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Title: Spiritual Energies In Daily Life
Author: Jones, Rufus M. (Rufus Matthew)
Language: English
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SPIRITUAL ENERGIES IN DAILY LIFE



                             [Illustration]

                          THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                  NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO · DALLAS
                         ATLANTA · SAN FRANCISCO

                        MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
                       LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA
                                MELBOURNE

                    THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.
                                 TORONTO



                           SPIRITUAL ENERGIES
                              IN DAILY LIFE

                                   BY
                      RUFUS M. JONES, LITT.D., D.D.
              Professor of Philosophy in Haverford College

       Author of _Studies in Mystical Religion_; _The Inner Life_;
                        _The World Within_, etc.

                                New York
                          THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                                  1922

                          _All rights reserved_

                            COPYRIGHT, 1922,
                        BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

           Set up and electrotyped. Published September, 1922

                 PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



PREFACE


I wish to thank the editor of _The Atlantic Monthly_ for his permission
to print in this volume the chapter entitled “The Mystic’s Experience of
God,” also the editors of _The Journal of Religion_ for their permission
to use the article on “Psychology and the Spiritual Life.” Some of
the shorter essays have been printed in _The_ (London) _Friend_ and
in _The Homiletic Review_. Kind permission has been granted for their
reproduction.



INTRODUCTION

RELIGION AS ENERGY


Religion is an experience which no definition exhausts. One writer with
expert knowledge of anthropology tells us what it is, and we know as
we read his account that, however true it may be as far as it goes, it
yet leaves untouched much undiscovered territory. We turn next to the
trained psychologist, who leads us “down the labyrinthine ways of our
own mind” and tells us why the human race has always been seeking God
and worshiping Him. We are thankful for his Ariadne thread which guides
us within the maze, but we feel convinced that there are doors which
he has not opened—“doors to which he had no key.” The theologian, with
great assurance and without “ifs and buts,” offers us the answer to all
mysteries and the solution of all problems, but when we have gone “up
the hill all the way to the very top” with him, we find it a “homesick
peak”—_Heimwehfluh_—and we still wonder over the real meaning of religion.

We are evidently dealing here with something like that drinking horn
which the Norse God Thor tried to drain. He failed to do it because
the horn which he assayed to empty debouched into the endless ocean,
and therefore to drain the horn meant drinking the ocean dry. To probe
religion down to the bottom means knowing “what God and man is.” Each
one of us, in his own tongue and in terms of his own field of knowledge,
gives his partial word, his tiny glimpse of insight. But the returns are
never all in. There is always more to say. “Man is incurably religious,”
that fine scholar, Auguste Sabatier, said. Yes, he is. It is often wild
and erratic religion which we find, no doubt, but the hunger and thirst
of the human soul are an indubitable fact. In different forms of speech
we can all say with St. Augustine of Hippo: “Thou hast touched me and I
am on fire for thy peace.”

In saying that religion is energy I am only seizing one aspect of this
great experience of the human heart. It is, however, I believe, an
essential aspect. A religion that makes no difference to a person’s life,
a religion that _does_ nothing, a religion that is utterly devoid of
power, may for all practical purposes be treated as though it did not
exist. The great experts—those who know from the inside what religion
is—always make much of its dynamic power, its energizing and propulsive
power. _Power_ is a word often on the lips of Jesus; never used, it
should be said, in the sense of extrinsic authority or the right to
command and govern, but always in reference to an intrinsic and interior
moral and spiritual energy of life. The kingdom of God comes with power,
not because the Messiah is supplied with ten legions of angels and can
sweep the Roman eagles back to the frontiers of the Holy Land, but it
“comes with power” because it is a divine and life-transforming energy,
working in the moral and spiritual nature of man, as the expanding
yeast works in the flour or as the forces of life push the seed into
germination and on into the successive stages toward the maturity of the
full-grown plant and grain.

The little fellowship of followers and witnesses who formed the nucleus
of the new-born Church felt themselves “endued with power” on the day of
Pentecost. Something new and dynamic entered the consciousness of the
feeble band and left them no longer feeble. There was an in-rushing,
up-welling sense of invasion. They passed over from a visible Leader
and Master to an invisible and inward Presence revealed to them as an
unwonted energy. Ecstatic utterance, which seems to have followed,
is not the all-important thing. The important thing is heightened
moral quality, intensified fellowship, a fused and undying loyalty,
an irresistible boldness in the face of danger and opposition, a
fortification of spirit which nothing could break. This energy which came
with their experience is what marks the event as an epoch.

St. Paul writes as though he were an expert in dynamics. “Dynamos,”
the Greek word for power, is one of his favorite words. He seems to
have found out how to draw upon energies in the universe which nobody
else had suspected were even there. It is a fundamental feature of his
“Aegean gospel” that God is not self-contained but self-giving, that He
circulates, as does the sun, as does the sea, and comes into us as an
energy. This incoming energy he calls by many names: “The Spirit,” “holy
Spirit,” “Christ,” “the Spirit of Christ,” “Christ in you,” “God that
worketh in us.” Whatever his word or term is, he is always declaring,
and he bases his testimony on experience, that God, as Christ reveals
Him, is an active energy working with us and in us for the complete
transformation of our fundamental nature and for _a new creation_ in us.

All this perhaps sounds too grand and lofty, too remote and far away,
to touch us with reality. We assume that it is for saints or apostles,
but not for common everyday people like ourselves. Well, that is where
we are wrong. The accounts which St. Paul gives of the energies of
religion are not for his own sake, or for persons who are _bien né_ and
naturally saintly. They are for the rank and file of humans. In fact his
Corinthian fellowship was raised by these energies out of the lowest
stratum of society. The words which he uses to describe them are probably
not over strong: “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters,
nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners
shall inherit the kingdom of God. _And such were some of you_: but ye are
washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name [i.e. the
power] of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”[1]

It is to be noticed, further, that St. Paul does not confine his list
of energies to those mighty spiritual forces which come down from above
and work upon us from the outside. Much more often our attention is
directed to energies which are potential within ourselves—even in the
most ordinary of us—energies which work as silently as molecular forces
or as “the capillary oozing of water,” but which nevertheless are as
reconstructive as the forces of springtime, following the winter’s havoc.
If the grace of God—the unlimited sacrificing love of God revealed in
Christ—is for St. Paul the supreme spiritual energy of the universe,
hardly less important is the simple human energy which meets that
centrifugal energy and makes it operate within the sphere of the moral
will. That dynamic energy, by which the man responds to God’s upward pull
and which makes all the difference, St. Paul calls faith.

We are so accustomed to the use of the word in a spurious sense that
we are slow to apprehend the immense significance of this human energy
which lies potentially within us. Unfortunately trained young folks and
scientifically minded people are apt to shy away from the word and put
themselves on the defensive, as though they were about to be asked to
believe the impossible or the dubious or the unprovable. Faith in the
sense in which St. Paul uses it does not mean _believing_ something.
It is a moral attitude and response of will to the character of God
as He has been revealed in Christ. It is like the act which closes
the electric circuit, which act at once releases power. The dynamic
effect which follows the act is the best possible verification of the
rationality of the act. So, too, faith as a moral response is no blind
leap, no wild venture; it is an act which can be tested and verified by
moral and spiritual effects, which are as real as the heat, light, and
horse power of the dynamo.

Faith has come to be recognized as an energy in many spheres of life. We
know what a stabilizer it is in the sphere of finance. Stocks and bonds
and banks shift their values as faith in them rises or falls. _Morale_
is only another name for faith. Our human relationships, our social
structures, our enjoyment of one another, our satisfaction in books and
in lectures rest upon faith and when that energy fails, collapses of the
most serious sort follow. We might as well try to build a world without
cohesion as to maintain society without the energy of faith.

We have many illustrations of the important part which faith plays in
the sphere of physical health. The corpuscles of the blood and the
molecules of the body are altered by it. The tension of the arteries and
the efficiency of the digestive tract are affected by it. Nerves are
in close sympathetic _rapport_ with faith. It is never safe to tell a
strong man that he is pale and that he looks ill. If two or three persons
in succession give him a pessimistic account of his appearance, he will
soon begin to have the condition which has been imagined. Dr. William
McDougall gives the case of a boy who was being chased by a furious
animal and under the impulse of the emergency he leaped a fence which he
could never afterwards jump, even after long athletic training. The list
of similar instances is a very long one. Every reader knows a case as
impressive as the one I have given. The varieties of “shell-shock” have
furnished volumes of illustrations of the energy of faith, its dynamic
influence upon health and life and efficiency.

Faith in the sphere of religion works the greatest miracles of life
that are ever worked. It makes the saint out of Magdalene, the heroic
missionary and martyr out of Paul, the spiritual statesman of the ages
out of Carthaginian Augustine, the illuminated leader of men out of
Francis of Assisi, the maker of a new world epoch out of the nervously
unstable monk Luther, the creator of a new type of spiritual society out
of the untaught Leicestershire weaver, George Fox. Why do we not all
experience the miracle and find _the rest of ourselves_ through faith?
The main trouble is that we live victims of limiting inhibitions. We
hold intellectual theories which keep back or check the outflow of
the energy of faith. We have a nice system of thought which accounts
for everything and explains everything and which leaves no place for
faith. We know too much. We say to ourselves that only the ignorant and
uncultured are led by faith. And this same wise man, who is too proud to
have faith, holds all his inhibitory theories on a basis of faith! Every
one of them starts out on faith, gathers standing ground by faith, and
becomes a controlling force through faith!

There are many other spiritual energies, some of which will be dealt with
specifically or implicitly in the later chapters of this book. Not often
in the history of the modern world certainly have spiritual energies
seemed more urgently needed than to-day. Our troubles consist largely
now of failure to lay hold of moral and spiritual forces that lie near
at hand and to utilize powers that are within our easy reach. Our stock
of faith and hope and love has run low and we realize only feebly what
mighty energies they can be.

I hope that these short essays may help in some slight way to indicate
that the ancient realities by which men live still abide, and that
the invisible energies of the spirit are real, as they have always
been real. We have had an impressive demonstration that a civilization
built on external force and measured in terms of economic achievements
cannot stand its ground and is unable to speak to the condition of
persons endowed and equipped as we are. We are bound to build a higher
civilization, to create a greater culture, and to form a truer kingdom
of life or we must write “_Mene_” on all human undertakings. That is
our task now, and it is a serious one for which we shall need all the
energies that the universe puts at our disposal. I am told that when
the great Hellgate bridge was being built over the East River in New
York the engineers came upon an old derelict ship, lying embedded in
the river mud, just where one of the central piers of the bridge was to
go down through to its bedrock foundation. No tug boat could be found
that was able to start the derelict from its ancient bed in the ooze.
It would not move, no matter what force was applied. Finally, with a
sudden inspiration one of the workers hit upon this scheme. He took a
large flat-boat, which had been used to bring stone down the river, and
he chained it to the old sunken ship when the tide was low. Then he
waited for the great tidal energies to do their work. Slowly the rising
tide, with all the forces of the ocean behind it and the moon above it,
came up under the flat-boat, raising it inch by inch. And as it came up,
lifted by irresistible power, the derelict came up with it, until it
was entirely out of the mud that had held it. Then the boat, with its
subterranean load, was towed out to sea where the old waterlogged ship
was unchained and allowed to drop forever out of sight and reach.

There are greater forces than those tidal energies waiting for us to use
for our tasks. They have always been there. They are there now. But they
do not _work_, they do not _operate_, until we lay hold of them and use
them for our present purposes. We must be _co-workers with God_.

    Haverford, Pennsylvania.

    Mid Winter, 1922.



CONTENTS


                                                   PAGE

         INTRODUCTION: RELIGION AS ENERGY           vii

                       CHAPTER I

                   THE CENTRAL PEACE

      I. PEACE THAT PASSES UNDERSTANDING              1

     II. THE SEARCH FOR A REFUGE                      5

    III. WHAT WE WANT MOST                           10

                       CHAPTER II

              THE GREAT ENERGIES THAT WORK

      I. TRYING THE BETTER WAY                       15

     II. HE CAME TO HIMSELF                          23

    III. SOME NEW REASONS FOR “LOVING ENEMIES”       29

                      CHAPTER III

              THE POWER THAT WORKETH IN US

      I. WHERE THE BEYOND BREAKS THROUGH             35

     II. CONQUERING BY AN INNER FORCE                41

    III. LIVING IN THE PRESENCE OF THE ETERNAL       46

                       CHAPTER IV

                   THE WAY OF VISION

      I. DAYS OF GREATER VISIBILITY                  50

     II. THE PROPHET AND HIS TRAGEDIES               54

    III. A LONG DISTANCE CALL                        60

                       CHAPTER V

                 THE WAY OF PERSONALITY

      I. ANOTHER KIND OF HERO                        65

     II. THE BETTER POSSESSION                       69

    III. THE GREATEST RIVALRIES OF LIFE              74

                       CHAPTER VI

                AGENCIES OF CONSTRUCTION

      I. THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD                79

     II. THE NURSERY OF SPIRITUAL LIFE               83

    III. THE DEMOCRACY WE AIM AT                     86

     IV. THE ESSENTIAL TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY         91

                      CHAPTER VII

                  THE NEAR AND THE FAR

      I. THINGS PRESENT AND THINGS TO COME           98

     II. TWO TYPES OF MINISTRY                      102

    III. WE HAVE SEEN HIS STAR                      106

                      CHAPTER VIII

               THE LIGHT-FRINGED MYSTERY

      I. THE RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE OF DEATH        111

     II. THE NEW BORN OUT OF THE OLD                127

                       CHAPTER IX

             THE MYSTIC’S EXPERIENCE OF GOD         133

                       CHAPTER X

          PSYCHOLOGY AND THE SPIRITUAL LIFE         160



SPIRITUAL ENERGIES IN DAILY LIFE



CHAPTER I

THE CENTRAL PEACE


I

PEACE THAT PASSES UNDERSTANDING

We are all familiar with the coming of a peace into our life at the
terminus of some great strain or after we have weathered a staggering
crisis. When a long-continued pain which has racked our nerves passes
away and leaves us free, we suddenly come into a zone of peace. When we
have been watching by a bedside where a life, unspeakably precious to us,
has lain in the grip of some terrible disease and at length successfully
passes the crisis, we walk out into the fields under the altered sky
and feel a peace settle down upon us, which makes the whole world look
different. Or, again, we have been facing some threatening catastrophe
which seemed likely to break in on our life and perhaps end forever
the calm and even tenor of it, and just when the hour of danger seemed
darkest and our fear was at its height, some sudden turn of things has
brought a happy shift of events, the danger has passed, and a great peace
has come over us instead of the threatened trouble. In all these cases
the peace which succeeds pain and strain and anxiety is a thoroughly
natural, reasonable peace, a peace which comes in normal sequence and
is quite accessible to the understanding. We should be surprised and
should need an explanation if we heard of an instance of a passing pain
or a yielding strain that was not followed by a corresponding sense of
peace. One who has seen a child that was lost in a crowded city suddenly
find his mother and find safety in her dear arms has seen a good case of
this sequential peace, this peace which the understanding can grasp and
comprehend. We behold it and say, “How otherwise!”

There is, St. Paul reminds us, another kind of peace of quite a different
order. It baffles the understanding and transcends its categories. It is
a peace which comes, not after the pain is relieved, not after the crisis
has passed, not after the danger has disappeared; but in the midst of the
pain, while the crisis is still on, and even in the imminent presence
of the danger. It is a peace that is not banished or destroyed by the
frustrations which beset our lives; rather it is in and through the
frustrations that we first come upon it and enter into it, as, to use St.
Paul’s phrase, into a garrison which guards our hearts and minds.

Each tested soul has to meet its own peculiar frustrations. All of us who
work for “causes” or who take up any great piece of moral or spiritual
service in the world know more about defeats and disappointments than
we do about success and triumphs. We have to learn to be patient and
long-suffering. We must become accustomed to postponements and delays,
and sometimes we see the work of almost a lifetime suddenly fail of its
end. Some turn of events upsets all our noble plans and frustrates the
result, just when it appeared ready to arrive. Death falls like lightning
on a home that had always before seemed sheltered and protected, and
instantly life is profoundly altered for those who are left behind.
Nothing can make up for the loss. There is no substitute for what
is gone. The accounts will not balance; frustration in another form
confronts us. Or it may be a breakdown of physical or mental powers,
or peradventure both together, just when the emergencies of the world
called for added energy and increased range of power from us. The need
is plain, the harvest is ripe, but the worker’s hand fails and he must
contract when he would most expand. Frustration looks him straight in the
face. Well, to achieve a peace under those circumstances is to have a
peace which does not follow a normal sequence. It is not what the world
expects. It does not accord with the ways of thought and reasoning. It
passes all understanding. It brings another kind of world into operation
and reveals a play of invisible forces upon which the understanding
had not reckoned. In fact, this strange intellect-transcending peace,
in the very midst of storm and strain and trial, is one of the surest
evidences there is of God. One may in his own humble nerve-power succeed
in acquiring a stoic resignation so that he can say,

    “In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.”

He may, by sheer force of will, keep down the lid upon his emotions
and go on so nearly unmoved that his fellows can hear no groan and
will wonder at the way he stands the universe. But peace in the soul
is another matter. To have the whole heart and mind garrisoned with
peace even in Nero’s dungeon, when the imperial death sentence brings
frustration to all plans and a terminus to all spiritual work, calls for
some world-transcending assistance to the human spirit. Such peace is
explained only when we discover that it is “the peace of God,” and that
it came because the soul broke through the ebbings and flowings of time
and space and allied itself with the Eternal.


II

THE SEARCH FOR A REFUGE

Few things are more impressive than the persistent search which men have
made in all ages for a refuge against the dangers and the ills that
beset life. The cave-men, the cliff-dwellers, the primitive builders of
shelters in inaccessible tree tops, are early examples of the search for
human defenses against fear. Civilization slowly perfected methods of
refuge and defense of elaborate types, which, in turn, had to compete
with ever-increasing ingenuity of attack and assault. But I am not
concerned here with these material strongholds of refuge and defense. I
am thinking rather of the human search for shelter against other weapons
than those which kill the body. We are all trying, in one way or another,
to discover how to escape from “the heavy and weary weight of all this
unintelligible world,” how to bear the slings and arrows of outrageous
fortune. We are sensitively constructed, with nerves exposed to easy
attack. We are all shelterless at some point to the storms of the world.
Even the most perfectly equipped and impervious heroes prove to be
vulnerable at some one uncovered spot. Sooner or later our protections
fail, and the pitiless enemies of our happiness get through the defenses
and reach the quick and sensitive soul within us. How to rebuild our
refuge, how to find real shelter, is our problem. What fortress is there
in which the soul is safe from fear and trouble?

The most common expedient is one which will drug the sensitive nerves
and produce an easy relief from strain and worry. There is a magic in
alcohol and kindred distillations, which, like Aladdin’s genie, builds a
palace of joy and, for the moment, banishes the enemy of all peace. The
refuge seems complete. All fear is gone, worry is a thing of the past.
The jargon of life is over, the pitiless problem of good and evil drops
out of consciousness. The shelterless soul seems covered and housed.
Intoxication is only one of the many quick expedients. It is always
possible to retreat from the edge of strenuous battle into some one of
the many natural instincts as a way of refuge. The great instinctive
emotions are absorbing, and tend to obliterate everything else. They
occupy the entire stage of the inner drama, and push all other actors
away from the footlights of consciousness, so that here, too, the enemies
of peace and joy seem vanquished, and the refuge appears to be found.

That multitudes accept these easy ways of defense against the ills of
life is only too obvious. The medieval barons who could build themselves
castles of safety were few in number. Visible refuges in any case are
rare and scarce, but the escape from the burdens and defeats of the
world in drink and drug and thrilling instinctive emotion is, without
much difficulty, open to every man and within easy reach for rich and
poor alike, and many there be that seize upon this method. The trouble
with it is that it is a very temporary refuge. It works, if at all, only
for a brief span. It plays havoc in the future with those who resort
to it. It rolls up new liabilities to the ills one would escape. It
involves far too great a price for the tiny respite gained. And, most
of all, it discounts or fails to reckon with the inherent greatness of
the human soul. We are fashioned for stupendous issues. Our very sense
of failure and defeat comes from a touch of the infinite in our being.
We look before and after, and sigh for that which is not, just because
we can not be contented with finite fragments of time and space. We are
meant for greater things than these trivial ones which so often get our
attention and absorb us; but the moment the soul comes to itself, its
reach goes beyond the grasp, and it feels an indescribable discontent
and longing for that for which it was made. To seek refuge, therefore,
in some narcotic joy, to still the onward yearning of the soul by
drowning consciousness, to banish the pain of pursuit by a barbaric surge
of emotions, is to strike against the noblest trait of our spiritual
structure; it means committing suicide of the soul. It cannot be a real
man’s way of relief.

In fact, nothing short of finding the goal and object for which the soul,
the spiritual nature in us, is fitted will ever do for beings like us.
St. Augustine, in words of immortal beauty, has said that God has made
us for himself, and our hearts are restless until we rest in him. It
is not a theory of poet or theologian. It is a simple fact of life, as
veritable as the human necessity for food. There is no other shelter for
the soul, no other refuge or fortress will ever do for us but God. “We
tremble and we burn. We tremble, knowing that we are unlike him. We burn,
feeling that we are like him.”

In hours of loss and sorrow, when the spurious props fail us, we are
more apt to find our way back to the real refuge. We are suddenly made
aware of our shelterless condition, alone, and in our own strength. Our
stoic armor and our brave defenses of pride become utterly inadequate.
We are thrown back on reality. We have then our moments of sincerity and
insight. We feel that we cannot live without resources from beyond our
own domain. We must have God. It is then, when one knows that nothing
else whatever will do, that the great discovery is made. Again and again
the psalms announce this. When the world has caved in; when the last
extremity has been reached; when the billows and water-spouts of fortune
have done their worst, you hear the calm, heroic voice of the lonely man
saying: “God is our refuge and fortress, therefore will not we fear
though the earth be removed, though the mountains be carried into the
midst of the sea.” That is great experience, but it is not reserved for
psalmists and rare patriarchs like Job. It is a privilege for common
mortals like us who struggle and agonize and feel the thorn in the flesh,
and the bitter tragedy of life unhealed. Whether we make the discovery
or not, God is there with us in the furnace. Only it makes all the
difference if we do find him as the one high tower where refuge is not
for the passing moment only, but is an eternal attainment.


