The Conquest of Fear by Basil King
Chapter V. The Mind of To-Day and the World as it is
Much of what I have written will seem inconsistent with the fact that in the world as it is there are undeniable and inevitable hardships. True! I do not escape them more than any other man, the relative relief from fear saving me from only some of them.
I have not meant to say that even with one's refuge in God there is nothing left to struggle with. My point is that whatever there may be to struggle with there is nothing to be afraid of. Freedom from struggle would profit us not at all. On the contrary, it would render us nerveless, flabby, flaccid, and inert.
But fear, as a rule, being connected with our struggles, it is important, I think, to be as clear as we can concerning the purport of those struggles, and their source. We have already seen that fear is diminished in proportion as we understand that our trials are not motiveless, and perhaps this is the point at which to consider briefly what the motives are.
Struggle we may define as the act of wrestling with trial, so as to come out of it victoriously. It is a constant element in every human life. Furthermore, I am inclined to think that, taking trial as an average, the amount which enters into one life differs little from that which enters into another.
There was a time when I did not think so. Some lives struck me as singled out for trouble; others were left comparatively immune from it. One would have said that destinies had been mapped with a strange disregard for justice. Those who didn't deserve it suffered; those whom suffering might have purified went scot free. Some were rich, others were poor; some had high positions, others humble ones; some had the respect of the world from the day they were born, others crept along from birth to death in restriction and obscurity. The contrasts were so cruel that they scorched the eyes of the soul.
This is true, of course; and I am not saying that in the testing to which everyone is subjected all have an equal share of the opportunities for triumphing. I am speaking for the moment only of the degree to which the testing comes. As to that, I am inclined to feel that there is little to choose between one life and another, since each of us seems to be tried for all that he can bear.
One is impressed with that in one's reading of biography. Only the lives of what we may call the favoured few get into print, and of those few it is chiefly the external events that are given us. Glimpses of the inner experience may be obtained from time to time, but they are rarely more than glimpses. Of what the man or the woman has endured in the secret fastnesses of the inner life practically nothing can be told. And yet even with the little that finds its way into words how much there is of desperate fighting. To this there is never an exception. The great statesman, the great poet, the great priest, the great scientist, the great explorer, the great painter, the great novelist--not one but suffers as anyone suffers, and of not one would the reader, as a rule, put himself in the place.
I bring up this fact because we so often feel that the other man has an easier task than ourselves. The very thing I lack is that with which he is blessed. I see him smiling and debonair at the minute when I am in a ferment. While I hardly know how to make both ends meet he is building a big house or buying a new motor-car. While I am burying hope or love he is in the full enjoyment of all that makes for happiness and prosperity.
We are always prone to contrast our darker minutes with our friends' brighter ones. We forget, or perhaps we never know, that they do the same with us. At times we are as much the object of their envy as they ever are of ours.
I say this not on the principle that misery loves company, but in order to do away with the heathen suspicion lingering in many minds that God singles me out for trial, heaping benefits on others who deserve them no more than I do.
God singles no one out for trial. When trials come they spring, as nearly as I can observe, from one or all of the three following sources. There are:
A. The trials which come from a world of matter;
B. The trials which come from a world of men;
C. The trials we bring on ourselves.
A. The minute we speak of matter we speak of a medium which the mind of to-day is just beginning to understand. The mind of other days did not understand it at all. Few phases of modern advance seem to me more significant of a closer approach to the understanding of spiritual things than that which has been made along these lines.
To all the generations before our own matter was a sheer and positive density. Its hardness, solidity, and actuality could not be gainsaid. Earth was earth; iron was iron; wood was wood. Blood was blood; flesh was flesh; bone was bone. A man was a material being attached to a material planet, as a sponge is attached to the bottom of the sea. All that he touched and ate and wore and used was of the same material Absolute. As to the spiritual there could be a question; as to the material there could be none. The speculation of occasional philosophers, that matter might not after all be more than a mental phenomenon, was invariably hooted down. "I know that matter is matter by standing on it," are in substance the words attributed to even so spiritually-minded a man as the great Dr. Johnson. On this point, as perhaps on some others, he may be taken as a spokesman for the Caucasian portion of our race.
And now comes modern physical science reducing matter to a tenuousness only one remove from the purely spiritual, if it is as much as that. Gone is the mass of the mountains, the stoniness of rocks, the hard solidity of iron. The human body, as someone puts it, is no more than a few pails of water and a handful of ash. Ash and water are alike dissipated into gases, and gases into elements more subtle still. Keeping strictly to the material modern science has reached the confines of materiality. Where it will lead us next no man knows.
But the inference is not unfair that the world of matter is to a considerable degree, and perhaps altogether, a world of man's own creation. That is to say, while God is doing one thing with it, the human mind understands another. For the human point of view to develop and develop and develop till it becomes identical with God's is perhaps the whole purpose of existence.
