H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

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The Following Novels:

Love and Mb. Lewisham


Mr. Polly

The Wheels of Chance

The New Machiavelli

Ann Veeonica

ToNO Bungay



The Passionate Friends

The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman

The Research Magnificent

Mr. Britling Sees It Through

The Following Fantastic and Imaginative Romances:
The War of the Worlds
The Time Machine
The Wonderful Visit
The Island of Dr. Mobeau
The Sea Lady
The Sleepee Awakes
The Food of the Gods
The Wab in the Aib
The First Men in the Moon
In the Days of the Comet
The World Set Free

And Numerous Short Stories Now Collected in One Volume Under
the Title of:
The Countby of the Blind

A Series of Books upon Social and Political Questions:

Anticipations (1900)

Mankind in the Making

FiBST AND Last Things (Religion and Philosophy)

New Worlds for Old

A Modern Utopia

The Future in America

An Englishman Looks at the World

What Is Coming?

War and the Future

And Tioo Little Books Ahout Qkildren's Play Called

Floor Games
Little Wars





Nrm Ifork

All rishfd 4-e8er'vM ' V ' '-'••'j


729180 A



n 1934 L

Copyright, 1917,
By H. G. wells

Set up and electrotyped. Published, May, 1917.
Reprinted May, twice, June, three times, 1917.


This book sets out as forcibly and exactly as pos-
sible the religious belief of the writer. That belief
is not orthodox Christianity; it is not, indeed,
Christianity at all; its core nevertheless is a pro-
found belief in a personal and intimate God. There
is nothing in its statements that need shock or of-
fend anyone who is prepared for the expression of
a faith different from and perhaps in several par-
ticulars opposed to his own. The writer will be
found to be sympathetic with all sincere religious
feeling. Nevertheless it is well to prepare the
prospective reader for statements that may jar
harshly against deeply rooted mental habits. It is
well to warn him at the outset that the departure
from accepted beliefs is here no vague scepticism,
but a quite sharply defined objection to dogmas
very widely revered. Let the writer state the most
probable occasion of trouble forthwith. An issue
upon which this book will be found particularly un-
compromising is the dogma of the Trinity. The


writer is of opinion that the Council of Nicsea,
which forcibly crystallised the controversies of two
centuries and formulated the creed upon which all
the existing Christian churches are based, was one
of the most disastrous and one of the least venerable
of all religious gatherings, and he holds that the
Alexandrine speculations which were then conclu-
sively imposed upon Christianity merit only dis-
respectful attention at the present time. There
you have a chief possibility of offence. He is quite
unable to pretend any awe for what he considers
the spiritual monstrosities established by that un-
dignified gathering. He makes no attempt to be
obscure or propitiatory in this connection. He
criticises the creeds explicitly and frankly, because
he believes it is particularly necessary to clear
them out of the way of those who are seeking re-
ligious consolation at this present time of excep-
tional religious need. He does little to conceal his
indignation at the role played by these dogmas
in obscuring, perverting, and preventing the re-
ligious life of mankind. After this warning such
readers from among the various Christian churches
and sects as are accessible to storms of theological
fear or passion to whom the Trinity is an ineffable
mystery and the name of God almost unspeakably



awful, read on at their own risk. This is a re-
ligious book written by a believer, but so far as
their beliefs and religion go it may seem to them
more sceptical and more antagonistic than blank
atheism. That the writer cannot tell. He is not
simply denying their God. He is declaring that
there is a living God, different altogether from that
Triune God and nearer to the heart of man. The
spirit of this book is like that of a missionary who
would only too gladly overthrow and smash some
Polynesian divinity of shark's teeth and painted
wood and mother-of-pearl. To the w^riter such
elaborations as ^^ begotten of the Father before all
worlds" are no better than intellectual shark's
teeth and oyster shells. His purpose, like the pur-
pose of that missionary, is not primarily to shock
and insult; but he is zealous to liberate, and he is
impatient with a reverence that stands between
man and God. He gives this fair warning and
proceeds with his matter.

