THE REIGN OF LAW
Our discussion will be futile unless there has first been faced the question, Does God exist ? Assuming the existence of God, the problem of the bearing on Religion of the New Psychology is the old problem of the relation of Divine activity to the reign of law raised by the discoveries of Newton, and still more so by those of Darwin.
Psychology attempts to apply the conception of law in the scientific sense to the operations of the human mind. The laws of Psychology, like those of Astronomy and Biology, are descriptions of the mechanism by which the Infinite works. Psychology is a branch of Science, not of Metaphysics or Moral Philosophy; but the facts which it deals with are of special importance in the philosophical discussion of Religion and ethics.
Primitive Religion looks for the Divine in the irrational. Greek philosophy and Hebrew religion were, in different ways, a protest against this. Science fortifies this protest: it makes impossible any religion but the highest.
In Psychology, more often than in the other sciences, the limitations inherent in the scientific conception of law are of practical concern.
(1) Laws are not eternal necessities of Nature, but generalisations arrived at by human observation, and are often provisional in character.
(2) Law, being based on classification, necessarily ignores individuality; freewill is by definition a function of individuality.
PROJECTION AND THE IDEA OF GOD
In the lives of the Saints and with other religious persons phenomena occur which are recognised as symptomatic of psycho-neurosis. But it is notably the morbid, not the healthy, elements in Religion that are so explicable.
Pathological symptoms often accompany genius. These perhaps due to (1) enhanced sensibility, (2) neurotic `over-compensation' increasing ` capacity to take pains'. Anyhow, the significance of these symptoms is no greater when they accompany eminence in Religion than when they accompany eminence in other pursuits. The idea of Hell Fire and the conditions of life in the cloister might cause or enhance a neurosis ; yet how are we to explain the exceptional vitality exhibited by many of the Saints ?
Evidence that, psychologically considered, Religion is a phenomenon characteristic, not of disease, but of health.
(1) Conversion, viewed psychologically, is a movement away from ` disassociation' towards 'integration' of the personality.
(2) Conclusions drawn from Abnormal Psychology do not always hold of Normal. The writers of Spiritual Autobiographies are not typical representatives of Religion. With the mass of men Religion is a force that makes for sanity and happiness. A psychological opinion in support of this. Religion is ` natural' to man, and corresponds to an inner `urge to completeness'.
(3) Neurosis may account for fanaticism, but not for insight, in Religion.
The element of truth in the statement that the idea of God is a projection. Man's reaction to the Universe must be emotionally as well as intellectually the right one; but an emotional, like an intellectual, reaction will be largely determined by previous experience. If God is ` our Heavenly Father', then the right reaction towards Him must be analogous to that of a child towards its father ; with the all-important proviso that we mean the reaction of a psychologically healthy child towards a good and sensible father, and not the pathological reaction known as a `father-complex'.
AUTO-SUGGESTION AND PRAYER
Auto-suggestion briefly described. Its effect depends upon suggestibility, that is, on capacity for accepting an idea in the subconscious, which once so accepted will work. A modern experiment showing that the stigmatisation of St. Francis was probably an extreme case of this phenomenon.
Three striking analogies between the mechanism of auto-suggestion and the methods of prayer practised by the saints and mystics.
Recalling our previous conclusion as to the relation of Divine activity to the reign of law, we note that auto-suggestion is merely a name for the psychological mechanism by which an idea is appropriated by the subconscious-quite apart from its truth or falsehood. If God exists, it does not matter by what name we call the psychological mechanism by which we appropriate a true idea of Him. Also, if God is `the Beyond that is also Within', it is only from within that we can know Him; we should therefore expect communion with Him to take place in accordance with the normal laws governing the internal operation of the mind.
Two essential differences between the method of M. Coup; and those of the mystics.
(1) In the system of M. Coue the idea is spontaneously chosen, and that without any regard to its truth. In Prayer the idea of God is given ; and it is accepted because it is conceived to be the Truth.
(2) Prayer is an ascent of the mind to that which is more real than
itself; auto-suggestion is a submission of the mind to an idea which is its own creation. The one is the inspiration of contact with a personality greater than the self ; the other is of the nature of ` dope'.
Prayer and the development of individuality.
A misgiving. May not some traditional methods of devotion tend in practice to confuse these distinctions-with the result that prayer may degenerate into something little better than pious auto-suggestion? The test of true prayer.
TELEPATHY AND INTERCESSION
Man is a social animal; if, therefore, petitionary prayer of any kind is justified, it must be concerned with the needs of others as well as with one's own.
But does it do them any good ? There is evidence that it does. This granted, light may possibly be thrown on the way in which it works by the obscure phenomenon known as `telepathy'.
Psychic influence appears to be exercised by one mind on another (1) where persons are actually present, (2) more rarely, at a distance.
But prayer for others is in no sense an attempt to practise telepathy, much less hypnosis at long range; it is addressed to God. Yet it may well be that, when a mind is raised above its normal level through the act of communion with the Divine, God uses any latent psychic powers of that mind to fulfil His own purposes. If He does this, we should expect these powers to operate in accordance with the laws (at present very little known) of telepathy.
Caution against the tendency to think of God as a benevolent thirdparty, wholly external both to him who prays and to him for whom prayer is made. A `myth' about what happens wheat we pray for others.
In Him all live and move and have their being; in prayer this fact is consciously realised.
VISION AND POWER
From the psychological fact that an idea, once accepted into the depths of the subconscious, produces remarkable results, we deduce the vital importance of a right conception of God.
The harm done by Idolatry, that is to say, by the setting up before the mind's eye of a conception of God which is not the highest. Christians have often, in effect, been guilty of this by not being sufficiently thoroughgoing in thinking of God in terms of Christ.
But if God is conceived of in terms of Christ, Psychology suggests a mechanism by which the Vision of such a God, appropriated in prayer, may be transformed into Power-perhaps with world-shaking results.
If Vision is to inspire to high achievement, there is need, on psychological grounds, of a dynamic symbol which can serve as a rallying standard. Such a standard we have in the Cross of Christ.
RELIGION AND THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY
THE REIGN OF LAW
MUCH illumination, and also much confusion, in regard to Religion and Ethics has resulted from recent developments in Psychology. The confusion has resulted, always and necessarily, whenever it is not clearly realised that it is futile to discuss the subject of the relation of Psychology and Religion until and unless one has-provisionally at any rate-made up one's mind whether or no the Power behind the Universe is conscious or unconscious, alive or dead. In other words, it is pure waste of time to ask the meaning of the psychological data in religious experience or belief unless one has first answered the question whether, apart from these data, the existence of God is a probable or an improbable hypothesis.
If, on other grounds, we have decided that there is no God, then obviously the Psychology of Religion becomes nothing more or less than the study of the origin, the quaint variations, the mechanism and the effects, of the human delusion that a God or gods exist. If on the other hand we have, at any rate provisionally, decided that the Ultimate Reality is alive and conscious, then we may expect that a scientific study of the psychological aspect of the reactions of man to the Infinite will be extremely fruitful of results. In particular, it should do much to provide criteria which will help us to distinguish the element of truth from that admixture of delusion which is only what we should expect to find in the religious, as in the scientific or the political, conceptions of the human mind in their early stages.
