Henry Wood.

The symphony of life : a series of constructive sketches and interpretations online

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every helpful influence that can be brought
to bear for their amelioration. No one will
claim that all possible laws and principles
have yet been utilized. Whatever is true,
even if seemingly somewhat occult in
character, must have some fitting place and
use in the evolutionary economy, and pos-
sess a certain significance in its relation to
human welfare.

1 08

Nearer to Nature's Heart.



ROM drug medication as a thera-
peutic system, to the observance
of inteUigent hygienic regulation
is a great advance. It leads away
from the artificial toward the natural, and
from the experimental and empirical to that
which is logically in accord with the constitu-
tion of man. Hygiene co-operates with the
beneficent forces of nature instead of repress-
ing or opposing them, and employs pre-
vention, thereby in large measure displacing
the necessity of cure. It operates through
ascertained law, and so far as that is under-
stood becomes logically scientific.

But may not another and yet more subtle
force be recognized as an important part of
our equipment which may be brought to
bear against abnormal conditions ? Modern
investigation is inclined to delve deeply in
order to discover hidden principles and deal


The Symphony of Life.

with primary causation. A further and
inner extension of hygienic effort is clearly
in order. It has been conventionally as-
sumed that the human constitution was a
fixed quantity and quality to be dealt with
only by some change or improvement in
external conditions and physical adaptation.
But a pertinent question is suggested : Can
that supposed fixture or human ego be so
modified in itself as to come into different
relations with its own physical instrument ?
In other words, if man himself is not a mere
material mechanism, but rather an intelligent
ego and unseen entity, may not some benef-
icent change take place on his part with a
view to a more complete control of the
outer organism ? Does even the most effi-
cient patching-up of the latter include all
that can be done to improve the relation
between the two ?

It has been abundantly proved that anger
changes the secretions ; that fear deranges
the circulation and impoverishes the blood ;
that anxiety wastes the nervous energy ; and
that selfishness, pessimism and immoral
thought sap the vitality. These, and many
other things, make it evident that nothing
in man is fixed, and that the subjective
realm is a promising field for new observa-



Nearer to Nature's Heart.

tion and effort. Now consider how manyj
inharmonious and disorderly elements come
daily into the average mind and conscious-
ness. All these, even if not acute and out-
wardly noticeable, are constantly causing
friction in the physical organism. The
body, or external expression in quality, is a
result and correspondence of the average
mental status which is behind it. The pro-^
cess being very complex and gradual, renders
it somewhat difficult to trace the direct con-

It follows, that if discordant mental con - '
ditions admittedly pull down physical tissue, \
high, harmonious and optimistic thinking
ought to build it up. In other words, men- ;
tal positives should have even more power ''
for good, than careless and unwitting nega-
tives in the other direction. The question |
now comes in regard to the practicability of \
a change in the quality of one's thinking j
and the cultivation of a higher conscious- '
ness. Well established psychological law
proves that habits of thought may be formed
as readily as physical habits. As a matter
of fact, the former are all there are, for
so-called physical habits are but resultant
expressions of what is back of them.

The practicable means to be employed to


The Symphony of Life.

lift one*s thinking is mainly through sys-
tematic concentration upon well chosen
ideals that one wishes to actuaUze externally.
It is idle to claim that one can not gradually
change his nearest neighbors, which consist
of the mental pictures which are the con-

I tinual product of the imaging faculty. The

! mind is not only constantly adding to its
gallery of art, but it is also taking on the
color and quality of the particular works
upon which its gaze is most earnestly fixed.
By natural law, the tendency of the physi-

f cal organism is to articulate and externalize
them. Nothing is more certain than their
molding influence. Shall then these near-
est of neighbors be harmony, health, sound-
ness, sanity, love, courage and optimism or
their negative opposites ? We choose them,

I and they mold us.

J We are souls having bodies, and not
bodies having souls. The latter idea in-
dexes our gross, even though unwitting,
materialism. Man is higher than his visible
instrument or embodiment, and should con-
tinually affirm his rule. It is his legitimate
kingdom. He may cultivate a growing
sense of spiritual supremacy, increasingly
dominate physical sensation, and by degrees
free himself from its tyranny.


