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tory is to have any real future. Let us note how this is to
be done.

Greek thought conceived a moral order of civilization
that should be perfect, finished, complete; after Socrates,
Greek thinking could not endure the thought of the un-
finished, the incomplete. The moral and educational prob-
lem for the Greek, therefore, consisted in realizing this
complete moral environment and in bringing men into
harmonious relationships with it, so that their own lives
should become as complete. Hence the task of "civiliza-
tion" among the Greeks was, as we have already seen, pri-
marily an intellectual one. Knowledge was what man
needed to make him as complete as the moral order that
was round about him. But this doctrine was based on the
hypothesis that there is a fully developed and final moral
order in the universe to which men may conform, to which
they must conform if their lives are to be saved from in-
completeness, lawlessness, and lower impulses.

Such a doctrine seems very plausible and even beautiful.
But if we are to judge of the truth of an hypothesis by its
workings in actual experience, this doctrine falls far short
of the desirable. Such a fully developed moral order may
exist, but if so, it is not even yet known to humanity ; and if
any moral order presents itself to men as the fully devel-
oped order of the universe, it can be assumed that it is not
genuine. It is some old folkway system, some non-intelli-
gent organization of customs of even more primitive life
erecting itself into a final moral system and presenting
itself as having absolute moral authority. But such a con-
ception of life prevents a real civilization, for it turns
actual intelligence backward into a formal obedience, a
conformity to old fixed conditions. It is the most funda-
mental merit of the Christian doctrine that it gives to life



128 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

a forward look toward unrealized and, indeed, toward as
yet unseen goals; it suggests that the task of life is not
merely human conformity to a rigid system. Such con-
formity, following the letter of the law, kills the spirit of
man. The task of life is the development of new and no-
bler social orders, the creation of new worlds of moral and
spiritual values. Man is to be not merely conf ormative ;
he is to be creative; he is to share in the work of making
the nobler worlds. And this requires something more
fundamental than knowledge. It requires, first of all, a
new heart! It requires that the individual shall find for
his life a new direction. It demands and secures the re-
lease of new energies. In short, it gives to the soul of
man a new inner life, and it converts the passive negations
of the Greek conception of life into active and positive pur-
poses, regenerating and exercising all the latent energies of
the being. It is a new life surging up through the formal
and artificial boundaries of the old conventional life and
in its rich exuberance overturning old standards and mo-
tives, going forth to fight with all the "powers of dark-
ness" for the mastery of the world, ready to die for the joy
of the faith that is revealed in this new experience.

But in the second place, if man is to be creative in the
moral world, he must learn a new use of knowledge and of
his intelligence. Knowledge is not to bind him ; it is to set
him free. His intelligence is not for the purpose of build-
ing strong walls about him ; it is to help him apply knowl-
edge in the working out of the problems of life; it is to
serve him in developing the successive stages of his creative
progress toward freedom. True, not all of this was ex-
plicit in the teachings of Jesus. But it was all im-
plicit therein, and the logic of the Christian movement
pointed in just such direction and made the movement most
dangerous to the established social and intellectual order.



PROTEST OF PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANITY 129

Hence it is not to be wondered at that such a release of
energy should be regarded with suspicion by all upholders
of old social conditions whose privileges and honors were
threatened by any essential social change. Especially is it
easy to see why efforts were made to fight the new move-
ment, to destroy it, to stamp it out. Its founder was put
to death, its exponents persecuted, imprisoned, and killed.
Yet all such efforts failed.

There- remained, therefore, but one thing to do : these
destructive, revolutionary energies must be drained off
into formal and harmless channels and conventionalized
into meaninglessness. Its living energies must be turned
into barren theologisms, into dreary intellectualisms which
could be made to take the place of and to subdue the old-
time passionate energies of the movement. For "civiliza-
tion must be saved" from this new destructive movement.
"It interferes with our profits" was the reason given by
the silversmiths of Ephesus for their determination to root
it out. 1

The methods used in "saving civilization" from the full
influence of the movement will be set forth in the next
section.

iThe Acts, 19.



