You are on page 1of 160



From the death of Socrates
to the Council of Chalcedon
399 B.C. TO A.D. 451
Complementary Volumes
PLATONISM (third edition)
London: Humphrey Milford
Oxford University Press
Author of "Shelburne Essays"
Copyright, 1931, Princeton University Press
IT HAS been said that the last and fatal enemy
of faith, more particularly of the Catholic faith,
is the knowledge we have gained from the com-
parative study of religions. How, it is asked,
shall we retain belief in the presumed revelation
of Christianity when we learn that it merely gives
us in slightly different guise the same sort of
myths that have sprung up spontaneously all
over the world, and that elsewhere we so readily
criticize as silly or vicious or, at the best, incred-
ible? How can we continue to attribute any spe-
cial authority to Christian theism and Christian
morality when they can be traced back step by
step to the primitive superstitions of mana and
tabu? How, above all, take with any seriousness
the dogma of the Incarnation and of the eucha-
ristic sacrament when these merely repeat in more
decent, because more emasculated, form the
ancient abominations of the totemistic sacrifice?
This argument from analogy, I should admit,
leads to scepticism if you choose to take it so ; but
I should aver that, taken otherwise, it may lead
to an exactly contrary conclusion. The point is
this. Suppose a modern man more or less ac-
quainted with anthropology to be confronted by
the claims of revelation made for Christian
theism and morality as embodied in the dogma of
the Incarnation and the sacrament of the mass.
One of two things may happen. If instinctively
he is unsympathetic to those claims, or is preju-
diced by certain fixed and incompatible intellec-
tual axioms, he will reject them as nothing more
than a prolongation of primitive ignorance and
superstition. But, contrariwise, if instinctively he
is sympathetic to the appeal of the supernatural
and is sceptical of the finality of our scientific and
rationalistic assumptions, then he will be inclined
rather to judge the ancient myths of mana and
tabu and the totemistic sacrifice in the light of
their analogy with Christian dogma and will look
to see in them clumsy gropings after a mystery
finally revealed. In other words, it makes all the
difference in the world whether you judge the
end by the beginning or the beginning by the end.
To one who takes the latter way, that is to the
teleologist, the comparative study of religions
ought to bring a valid confirmation of faith.
But there is a different question raised when
we compare Christianity with Buddhism, for each
is an end and not a beginning, and each claims to
announce the complete and final truth. The puz-
zle here is that, out of the same primitive instincts,
two conclusions should have been reached at once
so amazingly alike in many aspects and so
amazingly contrary in the fundamental matter of
belief. If a man could fully comprehend the
reason of these resemblances and the cause of this
difference he would, I think, have little more to
learn of religion; for between them Buddhism
and Christianity cover and divide the deeper
possibilities of faith.
In their history the two religions are curiously
alike. In the one we see the ideas developed by the
Rishis of the Aryan people of India carried to
a consummation beyond which there is no further
progress in that direction, and in the other a
similar event happening to the doctrine of the
Prophets of Israel. In each case the lesson re-
spectively of the Rishis and the Prophets is
suddenly taken up by one who presumes to be not
a mere announcer of the truth but its exemplar
or personification, and who by that presumption
endows the traditional belief with a new signifi-
cance. Again, in each case the claimant, rejected
at last by his own nation, became the founder of
a church of universal pretensions among peoples
of alien race. And finally, the morality and the
fruits of morality taught by Buddha and Christ
are extraordinarily alike. Yet withal, Buddha
1 The only rival for the position of a world religiQP would be
:y{ohammedanism, but the good of Islam is Judaic and its errors
are its own. Spiritually and intellectually, in its orthodox form, it
stands far below Buddhism and Christianity.
I j
based his practice of religion on a denial of God
and the human soul, whereas Christ carried the
belief in both of these to their highest develop-
ment. What lies behind this astonishing paradox?
The answer that I shall give to this question is
offered in no spirit of dogmatic assurance but
with full recognition of the difficulties involved.
Some time before the end of the sixth century
B.c., probably in 563, a son was born to a king
of the Sakya clan at Kapila-vatthu, about 130
miles north of Benares. The child was named
Siddhattha but is better known to us by his fam-
ily appellation Gotama.
His youth apparently
passed in the ordinary manner. He was married
and had a son; and then, in his twenty-ninth year,
he underwent the kind of conversion not uncom-
mon among the Hindus. Becoming dissatisfied
with the restrictions and obligations of family
2 Buddhistic names and terms have come down to us in the double
tradition of Sanskrit and Pan, the latter being a dialect related to
Sanskrit about as Italian is to Latin. Thus the Sanskrit spelling of
the name is Gautama, the Pali is Gotama. I have not aimed at a
consistency which would be only confusing to a reader not versed
in the languages, but use what seems to be the most familiar form.
Thus the Pali form Gotama is more familiar than the Sanskrit
Gautama. On the other hand the Sanskrit Karma and Nirvana are
almost Anglicized, and would sound strange to many readers in
their Pan equivalents Kamma and Nibbana. I have followed the
established custom of using the stem form of a word rather than
the nominative.
life, he renounced all his possessions, put on the
yellow robe of a Samana, or wandering eremite,
and went out into the homeless state to seek re-
ligion. As was the custom he first joined himself
to various teachers; but, finding no rest in their
discordant doctrines, he left them, and for six
years gave hilllBelf up to ascetic practices which
he carried to the limit of physical endurance. But
neither did peace come to him in this way. He
discovered that penance merely wasted the body
without enlightening the mind, and henceforth
he adopted the middle path between asceticism
and indulgence.
Then, in his thirty-fifth year, the light broke
upon him. Sitting alone one long night under a
certain tree (a ficus religiosa, afterwards famous
as the Bo-tree, or tree of knowledge) , he reviewed
his life and his search for wisdom, and at the end
saw where he had erred and where the truth lay;
he knew. By that flash of insight he became the
Buddha, the enlightened one, the Tathagata, he
who had found the way at the end of which is
peace. His first thought was to cherish the light
in the gladness of silent possession; and this
struggle with the ungenerous impulse of nature
was afterwards wrought into a myth of a mighty
debate with Mara the Tempter. Against this
temptation love and pity for the world prevailed,
and he made for mankind the Great Renun-
ciation; he became a wandering preacher of the
word. Converts gathered about him and increased
in numbers, until he founded the Sangha, or
Order of Bhikkhus vowed to poverty and chas-
tity, who lived for the most part in communities,
procured their one meal a day by begging with an
alms bowl, practised meditation and confession,
kept the tradition of the master's lessons, and
laboured inwardly for the goal of salvation.
In his eightieth year, surrounded by his loved
disciples, he died, passing quietly from the Nir-
vana of one who in this life has attained absolute
knowledge to the Maha-parinirvana, the Great
Decease, from which there is no return.
'Vhat was the light that came to this seeker at
the end of his long vigil under the sacred tree,
that gave him right to the title of Buddha, the
awakened, the enlightened, that sent him forth
in love and pity as a preacher of a new gospel of
glad tidings, that still today, however obscured
by strange interpretations, shines for a third part
of the whole human race, who revere him as one
"born into the world for the good of the many, for
the happiness of the many, for the advantage, the
good, the happiness of gods and men"?
In brief-
3 The difficulties of this question are increased by the fact that
very different answers would be received if it were put to modem
est terms it can be expressed in the Four Noble
Truths: ( 1) Sorrow, ( 2) the Cause of Sorrow,
(3) Escape from Sorrow, (4) the Way to the
Escape from Sorrow. This is the formula which
runs like a refrain through the discourses of
Buddha, and of which all his doctrine is only an
expansion or explication. It is simple enough in
its fourfold form, but the heart of it is still sim-
pler: "Only one thing I announce today, as
always, Sorrow and its Extinction." The first
and third of the truths, thus taken together,
announce the fact upon which Buddhism is
founded, while the second and fourth are theory
or inference from the fact. And if the fact seem
a narrow foundation for the superstructure of a
great religion, be sure it is a deep foundation,
reaching down to the nethermost rock of human
experience. Nor is it peculiar to Buddhism,
though nowhere in the world has it been laid more
Buddhists of, for instance, Ceylon, Thibet, and China. The problem
here is thus like that which confronts the student of Christianity,
but even more complicated owing to the fact that the various
branches of modern Buddhism are mutually contradictory in
dogmas of fundamental importance, whereas the Christian sects,
however they may quarrel among themselves, have never reached
this point of divergence. In this essay I deal with the original
doctrine of Buddha himself, as, to the best of my judgement, it
can be gathered from the Pali books, and as it has been preserved
with some degree of purity in Ceylon and Burma. This it is, and
not the extravagant perversions of China and Japan, that has
significance in comparison and contrast with Christianity, and that
makes a strong appeal to many western minds at once religious
and rationalistic.
firmly. It is nothing less than an expression of
the ultimate dualism of feeling that wells out of
the consciousness of life, and is the stronger in
proportion as that consciousness is clearer. It
takes many forms, has many names, and speaks
to the heart in many voices; but it is still one fact
and one truth: the ubiquitous sense that somehow
something is wrong with existence and that some-
how the wrong can be, and ought to be, escaped.
He who does not feel that wrong is no longer a
human being, but a mere automaton, a dull-
witted animal with no part among men; he who
has lost the accompanying sense of possible alle-
viation has sunk to the most terrible of all shapes
of madness, which is called melancholia.
This intuitive sense of sorrow and its possible
extinction is the root of philosophy, but in itself
it is not philosophy, and only becomes philosophy
when a man begins to reflect on the cause of sor-
row and on the way to its extinction-though you
will find laymen with more philosophy than some
who profess it in the schools. This same intuition
is the root of religion, but again in itself it is not
religion, and only becomes religion when such
reflection, whether naive or sophisticated, awak-
ens a conscious sense of the dualism of the natural
and the supernatural-though again you will find
laymen and philosophers more religious than
some who profess to be theologians.
Evidently our understanding of Buddhism as
a whole will be coloured by the meaning we attach
to the key-word dukkha, which is variously trans-
lated "sorrow," "pain," "suffering," "misery,"
"dis-ease." And here, at first glance, there would
seem to be no difficulty, since the canonical books
define the term repeatedly and explicitly. Thus
in the first sermon of the Buddha after his en-
lightenment, delivered at Benares to the five Sa-
manas who had been the companions of his ascetic
experiment, we read:
"This, 0 Bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of Sor-
row: Birth is sorrow; decay is sorrow; sickness is
soiTow; death is sorrow. Presence of things we
hate is soiTow; separation from things we love is
sorrow; not to obtain what we desire is sorrow.
Briefly, the fivefold clinging to existence is
4 It may be stated here that the Buddhist canon of sacred books
in the Pali tongue consists of three large collections called the
Pitakas. The first of these, the Vinaya Pitaka, contains the rules
of the monastic Sangha, or Order, with a good deal of other mat-
ter. The second is the Sutta Pitaka, and is made up of a large
number of Suttas (dialogue-sermons) subdivided into four groups
called Nikayas; to which is added a fifth Nikaya embracing a
miscellaneous mass of dialogues, stories, lives, poems, etc. The
third Pitaka is the Abhidamma, a later rationalization of the doc-
trine. For the actual teaching of Buddha the Sutta Pitaka is of
primary importance, and of the five Nikayas embraced in it, the
Digha and the Majjhima seem to contain the oldest and most
authentic material. In my quotations from and allusions to the
books of the canon, I have made free use of the standard transla-
Now undoubtedly an immediate reaction from
such a passage would be to set Buddhism down as
a religion of depression, and that uncorrected
judgement is widely prevalent. But in truth pessi-
mism, in the popular sense, is the last word to
describe the spirit of the early converts to the
faith. In general the tone of the literature is any-
thing but gloomy; the ills of life are not in them-
selves magnified, and the joys are not in them-
selves belittled. For those who recognized the
Dharma, or law of the new religion, yet preferred
to abide in the world, looking for a happy rebirth
yet postponing the conquest of utter peace to
some future existence, the rules prescribed a
strict morality indeed, but were in no wise
ascetic; and in the community of those who took
the vows of poverty and chastity a tone of light-
heartedness seems to have prevailed-light-
hearted seriousness, if you will-which is perhaps
unique in the annals of religion. It might be com-
pared with the hilarity of the little brothers of
St. Francis, were it not for the darker side of the
Christian ideal; there is no place for the stigmata
in the saintly life of the Bhikkhu, whether this be
to his credit or discredit. Evidence for the absence
tions in English, German, Italian, and Latin. But with the Pali text
in mind-and ,this applies particularly to the English versions-
! have made such alterations in the language as seemed to me
desirable for the sake of consistency or clarity.
of gloom lies everywhere in the Pali records,
notably in the Psalms of the monks and nuns;
and one of the simplest and prettiest of these I
quote, in Mrs. Rhys Davids' translation, as fairly
Well-roofed and pleasant is my little hut,
And screened from winds-Rain at thy will, thou god!
My heart is well composed, my heart is free,
And ardent is my mood. ~ o w rain, god! rain.
What then is the justification of the first of the
Noble Truths which would seem to embrace the
whole of life, from birth to death, in the definition
of sorrow? The meaning is that sorrow, pain, suf-
fering, misery, is only another name for tran-
sience; as Buddha was never tired of saying:
"What is transient is sorrowful."
That in fact, the law of impermanence, lies
below the Fourfold Truth. It was because
Gotama penetrated into the depths of this law
beyond the vision of the Rishis of his people that
his teaching was at once the consummation and
conclusion of Brahminism; and it was, we may
hint by way of anticipation, because he did not
see the right limits of the law that his doctrine
misses the finality of truth. By his insistence on
the universality of Dukkha he would imply, not
that pleasures are unreal when present, but that
they cannot endure. This omnipresent feeling of
instability, the knowledge that all desires must
pass, that joy is for a little while only, that love,
for all its clinging, cannot detain what it cher-
ishes, that honour and success and prosperity and
achieved ambition, if it be achieved, are posses-
sions for a few days or a few years, that birth is
but a prelude to death,-this sense of utter and
inevitable precariousness is the amari aliquid, the
drop of bitter, that lies at the bottom of every
cup, the ever-corroding element of consciousness.
It is so that sorrow is the positive substratum of
life, is, in a way, life itself. And he who would
drink the deepest draught of existence, he who
would savour all its sweetness, who would grasp
its widest opportunities, who would be most a
man, he will feel most keenly the thievery of
what man that sees the ever-whirling wheele
Of Change, the which all mortall things doth sway,
But that therby doth find, and plainly feele,
How MUTABILITY in them doth play
Her cruell sports ....
Spenser knew the Law and entwined it with
flowers; Lucretius knew it, and indignation made
of him a very great poet-and a madman;
Buddha knew it, and out of it fashioned a religion
of peace.
Mutability and sorrow, and behind that tragic
juncture the inescapable fact: Whatever has a
beginning has also an end, for "decomposition
is inherent in all composite things." In other
words, what we call birth or beginning is not the
emergence into the world of a ne'Y entity, but is
merely the ephemeral regrouping of scattered
elements. There are, strictly speaking, no things
at all or even elements, but an eternal procession
of becomings or gignomena-"events," as a
modern scientist might say-behind which, or
within which, nothing stable can be discovered, no
determining law, unless it be the mysterious
"component force" called Sankhara. And this
holds true of men as well as of material phe-
nomena, or rather holds true more impressively
of men. If there be anything on which Buddha in-
sists, it is that the notion of any single enduring
entity within ourselves which can be named or
conceived or comprehended, is an illusion. That
which we name variously our "self," or "person-
ality," or "individuality," or "soul," is just a phe-
nomenon, or gignomenon, like another. It is only
a temporary coherence of a mass of factors which
can be divided into five major Aggregates: ( 1)
factors of the body, (2) factors of sensation, (3)
factors of perception, ( 4) factors of mentality,
( 5) consciousness.
How then, it will be asked, do these Aggre-
5 SankhAras. The term has no adequate equivalent in English, but
weighing the fifty-two elements of the Aggregate, I have adopted
this translation as the best I can hit upon. The German Gemiits-
regungen comes closer to the original.
gates arise? what is the principle of attachment
that combines these heterogeneous factors, or ele-
ments, into groups, and combines these groups
into seeming unity? The answer, so far as answer
can be given, is in the so-called Chain of Causa-
tion, admittedly one of the most difficult points
of the Buddhist philosophy: "Deep," says Go-
tama, "is the doctrine of events arising from
causes." The first difficulty, and the least, is that
the causes are variously enumerated in different
passages of the Canon. I give them here as listed
in the 115th Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya:
From Ignorance spring the Factors of Mental-
FroL? the Factors of Mentality springs Con-
From Consciousness springs N arne-Form (mind
and body),
From Name-Form springs the Sixfold Seat (the
five organs of sense and the central organ),
From the Sixfold Seat springs Contact,
From Contact spring Sensations,
From Sensations springs Thirst (craving, de-
From Thirst springs Attachment,
From Attachment springs Becoming,
From Becoming springs Birth,
From Birth spring Old Age, Death, Pain, Lam-
entation, Sorrow, Trouble, Despair.
Now it is to be observed that this is not a tem-
poral sequence, in the sense that the causes regu-
larly succeed one another in this order; they
should rather be regarded as the spokes in a
wheel that may revolve in either direction. Thus,
as it is stated elsewhere (Digha Nikaya, Sutta
xv), "from consciousness with name-form as its
cause, from name-form with consciousness as
its cause, ... come pain, lamentation, sorrow,
trouble, despair." And further it is to be observed
-and this is the main source of obscurity-that
two quite different processes are woven together
in the links of the chain, and two quite different
questions answered.
In the first of these processes we see how the
five Aggregates are related together so as to
produce an apparent, but unreal, unity. Here we
have Factors of Mentality (the fourth Aggre-
gate as given above) leading to Consciousness
(the fifth Aggregate) , then to Body and the
Sense Organs and Contact with outer objects
(the first Aggregate) , then to Sensation (the
second and third Aggregates merged). There is
no true causal nexus in this process, but a casual
coherence, or Inter-Attachment, which manifests
itself in Becoming (as composition and dissolu-
tion, birth and death). Thus we have an answer
to the question how transience as the ground of
sorrow is inherent in the phenomenal world. We
have done no more than analyse and expand the
first of the Four Noble Truths.
The other process brings us to the second of the
Noble Truths: What is the cause of Sorrow? That
is to say: How am I entangled in these ephemeral
Aggregates? Why do I myself suffer? And the
reply is: Because of Attachment. It is because I
am attached to them that these Aggregates, so far
as I am concerned, are reciprocally attached
amongst themselves. But why am I attached? Be-
cause of Ignorance and Thirst. This is not a cas-
ual relation but a true cause; and if you ask what
cause lies behind Ignorance and Thirst, you will
get no satisfaction from the Buddha, nor from
any sage or philosopher else.
These, then, are the causes of sorrow. A good
deal is said in the books about their complicated
relation to the various diseases and sins and ca-
lamities of life, but in the end their nature and
their effect and their interdependence are obvious
enough. By ignorance the Buddha meant simply
this, that we are blind to the fact of universal
transience and think something is there where all
things incessantly become and pass away; hence
arises the thirst or craving that attaches us to the
deceptive permanence of things. Or, put the other
way, we thirst and crave for something permanent
to which we can attach ourselves; hence we igno-
rantly blind.ourselves to the fact of universal tran-
sience. Ignorance and thirst, springing thus re-
ciprocally one from the other, are therefore not
so much two causes as the double aspect of a single
ultimate cause, by which we are enmeshed in a
world whose only coherence is the result of our
own attachment.
So are we caught in the fatal rotation of birth
and death and rebirth, known to both Buddhist
and Brahmin as the Samsara. Of one thing only
in this endless whirligig of time we may be sure,
the unsleeping, unrelaxing moral law of reward
and punishment. The conditions of my existence
now depend inexorably on how I chose to act in a
previous existence, i.e. on my Karma, and the
conditions under which I shall be reborn depend
inexorably on how I choose to act now. Thus the
Hindu undertakes to reconcile the conflicting
laws of determinism and free will, and by the
same theory thinks to justify the paradoxical
distribution of fortune and misfortune. For the
ordinary Buddhist indeed the merit of a good
Karma is a more urgent motive in conduct than
the remote and ineffable state of Nirvana; the
hope of being reborn into some heaven of Brahma
or the other gods is very real to him, as is the
fear of torture in some hell of the demons. Yet
always, if he thinks, he must know that heaven
and hell are but transitory stages of a little longer
duration; the sting of mutability cannot be es-
caped even by Brahma in his celestial home.
How the law of Karma operates in a world
where otherwise there would seem to be no law
save the fatalities of chance, how morality enters
at all into this whirl of fortuitous aggregations,-
that, as we shall see, is the crux of the Buddhistic
philosophy. But if such questions are insoluble,
they are also, according to Buddha, of no im-
portance for edification. Of the second Truth
itself he leaves no doubt: ignorance and thirst,
manifesting themselves in attachment, are the
cause of sorrow.
Now this cause is purely of our own begetting,
and therefore within the sphere of our own
control. Thus we can at will break away from
attachment to an illusory world and an illusory
Self, which by detachment do for us simply cease
to exist. This is the third of the N able Truths: the
cessation of Sorrow. And it is because the third
Truth like the first is, if properly stated, self-
evident, and because the twain were never dis-
joined ,in the Tathagata's teaching, that Bud-
dhism is a message of joyful deliverance: "Only
one thing I announce today, as always, sorrow
and its extinction."
It remains to say how the knowledge that puts
an end to ignorance is attained, and how the dis-
cipline of will that quenches thirst. The method
is summarized in the Eightfold Path to the Ces-
sation of Sorrow, the ascending steps of which
are as follows:
1. Right opinion (otherwise translated views)
2. Right purpose (intention, aspirations)
3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right employment (means of livelihood, Wan-
deln, vita)
6. Right endeavour (effort, Miihn, sforzo)
7. Right mindfulness ( sati, otherwise translated
memory, conscience, attention, meditation, con-
templation, insight, thought)
8. Right collectedness ( samadhi, meditation, ec-
stasy, Einig'ttng, Konzentration, raccoglimen-
As in the other tabulations of the doctrine
(with exception of the bare Fourfold Truth it-
self), this division of the fourth Truth is some-
what arbitrary and does not imply a rigid se-
quence in time. It is a kind of memoria technica
for a whole method and practice of the religious
life which, in the next section here following,
shall be given in the fuller exposition of the one
who first found the Path and walked therein. By
e The locus classicus for the eightfold path is ::\Iajjhima Xikaya,
cxli. Lord Chalmers, in his translation, gives the English equiva-
lents as follows: Right outlook, right resolves, right speech, right
acts, right livelihocd, right endeaYour, right mindfulness, right rap-
ture of concentration.
'.;; ,,
way of preface to this sermon we may note the
correspondence of the three stages of progress in
sanctity there described with the eightfold divi-
sion of the Path: ( 1) discipline of conduct
( SZla), which may be subdivided into (a) a pre-
liminary awakening of the diseiple, correspond-
ing roughly to the first and second steps of the
Path, and (b) conduct in the narrower sense of
the word, as indicated in the fifth, third, and
fourth steps; (2) discipline of the mind (Sam-
adhi, collectedness in a comprehensive sense),
which includes the sixth and seventh steps as pre-
paratory to the eighth ( 8 amadhi, collectedness
more strictly regarded as meditation); and (3)
the higher wisdom and power (Paftfta), as the
supernatural effects of discipline.
[This section is in the main a quotation of The Fruits of
the Life of a Samana, which forms the second Butta of the
Digha Nikaya. The importance of this Sutta for the Doctrine
is shown by the fact that it is repeated ten times in the
Digha alone, besides appearing in the Sanskrit. I have
abridged somewhat, and have inserted a few brief passages
from other Suttas. The translation is that of T. W. Rhys
Davids; but I have altered his language here and there, espe-
cially the technical terms.]
Suppose there appears in the world one who has
attained the truth, an Arahat (saint), one fully
awakened, abounding in wisdom and goodness,
happy, who knows all worlds, unsurpassed as a
guide to mortals willing to be led, a Buddha. The
truth (the Dharma, i.e. the particular truth of
the Buddhist rule) , lovely in its origin, lovely in
its progress, lovely in its consummation, he pro-
claims, both in the spirit and in the letter; the
higher life he makes known, in all its fullness and
in all its purity.
Now three are the bodies of doctrine: the so
noble body of doctrine regarding Conduct, the so
noble body of doctrine regarding Collectedness,
the so noble body of doctrine regarding the
Higher Wisdom.
And what is this so noble body of doctrine re-
garding Conduct?
Conduct ( SZla)
A householder or one of his children, or a man
of inferior birth in any class listens to the truth;
and on hearing it he has faith in the Tathagata;
and when he is possessed of that faith, he con-
siders thus within himself:
"Full of hindrances is household life, a path for
the dust of passion. Free as the air is the life of
him who has renounced all worldly things. How
difficult is it for the man who dwells at home to
live the higher life in all its fullness, in all its
purity, in all its bright perfection!"
Then, before long, forsaking his portion of
wealth, be it great or small, forsaking his circle
of relatives, be they many or be they few, he
cuts off his hair and beard, he clothes himself in
the yellow robes, and he goes forth from the
household life into the homeless state.
When he has thus become a Samana he lives
self-restrained by that restraint that should be
binding on such a one. Uprightness is his delight,
and he sees danger in the least of those things he
should avoid. He adopts, and trains himself in,
the precepts.
And how is his conduct good?
Putting away the killing of living things, the
Samana holds aloof from the destruction of life.
Ashamed of roughness and full of mercy, he
abides compassionate and kind to all creatures
that have life. Putting away the taking of what
has not been given, he takes only what is given,
waiting for a gift. Putting away unchastity, he
holds himself aloof, far off, from the vulgar
pradice of sexual gratification. Putting away
lying speech, he holds himself aloof from false-
hood. He speaks truth, from the truth he never
swerves; faithful and trustworthy, he breaks not
his word to the world. Putting away slander, he
holds himself aloof from calumny. Thus does he
live as a binder together of those who are divided,
an encourager of those who are friends, a peace-
maker, a lover of peace, impassioned for peace,
a speaker of words that make for peace. Putting
away rudeness of speech, he holds himself aloof
from harsh language. \Vhatever word is blame-
less, pleasant to the ear, lovely, reaching to the
heart, urbane, pleasing to the people, beloved of
the people-such words he speaks. Putting away
frivolous talk, he holds himself aloof from vain
conversation. In season he speaks, in accordance
with the facts, words full of meaning, on religion,
on the discipline of the Order. He speaks, and
at the right time, words worthy to be laid up in
one's heart, fitly illustrated, clearly divided, to
the point.
Such a Bhikkhu then, being master of the mi-
nor moralities, sees no danger from any quarter,
so far as concerns his self-restraint in conduct.
Just as a sovereign, duly crowned, whose enemies
have been beaten down, sees no danger from any
quarter, so far as enemies are concerned, so is the
Bhikkhu confident. And endowed with this body
of morals, so worthy of honour, he experiences
within himself a sense of ease without alloy. Thus
is it that the Bhikkhu becomes righteous.
But there is still something to be done.
Collectedness (Samadhi)
And what is that so noble body of doctrine re-
garding Collectedness? How is the Bhikkhu
guarded as to the doors of his senses?
. i
1hen he sees an object with his eye, he sets
himself to restrain that which might give occasion
for evil states, covetousness and dejection, to
flow in over him so long as he abides unrestrained
as to his sense of sight. He keeps watch upon his
faculty of sight, and he attains to mastery over
it. And so, in like manner, when he hears a sound
with his ear, or smells an odour with his nose, or
tastes a flavour with his tongue, or feels a touch
with his body, or when he cognizes a phenomenon
with his mind, he is not entranced in the general
appearance or the details of it. He sets himself
to restrain that which might give occasion for evil
states, covetousness and dejection, to flow in over
him. And endowed with this self-restraint, so
worthy of honour, as regards the senses, he ex-
periences within himself a sense of ease into which
no evil state can enter. Thus is it that a Bhikkhu
becomes guarded as to the doors of his senses.
And how [s the Bhikkhu mindful and self-pos-
sessed? What is the fourfold exercize. of Mind-
Herein let a Bhikkhu continue so to look upon
the body that he remains ardent, self-possessed,
and mindful, having overcome both the covetous-
ness and the dejection common in the world. And
in the same way as to feelings, thoughts, and
ideas, let him so look upon each that he remains
ardent, self-possessed, and mindful, having over-
come both the covetousness and the dejection
common in the world.
And how does a Bhikkhu continue to regard the
body? He considers how the body is something
that comes to be, how the body is something
that passes away. And he abides independent,
grasping after nothing in the world whatever.
Thus does a Bhikkhu continue to regard the body.
And how does a Bhikkhu continue to consider
the feelings? He considers how the feelings are
something that comes to be, how the feelings are
something that passes away.
And how does a Bhikkhu continue to consider
thinking? Herein a Bhikkhu, if his thinking be
lustful, is aware that it is so, or if his thinking be
free from lust, is aware that it is so; or if his think-
ing be full of hate, or free from hate, or dull, or
intelligent, or attentive, or distracted, or exalted,
or not exalted, or mediocre, or liberated, or
bound, he is aware in each case that his thinking
is so. He considers how a thought is something
that comes to be, how a thought is something that
passes away. And he abides independent, grasp-
ing after nothing in the world whatever.
Thus it is that a Bhikkhu becomes mindful and
And how is the Bhikkhu content?
In this matter the Bhikkhu is satisfied with suf-
ficient robes to cherish his body, with sufficient
food to support his stomach. Whithersoever he
may go forth, these he takes with him as he goes
-just as a bird with his wings, whithersoever he
may fly, carries his wings with him as he Hies.
Thus is it that the Bhikkhu becomes content.
Then, master of this so excellent body of mor-
al precepts, gifted with this so excellent self-
restraint as to the senses, endowed with this so
excellent mindfulness and self-possession, filled
with this so excellent content, he chooses some
lonely spot to rest at on his way-in the woods,
at the foot of a tree, on a hillside, in a mountain
glen, in a rocky cave, in a charnel place, or on a
heap of straw in the open field. And returning
thither after his round for alms, he seats himself,
when his meal is done, cross-legged, keeping his
body erect, and his mind alert, intent.
Putting away the hankering after the world, he
abides with a heart that hankers not, and purifies
his mind of lusts. Putting away the corruption
of the wish to injure, he abides with a heart free
from ill-temper, and purifies his mind of malev-
olence. Putting away tbrpor of heart and mind,
keeping his ideas alight, mindful and self-pos-
sessed, he purifies his mind of weakness and
sloth. Putting away flurry and worry, he abides
free from fretfulness, and, with heart serene
within, he purifies himself of irritability and vex-
ation of spirit. Putting away wavering, he abides
as one passed beyond perplexity; and no longer
in suspense as to what is good, he purifies his
mind of doubt.
When those five Hindrances (sensuality, ill-
will, sloth and torpor, excitement and worry,
doubt) have been purged away, then he looks
upon himself as one freed from debt, rid of dis-
ease, out of gaol, a free man, and secure. And
gladness springs up within him on his realizing
that, and joy arises to him thus gladdened, and
so rejoicing all his frame becomes at ease, and
being thus at ease he is filled with a sense of peace,
and in that peace his heart is stayed.
Then estranged from lusts, aloof from evil dis-
positions, he enters into and abides in the first
Rapture of l\1editation ( Jhana) -a state of joy
and well-being born of detachment, while discur-
sive reflection goes on the while. His very body
does he so pervade, drench, permeate, and suffuse
with the joy and ease bom of detachment, that
there is no spot in his whole frame not suffused
Then, further, the Bhikkhu, suppressing that
activity, enters into and abides in the second
Rapture of Meditation, a state of joy and well-
being bom of the serenity of collectedness, when
no rational reflection goes on,-a state of eleva-
tion of mind, a tranquillization of the heart
within. And his very body does he so pervade,
drench, permeate, and suffuse with joy and well-
being born of collectedness, that there is no spot
in his whole frame not suffused therewith.
Then, further, the Bhikkhu, holding aloof from
joy, comes to perfect poise; and mindful and
self-possessed he experiences in his body that
well-being which the Arahats talk of when they
say: "The man serene and self-possessed is well
at ease"; and so he enters into and abides in the
third Rapture of :Meditation. And his whole body
does he so pervade, drench, permeate, and suffuse
with that well-being beyond joy, that there is no
spot in his whole frame not suffused therewith.
Then, further, the Bhikkhu, by the putting
away alike of well-being and sadness, by the
passing away alike of any elation, any dejection,
he had previously felt, enters into and abides in
the fourth Rapture of Meditation, a state of pure
self-possession and poise, unqualified of sadness
or well-being.
And he sits there so suffusing even his body
with that sense of purification and translucence
of heart, that there is no spot in his whole frame
not suffused therewith. Just as if a man were sit-
ting so wrapt from head to foot in a clean white
robe that there were no spot in his whole frame
not in contact with the clean white robe,-just
so does the Bhikkhu sit there, so suffusing even
his body with that sense of purification and trans-
lucence of heart that there is no spot in his whole
frame not suffused therewith.
This is an immediate fruit of the life of a
Samana, and higher and sweeter than the last.
The Higher Wisdom and Power (Panna;)
And what is that so noble body of doctrine re-
garding the Higher Wisdom?
With his heart serene, made pure, translucent,
refined, purged of evil, supple, ready to act, firm,
and imperturbable, the Bhikkhu applies and
bends down his mind to the insight of pure
knowledge. He grasps the fact: "This body of
mine has form, it is built up of the four elements,
it springs from father and mother, it is continu-
ally renewed by so much boiled rice and juicy
foods, its very nature is impermanence, it is sub-
ject to erasion, abrasion, dissolution, and disinte-
gration; and therewith too is this consciousness
of mine bound up, on that does it depend."
With his heart thus serene (etc., as before), he
applies and bends down his mind to the evocation
of a mental image. He evokes from this body
another body, having form, made of mind, having
all limbs and parts, not deprived of any organ.
Just as if a man were to pull out a reed from its
sheath. He would know: "This is the reed, this
the sheath. The reed is one thing, the sheath an-
other. It is from the sheath that the reed has been
drawn." And similarly were he to take a snake out
of its slough, or draw a sword from its scabbard.
With his heart thus serene (etc., as before), he
directs and bends down his mind to the know-
ledge that penetrates the heart. Penetrating with
his own heart the hearts of other beings, of other
men, he knows them. He discerns:
The passionate mind to be passionate, and the
calm mind calm;
The angry mind to be angry, and the peaceful
mind peaceful;
The dull mind to be dull, and the alert mind
The attentive mind to be attentive, and the
wandering mind wandering;
The broad mind to be broad, and the narrow
mind narrow;
The steadfast mind to be steadfast, and the
wavering mind wavering;
The free mind to be free, and the enslaved
mind enslaved.
With his heart thus serene (etc., as before),
he directs and bends down his mind to the know-
ledge of the memory of his previous temporary
states. He recalls to mind his various temporary
states in days gone by-one birth, or two or three
or four or five births, or ten or twenty or thirty
or forty or fifty or a hundred or a thousand or
a hundred thousand births, through many an
aeon of dissolution, many an aeon of evolution.
"In such a place such was my name, such my
family, such my caste, such my food, such my
experience of discomfort or of ease, and such the
limits of my life. When I passed away from that
state, I took form again in such a place. There I
had such and such a name and family and caste
and food and experience of discomfort or of
ease"-thus does he call to mind his temporary
states in days gone by in all their details, and in
all their modes.
With his heart thus serene (etc., as before),
he directs and bends down his mind to the know-
ledge of the fall and rise of beings. With the pure
Heavenly Eye, surpassing that of men, he sees
beings as they pass away from one form of exis-
tence and take shape in another; he recognizes the
mean and the noble, the well favoured and the
ill favoured, the happy and the wretched, passing
away according to their deeds: "Such and such
beings, my brothers, in act and word and thought,
revilers of the noble ones, holding to wrong views,
acquiring for themselves that Karma which re-
sults from wrong views, they, on the dissolution
of the body, after death, are reborn in some un-
happy state of suffering or woe. But such and
such beings, my brothers, well doers in act and
word and thought, not revilers of the noble ones,
holding to right views, acquiring for themselves
that Karma which results from right views, they,
on the dissolution of the body, after death, are
reborn in some happy state in heaven."
With his heart thus serene (etc., as before), he
directs and bends down his mind to the know-
ledge of the destruction of the Fatal Illusions
( Asavas) . He knows as it really is: "This is sor-
row." He knows as it really is: "This is the cause
of sorrow." He knows as it really is: "This is the
cessation of sorrow." He knows as it really is:
"This is the Path that leads to the cessation of
sorrow." He knows as they really are: "These
are the Fatal Illusions." He knows as it really
is: "This is the cause of the Fatal Illusions." He
knows as it really is: "This is the cessation of the
Fatal Illusions." He knows as it really is: "This
is the Path that leads to the cessation of the Fatal
Illusions." To him, thus knowing, thus seeing,
the heart is set free from the Fatal Illusion of
Lust, is set free from the Fatal Illusion of Be-
coming, is set free from the Fatal Illusion of
Ignorance. "In the liberated is Liberation," this
he understands. And now he knows: "Conquered
is birth, finished the discipline, accomplished
what had to be done, no more is this world."
This is an immediate fruit of the life of a
Samana, visible in the present world, and higher
and sweeter than the last. And higher and
sweeter than this there is no fruit of the life of a
Samana, visible in the present world.
It will be seen that this little sermon forms the
flesh and blood, so to speak, of the doctrine of
which the Eightfold Path is the skeleton frame-
work. Comes the Buddha, or any Arahat, preach-
ing a new gospel of deliverance. The listener is
stirred by some answering voice within him, as
it were an echo, saying: "This is just the truth of
the dumb sorrow you have always felt and could
never quite account for; this is the truth of the
escape from sorrow you have always known to be
yours if only you could grasp the means." At
first the response is vague in content, a mere
Opinion, what might be called faith in search of
reason. But it is strong enough to impel the man
to make a determination; he forms the Purpose
to follow the Path and test its promise. Seeing
the difficulty of success in the Employment of
his present mode of life, he puts on the yellow
robe, forsakes the world, and enters the Order.
Here he exercizes himself in the discipline of
Right Speech and Right Action, since only by
doing of the law comes true knowledge of the
law. Right Endeavour and Right Mindfulness,
as they belong equally to the will and the intel-
lect, constitute the link between conduct and
understanding. He attains to Collectedness, and
in that stillness of the passions enjoys the Rap-
tures of :Meditation in which the mind is lifted
step by step to mystical insight. At the last comes
the Higher Wisdom and the Higher Power,
wherein all illusions are dispelled and the truth is
possessed, not as a vague opinion, but now as
immediate, perfect, transforming knowledge. He
has reached the self-mastery and the utter peace
of Nirvana. He is an Arahat for whom the bonds
of attachment are loosened, the servitude of
Karma broken. For a while his body and mind
perform their ordinary functions, but at death
he passes into the ineffable Beyond of Parinir-
vana; and from this there is no return.
Through many births, a ceaseless round,
I ran in vain, nor ever found
The Builder, though the house I saw,-
For death is born again, and hard the law.
0 Builder, thou art seen! not so
Again thy building shall arise;
Broken are all its rafters, low
The turret of the mansion lies:
The mind in all-dissolving peace
Hath sunk, and out of craving found release.
One of the first things to strike a western
reader of the Canon is the extraordinary similar-
ity of the fruit of the Path with what St. Paul
calls the fruit of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meek-
ness, temperance: against such there is no law
[or Karma]." The Christian may even be a little
dismayed at finding the three palmary virtues of
his religion set forth with full force and clarity,
vet without the sanctions upon which he has
thought they depended. Purity he may have re-
garded as peculiar, at least in its finer aspect, to
his own faith; but he learns that the Bhikkhu was
bound to absolute chastity of body and mind, and
to separation from all the lures of the world.
Again the virtue of humility is as emphatically
Buddhistic as it is Christian. Not only is meek-
ness enjoined, and all presumption, assertiveness,
intolerance, roughness, discourtesy, suppressed,
but the rule of non-resistance-which, to tell the
truth, has often a little embarrassed the Chris-
tian-is carried out unflinchingly. To turn the
other cheek, to leave the cloak with him who takes
the coat, to give all to him who asks, are precepts
that the Tathagata not only taught, but in the
course of his many lives practised in their extreme
And so of love, which shows the positive aspect
of detachment from self as humility shows its
negative aspect. To love one's enemies, to bless
them that curse, to do good to them that hate, was
the law of Buddha as it was of Christ; and in the
Hindu it should be extended to all sentient beings
now and to come, including in one act of sweep-
ing benevulence gods and demons, animals and
plants, as well as men. In place of the Raptures
which in the Sutta above quoted follow the put-
ting away of the Hindrances, we read elsewhere,
and more than once, how the Arahat, in the exer-
cize of meditation, "lets his mind pervade one
quarter of the world with thoughts of love, and
so the second, and so the third, and so the fourth.
And thus the whole wide world, above, below,
around, and everywhere, does he continue to per-
vade with heart of love, far-reaching, grown
great, and beyond measure." And so of pity and
equanimity. Nor is this pervasion taken to be a.
word of idle sentiment. It was the strong convic-
tion of these people, as Mrs. Rhys Davids ob-
serves, "that 'thoughts are things,' that psychical
action, emotional or intellectual, is capable of
working like a. force among forces." That is to
say, the love and pity and equanimity (what a
marvellous conjunction of words!) of the Arahat
in his solitary devotions were believed to go out
from him as waves of power, dropping into the
breasts of men like "dew from heaven,'' stilling
perhaps some passion of hatred that might other-
wise have burst out in crime, calming a. little per-
haps the anguish wnd perturbation of some heart
which can never know from what source that
influence came. It is a belief to which, as Mrs.
Rhys Davids adds, Europe may yet return. For
the Christian it would give a. new answer to the
vexed question of the efficacy of prayer, and
would lend a pregnant beauty to the "communion
of saints." And if the faith has been somewhat
vulgarized in the practice of a modern sect who
call themselves Christian Scientists, so have other
great truths been put to mean uses.
Purity, humility, and love, these three. They are
preeminently the religious virtues, the blossom-
ing of morality out of otherworldliness, whether
in the East or in theW est; and it will be observed
that the precepts of the Path are directed pri-
marily to those who are aiming to live uncompro-
misingly for religion and to withdraw from the
obligations as well as from the distractions of
family and business. But it would be wrong to
infer that Buddhism had no message for those
who remained in the world, or that the monks
made no return in spiritual gifts for their ma-
terial support. Chastity and non-resistance and
self-abnegation are not the practical virtues of
society, and the first is even destructive of society;
but they have their social counterparts in conti-
nence and peaceableness and gentle kindliness, in
that rational balance of impulse and restraint
which shows itself a.s the inclusive virtue of tem-
perance or justice. And there is abundant evi-
dence that Buddhism was, and in certain lands
still is, a leavening force for righteousness in the
community. Once at least, in Asoka, it produced
a great religious ruler comparable for his zeal to
St. Louis of France.
But withal purity and humility and love, as
Buddha expounded them, take their colour not
from this world; and it is at first thought a mighty
confirmation of the claims of religion to discover
the religious virtues flowering in such indepen-
dence yet with such striking similarity in a land
remote from Christianity and among an alien
people. It is only when we begin to compare the
sort of otherworldliness from which they spring,
there and here, that perplexity arises and we are
tempted to ask ~ h e ~ h e r religion itself has any
common and obJectively veracious ground. In
~ h e West the virtues are based upon the eternal
Importance of the human soul and upon its re-
sponsibility to God. So Socrates declared in his
Apology, and so Plato at the last argued in that
theological tract which forms the tenth book of
the Laws. 'So Jesus taught in his rebuke to Peter:
"Thou savourest not the things that be of God
but the things that be of men; ... for what shali
it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul." Yet there in the East
we b.ehold the other great founder of religion ap-
pealmg to men with no belief in the human soul
or in God, rather with a vehement denial of their
existence. Of this as a fact there can be no reason-
able doubt. Not once but repeatedly and in every
kind of connection Buddha asserted that the last
and most fatal illusion is just the clinging to any
entity associated with the flux of elements that
compose the ephemeral aggregate of body and
consciousness; attachment to an illusory Self or
Personality or individual Soul is the veritable
cause of Sorrow. And so of God. The popular
pantheon of deities and spirits and demons he
apparently took over without a qualm; but they
are all transitory phenomena like ourselves, sub-
ject to birth and death and rebirth in the infinite
Samsara, and their heavens and hells are no more
than places of temporary reward and punishment
for the good and evil of Karma. His universe has
no God in the Christian sense; it contains no
Creator, no providential Ruler, no Judge, and
above all no Saviour. Here lies the ultimate para-
dox of religion. What shall be s a i ~ of it?
