A CONJUNCTION in the heavens of two stars of prime magnitude has ever, by peoples ill at ease with themselves, been accounted cause for consternation on earth. The portent has its correspondence in the present conjunction in the political skies between Mr. Carlyle as the exponent of a reviving Hebraism, and Mr. Gladstone as the exponent of a declining, or at least of an imperfectly comprehended, Christianity, in respect to the question of the day. The policy involved in the view to which Mr. Carlyle has been the last to give expression is, I hold, demonstrably fraught with direst menace to the welfare – religious, political, and social – of the whole world, and first and foremost to ourselves. Backed by such authority, that view is certain to obtain the adherence of that large proportion
of every community which, restless in spirit and eager for some action which may at least seem to promise relief, cares little what course be taken so long as some course be taken and it be in the good company of recognised authority and tradition. Hence it is that the present conjunction in the political heavens of the two luminaries in question constitutes just cause for the profoundest alarm.
To open one’s mouth at such a crisis is, I am aware, to provoke the query, – Who are you to venture to dispute the interpretation of the signs of the skies with our long-established and trusted soothsayers? My claim to be heard rests simply on the ground that I speak, not merely as an ardent lover of my country and kind – for if all were to speak who claimed to belong to that category, the result would be a second Babel – but as one who, having made the comparative study of the world’s religions and its allied history the special study of the best part of a lifetime, believes himself competent to lead his countrymen to an eminence whence, through a pure and passionless atmosphere, they can obtain a clearer and more extended view of the whole question at issue than can possibly be gained while busied in the struggle for existence or
precedence in the heat and dust and mists of the plains and valleys of what is called practical life. It is the substance of a chapter-in-advance o f the matured results of a life-study that, by no desire to put myself forward, but most reluctantly and in deference to what presents itself to me as an imperious duty – namely, the duty of ministering so far as in me lies to the prevention of a terrible disaster – is here wrested from its intended connexion and offered to the serious consideration of my countrymen and the world: dealing, as I propose to do, with broad principles only, the reader need not fear to have his time occupied with details which, sufficiently nauseous in themselves, have become more so by frequent repetition. It is a comprehensive survey of the whole region under dispute, and not a minute examination of particulars, that is necessary to determine for us the character of the country we are called upon to traverse, and our proper route and method of procedure. I need only further premise that for the authority of the principles on which I shall rest my conclusions, I shall invoke no partially recognised system of belief whatsoever, but shall appeal simply and directly to that which is recognised by each individual as best in his own inmost consciousness – that is, I
shall appeal to the largest and highest humanity.
Before entering on my subject, two
words of acknowledgment are due from me. One is to the editor of the Times, to whom, as the most generally
recognised representative of what I hope I may without offence call the body of
The letter declined, and courteously returned, expanded to the dimensions of a pamphlet, and thence to the present book. And now, within little more than a week after the first occurrence
to me of the idea of treating the question at all, this little volume presents itself, though necessarily written with a galloping pen, or rather “type-writer,” unarranged and uncondensed, yet as the best means of placing before my countrymen the views which, whatever be their worth, it would be criminal in me, feeling as I do, to withhold or delay. Had the editor of the Times not rejected or not returned my letter, my ideas on this question would, in all probability, have remained in embryo. Hence my acknowledgments to him.
My other acknowledgments are due to my publisher. Of the many members of his honourable craft to whom, now just ten years ago, I offered the first expression of myself contained in the pages of The Pilgrim and the Shrine, Mr. William Tinsley was the only one who possessed sufficient discernment, faith, or courage to undertake its publication. It is to the encouragement then received from him that this book, with whatever it contains of value, is in a measure due.
European family, and has been admitted to all
the privileges of that membership for a period far too long to have its title
called in question now. The Turk and his European neighbours are brethren, in
spite of the failure on either side to become friends. Of responsibility for the
causes of that failure, there is no reason to believe that there is a monopoly
on either side. In any case, however aggrieved Christendom may feel itself in
the matter, there can be no doubt that Europe has been both an
Of this family of brothers, in England alone, or chiefly, is a voice raised on behalf of expelling the Turk from Europe, in place of still bearing with him, and seeking to develop what there is of good in him, and cultivating better relations with him, and this on the ground that the Turkish nature is irredeemably unhuman; and the most weighty utterers of that voice are Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Carlyle. I assert that in speaking thus neither of these two gentlemen has thought his thought fairly out; certainly not in so far as this question is concerned; and the immensity of their blunder here goes far to justify the inference that neither of them has completed his system of thought in any direction
whatever; and, hence, that neither of them is a safe guide in any matter involving interests of vital importance to the nation. Rather would it appear that, in dismay at the threatening aspect of affairs, or through failure to discern the supreme gravity of the crisis fixing their real attention on some favoured side-issue, they have, in the absence of any fixed principles respecting the guidance of human affairs, arrested their thought at the first stage that offered a plausible solution, instead of pursuing the tremendous problem to its last analysis, and ascertaining its true nature, and only then forming a judgment as to the best mode of dealing with it.
Into the details of such an analysis there is no need here to enter. The general principles are plain enough. There is no mystery or complication in the matter. Nations are but individual assemblages of people. A State as a whole is a unit, and to be dealt with as such, no matter of how many individual units it consists. It is by viewing the parties to it as individuals that I propose in the first instance to solve the Eastern question.
Whether the principles on which I propose to solve it are referable to the category of politics, morals, or religion, each reader must decide for
himself. Believing as I do, on evidence that seems to me irrefragable, that the universe is so constructed that whatever exists in one department of it has its correspondence in all other departments of it, I regard religion, morals, and politics as related modes of operation, on various planes of existence, of one and the same power; and hence that no principle can be referred to one of them which must not equally be referred to the others; and to test a principle by its application in one case, is to test it for all cases; for principles do not depend upon cases.
