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Title: Mountain Meditations - and some subjects of the day and the war
Author: Lind-af-Hageby, L. (Lizzy), 1878-1963
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Publisher's device]


_First published in 1917_

(_All rights reserved_)



MOUNTAIN-TOPS                 7

THE BORDERLAND               44

REFORMERS                    84

NATIONALITY                 131



  Frères de l'aigle! Aimez la montagne sauvage!
  Surtout à ces moments où vient un vent d'orage.
                                   VICTOR HUGO.

I belong to the great and mystic brotherhood of mountain worshippers.
We are a motley crowd drawn from all lands and all ages, and we are
certainly a peculiar people. The sight and smell of the mountain affect
us like nothing else on earth. In some of us they arouse excessive
physical energy and lust of conquest in a manner not unlike that which
suggests itself to the terrier at the sight of a rat. We must master the
heights above, and we become slaves to the climbing impulse, itinerant
purveyors of untold energy, marking the events of our lives on peaks and
passes. We may merit to the full Ruskin's scathing indictment of those
who look upon the Alps as soaped poles in a bear-garden which we set
ourselves "to climb and slide down again with shrieks of delight," we
may become top-fanatics and record-breakers, "red with cutaneous
eruption of conceit," but we are happy with a happiness which passeth
the understanding of the poor people in the plains.

Others experience no acceleration of physical energy, but a strange
rousing of all their mental faculties. Prosaic, they become
poetical--the poetry may be unutterable, but it is there; commonplace,
they become eccentric; severely practical, they become dreamers and
loiterers upon the hillside. The sea, the wood, the meadow cannot
compete with the mountain in egging on the mind of man to incredible
efforts of expression. The songs, the rhapsodies, the poems, the
æsthetic ravings of mountain worshippers have a dionysian flavour which
no other scenery can impart.

Yesterday I left the turmoil of a conference in Geneva and reached home
amongst my delectable mountains. I took train for the foot of the hills
and climbed for many hours through drifts of snow. This morning I have
been deliciously mad. First I greeted the sun from my open chalet window
as it rose over the range on my left and lit up the great glacier before
me, throwing the distant hills into a glorious dream-world of blue and
purple. Then I plunged into the huge drifts of clean snow which the
wind had piled up outside my door. I laughed with joy as I breathed the
pure air, laden with the scent of pines and the diamond-dust of snow. I
never was more alive, the earth was never more beautiful, the heavens
were never nearer than they are to-day. Who says we are prisoners of
darkness? Who says we are puppets of the devil? Who says God must only
be worshipped in creeds and churches? Here are the glories of the
mountains, beauty divine, peace perfect, power unfathomable, love
inexhaustible, a never failing source of hope and light for our
struggling human race. I am vaguely aware of the unreasonableness of my
delirium of mountain joy, but I revel in it. And I sing with Sir Lewis

                More it is than ease,
  Palace and pomp, honours and luxuries,
  To have seen white presences upon the hills,
  To have heard the voices of the eternal gods.

The emotions engendered by mountain scenery defy analysis. They may be
classified and labelled, but not explained. I turn to my library of
books by mountain-lovers--climbers, artists, poets, scientists. Though
we are solitaries in our communion with the Deity, though we worship in
great spaces of solitude and silence and seek rejuvenescence in utter
human loneliness, we do not despise counsels of sympathy and approval.
The strife rewarded, the ascent accomplished, we are profoundly grateful
for the yodel of human fellowship. And--let me whisper it in
confidence--we do not despise the cooking-pots. For the mountains have a
curious way of lifting you up to the uttermost confines of the spirit
and then letting you down to the lowest dominions of the flesh.

"Examine the nature of your own emotion (if you feel it) at the sight of
the Alps," says Ruskin, "and you find all the brightness of that emotion
hanging like dew on a gossamer, on a curious web of subtle fancy and
imperfect knowledge." Such a result of our examination would but add to
our confusion. Ruskin's mind was so permeated with adoration of mountain
scenery that his attempts at cool analysis of his own sensations failed,
as would those of a priest who, worshipping before the altar, tried at
the same time to give an analytical account of his state of mind.
Ruskin is the stern high priest of the worshippers of mountains; to him
they are cathedrals designed by their glory and their gloom to lift
humanity out of its baser self into the realization of high destinies.
The fourth volume of _Modern Painters_ was the fount of inspiration from
which Leslie Stephen and the early members of the Alpine Club drank
their first draughts of mountaineering enthusiasm. But the disciples
never reached the heights of the teacher. Listen to the exposition by
the Master of the services appointed to the hills:

"To fill the thirst of the human heart for the beauty of God's
working--to startle its lethargy with a deep and pure agitation of
astonishment--are their higher missions. They are as a great and noble
architecture, first giving shelter, comfort, and rest; and covered also
with mighty sculpture and painted legend."

There is a solemn stateliness about Ruskin's descriptions of the
mountains, which in the last passage of the chapter on _The Mountain
Gloom_ rises to the impassioned cadences of the prophet.

He could tolerate no irreverent spirits in the sanctuary of the
mountain. Leslie Stephen's remark that the Alps were improved by
tobacco smoke became a profanity. One shudders at the thought of the
reprimand which Stevenson would have drawn down upon himself had his
flippant messages from the Alps come before that austere critic. In a
letter to Charles Baxter, Stevenson complained of how "rotten" he had
been feeling "alone with my weasel-dog and my German maid, on the top of
a hill here, heavy mist and thin snow all about me and the devil to pay
in general." And worse still are the lines sent to a friend--

  Figure me to yourself, I pray--
    A man of my peculiar cut--
  Apart from dancing and deray,
    Into an Alpine valley shut;

  Shut in a kind of damned hotel,
    Discountenanced by God and man;
  The food?--Sir, you would do as well
    To cram your belly full of bran.

The soul of Ruskin was born and fashioned for the mountains. His first
visit to Switzerland in 1833 brought him to "the Gates of the
Hills--opening for me a new life--to cease no more except at the Gates
of the Hills whence one returns not. It is not possible to imagine," he
adds of his first sight of the Alps, "in any time of the world a more
blessed entrance into life for a child of such temperament as mine.... I
went down that evening from the garden terrace of Schaffhausen with my
devotion fixed in all of it that was to be sacred and useful."[1]

  [Footnote 1: _Life of Ruskin_, by Sir Edward Cooke
  (George Allen and Unwin Ltd.).]

That profound stirring of the depths of the soul which Ruskin avowed as
the impetus to his life's work is only possible when the mind is fired
by a devotion to the mountains which brooks no rival. "For, to myself,
mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural scenery," he
wrote in _The Mountain Glory_; "in them, and in the forms of inferior
landscape that lead to them, my affections are wholly bound up." And he
completely and forever reversed Dante's dismal conception of scenery
befitting souls in purgatory by saying that "the best image which the
world can give of Paradise is in the slope of the meadows, orchards, and
cornfields on the sides of a great Alp, with its purple rocks and
eternal snows above."

No lover of mountains has approached Ruskin in intensity of veneration.
Emile Javelle is not far away. Javelle climbed as by a religious
impulse; his imagination was filled by Alpine shapes; he, like Ruskin,
had forfeited his heart to the invisible snow-maiden that dwells above
the clouds. When Javelle was a child his uncle showed him a collection
of plants, and amongst them the "Androsace ... rochers du Mont Blanc."
This roused the desire to climb; the faded bit of moss with the portion
of earth still clinging to the roots became a sacred relic beckoning him
to the shrine of the white mountain. In the same way Ruskin, mature and
didactic, yet withal so beautifully childlike, tells us "that a wild bit
of ferny ground under a fir or two, looking as if possibly one might see
a hill if one got to the other side, will instantly give me intense
delight because the shadow, the hope of the hills is in them." Both
lovers showed the same disdain of the mere climber. Javelle's Alpine
memories record his sense of aloofness from the general type of member
of the Alpine Club.

Whilst Ruskin's communion with the mountains found an outlet in prolific
literary output, and a system of art and ethics destined to leaven the
mass of human thought, the infinitude and grandeur of mountain scenery
had a dispersive effect on Javelle's mind. I can so well understand him.
He wandered over the chain of Valais--my mountains (each worshipper has
his special idols)--the Dent du Midi, the Vaudois Alps, and the Bernese
Oberland in search of beauty, more and more beauty. He ascended peak
after peak, attracted by an irresistible force, permeated by a desire
for new points of view, forgetful of the haunts of men.

And when, between times, Javelle tried to write a book, a great and
learned book on rhetoric, he could never finish it. For seven years he
laboured at preparing it, collecting notes, seeking corroborative
evidence. His Alpine climbing had taught him the elusiveness of isolated
peaks of knowledge. He saw that rhetoric is dependent on æsthetics and
æsthetics on psychology and sociology and philosophy, and all on
anthropology; that there are no frontiers and no finality and no
knowledge which is not relative and imperfect. It was all a question of
different tops and points of view, and so the book was not finished when
he died, still in search of the super-mountain of the widest and
largest view, still crying out his motto, "Onward, higher and higher
still! You must reach the top!"

Beware, O fellow mountaineers, of such ambitions. For that way madness
lies. I know the lure and the shock. As I write this I sit gazing across
the valley upon the mountain on my right. It is known by the name of the
Black Head; it has a sombre shape, it has never been known to smile. It
towers above me with a cone-shaped top, a figure of might and dominion.
For a dozen years it has checked my tendency to idealistic flights by
reminding me of the inexorable laws of Nature. It is true it does not
conceal the smiling glacier in front of me, with its ceaseless play of
light and shadow, colour and form, but it arrests the fancy by its
massive immovability. And yet, when I leave my little abode of bliss and
wander forth into the heights above (ah, humiliation that there should
be heights above), I find my black top subjected to a process of
shrinking. As I reach the top it ignominiously permits itself to be
flattened out to a mere ridge without a head, a Lilliputian hill
bemoaning its own insignificance.

Such are the illusions of the mountain play. Yet the climb and the
heights have ever served man as a symbol of the search for certainty.
Lecky invokes the heights as the only safe place from which to view
history and discover the great permanent forces through which nations
are moved to improvement or decay. Schopenhauer compares philosophy to
an Alpine road, often bringing the wanderer to the edge of the chasm,
but rewarding him as he ascends with oblivion of the discords and
irregularities of the world. Nietzsche's wisdom becomes pregnant upon
lonely mountains; he claims that whosoever seeks to enter into this
wisdom "must be accustomed to live on mountain-tops and see beneath him
the wretched ephemeral gossip of politics and national egoism."

But the mountain-tops make sport of the certainties of philosophers as
well as of those of fools. The safest plan is to ascend them without too
heavy an encumbrance of theories. You may then meet fairies and goblins
who beckon you to the caves of mystery, you may stray into the hills of
Arcadia and meet Pan himself. "Sweet the piping of him who sat upon the
rocks and fluted to the morning sea." You may even find yourself on
Olympus, the mount of a thousand folds, listening to the everlasting
assault upon the Gods by the Titans, sons of strife. And if you are very
patient you may witness Zeus, the lightning-gatherer, pierce the black
clouds and rend the sky, illuminating hill and vale with the fierce
light which makes even the battle of Troy intelligible.

You may bathe your soul in that Natura Maligna which only reveals its
blessings to pagans and poets. Byron is the chosen bard of the
destructive might of the mountains--

              Ye toppling crags of ice!
  Ye avalanches, whom a breath draws down
  In mountainous o'erwhelming, come and crush me!
    .    .    .    .    .
  The mists boil up around the glaciers; clouds
  Rise curling fast beneath me, white and sulphury,
  Like foam from the roused ocean of deep Hell,
  Whose every wave breaks on a living shore,
  Heaped with the damned like pebbles.

He had the nature-mystic's thirst for a touch of the untamed power of
Nature, for communion with the magnificence of death, shaking the
mountain with wind and falling snow, with leaping rock and earth-eating
torrent. Such would fain die that they may experience the joys of being
possessed by Nature. For they have entered on the marriage of life and
death, heaven and hell, and out of the roaring cataclysm of destruction
they rise winged with a new life.

Whilst the poets chant the awful power of the distant mountain, Byron
comes to us out of the mountain, fashioned by its force, intoxicated by
the wine of its wild life. Mountain climbers meet with strange and
unexpected bedfellows in the course of their wanderings. In his cry for
the baptism of the wild winds of the mountain, Matthew Arnold approaches
Byron closely--

  Ye storm-winds of Autumn
    .    .    .    .    .
  Ye are bound for the mountains--
    Ah, with you let me go
    .    .    .    .    .
  Hark! fast by the window
    The rushing winds go,
  To the ice-cumber'd gorges,
    The vast seas of snow.
  There the torrents drive upward
    Their rock-strangled hum,
  There the avalanche thunders
    The hoarse torrent dumb.
  --I come, O ye mountains!
    Ye torrents, I come!

Shelley sings exquisitely of its grandeur, its ceaseless motion; he
voices the wonderment of man before the complex problem of Mont Blanc.
But his mind has never participated in the revels on the mountain, he
has not lost and barely recovered his soul in adventurous crevasses. He
retains something of the old horror of the desolate heights--

  A desert peopled by the storms alone,
  Save when the eagle brings some hunter's bone,
  And the wolf tracks her there. How hideously,
  Its shapes are heaped around! rude, bare, and high,
  Ghastly, and scarred, and riven.--Is this the scene
  Where the old Earthquake-dæmon taught her young

There is a trace of the same awe in Coleridge's deathless hymn to Mont

  On thy bald, awful head, O sovran Blanc,
    .    .    .    .    .
  O dread and silent mount!

Nearly all the poets have been moved by the primitive sense of their
awe-commanding power. Wordsworth never forgets the blackness, though he
is, above all, the bard of mountain light and sweetness, of warbling
birds and maiden's haycocks. The poet does not lose the blessed gift of
wonder possessed by children and savages. And nothing in Nature can
startle the mind like the sight of a mighty range of mountains. They
recall primitive feelings of fear before the great unknown, they tower
above the human form with a colossal imperturbability which withers our
importance and confuses our standards of value. Victor Hugo never quite
freed himself from the mediæval dread of the mountains or the mediæval
speculation on their meaning. His letters to his wife from the Alps and
Pyrenees record his impressions with a painstaking and detailed accuracy
which does not forget the black-and-yellow spider performing somersaults
on an imperceptible thread hung from one brier to another. The emotion
after an hour on the Rigi-Kulm "is immense." "The tourist comes here to
get a point of view; the thinker finds here an immense book in which
each rock is a letter, each lake is a phrase, each village is an accent;
from it arise, like a smoke, two thousand years of memories."

Here speaks the true panoramic man, the man whose mind attains to
fulness of expression on mountain-tops from which the whole landscape of
life may be contemplated. And yet he notes the "ominous configuration
of Mount Pilatus" and its terrible form, and writes of adjoining
mountains as "these hump-backed, goitred giants crouching around me in
the darkness." The Rigi appears as "a dark and monstrous perpendicular

His mind is occupied with the presence of idiots in the Alps. He finds
an explanation: "It is not granted to all intelligences to co-habit with
such marvels and to keep from morning till evening without intoxication
and without stupor, turning a visual radius of fifty leagues across the
earth around a circumference of three hundred." On the Rigi his musings
on the magnificence of the view are checked by the presence of a cretin.
Behold the contrast! An idiot with a goitre and an enormous face, a
blank stare, and a stupid laugh is sole participator with Victor Hugo in
this "marvellous festival of the mountains."

"Oh! abysm!" he cries; "the Alps were the spectacle, the spectator was
an idiot! I forgot myself in this frightful antithesis: man face to face
with nature; Nature in her superbest aspect, man in his most miserable
debasement. What could be the significance of this mysterious contrast?
What was the sense of this irony in a solitude? Have I the right to
believe that the landscape was designed for him--the cretin, and the
irony for me--the chance visitor?"

The idiot and the mountain shared, no doubt, a supreme indifference to
the commotion which their proximity had set up in the poet's mind. With
his love of antithesis Hugo had seized the picture of the glories of the
mountain wasting themselves before the gaze of the senseless idiot.
Apart from geographical conditions and hygienic defects there is an
interesting æsthetic problem connected with the presence of idiots in
the mountains. It is not only the idiot who is indifferent to the
beauties of the Alps; the sane and healthy peasant whose eyes wander
over the glaciers and snow-fields as he rests for a few minutes from
hoeing his potatoes is not moved by the sight to ecstatic delight.

I have many dear friends amongst peasants. They are richly endowed with
common sense and kindness of heart; their brains can compete favourably
with those of the folk of any other country. Their hard struggle with a
rebellious soil has given them a quiet determination and tenacity of
purpose which are the root of Alpine enterprise and resourcefulness.
They possess character and independence in a high degree--mental
reflexes of the peaks of freedom, ever before their eyes. But they,
children of the mountain, born and bred amidst its beauties, are
surprisingly insensitive to beauty.

I remember one exquisite sunset--one of those superlative sunsets that
burn themselves into the consciousness with a joy akin to pain, and of
which only a few are allotted to each human life. I stood watching the
sinking sun throw a crimson net over the snow mountains as the shadow of
night crept slowly up the hillside. The sky took on an opal light in
which were merged and transcended all the colours of the day. Every
pinnacle and rock was lit up as by a heavenly fire, the pines were
outlined like black sentinels against the sky, guardians of that
merciful green life from which we spring and to which we return. My old
friend the goat-herd and daily messenger from the highest pastures stood
beside me. "Beautiful, Pierre," I said, "and in this you have lived all
your life."

"Yes," he said, slowly shifting the pipe from the left side of his
mouth to the right; "the cheese is fat and good in the mountains, and
the milk is not poisonous as it is in the plains, but it is hard work
for the back to carry it down twice a day." He looked at me as if
searching for better understanding. "But I will tell you something
nice," he added, by way of stirring up my sluggish imagination; "the
little brown cow has calved, and this autumn we are going to kill the
old cow, and we shall have good meat all the winter."

Far be it from me to join in the thoughtless generalizations about the
obtuseness of the Alpine peasant which have disfigured some of the
literature of climbing. These climbers have shown infinitely greater
obtuseness before Alpine realities than the peasants derided by them.
True, a star may compete in vain with a cheese in suggesting visions of
joy, but our supercilious climbers forget that their admiration of
nature's marvels is generally built up on a substratum of cheese--or the
equivalent of cheese--plentifully supplied by the labour of others.
There is another class of climbers who idealize the peasant and the
guide, and who write of Alpine peasant-life as if it were nothing but a
series of perilous ascents nobly undertaken for the advancement of

I can understand the indifference of the peasant to the visions around
him. After a hard day's scything or woodcutting on slopes so steep that
the resistance of one's hob-nailed boots seems like that of soft soap, I
have felt profoundly healthy and ready to go to bed without listening to
any lyrics on the Alps. And even the thought of Tennyson's "awful rose
of dawn" would not have roused me before the labour of the next day.

But we--how proud I am of that "we"!--who have chosen hard labour on the
mountain know something which the mere visitors (though they be members
of many Alpine Clubs) know not. We have a sense of home which no other
habitation can impart--a passionate love of the soil, a unity with the
little patch that is our own, bringing joys undimmed by any descriptions
of other-worldly possessions. Our trees may be wrecked by an avalanche,
our garden plot may be obliterated by a land slip; the stone walls we
build up in defiance of the snow are always pulled down by mountain
sprites. Our agriculture is precarious, and every carrot is bought by
the sweat of our brow. The struggle keeps pace with our love--there is a
tenfold sweetness in the fruit we reap. And when fate compels us to
leave our mountains we are pursued by restlessness. We know no peace, no
home elsewhere. We do assume the airs of Victor Hugo's cretin when we
are placed face to face with the riches of Croesus or the splendours
of Pharaoh.

We must reluctantly admit that the phenomenon of cold indifference to
mountain scenery may occur without any corresponding degree of idiocy.
In the _Playground of Europe_, Leslie Stephen told us that a man who
preserves a stolid indifference in face of mountain beauty must be of
the "essentially pachydermatous order." He commented at length on the
peculiar temperament of those who have expressed dislike of his perfect
playground--Chateaubriand, Johnson, Addison, Bishop Berkeley. Bishop
Berkeley, who crossed Mont Cenis on New Year's Day 1714, complained that
he was "put out of humour by the most horrible precipices." There is
huge comfort to be drawn from Stephen's pages descriptive of the
"simple-minded abhorrence of mountains," and from his categorical
declaration that love of the sublime shapes of the Alps springs from "a
delicate and cultivated taste." But we are puzzled by the presence
outside the pale of some who cannot rightly be called "pachydermatous."
I am turning over the pages of Sarah Bernhardt's autobiographical
revelations. "I adore the sea and the plain," she writes, "but I neither
care for mountains nor for forests. Mountains seem to crush me, and
forests to stifle me." Strange that the high priestess of expression,
the interpreter of every phase of human passion and sorrow, she who dies
terribly twice a day, and mercilessly conducts us to the attenuated air
and dizzy heights of intense emotion, should feel no kinship with the
mountains. It may be that they are antagonistic to the fine arts of
simulation and will brook no companionship of feeling that is not real.
And her stage-worn heart is certainly not in alliance with Fiona
Macleod's _Lonely Hunter_.

  But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on
  A lonely hill.

We might assume that the traditional wildness of the great tragedienne
would have found a chord of sympathy in the avalanche or in the fierce
torrent breaking over the rocks. Rousseau's hysteria and wild assaults
on the conventions of Society and literature have been traced to the
mountains. Lord Morley emphasizes that Rousseau "required torrents,
rocks, dark forests, mountains, and precipices," and that no plains,
however beautiful, ever seemed so in his eyes. There is naturally a
complete divergence of opinion between lovers and haters of mountains as
to their effect on the literary mind. We like to associate peaks of
genius with peaks of granite. Ruskin found fault with Shakespeare's lack
of impression from a more sublime country as shown by the sacrilegious

  Rush on his host, as doth the melted snow
  Upon the valleys whose low vassal seat
  The Alps doth spit, and void his rheum upon.

There are anomalies in the capacity for æsthetic enjoyment of mountain
scenery which exclude some minds which we should expect to find amongst
the devotees and include others for whom we might look amongst the
scoffers. Dickens was profoundly affected by the mountain-presence. His
letters show the true rapture. Of the scenery of the St. Gothard he
writes: "Oh God! what a beautiful country it is. How poor and shrunken,
beside it, is Italy in its brightest aspect!" He sees "places of
terrible grandeur unsurpassable, I should imagine, in the world." Going
up the Col de Balme, he finds the wonders "above and beyond one's
wildest expectations." He cannot imagine anything in nature "more
stupendous or sublime." His impressions are so prodigious that he would
rave were he to write about them. At the hospice of the Great St.
Bernard he awakes, believing for a moment that he had "died in the night
and passed into the unknown world." Tyndall's scientific ballast cannot
keep him from soaring in a similar manner. His _Glaciers of the Alps_
contains some highly strung sentences of delight. "Surely," he writes of
sunset seen near the Jungfrau, "if beauty be an object of worship, these
glorious mountains with rounded shoulders of the purest white,
snow-crested, and star-gemmed, were well calculated to excite sentiments
of adoration." His wealth of words increases with the splendour of the
views in which he revels; he becomes a poet in prose, he calls up symbol
and simile, he strains language to express the inexpressible. The sky
of the mountain is "rosy violet," which blends with "the deep zenithal
blue"; it wears "a strange and supernatural air"; he sees clear spaces
of amber and ethereal green; the blue light in the cave of the glacier
presents an aspect of "magical beauty." There is true worship of the
idol in the following lines descriptive of sunrise on Mont Blanc:

    The mountain rose for a time cold and grand, with no apparent
    stain upon his snows. Suddenly the sunbeams struck his crown and
    converted it into a boss of gold. For some time it remained the
    only gilded summit in view, holding communion with the dawn,
    while all the others waited in silence. These, in the order of
    their heights, came afterwards, relaxing, as the sunbeams struck
    each in succession, into a blush and smile.

Tyndall holds the mastership of polychromatic description of the
beauties of the mountain; he makes us feel his own response to their
call to the depths of æsthetic perception in the human soul. Words gush
forth from him in a fervour of gratitude for the pleasures of the eye.
He may measure and weigh, he may set out as an emissary of cold
scientific investigation: he returns hot with admiration and raving of
the marvels of God upon the hills. But even he reaches a point where
the realization of the utter inadequacy of expression paralyses the
desire to convey the emotion to others. "I was absolutely struck dumb by
the extraordinary majesty of this scene," he writes of one evening, "and
watched it silently till the red light faded from the highest summits."