For reasons such as those briefly summarised in the earlier chapters of this volume, I hold that the balance of probability to put it at its lowest-is on the side of the hypothesis that Ultimate Reality is of the nature of Conscious Life. In that case the problem of the bearing on Religion of the New Psychology raises again the old question of the relation of the Divine activity to the reign of law, first clearly posed when Newton displayed the mechanism of the heavenly spheres, and raised in a still more acute form when Darwin formulated the Law of Evolution.
The laws of Psychology, so far as they are ascertained or ascertainable, are laws of Nature; and, if we regard the laws of Astronomy and Biology as formulae descriptive of the mechanism by and through which the Divine activity finds self expression, it cannot be otherwise with the laws of Psychology. Also, if there are laws which govern the working of the human mind, then we should expect that, if there be any apprehension of the Divine by the human mind, it will be in accordance with those laws.
When Darwin published his Origin of Species there were many who saw in it the death-blow both to Religion and Morality. It seemed to put a blind mechanical abstraction called Evolution on the throne of God, and to substitute the Struggle for Existence for the Law of Love. In an earlier chapter I have shewn the fallacy of this deduction. What Darwin had discovered was neither the nature of life nor the goal of its endeavour, but the road by which it had travelled. And his discovery illuminates, not so much the character or the purpose of the Power behind the Universe, as the mechanism by and through which He (or It) works. It is so with the New Psychology. This is a branch of Science ; it is not a metaphysic. For the student of Religion it will soon, I believe, be recognised as the most important of the sciences-for if salvation is of souls, a science that throws light on the mechanism of human thought and human conduct cannot but be of vital interest to practical religion. Again, those who wish to study the various conceptions which humanity has entertained as to the nature of God, or to estimate the practical value of different codes of morals, may find the facts which Psychology brings to light, and the laws which it can formulate, to be relatively more important than those given by any other science ; but that is all. No more than Astronomy or Biology does Psychology in itself provide either a philosophy of the Universe or a criterion of moral values (p. 342 ff.).
Primitive religion looks for evidence of Divine action mainly in the abnormal and the inexplicable, in the comet or the thunderbolt rather than in the sunrise or the growing blade-with the result that the narrow margin left for the recognition of any specifically Divine activity at all shrinks day by day with every advance of human knowledge. No small part of human progress has consisted in getting away from the conception of the Divine as essentially the irrational. The Greek philosophers achieved this along the line of the pure intellect; they saw the Universe as the expression of Reason. The Hebrew prophets did the same thing, but along another line; for them the idea of the ` holy' originally the awe-inspiring quality in irrational taboo was transmuted till it became the characteristic symbol of the ethically sublime. In our own time it is Science that is ever forcing men to complete the work which the Greek and the Hebrew began. Science is the great cleanser of human thinking; it makes impossible any religion but the highest.
When, however, one speaks of recent psychology as an extension to the sphere of the human mind of the scientific conception of the reign of law, there are two limiting considerations which must be borne in mind.
(1) Much attention has been given of late to an analysis of the conception of law as used by Science. It is no longer supposed that the great generalisations of Physics, Astronomy and Chemistry have the same kind of necessity as the deductions of pure Mathematics. The ` Laws of Nature ' are no longer regarded as eternal principles necessarily inherent in the nature of Reality ; they are rather man-made descriptions. A Law may perhaps be defined as ` a formula of limited degree of complexity',[1- See the interesting discussion by Air. Bertrand Russell in a recent reprint of Lange's History of Materialism, p. xiii ff. (Kegan Paul, 1925.)] which describes in a conveniently summary way uniformities of sequence and coexistence that observation has detected, and at the same time forms a coherent system with all other similar' formulae '. Since these laws enable us to predict occurrences, we have a security that they have a real correspondence with the structure of Reality. But the recent supersession of the Newtonian Law of Gravitation-`the most spectacular' demonstration of the reign of law-has advertised to the world at large, what was already known to thinkers, viz. that the universal validity of all the laws known to Science is limited by the fact that the observations on which they are based are, in the last resort, approximations. The margin of error is perpetually being reduced by improved observation, with the result that it is found sometimes that the law as previously stated holds good only up to a certain point, sometimes that a new law is required to describe the facts. Now Psychology is the youngest of the sciences ; it follows that the laws which it has so far formulated are likely to be provisional to an extent that does not hold of the older sciences.
(2) The - second consideration, though theoretically of universal application, is one which in practice affects Psychology more than any other branch of Science. Only so far as facts are identical in character can they be regarded as instances of a general law. Law is based upon classification ; but classification, as we have already seen (p. 83 ff.), is a method of handling a plurality of things by the simple device of ignoring their individuality. Where, as in Psychology, individuality is an important feature of the subject matter studied, this limitation of the scientific method of knowledge is at its maximum. It follows, therefore, that anything like a complete explanation of the working of the human mind in terms of law is from the nature of the case impossible. If this limitation is not constantly borne in mind, the application by Psychology of the scientific concept of law to the understanding of the human mind may lead rather to misunderstanding. One such misunderstanding is the widespread idea that the possibility of a successful application of the concept of law to the workings of the human mind entails the denial of Freewill. What, however, is meant by Freewill except the assertion that spontaneous individuality exists ? Individuality, we have seen (p. 88), can be perceived in the concrete instance : but, since it eludes classification, it must also elude explanation in terms of law. There is, therefore, always something in any human personality that cannot in this sense be ` explained'.
Since neither Psychology nor Religion can admit that any conscious human activity is outside its sphere, the points of contact between them are far too numerous to be dealt with in a single chapter. But the purpose of this book is not so much to solve particular problems, as to determine the general principles involved in a proper correlation of Religion with Science. It will, therefore, suffice if I illustrate these principles by an examination of three propositions which belong to the commonplace of discussion on this subject: viz. that the idea of God is a ` projection ', that prayer is a form of auto-suggestion, and that prayer for others works by telepathy. It will appear, if I mistake not, that in each of these propositions there is an element of truth and an element of error. The way will then be clear to outline briefly some considerations of a more positive character.
PROJECTION AND THE IDEA OF GOD 1
1 A few paragraphs and some of the arguments in this subsection are adapted from a paper, treating the same subject at greater length, but with a slightly different orientation, read by me to the Seventh International Congress of Psychology (192:3), and printed in their proceedings. (Cambridge University Press, 1924.) In some points I have modified views there expressed.
It is often said that belief in God is to be explained as a ` projection ' upon the Universe of the child's craving for a parent's protection, or of its passionate yearning for affection, surviving in the adult in a ` repressed' form; and that therefore Religion is a symptom that the person who exhibits it is suffering more or less acutely from a psycho-neurosis.
