There is no magic in words, though, it must be confessed, they often exercise a psychological influence so profound and far-reaching that they seem to possess a miracle-working efficacy. Some persons live all their lives under the suggestive spell of certain words, and it sometimes happens that an entire epoch is more or less dominated by the mysterious fascination of a sacred word, which needs only to be spoken on the house-top to set hearts beating and legs marching.

"Spiritual" has always been one of these wonder-working words. St. Paul, in Christian circles, was the first to give the word its unique value. For him it named a new order of life and a new level of being. In his thought, a deep cleavage runs through the human race and divides it into two sharply-sundered classes, "psychical men" and "pneumatical men" -- men who live according to nature, and men who live by the life of the Spirit. The former class, that is psychical men, are of the earth earthy; they are, as we should say to-day, empirical, parts of a vast nature-system, doomed, as is the entire system, to constant flux and mutability and eventually to irretrievable wreck and ruin; the natural, psychical, corruptible man cannot inherit incorruption.[1] On the other hand, the pneumatical or spiritual man {xii} "puts on" incorruption and immortality. He is a member of a new order; he is "heavenly," a creation "not made with hands," but wrought out of the substance of the spiritual world, and furnished with the inherent capacity of eternal duration, so that "mortality is swallowed up of life."[2]

This word, thus made sacred by St. Paul's great use of it to designate the new race of the saved, was made the bearer in the Johannine writings of a no less exalted message, which has become a living and indissoluble part of the religious consciousness of the Christian world. "Eternal life" -- or, what in these writings is the same thing, "life" -- comes through the reception of the Spirit, in a birth from above. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit."[3] When the Spirit comes as the initiator of this abundant life, then we "know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit," and it becomes possible for the Spirit-led person to be guided "into all the truth," to "love even as He loved," and to "overcome the world."[4] Here, again, the human race is divided into those who have "received of the Spirit," and those who have not so received; those who are "born from above" and those who have had only a natural birth; the twice-born and the once-born; those who are "of the Spirit," i.e. spiritual, and those who are "of this world," i.e. empirical.

The Gnostic Sects of the second century had one common link and badge; they all proposed a "way," often bizarre and strange-sounding to modern ears, by which the soul, astray, lost, encumbered, or imprisoned in matter, might attain its freedom and become spiritual. Most of the Gnostic teachers, who in their flourishing time were as thick as thistle-downs in summer, conceived of man as consisting of two "halves" which corresponded with two totally different world-orders. There was in man, or there belonged to man (1) a visible body, which {xiii} was again dichotomized, and believed to be composed, according to many of the Gnostics, of a subtle element like that of which they supposed Adam in his unfallen state was made, which they named the hylic body, and a sheath of gross earthly matter which they called the choical body.[5] There was also (2) another, invisible, "half," generally divided into lower and higher stories. The lower story, the psychical, was created or furnished by the Demiurge, or sub-divine creator of the natural system, while the top-story, or pneumatical self, was a spiritual seed derived from the supreme spiritual Origin, the Divine Pleroma, the Fulness of the Godhead. Those who possessed this spiritual seed were "the elect," "the saved," who eventually, stripped of their sheath of matter and their psychical dwelling, would be able to pass all "the keepers of the way," and rise to the pure spiritual life.

The Montanists launched in the second century a movement, borne along on a mountain-wave of enthusiasm, for a "spiritual" Church composed only of "spiritual" persons. They called themselves "the Spirituals," and they insisted that the age or dispensation of the Spirit had now come. The Church, rigidly organized with its ordained officials, its external machinery, and its accumulated traditions, was to them part of an old and outworn system to be left behind. In the place of it was to come a new order of "spiritual people" of whom the Montanist prophets were the "first fruits," -- a new and peculiar people, born from above, recipients of a divine energizing power, partakers in the life of the Spirit and capable of being guided on by progressive revelations into all the truth. To be "spiritual" in their vocabulary meant to be a participator in the Life of God, and to be a living member of a group that was led and guided by a continuously self-revealing Spirit. This Spirit was conceived, however, not as immanent and resident, not as the {xiv} indwelling and permeative Life of the human spirit, but as foreign and remote, and He was thought of as "coming" in sporadic visitations to whom He would, His coming being indicated in extraordinary and charismatic manifestations.

This type of "spiritual religion," though eventually stamped out in the particular form of Montanism, reappeared again and again, with peculiar local and temporal variations, in the history of Christianity.[6] To the bearers of it, the historic Church, with its crystallized system and its vast machinery, always seemed "unspiritual" and traditional. They believed, each time the movement appeared, that they had found the way to more abundant life, that the Spirit had come upon them in a special manner, and was through them inaugurating a higher order of Christianity, and they always felt that their religion of direct experience, of invading energy, of inspirational insights, of charismatic bestowals, and of profound emotional fervour was distinctly "spiritual," as contrasted with the historic Church which claimed indeed a divine origin and divine "deposits," but which, as they believed, lacked the continuous and progressive leadership of the Spirit. They were always very certain that their religion was characteristically "spiritual," and all other forms seemed to them cold, formal, or dead. In their estimates, men were still divided into spiritual persons and psychical persons -- those who lived by the "heart" and those who lived by the "head."

Parallel with the main current of the Protestant Reformation, a new type of "spiritual religion" appeared and continued to manifest itself with mutations and developments, throughout the entire Reformation era, with a wealth of results which are still operative in the life of the modern world. The period of this new birth was a time of profound transition and ferment, and a bewildering variety of roads was tried to spiritual Canaans and new Jerusalems, then fondly believed to {xv} be near at hand. It is a long-standing tragedy of history that the right wing of a revolutionary or transforming movement must always suffer for the unwisdom and lack of balance of those who constitute the left, or extreme radical, wing of the movement. So it happened here. The nobler leaders and the saner spirits were taken in the mass with those of an opposite character, and were grouped under comprehensive labels of reproach and scorn, such as "Antinomians," "Enthusiasts," or "Anabaptists," and in consequence still remain largely neglected and forgotten.

The men who initiated and guided this significant undertaking -- the exhibition in the world of what they persistently called "spiritual religion" -- were influenced by three great historic tendencies, all three of which were harmoniously united in their type of Christianity. They were the Mystical tendency, the Humanistic or Rational tendency, and the distinctive Faith-tendency of the Reformation. These three strands are indissolubly woven together in this type of so-called spiritual Religion. It was an impressive attempt, whether completely successful or not, to widen the sphere and scope of religion, to carry it into the whole of life, to ground it in the very nature of the human spirit, and to demonstrate that to be a man, possessed of full life and complete health, is to be religious, to be spiritual. I propose, as a preliminary preparation for differentiating this special type of "spiritual religion," to undertake a study, as brief as possible, of these three underlying and fundamental strands or tendencies in religion which will, of course, involve some consideration of the inherent nature of religion itself.

For my present purpose it is not necessary to study the twilight history of religion in primitive races nor to trace its origins in the cradle-stage of human life. Anthropologists are rendering a valuable service in their attempts to explore the baffling region of primitive man's mind, and they have hit upon some very suggestive clues, though so far only tentative ones, to the psychological experiences and attitudes which set man's feet on the {xvi} momentous religious trail. At every stage of its long and devious history, religion has been some sort of life-adjustment to realities which were felt to be of supreme importance either to the individual or to the race, and it becomes thus possible for the scientific observer to note a developmental process and to discover a principle which links it in with a universal scheme of evolution.