Verestchagin astonished his wife by painting his studies of snow in the
Himalayas at an altitude of 14,000 feet, tormented by hunger and thirst
and supported by two coolies, who held him on each side. She had the
pluck and the endurance to follow him on his long climbs, but being a
less exalted mortal, her sense of fitness was unduly strained by the
intensity of Verestchagin's devotion to clouds and mountain-tops. "His
face is so frightfully swollen," she tells us, "that his eyes look
merely like two wrinkles, the sun scorches his head, his hand can
scarcely hold the palette, and yet he insists on finishing his sketches.
I cannot imagine," she reflects, "how Verestchagin could make such
studies." There were, nevertheless, occasions when the inaction,
following on intense æsthetic emotion, stayed Verestchagin's busy brush.
One day, relates Madame Verestchagin, he went out to sketch the sunset:

    He prepared his palette, but the sight was so beautiful that he
    waited in order to examine it better. Several thousand feet below
    us all was wrapped in a pure blue shadow; the summits of the
    peaks were resplendent in purple flames. Verestchagin waited and
    waited and would not begin his sketch. "By and by, by and by,"
    said he; "I want to look at it still; it is splendid!" He
    continued to wait, he waited until the end of the evening--until
    the sun was set and the mountains were enveloped in dark shadows.
    Then he shut up his paint-box and returned home.

As I read these lines I find myself wondering how many paint-boxes have
been shut up by the sight of the mountains. I know many have been
opened, and, amongst these, not a few which might have served humanity
better by remaining shut. But we may safely assume that despite the
general tendency of mountain worshippers to attempt to paint--in colours
strong and language divine--the effect on their minds, there are
exceptional instances of noble and self-imposed dumbness. Not the
dumbness which is practising the old device of--

    Reculer pour mieux sauter,

but a genuine silence of humility before the mysteries of nature. We
sigh in vain for a glimpse of these exceptional souls. They resist our
best climbing qualifications and are as inaccessible as the mists above
our highest tops. And we prefer, naturally, our talking companions,
those who shrink not from the task of ready interpretation.

"The Alps form a book of nature as wide and mysterious as Life," says
Frederic Harrison in his _Alpine Jubilee_, in one of those clear-cut and
well-measured passages of mountain homage, which are balm to the
tormented hearts of those who feel themselves afloat on the clouds of
mystery. "To know, to feel, to understand the Alps is to know, to feel,
to understand Humanity."

I am not at all sure this is true; it is probably entirely untrue.
Humanity--in the abstract--is apt to suffer an enforced reduction in
magnitude and importance when seen from Alpine heights. But it is one of
those phrases which we hug instinctively as the bearers of food for
hungry hearts. We do not want Leslie Stephen's reminder of metaphysical
riddles, "Where does Mont Blanc end and where do I begin?" We do not
want to be paralysed by philosophic doubt for the rest of our mortal
lives on the hills. We prefer to be stirred to emotional life by those
who are transported by love of beauty to the realms of unreason.

In the autobiography of Princess Hélène Racowitza--the tragically
beloved of Ferdinand Lassalle--there is evidence of such transport. She
has but reached one of the commonplaces of tourist ventures. From the
Wengern Alp she watches the play of night and dawn on the Jungfrau:

    Again and again the glory of God drew me to the window. In
    the immense stillness of the loneliness of the mountains, the
    thundering of the avalanches that crashed from time to time
    from the opposite heights was the only sound. It was as if one
    heard the breath of God, and in deepest reverence one's heart
    stood almost still.

She beholds the moon pale and the summit of the Jungfrau glitter in "a
thousand prismatic colours" from the rising sun:

    Once more I was shaken to the depths of my soul, thankful that
    I was allowed to witness this and to enjoy it thus. A great joy
    leapt up in my heart, which more surely than the most fervent
    prayer of thanks penetrated to the infinite goodness of the
    great Almighty.

The sincerity of the religious feeling is enhanced by its simplicity.
The more complex experiences of the true mystical nature retain the same
intensity of devotional fervour. Anna Kingsford, whose interpretations
of the inner meaning of Christianity place her in the foremost rank of
modern mystics, was caught up to God by the beauty of the mountains. Her
friend and biographer, Edward Maitland, describes their effect on one in
whom a fiercely artistic soul did combat with a frail and suffering
body. It was whilst near the mountains that she conceived her beautiful
utterance on the Poet:

    But the personality of the Poet is Divine: and being Divine, it
    hath no limits.

    He is supreme and ubiquitous in consciousness: his heart beats in
    every Element.

    The Pulses of all the infinite Deep of Heaven vibrate in his own:
    and responding to their strength and their plenitude, he feels
    more intensely than other men.

    Not merely he sees and examines these Rocks and Trees: these
    variable Waters, and these glittering Peaks.

    Not merely he hears this plaintive Wind, these rolling Peals:

    But he IS all these: and with them--nay, IN them--he rejoices and
    weeps, he shines and aspires, he sighs and thunders.

    And when he sings, it is not he--the Man--whose Voice is heard:
    it is the voice of all the Manifold Nature herself.

    In his Verse the Sunshine laughs; the Mountains give forth their
    sonorous Echoes; the swift Lightnings flash.

    The great continual cadence of universal Life moves and becomes
    articulate in human language.

    O Joy profound! O boundless Selfhood! O Godlike Personality!

    All the Gold of the Sunset is thine; the Pillars of Chrysolite;
    and the purple Vault of Immensity!

Anna Kingsford did not consciously seek the mountains to find there the
release of imprisoned powers of utterance. The mountains sought her by
their beauty and called forth the true mystic's ecstasy of communion.
Mystics of all times and all religions have found inspiration and
strength of spirit on the hilltops; they have forsaken the haunts of men
for the silence of the heights, preparing themselves by meditation and
self-purification to receive the Beatific Vision. They have gone up
alone in anguish and uncertainty, they have come down inspired bearers
of transcendental tidings to men. These messengers of the spirit have
known the joys of illumination and the secret of the strength of the

Others have sought in agony and mortification of mind the vision which
was denied them. For in chasing away the images of sin they forgot to
make room for the images of beauty. With Simeon Stylites, they point to
their barren sojourn on the hills:

  Three winters that my soul might grow to thee,
  I lived up there on yonder mountain-side,
  My right leg chained into the crag, I lay
  Pent in a roofless close of ragged stones.

It is to the rarefied perception of beauty that we may trace the
quickening of spirit which artists and poets experience on the
mountains. Heine, going to the Alps with winter in his soul, "withered
and dead," finds new hope and a new spring. The melodies of poetry
return, he feels once again his valour as a soldier in the war of
liberation of humanity.

The process of unburdening hearts has been continuous since we
discovered the boundless capacity of the hills to hide our shame and
discharge our thunder. Petrarch set the example on the top of Mont
Ventoux when he deliberately recollected and wept over his past
uncleanness and the carnal corruptions of his soul. I never tire of that
dearly sentimental mixture of world-weariness and nature-study which
Elisée Reclus called the _History of a Mountain_. "I was sad, downcast,
weary of my life. Fate had dealt hardly with me: it had robbed me of all
who were dear to me, had ruined my plans, frustrated all my hopes.
People whom I called my friends had turned against me when they beheld
me assailed by misfortune; all mankind with its conflicting interests
and its unrestrained passions appeared repulsive in my eyes." Thus he
invites us to follow him towards the lofty blue peaks. In the course of
his wanderings he finds Nature's peace and freedom, and as his love of
the mountains expands, kind tolerance returns to his heart. He takes
geological and meteorological notes, he studies men and beasts on the
peaks, and never forgets to draw moralizing comparisons. The climb is to
him the symbol of "the toilsome path of virtue," the difficult passes,
the treacherous crevasses reminders of temptations to be overcome by a
sanctified will.

I am afraid modern climbers show scant regard for Elisée Reclus' rules
for moral exercises. Many are moved by an exuberance of physical energy
which rejoices in battle with Nature. They love the struggle and the
danger, the exercise and the excitement. They find health and good
temper, jollity and good-fellowship, through their exertions. They glory
shamelessly in useless scrambles which demand the sweat of their brow
and the concentrated attention of their minds. They seek to emulate the
chamois and the monkey in hanging on to rocks and insecure footholds.
When they do not climb, they fill libraries with descriptions of their
achievements, dull and unintelligible to the uninitiated, bloodstirring
and excellent to the members of the brotherhood. They write in a jargon
of their own of chimneys and buttresses and basins and ribs, of boulders
and saddles and moraine-hopping. They become rampant at the thought of
the stout, unworthy people who are now dragged to the tops by the help
of rope-chains and railings. They sarcastically remark that they may
have to abandon certain over-exploited peaks through the danger of
falling sardine-tins. They issue directions for climbing calculated to
chase away the poet from the snow-fields, as when Sir Martin Conway says
that a certain glacier must be "struck at the right corner of its
snout," and "its drainage stream flows from the left corner."

They do not hesitate to admit that they would continue to climb even if
there were no views to be enjoyed from the tops. "I am free to confess,"
wrote A. F. Mummery, "that I would still climb, even though there were
no scenery to look at." And Mrs. Aubrey Le Blond echoes this sentiment
in a defiant challenge to their uncomprehending critics. "To further
confound the enemy," she writes, "we do not hide the fact that were no
view obtainable from the summit a true climber would still continue to

Why do they climb? The motives are many--the result joy. Yes, joy, even
in the providential escapes and the "bad five minutes," beloved by our
naïve scribes of the ice-axe, in the perils and death which they court
for the sake of adventure and exploration. Sir Martin Conway speaks of
the systematic climber as the man for whom climbing takes the place of
fishing and shooting. How depressingly banal! Yet Sir Martin Conway has
written some of the finest tributes to the glories of the Alps, and has
shown himself a master of artistic interpretation of their wealth of
beauty. Whymper excels in matter-of-fact history of climbs, yet there is
an undercurrent of reverence for the mysteries of Nature's beauty.

The expert cragsman climbs to attain acrobatic efficiency, and may aim
at nothing higher than inspired legs. Mrs. Peck climbed to establish the
equality of the sexes. Mr. and Mrs. Bullock Workman climbed in the
Himalayas with strong determination to name a mountain Mount Bullock
Workman. They did, and the mountain, which attains 19,450 feet, is none
the worse. Climbers are exceedingly human in their love of getting to
the top before fellow-climbers. Here they follow the ordinary rules for
human conduct in commerce, politics, and literature. There have been
some loud and unseemly quarrels as to honours and fame attendant on the
first successful conquest of a desirable peak. It has been generally
held that if you cannot get a mountain to yourself you can at any rate
devise a new route. But I cannot bring myself to speak harshly of such
failings. The utmost I will say is that it were better if such
enthusiasm were tempered with a little humour.

Mark Twain saw through that deadly seriousness of the pure climber. He
saw the fatuity of mere peak-hunting. It impressed him strongly even on
the Rigi-Kulm. "We climbed and climbed," he writes in _A Tramp Abroad_,
"and we kept on climbing; we reached about forty summits: there was
always another one just ahead."

But the pure climber is always a fountain of delight, even though he
does not see himself as others see him. The pages of Conway, Mummery,
Sir Claud Schuster, and Bruce abound in gems of nature-lore, ever fresh
and ever alluring. As I search for more self-revelation in my books by
mountain-lovers, I find myself observed through the window. It is only a
cow on her way to the hollow tree into which the water courses out of
the earth. But the cow brings me back to the strenuous Alpine life, and
I find myself concluding, as I replace the books on their shelves, that
I do not care why men climb so long as they climb in spirit and body.


This evening the blind man came up the path from the village. I was
sitting on a stump of pine listening to the merry peal of the bells of
the little village church below. He carried a milk-can, and felt his way
with a long staff, with which he tapped the stones in front of him. He
hesitated for a moment as he passed me, as if vaguely conscious of a
disturbing presence. We have been good friends, the blind man and I, and
have had many a talk on this, our common path. But to-night I sat
silent, wondering. For a message had reached me that a friend had been
killed in battle. A man strong and active in body, intensely alive and
sensitive in soul. One of those whom we can never think of as dead, so
wholly do they belong to life.

The blind man stopped at a little distance. He chose a place where the
trees have been cleared and the snow mountains spread themselves for
the feast of the eyes of those who can see. He put his milk-can and his
staff on the ground, and stood for a moment with head bowed as if
crushed by his infirmity. Then he threw up his hands and raised his
head, as though a sudden vision had come to him--his whole body tense
and expectant, like that of a man who strains every nerve to catch a
message from the hills across the valley. For a minute he remained
still, as if receiving something in his hands borne by the silence. Then
he picked up his staff and his can. He turned round and faced me for a
moment before resuming his journey. There was a smile on his lips and a
strange radiance in his sightless eyes, and I wished that I, too, might
see what he had seen.

For the darkness with which we are afflicted lay heavily around me, and
seemed greater even than the blindness of the eyes. The war has brought
the mystery of death to our hearts with pitiless insistence. Every
bullet that finds its mark kills more than the soldier who falls. Ties
of love and friendship are shattered hour by hour and day by day, as the
guns of war roar out their message of destruction. We are all partners
in a gigantic Dance of Death such as Holbein never imagined. To him
Death was the wily and insistent enemy of human activity and hope, a spy
watching in the doorway for an opportunity to snap the thread of life.
We have cajoled and magnified Death until he has outgrown all natural
proportions; through centuries of war and preparation for war we have
appealed to him to settle our national differences. We have outdone the
earthquake and the cyclone in valid claims upon his power and presence;
we have outwitted pestilence and famine in our efforts to hold his
attention. We, of the twentieth century, have attained mastery in the
art of killing. We kill by fire and bursting shell, we kill by mine and
gas. We dive under the surface of the water to surprise our enemy, we
fly in the air and sow fire and devastation upon the earth. We have
chained science to our chariot of Death, we have made giant tools of
killing which mow down regiments of men at great distances. We send out
fumes of poison which envelop groups of human beings, killing them
gently, and emphasizing the triumph of art by leaving them in attitudes
simulating life. We project shells so powerful that men disappear in
the explosion, melted, disintegrated by its destructive force.

And when long-distance scientific methods of man-killing fall short of
the passions of the fray or the exigencies of the fight, we return to
the primitive ways of savages, and kill by dagger and knife, by bayonet
and fist. Thus millions of men are slain in this war, which has achieved
superiority over all other wars in history by the number of its dead and
its gigantic destructiveness. And other millions of men and women are
plunged into sorrow and mourning for the dead, and to them the meaning
of life is hidden behind a veil of tears and blood.

There is an incongruity about death on the battlefield which assails the
mind. The incongruity is there notwithstanding the probability that the
soldier who faces the fire of the enemy will be killed. It defies the
mathematical calculation of chances. It rises naturally as a protest
against the sudden termination of life at its fullest. Death after a
long illness, at the eventide of life, partakes of the order of falling
leaves and autumnal oblivion. It may come softly as sleep when the day's
work is done; it may come mercifully to end bodily pain and
wretchedness. There are moments in every life when the ebb of physical
force is so low that death seems but a step across the border--a change
by which we desire to cure the weariness of thought. The soldier goes
into battle charged with youth and life, buoyant with energy of muscle
and nerve. Death seizes him at the noontide of life and leaves us
blindly groping for other-worldly compensation.

The present war is being fought against a background of questions which
cannot be suppressed by discipline or the mere fulfilment of patriotic
duty. The old acceptance of the social order is passing away. The old
acceptance of religious nescience is passing away; there is a new
impatience to reach the foundation of things, a popular clamour for
explanation of the riddles of life. Out of the decivilizing forces of
war, its tumult and wreckage, there emerges a new quest for truth.
Simple souls are troubled with a warlike desire for evidence of
immortality. The parson's exhortations to live by faith and unreasoning
acceptance of ecclesiastical doctrine fall on inattentive ears. "There
is a shocking recrudescence of superstition and devil-worship," said a
clergyman to me the other day; "people consult fraudulent mediums and

I listened to him and remembered an afternoon's visit to a bereaved
mother. She is a charwoman endowed with the scientific mind. Her son had
been killed by an exploding shell. Only a fragment or two had been
necessary for the task. Jimmy had no chance. Courage and energy had
never failed him. The spirit that dwelt within his thin and somewhat
stunted body would have rejoiced in battle with a lion. But shells are
no respecters of spirit. Jimmy had successfully fought poverty and
ill-health; he had risen from a newspaper-boy's existence to the dizzy
heights of a milkman's cart. His pale face with its prominent eyes and
rich, chestnut forelock bore an expression of indomitable Cockney
confidence in the ultimate decency of things. He had always been kind to
his mother. "More like a girl than a boy," she said, "in the way he
cared for his home and looked after me." And now Jimmy was dead: the
message had come that he would not return. "And why is he dead," said
the mother to me, "and where is he?" She was sitting in her kitchen,
which bore its usual aspect of order and cleanliness. But her face
looked as if some disordering power had passed over her. "I asked our
curate to explain where Jimmy is," she continued, "and he told me that
doubt is a sin, and that we shall meet again on the day of resurrection.
And when I told him that I felt Jimmy quite close to me in this kitchen,
a week after his death, and that I thought I heard his voice calling me,
the curate said I ought not to think of such things. Faith and hard work
were the best cure for such fancies, he said."

"But do you know what I did?" she added in a whisper, intended to
deceive the curate, "I went to one of those mediums that Mrs. Jones
knows about. I paid a shilling, and we all sat in a ring, and the medium
saw Jimmy and described him, just as he is in his uniform and cap, a
little over the right ear, and the scar across his nose--you know, the
scar from the fall down the front steps when he was nine--and all
smiling, and showing the missing tooth. 'Jimmy wants you to know that he
is happy, very happy,' she said, and then Jimmy came and spoke through
the medium. 'Mother,' he said to me, 'I want you to give my pipe with
the silver band to Charlie, and don't make no bones about it.' Then I
knew it was Jimmy, for Jimmy always used to say 'don't make no bones
about it.' And now I feel he is alive somewhere, and I shall go again to
the medium and find out more."

I thought of this when the clergyman complained of the prevalence of
superstition and visits to mediums. I suggested that he should
investigate the subject of spiritualism and the reasons for its appeal
to sorrow-stricken relatives and friends of soldiers. The suggestion was
indignantly rejected. Religion was to him a theory based on revelation
vouchsafed thousands of years ago; it was now a system of stereotyped
belief and conduct, strangely removed from the perplexities and anguish
of the individual soul. His academic mind recoiled from the grotesque
and trivial messages associated with séances and the performances of
professional psychics.

We are wont to contemplate immortality in much the same manner as we
contemplate the moon. It is something remote and incapable of active
interference in our daily life and tasks. It sheds a pale and pleasant
light on our earthly pilgrimage, and we in our turn render homage to
the mellow beauty which it imparts to our poetic imagination. Only
children cry for the moon. We know it is unattainable.

The rejection of the crude theories of spiritualism is not altogether
the result of wilful blindness. In our innermost minds, in the region
beyond the grasp of the brain and its ready generalizations, we hunger
for inexpressible reality, for life beyond the stars. We have eaten of
the tree of sense-knowledge: we have seen, heard, felt, tasted. We want
a reality above the traffic and deception of the senses. Vaguely, but
insistently we feel the call to the life of the spirit, and when its
definition eludes us, we prefer silence and faith. It is then that the
familiar prattle of the séance-room offends us. We sought freedom,
light, absolution from the trammels of personality, and we are told that
the dead appear in bodies and clothes, that they toil and fret, that
they inhabit houses and cities. Our plains Elysian suffer an invasion of
lawyers and physicians, of merchants and moneylenders. The weariness of
repetition pursues us.

And yet we may be more completely the victims of illusion than our
vendor of spiritualistic revelation. We who cherish the belief in
immortality forget that death can be naught but the shedding of a form.
The substance is unchanged. The fabric of the mind is woven day by day
by impressions and ideas, by experience and action. Nobody questions the
commonplace phenomena of the shaping of individuality and character.
Habits, occupation, tastes, and desires mould a distinct personality out
of the common clay. The experience of death cannot dissolve the
personality. The death-process can neither whitewash a man's sin nor
exalt him beyond his virtue.

And thus it is that he who dearly loved a joke may joke still, and he
who thought he was collecting fine old pictures may still indulge his
taste. Delusions! Not impossible or even unlikely. Kant demonstrated
once for all our complete enslavement by phenomena and our inability to
approach things-in-themselves. Spiritualistic interpretation of
post-mortem conditions offers no exception. Imagination continues to
master our souls. Spiritualism offends us by offering bread-and-butter
when we expect moonshine.

We are loath to part with the belief that death transforms the
character by one great stroke of spiritual lightning. Vanity, envy,
meanness, greed, the foibles and frailties of human nature, repel us
when we imagine their persistence in others after death. We infinitely
prefer the thought that they should be purged and radiant with spiritual
effulgence. We are not so sure about ourselves, for the objective
classification of the qualities which go to form our own character is a
difficult achievement. And the idea of dispensing with essential parts
of our mental equipment does not commend itself to us. There is a point
in all our philosophy where speculation seeks the natural repose of the
unknowable. It is quickly reached when we attempt to probe the mystery
of selfhood.

The plain question whether the dead can communicate with the living
persists in spite of the imperfections of the answer. The war has made
it paramount, and only second in importance to the crucial query: Do
they live? There is a clamour for evidence, signs, messages, testimony.
The human heart cries out for comfort. "Yesterday he breathed the same
air, felt and thought as I do. To-day he lies dead, his body shattered,
his hopes wrecked, his happy laughter silent. Does he know? Does he
feel and remember? Is there an eternal gulf of silence between us?"

  O! for the touch of a vanished hand,
  And the sound of a voice that is still.

The Church tries vainly to ban the new inquisitiveness. The intercourse
with familiar spirits is condemned as a theological offence, a
vainglorious and futile storming of the citadel of God. The secret of
the tomb must be preserved, though the masses of Christendom have ceased
to believe in the long and mouldering sleep of the centuries before the
summons to the Judgment. They are no longer scorched by the threat of
eternal fire, nor soothed by the hope of clouds and harps. The love that
is in them would not tolerate the infliction of an eternity of torture
on a fellow-soul, and their conception of the love of God cannot place
Him below the promptings of human mercy. The reason that is in them is
not attracted by the promise of a heaven of rosy inaction and strifeless
rest. The contrast of heaven and hell, so powerful a corrective of human
waywardness in mediæval times, fails to impress the modern mind. The
windows of experience and knowledge have been opened too widely, the
powers and manifold possibilities of the earth lie open and tempt to the
search for a super-mundane world, not poorer and more complex, but
richer and more lavish in creative force.

The law supports the opposition of the Church and frowns on the practice
of mediumship and clairvoyance. The law denies the possibility of spirit
intercourse and forbids the exercise of supernormal faculties in
exploring the untrodden realms of the future. Prosecutions are
instituted under the old Witchcraft and Vagrancy Acts, and psychic
practitioners are fined or sent to prison in the hope of stemming the
tide of inquiry. The law and the spirit were ever at variance. But it is
difficult to understand why those who mourn, and who ask questions,
should be deprived of the comfort which they may find through visits to
professional mediums. The risk of deception and false pretences is
there, it is true, but that risk exists everywhere. There are lawyers,
politicians, and physicians who tell "fortunes" and practise
"witchcraft" of their own brand, decidedly more harmful and disruptive
than the visions of the unlettered clairvoyant.

The magistrate, who sends a clairvoyant to prison because he is
convinced that all claims to psychic gifts and to communion with
discarnate spirits are fraudulent, is not troubled by his ignorance, and
the evidence of psychic research is not acceptable in his court. He
typifies the perpetual official, ever ready to suppress new and
evolutionary thought. After all, psychic science fares no worse than the
physical sciences in the judgment of respectable mediocrity. The
progress of science in the nineteenth century was one long conquest of
territory in the land of the impossible. Inventors and inventions have
met with incredulity and mockery. Railways, steamships, aeroplanes,
telegraphy, telephony and cinematographs have all emerged from the
region of "impossibilities." Röntgen-rays and radium have descended from
the sphere of miracles.

