TOWARDS THE GREAT PEACE
RALPH ADAMS CRAM, LITT.D., LL.D.
For the course of lectures I am privileged to deliver at this time, I desire to take, in some sense as a text, a prayer that came to my attention at the outset of my preparatory work. It is adapted from a prayer by Bishop Hacket who flourished about the middle of the seventeenth century, and is as follows:
Lord, lift us out of Private-mindedness and give us Public souls to work for Thy Kingdom by daily creating that Atmosphere of a happy temper and generous heart which alone can bring the Great Peace.
Each thought in this noble aspiration is curiously applicable to each one of us in the times in which we fall: the supersession of narrow and selfish and egotistical "private-mindedness" by a vital passion for the winning of a Kingdom of righteousness consonant with the revealed will of God; the lifting of souls from nervous introspection to a height where they become indeed "public souls"; the accomplishing of the Kingdom not by great engines of mechanical power but by the daily offices of every individual; the substitution in place of current hatred, fear and jealous covetousness, of the unhappy temper and "generous heart" which are the only fruitful agencies of accomplishment. Finally, the "Great Peace" as the supreme object of thought and act and aspiration for us, and for all the world, at this time of crisis which has culminated through the antithesis of great peace, which is great war.
I have tried to keep this prayer of Bishop Hacket's before me during the preparation of these lectures. I cannot claim that I have succeeded in achieving a "happy temper" in all things, but I honestly claim that I have striven earnestly for the "generous heart," even when forced, by what seem to me the necessities of the case, to indulge in condemnation or to bring forward subjects which can only be controversial. If the "Great War," and the greater war which preceded, comprehended, and followed it, were the result of many and varied errors, it matters little whether these were the result of perversity, bad judgment or the most generous impulses. As they resulted in the Great War, so they are a detriment to the Great Peace that must follow, and therefore they must be cast away. Consciousness of sin, repentance, and a will to do better, must precede the act of amendment, and we must see where we have erred if we are to forsake our ill ways and make an honest effort to strive for something better.
For every failure I have made to achieve either a happy temper or a generous heart, I hereby express my regret, and tender my apologies in advance.
I. A WORLD AT THE CROSSROADS
II. A WORKING PHILOSOPHY
III. THE SOCIAL ORGANISM
IV. THE INDUSTRIAL PROBLEM
V. THE POLITICAL ORGANIZATION OF SOCIETY
VI. THE FUNCTION OF EDUCATION AND ART
VII. THE PROBLEM OF ORGANIC RELIGION
VIII. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
TOWARDS THE GREAT PEACE
A WORLD AT THE CROSSROADS
For two thousand years Christianity has been an operative force in the world; for more than a century democracy has been the controlling influence in the public affairs of Europe and the Americas; for two generations education, free, general and comprehensive, has been the rule in the West. Wealth incomparable, scientific achievements unexampled in their number and magnitude, facile means of swift intercommunication between peoples, have all worked together towards an earthly realization of the early nineteenth-century dream of proximate and unescapable millennium. With the opening of the second decade of the twentieth century it seemed that the stage was set for the last act in an unquestioned evolutionary drama. Man was master of all things, and the failures of the past were obliterated by the glory of the imminent event.
The Great War was a progressive revelation and disillusionment. Therein, everything so carefully built up during the preceding four centuries was tried as by fire, and each failed—save the indestructible qualities of personal honour, courage and fortitude. Nothing corporate, whether secular or ecclesiastical, endured the test, nothing of government or administration, of science or industry, of philosophy or religion. The victories were those of individual character, the things that stood the test were not things but men.
The "War to end war," the war "to make the world safe for democracy" came to a formal ending, and for a few hours the world gazed spellbound on golden hopes. Greater than the disillusionment of war was that of the making of the peace. There had never been a war, not even the "Thirty Years' War" in Germany, the "Hundred Years' War" in France or the wars of Napoleon, that was fraught with more horror, devastation and dishonour; there had never been a Peace, not even those of Berlin, Vienna and Westphalia, more cynical or more deeply infected with the poison of ultimate disaster. And here it was not things that failed, but men.
What of the world since the Peace of Versailles? Hatred, suspicion, selfishness are the dominant notes. The nations of Europe are bankrupt financially, and the governments of the world are bankrupt politically. Society is dissolving into classes and factions, either at open war or manoeuvering for position, awaiting the favourable moment. Law and order are mocked at, philosophy and religion disregarded, and of all the varied objects of human veneration so loudly acclaimed and loftily exalted by the generation that preceded the war, not one remains to command a wide allegiance. One might put it in a sentence and say that everyone is dissatisfied with everything, and is showing his feelings after varied but disquieting fashion. It is a condition of unstable equilibrium constantly tending by its very nature to a point where dissolution is apparently inevitable.
It is no part of my task to elaborate this thesis, and still less to magnify its perils. Enough has been said and written on this subject during the last two years; more than enough, perhaps, and in any case no thinking person is unaware of the conditions that exist, whatever may be his estimate of their significance, his interpenetration of their tendency. I have set myself the task of trying to suggest some constructive measures that we may employ in laying the foundations for the immediate future; they may be wrong in whole or in part, but at least my object and motive are not recrimination or invective, but regeneration. Nevertheless, as a foundation the case must be stated, and as a necessary preparation to any work that looks forward we must have at least a working hypothesis as to how the conditions that need redemption were brought about. I state the case thus, therefore: That human society, even humanity itself, is now in a state of flux that at any moment may change into a chaos comparable only with that which came with the fall of classical civilization and from which five centuries were necessary for the process of recovery. Christianity, democracy, science, education, wealth, and the cumulative inheritance of a thousand years, have not preserved us from the vain repetition of history. How has this been possible, what has been the sequence of events that has brought us to this pass?
It is of course the result of the interaction of certain physical, material facts and certain spiritual forces. Out of these spiritual energies come events, phenomena that manifest themselves in political, social, ecclesiastical transactions and institutions; in wars, migrations and the reshaping of states; in codes of law, the organization of society, the development of art, literature and science. In their turn all these concrete products work on the minds and souls of men, modifying old spiritual impulses either by exaltation or degradation, bringing new ones into play; and again these react on the material fabric of human life, causing new combinations, unloosing new forces, that in their turn play their part in the eternal process of building, unbuilding and rebuilding our unstable and fluctuant world.
Underlying all the varied material forms of ancient society, as this developed around the shores of the Mediterranean, was the great fact of slavery: Persia, Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, all were small, sometimes very small, minorities of highly developed, highly privileged individuals existing on a great sub-stratum of slaves. All the vast contributions of antiquity in government and law, in science, letters, art and philosophy, all the building of the culture and civilization that still remain the foundation stones of human society, was the work of the few free subsisting on the many un-free. But freedom, liberty, is an attribute of the soul and it may exist even when the body is in bondage. The slaves of antiquity were free neither in body nor in soul, but with the coming of Christianity all this was changed, for it is one of the great glories of the Christian religion that it gave freedom to the soul even before the Church could give freedom to the body of the slave. After the fall of the Roman Empire, and with the infiltration of the free races of the North, slavery gradually disappeared, and between the years 1000 and 1500 a very real liberty existed as the product of Christianity and under its protection. Society was hierarchical: from the serf up through the peasant, the guildsman, the burgher, the knighthood, the nobles, to the King, and so to the Emperor, there was a regular succession of graduations, but the lines of demarcation were fluid and easily passed, and as through the Church, the schools and the cloister there was an open road for the son of a peasant to achieve the Papacy, so through the guilds, chivalry, war and the court, the layman, if he possessed ability, might from an humble beginning travel far. An epoch of real liberty, of body, soul and mind, and the more real in that limits, differences and degrees were recognized, accepted and enforced.
This condition existed roughly for five centuries in its swift rise, its long dominion and its slow decline, that is to say, from 1000 A.D. to 1500 A.D. There was still the traditional aristocracy, now feudal rather than patriarchal or military; there was still a servile class, now reduced to a small minority. In between was the great body of men of a degree of character, ability and intelligence, and with a recognized status, the like of which had never been seen before. It was not a bourgeoisie, for it was made up of producers,—agricultural, artisan, craft, art, mechanic; a great free society, the proudest product of Christian civilization.
