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UC-NRLF



SMIC
COMMONWEALTH

EDMOND HOLMES



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LO
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THE COSMIC COMMONWEALTH



BT THE SAME AUTHOR

WHAT IS AND WHAT MIGHT BE

IN DEFENCE OF WHAT MIGHT BE

THE TRAGEDY OF EDUCATION

THE NEMESIS OF DOCILITY

THE PROBLEM OF THE SOUL

THE SECRET OF THE CROSS

THE SECRET OF HAPPINESS

THE CREED OF MY HEART

AND OTHER POEMS



THE COSMIC
COMMONWEALTH

BY

EDMOND HOLMES



LONDON
CONSTABLE & COMPANY LTD.

1920



The author wishes to thank the Editors of the
"Nineteenth. Century and After" and the
" Hibbert Journal" for permission to reprint
articles which he contributed to their respective
periodicals*



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. OUR NEED OF AN IDEAL i

II. A WORD TO THE ORTHODOX ... 5

III. THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE SUPERNATURAL . 10

IV. THE AUTOCRAT OF THE UNIVERSE . . 15
V. THE FEUDAL OVERLORD . . . 23

VI. THE APOTHEOSIS OF SELFISHNESS 33

VII. A SECULAR AGE . . . . .40

VIII. HUMAN EQUALITY 45

IX. DIVINE IMMANENCE 55

X. THE LIVING WHOLE 61

XI. THE KINGDOM OF GOD .... 67

XII. EACH FOR ALL 73

XIII. ALL FOR EACH 79

XIV. THE ANTIDOTE TO ANARCHY. 93
XV. THE HUMAN COMMONWEALTH ... 99

XVI. EDUCATION FOR COSMIC SERVICE . . . 106

XVII. POSSIBILITIES 113



425971



The Cosmic Commonwealth



CHAPTER I

OUR NEED OF AN IDEAL

THE Great War has revealed to us the hollowness
of the materialistic civilization on which we had
prided ourselves. The social order which our armies
and police forces had maintained is breaking up. In
many lands settled government is giving place to anarchy,
and the semblance of prosperity to the reality of misery
and want. Even in those which are more fortunate the
turmoil is great, and there is a growing sense of insecurity
and a vague foreboding of disaster. We are being borne
hither and thither by swirling cross-currents of hatred,
jealousy, greed, ambition and self-will. There are other
currents than these larger, deeper, saner, purer. But
in this world-wide crisis the more turbulent currents
have risen to the surface ; and human society has become
a veritable Maelstrom, strewn with the wreckage of many
institutions and traditions, and threatening shipwreck to
many more.

No wonder that the idea of social reconstruction is in
the forefront of our thoughts. The theme is one which
touches all interests, and attracts all classes and all types



2 A! ; THfc.CdSMiC v COMMONWEALTH

of mind. Those who have suffered under the old order
of things clamour for a new order. Those who have
profited by the old order are beginning to realize that
things cannot remain as they were, and that their own
tenure of " the good things of life " is, to say the least,
insecure. Politicians promise us a better and a happier
world. Statesmen are busy with schemes of practical
reform. Each clique, each party, each group of en-
thusiasts or faddists Trade Unionists, State Socialists,
Guild Socialists, Syndicalists, Anarchists, Individualists,
Teetotallers, Tariff Reformers, Currency Reformers,
Land Reformers has its own formula for reconstruction.
Opinions and proposals are many and various ; and such
features as they have in common are negative rather than
positive. In particular, there are two factors in the great
problem which all the builders seem to have agreed to
ignore Education and Religion (the essentials of each,
not the externals). Yet to reconstruct society without
regard to education is to build without laying founda-
tions ; and to reconstruct without regard to religion is
to build without a plan.

