Edward Carpenter.

Pagan & Christian creeds : their origin and meaning online

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nations and classes, its fears and greeds and vanities and
its futile endeavors — as of people struggling in a swamp —
to find one's own salvation by treading others underfoot,
is a negative phenomenon. Ignorance, non-perception, are
at the root of it. But it is the blessed virtue of Ignorance
and of non-perception that they inevitably — if only slowly
and painfully — destroy themselves. All experience serves
to dissipate them. The world, as it is, carries the doom
of its own transformation in its bosom; and in proportion as
that which is negative disappears the positive element must
establish itself more and more.

So we come back to that with which we began,^ to Fear
bred by Ignorance. From that source has sprung the long
catalogue of follies, cruelties and sufferings which mark
the records of the human race since the dawn of history;
and to the overcoming of this Fear we perforce must look

xilge der Physiologischen Psychologie — in which amid an enormous
mass of verbiage occasional gleams of useful suggestion are to be
1 See Introduction, Ch. I, supra.


for our future deliverance, and for the discovery, even in
the midst of this world, of our true Home. The time is
coming when the positive constructive element must domi-
nate. It is inevitable that Man must ever build a state of
society around him after the pattern and image of his own
interior state. The whole futile and idiotic structure of
commerce and industry in which we are now imprisoned
springs from that falsehood of individualistic self-seeking
which marks the second stage of human evolution. That
stage is already tottering to its fall, destroyed by the very
flood of egotistic passions and interests, of vanities, greeds,
and cruelties, all warring with each other, which are the sure
outcome and culmination of its operation. With the restora-
tion of the sentiment of the Common Life, and the gradual
growth of a mental attitude corresponding, there will emerge
from the flood something like a solid earth — something on
which it will be possible to build with good hope for
the future. Schemes of reconstruction are well enough
in their way, but if there is no ground of real human
solidarity beneath, of what avail are they?

An industrial system which is no real industrial order, but
only (on the part of the employers) a devil's device for
securing private profit under the guise of public utility,
and (on the part of the employed) a dismal and poor-spirited
renunciation — for the sake of a bare living — of all real
interest in life and work: such a 'system' must infallibly
pass away. It cannot in the nature of things be permanent.
The first condition of social happiness and prosperity must
be the sense of the Common Life. This sense, which in-
stinctively underlay the whole Tribal order of the far past —
which first came to consciousness in the worship of a thousand
pagan divinities, and in the rituals of countless sacrifices,
initiations, redemptions, love-feasts and communions, which
inspired the dreams of the Golden Age, and flashed out for
a time in the Communism of the early Christians and in
their adorations of the risen Savior — must in the end be


the creative condition of a new order: it must provide
the material of which the Golden City waits to be built.
The long travail of the World-religion will not have been
in vain, which assures this consummation. What the signs
and conditions of any general advance into this new order
of life and consciousness will be, we know not. It may be
that as to individuals the revelation of a new vision
often comes quite suddenly, and generally perhaps after a
period of great suffering, so to society at large a similar
revelation will arrive — like ''the lightning which cometh out
of the East and shineth even unto the West" — with un-
expected swiftness. On the other hand it would perhaps
be wise not to count too much on any such sudden trans-
formation. When we look abroad (and at home) in this
year of grace and hoped-for peace, 19 19, and see the spirits
of rancour and revenge, the fears, the selfish blindness and
the ignorance, which still hold in their paralyzing grasp huge
classes and coteries in every country in the world, we
see that the second stage of human development is
by no means yet at its full term, and that, as in some vast
chrysalis, for the liberation of the creature within still more
and more terrible struggles may be necessary. We
can only pray that such may not be the case. Anyhow, if
we have followed the argument of this book we can hardly
doubt that the destruction (which is going on everywhere)
of the outer form of the present society marks the first
stage of man's final liberation; and that, sooner or later, and
in its own good time, that further 'divine event' will surely
be realized.

