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The Autobiography of Christopher Kirkland, Vol. 1. Linton, E. Lynn (Elizabeth Lynn), 1822–1898.
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page: 128

CHAPTER VI.

I WILL give, so far as I can, the genesis of my first change in speculative thought.

Undirected in my studies and unhelped in my thoughts, I read where I listed and came to such conclusions as seemed good to me. In the superstitious and pre-scientific period of life, when marvels are accepted as of the established order of things, I was inclined to the mysterious and the weird at all four corners of my being. Thus, I believed in magic of a stately and learned kind; in alchemy and astrology; in the Rosicrucians and second-sight; in fortune- page: 129 telling, magic crystals, and the Egyptian boy's power of seeing the past and future in a few drops of ink held in the hollow of the hand; in mesmerism, ghosts and spiritual visitations generally; but by some good luck of latent common-sense I did not believe in vulgar witchcraft, though I did in the Witch of Endor. But then, she was not vulgar; and she was in the Bible. The supernatural powers of such men as Cornelius Agrippa and Albertus Magnus I took to be undeniable. The charmed circle surrounded by smoke wherein the demons appeared to (I think) Benvenuto Cellini, was a fact; and I had no doubt but that Surrey did see Geraldine in the magic mirror. The Indian jugglers, of whom my eldest sister sent home such thrilling accounts, were evidently mighty magicians; and he who had the courage could, if he would, conjure up the devil even to this day. I remember how greedily I devoured, page: 130 and half-ashamedly, half-defiantly, believed in the notes to Sir Walter Scott's works, telling of the wonders that had been. Gilpin Horner the goblin, crying: ‘Tint, tint!’ and Thomas of Ercildoune, who lived with the fairy queen and was sent for by her again when his time had come; the ‘Book of Might’ and its strange glamour; the magic potency of that shadowy Virgilius whom I could never reconcile with the more solid humanity of the Virgil who wrote the ‘Eclogues;’ the egg on which Naples is built; the naked child running three times round the barrel; the Mauthe Doog; Sir Kenelm Digby's sympathetic ointment; the Irish banshee and the Scottish seer—all were cherished faiths with me; while the historical mysteries of the Vehmgericht and the secret worship of Bafomet seemed to put a backbone into the more purely imaginary qualities of the rest.

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Other things of an unprovable nature also troubled my imagination. I was intensely fond of mythology, in which I saw neither the sun nor the dawn, nor yet the ark, but simply the divine and the human.

How dear that little idyl of Philemon and Baucis was to me! Its simplicity and realism made it almost Scriptural; and though I did not dare to bracket it with the visit of those three divine beings to Abraham and Sara, still, I thought the one account as true as the other. No poem ever written equalled in my eyes the loveliness of that sweet picture where Endymion lies asleep on the heights of Mount Ida, and the virgin goddess leans over him lovingly; and the majesty of Minerva was equalled only by the beauty of Apollo. Aurora and her dappled steeds surrounded by the Hours casting flowers as they fly; rash Icarus and rasher Phaethon; the deluge of Deucalion page: 132 and the dragon's teeth which Cadmus sowed—they were all products of the border-land lying between romance and reality, and I was never quite sure of the line of division.

The stories also of the Greek maidens who met the Gods among the reeds, in the court of the temple, in the woods, gave me cause for much crude speculation. Like our own sacred mystery of how the Sons of God came down and loved the daughters of men, they woke up in me incessant wonder at the difference between those old times and the present day, and made me ask myself: ‘Where are the Sons of God now?’ and with more faith than critical faculty: ‘Why should not be again that which his already been?’ I remember when I first read Byron's ‘Heaven and Earth,’ how the characters of Anah and Aholibamah, and the superhuman yet manlike beauty of Samiasa and Azaziel struck me with living page: 133 force, and coloured my dreams for many nights. But the story which impressed me most was that wild and weird account of Gilli-Doir-Magrevollich, the Black Child, Son to the Bones, found in the notes to the ‘Lady of the Lake.’