Here, then, is the view for which I desire first to obtain consideration. For us to adjudge Turkey deserving of expulsion from the confraternity of European nations on the assumed ground of its irredeemability, involves on our part an assumption of the right to sit in judgment on a brother, and is a direct provocation to ourselves of the solemn inquisition, “Who art thou that judgest another?” It involves the assumption that we who thus judge are so completely without fault as to be entitled to pronounce that brother beyond redemption, to cast at him the first stone, and to dismiss him to everlasting reprobation with the malediction, “Depart, ye cursed.” It involves on our part
either total contempt for the injunction to “let the wheat and tares grow together until the harvest,” or else the claim to be ourselves the lords of the harvest, and supreme arbiters of human destiny. A better than we, on being appealed to in respect of a notorious sinner, said, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more.”
Who and what are we that we should arrogate to ourselves the right to decide an
issue of this magnitude in respect to a fellow-nation? Can it be said that we,
or that ail Christendom collectively, have attained in our own case a standard
of perfection so exalted as should suffice to constitute us the infallible judge
of a fellow-people or a fellow-religion? Are we the sun and centre of
Christendom or of
in the interests of the Power the chief
object of whose ambition it is to benefit itself at the expense of
Surely when these considerations are fairly entertained, it is impossible to
acquit the upholders of
PRACTICALLY the fate
product of our righteous horror at the recent
“atrocities,” to consent even to see
One of these expedients consists in the maintenance of a larger fleet in the
Mediterranean, and if necessary, the occupation of
ourselves; something to which we had, indeed, no right, but which would be a visible token of energy to our neighbours, and serve at once to maintain our reputation and our empire; something, too, that would show that however England might have degenerated in other respects, she still had plenty of money, and was not afraid to spend it.
The expenditure of four millions on this behalf was just the thing to suit the
tastes of our Hebrew Premier, and it suited the body of
indulge his own sense of irony by making a
mock of it. The love that
Ishmael; and is thus, on at least one side of
his nature, in harmonious relation with that soul of
The other expedient is of a religious character. It consists in a rapport
between the Anglican and Greek Churches of such a nature as shall in some degree
compensate those bodies for their exclusion from communion with
A word about the former of these two classes, the political, and their project.
The notion that
new limits thus acquired, and refrain from
fulfilling what she conceives to be her manifest destiny – namely, that of
expanding in all directions, from whatever point she may gain as a centre of
force, is wholly preposterous; and no protest of Czar or Minister to the
contrary is worthy to be taken into the account. There is that in the nature of
Of this barrier one of the most formidable elements would consist in the
reversion of feeling on the part of
been forced to succumb. For it would be
impossible to disabuse India of the conviction that England had been overcome by
superior force, either of wit or of arms, with such a proof of the fact full in
view. And when to this prospect of Russia dominant in the Mediterranean and in
Asia Minor, we add that of its actual approach towards India on the north, and
think that a few ships far from their base are all we shall have to rely upon to
keep up our communication with India, then inclining to Russia, if only through
respect for her superior prowess in war or diplomacy, it can scarcely be too
much to call those blind who not merely failed to anticipate and provide against
such a fatal contingency, but actually courted and caused it. The possibility
The complete severance of the Greek Church from the Latin, and the lack of any independent source of vitality in itself, through the barbarous state of its members, have cooperated to produce
a reversion of the Greek Church towards the primitive condition of all religions – not towards a primitive Christianity, – that was a stage betokening a high degree of development, – but towards the rudimentary barbarism of mere fetish worship. Nominally Christian, the vast bulk of Russian and Bulgarian religion consists of a cult of the lowest and most superstitious character. The more completely the spirit has departed, the more complex becomes the system of formalism by which people in whom the emotional faculty is left to run wild, and the intellectual is wholly uncultivated, is wont to take refuge. To such an extent has this occurred in the Greek Church, that it may be regarded as a matter of certainty that the effect of the process we have been contemplating – namely, the absorption of the Sultan’s dominions by Russia – will be entirely to swamp what it retains of Christianity, and to make Islamism the national religion of the country. It would not be the first time that a race numerically strong, but intellectually weak, has succumbed in the field o f religion to the people it has conquered in the field of battle.
It would be a strange but not an impossible retribution hereafter on those who through
descending to a narrow, selfish, and immoral policy had ministered to such an end, to find that not only was a small portion of Europe held by Mahommedans, but that the greatest portion of and power in Europe had itself abjured Christianity for Islamism. The recollection that Europe has already once changed from the profession of a religion differing little in its spirit from that into which all Europe outside the range of Latin Christianity has sunk – namely, from the ancient pagan Nature worship of our forefathers to Christianity, ought to prevent us from regarding the prospect of a change back again as violently improbable.
The reason of this will appear o n a little reflection. The religious sentiment cannot be eradicated from human nature. It may be stifled for a time by exclusive addiction to things of sense; but like language, like everything of which the need is universally felt, it will survive and assert its sway in spite of a regime least likely to be favourable to it. It is not the doctrinal perfection or ritualistic beauty of a religion that enables it to win its way, or to keep its place in the hearts of men, but its spiritual power. The religion that appeals most directly to what every man feels to be his own
inmost consciousness, is that which ousts every other no matter what its excellence as a work of art. The whole history of religions shows that man must and will be reconciled to God; and that if his own accustomed mode fails to bring him peace, he will fly to any other that promises better. It has been the failure of one class after another of the sacrifices by which his priests have sought to appease, not in reality the Deity, but the longings of man’s own spirit for assurance of salvation, that has ever led to the institution of new orders of offering to correspond with each successive plane attained by man in the development of his religious consciousness, and recognised by him as requiring a victim of its own grade. The Russian Christian has for the most part adopted Christianity, not by a natural course of development or through his perception of its excellence, but at a gulp, and wholesale, without undergoing any corresponding spiritual adaptation; and the consequence is, that instead of his Christianity raising him to its proper level, he has dragged it down to his own. But the religious fervour of the Russian has not therefore abated. As a people he is capable of the most intense self-devotion that can be imagined; and it is a moral certainty that
if ever he comes into contact with Islamism,
especially if Islamism undergo the regeneration that ever comes with adversity
to a strong race, he will readily acknowledge the strong God of Islam to be the
God he has been looking for, and accept the doctrine of absolute submission to
the will of that God as the sole effective means of salvation.
