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tinued and rounded off on a higher plane. Disinterestedness is here replaced by the interest which not only discovers truth but embodies it in personality, thereby endowing it with a power and vitality which impartial cold-bloodedness is doomed forever to miss. This is as it should be. All doctrines that have moved the world have originated in the same way.
Philosophers who believe they can explain the universe should first read these letters, and then ask themselves if they can explain that particular item of the universe which went, while he lived among us, and which still lives on, under the name of William James. Of course, all of us who have been trained in philosophy, or even have dabbled in it, think we can explain why 'individuals' must exist, or (to use a phrase of the schools) why 'the One must differentiate itself into a Many.' But if anybody asks us how many a self-respecting One should differentiate itself into, we are sadly at a loss. For some reason that is very obscure to us, the 'One' that is revealed in human life has differentiated itself into about two thousand million individual souls. But why so many, no more and no less? Would not the One have got through this business of differentiating itself into individual men and women just as successfully, if the number of them had been half as large, or even if there had been no more than ten or a dozen of us all told? Nor would our difficulties be at an end, even if we got the two thousand millions satisfactorily accounted for. For we should then have to explain why William James happened to be one of them. Anybody else might have taken his place without making any difference to the total, or to the theory. But a great difference would have been made
to the world. The truth is that, until we have explained why individuals are who they are, and not somebody else, we have explained nothing. All that we can say of each is, in the last resort, 'by the grace of God he is what he is.' And we say it with peculiar emphasis and fervor when William James is the name before us.
The philosophy of William James took its rise in the question raised by the last paragraph. He was himself, if one may say so, flagrantly unique, and his uniqueness was manifest in nothing so much as in the power he possessed of discerning the disguised or hidden uniqueness of other people, and, indeed, of every single thing, great and small, which the universe contains. He was intensely alive to the queerness of things, and to those inalienable qualities in men and women which make each one of them an astonishment and a portent. Once, speaking to him of the men who were going into a certain profession, I said, "They all appear to be lopsided men.' His answer was: 'My dear fellow, did you ever meet a man who was not lopsided?' This uniqueness of the man, displaying itself most of all in his recognition of uniqueness in everybody else, is what makes these letters of James an admirable introduction to his philosophy. His problem, so to speak, is incarnate in his own person, and it is suggested by his attitude to his correspondents.
Deeply interesting it is to observe the wide variations in the tone, the style, the matter of the letters, according to the correspondent whom James is addressing. Among collections of letters recently published several could be named off-hand which serve only to reveal the uniformity of the writer's own personality. But these letters reveal also the personalities of those to whom they are addressed. They introduce us effectively, not only to William
James, but to his circle of friends. After a little practice you can put your hand over the name at the head of the letter and, reading a few sentences, make a shrewd guess as to the man, or woman, he is addressing. And, of course, in revealing his correspondent, James reveals himself far more clearly than if he wrote from the egocentric position. Unconsciously he acted in his correspondence on the principle, which is the rule of all fine and chivalrous spirits, of 'so helping others to affirm their personalities as to affirm one's own at the same time.'
In this way the letters become an introduction, not only to James's Pragmatism, but to his ethics and to his religion: for in spite of his own hesitations on the point, or perhaps in consequence of them, there can be no doubt, save to those whose minds are obsessed by narrow definitions, that he was a profoundly religious man. To recognize the uniqueness of one's neighbor, and to concede him his rights as a unique individual, is at the same time to proclaim the doctrine of Free Will by putting it into action as the law of our human relationships - the one form in which freedom can never be overthrown.
In this connection, it is not without significance that one of the closest friendships revealed by these letters is that which subsisted between James and the most formidable of his philosophical opponents-Josiah Royce. One has only to look at the photograph in which they are presented together, to realize that these two high-souled antagonists welcomed each other's prosence in the universe. In the view of James, the form of philosophy was essentially dramatic-no monologue of a solitary sage, but a partnership of reciprocally interacting minds, each bringing its own contribution in response to some definite need of the hu
man spirit, and deriving enrichment of meaning from its contact with the others. Behind them all he saw the 'will to believe,' or the will to disbelieve, as the case might be; and, though his perception of this often irritated opponents in their attitude toward him, its effect upon his attitude toward them was to raise his toleration to the point of positive sympathy.
