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Chapter VIII: Testimony

The views we developed in the preceding chapter have this advantage for us, that they give us considerable help in avoiding any causalist interpretation of grace. It is quite apparent that every critique of grace which implies the notion that grace is a mode of causality distinct from the causality which is proper to the human agent, would miss the point of our enquiry. When I said that generosity is the soul of the gift, I by no means meant that it is its cause, but, what is a very different thing, that it is its active essence. This is the perspective, I think, in which the dispute between the believing philosopher and the atheist should be set. One might perhaps express the question as follows: is there any meaning in maintaining that I am wrong when my being in the world appears to me as the expression of a generosity of which it is the embodiment? The atheist's reply to this question is that in reality nobody, no person qualified to bestow that gift on me, exists at all. But an answer, or a question of this sort, is conceivable only when particular verifications are possible: by which I mean that fundamentally they are conceivable only in the sphere where identifiable causes operate; for example, I receive a letter or a parcel, and I should be able to work back to the person who sent it to me; we may note that here we have, in principle, a mutual inter-penetration of causality and finality, but it may also happen that this mutual interpenetration does not take place—for example if the letter or parcel reaches me only through some mistake. But now that we are dealing with being in the world, we find that what we are concerned with is precisely the non-identifiable, as such; and this for the quite obvious reason that no identifications at all can be made except on the inside of or within the boundaries of being in the world. In the perspective of faith, however, which is at the same time that of freedom, it is this non-identifiable which is experienced or apprehended as the absolute Thou (Toi). That may perhaps be too summary a way of expressing it, and it might be better to say that this non-identifiable is seen in a light which is acknowledged as a presence.

But it is impossible not to realize that if a man endorses this scheme, the sort of denial which atheism ultimately reaches seems to miss the point of the question. This is not the end of our troubles, however, for we cannot but ask ourselves whether beyond the verifiable, and, which comes to the same thing, beyond that which can be denied, there still lies reality. There we face the crucial question; we must be most exacting in our approach to it, and there is no doubt that we shall now do well to put it as concretely as possible.

There are times when my own faith seems to me like a stranger: there is a gap between the believing or praying me and the reflecting me. This cannot be a mere accident. The possibility of this gap between me and myself seems to be implied in what I am, and it is a thing which I must face. In truth, however, the more I look at it, the more I face it, the more do I get beyond the opposition between the two; it is as though a new sort of unity arose between the two aspects of myself which at first seemed antagonistic. Does that mean that we meet again a scheme like that of Hegel's—synthesis following after thesis and antithesis? By no means; on the contrary, I should be inclined to say that in this case even the possibility of synthesis seems to be excluded, nor do I think it any more possible that it may be resolved, in the musical meaning of the word, in some perfect chord: the perfect chord, at any rate, is inconceivable for the wayfarer I am—for the man on his road to—which means, fundamentally, for man pure and simple, for a man who was no longer on a road to anywhere would be a man no more.

Nevertheless, even if there can be no question of the perfect chord, there must certainly be room here for a certain harmony, or we might do better to say a certain modus vivendi, between the praying and the reflecting me. This means that far from rejecting reflection as he would reject a temptation, the believer should in some way undertake it. To undertake it, however, means in this context, to take to oneself, as one accepts a test, I should rather say an ordeal. In my first volume I devoted considerable space to emphasizing that notion; what is its significance in this context? We may say that to the believer it appears that he must so purify his faith that it can the better resist the attack of reflection, the latter thus becoming the medium, the stimulus which makes this purification possible. In addition, reflection must confirm the legitimacy of a faith which it grasps at first in its most abstract essence. It is on the basis of this double recognition that the modus vivendi can be built.

But we must here foresee an objection that is not without weight. One might ask whether this purification does not consist in substituting progressively more abstract terms for the concrete and necessarily hybrid or uncertain terms in which faith was expressed before it had been submitted to this proof. Would not the God of this purified faith in the end be minimized into some abstract entity like Fichte's moral order?