But religion can never be adequately treated either in terms of racial origins or of biological history, though there can be no doubt whatever that there are genetic and biological factors to be considered. Nor, again, can religion be adequately and exhaustively dealt with by the psychological method of investigation. The psychological studies of religion in recent years have greatly enriched our knowledge of the range and scope and power of man's psychic nature and functions, of his instincts, desires, valuations, needs, yearnings, beliefs, and modes of activity and behaviour, and particularly of the important influence which the social group has exercised and still exercises in the furtherance of religious attitudes and ideals. But the psychological method has obvious and inherent limitations. Like any other natural science, psychology is limited to description and causal explanation of the phenomena of its special field, which in this case is states of consciousness. It does not pretend, or even aspire, to pronounce upon the ultimate nature of consciousness, nor upon the moral significance of personality. Psychology is as empirical as any other science. It modestly confines its scope of research to what appears in finite and describable forms. It possesses no ladder by which it can transcend the empirical order, the fact-level. The religion which the psychologist reports upon is necessarily stripped of all transcendental and objective reference. Its wings are severely clipped. It is only one of man's multitudinous reactions in the presence of the facts of his time and space world. It is nakedly subjective and works, not because there is Something or Some One beyond, which answers it, and corresponds with its up-reach, but only {xvii} because undivided faith-attitudes always liberate within the field of consciousness energy for life-activity.

We need not blame the psychologist for this radical reduction of the age-long pretensions of religion. If he is to bring religion over into the purview of the scientific field, he can do nothing else but reduce it. Science can admit into its world nothing that successfully defies descriptive treatment. The poet may know of flowers which "can give thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears," but science discovers no such flowers in its field. Its flowers are amazingly complex, but they call for no handkerchief. They are merely aggregations of describable parts, each of which has well-defined functions. The "man" whom science studies is complicated almost beyond belief. He is an aggregation of trillions of cells. He is such a centre of vibrations that a cyclone is almost a calm compared to the constant cyclic storms within the area of man's corporeal system. His "mental states" have their entries and exits before "the foot-lights of consciousness" and exhibit a drama more intricate than any which human genius has conceived. But each "state" is a definite, more or less describable, fact or phenomenon. For science, "man's" inner life, as well as his corporeal bulk, is an aggregate of empirical items. No loophole is left for freedom -- that is for any novel undetermined event. No shekinah remains within for a mysterious "conscience" to inject into this fact-world insights drawn from a higher world of noumenal, or absolute, reality. "Man" is merely a part of the naturalistic order, and has no way of getting out of the vast net in which science catches and holds "all that is."

There is, I repeat, no ground for blaming the psychologist for making these reductions. His science can deal only with an order of facts which will conform to the scientific method, for wherever science invades a field, it ignores or eliminates every aspect of novelty or mystery or wonder, every aspect of reality which cannot be brought under scientific categories, i.e. every aspect which cannot be treated quantitatively and causally and {xviii} arranged in a congeries of interrelated facts occurring according to natural laws. The only cogent criticism is that any psychologist should suppose that his scientific account is the "last word" to be spoken, that his reports contain all the returns that can be expected, or that this method is the only way of approach to truth and reality. Such claims to the rights of eminent domain and such dogmatic assertions of exclusive finality always reveal the blind spot in the scientist's vision. He sees steadily but he does not see wholes. He is of necessity dealing with a reduced and simplified "nature" which he constantly tends to substitute for the vastly richer whole of reality that boils over and inundates the fragment which submits to his categories. We do well to gather in every available fact which biology or anthropology or psychology can give us that throws light on human behaviour, or on primitive cults, or on the richer subjective and social religious functions of full-grown men. But the interior insight got from religion itself, the rich wholeness of religious experience, the discovery within us of an inner nature which defies description and baffles all plumb-lines, and which can draw out of itself more than it contains, indicate that we here have dealings with a type of reality which demands for adequate treatment other methods of comprehension than those available to science.

In the old Norse stories, Thor tried to empty the famous drinking-horn in the games of Utgard, but to his surprise he found that, though the horn looked small, he could not empty it, for it turned out that the horn was immersed in the limitless and bottomless ocean. Again he tried to lift a small and insignificant-looking animal, but, labour as he might, he could not lift it, for it was grown into, and was organic with, the whole world, and could not be raised without raising the very ground on which the lifter stood! Somewhat so, the reality of religion is so completely bound up with the whole personal life of man and with his conjunct life in the social group and in the world of nature; it is, in short, so much an {xix} affair of man's whole of experience, of his spirit in its undivided and synthetic aspects, that it can never be adequately dealt with by the analytic and descriptive method of this wonderful new god of science, however big with results that method may be.

The interior insight, the appreciation of religion, the rich and concrete whole of religious consciousness, is, and will always remain, the primary way to the secret of religion -- religion in its "first intention" -- as the experience of time-duration is the only possible way to the elemental meaning of time. It has in recent years in many quarters become the fashion to call this "interior insight," this appreciation of religion from within, "mysticism"; and to assume that here in mysticism we come upon the very essence of religion. This conclusion, however, is as narrow and as unwarranted as is the truncation of religion at the hands of science. The mystical element in religion is only one element in a vastly richer complex, and it must not be given undue emphasis and imperial sway in the appreciation of the complete whole of "spiritual religion." We must, too, carefully discriminate mystical experience from the elaborate body of doctrines and theories, historically known as "mysticism," which is as much an ism as are the other typical, partial, and more or less abstract formulations of religion.

Mysticism for the mystic himself is characterized by a personal experience through which the ordinary limitations of life and the passionate pursuits of the soul are transcended, and a self-evident conviction is attained that he is in communion, or even in union, with some self-transcending Reality that absolutely satisfies and is what he has always sought. "This is He, this is He," the mystic exclaims: "There is no other: This is He whom I have waited for and sought after from my childhood!"[7]

The experience is further characterized by the inrush {xx} of new energies as though a mysterious door had been pushed open -- either out or in -- admitting the human spirit to wider sources of life. "Fresh bubblings from the eternal streams of Life flowing into the soul" is the way the recipient often describes it. All the deep-lying powers of the inward self, usually so divergent and conflicting -- the foreground purposes defeated by background inhibitions, and by doubts on the border, -- become liberated and unified into one conscious life which is not merely intellectual, nor merely volitional, nor solely emotional, but an undivided whole of experience, intensely joyous, enriched with insight and pregnant with deeds of action. As in lofty experiences of appreciation of beauty, or of music, or when the chords of life are swept by a great love, or by a momentous moral issue, the spirit rises in mystical experience to a form of consciousness which no longer marks clock-time and succession of events, whether outward or inward. It may afterwards take hours or days or weeks or even years to spread out and review and apprehend and adjust to the experience -- "the opening," to use George Fox's impressive word -- but while it is there it is held in one unbroken synthetic time-span. It is, to revive a scholastic phrase, a totum simul, an all-at-once experience, in which parts, however many, make one integral whole, as in a melody or in a work of art; so that the mystic has a real experience of what we try to express by the word Eternity. It feels as though the usual insulations of our own narrow personal life were suddenly broken through and we were in actual contact with an enfolding presence, life-giving, joy-bringing, and light-supplying.

In instances where the intensity is great, unusual psychological phenomena appear. Sometimes voices are heard, or sounds "like a mighty rushing wind"; sometimes there are automatic visions of light, or of forms or figures, as, for instance, of Christ, or of a cross; sometimes automatic writing or speaking attends the experience; sometimes there are profound body-changes of a temporary, or even permanent character; sometimes there {xxi} is a state of swoon or ecstacy, lasting from a few seconds to entire days. These physical phenomena, however, are as spiritually unimportant and as devoid of religious significance as are the normal bodily resonances and reverberations which accompany, in milder degrees, all our psychic processes. They indicate no high rank of sainthood and they prove no miracle-working power. The significant features of the experience are the consciousness of fresh springs of life, the release of new energies, the inner integration and unification of personality, the inauguration of a sense of mission, the flooding of the life with hope and gladness, and the conviction, amounting in the mind of the recipient to certainty, that God is found as an environing and vitalizing presence -- as the recipient already quoted reports his conviction: "I have met with my God; I have met with my Saviour. I have felt the healings drop upon my soul from under His wings."[8]

If everybody had experiences of that sort there would be no more doubt of the existence of an actual spiritual environment in vitalizing contact with the human spirit than there now is of an external world with which we correspond. There is a priori no reason against the reality of such an inner spiritual universe. It is precisely as conceivable that constructive and illuminating influences should stream into our inner selves from that central Light with which our inmost self is allied, as that objects in space and time should bombard us with messages adapted to our senses. The difference is that we all experience the outer environment and only a few of us experience the inner. The mystic himself has no doubt -- he sees, but he cannot give quite his certainty of vision to any one else. He cannot, like "the weird sisters" of Greek story, lend out his eye for others to see with. He can only talk about, or write about, what he has seen, and his words are often words of little meaning to those who lack the vision.



