It is an error, far from unprevalent, to regard orthodoxy as appertaining to any one department of existence. It is not only a set of opinions, or a phase in religion; but it is a frame of mind and a mode of thought which extends its blighting influence over e very plane of life. It may be generally characterised as consisting in the exaltation of seeming above being. Erected, as this practice has been by
sacerdotalism, into a fundamental dogma of
the Church; and enforced by its strongest sanctions, it has insensibly eaten
into our national life, until there is no region of that life in which it does
not operate, at once as the slayer and the tomb of thought, and of all the
higher imagination. It is thus to the limitations imposed upon thought in our
Consisting, as does orthodoxy, in an appeal to sense, it naturally rages uncontrolled in a department which, like science, deals only with the phenomenal and sensible. It is not through the senses by themselves that man is capable of redemption from the dominion of sense, The ideal is the sole redeemer; and the ideal is of the spirit, and not of sense. But the spirit must have free play. By chaining thought in favour of orthodoxy, the Church has placed itself on the level of science, and made sense its court of appeal. Constituted as the Church no w is, therefore, it is at once the cross and the grave of the ideal; and no resurrection is possible until the stone be removed from the door of the sepulchre.
The direct and inevitable effect of the orthodoxy
that derives its source from sacerdotalism, is to undermine spiritual vitality wherever it shows its baleful head. Insisting only upon externals, the informing spirit is nothing in its estimation. For that lies beyond sense; and it is for orthodoxy the form that saves, – the lower, outward, animal, mechanical form. Hence it comes that appealing to the lowest motives, and prompting the most selfish conduct, orthodoxy is intensely cruel.
Following the spirit of orthodoxy into its various manifestations in life, we find that in art, for instance, it cares not for any lack of purity, simplicity, tenderness, truth, or beauty, if only the mechanical workmanship be in accordance with rule. To the sympathy with Nature which constitutes the true artist, it is wholly indifferent. In law, justice is of no account so long as precedent and the letter of the statute be followed. In medicine, it prescribes by rote, knowing nothing of the constitution or habits of the patient, and administers drugs, as the orthodox priest imposes penance, according to rigid rules, without reference to the real needs of the subject; and instead of insisting on a purer and healthier life, contents itself with a temporary relief of the symptoms, leaving the disease to certain aggravation.
In education it ignores character in favour of attainments, and makes the object the gaining of a livelihood, instead of the development of the whole consciousness and character of the individual.
In social life we find orthodoxy the principal foe of love and degrader of marriage, for it holds the union to be consecrated by the ceremony, independently of the mutual affinity of the parties; and so makes of secondary, or, rather, of no account, that which is the essence of marriage. In science it is an enthusiastic materialist, and scoffs at the notion of there being any significance for the mind to seek in the facts presented to it by the senses.
If we track it into the region of politics, we find orthodoxy still taking the shows of things for realities. Seeing with the outward eyes only, it deems the rank and the pageant more than the nobility or the loyalty, and puts title in the place of merit. In religion it makes going to church more than being religious; the offering more than the repentance; and everywhere for it is reputation more than character, seeming more than being.
Orthodoxy is great in what it calls “facts,” meaning thereby appeals to the senses, Unable to recognise the spirit within, it regards revelation
as a communication from without, instead of a perception from within; and so makes it depend upon its appeal to external sense, instead of to internal conviction. And whatever the region of its operation, orthodoxy looks only to “facts,” historical or physical, and ignores the very existence of aught of a spiritual nature lying beyond and discernible through them.
Thus ignoring the life and spirit as constituting the essential elements of existence, and exalting rigid mechanical laws to the supreme place, orthodoxy represents the lower nature of things, and the appeal to sense and self. Recognising only the phenomenal, it knows nought of the real, and the spirit that governs conduct is nothing in presence of the question of success or failure, while enthusiasm and sympathy are ever loathsome in its sight. Orthodoxy thus shows itself to be identical with the stupid and base side of things; and as man always takes his lower nature with him wherever be goes, orthodoxy is to be found in every department of human energy; and in all alike, in religion, politics, science, art, society, medicine, industry, it finds fields for the exercise of its special function. And its function is always the same – namely, the quenching of the life and the spirit, the
exaltation of the form and the letter, and the conversion of what should be a healthy spontaneous growth into a forced and artificial manufacture.
It further regards doctrines as possessing a talismanic potency of their own, and resents any inquiry into their meaning and consistency as an indication of wilful unbelief. It is this characteristic which when manifested in science leads to the virtual deification of the supposed ultimate atoms of matter. It is heresy to suppose that the particles of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon are not self-existent divinities and capable by themselves of building up the universe. The senses cannot go beyond them; and therefore it is folly to believe that there is anything beyond them, or that they represent anything besides themselves. This is precisely the way in which religious orthodoxy regards its dogmas. They are mysterious, divine, and not to be analysed or tampered with. They can of themselves build up religion without any aid from an informing spirit. In thus showing itself to be the negation of the ideal, orthodoxy identifies itself with atheism.
As, in religion, the arch-friend of orthodoxy has always been the priest, its arch-enemy is
always the prophet. The prophet-mind and the priest-mind are necessarily antagonistic to each other. The function of the prophet has always been to raise the standard of the ideal when pulled down and trampled under foot by the priest. They are the champions respectively of man’s higher and lower nature. That which the prophet reveals as a living and saving truth, the priest converts into a dead and deadening routine. It is for want of considering this that then have failed to distinguish between the true and the false in religion. For every religion has come to us through these two mediums. The imposition of restrictions upon thought is the act of the priest. The prophet believes in the appeal to the highest, and scorns to limit thought. For him the higher and wider the range of thought, the more of God to be taken in. All forms and bounds fall away from and cease to encumber the soul that adventures on such free fight. Its ideal of perfection cannot be restrained within limits. At once infinite and absolute, its ideal is for it God. Neither is any mediator necessary between the free spirit and its object: no intercessor and no sacrifice. All pageant and rite are dull and meaningless for him who has seen the ideal that alone is the real. With
such the prophet is in full sympathy. They are brethren travelling together in harmony to the same supreme goal. But if all did likewise, where would be the priest? The priest must have his mysteries, his sacrifices, and his observances. He must have a deity who will not be appeased and forgive without his interference. And he must impose limits on thought lest people see further than suits his purpose. To let the mind expand and rise to the region of the ideal; to suffer the spirit of man to come into direct contact with the whole of which it recognises itself as a part, would be fatal to the principle of sacerdotalism. The prophet, who is always free-thinker and free-speaker, tells men that lofty thinking, pure living, and good doing, will raise them to heights where they need have no fear for the consequences of ill-deeds the disposition to commit which they have outgrown; forgiveness is free to all who strive to ascend. But the priest, misreading the lesson of Nature, insists upon the atonement of blood, even though it he the blood of the innocent. Nature ascends in the scale of being by the sacrifice of her own lower to her own higher; and man can only do the same: our own lower nature to our own higher, and ourselves for others. Sacerdotalism re verses this
process, and exacts the sacrifice, not of one for, but of one by, another. No true exalter of the ideal can be the orthodoxy that thus apotheosises selfishness and cruelty.
