IN HIS OWN IMAGE, MALE AND FEMALE
WE WILL take first the most palpable and universal physical facts of humanity, as befits the intelligence in its earliest essays towards the conception of a Supreme Being.
For this, as for all subsequent stages of our progress, it is necessary that we clear our minds from the prepossessions wherewith we are wont to regard the infinite, and suppose space to be absolutely vacant save only of ourselves and the world visible around us. We are here, and yonder is the void. How came we here, and of what nature must that be which produced us?
Such are the questions to which, following the universal course of human thought, we have to provide an answer. Starting, then, from our own consciousness, let us see what answer comes most naturally to us, and what are the lineaments of the image of God.
To man who makes that which he requires, with ingenuity according to forethought and design, his
Maker can only be one who proceeds in the selfsame fashion, thinking out the details and fashioning the work with his hands. There must be power, or his Creator could not have made him at all. There must be will, and there must be intelligence. All these are human qualities, inasmuch as man finds them in himself; and qualities which constitute one of man’s most essential attributes, personality or individuality.
The Creator, then, appears as a Person possessed, of characteristics physical and intellectual. But as man grows and observes he finds that something more than these are necessary to account for the impulse to create. Great as was the advance made when, searching into the marvels of nature, Aristotle found everywhere proofs of the presence of intellect, and ascribed creation to Intelligence rather than to Will or Power, a motive for creation was still wanting.
It is only as we approach adolescence that we learn to ascribe aught resembling emotion to our parents. As children we do not wonder at the fact that the being to whom we belong consists of two persons, a mother as well as a father. Only slowly dawns upon us the mystery of Sex, and its correlative Sentiment. It is long after man has learnt to recognise in his progenitor power and intelligence, that he learns to credit him with emotion or love.
Thus, even while confining himself to the physical side of things, man is led more and more to see in his Maker the original and counterpart of himself: and, recognising one point of family likeness after another, to ascribe to him every organ, faculty, and quality he finds in himself; only, divested of limitations. And the less special and restricted to any particular tribe; or race such attributes are, that is, the more they belong universally to all mankind, the more Catholic appear the results attained. Sectarianism in its earliest form consisted in depicting the Deity after the likeness of some particular people; making him black and thick-lipped, as did the Ethiops, or white, lithe, and straight-featured, as did the Greeks. Later ones consisted in investing him with local moral characteristics; as did the Jews when they invested their Jehovah with the jealous exclusiveness characteristic of themselves, a quality to which their isolated condition as a people is mainly owing.
A favourite practice in all non-monotheistic religions was to cut up humanity, as it were, and distribute its various qualities, moral and other, among several deities, making one the impersonation of power, another of wisdom, another of love; and in having also separate gods to represent not merely separate nationalities, but separate human pursuits, as war, peace, music, agriculture. All these mythologic
systems, pagan though they were, and sectarian in respect of their failing to ascribe perfection in all respects whatsoever to one and the same supreme Being, were yet essentially Catholic in so far as they proceeded on the principle of making God in man’s image, the image of man’s best, divested of limitations.
For a being to experience the sentiment of love and to be productive, it is evident that the element of duality must not be wanting. For a solitary existence there is neither object of love nor mode of production. Unable to conceive it of himself, man cannot conceive it of his Maker; and whatever man cannot conceive of himself, he cannot, consistently with the rule of nature and Catholicism, conceive of God. Where, moreover, man may well ask, can the universal law of duality, the law in accordance with which nature appears as one vast sexual apparatus, have its origin and seat but in the nature of the Creator himself, the type and model in the infinite of the finite manifestation of himself called the World?
The primitive doctrine that God created man in his own image, male and female, and consequently that the divine nature comprised the two sexes within itself, fulfils all the conditions requisite to constitute a Catholic theological dogma, inasmuch as it may truly be affirmed of it that it has been held semper, ubique, et ab omnibus, being universal
as the phenomenon to which it owes its existence.
How essential to the consistency of the Catholic system is this doctrine of duality you may judge by the shortcomings of the theologies which reject it. Unitarianism blunders alike in regard to the Trinity and the Duality. Affecting to see in God a Father, it denies him the possibility of having either spouse or offspring. More rational than such a creed as this was the primitive worship of sex as represented by the male and female principles in nature. In no gross sense was the symbolism of such a system conceived, gross as its practice may have become, and as it would appear to the notions of modern conventionalism. For no religion is founded upon intentional depravity. Searching back for the origin of life, men stopped at the earliest point to which they could trace it, and exalted the reproductive organs into symbols of the Creator. The practice was at least calculated to procure respect for a side of nature liable under an exclusively spiritual regime to be relegated to undue contempt.