But the very characteristics of mystical religion which give it its self-evidence and power at the same time mark limits to its scope and range. It is and must be primarily and essentially first-hand experience, and yet it is an experience that is by no means universal. It is not, so far as we can see from the facts at hand, an experience which attaches to the very nature of consciousness as such, or indeed one which is bound to occur even when the human subject strains forward all the energies of his will for the adventure, or when by strict obedience to the highest laws of life known to him he waits for the high visitation. Some aspect is involved over which the will has no control. Some other factor is implied besides the passion and the purity of the seeking soul. The experience "comes," as an inrush, as an emergence from the deeper levels of the inner life, but the glad recipient does not know how he secured the prize or how to repeat the experience, or how to tell his friend the way to these "master moments" of blessedness.

There are numerous persons who are as serious and earnest and passionate as the loftiest mystical saint, and who, in spite of all their listening for the inner flow of things, discover no inrushes, feel no invasions, are aware of no environing Companion, do not even feel a "More of Consciousness conterminous and continuous with their own." Their inner life appears impervious to divine bubblings. The only visitants that pass over the threshold of their consciousness are their own mental states, now bright and clear, now dim and strange, but all bearing the brand and mark of temporal origin. This type of experience must not, therefore, be insisted on as the only way to God or to the soul's homeland. Spiritual religion must not be put to the hazard of conditions that limit its universality and restrict it to a chosen few. To insist on mystical experience as the only path to religion would involve an "election" no less inscrutable and {xxiii} pitiless than that of the Calvinistic system -- an "election" settled for each person by the peculiar psychic structure of his inner self.[9]

There is another limitation which must always attach to religion of the purely mystical type. In so far as it is an experience of the inward type, it is indescribable and incommunicable. That does not mean or imply any lessened value in the experience itself, it only means that it is very difficult to mint it into the universal coinage of the world. The recovery of faith, after some catastrophic bankruptcy of spiritual values, as with Job or Dante or Faust, cannot be described in analytic steps. The loss of faith in the rationality of the universe, the collapse of the "beautiful world" within, can be told step by step; the process of integration and reconstruction, on the other hand, always remains somewhat of a mystery, though it is plain enough that a new and richer inner world has been found. So, too, with Mysticism. The experience itself may, and often does, bring to the recipient an indubitable certainty of spiritual realities, revealing themselves within his own spirit, and, furthermore, it is often productive of permanent life-results, such as augmented conviction, heightened tone of joy, increased unification of personality, intense moral passion and larger conquering power, but he, nevertheless, finds it a baffling matter to draw from his mystical experience concrete information about the nature and character of God, or to supply, from the experience alone, definite contributions that can become part of the common spiritual inheritance of the race.

The soul
Remembering how she felt, but what she felt
Remembering not, retains an obscure sense
Of possible sublimity.[10]


There can be, I think, no doubt that the persons whom we call mystics have enormously added to the richness of our conception of God, or that they have made impressive contributions to the capital stock of our religious knowledge. But I question whether these increments of knowledge can be fairly traced to "information" which has entered the world through the secret door of mystical "openings." The conception of God by which we live, and our knowledge of eternal life, are in the main not formed of the material which has mysteriously dropped into the world by means of "sudden incursions," or "oracular communications" through persons of extraordinary psychical disposition. What we get from the mystic, or from the prophet, is not his "experience" but his interpretation, and as soon as he begins to interpret, he does so by means of the group-material which the race has gathered in its corporate experience through the ages. The valuable content of his message, so far as he succeeds in delivering one, the ideas with which his words are freighted, bear the marks of the slow accumulations of spiritual experience, and they reveal the rich and penetrative influence of the social group in which the mystic's inner life formed and ripened. They have a history as all ideas do.

The real fact of the matter is, that the great mystics are religious geniuses. They make their contribution to religion in ways similar to those in which the geniuses in other fields raise the level of human attainments and achievements. They swiftly seize upon and appreciate the specific achievements of the race behind them; they are profoundly sensitive to the aspirations of their time and to the deep-lying currents of their age; they are suggestible in an acute degree, through heightened interest, to certain ideas or truths or principles which they synthesise by such leaps of insight that slow-footed logic seems to be transcended. Then these unifying and intensifying experiences to which they are subject give them irresistible conviction, "a surge of certainty," a faith of the mountain-moving order, and an increasing {xxv} dynamic of life which, in the best cases, is manifest in thoughts and words and deeds. Their mystical experience seldom supplies them with a new intellectual content which they communicate, but their experience enables them rather to see what they know, to get possession of themselves, and to fuse their truth with the heat of conviction. The mystical experience is thus a way of heightening life and of increasing its dynamic quality rather than a way to new knowledge.

The negative way, which has been such a prominent and prevailing characteristic of historical mysticism that many writers have made it the distinct and sufficient differentia of mysticism, has often produced intensity and depth, but it is, nevertheless, a mark of the limitation of this type of religion. The indescribable and undifferentiated character of mystical experience is no doubt partly responsible for the emphatic place which negation has held in mysticism. The experience itself, which seems like "a flight of the alone to the Alone," can be told in no words except those of negation. "The mortal limit of the self" seems loosed, and the soul seems merged into that which it forever seeks but which having found it cannot utter. But the type of metaphysics through which most of the great mystics of history have done their thinking and have made their formulations is still further responsible for the excessive negativity of their systems.

There is, of course, a negative element or aspect in all genuine religion. No person can grow rich in spiritual experience or can gain an intimate acquaintance with a God of purity and truth without negating the easy ways of instinct, the low pursuits of life which end in self, the habits of thought and action which limit and hamper the realization of the diviner possibilities of the whole nature. Sometimes the eye that hinders must be plucked out or the right hand cut off and thrust away for the sake of a freer pursuit of the soul's kingdom. There is, too, a still deeper principle of negativity involved in the very fibre of personal life itself. No one can advance without {xxvi} surrender, no one can have gains without losses, no one can reach great goals without giving up many things in themselves desirable. There is "a rivalry of me's" which no person can ever escape, for in order to choose and achieve one typical self another possible self must be sternly sacrificed. In a very real sense it remains forever true that we must die to live, we must die to the narrow self in order to be raised to the wider and richer self.

But the negative way of mysticism is more rigorous and more thorough in its negation than that. Its negations "wind up the hill all the way to the very top." Even the self must be absolutely negated. "The self, the I, the me and the like, all belong to the evil spirit. The whole matter can be set forth in these words: Be simply and wholly bereft of self." "The I, the me, and the mine, nature, selfhood, the Devil, sin, are all one and the same thing."[11] Not only so, but all desire for any particular thing, or any particular experience must be utterly extirpated. "Whatever Good the creature as creature can conceive of and understand is something this or that," and therefore not the One Real Good.[12] "So long as thy soul has an image, it is without simplicity, and so long as it is without simplicity it doth not rightly love God."[13] "Divine love can brook no rival." He who seeks God must "rid himself of all that pertains to the creature." He that would find the absolute Good must withdraw not only beyond all his senses, but beyond all desires, into an inner "solitude where no word is spoken, where is neither creature nor image nor fancy." "Everything depends," Tauler counsels us, "upon a fathomless sinking into a fathomless nothingness. . . . God has really no place to work in but the ground where all has been annihilated. . . . Then when all forms have ceased, in the twinkling of an eye, the man is transformed. . . . Thou must sink into the unknown and unnamed abyss, and above all ways, images, forms, and above all powers, {xxvii} lose thyself, deny thyself, and even unform thyself."[14] The moment the will focusses upon any concrete aim as its goal, it must thereby miss that Good which is above and beyond all particular "things" that can be conceived or named.

