sharing more than people.
    High quality rubber sheet for slippers

Lovies

  • No comments found