First and Last Thing
A Confession of Faith and Rule of Life
Large Type Edition
By H. G. Wells
BiblioLife (2008), 196 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - November 1, 2010
Many famous novelists wrote about their religious beliefs. Most famous is Leo Tolstoy. Herbert George Wells (1866-1946), known for his The Time Machine and The Invisible Man, is another. He writes about metaphysics, beliefs, and general conduct. His final section is about some "personal things." The book is the result of meetings that he had with some of his educated friends where they discussed these philosophical subjects. Wells took the notes that he prepared for these meetings and turned them into a book.
Wells admits that he is not a specialist in the field and that he is writing for similar people. Yet, he is being overly modest. Wells is certainly a profound thinker. He mentions many philosophers and comments upon them. In fact, this makes his book somewhat tedious and difficult to read. It is not a simple book.
He points out, for example, in his first chapter, the one that is probably the most difficult, that one of the greatest problems is that people think they understand one another, but they are wrong. Both are using the same words, but do so with different meanings. He feels that real inquiry stopped after the ancient Greeks Plato and Aristotle and that we need to begin to ask the same questions they asked and go further and deeper than they did. There is much to learn. He tells how he began to think.
He is convinced that the human mind is imperfect, every mind is different than all others, and individuals must make their own decisions.
Strangely, despite his insistence on learning facts, Wells tells us that people need beliefs, made up notions that have no relation to facts. Remarkable also is his statement that fools should not laugh at what they consider irrational beliefs; after all, only fools laugh at great paintings. (Can one really compare the two items?) What is important to him is not truth, but what works for a person, what makes his life worthwhile. What is important is that they "WORK (his capitalization) for me and satisfy my desire for harmony and beauty. They are arbitrary assumptions, if you will, that I see fit to impose upon my universe."
His first article of faith is that the world is not chaotic; it has meaning. Second, he feels that there is something that is managing the world and he accepts the idea to call this something God. (This something could be the laws of nature, but Wells does not discuss this, and jumps instead to God.) Third, he believes in free will. He then discusses "What am I?"
Readers may agree with Wells or they may feel that his ideas are only ruminations that are not based on facts. All will agree that unlike Tolstoy, who we mentioned previously, Wells did not build his idea of God and the world from organized religion, in Tolstoy’s case, from Christianity.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of sixteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes Wagner and Drazin's latest book Let's Study Onkelos on www.ou.org/torah.