On 11 April 1926, Luther Burbank (1849–1926) passed away in Santa Rosa, CA.
An American agricultural scientist, he was famous for his production of the Burbank potato in 1880. During his career, he would develop over 800 strains of fruits, vegetables, grains, grasses and flowers. A forerunner to the modern science of genetics, he was in part influenced by the theories of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829).
Burbank had written somewhat at length regarding his religious views—which he described as a view of God revealed as an immanent ‘kingdom within us’—discoverable through the study of the laws of nature.
“The Religion of Humanity, Burbank felt, will be founded on belief in one Eternal Energy almighty and omnipresent. This universe without a God was incredible to him. Huxley never wrote anything more logical, in his judgment, than this:
‘I am utterly unable to conceive the existence of matter, if there is no mind to feature that existence. The problem of the ultimate cause of existence is one which seems to me hopelessly out of reach of my poor powers. Of all the senseless babble, the demonstrations of these philosophers who undertake to tell us all about the nature of God would be the worst, if they were not surpassed by the still greater absurdities of the philosophers who try to prove that there is no God.’
“… Religion cannot be founded on a principle; it needs the power of an Eternal Energy, almighty and omnipresent. Burbank had already made that point clear when he said: ‘I prefer and claim the right to worship the infinite, everlasting, almighty God of this vast universe as revealed to us gradually, step by step, by the demonstrable truths of our savior, science.’
“Yet, in the face of that statement, hundreds denounced him by letter as an ‘atheist.’ It is true he was an atheist in his utter denial of the God of the theologians, but that denial makes his faith all the stronger in the God of science.
“One Eternal Energy! One Infinite Spirit! There will you find the foundation of his faith, the one Supreme Source of the philosophy of his life. And this Infinite Energy is the very life of the world, the inspiration of all things created. It is the idea of God, as revealed to us from the ‘Kingdom within.’ God is immanent, Burbank believed. ‘In Him we live, and move, and have our being.’ This Infinite Spirit was to him not a personality living in a distant realm, enthroned like a king, dispensing His authority. He is part of everything created. He is in the plants, in the flowers, in the stars, in the worlds beyond. He is the one, supreme, in-dwelling God in our lives. With this Being it was Burbank’s delight to live for sixty years, in the beauty and silences of Nature. His immanence was so real to him that he beheld Him in the living things of Nature that passed through his hands. And for him, this revelation of the ‘Kingdom within’ destroyed all false conceptions of God.”
— Clampett, Frederick William. Luther Burbank: Our Beloved Infidel; His Religious of Humanity. (New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1926), 69-70. Archive full text: https://archive.org/details/testMN40078_9.
Images: https://www.wikiart.org/en/frida-kahlo/portrait-of-luther-burbank-1931, https://www.sonomacounty.com/cultural-arts/luther-burbank-home-gardens