LOVE VERSUS LAW
The fact of evil the great obstacle to reconciling the Kingdom of Law revealed by Science with Christ's vision of God as Love.
Yet evil is less fundamental than good; it is parasitic. Atheism has a solution of the problem of evil, but not of the problem of good.
THE SCHOOL OF MANHOOD
Instead of asking how the facts of life can be reconciled with the justice of God, let us ask whether any other purpose can be detected in them.
Life resembles a game of football. A dangerous game, which can be nobly or ignobly played, is a school of character.
This no solution of the problem of evil ; but it suggests the search for a dynamic solution-one, that is, in terms of the possibility of overcoming.
JUSTICE AND THE REIGN OF LAW
The so-called inexorability of the Laws of Nature a fallacy of the imagination; the Uniformity of Nature is a sine qua non of any consistent action. The discovery of new laws does not further limit man's freedom it increases his power.
The reign of law must also hold in the moral sphere. How then is the retrieval of moral failure, or the ` forgiveness of sin', possible ?
The ` orthodox' doctrine of the Atonement an attempt to solve this problem. But it states the problem in terms of human jurisprudence.
Justice, in its legal associations; cannot safely be ascribed to God; for (1) Historically justice was a limitation of the individual's right to vengeance. (2) In practice it is invoked to prevent evil rather than to create good.
The Will of God must be conceived of as creative purpose-the Will to Good. Hence there can be no conflict in the mind of God-as there may be with a human magistrate-between Justice and Mercy.
In Nature, life has a curative as well as a creative aspect ; in the moral sphere we should expect the Divine Life to manifest this double quality but under the limiting condition of the law of the inevitability of moral consequence. In this world the operation of thus law results, not in external penalties, but in the internal degeneration of the offender.
Can God cancel this result ? He can do so if He Himself (a) shoulders the burden of suffering caused by sin, (b) redeems the sinner-not by unmaking the act, but by remaking the man, (c) in so doing, vindicates the principle of righteousness.
The question, How can God do this `.> concerns the qualitative aspect of reality. But, we have seen, truth of quality can only be conveyed by a ` representation' different in kind from those employed by Science and Philosophy. The story of which the Cross of Christ is the centre is such a representation. The mental attitude required if the individual is to respond rightly ; the truth of the ` representation' can thus be tested by reference to the facts of life.
FAILURE AND RETRIEVAL
The degree to which the moral consciousness is awake varies strangely from man to man. But while the guilt of an act depends on the extent to which the doer is aware that it is wrong, its evil effect on his character is inversely proportionate to the extent to which he regrets it.
Repentance is evidence of moral advance already achieved. But continued advance depends largely on the individual recognising that, in spite of past failure, God loves him and still has a work for him to do.
It is un-Christian continually to brood upon one's sins and artificially work oneself up into agonies of contrition. Admit frankly that you are a worm; but realise also that to the worm that knows it is a worm God gives wings. Psychological confirmation of this.
The forgiveness of sin does not mean that the external consequences of past acts are cancelled. Nor, in one sense, are the maternal.
THE MENTAL ASPECT OF PAIN
Pain is part of man's environment; our problem is, How best can he adapt himself to it ? A solution the more possible owing to the effect of mental conditions on the actual experience of pain. Even the pain of the past can, in its present effects, be modified by the right mental attitude.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
The New Testament does not regard this as `the best of all possible worlds', but as one that has gone awry; but God, by entering into its suffering, is effecting its regeneration.
Not all suffering has regenerative power, only that kind of which Christ's is the type. The ` natural' result of suffering is degradation ; but these ` natural' consequences are reversed in the case of suffering endured for the sake of an ideal.
The suffering due to accident or the sin of others harder to bear than that of active martyrdom. Criticism of the traditional view that calamity is the will of God. Belief in Divine Providence does not necessarily involve this view.
Calamity to be met in a spirit, not so much of negative `submission', as of active `acceptance.'. Pain conquered is power.
Possibility of redeeming the past in cases where suffering, through failure to meet it in the right spirit, has been allowed to discourage and embitter.
THE PAIN OF OTHERS
Our despair in the face of the pain of others. Some possibilities of hope and help.
A LESSON FROM PSYCHOLOGY
The natural instinct is to hide, even from oneself, experiences which have deeply wounded; but, so hidden, they may, as it were, fester in the subconscious mind. But if brought up into clear consciousness and discussed, it is possible to ` 'reassociate' ' them, that is, attach to them an altogether different emotional tone-with beneficial consequences to mental and moral health.
Importance of choosing the right confidant, and (if possible) one with some psychological knowledge. The functions of a spiritual adviser. ` Cast thy burden upon the Lord.'
Psychologically considered, the distinctive feature of Christianity is its specific ` reassociation ' of the idea of suffering.
THE WAY AND THE POWER
Religion as Power. Suggestions, practical and psychological, for realising this. Make the love of God in Christ the focal thought in prayer and meditation.
THE DEFEAT OF EVIL
Love versus LAW
`ALL'S love and all's law,' wrote Browning. But was it the study of realities, or a temperamental optimism, that prompted this conclusion ? The fact of evil stands like a grim fortress blocking the way which our investigations seem to be opening up between that Kingdom of Law which the Universe is revealed to be by Science, and that Vision of God as Creative Love which Jesus caused humanity to see.
One thing is certain. Life on this earth is not ordered by a Love that succeeds in bringing happiness ; nor in accordance with a Law that expresses itself in justice. ` The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing' ; and it is not true that prosperity or adversity are meted out to men in accordance with desert. That theory of the equivalence of suffering and merit, against which Job had long before cried out, received its final refutation on the cross of Jesus. The moral purpose of the Infinite, if such there be, is either something less or something more than justice.
Yet that the Infinite has a purpose, that the quality of Reality in the last resort is good, my mind against all perplexity and bafflement continues to assert. All around us are death and disease, cruelty and injustice,
ugliness and stupidity. But death could not exist unless there were life, nor disease if there were no such thing as health. Evil is either conscious opposition to the good, or the result of wrong conceptions of the good or of the way to attain to it. Evil would not be what it is save in contrast to, or distinction from, the good. The world is full of evil, but it is also full of good, and the nature of things is such that the good is the more fundamental of the two. Good might exist without evil, evil could not exist without good; for evil is either a parody of, or an obstacle to, good. Evil is parasitic. On that fact I take my stand. On this, in the last resort, I base my belief in God.
We speak of `the problem of evil', but never of ` the problem of good'. We take the good for granted, and only ask the reason for the evil. Yet surely, what we ought to ask for is an explanation of the world as a whole. And if we really want to know what is the nature and the character of the Power which produced and sustains the Universe, `the problem of good' is by far the greater problem of the two. If good is more positive and more fundamental than evil, the existence of the good is the thing which most needs to be accounted for. Here, as it seems to me, is the point where any form of atheism breaks down. The atheist has an explanation of the evil in the world, but he has no sufficient explanation of the good.
THE SCHOOL OF MANHOOD
Let us then cease for a while to ask why it is that the facts of life so constantly refute the theory that God is just ; let us look those facts in the face anew, ancl ask rather whether we can detect some other purpose and meaning in it all.
If we do this, we see at once that, though life is not at all the picnic-party we perhaps should like, there is much in it which suggests a game of Rugby football. There is need for both team work and individual effort; there is conflict, pain and risk; there is the possibility of playing foul as well as fair ; and there is the consciousness that, much as success is worth, what matters most is to have `played the game'.
`The chase I follow far; 'Tis mimicry of noble war.' 1 <BR> (1 The Highland Chieftain, in Scott's Lady of the Lake.)
A game of football is a mimicry of life as unlike the real thing as hunting is to war. Life is like life, and it is like nothing less ; but if an analogy is wanted, that of a dangerous game, which can be nobly or ignobly played, is perhaps the least inadequate. For life is neither a banquet nor a dreary pilgrimage; it is neither a trading concern where all dividends that are fairly earned are punctually paid, nor a lotus-eater's paradise ; it is a school of manhood.