With the sixteenth century began a process of change that was to overturn all this and bring in something radically different. The Renaissance and the Reformation worked in a sense together to build up their own expressive form of society, and when this process had been completed we find still an aristocracy, though rapidly changing in the quality of its personnel and in the sense of its relationship to the rest of society; a servile class, the proletariat, enormously increased in proportion to the other social components; and two new classes, one the bourgeoisie, essentially non-producers and subsisting largely either on trade, usury or management, and the pauper, a phase of life hitherto little known under the Christian regime. The great body of free citizens that had made up the majority of society during the preceding epoch, the small land-holders, citizens, craftsmen and artists of fifty different sorts, has begun rapidly to dissolve, has almost vanished by the middle of the seventeenth century, and in another hundred years has practically disappeared.
What had become of them, of this great bulk of the population of western Europe that, with the feudal aristocracy, the knighthood and the monks had made Mediaevalism? Some had degenerated into bourgeois traders, managers and financeers, but the great majority had been crushed down and down in the mass of submerged proletariat, losing liberty, degenerating in character, becoming more and more servile in status and wretched in estate, so forming a huge, inarticulate, dully ebullient mass, cut off from society, cut off almost from life itself.
I must insist on these three factors in the development of society and its present catastrophe: the great, predominant, central body of free men during the Middle Ages, their supersession during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by a non-producing bourgeoisie, and the creation during the same period of a submerged proletariat. They are factors of great significance and potential force.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century the industrial-financial revolution began. Within the space of an hundred years came all the revelations of the potential inherent in thermo-dynamics and electricity, and the invention of the machines that have changed the world. During the Renaissance and Reformation the old social and economic systems, so laboriously built up on the ruins of Roman tyranny, had been destroyed; autocracy had abolished liberty, licentiousness had wrecked the moral stamina, "freedom of conscience" had obliterated the guiding and restraining power of the old religion. The field was clear for a new dispensation.
What happened was interesting and significant. Coal and iron, and their derivatives—steam and machinery—rapidly revealed their possibilities. To take advantage of these, it was necessary that labour should be available in large quantities and freely subject to exploitation; that unlimited capital should be forthcoming; that adequate markets should be discovered or created to absorb the surplus product, so enormously greater than the normal demand; and finally, it was necessary that directors and organizers and administrators should be ready at the call. The conditions of the time made all these possible. The land-holding peasantry of England—and it is here that the revolution was accomplished—had been largely dispossessed and pauperized under Henry VIII, Edward VI and Elizabeth, while the development of the wool-growing industry had restricted the arable land to a point where it no longer gave employment to the mass of field labourers. The first blast of factory production threw out of work the whole body of cottage weavers, smiths, craftsmen; and the result was a great mass of men, women, and children without defense, void of all rights, and given the alternative of submission to the dominance of the exploiters, or starvation.
Without capital the new industry could neither begin nor continue. The exploits of the "joint-stock companies" invented and perfected in the eighteenth century, showed how this capital could easily be obtained, while the paralyzing and dismemberment of the Church during the Reformation had resulted in the abrogation of the old ecclesiastical inhibition against usury. The necessary capital was forthcoming, and the foundations were laid for the great system of finance which was one of the triumphant achievements of the last century.
The question of markets was more difficult. It was clear that, through machinery, the exploitation of labour, and the manipulations of finance, the product would be enormously greater than the local or national demand. Until they themselves developed their own industrial system, the other nations of Europe were available, but as this process proceeded other markets had to be found; the result was achieved through advertising, i.e., the stimulating in the minds of the general public of a covetousness for something they had not known of and did not need, and the exploiting of barbarous or undeveloped races in Asia, Africa, Oceanica. This last task was easily achieved through "peaceful penetration" and the preempting of "spheres of influence." In the end (i.e., A.D. 1914), the whole world had so been divided, the stimulated markets showed signs of repletion, and since exaggerated profits meant increasing capital demanding investment, and the improvement in "labour-saving" devices continued unchecked, the contest for others' markets became acute, and world-politic was concentrated on the vital problem of markets, lines of communication, and tariffs.
As for the finding or development of competent organizers and directors, the history of the world since the end of medievalism had curiously provided for this after a fashion that seemed almost miraculous. The type required was different from anything that had been developed before. Whenever the qualitative standard had been operative, it was necessary that the leaders in any form of creative action should be men of highly developed intellect, fine sensibility, wide and penetrating vision, nobility of instinct, passion for righteousness, and a consciousness of the eternal force of charity, honour, and service. During the imperial or decadent stages, courage, dynamic force, the passion for adventure, unscrupulousness in the matter of method, took the place of the qualities that marked the earlier periods. In the first instance the result was the great law-givers, philosophers, prophets, religious leaders, and artists of every sort; in the second, the great conquerors. Something quite different was now demanded—men who possessed some of the qualities needed for the development of imperialism, but who were unhampered by the restrictive influences of those who had sought perfection. To organize and administer the new industrial-financial-commercial regime, the leaders must be shrewd, ingenious, quick-witted, thick-skinned, unscrupulous, hard-headed, and avaricious; yet daring, dominating, and gifted with keen prevision and vivid imagination. These qualities had not been bred under any of the Mediterranean civilizations, or that of Central Europe in the Middle Ages, which had inherited so much therefrom. The pursuit of perfection always implies a definite aristocracy, which is as much a goal of effort as a noble philosophy, an august civil polity or a great art. This aristocracy was an accepted and indispensable part of society, and it was always more or less the same in principle, and always the centre and source of leadership, without which society cannot endure. It is true that at the hands of Christianity it acquired a new quality, that of service as contingent on privilege—one might almost say of privilege as contingent on service—and the ideals of honour, chivalry, compassion were established as its object and method of operation even though these were not always achieved, but the result was not a new creation; it was an institution as old as society, regenerated and transformed and playing a greater and a nobler part than ever before.
Between the years 1455 and 1795 this old aristocracy was largely exterminated. The Wars of the Roses, the massacres of the Reformation, and the Civil Wars in England; the Thirty Years' War in Germany; the Hundred Years' War, the Wars of Religion, and the Revolution in France had decimated the families old in honour, preserving the tradition of culture, jealous of their alliances and their breeding—the natural and actual leaders in thought and action. England suffered badly enough as the result of war, with the persecutions of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Elizabeth, and the Black Death, included for full measure. France suffered also, but Germany fared worst of all. By the end of the Thirty Years' War the older feudal nobility had largely disappeared, while the class of "gentlemen" had been almost exterminated. In France, until the fall of Napoleon III, and in Germany and Great Britain up to the present moment, the recruiting of the formal aristocracy has gone on steadily, but on a different basis and from a different class from anything known before. Demonstrated personal ability to gain and maintain leadership; distinguished service to the nation in war or statecraft; courage, honour, fealty—these, in general, had been the ground for admission to the ranks of the aristocracy. In general, also, advancement to the ranks of the higher nobility was from the class of "gentlemen," though the Church, the universities, and chivalry gave, during the Middle Ages, wide opportunity for personal merit to achieve the highest honours.
Through the wholesale destruction of the representatives of a class that from the beginning of history had been the directing and creative force in civilization, a process began which was almost mechanical. As the upper strata of society were planed off by war, pestilence, civil slaughter, and assassination, the pressure on the great mass of men (peasants, serfs, unskilled labourers, the so-called "lower classes") was increasingly relaxed, and very soon the thin film of aristocracy, further weakened by dilution, broke, and through the crumbling shell burst to the surface those who had behind them no tradition but that of servility, no comprehension of the ideals of chivalry and honour of the gentleman, no stored-up results of education and culture, but only an age-long rage against the age-long dominating class, together with the instincts of craftiness, parsimony, and almost savage self-interest.