To me personally it was no small help in overcoming fear when I saw the purpose of existence as expressed in the single word, Growth. That, at least, is a legitimate inference to draw from the history of life on this planet. Assuming that the universe contains an intelligible design of any sort, and that life on this planet is part of it, a vast development going on eternally toward complete understanding of Infinite Right and Happiness would give us some explanation of the mystery of our being here. Beginning, for reasons at which we can only guess, far away from that understanding, we are forever approaching it, with forever the joy of something new to master or to learn. New perceptions, new comprehensions, new insights gained, new victories, even little victories, won, constitute, I think, our treasures laid up in that heaven where neither moth nor wear-and-tear destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Where this treasure is, there, naturally enough, our hearts will be also. Looking back over the ages since the life-principle first glided into our planet waters--how it did so is as yet part of our unsolved mystery--what we chiefly see is a great surging of the living thing upward and upward toward that Highest Universal to which we give the name of God.
That is a point which we do not sufficiently seize--that God is not revealed to us by one avenue of truth alone, but by all the avenues of truth working together. With our tendency to keep the Universal in a special compartment of life we see Him as making Himself known through a line of teachers culminating in a Church or a complex of churches; and we rarely think of Him as making Himself known in any other way. To change the figure, He trickles to us like a brook instead of bathing us round and round like light or air.
But all good things must express the Universal; and all discovery of truth, whether by religion, science, philosophy, or imaginative art, must be discovery in God. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are discoveries in God, but so are the advances in knowledge made by Plato, Aristotle, Roger Bacon, and Thomas Edison. He shows Himself through Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and St. Paul, but also through Homer, Shakespeare, Michael Angelo, Beethoven, Darwin, George Eliot, William James, and Henry Irving. I take the names at random as illustrating different branches of endeavour, and if I use only great ones it is not that the lesser are excluded. No one department of human effort is specially His, or is His special expression. The Church cannot be so more than the stage, or music more than philosophy. His Holy Spirit can be no more outpoured on the bishop or the elder for his work than on the inventor or the scientist for his work. I say so not to minimise the outpouring on the bishop or the elder, but to magnify that on everyone working for progress. This, I take it, is what St. John means when he says, "God does not give the Spirit with limitations." He who always gives all to all His children cannot give more.
When our Lord restores sight to a blind man, or Peter and John cause a lame man to walk, we see manifestations of God; but we see equal manifestations of God when one man gives us the telephone, another the motor-car, and another wireless telegraphy. Whatever declares His power declares Him; and whatever declares Him is a means by which we press upward to the perception of His loving almightiness. The advance may be irregular but it is advance; and all advance is advance toward Him.
That is to say, we are rising above a conception of life in which matter is our master; and yet we are rising above it slowly. This is my chief point here, because by understanding it we see why we still suffer from material afflictions. We have overcome some of them, but only some of them. It is a question of racial development. As we glance backward we see how much of the way we have covered; as we look round on our present conditions we see how much there is still to be achieved.
To diminish fear we should have it, I think, clearly before us that the human race has done as yet only part of its work, and put us in possession of only part of the resources which will one day belong to us. If we could compare ourselves with our ancestors in the days, let us say, of Christopher Columbus or William the Conqueror we should seem in relation to them like children of a higher phase of creation. If we could compare ourselves with our descendants of five hundred or a thousand years hence we should probably be amazed at our present futility and grossness. Our ancestors in the Middle Ages could do certain great things, as we, too, can do certain great things; but in general access to the Universal Storehouse which is God we have made progress in ways unknown to them, as our children will make such progress after us.
But we have made only the progress we have made. We have its advantages, but there are advantages to which we have not yet attained. We might liken ourselves to people who have reached the fourth or fifth step of a stairway in which there are twenty or thirty. We have climbed to a certain height, but we are far from having reached the plane to which we are ascending.
It is worth noting this for the reason that we are so likely to think of ourselves as the climax to which the ages have worked up, and after which there is no beyond. We are the final word, or as the French express it, the last cry, le dernier cri. All that can be felt we have felt, all that can be known we have experienced. For the most part this stand is taken by the intellectuals in all modern countries. In us of to-day, of this very hour, the wave of Eternity has broken, throwing nothing at our feet but froth. The literature of the past ten years is soaked in the pessimism of those who regret that this should be all that the travail of Time could produce for us.