With some the answer would be that in the
teaching of Buddha we have pure religion and
undefiled, an assurance of infinite possibilities
founded upon positive experiment, the fruits of
otherworldliness freed from all compromising
overgrowth of superstition and dogma. And a
good deal may be said for such a view. The ab-
sence among the more orthodox Buddhists of the
hectic anxiety, the morbid anguish, and the ruth-
less fanaticism that so frequently mar the intenser
practice of Christianity, can be traced directly
to the surrender of attachment to an individual
soul with its infinite destinies dependent upon the
will of a personal God. Buddhism on the whole
has been a more joyous and even-tempered faith
than its western rival. And when one has tired
one's brain and befuddled one's perception of
reality with the trinitarian theology of a Thomas
Aquinas or the metaphysics of a Spinoza, one may
turn with relief to a religion which simply elim-
inates the question of God and to a philosophy
which refuses to consider any ontological puzzles
as idle, insoluble, and not making for edification.
Above all, one must admit that in contrast with
the perversion of the doctrine of the atonement
culminating in the soteriology of Anselm, and
with the perversion of the doctrine of Grace in the
Lutheran and Calvinistic theory of justification
by faith alone, it is refreshing to come upon a
guide who durst bid his disciples to accept no
doctrine on hearsay, to subscribe to no tradition,
to adopt no belief on authority, to succumb be-
fore no pressure of high-reasoned argument, but
to test all appeals by experience, and to hold fast
only to that which they proved to be true prag-
matically. It is a wholesome shock to read the
last words of the dying Tathagata: "Behold now,
brothers, I exhort you, saying,-'Decay is in-
herent in all component things! Work out your
own salvation with diligence!' "
There is a truth here that the Christian, even
apart from the extravagances of t.he-
ology, is too ready to forget. Behmd all fa1th,
beyond all reliance on the arms of power and
mercy outstretched to help from the invisible
heavens, undisturbed by any dogma of vicarious
atonement, lies the plain fact that man, as a
creature of free will, cannot shirk the ultimate
responsibility for his own fate. That may not be
the whole truth, indeed no fact at the last is quite
simple and one-sided, but it is an aspect of the
truth, an element of experience, which can be
neglected only at a terrible risk of spiritual
agony, if not despair. Cowper and other ruins
along the path of Christianity show what may
happen when salvation is referred to the will of
God alone. To deny the human will is to weaken
it, and to weaken it is to leave man the prey of
fluctuating and in the end wrecking emotions. He
who desires happiness and peace must exercize
the will to happiness and peace; that is the law of
our being which can no more be evaded in religion
than in secular wisdom. And I cannot imagine a
better corrective for the false sentimentality and
mawkish piety that spoil much of Christian lit-
erature than that exhortation of the dying Bud-
dha: "Work out your own salvation with
diligence." After all something not very different
from that could be read into the commandment:
"Tho.u not take the N arne of the Lord thy
God m vam, for the Lord will not hold him guilt-
less that taketh his N arne in vain."
Here then is the striking and, for us of the
West, paradoxical fact, that in Buddhism, as it
came from the ]}faster, we are confronted with a
great and effective religion which stakes every-
thing upon the reality of otherworldliness-for
else Nirvana may be, it certainly prom-
Ises a peace not of this world-yet a religion
which acknowledges no soul and no God and
professes to require no Saviour. We need not
wonder that the searching minds of some who
perceive the insufficiency of any worldly philos-
ophy yet rebel against the authoritative demands
of "revealed" dogma and "mythological" theol-
ogy, are drawn to a teacher who seems to offer the
supernatural in the positive nakedness of scienti-
fic experiment. But, again, nothing at the last is
quite simple; practice and profession do not
always coincide. In theory it may be true that the
command to work out one's own salvation has the
ring of absolute freedom from authority, but it is
equally true that the effectiveness of the com-
mand depended upon the example of him who
uttered it. And example is the highest form of
authority. I think no one can read the Buddhist
books without being impressed by the overwhelm-
ing role of Buddha himself as a personification
of what he preached. The Sutta I have quoted-
and it is typical of the best in the Canon-begins
with the words: "Suppose there appears in the
world one who has attained the truth, an Arahat,
one fully awakened, abounding in wisdom and
goodness, happy, who knows all worlds, unsur-
passed as a guide to mortals willing to be led, a
Buddha." Willing to be led no doubt the disciples
were, because the germ of the Dharma, "lovely
in its origin, lovely in its progress," was in them
as in all men, but it was the imposing grandeur
of the Guide that awoke the dormant will to
action and endurance. And it is the same today.
vV e peruse the books perchance, and there rises
before us the figure of a sage who was the noblest,
most serenely victorious, the most graciously
imperious of all the Sons of man, save only one
other, Jesus, save perhaps only two, Jesus and
Socrates. We know by his mien, better than any
logic can demonstrate, that the peace of religion
is no deception of the craving heart but an achiev-
a;ble reality. After all, the truth for most of us is
like a spark faintly glimmering in some dark
corner of the breast until it is kindled into flame
by another's fire. And this contagion of faith
from person to person verges close upon the
sphere of myth.
We can go further on that line. Whatever
Gotama actually claimed for himself-and on
this point the records are less unambiguous than
the Christian Gospels-he appeared to his dis-
c i p l ~ s very early in the history of the Order, and
I thmk to those who talked with him in the flesh,
as one who possessed all knowledge, whose mind
reached out to comprehend all the things of space
and all the events of time and all the adventures
of sentient life. At any rate it can scarcely be
doubted that he spoke--though possibly he meant
his tales to be taken for parables-as one who
could recall his own previous existences, and as
one who professed to have climbed to absolute
enlightenment through infinite trials of search
and resolution. There is no blinking the fact thai
these real or reputed supernatural powers-and
who shall draw the distinction-were a dominant
influence in spreading the faith at its inception,
to say nothing of the overgrowth of superstition
to which later they gave birth. Without them
Gotama might have been the expounder of an aa-
mired philosophy, he would not have been the
creator of a world religion. We have verged closer
upon mythology, if we have not passed into the
full circle of its sway. And I know not which
makes the larger demand upon our credence: the
myth of a God descending to man through the In-
carnation, or the myth of a man ascending through
infinite lives to absolute wisdom.
The law of the Tathagata: Work out your
own salvation, holds valid for all sound religion,
but only if taken as a half-truth. The attempt to
make it the whole truth will result either in sup-
pressing one side of religious experience or in
practical inconsistencies, as does straining after
absolute simplification always and everywhere.
And in Buddhism the inconsistencies are pecu-
liarly patent and perplexing. The point is that this
second clause of the Founder's dying injunction,
which sums up, as it were, the practical content
of the Noble Truths and the whole doctrine, can-
not be disjoined from the first clause: All compo-
site things are subject to dissolution, which sums
up their theoretical content. Now, as we have
seen, the "composite" of the first clause extends
to all things namable, including a conscious soul;
at death this body and this consciousness which
compose our complex individuality are not mere-
ly separated one from the other, but are broken
up so that neither of them any longer exists. On
the other hand by the "salvation" of the second
clause ("release" or "liberation" would be a more
precise translation) is meant that through our own
efforts we may be saved or liberated from the
sway of Karma; while by Karma is meant that,
until the final release, we are born into an endless
succession of lives, the state of each being de-
termined by our good and evil deeds in a previous
life. What is it then that is reborn, and what is
to save itself from rebirth? How does it really
concern this present complex whether the new
complex is produced under favourable or malign
conditions? In other words the law of Karma
satisfies the sense of responsibility inherent in us
as men by demanding a continuity of conscious-
ness in order that the apparent failures of justice
in this life may be adjusted in a life to come,
whereas the doctrine of transience denies any such
continuity. Furthermore, restricting the moral
sense to the world as it is, what, one asks, is the
source of the love and pity which go out to em-
brace all sentient beings? Love and pity certainly
are from person to person, but in this Samsara of
kaleidoscopic aggregates who is it that loves and
who is loved? Why should Gotama himself have
made the great renunciation in a compassionate
desire to bring salvation to souls the very exist-
ence of which he repudiated?
These are questions that troubled the original
disciples and have not ceased to vex the sympa-
thetic exponents of Buddhism to this day. One
solution, or rather explanation, from an eminent
scholar of the Occident is so ingenious and spe-
cious, and at the same time brings out so clearly
the central difficulties, that it deserves consid-
eration at length. Having cited a passage which
expresses the self-sacrificing love for mankind
enjoined upon the members of the Order, the
expositor proceeds:
"How can we reconcile this teaching and this
example of the Buddha with his doctrine of salva-
tion from sorrow? In truth I do not think we can.
The two views are essentially irreconcilable. And
it is their innate irreconcilability and at the same
time their inextricable interweaving throughout
the teachings of Buddhism that make the philos-
ophy of Buddhism so difficult to grasp. In a long
discussion with a most able Buddhist thinker I
once pointed out this inconsistency in Buddhist
doctrine and at length made him see and even
admit it. And then he quoted and translated to
me some Pali verses in which Gautama says of his
doctrine that it is deep, hard to be understood,
and not logical. There are, in fact, as it seems to
me, three distinct elements in Buddhism which
originated quite independently, but which have
been interwoven in such fashion that it is ex-
tremely difficult to distinguish them. One of these
is Brahmanical,-the set of beliefs which Gau-
tama either took for granted from the common
beliefs of his time, or adopted into his teaching
as a kind of recognition of the weakness of the
flesh in his disciples. The great example of the
former of these is the belief in rebirth and Karma,
which he himself accepted and made much of.
i ! '
The various teachings about heaven and hell, the
acquisition of merit and the value of various ex-
ternal acts,-these very likely appealed less to
Gautama than to his followers. But in any case
they were simply adopted from Brahmanism and
became intertwined more or less closely with what
may be called the second element in Buddhism-
namely, Gautama.'s own original doctrine, the
Four Noble Truths, based upon direct experience
of sorrow, sorrow's cause, and the purely psychi-
cal way of escape. Besides these two elements
there was a third, namely, Gautama's own great
sympathetic heart, his unselfish devotion and de-
sire to serve and save his fellows. The attempt is
usually made to expound Buddhism as if all of it
followed from the Four Noble Truths. To do this
successfully is really impossible, because much
that is of importance in Buddhist morality and
philosophy comes from the two other sources.m
To the presence in Buddhism of three separate
strands-the Four Noble Truths, Karma, and
love-any reader of the Pitakas must subscribe,
and the author of the paragraph cited above does
7 James Bissett Pratt, India and Its Faiths, 394. I hesitate to
disagree at any point with a scholar who, in this volume and in his
later volumes, The Pilgrimage of Buddhism and Adventures in Phi-
losophy and Religion, has made so extensive and intelligent a study
of the Orient; but unquestionably he has somewhat sentimental-
ized the original Buddhism.
well in calling attention to the difficulty of recon-
ciling them in one harmonious doctrine. But I
am bound to think he has mistaken the source of
the difficulties. The trouble, as I see the matter,
does not arise out of incompatibility between
what Buddha took over from Brahminism and
what he added from his own religious intuition.
I would say that all three of the elements belong
to the common fund of Hindu faith, and that
their incompatibility is only more sharply ap-
parent in Buddhism because here they are
carried out to the logical extreme. The resultmg
difference, in degree rather than in kind, perhaps
with some tincture of pedantry may be brought
out by consideration of the compound word nama-
" " df " rupa, name-an - orm.
Now the term namarupa is employed by the
Hindus generally to designate the composition
of the transient phenomena of this visible world,
and is analogous, in some respects, to the
telian dualism of form and matter. More partrcu-
larly it was used by the Buddhists for the aggre-
gate of corporeal elements (rupa) with mental
elements (nama) which gives the illusion of a
personal entity.
Equally to Brahmin and Bud-
s Sir Charles Eliot, Hindttism and Buddhism, I, 209: "This ex-
pression [namarU]Ja], which occurs in the Upanishads .as well as
in Buddhist writings, denotes mental and corporeal hfe. In ex-
plaining it the commentators say that form means the four ele-
ments and shape derived from them and that name means the three
dhist the aim of religion is to be liberated from
the mundane network of namarupa, and the Four
N able Truths of the latter are no more than a
clear formulation of what is essentially Indian.
But whereas the Brahmin still has a name for the
liberated Absolute, whether it be called Brahma
or Artman or what not,
the Buddhist refuses to
it even this slight concession of substantiality.
The difference leads to important consequences.
In its purest expression, no doubt, the philos-
. ophy of the Brahmin may seem to differ little
from that of the Buddhist. To the follower of the
Vedanta, as to the disciple of the Dharma, all
this extended world of forms, all these desires
and ambitions and hopes and fears and joys and
sorrows, even the most hallowed love of man and
wife, which attach us to the world, are but evanes-
cent illusions, without substance and without
skandhas of sensation, perception and the sankharas. This use of
the word nama probably goes back to ancient superstitions which
regarded a man's name as containing his true being, but in Buddhist
terminology it is merely a technical expression for mental states
collectively. Buddhaghosa observes that name-and-form are like the
playing of a lute which does not come from any store of sound and
when it ceases does not go to form a store of sound elsewhere."
9 ~ r a h m a is the neuter nominative of the stem Brahman, meaning
the Impersonal Godhead or Absolute. Brahmd is a nominative of
the same stem, but masculine, signifying a personal deity. Brdh-
mana, usually now Anglicized Brahman, denotes a man of a certain
caste; but for the sake of avoiding confusion I employ the older
English form Brahmin. Brahminism is the religion of the Brahmin
of which the Vedanta is the orthodox metaphysical exposition, and
<;ankara the chid exponent.
meaning, with no permanent issue, sprung from
ignorance and supported by ignorance, not so
much broken reflections and enigmatic hints of
what lies beyond as opaque veils that hide the
eternal reality. With knowledge they merely
vanish away, as darkness is dispelled by light.
And the knowledge that rolls up the curtain is as
simple as it is effective. For the V edantist it can
be compressed into three words: tat tvam asi,
"that art thou,"-thy Atman, thy very Self, is
nothing else but Brahma, the unchanging, un-
knowing, unfeeling Something behind the veil,
not like It, nor near It, nor absorbed in It, but
just timelessly It. And the state of him who has
discovered this identity is also expressed in three
words, sac-cid-ananda, "being-thought-joy,"-
but a being without attributes, a thought without
object, a joy without enjoyment. Thus in a fam-
ous passage of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
we are told how one who was about to abandon
his home for silent meditation in the forest, took
leave of his questioning wife with these words:
"I say nothing to bewilder. This Atman is in-
deed imperishable and of indestructible nature.
Where there is as it were duality, there one sees
the other, one 'smells the other, one tastes the
other, one salutes the other, one hears the other,
one understands the other, one touches the other,
one knows the other. But where the Atman only
is all this, how should it see, taste, hear, touch, or
know another? How should it know that through
which it knows all this? The Atman is described
by No, no, not this, not this. It is incomprehen-
sible, for it cannot be comprehended; indestruc-
tible, for it cannot be destroyed; inattachable, for
it attaches to nothing; unfettered, unafHicted, in-
defectible. How shall one know the knower?"
That is the mysticism of the Vedanta, in its
purest philosophic setting, to which the nearest
approach in the Occident is the cosmological
mysticism of Plotinus. Yet withal, linguistically
at least, it still offers a handle for rarefied human
emotion: the mere fact that the transcendental
reality can be named objectively as Brahma,
while the subject soul, though ultimately iden-
tical with Brahma, has its own name, Atman,
opens the door to the religious imagination; and
when once that conjurer has entered, he will dis-
play his art in a series of transformations as be-
wildering as they are rapid. The impersonal
Brahma will suddenly appear as a personal God,
Brahma, by the mere change in gender of a word,
or as the mighty Lord of life, f<;vara, to whom
the soul will pay the homage of worship; or it
will split up before the eyes into a whole pantheon
of minor deities. The web of phenomena, instead
of being, beside the Absolute, a bare negation of
illusion, a nothing that fades away with the ignor-
ance that begot it, will be changed by a wave of
the hand into a manifold emanation, or a
creation, or will be absorbed into .a pantheistic
One, which is quite a different thmg
One of uncompromising transcendentalism. It IS
this conglomeration of moods, or that :en-
ders the Upanishads such extraordmary readmg.
And as a consequence the practical religion of the
Brahmin is likely to be today, as it has
been an unanalysable composite, or a shiftmg
of profound mysticism with a
of emotional beliefs which may embrace anythmg
from a noble monotheism to an indiscriminate
animism. We are wont to extol the educated
Hindu for his tolerant acceptance of all forms of
religion as various paths
truth, and unquestionably there Is. m his atbtl:de
an element of enlightened liberality from
the West may learn a needed lesson; 'hut a
acquaintance with the books of modern
may bring the suspicion that no small part of .this
vaunted toleration is the product of loose thmk-
ing. One need only turn the pages of Professor
Radhakrishnan's Indian Philosophy, excellent
and learned as that work in many respects is, to
see how the constant use of the Christian name of
God for the V edantic Brahma implies not so
much breadth of view as an inability to keep
apart views essentially incompatible.
A good deal of the Buddhism now current over
the world may be charged with the same defect.
But nothing is more characteristic of the teaching
of Gotama himself than his effort to purify Brah-
minism of this source of error. The Atman, just
because it is namable and thus in a way positively
conceivable, he resolved back into the composite
flux, and for the permanent mystery behind the
stream of consciousness he refused any positive
designation. It is not that he denied the Absolute;
it is rather that the transcendental unity of sub-
ject and object, if really transcendental, must be
kept clear of all entanglements even with the
language of finite reason. The attainment which
he held up as the goal of religious endeavour, the
saint's Nirvana (a purely psychological term,
meaning the extinction of desire) , could not be
explained adequately as the identity of Brahma
and Atman, nor as the return of the Many to the
One, nor as the absorption of the soul in God;
nor on the other hand could it rightly be called
a state of nihilism. In the abstinence of his termi-
nology Buddha was, if ever any man, the absolute
mystic. The Infinite, so long as it possesses a
name, cannot be completely liberated from the
finite web of name-and-form.
All this is included in the so-called anatta
(Sanskrit an-atman) doctrine on which Buddha
lays so much stress. To the western hearer an-
" I" aWi conveys the denial of any
or "personal individuality," to Hmdu It Im-
plies a ruthless criticism of the philosophy of the
Atman. But it is important to note that, however
critical of the older philosophy, the anatta is not
destructive of it by way of substituting for it
something essentially new. The rejected
of the Vedantist is in no true sense an eqUivalent
of the western "soul"; it is not an entity
of itself with discursive thought and emotiOns,
and so subject to change while remaining still
unchanged self. In intention it is the uncondi-
tioned immutable Absolute, and Buddha
purified it by withdrawing the of possible
confusion with the world of mutability.
The same thing must 'be said of the doctrine of
love. In a way the basis for this precept may be
found, as Professor Pratt "in Buddha's
wide-reaching love for all sentient creatures, com-
bined with the general Indian belief in future
existence and the acquisition of merit." But there
is nothing radically new here. As Professor
himself adds, "this exact precept of ahzr;tsa
(harmlessness) is to be found in the Brahmamcal
literature of Gautama's time." In its origin at
least the motive of charity, alike in Brahminism
and Buddhism, is rather an extension of the
tive principle of harmlessness a positive
desire of union in happiness such as It was to be-
come in Christianity. There is an indication of this
fact in the phrase, "free from malice and ill-will,"
which normally concludes the account of a
Bhikkhu's exercize of love, pity, and equanimity
in meditation.
Buddhism then is not a rejection or inversion of
the great Hindu faith out of which it sprang, but
its culmination, with the thing added, the one
thing which made of it effectually a new religion,
the Buddha himself. If this be true, as historical-
ly it certainly is, we may expect to find 'both the
good of Buddhism and its inherent inconsistencies
arising, not, as has been suggested, from the in-
compatibility of what is added with what was
taken over from the older faith, but from a prin-
ciple common to it with Brahminism, and both
the good and the inconsistencies in an enhanced
degree. Nor shall we be disappointed. The prin-
ciple involved may be described briefly as a
peculiar form of dualism.
Now mere dualism, manifesting itself as other-
worldliness in the contrast of spirit and matter
and as morality in the contrast of good and evil,
belongs to all religions and is not at all peculiar
to the two faiths of India. Primitively, other-
worldliness appears as the mana, so-called, of the
savage, which he derives from an innate sense of
some mysterious power within the phenomena
and behind the events of this visible world, and
morality appears as tabu, the sense .of
in things and persons, which with Its mh1bitwns
controls the whole range of his conduct. And
these two are from one and the same source.:
together," as J. Estlin Carpenter puts 1t,. I?
mana we have what is par excellence the primi-
tive religious idea in its positive aspect, taboo
representing its negative side, since whatever has
. b h "10
mana is taboo, and whatever IS ta oo as mana.
And it is not an exaggeration to say that all the
religious beliefs and practices of mankind are
no more than the infinitely varying outgrowths
from this root of dualism, assuming often g:o-
tesque, sometimes hideous shapes, yet alwa.ys with
the face of truth, if it could be seen, behmd the
scowling or smiling, the foul .or.lov.ely,.
He who thinks to eliminate this mstmctlve behef
has hut a crude knowledge of human nature and
a beggarly portion of human ..
The mark of Hinduism, and In a heightened
degree of Buddhism, is just the unblinking clar-
ity with which seen .and the un-
flinching logic with which It IS carried out. Be-
yond perhaps any other thinker o.f world
Gotama felt the pull of two confliCtmg forces
within the human breast: on the one side that
10 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Uth ed., sub voce Religion.
which abides forever the same, unmoved, change-
less, unperturbed, untouched by the
world, hke the cahn of the ocean at its profound-
est depth; on the other side, like the wind-beaten
surface of the waters, that which never for a
moment abides the same, the restless stream of
contacts. and sensations and feelings and points
of consciOusness. And these two are not just dif-
ferent, but absolutely distinct, in the sense that
one can be stated only in terms negative of the
other, as rest is a 11egation of motion and motion
is a negation of rest.
All th!s, I take it, was included in the meaning
of anatta, and hence its spiritual value. For what-
ever else the .doctrine n:ay be and however it may
have 'been. out m strange philosophies, it
unfmling!y uphold the reality of something
Withm us besides the transitory moods of the
soul, something that is not of this world, and it
does uncompromisingly base ethics on that real-
ity. And this otherworldly morality or moral
otherworldiness, as you may choose to call it, is
of the substance of religion. It is, for instance
one thing to give a cup of cold water the
ling will do that. It is quite another thlng for the
donor (and it may be, if we knew all for the re-
. . '
c1p1ent) to give a cup of cold water with an other-
worldly end in view-or, as a Christian would
say, in His name; only the religious man can do
But if the anatta doctrine thus touches the
heart of religion, it is also, in the intransigeant
form given to it by Buddha, replete with prob-
lems both for the reason and for faith, and it has
bred a tempest of mutually contradictory theories
and superstitions, which has not yet been and,
apparently, never will be allayed.
The primary difficulty has touched on
already, and, indeed, as the French would say,
fairly leaps at the eyes. Sorrow, the Noble Truths
tell us, is at the bottom of life, and sorrow is only
another name for the fact of birth and death and
rebirth. But what is it that is born and dies and is
reborn through the pitiless cycles of the Sam-
sara? Not my soul, since what I call my soul is a
composite dissolved at death and never again re-
constituted; the anatta doctrine, if anything, is a
denial of any continuing soul. It is not really I
who am born and reborn; since such a belief is the
very ignorance which causes sorrow and from
which I am to be delivered. And, again, if I am
not really reborn, am not really born at all, and
if this consciousness of mine is dispersed with my
body, whereupon under the sway of Craving
(whose craving?) a new consciousness with a new
body is fashioned in accordance with present
deeds, then upon what does the moral law oper-
-- - - -- _-;;::-_--
ate? how am I the subject of its awards and
.where does responsibility lie? And still
agam, If life be sorrow and salvation be release
from sorrow, who or what is it that suffers? If it
be the ephemeral soul of this Aggregate, what is
that to me? If it be I, how then can it be said that
I am utterly distinct from contacts and. sensations
and feelings and thought and consciousness?
What, in fine, is this mysterious "I" that is born
and reborn, yet is neither born nor reborn that
suffers and is saved, yet is above and
needs no salvation?
himself insisted always, when such
questwns put to him, that they should be
resolutel:r_Ignored as not making for edification.
The MaJJhima Nikaya, for instance contains a
characteristic story of a monk who vexed with
these very problems, and who came to the Master
determined to have a solution or know why not.
And the .Buddha, after drawing an admission that
had never promised an answer to such ques-
tions when calling men to righteousness and sal-
vation, concludes thus:
."Accordil_lgl.y, Malunkyaputta, bear always in
mmd It IS that I have not elucidated, and
what IS that I have elucidated. And what, Ma-
lunkyaputta, have I not elucidated? I have not
elucidated, Malunkyaputta, that the world is
eternal; I have not elucidated that the world is
not eternal; I have not elucidated that the world
is finite; I have not elucidated that the world is
infinite; I have not elucidated that the soul and
the body are identical; I have not elucidated that
the soul is one thing and the body another; I have
not elucidated that the saint exists after death;
I have not elucidated that the saint does not exist
after death; I have not elucidated that the saint
both exists and does not exist after death; I have
not elucidated that the saint neither exists nor
does not exist after death. And why, Malunkya-
putta, have I not elucidated this? .Because, Ma-
lunkyaputta, this profits not, nor has to do with
the fundamentals of religion, nor tends to aver-
sion, absence of passion, cessation, quiescence, the
supernatural faculties, supreme wisdom, and Nir-
vana; therefore have I not elucidated it.
"And what, l\1alunkyaputta, have I elucida-
ted? Sorrow, Malunkyaputta, have I elucidated;
the cause of Sorrow have I elucidated; the cessa-
tion of Sorrow have I elucidated; and the path
leading to the cessation of Sorrow have I eluci-
dated. And why, Malunkyaputta, have I eluci-
dated this? .Because, Malunkyaputta, this does
profit, has to do with the fundamentals of re-
ligion, and tends to aversion, absence of passion,
cessation, quiescence, knowledge, supreme wis-
dom, and Nirvana; therefore have I elucidated it.
Accordingly, Ma1unkyaputta, bear always in
mind what it is that I have not elucidated, and
what it is that I have elucidated."
All this is well, and nothing could be more
salutary than the resolution to banish the distrac-
tions of ontological discussion from religion, or
from the schools, for that matter. The difficulty
is that Buddha, by his manner of insisting on the
Hindu idea of salvation while rejecting the Hin-
du idea of the .Atman, made such discussions in-
evitable, was in fact himself a metaphysician in
spite of his protests. As a consequence it happens
very early that his Church falls into two main
groups, those who rejected all philosophical in-
quiry and, for practical purposes, exchanged the
virility of the Dharma for a gentle morality sup-
ported by vague animistic superstitions, and
those on the other hand who undertook to think
the pro'blem through. One solution, offered at an
early date and still favoured by a branch of mod-
ern expositors, was to maintain that Buddha him-
self never included the human personality among
the composite things subject to decomposition,
but that this extension of the anatta doctrine was
introduced after his death. It is a plausible but
impossible theory. In passage after passage the
records declare categorically that he did make
this inclusion in the most specific language, and
the arbitrary rejection of such passages leaves us
with no criterion of authenticity save whim and
On the contrary side there were those, parti-
cularly of the northern sect extending to China
and .Japan, who developed the anatta doctrine
into metaphysical theories of universal flux and
nihilism at which the most hardened rationalist of
the Occident gasps in amazement. "What is this
All?" Buddha was asked; and replied: "The eye
and forms, the ear and tones, the nose and odours,
the tongue and tastes, the body and objects of
touch, thought and consciousness,-that, 0 Bhik-
khus, is what we mean by the All."
And again
one of the couplets of the Dhammapada begins:
"Sabbe dhamnu1 anatta, all the elements of exis-
tence are soulless, devoid of substance.m
the Buddha himself by such assertions no doubt
intended merely to sharpen the absoluteness of
the dualism of matter and spirit, and to empha-
size the truth that salvation is an escape into a
Nirvana so contrary to this world as to be ex-
pressible only in terms of pure negation. Thus
the couplet of the Dhammapada continues:
"'iVhen by the higher wisdom one perceives this,
then is one delivered amidst sorrow; this is the
11 Cf. Samyutta Nikaya, xxii, 47: "It is just therein, brethren,
that the five feeling-faculties persist. But herein for the well-taught
Ariyan disciple ignorance is put away and knowledge arises. Along
with the fading away of ignorance and the arising of knowledge
there comes to him no view that 'I am,' that 'this same I am.'"
12 The peculiar use of dhammd suggests that the language may
come from the later Madhyamika philosophy of the "void," but the
thought of the couplet is Buddha's. On these passages see Georg
Grimm, Die Lehre des Buddha, 171.
f! i :
I ,
road to absolution." Evidently there was for him
something besides the All, something to be saved
the All. But it was easy for the reason, lay-
mg hold of such statements, to argue that it is
nonsense to talk of anything besides the All, and
that if the All be impermanent and without sub-
stance, then I too, as part of the All, am part of
the insubstantial pageant, from which the only
salvation is into pure nothingness. The anatta
doctrine would thus be translated into pure
nihilism. It is an ill game to play hide and seek
with "the imperious lonely thinking-power," and
despite all his precautions, certainly laid
himself open to these reprisals of a ruthless meta-
On the other hand it is fair to say that there is
no honest ambiguity in the anatta doctrine when
referred to the universe from which salvation
shouJd be an escape. Forme, who am to be saved,
the Atman may be at once denied as a name and
reaffirmed as a fact, but for the world there is no
soul, no eternal God, no Brahma, no transcen-
dental substitute for Brahma, no spiritual reality
of any sort. Here the difficulty does not spring
from an inconsistency of logic but from a con-
flict of logic with a deep instinct of the human
heart. Buddha might asseverate that it is folly to
look for aid to an omnipotent Lord of life, he
might leave his disciples with the injunction:
"W ark out your own salvation with diligence";
and the virility of his religion may have depend-
ed on his relentless assertion of what is a neces-
sary half of the truth. Nevertheless from the very
beginning ways were found of evading the hard
logic of such a position; for it is true of God as
of nature, expellas furca tam-en usque recurret.
Hence the startling fact that this religion of
atheism not only harboured among the simple all
the di minorum, gentium (whom indeed Buddha
never rejected), but in the northern branch of
the Church soon converted the Tathagata him-
self into an eternal deity, beside whom place was
made for a varying number of other Buddhas and
deified Bodhisattvas (originally the name of men
who might be on the way to Buddhahood). With
theism came theology, or rather a pullulating
brood of theologies, and with theology an elabo-
rate doctrine, or rather a host of conflicting doc-
trines, of grace and of salvation by faith, in
comparison with which the divagations of Chris-
tianity appear simple and homogeneous. And
these mythological outgrowths, it should be said
here, are not only liable to the charge of extrava-
gance, which to a lesser degreemaybelaidagainst
certain developments of historical Christianity,
but are radically subversive of the actual teaching
of the Buddha.
Clearly at the heart of Buddhism something is
- - - -
-- - - -- # -- -------- ------ -
very right, which has persisted through the ages,
clearly also something there is very wrong; and I
am convinced that both the right and the wrong
can be traced back to a peculiar use, amounting
to abuse, of the normal principle of all religion.
The peculiarity, to adopt a terminology which
will sound pedantic, may be characterized 'by
what I would call an absolved dualism as differ-
ent from an absolute dualism.
The point is this. Any genuine dualism must be
"absolute" in the sense that it postulates a radi-
cal distinction between spirit and matter and good
andevil, with all that these distinctions imply. Ad-
mittedly such a conjunction of contraries in-
volves an irrational paradox in the nature of
things; but it is a paradox rooted in the nether-
most stratum of human consciousness, and it may
be the foundation of a perfectly reasonable supe;-
structure of experience. Without it certainly the
otherworldliness and morality of religion, as I
ha:e and may insist, correspond to nothing
obJectively true. By an "absolved" dualism I
meau that the absolute distinctions of dualism
are maintained, but on the condition, so to speak,
that the goal of religious endeavour shall be re-
garded as a final divorce of these opposites in such
wise as to permit spirit to exist in perfect unitv
and immutability, absolved from any
with the feelings and thoughts and activities
which pertain to the multiple and mutable
ment of normal consciousness. That of course IS
an ideal of mysticism wherever it appears, and is
the special mark of Buddha's teaching only in
so far as he carried it out with exceptional rigour
of logic. The conclusion I would draw is that the
right in Buddhism, and to a lesser degree in all
other true forms of mysticism, depends on a
sturdy adherence to dualism, while its wrong fol-
lows upon the attempt to pass from an absolute
to an absolved dualism.
Now an uninspired student of religious history
should hesitate to denounce a belief so widely held
and so seriously practised as mysticism; the
charge of impertinence is easily incurred and not
easily rebuffed. l\1ay this at least be put to my
credit, that I have hesitated, have indeed waited
through many years of trial and reflection, while
the conviction has grown ever firmer upon me
that in this absolved dualism lurks the fatal error
of faith, of all temptations of the spirit the most
subtle and perilous, the "last infirmity of noble
Absolute dualism I can comprehend, or, at
least, I know that without it my human experi-
ence ceases to have any meaning whatsoever. I
can see how the spiritual life depends on the dom-
inance of something central and steadfast within
us over the centrifugal insurgent emotions; and
--- - - .. - --- - -- - ---- ---=-
I can respond to the hope of religion that in the
ages to come such self-mastery may grow ever
more perfect, until the warfare in the cave as it
ha.s been called, is changed to a friendly
ship, the rebellious elements of our being
become willmg servants of their lord. I can be-
lieve that this heavy body of the flesh may be
by sacramental mystery from
an Impediment mto an etherial instrument and
of the spirit. Transience, it may be
admitted, must always cling to such a double
mode of existence, and with transience there
must be effort, and with these must be associated
a kind of discontent akin, however remotely, to
what we here call sorrow. But sorrow, I take it,
denotes a feeling of defeat and irreparable loss
through change, whereas the diviner discontent
to victory and recovery and is the spur
of. Joy. Soul, as I understand it, is the name for
this which I know as myself,
and whiCh, passmg on from life to life and from
body to ?ody, is yet ever one person. I
can e.ven, m a dim fashion of guessing, grasp
what IS by a God who is pure spirit and not
a dual soul hke man, yet is still so far mutable
self-adaptable as to be affected by the des-
times of the unstable world of creatures which
He governs.
All this is compatible with absolute dualism,
is absolute dualism.
But the hypotheses of an absolved dualism
correspond to nothing within the range of my
knowledge. Pure spirit absolved from all asso-
ciation with body, or with the mutable activities
of feeling and thought and activity, pure sub-
stance devoid of qualities and affections, pure
being beyond these anything
but illusory names for death? I perceive no logi-
cal outcome of the anatta doctrine, taken literally,
save in the blank Void, the <;unya, of the later
Buddhistic schools. I read of those who claim to
have ascended by mystic trance into positive and
immediate experience of the unqualified Abso-
lute, and who bring therefrom reports of tran-
scendent bliss. I believe they are self-deceived.
And if such scepticism savours of impertinence,
I take refuge in the protest of Plato:
"And, 0 heavens, can we ever be made to be-
lieve that motion and life and soul and mind are
not present with perfect Can we imagine
that being is devoid of life and mind, and exists
in awful unmeaningness an everlasting fixture?"
1s It should be noted that "absolute dualism" is the very contrary
of the "Absolute" of monism against which I have protested often
enough, perhaps too often. The Absolute of monism is the next step
metaphysically after an "absolved dualism." It would have been
easy to avoid the apparent inconsistency of terminology by speak-
ing of a "radical dualism" as the essential of religion; but "abso-
lute dualism" is the better phrase.
_- - -----=--
connected with these different aspects of
IS the of teleology, in the response
to whiCh, I thmk, hes the final test and determi-
nation of philosophy. Now in a sense the Hindu
are teleological. Particu-
larl;y I.n as we have seen, morality is
a disciplme directed to the end of breaking the
of Karma and of attaining Nirvana, and
the eightfold to this end requires a
and dehberabve choice between good
and evil, a constant and decisive exercize of the
will, and a constant undaunted realization of
otherworldliness; all the elements of ethical pur-
pose would seem to be here in full measure. Yet
withal a shrewd observer of India like Sir Charles
Eliot does not hesitate to say that "the notion of
r,!;ys little part in its cosmogony or
ethics. And when the final account is made he
is right.
The point is that the goal set up for final attain-
men:, the utter Parinirvana, is not properly an
m the sense of a consummation, or comple-
tion, of the moral life, but lies somewhere, or no-
", cut off from life and ibeyond the
disbnctwns of good and evil. Into that ineffable
state of negations no soul passes and nothino- is
carried over from this earthly or even from
14 Hinduism and Buddhism, I, 45.
heavenly experience. All the virtues we practise
as mortal beings, the high aspirations of purity
and humility and love,-all the morality of re-
ligion fails ultimately to possess any s.ignificance
or effect in relation to the otherworldlmess of re-
ligion. There is no continuity between the end
and the means to the end. It is as if a man were
traversing a path that stopped suddenly at a
sheer precipice, or, to use an image
Buddha was fond, as if a man were to bmld him-
self a stately staircase at the crossing of roads and
by it mounted up-to nothing. Something has
gone astray with a doctrine that accepts and
so nullifies the force of purpose. The error, qmte
evidently, is the same in kind as that of accepting
an absolute dualism and then absolving it into
nullity; but I think the initial fault was com-
mitted when Buddha, in this a true son of his
people, looked out over this broad world and failed
to discern there the signs of a divine plan unfold-
ing itself in the imposition of order and beauty
upon the reluctant matter of Necessity.
Here enters the comparison with Christianity,
for whatever else the Incarnation may be, it offers
the perfect type and warrant of religious dual-
ism. Not that such a dogma could pass unchal-
lenged in the West any more than in the East.
There is in fact something in the bare idea of
dualism that rouses a furious lust of opposition:
-------------------- -- - l' -- -- ____ -- =--- ---
appetite of our lower nature rebels against
It.s tyranny, every outreaching impulse of our
higher nature resents its seeming limitation, and
stands ready as a crafty turncoat to abet
either party to the insurrection. No one need
wonder that the history of theology in
the early centunes records a succession of strug-
gles to evade the plain inferences of the Word
made flesh. But when at the fourth ecumenical
council the bishops .settled upon the famous, to
many then and now mfamous, Definition: "To be
acknowledged of two natures, ... never to be
separated, . . . and concurring into one Person
(or soul) and one subsistence (or individuality) , "
they forever barred the Catholic faith from ex-
tenuating itself in the infinite vacuities of an
absolved dualism. Henceforth, as the divine ex-
emplar was at once God and man so the O'Oal of
the Christian should be the of his soul
.as a concrete entity, wherein spirit and form, the
rmmutable and the mutable, the one and the
many, the inner check and the flow of thought and
emotion, might operate together to the end of
eternal harmony and joy.
It is in this exemplification of the law of abso-
lute unabsolved dualism that we see the promised
fulfihnent of "the eternal purpose which he
(God) purposed in Christ Jesus." And we see
further how Christianity added that to the his-
toric teleology of the Jewish prophets (and they
were the first writers of history to discover a
steady design in the destinies of mankind) which
enlarged it to a religion capable of interpretation
in the terms of Plato's teleological philosophy.
In the new faith ethical purpose thus combines
with cosmic purpose as it does nowhere else in
human thought; in it alone salvation is at once
from the world and with the world:
"Because the creature itself also shall be de-
livered from the bondage of corruption into the
glorious liberty of the children of God.
"For we know that the whole creation groan-
eth and travaileth in pain together until now."
All this, to sum up, is implied in the contrast of
the anatta doctrine with the Christian emphasis
on the human soul and its relation to a personal
God. Unquestionably the anatta is of the very
essence of religion, insofar as it denies every pos-
sibility of identifying man's spirit with the imper-
manent elements of his being. In its lower aspect
one can see the fruits of the doctrine in the gentle
piety of those simple unphilosophical believers
whose egotistical passions were quieted by repeti-
tion of the words: This body is not I, this craving
for pleasure is not I, these achievements and fail-
ures of the world are but ephemeral events and
unimportant. In a higher form one can see its
- - --=---------
beneficent operation in the faith that labours for
rebirth in some better sphere, yet still with no
inquisitive worry over the nature of that which is
reborn. Beyond that is the victory of the saint, the
who resolutely puts away the thought of
rebirth and of self and through voluntary pacifi-
cation of the heart enters the untroubled haven
of Nirvana. And above all is the imposing exam-
ple of the Buddha himself. I do not for a moment
dotibt that he conquered a peace which is not of
this world; I do not hesitate to revere him as
the noblest of all religious teachers, saving only
one. It is true that his Dharma, by its very reti-
cence about the soul, by its very omission of God,
was preserved from the evils of intolerance and
fanaticism and spiritual anguish that have so
often darkened the history of Christianity; but
we should know also that by this same reticence
and omission it missed something of the positive
riches of experience that Christianity at its 'best
can bestow. All things fair are difficult, and cor-
ruptio optimi pes.sima, hold here as elsewhere.
The highest aspiration of the spirit must always
be beset with perils. There is that in the following
of Jesus' franker doctrine of the soul and God
and the Kingdom of Heaven,-a fullness of wor-
ship prayer, a beauty of holiness, a deeper
peace m the acceptance of sorrow, a vision of
divine purpose at work in the world, an inexhaus-
tible hope,-which the pursuit the
Path of the Buddha can never qmte attam.
So, as I read the Buddhist books and am filled
with admiring reverence for the ]'ounder of the
Dharma it seems to me at times as if that great
soul searching on all the ways of the spirit
for the dogma of the Incarnation, and that the
fact of the historic Jesus, could it have been
known to him, might have saved his religion in
later ages from floundering helplessly, yet not
ignobly, among the vanishing shado.wy
that so curiously resemble and multiply, while
ever just missing, the story of the Word made
flesh. Buddhism, I think, at the last may be
accepted as a preface to the Gospel,.
its origin, lovely in its progress, lovely m.Its end,
and as the most convincing argument withal that
truth to be clearly known waits upon revelation.
BELIEF in Christ as a person manifesting in him-
self both the nature of God and the nature of
man is undoubtedly the fundamental dogma of
the Catholic Faith; and the formulation of this
d.ogma, as made at Nicea in 325 and more pre-
cisely defined at Chalcedon in 451, is undoubt-
edly the charter of the Catholic Church. But the
Niceo-Chalcedonian definition has no part in the
devotional and liturgical services of the Church,
and was not uttered for that purpose. It is rather
a bare and sharp statement of the one indispen-
sable fact to which assent should be demanded of
all Christians, a military oath of union, so to
speak, stripped of emotional accessories and di-
rected to the negative intention of defending the
final citadel of faith against any possible perver-
sion by heresy or diminution by incredulity. In
the various acts of worship, both communal and
private, its place has been supplied by creeds of
a different sort, in the West primarily by the
so-called Apostles' Creed.
