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And the practical corollary is twofold first, it
is absolute peace in believing. The veil is rent
away which in days of ignorance hid God and
made Him an unknown God ; clad Him in thick
darkness and terrors of the mount, saw Him in-
visible in excess of light, heard Him whispering
indistinctly in the separate events of history a
factor incalculable, mysterious, awful. But there
is another side. The absolute freedom of the
Christian man is absolute allegiance to God.
His freedom is from the tyranny of partial
claims, individual desires and objects ; and it
is won by identification with the universal. It
is here that humility comes in. Humility is the
sense of solidarity and community ; the controlling
and regulating power of the consciousness that
we are not our own, but God's and our neigh-
bour's. Finally, the most practical corollary is
love. There are two great commandments on
which hinge all the law and the prophets. The


first bids love God ; the second, love the neigh-
bour as self. These are not separate, and cannot
be balanced one against the other. God, self, and
neighbour, form an indissoluble Trinity." ]

1 W. Wallace, Lectures and Eitays, p. 49-51 (abridged).



I HAVE reminded you that neither our Lord
Himself, nor the Christians of the Apostolic age,
nor the Greek and Roman fathers and bishops
who drew up the Creeds, had any word for
personality, or felt the want of any word. I
have shown what confusion was introduced into
Christian theology by the fact that uTroVracnp and
persona by no means corresponded in meaning;
and I have also shown that when these words
were used of the "Persons" of the Trinity,
neither of them meant anything like what we
mean by " Personality." This much is, I sup-
pose, generally admitted ; but the consequences
of the admission as regards human personality
are not sufficiently recognised. When Christian
philosophy in our time makes the conception
of personality the foundation of its whole meta-
physical and ethical structure, when Christian
writers call themselves " personal idealists " and
the like, we must remind them that they are



at best translating Christian theology into an
alien dialect. And if our object is to understand
the faith once delivered to the saints, and not
to reconstruct it, it is a serious matter to
introduce a word of such importance almost
a new category which was neither used nor
consciously missed by ancient thought.

When we read the utterances on personality
of so representative a modern philosopher as
Professor Seth (Pringle Pattison), we cannot fail
to see what an entirely different world we are in
from that of early Christian theology. " Each
self," says the Scottish philosopher, " is a unique
existence, which is perfectly impervious to other
selves impervious in a fashion of which the
impenetrability of matter is a faint analogue."
I do not quite know what " the impenetrability
of matter " means ; but let us just compare this
doctrine of impervious selves, solida pollentia
simplicitate, with the absolutely fluid conception
of personality which we find in the New Testa-
ment. Jesus Christ was seriously suspected of
being Elijah or Jeremiah, or even John Baptist,
who had just been beheaded. And unless we
are willing to sacrifice the whole of the deepest
and most spiritual teaching of St. Paul and
St. John, unless we are prepared to treat all


the solemn language of the New Testament
about the solidarity of the body and its members,
the vine and its branches, as fantastic and mis-
leading metaphor, we must assert roundly that
this notion of " impervious " spiritual atoms is
flatly contrary to Christianity. The result of
holding such a view is the mutilation and dis-
tortion of the whole body of Christian theology.
It involves the strangest and most unethical
theories about the Atonement. Doctrines of
forensic transactions between the Persons of the
Trinity, of vicarious punishments inflicted or
accepted by God, of fictitious imputation of
merit, all come from attempting to reconcile
the theory of impervious atoms with a tradition
which knows nothing of them. As for the
sacramental doctrine of the Catholic Church, it
is not held by the majority of those who belong
to the school of " personal idealism," and to me
at least it seems wholly incompatible with it.
If "eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His
blood" has any meaning at all, it symbolises
something much closer than an ethical harmony
of wills between ourselves and God. It means
nothing less than what our Prayer-book says
that it means that "we are one with Christ
and Christ with us." This conception presented