How can we best repair these vital omissions ? Let us
begin with religion. Religion controls all things, in-
cluding education. Without a ground-plan of our pro-
posed edifice we cannot so much as stake out its founda-
tions. When I speak of building without a plan, I am
thinking of an architect's plan, not of a speculative
builder's. The speculative builder works to a plan, no
doubt ; but his plan is planless. His aim, in running up
a house, is to sell it at a profit as soon as possible, and
then forget all about it. The plan, as such, has no interest
for him. What does interest him is to get a quick return



OUR NEED OF AN IDEAL 3

for his money. For the architect, on the other hand, if
and so far as he is an artist, the plan is everything. His
aim, in designing a house, is to realize an ideal an ideal
of comfort, convenience, durability, inward harmony,
outward beauty. If our reconstruction of society is to
be successful, we must work as architects, not as specula-
tive builders. We must not be content to meet immediate
demands, to satisfy conflicting claims, to provide this
thing here and that thing there. We must try to embody
an ideal in our social structure a spiritual ideal, a dream
of a perfect world.

Now our architectonic ideals are all in .the keeping of
religion. For what is religion ? From one point of view,
a struggling science. From another, a struggling art.
The subject matter of religion, as a science, is supreme
reality, the popular name for which is God. When man's
vision of supreme reality becomes the object of desire
rather than of thought, it transforms itself into his
ultimate ideal. And to realize ultimate ideals is the
function of religion, as an art.

Religion, then, whether we accept or reject it, whether
we reckon with it or ignore it, is in command of the whole
situation. If, and so far as, our religion is false, our vision
of supreme reality will be defective, our ultimate ideal
will be inadequate, and the structure of our social life
will be badly planned. But the structure will be still
worse planned if we do what we are now intent on doing,
if we ignore religion in our attempts at social recon-
struction, and think to dispense with its inspiration and
guidance. For then we shall be building without a plan,
building as speculative builders, not as architects. And
the result of our labour will be an ill-built, inconvenient,



4 THE COSMIC COMMONWEALTH

insanitary, perishable structure, not the realization of a
high ideal, not an enduring monument of vision and
forethought and skill.

That the existing social structure was badly planned,
that it embodies an inadequate ideal, is proved by its
present collapse. If the ideal which it embodies is in-
adequate, the architect's vision of supreme reality must
have been defective, and the central conceptions of his
religion must have been at fault. These considerations
point to one momentous conclusion. The reconstruction
of religion must both precede and accompany the recon-
struction of society.

What form will the reconstruction of religion take ?
We must go back to first principles. We have been the
victims of an unworthy conception of God. We have
thought of God as the supernatural Creator and there-
fore as the autocratic Ruler of the Universe. And we
have gone on to think of him as the fountain-head of
irresponsible authority ; as the Overlord of a feudal
hierarchy which is secular as well as spiritual ; as the
guarantor of the " divine rights " of kings and princes
and multi-millionaires ; as the arbitrary dispenser of
property, power, position, and privilege, and all the other
" good things " which the feudal magnates and their
modern successors have claimed for themselves and denied
to their f ellowmen. The social structure which embodied
this vision of supreme reality, after having long shown
ominous cracks and other signs of decay, is now tumbling
to pieces. What course, then, is open to us, if we are to
build a better structure, but to revise our conception of
God?



CHAPTER II

A WORD TO THE ORTHODOX

WHAT course is open to us, if we are to rebuild
society as architects that is, as artists and
idealists but to revise our conception of God ? We
have too long thought of God as the autocratic Overlord
of the Universe. Has not the time come for us to think
of him as the symbol and centre of Cosmic unity, as the
Presiding Genius or President (if we are to continue to
use the notation of political life) of the Cosmic Common-
wealth ?

I mean by God what is supremely and ultimately real
what is supreme in man's vision of reality, what is ulti-
mate in man's search for reality. Those whose inter-
pretation of the root-idea of God differs materially
from this will do well to read no further, for I shall be
using a language which they will not understand.

Those who accept this definition of God, but who still
cling to the conception of God which I am asking men
to abandon, the conception of an omnipotent autocrat,
who governs the world from without instead of directing
its vital processes from within, may read this book if
they please indeed it is my earnest desire that they
should do so but I warn them at the outset that they
will almost certainly approach the study of it with postu-



6 THE COSMIC COMMONWEALTH

lates which I cannot grant, and that it will therefore be
very difficult for us to meet on the same platform of
thought.