But the negative way winds up farther still. It ends in the absolutely negative Silent Desert of Godhead "where no one is at home." Its way up is the way of abstraction and withdrawal from everything finite. He whom the soul seeks cannot be found in anything "here" or "now"; He must be "yonder." "It is by no means permitted," says one of the great experts in negation, "to speak or even to think anything concerning the super-essential and hidden Deity. . . . It is a Unity above mind, a One above conception and inconceivable to all conceptions, a Good unutterable by word."[15] "Thou must love God," Eckhart says, "as not-God, not-Spirit, not-person, not-image, but as He is, a sheer, pure, absolute One, sundered from all two-ness and in whom we must eternally sink from nothingness to nothingness."[16] God, the Godhead, is thus the absolute "Dark," "the nameless Nothing," an empty God, a characterless Infinite. "Why dost thou prate of God," Eckhart says, "whatever thou sayest of Him is untrue!" The rapt soul at the end of his road, at the top of the hill, only knows that every finite account is false and that the only adequate word is an everlasting Nay.

Whatever idea your mind comes at,
I tell you flat
God is not that.[17]

The great mystics have always saved themselves by neglecting to be consistent with this rigorous negation and abstraction. In their practice they have cut through their theory and gone on living the rich concrete life. {xxviii} But the theory itself is a false theory of life, and it leads only to a God of abstraction, not to the God of spiritual religion. The false trail, however, is to be charged, as I have said, not so much to mystical experience as to the metaphysics through which the mystics, not only of Christian communions, but of other faiths, were compelled to do their thinking. There was no other way of thinking known to them except this way of negation. The Infinite was the not-finite; the Absolute was precisely what the contingent was not. The perfect was free of every mark of imperfection. Behind all manifestations was the essential Substance which made the manifestations. The completely Real was above all mutation and process. "For one to assign," therefore, "to God any human attributes," as Spinoza, the supreme apostle of this negative way has said, "is to reveal that he has no true idea of God." It has taken all the philosophical and spiritual travail of the centuries to discover that there may be a concrete Infinite, an organic Absolute, an immanent Reality, and that the way to share in this comprehending Life is at least as much a way of affirmation as of negation, a way that leads not into "the Dark" but into the Light, and not into a "fathomless nothing," but into an abundant and radiant life.

Mysticism, as a type of religion, has further staked its precious realities too exclusively upon the functions of what to-day we call the sub-conscious. Impressed with the divine significance of "inward bubblings," the mystic has made too slight an account of the testimony of Reason and the contribution of history. The subconscious functions are very real and very important aspects of personal life, and can never again be ignored in any full account of personality. They influence every thought, feeling, attitude, volition, opinion, mood, and insight, and are thus operative in all the higher as well as in all the lower phases of human life and character. Metaphorically, but only metaphorically, we speak of the sub-conscious as a vast zone, an indefinable margin, surrounding the narrow focus of attention, and we may {xxix} figuratively, but only figuratively, call it the subliminal "region" where all our life-gains, and often the gains of the race, are garnered. The contributions from this mental underworld are inestimable -- we could not be men without them -- but this subconscious zone is a source of things bad as well as good, things silly as well as things wise, of rubbish as well as of treasures, and it is diabolical as well as divine. It seems in rare moments to connect, as though it were a hidden inland stream, with the "immortal sea which brought us hither," and we feel at times, through its incomes, as though we were aware of tides from beyond our own margin. And, in fact, I believe we are.

But obviously we cannot assume that whatever comes spontaneously out of the subconscious is divinely given. It mothers strange offspring -- Esaus as well as Jacobs; its openings, its inrushes, its bubblings must be severely tested. Impulses of many sorts feel categorically imperative, but some call to deeds of light and some to deeds of darkness. They cannot be taken at their face value; they must be judged in some Court which is less capricious and which is guided by a more universal principle -- something semper et ubique. A spiritual religion of the full and complete type will, I believe, have inward, mystical depth, it will keep vitalized and intensified with its experiences of divine supplies, and of union and unification with an environing Spirit, but it must at the same time soundly supplement its more or less capricious and subjective, and always fragmentary, mystical insights with the steady and unwavering testimony of Reason, and no less with the immense objective illumination of History.


The men whom I am here calling Spiritual Reformers are examples of this wider synthesis. They all read and loved the mystics and they themselves enjoyed times of direct refreshment from an inward Source of Life, but {xxx} they were, most of them, at the same time, devoted Humanists. They shared with enthusiasm the rediscovery of those treasures which human Reason had produced, and they rose to a more virile confidence in the sphere and capacity of Reason than had prevailed in Christian circles since the days of the early Greek Fathers. They took a variety of roads to their conclusion, but in one way or another they all proclaimed that deep in the central nature of man -- an inalienable part of Reason -- there was a Light, a Word, an Image of God, something permanent, reliable, universal, and unsundered from God himself. They all knew that man is vastly more than "mere man." Hans Denck, one of the earliest of this group of Spiritual Reformers, declared that there is a witness to God in the soul of every man, and that without this inward Word it would be as impossible to bring men to God by outward means as it would be to show sunlight to eyeless men. He anticipated the great saying of Pascal in these words, "Apart from God no one can either seek or find God, for he who seeks God already in truth has Him."[18] "We are," says Jacob Boehme, who belongs in this line of Spiritual Reformers, "of God's substance: we have heaven and hell in ourselves."[19] There is in us, Peter Sterry says, a unity of spirit which holds all things together in an at-once experience, "a spire-top of spirit where all things meet and sit recollected and concentred in an unfathomed Depth of Life."[20] Most of these men were in revolt against scholasticism and all its works. They speak often very slightingly of "Reasoning," the attempt to find a way to ultimate Realities by logical syllogisms, but they, nevertheless, believed great things of man's rational and moral nature. They are often confused and cloudy in their explicit accounts of this ultimate moral and rational nature. They everywhere indicate the conceptual limitations {xxxi} under which even those who were the most emancipated from tradition were compelled to do their thinking in that age. They could not break the age-long spell and mighty fascination with which the Adam story and the Garden of Eden picture had held the Christian world. They were convinced, however, that the Augustinian interpretation of the fall, with its entail of an indelible taint upon the race forever, was an inadequate, if not an untrue account, though they could not quite arrive at an insight which enabled them to speak with authority on the fundamental nature of man. But with an instinct that pointed right, they took Adam as a type of the unspoiled man, and they saw writ large in him the possibilities and potentialities of man. What had been originally possible in Adam became, according to their thought, actual realization in Jesus Christ -- the form and type of man, the true Head of the race -- and in spite of the havoc and spoiling, which sin had wrought, that original possibility, that divine potentiality, still reappears in every child, who comes now, as Adam did, made in the image of God, with the breath of God in him, and with creative freedom of will to settle his own destiny. Some of the Reformers whom I am here studying centre this image of God, this immense divine potentiality, in the ideal man, in man as God conceives him in his perfect state, or as God by His Grace intends him to be, and they do not go the whole bold way of asserting that this man we know, this man who lives in time and space, who loves and sins and suffers, has and always has, in the very structure of his inmost moral and rational being, a divine, unlost, inalienable, soul-centre which is unsundered from God, and bears eternal witness to our origin from Him, our potential likeness to Him, and our capacity to receive illumination from Him.[21] But this latter {xxxii} bolder view of the inherent greatness of man's essential nature is the prevailing tendency of these men. They are thus the forerunners of the Quaker faith that there is something of God in man, and they continue the direct line, which goes back for ancestry to the Socratic movement in philosophy of those who find God involved and implicated in the nature of normal self-consciousness and in the idea of the Good toward which we live.[22]

Mystics and prophets, as Seely well says in Ecce Homo, seem to themselves to "discover truth not so much by a process of reasoning as by an intense gaze, and they announce their conclusions with the voice of a herald, using the name of God and giving no reasons." The rational way of approach is different. It seeks to draw out by a process of rational argument what is involved in the outer or inner facts that are present to consciousness. It does not claim the power to make bricks without clay, to construct its conclusions out of nothing. Its only legitimate field is that of interpreting experience. There have always been men who were religious because they could not help being religious, because a Universe without God seemed to them utterly irrational and unthinkable. Schleiermacher is only one witness in a long and impressive succession of thinkers that have insisted that "consciousness of God and self-consciousness are inseparable."[23] It is obvious even to the unmetaphysical person that self-consciousness always presupposes and involves something prior to one's own existence and some reality transcending the reality of one's own self. The finite is intelligible only through the infinite, the temporal only through the eternal. We cannot think at all without appealing to some permanent more of reality than is just now given in our particular finite experience, and no matter how far one travels on the road of knowledge one always finds it still necessary to make reference to a transcending more. "All consciousness is," as Hegel {xxxiii} showed in 1807, in his philosophical Pilgrim's Progress, the Phenomenology of Spirit, "an appeal to more consciousness," and there is no rational halting-place short of a self-consistent and self-explanatory spiritual Reality, which explains the origin and furnishes the goal of all that is real.