Nor need we fear that Humanity, when it has once en-
tered into the great Deliverance, will be again overpowered
by evil. From Knowledge back to Ignorance there
is no complete return. The nations that have come
to enlightenment need entertain no dread of those others
(however hostile they appear) who are still plunging darkly


in the troubled waters of self-greed. The dastardly Fears
which inspire all brutishness and cruelty of warfare — whether
of White against White or it may be of White against
Yellow or Black — may be dismissed for good and
all by that blest race which once shall have gained the shore
— since from the very nature of the case those who are on
dry land can fear nothing and need fear nothing from the
unfortunates who are yet tossing in the welter and turmoil
of the waves.

Dr. Frazer, in the conclusion of his great work The Golden
Bough,^ bids farewell to his readers with the follow-
ing words: "The laws of Nature are merely hypotheses
devised to explain that ever-shifting phantasmagoria of
thought which we dignify with the high-sounding names of
the World and the Universe. In the last analysis magic,
religion and science are nothing but theories [of thought] ;
and as Science has supplanted its predecessors so it may
hereafter itself be superseded by some more perfect hypothesis,
perhaps by some perfectly different way of looking at
phenomena — of registering the shadows on the screen — of
which we in this generation can form no idea." I imagine
Dr. Frazer is right in thinking that "a way of looking
at phenomena" different from the way of Science, may some
day prevail. But I think this change will come, not so
much by the growth of Science itself or the extension
of its 'hypotheses,' as by a growth and expansion of the
human heart and a change in its psychology and powers of
perception. Perhaps some of the preceding chapters
will help to show how much the outlook of humanity on
the world has been guided through the centuries by the
slow evolution of its inner consciousness. Gradually, out
of an infinite mass of folly and delusion, the human soul
has in this way disentangled itself, and will in the future
disentangle itself, to emerge at length in the light of true
Freedom. All the taboos, the insane terrors, the fatuous
1 See "Balder," vol. ii, pp. 306, 307. ("Farewell to Nemi.")


forbiddals of this and that (with their consequent heart-
searchings and distress) may perhaps have been in their
way necessary, in order to rivet and define the meaning
and the understanding of that word. To-day these taboos
and terrors still linger, many of them, in the form of con-
ventions of morality, uneasy strivings of conscience, doubts
and desperations of religion; but ultimately Man will emerge
from all these things, /ree — familiar, that is, with them all,
making use of all, allowing generously for the values of
all, but hampered and bound by none. He will realize the
inner meaning of the creeds and rituals of the ancient re-
ligions, and will hail with joy the fulfilment of their far
prophecy down the ages — finding after all the long-expected
Saviour of the world within his own breast, and Paradise
in the disclosure there of the everlasting peace of the soul.



Being the Substance of Two Lectures to Popular



To some, in the present whirlpool of life and affairs it may
seem almost an absurdity to talk about Rest. For long enough
now rest has seemed a thing far off and unattainable. With
the posts knocking at our doors ten or twelve times a day, with
telegrams arriving every hour, and the telephone bell constantly
ringing; with motors rushing wildly about the streets, and
aeroplanes whizzing overhead, with work speeded up in every
direction, and the drive in the workshops becoming more in-
tolerable every day; with the pace of the walkers and the
pace of the talkers from hour to hour insanely increasing —
what room, it may well be asked, is there for Rest? And now
the issues of war, redoubling the urgency of all questions, are
on us.

The problem is obviously a serious one. So urgent is it that
I think one may safely say the amount of insanity due to the
pressure of daily life is increasing; nursing-homes have sprung
up for the special purpose of treating such cases; and doctors
are starting special courses of tuition in the art — now becoming
very important — of systematically doing nothing! And yet
it is difficult to see the outcome of it all. The clock of what
is called Progress is not easUy turned backward. We should
not very readily agree nowadays to the abolition of telegrams
or to a regulation compelling express trains to stop at every
station! We can't all go to Nursing Homes, or afford to enjoy
a winter's rest-cure in Egypt. And, if not, is the speeding-up
process to go on indefinitely, incapable of being checked, and
destined ultimately to land civilization in the mad-house?

