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and humble examination,' arrived upon the view as a lawyer would say-at the conclusion that his caste rules were a mass of nonsense, and that the hideous lump of stone believed to be the goddess Kali, before which poor little goats have their heads chopped off, is a loathsome and disgusting object which as it stands is a disgrace to human nature? A rogue elephant the other day went about an Indian district killing the peasants in their huts. Many of them worshipped him as an incarnation of the elephant-headed god Ganesha. The district officer, with the assistance of certain native sceptics, put a rifle-ball through his head, and I think that any native who entered upon an examination into the question whether he really was Ganesha before shooting him would have been exceedingly silly. Seriousness and humility are noble qualities when they are employed upon suitable occasions; but I know not why what is in itself and on the face of it revolting to the common principles of morals and good sense should be treated seriously or with humility. There are cases in which ridicule and contempt are more appropriate.
The question what a man will, in fact, believe upon religious questions is much more easily answered. Every man will take as a starting-point the belief in which he is educated, and will, as he goes on in life, modify it more or less according to an infinity of circumstances. To ask whether this is right or wrong is like asking whether it is right or wrong to live and to grow from childhood to old age. The one process is as unavoidable as the other.
Taking this view of the subject, it seems to me that the question of duty arises at the point at which independent inquiry begins, nor do I see how the use of the word authority' makes any difference; for, unless authority means political power, believing on authority is only another phrase for considering the value of the evidence of experts, which is independent inquiry. In regard to the conduct of such inquiries I can see no distinction between a man's duty in regard to religious inquiries and his duty in regard to other inquiries. He may have neither time nor aptitude for any inquiry at all. He may be in a position, and feel himself called upon, to devote his whole life to the subject, and he may be in any intermediate position. If he thinks at all upon such subjects, he ought to follow the ordinary rules which apply to thought on all subjects. He ought to be honest, courageous, modest, candid, ready to learn and at the same time determined to be taught and not to be put off with a pretence of teaching, and he ought not to expect to arrive at the end. of what is really an endless journey. In all other subjects this is so well ascertained that there is no use in asserting it. Everyone admits that if a man studies history, or law, or politics, or anything else except religion, he must expect to make a thousand mistakes, to waste a great deal of time, and to learn at last only a minute part of a vast subject. Why should it be different with regard to religion?
and why should it distress people to learn that in fact the case is just the same? The answer is, because an opinion prevails that there is a universal obligation incumbent on all mankind to have true opinions about a certain number, greater or less, of theological subjects; and this naturally leads to the further opinion that, inasmuch as hardly anyone is competent to distinguish between truth and falsehood in these matters, there is and must and shall be somewhere or other some easy means of solving a difficult question, some short cut to truth.
To those who, like myself, do not hold this opinion, the subject presents no particular difficulty. Of course, people are ignorant about religion as they are about other things. They usually have more to unlearn before they can begin to learn on that than on other subjects; but I do not see why they should be humiliated by their ignorance, or undervalue the knowledge which they may acquire by proper means, unless they begin with an arbitrary and irrational notion that it is their duty to make bricks without straw, to get firm and unhesitating convictions, as dear to them as life itself, and giving the colour to the whole of their life, out of a vague unverified impression that the multitude or the best think so and so, and that they had better act and think accordingly.'
I have studiously confined myself throughout this article to the subjects touched upon by Mr. Gladstone, and I have therefore not even referred to other grounds of religious belief than argument upon evidence. I should be sorry to be supposed to be ignorant of the existence, or to deny the importance of such grounds of belief. All that I have to say about them here is that intuitive and mystical beliefs appear to me to move in a different plane, so to speak, from beliefs founded on evidence. A person who says that he in some sense or other sees God, and that by some analogous means he is intimately convinced that Christ was God incarnate, cannot be called unreasonable so long as he confines his assertion to himself, and does not go on to say or imply that those who say they cannot see what he says he can see are either telling a falsehood or are blind by their own fault, or are morally his inferiors.
Of course the fact that such assertions are made with intense seriousness and a profound conviction of their truth by a large number of persons is relevant to the question whether the matter asserted is true. But it does not prove it. When a number of people positively swore that a man standing before them was Tichborne and not Orton, the fact that such assertions were made was relevant to the question whether the person in question was or was not Tichborne, but they did not prove that he was Tichborne.
When many people assert that they have a direct intuitive perception of the truth of the fundamental propositions of religion, the assertion is a fact to be considered. It is, as a lawyer would say, evidence to go to a jury, but its weight and effect is quite another
matter. The subject is too wide and important to be noticed here; and as Mr. Gladstone's article passes it by, I will do so too, but with two short parables which need no explanation.
A blind man and a seeing man were once discussing the existence of sight. The seeing man told the blind man that he had a faculty by which he could perceive innumerable things which he could neither hear, touch, smell, nor taste, and which were at a great distance from him. The blind man challenged the seeing man to prove his assertions. That,' said the seeing man, is easily done. Hold me by the hand. You perceive that I am standing by you. I affirm that if you will walk fifty steps along the side of this wall, which you can touch with your hand, so as to be sure that you are moving straight on, you will find such and such objects, which I specifically describe, and as to the existence of which you can satisfy yourself by your own fingers.' The blind man admitted that the seeing man had proved his assertion.