In support of this hypothesis evidence can be adduced from the lives of the Saints and the materials collected in books like William James' famous Varieties of Religious Experience. Phenomena here abound which are among the recognised symptoms of psycho-neurosis, such as a ` masochistic' delight in suffering, a preoccupation with inward states of feeling indicative of extreme 'introversion', a type of straining egoism which suggests a ` psychic over-compensation ' for an ` inferiority complex '.
Candidly, I cannot help feeling that many of these people would have been much the better for a course of treatment on psychotherapeutic lines. But the result of such treatment, I feel sure, would have been, not to cure them of Religion, but to give their religion a much saner and more healthy turn. At this point, however, it is again of the first importance for the reader clearly to recognise the assumptions, whether conscious or subconscious, which he is making in regard to the Universe. If he starts with the assumption that there is no God, then the widespread delusion to the contrary will be one of the things which he may hope to explain by the study of these phenomena. But if on other grounds he is inclined to believe that God exists, he will be the more confirmed in that belief by the discovery that it is just those perverse, morbid and unworthy elements in human Religion--that have made Religion seem the source of so much evil--which are most easily explicable as pathological in origin.
At any rate, we must beware of ruling out of court every activity in which any person of the neurotic temper has excelled. If we begin doing that, we cannot stop short at Religion. There is a proverbial saying, Genius is akin to madness; and very many men of genius have shown signs of being to some extent neurotic. If to admit that is to throw discredit on all their work, a clean sweep will be made, not only of most of the Poetry, Art and Architecture of the world, but also of much scientific discovery and mechanical invention. This association of genius with psycho-neurosis is, I believe, explicable.
(1) Genius is essentially the capacity to perceive things which escape the notice of the average man ; that means that it involves a more than ordinary sensitiveness to impressions. A razor is more easily notched than an axe, and enhanced sensitiveness cannot but be accompanied by increased liability to injury. The potential genius, then, even if exposed to no more than the ordinary risks in early life, may easily sustain psychological injury from 'traumata' which hardly affect a more ordinary child, and may thus become to some extent psycho-neurotic. When, then, genius and psycho-neurosis coexist, the genius is not the effect of the neurosis ; they are parallel effects of a more than ordinary sensibility to impressions.
(2) A psycho-neurosis is always an element of at least potential weakness; but, as Adler has shown,[1 .The Neurotic Constitution, passim, E.T. (Moffat Yard and Kegan Paul, 1917.) ] the effort of the psyche to over-compensate for a subconscious feeling of inferiority often leads the individual to concentrate exceptional energy upon some pursuit for which he has a natural aptitude. Given the requisite ability, this effort may lead to outstanding achievement in that particular field. This is the psychological basis for the element of truth in the definition of genius as ` an infinite capacity for taking pains '. Plato long ago pointed out that perfect health is in practice often a bar to intellectual achievement. A vigorous healthy young man is usually distracted by too many other interests ; some physical disability, `the bridle of Theages ', is generally needed, he thought, to turn men to philosophy. Perhaps the same thing applies to perfect psychic health.
The fact, then, that in the history of Religion, genius and neurosis are sometimes found together, is neither more nor less significant than is the same thing when it occurs in persons of artistic or scientific gifts. But in the case of Religion there have been, I suggest, other influences at work. First, the picture of Hell-fire vividly presented to an imaginative and hypersensitive child would in itself suffice to produce a psychological trauma. And so long as European thought was dominated by this conception, the religion of maturity would intensify the injury. Secondly, much of the evidence comes from the cloister; but the life of tile cloister, especially in the Middle Ages,[1.- But the sadistic cruelty, senseless treacheries, and sexual extravagances of so many persons of high position, and the wide prevalence of phenomena of dissociation like witchcraft and demon-possession suggest the conclusion that neurosis was far more prevalent among sinners than saints. Indeed, in view of the violence and brutality of the times, the wonder is that any one could have escaped some serious psychological trauma in early life. ] was in some of its features admirably adapted to enhance neurotic tendencies already existing in the individual, and therefore to elicit in an exaggerated form the symptoms which are their normal expression. But this consideration is double-edged. The austerities endured, and the lives lived year after year by some of the saints, were enough to kill any ordinary person in six months. Somehow and somewhence these people must have secured some special enhancement of vitality; and this at least suggests the possibility that in Religion itself there is a health-creating power which may go some way to counteract a psycho-neurosis which has originated from some other cause.
Pursuing this suggestion, we soon come across evidence which points towards the conclusion that Religion, so far from being a pathological symptom, is psychologically considered a phenomenon characteristic; not of disease, but of health.
(1) Perhaps the most interesting religious phenomenon investigated by James and Starbuck is that of conversion. Now conversion, whatever we may think of its religious significance, is from the psychological standpoint the successful resolution of a state of inner conflict. It is a movement within the personality from a condition of ` dissociation ' in the direction of ` integration '. That is to say, conversion, from the psychological aspect, is not a disease symptom but a movement towards restored health. To this view it will, perhaps, be objected that an inner conflict within the personality is sometimes brought to an end, not by cure, but by a complete identification of the self with some fantasy, and that the convert's idea that he is a child of God may be a fantasy of this character. To this objection my reply would be that in ordinary medical practice such. complete surrender of the self to a fantasy is usually what is called a ` defensive neurosis ', that is, a device of the subconscious mind of the patient to enable him to escape finally from the difficulties and toils of real life. I frankly concede that this explanation may well apply to certain individuals who fly to the cloister to escape the temptations and struggles of life in the world. But a theory which proposes to explain a phenomenon must be capable of explaining it where it appears in its most pronounced form ; and this theory fails to explain the phenomenon of Religion in some of its most striking cases, e.g. the Apostle Paul, St. Francis of Assisi, John Wesley, or General Booth. These men, as a result of conversion, entered upon a life of action which they saw from the first must increase beyond measure any hardships and difficulties they would otherwise have had to meet. I am personally acquainted with religious leaders at the present day who display a power of initiative, organisation, concentrated purpose, and prolonged mental and physical effort, equal if not superior to that of the great statesmen or commercial magnates of our time. The idea that such a man, for example, as Dr. J. R. Mott, the founder of the World Student Christian Movement, is one who has fled to fantasy as a refuge from reality, will be greeted with derision by those who know him.
(2) The functioning of an organism in a healthy state and its functioning when diseased are not the same thing.[1- I owe this point to a lecture by my friend, Br. William Brown. ]
Where the body is concerned, this distinction is recognised as so vital that Physiology and Pathology are classed as separate sciences. And, if we regard Psychology (as the new school does) as an extension of Biology, we are bound to recognise an analogous distinction between Normal and Pathological Psychology. Physiology and Pathology are always throwing light on one another, and it must be the same with Normal and Abnormal Psychology; but their interaction will cease to be beneficial the moment it is forgotten that the functioning of an organism when diseased is not the same as its functioning when healthy, and that therefore conclusions which may be suggested by the psychology of abnormal cases do not necessarily and without qualification hold good of normal persons.
