Copyright
W. (William) Sanday.

Christology and personality : containing: I. Christologies ancient and modern, II. Personality in Christ and in ourselves / by William Sanday online

. (page 9 of 18)
Online LibraryW. (William) SandayChristology and personality : containing: I. Christologies ancient and modern, II. Personality in Christ and in ourselves / by William Sanday → online text (page 9 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


yet, in some strange way, there seem to be open



144 Ancient and Modern Christologies

chinks and crevices through which there is a con-
stant coming and going, denizens or manufactured
products of the lower world returning to the upper
air of consciousness and once more entering into
the train and sequence of what we call active life,
though indeed the invisible processes of this life are
just as active as the visible.

It appears to be the function of the subconscious
and unconscious states to feel the conscious. There
is that continual movement from below upwards of
which I have been speaking. A never-ending train
of images, memories, and ideas keeps emerging into
the light. But only in part are they subject to the
will and conscious reason. Only in part do they
come at call. And only in part do they come in
fully organized form.

The phenomena of sleep and dreams seem to
belong to a sort of midway condition. They are in
part organized and articulated. They present a suc-
cession of pictures, which as pictures are like those
which occur in the waking state; but they are
wanting in method. They are like a faggot of sticks
without any band to hold them together. There is
no connected meaning in them. The controlling
power is dormant, and does not shape them to any
practical end.

And yet the region of the unconscious and sub-
conscious is no mere chaos. The processes that
go on there must be to a large extent processes of
differentiation and combination. Problems that



VI. Presuppositions of a Modern Christology 145

baffle the waking mind often seem to find their
solution, or to make steps towards solution, in ways
that are beyond its ken. The next time that the
intractable problem comes up into thought, it is with
its worst tangles wholly or partially unravelled.

The lower region corresponds to the upper in not
being all of one moral colour. It contains the same
potentialities of good and bad. If the dominant
impulses and influences in conscious thought and
life are good, then the dominant impulses and in-
fluences in the unconscious state will be good also;
and vice versa. The under-world is a repetition or
reflexion of the upper-world. In the one, not less
than in the other, character is moulded. And, though
the processes are not seen and cannot be followed,
their results appear in the conscious responsible acts
and thoughts of the waking man.

The wonderful thing is that, while the unconscious
and subconscious processes are (generally speaking)
similar in kind to the conscious, they surpass them
in degree. They are subtler, intenser, further-
reaching, more penetrating. It is something more
than a mere metaphor when we describe the sub- and
unconscious states as more 'profound.' It is in
these states, or through them, that miracles are
wrought — especially those connected with person-
ality. They doubtless played the largest part in
the historical miracles of the Gospels, just as they
are to this day most active in what we are still
inclined to call miracles, the more successful

10



146 Ancient and Modern Christologies

examples of efforts that often fall short of success.

The high that proved too high, the heroic for

earth too hard.
The passion that left the ground to lose itself

in the sky.

It was evidently this ' supernormar character, or
these supernormal possibilities, which caused Mr.
F. W. H. Myers to have recourse to the * subliminal
self* in order to explain such phenomena as tele-
pathy or hypnotism. To us too it offers itself — but
quite as much within the normal as the supernormal
sphere — as, if not exactly furnishing an explanation,
yet at least pointing where an explanation is to be
sought, of many of the phenomena of religion.

I had written so far without any conscious
reference to Prof. William James; but I find myself
practically taking up the inquiry very much at the
point where he had left it. Towards the end of his
Varieties of Religious Experience (pp. 511 ff.) he
wrote as follows : —

The subconscious self is nowadays a well-accredited
psychological entity; and I believe that in it we
have exactly the mediating term required. Apart
from all religious considerations, there is actually
and literally more life in our total soul than we are
at any time aware of. The exploration of the
transmarginal field has hardly yet been seriously
undertaken, but what Mr. Myers said in 1892 in
his essay on the Subliminal Consciousness is as true
as when it was first written: 'Each of us is in
reality an abiding psychical entity far more exten-



VI. Presuppositions of a Modern Christology 147

sive than he knows — an individuaUty which can
never express itself completely through any cor-
poreal manifestation. The Self manifests through
organism; but there is always some part of the
Self unmanif ested ; and always, as it seems, some
power of organic expression in abeyance or reserve.'
Much of the content of this larger background
against which our conscious being stands out in
relief is insignificant. ... But in it many of the
performances of genius seem also to have their
origin; and in our study of conversion, of mystical
experiences, and of prayer, we have seen how
striking a part invasions from this region play in
the religious life.