It is, I say, a serious and an urgent problem. And it is, I
think, forcing a certain answer on us — which I will now en-
deavor to explain.



If we cannot turn back and reverse this fatal onrush of modern
life (and it is evident that we cannot do so in any very brief
time — though of course ultimately we might succeed) then I
think there are clearly only two alternatives left — either to go
forward to general dislocation and madness, or — to learn to
rest even in the very midst of the hurry and the scurry.

To explain what I mean, let me use an illustration. The
typhoons and cyclones of the China Seas are some of the most
formidable storms that ships can encounter. Their paths in
the past have been strewn with wrecks and disaster. But
now with increased knowledge much of their danger has been
averted. It is known that they are circular in character, and
that though the wind on their outskirts often reaches a speed of
IOC miles an hour, in the centre of the storm there is a space of
complete calm — not a calm of the sen certainly, but a complete
absence of wind. The skilled navigator, if he cannot escape
the storm, steers right into the heart of it, and rests there.
Even in the midst of the clatter he finds a place of quiet where
he can trim his sails and adjust his future course. He knows
too from his position in what direction at every point around
him the wind is moving and where it will strike him when at
last his ship emerges from the charmed circle.

Is it not possible, we may ask, that in the very midst of the
cyclone of daily life we may find a similar resting-place? If
we can, our case is by no means hopeless. If we cannot, then
indeed there is danger.

Looking back in History we seem to see that in old times
people took life much more leisurely than they do now. The
elder generations gave more scope in their customs and their
religions for contentment and peace of mind. We associate
a certain quietism and passivity with the thought of the
Eastern peoples. But as civilization traveled Westward external
activity and the pace of life increased — less and less time was
left for meditation and repose — till with the rise of Western Europe
and America, the dominant note of life seems to have simply
become one of feverish and ceaseless activity — of activity merely
for the sake of activity, without any clear idea of its own
purpose or object.

Such a prospect does not at first seem very hopeful; but
on second thoughts we see that we are not forced to draw any
very pessimistic conclusion from it. The direction of human
evolution need not remain always the same. The movement,
in fact, of civilization from East to West has now clearly com-

REST 285

pleted itself. The globe has been circled, and we cannot go
any farther to the West without coming round to the East again.
It is a commonplace to say that our psychology, our philosophy
and our religious sense are already taking on an Eastern color;
nor is it difficult to imagine that with the end of the present
dispensation a new era may perfectly naturally arrive in which
the St. Vitus' dance of money-making and ambition will cease
to be the chief end of existence.

In the history of nations as in the history of individuals there
are periods when the formative ideals of life (through some
hidden influence) change; and the mode of life and evolution
in consequence changes also. I remember when I was a boy
wishing — like many other boys • — to go to sea. I wanted to
join the Navy. It was not, I am sure, that I was so very anxious
to defend my country. No, there was a much simpler and more
prosaic motive than that. The ships of those days with their
complex rigging suggested a perfect paradise of climbing, and
I know that it was the thought of that which influenced me.
To be able to climb indefinitely among those ropes and spars!
How delightful! Of course I knew perfectly well that I should
not always have free access to the rigging; but then — some
day, no doubt, I should be an Admiral, and who then could
prevent me? I remember seeing myself in my mind's eye,
with cocked hat on my head and spy-glass under my arm,
roaming at my own sweet will up aloft, regardless of the re-
monstrances which might reach me from below! Such was my
childish ideal. But a time came — needless to say — when I
conceived a different idea of the object of Ufe.

It is said that John Tyndall, whose lectures on Science were
so much sought after in their time, being on one occasion in
New York was accosted after his discourse by a very successful
American business man, who urged him to devote his scientific
knowledge and ability to commercial pursuits, promising that
if he did so, he. Tyndall. would easily make "a big pile."
Tyndall very calmly replied, "Well, I myself thought of that
once, but I soon abandoned the idea, having come to the con-
clusion that I had no time to waste in making money." The
man of dollars nearly sank into the ground. Such a conception
of life had never entered his head before. But to Tyndall no
doubt it was obvious that if he chained himself to the commercial
ideal all the joy and glory of his days would be gone.