The importance of this consideration in regard to Religion is this. The great mass of healthy-minded persons do not often talk about, still less put in writing, their religious experiences. The people who write spiritual autobiographies - even when, like Newman, they are driven to it by external circumstances-are usually introspective above the average ; often they are of the type who are unhealthily interested in their inner state. But this means that the evidence which the psychologist has available for his studies has been, as it were, put through a sieve ; the great mass of the material available for study comes either from the self-revelations of the more introverted, and even neurotic, of religious people, or else from the reports of the medical practitioner who is dealing with patients ex hypothesi abnormal. To concentrate attention on the neurotic element which may be detected in these cases is to mistake the circumference for the centre. Normally, Religion is a force which makes for sanity and happiness, as well as for morality, in the life both of the individual and of the community.
In this connexion I may quote a remark made to me by a continental psychologist of world-fame to the effect that ` as a result of his therapeutical practice he had come to the conclusion that for complete psychological health mankind requires, either a religion, or some substitute for Religion which has not yet been discovered'. And he obviously regretted that he himself did not intellectually see his way clear to either alternative. I may also refer to an illuminating suggestion worked out by my friend Dr. J. A. Hadfield.[1 - Psychology and Morals, chs. viii.-xiii. (Methuen, 1923.) Also, in the `Conference' number of the Modern Churchman, September 1914. (Blackwell.) ]
That ` urge to completeness ', he argues, which on the physical side of the organism expresses itself in growth, in the healing of wounds and even (in the lower types of organism) in the renewal of lost limbs, has a psychological counterpart. The ' completeness ' towards which the psychological urge is reaching includes absence of conflict within the self and a felt harmony of the individual both with his social environment and with the Universe at large. This harmony, as a matter of fact, can only be attained by the building up of an ethical personality in which the instincts are duly sublimated and subordinated to a dominant ideal. But in so far as the ` urge to completeness ' demands harmony with the whole environment, i.e. with the Universe, it forms the psychological basis of Religion. It is the subjective need for which a true religion provides the objective satisfaction. On this theory Religion is seen to be eminently `natural ' to man ; and the need for it-though in pathological subjects it may take a pathological form-is in itself an evidence of vital energy in the individual. The theory also points to there being a psychological verification of St. Augustine's famous saying, ` Thou didst make us for Thyself; and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee '.
(3) If Religion originates in psycho-neurosis, we ought to be able to discover some kind of relation between the quality of a man's religious conviction and the extent of his neurosis. The intensity of a religious, as of any other, conviction might, in itself, be explained in psycho-neurotic terms ; but its quality is a different matter. Putting it in another way, fanaticism may well be a pathological symptom; insight is not. In almost every asylum there is some one who is quite convinced that he is the Messiah; so was Jesus Christ-but that is the end of the resemblance between them.
This somewhat tedious controversy about religion and psychoneurosis has led many to overlook the important element of truth in the statement that the idea of God is a `projection'. The Universe is a thing to be lived in, as well as an object of scientific study. Hence, as I have already (p. 67) had occasion to insist, we cannot avoid an emotional reaction towards Reality as well as an intellectual. The important thing is to make sure that in both cases our reaction is the right one, that is, the one most appropriate to the actual character of Reality. To ascertain the intellectual reaction most appropriate is the business of Science and Philosophy; the securing of the appropriate emotional reaction is more particularly the concern of Religion.
Between the intellectual and emotional reactions there is an analogy-which I think has been commonly overlooked. Understanding, in the scientific sense, depends on seeing a relation between a phenomenon newly observed and others previously observed. That is to say, intellectual understanding necessitates the constant reference of new facts to what I may call ` intellectual complexes ' which are the result of previous experience. Now emotional understanding works in a not dissimilar way. In everyday life we all of us 'sense' hostility, friendliness and the like, in other persons by an instinctive reference to the emotional reactions which their presence excites ; these reactions depend on ` feeling-complexes ' born of past experience. In much the same way, I suggest, our emotional reaction to Reality must be to a large extent determined by already existent ` feeling complexes'. Our psychic constitution is such that we normally react along the line of some channel worn, so to speak, by previous emotional experience. Now, if the Power behind things can, as I have argued, be properly conceived of as a Living God-of whom Christ is the portrait-then the only channel at all adequate for the right direction of the emotional reaction of man to God is that worn by the child's experience of its parents. And clearly, the better the parents the less inadequate the channel.
Now where a child has sensible and good parents, its emotional reaction towards them is healthy; its psychological attitude towards them is then what is sometimes technically expressed by the word ` sentiment' rather than ` complex'.[1- On the distinction between a healthy 'sentiment' and a neurotic ` complex ', see J. A. Hadfield, Psychology and Morals, p. 20 ff. (Methuen, 1923.)
But grave faults in character in one or both of the parents, or grave errors in their treatment of the child, frequently impart to the relation between parent and child a pathological character ; the child, in the technical phrase, grows up with a `father-complex ' or (and) a `mother-complex '. Where this is the case, a neurotic element in his or her religion would seem to be almost inevitable. Where, however, the relation between the child and its parents has been thoroughly healthy, an emotional channel has been worn, a ` sentiment' has grown up, on the lines of which a sound and healthy emotional reaction towards God may be developed. When Christ told man to think of, and feel towards, God as `your heavenly Father', He was in effect inviting them to ` project' this ` father-sentiment ' upon the Universe; but it was the healthy `sentiment' and not the pathological ` complex ' that He meant.
` Our Father' ;--among fighting races social ideals tend to an overemphasis on strength and justice as the characteristic virtues of the male, on tenderness as the special virtue of the female. The ideal character must obviously be a harmony of all these virtues ; and it is noteworthy that they are all found completely harmonised in the Christ. He, then, can suffice to be our portrait of the Divine Father. But in epochs when the Gospels could be read by few, but when the Last Judgment, with Christ on the Judgment Throne terrifically pictured on stone or glass, was always before men's eyes, it was perhaps impossible to preserve the element of tenderness in the Divine without adoring Mary also as the Queen of Heaven.
AUTO-SUGGESTION AND PRAYER
Through the fame of M. Coue', auto-suggestion has become a household word. But his theoretical account of the process, most fully expounded by his disciple Baudouin,1-(1 Suggestion and AutoSuggestion, E.T. (Allen and Unwin, 1920.)differs more in balance of emphasis than in fundamental conception from the theory of hypnotic suggestion previously maintained by Prof. McDougall 2-(2 Cf. Art. " Hypnotism " in Encyclopedia Britannica.) and other authorities. These hold that in hypnotic suggestion there is no magic influence, there is no subtle fluid passing from the physician to the patient, there is no imposition of superior will-power. What happens is this. The physician presents an idea to the patient's mind at a time and under conditions when the patient will accept it without question and without reserve. The critical faculty, the resistive impulse, is temporally inhibited, with the result that the idea penetrates right down into the subconscious,3-( I use the word ` sub-conscious ' rather than ` unconscious ' or ` foreconscious', as being less definitely associated with any particular theory of its nature. Some word is required to describe that part of the mind which happens for the time being to be outside the field of full consciousness. But no hard-and-fast line can be drawn. Most of what is in the subconscious can on occasion come into the field of consciousness, while anything in the conscious mind may be withdrawn from consciousness.) and then begins to work. But the extent to which the idea 'works' depends, not on any magic gift in the physician, but on the receptivity of the patient, that is, on the degree to which the suggestion has been accepted.