III

WHAT WE WANT MOST

There are many things which we want—things for which we struggle hard and
toil painfully. Like the little child with his printed list for Santa
Claus, we have our list, longer or shorter, of precious things which
we hope to see brought within our reach before we are gathered to our
fathers. The difference is that the child is satisfied if he gets one
thing which is on his list. We want everything on ours. The world is
full of hurry and rush, push and scramble, each man bent on winning some
one of his many goals. But, in spite of this excessive effort to secure
the tangible goods of the earth, it is nevertheless true that deep down
in the heart most men want the peace of God. If you have an opportunity
to work your way into that secret place where a man really lives, you
will find that he knows perfectly well that he is missing something.
This feeling of unrest and disquiet gets smothered for long periods in
the mass of other aims, and some men hardly know that they have such a
thing as an immortal soul hidden away within. But, even so, it will not
remain quiet. It cries out like the lost child who misses his home. When
the hard games of life prove losing ones, when the stupidity of striving
so fiercely for such bubbles comes over him, when a hand from the dark
catches away the best earthly comfort he had, when the genuine realities
of life assert themselves over sense, he wakes up to find himself hungry
and thirsty for something which no one of his earthly pursuits has
supplied or can supply. He wants God. He wants peace. He wants to feel
his life founded on an absolute reality. He wants to have the same sort
of peace and quiet steal over him which used to come when as a child he
ran to his mother and had all the ills of life banished from thought in
the warm love of her embrace.

But it is not only the driving, pushing man, ambitious for wealth and
position, who misses the best thing there is to get—the peace of God.
Many persons who are directly seeking it miss it. Here is a man who hopes
to find it by solving all his difficult intellectual problems. When
he can answer the hard questions which life puts to him, and read the
riddles which the ages have left unread, he thinks his soul will feel the
peace of God. Not so, because each problem opens into a dozen more. It is
a noble undertaking to help read the riddles of the universe, but let no
one expect to enter into the peace of God by such a path. Here is another
person who devotes herself to nothing but to seeking the peace of God.
Will she not find it? Not that way. It is not found when it is sought for
its own sake. He or she who is living to get the joy of divine peace,
who would “have no joy but calm,” will probably never have the peace
which passeth understanding. Like all the great blessings, it comes as a
by-product when one is seeking something else. Christ’s peace came to him
not because he sought it, but because he accepted the divine will which
led to Gethsemane and Calvary. Paul’s peace did not flow over him while
he was in Arabia seeking it, but while he was in Nero’s prison, whither
the path of his labors for helping men had led him. He who forgets
himself in loving devotion, he who turns aside from his self-seeking aims
to carry joy into any life, he who sets about doing any task for the love
of God, has found the only possible road to the permanent peace of God.

There are no doubt a great many persons working for the good of others
and for the betterment of the world who yet do not succeed in securing
the peace of God. They are in a frequent state of nerves; they are busy
here and there, rushing about perplexed and weary, fussy and irritable.
With all their efforts to promote good causes, they do not quite attain
the poise and calm of interior peace. They are like the tumultuous
surface of the ocean with its combers and its spray, and they seldom know
the deep quiet like that of the underlying, submerged waters far below
the surface. The trouble with them is that they are carrying themselves
all the time. They do not forget themselves in their aims of service.
They are like the ill person who is so eager to get well that he keeps
watching his tongue, feeling his pulse, and getting his weight. Peace
does not come to one who is watching continually for the results of his
work, or who is wondering what people are saying about it, or who is
envious and jealous of other persons working in the same field, or who is
touchy about “honor” or recognition. Those are just the attitudes which
frustrate peace and make it stay away from one’s inner self.

There is a higher level of work and service and ministry, which, thank
God, men like us can reach. It is attained when one swings out into a
way of life which is motived and controlled by genuine sincere love
and devotion, when consecration obliterates self-seeking, when in some
measure, like Christ, the worker can say without reservations, “Not my
will but thine be done.”



CHAPTER II

THE GREAT ENERGIES THAT WORK


I

TRYING THE BETTER WAY

A very fresh and unusual type of book has recently appeared under
the title, “_By An Unknown Disciple_.” It tells in a simple, direct,
impressive way, after the manner of the Gospels, the story of Christ’s
life and works and message. It professes to be written by one who was an
intimate disciple, and who was therefore an eye-witness of everything
told in the book. It is a vivid narrative and leaves the reader deeply
moved, because it brings him closer than most interpretations do into
actual presence of and companionship with the great Galilean. The first
chapter is a re-interpretation of the scene on the eastern shore of
Gennesaret, where Jesus casts the demons out of the maniac of Geresa. A
man on the shore of the lake told Jesus, when he landed there with his
disciples in the early morning, that it was not safe for any one to go
up the rugged hillside, because there were madmen hidden there among the
tombs: “people possessed by demons, who tear their flesh, and who can be
heard screaming day and night.”

“How do you know they are possessed by demons?” asked Jesus.

“What else could it be?” said the man. “There are none that can master
them. They are too fierce to be tamed.”

“Has any man tried to tame them?” asked Jesus.

“Yes, Rabbi, they have been bound with chains and fetters. There was one
that I saw. He plucked the fetters from him as a child might break a
chain of field flowers. Then he ran foaming into the wilderness, and no
man dare pass by that way now....”

“Have men tried only this way to tame him?” Jesus asked.

“What other way is there, Rabbi?” asked the man.

“There is God’s way,” said Jesus. “Come, let us try it.”

As Jesus spoke, “His gaze went from man to man,” the writer continues,
“and then his eyes fell upon me. It was as if a power passed from him to
me, and immediately something inside me answered, ‘Lead, and I follow.’”
The narrative proceeds to describe the encounter with the demoniac man
whose name was “Legion.” “He ran toward us, shrieking and bounding in the
air. He had two sharp stones in his hand, and as he leaped he cut his
flesh with them and the blood ran down his naked limbs. The men behind us
scattered and fled down the hillside; but Jesus stood still and waited.”
The effect of the calm, undisturbed, unfrightened presence of Jesus was
astonishing. It was as though a new force suddenly came into operation.
The jagged stones were thrown from his hands, for he recognized at once
in Jesus a friendly presence and a helper with an understanding heart.
His fear and terror left the demoniac man and he became quiet, composed
and like a normal person. Meantime some of the men who ran away in fear,
when the madman appeared, frightened a herd of swine feeding near by, and
in their uncontrolled terror they rushed wildly toward the headland of
the lake and pitched over the top into the water where they were drowned.
“Fear is a foul spirit,” said Jesus, and it seemed plain and obvious
that the ungoverned fear which played such havoc with the man had taken
possession also of the misguided swine. It was the same “demon,” fear. A
little later in the day when the companions of Jesus found him they saw
the man who had called himself “Legion” sitting at Jesus’ feet, clothed
and in his right mind—a quieted and restored person.

We now know that this disease, called “possession,” which appears so
often in the New Testament accounts, is a very common present-day
trouble. The name and description given to it in the Bible make it often
seem remote and unfamiliar to us, but it is, in fact, as prevalent in the
world to-day as it was in the first century. It is an extreme form of
hysteria, a disorganization of normal functions, often causing delusions,
loss of memory, the performance of automatic actions, and sometimes
resulting in double, or multiple, personality, a condition in which a
foreign self seems to usurp the control of the body and make it do many
strange and unwilled things. This disease is known in very many cases to
be produced by frights, fear, or terror, sometimes fears long hidden away
and more or less suppressed.

The famous cases of Doris Fischer and Miss Beauchamp were both of this
type. They were only extreme instances of a fairly common form of
mental trouble, generally due to fears, and capable of being cured by
wise, skillful understanding and loving care, applied by one who shows
confidence and human interest and who knows how to use the powerful
influence of _suggestion_. Dr. Morton Prince, who has reported these
two cases, has achieved cures and restorations that read like miracles,
and his narratives tell of minds, “jangling, harsh, and out of tune,”
broken into dissociated selves, which have been unified, organized,
harmonized and restored to normal life. Few restorations are more
wonderful than that effected upon a Philadelphia girl under the direction
of Dr. Lightner Witmer. The girl was hopelessly incorrigible, stubborn,
sullen, suspicious, and stupid. She screamed, kicked, and bit when she
was opposed, and she utterly refused to obey anybody. So unnatural and
dehumanized was she that she was generally called “Diabolical Mary.” She
was examined by Dr. Witmer, underwent some simple surgical operations to
remove her obvious physical handicaps, and then was put under the loving,
tender care of a wise, attractive, and understanding woman. The girl
responded to the treatment at once and soon became profoundly changed,
and the process went on until the girl became a wholly transformed and
re-made person.

The so-called shell-shock cases which have bulked so large in the story
of the wastage of men in all armies during the World War, turn out to be
cases of mental disorganization, occasioned for the most part by immense
emotional upheaval, especially through suppressed fear. The man affected
with the trouble has seemed to master his emotion. He has not winced or
shown the slightest fear in the face of danger; but the pent-up emotion,
the suppressed fear and terror, insidiously throw the entire nervous
mechanism out of gear. The successful treatment of such cases is, again,
like that for hysteria, one that brings confidence, calm, liberation
of all strain and anxiety. The poor victim needs a patient, wise,
skillful, psychologically trained physician, who has an understanding
mind, a friendly, interested, intimate way, a spirit of love, and who
can arouse expectation of recovery and can suggest thoughts of health
and the right emotional reactions. This method of cure has often been
tried with striking effect upon the so-called criminal classes. Prisoners
almost always respond constructively to the personal manifestation of
confidence, sympathy, and love. Elizabeth Fry proved this principle in an
astonishing way with the almost brutalized prisoners in Newgate. Thomas
Shillitoe’s visit to the German prisoners at Spandau, who were believed
to be beyond all human appeals, though not so well known and famous, is
no less impressive and no less convincing.

There was perhaps never a time in the history of the world when an
application of this principle and method—God’s way—was so needed in
the social sphere of life. Whole countries have the symptoms which
appear in these nervous diseases. It is not merely an individual case
here and there; it takes on a corporate, a mass, form. The nerves are
overstrained, the emotional stress has been more than could be borne,
suppressed fears have produced disorganization. There are signs of
social “dissociation.” The remedy in such cases is not an application of
compelling force, not a resort to chains and fetters, not a screwing on
of the “lid,” not a method of starving out the victims. It is rather an
application of the principle which has always worked in individual cases
of “dissociation” or “possession” or “suppressed fear”—the principle
of sympathy, love and suggestion—what Jesus, in the book mentioned
above, calls “God’s way.” The “dissociation” of labor and employers in
the social group, with its hysterical signs of strikes and lockouts,
upheaval and threats, needs just now a very wise physician. Force,
restraint, compulsion, fastening down the “lid,” imprisonment of leaders,
drastic laws against propaganda, will not cure the disease, any more
than chains cured the poor sufferer on the shores of Gennesaret. The
situation must first of all be _understood_. The inner attitude behind
the acts and deeds must be taken into account. The social mental state
must be diagnosed. The remedy, to be a remedy, must remove the causes
which produce the dissociation. It can be accomplished only by one who
has an understanding heart, a good will, an unselfish purpose, and a
comprehending, i.e., a unifying, _suggestion_ of coöperation.

This _way_ is no less urgent for the solution of the most acute
international situations. It has been assumed too long and too often that
these situations can be best handled by unlimited methods of restraint,
coercion, and reduction to helplessness. Some of the countries of Europe
have been plainly suffering from neurasthenia, dissociation, and the
kindred forms of emotional, fear-caused diseases. Starvation always makes
for types of hysteria. It will not do now to apply, with cold, precise
logic, the old vindictive principle that when the sinner has been made
to suffer enough to “cover” the enormity of his sin he can then be
restored to respectable society. It is not vindication of justice which
most concerns the world now; it is a return of health, a restoration of
normal functions, a reconstruction of the social body. That task calls
for the application of the deeper, truer principles of life. It calls for
a knowing heart, an understanding method, a healing plan, a sympathetic
guide who can obliterate the fear-attitude and _suggest_ confidence and
unity and trustful human relationships. Those great words, used in the
Epistle of London Yearly Meeting of Friends in 1917, need to be revived
and put to an experimental venture: “_Love knows no frontiers._” There is
no limit to its healing force, there are no conditions it does not meet,
there is no terminus to its constructive operations.


II

HE CAME TO HIMSELF

Was there ever such a short-story character sketch as this one of the
prodigal son! No realism of details, no elaboration of his sins, and
yet the immortal picture is burned forever into our imagination. The
_débâcle_ of his life is as clear and vivid as words can portray the
ruin. Yet the phrase which arrests us most as we read the compact
narrative of his undoing is not the one which tells about “riotous
living,” or the reckless squandering of his patrimony, or his hunger for
swine husks, or his unshod feet and the loss of his tunic; it is rather
the one which says that when he was at the bottom of his fortune “he came
to himself.”

He had not been himself then, before. He was not finding himself in the
life of riotous indulgence. That did not turn out after all to be the
life for which he was meant. He missed himself more than he missed his
lost shoes and tunic. That raises a nice question which is worth an
answer: When is a person his real self? When can he properly say, “At
last I have found myself; I am what I want to be?” Robert Louis Stevenson
has given us in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a fine parable of the actual
double self in us all, a higher and a lower self under our one hat. But
I ask, which is the real me? Is it Jekyll or is it Hyde? Is it the best
that we can be or is it this worse thing which we just now are?

Most answers to the question would be, I think, that the real self is
that ideal self of which in moments of rare visibility we sometimes
catch glimpses.

    “All I could never be,
    All, men ignored in me,
    This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.”

“Dig deep enough into any man,” St. Augustine said, “and you will find
something divine.” We supposed he believed in total depravity, and
he does in theory believe in it; but when it is a matter of actual
experience, he announces this deep fact which fits perfectly with his
other great utterance: “Thou, O God, hast made us for thyself, and we are
restless (dissatisfied) until we find ourselves in thee.”

Too long we have assumed that Adam, the failure, is the type of our
lives, that he is the normal man, that to err is human, and that one
touch, that is, blight, of nature makes all men kin. What Christ has
revealed to us is the fact that we always have higher and diviner
possibilities in us. He, the overcomer, and not Adam, is the true type,
the normal person, giving us at last the pattern of life which is life
indeed.

Which is the real self, then? Surely this higher possible self, this one
which we discover in our best moments. The Greeks always held that sin
was “missing the mark”—that is what the Greek word for sin means—failure
to arrive at, to reach, the real end toward which life aims. Sin is
defeat. It is loss of the trail. It is undoing. The sinner has not found
himself, he has not come to himself. He has missed the real me. He cannot
say, “I am.”

If that is a fact, and if the life of spiritual health and attainment is
the normal life, we surely ought to do more than is done to help young
people to realize it and to assist them to find themselves. We are much
more concerned to manufacture things than we are to make persons. We do
one very well and we do the other very badly. Kipling’s “The Ship that
Found Itself” is a fine account of the care bestowed upon every rivet and
screw, every valve and piston. He pictures the ship in the stress and
strain of a great storm and each part of the ship from keel to funnel
describes what it has to bear and to do in the emergency and how it has
been prepared in advance for just this crisis. Nansen was asked how he
felt when he found that the _Fram_ was caught in the awful jam of the
Arctic ice-floe. “I felt perfectly calm,” he said. “I knew she could
stand it. I had watched every stick of timber and every piece of steel
that went into her hull. The result was that I could go to sleep and
let the ice do its worst.” With even more care we build the airplane.
There must be no chance for capricious action. The propeller blades must
be made of perfect wood. There must be no defect in any piece of the
structure. The gasoline must be tested by all the methods of refinement.
The oil must be absolutely pure, free of every suspicion of grit.

But when we turn from ships and airplanes to the provisions for training
young persons we are in a different world. The element of chance now
bulks very large. We let the youth have pretty free opportunity to begin
his malformation before we begin seriously to construct him on right
lines. We fail to note what an enormous fact “disposition” is, and we
take little pains to form it early and to form it in the best way. We
are far too apt to assume that all the fundamentals come by the road
of heredity. We overwork this theory as much as earlier theologians
overworked their dogma of original sin from poor old Adam.

The fact is that temperament and disposition and the traits of character
which most definitely settle destiny are at least as much formed in those
early critical years of infancy as they are acquired by the strains of
heredity. Education, which is more essential to the greatness of any
country than even its manufactures, is one of the most neglected branches
of life. We take it as we find it—and lay its failures to Providence
as we do deaths from typhoid. It must not always be so. We must be as
greatly concerned to form virile character in our boys and girls and
to develop in them the capacity for moral and spiritual leadership in
this crisis as we are concerned over our coal supply or our industries.
There are ways of assisting the higher self to control and dominate the
life, ways by which the ideal person can become the real person. Why not
consider seriously how to do that?

He that overcomes, the prophet of Patmos says, receives a white stone
with a new name written on it, which no man knoweth save he that hath
it. It is a symbolism which may mean many things. It seems at least to
mean that he who subdues his lower self, holds out in the strain of life,
and lives by the highest that he knows, will as a consequence receive a
distinct individuality, a clearly defined self, instead of being blurred
in with the great level mass—a self with a name of its own. And that self
will not be the old familiar self that everybody knows by traits of past
achievement and by the old tendencies of habit. It will be the self
which only God and the person himself in his deepest and most intimate
moments knew was possible—and here at last it is found to be the real
self. The man can say, “I am.” He has come to himself.

We ask, at the end, whether it may not be that the world will soon come
to itself and discover the way back to some of its missed ideals. Here on
a large scale we have the story of a desperate hunger, squandered wealth,
lost shoes, lost tunics, and even more precious things gone—a world that
has missed its way and is floundering about without sufficient vision
or adequate leadership. If it could only come to itself, discover what
its true mission is and where its real sources of power and its line of
progress lie, it would still find that God and man together can rebuild
what man by his blunders has destroyed.


III

SOME NEW REASONS FOR “LOVING ENEMIES”

Nobody ever amounts to anything who lives without conflict with
obstacles. It seems to be a law of the universe that nothing really good
can be got or held by soft, easy means.

The Persians were so impressed with this stern condition of life that
they interpreted the universe as the scene of endless warfare between
hostile powers of the invisible world. Ormuzd, the god of light, and
Ahriman, the god of darkness, were believed to be engaged in a continual
Armageddon. There could be no truce in the strife until one or the other
should win the victory by the annihilation of his opponent. This Persian
dualism has touched all systems of thought and has left its influence
upon all the religions of the world. The reasons why it has appealed so
powerfully to men of all generations are, of course, that there is so
much conflict involved in life and that no achievement of goodness is
ever made without a hard battle for it against opposing forces. But if
all this opposition and struggle is due to an “enemy,” we certainly ought
to love this “enemy,” because it turns out to be the greatest possible
blessing to us that we are forced to struggle with difficulties and to
wrestle for what we get.

“Count it all joy,” said the Apostle James in substance, writing to his
friends of the Dispersion, “when you fall into manifold testings, or
trials, knowing that the proving of your faith worketh steadfastness,
and let steadfastness have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and
entire, lacking in nothing.” St. Paul thought once that his “thorn in the
flesh” was conferred upon him by Satan and was the malicious messenger
of an enemy; but in the slow process of experience he came to see that
the painful “thorn” exercised a real ministry in his life, that through
his suffering and hardship he got a higher meaning of God’s grace; and he
discovered that divine power was thus made perfect through his weakness,
so that he learned to love the “enemy” that buffeted him.

The Psalmist who wrote our best loved psalm, the twenty-third, thought at
first that God was his Shepherd because he led him in green pastures and
beside still waters where there was no struggle and no enemy to fear. But
he learned at length that in the dark valleys of the shadow and on the
rough jagged hillsides God was no less a good Shepherd than on the level
plains and in the lush grass; and he found at last that even “in the
presence of enemies” he could be fed with good things and have his table
spread. The overflowing cup and the anointed head were not discovered
on the lower levels of ease and comfort; they came out of the harder
experiences when “enemies” of his peace were busy supplying obstacles
and perplexities for him to overcome.

It is no accident that the book of Revelation puts so much stress upon
“overcoming.” The world seemed to the prophet on the volcanic island
of Patmos essentially a place of strife and conflict—an Armageddon of
opposing forces. There are no beatitudes in this book promised to any
except “overcomers.”

    “Not to one church alone, but seven
    The voice prophetic spake from heaven;
    And unto each the promise came,
    Diversified, but still the same;
    For him that overcometh are
    The new name written on the stone,
    The raiment white, the crown, the throne,
    And I will give him the Morning Star!”

But the conflict that ends in such results can not be called misfortune,
any more than Hercules’ labors through which the legendary hero won his
immortality can be pronounced a misfortune for him. Once more, then, the
saint who has overcome discovers, at least in retrospect, that there is
good ground for loving his “enemies”!

The farmer, in his unceasing struggle with weeds, with parasites, with
pests visible and invisible, with blight and rot and uncongenial
weather, sometimes feels tempted to blaspheme against the hard conditions
under which he labors and to assume that an “enemy” has cursed the ground
which he tills and loaded the dice of nature against him. The best cure
for his “mood” is to visit the land of the bread-fruit tree, where nature
does everything and man does nothing but eat what is gratuitously given
him, and to see there the kind of men you get under those kindly skies.
The virile fiber of muscle, the strong manly frame, the keen active mind
that meets each new “pest” with a successful invention, the spirit of
conquest and courage that are revealed in the farmer at his best are no
accident. They are the by-product of his battle with conditions, which if
they seem to come from an “enemy,” must come from one that ought to be
loved for what he accomplishes.

These critics of ours who harshly review the books we write, the
addresses we give, the schemes of reform for which we work so
strenuously—do they do nothing for us? On the contrary, they force
us to go deeper, to write with more care, to reconsider our hasty
generalizations, to recast our pet schemes, to revise our crude
endeavors. They may speak as “enemies,” and they may show a stern and
hostile face; but we do well to love them, for they enable us to find
our better self and our deeper powers. The hand may be the horny hand of
Esau, but the voice is the kindly voice of Jacob.

All sorts of things “work” for us, then, as St. Paul declared. Not only
does love “work,” and faith and grace; but tribulation “works,” and
affliction, and the seemingly hostile forces which block and buffet and
hamper us. Everything that drives us deeper, that draws us closer to the
great resources of life, that puts vigor into our frame and character
into our souls, is in the last resort a blessing to us, even though it
seems on superficial examination to be the work of an “enemy,” and we
shall be wise if we learn to love the “enemies” that give us the chance
to overcome and to attain our true destiny. Perhaps the dualism of the
universe is not quite as sharp as the old Persians thought. Perhaps, too,
the love of God reaches further under than we sometimes suppose. Perhaps
in fact all things “work together for good,” and even the enemy forces
are helping to achieve the ultimate good that shall be revealed “when God
hath made the pile complete.”