Let me then propose, as an hypothesis, that
whatever it may be on its farther side, the *more'^
with which in religious experience we feel ourselves
connected is on its hither side the subconscious
continuation of our conscious life. Starting thus
with a recognized psychological fact as our basis,
we seem to preserve a contact with * science ' which
the ordinary theologian lacks. At the same time
the theologian's contention that the religious man is
moved by an external power is vindicated, for it is
one of the peculiarities of invasions from the sub-
conscious region to take on objective appearances,
and to suggest to the Subject an external control.
In the religious life the control is felt as 'higher';
but since on our hypothesis it is primarily the
higher faculties of our own hidden mind which are
controlling, the sense of union with the power

^ Compare p. 508: 'He becomes conscious that this higher
part is conterminous and continuous with a more of the same
quantity, which is operative in the universe outside of him,
and which he can keep in working touch with, and in a fashion
get on board of and save himself when all his lower being has
gone to pieces in the wreck.'



148 Ancient and Modern Christologies

beyond us is a sense of something, not merely
apparently, but literally true.

This doorway into the subject seems to me the
best one for a science of religions, for it mediates
between a number of different points of view. . . .
Disregarding the over-beliefs, and confining our-
selves to what is common and generic, we have in
the fact that the conscious person is continuous with a
wider self, through which saving experiences come,
a positive content of religious experience which, it
seems to me, is literally and objectively true as far as
it goes^. . . . Name it the mystical region, or the
supernatural region, whichever you choose. So far
as our ideal impulses originate in this region (and
most of them do originate in it, for we find them
possessing us in a way for which we cannot articu-
lately account), we belong to it in a more intimate
sense than that in which we belong to the visible
world, for we belong in the most intimate sense
wherever our ideals belong. Yet the unseen region
in question is not merely ideal, for it produces
effects in this world. When we commune with it,
work is actually done upon our finite personality,
for we are turned into new men, and consequences
in the way of conduct follow in the natural world
upon our regenerative change. But that which
produces effects within another reality must be
termed a reality itself, so I feel as if we had no
philosophic excuse for calling the unseen or mystical
world unreal.

God is the natural appellation, for us Christians
at least, for the supreme reality, so I will call this
higher part of the universe by the name of God.
We and God have business with each other; and
in opening ourselves to His influence our deepest
destiny is fulfilled. The universe, at those parts of

^ The italics are in the original.



VI. Presuppositions of a Modern Christology 149

it which our personal being constitutes, takes a
turn genuinely for the worse or for the better in
proportion as each one of us fulfils or evades
God's demands. As far as this goes I probably
have you with me, for I only translate into sche-
matic language what I may call the instinctive
belief of mankind: God is real since He produces
real effects.

So far Prof. James. I am glad to have the
statement of a philosopher to build on, and all the
more glad to be able to call as witness a philosopher
who tells us expressly (p. 379) that he has no bias
in favour of mysticism. In spite of this want of
sympathy he lays down *that personal religious
experience has its root and centre in mystical states
of consciousness' (ibid.), and also that 'mystical
states, when well developed, usually are, and have
the right to be, absolutely authoritative over the
individuals to whom they come' (p. 422). It is
true that he goes on to add that these states have
no authority for those who do not share in them,
and true also that he seeks to weaken the consensus
in their favour by pointing to the diversity of
opinion with which they are accompanied. I can-
not say that this argument weighs with me strongly,
because the same central belief is quite compatible
with different contexts and different inferences. It
is this central fact of Mysticism that seems to me
to be so abundantly attested.