As a class, it was very far from being what it was under the Roman Empire; on the other hand, it was equally removed from what it was during the Middle Ages in England, France and the Rhineland. Under mediaevalism chattel slavery had disappeared, and the lot of the peasant was a happier one than he had known before. He had achieved definite status, and the line that separated him from the gentry was very thin and constantly traversed, thanks to the accepted system of land tenure, the guilds, chivalry, the schools and universities, the priesthood and monasticism. The Renaissance had rapidly changed all this, however; absolutism in government, dispossession of land, the abolition of the guilds, and the collapse of the moral order and of the dominance of the Church, were fast pushing the peasant back into the position he had held under the Roman Empire, and from which Christianity had lifted him. By 1790 he had been for nearly three centuries under a progressive oppression that had undone nearly all the beneficent work of the Middle Ages and made the peasant class practically outlaw, while breaking down its character, degrading its morals, increasing its ignorance, and building up a sullen rage and an invincible hatred of all that stood visible as law and order in the persons of the ruling class.
Filtering through the impoverished and diluted crust of a dissolving aristocracy, came this irruption from below. In their own persons certain of these people possessed the qualities and the will which were imperative for the organization of the industry, the trade, and the finance that were to control the world for four generations, and produce that industrial civilization which is the basis and the energizing force of modernism. Immediately, and with conspicuous ability, they took hold of the problem, solved its difficulties, developed its possibilities, and by the end of the nineteenth century had made it master of the world.
Simultaneously an equal revolution and reversal was being effected in government. The free monarchies of the Middle Ages, beneath which lay the well recognized principle that no authority, human or divine, could give any monarch the right to govern wrong, and that there was such a thing (frequently exercised) as lawful rebellion, gave place to the absolutism and autocracy of Renaissance kingship and this, which was fostered both by Renaissance and Reformation, became at once the ally of the new forces in society and so furthered the growth as well as the misery and the degradation of the proletariat. In revolt against this new and very evil thing came the republicanism of the eighteenth century, inspired and directed in large measure by members of the fast perishing aristocracy of race, character and tradition. It was a splendid uprising against tyranny and oppression and is best expressed in the personalities and the actions of the Constitutional Convention of the United States in 1787 and the States General of France in 1789.
The movement is not to be confounded with another that synchronizes with it, that is to say, democracy, for the two things are radically different in their antecedents, their protagonists, their modes of operation and their objects. While the one was the aspiration and the creation of the more enlightened and cultured, the representatives of the old aristocracy, the other issued out of the same milieu that was responsible for the new social organism. That is to say; while certain of the more shrewd and ingenious were organizing trade, manufacture and finance and developing its autocratic and imperialistic possibilities at the expense of the great mass of their blood-brothers, others of the same social antecedents were devising a new theory, and experimenting in new schemes, of government, which would take all power away from the class that had hitherto exercised it and fix it firmly in the hands of the emancipated proletariat. This new model was called then, and is called now, democracy. Elsewhere I have tried to distinguish between democracy of theory and democracy of method. Perhaps I should have used a more lucid nomenclature if I had simply distinguished between republicanism and democracy, for this is what it amounts to. The former is as old as man, and is part of the "passion for perfection" that characterizes all crescent society, and is indeed the chief difference between brute and human nature; it means the guaranteeing of justice, and may be described as consisting of abolition of privilege, equality of opportunity, and utilization of ability. Democracy of method consists in a variable and uncertain sequence of devices which are supposed to achieve the democracy of ideal, but as a matter of fact have thus far usually worked in the opposite direction. The activity of this movement synchronizes with the pressing upward of the "the masses" through the dissolving crust of "the classes," and represents their contribution to the science of political philosophy, as the contribution of the latter is current "political economy."
It will be perceived that the reaction of the new social force in the case of industrial organization is fundamentally opposed to that which occurred in the political sphere. The one is working steadily towards an autocratic imperialism and the "servile state," the other towards the fluctuating, incoherent control of the making and administering of laws by the untrained, the uncultivated, and the generally unfit, the issue of which is anarchy. The industrial-commercial-financial oligarchy that dominated society for the century preceding the Great War is the result of the first; Russia, today, is an exemplar of the second. The working out of these two great devices of the new force released by the destructive processes of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, simultaneously though in apparent opposition, explains why, when the war broke out, imperialism and democracy synchronized so exactly: on the one hand, imperial states, industry, commerce, and finance; on the other, a swiftly accelerating democratic system that was at the same time the effective means whereby the dominant imperialism worked, and the omnipresent and increasing threat to its further continuance.
A full century elapsed before victory became secure, or even proximate. Republicanism rapidly extended itself to all the governments of western Europe, but it could not maintain itself in its primal integrity. Sooner here, later there, it surrendered to the financial, industrial, commercial forces that were taking over the control and direction of society, becoming partners with them and following their aims, conniving at their schemes, and sharing in their ever-increasing profits. By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century these supposedly "free" governments had become as identified with "special privilege," and as widely severed from the people as a whole, as the autocratic governments of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, while they failed consistently to match them in effectiveness, energy and efficiency of operation.
For this latter condition democracy was measurably responsible. For fifty years it had been slowly filtering into the moribund republican system until at last, during the same first decade of the present century, it had wholly transformed the governmental system, making it, whatever its outward form, whether constitutional monarchy, or republic, essentially democratic. So government became shifty, opportunist, incapable, and without the inherent energy to resist, beyond a certain point, the last great effort of the emergent proletariat to destroy, not alone the industrial civilization it justly detested, but the very government it had acquired by "peaceful penetration" and organized and administered along its chosen lines, and indeed the very fabric of society itself.
Now these two remarkable products of the new mentality of a social force were facts, but they needed an intellectual or philosophical justification just as a low-born profiteer, when he has acquired a certain amount of money, needs an expensive club or a coat of arms to regularize his status. Protestantism and materialistic philosophy were joint nursing-mothers to modernism, but when, by the middle of the last century, it had reached man's estate, they proved inadequate; something else was necessary, and this was furnished to admiration by evolutionism. Through its doctrine of the survival of the fittest, it appeared to justify in the fullest degree the gospel of force as the final test, and "enlightened self-interest" as the new moral law; through its lucid demonstration of the strictly physical basis of life, the "descent of man" from primordial slime by way of the lemur or the anthropoid ape, and the non-existence of any supernatural power that had devised, or could determine, a code of morality in which certain things were eternal by right, and other than the variable reactions of very highly developed animals to experience and environment, it had given weighty support to the increasingly popular movement towards democracy both in theory and in act.
Its greatest contribution, however, was its argument that, since the invariable law of life was one of progressive evolution, therefore the acquired characteristics which formed the material of evolution, and were heritable, could be mechanically increased in number by education; hence the body of inheritance (which unfortunately varied as between man and man because of past discrepancies in environment, opportunities, and education) could be equalized by a system of teaching that aimed to furnish that mental and physical training hitherto absent.
Whether the case was ever so stated in set terms does not matter; very shortly this became the firm conviction of the great mass of men, and the modern democracy of method is based on the belief that all men are equal because they are men, and that free, compulsory, secularized, state-controlled education can and does remove the last difference that made possible any discrimination in rights and privileges as between one man and another.
In another respect, however, the superstition of mechanical evolution played an important part, and with serious results. Neither the prophets nor the camp-followers seemed to realize that evolution, while undoubtedly a law of life within certain limits, was inseparable from degradation which was its concomitant, that is to say, that as the rocket rises so must it fall; as man is conceived, born and matures, even so must he die. The wave rises, but falls again; the state waxes to greatness, wanes, and the map knows it no more; each epoch of human history arises out of dim beginnings, magnifies itself in glory, and then yields to internal corruption, dilution and adulteration of blood, or prodigal dissipation of spiritual force, and takes its place in the annals of ancient history. Without recognition of this implacable, unescapable fact of degradation sequent on evolution, the later becomes a delusion and an instrument of death, for the eyes of man are blind to incipient or crescent dangers; content, self-secure, lost in a vain dream of manifest destiny they are deaf to warnings, incapable even of the primary gestures of self-defense. Such was one of the results of nineteenth-century evolutionism, and the generation that saw the last years of the nineteenth century and the first part of the new, basking in its day dreams of self-complacency, made no move to avert the dangers that threatened it then and now menace it with destruction.
