« ZurückWeiter »
authority, as narrow and unrealistic. plies his discoveries with immense pracRecall the passage in his Autobiography tical benevolence to ameliorating the where he relates his disgust at a sermon common lot of mankind, and to difpreached on the great text in Philip- fusing good-will among men and napians: Whatsoever things are true, tions. Light breaks into his mind from honest, just, pure, lovely, or of good every quarter of his century. His vision report, if there be any virtue, or any of the good life includes bringing every praise, think on these things. Franklin faculty of mind and body to its highest says that, in expounding this text, the usefulness. With a Puritan emancipaminister confined himself to five points: tor like Franklin, we are not obliged to keeping the Sabbath, reading the Scrip- depend, for the opening of our minds, tures, attending public worship, par- upon subsequent liberators devoid of taking of the sacraments, and respect- his high reconstructive seriousness. ing the ministers. Franklin recognized I must add just one more name, for at once that there was no moral life in the nineteenth century, to the history that minister, was 'disgusted,' and at- of our American Puritan tradition. tended his preaching no more. It was The original moral force which was in the revolt of a living Puritanism from a Mather and Franklin passed in the Puritanism that was dead.
next age into a man who began to For, note what follows, as the conse- preach in Cotton Mather's church, quence of his break with the church. Ralph Waldo Emerson, descendant of It was about this time that I conceived,'
many generations of Puritans. The says Franklin, 'the bold and arduous church itself had now become Unitarian: project of arriving at moral perfection. yet, after two or three years of service, I wished to live without committing Emerson, like Franklin, revolted from any fault at any time, and to conquer the church; the vital force of Puritanall that either natural inclination, cus- ism in him impelled him to break from tom, or company might lead me into.' the church in behalf of his vision of sinEveryone will recall how Franklin drew cerity, truth, and actuality. “Whoso up his table of the thirteen real moral would be a man,' he declares in his virtues, and how diligently he exercised famous essay on Self-Reliance, ‘must himself to attain them. But, for
be a nonconformist. He who would significant feature of his enterprise was gather immortal palms must not be the realistic spirit in which it was con- hindered by the name of goodness, but ceived: the bold attempt to ground the must explore if it be goodness.' virtues on reason and experience rather No American ever lived whose perthan authority; the assertion of his sonal life was more exemplary; or who doctrine ‘that vicious actions are not expressed such perfect disdain of outhurtful because they are forbidden, but worn formulas and lifeless routine. forbidden because they are hurtful, the There is dynamite in his doctrine to nature of man alone considered.'
burst tradition to fragments, when Having taken this ground, it became tradition has become an empty shell. necessary for him to explore the nature ‘Every actual state is corrupt,' he cries of man and the universe. So Puritan- in one of his dangerous sayings; 'good ism, which, in Robinson and Mather, men will not obey the laws too well.' was predominantly rational, becomes in To good men whose eyes are wide and Franklin predominantly scientific. With full of light, there is always breaking a magnificent fresh moral force, he seeks new vision of right reason, which is the for the will of God in nature, and ap- will of God, and above the law. Emer
son himself broke the Fugitive Slave sion for emancipating, not merely the Law, and in the face of howling Pro- religious and moral, but also the intelSlavery mobs declared that John Brown lectual and the political and social and would make the gallows glorious like æsthetic capacities of man, so that he the cross.
may achieve the harmonious perfection That is simply the political aspect of of his whole nature, body and soul. To his radical Puritanism. On the æsthetic this vision of the good life, Puritanism side, Emerson disregarded the existing has come by inevitable steps in its pilconventions of poetry to welcome Walt grimage through the ages. Whitman, who saluted him as master. What have I been trying to demonEmerson hailed Walt Whitman be- strate by this long review of the Puritan cause Whitman had sought to make tradition? This, above all: that the splendid and beautiful the religion of Puritan is profoundly in sympathy a Puritan democracy; and a Puritan with the modern spirit, is indeed the democracy is the only kind that we have formative force in the modern spirit. reason to suppose will endure.
