The Kingdom of God
AMERICAN democracy was dedicated to the pursuit of happiness. This aim has been realized to an extent which is astounding. We have ninety per cent of the motors of the world, and control seventy-five per cent of its oil; we produce sixty per cent of the world’s steel, seventy per cent of its copper, and eighty per cent of its telephones and typewriters. No other people in the world is so free to devote itself to the quest of a good time as we are; nowhere else can the masses of the people so abandon themselves to the enjoyment of thrills. We murder one another at the rate of ten thousand a year, and are in general freer from legal restraint than any other civilized nation. Whole forests are being ground to pulp daily to multifold a hundred million times each separate thrill. So conspicuous is our success that an English critic has admitted that America is not a country but a picnic.
There are among us some whom this Mammonistic-Epicurean success does not satisfy. These look, not for a good time, but for the things accounted fruits of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance — and are disappointed. These believe that our civilization is not stable, that it cannot endure, that in spite of our invincible optimism, our swelling self-esteem, our crafty aggressiveness, our certified opinions, we are speeding down the road of destruction.
Of the men of a certain Greek city it was said that ‘they are not fools, but they do just the things that fools would do.’ When British misgovernment stirred the American people to cast away their ancestral restraints, they quite naturally fell under the spell of the smart opinion of the time. There is about the Declaration of Independence, with its blending of quixotic democracy and Epicureanism, something that appeals to honest but simple minds. However, when thinking men saw whereto democracy was leading the people, they sought to check its sway.
Thus, while the Declaration of Independence sought in its visionary idealism to make the world safe for democracy, the Constitution aimed to make democracy safe for the world by imposing salutary restraints upon majority rule. Nothing is more striking in the debates of the Convention than the distrust of its members —with few exceptions — of unrestricted majorityrule, or rule by direct popular legislation. The framers of the Constitution had learned their lesson in the anarchy that had followed the War of Independence. They were not so much concerned about the rights of man as about his duties. Mr. Gerry said: ‘The evils we experience flow from the excesses of democracy. The people are the dupes of pretended patriots.’ Mr. Randolph observed that the general object of the Constitution was to provide a cure for the tribulations which the follies of democracy had brought upon the nation. Said James Madison: ‘A pure democracy, by which I mean a State consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. Such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention, and have often been found incompatible with the personal security and rights of property, and have generally been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.’
However, the Constitution did not realize the intentions of its authors. To-day we are subject to all the ills of democracy which the Founders foresaw and sought to avoid. They did not extract the root of the evil. They did not refute the paganism of the Declaration of Independence; they merely sought to restrain it. They forgot that it is written: ‘The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.’ ‘For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’
Plato saw a vision of a State in which the wise alone govern, in which the masses of the people concern themselves with the tilling of the soil. This Kingdom of God Jesus saw, not as mere desirable possibility, but as eternal fact. The ancients had so seen it. In the Chhandogya Upanishad we read:—
The Infinite indeed is below, above, behind, before, right and left — it is indeed all this. . . .
He who sees, perceives, and understands this ... he becomes an autocrat; he is lord and master of all the world.
But those who think differently from this . . . have other beings for their rulers.
In all times the real power of government has been in the hands of men of vision, in the hands of men who have seen that this universe is something more than what on the surface it appears to be, who have seen that in this universe there lies hidden, under the visible, tangible surface, an unseen intangible core, and that in the far deeps of that core is man’s life rooted. In that man whose eye is not focused on the surface, but who looks through it, sees into the deeps — in him the creative power, dormant, potential in all men, becomes actual, stirring. By such evident actual presence of the power of God in man are civilizations created; without that power manifest by some, civilizations decline and fall into ruin. These in whom, by their own free initiative, the creative power is manifested, be their estate ever so humble, their natural gifts ever so insignificant, are properly our leading men; these are our governors and supreme lawgivers, the guides of the drifting host, which follows them as by an irrevocable decree.
Whatever we have of civilization is their work, theirs alone. If progress was made, they made it. If spiritual facts were discerned, they discerned them. If justice and order were put in place of insolence and chaos, they wrought the change. Never is progress achieved by the masses, never by any organized procedure whatsoever. Creation ever remains the task of the individual, be he working by himself alone or with others; as a creator he is ever working free, detached, not under the spell of the crowd. Always there has been, always there will be, an underlying inert population to till the soil and to husband its produce.
Paul writes to the Romans: ‘Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.’ Such was the view of government held by the founders of the Christian civilization. The governing nucleus of the State and of the Church was the brotherhood of those who had freely chosen to participate in the divine life. In this sense did they regard Church and State as divine institutions, established to make the eternal verities actual in the temporal world. This brotherhood of creative thinkers is the Kingdom of God which Jesus preached, and the preaching and achieving of which was to be the foremost concern of all his disciples.
But this eternal fact requires to be visibly manifested in the instituted State. ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ In attaining the Kingdom man enters upon a new life; he then ceases to be a mere automaton, a mere spectator, for then he begins to participate in the creation of human destiny.