Experience should endow us with cautiousness in proclaiming
impossibilities of the future. The study of psychic science has imposed
no greater strain on my reason than the attempt to explain the mysteries
of biology and astronomy. Observation and classification do not
necessarily imply elucidation. The miracle of the foetus taking human
shape and soul, or of the oak rising out of the acorn and the brown
earth is to me as baffling as the materialization of a spirit. The
marvels of the cell-life and the daily chemistry which maintain the body
charm my attention as much as the mysterious clouds of light with which
spirits are wont to signalize their presence in the séance-room. I have
sat for hours on a summer night by the Mediterranean watching the
phosphorescent waves throw a luminous spray over the shore, and
meditating on the inexhaustible fertility of the sea. And I have watched
with the same intense wonder the phenomena of the soul illuminated by
the _daimon_ of inner vision and the infinite manifestations of the
power of spirit over matter. From the point of view of science there is
no clearly defined frontier between the natural and the supernatural,
the commonplace and the miraculous. All is soil for the plough, all
defies our designs for complete explanation. From the point of view of
religious emotion, there is the greatest possible difference between the
sciences of psychic force and those that seek to probe the mysteries of
the physical world. The question of the immortality of the human soul is
infinitely more engrossing than that of the formation of the skull of
neolithic man. The strictly evidential demonstration of communion
between the living and the dead might be almost negligible in quantity,
and yet the importance of one rap from the world of discarnate spirits,
scientifically demonstrated, would outweigh tomes of theories in

True, those who live in the spirit need no demonstrations provided by
scientific investigators of psychic problems. The mystic consciousness
with its intuition of immortality, its sensitiveness to the vibration of
life on all planes and in all forms _knows_, and in knowledge transcends
alike the boundaries of religionists and scientists. The mystic may
smile at the labour expended during the last fifty years on establishing
a strictly evidential basis for the study of transcendental facts. He
has conquered the inherited blindness of our race, and sees spirit not
as a supernatural demonstration, vouchsafed now and then to doubting
humanity, but as the living Presence of which he is joyously a part. He
does not fall into the common error of forgetting that we are spirits
sheathed in flesh, but bearing within ourselves the power over matter
which is destined to achieve the miraculous. He can dispense with a
medium, being himself a fountain of light, and experiencing the wondrous
self-illumination of which Thomas Treherne sang--

      O Joy! O wonder and delight!
      O sacred mystery!
      My soul a spirit infinite!
      An image of the Deity!
      A pure substantial light!
  That being greatest which doth nothing seem!
        .    .    .    .    .
      O wondrous Self! O sphere of light,
      O sphere of joy most fair;
      O act, O power infinite;
      O subtile and unbounded air!
      O living orb of sight!
  Thou which within me art, yet me! Thou eye
  And temple of His whole infinity!

But the spiritual raptures of the mystics of all ages have not moved
souls struggling in the outer darkness for tangible proofs of
immortality. To them the application of the methods approved by reason
and tested by scientific application will ever be welcome. They know
that the mind of man has wrested secret after secret from the earth by
observation, by experiment, by deduction. They know that the great
generalizations of science--the theories of the indestructibility of
matter, of gravitation, of the conservation of energy--are but counters
of mind exchanged in default of elusive realities. They know that the
pressure of research has reduced many of the lesser generalizations and
theories to a fluid and amorphous state. "Immutable" laws have been
turned into faulty conclusions, hastily drawn and readily abandoned
before the advance of new facts. The fixity of the elements in
chemistry, the undulatory movement of light, the stability of the
planetary orbits, the indestructibility of the atom, are all
abstractions which have been subjected to the reforming processes of new

Progress in physics has been marked by bold hypotheses dealing with
imponderable forces, and by experiments disclosing hidden properties of
matter. The hypothetical ether has been as fruitful in the liberation of
thought as the demonstration of the existence of the X-rays.

The application of methods of scientific accuracy to the physical
phenomena of spiritualism involves no revolution in mental processes or
reversal of the laws of logic. The publication of the results of the
classical experiments in materialization undertaken in 1874 by Sir
William Crookes with the medium Florence Cooke caused incredulous
amazement, for the simple reason that the custodians of science had not
applied themselves to the lessons afforded by the continuous shifting of
their frontiers. Crookes' report that Katie King, the spirit who took
material form during the séances, was a perfect, though mysterious
replica of the natural-born human being, roused no general scientific
interest. He asserted that Katie was physiologically complete. That she
walked, talked, expressed intelligence and feeling, that she had a
regularly beating heart and sound lungs. He further pointed out that the
personality of Katie in appearance and character differed considerably
from that of the medium, and that it was impossible to regard the
materialized form as but a phantasm of the living. A stupendous
discovery or a pitiful figment of a lunatic brain! But no flash of
lightning rent the halls of learning; Sir William Crookes' researches
into radiant matter could safely be accepted as workable intellectual
ground, but not his researches into spiritual dynamics.

And yet there was no unorthodoxy in his methods of research; he imposed
strict conditions of experimental control. There is a strange reluctance
in accepting the necessity for "mediums" in psychic manifestations. If
these things are possible, we are told, why not here, now, anywhere, in
broad daylight? Why mystifying circles, cabinets, and subdued light? Our
scoffers forget that scientific investigation always requires a medium
and method. The need of the telescope and the microscope is not
questioned, but the thought of the planchette evokes ridicule. The
practical success of wireless telegraphy depends on the use of an
adequate medium for the transmission of electricity. The most meagre
training suffices to prevent the declaration that if wireless messages
cannot be sent without apparatus they cannot be sent at all.

Notwithstanding the indifference of the majority of scientists, the
problems of spirit intercourse have proved sufficiently attractive to
stimulate a vast amount of experimentation and theorizing. The study of
mediumship has necessarily become the study of consciousness and the
occult powers of the human mind. In the centre a handful of fearless
scientists: Crookes, Wallace, Richet, Flammarion, Morselli, Baraduc,
Myers, Lombroso, Lodge, and Barrett; in the inner circle a number of
academic investigators, disdaining alike the premature proclamation of
phenomenal results and the obstinate denial of facts; in the outer
circle an ever-growing mass of souls clamouring for the crumbs of
evidence, hungry for something personal and soul-warming in our dealings
with the Divine dispensation.

The annals of psychic science--in different tongues and of different
continents--are largely devoted to the investigation of trance,
clairvoyance, clairaudience, telepathy, hypnotism, dreams, premonitions,
automatic writing, visions, and messages from the dying, multiple
personality, and all the phenomena associated with the subconscious
self. Many students have dispensed with the spirit hypothesis as an
unnecessary and embarrassing complication in a subject already
overburdened with difficulties. Spirit messages are to them examples of
the activity of the subliminal self, and a medium is a person gifted--or
cursed--with extraordinary subconscious force and lucidity.
Materializations, they argue, are produced through the effluvia of the
living and controlled by the subliminal forces of the participators in
the séance. Spirits are nothing but thought-forms. The painstaking
investigation recorded in the _Proceedings_ and _Journal of the Society
for Psychical Research_ has to a great extent been carried on by
inquirers unencumbered by any bias towards "spookery." But the theories
in elaboration of psycho-pathological vagaries and dissociation of
personality which have been substituted for the spirit hypothesis
certainly do not err on the side of intelligible explication. They have
but deepened the mystery and show the vista of new and unexplored paths
in psychic science.

Others, again, who are not unwilling to believe that the phenomena are
produced by the action of intelligences other than that of the medium,
abandon further study because of the meagreness of the intellectual
results. They have waited on the visitors from another world, notebook
in hand, plying them with careful questions intended to increase our
modest store of knowledge. The replies were unsatisfactory, commonplace,
sometimes ludicrous. Attempts to write a passable textbook on life in
the spirit world have failed lamentably. The indignation of the sorely
disappointed scientist was voiced by the late Professor Hugo
Münsterberg, of Harvard, in his _Psychology of Life_:

    Thousands and thousands of spirits have appeared; the ghosts of
    the greatest men have said their say, and yet the substance of it
    has always been the absurdest silliness. Not one inspiring
    thought has yet been transmitted by this mystical way; only the
    most vulgar trivialities. It has never helped to find the truth;
    it has never brought forth anything but nervous fear and

His denunciation embraces the whole subject of spiritualistic evidence
and ends in utter pessimism--

    Our belief in immortality must rest on the gossip which departed
    spirits utter in dark rooms through the mouths of hypnotized
    business mediums, and our deepest personality comes to light when
    we scribble disconnected phrases in automatic writing. Is life
    then really still worth living?

I have every sympathy with the complaint. But our psychologist forgot
that life is largely made up of trivialities, and that the spirits of
the dead, if they really wish to make themselves known to us, can do so
with greater certainty of being recognized by reminding us of events
and objects with which they are associated in our memory than by
presenting us with a corrected version of the nebular theory. The
average medium and the average gathering of inquirers are not
distinguished by any great intellectual achievement. The general
educational level may be low and the total capacity to sift and weigh
evidence may fall short of that of an undergraduates' debating society.
Yet the evidence produced may not only be entirely soul-satisfying to
the participants, but perfectly acceptable to a critic contented with
the average quality of evidence current in a court of law. It may even
be true that the evidential value rises with the number of trivialities

And "the truth" which Professor Münsterberg sought in vain is
demonstrated to others through the same trivial evidence, as is shown by
the verdict of Alfred Russel Wallace:

    Spiritualism demonstrates by direct evidence, as conclusive
    as the nature of the case admits, that the so-called dead are
    still alive; that our friends are often with us, though unseen,
    and give direct proof of a future life--proof which so many
    crave, but for want of which so many live and die in anxious
    doubt. How valuable the certainty to be gained from spiritual
    communications! A clergyman, a friend of mine, who witnessed
    the phenomena, and who before was in a state of the greatest
    depression, caused by the death of his son, said to me, "I am
    now full of confidence and cheerfulness. I am a changed man."

It is not unnatural that the answers given to those who ask for
admittance to the closed door of the mysteries of the human soul should
be pitched in the same key as the inquiry. Disappointment is not
uncommon. I have taken part in séances of every kind, with cautious
investigators devoid of all spiritualistic bias, with unsophisticated
believers in a supernatural source of all psychic phenomena, with
scoffers convinced that every medium is an impostor, and that nothing
but a little common sense is needed for the exposure. The results have
been largely dependent on the mentality of the investigators. Failure to
understand this is responsible for much of the disappointment and
contempt with which otherwise intelligent critics have dismissed the
subject. The accumulated thought-power, the collective mind of those who
participate, profoundly influence the medium and the quality of the
communications received. One stubborn soul may wreck the meeting. I
remember an evening at the house of Mr. W. T. Stead. There had been a
series of highly successful demonstrations of "spirit voices,"
distinctly audible and perfectly intelligible. A well-known minister of
the Church visible joined the circle--a man clothed in all the outward
signs of spirituality, uniting clerical decorum with an emotional
fervour in preaching which had made him a popular favourite. Though
feeling has now and then led him into unconventional paths of
theological thought, fate has surely marked him for the adornment of a
bishopric. He came to study the alleged powers of the medium. He doubted
everything and everybody. The easy faith and unquestioning acceptance of
miraculous events of which he was not ashamed whilst in the pulpit had
now been exchanged for vigilant suspicion and impatient analysis. He
plied the medium with questions, bludgeoned her with requests for
evidence that she was not deluded or deluding. He turned himself into
cross-examining counsel, proud of his discrimination and his immunity
against the insidious appeal of the supernatural. He succeeded. The
medium was confounded, she lost her power; the phenomena did not occur.
The atmosphere was chilled. Some of us felt we would rather have been
visited by the village blacksmith than by this priestly exponent of
sweet-faced materialism.

I do not deny that I have often been struck with the intellectual
poverty of messages from the spirit world. They are often silly, and not
seldom untruthful. The silliness and the untruthfulness are faithful
reflections of common human failings, and only show that heavenly wisdom
is as unattainable through the average spiritualistic channels as it is
in the Houses of Parliament or the courts of law.

I can imagine a radiant and purely spiritual being attempting to convey
a true description of the state of spiritual bliss to a circle of men
and women representative of cultured thought, and practical efficiency
in the affairs of the world. Let the circle include a few university
professors, some successful men of business, a couple of judges, a
sprinkling of journalists, an archdeacon or two, and some authors of
repute. Let them all be actuated by a strong desire to obtain reliable
information and to give a fair and unprejudiced hearing to the visitor.

The visitor is necessarily hampered by the necessity for a medium. It
may be that the senior judge is gifted with psychic powers and that the
method of communication chosen is that of trance.

The learned brain-cells would transmit the message up to a certain
point, but when an effort was made to depict unfathomed depths and
heights of transcendental experience, the judicial mind would rebel.
The sense of logic would be strained. The conception of the possible
would be violated. A fearful consciousness of being guilty of uttering
lies would persist, in spite of efforts to subdue reason. Language
would break in the attempt to find words for the inexpressible, the
message would be blurred and incoherent. The judge might pull himself
together, feeling that the turbulent thought-waves of contending
counsel form a much safer ground on which to pronounce truth than the
fourth-dimensional hurricane with which he had just battled. And the
audience might turn with relief to the thought of dinner outside Bedlam.

By some wild flights of imagination we may picture another kind of
circle. Let a poet be the medium; Swedenborg, Dante, Blake, Socrates,
Jacob Böhme, Tasso, Milton, Eckart, Ruysbroek, St. Teresa, Joan of Arc,
Emerson, Shelley, and a few more visionaries, and dreamers be of the
circle. Let our Radiant Being try again. The vibrations of the combined
psychic force would respond more readily to the world-strangeness of the
visitor. There would be fewer mental obstacles raised by the sense of
the impossible. The restraints of logic would be more easily overcome.
The avenues of supersensual impressions would be open. The medium would
transmit the message to a point far beyond that possible to our psychic
judge, and the audience would encourage him by their readiness to grasp
the revelations made. The language of mysticism, philosophy, and
poetry would be strained to its utmost capacity. Then a sense of
incompleteness, of deficiency, of hopeless relativity would overcome the
audience. The medium had exerted every spiritual faculty to receive the
truth. But the visitor could not convey celestial realities to terrene

Every true artist in words, or colour, or sound is always haunted by the
inexpressible--by spiritual impotence to overcome the laws of
imprisonment in the flesh. He clutches at symbol and suggestion, at
parable and fable, conscious of the truth that the unreal is the most

The goats have gathered round me as I sit musing in the gloaming. The
leading goat is a handsome animal, generally respected and feared by the
rest of the herd. He has excellent knowledge, inherited and acquired, of
the uses of mountains, and his venerable beard adorns a head of
undisputed male ascendancy in the tribe. I bear him a grudge. He is in
the habit of eating my sapling pines, carefully planted by me and
carelessly nipped in the bud by him. I have expostulated with him in a
variety of ways--some gentle, others forceful, but he is incorrigible.
He will not understand that my young pines are beautiful, and that they
are expected to grow into fine trees. He has no sense of beauty, of
symmetry, of fitness. He is only a beast. He has no soul--I pause,
remembering the ineffectual attempts of my Radiant Being to inspire
human souls with a greater vision. Are we not all goats before the gaze
of more finely organized creatures?

The evolutionist need not be disheartened by the thought. Nature is
unexhausted. Desire and experience are ever creating new forms, new
organs. A child's book of beasts will supply the requisite suggestion:
the neck of the giraffe, the stripes of the tiger, the tail of the
beaver may, without offence, provide analogies for the faith in organic
human perfectibility. The processes of natural selection and variation
cannot have been brought to a standstill; they must be at work now and
may yet--should surroundings and necessity create the demand--halve the
neck of the giraffe, give snow-white lamb's clothing to the tiger, and
turn the rudder of the beaver into the prehensile tail of the monkey.
There is no biological completion, no finitude. It is only a matter of
time--sufficient time--and our bodies may become as strangely
interesting to posterity as are to us the dinosaurs and mammoths of the
remote past.

Mind is not arrested by formal obstacles. It builds, destroys, and
rebuilds. It may take a million years to fashion a useful organ.
Slowness is no deterrent. The powers that shaped the genius of
Michelangelo and Shakespeare out of the rude brain of savage man needed
time, but the achievement was worthy of the labour. To-day there are
signs and portents that psychic faculties once possessed by the very
few are in process of development in the many, that new senses are
awakened which will find contact with realities hitherto unperceived.
The imperfections of mediumship and the remoteness of a psychic
super-humanity, godlike in wisdom and ethereal in constitution, do not
conceal the trend of mental evolution. The medium is often a strange
blend of spiritual and carnal tendencies, of knowledge and ignorance, of
delicate perception and denseness. Those who expect saintliness as the
first attribute of psychic advancement will certainly be disillusioned.
These gifts and graces may appear, not only without any corresponding
degree of culture and learning, but associated with a certain vulgarity
of thought and conduct. The psychic is essentially impressionable,
liable to mental contagion, easily stirred by suggestion. The tendency
to instability, to emotional excess, is part of this receptivity which
culminates in the state of being "controlled." An untrained psychic who
is mastered by his impressions, instead of being their master, may
easily be induced to tell lies and give false messages by a visitor who
is determined to discover fraud. The same psychic may rise to
unaccustomed levels of spiritual clearsight in the presence of a visitor
who demands the truth only.

The ladder of psychic development is long and arduous to mount. The
number of the climbers steadily diminishes as the top is reached. Here,
as elsewhere, there is a common crowd, content with the steps nearest
the earth, in morals a faithful reflection of average humanity. They are
neither better nor worse, they are merely different. They are the masons
of the mind, a race of builders, addicted to a workmanship of their own.

To a discerning psychologist they are profoundly interesting, heralds of
a new race and a new age; to an unsophisticated alienist they are merely
insane, dangerous victims of sick brains. The whole fabric of evidence
relating to lunacy would be broken up by the admission that these
strange people who fall into trance and speak unknown tongues or convey
messages from the dead are sane. Current theories of psycho-pathology
would be hopelessly disturbed by the admission that there may be a
super-sanity in which clairvoyance and clairaudience are normal and
healthy manifestations of life. A person who professes to be an exponent
of psychometry, who recalls circumstances and events from the "aura" of
inanimate objects, such as a letter or a glove, is naturally classed
with the insane. Hallucinations _en masse_ are proffered as explanation
of the physical phenomena which take place. Thus only can orthodox
psychiatry remain unperturbed when heavy objects are lifted without any
apparent cause, when unearthly sounds and voices are produced, when
human forms take shape, are seen, and disappear.

The study of psychic faculties is above all a study of consciousness.
Maeterlinck speaks of "the gravest problem that can thrill mankind, the
knowledge of the future." The knowledge of the present, of the hidden
powers and graces within our souls, is even more thrilling. I can
imagine no science of greater importance, no investigation more worthy
of devotion. The profundity of the problems is but an incitement. We
have not hesitated to tabulate the stars, to weave precious conjectures
as to their courses and destinies. Is the human soul more remote and
inscrutable? We are assured that it has five windows and no more, that
it is useless to look for others. But when an increasing number of
explorers in the house of life tell us that there are six or seven or
more, we may at any rate listen and follow their directions.
Obscurantism is revelling in proclaiming prohibited areas of

I recognize that the problem is complicated by the mixture of truth and
falsehood, of genuine psychic powers and counterfeit practices. There
are impostors and parasites who by dint of glib tongues and nimble wit
deceive the foolish and the credulous. Browning's Sludge is not entirely
extinct. Honest workers who turn their gifts to professional uses and
who depend on the patronage of the public are subject to peculiar
temptations. They are visited by the worldly and the covetous, they are
exploited by sensation-mongers and fraud-hunters, they are subjected to
conditions entirely inimical to spiritual poise and lucidity. Some
resort to fraud. The report that the medium failed to satisfy the client
is apt to interfere with business, and failure is, therefore, shunned.
But the law does not trouble to distinguish between the honest and the
dishonest person who claims psychic gifts. From the legal point of view
it is all pretence. It is imperatively necessary that genuine psychic
gifts should be protected from the depredations of frivolity as well as
from the interference of an obsolete law. We have some idea of
protecting great and uncommon gifts in music, mathematics, and poetry,
but we leave psychic gifts without help or training. An institute for
the study of Psychic Science in all its branches, with facilities for
training and assisting individual gifts, would remove some of the worst
features of the present system. A genuine psychic should be the holder
of some form of certificate or licence entitling him to use his gifts
for the benefit of others.

Of course, the subject bristles with difficulties, but I do not see that
they are more insuperable than those which presented themselves when
first the idea of registering and licensing the medical and legal
professions presented itself. And those who are indignant at the thought
of the clairvoyant charging a fee may profitably reflect on the general
assumption that the labourer is worthy of his hire. The deans and
bishops who discourse so eloquently on the sins of the necromancers are
not, I believe, renouncing the material benefits and emoluments of
their priestly calling.

I do not look to visits to professional mediums for initiation into the
higher mysteries of the human spirit. They may show the casket--precious
as an indication of the contents, but of little value to those who are
bent on finding the jewel within. And I agree that no advanced soul is
"controlled" by a discarnate spirit, but rises through aspiration and
self-restraint to union with higher intelligences. I can see no light or
love in the attitude of those professors of Christianity who denounce
all spiritualistic tendencies as anti-Christian. It seems to me that the
whole Christian faith is spiritualistic in the widest sense of the word.
The Old and the New Testaments are permeated with the belief in the
reality of communication between the living and the dead. The injunction
in the Old Testament against sorcerers and wizards was intended to check
tendencies to unreasonable and dangerous superstition.

Moses may have had excellent reasons for forbidding occult practices
amongst the Jews. Saul, who had put away those that had familiar spirits
and the wizards out of the land, was not unlike some modern adversaries
of spiritualism when in the day of his trouble and fear he consulted the
medium of Endor. The accepted prophets of Israel were, after all,
typical of mediumship. "And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee,
and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another
man." They practised bold fortune-telling in matters large and small,
national and cosmic. To-day they would surely be imprisoned as rogues
and vagabonds under the Vagrancy Act. The New Testament contains no
direct prohibition of the use of psychic powers and many stories of
dreams, visions, and premonitions.

"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit," wrote St.
Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians. "For to one is given, by
the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge, by the
same Spirit.... To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy;
to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to
another the interpretation of tongues.... And God hath set some in the
Church; first, apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after
that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities
of tongues." The praises of charity and prophecy are sung by the
Apostle--a strange combination in harmony to those who now seek to
separate the Christian faith from its supernatural origins. Christianity
exhorts us not to believe every spirit, but to "try the spirits whether
they are of God," whilst the ecclesiastic bids us chase away the
spirits, which he assumes to be of Satan.

The dull materialism which smothers all signs of independent spiritual
experience is the negation of all the forces which animated the Master.
The earthly life of Christ, with its supernatural manifestations, its
miracles, and its wonders, was the supreme demonstration of the
spiritualistic conception of the power of transcending matter. The
appearance of Moses and Elias on the Mount of Transfiguration, whether
regarded as a vision or as a materialization, was of the order of the
phenomena which are now banned as anti-Christian.

No; those who, having wandered in the darkness of death and blindness,
find a ray of light within their own being need not fear the judgment of
the Mediator. Here in the freedom of the mountains I feel something of
the inscrutable certainty, the joy of a secret conviction, that wisdom
waits on our tortuous paths in the Borderland.


Of all generalizations--false and semi-false--the one dividing human
beings into those who are content with the world as it is and those who
wish to reform it is the most comforting to me. No division of sheep
and goats was ever more blatantly simple. Some are born dull-witted,
conservative, insensitive, unimaginative--they cling passive to the
old planet, content to be whirled round in the purposeless dance
of the heavenly bodies. Others are chronic sufferers from divine
discontent--they open their eyes with critical intent, they are always
conscious of the oblique, the unrighteous, the worthless in their
surroundings. They have a sense of power, a will to change things. To
them the world is a lump of dough, to be shaped and trimmed into good,
serviceable bread.

I know the division is unreal and that reformatory ardour in one
direction is not seldom combined with flint-hearted indifference in
another. But the proposition is good and sufficient for everyday
purposes, and acts as an admirable stimulus in the Camp of the

Who can deny that reformers are more interesting than preservers? They
vibrate with life and creative energy, they defy impossibilities, they
carry enthusiasm aloft on their banners of assault on the existing order
of things. Our preservers seem tame and stale indeed. They hobble about
the borders of the well-cultivated garden of custom and propriety, they
find admirable shelter against the fierce winds of revolt in the offices
of bureaucracy. Officialdom is their divinity and respectability their
key to life. They may be necessary--as buffers--but they depress us by
their dulness.

Reformers can be dull too, but they are redeemed by the homage which
they pay to spiritual adventures. They are narrow-minded, but their
narrow-mindedness is relieved by intensity of purpose. They are not
seldom aggressive, argumentative, unpleasant, but they refresh the dry
world by being thoroughly alive. It seems, indeed, as if life were only
made tolerable through the ferment of the desire to reform. Even the
most stagnant pools of the human soul are sometimes stirred by the
breeze of change. We all hope, we all look forward, we all grope for a
future which will be better than the present. In some the hope is firmly
rooted to earth and man-made conventions, in others it soars to
other-worldly perfection.