In view of this moan from so many of the writers who have the public ear, especially in Europe, it is the more important to keep before us the fact that we are children of a race but partially developed at best. Compared with what will one day be within human scope our actual reach is only a little beyond impotence. I say this not merely at a venture, but on the strength of what has happened in the past. We are not a people which has accomplished much, but one on the way to accomplishment. The achievements of which we can boast are relatively like those of a child of five who boasts that he can count. Our whole world-condition shows us to be racially incompetent, and able to produce no more than incompetent leaders. That is our present high-water mark, and with our high-water mark we must learn to be satisfied.
Escaping from matter we are still within the grasp of matter, and shall probably so continue for generations to come. Our struggles must therefore be largely with matter, till little by little we achieve its domination. In proportion as the individual does so now he reaps the reward of his victory; and in proportion as he reaps that reward fear is overcome. Our primary fear being fear of matter, much is gained by grasping the fact which modern science for the past ten or fifteen years has been carefully putting before us--vainly as far as most of us are concerned--that what we call matter is a force subject to the control of mind, while the directing of mind rests wholly with ourselves. Since we have controlled matter to make it in so many ways a hostile force, it ought to be within our power to turn it in our favour.
Which is, I suppose, the trend we are following, even if we follow it unconsciously. For the turning of the matter in our favour we have fortunately some notable examples. Our race has produced one perfectly normal man to whom all of us sub-normals can look as the type of what we are one day to become.
I think it a pity that so much of our thought of Him makes Him an exception to human possibilities. In speaking of Him as the Son of God we fancy Him as being in another category from ourselves. We forget that we, too, are sons of God--"heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ." It is true that He realised that Sonship to a degree which we do not; but it is also true that we ourselves realise it to some degree. In the detail of the mastery of matter to which we shall attain it is fair, I think, to take Him as our standard.
 Epistle to the Romans.
Taking Him as our standard we shall work out, I venture to think, to the following points of progress.
a. The control of matter in furnishing ourselves with food and drink, by means more direct than at present employed, as He turned water into wine and fed the multitudes with the loaves and fishes.
b. The control of matter by putting away from ourselves, by methods more sure and less roundabout than those of to-day, sickness, blindness, infirmity, and deformity.
c. The control of matter by regulating our atmospheric conditions as He stilled the tempest.
d. The control of matter by restoring to this phase of existence those who have passed out of it before their time, or who can ill be spared from it, as He "raised" three young people from "the dead" and Peter and Paul followed His example.
e. The control of matter in putting it off and on at will, as He in His death and resurrection.
f. The control of matter in passing altogether out of it, as He in what we call His Ascension into Heaven.
It will be observed that I take as historic records the statements of the Bible. This I do in face of the efforts of many of the clergy in a number of the churches to make me see in the Old Testament chiefly a collection of myths, and in the New a series of compilations by irresponsible hands, of doubtful date and authority, leaving, in the case of our Lord, only a substratum which can be relied on as biographical.
As an instance of what I mean I quote the following: A few weeks ago I happened to mention to the distinguished head of one of the most important theological schools of one of the largest denominations in the country, our Lord's turning the water into wine. "I've no idea that He ever did anything of the kind," were the words with which he dismissed the subject, which I did not take up again. I am not arguing here against his point of view. I merely state that I do not share it, and for these two main reasons:
First, because the so-called Higher Criticism on which it is based is a purely evanescent phase of man's learning, likely to be rejected to-morrow by those who accept it to-day, as has been the case with other such phases;
Secondly, because I feel sure that, with the mastery of matter to which we have already attained, the future development of our race will justify these seeming "miracles," and make them as natural and commonplace as telegraphy and telephony.
I speak only for myself when I say that the more I can feel round me the atmosphere of omnipotence the less I am aware of fear. It is a matter of course that the one should exclude the other. The sense of being myself, in a measure, the inheritor of omnipotence, as an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ, becomes, therefore, one to cultivate. This I can do only in proportion as I see that my Standard and Example cultivated it before me. In my capacity as a son of God I take as applying to myself the words reported by St. John: "In most solemn truth I tell you that the Son can do nothing of Himself--He can only do what He sees the Father doing; for whatever He does, that the Son does in like manner."
While sayings like these, of which there are many in the New Testament, apply doubtless, in the first place, to Him who best exemplifies the Sonship of God, they must apply, in the second place, I suppose, to all who exemplify that Sonship to any degree whatever. Man is the Son of God; and it is worth noting that He who is specially termed the Son of God is also specially termed the Son of Man. "Dear friends," St. John writes, elsewhere, "we are now God's children, but what we are to be in the future has not been fully revealed to us." I take it, therefore, as no presumption on my part to emphasise in my daily thought my place as a co-heir with Christ, feeling that not only is God's almightiness exercised on my behalf, but that as much of it as I know how to use is placed in my hands.
