The White Death of the Soul

MR. JOHN MORLEY, in his little book called Compromise, describes in rather lurid terms a disease of the soul which characterizes our civilization. The root of this disease lies, according to him, in “a revolution” that is “in its social consequence unspeakably ignoble.” “Every age is in some sort an age of transition, but our own is characteristically and cardinally an epoch of transition in the very foundations of belief and conduct. The old hopes have grown pale, the old fears dim; strong sanctions have become weak, and once vivid faiths very numb. Religion, whatever destinies may be in store for it, is at least for the present hardly any longer an organic power. It is not that supreme, penetrating, controlling, decisive part of a man’s life which it has been, and will be again. Conscience has lost its strong and on-pressing energy, and the sense of personal responsibility lacks sharpness of edge. The natural hue of spiritual resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of distracted, wavering, confused thought. The souls of men have become void. Into the void have entered in triumph the seven devils of secularity.”

It is noteworthy that in this description Mr. Morley traces the degeneracy of our times to a decay of two great vital centres of our civilization. Those vital centres are our corporate moral nature and our religion. Now, as a matter of fact, our civilization has but one religion. Our religious people are either Jews, Catholics, or Protestants. All derive their spiritual and moral vitality from the same source,namely, the Hebrew revelation. The ignoble revolution, therefore, which is attacking our corporate conscience, and destroying the organic force of religion, must of necessity be one which assails the authority of the Hebrew revelation, and the validity of the moral nature. And the noteworthy fact, as presented by Mr. Morley, is that it is not only the religion which is suffering, but that the whole ethical and social structure is suffering with it. This is a logical sequence, surely. Mr. Morley’s diagnosis, however, is not quite so clear. He thinks that the national church of England has much to do with it. Politics, the newspaper press, and increase of riches, all have a hand in the business. Worst of all, “the entire intellectual climate outside the domain of physical science” is, he tells us, unhealthy. It appears to him somehow to undermine our moral protoplasm. It leaves us no positive principles, no fixed standards. The baleful effect of the intellectual climate he attributes to “an abuse of the historic method,” which he describes as follows: “ Character is considered less with reference to its absolute qualities than as an interesting scene strewn with scattered rudiments, survivals, inherited predispositions. Opinions are counted rather as phenomena to be explained than as matters of truth and falsehood. In the last century man asked of a belief or story, is it true ? We now ask, how did men come to take it for true ? The devotees of the current method are more concerned with the pedigree and genealogical connections of a custom or an idea than with its own proper goodness or badness.”

A little analysis of this description shows what Mr. Morley means by the abuse of the historic method. It is simply this: the method cuts altogether too large a figure as a means of arriving at the truth. It appears to its votaries and to the general public as being the one great and decisive medium of knowledge, whereas in reality it is no such thing. To put it in plain English, the historic method consists in determining what is by what has been. It elucidates the present by the past. It interprets the man by the monkey. It arrives at the law of man’s moral nature by going back to the principles which governed the anthropoid ape from which he is supposed to have sprung. It determines whether the world is God’s world by reverting to the fire mist in which it probably originated. It determines the moral authority of the Bible by going back to the ghost worship and fetich worship which are supposed to be its real genesis. In other words, the nature and value of each present fact is determined by its historic origin and development . So, too, with our treatment of facts. The way to deal with an inferior is decided by showing the way in which nature has dealt with inferiors during her ages of development. Now there is no question about the value of this method,but there are other methods for determining the truth, which possess an equal if not greater value. We may, for instance, reverse the process. We may interpret the monkey by the man. We may determine the nature and treatment of facts by studying their present organization and laws. We may get light on the value of the Hebrew revelation by its solution of our present problems. We may interpret the past evolution of the Cosmos by its present adaptations. We may look for the Maker’s mark not only in the fire mist, but in the structure of the moral organism. There are decided advantages about this method. We are in the present. We can, therefore, observe its organisms and laws with greater accuracy. We can test our conclusions scientifically by results, and, as we are under the necessity of more or less immediate and critical action, it is often a matter of great advantage not to have to wait for the historic method to be perfected and corrected. When a man has an attack of appendicitis, the knowledge of his vermiform appendix as it now is yields a far more valuable contribution to the solution of his case than the entire history of that organ, from its earliest advent to the time of George Washington.

When the great cities of a country are hanging on the verge of moral degeneracy, a clear knowledge of the human conscience, and of any spiritual system or law that can govern it to-day, illuminates the field far more than a ton of knowledge about prehistoric institutions. But Mr. Morley has stopped far short of the whole truth. It is not only the historic method that deludes us by cutting too great a figure in our imagination. There is no method which is not at times transformed into a delusion through a tendency of its followers to make it a monopoly.