I cannot say why this strange unwholesome legend took such hold of me. Perhaps because it was unwholesome. I could not shake myself clear from it; and I had a haunting kind of prevision that more hung on it than its own superstitious fancy. I had just heard, too, of Joanna Southcote; and altogether my mind was, as it were, fascinated by this subject of virgin births—their possibility now as their certainty in times past—and by the whole range, indeed, of divine interposition in the works and ways of man—whether it were in the assumption of the human form or in the gift of prophetic insight, or inversely in the page: 134 darker mysteries of magic and the power of conjuring up the devil. This was a different thing from belief in spiritual communion. It was what one may call the materialistic form of supernaturalism—belief in which belongs to all unscientific and uncultured minds, and the abandonment of which is the first step outward towards enlightenment.

One early summer's day, I was sitting where I had no business to be, under the hedge of the as yet unmown hayfield at the foot of the garden. I had taken with me to read in quietness, Ovid's ‘Metamorphoses.’ If my father had seen it in my hands he would have forbidden it to me; which was why I went where I was not likely to be found even if looked for. I was digging away at the myth of Nisus and Scylla, and the purple lock wherein the old king's strength lay, when, for the first time, I was struck by the likeness of this story to that page: 135 of Samson and Delilah. Hitherto all the Bible stories had been on a raised platform apart, and there was no analogy with them to be found elsewhere. I knew my Ovid pretty well by now; and immediately, on the discovery of this point of resemblance, there flashed across me also the likeness between the story of Myrrha and that of Lot's daughters—of Iphigenia and Isaac for the one part, in the substitution of a doe for the one, of a ram for the other; and of Iphigenia and Jephthah's daughter for the other, where the human element is alone retained. With this my mind went off on the now familiar track of the virgin births, when suddenly—in that strangely rapid and vivid manner in which such things come to me, as if it were really the quick opening of a closed door and the headlong rush into a newly-furnished and brilliantly-lighted chamber—there shot through my brain these words which page: 136 seemed to run along the page in a line of light: ‘What difference is there between any of these stories and those like to them in the Bible?—between the loves of the Sons of God for the daughters of men, and those of the gods of Greece for the girls of Athens and Sparta?—between the women made mothers by mysterious influences, and those made mothers by divine favour?—between the legends of old times and the stories of Sara, Hannah, Elizabeth,—and the Virgin Mary?’

When this last name came, a terrible faintness took hold of me. The perspiration streamed over my face like rain, and I trembled like a frightened horse. My heart, which for a few seconds had beaten like a hammer, now seemed to cease altogether. The light grew dim; the earth was vapoury and unstable; and, overpowered by an awful dread, I fell back among the long grass where I was sitting as if I had been struck page: 137 down by at unseen hand. But this physical faintness soon passed, and my mind went on following the line of thought I had begun, as if I were talking aloud to some one at hand.

‘No one at the time knew anything about the miraculous conception of Mary's child. Joseph himself was only warned in a dream not to doubt her, for that she was with child by the Holy Ghost, as announced to her by the Angel Gabriel. Does any one know more now than was known then? If this Christian marvel is true, why not all the rest? Why should we say that Mary alone spoke the truth and that every one else has lied? But spirits do not come to women; there were no such beings as those old gods who were said to have come down from Olympus to mingle in the affairs of mortals; that passage in Genesis about the Sons of God is a mystery we cannot fathom. And we know that there is such page: 138 a being as the Angel Gabriel—such a Divine person as the Holy Ghost. Do we know this? Have we more certainty than had the old Greeks when they believed in the power of Jupiter and the divine manhood of Apollo, and in the celestial origin of those fatherless sons brought into the world by maiden mothers, who swore to their womanly innocence for the one part and their human exaltation by divine favour for the other? Surely yes! The Miraculous Incarnation has been affirmed by all the churches; and the proofs are—the star which guided the Magi, and the song of the angels in the sky to the shepherds watching their flocks. But who can certify to these proofs? Why did not others see that star as well as the Magi?—and who knows whether the shepherds heard the song, or only imagined it?’