But orthodoxy is always cruel. The sacrifices it exacts are not confined to the domain of religion. Wherever, in any other department of life, a rigid rule is enforced without reference to individual needs and natures, there orthodoxy is at work, for it means always the sacrifice of the living to a dead mechanical rule – a rule that needs no sympathetic insight for its application, and makes no distinction between actions on account of the motive by which they are prompted. It is not difficult to see that, if orthodoxy had controlled the order of creation, it would have made the external covering of the animal first, and forced it to fit itself to it, for it is orthodoxy that casts moulds for the body of society by imposing all kinds of artificial and arbitrary restrictions on its mind, which may serve to fix forms and prevent development. Of course, it pleads always the good of the community, but it restricts the community to the narrowest limits, for its sympathies are always of the narrowest. Product of arrested vitality, it is devoid of imagination and faith, and incapable of expanding to the larger and higher
wants of the race, In short, the whole constitution of modern society is an illustration of the blighting influence of orthodoxy upon the ideal whether in religion or in any other direction. And if we want to know why, with so much expenditure of energy, so little good work is done; why art has so little soul; why science is so cruel and so blind; why so many deeds are done which seem to indicate the lack of any moral sense; why there is so little sympathy with Nature, that our males are never so happy as when killing, baiting, or torturing something, and our females as when they are either frivolous or superstitious; why cynicism, scepticism, shallowness, vulgarity, and flippancy are the most prominent characteristics of our literature; why so much value is put upon quantity and so little upon quality; why even in marriage so much more heed is paid to money than to character; why we have no standard of right and wrong, and are unable to recognise the existence of moral limits to any pursuit until we are touched in our own persons; and why, not perfection but pay, not duty but the lower self, is the almost universal aim in our laud from the lowest to the highest, we have but to look to our National Church, and we shall find the cause in the restrictions placed
upon thought and utterance for the express purpose of enforcing orthodoxy – that is, for the express purpose of eradicating the very sense of the ideal.
And if the question be asked why the Church, whose admitted function is the culture of the ideal, should be hostile to that culture, the answer is that the governing party in the Church – namely, the priesthood – only adopted the ideal at all in order to conjure with it. The natural impulse of mankind is to the ideal. It was necessary for priests to humour this impulse. But having, by its aid, won the ascendancy over men, it was necessary to veil it from them by a cloud of observances and beliefs, lest men should pass them and their pretensions by, and find God for themselves. The priest claims to stand between man and God. He does so; but not in the manner he would have man believe, for he stands there, not to help men on their way to God, but to keep them back.
THE cardinal doctrine of sacerdotal orthodoxy is the doctrine of vicarious atonement; and it is the orthodox party in the Church of England that is thirsting for the blood of the Turk,
as a vicarious atonement for the divisions of Christendom.
The attachment to this doctrine is not confined to the sphere of religion. It is rife throughout society, and the tenacity of its hold upon the general affections, even in quarters little suspected of religious predilections, has recently received a most significant illustration: for the orthodox doctrine of the necessity of vicarious sacrifice for the salvation of men’s souls from hell, becomes, when translated to the scientific sphere of physiology, no other than the doctrine of the necessity of the vicarious torture of animals for the salvation of men’s bodies from disease.
To this hideous depth of selfishness has our addiction to sacerdotalism brought us. As if men did not stretch their right to its extremest limit in killing their sensitive fellow-creatures for food, priests must credit the universal Father with exacting an offering of blood and agony before He can pardon and receive His weak, ignorant, and erring children; and science, aping sacerdotalism as if it were really the infallible thing it claims to be, forthwith justifies itself by sacerdotal example, in inflicting the most inexpressible torments upon a host of man’s sensitive fellow-creatures, and this on no other ground than that
they are the weaker of the two, and cannot help themselves. No wonder that the Church should, as a body, refuse to denounce this atrocious blot upon our common humanity, and refuse even to look into it, when it has in its own corresponding doctrine erected into an article of faith indispensable to salvation, and ascribed to Deity Himself, precisely the principles upon which physiologists justify vivisection. What can be a clearer proof of the charge we have brought against orthodoxy and sacerdotalism, than that they have eaten into the spiritual life of the nation, until it has come to be considered no crime to inflict the most atrocious torments for the sake of promoting professional advancement, or the remote possibility of hitting upon a remedy for some ailment which man may have incurred through gross living?
Should it happen, as is ardently desired by numerous physiologists in Christendom, that they should be permitted to experiment upon man Himself – for it is freely allowed among themselves that the only experiments likely to be of use are those made upon the most highly organised and sensitive animals, and that it is only by vivisecting the human subject, under conditions allowing the fullest play to the sensations, that they can hope
to mate the discoveries they most desire, – should it come about that the practice is extended to men, women, and children the votary of sacerdotal orthodoxy will not have a word more to say on the subject than he finds no w. It is true that one distinguished ecclesiastic, Cardinal Manning – with a heart better than his creed – acting on the impulses of the former, has vehemently reprobated the practice of vivisection; but he has found but an insignificant handful of followers, even in the free Anglican communion; while the Pope has virtually justified it, by declaring that Christians owe no duty to the lower animals – a declaration which follows inevitably from the doctrine that it is lawful to torture heretics, as does this itself from the doctrine of vicarious atonement.
There isanalmost universal confusion of thought respecting the whole question of the propriety and necessity of taking sensitive life for food; and remote as it may seem to be from our subject, it is essential to the elucidation of that subject that this confusion be removed; for it is the apparent necessity of admitting that innocent and sensitive life must be sacrificed in order to enable us to live, that lies at the bottom of the whole sacerdotal system. “You see,” says the priest,
pointing to the order of physical nature, “that it is not merely expedient, but necessary that one should die for another.” And the priest of man’s physical system, the physician, acting under the same misconception, endeavours to approximate the diet of his patient as nearly as the latter’s stomach will let him to the raw blood of the animal. The fact that all the elements of which the blood and the life are constituted exist in the milk and in the egg in the form most perfectly adapted for nutrition, and that blood itself is absolutely indigestible and unassimilable by the body, no less than by the soul, counts for nothing with the orthodox therapeutist. Like his prototype the priest, be declares that “the blood is the life,” and forthwith prescribes the blood instead of the life.
It is the bane of the modern scientific spirit that it cannot get away from its facts so as to see those facts in their proper relation and harmony. The inability of the scientist to do this is due, as are all the shortcomings of man, to spiritual deficiencies. He has no faith. Immersed in sense, he cannot exercise that faculty which is the telescope of the mind – the imagination. He thinks that the imagination can create; that it is able to see something transcending the capacity of the
infinite universe of being to produce; that man’s fancy can exceed God’s actual and even possible. The whole conception of modem science on this head is a stupidity of the densest description; and seeing that it is so, we ought not to wonder at the conjunction that has taken place between the two orthodoxies, sacerdotal and intellectual, in the matter of the Eastern Question, and that both should agree in the demand for blood.
The imagination is to the mind precisely what the sight is to the body. When the body is in perfect health and harmony with itself, its vision enables it to see with perfect accuracy far beyond the reach of touch; when the mind is in perfect health and harmony with itself, its imagination enables it to see with perfect accuracy far beyond the reach of sense. The complete man – the man in whom every plane of the consciousness is developed and in good order – has a separate eye for the facts belonging to each plane, by means of which he can pursue those facts, transmuted into ideas in his mind, far beyond the range of his senses. This eye is the imagination. It is by means of the intellectual imagination that the true scientist discerns the rationale, of which his facts are the symbolic
expression. It is by means of the moral imagination that the true philosopher discerns the idea of moral order, of which the world is, on its every plane, an expression. It is by means of the spiritual imagination that the true religionist discerns the source and signification of all existence, and is able to recognise and adore the triune truth, beauty, and goodness, which is ever revealing itself in the production, sustentation, and renovation of every unit of consciousness on every plane of existence.
