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THE OPEN LIGHT



THK CHRISTIAN REVOLUTION SERIES
VOLUME IV.



THE OPEN LIGHT



Enquiry into Faith and Reality



BY

NATHANIEL MICKLEM, M.A.

Sometime Scholar of Nfiv College
Tutor and Chaplain at Mansfield College, Oxford



WITH FOREWORD BY



REV. H. ARNOLD THOMAS, M.A., LL.D. (of Bristol)



Quod superest, vacuas auris (animumque sagacem)
Semotum a curis adhibe veram ad rationem,
Ne mea dona tibi studio disposta fideli,
Intellects prius quam sint, contempta relinquas.

Lucretius. Oxford text.

Benignus est Spiritus sapientiae, et non consuevit csse difficilis se
invocantibus, qui saepe, ct aruequam invocetur, dicit, Ecce adsum.

Bernard . in Cant, XV. I.



THE SWARTHMORK PRESS LTD.

(Formerly tradingas Headley Bros. Publishers, Ltd.)

72, OXFORD ST., LONDON, W.i.



M



First Trinted, June, 1919.



TO

MY FATHER AND MY MOTHER

THROUGH WHOM
MORE THAN BY ALL THESE ARGUMENTS

I HAVE LOOKED INTO
THE HEAVENLY MYSTERIES.



S87S



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. MATTER AND SPIRIT . . . . 15

THE TRUE RATIONALISM . . . . 15

THE MYSTERY OF MATTER . . . . I



"



THE SO-CALLED UNITY OF CONSCIOUS-



"



NESS ........ 27

IS THERE ONE DIRECTING MIND ? . . 28

MIND AN ABSTRACTION . . . . 32

THE RATIONAL ........ 34

II. MEANINGS ........ 36

ASSURANCE AND PROOF . . . . 37

THE UNDERSTANDING AND MISUNDER-

STANDING OF GOD ...... 44

IS GOD A PERSON ? . . . . . . 50

REVELATION ...... 53

THE PERSON OF CHRIST . . . . 55

THE MEANING OF LIFE . . . . 59

III. THE PROBLEM OF EVIL . . . . 61

THE REALITY OF HUMAN FREEDOM . . 65

THE SOCIAL NATURE OF PERSONALITY . . 72

THE UNIFORMITY OF NATURE . . 74

" THE LIONS ROARING AFTER THEIR PREY

DO SEEK THEIR MEAT FROM GOD " 78
" FIRE AND HAIL . . . AND STORMY

WIND FULFILLING HIS WORD." . . 8l

GOD IN NATURE ...... 85

GOD IN HISTORY . . . . . . 89



8 CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

IV. THE VICTORY OF GOOD . . . . 92

" EACH STING THAT BIDS NOR SIT NOR

STAND, BUT GO " . . . . 93

STAB MY SOUL AWAKE . . . . 97

THE TRANSMUTING OF EVIL . . . . 99

THE OVERCOMING OF SIN . . . . IO2

V. DESTINY 114

" THE KINGDOM OF GOD " 115

IMMORTALITY Il8

" THE GREAT WHITE THRONE " . . 123

CAN THERE BE A RESURRECTION ? . . 126

THE ETERNITY OF BEAUTY . . . . 128

CHRISTIAN FUNERALS . . . . . . 131

HEAVEN 133

VI. TRUTH IN ACTION 138

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR ? . . . . 139

POLITICAL PRINCIPLES 145

" VIA LUCIS, VIA CRUCIS " . . . . 157

EPILOGUE 165



FOREWORD

; \j

I CAN most heartily commend what Mr.
Micklem has written in these pages to all
who concern themselves with the great
problems with which he is dealing. There
are few men who know the student mind
more intimately than he does, or are better
able to meet its requirements, and win its
sympathies. He has written with admirable
candour, neither indulging in any special
pleading nor ignoring any serious difficulty ;
and though he would be the last to claim
to understand all mysteries, he helps the
bewildered to see that there is a way in which
they may walk without doing violence to
reason, which is none the less the way of
wisdom and duty because it is the way
of faith, and which bids fair, if they follow
it, to lead them into the realm of light and
peace. Any w r ho, because of the uncer-
tainties and denials of this perilous time,



io FOREWORD

are tempted to give up everything in despair
may, I think, take heart again when they
see how others have faced the spectres of
the mind, and have not been daunted or
dismayed. Mr. Micklem has rendered an
important service by the publication of this
little book, and I am sure many will be
grateful for what he has said and done.