The human consciousness is so constituted t that it cannot rest until it has found what it considers to be peace with God, and this is never found until the conviction is attained that God is at once the force-centre of the whole, and of every individual unit of consciousness in the universe. That it is not found either in the eastern or western sections of Christendom proves that something is wrong either in the doctrine, or in the interpretation of the doctrine, of Christianity. The restless tendency towards each other of these two sections in late years is a confession of the truth in this respect. Failing to find a true spiritual centre of their own around which they can revolve in comfort, they are fancying that by coming together they may either blend by marriage into one complete body,
or revolve round each other like two friendly suns in the same system.
Let me not be misunderstood as implying that, failing to discover their true
centres out of
it becomes necessary to consider how far that regime is compatible with true Christianity and civilisation. As it is certain that the springs of the present dilemma have at least one of their principal sources in the unrest and ambition of Anglican and Greek sacerdotalism, it will be necessary to look yet deeper into this part of our subject. For the present, however, there is a matter that demands precedence; for the political problem can be solved only by an ecclesiastical key, inasmuch as the priest, far more than the politician, is the main factor in the question.
have spoken of
a spirit transcending Nature, and of which Nature is a voluntary and transient mode of manifestation. Instinctively clinging to existence, and abhorring annihilation – for the aspiration of the Buddhist is not towards extinction – man seeks for some assurance that he is not merely a product or function of Nature, and partaker of her evanescence, but has in him an immortal principle whereby he may claim relationship, if not identity, with the eternal source of all secondary existence. To be “one,” or at one, “with God” is the goal of the aspirations of the souls of all men; and their various religions represent but the various methods whereby men seek to attain the assurance of that union. Attaining conviction of the essential identity of the spirit of which humanity is the sensible expression, with the animating spirit of the universe, the soul of man is content.
Now, while Christendom has at least nominally attained this, the final stage of religious development, and thus theoretically has found peace, Islam represents but the first, or at most the second, stage after emergence from the original Nature worship. Man does collectively as a race what he does singly as an individual. At first, Nature is all in all to him as a mother, of her
own inherent energy producing, sustaining, and renewing his existence. His recognition of the necessity and functions of a father comes later. And this attained, he ranks the male will and energy above the female love and tenderness, which were the objects of his previous adoration. Within the house ruler, and without it winner of the means of sustenance for mother as well as offspring, and defender of both against all enemies, the father, the impersonation at once of the two male qualities, will and force, obtains the precedence in the growing worshipper’s estimation. Transferring these characteristics to the sun and heavens, man learns to ascribe his existence to a supreme impersonation of absolute will; and to regard absolute submission to that will as the condition of all well-being, spiritual and temporal. Hence the initial stage of the doctrine of perfection through the entire subordination of the individual will to the universal.
Of this absolute will the Jehovah of the Hebrews, the Allah of Islam, and the Deity of Mr. Carlyle, are identical impersonations; and the Hebrews, the Mahommedans, and Mr. Carlyle are, therefore, representations of the first, or at most the second, stage of emergence
from the rudimentary worship of Nature. Hence it is evident that for a Christian people, who claim to have reached the highest stage of which religious development is capable, to accept counsel from Mr. Carlyle, is to make a confession of decrepitude by accepting guidance from the representative of childhood.
But there is a curious inconsistency between the present teaching of Mr. Carlyle and that which we are wont to receive at the lips of a prophet. The essential distinction between the prophet and the priest, is that the one appeals through the intuitions to the heart, and the other appeals through the senses to the reason. The one recognises the existence in man of a spark of divine fire, which requires only to be fanned into a blaze to suffuse his whole system and compel him to repentance and amendment. The other bids him offer up a sacrifice and call upon his gods to accept it in payment for his fault. Islamism is itself a prophetic as distinguished from a sacerdotal religion. Refusing to believe that Divine Justice can be appeased by the blood and agony of another, it makes repentance and submission to the will of God the condition of pardon and salvation. So decided is the religion in this respect, so strongly does it
hold that God, though an inexorable Father, is yet so much and so true a Father as to be able to forgive his erring children without any other sacrifice than that of a contrite heart, that Mahomet deemed even prayer unnecessary to move him to kindness; for in the Koran he prophesied the advent of a time when the only offering men would deem it necessary to make to God will be that of a thankful heart. In demanding that Turkey be offered up as a victim to the offended sentiment of Europe, Mr. Carlyle turns his back on the religion and the method once regarded by him with so much favour, and throws in his lot with the sacerdotalists who are seeking an atoning sacrifice for the reconciliation of the Greek and Anglican communions.
Once a true prophet to
striving to purge its internal administration of its abuses, but in every effort has been thwarted by Russia, whose fixed idea of a foreign policy with regard to Turkey is precisely what that of France has been with regard to Germany – namely, the idea that its neighbour’s weakness was its own strength, and that every means was to be used to promote that weakness by the unscrupulous promotion of division, intrigue, and revolt, until Turkey was, like Germany in regard to France, beside itself with a justifiable irritation – had Mr. Carlyle known all this, and there is all this and infinitely more that he might have known – he would have vehemently preached against Russia the crusade he has encouraged against Turkey.
The truth is that
orthodoxies are too deeply rooted.
barbarity of any kind when once a clear case
has been made out, here served
If we would comprehend the secret springs of the strange conjunction which has resulted in so strange an issue, we must track it to its spiritual sources.
That the Allah of Islamism has for many of its professors become shorn of his personality, and degraded into a blind, mechanical destiny; and
that under this change the will of man has
been substituted for that of God as the arbiter in human affairs, and might has
been once more exalted to the place of right, is indisputable. But such a
statement is not true of Islam as a whole, while it is true that precisely this
very process of degradation has, to a vast extent, occurred to the faith of
and in the necessity of a corresponding negation of the moral sentiment in man.