Such a conception of the meaning and purpose of life would be congruous with our previous conclusion that the life and character of Christ mirror the quality of the Unseen Power. ` He captains Lis, but does not cosset us,' as Mr. Wells says. Life is an arena in which the purposes of a God with such an aim might be attained.
Look at the Universe from this point of view, and at once some not all-aspects of the problem of evil take on a different shape. A world, in which there was no conflict and no risk, would be a world in which the heroic quality in man could never be called forth. A world, from which suffering or failure were completely absent, would be one in which compassion and mutual aid were absent also. A world in which the innocent never suffered from the follies or the crimes of others, where every one got exactly what he himself deserved, would be a world in which it mattered to no one but a man's own self what he himself or any other did; it would be a world where responsibility, esprit de corps, brotherhood were unknown.
The problem of evil is not hereby solved. A world in which pain was impossible would be a world morally impoverished. But to admit this is far from admitting either that the amount of suffering in this world is no more than the minimum required, or that its actual distribution among individuals is the best. The recognition that a world, in which we suffer from one another's faults and follies and are succoured by one another's virtues, is better than one in which each individual was wholly self-sufficient, is not equivalent to an assertion that `the inhumanity of man to man ' is worth all the moral degradation and the pain it costs.
But what these considerations do suggest is this. We can approach the discussion of the fact of evil in its relation to the meaning and purpose of Creative Evolution if, and only if, we see the problem as one to be solved in dynamic, not in static, terms. We shall seek a solution in terms of process and possibility, not of a good already complete. We shall not attempt to explain away the existence of either pain or moral evil ; and shall not hope to justify them, except and in so far as they are capable of being overcome.
JUSTICE AND THE REIGN OF LAW
We cry out against the ` inexorability ' of the Laws of Nature and man's hard fate in that regard. In this there is a latent fallacy. The Uniformity of Nature is not the inexorability of a tyrant callous to his victim's groans ; it is more like the immovability of the touchline, without which there could be no game, though it would at times be vastly convenient to an individual player if by a miracle the line would approach or retire a yard or two. The Uniformity of Nature is not an iron cage against which we dash ourselves in longing to escape; it is a necessary condition of such freedom as we have. Theoretically, the problem how I am to reconcile the reign of law with freedom may be insoluble. Practically, unless I knew that I could reckon on things happening in accordance with some fixed and ascertainable principle, I might wish, but I could never act or plan. If fire sometimes heated, sometimes froze, the kettle, who could invite a friend to tea ? If the laws of specific gravity changed from day to day, who would venture in balloon or ship ? Science is always discovering some new law; but this, so far from being the discovery of a fresh limit. to man's liberty, puts new power into his hands.
It is not otherwise in the moral sphere. Conduct could have no moral quality, good or evil, but for the law of the inevitability of consequence. If lying, stealing, fornication, did not necessarily and always produce evil results, both externally to others and internally to the character of the doer ; if, as often as not, they benefited their victims and had an elevating influence on their perpetrators, they would not be evil. If truthfulness and honesty were qualities quite as likely as not to disintegrate society and demoralise their possessors, they would not be good. If any effect could come from any cause; or if in waking life, as happens sometimes in dreams, whenever a situation got too unpleasant, one could extricate oneself by simply waking up, nothing would in the long run seriously matter. In such a world morality would have no meaning.
The ancients condemned as inartistic a plot in which the playwright brings in a ` god in a machine' to rescue the characters from some inextricable mess into which the natural development of events has led them. A God who regularly did this sort of thing in real life would make morality impossible. If any action, however evilly motived, might without any loss or cost to anybody turn out in every way all right, the ultimate distinction between good and evil would have disappeared. In the last resort we are only justified in affirming that distinction, if we believe that good inevitably leads to good, and that evil inevitably produces some kind of evil.
The fact that the Universe is a coherent system, which we commonly speak of as `the reign of law', is recognised by Science as the necessary background and condition of the whole process of Creative Evolution. All growth and progress is within and by means of the reign of law. But in the sphere of conduct thinkers have always found it difficult to reconcile the law of the inevitably evil consequence of wrong with the possibility of the retrieval of moral failure, or (to use the language of religion) the forgiveness of sin.
Quite the most interesting attempt to solve this problem is the so called ` orthodox' theory of the Atonement. Strictly speaking there is no ` orthodox ' doctrine of the Atonement; that is, in regard to this doctrine there is no formula, like those defining the Trinity and the Incarnation, which has ever been officially accepted by the whole Church. But in popular usage the adjective `orthodox' is often applied to a group of somewhat divergent theories which ultimately derive from Anselm, the famous Archbishop of Canterbury under William Rufus. His theory was a great advance on previous speculation, and to an age that thought of the government of the Universe in terms of Law in the juristic sense, it was illuminating. To the present age, which thinks in terms of `Natural Law', it tends to confuse rather than to elucidate the real issue. All the numerous later variations of Anselm's theory agree in stating the problem of the relation of the Power behind the Universe to the fact of moral evil as if it involved a conflict between the Justice and the Love, of God-a conflict which is resolved by one person within the Godhead paying to another the penalty properly due from sinful man. Such a procedure is analogous to that of a magistrate, who is compelled by the evidence to find an offender guilty and to impose a fine, but who is moved by compassion or some other reason to pay the fine himself. On the level of the; administration of human justice such a solution is often the best possible ; but any language or analogies which suggest that the methods or values of the Law Court are applicable to God are dangerously misleading.
Judaism thought of Religion as the Law, and there fore necessarily conceived of God primarily as Judge and, though the teaching of Christ was largely a protest against this view, traces of it-more often in language than in actual thought still survive even in the New Testament. Again, the Middle Ages inherited the Roman Jurisprudence, and this was the one secular science which then existed in a reasonably developed form; and since every age is bound to apply to philosophical or theological speculation categories derive from the dominant science of the time, the legal view of God and His relation to man was still further accentuated. Hence, while Christ thought of God as Parent, Christianity has laid the emphasis on the thought of Him as Judge; and since in a judge justice is the supreme virtue, it follows that justice, and that conceived of mainly as in ancient law, has been made the most fundamental attribute of God.
But justice, legally conceived, has inherent in it two implications which make it a quality which cannot with any degree of appropriateness be ascribed either to the purpose revealed in Creative Evolution or to the God in whom Christ believed.
(1) Historically, justice arose as a limitation placed by the community on the individual's demand for vengeance or restitution. Smarting with injury, the individual demands an unlimited revenge; but society steps in and says, ` an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth no more ; the measure of the punishment shall not be in excess of the gravity of the crime '. Justice is thus appropriately pictured holding scales, for justice was originally the acceptance by society of the individual's claim for vengeance, only limited by the principle of the equal balance. That is why in Cicero's speeches severitas is the regular word for honesty in a judge, the implication being that his business is to punish, and that he will do so unless influenced by bribe or favour. Philosophers still dispute as to whether the purpose of punishment is, or should be, mainly vindictive, reformatory or deterrent ; but legislative changes and penal practice during the last century have been steadily moving in the direction of making less and less of the vindictive aspect. Originally it was not so. Justice was vengeance-controlled by principle, made righteous by impartiality.
(2) The idea of justice has a second limitation. In real life the machinery of the Law Court is only invoked when some offence has been, or is alleged to have been, committed. And though in theory it is admitted that the ideal of justice is to reward good as well as to punish evil, in practice the administration of justice means of necessity discouraging evil rather than promoting good, and this fact has given the word a largely negative connotation. Justice we instinctively contrast with generosity, as being that which aims at putting down evil rather than at creating good.