Of two men with eyes, A. and B., A. declared that he could see what went on in the sun, moon, and fixed stars, and that when he said 'see' he meant not exactly common seeing, but a superior kind of seeing, very hard to describe to anyone who did not possess it, which he called 'intueing.'69 B. (who had a good pair of eyes of his own of the common kind) challenged A. to read the Times newspaper at a distance at which B. could not read it. A. failed to do so. 'Why,' said B., 'should I believe that you can "intue" things in Sirius, when you cannot read small print on the other side of the room? If you want me to believe that you possess faculties of which I am destitute, you must prove yourself to be my superior by appealing to the faculties which we have in common.'
JAMES FITZJAMES STEPHEN.
69 This word is frequently used in the Dublin Review.
IN In my last paper I ran through the various classes of which Russian society is composed, and it is time to turn to the government which is supported by, and directs, this society.
The mir, or commune, as we have seen, descends from primeval antiquity, but much of the provincial administration is a creation of the present reign.
European Russia, as distinguished from Poland, the Baltic provinces, Finland, and the Caucasus, which have each a separate administration, is divided into forty-six governments or provinces, each of which is subdivided into districts. The average area of a province is about that of Portugal, but they differ very much in size, as likewise do the districts, some of them being smaller than Oxfordshire, and others bigger than the United Kingdom.
Over each province is a governor, assisted by a vice-governor and a council. The governors were formerly entrusted with enormous power, which they often used in a very arbitrary way. All that has now changed, and they are for the most part, says their latest critic, honest upright people, doing their duty according to their lights. They have at present nothing to do with the administration of justice, and many of the executive functions formerly exercised by them have been handed over to the Zemtsvo. But what is the Zemtsvo?
The Zemtsvo (says Mr. Wallace) is a kind of local administration which supplements the action of the rural communes, and takes cognisance of those higher public wants which individual communes cannot possibly satisfy. Its principal duties are to keep the roads and bridges in proper repair, to provide means of conveyance for the rural police and other officials, to elect the justices of peace, to look after primary education and sanitary affairs, to watch the state of the crops, take measures against approaching famine, and in short to undertake, within certain clearly defined limits, whatever seems likely to increase the material and moral well-being of the population. In form the institution is parliamentary-that is to say, it consists of an assembly of deputies which meets at least once a year, and of a permanent executive bureau elected by the assembly from among its members. If the assembly be regarded as a local parliament, the bureau corresponds to the ministry. Once every three years the deputies are elected in certain fixed proportions by the landed proprietors, the rural communes, and the municipal
corporations. Every province and each of the districts has such an assembly and such a bureau.
Mr. Wallace paid great attention to this institution, which is very fully described by him. His general summing up is as follows:
I might describe many minor defects of the Zemtsvo in its present condition, but I think it would be unfair to criticise severely a young institution which is animated with good intentions, and errs chiefly from inexperience. With all its defects and errors, it is infinitely better than the institutions which it replaced. If we compare it with previous attempts to create local self-government, we must admit that the Russians have made great progress in their political education. What its future may be I do not venture to predict. I am inclined to believe that it will outlive its present state of lethargy, and will gradually acquire new healthy vitality as the people come to feel more and more the need of those things which it is intended to supply. But, on the other hand, it may possibly die of inanition, or be swept away by some new explosion of reforming enthusiasm before it has had time to strike deep root. Some one has truly said that time shows little respect to works which have dispensed with its assistance, and nowhere is the saying more frequently exemplified than in Russia, where institutions shoot up like Jonah's gourd, and perish as rapidly without leaving a trace behind them.
The governor is a subordinate of the Minister of the Interior, but all the other ministers have their subordinates scattered through the country, and the whole mass together makes the body of Tchinovniks, the possessors of a Tchin or official rank, that bureaucracy of which most books on Russia are so full.
Up to and in the days of Nicholas, nothing could exceed the bad repute of the whole service. Now things are better. There is still venality, but less in degree, and, speaking generally, not so bad in kind as it used to be.
Another portion of the government which is a creation of the present reign is the judicial organisation. I say a portion of the government, because it is really quite under government control. Although, however, the judges have none of that independence which we are accustomed to connect with their office, it would be a great mistake to suppose that the administration of justice in Russia has not, since 1864, begun to be on a tolerable footing, or that it is not improving. The old system, which had become so intolerable, from its cumbrousness and the outrageous venality of those who pulled its strings, as to overcome entirely the conservative scruples of Nicholas, has been swept away in the greater part of the Empire, and will eventually disappear altogether. In its room is a brand-new system, formed partly on English but chiefly on French models, worked by three different kinds of tribunals-the Justice of the Peace courts, the regular courts, and the Senate, which is the supreme court of revision. The jury has been introduced in criminal cases, and does, on the whole, well. Indeed, Mr. Wallace's report of the results of the judicial reforms is decidedly satisfactory, and that although the whole bent