This last, of course, is very little. Even that little I use doubtfully, timidly, tremblingly. That is the utmost reach to which present race-development and personal development have brought me. With regard to the opportunities all round me I am as if I stood beside an airship in which I could fly if I knew how to work its engines, which I do not. Other conveniences besides airships would be of no good at all to me if someone more skilful than I didn't come to my aid. There is probably no person living of whom the same is not true. Large portions of omnipotence are placed within hands which are too busy grasping other things to seize all that they could hold.
I remember the encouragement it was to me when I understood that to hold anything at all was so much to the good as a starting-point. I had been in the habit of dwelling on the much I had missed rather than on the little I had apprehended. But the little I had apprehended was, after all, my real possession, and one I could increase. It is like the few dollars a man has in a savings bank. That at least is his, notwithstanding the millions he might have possessed if he had only known how to acquire them. There are many instances of a few dollars in the savings bank becoming the seedling of millions before the span of a man's life is passed.
To be glad of what we can do while knowing it is only a portion of what will one day be done is to me a helpful point of view. "There may be truth in all this," is the observation of a young lady who has scanned what I have written, "and yet I don't believe that we shall ever conquer fear." That, it seems to me, is to tie chains and iron weights about one's feet when starting on a race. If we are to keep in the race at all, to say nothing of winning it, the spirit must be free. One must add the courage which springs from a partial knowledge of the truth to the patience one gets from the understanding that as yet our knowledge of the truth is but partial.
I often think that if the churches could come to this last admission it would be a help to themselves and to all of us. As already hinted I am anxious to keep away from the subject of churches through a natural dread of bitterness; but this much I feel at liberty to say, saying it as I do in deep respect for the bodies which have kept alive the glimmer of Divine Light in a world which would have blown it out. In a partially developed race the churches can have no more than a partially developed grasp of truth. A partially developed grasp of truth is much--it is pricelessly much--but it is not a knowledge of the whole truth. Not being a knowledge of the whole truth it should be humble, tolerant, and eager to expand.
The weakness of the ecclesiastical system strikes me as lying in the assumption, or practical assumption, on the part of each sect that it is the sole repository of truth, and of all the truth. There is no sect which does not claim more than all mankind can claim. Moreover, there is no sect which does not make its claims exclusively, asserting not only that these claims are right, but that all other claims are wrong. To the best of my knowledge, the sect has not yet risen which would make more than shadowy concessions to any other sect.
True, it must not be forgotten that no sect bases its teaching on what it has worked out for itself, but on the revelation made to it in Jesus Christ. Every sect would admit that its own view of truth might have been partial were it not for the fact that in Jesus Christ it has everything. Where the theories of men might be inadequate His immense knowledge comes in as supplementary.
This might be so had He Himself undertaken to give more than a partial view of truth. But He says expressly that He does not. He gives what His hearers might be assumed to be able to assimilate; but that is all. "I have much more to say to you, but you are unable at present to bear the burden of it." It being an axiom in teaching to give the pupil only what he can receive, this is the utmost that our Lord attempts.
 St. John.
He goes on, however, to add these words, which are significant: "But when He has come--the Spirit of Truth--He will guide you into all the truth." No doubt that process is even now going on, and will continue to go on in proportion as our race develops. We are being guided into all the truth, through all kinds of channels, spiritual, literary, scientific, philosophical. The naive supposition that this promise was kept on the Day of Pentecost, when a sudden access of knowledge committed all truth to the apostles and through them to the Church forevermore, is contradicted by the facts. The apostles had no such knowledge and made no claims to its possession. The Church has never had it, either. "All truth" covers much more ground than do questions of ecclesiastical forms of government or of the nature of the sacraments. "All truth" must go as far as the Universal goes, leaving nothing outside its range. "All truth" must surely be such self-evident truth as to admit of no further dissensions.
 St. John.
Taking truth as a circle, the symbol of perfection, we may assume that our Lord disclosed a view of a very large arc in its circumference. But of the arc which He disclosed no one group of His followers has as yet perceived the whole. At the same time it is probable that each group has perceived some arc of that arc, and an arc perceived by no other group. "All truth" being too large for any one group to grasp, the Baptist sees his segment, the Catholic his, the Methodist his, the Anglican his, the Congregationalist his, until the vision of Christ is made up. I name only the groups with which we are commonly most familiar, though we might go through the hundreds of Christian sects and agree that each has its angle from which it sees what is visible from no other. Though there is likely to be error in all such perceptions a considerable portion of truth must be there, or the sect in question would not survive. It is safe to say that no sect comes into existence, thrives, and endures, unless it is to supply that which has been missed elsewhere.
What place is there then for intersectarian or ecclesiastical arrogance?
The question is far from foreign to my subject. Fear is what arrogance feeds upon; fear is what arrogance produces; and arrogance is the special immorality of churches. To my mind the churches are almost precluded from combating fear, for the reason that arrogance is to so marked a degree their outstanding vice.