Nearer to Nature's Heart.

Hygiene, to be truly comprehensive and /
scientific, must begin to concern itself with
the cleanness of mind as well as body, and
with the ventilation of the thought-atmos-
phere as well as the air of the apartment.
Bad mental pictures must be classed with
sewer-gas and pessimism rated like ma-
laria. Idealism and optimism must take
their place among sanitary agencies, and
man utilize his hitherto slumbering resources
and focalize his thought-forces. Vitality can
be increased from within. All this is ex-
ceedingly simple when the working of the
law is intelligently grasped. It involves
no nonsense, superstition, denial of matter
or any thing else that is unreasonable. It
does not disparage physical hygiene, but is
friendly and co-operative.


The Symphony of Life.



|Y common consent, any rational
solution of the origin, nature and
purpose of evil is one of the most
difficult and profound undertak-
ings in which the human mind can engage.
As a problem it has been regarded as insolu-
ble, and has steadily held its place as the
king of all mysteries. The seeming univer-
sal presence of evil as co-existent with an
omnipotent and omnipresent Deity of good-
ness and love is the paradox of the ages.
It is the mental and spiritual Sphinx, or the
great interrogation point which has chal-
lenged reason and pressed for interpretation
upon all generations of men.

If conventional and accepted religious sys-
tems be questioned they will reply that evil
and sin are terrible realities, everywhere wa-
ging a hand-to-hand conflict with good, the


The Meaning of Evil.

outcome of which, at least for the present,
trembles in the balance. Theology will
answer that under the powerful beguilement
of a great evil personality, mankind fell into
" an estate of sin and misery," and so con-
tinues. Ethical systems will testify to the
omnipresence of their great enemy, whether
it be personal or impersonal. Turning to
the physical sciences, biology would note an
all-prevailing antagonism and selfish struggle
and point to the world as constituting one
vast cemetery. Anthropology, paleontology
and archeology would respond that even the
fittest survive but provisionally, and that
that small minority in its turn is relegated
to the less fit majority. Material evolution
would add its indorsement. In many cases,
also, the specious plea would be put forth
that the cosmic order itself contains no sanc-
tion for morality. Thus the plaint becomes
a chorus, and in one form or another all
prevailing philosophies, whether their view-
points be supernatural or naturalistic, recog-
nize a great objective Power other than the
Good, and acknowledge this invincible an-
tagonist to be the arch-enemy of man.

The sense of a fundamental dualism being
universal, there has been no end of effort to
interpret the great antagonistic force. Was


The Symphony of Life.

it eternal or created, inherent or incidental,
educational or vindictive ? If created in an
economy which is monotheistic, what a re-
flection upon its goodness and even its jus-
tice ! The assumption that it is a living
objective principle, implacable and irrepeal-
able, has filled the world with sorrow and
pessimism. Even where a more modern and
liberal philosophy has proclaimed its waning
power as related to human destiny, the gen-
eral materialistic view-point in great measure
still emphasized its hostility.

While the belief in a great adverse Per-
sonality having a general headship has weak-
ened, the case is not much improved, if, in
human consciousness and belief, an imper-
sonal and all-powerful cosmic principle of the
same diabolical character takes his place. A
careful study of the psychology of man
shows that belief, fear and pessimism, when
seated in the human consciousness, can to
their subject clothe even unreality with
dynamic realism. "If you keep painting
the devil on the walls, he will by and by
appear to you," says the French proverb.

No means of reconciliation between good
and evil has been found by philosophy, sci-
ence, or logic, and an elastic supernaturalism
has not been more successful. All have


The Meaning of Evil.

been confronted by an unfathomable and
essential dualism. The universe has been
made twain, or in reality divided against
itself. The term, supernaturalism, is here
employed only to denote what some mista-
kenly believe to be beyond the realm of
orderly law. But the spiritual — for which
the term is often used — is as natural (nor-
mal) as that which is material. Dualism
being in its very nature an insurmountable
barrier in the direction of any solution of the
problem of evil, the only alternative is mon-
ism. A still further and deeper study will
reveal that this monism must include, not
only good and evil, but also what are known
as spirit and matter. These are not sepa-
rate and antagonistic powers and entities,
but varying aspects and concepts of the uni-
tary order. But we must not anticipate.