For high thinking is necessarily circular. The con-
clusions of the thinker are latent in his primary assump-
tions. If they were not, he would have undermined his
own foundations in the course of constructing his so-
called system of thought. The outcome of his thought
will be a particular conception of life and destiny, which
will be the realization in consciousness of a particular way
of looking at things, a way which has always been his.
And that way of looking at things will have both furnished
him with the data for the solution of his problem and
determined his whole line of approach.

It is the same, mutatis mutandis, with those whose con-
clusions have been dictated to them by " authority."
When their beliefs are called in question, they will bring
those beliefs with them, as fundamental assumptions, to
the study of the arguments of their critics. The " ortho-
dox " believer, for example, will assume at the outset
that the truth of things has been supernaturally com-
municated by God to man, and therefore that scepticism
is the outcome, not of an honest search for truth, but
of wilful rebellion against God ; and his analysis of the
sceptic's arguments will be controlled by this instinctive
assumption. It will be difficult for him to realize that
the idea of a supernatural revelation is one of the postu-
lates which the sceptic has found cause to reject.

From first to last, then, I, who plead for a revision of
our conception of God, and those of my readers who
believe that the current or orthodox conception of God
has been dictated to us by God himself, will be moving



A WORD TO THE ORTHODOX 7

along different lines of thought. And they will be even
less able to enter into my line of thought than I into
theirs. For their point of view is familiar to me. From
my earliest days I was taught to look at things from it ;
and I did so for many years, not as a child only, but also
as an adolescent and even as an adult. Before I finally
abandoned it I passed through many stages of perplexity
and doubt. But because the process of my conversion
(or perversion, as they would call it) was slow and painful,
the outcome of it, when I had gone through with it, was
final. I cannot, by any effort of mind or heart or soul,
go back to the orthodox point of view. I have aban-
doned it for ever. Yet I can understand and sympathize
with it as one understands and sympathizes with one's
own past life. It is otherwise with those who stand where
I once stood, whose faith (as they call it) is still unshaken.
They cannot understand my point of view, and their
attitude towards it can scarcely fail to be one of indignant
protest. Therefore, while I ask them to hear what I
have to say, I warn them that it will be easy for them to
make nonsense of it ; and if this warning will not deter
them, I will ask them to realize, or try to realize, that of
the things which they take for granted there are many
and they the most important which I can no longer
grant.

For example, to those who take the orthodox view of
revelation, who hold, in all seriousness, that religious
faith should be based on " theological information," the
suggestion that man should now revise his conception of
God may seem to savour of blasphemy. Yet it is in a
spirit of reverence that I make it, and out of the depths
of my faith in God. For, if we mean by God what is



8 THE COSMIC COMMONWEALTH

supremely and ultimately real, then we must regard the
Universe (if its being is a life) as the self-revelation of
God. And inasmuch as growth is the counterpart of
life, we must regard the Universe (if its being is a life)
as still in proces" of development, and must therefore
think of Creation and Revelation as alternative names
for the same evolutionary movement. It follows that
the ever-changing conception which man, in the dawning
light of his consciousness, forms of God the conception
which makes and unmakes his " thousand creeds " is
the self-revelation of God to the mind of man ; and it
follows further that whoever will take the trouble to
think, honestly, freely, and adventurously, about God,
is an instrument both of God's gradual unveiling of his
essential nature, and of his creative will. And so, when I
say that the time has come for us to make a revolutionary
change in our conception of God, I mean that a revolu-
tionary change is taking place in the communal life
and therefore in the inward and spiiitual life of man,
and that in that change we are witnessing a new phase
in the process of God's creative self-revelation, a phase
which we shall help to bring about by becoming con-
scious of its advent, and which will present itself to our
consciousness, if we will keep our minds open and ex-
pectant, as a new conception of God.

I need not shrink, then, from asking men to change
their conception of God. For, in the first place, I shall
be asking them, not to learn of me or any other teacher,
but to become aware of a change in their own inner
consciousness, which has long been in progress. And,
in the second place, if they do change their conception
of God, it will not be they who have accomplished so



A WORD TO THE ORTHODOX 9

great a revolution, but " the grace of God which is in
them."

Let us now see what are the leading features of the
conception of God which has swayed the hearts and minds
of men for so many centuries, and from which, as it
seems to me, they are now beginning to turn away.