These thoughts clung to and left me no peace night nor day. Ever and ever the Mystery of the Incarnation became more and page: 139 more a subject of perplexity and doubt, and of dread lest that doubt should broaden into denial. Brought into line with these legends of former times—contrasted with the old classic myths and the stories in the very Bible itself—it suddenly seemed to lose its special character and to be merely one like others. It was no longer exceptional and divine—it had become historic and human. Therefore, it fell within the range of criticism and might be judged of according to its merits and the weight of evidence at its back. What was that weight? Outside its own assertion—absolutely nil. No contemporaneous testimony vouched for the story of the Virgin Birth—for the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel—for the Star or the Song; and Mary herself alone knew the truth of things. All therefore rested on her word only. Sweet, beautiful and pure as was her personality—Godlike as was that Christ she bore—was that word of more page: 140 intrinsic value than that of the Greek girl who told how she had met the god in the reeds by the river side?—or than that of the nameless mother of the Black Child, Son to the Bones, denying human knowledge and accusing the unseen? Was it? Had there been more miraculous births than one?—or no miraculous birth at all, and the laws of nature interrupted for no one—for one no more than for another?

While my mind was torn and tossed by these terrible questions, I was one night looking at the stars from my bedroom-window, wondering at the mystery and glory of creation and speculating on our relations with the universe—when again in that same sudden way these words came to me as distinctly as if I were reading them in a printed page:

‘Has God in very truth ever become man? We, the inhabitants of only one out of such countless millions of worlds—our world of page: 141 a lower order of cosmic splendour than so many, and ourselves of conscious mental deficiency—why were we singled out for such a transcendent act of mercy? Why should God have cared so much for us, vile and troublesome as we have always been? Was it true? Has the great Incommunicable First Cause ever clothed Himself with flesh—born, living, suffering, dying as a mortal man, and all the time very God?’

Then, as vividly as if I had seen Him in the body and spoken with Him face to face, I saw Christ as a peasant translated to our own time. I realized the minutest circumstances of His humanity; when a loud voice, like the rushing wind, seemed to echo from earth to sky—to fill all space and to command all time, till I was conscious of nothing but these words: ‘Man—not God; man—not God!’

The voice was so loud, the words were so clear, I wondered the whole house did not page: 142 wake to listen. And how bright the stars were! Each star grew to be like a sun which changed the darkness of the night to almost overpowering glory; and I seemed to hear the weaving of the great web and to understand the complexity, but the unity, the universality, the rush and pressure and stream of life—everywhere life, even as here!

Why did they not all hear and see as I did? But no one moved. I turned to look at Edwin. He was tranquilly asleep in bed at the other end of the room—a beautiful child rather than a youth of nineteen—innocent, troubled by spiritual doubts no more than his favourite cat which was curled up on the pillow beside him, and desiring to learn no more of the great mysteries than he had been taught in his childhood. No! he saw and heard nothing. The voice and the glory and the great weaving of the web of life did not exist page: 143 for him. It was only I who heard and saw and knew.

But now, coming up from the study, over which our bedroom immediately was, my father's voice broke out in prayer; of which I heard these words: ‘O Thou, who came into the world to save sinners, have mercy on me!’

Then all my exaltation passed, and I was once more alone in the dimness of the starry night—alone, in the dark, and ignorant.

I flung myself on my knees and asked pardon of Him whom I had crucified afresh by my doubts—longing only to die and to have done with all this ignorance—longing to die, that I might then Know and sin no more.

The light under the door betrayed me. My father, passing along the passage, saw it and came in—to find me in this state of spiritual anguish and contrition.

