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Title: Progress and History

Author: Various

Editor: F. S. Marvin

Release Date: January 31, 2009 [EBook #27948]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


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Transcriber's Note

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of this document.





late senior scholar of st. john's college, oxford
author of 'the living past'
editor of 'the unity of western civilization'

'Tanta patet rerum series et omne futurum
Nititur in lucem.'







This volume is a sequel to The Unity of Western Civilization published last year and arose in the same way, from a course of lectures given at the Woodbrooke Settlement, Birmingham.

The former book attempted to describe some of the permanent unifying factors which hold our Western civilization together in spite of such catastrophic divisions as the present war. This book attempts to show these forces in growth. The former aimed rather at a statical, the present at a dynamical view of the same problem. Both are historical in spirit.

It is hoped that these courses may serve as an introduction to a series of cognate studies, of which clearly both the supply and the scope are infinite, for under the general conception of 'Progress in Unity' all great human topics might be embraced. One subject has been suggested for early treatment which would have especial interest at the present time, viz. 'Recent[4] Progress in European Thought'. We are by the war brought more closely than before into contact with other nations of Europe who are pursuing with inevitable differences the same main lines of evolution. To indicate these in general, with stress on the factor of betterment, is the aim of the present volume.




By F. S. Marvin.
By R. R. Marett, Reader in Social Anthropology, Oxford.
By F. Melian Stawell, late Lecturer at Newnham College, Cambridge.
By the Rev. A. J. Carlyle, Tutor and Lecturer at University College, Oxford.
By Baron Friedrich von Hügel.
By L. P. Jacks, Principal of Manchester New College, Oxford.
By A. E. Zimmern, late Fellow of New College, Oxford.
By A. E. Zimmern.
By A. Clutton Brock.
By F. S. Marvin.
By J. A. Smith, Waynflete Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy, Oxford.
By J. A. Smith.




F. S. Marvin

The editor of these essays was busy in the autumn of last year collating the opinions attached by different people to the word 'progress'. One Sunday afternoon he happened to be walking with two friends in Oxford, one a professor of philosophy, the other a lady. The professor of philosophy declared that to him human progress must always mean primarily the increase of knowledge; the editor urged the increase of power as its most characteristic feature, but the lady added at once that to her progress had always meant, and could only mean, increase in our appreciation of the humanity of others.

The first two thoughts, harmonized and directed by the third, may be taken to cover the whole field, and this volume to be merely a commentary upon them. What we have to consider is, when and how this idea of progress, as a general thing affecting mankind as a whole, first appeared in the world, how far it has been realized in history, and how far it gives us any guidance and hope for the future. In the midst of a catastrophe which appears at first sight to be a deadly blow to the ideal, such an inquiry has a special interest and may have some permanent value.

Words are the thought of ages crystallized, or rather embodied with a constantly growing soul. The word 'Progress', like the word 'Humanity', is one of the[8] most significant. It is a Latin word, not used in its current abstract sense until after the Roman incorporation of the Mediterranean world. It contains Greek thought summed up and applied by Roman minds. Many of the earlier Greek thinkers, Xenophanes and Empedocles as well as Plato and Aristotle, had thought and spoken of a steady process in things, including man himself, from lower to higher forms; but the first writer who expounds the notion with sufficient breadth of view and sufficiently accurate and concrete observation to provide a preliminary sketch, was the great Roman poet who attributed all the best that was in him to the Greeks and yet has given us a highly original picture of the upward tendency of the world and of human society upon it. He, too, so far as one can discover, was the first to use the word 'progress' in the sense of our inquiry. The passage in Lucretius at the end of his fifth book on the Nature of Things is so true and brilliant and anticipates so many points in later thought that it is worth quoting at some length, and the poet's close relation with Cicero, the typical Greco-Roman thinker, gives his ideas the more weight as an historical document.

He begins by describing a struggle for existence in which the less well-adapted creatures died off, those who wanted either the power to protect themselves or the means of adapting themselves to the purposes of man. In this stage, however, man was a hardier creature than he afterwards became. He lived like the beasts of the field and was ignorant of tillage or fire or clothes or houses. He had no laws or government or marriage, and though he did not fear the dark, he feared the real danger of fiercer beasts. Men often died a miserable death, but not in multitudes on a single day as they do now by battle or shipwreck.

The next stage sees huts and skins and fire which[9] softened their bodies, and marriage and the ties of family which softened their tempers. And tribes began to make treaties of alliance with other tribes.

Speech arose from the need which all creatures feel to exercise their natural powers, just as the calf will butt before his horns protrude. Men began to apply different sounds to denote different things, just as brute beasts will do to express different passions, as any one must have noticed in the cases of dogs and horses and birds. No one man set out to invent speech.

Fire was first learnt from lightning and the friction of trees, and cooking from the softening and ripening of things by the sun.

Then men of genius invented improved methods of life, the building of cities and private property in lands and cattle. But gold gave power to the wealthy and destroyed the sense of contentment in simple happiness. It must always be so whenever men allow themselves to become the slaves of things which should be their dependants and instruments.