IN HIS OWN IMAGE, INTELLECTUAL, MORAL, EMOTIONAL
I DO not wonder at your surprise. Yet were I to give but a moderately full account of the worship referred to in my last, I should have to write a volume. For us as Christians the universality of the doctrine of the divine Duality derives its main importance from the fact that it indicates the recognition by the human consciousness of the necessity of a multiplicity of persons in the divine essence. In these days, when men accounted of the highest culture are found to ridicule the doctrine of the Trinity as intrinsically absurd, and to regard the Athanasian creed as incoherent and unmeaning, it is well to recollect that the belief finds justification in the very constitution of physical human nature, and as we shall presently see, in the laws of human thought. Just a few instances, then, in illustration of its antiquity and universality.
It appears certain that the names of the Hebrew deity bear the sense I .have indicated; El, the root
of Elohim, the
name under which God was known to the Israelites prior to their entry into
It is to
regarded as the
source of all subsequent life, became identified with the feminine principle in
nature – whence the origin of the mystic rite of baptism – and the atmosphere
was the divine breath or spirit. The description in Genesis of the Spirit of God
moving upon the face of the waters indicates the influence upon the Jews of the
Hindu theogony, to which they had access through
The twofold name of Jehovah also finds a correspondence in the
incarnation of Brahma, who is represented in sculptures as combining in himself the male and female organisms. And the worship of the
implements of fecundity continues popular in
forms the point of departure for beliefs which have lasted thousands of years, and which have either spread from one source over, or been independently originated in, every part of the habitable globe.
The point essential for us to observe at present in this system of religious symbolism is the persistency with which the idea of Duality is maintained. The two principles together were regarded as constituting but one complete being.
It was impossible, however, for mankind to remain satisfied with a Duality that did not complete itself naturally, as in man’s own case, by the addition of a third element. And so it came that the idea expanded until it appeared in the form of a Triad or Trinity either of principles or of persons, in one essence, – principles for the spiritual and philosophic thinker, and persons for the uninstructed materialising masses.
Proceeding on our way towards the creation of God in the image of man, it becomes necessary, in order to avoid having two or more deities or sets of deities, to combine in one Being the facts and ideas common to man.
Endeavour now to accompany me on a short excursion into a region lying altogether apart from things concrete and appreciable by sense, a region shunned by mankind at large, and rarely entered save by thinkers, for it is called Metaphysics, and it
is occupied by the Abstract. Arrived there we close all the faculties of sense as useless, for there is neither light to impinge on the eye nor sound on the ear, nor aught of any kind to appeal to the touch, but the imagination is all in all, both as regards the things to be dealt with and the instruments wherewith they are to be treated.
Try now to imagine Being, simple and apart from all conditions of being. Try to imagine it as absolute and sole in space. You will not succeed; for the moment we seek to imagine Being existing by itself, there rises before us an idea of something else equally with it demanding recognition. For the idea of Being involves the idea of its opposite, or Not-Being. So that we cannot have in our minds a Positive without at the same time having also a Negative, either actually or potentially.
Apply this fact to the theology we are seeking to construct. We want to imagine deity as absolute and infinite. But no sooner do we attempt to do so than the idea of an absolute negation of deity forces itself upon us. Having one absolute Being, then, we must have two; and so the idea of dualism appears as a necessary idea.
But the laws of thought forbid us to stop there. We cannot imagine two Beings to coexist without imagining also the effect of their action upon each other. But such effect constitutes a third form of
existence; so that, given the human consciousness of being at all, we are absolutely unable to exclude from our thought the notion of a trinity of Beings; a trinity, moreover, in which none is afore or after other, none is greater or less than another; but the whole three are coeternal together and coequal, and constitute among them but one being.
If, proceeding a step further, we seek to identify this necessary product of thought with the animating force of the universe, we are equally compelled to regard it as personal, inasmuch as by the very fact of creation it manifests Will, Intelligence, and the creative impulse we call Love.
Thus without aid from aught external to ourselves, without aid even from the visible phenomena of the world, but building solely upon the basis of our own consciousness, we have occupied the throne of space with a Being who is at once personal and infinite, single and threefold, incomprehensible and unimaginable by us, and yet in whom we recognise our own lineaments, the substance of which we are the manifestation. And this, inasmuch as He is Consciousness, while we are conscious. He is Intelligence, while we have understanding. He is Power, while we can do somewhat. He is Energy, while we live and move. He is Love, while we exist.
But no other than such a Being as this is the God men have ever felt bound to adore. The human
consciousness being one, whether as Aryan or Semite, Jew or Christian, the idea of Deity has in all assumed a triune aspect, and men have all adored it on one and the same principle. Whatever faculties for good we find in ourselves, or whatever is productive of that which we deem good, we necessarily offer to him as our reasonable service; and with these, divested of limitations, we build up the fabric of ideal perfection which we call God. To ascribe to him aught that falls short of the best we can imagine would be to stultify ourselves. Even the rudest savage, whose worship appears to us to be rendered to a demon, invariably ascribes to his deity in excess the qualities most prized by himself; never those which he deems evil, be he Cannibal or Calvinist.