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When he asked why I was not in bed? and what ailed me? I could not confess to him. I knew of old how unsympathetic he was with this part of my life; and my wound was too sacred to lay bare to eyes which could not understand and would probably rasp it afresh.

My silence, which looked like sullenness, angered him.

‘Why was I ever cursed with such a son!’ he said vehemently. ‘Look at your brother there—why cannot you be like him—a reasonable creature who gives no trouble to anyone? Why are you so foolish, so irritating? Not Job himself could have patience with you, Christopher!’

He went up to Edwin's bed, leaned over him and kissed him fondly; and my brother, roused by the light and the action, opened his eyes and smiled, putting up his hand to our father's face with the caressing gesture of a child.

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I was too much moved to resent or defy, as I should have done in my ordinary mood. I only longed to receive the same love as that which was given to others—to be included—to be taken out of the solitude and banishment in which I lived.

‘Kiss me, too!’ I said, holding out my hands. ‘Father, dear! kiss me too!’

‘No,’ he said coldly; ‘I cannot kiss you, for I neither believe in you nor respect you.’

So there it was again!—the old bitter contrast—Esau and Jacob; Ishmael and Isaac; Cain and Abel; and the poor goat, laden with sins, sent into the wilderness, while the sheep fed about the Master's feet and the lambs were carried in His bosom!

For all this I could not stop my thoughts. They came as of their own will, and I was forced to listen to them.

Bracketed with the more human difficulty page: 146 of the Divine Incarnation came one yet more mysterious. Christ, to whom we pray under the name and form of; and as actuated to pity by His experience as, a man—was He always Jesus Christ—the Divine Man from all eternity? Was then the Godhead always tripartite? The Jews were taught the unity of the Divine Essence in the one supreme Jehovah, and knew nothing of this division. When did it come about?—when Mary conceived? Did that which had been from the beginning take a new form at a moment of time?—and was heaven, in point of fact, acted on by earth, and God determined by humanity? If not, why then was Christ hidden so long behind the overwhelming personality of the Father?—His very name and being concealed until He had taken the form of man? Was He powerless till then? and did God, the great Spirit, need to become flesh before He could save flesh? Was the Athanasian page: 147 Creed wrong, and were the Persons unequal?

Again, was the grace which lies in Christ Jesus, the crucified Saviour, dormant for all these countless generations? But why? Why should not the world have been redeemed before? There was no manifest historic reason why that special moment should have been chosen; and for the worth of the men saved—surely Plato and Aristotle, Socrates and Aristides, Buddha, Confucius, Marcus Aurelius—and how many more!—were as worthy of redemption from the eternal doom meted out to ignorance as those nameless lepers and minor disciples who had neither commanding intellect nor enduring influence!

I carried my troubles to Mr. Grahame, and he set himself to resolve them. He took the last first, but refused to admit that this was a subject which fell within the range of discussion.

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‘The reason for that moment When is hidden with Christ in God. Why, Wherefore, How, and the need which God in Christ has of the love of man, are of the mysteries whereof no man knoweth,’ he said reverently ‘It is a waste of time, and the encouragement of spiritual presumption, to speculate on them.’

‘Would you have said that to a Greek wanting to know why Chronos devoured his own children?’ I asked.

‘The cases are not parallel,’ he answered.

‘Parallel in so far that we are the children of God, and He let us be lost for all eternity because He delayed His salvation,’ I answered. ‘The only difference is that which lies between the active and the passive.’

‘Things which are beyond reason are beyond dialectics,’ he returned. ‘We have to deal with completed facts, not with energizing causes nor yet with reasons why. The page: 149 fact of the Miraculous Conception is all that concerns us.’

‘How do we know that it is a fact?’ I asked; and again went over my roll-call of analogies.

