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(From John Burroughs)
tem has lost its moral force. Our WEST PARK, N.Y., November 25, 1919. scheme of salvation rests upon the dogThe arranging of a trip to California ma of the fall of man. But man's fall for the winter has imposed so many has been upward. Evolution gives the new tasks upon me that my correspond- key to his rise, and not theology. It is ence has been neglected. I have re- a wonder to me that man has survivceived many letters of approval con- ed his creeds - Calvinism, Buddhism, cerning this article and others of similar Roman Catholicism, and all the other import, and very few of disapproval. I isms. If science failed him, his creeds am no more moved by one than the would not save him. Do you not supother. Some former articles of mine pose that such a man as Huxley, Tynyou might find interesting. 'Shall we dall, Spencer, or Darwin would be a accept the Universe?' - 'Is there De- safe man to administer our human af. sign in Nature?' and so on. The aim of fairs? And these men were Agnostics them all is to justify the ways of God to or Pantheists. Yet do they not uphold man on natural grounds. The theologi- our ethical system? The truth alone — cal grounds do not make any impression moral and scientific truth — can make upon me. I am much less interested in us free and safe. what is called God's word, than in God's I can subscribe to most of the articles deeds. All bibles are man-made; but in your creed, or ‘Anchor,' if I put them we know the stars are not man-made, in the language of naturalism. and if they are on our side, why bother As soon as I try to think of the uniabout anything else? Pantheism, as verse in the terms of our experience, I Emerson says, does not make God less, am in trouble. The universe never was but makes him more. If you look into made, in the sense that my house was the matter, you will find that we are all made. It is eternal — without beginPantheists. If I were to ask you what ningand without end; or, say, self-made, and where God is, you would say he is a if you prefer. It is the God in which we Spirit and that he is everywhere. The live and move and have our being. good church people would be compelled You and I are only a drop in this ocean to say that, too. Is not that Panthe. of being. ism? A person cannot be everywhere. I believe the Man of Sorrows was an Personality is finite.
historical fact, and that I would have Our civilization is not founded upon loved him had I known him; but he is Christianity — would that it were in no more to me now than Socrates is. many ways! The three great evils of All his alleged miracles are childish our age, of most ages, - war, greed, in- fables. If he really died on the Cross, temperance, — would then be eradi- he never rose from the dead. Natural cated. How much of the real essence law, which is the law of God, cannot be of Christianity — love — the heathen trifled with in that way. Chinese could teach us in such matters! I do not cherish the dream of immorThere is vastly more of the essence of tality. If there is no immortality, we Christianity in Chinese civilization shall not know it. We shall not lie than in ours. We live by the head, the awake o' nights in our graves lamenting Chinese by the heart.
that there is no immortality. If there Our material civilization is the result is such a thing, we shall have to accept of our conquests over Nature, or of the it, though the thought of living forever discovery and application of natural makes me tired, and the thought of life, law, or Science. Christianity as a sys- without my body as the base for my
mind's activities, is unthinkable. What really a pretty good Christian? as you begins must end. The flame of the can- are, of course, a better citizen than dle goes out, though not one of its ele most professing Christians' — not ex
‘ ments is lost. My consciousness, which cepting myself. I can subscribe to, or is the flame of my body, ends at death, pass as unimportant, your ideas as to as a psychical process ceases. But what the Universe being without beginning ever of energy was involved in it goes or end; that the Miracles are fables; that on forever. The sum of energy of the Man has ‘fallen upward,' rather than universe is constant.
as dogma has it; and, of course, that I think as highly of the Bible as you God is a Spirit. do. It is the Book of Books, yet it is But you jump from extolling the anonly a book — man-made. I fail to cient Greeks to extolling the Chinese. find any anchorage in any creed, or You are not constructive. Perhaps you book, or system, but only in Nature as are not even fair to your own generarevealed to my own consciousness. I tion and people! Do not be merely de
! shall have a paper in the Atlantic structive, I beg of you. Your views are Monthly by-and-by, in which I combat good as far as they go, but are necessawhat Professor Osborn calls a biological rily depressing. Do either create a better dogma, namely that Chance rules in church, for unified work of its trementhe world of life as in the world of dead dously far-reaching kind, in‘anchoring' matter. I cannot escape the all-embrac- Society; create a better comfort than ing mind or spirit that pervades all prayer; create a better instinctive hope living things. I have no purpose to con- than immortality; or encourage the vert you to my views of these great Church, encourage our rising generaproblems. Every man must solve the tion to stand back of it, encourage problems of life and death for himself.