The faith of Judaism has, to a great extent, undergone the same degradation. It is rare now to find a cultured Jew for whom a living personal Jehovah has not been displaced by a blind impersonal destiny. The avowed creed of the chief scientific centres of Europe is wholly of this pessimistic sort, for it is a creed of which the prime article of belief is that what answers to God is, if not positively and willfully bad, at least indifferent; and that man’s only chance of bettering his condition is by being like it, and forcibly appropriating anything he may desire.
This creed might not in practice be a bad one, but it has necessarily become associated with the conviction that, as God is not good, so neither is man called on to be good: that as the supreme will is a purely selfish one, man is entitled to be purely selfish also. Let us turn the light of reason upon this new teaching, which has of late received its chief intellectual impulse from the chief seat of intellectual light in the modern world, Germany, and which has its chief exponent in the late Arthur Schopenhauer, a the right understanding of whom and of system is at once the clue to the
problem of the modern world, and of the present crisis.
In ascribing existence to the operation of a single will, Schopenhauer has at once recognised mind as the basis of existence, and has acknowledged the unity and personality of God. Thus far he is in accord with that one true doctrine, whether of philosophy or religion, which has ever been in the world from the earliest times indicated by history, legend, or myth, and of which and to which every other religion and philosophy is either a degradation or an aspiration.
The doctrine of this new yet fast spreading school is the outcome of a constitution at once physically, intellectually, morally, and spiritually morbid, and demonstrably so. No healthy person could have framed its reasoning; no healthy person can accept its conclusions. The Supreme Will is, according to the pessimists, divorced wholly from volition or the act of willing, and hence from its only possible habitat in a supreme mind. A will without volition, and a mind without the choice of willing, are absurdities. So that in postulating will without volition, or volition without the entire mind of which volition is the spontaneous operation and will the outcome, Schopenhauer stultifies his own system of
thought, and has himself “written down an ass;” and Schopenhauer is the guiding star and sun of the new dispensation just dawning upon Christendom! The new Deity, to appease whom we are called upon to sacrifice the Turk, is no Mind whole and complete with all the faculties of the absolute mind; no supreme triune perfection of thought, feeling, and goodness, ever reproducing itself in the finite on every plane of consciousness and sphere of activity of which the phenomenal universe is composed; ever working in the most perfect harmony, order, and regularity, to enable the world that he has put out from himself to reflect him to himself, and in its turn to recognise him as its true self and centre, and, so recognising him “coming to itself,” and prodigal-like returning spontaneously to him as its long-left home; no parent-mind of all other minds, no universal consciousness, of which all existence whatever is a mode of operation, and containing therefore in itself, in absolute perfection, all qualities, properties, and faculties: of mind and matter both; – but a mass of gross substance, pervaded by a blind, mechanical, relentless will; – such is the new God in whose image man is to remake himself, and the first great homage to whom is to be the sacrifice of
the soul of
Said I not rightly that only a morbid intellect could devise or accept the
should it cumber the ground?” And the
gardener, who had a practical experience of such matters, and knew the value of
faith and time where a matter of growth was concerned, and who was not a mere
woodcutter, replied “Nay, sir, let it alone awhile longer, till I shall have dug
about its roots to give them air, and put some manure round to enrich the soil.
If after I have done everything that skill and patience can devise it continue
barren, it will be quite time enough to think about cutting down then.” I often
find myself wondering how many of us would be standing now had we been cut down
whenever we seemed to our neighbours richly to deserve it.
Issue of a morbid anatomy of soul and body, in that it represents the negation alike of faith and reason, our pessimism shows itself in every department of our activity in the physical, the intellectual, the moral, and the spiritual, in science, feeling, and conduct. It has long been in the constitution, unrecognised save by a very few, but producing in numbers an uneasiness for which they could by no means account. Its earliest seat was in the religious par t of us. We
cared not for its presence there; and so it
grew and flourished there until it was strong enough to show itself without fear
in every haunt of our consciousness. Although already eating into the very
vitals of the nation, there are doubtless millions who do not believe in its
existence, and will not until they have such a sign as the loss of
I say that the doctrine known as pessimism has long been rife among us; and that its first manifestation was in the department of religion. I say that it is from the Church that it has proceeded, and that the only cure is to thoroughly reform the Church, and by expelling its pessimism, which is but an euphony for atheism, to complete the reformation that was but only half made. We got rid of the serpent, but we kept the sting. When I say that the dark shade of the new anti-faith which is now overspreading Christendom, and of which the great empire of the north is but the material phenomenon, is no other than the essential spirit of the sacerdotalism which we retained at our separation from Rome, that it is sacerdotalism, with its fundamental pessimistic dogma of vicarious atonement, that has with its
insidious poison paralysed at once our faculties of faith and of reason, I but say that which is capable of absolute demonstration to any one whose eyes are undimmed by the film of a sanguinary orthodoxy.
Our present inclination towards
Granted that winter is not a very formidable thing when you are in sound health, and well fortified against it. Are we in sound health? Do we propose to fortify ourselves against it? Are we not fast declining in spiritual vigour, and proposing to receive it into our hearts with open arms? It is well said, that whom the gods wish
to destroy, they first make mad. But the gods never wish to destroy any who do not first more than half destroy themselves. England’s madness, for which the gods are about to destroy her Empire, unless like the city of old at the prophet’s warning, she suddenly change her whole course of conduct, consists precisely in retaining that element in her religious system which has been the destruction of every people on earth since history began. This is no other than the element of sacerdotalism.
