Francis Edward Younghusband.

Mutual influence : a re-view of religion online

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B 1915 I-





In no times have men and women been more
anxious for religion than they are now. They
have a deep reHgious craving in their hearts,
however little and seldom it may be outwardly
manifest. But they have too—many of them — a
sense of the inadequacy and insufficiency, the
unreality and inappropriateness of much that is
presented to them as their religion to-day. And
they want something simpler, truer, more in
touch with life and ^reality, and therefore great
enough for the great times in which we live and
for the great men with whom it is our privilege
to work. They see and recognise that the religion
which inspired the lives of men like Nelson,
Lincoln, and Roberts, must have something in it
of supreme value. And what is great and of value
in it they would preserve as the most precious heri-
tage of the race. But with the wider knowledge
of things which they possess to-day, they see that
there is much in the current religion which needs


to be eliminated and discarded ; and this wider
knowledge which the labour of their predecessors
has enabled them to possess, fills them with a sure
conviction that through the process of elimination
and by this closing with reality there will emerge
for their children in generations to come a purer,
a deeper, and a far more intimate and human re-
ligion than any which has gone before.

This purification and reconstruction of our
religious beliefs must be the perpetual work of the
greatest and noblest among us. And one who
presumes to undertake the smallest portion of it
must needs approach his task with humility and
reverence. Yet if, in the full maturity of life
and experience, he is convinced that revision is
required, and believes he sees where and how it
may be made, it would be shameful in him and
disloyal to posterity not to speak.

Usually, indeed, it is not expected that a man
of action should write on religion. But religion is
the mainspring of action, and in action this book
was conceived. It represents the views of one
who was brought up in the old-fashioned religious
beliefs and who still recognises the profound value
of their inner core, but whose contact with life,
especially with life among men of other faiths,
and whose study of nature, incited by years spent
among the grandest natural phenomena in the


world, has forced him to prove all things, to seek
for truth from the highest authorities, personally
as well as from their books, and to form his own
conclusions. Those conclusions may or may
not have value — and most certainly they do not
claim finality, for truth about religion, as about
everything else, must ever be growing and deepen-
ing. But they have not been formed in haste.
They are the result of twenty-five years' most
earnest search under conditions where it was
possible continually to test them against the ex-
periences of actual life. They will appear the
merest commonplace to some, while others will
regard them as dangerously new and subversive.
But if the former have better expressed and more
convincingly demonstrated what is herein so in-
adequately set forth, there is still the necessity
to repeat and reiterate what they have said, and to
put in a new way, and from a fresh point of view,
the conclusions they have reached. And if the
latter consider what is new is painful, it need only
be said that in forming those conclusions regret
has often come to the writer too, but that the
pain speedily faded away in face of the higher
glory which stood revealed, and which he would
fain lead others also to see.

And, before all, he would wish to acknowledge
his indebtedness to very many more than he


could enumerate, but especially — in order of time
— to those leaders of a generation ago who first
opened to him the great book of the Universe
and showed him our true position in the world —
to Darwin and Spencer, Haeckel and Huxley ;
and then to those present-day philosophers who,
accepting all that science can affirm, have taught
us to look deeper still and have revealed to us
the truly real which lies at the back of all natural
phenomena — to Bergson and Bradley, William
James and James Ward. To those poet-prophets
so opposite in nature, Nietzsche and Whitman,
he is also deeply indebted. And, finally, to the
personal friendship as well as to the works of —
again in order of time — Sir Henry Newbolt,
Dr Beattie Crozier, Hon. Bertrand Russell, Pro-
fessor Sorley, and more particularly Dr J. E.
M'Taggart, from whose books Hegelian Cosmology
and Some Dogmas of Religion the central idea of
the book was derived.

F. E. Y.





Religion, like everything else, being tested against
actualities in these great times — Decay of belief in
an external Personal God — but general belief in
some Unseen Power working for good upon indi-
viduals — Necessity for determining nature of this
Power — especially in this important stage of
World's history.


Reality of existence of such Unseen Power — as
shown in present events — by observation in every
part of World — and among every people — But
this Power may issue, not from an external Per-
sonal Being, but from within the World, from its
component members themselves.


Examples of such a Power operating strongly upon
single individuals, but yet issuing from other re-
lated individuals — " Public Opinion " — " France" —
"England"— the "forces," "laws," and "causes"
of science.




Examination of real nature of things showing
material world is most " immaterial "—built up of
self-active parts more fitly styled spiritual than
material — which are not acted upon by any Power
outside the whole of them — but which act upon
and mutually influence one another, and together
form an interconnected Whole.


This Whole not merely in motion but in Process
— of development — and this Process not the work
and plan of any Being outside it, but resulting from
nature of things themselves in their totahty and in
their Mutual Influence upon one another — as ex-
emplified in history of the Earth — in history of
Man — in each man's individual experience — and
from what little we know of rest of Universe.


This Process is one toward the Good — Doubts
answered by comparison of state of this earth at
various stages during 500 million years — and pro-
bability of progress for many million j^ears yet —
No justification for pessimism in regard to pro-
gress of whole — But progress can only result from
efforts of individuals — and it is in self-activity of
individuals (atoms and men), and not by manipula-
tion of outside Artificer, that Process makes for


Present European situation exemplifies a state of
things brought about by Mutual Influence of in-
dividuals (nations and men) upon one another—
rather than by interposition of an External Being


;hap. page

— God or Devil — It also shows how power of their
Mutual Influence may work through evil to good —
and further that, strongly as this Power affects
individuals, responsibility and freedom for choosing
and acting aright rests with individual men and


Individual is thus responsible for choice of best
course, but difficulty of choosing great — rival ideals
being tested in present War— excellences and
defects of Nietzsche — Necessity for recognising
mutual relations and interdependence of men —
and fundamental oneness of things — but a unity
of diversities — while unity must be emphasised,
diversity must be allowed scope— no single ideal
type of individual — but all will have in common a
love of their kind which will make them sacrifice
themselves for children of the future.


Having formerly personified Spirit of Universe as
separate Being residing in the Heavens, and now
finding it an indwelling Spirit emanating from our-
selves, our neighbours, and the earth from which
we all sprung, our mode of prayer necessarily
changes— but prayer itself remains and grows—
And individuals may feel themselves still more
cared for—As " England," though no real separate
person, cares for her " sons "—Worship also neces-
sary, and will increase — in order to emphasise
sense of unity and to glorify the ideal.


Unseen Power men have everywhere felt is not
exercised by an external Being— but is a Spirit
sprmging up from wi[hin the world and is exer-



cised by men themselves and by all other com-
ponent parts of Universe in their Mutual Influence
upon one another — illustration "France"— Indi-
viduals will rightly surrender themselves to the
influence of this Unseen Power — for experience
shows it makes for good — but in moment of action
will depend upon themselves alone — example,
patriot filled with love of country yet in action free,
responsible, self-reliant — so a man will not expect
to be guided and guarded by external Being, but
after opening himself out to inflow of World-Soul
will collect himself together again and act with
self-reliance and sense of responsibility — depend-
ing upon himself to choose and pursue the best
course — yet always remembering that he is not an
isolated being but is interrelated with all others
and with the whole Universe.




Most men, and particularly men of action, are
deeply conscious of the presence of some Unseen
Power at work in the world. In moments of
crisis, and when the fate of a nation has depended
on their action, they h'^ve felt themselves under
an overpowering influence which has carried them
high above all selfish desires, impelled them to do
their utmost, and made them ready, without ever
a thought, to sacrifice their lives for their country
and for humanity, in order that justice, freedom,
and righteousness may prevail. And what they
have felt has filled them with the conviction that
the Power makes for goodness ; they have wished,
therefore, to work with it and have it working
with them for what they are convinced must
assuredly win in the end. As long as they do their
best, and as long as they are ready to sacrifice all


they have to achieve the best, they are sure they
will have this Power behind them, and that, having
it behind them, they are working for what must,
in the long run, inevitably be achieved.

All this may be seen in what to me is the most
beautiful prayer, without any exception, which
has ever been uttered, and which was written by
Nelson immediately before going into action at
Trafalgar :

" May the Great God whom I worship grant to
my country, and for the benefit of Europe in
general, a great and glorious victory ; and may
no misconduct of anyone tarnish it. And may
humanity after victory be the predomina-nt feature
in the British Fleet. For myself individually, I
commit my life to Him who made me ; and may
His blessing light upon my endeavours for serv-
ing my country faithfully. To Him I resign
myself, and the just cause which is entrusted to
me. Amen. Amen. Amen."

Men of the present day may not express them-
selves in the same way. Yet they may be no
less really religious than Nelson. And I believe
that the men of the future may be even more
religious. They will have the same conviction of
the justice of their cause, for they will refuse to
take up causes which they do not consider just.
They will be equally convinced that because their


cause is good it must infallibly win in the end.
They will have the same unhesitating willingness
to give their lives for their country ; the same
belief that their country's good, and the good of
" Europe in general," are identical ; the same
broad humanity which looks upon the enemy as
a human being, and worthy, therefore, of being
treated as such. All these things, which are of
the very essence of religion, they will have. And
they will have, as a foundation to it all, the same
sense of relationship with an Unseen Power which
they know in their hearts does make for good.
But their conception of the nature of that Power
may be truer ; and because it is truer their religion
may have greater depth and intenser reality and
fill a larger portion of their lives. It may, indeed,
be that even now men are hungering for such a
religion and that the momentous times in which
we live may give it birth.

All is being tested in the fiery ordeal. Neither
politics nor social life will be the same after the
war as they were before. They will be purged
of their dross till whatever is flimsy, unimportant,
useless, will have been blighted away. And it
will be the same with religion. In it, also, only
what is of pure gold will remain. All those parts
of our religious beliefs which are worn out, stale,
flat, and unprofitable, will shrivel away before the


actualities of stern times like these. But the pure
inner core of real truth which our religious beliefs
contain will reveal itself all the more clearly, and
men who have grown accustomed in these times
to brush aside appearances and instinctively grasp
realities will quickly seize on clear religious truth
and thirstily absorb what hard experience has
shown to be so vital for men's welfare.

Now it is a remarkable circumstance that our
statesmen, in this greatest moment of our history,
when the fate of the vastest Empire that men have
ever had to guide was in their hands, and when
they had to explain the position to their country-
men, to point out the dangers which lay before
them and to indicate the objects they hoped to
achieve, made scarcely any reference to such a
Deity as might be regarded, in any true sense of
the word, as an actual Person existing separate
and apart from ourselves and controlling our
destinies in the same way as an earthly sovereign
exists and governs as a distinctly separate person.
They may have spoken of the Deity in a figura-
tive way as a Person, yet in reality, and half un-
wittingly, have meant the Spirit of Goodness
working through the world, as they might speak
of Britannia as a person, though all the time
knowing that no such person existed and merely


meaning the spirit of Britain. But in this supreme
crisis of our history, and when we are more anxious
about our destiny than we have ever been before,
and have stood in greater need of all the strength
which we can secure, they did not, in their
references to the Deity, give the impression of
deliberately and definitely meaning us to go for
help to any actual Person as distinct from our-
selves, and as willing and able to help as an
autocrat of this earth would be who was both
powerful and good.

Yet, in these circumstances, statesmen would
assuredly have urged the people to look to a
Ruler like that for guidance and strength, if they
had believed that such a Person actually existed,
even if only as willing and really able to help us
as we might conceive a wise and good Napoleon
would be. And it was probably because, in such
times as these, and in so grave a matter, men
cannot afford to be anything else but truly real
when face to face with their fellow-men, that
they, unconsciously though instinctively, avoided
the reference.

But it does not follow from this omission that
they had no religion and no sense of being in the
presence of some Good though Unseen Power.
On the contrary, their speeches abound in re-
ligion ; and they are the best evidence possible


of our statesmen feeling themselves under the
influence of some mighty Invisible Power which
they believed to be good. For we see even so
powerful a man as the Prime Minister of England
and his strongest colleagues being swept along by
such a Power. They wished to do one thing — to
maintain peace, but the " force of circumstances "
and the " march of events " compelled them to do
exactly the opposite — to declare war. Powerful as
they were, by reason both of their office and of
their personalities, there was something still more
powerful exerting its influence on them. Their
speeches, too, while full of a determination to
defend the individuality of our nation and not
permit it to be dominated by any other, are also
filled with a consciousness of our close unity with
our fellows and with a sense of necessity to act
righteously. Self-interest is sometimes put for-
ward, but our statesmen seem to have been aware
that the appeal which would meet with the most
ready response from the heart of the people was an
appeal to their sense of honour and loyalty to their
friends. There are also references to " the con-
science of humanity" and to "the opinion of the
world," and inferences that this conscience of
humanity will approve the good, and that the
good is what must assuredly come out victorious
in the end.


Thus our statesmen must have had faith in the
reality and truth of these beliefs, or they would
not have put them forward at such a time as this.
And they must have had faith also that the
people really held them in their hearts, or they
would not have been so sure — and, as the event
proved, right in their assurance — that the people
would gladly respond to such an appeal when
made to them.

So there was, indeed, a very real recognition of
a Spiritual Power working among men. There
was a sense of the unity of men. There was a
belief that things are making towards the good.
And there was a conviction that it is our business
to work in the same direction. There is, it would
seem then, more religion among practical men than
the scarcity of reference to the Deity would indi-
cate. But there is an uncertainty of touch in
dealing with this matter, and the better deter-
mination of the true nature of this Unseen Power,
so active in the affairs of men, is a deep necessity
of the times.

And what is of so much importance to the
nation is of importance also to the whole race of
men. And now is a peculiarly fitting moment for
re-examining the time-honoured question and for
making a nearer approach to its settlement. For


we should be beginning to realise what an over-
mastering force Man is becoming on this planet ;
how much he has so far effected ; what illimitable
possibilities lie before him ; and how greatly his
future will depend upon whether he regards him-
self as an insignificant animalcule controlled and
guided by some Being in the Heavens or believes
himself, and can with proper justification so believe
himself, to be master of his own destiny, able to
choose his own path and to pursue his own way
along that path.

In the presence of awful natural calamities,
great earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, famines,
pestilence ; or when viewing some stupendous
natural object — the Ocean, a Himalayan Monarch,
the Grand Canyon, or the Falls of Niagara — we
are apt to dwell on our own insignificance in
comparison. And still more insignificant do we
appear when we look at the heavens through a
powerful telescope and note the myriads of stars,
each one of which is vastly larger than our earth,
and each one of which may have planets revolving
round it as our earth and other planets revolve
round the sun. The individual man feels hope-
lessly small and trivial in the presence of these
immensities. Yet the sun and all its planets, and
all the other thousand million suns, with all their
planets, and the highest mountains on the earth,


and every ocean, waterfall, and river, all put to-
gether, are neither so wonderful nor so great as a
single human being, even the most humble.

It is man that is the marvel of the universe.
And what in these days we have to realise is the
part man is beginning to play. Regarded as one
of the great forces at work on the planet, he is
of immense but wholly unrecognised significance.
Since he first appeared here, a quarter of a million
or so of years ago, he has grown continually, and
not only in numbers, but in quality and effective-
ness. Looked at in the mass he has, without pause
or break for a single hour, minute, or second, pur-
sued his purpose of subduing nature to his will ;
of making the forces of nature subservient to his
needs ; of controlling the animals by exterminat-
ing what are dangerous, whether they be lions or
microbes, and domesticating what are amenable
and useful ; of destroying what of plant life stands
in his way, and cultivating and utilising what may
help him ; of tapping the natural energies in in-
creasing measure ; and by either stationary or
mobile contrivances bridging rivers, continents,
oceans, and the very air itself. Every year, by
his accumulated knowledge and experience, as well
as by his increase in numbers, man is becoming
a force of greater significance and importance on
the planet. And as he has existed on it only a


quarter of a million years, while there are many
million of years yet before him, the importance
of his determining what is the nature of that
Unseen Power which so influences his actions is
sufficiently apparent.



First we must make quite certain that such an
Unseen Power really exists, and is not a matter
of imagination or superstition. And that some
tremendous Spiritual Power, infinitely stronger
than himself, was working upon him, swaying
his actions and profoundly affecting his life, no
thoughtful man can doubt who reflects on his ex-
periences in those stern days when the issues of
war or peace were quivering in the balance. Who
in those moments of high tension did not feel a
mighty Power moving among men ? Not one, be
he Emperor, Chancellor, or Prime Minister, could
have felt that he was firm on his own legs and
wholly unaffected by a Power sweeping through
the earth. Each strove his best to act in his own
way, but each felt himself impelled along by
this awesome Power so much stronger than the
strongest individual. Some, as we have seen,
called it the force of circumstances ; others called
it the march of events. But the most powerful of


men knew they were being forced along often in
the very direction they were trying to avoid. Of
the existence of a Spiritual Power immensely
stronger than their individual selves they could
not therefore doubt.

And what men felt and recognised in this great
crisis and here in Europe is the same as what
men at all times and in every part of the world
have also felt and recognised. To a traveller, and
to anyone who has had the handling of men of
different races, and of leading them in critical
times, nothing is more remarkable than the pre-
valence, in all parts of the world, and among all
classes and races of men, of the conviction that
we are under the influence of some invisible
Power whom we must perforce regard with the
deepest reverence and awe. Men differ dia-
metrically as to the nature of the Power, but
that it exists and operates in our own lives few
would really doubt. In the newest countries as
in the oldest — in California as in India ; in the
most barbarous as in the most civilised — in Matabe-
leland as in France ; the traveller may see edifices
erected for the worship of this Power. In taking
a comprehensive view of the world nothing stands
out more impressively. Looking at our own little
England alone, what is more significant than this


tangible and visible fact, that in each small village
and in every tiny hamlet, as well as in the largest
town, is a beautiful Church which is incomparably
the noblest building in the place ?

Throughout Europe the same observation
might be made. And so also is it in every part
of Asia. Every town and village has its mosque
or temple. And in the New World as in the Old,

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Online LibraryFrancis Edward YounghusbandMutual influence : a re-view of religion → online text (page 1 of 8)