The modern scientist rejects the use of the imagination simply because, through his being in a morbid or imperfectly developed condition, the lenses of his own mind are out of order, and apt to mislead him. Some of the most distinguished of the class are in the position of a blind man, who cannot be persuaded of the existence of anything that he cannot touch with his stick, no matter how positively those in whom he has every reason to put confidence may assure him of the nature of the road and the region around him. Having no faculty of perception himself, save only that of touch, he distrusts their sincerity, doubts the correctness of their statements, denies the reality of their experiences, and even flatly declares that there is no world whatever
in existence beyond that little one which he can touch with his stick, because they cannot make him see it also. And then, having made up beyond possibility of change that which he honours by calling his mind, he concludes by taking to himself credit for humility in not presuming to pretend to believe that which he cannot verify with his senses, and proudly boasts himself Agnostic, or even Atheist. As if of the myriad generations of men who have seen the world, and the meaning of it, with their own spiritual eyes, and rejoiced in the grandeur, and harmony, and beauty thereof, all were demented, and himself the only sound and whole man of them all – he who, in denying the reality of the ideal, confesses himself unable to translate his facts into ideas!
It consists with the exquisite harmony of Nature that man, the highest product and function of the sensible world, should, while so constituted mentally as to be free to develop his consciousness to the rank of a god, or degrade it to that of a demon, be so formed in every physical respect as to be able to attain the highest development of all his faculties, physical, mental, and spiritual, without doing violence to a single one of his finer sentiments, and therefore without inflicting suffering
or death on his sensitive fellow-creatures; and that he should also at the same time be so formed as to be able to sustain his physical life on a diet that destroys his higher faculties, and sinks him below the level of the beast, whose life he so recklessly takes, heedless of the injury done thereby to his own finer sentiments, and whose flesh he so greedily devours, equally heedless of its unsuitability for enabling him to attain his own highest development. As if the world’s whole history did not amply show that all the highest thought, best work, and purest lives have, from ages before Pythagoras until now, been those of the abstainers from a diet of flesh! It is upon the notion that man belongs to the carnivora, and must have blood to sustain him at the top of his being, that the whole superstructure of sacerdotalism, and with it all modern civilization, rests. The revolt against this system is prompted by the recognition of the truth, that man’s true centre and self are not here, that the body and the earth are but the outskirts of the system to which we really belong. It is through the survival in man of this innate consciousness – a survival in spite of the continuous massacres of man’s innocence by the agents of sacerdotal orthodoxy – that he is ever being impelled to transfer
himself in spirit to his source and his home, there to attain in the ideal the full perception of that of which the phenomenal is but the material expression.
It is orthodoxy that, in its ignorance or worse, finding that “the blood is the life,” has made the blood the substitute for the life, the blood of another for one’s own higher life. And has smeared the whole face of heaven with the blood of its sacrifices, until it has encarnadined the very Deity himself. This done, it has proceeded to remake man in the image of the God seen through such medium, by saturating him throughout every plane of his consciousness, and every sphere of his activity – in body, soul, and health – with blood not his own, shed on the threefold altar whereat minister the physiologist, the butcher, and the priest.
Granting that man is, as the physiologists strive to make us believe, but “an educated beast,” what do they know about beasts? What can they tell us about the basis of consciousness at all? Even the greatest of our philosophical scientists is here but one who stultifies himself like the rest of his class. Privileged, as he has been, to complete the great discovery of which the first step was made by Sir Isaac Newton, and of which
the last has taken two hundred years to make – the discovery of the existence, and of the two modes of operation, of the force represented by gravitation and evolution – he still fails to see beyond the mere fact of that force’s existence and mode. The idea of which it and they are the expression, wholly escapes him. And hence it is that he has lost himself and his fame in a slough of absurdities, such as that of deriving life and consciousness from death and unconsciousness, by the agency of mere mechanical motion. Had Mr. Herbert Spencer – a name which I cannot mention here and thus without acknowledging the greatness of my intellectual debt to him – had he but succeeded in suppressing his own apparent self and false centre in favour of his own true self and centre; had he but learnt the lesson of Islam, the lesson of “absolute submission to the will of God,” – the recognition, that is, of the absolute supremacy of the true self – instead of having attained an elevation whence to point the moral of the insufficiency of the faculties of sense for the discovery of truth, he would have found that, while the human mind’s one and indivisible, it is at the same time, like God, like humanity, like all absolutes, and modes of the absolute, dual and triune in its nature and operation; and that the
whole mind must be employed, its perceptive as well as its reflective, its imaginative as well as its reasoning, faculty, for the achievement of its end – the attainment of truth, precisely as man and woman must combine in order to attain the full completion of humanity in offspring.
But Mr. Spencer has not done this. He has had an object other than that of the mere discovery of truth. He perceived, it is true, the defect of the orthodox theological method, but in endeavouring to escape the sacerdotal Charybdis, has fallen into the scientific Scylla; and, merely reversing the process, has remained purely orthodox. For he has but exchanged the exclusive use of the imagination for that of the senses, and sought to refer the phenomena of existence to a cause that will account for but a single plane, and that a derived and secondary one. Of existence. He has ignored, perhaps because it is latent or dormant in himself, the spiritual as the source and seat of life and consciousness, and instead of making consciousness and life the basis of existence, has referred them to an origin simply mechanical. Whereas the mechanical is but one, and this a secondary, mode of the universal consciousness; and evolution and gravitation are but the two modes whereby that consciousness manifests
itself on the material plane of existence. Translated into their higher and universal mode, they are respectively the forces whereby the Supreme Absolute, the Universal Mind, which contains in itself in absolute perfection all properties and qualities of mind, projects from Itself by an act of will the whole universe of existence, and having projected, retracts it, heightened and perfected, towards himself. Evolution is but the operation on the material plane of the universal consciousness – of that quality of sympathetic expansion of which creation on all its planes is the effect. Had Mr. Spencer, when seeking to explain the origin of consciousness, omitted from his statement but a single letter – had he, instead of saying, “and so consciousness must arise,” said “and so consciousness must rise” – or become heightened – in the organic world, he would have spoken the word for which the world is languishing, and delivered a message of peace and reconciliation to the soul of man; for he would then have exhibited on the material planes of the consciousness that for which “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” and never more than now, “to wit the redemption of our body,” by the demonstration of its essential identity with the rest of that
universe of being, which is only intelligible in that, and so far as, it is an expression, not of a blind force of will or mechanics, but of that living and infinite mind which is, “the eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God,” “who is over all, God blessed for ever.”
And so Mr. Spencer has missed his chance, and left it to some other and future man who shall be as universal in his grasp of existence on all its planes as Mr. Spencer has shown himself on only the lower of those planes, to demonstrate to the world its true source, centre, self, significance, and end. He who shall do this must be one who, possessed by the spirit of absolute truthfulness, shall have discarded his false self and every “idol of his tribe,” in the shape of the foregone conclusions of a sect fascinated by the prospect of reproducing and emulating on the scientific plane the method and results of sacerdotalism on the spiritual plane; and who, possessing a full and complete nature, shall have cultivated and developed it to its fullest extent in every direction, and, by virtue of the universality of his sympathies, shall know what is in men, and so, being able to interpret them to themselves, shall be able to interpret the world to man and God to the world.
Of the inmost life of such a man will the
Gospel of the future be the record. No history, mutilated and perverted in the interests of sacerdotalism, of an impossible “passionate perfection” – a God with a phantom body – will that be; but a record of the living and burning experiences by which, as a “Captain of Salvation,” he will have been made perfect – a man, perfect in all that becomes a man – “with body, bones, and blood, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature,” undergoing his temptations in the wilderness of the flesh; oft seeming to fall, but ever arising, and knowing by a Divine instinct that in all that he did he was without sin, because he did all in the abounding fulness of the heart and the spirit.