Turning for a moment to prevailing sys-
tems of Christian theology, we find that
those which are still most largely accepted
— if judged by their still existent formal
standards — have for their primary founda-
tion the literal story of Eden with its intro-
duction of evil. But mariy of their personal
exponents, now swayed by the irresistible
influence of modern thought, admit that
the historic narrative must be a matter of


The Symphony of Life.

correspondence, allegory and symbolism.
But these always have some deep and real
meaning. From every reasonable point of
view the literalized story of the " Fall " as
the origin of evil is untenable. The valid-
ity of the dogmas, the foundation for which
is thus so clearly removed, need not be dis-
cussed in this connection. But the Edenic
tradition is by no means the only arbitrary
attempt to account for the origin and per-
sistence of the adverse principle. Each
religion has its unique h^^pothesis. Com-
prehensively studied, these hypotheses have
so many similar features as to suggest a
common root. Space will permit of but
one or two illustrations.

In the religion of ancient Egypt, Osiris
is essentially the good principle, and his
warfare with evil is perpetual. His brother
Seth, called by the Greeks, Typhon, is his
opponent. They represent light and dark-
ness, physical good and physical evil, the
Nile and the desert. The warfare is for the
welfare or the destruction of the human

The Zoroastrian creed was also funda-
mentally dualistic. Ormuzd and Ahriman
were the representative antagonists. They
were both creative and original spirits, and


The Meaning of Evil.

the existence of evil in the world was thus
supposed to be primary and fundamental.

In Buddhism matter, conscious desire and
existence constitute the main elements of
evil, and the blotting out of these con-
ditions in human consciousness makes up
the triumph of the good. This transcen-
dent, formless, tranquil state is Nirvana.

The spectacles of human pain, misery
and guilt, with seeming undeserved calam-
ity and uninvited disaster, have caused a
common revolt from the hypothesis that
the cosmic order is the sole manifestation of
a beneficent and loving Deity. An anthro-
pomorphic and even capricious divine admin-
istration, subject to certain limitations and
imperfect dominion, has inferentially been
assumed. From the generally admitted
premises any other logical conclusion would
be difficult. Comparatively, the univer-
sality of law is but a concept of yesterday,
and any theory of its complete beneficence
must wait for future understanding and ac-
ceptance. Thus, during the entire historic
period, and among all peoples, whether
Christian or pagan, gnostic or materialistic,
theistic or atheistic, Calvinistic or Arminian,
dualism in some form has prevailed, and
man has trembled before an adversary of


The Symphony of Life.

superhuman power which, whether or no*
an objective reahty, he has erected in his own
consciousness. From the ancient Greek
philosophers and Hebrew seers, who found
the idea of divine justice irreconcilable with
wickedness triumphant and innocence
trampled under foot, down to the modern
pessimist and atheistic materialist^ there is
a profound conviction that we live in the
midst of a perverted moral order. Even Na-
ture, " red in tooth and claw," seems a living
though unintelligent epistle wherein diabol-
ism stands out in characters of bold relief.

It has been respectively affirmed that evil
is a creation of the devil, which is to be re-
deemed through Christ ; that it is an influ-
ence from an inferior though unconquerable
perverse spirit ; that matter is inherently
adverse to righteousness or, according to
Plato, "brute matter;" and finally, by pes-
simism and materialism, that there is no God
or moral order, but only bhnd unmoral
Force. The Christian ideal of confidence
and trust, even under divine chastisement,
though reflecting upon the deific character,
has in it a kind of prophetic reconciliation
and final spiritual beneficence. It is there-
fore far superior to all other religious


The Meaning of Evil.

The true touchstone for any philosophy
or religion is its ascertained and experimen-
tal relation to the constitution of man.
Does a theory or hypothesis fit him, his
needs and capacity, and also make for har-
mony in a general unitary design ? If so,
there is valid indorsement and even proof
Factors must be studied, not singly, but in
relation and interrelation. Among them all
man himself is the most significant. Can a
beneficent teleology be discerned? Per-
sistent analysis and specialism have greatly
displaced an intelligent synthesis. The
whole is often hidden by one of its parts,
therefore objective misplacement and dis-
proportion are the result of a faulty sub-
jective bias.

