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The Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 5, November, 1863 online

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submission to the spiritual. Deeds of lofty self-abnegation, rarely if
ever known to modern days, were then common. Stern virtue, as virtue was
then understood, was largely prevalent. The habits of life were devout,
reverential, careful of sanctities, solemn and austere. Individuals and
community lived in the constant remembrance of being strictly
accountable for the manner and actions of their lives. A moral and
religious atmosphere pervaded society, such as our modern levity can
little understand. An atmosphere which impregnated every living being
who came within its scope, and hallowed their lives, so that the guiding
and animating spirit of the day, among high and low, rich and poor,
ignorant and learned, was the conscientious desire of thinking, acting,
and living as God wished and as their better natures approved; of being
pure in their purposes and holy in their deeds, as purity and holiness
were then conceived; of subduing and controlling their passions, and in
all ways being devoutly scrupulous that everything they did was
dictated, not by a desire to gratify a selfish impulse nor an ebullition
of feeling, but by a conviction of duty under a sense of eternal
responsibility to God.

The moral and religious grandeur of the age could not avail, however,
for the highest purposes of civilization, in the absence of intellectual
vigor and mental growth. Devotion itself made men bigots. Their love of
God, unaccompanied by right views of human liberty, induced cruel
persecutions. Humanity had no hope in such developments alone, grand as
they were, and a new principle began its career, gradually supplanting
the first. What does our historian give as the facts of civilization
since the century preceding the Reformation, from which time the
tendency to individuality has been predominant?

The great kingdoms and empires of the earlier days melted away under its
influence. The divine right of kings, and the theory that power sprang
from the ruler, gradually yielded to the democratic principle of
political equality and the origination of power in the people. Civil
liberty became the touchstone of good government, instead of
centralization of power and consolidation. General eligibility to
office grew into vogue in the place of the ancient mode, which
practically limited the selection of statesmen and officials to a
privileged class, comprising the largest and most cultured minds of the
nation. Freedom, and consequent diversity, in thought, in speech, and in
action, became paramount considerations to coercion and resulting
uniformity in these respects. The functions of rule were step by step
curtailed until they dwindled theoretically, and, to a large extent, in
the most advanced countries, practically, into two only - the protection
of person and of property. That government is best which governs least,
came to be an axiom of political progress; and the paramount purpose of
civil organization is beginning to be regarded, not, as under the
monarchical sway, the preservation of order, but the liberty of the
people.

In ecclesiastical affairs, we see the integrality of the church
destroyed under the influence of the Protestant principle of private
judgment, one of the first fruits of individuality. We perceive sects
gradually subdividing into sects, until, instead of a unity of religious
sentiment and a sympathy of religious action under the impulse of a
common creed, an innumerable variety of religious denominations came
into existence, each embodying different beliefs in diverse articles of
faith, and refusing Christian fellowship with the others. In this
transition the gain has been great, and the loss has been great. The
human soul has been liberated to the light of intellectual truth, and
emancipated from the bands of ancient superstition. The blessings of
education, culture, mental development, and social expansion, have been
accorded to the people. Gloomy asceticism has yielded to more hopeful
views of life. Dark and depressing theological dogmas have received more
cheerful interpretations; and the design of creation, the nature of man,
and the destiny of humanity are seen in more alluring colors. The
expectations of the future are no longer made terrible by visions of a
dreadful God; but beneficence and goodness smile through all the
purposes of a loving Father.

All this is gain, is strength, is progress. But what shall we say of
that fierce spirit of religious antagonism, which resulted from the
disruption of the unity of the church? Of that decline in power which
can only exist by consolidation of effort in sympathy of spirit? Of the
loss of that capacity through powerful organization to influence men, to
perform vast deeds of benevolence, superintend the spiritual and
material conditions of the indigent, provide for the comfort of the
poor, check the encroachment of the strong on the weak, and hold
community in respectful awe by the force of its moral and religious
sentiments? The cultivation of the intellectual faculties released the
nations from the domination of a narrow-minded spiritual power; but it
caused men to forget, to a great extent, while in the hot pursuit of
knowledge, that moral culture is equally as essential as mental. To the
intellectual gain, during this period of development, we must add a
corresponding moral or religious loss. We miss, in modern life, the
ever-present, all-pervading, conscious sense of high individual
accountability which directed the thoughts, controlled the feelings, and
overshadowed the lives of the children of the former stage of progress.
The activities of intellectual and material existence absorb the energy
of our era, and leave little inclination and less strength for the
cultivation and expansion of the deeper faculties of man's nature. In
all that side of religious progress which comes from the inculcation of
true ideas concerning God, man, human destiny, and human duty; in all
which belongs to the _intellectual_ side of religion, the side which
enhances our knowledge of what should be done, we have far surpassed the
nations and the people of the past. But in all that pertains to the
emotional, the devotional, and especially to the _moral_ side of
religion, we are far behind them. The animating spirit of life, under
the predominating influence of the religious sentiment, was, as we have
seen, a conscientious endeavor to live, in all ways, a life of purity,
of virtue, and of implicit obedience to the highest dictates of truth,
according to the understanding of truth which then prevailed. To do that
which they deemed right, no sacrifice was too great, no labor too
arduous, no suffering too severe. The deep, abiding, earnest,
controlling spirit of the time, shone bright and glorious through all
its ignorance, degradation, and superstition, a warning to our later and
more cultured age, that the triumphs of the intellect are not all that
is requisite for the final achievements of civilization.