We shall have to show that it would always be a great mistake to understand this purification in such a way, and this by virtue of the realist presuppositions on which we have been led to build the whole of this philosophy. It is true that the more pure cannot but be opposed to the more concrete, but it may be that there is a real concrete, which is being, and a pseudo-concrete which disguises itself as being.

We have come to a point where it must be apparent that the philosophy of being can in no way be opposed to the philosophy of freedom, as has been thought by those who have modelled their static notion of being on Bergson and have confused being with the thing. This is the root of the serious mistake they made in reducing it to the aspect which it presents to an objectivizing or objectivistic thought. What they failed to do was to understand that objectivizing thought is by definition foreign to the exigence of being, which, as we know, coincides with the exigence of transcendence. It is only from this point of view that we can question ourselves about the true character of the purification we were discussing above. After all, to purify myself, is to make myself more open to this light itself, more liable to being penetrated by it; and yet that even is not putting it strongly enough, it is making myself progressively more capable of giving out this radiance in my own turn.

This would seem more understandable if there were a real certainty that I have been endowed with such a power of dissemination, but with what certainty are we concerned, and on what does it turn? To revert to what I have said about Being and Having, I should say that we are concerned here with a certainty which I am rather than with a certainty which I have. If I had it, it would be mine to pass on, and we should have to ask ourselves under what conditions such a transmission is possible. In fact I do not possess it, not even in the way in which I have a certain knowledge which has been conveyed to me; it is also something which is not in the least degree comparable to an object. But how can I be a certainty, if not in as much as I am a living testimony? Truth to say, it would be intolerably presumptuous to claim that I am effectively such a testimony, but I can at least aim at becoming it; and so we may see with much more clarity in what the required purification consists.

This is still not the end of our difficulties, however; we have now to delve further into the essence of testimony. On the empirical plane, the notion of testimony raises no appreciable difficulty. If I say that I have been a witness of a certain occurrence, it means that I have been present at it, that is, that up to a point at least I have been conscious of what happened. Hence there is an active possibility of my asserting sometime, should occasion arise, that I was effectively present when the fact occurred, and of giving some indication about that aspect of it which was clearest to me. One might add that a certain connection has arisen between the fact and my own existence, and this will enable me to say, if it should be necessary to be a witness in court: ‘As true as I stand here before you, this is what happened in my sight and hearing; you can no more challenge my statement than you can deny my presence hic et nunc’. Moreover, it is only my word that can frame this connection, but this word is responsible to itself and does not recognize your right to cast doubt on it. It is here that the oath comes in, which is implied by the act of giving testimony, and which is the word consecrating itself. The word ‘consecrate’ is of the utmost importance in this context, and that precisely because of its reference to the sacred. In a world in which the sense of the sacred has disappeared, the oath becomes impossible and meaningless; and it is perhaps from this point of view that we should look at those perversions of judicial institutions which we can witness today, and that we are able to realize to what extent the human world as such has been disrupted.

We must be quite clear that there is no doubt but that it is on the historic that testimony bears. Neither the mathematician nor the physicist as such can be witnesses, and this arises primarily from the fact that they themselves appear in some way as the place in which a certain truth is revealed; and this truth seems, moreover, in some way to suppress or at least to dismiss as something purely contingent the sort of medium or vehicle of which at a given moment it has had need. With the witness the contrary is the case: when he comes in and, because he is a witness, is found to be indispensable, it is he who supports the testimony and gives it its weight. But it is a living being who is slipped in at a certain moment in the story; his existence is extended beyond his own life, but at the same time he does not cease to be himself. Thus it is, to take the case which has the most direct interest for us, that the testimony of the martyr continues to be operative after the disappearance of the man who gave it; and this means that the disappearance is not absolute, so long as something persists: an oral tradition, a written account, anything which, though it is not and cannot be outside time, can continue itself or can perhaps be brought back to light after being eclipsed. We may well note that even the truth discovered by the scientist cannot be embodied or passed on without some material support. But ideally—some will say it is a fiction—it still appears as independent of this or of any other support.