H. ARNOLD THOMAS.



PREFACE

THE writer of " The New Parent's Assistant "
calls for a book for which he provides
alternative alluring titles : " ' First Steps
in Philosophy/ ' Metaphysics Made Easy/
' Logic for the Little Ones/ 4 The Nursery
Theologian/ 'The Boys' Own Berkeley/'
I can make no claim to have written such
a book ; yet this may at least appear as
a specimen of that Socratic art which also is
said to be connected with the nursery.

There are many who have an instinct
or intuition that in Christianity, though
hidden and overlaid, there lies the fulfilment
of man's need and the answer of his question-
ings. \- I hope that this book, which may
be regarded as in some sense an open
letter to such, may help to make Christianity
appear both more reasonable and more
beautiful.

I am grateful to the friends who have
helped me with my work ; to the Rev.



12 PREFACE

Fearon Halliday, M.A., whose book on
" Reconciliation and Reality ' lies behind
much that I have written, and who has
helped me over many stiles ; to the Rev.
Herbert Morgan, M.A., both for his assistance
while the book was being written and for
the advantage of his wisdom imparted to
me in many conversations during those
happy days in Bristol when w r e carried it
very familiarly towards one another under
a common roof ; to the Rev. H. Arnold
Thomas, M.A.,LL.D., maestro mio y both for
his kindness in writing a foreword for me and
for the immeasurable privilege of his guid-
ance and companionship during the earliest
days of my ministry.

My debt to Professor James Ward will
be apparent to all who know his great book
on " The Realm of Ends."

The Epilogue has been written at the last
moment at the suggestion of the Rev. the
Principal of Mansfield, D.D.

My wife has helped me from first to last in
big things and in little.

I should perhaps add that this book has
been advertised under a different title from



PREFACE 13

that which now it bears. . The alteration is
due to a friend's kindly warning that the
title I had chosen is the property of another.
The present title may need a word of explan-
ation. It is taken from that poem of William
Morris, in which he speaks of the problems
of to-day as a " tangled wood/ 5 until they
are seen in the light of life's meaning as a

whole, and

i

" looking up, at last we see
The glimmer of the open light,
From o'er the place where we would be :
Then grow the very brambles bright.

I have even hoped that this little
book might for some wayfarer be "as the
glimmer of the open light " upon the way.

N.M.

MANSFIELD COLLEGE,
April, 1919.



I

MATTER AND SPIRIT.

This made me present evermore

With whatsoe'er I saw.
An object, if it were before
My eye, was by Dame Nature's law,

Within my soul. Her store
Was all at once within me ; all her treasures
Were my immediate and internal pleasures,
Substantial joys, which did inform my mind.
With all she wrought
My soul was fraught,
And every object in my heart a thought
Begot, or was ; I could not tell,
Whether the things did there

Themselves appear,

Which in my spirit truly seem'd to dwell ;
Or whether my conforming mind
Were not even all that therein shin'd.

THOMAS TRAHERNE.

The True Rationalism*

LIFE must have a meaning or at least an
explanation, and man cannot but ask whence
he came and whither he goes. He is set in
the midst of mystery. He knows

" long and weary days
Full of rebellious askings, for what end,
And by what power, without our own consent.
Caught in this snare of life we know not how,
We were placed here, to suffer and to sin,
To be in misery, and know not why."

Even when free for a while from the felt
oppression of pain and sin man is never

15



16 THE OPEN LIGHT

quit of the mystery of life, and well may
take to himself the prayer of the Breton
fishermen, " Help me, O God ; my boat
is so small and Thy ocean so wide." We
are out upon the open sea through no choice
of our own, and if we have no instinct of
the way, no knowledge of the harbour,
we but " fluctuate without term or scope."
What must be our starting point if we
would solve man's greatest, and indeed his
only problem, the meaning of life itself ?
We have no option ; we must start from
ourselves and the world as we are conscious of
it, and ask what we with our experience
involve. We shall part company from the very
beginning with some ; these are they who decry
the adequacy of Reason in the search and
call in to their assistance a mysterious
information about Divine and human things
which transcends Reason, and is available
to so-called Faith alone.* For there are
those who suppose that to reason about
religion and life is, if not actually irreligious,
at least futile. The mysterious dealings of
God with the human soul, they urge, are in
a realm too sacred and too exalted for in-
tellectual inquiry ; to ask questions is to
doubt, and faith needs no credentials ; in
this high realm of faith logic is blind and

* It will be plain from the sequel that we are not denying
revelation but only arbitrary channels of revelation, and such
revelations as cannot be commended to Reason. All knowledge
is strictly revelation.