CHAPTER III

THE POWER THAT WORKETH IN US


I

WHERE THE BEYOND BREAKS THROUGH

If we sprinkle iron filings over a sheet of paper and move a magnet
beneath the paper, the filings become active and combine and recombine
in a great variety of groupings and regroupings. A beholder who knows
nothing of the magnet underneath gazes upon the whole affair with a sense
of awe and mystery, though he feels all the time that there must be some
explanation of the action and that some hidden power behind is operating
as the cause of the groupings and regroupings of the iron particles.
Something certainly that we do not see is revealing its presence and its
power.

Our everyday experience is full of another series of activities even
more mysterious than these movements of the iron. Whenever we open our
eyes we see objects and colors confronting us and located in spaces far
and near. What brings the object to us? What operates to produce the
contact? How does the far-away thing hit our organ of vision? This was to
the ancient philosopher a most difficult problem, a real mystery. He made
many guesses at a solution, but no guess which he could make satisfied
his judgment. Our answer is that an invisible and intangible substance
which we call ether—luminiferous ether—fills all space, even the space
occupied by visible objects, and that this ether which is capable of
amazing vibrations, billions of them a second, is set vibrating at
different velocities by different objects. These vibrations bombard the
minute rods and cones of the retina at the back of the eye and, presto,
we see now one color and now another, now one object and now another.
This ether would forever have remained unknown to us had not this
marvelous structure of the retina given it a chance to break through and
reveal itself. In many other ways, too, this ether breaks through into
revelation. It is responsible apparently for all the immensely varied
phenomena of electricity, probably, too, of cohesion and gravitation.
Here, again, the revelations remained inadequate and without clear
interpretation until we succeeded in constructing proper instruments and
devices for it to break through into active operation. The dynamo and
the other electrical mechanisms which we have invented do not make or
create electricity. They merely let it come through, showing itself now
as light, now as heat, now again as motive power. But always it was there
before, unnoted, merely potential, and yet a vast surrounding ocean of
energy there behind, ready to break into active operation when the medium
was at hand for it.

Life is another one of those strange mysteries that cannot be explained
until we realize that something more than we see is breaking through
matter and revealing itself. The living thing is letting through some
greater power than itself, something beyond and behind, which is needed
to account for what we see moving and acting with invention and purpose.
Matter of itself is no explanation of life. The same elemental stuff is
very different until it becomes the instrument of something not itself
which organizes it, pushes it upward and onward, and reveals itself
through it. Something has at length come into view which is more than
force and mechanism. Here is intelligent purpose and forward-looking
activity and something capable of variation, novelty, and surprise.
And when living substance has reached a certain stage of organization,
something higher still begins to break through—consciousness appears,
and on its higher levels consciousness begins to reveal truth and moral
goodness. It is useless to try to explain consciousness—especially
truth-bearing consciousness—as a function of the brain, for it cannot be
done. That way of explanation no more explains mind than the Ptolemaic
theory explains the movements of the heavenly bodies. Once more,
something breaks through and reveals itself, as surely as light breaks
through a prism and reveals itself in the band of spectral colors. This
consciousness of ours, as I have said, is not merely awareness, not only
intelligent response; it lays hold of and apprehends, i.e., reveals,
truth and goodness. What I think, when I really think, is not just
my private “opinion,” or “guess,” or “seeming”; it turns out to have
something universal and absolute about it. My multiplication-table is
everybody’s multiplication-table. It is true for me and for beyond me.
And what is true of my mathematics is also true of other features of my
thinking. When I properly organize my experience through rightly formed
concepts, I express aspects that are real and true for everybody—I attain
to something which can be called truth. The same way in the field of
conduct: I can discover not only what is subjectively right, but I can
go farther and embody principles which are right not only for me but for
every good man. Something more than a petty, tiny, private consciousness
is expressing itself through my personality. I am the organ of something
more than myself.

Perhaps more wonderful still is the way in which beauty breaks through.
It breaks through not only at a few highly organized points, it breaks
through almost everywhere. Even the minutest things reveal it as well
as do the sublimest things, like the stars. Whatever one sees through
the microscope, a bit of mould for example, is charged with beauty.
Everything from a dewdrop to Mount Shasta is the bearer of beauty. And
yet beauty has no function, no utility. Its value is intrinsic, not
extrinsic. It is its own excuse for being. It greases no wheels, it bakes
no puddings. It is a gift of sheer grace, a gratuitous largess. It must
imply behind things a Spirit that enjoys beauty for its own sake and
that floods the world everywhere with it. Wherever it can break through
it does break through, and our joy in it shows that we are in some sense
kindred to the giver and revealer of it.

Something higher and greater still breaks through and reveals a
deeper Reality than any that we see and touch. Love comes through—not
everywhere like beauty, but only where rare organization has prepared an
organ for it. Some aspects of love appear very widely, are, at least,
as universal as truth and moral goodness. But love in its full glory,
love in its height of unselfishness and with its passion of self-giving
is a rare manifestation. One person—the Galilean—has been a perfect
revealing organ of it. In his life it broke through with the same perfect
naturalness as the beam of light breaks through the prism of waterdrops
and reveals the rainbow. Love that understands, sympathizes, endures,
inspires, recreates, and transforms, broke through and revealed itself so
impressively that those who see it and feel it are convinced that here at
last the real nature of God has come through to us and stands revealed.
And St. Paul, who was absolutely convinced of this, went still further.
He held, with a faith buttressed in experience, that this same Christ,
who had made this demonstration of love, became after his resurrection
an invisible presence, a life-giving Spirit who could work and act as a
resident power within receptive, responsive, human spirits, and could
transform them into a likeness to himself and continue his revelation
of love wherever he should find such organs of revelation. If that, or
something like it, is true it is a very great truth. It was this that
good old William Dell meant when he said: “The believer is the only book
in which God himself writes his New Testament.”


II

CONQUERING BY AN INNER FORCE

There are few texts that have been more dynamic in the history of
spiritual religion than the one which forms the keynote of the message of
the little book of Habakkuk: “The righteous man lives by faith” (2:4). It
became the central feature of St. Paul’s message. It was the epoch-making
discovery in Luther’s experience, and it has always been the guiding
principle of Protestant Christianity.

The profound significance of the words is often missed because the text
is so easily turned into a phrase that is supposed just of itself to work
a kind of magic spell, and secondly because the meaning of “faith” is so
frequently misinterpreted. When we go back to the original experience out
of which the famous text was born we can get fresh light upon the heart
of its meaning. The little book begins with a searching analysis of the
conditions of the time. With an almost unparalleled boldness the prophet
challenges God to explain why the times are so badly out of joint, why
the social order is so topsy-turvy, and why injustice is allowed to run a
long course unchecked. God seems unconcerned with affairs—the moral pilot
appears not to be steering things.

Then comes a moment of mental relief. The prophet hits upon the
conclusion, arrived at by other prophets also, that God is about to use
the Chaldeans as a divine instrument to chastise the wicked element in
the nation, to right the wrongs of the disordered world, and to execute
judgment. But as he begins to reflect he becomes more perplexed than
ever. How can God, who is good, use such a terrible instrument for moral
purposes? This people, which is assumed to be an instrument of moral
judgment in a disordered world, is itself unspeakably perverse. It is
fierce and wolfish. Its only god is might. It cares only for success. It
catches men, like fish, in its great dragnet, and “then he sacrificeth
unto his net and burneth incense unto his drag.” How can such a pitiless
and insolent people, dominated by pride and love of conquest, be used to
work out the ends of righteousness and to act for God who is too pure
even to look upon that which is evil and wrong? Here the prophet finds
himself suddenly up against the ancient problem of the moral government
of the universe and the deep mystery of evil in it. He cannot untangle
the snarled threads of his skein. No solution of the mystery lies at
hand. He decides to climb up into his “watch-tower” and wait for an
answer from God. If it does not come at once, he proposes to stay until
it does come—“if it tarry, wait for it; it will surely come.” At length
the vision comes, so clear that a man running can read it. It is just
this famous discovery of the great text that a man cannot hope to get the
world-difficulties all straightened out to suit him, he cannot in some
easy superficial way justify the ways of God in the course of history;
but, at least, he can live unswervingly and victoriously by his own
soul’s insight, the insight of faith that God can be trusted to do the
right thing for the universe which he is steering. It is beautifully
expressed in a well-known stanza of Whittier’s:

    “I know not where His islands lift
    Their fronded palms in air;
    I only know I cannot drift
    Beyond His love and care.”

Many things remain unexplained. The mysteries are not all dissipated.
But I see enough light to enable me to hold a steady course onward, and
I have an inner confidence in God which nothing in the outward world can
shatter. This is the message from Habakkuk’s watch-tower: There is a
faith which goes so far into the heart of things that a man can live by
it and stand all the water-spouts which break upon him.

Josiah Royce once defined faith as an insight of the soul by which one
can stand everything that can happen to him, and that is what this text
means. You arrive at such a personal assurance of God’s character that
you can face any event and not be swept off your feet. If this is so,
it means that the most important achievement in a man’s career is the
attainment of just this inner vision, the acquisition of an interior
spiritual confidence which itself is the victory.

William James used often to close his lecture courses at Harvard with
what he called a “Faith-ladder.” Round after round it went up from a mere
possibility of hope to an inner conviction strong enough to dominate
action. He would begin with some human faith which outstrips evidence and
he would say of it: It is at least not absurd, not self-contradictory,
and, therefore, it might be true under certain conditions, in some kind
of a world which we can conceive. It may be true even in this world and
under existing conditions. It is fit to be true; it ought to be true. The
soul in its moment of clearest insight feels that it must be true. It
shall be true, then, at least for me, for I propose to act upon it, to
live by it, to stake my existence on it.

This watch-tower of Habakkuk is a similar faith-ladder. He sees no way
to explain why the good suffer, or to account for the catastrophes of
history, but at least he has found a faith in God which holds him like
adamant: “Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit
be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall
yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold and there shall
be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy
in the God of my salvation.... He will make me to walk upon mine high
places.” Faith like that is always contagious. The unshaken soul kindles
another soul who believes in his belief, and the torch goes from this man
on his watch-tower to St. Paul, and from him on to the great reformer,
and then to an unnamed multitude, who through their soul’s insight can
stand everything that may happen!


III

LIVING IN THE PRESENCE OF THE ETERNAL

Some time ago I received a letter from a young minister who was about to
settle for religious work in a large manufacturing town. He and I were
strangers to each other in the flesh but friends through correspondence,
and because we were kindred spirits he wrote to me to say: “I have before
me the great work of living in the eternal God and in a humanity toiling
in factories and shops. Oh, if I could only make the presence of the
Eternal real to myself and to my people!” Another minister, laboring in
a large suburb of New York City, also a stranger to me except through
correspondence, wrote to say that he was glad for every voice which
holds up before men the reality of the invisible Church and the idea of
the universal priesthood of believers. These letters coming within a
week—and they are samples of many similar ones—are signs of the times,
and show clearly that thoughtful men all about us are done with the husk
of religion and are devoting themselves to the heart of the matter. There
is a deep movement under way which touches all denominations and is
steadily preparing in our busy, hurrying, materialistic America a true
seed of the vital, spiritual religion that will later bear rich blossoms
and ripe harvest.

I want for the moment to return to the central desire of the young
minister, in the hope that it may inspire some of us, especially some of
our young ministers who are facing their new spiritual tasks: “I have
before me the great work of living in the eternal God and in a humanity
toiling in factories and shops. Oh, if I could only make the presence of
the Eternal real to myself and to them!”

It is perhaps a new idea to some that living in the eternal God is
“work.” We are so accustomed to the idea that all that is required of us
is a passive mind and a waiting spirit that we have never quite realized
this truth: No person can live in the eternal God unless he is ready for
the most intense activity and for the most strenuous life. Gladstone,
in his old age, surprised his readers with his impressive phrase, “the
work of worship.” The fact is, no man ever yet found his way into the
permanent enjoyment of God along paths of least resistance or by any lazy
methods. How many of us have been humiliated to discover, in the silence
or in the service, that nothing spiritual was happening within us. Our
mind, unbent and passive enough, was like a stagnant pool, or, if not
stagnant, was darting its feelers out and following in lazy fashion any
line of suggestion which pulled it. Instead of finding ourselves “living
in the eternal God” and in the high enjoyment of him, we catch ourselves
wondering what the next strike will be, or thinking about the mean and
shabby way some one spoke to us an hour ago! There is no use blaming a
mind because it wanders—everybody’s mind wanders—but the real achievement
is to make it wander in a region which ministers to our spiritual life;
and that can be done only by getting supremely interested in the things
of the Spirit. That is where the “work” lies; that is where the effort
comes in. Attention is always determined by the fundamental interest.
What we love supremely we attend to. It gets us, it holds us. One of the
colloquial phrases for being in love with a person is “paying attention
to” the person. It is a true phrase and goes straight to reality.
If we are to discover and enjoy the eternal Presence we must become
passionately earnest in spirit and glowing with love for the Highest.

My friend brings two important things together: He proposes to undertake
the work of living in the eternal God and in toiling humanity. The two
things go together and cannot be safely separated. It is in the actual
sharing of life through love and sympathy and sacrifice, in going out of
self to feel the problems and difficulties and sufferings of others, that
we find and form a life rich in higher interests and centered on matters
of eternal value. A man who has traveled through the deeps of life with
a fellow man comes to his hour of worship with a mind focused on the
Eternal and with a spirit girded for the inward wrestling, without which
blessings of the greater sort do not come. And every time such a man
finds himself truly at home in the eternal God and fed from within, he
can go out, with the strength of ten, to the tasks of toiling humanity.
This is one of those spiritual circles which work both ways: He that
dwells in God loves, and he that loves finds God, St. John tells us.

It is fine to see a strong man, trained in all his faculties, going to
his work with the quiet prayer: “Oh, that I may make the presence of the
Eternal real to myself and to my people.” It is a good prayer for all of
us.



CHAPTER IV

THE WAY OF VISION


I

DAYS OF GREATER VISIBILITY

From the porch of my little summer cottage in Maine I can see, across the
beautiful stretch of lake in the foreground, the far-distant Kennebago
Mountains in their veil of purple. But we see them only when all the
conditions of sky and air are absolutely right. Most of the time they
are wrapped in clouds or are lost in a dim haze. Our visitors admire
the lake, are charmed with the islands, the picturesque shore and the
surrounding hills, but they do not suspect the existence of this added
glory beyond the hills. We often tell them of the mountains “just over
there,” which come out into full view when the sky clears all the way
to the horizon and the wind blows fine from the northwest. They make a
casual remark about the sufficiency of what is already in sight, and go
their way in satisfied ignorance of the “beyond.”

Next day, perhaps—Oh wonder! The morning dawns with all the conditions
favorable for our distant view. The air is altogether right for far
visibility. The clouds are swept clean from the western rim, the blue is
utterly transparent—and there are the mountains! We wish our skeptical
visitors could be with us now. We guess that they would not easily
talk of the sufficiency of the near beauty, if they could once see the
overtopping glory of these mountains now fully unveiled and revealed.
Something like that, I feel sure, is true of God and of other great
spiritual realities which are linked with his being. Most of the time
we get on with the things that are near at hand; the things we see and
handle and are sure of. The world is full of utility and we do well to
appreciate what is there waiting to be used. There is always something
satisfying about beauty, and nature is very rich and lavish with it.
Friendship and love are heavenly gifts, and when these are added to the
other good things which the world gives us, it would seem, and it does
seem, to many that we ought to be satisfied and not be homesick for the
glory which lies beyond the horizon-line of the senses. I cannot help
it; my soul will not stay satisfied with this near-at-hand supply. A
discontent sweeps over me, an uncontrollable _Heimweh_—homesickness of
soul—surges up within me and I should be compelled to call the whole
scheme miserable failure, if the near, visible skyline were the real
boundary of all that is.

Sometimes—Oh joy! When the inward weather is just right; when selfish
impulse has been hushed; when the clouds and shadows, which sin makes,
are swept away and genuine love makes the whole inner atmosphere pure and
free from haze, then I know that I find a beyond which before was nowhere
in sight and might easily not have been suspected. I cannot decide
whether this extended range of sight is due to alterations in myself,
or whether it is due to some sudden increase of spiritual visibility in
the great reality itself. I only know the fact. Before, I was occupied
with things; now, I commune with God and am as sure of him as I am of the
mountains beyond my lake, which my skeptical visitor has not yet seen.

There can be no adequate world here for us without at least a faith in
the reality beyond the line of what we see with our common eyes. We have
times when we cannot live by bread alone, or by our increase of stocks;
when we lose our interest in cosmic forces and need something more
than the slow justice which history weighs out on its great judgment
days. We want to feel a real heart beating somewhere through things; we
want to discover through the maze a loving will working out a purpose;
we want to know that our costly loyalties, our high endeavors, and our
sacrifices which make the quivering flesh palpitate with pain, really
matter to Someone and fill up what is behind of his great suffering for
love’s sake. We can not get on here with substitutes; we must have the
reality itself. Religion is an awful farce if it is only a play-scheme, a
cinematograph-show, which makes one believe he is seeing reality when he
is, in fact, being fooled with a picture. We must at all costs insist on
the real things. It is God we want and not another, the real Face and not
a picture.

    “We needs must love the highest when we see it;
    Not Lancelot nor another.”

He is surely there to be seen, like my mountain. Days may pass when we
only hope and long and guess. Then the weather comes right, the veil
thins away and we see! It is, however, not a rare privilege reserved for
a tiny few. It is not a grudged miracle, granted only to saints who have
killed out all self. It belongs to the very nature of the soul to see
God. It is what makes life really life. It is as normal a function as
breathing or digestion. Only one must, of all things, intend to do it!


II

THE PROPHET AND HIS TRAGEDIES

There will always be in the world a vast number of persons who take the
most comfortable form of religion which their generation affords. They
are not path-breakers; they have nothing in their nature which pushes
them into the fields of discovery—they are satisfied with the religion
which has come down to them from the past. They accept what others have
won and tested, and are thankful that they are saved the struggle and the
fire which are involved in first-hand experience and in fresh discovery.

The prophet, on the contrary, in whatever age he comes, can never take
this easy course. He cannot rest contented with the forms of religion
which are accepted by others. He cannot enjoy the comforts of the calm
and settled faith which those around him inherit and adopt. His soul
forever hears the divine call to leave the old mountain and go forward,
to conquer new fields, to fight new battles, to restate his faith in
words that are fresh and vital, in terms of the deepest life of his time.
We used to think—many people still think—that a prophet is a foreteller
of future events, a kind of magical and miraculous person who speaks
as an oracle and who announces, without knowing how or why, far-off,
coming occurrences that are communicated to him. To think thus is to miss
the deeper truth of the prophet’s mission. He is primarily a religious
patriot, a statesman with a moral and spiritual policy for the nation.
He is a person who sees what is involved in the eternal nature of things
and therefore what the outcome of a course of life is bound to be. He
possesses an unerring eye for curves of righteousness or unrighteousness,
as the great artist has for lines of beauty and harmony, or as the great
mathematician has for the completing lines of a curve, involved in any
given arc of it. He is different from others, not in the fact that he
has ecstasies and lives in the realm of miracles, but rather that he has
a clearer conviction of God than most men have. He has found him as the
center of all reality. He reads and interprets all history in the light
of the indubitable fact of God, and he estimates life and deeds in
terms of moral and spiritual laws, which are as inflexible as the laws
of chemical atoms or of electrical forces. He looks for no capricious
results. He sees that this is a universe of moral and spiritual order.

If he is an Amos, he will refuse to fall in line with the easy worshipers
of his age, who are satisfied with the old-time religion of “burnt
offerings” and “meat offerings” and “peace offerings of fat beasts.” His
soul will cry out for a religion which makes a new moral and spiritual
man, “makes righteousness run down as a mighty stream,” and sets the
worshiper into new social relations with his fellows. If he is an Isaiah,
he will refuse “to tramp the temple” with the mass of easy worshipers;
he will have his own vision of “the Lord high and lifted up,” with his
glory filling not only the temple but the whole earth, and he will
dedicate himself to the task of preparing a holy people and a holy city
for this God who has been revealed to him as a thrice-holy God. If he is
a Jeremiah, he will not accept the view that the traditional religion of
Jerusalem is adequate for the crisis of the times. He will insist that
true religion must be inwardly experienced; that the law of God must be
written in the heart, and that the life of a man must be the living
fruit of his faith. He will cry out against the idea that the moral
wounds and spiritual sores of the daughter of Jerusalem can be healed
with easy salves and cheap panaceas.

The supreme example of this refusal to go along the easy line of
contemporary religion is that of One who was more than a prophet. His
people prided themselves on being the chosen people of the Lord. The
scribal leaders had succeeded in drawing up a complete and perfect
catalogue of religious performances. They supplied minute directions for
one’s religious duty in every detail, real or imaginary, of daily life,
and the world has never seen a more elaborate form of religion than this
of the Pharisees. But Christ refused to follow the path of custom; he
could not and he would not do the things which the scribes prescribed. He
broke a new path for the soul, and called men away from legalism and the
dead routine of “performances” to a life of individual faith and service,
which involves suffering and self-sacrifice, but which brings the soul
into personal relation with the living God.

St. Paul, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, a rabbinical scholar of the first
rank, a man rising stage by stage to fame along the path marked out by
the traditions of his people, came back from his eventful journey to
Damascus to take up the work of a path-breaker and to set himself like
a flint against the old-time religion in which he was born and reared.
Luther, a devout monk, an ambassador to the papal court, a professor of
scholastic theology, discovered that he could not find peace to his soul
along the path of the prevailing traditional religion, and he swung,
with all the fervor of his powerful nature, into a fresh track which
has blessed all ages since. These are some of the supreme leaders, but
every age has had its quota of minor prophets, who have heard the call to
leave the old mountain and go forward and who have fearlessly entered the
perilous and untried path of fresh vision. As we look back and see them
in the perspective of their successful mission to the race, we thank God
for their bravery and their valiant service, but we are apt to forget the
tragedies of their lives.