When, therefore, modernism achieved its grand climacteric in July, 1914, we had on the one hand an imperialism of force, in industry, commerce, and finance, expressing itself through highly developed specialists, and dictating the policies and practices of government, society, and education; on the other, a democracy of form which denied, combated, and destroyed distinction in personality and authority in thought, and discouraged constructive leadership in the intellectual, spiritual, and artistic spheres of activity. The opposition was absolute, the results catastrophic. The lack of competent leadership in every category of life finds a sufficient explanation in the two opposed forces, in their origin and nature, and in the fact of their opposition.
In the somewhat garish light of the War and the Peace, it would not be difficult to feel a real and even poignant sympathy for two causes that were prominent and popular in the first fourteen years of the present century, namely, the philosophy that based itself on a mechanical system of evolution which predicted unescapable, irreversible human progress, and that religion which denied the reality of evil in the world. The plausibility of each was dissipated by the catastrophic events though both still linger in stubborn unconsciousness of their demise. The impulse towards sympathy is mitigated by realization of the unfortunate effect they exerted on history. This is particularly true of evolutionary philosophy, which was held as an article of faith, either consciously or sub-consciously, by the greater part of Western society. Not only did it deter men from realizing the ominous tendency of events but, more unhappily, it minimized their power to discriminate between what was good and bad in current society, and even reversed their sense of comparative values. If man was indeed progressing steadily from bad to good, and so to better and best, then the vivid and even splendid life of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, with its headlong conquest of the powers of nature, its enormous industrial development, its vast and ever-increasing wealth in material things, must be not only an amazing advance beyond any former civilization but positively good in itself, while the future could only be a progressive magnifying of what then was going on. "Just as" to quote Mr. Chesterton's admirable Dr. Pelkins, "just as when we see a pig in a litter larger than the other pigs, we know that by an unalterable law of the Inscrutable, it will some day be larger than an elephant...so we know and reverently acknowledge that when any power in human politics has shown for any period of time any considerable activity, it will go on until it reaches the sky."
Nothing but a grave inability to estimate values, based on a pseudo-scientific dogma, can explain the lack of any just standard of comparative values that was the essential quality in pre-war society. Extraordinary as were the material achievements of the time, beneficent in certain ways, and susceptible in part of sometime being used to the advantage of humanity, they were largely negatived, and even reversed in value, just because the sense of proportion had been lost. The image which might have stimulated reverence had become a fetish. There were voices crying in the wilderness against a worship that had poisoned into idolatry, but they were unheard. Progressively the real things of life were blurred and forgotten and the things that were so obviously real that they were unreal became the object and the measure of achievement.
It was an unhappy and almost fatal attitude of mind, and it was engendered not so much by the trend of civilization since the Renaissance and Reformation, nor by the compulsion and cumulative influence of the things themselves, as by the natural temper and inclinations and the native standards of this emancipated mass of humanity that, oppressed, outraged and degraded for four hundred years had at last burst out of its prison-house and had assumed control of society through industrialism, politics and social life. The saving grace of the old aristocracies had disappeared with the institution itself: between 1875 and 1900 the great single leaders, so fine in character, so brilliant in capacity, so surprising in their numbers, that had given a deceptive glory to the so-called Victorian Age, had almost wholly died out, and the new conditions neither fostered the development of adequate successors, nor gave audience to the few that, anomalously, appeared. It is not surprising therefore that the new social element that had played so masterly a part in bringing to its perfection the industrial-financial-democratic scheme of life should have developed an apologetic therefor, and imposed it, with all its materialism, its narrowness, its pragmatism, its, at times, grossness and cynicism, on the mind of a society where increasingly their own followers were, by sheer energy and efficiency, acquiring a predominant position.
I am not unconscious that these are hard sayings and that few indeed will accept them. They seem too much like attempting that which Burke said was impossible, viz., to bring an indictment against a people. I intend nothing of the sort. Out of this same body of humanity which as a whole has exerted this very unfavourable influence on modern society, have come and will come personalities of sudden and startling nobility, men who have done as great service as any of their contemporaries whatever their class or status. Out of the depths have come those who have ascended to the supreme heights, for since Christianity came into the world to free the souls of men, this new liberty has worked without limitations of caste or race. Indeed, the very creations of the emergent force, industrialism and democracy, while they were the betrayal of the many were the opportunity of the few, taking the place, as they did, of the older creeds of specifically Christian society, and inviting those who would to work their full emancipation and so become the servants of God and mankind. By the very bitterness of their antecedents, the cruelty of their inheritance, they gained a deeper sense of the reality of life, a more just sense of right and wrong, a clearer vision of things as they were, than happened in the case of those who had no such experience of the deep brutality of the regime of post-Renaissance society.
True as this is, it is also true that for one who won through there were many who gained nothing, and it was, and is, the sheer weight of numbers of those who failed of this that has made their influence on the modern life as pervasive and controlling as it is.
What has happened is a certain degradation of character, a weakening of the moral stamina of men, and against this no mechanical device in government, no philosophical or social theory, can stand a chance of successful resistance, while material progress in wealth and trade and scientific achievement becomes simply a contributory force in the process of degeneration. For this degradation of character we are bound to hold this new social force in a measure responsible, even though it has so operated because of its inherent qualities and in no material respect through conscious cynicism or viciousness; indeed it is safe to say that in so far as it was acting consciously it was with good motives, which adds an element of even greater tragedy to a situation already sufficiently depressing.
If I am right in holding this to be the effective cause of the situation we have now to meet, it is true that it is by no means the only one. The emancipation and deliverance of the downtrodden masses of men who owed their evil estate to the destruction of the Christian society of the Middle Ages, was a clamourous necessity; it was a slavery as bad in some ways as any that had existed in antiquity, and the number of its victims was greater. The ill results of the accomplished fact was largely due to the condition of religion which existed during the period of emancipation. No society can endure without vital religion, and any revolution effected at a time when religion is moribund or dissipated in contentious fragments, is destined to be evacuated of its ideals and its potential, and to end in disaster. Now the freeing of the slaves of the Renaissance and the post-Reformation, and their absorption in the body politic, was one of the greatest revolutions in history, and it came at a time when religion, which had been one and vital throughout Western Europe for six centuries, had been shattered and nullified, and its place taken, in the lands that saw the great liberation, by Calvinism, Lutheranism, Puritanism and atheism, none of which could exert a guiding and redemptive influence on the dazed hordes that had at last come up into the light of day.
In point of fact, therefore, we are bound to trace back the responsibility for the present crisis even to the Reformation itself, as well as to the tyranny and absolutism of government, and the sordid and profligate ordering of society, which followed on the end of Mediaevalism.
So then we stand today confronting a situation that is ominous and obscure, since the very ideals and devices which we had held were the last word in progressive evolution have failed at the crisis, and because we who created them and have worked through them, have failed in character, and chiefly because we have accepted low ideals and inferior standards imposed upon us by social elements betrayed and abandoned by a world that could not aid them or assimilate them since itself had betrayed the only thing that could give them force, unity and coherency, that is, a vital and pervasive religious faith.
There are those who hold our case to be desperate, to whom the disillusionment of peace, after the high optimism engendered by the vast heroism and the exalted ideals instigated by the war, has brought nothing but a mood of deep pessimism. The sentiment is perhaps natural, but it is none the less both irrational and wicked. If it is persisted in, if it becomes widespread, it may perfectly well justify itself, but only so. We no longer accept the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination, we believe, and must highly believe, that our fate is of our own making, for Christianity has made us the heirs of free-will. What we will that shall we be, or rather, what we are that shall we will, and if we make of ourselves what, by the grace of God, we may, then the victory rests with us. It is true that we are in the last years of a definite period, on that decline that precedes the opening of a new epoch. Never in history has any such period overpassed its limit of five hundred years, and ours, which came to birth in the last half of the fifteenth century, cannot outlast the present. But these declining years are preceding those wherein all things are made new, and the next two generations will see, not alone the passing of what we may call modernism, since it is our own age, but the prologue of the epoch that is to come. It is for us to say what this shall be. It is not foreordained; true, if we will it, it may be a reign of disaster, a parallel to the well-recognized "Dark Ages" of history, but also, if we will, it may be a new and a true "renaissance," a rebirth of old ideals, of old honour, of old faith, only incarnate in new and noble forms.