The Baudouin-Coue' theory says that this means, in effect, that all suggestion is in the last resort autosuggestion ; for to say that a suggestion proceeding from the physician operates only as and when accepted by the patient is virtually to say that it operates as and when it becomes an auto-suggestion. Accordingly, in this view, all that is required is to teach the patient how to practise auto-suggestion, that is, how to present the right idea to his own mind under the conditions favourable to maximum receptivity. And it is claimed that, as a matter of experience, in cases where the patient has learnt the lesson, cures are effected more rapidly and more thoroughly by auto-suggestion than where the physician continues himself to employ hetero-suggestion.
The value of auto-suggestion as a therapeutic method, or the possible dangers attending its indiscriminate use, are matters on which I am not competent to pronounce. I have mentioned M. Coue' solely because through him public interest has been excited in phenomena the existence of which was previously known only to specialists, and of which the real nature is still very imperfectly understood. But however obscure the nature of the phenomena, and however difficult the question of the right limits of the use of suggestion in medicine, it appears to be an established fact that human beings, though to a very variable degree, are ` suggestible '. They are capable of accepting an idea in the depths of the subconscious, and an idea once so accepted by the subconscious works-setting up, as it were, a kind of fermentation which may result, not merely in mental and nervous, but even in physical, changes.
A striking experiment is recorded in The Lancet., 1-(1 ° The Influence of Hypnotic Suggestion on Inflammatory Conditions', J. A. Hadfield, The Lancet, November 3, 1917.)In the presence of two other medical men, the experimenter told a hypnotised subject that he was about to be touched by a red-hot iron ; one of the other doctors, as previously arranged, then put his finger gently on the subject's arm. He cried out as if touched by a hot iron; the arm was bandaged and the bandage sealed. Next day the bandage was removed, and on the spot touched was found a small blister of the same size and nature as one subsequently produced on the same subject by an actual touch of hot iron. It would seem that during the night the subconscious mind of the patient, convinced that an actual burn had been inflicted, had set in motion the complicated train of operations in blood-vessels and tissues which would have been the natural reaction of the organism to an actual physical burn. Persons as susceptible to suggestion as this one are extremely rare ; but I have quoted the case in order to put side by side with it the still more remarkable, but well attested, story of St. Francis of Assisi, who, after a long period of meditation on the Passion of Our Lord culminating in a vision of a crucified cherub, was found to have imprinted on his hands and feet dark blister-like protrusions corresponding to the wounds of Christ. This experience of St. Francis and other incidents of a similar character seem to bear out the contention that auto-suggestion may be as powerful as, if not even more powerful than, heterosuggestion ; it also fits in with the theory that the principal agent in suggestion is the patient's own acceptance of the idea suggested, not some mysterious influence proceeding from the physician. Indeed it would seem as if the main law governing the operation of auto-suggestion might be expressed in the formula ` according to thy faith be it done unto thee '. This is a discovery which raises questions of a far-reaching character both for Philosophy and Religion: for if under certain circumstances an idea-an entity purely mental can directly initiate changes in the material sphere, we seem to catch a fleeting glimpse of mind in the act of creating.
We may now proceed to ask, What is the exact relation between the method of auto-suggestion as recommended by M. Coue' and the Christian practice of prayer ? M. Baudouin lays stress on three empirical generalisations.
(1) The power of an idea to work is largely dependent on its emotional associations. A mere intellectual concept, unless there is connected with it some feeling like hope, fear, attraction or repulsion, will produce little or no elect. So the saints have always held that mere intellectual belief about God is of small value; the faith which makes prayer effective must be grounded in love.
(2) Coue' holds that a general suggestion, such as ` Day by day, in all respects, I am getting better and better', is more potent than particular suggestions which concentrate attention on the details of the patient's ailment. Care is taken, however, to give him a preliminary suggestion, mentioning in detail the main forms and conditions of physical and mental health, so that the ` general suggestion ' which follows is actually to the patient's mind a kind of summarising formula full of concrete content, not a mere abstract phrase. Similarly in prayer the saints have deprecated too great concentration on points of detail, and recommended concentration on comprehensive ideas such as the love of God or His saving power; but this will generally follow confession of particular sins and will include mention of particular needs.
(3) A preliminary quiescence of the whole mind is required, leading up to a concentration of attention on a single idea. But this concentration is effective in proportion as the patient becomes able to maintain it with a minimum of voluntary effort. Baudouin points out the resemblance between this state of mind and that arrived at by some of the Indian methods of Yoga. He does not point out its resemblance to a state of mind such as that recommended as a preliminary to devotion by some of the Christian mystics; but consider this by St. Peter of Alcantara.
In meditation let the person rouse himself from things temporal, and let him collect himself within himself-that is to say, within the very centre of his soul, where lies impressed the very image of God. Here let him hearken to the voice of God as though speaking to him from on high, yet present in his soul, as though there were no other in the world save God and himself.'
1. Quoted in !1 Little Book of Life and Death, p. 128 (E. Waterhouse, (Methuen.)
We notice that the points of contact between prayer and autosuggestion are at their maximum in meditation and the `prayer of quiet', that is, when prayer takes on its highest and most characteristically Christian form and has moved furthest from the primitive pagan conception of inducing the gods to do man's will.2-(On the fundamental antithesis between the Christian and Pagan conceptions of Prayer, cf. A. L. Lilley, Prayer in Christian Theology, pp. 1-10. (Student Christian Movement, 1925.)
Our theory of the relation of the Divine activity to the reign of law in Nature could hardly be submitted to a more crucial test. Clearly there is some relation between the laws of human Psychology such as those above described and that communion with God of which the saints speak-with its resultant enhancement of mental and spiritual energy, and often of physical endurance as well. Are we, then, to say that prayer is auto-suggestion-and nothing more ?
Once again I must point out that the answer we give to this question will depend entirely upon the answer we give to the prior question, Does God exist ? If there is no God, then, of course, prayer is based upon illusion. But if God does exist, does it matter what name we give to the psychological mechanism by means of which the belief that He exists-and all that it involves-comes to be accepted below the merely surface consciousness in the inmost depths of my being ? Suppose the belief to be true ; then, once accepted into the subconscious, it will 'work' and will produce results in thought and action ; and the results will surely be good. When to the psychological mechanism of such acceptance the name ` auto-suggestion ' is given, the question of the truth or falsehood of the idea accepted is simply left unraised. But he who prays has raised that question, and has answered that the idea is true. Prayer is-or at least includes-the absolute surrender of the self, subconscious as well as conscious, to an idea-the idea of God as a present, personal, spiritual Being. But it is the truth of the idea, not the mechanism of its acceptance, that makes it to be prayer.