The Catholic is arrogant toward the Protestant; the Protestant is arrogant toward the Catholic; the Anglican is arrogant to him whom he calls a Dissenter in England, and merely "unchurches" in America; the Unitarian is arrogant to those whom he thinks less intellectual than himself; those who believe in the Trinity are arrogant toward the Unitarian. All other Christian bodies have their own shades of arrogance, entirely permitted by their codes, like scorn of the weak to the knights of Arthur's court. An active, recognised, and mutual arrogance all round is the reason why it is so rare to see any two or three or half a dozen Christian sects work for any cause in harmony. Arrogance begets fear as surely and prolifically as certain of the rodents beget offspring.
Much has been written during the past fifty years on the beautiful theme of the reunion of Christendom. Rarely does any great synod or convention or council meet without some scheme or some aspiration toward this end. Every now and then a programme is put forth, now by this body, now by that, with yearning and good intentions. And in every such programme the same grim humour is to be read behind the brotherly invitation. "We can all unite--if others will think as we do." Is it any wonder that nothing ever comes of these efforts? And yet, I am persuaded, a day will dawn when something will.
"When he has come--the Spirit of Truth--he will guide you into all the truth." That will be in the course of our race-development. As step is added to step, as milestone is passed after milestone, as we see more clearly what counts and what doesn't count, as we outgrow childishness, as we come more nearly to what St. Paul calls "mature manhood, the stature of full-grown men in Christ," we shall do many things that now seem impossible. Among them I think we shall view intersectarian arrogance as a mark of enfeebled intelligence. There will come an era of ecclesiastical climbing down. We shall see more distinctly our own segment of the arc which our Lord has revealed, and because of that we shall know that another man sees what we have missed. The Methodist will then acknowledge that he has much to learn from the Catholic; the Catholic will know the same of the Baptist; the Anglican of the Presbyterian; the Unitarian of the Anglican; and a co-operative universe be reflected in a co-operative Church. Each will lose something of his present cocksureness and exclusiveness. God will be seen as too big for any sect, while all the sects together will sink out of sight in God.
 Epistle to the Ephesians.
In the meantime we are only working toward that end, but toward it we are working. Every man who believes in a church is doing something to bring that end about when he gives a kindly thought to any other church. I say this the more sincerely owing to the fact that I myself am naturally bigoted, and such kindly thought does not come to me easily. There are sects I dislike so much that my eyes jump from the very paragraphs in the newspapers which mention them. And yet when I curb myself, when I force myself to read them, when I force myself to read them sympathetically and with a good wish in my heart, my mental atmosphere grows wider and I am in a stronger, surer, steadier, and more fearless world.
Much criticism has been levelled at the Church within the past few years; but it should be remembered that the Church no more than government, no more than business, no more than education, can be ahead of the only partially developed race of which she is one of the expressions. She is not yet out of the world of matter, though she is emerging. In proportion as her concepts, hopes, and aims remain material she will be as incompetent as any other body with the same handicaps and limitations. In proportion as she learns to "overthrow arrogant reckonings and every stronghold that towers high in defiance of the knowledge of God," she will become the leader of the world, and our great deliverer from fear.
 Second Epistle to the Corinthians.
B. Of the trials brought upon us by a world of men perhaps our chief resentment springs from their unreasonableness. They are not necessary; they might be avoided; at their worst they could be tempered. For this reason, too, they take us by surprise. Those who bring them on us seem captious, thoughtless, cruel. When they could so easily offer us a helping hand they obstruct us for the mere sport of doing so. People toward whom we have never had an unkindly thought will often go out of their way to do us a bad turn.
I shall not enlarge on this, since most of us are in a position to enlarge on it for ourselves. There is scarcely an individual for whom the way, hard enough at any time, has not been made harder by the barbed wire entanglements which other people throw across his path. Almost anything we plan we plan in the teeth of someone's opposition; almost anything with which we try to associate ourselves is fraught with discords and irritations that often inspire disgust. The worlds in which co-operation is essential, from that of governmental politics to that of offices and homes, are centres of animosities and suspicions, and therefore breeding-grounds of fear.
I suppose most grown-up people can recall the wounded amazement with which they first found themselves attacked by someone to whom they were not conscious of ever having given cause. Some are sensitive to this sort of thing; some grow callous to it; some are indifferent; and some are said to enjoy it. In the main I think we are sensitive and remain sensitive. I have been told by a relative of one of the three or four greatest living writers of English that the unfavourable comment of a child would affect him so that he would be depressed for hours. Statesmen and politicians, I understand, suffer far more deeply in the inner self than the outer self ever gives a sign of. The fact that our own weakness or folly or recklessness or wrong-doing lays us open to a blow is not much consolation when it falls.
