At the outset of our enquiry we laid it down1 that if Natural Theology is to be in any true sense scientific, it must regard as part of its data the content of the positive religions. It will accept no proposition on authority, however august the authority may be; but it will take note of the beliefs held by adherents of the positive religions, and especially by founders and leaders of those religions, as supplying evidence of what human religion actually is. We proceeded to outline the practical problem of Natural Religion or Theology, which arises from the inevitable and essentially wholesome tension that exists between the religious and the scientific habit of mind.2 If the Natural Theologian is to know in any real sense the subject-matter of his study, he must know it from within by personal experience; that is, he must know it as a worshipper. Otherwise he will resemble a blind man who writes criticisms of the Royal Academy’s Exhibition. But to worship is to surrender all faculties to the object of worship; it is totally incompatible with critical enquiry into the being and attributes of the object of worship. Yet critical enquiry is the essence of Natural Theology. The only solution seemed to lie in a deliberate alternation of interest, which is made possible for those who believe in God as the Creator, or even as the Immanent Principle, of the Universe; because for them even critical enquiry is enquiry into the ways and works of God, and surrender to God is surrender to Him whose activities they are studying in their scientific pursuits. Thus for them the alternation is at least within the life of religion itself and is not an alternation between religion and something else. For the fullest practice of some religions, and notably of the Christian religion, the two sides must be held together as closely as possible. An uncritical surrender will involve an unsanctified intellect; while an unsurrendered criticism will be incapable of worship. What is called for is the free movement of the mind within an environment that stimulates and supports and corresponds to its aspiration towards worship.
Having thus stated the method of enquiry and the outline of the problem, we considered various classical schemes offered by modern philosophers, and found reason to reject them all.3 We found the source of their inadequacy to be an exclusive, or at best exaggerated, concentration of attention upon problems of cognition, resulting in an altogether undue exaltation of intellectual processes as the sole means of truly apprehending the world. This had led both to the mistaken idea that mathematics supplies the norm of real knowledge and to the whole set of errors associated with the term Idealism. In repudiating these we were led to a conception of thought as essentially dynamic, and consequently to the belief that the history of thought is itself the true discipline of the mind.4 Following the dialectical implications of that belief, we endeavoured to sketch in outline the world as apprehended, and to determine the place of mind in relation to it.5 We accepted the view presented alike by common sense and by modern science that the universe existed long before there were within it minds to apprehend it; that thought is in its historical origin a function of the physiological organism; and that, in Whitehead’s words, “consciousness presupposes experience, not experience consciousness”.
Our starting-point is therefore, as has been stated,6 nearer to Materialism than to Idealism. It is indeed closely allied to that Dialectical Materialism which Marx and Lenin adopted as the philosophical basis of Communism. This Dialectical Materialism is avowedly drawn from Hegel by a conscious inversion of the logical Dialectic which was his chief contribution to philosophical method. But Marx and Lenin, though insisting on the contrast between Dialectical and Mechanistic Materialism, and on the distinct reality of mind and its own processes, yet limit the activity of mind to reaction, according to those processes, to situations presented by the material order, so that mind is always secondary and dependent. We found on the contrary that the distinguishing feature of mind is its capacity for free ideas, and for directing its attention to those ideas apart from any material occasion for doing so.
Because of our insistence upon this point our method might fitly be named Dialectical Realism. For starting with a realist view of the physical universe we were led to consideration of the fact that the world-process gives rise to minds, which themselves are capable of free ideas; and this in turn led us forward to a position which in its positive content is almost identical with such an Idealism as that of Edward Caird or of Bernard Bosanquet, apart from the method of arriving at it. For after repudiating the priority of mind qua knowing subject as a precondition of the actuality of the objective world, we were led to reaffirm the priority of mind qua purposive as the only condition of the intelligibility of that same objective world.7 Thus Realism becomes a basis for a spiritual interpretation of the universe, and the Materialism of our empirical starting-point is balanced by the uncompromising Theism of our conclusion.