Defining sacerdotalism as the principle of sacrificing the soul to the body, and some other to oneself, it becomes evident that it is precisely under an access of sacerdotalism that we are on the point of Consulting our own lower nature by sacrificing Turkey to the exigences, political and religious, of Europe, and especially of ourselves. It is because in the order of mental phenomena the spiritual takes precedence of the intellectual that the religious here takes precedence of the political. It is primarily through an ecclesiastical conspiracy, and only secondly through a political blunder, that we have been brought to the verge of the most frightful precipice which ever lay in a nation’s path. Of the conspiracy there can, I think, be no doubt; of the conscious intention
that animates it, I hesitate to speak what I feel. I know the names and many of the men who are concerned in it. I know that the list of them comprises hundreds of those to whom the country looks up with unfeigned veneration. I know that so far from being confined to any particular sect or section of the community, they are collected from all quarters of the compass of the intellect, and every branch of religious faith. But I know also that man’s lower nature is more universal than any sect or number of sects; and I know, from the Bibles of every people whose religious history has come down to us, that sacerdotalism represents the lower nature of the religious consciousness, and that it has constituted a perpetual conspiracy against the soul of man. And if any one ask for a proof of the assertion, it is enough to refer him to that which was once the most read, is still the most instructive, and both once and no w the least understood of all books – the Bible. It will perhaps appear before I have finished, more clearly than has ever yet been seen, why priests have always been reluctant to have the Bible freely read. And if I be deemed vehement and rash in thus charging with what is very like impiety, a number of our most pious folk, I plead in my
defence, the utterances of certain persons in
the old Israelitish times, who saw their country’s ruin staring them in the face
through precisely the same causes which now menace ours. I ask them to remember
that for every other people the crucifixion of the soul has been but the prelude
to the destruction of the body. I say that sacerdotalism as we know it, and as a
thousand other peoples have known it, means the crucifixion of the soul. And I
say also, that
The principle of sacerdotalism and of orthodoxy is one. That principle is
co-extensive with man’s lower nature. As orthodoxy, it pervades and envenoms
every department of activity – secular and religious. It thus constitutes a
common ground whereon the representatives of apparently the most diverse
sections of society can meet. Hence it comes that we find art and science,
religion and free thought, Conservative and Radical, Low, Broad, and
– the seeking of one’s own salvation by the sacrifice of a brother.
It is in pursuance of that dogma of pessimism – the sacerdotal doctrine of
vicarious atonement – that we are so vehemently urged to imbrue our hands in the
blood of the Moslem.
The soul is crucified whenever its counsels are rejected and those of the body
suffered to prevail. No matter what the immediate cause or subject of their
controversy, the effect is the same. And I say unhesitatingly, that it is the
encase his soul – that, wedded indissolubly to the grossest aspect of every gross and orthodox tradition, finding itself in a strait in the region of its political consciousness, jumps at the first plausible solution that catches its eye; and exclaiming, as is its wont when anything goes wrong, “Somebody must be hung!” clamours for the blood of its old ally and protégé, as a sacrifice to the political exigences of Europe.
It is still the body of
glad prospect of making peace through the blood of the Turk.
I insist that the policy now proposed and vehemently urged on the nation, is precisely that which has ever been the policy of all sacerdotalisms and all orthodoxies; that what is called orthodoxy is restricted to no department of activity; and that wherever it shows itself, even though it be in the guise of an angel of light, it is in all its principles and workings, earthly, sensual, devilish, in that it is the product of the divorce of the lower nature of man from his higher. We have in practice as well as in theory substituted pessimism for Christianity, and such substitution is the necessary and logical outcome of the fundamental principle of sacerdotalism. And by way of maintaining this proposition, I undertake to produce such a picture of what we are at home, as may indicate what we have been abroad, and, I hope, shame England into quitting her accustomed role of Pharisee for the more becoming one of publican, and induce her ere she haughtily declines to accord forgiveness to the Turk, to exclaim on her own account, “Be merciful to me a sinner.”
Let us glance at another aspect of our subject. Even granting that Turkey is the prodigal of Europe; that it is a planet, or comet rather, pursuing its course at an extreme distance from the centre recognised by ourselves, and that many gene rations have passed without any signs of its nearer approach to that centre – who and what, it must be asked, are we that we should appoint a time and a period for any of our fellow orbs in the great system of the universe? Time is a thing made for our convenience, and has no existence for him to whom a day and a thousand years are the same. What is a thousand years in the history of the development of a race; especially when that race is tough and hardy of fibre, as our own vaunted British oak, which requires the buffeting of a hundred winters on bleak mountainside ere it attain the maturity that fits it for its true purpose? How long, adopting for the moment the theory of evolution, were the cycles of the earth’s physical creation ere it attained its vegetable stage of consciousness? How long ere it passed on to the animal? How long did it require to reach the stage of the merely anatomical human? How much longer to arrive at
that of man’s intellectual, moral, and
spiritual consciousness? And how much longer will it be before the whole
creation, to the densest atom that represents a unit of the Divine
consciousness, ascends to the recognition of its true spiritual self and source?
If only to judge by our own moral journeyings, which of late have indisputably
been retrogressive, how long shall we ourselves require before we attain the
perfection its distance from which we resent so sorely in
The Hindoos represented their conception of the gradual stages of their own
development by a series of avatars or Divine incarnations. Of these they
reckoned ten, each representing a period of six hundred years, and each
successively indicating a regular advance in the development first of the
physical, then of the intellectual, moral, and spiritual consciousness of India.
Beginning with a tortoise, the god took at each successive incarnation a higher
form, the ninth being in that of Buddha, and the tenth coincident with the
beginning of our era. Here a period of 6000 years was estimated as necessary for
the full development of the earth’s consciousness. The history of
morning, noon, evening, and night; its spring, summer, autumn, and winter, the whole representing a vast solar period in which the same process of development is repeated on different planes of consciousness, and of which the end is not yet. As the day is to the year, the individual is to the race; and some races, like some individuals, attain their perfection only after a long series of solar cycles; while some, like Jonah’s gourd, soon reach such maturity as they are capable of, and early wither.