CHAPTER XV

CHRISTIANITY BECOMES HARMONIZED TO THE ABSOLUTE
EMPIRE

WE have seen the sort of world into which the protest
of primitive Christianity came. Politically organized and
controlled from Rome, intellectually dominated by the ab-
solute metaphysics and the seemingly invincible logic of
Greece, that world loomed ever larger through the cen-
turies as a gigantic civilization-machine before which noth-
ing weak could long endure. "A voice crying in the wil-
derness," how long should primitive Christianity be heard
above the tumult and the shouting of the world? "A reed
shaken by the wind," how long could it stand before the
' ' progress of civilization ' ' ?

Forces that Compel Uniformity. The message and
spirit of primitive Christianity were so profoundly revolu-
tionary that the authorities of the age were compelled to
do one of two things: they must either confess civilization
in the wrong and submit to the leadership of this " de-
spised Nazarene," or they must put the leaders of the move-
ment into postions where their influence could be safely
controlled. Already the founder of the movement had met
the fate of Socrates in Athens. But followers became too
numerous to be dealt with in this summary manner, though
great efforts were made in this direction. Of course insti-
tutions like the state may not willingly and freely declare
themselves in the wrong. Hence but one course was open.
The life and message of primitive Christianity had to be
reckoned with. Here was a moral ideal of singular beauty

130



CHRISTIANITY BECOMES ABSOLUTE 131

and purity, a type of life that made a wonderful appeal
to a weary world. There was a real danger that this ideal
might conquer the mighty fortress of civilization by the
slow processes of individual conversion. Such fatal conse-
quences must be guarded against; primitive Christianity
must be moralized, systematized, intellectualized, institu-
tionalized. It must be made to fit into the absolute sys-
tem of the Empire; it must become subjected to Greek
logical forms and to Roman political control. In this way
alone could the dangers implicit in it be securely avoided.

The task was not difficult. Ideals must be kept pure;
hence they must be stated in pure and final forms. Moral
purposes must be protected from the contaminations of the
world; hence there must be definite standards of conduct.
Thinking must end in truth; hence there must be definite
standards of ''straight thinking," or orthodoxy. Hence,
too, there must be authorized bodies of men who shall
determine the purity of ideals, the standards of
conduct, the tests of orthodoxy. All these things
seem perfectly legitimate. But it is the most diffi-
cult of matters to determine when ideals, conduct, and
thinking pass over from being the actual expression of an
inner spirit and become merely mechanical conformity to
external standards, forms, and rules. We shall have oc-
casion to note this fact again and again. One age lives
out of the seemingly boundless resources of its moral aspira-
tions ; this is life, indeed. But in its natural desire to make
sure that the next age shall enjoy the same abundant life,
it presses down upon that rising age standards of living,
feeling, and thinking which come as purely external regu-
lations to the younger age ; and the older generations have
never been able to understand the "rebelliousness" of the
younger, or to see that what is "life" in one generation
may be nothing but machinery in the next.



132 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

At any rate, and without going too far into the mere
details of the matter, the Christian life gradually became
moralized into rather definite practices. Rituals and cere-
monials that could be used as tests of membership and fel-
lowship came into being, creeds were gradually agreed
upon, and before many generations had passed, i.e., early
in the fourth century, all these matters had come under
the control and the sanction of the political authorities.
Christianity had become the accepted and acknowledged
religion of the state. From this time forward, with slight
reverses now and then, the prestige of the new movement
grew rapidly, and its primitive moral vigor declined in a
somewhat similar ratio.