The influence of the individualizing tendency is no more perceptible on
the page of history, in political and religious affairs, than in the
relations of social life. The gradual advance in political ideas, as
relating to the liberty of the people, modified the oppressive
trade-caste systems of the older nations, and wholly abolished them in
the more advanced. Competitive industry introduced intelligence and
self-reliance among the people. The doctrine of the equality of men
elevated the spirit of the laborer, and dispersed, to a greater or less
extent, as the doctrine made itself felt, that servile veneration which
the lower classes paid to the higher; the essential dignity of labor is
becoming acknowledged. To all these benefits, there have been,
nevertheless, corresponding losses. Competitive industry has developed
the mental faculties of the people; but has also left the ignorant and
the weak still under the feet of the intelligent and the rich, while the
recognition of the doctrine of social and political equality has
eliminated from the community those distinctive classes who formerly
constituted themselves the supervisors and patrons of the indigent, and
the providers for their material wants. It is for this reason that the
lowest orders of modern society exhibit relatively a condition of
physical misery unknown to the poor of former times. So, while the
inherent and native dignity of manhood has cropped out, under the
impulse of this same idea of the equality of man, reverence for things
to which reverence is due, respect for sanctities of whatever kind,
deference to superior worth in any sphere - these and other virtues which
belong on that side of truth which consists of the recognition of the
inherent _inequality_ of man in mental, moral, and spiritual
characteristics, are rapidly disappearing, giving place to that spirit
of dead-levelism so peculiarly illustrative of the prevalent sentiment
in this country, and so aptly denominated 'Young America.'

It is in the loss of this side of truth, this want of recognition of the
inherent inequality in men, that one of the greatest elements of
national power has disappeared. That individuals differ in their
organization and capacities one from another, and are hence, in this
respect, unequal, is a generally accepted truism. From this inequality
it results that every man has some sphere in which he is superior to all
others, and in regard to the concerns of which he should be the
voluntarily recognized authority. But, except in the departments where
men are entirely ignorant, and hence are forced to acknowledge the
supremacy of others, there is, among the most advanced peoples, scarcely
any recognition, of this great truth of voluntary deference to those who
are entitled to superiority. Persons of only ordinary capacities, who
read the newspaper, but who elsewise have had little time or inclination
for study, boldly argue abstrusest questions concerning military
methods, political economy, theology, or ethics, with students and
thinkers, without the slightest suspicion that they have no _moral_
right to enter into such a dispute, under such circumstances; their
true position being that of learners. It is not wholly from a want of
knowledge that such errors are committed. Men are mainly aware that
_political_ equality does not mean equality of faculties and of
functions. This assumption of a parity which has no existence, arises in
a large measure from a want of moral power; from a lack of that
religious development, so prevalent in the first state of progress,
which made it possible to conquer pride, subdue egotism, cultivate
humility, defer to superiority, and enabled the individual in all ways
to accept cheerfully his proper position in society, and cordially to
recognize that of every other, so far as he understood them. Political
and social equality emancipate mankind from civil slavery, from social
oppression, from the forced domination of assumptive aristocracies, from
the pride of rank; they prohibit any imposition of authority which the
individual does not willingly accept; but they do not lift one iota of
that responsibility which rests upon every human being to honor the
truth wherever or whatever it may be. Truth demands that we recognize
our superiors, in whatever sphere we may find them, and eagerly avail
ourselves of their advantages; that we recognize our inferiors, and give
them, if they will accept, of our store. That we in America are no
longer coerced into the acknowledgement of an assumed superior class,
only renders our obligation of voluntary deference more binding. The
selfishness and recklessness which the principle of individuality has
developed in its course; the disregard of moral duties which it has
engendered, promise only disaster and defeat to our national career,
unless speedily counteracted by a development of the opposite tendency.