We sometimes hear of the awful doom of some of the Russian
convicts in the quarries and mines of Siberia, who are (or were)


chained permanently to their wheelbarrows. It is difficult to
imagine a more dreadful fate: the despair, the disgust, the
deadly loathing of the accursed thing from which there is no
escape day or night — which is the companion not only of the
prisoner's work but of his hours of rest — with which he has to
sleep, to feed, to take his recreation if he has any, and to fulfil
all the offices of nature. Could anything be more crushing?
And yet, and yet ... is it not true that we, most of us, in
our various ways are chained to our wheelbarrows — is it not
too often true that to these beggarly things we have for the
most part chained ourselves?

Let me be understood. Of course we all have (or ought to
have) our work to do. We have our living to get, our families
to support, our trade, our art, our profession to pursue. In
that sense no doubt we are tied; but I take it that these things
are like the wheelbarrow which a man uses while he is at work.
It may irk him at times, but he sticks to it with a good heart,
and with a certain joy because it is the instrument of a noble
purpose. That is all right. But to be chained to it, not to
be able to leave it when the work of the day is done — that is
indeed an ignoble slavery. I would say, then, take care that
even with these things, these necessary arts of life, you preserve
your independence, that even if to some degree they may confine
your body they do not enslave your mind.

For it is the freedom of the mind which counts. We are
all no doubt caught in the toils of the earth-life. One man is
largely dominated by sensual indulgence, another by ambition,
another by the pursuit of money. Well, these things are all
right in themselves. Without the pleasures of the senses we
should be dull mokes indeed; without ambition much of the
zest and enterprise of life would be gone; gold, in the present
order of affairs, is a very useful servant. These things are
right enough — but to be chained to them, to be unable to think
of anything else — what a fate! The subject reminds one of
a not uncommon spectacle. It is a glorious day; the sun is
bright, small white clouds float in the transparent blue — a day
when you Hngcr perforce on the road to enjoy the sence. But
suddenly here comes a man painfully running all hot and dusty
and mopping his head, and with no eye, clearly, for anything
around him. What is the matter? He is absorbed by one idea.
He is running to catch a train! And one cannot help wondering
what exceedingly important business it must be for which all this
glory and beauty is sacrificed, and passed by as if it did not exist.

REST 287

Further we must remember that in our foolishness we very
commonly chain ourselves, not only to things like sense-
pleasures and ambitions which are on the edge, so to speak,
of being vices; but also to other things which are accounted
virtues, and which as far as I can see are just as bad, if we once
become enslaved to them. I have known people who were so
exceedingly 'spiritual' and 'good' that one really felt quite
depressed in their company; I have known others whose sense
of duty, dear things, was so strong that they seemed quite
unable to rest, or even to allow their friends to rest; and I
have wondered whether, after all, worriting about one's duty
might not be as bad — as deteriorating to oneself, as distressing
to one's friends — as sinning a good soUd sin. No, in this respect
virtues may be no better than vices; and to be chained to a
wheelbarrow made of alabaster is no way preferable to being
chained to one of wood. To sacrifice the immortal freedom
of the mind in order to become a prey to self-regarding cares
and anxieties, self-estimating virtues and vices, self-chaining
duties and indulgences, is a mistake. And I warn you, it is
quite useless. For the destiny of Freedom is ultimately upon
every one, and if refusing it for a time you heap your life per-
sistently upon one object — however blameless in itself that
object may be — Beware! For one day — and when you least
expect it — the gods will send a thunderbolt upon you. One
day the thing for which you have toiled and spent laborious
days and sleepless nights will lie broken before you — your repu-
tation will be ruined, your ambition will be dashed, your savings
of years will be lost — and for the moment you wiU be inclined
to think that your life has been in vain. But presently you
will wake up and find that something quite different has
happened. You wUl find that the thunderbolt which you
thought was your ruin has been your salvation — that it has
broken the chain which bound you to your wheelbarrow, and
that you are free!