The prophetic periods of the Jewish seers are based on a wide induction of facts of this kind; for the world was very old when history, as we have it, began. The “time, times, and half a time,” or twelve hundred and sixty years, of Daniel and the Apocalypse, were doubtless based on calculations of this nature. For the power to prophesy respecting the broad outlines of the world’s future, or to reveal the rationale of the world’s facts, does not involve miracle as ordinarily understood. It belongs to all who have their spiritual eyes open. Existence in those days seemed larger than now, when we limit it to the little range of sense. And so far from at once denouncing a capital sentence on a people for an act that indicated its distance
from its full stature of perfection, the
prophet’s call was always for repentance and amendment, and for an accelerated
progress towards its full measure of development. Methinks the tale of
I have spoken of Islam as still in an early stage of its spiritual history. It is true that the stage may be an early one, and yet that stage be in its final winter. But it has lasted so long, say you? Scarcely the twelve hundred and sixty years of the Hebrew prophets, since Mahomet won the Arabs from their primitive Nature worship. And how long had they remained in that stage? Apparently since the days of their father Ishmael. Surely a tree of such slow growth must be made of stuff capable of wondrous finish! But they grow so slowly, and we have not been a quarter of the time; and then, when provoked, they use their strength so roughly? Well, what is that but a token of a strength and a temper which, directed aright, will make them one of the choicest peoples of the earth – nay, perhaps, the chosen people of the future?
Away with such querulous upbraidings, which
from us, of all people in the world, come
with a bad grace. If we were so anxious for the improvement of the Turk, why did
we not send him better specimens of ourselves than some who have been our
representatives at his Court? Verily we have not done our best to keep the very
name of Christian and Englishman from stinking in the nostrils of the Turk. Will
Poor follower of Islam l .Methinks his condition calls for commiseration rather than reproach. “An inhuman specimen of humanity!” How would the launcher at him of this terrible invective feel were he in the same rudimentary
spiritual condition? He loves his women and
children, and can feel that they, equally with himself, are safe from final
repudiation, inasmuch as they, equally with him, have been taken up “in the
unity of the same spirit” into the Godhead. But the Turk has not this
consolation. He is a man, despite his “inhumanity,” and loves his womenkind; and
inasmuch as he has not yet reached that stage of religious development to which
belongs the recognition of the human family as a whole translated into the
Godhead, he is forced, if only for their own sakes, to deny his women the
possession of souls, in order to save them from perdition. Having no souls, they
at least cannot be damned. Methinks even Plato might here have learnt somewhat
from the Moslem. It was very well to refer feminine qualities in the abstract to
a divine source, and to speak of knowledge and love as the two wings whereon man
descends from and ascends to God. But when Plato dealt with woman in the
concrete, he declared that woman was a blunder, love a madness, and the desire
of offspring a disease. Ah, women of
little understood doctrine, the doctrine of the Trinity! Otherwise you would be for sending assistance to the Turk, not in the shape of ships and guns and soldiers merely, but in the shape of Bibles, and missionaries who understood those Bibles, if by any manner of means such could be found; so that the strong, manly spirit of Islam might, by means of your true sympathy, receive an impulse that would at once stimulate it on to its due development, and bind it fast in spiritual friendship with ourselves. But to this end it is essential that the interpreters of your souls comprehend aright the book which is the key to the interpretation of all true souls. For the Bible is the history not of a people, not of a period, but of the soul of all humanity, and of its struggle with the body. It contains the religion which is not Judaism, not Christianity, as orthodoxly regarded; not sacerdotalism in any form or mode; but the religion which has ever found a response in the true soul of England, that soul than which no soul of people was ever more capable of being touched to fine issues; the religion by which the universal heart of man is ever found as it is by no other religion; the religion which Islamism, Romanism, and
Protestantism, High Church, Broad Church, Low Church, and .Nonconformity, are but attempts, more or less successful, to stifle or express, according to the point of view from which they are regarded; the religion which will prevail when man shall have learnt to distinguish his true from his apparent self, and to recognise the sun, and not the earth, as the centre of the system; the religion whose rising will be the discomfiture of all the orthodoxies which have persecuted and denounced it; the religion, the history of the attempts to destroy which, made by the sacerdotalists of one people, constitutes the Bible. For the Bible is, from Moses to Jesus, a record of the struggle of the soul against the priest – a struggle in which, alas, the soul was too often worsted! So mighty and so cruel is orthodoxy.
Gladstone has always,
as is well known, been a good Churchman, and a bad foreign politician. All men
work best in the direction of the bent of their own genius. Devoid of any
sympathy with the foreign relations of
of justice to the Turk, political amity to
That aim consists in the formulation and realisation of a scheme for the reunion of Christendom, minus the Roman Catholic portion, under one head, or at least around one centre, so as at once to wreak his antipathy on the papacy, and to relieve the Anglican clergy of any inducement to turn their faces Romewards. It is with a view to promote the success of this master-piece of ecclesiastical policy, and not from any regard for, or insight into the political exigences of England, that he has allied himself to a body of accomplished but ambitious clergymen, and, completely renouncing the doctrine of his old colleague and chief, Lord Palmerston, has turned round in favour of Russia and against Turkey, and by so doing has constituted himself the greatest enemy at once to the regeneration of the English Church, to our continued retention of India, and to our beneficial action upon Turkey.
As it is now for the first time that Mr. Gladstone is claiming to take a leading part in the foreign relations of the country, it is especially
necessary for our own safety to have an accurate measure of him. So long as he was concerned only in home affairs, where the issues were confined to ourselves, it was another matter. If under his guidance we carne to grief, we had the remedy in our own hands. We could undo what had been done amiss.
It is not so in our foreign affairs. There, if we go wrong in our relations with other nations, we cannot right ourselves, since they are not under our control.
I must not be misunderstood as intending any impeachment of Mr. Gladstone’s patriotism, as the term is generally understood. He means well by his country; but he fails wholly to perceive in what direction her welfare lies. In one main respect he is right – namely, in his ascription of our difficulties to a lack of spiritual unity. We recognise no common centre of revolution. Mr. Gladstone and his sacerdotal coadjutors (I had well-nigh said accomplices) are under the impression that they have found a means to set all this to rights; and they are so dazzled by the vision of the new system they have espied in the ecclesiastical heavens – a system consisting of the Greek and Anglican Churches revolving like two suns harmoniously round each other – that
they are unable to see anything else with distinctness.