All verities are eternal verities. The universe ever repeats itself in its offspring, proof enough that it is a living organism, and not a dead mechanical conglomeration of material atoms. And the individual is but an epitome of his race. The fuller, and truer, and more complete the character and the history, the more do the experiences, the more does the history correspond with that of the system. The ancients, not only collecting their facts, but thinking about them until they saw their meaning, made an infinitely better use of the
comparatively few facts at their command than we do with our many. And so they saw what we do not see, that the universe is alive both as a whole and in all its parts; and hence their recognition of the correspondence between the apparent course of the sun, the history of a people, and that of an individual. It was a simple application of the familiar fact of family likeness to the universe. The history of a typical race was an epitome of the sun’s annual course, and the history of a typical individual of that race was an epitome of both.
What may be anticipated of
As for the soul itself, that will be ready enough that a body should be sacrificed, so long as it is its own, and for others; and not another’s, and for itself. For it is an eternal verity, which the soul alone knows, that only the soul that is ready to yield up the body to its ideal, is a perfected soul. It is the sacrifice of the body that saves, but in
the exact reverse of the sacerdotal sense. For it is not the death, but the life, that saves. But that life must be lived out even to the death. The death is but the proof and crown of the victory, and has no other efficacy in it whatsoever.
Our question is, what will
over-estimated. This present crisis in our history has elements which make it in many respects an exact repetition of that crisis, at once so famous and so infamous, in which a fellow-typical people were called on to choose between the representative of its body and of its soul, and chose the former. In that case the Government was weak, yet rightly disposed. Its conscience was but partially enlightened, yet on the whole inclined to justice, and, finding itself sorely urged, suffered itself to be over-persuaded, and so yielded to popular clamour.
It was little wonder that it did so, seeing that its chief was a stranger in race and sympathies. He could not be expected to enter very minutely into the right and wrong of a question that turned upon the intricacies of the various local orthodoxies. All classes were against the reputed culprit, rich and poor, gentle and simple, learned and ignorant, chief priests and Pharisees, publicans and sinners. The chiefs of the sacerdotalist party, after patient conference with their associates, who were gathered from all ranks of orthodoxy, publicly announced by the mouth of their spokesman, as the result of their solemn deliberations, that it was “expedient that one man should die for the people.” The crowd,
delighted and surprised to find themselves and their betters for once in accord, and seeing the poor, scourged, bloody fainting object to whom the governor was more than half disposed to be pitiful, and sharing the prejudice, common to crowds against the wretched, ill-dressed, and shrinking creature before them; and assuming, perhaps, that his own ill-deeds had brought his misfortunes upon him, the crowd – called on, like their betters, to choose between the representatives of soul and body – cried, lustily, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” “Now Barabbas was a robber!”
The crowd did not mean to be
unjust and cruel. There are very few crowds which are not good at heart. English
crowds are distinguished for goodness of intention. But good impulses are one
thing, and right actions are another. A speaker at a recent public meeting gave
an illustration of this which may suggest to us that in the present crisis there
may be more than appears on the surface. A countryman coming by train to see
only a sovereign with me, and I shall carry that in my mouth.”
He stepped upon the platform as he spoke, but his words were overheard by a boy, who thought he saw his way to turning an honest – not penny, but – sovereign. So, following the countryman out of the station, he ran on and threw down before him a few coppers, and then stopping to pick them up, demanded the countryman’s sovereign. The latter proving restive, the boy persisted, and a crowd soon collected, eager to know what was the matter. “He has got my sovereign!” cried the lad. “Father sent me out to buy something for him with a sovereign and some coppers, and I dropped them, and he picked up the sovereign and put it in his mouth. There, look, he’s got it there now!”
What could be said against evidence such as this? Of course the virtuous crowd was indignant at the base attempt to rob a poor boy; and the victim had no option but to renounce his sovereign in the lad’s favour.
So was it with the crowds which
shouted, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” and so is it with the crowds which are
shouting “Down with the Turk !” and ce
excited by the outrages committed, as they suppose, by the Turk. But, did they know the real truth of the matter; did they know that, though the sword by which so many thousands of their nominal fellow-religionists fell was held in the hand of Turkey, the heart that impelled and the arm that directed the blow were Russia’s; that the whole of the insurrections and massacres on one side and the other, were directly and designedly instigated, fomented, planned, and almost executed, by authorised Russian agents, for the express purpose of bringing about that which has now happened – namely, the perpetration of such atrocious outrages on the part of the Turkish Government, as would infallibly alienate England, and so leave Constantinople alone and a prey to Russian ambition; did they know that the whole of the internal troubles and scandal of Turkish administration were directly due to Russia; did they know that the late Sultan, who confirmed the justice of the sentence whereby he was deposed by self-murder, was but a tool of Russia, who used every means in its power to keep h i m on the throne, solely in order that, by his private debaucheries and public misrule, he might promote directly the designs of Russia; did they know that the
movement whereby te was deposed was the result of a determined effort of the Turk to regenerate himself, and that the late attempt to kidnap the royal sot now in durance, in order to replace him on the throne, was done in the interests of Russia, and are but further proofs of the unscrupulous fanaticism for her self-advancement with which Russia – like Christianity in its first enthusiasm, like Rome when Catholicism was alive and unstifled by sacerdotalism, like every great cause, be it good or bad, that wins the undivided hearts of its votaries – inspires even the meanest of her instruments; and that the present Sultan is doomed to be sacrificed because Russia sees in him the representative of a regenerated Turkey, and the knell of her own evil ambition; – did, I say, the great, generous, unspoilt, though untaught, heart of the British Worker know all these and the thousand other facts which his leaders so persistently ignore – God forgive them if it be for their own ends – the strong arms of England would rise in their might, and sink the whole navy of sacerdotalism, with its crews of conspirators and munitions of orthodoxies, into the fathomless abyss; and then, the legion of her devils cast out, England, torn and rent by the struggle, but safe and
sound, save only for a few superficial wounds, which, under the stimulus of her Regeneration, would soon heal and leave no scar, – England would fall on her knees and cry, as never has she cried before, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and in Thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son!” And then she would arise, clothed, and in her right mind, and go frankly to her old ally, kindred at once in the spirit and the flesh, in faith and in interests, and say, “Brother, forgive me; we were both in the wrong.” That indeed were a humiliation to be proud of!
The astute diplomatists of
Viewed externally, the Russian system represents one homogeneous organism, pervaded by one strong-will. This constitutes the attraction it has
for Mr. Carlyle. Christian in name, it is
Atheist, or rather Pessimist, in reality. For the will that guides Russian
policy is tempered by no consideration of morality. Its Church represents the
complete degradation of its original type, being sensual, grasping, and wholly
unspiritual, – a mere Nature worship, far gone in fetishism of the lowest
description. And the Christians of the provinces subordinate to
I have said that one will rules
To this condition of things in
Truly we are in evil plight when our most trusted and honoured leaders in Church and State thus combine to strengthen the counsels of Caiaphas. That the scent of Professor Fawcett, once so keen to detect the sacerdotal virus in Mr. Gladstone’s Irish University Bill, as to enable him almost alone to brave the whole of the then great Liberal party, should have so utterly failed him in this infinitely more momentous crisis, is a matter truly deplorable. At that time, grieving over his exclusion from the representation of Brighton, and seeing in him the one true Liberal when all other Liberals showed their preference for the sacerdotalism of Mr. Gladstone above their own Liberal principles, I commended him to his renegade constituents, as an
Abdiel, faithful found,
Among the faithless, faithful only he.