On the other hand, there have always been men who have not granted any such compelling implications to self-consciousness. They have maintained that "finites" are forever "finites," and that there are no bridges that carry us from our finite "nows" and "heres" to an infinite Reality. The infinite Reality, they all admit, is conceivable; it is "an idea" to which any mind can rise by normal processes of thought, "but," so they say, "an idea of an infinite Reality, an Infinite merely conceived in the mind, is different, by the whole width of the sky, from an actual objective infinite Reality that is there, and that contains inherently all that our hearts seek in God."

It is quite true, of course, that the presence of "an idea" in our mind does not of itself prove the existence of a corresponding objective reality out there in a world independent of our mind. There is most assuredly no way of bridging "the chasm" between mind and an objective world beyond and outside of mind, when once the "chasm" is assumed. But the fundamental error lies in the assumption of any such "chasm." The "chasm" which yawns between the inner and outer world is of our own making. Whenever we know anything, wherever there is knowledge at all, there is a synthetic indivisible whole of experience in which a subject knows an object. Subject and object cannot be really sundered without putting an instant end to knowledge -- leaving "a bare grin without a face!" The only way we know anything is that we know we know it in experience. We do not ever succeed in proving that objects exist out there in the world beyond us exactly correspondent to these ideas in our minds. That is a feat of mental gymnastics quite parallel to that of "finding" {xxxiv} the self with which we do the seeking. The crucial problem of knowledge is not to discover a bridge to leap the chasm between the mind within and the world beyond. It is rather the problem of finding a basis of verifying and testing what we know, and of making knowledge a consistent rational whole.

The method of testing and verifying any fact of truth which we have on our hands, is always to organize it and link it into a larger whole of knowledge which we ourselves, or the wider group of persons in which we are organic members, have verified, and to see that it fits in consistently into this larger whole, and in this rational process we always assume, and are bound to assume, some sort of Reality that transcends the fleeting and temporal, the caprice of the moment, the will of the subject, the here and the now. The mind that knows and knows that it knows must, as Plato centuries ago declared, rise from the welter and flux of momentary seemings to true Being, to the eternally Real,[24] and the knowledge process of binding fragments of experience into larger wholes and of getting articulate insight into the significance of many facts grasped in synthetic unity -- in the "spire-top of spirit," as Sterry puts it -- carries the mind steadily and irresistibly on to an infinitely-inclusive and self-explanatory spiritual Whole, which is always implied in knowledge. Some reference to the permanent is necessary in judging even the fleetingness of the "now," some confidence in the eternally true is essential for any pronouncement upon the false, some assurance of the infinite is presupposed in the endless dissatisfaction with the finite, some appeal to a total whole of Reality is implicated in any assertion that this fact here and now is known as real. Any one who feels the full significance of what is involved in knowing the truth has a coercive feeling that Eternity has been set within us, that our finite life is deeply rooted in the all-pervading Infinite.

The great thinkers of the first rank who have undertaken to sound the significance of rational knowledge, {xxxv} and who have appreciated the meaning of the synthetic unity of the knowing mind and the world of objects that submit to its forms of thought, have recognized that there must be some deep-lying fundamental relation between the mind that knows and the world that is known, some Reality common to both outer and inner realms. They have, almost without exception, found themselves carried along irresistibly to an ultimate Reality that is the ground and explanation of all the fragmentary facts of experience, and without which nothing can be held to be permanent or rational --

Something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a Spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.[25]

The technical logical formulation of arguments to prove the existence of God as objectively real -- arguments from causality, ontological arguments, and arguments from design -- all of which assume a "chasm" between the knower and the object known, seem to us perhaps on critical analysis thin and insufficient. The bridge of formal logic seems too weak to carry us safely over from a finite here to an infinite yonder, from a contingent fact to an Absolute Reality, from something given in consciousness to Something existent outside and beyond it; but it is an impressive and significant fact that all finite experience, both of inner and outer events, involves a More yet, that we cannot think finite and contingent things without rational appeal to Something infinite and necessary, that human experience cannot be rationally conceived except as a fragment of a vastly more inclusive Experience, always recognized within the finite spirit, that unifies and binds together into one self-explanatory whole all that is absolutely Real and True, and this is Reason's conviction of God.


When once the conviction is felt and the rational postulate of God is made, it immediately verifies its practical value in the solution of our deepest problems. A happy illustration of the practical value and verifying evidence of the rational postulate of God has been given by James Ward: "Suppose," he says, "that the earth were wrapt in clouds all day while the sky was clear at night, so that we were able to see the planets and observe their movements as we do now, though the sun itself was invisible. The best account we could give of the planetary motions would still be to refer them to what for us, in accordance with our supposition, would only be an imaginary focus [or centre of physical energy], but one to which was assigned a position identical with the sun's [present] position."[26] This assumption would at once unlock the mystery and account for the varying movements of these visible bodies and the more rigorously the hypothesis were applied, the more exactly it would verify itself. So, too, with Reason's sublime venture of faith. The nature of self-consciousness demands the postulate, and once it is made it works.

The same result follows any attempt adequately to account for the moral imperative -- the will to live the truly good life. The moral will turns out always to be imbedded in a deeper, richer, more inclusive Life than that of the fragmentary finite individual. There is a creative and autonomous central self in us which puts before us ideals of truth and beauty and goodness that are nowhere to be "found" in this world of sense-facts, and that yet are more real and august than any things our eyes see or our hands handle. Our main moral problem is not to adjust our inner ideals to our environment, but rather to compel the environment to level up to our ideals. The world that ought to be makes us forever dissatisfied with the world that is, and sets us with a fixity of purpose at the task of realizing the Kingdom which might possibly be, which we know ought to be, and which, therefore, has our loyal endeavour that it {xxxvii} shall be, regardless of the cost in pain and sacrifice. Man, as William Wallace has put it, "projects his own self-to-be into the nature he seeks to conquer. Like an assailant who should succeed in throwing his standard into the strong central keep of the enemy's fortress, and fight his way thereto with assured victory in his eyes of hope, so man with the vision of his soul prognosticates his final triumph."[27] But if the life of moral endeavour is to be essentially consistent and reasonable there must be a world of Reality that transcends this realm of empirical, causal, and utilitarian happenings. Struggle for ends of goodness must be at least as significant in function as struggle for existence; our passion for what ought to be must have had birth in an inner eternal environment at least as real as that which produced our instincts and appetite for the things by which we live in time. If the universe is through and through rational, there must be some personal Heart that cares; some moral Will that guarantees and backs our painful strivings -- our groaning and travailing -- to make what ought to be come into play here in the world which is. This postulate is Reason's faith in God, and again it works.

The evolution of life -- if it is evolving as we believe it is, and if it is to be viewed with rational insight as an upward process -- irresistibly involves and implies some sort of fundamental intelligence and conscious purpose, some Logos steering the mighty movement. We have outgrown crude arguments from "design," and we cannot think of God as a foreign and external Creator, working as a Potter on his clay; but it is irrational to "explain" a steadily unfolding movement, an ever-heightening procession of life, by "fortuitous variations," by "accidental" shifts of level, or even by a blind elan vital. If there is an increasing purpose and a clearly culminating drama unfolding in this moving flood of life, then there is some Mind that sees the way, and some Will that directs the march of Life. And this confidence of ours in some divine Event to which the whole creation moves, {xxxviii} this insight that there must be a significant and adequate explanation for the immanent teleology and beauty with which our universe is crammed, is, once more, Reason's postulate of God. There is something in us, indissoluble from Reason itself -- a Light, a Word, a Witness as these Spiritual Reformers insisted -- which links us in all the deeper processes of self-consciousness with That Which Is and without which "knowledge" would be a mere flux of seemings, a flight of seriatim items.