While it is thus a spiritual centre for which they are pining, under the leadership of Mr. Gladstone, it is precisely in respect to the finding of centres that the mind of Mr. Gladstone has ever shown itself conspicuously defective. The very superfluity of words by which he seeks to express himself on all subjects, shows that he has failed to get to the centre of any subject. He will talk round and round anything, sometimes getting hot and sometimes cold, so as to impress those who are further from its core than himself with the belief that he knows all about it – as indeed he does know about it. But he never shows them the principle on which it turns as a whole, so as to elicit from them the exclamation, prompted by a sudden and complete illumination, “So it is; we understand it all now. How could we have been so blind as not to see it before?” And the reason of this is, that he has never seen it himself. He has talked, as I said, about it, and out-talked every one else, but has never got to its true core and centre.
Now, when a man of vast capacity and attainments exhibits this defect in everything he undertakes, it is clear that there must be a cause
for it either in the constitution or the education of his mind. That the constitution of Mr. Gladstone’s mind is radically defective, I for one cannot for a moment grant. The intensity, grasp, and wholesomeness of his moral sensibilities, give the he to any accusation of that nature. Mr. Gladstone’s mind is a vast and luminous system of sun, planets, comets, and meteorites; but he has not yet found the true centre around which to range them in harmonious order. It may be most fitly compared to our solar system before it had completely emerged from its nebulous state. It is luminous and vast; but not arranged in its final perfection. And the consequence is, that we find it revolving sometimes round one, sometimes round another portion of itself, under the impression that each portion in turn is its true centre.
Mr. Gladstone’s whole career is an illustration of the truth of this description of him. It shows him on all occasions as fitted to be the administrator only, and not the initiator of a policy. He is not, to use an Americanism, a whole team; or, granted he is a whole team, he is not qualified to be the driver; or, granted that he is this, he is not competent to judge what road should be taken, or what the nature of the cargo to be
conveyed. An admirable captain for the execution of a desperate enterprise, he is the last man to be entrusted to decide whether, or in what direction, or with what object, the enterprise should be undertaken. Let the nation know its own mind, and set him his task, and it will have no better servant; but the nation must, if it would escape utter ruin, abstain from seeking to learn from him what it ought to think and do; for, as he has never yet found his own true self and centre, he cannot help others to find theirs.
His course in respect to the Irish University Bill affords a perfect illustration of Mr. Gladstone’s liability to shift suddenly from one centre to another; it showed also to which centre his heart lies nearest. On this occasion, after achieving one great measure after another on the platform of the popular Liberalism, he suddenly threw himself into the arms of the Romish sacerdotalists, carrying with him, in the bewilderment of the surprise, nearly the whole of the then great and united Liberal party. Of course that party could not adapt itself to Mr. Gladstone’s new centre, and the effort to detach itself resulted in its disruption.
Not only are Mr. Gladstone’s sympathies with
the sacerdotalists, but the whole cast of his mind, so far as it is at present developed – and I for one do not believe that it has done growing; his power of sympathetic expansion is still far too great to suffer arrest with a merely physical old age: it is a quality which indicates him as one whom the gods love, and whatever the age at which they may summon him, he will die young: should it only be given to him to find his true centre and self on this side the grave, and while in possession of his working faculties, he will take the lead of all other Englishmen at present visible above the political horizon – perhaps of all who have ever been above it – in perfecting the destinies of his country: – but as at present developed, while he feels strongly, and as a woman feels, he does not think strongly, as a man should think. This cannot be while he throws in his lot with sacerdotalism, and makes it the object of his ambition to bring about an unnatural union between the highly vitalised body of the Anglican Church and the decaying carcase of the Greek. It is a strange and terrible fascination that is being exercised by the prospect of this union upon so many able and conscientious men. The whole spectacle reminds me of nothing so vividly
as of a match-making mother, fascinated by the glamour of some fancied worldly advantage, insisting on wedding a daughter – young, bright, healthy, and full of vitality – to some worn-out, titled, or gilded satyr, – so loathsome is the prospect of a union between the newly-renovated and vigorous, though scarcely yet well conducted, Anglican with the effete and lifeless Greek. Not all the blessings of all the Churches in the world can make theirs a true marriage; on no plane of their respective consciousness in either case is there an affinity. Either the Greek must drag the Anglican down to its own level; or the Anglican must be withheld from attaining its own full stature; estimable though the longing be to find a true common centre, and indispensable as that longing is to the discovery of it.
The notion entertained by Mr. Gladstone and his friends that by combining two false centres they will be doing something towards obtaining a satisfactory substitute for a true one, is utterly preposterous. It is the lesson of life in every department of life that it is better to remain single and die childless than to bind oneself in irrevocable wedlock to one between whom and oneself not a single point of sympathetic contact is discernible. Devoid of sympathetic intercourse,
the spirit either dies or chafes itself into
morbidity. A union may grow into a perfect one where the centres only, and not
the circumferences, coincide; for, starting from the same point, the smaller
nature may grow to the dimensions of, or at least revolve in unison with, the
larger. But where the centres fail to combine, harmony is hopeless. The discord
between the parents vitiates, moreover, the characters of the whole of the
offspring. The true centre of a Church is a spiritual one. And inasmuch as the
All the accomplishments and talents, all the learning and knowledge in the world, cannot be a substitute for genius. For genius is direct insight into the heart of that which all the rest
merely revolve around without ever reaching. Talent and genius are to each other as priest and prophet. One possesses the learning, the traditions, and the constituted external authorities, and appeals to tangible facts which the senses of all can appreciate. Cultivating the habit of appealing solely to facts, it inevitably comes soon to rest wholly on facts, and to contemn the spirit within them. No matter what the plane on which the consciousness operates, that is always orthodoxy which consists in regarding the apparent as the substantial and the ideal as the unreal. The minister of sense is the priest of orthodoxy.