One might, it is true, ask whether it is not possible to testify to an idea, that is to say to something which is in itself beyond time. This, however, would seem to be possible only in so far as the idea has been embodied, for example when justice has been violated in the person of the innocent victim of an unjust sentence; and thus we come back to a certain historical datum. To conduct an active campaign for the recognition of the innocence of the victim will be to act as a witness. We must, I think, emphasize that the same cannot be said of the philosopher or the moralist who writes a treatise on justice, unless by so doing he incurs the punishment which tyrants inflict on those who defy them. But here again we are back in the historic.

It is not difficult, I think, to proceed from all these rather elementary considerations to the important idea that in the order which matters to us—that of faith—there can be testimony only of the living God. The God with whom theologians of the traditional type are most frequently concerned, the God whose existence they claim to demonstrate to us, cannot for all that be the occasion of any testimony; and to that extent one might be tempted to say that He cannot concern the believer as such. That God, who is in fact the God whom Pascal calls the Philosophers’ God, stands in a dimension which is not and cannot be that of faith. But, if we skip several stages, we are led to ask ourselves whether the living God is not inevitably a God who has become incarnate, and whether it is not to this same incarnation that the testimony is in the first place directed. Grosso modo we might put it concretely by saying that if belief in a living God is not to sink into mythology, it means, not exclusively but at least secondarily, that every approach to justice, for example, or to charity, in the person of my neighbour, is at the same time an approach to this God Himself; and this entails an entirely concrete but quite mysterious relation between this living God and this creature who is my neighbour. If this were not admitted, what one maintained to be a living God would thereby be reduced to an idea which is of necessity unalterable and against which I cannot sin. We may note that the introduction of the word ‘sin’ is inevitable at this point, and moreover that it is clear that since the world of testimony is that of freedom, it is also one in which one can refuse to testify, or else in which one can be a false witness, etc., that is, a world in which there can be sin.

If we carry on this line of thought, we shall understand quite clearly that in the Christian scheme the witness is not only someone who has been a contemporary of Christ in the chronological meaning of the word, or a direct recipient of His teaching. The effect of Incarnation is in fact to spread radiance, and it is just for that reason that today there can still be witnesses of Christ, whose evidence has a value that is not only exemplary but strictly apologetic.

This is not, however, the place in which to develop these corollaries. What is more important is to understand that here we have the interlocking of an historical religion with what could only be religion in general or faith in general, and which is in fact only the priming of a concrete spirituality. But when I speak of interlocking, it must be realized that there can be no question here either of an analytical bond—that is self-evident—or even of any dialectical chain. The philosopher who appreciates the exigence of transcendence in its fulness, that is, who cannot rest satisfied either with what takes place in this world, or even with the world itself considered in its totality—a totality, moreover, which is always fictitious—may nevertheless fall short of conversion to any particular historical religion. In such a conversion there is no movement imposed by necessity, but it must be added that neither is there any free act in the meaning which the word consistently bears, at least if freedom is supposed to be a spontaneous initiative proceeding from myself. Conversion cannot but appear to a man who has not been converted as depending on conditions which are foreign to his will and even strictly impossible to foresee. There is a gap, and it is not man's business to fill it up for himself. Grace will appear before conversion as an incomprehensible power which may perhaps operate, but may also fail to intervene. Let us note that at a distance, if I may say so, grace inevitably appears as some sort of a cause; but this is connected with a misconception of grace. This is, moreover, bound up with the fact that an historical religion—and here we must think primarily of Christianity—almost inevitably appears as an object of scandal to one who is not yet a convert. All we can say is that at its furthest extension metaphysical thought perceives the possibility of conversion, but perceives it as being dependent on conditions which it is beyond the power of freedom to bring about by itself. We should certainly add, as a rider to what we said above, that conversion is the act by which man is called to become a witness. This presupposes, however, that something has actually happened in which he will have to discern the action of the living God, or again a recognizable call which he will have had to answer. Here we can put our finger precisely on the interlocking of freedom and grace, and we see how neither can in any way be thought of without the other. But we have reached the point where it must be clear at the same time that we should be making a mistake, were we to try to localize this conversion at a given moment of its duration. The fact or the occurrence to which we give the name conversion, is only the starting point of a movement which must progress without any break. The most serious error of which the converted can become guilty is that of believing that he is placed or installed once and for all in some privileged position from which he can look condescendingly on the tribulations of those who have not yet joined this sort of ‘home’. It is just this idea of ‘home’ which must be rejected with the utmost emphasis, at least if this ‘home’ is conceived not as a goal, as something to be reached, but as being already dwelt in. The converted, in the only sense of the word we can accept, must realize that there is nothing on this plane which can be won once and for all, that there is a constant possibility of relapse, and that he is in danger of falling much lower even than his original starting-point; and this for the weighty reason that if he relapses he will no longer have the benefit of the sort of allowance that is made for the state of the honest unbeliever.