The history of the Apostles' Creed is not with-
out lacunae and difficulties. In the complete form
as we have the Symbol today it is first found in
the writings of Pirminius, a Frankish monk of
the eighth century, although its usage in Rome
may be dated with some certainty as early as the
year 700. In the fourth century it is quoted, with
a few verbal variations and with unimportant
omissions, by Rufinus, a priest of Aquileia, in
Latin, and somewhat earlier in a Greek transla-
tion by Marcellus of Ancyra. From that period
its existence can be traced by allusions and
partial quotations to the first decades of the
second century; and beyond that its origin
goes back to the baptismal formula of Mat-
thew ("In the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Ghost") , and to the
simple Christological confession demanded by
the apostles of all converts, as indicated by such
texts as Acts viii, 37 ("I believe that Jesus Christ
is the Son of God"), and I John v, 5 ("Who is he
that overcometh the world, but he that believeth
that Jesus is the Son of God?") . These two arti-
cles of faith, the baptismal formula and the "good
profession before many witnesses" (I Tim. vi,
12), were apparently merged together and ampli-
fied to form the Old Roman Creed, as it is styled;
and this, fluid at first in content, was gradually
hardened into the profession of faith as we have
it today. "It may fitly be called an Apostolic
Creed, because it contains the substance of apos-
tolic teaching, and is the work of a mind sepa-
rated only by one generation from the apostles.m
Clearly the value of the creed today would lie
in its function of stamping the long unbroken
continuity of worship and at the same time of
expressing in its most general form that common
element of belief without which the Church as an
institution can scarcely survive. But it is just on
these two points that objections are raised by those
who feel that radical changes of knowledge and
thought make it impossible to retain the precise
formula of devotion hallowed by antiquity, and
that the variety, not to say looseness, of our pres-
ent religious convictions renders any such dog-
matic confession of faith impracticable. They
would like to see the creed removed from public
service, and hold that nothing more should be
expected of a congregation than a kind of vague
undefined assent to the moral and spiritual
beauty of Christianity. They shrink from com-
mitting themselves to the implications of an open
credo, "I believe."
Now the answer to such semi-agnostics is to
ask them first of all to consider the various import
of the word "believe." We say, "I believe in my-
self," "I believe in the honour of a friend," "I
1 A. E. Burn, An Introduction to the Creeds, 65. The develop-
ment of the creed as summarized above is in accordance with the
investigations of Harnack and Kattenbusch. In his recently pub-
lished History of the Creeds Dr. F. J. Badcock questions the
validity of their demonstration; but his own results are about the
believe that the sun will rise tomorrow," "I be-
lieve in the truth of beauty," or, if we are scien-
tifically inclined, "I believe in a certain structure
of the atom"; and manifestly, though the sincer-
ity of all such professions may be unquestioned,
the degree and manner of believing vary with the
content. And so it is with the grounds of belief
where the content is identical; two men may be-
lieve the same thing yetforverydi:fferentreasons.
To take the case under consideration. Few pro-
fessing Christians of today could go through such
a book as Pearson's Exposition of the Creed with-
out acknowledging that the arguments which
satisfied readers of the seventeenth century have
lost much of their force for them. The Lord
Bishop of Chester was a theologian of sound
learning and acute intelligence, but his method
of dealing with the successive articles of the creed
as though they all demanded the same order of
acceptance, and his process of demonstrating
their inspiration by appeal to this and that iso-
lated text of Scripture or the Fathers, leave us
unconvinced, if not amazed. In a century and a
half our attitude towards the Bible and antiquity,
and towards the nature of revelation in general,
has undergone so great a change that his argu-
ments seem to fall upon our ears out of another
world. If we are to make salvage of the venerable
formula from the storms of time we must ap-
proach it in a different spirit, recognizing the fact
that is a word of various import, though
the vanatwns may range within fixed bounds.
And first of all, with this fact in mind, I think we
must look more closely into the composition of
the creed and its sequence of ideas.
It was an ancient and, needless to say, baseless
tradition of the Church that the creed was the
outcome of a deliberative session of the apostles,
each of whom contributed his portion to the com-
mon confession; and as a consequence it is still
regularly divided into twelve articles. The divi-
sion, though rendered a little arbitrary by later
additions, is suitable for use in public service, but
for our purpose we may better dissect it into
fourteen clauses, as follows:
I. I. I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
2. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
'horn of the Virgin Mary:
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate was cru-
cified, dead, and buried : '
5. He descended into hell:
6. The third day he rose again from the
7. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on
the right hand of God the Father
8. From thence he shall come to judge the
quick and the dead.
II. 9. I believe in the Holy Ghost:
10. The Holy Catholic Church:
11. The communion of saints:
12. The forgiveness of sins:
13. The resurrection of the body:
14. And the life everlasting.
Now, of these fourteen articles the first nine
compose what we have historical evidence for re-
garding as the original body of the creed, to
which the five concluding articles were added at
a relatively late date. And it will be observed that
this earlier original body of the creed corresponds
in substance with the Faith of Nicea promulgated
in 325.
Its kernel (articles 2-8), like that of the
Nicene Faith, is a clear statement of the divinity
and incarnation of Christ, and derives from that
"good profession" demanded by the apostles of
converts to the new religion. With this goes nec-
essarily a belief in the Fatherhood of God, so that
the contents of articles 1-8 would be no more than
a legitimate expansion of Titus i, 4: "Grace,
mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour." The combina-
tion of this primitive confession with the trini-
tarian formula of baptism is shown by the
2 Cf. Christ the Word, 157.
-- -- -==--- - -- - ---_- ----=-----=---===- =-
addition of the ninth article, which, again, agrees
exactly with the similarly placed clause of the
Nicene Faith: "And in the Holy Ghost." Here
it is of the utmost importance to observe that by
the repetition of the phrase "I believe" the creed
is broken into two parts ( 1-8 and 9-14) , setting
belief in the Father and Son together in one part
and belief in the Holy Ghost, as of a separate
order, by itself. And this division is confirmed by
the different development of the two parts. In
the treatment of the Father and the Son the note
is definitely personal, as the words Father and
Son themselves imply, and as the activities
ascribed to the second person confirm. On the con-
trary, the activity connected with the Holy
Ghost, as expressed in the later articles ( 10-14) ,
is not of a person, nor of an individual, but de-
notes rather the influence of the spirit of God
(i.e. of the Father and the Son) working within
and upon the spirit of man. It is the doctrine of
Grace as declared by St. Paul (I Cor. xii, 3):
"No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by
the Holy Ghost." Hence the Church and the
process and result of salvation, as the work, not
of a distinct person in a supposed trinity of in-
dividuals, but of God as a spirit-"God is a
Spirit, and they that worship him must worship
him in spirit and in truth."
We have thus in the creed, as in the Nicene
Faith, not the dogmatic trinitarianism of the
more rationalized confessions, which demand be-
lief in three persons, equally distinct and equally
individual, but a trinitarian forrnu,la, which im-
plies a double personality, or the double revela-
tion of a personal God, whose spirit of Grace is
the Comforter of our human spirit and its eternal
Advocate. So, precisely, Hippolytus expressed
the idea of the apostles: "I will not say two Gods,
but one God and two persons, and a third econ-
omy which is the Grace of the Holy Ghost."
Here a word of explanation may be in place.
This conception of the trinitarian formula as dis-
tinct from the rationalized dogma of a triune
God, for which I have argued at length else-
where,3 has been branded by the name of binitari-
anism. The term itself has rather an ugly sound,
but it may be accepted if thereby nothing more is
meant than this, that the Incarnation implies (I)
a personal Deity, and ( 2) some indefinable
dualism in the Godhead which makes it possible
that the divine personality should manifest itself
in a human life while the essential Deity remains
intact. That I take to be the Christian interpreta-
tion of the philosophy of the Logos. It may be
that such a definition savours, in the language of
ancient theology, of modalistic or dynamistic
Sabellianism; but with this difference, that it
a Christ the Word, 177 ff.
would refrain from any too presumptuous at-
tempt to measure the depths of the divine econ-
omy by the nomenclature or processes of human
reason. After all, we should remember that the
terms Father and Son were acknowledged by the
great doctors of the past to be no more than
symbols of an inexpressible mystery. "Binitari-
anism," so taken and so limited, as the rejection
of a petrified trinitarian dogma, together with
the admission of a trinitarian formula in worship,
is no heresy, I submit, but the primitive and fun-
damental and catholic doctrine of the Church.
However it be with these technical niceties of
theology, there can be no doubt of the fact that
the central truth of the creed is the Incarnation,
with the corollary and inseparable belief in God
the Father and in the operation of Grace through
the Holy Spirit. This is the gospel taught by the
apostles and demanded by the Church as the
minimum of faith and the standard of orthodoxy.
And there can be no doubt that he who repeats
the creed ought to believe these three truths, or
rather these three aspects of a single truth, liter-
ally and explicitly, ex animo and without reser-
vation. Honesty to one's self and respect for
4 I think I am not wrong in saying that this view of the Trinity
is substantially the same as that of Dr. H. L. Goudge, Professor
of Theology at Oxford, in his essay contributed to The Meaning of
the Oreed, although that champion of orthodoxy might demur to
some of my terms.
historic tradition require this, and no less than
But with articles 3-8, which particularize the
acts of Christ as Saviour, and with articles 10-14,
which summarize the operations of Grace, the
matter is not quite so simple; here a reasonable
Christian of today either must refuse assent or
must lend to the phrase "I believe" a certain elas-
ticity of meaning. These declinations from the
literal sense of believing will become clear if we
consider the prior group of amplifications ( arti-
cles 3-8) , taking them not in the order of their
enumeration but in accordance with the nature of
the truths to which they demand assent.
Article 4: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was
crucified, dead, and b1tried. These events belong
to the human life of Jesus and offer no special
difficulties. Even the sceptic may profess belief
in them simply and literally, as in the case of any
other facts of secular history.
But the remaining articles of the group imply
the divine nature of the agent and record events
more or less miraculous. So far as the mere fact
of miracle is concerned no difficulties will be felt
by one who accepts the Incarnation and has thus
committed himself to the supernatural. But ques-
tion must arise as to the interpretation of what
may be called the manner of the miraculous. Can
a reasonable man today profess belief in them
literally, without reservation? And by literally I
mean what Pearson intended when he wrote: "It
will be no way fit to give any other explication of
these words as the sense of the CREED than what
was understood by the Church of God when they
were first inserted. "
That is the only sense in
which the word "literal" can be taken honestly
and, if the tautology be allowed, literally. And if
the articles under discussion are not professed
literally, then their profession must be with a cer-
tain reservation. That is to say, he who so pro-
fesses must have tacitly or explicitly in his mind
some such thought as this: "I acknowledge the
truth of this event as a fact and as important to
the religion of a Christian, but I do not under-
stand it to have happened in the manner under-
stood by those who formulated the words I use,
and to this extent I reserve the right of private
interpretation." The first question then will be
whether such reservation is necessary if the words
of the ancient profession are retained. It may be
a further question whether in such a case reten-
tion of the ancient formula is justifiable.
Articles 5 and 7: He descended into hell. . . .
He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right
hand of God the Father Almighty.-N ow there
can be no doubt of the fact that to the framers
5 An Eroposition of the Creed, Cambridge, 1899, p. 660.
of the creed these clauses meant that the soul of
Christ after his death went down to a cavernous
region under the earth called Hades, and that
after the resurrection his glorified body mounted
to a celestial region somewhere overhead and took
its place by the side of the Father. T h e ~ under-
stood these transactions locally and spatially. So
of the former event we may read in Pearson, who
maintained the regular tradition of the Church:
"We have already shewn the substance of t ~ e
Article to consist in this, that the soul of Chnst
really separated from his body by death, did truly
pass unto the places below, where the souls of
men departed were. . . . His body was laid in a
grave, as ordinarily the bodies of dead men are;
his soul was conveyed into such receptacles as the
h d t b
souls of ot er persons use o e.
And so of the ascension and the session, we have
the sermons of Peter and Stephen in the record
of Acts to remind us how literally they were vis-
ualized by the early disciples. Can any Christian
of today believe that these events so occurred as
the makers of the creed believed? Hades and
heaven may 'be a profound reality to him, but he
cannot conceive them locally and spatially as they
were conceived by the apostles, by the early
Church, and by the great divines of the seven-
s Op. cit., 476.
teenth century. Not the Pope himself, not the
Archbishop of Canterbury himself,-! speak
with due respect,-can profess these articles of
faith literally and without mental reservation.
Nor can I see that it makes much difference
whether we permit such reservation to the con-
science of the individual, or say that these articles
must be taken literally, not indeed as the Church
originally interpreted them, but as the Church
at any moment interprets them. In either case it
is a mere subterfuge to pretend that the creed is
quite the same thing so soon as we allow the sense
of the words to change with the changing views
of the age.
So much being granted, the consequences are
far-reaching. At once the door is thrown open to
a sliding scale in the matter of belief, and the
question becomes, not whether reservation may
be permitted (or, rather, actually is permitted),
but where the line should be drawn between an
honest use of reserve and a liability to the charge
of hypocrisy.
Artide 6: The third day he rose again from the
dead.-Here enters the first shift in the scale of
interpretation. So far as this clause is merely
complementary to that which precedes, signify-
ing a local and spatial return from the under-
ground dwelling of the dead, it requires the same
kind and degree of reservation. But a new ele-
ment of disturbance is added when we ask by
what medium the risen Lord appeared to the
disciples. Shall we take that appearance as it
seems to have been taken by St. Paul, that is as
a miraculous manifestation of the living spirit of
Christ to the spirit of man, or shall we give
credence to the more legendary narrative of the
gospels, which represents the Lord as appearing
in corporeal form? And if we read the gospel
story into the creed, what are we to think of this
body which was visible to mortal eyes and palpa-
ble to mortal hands, and ate and drank, yet was
capable of passing through solid doors? Clearly
here from the mere relation of space and locality
to spiritual realities we are proceeding to a more
complicated question of symbolism. In some way
the form of the risen Lord is not a body in the
grosser sense of the word, but has undergone a
spiritual metamorphosis. So much indeed the
apostles themselves might concede; but how
much further can a man go legitimately in im-
posing a symbolical interpretation upo:p_ the facts
of the gospel narrative? In deciding this he will
get no help from those who demand a literal ad-
herence to the words of the creed.
Article 8: From thence he shall come to judge
the quick and the dead.-This clause follows the
seventh as the clause of the resurrection follows
the descent into hell, and it enforces upon the
modern mind the same necessity of giving a lib-
eral meaning to what is expressed in local terms.
And it goes a step further: it obliges us, many of
us at least, to find a general significance for what
is presented as a specific act in time, and so to
take as a symbol what was meant originally to be
understood literally. I fancy that very few edu-
cated Christians today can think of the judgement
as a localized event, or picture to themselves the
judge descending from heaven to the sound of
trumpets and amidst a host of angels, and the
myriad souls of men congregated before his tribu-
nal. So far the literal sense of the creed has been
generally superseded-was perhaps never held
universally. But it is not easy to stop at this
point. The day and place of judgement may have
lost their temporal and local significance without
much troubling our conscience; but what of the
judgement itself? To me personally, and I suspect
to others, the most disturbing problem of the
New Testament is that which springs from such
passages as Matthew xxv, where the sheep and
the goats are divided once and forever into sepa-
rate herds. Take the parable how we will, it
seems to ascribe to Christ himself that doctrine
of a static and eternal heaven and hell which has
grown repugnant to our most intimate sense of
justice and to our whole conception of spiritual
life. Somehow, if we wopld be honest with our-
selves, we are bound to regard such a picture as
a condensed and symbolic image of the long
progress of the soul towards righteousness or of
its gradual lapse into the pit of evil. Judge there
may be, but his act of judgement becomes coex-
tensive with life here and hereafter, not a sen-
tence pronounced irrevocably in articulo mortis
or at the dissolution of the world. So far as the
New Testament is concerned, I comfort myself
by reflecting that only so, only by presenting the
awful justice of eternity in the parable of an
instantaneous judgement, could the Master have
won credence then and there for a truth upon
which depends the compelling force of morality,
and without which the otherworldliness of relig-
ion sinks into unedifying superstition. But un-
doubtedly the framers of the creed accepted the
language of Scripture literally, so far at least as
it implies an instantaneous and final act of judge-
ment, and so the Roman Church continues to in-
terpret this article of the faith, though it may
tolerate symbolism so far as to admit a spiritual
interpretation of the material and spatial aspects
of the scene. The Anglo-catholic feels, I suppose,
some impulsion to accept the same doctrine as the
Romanist; but, having no dogma of infallibility
to hamper him, he may leave the door open to a
more liberal attitude of the Church in the future
and to more freedom for the individual in the
There remains of the Christological clauses
only the third, which, it must be admitted, raises
issues of a more serious purport than do those we
have already considered. Here, for the question-
ing mind, lies the crux of the creed.
Article 3: Who was conceived by the Holy
Ghost, born of the Virgin !'lary.-Grammati-
cally, it will be seen, there is no break between
this article and that which follows, the two to-
gether summarizing the earthly life of the Lord,
and to a certain point presenting no difficulty.
That .Jesus was born of a mother named Mary is
a human incident no more mysterious than the
birth of any other child. But with the additions
to that simple statement we are carried into a
region of the miraculous mingling of the natural
and the supernatural more perplexing than the
purely supernatural of articles 5-8. There are
those, of course, who do not feel this peculiar per-
plexity, to whom. this unique manner of birth
appeals as a proper prelude to a life which intro-
duces into history the stupendous novelty of the
Incarnation-the lesser miracle is swallowed up
in the greater. They have, and need have, no hes-
itation in repeating this article of the creed with
the rest. But there are others to whom the matter
is not so clear. In the first place they are con-
vinced that the documentary evidence rather in-
dicates that the virgin birth as found in the
narratives of Matthew and Luke was no tenet of
the original disciples, but is a legendary over-
growth, beautiful in form it may be, but unhistor-
ical in content. And when this legend leads on to
the virtual deification of the Virgin as the Theo-
tokos, Mother of God, it runs into a superstition
which, to some minds at least, can only be de-
scribed as repulsive. And again they are brought
up sharply by the phrase "conceived by the Holy
Ghost." That in some way the spirit of God was
concerned in the epiphany of the Word, and that
in some way the soul of Christ participated
uniquely in a divine source,-so much they read-
ily grant as consequent upon a belief in the Incar-
nation. But "conceived by the Holy Ghost," con-
ceptus est de 8 piritu 8 ancto!-the phrase, if
taken at all literally of the Holy Ghost as a dis-
tinct person, would imply some special relation
of fatherhood attributed to the third person of
the Trinity liable to, almost obligatory of, a mon-
strous misconception of the Godhead. And fur-
ther, unless we restrict this fatherhood to the
human nature of .Jesus (a restriction which really
does violence to the words), it would suggest a
beginning of the divine nature of Christ in time
more heretical than any but the worst form of
Arianism. These are not difficulties that can be
waved aside as savouring of mere agnosticism;
they are of a kind to bring trouble to the honest
believer, who is likely to dread the intrusion of
biological explanations into the mystery of his
faith as intrinsically sacrilegious. Yet there the
article stands, and he must decide what he will
do with it.
What answer I myself would propose to this
question may be left until we come to consider the
present value and function of the creed as a
whole. Here I would bring out only this point,
that the most tender conscience need not draw
back from this article simply on the ground that
it cannot be understood literally, unless on the
same ground assent must be withheld from.
ticles 5, 7, and 8. It will be a matter not of prmci-
ple but of degree: in principle any one is
at least Christians whose sincerity is beyond cavil
hold themselves practically justified, in using the
language of a creed without giving to it the exact
meaning it was originally intended to convey;
but there comes a step in the gradual extension
of a non-literal into a positively symbolical in-
terpretation at which the demands of sincerity
bid a man pause. On which side of the line does
this article of the creed lie? I shall hope to show
that it still lies on the side of possible acceptance.
Article 9: I believe in the Holy Ghost.-With
this clause we pass to the being and function of
what is commonly called the third person of the
Trinity. But it is to be observed that, whatever
may have been believed of the personality of the
Spirit by the framers of the creed, this statement
of theirs, taken by itself in the most literal sense,
does not require such a belief. In this it agrees
with the similar clause of the Nicene Faith,
although, of course, this article of the Apostles'
Creed does not, on the other hand, assert any-
thing positively prejudicial to belief in the per-
sonality of the Spirit. It can be spoken with equal
consistency by those who accept the full-blown
dogma of the Trinity and by those who cling to
the undeveloped and, as they think, fundamental-
ly orthodox attitude suggested by a trinitarian
Article 10: The Holy Catholic Church.-Of
this clause nothing need be said in this place,
since it furnishes the text of a later essay.
Article 11: The Communion of Saints.-Here
we are stopped by a doubt as to the actual mean-
ing of the original words such as meets us nowhere
else in the creed. It is contended by certain schol-
ars, that the Greek phrase and its Latin equivalent
( sanctorum communionem) had no reference to
"saints" or to persons at all, but implied "a parti-
cipation in the holy things" ( sancta, neuter).
However that may be-and the contention is
probaJbly correct-it happened at an early date
that the phrase came somehow to be referred to
persons ( sancti, masculine) ; and thus the clause
stands in the English translation. So taken, the
article must 'be understood simply to define and
amplify the preceding confession o! in .the
Church. Yet it is an extension so riCh m possible
consequences as to merit separate
The certain nemesis of individualism, the pr1ce
perhaps of being individuals, .is loneliness,-.-the
sullen power ever on watch if It may creep mat
the gate of the soul, to darken with its shadows
the hours of revelry, to tantalize the sweet ex-
pectations of love, to embitter the anguish of
sorrow,-the mocker whose thin laughter can be
heard without even when the bolts are drawn
against its entrance. There is no escape fro_m
it though we go down to the pits of no dis-
traction that will drive it away, no pride of am-
bition that will-satiate it, no human wisdom that
will utterly extract its sting, and the threat. of
death is its eternal reality. The most ternble
word of our western philosophy is the sentence
with which Plotinus closes his account of the
mystic ecstasy: "The flight of the alone to the
Alone"; and it is but a chilly comfort that comes
with the same idea from the theosophy of the
He, in that solitude before
The world was, looked the wide void o'er
And nothing saw, and said, Lo I
Alone !-and still we echo the lone cry.
Thereat He feared, and still we fear
In solitude when naught is near:
And, Lo, He said, myself alone!
What cause of dread when second is not known?
If there be any real mitigation of that loneli-
ness, which otherwise seems only to be brought
into deeper consciousness by the upward striv-
ings of religion, we must look for it in the Church.
Here, if anywhere, in the community of worship
through prayer and praise, the spirits of men are
united in "the fellowship of the Holy Ghost."
This is the thought that underlies the symbol of
the Church as the body of Christ, running through
the epistles of St. Paul like a beautiful refrain:
"By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,"
and "For we being many are one bread and one
But the Church includes a wider fellowship
than this. Besides the visible body of living be-
lievers it embraces the body of those who have
passed into the invisible world, so that by this
communion with the saints the very sundering
partitions of time are broken down as well as
7 Century of Indian Epigrams, lxvi. From the Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad, I, iv, I and 2.
the separations of place, and almost we can say
that death has lost its sting and the grave its vic-
tory. It is a thought of unspeakable consolation,
if only we could realize it in experience as we
profess it in words. Something of what is meant
by this article of faith can be guessed from the
arts, for in these too we have communion with the
great dead as well as with the living. We read
the poets whose soul has gone into their works,
an Aeschylus or Virgil or Dante or Milton, we
hear the melodies or see the pictures of the ancient
masters, and forthwith we are rapt out of our-
selves, out through the locked doors of the pres-
ent, into the large atmosphere of those who once
lived in the mystery of beauty and turned life
itself into a tale of wonder. Or we study the
sages, the veritable seers to whom the gross forms
of matter were commuted into a vision of Ideas
or lost in "the intellectual love of God." We know
that there, in that society, is our true home, and
we say, sit anima mea cum philosophis. Such is
the communion of art and philosophy, the high
and glorious adventure of education; yet withal
it is but a sign and foretaste of that which may
be given by religion. For in philosophy and the
arts we are made free indeed of the world in
which the masters lived, and partakers of that
which they added to the world by their creative
genius; we live with their works, but, so far as
they are merely artists and philosophers, not with
them, they are dead and their task is done. It is
not so with the communion of saints. No doubt
we have here too the benefit of their achievements
as such; their holiness is a lesson and an ensample
to us, as it were a poem, a picture, and a book of
wisdom on which we can draw for courage and
enlightenment. But if the article of the creed is
properly understood, it means more than this. It
signifies that the saints are active spirits, mem-
bers of the Church like ourselves, though with-
drawn from sight and nearer to the source of light
than we, to whom a man may come in prayer and
friendship. That is a mystery of religion, none
the less precious for the abuses of exaggeration
it has suffered in certain practices of the actual
Church. Nor is it limited to the mighty cham-
pions of the faith, the canonized or uncanonized
heroes of holiness. In another sense the lesser
dead as well as the greater are included among
the saints, those of our own circle who have gone
before, and who speak to us, not in the dull me-
chanical fashion of the spiritualists so-called, but
in a silence that can stir our being to its depths.
There are those who will tell you how sometimes
at the hearing of the mass or at the regular morn-
ing and evening service of prayer, and more es-
pecially when the congregation is united in say-
ing the creed, they become strangely aware of
the presence of one "loved long since and lost
awhile," and with that spirit seem to be carried
close to the throne of mercy. And the memory of
that communion is to them inexpressibly sweet.
You may say that they are carried away by aes-
thetic emotions, momentarily rapt out of them-
selves by the illusions of fancy. It may be so; but
I believe they are not utterly deceived.
All this is conveyed by profession of faith in
the holy catholic Church, the communion of
Article 12: The forgiveness of sins.-Here
more than anywhere else in the creed there is
need of careful discrimination. It is not a ques-
tion, as with articles 5 and 7, of giving spiritual
enlargement to events which, as originally con-
ceived, were limited too narrowly by our sense
of space and time; nor are we required to turn a
physical fact into a symbol, as some minds feel
obliged to do with the virgin birth. The difficulty
is rather ethical and psychological: is sin of such
a nature that it can be forgiven?
Now in the first place this dogma of Christian-
ity would seem to come into direct' conflict with
the teaching of the other supreme }o:,eligion of the
world, Buddhism, at least as that religion left
the hands of its Founder ;
and such a contradic-
8 I may recall the fact that later Buddhism developed a theory
of grace and mercy quite contrary to the doctrine of the Founder
and curiously akin to Chl"istianity.
tion must give us pause. To Buddha the very
foundation of morality was the remorseless, uni-
versal, unescapable law of Karma, the law that ex-
acts for every deed its full consequence in this life
or in the life to come, that denies any possible
interference here or hereafter in the ethical chain
of cause and effect. There is no room for redemp-
tion or forgiveness: as a man sins or fails in self-
control, so he shall suffer; as he attains to right-
eousness or self-government, so he shall progress
in peace and happiness. No external Power rules
over that sequence, no Judge upon whose will
depends the apportionment of praise and blame;
but an inner necessity that has no respect for
persons. Yet withal the law, if without mercy, is
not without hope. \Ve cannot escape the penalty
of our errors, but we may in the act of paying that
penalty learn wisdom, and so step by step, through
successive lives, by the exercise of our own un-
aided will, may mount to better and better things,
until the great enlightenment comes, and we are
saved, or, rather, have saved ourselves. There is
something grandiose in the oriental conception
of the human will, something also that appeals to
the positive and scientific temper of the modern
man. And conscience tells us it is true. But is it
possibly only a half truth? Has it perhaps left
out of the account another aspect of the truth
which is equally fundamental to our sense of
good and evil? Beside the stern authority of the
moral law (Karma) must we not find room for
the coexistence of a divine executive of the law?
This at least is exactly what Plato has done in a
curious passage of the Laws which, but for its
slight colouring of theism, might have been bor-
rowed from the Buddhist canon:
"To this end God has contrived that the char-
acter developed by us should determine the
character of our seat and the place occupied by us
at any time; but the development of our particu-
lar character He has left to the will of each of us.
As a man desires and as is the character of his
soul, such and in such manner, for the most part,
each of us is born. "
The theory of transmigration, as it comes from
Plato's brain, stands as a kind of mediatorial link
between the ethics of Buddhism and of Christi-
anity. He has brought a God into the world, but
he has not mitigated the inexorable consequences
of good and evil. His deity is a judge, but acts
strictly under the law; and he emphatically re-
pudiates as immoral the notion that God may he
placated by prayer or diverted by sacrifice from
executing the stern decrees of fate. There is
still no place for "the forgiveness of sins," no
response to the cry of the human heart that justice
and mercy may abide together.
9 See The Religion of Plato, 100 and 149.
Now in interpretating the article of the creed
on forgiveness we should first of all be careful
not to sever it from the eighth article on the
judgement of the quick and the dead, and with
them we should bear in mind such complemen-
tary texts of Scripture as Nehemiah ix, 17: "A
God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful,"
and Galatians vi, 7: "God is not mocked; for
whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
Man would thus seem to be in a double position
as the evil that he does may be related to God in
the double role of gracious pardoner and inexor-
able judge. In the latter case there can be no
forgiveness, but unmitigated retribution; as a
man has sown, so shall he reap, though the har-
vesting may not fall within this earthly period of
life. This is a thought that may burden the pres-
ent with a terrible gravity, to reflect that we carry
the consequences of our good and evil into the
long ways of eternity; though there is consola-
tion also in knowing that our wills are not neces-
sarily crushed by the past but are free to shape
the future. It is a thought that belongs to Christi-
anity as well as to Platonism and Buddhism, and
that will arise indeed wherever men reflect on the
law written in the heart. All this is embodied in
the eighth article of the creed, as this should be
interpreted in accordance with the text of Gala-
tians: "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he
also reap."
The question remains how we shall reconcile
this view of justice with the twelfth article and
with such passages as that quoted from N ehe-
miah. First of all I think we must reject any such
mode of reconciliation as that which got into
Christian theology through St. Augustine and
was made classical by St. Anselm's Cur Deus.
The fault here is in regarding mercy and justice
as merely arbitrary affections of an irresponsible
tyrant. The account of the divine tribunal raises
before the eye the picture of a human magistrate
exercizing authority upon culprits charged with
infringing his prescriptive rights. Guilt or inno-
cence such a magistrate will pronounce, not by
reference to a constitutional code which may or
may not have been transgressed, but solely by
reference to the personal relation of the defen-
dant to himself. The question at issue becomes
thus rather a point of honour, punctilio, than of
law. And there is the further consideration that
the judge, who acts also as plaintiff, is a sovereign
of infinite majesty. Any breach of honour is there-
fore measured by the dignity of the person in-
sulted, so that all infractions become of equal and
infinite turpitude, and must be repaired hy in-
finite pains or at infinite cost. 'Vhen to these
complications we add the awful fact that the
plaintiff and judge is also the free creator of the
culprit, what can be said? The conflict between
justice and mercy appears as something worse
than a farce, it is converted into a drama of cruel
The Augustinian-Anselmic theory simply can-
not stand up against the conscience of mankind.
If there is to be any satisfactory reconciliation of
justice as embodied in the eighth article and of
mercy as embodied in the twelfth article of the
creed, it must be through another aspect of evil-
doing which belongs peculiarly to Christianity,
though it was adumbrated in Plato's cosmology
of the Timaeus. Suppose that besides man's sub-
jection to the law of righteousness he is respon-
sible to a God who is engaged in the continuous
work of creation in accordance with that law, and
who by His Spirit calls upon all created spirits
to take their part in the great task; and suppose
that, through unbelief or weakness or wilfulness,
we have failed to respond to that appeal. Could
it not be said that to the evil of breaking the law
we have added the sin of disloyalty? And, this
being so, suppose that first of all we need to set
that personal relationship right before we can
conform to the law, for man as a person cut off
from association with the divine personality is
but a fragmentary and helpless thing,-then, I
think, we may get some inkling of what is meant
by the two articles of the creed, and may begin to
understand how intimately "forgiveness" is con-
nected with our eternal welfare, while yet the law
of righteousness demands on the part of God in-
exorable judgement. Only with that understand-
ing may our eyes be opened to the depth of the
celestial love concealed in the "eternal purpose"
of the Incarnation, and to the mystery of atone-
A religion that leaves us to the rigour of the
moral law with no merciful hand reached out to
help, no love to make righteousness personal as
well as imperative, has about it the coldness and
comfortlessness of Fate. On the other hand to
magnify the office of a personal judge to the
detriment of impersonal law, to hang the conduct
of morality upon the arbitrary decisions of a
Power who is at once legislator and judge and
executive, is an error that has brought discredit
upon the Christian scheme of salvation. It ex-
plains the blunder of Rome in her theory of par-
dons and indulgences at the whim of a priest; it
is the mistake that led Lutheranism into its mad
metaphysics of justification by faith alone
out relation to acts. If there were no m1ddle
ground for religion between an immoral interpre-
tation of theism on the one side and the atheistic
ethics of Buddhism on the other side, then, I
hold, a right mind would turn to the latter al-
ternative as the ndbler guide and the truer faith.
But it is not so; both Roman and Lutheran, each
in his own way, have ignored the great text,
"God is not mocked," and have forgotten to link
the twelfth article of the creed with the eighth.
Articles 13 and 14: The resurrection of the
and the life everlasting.-The latter of
these two clauses, though it is in fact one of the
latest additions to the creed, states a spiritual
truth which all Christians have always been
ready to profess literally and unreservedly; but
about the fashion of the life to come as declared
in the preliminary clause, there may well be dif-
ferences of opinion. What was originally signi-
fied by the resurrection of the body, or of the flesh
as it was often expressed, and what significance,
if any, can be given to such a doctrine today? Of
the literal meaning of the words in the early ages,
and indeed until a very recent period, we have
abundant knowledge. This body of ours was to
be raised up at some definite moment of time,
and rejoined to the soul which had been severed
from it at death. It was to be spiritualized, ren-
dered incorruptible, freed from its painful dis-
abilities, as St. Paul had testified; but it was to
be nevertheless the actual substance of this
flesh, these very same particles of matter which
now constitute our limbs and members, gathered
together from their dispersion in the grave or the
sea or the maw of ravenous beast and redinte-
grated into their present texture, however they
might be glorified for the uses of eternity. So
Athenagoras, in his treatise De Resurrectione,
declares categorically that our risen bodies "are
constituted from the parts that properly belong
to them"; and he argues for the necessity of such
a belief on the ground that, as the good and evil
of this life are the work of both soul and body, so
the judgement must fall upon both. And as justice
requires that the rewards and penalties must be
apportioned to the same soul which has merited
them, and not to another, so they must affect the
same body. A similar view is maintained in Ad-
amantius, expressed even more materialistically;
and Methodius not only undertakes to refute
those who would allegorize such terms as "the
flesh," but explains why the present body is al-
lowed to decay at death (i.e. in order that sin
may 'be utterly rooted out of it), and is then re-
stored at the resurrection, the same material being
used. And so the belief came down to the great
scholars of the seventeenth century, as we may
read in the swelling language of Pearson's Ex-
"He which numbereth the sands of the sea,
knoweth all the scattered bones, seeth into all the
graves and tombs, searcheth all the repositories
and dormitories in the earth, knoweth what dust
belm_1geth t? each body, what body to each soul.
as Jus all-seeing eye observeth every par-
ticle of dissolved and corrupted man, so doth
he .also see and know all ways and means by
parts should be united, by
whiCh this rumed fabric should be recomposed.
Whatsoever we lose in deatp, is not lost to
God; as could be made out of nothing
but by him, so can It not be reduced into nothing,
but by the same: though therefore the parts of
the body of man be dissolved, yet they perish not
the! lose their own entity when they part with
their relatwn to humanity; they are laid up in the
secret places, and lodged in the chambers of na-
ture; and it is no more a contradiction that they
should become the parts of the same body of man
to which they did belong, than that after his death
they should become the parts of any other body
as we see they do. "
But there is no need to labour the point it is
well.known .and indisputable. The question 'to be
IS whether this article of the creed
can, legitimately, be reinterpreted so as to meet
a more enlightened view of what happens at
death, or must be rejected as utterly untenable
Of a .certainty no. man today can accept the
rna literally, taking the word "literally" as in
Op: cit., 700, 701. Pearson quotes confirmatory passages fro
Tertull1an and Augustine. m
honesty it must be defined. These particles of
matter can never be reassembled; this actual flesh
cannot 'be raised up in the manner held by ancient
theologians. But neither on the other hand is it
easy, or even possible, to imagine an absolutely
disembodied existence. If the future life is to be
anything more than a vague abstraction of meta-
physics to which we cling with a kind of cheerless
hope, if in any way we are to take it to our
bosoms and cherish it as a continuance of our in-
dividual entity with satisfaction for the unful-
filled aspirations of this earth, then surely we
must think of the liberated soul as still possessing
some centre of activity in the vast expansions of
space, some vehicle of self-expression, some
medium of subtler perception and purer sensa-
tion, which may be regarded as an etherialized
body. There is nothing alarmingly fantastic in
such a conception, certainly nothing new. One
has only to recall the widespread theory among
the Hindus of the five tanmatras as shadowy
counterparts of the grosser elements of matter;
or to remember the allegory of Plato's Timaeus,
in which the whole process of creation is for the
purpose of shaping and adapting the material
world to spiritual ends; or to reflect on certain
hypotheses of modern science which are dissolv-
ing the brute inert mass of the older physics into
spectral centres of force.
taken the resurrection of the body becomes
a ?f parable of an event admittedly mysteri-
ous m Its nature. But I see nothing insincere in
the reservation of belief implied in this symboli-
cal recitation of an incomprehensible fact, unless
we are bound to the exact literal sense of every
word we repeat; and to such a restriction, as we
have seen in the case of the articles on the descent
and ascension, no man today does, or can,
.This resurrection of the fle.,h does then only
b:mg out what was stated at the begin-
nmg of. our discussion, that the belief exacted by
one article of the creed may be of a very different
order from that exacted by another. We believe,
if we are Christians, in the fundamental dogma
of God and the Incarnation and the operation of
the divine spirit unreservedly, though we are not
re9uir.ed to subscribe to any explanation of our
faith m. the of a particular philosophy or
of a ratiOnalized theology. We believe in certain
historical events simply and physically. But evi-
dently confession of other articles involves us in
the of the function and legitimacy of
symbolism, and the doubt may arise whether in
such cases we can in honesty say I believe. I think
the test of sincerity lies in this: is there behind
the metaphorical language a truth to which we
can give whole-hearted assent? If there be such a
truth, then I do not see why the most meticulous
mind should hesitate to make confession. Now
in the case of most of the articles to be taken sym-
bolically-the ascension, the session, the return
for judgement, the resurrection-the spiritual
truth is so clear and important and lies so close
to the physical image, that few will feel any
scruples. It is not quite so with the into
hell. It is not likely that many men today Will be-
lieve, as did the Fathers and great theologians of
antiquity, that Christ so appeared to the souls of
the dead and preached to them in order that they
too as well as the living might have salvation of-
fered to them. That seems to us to be passing
from transparent symbolism to sheer mythology,
beautiful no doubt but incredible. Let us take
it as myth; but suppose now a man turns his at-
tention from its spatial to its temporal
cance. Then, when he repeats the words of the
creed, he will not think of a place where the wait-
ing souls of the dead are congregated; rat?er he
will reflect on the momentous mystery of time of
which this myth is a hint, viz. the fact that the
Incarnation was not a mere accident intruded
suddenly into the years, but was eternally present
in the divine purpose, hinted at in many ways,
dimly revealed in prophecy and art and philoso-
phy, so that its efficacy reaches back into the past
as well as forward into the future, making of
Isaiah and Pheidias and Plato better servants of
the Logos than many who have received the seal
of baptism.
The virgin birth undoubtedly causes more dis-
quietude than any other article of the creed; but
here again the right approach to the problem is
to ask, first, what, if any, great spiritual truth
was urging the Fathers on to formulate such a
profession, and then secondly, if we have found
such a truth, to determine our attitude towards
the specific event in which it is supposed to be
exemplified. To the first question the answer
comes clear and simple. The points at which the
morality and otherworldliness of religion meet
together in Christian dogma are purity and hu-
mility and love. Under these heads can be ana-
lysed the substance of Christ's ethical teaching,
as the elements that enter into the repentance
demanded for participation in the Kingdom of
God; they are the names for the impersonal
moral law, the dbjective Ideas of Plato, when
absorbed into, and vivified by, the personality of
the Incarnate Word; they are the secret of the
Incarnation. Humility inspires the saying of
Jesus himself: "For even the Son of man came
not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to
give his life a ransom for many"; and humility is
the key to St. Paul's theology: "And being found
in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and be-
came obedient rmto death, even the death of the
cross." Love is proclaimed in the saying: "For
God so loved the world," and is translated into
theology in St. John: "For God is love." These
are the mystic virtues exemplified in the life and
death of Christ as summarized by the creed, and
they are the demands laid upon the spirit of the
Church which makes that life and death a profes-
sion of faith. But what of the remaining virtue of
the triad? "Blessed are the pure in heart," we
read, "for they shall see God"; and immediately
we recall Christ's reiterated justification of his
claims to authority on the ground that he
preached only that which he had seen and heard
with the Father-and, "He that hath seen me
hath seen the Father."
This was the thought in the mind of those who
framed for us the creed. And as the quality of
purity comes most openly and cogently to a test
in nature's method of procreation, so we can un-
derstand how they were drawn to look for its ex-
emplification in the manner of the
birth. Now there are those who accept the article
literally; they have no problem. But there are
others who feel that it would have been wiser to
leave the illustration of purity to the life of Christ
himself, and who cannot overcome a certain re-
pugnance to the overgrowth of Mariolatry. Can
they here, as with other articles, find ease for their
scruples by repeating as symbol what was meant
to be taken literally? I admit that the question
here becomes acute; it is not the mere translation
of an historical fact into a symbolic myth that is
likely to trouble them, but the character of the
myth itself. And yet I think that, if they will re-
flect more deeply on the divine significance of
purity, and will remember how, not among
Christians alone but in many parts of the world
and among many peoples, reverence for this
virtue has passed into glorification of virginity,
and if at the same time they will reflect on the
beauty of motherhood,-! think then they
understand how the myth (if myth it be) of the
virgin mother could arise and how it could capti-
vate the heart of mankind. Its beauty, its pro-
found spiritual significance, may even lead them
to modify their doubts of its literal truth. In that
spirit, at least, they may accept the symbolism of
this article of the creed, and may without fear
of hypocrisy pronounce the mystical words in awe
and reverence and wonder. "'V e need to remind
ourselves from time to time that the way in which
a thing appears to us does not affect the under-
lying reality."n
I suspect that a certain type of mind, more
honest than subtle, will receive all that I have
11 From the excellent chapter on Symbolism in Professor San-
day's Christologies: Ancient and Modern.
said by way of explanation and extenuation with
an outburst of indignant reproach. "\Vhy, such a
reader will ask, if the traditional creed cannot be
professed without these reservations and accom-
modations, why not jettison the whole thing, or
at any rate the dubious parts of it, and adopt in
its place a confession that will express precisely
what the modern intelligence can believe? Well,
to that obvious question there are two sufficient
answers, one negative the other positive. For the
first, it is a plain fact that it would be impossible
for any single man or any body of men today to
frame a creed which would meet with wide, not to
say general, acceptance. The result of such an
attempt, supposing it were locally successful,
would be to break the Church, loose enough in its
cohesion as things are, into warring groups of
dissidents. The variety of creeds, instead of
serving as a bond of unity, would become the
source of dissipation and distraction amidst which
the faith would certainly disappear.
And there is a positive objection equally valid.
Granted for the sake of argument, that it were
possible to rewrite the creed in terms which would
satisfy the more rationalistic demands of the
present and at the same time might be generally
adopted, would not the new formula, by the very
elimination of those "mythical" elements which
were the occasion of the revision, lose its value as
a confession of faith suitable for use in public
worship? For the primary function of the creed,
today at least, is just this, and just in this
it differs from such conciliar decrees as the
"Faith" of Nicea and the "Definition" of Chal-
cedon. The latter were deliberately devised,
in response to the more intellectual needs of the
age, to express the minimum of belief in terms
of invulnerable precision. And by good fortune
they performed that service well and definitively.