The prophet is he who discards every expedient which, prescribed by orthodoxy, appeals to sense. Knowing the true place of the heart, he thrusts aside every environing impediment reared by sense in his way, and goes directly to the true centre. There he blows into a flame the expiring embers, and forthwith the whole system is ablaze with genial, life-giving fire and light.
Need it be asked under which rule, that of the prophet or of the priest, of the inner or of the outer, of the real or of the apparent, of the soul or of sense, of spirit or of body, this dark period of England’s moral history finds her?
It is an ancient, but not therefore a less true, conception of the world, which regards the solar system as a living conscious organism which after the manner of living organisms, is ever reproducing itself in its offspring to the minutest unit of the consciousness into which the whole has distributed itself. The resemblance is held to be shown, among other respects, by the fact that the life of individuals, singly or collectively, corresponds with the seasons of the day and the year. To each is there a morning, spring, and childhood of birth and promise; to each is there a noon, summer, and manhood of endeavour, achievement, and triumph; to each is there an evening, autumn, and decline of maturity, reflection, and content; and to each is there a winter, a night, and an old age of withdrawal from the things of the past, and anticipation of and preparation for a future, on a plane of which the level and the issue will be according to the use made of past opportunities to develop and heighten the consciousness.
Viewing ourselves as a people in the light of this old conception of earthly existence, it seems to me that the parallel and the moral are readily
appreciable to the dullest vision. Taking the period of the Reformation as that of our birth to independent national and spiritual existence, on a higher plane of liberty than any we had before known, we have had our spring, summer, and autumn of promise, achievement, and fruition, in every department of national life; and our year is now closing in a winter whose severity is shown by the depth of the torpor into which our moral and spiritual consciousness has sunk. The first reformation-period is over. The sun around which we have revolved, and from which we have drawn the light and heat by which we have been sustained, is set. We called it Christianity. So far as we were justified in so calling it, our Christian year is past.
Surely the year is complete and done when the sun, which has so long been the light and heat of our system, has sunk below the horizon, and we find ourselves in a solstice of gloom and coldness, of our issue from which we can by no means discern the manner or the time. Surely the year is complete when we look in vain to Church, State, or society, to philosophy, science, or art, for any principle of light or warmth, for any standard of faith or practice, the recognition of which may, by intensifying our sympathies or
enlarging our knowledge, serve to make us less gross, less selfish, less animal. Once the foremost people of all the earth, chief representative of that great Aryan stock whose mission it has ever been to be the redeemers of the waste places of the earth, and to whom nations in their distress would turn for aid and encouragement – now so spiritually dead, so gross and selfish are we, that unless the miracle of the resurrection of the ideal be once more worked upon us, they that sit in bondage may renew over us on their own account the lament, “We trusted that it had been He who should have redeemed Israel.”
Surely our year of the spirit is done, and the darkness and frost of winter are upon us, when in every department of our system there is a palpable thickening of the moral issues, a corresponding diminution of the moral sensibilities, and a growing incapacity to be touched to fine issues; when religion, politics, social life, art, science, industry, and commerce, all present the same paralysis of the higher faculties, the same exaltation of the lower self as the rule of conduct, and the same inability to recognise the existence of moral limits to the pursuit of anything upon which the desires of the body are set.
What but a spiritual winter can it be that
oppresses us, and locks up the once warm and genial currents in our veins, seeing that the deterioration which has befallen us is due to no regime of tyranny, famine, pestilence, or war; but has come in the midst of health, wealth, freedom, and peace, and in the presence of an enormous multiplication of the mechanical appliances for religious and educational development? Surely it is a condition of spiritual winter and death, when thus circumstanced outwardly, we find ourselves without a religion, a morality, a philosophy, or a policy, that has the slightest power to stimulate our mutual sympathies, or to provide us with a worthy standard of conduct or belief, or the motive to act up to one if we had it, or in any way to promote our advancement in any of the higher purposes of life; and when, for jack of such standard and such motive, our sympathies have grown cold and contracted, our ideas of duty dim and faint, our conceptions of perfection emaciated and meagre, our aspirations towards it nought. Like a man of feeble character, who is ruined by having a fortune left him, we have exchanged an active, useful existence for one of luxurious self-indulgence; renounced a good life for good living, and instead of acting like people above whose heads are the free open heavens,
and nought to limit aspiration and expansion, we cower down like slaves who, forbidden any upward development, are forced to expend their energies upon their lower propensities; and with all this, so far from deeming ourselves debased thereby, we vaunt ourselves a practical people, sneer at any high principle as a sentimentality, and when anything nobler and higher than we have is suggested to us, we ridicule it as utopian, and so take the surest way to make it so. And so it has come that rejecting the philosophy which teaches that the true way to worship existence is by the culture of the ideal as the only true real, our spiritual consciousness is starved to inanition; our higher imagination is a blank; we have no sense of beauty in thought or in conduct; no faith in the power of beauty to redeem; no impulse to make the world a better place to live in than we found it, or ourselves better worthy to live in it in any respect above that lower nature which we share with the animals.
Defect of sympathy, defect of comprehension, defect of faith, all these are characteristic of a winter in which the soul of man finds itself without any sun of the ideal to illumine and vivify him. It is through the frost that has got into our spirits, and frozen the currents of our inner life,
that we Lave erected unconsciousness into a
philosophy, promoted blind force to the place of deity, convinced ourselves that
the notion of free will is a chimera, and that we are but as helpless puppets in
a resistless mechanism. Regarding thus the universe as dead, and ourselves but
as galvanised atoms in it, it is no wonder that we find the very idea of
religion and duty insupportable. Religion signifies our sense of relation to a
whole, of which we recognise ourselves as a part; and duty signifies our sense
of relation to our fellow-parts in that whole; and of neither sense do we
tolerate the thought. Such, if I read aright the signs of the times, is the
character of the season in which