no difficulties in the ancient Church, because
the doctrine of impervious personalities had not
then been thought of. To those who hold this
doctrine, nothing seems to be left of the
Eucharist except a solemn commemoration of
Christ's death, and a common meal as a pledge
of brotherly love. The Eucharist, in fact, ceases
to be a " sacrament " in the accepted sense of
the word. For the mystical union of which it
is the sacrament is, according to this philosophy,
an impossibility and an absurdity. The Church,
however, established and maintained the Euch-
arist as the outward form of a truth which has
never, I think, been better stated than by
Bishop Westcott, in his Commentary on St. John
(xvii. 2 1 ). " The true unity of believers, like
the unity of Persons in the blessed Trinity, is
offered as something far more than a mere
moral unity of purpose, feeling, affection; it is,
in some mysterious mode which we cannot
apprehend, a vital unity. In this sense it is
the symbol of a higher type of life, in which
each constituent being is a conscious element
in the being of a vast whole. In 'the life/
and in ' the life ' only, each individual life is
able to attain perfection." Mr. R. L. Nettleship,
trying to picture to himself what the world


would be like if this kinship of human souls
in Christ were universally recognised and acted
upon, says: "Suppose that all human beings
felt habitually to each other as they now do
occasionally to those they love best. All the
pain of the world would be swallowed up in
doing good. So far as we can conceive of
such a state, it would be one in which there
would be no 'individuals' at all, but an uni-
versal being in and for another ; where being
took the form of consciousness, it would be
the consciousness of another which was also
oneself a common consciousness. Such would
be the atonement of the world."

The modern conception of rigid impenetrable
personality seems to have its historical beginning
with Kant. At any rate, the idea of a person as
a self-conscious and self-determining individual,
and as such an end to himself, had never been so
much emphasised before. From that time the
supreme importance attached to the subject-
object relation has profoundly affected all philo-
sophical thinking, and often, as I venture to
think, in an unfortunate manner. The distinc-
tion between subject and object cannot be
absolute ; otherwise our very theory of know-
ledge makes knowledge impossible. And yet it



is just its pretensions to be absolute for which
most people value it. Nine people out of ten,
when they speak about subject and object, mean
by subject the supposed individual soul, and by
object the supposed real world perceived by the
senses. They then think that they have a
respectable philosophical basis for the crude
antithesis between "self" and "not self," which
it should be the common task of philosophy and
religion to reduce to its proper insignificance.

For what is the evidence for the unity of self-
consciousness, so often treated as axiomatic ?
" The identity of the subject of inward experi-
ence," says Lotze, " is all that we require." But
can we claim that we do so know ourselves as
identical ? We have no direct knowledge of the
permanent Ego as object. The self that we
partially know is a series of feelings, and acts of
will, and thoughts. The unity which we assume
to underlie and connect these states is certainly
not given; it is even known to us not to be a
fact, but an ideal. Most assuredly the antithesis
between the one and the many is not the same as
that between subject and object. Our mental
states give us the whole gamut from the one to
the many ; and so does the external world. In
fact no personal experience can claim to be more


direct and intimate than that of an inner division
of the personality that experience, sometimes
painful, sometimes blissful, which leads St. Paul
to cry, at one time, " wretched man that I am!"
and at another, " I live, yet not I, but Christ
liveth in me."

When the Neoplatonists lay down the rule eva
yevea-Qat avOpunrov Set " a man ought to be one "
they are setting up an ideal which is not, and
never will be completely, a matter of experience.
In their system and those of their Christian
disciples, unification of the personality is a
gradual process, coincident with our growth in
grace. The obstacle to its achievement is the
clinging taint of selfishness and self-conscious-
ness. In some lives this obstacle appears mainly
as an impediment ; in others the collision assumes
the more tragic form of a struggle between the
forces of good and evil for the possession of a
man's soul. There have been men brilliantly
endowed by nature who have carried with them
from the cradle to the grave the almost intoler-
able burden of a divided personality. The
miserable lives of Swift, Rousseau, and Schopen-
hauer appal us by the juxtaposition of splendid
intellectual virtues with moral weakness and
even turpitude which they present. The life of


Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a melancholy but less
repulsive example, exhibiting the same combina-
tion of intellectual strength and moral debility.
It is not for us to determine which was the true
man, in these cases or in such inconsistent lives
as that of Seneca, or Petrarch, whose De Contemptu
Mundi is in flagrant contradiction with what we
know of his life. But the majority of good
Christians harmonise the discordant strings in
their souls without such terrible inward struggles.
With them, the unification of personality is
gradually effected by quieter methods. I have
argued elsewhere 1 that sudden conversion, though
a fairly common phenomenon even when no
suggestion has been applied from outside, and
the rule rather than the exception when this
kind of stimulus has been applied, is not the
commonest or most regular method of spiritual
growth. I know that the valuable researches of
Starbuck and others hi this country point to
a different conclusion; but unless the typical
mental and spiritual development in adolescence
differs widely on the two sides of the Atlantic, I
feel sure that Starbuck's statistics are misleading,
being drawn too much from sects which teach
sudden conversion, and lead boys and girls to

1 Truth and Falsehood in Religion, Lecture III.


expect it. In my own experience, I have never
come across a case of sudden conversion at all
resembling the crisis which the Methodists con-
sider normal. And even where it occurs, it by
no means follows that the change is as sudden as
the consciousness of it. The transformation of
our personality, whereby Christ becomes the form
of our life, must surely always be a gradual pro-
cess. At a certain stage it may present itself to
our consciousness as a sudden upheaval. But this
period of storm and stress, if it comes upon us at
all, generally gives way to a more peaceful state, in
which we are able to co-operate willingly hi God's
purposes in and for us, and to overcome some of
the contradictions which formerly distressed us.

Now will any one venture to say that this
spiritual progress consists in an increasing con-
sciousness of the barrier which separates the
thinking subject from all other subjects? Let
us consider how the matter stands. The Chris-
tian revelation, it will be generally admitted, was
the beginning of a new era in man's knowledge
of himself and of God. It is often maintained
or assumed that this deepening of thought, with
the new delicacy of self-knowledge with which
it WP.S connected, resulted in the abandonment
of vague pantheistic notions about impersonal


Mind and Soul, and in the growing conviction
that souls are impenetrable, self-existing, spiritual
atoms, as they appear in the philosophy of Lotze
and his disciples. But this is at best only half
the truth. From the very first, our Lord pointed
out the path which Christian psychology must
follow. It involved the acceptance of a paradox,
of an apparent contradiction. Man has a ^TW^TI,
a soul, a personality, and yet it is not his inde-
fectibly it may be lost ; nay, in a sense it is
not his yet at all, but has to be " acquired in
patience " (Luke xxi. 1 9). In other words, per-
sonality is, as I have said, an ideal ; not a given
fact. We are to gain, acquire our personality in
patience. And the paradox lies in this, that the
way to gain it is to lose it. This maxim has been
rightly emphasised by many writers as the very
kernel of the Christian revelation. And how
does a man " lose his soul " so as to gain it ? By
submitting to be put to death as a martyr ?
By "losing his life," as the Authorised Version
translates it ? Certainly not ; the corresponding
clause, " he that wishes to save his ^vyfi shall
lose it," precludes this interpretation. Does it
refer to eternal life ? How then could it be said
that the Christian is willing to lose his ^v^i.
No ; to be willing to lose our ^V^YI must mean


to forget ourselves entirely, to cease to revolve
round our own selfish interests, to pass out freely
into the great life of the -world, constructing
our universe on a Christocentric or cosmocentric
basis, not a self-centred one. To do this is to
lose and then find ourselves. " The way to get
to God is to let oneself go as much as possible
into the unity which one potentially is, while
all evil and failure is a form of self-assertion." 1
" Know thyself " is a great maxim, but he who
would know himself must know himself in God.
To attempt to find self (the individual) without
God (the universal), says Professor Ritchie, is to
find the devil. The individual assumed by the
psychologist, and by the common political and
ethical theories, is a half-way abstraction of the
ordinary understanding, a bastard product of
bad metaphysics and bad science. Christianity,
as we have seen, from the very first rejected it.