We may add that any interpretation of this in the language of possession would be radically mistaken. We could also draw certain conclusions from it about the attitude which those who are believers of long standing should adopt towards recent converts. Above all they should be careful not to treat them as recruits, whose enrolment provides them with reinforcements; and it is here that we might well bring out the extreme importance of a certain tact which is connected with the concrete respect or delicacy we have already had occasion to mention. This tact may be well compared, I think, to the precautions which a gardener has to take to ensure the growth of a very delicate plant. But in this case, by an extreme paradox, the gardener has to see himself as a plant exposed to the inclemency of time and habit. By a sort of remarkable inversion, he has to send himself back to the novitiate, so that the conditions under which the novice lives may give him immunity for a time from these inclemencies. Thus there comes about a completely spiritual interaction, which, in as much as it is a life and not just a disposition, has its roots in charity itself. From this point of view the philosopher seems to be better able to distinguish the nature of a Church. Ecclesiological reflection should take for its object the bringing to the surface of the implications of this change. It would doubtless allow to emerge, to be developed (as we use the word ‘develop’ in photography) the existence of a concrete intelligible medium outside of which what we call faith is certainly in danger of being degraded into a rather erratic disposition, or even to an unguided phenomenon which to an external observer would keep a dangerously problematical character.

These are the chief considerations we should take as a starting point from which to try to clarify the conditions or guiding rules for the philosopher who wishes to direct his thought to faith. What is required of him is in the first place to take this question of faith seriously, or, if you like, to acknowledge its reality, even if in all honesty he cannot say that he personally adheres to this faith, and if for some reason ingrained in his nature, the idea of conversion is repellent to him.