For myself all this became more tolerable when I had fully grasped the fact that we are still to a considerable degree a race of savages. From savages one cannot expect too much, not even from oneself. We have advanced beyond the stage at which one naturally attacked a stranger simply because he was a stranger, but we have not advanced very far. The instinct to do one another harm is still strong in us. We do one another harm when it would be just as easy, perhaps easier, to do one another good. Just as the Ashanti hiding in the bush will hurl his assegai at a passer-by for no other reason than that he is passing, so our love of doing harm will spit itself out on people just because we know their names.
Personally I find myself often doing it. I could on the spur of the moment write as many as twenty names of people of whom I am accustomed to speak ill without really knowing much about them. I make it an excuse that they are in the public eye, that I don't like their politics, or their social opinions, or their literary output, or the things they do on the stage. Anything will serve so long as it gives me the opportunity to hurl my assegai as I see them pass. One does it instinctively, viciously, because like other semi-savages one is undeveloped mentally, and it is to be expected.
By expecting it from others half our resentment is forestalled. Knowing that from a race such as ours we shall not get anything else we learn to take it philosophically. If I hurl my assegai at another, another hurls his assegai at me, and in a measure we are quits. Even if, trying to rise above my inborn savagery, I withhold my assegai, it is no sign that another will withhold his, and I may be wounded even in the effort to do my best. Very well; that, too, is to be expected and must be taken manfully.
The learning to take it manfully is what as individuals we get out of it. For the most part we are soft at heart, soft, I mean, not in the sense of being tender, but in that of being flabby.
On myself this was borne in less than a year ago. I had for some months been working hard at a picture-play which when put before the public was largely misunderstood. While some of the papers praised it others criticised it severely, but whether they praised or blamed I was seen as "teaching a lesson," a presumption from which I shrink. It is not that there is any harm in teaching a lesson if a man is qualified, but I no longer consider myself qualified. Sharing ideas is one thing, and the highest pleasure of the reason; but the assumption that because you suggest an idea you seek to convert is quite another thing. If I failed to make it plain that in this present book I was merely offering ideas for inspection, and in the hope of getting others in return, I should put it in the fire.
My picture-play once handed over to the public I experienced an intense reaction of depression. To figure through the country, wherever there are screens, as "teaching a lesson" seemed more than I could bear. It was more than I could bear, till it flashed on me that I couldn't bear it merely because I was inwardly flabby. I was not taking the experience manfully. I was not standing up to it, nor getting from it that toughening of the inner fibre which it had to yield. As usual in my case, owing to an acquaintance with the Bible imparted to me in childhood, a suggestion from the Bible was that which righted me again toward cheerfulness. It came, as such things always do, without any seeking, or other operation beyond that of the subconscious self.
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
 St Paul's Second Epistle to Timothy.
It was exactly what I needed to do--to endure hardness--to take it--to bear it--to be more of a man for it. Moreover, the idea was a new suggestion. I had not understood before that to the conquest of fear the hardening of the inner man is an auxiliary. My object had been to ward off fear so that it shouldn't touch me; but to let it strike and rebound because it could make no impact was an enlarging of the principle. Viewing the experience as a strengthening process enabled me not only to go through it but to do so with serenity.
This, I imagine, is the main thing we are to get out of the struggle brought on us through living in a world of men such as men are to-day. It is a pity they are not better, but being no better than they are we can get that much from the fact--the inner hardening. When, justly or unjustly, others attack or hurt or worry or anger or annoy me, the knowledge that through the very trial I am toughening within, where so often I am without moral muscle, can be a perceptible support.
C. Of the two main trials we bring on ourselves I suppose it would be only right to put sickness first.
Under sickness I include everything that makes for age, decay, and the conditions commonly classed as "breaking up." It is becoming more and more recognised, I think, that physical collapse has generally behind it a mental cause, or a long series of mental causes too subtle for tabulation.
I shall not dwell on this, for the reason that during the past fifty years so much has been written on the subject. A number of movements for human betterment have kept the whole idea in the forefront of the public mind. It is an idea only partially accepted as yet, arousing as much opposition among the conservative as hope on the part of the progressive. Since, however, science and religion are both, in their different ways, working on it together, some principle which can no longer be questioned is likely to be worked out within the next few generations.
All I shall attempt to do now is to re-state what seems to me the fact--stated by others with knowledge and authority--that God, rightly understood, is the cure of disease and not the cause of it. There is something repugnant in the thought of Universal Intelligence propagating harmful bacteria, and selecting the crises at which we shall succumb to their effects. The belief that God sends sickness upon us amounts to neither less nor more than that. The bacilli which we try to destroy He uses His almighty power to cultivate, so that even our efforts to protect ourselves become defiances of His Will.