This paradox of the spiritual life implies that
the universal and individual are abstractions,
each of which would collapse without the other.
Indeed, the union of individuality and uni-
versality in a single manifestation forms the
cardinal point in personality. The spiritual life
consists in a double movement of expansion

1 R. L. Nettleship.


and intension. But the intensification of life
the acquisition of a deeper and stronger indivi-
duality is not to be the immediate aim of our
conscious efforts. These are to spread outward
and upward. We are to throw ourselves heartily
into great and worthy interests, to forget our-
selves and lose ourselves in them (the popular
phraseology is valuable as indicating what we
seem to ourselves to be doing), to become what
we are interested in. As Goethe says :

" Nur wo du bist, sei alles, immer kindlich ;
So bist du allea, bist umiberwindlich."

The transfigured self that we acquire by thus
living a larger, impersonal life, is so different
from the original self with which we began our
upward course, that St. Paul, thinking of his own
experiences, cannot regard them as the same.
" Of such an one will I glory," he says, referring
to his " visions and revelations," " but of myself I
will not " (vTrep Se e/mavrov ou). 1 Thus Christianity
accepts the Platonic distinction between the
higher and the lower self, and agrees with Plato
that the higher self is born of influences which
belong to the eternal world, the supernatural
source of truth and goodness. 2

1 2 Cor. xii. 5.

2 See Royce, The World and the Individual, vol. ii. 250, who
well shows the psychological basis of the " two selves."


This law of growth through the clash and
union of opposites runs all through the Christian
experience. There is no self-expenditure without
self-enrichment, no self-enrichment without self-
expenditure. The ideals of self-culture and of
self-sacrifice, so far from being hopelessly con-
tradictory, as even such acute thinkers as Bradley
and A. E. Taylor have supposed, are inseparable,
and unrealisable except as two aspects of the
same process. Any one who tries to attain
complete self-expression to build his pyramid
of existence, as Goethe put it, as an isolated
individual, is certain to fail ignominiously. The
self that he is trying to bring to perfection is a
mere abstraction, a figment of his imagination.
And, conversely, any one who lived a purely
external life, with no inner soul- centre to which
all experiences must be related, would be nothing
either. Our unifying consciousness is the type
and the copy of the all-unifying consciousness of
God. Our individuality is a shadow of His.

Those who are afraid of a philosophy which
seems at first sight to depersonalise man should
reflect that this is the philosophy which attaches
the greatest importance to unity as a supreme
attribute of God, and sets out the attainment
of unity or personality by ourselves as the goal


of all our striving. Not that our aim is to
attain an individuality separate from or inde-
pendent of the life of God. Such an aspiration
would be philosophically absurd and religiously
impious. In most relations of life there are
few better moral maxims than this of Fichte:
" There is but one virtue, to forget oneself as
a person; one vice, to remember oneself." The
Theologia Gfermanica has rightly apprehended the
meaning of our Lord's frequent protestations that
He was merely sent by the Father, and neither
did nor said anything of Himself. " Christ's
human nature was so utterly bereft of self, as
no man's ever was, and was nothing else but a
house and habitation of God. Neither of that in
Him which belonged to God, nor of that which
was a living human creature and habitation of
God, did He, as man, claim anything for His
own. His human nature did not even take
unto itself the Godhead, whose dwelling it was ;
there was no claiming of anything, no seeking
nor desire, saving that what was due might be
rendered to the Godhead; and He did not call
this very desire His own." " The self, the I,
the Me, and the like, all belong to the evil
spirit, and therefore it is that he is an evil
spirit. Behold, one or two words can utter all