The life in the Kingdom is not merely a higher degree of the same kind of life as that of the multitude; it is a life of a radically different kind. It is not a life of passive participation in a mechanically determined world. It is a life of creative activity, making for itself an ever new world. It is not a life ruled by destiny. It is a life in which freedom circumvents destiny, a life of infinite possibilities. To Jesus the Kingdom of God was not a thing to be realized in the distant future, but it was to be achieved here and now, for he said: ‘Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.’ ‘My kingdom is not of this world,’ Jesus declares. ‘And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.’
This doctrine remained the dominant note of Christian teaching till Augustine identified the Kingdom of God with the instituted Church, and thereby sowed the seed of corruption.
How may we conceive this Kingdom of God in terms of modern thought?
If these last decades of delving into Nature’s secrets have taught us any truth it is this — that Nature works not by chance or by whim, but that law governs all her movements: it has become clear to us that every single event in nature is the offspring of all other events prior or contemporaneous, and will in its turn combine with all other events to give birth to new events. Without these prior and contemporaneous events that event could not have taken place, and with these events there in the actual past and present it must take place.
The world left to itself obeys fatalistic laws. Under determinate conditions Nature behaves in a determinate way. Nothing it does is unforeseeable. Were our science complete and our calculating power infinite, we should be able to predict everything which will come to pass as the result of purely natural causes, in its larger masses or in its minutest elements, as we predict an eclipse of the sun. Thus the coming time already waits unseen, yet definitely shaped, predetermined and, except for the intervention of a creative power, inevitable in the time to come. At any time, therefore, there lies before the world a future which is the necessary consequence of its present state, and which might be predicted from a full knowledge of the present state. This future is the world’s destiny. ‘The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.’
Instituted government, mere political mechanism, is a natural process, governed by natural law. Such government governs the people only in the sense in which the pendulum governs the movement of the clock: that is to say, its function is that of a regulating device, which is part of the whole political body, and as such, in its turn, is governed by that body. Instituted government may be a dominant element in a people’s destiny, but to change that destiny for better or for worse lies not in its power. The United States Government with all its paraphernalia, as it results from Constitution, laws, national character, and environment, apart from any vital impetus given it by creative thought, follows a predetermined course, a course which an all-knowing intelligence might predict to the minutest detail. This predetermined course is an element in the people’s destiny and, being such, it cannot alter the destiny. The established direction of a process can be altered only by an influence emanating from an exterior source.
Nature is eternal flux; only in and through this flux does nature exist for us. A quiescent sun — dark cold stillness — with such there were no world for us. Only by dissipating energy are our senses affected.
Whence this flux? The future, contained in the present as germ, potentially, is not firmly held; it is unstable, cannot but fall into actuality. Nature’s flux results from the instability of its potential.
When a thing becomes actual it ceases to exist as potential. With every new event the equivalent of that event in potential is lost. But things exist for us only in so far as energy is dissipated: that is to say, only in so far as they lose their potential. In their potential, therefore, lies the capacity of things to be for us; in their potential lies their value for us. In so far as a natural process loses its potential it also loses its value; it deteriorates. Or, in other words, every natural change is a step toward a state of final stability, which for man means non-existence. Thus the actual, visible, tangible, natural phenomenon is the transition stage in which nature passes from being to nonbeing. The mechanism of nature has meaning for us only as it runs down. This is the reason why all human destiny has its vanishing point in chaos, destruction, extinction. This is the reason why all human institutions lose their vitality, why no civilization is stable nor any State secure, why dissolution and chaos always confront mankind. This is the reason why every culture and every State carries within it the seed of destruction, so that, if left to itself, it will deteriorate and disintegrate and perish.
The flow of nature is ever downward, and yet this flow never ceases. This fact suggests the question: Is there behind this visible, tangible deterioration an invisible, intangible source from which the stream of nature flows, by which it is replenished? In the midst of all-pervading deterioration there are visible here and there progressive changes : new suns, new life, new visions of truth. Wherever in history we see order emerge out of chaos, wherever the inarticulate herd forms itself into a State, wherever a civilization brings forth its inventions, there a power other than that of down-flowing energy works; there is evidenced a creative, upbuilding power.
Creation is not, like deterioration and chaos, born of the past. ‘To create’ properly means to bring into being something that would not have happened as a consequence of what preceded it. The created thing might not have been. It was not necessary. It is a novelty. It is the beginning of a radically new tendency, a tendency which has not its root in any preëxisting tendency. The creative act transcends destiny, is the source of a new destiny. It is a free act, a first cause. Nothing compels it, nothing hinders it.
From earliest times it has been the common belief of mankind that human thought is able to transcend destiny, to become free and creative. Mere dissipation of energy, or loss of potential, is mechanical, determined, necessitated. In such there is no room for freedom. If man’s thought is free, this freedom must consist in a power to add potential to nature; in no other way is freedom conceivable. The creative thought, then, can be nothing less than a power to release energy from the source of nature, and the exercise of such power implies some sort of inner contact with that source. Now this intangible essence, which the nature-philosopher sees as an inexhaustible source of potential, of energy and form, — Christian tradition declares to be a Creative Reason, the eternal Christ, the Son of God. To the Christian, creativeness means a contact with the Christ, a contact so intimate that it amounts to an identification.