For I was proud both of him, and of my own judgment which had led me to advocate his cause prior to his first election, believing from what I had read of his utterances, that he was what England so sorely needed, a man of unflinching singleness of mind and keen intellectual perspicacity. “Better,” I remember saying in
answer to those who objected to his want of sight, “better to have in the Legislature one man who is only physically blind, than so many who are intellectually blind.” Of his integrity there is no reason to feel distrust; though it is difficult to believe that he could have made his present tremendous blunder, had he not been looking to Party rather than to Principle, and seeking rather for means to reunite the Liberals, than for the sacerdotal virus whose presence he had such strong reasons for suspecting in any scheme of Mr. Gladstone’s in which ecclesiasticism is concerned. That Mr. Fawcett also should have fallen among the orthodoxies, is but another of the innumerable proofs that, until a man has found his true self and centre, there is no knowing what he may do. That Mr. Fawcett, of all men, should have thus mistaken the apparent and expedient for the real and the right, shows that Professors – to say nothing of Premiers – are no more infallible than Princes, and that we must not put our trust in either.
Surely this is a time to try men’s souls when one after another of our great names are found to totter and fall, wholly unequal to the emergency. The principle by which Mr. Bright draws the life between one kind of fighting and
another, between the kind he likes and the kind he dislikes – namely, between that which does, and that which does not, endanger the skin, – is not far to seek. To me it is clear enough, that if a thing be worth contending for at all, it is worth risking one’s skin for. Can it be that Mr. Bright also is so far from having found his true self and centre as still to regard that which is represented by the skin as constituting the real and essential self of the man? It looks like it. Yet if so, Mr. Bright has so much to do on his own account ere he quits the world, that the world may well excuse him from bestowing more of his attention on its concerns. He cannot help it; its affairs are beyond his ken. Let him retire with the gratitude of us all for what he has done and done well. Times are upon us which call for men who recognise existence as containing something of higher value than a whole skin. Alas! alas! that Mr. Bright also should have fallen among the orthodoxies, which hold that the body is the man, that all is well and well done that ministers to the body, no matter what of duty, what of honour, what of tenderness, charity, mercy, justice, nobleness, truth, beauty, and goodness we fail in, so that this poor husk of the flesh be spared a pang! The good old motto
“All for love, or the world well lost,” must
now be read, “All for the skin, and the soul to the devil!” as if the whole
divine scheme of things were not expressly contrived to show in how little
estimation comparatively the merely physical life is held by its giver. As if
How can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods?
and it is even more than is implied in these
once-honoured symbols that we have to consider in this present crisis of
lost save honour!” was the triumphant cry of one of old. We shall have to render it, “Nothing is lost save honour, and that is of no consequence!”
Poor, dear John Stuart Mill! tenderest and most lovable of men, incompletest and most fallible of philosophers; feminine in the character alike of his understanding and of his affections, masculine in his devotion to abstract truth and right so far as he saw them; spending his life at the dictation of a wooden father in striving to stifle his intuitions; and revealing to the world in. His death all the weak places of his nature. Who can read that posthumous record of his inner thought without seeing that he, too, though looked up to as one of the lights of the age, was so far from having completed his own intellectual system, that he inclined to the belief in a duality of original principles of good and evil as the sole way of accounting for the admixture of those two qualities in man’s earthly existence! Stifling the poet within him, in stifling that faculty of imagination whereby the mind is able to focus itself beyond the senses, and to discern the rationale of its facts; stifling his intuition of truth in the attempt to comprehend and judge the universe of existence by the aid of reason alone, he failed to see even the first necessary
condition of all finite perception, – failed to see that an absolute must exhibit a duality of operation, must produce contrasts, if it is to manifest itself at all. He recognised the contrast’s existence, recognised the fact of the dualism, but failed to recognise the essential unity of which duality is necessarily the first stage of differentiation; and so contented himself with the surmise that existence is made up of two halves which together do not form a consistent whole! A natural and complete life, if only on the physical plane of the consciousness, and healthy and hearty, would have shown him the truth he failed to reach. For it would have shown him, by actual experience, that, precisely as humanity is an absolute which manifests its essential dualism by differentiating, on the animal plane, into the two contrasted opposites of male and female; and precisely as mind is an absolute which manifests its essential dualism by differentiating into the two contrasted opposites, reflection and perception, reason and imagination; so precisely is the Universal Existence an absolute which – including in itself and constituting all absolutes whatsoever – necessarily exhibits duality in the act of translating itself into phenomena. The recognitions of the truth that Existence is an absolute entity of which spirit
and matter, good and evil, better and worse, higher and lower, fire and water, energy and space, God and “the beginning,” the logos and the archë, male and female, motor and sensory, and but some of the contrasted integrations into which for us it necessarily differentiates itself, was wholly wanting to him. It was doubtless also the fear of reading too much of man into God, of the partial and incidental into the whole and essential; the dread of seeming to countenance the terrible abuses of religious “orthodoxy by granting that Existence is a Person, and that God Is, and is that Person, that prompted the desire to ascribe to a non-moral origin that of which he could not discern the essential morality, and paralysed the exquisite mind of Mr. Mill until he also became saturated with the essential spirit of all the orthodoxies, – the spirit that regards the sensible as the real and denies the ideal and the intuitions thereof. And as this is the spirit that is now driving us headlong into the arms of that all-engulfing desolation, the dead, frozen, breast of Russia, so far from the philosophy of Mr. Mill being a beacon to guide us on our way in safety, it is one of the lights by following which we are being lured to our destruction. Is other proof wanted of the intrinsic iniquity of
the principle of divorce when applied to the severance of one of the two halves of that essential unity, mind, to enable the masculine part to operate without the feminine, or the feminine to operate without the masculine? The half with which Mr. Mill worked was the feminine: it was all sweetness and light, all impulse and beneficence; but, lacking its true male partner, its natural fecundity was turned into rebellion and barrenness.
And so I say, poor Mr. Mill! Striving ever to quench the light of the imagination and the intuitions, he was unable to take a single step up the hill from which alone a more extended view could have been gained. He saw the world from an inferior level, and saw but very little of it. Hence his conception of existence as comprised within the range of sense. Hence his condemnation as imperfect of a world of which he saw but the lower planes. But who told him that, even as a whole, this world was intended to represent the finished perfection he craved? It seems never to have occurred to him – as it could not on the level from which he viewed it – that the world, even as a whole, represents but a single stage in a vast process; that it is, for all who fall short of their due perfection, but as a school, wherein, by the discipline of experience –
a discipline that must be all the sharper according as the pupil is dense and obstinate; according as he persists in developing the outer to the neglect of the inner; according as he clings to orthodoxy and facts, instead of to reality and significations – it never occurred to him that the world is for all these the very perfectest school that could possibly be devised: a school wherein is pursued the most perfect system of discipline and education imaginable; and hence that it is a perfect world. A world at once finite and free, in which foul living, foul feeling, foul thinking, foul doing; in which a regime of selfishness, blood, and the sacrifice of others, should either be impossible, or being possible bring no sorrow, is wholly inconceivable. Yet such seems to have been the world of Mr. Mill’s ideal. Sighing for freedom without possibility of failure, Mr. Mill found only failure without possibility of redemption.
Mr. Mill fought a good tight in insisting on the doctrine of individual development; but he failed to discover who or what the individual is. He stood on his own plane of the intellect, far above, it is true, that of the animal sense; but he failed utterly to reach the region of spirit. Hence all he did has to be done over again; precisely as a survey of a country that is taken from a low level has to be done over again from
the highest that it contains. For in the great world of the Universal Existence the spiritual is the level that includes all other levels.