But in doing so they inevitably adopted a dispu-
tative manner of statement scarcely compatible
with those expansions of faith upon which the
emotions and the imagination can lay hold for
the use of common praise and prayer. That
larger service was left to the creeds; and I have
written entirely in vain if I have concealed my
conviction that the Apostles' Creed at least is
magnificently, so magnificently as to seem provi-
dentially, contrived to that end. It might be
called the lyric or, rather, the brief epic of Chris-
tianity-poetry in the sense that it clothes the
fundamental articles of belief in symbols of ex-
quisite beauty and enduring appeal, faith in the
sense that behind the symbols, vivifying and
justifying them, lie truths of the eternal spiritual
life as revealed in the divine economy of the In-
carnation. It grew together gradually, almost in-
stinctively, with the fresh and deepening and
harmonious experience of the Church, and took
its final shape before it could suffer the doubtful
accretions of scholasticism. It has been tested by
the ages, and found not wanting. Only a pre-
sumptuous madness will suppose that anything
devised today could take its place; only a quer-
ulous conceit would remove it from its post of
honour at the centre of the great drama of public
worship; only a soul aridly unimaginative can
miss the thrill of awe, the ecstasy of spirit joining
spirit to go out together in the supreme venture
of faith, when, after a momentary hush, the
priest with lowered voice pronounces the invoca-
tion: "I believe," and the people continue: "In
God the Father Almighty and in Jesus Christ his
only Son our Lord ... and the life everlasting."
The Apostles' Creed, which has been under
consideration, goes back substantially to the early
decades of the second century, and has been in
continuous usage for some eighteen hundred
years. It bears the stamp of Rome, but has
passed without change to the Protestant an.d the
Anglican communities, and is thus
the form in which the whole western church IS at
one in its confession of faith. There remains to
say a few words about the so-called Nicene and
Athanasian Creeds which have a more limited
currency in the Occident.
The "Nicene" Creed, to be distinguished from
the dogmatic statement of the faith issued by the
first ecumenical council at Nicea, was in use in
Jerusalem at least as early as the middle of the
fourth century. It was officially adopted for the
service of the eastern Church under the Emperor
Justin II, and, with the addition of the dispu-
tatious term filioqne, received the sanction of
Rome in 1014. In the main it corresponds with
the Apostles' Creed; but in the clause on the
Holy Ghost it contains additional phrases which
clearly imply, though perhaps they do not posi-
tively compel, acceptance of the theologically de-
veloped doctrine of the Trinity, in this differing
from the Roman Creed and from the Nicene
Faith. It connects the remission of sins in a ques-
tionable manner w:ith the act of baptism, while it
omits the beautiful article on the communion of
saints. Magnificent as it is, there ate reasons for
regretting that it was ever allowed by the West
to supplant the simpler creed in any part of her
communal worship.
Those readers who have followed this history
of the Greek Tradition will know that, in my
opinion, we need in some matters to return to the
more Platonically minded theology of the East.
But in the formulation of the creed we see Rome
at her best. She had, in the patristic age, the mind
suitable for such a work, unspeculative, satisfied
with the great central facts of Christianity with-
out troubling herself over meta physical subtleties.
She had the habit of authority which enabled her
to suppress the vagaries of individualism and to
express the faith in a form suitable for
confession. Her language had, and has, the quali-
ties of an ideal medium for public worship,
sonorous in sound, and rich in general while poor
in specific terms. It is characteristic of the two
sections of the world that in the West the creed
soon stiffened into an unchanging mould, whereas
the East continued to formulate creed after creed
for the purpose of rebutting this or that di_:aga-
tion of heresy. And when at last the oriental
churches were brought by imperial authority to
adopt a common confession, it is significant that
the formula chosen should contain phrases of an
argumentative cast which to a certain extent.

its fitness for the simpler purposes of devotwn.
The Quicunque, or so-called Athanasian
Creed, is of western origin and has no direct con-
12 Kattenbusch, Das apostolische Symbol, I, 371: "Wie ieh sagte,
bin ich zu der Ueberzeugung gelangt, dass R [the Old Roman
Creed) fiir den Archtypus der gut der oc-
cidentalischen Formeln zu erachten se1. . . . Die sachhch belang-
reichen Unterschiede der oben verglichenen Formeln [i.e. of the
East) .gegen R liegen vor in den dopnatischen Stiicken? die. sie
enthalten." The latter observation IS sound, but, takmg mto
account the whole history of the East and the West, I am inclined
to believe that the ultimate source of all the creeds must be looked
for in the creative spirit of the Greek Orient, while to the Occident
belongs the credit of wise formulation.
nection with the theologian whose name it bears.
It is fanatic and contentious in spirit, devised to
crush certain heresies and thus to exclude rather
than to unite. So far as I know, it has no place in
any office of the eastern church, and it is not
essential to the expression of the catholic faith.
Its half-hearted retention in the English Prayer
Book has been ably defended;
but I cannot re-
gard it as anything but an ineptitude to demand
the repetition of such a formula from a congrega-
tion of worshippers.
13 Notably by A. E. Burn in his Introduction to the Creeds,
291 ff.
THE sacramental idea, I take it, is a distinguish-
ing note of western religion generally, and more
particularly of Christianity. It rests ultimately
upon a dualistic conception of the world, in ac-
cordance with which matter and spirit are essen-
tially distinct yet mutually interdependent. It
implies on the one side that matter can be indefi-
nitely adapted to spiritual uses, and on the other
side that spirit requires now and, so far as our
knowledge and imagination reach, will always
require the aid of some sort of corporeal instru-
ments. It points to a divine purpose unfolding
itself in a continuous process wherein the stuff
of existence is miraculously transmuted into an
ever finer medium of order and beauty and right-
eousness and joy. And in this scheme it holds that
men are called to play a subordinate part under
the eye of the supreme Artificer, and that their
every act, even the least, may be dedicated to this
A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws,
Makes that and the action fine.
This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold:
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.
Something like this, an alchemy that would
transmute the leaden materials of life into a finer
!s meant by the sacramental faith of
It requires from him who would
accept It, let us admit, that he should sit some-
what loosely to the immediate reports of the
senses and to the dictates of the narrower reason;
for here, as everywhere in religion, the law is
fi:X:e?, .that the path of assurance in the world of
spirit IS closed to all but sceptics of the physical
. in the course of time the Christian Church
dignified seven acts as sacraments in the particu-
lar sense that their. administration belongs to
those set apart as priests for this function. Then
at the Reformation, as is well known, five of the
seven were deprived of their special standing and
only two retained. By the twenty-fifth Article of
the Church, in accordance with princi-
ples laid down by the less radical of the continen-
tal reformers, the repudiation was justified on the
ground that "those five commonly-called sacra-
ments, that is to say, Confirmation Penance
Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme u' nction,
not to be counted for sacraments of the Gospel
being such as have grown partly of the
following of the Apostles, partly are states of life
allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like
nature of sacraments with Baptism and the

Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible
sign or ceremony ordained of God." Now, un-
questionably, there is some reason for this dis-
tinction, insofar as the Eucharist and baptism are
the only sacraments certainly practised by the
whole Primitive Church, and have besides a war-
rant and authority in the New Testament not
possessed by the other rites to which sacramental
grace was afterwards attributed. To this point
the reformers were merely sharpening the ortho-
dox Catholic distinction between the major and
the minor sacraments. They would have been more
logical if they had gone a step further, and had
set the Eucharist in a place by itself as the only
one of the rites clearly instituted by Christ him-
self, whereas baptism, though universally prac-
tised by the Apostolic Church, certainly was not
instituted 'by him and probably was not per-
f armed by him. And I think the reformers missed
a great opportunity when they failed to see that
the division might have been so carried out as to
indicate both a distinction in kind and a differ-
ence in degree. So taken, the Eucharist would be
distinguished in kind as the one absolute sacra-
ment of Christian worship, while the other six (or
those of them not utterly rejected as a "corrupt
fallowing") would fade off by degrees into the
vaguer conception of the whole of life as properly
sacramental. In the hierarchy of sacred rites we
s?ould thus have a concentration or specializa-
tion, so to ?f worship corresponding to the
concentration of Intellectual belief in the twelve
of <;reed, where the Incarnation (like
Its In the .Eucharist) stands apart as
the cardinal and animating dogma, to be pro-
fessed by the Christian literally and unreserv-
edly, the succeeding clauses merge by
degrees Into the fluctuant symbolism of what
may be called the poetry of faith.
It is, at any rate, from this point of view that
I would select the Eucharist as the primary sac-
rament of Christianity and 'vould examine its
philosophical implications.
At the beginning we are confronted with three
questions: ( 1) the historical authenticity of the
Holy Supper, ( 2) the meaning of the event to
those who partook thereof, ( 3) its meaning to
us. As for the first of these queries, an unpreju-
diced study of the documents must lead to the
conclusion that we have records, correct in essen-
tials while varying, as would be expected, in de-
tails, of an actual event. That is to say, it is a
simple fact of history that Jesus supped with a
group of chosen disciples in Jerusalem just be-
fore his trial and crucifixion, and that under the
shadow of the coming tragedy he did break bread

and give the cup with the solemn of the
Institution. As for the second query, It IS also an
historic fact that something like what we call
sacramentalism was normal to the religious ob-
servances, or superstitions if you will, which we-:e
then springing up everywhere over the
world and that with eschatology the same spirit
had some extent invaded the J ewish people.
No student familiar with the mentality of the
Hellenistic age can reasonably doubt that to one
who used such words as we have recorded and to
those who heard them the Institution would have
implied a sacramental mystery of some sort.
The third query carries us from the field of
history to that of philosophy: how shall we
our own part interpret the facts? Here one. thing
is sure. If our answer to the second question as
above is correct, then it follows that the Protes-
tant position in regard to the third, with its out-
come in the so-called "liberal theology" of the
nineteenth century, is untenable. It is neither
logical nor consistent to !Ioly
munion as a Christian while disclaiming the sig-
nificance of that rite as it must have been felt by
Christ and his disciples. The reformers may have
been on the right track when they insisted on the
difference between the two major rites and the
lesser five, though they faltered on the way, ?ut
they pronounced, for their successors, something
like the death warrant of religion when they re-
jected, explicitly or implicitly, any mystery con-
nected with the celebration of the Eucharist. I
do not deny that the Christian virtues did find,
and may still find, lodgement in the Protestant
character, or that the Christian spirit in some of
its finer aspects may have inspired the Protestant
soul; but the sacramental ordering of life is essen-
tial to Christianity of any colour, and without the
specific sacraments of the Church, centering in
the mystery of the mass, worship must lose its
significance and the sacramental life must be ren-
dered thin and precarious. The normal end of
Protestant theology is a cold and irreligious ra-
tionalism or a vapid sentimentalism. Such, we
are beginning to see pretty clearly, is the hard
lesson of history.
When we pass from the apostolic to the patris-
tic age we are first struck by the variety of lan-
guage employed by individual theologians to
convey their tentative theories. But withal,
though the references are for the most part
incidental, it is clear that from the beginning
the celebration of the Eucharist was the cen-
tral feature of worship. And through all the
diversities of exposition there is discoverable
barely a statement, if any, justifying the Protes-
tant explanation of the Holy Supper as a purely
commemorative act. Almost, if not quite, without

exception the Fathers held the rite to be a true
sacrament, involving some mysterious or miracu-
lous change in the elements, a "metabolism" in
the Catholic sense of the word. Commonly the
realization of this sacramental mystery ("sacra-
ment" is the Latin term, "mystery" the Greek
term) is connected with the liturgical prayer of
invocation to the Holy Ghost. This indeed is still
the accepted view of the Orthodox Eastern
Church, as it is of many of the better informed
and more authoritative Anglican divines. But for
some unknown reason Rome at a fairly early age
took a separate stand, and, omitting the prayer
of invocation, gave effective preeminence to the
commemorative words of the Institution: "This is
my body," etc. Apart, however, from this tech-
nical divergence there is pretty complete unanim-
ity of belief that the sacramental change
represents ( in the sense
of making actually present) the divine drama of
redemption in its three cardinal moments of ( 1)
the Incarnation, ( 2) the Crucifixion, and ( 3) the
( 1) A noteworthy statement of this aspect of
the sacrament may be found in a citation ascribed
by Eutychius, Patriarch of Constantinople in the
sixth century, to Athanasius, and certainly Atha-
nasian in spirit:
':Let us. come to the consecration of the mys-
tenes. This bread and this cup, so long as the
prayers and supplications are not yet made, are
bare elements. But when the great prayers and
the holy supplications are sent up to God the
Word descends upon the bread and the cup' and
they become his body." '
in an epistle to Sera pion, commenting on
the Sixth chapter of St. John, Athanasius indi-
cates dualistic character of the new body; for
as the Incarnate Word is at once human as "the
.son of man" and divine as "the Holy Spirit," yet
Is one person, so the sanctified element is at once
bread and the body of Christ, yet one thing.
(2) In.many ways the sacrament is defined as
representing the redemptive act typified by the
old .Jewish sacrifices and consummated once for
all .In. the Crucifixion. Perhaps the most charac-
teristic form of the definition is that which re-
the eucharistic celebration as a commem-
orative and symbolical repetition of Christ'
?:ffering-up of himself, the efficacy
the repetition partly at least, dependent
on the communiCant's actual and bloodless sacri-
fice of "a contrite heart." Such would seem to be
the theory of Athanasius, and so Eusebius of
Caesarea states more explicitly:
e then both sacrifice and burn incense, cele-
brating the memory of the great sacrifice in the
mysteries which he has delivered to us, and bring-
ing to God our thanksgiving ( eucharistia) for
our salvation by means of pious hymns and
prayers, and also wholly dedicating ourselves to
Him and to His High Priest, the Word himself,
making our offering in body and soul."
( 3) Everywhere it is taught that in com-
municating the worshipper in some manner
appropriates to himself the veritable body of
Christ. In a few authors this act is described in
materialistic language such as became common
in the darker period of the Middle Ages. More
typically the appropriation is associated with the
Resurrection, and in a double way. On the one
hand the change in the elements corresponds to
the spiritualization of the risen body of the Lord,
and on the other hand participation in them feeds
a similar spiritual body of the communicant and
assures to him immortality. In this aspect the
Eucharist might be regarded particularly as a
sacramental continuation of the two closing arti-
cles of the Creed: "The resurrection of the body
and the life everlasting.''
The patristic conception of the Eucharist was
thus in a general way sacramental and Catholic;
of this there can scarcely be question. But the ex-
pression of this belief was individualistic and,
within certain limits, divergent. The remarkable
fact is that throughout this period there was no
prolonged dispute over the subject and, so far as
I recollect, not a single excommunication for
heresy in this field. Certainly there was no at-
tempt at formulation of the vsacramental princi-
ple In any of the great ecumenical councils from
Nicea to Chalcedon. The reason for this absten-
tion in an age of controversy is that the minds of
the theologians were so thoroughly en-
gaged In the struggle to reach a satisfactory
of the Incarnation as the supreme arti-
cle of faith that the realization of this truth in
worship was considered only incidentally and
was never w?rked out in theory. There is, per-
haps, something to be grateful for in this; but it
is unfortunate also that the task of defining the
sacrament was left to a time when the great stim-
ulus of Greek philosophy had been lost and then
recovered in a perverted form.
The course of religious thought and feeling
from the close of the patristic era to the advent of
For the English reader the best digest of the documents bear-
ing on the whole subject is to be found is Darwell Stone's History
of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, 2 vols., I909. A more
recent work, A. Macdonald's Berengar and the Reform of
Sacramental Doctrme, has helped me largely in my treatment of
th.e medieval controversy, though the author's philosophy is not
mme. Most of the extracts quoted in this essay are from the
translations .in the. The best treatment in English
from the philosophical side IS Canon Quick's The Christian Sac-
the Renaissance was characterized in general by
a naive realism at the beginning and by a
rationalism at the end. It may be a question
whether the later meta physic transmuted the
earlier crudity into a spiritual or
merely enveloped it in a mist of disguising
sophistries, and obviously there were .
strands in the composition of the; but Will
scarcely be disputed that the dominant of
the earlier and later centuries were respectively
materialistic and scholastic. Certainly they mark
the successive attitudes of the Church towards the
problem of the sacraments. . .
The tradition of the Eucharist, equally orien-
tal and occidental, upon which the medieval
theologians had to build their was and
large, as we have described it, a Inter-
preted "metabolism"; that is say, a behef that
in some manner utterly mysterious a change took
place in the sacramental bread and wine such
that the true body of Christ was present on the
altar. For the Western Church two divergent
lines of progress were open, as it :hoose to
develop the confused hints of a realistic Interpre-
tation left by Ambrose, or of a symbolistic inter-
pretation suggested by And the
orthodox view (orthodox, that IS, In the sense
that it ultimately prevailed at Rome) , notwith-
standing the immense influence otherwise of
Augustine, followed rather the impulse given by
the Bishop of Milan.
The question first came to a head in the ninth
century, when the decisive direction was given to
the Church by Paschasius Radbert, a monk of
Corbey on the Weser, whose Liber de Corpore et
Sanguine Domini was the earliest attempt to
deal with the subject systematically. There is no
clear philosophy behind the Paschasian argu-
ment, which takes rather the form of a bald state-
ment of metabolism. By the operation of the
Holy Spirit the bread and wine are simply
changed so that the body and blood of the Lord
are present in them; and in that change there is
a new creation (nova fit creatura). Radbert ad-
mitted indeed, under questioning, that the mys-
tery of the change must be accepted in the
Augustinian sense as a symbol or figure; and
there is even a suggestion of the later scholastic
theory in his use of the word "substance" for the
new creature, though of course he himself had no
thought of transubstantiation in the Aristotelian
sense. His mental outlook was in fact, like that of
his age, at once naive and confused. But the sig-
nificant point of his theory was the identification,
2 Geiselmann, Die Eucharistielehre der Vorscholastic, 3: "Am-
brosius galt als Hauptautoritat in der Eucharistielehre des Mit-
telalters. Es war ein allgemein anerkanntes Urteil, wenn Durandus
von ihm sagte: in ecclesia. catholica post apostolos auctorita8
habetur praecipua."
following the Ambrosian .of the eucha-
ristic body with the actual histoncal bo?y of
Christ born of the Virgin Mary. Radbert himself
may have had his reservations, and indeed he says
categorically that the are n_ot carnal,
though they are flesh and 'blood ; but It
realistic aspect of his doctrine that fell With
the dominant trend of the age and sanctioned a
form of materialism almost incredible in its
There were theologians in Radbert's own day
who held a very different view of the Eucharist,
men like Ratramn and Rabartus Maurus, who
drew their inspiration more directly from Augus-
tine; and the coarse features of realism did not
win their way without opposition. But by the
eleventh century the Paschasian doctrine had
captured the full authority of the organized
Church as centred in Rome. In the year 1059
Berengar, its most outspoken opponent, was
summoned before a council of 113 bishops, pre-
sided over by Pope Nicholas II and dominated
by Cardinal Humbert, and there, in the city of
St. Peter and St. Paul, beaten down and humil-
iated, as he believed under peril of death, he was
forced to read aloud this recantation:
"I, Berengar, an unworthy deacon of
church of St. Maurice of Angers, acknowledgmg
the true Catholic and Apostolic faith, anathema-
tize every heresy, especially that concerning
which I have hitherto been in ill repute. . . .
And I assent to the Holy Roman and Apostolic
See, and with mouth and heart I profess that
concerning the sacrament of the Lord's Table I
hold the faith which the Lord and venerable Pope
Nicholas and this holy synod have by evangelical
and apostolical authority delivered to be held and
have confirmed to me, namely that the bread and
wine which are placed on the altar are after con-
secration not only a sacrament but also the real
body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
that with the senses (sensualiter) not only by
way of sacrament but in reality (in veritate) these
are held and broken by the hands of the priests
and are crushed by the teeth of the faithful."3
This is not a pretty document for those to read
who hold that the authority to pronounce infalli-
bly and irrevocably upon Christian dogma has
been committed to Rome. It may be that
gar's own view of the Sacrament needed correc-
tion, but the sensuous grossness of language
forced upon him (and the C-hurch) can only be
palliated historically by repudiating its implica-
tions for the present-and this Rome cannot do.
But if such realism was an abomination to
s The peculiar distinction here between "sacrament" and "reali-
ty" will be explained later.
the protesting spirits, it was, to their credit, a
grave embarrassment to many_ of the or:thodox.
It was not nice for the communicant to think that
he was grinding with his teeth, crushing sensuali-
ter the veritable flesh and blood born of a
and so he was told that for his relief
the involved the act in mystery. This
was the defence developed among others by
Hugh, Bishop of Langres, in a long critical epis-
tle to Berengar. If, he maintains, the nature and
essence of the elements are unchanged at the
consecration, then no true change has taken place
and the Eucharist would not differ from the other
sacraments, particularly from baptism. With
Ambrose, whom he quotes, he declares that the
new essence is the very flesh and blood born of
the Virgin Mary. But this flesh, now corporeally
present on the altar, is made invisible, and
order to avoid horror is hidden under the quali-
ties of bread and wine. Thus the elements have
lost their original nature, they are no longer
bread and wine; even the qualities of bread and
wine apparent to the eye and have. no
objective existence, 'but are a kind of pious
deception. . .
Such a theory might reheve the more Innocent
communicant; but if any questioning soul pre-
sumed on this merciful providence and dared to
take the appearance for the reality, the Church
was ready with a miraculous demonstration of
the hideous fact. Dr. Macdonald, in his study of
the Berengarian controversy, relates several
stories to this effect, the most notable of which,
perhaps, is one quoted from Durand of Troarn.
It tells of a simple-minded priest who could not
convince himself that he was eating the actual
flesh and blood of the Lord. "U I see the
thing, I will not believe," he cried. In consulta-
tion with two other priests a fast of three days
was agreed on, and at its termination mass was
celebrated. Then on the altar they saw the body
of a boy lying, and perceived an angel descend
heaven and sacrifice the boy with a knife,
while the blood of the victim dripped into a
chalice. After this the angel cut up the limbs into
small pieces, and handed one of these, covered
with bloo?, to the unbelieving priest. Thereupon
the sceptic confessed that he was convinced, and
immediately the flesh took on again the appear-
ance of bread. The force of this and similar
l:gends lies in fact that they are not excep-
tional, but typical of the crudely realistic men-
tality of the age. They recall, and almost justify,
the scandalous charges brought against the early
Church by her pagan persecutors, that Christians
at their love-feasts sacrificed a child and com-
muned on his raw flesh. No doubt some of the
coarser traits of this superstition were gradually

eliminated as the age became more enlightened,
but the particular development of meta'bolism
which supported it lies embedded tenaciously in
the orthodox doctrine of the medieval Church.
The rules of procedure, for instance, prescribed
in the monasteries in case any of the consecrated
wine should be spilled on the floor, may not be so
revolting as the scarcely disguised cannibalism
of the tenth century, but they are sufficiently
materialistic in their language to bring a shudder
to the sensitive reader.
In fact the significant feature of the passage
from the Dark Ages to the scholastic period is
precisely this, that the Ambrosian form of metab-
olism, despite its troublesome implications, was
not essentially repudiated but subjected to an
elaborate process of defining under the influence
of the newly imported Aristotelian metaphysics.
The close affinity of the early materialism with
the later scholasticism can be seen in the theory
of Hugh of Langres, already cited, in which
there needs only the change of "nature" into
"substance" and of forma or species into acci-
dence, and the nai:ve metabolism of faith is ration-
alized into the dogma of transubstantiation. An
important step was taken in this direction in 1058
( ? ) , when Durand of Troarn, in his exhaustive-
treatise De Corpore et Sanguine Domini, de-
liberately adopted the word substantialiter in
plac_e of naturaliter or essentialiter to express the
reahty of the new presence ( substantialiter cor-
pus et sanguis creduntur esse) ; though apparent-
ly . Durand himself was not a ware of the full
weight of the word in the Aristotelian terminol-
ogy. From the substantialiter esse of Durand to
the substantialiter transmutari of Guitmund and
from that to the more technical transubstantiari
are easy steps, but they are replete with meta-
physical significance.
The actual term transubstantiation was em-
by Comestor in two sermons pub-
!Ished some bme before his death in 1179; and
In the of this century it became the regu-
lar expression of the so-called systematists, who,
the spell of the newly discovered Aristote-
canon were creating the dialectic which is
still the accredited philosophy of Rome. The
theory appears fully developed in the
writings of Peter of Blois, Archdeacon of Bath
who died early in the thirteenth century.
is precise : "When the bread and wine
b.y VIrt.ue of the celestial words are transubstan-
tiated Into the body and blood of Christ the ac-
which before were there, remain' without
subJect and retain their appearance-accidentia
quae prius ibi fuerant, sine subjecto remanent, et
It may be argued, and in a sense it is true, that
such language adds little or nothing to the earlier
way of saying that the nature or essence of the
bread and wine were destroyed while apparently
their form or qualities remained as a kind of illu-
sion to hide the newly created nature. But for the
time being the difference in elf ectiveness was
really very great. The doubter of old was simply
confronted with the statement that, despite the
conviction based on his senses, he did sensualiter
receive the body and blood of his Lord. Reason
was left to make what it could of such a mystery.
Now Aristotle to the medieval mind was the mas-
ter of those that know, and his philosophy was
simply truth itself as grasped by the reason. If
then by the Aristotelian logic it could be explained
how the communicant, though he received what
seemed to the senses bread and wine did not re-
ceive them substantially, the doubter could be
convicted of rejecting a dogma totally conform-
able to reason. So at least it appeared to the scho-
lastic mind; and as scholasticism of recent years
has been attracting a pretty lively interest gen-
erally, the question of its application to the Eu-
charist needs to be considered.
Aristotle in his Categories had distinguished
fundamentally between the substance of a thing
and its accidence. Thus, that which causes Socra-
tes to be Socrates and no other man, that by rea-
son of .which we predicate being of Socrates, is
something indefinable and immutable (i.e. its
only change is to cease to be), his substance,
whereas all the attributes we ascribe to him are
accidental and mutable. Socrates is white, we
say; but his whiteness is merely accidental, since
he would still be Socrates though altered in
colour. So of the other qualities and activities,
which Aristotle divided into nine categories (i.e.
predications), as distinct from the category of
substance. Now this doctrine of the Aristotelian
logic, though the details of the analysis are rather
arbitrary, on a profound and important
truth. IS In Socrates something that abides,
the essential Socrates, and there is also that which
is constantly undergoing change, the attributes
which belong to him yet seem to be more or less
accidental. This is a fact we learn from observa-
and it is confirmed by the deepest inner ex-
perience of ourselves, for the last thing we know
of the myste:r of our being is that we are always
the same while always changing. But it is also a
fact that the sense of the doctrine depends on the
coexistence and conjunction of substance and ac-
cidence. Whatever may be said of that elusive
phantom of the Aristotelian meta physic ( mis-
named God), posited as a final cause abstracted
from all active causation and as a pure substance
devoid of all attributes, in the veritable world of
Aristotle there can be no substance except as the
subject for accidence and no accidence without
subject; in other words it. woul? be non-
sense from the Aristotelian point of view, to
speak of a Socrates Socr.atic attributes
and activities, or of Socratic attributes and ac-
tivities unattached to a Socrates.
But this precisely is what the of cate-
gories suffered at the hands of the medieval theo- .
logians, when, to explain the mystery of the Eu-
charist, they argued that the sacramental body
was a subject without attributes and that the at-
tributes of the bread and wine persisted though
without subject. Further, they fell into sheer con-
tradiction, when they thought of a substance as
changing while its accidence remained. unchanged.
It is not too much to say that the medieval theory
of transubstantiation is Aristotle turned topsy-
turvy and metaphysics gone mad. By undertak-
ing to rationalize a it has c.onverted a
mystery into sheer mysbficati?n. Nor IS harm
merely of the intellect. By Its of
translating the language of Paschasius and Hum-
bert into terms satisfactory to reason, it has prac-
tically adopted, while half concealing, the super-
stition of the earlier period. Scholasticism is not
an escape from, but a disguise of, the raw credul-
ity of the Dark Ages; there is no radical break
between the crude formula forced upon Berengar
by Rome in 1059 and the ultra-metaphysical for-
mula of Thomas Aquinas.
The pity of it is that the greatest and most im-
posing branch of the Catholic Church has com-
mitted itself to this scholastically veneered ma-
terialism as a cardinal point of orthodoxy. The
first decree of the Fourth Lateran Council, in
1215, fixed the matter, intentionally at least, once
for all; "There is one true universal church of the
faithful, outside of which no one can be saved, in
which Jesus Christ Himself is the priest and sac-
rifice, whose body and blood are truly contained
in the sacrament of the altar beneath the species
of bread and wine." The language of the decree
is in itself innocuous enough, and might be ex-
tended to any form of metabolism which includes
the doctrine of the real presence; but undoubted-
ly by "species" the authors of the decree meant
"accidence" in the Aristotelian sense of the word,
with all that this implies. Even more explicitly
the Council of Trent, at its thirteenth session, con-
firmed the dogma of transubstantiation as part
of the necessary faith of a Christian.
Now Rome,
4 The language of Trent is: Quae conversio convenienter et pro-
prie transubstanfJio est appellata. The meaning is that the term
transubstantiation is convenient and proper to designate an abso-
lute change of one substance into another, while the accidence
remain unchanged, supposedly in accordance with the Aristotelian
philosophy. Otherwise taken the word transubstantiation has no
dogmatic force, is in fact a mere nominis 'Wmbra.
though she teaches that the substance of the eu-
charistic elements may change, teaches also that
the substance of the faith as defined by her can
never alter. Her pronouncemeuts in this field are
final, infallible, and irrevocable.
It is a misfor-
tune of the Church Universal that in the dogma
of the Eucharist Rome went so far in confusing
an accidental theory of interpretation with the
substance of the sacrament to be interpreted. And
for Rome herself it may ultimately prove a trag-
edy. She may appear to have gained strength and
dignity by the certainty and continuity of her
position; but her rationalism, if it be false in fact,
must in the end suffer defeat from the counter-
blasts of reason.
So much may be said by one who does not for
a moment hesitate to grant the essential catholi-
city of the Roman branch of the Church, and who
recognizes the lasting magnificence of much that
was accomplished for religion, materially and in-
tellectually, by the Middle Ages.
5 So the doctrine of the Roman Church today. In the Catholic
Encyclopedia the mystery of the real presence is thus expounded
to the faithful: "According to the best-founded opinions not only
the substance of Christ's Body, but by His own wise arrange-
ment, its corporeal quantity, i.e. its full size, with its complete
organization of integral members and limbs, is present within the
diminutive limits of the Host and in each portion thereof." The
language sounds amazingly like the story quoted ante from Dur-
and of Troarn. It is true that some accredited theologians of the
present, such as Franzelin, undertake to circumvent the cruder
implications of transubstantiation. But their efforts must remain
abortive so long as Rome clings to the dogma of infallibility.
The orthodox position, finally determined by
the Council of Trent, was not, as we have seen,
attained without a struggle. It was in fact the
ultimate victory of one of two streams of inter-
pretation which at the beginning of our period
were fairly balanced in strength. The treatise of
Paschasius Radbert, which was so influential in
fixing upon the Church the materialistic theory
of the Eucharist, was sent to Charles the Bald in
844. Whereupon the Emperor submitted to Ra-
tramn, a monk of the same community as Rad-
bert, two leading questions: Are the body and
blood of Christ in the act of communion perceived
only by the eye of faith, or actually by the physi-
cal sense; and, is the eucharistic body that which
was born of the Virgin ~ 1 a r y , crucified and
buried, and which now sits at the right hand of
the Father? To this query Ratramn replied that
the Eucharist is a mystery which reveals one
thing to the senses and proclaims another thing
to the mind of faith ( aliud exterius humanis sen-
sibus ostendit et aliud interius fidelium mentibus
clamat). In literal truth ( veritas) the bread and
wine abide on the altar and are not converted into
the physical body of Christ, but as a figure, or
symbol, they possess a new value or power to
impart immortal life. In more technical termi-
nology, a distinction is drawn between the "sac-
rament" of bread and wine, which retain their
nature intact, and the "thing of the sacrament"
(res sacramenti) which is the figurative body of
the Lord. This, though Ratramn himself appeals
also to Ambrose, is primarily the Augustinian
theory of "dynamic symbolisn1," and it will be
seen that it exactly inverts the distinction be-
tween truth and appearance that underlies the
P aschasian realism.
The book of Ratramn passed without authori-
tative censure at the time, and in fact was not
placed on the Index until 1559. Virtually the
same theory was upheld by Rabanus Maurus and
by the great philosopher, John Scotus Erigena.
But by the eleventh century the situation had
altered; the theory of symbolism was then de-
nounced as heresy and its chief supporter, Beren-
gar, was forced, as we have seen, to recant in the
most humiliating manner.
Now if our decision were to be made on the
ground that where one party to a contest is wrong
the other party must be right, we should have to
take a stand whole-heartedly with Ratramn and
Berengar and against Paschasius and Humbert.
But the question is not quite so simple. Ortho-
doxy as defined by Rome may be criticized as
6 Augustine was not consistent in his views of the Eucharist,
and both Catholics and Protestants can, and do, draw on him
for support.
entangled in a compound of materialism and
rationalism; .but it does not follow that the
Church was mistaken in condemning the Beren-
garian opposition as (by anticipation) Protes-
tant in the sense of non-Catholic. It may very
well be argued that both parties missed the way,
and that, for historical reasons, the medieval mind
was incapable of developing the Catholic tradi-
tion in the direction of a sound philosophy.
'Vhatever else may be said of the Catholic view
of the Eucharist, it must be sacramental; and
sacrament must imply that some change is ef-
fected in the elements (metabolism), something
new introduced which is positively there. The
Catholic view must in some way embrace the no-
tion of a real presence. It is just here that the
Augustinian doctrine as developed by Berengar
fails to satisfy; and it is significant that Dr. Mac-
donald, the latest defender of this tradition, com-
monly deprecates the word "real" as if it were
synonymous with the materialistic realism of
Paschasius and Humbert. In a sense, no doubt,
the theory of dynamic symbolism does leave room
for a kind of metabolism, the elements are
changed insofar as they are made capable of pro-
ducing a spiritual effect of which before they
were incapable. The dynamic effect is there, but
it is there, so far as the elements are concerned,
without the concomitance of an actual cause. The
: 1 1 . ~
res sacramenti as cause, if pressed, simply van-
ishes away into a symbol of something not really
present in the sacramentum. And philosophically
it would seem to be as irrelevant to speak of an
effect without a cause, as of accidence without a
substance, or vice versa. The dynamic symbolism
of Berengar, when examined, looks very much like
an untenable compromise between the Catholic
doctrine of the real presence and the later and
thoroughly Protestant view that the Holy Sup-
per is no more than a memorial ceremony, the
effectiveness of which depends entirely upon
the faith of the communicant. Thus it was that
the Middle Ages left the Church with the alterna-
tive on the one side of a Catholic doctrine of the
Eucharist strangled in the false dialectic of tran-
substantiation and on the other side of a non-
Catholic, or dubiously Catholic, doctrine of
protest. Nor did the positive substitutes offered
by the continental Reformers bring any genuine
relief. The consubstantiation of Luther, derived
from Duns Scotus,has the faults of the Thomistic
transubstantiation without its apparent simpli-
city. Calvin merely reproduced the dynamic sym-
bolism of the eleventh century in weaker and more
precarious terms. While Zwingli, logically con-
sistent in his anti-Catholicism, deprived the rite
of any sacramental meaning whatsoever. And the
Protestant world today is pretty thoroughly
The source of this painful dilemma, if my read-
ing of history is correct, is to be found in the fact
that Berengar and the others who fought the
Aristotelianism implicit in the Roman interpre-
tation of the Eucharist, instead of substituting for
it a true Platonism brought into the controversy
a philosophy which, in essential matters, was
itself more Aristotelian than Platonic. Here lies
the tragedy of the medieval Church. The great
Platonists of Greek theology, Athanasius and
Basil and Gregory N azianzen, were so complete-
ly occupied in defending and elucidating the In-
carnation, as the central dogma of Catholic the-
ology, that they barely touched the subsidiary
doctrine of the Eucharist. And when this sub-
sidiary doctrine did come under dispute, the
Platonic tradition had been lost in the N eopla-
tonism of Plotinus. In the East we can trace this
new influence after the year of Chalcedon ( 451),
though intellectually Greek theology soon fell
into a deep slumber from 'vhich it has only re-
cently awakened.
In the West we know how St.
Augustine was started on his way to Christianity
1 It is a notable fact that the modern theologians of Athens
refer to Basil and Gregory as if they were contemporary writers,
with no yawning gulf of medievalism between.
by the works of Plotinus, and how the first great
thinker of the Ages, John the Scot, de-
rived his philosophy from the same fountain. And
the eucharistic theory of Ratramn and Berengar
is of this N eo platonic brand.
Now the radical departure of Plotinus from
his nominal master lies in the fact that, following
Aristotle, he rejected the belief in Ideas as sepa-
rate entities, for what might be called a spiritual
monism. This we know from his own works and
from the testimony of his pupil and editor, Por-
phyry. And further, under the exigencies of the
same obstinate monism, he converted the N eces-
sity of Plato from a blind force contrary to the
liberty of the spirit into a compulsion within the
spirit itself. But it was just the Platonic doctrine
of Ideas and Necessity, which, coalescing with
the Christian dogma of the Incarnation, might
have suggested an interpretation of the sacra-
ment at once spiritual and realistic.
The Ideas relevant to the sacramentalism of
Christianity are not those generalizations ab-
stracted from particular things (or particular
substances in the sense), those wni-
versalia about which the schoolmen argued so
voluminously, and I think futilely, such as the
Idea man apart from individual men, or the Idea
They are rather the Ideus of ethical quali-
ties such as goodness, beauty, truth and the like.
They are distinguished from the mere univer-
salia of logic by the fact that they have contraries,
and as a consequence demand a certain decision
of the will as well as of the intelligence. There is,
for example, no contrary to the Idea man, and it
makes not much difference really whether we be-
lieve or not in the existence of such a universal;
bu_t to the Idea of goodness there is the contrary
evil, and to the Idea of beauty the contrary ugli-
ness, and whether we believe in the existence of
such Ideas and whether we pay allegiance to
them, is a matter of the utmost concern to our
character and conduct. Now of these Ideas, how-
ever we may doubt otherwise, one thing we may
say with entire conviction, that, as Plato under-
stood them, they were not mere symbols, but
facts. They were not ideals, that is they were not
conceptions in the mind, and created by the
of what ought to be and is not, but powers,
laws of the spirit, things actually ex-
Isting, of whose nature we may learn more and
more by experience, and to whose authority,
whether we know them or not, we are held in
strict moral responsibility, as we are subject to
physical laws whether we know them or not.
So far there can be no reasonable question as
to what Plato meant by Ideas. It is when we
come to the relation between Ideas and phenom-
ena, between, justice in itself and a just act
or man, or between beauty in itself and a beauti-
ful object, that uncertainty arises. Plato's own
terms for this relation, we know, were "partici-
pation" or "presence." Somehow, though Ideas
and phenomena are distinct orders of being, and
so remain, yet the beautiful phenomenon partici-
pates in the Idea beauty, or, otherwise put, the
Idea beauty is in the phenomenon as a real. pres-
and only by that presence and to the degree
of that participation is a thing beautiful. The
terms are unequivocal; but when we inquire into
the method of this participation or presence we
are baffled by insoluble difficulties. In fact Plato
himself was admittedly so baffled. In the Par-
a late dialogue, we find him presenting
these difficulties one after another, and coming
to the desperate conclusion that, though no ra-
tional explanation of the doctrine of participa-
tion or real presence can be reached, yet belief in
Ideas must be retained unless we would see the
world fall into mental ,and moral chaos.
Plato's next and final step was to pass boldly
from a rationalistic to a religious attitude towards
the question. This he did in the the dia-
logue which should be studied as the consumma-
tion of his philosophy, and the neglect of which,
or its rejection as a purely historical presentation
of Pythagorean views, has played havoc with
much of the Platonic comment in the past cen-
tury. Briefly stated, the argument of the Timaeus
is based on the reality of Ideas as distinct from
the lesser reality of phenomena; and on this basis
is reared a grandiose allegory of creation, which
relates how God, being good und without envy,
and desiring to produce a world as good as pos-
sible, took the vast existing chaos of disorder and,
by moulding it in imitation of the existing pat-
tern of Ideas, fashioned this intermediate and
mingled realm of our universe, wherein order
reigns so far as an inherent "necessity" permits.
In this scheme the points to be noted as bearing
on the eucharistic problem are five:
I. God is described as good and without envy,
and as such the supreme artificer of good works;
but He is not described as goodness itself, or as
the source of goodness itself. He is good by His
participation of goodness, while the Idea goodness
remains intact, indivisible, eternally itself.
2. The existing world is not fashioned upon an
insubstantial ideal conceived spontaneously and
irresponsibly in the mind of the Creator, as, ac-
cording to the Platonizing Philo, an architect
conceives the design of a new building. (It is to
be observed by the 'vay that an architect does no
such thing.) The ideal plan in the mind of the
Creator is formed upon His perception of what
is good.
3. The nature of the world, so modelled upon
an Ideal pattern, is of not by the will
of God or by the accidental intrusion of evil, con-
ditioned by some ultimate slow-yielding inertia of
resistance to creative energy.
4. The purposely directed will of God is thus
revealed in a vast process of metabolism, where-
by one substance is not destroyed or changed
absolutely into another substance, but the stuff
of existence is delivered from its inherent im-
potence by the imposition of form (the meaning of
Idea is Form) upon the formless (the tohu
"without form and void," of the J udaeo-Christian
tradition). Thus creation and deliverance are
one and the same act regarded respectively from
above and below: God creates, m,atter is delivered
from the bondage of Necessity. \Vhether the pro-
cess takes place in time or is timeless (t-hough
in fact it is a pure solecism of reason to speak of
anything occurring timelessly), it is, to our un-
derstanding, without beginning or end.
5. There is in the human soul such a principle
of disorder and inertia as in the physical world,
and the duty and honour of man is to bear a part
in the work of creation and redemption, and by
so doing to imitate God.
Now these five points of the Platonic philoso-
phy might be summed up in the one word sacra-
mentalism, as signifying the purposeful adapta-
tion of material resources to spiritual ends,
whether it be seen in the cosmic work of Provi-
deuce or in some specific act of human design. A
sacrament is the realization of purpose in right-
eousness and beauty. So conceived sacramental-
isnl is the characteristic note of western faith as
distinguished from the religion of the East (i.e. of
India), where no ultimate purpose of creation
but only illusion is seen in the phenomenal world,
and where deliverance is regarded rather as utter
escape than as gradual transmutation. I make
bold to say that, so taken, these same cardinal
points of Platonism are the basis of Christianity,
without which there can be no Church; they are
implicit in the New Testament, but concealed at
the beginning and only brought into the light
when faith turned to philosophy for support
against the disputers of the world.
Platonism and Christianity are at one in their
vision of cosmic creation and deliverance, and we
can see how in its young enthusiasm the new re-
ligion needed the wisdom of such a philosophy to
preserve it from erroneous overgrowths: how
the doctrine of Ideas might restrain a jealous
monotheism from plunging into a fatal monism,
and how the doctrine of Necessity might save the-
ology from entangling itself in the insoluble
problems of evil.
But Platonism is not the whole of Christianity.
One thing is lacking to Plato's scheme, one thing
the absence of which left him the father of philos-
ophy but prevented him from founding the uni-
versal religion-the law of sacrifice. It is not that
sacrificial rites were unknown to the Greeks any
more than to the other peoples of antiquity, or
that Plato himself omitted them in the form of
worship drawn up for his ideal States, but that
he failed to connect the sacrificial principle with
his philosophy or to include it organically in his
religious allegory.