The vision of an old heaven and a new earth was vouchsafed us during the war, when horror and dishonour and degradation were shot through and through with an epic heroism and chivalry and self-sacrifice. What if this all did fade in the miasma of Versailles and the cynicism of trade fighting to get back to "normalcy," and the red anarchy out of the East? There is no fiat of God that fixes these things as eternal. Even they also may be made the instruments of revelation and re-creation. Paris and London, Rome, Berlin and Washington are meshed in the tangled web of the superannuated who cannot escape the incubus of the old ways and the old theories that were themselves the cause of the war and of the failure of "modern civilization," but another generation is taking the field and we must believe that this has been burned out of them. They may have achieved this great perfection in the field, they may have experienced it through those susceptible years of life just preceding military age. It does not matter. Somehow they have it, and those who come much in contact in school or college with boys and men between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five, know, and thankfully confess, that if they can control the event the future is secure.
In the harlequinade of fabulous material success the nations of "modern civilization" suffered a moral deterioration, in themselves and in their individual members; by a moral regeneration they may be saved. How is this to be accomplished? How, humanly speaking, is the redemption of society to be achieved? Not alone by change of heart in each individual, though if this could be it would be enough. Humanly speaking there is not time and we dare not hope for the divine miracle whereby "in the twinkling of an eye we shall all be changed." Still less by sole reliance on some series of new political, social, economic and educational devices; there is no plan, however wise and profound, that can work effectively under the dead weight of a society that is made up of individuals whose moral sense is defective. Either of these two methods, put into operation by itself, will fail. Acting together they may succeed.
I repeat what I have said before. The material thing and the spiritual force work by inter-action and cooerdinately. The abandonment or reform of some device that has proved evil or inadequate, and the substitution of something better, changes to that extent the environment of the individual and so enables him more perfectly to develop his inherent possibilities in character and capacity, while every advance in this direction reacts on the machinery of life and makes its improvement more possible. With a real sense of my own personal presumption, but with an equally real sense of the responsibility that rests on every man at the present crisis, I shall venture certain suggestions as to possible changes that may well be effected in the material forms of contemporary society as well as in its methods of thought, in order that the spiritual energies of the individual may be raised to a higher level through the amelioration of a hampering environment, and, with even greater diffidence, others that may bear more directly on the character-development of the individual. In following out this line of thought I shall, in the remaining seven lectures, speak successively on: A Working Philosophy; The Social Organism; The Industrial and Economic Problem; The Political Organization of Society; The Function of Education and Art; The Problem of Organic Religion; and Personal Responsibility.
I am only too conscious of the fact that the division of my subject under these categorical heads, and the necessities of special argument, if not indeed of special pleading, have forced me to such particular stress on each subject as may very likely give an impression of undue emphasis. If each lecture were to be taken by itself, such an impression would, I fear, be unescapable; I ask therefore for the courtesy of a suspension of judgment until the series is completed, for it is only when taken as a whole, one paper reacting upon and modifying another, that whatever merit the course possesses can be made apparent.
A WORKING PHILOSOPHY[*]
[*This lecture has been very considerably re-written since it was delivered, and much of the matter it then contained has been cut out, and is now printed in the Appendix. These excisions were purely speculative, and while they have a certain bearing on the arguments and conclusions in the other lectures, might very well be prejudicial to them, and for this reason it has seemed better to remove them from the general sequence and give them a supplementary place by themselves.]
The first reaction of the World War was a great interrogation, and the technical "Peace" that has followed brings only reiteration. Why did these things come, and how? The answers are as manifold as the clamourous tongues that ask, but none carries conviction and the problem is still unsolved. According to all rational probabilities we had no right to expect the war that befell; according to all the human indications as we saw them revealed amongst the Allies we had a right to expect a better peace; according to our abiding and abounding faith we had a right to expect a great bettering of life after the war, and even in spite of the peace. It is all a non sequitur, and still we ask the reason and the meaning of it all.
It may be very long before the full answer is given, yet if we are searching the way towards "The Great Peace" we must establish some working theory, if only that we may redeem our grave errors and avoid like perils in the future. The explanation I assume for myself, and on which I must work, is that, in spite of our intentions (which were of the best) we were led into the development, acceptance and application of a false philosophy of life which was not only untenable in itself but was vitiated and made noxious through its severance from vital religion. In close alliance with this declension of philosophy upon a basis that had been abandoned by the Christian world for a thousand years, perhaps as the ultimate reason for its occurrence, was the tendency to void religion of its vital power, to cut it out of intimate contact with life, and, in the end, to abandon it altogether as an energizing force interpenetrating all existence and controlling it in certain definite directions and after certain definite methods.
The rather complete failure of our many modern and ingenious institutions, the failure of institutionalism altogether, is due far less to wrong theories underlying them, or to radical defects in their technique, than it is to this false philosophy and this progressive abandonment of religion. The wrong theories were there, and the mechanical defects, for the machines were conditioned by the principle that lay behind them, but effort at correction and betterment will make small progress unless we first regain the right religion and a right philosophy. I said this to Henri Bergson last year in Paris and his reply was significant as coming from a philosopher. "Yes," he said, "you are right; and of the two, the religion is the more important."
If we had this back, and in full measure; if society were infused by it, through and through, and men lived its life, and in its life, philosophy would take care of itself and the nature of our institutions would not matter. On the other hand, without it, no institution can be counted safe, or will prove efficacious, while no philosophy, however lofty and magisterial, can take its place, or even play its own part in the life of man or society. I must in these lectures say much about institutions themselves, but first I shall try to indicate what seem to me the more serious errors in current philosophy, leaving until after a study of the material forms which are so largely conditioned by the philosophical attitude, the consideration of that religion, both organic and personal, which I believe can alone verify the philosophy, give the institutions life and render them reliable agencies for good.
For a working definition of philosophy, in the sense in which I use it here, I will take two sayings, one out of the thirteenth century, one from the twentieth. "They are called wise who put things in their right order and control them well," says St. Thomas Aquinas. "Philosophy is the science of the totality of things," says Cardinal Mercier, his greatest contemporary commentator, and he continues, "Philosophy is the sum-total of reality." Philosophy is the body of human wisdom, verified and irradiated by divine wisdom. "The science of the totality of things": not the isolation of individual phenomena, or even of groups of phenomena, as is the method of the natural sciences, but the setting of all in their varied relationships and values, the antithesis of that narrowness and concentration of vision that follow intensive specialization and have issue in infinite delusions and unrealities, "Philosophy regards the sum-total of reality" and it achieves this consciousness of reality, first by establishing right relations between phenomena, and then, abandoning the explicit intellectual process, by falling back on divine illumination which enables it to see through those well-ordered phenomena the Divine Actuality that lies behind, informing them with its own finality and using them both as types and as media of transmission and communication. So men are enabled by philosophy "to put things in their right order" and by religion "to control them well," thus becoming indeed worthy to be "called wise."
Now, from the beginnings of conscious life, man has found himself surrounded and besieged by un-calculable phenomena. Beaten upon by forces he could not estimate or predict or control, he has sought to solve their sphynx-like riddle, to establish some plausible relation between them, to erect a logical scheme of things. Primitive man, as Worringer demonstrates in his "Form Problems of the Gothic," strove to achieve something of certitude and fixity through the crude but definite lines and forms of neolithic art. Classical man brought into play the vigour and subtlety and ingenuity of intellect in its primal and most dynamic form, expressed through static propositions of almost mathematical exactness. The peoples of the East rejected the intellectual-mathematical method and solution and sought a way out through the mysterious operation of the inner sense that manifests itself in the form of emotion. With the revelation of Christianity came also, and of course, enlightenment, which was not definite and closed at some given moment, but progressive and cumulative. At once, speaking philosophically, the intellectual method of the West and the intuitive method of the East came together and fused in a new thing, each element limiting, and at the same time fortifying the other, while the opposed obscurities of the past were irradiated by the revealing and creative spirit of Christ. So came the beginnings of that definitive Christian philosophy which was to proceed from Syria, Anatolia and Constantinople, through Alexandria to St. Augustine, and was to find its fullest expression during the Middle Ages and by means of Duns Scotus, Albertus Magnus, Hugh of St. Victor and St. Thomas Aquinas.