Nobody can enter a fresh path, or bring a new vision of the meaning of
life, or reinterpret old truths—in short, nobody can be a prophet—without
arousing the suspicion and, sooner or later, the bitter hatred of those
who are the keepers and guardians of the existing forms and traditions,
and the path-breaker must expect to see his old friends misunderstand
him, turn against him, and reproach him. He must endure the hard
experience of being called a destroyer of the very things he is giving
his life to build. Christ is, for example, hurried to the cross as a
blasphemer, and each prophet, in his degree, has had to hear himself
charged with being the very opposite of what he really is in heart and
life. To be a prophet at all he must be a sensitive soul, and yet he must
live and work in a pitiless rain of misunderstanding and attack. Still
more tragic, perhaps, is the necessity which the prophet is under of
doing his hard tasks without living to see the triumphant results. He is,
naturally, ahead of his time—a path-breaker—and his contemporaries are
always slow to discover and to realize what he is doing. Even those who
love him and appreciate him only half see his true purpose, and thus he
feels alone and solitary, though he may be in the thick of the throng.
It is only when he is long dead and the mists have cleared away that he
is called a prophet and comes to his true place. While he lived he was
sure of only one Friend who completely understood him and approved of his
course, and that was his invisible and heavenly Friend. But in spite of
the tragedy and the pain and the hard road, the prophet, “seeing him who
is invisible,” prefers to all other paths, however easy and popular, the
path of his vision and call.


III

A LONG DISTANCE CALL

Just when life seems peculiarly crowded with items of complexity and
importance, the telephone rings a determined, significant kind of ring.
This is evidently no ordinary passing-the-time-of-day affair. I interrupt
my weighty concerns and take up the receiver with expectation. I say
“Hello!” but there is no answer, no human recognition. The wire hums and
buzzes, instruments click far away, plugs are pulled out and pushed in.
Little tiny scraps of remote, inane, unintelligible conversation between
unknown mortals furnish the only evidence I get that there is any human
purpose going forward in this strange world inside the telephone system
where I can see nothing happening.

Suddenly a voice which is evidently hunting for me breaks in: “Is this
Mr. ——?” “Yes.” “Hold the wire, please.” I am led on with increasing
interest and confidence. Somebody somewhere miles away in this invisible
world of electrical connections is seeking for me. I forget the
multitudinous problems that were besieging me when the telephone first
rang, and I listen with suppressed breath and strained muscles. All I
get, however, is an immense confusion. There is no coherence or order to
anything that reaches me. Faint and far away in some still remoter center
than at first I hear clicks and buzzes, vague unmeaning noises, and the
dull thud of shifting plugs that connect the lines. Once more a kindly
voice breaks in on the confusion, a voice seeking after me from some
distant city: “Is this Mr. ——?” “Yes.” “Wait a minute.”

I do wait a minute as patiently as I can. I dimly feel that we are
plunging out into yet remoter space, and that I am being connected up
with the person who all the time has been seeking me. A low hum of
the far-away wire is all I get to repay me for the long wait. I grow
impatient. I shout “Hello!” “Is anybody there?” “Do you want me?” Not a
word comes back, only endless, empty murmurs of people who have found one
another and are talking so far off that the sense is lost in the mere
broth of sounds. This dull world inside the telephone seems to be a mad
world of noise and confusion but no substance, no real correspondence. I
am on the verge of giving the whole business up and of returning to my
interrupted tasks, which at least were rational.

Suddenly a voice breaks in, this time a voice I know and recognize. The
person who had been seeking me all the time, across these spaces and
over this network of interlaced wires, calls me by name, speaks words of
insight and intelligence, and gives me a message which moves me deeply
and raises the whole tone of my spirit. When finally I “hang up” and
return to the things in hand, I have renewed my strength and can work
with clearer head and faster pace. The pause has been like a pause in
a piece of music. It has been full of significance, and it has helped
toward a higher level.

Something like this telephone experience happens in another and very
different sphere—a sphere where there are no wires. In the hush and
silence, when the conditions are right for it, it often seems as
though some one were trying to communicate with us, seeking for actual
correspondence with us. We turn from the din and turmoil of busy efforts
and listen for the voice. We listen intently and we hear—our own heart
beating. We feel the strain of our muscles across the chest. We push back
a little deeper and try again. We feel the tension of the skin over the
forehead and we note that we are pulling the eyeballs up and inward for
more concentrated meditation. All the muscles of the scalp are drawn
and we notice them perhaps for the first time. Strange little bits of
thought flit across the threshold of the mind. We catch glimpses of dim
ideas knocking at the windows for admission to the inner domain where
we live. Then, all of a sudden, we succeed in pushing further back. We
forget our strained muscles and are unconscious of the corporeal bulk of
ourselves. We get in past the flitting thoughts and the procession of
ideas contending for entrance. The track seems open for the Someone who
is seeking us no less certainly than we are seeking him. If we do not
hear our name called, and do not hear distinctly a message in well-known
words, we do at least feel that we have found a real Presence and have
received fresh vital energy from the creative center of life itself, so
that we come back to action, after our pause, restored, refreshed, and
“charged” with new force to live by.

Some time ago a long distance call came to my telephone and I went
through all the stages of waiting and of confusion and finally heard the
clear voice calling me, but I could not get any answer back. I heard
perfectly across the five hundred intervening miles, but my correspondent
never got a single clear word from me. We found that something was wrong
with our transmitter. The connection was good, the line was pervious, the
seeking voice was at the other end, but I did not succeed in transmitting
what ought to have been said. Here is where most of us fail in this other
sphere—this inner wireless sphere—we are poor transmitters. We make the
connection, we receive the gift of grace, we are flooded with the incomes
of life and power and we freely take, but we do not give. We absorb and
accumulate what we can, but we transmit little of all that comes to us.
Our radius of out-giving influence is far too small. We need, on the one
hand, to listen deeper, to get further in beyond the tensions and the
noises, but on the other hand we need to be more radio-active, better
transmitters of the grace of God.



CHAPTER V

THE WAY OF PERSONALITY


I

ANOTHER KIND OF HERO

A generation ago almost everybody read, at least once, Carlyle’s great
book on heroes. He gave us the hero as prophet, as priest, as poet,
as king, and he made us realize that these heroes have been the real
makers of human society. I should like to add a chapter on another kind
of hero, who has, perhaps, not done much to build cities and states and
church systems, but who has, almost more than anybody else, shown us the
spiritual value of endurance—I mean the hero as invalid.

It is the hardest kind of heroism there is to achieve. Most of us know
some man—too often it is oneself—who is a very fair Christian when he is
in normal health and absorbed in interesting work, who carries a smooth
forehead and easily drops into a good-natured smile, but who becomes
“blue” and irritable and a storm center in the family weather as soon
as the bodily apparatus is thrown out of gear. Most of us have had a
taste of humiliation as we have witnessed our own defeat in the presence
of some thorn in the flesh, which stubbornly pricked us, even though we
prayed to have it removed and urged the doctor to hurry up and remove it.

What a hero, then, must he be, who, with a weak and broken body, a
prey to pain and doomed to die daily, learns how to live in calm faith
that God is good and makes his life a center of cheer and sunshine!
The heroism of the battlefield and the man-of-war looks cheap and thin
compared with this. We could all rally to meet some glorious moment
when a trusted leader shouted to us, “Your country expects you to do
your duty!” But to drag on through days and nights, through weeks and
months, through recurring birthdays, with vital energy low, with sluggish
appetite, with none of that ground-swell of superfluous vigor which makes
healthy life so good, and still to prove that life is good and to radiate
joy and triumph—that is the very flower and perfume of heroism. If we
are making up a bead-roll of heroes, let us put at the top the names of
those quiet friends of ours who have played the man or revealed the woman
through hard periods of invalidism and have exhibited to us the fine
glory of a courageous spirit.

One of the hardest and most difficult features to bear is the inability
to work at one’s former pace and with the old-time constructive power.
The prayer of the Psalmist that his work, the contribution of his life,
might be preserved is very touching: “Establish thou the work of our
hands upon us, yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” What can be
more tragic than the cry of Othello: “My occupation is gone!” So long as
the hand keeps its cunning and the mind remains clear and creative, one
can stand physical handicap and pain, but when the working power of mind
or body is threatened, then the test of faith and heroism indeed arrives.

A man whose life meant much to me and whose intimacy was very precious
to me made me see many years ago how wonderfully this test could be
met. He was a great teacher, the head of a distinguished boys’ school.
He was experiencing the full measure of success, and his influence over
his boys was extraordinary. He realized, as his work went on, that his
hearing was becoming dull and was steadily failing. He went to New York
and consulted a famous specialist. After making a careful examination the
specialist said, with perfect frankness: “Your case is hopeless. Nothing
can be done to check the disaster. You are hard of hearing already, but
in a very short time you will have no hearing at all.” Without a quaver
the teacher said: “Don’t you think, doctor, that I shall hear Gabriel’s
trumpet when it blows!” He went back to his school, learned to read lips,
reorganized his life, accepted without a murmur his loss of a major
sense, and finished his splendid career of work in an undefeated spirit
and with a grace and joy which were envied by many persons in possession
of all their powers.

All my readers will think of some “star player” in this hard game of
patience and endurance, and will have watched with awe and reverence the
glorious fight of some of those unrecorded heroes who won but got no
valor medal. The only person who ranks higher in the scale of heroism
than the hero as invalid is possibly the person who patiently, lovingly
nurses and cares for some invalid through years of decline and suffering.
Generally, though not always, it is a woman. Not seldom she is called
upon to consecrate her life to the task, and often she gives what is much
more precious than life itself. We build no monuments to daughters who
unmurmuringly forego the joy of married life, who refuse the suit of
love in order to be free to ease the closing years of father or mother,
grown helpless; but where is there higher consecration or finer heroism?
Men sometimes complain that the days of chivalry and heroism are past. On
the contrary, they are more truly dawning. As Christianity ripens love
grows richer and deeper, and where love appears heroism is always close
at hand. Our best heroes are mothers and wives and daughters, fathers and
husbands and sons.


II

THE BETTER POSSESSION

During one of the intense persecutions by which an early Roman emperor
harried the Christians of the first century, some unknown writer (Harnack
thinks It was a woman) wrote an extraordinary little book to hearten
those who were undergoing the trial of their faith. I mean, of course,
the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is marked by rare genius and by undoubted
inspiration. It is full of vital messages and it contains passages of
great power. Just before the most loved section of the little book—the
account of the faith-heroes—the author, in a passage open to a variety
of translations, refers to the fact that those to whom he is writing
have suffered, and have suffered joyfully, the spoiling of their
possessions, “knowing,” he says, “that you have your own selves for a
better possession”—you yourselves are a better possession than any of
those goods which you have lost for your faith.

I wonder if the readers fully realized the truth, or if we should to-day
realize it had we suffered a similar stripping. We are very slow to take
account of that type of stock. We are very keen about our own assets,
but we often fail to prize this supreme ownership, the possession of
ourselves. There is a story, both sad and amusing, of an insane man who
was seen wildly rushing about the house, from room to room, looking in
cupboards and clothes-presses, crawling under beds, obviously searching
for something. When questioned as to what he was so frantically looking
for, he replied, “I am trying to find my self!” It is not as mad as it
seems. I am not sure but that we who are not trying to find ourselves are
after all more crazy still.

Old Burton, who wrote _The Anatomy of Melancholy_, well said:

    “Men look to their tools; a painter will wash his pencils; a
    smith will look to his hammer, anvil, and forge; a husbandman
    will mend his plow-irons and grind his hatchet, if it be dull;
    a musician will string and unstring his lute; only scholars
    neglect that instrument, their brains and spirits I mean, which
    they daily use.”

Not scholars only, but all classes and conditions of men are guilty
of this strange insanity. If the Duke of Westminster should offer to
transfer to us his estates, we would rush with all conceivable speed to
acquire our new potential possessions. We would go as with wings of an
aeroplane to get the transaction accomplished before anything could occur
to keep us from entering into our fortune. But here we are already within
reach of a vastly better possession, of which we are strangely negligent.
If it came to a choice between himself and his outward possessions, this
duke who owns so much would not hesitate a minute which to prefer. If in
a crisis of illness he could save himself by surrender of his goods, they
would instantly go. “Give me health and a day,” Emerson said, “and I will
make the pomp of emperors ridiculous.”

What we would do in a crisis we often fail to do when no crisis confronts
us, and it is a fact that too often we miss and even squander that
better possession, ourselves. The best way to win it and enjoy it is
to cultivate those inner experiences and endowments which make us
independent of external fortune. All Christ’s beatitudes attach to some
inherent quality of life itself. The meek, the merciful, the pure, are
“happy,” not because the external world conforms to their wishes, but
because they have resources of life within themselves and have entered
upon a way of life which continually opens out into more life and richer
life. They have found a kind of Canaan that “comes” in continuous
instalments.

One of the simplest ways to heighten the total value of life is to form
a habit of appreciating the world we have here and now. It presents
occasional inconveniences, no doubt, but think of the amazing donations
which come to us: the tilting of the earth’s axis twenty-three and a
half degrees to the ecliptic by which contrivance we have our seasons;
the fact that the proportion of earth and water is just right to give
us a fine balance of rain and sunshine; the extraordinary way in which
the entire universe submits to our mathematics so that every movement of
matter and every vibration of ether conforms to laws which we formulate;
the accumulation and storage of fuel and motor power, with the prospect
of even greater resources of energy to be had from the unoccupied space
surrounding the earth. Then, again, it cannot be a matter of unconcern
that there is such a wealth of beauty lavished upon us everywhere,
waiting for us to enjoy it. There is here a strange fit between the outer
and the inner. The more one draws upon the beauty of the world and enjoys
it, so much the more does he increase his capacity to discover and enjoy
beauty. Coal and oil may become exhausted, but beauty is inexhaustible.
The only trouble is that we are so limited in our range of appreciation
of it. We turn to cheaper values and miss so much of this free gift of
loveliness.

Greater still should be our resources of love and friendship. Nothing
could be stranger or more wonderful than that in a world where struggle
for existence is the law this other trait should have emerged. It is
easy to explain selfishness; love is the mystery. Love forgets itself;
it scorns double-entry bookkeeping; it gives, it bestows, it shares, it
sacrifices without asking whether anything is coming back. And it turns
out to be a fact that nothing else so enhances and increases the value of
this “better possession which is ourselves.”

Even more wonderful, if that is possible, is the way we are formed
and contrived to have intercourse with the Eternal. With all our
material furnishings we strangely open out into the infinite and
partake of a spiritual nature. God has set eternity in our hearts. We
cannot win this better possession nor hold it permanently unless we
exercise these spiritual capacities, which expand our being and add the
richest qualities of life. “Thou hast made us for thyself,” Augustine
acknowledged in his great prayer at the opening of the _Confessions_ and
“we are restless until we find thee as our true rest.” It is as true now
as in the fourth century. Barns and houses, lands and stocks, mortgages
and bonds, do not constitute life unless one learns how to win and
possess his soul and to keep that best of all possessions—himself.


III

THE GREATEST RIVALRIES OF LIFE

“After experience had taught me that all things which are encountered in
human life are vain and futile.... I at length determined to inquire if
there was anything which was a true good.” Those are the words of a great
philosopher who says that he found himself “led by the hand up to the
highest blessedness.”

Not everybody finds the choice of ends so easy as Spinoza did; not all of
us are carried along into sustained and unmistakable blessedness. Life
is full of rivalries which tend to divide our interest and to dissipate
our attention. We wake up, perhaps, with surprise to discover that we
are being carried, by the hand or by the hair, straight away from “the
highest blessedness.” Not seldom the sternest tragedies of human life are
occasioned by success. Failure overtaking one in his aim will often shake
him awake and make him see that he was pursuing an end in sharp rivalry
with his highest good. But success often dulls the vision for other
issues and gives one the specious confidence that he is on the right
track and “all’s well.”

Christ has a vivid parable which touches upon the rivalries of life. It
is the story of a great feast to which many guests are invited. When
the critical moment for the dinner comes the other rivalries begin to
operate. One man, attracted by his possessions, “begs off,” to use the
graphic phrase of the original. Another, occupied with the complex
interests of business and busy with the affairs of trade, prays to be
excused. A third is immersed in the joys and responsibilities of married
life and he abruptly dispatches his “regrets.” It was not that they were
unconcerned about the sumptuous feast, but that they were carried along
by rival interests.

The feast in this parable plainly stands for the “true good,” the
“highest blessedness” of life. It symbolizes the goal and crown of life,
the full realization of our best human possibilities, the attainment of
that for which we were made aspiring beings. The invitation is a mark
of amazing grace and the recipient of it has the clearest evidence that
the feast would satisfy him. But there are the other things with their
rival attractions! Possessions and business and domestic life pull us in
a contrary direction. We send our cards of regret and beg off from the
great feast.

The real mistake lies in treating these things as rivals. If we only
knew it, an affirmative response to the great invitation of life would
prepare us for all the other things and would heighten the value of all
we own, of all we do, and of all we love. Salvation is not some remote
and ghostly thing that has to do with another world. It is the infusion
of new life and power into all the concerns and affairs of this present
world where we are. It means, as Christ said, receiving “a hundredfold
now in this time, houses and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and
children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal
life.”

Nothing could be a more mistaken way than to regard human love as a
rival to the highest of all relations, the love of the soul for God.
One of the medieval saints said: “God brooks no rival”; but that phrase
shows that the saint was caught napping, and in any case did not quite
understand what love is. The way up to the highest love is not to be
found by turning away from those experiences which give us training
and preparation for the highest; but rather it is found in and through
the experience of loving some person who, however imperfectly, is a
revelation of the beauty and divineness of love. Not by some sheer leap
from the earth does the soul arrive at its height of blessedness, but by
steps and stages, by processes which bring illumination and richness of
life. The man who has married a wife will do well to say when he answers
the great invitation: “I have just married a wife and therefore I am
peculiarly glad to come to thy feast, since fellowship with thee will
make my love more real and true as that in turn will enable me to rise to
a more genuine appreciation of thy love.”

The same is true of houses and lands, of business and trade. There is no
necessary rivalry here. Religion does not rob us of earthly interests,
it does not strip us of the good things of this world. It only corrects
our perspective and enables us to see the true scale of values. The
trivial and fragmentary things of the world no longer absorb us. We
refuse now to allow them to own us and drive us, or drag us. We see
things steadily and we see them whole. We discover through our higher
contacts and inspirations how to flood light back upon our occupations
and upon the things we own, and how to make these subordinate things
minister to the higher functions and attitudes of life. We get not some
other world, but this world here and now transmuted and raised a little
nearer to the ideal and perfect world of our hopes and dreams. We get it
back item for item increased a hundredfold, raised to a higher spiritual
level. The wise owner of property and the intelligent man of affairs will
not beg off when the great invitation comes to him. He will say: “I have
just come into possession of a piece of land, I have bought five yoke
of oxen, and therefore I want to come to thy divine feast so that I may
learn how to turn all I possess into the channels of real service and to
make these things which thou hast given me help me find the way to the
highest joy and blessedness of life.”



CHAPTER VI

AGENCIES OF CONSTRUCTION


I

THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD

We have all been asking, “What is the matter with the Church? Why is it
so weak and ineffective? Why does it exercise such a feeble influence
in the world to-day? Why do men care so little for its message and its
mission?” There are no doubt many answers to these questions, but one
answer concerns us here. It is this: We who compose the Church do not
sufficiently realize that God is a living God and that the Church is
intended to be the living body through which he works in the world and
through which he reveals himself. We think of him as far away in space
and remote in time, a God who created once and who worked wonders in
ancient times long past, but we do not, as we should, vividly think of
him as a living reality, as near to us as the air is to the flying bird
or the water to the swimming fish. We suppose that the Church is made
up of just people, and is a human convenience for getting things done in
the world. We do not see as we should that it is meant to be both divine
and human and that it never is properly a Church unless God lives in it,
reveals himself by means of it and works his spiritual work in the world
through it.

This truth of the real Presence breaks through many of Christ’s great
sayings and was one of the most evident features of the experience of the
early Church. “Wherever in all the world two or three shall gather in my
name there am I in the midst of them.” “Lo, I am with you always, even
unto the end of the world.” “Wherever there is one alone,” according to
the newly found “saying” of Jesus, “I am with him. Raise the stone and
there thou shalt find me; cleave the wood and there am I.”

Not once alone was the early Church invaded by a life and power from
beyond itself as at Pentecost. The consciousness which characterized this
“upper room” experience was repeated in some degree wherever a Church
of the living God came into existence, as “a tiny island in a sea of
surrounding paganism.” To belong to the Church meant to St. Paul to be
“joined to the Lord in one spirit,” while the Church itself in his great
phrase is the body of Christ and each individual a member in particular
of that body.

What a difference it would make if we could rise to the height of St.
Paul’s expectation and be actually “builded together for an habitation
of God through the Spirit!” We try plenty of other expedients. We
popularize our message; we take up fads; we adjust as far as we can to
the tendencies of the time; but only one thing really works after all and
that is having the Church become the organ of the living God, and having
it “charged” with what Paul so often calls the power of God—“the power
that worketh in us.”

I saw a car wheel recently that had been running many miles with the
brake clamped tight against it. It was white hot and it glowed with
heat and light until it seemed almost transparent in its extraordinary
luminosity. Those Christians in the upper room at Pentecost were baptized
with fire so that the whole personality of each of them was glowing with
heat and light, for the fire had gone all through them. They suddenly
became conscious that their divine Leader who was no longer visible
with them had become an invisible presence and a living power working
through them. It is no wonder that all Jerusalem and its multitudinous
sojourners were at once awakened to the fact that something novel had
happened.

Our controversies which have divided us have been controversies about
things out at the periphery, not about realities at the heart and center.
We disagree about baptism, and we are at variance over problems of
organization, ministry, and ordination, but the thing that really matters
is the depth of conviction, consciousness of God, certainty of communion
and fellowship with the Spirit. These experiences unite and never divide.

There is after all, in spite of all our gaps and chasms, only one Church.
It is the Church of the living God. We are named with many names. We bear
the sign of a particular denomination, but if we belong truly to the
Church, then we belong to the great Church of the living God. It is built
upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself
being the chief cornerstone, in whom the building, fitly framed together,
grows into an holy temple in the Lord. This is “the blessed community,”
the living, expanding fellowship of vital faith, and it has the promise
of the future, whether conferences on “faith and order” succeed or not,
because it is the Church of the living God.