Man wittingly or unwittingly violates
law — physical, mental, or spiritual — and
the inner tribunal and sequential penalty
judge him. The law in itself may be kindly
and the penalty educational, but to his un-
trained vision they both seem adverse and
even evil. But only through some experi-
mental infraction of the moral order can
undeveloped man divine its mandates.


Only the freedom of choice, and some de-
gree of discipline, greater or less, for missing
the mark, make developed moral character


The Symphony of Life.

and spiritual fiber possible. As man pro-
p-resses in inner unfoldment and attains
higher evolutionary planes, his divergence
from the moral highway will become more
slight. At length he will feel its leadings
and outgrow the necessity of the hard puni-
tive cuffs and blows which are provisionally
required to startle him and push him out
of the deep ruts of animality. If man
could know and do only the good he would
be an automaton, and to him, being desti-
tute of any point of comparison, it would
not be good. Growth is only possible
through wise choosing and exercise. Where
there is but one, choice is impossible. En-
forced and involuntary virtue, unmixed with
freedom to choose unwisely, would be
slavish, and to man as he is constituted
would virtually become vice.

Anticipating for a little our conclusion,
we will concisely state it, and then proceed
to show how logic, analysis and relativity
buttress and confirm it. Evil is real as a
relative subjective condition, but unreal as an
objective entity. It is man's faulty practi-
cing, and has no seat or power outside of
him. As designating a lower round in the
ladder of human ascent than that occupied
by the observer, it is pertinent as a term,


The Meaning of Evil.

but yet without abstract realism in the nature
of things.

Human definitions of evil are most un-
stable. Ethical standards are continually
shifting, as measured by differing races,
religions, legislative codes and especially
by successive eras. Previous to 1850,
with rare exceptions, slavery was not only
excused but sanctioned by the leading
authorities of religion, politics and social
economy. It was even " divinely insti-
tuted." Briefly put, it was not evil. To-
day, a paltry half-century later, such an
ethical standard would be rated as barbaric.
Glance forward a little, and note another
almost certain readjustment — nay, revolu-
tion ! War, when thinly glossed with patrio-
tism, so called, by the side of which slavery
as formerly practiced in the United States is
but a pygmy of evil, remains ethically cor-
rect according to the general sentiment of
the nations of Christendom. But there is
every indication that long before a. d. 1950,
no one will be bold enough to defend it.
Then it will be unmitigated evil. What a
continual alteration of measurements ! We
are like people upon an express train when
the whole landscape seems to be flying by
while they remain stationary. Good and


The Symphony of Life.

evil are not abstract opposites separated by
a great, unbridgeable gulf, but changeable
subjective relations.

But it may be plausibly objected that
although institutions and customs, like sla-
very and war, change in human appreciation,
there are qualities which remain intact.
Take love and hate. Would not the for-
mer through all ages remain good and the
latter evil ? This presents dualism in its
strongest form ; but let us look a little
deeper. Love and hate are real as relative
educational states of consciousness, but who
will affirm that hate has any cosmic objec-
tive reality ? Love being positive has valid
realism. Hate is a negative condition.
These qualities are what men see and feel in
themselves. Says Emerson : " Evil is
merely privative, not absolute ; it is like
cold, which is the privation of heat. All
evil is so much death or nonentity."
,r As man is constituted, love could not be
i discriminated if there were absolutely noth-
; ing else. All true interpretation must in-
clude some degree of contrast ; indeed, the
human- consciousness itself consists of one
; interminable procession of contrasts. As
I man feels evil or hatred within, it seems to
! be veritable without. It is a magnified re-


The Meaning of Evil.

flection of his subjective consciousness, fort
as he is against things they seem to turn ;
themselves against him. His own imper-^
feet inner states are stamped upon all hisj
environment. He is looking through a |
colored lens. This is a necessary psycho- 1
logical and spiritual stage for an immature \
and progressive free moral being to pass i
through. Logically, this brings us to the i
border of a positive idealism, which teaches |
that each one for himself creates his own *^
objective universe. If he make his own |
world, including his own good and evil,
does he not inaugurate his own heaven and
hell ? When, therefore, he has fully con- .
quered himself he has conquered the world, j