It is an interesting fact, though apart from my present consideration, that this philosophical fusion was paralleled in the same places and at the same time, by an aesthetic fusion that brought into existence the first great and consistent art of Christianity. This question is admirably dealt with in Lisle March Phillipps' "Form and Colour."
This great Christian philosophy which lay behind all the civilization of the Middle Ages, was positive, comprehensive and new. It demonstrated divine purpose working consciously through all things with a result in perfect coherency; it gave history a new meaning as revealing reality and as a thing forever present and never past, and above all it elucidated the nature of both matter and spirit and made clear their operation through the doctrine of sacramentalism.
In the century that saw the consummation of this great philosophical system—as well as that of the civilization which was its expositor in material form—there came a separation and a divergence. The balanced unity was broken, and on the one hand the tendency was increasingly towards the exaggerated mysticism that had characterized the Eastern moiety of the synthesis, on the other towards an exaggerated intellectualism the seeds of which are inherent even in St. Thomas himself. The new mysticism withdrew further and further from the common life, finding refuge in hidden sanctuaries in Spain, Italy, the Rhineland; the old intellectualism became more and more dominant in the minds of man and the affairs of the world, and with the Renaissance it became supreme, as did the other qualities of paganism in art as well as in every other field of human activity.
The first fruit of the new intellectualism was the philosophy of Dr. John Calvin—if we can call it such,—Augustinian philosophy, misread, distorted and made noxious by its reliance on the intellectual process cut off from spiritual energy as the sufficient corrective of philosophical thought. It is this false philosophy, allied with an equally false theology, that misled for so many centuries those who accepted the new versions of Christianity that issued out of the Reformation. The second was the mechanistic system, or systems, the protagonist of which was Descartes. If, as I believe, Calvinism was un-Christian, the materialistic philosophies that have gone on from the year 1637, were anti-Christian. As the power of Christianity declined through the centuries that have followed the Reformation, Calvinism played a less and less important part, while the new philosophies of mechanism and rationalism correspondingly increased. During the nineteenth century their control was absolute, and what we are today we have become through this dominance, coupled with the general devitalizing or abandonment of religion.
And yet are we not left comfortless. Even in the evolutionary philosophy engendered by Darwin and formulated by Herbert Spencer and the Germans, with all its mistaken assumptions and dubious methods, already there is visible a tendency to get away from the old Pagan static system reborn with the Renaissance. We can never forget that Bergson has avowed that "the mind of man, by its very nature, is incapable of apprehending reality." After this the return towards the scholastic philosophy of the Middle Ages is not so difficult, nor even its recovery. If we associate with this process on the part of formal philosophy the very evident, if sometimes abnormal and exaggerated, progress towards a new mysticism, we are far from finding ourselves abandoned to despair as to the whole future of philosophy.
Now this return and this recovery are, I believe, necessary as one of the first steps towards establishing a sound basis for the building up of a new and a better civilization, and one that is in fact as well as in name a Christian civilization. I do not mean that, with this restoration of Christian philosophy, there we should rest. Both revelation and enlightenment are progressive, and once the nexus of our broken life were restored, philosophical development would be continuous, and we should go on beyond the scholastics even as they proceeded beyond Patristic theology and philosophy. I think a break of continuity was effected in the sixteenth century, with disastrous effects, and until this break is healed we are cut off from what is in a sense the Apostolical succession of philosophical verity.
Before going further I would guard against two possible misconceptions; of one of them I have already spoken, that is, the error so frequent in the past as well as today, that would make of philosophy, however sound, however consonant with the finalities of revealed religion, a substitute in any degree for religion itself. Philosophy is the reaction of the intellect, of man to the stimuli of life, but religion is life and is therefore in many ways a flat contradiction of the concepts of the intellect, which is only a small portion of life, therefore limited, partial, and (because of this) sometimes entirely wrong in its conclusions independently arrived at along these necessarily circumscribed lines.
The second possible error is that philosophy is the affair of a small group of students and specialists, quite outside the purview of the great mass of men, and that it owes its existence to this same class of delving scholars, few in number, impractical in their aims, and sharply differentiated from their fellows. On the contrary it is a vital consideration for all those who desire to "see life and see it whole" in order that they may establish a true scale of comparative values and a right relationship between those things that come from the outside and, meeting those that come from within, establish that plexus of interacting force we call life. As for the source of philosophic truth, Friar Bacon put it well when he said "All the wisdom of philosophy is created by God and given to the philosophers, and it is Himself that illumines the minds of men in all wisdom." It is a whimsical juxtaposition, but the first pastor of the Puritans in America, the Rev. John Robinson, testifies to the same effect. "All truth," he says, "is of God ... Wherefore it followeth that nothing true in right reason and sound philosophy can be false in divinity.... I add, though the truth be uttered by the devil himself, yet it is originally of God." There are not two sources of truth, that of Divine Revelation on the one hand, that of science and philosophy and all the intellectual works of man on the other. Truth is one, and the Source is one; the channels of communication alone are different. But truth in its finality, the Absolute, the noumenon that is the substance of phenomena, is in itself not a thing that can be directly apprehended by man; it lies within the "ultra-violet" rays of his intellectual spectrum. "The trammels of the body prevent man from knowing God in Himself" says Philo, "He is known only in the Divine forces in which He manifests Himself." And St. Thomas: "In the present state of life in which the soul is united to a passable body, it is impossible for the intellect to understand anything actually except by turning to the phantasm." Religion confesses this, philosophy constantly tends to forget it, therefore true religion speaks always through the symbol, rejecting, because it transcends, the intellectual criterion, while philosophy is on safe ground only when it unites itself with religion, testing its own conclusions by a higher reality, and existing not as a rival but as a coadjutor.
It is St. Paul who declares that "God has never left Himself without a witness" and the "witness" was explicit, however clouded, in the philosophies of paganism. Plato and Aristotle knew the limitations of man's mind, and the corrective of over-weaning intellectuality in religion, but thereafter the wisdom faded and pride ousted humility, with the result that philosophy became not light but darkness. Let me quote from the great twelfth century philosopher, Hugh of St. Victor, who deserves a better fate than sepulture in the ponderous tomes of Migne:
"There was a certain wisdom that seemed such to them that knew not the true wisdom. The world found it and began to be puffed up, thinking itself great in this. Confiding in its wisdom it became presumptuous and boasted it would attain the highest wisdom. And it made itself a ladder of the face of creation.... Then those things which were seen were known and there were other things which were not known; and through those which were manifest they expected to reach those that were hidden. And they stumbled and fell into the falsehoods of their own imagining.... So God made foolish the wisdom of this world; and He pointed out another wisdom, which seemed foolishness and was not. For it preached Christ crucified, in order that truth might be sought in humility. But the world despised it, wishing to contemplate the works of God, which He had made a source of wonder, and it did not wish to venerate what He had set for imitation, neither did it look to its own disease, seeking medicine in piety; but presuming on a false health, it gave itself over with vain curiosity to the study of alien things."
Precisely: and this is the destiny that has overtaken not only the pagan philosophy of which Hugh of St. Victor was speaking, but also that which followed after St. Thomas Aquinas, from Descartes to Hobbes and Kant and Comte and Herbert Spencer and William James. The jealously intellectual philosophies of the nineteenth century, the materialistic and mechanistic substitutes that were offered and accepted with such enthusiasm after the great cleavage between religion and life, are but "the falsehoods of their own imaginings" of which Hugh of St. Victor speaks, for they were cut off from the stream of spiritual verity, and are losing themselves in the desert they have made.