Surely the following incident, which gives our Lord's attitude toward disease, affords a reasonable basis for our own.
"Once He was teaching on the Sabbath in one of the synagogues where a woman was present who for eighteen years had been a confirmed invalid; she was bent double, and was unable to lift herself to her full height. But Jesus saw her, and calling to her, He said to her, 'Woman, you are free from your weakness.' And He put His hands on her, and she immediately stood upright and began to give glory to God. Then the Warden of the Synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured her on the Sabbath day, said to the crowd, 'There are six days in the week on which people ought to work. On those days therefore come and get yourselves cured, and not on the Sabbath day.' But the Lord's reply to him was, 'Hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath day untie his bullock or his ass from the stall and lead him to water? And this woman, daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan had bound for no less than eighteen years, was she not to be loosed from this chain because it is the Sabbath day?' When He had said this all His opponents were ashamed, while the whole multitude was delighted at the many glorious things continually done by Him."
 St. Luke.
It was not God, in His opinion, who had afflicted this woman; it was Satan, the personification of all evil. But in order that such references should not be misunderstood He had said of Satan, only a short time before, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."
 St. Luke.
Heaven, I take it, is creation as its Creator sees it. "God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good." And from this creation, with the rapidity of the quickest thing we know anything about, a flash of lightning, our Lord saw the personification of evil blotted out. What thought had formed thought could destroy. The spectre which misunderstanding of God had raised in a life in which everything was very good became nothing at the instant when God was understood.
 The Book of Genesis.
The occasion of His speaking the words I have quoted is worth noting as bearing on the subject.
A little earlier He had sent out seventy of His disciples to be the heralds of the Kingdom. "Cure the sick in that town, and tell them the Kingdom of God is now at your door." By this time the seventy had returned, exclaiming joyfully, "Master, even the demons submit to us when we utter your name." It was apparently the use of this word demons which called forth from Him that explanation, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." In other words, Satan is the creation of wrong thought; the demons are the creations of wrong thought. Where the Universal Good is all there can be no place for evil or evil spirits. Banish the concept and you banish the thing. The action is as quick as thought, and thought is as quick as lightning. "I have given you power," He goes on to add, "to tread serpents and scorpions underfoot, and to trample on all the power of the Enemy; and in no case shall anything do you harm."
 St. Luke.
 St. Luke.
 St. Luke.
This was no special gift bestowed on them and only on them. God has never, as far as we can see, dealt in special and temporary gifts. He helps us to see those we possess already. What our Lord seems anxious to make clear is the power over evil with which the human being is always endowed. It is probably to be one of our great future discoveries that in no case shall anything do us harm. As yet we scarcely believe it. Only an individual here and there sees that freedom and domination must belong to us. But, if I read the signs of the times aright, the rest of us are slowly coming to the same conclusion. We are less scornful of spiritual power than we were even a few years ago. The cocksure scientific which in its time was not a whit less arrogant than the cocksure ecclesiastical is giving place to a consciousness that man is the master of many things of which he was once supposed to be the slave. In proportion as the wiser among us are able to corroborate that which we simpler ones feel by a sixth or seventh sense, a long step will be taken toward the immunity from suffering which our Lord knew to be ideally our inheritance.
Sickness, age, decay, with all the horrors with which we invest our exit from this phase of existence, I take to be a misreading of God's intentions. We shall learn to read better by and by, and have already begun to do so. To this beginning I attribute the improvement which in one way or another has taken place in our general health--an improvement in which science and religion have worked together, often without perceiving the association--and in the prolonging of youth which in countries like the British Empire and the United States is, within thirty or forty years, to be noted easily.
Misreading of God's intentions I might compare to that misreading of his parent's intentions which goes on in the mind of every child of six or seven. He sees the happenings in the household, but sees them in a light of his own. Years afterwards, when their real significance comes to him, he smiles at his childish distortions of the obvious.
In comparison with what St. Paul calls "mature manhood, the stature of full-grown men in Christ," our present rating might be that of a child of this age. It is no higher. Misreading is all that we are equal to, but it is something to be able to misread. It is a step on the way to reading correctly. Though our impulse to learn works feebly it works restlessly; and a day will surely come when we shall be able to interpret God aright.
Next to sickness I should place poverty as the second of the two great trials we bring upon ourselves.
Under poverty I class all sense of restriction, limitation, and material helplessness. As the subject will be taken up more in detail elsewhere I wish for the minute to say no more than this: that, in an existence of which Growth seems to be the purpose, God could not intend that any of us should be without full power of expansion.