The Will of God, if God there be, is the creative purpose. With man the Will to Good consists in co-operation with that creative process. Evil is that which, whether through ignorance, carelessness or malevolence, antagonises or impedes that process. But to conceive the Creative Will of which that process is the expression as adopting towards an offender an attitude resultant from a conflict between His Justice and His Love is a misleading anthropomorphism. A human magistrate, compelled, as the administrator of the letter of a Law imposed upon him by an authority superior to himself, to pronounce an offender guilty, but moved in another direction by what he recognises to be the worthy instinct of compassion, may find it hard to reconcile the two principles of 'justice' and of 'mercy'. But the Will of God must be thought of as the embodiment of a single principle-the Will to Good. And since that principle must be conceived of as creative rather than destructive, we should expect it to express itself in action which is curative rather than punitive, generous rather than just. As Anselm himself, rising above the logic of his theory, finely says, justum est to bonum esse, ` It is just that thou shouldest be kind '.
In Nature life has a curative as well as a creative aspect ; it expresses itself in the healing of injuries, as well as in normal growth--but always in accordance with the reign of law. That life at the Divine level should manifest itself in the moral sphere in healing as well as in creating, is only what we should expect. But, as we have seen, the reign of law also must hold in the moral sphere. The progressive, curative, restorative action of Creative Love could not operate without moral disaster except under the limiting condition of the law that no evil deed can be without its evil consequence and that in a moral Universe there is a sense in which `all bills must be paid'.
At this point clear thinking is particularly necessary. The idea that first comes to us is that the payment of these bills is, or at least ought to be, secured by a moral order which inflicts external pains and penalties on the offender. That is to say, we take for granted that the reign of law in the moral sphere is analogous to the punitive retaliation of criminal justice. As a matter of fact, so far as this world is concerned, the reign of law in the moral sphere appears to operate in a way far more analogous to that of `natural law ', i.e. to be an invariable nexus of cause and consequence. (What may happen in the next world is another matter ; but to discuss this now would seriously confuse the issue.) 1
(1 In regard to the ultimate fate of the incurably wicked, I may refer to the essay, `The Bible and Hell', by C. W. Emmet, in the book Immortality, ed. B. H. Streeter. (Macmillan, 1917.)
No doubt in this world wrong-doing does sometimes result in unpleasant consequences to the offender, but only sometimes ; it always results in internal degeneration. In that sense-I shall expand the point laterno evil ever goes unpunished; and the 'punishment' is always exactly proportioned to the offence. We must ask, then, under what conditions can the Creative Will to Good undo this necessary consequence of evil doing ?
(1) Merely to unmake the past-by a royal fiat or by some intervention in the manner of the deus ex machina--would be to violate that nexus of cause and consequence upon which depends (p. 225) the very possibility for man of moral action.
(2) If there is in the Universe any spiritual intention, law in the moral sphere must have a qualitative character -a sanctity, if you prefer that word-which does not seem necessarily to attach to it in the physical sphere. If the normal operation of moral law is to be revoked, it must be done in a way which vindicates that sanctity. In criminal jurisprudence this vindication of the moral law-as recognised by the community-is secured by the public passing of a sentence, entailing the infliction of a penalty which in a symbolic sense is a kind of equivalent of the crime, that is, can be regarded as being in a sense a `payment of the bill'.1
This idea I owe to conversations with Mr. W. H. Moberly, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester University, though I do not wish to make him responsible for my particular application of it.
But God may have other ways of vindicating righteousness.
But though God is not limited to the methods of the Law Court, Anselm was right in that he saw the problem for philosophic thought to be, not that of punishment, but of forgiveness; he was right also in thinking that it is only soluble if we hold that in some way or other God `pays the bill' Himself. And that is done if God (a) shoulders the burden of the suffering that is caused by sin ; (b) redeems the sinner without violation of the law of inevitability of moral consequence-not by unmaking the act, but by re-making the man; (c) effects this in a way which, so far from impairing, actually vindicates the sanctity of the broken law.
We ask, How can God do this ? To ask that question is to repeat in other words the question, What is the nature of Reality in ITS qualitative aspect ? and of all ways of putting that question it is the one which probes that quality most searchingly. Here then, if anywhere, we must beware of the pitfall of thinking that any ` representation ' of Reality in terms of the logic which science (or even philosophy) uses, can adequately render the truth. Here, if anywhere, the only possible ` representation' of the truth will be one of that character akin to Art but totally different to Science which alone, we have seen (p. 45 ff.), can adequately convey quality. Something of the nature of parable or drama is required.
`Who for us men and for our Salvation came down from Heaven . . . and was crucified also for us.' It happened `under Pontius Pilate' ; but `before the foundation of the world' the Lamb was slain. In the Cross of Christ we catch, focussed in one vivid moment, the eternal quality of Creative Life. But, precisely because it is quality that is here expressed, to restate that expression in terms amenable to formal logic is inevitably to miss something of its meaning. This is one of those cases (p. 65 ff.) where `truth embodied in a tale ' can outsoar Philosophy.
The simple Christian who is content to look on the Sacrifice of Christ as just a 'mystery' is here wiser than the theologian who insists on analysing its intellectual content. Such a conception, if true at all, is so because of the truth of quality it represents ; and the more it is envisaged, not as logic but as picture, the richer the truth it will convey.
But when a 'representation' is in story form, we require some test that what it represents is really true, that it is not a fairy tale. We must be able to show by reference to the facts of life that as a matter of actual experience the law of the inevitability of moral consequence is compatible with the retrieval of moral failure, or rather that it can be made so in the individual's case-provided he adopts a certain mental attitude. That mental attitude was long ago defined in that language of devotion which, outside a place of worship, rings a little strange to modern ears-as `faith in His blood'. What did this mean? It meant, I suggest, an attitude of self forgetful response-a matter more of heart and will than of intellectual cogitation-to the idea, as bodied forth in that story, of the love of God to man. At any rate, it is worth while for us to inquire how far such a response does in point of fact bring the retrieval of moral failure within the range of actual possibilities.
FAILURE AND RETRIEVAL1
1 The remainder of this chapter is a reprint (by kind permission) with considerable modifications of my essay, `The Defeat of Pain', in God and the Struggle for Existence (Student Christian Movement, 1918).
The modern man, it has been most truly said, is not interested in the problem of his sins. Unfortunately, hard facts, and their dismal consequences, go on existing independently of the amount of interest that we take in them. Many of the more religiously minded have turned their attention from individual to social sin. In an age when to many thinkers civilisation seems doomed through the moral bankruptcy which expresses itself in War and the Class War, they do well. But social sin is largely the pooled result of the egoism, folly and indifference of individuals; and the regeneration of the world will not be wrought if we rest content with the confession of other people's sins. The kind of conviction of sin, however, which this age requires will not come as a result of pulpit denunciation ; it will come, if at all, from the effective bringing before men's imagination of a positive ideal-in that sense preaching Christ crucified-and from a patient training in the difficult art of selfknowledge. Once, however, the individual's eyes are opened to the futility, if not also to the depravity, of his own life, the problem of amendment becomes a live one. The old question is asked whether, and under what conditions, forgiveness of sin is a rational idea and a practicable possibility. On this point I would put forward a few considerations -superficially unlike, though perhaps fundamentally congruous with, the traditional teaching of the Church.
Nothing is more remarkable in human nature than the varying degree to which in different individuals the moral consciousness is awake. You will find men and women who are perfectly unconscious that their lives are one long expression of ` envy, hatred, malice and all uncharitableness ', who yet feel paroxysms of contrition because they are haunted by impure dreams. You will find others quite easy in their minds about a long course of sexual depravity but burdened with remorse for an unkind word. We do not `see ourselves as others see us', much less as God sees us. Few of us know where our moral weakness really lies. Sin and the consciousness of sin are quite a different matter.