I think you will now see what I mean by Rest. Rest is
the loosing of the chains which bind us to the whirligig of the
world; it is the passing into the centre of the Cyclone; it is
the Stilling of Thought. For (with regard to this last) it is
Thought, it is the Attachment of the Mind, which binds us
to outer things. The outer things themselves are all right.
It is only through our thoughts that they make slaves of us.


Obtain power over your thoughts and you are free. You can
then use the outer things or dismiss them at your pleasure.

There is nothing new of course in all this. It has been known
for ages; and is part of the ancient philosophy of the world.

In the Katha Upanishad you will find these words (Max
MuUer's translation): "As rainwater that has fallen on a
mountain ridge runs down on all sides, thus does he who sees
a difference between qualities run after them on all sides."
This is the figure of the man who does not rest. And it is a
powerful likeness. The thunder shower descends on the moun-
tain top; torrents of water pour down the crags in every
direction. Imagine the state of mind of a man — however
thirsty he may be — who endeavors to pursue and intercept
all these streams!

But then the Upanishad goes on: "As pure water poured
into pure water remains the same, thus, O Gautama, is the Self
of a thinker who knows." What a perfect image of rest!
Imagine a cistern before you with transparent glass sides and
filled with pure water. And then imagine some one comes
with a phial, also of pure water, and pours the contents gently
into the cistern. What will happen? Almost nothing. The
pure water will glide into the pure water — "remaining the
same." There will be no dislocation, no discoloration (as
might happen if miiddy water were poured in); there will be
only perfect harmony.

I imagine here that the meaning is something like this. The
cistern is the great Reservoir of the Universe which contains
the pure and perfect Spirit of all life. Each one of us, and
every mortal creature, represents a drop from that reservoir —
a drop indeed which is also pure and perfect (though the phial
in which it is contained may not always be so). When we,
each of us, descend into the world and meet the great Ocean
of Life which dwells there behind all mortal forms, it is like
the little phial being poured into the great reservoir. If the
tiny canful which is our selves is pure and unsoiled, then when
it meets the world it will blend with the Spirit which informs
the world perfectly harmoniously, without distress or dislo-
cation. It will pass through and be at one with it. How can
one describe such a state of affairs? You will have the key
to every person that you meet, because indeed you are con-
scious that the real essence of that person is the same as your
own. You will have the solution of every event which happens.
For every event is (and is felt to be) the touch of the great

REST 289

Spirit on yours. Can any description of Rest be more perfect
than that? Pure water poured into pure water. . . . There
is no need to hurry, for everything will come in its good
time. There is no need to leave your place, for all you desire
is close at hand.

Here is another verse (from the Vagasaneyi-Samhita Upan-
ishad) embodying the same idea: "And he who beholds all
beings in the Self, and the Self in all beings, he never turns
away from It. When, to a man who understands, the Self
has become all things, what sorrow, what trouble, can there
be to him — having once beheld that Unity?" — What trouble,
what sorrow, indeed, when the universe has become trans-
parent with the presences of all we love, held firm in the One
enfolding Presence?

But it wUl be said: "Our minds are not pure and trans-
parent. More often they are muddy and soiled — soiled, if not
in their real essence, yet by reason of the mortal phial in which
they are contained." And that alas! is true. If you pour
a phial of muddy water into that reservoir which we described
— what will you see? You wUl see a queer and ugly cloud
formed. And to how many of us, in our dealings with the
world, does life take on just such a form — of a queer and ugly

Now not so very long after those Upanishads were written
there lived in China that great Teacher, Lao-tze; and he too
had considered these things. And he wrote — in the Tao-Teh-
. King — "Who is there who can make muddy water clear?"
The question sounds like a conundrum. For a moment one
hesitates to answer it. Lao-tze, however, has an answer ready.

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Online LibraryEdward CarpenterPagan & Christian creeds : their origin and meaning → online text (page 22 of 25)