A word about the field of human knowledge will make this clearer. There are, as a matter of fact, two great fields of knowledge, each requiring a somewhat different mode of investigation. First there is the material universe, which includes also the human body, brain, and nerves, and which requires for its exploitation the method of observation and induction, or, in other words, of sense perception and reason. Then there is the moral and intellectual life of man, a far greater field. Here we come face to face with our own inner life. We get an inside view of the universe; we see behind the physical phenomena; we behold the interior workings of that wondrous force which we call life, which organizes matter, erects it into a mansion for its own indwelling, and utilizes it for its own ultimate and invisible ends. Here, too, in this inner life we find that alone which is capable of giving to the material world either interpretation or value, either order or significance. This inner life of man cannot be reached by the sense perception, but it may be investigated after the inductive method, by reason, and by the use of our own inner consciousness; but, as this inner life is a moral personality, it is necessary to a full understanding of it that we should examine it by the light of the moral powers. Without the criteria which they supply, we can form no intelligent estimate of personality. The inner life of man, and the material phenomena of the universe: in any intelligent method of investigation these two fields, with their two methods, should be coördinated, for they are mutually interpretative. No solitary fact of nature can be understood, save as we view it in the light of a knowledge culled from both fields and from both methods. But the whole tendency of late has been to magnify one field and its method at the expense of the other. Some time ago the writer of this article saw a Chinese map of the world, in which the Flowery Kingdom was represented as a vast continent taking up the bulk of the earth’s surface, while Europe and America appeared as insignificant and undetermined corners of the world. Now this is an age of educated masses whose conception of the universe has been formed in somewhat similar fashion, by a delineation of human knowledge as a vast cosmos of material phenomena, in the exploration of which we are advancing with wonderful certitude and supremely valuable results, while the inner personal life appears as a vague and insignificant item, turned out by the forces of this cosmos, and floating upon its surface to an unknown goal.

It is the delusion caused by this abuse of method which gives the atmosphere of pessimism to that delightful little book of Dr. Osler’s, called Science and Immortality. “Modern psychological science,” says Dr. Osler, “dispenses altogether with the soul;” and again, “The new psychologists have ceased to speak nobly of the soul.” One does not, of course, care to dispute about a word; but if by the soul is meant what most people mean by it, the inner personality, including the moral and intellectual nature, then this talk of dispensing with it is as absurd as for a mariner to talk of dispensing with his compass. It is from a study of the soul that we get our guarantee for the authenticity of the sense perception. It is in the personal life that we discover those rational laws by which we form our inductions in regard to all phenomena. Here alone, in the structure of the mind, are to be found those ideas of space, time, order, causality, and unity, without which our sense perception would not have brought us to the discovery of a single species or a solitary law of nature. That the new psychologists should have ceased to speak nobly of the soul is due simply to the abuse of their own valuable method. The fact is, they have never made an effective landing on that continent, but, like some of the early explorers of America, have approached no nearer than their own soundings, and have formed their maps of this vast region from their observations of a part of its shore line. It is safe to say that no one will ever speak nobly of the human soul, who persists in applying to the inner life of man that line of scientific investigation which is adapted only to the examination of physical phenomena. To such an explorer his own personality must, naturally enough, seem to him a mere stream of tendency caused by the action of environment upon his brain and nervous system. The absurdity of this mental attitude, which persistently draws its map of the soul on the projection afforded by its own inadequate method, is evident at a glance, when we reflect on the fact that no man ever did a great or noble act who did not rise absolutely above this conception of himself. The thing that counts in the world is a moral realization which holds the soul, or inner personality, worth more than the whole physical cosmos put together, which interprets the cosmos by the soul, and gets its realization not from the new psychology, but from the power of seeing personality face to face. It is, in fact, through the soul that we really get reality. Science without soul can never bring us to it. We are obliged to go back, as did Herbert Spencer in his debate with Mr. Balfour, back to our consciousness of the ego and the non-ego, for an intellectual guarantee that the phenomena of science actually exist. Nothing, therefore, could be more evident than that these two great trunk lines are really one system, and that it is only through their consolidation that we can hope to reach an entire view of the truth. So, too, with the territories which they traverse. The man who is not an experienced traveler in the realms of the soul is not fit to be an interpreter of nature. The man who is not more or less experienced in the realms of nature is not fitted to be an interpreter of the soul.