It may not he possible to trace the custom of
sacrifice back to its remotest origin in society,
but somewhere near its beginning we find it wide-
ly associated with totemism. Regarding life as
dependent on blood, or more naively as blood it-
self, and seeing that the same blood flo-ws in the
veins of those related by parentage, the primitive
people thought of their clan as united by their
common blood into a community of life in a nlan-
ner that seems mystical to us, but was to them
very realistic. And this common life was extended
to the particular god of the clan, who was em-
bodied and manifest for them in some kind of
animal, their totem. 'Vhen things went well, this
animal was sacred, not to be hunted or slain. But
when things went ill with them in battle or in time
of famine, then it seemed to them that the cur-
rent of power and prosperity in the community of
their life with that of their god and totem was
broken. So the aid of sacrifice was invoked. With
awe and terror, veiled in a frenzy of enthusiasm,
the sacred animal was slain and devoured raw,
and through its flesh and blood in this sacramen-
tal meal the unity of life between the clan and
its god was restored.
This is not the place to follow the changes and
substitutions introduced into the rite, as society,
growing more sensitive, instinctively revolted
from the cruder form of omophagy; though we
may note that even in the most advanced period
of Greek civilization the old superstition, in all its
barbarity but without its significance, would
break out in the madness of Ba.cchic orgies. Nor
shall I attempt to weigh the various mythical and
ethical theories that came to be attached to the
practice. For our purpose I would call attention
to one princi pie only-whether ethical or psycho-
logical or metaphysical-which seems to be in-
separably connected with the sacrificial act in all
its forms, and which, so far as I am aware, has
been neglected by students of the subject. This
principle I would designate by a word horrid in
sound I admit, but rich in content and sugges-
tion, a word often on the lips and pen of that
great scholar of the human soul, Baron von Hii-
gel,-costingness. It is a law the universality of
which is forced upon us by all the experience of
living, a law that meets us blankly and checks
us fatally in whatever direction our activities
move though every immoral instinct of our
' . .
being-our egotism, self-complacency, vanity, In-
dolence, greed-tempts us to deny it or to beli.eve
we can circumvent it, the simple and tyrannical
fact that whether in the world physical, or in the
world intellectual, or in the world spiritual, we
can get nothing without paying an
The fool is he who ignores, and the VIllain IS he
who thinks he can outwit, the vigilance of the
nemesis guarding this law of cos.tingness. . .
That would appear to be, ethically and spirit-
ually, the driving force behind the universa! prac-
tice of offering sacrifice, synonymous with the
word from the beginning, in the end almost sup-
planting its original meanin?' .. The tribe who
slew their totem or a human VIctim knew that by
them or by some one the cost of renewed life must
be paid in the laying down of life. In later
and more individualistic form of the rite, the
principle often assumed an almost indecent as-
pect of barter, the man simply P.aying god
from his possessions for value received. But In .es-
sence the law remains unchanged. Today, having
forgotten its religious significance, we still recog-
nize the law of sacrifice in the fact that all our
progress is dependent on surrendering one in-
terest or value for a higher interest or value.
Evidently the character of this conjunction of
a sacramental rite with the law of costingness de-
pends on where the cost lies, who pays the price,
whether it be the victim or the priest. In the be-
ginning, in the totemistic sacrifice, we can see
that the burden is distributed confusedly upon
both parties, since the victim represents both the
god and the clan and in its death the common life
is restored. But in the later practice, as this pri-
mitive sense of community is lost, a distinction
arises. On the one hand when the victim or offer-
ing is merely a possession of the sacrificer, which
he presents as his part of a bargain, the cost falls
upon the priest only, or upon him for whom the
priest acts. On the other hand. we meet with in-
numerable stories of another form of sacrifice, in
which no priest takes part and the victim is a
deity, by the shedding of whose blood the seeds of
creation are sown or the alternating continuance
of the seasons of life and death is preserved.
It may be a question whether these myths grew
out of the totemistic superstition or were merely
a par.allel growth, but in either case they show
the operation of the same law, with this differ-
ence, that the cost now falls entirely upon a divine
And then upon the world comes suddenly the
crucifixion of Calvary. To the sceptic the con-
version of this historic event into a cult of re-
demption, with its dogma of the Incarnation and
its sacramental rite of communion, is easily ex-
plainable as the mere recrudescence of senseless
superstition. To others the analogy would seem
to point in the contrary direction. To these also
the similarity of the Christian scheme with the
myths of a dying god and with the totemistic rite
would be a patent fact, but from the very uni-
versality of the idea of sacrifice they would argue
that 'behind its recurrent forms there must lie
the reality of a profound truth, whether it be the
principle of costingness as I have maintained, or
some less obvious law of our being. And further,
along with these traits denoting a common source,
they would insist on two aspects of the Christian
sciheme so unique and profoundly significant as
to warrant the belief that in the tragic end of the
Incarnation we do actually have that truth now
divinely revealed towards which the minds of
men from the ~ b e g i n n i n g had been instinctively
groping. The first of these new features is the
fact that the sacrifice on Calvary is regarded, not
as an isolated or unprepared event, but as the
culmination of a vast providential plan of crea-
tion and redemption. Thus to St. Paul, labouring
to expound his faith in text after text, it was "the
manifold wisdom of God," "the eternal purpose
\vhich he purposed in Christ Jesus," "the dispen-
sation of the mystery which from all ages hath
been hid in God who created all things." And \ve
have the words of the victim himself: "And I,
if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me."
The second of these features, no less unique and
no less amazingly significant, consists in the fact
that the divine victim is represented as deliberate-
ly and voluntarily devoting himself. So in the
prayer in Gethsemene he submits his will to the
will of the Father who sent him for that purpose,
though in an agony of suffering. And so, again,
St. Paul teaches explicitly.
But to see the whole matter unrolled in dra-
matic sequence we must turn to the elaborate
description of Christ as at once "a priest for
ever" and a victim who "offered up himself," in
that document from an unknown hand entitled
the Epistle to the Hebrews. Here we shall see
that to which the mysterious community of life in
primitive totemism seemed to point, insofar as
now "he that sanctifieth and thev that are sanc-
tified are all of one." Here w e ~ see the ancient
Jewish sacrifices, and with therr1, less clearly, the
corresponding rites of the gentile world, inter-
preted as types of the perfect oblation to be made
once for all in the fullness of time. Here the
many myths of a dying deity involving creation
and redemption come to a head in history. The
obscure principle of costingness is made explicit
in the endurance of the cross, while the new prin-
ciples of purpose and voluntariness are shown in
"the immutability of his counsel" and in the
learning of "obedience by the things which he
suffered." Through all of which runs for man the
golden hope of salvation through grace and the
participating power of faith, whereof religion
hitherto had caught fitful gleams. It is no exag-
geration to say that the Epistle to the Hebrews,
if properly studied, becomes to the understand-
ing mind a document in the comparative study of
religions by the side of which the theories of
our anthropologists read for the most part like
the guesses of children.
Now, to go back to Plato: though his intuition
of Purpose and Necessity would seem to be
pointing so clearly in this direction, yet there is
no hint of sacrifice in the allegory of his Timaeus.
So far was he from carrying the principle of
costingness up to the divine nature that his con-
ception of God is, in this respect, closer to the
Hindu doctrine of detachment than to the my-
thology of the Occident. So careful was he to
avoid any ascription of passivity to the divine
nature by contact with the imperfections of exist-
ence or by even indirect responsibility for the
evil chances of the world, that, after the one mas-
terful act of what might be called abstract crea-
tivity, God the Demiurge retires 'back into His
own absolute aloofness and leaves the production
and government of concrete phenomena and
mortal souls to His sons, the lesser gods. He
initiated, gave the to the sublime
drama of deliverance out of the bonds of N eces-
sity. But there His part ends. He pays nothing,
sacrifices nothing, suffers nothing. He is "good"
and "without envy," and by His creative will
He is the source of all cosmic purpose; but
scarcely could He be said to love the world of
His begetting; He is the author of deliverance,
but not of redemption at a price.
It was just this principle of redemption, im-
plicit in the religious instinct of mankind, that by
the historic event of the Incarnation was made
the corner-stone of the new faith. And it 'vas the
task of the master theologians of the Greek tra-
dition, unfortunately left incomplete, to bring to-
gether the sacramental Idealism of Plato with the
Christian passion of sacrifice, for the deepening
of the one and the clarifying of the other.
Ah, the mystery remains. 'Vhy it should be so,
why the divine will can be accomplished only at
that terrible cost, we shall understand, for all our
philosophy, no more than we know why our own
highest desires must be achieved through pain. By
some of the Greek Fathers the death on Calvary
was interpreted as the price paid by God for the
ransom of the souls of mankind from the devil,
into whose lawful possession they had fallen. The
explanation was often disfigured by details of
trickery which, to say the least, are more worthy
of the ,Homeric Ulysses than of the Christian
Jehovah. But intrinsically, if the devil be taken
as a personification of the inevitable residuum of
inertia and evil in the sum of things, the myth is
more acceptable than the abhorrent theory de-
veloped by Latin Christianjty in the Middle
Ages, to the effect that the Passion of His Son
was demanded by God as a satisfaction for of-
f ended honour.
There needs not many words to show how the
supreme act of worship is, or may be, brought
into this extended circle of philosophy and re-
ligion. At the lowest count the Eucharist is to the
Protestant a memorial of the voluntary sacrifice
whereby his Lord met for him the necessary con-
sequences of sin. And through the power of faith,
so awakened by memory, the communicant is
made a member of the body of his redeemer. To
others, Protestants or half-way Catholics, the
rite is something more than a mere act of com-
nlemoration; it is a figure, but it is a sacrament
also to this extent that it is the appointed means
whereby faith operates. For they believe that by
the recitation of the sacred formula the elemental
bread and wine are so far changed as to house the
virtue, if not the reality, of the risen spiritualized
body of their Lord, and by this change become
effective of spiritual life to the communicant.
To the true Catholic the Eucharist is all this
and something more. As a memorial service the
spectacle of the mass stirs his sense of devotion
and strengthens his loyalty to the One who made
IIimself man. As a figure it brings into his wor-
ship the vivifying enlarging powers of the imagi-
nation, as if he saw visibly reenacted on the altar
the divine sacrifice. And it has still an added ef-
ficacy, being a veritable sacrament; behind the
figure is the actuality. For the observer of the
n1ass he believes that the res sacramenti is by a
n1ystery really present as an o'b j ect of adoration;
and for the faithful communicant he believes that
\Vith the gustation of the consecrated element the
soul is nourished by the living bread that cometh
down from heaven, whereof, if a man eat, he shall
live forever,-even the Word. Thus, to him, what
was crudely prefigured in the primitive sacrificial
communion with the totem is here fulfilled in
truth; the groping instinct of religion has found
its goal, and is justified by revelation.
Such, I take it, is the Catholic faith; and he
who so worships is a Catholic, however the theo-
logians of his Church may have imposed upon
the sacrament this or that philosophical explana-
tion. It is a tragedy, nevertheless, that Rome has
committed herself to an impossible rationalization
of the mystery. It is a pity that Ratramn and
Berengar and their protesting followers, whether
of the Middle Ages or of today, bring to the same
question a metaphysic which, having rejected the
true doctrine of Ideas, leaves no place for the
real presence and converts faith into a kind of
make-believe. The devout worshipper may not be
troubled by a theology lost in the labyrinths of
dialectic; but an appeal to reason must at the last
abide by the decision of reason.
I would not contend that the doctrine of Ideas
brings with it no difficulties of its own; that doc-
trine, in fact, is not a metaphysic in the sense that
it presumes to explain rationalistically what after
all must remain a paradox. But there may be a
reasonable edifice built upon a superrational
foundation. The position of the sceptic, who siin-
ply discards the Holy Supper altogether because
the miraculous does not interest him, is so far
reasonable as it is consistent within itself; and
so, starting from a contrary postulate, the posi-
tion of the Platonizing Catholic may claim to be
reasonable on the same ground. Whether the be-
lief of the one or the other is to be held true, as well
as reasonable, depends on our answer to the ques-
tion whether the supernatural thesis rejected by
the one and accepted by the other corresponds with
objective reality, or, at the least, builds faithfully
on what is most real and authoritative in the know-
ledge of ourselves. That question, involving the
ultimate issue between the Platonist and the ag-
nostic, I am not considering here, save indirectly.
I would only contend that the problem of the Eu-
charist takes on an entirely different character
'vhen the rite is no longer regarded as an isolated
n1iracle, but falls in with the most imposing and
most satisfactory philosophy the brain of man has
devised. It is a reasonable attitude towards the
faith to hold that the Spirit of Christ may descend
upon the elements for a divine purpose in the
same manner as, according to the theory of the
Timaeus, Ideas are imposed upon the inert stuff
of Necessity, not as a substance supplanting an-
other substance, nor as a substance mechanically
conjoined to another substance, but as actual
powers of creative adaptation. It is a quieter of
many doubts to hold that, as the Idea of Beauty
is really present in material phenomena and ren-
ders them beautiful to the eye, while yet the Idea
abides in its own unique and glorious integrity,
so the Logos may be really present in the bread
and wine, making of them its own body, and by
their material instrumentality imparting itself to
the embodied souls of men. In this way the mira-
cle of the Real Presence becomes only one aspect
s It is the theme of the essay on scepticism in Hellenistic Phil-
of the ultimate mystery that confronts us in the
dualism of mind and body and whithersoever else
we turn.
To the Platonic Christian the Eucharist is thus
a visualized epitome of a consistently sacramen-
tal philosophy. Looking upon the spectacle of the
mass, he sees, as it were enacted there before him,
the vast drama of creation concentrated into a
moment of wonder. The magic of order and
beauty felt in the wide prospects of nature, all
remembered joys and exultations, are brought
together in a little space:
He hath made every thing beautiful in its time;
Also He hath set the world in their heart.
But with this elevation of mind comes the
awful thought of sin, which carries the worship-
per into a region where Plato did not, and could
not, tread. For the Eucharist, besides showing
dramatically how the Incarnation and Passion
and Resurrection were a recapitulation of that
cosmic drama which Plato knew, is a sacrifice
also, representing the special price laid down that
the wilful souls of men might he embraced in the
circle of the divine purpose. So, at this point,
does the sacramental principle of philosophy
meet and cross the religious law of costingness.
[This essay appeared originally in the Criterion for
July, 1929.]
ELsE,VHERE and for another purpose I have writ-
ten at length on the work of the Demon of the
in literature and art, showing how,
under that baleful influence, the unwary critic is
drawn to choose between belief in absolute stand-
ards or belief in absolute irresponsibility of taste,
whereas truth lies with the mediatorial view of
common sense that we have standards vested with
a certain amount of authority never infal-
lible.1 Again, in an earlier volume of this series, I
have said something about the mischief done to
theology by converting the God of worship into
the abstract Unity of reason, with the conse-
quence that a hesitant believer is left to vacillate
between acceptance of an immoral monstrosity
or con1plete atheism.
But the high-handed usur-
pation of reason, which presumes to explain
away any facts not amenable to its own passion
for simplification, does not stop with forcing its
definitions upon the nature of deity; it extends
over the whole field of religion, with equally dis-
astrous results.
1 The Demon of the Absolute, New Shelburne Essays I.
2 Christ the Word, 71 ff.
At least of Christianity, whatever may be said
of other forms of faith, one thing is certain, that
it depends upon revelation, that without revela-
tion the belief of the Christian is a baseless as-
sumption. Granted, says the undisciplined reason,
and immediately infers: Then, if there be such a
revelation, it must be absolute. And on the face
of it that inference has an element of plausibility.
If indeed there be a God who desires to reveal
Himself to the world, should we not expect Him
to accomplish His end by such a demonstration
of power as would leave no room for cavil?
Would not the Lord of nature declare Himself
by some articulate voice from the abyss, by some
stupendous portent in the sky, by signs and won-
ders that would bring the infidel to his knees in
awful submission? This, however, God mani-
festly has not done; and so the rationalist who
desires to maintain his faith is driven to take the
"second course." God, he says, as dealing with
men, has chosen to reveal Himself by human
means, yet still absolutely,-;by an infallible
book according to the rationalizing Protestant,
through an infallible Church according to the
rationalizing Papist. Unless we have somewhere
an absolute revelation, say the "fundamentalists"
of either wing, men must be left to follow their
own wandering whims with no guide whatsoever;
unless faith possesses an indisputable charter, it
has no warrant in reason. The only alternative is
between unquestioning acceptance of authority
or complete agnosticism; there is no middle way.
So speaks the intellect us sibi permissus _; and if
we grant its claims, I cannot see what possible
conclusion lies open to the thinking mind but
agnosticism. For the simple truth confronts any
honest investigator that we have no infallible
revelation vouchsafed us either in the Bible or in
the Church. He who today would retain at once
his faith as a Christian and his integrity of mind
can do so only by denying the right of logic to set
up any such dilemma, and by arguing for the
probability of a revelation which is authoritative
without being absolute, and reasonable without
being rationalistic.
I do not propose to spend many words in dem-
onstrating the imperfect character of the revela-
tion, if revelation there be, in the Bible, or, more
specifically, in the New Testament. It seems to
me perfectly unreasonable to claim inerrancy for
a book the very text of which has been permitted
to come down to us in uncertain form, and that
not only in insignificant details of language but
in the substance of passages essential to doctrine.
~ { o r e than that. "\Vhy is it that, even where the
3 E.g. the conclusion of Mark, the baptismal formula of Matthew,
the episode of the woman taken in adultery, the reading of I John
v, 7, 8, about the three witnesses.
~ .. ~ ~ .'.',.. .
iii il
: I
text is unquestioned, the very words of Jesus
reach us in a report often obscure, sometimes
contradictory; granting that the vagueness does
not go back to the original utterance of the Mas-
ter himself? I cannot see that the matter is helped
much by palliating the inconsistencies as only ap-
parent and as reconcilable to a deeper understand-
ing. The fact remains that they never have been so
reconciled; and it is futile to talk of an absolute
inspiration which cannot, or will not, make itself
indisputably clear. The anxious soul of piety may
revolt from these difficulties, but it cannot intel-
ligently deny them. One may believe that Christ
said of himself: "I am the way, and the truth, and
the life"; yet the way, though it fail not, is but
dimly traced, and the truth for its discernment
needs the light of our broken human faculties,
and the life must be verified by experience.
What ought to strike any unprejudiced reader
of the New Testament is the vigour with which
certain principles of the religious life are an-
nounced and the curious lack of precision in the
application of these principles to the details of
conduct. Of the morality preached by Jesus in
his call to repentance, the general law is simple
enough; it may be summed up pretty thoroughly
under three heads: Purity, Humility, and Love.
In one sense there is no ambiguity here. He who
sets out on the way of purity and humility and
love will know beyond peradventure by the in-
dubitable voice of conscience, that he is moving
towards the God of Christ and into the heaven of
spiritual peace. And if he will consider the inti-
macy with which these three principles are com-
bined with the gospel message, and the complete-
ness with which they cover the religious life, and
if then from all these points of view he will com-
pare the teaching of Christianity with the ethics
of any other doctrine, even Buddhism, I think he
will he inclined to admit that here he has found
something which can claim the distinctive author-
ity of revelation. Yet, on the other hand, if he
will examine the gospels attentively for precepts
applying these principles to the details of con-
duct, he will be equally struck by their lack of
precision, not to say by their inconsistency. The
application must be learned by long experience
and tested by judgement. Does purity demand
absolute chastity or does it leave a place for the
married state? Either view may be supported
from the language of the N ev,r Testament. Does
humility bring its blessing upon the "poor in
spirit" or upon the simply "poor"? The Beati-
tudes give warrant to either interpretation. Do
purity and humility together demand the sur-
render of all earthly possessions, or are they sat-
isfied with the proper use of such possessions?
No clear and ready answer to that question will
be discovered in Scripture. And the law of the
second commandment, which bids us to love our
neighbour as ourselves, how shall you reconcile
this with Christ's bitter denunciation of certain
classes of sinners, and with that care for our own
salvation which may require the hatred of father
and mother, brother and sister?
The Roman Church has sought a way out of
these difficulties by distinguishing between com-
mandment and counsel; we are commanded to
be continent, we are counselled, if we would aim
at the h ~ g h e r goal, to be absolutely chaste; to be
"poor in spirit" is a command, absolute po:verty
is a counsel of perfection. It is a clever device of
interpretation and may possibly be justified by
the counter claims of God and the world; but
there needs a violent hand indeed to force it upon
the actual words of Scripture. The very question
at issue is just this: why, if such a distinction be-
tween command and counsel be scripturally
sound, should it have been expressed so vaguely
that the fact is, to say the least, a matter of honest
If we turn from the principles of morality to
the other element of religion in Christ's teaching,
which can be summed up under the head of
otherworldliness, again we are confronted by the
mingling of vivid insistence with strange ambi-
guity. Of the fact that the summons to repen-
tance was in view of preparation for the Kingdom
of Heaven, there can be no doubt. From the first
words of Jesus on his return to Galilee after ba p-
tism to his final confession before the High Priest
this was the constant burden of his message : the
l{ingdom of Heaven is at hand. There a man's
treasure should be; in that harbour ends the voy-
age of life; in that citizenship is the reward of
virtue, the prize of endurance, the meaning of
God's fatherhood, the hope of salvation. In the
words of no other prophet of religion or philos-
ophy do we feel so cogently and realistically the
all-enveloping presence of the otherworld. Yet
what exactly is the nature of this heavenly realm
for which the disciples are called to sacrifice the
passing comforts and allurements of the visible
earth? Is it a regeneration of this world, or a
celestial Jerusalem in some remote region of
space? Was it to come speedily after the Cruci-
fixion, or was it to be deferred to the far-off con-
summation of history? Or is it quite dissevered
from such local circumstance, and does it merely
signify symbolically the Church of God's elect,
a little band at first, but growing with the ages
to em:brace mankind? Or, again, are even such
external associations to be discarded, and shall
we take it for a name given to that which takes
place within the heart of each man on conversion?
All these views can be, and have been held, and
they may all be justified by specific passages;
more than that, to base our belief on one passage
or group of passages to the exclusion of others,
we must do violence to the plain language of
Scripture, or assume an assurance in distinguish-
ing between what is authentic and what is unau-
thentic in the record warranted by no sound
canon of criticism. This combination of vividness
and ambiguity, if one stops to reflect, is really an
extraordinary phenomenon. It seems to imply a
note of finality and at the same time a reserve in
the method or an economy in the transmission of
inspired truth which, to say the least, do not
accord with a nai:ve conception of what revelation
should be.
And what shall be said of the personality of
Jesus himself? We gather from the record that
he claimed some unique relationship to God,
whether as Son or Logos. We may even assert, as
the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon did assert
in no hesitating language, that in some way he is
presented as having that in rum which must be
called very God of very God. But how? What is
the character of this mystical relation? Why, if
the whole fabric of Christianity is to be founded
on this dogma of the Incarnation, should the
formulation of the truth and its corollaries be left
after all to inference? Why are not the state-
ments of the fact so consistently categorical as to
leave no loophole for evasion or misinterpretation
or nuance of understanding or honest doubt? The
intellect of man can devise exact terms for its
theology, why should revelation so stammer in its
The answer of rationalism to these admittedly
disturbing questions is of a twofold nature, as it
lays hold of one or the other hom of the dilemma,
and in either case has the merit of clarity and
straightforwardness-if only it could come to
agreement with itself. On the one hand there are
those, the bibliolaters, who, responding warmly to
the divine appeal in the life and message of
Jesus, declare, against all evidence, that "God's
word" must be impeccable, and that no real dis-
crepancies can exist in the record, not to mention
the original revelation. Against these stand those
who, clutching at the apparent inconsistencies
and imperfections of the record, deny the possi-
bility of any revelation whatsoever in a document
that in part is humanly fallible. Both are driven,
though in opposite directions, by the same urge
of reason towards a final simplification; both are
victims of that Demon of the Absolute whose
influence is perhaps the most subtly malign of all
the idols set up for worship by the human race.
Let us admit that the way of the mediator is
never smooth, and that it is particularly difficult
in this question; yet is the path of the rationalist
any easier when in the end he is brought up by
the necessity of accommodating his simplified
theory to the complexities of actual experience?
The road to truth is like the Hesiodic road to
For long and steep and rough at first the way;
But when we reach the summit, then we say,
How easy 't is,-fearing no more to stray.
And if in regard to a relative mode of revela-
tion in the Bible we can see no a priori solution
of the difficulties involved, we may perhaps ex-
plain such a procedure, I will not say as provi-
dential, but as justified by the actual events of
history. Humanly speaking, one can assert that
an absolutely articulated revelation, even admit-
ting its initial possibility, would have defeated its
own purpose, and that the very continuity of the
life of Christianity, its ability to present an un-
changing core of truth in such manner as to meet
the needs of a varying and developing society,
has depended on that flexibility of its original
formulation. Suppose that the great principles of
purity and humility and love had been presented
in the form of rigid precepts applying to the
details of conduct, or that the Kingdom of God
had been accurately and indisputably described
as an event to be realized at some specific time
and place or, contrarily, as the equivalent of
Plato's Ideal realm, would not the driving force
of Christian morality and otherworldliness which
compelled the mind and heart of one age have
broken before the intellectual and emotional
needs of another age? And so with the central
dogma of the Incarnation. The very incoheren-
cies, not to say contradictions, in the story of
Christ's birth and resurrection, for those who
differ radically in their attitude towards the
miraculous, may leave open a common modus
credendi in that undefined ground where symhol
and literal fact insensibly merge together. The
narrower l\iessianic appeal that drew the first
disciples to their Lord would leave us cold,
whereas such a view of the "\V ord made flesh as
satisfied the Platonizing theologians of the fourth
century would have been meaningless to the
fishermen of Galilee. If Paul, the missionary,
made himself all things to all men, yet without
surrendering a jot of his fundamental faith, may
it not be true that the fluidity of the gospel record
has been the necessary means of bringing men of
widely different tempers closer and closer to the
perception of a central truth? After all, it is no
more than a recognition of the inevitable limits of
human nature to admit that a certain vagueness
of the hotv in these high matters is essential to a
presentation of the what. The absolutes of scep-
ticism and of "fundamentalism" may turn out to
be equally unreasonable.
l\1y criticism of the Bible will offer nothing
strange or disquieting, I trust, to the large body
of those who call themselves Catholic yet repudi-
ate the claims of infallibility wherever they may
be raised; such a middle ground as I would
defend is in fact quite in conformity with their
religious point of view. As for those of the ex-
treme Protestant persuasion, to be perfectly
frank I am not much concerned with entering
into the internal quarrel that is rending them
asunder. On the one hand the "fundamentalists,"
who obstinately identify religion with belief in
the plenary inspiration of the Bible, seem to me
to have lost their cause so utterly and finally that
nothing can add to their discomfiture ; while on
the other hand those who call themselves Protes-
tants yet have retreated from their one strong-
hold against the Catholic belief in the Church as
an organ of continuous inspiration, are so mani-
festly on the downward slope to an individualistic
rationalism that nothing, apparently, can save
them from the debacle yawning at their feet. But
with the Roman Catholics the case is different.
Their position is curiously inconsistent, yet at the
same time cunningly devised to conceal its weak-
ness from attack. In theory they are committed
as irretrievably as are the fundamentalists of the
extreme Protestant wing to the dogma of abso-
lute inspiration, yet in their opposition to the Pro-
testant tenet that the Bible in itself and individ-
ually interpreted is a sufficient guide to faith, and
in their insistence on the need of an infallibly
inspired Church to formulate what is only im-
plicit in the original revelation, they practically
draw the whole contention away from the ques-
tion of the inspiration of the book itself to the ques-
tion of the authoritative interpreter of the book.
There is thus a certain discrepancy between their
theory and their practice, but strategically their
position is well chosen. It may be comparatively
easy to discomfit the Protestants by breaking
down their belief in the plenary and self-suffi-
cient inspiration of the Bible; it is not so easy on
a priori grounds to disprove the claims of an
infallible Church, and it is very difficult to expose
the inveracity of such claims by the direct evi-
dence of history, especially when the scope and
nature of the field of infallibility are left so vague
as almost to evade discussion. Candidly, then, my
summary of the well-known arguments against
the impeccable inspiration of the Bible has the
purpose of undermining by indirect means the
Roman stronghold. The point would be this: it
is reasonable, granted a partial but not plenary
inspiration of the Bible, to extend such a belief
so as to embrace a Church in like manner authori-
tative but not absolute; it is utterly unreasonable
to admit the fallible inspiration of the Bible, as
Rome does practically (whatever her theory may
be), and at the same time to contend that the
possibility of revealed religion is bound up with
acceptance of an infallibly inspired Church.
Despite her bold front, despite the formidable
scaffold of her logic, despite the plausibility of
her contention (echoed so complacently by her
infidel admirers, et dona ferentes) that there is
no solid ground to stand on between rejection of
all revelation whatsoever and abject submission
to an infallibly inspired authority, the position of
Rome is terribly open to attack; she has accepted
a dilemma which in the end must drive any clear-
sighted mind upon agnosticism, as the agnostics
who, with tongue in cheek, accept the same di-
lemma know full well. If it were within the
sphere of a Providence working through any
finite means to make an absolute revelation of
the will of God, why should errors and inconsis-
tencies have been allowed to creep into the orig-
inal document, the depo8iturn f i d e i ~ which was,
and remains, the ultimate criterion of dogma and
the final court of appeal? Why, if any word
spoken by human lips can be clothed with the
precision of infallibility, should the message of
the Incarnate Word come do"rn to us in a form
open in so many details to doubt and perplexity?
Rome may think to hide her vulnerability behind
a smoke-screen by throwing up the theory of a
, I
book fallible to the individual judgement but in-
fallible to the divinely appointed guardians of the
faith, but in fact every blow delivered by modern
scholarship upon the tenets of Protestant funda-
mentalism strikes the bulwarks of Rome with
double effect, and this Rome perfectly under-
stands as is shown by her implacability to the
modernists, even the most moderate, within her
own ranks. There is no escape from the rocks of
Scylla and Charybdis save by sailing resolutely
between them, by insisting, that is to say, on the
possibility, even the probability, of a kind of rev-
elation which neither in book nor in Church is
absolute, but in both book and Church possesses a
sufficient authority.
The only convenient support for the Roman
position would be to drop the pretensions of a
priori logic and to argue from facts. Whether or
not the Bible is infallible, do the actual events of
history offer any evidence for an absolute Church
whose organ of infallibility is lodged in the
Bishop of Rome speaking as a successor of St.
Peter? As I have said, this, which is the practical
as opposed to the theoretical position of Rome,
has great strategic advantages. By making large
concessions as to the fallibility of human gover-
nors of the Church in practical affairs, and by
confining the sphere of infallibility to ex cathedra
pronouncements of the Pope on questions of
faith and morals (a be it noted, which
she has never admitted in regard to the Bible),
and with always the possible ambiguity whether
any particular question is actually de fide_, Rome
has so narrowed her claims to absolutism and at
tl1e same time has left these claims so vague as to
render conviction of error extremely difficult.
But here again there is vast difference between
theory and practice. The kind of submission she
demands in practice goes far beyond what in
theory might unwarily be conceded by one who
believes in an authoritative, while repudiating the
notion of an absolute, Church.
But the question of absolutism, however it may
be disguised for defensive purposes, is there, and
is essential, and the answer given to it by history
is open to investigation. The inspiration of the
Church goes hack to the outpouring of the Spirit
on the day of Pentecost. Why, then, if that hap ..
tism into the Holy Ghost was ever to assume the
character of absolute enlightenment, should the
light have been so vague and wavering at the
beginning? Why, if the central and essential sac-
rament of the Church, that on which the function
of the priesthood ultimately rests, was ever to be
defined with the absolute precision of the theory
of transubstantiation,-why, one asks, should its
divine institution in the words of the Master, at
least as they are variously recorded, have been
such as to throw the door open to endless query
and dispute? Why, if there is anything absolute
in the priestly function, was its appointment left
so vague at the beginning? In particular the
bishops, upon whom in practice the stability of
the Church seems so largely to depend, why is it
that their distinct office was allowed to develop
almost as it were from the accidental needs of the
clerical organization, so that historically the Pres-
byterians may be justified in their rejection of
the bishopric as an intrusion upon primitive cus-
toms? How easily might the episcopal function
have been defined from the first in a manner to
avoid dispute.
And then, as we come down the ages, we are
confronted by the worldliness and immorality of
the Popes themselves at certain critical moments,
especially at the time of the Renaissance and the
Reformation, when the unity and the very exis-
tence of the Church hung upon their character. It
is at least a disconcerting fact that Providence
should have suffered its organ of absolute revela-
tion to be chosen by means so dubious and to have
fallen into hands so unworthy. And more than
once the Popes in their authoritative utterances
have come so near, at least, to the skirts of heresy
(heresy, that is, from the Roman point of view).
that their infallibility can be supported by noth-
ing less than an agony of logic. Consider, for
example, the acts of Zosimus in the conflict be-
tween Augustine and the Pelagians. In the year
417 the Pope sent a letter to the African enemies
of Pelagius and of his satellite Caelestius which
certainly, for a time, committed the Church, so
far as the Church is held to be centred in the
Bishop of Rome, to an error de fide which later
she was to repudiate vindictively. I take the
following sentences from Dr. Kidd's History.,
because, though written by an Anglican, they
interpret the transaction in the most favourable
manner possible to the Roman assumption:
"'We have already written to you,' says Zosi-
mus, 'about Caelestius.' ... We trust that you
will be more circumspect in the future, and re-
joice to find that Pelagius and Caelestius 'have
not been brought back like the prodigal but have
never been separated from the Catholic truth.'
We send you copies of Pelagius' writings. You
will be glad to see that-as we said of Caelestius
-'his faith' also is 'completely satisfactory.'
Zosimus had now committed ltimself hopelessly.
True., his mistakes cannot be quoted as fatal to
Papal Infallibility. He erred on a question of
fact only., as to whether certain persons did or did
not hold the right faith., but it was a very hasty
judgement in a matter touching the very centre
of the faith."'"'
4 A. History of the Church, III, 108. I have italicized Dr. Kidd's
Now, granted that Zosimus erred on the ques-
tion of fact only as to what Pelagius meant, and
did not err in assenting to the actual heresy of Pe-
lagianism, what assurance of absolute inspiration
can be felt for an oracle so subject to deception 1
Who is to decide whether in a particular case a
Pope who confirms the dogma enunciated in a
certain document is interpreting that document
correctly? The distinction made between error in
"fact" and error in "dogma" is practically a pure
quibble, and when a Pope declares that the
"faith" as defined in a document is "completely
satisfactory," it is a poor sophistry to excuse him
by saying that he really has in mind a faith quite
contrary to that so defined. And this from the
most lenient point of view. The more probable
truth of history is that Zosimus at first favoured
the heretical opinions of Pelagius and was after-
wards forced to retract by pressure from the
attenuating explanation. In a note he quotes from Denziger, En-
chiridion, No. 1682, the following definition of infallibility: Ro-
manum Pontificem, cum ex cathedra loquitur, id est, cum omnium
Christionorwm Pastoris et Doctoris munere fungens ... doctrinam
de fide vel moribus ab universa ecclesia tenendam definit ... in-
fallibilitate pollere.
5 Dr. Salmon, in his lectures on The Infallibility of the Church,
has brought out the fallacy of distinguishing between fact and
principle in the papal condemnation of the work of Jansenius. In
general Dr. Salmon's book seems to me to reduce the theory of papal
infallibility to a thing of shreds and tatters. His only failure is in
his omission to observe that the infallibility of the Bible is equally
untenable with the infallibility of the Church.
'The a priori arguments for an absolute Church
simply fall to pieces the .sees.
belief in any kind of absolute Inspuation IS In-
compatible with the of
fidei as given in the Bible; historically the evi-
dence, carefully weighed, is against such a
But the most serious objection is prag-
nlatic rather than theoretic or historical. The
presumption of infallibility has committed
has committed her to a series of
dogmas, in part mere corollaries of the original
dogma and in part accidental, which are already
a grave embarrassment to the faithful and in the
end must cause a complete rupture between a
religion so committed and any philos-
ophy of life. Very briefly I would Indicate the
nature of these difficulties under four heads.
1. Rome has identified herself and, so far as
she is competent, the whole Church with a con-
ception of the Bible substantially the san1e as that
which in Protestant circles has been branded
6 Besides the case of Zosimus already mentioned, the sceptical
historian can point to Sixtus VI, who in 1590, "by the fulness of
apostolic power," imposed on the an e?,ition of the
as "true, lawful, authentic, and unquestioned, the authenticity of
which the Church had later to repudiate; to the assent of Liberius
to an Arian creed; to the lapse of Vigilius under pressure from
Justinian; to the monotheletism of Honorius, and to the false doc-
trine of Eugenius IV concerning the sacraments. Some. of these
failures may be mitigated by explaining them as not commg under
the conditions required for an ex cathedra utterance; but, taken
together, they leave the dogma of infallibility a mere elusive shadow.
with the name of fundamentalism. We must be-
lieve that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, we must
profess that the sun actually stood still in the
heavens, we must shut our eyes to inconsistencies
in the accounts of Christ's birth and life and res-
urrection, we must swallow the whole of St.
Paul's rabbinical theology, we must simply lock
the door upon our critical faculty, not to say upon
our sense of honesty. I am aware that such con-
clusions as these are distasteful to many Roman
Catholics who tacitly or openly deny that they are
bound to accept them. But the Encyclical of
Leo XIII, Providentissimus seems to me
to have committed the Church unequivocally to
just such a profession. The Bible, according to
that document, was written under the inspiration
of the Holy Ghost and has God as its author; it
is oracula et eloquia it is without any
admixture of error. Nor is this infallibility con-
fined to questions of faith and morals, exclusive
of matters of science and history. Replying to
those of the Church who sought this way of
escape from an intolerable position, the docu-
ment declares categorically: "It will never be
lawful to restrict inspiration merely to certain
parts of the Holy Scriptures, or to grant that the
sacred writer could have made a mistake. Nor
may the opinion of those be tolerated, who, in
order to get out of these difficulties, do not hesi-
tate to suppose that Divine inspiration extends
only to what touches faith and morals, on the
false plea that the true meaning is sought for
less in what God has said than in the motive for
which He has said it.' '
And this view of the
Bible was given out by the Pope as expressing
the constant tradition of the Church and as an-
nounced by him under divine guidance, aspirante
Deo. If such a pronouncement is not to be re-
garded as "infallible," what is so to be taken? If
it does not commit the Church irrevocably, then
what force is left to the word "infallibility''? As
I have said, Rome has largely avoided the ridicule
and contempt thrown upon the Protestant bibli-
olaters by shifting the centre of defence, but at
bottom her position is not more decent or more
tenable than was that of the zealots of "funda-
nlentalism," whose trial and persecution of a poor
school teacher of Dayton, Tennessee, aroused the
laughter of the world. It would be hard to mea-
sure the anguish of the more enlightened children
of Rome who, trying to introduce a view of in-
spiration possible of acceptance to modern
scholarship, have either suffered excommunica-
7 N ec enim tolleranda est e01um ratio, qui ex is tis difficultatibua
sese expediunt, id nim:irum dare 1wn dubitantes, inspirationem
divinam ad 1es fidei morumqtte, nihil praeterea, pertinere, eo quod
{also a.rbitrentur, de veritate sententiarum quum agitur, non adeo
exquirendum quaenam dixerit Deus, ut non magis perpendatur
quam ob caussam ea dixerit.
tion or surrendered their conscience to a silent
and sullen obedience.
2. By a process of inevitable logic, granting the
premiss of infallibility, Rome has narrowed
down the instrument of inspiration from the con-
sensus of the whole body of the faithful to the
decrees . of an ecumenical council of bishops and
from this to the ex cathedra utterance of the one
bishop who occupies the throne of St. Peter. The
result has all the advantages of definiteness and
precision, as may be seen by comparing the certi-
tude of Rome with the embarrassment of the
Eastern Church (which lays equal claims to in-
fallibility) when asked to state just where the
oracle of dogma lies. But with these advantages
there goes a corresponding danger. To entrust
the faith of the world to the judgement of one old
man after another is, to say the least, a venture-
some act of confidence. And what shall be said
of the state of the Church when there are two or
three rival claimants to the throne of Peter, as
has happened in history? It may be that the
Pope is seldom asked to pronounce on questions
of dogma; it. ~ t r ~ e that the very responsibility
of such a position Is so awful that the risk of rash
and individual judgements is reduced to a
minimum, and that in effect the Pope in these
rna tters becomes little more than a voice through
which the slow experience of the Church is made
articulate,-all these concessions may be granted,
yet the peril remains. The faithful may comfort
themselves by distinguishing absolutely between
the Pope as mere man and as the divinely chosen
representative of Christ; those who can find no
warrant for anv kind of absolute in this human
life of ours will be unable to ease their fears by
such a distinction. Certainly the Council of the
Vatican, when it passed the burden of infallibil-
ity from the Church as a vaguely defined entity
to the shoulders of a single responsible man, set
up for our credence the sharpest and most brittle
Absolute the world has ever known.
3. The claim of infallibility makes it obligatory
upon anyone who calls himself a Christian, now
and for all time, to subscribe to certain articles of
faith which have been formulated by a special
group of theologians at a late age, for which not
an iota of authority can be drawn from the orig-
inal depositum and which are, and in all
likelihood will increasingly become, distasteful,
to use the mildest available term, to large bodies
of the devout. Such, for instance, is the doctrine
of the Immaculate Conception, which even the
Orthodox Eastern Church, notwithstanding its
exorbitant devotion to the Virgin de-
nounces as utterly unscriptural and unauthentic.
It is also, as a matter of fact, wretchedly vulner-
able as a piece of deductive logic. The argument
implies that, if the Mother of Christ is to be held
without sin, then her parents must have been
exempt from the curse of transmitting the taint
of original sin in the act of conceiving her; and
this in good logic would require that the parents
of her parents enjoyed the san1e exemption, and
so on backwards ad Adamum. Such a dogma
must be repellant to all but two classes of men:
to those who, having once made the supreme act
of submission to an absolute Church, simply re-
fuse to let their minds dwell critically on any
specific doctrine, and to those scornful agnostics
who say that if one accepts any belief in the
supernatural he might as well, to use the vulgar
but picturesque phrase beloved of such critics,
go the whole hog and believe everything demand-
ed of him.
4. But perhaps the most deplorable phase of
ecclesiastical absolutism is shown where it touches
the more practical and personal acts of worship.
Here Rome has committed herself, again irre-
vocably, to a medieval outgrowth of superstition
which goes far in the direction of converting the
sacraments into feats of magic. Disguise the
matter as one will, the moment one regards the
intrinsic efficiency of the sacraments as spring-
ing solely ex opere that is to say, from
the performance of a certain rite and the utter-
ance of certain words, conditioned only by the
intention of the celebrant, that moment one is
drawing very close to a confusion of religion with
magic. Though here again it is not the part of
sober reason to fly from one absolute to another,
and, having denied the extreme claims of the
opus to go to the other extreme by
depriving the celebrant's act of any significance.
Surely the proper attitude for one who rejects
the gross materialism of magic, while at the same
time recognizing the fact that for us as we are
constituted there can be no durable religious ex-
perience, no healthful spiritual life, dissociated
from corporeal phenomena,-surely the more
reasonable way is to admit the possible virtue of
a sacramental act without inquiring too strictly
into the relation of matter and spirit or into the
rnethod of its efficiency. It may be better in the
end to bear the reproach of uncertainty and in-
consistency than to bruise one's self against a wall
of one's own erection.