I should explain that by 'mysticism' I mean the
belief in the union of man with God and by ' Chris-



150 Ancient and Modern Christologies

tian mysticism* I mean the union of the human
spirit with the Spirit of Christ, who is also the
Spirit of God. There is this specific character about
Christian mysticism that it is not so vague and inde-
terminate as other forms, but that it starts from the
full conception of Christ; the belief in the Spirit
of Christ — i. e. in the exalted Christ as Spirit —
never forgets its origin; there are blended with it
the features of the historical Christ, which impart to
it a richness and power of human appeal, which
other more abstract forms of mysticism do not
possess.

A recent paper by Prof. Liitgert of Halle (in
Theol. Litteraturbericht for April, 1909) calls atten-
tion to the revived interest in mysticism and study of
its phenomena. Dr. Liitgert points out that (in Ger-
many at least) this revived interest and study is not
so much in the narrower circle of professed theolo-
gians as in the wider circle just outside of but in
touch with these; and he makes it clear that the
mystical view of things will have to be taken account
of more seriously. This conclusion would have been
considerably strengthened if the writer had had
before him the English and American theological
literature of the last decade as well as the German.
In this country and in America the movement has
been more central and more directly connected with
the Theological Faculties. The chief impulse to it
was given by Dr. Moberly's Atonement and Personal-
ity (London, 1901). But this had been to some extent



VI. Presuppositions of a Modern Christology 151

anticipated by Dr. W. R. Inge's Christian Mysticism
(the Bampton Lectures for 1899); and the same
gifted writer has since kept recurring to the subject,
especially in his Personal Idealism and Mysticism
(London and New York, 1907). Another powerful
reinforcement has come from a connected series of
works by Dr. W. P. Du Bose of the University of
the South (TJie Gospel in the Gospels, 1906; The
Gospel according to St. Paul, 1906; High Priesthood
and Sacrifice, 1908). There is also another recent
work by an American writer. Dr. Rufus M. Jones,
Studies in Mystical Religion (1909). And the year
before last (1908) was marked by the elaborate work
of Baron Friedrich von Hiigel, with its impressive
combination of scholarship, criticism, and philo-
sophy. The Mystical Element in Religion as studied in
Saint Catherine of Genoa and her Friends. All this
literature bears a stamp of unusual weight and
distinction, and the movement which it represents
and leads is both strong and deep.

Can we define any more closely the meaning of
Christian Mysticism,^ In other words, can we
present to ourselves more sharply what we mean
by the union of the Christian with Christ .^^ It
is difficult, and especially difficult because of the
inadequacy of the metaphors of which we are com-
pelled to make use. We are speaking of the union
of spirit with spirit; and yet we are compelled to
describe it in terms that are taken from matter and
from space. We are speaking of the union of



152 Ancient and Modern Christologies

person with person; and yet we hardly know — in
any case we cannot assume — how far union is pos-
sible between person and person. Some of the
writers I have named push this conception to its
furthest Hmits (so Dr. Moberly and Dr. Du Bose).

We may take two verses of St. Paul as typical in
this connexion. One is that great text in Galatians
(ii. 20): 'I have been crucified with Christ; yet I
live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me.'
And the other is in the same Epistle (iv. 19) : ' My
little children, of whom I am again in travail until
Christ be formed in you.' Nothing can be more
vivid. But the last passage is in any case strongly
metaphorical ; and it compels us to ask the question
whether the former passage must not also contain
an element of metaphor. And if there is an
element of metaphor, how large is that element.^
One is tempted to fall back upon an answer which
is in principle like the famous answer of Queen
Elizabeth : —

What that word doth make it.
That I believe and take it.

We leave a margin of reverent agnosticism, for that
which we cannot wholly fathom. And yet we desire
our words to have the full meaning which they
ought to have. In any case this is the least that we
are justified in saying. We are justified in saying
that there is a reality corresponding to the language
which speaks of divine indwelling. And the tendency



VI. Presuppositions of a Modem Christology 153

of thought at present is rather to strengthen than
to weaken the sense of this reaUty.