The Puritan is constantly discarding Let these two examples of Emerson's old clothes; but, being a well-born soul, revolt and vision suffice to illustrate he seeks instinctively for fresh raiment. the modern operation of the Puritan Hence his quarrel with the Adamite, spirit, its disdain for formalism and who would persuade him to rejoice in routine.
nakedness and seek no further. Now, our contemporary leaders of the Man is an animal, as the Adamites attack against the modern Puritan de- are so fond of reminding us. What esclare that modern Puritanism means capes their notice is, that man is an campaigns of 'snouting and suppres- animal constituted and destined by his sion.' That, we should now be pre- nature to go on a pilgrimage in search pared to assert, is precisely and dia- of a shrine; and till he finds the shrine, metrically opposite to what modern constrained by his nature to worship Puritanism means. Modern Puritanism the Unknown God. This the Puritan means the release, not the suppression, has always recognized. And this, preof power, welcome to new life, revolt cisely, it is that makes the Puritan a from decay and death. With extrava- better emancipator of young souls than gant asceticism, with precisianism, mod- our contemporary Adamite. ern Puritanism has nothing whatever A great part of our lives, as we all to do.
feel in our educational period, is ocWhat made the teaching of Emerson, cupied with learning how to do and to for example, take hold of his contem- be what others have been and have done poraries, what should commend it to before us. But presently we discover us to-day, is just its unfailingly positive that the world is changing around us, character; its relish for antagonisms and and that the secrets of the masters and difficulty; its precept for the use of the the experience of our elders do not spur; its restoration of ambition to its wholly suffice to establish us effectively proper place in the formation of the
in our younger world. We discover manly character; its power to free the within us needs, aspirations, powers, of young soul from the fetters of fear and which the generation that educated us send him on his course like a thunder
seems unaware, or toward which it
apbolt; and, above all, its passion for pears to be indifferent, unsympathetic, bringing the whole of life for all men or even actively hostile. We perceive to its fullest and fairest fruit; its pas- gradually or with successive shocks of surprise that many things which our constantly sifting, discriminating, refathers declared were true and satis- jecting, and holding fast that which is factory are not at all satisfactory, are good, only till that which is better is by no means true, for us. Then it within sight. This endless quest, when dawns upon us, perhaps as an exhilarat- it becomes central in a life, requires ing opportunity, perhaps as a grave and labor, requires pain, requires a measure sobering responsibility, that in a little of courage; and so the modern spirit, while we ourselves shall be the elders, with its other virtues, is an heroic spirit. the responsible generation. Our salva- As a reward for difficulties gallantly tion in the day when we take command undertaken, the gods bestow on the will depend, we believe, upon our dis- modern spirit a kind of eternal youth, entanglement from the lumber of heir- with unfailing powers of recuperation looms and hereditary devices, and upon and growth. the free, wise use of our own faculties. To enter into this spirit is what the
At that moment, if we have inherited, Puritan means by freedom. He does not the Puritan heirlooms, but the liv- not, like the false emancipator, merely ing Puritan tradition, we enter into the cut us loose from the old moorings and modern spirit. By this phrase I mean, set us adrift at the mercy of wind and primarily, the disposition to accept tide. He comes aboard, like a good pinothing on authority, but to bring all lot; and while we trim our sails, he takes reports to the test of experience. The the wheel and lays our course for a modern spirit is, first of all, a free spirit fresh voyage. His message when he open on all sides to the influx of truth, leaves us is not, 'Henceforth be mastereven from the past. But freedom is not less,' but, 'Bear thou henceforth the its only characteristic. The modern sceptre of thine own control through spirit is marked, further, by an active life and the passion of life.' If that mescuriosity, which grows by what it feeds sage still stirs us as with the sound of a upon, and goes ever inquiring for fresh- trumpet, and frees and prepares us, er and sounder information, not content not for the junketing of a purposeless till it has the best information to be had vagabondage, but for the ardor and disanywhere. But since it seeks the best, cipline and renunciation of a pilgrimit is, by necessity, also a critical spirit, age, we are Puritans.