MATTER AND SPIRIT 17

argument misleading. Such persons either
resolve religion into mere mystical emotion,
or assert that all that we need to know has
been revealed to us in Jesus Christ or in the
Bible or in the Church or in the Vedas
or in some other ark of truth, and our sole
duty is gratefully and adoringly to believe
the " revelation." Such an attitude is poss-
ible for some, but if we be of the inquiring
or the sceptical sort, and will love the Lord
our God with all our mind or not at all,
we say to them, " We do not wish to
question that you have the truth ; we
hope it may be so, for we are searchers
after truth ; but give us some reason which
may justify us in accepting what you say."
How are w r e to decide whether the Vedas
or the Authorised Version or the Pope speak
true, or none of these ? Reason must decide.
It is not here suggested that the human
intellect is able to solve all problems in the
Universe, that the human spirit can com-
prehend all the depths of God ; but we are
so made that we must demand a reason for
the beliefs offered to us, and in this high
quest for truth we dare accept nothing which
does not commend itself to thought. As a
matter of fact, every religion or philosophy
that claims the assent of all mankind, be it
Roman Catholicism or materialism or theo-
sophy or Christian Science or any other,
has its " apologetics." Such " apologetics "



i8 THE OPEN LIGHT

implicitly allow that the appeal to Reason
is legitimate, and as a matter of fact it never
could be proven that certain elements in
human life are beyond the domain of Reason,
since the attempted proof would involve
reasoning about them ! Valid reasons
cannot, from the nature of things, be given
for distrusting Reason !

We shall assume therefore that which is
the postulate or condition of all thinking,
that Reason is sovereign, and that there can
be no appeal beyond Reason ; for by Reason
every appeal must commend itself. We
shall not minimise the place of emotion and
of morality or right willing in the search for
truth, but we assert at the outset as funda-
mental that what is not rational is not true ;
that what is beyond the sphere of Reason
or thought is beyond the sphere of existence.
We start then upon this quest for the meaning
of life, not indeed without prejudices (how
could we ?) but as true philosophers or lovers
of wisdom determined that not emotion nor
prejudice nor fear shall lead us to give our
assent to that which we do not believe to
be true ; now the true is the rational.

There is in the heart of man an instinc-
tive cry for God. In this chapter then we
shall enquire what need or what right have
we to suppose that there is a God.



MATTER AND SPIRIT 19

I

The Mystery of Matter*

Man is aware of persons and of things,
of " matter ' and of " spirit." Have these
two, matter and spirit, co-existed from all
eternity, or is one the ground of the other ?
If matter be the ground of spirit, plainly
there can be no God. We will examine, then,
the claim of materialism to give a rational
account of the Universe.

Materialism is propounded by some as
a doctrine, but it is familiar to us all as a
spirit. Though it be in the philosophical
schools a doctrine demonstrably false, we
meet men and women to whom it seems the
natural, and indeed inevitable, explanation
of life and of the world, and we have occasion
to wrestle with ourselves in those moods of
the spirit, when we wonder whether after
all religion is not but foolish self-deception ;
when we feel sure of the things that we can
see and touch and measure and calculate,
but " the spiritual world," as we call it,
seems shadowy and unreal, <;c gilded empti-
ness, nothing between two dishes " ; when
we are like Cicero who tells us that looking
up to Mount Olympus, where, as men once
believed, is the home of the gods, he for his
part could see nothing but ice and snow.

Has not religion a purely natural origin ?
Does it not arise out of primitive man's



20 THE OPEN LIGHT

emotions and illusions, his dreams, his sense
of being haunted by ghosts, his belief that
there are spirits in the rustling trees and
within the bubbling spring ? It may be
so, though prehistoric psychology is a highly
speculative subject. But even if it were so
that with the dawn of modern science ghosts
became either incredible or insipid, that no
angel stirred the waters of Siloam, and

Dodona's oak swang lonely
Henceforth to the tempest only,

yet might religion be no mere illusion ; for
art arose from the rude and practical drawings
of the savage upon bone, architecture from
the primitive cave or rushy shelter, home
life from the primitive instinct of sex, but,
as we shall see later, it is not origins but
purpose^ that explain the world.