The two sacraments most endangered by the
dead hand of absolutism are the Eucharist and
baptism. In the case of the former the naive belief
in the magic efficiency of the words of the Institu-
tion as producing an absolute change in the ele-
ments of bread and wine, confronted with the
evidence of the senses that no change at all takes
place, has led to the adoption of a theory of tran-
substantiation which reduces the Aristotelian dis-

tinction between substance and accidence to a
metaphysical absurdity. In the case of baptism
the Church has been brought to dally with the
most abhorrent of the Augustinian excesses. From
the theory of the sacraments as efficient absolute-
ly em opere operata it follows that the baptized
person, from no voluntary participation on his
part (with infants there can be no such participa-
tion) , but solely by virtue of the act and words of
the rite itself, undergoes some magical process
of purification. It cannot be that he is purged
merely of the guilt of sins actually committed,
since the rite may be administered with full ef-
ficacy to new-born infants; it cannot be that he
is purged of the taint of "original sin" regarded
as an inherited inclination towards evil, since man-
ifestly that inclination remains in the soul after
baptism; it must be then that the purgation af-
fects that mysterious thing properly called "orig-
inal guilt" (the reatus peccati originalis). Now
the dogma of original sin, separated, if you will,
from its connection with a mythical Fall, corre-
sponds, to this extent, with an indisputable trait
of human nature, that we are all, however you
explain it, tainted from birth with a tendency to-
wards what we know as evil. But the dogma of
original sin so extended as to embrace inherited
guilt is a pure fabrication of occidental theology,
as repulsive to ethics as it is unwarranted in
logic. It means that, apart from any sin we may
commit or from any native inclination to evil,
we, at the moment of birth, or rather from the
moment of conception, are held responsible in
the court of a just God for the guilt of Adam's
transgression, and so are doo1ned to everlasting
hell. By a supposed deliverance from this imagi-
nary guilt, as distinguished from a tendency to
sin, the magical efficiency of baptism may be ex-
plained, and so to this unhappy dogma Rome,
by her theory of the sacraments, is indissolubly
s Rome is explicit in her doctrine. The Confession of Faith of
Clement IV contains this statement: "The souls of those who die
in mortal sin, or in original sin alone [in which state are all un-
baptized infants], forthwith descend into hell to be punished with
pains of different kinds." But the Church is merciful-so far as
she can be. Unbaptized infants go to hell and are punished, but
their section of hell, the limbo infantiu,m) is almost cheerful, and
their punishment is only an everlasting preclusion from that
heaven and from that vision of God which are open to the
baptized. As it is stated in the Catholic Encyclopaedia (sub voce
0l'iginal Sin) : "By the sin of Adam he has been deprived only of
the Divine gifts to which his nature had no strict right, the com-
plete mastery of his passions, exemption from death, sanctifying
grace, the vision of God in the next life. The Creator, whose gifts
were not due to the human race [which He had Himself created],
had the right to bestow them on such conditions [sc. baptism] as
He wished." Or as J. P. Arendzen says in his fully accredited
book on WJwt Becomes of the Dead: "That God in infinite kind-
ness gives heavenly glory to other infants who happily die after
baptism, ought surely to fill us with admiration and gratitude for
His goodness, not to make us murmur because He does not give
it to others."-This is merely perverted sentimentality brought to
bolster up a perverse theology. To these depths of unctuous
Confession and penance are less central to the
faith and less essential to worship than the Eucha-
rist and baptism, but, taken as -sacraments in the
Roman sense, they have at the best tended to
weaken the element of morality in religion, and
at the worst were employed to justify the sale of
indulgences and other abuses which were the oc-
casion of the Reformation, and which in principle
have not been, and can never be, repudiated by
I trust that nothing I have here said by way
of criticism will be taken to imply that I am
insensible to the great merit and the magnificent
achievement of the Roman Church. Whatever
may have been, in my opinion, her errors on the
periphery, Rome, through all the changes of time,
through the disintegrations and redintegrations
of society, against multiplied attacks of a queru-
lous or vindictive philosophy, against every plea
for accommodation with the 'vorld, has fought
resolutely for a sound conception of the Incarna-
tion as the supreme fact of history upon its atti-
tude to which Christian theology must stand or
sophistry will descend a Church which by its dogma of infalli-
bility is bound to continue forever apologizing for any doctrine
once formulated and accepted.
9 For a clear and forcible exposition of the Roman errors from
the Orthodox Eastern point of view, I would recommend the
eighth and ninth chapters of the A6'YOL IILO"Toil by Professor Dio-
medes Kyriakos, 3rd edition, Athens, 1913.
fall. In her liturgical practice also, however she
may have strayed in her philosophy, she has clung
to the eucharistic sacrament (or "mystery" in the
better nomenclature of Greece), upon the pre-
servation of which as the central act of worship
it becomes clearer with the passing years that the
continuity of the Church will depend. In this
sense Rome is genuinely catholic, in that she has
been the undaunted champion of the Incarnation
as the supreme dogma and of the Eucharist as the
supreme sacrament (and the two are but the in-
ner and the outer aspects of a single mystery)
to which can be applied properly the Vincentian
ab omnibus. To her service of the
mass any one who calls himself a catholic may
come, and at her altars any one who calls him-
self a catholic may bow, reverently and confi-
dently, feeling that they belong to him as a
Christian and that he may participate in their
venerable sanctity, though he may reject much
else that Rome holds obligatory and in conse-
quence may be rejected by Rome from her com-
If I write harshly, with seen1ing acri1nony, of
Rome, it is not in the joy of petty controversy,
or because I am unresponsive to her insistence on
the need of a Church to complement the individ-
ualistic tendencies in religion. On the contrary
it is because, as I have said, her stand (which the
agnostic holds with her) that there is no
able middle ground between two absolutes, If
once granted, must in the end throw all reason-
able men into absolute individualism. That I hold
to be spiritual death, and against that conclusion
I am really pleading. . . .
Now I know that, besides the anti-ecclesiasti-
cism of the agnostic and infidel stamp, we must
reckon with the claims of those who in one way or
another profess to obey the "inner light,"
ing that this alone is suffici.ent for true
and that in fact any organized form of worship
depending on the acceptance of a
mula of faith tends to deaden the finer Intuitions
of the soul and to raise a barrier between God and
man. Certainly these immediate intuitions are of
the very essence of faith, and without them
Church and dogma fall into a parody of religion.
It is even true that such intuitions, in their ut-
most purity, may bring the individual soul
a kind of mystic fellowship with the prophetic
soul of mankind; otherwise indeed the very foun-
dation of the Church in the communion of saints
would be cut from under her. Such a spiritual
community, nourished by hurnble submission to
the light in each man, can be read in the lives of
the better Quakers; it inspires the religious poems
of Whittier, sometimes more beautifully but
never more clearly than in The Meeting:
God should be most where man is least:
So, where is neither Church nor priest,
And never rag of form or creed
To clothe the nakedness of need,-
Where farmer-folk in silence meet,-
I turn my bell-unsummoned feet;
I lay the critic's glass aside,
I tread upon my lettered pride,
And, lowest-seated, testify
To the oneness of humanity;
Confess the universal want,
And share whatever Heaven may grant.
He findeth not who seeks his own,
The soul is lost that's saved alone.
Not on one favoured forehead fell
Of old the fire-tongued miracle,
But flamed o'er all the thronging host
The baptism of the Holy Ghost;
Heart answers heart: in one desire
The blending lines of prayer aspire;
"\Vhere in my name meet two or three"
Our Lord hath said, "I there will
No one will deny that Whittier, the Friend,
worshipped also in the beauty of holiness. I sus-
pect, nevertheless, that most of the talk about
essential religion diverted from the traditional
of and about the sufficiency of
mner religious experience free from dogma
IS not far removed from cant. You hear it said
of such a man that he is genuinely, even
deeply, religious, though he has no part or inter-
est in the formal professions of faith; you hear it
hinted that his spirituality is the more profound
as it is more personal to himself. There may be
such men; but, in most cases, a little honest in-
vestigation raises very disquieting doubts. In
what does religion of that stamp ordinarily mani-
fest itself, to what does it really amount? The
possessor of the supposed treasure does not deign
to join in public praise or prayer, but neither does
he, in most cases, worship or pray in private; he
does not read the Bible or any other religious
book; the object of devotion is a name to him
only, and his private God, if you try to put your
finger on that entity, fades off into the vaguest
sort of pantheism or the flimsiest aura of tran-
scendentalism, a Being that requires of him noth-
ing and gives to him nothing, and is rarely in his
thoughts at all. He may not militantly deny the
otherworld and immortality, but it would be ab-
surd to say that he seriously believes in these
things or that spiritual realities are more to him
than a pretty dream, if indeed they have the va-
lidity of a dream; his faith costs him nothing, and
is priceless in the sense of being without value.
Honestly, what have such the most of
got, of whom it is said so glibly that they possess
the kernel of religion without the husks? They
indulge occasionally perhaps in a cloudy sort of
reverie over the divine beauty of the world; but
who does not, and to what profit? They are prob-
ably moral, and that is well; but the most com-
plete agnostic may be moral enough for the pur-
poses of life. I ask: What have these individualists
got to show for their faith? The answer, if we put
away cant, is only too likely to be, Nothing.
As for those who, like Whittier, temper their
individualism with a community of worship de-
prived of creed or rite or sacrament, I admit that
there is something to be said for them, if their
"meeting" be compared with a Protestant
"church" in which worship is dependent princi-
pally upon the oratorical eloquence of a preacher.
No doubt a good sermon may be inspiriting, even
a mediocre sermon, if free from personal vanities,
may be a not valueless adjunct to worship; but,
generally, silence is more reverent than the poorly
nourished homily and the extemporaneous
prayers of the "minister of the gospel." And the
Protestant rituals, devised to enrich a poverty-
stricken service yet deprived of sacramental im-
plication, are sad confessions of failure, possess-
Ing too often all the defects of individualism
without its virtues. Compared with the withering
graces of Protestantism I can understand and
admire the more manly independence of a Whit-
tier; but on the ordinary level the spiritual com-
munity he sought is terribly fragile and precari-
ous, and at the best it still lacks that which a true
Church can give.
No, for our growth and sanity in religion we
must have something to supply what the inner
light will not afford to the isolated souls of men,
something to make us conscious of our citizen-
ship in the communion of the saints, to supple-
ment our limited intuition with the accumulated
wisdom of the race, and in our moral perplexities
to fortify the individual conscience with the au-
thority of ancient command, some agent to pre-
sent before our eyes in consecrated forms the
everlasting drama of the divine condescension
and to force upon our understanding the sym-
bolism of these transient phenomena and the
spiritual potentialities of this material world,
some organ to express our wavering faith in an
abiding creed and to help us utter our common
instinct of praise and prayer in the beauty of
holiness. And the Church, so far as it answers to
this spiritual need, we hold to be an inspired in-
Thus it is that at the last religion can be neither
purely individualistic nor purely determined. In
one sense individualistic, yes, in so far as the
ultimate responsibility of choice cannot be with-
drawn from the conscience of each man, whether
he shall accept this dogma and this form as com-
plying with what seems to him the verity of his
own inner life, or shall reject them as expansions
in a false direction; but determined also to this
:f I
: ~ :
degree, that he will be extremely hesitant to set
up his private judgement against a formulated
tradition, and will prefer to abide in humble, yet
not abject, submission to the authority of a wider
experience than his own. He may even find his
peace by uniting himself to a corporation with
which he is not in complete sympathy, and by
participating in a liturgy which he cannot inter-
pret to himself quite in its literal sense, knowing
that only by such concessions can any stability of
worship be maintained. That is what I mean by
an authoritative as contrasted with an absolute
Church. No doubt there is something unsatisfac-
tory in such a position; it demands the constant
exercize of our willand intelligence in making an
adjustment never quite final, whereas the Roman
position, after the first plunge of abnegation, re-
lieves us of all the anxieties of decision. So it is
that we cry out for an infallible Church; but
there is no finality granted us here any more than
in the other fields of life. As Emerson said: "God
offers to every mind its choice between truth and
repose; take which you please, J ou can never have
both." We do not know why this should be so,
we only know that it is so. It is folly to rebel, pre-
sumptuous to ask for more, suicidal to disdain
what we have. This is what Newman knew and
felt and with humbled pride accepted when he
composed his glorious hymn of faith:
. I
Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home-
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene-one step enough for me.
~ 0 5
The typical tragedy of the century for religion
was enacted when Newman's courage failed him,
and in his anguish for the perfect light he bowed
down to the Demon of the Absolute.
The zealot who forces upon hesitant doubters
the harsh and false dilemma of submission to an
infallible Church or of irresponsible individual-
ism, and who repudiates any notion of authority
between despotism and anarchy,hassimplysigned
the death warrant of organized Christianity. The
execution of that warrant may be delayed; but
it will come in due time. Nor can I see more rea-
sonableness in the position of the agnostic who
accepts the same dilemma and then sneeringly
asks us: If you believe anything supernatural as-
serted in the name of revelation, why not believe
everything? Such an alternative of absolutes is
as alien to the truth in matters of the spirit as it
is in art or government or ethics or philosophy.
' . i ~ :.
~ !
. .r
THE word mysticism is taken so loosely and
variously that no study of the experience, or
rather experiences, lying behind the expression
can be very useful without first defining our term.
And to this end we may take advantage of a
statement of the Abbe Bremond in his great his-
tory of French piety since the Renaissance, who
thus sums up the problem of mysticism under
two heads:
"Beyond and outside of the knowledge proper-
ly called intellectual which ends in abstract con-
cepts, does there, or does there not, exist a real
knowledge, a direct intuition, which, without the
intermediation of images and concepts, would
establish between the real, whatever it may be,
and ourselves a kind of immediate contact,
amounting to complete adherence or possession?
"Can it happen, does it in fact happen, that the
reality itself, if I may so express myself, and not
the idea of God, offers itself to this kind of know-
ledge, deigns to descend to this contact, so im-
pressing itself in the depth of the soul, taking pos-
session of it, purifying and sanctifying it?"
1 Le Sentiment religieux en France, VI, 175.
And he adds: Tout le reste est verbiage.
The problem, I admit, is adroitly stated for the
author's purpose, which is, primarily, to defend
certain classes of Catholic mystics against cen-
sure within the Church itself; but a more compre-
hensive view of the subject would scarcely grant
that all the rest is verbiage. On the contrary one
might assert that at both extremities the Abbe's
definition-for his queries are really such-slurs
over the most distinctive notes of the broader
spiritual experience. Below his lower term there
would need to be considered that assurance of
knowledge which, though it does not end in ab-
stract concepts, yet makes no claim to be in actual
contact with supernatural reality. And above his
higher term there is the question whether the
reality shall be regarded as a Unity so absolute
that the soul by communication therewith merges
into it and ceases to be a separate entity. I should
say, then, that the conclusion implied in J\1. Bre-
mond's queries is rather a modification of the
highest religious pretensions devised for the sake
of Christian apologetic, and I should prefer to
put my definition under three heads, or, rather,
would divide the mystical experience into these
three planes:
(I) The conviction of supernatnral realities
accompanied with a sense of the illusory nature
of the phenomenal world.
( 2) An immediate contact with supernatural
reality, whether given (a) through
sights and sounds or (b) by spiritual communzca-
(3) Absorption of the soul in this reality,
whether conceived as a pancosmic or a transcen-
dental Absolute.
( 1) Now the first plane is the prerequisite of
all religion, the sine qua non, I should even say,
of all true philosophy. But strictly speaking it is
not mysticism, though often so named, and does
not necessarily lead to mysticism. It may be
called loosely a mystical habit of mind, or mysti-
cality; but for the purpose of marking the dis-
tinction I should like to adopt the barbarous
though expressive word of old Walter Hilton,
mystihood. It is, so limited, peculiarly the. n?te
of Platonic Idealism and of normal Chnsban
( 2) The second plane belongs more properly
to the field of mystic experience, and in a higher
or lower degree occurs frequently among relig-
ious enthusiasts. But in itself it still is rather a
quasi than an absolute mysticism. As a rule, in
this plane of experience the supernatural takes
the form of a single entity, at once infinite and
personal, which reveals itself to the human soul
by an act of grace. Quasi-mysticism is thus nor-
mally theistic, and is a development out of theistic
rather than out of Ideal mystihood.
(3) Actual, complete mysticism is attained
when we pass beyond the second plane and hold
that the soul may, and does, lose itself in the ob-
ject of its intuition. In this belief the notion of
personality, whether in the soul or in the Abso-
lute, becomes a part of the illusion to be tran-
scended, and the final state is inexpressible in the
terms of theistic devotion, or even in the language
of vision. This is the consummation of religion as
conceived in the Orient, particularly in India.
Naturally these three planes are not separated
by impassable barriers, and individual men or
specific movements may alternate between two
of them or waver in an uncertain equilibrium.
Notably, there is a form of ecstatic vision pecu-
liar to monotheistic religion, which hovers irreso-
lutely between the second plane of quasi-mysti-
cism and the third plane of absolute mysticism,
and which therefore may be particularly charac-
terized as mixed. And it is this ambiguous type
of mixed mysticism, developed by medieval
Christianity and continued to the present day,
that I have in mind especially to consider. Tak-
ing account then of the looser and the stricter use
of the term mysticism, we may show its classifi-
cation in a diagram as follows, the bracketed
numbers corresponding to the three planes of our

Ideal, as seen in Plato .. Hellenic
(1) Mystihood Theistic, as seen in
Gregory N azianzen
(2) Quasi, as seen in . Christian
St. Augustme
Mixed, as seen in
St. John of the Cross
(3) Absolute, as seen in
Plotinus ... Hellenistic
It will be observed that the extremes of "mys-
ticism" (in the more comprehensive sense) are
non-Christian, while the middle ground is Christ-
ian, Gregory forming a link at the one end with
the Hellenic mystihood of Plato, and St. John
of the Cross forming a link at the other end with
the Hellenistic mysticism of Plotinus. The triple
division of "mysticism" into Hellenic and Chris-
tian and Hellenistic thus corresponds with the
psychological division into mystihood and quasi-
mysticism and absolute mysticism. But the over-
lapping shows that these distinctions are fluid
and must not be taken too rigidly. I shall deal
first with the Hellenic and Hellenistic types and
then with the Christian.
"We look not at the things which are seen, but
at the things which are not seen; for the things
which are seen are temporal, but the things which
are not seen are eternal."
Few, I take it, will deny that this Pauline dis-
tinction between the blepomena and the me ble-
pomena, lying at the root of all religion, is of the
very essence of Plato's Idealism. Life, the poets
would hint and the preachers have vigorously af-
firmed, is inevitably a choice between two inter-
ests, or sets of values, one of which tends to fade
into obscurity as the other becomes more vivid.
And if for the most part the things which are
seen claim our time and attention, this does not
necessarily mean that they are of themselves the
more real. In fact it is a constant thought of
Plato that the ordinary man is not truly awake,
but is walking about, like a somnambulist, in pur-
suit of illusory phantoms. If the dream be taken
for substance, as with most of us it happens, that
is because the passions pervert our sense of values.
"The pleasures that men know are mixed with
pains-how can it be otherwise? For they are
mere shadows and painted pictures of the true
pleasure, and are coloured by contrast, which so
exaggerates both the light and the shade that in
a careless mind they beget insane desire of them-
selves; and they are fought about, as Stesichorus
says the Greeks fought about the shadow of
Helen at Troy in ignorance of the true Helen."
Against this witchcraft of the passions the sen-
tence of philosophy, that only Ideas are real,
must be repeated by the soul to itself as a charm,
until the shadows of the night pass away and in
the dawn of another sun than ours we see no
longer in signs and symbols, enigmatically, but
face to face, as the gods see and know.
The purging of the passions is thus an initiation
into the mysteries of love, whereby the heart is
gradually weaned from the obsession of earthly
beauty and its progeny to desire of the sweeter
loveliness of the virtues, and so to ever higher
spheres, until we attain to knowledge of the di-
vine beauty in its utter purity, clear and unal-
loyed, and not clogged with the pollutions and
vanities of earth. Then, if it may be, mortal man
becomes the friend of God, himself immortal,
capable of bringing forth like God, not the ephe-
meral children of fashion, but undying realities.
Are these hopes no more than the baseless fab-
ric of our own craving heart, the conscious self-
deception of a mind seeking refuge from the
world of stubborn facts? They were not such to
Plato, nor have they been such to those of the
2 Taken from The Religion of Plato, p. 329, where the subject
of illusion is treated at length.
3 Symposium, 219 and 211.
succeeding generations who have made his philos-
ophy their own. That is certain. And I know not
how it is with others, but for myself, even as I
write these words, sitting in a study surrounded
by books, this is how the truth of his doctrine
comes home to me. What is the reality, I ask my-
self. Surely not these material volumes arranged
in lines upon their shelves. Merely as objects
made of paper and ink and cardboard and leather,
though they impress themselves upon the eye as
substantial, though they are palpable to the hand,
yet they awaken little or no interest, respond to
no vital need, and of themselves have no signifi-
cance. So far as they possess reality, it is by their
content of Ideas, the inner life of their authors
gone out into image and story and conjecture,
which for all these years has been the material of
my thought and the food of my own deeper life.
In this sense the intangible Ideas, somehow
caught in the printed word and somehow re-
leased by the act of perusal, are alive as prisoners
are alive in their cells, who by the magic opening
of doors are set free. Almost they seem to flutter
about me here in the light of day, to brush my
cheek with delicate fingers, to take form and
fashion and quaint design, to speak with audible
breath, to woo me forth from the body into their
own more etherial world. They were the same
yesterday as today, while the printed record has
been crumbling away; they may abide when the
solid-st::eming books have fallen into dust. Yet
how and where, in the interval between their set-
ting down and their taking up, do they abide?
By what secret tract is their existence in the mind
of the author connected with their resuscitation
in the mind of the reader? Why at the sight of
certain lines and figures on the voiceless page do
these particular thoughts spring up into renewed
activity. What is the indiscoverable nexus be-
tween the physical vibrations of light and these
immaterial substances of our noetic life?
And the riddle does not end here. This phantom
world into which my soul is carried by the magic
of petrified language has its own scale of degrees
and distinctions. All these images and emotions
are real in a sense, but not with the same order of
reality. As in reflection I separate those which
recur and hold me day by day from those which
flit accidentally before me and as quickly disap-
pear, I begin to understand that their power de-
pends not simply on their deftness in embodying
the past life of this or that eager soul, but on the
greater or less correspondence with a world of
inanimate Ideas which exist in their own right
and cannot be created or destroyed by any mind,
and to know which is truly to live. Not every
man's thoughts and visions and desires, as by
them he would remould the gross material of ex-
perience, are capable of passing into enduring
literature, but rather those which conform with
actual truths, visualizing a beauty finer than that
comprehended by the seeing eye, grasping a law
of justice more infallible than the tangled events
of this earth ever obey, conveying a significance
beyond any evaluation of the senses. By such
distinctions I lay hold of a strange philosophy
which tells me that the soul's assurance of truth
is not a dream evoked arbitrarily by any man's
imagination, but an intuition more or less per-
fectly grasped of veritable realities. These books
on which I depend for most of my noetic life are
effective just as they are a history of what has
been known of these realities by other souls in
the past and set down for the recreation of any
who can spell out the record. 'So do they charm
into peace because they lure us to the belief that
some time, if not here and now, our soul may be
lifted to that world of immutable Ideas which lie
in all their splendour before the eye of Plato's
In this way all worthy art and literature, all
genuine philosophy, are a mystical initiation, and
the Platonic dialogues are the source to which the
finely tempered mind will always recur for gui-
dance and nourishment; they are, as it were, the
portals to the truth of religion and to the beauty
of poetry. They open to us a land of mystery. But
mystery and the mystical mood it engenders,
though our speech fails to observe the difference
with due precision, are not the same thing as
mysticism; and to jump to the conclusion that the
Platonist, because he possesses a key to the in-
visible world of Ideas, is therefore a mystic,
would be to throw the whole range of noetic ex-
perience into disorder. This is only another way
of asserting that the interval between the first
plane and the second and third planes of "mysti-
cism" (using the word in its looser connotation)
implies a distinction in kind as well as of degree.
No one can enter the second sphere without pass-
ing through the first, but the two are not coter-
minous; there is a gulf set between them.
No doubt there are passages in the Dialogues
of Plato which, if read alone, may seem to have
the tinge of true mysticism; but, when examined,
they will all, I think, yield another meaning. He
was in fact withheld from making the leap peril-
ous by the very doctrine of Ideas which is the
basis of his mystical temper. And this for three
reasons: ( 1) Our knowledge of Ideas in this life
is not by immediate vision or contact, but by
inference. ( 2) The conception of Ideas as cho-
i.e. as entities in themselves, precludes any
theory of knowledge as a coalescence of subject
and object, knower and known (which is the epis-
temological prerequisite of any true mysticism) ,
and a fortiori precludes the possibility of that
absolute monism demanded for the ultimate ec-
stasy of union. ( 3) The teleological use of Ideas
leaves no place for that essentially ascetic view
of life which is an inevitable accompaniment of
( 1} For confirmation of the first thesis we
need only turn to the "great definition" at the
beginning of the second main division of the
Timaeus ( 51n), repeating and in a manner cor-
recting the statement made at the opening of the
whole argument (27n}:
"If the knowing mind and true opinion are of
two kinds, then indeed we can affirm the reality
of those self-existent Ideas, imperceptible to us,
known to the mind alone; but if, as appears to
some, true opinion differs in no respect from the
knowing mind, then all these things perceived
through the body must be regarded as most real
and certain. Now we must say they are two and
separate, for the reason that their origin is dis-
tinct and their nature dissimilar."
This I take to be the very foundation of Pla-
tonism: the immediate invincible consciousness of
two distinct states of mind, of two radically dif-
ferent modes of combined intellection and feel-
ing, one of which, for its vividness and dignity
4 The word here translated "knowing mind" is noua, and that
translated "known to the mind" is nowme1UL.
I ~
and significance and for its connection with what
we know to be our true self, may be called know-
ledge, the other of which, as related to the acci-
dents of our being, may be called opinion, wheth-
er true or false; and, further, the certain inference
that, as there are objects perceptible through the
body and like the waves of sensation mutable and
ephemeral, so there must be objects-"Ideas"
Plato calls them or "forms"-very real entities in
themselves though unseen and untouched and im-
measurable, which in their unchanging veracity
correspond to the soul's perception of her deeper
needs. It is the poet in Plato, doubling and paci-
fying the anxious philosopher, that turns these
invisible and hence seemingly elusive Ideas over
to the imagination and arrays them in the :flash-
ing splendours of allegory in such dialogues as
the Phaedrus and Symposium. And I suspect it
is the poet in Plato rather than the philosopher,
though the poet ever loyal to the philosopher,
who has made these Dialogues the nurture of all
religiously imaginative minds to this day, while
the metaphysicians have wrangled over the dry
bones of his logic. So too the doctrine of reminis-
cence should be regarded as a kind of mythical
enlargement, explaining the liveliness of our
knowledge of what is now unseen as a memory of
actual vision in a former life; just as in the Phae-
do we learn that, if ever again the Ideas shall
appear visibly to the eye of the soul, it must be
in some future and purer existence.
( 2) For the second thesis we may turn to
Porphyry's story of the debate that took place in
the school of Plotinus, when he, a newly arrived
pupil, wrote a paper to support the traditional
and authentic conception of Ideas as always and
essentially external to the mind. The master
might smile at the impertinence of the stranger,
but he was aware that the very regula of his
philosophical discipline had been attacked; and
there was no quiet in the community until Por-
phyry retracted his disruptive views.
For in
truth this is the decisive point of difference be-
tween Platonism and N eo platonism: whether the
utmost reach of wisdom is to discern Ideas as
objective facts, or whether there is a state beyond
this, wherein nothing externally regulative of the
reason remains, but Ideas become the property
of its own activity, and the distinction between
subject and object, knower and known, disap-
pears. And that is the barrier between mystihood,
if I may continue to use the word, and mysti-
cism. How resolutely Plato, when he saw clearly
the law of his doctrine, refrained from overleap-
ing its bounds, may be gathered from the thea-
sophie myth of the Timaeus, which represents
the Demiurge as working, not in accordance with
5 Porphyry, Life of Plotinus, 18.
a design arbitrarily conceived, but with His eye
upon an eternal and objective pattern. To Plato
not even God Himself is a mystic in the true sense
of the word.
( 3) And, lastly, the teleological aspect of the
doctrine of Ideas is diametrically opposed to
the monism and absolutism indispensable for the
metaphysics and practice of the mystic. Here
again we must go to the Timaeus for the con-
summation of Plato's philosophy. At the very be-
ginning of the argument of that dialogue the
belief in a conscious purpose governing the
world, which Plato took over and developed from
Socrates (see Phaedo, 96 ff.), is uttered in un-
mistakable terms: "Let us then declare for what
cause the author of the universe constructed it.
He was good, and in the good there never can
be envy of aught. And, being free from this
quality, he desired all things to be made as like
to himself as possible. This is the most sovereign
principle of creation and of the cosmos." What
follows is an explication, in more or less mythical
and symbolical language, of the manner in which
the divine will proceeds to its end through the
blind obstacles of "necessity." Primarily this pro-
cedure is by the imposition of Ideas upon the
ground of formless substance, or, more precisely,
by the moulding of formless substance into a phe-
nomenal world bearing, so far as the material
permits, the stamp of the Ideal pattern. In other
words creation is synonymous with the purpose-
ful evocation of form out of the unformed, beauty
out of ugliness, good out of potential evil, or,
more generally, of order out of disorder. Thus
the Ideal teleology of Plato is a cosmic adaptation
of the ethical law of symmetry, proportion, bal-
ance, equilibrium, the ne quid nimis of Delphi,
which he inherited as a common possession of his
people. And it is thus of the highest significance
that his final expression of t.his law should come
to us in the solemn and almost sacramental ad-
juration at the close of the Timaeus:
"One safeguard we have for the ills which as-
sail us from two sides, that we should not exercize
the soul without the body or the body without the
soul, in order that the twain may be in equipoise
one against the other and in a state of health."
However deeply Plato may have felt the illu-
sion of life so far as life is immersed in corporeal
phenomena, that principle of balance preserved
him from any thoroughgoing asceticism; and
however strongly at times his ethics may have
stressed the need of flight from this world to the
blessed peace of the world of Ideas, that same
principle kept him free from the presumptions of
an overweaning spirituality. The true line of de-
velopment for religion lay in the direction of as-
similating the Ideal philosophy of Plato with the
revelation of the divine Logos. In the end, as
will be seen, the excesses of Christian mysticism
must be condemned because they nullify the
vision of purpose and the law of measure.
The underside of Platonism, so to speak, is su-
perstition. Weaken the moral cogency of Ideas
as restraining law, dissolve the creative Deity of
the Timaeus into a vague belief in some unac-
countable power spread through the world, and
the consequence may be relapse into a primitive
form of animism or demonology, in which super-
natural visions and contacts of all sorts may be
expected. Such a state may be described as mysti-
hood sinking into a debased mysticism. And we
may note here, in passing, a pseudo-mysticism of
the Rousseauistic type, not included in our
scheme, which looks to a dissolution of the mind
and will in a mood of indeterminate revery. But
plainly these aberrations are not moving in the
direction of the abstract mysticism of Plotinus.
For that movement there was needed a great
metaphysical impulse whereby God and Ideas
be melted together in the conception of
supreme Unity; there must first be laid the foun-
dation of an abstract monism. And this impulse,
for our western world, was given by, or at any
rate taken from, the only mind which for scope
and power can be regarded as a rival of Plato's.
Aristotle, who for some twenty years was a
member of the Academy, carried the impress of
his pupilage with him to the end of his life. It is
thus the pleasure of many learned critics to make
him out a good Platonist, and in certain minor
respects such a view can be successfully sup-
ported. But if it be true that the doctrine of
Ideas is the very essence of Platonism, then
Aristotle's emphatic, almost virulent repudia-
tion of that doctrine marks him as a sub-
verter rather than a developer. This must be in-
sisted on. When for the dualism of Ideas as
chorista (that is as somehow separate from things
and at the same time objective to the knowing,
willing mind) , Aristotle substituted the dualism
of idea (form) and matter, or of energy and po-
tentiality, within, and only within, particular
things, he drew a line which was forever to divide
thought into two hostile schools. All other points
of agreement or disagreement in thought pale
into insignificance before the question whether a
man stands on this or that side of the sundering
wall. Philosophy is not a continuous growth or
development; at a given moment there comes a
break, a revolution, which calls upon us to de-
I. :
~ '
I ,,
I ~
cide between truth and error with all their fatal
It is not my business to follow the ramifica-
tions of the Aristotelian revolt through the vast
corpus of his speculations, but I may indicate
briefly the point to which mysticism could attach
First, then, as a result of his attitude towards
Ideas, he was bound to reject Plato's notion of
the Good as something common to all actions and
hence as a transcendent entity in which somehow
all individual things may partake, and was led
to substitute for it a variety of goods each the
special property of an individual act or thing.
There is therefore no science of ethics, but a
judgement of this particular act or thing or per-
son whether it be good or bad: judgement lies
in perception.
Any theory of good and evil will
thus flow from recognition of the particular good
man (the spoudaios) , and any theory of wisdom
a In justification of this statement I must insist again on the
importance of the distinction, which Plato himself generally makes
implicitly rather than explicitly, between Ideas as mere concepts
generalized from a class of similar things and the ethical Ideas of
justice, etc., which have to do primarily with the will and the emo-
tions and only secondarily with the pure intellect. The medieval
debate over wniversalia ante rem and post rem is for the most
part a curiosity of metaphysics; the validity of moral Ideas is
fundamental to life.
'Ev rfj aiiJ'e1vm -1, KpliJ'. This I take to be the decisive principle
of Aristotelian philosophy.
and folly will flow from recognition of the par-
ticular wise man (the phronimos) ; virtue is what
the good man does, prudence what the wise man
does. But how, we are forced to ask, do we recog-
nize the good man and the wise man when we see
him? Why do we agree as to who the good man
and the wise is, unless goodness and wisdom are
not merely the property of the individual, pecu-
liar to each, but determined by a common cri-
terion, and, if such, then transcendent to the in-
And so of the ensuing question of free will
and responsibility. Aristotle holds that there can
be no discussion of ethics unless the individual is
free, and his ultimate argument for freedom is
our inalienable sense of responsibility; we must
be free since otherwise it would be impossible to
attach praise or blame to our own acts and to
those of others. But again the question arises:
responsible to what? How can there be responsi-
bility except to some person not ourself or to
some law not of our own choosing? It might be
said that I form my own ideal of what is right
and then censure myself for failing to live up to
that ideal (a theory however which is not Aris-
totelian) ; but even so, though I might possibly
thus explain my sense of responsibility, I should
still leave ethics in a state of atomistic individual-
ism; I might on such a basis censure myself, but
by what right could I censure another 1
To obviate these difficulties Aristotle suddenly
at the end of his treatise on ethics makes the
great plunge into metaphysics. There is, he now
asserts, a Good in itself, a Wisdom in itself; but,
having abjured the Platonic doctrine of Ideas, he
is obliged to posit this Good as a self-realizing
individuality, as a kind of unified abstraction
drawn from the multitudinous ideals divided
among the particular things which compose the
world. Hence in place of the living concrete dual-
ism of Plato's divine energy working upon the
slowly yielding potentiality of the world, we have
in his successor a metaphysical dualism which
partitions the universe into two incommunicable
realms: on the one side a congeries of individual
things and persons, each with its own energy and
potentiality and its own end, and on the other
side, set in remote isolation, God conceived as a
goal of absolute goodness utterly unattainable by
any individual of this world; as absolute wisdom
which yet has no knowledge of or concern with
the concrete sum of existences; as absolute energy
exercized in contemplation, not even of itself for
that would imply a distinction between knower
and known, but in pure eternal contemplation of
contemplation; and as an absolute cause which
yet of itself effects nothing.
Such is the famous conclusion of the Aristo-
telian philosophy as expounded in the Nicoma-
chean Ethics and the Metaphysics, and its influ-
ence has been diverse, ending in a materialistic or
a spiritual monism as this or that term of its un-
stable dualism has prevailed. As for the latter,
with which alone we are here concerned, it is true
that Aristotle was so far himself from moving
in the direction of mysticism that he even turned
his back on the mystihood of his predecessor. Yet
it is equally true that the ecstatic presumption of
the N eoplatonists, despite their name, derives
from him rather than from Plato. This is a fact
curious in itself and significant of the confusion
that marks so much of western thinking in this
Aristotle's Absolute, as we have seen, is pure
energy with no potentiality of becoming any-
thing, and pure causality which yet of itself
causes nothing, a telos at which nothing arrives.
Now it is just this final disjunction of the ab-
stract and the concrete against which Plotinus
revolts. His ultimate reality will be as meta-
physical as Aristotle's, but at the same time he
will find some way to connect it with the sphere
of phenomenal existence. To compass this recon-
ciliation he will cling to the view that the tran-
scendent final cause is also an efficient cause in the
sense that it is the source from which the world
evolves as well as the end towards which the
world strives. It must under the stress of a
monistic rationalism be regarded as an absolute
Unity, but it will be a unity concealing within
itself such a dualism of actuality and potentiality
as Aristotle saw in the units of phenomenal ex-
istence. In respect of its own life the potentiality
is not distinct from its actuality, since it is abso-
lute perfection; but under a kind of inner neces-
sity this potentiality comes forth from it by a
process of emanation (probole), and so stands as
a new hypostasis with its own actuality and po-
tentiality. From this again the potentiality will
proceed as a still lower hypostasis, and so on until
this manifold world is spread out as a conglomer-
ation of individual substances, each with its own
conjunction of actuality and potentiality, which
appear now as activity and passivity, form and
matter, essence and accidence.
The details of the emanation by which the
manifold of phenomena evolves from the abso-
lute One need not here be repeated.
The practi-
cal philosophy of Plotinus may be described as
a reversal of that process. In the final stage of
emanation, that is in this world as we see it, there
exist a vast number of individual souls, of each
of which the activity is directed to a mass of con-
crete objects. But potentially these souls are one,
s I have dealt with this subject in Hellenistic Philosophies.
as their source is one, and the first step in wisdom
brings to the individual soul this knowledge of
its corporate existence by union with others in the
world soul. The activity of the world soul is still
directed seemingly to a mass of external phe-
nomena objectified in space; but it possesses the
potentiality of rising above this illusion, and the
second step in wisdom teaches that these phe-
nomena are really not external to the soul. In
this state of enlightenment there is still a duality
of subject and object, but these are both of and
within the knowing mind; we have passed from
the perceptive world-soul (psyche) to the self-
conscious reason ( nou,s) . The activity of reason
is concerned with its own Ideas, as being itself
both knower and known; but potentially reason
may rise to a yet higher state in which subject
and object, knower and known, merge together
in absolute indiscrimination. Beyond this poten-
tiality cannot go; the individual human soul has
become identified in perfect peace and quiescence
with that Unity which was its source.
Plotinus by a cunning adaptation of the Aris-
totelian telos made himself historically the father
of all mystics in the West, whetherpaganorChris-
tian, and his "flight of the alone to the Alone"
corresponds also in its main lines with the theos-
ophy of the Orient. But his title of N eo platonist
is not wholly a misnomer; there are elements in
his meta physics, retained from the tradition
of the Academy, which mitigate the rigidity
of his monism. The very regularity and pre-
cision of his scheme of evolution from the One
to the Many, framed as a basis for his involution
back from the Many to the One, however he may
disguise the fact by the assumption of an un-
conscious necessity governing the process, and
however he may deny the fact by insisting that
such an evolution leaves the initial Unity un-
modified and unconcerned, do introduce a shad-
owy relic of purpose into the cosmos; and the
notion of cosmic purpose is radically inconsistent
with an absolute of any sort. I have taken him as
the highest, or at least the most original, ex-
emplar of absolute mysticism in the West, as
Plato was of mystihood; but for mysticism in
its perfect purity we shall have to travel from the
Mediterranean lands under the influence of
Greece to the heart of Asia.
Meanwhile, leaving Hindu philosophy aside, we
turn to the middle ground of Christian theol-
ogy; and here we find our problem conditioned
and complicated by the inheritance of the He-
brew conception of Jehovah. So far as the mystic
ideal can invade the new faith it must accommo-
date itself to belief in a Deity who from the
beginning was regarded as intensely personal,
and who in the consummation of time revealed
Himself in the humanity of Christ. Such a Being
could never be entirely divested of His anthro-
pomorphic attributes without extreme violence to
the accepted tradition. It is not easy to attenuate
the God of Moses and Isaiah and Jesus to a
metaphysical abstraction. As a matter of fact the
development of what may be called normal
Christian theosophy has been along the lines of
Plato's mystically coloured otherworldliness,
with a shift of emphasis from the reality of Ideas
(or the Kingdom of Heaven) to the importance
of the relation of the human soul to "the Father
and Maker of this world." And the true province
of the Ecclesia ratiocinarns was to justify such a
faith to reason. That is to say, in other words, the
confluence of Platonic philosophy with Christian
theology produced a noble form of mystihood, in
which each factor of the compound was height-
ened and strengthened; whereas the attempt to
assimilate the metaphysics of Plotinus resulted
in no pure mysticism but carried the questing
soul into a realm of dangerous ambiguities. Such
is the thesis I would maintain.
For the genuine philosophy of faith, reaching to
the bounds of legitimate speculation, one cannot
do better than revert to the Theological Orations
of Gregory N azianzen, the orthodoxy of which
is above suspicion and gained for him the distinc-
tive title of "theologian." Now Gregory begins
by saying that he is called, like Moses, to ascend
the mountain in order that he may enter within
the cloud and be with God; and the reader is
prepared for the raptures of mystical vision. But
immediately Gregory draws back. "\Ve may, he
declares, rise above the world and veil our eyes
in the heavenly mist; God himself we cannot
know or see, but only His back parts and the
indications of Him left behind,
as if (to turn
from the imagery of the Old Testament to that
of Plato) our feeble sight could endure no more
than shadows and glimpses of the sun reflected
in water. God in His nature is, so far as our intel-
lect reaches, a negation, incomprehensible, incir-
cumscribable, infinite. We may know His oper-
ation, not His essence. We shall not see Him as
He is, but as He is revealed through His works, in
the majesty of the star-swept skies and of the
greater waters, or as through our own logos we
grasp the purpose of the eternal Logos mani-
fested in the divine economy of salvation.
No doubt much of this, at first hearing, has
the ring of mysticism. Even so well-informed a
critic as Pourrat, defending the later extrava-
eeoiJ Ta lnrlullta liua p,eT' tKiivov lKElvov -yvwplup.a:ra. Cf. Exodus xxiii,
23: "And thou shalt see my back parts, but my face shall not be
gances of the pseudo-Dionysian Mystica Theo-
logia, will assert without reservation that they
are justified by the Gregorian ideas on the
infinity and incomprehensibility of God. For, he
argues, if God is not good in the manner of
creatures but supereminently, as Gregory would
admit, then one may say categorically with Dio-
nysius in the language of absolute mysticism that
God is not good, since any attribute implies
limitation. To which the proper reply is that one
may say such a thing if one likes, but that Gregory
certainly would not have said it; he would not
have ventured beyond the Platonic "God is
good." Furthermore, and this is the dividing line
between mysticism and the mystical mood, Greg-
ory would not say, and did not say, that we have
knowledge of God by negation; on the contrary,
our negatives indicate simply our ignorance and
leave us there. What substantive element is indi-
cated in God's being, he inquires, and what light
does it throw upon His nature and underlying
essence, to say that He is without beginning, im-
mutable, incorruptible, infinite? None; and for
that reason he would reject the whole metaphys-
ical approach to the knowledge of God as a
perverse and riddling obscurantism.
In his
10 Or. II, 11: os TO "fVVawv Ka! a.... :>.ovv an,uduas TO ITKOAWP #Cal
-ypuf>OLOfS E11'L<Ti]"'ya"fV. AE"fW oe TO tvp"fOVV .. a. TOLavTa o{ry,uaTa ITK6TOf
tK Tov lb<f>ov Twv :\ryo,uvwv. Gregory was attacking the presumption
of Eunomius to express the being of God in metaphysical terms
insistence on the necessity of setting our thoughts
not on the nature and being of God but on the
divine Logos, and in his conception of the Logos
as a kind of personification of wisdom and truth,
while these still retain their independent reality
in the world of Ideas, Gregory is one of the last
of those great scholars whose endeavour it was to
enrich Christianity with the spoils of the Acad-
emy. Despite his occasional extravagances he
remains within the circle of Christian mystihood.
The swing towards mysticism was taken when
theology turned from the influence of Plato to
that of Plotinus.
The new influence passes to the West through
St. Augustine, who, in the seventh book of his
Confessions, relates how "by means of a certain
man, puffed up with a most unreasonable pride,"
he was induced to study "certain books of the
Platonists, translated out of Greek into Latin."