There is a second no less remarkable fact-one, indeed, which largely explains the former. The guilt of an action is directly proportionate to the extent to which the doer knows that it is wrong; its injurious effect, however, upon his moral character is inversely proportionate to the extent to which he regrets it. This point is so important that it requires expansion. Every act is the expression of a previous tendency or disposition in the character; the doing of the act stimulates that tendency ; repeated acts of the same kind rapidly create a habit, which becomes a chain by which we are tied and bound. Not only that; conscience defied becomes less sensitive. An act which on the first occasion was done with shrinking, after constant repetition is performed with equanimity. The 'natural' consequence of the commission of wrong is not the awakening, but the dulling, of the sense of sin.
From this a conclusion of immense importance follows. To feel a real and increasing pain at the contemplation of one's own past guilt is already to have begun to reverse its natural consequences within the self. The consciousness of moral failure-I mean, of course, only when it rises to the height of acute discomfort-is a sign that the old self, of whose character the act deplored was a natural expression, is already dead or dying, and that a new self is coming to the birth. Repentance, therefore, is in itself an evidence of a moral advance already actually achieved. Its smart is the smart of ` growing pains '.
But in order to bring the new self to the birth the individual must, first, gain a clear perception of the nature and meaning of that pain, and secondly, must bring it into relation with the thought of his own value -actual and potential. His actual value obviously must be what God, in spite of all his failure, thinks of him ; his potential value lies in what God, in spite of all his weakness, can yet make of him. At bottom this is what the traditional Christian doctrine of the forgiveness of sins was really driving at, though obscured by language derived from the Jewish sacrificial system and by an obsolete psychology. Christianity has proved to be a ` Gospel ' just in proportion as it has stressed the idea (perhaps the most characteristic contribution made by Jesus to man's conception of the Divine) that God stands there ` declining to be estranged ', continuing to regard the offender as a being of priceless worth, for whom, in spite of all, He feels affection undiminished and hope unlimited.
The dawning consciousness of moral failure and of its true nature is itself the beginning of a new birth, and contains and implies the possibility of further growth. But whether that possibility will be realised or not depends largely on the extent to which the individual recognises this attitude of the Divine, and thereby gives God the opportunity, so to speak, of fanning into flame the spark of higher aspiration. This is the profound truth underlying the old evangelical exhortation to ' lay hold of the salvation freely offered ', or to `rest in the finished work'-phrases which unfortunately disguise from our generation the truth which to our fathers they made luminous. Let the repentant soul realise that, in spite of all, he still has an infinite value for God, that there is still a work he can do for God and man, and that by the mere fact of sincere repentance he has already begun to establish a personal contact with a Higher Power-then at once the consciousness, and therefore the intensity and effectiveness, of that contact is indefinitely enhanced. A stimulation of vitality and moral invigoration begins which will lift him right out of that past which already, by the mere fact that he condemns and deplores it, he has partially outgrown.
In current religious teaching there is an idea directly contrary, as it seems to me, to the teaching of Christ about God, and no less contrary to the lessons of modern psychology. I mean the idea that we should continually contemplate and brood upon our sins and work ourselves up into agonies of contrition about them.
It is a curious notion that we do honour to God by behaving towards Him as if He had less of common sense, not to mention common justice, than a reasonable human being. God must estimate a man's responsibility for his actions, not by the standard of an absolute ideal, but by the standard which he individually had reached at the time when he committed them. If he has come to realise that an offence is much worse than he supposed, that is a sign of growth in him; it is therefore a reason for thankfulness.'
1 Particularly in regard to the burden of remembered offences committed in early youth, often the best way one can give help is to minimise their seriousness-to make the person see the offence as something which, though in a grown man an enormity, in a boy deserved ` a flogging and have done with it'.
Contrition which comes to a man as the natural consequence of fairly facing up to his responsibility, the recognition of the fact that he not only ought to have known better but that he did know better, is healthy. It is quite otherwise if he tries to exaggerate his responsibility, and therefore his contrition, beyond what the facts warrant. The tendency to do this is sometimes the result of conceiving God as an offended Potentate who is the more likely to be propitiated by an apology the more the magnitude of the offence is stressed-the precise conception of God which Christ did His best to unteach. It is often the unconscious reflection of wounded self-respect. The humiliation which a man feels on discovering that he was and is a greater ` rotter ' than he had dreamed, is the measure of the Pharisee in him. In so far as he is in this case, the effect of artificially stimulating contrition is really to stimulate spiritual pride. Once a man knows he is a ` worm ' and cheerfully accepts the fact, he can begin to rise above the worm. But so long as he grovels and broods on his ` wormanity ', he retards the process-for the secret of moral advance is to transform interest in oneself into interest in the Kingdom of God. Christ taught that God freely forgives, but that it is the publican who most easily avails himself of that fact. To the worm that knows it is a worm, God gives wings.
But whatever view we take on the religious issue, from the psychological point of view this emphasis on the duty of brooding over the enormity of the past is bound to be disastrous. Indeed, it is largely responsible for the most depressing of all facts in the experience of religious people--the incapacity to overcome habitually recurrent sins. So many spend their time bitterly repenting of, and after a brief interval exactly repeating, the same act. Their failure has a simple psychological explanation. To concentrate attention on the enormity of an offence, and upon the blackness of heart and the weakness of will which can constantly repeat it, is really to submit oneself to a form of auto-suggestion which can only make the repetition of the act inevitable. Here the advice given by ministers of religion is often the worst possible. So far from being told to deplore the past and dread its repetition in the future, the penitent should be advised to turn away his attention from the thought of his own weakness and sin, to concentrate on the power and the desire of God to help him, to think no more of past failure but of the possibility of doing useful constructive work in the world. It may take some time to undo the work of long-continued auto suggestion, and to free the mind completely from the influence of bad advice and wrong conceptions-meanwhile let him cease to bother about this particular weakness.'
1 Bad habits, physical and mental, whether the result of youthful misconduct, accident, or the lack of good advice, often get beyond the control of the conscious will. If and when this stage is reached, or all but reached, they should be treated not as sin, but as disease. But in that case the patient is still morally to blame if he declines forthwith to take the necessary steps, and if need be to seek the best medical advice, to cure the disease. The mere suggestion that a bad habit or an obsession should be transferred from the category of sin to that of disease, to be treated quasi-medically (as one would a nasty ulcer), sometimes at once, more often after concentrated reflection on the idea, effects a cure. If not, a doctor or a nerve specialist should be consulted. Psychology confirms the teaching of St. Paul: leave behind the Law, with its associations of failure and of fear, throw yourself on the power and love of God as seen in Christ, and sin shall have no more dominion over you.
The forgiveness of sins does not mean that either a past act itself, or its inevitable consequences to other people, can be undone. A repentant murderer cannot call his victim to life again ; he may be fortunate enough to have an opportunity to make some amends, as, for instance, by providing for the orphaned children; but that does not undo the past. Yet, following upon genuine repentance, a moral re-creation is possible which can reverse the otherwise inevitable consequences upon a man's own life and character, and so make his sum total contribution to mankind beneficent even if he cannot overtake and make substantial amends to the actual victims he has wronged or rescind the consequences of his folly on his fortunes or his health. More than that, a character so re-created can effect certain things which seem to be outside the range of those who have never fallen and risen again. St. Paul's conversion will serve to illustrate both these points. It could not bring Stephen to life again, but it turned the harsh fanatic energy which had found expression in that act of persecution into the passion which made him `labour more abundantly than they all'. In addition it gave him an insight into the human heart, into the nature of the moral struggle and into the meaning of Christ's life and teaching, which made him, next to his Master, the one who has made the deepest mark on the heart and mind of Europe. And, on a lesser scale, we all know men whose power for good seems to be directly conditioned by the fact that they have known evil and overcome it. Plato says that a physician should not be one who has always enjoyed the best health; and one who has himself failed and been restored may sometimes be the better physician to the souls of others.