‘To compare the Divine Child and His Mother to the absurd legends of a rude people in a rude age, when the most monstrous myths were accepted without examination, and the laws neither of nature nor of evidence were understood, or to the patent falsehoods of a few unfortunate girls!’ said Mr. Grahame with gentle contempt. ‘Have you so little sense of proportion—beauty—verisimilitude? But we need not go farther on this line. It pains and revolts me. So far then, I take it that the ground is clear. The Mystery of the Trinity is beyond our comprehension; the virgin mothers of men are myths; but the Incarnation of the Divine in Jesus of Nazareth stands four-square to all the winds of doctrine. It is page: 150 the one Great Fact on which humanity can rely and by which it is saved.’

‘Why this more than those others?’ I asked. ‘To assert is not to prove—is it?’ I added hurriedly, a little frightened by my own audacity in standing up against one so infinitely my superior.

He was sweet and gentle and mild.

‘By its own internal evidence,’ he said. ‘I disregard the external, about which you trouble yourself so much, and take my stand on the character and life of Christ alone; and on the results of Christianity in history. We want nothing more to prove the divine origin of our faith. Such a being as Jesus of Nazareth must have been divine, seeing how far He was beyond humanity, both in His life and teaching. And the work which Christianity has done in the world could only have come through a God-given revelation. I ask you to look at nothing else but the life of our Lord, page: 151 and the influence of Christianity on society.’

‘Yet Buddha's life was pure and holy, and Mohammed redeemed the Arabs from gross idolatry to the spiritual worship of the One God,’ I said.

‘And Buddha and Mohammed were both divinely inspired and divinely led,’ was his reply. ‘Rivers are fed by many streams, and the river of righteousness with the rest. Buddha, Mohammed, Luther, Cromwell, Savonarola, Galileo, Newton—all the great men who have taught great truths of any kind, have had their portion of inspiration, the perfect fulness of which is found only in our Lord. The instruments of God are many—the melody from each is the same—and the Hand which masters all is the Only One. Study the character of Christ. Trace the influence of His teaching on the morality, the history, of mankind, and then you will realize for yourself the page: 152 Divinity which needs no circumstantial evidence to substantiate it.’

This argument did not satisfy me for long. At first I thought I had found in its deeper insight and wider outlines the resolution of all my difficulties and a sure harbour of glad refuge. But after a time I slipped back into my painful groove of doubt, and, with doubt, of despair.

There were certain things in the character and doings of Christ—beautiful as was the one, benign and loving as were the others—which seemed to me simply and purely human: as, His wholesale denunciations of the Pharisees and Sadducees; His cursing the fig-tree for its natural and normal barrenness; His sending the devils into a herd of swine, so that the innocent brutes were all drowned, while the devils were presumably not damaged, being of the nature of immortal spirits; and a few more of those elementary difficulties over which all page: 153 inquirers stumble. And as for the effects of Christianity on society—divorced from civilization, surely these have been more disastrous than beneficent! Religious zeal has only added another and still more pungent ingredient to the fierce compound of the natural man, by adding fanaticism to cruelty. It has made of a peaceful paradise a reeking hell in South America; devastated the Low Countries; set Catholics to shoot down Huguenots, Episcopalians to massacre Covenanters, and all dominant sects to destroy all nascent ones; it has deluged the earth with blood wherever the Cross has been raised and the Beatitudes have been preached in the name of the Prince of Peace and the God of Love.

And then the popes and bishops, the cardinals and abbots, the Roderick Borgias and Balfours of Burley—men who have wallowed in sensuality or waded through blood—where was the Sign of the Lamb on page: 154 them? Were popes like Hildebrand and Innocent III. true Vicars of Christ? Was Thomas à Becket or was Wolsey a fit successor to the sweet St. John or the humble-minded St. Andrew? And was our own prelatic Church, with its worldly wealth, political influence and social dignity, the same Church as that which the Twelve Apostles planted when they went forth without scrip or purse to preach the poverty they practised? ‘Le grand sansculotte!’ Was my grandfather, the Bishop, a Christian after the Archetype? Indeed, were any of us who lived daintily and fared sumptuously, while our brothers wept and starved, Christians such as Christ would own?