Meanwhile they have played their part in shaping the destinies of the world, and it was an ill part, if we may judge from the results that showed themselves in the events that have been recorded between the year 1800 and the present moment. Just what this influence was in determining the nature of society, of industrial civilization and of the political organism I shall try to indicate in some of the following lectures, but apart from these concrete happenings, this influence was, I am persuaded, most disastrous in its bearing on human character. Neither wealth nor power, neither education nor environment, not even the inherent tendencies of race—the most powerful of all—can avail against the degenerative force of a life without religion, or, what is worse, that maintains only a desiccated formula; and the post-Renaissance philosophies are one and all definitely anti-religious and self-proclaimed substitutes for religion. As such they were offered and accepted, and as such they must take their share of the responsibility for what has happened.
I believe we must and can retrace our steps to that point in time when a right philosophy was abandoned, and begin again. There is no impossibility or even difficulty here. History is not a dead thing, a thing of the past; it is eternally present to man, and this is one of the sharp differentiations between man and beast. The material monuments of man crumble and disappear, but the spirit that built the Parthenon or Reims Cathedral, that inspired St. Paul on Mars' hill or forged Magna Charta or the Constitution of the United States is, because of our quality as men, just as present and operative with us today, if we will, as that which sent the youth of ten nations into a righteous war five years ago, or spoke yesterday through some noble action that you or I may have witnessed. It is as easy for us to accept and practice the philosophy of St. Thomas or the divine humanism of St. Francis as it is to accept the philosophy of Mr. Wells or the theories of Sir Oliver Lodge. No spiritual thing dies, or even grows old, nor does it drift backward in the dwindling perspective of ancient history, and the foolishest saying of man is that "you cannot turn back the hands of the clock."
It is simply a question of will, and will is simply a question of desire and of faith.
Manifestly I cannot be expected to recreate in a few words this philosophy to which I believe we must have recourse in our hour of need. I have no ability to do this in any case. It begins with St. Paul, is continued through St. Augustine, and finds its culmination in the great Mediaeval group of Duns Scotus, Albertus Magnus, Hugh of St. Victor and St. Thomas Aquinas. I do not know of any single book that epitomizes it all in vital form, though Cardinal Mercier and Dr. De Wulf have written much that is stimulating and helpful. I cannot help thinking that the great demand today is for a compact volume that synthesizes the whole magnificent system in terms not of history and scientific exegesis, but in terms of life. Plato and Aristotle are so preserved to man, and the philosophers of modernism also; it is only the magisterial and dynamic philosophy of Christianity that is diffused through many works, some of them still untranslated and all quite without coordination, save St. Thomas Aquinas alone, the magnitude of whose product staggers the human mind and in its profuseness defeats its own ends. We need no more histories of philosophy, but we need an epitome of Christian philosophy, not for students but for men.
Such an epitome I am not fitted to offer, but there are certain rather fundamental conceptions and postulates that run counter both to pagan and to modern philosophy, the loss of which out of life has, I maintain, much to do with our present estate, and that must be regained before we can go forward with any reasonable hope of betterment. These I will try to indicate as well as I can.
Christian philosophy teaches, in so far as it deals with the relationship between man and these divine forces that are forever building, unbuilding and rebuilding the fabric of life, somewhat as follows:
The world as we know it, man, life itself as it works through all creation, is the union of matter and spirit; and matter is not spirit, nor spirit matter, nor is one a mode of the other, but they are two different creatures. Apart from this union of matter and spirit there is no life, in the sense in which we know it, and severance is death. "The body" says St. Thomas, "is not of the essence of the soul; but the soul, by the nature of its essence, can be united to the body, so that, properly speaking, the soul alone is not the species, but the composite", and Duns Scotus makes clear the nature and origin of this common "essence" when he says there is "on the one hand God as Infinite Actuality, on the other spiritual and corporeal substances possessing an homogeneous common element." That is to say; matter and spirit are both the result of the divine creative act, and though separate, and in a sense opposed, find their point of origin in the Divine Actuality.
The created world is the concrete manifestation of matter, through which, for its transformation and redemption, spirit is active in a constant process of interpenetration whereby matter itself is being eternally redeemed. What then is matter and what is spirit? The question is of sufficient magnitude to absorb all the time assigned to these lectures, with the strong possibility that even then we should be scarcely wiser than before. For my own purposes, however, I am content to accept the definition of matter formulated by Duns Scotus, which takes over the earlier definition of Plotinus, purges it of its elements of pagan error, and redeems it by Christian insight.
"Materia Primo Prima" says the great Franciscan, "is the indeterminate element of contingent things. This does not exist in Nature, but it has reality in so far as it constitutes the term of God's creative activity. By its union with a substantial form it becomes endowed with the attributes of quantity, and becomes Secundo Prima. Subject to the substantial changes of Nature, it becomes matter as we see it."
It is this "Materia Primo Prima," the term of God's creative activity, that is eternally subjected to the regenerative process of spiritual interpenetration, and the result is organic life.
What is spirit? The creative power of the Logos, in the sense in which St. John interprets and corrects the early, partial, and therefore erroneous theories of the Stoics and of Philo. God the Son, the Eternal Word of the Father, "the brightness of His glory and the figure of His Substance." "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father: by Whom all things were made." Pure wisdom, pure will, pure energy, unconditioned by matter, but creating life out of the operation of the Holy Spirit on and through matter, and in the fullness of time becoming Incarnate for the purpose of the final redemption of man.
Now since man is so compact of matter and spirit, it must follow that he cannot lay hold of pure spirit, the Absolute that lies beyond and above all material conditioning, except through the medium of matter, through its figures, its symbols, its "phantasms." Says St. Thomas: "From material things we can rise to some kind of knowledge of immaterial things, but not to the perfect knowledge thereof." The way of life therefore, is the incessant endeavour of man sacramentally to approach the Absolute through the leading of the Holy Spirit, so running parallel to the slow perfecting of matter which is being effected by the same operation. So matter itself takes on a certain sanctity, not only as something susceptible, and in process, of perfection, but as the vehicle of spirit and its tabernacle, since in matter spirit is actually incarnate.
From this process follows of necessity the whole sacramental system, in theology, philosophy and operation, of Christianity. It is of its esse; its great original, revolutionary and final contribution to the wisdom that man may have for his own, and it follows inevitably from the basic facts of the Incarnation and Redemption, which are also its perfect showing forth.
Philosophically this is the great contribution of Christianity and for fifteen centuries it was held implicitly by Christendom, yet it was rejected, either wholly or in part, by the Protestant organizations that came out of the Reformation, and it fell into such oblivion that outside the Catholic Church it was not so much ignored or rejected as totally forgotten. Recently a series of lectures were delivered at King's College, London, by various carefully chosen authorities, all specialists in their own fields, under the general title "Mediaeval Contributions to Modern Civilization," and neither the pious author of the address on "The Religious Contribution of the Middle Ages," nor the learned author of that on "Mediaeval Philosophy," gave evidence of ever having heard of sacramental philosophy. It may be that I do them an injustice, and that they would offer as excuse the incontestible fact that Mediaevalism contributed nothing to "modern civilization," either in religion or philosophy, that it was willing to accept.
The peril of all philosophies, outside that of Christianity as it was developed under the Catholic dispensation, is dualism, and many have fallen into this grave error. Now dualism is not only the reversal of truth, it is also the destroyer of righteousness.
Sacramentalism is the anthithesis of dualism. The sanctity of matter as the potential of spirit and its dwelling-place on earth; the humanizing of spirit through its condescension to man through the making of his body and all created things its earthly tabernacle, give, when carried out into logical development, a meaning to life, a glory to the world, an elucidation of otherwise unsolvable mysteries, and an impulse toward noble living no other system can afford. It is a real philosophy of life, a standard of values, a criterion of all possible postulates, and as its loss meant the world's peril, so its recovery may mean its salvation.