Greek philosophy supplied the intellectual framework for
the creeds and theologies that made it possible for the sim-
ple doctrines of early Christianity to become acceptable as
the official religion of the world-empire. To be sure, this
end was not won without many bitter conflicts. Greek
learning was at first bitterly denounced by Christian lead-
ers as being utterly opposed to the spirit of the new move-
ment. But little by little it became apparent that Chris-
tian beliefs needed systematic organization and effective
intellectual control. Now, while there were many things
in Greek thought that were repugnant to the moral sense
of the Christians, even the simple-minded followers of the
movement came gradually to see that in this Greek thought
there were two distinct elements, viz., its content element,
and its logical element, its facts or principles, and the form
in which those facts or principles were stated and related.
The former, or ethical element, was the objectionable ele-
ment; the latter, or logical element, could be separated
from the former, and it was seen that this logical element
partook of no share in the general objection to Greek think-
ing. This logical element was just the framework on



CHRISTIANITY BECOMES ABSOLUTE 133

which Greek ethical notions were strung. The obvious
question arises : Is it not possible to strip these objection-
able ethical elements off the framework and use this same
logical structure in the organization of the content of
Christian emotion and belief? Such a procedure would
serve two worthy ends: it would help to redeem a noble
logic from ignoble uses, and it would give to the Christian
elements the intellectual stability that they so sadly needed.

Results of These Processes. Accordingly, little by lit-
tle this new life lost its originality, its depth of emotion,
its primitive assurances of living and growing truth, its
fundamental reliance upon the processes of growth ; it sur-
rendered, on its official side, to the forces of the age. And
though, deep under all officialisms, some real life always re-
mains, primitive Christianity was lost to the world for a
thousand years. Life was intellectualized into set creeds,
with their tests and penalties. The ideal of truth as a
social product, gradually developing through the ages in
the moral strivings of the race, was lost once again, as in
Greece of old, and in its place came the doctrine of a final
system of truth, the "faith once delivered to the saints."
Over and above the natural world of moral effort appears
the "heavenly world," the abode of God and all pure
spirits, the hope of the world-weary, the final refuge of the
oppressed, the means of escape from the problems of life.

Beyond these developments we must note the growth of
certain general philosophies of life whose purpose was to
bring all the past cultures of the world, including Chris-
tianity, into one general harmony, with, of course, a Chris-
tian bias. Neoplatonism is the first of these attempts.
But the problem is the task of the next thousand years,
the task of the philosophers of the church Augustine, the
Scholastics, and finally Thomas Aquinas, the master of
them all. The Platonic conception of an absolute system



134 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

underlies all these efforts and dominates their final out-
come, though Platonic conceptions are not quite equal to
the last exacting stage in the task.

Finally we must see that there was gradually growing
up alongside all these efforts a great ecclesiastical organi-
zation, the church, which should be the outward and insti-
tutional embodiment of these absolute knowledges, stand-
ards, and ideals, the judge of orthodoxy, the conservator of
standards of faith and practice, the eventual master of
even the state in the domination of the world. Its struc-
ture gradually becomes hierarchical; it finds definite com-
pletion in the papacy, when its domination of the minds
of men and its control of institutions and of human des-
tinies become absolute.

In some such manner as this primitive Christianity came
to abdicate its original social mission of stimulating the
growth of the native impulses of goodness in the world of
men, and it set up instead formal standards of living to
which men must adhere before they could claim any of the
benefits promised in the primitive "good news." This
tendency was in evidence before the end of the first cen-
tury. Jesus had preached a gospel of human salvation in
the towns and cities of Galilee and even in Jerusalem. His
follower, John, despairing of earthly cities and finding no
hope for the race in human endeavors, pictured the hope
of the world as residing in a "holy city," a "new Jeru-
salem" not to be built by men, but "coming down out of
heaven from God made ready as a bride adorned for her
husband." That is to say, the world was to be saved, but
not by any means existing upon the earth. Still later, as
conditions in the Empire became less secure, and especially
as fear of the northern barbarians grew, the hope of any
security in any sort of a city of the earth grew dim. To
St. Augustine in the fifth century the whole hope of the



CHRISTIANITY BECOMES ABSOLUTE 135

future passed from the earth; man's secure life was to be
found only in an eventual "City of God" far from the
turmoils of this world, "eternal in the heavens." This
ideal of life dominates the imagination of the Middle Ages,
as we shall see. The long struggle to win back belief in
the reality of this world is of almost wholly modern origin.
But its tenuous roots are to be found even in the Middle
Ages. And one of those roots is traceable in the story
of the rebuilding of cities as the habitations of men. Of
this we shall see more later.

