"The truth is, men have lost their belief in the Invisible," writes Carlyle in Signs of the Times, "and believe, and hope, and work only in the Visible; or, to speak it in other words: This is not a Religious age" (77). Fine. Perhaps growing up in a Mechanical age has rendered me jaded, but I'm not sure Carlyle's "Religious age" ever existed, at least not his imagined version. Take, for example, Carlyle's seemingly rhetorical question:

How did Christianity arise and spread abroad among men? Was it by institutions, and establishments and well-arranged systems of mechanism? Not so; on the contrary, in all past and existing institutions for those ends, its divine spirt has invariably been found to languish and decay. It arose in the mystic deeps of man's soul; and was spread abroad by the 'preaching of the word,' by simple, altogether natural and individual efforts; and flew, like hallowed fire, from the heart to heart, till all were purified and illuminated by it; and its heavenly light shone, as it still shines, and (as sun or star) will ever shine, through the whole dark destinies of man. [74].

Carlyle completely exaggerates when he states that Christianity spread primarily "by simple, altogether natural and individual efforts." Christianity's biggest boom happened after Constantine took the religion into the biggest machine in the land, the Roman Empire. In fact, first century Christians organized themselves into the strata of deacons, bishops, etc. almost from the religion's inception. How can Carlyle bring these facts under his religious, or spiritual roof? Is Carlyle merely ignoring these issues, or is his God internal?

Victorian Web Overview Thomas Carlyle Leading Questions

Last modified 21 February 2002