Now the point of all this is, that a single system of thought, starting with one set of criteria, is pushed and insisted upon by those who like it, till it cuts too large a figure in our interest and imagination. It becomes the one only solid and ultimate form of human knowledge; its criteria are the only criteria; its facts the only truths. Whatever this particular system can not inform us about, we can never, never know, or at least hardly ever. Far be it from the present writer to underrate the services of that worthy gentleman, Mr. Cook, who has done so much for the average seeker after geographical knowledge by personally conducting him on the highways of the great world’s travel. But there is certainly a striking, though crude, resemblance between him and the maker and teacher of philosophy. Each big man, each great capitalist in the realm of thought, has his own system of thinking, his own set of coördinated facts, his own roadbed of intellectual transit, his own observation car, traversing the steel rails of his logic from the terminus of his own favorite criteria to the terminus of his own favorite conclusion. I say favorite, because, notwithstanding all that is urged to the contrary, there is always a personal element in this selection of the termini for one’s intellectual route. Eliminate the personal element, and you eliminate the whole business. It would be idiotic to underestimate the value of philosophical modes of transit. No railroad of Mr. Hill or Mr. Rockefeller can begin to compare in value with one of these systems of philosophic exploration. But when the builder or manager or personal conductor of a railroad tells you that his is the great and only route by which to know America or to get acquainted with England, and that what is off to one side of that thoroughfare is not worth knowing, he is guilty of an abuse of the knowing power, and of manufacturing in the minds of his personally conducted patrons a false America and a spurious England. There are certain old travelers who take a special interest in visiting these terrae ignotae not prescribed in guidebooks, and quite off the lines of the systematic tourists. Here they always expect to find that which is specially interesting, that kind of revelation not included in the railroad prospect, that disclosure of the soul of things which gives one the real England or America. These same old travelers have a way of looking with a spice of contempt upon the personally conducted (Cookies, they wickedly style them), as being the victims of a system, which, to use an irreverent anglicanism, “pulls their leg.” Such deceit is, however, entirely foreign to the mind of Mr. Cook, nor is any such victimizing intention present for a moment in the mind of the scientist or philosopher. His mental structure, his bringing up, his education, incline him to a certain method. For him it moves along the line of least resistance. It brings the fewest wrinkles to his forehead. Quite unconsciously to himself, a sort of atrophy takes place. First the inclination, and then the capability, to use another method dies out of him. Other criteria fade upon his sight, other methods grow hazy to his mind, other termini lose their values either as starting-points or conclusions. Facts that conflict with his own system of observation cease to have any large significance. His mind is focalized. His universe is according to his own mental anthropomorphism. He can see no other cosmos. He has no organ with which to see it. He is quite right in styling it unknowable, and quite unconscious of the trick that his own atrophy plays upon the perceptions of his personally conducted tourists. Thus the theologian, the philosopher, the scientist, the jurist, in short, every man of intellectual methods, is forever unconsciously tempted to engage in this old trick of creating a more or less spurious universe, and outside of it his own particular terra ignota, a great American desert, a region where no facts can be clearly determined, and in which it does not pay to be interested.

The strangest part of this whole strange business is that, in an era of good feeling, men who ought to know better will, for the sake of mere unanimity, abandon other lines and join in the craze over the one and only route for arriving at truth. Is the question at issue the immortality of the soul, — then, as the scientific method is for the moment, in the public mind, the only realistic way of proving a fact, preachers and teachers great and small will join the craze, and stake the great practical hope of our moral and affectional nature on a method as little adapted to finding immortality as a Cunard steamer for discovering the source of the Mississippi.

But a still greater abuse of intellectual method consists in making it cut too large a figure relatively to perception. Neither by one method nor by all methods put together do we arrive at the truth. One might as well say that the astronomer sees the sun with his telescope. We arrive at the truth by the process of perception. Perception utilizes method. It may perhaps be said to include it, for it is a great deal broader thing. It is the ultimate form of knowledge. It coördinates all methods, and is greater than all. All intellectual methods rest upon perception. They begin and end with it. It is their foundation and their test. However good the method, it is valueless if the perception be poor.