His matter is modern religion as he sees it. It
is only incidentally and because it is unavoidable
that he attacks doctrinal Christianity.

In a previous book, "First and Last Things"
(Constable and Co.), he has stated his convictions
upon certain general ideas of life and thought as


clearly as he could. All of philosophy, all of meta-
physics that is, seems to him to be a discussion of
the relations of class and individual. The an-
tagonism of the Nominalist and the Kealist, the
opposition of the One and the Many, the contrast
of the Ideal and the Actual, all these oppositions
express a certain structural and essential duality
in the activity of the human mind. From an im-
perfect recognition of that duality ensue great
masses of misconception. That was the substance
of " First and Last Things.'' In this present book
there is no further attack on philosophical or meta-
physical questions. Here we work at a less funda-
mental level and deal with religious feeling and
religious ideas. But just as the writer was in-
clined to attribute a whole world of disputation
and inexactitudes to confused thinking about the
exact value of classes and terms, so here he is dis-
posed to think that interminable controversies and
conflicts arise out of a confusion of intention due
to a double meaning of the word " God " ; that the
word " God " conveys not one idea or set of ideas,
but several essentially different ideas, incompatible
one with another, and falling mainly into one or
other of two divergent groups; and that people
slip carelessly from one to the other of these groups


of ideas and so get into ultimately inextricable con-

The writer believes that the centuries of fluid
religious thought that preceded the violent ulti-
mate crystallisation of Mcsea, was essentially a
struggle — obscured, of course, by many complexi-
ties — to reconcile and get into a relationship these
two separate main series of God-ideas.

Putting the leading idea of this book very
roughly, these two antagonistic typical conceptions
of God may be best contrasted by speaking of one
of them as God-as-Nature or the Creator, and of
the other as God-as-Christ or the Redeemer. One
is the great Outward God ; the other is the Inmost
God. The first idea was perhaps developed most
highly and completely in the God of Spinoza. It
is a conception of God tending to pantheism, to an
idea of a comprehensive God as ruling with justice
rather than affection, to a conception of aloofness
and awestriking worshipfulness. The second idea,
which is opposed to this idea of an absolute God,
is the God of the human heart. The writer would
suggest that the great outline of the theological
struggles of that phase of civilisation and world
unity which produced Christianity, was a persistent
but unsuccessful attempt to get these two different


ideas of God into one focus. It was an attempt to
make the God of Nature accessible and the God
of the Heart invincible, to bring the former into
a conception of love and to vest the latter with the
beauty of stars and flowers and the dignity of in-
exorable justice. There could be no finer metaphor
for such a correlation than Fatherhood and Son-
ship. But the trouble is that it seems impossible
to most people to continue to regard the relations
of the Father to the Son as being simply a mysti-
cal metaphor. Presently some materialistic bias
swings them in a moment of intellectual careless-
ness back to the idea of sexual filiation.

And it may further be suggested that the extreme
aloofness and inhumanity, which is logically nec-
essary in the idea of a Creator God, of an Infinite
God, was the reason, so to speak, for the invention
of a Holy Spirit, as something proceeding from him,
as something bridging the great gulf, a Comforter,
a mediator descending into the sphere of the hu-
man understanding. That, and the suggestive in-
fluence of the Egyptian Trinity that was then
being worshipped at the Serapeum, and which had
saturated the thought of Alexandria with the con-
ception of a trinity in unity, are probably the re-
alities that account for the Third Person of the



Christian Trinity. At any rate the present writer
believes that the discussions that shaped the Chris-
tian theology we know were dominated by such
natural and fundamental thoughts. These discus-
sions were, of course, complicated from the outset ;
and particularly were they complicated by the
identification of the man Jesus with the theological
Christ, by materialistic expectations of his second
coming, by materialistic inventions about his
" miraculous '' begetting, and by the morbid specu-
lations about virginity and the like that arose out
of such grossne^s. They were still further com-
plicated by the idea of the textual inspiration of the
scriptures, which presently swamped thought in
textual interpretation. That swamping came very
early in the development of Christianity. The
writer of St. John's gospel appears still to be think-
ing with a considerable freedom, but Origen is al-
ready hopelessly in the net of the texts. The writer
of St. John's gospel was a free man, but Origen
was a superstitious man. He was emasculated
mentally as well as bodily through his bibliolatry.
He quotes; his predecessor thinks.