0 felix culpa quae tantam meruit redemptionem
Then, is it better to have sinned and been forgiven than never to have sinned at all ? In St. Paul's time there were men ready to draw some such conclusion `Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound ? ' We may leave the answer where St. Paul left it. Logically it may be 'Yes'; practically that answer could be given only by one who has never felt the experience from the inside. Such know that in all moral failure there is real loss. Some good thing which they might have done will, by reason of their failure, necessarily and eternally remain undone. And yet they know that, through the power and insight which they derived from the fact that they had failed and been restored, some other good thing has been accomplished which possibly-not certainly-but for that would have remained undone. In the task of bringing about the Kingdom of God there is scope for the co-operation of very different types. There is one work for Mary Magdalene, another for Mary the mother of Christ. We cannot hesitate as to which of the two will stand higher in that Kingdom; but the other may still stand high.
THE MENTAL ASPECT OF PAIN
I turn now to the problem of pain, and I do so with an interest not so much theoretical as practical. Pain is part of the environment in which we have to live. I ask how we can adapt ourselves to that environment, or rather how we can adapt the environment to ourselves -for the power to do that is the unique biological distinction of man. Can we, instead of being crushed by the difficulties we have to face, use them rather as a stimulus along the route to individual as well as social progress ? I ask whether, in regard to the suffering as well as the moral failure past, present and to come which falls within the experience of any individual, we can say, ` There is a way out'. I suggest that, along lines indicated in the New Testament and confirmed by the teaching of psychology, each one of us may find a way in which to cope successfully with that particular share of the world's evil with which he or she personally is brought into contact. I shall speak of the `defeat of pain' as such, without any attempt to discriminate between pain which, like remorse, is connected with the consciousness of moral failure and pain which is not so caused.
We are apt to underestimate the extent to which pain is of mental origin. Anxiety and disappointment,fear and regret, humiliation and remorse, the sense of desolation and despair, constitute the main burden of civilised man; and all these are of the mind. In normal times the amount of suffering due to causes entirely physical-wounds, accident or disease-would, for the majority of men, be a relatively small proportion of the whole; for the present generation the War has vastly altered the proportion. But even the pain caused by physical injury is determined by mental conditions more than is commonly supposed. There are stories from the front of men in the excitement of battle or retreat being for a long while actually unconscious of wounds received. Experiments in hypnosis, by which sensibility to pain can be either enhanced, so that the touch of a finger feels like a hot iron, or reduced, so that the patient feels nothing under the surgeon's knife, point in the same direction. Quite apart from these exceptional conditions, every doctor or nurse knows that the extent and acuteness with which pain is felt varies enormously with the mental attitude of the sufferer. That patient feels pain most who most dreads it and who concentrates attention on it most. Moreover, the actual quality of pain and its mental and physical effects differ according as it is borne with cheerfulness or despair, with acceptance or resentment.
If so much suffering is predominantly mental in origin, and if the mental element so conditions both the amount and the quality of the suffering which is physical in origin, it is not enough to attack the problem of the world's suffering from the physical side alone. It must be attacked from that side, but it is far more essential to approach it from the side of mind. And precisely for this reason the individual may have hope. He may find himself he often does find himself-up against hard facts which he cannot alter, or burdened with a physical disability which cannot be cured. But, where circumstances cannot be altered, it may still be possible to alter one's mental reaction towards them.
Especially is this true in regard to the past: this cannot be undone, but our reaction to it can be fundamentally changed. I cannot unmake the sins, sorrows and disappointments of the past; but it is possible to change my attitude towards them so completely as to transform their consequences in the living present, and thereby, so to speak, to remake the past. Christ taught not only that sins can be forgiven, but that the brokenhearted can be healed, and I shall try to show that both the experience of everyday life and the conclusions of modern psychology prove that Christ was right.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
In the New Testament no attempt is made to advance a theory of why pain or moral evil are permitted to exist. Certainly there is no suggestion that this is ` the best of all possible worlds '. On the contrary, so far from being the best of all possible worlds, it is a world that God meant to be a great deal better than it is. It is a world that has gone awry, and that mainly through the ignorance, the folly, the malice, the greed and the passions of men. But though the world is not now what it should be, God is not `just leaving things alone ', but is engaged in fighting the evil. God does not stand outside the world serenely contemplating the misery and the strife. He is, no doubt, in a sense outside and beyond the world, but He is also inside it, immanent in it, as the philosophers say; and by the fact of His immanence He takes His share in the suffering; and God's share is, if I may use the phrase, the lion's share.
But this suffering is not just mere suffering with no end or result beyond itself. It is a means to an end, the means by which the ignorance, folly, malice, greed and evil passions may be overcome, the evil wills remade, and the results of evil action transmuted and undone. Yet it is not all suffering which has this virtue. The suffering which has power is suffering like Christ's
suffering, that is, faced for the sake of causes and ideals like those for which He worked and died, or borne in the spirit in which He bore His. Christ, however, is not merely our leader and our pattern. He is also ` the portrait of the invisible God '. His attitude both to suffering and to evil is therefore representative of God's. God shares in the suffering and captains in the fight. And God summons us to assist Him in the task, to enter into partnership with Him-and that not only in the suffering but also in the victory which it brings.
This view of the power and possibilities of suffering requires analysis. Much cant is talked about the ennobling and purifying effect of suffering. To an animal, pain may be useful as a warning of danger or a spur to activity, but beyond the limited amount required for these purposes it debilitates and depresses. So too with man, the most natural effect of suffering is not to ennoble but to embitter, not to purify but to weaken. Joy is a necessity of life, of the highest life as well as of the lowest. The natural and normal reactions of the organism to suffering are vindictiveness, degradation, peevishness and despair. Where the contrary result is found it is because there is something in man, or at least in some men, which can counteract these 'natural' reactions. And this something does exist.
That secret, dimly grasped by heroic men and women throughout all the ages, was by Christianity first publicly proclaimed : the natural consequences of suffering can, by the spirit and manner in which it is borne, not only be avoided, but actually reversed. Look upon suffering as a necessary condition of labour for any cause worth working for-whether it be the learning of a lesson, the production of a work of art, the bringing up of a family or the steering of a ship to port-and its character is changed. Realise that the stupidity, the indifference, the malice and the selfishness of man have always been such an obstacle to progress that every forward step has been paid for in blood and tears; that, because casualties are the price of victory, sacrifice, pushed at times to the point of martyrdom, though not in itself a thing to be desired, is necessary and worth while-and things are seen in a new light. If it is in this way and in this spirit that the Divinity immanent in the world is suffering, striving, overcoming, then to take one's share in the work is to be allowed, as St. Paul puts it (Col. i. 24), to pay part of ' the unpaid balance (so it reads in Greek) of the sufferings of Christ'. Then, indeed, not perhaps every day and always, but at least in our moments of deeper vision, such pain becomes no longer a burden but a privilege.
No great cause has ever lacked its martyrs, and it is not hard to see how suffering of this kind-suffering voluntarily risked, or even actually challenged, by the sufferer for the sake of a great work or a great idealmay ennoble and inspire. But a kind of suffering harder to be borne is that which, whether it comes from accident, disease, or from the negligence or malevolence of man, is in no sense connected with, or the direct result of, our efforts for a good work or a great cause. Such suffering, so far from being a price which we pay, and pay willingly, for the sake of the work, is often the greatest of all impediments to it ; indeed sometimes it is a `knock-out blow' which, humanly speaking, makes nugatory all our hopes and all our plans.