Now these so-called books of the Platonists were
no other than the works of Plotinus, and we can
see pretty clearly how they helped to form the
Augustinian theology. Their first effect was to
complete his conversion from the harsh Mani-
chaean dualism of two equipotent powers of good
and evil which had caught the ethical fancy of
his early years. He learned now that "God is
both infinite, and yet not diffused over finite and
infinite places"; and that "though all things are
from Him," yet He is ever "truly the same ...
nor in any part nor by any motion different." He
began, that is, to conceive of God in N eoplatonic
terms as the source of all being, yet Himself
unaltered and unaffected by the potentiality that
flows out from Him. Augustine derived also
from his pagan teacher, as he tells us, his intro-
duction to the great mystery of the Word; but
there the lesson stopped. It needed other teachers
to explain to him how the Word was made flesh
in the living Jesus, and by that act of sovereign
humility prepared the way of salvation whereby
the alienated soul might travel back to its divine
home. It was from St. Paul, to whom he was
turned by the voice Tolle, lege, heard in the
garden at Milan, that he was to learn the "differ-
ence betwixt presumption and confession, betwixt
those that saw whither they were to go, but knew
nothing of the way, and that path which leads
unto the blessed country, not only to be looked
upon, but dwelt in." Henceforth God might be
conceived theoretically as ever the same and ever
without motion of change; practically the poten-
tiality that flows from Him is no metaphysical
abstraction but a personal activity embracing the
whole economy of Grace.
St. Augustine's account of his converswn,
written years after the event, may not be free of
inconsistencies, yet so much I think is clear, that
he was caught first and permanently affected by
the mystical speculations of Plotinus, but was
kept from following them to their logical conclu-
sion by the inflowing power of Christian theism.
The result for religion was something new and
perplexing, as may be felt by any sensitive reader
of Augustine's report of the ecstatic experience
that came to him at Ostia on Tiber, when he and
his mother stood together leaning in a certain
window which looked into the garden of the house
where they were awaiting their ship:
"We said therefore: If to any man the tumults
of flesh be silenced, if fancies of the earth, and
waters, and air be silenced also: if the poles of
heaven be silent also: if the very soul be silent to
herself, and by not thinking upon self surmount
self: if all dreams and imaginary revelations be
silenced, every tongue, and every sign, if whatso-
ever is transient be silent to any one-since if any
man could hearken unto them, all these say unto
him, We created not ourselves, but He that re-
mains to all eternity: if then, having uttered this,
they also be then silent (as having raised our ear
unto Him that made them) , and if He speak
alone; not by them but by Himself, that we may
hear His own word; not pronounced by any
tongue of fle6h, nor by the voice of the angels, nor
by the sound of thunder, nor in the dark riddle of
resemblance; but that we may hear Him Whom
we love in these creatures, Himself without these
(like as we two now strained up ourselves unto
it, and in swift thought arrived unto a touch of
that eternal Wisdom, which is over all) :-could
this exaltation of spirit have ever continued, and
all other visions of a far other kind been quite
taken away, and that this one exaltation should
ravish us, and swallow us up, and so wrap up
their beholder among those more inward joys, as
that his life might be for ever like to this very
moment of understanding which we now sighed
after: were not this as much as Enter into thy
Master's joy? But when shall that be? Shall it be
when we shall all rise again, though all shall not
be changed?"
Such a passage, hovering as it does between
actual and desired vision, is not without ambigu-
ities; but of this there can be no doubt, that the
author had passed out of the charmed limits of
the Platonic philosophy and had reached up, with
his N eoplatonic instructor, to that penultimate
stage of monism where Ideas no longer have an
independent existence but are absorbed into the
mind and will of the divine intelligence. As a
matter of fact we know from other passages of
his works that he did actually hold this view. To
this point he was brought by the congruity of the
new philosophy with the intensity of his craving
for some ultimate unity upon which could be con-
centrated all the distracted energies of his soul.
He was one who had it in his heart to say, like
Cassian after him: "All we love and desire, all we
seek and wish for, all that we think and perceive,
all that we speak and hope for, is God." To him
the two poles of the universe were simply these:
"God and my own soul." And we may go further
and assert that, having surrendered so far to the
monistic seductions of N eoplatonism, he laid
claims to a kind of intimacy with the divine
nature which would have repelled the spiritual
humility of a Gregory N azianzen and the earlier
Christians. His faith was of that realistic inten-
sity which to certain critics like the Abbe Bre-
mond and Father Marechal is the characteristic
note of all mysticism: Le sentiment de la pre-
sence immediate d'un etre transcendent.
of a sort Augustine undoubtedly was, if com-
pared with Plato and Gregory. But the question
remains whether to stop with &uch a designation
does not so simplify the matter as to obliterate
vital distinctions. Augustine's donee requiescat in
te is still worlds apart from the dying sentence of
his master Plotinus: "To render back the divine
in myself to the divine in the All." And any one
who reads the vision at Ostia by the side of the
11 Marechal, La psychologie des Mystiques, 134.
account, in the Enneads, of the ascent of "the
alone to the Alone," must feel that if the latter
is to be called mysticism, then we need a qualified
term for the former. It is even questionable
whether "vision" is not too precise a word for the
Augustinian experience, and should not be re-
served for Christian mystics of a later and dif-
school. So far as I know there is nothing
m the works of Augustine quite equivalent to the
statement of Angela of Foligno: "I beheld the
ine_ffable fullness of God, but I can relate nothing
of It, save that I have seen the fullness of Divine
Wisdom, wherein is all goodness"; nor, so far as
I know, is there anything comparable to the
ecstatic folly of St. Teresa's pretension: "When
she is brought into this mansion by an intellectual
vision, all the Three Persons of the Most Holy
Trinity discover themselves to her, by a certain
way of representing the truth." Even in his high-
est and most passionate moments Augustine re-
tains a degree of spiritual modesty, or hesitation.
His intuition, directed to a God in whose mind is
still left a shadowy remnant of the Platonic Ideas,
gives him rather a glimpse of divine light (the
lumen gloriae) than of God Himself. So at least
I would interpret such a passage as the following:
"Among the intellectual objects of vision, some
are seen in the soul itself, as the virtues; ... these
are intellectually seen. Distinct however [from
things intellectually seen] is the Light Itself,
whereby the soul is so enlightened that it beholds,
whether in itself or in that Light, all things truly
the object of the intellect. For that Light is God
Himself; but the soul, although rational and in-
tellectual, is a creature made after His image,
which when it endeavours to fix its gaze on that
Light, quivers through weakness and is not
That, I take it, is the characteristic note of St.
Augustine; and it really belongs as much to epis-
temology as to mysticism. If we are to keep our
ideas clear, we ought to make a distinction in our
terminology to indicate the different grades, or
planes, of noetic experience. If Plotinus was a
mystic, then Augustine should be denominated,
not a mystic in the full sense of the word, but a
quasi-mystic. And by the same term he may be
distinguished from the Christian visionaries of
a later age.
In his masterly work on Western Mz1sticism
Dom Butler ranges St. Augustine with Gregory
the Great (not the Gregory of N azianzus) and
Bernard as leaders of religious thought in what
he calls the Benedictine period, and so distin-
guishes from the ensuing period characterized by
1zQuoted by Dom Butler, Western Mysticism, 77.
the introduction of scholastic metaphysics and by
the rediscovery of the anonymous writer of the
sixth century who was supposed to be Dionysius
the Areopagitic friend of St. Paul. The distinc-
tion, although the neglect of the pseudo-Areopa-
gite from the eighth to the twelfth century may
not have been so complete as Dom Butler holds,
is essentially sound. Certainly there is historic
evidence in abundance to show that the mysticism
which invaded theology in the course of the
twelfth century is immediately connected with a
renewed interest in the pseudo-Dionysian trea-
tises. Hugo of St. Victor commented on them;
Thomas of Aquinas accepted them as semi-in-
spired authorities; their method dominated the
German transcendentalists of the fourteenth
century-Eckhart, Tauler, Suso, and the Flem-
ish Ruysbroeck; they prevailed in Spain and
France and to a less extent in England. Nor is
there anything accidental in the simultaneous in-
vasion of such mysticism and scholastic meta-
physics; for the twain are not contradictory but
complementary, being only the affective and in-
tellectual aspects of one and the same impulse
towards a transcendental monism. And it is note-
worthy that at the beginning they were both
under suspicion of the Church as alien to the
simplicity of faith.
It would appear, to judge from the results in
.1' ,'j
St. Augustine, that the full virus of N eoplaton-
ism could not be taken in by the Latin mind until
it had been assimilated for it, predigested one
might say, by a Greek Christian. And this pre-
cisely is what was done by the so-called Diony-
sius, who carried the thought of Plotinus and
Proclus to its logical conclusion in the via nega-
tiva and at the same time gave it a thin veneer of
Christian respectability. Now the negative way,
as the name implies, means simply that by a pro-
cess of denial we reach ultimately the same goal
as by a process of affirmation, that by a succes-
sive surrender of all claims to know anything we
attain at the last to the utmost knowing. Rather,
it would say, ignorance is knowledge, darkness is
light, by reason of the fact that in the absolute
reality negation and affirmation are indistinguish-
able. Thus, according to Dionysius, the true in-
itiate is plunged into the "darkness of unknow-
"Unto this Darkness which is beyond Light we
pray that we may come, and may attain unto
vision through the loss of sight and knowledge,
and that in ceasing thus to see or to know we may
learn to know that which is beyond all percep-
tion and understanding (for this emptying of our
faculties is true sight and knowledge), and that
we may offer Him that transcends all things the
praises of a transcendent hymnody, which we shall
do by denying or removing all things that are.
... Now we must wholly distinguish this negative
method from that of positive statements. For
when we were making positive statements we
began with the most universal statements, and
then through intermediate terms we came at last
to particular titles, but now ascending upwards
from partic"'! t? universal conceptions we strip
off all quahbes m order that we may attain a
knowle.dge .of that Unknowing which in
all existent thmgs IS enwrapped by all objects of
knowledge, and that we may 'begin to see that
J?arkr;ess which is hidden by all
the hght that IS m existent
This negative way, reaching its goal by the
extinction of all light in darkness, is not, of
course, altogether a novelty in thought; it was
implicit at least in the philosophy of Plotinus.
His ascent from the individual soul's perception
of individual objects to the world-soul's sense of
an objective universe over against itself, and from
this to the concern of the nous with an inner
world of its own Ideas, and thence to the abyss of
unqualified Unity, involves a progressive "empty-
ing of our faculties." But in Plotinus, neverthe-
less, the emphasis is rather on the positive in-
crease of light and knowledge in the soul's divine
ascent. And though, at the end, "being" and "not-
13 The Mystical Theology, ii, translated by C. E. Rolt.
being" swoon together in his superessential One,
yet advance on the way is marked by the positive
accession of and fuller "being."
The fact is that Dionysius, unwittingly no
doubt, makes use of a cloudy obscurantism of
language to juggle with two incompatible sys-
tems of thought, the N eoplatonic and the Chris-
tian. On the one side the via negativa enables him
to go all the way, if not further, with his master
Plotinus in reducing the ultimate reality to a
Super-Essence of metaphysics so remote from
the world of human experience that it can only
be stated in terms of absolute denial, like the
Hindu N eti, neti, "not this, not this"; while on
the other side the via positiva will permit him,
when he wishes, to slip over to the notion of a
God related to the world by an act of creation
springing from an ecstasy of Divine Love and
calling for a responsive love in the heart of the
creature. It is for this reason that I would clas-
sify his theosophy as a "mixed mysticism," mixed
because wavering, or alternating, between the
absolute type of a Plotinus or a <;ankara and the
quasi type of an Augustine. It must be admitted
that this inconsistency is not often felt in the works
of Dionysius himself, owing to the fact that there
is precious little of Christianity and very much
of paganism in his rhapsodies; but among the
scholastic visionaries of the West who fell under
his sway the confusion will show itself in acute
We have, then, between the Ideal philos-
ophy and the absolute metaphysics of the pagan
world three of Christian spirituality: ( 1)
the normal theism of a Gregory, which was di-
rectly and consciously influenced by Plato, and
which strictly speaking is not mysticism at all
but, allowing the word, a kind of mystihood; ( 2)
the quasi-mysticism of a St. Augustine, inspired,
though not fully informed, by Plotinus; (3) the
mixed mysticism drawn from the treatises of the
pseudo-Dionysius, who, as the Areopagitic com-
panion of St. Paul, was held to be a model Chris-
tian. It is commonly this third group that we have
in mind when we speak of mystics, and it is com-
monly their ecstatic experience that gives us our
notion of the vision of God.
To Bonaventura, the Doctor Seraphicus of the
Franciscans in the thirteenth century, in whose
mind the dry scholastic habit of analysis went
amicably hand in hand with the raptures of con-
templation, may be attributed the honour of fix-
ing the classical nomenclature for the new mys-
ticism. In the prologue to his I ncendiu:m A moris
the saint declares that, as all science bears upon
it the insignia of the Trinity, this triplicity ought
to be specially characteristic of the spiritual in-
tellect. Hence the three regular stages, or "ways,"
of the approach to God: purgation, which leads
to peace; illumination, which leads to truth; per-
fection, which leads to love. He then proceeds to
explain how in each of these ways there is a triple
method of exercizing one's self, viz. by medita-
tion, prayer, and contemplation (legendo et medi-
tando, orando, et contemplando), and how, fur-
ther, in each of these methods there are three
degrees of attainment. The whole treatise thus
exhibits the scholastic mania of division and sub-
division by multiples of three. But in fact the
scheme is less complicated than the author would
have it appear; the various subdivisions, as we
follow his account of them, fall into parallel
series, and are little more than different aspects
of the fundamental triplicity of "ways": the via
purgativa, the via illuminativa, and the via per-
fectiva or unitiva. And in this form his classifica-
tion, though it may be more or less disguised by
a varying terminology, became current among
later writers. Bonaventura himself, as we have
seen, connects this triple way with the dogma of
the Trinity and for authority appeals to the
"Wisdom" of the Old Testament, and undoubt-
edly these are active ingredients of his theology.
But more immediately, as he himself indicates by
reference to the Celestial Hierarchies, the scheme
and the terms are taken bodily from the Diony-
sian division of the grand highway of negation,
which, in turn, is a common place of the N eopla-
tonic theory of Katharsis.
Evidently our critical reaction towards this
efflorescence of mysticism, whether for approval
or disapproval, will depend on our interpretation
and judgement of the third stage of the ascent,
the via unitiva, which is at once the consumma-
tion and the directive force of the whole practice.
What did these enthusiasts, Christian at least
in name, mean by union with God? What ele-
ments entered into the composition of their faith?
How, accordingly, did they shape their lives? As
for the first of these questions the most orthodox
answer, if that were all, can be given in the pre-
cise words of Cardinal Richelieu, whom it may
surprise many to find in the train of Bonaven-
"The third degree is the via unitiva, this being
nothing else but the care which the Christian,
cleansed of sin by the via purgativa, enlightened
and warmed by the via illuminativa, takes to unite
himself to God by perfect love. This gives him a
conformity of will with God so that, without in any
manner considering himself, he no longer wills
anything which is not willed of God, and wills it
only by this consideration that God wills it."
14 Treatise on the Perfection of the Christian, vi (Migne, p. 1039).
As for the source and composition of this
theory of the faith a first comment might be that
it is curiously like the old Stoic doctrine of con-
formity. There needs only a change of the word
God to cosmos and of the word love ( caritas) to
assent ( synkatathesis) , and the sentiment might
be taken from the works of any orthodox preach-
er of the Porch. Indeed the change was in part
anticipated by the more pantheistic of the Stoics
themselves, as may be seen in the maxim current
among them from Cleanthes:
Lead me, 0 Zeus, and thou, 0 Destiny,
Where' er my lot is cast by your decree.
I follow unafraid; nay, if my will
Basely rebelleth, I shall follow still.
Nor would it be difficult to find points of com-
parison between the Christian conception of faith
and the Stoic's dogma, and between the Christian
way of preparation and the Stoic's attitude to-
wards the indifferent things of life (the adia-
phora). The influence of Zeno's ethics, variously
tinged by admixture of Platonism and Aristote-
lianism, was in fact incalculably great in all the
religious and philosophical development of Eu-
So much must be granted to the most wide-
spread and on the whole noblest of the pagan
philosophies after Plato. But the Stoic, whatever
tone his assent to the universe and the divine will
may have assumed, was never a mystic. To under-
stand the deeper note in the aspirations of Bona-
ventura and his successors we must look to other
sources. And one of these would be, naturally,
the Bible in its more enthusiastic parts, particu-
larly the Psalms which proclaim the utter faith
of the Hebrew people in Jehovah and the long-
ing to find peace in the eternity of His presence :
As the hart panteth after the water brooks,
So panteth my soul after thee, 0 God.
My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God:
When shall I come and appear before God?
My days are like a shadow that declineth;
And I am withered like grass.
But thou, 0 Lord, shalt endure for ever;
And thy remembrance unto all generations.
That is the note of St. Augustine, and it was
never to be lost through the ages that followed.
It is the mutual and passionate inclination of
person to person, such as we know in this mortal
life, but purified and exalted by the superhuman
majesty and holiness of one of the parties con-
cerned. In its completion it brings the sense of
union felt in a measure by those perfect lovers in
whom the craving of the flesh has been sublima-
ted into self-surrendering benevolence; and to
such a juncture of wills no one would raise quib-
bling objections, whether it be between man and
man or between man and God:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.
But such a union, though it touches the inner-
most mystery of our personal being, stops short
of the identification in unity demanded by the
passion of these later mystics. There is still to be
overcome the reserve of common sense as Shake-
speare eX'pressed it:
Let me confess that we two must be twain,
Although our undivided loves are one.
For the unimpeded merging of the twain to-
gether, even as their loves are one, the bolder
Christian will appeal from the Psalms to St.
Paul's "Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," and
to John's "That they also may be one in us."
With these texts and others like them he will
justify his theology of the via unitiva, but he did
so only by wresting them from their context, for
neither Paul nor John nor any other of the scrip-
tural writers thought for a moment of identifying
the soul with God. Whatever their pretext,
Bonaventura and the long line of mystics after
him drew their real inspiration from the pagan
wells of N eoplatonism: the consummation for
which they yearned, and of which they sometimes
boasted, could be achieved only by that emptying
of a very positive Jehovah into the Absolute
Negation which they learned about from the Dio-
nysian development of Plotinus and Proclus.
It is true, of course, that the Christian follow-
ers of Dionysius would repudiate categorically
the charge of doubling their faith with a pagan
metaphysic. Any one of them, if asked squarely
whether the unitive way, even at its highest pitch,
meant the absolute identification of the human
soul with God, as with the One of Plotinus or the
Brahma-Atman of the Vedanta, would have re-
plied with unhesitating denial; the tradition of
the faith was too strong for any such open pro-
fession of naked monism. If brought to bay, they
will insist that the supreme surrender of the soul
implies not a simple unity of essence but such a
union of two wills in love as was carefully defined
by Richelieu. So Ruysbroeck-and few went be-
yond him in metaphysical boldness-on occasion
puts the thought quite plainly:
"But when I say that we are one with God,
the statement must be understood of love and not
of essence or nature; for the essence of God is in-
create whereas ours is created. Between God and
the creature the difference is

In profession these mystics are thus quite or-
thodox; but even so their language is often alarm-
ingly extravagant, and when the fear of censure
is out of mind and the emotions begin to have free
play, doubt will arise whether the distinction they
15 Le Mirroir du salut eternel, 124.
make between union of love and union of essence
is anything more than a verbal precaution and
has any practical validity. What shall we make of
this same Ruysbroeck, for instance, in his un-
guarded moments? "We wrestle," he exclaims in
the treatise cited, "against the terrible and bound-
less love of God, who wishes to consume all lov-
ing spirits and to swallow them up in Himself."
And elsewhere he speaks of "that inaction in
which we are one with God in the bottomless
abyss of His love." The vehemence of Ruys-
broeck's sentiment is at least indiscreet, and after
his death he was attacked by theologians such as
Gerson, Chancellor of the University of Paris,
and Bossuet on the ground of pantheism. His
friends could only defend him by asserting that,
however questionable his language might be at
times, he never really admitted a union with God
in essence but only in "superessence"; our essence
remains still intact to the end, even when in the
divine essence, which abides within us as our
superessence, we are lost in God. Thus, as Ruys-
broeck had explained, "we become beatitude in
the essence of God when, dead to ourselves in
love, we pass on to the fruition of God. Always
we live in our own essence by the means of love,
and always we surpass ourselves in the essence
of God [our superessence] by the means of frui-
tion." Oh, might the innocence of simplicity ex-
claim,-Oh the depth of the riches both of the
wisdom and knowledge of words! how unsearch-
able are their judgements, and their ways past
finding out I It is not strange that Rome was per-
plexed by a distinction so subtle between essence
and superessence, and hesitated long when Ruys-
broeck's name was proposed for canonization.
After much debate, in 1908, the Sacred Congre-
gation of Rites, by a distinction almost as subtle,
decreed his beatification, not his sanctification;
and the decree was approved by Pius X. Some of
the German enthusiasts went so far into the
abyss, beyond any plumbing of common sense,
that they have never been put to the supreme test
of orthodoxy. It is a known fact that Rome in
her prudence has always been a little suspicious
of her sons who tread the mystical path to saint-
For the full flavour of this mystery of the via
unitiva we must turn to Spain, and particularly
to St. John of the Cross. There is much of the
true adoration and awe of religion in this great
poet and ascetic; no one can miss that. But it is
hard to read his works without feeling also that
a strange and dubious compound springs from
his manner of tossing about and together the
common notions of the love of God and the frui-
. 'I
l .I
tion of God and the essence of God. For one
thing the word love is so terribly ambiguous, and
in this passionate stormer of the heavens swings
so violently from pole to pole. Pause for a mo-
ment over the concluding stanzas of the poem of
which the ascetic treatises are a running commen-
On my flowery bosom,
Kept whole for Him alone,
There He reposed and slept;
And I caressed Him, and the waving'
Of the cedars fanned Him.
As His hair floated in the breese
That blew from the turret,
He struck me on the neck
With His gentle hand,
And all sensation left me.
I continued in oblivion lost,
My head was resting on my love,
Lost to all things and myself,
And, amid the lilies forgotten,
Threw all my cares away.
As secular poetry the lines are exquisite and
unimpeachable, and the author would condone
the sensuousness of their imagery by appealing
to the Song of Songs. But is it wise, is it delicate,
so to mingle the divine and the human loves in
metaphor? Is it really quite decent to deck the
16 Translated by David Lewis.
Uranian Aphrodite in the seductive garments of
her Pandemian sister? It is a little as if Plotinus
had set up his phrontisterion in the harem of Solo-
mon's palace. I would not insinuate any carnal
impurity in the heart of the saintly Spaniard him-
self; but the fact remains that the partition is
very thin between such pious philandering and the
gross practice of pseudo-mysticism all over the
And there is the more serious charge that be-
hind this imagery there lies a theosophy as am-
biguous as that of Ruysbroeck, though in the end
the Spaniard attained the honour of sainthood
denied to the Fleming. What shall be made of
this prose version of the song?
"The thread of love binds so closely God and
the soul, and so unites them, that it transforms
them and makes them one by love; so that, though
in essence different, yet in glory and appearance
the soul seems God and God the soul. Such is
this marvellous union. God Himself is here the
suitor who, in the omnipotence of His unfathom-
able love, absorbs the soul with greater violence
and efficacy than a torrent of fire a single drop
of the morning dew.m
Oh, St . .John is careful here to guard against
the open heresy of teaching an essential union
11 Quoted by Butler, op. cit., 322.
of the soul with God such as would place him with
the pagan mystics. But what practical force,
what significance of any sort, has this thin divid-
ing word "essence" before the all-devouring, all-
absorbing flame of Omnipotence?
In fact this very concrete passion of desire is
but one pole of an irreconcilable antinomy. The
love that draws the soul of the singer, suddenly
swinging to the opposite extreme of metaphysics,
will appear as the craving for a fruition so ab-
stract that for its attainment all desires are
crushed, all joys declined whether of the senses
or of the spirit, all use of the discerning intellect
forgone; and the end is a swound of oblivion
wherein the conscious union of love fades off
into what is practically an unconscious unity of
essence. How far St. John could carry this meta-
physical obscurantism may be seen from a single
passage. I quote at length:
"If the soul be not blind herein, and in total
darkness as to all such [natural] things, it will
never reach to those higher things which faith
teaches. A blind man, if he be not totally blind,
will not commit himself wholly to his guide, but
because he sees a little he thinks a certain road
secure, not seeing another which is better ....
This is the meaning of St. Paul when he said,
'He that cometh to God must believe that He is.'
He that will draw near and unite himself unto
God, must believe that He is. This is saying in
effect, he that will attain to the union of God
must not rely on his own understanding, nor
lean upon his own imagination, sense, or feeling,
but must believe in His Being, which is not cog-
nizable by the understanding, desire, imagina-
tion, nor any sense of man, and which in this life
can never be known as it is. Yea, in this life, our
highest knowledge and deepest sense, perception,
and understanding of God is infinitely distant
from that which He is, and from the pure fruition
of His
Clearly the heart of this passage is the quota-
tion from Hebrews (xi, 6) attributed to St. Paul:
"He that cometh to God must believe that He
is.'' And the first observation to be made is that
a more adequate translation of the Greek pisteu-
sai would be "have faith" rather than simply "be-
lieve," for the whole context of the verse is a
glorification of the virtue of faith (pistis). So far
St. John of the Cross would assent without ques-
tion. But what is this faith, and why is it glori-
fied? To the author of Hebrews it is the quality
18 The Ascent of Mount .Oa;rmel, translated by David Lewis,
p. 72. This translation was made before the publication, in 1912, of
the critical edition of St. John by Padre Gerardo de San Juan de
la Cruz. Lewis has the phrase, "the perfection of the divine essence,"
which I have changed to "His Being'' as closer to the Spanish
"au ser," though the two phrases amount to the same thing. The
passage in the Spanish is in Libro II, cap. iii.
whereby the patriarchs, as he illustrates with
name after name, lived so as to please God. By
the same virtue also "Enoch was translated that
he should not see death." In that sense he came
to God. But more specifically the blessing of the
faithful is this, that they are conveyed to "a bet-
ter country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God
is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath
prepared for them a city." Faith, in other words,
is not only belief in God, but is likewise "the
substance of things hoped for." All which is pre-
cisely the Christian, or Jewish, equivalent for the
mystical mindedness which is the peculiar note
of Platonism and the core of the true Greek tra-
dition. The first departure from the simplicity of
faith, and the source of all the ensuing mischief,
is the interpretation of "cometh to" by the phrase
"draw near and unite himself unto" (or "make
himself one with") . There is in the original not
a hint, not a shadowy suggestion, of such a union;
it would in fact have repelled the Hebraic mind
of the author as sheer blasphemy. Next is to be
observed the ground on which this departure is
based. In Hebrews the coming to God is made
dependent on belief "that He is," or, as it might
be expressed, on faith in the being of God. Which
very simple assertion our saint reads to mean
belief in "His Being." The change appears in-
nocent enough on the surface; in reality it involves
a serious perversion both logical and theological,
turning on the old fallacy of distinguishing be-
tween the copulative and the substantive force of
the verb "to be" in such wise as to draw therefrom
the conception of pure Being as an entity that
simply is without 'being anything. For St. John,
it must not be forgotten, was a thoroughgoing
metaphysician, on whose lips the phrase "His
Being" could have only this abstract significance
of the schools. But he was also a thoroughgoing
mystic; and we can see how the two characters
merge together to produce a new type of theos-
ophy. There is no place for ecstatic union with
the living God of Abraham and of Isaac and of
Jacob, as Jesus defined the Father; it is possible
only in that dark abyss of the Absolute, first
opened to the Christian world by Dionysius.
The rest of the passage I have quoted does
little more than develop the inevitable conse-
quences of this junction of religious enthusiasm
and metaphysical abstraction. So, for instance,
we have the desperate use of the word "infinite-
ly." Now "infinite" is a term of infinite pliability.
If by it the mystic meant no more than that the
divine Being cannot be compassed within the
limits of a finite understanding, he would simply
be stating a commonplace and quite orthodox
truth. But in fact he intends something very dif-
ferent from that. By his contrast of the finite and
the infinite he will imply an absolute break and
disjunction between the natural and the divine
such that there can 'be no assimilation or coopera-
tion of the one with the other; the disparity be-
comes, in the language of Aristotle, not a mere con-
trary but a contradiction, in the sense that one is
exclusive of the other/
Hence the turn given to
the apparently innocent statement that the divine
essence is not cognizable by the understanding or
desire or imagination of man; God is not only
beyond the reach of our natural faculties, but He
is contradictory to, and exclusive of, them. From
such a view of the divine the sceptical conclusion
would be, in fact is, that, since by no stretch of our
faculties can we comprehend what is contradic-
tory to them, therefore we might as well leave
the Great Unknowable alone in its majestic iso-
lation, as no possible concern of ours. Not so the
mystic: if, he argues, God is the contradiction of
our human faculties in the sense that one is the
negation of the other, then by contradicting, or
negating, these same faculties we make ourselves
like Him so as to attain knowledge of Him, even
19 This, it will be observed, is something different from the
"absolute dualism" which is essential to all religion and which im-
plies the conjunction of contraries, even contradictories in the sense
that one of the pair can only be defined in terms negative of the
other. St. John is striving, so far as theism will permit him to go,
towards the "absolved dualism" of the Orient. (See ante, essay on
oneness with Him. Or, in other words, if the light
in which God dwells is co-essential with eternal
darkness, then not only must the way to Him be
through groping ignorance but the very soul of
the seeker must be deliberately made dark by
abnegation of any spark of light it may possess:
"A blind man, if he be not totally blind, will not
commit himself wholly to his guide." What little
our human faculties can discern on the path is of
no avail, of no avail to purge the spiritual eye of
the humours of the world in order that it may
behold the gleams of inspiration which flash upon
it now and then; it must be closed in voluntary
blindness. I have not exaggerated. This, and
nothing less than this, is the secret of what St.
John of the Cross means by describing the pil-
grimage to eternity as the Dark Night of the
Soul. As I have said, not only is ecstatic union
the goal of mystic experience, but its character
will colour and determine every step of the as-
cending way thereto. Let us examine the steps
more in detail.
In accordance with the classical division of the
way, St. John explains that "the journey of
the soul to the divine union is called night for three
reasons." The first of these he derives from the
starting point of the journey, which requires "the
privation of the desire of all pleasures in all things
of this world"; this is the night of the senses. The
second reason is derived from the nature of faith
itself, which is "obscure, like night to the under-
standing"; this is the night of the spirit. And the
third is more directly from the nature of the end,
since God, being incomprehensible and infinite, is
"as night to the soul." Through these three nights,
then, corresponding, though with certain differ-
ences, to the via purgativa, the via contemplativa,
and the via unitiva of Bonaventura, we must pass
if we would attain to the blessed consummation.
The method of purgation by which the soul is
set free to start on its journey is simple and ob-
vious. As St. John of the Cross says, the instruc-
tions for the subduing of our desires are brief and
few; they may be summed up in the general rule
that "every satisfaction offered to the senses,
which is not for God's honour and glory, must be
renounced and rejected for the love of Jesus
Christ." Thus, if the pleasure of listening to any
sound which tends not to the service of God pre-
sents itself, we are to close our ears to its seduc-
tion; and if any pleasant sight which does not lead
nearer to God presents itself, we are to close our
eyes to its seduction. The mitigating clauses, de-
fining the kind of sounds and sights to be rejected,
might seem to limit the rule to the sort of renun-
ciation demanded always and everywhere of those
who would enter the spiritual life; but as a matter
of fact our mystic has in mind no such compromise
with the natural man. In page after page of his
two treatises he makes it clear that no pleasur-
able sight or sound whatsoever contributes to the
honour and service of God, that, on the contrary,
any satisfaction of the senses, however innocent in
itself, is a barrier to the soul's progress. Nor is
this abdication of the senses restricted to what is
ordinarily regarded as sensuous; it includes every
activity of the imagination and memory and rea-
son; it would, if rigorously carried out, sweep
away, not only the grosser business of the flesh,
but all art and music and literature, all the ex-
pansions of grace and beauty, all that is suggested
to us in the haunting phrase of the Greek tradi-
tion, ta terpna tes Hellados, and this not for the
evil that may cling to them, but simply because,
and in so far as, they appeal to the soul as good
and are radiant with light: "The soul which is
attracted to the beauty of any created thing is be-
fore God sovereignly ugly."
Even thus "the
mortification of the senses and the absence of all
pleasure must be striven after, so that the soul
may be in darkness." And, further, by mortifica-
20 From a manuscript; see Jean Baruzi, Saint Jean de la Croill:,
411. Such a saying may be compared, and contrasted, with Plato's
dictum in the fifth book of the Laws: "Neither, again, when any
one honours beauty above virtue, is this aught but the real and
utter dishonour of the soul."
tion the mystic means that the soul must 'be de-
tached from the senses not only by abjuring the
pleasures they crave hut by voluntarily assuming
the pains they detest. The theory of deliberately
assumed suffering is developed by St. John of
the Cross in a series of Maxims:
"Strive always, not after that which is most
easy, but after that which is most difficult.
"Not after that which is most pleasant, but
after that which is most unpleasant.
"Not after that which is consoling, but after
that which is afflictive.
"Not after that which ministers repose, but
after that which ministers labour.
"Not after great things, but after little things.
"Not after that which is higher and precious,
but after that which is lower and despised.
"Strive not to desire anything, but rather
And so we arrive at that strange glorification
of what in the tongue of the older English mystics
used to 'be called "naughting," and in the Spanish
of our author is chanted in prose that trembles
into poetry:
To come to the taste of all,
Seek to have taste of naught.
To come to the knowledge of all,
Seek to have knowledge of' naught.
To come to the possession of all,
Seek to have possession of naught.
To come to the being of all,
Seek to be nothing in naught.
~ 6 5
That is the practical application of the ancient
metaphysical theorem that the highest being is
identical with not-being, that all is nothing and
nothing is all. Reason ventures to open the door
that separates the garden of common sense from
the waste land of abstractions; we pass through,
and the door clangs to behind us.
But we have not done with the way of purga-
tion. Not only must the dark night envelop the
pleasures of the body and of the faculties in their
profane or natural functioning, but it must ex-
tend to all visions, revelations, locutions, and im-
pressions of supernatural things that come to the
soul in sensuous form, and specially "those of the
most perfect kind." It matters not whence the
source of these communications may be, whether
their origin be celestial or infernal; they are to be
21 Ascent, I, xiii. The lines printed as verse read:
Para venir d gmtarlo todo,
No quieras tenor g'Ullto en nada.
Para venir d 8'aberlo todo,
No quieras saber algo en nada.
Para venir d poseerlo todo,
No qui$ras poseer algo en nada.
Para venir d serlo todo,
No quieras ser algo en nada.
rejected purely because they reach us through the
imagination and understanding, which, however
refined, belong still to the natural life. "Though
all these may happen to the bodily senses in the
way of God, we must never rely on them, nor en-
courage them; yea, rather we must fly from them,
without examining whether they be good or evil."
So runs the austere command, and then our au-
thor, in true scholastic manner, proceeds to give
six reasons why they should be renounced even
when they come from God Himself. The ordinary
Christian may well shudder at the consequences
of such abnegation; even the less hardy mystic
might draw back in alarm. It will be remembered
that to Bonaventura the via purgativa was
through reading and meditating, legendo et medi-
tando; but to John of the Cross (and to others
who carry the mixed type of mysticism to its ex-
treme) the very act of religious meditation is an
impediment to be overleaped. He is quite specific:
"We picture to ourselves Christ on the Cross, or
bound to the pillar, or God sitting on His throne
in great majesty. So also we imagine glory as a
most beautiful light, and represent before our-
selves any other object, human or divine, of which
the faculty of imagination is capable. All these
imaginations and apprehensions are to be emptied
out of the soul."
Not until the spiritual man has abandoned this
way of meditation, having lost his joy therein, can
he enter upon the higher path of contemplation.
It is not that the imagination and understanding
are to be transcended in the sense that they should
be made subservient to intimations beyond their
daily scope; they are not to be purified and so
carried on into the higher life, but ruthlessly sup-
pressed. "This is what our Lord requires at our
hands, saying, 'Be still, and see that I am God.'
Learn to be interiorly empty of all things, and
you will see with delight that I am God. m
The first reaction of the soul when, reaching the
end of the via purgativa, it emerges from the
Dark Night of the Senses may be an interval of
expansive joy. Being released from the bondage
of the body and from what might be called the
routine duties of religion, it is free, it thinks, to
breathe a purer and more untroubled air in the
via contemplativa: "it now rises at once to most
tranquil and loving contemplation, and finds
spiritual sweetness without the fatigue of medita-
tion.''23 But this satisfaction proves to be only a
mirage in the waste land of its pilgrimage-glim-
22 See the following passages ,in the translation of the Ascent:
II, x, 2; II, xi, I; II, xi, 5; II, xii, 4; II, xv, 3; II, xvi, 4.
23 The DOJrk Night of the Soul, II, i, 1.
mering with false light, of brief duration at the
best, to be enjoyed precariously. Soon the day
descends into a darker night.
In the preliminary stage of the journey the soul
had weaned itself from attachment to things of
the world and at the last from spiritual things as
these can be grasped in symbols by the bodily
senses. The house was made clean and garnished
for the incoming of the divine Master; but before
He can enter into habitation the human owner
must be ejected into the outer void. Now, in the
second stage, the hard lesson must be learned that
the spiritual faculties of the soul, in the very act
of purging away the adventitious aids of nature,
create about themselves a bleaker night than that
of the senses. This can be seen in the operation of
the three theological virtues, each in its specific
field. Faith, says St. John, denudes and blinds the
understanding, teaching us to recognize what can-
not be acquired by the light of nature and reason.
For though the understanding may firmly and
completely assent to the things of faith, yet it can-
not discover them, since otherwise there would be
no occasion for faith. And though the understand-
ing may derive certainty from faith, yet it does
not acquire clearness but rather obscurity. As we
believe more we know le.r;s what we believe. In like
manner hope empties the memory of its content
and thus deprives the imagination of the material
out of which it might construct a visible edifice for
the future. For hope is ever conversant with that
which is not, and by possession ceases to be. We
most hope, yet forbear every attempt to realize
that for which we hope. And, lastly, charity emp-
ties the will of all positive striving, since the soul
must learn that of itself it has no capacity for
true love, even for true love of God. We must be
in a state of charity, but with no object of desire.
Thus the spiritual virtues induct the soul
into a second and deeper night, through which
stretches the via contemplativa. The darkness
here is not accidental, like that which frustrates
the efforts of the meditative man to realize the
Infinite by his finite capacities, but fundamental,
-the obscurantism of one who extinguishes his
own light that he may be illuminated by rays from
a fount far beyond his knowing, the voluntary
passivity of one who waits for Grace to accom-
plish that for which he has no potentiality. Hence
the technical epithet infused: "contemplatives call
it infused contemplation, or mystical theology,
whereby God secretly teaches the soul and in-
structs it in the perfection of love, without efforts
own part. "
This, as St. John describes it,-
Op. cit., II, v. 1. In the early editions of this translation these
words follow: "beyond a loving attention to God, listening to His
voice and admitting the light he sends." In the fourth edition
(1916) they are placed in brackets. They were taken from the
Spanish of the standard text, but they are not from the pen of
"This is the spiritual night which I have called
the active night, because the soul labours, on its
own part, to enter into it. When I was treating
of the night of sense, I explained how that the
sensual powers of the soul are to be emptied of
all sensible objects in the desire, so that the soul
may go forth from the beginning of its course
to the middle, which is faith; so now, while speak-
ing the night of the spirit, I shall also explain,
by the help of God, how the spiritual powers of
the soul are to be emptied and purified of all that
is not God, and remain in the darkness of these
three virtues, which are the means and disposi-
tions by which the soul becomes united with
Now in this self-imposed vacuity, wherein even
love as a consciously directed activity of the soul
is suppressed, in this dark night of the spirit, we
are to believe that Grace is free to infuse a new
and unnatural love which will lift the soul above
itself, carrying it from the second to the third
way, which is the via wnitiva. And on this way
"the steps of the ladder of love, by which the
soul, ascending from one to another, rises up-
wards to God, we say are ten." I will not follow
the saint in his account of this ascent, from the
St. Jolm of the Cross, having been added by his pious editors to
clear him of any charge of quietism. They are eliminated in the
Edici6n Critica of 1912. The history of the text is significant.
25 Ascent, II, vi, 5.
first degree of languishing dejection through
pain and anxiety to ever higher stages of courage-
ous abnegation. Sufficient to say that at the last,
to him who holds out, there is said to come the
great reward and the sweet fruition:
"On the tenth step of the ladder the soul be-
comes wholly assimilated unto God in the beatific
vision which it then immediately enjoys; for hav-
ing ascended in this life to the ninth, it goeth
forth out of the body. For these-they are few-
being perfectly purified by love, do not pass
through purgatory .... In this way, then, by
means of mystical theology and secret love, the
soul goeth forth from all things and from itself,
ascending upwards unto God. For love is like a
fire, which ever ascends, hastening to be absorbed
in the centre of its sphere."
So by the negation of the via purgativa, which
forms the dark night of the senses, and by the
negation of the via contemplativa, which forms
the dark night of the spirit, the adventurous soul
passes to the third way, at the end of which it is
to lose itself in the absolute negation which is
also absolute affirmation and in the infinite dark-
ness which is also infinite light. To very few, if
to any, is it granted in this life to reach the goal
in the land where there is no horizon; for the most
26 Dark Night, II, xx, 6, 7.
~ I
part he who would stake his all upon the great
hazard must grope in the blind shadows, content
if in that obscurity his faith may save him from
Evidently the mystic path is not the highway of
Christian salvation; it is in fact a short cut, so to
speak, wherein, if a man swerve never so little
aside, he faces the danger of falling into quick-
sands of heresy and pits of spiritual presumption.
Rome somewhat against her will, and often under
popular pressure, has found the means of sancti-
fying a small number of the successful in that haz-
ardous venture; but any one who examines the
course of history dispassionately may find dif-
ficulties in reconciling the tenets even of the saints
of mysticism with the central theses of Christian
theology. Several disquieting queries will arise
in his mind, to which the ecclesiastical apologists
have given no adequate answer.
First there is the obvious question of quietism.
This is a problem that in many forms has vexed
our theologians since Augustine, owing to the ten-
dency in western Christianity to magnify the func-
tion of divine Grace at the expense, if not to the
exclusion, of the human will; but it has been
peculiarly troublesome in dealing with the mys-
tics. What place does St. John of the Cross, for
~ 7 3
instance, leave for human cooperation in that dark
night of the spirit which in page after page he
describes as a state of complete passivity arising
upon the suppression of all the faculties, includ-
ing the will? In that state the soul "abstains from
every effort, except that it attends lovingly upon
God, without any desire to feel or see anything
further than to be in the hands of God, who now
communicates Himself to the soul, thus passive,
as the light of the sun to him whose eyes are
St.John himself felt the delicacy of the
problem and gave the only solution possible. "If,"
he explains, "this inactivity should be a cause of
scruples, let him remember that it is not a slight
matter to possess our soul in peace and rest, with-
out effort or desire. This is what our Lord re-
quires at our hands, saying, 'Be still, and see that
I am God.' Learn to be interiorly empty of all
things, and you will see with delight that I am
Such voluntary passivity may be distin-
guished by the careful psychology of the orthodox
apologists from the quietism which was con-
demned in Mme Guyon and Molinos, but the
distinction is so fine that to the blunter minds of
the unconcerned it will appear to be almost with-
out a difference. They will not find much satis-
faction in the defence which Cardinal Wiseman,
21 Ascent, II, xv, 2.
2s Ibid., II, xv, 3.
IF" ,.
instance, has thought it necessary to offer in
his preface to the translation of St.John's Living
Flame of Love.