It is the occurrence of Mind at all as an episode in the objective world-process which supplies to our Realism its dialectical impulse and leads to a theistic interpretation of it. But this result is rendered the more inevitable by consideration of the most characteristic activities of mind—its search for Truth, its creation and appreciation of Beauty, its consciousness of obligation. Each of these is found to reinforce the dialectical argument that carries us from bare existence to the living God.8 Still more is this secured by the freedom of mind over against “the whole might of Nature”,9 and its mastery of Time—a mastery achieved in principle by man, yet never so established as to make him completely, in this life at least, a partner in God’s Eternity.10
It is in this realm of Truth, Beauty and Goodness, of Freedom and Eternity, that the life of religion has its being. Our task in this closing Lecture is to consider whether there is any consummation to which our consideration of that life of religion points, and whether the indications provided offer any clear outline of such a consummation. We have seen that because our argument leads us to belief in a living God, it also of necessity leads to the possibility, and even to the high probability, of specific acts of divine self-revelation.11 We considered the mode of such revelation and the relation of the spiritual authority grounded in it to the autonomy of the spiritual life and the individuality of religious experience.12 We saw that the mode of revelation congruous with all that we had learnt concerning God consisted in a coincidence of divinely guided events with minds divinely illuminated to apprehend those events, so that there would be no “revealed truths”, but there would be “truths of revelation”. The essential revelation is an act of God apprehended in a complete living experience, in which subjective and objective factors are both active; it is not capable of isolation from that experience, and is only renewed so far as the experience itself is recovered or renewed. Sacred writings and authoritative formulae are not themselves the substance or reality of revelation. That is always the living God Himself, and nothing less or other. But sacred writings and authoritative formulae may contain the record of the divine act which actually is the revelation, and point the way to recovery or renewal of the experience in which it is apprehended. Thus for a Christian the Nicene Creed is not an object of faith, but a formulation of a faith of which the object is God revealed in Christ. Nor is the Creed itself a revelation. It is a formulation of inferences drawn from revelation. The revelation (on this view) is Christ Himself as apprehended by minds spiritually enlightened to that end. Therefore no creed is in principle irreformable even though we may believe with confidence that every new enquiry will lead in the long run to the reaffirmation of the creeds which have won acceptance in the past. There is no disloyalty to an acknowledged revelation in the enquiry whether its contents may not be more accurately, or more usefully, formulated than hitherto. The revelation is received in a living experience; all doctrines are inferences drawn from that revelation in the context provided by the rest of experience; and their spiritual value is not in themselves; it is in the directions which they offer for recovering the experience from which they spring.
At this point, however, the even movement of our argument was disturbed, as the movement of any Theistic argument is bound to be disturbed, by the recognition of Evil as an overshadowing fact in the world as known to us.
Our earlier consideration of Freedom13 had led us to the conception of it as determination by “apparent good”—good being understood as that in which the mind (or at a lower stage the organism) finds that which in one way or another is akin to or harmonises with itself. At the animal level, if we rightly estimate it, there is scarcely more than appetition; but the principle of determination is even then different from that of efficient causation as ordinarily understood. As consciousness develops into mind with its free ideas, choice becomes possible, not only as between means to a fixed end (such as the satisfaction of an appetite) but between alternative and incompatible ends (as between duty and pleasure). Only at this stage is there real freedom; and that freedom is not any kind of indeterminacy, but is self-determination in accordance with apparent good. That the finite mind, rooted as it is in a physiological organism, should at first find its apparent good in what gratifies itself and brings comfort to the organism is “too probable not to happen”, though not strictly necessary; for it is possible without contradiction to conceive a mind which from the outset chose the general good as its own. Inasmuch as finitude does not necessarily involve self-centredness, it cannot be said that the very principle of the actual creation involved sin; on the other hand, inasmuch as it was “too probable not to happen”, we must admit, or rather affirm, that God accepted the occurrence of evil as a consequence of the principle of creation which He adopted and that therefore its occurrence falls within, and not outside, the divine plan. No doubt the evil is in a most true sense contrary to God’s will; for it is the taking by a finite will of its own way in preference to God’s. Yet it must be regarded as falling within the divine purpose that finite spirits should make choices contrary to that purpose. No man who chooses evil can justly plead—“God willed me so to choose”, for the essence of his evil choice is that it is a rejection of God’s will for him. But he can plead, and his moral health depends upon his recognising, that God has made him and all men such that if they follow their own apparent good without reference to God, they will act contrary to God’s will and to their own real good. This is, we have suggested, the vital truth and importance of Original Sin.14