CHAPTER III

THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE SUPERNATURAL

1HAVE based my own theory of revelation on the
assumption that the being of the Universe is a life.
This is my starting point in the adventure of thinking.
It is also, as it happens, the goal of my thoughts. Have
I not done well, then, to remind myself and my readers
that those who exercise themselves in great matters are
predestined to move in (logically) vicious circles, and
that " where there is no common measure of minds
there is no common measure of arguments." What is
to me a self-evident truth that the Universe is a living
whole the religion which I am supposed to profess
implicitly denies. For the orthodox theory of revelation
bases itself on the assumption that the being of the
Universe is not a life, or even a process, but a state, or
at best a succession of states.

Have I misinterpreted the teaching of Christianity ?
I do not think so. When I use the word " Christianity,"
I am thinking, not so much of the formularies of the
Church or the theories of theologians, as of what the
people, the rank and file of the faithful, have made of
the religious instruction that they have received and
the religious atmosphere that they breathe. " In the
beginning God created the heaven and the earth." This

10



PHILOSOPHY OF THE SUPERNATURAL 11

is the first sentence in our sacred Scripture. What hap-
pened before the beginning we are not told. But it
seems to be taken for granted that God dwelt in a
state of self-centred perfection and glory. Why did he
create the Universe ? We are not told. Perhaps he felt
lonely. Perhaps he wished to see how his handiwork
would behave. What we are told is that when he had
created the Universe, he placed it, in the person of
Man, in a state of probation, and that it will remain in
that state till the Day of Judgment, when its framework
will pass away, and Man, in whose being it centres, will
enter into one of two alternative states, salvation or per-
dition, Heaven or Hell. In fine, popular religion, in
presenting to us the drama of existence, divides it, not
into Acts and sub-Acts but into three States a state of
divine solitude before the first day, a state of probation
between the first and the last day, 1 and a state of everlast-
ing salvation (or perdition) after the last day. It is true
that the act of Creation (with its predestined sequel, the
Fall) comes between the first and the second states, and
that the act of Judgment will come between the second
and the third states. But the duration of those acts is
so brief as to be almost timeless, whereas the first state
occupies the whole of" from everlasting," the third state
the whole of " to everlasting," and the middle state the
whole course of time.

1 The state of probation may be divided into two sub-
states (i) A state of innocence, or potential salvation, with the
possibility of perdition through disobedience. This ended
with the Fall. (2) A state of wrath, or potential perdition, with
the possibility of salvation through obedience. This will last
till the Day of Judgment.



12 THE COSMIC COMMONWEALTH

It is to this tendency to think statically, rather than
dynamically, about the world in which he finds himself,
that man owes that conception of God as an omnipotent
and irresponsible autocrat which has so long satisfied him,
but is now ceasing to respond to his vital needs. Or
perhaps it would be more correct to say that the static
view of the Universe and the orthodox conception of
God are so intimately related that each may be regarded
as being at once the cause and the effect of the other.
If this is so, they must both have sprung from the
same root. What is that root ? Let us try to go back to
first principles.

Of systems of philosophy there are many. Of phil-
osophies, of ways of looking at things, there are, in the
last resort, only two. There is the philosophy of man's
conscious thought. And there is the philosophy of his
sub-conscious vision. We call the former materialism.
We ought to call the latter spiritualism ; but the word
has contracted other associations, and idealism has taken
its place. The basis of materialism is acceptance
of the outward or material world as intrinsically
real. The basis of idealism is acceptance of the
inward and spiritual world, the world of soul-life, as
intrinsically real. If matter is intrinsically real, then the
deeper we descend into it, the nearer we are to ultimate
reality. If soul-life is intrinsically real, then the more
spiritual, the more complex, the more highly organized
the life, the nearer we are to ultimate reality. In order
to descend into matter we must follow the path of
analysis, of disintegration. We must break things up
into their constituent elements. In order to ascend to
higher levels of soul-life, we must follow the path of



PHILOSOPHY OF THE SUPERNATURAL 13

synthesis, of integration. We must build things up by
the process of our own growth, or by the grasp of our
thought, or by the sweep of our vision, into complex
wholes. In the last the very last resort our choice lies
between ascribing reality to what is ultimate in analysis,
and ascribing it to what is ultimate in synthesis, between
deifying the atom, or the electron, or whatever else may
seem for the moment to be unanalysable and ultimate,
and deifying the living Whole.