When this world's pleasures for my soul sufficed,
Ere my heart's plummet sounded depths of pain,
I called on reason to control my brain,
And scoffed at that old story of the Christ.

But when o'er burning wastes my feet had trod,
And all my life was desolate with loss,
With bleeding hands I clung about the cross,
And cried aloud, "Man needs a suffering God."[28]

There can be no doubt that the compulsions and implications of rational insight have brought multitudes of men to God, have given them an unescapable conviction of His reality, and have swayed their wills to live in conformity to His perfect Goodness; and it is also true that when for any cause this clue of rationality is missed or lost, men flounder about in the fog and pass through periods of inward tragedy amounting often to despair. But the approach of Reason still leaves much to be desired. It points to something deeper than the transitory flux of things, it raises our minds to some sort of ultimate and self-explanatory Reality, it compels the conviction that there is an all-inclusive Logos -- Mind or Spirit -- that explains what is and what ought to be, and what in the unfolding course of things is to be; but it does not bring us to a personal God who is our loving Friend and the {xxxix} intimate Companion of our souls, it does not help us solve the mystery of human suffering that lies heavily upon our lives, and it does not bring to our spirits the saving reinforcement of personal Love that must be a central feature of a spiritual and adequate religion.

There is still another way of approach to a Religion for mature minds which has been no less universally operative and no less dynamic in its transforming effects upon human lives than either of the two tendencies so far considered -- I refer to the way of Faith. By Faith I mean the soul's moral or appreciative apprehension of God as historically revealed, particularly as revealed in the personal life of Jesus Christ. This Faith-way to God cannot be wholly separated -- except by an artificial abstraction -- from the inward way of mysticism, or from the implications of Reason. It is no blind acceptance of traditional opinions, no uncritical reliance on "authority," or on some mysterious infallible oracle. It is the spiritual response -- or "assent," as Clement of Alexandria called it -- the moral swing of our inmost self, as we catch insights of a loving Heart and holy Will revealed through the words and lives and sufferings of saints and prophets, who have lived by their vision of God, and supremely revealed in the Life and Love, the Passion and the Triumphs of that Person whose experience and character and incarnation of life's possibilities seem at last adequate for all the needs -- the heights and the depths -- of this complex life of ours.

It was Luther's living word which first brought the momentous significance of Faith to clear consciousness in the sixteenth century. But the new way of Faith meant many and discordant things, according to the preparation of the ears of those who heard. It spoke, as all Pentecosts do, to each man in his own tongue. To those who came to the Lutheran insight with a deep hunger of spirit for reality and with minds liberated by Humanistic studies, the Faith-message meant new heavens and a new earth. It was a new discovery of God, and a new estimate of man. They suddenly caught {xl} a vision of life as it was capable of becoming, and they committed their fortunes to the task of making that possible world real. By a shift of view, as revolutionary as that from Ptolemaic astronomy to the verifiable insight of Copernicus, they passed over from the dogma of a Christ who came to appease an angry God, and to found a Church as an ark of safety in a doomed world, to the living apprehension of a Christ -- verifiable in experience -- who revealed to them, in terms of His own nature, an eternally tender, loving, suffering, self-giving God, and who made them see, with the enlightened eyes of their heart, the divine possibilities of human life. Through this insight, they were the beginners of a new type of Christianity, which has become wide-spread and impressive in the modern world, a type that finds the supreme significance of Christ's Life in His double revelation of the inherent nature of God, and the immense value and potentiality of man, and that changes the emphasis from schemes of salvation to interpretations of life, from the magic significance of doctrine to the incalculable worth of the moral will.

These men were weak in historical sense, and, like everybody else in their generation, they used Scripture without much critical insight. But they hit upon a principle which saved them from slavery to texts, and which gave them a working faith in the steady moral and spiritual development of man. I mean the principle that this Christ whom they had discovered anew was an eternal manifestation of God, an immanent Word of God, a Spirit brooding over the world of men, as in the beginning over the face of the waters, present in the unfolding events of history as well as in the far-away "dispensations of Grace." As a result, they grew less interested in the problem that had fascinated so many mystics, the problem of the super-empirical evolution of the divine Consciousness; the super-temporal differentiation of the unity of the Godhead into a Father and Son and self-revealing Holy Ghost; and they tried rather to appreciate and to declare the concrete revelation through Christ, and {xli} the import of His visible and invisible presence in the world.[29]

This approach of Faith, this appreciation of the nature of God as He has been unveiled in the ethical processes of history, especially in the Person of Christ, and in His expanding conquest of the world, must always be one of the great factors of spiritual religion. The profound results of higher criticism, with its stern winnowings, have brought us face to face with problems unknown to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. So much of what seemed the solid continent of historical truth has weathered and crumbled away that some have wondered whether any irreducible nucleus would remain firm and permanent above the flood of the years, and whether the religion of the future must not dispense with the historical element, and the Faith-aspect that goes with it, and rest wholly upon present inward experience.

There are, however, I believe, no indications worth considering, of the disappearance of Jesus Christ from human history. On the contrary, He holds, as never before, the commanding place in history. He still dominates conscience, by the moral sway of His Life of Goodness, as does no other Person who has ever lived; and by the attractive power of His life and love He still sets men to living counter to the strong thrust of instinct and impulse as does no one else who has ever touched the springs of conduct. The Faith-aspect is still a very live element in religion, and it is, as it has been so often before, precisely the aspect which supplies concrete body and filling and objective ethical direction to our deep sub-conscious yearnings and strivings and experiences.

Once at least there shone through the thin veil of matter a personal Life which brought another kind of world than this world of natural law and utilitarian aims full into light. There broke through here in the face of Jesus {xlii} Christ a revelation of Purpose in the universe so far beyond the vague trend of purpose dimly felt in slowly evolving life that it is possible here to catch an illuminating vision of what the goal of the long drama may be -- the unveiling of sons of God. Here the discovery can be made that the deepest Reality toward which Reason points, and which the mystical experience feels, is no vague Something Beyond, but a living, loving Some One, dealing with us as Person with person. In Him there comes to focus in a Life that we can love and appreciate a personal character which impresses us as being absolutely good, and as being in its inexhaustible depth of Love and Grace worthy to be taken as the revelation of the true nature of the God whom all human hearts long for. And finally through this personal revelation of God in Christ there has come to us a clear insight that pain and suffering and tragedy can be taken up into a self-chosen Life and absorbed without spoiling its immense joy, and that precisely through suffering-love, joyously accepted, a Person expressing in the world the heart of God may become the moral and spiritual Saviour of others. As von Hugel has finely said: "A Person came and lived and loved, and did and taught, and died and rose again, and lives on by His power and His Spirit forever within us and amongst us, so unspeakably rich and yet so simple, so sublime and yet so homely, so divinely above us precisely in being so divinely near that His character and teaching require, for an ever fuller yet never complete understanding, the varying study, and different experiments and applications, embodiments and unrollings of all the races and civilizations, of all the individual and corporate, the simultaneous and successive experiences of the human race to the end of time."[30]

The only salvation worth talking about is that which consists of an inner process of moral transformation, through which one passes over "the great divide" from a life that is self-centred and dominated by impulse and sin to a life that is assured of divine forgiveness, that has {xliii} conceived a passion for a redeemed inward nature, that is conscious of help from beyond its own resources, and that is dedicated to the task of making moral goodness triumph over the evil of the world. Any experience which brings to the soul a clear vision of the moral significance of human life, and that engenders in us a practical certainty that God is working with us in all our deepest undertakings, tends to have saving efficacy and to bring about this inward transformation. But nowhere else in the universe -- above us or within us -- has the moral significance of life come so full into sight, or the reality of actual divine fellowship, whether in our aspirations or in our failures, been raised to such a pitch of practical certainty as in the personal life and death and resurrection and steady historical triumph of Jesus Christ. He exhibits in living fulness, with transforming power, a Life which consciously felt itself one with the heart and will of God. He reveals the inherent blessedness of Love -- even though it may involve suffering and pain and death. He shows the moral supremacy, even in this imperfect empirical world, of the perfectly good will, and He impresses those who see Him -- see Him, I mean, with eyes that can penetrate through the temporal to the eternal and find His real nature -- as being the supreme personal unveiling of God, as worthy to be our Leader, our Ideal Life, our typical personal Character, and strong enough in His infinite Grace and divine self-giving to convince us of the eternal co-operation of God with our struggling humanity, and to settle our Faith in the essential Saviourhood of God.