But the writer throws out these guesses at the
probable intentions of early Christian thought in
passing. His business here is the definition of a


position. The writer^s position here in this book
is, firstly, complete Agnosticism in the matter of
God the Creator, and secondly, entire faith in the
matter of God the Redeemer. That, so to speak, is
the key of his book. He cannot bring the two
ideas under the same term God. He uses the word
God therefore for the God in our hearts only, and
he uses the term the Veiled Being for the ultimate
mysteries of the universe, and he declares that we
do not know and perhaps cannot know in any com-
prehensible terms the relation of the Veiled Being
to that living reality in our lives who is, in his
terminology, the true God. Speaking from the
point of view of practical religion, he is restricting
and defining the word God, as meaning only the
personal God of mankind, he is restricting it so as
to exclude all cosmogony and ideas of providence
from our religious thought and leave nothing but
the essentials of the religious life.

Many people, whom one would class as rather
liberal Christians of an Arian or Arminian com-
plexion, may find the larger part of this book ac-
ceptable to them if they will read " the Christ God "
where the writer has written " God." They will
then differ from him upon little more than the
question whether there is an essential identity in


aim and quality between the Christ God and the
Veiled Being, who answer to their Creator God.
This the orthodox post Nicsean Christians assert,
and many pre-Nicseans and many heretics (as the
Cathars) contradicted with its exact contrary.
The Cathars, Paulicians, Albigenses and so on held,
with the Manichaeans, that the God of Nature, God
the Father, was evil. The Christ God was his an-
tagonist. This was the idea of the poet Shelley.
And passing beyond Christian theology altogether
a clue can still be found to many problems in
comparative theology in this distinction between
the Being of Nature ( c/. Kant's " starry vault
above ") and the God of the heart (Kant's " moral
law within " ) . The idea of an antagonism seems
to have been cardinal in the thought of the Essenes
and the Orphic cult and in the Persian dualism.
So, too. Buddhism seems to be " antagonistic." On
the other hand, the Moslem teaching and modern
Judaism seem absolutely to combine and identify
the two ; God the creator is altogether and without
distinction also God the King of Mankind. Chris-
tianity stands somewhere between such complete
identification and complete antagonism. It admits
a difference in attitude between Father and Son
in its distinction between the Old Dispensation (of


the Old Testament) and the New. Every possible
change is rung in the great religions of the world
between identification, complete separation, equal-
ity, and disproportion of these Beings ; but it will be
found that these two ideas are, so to speak, the basal
elements of all theology in the world. The writer
is chary of assertion or denial in these matters.
He believes that they are speculations not at all
necessary to salvation. He believes that men may
differ profoundly in their opinions upon these
points and still be in perfect agreement upon the
essentials of religion. The reality of religion he
believes deals wholly and exclusively with the God
of the Heart. He declares as his own opinion, and
as the opinion which seems most expressive of mod-
ern thought, that there is no reason to suppose
the Veiled Being either benevolent or malignant
towards men. But if the reader believes that God
is Almighty and in every way Infinite the practical
outcome is not very different. For the purposes of
human relationship it is impossible to deny that
God presents himself as finite^ as struggling and
taking a part against evil.

The writer believes that these dogmas of relation-
ship are not merely extraneous to religion, but an
impediment to religion. His aim in this book is


to give a statement of religion which is no longer
entangled in such speculations and disputes.