This situation presents a whole complex of problems; but as usual they can be classified under the two heads—the theoretical and the practical; the two groups of problems, however, vitally affect each other. The theoretical group is concerned with the point at which the self-centredness of the finite being begins to constitute evil. Is it already evil at the level of the purely physiological organism? Is it, for example, a real evil that animals should prey upon each other? Or does it only begin to be evil where there is at least some consciousness of alternative ends—so that there is a rudimentary recognition of Good and Evil as principles? Most of us will hold that the suffering of the animal world is evil, though whether it implies the presence of even potentially moral evil is debatable. Certainly it is at this level that the occurrence of evil is, on a theistic hypothesis, most difficult to explain. We can offer some explanation of evil at the human level, whether or not it seems to be adequate. But unless or until we can either enter more fully into the consciousness of animals, or else trace more surely the continuity of life from the animal to the human level, it seems impossible to see how the Divine Goodness can make of animal suffering a means to its own self-expression. If indeed there be close continuity between the evolutionary stages, it may be possible to show that the conditions which involve animal suffering are those which also at the human level give occasion for such virtues as fortitude, so that the justification of human suffering may be held to cover also by implication the suffering of animals. Apart from that hope, the utmost open to us is to say that, according to all the evidence, the life of the animal creation is on the whole happy, and that for creatures who live in the present, even great pain at one time would not dim the pleasure felt at another time. On balance, animal life is good. That is something; but it does not wholly satisfy the demands of a conviction that the world is the creation of Almighty Goodness. That conviction impels us to enquire, not whether the world, or any part of it, is good on the whole, but why there should be in it any evil at all. The fact that this question arises below the human level, and arises there in its most unanswerable form, has driven some to the speculation of a “Fall” before the Creation, or of a “World-Soul” which has “fallen”, or (by a special application of Berkeleyan principles) of an infection in the world due to the fallen state of the human minds whose perception of it is the ground of its being. But none of these really helps us. It is still true that the thing has happened, and is real, in God’s world. To attribute it, by whatever device, to the “free” action of a spiritual being does not solve the problem unless we regard “free will” as an absolute source of initiation; and that leads to a dualism which doctrinally is heresy and philosophically is nonsense. Why did this will choose evil? If for no reason, the moral life is reduced to chance and destroyed. If for some reason, then we must ask why it was so constituted as to find that reason persuasive. Here is our dilemma: freedom, if it means indeterminacy, reduces life to chance and chaos, and thus abolishes the foundations of morality; freedom, if it means self-determination, leads to the question why is the self such as to determine itself thus?—and the answer must be sought in the purpose of the Creator. Shelve the responsibility for human evil on to Satan if you will; personally I believe he exists and that a large share of that responsibility belongs to him and to subordinate evil spirits. But still you have not escaped the ultimate attribution of evil to the purpose of God, unless you so interpret the freedom of Satan as to make nonsense of him and of all that his existence might help us to understand. We have still to ask, Why is the devil wicked?15
If there is to be any solution of this whole problem for our minds it must be sought at the level of our own experience. Whatever considerations we find to help us there may be capable of application to the stages which precede and condition the human. We have offered the only suggestion that seemed capable of accounting for the facts. We have now to ask on what conditions it may be capable of also explaining them as falling within the purpose of a God unlimited in goodness and in power. Our suggestion was as follows.16 There is throughout the world a system of interrelations, such that each separate entity affects, and is affected by, all other things. To each entity, therefore, every other entity makes a difference. As consciousness arises, this is one of the facts of which it becomes aware, and one of the main factors determining its guidance of its own organism in each case. So far, this addition of consciousness to the scheme of things only makes more harmonious the interrelations which it observes, by securing a more perfect adaptability of reaction on the part of the organism. But when consciousness is developed to the stage fitly called “mind”, it discovers in the relations between its organism and the environment an object of distinct contemplation. Mind is now no longer an observer of a given system of relations, within which it secures a more harmonious adjustment; but by use of its capacity for free ideas, it conceives situations for its organism which do not exist, and directs the energies of the organism towards bringing these into existence. Thus are initiated moral action and responsibility, art, science and every form of deliberate progress. In principle, the mind could, from the outset, devote itself and its great capacity for free ideas to the yet greater perfection of adjustment within the system of interrelations which it finds. But its range at first is very narrow, even as compared with that extremely limited scope which it has in ourselves. It is to be expected that it should start, not with the system as a whole, but with the organism in which it is found, and serve the comfort and convenience of that organism. Its vision, which it seeks to actualise, is not that of a perfect fellowship, but that of its own organism more powerful, more effective in satisfaction of its desires. Thus the whole process of consciously guided action begins in self-centredness. Will, so soon as it appears, is distorted from what alone would bring peace to itself or harmony to the society of wills. It is ego-centric—and so are its fellows in that society. Even their co-operation is prompted in part by antagonism against others like themselves. Hence civilisation and culture—which might be, and aspire to be, the expression of the Commonwealth of Value—are in actual fact riddled with selfishness and enmity; love and beauty are stained with lust; and “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags”.
This is the source of the paradox of man’s moral and spiritual life. Its corruption has its seat in the highest part of his nature, the part that controls the whole, the “principle of unity” in the complex organism of his personality. By the interaction of all the several self-centred wills the vast fabric of human evil is built up; but the source of that evil is also the only source in himself of man’s highest hope and highest achievement. Consequently he can never either grow, or lift himself, out of this entanglement of sin. Most truly he is “born in sin” and is a “child of wrath”. His science, which calls in its own interest for the widest fellowship of co-operation, he uses in the service of his enmities and so destroys the basis of that fellowship. His civilisation, which creates the State as a controller of force in the service of law in order to prevent the lawless use of force, becomes corrupt through the need to exercise force at all (which is always, as far as it goes, a confession of love’s failure when it is not a repudiation of love), so that the State itself is continually guilty, as always in entry as a sovereign into war,17 of treason to its own function.