Since Mr. Mill left us, to seek elsewhere the mental completeness denied to him here, and to learn the lesson he failed to learn here, another teacher of scientific morals has arisen among us, who is endowed, as is asserted by those who are considered competent judges, with one of the most purely scientific minds it is possible for man to have. Professor Clifford proclaims his doctrines with a clearness, consistency, and explicitness which leave nothing to be desired in respect to those qualities.
I know not into which scale he has cast his sympathies in the present crisis; but if consistent with his own teaching, he cannot but have cast it into the same scale with Mr. Gladstone and the sacerdotalists. For Professor Clifford is a typical representative of scientific orthodoxy. His whole system is built upon the assumption that in producing man the universe has produced something which is no index to its own nature; that the earth will some day return to the sun, and that such return, instead of, like its original forthgoing, ministering to the further development of the consciousness of the parts,
and to the mutual satisfaction of the whole and the parts, will constitute the “Last Catastrophe” of our system, which will thus be swept into annihilation, so far as its consciousness is concerned; and that only its material particles will survive, to undergo, perchance, a new arrangement on some like plan, with nothing gained, nothing learnt, and no one the better, or even the worse, for all the good and evil, joy and misery, that has been done or suffered through the ten thousand years of the system’s course.
Depriving universal existence of an aim, Professor Clifford deprives particular existence of a standard. His doctrine, that the good of the community is the standard of right and wrong, is at once a renunciation of the ideal and of the intuitions, and a justification of the course proposed by the orthodoxies with regard to the present crisis; inasmuch as in the absence of any standard which can be recognised by the intuitions, it is necessary to fall back on the opinion of a dominant majority as the criterion of conduct or truth. Seeing that a majority, estimated numerically, at present necessarily contains the ignorant and unintelligent portions of any community, and those whose conceptions of good are of a very Io w order, it scarcely needs argument to
prove that the good of the community, as estimated by them, is apt to be the very reverse of good, as estimated by the smaller and more intelligent class. Numbers failing, it is necessary to find some other criterion of right and wrong. Only force can compete successfully against numbers. There are three or four kinds of force, physical, intellectual, pecuniary – which, as a rule, is an accompaniment of the two first – and spiritual force. The way in which the representatives of one or more of these have shown their appreciation of Professor Clifford’s standard of right and wrong, has generally been by declaring themselves to be the community, and making their own good the standard of right and wrong. It was in this way that Louis Quatorze decided the question in his own favour. “I am the State,” said he; and, by Professor Clifford’s definition, there was no reason why he should not have done so. It has been by the assent extorted through spiritual terror, that priesthoods have been enabled to declare themselves to be the community; and these also may quote our Professor’s definition in justification of the state of abject submission to which they have always reduced the peoples who have submitted to them. It is on behalf of what our sacerdotalists conceive
to be the good of the community – meaning
thereby the advancement of some pet ecclesiastical project, the advantage of
which begins and ends with themselves – that they are now seeking to associate
Professor Clifford’s omission to define the terms good and community, vitiates his whole doctrine. The omission is not one that can be made good by any addition to the dogma as it stands. He has not completed his system of thought generally, so far as to have recognised either what good is in itself, or what is the true object of human association. The doctrine advanced by him justifies the infliction of the most atrocious wrongs upon any individual or section of the community, if only those who have succeeded in constituting themselves the community be sufficiently powerful. It is thus no other than that detestable pessimistic doctrine of the sacerdotalist and the vivisector, that might makes right.
It has another fatal opening in its armour. It makes that the good of the community which is the good of the physically strongest – namely, of those who can most successfully appeal to material considerations, and who, through being thus the most likely to estimate the physical above the
intellectual, moral, or spiritual, are the least qualified to judge what is really good for the community; and who, through being themselves under the sway of sense, will naturally make the gratification of sense the chief good for all.
The true gist of the question thus shows itself to be, in what does the true self of the community consist? The true self being found, the question next arises, what is the true good for that self?
As in an individual, so in the assemblage of individuals termed a community, there are two selfs, an outer and apparent, and an inner and real self. It is the latter that is the common spiritual force-centre of the whole organism; and this it is that for the community precisely as for the individual, constitutes the object and criterion of good. The business of the inner and true self is the development of its consciousness. It is for the better development of their respective consciousnesses that men associate together into communities. Wherefore for the community to do as a whole aught that ministers to the repression or suppression of the consciousness of any individual member of it, is to violate the essential terms of the social contract implied in their association. To the objection that on this principle one individual may insist upon developing what he calls his consciousness
at the expense of his neighbours, the answer is that, as all men are essentially identical, and have, therefore, the same central and true self, if only they can find it, the rule that everything should be lawful that ministers to the development of the consciousness of that inner and true self which is possessed by all in common, and that whatever does not so minister should be held as constituting immorality or crime, would afford a standard of right and wrong impossible to be mistaken or transcended. For it would allow of the recognition of motives and circumstances as determining cases, and thus would lessen the importance attached to the merely external aspects of conduct. In doing this it would constitute a renunciation of the pharisaic element in orthodoxy, – the element which, by regarding the external aspect as everything, makes the internal of no account, and so ministers to the destruction of all true morality. But Professor Clifford does not like the doctrine that mind is one, and truth one, and intuition the mode of perception.
It would be an universal standard, and capable of universal application; it would allow of everything that ministers to the development of all that man intuitively feels to be best in him. The exaltation of such a standard would stimulate
the growth of a healthy tone in society, by discouraging tendencies which minister exclusively to the development of the outer, false, and merely animal self. Professor Clifford’s difficulty arises from his failure to find any substitute for that which, through want of another term, I have employed soul or spirit. His individual is, whether one or many, but an aggregation, as it were, of planets and other subsidiary bodies, which somehow have managed to arrange themselves in a harmonious order entirely of themselves, without reference to a sun, or to any common force which serves as a source and centre to them. As for the human system, it has for him no sun; though the solar system – after which, as its parent, it might have been expected to take – has a central sun, which, like a parent, fulfils at once the threefold function of source, sustainer, and renewer of its existence; just as the soul, if there were such a thing, might be expected to do for the body; or just as God, if there were such a being, might be expected to do for the whole universe of existence. But, failing to find such central self either for his individual or for his community, Professor Clifford is reduced to the extremity of making that the standard of right and wrong which the party that chances to be in the ascendency happens to
prefer. His doctrine is thus only a mode of the once famous philosophy called Positivism, of which it will probably come in our way to make mention in the course of this volume. The particular object of my remarks on the modern teaching is to show that the most prominent exponents of that Science of which it has so often and so loudly been boasted that it was to be the true redeemer of the world, are radically tainted with that same essential spirit of orthodoxy to which the evils claimed to be remedied by science are due; and hence that in changing from religion to science we are merely changing from one form of orthodoxy to another, and are in no whit benefited by the change. It is still the reign of Sense, the hardest of services and the poorest of wage. So long as its votaries were content to let off what seemed to be mere harmless fireworks, it was of little consequence what they might say. People could listen or not listen, and answer their crude and unphilosophic inferences for themselves, by the light of their own intuitions. But when it is claimed, on the strength of their having gathered a few facts – and these in great part in defiance of every moral consideration – on one of the many planes of existence, and that the lowest, the narrowest, and the most transient, all others being wholly
ignored; – when, I say, it is by such as these claimed to decide for England the question of her whole future policy and destiny; and when as if by one consent they are urging her to a course that is palpably immoral and fraught with disaster, it is time to expose to those who have not the time or the ability to ascertain it for themselves, the real secret and method of their system, the nature of the foundations on which it is built, and the goal to which it inevitably leads.