What we are worth to him we must be worth as individuals; and what we are worth as individuals must depend on the peculiar combination of qualities which goes to make up each one of us. I, poor creature that I sometimes seem to others and always to myself, am so composed that God never before had anything exactly like me in the whole round of His creation. My value lies in a special blend of potentialities. Of the billions and trillions of human beings who have passed across this planet not one could ever have done what I can do, or have filled my place toward God and His designs.
Among the billions and trillions I may seem trivial--to men. I may even seem trivial to myself. To such numbers as these I can add so little when I come, and take away so little from them when I go, that I am not worth counting. Quite so--to all human reckoning. But my value is not my value to men; it is not even my value to myself; it is my value to God. He alone knows my use, and the peculiar beauty I bring to the ages in making my contribution. It is no presumptuous thing to say that He could no more spare me than any other father of a normal and loving family could spare one of the children of his flesh and blood.
Now, my value to God is my first reckoning. We commonly make it the last, if we ever make it at all; but it is the first and the ruling one.
What I am to my family, my country, myself, is all secondary. They determine only the secondary results. The first results come from my first relationship, and my first relationship is to God. As the child of my parents, as a citizen of my country, as a denizen of this planet, my place is a temporary one. As the son of God I am from everlasting to everlasting, a splendid being with the universe as my home.
Now this, it seems to me, is my point of departure for the estimate of my possible resources. I cannot expect less of the good things of the universe than God would naturally bestow on His son. To expect less is to get less, since it is to dwarf my own power of receiving. If I close the opening through which abundance flows it cannot be strange if I shut abundance out.
And that is precisely what we find throughout the human race, millions upon millions of lives tightly shut against His generosity. The most generous treatment for which the majority of us look is man's. The only standard by which the majority of us appraise our work is man's. You have a job; you get your twenty or thirty or fifty or a hundred dollars a week for it; and by those dollars you judge your earning capacity and allow it to be judged. You hardly ever pause to remember that there is an estimate of earning capacity which measures industry and good will and integrity and devotion, and puts them above all tricks of trade and rewards them--rewards them, I mean, not merely in mystical blessings in eons far off, possibly the highest blessings we shall ever know, but rewards them in a way that will satisfy you now.
"He satisfieth the empty soul," writes the psalmist, in one of the sublimest lyrics ever penned, "and filleth the hungry soul with goodness."
"Yes, of course," says the Caucasian. "When you have crushed out all your present cravings and forgotten them, He will give you joys of which now you have no conception."
But are not my present cravings those which count for me? and do they not make up precisely that character which renders me unique? True, my longings now may have to the longings I shall one day entertain only the relation of your little boy's craving for an alphabetic picture-book to the course in philosophy he will take when he is twenty-five; but so long as the picture-book is the thing he can appreciate you give it to him. Is not this common sense? And can we expect the Father of us all to act in other than common-sense ways?
It is because we do so expect--because we do so almost universally--that we have blocked the channels of His blessings. The world is crowded with men and women working their fingers to the bone, and even so just squeaking along betwixt life and death and dragging their children after them. They are the great problem of mankind; they rend the heart with pity. They rend the heart with pity all the more for the reason that there is no sense in their poverty. There is no need of it. God never willed it, and what God never willed can go out of life with the speed of Satan out of Heaven. We have only to fulfil certain conditions, certain conditions quite easy to fulfil, to find the stores of the Universal laid as a matter of course at the feet of the sons of God.
"Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts," are the striking words of the prophet Malachi, "if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.... And all nations shall call you blessed, for ye shall be a delightsome land,"
But it is the old story: we do not believe it. It is too good to be true, so we put it away from us. In a world where the material is so pressing we use only material measures, and bow only to material force.
So be it! That is apparently as far as our race-development takes us. It takes us into suffering, but not out of it. Individuals have come into it and worked their way out again; but most of us can go no faster than the crowd. In that case we must suffer. In a terrible crisis in his history, and after many sins, David was able to write these words: "I sought the Lord ... and He delivered me out of all my fears." It is the royal avenue, and it is open to anyone. And yet if we do not take it, it still does not follow that all is lost.
Of the world as it is the outstanding fact is the necessity for struggle. Struggle may conceivably enter into every other world. There is something in us which requires it, which craves for it. A static heaven in which all is won and there is nothing forevermore but to enjoy has never made much appeal to us. If eternal life means eternal growth we shall always have something with which to strive, since growth means overcoming.
While sorry, then, that we have not released ourselves to a greater degree than we have, we may take heart of grace from what we have achieved. We must simply struggle on. Struggle will continue to make and shape us. Whether our problems spring from a world of matter, from a world of men, or from ourselves, their solving brings us a fuller grasp of truth. The progress may be slow but it is progress. Hardship by hardship, task by task, failure by failure, conquest by conquest, we pull ourselves up a little higher in the scale. Some day we shall see in the Universal all that we have been looking for, and be delivered out of all our fears.