Yet these fruits of man’s self-consciousness, his science and his politics, in spite of all the corruption in them which flows from the corruption of their source, are necessary, and even good. The man who thinks he has found some higher principle of life—perhaps a divine revelation—cannot ignore them or repudiate them. They are the very arena wherein the divine purpose for him is to be fulfilled. And if he is to act in and through them, it must be according to the law of their actual being, even though this expresses their corruption as well as their true substance. Of course he must do this always with an eye to that true substance and using the laws of the actual as means to its transformation to the ideal. In this he must be ready for sacrifice, and must involve himself in ruin at the hands of the actual rather than abandon his service of the ideal; but he must not live in the actual as though it were already the ideal, for by such heroic but unpractical service of the ideal, the ideal is discredited rather than promoted. Neither by monasticism alone, wherein men seek to withdraw from the contamination of the world, nor by quixotic idealism alone, wherein men assume the actuality of the yet unrealised ideal, is the transformation of actual to ideal forwarded, though some have a special individual vocation to each of these forms of testimony to the ideal; but mostly the transformation is to be effected by those who, being in their own minds conformed to the ideal, act upon the actual according to its capacity of response. No doubt it often has a higher capacity of response than the cynic supposes, and the moral idealist is often tempted to cynicism by his very consciousness of the gulf between the ideal and the actual; but the fact that the principle may be misapplied does not make it unsound in itself.
The common problem, yours, mine, everyone’s,
Is not to fancy what were fair in life
Provided it could be—but, finding first
What may be, then find how to make it fair
Up to our means: a very different thing!
No abstract intellectual plan of life
Quite irrespective of life’s plainest laws,
But one, a man, who is man and nothing more,
May lead within a world which (by your leave)
Is Rome or London, not Fool paradise.18
To which I only add that the idealist must be careful not to carry the actual through the next stage of its journey towards the ideal by methods which make further advance beyond that stage impossible.
But who is this moral idealist? And how did he come by his ideals? He is himself a product of the noble but corrupt actuality that he would transform. He has had, perhaps, some more penetrating glimpse than others into the nobility which is its true substance—the thing that it can be if all its parts fulfil their function as the parts that they are. But the corruption that is in it is also in him. His very project of reform, so far as it is his, has about it a priggish air, which may mean that despite his deeper insight he is in will more self-centred than those whom he seeks to transform.19
The apparent hopelessness of the practical problem so presented is vitally relevant to the theoretical enquiry. The whole theistic scheme is condemned unless it can provide from its own principles, or at least in accordance with them, a solution in outline of the problem of evil. Our account of evil, as we know it in ourselves, has traced it to the very existence of finite spirits. It may be that evil can be justified, that is—understood as a possible element within the purpose of a Creator who is wholly good—if these finite spirits are being fashioned into a fellowship of mutual love. For such a fellowship is realisation of the essential principle of good in its highest form, because in it each mind is finding itself in its object in the fullest sense. For an end so superlatively excellent, the evil incidental to the finitude which is its indispensable condition would not be too great a price to pay. With such a hope before us we, like St. Paul, may “reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed to us-ward”.20 And with that, perhaps, we could be content, if only the hope were sure. But this is, after all, an external justification of evil; for us with our limited capacities it is often as much as we can hope for that the price we pay for the satisfaction of our aspirations should not be excessive. But if the price is to be regarded as in any sense at all a deduction from the total good, it seems out of place in the designs of the Creator of all things. What is wanted is some ground for belief that the occurrence of the evil is an actual element in the total good. The point has been so well expressed by Bosanquet that I will quote his words. First he states a principle substantially identical with that which I have attempted to set forth above:21
“It is not an imperfection in the supreme being, but an essential condition of his completeness, that his nature, summing up that of Reality, should go out into its other to seek the completion which in this case alone is absolutely found. The “other” in question can only be finite experience; and it is in and because of this, and qualified by it, that the Divine nature maintains its infinity. And, therefore, it may be said that the general form of self-sacrifice—the fundamental logical structure of Reality—is to be found here also, as everywhere. Not, of course, that the infinite being can lose and regain its perfection, but that the burden of the finite is inherently a part or rather an instrument of the self-completion of the infinite. The view is familiar. I can only plead that it loses all point if it is not taken in bitter earnest.”22
This is followed by the claim that evil, at least in the form of pain, can be so confronted by him who experiences it that the whole is not a mere preponderance of satisfaction, but an enriched personality for which the evil moment has made an indispensable contribution to the enrichment.