He who sees that in Christ has found a real way to God and has discovered a genuine way of salvation. It is the way of Faith, but Faith is no airy and unsubstantial road, no capricious leap. There is no kind of aimful living conceivable that does not involve faith in something trans-subjective -- faith in something not given in present empirical experience. Even in our most elementary life-adjustments there is something operative in us which far underlies our conscious perceiving and {xliv} the logic of our conclusions. We are moved, not alone by what we clearly picture and coldly analyse, but by deep-lying instincts which defy analysis, by background and foreground fringes of consciousness, by immanent and penetrative intelligence which cannot be brought to definite focus, by the vast reservoirs of accumulated wisdom through which we feel the way to go, though we can pictorially envisage no "spotted trees" that mark the trail.

This religious and saving Faith, through which the soul discovers God and makes the supreme life-adjustment to Him, is profoundly moral and, in the best sense of the word, rational. It does not begin with an assumption, blind or otherwise, as to Christ's metaphysical nature, it does not depend upon the adoption of systematically formulated doctrines; it becomes operative through the discovery of a personal Life, historically lived -- and continued through the centuries as a transforming Spirit -- rich enough in its experience to exhibit the infinite significance of life, inwardly deep enough in its spiritual resources to reveal the character of God, and strong enough in sympathy, in tenderness, in patience, and in self-giving love to beget forever trust and confidence and love on the part of all who thus find Him.

The God whom we learn to know in Christ -- the God historically revealed -- is no vague first Cause, no abstract Reality, no all-negating Absolute. He is a concrete Person, whose traits of character are intensely moral and spiritual. His will is no fateful swing of mechanical law; it is a morally good will which works patiently and forever toward a harmonized world, a Kingdom of God. The central trait of His character is Love. He does not become Father, He is not reconciled to us by persuasive offerings and sacrifices. He is inherently and by essential disposition Father and the God of all Grace. He is not remote and absentee -- making a world "in the beginning," and leaving it to run by law, or only occasionally interrupting its normal processes -- He is immanent Spirit, working always, the God of beauty and organizing purpose. He {xlv} is Life and Light and Truth, an Immanuel God who can and does show Himself in a personal Incarnation, and so exhibits the course and goal of the race. The way of Faith is a way to God, and the religion of this type is as properly a first-hand religion as that of any other type.

I have, of course, by no means exhausted the types of mature religion. There are other ways of approach to God, other roads by which the soul finds the way home -- "On the East three gates; on the North three gates; on the South three gates; and on the West three gates" -- and they will continue to be sacred ways -- viae sacrae -- for those who travel them and thus find their heart's desire. What we should learn from this brief study is that religion is too rich and complex an experience to be squeezed down to some one isolated aspect of life or of consciousness. There are many ways to God and any way that actually brings the soul to Him is a good way, but the best way is that one which produces upon the imperfect personal life the profoundest saving effects, the most dynamic moral reinforcement, and which brings into sway over the will the goal of life most adequate for men like us in a social world like ours.

For most of us no one way of approach -- no single type of religion -- is quite sufficient for all the needs of our life. Most of us are fortunate enough to have at least moments when we feel in warm and intimate contact with a divine, enwrapping environment more real to us than things of sense and of arithmetic, and when the infinite and eternal is no less, but immeasurably more, sure than the finite and temporal. Most of us, again, succeed, at least on happy occasions of mental health, in finding rational clues which carry us through the maze of contingency and clock-time happenings, through the imperfections of our slow successive events, to the One Great Now of perfect Reality which explains the process, and we attain to an intellectual love of God. And in spite of the literary difficulties of primitive narratives and of false trails which the historical Church has again and again taken, almost any serious, earnest soul to-day {xlvi} may find that divine Face, that infinitely deep and luminous Personality who spoke as no man ever spake, who loved as none other ever loved, who saw more in humanity than anybody else has ever seen, and who felt as no other person ever has that He was one in heart and mind and will with God; and having found Him, by a morally responsive Faith which dominates and transforms the inward self, one has found God as Companion, Friend, and Saviour. Where all these ways converge, and a soul enjoys the privilege of mystical contact, the compulsion of rational insight, and the moral reinforcement of personal Faith in Christ, religion comes to its consummate flower, and may with some right be called "spiritual Religion."


The most radical step which these spiritual Reformers took -- the step which put them most strikingly out of line with the main course of the Reformation -- was their break with Protestant Theology. They were not satisfied with a programme which limited itself to a correction of abuses, an abolition of mediaeval superstitions, and a shift of external authority. They were determined to go the whole way to a Religion of inward life and power, to a Christianity whose only authority should be its dynamic and spiritual authority. They placed as low an estimate on the saving value of orthodox systems of theological formulation as the Protestant Reformers did on the saving value of "works." To the former, salvation was an affair neither of "works" nor of what they called "notions," i.e. views, beliefs, or creeds. They are never weary of insisting that a person may go on endless pilgrimages to holy places, he may repeat unnumbered "paternosters," he may mortify his body to the verge of self-destruction, and still be unsaved and unspiritual; so, too, he may "believe" all the dogma of the most orthodox system of faith, he may take on his lips the most sacred words of sound doctrine, and yet be utterly alien {xlvii} to the kingdom of God, a stranger and a foreigner to the spirit of Christ. They were determined, therefore, to go through to a deeper centre and to make only those things pivotal which are absolutely essential to life and salvation.

They began their reconstruction of the meaning of salvation with (1) a new and fresh interpretation of God, and (2) with a transformed eschatology. As I have already said, they re-discovered God through Christ, and in terms of His revelation; and coming to God this way, they saw at once that the prevailing interpretations of the atonement were inadequate and unworthy. God, they declared, is not a Suzerain, treating men as his vassals, reckoning their sins up against them as infinite debts to be paid off at last in a vast commercial transaction only by the immeasurable price of a divine Life, given to pay the debt which had involved the entire race in hopeless bankruptcy. Nor, again, in their thought is He a mighty Sovereign, meting out to the world strict justice and holding all sin as flagrant disloyalty and appalling violation of law, never to be forgiven until the full requirements of sovereign justice are met and balanced and satisfied. All this seemed to them artificial and false. Salvation, as they understand it, cannot be conceived as escape from debt nor as the satisfaction of justice, since it is a personal life-relationship with a personal God who is and always was eternal Love. God's universe, both outer and inner, is loaded with moral significance, is meant for discipline, and therefore it has its stern aspects and drives its lessons home with the unswerving hammer of consequences. But in the personal Heart of the universe, Love and Tenderness and Sympathy and Forgiveness are supreme, and every process and every instrument of salvation, in the divine purpose, is vital, ethical, spiritual.

God has shown Himself as Father. He has revealed the immeasurable suffering which sin inflicts on love. To find the Father-Heart; to cry "Abba" in filial joy; to die to sin and to be born to love, is to be saved. Jacob Boehme gave this new conception of God, and its bearing {xlviii} on the way of salvation, the most adequate expression that was given by any of this group, but all these so-called spiritual Reformers herein studied had reached the same insight at different levels of adequacy. Their return to a more vital conception of salvation, with its emphasis on the value of personality, brought with it, too, a new humanitarian spirit and a truer estimate of the worth of man. As they re-discovered the love of God, they also found again the gospel of love and brotherhood which is woven into the very tissue of the original gospel of divine Fatherhood.