The main difficulty and question turns round the
conception of personaUty. Are we to think of
personaUty as a hard fact, an ultimate fact, or not ?
There is no doubt one form of philosophical theory
which would answer that we are; that personality
represents a point beyond which analysis cannot be
carried; that just as a short time ago the atom was
held to be an ultimate unit in the material world,
so personality is an ultimate unit in the spiritual
world. Perhaps the use of this analogy supplies
something of an augury against the particular view
of which I am speaking. I suppose it is the case
that recent physical research has completely broken
up the old conception of the atom, that what used to
be called an atom is now known to be made up of
an immense number of much smaller units called
electrons.^ In like manner the old view of the
person as not less impervious and impenetrable than
the material atom also seems to be giving way.

We may note approximation from the two sides.
On the one hand a writer like Dr. Moberly, who
takes a very high view of the extent to which the
human spirit is capable of penetration by the Divine
Spirit, yet insists strongly upon the 'response'
which the human spirit makes to the Divine, and is
in this way guarded against Pantheism. On the
other hand a well-known passage of Browning states
^Sir O. Lodge, Electrons (1906).



154 Ancient and Modern Christologies

in very striking terms the possibilities of interpene-
tration even by ordinary human personahties. Here
are two stanzas from 'By the Fireside': —

My own, see where the years conduct!

At first, 'twas something our two souls
Should mix as mists do; each is sucked

In each now: on, the new stream rolls,
Whatever rocks obstruct.

*tj^ *i> «i# *i« *i» «^ *i»

^f* *J* ^» W^J* ^f^ 0j* *I*

Oh I must feel your brain prompt mine.
Your heart anticipate my heart.

You must be just before, in fine,

See and make me see, for your part,

New depths of the divine!

The note struck by the last line shows where we are
to look for the meeting-ground of human spirit with
human spirit, and suggests a fortiori the yet further
point which may be reached when the penetrating
force is the Divine Spirit.

We are thus prepared for another step in the
process of our inquiry. I do not know what will
have been the experience of others, but for myself
it would be understating the facts to say that I have
been led to realize far more vividly than I had done
before the fullness of meaning which the language
of mystical union conveys and is intended to convey.
We have so far been speaking of states of conscious-
ness. The descriptions incidentally given of these
states all have reference to them as conscious. But
that is far from being the whole of the matter, or



VI. Presupposifums of a Modern Christology 155

perhaps even the most important part of it. In
one sense we may say that whatever enters into con-
sciousness, by the fact that it does so, is more im-
portant than that which does not. That which is
latent must in some ways yield to that which is appa-
rent. But from another point of view causes are
more important than consequences ; and it is the in-
visible part of the process which takes us nearer to the
cause. The deepest truth of mysticism, and of the
states of which we have been speaking as mystical,
belongs not so much to the upper region of con-
sciousness — the region of symptoms, manifestations,
effects — as to the lower region of the unconscious.
The roots of that of which we are conscious strike
down deep into the unconscious. It is there that
the forces are generated which enter into our con-
scious and active lives. But the fact that they are
thus generated as it were underground withdraws
them from observation; we cannot experiment
upon them or analyse them as we can with that
which comes more directly within our ken. All
that we can know or guess about the subconscious
and unconscious is derived by inference from the
conscious. The states of which we are aware are
resultant states; it is another thing to penetrate to
the original forces of which they are resultants.

Here lies the source of the element of mystery in
mysticism. I accept Dr. Moberly's account of what
we may perhaps call normal (as compared with
abnormal or eccentric) mysticism : —



156 Ancient and Modern C hristologies

It is comparatively easy to say what the real
truth of Christian mysticism is. It is, in fact, the
doctrine, or rather the experience, of the Holy
Ghost. It is the realization of human personality
as characterized by, and consummated in, the in-
dwelling reality of the Spirit of Christ, which is
God (Atonement and Personality, p. 312).

But then, the * fruits' of the Spirit we can see, the
work of the Spirit we cannot see. It is, however,
I cannot but think, a clear gain if we firmly grasp
the fact that the work of the Holy Spirit, the true
and proper work, the active divine influence brought
to bear upon the soul, does belong to this lower
sphere. It is subliminal, not supraliminal. We
know it only by its effects.