We must, however, at this point, anticipate an objection which threatens the whole basis of our argument: what, then, is the value of this exigence to which the philosopher must bow? By what right do we claim that he must give faith the benefit of a favourable prejudice, instead of keeping a strictly neutral attitude towards it? The very use, however, of the expression ‘favourable prejudice’ seems to be bound up with a misunderstanding which it is important to clear up; the phrase could only be justified if what we are concerned with were comparable to an hypothesis. Any hypothesis at all should in fact be considered by the philosopher with absolute impartiality. But we must put out of our mind the idea that we are dealing with anything comparable to an hypothesis, and it may well be useful to sum up briefly the reasons for rejection. We spoke of the possibility and even the necessity of a purification in such a sphere. But this implies a participation on the part of the subject which is quite inconceivable in the sphere of knowledge properly so called. Now, an hypothesis can never be anything but a preliminary stage on the road to knowledge. It is valueless except in so far as it is capable of being either confirmed or disproved by experience. We may add that in either case it will cease to exist as an hypothesis. In the case with which we are concerned, anything of this nature cannot be conceived; and to understand this, it is only necessary to recall the nature of the credit which I have opened in favour of the being I love. It would be absurd to say, ‘I admit as a plausible hypothesis that he will not deceive me’. If I love him, I lay it down as an axiom that he cannot deceive me. It is possible, of course, that I may be mistaken and that I may come to realize my mistake, but this will make no real difference to the fact that I have had faith in this being, and in a sense which transcends every possible supposition. This becomes infinitely more clear when it is a question of the transcendent Being, to whom I am compelled to open an absolute, that is to say an unconditional, credit; and we should have no hesitation in saying that the more unconditional my faith is, the more genuine it will be. No doubt—and we cannot emphasize this too strongly—there will be no lack of circumstances which may make me falter; if the being whom I love best in all the world is taken from me in incredibly cruel or brutal circumstances, I shall be unable to refrain from protesting: ‘If there were a God…’; or, which comes to the same thing, ‘If He possessed the attributes with which we commonly endow Him, He would not have allowed this monstrous happening’. But if I yield to this temptation, shall I not thereby reveal that my faith implied an unacknowledged condition? To be sincere, I shall have to realize that what I should have said in the first instance was, ‘I shall believe in You, God, in so far as You ensure for me the minimum of moral comfort I need, but not beyond that point’. Then it will be as though I were conscious of having made some contract with God and as though I accused Him of having broken it. To look at it more deeply, it will be as though I said, ‘It looks as though this contract had been broken by the other party; what really happened, however, was that the other party did not exist, and I made my contract with an imaginary being; for if he had been real, he could not have brought himself to incur the guilt of such a crime’.

Objectively speaking, there is nothing, indeed, which can prevent me from giving way to this sort of indignation, and here what we said about the relations between freedom and faith is brought out with great clarity. Each one of us, if he examines himself honestly, will have to confess that he is liable to take up such an attitude when overburdened by misfortune. The impulse will be the more irresistible, also, the more his relation to God has not been a living relation, but has been reduced to a collection of abstract theological statements. In such statements there is certainly nothing strong enough to resist the assault of concrete facts. But reflection, whenever it is positive, that is, recuperative, is bound to realize that a being in whom faith really resides, will undoubtedly find, not in himself, indeed, not in his own unaided resources, but by the help of God's own presence, the strength to repel this temptation.

It is true that one could counter by saying, ‘So deep a faith can only be a gift of God. How can I be blamed if this gift has not been granted to me?’ Again we find that the root of the objection lies in a materialist representation, the picture of some deficiency of supply. In fact, however—and here we face one of the central paradoxes we must particularly stress—if this way of picturing it makes me drive a wedge between my faith and myself which separates me from the thing whose possession is my ultimate aim, I am no longer really speaking about faith nor about grace; I am putting in their place pure fictions, instead of the mysterious and indivisible unity of freedom and grace.

We must, of course, add that everything we have just said has a real foundation in—and is not simply confirmed by—any experience we may have of authentic faith in such witnesses as it is our fortune to meet. We have all known beings in whom faith has withstood trials to which it would have seemed natural for it to succumb; we could have gone further and said that their faith emerged even strengthened from these trials. These are the real witnesses. But it is also true that there is always a possibility of shirking or rejecting testimonies such as these, which make us ashamed of our own lack of faith. Then we shall be induced to put in the notion of some sort of vital lies, in Ibsen's sense, which we say these unfortunate people have had to credit in order to live. To acknowledge these testimonies in the fulness of their significance, is in some way to become witnesses ourselves. We might add that if we do acknowledge them, it is because we are ourselves upheld, however feebly, by the exigence to which these witnesses have, for their part, given a full response.