The old theology said, `Calamity is the will of God submit'. But is calamity the will of God ? The subject is one upon which there is much confusion of thought. No doubt a God who creates and sustains the Universe is ultimately responsible for everything in it; whatever happens is in one sense the result of something He has willed. But in that sense sin, quite as much as suffering, is the will of God-yet the very meaning of sin is that it is something contrary to His will. God is responsible for making a world which is a connected system-a system in which causes always produce their appropriate effects, where good produces good, and evil, evil, and where suffering is one of the effects produced by ignorance and sin. Without some element of risk and strain the highest type of character could not have been produced ; again, unless the consequences of folly, ignorance or evil choice were really bad, life would be only a game in which, in the last resort, nothing really mattered. It follows that a world in which suffering and sin are possibilities is a world better worth creating than one in which everything was automatic, smooth and easy. Without freewill goodness, without risk courage, could not exist; freewill involves the possibility of sin, risk that of disaster. But we ought not to regard a particular disaster, any more than a particular sin, as a special `act of God'.
To refuse to accept everything that happens as an exact expression of the will of God does not mean the denial either of God's prescience or of His providence. An Intelligence which itself upholds the great interconnected system of cause and effect that we call Nature, and to which the secrets of all hearts are open, cannot but know the trend and tendencies of things. God cannot but possess an actual foresight of the future which, even if falling short of that absolute foreknowledge which is compatible only with predestination, may yet, in comparison with our human foresight, be styled omniscience. Again, the experience of all religious men points to the conclusion that ` there's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will'. Both as regards individuals and groups, there is evidence that those who `wait upon the Lord' (that is, who habitually concentrate their minds upon the Highest in quiet meditation, and act in response to inspiration so received) often have unusual power to conquer obstacles, escape danger and, in spite of loss and failure, achieve high ends. Such facts point to a Providence watching over us, guiding us to wise and salutary choice, leading us to the help of others and others to our help. Doubtless other facts suggest that by reason of deafness and unresponsiveness on our part, or on theirs, God's plan may temporarily miscarry. Yet the testimony of religious people is that they do often, to an extent quite unexpected, actually avoid disaster, they can `tread upon the lion and adder'; and that, where disaster does come, a way of recovery equally unexpected is in the long run provided. Where God does not prevent, He cures.
The conclusion that we ought not to regard accidents and calamities as `visitations' directly sent upon us by God is one of the first importance for practical religion. It is almost, if not quite, impossible to look upon the loss or the disease which crushes or debilitates as a direct expression of the will of God and still wholeheartedly regard Him as our heavenly Father. In the past, and even in the present, there seem to be some who have succeeded in this apparently impossible endeavour; but certainly from ordinary human nature it is too much to ask for a real and true love of God, if men are taught to regard all the evils that fall upon them as ` visitations' deliberately sent by Him as chastisement or discipline.
Of course, if such a doctrine is true we must teach it and take the consequences; but if, as we have seen reason to believe, it is not true, then to decline to repudiate it frankly and emphatically is to take away the key to the kingdom of heaven and hinder those from entering in who otherwise might do so.
As an explanatory theory, the view of the old theology that sickness or calamity is a characteristic expression of the will of God we must discard ; but the practical moral which the old religion drew from it was, up to a point-though only up to a point-quite sound.
To repine or to give way to resentment in the face of undeserved calamity is fatal. Unfortunately either repining or resentment are the natural instinctive attitudes to take up; and in so far as ` submit to the will of God' meant `put such feelings quite away ', it was good advice. But the right attitude to adopt is, to my mind, far better described if instead of ' submission' we say ` acceptance '. Mere submission to the will of an external power is negative, it is a dull, drab thing; but acceptance of a share, still more the willing acceptance of more than our full share, in the tragedy of life-a tragedy in which God as well as man is an actor-is positive, it has about it something vitalising.
Pain, like other elemental forces in Nature, can be turned to use, but only if the laws of its operation are first understood and then conformed to. Natura non nisi parendo vincitur, but the ' obedience ' by which Nature can be mastered is no merely passive submission; it is an activity which may be called 'obedience' only because it functions always in conformity to laws and principles clearly understood. So it is with pain. Those who meet it clear-eyed and with a positive and active acceptance, who `face the music', as the slang phrase has it; those who are ready, not only to ` do their bit' in the world's war, but to `bear their bit' in the world's sorrow, make a strange discovery. They find, not only that they are enabled to bear their sorrow in a way which hurts less-for what hurts most in the bearing is that which is most resented, what is most freely accepted hurts least-but that they achieve an enrichment and a growth of personality which makes them centres of influence and light in manifold and unsuspected ways.
Few things avail to inspire and re - create the human heart as does the spectacle of crushing misfortune cheerfully and heroically borne ; the unconscious influence which those who act thus exert is far greater than they or others comprehend. Here is the element of truth in the common talk about the ennobling and purifying power of suffering ; though it is not the suffering, but the way it is borne, that ennobles. Pain, not just submitted to but willingly accepted, makes the sufferer socially creative. A man counts in this world to the extent that he has thought and to the extent that he has felt, provided always that he has thought and felt in the right way. Suffering rightly borne is constructive work. He who has ` borne his bit' has also `done his bit' ; pain conquered is power.
A few are able to bear their sufferings in this way. Most of us have failed to do so, or have succeeded very partially. We have allowed resentment and depression -which, I must repeat, are after all the natural reactions, physical and psychological, towards pain-to enter into our outlook even if not to dominate it. The suffering which, if we had accepted it as a privilege or utilised it as an opportunity-which is Christ's way-would have enriched, ennobled and fortified our personalities, we have faced in a way which has had the contrary effect. We have let it depress our enthusiasms, dim our ideals, sap our vitality. Is there a remedy for this?
There is: but it is one which has rather fallen out of sight in Christian teaching. We are familiar with the idea that sin can be forgiven. We have all been taught that it need not remain as a standing source of debility in the soul, and that the repentance following after wrongdoing may actually bring about an enrichment and deepening of the personality-` to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little '. But in ordinary Christian teaching this idea has only been applied to breaches of certain fundamental moral laws. It is not ordinarily applied to the failure to meet suffering in the right way, though this failure is a moral one as much as any other, and differs from other moral failures only in being less commonly recognised as such. But if it be true that sins of one kind can be, as we say, `forgiven '-that is, if their naturally evil consequences upon our personalities can be transmuted by a subsequent change in our attitude towards them and God-the same must surely be true of this kind of moral failure also.
And experience shows that we can transform the past in this regard. We can bring up clearly into memory the times when we have suffered and have let that suffering fill us with resentment and despair. We can realise our error and deplore it, we can say to ourselves: 'No ; all said and done, I am glad that in the great tragedy of humanity I have played my part; I am glad that I have tasted of the cup which is the heritage of man.' And in proportion as we can say this, and mean it, our whole outlook on life, our attitude to God and man, is changed. We are filled with a new joy-richer by reason of what we have endured; we are inspired with a sense of vitality and inner strength more deeply rooted because of the experience we have passed through. The draught which when first drunk was poison is transformed into wine. The past is not undone; yet the bitterness and weakness which are its living consequences in the present are not only cancelled but reversed.
Pain is a great teacher-it is not man's only teacher, as some have seemed to urge; there are, I am sure, things which can only be learnt through joy-but it is a teacher whose lessons are difficult to learn. If at first we decline to learn them, we suffer more; for then we must endure, not only the original pain, but the growing resentment or the life-draining melancholy which it entails. From this further suffering, consequent on our refusal to learn the lesson first offered to us, another and a different lesson can be learnt. But the actual learning of it awaits a fundamental change of attitude and outlook on our part, a netavoia which, like any other form of ` conversion', comes to one man by stages slow and imperceptible, to another with a sudden flash, and to others not at all.
THE PAIN OF OTHERS
There remains the most difficult problem of all. How are we to take the suffering of others, especially of those we love, which we are compelled to witness but are unable to alleviate, and which in many cases we can see is not being borne-and under the circumstances can hardly be expected to be borne-in a way which can be otherwise than degrading and depressing? What of this ? There are times when, though we cannot alleviate their suffering, we can help them to bear it in the right way ; could we completely succeed in this we might
perhaps, though with an effort, be content. But there are also times when, called upon to be spectators of physical agony, crushing calamity, or desolating bereavement, all our theories about suffering and its uses simply shrivel up, and, if we try to put them into words, we seem to ourselves to be as those that mock.