I said all this in my headlong way, vehement in manner, crude in method. And to Mr. Grahame I must have seemed as unphilosophic as the chalk scrawl on a barn-door would have been inartistic to Etty or Maclise. I had no logical method; no reserve force; page: 155 no critical discrimination of values. I flung my bricks on the ground without order or constructive endeavour, unskilfully, rudely, where he pieced his mosaic bit by bit and line by line, till the pavement was smooth, compact and without a flaw.

Still, he was very kind to me, and let me talk myself out; sitting with his eyes half-closed, his white hands touching each other by the finger-tips, and a serene smile just lighting the curved corner of his bland mouth; while I, heated, excited, my rough hair tossed and tumbled, my lank face crimson with emotion, stood before him pouring out my fiery thoughts like lava that scorches as it flows.

Yes, he was very kind. For a fastidious scholar as he was, to whom method was as valuable as matter; for a philosopher who had overcome all dialectic difficulties and supplemented the darkness of Reason by the light of Understanding; for a theoso- theosophist page: 156 phist, sure that he knew the mind of God, and could map out, as it were a chart, the whole plan and order of divine dealing with man through Christ and the Church; for an intellectual master where I was but a hodman, he was marvellously patient. It fills me with wonder now, when I remember how long-suffering he was, as I can measure the provocation I must have given him both by my want of scholarly finish and by my intractability. For neither his eclecticism, urging me to put aside as non-essential all those points which troubled me, nor Maurice's books which he lent me, removed the doubts by which I was harassed. And the internal evidence on which he dwelt so much was no more convincing than the external.

And now another thought came to me. Like the running loops of a chain, whereof the first has broken, my doubts were multiplying and these unanswerable questions page: 157 were increasing. This was my new difficulty: If Christ were God—that is, Omniscient as well as Omnipotent—why did He not teach things that could be tested by man and proved by experiment, rather than those which are assertions only? Why, for instance, instead of telling us about Lazarus in heaven, leaning on Abraham's bosom and separated by a great gulf from Dives in hell, did He not give us a form of political government whereby men might have been made happy, with equal justice to all? Why did He not tell us that the earth is not the centre of our system, and that our system itself is not the all-important part of creation we have imagined it to be? Galileo would not then have been subjected to the Inquisition, and Giordano Bruno would not have been burned. Why did He not tell us about electricity and steam; and reveal the law of gravitation and that of optics and of page: 158 dynamics; and show us at least the way to the great chemical discoveries that have since been made? How many crimes would have been prevented, and how many falsehoods would never have been believed, if He had!

To say that man has to find these things out for himself, and that to reveal would be to destroy endeavour, seemed to me but a weak argument. For, at the best, only one man finds out, while all the world—after they have persecuted him and perhaps put him to death as a blasphemer—quietly accept his discovery without any endeavour at all. And was it worth while to leave the whole human race in ignorance, that Copernicus should centralize the sun or Newton formulate the law of gravitation, when Christ could have done both? Surely, in view of a Divine Teacher who might have told us in one moment of time what it has taken so many generations to learn, the argument for the necessity of page: 159 search—which only means isolated teachers and delayed discoveries—is an excuse rather than an argument! And, on the plea of help to the race to be saved—is not intellectual truth as necessary for the right-mindedness of a man as the spiritual is for the salvation of his soul?

I said all this to Mr. Grahame—each question a doubt—but his answer was:

‘All this is immaterial. Christ came to teach us only spiritual truth; His kingdom is not of this world.’

And I was to him as dense-witted as a buffalo, when I answered as before:

‘But the spiritual life is not divorced from the intellectual. The crimes committed by superstition and ignorance—witness the crime of witchcraft—might have been prevented by a little timely enlightenment. Would not that have been more to our good than telling us about the turning of the moon into blood, and the falling of page: 160 the stars from the sky? Yet the very Apostles themselves believed in witchcraft, and their words gave an impetus to the terrible persecution which disgraced our humanity and only proved our hideous ignorance.’