The world teems with causes and movements that rouse the imagination and
press human lives into the service of the future. The genesis and
development of causes show similar features wherever and whenever they
appear. A soul is astir with an idea, a resentment, a call for change.
Others heed the message, respond to the cry for action, feel that this
idea, this one idea, is the most important in the world. Societies and
leagues are formed, opposition is encountered, and the leader becomes
sanctified through abuse and resentment. The idea is embraced by
hundreds and thousands; it becomes a doctrine, a creed, a mental
atmosphere in which men live and have their being. Fierce battles take
place between the adherents of the idea and the opponents. Blind
prejudice and hatred are encountered. Martyrs are made. The crusade is
hallowed by suffering and sacrifice. It becomes an impelling spiritual
necessity, an expression of religion. Gradually the forces of the
opposition are weakened. Concessions and compromises are offered. There
are signs of the contagiousness of the idea even in the house of the
adversaries. The triumph comes with time, and the turbulent waves of
controversy recede into gentle ripples of approval. And for many a cause
for which men have suffered and died, posterity has but a yawn. "Just
think of it--all that fuss and all that turmoil over something so

Seen superficially, this is a fairly accurate account of the fate of
movements for the reform of some glaring injustice, some hoary cruelty
of the past. But is it true? Is the world slowly but surely getting
better--are the monsters of ignorance and tyranny slain one by one by
our great reformers and laid to rest for ever in a grave of ignominy? We
accept the axiom that slavery has been abolished. Of all causes that
commanded devotion, struggle, persistency, the anti-slavery movement
stands forth as a moral protest of supreme import. Wilberforce and
Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Clarkson fought for a principle
which may well be regarded as the very soul of civilization. The Civil
War brought the ideals of human rights and equality into bloody conflict
with the forces of oppression and commercial exploitation. The new
consciousness of human fellowship made white men lay down their lives
for the freedom of black men. A worthy cause, a sublime offering, a task
to which we would like to say "Done, done, once and for all time!" But
is it done? Slavery is not only inherent in every savage and barbaric
race, it is not only paramount in the mind of the Arab trader. Once the
social bulwark of the ancient civilizations of Babylon, Egypt, and
India, of Greece and Rome, it persisted in Europe throughout the Middle
Ages, and survived as serfdom of one kind or another through centuries
of advancing culture. The desire for power over fellow-beings, for
opportunities to control their lives and exploit their labour, is
apparently irradicable. Slavery is still amongst us in a hundred forms
and under new names. All military conquest involves the ancient
practices of serfdom. The conquered nations become slaves of the
invader; by obedience they live, by disobedience they die. The
persistence of slavery seems, then, to be a demonstration of the
unchangeability of human nature and of the ultimate hopelessness of
idealist causes. In every reform accomplished the practical application
is local, transitory, dependent on racial and geographical conditions.
There is obviously a great change in our penal methods. We do not
mutilate our criminals or scalp them for the preservation of their
souls, and we have lost confidence in the rack and the thumb-screw. But
we need only transport ourselves to other lands and study other people's
views of judicial necessities, and we shall find that the punitive
systems of the thirteenth or the eighteenth centuries are still with us.
Theoretically the blood of the black and the white man is of the same
good quality, and yet very little provocation is needed for the outbreak
of race riots. Negroes and negresses who have given offence to white
people need harbour no illusions concerning the restraining influences
of our Western civilization.

Like a mountain in eruption the war has thrown up the sordid passions,
the hidden reserves of destructive hate and cruelty in our common human
soul. In war all things are permissible. To murder, to maim, to
destroy, to deceive, to make hideous waste of fertile land, to cause
weeping and wailing amongst the innocent--these are the necessities of
warfare. They are the commonplace incidents of war. There are others. It
brings to the surface strata of human nature to which culture has never
descended. It explodes our humanitarian theories by a series of
well-directed mines. The ancient horrors of devices for the punishment
of the enemy are feeble competitors with our modern inventions. Our
poison gas, our burning oil, our metallic monsters that spit death on
the enemy and crush his fine defences, our flying bomb-throwers, all
show that we have not as yet succumbed to humanitarian or Christian
ethics. There have been some startling illustrations of the folly of
assuming that we have safely and irrevocably traversed certain stages of
human indifference. We shuddered at the revelations which called
Florence Nightingale to the Crimea; we now shudder at the heartless
carelessness revealed by Commissions and Reports. The triumph of Red
Cross organization, the mass of charitable and voluntary effort to
relieve suffering, the heroism and splendour of individual sacrifice,
soften, but do not reverse, the impression of a general humanitarian

We may, of course, take shelter behind the jejune explanation that there
are two worlds with two moralities. One is war and the other is peace.
We may affectionately survey the hospitals and orphanages, the
institutions for the blind and the mute, the asylums and the charities
with which each belligerent country pays tribute to the virtues of the
merciful life. Whatever we do, we cannot dispel the darkness by a
frenzied denunciation of war. The monster is not outside ourselves; it
is created and sustained by the hardness of our hearts and the
obtuseness of our brains. The responsibility is ours in war as well as
in peace. Reformers of all ages have battled with the wickedness of the
world, they have stormed stronghold after stronghold of social iniquity.
Their failures are no less conspicuous than their successes. Human
nature is infinitely pliable and infinitely resistant.

Is it, then, all a matter of change and recurrence? Do culture and
morality grow like flowers in a garden, obedient to the will and taste
of the gardener, but destined to fade and die with the turn of the
season? Do not the civilizations of the past with their perfection of
knowledge and art mock our faith in the permanency of human achievement?
Babylon and Egypt, Athens and Rome carried the seed of corruption within
their husk of glory. They had elaborate systems of social organization,
of laws, of elucidation of the mysteries of life. They saw beauty and
pursued it, in colour and sound, by word and chisel. The gods were kind
to them, and now and then dispensed with altar and temple. Divine
presences revealed themselves in brook and cornfield, on mountain-tops
and in the faces of animals. Reformers of all kinds were amongst them:
men of the sword with dreams of Empire and conquest for the good of the
nation, priests who demanded sacrifice in the name of a god, orators who
by skilful laying of words taught the art of philosophic calm. Problems
faced them, social iniquities troubled them; they grappled with morals
and strove to build up a better and happier future.

I was sinking into a reverie over the fall of Babylon and the problems
of recurrence when Marie-Joseph arrived. Marie-Joseph is my oldest and
dearest peasant friend. She is over seventy and devoted to hard work.
Her face is rosy and wrinkled, and when she laughs it becomes a mass of
merry furrows. Her body gives one the impression of an animated board.
It is strikingly flat and stiff, and proudly erect. She works in the
fields and tends the cows, and when she bends down to hoe the potatoes
or cut the grass, she just folds herself in two. The stiff straight back
in the neat black dress is different from all the other toiling backs on
the slopes. When I look down from the mountain-tops to the pastures and
plots below, I can always distinguish the back of Marie-Joseph from the
others. To-day she brought me a present of milk and potatoes, and we sat
down to chat over a cup of coffee--nay, four cups of coffee, for
Marie-Joseph has no cranky ideas about abstinence from food and drink,
and I must, perforce, pretend I have none. I love her and her ways,
though she always manages to disturb me when I wish to work or think.
Writing and thinking are not work to Marie-Joseph. She is wholly
innocent of the former dissipation and carries out the latter function
without any trouble or fuss. She is, therefore, justified in disposing
of my painful efforts with a contemptuous shrug of her wooden

"Marie-Joseph," I said cautiously, when I had watched the third cup of
coffee disappear, and duly discussed butter and cheese, wine and cows,
"do you think the world is getting better?" She was slicing a chunk of
bread with her capacious pocket-knife, and stopped short. Her small
bright blue eyes peered at me curiously. "I mean, do you believe there
is real progress--that we are better than we used to be?"

The knife came dancing down on the plate. "Better?" she said; "not at
all; we are worse. Why, when I was young we used constantly to have
processions and carry le Bon Dieu, and I tell you the harvest was
different from what it is now. And the young girls were modest then;
they all wore aprons, and our curé used to insist on them wearing
aprons, for, said he, all women should wear aprons."

"All women should wear aprons," I repeated mechanically, as my thoughts
flitted back to Babylon.

Marie-Joseph saw and misinterpreted my disappointment. "Did you grasp
what I said?" she asked; "there is no modesty nowadays. And you people
who come from England," she added sternly, "with your short skirts and
your peculiar ways, don't improve matters."

I felt duly rebuked, and during the rest of the hour which Marie-Joseph
wasted on me, I sought to re-establish myself in her opinion by
discoursing on the merits of _soupe au fromage_.

We all have our chosen test of moral worth, and perhaps our judgment of
the decline and rise of social virtue is as easily swayed by personal
predilection as was that of Marie-Joseph. To me the persistence of the
same cruel and stupid customs throughout the centuries is a source of
perplexed pessimism. I cannot brush aside the problem by a facile
reference to reincarnation. If John the brigand was a cut-throat and a
robber in his twentieth appearance on this planet, why should he persist
in these idiosyncrasies in his twenty-third return as George the
politician and successful captain of industry? This is not at all a fair
representation of the theory of reincarnation, I shall be told. It is
not, but it is one of those to which we are driven in the desperation
of impatience. A friend of mine, a high authority on matters
theosophical, knows of a potent explanation and anodyne for moral
impatience. Humanity, he tells me, is always being recruited from Mars.
Mars, in spite of its canals, is a low and wicked planet, with a
reptilian population. When the Martians advance a little beyond the
moral status of their fellow-creatures and close their bloodthirsty eyes
in death, their spirits are wafted to our planet, there to take on new
garments of flesh. The influx of brutal souls is perennial. This
explains why, Churches and missionary effort notwithstanding, we have
always savages, cannibals, and barbarians (and Prussian militarists?)
with us. But there is comfort in the other side of the picture. When we
in our turn have learnt all the lessons of this miserable globe of
folly, when we have mastered all the virtues and shed all the vices,
when we long to be free from the trammels of sense and appetite and
sickness and ambition, we are transferred to Mercury. Mercury is a
highly evolved planet, a spiritualized existence, free from the
obsessions of sex and greed, an abode of love and freedom.

Oh, how I sigh for Mercury!

Supposing this sinful earth is only a school for reformed Martians;
supposing human nature and history always repeat themselves, and the end
is as the beginning and the beginning as the end? The first steps in
education accomplished, the scholars would be removed to better
premises, and to a more advanced course of instruction. But the old
school would receive new pupils and go on in the same humdrum way. There
would be the same harsh teachers, the same ignorance and obstinacy, the
same punishment and suffering. The worst of it is that Mercury does not
seem exempt from the general curse of nothingness which seems to brood
over all physical existence. There is no stability even in solar
systems. Even we puny creatures can divine something of their birth and
death. Out of whirling nebulæ suns and planets are born; souls slowly
evolve on worlds which were once balls of fire. There are endless
diversity and specialization, myriads of creatures rise out of the
furnace of life. Some gain ascendancy and lay claim to mental supremacy,
to science and religion and the overlordship of the universe. I am sure
Mars, Mercury, and Tellus are equally prone to this weakness. One
day--in the uncountably many of solar mornings--there is a collision, a
breaking up of all the old forms through contact with some mysterious
roving mass of burning matter. The planets with their kings and prophets
disappear in fire and gas, The perturbation in the vast Cosmos of Change
is probably not greater than that caused by the fall of an old and
rotten tree before the cleansing winds of spring.

All mankind clings to the hope that something escapes destruction and
rises unchangeable and eternal above the domain of nothingness. In that
hope we strive for better things and go forth to reform life, and in the
striving we find our spirit. We know we are shortsighted and sometimes
blind, and that the fight is often hopeless. But the joy, the
imperishable joy, lies in the struggle. Don Quixote is inexpressibly
dear to us because he personifies the ridiculous tasks which we attempt,
though we know them to be ridiculous.

There is a human need which is always paramount, yet surprisingly little
recognized. It is the need of an enemy. Life is a perpetual looking
forward to a time when we shall have conquered. We are happiest when we
see the enemy in all his ugliness and wickedness, and can draw our
swords without any doubt as to his presence. We prefer solid dragons of
evil to flitting butterflies of sin. We are ever in search of the enemy
in our schemes of reform, our political wrangles, our moral crusades.
The growth of individuality is indissolubly bound up with cognizance of
the enemy. He may be hiding in the bowels of the earth, defying the
attempt to tame the soil to our advantage; he may be mocking our efforts
to find scientific solutions to the riddles of nature; he may be
encamped in our own souls, confounding our goodness and demolishing our
moral defences. But he must be there. Without him life would be
stagnant, energy and virtue purposeless.

War satisfies the human hunger for a sight of the enemy. All the vague
sense of evil which in peace-time makes the morality of our next-door
neighbour a matter of anxious concern to us is now solidified in hatred
of the foe of the country. Smaller enmities are patched, national
brotherhood is recognized. The country at war with us becomes the
target of all our moral bullets. Tyranny, cruelty, lust, greed, and all
manner of abomination dwell there; its people are the servants of

The evil seen in the enemy stimulates unseen good in the masses, to whom
the sacrifices of war would be impossible but for the conviction that
the nations have been sharply divided into sheep and goats. The
abolition of war will come about when we have learnt to eliminate sham
enemies and to recognize the real one within our own hearts. In our
present stage of cosmic education, the idea of a negative peace is
entirely repellent. Now and then, after a bout of too much talking or
too much doing, we may dwell tenderly on the thought of complete
inaction and stillness. A nightmare is an excellent means of inducing a
desire for dreamless sleep. But normal, natural humanity shuns complete
rest. Hence the notorious failure--mental and physical--of complete
holidays. We must attack something, and if there is no work to attack,
we attack the inanimate stupidity of our surroundings. It is strange
that the laborious task once achieved should so often become the thing
abhorred. Scales fall from our eyes, perspective is restored, and we see
what a trumpery affair held us enthralled. I have often thought with
dismay of the effect on scores of reformers, whom I know, if the reform
to which they have sworn allegiance should be accomplished. To many this
would be a personal disaster of the gravest kind. For years they have
poured their mental energy and their devotion into one channel. The
enemy was always there, to be beaten at sunrise and cursed at sunset.
The cause inspired high ideals and hard work; self and selfish matters
were neglected in the pursuit of victory. Life eventually became
identified with the cause and its vicissitudes, and, like the picture in
Olive Schreiner's story, the work took on brighter and more wonderful
colour, whilst the painter became paler and paler. Narrowness of vision
and purpose became essential conditions of efficiency, and gradually
human attributes became sharpened into fanatical weapons of assault. Few
reformers live to see the triumph of their cause, and fewer still
succeed in preserving equilibrium of judgment.

There is, verily, every excuse for the pointed energy of reformers. The
world is full of horrors that cry aloud for extirpation; one head
cannot easily harbour knowledge of all the strongholds of wickedness.
True, those who are called by the spirit to become missionaries of mercy
can harbour a greater measure of sympathy than the average man. The
average man suffers through incapacity to reach the fountain of
spiritual replenishment at which the saints refresh their parched
throats. An acute sensitiveness to the suffering of others, without a
corresponding power to reach the sources of comfort, leads to the abyss
of madness. Nature imposes limits to sympathy in most minds, barriers of
forgetfulness without which healthy thought is impossible. The danger to
the mind of indulging in unlimited sympathy has been emphasized by the
most divergent students of psychological law. Herbert Spencer analysed
it with characteristic thoroughness. Nietzsche went farther. He reacted
violently against the onslaughts of pity in his own soul, and in
philosophical self-defence inverted the promptings of compassion. The
war has shown the human need of self-defence against excessive sympathy.
We are surfeited with horrors on land and sea; the ghastly truth of a
carnage which exceeds anything known in history, of maimed and broken
lives, of starving and homeless people, is shunned lest we lose our
reason in impotent and disruptive pity. The man of bayonet and bomb, who
a short time ago spent mildly exciting days over his desk in the City,
and who was anxiously concerned over the indisposition of his
neighbour's cat, has made himself a heart of steel for the purposes of
the war. If sympathy interfered with the issue of every bullet and the
thrust of every bayonet, there would be an end to military efficiency.
The civilian has not seldom gone far beyond the needs of emotional
self-defence and equipped himself with a heart of stone. The perfect Man
of Sympathy--controlling His sympathy, yet radiating it to all the world
and its sins--was Jesus Christ. His compassion had none of the corrosive
qualities which drove Nietzsche to distraction. He could retain the
consciousness of all the suffering which men inflict on fellow-creatures
and yet keep ever abundant the measure of His pity and the regenerating
power of His love. He saw the root of our evil, the one cause and the
one remedy. He is the catholic and consistent reformer, whilst we--we
of the smaller measure--flounder in the web of a hundred causes.

Each cause can be endowed with an importance which outdoes all the
others. Education--can any one deny the overwhelming need of proper
concentration on its possibilities? "Here we have a generation of
ignorant, selfish, immoral creatures, devoid of a sense of social
responsibility," says our first reformer; "why, the remedy is obvious:
let us begin with the children in the schools. Is any one so dense as
not to perceive the all-pervading importance of the guidance we give to
the young?"

"It is no use beginning with the children whilst those who teach them
are so hopelessly sunk in materialism and stupidity," says our second
reformer. "Look at the education laws; they are all ill-conceived and
ill-administered. Education is not only a failure; it is a dead-weight
of falsehood and class tyranny which hampers progress. Let us go
straight for socialism and equal human rights and opportunities. Your
education is only used to perpetuate industrial slavery and to keep the
children of the working classes ignorant of the blood-sucking system
into whose meshes they will be thrown unless we combine and make our
influence felt now."

"You are neglecting the most obvious duties which should come first,"
says the quiet and motherly voice of the third reformer; "infants die by
the hundred thousand owing to neglect. There will soon be no babies for
you to instruct either in materialism or socialism. The race will die
out whilst you talk. Look at the slums and the careless, ignorant
mothers; we want infant-welfare work, we want a new baby cult, we want
to teach people parental responsibility."

"Nonsense," breaks in the virile voice of the fourth reformer; "what you
want is to take people away from the slums, to bring them back to the
country. Land nationalization is what we need--a free, healthy life, far
removed from the factories that kill soul and body by the grinding
monotony of existence. Man was made for life on the soil, for contact
with sun and wind, flowers and trees. They will give health and life to
your babies."

"Your schemes have only a secondary importance"--the voice of a
prominent suffragist is now heard. "Give women the vote and these
reforms will follow. Men have made all these abominable laws and
customs; women will bring in just and human laws and change all social
life. As for the suggestion that country life will improve the standard
of living, I can only say that it is made in ignorance of the real
conditions. Look at the farm labourer's wife and her home-life. She is
often the most miserable, worn-out creature, who tries in vain to keep
the children and herself properly fed and clothed. Her life is a long
travesty of the laws of health."

"Naturally," comments the temperance reformer, "whilst you allow the
labourer to soak himself in drink and to spend his money at the
public-house. Drink is the root of all our social troubles: it ruins the
body and corrupts the mind, it poisons the unborn children, fills our
prisons and asylums. You may legislate and equalize opportunities as
much as you please; so long as you allow the cursed liberty of drink
there can be no health and no human decency. Prohibition is the most
urgent of all our needs."

An athletic-looking young man, rosy-cheeked and clear-eyed, who had been
listening with a somewhat supercilious smile, now joins in the debate.
"There would be no need for you to bother about drink if you could
persuade people to give up flesh-eating. Vegetarianism is the cure of
all ills. It drives away disease and the craving for stimulants, it
gives you pure blood and a desire for the really simple life. I live in
a tent on ninepence a day and sleep in the open. I grow my own fruit and
vegetables and do my own cooking. Thoreau is my master and Carpenter my
friend. I hate smoky cities with their slums and their shambles and your
whole sickly civilization."

"Sickly!" repeats a Christian Scientist, with reproachful emphasis on
the word. The speaker is a woman of sixty, whose face bears the stamp of
successful self-discipline and a sound physique. "I have seen
vegetarians who looked extremely sickly. Before I became a Christian
Scientist I, too, sought health by various systems of diet. Now I know
that all disease is but an error of mortal mind, and in _Science and
Health_, by Mrs. Eddy, we are told----"

She was not allowed to finish her sentence, for a Congregational
minister, famous for his pulpit denunciations of sin, has risen and
gravely waves his hand to ensure a respectful hearing. "All you people,"
he says, in a voice vibrating with solemn indignation, "are pursuing
fleeting shadows. The kingdom of God is within. This false cult of
health by self-hypnotism, or health by living like the beasts in the
field, gives undue weight to things which, after all, relate to the
body. It is the _soul_ of man that is important, not where he lives or
what he eats. We need the fear of God and the thirst for His mercy; we
need the Divine guidance which will transform and sanctify our social

"And pray how has the Church dealt with the war?" cries the pacifist who
has now risen, his eyes ablaze with denunciation of the minister. "The
Christian Church--established or unestablished--is nothing but the
handmaid of the politician and the State, the servile echo of
capitalists and diplomatists. You talk of Divine guidance and the
sanctification of life. How do you respect life and the teaching of
Jesus Christ? Jesus said, 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you, pray for them that despitefully use you
and persecute you.' You, His professed followers, bless war and its
orgies of hate. You stand by hypocritically thanking God for your own
sanctity, whilst Christians drench battlefields with the blood of
Christians. The abolition of war is the reform to which you should all
bend your lives and direct your prayers. Even now you have not learnt
your lesson. Your social order, your laws, your constitution, your
personal liberties, your lives and those of your children, are thrown to
the Juggernaut of war, and yet you continue your futile pursuit of
shadows. Without peace there can be no reform."

I have joined in the debate, I have heard all these voices. They are
familiar to me with the familiarity of the songs of our childhood. Their
sentiment is true, oh so true! yet so sadly inadequate. The reformers
are valiant and true, and every one has hitched his waggon to his pet
star. Happiest are those who do not encounter the cross-influence of
rival stars or see the irony of our human limitation of sight and
achievement. The blood-red cross of the crusader will stand no admixture
of colour. The soul dominated by one idea gains ground. Henri Dunant,
Florence Nightingale, Elizabeth Fry, General Booth, Josephine
Butler--these succeed by dint of their singleness of purpose. The
narrowness serves to concentrate the strength and accelerate the work.

The reformer may be bigoted and unreasonable, but he must be an optimist
whilst pursuing his object. He must believe in life and in the inherent
goodness of the earth. He must be a stranger to the dyspeptic melancholy
through which Carlyle saw the world as a "noisy inanity" and life as an
incomprehensible monstrosity. Macbeth is called to denounce life as "a
tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury," and "signifying
nothing." Macbeth must be shunned by the reformer as the monk repels the
visits of Satan in the desert. He must share the hopefulness of Sir
Thomas More. Utopia is possible here, now, and everywhere, though
execution is likely to be the penalty of too close application to

He must not fear the companionship of the crank. He had better recognize
that he is one. What is a crank? The dictionary is somewhat vague as to
the meaning. I find that the verb is unravelled as "bend, wind, turn,
twist, wind in and out, crankle, crinkle." The last two appeal to me
strongly. How I have crankled and crinkled over wrongs and horrors
which I have discovered on my little path! No crank can see his
crankiness at the time of crankling, though sometimes he sees it
afterwards. The crank is a person who holds views which to us seem
ridiculous. The man who first objected to cannibalism was a crank. The
man who first thought lunatics should not be chained to walls or left
naked on unsavoury beds of straw was a crank. Galileo was an
intellectual crank of the shameless type. Shelley is the beautiful crank
of all times, champion of forlorn causes, the inspired rebel of the

There are small and noisy and irritating cranks. I have met scores of
them. They are intense, but shortsighted. Some are delightfully
ingenuous, with the lovable simplicity of the child. Others are of a
morbid and carping disposition, with an inordinate sense of their own

I have for many years been the privileged though unworthy recipient of
confidences and schemes for the elimination of all manner of cruelty and
wickedness from the world. My office in Piccadilly has received within
its sympathetic walls a procession of born cranks, of souls charged with
high missions for the betterment of the world. Faddists, eccentrics,
dreamers, mystics, workers chained to lifelong slavery by their dominant
idea, have poured out their plans to me. Sometimes visitors came who
clearly had crossed the unguarded frontier between sanity and insanity,
interesting and pathetic and clever, yet of the great order of God's
fools. They were not unhappy, for their path was brilliantly lit by an
idea, whilst the rest of the world was plunged in darkness. They would
scold me and pity me because I refused to follow their light, but they
were never unkind.