Conquer by accepting. The principle that pain is to be met in this spirit, and not with resentment or despair, needs special reassertion when we thus contemplate the pain of others. For it may be given to us by an act of penetrating sympathy to enter into their suffering and, so to speak, accept it for them, and thereby, either at the time or later on, help them to a right acceptance. Still more necessary is it to remind ourselves that God feels this pain as much as we do, indeed much more, by reason of His more perfect sympathy. This fact points to the solution: ` Cast thy burden upon the Lord, he shall sustain thee '. God, too, is bearing the suffering, but He is bearing it in the right way ; and in so far as we can open up our souls to Him, and through communion and meditation enter into His mind, we also begin to bear it in the right way. God's way of bearing suffering, like everything else He does, is creative and constructive ; in so far as we bear it in His way, the negative attitude of repining and resentment will drop away, and we too shall become constructive and creative. The right act or the right forbearance, the right word or the right silence, will be given us; and when these are impossible or inappropriate, the right thought, the right feeling and the right prayer. And often these may be the most effective things of all. Men are all bound together by unseen telepathic ties of mutual influence. Each of us, by merely being what he is, contributes, for better or for worse, more than he knows to the mental and moral outlook of those he lives with, and probably of others to him unknown. He who is trying to bear the suffering of those he loves, with God, for God and in God's way, cannot fail to help them, and to help others also; though he may sometimes have to wait a long while for visible results.
And in one respect we can afford to wait, for what we have found to be true in our own case must hold good in theirs also. Pain, we have seen, even though wrongly borne at the time, may yet be transformed in retrospect, and defeat turned into victory in later days. If, then, we believe that the growth of souls will continue after this life, we can see a way in which even that suffering, which, because it was not rightly borne, has been wholly unprofitable and demoralising in this life, may one day be changed in quality and made the condition of a richer, deeper, nobler life in the Beyond.
Upon many souls the dead-weight burden of the world's sufferings acts as a paralysis to thought and effort. Considerations like those just urged may help such to turn from passive desolation to active energy. In the lives of most highly sensitive natures there are moments when the individual feels as if he were an Atlas bearing up alone the burden of the world's ill. It is not so. In the last resort it is borne up by God, and there are always `seven thousand in Israel', unsuspected and unknown, who are helping us and Him to do it.
A LESSON FROM PSYCHOLOGY
Man has a natural instinct to hide away, from himself and from others, experiences which have deeply wounded -in particular acute humiliation, undetected moral lapses, occasions of acute terror or long-drawn-out apprehension. Supposing we succeed in half smothering or even completely obliterating the memory of these, so much the worse for us. To suppress all recollection or expression of such incidents is like trying to plaster down a boil. The emotion associated with the original occasion remains as a suppressed poison in the mind. It is always seeking to find expression by investing the circumstances of a man's subsequent life with an atmosphere of unnecessary apprehension, difficulty, or pain, thus burdening the personality in the present with the shame, the fear and the agony of the past. The result is often depression, neurasthenia and, in extreme cases, physical paralysis, moral breakdown, or loss of reason.
If, however, the patient can be induced to remember clearly and to speak about the buried memory-the ` repressed complex ' as it is technically called-relief at once begins. It is as if the boil were opened and the poisonous matter let out. It becomes possible for the patient, either for himself or with the help of the psychotherapist, to begin a process of readjustment or `reassociation', i.e. of associating the event in his mind with an emotion of an opposite kind. He can, for instance, see for himself (or be taught by another to see) what was once a legitimate cause of acute terror or anxiety, as either a trifle which he can now look back on with a smile, or, though a real disaster, yet as one which he can contemplate with a feeling of thankfulness in that he has somehow won through; or, again, for the depression of a vaguely realised disgrace he can substitute the satisfaction of failure retrieved or of guilt atoned for. Once this is done, especially if the patient can be made to see a clear relation between the emotion associated with the past shock or act and that which he experiences in connection with some present anxiety, mental health begins rapidly to accrue.'
1 In acute cases of nervous breakdown it is sometimes found that hypnotic suggestion is required to complete the necessary ` reassociation '. But in many cases even of acute neurasthenia, the mere fact that the ' repressed complex ' has been brought into consciousness, and that the patient can speak about it clearly and fully, enables him to put behind him both the memory and the emotions associated with it, and, as it were, permanently to detach himself from this incident in his past; which, until he clearly remembered and frankly spoke about it to some one else, had in a kind of way lived on, and formed part of his present mental outlook.
This lesson of Psychology has a very important bearing on everyday life. In every man's experience there are some things of which he never speaks even to his most intimate friends-things which, when they start up in recollection, he strives, sometimes successfully, more often not, to exorcise from consciousness. Which of us has not memories from the past which stab and burn, memories of things seen, things suffered, things done, things left undone ; memories of loss, disappointment, humiliation, which we try, but try in vain, to bury ?
The habitual reserve that is characteristic of the English and the Scotch, in so far as it means that one does not carry one's ` heart upon one's sleeve for daws to peck at' or is unwilling to be for ever wearying one's friends with the recital of minor troubles or petty peccadilloes, is to be commended ; in so far as it is the expression of a high courage which disdains to exaggerate or seem to shirk its full share of the burden and the suffering of the race, it is to be admired. But Psychology bears out the ancient proverb, ` A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved '. And though to be always seeking confidants for one's troubles or one's sins inevitably leads either to morbid introspection or to shallowness of character, an occasional unburdening of the soul is good for most. But it must be an ' unloading ' of fears,worries, humiliations and disappointments, and not only a confession of what are ordinarily styled sins.
Anyone who is haunted by the memory of some fright, some fault, some snub in early life, which he has never confided to a single person, would be well advised to tell it-not to all the world, but to some judicious friend who will listen sympathetically to the recital. Once these memories are expressed in words, one can for ever detach oneself from that self of long ago which did, thought and felt these painful things. One can view that old self with the eyes of an outsider and join one's confidant in a smile of sympathy for the misfortunes, or of pardon for the sins, of the' poor little devil' upon the steppingstone of whose dead self the present roan has risen to higher things. Bud--and this is the essential lesson of Psychology-until the failures of the dead past have been so expressed its putrefying corpse may, though we know it not, be still poisoning the present.
It is harder to find the right person to whom to confide painful incidents of maturer years-the moral failures, the slights of which the most humiliating thing is that we feel them as humiliations at all, the moments of panic, the unworthy forebodings and apprehensions, the disappointments in love or in ambition, the haunting fear of loss, failure, or detection which hangs above the head like a sword of Damocles ; the follies, lapses, agonies of those we love. It is not only more difficult to find the right person to whom to speak of things like these; when found it is more difficult to bring oneself to use him or her at the critical moment. We are so often withheld from speech by the reflection that even when the cupboard door is opened the skeleton will still remain a skeleton. But this reflection is the excuse, partly of our ignorance, partly of our desire to escape the humiliation of confession. The skeleton, it is true, will still remain a skeleton; but once the fresh air is let in it will -if our confidant be one who can give wise advice become like a specimen in a museum, instead of the mouldering remains of a dead self.