Now the method, like the perception, is an exceedingly valuable instrument. Without it the perception would be sorely limited. And, as the great triumphs of perception have been gained through the instrumentality of finely adjusted methods, it is natural enough to exalt the value of the telescope, and to forget how much depends upon the seeing eye and the perceptive brain. This is the theme of that subtle humor that runs through the Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Holmes is continually telling people that his magical success depends upon simple induction. Scotland Yard works itself black in the face in the endeavor to make similar simple inductions, while, all along, the fact stands out that it takes the broad, sympathetic, intuitive perception of Holmes to see the points from which an induction is to be made. Perception is a process that takes in the entire personality. It not only demands all the elements of personal consciousness, but it requires that they should be clarified and focalized, and that the personality should be at its best. It is better to have a poor method based on a true perception than the best methods based on a false perception.

A curious instance of a great method resting at a certain point on false perception is presented in the Synthetic Philosophy of Herbert Spencer. In the Principles of Ethics we find the following: “The literatures of ancient semicivilized peoples yield evidence of stages during which truth was little esteemed, or rather during which lying was tacitly or openly applauded. We have proof in the Bible that, apart from the lying which constituted false witness, and was to the injury of a neighbor, there was among the Hebrews little reprobation of lying. Indeed, it would be remarkable were it otherwise, considering that Jahveh set the example, as when, to ruin Ahab, he commissioned a lying spirit (1 Kings xxii, 22) to deceive his prophets; or as when, according to Ezekiel xiv, 9, he threatened to use deception as a means of vengeance: ‘If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.’ Evidently from a race character which evolves such a conception of a deity’s principles there naturally came no great regard for veracity. This we see in sundry cases, as when Isaac said Rebecca was not his wife, but his sister, and nevertheless received the same year a bountiful harvest (Genesis xxvi, 12). Or as when Rebecca induced Jacob to tell a lie to his father and defraud Esau, a lie not condemned, but shortly followed by a divine promise of prosperity. Nor do we find the standard much changed in the days of Christ and after. For instance, the case of Paul who, apparently rather piquing himself on his craft and guile, elsewhere defends his acts by contending that the ‘ truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory.’”

Here we have a passage which, carrying the tremendous authority of the scientific method, appears to sweep away at a single blow both the Hebrew and Christian religions, for it not only destroys the credibility of the Hebrews and their God, but demolishes our faith in the moral intelligence of Jesus, who could believe in such a God or in such unveracious annals as the Hebrew Scriptures. When we come to examine the facts, however, we discover that this conclusion is vitiated by a defective perception.

The determination of the moral significance of a fact connected with an ancient religion is not an easy task. It requires an eye for organic relations. It is like finding out the function of a primitive organ, or detecting the worth of a bit of evidence in a police case. The phenomena in the case are not all alike. There are dependent facts, and there are vital, determining facts which serve as clues. Mr. Spencer’s conclusion quoted above is much like that of the Scotland Yard officials when they tried to imitate Sherlock Holmes. Facts were all alike to them. They had no eye for relations. Holmes never would have allowed a favorite theory or a few incriminating facts to shape the case for him. He would have looked on all sides. Having been occasionally to an English church, and having a good memory, he would have recollected parts of the Hebrew Psalter and Book of Proverbs, for it is in the sacred hymns and proverbial sayings of a people that one really discovers their ideals. A little examination would have convinced him that, however much the Hebrews may, like Anglo-Saxons, have fallen astray from their ideal when it came to war or love or business, their actual creed about lying was extremely strenuous, and that “he that speaketh lies shall perish.” It is quite possible that Mr. Spencer may have forgotten that the Psalter and Book of Proverbs were not English books, so entirely formative have they been of English literature and, until quite lately, of English ethics. But Sherlock Holmes would not have forgotten that fact. He would have seen, moreover, that the strenuousness of the Hebrew attitude toward lying, which expressed itself in such sayings as “ all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone,” was due to the fact that “lying lips are an abomination to Jehovah,” that no man who spoke lies could approach his presence or dwell in his house, and that this conception of Jehovah dated back to primitive times. The great prophets had early found by experience of Him that the strength of Israel would not lie (1 Samuel xv, 29).

So that, instead of the deceptive character of Jehovah having been evolved by the race character of the Hebrews, the deceptive character of the Hebrews had been held in check by the conception of Jehovah’s regard for veracity. Being, moreover, a man with an eye to literary values, Sherlock Holmes would have seen that the real motif of the Abrahamic stories was Jehovah’s parental care for and discipline of his people. He would have seen that the blessing of Jehovah was not upon their separate acts, whether good or evil, so much as on that childlike trust by which the general tenor of their life was animated; that their lies in every case brought trouble on their heads, together with an increasing sense of the overhanging judgment of Jehovah. Thus, in the story of Joseph’s brethren, the moral climax in the history of their deceit is when they stand in terror before the unknown Joseph, under a false accusation, and their dominant feeling is not that of injured innocence, but of men who are meeting at last the judgment of God for their own ill desert. True, they were not spies; but men of deceit they were, who had cruelly lied to their own father. “What is this that God has done to us?” is their cry. “We are verily guilty concerning our brother.”