'It's a will-to-believe on both sides,' he wrote to Charles H. Strong in 1907. 'I am perfectly willing that others should disbelieve: why should not you be tolerantly interested in the spectacle of my belief? . . . Meanwhile, I take delight, or shall take delight, in any efforts you may make to negate all superhuman consciousness, for only by these attempts can a satisfactory modus vivendi be established.' Here, no doubt, the severe logician will detect an inconsistency. Why should the thinker who desires his own work to prevail extend a warm welcome to another thinker who says the flat opposite? Only a sportsman can answer the question, though his answer, when given, will be quite unintelligible to the mere logician. The sportsman desires to win, but if he is a true sportsman, he will be glad rather than sorry when the crew that steps into the competing boat is as highly trained as his own. This, too, is inconsistent. By no device of logical ingenuity can you reconcile your desire to win with your preference for an opponent who has a fair chance of beating you. It is a paradox which James discovered in philosophy, and which he thoroughly enjoyed. He was a great master in things appertaining to the sportsmanship of the Spirit.
'He looks more like a sportsman than a professor,' said one of his pupils. To which we may add that he looked what he was, and that it would be good for philosophy if more of its professors looked like him.
Both from the tone and from the substance of these letters it is abundantly evident that for James the critical things of life were the personal relations. More than once he says so, totidem verbis. Ideality is only to be found in the personal relations.' "The best things in life are its friendships.' One can imagine him subscribing without much hesitation to the saying of William Blake: "The general good is the plea of the scoundrel, the hypocrite and the flatterer. He who would do good, let him do it in minute particulars.' From this saying the distance is not great to the following sentences from a letter to Mrs. Henry Whitman: 'Let us all be as we are, save when we want to reform ourselves. The only unpardonable crime is that of wanting to reform one another.' His rejection of the conceptual mode of arriving at truth is here reflected in his distrust of regimentation as a means of arriving at good conduct. For a striking passage, which reveals his inner mind on this subject, take the following from another letter to the last-named correspondent:
'As for me, my bed is made: I am against bigness and greatness in all their forms, and with the invisible molecular forces that work from individual to individual, stealing in through the crannies of the world like so many soft rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, and yet rending the hardest monuments of man's pride if you give them time. The bigger the unit you deal with, the hollower, the more brutal, the more mendacious, is the life displayed. So I am against all the big organizations as such, national ones first and foremost; against all big successes and big results; and in favor of the eternal forces of truth which always work in the individual and immediately unsuccessful way-under-dogs always,
till history comes, after they are long dead, and puts them on the top.'
Had James lived ten years longer and witnessed the war, and the hideous confusion sequent upon it to which the blundering blindness of the 'big organizations' has brought the world, he would not have found it necessary to add, as he does, that his words on this subject would probably be 'quite unintelligible to anybody but myself.' The truth they tell is precisely what the war and its after-effects have made intelligible to everybody. We see, on the one hand, the big organizations, 'especially the national ones,' everywhere confronted by problems with which they are wholly incapable of coping; attempting to govern the action of forces which are intrinsically beyond human control both in their vastness and in their infinite complexity; while, on the other hand, the pretense of coping with them surrounds the whole operation with an atmosphere of make-believe and mendacity, which not only discredits government as such, but demoralizes the character of the politician and of the citizen who follows him. In the attempt to keep up this fiction, on which the very life of the big organizations depends, the politics of the world, both national and international, become, for the most part, a mere struggle for power among those who are ambitious to sit in the seats of the mighty; and to this struggle the real interests of mankind, which government is supposed to serve, are sacrificed wholesale.
Against the regimental mode of thought which, beginning in the realms of speculative philosophy, ends by staging this fatal force on the boards of history, William James was, by both temperament and conviction, a rebel. For ages past our civilization has been obsessed by the notion that man is a being whose first and outstanding need is the need to be governed. But we have
only to read over the first essay in The Will to Believe to satisfy ourselves that this is precisely the conception of man which James challenges from the outset. The first need of man is the need to be taught and not the need to be governed. Au fond man is an ungovernable being, who, in the last resort, submits to no law 'save that which is imposed by his own sense of fitness.' There is no such thing as 'keeping him in his place,' for the simple reason that his life consists in the process of moving out of his place and finding a new one, in obedience to a creative impulse which it were a sin to deny and a crime to restrain.
That this is the position to which the doctrine of 'the will to believe' ultimately leads up is, I think, abundantly clear from the passage I have just quoted from the Letters. At this point James's 'Humanism' and his 'Americanism' are two names for the same thing. Unlike his brother Henry, his heart was always with the American rather than the European type of civilization, and the root of his preference, so far as it was the result of reflection, lay in the fact that America gives to 'the molecular forces' a wider freedom to play their part.