Let him add only one other note of explanation
in this preface, and that is to remark that except
for one incidental passage (in Chapter IV., § 1),
nowhere does he discuss the question of personal
immortality.^ He omits this question because he
does not consider that it has any more bearing
upon the essentials of religion, than have the the-
ories we may hold about the relation of God and
the moral law to the starry universe. The latter
is a question for the theologian, the former for the
psychologist. Whether we are mortal or immortal,
whether the God in our hearts is the Son of or a
rebel against the Universe, the reality of religion,
the fact of salvation, is still our self-identification
with God, irrespective of consequences, and the
achievement of his kingdom, in our hearts and in
the world. Whether we live forever or die to-
morrow does not affect righteousness. Many peo-
ple seem to find the prospect of a final personal
death unendurable. This impresses me as egotism.
I have no such appetite for a separate immortality.
God is my immortality; what, of me, is identified

1 It is discussed in " First and Last Things," Book IV, § 4.


with God, is God ; what is not is of no more perma-
nent value than the snows of yester-year.

H. G. W.
May, 1917.



Preface v

1. The Cosmogony of Modern Religion ... 1

2. Heresies ; or the Things that God is Not . . 25

3. The Likeness of God 55

4. The Religion of Atheists 69

5. The Invisible King 96

6. Modern Ideas of Sin and Damnation . . . 145

7. The Idea of a Church 157

The Envoy 171





§ 1 Modern Religion Has no Founder
Perhaps all religions, unless the flaming onset of
Mohammedanism be an exception, have dawned im-
perceptibly upon the world. A little while ago and
the thing was not; and then suddenly it has been
found in existence, and already in a state of dif-
fusion. People have begun to hear of the new be-
lief first here and then there. It is interesting, for
example, to trace how Christianity drifted into the
consciousness of the Roman world. But when a
religion has been interrogated it has always had
hitherto a tale of beginnings, the name and story
of a founder. The renascent religion that is now
taking shape, it seems, had no founder; it points
to no origins. It is the Truth, its believers declare ;
it has always been here ; it has always been visible



to those who had eyes to see. It is perhaps plainer
than it was and to more people — that is all.

It is as if it still did not realise its own differ-
ence. Many of those who hold it still think of it
as if it were a kind of Christianity. Some, catch-
ing at a phrase of Huxley's, speak of it as Chris-
tianity without Theology. They do not know the
creed they are carrying. It has, as a matter of
fact, a very fine and subtle theology, flatly opposed
to any belief that could, except by great stretching
of charity and the imagination, be called Christian-
ity. One might find, perhaps, a parallelism with
the system ascribed to some Gnostics, but that is
far more probably an accidental rather than a sym-
pathetic coincidence. Of that the reader shall
presently have an opportunity of judging.

This indefiniteness of statement and relationship
is probably only the opening phase of the new faith.
Christianity also began with an extreme neglect of
definition. It was not at first anything more than
a sect of Judaism. It was only after three cen-
turies, amidst the uproar and emotions of the coun-
cil of Nic8ea, when the more enthusiastic Trinitari-
ans stuffed their fingers in their ears in affected
horror at the arguments of old Arius, that the car-
dinal mystery of the Trinity was established as the


essential fact of Christianity. Throughout those
three centuries, the centuries of its greatest achieve-
ments and noblest martyrdoms, Christianity had
not defined its God. And even to-day it has to be
noted that a large majority of those who possess
and repeat the Christian creeds have come into the
practice so insensibly from unthinking childhood,
that only in the slightest way do they realise the
nature of the statements to which they subscribe.
They will speak and think of both Christ and God
in ways flatly incompatible with the doctrine of the
Triune deity upon which, theoretically, the entire
fabric of all the churches rests. They will show
themselves as frankly Arians as though that damn-
able heresy had not been washed out of the world
forever after centuries of persecution in torrents
of blood. But whatever the present state of Chris-
tendom in these matters may be, there can be no
doubt of the enormous pains taken in the past to
give Christian beliefs the exactest, least ambigu-
ous statement possible. Christianity knew itself
clearly for what it was in its maturity, whatever
the indecisions of its childhood or the confusions
of its decay. The renascent religion that one finds
now, a thing active and sufficient in many minds,
has still scarcely come to self-consciousness. But


it is so coming, and this present book is very largely
an attempt to state the shape it is assuming and to
compare it with the beliefs and imperatives and
usages of the various Christian, pseudo-Christian,
philosophical, and agnostic cults amidst which it
has appeared.