There is an old blue easy-chair in the office, dilapidated and
springless, in which I have deposited my cranks. I always choose a hard,
uncomfortable seat opposite, from which I conduct my defence against the
insidious appeal of the visitors. Their faces do not fade from my
memory. They haunt me with a gentle refrain of the world-as-it-might-be.
The world as they would like it to be is certainly not always habitable,
but it is generally one of exuberant imaginative verdure.

Here is the man who wants to abolish sex. He believes in spirit. He is
timid and womanly, his mind is pure and inexpressibly shocked at the
carnal desires which disfigure the otherwise fair picture of humanity.
Love, marriage, procreation, cannot these be purged from the base and
degrading obsessions of sex? By abstinence, by concentration, we may
eliminate them. Surely the story of the Fall makes it quite clear that
we were never meant to perpetuate such gross mistakes.... Here is the
woman who believes sex to be the source of all good, all life, all joy.
She holds a medical degree and is passionately opposed to the
emancipation of womanhood. She is unmarried, and dresses with
old-fashioned emphasis of the eternal feminine. With a soft and languid
smile she deprecates the fate which sent her to the medical school
instead of the nursery. "Why," she tells me, with radiant eyes,
"everything is sex; poetry, painting, sculpture, religion are sex. Women
who suppress their sexual nature by pursuing the chimerical advantages
of votes and professions are guilty of race-suicide. Race-suicide must
be stopped." There is the believer in the immediate return of Jesus
Christ and the approaching end of the world. He comes as a convert with
a message, and laden with books of prophecy. A year ago he was still a
successful man of business, and a gay soul with no inclination towards
the holy life. The merry twinkle in his eye has disappeared, and in its
place I see the dull glow of an obsessing idea. "What is the good of all
your struggle and your agitation?" he says; "everything will come right
and the wicked will be punished. Join me in proclaiming the coming of
the Lord. Let people be warned and repent in time." There is the lively,
mercurial lady in green who deals in statesmanship and high politics,
who knows everybody of importance, and who controls the fate of nations
through her magic influence behind the scenes. To-day she has been to
the War Office, yesterday the Home Office trembled at her approach,
to-morrow certain officials in high diplomatic circles will know to
their cost what she thinks of them. There is the pompous lady of a
hundred committees. She has a passion for committees, and no sooner has
she formed one or sat on one than she discovers the general unworthiness
of the assembly. She comes to expose people, to prove how utterly
incapable they are of managing affairs.

The priestess of some system of New Thought arrives. She is pleasant and
unruffled. "Can you deny," she asks, "that nothing exists for you but
that which you allow to enter your mind?" No, I cannot. "Very well,
then, you can control the universe by thought. You can gain happiness,
health, peace of mind, and long life. By thought and meditation you can
make for yourself a world of harmony, a consciousness which excludes
everything that is ugly and painful and jarring." I murmur that this is
no doubt possible, but it seems a trifle selfish whilst so many human
souls are struggling in the sea of trouble. I am sharply pulled up. "I
thought you would be too immersed in the wretched folly of agitation to
understand," she says; "I came to show you the better way." She is
followed by the clothes enthusiast. He wears sandals and has discarded
the abomination of starched linen. "We are forming a Society for the
Revival of Greek Clothing," he announces. "From the æsthetic and the
hygienic points of view, nothing is more important than the clothes we
wear." I venture on a feeble Teufelsdröckh joke. He does not condescend
to listen. "We must get rid of hideous trousers and feet-strangling
skirts [I am lost in admiration over the indictment of the skirt, for I
remember a certain reception in Washington in the days of the
snake-skirt when I stumbled and fell at a moment when a little dignity
would have been my most precious possession]; we must wear loose white
draperies amenable to the air and the washtub." I quite agree, but raise
some practical obstacles and a few conventional pegs of delay. They
prove intolerable, and my visitor departs convinced that I am not one of
the elect.

Missionaries of dietetics come in a motley procession. There is the man
who believes we can eat anything provided we masticate everything with
bovine thoroughness; there is the man who believes that we ought to eat
nothing during long bouts of purgative fasting, and who lives cheerfully
and inexpensively on hot water during two yearly periods of twenty days.
There is the woman who has found the nearest approach to nectar and
ambrosia in the uncooked fruits and vegetables of the earth, which,
properly pounded, are digested, and make of our sluggish bodies fit
receptacles for Olympian wisdom. There are the people who have
discovered the one cause of all disease. It may be uric acid or cell
proliferation or hard water--there is always a complementary cure. I
listened one day with much interest to an exposition of the evils of
salt. Salted food, I was told, is the cause of our troubles. We are
salted and dried until all power of recuperation is driven out of our
nerves and muscles. I was asked to study the subject. The theory was
well supported by scientific reasoning and evidence, and on the
following evening I had thoroughly entered into the saltless ideal. A
vision of the dispirited haddock had materially assisted my conclusion
when a visitor was announced. He was preceded by a card showing
impressively that he was a man of learning in theories of disease. "I
have come," he said, "in the hope that you will take an interest in my
experiments and conclusions with regard to disease in general. I have
discovered that the one cure for rheumatism, consumption, and cancer is
salt, plenty of common salt."

The trouble with all these people is not that they are all wrong. They
are probably all right. It is a question of angles and quality of the
grey matter of the brain. The trouble is the limitation of experience
and outlook imposed by fate upon each individual.

A league or society is theoretically the one human institution which is
akin to heaven. You have an object and a programme. You know you are
occupied with the most important task in the world. But you feel
powerless alone. You send out your appeal for support and kindred souls
flock to your banner. Can anything be more soul-satisfying than a
community of those who think alike, who feel alike, and who work for the
same end? Anarchy is impossible, and you decide on a constitution and
rules for the management of your spiritual brotherhood. A committee is
appointed to control the affairs of the union, and officials to carry
out its wishes. Now you have the ideal of which you dreamt, the pure
collective force which should prove irresistible. Friends within and
enemies without.

But you have not excluded the canker of human differences. Your kindred
souls discover that, though they think alike on the one point which drew
you together, they differ strongly on others. There are other opinions,
religious and political, than those which come within the purview of
your little organization. You surprise some of your friends in the act
of discussing your denseness in matters of which they have a firm and
clear grasp. You begin to wonder how it is possible for people who have
such a perfect vision of certain necessary lines of reform to manifest
such unmitigated stupidity in regard to others. If you are wise, you
resign yourself to the inevitable divergence of mind; if they are wise,
they agree to pardon your shortcomings.

Fanatics flower in a society like poppies in a wheat-field. They have
lost sight of everything but the urgency of the cause. They are
intolerant because they have no knowledge of human nature and no
self-criticism wherewith to check the wild ideas that sprout beneath
their immense self-confidence. They turn withering scorn on committees
and officials who refuse to give effect to their suggestions to burn the
House of Commons, or stop the traffic of London, or commit combined
suicide in Hyde Park as a protest against the continuance of the
iniquity which they denounce. They would do things in a different
manner. They intend to show the world and politicians that their views
cannot be ignored with impunity. For you and your lukewarm followers
they have nothing but contempt--the contempt which is earned by the
coward. The fanatic is troublesome, but comparatively easy to deal with.
There is another product of organized reform on which you cannot so
easily shut the door. It is the ideologue who rides the scheme to death.
It is the doctrinaire who must form systems within systems and policies
within policies. It is not enough that you have set out to suppress
something or to encourage something. You must follow his particular
way. He is in terror of compromise and sees profligacy in sweet
reasonableness. He knows the tragic failure of other movements with
vacillating policies. This one must be saved at all costs. 'Twere better
to smash the whole movement than proceed along undesirable lines. He
would scorn victory that came through avenues not recognized by him.
Certain words and phrases have completely captivated his imagination.
With them he fences heroically and causes a sufficiency of clatter and
noise. He is in deadly earnest and will brook no rivals. Parties within
parties are formed, and the energies which should be directed towards
fighting opponents are absorbed in combat within the society.

There is another element of disaster which now and then gains ascendancy
in the community of reformers. It is the professional agitator, the
parasite who will speak for or against a principle according to the
economic advantage which one side or the other may offer. You may
hold that such a man is not altogether undesirable, provided he can
"organize" and persuade people that the society is worthy of support.
You may think that he is no more blameworthy than the lawyer who pleads
your views so eloquently and who handles the jury with such consummate
skill, though his sole incentive is your fee and not your case. If you
act on such a belief and allow your professional agitator to manage your
society, you will certainly one day find your ideals turned to ashes and
your organization for moral action turned into money-making machinery.

Whilst life teaches you that societies are frail human institutions and
that conferences and congresses do not bring about the millennium, you
are saved from despair if you keep ever fresh your sense of humour.

There are problems in the life of the reformer which the mountains never
fail to put before me. I have so often come to them from the heat and
turmoil of controversy. I have come like a soldier from battle, covered
with mud and slightly wounded, yet exultant in the spirit of the fray.
The mountains speak to me, and lo! another self appears. They speak to
me of beauty, of peace, of the infinite mystery of life; they give me
broad effects of light and shade, and obliterate the small pictures
which pursue me on the plains. Yesterday, in the stillness of Alpine
midwinter, the moon shone clear and full on the glacier. I sat gazing
at the outlines of the peaks trembling in the pale light of a perfect
evening. The noisy mountain torrents were held captive in prisons of
ice, but here and there the sound of an irrepressible rivulet threading
its underground way through stones and earth brought to my ears a song
of spring. I love the trees, the sky, the snow--all my senses respond to
the call of the solitude of Nature. I felt free and happy; I sank into
the state of bliss in which the soul is conscious of no desire. Surely
this is better than the strife and the sordid cares of the camp;
surely one may walk apart and enjoy the fruits of tranquillity? Our
consciousness can admit but an infinitesimal part of that which is: let
us then fill it to the brim with the joy of beauty, with the harmony of
being at rest. Then I remembered the things which lay beyond my peaks
and my moonlight: a vision of prisons and shambles, of battlefields and
slums, passed before my eyes. How can one forget! How can one enjoy
peace and beauty! Duty bids us to descend, love bids us to share the

And yet are there not two ways of seeking perfection, two paths clearly
defined and well trodden throughout the ages--reform of self and reform
of others? What may at first sight appear as æsthetic or mystic egoism
is perhaps the better way. The hermit who forsakes the world and
renounces the social ties and burdens which most men count of value is
bent on the purification of his own soul. Monasticism--with all its
faults--recognized the essential need of self-examination and
self-discipline. It bade us cleanse our souls, conquer our own
temptations, by a rigid system of religious exercise. Our modern
reformer is not always conscious of any need for self-reform. He lustily
attacks the misdoings of others and remains happily ignorant of the
Socratic rule, _Know thyself_. "Every unordered spirit is its own
punishment," says St. Augustine, and the disorder is not removed by
assaulting the faults of others. We have, first and last, to be
captains of our own souls. There is an element of absurdity in the
thought that the aim and purpose of human life is for each soul to hunt
for the sins and imperfections in others. The enjoinment of
self-criticism and self-culture seems a simpler and less circumstantial
rule of life. Asceticism, abnegation, prayer, remoteness from the
passions that rend the worldly, bring peace and content. But they limit
experience and give a false simplicity to the problems of life. Early
Christian monasticism held that as this world is the domain of the
devil, the only safety lies in flight from it. Such a view precludes the
possibility of social reform on a general and lasting basis. It has a
radical consistency and a scientific precision which are only disturbed
by the course of actual events. Supposing all humanity could be
withdrawn, every precious brand snatched from the burning and the whole
made into a vast monastery? The devil would be sure to slip in and cause
a disturbance.

The social reformer assumes that the world is worthy of his care, and
that we are here to make it as habitable as we can. He lives in the
midst of sinful humanity and accepts the inheritance of earthly
conventions. He may choose to live in the slums whilst his spirit
clamours for a hermitage amongst the blue hills. His ways may be
crotchety and his temper irritable--what does it matter so long as he is
carrying out his appointed task in the cosmic order?

To the true nature-lover there is no renunciation in forsaking the
things prized by most men. His virtue may be vice concealed; he gathers
bliss where others find boredom. Give me a tree, a perfect tree, and you
may keep your palaces. Give me the green fields with a hundred thousand
flowers, and you may keep your streets and your piles of gold. Give me
the wild wind and the breath of the torrent, and I have no wish to hear
your hymns. There is a brazen self-sufficiency about the nature-lover
which baffles and offends the mind of the crowd. The most amazing thing
about him is that he turns hardship and deprivation into pleasure. Take
away his house and he shelters in a cave. Deprive him of your company
and he laughs to himself. Take away his possessions and he tells you he
is rich because he wants so little, whilst you are poor, for you have
surrounded yourself with a hundred unnecessary wants. Like Antæus, the
mythical giant, he derives his strength and his power to overcome
enemies from contact with the earth. He discovers a mode of being,
behind and beyond ordinary existence. He says to the busy crowds of
industry and commerce, to the men and women who wear out their lives in
the joyless chase of success: "You will die before you know satisfaction
and rest. Come and be human, come and grow in the sunshine and the
rain." He finds that two-thirds of the reforms for which men labour
would not be needed if the artificialities of society were abandoned. He
is, of course, unpractical and self-centred. Listen to Thoreau, the
arch-enemy of the social treadmill, and to his scorn of reformers:

    Who is that intemperate and brutal man whom we would redeem? If
    anything ail a man so that he does not perform his functions,
    if he have a pain in his bowels even--for that is the seat of
    sympathy--he forthwith sets about reforming--the world. Being a
    microcosm himself, he discovers--and it is a true discovery, and
    he is the man to make it--that the world has been eating green
    apples; to his eyes, in fact, the globe itself is a great green
    apple, which there is danger awful to think of that the children
    of men will nibble before it is ripe; and straightway his drastic
    philanthropy seeks out the Esquimaux and the Patagonian, and
    embraces the populous Indian and Chinese villages; and thus by a
    few years of philanthropic activity, the powers in the meanwhile
    using him for their own ends, no doubt, he cures himself of his
    dyspepsia, the globe acquires a faint blush on one or both of its
    cheeks, as if it were beginning to be ripe, and life loses its
    crudity and is once more sweet and wholesome to live.

And whilst thus branding those who set out to reform others, he shows
his adherence to the great order of self-reformers by the following

    I never dreamed of any enormity greater than I have committed. I
    never knew, and never shall know, a worse man than myself.

Thoreau cultivates simplicity with an intense regard for the effect on
himself. He is--in spite of his seclusion--above all a prophet amongst
men. He made great discoveries in the realm of the mind--the mind
attending closely to Nature, but he is too much the naturalist and the
land-surveyor to lose himself in the raptures of nature love. He is a
stranger to the ethereal touch with which Fiona Macleod opens the magic
door of that which is felt but not seen in earth and sky. He misses the
mystic hour when ghosts of the green life are about. That hour has been
seized by Algernon Blackwood, who makes us feel the fascination, the
vague dread of the elemental powers. There is a dream-wood in which the
souls of all things intermingle, and once imprisoned there, the
nature-lover may not escape until he has paid toll to the pixies.

There is, after all, nothing incompatible in the life of self-enrichment
and the life of self-expenditure. They are interdependent, and rule the
ancient order of gnosis and praxis. Whether we go to nature or religion
or science for replenishment, we must be filled. And the ironic power
which presides over our feasts compels the most inveterate egoist
amongst us to share his treasures. Mind is for ever craving to give to
mind. If we want nothing better than to boast of our superiority, the
boasting imparts a lesson to others and is therefore a gift. But the
reforming spirit spares few who think. It is generally believed that the
purely literary mind scorns the idea of reforming: that art is above
moral purpose. I have yet to discover the purely literary mind. Homer
and Shakespeare, Goethe and Dante are clearly not of it. Shakespeare, so
say the wiseacres, is the strictly impartial dramatist. He depicts the
good and the bad, the great and the small, with complete detachment.
Naturally, the art is the detachment and the lesson is in the perfect
representation. The literary man may indignantly repudiate the idea of
"preaching." "To go preach to the first passer by," wrote Montaigne, "to
become tutor to the ignorance of the first I meet, is a thing I abhor."
He may have abhorred the idea, but through his essays he made himself
tutor to innocence and the model of subjective moralizing.

However widely we roam the Republic of Letters, we meet no citizen
without a badge of consecrated service. Pretenders, perhaps, usurpers of
the titles of others, men to whom literature is nothing but merchandise.
These may be totally free from the impulse. Tolstoy, Ibsen, Hauptmann,
Hugo are reformers of the first order, whose words are charged with
revolt. The transcendentalism of Emerson, the naturalism of Zola, the
cynicism of La Rochefoucauld are all convergent streams in the torrent
of reforming words which make the soul fertile.

No; the tame and vapid acquiescents are not to be found in literature.
Sometimes they furnish material for literature. Their principal use in
life is to kindle the souls of reformers with the resentment of which
great deeds are born.


I can remember no time in my life when I was not addicted to the study
of humanity. The marvels of faces, types, and characteristics were, I
feel sure, with me in my cradle. At the age of ten I had evolved a kind
of astrological chart of my own, according to which all human beings,
including uncles and aunts, grandmothers and children, could be placed
in twelve categories. There were the long-nosed, thin-lipped,
sandy-haired, over-principled people, who always knew right from wrong
and who grudged me an extra chocolate because it was not the hour to
have one. There were the snub-nosed, full-lipped, dark-eyed people,
whose manners were jolly and who positively encouraged illicit
consumption of fruit in the thin-lipped aunt's garden. There were the
shortsighted, solemn people with bulging foreheads and studious habits
who saw print and nothing else. They bored me and belonged to my
eleventh category. As far as I can see now, my categories were a florid
elaboration of the four temperaments of Hippocrates, though I have no
idea of the cause of my childish absorption in the subject. It was
certainly altogether spontaneous and not encouraged, for I have a vivid
recollection of how an eager and eloquent description of my categories
(profusely illustrated by mimicry) brought me a sharp reprimand and a
very nasty tonic. The tonic was taken under compulsion, but the cure is
still unaccomplished.

And now for many years I have sat at my chalet window and seen the world
go by. The path from the village below to the peaks and pastures above
runs past my nest. On it, in the summer months, there was a straggling
procession of tourists and climbers, peasants and townsfolk. They were
of all nationalities, and their loud voices proclaimed the immutability
of the curse of Babel. I used to be annoyed at the close proximity of
the path, until, one day, I discovered its marvellous opportunities for
anthropological research. Then I settled down, content to limit my
wooing of the solitude to the early morning and the late evening, or the
time when the wild autumnal gales brush the mountains clear of trippers
and paint the surrounding foliage in glorious tints of red and gold.
For I assure you the proper study of man is man, and the proper study of
woman is both man and woman.

Here comes the Parisian youth with his charming young mamma of forty.
His face is pale and _distingué_, and the black down on his upper lip
has been trained with infinite care. Though his grey mountain suit is
fashioned for great feats of daring, it has the rounded waist and
martial shoulder-lines with which the Parisian tailor pacifies his
conscience when he supplies English fashions. His stockings look
ferocious. His dark eyes sparkle with inquisitiveness behind the
pince-nez. He is vivacity incarnate, he is urbanity on a holiday. Mamma
takes his arm and they trip past me. She is pretty, and would be plump
if the art of the _corsetière_ had not abolished plumpness. Her hat
conveys a greeting from the Rue Lafayette, her little high-heeled boots
show faultless ankles and the latest way of lacing up superfluous fat
above them. A hole and two uneven stones maliciously intercept the
progress of that little foot. Mamma stumbles, and is promptly and
chivalrously replaced in an upright position by the son. "Mon Dieu!" she
cries; "what a path!" and through my open window there floats the odour
of _poudre-de-riz_ disturbed by nervous excitement. Papa follows. He is
fat. No one can deny it, and I do not think he would like any one to
try. Honesty is writ large on his rotund countenance. Now he is hot and
somewhat weary with the climb. He carries his hat under his arm and
large pearls of moisture shine on the puckered forehead. His hair is
thick and closely cropped, and strives upward with the even aspiration
of a doormat. His cheeks are a little sallow and pendulous. He smiles
under his thin moustache, the contented smile of an honest, hardworking,
successful man. I know him well; I seem to have met him in a hundred
editions in the offices of municipalities and prefectures, behind the
counters of banks and shops. He is generally amiable, but he can lose
his temper, and when he loses it, it is worth your while to help him to
find it.

Here comes the Heidelberg professor, accompanied by two fair daughters.
He is tall, of commanding presence, and walks with patriarchal gravity
under a green umbrella. A large pocket, embroidered and ingeniously
designed with numerous compartments, is strapped to his waist. He
strokes his long, well-trimmed beard as he admonishes the girls to pay
serious attention to the natural beauty of the scenery. He rummages the
pocket for his field-glasses. "This, dear children, is Mont Blanc. I do
not say that our Schwarzwald is not just as lovely in its way. This
mountain was first climbed by Paccard and Balmat. It stretches from the
Col de Balme to the Col du Bonhomme and the Col de la Seigne. [A book is
now extracted from the fourth division of the pocket.] There are the
following passes: the Col d'Argentière, the Col...." His eye-glasses
slip downwards on his nose. The girls are not listening. Gretchen is
entirely absorbed in the fascinating appearance of an Italian who has
just passed, and who by unmistakable signs conveyed to her that she is
adorable. His flashing eyes, his jet-black hair, his lithe figure, his
pointed toes, the nimble way in which he managed to press her hand
behind the very back of her father, have stirred her imagination. Hedvig
is shocked. The elder daughter is permeated with respect for her
father's professorial dignity. Every gesture betrays the capable
housekeeper. She seems to be made of squares--good, proper, solid
squares. She tells the smiling Gretchen, whose cheeks suggest
strawberries and cream, that she must never encourage dark Italians by
looking at them. She should look at the ground when such men pass. She
should be more attentive to father. The sound of their footsteps dies,
and the green umbrella is but a dream. Hedvig has filled my window with
visions of a well-ordered German home, of sausages and _Sauerkraut_, of
beer and pickled fruit, of embroideries and coffee-parties.

Here comes a hatless representative of young Russia. His clothes are
shabby and neglected; he walks with a shuffling, tired movement. But his
face is startling. It seems to light up the path with some kind of
spiritual fervour. His hair is long and golden, his beard suggests an
aureole of virtue, his large blue eyes are penetrating but mild. A
confused series of faces flash through my mind--Abraham, Tolstoy, Jesus
Christ? Yes, it may seem sacrilegious, but the man is like Jesus Christ.
I see now that the likeness is studied, cultivated, impressive. This is
one of the _intelligentsia_ who has lingered for a while in Geneva or
Lausanne _en route_ for the haunts of spiritual revolution. A din of
dear familiar voices now fills the path and seems to shake the tops of
the pines. "I guess you won't try that again. I did Munich in one day,
Dresden in one and a half, Berlin in two, and Europe in twenty." Three
women and a man stop opposite the chalet. The ladies are charmingly
dressed in summer frocks of white and pink and blue, and carry nothing
heavier than a parasol. The man is laden with cloaks, rugs, and bags.
They peer into my window and try to catch a glimpse of the interior. I
hastily draw the curtains and leave one peep-hole for myself. "Quaint
houses these Swiss live in," says one. "It isn't a bad shanty," says the
man. "Let's have a glass of milk," says another.

"Dew lait," they shout through the window. I callously observe them
through my peep-hole. The man is of a fine American type, sinewy,
resolute, hawk-eyed. The mountain sunshine provides me with Röntgen
rays, and I see Wall Street inside his brow. "Dew lait," they yell. As
there is no answer, they hammer at the door. The door is adamant. They
leave reluctantly. "I think I saw the face of one of those Swiss idiots
through the curtains," says the lady in pink; "of course he would not
understand what we said."

There is a delightful readiness to jump to conclusions on the part of
visitors. Sometimes they are the reverse of flattering, but they are
always a source of delighted interest to me. I remember one day, years
ago, when I had gone to draw water at the source, which emerges as a
thousand diamonds from the rock and then descends into the hollow trunk
of a tree and becomes tame and inclined to domesticity. The cows had
come for a drink at the same hour, and we had just exchanged a few
polite remarks when I found myself observed by an English clergyman.
Yes, unmistakably English. His face was prim and clean-shaven, his
collar straight and stiff, upon his lips there played a sweet and devout
smile. He lifted up the tail of his coat ceremoniously and, selecting a
clean stone, seated himself upon it. He radiated condescending kindness.