'My dear Mack,' he writes to his brother-in-law, 'we "intellectuals" in America must all work to keep our precious birthright of individualism, and of freedom from these institutions. Every great institution is perforce a means of corruption -whatever good it may also do.'
And again, to Miss Frances R. Morse, 'God bless the American climate, with its transparent, passionate, impulsive variety and headlong fling. . . . God bless America in general. . . . Talk of corruption! We don't know what the word corruption means at home, with our improvised and shifting agencies of crude pecuniary bribery, compared with
the solidly entrenched and permanently organized corruptive geniuses of monarchy, nobility, church, army, that penetrate the very bosom of the higher kinds as well as the lower kinds of people in all the European States (except Switzerland) and sophisticate their motives away from the impulse to straightforward handling of any simple case.'
These words were written more than twenty years ago. How far America may still deserve the blessings which James here invokes upon her is not for the present writer to say. But that the war and the sequel to the war have left the 'great institutions' of Europe more exposed than ever to capture by sinister forces hardly admits of a doubt. Even the League of Nations, designed by its first authors for the express purpose of countering these forces, seems, at the present moment, to be in no little danger of yielding to them. What, indeed, would James have said about this well-meant effort to cure 'the big organizations' of their inherent vices by creating a yet bigger one, which shall include them all? There is nothing in these letters to indicate that he would have blessed it. That he was a lover of peace is, of course, evident enough; and if further proof is needed, it can be found in his Moral Equivalent for War. But in this matter, as in so many others, we should have found him, I imagine, with the molecular forces and against the big organizations.
To the present writer William James appears as the forerunner of a time when Education will have become the primary concern of mankind and Government secondary, when 'light' will be esteemed more highly than 'power' — an order which reverses their relative positions at the present moment. From his whole view of the universe, and of
man as a creative element within it, it follows that the problem of developing the unused energies of the human mind is of far greater importance than that of controlling by regulative systems the energies that are now in operation. Indeed, we may say that the second problem, on which all our political activities are now centred, will be solved only in so far as we approach to a solution of the first. By giving to men the largest scope and opportunity to develop as free creative individuals, we establish the only conditions under which personal, social, and national morality can flourish. Right relations between man and man, between nation and nation, are impossible on any other terms.
The whole group of doctrines which centre round 'the will to believe' need, therefore, to be restudied in the light of the history of the last ten years. In the conception of a 'block universe,' against which James never ceased to lift up his voice, will be found the parent and prototype of all the stereotyped systems, whether of social order or of religious thought, which successive seekers after power have sought in vain to impose upon a rebellious world, thereby diverting the forces that are needed for the education of mankind into a struggle for the mastery, which moves forever in a vicious circle and whose principal fruit is misery and disaster.
By his own confession, James left his work incomplete; he felt that he had built only one side of the arch.' The completion will come when a mind arises sufficiently powerful to correlate the pragmatic principle with the great movements of human history now in progress. There is little danger that his teachings will be forgotten; the march of events will continue to bring them to mind; and though the form in which he left them may be altered, the spirit that inspired them will live on and play an
ever-increasing part in moulding the civilization of the future. William James is probably the best contribution America has so far made toward establishing the final community of mankind. But it will not be a community after the type of any of the 'big organizations' now in existence.
I may be reminded that what we are here concerned with is not the teaching, but the man. For answer, I would repeat that the two are essentially one. In revealing that unity, Mr. Henry James has shown us his father as he essentially was, has paid a tribute to his memory than which none could be more fitting, and at the same time has made a contribution of great importance to the literature of his native land. The picture that he has presented reinforces at all points the essential values of the life and work of William James, and leaves upon those who knew him the impression of a living portrait.
In the well-known sermon of Phillips Brooks, named "The Candle of the Lord,' there are a few sentences that seem to me to sum up the man as he is here presented to us, and perhaps I may be forgiven for quoting them at length.
"There is in a community a man of large character, whose influence runs everywhere. You cannot talk with any man in all the city but you get, shown in that man's own way, the thought, the feeling of that central man who teaches all the community to think, to feel. The very boys catch something of his power, and have something about them that would not be there if he were not living in the town. What better description can you give of all that than to say that that man's life was fire, and that all those men's lives were candles that he lighted, which gave to the rich, warm, live, fertile nature that was in him multiplied points of exhibition, so that he lighted the town through them?'