“The question cannot surely be how many moments of pain you have experienced, and whether you have had enough moments of pleasure, allowing for the intensities on each side, to outweigh them, but whether the experience has done its work, and returned you to yourself a complete or at least a completer being. So, it would seem, the problem should be stated about the universe. Not, if we could reckon up moments of equal pleasure and pain (to simplify the question by reducing it to a matter of counting), which of the two classes would be found to outnumber the other, but rather, is there reason for thinking that pain and finiteness are elements, playing a definite part in the whole, such that its completeness depends upon containing them?23…
“If our enquiry presses behind the details of the “scheme of salvation” and we ask, “But was the Fall itself a part of the scheme of salvation, and is a world with sin and atonement a better world than one without them?” … it would seem that for a Christianity which has the courage of its opinions the idea of victory involves the idea of the Fall, and the answer would be that the scheme of salvation, involving finiteness and sin, was essential to the nature of God and the perfection of the universe”.24
That is our own contention. But to make it good, we must be able to show that the various forms of evil at least can be thus subordinated to a good which makes them contributors to its own excellence.25 How far can this, in fact, be shown?
Evil is of three main kinds—Error, Suffering and Sin, and to a very great extent the two former are due to the last. But this does not remove the question whether suffering, even when caused by sin, can be an element in the fulfilment of the divine purpose. I do not propose at this stage to discuss the possible uses of suffering in detail. It is enough to say that it is the indispensable condition of fortitude, and that it is the most potent stimulus and bond of sympathy. Perhaps if we were not so self-centred we should find in joy as strong a stimulus to sympathy as in pain or sorrow; it is certain that in fact we do not find it so.
Who sympathises with their general joy
Foolish as undeserved? But pain—see God’s
Wisdom at work! …
That brings flesh
Triumphant from the bar whereto arraigned
Soul quakes with reason. In the eye of God
Pain may have purpose and be justified.
Man’s sense avails to only see, in pain,
A hateful chance no man but would avert
Or, failing, needs must pity.26
And in that pity, we must believe, is the purpose that God sees. Moreover, if it be argued that this is an accidental vindication, because we might have been so made as to be roused to sympathy by other means, at least it is true that without suffering there could be no fortitude; and the admiration of the natural human heart is ready to testify that a world with pain and fortitude is better, because nobler, than a world with neither.
When we turn to Sin, of which the essence is self-centredness, we note that the pre-condition of a fellowship of finite spirits united in mutual love is the existence of finite spirits; we saw that the creation of finite spirits did not necessitate their self-centredness, but rendered it so overwhelmingly probable that its occurrence must have been accepted as part of the whole plan. Can we understand this? We are in the realm of value-judgements, where, because the essence of those judgements is the discovery by mind of what answers to itself, we are subject to the varieties of individual temperament and character. But for myself I can confidently apply here the argument used concerning suffering. When love by its own sacrifice has converted self-centredness into love, there is an excellence, alike in the process and in the result, so great as to justify the self-centredness and all the welter of evil flowing from it. Even if we cannot say, as, for myself, I should not hesitate to say, that a sinful world redeemed by such a sacrifice as the Crucifixion of Christ, when interpreted as Christians interpret it,27 is better than a world that had never sinned, at least we can and must say that it has a special excellence so great that the universe as a whole would be the poorer for lack of it. And this may be the nearest that we can come to the truth in the matter:
For God has other words for other worlds
But for this world, the Word of God is Christ…
So that for ever since, in minds of men
By some true instinct this life has survived
In a religious immemorial light,
Pre-eminent in one thing most of all;
The Man of Sorrows;—and the Cross of Christ
Is more to us than all His miracles.28
But to show that evil is capable of justification is not to show that it is justified; and nothing less than this is required. If evil were only a possibility, a possible justification might suffice. But evil is actual, and only an actual justification is relevant. God has so made the world that evil has occurred in it; then either He must subordinate that evil to a good enhanced by its occurrence, or else He is not God as we have learnt to understand that Name. Can it be said that, as He created it liable to evil, so also He created it such as to overcome the evil and transmute it into a subordinate element in perfect good?