Dr. John Fiske has discussed " the mys-
tery of evil " from the scientific stand-point
in a way which has attracted wide attention.
His masterly logic is irrefutable, and no
loop-hole is left for the entrance of any
theory of dualism. It therefore becomes
highly significant and encouraging that mon-
ism is not merely the product of " meta-
physical speculation," but that science and
positive spiritual philosophy converge to a
common conclusion. It may be added that
religion, when vitally rather than dogmatic-
ally defined, is in full accord. Dr. Fiske


The Symphony of Life.

clearly shows that evil has an indispensable
function and is not something interpolated
from without. His illustration through the
contrasts among colors, though perhaps famil-
iar, is apt. If there were but one color it
would not be a color. As the human mind
is framed, contrasts, are absolutely indispens-

In the grand epic of Job, Satan, the per-
sonification of evil, is represented as the
tester, the prover, or in reality as the edu-
cator of men. In that highly dramatic
picture of the process of human spiritual
evolution his part is presented as normal,
and he is painted with none of that radical
and destructive malignity with which he is
conventionally credited. In fact, he is re-
presented as among the sons of God, and
as holding dignified converse with the Deity.
His office is the placing of obstacles and
doubts in the pathway of man, so that
through the exercise of overcoming, he may
gain strength to mount to higher levels. It
is obvious that, when thus interpreted, he
ceases to be the traditional devil. He is a
spiritual fencing-master through whose activ-
ity man is to gain moral and spiritual dex-
terity and power, but ignorance transforms
him into a real enemy.


The Meaning of Evil.

The experience of Job, in substance and
degree, delineates the travail of every human
soul in its birth to the higher consciousness.
As a literal transaction it would be meaning-
less. As the composite photograph of a
great process in the kingdom of the soul, it
has startling significance. " The world, the
flesh and the devil '' have long been re-
garded as the trinity of evil, but it increas
ingly appears that the first two are goo
when not abused. When misplaced, the
form an image of the third. Asceticism is
thus stripped of its theoretical virtue and
sanctity. Body and soul are no longer re-
garded as hostile factors, but as congruous
and supplemental in their relations.

" Thinketh no evil " virtually puts evil
out of existence. To paint its picture and
dwell upon it, even for the well-meant pur-jf
pose of a righteous opposition, is to increased
its realism and scatter its seed. This hasj
been the conventional, but unscientific and'|
unsuccessful way in which the world has ]
tried to get rid of it. After a vain trial of ^
realism for ages for its suppression, v/hy not
employ idealism P " But I say unto you ■;
that ye resist not evil." The scientific value
of non-resistance is that it destroys all the I
realism that evil possesses. In proportion


The Symphony of Life.

las one turns his back upon it and leaves it
behind, it dissolves into its native nothing-
ness. The pessimist magnifies it, and dis-
arms poor humanity in the assumed con-
flict. The optimist sees the educational
and corrective side of evil experiment and
thereby transmutes it, and so brings good-
ness into expression. " Evil, be thou my
good," said Milton.

If God be All in All, eternal, omnipo-
' tent and omnipresent Love, he could not
have created essential evil, or its personifica-
tion. "All that he made was very good."
But, unconsciously to himself, man is a
^creator. His constructive thought up-
1 rears specters of misplacement and igno-
I ranee, and they solidify before his eyes and
threaten him. In a deep sense, for him
who believes in a personal devil and fears
'him, there is one. Regardless of the lack
of abstract reality, his own malignant mental
image of such a being stands out before him
charged with the power which he has con-
ferred upon it. The human imaging faculty
is an instrument of unimagined creative

But it must be admitted that the only
evolutionary approach to an intelligent
appreciation of Reality — as Universal


The Meaning of Evil.

Goodness — lies through a field of adverse
appearances. Like the windmills which
confronted Don Quixote, they seem like
veritable giants. As soon as intelligent dis-^^

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Online LibraryHenry WoodThe symphony of life : a series of constructive sketches and interpretations → online text (page 6 of 15)