"Lor a bun," said he. I asked the cows to excuse me for a moment and
turned to him. "Lor a bun," he repeated, this time with a query. I
stared uncomprehendingly. The sweet smile became sweeter. "Lor a bun, ma
pettit fille, eh?" At last I understood. "Oh, yes, the water is
excellent here," I replied, "and freezingly cold if you put your
fingers in it." He departed in unceremonious haste.

For some years I have watched the procession of nations on my path.
French, German, English, Russian, Austrian, American, Italian--they all
brought me a picture of their tribal characteristics, trivial, thumbnail
sketches, but nevertheless true to life. It may be urged that
holiday-makers do not constitute reliable material for the observation
of national peculiarities. I am not so sure. A man on a holiday
generally takes his goodwill with him, and endeavours, at least, to
restrain his temper and his prejudices. He may fail in the attempt, and
be a peevish thing at play, but the attempt will show him at his best.
From the hotels below, where the crowds of cosmopolis stayed _en
pension_ at reasonable and unreasonable terms, the sound of music and
songs visited me in the evening. The nations were waltzing.
International peace reigned under the auspices of the Swiss hotel
keeper. Forgotten were the ancient feuds of dynasty and religion. Common
humanity was uppermost.

And now the nations are at war. The concourse of friendly strangers who
used to meet in the hotels is sharply divided into hostile groups.
Travel is suspended or severely restricted. The Frenchman who a short
time ago raised his glass in friendly salute to the German at the
opposite table, who had guided him across the moraine, is now convulsed
at the thought that he could ever forget the essentially brutal and
inhuman character of all Germans. The German wishes he had dropped the
Frenchman into the crevasse. There would then, he argues, have been one
less of these treacherous, mean people, whose love of military conquest
is only checked by impotence. He remembers Napoleon and the fact that
any insignificant-looking chip of the Latin block may one day threaten
the heart of Germany. The easy and good-humoured internationalism of
tourist-life is at an end.

I do not know to what extent modern facilities for inexpensive travel
have helped to establish friendship and understanding between the
nations. But I do know that a person who claims to be educated, and who
has never travelled abroad, is insufferably boresome. I prefer the
society of a mole. The mole does not lecture me on the incalculable
advantages of remaining in one's dark passages. I do not shut my eyes
to the fact that some people go abroad and come home with their
stupidity unmodified by experience. But they have been made
uncomfortable, and that is something. A series of pricks of discomfort
might dislodge the obstacles to mental circulation. A Swiss hotel may
serve to check the contempt which the Philistines of all nations (there
is a truly international bond between them) feel at the thought of a
foreigner, though the shock of finding oneself amongst such
peculiarities of clothes, or frisure, or table-manners may be almost
unbearable. "Can you tell me," said a charming but agitated old lady
from Bath one day, "of a hotel where there are no foreigners?" "I am
afraid I cannot," I answered. "The hotel you have in mind would be full
of foreigners in Switzerland, and you would but add to their number."

Even the most cosmopolitan habitués of Nice, or Monte Carlo, or Homburg
feel the mildly stimulating effect of being in the presence of
foreigners. You are interested or disgusted, you are attracted or
repelled; your curiosity is aroused; you guess, you weave romances, you
make conscious use of the rich material for comparison which lies
before you. In Europe, apparently, the nations meet but do not merge.
America achieves the miracle. I remember one evening in New York. I had
addressed a meeting of good Americans and was coming home in the train.
I was tired and unobservant and kept my eyes closed. Suddenly a loud
remark in Danish attracted my attention. I looked up at the row of
humanity in the long carriage. Sitting opposite me, standing at my side,
hanging by the straps, were the nations of the world. The racial types
were there: Slavonic, Latin, Teutonic; the skull dolichocephalic and the
skull brachycephalic rested side by side without any attempt at mutual
evacuation. I could distinguish the faces of Frenchmen, Jews,
Englishmen, Japanese, Germans, Poles, negroes, Italians. They did not
study one another. They were journeying home from the day's work. A
strange homogeneity brooded over the company. America had put her
super-stamp on their brows. They were citizens of an all-human country.

What, then, is this mysterious power which seems to master the Old
World, whilst it is mastered by the New World? Nationality is clearly a
mundane thing. It is not generally suggested that heaven is mapped out
into national frontiers; the Christian religion and other faiths are
bent on roping in all the nations. The missionaries who are sent out to
Africa and China go with the conviction that there is room in heaven for
the black and the yellow sinner. True, the black and the yellow man will
first have to shed their somewhat irregular appearance and come forth
white and radiant, but the belief in the possibility of such a feat is
proof positive that we regard the nationality of a man as a transient
business. Nationality is local, spirituality universal. Nationality is a
form, a mould, a means; spirituality is the essence, the force, the
object. The problems of nationality are wrapped up in the problems of
personality. A personality is an amalgam of likes and dislikes, of habit
and prejudice, the product of circumstances and a will. There is such a
thing as multiple personality, and there is also multiple nationality.
But the simple measure of nationality is severely natural and elemental.
It is rooted in the need of understanding and being understood. It
begins with love of self (we do love ourselves, in spite of all
assurances to the contrary), family, and tribe. In a world of diversity
and uncertainty it envelops us with a comforting assurance that there
are creatures who feel and think as we do. It endows us with a
group-soul, without which we, like ants and bees, cannot face life. The
sense of nationality is but an enlarged sense of personality.

It is a realization of unity which comprises many lesser units. Our
household, our village, our country, our constituency, are all
independent unities which we deliberately (though not always
successfully) press into the service of the greater unity. The lesser
unities always run the danger of being superseded by the greater
unities. The conditions of soil and climate in a hamlet produce a crop
of personalities similar in content and range, a type which we may
distinguish by the shape of the nose or the trend of the remarks. Ten
neighbouring little hamlets may have their little ways of distinction
which separate one from the other, and yet one day--to their
dismay--discover that they have greater generalities in common. Once the
discovery is made, prudence and common sense demand co-operation. The
great nations are built up on the discovery. Italy, Germany, and Great
Britain have taken it to heart after endless trials of the smaller
unities. America had one severe trial, and then settled down to
circumvent and undo the curse of Babel. The sense of separateness, once
so precious to Florence, Genoa, and Pisa, could not resist the larger
conception of Italy.

There is no reason, historical or logical, why this expansion of the
consciousness of unity should not proceed until there is nothing further
to include. The recognition of an all-human brotherhood is followed by
the realization of an all-animal brotherhood in which the essential
likeness of all that breathes and feels is paramount. Personally, I have
never found the slightest difficulty in accepting our near relationship
to the apes. On the contrary, every monkey I meet--and I have specially
cultivated their acquaintance--reminds me sharply of the simian origin
of our dearest traditions.

The consciousness of unity and the consequent sense of separateness from
some other body or bodies are subject to constant change and
surprisingly erratic in their application. A bare hint to the Welshman,
the Scotsman, the Breton, the Provençal, or the Bavarian that his
national idiosyncrasies do not exist, and you will speedily see a
demonstration of them. And yet, a moment ago, they felt entirely British
or French or German. Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians have each a keen
sense of national separateness (and superiority), but let the tongue of
slander touch their common nature, and Scandinavia rises in indignant
unity. I have attended many International Congresses, and have observed
how easily the party is on the verge of grave national crises. Each
alliance musters a good-humoured tolerance of the deficiencies of
others. But let an opponent of the whole scheme, for which they have
assembled, attack the principle which is sacred to all, and there is an
immediate truce and concerted action against the intruder. Russian and
German troops have found it necessary to suspend their fighting in order
to defend themselves against the attacks of wolves. The hungry pack of
wolves, waiting by the trenches at night, presented a force which called
for united opposition, and the European war had to wait whilst the men
of the opposite armies joined in killing them. When the slaughter of
wolves was happily over, the human battle was resumed. Supposing,
instead of wolves, an airship of super-terrestrial proportions had
brought an army of ten-armed, four-headed, and six-legged creatures,
bent on dealing out death to the occupants of the trenches, what would
have happened? Supposing the inhabitants of a more cruel and vicious
planet than ours (cosmological specialists assure us such exist)
developed powers of warfare before which the exploits of Hannibal or
Attila paled into insignificance, and learnt the art of destroying life
not only in their own world but in others as well? They might come armed
with new atmospheric weapons, trailing clouds of suffocating fumes to
which resistance with guns and bombs would be utterly ineffectual. The
horror of the unknown danger would paralyse the war, batteries would be
deserted and the trenches would quickly be internationalized. The sense
of our common humanity, outraged at the sight and the smell of the
monsters, would assert itself. Generals and statesmen of the belligerent
peoples--if any were left to direct the defensive--would hold
subterranean meetings, and, forgetting the cause for which they sent men
to die nobly but a few days ago, would discuss how they could save the
united remnants of humanity by strategy and simulation.

The sense of unity is, after all, dependent on innumerable conditions
and circumstances over which we have little control. There is the unity
of tradition and education, of Eton and Harrow, of Oxford and Cambridge.
It moulds opinion and imposes certain restrictions of conduct and
prejudices in outlook. Rivalry is an indispensable and normal adjunct of
such unity. Races and the honour and glory of one's school and team can
stir the group-soul to incredible heights of enthusiasm and effort.
There is the instinctive unity of seafarers. Who has not, when crossing
the ocean, felt that he was part of a small world independent and
isolated from others, but bound together by special ties of adventure?
An encounter with an iceberg will bring the common responsibilities and
dangers to the notice of the most inveterate individualist, but even
while the ship moves uneventfully forward, he, perforce, shares the
feeling of oneness. There is the humorous unity which will seize the
opposing parties in a court of law and make them join in laughter at
some feeble judicial joke just to experience the relief of forgetting
that they are there to be contentious.

The advocates of the theory that nations and nationalities are eternally
distinct and separate can see no analogy of unity in the simple examples
of everyday life. They tell us conclusively that England is England and
France is France, and our humble retort that we know as much and
something besides is silenced by the further information that each
nation has a soul that will tolerate no interference from other souls.
They forget, our apostles of the creed of separateness, that the States
of to-day are built up on a vast mixture of races and nationalities.
They forget, also, that nationality is not a fixed and immovable
quantity. Like personality, it is alive and changing, susceptible to
influence and experience, liable to psychic contagion from the thoughts
and emotions of others. There is no pure nationality. Hybrids are
regarded as inferior creatures, as biological outlaws. The truth is, we
are all hybrids. Our bluest blood has all the shades of common colour in
it when examined ethnically. Great Britain--and Ireland--contains a
mixture of Romans, Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Danes, Normans, and Celts.
To-day, Scotch, Welsh, and Irish are mixtures within mixtures. And what
is the British Empire? A conglomeration of races and languages, a
pan-national product of conquest and colonization, in which the forces
of racial modification are always at work obliterating old divisions and
creating new claims to national recognition.

The Russian Empire, sown by Vikings, Slavs, and Mongols, has a rich
racial flora, including Germans, Poles, Jews, Lithuanians, Letts,
Roumanians, Afghans, Tartars, Finns, and scores of others. The Great
Russians, the White Russians, and the Little Russians may each claim to
have sprung from the purest Russian stock, but no one has as yet been
able to settle satisfactorily the meaning of that claim. The Russians
have successively been proved to be of Mongol, Slav, Teutonic, Aryan,
Tartar, Celto-Slav, and Slav-Norman origin. Italy, believed to be the
home of pure Latin blood, has sheltered and mingled a great number of
races, such as Egyptians, Greeks, Spaniards, Slavs, Germans, Jews, and
Normans. The Republics of Central and South America are to a large
extent peopled by half-breeds. Here the commingling is flagrant and
offensive to the partisan of the superiority of the white race. Spain
in Mexico and Portugal in Brazil have produced a wild-garden crop which
is the despair of the custodian of racial law and order. The search for
national purity brings many unexpected discoveries and destroys various
theories. It reveals the fact that America has no monopoly of racial

France and Germany appear to us as opposites and irreconcilables. Yet,
if you pursue Germany to the hour of her birth you will find that her
mother was France. Examine France physiologically and you will find that
her muscles and arteries have a German consistency. A thorough
investigation of the origins of Germany may prove that she is more
Gaulish than Gaul. The Germanic invasions of France are matters of
elementary history. Originally a mixture of Ligurians, Celts,
Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans, she is only Latin in part. Cæsar
conquered Gaul, but the Roman mixture has not obliterated previous or
subsequent additions. The Latin blood of France was thoroughly diluted
by Visigoths, Burgundians, Franks, Vandals, Normans, and other peoples
of Germanic stamp. When Gaul was partitioned into the Burgundian
kingdom, Austrasia, and Neustria, there were already present the
selective processes which, centuries later, shaped the French and the
German souls. Neustria clung to Roman culture, whilst Austrasia nurtured
the seeds of the specific _Kultur_ which attained its full bloom in the
twentieth century. Through rivalry and war the two types persisted.
Charlemagne crushed the rebellious Saxon spirit and conquered Bavaria.
He unified the divergent tendencies, but only for a time. In 843 his
empire was partitioned. France grew out of the western portion, Germany
out of the eastern. Lotharingia or Lorraine was established as a middle
kingdom. Did kind Fates design it as a guarantee of peace and stability?

The Germans are apt to claim for themselves a pure and Valhallic origin,
an exceptionally unmixed descent of the highest attributes. The
primogenial origin may be hidden in obscurity, but the German people
have absorbed Gauls, Serbs, Poles, Wends, and a medley of Slav and
Celtic races which confound all claims to racial purity. Slavs settled
in Teutonic countries and Teutons settled in Slavonic countries. The
German colonists who invaded Russia at the invitation of Catherine II
were imported to strengthen Russia, just as the Great Elector helped
thousands of Huguenots fleeing from France to settle in Brandenburg, and
gave them the rights of citizenship for the sake of the vitality which
they would impart to his depopulated country.

The belief in the unalloyed purity of races and the consequent battles
for national exclusiveness seem to be founded on one of those gigantic
illusions which hold humanity captive for centuries. Here, as elsewhere,
knowledge will spell freedom. When we realize that here and now nations
are in course of transformation, that the divisions of the past are not
the divisions of to-day, and that we, despite conservatism and
resistance, are made to serve as ingredients in some great mixture of
to-morrow, momentous questions arise. Are nations made by war and
conquest? Are peoples amalgamated by oppressive legislation? Do
political alliances between States create international unities?

Such alliances have not in the past caused any organic union. The
nations have met like partners at a ball and danced to the tune of the
dynastic or religious quarrel which happened to be paramount at the
time. The grouping of nations in alliances has simply been a means of
more effective prosecution of military campaigns, a temporary
convenience to be discarded when no longer needed. If the example of the
past is to be followed, then Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, and
America, though holding hands now, will separate when the war is over,
and may find it necessary to use the same hands for chastizing each
other. Alliances have been political games and devices, useful or
useless according to the shrewdness of their instigators, but of no
value in promoting love between nations. Old-time enemies become
friends, and old-time friends become enemies at the command of the
political drill-sergeant. England was the hereditary enemy of France.
Prussia was the ally of England. In the war of the Austrian succession,
France in alliance with Prussia fought England and Austria. During the
Seven Years War Prussia, allied to England, fought Austria allied to
France. England, allied to France and Turkey, fought Russia in the
Crimea. Turn the kaleidoscope of history and you see the English driven
out of Normandy, Napoleon defiling Moscow, the Russians attacking
Montmartre. Any schoolboy, can trace the changing partners in the grand
alliances of the past, or refuse to commit them to memory on account of
the bewildering fluctuations in international friendship.

A fiery common hate, though acting as a powerful cement for a time, is
no guarantee of durability. Napoleon and the French were hated by the
nations, as Wilhelm and the Germans are hated to-day. Rapacious designs
for hegemony have always brought about a corresponding amount of
defensive unity on the part of those whose independence was threatened.
Whether it is Spain or France or Germany that dreams of world-supremacy,
the result is international combination. Richelieu and Bismarck rouse
the same resentment. A great hatred cannot by itself create a lasting
unity, for hatred is apt to grow out of bonds, and, having settled its
legitimate prey outside the circle, generally ends by turning on its
neighbours within it.

Who can deny that nations have been made by conquest? Heroic
self-defence, anger, bitter opposition to the violation of liberty, are
of little avail if the psychological factors are favourable to
amalgamation. A few decades, a few centuries, and there is fusion
between oppressor and oppressed. Hence the loyalty of conquered nations
to their foreign masters, at times, when rivals vainly hope for trouble.
Hence the indisputable fact that many a nation which but a short time
ago fought valiantly for liberty now manifests not only passive
resignation, but positive contentment. If, on the other hand, the
psychological factors do not favour amalgamation, the legacy of
resentment and opposition is handed on from generation to generation and
the injury is never forgiven. Cases of contented acceptance are quoted
as evidence of the ultimate blessings of war by the adherents of the
theory that efficient military measures constitute right. To me they are
rather evidence of the strength and endurance of the pacifying forces in
human life, and of the sovereignty of the greater unities which draw
nations together. If, in spite of the injuries and devastations of war,
it is possible for men to forgive and to labour for the same social
ends, that is surely proof that the peoples erect no barrier to
brotherhood. The truth is, war sometimes achieves that which pacific
settlement and free intercourse always achieve.

History has a cavalier way of recording the benefits of conquest. The
feelings of the great conquered receive scant consideration. It is
enough that after the passage of some centuries we contemplate the
matter and declare the conquest to have been beneficial. Was not France
invigorated by the wild Northmen who overran her territories and settled
wherever they found settlement advantageous? The Normans, originally
pirates and plunderers, intermingled with the gentler inhabitants of
France. When they turned their eyes to England they were already
guardians of civilization. And we blandly record the Norman conquest of
England as an unqualified benefit, as an impetus to social amenity, art,
learning, architecture, and religion. Protests are useless. The earth
abounds in instances of the spread of knowledge, inventions, culture,
through war and subjugation. The "rude" peoples who cried out at the
outrage, and who fain would have kept their rudeness, receive no
sympathy from posterity.

This, I repeat, is no argument for the perpetuation of the old
ways of aggression. We have reached a new consciousness and a new
responsibility. We see better ways of spreading the fruits of
civilization. In the past ambition and brute force, hatred and
suspicion, fear and deceit, have had full play. In spite of barbaric
warfare and Machiavellian politics the human desire for unity and
co-operation has not been uprooted.

The principle of nationality is emerging from the tortuous confusion of
the ages. We see that it follows no arbitrary rules of state or empire.
It is a law unto itself: the law of mental attraction and community. The
centres of passionate nationhood--Poland, Finland, Ireland--withstand
all attempts at suppression. You cannot break a strong will to national
independence by sledge-hammer blows. In all the wars of the past nations
have been treated with contemptuous indifference to the wishes of the
people. They were there to be seized and used, invaded and evacuated
at a price, to be bought and sold for some empirical or commercial
consideration. In the treaties of peace, princes and statesmen tossed
countries and populations to each other as if they had been balls in a
game of chance.

A new conception of human dignity and of the inviolability of natural
rights now demands a revaluation of all the motives and objects for
which governments send subjects to battle. Democracy is finding her
international unity. A great many wars of the past are recognized as
having been, not only unnecessary, but positively foolish. The force of
an idea is threatening to dispel the force of arms. The idea which rises
dominant out of the European war is the conviction that nations have a
right to choose their own allegiance or independence; that there must be
freedom instead of compulsion; that real nationality is a psychological
state, a tribute of sympathy, a voluntary service to which the mind is
drawn by affection. To some who lightly praised the idea, treating it as
an admirable prop to war, the consequences and application will bring
dismay. For here you have the pivot of a social revolution such as the
world has never yet seen. It cannot only remain a question of Belgium,
or Serbia, or Alsace-Lorraine. It will inevitably be retrospective and
prospective. It cannot be limited to the possessions of Germany or
Austria or Turkey. It will not pass over India, South Africa, and Egypt.
All empires have been extended by conquest of unwilling nationalities.
Bitter wars have been fought in Europe for colonial supremacy in other
continents. The unwilling tribes of Africa, Asia, and America who have
been suppressed or exterminated to make room for the expanding nations
of Europe knew little of the liberty of choice which has now become the
beacon of militant morality. The principle--if triumphant--will be
destructive of empire based on military force. It will be destructive of
war, for war is national compulsion in its most logical and
uncompromising form. If there is nothing and nobody to conquer, if you
may not use armies to widen your national frontiers, or to procure
valuable land for economical exploitation, the incentive to war will be
removed. The principle will be constructive of a commonwealth of
nations, and empires which have achieved a spiritual unity will survive
the change of form.

Nationality may be merely instinctive. It is characterized by the
my-country-right-or-wrong attitude, and knows not the difference between
Beelzebub and Michael. It is primitive and unreasoning. Nationality may
be compulsory--a sore grievance and a bitter reproach to existence. It
may be a matter of choice, free and deliberate, a source of joy and
social energy. Such nationality--whether inborn or acquired--is the best
and safest asset which a State can possess. It is generally supposed
that the naturalized subject must be disloyal in a case of conflict
between his country of adoption and his country of birth. Such a view
assumes that all sense of nationality is of the primitive and
unreasoning kind. It precludes all the psychological factors of
attraction, education, friendship, adoption, amalgamation. It is
ignorant of the fact that some of the bitterest enemies of Germany are
Germans, who have left Germany because they could stand her no longer.
These men have a much keener knowledge of her weak spots than the
visitors who give romantic accounts in newspapers of her internal state.
The whole process of naturalization may be rendered unnecessary and
undesirable by future developments in international co-operation. As
things are, it is a formal and legal confirmation of an allegiance which
must exist before the certificate of citizenship is sought. Once given,
the certificate should be honoured and the oath respected. To treat it
as a scrap of paper is unworthy of a State which upholds constitutional
rights. There are doubtless scoundrels amongst naturalized people. It
would be strange if there were not. But to proclaim that a naturalized
subject cannot love the country of his choice as much as the country of
his birth is as rational as the statement that a man cannot love his
wife as much as he loves his mother. Now I have touched on a delicate
point. He may love his wife, but he must repudiate his mother, curse
her, abuse her, disown her. In time of war some do, and some do not. I
am not sure that the deepest loyalty is accompanied by the loudest

There is a class of people--I have met them in every country--who are
devotees of the simple creed that you should stay at home and not
interfere in the affairs of others. Travel you may, with a Baedeker or a
Cook's guide, and stay you may in hotels provided for the purpose, but
you must do it in a proper way and at proper times, and preserve a
strict regard for your national prerogatives. But you should not go and
live in countries which are not your own. To such people there is
something almost indecent in the thought that any one should
deliberately wish to shed his own nationality and clothe himself in
another. They form the unintelligent background against which the wild
and lurid nationalists of every tribe disport themselves in frenzied
movements of hate and antagonism. An irate old colonel (very gouty) said
to me the other day: "A man who forgets his duties to his own country
and settles in another is a damnable cur. So much for these dirty
foreigners who overrun England."

I ventured to remind him that the English have settled in a good many
places: in America, in Australia, in spots fair and foul, friendly and
unfriendly; that they have brought afternoon tea and sport and Anglican
services to the pleasure resorts of Europe and the deserts of Africa.
Meeting with no response, I embarked on a short account of the past
travels and achievements of the Dutch, the Spaniards, and the French in
the art of settlement in foreign lands. I ended up by prophesying that
the aeroplane of the future will transport us swiftly from continent to
continent and make mincemeat of the last remnants of our national
exclusiveness. He was not in the least perturbed. "That is all rubbish,"
he said; "people ought to stick to their own country."

I am afraid neither he nor anybody else can check the wanderings of
individuals and peoples which have gone on ever since man discovered
that he has two legs with which he can move about. And naturalization,
after all, is an easy way of acquiring new and possibly useful citizens.
The subjects come willingly, whilst the millions who are made subjects
by war and subjugation are sometimes exceedingly troublesome. After all,
the aim of all the great kingdoms has been to increase and strengthen
the population, and differences of nationality have been treated as but
trifling obstacles in the way. If the principle of free nationality
which is now stirring the world and inspiring a war of liberation is to
triumph, then the liberty won must include the individuals who prefer a
chosen to a compulsory political allegiance.

Sometimes the forces of attraction and repulsion create strong ties of
sympathy or lead to acts of repudiation which cross frontiers
irrespectively of the indications on the barometer of foreign politics.
A man may find his spiritual home in the most unexpected place. He may
irresistibly be drawn by the currents of philosophy and art to a foreign
country. The customs in his own may drive him to bitter denunciation.
No one has said harder things of Germany than Nietzsche. Schopenhauer
wished it to be known that he despised the German nation on account of
its infinite stupidity, and that he blushed to belong to it. Heine fled
from Germany in intellectual despair. "If I were a German," he wrote,
"and I am no German...." His heart was captured by the French. Goethe
and Frederick the Great were both profoundly influenced by the French
spirit. Voltaire was most useful at the Prussian Court, for he corrected
the voluminous literary and political output which his Prussian majesty
penned--in French. But there was something more than mere utility in the
tie between the philosopher and the monarch. Frederick was not only
trying to handle heavy German artillery with light French esprit; his
mind craved for the spices of Gallic wit, his thought was ever striving
to clothe itself in the form of France. Another "great" German,
Catherine II of Russia, also moved within the orbit of the French

Admiration of Germany and German ways has found the strongest expression
in foreigners, and the megalomania from which her sons suffer to-day
may be traced to such outbursts of adulation. Carlyle, the most
representative of pro-German men of letters in the Victorian era, wrote
in 1870:

    Alone of nations, Prussia seems still to understand something
    of the art of governing, and of fighting enemies to said art.
    Germany from of old, has been the peaceablest, most pious, and in
    the end most valiant and terriblest of nations. Germany ought to
    be the President of Europe, and will again, it seems, be tried
    with that office for another five centuries or so.... This is her
    _first_ lesson poor France is getting. It is probable she will
    require many such.

This is blasphemy indeed at the present time. Charles Kingsley was no
less emphatic in his admiration of Germany. Writing on the
Franco-Prussian War to Professor Max Müller, he said:

    Accept my loving congratulations, my dear Max, to you and your
    people. The day which dear Bunsen used to pray, with tears in his
    eyes, might not come till the German people were ready, has come,
    and the German people are ready. Verily God is just and rules
    too; whatever the Press may think to the contrary. My only fear
    is lest the Germans should think of Paris, which cannot concern
    them, and turn their eyes away from that which does concern
    them, the retaking of Alsace (which is their own), and leaving
    the Frenchman no foot of the Rhine-bank. To make the Rhine a word
    not to be mentioned by the French henceforth ought to be the one
    object of wise Germans, and that alone.... I am full of delight
    and hope for Germany.

And to Sir Charles Bunbury:

    I confess to you that were I a German I should feel it my duty to
    my country to send my last son, my last shilling, and after all
    my own self, to the war, to get that done which must be done,
    done so that it will never need doing again. I trust that I
    should be able to put vengeance out of my heart, to forget all
    that Germany has suffered for two hundred years past from that
    vain, greedy, restless nation, all even which she suffered, women
    as well as men, in the late French war.

The attraction of Germany is not only paramount in literature, in Walter
Scott and Mill and Matthew Arnold; the superiority of German blood and
constitution was an article of faith of the Victorians. The sins of
Prussia were forgiven with amazing alacrity. The base attacks on Austria
and Denmark evoked no moral indignation. German influence on English
life was not only welcomed; historians went so far as to proclaim the
identity of England and Germany. Thus Freeman, in a lecture in 1872,
stated that "what is Teutonic in us is not merely one element among
others, but that it is the very life and essence of our national
being...." Houston Chamberlain, in his reverent unravelling of the
greatness of the Germanic peoples, is merely carrying on the tradition
of the Victorian age. In the application of theories he is a disciple of
Gobineau, a Frenchman, who after a profound study of the inequality of
the human race became convinced of the superiority and high destiny of
Germany. Gobineau and Chamberlain have told the Germans that they are
mighty and unconquerable, and the Germans have listened with undisguised

Gobineau may be set aside as a professor of a fixed idea. There are
other Frenchmen who have paid glowing tribute to Germany. Taine excelled
in praise of her intellectual vigour and productivity. Victor Hugo
expressed his love and admiration for her people, and confessed to an
almost filial feeling for the noble and holy fatherland of thinkers. If
he had not been French he would have liked to have been German. Ernest
Renan studied Germany, and found her like a temple--so pure, so moral,
so touching in her beauty. This reminds us of the many who during the
present war, though ostensibly enemies of Germany, spend half their time
in proclaiming her perfection and the necessity for immediate imitation
of all her ways. Madame de Staël and Michelet expressed high regard for
German character and institutions. There are degrees and qualities of
attraction and absorption, varying from the amorous surrender with which
Lafcadio Hearn took on Japanese form to the bootlicking flattery which
Sven Hedin heaps on the Germans. (It is quite futile to seek for an
explanation of Hedin's conduct in his Jewish-Prussian descent. He would
lackey anywhere. Strindberg dealt faithfully with Hedin's pretensions.
Strindberg, alas! is dead, but his exposure of Hedin has been strangely

Heine is an example of the curious and insistent fascination with which
the mind may be drawn to one nationality whilst it is repelled by
another. His judgment on England is painful in the extreme:

"It is eight years since I went to London," he writes in the Memoirs,
"to make the acquaintance of the language and the people. The devil
take the people and their language! They take a dozen words of one
syllable into their mouth, chew them, gnaw them, spit them out again,
and they call that talking. Fortunately they are by nature rather
silent, and although they look at us with gaping mouths, yet they spare
us long conversations."

Can anything be more sweeping? Can anything be more untrue? "Fortunately
they are by nature rather silent"--imagine the reversed verdict had
Heine attended a general election campaign! The unattractiveness of
England is softened by the women. "If I can leave England alive, it will
not be the fault of the women; they do their best." This is praise
indeed, when placed side by side with his dismissal of the women of
Hamburg. They are plump, we are told, "but the little god Cupid is to
blame, who often sets the sharpest of love's darts to his bow, but from
naughtiness or clumsiness shoots too low, and hits the women of Hamburg
not in the heart but in the stomach."

France was as delightful as England was doleful:

"My poor sensitive soul," he cries, "that often recoiled in shyness from
German coarseness, opened out to the flattering sounds of French
urbanity. God gave us our tongues so that we might say pleasant things
to our fellow-men.... Sorrows are strangely softened. In the air of
Paris wounds are healed quicker than anywhere else; there is something
so noble, so gentle, so sweet in the air as in the people themselves."

I suppose the only analogy to such superlative contentment is provided
by the phenomenon known as falling in love. Happily we do not all choose
the same object of affection. England has a curious way of inspiring
either great and lasting love or irritation and positive dislike. There
seems to be little or no indifference. I believe love predominates.

From exiled kings to humble refugees, from peripatetic philosophers to
indolent aborigines, the testimony of her charm can be gathered. I speak
as a victim. I love England with a fervour born of admiration (without
admiration no one ever falls in love). I love her ways and her mind, I
love her chilly dampness and her hot, glowing fires (attempts to analyse
and classify love are always silly). In her thinkers and workers, in her
schemes and efforts for social improvement, in her freedom of thought
and speech I found my mental _milieu_.

To me England is inexpressibly dear, not because a whole conspiracy of
influences--educational, conventional, patriotic--were at work
persuading me that she is worthy of affection. I myself discovered her
lovableness. Your Chauvinist is always a mere repeater. He is but a
member of the Bandar-Log, shouting greatness of which he knows nothing.
True love does not need the trumpets of Jingoism. I have no room for
lies about England: the truth is sufficient for me. Though I love
England, I have affection to spare for other countries. I feel at home
in France, in Sweden, in America, in Switzerland. Your Chauvinist will
excuse the former affections on account of "blood." Swedish-French by
ties of ancestry, such a sense of familiarity is natural when set
against my preternatural love of England.

Chauvinism flourishes exceedingly on the soil of national conceit. That
conceit is prodigious and universal. The Germans are past-masters in the
art of self-glorification, and their pan-German literature is certainly
not only bold but ingenious in this respect. Is any one great outside
Germany? Very well, let us trace his German origin. It may be remote, it
may be hidden by centuries of illusory nationality, but it must be
there. France has her apostles of superiority. Their style is more
flexible, their pretensions less clumsy, but they neglect no opportunity
of seducing us into a belief that France, and France only, is mistress
of the human mind. Russia has her fervid declaimers of holy excellence
and the superior quality of the Slav character. It does not matter
whether the country is great or small, whether it be Montenegro or
Cambodia, it always contains souls who feel constrained to give the
world a demonstration of their overflowing superiority. Pan-Germanism,
pan-Slavism, pan-Magyarism, pan-Anglosaxism, pan-Americanism grow out of
such conceit, systematized by professors and sanctified by bishops.

The conceit of nationality often fosters great deeds, and generally
finds expression that is more aggressive than intelligent. It takes hold
of the most unlikely subjects. It is a potent destroyer of balanced
judgment, and will pitilessly make the most solemn men ridiculous. The
outbursts of Emerson when under its influence are truly amazing. "If a
temperate wise man should look over our American society," he said in a
lecture, "I think the first danger which would excite his alarm would be
the European influences on this country.... See the secondariness and
aping of foreign and English life that runs through this country, in
building, in dress, in eating, in books."

This rejection savours of the contempt with which some young men turn
their backs on the fathers who fashioned them. "Let the passion for
America," he cried, "cast out the passion for Europe. Here let there be
what the earth waits for--exalted manhood." He gives a picture of the
finished man, the gentleman who will be born in America. He defines the
superiority of such a man to the Englishman:

    Freer swing his arms; farther pierce his eyes, more forward and
    forthright his whole build and rig than the Englishman's, who,
    we see, is much imprisoned in his backbone.

It is difficult to surmise the exact meaning of being imprisoned in
one's backbone. The possession of plenty of backbone is generally held
to be a decided advantage. Emerson may have had special and
transcendental prejudices against strongly fashioned vertebræ.

The freaks of nationalism are as remarkable as the freaks of
internationalism. There is a constant interplay between the two, and the
ascendancy of the one or the other often seems strangely capricious.
Nationalism is weak where it should be strong, and rigid where common
sense would make it fluid. The painful position of most royal families
in time of war is an example of the readiness with which nations submit
to foreign rulership and influence. Thrones, one would think, should
represent the purely national spirit in its more intimate and sacred
aspect. Yet the abundance of crowned rulers, past and present, attached
by solemn selection or marriage, who are not by blood and tradition of
the people, shows the fallacy of this supposition. Napoleon was an
Italian who learnt French with some difficulty, and who was at first
hostile to the French and somewhat contemptuous of their ways. Maréchal
Bernadotte--French to his finger-tips--became King of Sweden. Pierre
Loti, interviewing the charming and beloved Queen of the Belgians during
the present war, remembers that the martyred lady before him is a
Bavarian princess. The delicate and painful subject is mentioned. "It is
at an end," says the Queen; "between _them_ and me has fallen a curtain
of iron which will never again be lifted."

Prominent statesmen, who, one would also think, should be bone of the
bone of the nations for which they speak, have often been of alien birth
or of mixed racial composition. Bismarck was of Slav origin;
Beaconsfield was a Jew. The most picturesque example of such
irregularities of the national consciousness is perhaps the presence of
General Smuts in the War Cabinet. Once the alert and brave enemy in arms
against this country, he is now its trusted guide, philosopher, and

Writers whom posterity classes as typical representatives of the
national genius have often been of mixed racial strain, as were
Tennyson, Browning, Ibsen, Kant, Victor Hugo, Dumas, Longfellow, and
Whitman. The "bastards" of internationalism, so offensive to some
nationalist fire-eaters, are not produced by the simple and natural
processes by which races are mixed. They are self-created, their minds
are set on gathering the varied fruit of all the nations. Genealogically
they may be as uninteresting as the snail in the cabbage-patch,
spiritually they are provocative and arresting. Romain Rolland and
George Brandes challenge and outrage the champions of nationalism by the
very texture of their minds. Joseph Conrad, a Pole, stands side by side
with Thomas Hardy in his mastership of contemporary English fiction.
Conrad in his consummate interpretation of sea-life is, if anything,
more English than Hardy.

The future of internationalism is possibly fraught with greater wonders
than has been the past. The path will certainly not be laid out with the
smoothness which some enthusiasts imagine. The idea and the hope are old
as the hills. Cicero proclaimed a universal society of the human race.
Seneca declared the world to be his country. Epictetus and Marcus
Aurelius declared themselves citizens of the world. St. Paul explained
that there is neither Jew nor Greek. John Wesley looked upon the world
as his parish. "The world is my country, mankind are my brothers," said
Thomas Paine. "The whole world being only one city," said Goldsmith, "I
do not care in which of the streets I happen to reside."

Such complete impartiality is a little too detached for the make-up of
present humanity. It may suit an etherialized and mobile race of the
future. We are dependent on conditions of space and surroundings, we are
the creatures of association and love. The master-problem in
internationalism is the elimination of the forces of prejudice and
ignorance that foster hostility, and the preservation of the precious
characteristics which are the riches of the Soul of the World.


The general destructiveness of war is patent to everybody. The
destruction of life, of property, of trade, strikes the most superficial
observer as inevitable consequences of a state of war. At the outbreak
of hostilities most of us foresaw that the uprooting would not stop
short at the sacrifices of livelihood and occupation which were demanded
by military necessities. We expected a sweeping revision of our habits,
our prejudices, our conventions. We have got infinitely more than we
expected. Not only have we made acquaintance with the State--the State
as a relentless master of human fate and service; not only have we
learnt that individualism--philosophic or commercial--is borne like a
bubble on the waters of national tribulation and counts for nothing in
the mass of collective effort demanded from us. Industry, commerce, art,
learning, science, energy, enthusiasm, every gift and power within the
range of human capacity, is requisitioned for the efficient pursuit of
war. Liberty of action, of speech, ancient rights which were won by
centuries of struggle, are taken away because we are more useful and
less troublesome without them. We are made parts of the machinery of
State, and we have to be drilled and welded into the proper shape.

The changes imposed on us from without are thorough and have been
surprisingly many, but the changes taking place within our own souls are
deeper and likely to surprise us more in the end. Everything has been
found untenable. Theories and systems are shaken by the great upheaval.
Civilization has become a question instead of a postulate. All human
thought is undergoing a process of retrospection, drawn by a desire to
find a new and stable beginning. Take down Spencer and Comte or Lecky
and Kidd from your bookshelf and try to settle down to a contented
contemplation of the sociological tenets of the past. You will fail, for
you will feel that this is a new world with burning problems and
compelling facts which cannot be covered by the old systems. Take down
the old books of religious comfort--Thomas à Kempis, or Bunyan, or St.
Augustine, and you feel their remoteness from the new agonies of soul.
But it is not only the old books of piety which fail to satisfy the
hunger of to-day; the mass of devotional writings, especially produced
to meet the needs of the war, are painfully inadequate. Rightly or
wrongly, there is a sense of the inadequacy of the thought of the past
to meet the need of the present. It invades every recess of the mind, it
interposes itself in science as well as in religion; it leaves us no

There can be no doubt about it: we are blighted by the great
destructiveness. All attempts to keep the war from our thoughts are
destined to fail. Without being struck in an air-raid or torpedoed on
the high seas, there is a sufficiency of destructive force in the daily
events and in our accommodation to live on for them or in spite of them.

Hence the universal demand for reconstruction. It is a blessed word: we
cling to it, we live by it. So many buildings have tumbled about our
ears, so many foundations were nothing but running sand; a whole galaxy
of truths turned out to be lies. Now we must prepare that which is solid
and indestructible. Perhaps some great and wise spirit brooding over our
world, learned with the experience of æons, of human attempts and
mistakes, smiles at the deadly earnestness of the intention to
reconstruct. I do not care. We have reached a pass when all life and all
hope are centred in this faith: the faith that we can make anew and good
and beautiful the distorted web of human existence.

The war has not taught us what civilization is. But it has taught us
what it is not. We know now that it is not mechanical ingenuity or
clever inventions or commercialism carried to its utmost perfection.
Civilization is not railways or telephones or vast cities or material
prosperity. A satisfactory definition of civilization is well-nigh
impossible. The past has born a bewildering number of different types,
and it is a matter of personal taste where we place the line of
demarcation between barbarism and culture. Our Christian civilization is
passing through catastrophic changes, and it is again a matter of
opinion whether it is in its death-throes or in the pangs of a new
birth. But we feel vaguely, yet insistently, that civilization is a
state of the soul; it is the gentle life towards which we aspire. It is
based on the gradual substitution of moral and spiritual forces for
simple brute force. What is the exact relation of religion to
civilization? The answer has been as variable as the purpose of the
questioners. To some religion is civilization, to others it is merely a
temporary weakness of the human mind, to which it will always be prone
from fear of the unknown and the wish to live for ever. Comparative
studies of the great religions of the world, their past and present
forms, do not support the view that civilization is identical with
religion. Religions have on many occasions ranged themselves on the side
of brute force to the suppression of gentleness and sympathetic
tolerance. It is really all a question of the meaning which we attach to
the word "religion." Do we mean the Church, set forms of worship and
ceremonial, or do we mean the human craving for spiritual truth with the
consequent strife to reach certainty, and, in certainty, peace of soul?
There is a gulf between the two conceptions of religion.

Religion is questioned as never heretofore. The great destructiveness is
passing over the old beliefs. In the clamour for reconstruction we must
clearly distinguish between the wider religious life and mere

The vast host of rationalists are busy proclaiming the downfall of
religion. The war serves them as material for demonstration. The failure
of Christianity to avert bloodshed, and the horrors under which
Christendom is now submerged, are naturally used as a proof that the
ethic of Christianity is lamentably feeble. The difference between
theoretical Christianity and the social practices which the Church
condones is held to be damning evidence of hypocrisy and falsehood. The
quarrels between sects and divisions, the petty subjects which rouse the
ire of the orthodox mind, the persistent quibbling over insignificant
details of faith and service, have strained rationalistic patience to
the breaking-point. The Church has been found fiddling whilst Rome

Our little rationalists are right, perfectly right, when they point to
the shortcomings of the Churches. But they confuse the form with the
substance, the frailties of human nature with the irrepressible desire
to find God. They have their small idols and their conventional forms of
worship, which, if put to the great social test, would prove as
ineffective in building the City of Light as the churchgoing of the
past. Their prime deity is Science. We are on the point of developing
intelligence, they tell us; we at last see through the silly theories
about God and the Universe, which deluded the childish and the ignorant
of past ages. Assisted by the sound of guns and the sight of general
misery, we must at last realize that there is no God to interfere in the
troubles of man, and that Churches and creeds are hopeless failures.
Science, we are assured, will take the place of religion.

I am a patient and sympathetic student of the propagandist literature of
rationalism. I have the greatest admiration for the moral and social
idealism which is advocated. I agree that the atheological moral idea is
superior to the mere performance of religious ceremonial. But I cannot
admire the reasoning or the intelligence of those who use a smattering
of science as evidence of the decay of religion. There is something
almost comical in the solemnity with which they contrast the
commonplaces of scientific observation with the vast mysteries of
religion, to the detriment of the latter. "These marvellous researches
of the human eye," writes Sir Harry Johnston in a collection of articles
entitled _A Generation of Religious Progress_, presumably intended to
portray our rationalistic progress, "so far, though they have sounded
the depths of the Universe, have found no God." He is speaking of
astronomical investigation, and he has just emphasized the reliability
of our five senses.

One wonders whether he is simply echoing the well-known phrase of
Laplace, or whether he seriously believes that the non-existence of God
is proved by the inability of the human eye to see Him! Nothing could be
more unscientific--one hates using that hackneyed expression, but there
is no other--than this confidence in the reliability of the senses. It
reminds one of the young man who said he could not believe in God
because he had not seen Him. He could only believe in things which he
could see. "Do you believe you have a brain?" some one asked. The young
man did. "And have you seen it?" was the next question.

I shall be told that though the young man could not--fortunately--see
his own brain, others might by opening his skull, and that no dissection
of brains or examination of stars has ever shown us God. This is exactly
the point where our easygoing rationalist misses the mark. Brains and
stars do show God to those who have developed the faculties wherewith
to perceive Him.

The senses are, after all, very fallible and very variable. A little
opium, a little alcohol, a blow on the head, or some great emotion will
modify their judgment to an incredible degree. Sir Harry Johnston may
not be very representative as an exponent of scientific conclusions
about the existence of God, but he is interesting and typical of much of
the rough-and-ready opposition to formulated religion. I quote the
upshot of his admiration for the feats of the human eye:

    Religion, as the conception of a heavenly being, or heavenly
    beings, hovering about the earth and concerning themselves
    greatly with the affairs of man, has been abolished for all
    thoughtful and educated people by the discoveries of science.
    Perhaps, however, I should not say "abolished" as being too
    final; I should prefer to say that such theories have been put
    entirely in the background as unimportant Compared with the awful
    problems which affect the welfare and progress of humanity on
    this planet.

The honesty of the conviction is not marred by the fact that it is
entirely mistaken. "God is infinitely more remote now (in 1916) from the
thoughts of the educated few than he was prior to 1859," writes Sir
Harry. This statement is not true. Speculation about God, the meaning
of life, the social import of Christianity, was never more rife amongst
educated people. Here I must check myself: what does "educated" mean? To
be able to read and write, and say "Hear, hear" at public meetings? To
have a pretty idea of the positions of Huxley and Haeckel by which to
confound the poor old Bible? If by education we mean the exposition of
some special branch of the physical sciences, the statement may be true.
If we mean men and women with a general knowledge of life and letters,
with a social consciousness and humanitarian sympathies, it is
ridiculously wide of the truth. There is everywhere a hunger for a
satisfying explanation of life. There are restlessness and impatience
with dogma and creed, there is a growing indifference to the old
sectarian exclusiveness, but there is above all a new interest in God.
We need not go to Mr. Bernard Shaw or Mr. Wells for testimony to this
interest. They reflect the religious renaissance which is the essence of
the reconstruction for which men crave. The symptoms are accessible to
the observation of all. Neither priestly intolerance nor rationalistic
prejudice can suppress them.

In _The Bankruptcy of Religion_, Mr. Joseph McCabe develops the case
against religion with the skill of a trained controversialist. Like the
converted sinner in the ranks of the Salvation Army, Mr. McCabe carries
special weight to the lines of rationalists and ethicists. For he was
once a priest and lived in a monastery, and he left the priesthood and
the monastery convinced of the worthlessness of both. He is, therefore,
_persona gratissima_ at the High Court of Reason. "The era of religious
influence closes in bankruptcy," he informs us. He has no patience with
attempts at religious reconstruction; he asks us to shake ourselves free
of the vanishing dream of heaven and to leave the barren tracts of
religion. He exhorts us to abandon the "last illusions of the childhood
of the race":

    Linger no longer in the "reconstruction" of fables which once
    beguiled the Arabs of the desert and the Syrian slaves of
    Corinth, but set your hearts and minds to the making of a new
    earth! Sweep these ancient legends out of your schools and
    colleges, your army and navy, your code of law, your legislative
    houses, and substitute for them a spirit of progress, efficiency,
    boldness, and candour!

Fine words, brave words, honest words, but hollow within. Mr. McCabe
is no psychologist. The fables and legends of old times may be
abandoned, the desire for the realities round which fable and legend
grow remains and cannot be extirpated by a rationalistic operation.
Supernaturalism--in the widest sense--is ineradicable. Religion will not
be suspended by the discovery that it is possible to formulate excellent
theories of social equity without the assistance of priests. The hunger
of the human heart for knowledge of God persists though all the old
religious systems may prove illusions.

Our little rationalists imagine that they are hitting the foundations of
religion when they successfully assail the crumbling walls of dogmas.
Religious life escapes their fire. Faith and hope rise above
disillusionment. Love knows instinctively that it is not made of dust.
Through the darkness and the wilderness it calls to God, and lo! God
responds with light and guidance which outlast earthquakes and
massacres. Reject every creed that has been offered as an explanation of
the mysteries of life, forsake all the humiliating, joy-killing penances
for sin, and God will reveal Himself in the beauty of Nature. He will
speak through the impulses of creative art, through music and poetry and
painting. He will attract our thought through philosophy and our
emotion through the impetus to improve the social order. And
science--the greater science, which rejects dogmatism and lies of
self-sufficiency as it rejects the crudities of the Creed--takes us by
circuitous paths to new temples for the worship of God.

The tenet that science and religion are incompatible and antagonistic,
so dear to the hearts of the scientists in the middle of the nineteenth
century, and still repeated with mechanical certainty in every
secularist mission-hall, is likely to undergo a complete revision in the
near future. The antagonism between dogmatic religion and materialistic
science will never be removed. But the signs are apparent everywhere
that religion is shedding its adherence to outer forms and entering into
the freedom of the living spirit, whilst science is turning to problems
which used to lie within the domain of unexplored religion. Religion
will become scientific and science will become religious. The principles
laid down by Darwin and Huxley have lost their power of stifling
religious aspiration; the startling pronouncements in defiant
materialism of Büchner and Haeckel now startle none but the ignorant.
The anxiety to exclude scientific facts disappears with the realization
that all truth, all knowledge, all reason, are subservient to the search
for God. The struggle between the wish to believe and the temptation to
think caused real distress of mind to many thinkers of the nineteenth
century. The choice seemed to lie between atheism and blind submission
to authority. "Let us humbly take anything the Bible says without trying
to understand it, and not torment ourselves with arguments," said
Charles Kingsley. "One word of Scripture is more than a hundred words of
man's explaining." The modern mind does not dread the meeting of science
and religion. It does not labour to reconcile them. It is conscious of
their ultimate identity and their present insufficiency. Hence a new
tolerance which is mistaken for indifference by the zealots on both
sides. Hence the absence of actuality in the fierce denunciations of
Bradlaugh and Holyoake and Ingersoll. They did valiant battle against
religious formalism of the past; they were champions of reason and
science at a time when religionists fought to exclude both.

It is not science which is undermining the future of institutional
religion. There is a new enemy, more subtle and more powerful. It is
the growing consciousness of an intolerable inconsistency between
religious theory and practice. The war thus becomes a stumbling-block to
faithfulness to conventional Christianity, and the glee of the
rationalist is pardonable. I again quote Mr. McCabe:

    What did the clergy do to prevent the conflict? In which country
    did they denounce the preparations for the conflict, or the
    incentives of the conflict? What have they done since it began to
    confine the conflict within civilized limits? Have they had, or
    used, a particle of moral influence throughout the whole bloody
    business? And, if not, is it not time we found other guardians
    and promoters of high conduct?

Apart from the fact that the Pope and some lesser religious leaders have
denounced and deplored the conflict, and that a comprehensive answer to
Mr. McCabe's question would somewhat modify the implied moral impotence
of the clergy, we might ask the same questions of the leaders of
secularist morality. What have they done to prevent the conflict? Why
have their intellectual giants failed to impress upon mankind the folly
of war? They have had freedom of speech and action, they have wielded
incisive criticism and strength of invective. They have had many decades
in which to put into practice the theory of the greatest happiness of
the greatest number. But the problem of the persistence of war has
somehow escaped atheists and rationalists, just as it has eluded
theologians and revivalists.

We may admit that the clergy are more blameworthy than the orators of
rationalism. If the teachings of Jesus Christ are to be applied to the
art of war, then the art of war is doomed to extinction. If the Church
be an international society, based on mutual love and peace, then the
perpetration of war on members of the Church is clearly wrong. If the
ideals of the Christian life be charity, gentleness, forgiveness,
non-resistance to evil, then all war is a violation of the faith. The
question is not unimportant. It is not a subject which you can toy with,
or put aside as having no immediate bearing on life and duty. If the
literal application of the teaching of Christ to social and political
life be impossible, then the rationalists are right when they urge us to
drop a religion which we profess on Sunday and repudiate on Monday. If
the fault lies not in the teaching itself but in the feebleness of the
Church, then the Church must clearly be counted a failure. If the cause
of the discrepancy is to be found merely in the slowness and obstinacy
of the human soul in following the path of righteousness, the practical
realization of the Christian ideal will be but a question of time and

The attitude of Christianity towards war may at best be described as a
chapter of inconsistencies. "Can it be lawful to handle the sword,"
asked Tertullian, "when the Lord Himself has declared that he who uses
the sword shall perish by it?" By disarming Peter, he stated, the Lord
"disarmed every soldier from that time forward." To Origen, Christians
were children of peace who, for the sake of Jesus, shunned the
temptations of war, and whose only weapon was prayer. The difficulty of
reconciling the profession of Christianity with the practice of war
constantly exercised the minds of the early Christians. St. Basil
advocated a compromise in the form of temporary exclusion from the
sacrament after military service. St. Augustine came to the conclusion
that the qualities of a good Christian and a good warrior were not
incompatible. Gradually the dilemma ceased to trouble the minds of
Christians as the needs of the State and citizenship of this world were
recognized. After some centuries the Church not only approved of war,
but herself became one of the most powerful instigators to military
conquest. The Crusades and the ceaseless wars of religious intolerance
became "holy" as the spiritual objection to bloodshed receded before the
triumphant demands of primitive passions.

Now, as heretofore, we have episcopal reminders of the blessings of war.
"May it not be," wrote the Bishop of London soon after the outbreak of
the war in 1914, "that this cup of hardship which we drink together will
turn out to be the very draught which we need? Has there not crept a
softness over the nation, a passion for amusement, a love of luxury
among the rich, and of mere physical comfort among the middle class?"

He leaves the questions unanswered, and incidentally omits to dwell on
the shortcomings of the poor in the direction of softness and luxury. He

    Not such was the nation which made the Empire, which crushed the
    Armada, which braved hardships of old, and drove English hearts
    of oak seaward round the world. We believe the old spirit is here
    just the same, but it needed a purifying, cleansing draught to
    bring it back to its old strength and purity again, and for that
    second reason the cup which our Father has given us, shall we not
    drink it?

Much has been said in justification of this view of war from the
biological point of view. Prussian militarists are experts in the
exposition of similar theories. But from the Christian point of view the
complacency with which the world-tragedy is put down as a "purifying,
cleansing draught" is somewhat disconcerting. Dean Inge, writing in the
_Quest_ in the autumn of 1914, shows himself to be a disciple of the
same school:

    We see the fruits of secularism or materialism in social
    disintegration, in the voluntary sterility and timorous
    acquisitiveness of the prosperous, and in the recklessness
    and bitterness of the lower strata. A godless civilization is
    a disease of which nations die by inches. I hope that this
    visitation has come just in time to save us. Experience is a
    good school, but its fees are terribly high!

Were we, then, really so bad that "this visitation" was needed to save
us from voluntary sterility (by imposing compulsory?) and the other
delinquencies enumerated by the Dean? The nature of the punishment
hardly fits the crime. Moreover, such a conception of war as a
wholesome corrective is practically indistinguishable from the
panegyrics of the extreme militarists whom we are out utterly to
destroy. "God will see to it," wrote Treitschke, "that war always recurs
as a drastic medicine for the human race." "War," wrote General von
Bernhardi, "is a biological necessity of the first importance, a
regulative element in the life of mankind which cannot be dispensed
with, since without it an unhealthy development will follow which
excludes every advancement of the race, and, therefore, all real
civilization." "A perpetual peace," said Field-Marshal von Moltke, "is a
dream, and not even a beautiful dream. War is one of the elements of
order in the world established by God. The noblest virtues of men are
developed therein. Without war the world would degenerate and disappear
in a morass of materialism." Many perplexed souls have turned to the
Church for guidance during this time of destruction and sorrow, and the
directions given have often increased the perplexity. The Bishop of
Carlisle expressed the opinion that if we were really Christians the war
would not have happened. Archdeacon Wilberforce and Father Bernard
Vaughan stated that killing Germans was doing service to God. Many who
have suffered at the hands of the Germans will be inclined to agree, but
the trouble from the point of view of the Christian ethic is not removed
by such a simple solution. We cannot but suspect that German prelates
have been found who have seen in the killing of women and children by
air-raids on London a service to the German God. Dr. Forsyth, in _The
Christian Ethic of War_, tells us that "war is not essentially killing,
and killing is here no murder. And no recusancy to bear arms can here
justify itself on the plea that Christianity forbids all bloodshed or
even violence." He reminds us that Christ used a scourge of small cords,
and that he called the Pharisees "you vipers," and Herod "you fox." "If
the Christian man live in society," he tells us, "it is quite impossible
for him to live upon the _precepts_ of the Sermon on the Mount. But also
it is not possible at a half-developed stage to live in actual relations
of life and duty on its _principle_ except as an _ideal_." The Roman
form of internationalism he regards "as not only useless to humanity
(which the present attitude of the Pope to the war shows) but as
mischievous to it."

It is strange that whilst the war has caused a number of ordained
representatives of the Christian Church to declare that practical
Christianity is an impossibility and the Sermon on the Mount a beautiful
but ineffective ideal, it has brought agnostics and heathen to a
conviction that socialized Christianity is the sovereign remedy for the
national and international disease. They have reached the conclusion
that the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount is the revolutionary leaven
for which the world is waiting. In his preface on _The Prospects of
Christianity_, Mr. Bernard Shaw tells us that he is "as sceptical and
scientific and modern a thinker as you will find anywhere." This
assurance is intended to help us to regain breath after the preceding

    I am no more a Christian than Pilate was, or you, gentle reader;
    and yet, like Pilate, I greatly prefer Jesus to Annas and
    Caiaphas; and I am ready to admit that after contemplating the
    world and human nature for nearly sixty years, I see no way out
    of the world's misery but the way which would have been found by
    Christ's will if He had undertaken the work of a modern practical

This is one of the outstanding mental phenomena of the war: sceptics and
thinkers have begun to examine Christianity as a practical way of
social salvation. There is a tendency to re-examine the gospel, not with
intent to lay stress on historical weakness or points of similarity with
other religions, but with the poignant interest which men lost in the
desert display towards possible sources of water. It may appear as a
coldly intellectual interest in some who are wont to deal with the
tragedies of life as mildly amusing scenes in a drama of endless
fatuity. But the coldness is a little assumed. There are others who do
not attempt to disguise that their whole emotional life is stirred to
passionate protest and inquiry, who, though Christians by profession and
duly appointed ministers of God, call for a recommendation of
Christianity and the establishment of a social order based on the
principles of life laid down by Jesus Christ. In _The Outlook for
Religion_, Dr. W. E. Orchard condemns the way of war as the complete
antithesis of the way of the Cross. "How can people be so blind?" he
cries. "Has all the ethical awakening of the past century been of so
little depth that this bloody slaughter, this hellish torture, this
treacherous game of war can still secure ethical approval?"

Perhaps the great majority of the clergy deserve the indictment of
rationalists. Mr. McCabe can prove his case by citing the exceptions.
After all, the accusation is neither new nor original. Voltaire set the
tune. "Miserable physicians of souls," he exclaimed, "you declaim for
five quarters of an hour against the mere pricks of a pin, and say no
word on the curse which tears us into a thousand pieces."

Voltaire's powers of satire were roused by the spectacle of the
different factions of Christians praying to the same God to bless their
arms. The element of comicality in this aspect of war is greatly
outweighed by that of pathos. Those who earnestly pray to God to lead
them to victory must at any rate be firmly convinced that their cause is
one of which God can approve. No believer would dare to invoke the
blessing of God upon a cause which his conscience tells him is a mean
and sordid enterprise. Voltaire's quarrel was really with the faith in
war as a means of determining the intentions of the Divine Will. Success
in war has been held, and is held, by Christians to be a sign of the
favour of the Almighty. Bacon expounded this view to the satisfaction of
coming generations when he referred to wars as "the highest trials of
right" when princes and States "shall put themselves on the justice of
God for the deciding of their controversies, by such success as it shall
please Him to give on either side." The Germans have nauseated the world
by their incessant proclamations that they are the favoured and chosen
of God. The good old German God has vied with Jehovah of the Israelites
in stimulating and sustaining the will to war.

Those atheists to whom all war is an abomination and entirely
irreconcilable with the highest human attributes have found complete
unanimity in their repudiation of the idea of a presiding God of
Battles in the dissenting objections to war expressed by Quakers,
Christadelphians, Plymouth Brethren, and other sects of Christianity.
There can be no doubt that the faith in war, and in the Divine guidance
of war, is receding. The new conception of God, for which humanity is
struggling, will be one entirely different from the jealous and cruel
Master of Bloodshed to whom man has paid homage in the dark ages of the
past. The truth is that the spiritual objection to war, the realization
of its antisocial and inhuman qualities, is becoming a religious purpose
which unites Christians and non-Christians, atheists and agnostics,
and which carries with it at once a mordant condemnation of the
interpretations of the past, and an irrepressible demand for a future
free from the old menace and the old mistakes. All sane men and women
want to abolish war. General Smuts believes that a passion for peace has
been born which will prove stronger than all the passion for war which
has overwhelmed us in the past. President Wilson seeks a peace identical
with the freedom of life in which every people will be left free to
determine its own polity and its own way of development, "unhindered,
unthreatened, unafraid, the little along with the great and powerful."
Statesmen see the ultimate hope for a free humanity in a change of
heart. Mr. Asquith outlines the slow and gradual process by which a real
European partnership, based on the recognition of equal right and
established and enforced by a common will, will be substituted for
force, for the clash of competing ambition, for groupings and alliances,
and a precarious equipoise. Mr. Lloyd George insists that there must be
"no next time." Viscount Grey warns us that if the world cannot organize
against war, if war must go on, "then nations can protect themselves
henceforth only by using whatever destructive agencies they can invent,
till the resources and inventions of science end by destroying the
humanity they were meant to serve." Leagues of nations are proposed,
organization for peace on a scale commensurate with the past
organization for war is recognized as the principal task of
international co-operation.

This new revolt against war is inseparable from the religious revival of
the time. The word "revival" conjures up memories of less strenuous
times, when men were concerned with smaller problems, and uninspired by
the bitter experience of the present--Spurgeon thundering in his
Tabernacle, Salvation Army meetings, small gatherings in wayside
villages, at which howling sinners were converted and revivalists
counted their game by the dozen. The present revival is something for
which the past provides no analogy. It is not concerned so much with
individual salvation as with the salvation of the race and the world.
The petty sins and shortcomings which brought men to the confessional
and to the stool of repentance lose importance when compared with the
awful omissions which we now recognize as the cause of the calamities
which have befallen us. It is not only the existence of war that is
rousing the conscience. War is seen to be but a symptom, a horrible
outbreak of malignant forces, which we have nurtured and harboured in
times of peace. These forces permeate the very structure of society. A
new and fierce light beats on our slums, our industrialism, on the old
divisions of class and quality, on the standards of comfort and success.
Poverty, sickness, and child mortality--the whole hideous war of Mammon
through which millions of our fellow-creatures are condemned to the
perpetual service of Want--can no longer conveniently be left outside
the operations of our religious consciousness.

One thing is certain: we can no longer be satisfied with a religion
which pays lip-service to God, and offers propitiating incense to His
wrath, whilst it ignores the misery and the suffering of those who have
no reason to offer thanksgiving. Religious profession and religious
action will have to be unified. The sense of social responsibility is
slowly but surely taking the place of the anxiety to assure one's own
salvation. Some churches are empty, dead; they have no message for the
people, no vision wherewith to inspire the young. They might with
advantage close, and their clergy be employed upon some useful national
service. Ritual and incantations are doubtless useful aids to religious
worship and the necessary quietude of mind, but they are losing their
hold over souls to whom religious life has become a matter of social
service. These are of the order spoken of by Ernest Crosby:

  None could tell me where my soul might be.
  I searched for God, but God eluded me.
  I sought my brother out--and found all three.

The number of "unbelievers" is growing. There are certain doctrines
which we cannot believe because they violate our reason, or our sense of
justice and fair play. Centuries ago it may have been possible to
believe them: that is no concern of ours. To each age its own mind and
its own enlightenment. What is more disquieting to the rulers of
orthodoxy is that we do not care, that we cannot believe in certain
doctrines. Doctrines are at a discount just now. The Church may quarrel
over Kikuyu, or the Apostolic Succession, or the Virgin Birth, or marvel
at the new possibility of a canon of the Church of England preaching a
sermon in the City Temple. We feel that it is infinitely more important
that a few experiments in practical Christianity should be imposed on
the world. Religion in the past has been conceived as essentially a
matter of suppressing the intellect, submitting to oppression and
injustice, learning to bear patiently the inflictions of Providence.
Religion in the future will demand all the attention which our feeble
intellect can offer it, and the conscious and willing co-operation of
mankind in the realization of God's plans for a regenerated world.

Whilst the Churches addicted to ritualism and literalism decline, the
Brotherhood movement gains in force and influence. Men meet to give
united expression to their religious impulses. They meet for prayer and
worship, but never without immediate bearing on some great social
question or object. Opinions are freely expressed. Heterodoxy in details
of faith is rampant, and is no obstacle to Christian fellowship. To the
Sunday afternoon and evening gatherings of the Brotherhood flock the
many to whom the Bible is still a source of spiritual food, and who
demand a plain and practical interpretation of its teachings. An
impromptu prayer, in which the keynote is the loving fatherhood of God,
and its bearing on the brotherhood of man, precedes a homely address or
sermon, closely packed with allusions to social and political questions.
Or the address is entirely secular; a downright unbeliever has been
invited to give the audience the benefit of his knowledge or experience,
in connection with some great movement for the betterment of the world.
There is a disinclination to criticize anybody's religious views,
provided he shows by his acts and life that he is part of the new
Ministry of Humanity. Here we have the pivot of the change which is
overtaking the forms of religious expression.

Men are no longer content to regard this world as a hopeless place of
squalor and sin, as intrinsically and incurably wicked, as an abode
which cannot be mended and which must, therefore, be despised and
forsaken in spirit, even before the time when it has to be forsaken in
body. The possible flawlessness of an other-worldly state no longer
compensates for the glaring faults of this. This is no sign of the
weakening of the spiritual hold on reality. It is a sign of the
spiritualization of the values of life. It is a sign that we begin to
understand that we _are_ spirits here, now, and everywhere, that we see
that time in this world and the way we employ it have a profound
bearing on eternity. There is no reason, in the name of God or man, why
we should be content to let this world remain a place of torment and
foolishness, if we have reached a point when we can see the better way.
There is a certain type of religious mind which dreads the idea of
social reconstruction, on the assumption that we shall not long for
heaven if conditions here below are made less hellish.

There is also a type of churchman whose finer sensibilities are sorely
tried by the secular occupations of nonconformity in general. If once or
twice in their lives they should stray amongst Congregationalists,
Baptists, or Methodists, they come away disgusted at the brutal
directness with which social evils are exposed in the light of the word
of the Lord. They complain of the general lack of finesse and Latin; the
licence of the pulpit has usurped the reverence of the altar. It is
perfectly true that statements are sometimes made in nonconformist
pulpits which are bald and offensive to the ear of scholarly
accomplishment. But the complaint of secularization is singularly inept.
Nothing could be more secular in the way of complacent acceptance of the
worldly reasons for leaving awkward questions alone than the attitude
of this type of critic.

The future life of Christianity is safely vested in the _free_ Churches.
The freedom will be progressive, and may possibly embrace a vista of
unfettered interpretation and application of Christian knowledge which
will be as remote from the dogmatism of to-day as is our present
attitude from the intolerance which kindled the Inquisition and made
possible the night of St. Bartholomew. Religious intolerance has already
lost three-fourths of its hold on faith. Catholic will now slaughter
Catholic without the stimulus to hostility afforded by heretical
opinions. Protestants are not restrained from injuring each other by the
common bond of detestation of the adherents to papacy. The decline of
intolerance is a direct consequence of the externalization of the
religious life. Rationalists constantly mistake this process for the
degeneration of religion. They fail to see the simple fact that men can
afford to dispense with the paraphernalia of elaborate and artificial
aids to the worship of God when they feel His presence within their own
souls and unmistakably hear His call to action.

Some will see in the decay of intolerance an indication of the general
evaporation of Christian articles of faith, and the possible loss of
identity in some new form of religion. There is no danger. No religion
can live in opposition to the evolution of the human spirit. It must be
sufficiently deep to meet the most exacting need of individual religious
experience, and it must be sufficiently broad and elastic to correspond
to the ever-changing phenomena of social evolution. Christianity has
this depth and this breadth. Two parallel lines of its development are
clearly discernible at the present time. One is the transubstantiation
of faith in social service; the other is a demand for individualized
experience of spiritual realities. It is becoming more and more
difficult to believe a thing simply because you are told you ought to
believe it, or because your father and grandfather believed it.
Authority in matters religious is being superseded by exploration. He
who feels with Swinburne that

    Save his own soul he has no star,

and he for whom space is peopled with living souls mounting the ladder
to the throne of God, share the desire to experience the truth.
Mysticism is passing through strange phases of resurrection. Its modern
garb is made up of all the hues of the past, and, in addition, contains
some up-to-date threads of severely utilitarian composition. The number
of those who claim direct experience of spiritual verity as against mere
hearsay is greater than ever. The discovery of the soul is attracting
students of every description. The powers of suggestion, and the
creative possibilities of the subconscious mind, have opened up new
fields of religious experiment and adventure. The art of controlling the
mind, so as to make it immune against the depredations of evil thought,
or fear, or worry, is pursued by crowds of amateur psychologists who
delight in the happy results. They are learning to live in tune with the
infinite or cultivating optimism with complete success. To the objection
that they live in an artificial paradise they reply that thought is the
essence of things, and that they are but carrying into practice the
oft-repeated belief that we _are_ such stuff as dreams are made of.

"Religion," says Professor William James in _The Varieties of Religious
Experience_, "in short, is a monumental chapter in the history of human
egoism. The Gods believed in--whether by crude savages or by men
disciplined intellectually--agree with each other in recognizing a
personal call." How could it be otherwise? The solitariness of each
human soul is the first fact in religious consciousness. Altruism and
communion with other souls are perforce attained through concern with
the state of the ego. The spiritual egoism which demands pure thought,
peace wherein to gather impressions of goodness, beauty, and truth, time
for the analysis of psychic law, direct knowledge which is proof against
the disease of doubt, is, after all, the most valuable contribution
which the individual can make to society. The people who are now greatly
concerned with the exact temperature of their own minds are, at any
rate, to be congratulated on having made the discovery, which is
centuries overdue, that hygiene of the soul is more important than
hygiene of the body.

Placid contentment with the religious systems of the past is greatly
disturbed by this assertiveness. There is a demand for a new message,
couched in terms suited to the mental level of the twentieth century. A
message delivered two thousand years ago to a small pastoral people,
altogether innocent of the complicated economic, and industrial
conditions of our times, must necessarily appear incomplete to minds
which can only reproduce the simplicity by an effort of the imagination.
Jesus, they maintain, was a Jew who spoke to Jews, and who had to deal
with simple fishermen and agriculturists, with Eastern merchants and
narrow-minded scribes. He never met great financiers to whose chariots
of gold whole populations are chained, or great masters of industry who
profitably run a thousand mills where human flesh and bone are ground in
the production of wealth. He knew naught, they feel, of the history of
philosophy, or the psychology of religion, or the researches of
physiology and chemistry. His language, coming to us as it does through
the medium of interpreters of a bygone age, and through the simple
symbols of less sophisticated minds, has poetic beauty, but lacks our
modern comprehensiveness.

There is a feeling that it is unreasonable to believe that God spoke
once or twice, thousands of years ago, and that He cannot or will not
speak now. Revelation cannot have been final; it must surely be
progressive, gradual, fitted to the needs and the receptivity of souls.
The written word is not the only word. The living word must be spoken
now, and will be spoken with greater effectiveness in the future. Hence
the expectation that a new world-teacher will appear, that a master will
be born who will gather up the truth and the inspiration of the creeds
of the past and present them, together with a new message, suited to the
hunger of to-day. Theosophists have lately made the idea of the coming
of such a teacher the central hope of social regeneration.

They assume that when the teacher comes all the world will listen and
obey. It seems to me that teacher after teacher has uttered the
truth--Hermes, Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucius, Orpheus, Jesus--and that
the trouble is not lack of teachers but lack of disciples. In the
teachings of Jesus Christ, the world has a model wherewith to mould the
old order of hate and selfishness into a new rule of love and
brotherhood. The model has never been used; no serious and far-reaching
attempt has as yet been made to give Christianity a politico-social
trial. Why should a new world-teacher be more successful? What guarantee
is there that his voice would not be drowned in the general clamour of
the truth-mongers of the marketplace? And the tendency of the modern
religious consciousness is to seek reality personally, to develop the
latent faculties by which experience can be won, and to delve fearlessly
into the hidden depth of the soul in search of truth.

The great religions of the past have given the bread of life to
countless souls. They have all provided ways and means for our ethical
evolution. Religious eclecticism is natural to the cultured mind, which
can no longer be held back by any threats of excommunication. The
essence of religion, and the way of salvation, have been found along
widely divergent paths and under many names. One thing is certain amidst
innumerable uncertainties: the secret of finding God can only be
unravelled when we find our own souls.

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Transcriber's Note.

Minor typographical errors and irregularities have been corrected.

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