As to St. Paul’s deceitfulness, having taken the pains to read his letters through before he formed a theory of his character, Holmes would have found that Paul’s ideal method was “not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” Also he would have found that one of the things which Paul believed would bring God’s righteous judgment on men was the fact that “with their tongues they have used deceit.” Thus Mr. Spencer would have been saved the mistake of interpreting a man’s ideal in regard to veracity by two figures of speech, — a blunder equal to that of fancying Socrates a panderer to vice because, with gentle irony toward his own great and much misunderstood work, he called himself a procurer and a midwife.

It is doubtful, too, whether Sherlock Holmes would have been deceived into thinking that Jehovah was an untruthful God, because he sent false spirits to deceive the prophets of Israel. For Mr. Holmes’s keen, all-around perception would have taken in the fact that to the Hebrew mind everything was a divine sending. The Hebrew did not draw as clear a line between God and nature as we do; neither did he confound God with nature. He could not tell where God’s action ended and nature’s action began. It was reserved for omniscient people like us to do that. But one thing was plain to him, — namely, that God never lost control of a single item in his universe; that, however an event originated, it could not escape being utilized, or, in other words, sent, by God for His own purposes of moral discipline and mental training. This applied quite as much to wicked spirits as it did to wicked tornadoes or earthquakes. This was the Hebrew’s vision of Providence, without which God could not have been God to him. But it did not confuse his ideas of moral causation. Neither the betrayal by Judas nor the torture of the cross originated from the character of God: both were absolutely abhorrent to his character. Yet to the mind of Jesus both of these facts were divine sendings.

As a natural result of this view, whatever Nature did, God did. Every event, however originating, was an act of God wrought for a moral purpose. Now, Nature herself sends strange and illusory voices to men, she plays strange tricks, she often leads even naturalists far afield. Yet Nature is not deceitful. Nothing can be truer or more unalterable than the laws of her procedure. Still, there is in her selfdisclosures a law of retribution, which is also a law of discipline and education. What a man gets from Nature depends upon what he brings to her. If he brings simplicity, humility, what Lord Bacon called the spirit of a little child, if he lives with her, loves her, devotes himself loyally to her, then does Nature lead him kindly, show him her heart, disclose to him her secrets, and, best of all, she forms his perception in a larger, clearer mould. But if he comes with a rigid or egotistic personality, with a favorite method of investigation, a scientific monopoly to be advanced, a reputation to be made, or a philosophic school to be served, then to him does Nature send lying spirits, willo-the-wisps, to him she whispers false messages. It is well that it is so. Such a retributive law serves for the advancement of knowledge; it shows the inherent falsity of an exclusive turn of mind; it exposes the fraud; it is what the Hebrew would call a divine sending. So when a man seeks to find the truth of God, either in the events of nature or in the mysterious realm of psychic forces, everything depends on what he brings to the quest.

The prophets of Ahab, and the prophets who resisted Ezekiel, were politicians, courtiers. They sought to please the king, to serve a Grand Old Party, to uphold the authority of a religion. Small considerations these, relatively to the business in hand! What they did not bring to the quest was the one great organ of final vision, namely, a moral consciousness shaped by unswerving devotion to that God on whose eternal law of righteousness hung all the trembling interests of party, king, and country. They were the prophets of the present, the interpreters of the next thing. They had no eye for God’s finalities, no ear for His counsel. The great prophet was to them as a mad man; the great prophetic voice as a fool’s voice. As the organ of vision had been formed in them, so they saw. It was a divine sending.

Moreover, we have here a word of guidance for us, before which we may well stand in awe, for the curse of every country is a set of shallow prophets, shortsighted interpreters of God or of destiny, like the men who led Russia to defeat, — men honest enough in their conviction, but not steadfast enough to the highest motives to read aright the signs of God or destiny; men good enough to win the confidence of their fellows, yet false as hell in the matter of guidance, because the focus of their moral vision is too short. Such men are the trump card of politicians, thorns in the side of every great leader. Yet great is their popularity; and so impervious are they, and their followers, to the voice of the Infinite that the only chance for a real prophet to get a hearing lies in a divine sending, that shall overwhelm their shallow prophetic gift with sheer disaster. The great Hebrew prophet did not think this out in philosophic terms; he saw God’s sending in a psychic vision. It took on a form which is to our minds bold anthropomorphism, but the principle is clear enough, and has a universal application.