It is simply the old reign of blood in a new guise that “science” is seeking to restore; sacerdotal orthodoxy, vicarious atonement, the sacrifice of others to self, instead of self for others, the sacrifice of the higher self to the lower, instead of the lower to the higher, and the reversal of every process whereby it is possible under the laws which govern existence, for man to promote his own or another’s welfare. I shall show presently by actual instances what is the inevitable consequence of a regime of orthodoxy, whether put in application by priest or by scientist. Those instances will demonstrate to absolute certainty the nature of the spirit that is thus boldly asserting itself on its new field of operation.
I shall show that while
material necessities, the orthodoxies have become more than ever rampant, and in place of the golden banner of the Soul which used to shine over us, have hoisted the red flag of the animal self, and flaunting it over the whole fair face of the heavens, now venture to demand a victim which in respect of Science represents Morality; in respect of Religion, represents the intuitions; and in respect of Race, represents more than the half of mankind.
In order to comprehend the enormity of the whole system of doctrine and practice by which our modern life is made hideous, it is necessary to compare it with man s normal condition of existence. The notion that ours is the normal state is wholly unsupported by proof, and is wholly contrary to probability. There is no more reason for believing that bloodshed, disease, and wickedness constitute the normal and necessary state of the race as a whole than for believing them to constitute that of the individual. Such, however, is not the teaching of the orthodoxies. But we have not done with Professor Clifford and his doctrine.
The action of our trades-unions is an apt example of the inevitable working of the doctrine of “the good of the community.” Erecting themselves into a community, our artisans strive all
in their power to suppress the individual in favour of what they deem the good of that community. They affect to be a perfect democracy, but do not see that it is a false democracy that suppresses the individual in favour of the general. The whole can rise only by the elevation of the parts, – as any one can see in the familiar operation of bread-making. I refer only, of course, to the sphere of the finite. Expand the consciousness of the individual by a healthy sympathetic evolution of all his faculties, and the whole community will reap the advantage.
The evil I am exposing comes, like all others, primarily of a want of rational faith. Its source is spiritual, not physical. The doctrine of trades-unionism, like all other orthodox doctrines, is the outcome of the negation of faith in the unseen. Seeing so little of existence, because regarding it from so low a level, we treat Nature as poverty-stricken and dead, and seek to supplement her by devices which are themselves the cause and the consequence of our own dearth. The artisan restrains the superior energy and skill of his brother through fear lest the supply of work and wage should fail. What is this but an irrational want of faith in the boundlessness and bounteousness of existence? As if we were so near perfection that but
little of the world’s work remained to be done! As if we had so nearly exhausted the resources of the infinite, that little more could be got out of it for our sustenance! Thus does our practice lag so far behind our knowledge. We have no perception of the true teachings of science because we have none of the true teachings of religion. The spirit is dead. Astronomy tried to open our minds, and failed. We still act as if the sun were a mere appendage to the earth. Physical science has in vain. Exhibited sympathetic expansion, under the name of Evolution, as the law of all progress. For we have practised more and more the habit of selfish contraction, until, through the lack of spiritual vitality, we have suffered the principle of Malthusianism to dominate every region of our nature, and every sphere of our activity; – not seeing that all imperfection is but limitation, all limitation imperfection; that the ideal alone is the unlimited and perfect, and alone can make perfect those who their trust in it: not seeing that the ideal is the real, and that the real is God; not seeing that the recognition of the ideal is the revelation of God; that this revelation can be made only to the mind which is itself pure and lodged in a pure organism. This was all known so long ago as the days of Moses, and ages before him. The
old thinkers – who thought so long, so earnestly, through feeling that existence was a real thing; and who lived so purely that they might see clearly – thought until thought became merged in sight, and from thinkers their became seers. Thus the vision of the real ideal was opened to their gaze; they knew the method of the worlds; past, present, and future, that everlasting Trinity of existence – a Trinity recognised by Comte, but by him restricted to the ancestry, present generation, and posterity of mankind only! – made all one present; for all was the working of the same spirit. Pure in life, pure in mind, pure in heart, pure in spirit, they were indeed blest, for they saw God. Begin we now to have a glimpse of what the great pantheist, Moses, meant when he said, “The blood is the life,” and, forbidding the passage of an atom of flesh into the human system, exalted physical purity to the first place in the scheme of human redemption? The purity he inculcated did not end with the body. What has not sacerdotalism to answer for!
A word to Mr. Darwin, type of the best scientific mind of the century. As reason represents a degeneration of perception, so evolution represents a degeneration of perfection. In both, Nature seeks to regain a lost standard – one on the
mental, the other on the physical plane of
the earth’s consciousness. The lowest form of physical life is, like the lowest
form of any other kind of life, the last of a descending series previous to
becoming the first of an ascending one. The mode of ascent is by the development
of the true inner and spiritual consciousness of the individual. The mode of
descent is by the obscuration and suppression of that consciousness. The descent
may be arrested at any stage by conforming to the conditions suitable to the
promotion of healthy, that is, sympathetic, expansion; in other words,
evolution. The ascent may be arrested at any stage by reversing this process, –
namely, by yielding to conditions which favour morbid contraction, or a merely
selfish involution. Pray explain the moral aspect of your doctrine as speedily
as may be to your age; for your fellow-scientists are reading it all the wrong
way. Suppressing the sympathies, they are suppressing our life, individual and
national; and of that teaching they are giving the first great example by
seeking to suppress the once brightly-glowing soul of
that the thin-skinnedness which is making us so sensitive to the outer and so callous to the inner life, is but the result of our exclusive cultivation of that outer until it has reached a morbid pitch of sensibility and mulcted the inner of its due share of vitality. Living as we are now doing, all on the outside, every prick hurts us, every wound mortifies. Living not at all, as we do, in the inside, we are dead to the true life. Hence our activities have become no longer the outcome of a healthy vitality that, proceeding from our true centre, once permeated our whole system, and impelled us forth, an ever-expanding beneficent force, to people the waste places of the earth and fulfil the glorious functions of a true Son of man. They have become but the restlessness of fever; and we haste to the scenes of the work’s beauties, not to enjoy those beauties with love and adoration, but to work off the effects of a dyspepsia of soul and body, – result of the grossness of our habits in everything we eat, drink, think, feel, say, and do. We might learn many a lesson from the doctrine of evolution if somebody would but teach us. It was a very suggestive phrase of yours, – the descent of man. But I think and hope you will admit that the time has come for us to devote some attention to his ascent.
It is very strange the notion – ingrained in us – that evil, and its consequent misery, is the normal condition of man. The further back we pry into the religions, legends, and myths of antiquity, the stronger are the indications that man once enjoyed good health. My conviction is that he has lived for thousands of generations on the earth in a condition of innocence, health, and happiness, and in the enjoyment of physical, mental, and spiritual faculties far transcending anything of which we can form a conception; and that what we know as the historical period is but a comparatively brief attack of illness, through which the race will pass, or to which it will succumb, according to the regimen it pursues, precisely as in the case of an individual. I am convinced also that the cause is ascertainable and the remedy simple; and that what we call civilisation – like religions, like philosophies, like reasonings – represents but the endeavour of man to regain his lost health, or some equivalent for it.