There is a further consideration. Suppose God to be an infinite, omnipresent, conscious Being likely to wish for some kind of personal converse with His little children according to the capacity of their powers of recognition. If God is ` the Beyond that is also Within ', it is only from within that we can know Him. How otherwise, then, should we expect Him to communicate with finite minds if not in accordance with the laws which govern the internal operations of those minds ? A human friend I can know by sight and touch, but from the nature of the case I can never see or touch the Infinite, the All Pervading. What must here correspond to the external vision of my friend is my idea of God, the thought of Him that I entertain. And if God should be properly conceived as Creative Love, then it is the qualitative aspect of my conception of Him that is most important; and that means that He can only communicate Himself to me if my 'idea' of Him is such as to educe an appropriate emotional response. Again, only if I surrender myself completely to this idea, so that it possesses my subconscious as well as my conscious mind, can I really appropriate it. For only so does it cease to be mere idea and become part of my actual life. Life, we have seen, cannot be intellectually understood; but it can be appreciated by life of a similar quality (p. 105). The Infinite Life, then, can reveal Himself to those within whom life similar in quality to His own has begun to be generated. This involves a submission of the mind to an idea of God; but it is an aspiring submission to a living idea.
The methods of auto-suggestion, considered from a purely psychological point of view, are very like those advocated by the Mystics as preliminary to the `prayer of quiet'. But these are only methods. Between M. Coue' and the Mystics there are two essential differences.
(1) In the system of M. Coue' the idea selected for concentration is spontaneously chosen, whether by the patient himself or his physician; and it is selected without any special regard to its truth or falsehood. In prayer the idea of God is not chosen but given, and it is accepted because it is felt to stand for ultimate truth.
(2) Prayer is ascensio mentis ad deem, a flight upwards, an offering of the mind to that which is morereal than the self; auto-suggestion is a swoop downwards, a submission of the mind to an idea which is a creature of its own.1 1 It may be that he who prays has achieved an idea of God as a result of long thought and inquiry, which is slightly different from the idea entertained by those around him, and is, in that sense, his own idea. But even so, he holds it, not because it is his idea, but because he is convinced that it is the true idea.)
Prayer brings the inspiration which comes from contact with a personality greater than one's own ; auto-suggestion in the last resort is of the nature of `dope '.
If Life is a principle of individuation (p. 90), the higher the life the richer will be its individuality. The ideal life, therefore, must not be thought of as an exact reproduction of a standard pattern ; even the imitation of Christ will be bad, if conceived mechanically. Standardisation is for machinery, not for souls ; and what would be perfection in a billiard ball (p. 130) is futility in a saint. This fact has a bearing, which I think has not been pointed out before, on the ideal and the methods of prayer. Desires vary with the individual; reason, so far as it functions correctly, is the same for all men. Character is individualised life, considered from the standpoint of its quality; but both the test and expression of the quality of a personality are to be seen in its dominant desires. Now no desire is ever quite the same after it has been offered up before God in prayer ; a desire which has found expression in prayer is inevitably purified and elevated. Prayer, therefore, is the training ground for character; we make it difficult for God to purify our desires unless we submit them to Him. But to climb a ladder we must begin at the bottom rung; and we must pray for the things of which we really feel our need, as well as for the things which we think, or know, we ought to want saying not only ` Thy will be done', but also, `give us this day our daily bread '. Morality, say the psychologists (cf. Appendix II.), is best achieved, not by crushing, but by 'sublimating' natural instincts. Just so, if God's aim is to develop individuality, rather than to lop it down to a standard pattern, our actual desires are the material He needs to work upon.
This last consideration is obviously one of the first importance in regard to the much-discussed question of the petitionary element in prayer. But to work that point out here would entail too long a digression. I feel, however, impelled to utter a misgiving. There is,I suspect, something seriously at fault in much of the traditional teaching and practice in regard to methods of devotion. Only under exceptional circumstances can the human mind remain for any long time on the mountain-tops of aspiration, vision or endeavour. A danger lies here. Prayer too long continued, especially if mechanical repetitions and the drill of a devotional system be invoked to sustain it, may easily and insensibly slip down to the level of mere auto suggestion. It may even become a ' pious habit ' of mental vacuity which may blunt the edge of understanding, quench initiative, dull the moral sense.
That hypothesis, at least, would explain why it has so often happened that those who have been the first to stone the prophets have been among the most devout. It would explain, too, the intellectual and moral sterility of so many of the best-intentioned supporters of organised religion. True prayer must be that which succeeds in being (what all prayer aspires to be) a realised contact with Creative Spirit-the Spirit that makes all things new. If so, the test in one's own life whether prayer is really prayer, or merely pious auto suggestion, will be the extent to which it inspires to bold and constructive action and to moral and intellectual initiative.
TELEPATHY AND INTERCESSION 1
1 This subsection is a rewriting of part of the paper, ' Creative Prayer', published in the Conference number of The Modern Churchman, 1924.
Man is an animal-capable, so Christ taught, of becoming a son of God. Man is a herd animal; and as this animal-growing in that love of God and that love of man which naturally expresses itself in prayer and active service-comes nearer to being a son of God, the herd is not left behind ; it is slowly transformed into a consciously God-indwelt society, it becomes the Kingdom of God on earth. Prayer, in its mechanism, may be likened to autosuggestion, but in its essence it is a right orientation of the soul towards God. Conceive God as our Heavenly Father, and it is unnatural not to lay before Him our own hopes and needs, our interests or our fears. Petitionary prayer, then, is the expression of a sound instinct so long as we regard it, not as a means of extorting something from a grudging Deity, but as the spontaneous expression to our Father of wants which we deeply feel, and which it would be hypocrisy to pretend that we did not. These we submit to God, not because we distrust His goodness or desire to bend His will to ours, but because He is our friend. Similarly it would be unnatural not to submit to God the needs of others, and our hopes and fears on their behalf. If our own soul's life is developing in the right direction, we know that we shall find ourselves growing in the capacity of loving our neighbour as ourselves. If, then, we do not find ourselves desiring to pray for others-in the same sense and in the same way as we pray for ourselves-that surely is a symptom that we are not travelling in the right direction.
But, we go on to ask, Does intercessory prayer really benefit the persons prayed for ? Is anything actually effected by it ?
That prayer for others has, as a matter of fact, been followed in point of time by benefit to the persons prayed for, is a conclusion for which can be adduced a large amount of weighty testimony. But that the prayer is the cause of the benefit, that in these cases post hoc is equivalent to propter hoc, is a matter not easy to establish on evidence which is, scientifically speaking, adequate; especially as it is not difficult to produce negative instances of individuals who have been prayed for fervently by their well-wishers without any obvious benefit resulting. Nevertheless, the testimony of the saints-using the term ` saint' to include that great multitude of the uncanonised whose real goodness based on common sense gives their opinion no less weight than that of some among those officially canonised cannot be ignored; and I will venture to assume that there is evidence that intercessory prayer has-at any rate in some cases and under some conditions-brought benefit to persons on whose behalf it was offered. On that assumption, I ask the question, If so, how and why ?