prayer, and encourage spiritual hopes He cannot accept those of another. and ideals! I wonder if you know what
the Church is as a “stabilizer,' in spite (From Herbert D. Miles)
of its shortcomings; in spite of the ASHEVILLE, N.C., December 1, 1919. slanders of it, often from lazy or misThank you for your letter of 25th guided persons? What its real accomNovember. I had thought merely to plishment is, in this country, and the write you an acknowledgment and
sum of it? wish you a happy journey to California. What a responsibility, to print arHowever, as you are open-minded, and ticles that may affect the rising generaTruth alone is what you crave, you will tion against it, and to give nothing not mind my including some reflections constructive in its place! upon your letter, without any expecta- I want you to think again, as to your tion upon my part
care to statement that civilization is not foundcontinue the correspondence. I shall ed upon Christianity. I know you mean try to find your former articles to which partly that Christianity is too good you refer, and shall certainly read your to recognize such a bad child; but, coming one, in the Atlantic. I take it, thinly watered as our practice of the however, that you have expressed to me Golden Rule is, civilization is founded the fundamentals of your beliefs or upon Christianity. I do not think you want of beliefs, and that all you have believe that, if the chief part of the
, said, or shall say, must be merely elab- Aryan Race had originally drifted from orations.
Heathenism to Confucianism or BudMay I say that I believe you are dhism, - yes, or Pantheism, - instead
of to the new Christianity, it would still what not, — things upon which the have achieved, as now, the world-leader- world is divided into two or more ship in the arts and sciences which we camps, — those who rush up to grasp
call civilization. Perhaps you, and some the speaker's hand are those who al other leaders in the sciences, do not ways did agree with him, or those who know your own debt to Christianity. wished uneasy doubts, or unstable con
Your letter which I am reviewing victions, bolstered up. gives one an impression of a very good I am sincerely glad that you can subman striving to reconcile certain pre- scribe to ‘most of the articles in my conceived and rooted ideas, partly Ag- creed, or “Anchor." ' But please do not nostic, partly Christian, with life and call my Anchor a creed. Creeds, as you history; trying to forget that the things know, are not based upon 'indisputable material are the really temporal, and fact. That in my church was made in that there are things spiritual which, the third century;we have learned somein the nature of what could constitute thing since. They should be anchors. immortality, must be the things im- In mine are Church, Prayer, Immortalmortal.
ity. I fear you leave these out. You apI take it that you do not seriously parently refuse to contemplate a world consider things spiritual. You say the made up of Pantheists, which could, thought of life, without your body as and would, say, and act, 'After us, the the base for your mind's activities, is deluge.' unthinkable. Of course, that merely No, I do not think that Darwin, Huxproves a personal limitation, and a re- ley, et al. would have been safe men to grettable one. I wonder if you give se- administer our human affairs, since you rious place to the world's best Poets - ask. Roosevelt, of a later civilization, who are unscientific, naturally - but knew all that they did and much more; spiritual? John Butler Yeats has re- he was a Christian and an administracently written: 'Poetry is the champion tor for you. Emerson may have praised and the voice of the inner man. Had Pantheists at one period of his life; we not this champion to speak for us, hardly when he was at his best. externality would swamp the world, and Well, a happy winter to you in Calinothing would be heard but the noise of fornia. I see that I am trying to tie you its machinery.' If the thought of living to all of my Anchor, believing that, in forever makes you tired, as you say, the winter of your years, you are still then perhaps the noise of the machin- pliable. If you are, you are a wonder! ery, — very pleasant machinery, much But do consider the inner man'spoken of it, — being all you have listened to, of by Yeats; and the effect of your arhas worn you out!
ticles, if not constructive. Pardon me if I say that I do not think your articles are ‘stabilizers'; or
(From John Burroughs) that they bring hope, or comfort, or LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA, December 29, 1919. happiness; or replace the want of these I with my son and four friends, have with anything more than ‘the noise of been here a week, and we are very hapthe machinery.' I would not take seri- py. The world here is all sun, sky, and ously, if I were you, the approval you sea, never a cloud in sight, and the cite from the majority of your corre
Pacific breaking its long roll upon spondents. If you will reflect, you will the rocks one hundred yards below us. agree, I am sure, that after a speech In February we go to Pasadena until upon, say, Tariffs, Temperance, or spring.