There are few men who are not both materialists and
idealists, materialists on the surface of the mind,
idealists in the depth of the heart. Torn asunder
between these conflicting philosophies, man has tried to
reconcile them by inventing a third. The third philo-
sophy, the philosophy which mediates between material-
ism and idealism, is supernaturalism. Believing, as he
does in his heart of hearts, that life, soul-life, the life of
which he is dimly conscious in himself, is supremely real,
man must somehow or other reconcile thL sub-conscious
conviction with his conscious acceptance of the intrinsic
reality of the outward world. There is only one way in
which he can do this. He must think of the outward
world Nature, as he calls it as having been created,
called into its present state of being out of the void of
nothingness, by a Spirit akin to his own, but a Spirit
which is above and beyond Nature, and dwells apart
from it, enfolded in its own transcendent glory, inacces-
sible to human imagination and thought. In other
words, he must divide the Universe into Nature and the
Supernatural world, and must place between them an
unfathomable and impassable gulf. As the source of
Nature's life, the dynamic principle of its being, is on



i 4 THE COSMIC COMMONWEALTH

the far side of the gulf of separation, Nature itself be-
comes, under this conception of its origin, a finite state
instead of an infinite process, a manufactured product
instead of an eternally self-evolving life. The material
world is real, but only because God has made it so.
It is in itself what it seems to be, but only because God
has willed that it should be so. The source of its reality
is the will of the supernatural God ; and the supernatural
God is the projection into an invisible and immaterial
medium of the spirit of man. Thus there are two kinds
of reality in the Universe, the delegated reality of the
natural or outward world and the self-dependent reality
of the spirit of God.

Let us see what this attempt to reconcile the material-
ism of the mind with the idealism of the heart involves.
In other words, let us try to follow the philosophy of the
supernatural into some of its necessary consequences.



CHAPTER IV

THE AUTOCRAT OF THE UNIVERSE

FROM the supernatural Creator of the Universe to
the autocratic Ruler there is less than a single step.
The former conception carries the latter with it. The
world which God has made is at his mercy. He can do
with it what he pleases. The consequences of the
worship of an autocratic Deity spiritual, moral, political,
social are momentous and far-reaching. The ideal
attitude of each of us towards the order of things in
which he finds himself is, in any case, one of loyal sub-
mission. " In his will is our peace." But there is a
profound difference between the will which declares
itself in and through the evolution of Nature in general
and human nature in particular, and the will which is
communicated to man by a supernaturally accredited
envoy and imposed upon him from without. The pres-
sure of the former will is freedom, and submission to it
is life. The pressure of the latter will is despotism, pure
and simple, and submission to it may well prove to be
living death.

Let us first distinguish between the being of Nature
(in the popular interpretation of the word) and the being
of Man. Below the level of human life Nature is left
in the main to its own devices. Freedom of choice having

15



16 THE COSMIC COMMONWEALTH

been denied to it, it is a complex of automatic machinery
rather than a living whole. Its Creator endowed it with
a fund of energy which will neither increase nor decrease
till he chooses to withdraw it, and with a system of laws
which he and his chosen delegates alone have the right
to suspend. Born into maturity, it will never grow up,
it will never grow old. Such as Nature the outward
world, the framework of the Universe was when the
process of creation was over, such it is now, such it will
be to the end of time. Its being is static, not dynamic.

" The world's unwithered countenance
Is bright as at Creation's day."

The world of which this could be said, exists, but it
does not live. 1 When the Last Day comes, its existence
will be cancelled, and it will melt away into nothingness.

" Nature " is the stage on which man plays his part
while he is in a state of probation. Interference on God's
part with the course of Nature is very rare and is always
subordinated to God's purposes in dealing with man.
What God does interfere with is the moral life of man ;
and the manner of his interference is such that it neces-
sarily affects the whole of man's inner life. He regulates
man's conduct either by a supernaturally communicated
Law, or by a supernaturally commissioned Church ; and
he calls upon man to obey his will as revealed to him


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