A far more serious difficulty is the conten-
tion of the materialist that every motion
of thought has a corresponding motion of
the grey matter of the brain which is its
cause ; that if the brain be destroyed, the
" personality" perishes too ; that all psychical
and mental phenomena may be explained
in terms of modifications or motions of the
material particles in the brain, and that
consciousness is like the shadow cast by a
cloud upon the water, it is but the shadow
of a mist ; the reality is matter. In some
such form as this the materialist's arguments
come to us. We may feel them to be



MATTER AND SPIRIT 21

wrong, but we cannot claim that he shall
share our feelings ; or it may be we have
the disquieting thought that perhaps after
all he is right, who knows ?

But first we will set the materialist to some
cross-questioning. " Sir/' we will say to
him, " you are sure that matter is the key
to explain life and consciousness and religion
as well as Nature ; what then is this matter ? "
To this question the honest materialist is
bound to answer that he does not know;
or if he is an honest but unphilosophical
materialist he will answer that all matter
may be reduced to some primal particles;
perhaps he will call them electrons. " What
are electrons," we ask. " Particles of elec-
tricity," he answers. " And what is elec-
tricity ? " "A form of energy." But "particles
of energy ' ' is not a very hopeful definition ;
it is too much like defining " things " as
" energetic things." Or it may be he will
speak of the ultimate, not as electrons, but
as ether or something else ; the name does
not matter much, so long as we remember
that it is a name for the unknown. Material
things are all round about us, yet there is
no greater mystery than matter in the uni-
verse. We know in some small measure
what it will do, but what it is we know not.

Further, the materialist finds himself upon
the horns of this dilemma, either he must
say that the history of the Universe is the



22 THE OPEN LIGHT

result of mere chance, that Nature is blind,
that the following of night upon day, summer
upon winter, is merely fortuitous and not
necessary, that the exquisite shapes of the
crystal, the colours of the sunset, are the
result of a mere chance grouping of material
particles, that all causation is an illusion,
in a word that all the wonders and intricacies
and beauties and orders of Nature are the
outcome, not of Reason nor of purpose,
but of sheer accident, of " rakel chance
and fortune blind," which as a matter
of fact no materialist does maintain, and
than which no theory could be more absurd
or else he must use such terms as " causation,"
" evolution," " natural selection," and " laws
of Nature r to explain the world. But
' causation " is an idea not a material
thing, and " evolution " and " natural selec-
tion ' involve purpose, and purpose is a
term utterly without meaning except in
reference to some mind or minds ; there
must be a purposer if there is a purpose,
there must be a law-giver if there is a law.
In allowing himself these w r ords at all, the
materialist is really explaining the world
in terms of mind !

Again, what man looking at St. Paul's
Cathedral would say " Why, it is only bricks
and mortar and gilt ! " ? We are as sure
as he who wTote " Si monumentum requiris
circumspice " that " bricks and mortar and



MATTER AND SPIRIT 23

gilt ' is not an adequate account of St.
Paul's. If the Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven
were only a series of noises drawn from a
piano, it would be in no way superior to the
braying of an ass or the screeching of a siren.
If a man were in reality only the chymical
particles out of which his body is made,
then there would be no real difference between
Christ and Barabbas. But if we judge neither
architecture nor music nor persons in this
way, we cannot so interpret the Universe.
The undifferentiated void, if there was ever
such a thing, out of which the Universe came
to be, might be a mere collection of particles,
but to know this is not to understand the
courses of the stars and the glories of Nature
and the history of mankind, as little as to know
the mind of the infant Plato is to understand
the " Republic, "or to know the alphabet is
to be a poet. Materialism takes away all
meaning from the higher values of life ;
it reduces deeds noble and deeds base,
things lovely and things ugly, the first
beginnings of art and the highest achieve-
ments of a Raphael or a Beethoven to a
common dead level of material particles.
This is assuredly the most preposterous way
of looking at the universe ; it does not
explain our experience, it explains it away.

But further, the mystery of matter lies not
so much in the problem of what it is, but
in the contemplation of what it will do. The



24 THE OPEN LIGHT

story is told * of a blind girl who earned a
precarious livelihood by needlework, and
whose one delight and solace was in the
Bible, w r hich was to her the very Word of
God, the bread of life. Her finger grew hard
and numb through stitching ; she took a knife
and pared off the hard skin, but now she
could not stitch ; work she must, so in her
despair she raised her Bible to her lips to
give it one farewell kiss, when to her unutter-
able astonishment she found that with her
sensitive lip she still could read ! But how
mysterious is matter, if through the outermost
cuticle of the skin in contact with certain
markings on a piece of paper a human being
can be in touch with the thoughts of the
great ones of the earth and even with God
Himself ! Or consider again the " human
face divine," the face of someone whose
life and character we most admire. A
physiologist may be able to tell us with much
accuracy of what particles that face
is composed, but that is a small part of
the mystery ; how comes it that through the
collocation and expression of those physical
particles we can read the history of a life-
time, can see the whole lit up and trans-
figured by the spirit within, and can find in
the depths of those eyes " the substance
of things hoped for, the evidence of things
not seen ? ' The mystery of matter is that

* By Dr. John Pulsford, in " Quiet Hours," first series.