With the problem of the will is closely con-
nected that of since in the mystic psychology
the two coalesce, the will being no more than a
reaching out of the soul towards that upon which
its desire is set. "Charity too, in the same way,"
St. John, "empties the will of all things, for
It compels us to love God above all, which we can-
not do without withdrawing our affections from
every object."
Here, again, the difficulty, in-
herent. in the religious life, of reconciling
the spiritual mterest of the soul with its natural
is rendered intolerably acute by the
habit of regarding the two spheres of interest as
not merely contrasted, but contradictory in the
sense of being mutually exclusive the one of the
other. (I would ask the reader again to recall the
distinction between an absolute and an absolved
dualism, as drawn in the essay on Buddhism.)
The great Commandment of the Old and the
New Testament at once contrasts and conjoins
the two: Thou shalt love God and Thou shalt
!ove thy neighbour; the law of theistic mysticism
IS : In order to love God thou shalt not love thy
neighbour. So put in its nakedness the law may
appear not only unscriptural but hateful. Never-
29 Ascent, II, vi, 2.
theless I do not exaggerate, as may be seen from
the categorical statements of St. John of the
"Love begets a likeness between the lover and
the object of his love .... He who loves the
creature becomes vile as that creature itself, and
in one sense even viler, for love not only levels,
but subjects also the lover to the object of his
l?ve .... He, therefore, who loveth anything be-
Side God renders his soul incapable of the divine
union and transformation in God .... This is ap-
plicable to every kind of affection to which we are
liable in this life. . . . He who loves any other
thing with God makes light of Him, because he
puts into the balance with Him that which is in-
finitely beneath Him .... It is the will of God
that the soul should be empty of all created
Such passages from the works of a canonized
saint do not make pretty reading, and they could
be confirmed by similar extravagances from other
mystics-notably from Tauler, in whom the an-
tinomy between divine and human love is a con-
stant theme.
Nor are we much helped by consid-
30 Ascent, I, iv, 2, 3; I, iv, 10; I, v, 4; I, v, 7.
31 E.g. Die Predigten, edited by F. Vetter, 220: Lust Gotz mit
lust der creatwren, und schruwest du blut, das en mn,g nut sin,
"love of God with love of creatures, though thou wept blood, that
I '
~ 7 6
ering them as a literal (and utterly illegitimate)
generalization from the words of Christ: "If any
man come to me, and hate not his father, etc." I
admit willingly, gladly, that the inhuman harsh-
ness of the theory is susceptible of certain mitiga-
tions on the philosophical side. Thus St. John of
the Cross himself will rationalize the antinomy by
connecting it with the Aristotelian distinction be-
tween substance and accidence, the former pro-
viding the positive way while the latter provide
the negative way. Our nature, our humanity, he
argues, with all the complexity of its attributes,
cannot be." And compare tbe stanzas of J acopone da Todi, trans-
lated by Mrs. Theodore Beck:
"Before I saw its power, I asked in p,rayer
For love of Christ, believing it was sweet;
I thought to breathe a calm and tranquil air,
On peaceful heights where tempests never beat.
Torment I find instead of sweetness there.
My heart is riven by the dreadful heat;
Of these strange things to trea;t
All words are vain:
By bliss I am slain,
And yet I live and move.
. . . .
"Now on no creature can I turn my sight;
But on my Maker all my mind is set.
Earth, sea, and sky are emptied of delight,
For Christ's dear love all else I clean forget:
All else seems vile, day seems as dark as night;
Cherubim, seraphim, in whom are met
Wisdom and love, must yet
Give place, give place,
To that one Face,
To my dear Lord of love."
is accidental to us; our substance is divine. Hence
by nullifying the accidental qualities of our hu-
man nature our substance is set free to become
one with God-in "the contact of two naked
substances, the soul and divinity."
And so of
love. Not only our souls but all things have their
being in God; the love we destroy is that directed
to the accidence, or attributes, of the creature as
distinct from its being, while in our union with
God we are united substantially to all things and
in that community recover the love we have re-
jected. The most important of the recent pane-
gyrists of the saint makes much of this argument,
and it is only fair to quote his comment at some
"The mystical contemplation as it expanded in
a John of Cross gives us a hint of a new percep-
tion of the world. It would have no metaphysical
value if it brought us to a life in God for which,
in our view of things, nothing had prepared us.
The spiritual rhythm, described by John of the
Cross, envelops from the beginning a perception.
The rejection of appearances, the abandonment
of memories, the striving towards a love which
no created sweetness excites,-of what profit
would these torments be if they did not construct
a2 (]O'iTYifffW'n,t on the Cantico ( ed. cr. II, 589, 534): Toque de sub-
stancias desnudas, es d saber, del alma y divinidad . ... En aquella
posesi6n siente serle todas las cosas Dios. . . . Siente ser todas
las cosM Dios en un simple aer.
~ 7 8
a new outlook upon things? The mystical con-
templation leads us to adhere, in spirit, to the
universe. Suddenly things will assume a beauty
of which we had no knowledge. We shall love
them in themselves, in the substance which is
their life, not in the accident which our senses
transmit to us. It little imports that this disdain
of sensible data seems to us contestable. Contem-
plation, as John of the Cross understands it, en-
genders a mystical perception. And the universe
by it becomes a whole; unified in itself."
Such an argument may satisfy the cold logic of
reason (I question even that) ; but it offers poor
comfort for the outraged emotions of humanity.
What meaning adheres to a "naked substance"
stripped of all the qualities which denote the
mind and heart and character of a living indi-
vidual creature, that we should love it? Is this to
spiritualize the mixed imperfect affections of
nature, or to exhaust them in a vacuum? Cer-
tainly in this troubled world of ours the hope of
recovering the warm contacts of love in some re-
mote abstraction of "being" is very like a mock-
ery of Christ's Great Commandment. As a mat-
ter of f,act the shift in the "theopathic" state, by
which the soul, having abdicated all things, sud-
denly finds itself the loving possessor of all things,
as Jean Baruzi, Swint Jean de la Crow, 604. See also pp. 668,
677, 682, 683, 687.
~ 7 9
is only another aspect of the regular oscillation
of the mystic goal between absolute transcen-
dentalism and absolute pantheism, between ab
stract not-being and abstract all-being; it is mere-
ly a Christian cosmetic applied to the gray-hued
One of Plotinus.
A better apology for the mystic than these sub-
tleties of Aristotelian logic would be to remember
that, though a scholastic metaphysician, he was
still a man, and that, with a beautiful inconsis-
tency, he often loved with a passionate devotion
the creature from which his theory of religion
would utterly detach him. He could even on occa-
sion forget the bleakness of his mystical abstrac-
tions for a view which would be acceptable to the
veriest humanitarian. Thus we read in St. Teresa
that, in her opinion, "the surest sign for discover-
ing whether we observe these two duties [love of
God and love of neighbour] is the love of our
neighbour, since we cannot know whether we love
Blessed are such inconsistencies. But the
fact cannot be overlooked that the mystic's vio-
lent repudiation of the world very frequently
narrowed and desiccated his religion to a carica-
ture of the Gospel. Nor can we forget that what
may appear as an affectionate care of men may
be no true love at all but an egotistical aspect of
34 The Interior Castle, V, iii (82).
,_ ..
asceticism which commands us to revel in self-
And with the simplicity of love for the crea-
ture the pilgrim of eternity, if he will journey
courageously by the mystic way, must lay aside
the sacramental use of natural things; for it is
the note of a sacrament that natural things by
their attributes and qualities should convey hints
and lessons of higher realities, and should be
capable of transmutation into instruments suit-
able for the spiritual life. That, I take it, is the
true significance of the Eucharist in particular,
and it is hard to see how such an interpretation
of the sacrament can be accommodated to the
typical mystic's attitude towards material phe-
nomena, as exhibited in .John of the Cross:
"Before I discuss the proper and fitting means
of union with God, which is faith, it is right that
I should show how that no created, or imagined,
thing can subserve the understanding as a proper
means for its union with God .... It is clear from
this, then, that the soul, the more it is detached
in will and affections from the stains of impres-
sions, images, and representations, in which the
spiritual communications are involved, t;tot ~ m l y
does not deprive itself of these commumcabons,
and the blessings of which they are the cause, but
is thereby the more disposed for their reception,
and that in greater abundance, clearness, hberty
of spirit, and singleness of mind; all the impres-
sions, veils, and shadows, which hide the deeper
spirituality within, being cast aside.m
St . .John of course is not thinking of the Eucha-
rist when he announces these principles; he was
altogether too submissive a servant of the Church
and too intent upon orthodoxy for that. But one
has the right to ask, nevertheless, whether there
is really any place for the sacrament of bread and
wine in the theory at least of a mystic who so sev-
ers the natural from the supernatural that the
former cannot even be employed as a sign of the
latter. I know that here again the metaphysician
will be ready with his apology, and will say that
the doctrine of transubstantiation teaches the
communicant to neglect the accidental attributes
of the elements for the divine substance which
mystically supplants the natural substance and
so unites his soul to the substance of God. But the
theory is in truth simply bad metaphysics and
worse theology,-bad metaphysics, since the no-
tion of substance actually existent apart from all
attributes is an untenable abstraction of logic;
worse theology, since the whole meaning of a sac-
rament is not that matter can be substantially
annihilated and spirit put in its place, but that
matter may be consecrated to spiritual uses. As a
35 Ascent, II, viii, 1 (93); II, xvi, 10 (139).
matter of fact thesaferapologyforthemystichere
too lies in simply admitting the inconsistency of
one whose theoretical rationalism is often extrane-
ous to his deep and genuine sense of religion. But
theory and practice are not lightly divorced, and
the temptation of the mystic is always to with-
draw from the sacramental function of the Church
into an inner and, as he thinks, more spiritual
habit of unmediated communion with the Deity.
This the Roman Church has felt with a nervous
jealousy not without warrant. Even so loyal a
Roman Catholic as Baron von Hiigel was driven
to the most anxious precautions in order to pre-
vent suspicions of heretical individualism.
Nor is this all. Behind the sacramental mood,
for the Christian its very root and life and expla-
nation, lies the fundamental dogma of the Incar-
nation. When the sacramentalist repeats the
memorial words, "This is my body," having in
mind the mysterious comment on the bread of life
in the Fourth Gospel, he knows that the phrase
of the Institution is equivalent to saying, "Flesh
is made theW ord," and that this is but the reverse
side, so to speak, of the text of the Prologue in the
same Gospel, "The Word was made flesh." The
two phrases are in fact the opposite aspects of the
one great sacramental law of religion.
Now there can be no question of the sincerity
of St. John's belief in the Incarnation any more
than of his belief in the sacraments; but I do not
see how an honest reader of his works can avoid
the impression that his loyalty in both cases was in
despite of, rather than because of, his mystical the-
ology. As his view of the absolute incompatibility
between nature and spirit took the ground from
unde.r the sacramental use of natural things, so
also 1t leads logically to a virtual rejection of the
Incarnation. Christ for him may have been the
great teacher and exemplar of mystical renuncia-
tion, but at the least it is hard to discover any
place in his philosophy for the redemption of the
flesh by the embodiment of the Word in the flesh.
I will admit that St. John wavers here and does
not draw the last conclusions of nihilism, for after
all he was a Southerner and a Latin. To see these
conclusions in their unabashed nakedness we must
turn to the bolder school of the North as exempli-
fied, e.g., in :Meister Eckhart. Read his mvstical,
and misty, disquisitions on the difference
God and the Godhead, and weigh the implica-
tions of such a distinction:
"But consider, I pray you by the eternal and
imperishable truth and by my soul; grasp the in-
effable secret. God and Godhead are separated
as are heaven and earth. The heaven stands well
a thousand miles higher. And so the Godhead
above God. God becomes and unbecomes ( wird
und ent'Wird) . ...
"Never has the Godhead actuated this or that,
but first God creates all things. Where God is
Creator, there He is manifold and knows multi-
plicity. But where He is One, there He is free and
empty of all act, and in the unity of His being
knows nothing beyond what He in Himself sup-
eractually is.m
The first thought induced by such words is that
they present a curious and quite unchristian par-
allel to the distinction made by <;ankara and
other commentators on the Vedanta between
Brahma (neuter), as the impersonal transcen-
dent Absolute, and Brahma (masculine) or lcva-
ra, the creator and personal Lord of the world.
And secondly we are faced with the same inevit-
able conclusion. To the enlightened Hindu God,
as lcvara, is a temporal and transient power (be-
coming and unbecoming) like the ephemeral
world of which he is the master. Our belief in him
and his works belongs to the lower knowledge
(apara vidya); with the attainment of the higher
knowledge (para vidya) they simply cease to
exist for us. A creative God is merely part of
the great illusion, while the single reality is
36 Rudolf Otto, in his West-Oestliche Mystik, develops at length
this obvious parallel between the philosophy of Eckhart and (:an-
kara. There is, I believe, no question of direct borrowing from the
Orient. Eckhart's immediate source is Plotinus and Dionysius;
but his theology brings into the open the universal drift of mys-
ticism towards an anti-theistic, or supra-theistic, transcendentalism.
Brahma. Our fealty to God and our worship of
him pass into the limbo of innocent error when
once we have learnt the identity of our true Self
with the selfless Absolute. In precisely the same
way to Eckhart "all that is created has no truth
in itself," and the very end and purpose of the
mystic insight is to rise above worship of a per-
sonal God to absorption in the unconditioned
Godhead. Where, I ask, does the Incarnation
enter into such a scheme? The worship of the
Church, the confession of faith, become a mere
lip-service, more or less sincere, while the solid
faith of religion evaporates into a "cloud of un-
It will be abundantly clear by now that I am
writing in no spirit of sympathy with mysticism;
and there will be readers, more or less adequately
familiar with the subject, who will criticize my
treatment as too metaphysical and too neglectful
of the softer and more genial elements of the
saintly life. I admit the correctness of the charge
in a way; but my purpose frankly is to show that
essential mysticism, so soon as it passes beyond
the first plane of mystihood, is something quite
different from the genteel presentation of it by
popular expounders who mingle the three planes
without discrimin'ation, and then sentimentalize
~ 8 6
the mixture.
And I may add that my antipathy
is not of sudden growth or allied to inconsiderate
prejudice. My approach to the subject many
years ago, first through the Sanskrit and Pali
adepts and later through those of the West, was
made in the expectant mood of discipleship, and
only long acquaintance with the literature and
some advance in practice have brought a feeling
of alienation. So much by way of personal apol-
ogy it seems proper to say in order to avoid mis-
And I would not have it supposed that my
criticism implies a charge of insincerity against
the greater masters of the practice. Neither would
I insinuate that the mystical profession is chimer-
ical in the sense that it is without any basis in
actual experience. Sincerity and actuality are,
indeed, mutually interdependent, and both are
attested by the amazing agreement of the reports,
in certain fundamental facts, that reach us from
37 There is much that is good, for instance, in Evelyn Underhill's
treatises, and she undoubtedly has a wide reading in the field. But
in the final count her view of the mystics simply "as people who
see and experience more vividly a Reality which is there for all of
us" (The Mystics of the Church, 14), may be true of a devotional
work like Hilton's Scale of Perfection, but, if extended to such
writers as Ruysbroeck and John of the Cross, does contain a sen-
timental confusion of the three planes. Her method of interpret-
ing the bolder mystics may be defended on the ground that it
alone "can bring us into brotherly relation with them, and so help
us in our own lives," but it will do so by ignoring a large portion
of the facts.
all ages and all lands. It is inconceivable that so
many witnesses should agree if their testimony
were suborned. My rejection of the mysticial
pretensions is for other reasons, which may be
summed up under three heads: ( 1) that an actu-
al experience connected with a common trait of
human nature is accepted na'ively as having a
spiritual value which does not belong to it; ( 2)
that this experience is variously interpreted in
accordance with the particular religious belief of
the time and place, and ( 3) that this arbitrary in-
terpretation reacts to colour the naive experience.
In this way we can, I think, explain the agree-
ment of the mystics on certain fundamental facts
together with their disagreement in details of
creed and practice.
For the common basis in human nature I can-
not do better than paraphrase, with comment,
the analysis given by Professor Marechal, a
Jesuit of Louvain, whose education combines a
mastery of scholastic metaphysics with a thorough
training in the psychological laboratories of
Now the proper domain, he says, of
positive science, or ordered knowledge, is that of
our judgements formed on the data derived from
immediate perception and sensation. And if we
as Joseph Marechal, :Etudes sur la psychologie des mystiques,
I, 5 ff.; translated by Algar Thorold, pp. 4 ff. I need not add
that the running comment interwoven with the theory is my own,
and not Father Marechal's.
examine the elements of the cohesion implicated
in every act of human judgement, we find that
they are originally two. In the first place there is
a diversity of material purely empirical and rela-
tive, grouped in time and space. These are what
we call "phenomena," belonging to both our ex-
ternal and our internal experience ; they give the
representative aspect, the imagery, of knowledge.
The second element, more exclusively formal,
is the act of synthesis that follows upon the im-
mediate experience. It consists in the compene-
tration of the .groupings of phenomena by the
superior unity of concepts, or, if you prefer, in
the representation of a relation more or less defi-
nite between the empirical conjunctions of phe-
nomena and the absolute unity of being. Whether
this element of synthesis be denominated "active
intellection," "total intellectual abstraction," "ap-
perception," or "synthetic activity of the under-
standing," is a matter of little import, since, at
bottom, all these terms designate the same unify-
ing and generalizing operation of the mind on
the phenomenal content of immediate experience.
In less technical language, this would mean
that in every judgement of the mind by which
we say to ourselves this thing perceived is such
and such an object, or this sensation felt is of
such and such a kind, there is involved first an
immediate perception or sensation together with
an instinctive grouping of perceptions or sensa-
tions by apparent similarities. And secondly there
enters a rationalizing element by which the
grouping of phenomena is raised step by step to
the conception of a final principle of unity behind
or within all this multiplicity.
Now both these elements are common to all
acts of judgement and are universal. But they are
also, if considered separately, antagonistic in
their nature. Though our whole mental life de-
pends on their cooperation, yet they pull the mind
in opposite directions, on the one hand towards
multiplicity, on the other hand towards unity,
each striving to subdue the mind to its own do-
minion. The resultant condition is paradoxical,
to say the least, and there is an almost irresistible
tendency among those who theorize on the matter
to escape the conflict by stressing one factor of
the double process at the expense of the other, or
more drastically by denying the validity of one or
the other element, whether of unity or of mul-
tiplicity. The terminus ad quem of the former
method of simplification would be the sort of
theoretical scepticism, or atomism, which admits
no reality except to the incoherent mass of mo-
mentary perceptions and sensations; while the
terminus ad quem of the latter method is the
transcendentalism of the Bradleyan type, which
recognizes no reality except the ultimate unity of
the concept of Being. We are wont to think of
this latter type as distinctively metaphysical; but
in truth both methods are metaphysical in so far
as their aim is to submit the complex data of
mental experience to a simplification agreeable to
reason, however suppressive of disturbing facts.
This is the purely intellectual side of M. Mare-
chal's analysis of our common psychological pro-
cesses. But in life there is no such abstraction of
the reason from the concomitant faculties of emo-
tion and volition. And here, in the normal con-
junction of the faculties, we observe the same
paradoxical antagonism in as much as our desires
and will, along with the reason, are pulled in
contrary directions towards multiplicity and
unity. And the result, again, if one or the other
of these tendencies prevails unchecked, is in the
actuality of experience a concrete realization of
the abstract theories of metaphysics. At one end
lies the dissolution of character in a well known
form of insanity, a condition in which the mind
and the emotions and the will have no continuity
and are entangled in the mere flux of sensations
or, as it is sometimes called, the ceaseless stream
of consciousness. At the other extremity there
awaits us a definite experience, more frequent
than is perhaps ordinarily supposed, in which all
the variety of our impulsive being is swallowed
up, for the most part only momentarily, in an
abysmal sense of absolute unity. Literature offers
innumerable statements of this concrete simplifi-
cation, but for our purpose it is sufficient to cite
the striking account of such an experience given
by J. A. Symonds:
"Suddenly, at church, or in company, or when
I was reading, and always, I think, when my
muscles were at rest, I felt the approach of the
mood. Irresistibly it took possession of my mind
and will, lasted what seemed an eternity, and
disappeared in a series of rapid sensations which
resembled the awakening from anaesthetic in-
fluence. One reason why I disliked this kind of
trance was that I could not describe it to myself.
I cannot even now find words to render it intel-
ligible. It consisted in a gradual but swiftly pro-
gressive obliteration of space, time, sensation, and
the multitudinous factors of experience which
seem to qualify what we are pleased to call our
Self. In proportion as these conditions of ordinary
consciousness were subtracted, the sense of an
underlying or essential consciousness acquired in-
tensity. At last nothing remained but a pure,
absolute, abstract Self. The universe became
without form and void of content. But Self per-
sisted, formidable in its vivid keenness, feeling
the most poignant doubt about reality, ready, as
it seemed, to find existence break as breaks a
bubble around about it. And what then? The
apprehension of a coming dissolution, the grim
conviction that this state was the last state of the
conscious Self, the sense that I had followed the
last thread of being to the verge of the abyss, and
had arrived at demonstration of eternal Maya or
illusion, stirred or seemed to stir me up again.
The return to ordinary conditions of sentient ex-
istence began by my first recovering the power of
touch, and then by the gradual though rapid in-
flux of familiar impressions and diurnal interests.
At last I felt myself once more a human being;
and though the riddle of what is meant by life
remained unsolved, I was thankful for this return
from the abyss-this deliverance from so awful
an initiation into the mysteries of scepticism.m
With Symonds this experience was evidently
attended by a feeling of fear, as though he were
for the moment on the verge of a state in which
insanity and sublime enlightenment are indis-
tinguishably blended together; and such, I sus-
pect, would be the reaction of most normal minds
if the impulse towards the simplification of unity
were carried to the extreme. But it is easy to see
how the same experience may be laid hold of in
the name of religion and endowed with spiritual
significance. So we find M. Marechal dealing with
it in his psychology in a manner to justify the
Bradleyan metaphysics and the pretensions of
39 Quoted from William James's Varieties of Religious Ex-
perience, 385.
mysticism. There is, he adds, continuing his an-
alysis, a third element in the process of forming
judgements, inseparable from the preceding two
but of a nature peculiar to itself. This goes be-
yond the mere conception to an absolute affirma-
tion of the necessary relation of empirical synthe-
ses to the unity of being. By this affirmation, the
mind takes its stand before conceptual data and
confers upon them a moral value corresponding
to their logical importance. And in this third
stage we recognize the characteristic procedure
of the human mind, or spirit, the expression of its
innate nature, as effector and affirmer of unity,
because fundamentally directed towards the unity
of Being as its inaccessible object and ever re-
treating goal.
So it is that we find an apology for mysticism
grafted upon an innocent-seeming psychological
analysis. The two elements of perception and
concept discovered in every simple act of judge-
ment, by virtue of this absolute affirmation, sud-
denly issue in a dualism of moral values with the
implication of two objective spheres dividing our
interest between them: the natural allied with
multiplicity, and the supernatural allied with
unity. And, further, since man's spirit is essen-
tially akin to unity, his true, his higher, interest
lies there, and his moral growth is determined by
his progress in that direction. Thus the way of
religion is, negatively, to withdraw the desires of
the heart and the direction of the will away from
the shifting diversities of nature and to set them
upon the immutable veracity of the infinite One.
As a consequence the psychological experience
described by J. A. Symonds becomes the goal of
moral and religious endeavour, and instead of in-
spiring fear is glorified with supreme spiritual
value and fraught with cosmic significance.
There is thus a ground of psychological experi-
ence, potential in all men, actually realized in a
few, common to the mystics of all lands and times
and accountable for the similarity of their re-
ports. But upon that common basis we need not
be surprised to see them also erecting various
superstructures in accordance with their particu-
lar tenets of philosophy or religion. At bottom
their actual experiences, at the highest point at
least, will be amazingly alike, but their theories
in regard to what has happened to them may be
radically different. To Plotinus it will seem that
in the mystic ascent the soul has retrod the path
on which the universe, by a kind of mechanical
necessity, descended from unity to multiplicity,
and at the last loses herself in blissful reunion
with the absolute source of all. A ~ a n k a r a will
explain the state of liberation not as a return to
what has been left but as a sudden awakening
whereby the soul learns that she has never been
what she has seemed to be or has cared for what
has seemed to attract her, but has always been
that which she now knows herself to be, the infi-
nite Reality detached from all finite illusions. To
the Christian mystic on the contrary the ecstasy of
unconscious oblivion will become in memory are-
union with an infinitely loving and creative deity,
operated by no power of the soul herself but by
the infusion of divine Grace. All three-N eoplato-
nist, V edantist, and Christian-will agree in pro-
nouncing the ultimate mystical state to be, so far
as our normal understanding reaches, utterly
without content, and therefore indescribable,
incommunicable, ineffable. Yet each of them,
looking back upon the void after his return to
consciousness, will use it to assert the truth of his
peculiar philosophy or religion. This is specially
true of the Christian mystics, owing to the richer
and more positive content of their theology, and
we find them, over and over again, declaring that,
in some manner expressrble only in the vaguest
metaphor of light or spiritual illumination, they
have been blessed with immediate and certain
confirmation of the Trinity and other dogmas of
the Churc4. Why, one asks, if these em post facto
reports are trustworthy, is a Brahminical or a
Buddhist or a Mohammedan mystic confirmed in
an utterly different theology?
We must, I think, reject any precise cosmic
significance in the mystical experience. The more
important question remains, what credit we
should give to its claims to the highest spiritual
value. Now up to a certain point I, at least, am
ready to admit that the mystical theory of the
religious life is practically sound. We do live in
two spheres, or planes, the natural and the super-
natural. We do feel also that our truer life, and
hence our moral peace, is concerned with unity
and the supernatural. And mysticism, having its
root in the impulse to obey the unifying impulse
in our composite being, is thus, when compared
with the contrary drag towards dispersion and
disintegration, on the side of strength and char-
acter. It may well seem to have behind it, to a
certain extent does have behind it, the powers of
righteousness assisting the soul in her opposition
to the exigent demands of the world and the
flesh and the devil. There is then no occasion for
surprise if the genuine traits of religion attend
the mystic in his course, when, for instance, he
shows in practice the most devoted care for his
fellow men while professing that all love for the
creature is a sin; or when he displays a dominat-
ing efficiency in worldly affairs while professing
a complete suppression of the natural will. Were
we bound to set our unqualified approbation on
one or the other of the two extremes, the mystic
~ 9 7
or the materialist, we should not hesitate to choose
the former.
Nevertheless, if my analysis is correct, mystic-
ism is a disease of religion, and not its perfection,
and the impulse to hypostatize the unifying
energy of the soul into an absolved Unity must be
regarded as a temptation of the reason just as
surely as the impulse in the opposite direction
must be so regarded; and the effort to lose our
sense of conscious responsible being in the gap-
ing abyss of the unconscious is a temptation of
the spirit just as surely as the surrender in the
opposite direction is a temptation of the flesh.
Mysticism, in a word, is the handiwork of the
Demon of the Absolute, showing itself in the
field of religion exactly as it does in the fields of
philosophy and art and science. And as in the sec-
ular fields so in the religious, the temptation
comes most strongly to the higher natures. The
victim of the Demon is not likely to be the luke-
warm or indifferent or shabby soul, but the spirit
inflamed with the ardour of true devotion. This
is not to be forgotten when we criticize the great
mystics of the faith. But neither should we forget
that their virtues are maintained at the cost of
a certain tension between theory and practice.
However he may act, the mystic is one to whom,
theoretically, the existent world has been denuded
of all meaning and purpose, and whose will is set
ultimately not upon taking his part in task
of evoking order and beauty and design out of
things as they are, but upon such abso!ute
withdrawal as in the eyes of the mystiCally-mmd-
ed Platonist is a plain defalcation
"Nay, Athenians," said Socrates on tr1al for his
faith, "the truth is quite otherwise; for
a man takes his post, deeming it best for him the:e,
or wherever the leader places him, there let him
And in the Christian the inconsistency becomes
peculiarly acute, owing to the fo.rm J?s
ogy. Undoubtedly the ai:rr;t ?f his rehgwn IS t.o
centre the will upon the diVme, and the suffiffilt
of his endeavour is in the petition, "Thy will be
done." The danger for him lies in
one phrase of the sequ.el, a on .earth as It IS. m
heaven," the philosophical eqmvalent of which
would be "in both the natural and the super-
natural s;heres." Yet this is just the position of
the mystic, who asserts that the only. way .of
bringing our human will. conforrmty with
God's will is by withdrawmg It from all
and worldly ends. And when, by a sim-
plification, God is as Umty, and
so is Himself depnved of will m the sense of
purpose to produce change in a given material
or under given conditions-and "purpose" can
have no other meaning-then the way is prepared
for the higher mysticism wherein the fullness of
life is defined as complete self-nullification. Very
close to such an achievement lies the pure pas-
sivity of a Mme Guyon or a Molinos.
The kind of agreement found in the records
of mysticism from all over the world points, as I
have said, to the working of some common psy-
chological factor. But in one important respect
we have to note a divergence between adepts of
the East and of the West, which shows how far
theory may react upon a na1ve experience to
colour it one way or another, and which ought to
convey a special warning to those who approach
the subject with occidental prejudices. I refer
to the striking fact that the mystic life as practised
by the Christian, though resembling in its exter-
nal course the practice elsewhere, is so generally
attended by an anguish of spirit scarcely known
in India.
Of the prevalence of this anguish there can be
no doubt. To return for the moment to St . .John
of the Cross, we find him repeatedly in his ac-
count of the Dark Night of the Soul asking why
the soul must endure such continuous torture in
the contemplation and love of God instead of be-
ing progressively filled with joy and light. There
is no more eloquent passage in his works, nothing
that impresses the reader as flowing more direct-
ly from a real and terrible experience, than the
paragraphs describing this agony of dissolution:
"The divine touches the soul to renew it and to
ripen it, in order to m a ~ e it divine, t? .detach it
from the habitual affectwns and qualities of the
old man, to which it clings and conforms itself.
The divine extreme so breaks and bruises the
spiritual substance, swallowing it up in profound
darkness, that the soul, at the sight of its own
wretchedness, seems to perish and waste away, by
a cruel spiritual death, as if it were swallowed up
and devoured by a wild beast, suffering the pangs
of Jonas in the belly of the whale. For it must lie
buried in the grave of a gloomy death that it may
attain to the spiritual resurrection for which it
hopes. David describes this kind of pain and suf-
fering-though it really baffles description-
when he says, 'The sorrows of death have com-
passed me ... the sorrows of hell have compassed
me .... In my tribulation I have called upon our
Lord, and have cried to my God.' "
And in this agony of death the deepest pang of
the soul is that its cry seems not to be heard, that
the consciousness of its unworthiness is so great
that it must be denied by the very God for whom
it is denying itself:
40 Dark Night, II, vi, I.
"For, in truth, when the soul is in the pangs of
the purgative contemplation, the shadow of death
and the pains and torments of hell are most
acutely felt, that is, the sense of being without
God, being chastized and abandoned in His wrath
and heavy displeasure. All this and even more
the soul feels now, for a fearful apprehension has
come upon it that thus it will be with it for ever.
It has also the same sense of abandonment with
respect to all creatures, and that it is an object
of contempt to all ....
"All this God brings about by means of this dim
contemplation, in which the soul is made to suffer
from the failure and withdrawal of its natural
powers, which is a most distressing pain. It is
like that of a person being suffocated, or hindered
from breathing. But this contemplation is also
purifying the soul, undoing or emptying it, or
consuming in it, as fire consumes the rust and
mouldiness of the metal, all the affections and
habits of imperfection which it had contracted in
the whole course of its life. But inasmuch as these
habits are deeply rooted in the substance of the
soul, the grievous interior sufferings and trials it
has to undergo are heavy, and are in addition to
the destitution and emptiness, natural and spiri-
tual, of which I have spoken.''
These are not isolated or exceptional sentiments
in St. John but are of the very texture of his writ-
41 Dark Night, II, vi, 3, 7.
ings. Nor are they peculiar to him. His contem-
porary and friend, St. Teresa, when she wrote her
Interior Castle, that is when she had reached the
height of her mystical ascent, declared that for
forty years she had not passed a single day with-
out suffering (i.e. spiritual suffering). And the
same sombre note runs through the works of the
German mystics, for whom Tauler may be taken
as spokesman:
"The noble contemplative spirit often finds
itself in such deep waters that, if God permitted,
it would rather undergo the most cruel death than
endure such deep poverty and complete aban-
donment of spirit. It is a protracted agony which
consumes bone and sinew and exhausts the
strength; the living body struggles in the death
throes, no creature being able to administer con-
solation till it please the Lord to release it from
this torment, from this cross."
Or read the immense repertory of experiences
gathered in the volumes of Abbe Bremond's
Sentiment religieuaJ en France; you will find the
lives of the French mystics of the seventeenth
century one long outcry of agony, deepening at
times into despair. There are exceptions to the
chronicle of distress, the note here and there of
joy, but they are rare and not characteristic; and
42 Golden Thoughts on the Higher Life, translated by M. A. C.,
there is this to be observed, that the revelations of
spiritual anguish have the ring of utter sincerity,
whereas the words of those who have won through
to peace are comparatively lacking in conviction.
And again if we turn to the Greek Church, it is
the same story. To St. John Climacus, for in-
stance, who in the sixth century wrote the great
mystical treatise called the Scala Paradisi the
violence and torture and bitterness of the 'path
are so intense, that if God had not concealed them
from those living in the world no one would ever
have had the courage to set out on it.
In England since the seventeenth century the
mystical note of Catholicism has been little heard,
but one cannot read a history like that of the
without recalling the dark misery
m whiCh Cowper ended his life, "hunted by spiri-
tual hounds in the night season," treading "a
shore under the burthen of infinite despair,"
likening himself to "a solitary pillar of rock that
the crumbling cliff has left at the high water-
mark."44 Critics have made much of the responsi-
bility of the Rev. John Newton for depressing
the poet's mind and fastening on him the delu-
sion of divine abandonment. I would not entirely
exonerate that evangelical Calvinist for the re-
proaches due to his merciless creed; but it is only
43 Migne 636B.
44 Letters, edited by Thomas Wright, IV, 263, 490.
fair to observe that another powerful influence
upon Cowper was the quietism of Mme Guyon,
whose poems he translated, and whose Figurative
Description of the Procedure of Divine Love is
a curious anticipation of his awful stanzas on the
Castaway. The truth is that Catholic mysticism,
in its terrible insistence on the abyss yawning be-
tween the human and divine, needs but a slight
impulsion to fall into the dark night of Luther's
and Calvin's maddening theology of faith and
What is to be made of all this? Surely religion
was not given man to bring the soul into this state
of mental anguish. It says, "Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, thou
art with me"; it does not say, "Thou leadest me
into the valley of the shadow of death." Yet it
would seem as if this were precisely the text of
Christian mysticism. What is wrong here? What
is the cause of this perversion?
Well, in the first place, we must acknowledge
that this eclipse has its root in something com-
mon to all religious experience. There is a cer-
tain residue of sadness inseparable from the sense
of illusion and not incompatible with the joy and
peace of spiritual realization, a sadness that is,
as it were, the shadow cast by the light in which
the soul moves. And when the sense of illusion
grows strong about the soul without the counter-
balance of spiritual reality, then this shadow may
spread out into a night of melancholy and mad-
ness. The experience is known to students of
psychiatry and is, for instance, recorded by M.
Janet in the case of an old woman admitted to the
Salpetriere, who refused to do any work or take
interest in anything. "It is no use doing any-
thing," she repeated, "for everything is dead ... ,
They have put me in a grave where there is
nothing, where I am quite alone amid frightful
darkness .... All around me is black, as black as
ink; ... all is empty, no one exists any more, there
is nothing alive around me, it is as if I were dead
In some ways a more extraordinary
case is that of the late A. C. Benson, who at cer-
tain periods of his life fell into a black melan-
choly necessitating his retreat to an asylum. In
the selections from his Diary edited by Mr. Lub-
bock most of the records referring to these fits
of depression are omitted, but one passage is
given which reproduces in haunting imagery this
fear of a soul before the sense of a world lapsing
into nothingness:
"The day is hot and wet, a steep rain falling
out of the sky; the house like a vapour bath;
45 Marechal, op. cit., 79.
everything unutterably hot and languid and stuf-
fy. It is partly that, and partly also a real disgust
at life and its pretences which breeds these whole-
some reflections. One could hold one's tongue
about such things, of course; but it does not make
them worse to write them down. . . . To me, the
further I search, the wider spreads the desert and
the dimness. But and seem to
me to build themselves nice little houses and to
say, 'This is alt see how nice the rooms are, with
the curtains well drawn; there is not anything
outside.' But if one says, '"\Vhat do the curtains
look out on?' they say that the pattern of the cur-
tains is so pretty that it is a pity to draw them,
and that artificial light is really better for the
eyes. And then if one does twitch the curtain aside
and se:e the ghastly glimmer of the formless
twilight fading on the leagues of sand-well, one
can't well r_eturn to the wall-papers and candles,
however much one may dread and hate the
Now the analogy of these moods of insane de-
pression with the experiences of St. John of the
Cross must strike any reader, though, if sympa-
thetic to Catholic mysticism, he may insist that
the analogy is misleading. And it is true that the
Catholic saint contrives to drink deep of the chal-
ice of spiritual pain without losing his reason or
46 The Diary of Arthur Christopher Benson, 174.
succumbing to despair. So much must be granted
to his religious creed. But it is also true that no
such analogy can be drawn from the records of
pure Hindu mysticism. No doubt passages might
be cited from the Tantric literature of India
showing that the more emotional forms of wor-
ship, there as in the Occident, tend to nourish a
type of morbid anxiety, and for the same reasons;
but in the Upanishads and the veritable Vedanta,
as in genuine Buddhism, there is a striking ab-
sence of such moods. And this, I contend, is a fact
of the utmost importance, which has never been
duly weighed by Christian apologists. One may
reject the claims of Hindu mysticism on good
grounds, and may decline its offered peace be-
cause it misses the sweetest consolations of faith
and fails to satisfy the finest aspirations of the
soul; but not because its path leads through the
valley of haunted night and skirts the precipices
of despair. "\Vhat, then, is the peculiar and dis-
tinguishing source of these troubles in Western
Their origin must be traced back, I believe, to
that early stage in Christianity when Augustine
by rejecting the Platonic Ideas made the plunge
into the abyss of mysticism. The point is that the
doctrine of Ideas provides, if nothing else, a regu-
lative force of the utmost importance to prevent
the zeal of monotheism from running into dis-
torting exaggerations. With the retention of
Ideas as independent realities the purpose of
creation and deliverance is directed by the eternal
canons of beauty and order; without them right
and wrong cease to have any final validity and
the universe is left with no ultimate law of re-
sponsibility. The will of God becomes purely self-
centred, while on the part of man there is the ever
present danger of arbitrary fanaticism. So, also,
with Ideas our love of God is determined by a
primary sense of moral and aesthetic values; we
adore Him, we worship and praise, we submit our
will to His, we seek to imitate and serve, because
in Him we think we know a Being whose mind
and desire are set wholly upon righteousness and
loveliness, and without whose ceaseless effort
tbis world of ours and we ourselves should sink
into the mad distractions of chaos.
It may seem that by thus giving to Ideas the
primary place, as it were, in our reverence, we
were derogating from the divine majesty; but
it is not so. Between man and man devotion grows
purer and finer as the attraction of one to the
other is based on similarity of attitude towards
things of the spirit and on mutual help in their
attainment. And we can only believe the same
principle holds in the relation between man and
Deity. To revere God for His goodness is to
magnify His name in the proper sense of the
word. The accredited saints were right when they
insisted, under the pressure of orthodox theology,
that the goal of union with God is one of love,
not of essence; but they erred when, in their bolder
moments, they forgot that the union of love
springs from the attachment of person to person
for a reason. In the end Plato was nearer the
truth of orthodox Christianity when he taught
that we should imitate God for righteousness', than was the nominal Christian who, in the
excess of zeal, declared that we should love God
purely and exclusively for His own sake.
So it was that Augustine opened the door to a
perilous intensification of the religious e m o t i o n ~
with his famous reduction of all reality to God
and his own soul. But the peculiar anguish of
which we are speaking is scarcely to be found in
the quasi-mystics of the Augustinian brand. This
enters, or at least becomes acute, with the mixed
mysticism which, going a step further in the path
of Plotinus, would reduce all reality to God
alone, yet without ever quite frankly accepting
the postulates and consequences of an impersonal
monism. To this instability of its position must
be traced, I believe, the essential contradictions
that mark the practice of mixed mysticism from
beginning to end. There is the effort to combine
a passionate longing for God with the suppres-
sion of all desire ; there is the command to sacrifice
self for the love of mankind, joined with the call
to surrender all love of the creature ; there is the
need of strenuous effort, although of ourselves we
can accomplish nothing; there is the exaggerated
sense of responsibility for our eternal welfare,
while yet we must hang in impotent suspense (we
can only pray) on an arbitrary and incalculable,
not to say freakish, act of divine Grace. And be-
hind it all, directing it all, is the impossible merg-
ing together of a personal deity and a metaphysi-
cal Abstraction. It is one thing to lift the heart
towards God the Father in perfect love, to subdue
the restless human will into obedience, so that at
the last we may say, la sua volontade e nostra
pace. That is the way of homoiosis, of becoming
like to God through the divine economy of atone-
ment; and its consummation-some would say
its excess-may be the quasi-mysticism of St.
Augustine. It is another thing to strive after
union with the unqualified, impersonal, infinite
Absolute by the suppression of all desire and love
and by the transcendence of our personal individ-
uality. That is the goal of Oriental mysticism,
which, however it may be judged otherwise,
possesses so far the merit of consistency. To at-
tempt a combination of these two aspirations of
homoiosis and absorption as was actually done in
the mystical practice derived from Dionysius is
to create a tension of spirit, an anxiety, an acute
torment, an overshadowing of doubt and despair,
from which few who enter upon that way can
escape, and which no man should be asked to
undergo in the name religion. e:ro;
Christian who would riSe above Chnstlaruty IS m
thinking that he can amalgamate the command,
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with the ruth-
less law of the absolute, Brahmasmi, I am
More generally considered, it might be s.aid
that Christian mysticism, whether of the quasi or
the mixed type, is connected with a craving for
intensity of experience at the cost of clarity and
sanity. And if a critic finds something distasteful
in the surrender to this craving, it does not follow
that he aims to weaken and unnerve religion, to
flatten the ardent quest of faith to a polite and
Laodicean indifference, to quench the divine
thirst with maxims of worldly prudence, or to
satisfy the hunger of holiness with easy platitudes
of propriety. Rather he may hold it true in things
spiritual as in all the business of life that the gods
demand the strength and not the tumult of the
soul, remembering the last word of Plato:
"One safeguard we have for the ills assail
us from two sides, that we should not exerc1ze the
soul without the body or the body without the
soul, in order that the twain may be in equipoise
one against the other and in a state of health."
As for the Christian, let him not suppose that
a humility content to a;bide within the limits of
traditional orthodoxy with no passion for the im-
mediate vision of God, and to restrain the ambi-
tions of his intellect within the circle of Platonic
Idealism, is a lowering of his religious or philo-
sophical courage. Rather let him be assured that
in this voluntary inhibition lies the act of heroic
faith and noblest endeavour. To believe seriously
in the otherworld of God and Ideas, to lift the
mind habitually to the contemplation of super-
natural realities until it learns of a certainty that
its home is there, to live in that realm whole-
heartedly, yet without shirking or denying the
claims of nature, to centre the distracted will
upon God as the King of righteousness, to see in
this maze of gliding phenomena, or to know with-
out seeing, the dbscured presence of veritable jus-
tice and 'beauty, to retain faith in a divine pur-
pose at work within the world despite all the
persuasions of infinite illusion, to take one's part
valiantly in the eternal conflict of truth,-that is
not a light choice or a feeble task. Against the
temptation to sink below this mediatorial plane
we have, to him who listens, a clear call of the
spirit; the ambition to rise, here and now, into
what allures us as a higher plane is equally a
temptation, however it be disguised.