The writer's sympathies and convictions are en-
tirely with this that he speaks of as renascent or
modern religion ; he is neither atheist nor Buddhist
nor Mohammedan nor Christian. He will make
no pretence, therefore, to impartiality and detach-
ment. He will do his best to be as fair as possible
and as candid as possible, but the reader must
reckon with this bias. He has found this faith
growing up in himself; he has found it, or some-
thing very difficult to distinguish from it, growing
independently in the minds of men and women he
has met. They have been people of very various
origins; English, Americans, Bengalis, Russians,
French, people brought up in a " Catholic atmos-
phere,'' Positivists, Baptists, Sikhs, Mohammedans.
Their diversity of source is as remarkable as their
convergence of tendency. A miscellany of minds
thinking upon parallel lines has come out to the
same light. The new teaching is also traceable in
many professedly Christian religious books and it


is to be heard from Christian pulpits. The phase
of definition is manifestly at hand.

§ 2 Modern Religion has a Finite God
Perhaps the most fundamental difference between
this new faith and any recognised form of Chris-
tianity is that, knowingly or unknowingly, it
worships a -finite God. Directly the believer is
fairly confronted with the plain questions of the
case, the vague identifications that are still care-
lessly made with one or all of the persons of the
Trinity dissolve away. He will admit that his
God is neither all-wise, nor all-powerful, nor om-
nipresent; that he is neither the maker of heaven
nor earth, and that he has little to identify him with
that hereditary God of the Jews who became the
" Father '' in the Christian system. On the other
hand he will assert- that his God is a god of salva-
tion, that he is a spirit, a person, a strongly marked
and knowable personality, loving, inspiring, and
lovable, who exists or strives to exist in every
human soul. He will be much less certain in his
denials that his God has a close resemblance to the
Pauline (as distinguished from the Trinitarian)
"Christ.'^ . . .

The modern religious man will almost certainly


profess a kind of universalism ; he will assert that
whensoever men have called upon any God and have
found fellowship and comfort and courage and that
sense of God within them, that inner light which is
the quintessence of the religious experience, it was
the True God that answered them. For the True
God is a generous God, not a jealous God; the very
antithesis of that bickering monopolist who " will
have none other gods but Me " ; and when a human
heart cries out — to what name it matters not — for
a larger spirit and a stronger help than the visible
things of life can give, straightway the nameless
Helper is with it and the God of Man answers to
the call. The True God has no scorn nor hate for
those who have accepted the many-handed symbols
of the Hindu or the lacquered idols of China.
Where there is faith, where there is need, there is
the True God ready to clasp the hands that stretch
out seeking for him into the darkness behind the
ivory and gold.

The fact that God is finite is one upon which those
who think clearly among the new believers are very
insistent. He is, above everything else, a person-
ality, and to be a personality is to have character-
istics, to be limited by characteristics ; he is a Be-
ing, not us but dealing with us and through us,


he has an aim and that means he has a past and
future ; he is within time and not outside it. And
they point out that this is really what everyone
who prays sincerely to God or gets help from God,
feels and believes. Our practice with God is better
than our theory. None of us really pray to that
fantastic, unqualified danse a trois^ the Trinity,
which the wranglings and disputes of the worthies
of Alexandria and Syria declared to be God. We
pray to one single understanding person. But so
far the tactics of those Trinitarians at Nicsea, who
stuck their fingers in their ears, have prevailed in
this world ; this was no matter for discussion, they
declared, it was a Holy Mystery full of magical ter-
ror, and few religious people have thought it worth
while to revive these terrors by a definite contradic-
tion. The truly religious have been content to
lapse quietly into the comparative sanity of an un-
formulated Arianism, they have left it to the scof-
fing Atheist to mock at the patent absurdities of
the official creed. But one magnificent protest
against this theological fantasy must have been the
work of a sincerely religious man, the cold superb
humour of that burlesque creed, ascribed, at first
no doubt facetiously and then quite seriously, to

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Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsGod, the invisible king → online text (page 1 of 11)