Many would do well to avail themselves ` of some discreet and learned minister of God's Word', and were clergy and ministers trained to be ` soul doctors ' one might universalise this advice. Unfortunately they are rarely so trained, and what training they do receive is based on an obsolete psychology. Spiritual advice will do more harm than good unless it is based on a clear recognition of the distinction between sin and disease, that is, between what is entirely, and what is not entirely, under the control of the conscious will. But to ascertain, in any given case, the exact degree to which the individual is responsible is a far more difficult and delicate process than most people seem to think. At least an elementary knowledge .of pathological psychology is required, and more than an elementary knowledge of human nature. Precisely because his advice is likely to be taken more seriously, an unwise priest, like an ignorant doctor, can do more harm than other men ; and whatever else may result from the laying on of hands, it does not in itself convey a knowledge of the human heart. Still, given sympathy, experience and common sense, the pastor, next to the doctor, has unique opportunities of qualifying in that subject. Again, the ordinary man always approaches a minister of religion with the subconscious expectation that he is a man easily to be ` shocked', especially if the burdened soul be unorthodox in its beliefs. And since it is hard not to live up to what everybody expects of one, it may often cost the minister an effort to free himself from this conventional role. But let him make that effort ; the minister of Christ is called upon to be, not the judge, but the physician of the soul.
Happy, however, are those who from childhood have been habituated to cast their burden upon the Lord, to give free, frank and natural expression in confident and spontaneous prayer to contrition, sorrow, fear, on each occasion, great or small, as it arises, realising God as the unseen Friend-ready to forgive sins, able and anxious to bind up wounds, a tower of defence in danger. Such find their prayer is answered by a courage enhanced and an insight sharpened, which enable them to look trouble and failure in the face, and before the bitterness has time to sink into the soul, to effect for themselves whatever ` reassociation ' is required.
It is an interesting reflection that the teaching of Christ and His apostles in some respects anticipated, in others went beyond, not, of course, the actual discoveries of recent psychology, but their practical lesson for everyday life. Psychology teaches that the first condition of healing is to bring up into the daylight of clear recognition the exact nature and quality of the wound to be healed; the New Testament bids us look suffering fairly in the face, and to recognise clearly and frankly admit our sins. The next step, says the psychologist, is to ` reassociate' the remembered episode, to re-educate ' the mind and heart, to change our attitude towards the past. Christ says the same: ` Thy sins are forgiven ' ; ` Sorrow shall be turned into joy '. Both say, ' First face up to the past ; then turn your back upon it' ; ` Believe that power is yours and according to your faith it will be done unto you '. So far they seem to say the same thing. But there is this great difference-Christ has behind Him a religion, a reasonably grounded philosophy of life.1
1 In practice successful psychotherapists largely accomplish their cures by suggesting ideas of hope, confidence and consolation, which is, in effect, providing the patient with at least the practical deduction from a Christian philosophy of life. Owing, however, to the tragic feud between Science and Religion-a feud which, it may be hoped, our generation will see healed-few eminent scientific men are in a position conscientiously to make full use of this source of power. Hence the reassociation made by Him is more revolutionary and more profound; for He says of the wounds of the past, not only that they can be healed, but that out of them and by reason of them can be won an actual enrichment of the present ; and He gives as the ground of this confidence the love and the power of God. Indeed, the feature in Christianity, which is perhaps most distinctive of it, is its specific ` reassociation ' of the idea of suffering. Here is the great difference between the Old Testament and the New. In the Old, the problem of suffering is a constantly recurring theme; in the New, suffering is no longer a problem but an instrument of triumph, no longer a thing to be avoided, but a privilege to be claimed; and that because, illuminated by the Cross of Christ, it is seen as something shared by God Himself, and as the means of His accomplishing the sublimest of all ends.
THE WAY AND THE POWER
I have tried to show that, whatever our view of the origin and purpose of the suffering and evil in the world, there is a way out a way which, for the individual, is at once the most perfect adaptation to environment and the line of moral progress. ` Granted,' some will say, `but "strait is the gate and narrow is the way". When the bitterness, the agony and the desolation are on us, or when it comes back to us in vivid memories of the past, it is not enough to be told there is a way out, we lack the power to tread it.'
Precisely at this point Religion is seen to be vital to everyday life. For, in exact proportion to its truth and our sincerity, Religion is power. Conceive of God as Christ conceived Him, make a genuine effort to trust Him and to follow Christ, and experience shows that prayer, communion, meditation, will prove to be the road to power. ` Salvation '-that is, inspiration and deliverance in one-is within our grasp. ' Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find.'
But if this be said, in the same breath a warning must be added against an unquestioning submission to the guidance, not only of popular manuals of devotion, but even of the great classics. Even in the best of them, language is occasionally used which cannot but suggest the idea that God is a jealous Potentate needing and liking to be placated by ostentatious grovelling. But to the precise extent in which any surviving elements of this preChristian conception affect our attitude towards Him, our prayer is likely to be a source of weakness, not of power. A parent or .a teacher can do very little for a child who is simply abject, and it is hard for God to speak with us unless we first obey the order, ` Son of man, stand upon thy feet'.
The idea, so often recurring in the New Testament, that moral progress is secured, less by the effort of our conscious wills, than by a surrender of our whole man to Christ in joyful faith, is curiously confirmed by modern Psychology. Psychologists hold (cf. p. 284 ff.) that what I can or cannot do depends not only on the desires and the effort of my conscious self, but on the hopes, fears and convictions which have sunk deep into my subconscious mind. If my conscious mind believes in God but I am for ever anxious for the morrow, it is because my subconscious mind does not believe. The subconscious mind is always learning from the conscious, but it both learns and forgets more slowly. And the lessons it takes to heart most deeply are not the purely intellectual notions of the conscious mind, but the values and emotions associated with them. A man, for instance, may believe with his conscious mind that God is good and men are brothers, but only if he plans and acts towards the Universe and man as if these things were true, will his subconscious mind believe them also. If his conscious mind affirms the principle of love but he schemes injury to the brother whom he hath seen, it is the attitude of hate that the subconscious mind will learn.
It is, therefore, not enough to assent with the mind to a philosophy that proves that the Power behind the Universe is one that works for righteousness; it is not enough to recognise with the intellect that for the individual sufferer there is a way out; we must so realise the meaning and the implications of these beliefs for feeling, thought and conduct, that they become part of our inmost being. But for this to happen, the values and emotions dominant in our conscious mind must dominate the subconscious also. Conscious and subconscious act and react on one another; but the conscious, if it knows and wills, can in the long run direct the whole by selecting the ideas and values upon which to ponder deepest in moments of quiet meditation.
You may call this 'auto-suggestion' if you like; whether, and how far, auto-suggestion is a bad thing I discuss later. But, good or bad, a certain amount of it is unavoidable. Do what we will, we cannot keep our mind a vacancy. The conscious mind is ever brooding, ever dwelling on thoughts, hopes and fears which inevitably act as ` suggestions ' to the subconscious. We cannot avoid some form of auto-suggestion ; we can choose the form. Let us, then, select what our intellect at its keenest sees to be most true, what our insight at its acutest sees to be most beautiful or best, and meditate on this. `Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honourable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report ; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.' More especially, as we compose ourselves to rest at night, let us remember to govern mind and thought. We cannot but ` suggest' to ourselves some thoughts, the effect of which will follow us next day. We have got to make a choice between thoughts of confidence or despair, of power or weakness, of love or hate. One way or the other, we cannot but decide whether our attitude to life and to the Universe and that means to God-is one of doubt or trust; and in regard to pain, one of acceptance or resentment. Then let the choice made reflect, not the mood of the moment, but the conviction of a life.
Amid the perplexities, the anxieties, the smarting pains of life, such self-control, such government and direction of our thoughts is hard. We need some focal point round which to centre our philosophy of power and help; we seek some beacon light upon the cliffvisible however dark the night. And this we have.
Direction, inspiration, strength can all be had from one source. Only let the needle of life's compass be magnetised and free to move, so that it points always towards the Pole. Steer boldly straight ahead, `looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross '. Courage distils from that victorious love. Let prayer and meditation centre always round the thought of the Love and Power of that infinite and all-pervading Spirit of whom Christ is the portrait, and it will be possible to rise above the natural consequences of evil happenings, to make of suffering an opportunity, of loss a steppingstone to gain, and to find in failure retrieved and pain conquered the secret of power.
|Chapter 7||Table of Contents||Chapter 9|