The evil, we have seen, is a corruption of what can be, and partly is, good. There is selfishness in the world, but also love. There is greed in the world, but also self-discipline. There is avarice in the world, but also generosity. Actual human history and civilisation are carried forward and moulded by each of these. As Plato showed in the Republic, society with its conventions would indeed arise if men were purely selfish, for the misery of internecine competition would make them form a social contract “neither to commit nor to suffer injustice”; but society would also arise if men were purely unselfish, because they have different aptitudes and need one another for the enrichment of life. Actual society rests upon both principles at once; and moral progress consists in the increasing predominance of the “rational” element which seeks the common good over the element of pride which seeks individual advantage or pre-eminence. This progress is stimulated and maintained by both elements. Selfishness or Pride finds that it gains by methods of co-operation; and the rational element finds good in the fellowship of co-operation for its own sake. So, for both reasons, co-operation is developed. But the full joy of spiritual fellowship, which comes when each wholly trusts himself to others and all suspicions and anxieties are over, can never be fully known by any one whose motive for co-operation is still partly self-regarding in the evil sense, that is to say in the sense, not of regard for the self as one member of the community whose rights have an equal claim with those of others, but a regard for the self as “my” self, whose claims, even though only equal in principle to those of others, are yet of special and distinctive concern to “me”. That motive will prohibit the self-abandonment which is the essence of that joy. Consequently the motive of love can never operate in full power so long as the motive of self-interest is active at all; for the fullness of its joy will remain unknown; while on the other side the self-regarding motive can only be extirpated in the abandonment of love, for indeed that abandonment and that extirpation are one thing. The entanglement is complete, and our whole theory is throttled by it. For we can only understand the world if it be the Creation of a God who is unlimited alike in goodness and in power; the world can only be that, if the evil which it undoubtedly contains is being transmuted into a constituent element of perfect good; but this can only be, if selfishness is so giving place to love that at last it will be altogether swallowed by love. And this, it seems, can never happen. The mere presence of selfishness in a soul is sufficient to prevent its love from growing to that perfection which would enable it to swallow up selfishness. The only road of human progress is barred. However far civilisation advances, it will still contain the self-regarding motive; and at any moment this may corrupt the whole to any degree. Some individual, or group or nation may acquire some means of power which makes them independent of all others and able to impose their will upon all others. If the measure of fellowship achieved has rested in any degree upon self-regard, such as fear of disaster if the fellowship be broken (as the League of Nations in some degree rests viciously and precariously on the fear of war) it is unlikely that such fellowship will survive the temptations which possession of this power implies. Only in genuine mutual love is there release from the evils of the world; and though men move in that direction, yet they are impelled partly by motives which will for ever prevent the approximation from culminating in identity. Communism seeks to create by force a world of mutual co-operation, believing that those who grow up in such a world will be freed from acquisitiveness and self-concern. But the effect will only be to direct these motives upon other objects than wealth, such as honour and influence. And the initial trust in force, which is always an appeal to self-concern, will stimulate the sentiment which it aims at destroying. Man cannot meet his own deepest need, nor find for himself release from his profoundest trouble. What he needs is not progress, but redemption. If the Kingdom of God is to come on earth, it must be because God first comes on earth Himself.
But is He not there already? Is not the world His creature? Is not His purpose its governing principle? Yes: all that is true. But since life in man, if at no earlier stage, has pursued an apparent good which is not its real good, it does not possess within itself the power to redirect its course. And if man cannot generate from within himself the means of his deliverance, that deliverance must come from without or not at all. Natural Theology cannot say whether in fact it has been offered; but it can enquire into the conditions to be fulfilled by any Gospel that promises deliverance. It can diagnose the disease and indicate the functions of the remedy.
The seat of the trouble is that freedom which consists in determination by “apparent good”.29 It is no mere question of animal impulses surviving into a stage where reason should take control but is not yet strong enough to do so. It is a corruption of that spiritual principle itself, whereby man chooses between ends. It is his glory that he is determined not by his own convenience, or interest, or pleasure, but by what he judges to be objectively good—the true counterpart of his real mind. This is his apparent good. But because he is self-centred he judges amiss, and what appears to his mind as good is not really good. For while a man’s conduct is determined by his apparent good, his apparent good is determined by his character. Being such as he is, he judges to be good, and therefore pursues as good, what is not truly good. This is the ignorance which Socrates truly said was the essence of vice. But it is not a process of false argument; nor can it be removed, except in very small degree, by true argument. It is the judgement, not of intellect but of the whole personality—as every value judgement always is. But this does not mean that “character” and “apparent good”, because mutually determining each other, are for ever unalterable. One main aim of education is to alter them. How, then, does the alteration come?
The appreciation of beauty offers our clearest illustration. I look back with some astonishment to a time when I admired Doré’s pictures more than Rembrandt’s, and enjoyed Spohr’s music more than Bach’s. The cruder artists had an appeal to my primitive taste which was lacking in the others. But I submitted to authority enough to look at pictures and listen to compositions which others told me were good as well as those which appeared good to me. Imperceptibly a change took place. By intercourse with the better art I became sensitive to it and appreciative of it, and in the process lost most of my liking for the cruder and more sentimental expression. The real good began to appear good by the transformation of my taste under its influence.
Something similar happens to our moral judgements. We tend at first to admire rather self-conscious and strutting heroes, because that is the kind of heroism to which we ourselves aspire. It is our apparent good. And for a time such an ideal may satisfy. Then one day we see Bombastes Furioso confronted by some great gentleman, and the bubble is pricked. There is the latent capacity to admire true goodness and greatness, if only it be presented in a form that we can really see. In its most obvious sense, there is no truth whatever in the oft-repeated line—
We needs must love the highest when we see it.