Finally, it is in the sphere of intellectual growth, with its resulting
scientific achievement and material prosperity, that we must look for
the greatest results of the period in which the principle of
individuality has preponderated. It is needless to undertake to detail
these here. Every department of human concern has felt their influence,
and advanced under it. Through science, the world in which we live has
been unfolded to our vision; the organism we inhabit made known; the
history of the past revealed; and the destiny of our future forecast. To
science, the offspring of intellectual activity, we owe our increased
facilities for travel; the gradually accumulating comforts of life;
extended commercial advantages; national growth; social amelioration;
increased power over the elements; and rapidly accumulating wealth. To
mental development we owe civil freedom, social culture, and religious
liberty; commerce, invention, arts, education, enterprise. The principle
of individuality still guides the development of our day; science is
discovering new resources; and practical applications are introducing
new elements of prosperity. The stage of unity has done its work; it
gave us great elements of civilization, but not enough. The stage of
individuality, now swiftly advancing to its close, has furnished
magnificent contributions to progress, but could not achieve the highest
point. We are passing into a third era, which shall combine the good
results of each, and ultimate a nobler form of individual and social
life.

Here, then, we may pause in our investigation and ask the conclusion.
Have intellectual truths been more important in the past progress of the
world than moral ones? Let us sum up. We have seen that the early ages
of the world were dominated by the principle of unity; that during its
career the moral agencies preponderated, while the intellectual were
subordinated; that society, under the influence of these agencies,
developed to a higher degree than subsequently certain elements, such as
political order, national stability, religious sympathy, moral
responsibility, associative labor, deference, reverence, and others,
absolutely essential to the highest well-being of a nation; that these
elements, however, in the absence of those of an opposite or
counteracting nature, had a morbid rather than a healthful action, and
kept humanity in darkness and stagnation, being inadequate to all the
requirements of social progress; that a new development then began,
under the impulse of a new and opposite principle, which evolved
precisely those tendencies the want of which had prevented the complete
realization of the highest purposes of national life; such were
intellectual culture, political liberty, social equality, religious
freedom and others; that in the course of the development of these
principles, likewise absolutely necessary to the complete organization
of community, those which had been predominant under the operation of
the drift toward unity, became dormant; so that the results of the
second stage of progression were, practically, the same as those of the
first, namely, the evolution of magnificent principles, which in the
absence of their counterparts had not a healthful action, and were
unavailable for the establishment of the highest civilization; and
finally, we have seen, from the nature of the two principles, that
neither is adequate, alone, to the inauguration of a true social order,
neither to develop the indispensable requisites which belong to its
opposite, but that in every harmonious organization both must be
present, mutually functioning, interblending, and expanding.

This, then, is the answer: The moral agencies have tried to secure the
highest social state without the aid of the intellectual, and have
failed. The intellectual agencies have sought to secure the same object
without the aid of the moral, and have likewise failed. There is no
possibility of establishing the _desideratum_ without the full and
uninterrupted play of the moral faculties; no possibility of
establishing it without the full and uninterrupted play of the
intellectual faculties; both have been equal factors in the history of
the past in an isolated way; both will be equal factors in a blended
harmony in the history of the future. One is humanity's head, and the
other humanity's heart. With the absence of either the nation is not yet
come into its birth; it is still an embryo.

In this exhibition of the nature and tendency of the principles of unity
and individuality, we have also the means of correcting the error into
which Professor Draper has fallen respecting the law of human
development. He, together with Mr. Buckle, has failed to perceive that
the _static_ forces are as important to human growth as the _motic_. He
would reject the fruits of the stage of unity and be satisfied with the
splendid achievements of the intellectual era. Dazzled by the brilliancy
of this later age he is not conscious that in securing the finer results
of our riper civilization, we have left in abeyance the deeper, sterner,
and more religious elements of life. He would urge us onward in our
merely intellectual career, unmindful of the lesson, which the pages of
history logically teach, which the principles we have pointed out
unerringly confirm, that intellectual development, religious liberty,
civil freedom, social equality, unbalanced and unregulated by the
centralization, consolidation, moral force, religious responsibility,
and the tendencies which belong to the principle of unity, push
irresistibly toward disintegration, and end inevitably in political
revolution, national disruption, and social anarchy. Toward that goal
the nations are now steadily setting under the operations of the
tendency to individuality. In the direction which Dr. Draper points for
success and prosperity are only disaster and despair: 'The organization
of the national intellect' has been and will be fruitless, unless
accompanied by the organization of the national moral power. China has
the former in an inferior and stunted way, without the latter, and is
fitly described by the historian as passing cheerlessly through the last
stage of civil life. Had she been less selfish, had she felt deeply the
moral and religious obligation she owed to humanity, China had liberated
the intellectual faculties to a complete freedom under the
sanctification of the moral agencies, and added to that permanence,
which is _one_ of the chief factors of national success, the freedom
which is the other.