II

THE NURSERY OF SPIRITUAL LIFE

We are coming more and more to realize that religion attaches to the
simple, elemental aspects of our human life. We shall not look for it in
a few rare, exalted, and so-called “sacred” aspects of life, separated
off from the rest of life and raised to a place apart. Religion to be
real and vital must be rooted in life itself and it must express itself
through the whole life. It should begin, where all effective education
must begin, in the home, which should be the nursery of spiritual life.

The Christian home is the highest product of civilization; in fact there
is nothing that can be called civilization where the home is absent. The
savage is on his way out of savagery as soon as he can create a home and
make family life at all sacred. The real horror of the “slums” in our
great cities is that there are no homes there, but human beings crowded
indiscriminately into one room. It is the real trouble with the “poor
whites” whether in the South or in the North that they have failed to
preserve the home as a sacred center of life.

One of the first services of the foreign missionary is to help to
establish homes among the people whom he hopes to Christianize. In short,
the home is the true unit of society. It determines what the individual
shall be; it shapes the social life; it makes the Church possible; it is
the basis of the state and nation. A society of mere individual units is
inconceivable. Men and women, each for self, and with no holy center for
family life, could never compose either a Church or a State.

Christianity has created the home as we know it, and that is its highest
service to the world, for the kingdom of heaven would be realized if
the Christian home were universal. The mother’s knee is still the
holiest place in the world; and the home life determines more than all
influences combined what the destiny of the boy or girl shall be. The
formation of disposition and early habits of thought and manner as well
as the fundamental emotions and sentiments do more to shape and fix the
permanent character than do any other forces in the world.

We may well rejoice in the power of the Sunday school, the Christian
ministry, the secular school, the college, the university; but all
together they do not measure up to the power of the homes which are
silently, gradually determining the future lives of those who will
compose the Sunday school, the Church, the school, and the college.

The woman who is successful in making a true home, where peace and love
dwell, in which the children whom God gives her feel the sacredness and
holy meaning of life, where her husband renews his strength for the
struggles and activities of his life, and in which all unite to promote
the happiness and highest welfare of each other—that woman has won the
best crown there is in this life, and she has served the world in a
very high degree. The union of man and woman for the creation of a home
breathing an atmosphere of love is Christ’s best parable of the highest
possible spiritual union where the soul is the bride and he is the
Eternal Bridegroom, and they are one.

It seems strange that these vital matters are so little emphasized or
regarded. Few things in fact are more ominous than the signs of the
disintegration of the home as a nursery of spiritual life. We can,
perhaps, weather catastrophes which may break down many of our ancient
customs and even obliterate some of the institutions which now seem
essential to civilization; but the home is a fundamental necessity for
true spiritual nurture and culture, and if it does not perform its
function the world will drift on toward unspeakable moral disasters.


III

THE DEMOCRACY WE AIM AT

Democracy was in an earlier period only a political aim; it has now
become a deep religious issue. It must be discussed not only in caucuses
and conventions, but in churches as well. For a century and a quarter
“democracy” has been a great human battle word, and battle words never
have very exact definitions. It has all the time been charged with
explosive forces, and it has produced a kind of magic spell on men’s
minds during this long transitional period. But the word democracy has,
throughout this time, remained fluid and ill-defined—sometimes expressing
the loftiest aspirations and sometimes serving the coarse demagogue in
his pursuit of selfish ends.

The goal or aim of the early struggle after democracy was the overthrow
of human inequalities. Men were thought of in terms of individual
units, and the units were declared to be intrinsically equal. The
contention was made that they all had, or ought to have, the same rights
and privileges. This equality-note has, too, dominated the social and
economic struggles of the last seventy-five years. The focus has been
centered upon rights and privileges. Men have been thought of, all along,
as individual units, and the goal has been conceived in political and
economic terms. Democracy is still supposed, in many quarters, to be an
organization of society in which the units have equal political rights.
Much of the talk concerning democracy is still in terms of privileges.
It is a striving to secure opportunities and chances. The aim is the
attainment of a social order in which guarantee is given to every
individual that he shall have his full economic and political rights.

I would not, in the least, belittle the importance of these claims,
or underestimate the human gains which have been made thus far in the
direction of greater equality and larger freedom. But these achievements,
however valuable, are not enough. They can only form the base from which
to start the drive for a more genuine and adequate type of democracy. At
its best this scheme of “equality” is abstract and superficial. Nobody
will ever be satisfied with an achievement of flat equality. Persons can
never be reduced to homogeneous units. There are individual differences
woven into the very fiber of human life, and no type of democracy can
ever satisfy men like us until it gets beyond this artificial scheme and
learns to deal with the problem in more adequate fashion.

A genuinely Christian democracy such as the religious soul is after can
not be conceived in economic terms, nor can it be content with social
units of equality or sameness. We want a democracy that is vitally and
spiritually conceived, which recognizes and safeguards the irreducible
uniqueness of every member of the social whole. This means that we can
not deal with personal life in terms of external behavior. We can not
think of society as an aggregation of units possessing individual rights
and privileges. We shall no longer be satisfied to regard persons as
beings possessing utilitarian value or made for economic uses. We shall
forever transcend the instrumental idea. We shall begin rather with
the inalienable fact of spiritual worth as the central feature of the
personal life. This would mean that every person, however humble or
limited in scope or range, has divine possibilities to be realized; is
not a “thing” to be used and exploited, but a spiritual creation to be
expanded until its true nature is revealed. The democracy I want will
treat every human person as a unique, sacred, and indispensable member
of a spiritual whole, a whole which remains imperfect if even one of
its “little ones” is missing; and its fundamental axiom will be the
liberation and realization of the inner life which is potential in every
member of the human race.

On the economic and equality level we never reach the true conception
of personal life. Men are thought of as units having desires, needs,
and wants to be satisfied. We are, on this basis, aiming to achieve a
condition in which the desires, wants, and needs are well met, in which
each individual contributes his share of supplies to the common stock of
economic values, and receives in turn his equitable amount. I am dealing,
on the other hand, with a way of life which begins and ends, not with a
material value-concept at all, but rather with a central faith in the
intrinsic worth and infinite spiritual possibilities of every person in
the social organism—a democracy of spiritual agents.

It is true, no doubt, as Shylock said, that we all have “eyes, hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions,” are “subject to
diseases,” and “warmed and cooled by summer and winter.” “If you prick
us we bleed, if you tickle us we laugh, if you poison us we die,” and so
on. We do surely have wants and needs. We must consider values. We must
have food and clothes and houses. We must have some fair share of the
earth and its privileges. But that is only the basement and foundation
of real living, and we want a democracy that is supremely concerned with
the development of personality and with the spiritual organization of
society. We shall not make our estimates of persons on a basis of their
uses, or on the ground of their behavior as animal beings; we shall
live and work, if we are Christ’s disciples, in the faith that man is
essentially a spiritual being, in a world which is essentially spiritual,
and that we are committed to the task of awakening a like faith in others
and of helping realize an organic solidarity of persons who practice
this faith. Our rule of life would be something like the following: to
act everywhere and always as though we knew that we are members of a
spiritual community, each one possessed of infinite worth, of irreducible
uniqueness, and indispensable to the spiritual unity of the whole—a
community that is being continually enlarged by the faith and action of
those who now compose it, and so in some measure being formed by our
human effort to achieve a divine ideal.

The most important service we can render our fellow men is to awaken
in them a real faith in their own spiritual nature and in their own
potential energies, and to set them to the task of building the ideal
democracy in which personality is treated as sacred and held safe from
violation, infringement, or exploitation, and, more than that, in which
we altogether respect the worth and the divine hopes inherent in our
being as men.


IV

THE ESSENTIAL TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY

There are few questions more difficult to answer than the question, What
is Christianity? Every attempt to answer it reveals the peculiar focus of
interest in the mind of the writer, but it leaves the main question still
asking for a new answer.

“Always it asketh, asketh,” and each answer, to say the least, is
inadequate. Harnack, Loisy, and Tolstoy have given three characteristic
answers to the great question. Their books are touched with genius and
will long continue to be read, but, like the other books, they, too,
reveal the writers rather than solve the central problem.

One of the greatest difficulties about the whole matter is the difficulty
of deciding where to look for the essential traits of Christianity.
Are they to be found in the teaching of Jesus? Are they revealed in
the message of St. Paul? Are they embodied in the Messianic hope? Are
they exhibited in the primitive apostolic Church? Are they set forth
in the great creeds of orthodoxy? Are they expressed in the imperial
authoritative Church? Are they to be discovered in the Protestantism
of the modern world? This catalogue of preliminary questions shows how
complicated the subject really is. To start in on any one of these lines
would be of necessity to arrive at a partial and one-sided answer.

Nowhere can we find pure and unalloyed Christianity; always we have
it mixed and combined with something else, more or less foreign to
it. The creeds contain a larger element of Greek philosophy than of
the pure original gospel. The Messianic hope is far more Jewish than
it is “Christian.” The imperial authoritative Church is Christianity
interpreted through the Roman genius for organization and merged
and fused with the age-long faiths and customs of pagan peoples.
Protestantism is an amazingly complex blend of ideas and ideals and
everywhere interwoven with the long processes of history. Even this did
not drop from the sky ready-made! Nor did St. Paul’s message flash in
upon him with the Damascus vision, as a pure heaven-presented truth. It
proves to be a very difficult task to find one’s way back to the pure,
unalloyed teaching of Jesus, and, strangely enough, the moment one
endeavors to constitute this by itself “Christianity,” and undertakes to
turn it into a set of commands and to make it a “new law,” he ends with a
dry legalism and not a vital, universal Christianity.

What, then, is Christianity? In answering this question we can not
confine ourselves to the teaching and the work of Jesus. Important as it
is to go “back to Jesus” that is not enough. We can not fully comprehend
the meaning of Christianity until we take into account the fact that
the invisible, resurrected Christ is the continuation through the ages
of the same revelation begun in the life and teaching of Jesus. Galilee
and Judea mark only one stage of the gospel, which is, in its fullness,
an eternal gospel. The Christian revelation which came to light first
in one Life—its master interpretation and incarnation—has since been
going forward in a continuous and unbroken manifestation of Christ
through many lives and through many groups and through the spiritual
achievements of all those who have lived by him. Christianity is, thus,
the revelation of God through personal life—God humanly revealed. St.
Paul and the writer of the Fourth Gospel were the first to reach this
profound insight into its fuller meaning, though it is plainly suggested
in some of the sayings of Jesus and in the pentecostal experiences of the
first Christians. It is the very heart of the Pauline and the Johannine
Christianity. Important as is the backward look to Jesus in both these
writers, the central emphasis is unmistakably upon the inward experience
of the invisible, spiritual Christ. This is the expectation in the Fourth
Gospel: Greater things than these shall ye do when the Spirit comes upon
you. This is the mystery, the secret of the gospel, St. Paul says, Christ
in you.

If this is the right clew, Christianity is not a new law, nor an
institution, nor a creed, nor a body of doctrine, nor a millennial
hope. It is a type of life, it is a way of living. The most essential
thing about it is the fact of the incursion of God into human life,
the revelation of the eternal in the midst of time, the new discovery
which it brought of God’s nature and character. We nowhere else come so
close to the essential truth of Christianity as we do in the life and
experience of Jesus. The life at every point floods over and transcends
the teaching. He is the most complete and adequate exhibition of what I
have called the incursion of God into human life, but even so he is the
beginning, not the end, of the revelation of God through humanity—the
Christ-revelation of God—and this Christ-revelation of God _is_ God, so
far as he is at all adequately known.

Some persons talk as though God were a kind of composite Being, got by
adding up the God of the natural order, the God of the Old Testament,
and the God as Father about whom Jesus taught. He is, according to this
scheme, in some way a compound aggregate of infinite power, irresistible
justice, and eternal love. Sometimes one “attribute” is predominant,
and sometimes another, while in some mysterious way all the dissonant
attributes get “reconciled.” This is surely boggy ground to build upon.

Christianity is essentially, I should say, a unique revelation of God.
Here for the first time the race discovers that God identifies himself
with humanity, is in the stream of it, is suffering with us, is in
moral conflict with sin and evil, is conquering through the travail
and tragedy of finite persons, and is eternally, in mind and heart and
will, a God of triumphing Love. No texts adequately “prove” this mighty
truth. We cannot tie it down to “sayings,” though there are “sayings”
which declare it. The life of Jesus, the supreme decisions through which
he expresses his purpose, the spirit which dominates him and guides his
decisive actions, make the truth plain that God meant _that_ to him and
that his way of life revealed that kind of God.

Through all the fusions and confusions of history and through all the
vagaries of man’s tortuous course since the Church began to be built,
Christ as eternal Spirit has gone on revealing this truth about God and
demonstrating the victorious power of this way of life. The making of
a kingdom of God in the world, the spread of the brother-spirit, the
expansion of the love-method, the increase of coöperation, sympathy,
and service, the continued incursion of the divine into the life of the
human, these are the things now and always which indicate the vitality
and progress of Christianity, and the uninterrupted revelation of God.

Always, in every period of history, the essential truth of Christianity
must be revealed and expressed in and through a medium not altogether
adapted to it. It is always living and working in a world more or less
alien to it. It has at any stage only partially realized its ideal, and
only achieved in a fragmentary way the goal toward which it is moving.
It means endless conquest and ever fresh winning of unwon victories. It
must be for us all a vision and a venture, it must be a thing of faith
and forecast. At the same time it is, in a very real sense, experience
and achievement. God _has_ entered into humanity. Love has revealed its
redeeming power. Grace is as much a reality as mountains are. The kingdom
of God though not all in sight yet is, I believe, as sure as gravitation.
The invisible, eternal Christ, living in the soul of man, revealing
his will in moral and spiritual victories in personal lives, is, I am
convinced, as genuine a fact as electricity is. But we shall see _all_
that Christianity means only when the living totality of the revelation
of God through humanity is complete.



CHAPTER VII

THE NEAR AND THE FAR


I

THINGS PRESENT AND THINGS TO COME

Anaxagoras said twenty-five hundred years ago that men are always
cutting the world in two with a hatchet. William James, in one of his
living phrases, says with the same import that everybody dichotomizes
the cosmos. It is so. We all incline to bisect life into alternative
possibilities. We split realities into opposing halves. We show a kind
of fascination for an “either-or” selection. We are prone to use the
principle of parsimony, and to be content with one side of a dilemma.
History presents a multitude of dualistic pairs from which one was
supposed to make his individual selection. There was the choice between
this world and the next world; the here and the yonder; the flesh and the
spirit; faith and reason; the sacred and the secular; the outward and
the inward, and many more similar alternatives. This “either-or” method
always leaves its trail of leanness behind. It makes life thin and narrow
where it might be rich and broad, for in almost every case it is just as
possible to have a whole as to have a half, to take both as to select an
alternative. St. Paul found his Corinthians bisecting their spiritual
lives and narrowing their interests to one or two possibilities. One of
them would choose Paul as his representative of the truth and then see no
value in the interpretation which Apollos had to give. Another attached
himself to Apollos and missed all the rich contributions of Paul. Some of
the “saints” of the Church selected Cephas as the only oracle, and they
lost all the breadth which would have come to them had they been able
to make a synthesis of the opposing aspects. St. Paul called them from
their divided half to a completed whole. He told them that instead of
“either-or” they could have both. “All things are yours; whether Paul or
Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present or
things to come, all are yours; and ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.”
This is the method of synthesis. This is the substitution of wholes for
halves, the proffer of both for an “either-or” alternative.

That last pair of alternatives is an interesting one, and many persons
make their bisecting choice of life there. One well-known type of person
focuses on the near, the here and now, the things present. Those who
belong to this class propose to make hay while the sun shines. They glory
in being practical. They have what doctors call myopia. They see only the
near. Their lenses will not adjust for the remote. They believe in quick
returns and bank upon practical results. Those of the other type have
presbyopia, or far-sightedness. They are dedicated to the far-away, the
remote, the yonder. They are pursuing rainbows and distant ideals. They
are so eager for the millennium that they forget the problem of their
street and of the present day. Browning has given us a picture of both
these types:

    “That low man seeks a little thing to do,
      Sees it and does it:
    This high man, with a great thing to pursue,
      Dies ere he knows it.

    That low man goes on adding one to one,
      His hundred’s soon hit:
    This high man, aiming at a million,
      Misses an unit.”

Browning’s sympathies are plainly with the “high man” who misses the
unit, but it is one more case of unnecessary dichotomy. What we want is
the discovery of a way to unite into one synthesis things present and
things to come. We need to learn how to seize this narrow isthmus of a
present and to enrich it with the momentous significance of past and
future. Henry Bergson has been telling us that all rich moments of life
are rich just because they roll up and accumulate the meaning of the past
and because they are crowded with anticipations of the future. They are
fused with memory and expectation, and one of these two factors is as
important as the other. If either dies away the present becomes a useless
half, like the divided parts of the child which Solomon proposed to
bisect for the two contending mothers.

We are at one of those momentous ridges of time at the present moment.
Some are so busy with the near and immediately practical that they cannot
see the far vision of the world that is to be built. Others are so
impressed with past issues that have become paramount, with the glorious
memories of the blessed Monroe Doctrine, for instance, that they have no
expectant eyes for the creation of an interrelated and unified world.
Another group is so concerned with the social millennium that they
discount the lessons of the past, the message of history, the wisdom of
experience, and fly to the useless task of constructing abstract human
paradises and dreams of a world-kingdom which could exist only in a realm
where men had ceased to be men.

What we want is a synthesis of things present and things to come, a union
of the practical, tested experience of life and the inspired vision of
the prophet who sees unfolding the possibilities of human life raised to
its fuller glory in Christ, the incarnation of the way of love, which
always has worked, is working now, and always will work.


II

TWO TYPES OF MINISTRY

Most people like to be told what they already think. They enjoy hearing
their own opinions and ideas promulgated, and no amens are so hearty as
the ones which greet the reannouncement of views we have already held.

The natural result is that speakers are apt to give their hearers what
they want. They take the line of least resistance and say what will
arouse the enthusiasm of the people before them, and they get their quick
reward. They are popular at once. There is a high tide of emotion as they
proceed to tell what everybody present already thinks, and they soon find
themselves in great demand.

The main trouble with such an easy ministry is that it isn’t worth doing.
It accomplishes next to nothing. It merely arouses a pleasurable emotion
and leaves lives where they were before. And yet not quite where they
were either, for the constant repetition of things we already believe
dulls the mind and deadens the will and weakens rather than strengthens
the power of life. It is an easy ministry both for speakers and hearers,
but it is ominous for them both.

The prophet has a very different task. He cannot give people what they
want. He is under an unescapable compulsion to give them what his soul
believes to be true. He cannot take lines of least resistance; he must
work straight up against the current. He cannot work for quick effects;
he must slowly educate his people and compel them to see what they have
not seen before. The amens are very slow to come to his words, and he
cannot look for emotional thrills. He must risk all that is dear to
himself, except the truth, as he sets himself to his task, and he is
bound to tread lonely wine-presses before he can see of the travail of
his soul and be satisfied.

Every age has these two types of ministry. They are both ancient and
familiar. There are always persons who are satisfied to give what is
wanted, who are glad to cater to popular taste, who like the quick
returns. But there are, too, always a few souls to be found who volunteer
for the harder task. They forego the amens and patiently teach men to see
farther than they have seen before. Their first question is not, What do
people want me to say? but, What is God’s truth which to-day ought to be
heard through me? and knowing that, they speak. They do not move their
hearers as the other type does; they do not reach so many, and they miss
the popular rewards—but they are compassed about by a great cloud of
witnesses as they fight their battles for the truth, and they have their
joy.

But this is not quite all there is to say. It is not possible to teach
the new effectively without linking it up with the old. The wholly new is
generally not true. New, fresh truth emerges out of ancient experience;
it does not drop like a shooting star from the distant skies. The great
prophets in all ages have lived close to the people. They have not had
their “ear to the ground,” to use a political phrase, but they have
understood the human heart. They have lived in the great currents of
life. They have heard the going in the mulberry trees, and have felt the
breaking forth of the dawning light just because of their double union
with men and God.

All sound pedagogy recognizes this principle. The good teacher knits
the new material which he wishes learned on to the old and familiar. He
takes his student forward by gradual stages, not by leaps and bounds, and
he binds the known and unknown together by rational synthesis, not by
some strange, foreign, magical glue. The more we wish to belong to the
prophet-class and to raise our hearers to new and greater levels of truth
and insight, the more we shall strive to understand the truth that has
already been revealed, to saturate ourselves with it, to fuse and kindle
our lives with those immense realities by which men in past ages have
lived and conquered. So, and only so, can we go forward and take others
forward with us to new experiences and to new discoveries of the light
that never was on sea or land.


III

“WE HAVE SEEN HIS STAR”

Every time the Christmas anniversary returns, the heart renews its
youthful joy in the thrilling stories of the nativity. We cannot be too
thankful for the inspiration and poetry and imagination which touch and
glorify every aspect of our religious faith. Some dull and leaden-minded
pedants appear to think that the “real” Christ is the person we get when
we take, for the construction of our figure, only those facts about him
which can be rationalistically, historically, and critically verified. We
are thus reduced to a few religious ideas, a little group of “sayings,”
a tiny body of events, which explain none of the immense results that
followed. The real Christ, on the contrary, is this rich, wonderful,
mysterious, baffling person whose life was vastly greater even than his
deeds or his words, who aroused the wonder and imagination of all who
came in contact with him, who touched everything with emotion, and fused
religion forever with poetry and feeling. He, in a very true sense,

    “ ... touches all things common,
    Till they rise to touch the spheres.”

Not only over the manger, but over the entire story of his life, hovers
the glory of the star. It is a life that will not stay down on the dull
earth of mere fact; it always rises into the region of idealism and
beauty. It always transcends the things of sight and touch. We have a
religion which cannot be confined in a system of doctrine or a code of
ethics; it partakes too intimately of life for that. It is, like its
Founder, a full rounded reality, rich in inspiration and emotion and
wonder, as well as in intellectual ideas and truth. When the star wanes
and imagination falls away, and we hold in our thin hands only the husks
of a dead system, the power of religion is over.

The same thing is true of the cross. Its power lies in the fullness and
richness of the reality. We do not want to reduce it, but to raise it
to its full meaning and glory as a way of complete life. The direction
of present-day Christianity is certainly not away from Calvary, but
quite the opposite. The men who are in these days trying to deliver our
religion from formalism and tradition find not less meaning in the cross
than a former generation did, but vastly more. The atonement remains at
the center, as it has always done, in vital Christianity. All attempts to
reduce Christianity to a dry and bloodless system of philosophy, with
the appeal of the heart left out, fail now as they have always failed.
It is a Savior that men, tangled in their sins and their sorrows, still
want—not merely a great thinker or a great teacher.