Referring to our correspondence of a the Japs and Chinese saves them. The few weeks ago, and your statement mass of our own people believe in that you did not think Huxley, Spen- Christianity on Sundays (or used to becer, et al. would be safe men to admin- fore the automobile came in); but how ister our human affairs, and that our few of them practise it in their daily civilization is based upon Christianity lives. They practise the square deal,
I wonder if you remember that the because it is good policy; it pays best founders of our government, Washing in the long run. ton, Jefferson, Franklin, did not accept Christianity? They were Deists. Both
(From Herbert D. Miles) Franklin and Jefferson spoke very dis
ASHEVILLE, N.C., January 12, 1920. respectfully, not to say contemptuously, My pleasure in having your letter of of the Christian scheme of salvation; a few days ago was not unmixed with a and Washington said in so many words certain feeling of guilt, in view of the in a message to Congress, ‘The govern- possibility of our questions being too ment of the United States is not in any complicated, and your strength too limsense founded on the Christian reli- ited, to attempt adequate discussion in gion. The founders of the Republic writing - a view that is held I am sure were free-thinkers. Washington enter- by Dr. Barrus, from whom I have retained the infidel Volney at the White cently heard. It is charming, as you
. House, and had the works of Voltaire say, at La Jolla, with 'never a cloud in in his library. He gave Volney a letter sight.' I am a little prejudiced, even in of recommendation to the American this January season, in favor of my people, in which he said that, if men are home country here in Asheville; the good workmen, 'they may be Jews or clouds over the great old Blue Ridge Christians, or they may be Atheists' mountains, which are falling back tier Jefferson quotes Gouverneur Morris as upon tier in the distance to the west, saying that ‘General Washington be- from my windows, are ever-changing lieved no more in that system (Chris- visions of beauty, and fall upon real tianity) than I do.'
trees, in their shadows, — something You confound our ethical system, that you have few of in California, exwhich we all accept, with Christianity. cept in spots, where you have the greatOur ethical system is the growth of est in the world, and our occasional ages. What is true in Christianity is rough and cold day serves to make even not new, and what is new is not true. more delightful our usual bright and Our civilization is founded upon reason lovely days, of the temperature of the and science. I have said in one of my northern May. printed articles that 'a man is saved, Without prolonging what we shall not by the truth of what he believes, but not allow to degenerate into an arguby the truth of his belief.' His creed ment which would convince neither of may be perfectly absurd, like that of us, allow me merely to comment upon the Christian Scientists, but if it affords your new remarks. I have a feeling him an 'anchorage,' if he can fit it into that you constantly miss something his scheme of life, that is enough. The vital, in your line of thought and your religion of the Greeks and Romans was conclusions; that may be characteristic not ours; but see what nerves, what of the Pantheist! You say, apparently poets, what philosophers, developed in contradiction of my insistence that under it!
civilization is based upon Christianity, The religion of ancestral worship of that Washington, Jefferson, and others
did not accept Christianity; and you go roughs, — to put it in that perfectly on to quote Washington as to the gov- frank manner at which neither of us has ernment of the United States. Without taken offense, - your writings upon going into any dispute as to all this, are religion have pleased you, and, as with we to assume that you consider civiliza- anything you write, they have been retion to have begun with the establish- ceived with respect; but they have ment of the United States? I would say shown us a God, near in the sense of his rather that these gentlemen of history, being in a spadeful of dirt, but billions without doubt virtuous and great, of miles away and terribly nebulous, made the same error that John Bur- when it comes to having a Father to roughs - - also without doubt virtuous whom to pray. You may like that, but and great— is making: that they wholly it is bad for the rest of us; you have, failed in realizing the debt they were therefore, done much harm and disunder to that slowly developing, but turbed much fairly earned peace of none the less potent and true thing - mind - innocent though you undoubtChristianity! How many practise Chris edly have been of any such intention. tianity in their daily lives is beside the You have missed the bull's-eye. This mark. Would you condemn a great is: ‘Love the Lord thy God with all physician because (as is usually the thy mind, and with all thy heart, and case) he fails to practise what he with all thy soul; and love thy neighbor preaches? That is, would you damn his as thyself.' I do not mean to imply science? You say that civilization is that you have not personally, in your founded upon ‘reason and science.' life, done all of that; I mean that the Well, does that damn Christianity? teaching of Pantheism puts God, as I You say that our ethical system is the have stated, billions of miles away, growth of the ages. What of it? Do a nebulous thing,
a nebulous thing, - regardless of the Christians claim that we would have no theory of his being in all Nature; a ethical system without Christ and the theory which Christianity embraces, for Christian principles? By no means. that matter. We cannot love, in that But we would have Athens and the manner so completely pictured in the Roman Empire over again — and the above quotation, a Pantheistic God – Hun.
which is why I hold that you miss the In a nutshell, my dear Mr. Bur. bull's-eye.