I did not say this with irreverence. It was simply because the present and material good of man seemed to me more important than something to happen in the far-off, undated future. And also because I was beginning to think that the Teacher was not divinely omniscient, and knew no more than His epoch.

One day the fragmentary benevolence of the miracle of healing wrought on the blind man suddenly struck me with a sense of incompleteness and partiality—and therefore not as divine, but purely human. By my reading I knew that ophthalmia is, and always has been, one of the physical curses of the East; and: ‘Surely,’ I thought, ‘it would page: 161 have been more like the act of an impartially benevolent Deity, had Christ taught how this evil might have been removed for all time, rather than simply opening the eyes of this one man. Why did He cure only that one? To set forth His power by a miracle, and thus compel the halting faith of those who would not receive Him? Would not a universal remedy have done that as well as this one event only, besides benefiting the whole human race?’

Reminded that I, a young creature with a finite intellect—and even what I had of intelligence neither well-trained nor well-developed—had no right to question the modus operandi of Divinity, I could only answer by my one cuckoo-note of evidence:

‘This modus operandi has been manifested to us by human media. We therefore have the right to examine into the credentials of these media—and part of these credentials page: 162 lies in the moral harmony of the account. If things are said of God which shock our own conceptions of justice and generosity, we are not blasphemous in refusing to believe that they are true.’

Reminded again that some of the greatest minds and acutest intellects have believed implicitly both the Old Testament and the New, I answered, as others have answered before me:

‘What men have believed is no measure of external truth, however great the individual intellect. Plato and Socrates believed in the Gods of Olympus—would you support yourself on their authority?’

‘In the confession of the Divine Life within man?—Yes,’ he said.

‘No; in the special manifestation,’ I answered; ‘in the then mystery of the armed Minerva springing from the head of her father, Jove—in the unborn Bacchus carried about in the great God's thigh.’

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‘Your parallels, my dear boy, never run on all fours,’ said Mr. Grahame mildly.

‘Why not these manifestations of divine power as well as our own?’ I asked.

‘The world has settled that long ago,’ he answered.

‘So perhaps, the world of the future will settle our questions,’ I said. ‘In their day the doubters of Jupiter and Bacchus and the whole hierarchy of Mount Olympus were held as infidels and treated as criminals.’

‘And justly; if they had no better faith to put in the place of the old!’ he flashed out quickly.

‘We must destroy before we can rebuild,’ I said.

‘Meanwhile the unhoused souls starve,’ was his reply. ‘Man must have a faith—that is incontestable; and no man has a right to destroy before providing a substitute. Your substitute for the Chris- Christianity page: 164 tianity you would uproot?—the living affirmation in place of your death of negation?’

‘Monotheism,’ I answered.

He did not answer for a moment. Then he said:

‘But Unitarianism—which is our modern Monotheism—confesses the divine life in man.’

‘Inspiration—not incorporate Godhead,’ I replied.

‘We must judge by the Understanding,’ he said. ‘The Hidden Wisdom is felt, not demonstrated. You have it, or you have it not. You cannot argue about it as you might argue about a philosophic theorem or a painted picture. It is a thing which the Best have agreed to accept as final and fixed.’

‘No question can be called final, Mr. Grahame, while there are dissidents and doubters. We do not deny that two and two make four, nor do we question the laws page: 165 of gravitation. While two opinions exist on a subject it cannot be called proved—granting these two opinions to be held by men of the same calibre of intellect and the same degree of education.’

When I said this, Mr. Grahame, smiling softly, first shut his eyes, and then opening them full in my face, asked mildly, as if seriously demanding information:

‘My dear boy, are you one of those men of intellect and education qualified to judge for yourself on these abstruse points, and to argue with me?’

‘No,’ I said, ‘not if I stood alone. But others think as I do. It is a question of schools, not individuals.’