Creating God morally as well as physically in our own image, it is inevitable that his growth in our minds should keep pace with our own. Advancing in knowledge of our own character and capacity, we find ourselves compelled to make such modifications in the divine nature as are necessary to preserve its harmony and proportion. Thus, to prevent Will from degenerating into caprice, Power into cruelty, Capacity for enjoyment into sensuality, we add to his attributes others which we find indispensable to our own perfection, as sympathy, patience, purity, justice, and to temper this last, tenderness; first expanding each of them to infinity. Only where we
fail to possess these qualities in ourselves do we fail to ascribe them to our God. To make him defective in respect of any of them, is to make him after the pattern of a pagan or sectarian deity. To attain Catholic results we must regard him as resuming in himself all the good that characterises universal man. To be able to construct such a God as this, it is necessary to know man in the utmost reaches of our nature. One must have loved and hated, toiled, suffered, and enjoyed, and all with intensity; must have lost and found oneself in all directions, on the side of evil as well as on that of good. To such knowledge the spirit and the flesh must alike bring their contributions. One must have lived the inner life that finds no expression in the prosperous complacency of external worldly success and in one’s own soul have grappled with the problems of sin, condemnation, repentance, atonement, and salvation. In a word, one must have felt, inasmuch as God is at once the source, the sum and the product of all feeling.
As metal unrefined and unwrought is valueless, so is there no perfection of
character without trial. Any idealisation of humanity in its youth, beauty, and
prosperity must be inferior in moral value to one of humanity perfected by
suffering. Suffering is the parent of sympathy. A suffering and sympathetic
deity is above all those of
not transcend the level assigned in the creeds of Catholicism to him who ‘suffered for our salvation.’
Thus, if in the construction of our ideal of perfection we attain a height unreached by the ‘heathen,’ it is because, though on the right track, they failed to carry their analysis of man’s capacity to its furthest point. The prominence of selfishness among mankind led them to put self-seeking in the forefront of the nature of their deities. We, on the other hand, recognising the sympathetic element as at least better, if not wholly dominant in us, lift up as divine the character of one suffering with and for others, rather than of one who by dint of superior force or strategy is triumphant over others. How far the former surpasses the latter in its power to draw men unto it, becomes apparent when, looking from the depths of our own deepest feelings, we contrast the emotions excited respectively by the contemplation of the Belvidere Apollo and the Crucifix. The pagan ideal vanishes, quenched in the higher ideal presented in the creeds. For what are all the miracles worked by force to those of which love is capable?
Thus, not only in his own image, male and female, and all other physical respects, does man create the God to whom he ascribes his own existence, but in his own image, moral, intellectual, and emotional. By and by we shall have to add spiritual.
THE FALL AND THE INCARNATION
‘BUT supposing himself to be made in God’s image, man must have supposed himself to be perfect. He could not have credited a perfect Being with defective work.’
Your remarks are just, up to a certain point. Man had both the convictions you describe. It was on finding himself defective that he came to suppose that, though assuredly made perfect originally, he had fallen from that state. True, the logic that was content with such a solution was itself defective, inasmuch as one of the essential elements of an original perfection must be the ability to remain perfect. According to the popular notion, it was through the abuse of the gift of freedom that man fell. But, as a state of perfection must, to be perfection, include such an amount of knowledge and wisdom as will keep from falling, the popular notion is defective in this respect also.
Nevertheless, man knew perfection and fell; and his fall was the most momentous event in his existence,
inasmuch as by means of it he became man. For the fall was the birth of the soul, – the initial stage of the supreme incarnation.
To comprehend the fall, you must first comprehend the incarnation. Here, as elsewhere, we shall be guided solely by the light of human reason, borrowing nothing from ‘revelation.’ Like the idea of a Trinity, the idea of an incarnation belongs to no one religion. Product on one side of abstract reason, and on the other of the phenomena of physical nature, it was postulated by the earliest metaphysicians, ages before either Christianity or Judaism, as the sole possible solution of the problem of creation.
For incarnation is but a term to express the manifestation of the infinite in the finite, of the absolute in the conditioned, of the ideal in the real; that is, of God in nature. Unable to conceive how such a process can take place, yet perceiving that it has taken place if God and the world exist at all, reason is compelled to postulate a miracle.