It is a thought brimful of hope. For if it was possible for our forefathers to live happily on the earth, there can be no reason founded in the nature
of things why we also should not be able to do so. We have but to discover their secret. The belief that man, and the world in which he lives, are radically and incurably evil – a fundamental doctrine of all orthodoxy, be it noted – involves the belief that the sun, and the material of the whole system, are evil also. And this again involves the belief that the whole universe of existence, so far from being the perfect work and manifestation of an absolutely perfect mind, is, with that mind itself, imperfect, – a conception wholly inconceivable, notwithstanding that it is capable of being formulated in words. Hence it follows necessarily that, God being absolutely good, His revelation of Himself in creation must also be good, and this to its minutest detail. Evil could not have subsisted in the substance of the Divine Thought – which necessarily constitutes the material of the universe – either originally in its monadic, or secondarily in its dualistic state. Differentiation is not creation. Wherefore, their substance being devoid of evil, the sun and the planets must have been also free from evil. Evil therefore cannot be inherent in any of the products of those planets, not even in man. That which man calls evil, then, in simply the discomfort arising from an injudicious use of his freedom, – a property
in the absence of which he would, indeed, have been imperfect and evil. It is good that man be free. An automaton is not a man. Man must have been either an automaton – a mere piece of unconscious mechanism devoid of power to choose, and blindly following an appointed path without object or aim – or he must be free to choose his own way. And it is the fact of his being free and having a choice, that necessarily involves the existence of what we call evil. For if there were no alternative to what we regard as good, there would be no power of choice, inasmuch as there would be no alternatives to choose between, and consequently no freedom. The existence of “evil” simply proves that man is free, and that, in his freedom and liability to err, he has adopted some mode of living which does not agree with his constitution.
There is no way out of it, say what the orthodoxies may. Man is not “utterly depraved;” and he is not an automaton. As I write I am reminded of a passage in one of Ovid’s metamorphoses, in which he says very much what I have just said. He declares that man was happy until he violated the laws of his health, moral and physical, by the yielding to an impulse of which the outcome was the slaughter of animals for food. The act was one
that implied and produced a degeneration first of the moral sentiments, and next of the physical organism. For mind and body are, while together, so closely intertwined, that it is impossible to affect one without affecting the other.
The idea which I am seeking to make clear, is, I am further reminded as I write, one dwelt upon by Byron and Shelley, two of our greatest poets of the intuitions, and consequently two against whom the orthodoxies have most vehemently raged. But though the ideas I have expressed were also the ideas of the poets, it is not from reminiscence, which Plato imagined to be the source of ideas, that I have them, but simply from the endeavour to exercise for myself that faculty of direct intuition into truth which belongs to man in his perfection, and which it has ever been the prime aim of orthodoxy, first sacerdotal, and now scientific, to eradicate. It was as the prophet, abhorring the slaughter of the innocent and vindicating the character of the Almighty, that Cain slew Abel, – an act for which he has ever since been stigmatised by the sacerdotalists as a murderer, the words of Jesus himself being falsified in their favour. “But the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any
finding him should slay him;” and so the race
of prophets and poets survives still to appeal to men’s intuitions and incite
them to rise in revolt against the bloody regime of the orthodoxies. A word
about this faculty which the priest denounces and the scientist scorns as an
impossibility and an absurdity. It rightly forms part of our subject, seeing
that it is upon the ruin of our intuitions of truth, right, justice, and
sympathy, that this new and final conspiracy against
I say that man in his normal, natural, healthy state not merely reasons with his mind, but sees with his soul. Orthodoxy, consisting in an appeal to sense, cavils at this, and refuses to accept as true nothing but what is capable of verification by the senses. This is the controlling idea of the ritualistic element in sacerdotalism; its outward observances, rites, and ceremonies. It requires that something be done which can be seen bodily, and so comes to mal e the spirit of little or no account as compared with the flesh. The same conception of the nature of existence is the controlling idea of modern science; hence its exclusive devotion to the finding of facts rather than meanings. It works
with the senses when it ought to be seeing with the mind. Not that facts are not indispensable to the perception of truth. Man cannot dispense with any of his faculties. Even vision must be educated. The newly enlightened sees men as trees walking. But facts no more constitute knowledge, than food constitutes man. Knowledge must be built up on facts, as man is built up on food. The truth is, that scientist and sacerdotalist alike omit that essential element of man and of existence, the life, or spirit. All honour to those who collect facts by legitimate means. All honour to the scrupulous, conscientious scientist, who, rather than outrage one of the best feelings of man’s nature, rather than inflict suffering on even the meanest thing that lives and feels, gladly foregoes the credit of having discovered a new fact. He will be no loser thereby, for the very encouragement accorded to his higher faculties by the sacrifice of a lower propensity, will minister to the fuller development of those finer perceptions and sympathies in response to which Nature alone opens her heart and discloses her secrets, and so tend directly to qualify him for a distinction surpassing that which he craves. As for making discoveries really beneficial to men’s bodies by
means of agonising experimentation upon his sensitive fellow-creatures, as well might the torturers of the Inquisition pretend that they were enabled by their practices to benefit men’s souls.
The denial of the intuitive faculty follows necessarily from the restriction of man’s perceptions to the senses, and the degradation of the mind from an entity into a mere process. But the world’s history could never have been what it is has there been no faculty whereby man’s spiritual part was able to come into direct relation with the spiritual entity which underlies all phenomenal existence. It is the impossibility of denying this without, at the same time, expunging a vast mass of the most positive evidence, that has compelled religious orthodoxy to postulate miracle. Science denies miracle, but in order to preserve a show of consistency, it expunges the evidence. The truth is that there is no miracle, simply because all is miracle. The universe is alive with the life of Him from whom it proceeds; and it is possible for individuated portions of that life to come into relation with each other, and with the whole of which they are portions, without the intervention of sense. This is the great truth to attain the certainty of which the modern
phenomenon called “spiritualism” is the vulgar, because a modern and debased, expression.
Spiritualism, revivalism, and all the phenomena generally of that class, represent on the lowest plane of the spiritual consciousness, the ineradicable aspirations of the soul of man towards its source. It is a translation into the spiritual sphere, of the force known in the material as gravitation. That its manifestations should be in such guise is inevitable from the rudimentary condition of the intelligence in those in whom it manifests itself. How rudimentary that condition is, may be judged by the character of some of its mediums, and of the provender with which they stuff the minds of their followers. That the American revivalists who recently visited this country, should have found so great a success, was scarcely less gratifying in one direction, than it was deplorable in another. That people should have flocked to them in thousands in the hope of receiving the spiritual nourishment they failed to find elsewhere, proved at least a condition of spiritual vitality on the part of the people; there was life, though low in quantity and quality. That they should have been put off with fare such as that which they received, and that their teachers, having no better fare to
offer, should have met with so hearty a response, shows the low state of the public intelligence in things religious as well as in things moral and intellectual. The discourses and hymns of Messrs. Moody and Sankey were literally saturated with blood. It was the doctrine of sacerdotalism in its grossest and most repulsive form. Caiaphas, Judas, and Pontius Pilate, were all virtually held up as the greatest of man’s benefactors, because they had shed the innocent blood by which alone man’s soul could be saved. As for the life lived, the triumph achieved by the soul over the lower self, these counted for nothing. The doctrine was the doctrine of all the orthodoxies, that God is a huge carnivorous animal, which exacts vicarious bloodshed as the condition of redemption.
All experience shows that when man is influenced for good, it is through the appeal to his intuitions. He may be reasoned with to any extent, but it is always in vain unless the heart be touched. For the heart is the seat of the vital heat which in the brain becomes transmuted into intellectual light. And the force by which one individual compels the heart of another must be applied directly to the corresponding centre of force in that other. Man learns by reasoning and thinking; but only by
seeing and feeling does he know. Hence the inadequacy of any education that omits the development of the intuitions in the attempt to form and regenerate the character.
The notion that man sees truth, and does not merely reason his way towards it, is ever dismissed with scorn by the votary of orthodoxy. Accepting nothing that cannot be verified to his senses, he insists that he be made to see it for himself; and because he cannot be so made, he does not merely doubt, or keep his judgment in abeyance, but he denies; – denies not only that which he sees to be not true, but that which he does not see to be true.