One further phase of the story remains to be told. The
value of the individual, so bravely asserted by Jesus, was
forgotten in the growth of religious politics and the ma-
chinery of officialdom. Primitive Christianity had seemed
the charter of liberties of the individual soul. But the
church became the official religious institution of the Em-
pire, with an army at hand to make its authority sure.
Under the mighty sweep of the imperial army, tribes were
"converted" wholesale. A conquered nation might be
driven by hundreds, or even thousands, through a river for
baptism, and thus transformed "in the twinkling of an
eye" from heathen into Christians. The church was thus
inundated with the ignorant, who did not understand tne
significance of the movement. Its vital meaning for the in-
dividual was lost, and the world-weary individual became
the victim of one more world-encompassing machine.
Church and state joined hands to keep the individual
within bounds, here and hereafter. Indeed, the church,
delivering ultimate doctrines to men through its official
channels from God himself, becomes the final arbiter of
human happiness and hope and destiny. Even the state is
subordinate to the church, as the left hand is subordinate
to the right.

The church, or at least primitive Christianity, began as



136 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

an expression of an inner life which was slowly to spread
until, like the tree growing from the grain of mustard
seed, its branches should fill the whole earth. But this
inner life was under quick necessity of relating itself to
the hard logic of Greek thought and the iron rigor of Ro-
man imperialism. The conflict was short and decisive.
That inner life dissolved in forced submission to these
mighty externalities. And all that remains of it is a mem-
ory that seems to make less unendurable the progress of
that religio-political machine, Medieval civilization.



CHAPTER XVI

THE IRRUPTION OF NORTHERN BARBARISM INTO THIS GRECO-
ROMAN-CHRISTIAN EMPIRE PROM THE THIRD TO
THE SIXTH CENTURY

THE logic of experience is more effective than the logic
of obscure ideals or the logic of an abstract argument.
What primitive Christianity failed to accomplish through
its ideals and its simple arguments was emphatically ac-
complished in the fourth and fifth centuries by the shock
of barbarian invasion from the north. ' ' The Greco-Roman
Empire is not the last word in human life, in social organi-
zation, in political control, in general culture, in individual
happiness; there are possibilities of individual and social
development still unrealized, even undreamed by Greek
philosophy, hidden in the unexplored future of humanity. ' '

This barbarian challenge to civilization demonstrated
even more. It called In question, distinctly, the finality of
the processes by which primitive Christianity had itself
become harmonized to the absolute structure and purpose
of the Empire. To be sure, that question was not to be an-
swered until a full thousand years had passed; but it was
in the course of events and it remained within the current
of history, appearing above the surface now and again,
waiting the development of a more substantial basis of ex-
pression. But when the thousand years had passed it
broke through the encompassing shell, the accumulated
folkways, and changed the current of the world's life.

Nature of this Barbarian Protest. The Roman Empire
was approaching social and moral exhaustion, notwith-

137



138 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

standing the fact that the Christian element had been ab-
sorbed into its life and become the official religion. The
causes were chiefly economic and political, the accumula-
tion of decadent tendencies of centuries. Society had be-
come quite completely stratified, from the imperial levels
down to the peasant who had already become a serf, bound
to the soil where he labored and changing masters as the
land he tilled changed owners. By the fourth century the
condition of these serfs had become the very limit of mis-
ery. They must pay their unfair landlords outrageous
rents and, in addition, they paid heavy taxes to the Em-
pire. In the reign of Diocletian they arose in bloody re-
volts against the upper classes in Gaul. The Empire was
becoming as fixed in its structure as an Oriental despotism.
It swarmed with tax-gatherers; it was said that "they who
received taxes were more than they who paid them." In
short, through economic and political unintelligence the old
social and moral fiber of the Empire was destroyed. Rome,
as Rome, had no further contribution to make to civiliza-
tion.