‘There have always been schools,’ he answered, still smiling. ‘One of these schools once believed in Simon Magus; one gave glory to Cagliostro; and one denied the Copernican theory.’

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‘That was the Church,’ I said, yielding to the temptation.

‘Of Rome? Yes. That was the Church of Rome,’ was his calm reply.

‘But Rome is Christian,’ I said.

‘And Sir Matthew Hale was a Christian, too. Christianity has never assumed to include scientific illumination.’

‘No; and that is just my point,’ I said. ‘If it had! If it had given us a test by which we could judge of the unknown by the proved!’

‘In which case there would have been no room for faith. And without faith there is no religion.’

‘Is there no religion in is heaven, where we are to know even as we are known?’ I returned. ‘The ultimate of religious enlightenment precludes the necessity of faith according to the conditions of our state.’

‘Precisely. Then we shall have know- knowledge page: 167 ledge, which is the fruition of faith,’ he answered, with a certain kind of compassionate disdain for my ignorance. ‘It is the seed and the flower—the root and the tree; the one cannot exist without the other. Here we have faith and the higher series of religious research—there we shall have love and knowledge. The two are different notes on the same string—a simple question of vibration.’

‘And for those who have not faith?’ I asked.

‘The loss of time consequent on straying on wrong roads—the condemnation due to wilful ignorance.’

‘Is any ignorance wilful, Mr. Grahame?’ I asked. ‘Do we not all do the best we can?’

‘No; some do the worst, and some ignorance is wilful,’ he answered. ‘As with you now. You have the truth offered you and the light is all around you. You will not page: 168 accept the one nor open your eyes to the other.’

‘Will not or cannot?’

‘The one is only a mask to hide the other. “Velle est agere.” You say that you cannot, and I, that you will not. You might if you chose. It is because you will not choose that you do not, You are not the first half-educated youth who has fallen into the sin of unbelief through presumption—who has lost his better reason through the pride which accompanies ignorance so dense as to mistake itself for knowledge. And I suppose you will not be the last. It is a spiritual disease which has to be gone through, like measles or small-pox. Pity that sometimes the eyesight goes for ever and the scars remain ineffaceable to the day of death! Absit omen! Be wise in time and heal yourself while you can. I fear, however, you will not. I know your kind; and your training has been too disastrous.’

page: 169

This was the first time that Mr. Grahame had spoken to me with harshness. In general he had dealt with me tenderly, as one in error truly—but, though erring, one sincerely desirous of knowing the truth, and therefore to be in a certain sense respected. And this sudden dogmatic condemnation wounded me to the quick. For I could not feel that I was wilfully wicked. I was merely conscious of a desire to know the truth and the corresponding dread of believing a lie. If I were in the wrong, might God forgive me and lead me aright! I had not intentionally gone astray. And if it is part of the function of Divine Grace to keep souls straight, why had mine been abandoned?

There was no more impiety in asking this question than there was in acknowledging the fact. If faith comes by grace, and divine illumination is necessary for salvation—is it the wilful fault of the individual when this grace is withheld, this illumina- illumination page: 170 tion denied? Is not God more powerful than the thoughts of man?

I was far as yet from the materialism which makes certain thoughts the necessary results of certain conditions of the brain. I believed in mind as a thing apart from and uninfluenced by matter—the soul as something that both controlled and was determined by thought. And the shape of my head, the depth of the convolutions, the arrangement of the molecules and the quality of the grey matter, together with the state of my blood and nerves, had no part in that which I held to be essentially spiritual and super-sensual—inspired by heaven or dating from hell.

Hell? Was there such a place as hell?—such a being as the devil? I began to doubt even these two points, cardinal as they had hitherto been. The Incarnation, the Atonement, Eternal Punishment and Satan—these four corner-stones of the page: 171 Christian Church had loosened so much that the slightest movement more would shake them down altogether. And then—what would be my state?

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