We quite easily hate it.30 That saying is only true if “seeing” be interpreted in an almost mystical sense as “seeing it for what it is”. If that is to happen, “the highest” must be presented in a form adapted to our capacity to see.
Broadly speaking it is true that the essence of ail education, intellectual, moral and spiritual, is the intercourse of the less with the more matured mind or spirit. This may take place through the medium of books or works of art, or through direct personal communications. All that is studied under the repulsive name of pedagogics is (so far as it is truly educational at all) a means of facilitating that intercourse. Moreover we do not live at one level. We have better and worse moments. Our growth in spirit very greatly depends upon the use which we make of our better moments. If at times when we are most capable of appreciating the really good—when the true good in some respect is also for us the apparent good—we give to it our attention and (so far as it is yet quickened in that direction) our affection also, the influence of such nourishment of the mind leads it to turn with distaste from what had appealed to it in its less exalted mood, and to become capable of an ever fuller appreciation of true good as it grows to spiritual maturity. In this process of growth there is, as we saw,31 a steadily increasing detachment from self-centredness. The subjective element in the judgement of value is still present, but exerts less constraint. We pass to a more and more objective habit of mind.
This point is of importance both for theory and for practice. The organism, at the animal stage, seeks to adjust itself to its environment so as to secure pleasure, comfort and the satisfaction of appetite. In a certain sense it might be held that already in this adjustment there is Good or positive value. We have seen reason for holding that confusion is avoided if the use of those terms is postponed until the stage of self-conscious reflection is reached.32 Between these two occurs the stage which Bergson regards as most decisive, where the organism, instead of adjusting itself to its environment, adjusts the environment to itself. Here the possibilities are indefinitely more numerous and there arises need for selection; this of itself involves the choice between aims or ends, which is at the same time made possible by the capacity for free ideas. That capacity, with the selection between ends which it facilitates, and to cope with which, presumably, it arises, marks the transition to a definitely moral and spiritual stage. If the end is fixed, and choice is only between a variety of means to it, there may be cleverness or stupidity, but no moral quality. So soon as the mind is able to entertain the idea of different ends, and proceeds to choose between them, it becomes a subject of moral predicates in accordance with its choice. But these predicates are determined, not by the degree of satisfaction received from the selected end, but by the quality of the end in which satisfaction is sought. Consequently we have here a different kind of judgement concerning the mutual adjustment of subject and environment from that which is found at the animal stage; and there is convenience in keeping the words Value and Good for this stage, of which the characteristic is that in it we have passed from the subjective judgement “This pleases me” to the objective judgement “I find this good”.
We do not thus escape from subjectivism all at once or completely. For to say “I find this good” is to say “My mind finds here the principle of its own being”. Of course this does not mean that my mind finds only an expression of that principle similar to its own; if that were so, there would be “liking” but no admiration. What the mind seeks in Truth and Beauty and Goodness or Love is a more perfect expression of the principle of its being than it can be, or provide, in itself. So far there is truth in Emerson’s dictum, “I the imperfect adore my own perfect”.33 But the hierarchy of values depends, in part at least, upon the relative importance of the subjective reference in each value-judgement. At the lower level, self or the subject plays a great part. Where a man chooses comfort as his “good” he is in fact choosing to remain at the animal level when he has capacity for more. Where acquisition of wealth is taken as a chief good, we have left the animal level, but reference is still predominantly to the self; for the desire to create wealth for others to possess and enjoy is not acquisitiveness, and the aim here sought is not really acquisition of wealth but the benefit of friends procured thereby. All such self-centred value judgements are non-social in essence and anti-social in effect; for they bring men into rivalry and enmity with one another.
When we pass to the goods which are appreciated and enjoyed through the distinctively human faculties—of which Knowledge, Beauty and Love are the obvious illustrations—we come to a stage where the subjective reference falls into the background, and the goods are social in the sense that enjoyment of them by one prompts rather than hinders a similar enjoyment on the part of others. The scholar does not exhaust the stock of knowledge so that others must be ignorant that he may know; the poet does not suck the beauty from the sunset; the loyal friend or disciple does not make love more difficult for his fellows. These goods are multiplied by being possessed. And they are truly possessed only in so far as they become the possessors. The man who would see Truth must yield his mind to the facts; the man who would enjoy Beauty must surrender his soul to its spell; the man who would love must give his very self, for that is what love is. At every point therefore the aspiration towards these forms of good requires a denial of self, and in the measure of its attainment passes over into worship, of which the meaning is total self-giving and self-submission to the Object of worship. This then, it seems, is man’s true good—to worship. Only so can he be set in his true place within the Commonwealth of Value and find his own peace in rendering within that Commonwealth the special service for which his divine-created qualities fit him.