Now the subliminal region is as it were divided
into zones; and in proportion as we go down deeper
through these zones our power of understanding
and describing what goes on there diminishes; the
processes become more complex and more remote
from common experience. Between the upper
strata of the subconscious and the lower strata of
the conscious the paths are numerous, broad, and
easy. In these upper regions are stored the simple
impressions of outward objects, the record of remem-
bered facts, the outlines of past events, which are
recalled to consciousness with more or less of the
vividness and intensity, but in very much the same
guise in which they vanished below the horizon of
consciousness. The recollection of things past is
only a fainter image of the things past themselves,



yi. Freauppositwiis of a Modern Christoloytj 157

and the language which describes them as past is
a repetition or revival of the language used to
describe them when they were present.

But these surface impressions are one thing, the
deeper storage of thoughts and emotions and the
deposits of past thought and emotion are another.
However we are to think of these more permanent
and grouped phenomena, or of the mental states in
which they inhere, in any case we must remember
that these states are alive and active, and their
activity is communicated to their contents. The
deposits left by vital experience do not lie together
passively side by side, like so many dead bales
of cotton or wool, but there is a constant play as it
were of electricity passing and repassing between
them. In this way are formed all the deeper and
more permanent constituents of character and
motive. And it is in these same subterranean
regions, and by the same vitally reciprocating action,
that whatever there is of divine in the soul of man
passes into the roots of his being.

The reflexion in consciousness of these profounder
movements is by no means a mechanical repro-
duction. Impulses towards good and impulses
towards evil come flickering up from below. Very
often they come lightly and go lightly. They do
not themselves amount to any solid basement of
character. They are only an index of the real
basement. And the index is but light and flicker-
ing, like the finely poised needle on the face of



158 Ancient and Modern Christologies

a dial. The really important thing is not the index,
but the weight or the pressure that moves the index.
And that, in the case of moral character and religious
motive, is out of sight, down in the lowest depths of
personality.

The difficulty for us is to read the full signifi-
cance of these messages from below. There are all
degrees of directness and clearness. Sometimes the
message can hardly be deciphered at all ; the needle
seems to play aimlessly backwards and forwards;
the most that can be made out is the single fact
that there is a message. At other times we are left
in no doubt that the message has a meaning; and
in part the meaning is sufficiently plain, while in
part it is so wrapt up in symbol and metaphor that
as a whole we are baffled by it. But, again at times,
the ear is so attuned to the message, the listener is
so endowed with a special gift, that what is obscure
to others is revealed to him. To such gifted indivi-
duals, in their moments of clairvoyance, God seems
to speak *face to face, as a man speaketh with his
friend.' There are these differences of degree, but
I must not now stay to dwell upon them; neither
must I attempt to apply all this of which I have
been speaking. I shall seem perhaps to have been
beating about the bush too long. I have said
nothing so far on the subject of Christology. The
connexion with this has still to be made good. But
I can perhaps show you the relevance, and even the
importance, of this preliminary matter, if I first sum



VI. Presuppositions of a Modern Christology 159

up tlie result of what I have been saying in one
proposition, and then go on to anticipate what I am
about to say in another.

The first, retrospective, proposition is: that the
proper' seat or locus of all divine indwelling, or
divine action upon the human soul, is the subliminal
consciousness.

And the other, anticipatory, proposition that I
shall try to work out is: that the same, or the cor-
responding, subliminal consciousness is the proper
seat or locus of the Deity of the incarnate Christ.

* Some stress is laid upon 'proper, ' for which I might almost
have written 'primary.' I do not of course mean to deny that
this divine element makes itself felt, and at times directly felt,
in consciousness. But it seems to come up (as it were) unto
consciousness, as if from some lower and deeper sphere.



VII

A TENTATIVE MODERN
CHRISTOLOGY



VII

A TENTATIVE MODERN CHRISTOLOGY

In the last lecture we found ourselves led to the
conclusion that the proper seat or locus of whatever
there is of divine in man — by whatever name we


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryW. (William) SandayChristology and personality : containing: I. Christologies ancient and modern, II. Personality in Christ and in ourselves / by William Sanday → online text (page 9 of 18)