The contrast between the virtues of the barbarians and
the weaknesses of the Romans struck the age with vivid-
ness and force. But there was nothing to be done about it.
The old empire had no real place in it for the strength of
the new peoples. It is true that the Roman army was
gradually reconstituted through the coming in of barbarian
recruits, but the result was the Romanizing of the recruit,
not the strengthening of the Roman. And that older civ-
ilization, now going to decay, was desperate before the
influx of this new, primitive, and barbaric strength. Je-
rome, in the early years of the fifth century, writes :

Who could believe that Rome, built upon the conquest of the
whole world, would fall to the ground; that the mother herself
would become the tomb of her peoples . . . How could the tale



PROTEST OF NORTHERN BARBARISM 139

be worthily told? How Rome has fought within her own bosom
not for glory, but for preservation, nay, how she has not even
fought, but with gold and all her precious things has ransomed
her life. 1

Into this decadent world came the vigorous strength of
the Barbarians.

"The settlement of the Teutonic tribes was not merely
the introduction of a new set of ideas and institutions . . .
it was the introduction of fresh blood and youthful mind
the muscle and the brain which in the future were to do
the larger share of the world's work." 2

Characteristics of the Teutonic Peoples. "Fresh blood
and youthful mind" what may not these tremendous en-
ergies accomplish in political, economic, social, ethical, re-
ligious, and educational directions! These people brought
with them three significant elements which were to be
powerful components of the new civilization of the distant
future. These three elements are:

(1) The fundamental value of the individual, as such,
as opposed to the individual as an atom in a great politico-
social system. The very genius of the Teutonic life is
expressed here. Great state-machines may develop, but in-
dividual energy remains alive under the whole develop-
ment, and in time the machine must reckon with this lasting
energy of individual life and conscience. That this prim-
itive factor has been perverted in certain modern Teutonic
states does not affect the original fact.

(2) The assemblies of the people, those popular gather-
ings which had become wrought into the very structure of
the nature of these peoples. Out of these assemblies will
come representative government, the actual control of the
machinery of the state by the individuals who make up

i Robinson: "Readings in European History," Vol. I; p. 44f.
2 Adams: "Civilization During the Middle Ages," Ch. V.



140 DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION

the state ; and this will eventually mean the destruction of
all absolute types of government. Democracy is bravely
promised here.

(3) The attitude of mind that can accept law as a grow-
ing institution. Of course this is involved in the accept-
ance of the individual and in the existence of the popular
assemblies. But not all peoples accept what is involved
in some of their underlying principles law as a living
outgrowth of life itself! Out of this will come such de-
velopments as the English "Common Law," intelligence
gradually becoming conscious of the conditions of life and
adjusting itself to the demands of changing life and ex-
perience, and the whole structure of the American political
conception of law as the gradual and constantly changing
interpretation and organization of the relationships of so-
cial and industrial life. Intelligence is implied in this, in-
telligence as the active, critical, destructive, and construct-
ive energy of mind by which the outgrown is pared away
and room for the new growth is assured. It is the very
genius of the civilization of the West as opposed to the
stagnant absolutisms of the East, and of the West when it
becomes careless.

The Question of the Future. Now with all this almost
passionate untamable sense of individuality, with their
democratic assemblages of the whole people for the dis-
cussion and determination of public questions, and with
their willingness to meet the new conditions with new de-
velopments of laws, these Teutonic peoples met the existent
civilization of the South. That meeting meant ruin of the
thousand years of toil: "The result of an immigration
which may be counted by hundreds of thousands is that
all the land is waste"! But it meant more than that, at
least in the long run, after the first great joy of destruction
had passed. To the simple Teutons the civilization of the



PROTEST OF NORTHERN BARBARISM 141



South possessed a certain preexistent quality. Carelessly
they destroyed much that had value. How could it be
otherwise? But for all that they were filled with a deep
wonder, even reverence, in the presence of its mighty
structures, its marvelous devices, its massive pomp and cir-
cumstance. Something of the structure of old Roman so-



Online LibraryJoseph Kinmont HartDemocracy in education; → online text (page 10 of 31)