The 'predetermined order of development' has not destined the peoples of
the earth to the melancholy fate of China. The climacteric of the
present stage of progress is rapidly approaching, is even now touching
with its finger the startled nations. When it shall have passed, the
world will enter upon the third and final stage of civil progress, in
which the organized power, social order, moral grandeur, religious
unity, and coöperative industry of the past epoch will be allied to the
civil liberty, social equality, intellectual culture, and practical
activity of the present. Under these combined influences humanity will
start upon a new career, whose achievements in literature, in science,
in art, in religion, in practical activities, will make even the vast
accumulations of our modern day seem to the future historian
insignificant accomplishments, 'a school-boy's tale, the wonder of an
hour.'

* * * * *

To the American student of history his own country presents, at the
present time, a most mournful and convincing example of the inability of
intellectual agencies to secure national stability or individual
prosperity in the absence of moral strength. Here education has been
general, mental activity great, and literary culture prevalent. Here,
nevertheless, during half a century a giant wrong has held paramount
sway; dominating the sentiment, dictating the policy, controlling the
action of the Government, and, at the same time, bending commercial
interests to its purpose, giving the law to public opinion, and
directing the destiny of the republic. Not to any want of knowledge has
the reign of this tyrant been due. The slaveholding institutions of the
South are mainly sustained by men of high mental development and large
intellectual culture. The statesmen who staked the freedom of a race
against the chance of political honor, were renowned for mental vigor.
The people who turned a deaf ear to the cry of the bondmen, are
celebrated throughout the world for their intelligence.

The weakness of the nation was not intellectual, but moral. The 'selfish
pursuit of material advantages' had conquered, in the slaveowner of the
South, and in the mercantile community of the North, the love of equity
and the desire of right. Political ambition was stronger among the
statesmen of the North, than the instincts of mercy or the sense of
religious responsibility. Love of gain weighed heavier with the people
of the United States than the love of God or of their fellowmen. In vain
the voice of warning has been sounded. In vain has the republic been
urged to love mercy and to do justice. The country lay in a moral
lethargy, from which no gentle means could rouse it, and the dread
thunderbolt of war was launched to smite it into action. Through
humiliation and suffering; amid widows' tears and orphans' grief;
through struggle and privation; by the stern baptism of blood, the
nation is being awakened to its deficiencies, is being called to the
development of higher virtues.

This latest lesson of history is solemn and impressive. Fruitlessly
shall communities teem with material advantages and wealth; in vain
shall peoples increase their industrial resources; futile the
universality of education and the liberalizing results of intellectual
growth; these shall endure but for a season, as the glitter on the
waves, unless the national life is grounded on religious devotion to the
highest truth, and is practically active in securing the social welfare
of the brotherhood of man.




TREASURE-TROVE.


A day in the heart of summer,
A sky of that glorious hue
That dazzles and melts like the ocean,
In its fathomless, infinite blue!

The topmost leaves of the maple
Are stirred by a wondrous song,
That swells, and dies; then rising,
Still clearer floats along.

Oh, where have I heard that music?
Whence its familiar tone?
The beauty that thrills it, trembles
Not in the song alone:

It dwells in sunsets, that deepen
In the glory and gloom of night;
In waters that glance and sparkle,
In the hush of the lingering light.

Like the waves of a springing river,
That from silver fountains wells;
Higher, and fuller, and sweeter
That liquid melody swells.

Oh, the haunting, dim-shadowed expression,
That sighs on the breathless air!
If ever a soul were in music,
A soul is thrilling there!

That song, with its burden immortal,
I heard it long ago!
I know its every cadence,
That quivers and pulses so:

I claim it, bird of summer!
That wondrous song of thine;
Though thine its tuneful utterance,
Its melody is mine.

Then sing till, tranced in rapture,
The day forgets to wane;
And the winds of heaven are silent,
To hear that magic strain.

Sing till the pain of thy transport
O'erpowers each dying tone!
Thou canst not warble a measure
That is not all mine own.




MATTER AND SPIRIT.


Mr. Editor: In the July number of THE CONTINENTAL, I notice some
editorial remarks upon a portion of my article 'Touching the Soul,'
which appeared in the June number. For these remarks I am under
obligation to you, as pointing out the looseness of my phraseology,
whereby I have failed to convey the idea I intended; for which looseness
the only excuse must be that my mind was occupied more with the thought
than with the expression, and the latter was so absorbed in the former
as to have suffered in consequence. For it seems to me that the
strictures are due to misapprehension of the position assumed.

To commence with the assumed operation of spirit on the material world,
as seen in the action of nature: Does not the theory that the mysterious
productive forces are in their own nature spiritual verge somewhat
closely upon the dogmas of pantheism? What else than this was the belief
of the ancients, which placed a Naiad in every stream and a Dryad in
every tree? Does it not draw still nearer to Shelley's theory of a
'Spirit of Nature,' which was his God, creating, shaping, and pervading
all things? In a word, does not such a theory, in effect, place a god in


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Online LibraryVariousThe Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 5, November, 1863 → online text (page 10 of 20)