Their revised eschatology was due, at least partly, to this altered account of the character of God, but it was also partly due to their profound tendency to deal with all matters of the soul in terms of life and vital processes. Heaven and Hell were no longer thought of as terminal places, where the saved were everlastingly rewarded and the lost forever punished. Heaven and Hell were for them inward conditions, states of the soul, the normal gravitation of the Spirit toward its chosen centre. Heaven and Hell cease, therefore, to be eschatological in the true sense of the word; they become present realities, tendencies of life, ways of reacting toward the things of deepest import. Heaven, whether here or in any other world, is the condition of complete adjustment to the holy will of God; it is joy in the prevalence of His goodness; peace through harmonious correspondence with His purposes; the formation of a spirit of love, the creation of an inward nature that loves what God loves and enjoys what He enjoys.

Hell, here or elsewhere, is a disordered life, out of adjustment with the universal will of God; it is concentration upon self and self-ends; the contraction of love; the shrinking of inward resources; the formation of a spirit of hate, the creation of an inward nature that hates what God loves. Hell is the inner condition inherently attaching to the kind of life that displays and exhibits the spirit and attitude which must be overcome before God with His purposes of goodness can be {xlix} ultimately triumphant and all in all. Salvation, therefore, cannot be thought of in terms of escape from a place that is dreaded to a place that is desired as a haven. It is through and through a spiritual process -- escape from a wrongly fashioned will to a will rightly fashioned. It is complete spiritual health and wholeness of life, brought into operation and function by the soul's recovery of God and by joyous correspondence with Him.

Here is the genuine beginning in modern times of what has come to be the deepest note of present-day Christianity, the appreciation of personality as the highest thing in earth or heaven, and the initiation of a movement to find the vital sources and resources for the inner kindling of the spirit, and for raising the whole personal life to higher functions and to higher powers.

Putting the emphasis, as they did, on personal religion, i.e. on experience, instead of on theology, they naturally became exponents of free-will, and that, too, in a period when fore-ordination was a central dogma of theology. This problem of freedom, which is as deep as personality itself, always has its answer "determined" by the point of approach. For those who begin with an absolute and omnipotent God, and work down from above, the necessarian position is determined. Their answer is: "All events are infallibly connected with God's disposal." For those who start, however, from actual experience and from the testimony of consciousness, freedom feels as certain as life itself. Their answer is: "Human will is a real factor in the direction of events and man shapes his own destiny toward good or evil." Calvin's logic is irresistible if his assumptions are once granted. These spiritual Reformers, however, were untouched by it, because they began from the interior life, with its dramatic movements, as their basal fact, and man as they knew him was free.

This spiritual movement involved, as a natural development, an entire shift from the historical idea of the Church as an authoritative and supernatural instrument of salvation, to a Church whose authority was entirely vital, {l} ethical, spiritual, dynamic. The Church of these spiritual Reformers was a Fellowship, a Society, a Family, rather than a mysterious and supernatural entity. They felt once again, as powerfully perhaps as it was possible in their centuries to feel it, the immense significance of the Pauline conception of the Church as the continued embodiment and revelation of Christ, the communion of saints past and present who live or have lived by the Spirit. Through this spiritual group, part of whom are visible and part invisible, they held that the divine revelation is continued and the eternal Word of God is being uttered to the race. "The true religion of Christ," as one of these spiritual teachers well puts it, "is written in the soul and spirit of man by the Spirit of God; and the believer is the only book in which God now writes His New Testament."[31] This Church of the Spirit is always being built. Its power is proportional to the spiritual vitality of the membership, to the measure of apprehension of divine resources, to the depth of insight and grasp of truth, to the prevalence of love and brotherhood, to the character of service, which the members exhibit. It possesses no other kind of power or authority than the power and authority of personal lives formed into a community by living correspondence with God, and acting as human channels and organs of His Life and Spirit. Such a Church can meet new formulations of science and history and social ideals with no authoritative and conclusive word of God which automatically settles the issue. Its only weapons are truth and light, and these have to be continually re-discovered and re-fashioned to fit the facts which the age has found and verified. Its mission is prophetic. It does not dogmatically decide what facts must be believed, but it sees and announces the spiritual significance of the facts that are discovered and verified. It was, thus, in their thought a growing, changing, ever-adjusting body -- the living body of Christ in the world. To the Protestant Reformers this spiritual ideal presented "a Church" so shorn and emasculated as to be {li} absolutely worthless. It seemed to them a propaganda which threatened and endangered the mighty work of reformation to which they felt themselves called, and they used all the forces available to suppress and annihilate those of this other "way."

Nearly four hundred wonderful years have passed since the issue was first drawn, since the first of these spiritual prophets uttered his modest challenge. There can be no question that the current of Christian thought has been strongly setting in the direction which these brave and sincere innovators took. I feel confident that many persons to-day will be interested in these lonely men and will follow with sympathy their valiant struggles to discover the road to a genuine spiritual religion, and their efforts to live by the eternal Word of God as it was freely revealed as the Day Star to their souls.

[1] 1 Cor. xv.50.

[2] 2 Cor. v.1-4.

[3] John iii.6.

[4] 1 John iv.13; John xiii.34 and xvi.13; 1 John iv.4.

[5] They found their authority for this outer sheath of body in the text which says: "The Lord God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skins, and clothed them." -- Gen. iii.21.

[6] Many of these historical reappearances are considered in my Studies in Mystical Religion.

[7] Isaac Penington, "A True and Faithful Relation of my Spiritual Travails," Works (edition of 1761), i. pp. xxxvii.-xxxviii.

[8] Isaac Penington's Works, i. pp. xxxvii.-xxxviii.

[9] The exact and sharply-defined "ladders" of mystic ascent which form a large part of the descriptive material in books on Mystical Religion are far from being universal ladders. Like creeds, or like religious institutions, they powerfully assist certain minds to find the way home, but they seem unreal and artificial to many other persons, and they must be considered only as symbolisms which speak to the condition of a limited number of spiritual pilgrims.

[10] Wordsworth's "Prelude," Bk. ii.

[11] Theologia Germanica, chaps. xxii. and xliii.

[12] Ibid. chap. liii.

[13] Meister Eckhart, Pfeiffer, p.320.20.

[14] Tauler's Sermons. See especially Sermons IV. and XXIII. in Hutton's Inner Way.

[15] The Divine Names of Dionysius the Areopagite, chap. i. sec. i.

[16] Meister Eckhart, Pfeiffer, p.320.25-30.

[17] Quoted in W. H. J. Gairdner's The Reproach of Islam, p.151.

[19] Denck's Was geredet sey, dass die Schrift, B.2. Pascal's saying is: "Comfort thyself; thou wouldst not be seeking Me hadst thou not already found Me." -- Le Mystere de Jesus, sec.2.

[19] The Threefold Life of Man, xiv.72.

[20] Sterry's Rise, Race, and Royalty of the Kingdom of God in the Soul of Man, p.24.

[21] "The finite individual soul seems naturally to present a double aspect. It looks like, on the one hand, a climax or concentration of the nature beneath it and the community around it, and, on the other hand, a spark or fragment from what is above and beyond it. It is crystallized out of the collective soul of nature or society, or it falls down from the transcendental soul of heaven or what is above humanity. In both cases alike it has its share of divinity." -- Bernard Bosanquet, The Value and Destiny of the Individual (London, 1913), p.1.

[22] The way to the world of Perfect Reality, Socrates says in the Theaetetus, consists in likeness to God, nor is there, he adds, anything more like God than is a good man. -- Theaetetus 176 A and B.

[23] Schleiermacher's Glaubenslehre.

[24] Republic vii.518 B.

[25] Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey."

[26] Realm of Ends, p.230.

[27] Lectures and Addresses, p.193.

[28] Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Poems of Life and Moments.

[29] Jacob Boehme, however, shows this fascination for the super-empirical at its height and culmination. It was an attempt, though a bungling attempt, to pass from an abstract God to a God of character, and it was a circuitous way of getting round the problem of evil.

[30] Mystical Elements of Religion, i. p.26.

[31] William Dell's sermon on "The Trial of Spirits," Works, p.438.

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