It goes without saying that our opponent will not agree that he has lost the case: he will retort that the fault in our reasoning lies in arguing from the testimony (fictitiously considered as an effect) to the existence of the being about whom such testimony is given. But the same answer will always hold good: the objection implies a fictitious idea of some exteriority of the witness in relation to that about which he testifies. The Christian idea of an indwelling of Christ in the man who is completely faithful to Him, an idea which corresponds exactly in the religious order to the position which I am trying to define on the philosophical plane, involves a categorical rejection of this purely imaginary way of picturing it. Just as I spoke in my first series of lectures of creative fidelity, so now we are concerned with creative testifying. But we must repeat once more that creation is never a production; it implies an active receptivity, and in this connection any idealist interpretation must be resolutely rejected.

We are progressing, accordingly, towards the idea that a theology which is not based on testimony must be looked at with suspicion; to be more precise, it can hardly have more than a negative import, to which, however, we should be wrong in attaching too little weight. We may perhaps find something to illustrate this if we go back to the idea of trial or ordeal as we have been using it in this chapter.

Again it is the causalist interpretation that we have to rule out. By that I mean that it would be hopeless to imagine some sort of celestial schoolmaster who sets real spiritual tests which his creatures have to take; and it may be profitable to give more explicit reasons why such a conception would be offensive to religious consciousness. The chief argument seems to me to be this: the examiner who sets a test treats his subject not as a being, but as a case—in other words, here we are confronted with purely abstract relations between an expert and the answers to an expert's enquiries. Fatherhood, however, is something quite different, and excludes such relations. It is true that it is always possible for the father to behave as a schoolmaster or pedantic examiner, but that possibility depends on his having a pretentious self-sufficiency which fatherhood should exclude. Now, it is precisely as fatherhood in its purity that the relation between the living God and the faithful should be conceived. One might also say that human fatherhood is conceived on the model of divine fatherhood, and not conversely; but here we are concerned with fatherhood taken in its full richness. If we want to clarify these ideas, we have only to compare the father in the parable of the prodigal son with the Roman paterfamilias. In the parable fatherhood appears in what I may call its supra-juridical fulness, and that is precisely why we can see it as being divine instead of consisting in simple relations of power and right, or in a mere bodily belonging as considered from the sociological point of view. We may add that even if we were to find in pre-christian or extra-christian history some example of paternal love as it shines through the parable, we should have to see in it only glimmerings through space and time of the pure light which lies at the heart of the gospel.

But if we refuse to think of trial as a contrivance of which God makes use, what becomes of its metaphysical status? We must, I think, say that we can think of circumstance—accident, for example—only as a link in some chain of events. But this is relative to a particular way of conceiving the world, the way of thinking which is chosen or adopted by a consciousness careful to depersonalize itself as much as possible. From the ultimate metaphysical point of view the mistake lies, no doubt, in raising this type of thought to an absolute position. We must keep in mind the possibility of other interpretations. I have often found it useful to take an illustration from music, and I shall do so again; I can to some extent analyse an orchestral score without the meaning of the music being completely grasped by me—the word meaning is of course inaccurate, let us rather say the gist of it; by which I mean that the music may say nothing to me. It is still foreign to me; I stop short at describing it, though my description may be as minute as you please. But for depersonalized thought accident enters into the matter, in conditions which are capable of being reconstructed objectively, e.g., the motor-cyclist was riding too fast, he did not pay attention to the lights, and so on. Similarly, a discord can be interpreted in a merely contrapuntal way by a technician who does not recognize its musical value; whereas a musician does not see it as in any way contingent, but rather as the expression of an inner necessity to which, however, no strictly logical character can be attached. At the same time, this comparison itself falls far short of adequacy. We are so situated in the world that it is impossible for us to raise ourselves on this earth to a mode of understanding events which allows their intimate meaning to be intuitively apparent to us. The most one could say—and that only tentatively—is that as we approach the apparent term of our existence we are progressively more capable of seeing ourselves in a light which allows the hidden meaning of events to filter through. This light, however, appears to us only in so far as we withdraw from these events in order to penetrate more and more deeply into a reality which is certainly already that of the after life; but it seems true that this grace is given to us only if we come to such self-detachment as will suffice to safeguard us from an impatient anxiety about what is left of our lives—as a man feverishly counts the little money that stands between him and complete penury. Again, of course, we see the opposition between being and having. But do these remarks help us towards an understanding of trial as such? At any rate they show that trial must be looked upon in the light of different perspectives, according to whether we are standing at the exact moment in which it is experienced, or on the contrary, are looking at it retrospectively. When I am faced by a trial, that is to say by something of which I feel at first that I cannot live through it, though it is true that I cannot retrace my steps, I can at least try to avoid it, even if only by suicide. I can also try to clear the obstacle, to climb over it, and this task implies a sort of spiritual equivalent to muscular adaptation. But the more I stake on this action or series of actions, the less I shall feel the need of ratiocinating on the nature of its supposed cause. This ratiocination has nothing in common with a religious attitude; it is even its contrary. This in no way means that I am not called upon to pray, but this prayer turns on the assistance without which it seems to me that I shall not overcome the obstacle. Of course, if I try to form a picture for myself of this assistance, I cannot but think of some contributory force conceived more or less accurately on the model of that which I experience in daily life. But it will be the proper part of reflection to free me from that sort of temptation. It may well be that this liberating reflection is itself moved by grace; left to my own resources, I could not perhaps hope to benefit by its full operative power. I do not offer this remark as a dogmatic statement, but it may help to clarify the function of philosophical thought itself. And we may note in addition that retrospection is always in some degree philosophizing, and that it, too, can (though by different means) overcome what I may call the causal obsession.