THINGS SEEN AND HEARD
BY EDGAR J. GOODSPEED
My academic orbit is not too rigid to making no sound. A tall romantic permit an occasional deviation into the youth, presumably the teacher, stands outer world. At such times I direct my before them, and they rise up and sit steps into the neighboring City of De down for no perceptible reason and to struction, where, in a lofty building, is no apparent purpose. One of them will one of those centres of light and leading get up and stand for a long time, and which punctuate the darkness of the then will as suddenly and causelessly sit metropolis. The structure is not exter- down again. At other times, even more nally remarkable, but the modest frac- distressing, they are all motionless. tion of it assigned to my activities is Lips move, but they give forth no sound. certainly no ordinary apartment. It is like a meeting of the deaf-and-dumb
The extraordinary thing about my society. Worst of all, they will someclassroom is its sides. One is formed by times unanimously and quite without a vast accordion door, loosely fitting, warning rise in their places, simultaneas is the manner of such doors. It ously adjust their wraps, and silently faithfully conceals the persons behind depart. It is as if they all suddenly it and their every action, while it as realize that they have had enough of it. faithfully transmits all they may have You know that you have. There is to say. Theirs is an eloquent conceal- something weird in all this soundless ment. From the sounds that well action, this patient motiveless mechanithrough the ample interstices of that cal down-sitting and uprising, something door, we gather that it is psychology far more distracting even than in those that is going on in the adjoining room. disembodied psychological voices that The fascinating affirmations of that murmur in our ears. most intimate science break in upon But much more disturbing than our occasional pauses with startling ef- either of these extraordinary neighbors fect. It is thus beyond doubt that theol- of our reflections is their combination. ogy should always be inculcated to a The sounds that come through the door psychological obbligato, an accompanie do not tally with the sights that come ment of the study of the mind.
through the glass. What you hear Even more unusual is the other side bears no relation to what you see. It of the room. From floor to ceiling it is does not even contradict it. There is a all of plate-glass, not meanly divided war in your members. Your senses do into little squares, but broadly spaced, not agree. so that you are hardly conscious it is And yet you are haunted by the nothere. Through it you may behold, as tion that what you are hearing has in an aquarium, a company of men and something to do with what you are seewomen going through many motions but ing. When someone asks a question behind the door at your left and some- The most disturbing thing is not that one makes a motion beyond the glass things seen and things heard contradict at your right, you instinctively try to re- each other: that we might learn to allate the two. But in vain; there is no re- low for. The great trouble is that they lation. Especially when all the visibles seem to bear no relation to each other get up and leave, it seems as if it must at all. Most political talk is of this debe because of something the audibles scription. It has nothing to do with the have said. Nevertheless, the audibles case. It is like the effort of a young go right on psychologizing, entirely friend of mine who, on being asked to oblivious of the visibles' departure. translate a well-known passage of Epic
Reflection has satisfied me that much tetus, produced the following: confusion of the modern mind is due to 'If teachings are no longer the reathe incongruity of what we hear and sons of all things, and who has false docwhat we see. The conditions of my trines, how much should be the cause, quaint lecture-room are typical. You and as such the destruction.' look about upon a community of earn- That mythical creature, the Amerest hard-working people, soberly doing ican of British fiction, so boldly portheir daily work at business and at trayed by Mr. Chesterton, Mr. Buchan, home. But you pick up the Home Edi- Mr. Oppenheim, and Mr. Doyle, much tion, and read of a very different world as we love and enjoy him, is, it must be of violence and vice. All its men are confessed, little known sa ve by reputascoundrels and its women quite different tion on this side of the sea. He is fiction from those you see, to say the least. in the strictest sense. Like Mr. De You have long been assured that this Quincey's unfortunate reporter, non is the Age of Reason; but observation est inventus. But he is not the less
popufinds little to support the claim. The lar among us for being an imported Age of Impulse would seem as good a article. He is so rich, so ready, so unguess. You hear that the League of Na- spoiled, so clear-eyed, clean-limbed, tions is dead, but on visiting the movies nasal-toned, poker-faced, and best of you are astonished to see it in session all (true to the great traditions of his and to find that it yet speaketh. You country), so quick on the trigger! are told on all hands that everything The trouble is not merely that the about the war was a failure, and yet, as things we hear we never see, but that a whole, it seems to have accomplished the things we see we never hear. For its immediate end. You hear much how extraordinary is the sensation when lamentation over the sensationalism of you hear of something you have seen! the press, but as you read it, it is its Perhaps it is only an accident. Do you conventionality that oftener leaves you not yearn to rise up and cry out, “I saw mourning. The newspapers show you a that! I was there'? It is because, for comfortable view of the steel strike, once, things seen coincide with things but the cook's brother, who was one of heard. the strikers, tells you something en- Brain-proud men of science sourly say tirely different. With a laudable desire that Greek is dead. But to the Grecian to preserve your reason, you do your mind it is refreshing to observe that
, best to cultivate the virtues of blind- familiarity with Greek is now extraorness, deafness, insensibility, and unbe- dinarily widespread in this country. lief. Yet you are sometimes just a lit- This is all the more fascinating at a tle bewildered. Your universe is not time when the practical educators have unified.
triumphantly excluded the study of