Now as the philosophy of Christianity is purely and essentially sacramental, so must be the operation of God through the Church. This "Body of Christ" on earth is indeed a fellowship, a veritable communion of the faithful, whether living or dead, but it is also a divine organism which lives, and in which each member lives, not by the preaching of the Word, not even by and through the fellowship in living and worship, but through the ordained channels of grace known as the Sacraments. In accordance with the sacramental system, every material thing is proclaimed as possessing in varying degree sacramental potentiality, while seven great Sacraments were instituted to be, each after its own fashion, a special channel for the inflowing of the power of the Divine Actuality. Each is a symbol, just as so many other created things are, or may become, symbols, but they are also realities, veritable media for the veritable communications of veritable divine grace. Here is the best definition I know, that of Hugh of St. Victor. "A sacrament is the corporeal or material element set out sensibly, representing from its similitude, signifying from its institution, and containing from its sanctification, some invisible and spiritual grace." This is the unvarying and invariable doctrine of historic Christianity, and the reason for the existence of the Church as a living and functioning organism. The whole sacramental system is in a sense an extension, in time, of the Redemption, just as one particular Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, is also in a sense an extension of the Incarnation, as it is also an extension, in time, of the Atonement, the Sacrifice of Calvary.
The Incarnation and the Redemption are not accomplished facts, completed nineteen centuries ago; they are processes that still continue, and their term is fixed only by the total regeneration and perfecting of matter, while the Seven Sacraments are the chiefest amongst an infinity of sacramental processes which are the agencies of this eternal transfiguration.
God the Son became Incarnate, not only to accomplish the redemption of men as yet unborn, for endless ages, through the Sacrifice of Calvary, but also to initiate and forever maintain a new method whereby this result was to be more perfectly attained; that is to say, the Church, working through the specific sacramental agencies He had ordained, or was from time to time to ordain, through His everlasting presence in the Church He had brought into being at Pentecost. He did not come to establish in material form a Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, or to provide for its ultimate coming. He indeed established a Spiritual Kingdom, His Church, "in the world, not of it," which is a very different matter indeed, as the centuries have proved. His Kingdom is not of this world, nor will it be established here. There has been no absolute advance in human development since the Incarnation. Nations rise and fall, epochs wax and wane, civilizations grow out of savagery, crest and sink back into savagery and oblivion. Redemption is for the individual, not for the race, nor yet for society as a whole. Then, and only then, and under that form, it is sure, however long may be the period of its accomplishment. "Time is the ratio of the resistance of matter to the interpenetration of spirit," and by this resistance is the duration of time determined. When it shall have been wholly overcome then "time shall be no more."
See therefore how perfect is the correspondence between the Sacraments and the method of life where they are the agents, and which they symbolically set forth. There is in each case the material form and the spiritual substance, or energy. Water, chrism, oil, the spoken word, the touch of hands, the sign of the cross, and finally and supremely the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist. Each a material thing, but each representing, signifying and containing some gift of the Holy Spirit, real, absolute and potent. So matter and spirit are linked together in every operation of the Church, from the cradle to the grave, and man has ever before him the eternal revelation of this linked union of matter and spirit in his life, the eternal teaching of the honour of the material thing through its agency and through its existence as the subject for redemption. So also, through the material association, and the divine condescension to his earthly and fallible estate (limited by association with matter only to inadequate presentation) he makes the Spirit of God his own, to dwell therewith after the fashion of man.
And how much this explains and justifies: Man approaches, and must always approach, spiritual things not only through material forms but by means of material agencies. The highest and most beautiful things, those where the spirit seems to achieve its loftiest reaches, are frequently associated with the grossest and most unspiritual forms, yet the very splendour of the spiritual verity redeems and glorifies the material agency, while on the other hand the homeliness, and even animal quality, of the material thing, brings to man, with a poignancy and an appeal that are incalculable, the spiritual thing that, in its absolute essence, would be so far beyond his ken and his experience and his powers of assimilation that it would be inoperative.
This is the true Humanism; not the fictitious and hollow thing that was the offspring of neo-paganism and took to itself a title to which it had no claim. Held tacitly or consciously by the men of the Middle Ages, from the immortal philosopher to the immortal but nameless craftsman, it was the force that built up the noble social structure of the time and poised man himself in a sure equilibrium. Already it had of necessity developed the whole scheme of religious ceremonial and given art a new content and direction through its new service. By analogy and association all material things that could be so used were employed as figures and symbols, as well as agencies, through the Sacraments, and after a fashion that struck home to the soul through the organs of sense. Music, vestments, incense, flowers, poetry, dramatic action, were linked with the major arts of architecture, painting and sculpture, and all became not only ministers to the emotional faculties but direct appeals to the intellect through their function as poignant symbols. So art received its soul, and was almost a living creature until matter and spirit were again divorced in the death that severed them during the Reformation. Thereafter religion had entered upon a period of slow desiccation and sterilization wherever the symbol was cast away with the Sacraments and the faith and the philosophy that had made it live. The bitter hostility to the art and the liturgies and the ceremonial of the Catholic faith is due far less to ignorance of the meaning and function of art and to an inherited jealousy of its quality and its power, than it is to the conscious and determined rejection of the essential philosophy of Christianity, which is sacramentalism.
The whole system was of an almost sublime perfection and simplicity, and the formal Sacraments were both its goal and its type. If they had been of the same value and identical in nature they would have failed of perfect exposition, in the sense in which they were types and symbols. They were not this, for while six of the explicit seven were substantially of one mode, there was one where the conditions that held elsewhere were transcended, and where, in addition to the two functions it was instituted to perform it gave, through its similitude, the clear revelation of the most significant and poignant fact in the vast mystery of life. I mean, of course, the Holy Eucharist, commonly called the Mass.
If matter is per se forever inert, unchangeable, indestructible, then we fall into the dilemma of a materialistic monism on the one hand, Manichaean dualism on the other. Even under the most spiritual interpretation we could offer—that, shall we say, of those today who try to run with the hare of religion and hunt with the hounds of rationalistic materialism—matter and spirit unite in man as body and soul, and in the Sacraments as the vehicle and the essence, but temporally and temporarily; doomed always to ultimate severance by death in the one case, by the completion of the sacramental process in the other. If, on the other hand, the object of the universe and of time is the constant redemption and transformation of matter through its interpenetration by spirit in the power of God the Holy Ghost, then we escape the falsities of dualism, while in the miracle of the Mass we find the type and the showing forth of the constant process of life whereby every instant, matter itself is being changed and glorified and transferred from the plane of matter to the plane of spirit.
If this is so: if the Incarnation and the Redemption are not only fundamental facts but also types and symbols of the divine process forever going on here on earth, then, while the other Sacraments are in themselves not only instruments of grace but manifestations of that process whereby in all things matter is used as the vehicle of spirit, the Mass, transcending them all, is not only Communion, not only a Sacrifice acceptable before God, it is also the unique symbol of the redemption and transformation of matter; since, of all the Sacraments, it is the only one where the very physical qualities of the material vehicle are transformed, and while the accidents alone remain, the substance, finite and perishable, becomes, in an instant of time and by the operation of God, infinite and immortal.
It is to sacramentalism then that we must return, not only in religion and its practice, but in philosophy, if we are to establish a firm foundation for that newer society and civilization that are to help us to achieve the "Great Peace." Antecedent systems failed, and subsequent systems have failed; in this alone, the philosophy of Christianity, is there safety, for it alone is consonant with the revealed will of God.
THE SOCIAL ORGANISM
Society, that is to say, the association in life of men, women and children, is the fundamental fact of life, and this is so whether the association is of the family, the school, the community, industry or government. Everything else is simply a series of forms, arrangements and devices by which society works, either for good or ill. Man makes or mars himself in and through society. He is responsible for his own soul, but if he sees only this and works directly for his soul's salvation, disregarding the society of which he is a part, he may lose it, whereas, if he is faithful to society and honourably plays his part as a social animal with a soul, he will very probably save it, even though he may for the time have quite ignored its existence. Man is a member of a family, a pupil under education, a worker and a citizen. In all these relationships he is a part of a social group; he is also a component part of the human race and linked in some measure to every other member thereof whether living or dead. Into every organization or institution in which he is involved during his lifetime—family, school, art or craft, trade union, state, church—enters the social equation. If society is ill organized either in theory or in practice, in any or all of its manifestations, then the engines or devices by which it operates will be impotent for good. Defective society cannot produce either a good fundamental law, a good philosophy, a good art, or any other thing. Conversely, these, when brought forth under an wholesome society, will decay and perish when society degenerates.