Let us remember that for the philosopher everything is in some way a trial; how can he fail to be almost overwhelmed by the disconcerting multiplicity of the empiric data which he has to take into account, by the fear of falling into arbitrary simplifications? Nevertheless, it is his duty to overcome such fears: there is such a thing as philosophical courage.

As we proceed, we shall see that the philosopher seems to be submerged by the variety of aspects disclosed by this protean evil which speculative thought has always been at such pains to reduce to unity; for if there is an evil which comes from privation, from a lack of being, we must also ask, as Kant and Schelling asked, whether there is not a positive evil which is bound up with some radical perversion of will. It is doubtful whether even the most speculative reflection can progress in such a sphere, if it is not what I may call magnetically charged or driven from within by something which is beyond itself and which it is beyond its power to give a complete account of. Here we see again the indissoluble knot which unites freedom and grace, and which lies at the heart of all these ponderings of ours. On the other hand, this is the first time that we are faced by what has so inaptly been called the problem of evil. The fact that the religious question, as it presents itself to modern consciousness, is undoubtedly inseparable from some sort of taking into consciousness of the problem of evil—we need not necessarily say of sin—makes it the more important for us to reach a sharply defined position with regard to this point. I shall take this opportunity to lay it down as a principle, though my statement is subject to later elucidation, that evil and death can in a certain sense be regarded as synonymous. It is true that one can imagine an unhistorical world in which after the creature had actualized all its possibilities, it would sleep an endless sleep of peace, a world in which natural euthanasia would be the rule and death would no longer be an object of terror. We need not try to ask whether such a world is possible in the abstract. What is practically certain is that that world would lack any spiritual depth; it would be a fairy story world—at that a dreary one—which is certainly not our world. We must recognize that our own world harbours seemingly inexhaustible possibilities of waste and destruction; if we met a man who seemed to us to have reached the fulfilment of his being, and even if grace dwelt within him, such a being would not only not receive therefrom any immunity against the principles of death in the working of our universe; he might well, on the contrary, seem to be even more threatened, even more vulnerable, than average beings, as though his very perfection brought on him the active hostility of some adverse power. I have said, ‘as though’, because that is actually a mythological interpretation which could not be accepted without falling into Manicheanism. It does not, however, lack a relative consistency which it would perhaps be a mistake to lose sight of entirely; we shall have to meet this again in my last chapter, when we discuss the historic and trans-historic.