But how is he to do it? Natural Theology can tell him that the higher goods are those which call for most self-denial in the search for them—not denial of pleasures or other interests, though that is likely to be involved, but precisely of self as a subject of rights, claims, and interests. But if he asks how, being self-centred, he is to accomplish this, its answer is meagre. It bids him find what higher values have appeal for him, and first give himself to those; it may be that, drawn out of himself on that side, he will find himself able to respond more freely on others also. He may by such means be carried a short way or a long way, but his full deliverance by such means remains impossible; for that can only come with worship, and none of these various “goods” is by itself an object worthy or able to win that absolute submission. And Natural Theology cannot win him to worship. It may assure him that there is a God who both claims and deserves his worship; it may bid him to seek that God and the way to worship Him; but it cannot confront him with the God whom it describes. It can only discuss God; it cannot reveal Him. And for this reason its whole fabric of thought is liable to be laid in ruins by devastating doubt. For the existence of God is fully credible only if evil is being transmuted into good; and that cannot—demonstrably cannot—finally be accomplished unless God the Supreme Good becomes the apparent good to every man. Nothing else can destroy self-centredness, because in all value-judgements other than that expressed in worship the element of self-centredness remains. While it is there, it is a focus of possible temptation which may become a seed-plot of havoc laying waste the fairest spiritual achievements. Therefore Natural Theology, which is indispensable as a source of interpretation and as a purge of superstition even for those who have received a true revelation, yet if left to itself, ends in a hunger which it cannot satisfy, and yet of which it must perish if no satisfaction is forthcoming.
How is the Supreme Good to be my apparent good in such wise as to win from me the submission of my conscience, the subjection of my will, the adoration of my heart—in one word, my worship? Not by argument, for my mind must be critical towards that, and even when convinced could not control my heart; not by force, for my conscience must resist that; not by bribery, for my will cannot be bound by that. The Supreme Good can only be my apparent good and so dominate my Self if it both is, and, in a form quickening my sympathy, manifestly displays itself as, utterly selfless love. In order to evoke the full sympathy of human personalities, the form of its self-manifestation must be a human personality, subject to all human limitations, yet never yielding to the temptation arising from its finitude to prefer its own interests to that universal good which is the will of God—in other words, a finite self whose apparent good is the real good. Moreover, this manifestation must not be a single episode, but the opening of a way to communion with the eternal God, so that as we nourish our minds with the story of the manifestation they are in fact becoming increasingly possessed by the universal and eternal Spirit. Granted that divine self-revelation, the world may be intelligible; without that, the arch falls for lack of its keystone and the gulf between mind and the universe in which it appears remains unbridged. The fear lest that be so is the burden with which mankind is heavy laden; the task of lifting themselves from their own self-centredness is that whereat men vainly labour on pain of else becoming lower than the brutes. Natural Theology ends in a hunger for that Divine Revelation which it began by excluding from its purview. Rightly sifting with relentless criticism every argument, it knows what manner of Voice that must be which shall promise relief to mankind; but the Voice is not its own, nor can it judge the message that is spoken. “Come unto me … and I will give you rest”; it is not Philosophy that can estimate the right of the Speaker to issue that invitation or to make that promise; that right can be proved or disproved only by the experiment of life.
- 1. Lecture I.
- 2. Lecture II.
- 3. Lecture III.
- 4. Lecture IV. It is always to be remembered that Kant went far to supply what was needed when he added the Critique of Practical Reason and the Critique of Judgment to the Critique of Pure Reason.
- 5. Lecture V.
- 6. P. 198.
- 7. Lecture X.
- 8. Lectures VI and VII.
- 9. Lecture VIII.
- 10. Lecture IX.
- 11. Lecture XI.
- 12. Lectures XII and XIII.
- 13. in Lecture IX.
- 14. Lecture XIV.
- 15. Of course he cannot be purely evil; such a being could not exist.
- 16. See Lectures XIV. and XV.
- 17. See the chapter on “The State in its External Relations” (also printed separately) in my Christianity and the State.
- 18. Browning, Bishop Blougram’s Apology.
- 19. S. Matthew xxiii. 15.
- 20. Romans viii., 18.
- 21. In Lectures XVII, and XIX.
- 22. Bosanquet, The Principle of Individuality and Value, pp. 243–244.
- 23. Bosanquet, The Principle of Individuality and Value, p. 245.
- 24. Ibid. p. 254.
- 25. I have attempted this at greater length in the chapter on ‘The Problem of Evil’ in Mens Creatrix.
- 26. Browning, Mihrab Shah (in “Ferishtah’s Fancies”).
- 27. I have tried to express this in my own way in the chapter on that Atonement in Christus Veritas.
- 28. Mrs. Hamilton King, The Disciples.
- 29. See Lectures IX. and XV.
- 30. “Now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.”—St. John xv. 24.
- 31. Lecture XV.
- 32. See Appendix A, pp. 162–165.
- 33. Essay on The Over Soul: last paragraph.