To this question I do not profess to have any answer which I should care to put forward as a considered philosophy of the subject. But I will outline, for what it may be worth, the hypothesis-or perhaps instead of ` hypothesis ' I should rather say the ` imaginative picture '-which at the moment presents itself as plausible to my own mind.
(1) I cannot help thinking that each one of us is a centre of a kind of psychic radio-activity, which may be either baneful or beneficial to others. That such influence operates upon persons actually present for the time being is a matter of everyday experience. There are people whose mere presence in a room promotes cheerfulness ; there are others who are a dead weight of depression ; while others have the baleful gift of producing an atmosphere of nervous excitability and tension. Again, the difference between the effect upon an audience of one actor or another playing the same part, or of two different singers giving the same song, is not to be accounted for merely by superiority in technique or physical gifts.-1. The most remarkable example of this power of creating `atmosphere ' (in this case, one of peace) among persons I have met is Sadhu Sundar Singh and I connect this with the fact that he spends so much of his life in prayer.
(2) There is a good deal of evidence that communication between one mind and another is possible without visible or audible means, and even over a considerable distance of space. To this phenomenoncall it `influence ', if ' communication ' seems too definite a word-the name 'telepathy' has been given. Some of my scientific friends, I candidly admit, tell me that they are not quite convinced that telepathy has yet been proved. Nevertheless, with all due respect to their judgement, I do regard it as proved, for this reason. Much of the evidence submitted to establish the possibility of communication with departed spirits is of such nature that, as it seems to me, one is forced to choose between one of two hypotheses-either communication is possible with the spirits of the departed, or there is such a thing as telepathic communication between living minds. Since, then, there is very respectable evidence for telepathic communication between the living, quite apart from that which would also fit in with the spiritualist hypothesis, the existence of evidence explicable on either view seems to me to weight the balance in favour of the hypothesis of
telepathy. Having, however, said this, I would hasten to add that the word `telepathy' explains nothing; it is merely a convenient name for a phenomenon which has so far eluded scientific analysis. But the name is as convenient as any other, so long as we do not allow ourselves to be deluded into supposing that the naming of a phenomenon is equivalent to its explanation.
Are we then to conclude that prayer for others is a form of telepathy ? If by that is meant an attempt to exercise upon absent persons a kind of hypnotism intended to do them spiritual or other good, the answer I am inclined to give is, No. I cannot accept a view which would make prayer a form of long-range persuasion practised by invisible means. There is such a method of attempting influence, which is often called ` absent treatment ' ; and there is a certain amount of evidence that some people can and do produce effects upon others in this way. Whether the evidence will bear scientific examination or not, I do not know ; but, even if that were granted, a process of this kind, however beneficial, could not properly be called prayer-any more than giving a hungry person a meal could be called `praying for them', though, under certain circumstances, it might be the more Christian thing to do. The essence of prayer is that it is addressed to God ; and intercession is prayer which expresses a desire that He may do something for the other person, or inspire them to do something for themselves. When I pray to God for some one, I am not regarding God as a kind of telephonic exchange for effecting Communication between my mind and that of my friend.
If prayer were thought of merely as a telepathic process it would cease to be prayer (though it might still be quite a good thing). Nevertheless our principle that God works in and through the laws of Psychology suggests the hypothesis that the kind of psychic rapport between individuals of which telepathic phenomena are an evidence, may be a means by which God, through us, may effect His own good purposes. If God uses the medical skill of a doctor to preserve a life which otherwise would be lost, if he uses the charitable disposition of a millionaire to save refugees from starvation, if He uses the persuasiveness of a preacher to turn sinners to repentance, there is no reason why He should not use the `psychic radioactivity' (supposing such a thing exists) of any individual to produce a change of heart in an erring friend, or the hope which will stimulate vitality in a sick one.
The difficulty of clear thinking on this question is that the nature of the human mind is such that we inevitably tend to think of God as a kind of superintelligent benevolent `third party ', wholly external both to me and to him for whom I pray. But God is not a `third party' ; He is not wholly outside any existent thing ; in Him all of us `live and move and have our being'. The exact extent to which the individual soul is a part of, or is separate from, the Infinite Spirit, is a matter on which philosophers have said much, and will say more.. My own belief is that this is a region where, from the nature of the human intellect, conceptual thinking can no longer trust its methods, and that it is better, frankly resorting to thinking in pictures, to frame a myth. And my myth is this. Suppose I pray for my friend John, lying on a sick-bed, say, in Birmingham, what happens ? First of all, if I am praying as a Christian should, I start with the realisation that John is far dearer to
God than he is to me, and that God knows the exact needs of John in a way I could not do, even if I was actually standing at his bedside. Suppose I was standing at the bedside, I might by some small service, by suggesting a cheerful thought, or by the sympathy and encouragement of silent presence, very materially modify the mental attitude, the hope and courage, of my friend. By so doing I might turn the scale in the battle which is going on between the forces of disease on the one side and the vital principle, backed by the doctor's and nurses' skill, on the other. Is it not possible that an influence coming from me at a distance might have similar results ? That, you will say, is mere telepathy. So it is: but, given that the me from whom that telepathic influence is flashed is, not just my ordinary self, but myself in spiritual communion with the Divine, then the situation is changed. The kind of influence flashed will be of an entirely different kind and quality to that which would be exercised if I was merely, `off my own bat' so to speak, trying a little bit of long-distance hypnotism-and that on a person of whose state of mind at that actual moment I am necessarily unaware, and whose real needs, whether medical or moral, I might gravely misapprehend even were I on the spot. Prayer for others should, I think, be largely, to use an old phrase, the effort to ` hold them before God' ; leaving it to Him to give them the thing they really need, but in spiritual concentration putting our personality, with all its faculties, known or unknown, explained or unexplained, at His service if haply, on this particular occasion and in this particular case, there may be anything in us which He will use.
That is my myth. But whatever may be thought of it, we are at least on safe ground if we say that prayer for others is a natural and inevitable expression of the fact that man is a social animal, who as he becomes more religious becomes not less but more social. As man advances in religious appreciation he advances in the love of man as well as in the love of God; and, as he grows in the realisation of sonship towards God, he grows in the realisation of his brotherhood to man. And it may be that the quality of prayer which is the expression of this growth makes us one with the Eternal Spirit in a way which enables our spirits also to transcend for the time being the barriers which mere space can normally erect between us and those we love. We and they alike ` live and move and have our being ' in Him ; the prayer which is an intensely conscious realisation of this may well have creative or curative power.
VISION AND POWER
That which is unseen can only be apprehended as idea-whether that be an abstract concept or a symbolic picture. If the Great Unseen is such that it is best spoken of, not as HE, but IT, then the truest idea we can have of IT will be some purely intellectual concept with little emotional content. In that case, by the laws of suggestion, it will not be the kind of idea which is likely, penetrating into the depths of the subconscious, to bring forth much fruit. But if, as the result of previous investigation, we have decided that the IT is more appropriately spoken of as HE, the case is altered. My idea of a living God cannot be a merely intellectual concept. According as I envisage His nature and His purpose, there will predominantly be connected with my idea of Him feelings either of terror, shrinking and abasement, or of joyful adoration, love and trust. But once accept into my inmost self an idea fraught
with emotion of either of these types, then by the fundamental laws of the nature of mind that idea must begin to work. And it will work like a ` general suggestion ', a formula summarising many particulars. It cannot but produce marked results-upon my whole outlook upon men and things, my temperament, my character, my nervous system, and, lastly, upon my physical wellbeing. And those results will be directly proportionate to the extent to which it has penetrated my whole self. According to my faith it will be done unto me.