that has been said in many words : Be simply
and wholly bereft of self." " In true light and
true love there neither is nor can remain any I,
Me, Mine, Thou, Thine, and the like, but that
light perceiveth and knoweth that there is a
good which is above all good, and that all good
things are of one substance in the one good,
and that without that one there is no good thing.
And therefore where this light is, the man's end
and aim is not this or that, Me or Thee, or the
like, but only the One, who is neither I nor
Thou, this nor that, but is above all I and Thou,
this and that, and in Him all goodness is loved
as one good, according to that saying, All in
One as One, and One in All as All, and one and
all good is loved through the One in One, and
for the sake of the One, for the love that man
hath to the One." This treatise makes short
work of the " will- worship " which is now treated
with so much respect by philosophers. " Be
assured, he that helpeth a man to his own will,
helpeth him to the worst that he can. Nothing
burneth in hell but self-will. Therefore it hath
been said, Put off thine own will, and there will
be no more hell. As long as a man is seeking
his own good, he doth not yet seek what is best
for him, and he will never find it. For a man's


highest good would be and is truly this, that he
should not seek himself and his own things, nor
be his own end in any respect, either in things
spiritual or in things natural, but should seek
only the praise and glory of God, and His holy
will." " He that hateth his soul for my sake
shall keep it unto life eternal." The words of
our Lord are quite as strong, even stronger, than
those of this mediaeval mystic. I fear we have
most of us travelled a long way from them, both
in our habits of thought and in our lives.

I should not have drawn attention so strongly
to the growing tendency in modern thought
towards individualism and subjectivism if the
matter were only one of speculative or academic
interest. But it has a direct bearing on religious
belief and even on conduct. Lotze, the prota-
gonist of personal idealism, in this as in other
ways seems to have devoted his brilliant abilities
to justifying the naive philosophy of the man in
the street. The popularity of such views in the
English-speaking countries is not surprising. The
Anglo-Saxon is by temperament and training an
individualist. He has been brought up to think
that his main business is to assert himself, to
make his fortune in this world or the next, or in
both. He likes to believe in a God who is an


individual like himself, and who, like himself,
can be a partner in a transaction. Justice, for
him, means equitable and kindly treatment of
individuals, and can have no other meaning.
The constitution of the world is the product of
acts of will, not a system of laws to be discovered
and obeyed. In my next lecture I shall discuss
the question whether this sort of Personal
Idealism is in accordance with what we know
about the world in which we live. It is, in any
case, very near what most people would like to
be true. It is the kind of world which " the will
to believe," if it were entrusted with the task of
world-construction, might be expected to produce.
The difficulties which it introduces into the region
of Christian faith are enormous. For instance,
the doctrine of the Trinity becomes an incom-
prehensible and manifestly self-contradictory piece
of word-jugglery, because a Person is by definition
one who cannot share his being with another.

When our Lord said, " Believe Me that I am
in My Father, and ye in Me," He was, on this
theory, either using an extravagant oriental
metaphor, or saying nothing. Our theory of
God, if we follow these guides, must be either
an abstract monotheism or polytheism. The
latter theory has not yet been openly advocated


by the school which we are criticising, but it
is plainly more in harmony with their views
about the independent plurality of human spirits
than any form of monotheism. The relations
between God and man must be conceived of in
a widely different manner from that of the New
Testament (for we need not separate the theology
of St. Paul and St. John from that of the other
books). God must be a Spirit among other
spirits, not the deepest life and final home of
all spirits. Such a conception of the Deity, if
counterbalanced, as it should be, by that of a
personal devil, is a useful piece of symbolism
for the conscience in its struggle with sin ; but
if it is offered us as a metaphysical truth, we
can only say that such a God would not be
God at all. And as regards the relation of
human beings to each other, this theory of im-
pervious personal identity destroys the basis on
which Christian love is supported. We are
bidden to love our neighbours as ourselves, be-
cause we are all one in Christ Jesus. Is this
also a mere metaphor, an example of oriental
hyperbole ? It was not intended to be so taken.
It was the good news of the Gospel that those
barriers, which are now solemnly declared to
be for ever unsurmountable, are non-existent.


Christian love is not sentimental philanthropy ;
it is the practical recognition of a natural and

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Online LibraryWilliam Ralph IngePersonal idealism and mysticism → online text (page 6 of 11)