Creative thought, then, is no mere intellectual operation, but it is an act which goes deeper than articulate thought, a spiritual union with Christ. In so far, however, as this thought takes any articulate form, it affirms the essential perfection of things, as they are in the pure rich ground of their being, which is Christ. What appears as an imperfect thing of sense is held to be the eternal Christ. By this transcendence of the realm of phenomena man rises above destiny, becomes a channel through which a new element of potential is introduced into the current of events, becomes a creator. Thus in his union with Christ the Christian sees the activating element in human progress, the source of originality in science and industry, the way to inspiration in art and philosophy, the creative initiative in politics.
In the moment of creative thinking, in the moment in which man exerts an influence on human destiny, he becomes a sharer of the one creative energy, the Christ — which thereby becomes his own life, his own self. In the moment of creative thinking the thinker no longer is a mere individual, but he is the Christ operating in and through an individual manifestation, so that in the individual man is focused, more or less sharply, the infinite power of the Creative Reason. That is to say, while remaining an individual centre of conscious experience and of free initiative, the creative thought merges man in the unity of the Christ, or, as Paul puts it, ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’
So soon as man asserts an individual aim, he falls from his high creative estate and separates himself from the Creative Reason; and in so falling he loses his power over destiny and sinks back into the temporal mortal worldmechanism. Thus the eternal divine Christ, Who manifested Himself in the temporal human person and life of Jesus, never passes away from the world; now and forever He manifests Himself in the life of every individual creative thinker, as well as in the corporate life of the creative brotherhood which constitutes the Kingdom of God.
This presence of Christ binds in deepest unity with each other all, in every place and time, who have attained the Kingdom. Personal division then is apparent only; practically they are one; for the one principle of unity overlaps all individual separations and differences. Hence Paul writes: ‘We, being many, are one body in Christ.
. . . There is one body, and one Spirit.’ The brotherhood of the Kingdom of God, then, does not consist in mere association resulting from community of interest; the Kingdom of God is a single organic whole; and in it dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
To the multitude Jesus presented the idea of the Kingdom in parables only, for he saw that only to the few was it given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom. ‘And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.’
Be the instituted government of a State despotic or democratic, its creative government ever remains a government by the best, an aristocracy. ‘For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.’
All who have achieved the creative life form a ruling caste, but no insignia mark the members of this caste. This government of the wise is an esoteric government. These actual world-rulers arc known by their works alone.
Man can create in no other way than by releasing energy from the source of nature; he is free to do this; in no other way is he free. All free action is creative; never is destruction wrought through freedom. Since man can truly govern in no other way than by releasing the creative power of God, all real government is beneficent and progressive. Never can real government be reactionary or malevolent, for there exists in the universe no power that can change man’s present destiny for the worse.
The only real alternatives before us are the alternatives of freely initiated progress through divine power or mechanical deterioration through the unopposed sway of Nature. Real government is free from all personal and all factional aims; its only aim is the fuller embodiment of the Christ. When a nation falls into evil ways it is solely because its powers of government lie dormant. Real government can do no wrong. Instituted government is ruled by destiny.
Real government is free for all. It is not hedged in by any instituted barriers whatsoever. Participation in it requires no human sanction. The mandate of divine kingship is procured through individual initiative alone. So long as we allow our divine potency to lie dormant, be we invested with ever so imposing insignia of office, we have no part in the real government. In this sense real government always is democratic, even when the instituted government has fallen into the hands of a self-perpetuating oligarchy. And only in this sense is there ever any reality in democracy. The belief that the masses can exercise sovereign power through mere counting of heads is a popular fallacy. Democracy becomes a reality only when it achieves aristocracy, in the true sense, which is government by the best.
Whenever the masses rise in revolt the meaning of the rising is a demand for government. Such is the meaning of every revolution. Such was the meaning of our Declaration of Independence. But if a popular uprising calls forth no better government it will issue in disintegration and chaos. Mass action necessarily is disintegrating and destructive. Let it be remembered, however, that such action is not free, but that it is the naturally necessitated consequence of misgovernment.
Any earnest man, looking out upon the welter of to-day’s problems, must realize that the jingling and rumbling which calls itself government is in fact an absence of government. In chaotic times it grows to be the general belief, the sole accredited opinion, and the contrary of it is accounted puerile enthusiasm — this sorriest disbelief that there is any power in Truth. But never did civilization support itself upon disbelief. Let thoughtful men unite in clear conscious relation, as in dim unconscious relation they ever are united. Let them know it well, let them lay it to heart, that there is no power but of God; that chaos has no power to continue in this world. When this is known and laid to heart by some, we shall see again visibly manifest among us the Kingdom of God.