But what will be done unto me ? Will those results be on the whole beneficent, or the contrary ? Necessarily, by the laws of mind, it follows that those results will be evil or good according as the emotions which I associate with the idea of God incline to be those of terror and shrinking, or those of love and trust. Merely from the standpoint of its psychological mechanism, prayer is akin to ' auto-suggestion '-that word being used as the technical psychological description of a selfdisposal of the mind which results in a man's completely ' taking in' an idea (presented under certain conditions) in such a way that the idea penetrates the subconscious as well as the conscious mind. If the idea is true, wholesome and sufficiently important, such self-disposal will be wholly beneficial; but if otherwise, it will be disastrous. Everything, therefore, depends on how we envisage the God to whom we pray.
This is a conclusion of tremendous import. The old Hebrew prophets were right in their denunciations of idolatry. For the essence of idolatry lies, not in the setting up of some graven image in a temple, but in the setting up before the mind's eye of any idea of God which is lower than the highest that our capacities or those of our age can grasp ; and idolatry is wrong, not because it is an affront to God, but because it is an injury to man. We are always hearing of the failure of official Christianity. That failure, I would urge, is in the main due to the fact that the Churches have never dared openly to break the idols of the past, and publicly discard certain ideas of God, and of His ways with man, which are no longer the highest that men can conceive, which indeed sometimes make God out to be in goodness and in good-sense inferior to man.1.- I recall a mot by Clutton-Brock. A Jesuit theologian ho was told, had explained that it was possible that infants dying unbaptized would enjoy after this life a felicity exceeding anything we can even imagine in this world; yet since they must suffer eternal deprivation of the Beatific Vision they will be technically in Hell. `That ', said Clutton-Brock, 'is an attempt to save the morality of God at the expense of His common sense.'
I cannot but think that some even of the greatest of the mystics have been mistaken in supposing the highest stage of the religious life to be that in which the soul `sinks into the vast darkness of the Godhead '. I would urge rather that the highest type of prayer is man's response to the 'message' (1 John i. 5) that `God is light.; and in him is no darkness at all'. Prayer rises to its highest, not by emptying the idea of God of all content, but by filling it so far as possible with the right content. And we do this best if, without forgetting the God revealed in Nature in its sublimity and beauty, we chiefly think of Him in terms of Christ. `Seeing it is God that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.'
Let us suppose a man to think of God in terms of Christ, to be convinced, that is, that God is sublimely sensible, absolutely reliable, wholly loving; suppose further that, through something like the `prayer of quiet'-concentrated but not, I think, too long continued-he were to allow that vision, that idea, to `work' in his subconscious mind. Should we not expect such a one to achieve enhancement of vitality, conquest of temptation, superiority to pain, triumph over circumstance ? For him vision would be translated into power. And suppose, not one man, but a great company were to see that vision and appropriate it, then, in their united power, would not the Kingdom of God be at hand ?
` If ye have faith . . . ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed . . . .' No word of the Master has seemed so wildly visionary as this, none has so often been toned down and explained away. But, by `faith ' Christ meant an absolute inward appropriation of the Vision of God-of God conceived and felt as He knew Him. And He was not addressing a single individual, but a brotherhood which he meant to be the core of the faithful ` remnant ' of a nation conscious of a world mission. It was not a poet's dream, it was scientific fact, that His Vision of God, if accepted and retained for a generation unadulterated and unimpaired by a worldwide brotherhood of men, would have generated a power before which all obstacles would have gone down. What Christ said was sober fact then, and it is sober fact to-day.
The Vision of God which He saw is, I have argued, true. God is there, wishing to speak to us, urgent to recreate us. What Psychology has done is to unveil some little part of the mechanism through which God speaks and acts, provided that we do our part. Prophets and saints all testify that God does work, that Vision appropriated in prayer does issue forth in Power. These great souls, inheriting the rule-of-thumb experience of generations-interpreted by their own individual genius and resolution-did actually, though without clear understanding of its nature, make use of the appropriate psychological mechanism. But surely the dawning light of scientific understanding should make it possible in the future for men of quite ordinary capacity to accomplish practical results on a larger scale than was possible to them. So far from discrediting prayer, Psychology has shown its rationality; and future discovery will doubtless help us better to distinguish between the methods which, so far as the human instrument is concerned, are likely to be the more or the less effective. Tremendous are the problems which confront our age; civilisation, think some, is tottering. But with new knowledge comes new hope ; and it may be given to our age to see fulfilment in a new way of the ancient promise that he that believeth shall do ` greater works than these '.
' I would fain be to the Eternal Goodness what his own hand is to a man.' (I Theologia Germanica, p. 32. (Macmillan, 1901..) But no man can be a partner in the creative work of God who forgets that life is a battle in which victory is always at the cost of effort, and generally of wounds as well.
There is a notable piece of psychological analysis in Mr. Graham Wallas' famous Human Nature in Politics, in which he shows the necessity of some picture, name or other symbol on which thought and emotion can be so focussed that it stands as a dynamic representation of the meaning and the value of a complex reality like a country or a cause.
When a man dies for his country, what does he die for ? The reader in his chair thinks of the size and climate, the history and population of some region in the atlas, and explains the action of the patriot by his relation to all these things. But what seems to happen in the crisis of battle is not the logical building up or analysing of the idea of one's country, but an automatic selection by the mind of some thing of sense accompanied by an equally automatic emotion of affection . . . . What comes to him in the final charge ? Perhaps the row of pollard elms behind his birthplace. More likely some personification of his country, some expedient of custom or imagination for enabling an entity which one can love to stand out from the unrealised welter of experience. If he is an Italian it may be the name, the musical syllables, of Italia. If he is a Frenchman, it may be the marble figure of France with her broken sword, as he saw it in the market-square of his native town, or the maddening pulse of the ` Marseillaise '. Romans have died for a bronze eagle on a wreathed staff, Englishmen for a flag, Scotchmen for the sound of the pipes. 1-Human Nature in Politics, p. 72 f. (Constable, 1908.)
Religion, too, must concentrate its meaning in some dynamic symbol capable, in times of weariness and crisis, of lifting man above his normal self, and sustaining him through doubt and through despair with a clear sense of aim and courage superhuman. If the Kingdom of God is to be realised on earth, its soldiers need a rallying standard-and one with inspiration not limited by time or place. For this nation or for that, in one age or in another, an eagle, a flag or a battle-song has had the magic to make men more than men; ask we a standard potent for every race and in every age ? That standard is the Cross of Jesus ; its legend, Follow me.
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