The piece of intellectual workmanship I have cited above is rather typical of our own times. It is one among ten thousand which might be brought forward to show the illusory effect of any intellectual method when it is made to take the place of a perception adapted to the business in hand. It shows that a man with a keen eye to the mechanical relations of a cosmos may have a very poor eye for the organic structure of a great religion. The effect is particularly bad at present, because the age has such a childish trust in the scientific method, irrespective of the perception which lies behind it, that a report from a great scientist is considered the final reality. It settles our doubt whether or not to invest in an Arizona gold mine, believe in a future life, or accept the validity of conscience. As a natural result, the truth becomes a rather contracted affair, confined pretty much to the area covered by the big man’s perception, and the route traversed by his method. Indeed, in the instance quoted above, Mr. Spencer not only emptied a great religion of its truth, but he has actually created out of it for our environment a derelict religion, a false God, and an inverted religious evolution, which wreck our faith in the religious idea. It is this same abuse of method which created a spurious cosmos destitute of a Heavenly Father, thus turning mankind into a brood of orphans. Furthermore, it is a cosmos which is not worth thirty cents, because it suffocates the moral nature. Why, Socrates could not stand up and breathe in such a cosmos ! And where Socrates could not breathe is no place for the rest of us to try to live. We are all too susceptible to moral tuberculosis. The worst of it is, we are still at the old trick. As Dr. Osler expresses it, “The new psychology dispenses altogether with the soul.” Quite likely it does. A coastwise survey conducted off Hatteras or Cape Cod dispenses for the time being with the society of Chicago and New York; it cannot exploit the interior and do coastwise service at the same time. But if it be true that “the new psychologists have ceased to speak nobly of the soul,” then they are as unworthy of attention as a Jack tar who insists on depreciating landsmen, simply because he never gets farther inland than a sailors’ boarding-house.

All this illustrates Mr. Morley’s statement that “religion, whatever destinies may be in store for it, is at least for the present hardly any longer an organic power.” This is not to be wondered at when we consider that the only great organic religion which we possessed has been persistently discredited by the abuse of the historic method. Nor is it a matter of surprise that “conscience has lost its strong and on-pressing energy,” that “the sense of personal responsibility lacks sharpness of edge,” that “the natural hue of spiritual resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of distracted, wavering, confused thought,” that “the souls of men have become void,” or that “into the void have entered in triumph the seven devils of secularity.” We ought to be thankful to Mr. Morley for a sound diagnosis. Great comfort and support there is in tracing these symptoms to a definite cause. Great comfort to know that this White Death of the soul is confined mainly to those who are infected by the abuse of method.

Now, volumes might be written on the value of method in general, and other volumes on its abuse. But what we have to do with is the abuse of the intellectual method, and its fatal effect on the moral nature. Doubtless there have been greater abuses than those which confront us today. When one reflects on the fact that Christian theology had for its task simply to interpret the Hebrew Scriptures, that it has had eighteen centuries to do it in, and that to-day the word of Christ is interpreted to mean religious toleration in England and persecution in Russia: when we consider that little theological seminary in Paris, which, by the decree of the Pope and the aid of the secular arm, enforced its dogmas over Europe by terrors of the stake and the rack; when we contemplate the Puritan divines, who dragged and harrowed their little realm of followers into the acceptance of their decrees by the terrors of eternal torment; when we think of the opposing ecclesiastical monopolies, some of them embracing an empire in extent, each holding an antagonistic theology,— we are amazed that any sense of reality concerning God, morality or religion could have been left in the human mind in the presence of such a reductio ad absurdum. Terrible was the plight caused by this abuse of the theological method; it created a spurious Bible and a spurious cosmos, governed by a spurious God of torture. But the great Hebrew revelation survived; the human soul survives; conscience, though debilitated, survives. It will survive the White Death of to-day, though many individual consciences have perished.

The great intellectual methods, too, will survive. Freed from their abuses, they will prove, for the first time, their value. Theology will cease to be distrusted by the scientist, and science by the theologian. The genuine achievements of each, the steady improvement of method in each, will be gladly recognized. We shall accord to each its sphere, resent to the quick every abuse, as we resent civil tyranny or unjust civic monopoly, while we rescue all methods from exclusiveness or vagary by coördinating them all in the one great practical task of furthering life, — not physical life alone, but life, physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual.