Francis Howe Johnson.

God in evolution: a pragmatic study of theology online

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may be trained to moral athleticism by judicious
use, or relaxed and devitalized by neglect. Happy
is he who, when the critical moment for action has
arrived, has a well-trained will at his command.

The time for discussion has passed. There is to
be no more looking on this side and on that. There
is, henceforth, but one set of arguments to be
considered. As regards these two vital questions,
everything that is affirmative is to have its full


and unqualified weight. The will converts intelli-
gence, for its uses, into a bull's-eye lantern, con-
centrating all its rays upon the truths that its
authority has established; and it brings to bear
upon any hostile considerations that would force
themselves into the light, its grand and saving
power of inhibition, — the power that pounces
upon unlawful intruders and pitches them out,
neck and heels. At this stage the only sane
answer to all negation is, "Get thee behind me,

Not that we have reached a point beyond which
there is no further growth. We have only just
begun. Both these beliefs, — the affirmation of
God and of the future life, — are living roots that
must be cultivated; they have within them the
potency of eternal life, there is no limit to their
growth, nor to the variety of the fruits they may
be made to produce in different lives. But, in all
soils they must be nourished and protected by
the will that has planted them. And here let us
make sure that we apprehend clearly another
aspect of the situation which, while it belongs
altogether to the sphere of modern thought, is at
the same time vital.

All the deductions from experience that we have
just reviewed, as conducive to spiritual well-being,
have to do with purely human relations. They
are, in other words, adjustments to specific re-
quirements of the human organism. Granting,
therefore, all that has been said of their trust-



worthiness and practical helpfulness, how are
we justified in advancing from this position to
the assumption that these same relations are a
guide to any reality that is outside and independent
of them?

I answer that, in evolution, the revelation of all
reality as one great world-process moving toward
constructions of higher and still higher values, we
have a most instructive and sufficient warrant for
the assumption that, when we have discovered that
which makes for its furtherance in the line of
highest achievement, we have grasped something
which we may safely hold to be an independent

In the earlier stages of our argument we
were constrained to regard man as the latest,
most highly evolved factor in the great drama of
progressive organization; and we were able, still
further, to narrow the issue by fixing upon certain
phases of human development as constituting the
vital principle of its future. When, therefore,
we have determined the conditions that conduce
to the prosperity, the growth, and the health of
those qualities of humanity that are not only the
highest on the scale, but which explain, co-ordi-
nate, and govern all the others, the whole great
process of the ages flows in an irresistible volume
to turn the wheels of our argument. In determin-
ing the status of the one factor, man, we have
laid bare the secret of secrets, the reality and the
meaning of the world.


But, we must return to the consideration of the
first and great commandment, " Thou shalt love."
All that has been said, as to the functions of the
will in the establishment and mobilization of
faith, applies equally to love. But, we cannot rest
the matter there. Love is a far more illusive word
than faith. For, while it connotes the highest
activities of the soul, it also stands for some which
are near the other end of the scale. A more
extended and discreet study, therefore, of the
relations of will-power to love will be essayed in
the next chapter.


life's lesser enthusiasms

God gives us love. Something to love
He lends us; but when love is grown

To ripeness, that on which it throve
Falls off, and love is left alone."

THE word love has as many significations
as there are objects to which it may be
applied and, again, as many as there
are individuals to make application of it. To
give a definition of it is impossible. No descrip-
tion can do more than point out characteristics
of some of its particular manifestations. In
the last resort it is known to us as an elemental
factor in evolution. As we trace it back to its
simplest forms, we cannot stop when we reach
what seems to us the limits of conscious life. Its
basic principle is operative throughout organic
nature. Chemical affinity as well as the phenom-
ena of magnetism and crystallization afford us
the most striking analogues of that wonderful
element which, even in the most highly evolved
ranges of being, still persists as an instinctive,
non-rational principle of action.



Not that it persists in this form alone. Its
instinctive characteristics have been profoundly
modified by intelligence. There is an unreason-
ing, mysterious element in every kind of love,
but there is also, and increasingly, an intelligent
side to it. We still love more or less blindly, but
ever, more and more, our eyes are opened to
understand why we love, and with this illumina-
tion comes also the knowledge and the ability to
direct, regulate, and turn to the best account that
elemental power which nature generates for us.

Another, hardly less conspicuous and pro-
foundly modifying effect of intelligence, is the
multiplication of the outlets of love and of the
objects on which it expends itself. In the sim-
plicity of primitive life, love finds only a few well-
worn grooves in which to run. The old, old story
repeats itself with varying incidents and intensity
through the ages. The love of parent for child
and that of offspring for parent broaden out into
devotion to the head of the tribe. There is,
further, the love of the chase and of war, of the
favorite horse and dog, of weapons and ornaments,
of the fetish and of the consecrated hearth. The
volume and intensity of the love that so satisfies
itself may vary greatly, but there is almost no
lateral expansion, no formation of new channels.

To this the complex life of civilization affords
a contrast of very great significance. Instead of
being forced into a few stereotyped ways, love
finds for itself innumerable little outlets to the


multiplication of which, as life grows more elabo-
rate, there is no end. We find many made for
us, and we continually make new ones while we
consciously close others. For the beginnings of
these lesser loves which we make for ourselves
little more is needed than a degree of admiration
combined with attention. Loves of this kind are
continually springing up within us in connection
with the thousand and one influences that, in the
course of a normal life, touch our feelings and
call forth our sympathetic regard. We love the
flowers, the sweet influences of the changing
seasons, the solemn majesty of the forest, the
wind in the tree-tops, the light of dawn and of
the setting sun.

We love individual men and women in the same
passing way, not only those whom we meet
bodily, but those also who form for us an image in
the mind, the personalities that historians and
gifted writers of romance have created. In
every case what we love is more or less an idealiza-
tion, conceived either by ourselves or by some
other artist. It is perhaps only a little spark of
love that goes out to each one of these objects
in turn, a passing attention that, anon, devotes
itself to other interests. But it is the true thing.
The heart has been touched in the right way.
And if the soul be in good health, we are the better,
every time, for the experience, — better physically,
mentally, spiritually. What sunshine does for
the ripening fruits, elaborating in them the higher


qualities of flavour and beauty and perfume, that,
these lesser loves, these repeated, though short-
lived activities of the heart, do for the ripening
and refining of the character.

I have said that these are of as many different
kinds as there are individuals to love, or objects
and interests to call forth love. But, we may
classify them, trace them to a limited number of
sources, and study them with a view to larger

Various lines of classification suggest themselves.
The love of persons constitutes one great group
by itself. The love of things seems altogether
and quite distinct from it. And again, the love
of interests, ambitions, ideals, is a third group.
And fourthly, there is the vague, mystical realm
in which love dwells, as it were, in a more or less
disembodied and unattached form, — the realm
of the aesthetic, a half-understood, untranslatable,
but, very real world. In this upper stratum of
feeling we grow into the love of the highest kinds
of music, of whatsoever is noble in poetry, in
literature, and in art. It is here also that we are
drawn into that pure, uplifting worship which
we call the love of nature, and here, greatest of
all, springs the love that, gathering all other
loves into one, seeks and finds an embodiment,
a spiritual entity, that it may worship with an
absolute, whole-souled devotion.

Another scheme of classification that separates
our loves into quite distinct groups is that which


regards them as related to the past, the present,
or the future. Each of these groups has its own
peculiar characteristics. The loves that are wholly
of the present are rooted in the joy of possession.
That which is loved may be beautiful, or valuable
in the eyes of the world generally, or it may not.
The ground of love is the consciousness of personal
proprietorship. The rag-baby, that is caressed
and petted to the neglect of the magnificent
productions of the shop, is the type of this form
of devotion, — "a poor thing, but mine own."
From this root grows the passion for the absolute
ownership of a bit of land, loved not because it
is remunerative, but because it is personal. Here
also belongs the passion for owning that which
is unique, or rare, or very difficult of attainment;
and again the love of a secret, the knowing of
that which others do not know; and akin to this,
also, the love of being the first to discover what
has hitherto been a secret of nature, or an unknown
country, or being able to give the world some-
thing original in the way of thought or invention.
It may be the passionate and jealous love of
a person. Mine! mine! mine! is the cry of
the lover. Mine own! the fruit of my body,
mine to love, to live for, to educate, is the exulting
soul-song of the parent. We often hear it said
that love is unselfish. It has its unselfish side.
But it is also the most actively, violently selfish
principle of which we have any knowledge.
Nothing is so cruel, so revengeful, so utterly


implacable as love. Love, of some kind, is the
root of all selfishness. What is selfishness but
self-love run to excess and madness? though self-
love in its normality is the very spring and motive
power of all our higher life. It is no more to be
deprecated than any other kind of love. As
compared with other kinds it is primus inter
pares, because all other kinds depend upon it.
It is the living root from which they spring and
draw their nourishment.

Turning now to the loves of the past, those
which have their attachments in bygone experi-
ences. These are the loves of actual life, trans-
figured, softened, idealized. Memory has dropped
the coarser elements, the restless, anxious, dis-
turbing elements, and cast over all a glamour like
that of twilight. It is not all distinctness, nor
all vagueness, but the two are mingled. Memo-
ries that we love to dwell upon stand out clear
in the pictured past, set in less well-defined but
hallowed associations; and, beyond these,

. . . "those first affections,

Those shadowy recollections,

Which be they what they may,

Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,

Are yet a master-light of all our seeing."

We, as a rule, recognize but faintly how much
we owe to these loves of the past, not alone for
the refinement and solace of life, but also for its
stability and its inspiration.


The idealized past and the idealized future join
hands to pull us through the conflicts and dis-
tractions of the garish present. The two stand
in the sharpest contrast to each other; the past
calling us to reflection and contemplative admira-
tion, the future thrilling us with desire for action.
The loves of the past bring human experiences
before us in such a form that we can appropriate
them, brood over them, and by oft-repeated com-
munion, assimilate them. Our imaginations form
themselves upon them, acquire habits of admiring
and loving that which is best worth loving.
That which has been adorable, the heroism, the
fidelity, the heart-kindness, and devotion of those
with whom we have associated, not only in our
immediate lives, but also in the pages of history
and romance, become enshrined in our hearts as
very real things; and in them we find, ready to
our hand, the tested and approved materials with
which to construct those ideals for future realiza-
tion which become the lodestars of our active,
evolving souls.


To estimate justly the bearing of these minor
enthusiasms upon the great end of life we must
look at them from more than one point of view.
One that readily suggests itself is furnished by
the analogical likeness which they bear to the
plants and flowers which the earth brings forth
of itself. The whole course of our lives is glad-


dened by these wild-springing products of the
soul, and, as in nature the plants and flowers
that the earth brings forth spontaneously are the
foundation of all that has been achieved in agri-
culture and horticulture, by selection and culti-
vation, so also it is in the improved fields and
gardens of the soul. It is the lesser loves that
lead up to the greater ones. It is the transient,
fragmentary, sporadic worships that show us
the way to that which is permanent. And in
the one case as in the other, the desirable out-
come is reached only by persistent and pains-
taking effort.

We may, indeed, profitably carry this analogy
further and say that, as in the one realm so
in the other, an essential preliminary is always
the intelligent selection of those specific natural
products which are best worth conserving and
improving. That we are daily throwing away
invaluable opportunities may be assumed as cer-
tain when we look back upon the years and ages
that men have passed in blindness to potentiali-
ties which, when later revealed, seemed as evident
as sunlight. These potentialities have, so to
speak, run to waste, wearing channels in our
experience, but helping us on only in the most
incidental ways. We have enjoyed them, have
amused ourselves with them, have taken toll of
them, but how faintly have we understood their
meaning and their possibilities! What are they?
Whence have they come to us? Are they any-


thing more than the fleeting moods of a highly-
sensitive nervous structure? And if so, if they
are more, what implications as to deeper signifi-
cance do they involve?

It will help us to determine the more if we
recognize fully that they are this, — the moods
of a highly sensitive nervous organism. They
are the responses of that organism to a most
varied and heterogeneous environment. And we
have to recognize further the fact that they are
what they are, because the constitution of that
organism is what it is. We are instruments, so
constructed and attuned to the world, that
strains harmonious, or discordant, are produced
when we are played upon.

And here another factor comes into view, —
the agency that plays upon us. In one case it
is, apparently, an impersonal, unbidden influence,
that sweeps over and through us as the wind
through the strings of an seolian harp. At another
time it is an influence flowing from some well-
defined external source: this may be an event,
it may be a vision of something that appeals to
hope and expectation; it may be the influence
of other persons acting through sympathy, per-
suasion, or attraction. And lastly, it may be
an influence generated and operated within the
sphere of one's own volitional self. Each one of
these classes is deeply significant, both in itself
considered and also as related to the other classes,
for each one throws light upon the other.


To begin with the influences that work upon
us from without. Such influences find, in every
case, an inborn germ to work upon. For that
germ we are not responsible; for its incubation
and growth to maturity, we are. Now let us
give our attention to the fact that the innumerable
influences of this kind by which we are importuned
are in the general consensus of human estimation,
ranged on a fairly well-defined scale of values.
Choosing one set of influences, we have produced
within us enthusiasms of a low order; choosing
another, we reach toward the highest. The
lower ones are the more easy of development.
They are quickly and cheaply brought to ma-
turity, and in many cases they are ephemeral,
leaving us as easily as they came. But when
they are recurrent, repetition brings forth habit,
and habit means mastery.

The production of this class of enthusiasms
occupies a very large share of the world's atten-
tion, partly because they cost so little and partly
because they can be made so useful by those
who exploit their fellowmen. They can be manu-
factured, so to speak, by administering drugs
to the system, — alcohol, nicotine, opium. They
can be promoted by a frenzy of speculation
helped on by a brass band! They can be gener-
ated by all kinds of sporting competition and
games, with money- wagers for accessories. They
rise to fever-heat in political crises, and they
have, through all the ages, characterized unreg-


ulated religious movements. But, on the other
hand, they have innumerable gentler devel-
opments. Spontaneous affection, the love of
nature and the love of music, the love of any
kind of graceful or exhilarating motion, the mere
exuberance of health, — all these, in their simpler
manifestations, belong to this same great class.
Different as they are in their qualities and ten-
dencies, they have one important characteristic
in common, that is the ease with which they are

For the most part they are permitted, as
distinguished from cultivated, enthusiasms. They
come very largely without our solicitation and,
if we allow it, run their own course without
demanding effort from us. Some of them we
recognize as altogether mischievous and destruc-
tive. Many of them, on the other hand, are
the first glimmerings of a light that may be made
to flood our whole lives. They cannot develop
these possibilities of themselves, but they can
be the assistants, the indispensable coadjutors,
of a higher range of enthusiasms, the distin-
guishing characteristic of which is a passion for

These are the active, energizing enthusiasms,
that reach out on all sides for the materials and
the power with which to realize themselves. And
the true significance of the first class is never
realized except as its enthusiasms are taken up
into and made to serve the second. These higher,


masterful enthusiasms are the constructors of
character and of society. They make men, they
build up the body politic. They carry the race
on to higher and still higher planes of evolution.
But, no more than the first class are they all good.
They tend to evil as energetically as they tend
to good. And also, like the former class, if
restricted simply to the development of their
own blind careers, they end in nothingness.
Their true significance lies in a something beyond,
a something which they, from this side and that,
suggest and foreshadow, but which no one of
them, in its isolation, can ever reach. Each one
of our nobler enthusiasms carries us up to a
borderland of wonderment and there leaves us.
It shows us that there is a beyond, it suggests
that it contains values far greater than any that
we have known, but it cannot tell us anything


Now for a somewhat different point of view.
In all our thought, thus far, we have objectified
these influences, treated them as something not-
ourselves, things springing up within us, but not
a part of us, agents that act upon us and upon
which we in turn react. But now we have to
remind ourselves that this way of regarding them
is purely provisional. Really and essentially these
springing enthusiasms are ourselves. Each one,
as it makes its appearance, is the realization of


a new phase of the soul. It opens to us new
possibilities of being, new modes of feeling. In
short, it introduces us to a self in some respects
quite different from any self that we have known

But to what does this bring us? a plurality
of selves? To say this would be misleading;
yet experiences that suggest such a state of
things are familiar to every one of us. A perfect
unity of personality is a condition not-yet-
achieved; it is an ideal toward which we are
moving, and a conspicuous feature of our present
stage of self-realization is, even with those most
advanced, its fragmentariness. Though we know
the self we are trying to realize to be a unity, a
personality, the one indivisible reality of our con-
sciousness, yet we have to recognize the fact that
we know ourselves largely in detachments, —
almost, in fact, as if we were not one, but a com-
munity of more or less heterogeneous individuals
associated in one household.

We are prone to characterize others as incon-
sistent and to find fault with them because they
show us different sides of their many-sided selves
at different times. Or, perhaps, if we do not
find fault we mentally apologize for what we call
their moods; and yet, if we have the smallest
amount of self-knowledge, we know ourselves
to be quite different people at different times,
and not infrequently, in moments of indecision,
a number of different people at the same time.


In other words, that gradual organization of
experience that builds up the conscious-self
within us proceeds not in one line, but in many,
sometimes apparently divergent, lines.

Now, in order to accomplish anything in this
world, we have to concentrate. This means
conscious organization, a more or less determined
realization of self in a chosen direction, and it
also involves turning our backs for a time, at
least, on a number of other interests that may
be the specialties of our friends and neighbours.
I have said this is a necessity. It is also an evil,
not simply in the general way of being a limita-
tion ; it is a positive evil, in that it has a tendency
to contract and distort that self which asks for
a symmetrical, comprehensive development. Only
in a few cases do we encounter the extreme of
this tendency. And when we do, we call it
insanity, monomania. But we know that we
all have the seeds of this kind of insanity within
us whenever we are in earnest about anything.

For the preservation of that mental balance
which we call sanity we are confronted with
another necessity. We are constrained to give
ourselves heartily to the cultivation of some
other interest, or interests, which are for the time
quite unassociated with this one to which we have
pledged ourselves. Ordinarily, environment pre-
sents us with invitations, more or less urgent,
in a variety of directions. Family and social
life put in their claims for a share of our attention,


and, if we respond to these heartily, letting an
appreciable volume of our sympathy and vitality
go out to them, we realize a self that is quite
distinct from the self that is developed in our
business, or profession. In every kind of recrea-
tion, in every kind of keen enjoyment, we come
upon a somewhat different self, that sometimes
surprises us beyond measure. And this surprise,
this discovery of new capabilities, is the source
of our greatest pleasure when we turn from one

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Online LibraryFrancis Howe JohnsonGod in evolution: a pragmatic study of theology → online text (page 17 of 22)