The Church has, no doubt, far too much neglected the idea of the kingdom
of God as Christ expounded it in sermon and parable, and hosts of
prominent Christians do not at all understand what this great, central
teaching of the Master meant then and means now. His transforming
revelation of the nature of God has, too, been missed by multitudes, who
still hold Jewish rather than Christian conceptions of God. But patient
study of the gospel is slowly forcing these ideas into the thought of
men everywhere, and books abound now which make his teaching clear and
luminous.

What is needed above everything else now is that we shall not lose any
of our vision of Christ as Savior, and that we shall live our lives
in his presence. It is through the cross that we touch closest to the
Savior-heart, and it is here that we feel our lives most powerfully moved
by the certainty of his divine nature. Arguments may fail, but one who
looks steadily at this voluntary Sufferer, giving himself for us, will
cry out, with one of old, “My Lord and my God.”

Nothing short of that will do, I believe, if Christianity is to remain
a saving religion. Good men have died in all ages; great teachers have
again and again gone to their deaths in behalf of their truth or out
of love for their disciples. It touches us as we read of their bravery
and their loyalty, but we do not and we cannot build a world-saving
religion upon them. Christ is different! We feel that in him the veil is
lifted and we are face to face with God. When we hear with our hearts
the words, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but fear not, for I
have overcome the world,” we feel that we are hearing the triumph of God
in the midst of suffering—we are hearing of an eternal triumph. Christ
can not be for us less than God manifested here in a world of time and
space and finiteness, doing in time what God does in eternity—suffering
over sin, entering vicariously into the tragedy of evil, and triumphing
while he treads the winepress. No one has fathomed the awfulness of sin,
until, in some sense, he feels that his sin makes God suffer, that it
crucifies him afresh. If Christ is God revealed in time—made visible and
vocal to men—then, through the cross, we shall discover that we are not
to think of God henceforth as Sovereign—not a Being yonder, enjoying his
royal splendor. We must think of him all the time in terms of Christ. He
is an eternal Lover of our hearts. We pierce him with our sins; we wound
him with our wickedness. He suffers, as mothers who love suffer, and he
enters vicariously into all the tragic deeps of our lives, striving to
bring us home to him. Jan Ruysbroeck says:

    “You must love the Love which loves you everlastingly, and if
    you hold fast by his love, he remakes you by his Spirit, and
    then joy is yours. The Spirit of God breathes into you, and you
    breathe it out in rest and joy and love. This is eternal life,
    just as in our mortal life we breathe out the air that is in us
    and breathe in fresh air.”



CHAPTER VIII

THE LIGHT-FRINGED MYSTERY


I

THE RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE OF DEATH

The Greeks had their story of Tithonus, a deeply significant myth of a
man who could not die, but who grew ever older and more decrepit until
the tragedy became unendurable and he envied those “happy men that have
the power to die.” Methuselah’s biography is brief and compact, but it
is full of pathos: “He lived nine hundred and sixty-nine years and he
died.” There was nothing more to add. Somebody has invented a radium
motor which strikes a little bell every second and is warranted to go
on doing that for thirty thousand years. The Methuselah monotony and
tedium seem much like that thin _seriatim_ row of items. It just goes on
with no novelty and no cumulation, and finally the one relieving novelty
is introduced—“he died.” What a happy fact it was! The wandering Jew
stands out in imaginative fiction as one of the saddest of all men—a
being who endlessly goes on. The angel of death seems a gentle, gracious
messenger when one thinks of the prospect of unending life, going on
in a one-dimensional series, with no new values and no fresh powers of
expansion. To many persons the idea of heaven is simply an expanded
Methuselah biography.

Biologists have completely reversed the theory that death is an enemy.
It has long ago taken its place in the system of teleology, among “the
things that are for us.” Death has, beyond question, and has had, “a
natural utility.” It has played an important _rôle_ in raising life from
the low unicellular type to the rich complex forms of higher organisms,
from “the amœba that never dies of old age” to the new dynasty of beings
that have greater range and scope, but which nevertheless do die. Edwin
Arnold in his striking essay on _Death_ says: “The lowest living thing,
the Protamœba, has obviously never died! It is a formless film of
protoplasm, which multiplies by simple division; and the specimen under
any microscope derives, and must derive, in unbroken existence from the
amœba which moved and fed forty æons ago. The slime of our nearest puddle
lived before the Alps were made!” Methuselah was a mere child in a
perambulator compared to an amœba.

In cases where the continued process of cell-division produced a lowered
and weakened type of amœba a rudimentary form of union of cells took
place, which resulted in raising the entire level of life and eventually
carried the biological order up to wholly new possibilities. So that
the threatened approach of death was met with an increase of life. “It
is more probable that death is a consequence of life,” says the famous
biologist, Edward Cope, “rather than that the living is a product of the
non-living.”[2]

But in any case the testimony of biology can give us little help. Even if
death has had a function in the process of evolution, as seems likely,
that in no way eases the situation when the staggering blow falls into
our precious circle and removes from it an intimate personal life that
was indispensable to us. It is poor, cold comfort to be told that death
has assisted through the long æons in the slow process of heightening
the entire scale of life, if there is nothing more to say regarding the
future of this dear one whose frail bark has now gone to wreck. We must
somehow rise above the level of brute facts and discover some spiritual
significance which death has revealed, before we can arrive at any source
of comfort. We are all agreed with Shakespeare’s Claudio that “’tis too
horrible” to think of death as a sheer terminus:

    “ ... to die and go we know not where;
    To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
    This sensible warm motion to become
    A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
    To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
    In thrilling regions of rock-ribbed ice;
    To be imprisoned in the viewless winds,
    And blown with restless violence round about
    The pendent world.”

Death has undoubtedly brought to consciousness, as has perhaps no other
experience, the deeper meaning and significance of personal life. This
and not its biological function is what concerns us now. It has been
said that “freedom,” so far as it is achieved, “is the main achievement
of man in the past.”[3] I should be inclined rather to hold that man’s
main achievement on the planet so far has been to discover that personal
life reveals within itself an absolute value and possesses unmistakable
capacity to transcend the finite and temporal, an experience which
makes freedom possible. I believe death has ministered more than any
other single fact that confronts us in bringing those truths to clear
consciousness. We cannot, of course, dissociate death and separate it
from pain, suffering, struggle and danger, which are essentially bound up
with it. If the world were to be freed completely from death it would at
once _ipso facto_ be freed from the danger of it and by the same altered
condition struggle would to a large degree be eliminated, and likewise
those other great tests of life—pain and suffering, which culminate in
death. These things are all “perilous incidents” of finiteness, but of
a finiteness which transcends itself and is allied to something beyond
itself. To eliminate these things would be to miss the discovery of this
strange finite-infinite nature of ours which makes life such a venture
and so full of mystery and wonder. If we had been only naturalistic
beings, curious bits of the earth’s crust merely capable of recording the
empirical facts as they occurred, death would have taken an unimportant
place as one more event in a successive series of phenomena. Built as we
are, however, with a beyond within ourselves, the fact of mutability and
mortality has occasioned a transformation of our entire estimate of life
and has led us by the hand to a Pisgah view which we should never have
got if there had been no invasion of death into our world.

“It is a venerable commonplace,” as Professor Schiller of Oxford has
said, “that among the melancholy prerogatives which distinguish man
from the other animals and bestow a deeper significance on human life
is the fact that man alone is aware of the doom that terminates his
earthly existence, and on this account lives a more spiritual life, in
the ineffable consciousness of the ‘sword of Damocles’ which overshadows
him and weights his lightest action with gigantic import. Nay, more;
stimulated by the ineluctable necessity of facing death, and of living so
as to face it with fortitude, man has not abandoned himself to nerveless
inaction, to pusillanimous despair; he has conceived the thought, he
has cherished the hope, he has embraced the belief, of a life beyond
the grave, and opened his soul to the religions which baulk the king of
terrors of his victims and defraud him of his victory. Thus, the fear
of death has been redeemed, and ennobled by the consoling belief in
immortality, a belief from which none are base enough to withhold their
moral homage, even though the debility of mortal knowledge may debar a
few from a full acceptance of its promise.”[4]

The early animistic views of survival, which were the first forecasts of
a life beyond, were due not so much to the consciousness of the moral
grandeur of life as to _actual experiences_ which gave to primitive
man a confident assurance of some form of life after the death of the
body. Dreams had an important part in leading man to this naïve and yet
momentous discovery. In a world which had no established criterion of
“reality,” the experiences of vivid dreams were taken to be as real as
any other experiences, and in these dreams the dreamer often found his
dead ancestors and friends and tribesmen once more present with him,
active in the chase or the fight and as real as ever they were in life.
Trance, hallucination, telepathy, mediumship, possession, are not new
phenomena; they are very primitive and ancient. These things are as old
as smiling and weeping. These psychic experiences had their part to
play also in giving the early races their belief that the dead person
still existed though in an altered and attenuated form as an _animus_ or
“spirit” or “shade.” This empirical view of survival, built on actual
experiences, was more or less incapable of advance. No further knowledge
could be acquired and the constructions fashioned by imagination, in
reference to “the scenery and circumstance” of the departed soul, could
satisfy only an uncritical mind. These constructions were, too, often
crude and bizarre, and tended, in the hands of priests, to hamper man’s
moral development rather than to further it. But in any case man had made
the momentous guess that death did not utterly end him or his career.
Poor and thin as this dimly conceived future world of primitive man’s
hope may have been, the psychological effect of the hope was by no means
negligible. Professor Shaler of Harvard was probably speaking truly when
he wrote:

“If we should seek some one mark, which in the intellectual advance from
the brutes to man, might denote the passage to the human side, we might
well find it in the moment when it dawned upon the nascent man that death
was a mystery which he had in his turn to meet. From the time when man
began to face death to the present stage of his development there has
been a continuous struggle between the motives of personal fear on the
one hand, and valor on the other. That of fear has been constantly aided
by the work of the imagination. For one fact of danger there have been
scores of fancied risks to come from the unseen world. Against this great
host of imaginary ills, which tended utterly to bear men down, they had
but one helper—their spirit of valiant self-sacrifice for the good of
their family, their clan, their state, their race, or, in the climax, for
the Infinite above.”[5]

It marked a still greater intellectual advance when primitive man came to
the immense conclusion not only that death was a mystery which he in turn
must meet, but that he was a being that would survive death.

It is, however, in another field that we must look for the most important
spiritual results from the contemplation of death, that is in what we
may call the field of spiritual values. I have already contended that
man’s greatest discovery was his discovery of the absolute value of moral
personality. Of course, it came fairly late in the development of the
race and by no means has everybody made it yet! But at any rate there
came a time somewhere in the process of history when man did discover a
beyond within himself, a greater inclusive self present within his own
fragmentary, finite spirit, revealed as a passion for perfection not yet
attained or experienced, a prophesying consciousness of eternity within
his often baffled and defeated temporal life. No one has expressed the
fact of this inner beyond within us better than old Sir Thomas Browne
did in the seventeenth century: “We are men and we know not how; there
is something in us that can be without us and will be after us, though
it is strange that it hath no history of what it was before us, nor can
tell how it entered in us.... There is surely a piece of Divinity in us,
something that was before the elements and owes not homage unto the Sun.”

The sublimity and grandeur revealed in nature, the majesty of mountains,
the might of seas, the mystery of the ocean, the glory of the sun and
stars, the awe inspired by the thunderstorm, awakened man’s own spirit
and made him dimly conscious of a kindred grandeur in his own answering
soul. The greatest step of all was taken when man awoke to the meaning
and value of love. In some dim sense love preceded the emergence of man.
The evolution of a mother and of a father, as Drummond showed, began far
back in forms of life below man. But the type of love which transcends
instinct, which is raised above sex-assertion, and is transmuted into an
unselfish appreciation of the beauty and worth of personal character—that
type of love is one of the most wonderful flowers that has yet blossomed
on our Igdrasil tree of life and it was late and slow to come, like
flowers on the century-plant.

When death broke in and separated those who loved in this great fashion
the whole problem of death at once became an urgent one. In fact death
received _attention_ in proportion as the higher values of life began to
be realized. Walt Whitman’s fiery outburst reveals clearly his estimate
of the worth of personality. “If rats and maggots end us, then alarum!
for we are betrayed”—he might have said “if microbes end us.” Emerson’s
poignant outcry of soul is found in his greatest poem—“Threnody”:

    “There’s not a sparrow or a wren,
    There’s not a blade of autumn grain,
    Which the four seasons do not tend
    And tides of life and increase lend;
    And every chick of every bird,
    And weed and rock-moss is preferred.
    O ostrich-like forgetfulness!
    O loss of larger in the less!
    Was there no star that could be sent,
    No watcher in the firmament,
    No angel from the countless host
    That loiters round the crystal coast,
    Could stoop to heal that only child,
    Nature’s sweet marvel undefiled,
    And keep the blossom of the earth,
    Which all her harvests were not worth?”

No such high revolt of spirit was occasioned so long as death was a mere
biological event, terminating one life to give room for another. This
cry of soul means the discovery of the infinite preciousness of personal
life. The mind now turns in on itself and takes a new account of its
stock, and as a result man began to solve the problem of death in an
enlarged way. He was no longer satisfied with a form of survival based
upon his experiences in dreams, trance and hallucination; he came to feel
that he must have a destiny which fitted his spiritual worth as a man. He
finds within himself intimation of powers and possibilities beyond those
required for the struggle of life here. He feels by that same insight
which carries him out beyond the seen to a rational faith in the unseen
that is necessary to complete it, that this little arc of earthly life
with its revelations of spiritual value and its transcendent prophecies
of more must find fulfillment somewhere in a form of life that rounds it
out full circle.

The argument does not build on a passion of desire, as some doubters have
said. We do not assume immortality just because we want it. It rests upon
the moral consistency of the universe, upon the trustworthy character
of the eternal nature of things. The moral values which are revealed in
fully developed personality are certainly as _real_, as much a fact of
the universe, as are the tides or the orbits of planets. If we can count
upon the continuity of these occurrences and upon our predictions of
them, just as surely can we count on the consistency of the universe in
reference to spiritual values. If there is conservation of matter there
is at least as good ground for affirming conservation of moral values.
If biological life can pass over the slender bridge of a microscopic
germ-plasm and can carry with itself over that feeble bridge the traces
of habit and feature, the curve of nose and the emotional tone of some
far-off dead ancestor, and all the heredity gains of the past, may we not
count upon the permanence of that in us which allies us to that infinite
Spirit who is even now the invisible environment of all we see and touch?

It is not a matter of reward or of “wages” that concerns us. It is not
“happy isles” or care-free “Edens” that we seek, not “golden streets”
and endless comfort to make up for the stress and toil of the lean years
here below. We want to find the whole of ourselves, we ask the privilege
of seeing this fragmentary being of ours unfold into the full expression
of its gifts and powers. The new period may be even more strenuous and
hazardous than this one has been—still we want the venture. We ask for
the culminating acts that will complete the drama, so far only fairly
begun. It must be not a mere serial, or straight line, existence; it
must be the opening out and expansion of the possibilities which we feel
within ourselves—new dimensions, please God.

I am not wrong, I am sure, in claiming that this postulate, this rational
faith in the conservation of values, is an asset which death has revealed
to the race. The shock of death has always made love appear a greater
thing than we knew before the baffling crisis came upon us. It has, too,
by the same shock of contrast, awakened man to the full comprehension
of the moral sublimity of the good life. Kant maintained that the sense
of the sublime is due to the fact that when we are confronted with the
supreme powers of nature we then become aware of something unfathomable
in ourselves, and feel that we are superior to the might of the storm,
or the mountain or the cataract. Nowhere is this truer than when man—man
in his full, rich powers—is confronted by death. Instead of cringing in
fear, he rises to an unaccustomed height of greatness and is utterly
superior to death and aware of some quality of being in himself which
death cannot touch. It is just then in that moment of seeming disaster
and dissolution that a brave, good man is most triumphant and ready to
burn all bridges behind him in his great adventure. Mrs. Browning, all
her life an invalid, says about this so-called gigantic enemy: “I cannot
look on the earthside of death. When I look deathwards I look over death
and upwards.” Her husband, who was “ever a fighter,” has this way of
announcing the triumph:

    “And then as, ’mid the dark, a gleam
    Of yet another morning breaks,
      And like the hand which ends a dream,
    Death, with the might of his sunbeam,
    Touches the flesh and the soul awakes.”[6]

Here is the testimony of a French soldier who writes at a moment when
death is close beside him: “I had often known the joy of seeing a spring
come like this, but never before had I been given the power of living in
every instant. So it is that one wins, without the help of any science, a
vague but indisputable intuition of the Absolute.... These are hours of
such beauty that he who embraces them knows not what death means.”

Having come upon the higher values of personal life which death has
forced upon us we can never again, as men, be satisfied with such
facts of survival as may come to light through dreams, hallucinations,
telepathy and mediums, or in fact through any empirical experiences. Even
if the evidence were vastly greater than it is for some form of animistic
survival, it would fall far short of our moral and spiritual demands. We
already have some intimations in us of “the power of an endless life,”
and we seek for a chance to bring it full into play, for the “heavenly
period” to “perfect the earthen,” for an ampler life that will reveal
what we have all the time _meant_ life to be.

Winifred Kirkland in _The New Death_ well says: “The New Death, _i.e._,
the new view of death, is the perception of our mortal end as the mere
portal of an eternal progression and the immediate result is the
consecration of all living.... It is a new illumination, a New Death,
when dying can be the greatest inspiration of our everyday energy, the
strongest impulse toward daily joy.”


II

THE NEW BORN OUT OF THE OLD

Walking across the fields in the spring I found the empty shell of a
bird’s egg. The tiny bird that once was in it was lying still and happy
under its mother’s wings, or was chirping its new-born song from the limb
of a nearby tree, or was trying its new-found wings on the buoyant air.
The empty shell was utterly worthless, a mere plaything for the wind.
The miracle of life that had stirred within it and had used it for its
shelter had gone on and left it deserted. There is a fine proverb which
says, “God empties the nest by hatching out the eggs,” and the world
is full of this gentle, silent, divine method of abolishing the old by
setting free to higher ends all that was true and living in it.

    “To-day I saw the dragon-fly
    Come from the wells where he did lie.
    An inner impulse rent the veil
    Of his old husk: from head to tail
    Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
    He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
    Through crofts and pastures wet with dew
    A living flash of light he flew.”

In the water below, the “old husk” lay empty and useless, while the
bright-colored living thing found its freedom in the invisible air. I
never go to a funeral without thinking of this miracle of transformation
which brings the bird out of the egg, the flower out of the seed, the
dragon-fly out of its water-larva. In his own mysterious way God has
emptied the nest by the hatching method, and all that was excellent,
lovable, and permanent in the one we loved has found itself in the realm
for which it was fitted. The body is only the empty shell, the shattered
seed, the old husk, which the silent forces of nature will slowly turn
back again into its original elements, to use over again for its myriad
processes of building:

    “And from his ashes may be made
    The violet of his native land.”

Those who treasure up the outworn dust and ashes, who make their thoughts
center about the empty shell, are failing to read aright the deeper
fact, which life everywhere is trying to utter, that that which belongs
in the higher sphere cannot be pent up in the lower.

This divine hatching method may be seen, too, in the progress of truth,
as it unfolds from stage to stage. Nothing is more common than to see a
person holding on to a shell in which truth has dwelt, without realizing
that the precious thing he wants has gone on and reëmbodied itself in
new and living ways which he fails to follow and comprehend. While he is
saying in melancholy tones, “They have taken away my Lord and I know not
where they have laid him,” the living Lord is saying, “Have I been so
long time with thee and yet dost thou not know me?”

Truth can no more keep a fixed and permanent form than life can. It lives
only by hatching out into higher and ever more adequate expressions of
itself, and the old forms in which it lived, the old words through which
it uttered itself, become empty and hollow because the warm breath of God
has raised the inner life, the spiritual reality, to a higher form of
expression.

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews was very much impressed with
this crumbling of old forms and expressions to give place to the new.
God spoke, he says, to our fathers in sundered portions and in a variety
of manners, but he is speaking to us now by his Son. The things that can
be shaken, he writes, are being removed that the things which cannot be
shaken may remain. Luther must have felt this shaking process in his day;
and when he saw the old forms of religion crumbling, he wrote that great
hymn of the Reformation, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” He had found
something that could not be shaken. He could stand his ground and face
the seen and unseen world in faith, because he knew that the hatching was
going on, and the new was being born in higher, truer, and more adequate
forms as the old was vanishing.

Let us hope that this ancient divine method may still operate in this
momentous hour of human history. Never, perhaps, since the fall of Rome,
has there been such a world-shaking process affecting every country and
all peoples. Immense changes are under way. Nothing will ever be quite
the same again. The old is vanishing before our eyes and the new is
being born. So much was wrong and outworn, and unjust and inhuman, that
the changes must go very far, and they will necessarily involve some
breakage. But even now, in this most dynamic period of modern history,
that which is to mark permanent progress will come forth, not by a
smashing process, but by the hatching of the eggs, by the emergence of
the underlying forces of life and the realization of those human hopes
and aspirations that have long been held in and suppressed.

There is always the gravest danger from blind rage and sullen wrath. The
passionate resentment for the suffering of immemorial wrongs, when once
it breaks through the dams of restraint, is an almost irresistible force;
but sooner or later the sound, serious sense of the intelligent human
race comes into play and brings the world back to order and system. The
real gains in these crises are made not by the smashings and the blind
iconoclastic blows, but by the wise, clear-sighted fulfillment of the
slowly formed ideals which have been the inspiration of many lives before
the crisis came. May it be so now! It must not be, it cannot be, that
these millions of men shall have unavailingly faced death and mutilation.
It was not wreckage and chaos they sought in their brave adventure with
death. They went out to build a new world and to destroy, only that a new
re-creation might begin. This is the time of incubation and birth, for
ripening into reality those mighty hopes that make us men.

It means at once that we must deepen down our lives into the life of God,
that we must suppress our petty individual passions and feel the sweep of
God’s purposes for the new age. In a multitude of ways the world moves
on, and as it moves the Spirit of God ends old forms and methods and
brings fresh and living ways to light. May we have eyes to see what is of
his divine hatching and what is empty shell!



CHAPTER IX

THE MYSTIC’S EXPERIENCE OF GOD


I

The revival of mysticism which has been one of the noteworthy features
in the Christianity of our time has presented us with a number of
interesting and important questions. We want to know, first of all, what
mysticism really is. Secondly, we want to know whether it is a normal or
abnormal experience. And omitting many other questions which must wait
their turn, we want to know whether mystical experiences actually enlarge
our sphere of knowledge, i.e., whether they are trustworthy sources of
authentic information and authoritative truth concerning realities which
lie beyond the range of human senses.

The answer to the first question appears to be as difficult to accomplish
as the return of Ulysses was. The secret is kept in book after book.
One can marshall a formidable array of definitions, but they oppose and
challenge one another, like the men sprung from the dragon’s teeth.
For the purposes of the present consideration we can eliminate what is
usually included under psychical phenomena, that is, the phenomena of
dreams, visions and trances, hysteria and dissociation and esoteric
and occult phenomena. Thirty years ago Professor Royce said: “In the
Father’s house are many mansions, and their furniture is extremely
manifold. Astral bodies and palmistry, trances and mental healing,
communications from the dead and ‘phantasms of the living’—such things
are for some people to-day the sole quite unmistakable evidences of the
supremacy of the spiritual world.” These phenomena are worthy of careful
painstaking study and attention, for they will eventually throw much
light upon the deep and complex nature of human personality, are in fact
already throwing much light upon it. But they furnish us slender data
for understanding what is properly meant by mystical experience and its
religious and spiritual bearing.

We can, too, leave on one side the metaphysical doctrines which fill a
large amount of space in the books of the great mystics. These doctrines
had a long historical development and they would have taken essentially
the same form if the exponents of them had not been mystics. Mystical
experience is confined to no one form of philosophy, though some ways of
thinking no doubt favor and other ways retard the experience, as they
also often do in the case of religious _faith_ in general. Mystical
experience, furthermore, must not be confused with what technical expert
writers call “the mystic way.” There are as many mystical “ways” as there
are gates to the New Jerusalem: “On the east three gates, on the north
three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.” One
might as well try to describe _the way_ of making love, or _the way_ of
appreciating the grand canyon as to describe _the way_ to the discovery
of God, as though there were only one way.

I am not interested in mysticism as an _ism_. It turns out in most
accounts to be a dry and abstract thing, hardly more like the warm and
intimate experience than the color of a map is like the country for which
it stands. “Canada is very pink,” seems quite an inadequate description
of the noble country north of our border. It is mystical experience and
not mysticism that is worthy of our study. We are concerned with the
experience itself, not with second-hand formulations of it. “The mystic,”
says Professor Royce, “is a thorough-going empiricist;” “God ceases to
be an object and becomes an experience,” says Professor Pringle-Pattison.
If it is an experience we want to find out what happens to the mystic
himself inside where he lives. According to those who have been there
the experience which we call mystical is charged with the conviction of
real, direct contact and commerce with God. It is the almost universal
testimony of those who are mystics that they find God through their
experience. John Tauler says that in his best moments of “devout prayer
and the uplifting of the mind to God,” he experiences “the pure presence
of God in his own soul,” but he adds that all he can tell others about
the experience is “as poor and unlike it as the point of a needle is
to the heavens above us.” “I have met with my God; I have met with
my Savior. I have felt the healings drop upon my soul from under His
wings,” says Isaac Penington in the joy of his first mystical experience.
Without needlessly multiplying such testimonies for data, we can say
with considerable assurance that mystical experience is consciousness of
direct and immediate relationship with some transcendent reality which in
the moment of experience is believed to be God. “This is He, this is He,”
exclaims Isaac Penington, “there is no other: This is He whom I have
waited for and sought after from my childhood.” Angela of Foligno says
that she experienced God, and saw that the whole world was full of God.


II

There are many different degrees of intensity, concentration and
conviction in the experiences of different individual mystics, and also
in the various experiences of the same individual from time to time.
There has been a tendency in most studies of mysticism to regard the
state of ecstasy as _par excellence_ mystical experience. That is,
however, a grave mistake. The calmer, more meditative, less emotional,
less ecstatic experiences of God are not less convincing and possess
greater constructive value for life and character than do ecstatic
experiences which presuppose a peculiar psychical frame and disposition.
The seasoned Quaker in the corporate hush and stillness of a silent
meeting is far removed from ecstasy, but he is not the less convinced
that he is meeting with God. For the _essentia_ of mysticism we do not
need to insist upon a certain “sacred” mystic way nor upon ecstasy,
nor upon any peculiar type of rare psychic upheavals. We do need to
insist, however, upon a consciousness of commerce with God amounting to
conviction of his presence.

    “Where one heard noise
    And one saw flame,
    I only knew He named my name.”

Jacob Boehme calls the experience which came to him, “breaking through
the gate,” into “a new birth or resurrection from the dead,” so that, he
says, “I knew God.” “I am certain,” says Eckhart, “as certain as that I
live, that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me than I
am to myself.” One of these experiences—the first one—was an ecstasy,
and the other, so far as we can tell, was not. It was the flooding in of
a moment of God-consciousness in the act of preaching a sermon to the
common people of Cologne. The experience of Penington, again, was not
an ecstasy; it was the vital surge of fresh life on the first occasion
of hearing George Fox preach after a long period of waiting silence. A
simple normal case of a mild type is given in a little book of recent
date, reprinted from the _Atlantic Monthly_: “After a long time of
jangling conflict and inner misery, I one day, _quite quietly and with
no conscious effort_, stopped doing the dis-ingenuous thing [I had been
doing]. Then the marvel happened. It was as if a great rubber band which
had been stretched almost to the breaking point were suddenly released
and snapped back to its normal condition. Heaven and earth were changed
for me. Everything was glorious because of its relation to some great
central life—nothing seemed to matter but that life.” Brother Lawrence,
a barefooted lay-brother of the seventeenth century, according to the
testimony of the brotherhood, attained “an unbroken and undisturbed sense
of the Presence of God.” He was not an ecstatic; he was a quiet, faithful
man who did his ordinary daily tasks with what seemed to his friends
“an unclouded vision, an illuminated love and an uninterrupted joy.”
Simple and humble though he was, he nevertheless acquired, through his
experience of God, “an extraordinary spaciousness of mind.”

The more normal, expansive mystical experiences come apparently when the
personal self is at its best. Its powers and capacities are raised to an
unusual unity and fused together. The whole being, with its accumulated
submerged life, _finds itself_. The process of preparing for any high
achievement is a severe and laborious one, but nothing seems easier in
the moment of success than is the accomplishment for which the life
has been prepared. There comes to be formed within the person what
Aristotle called “a dexterity of soul,” so that the person does with ease
what he has become skilled to do. Clement of Alexandria called a fully
organized and spiritualized person “a harmonized man,” that is, adjusted,
organized and ready to be a transmissive organ for the revelation of
God. Brother Lawrence, who was thus “harmonized,” finely says, “The most
excellent method which I found of going to God was that of _doing my
common business_, purely for the love of God.” An earlier mystic of the
fourteenth century stated the same principle in these words: “It is my
aim to be to the Eternal God what a man’s hand is to a man.”

There are many human experiences which carry a man up to levels where
he has not usually been before and where he finds himself possessed of
insight and energies he had hardly suspected were his until that moment.
One leaps to his full height when the right inner spring is reached. We
are quite familiar with the way in which instinctive tendencies in us
and emotions both egoistic and social, become organized under a group
of ideas and ideals into a single system which we call a sentiment,
such as love, or patriotism, or devotion to truth. It forms slowly and
one hardly realizes that it has formed until some occasion unexpectedly
brings it into full operation, and we find ourselves able with perfect
ease to overcome the most powerful inhibitory and opposing instincts
and habits, which, until then, had usually controlled us. We are
familiar, too, with the way in which a well-trained and disciplined mind,
confronted by a concrete situation, will sometimes—alas not always—in a
sudden flash of imaginative insight, discover a universal law revealed
there and then in the single phenomenon, as Sir Isaac Newton did and
as, in a no less striking way, Sir William Rowan Hamilton did in his
discovery of Quaternions. Literary and artistic geniuses supply us with
many instances in which, in a sudden flash, the crude material at hand is
shot through with vision, and the complicated plot of a drama, the full
significance of a character, or the complete glory of a statue stands
revealed, as though, to use R. L. Stevenson’s illustration, a genie
had brought it on a golden tray as a gift from another world. Abraham
Lincoln, striking off in a few intense minutes his Gettysburg address, as
beautiful in style and perfect in form as anything in human literature,
is as good an illustration as we need of the way in which a highly
organized person, by a kindling flash, has at his hand all the moral and
spiritual gains of a life time.

There is a famous account of the flash of inspiration given by Philo,
which can hardly be improved. It is as follows: “I am not ashamed to
recount my own experience. At times, when I have proposed to enter upon
my wonted task of writing on philosophical doctrines, with an exact
knowledge of the materials which were to be put together, I have had
to leave off without any work accomplished, finding my mind barren and
fruitless, and upbraiding it for its self-complacency, while startled at
the might of the Existent One, in whose power it lies to open and close
the wombs of the soul. But at other times, when I had come empty, all of
a sudden I have been filled with thoughts, showered down and sown upon
me unseen from above, so that by Divine possession I have fallen into
a rapture and become ignorant of everything, the place, those present,
myself, what was spoken or written. For I have received a stream of
interpretation, a fruition of light, the most clear-cut sharpness of
vision, the most vividly distinct view of the matter before me, such as
might be received through the eyes from the most luminous presentation.”

The most important mystical experiences are something like that. They
occur usually not at the beginning of the religious life but rather in
the ripe and developed stage of it. They are the fruit of long-maturing
processes. Clement’s “the harmonized man” is always a person who has
brought his soul into parallelism with divine currents, has habitually
practiced his religious insights and has finally formed a unified
central self, subtly sensitive, acutely responsive to the Beyond within
him. In such experiences which may come suddenly or may come as a more
gradual process, the whole self operates and masses all the cumulations
of a lifetime. They are no more emotional than they are rational and
volitional. We have a total personality, awake, active, and “aware of his
life’s flow.” Instead of seeing in a flash a law of gravitation, or the
plot and character of Hamlet, or the uncarven form of Moses the Law-giver
in a block of marble, one sees at such times the moral demonstrations
of a lifetime and vividly feels the implications that are essentially
involved in a spiritual life. In the high moment God is seen to be as
sure as the soul is.

    “I stood at Naples once, a night so dark
    I could have scarce conjectured there was earth
    Anywhere, sky or sea or world at all:
    But the night’s black was burst through by a blaze—
    Thunder struck blow on blow, earth groaned and bore,
    Through her whole length of mountain visible:
    There lay the city thick and plain with spires,
    And, like a ghost disshrouded, white the sea.
    So may the truth be flashed out by one blow.”

To some the truth of God never comes closer than a logical conclusion. He
is held to be as a living item in a creed. To the mystic he becomes real
in the same sense that experienced beauty is real, or the feel of spring
is real, or that summer sunlight is real—he has been found, he has been
met, he is present.

Before discussing the crucial question whether these experiences are
evidential and are worthy of consideration as an addition to the world’s
stock of truth and knowledge I must say a few words about the normality
or abnormality of them. Nothing of any value can be said on this point
of mystical experience in the _abstract_. One must first catch his
concrete case. Some instances are normal and some are undoubtedly
abnormal. Trance, ecstasy and rapture are unusual experiences and in
that sense not normal occurrences. They usually indicate, furthermore, a
pathological condition of personality and are thus abnormal in the more
technical sense. There is, however, something more to be said on this
point. It seems pretty well established that some persons—and they have
often been creative leaders and religious geniuses—have succeeded in
organizing their lives, in finding their trail, in charging their whole
personality with power, in attaining a moral dynamic and in tapping vast
reservoirs of energy by means of states which, if occurring in other
persons, would no doubt be called pathological. The real test here is
a pragmatic one. It seems hardly sound to call a state abnormal if it
has raised the experiencer, as a mystic experience often does, into a
hundred horse-power man and through his influence has turned multitudes
of other men and women into more joyous, hopeful and efficient persons.
This question of abnormality and reality is thus not one to be settled
off-hand by a superficial diagnosis.

An experience which brings spaciousness of mind, new interior dimensions,
ability to stand the universe—and the people in it—and capacity to
work at human tasks with patience, endurance and wisdom may quite
intelligently be called normal, though to an external beholder it
may look like what he usually calls a trance of hysteria, a state of
dissociation, or hypnosis by auto-suggestion. It should be added,
however, as I have already said, that mystical experience is not
confined to these extremer types. They may or may not be pathological.
The calmer and more restrained stages of mysticism are more important and
significant and are no more marked with the stigma of hysteria than is
love-making, enjoyment of music, devotion to altruistic causes, risking
one’s life for country, or any lofty experience of _value_.


III

We come at length to the central question of our consideration: Do
mystical experiences settle anything? Are they purely subjective and
one-sided, or do they prove to have objective reference and so to be
two-sided? Do they take the experiencer across the chasm that separates
“self” from “Other”? Mystical experience undoubtedly feels as though it
had objective reference. It comes to the individual with indubitable
authority. He is certain that he has found some thing other than himself.
He has an unescapable conviction that he is in contact and commerce with
reality beyond the margins of his personal self. “A tremendous muchness
is suddenly revealed,” as William James once put it.

We do not get very far when we undertake to reduce knowledge to an
affair of sense-experience. “They reckon ill who leave me out,” can be
said by the organized, personal, creative mind as truly as by Brahma.
There are many forms of human experience in which the data of the
senses are so vastly transcended that they fail to furnish any real
explanation of what occurs in consciousness. This is true of all our
experiences of _value_, which apparently spring out of synthetic or
synoptic activities of the mind, i.e., activities in which the mind is
unified and creative. The vibrations of ether which bombard the rods and
cones of the retina may be the occasion for the appreciation of beauty
in sky or sea or flower, but they are surely not the _cause_ of it. The
concrete event which confronts me is very likely the occasion for the
august pronouncement of moral issues which my conscience makes, but it
can not be said that the concrete event in any proper sense _causes_ this
consciousness of moral obligation. The famous answer of Leibnitz to the
crude sense-philosophy of his time is still cogent. To the phrase: “There
is nothing in the mind that has not come through the senses,” Leibnitz
added, “except the mind itself.” That means that the creative activity
of the mind is always an important factor in experience and one that can
not be ignored in any of the processes of knowledge. Unfortunately we
have done very little yet in the direction of comprehending the interior
depth of the personal mind or of estimating adequately the part which
mind itself in its creative capacity plays in all knowledge functions. It
will only be when we have succeeded in getting beyond what Plato called
the bird-cage theory of knowledge to a sound theory of knowledge and
to a solid basis for spiritual values that we shall be able to discuss
intelligently the “findings” of the mystic.

The world at the present moment is pitiably “short” in its stock of
sound theories of knowledge. The prevailing psychologies do not explain
knowledge at all. The behaviorists do not try to explain it any more
than the astronomer or the physicist does. The psychologist who reduces
mind to an aggregation of describable “mind-states” has started out on
a course which makes an explanation forever impossible, since knowledge
can be explained only through unity and integral wholeness, never through
an aggregation of parts, as though it were a mental “shower of shot.” If
we expect to talk about _knowledge_ and seriously propose to use that
great word _truth_, we must at least begin with the assumption of an
intelligent, creative, organizing center of self-consciousness which can
transcend itself and can _know_ what is beyond and other than itself. In
short, the talk about a “chasm” between subject and object—knower and
thing known—is as absurd as it would be to talk of a chasm between the
convex and the concave sides of a curve. Knowledge is always knowledge
of an object and mystical experience has all the essential marks of
objective reference, as certainly as other forms of experience have.

Professor J. M. Baldwin very well says that there is a form of
contemplation in which, as in æsthetic experience, the strands of
the mind’s diverging dualisms are “_merged and fused_.” He adds: “In
this experience of a fusion which is not a mixture but which issues
in a meaning of its own sort and kind, an experience whose essential
character is just this unity of comprehension, consciousness attains its
completest, its most direct, and its final apprehension of what Reality
is and means.” It really comes round to the question whether the mind of
a self-conscious person has any way of approach, except by way of the
senses, to any kind of reality. There is no _a priori_ answer to that
question. It can only be settled by experience. It is, therefore, pure
dogmatism to say, as Professor Dunlap in his recent attack on mysticism
does, that all conscious processes are based on sense-stimulation and
all thought as well as perception depends on reaction to sense-stimulus.
It is no doubt true that behavior psychology must resort to some such
formula, but that only means that such psychology is always dealing
with greatly transformed and reduced beings, when it attempts to deal
with persons like us who, in the richness of our concrete lives, are
never reduced to “behavior-beings.” We have interior dimensions and that
is the end on’t! Some persons—and they are by no means feeble-minded
individuals—are as certain that they have commerce with a world within
as they are that they have experiences of a world outside in space.
Thomas Aquinas, who neither in method nor in doctrine leaned toward
mysticism, though he was most certainly “a harmonized man,” and who in
theory postponed the vision of God to a realm beyond death, nevertheless
had an experience two years before he died which made him put his pen
and inkhorn on the shelf and never write another word of his _Summa
Theologiae_. When he was reminded of the incomplete state of his great
work and was urged to go on with it, he only replied, “I have seen that
which makes all that I have written look small to me.”

It may be just possible that there is a universe of spiritual reality
upon which our finite spirits open inward as inlets open into the sea.

    “Like the tides on the crescent sea-beach
    When the moon is new and thin
    Into our hearts high yearnings
    Come welling and surging in;
    Come from that mystic ocean
    Whose rim no foot has trod.
    Some call it longing
    But others call it God.”

Such a view is perfectly sane and tenable; it conflicts with no proved
and demonstrated facts either in the nature of the universe or of
mind. It seems anyway to the mystic that there is such a world, that
he has found it as surely as Columbus found San Salvador, and that his
experience is a truth-telling experience.


IV

But granting that it is truth-telling and has objective reference, is the
mystic justified in claiming that he has found and knows God? One does
not need to be a very wide and extensive student of mystical experience
to discover what a meager stock of knowledge the genuine mystic reports.
William James’ remarkable experience in the Adirondack woods very well
illustrates the type. It had, he says, “an intense significance of some
sort, if one could only _tell_ the significance.... In point of fact, I
can’t find a single word for all that significance and don’t know what it
was significant of, so that it remains a mere boulder of impression.”[7]
At a later date James refers to that “extraordinary vivacity of man’s
psychological commerce with something Ideal that _feels as if_ it were
also actual.”[8] The greatest of all the fourteenth century mystics,
Meister Eckhart, could not put his _impression_ into words or ideas. What
he found was a “wilderness of the Godhead where no one is at home,” i.e.,
an Object with no particular differentiated, concrete characteristics.
It was not an accident that so many of the mystics hit upon the _via
negativa_, the way of negation, or that they called their discovery “the
divine Dark.”

    “Whatever your mind comes at
    I tell you flat
    God is not that.”

Mystical experience does not supply concrete information. It does not
bring new finite facts, new items that can be used in a description of
“the scenery and circumstance” of the realm beyond our sense horizons.
It is the awareness of a Presence, the consciousness of a Beyond, the
discovery, as James puts it, that “we are continuous with a More of the
same quality, which is operative in us and in touch with us.”

The most striking effect of such experience is not new fact-knowledge,
not new items of empirical information, but new moral energy, heightened
conviction, increased caloric quality, enlarged spiritual vision, an
unusual radiant power of life. In short, the whole personality, in the
case of the constructive mystics, appears to be raised to a new level of
life and to have gained from somewhere many calories of life-feeding,
spiritual substance. We are quite familiar with the way in which
adrenalin suddenly flushes into the physical system and adds a new and
incalculable power to brain and muscle. Under its stimulus a man can
carry out a piano when the house is on fire. May not, perhaps, some
energy from some Source with which our spirits are allied flush our inner
being with forces and powers by which we can be fortified to stand the
universe and more than stand it! “We are more than conquerors through
Him that loved us,” is the way one of the world’s greatest mystics felt.

Mystical experience—and we must remember as Santayana has said, that
“experience is like a shrapnel shell and bursts into a thousand
meanings”—does at least one thing. It makes God sure to the person who
has had the experience. It raises faith and conviction to the nth power.
“The God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shined into my
heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God,” is St.
Paul’s testimony. “I knew God by revelation,” declares George Fox. “I was
as one who hath the key and doth open.” “The man who has attained this
felicity,” Plotinus says, “meets some turn of fortune that he would not
have chosen, but there is not the slightest lessening of his happiness
for that” (En. I: iv. 7). But this experience, with its overwhelming
conviction and its dynamic effect, can not be put into the common coin of
speech. Frederic Myers has well expressed the difficulty:

    “Oh could I tell ye surely would believe it!
      Oh could I only say what I have seen!
    How should I tell or how can ye receive it,
      How, till He bringeth you where I have been?”

There is no concrete “information” which can be shared with others.

When Columbus found San Salvador he was able to describe it to those who
did not sail with him in the Santa Maria, but when the mystic finds God
he can not give us any “knowledge” in plain words of everyday speech. He
can only refer to his boulder, or his Gibraltar, of _impression_ That
situation is what we should expect. We can not, either, describe any of
our great emotions. We can not impart what flushes into our consciousness
in moments of lofty intuition. We have a submerged life within us which
is certainly no less real than our hand or foot. It influences all that
we do or say, but we do not find it easy to utter it. In the presence of
the sublime we have nothing to say—or if we do say anything it is a great
mistake! Language is forged to deal with experiences which are common
to many persons, i.e., to experiences which refer to objects in space.
We have no vocabulary for the subtle, elusive flashes of vision which
are unique, individual and unsharable, as for instance is our personal
sense of “the tender grace of a day that is dead.” We are forced in all
these matters to resort to symbolic suggestion and to artistic devices.
Coventry Patmore said with much insight:

    “In divinity and love
    What’s best worth saying can’t be said.”

I believe that mystical experiences do in the long run expand our
knowledge of God and do succeed in verifying themselves. Mysticism is a
sort of spiritual protoplasm that underlies, as a basic substance, much
that is best in religion, in ethics and in life itself. It has generally
been the mystic, the prophet, the seer that has spotted out new ways
forward in the jungle of our world, or lifted our race to new spiritual
levels. Their experiences have in some way equipped them for unusual
tasks, have given supplies of energy to them which their neighbors did
not have, and have apparently brought them into vital correspondence with
dimensions and regions of reality that others miss. The proof that they
have found God, or at least a domain of spiritual reality, does not lie
in some new stock of knowledge, not in some gnostic secret, which they
bring back; it is to be seen rather in the moral and spiritual fruits
which test out and verify the experience.

Consciousness of beauty or of truth or of goodness baffles analysis
as much as consciousness of God does. These values have no objective
standing ground in current psychology. They are not things in the world
of space. They submit to no adequate casual explanation. They have their
ground of being in some other kind of world than that of the mechanical
order, a world composed of quantitative masses of matter in motion. These
experiences of value, which are as real for consciousness as stone walls
are, make very clear the fact that there are depths and capacities in
the nature of the normal human mind which we do not usually recognize
and of which we have scant and imperfect accounts in our text-books.
Our minds taken in their full range, in other words, have some sort of
contact and relationship with an eternal nature of things far deeper than
atoms and molecules. Only very slowly and gradually has the race learned
through finite symbols and temporal forms to interpret beauty and truth
and goodness which in their essence are as ineffable and indescribable
as the mystic’s experience of God is. Plato often speaks as though he
had high moments of experience when he rose to the naked vision of
beauty—beauty “alone, separate and eternal,” as he says, and his myths
are very likely told, as J. A. Stewart believes, to assist others to
experience this same vision—a beauty which “does not grow nor perish,
is without increase or diminution and endures for everlasting.” But as
a matter of fact, however exalted heavenly and enduring beauty may be
in its essence we know _what it is_ only as it appears in fair forms of
objects, of body, of soul, of actions; in harmonious blending of sounds
or colors; in well-ordered or happily-combined groupings of many aspects
in one unity which is as it ought to be. Truth and moral goodness always
transcend our attainments and we sometimes feel that the very end and
goal of life is the pursuit of that truth or that goodness which eye
hath not seen nor ear heard. But whatever truth we do attain or whatever
goodness we do achieve is always concrete. Truth is just this one more
added fact that resists all attempts to doubt it. Goodness is just this
simple everyday deed that reveals a heroic spirit and a brave venture of
faith in the midst of difficulties. So, too, the mystic knowledge of God
is not some esoteric communication, supplied through trance or ecstasy;
it is an intuitive personal touch with God, felt to be the essentially
real, the bursting forth of an intense love for him which heightens all
the capacities and activities of life, followed by the slow laboratory
results which verify it. “All I could never be” now is. It seems possible
to stand the universe—even to do something toward the transformation
of it. The bans are read for that most difficult of all marriages, the
marriage of the possible with the actual, the ideal with the real. And
if the experience does not prove that the soul has found God, it at
least does this: it makes the soul feel that proofs of God are wholly
unnecessary.



CHAPTER X

PSYCHOLOGY AND THE SPIRITUAL LIFE


I

Twenty years ago in _A Dynamic Faith_, after reviewing the new questions
which the great sciences had raised for religion, I said: “There are
still harder problems than any of these. Psychology has opened a series
of questions which make the boldest tremble for his faith in an endless
life or in any spiritual reality.” The twenty years that have intervened
have made my point much more clear. It is now pretty generally recognized
that the deepest issues of the faith are to be settled in this field.
The problem of the real nature of the human soul is at the present
moment probably the most important religious question before us, for
upon the answer to it all our vital spiritual interests depend. If man
has no unique interior domain, if he is only a tiny bit of that vast
system of naturalism in which every curve of process and development is
rigidly determined by antecedent causes, then “spiritual” is only a
high-sounding word with a metaphorical significance, but with no basis
of reality in the nature of things. There is certainly no “place” in the
external world of space where we can expect to find spiritual realities.
They are not to be found by going “somewhere.” Olympus has been climbed,
and it was as naturalistic as any other mountain peak. Eden is only a
defined area of Mesopotamia, and that blessed word can work no miracles
for us now. The dome of the sky is only an optical illusion. It is no
supersensuous realm on which we can build our hopes. The beyond as a
spiritual reality is within, or it is nowhere. Psychology, however, has
not been very encouraging in promises of hope. It has gone the way of the
other sciences and has taken an ever increasing slant toward naturalism.
The result is that most so-called “psychologies of religion” reduce
religion either to a naturalistic or to a subjective basis, which means
in either case that religion as a way to some objective spiritual reality
has eluded us and has disappeared as a constructive power. Many a modern
psychologist can say with Browning’s Cleon:

    “And I have written three books on the soul,
    Proving absurd all written hitherto,
    And putting us to ignorance again.”

Two of the main tendencies in what is usually called scientific
psychology are (1) the “behaviorist” tendency and (2) the tendency to
reduce the inner life to a series of “mind states.” Let us consider
behaviorism first. This turns psychology into “a purely objective
experimental branch of natural science.”[9] It aims at “the prediction
and control of behavior.” “Introspection forms no essential part of
its method.” One is not concerned with “interpretation in terms of
consciousness,” one is interested only in reactions, responses—in short,
in _behavior_ in the presence of stimuli which produce movements. The
body is a complicated organ and “mind” is merely a convenient term to
express its “activities.”[10] The behaviorist “recognizes no dividing
line between man and brute.” Psychology becomes “the science of
behavior,”[11] the study of “the activity of man or animal as it can be
observed from the outside, either with or without attempting to determine
the mental states by inference from these acts.” Emotions become reduced
forthwith to “the bodily resonance” set up in the muscular and visceral
systems by instinctive movements in the presence of objects, these
curious movements being due entirely to the inheritance of physiological
structure adapted at least in the early stages to aid survival. There is
no way by which behaviorist psychology can give any standing to religion
or to any type of spiritual values. “Æsthetics is the study of the
useless,” as William James baldly states the case. Conscience disappears
or becomes another name for the inheritance or acquisition of certain
types of social behavior. Everything which we call ethics or morality
changes into well-defined and rigidly determined behavior. There is
nothing more “spiritual” about it than there is in the fall of a raindrop
or in the luminous trail of a meteor, or in any form of what has happily
been called “cosmic weather.”

This reduction of personality to a center of activity is a reaction from
the dualistic sundering of mind and body inherited from Descartes. The
theory of psycho-physical parallelism is utterly bankrupt. Idealism,
which is an attempt to get round the _impasse_ of dualism by treating
mind as the only reality, is abhorrent to scientists and unpopular
with young philosophers, especially in America. Some other solution
is therefore urgent. The easiest one at hand, though it is obviously
temporary and superficial, is to cut across the mind loop, ignore its
unique, originative, creative capacity and its interior depth, to deal
only with body plus body’s activities, and to call that “psychology.”

The “mind-state” psychology takes us little farther on. It also is a
form of naturalism. “Mind-state” psychology makes more of introspection
than behaviorist psychology does, and it works more than the latter
does in terms of consciousness, which for the behaviorist can be almost
ignored or questioned as an existing reality. According to this view,
mind or consciousness is composed of a vast number of “elemental units,”
and the business of psychology is to analyze and describe these units
or states and to discover the laws of their arrangement or succession.
Mind, on this theory, is an aggregate or sum total of “states.” Professor
James, who gives great place to “mind states,” will, however, not admit
that they are permanent and repeatable “units,” passing and returning
unaltered. In his usual vivid way he says that “a permanently existing
‘idea’ [i.e., mental unit] which makes its appearance before the
footlights of consciousness at periodical intervals is as mythological
an entity as the Jack of Spades.”[12] And yet he continues to deal with
mind as a vast series of more or less describable states. Some states are
“substantive,” such as our “perceptions,” our “memories,” or our definite
“images,” when the mind perches and rests upon some clear and describable
thought, and on the other hand there are “transitive states” which are
vague, hard to catch or hold or express, and which reveal the mind in
flight, in passage, on the way from one substantive state to another.

When we ask the “mind-state” psychologist to tell us about the soul or to
supply us with a working substitute for it, he relegates it to the scrap
heap where lie the collected rubbish and the antiquated mental furniture
of the medieval centuries. We have no need of it. It is only a _word_
anyhow. It has always been an expensive luxury and a continual bother. We
are better off with it gone. When we look about for a “self as knower,”
or for a guardian of our identity, we find all that we need in these same
“passing states of consciousness.” They not only know things and facts,
but they also know themselves, and successively inherit and adapt all the
preceding “states” have gained and acquired. The state of the present
moment owns the thoughts and experiences which preceded it, for “what
possesses the possessor possesses the possessed.” “In our waking hours,”
Professor James says, “though each pulse of consciousness dies away and
is replaced by another, yet that other, among the things it knows, knows
its own predecessor and finding it ‘warm,’ greets it saying, ‘Thou art
_mine_ and part of the same self with me.’” It seems, then, this famous
writer concludes, that “states of consciousness are all that psychology
needs to do her work with. Metaphysics or theology may prove the soul to
exist; but for psychology the hypothesis of such a substantial principle
of unity is superfluous.”[13] We are certainly hard up if we must depend
on proofs which theology can give us!

We are thus once more reduced to a condition of sheer naturalism. Our
stream of consciousness is only a rapid succession of passing states,
each “state” causally attached to a molecular process in the brain.
“Every _psychosis_ is the result of a _neurosis_.” There is no soul,
there is no creative spiritual pilot of the stream, there is no freedom,
there are no moral values, there is nothing but passing “cosmic weather,”
sometimes peeps of sunshine, sometimes moonshine, sometimes drizzle or
blizzard, and sometimes cyclone or waterspout! To meet the appalling
thinness of this “cinema” of mind states, we are given the comfort of
believing that there is an under-threshold world within, possibly more
real and surely more important than this little rivulet of states which
make up our conscious life. There is a “fringe” to consciousness more
wonderful than that which adorned the robe of the high priest. This
“fringe” defies description and baffles all analysis. It is a halo or
penumbra which surrounds every “state” and holds all the states vitally
together, so that “states” turn out to be unsundered in some deeper
mysterious currents of being. Others would call this same underlying,
mysterious part of us the subliminal “self,” i.e., under-threshold
“self.” It is a kind of semi-spiritual matrix where the states of
consciousness are formed and gestated. It is the source to which we
may trace everything that can not be explained by the avenues of the
senses. Demons and divinities knock at its doors and visitants from
superterrestrial shores peep in at its windows. It is often treated,
especially of course by Frederic Myers, as a deeper “self,” more or less
discontinuous with our conscious upper self, the self of mind states.
All work of genius is due to “subliminal uprushes,” “an emergence into
the current of ideas which the man is consciously manipulating of other
ideas which he has not consciously originated, but which have shaped
themselves beyond his will in profounder regions of his being.” As is
well known, Professor James resorts to these “subliminal uprushes” for
his explanation of all the deeper religious experiences and he has done
much to give credit to these “profounder regions of our being” and to
make the subliminal theory popular. He does not, however, as Myers does,
treat it as another “self,” an intermediary between earth and heaven, a
messenger and a mediator of all those higher and diviner aspects of life
which transcend the sphere of sense and of the empirical world.


II

No theory certainly is sound which begins by cutting the subconscious
and the conscious life apart into two more or less dissociated selves.
There is every indication and evidence of continuity and correlation
between what is above and what is below the threshold which in any case
is as relative and artificial a line as is the horizon. The so-called
“uprushes” of the genius are finely correlated with his normal experience
into which they “uprush.” The “uprushes” which convey truth to Socrates
beautifully fit, first, the character of the man and, secondly, the
demands of the temporal environment. Dante’s “uprushes” correspond to
the psychological climate of the medieval world, and Shakespeare’s
“uprushes” are well suited to the later period of the Renaissance. All
subliminal communications are congruent and consonant with the experience
of the person who receives them. The visions of apocalyptic seers are
all couched in the imagery of the apocalyptic schools, and so, too, the
reports of mediums are all in terms of spiritualistic beliefs. We shall
never find the solution of our religious problems by dividing the inner
life of man into two unrelated selves, by whatever name we call them,
for any religion that is to be real must go all the way through us, must
unify all our powers, and must furnish a spring and power by which we
live here and now in the sphere of our consciousness, our character, and
our will.

It proves to be just as impossible to cut consciousness up into the
fragmentary bits or units called mind states, or to sunder it into
a so-called “self as knower” and “self as known.” Consciousness is
never a shower of shot—a series of discontinuous units. It is the most
completely integral unity known to us anywhere in the universe. There
are no “parts” to it; it is without breaks or gaps. It is one undivided
whole. The only unit we can properly talk about is our unique persisting
personal self in conscious relation to an environment. We can, of course,
treat consciousness in the abstract as an aggregate of states and we can
formulate a scientific account of this constructed entity as we can of
any other abstracted section of reality. But this abstracted entity is
forever totally different from the warm and intimate inner life within
us, as we actually live it and feel its flow. Any state or process which
we may talk about is only an artificial fragment of a larger, deeper
reality which gives the “fragment” its peculiar being and makes it what
it is. Underneath all that appears and happens in the conscious flow is
the personal self for whom the appearances occur. Any psychologist who
explicitly leaves this out of his account always implicitly smuggles it
in again.

The most striking fact of experience is _knowing that we know_. The
same consciousness which knows any given object in the same pulse of
consciousness knows itself as knowing it. Self-consciousness is present
in all consciousness of objects. The thinker that thinks is involved in
and is bound up with all knowledge, even of the simplest sort. Every
idea, every feeling, and every act of will is what it is because it
is in living unity with our entire personal self. If any such “state”
got dissociated, slipped away and undertook to do business on its own
hook, it would be as unknown to us as our guardian angel is. The mind
that knows can never be separated from the world that is known. One can
think in abstraction of a mind apart by itself and of a world equally
isolated—but no such mind and no such world actually exist. To be a
real mind, a real self, is to be in active commerce with a real world
given in experience. One thinks his object in the same unified pulse
of consciousness in which he thinks himself and vice versa. There is
no self-consciousness without object-consciousness, and there is no
object-consciousness without self-consciousness. Outer and inner, knower
and known, are not two but forever one. The “soul,” therefore, is not
something hidden away in behind or above and beyond our ideas and
feelings and will activities. It is the active living unity of personal
consciousness—the one psychic integer and unit for a true psychology. It
binds all the items of experience into one indivisible unity, one organic
whole through which our personal type of life is made possible. At every
moment of waking, intelligent life we look out upon each fact, each
event, each experience from a wider self which organizes the new fact in
with its former experiences, weaves it into the web of its memories and
emotions and purposes, makes the new fact a part of itself, and yet at
the same time knows itself as transcending and outliving the momentary
fact.

When we study the personal self deeply enough, not as cut up into
artificial units, but as the living, undivided whole, which is implied in
all coherent experience, we find at once a basis for those ideal values
that are rightly called spiritual and for “those mighty hopes that make
us men.” The first step toward a genuine basis of spiritual life is to
be found in the restoration of the personal self to its true place as
the ultimate fact, or datum, of self-conscious experience. As soon as
we come back to this central reality, our unified, unique, self-active
personality, we find ourselves in possession of material enough; as
Browning would say,

          “For fifty hopes and fears
    As old and new at once as nature’s self,
    To rap and knock and enter in our soul,
    Take hands and dance there, a fantastic ring,
    Round the ancient idol, on his base again,—
    The grand Perhaps!”

What we find at once, even without a resort to a subliminal self, or to
“uprushes,” is that our normal, personal self-consciousness is a unique,
living, self-active, creative center of energies, dealing not only with
space and time and tangible things, but dealing as well with realities
which are space- and time-transcending. “The things that are not” prove
to be immense factors in our lives and constantly “bring to naught the
things that are.” The greatest events of history have not been due to
physical forces; they have been due to plans and ideals which were real
only in the viewless minds of men. What _was not yet_ brought about what
was to be. Alexander the Great with his physical forces, sweeping across
the ancient world like a cataclysm of nature, was certainly no more truly
a world-builder than was Jesus, who had no armies, who used no tangible
forces, but merely put into operation those “things that were not,” i.e.,
his ideas of what ought to be and his conviction that love is stronger
than Roman legions. The simplest and humblest of us, like the Psalmist,
find the Meshech where we sojourn too straitened and narrow for us. We
have all cried, “Woe is me that I sojourn in Meshech!” The reason that
we discover the limits and bounds of our poor Meshech is that we are all
the time going beyond the hampering Meshech that tries to contain and
imprison us.

The thing which spoils all our finite camping places is our unstilled
consciousness that we are made for something more than we have yet
realized or attained. Our ideals are an unmistakable intimation of our
time-transcending nature. We can no more stop with _that which is_ than
Niagara can stop at the fringe of the fall. All consciousness of the
higher rational type is continually carried forward toward the larger
whole that would complete and fulfill its present experience. We are
aware of the limit only because we are already beyond it. The present is
a pledge of more; the little arc which we have gives us a ground of faith
in the full circle which we seek. A study of man’s life which does not
deal with this inherent idealizing tendency is like _Hamlet_ with Hamlet
left out. Martineau declared:

    “Amid all the sickly talk about ‘ideals’ which has become the
    commonplace of our age, it is well to remember that so long
    as they are dreams of future possibility and not faiths in
    present realities, so long as they are a mere self-painting
    of the yearning spirit and not its personal surrender to
    immediate communion with an infinite Perfection, they have no
    more solidity or steadiness than floating air-bubbles, gay in
    the sunshine and broken by the passing wind.... The very gate
    of entrance to religion, the moment of its new birth, is the
    discovery that your ideal is the everlasting Real, no transient
    brush of a fancied angel wing, but the abiding presence and
    persuasion of the Soul of souls.”[14]

In the same vein Pringle-Pattison, one of the wisest of our living
teachers, has said:

    “Consciousness of imperfection, the capacity for progress,
    and the pursuit of perfection, are alike possible to man only
    through the universal life of thought and goodness in which
    he shares and which, at once an indwelling presence and an
    unattainable ideal, draws him ‘on and always on.’”[15]

It is here in these experiences of ours which spring out of our real
nature, but which always carry us beyond _what is_ and which make it
impossible for us to live in a world composed of “things,” no matter
how golden they are, that we have the source of our spiritual values.
When we talk about values we may use the word in two senses. In the
ordinary sense we mean something extrinsic, utilitarian. We mean that
we possess something which can be exchanged for something else. It is
precious because we can sell it or swap it or use it to keep life going.
In the other sense we see value in reference to something which _ought
to be_, whether it now is or not. It is _fit_ to be, it would justify
its being in relation to the whole reality. When we speak of ethical or
spiritual values we are thinking of something that will minister to the
highest good of persons or of a society of persons. Value in this loftier
meaning always has to do with ideals. A being without any conscious
end or goal, i.e., without an ideal, would have no sense of worth, no
spiritual values. It does not appear on the level of instinct. It arises
as an appreciation of what ought to be realized in order to complete and
fulfill any life which is to be called good. Obviously a person with
rich and complex interests will have many scales of value, but lower and
lesser ones will fall into place under wider and higher ones, so that one
forms a kind of hierarchical system of values with some overtopping end
of supreme worth dominating the will.

It becomes one of the deepest questions in the world what connection
there is between man’s spiritual values or ideals and the eternal nature
of things in the universe. Are these ideals of ours, these values which
seem to raise us from the naturalistic to the spiritual level, just
our subjective creations, or are they expressions of a coöperating and
rational power beyond us and yet in us, giving us intimations of what
is true and best in a world more real than that of matter and motion?
These ideal values, such as our appreciation of beauty, our confidence
in truth, our dedication to moral causes, our love for worthy persons,
our loyalty to the Kingdom of God, are not born of selfish preference
or individual desire. They are not capricious like dreams and visions.
They attach to something deeper than our personal wishes, in fact our
faith in them and our devotion to them often cause us to take lines of
action straight against our personal wishes and our individual desires.
They stand the test of stress and strain, they weather the storms of time
which submerge most things, they survive all shock and mutations and only
increase in worth with the wastage of secondary goods. They rest on no
mere temporary impulse or sporadic whim. They have their roots deep in
the life of the race. They have lasted better than Andes or Ararat, and
they are based upon common, universal aspects of rational life. They are
at least as sure and prophetic as are laws of triangles and relations of
space. If we can count on the permanence of the multiplication table and
on the continuity of nature, no less can we count on the conservation of
values and the continued significance of life.

They seem thus to belong to the system of the universe and to have the
guardianship of some invisible Pilot of the cosmic ship. The streams
of moral power and the spiritual energies that have their rise in good
persons are as much to be respected facts of the universe as are the
rivers that carry ships of commerce. Moral goodness is a factor in the
constitution of the world, and the eternal nature of the universe backs
it as surely as it backs the laws of hydrogen. It does not back every
ideal, for some ideals are unfit and do not minister to a coherent and
rationally ordered scheme of life. Those ideals only have the august
sanction and right of way which are born out of the age-long spiritual
travail of the race and which tend to organize men for better team
efforts, i.e., which promote the social community life, the organism of
the Spirit. Through these spiritual forces, revealed in normal ethical
persons, we are, I believe, nearer to the life of God and closer to
the revealing centers of the universe than we are when we turn to the
subliminal selves of hysterics. The normal interior life of man is
boundless and bottomless. It is not a physical reality, to be measured by
foot rules or yardsticks. It is a reality of a wholly different order.
It is essentially spiritual, i.e., of spirit. In its organized and
differentiated life this personal self of ours is often weak and erratic.
We feel the _urge_ which belongs to the very nature of _spirit_, but we
blunder in our direction, we bungle our aims and purposes, we fail to
discover what it is that we really want. But we are never insulated from
the wider spiritual environment which constitutes the true inner world
from which we have come and to which we belong. There are many ways of
correspondence with this environment. No way, however, is more vital,
more life-giving than this way of dedication to the advancement of the
moral ideals of the world.



FOOTNOTES


[1] 1 Cor. VI. 9-11.

[2] _Primary Factors of Organic Evolution_, p. 483.

[3] Bosanquet, _Value and Destiny of the Individual_, p. 320.

[4] F. C. S. Schiller, _Humanism_, pp. 228-9.

[5] Shaler, _The Individual_, p. 194.

[6] “The Flight of the Duchess.”

[7] _Letters of William James_, Vol. II. p. 76.

[8] _Ibid._, Vol. II. p. 269.

[9] Watson, _Behavior_, p. 1.

[10] See Ralph Barton Perry’s article “A Behavioristic View of Purpose”
in the _Journal of Philosophy_, February 17, 1921.

[11] Pillsbury, _Fundamentals of Psychology_, p. 4.

[12] _Psychology_ (Briefer Course), p. 197.

[13] _Ibid._, p. 203.

[14] Martineau, _A Study of Religion_ (2d ed.), I, 12.

[15] _The Philosophical Radicals_, pp. 97-98.





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