MATTER AND SPIRIT 25

it expresses spirit ; it is unintelligible apart
from its meaning. The printed signs that
form this sentence, like the embossed figures
of the Brail script, are an insoluble mystery
apart from their meaning ; these alphabets
were created to express meaning. Nature
likewise is a system of meanings, or it is
an insoluble mystery ; we shall see more
clearly later that the function of matter is to
express meaning.

Further, " matter " and " spirit " are both
mysteries ; but when we consider, we find
that we know much more about spirit
than about matter. We are conscious of
being persons, or "spirits" to keep the old
word ; but of matter, though we cannot
positively affirm that it is nothing apart
from consciousness, we do and can know
nothing except in relation to consciousness
or mind. This wall be plain from a single
illustration. I hold an apple in my hand ;
let me describe it to you. It has colour
and markings; it is extended in space, of
a certain shape ; it is solid, that is, it resists
the pressure of my hand ; it has a not un-
pleasant scent and a flavour of its own;
if I drop it, I can hear it strike the ground.
I could tell you a little of its past history,
but that would not be to the point, for I
want to ask you what is it in itself and
apart from consciousness ? I have described
to you the perceptible qualities of this apple,



26 THE OPEN LIGHT

but all these qualities are, as I say, perceptible,
that is, relative to senses that perceive and
a mind that appreciates. A sound that is
inaudible is not a sound ; an imperceptible
colour is a contradiction in terms ; and when
I say that the apple is extended in space and
of a certain shape, I am using language which
is meaningless apart from a mind that is
capable of appreciating what extension in
space means. It means that to grasp the
object the eye or finger, whether in fact or
in imagination, must move from one point
to another. An apple is a living thing,
but what the " matter ' is of which its
body is composed we can give no account
except in terms of w r hat it can do, that is, of
w T hat sensations it can produce in us. What,
apart from consciousness, is that matter
which can give us sensations, if indeed it
be anything, is not only unknown but un-
knowable ; for if it were known it would not
be apart from consciousness. Therefore matter
is " x r the great unknowable. But an
explanation of the Universe in terms of the
unknowable is not helpful.

But, as a matter of fact, the materialist
in attempting to give an explanation of the
Universe at all overreaches himself ; for
explanation involves mind, and that which
is apart from mind admits of no explan-
ation. As reasons cannot be given for
distrusting reason, so explanations cannot



MATTER AND SPIRIT 27

be given "of that which is out of relation
to mind.



II

The so-called "Unity of Consciousness*"

It is likely that we mislead ourselves by
the form of our question, what is mind and
what is matter. Man is a thinking and
perceiving animal ; we give the name mind
to the thinking part, the name things to the
objects of his thinking. But you cannot
think without thinking of something, nor
again, as we have seen, is it possible to explain
or have any idea of things apart from their
being objects of thought. Thus we cannot
have mind without objects of thought, and
the only objects to be explained are objects
of thought. The Universe which has to be
explained is one that consists of thinkers
and the objects of their thinking, and in this
Universe either thinkers apart from their
thoughts or thoughts apart from their thinkers
are pure abstractions. The Universe to be
explained is the Universe which is experienced ;
you cannot explain the objects which, ex
hypothesi^ are the objects of consciousness
by asserting that consciousness is an illusion,
nor can anything be explained that is not
relative to mind. It is experience that has
to be explained. Materialism assumes that
the objects of thought have a knowable



28 THE OPEN LIGHT

existence apart from the thought whose
objects they are, that you can explain the
Self that experiences as an illusion of its own
experience.

Ill

Is there one directing Mind?

In experience we are conscious of " things"
and of other persons. A person is both a
subject and an object, a subject to himself
as the self that has experience and an object
to others who are conscious of him. I shall
suggest later that all objects are also in some
sense subjects, but that need not concern us
here.

It has been shown that it is meaningless
to speak of things except as the objects of
thought. Yet we are aware that this planet
existed and was being moulded and shaped


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