The incarnation, though a single eternal process, inasmuch as God in his function of creator is always becoming the world, is yet various in kind and degree. The infinite being the source of all things, wherever we find a finite we find an incarnation. Of course the word, as its derivation shows, signifies primarily a manifestation in the form of flesh, but
it may fitly be used to signify manifestation in any form. In this way it becomes applicable to the creation in its earliest stage. Prior to that all was God, in his original condition of pure spirit. In that, God took form in the world. The proof of this is that we cannot think of God as existing prior to creation in any other fashion.
The earliest manifestation of the infinite in the finite comes before us as a world without form and void. Though without life, sensation, consciousness, or even motion, it was not the less divine, inasmuch as it was the divine handiwork, formed of the divine substance – for there was nought else of which it could be formed – a part of God himself, made in the image of God thus far, though to us, viewing it from the advanced standpoint of our own after-growth, it may appear but a poor and meagre embodiment of the divine nature, or illustration of the divine perfections.
Product, however, of the omnipotent intelligence, will, and energy, this dark and shapeless mass is instinct with the possibilities of our universe. Every particle of it, minute beyond conception, contains in itself the two poles, positive and negative, which constitute the first elements of life. Restless, and moving among themselves, they develop in a continually ascending series life chemical, as in the process of crystallisation, life vegetable, life animal.
But this, vast as is the advance on previous existence, does not satisfy us as presenting a fair portrait of the characteristics of the Creator. We find in it the commencement of our own lower nature, but not that on which we pride ourselves, the higher characteristics of humanity. Made thus far in the image of God, creation as yet affords no image of him who transcends our best actual, possible, or imaginable. A higher stage of the incarnation is yet to come.
At length a being in our own form appears upon the scene. Surpassing all his predecessors in capacity mental and physical, and finding all things subject to him, he knows not his own nature or the limits of his powers. Everything is so fitted to his wants, existence is so delicious, it does not occur to him that aught can be better. Without experience of contrasts it does not occur to him even that aught is good; nor, therefore, that aught is evil. Having no standard or criterion whereby to form a judgment, if questioned on the subject he could not do otherwise than assume that he is perfect.
Still does the capacity resident in the original atoms develop itself. With all his might, beauty, intelligence, man is still but an animal, for he lives in sense, and has no notion of a right and wrong, of a good and evil. Unable to imagine anything better than he has or is, he has no ideal wherewith to surpass
his real. And having no ideal, he is unconscious both of himself and of God. Bounded by sense, he is still in the real, and with no side of him open to the ideal and absolute. Knowing nothing of conditions or limitations, he cannot conceive the unconditioned or unlimited. Knowing nothing of perfection, he has no sense of imperfection. Knowing nothing of law, he has no consciousness of transgression. And having no law whereby to judge himself, no moral nature to render him amenable to a moral law, no conscience – or sense of perfection – to condemn him, he is ‘sinless,’ ‘innocent,’ ‘perfect.’
But this is precisely the sense in which my horse and your dog are morally perfect. The recognition of a law by you and me does not justify us in condemning them as ‘sinners,’ for they are without that law. But though not sinners, are they, then, our superiors, and would it be a fall or a rise for them, were they to become partakers of our ‘sinful nature?’ Surely a rise, inasmuch as it would be an advance from the unconsciousness of the animal to the consciousness of the human.
It was the fact of man’s attaining the consciousness of an ideal, or perfection unattainable by the finite in respect of things moral, that constituted the introduction of ‘the law.’ By the ‘giving of the law,’ that is, by our becoming conscious of a better than we could do, ‘sin came to life and we (virtually), died.’
That is, we recognised ourselves as falling short of a perfection we were able to imagine, and therefore as incapable of living under the regime of the ideal or perfect law which has its existence in the conscience.
Thus all have sinned, and come short of the ideal perfection personified in God.
The fall, then, consists in man’s becoming aware that his real does not equal the ideal he is able to imagine; or, conversely, in his attaining a sense of perfection beyond that which he is able to realise. It is thus the birth of the soul, or faculty whereby we are enabled to rise from the finite to the infinite, from the real to the ideal, from the earth to God, and to know that from which we have sprung, and to which it is our highest function to aspire. No mere external fact in history, then, is the fall, but an experience true of every individual of our race who is gifted with a ‘soul.’ For us all alike, the first perception of a standard of excellence transcending our actual, is the moment of the giving of the law, even that law by which is the knowledge of sin.
Let us return to the incarnation. Unconscious of any defect in his real, prior to his discovery of the distance between it and his ideal, man supposed himself to have been made in the image of God, an exact counterpart and resemblance of his Maker. The discovery of his shortcoming was accounted by
him a fall. Having quitted his original state of unconsciousness of imperfection, he could no longer regard himself as worthy to be considered a divine incarnation. Before humanity can claim to be made in the divine image and to be a true incarnation of God, it must produce a new Adam, whose real shall coincide with the ideal.