They began to believe in and worship gods, because they saw in dreams shapes of preterhuman strength and beauty and deemed them immortal; and as they noted the changes of the seasons and all the wonders of the heavens, they placed their gods there and feared them when they spoke in the thunder.

Metals were discovered through the burning of the woods, which caused the ores to run. Copper and brass came first and were rated above gold and silver. And then the metals took the place of hands, nails, teeth, and clubs, which had been men's earliest arms and tools. Weaving followed the discovery of the use of iron.

Sowing, planting, and grafting were learnt from nature herself, and gradually the cultivation of the soil was carried farther and farther up the hills.[10]

Men learnt to sing from the birds, and to blow on pipes from the whistling of the zephyr through the reeds: and those simple tunes gave as much rustic jollity as our more elaborate tunes do now.

Then, in a summary passage at the end, Lucretius enumerates all the chief discoveries which men have made in the age-long process—ships, agriculture, walled cities, laws, roads, clothes, songs, pictures, statues, and all the pleasures of life—and adds, 'these things practice and the experience of the unresting mind have taught mankind gradually as they have progressed from point to point'.[1]

It is the first definition and use of the word in literature. If we accept it as a typical presentation of the Greco-Roman view, seen by a man of exceptional genius and insight at the climax of the period, there are two or three points which must arrest our attention. Lucretius is thinking mainly of progress in the arts, and especially of the arts as they affect man's happiness. There is no mention of increase in knowledge or in love. As in the famous parallel passage in Sophocles' Antigone, it is man's strength and skill which most impressed the poet, and his skill especially as exhibited in the arts. Compared with what we shall see as typical utterances of later times, it is an external view of the subject. The absence of love as an element of progress carries with it the absence of the idea of humanity. There is no conception here, nor anywhere in classical thought before the Stoics, of a world-wide Being which has contributed to the advance and should share fully in its fruits. Still less do we find any hint of the possibilities of an infinite progress. The moral, on the contrary, is that we should limit our desires, banish disturbing thoughts, and settle down to a quiet and[11] sensible enjoyment of the good things that advancing skill has provided for us. It is, of course, true that thoughts can be found in individual writers, especially in Plato and Aristotle, which would largely modify this view. Yet it can hardly be questioned that Lucretius here represents the prevalent tone of thoughtful men of his day. They had begun to realize the fact of human progress, but envisaged it, as was natural in a first view, mainly on the external side, and, above all, had no conception of its infinite possibilities.

When we turn to typical utterances of the next great age in history the contrast is striking. Catholic doctrine had absorbed much that was congenial to it from the Stoics, from Plato and Aristotle, but it added a thing that was new in the world, a passionate love and an overpowering desire for personal moral improvement. This is so clear in the greatest figures of the Middle Ages, men such as St. Bernard and St. Francis, and it is so unlike anything that we know in the world before, that we are justified in treating it as characteristic of the age. To some of us, indeed, it will appear as the most important element in the general notion of progress which we are tracing. It so appeared to Comte.[2] Of numberless passages that might be quoted from fathers and doctors of the Church, a few words from Nicholas of Cusa must suffice. He was a divine of the early fifteenth century, true to the faith, but anxious to improve the discipline of the Church. To him progress took an entirely spiritual form. 'To be able to understand more and more without end is the type of eternal wisdom.... Let a man desire to understand better what he does understand and to love more what he does love and the whole world will not satisfy him.'

Here is a point of view so different from the last that[12] we find some difficulty in fitting it into the same scheme of things. Yet both are essential elements in Western civilization; both have been developed by the operations of similar forces in the world civilized and incorporated by Greece and Rome.

The Catholic divine looks entirely inward for his idea of progress, and his conception contains elements of real and permanent validity, of which our present notions are full. His eyes are turned towards the future and there is no limit to his vision. And though the progress contemplated is within the soul of the individual believer, it rests on the two fundamental principles of knowledge and love which are both essentially social. The believer may isolate himself from the world to develop his higher nature, but the knowledge and the love which he carries with him into his solitude are themselves fruits of that intercourse with his fellows from which an exclusive religious ideal temporarily cuts him off.

Nor must we forget that Catholic doctrine and discipline, though aiming at this perfection of the individual rather than of the race, was embodied in an organization which carried farther than the Roman Empire the idea of a united civilization and furnished to many thinkers, Bossuet as well as Dante, a first sketch of the progress of mankind.

But it is clear that this construction was provisional only, either on the side of personal belief and practice, or of ecclesiastical organization; provisional, that is, if we are looking for real unity in the mind of mankind. For we need a doctrine, a scheme of knowledge, into which all that we discover about the world and our own nature may find its place; we need principles of action which will guide us in attaining a state of society more congruent with our knowledge of the possibilities of the world and human nature, more thoroughly inspired by[13] human love, love of man for man as a being living his span of life here and now, under conditions which call for a concentration of skill and effort to realize the best. The breaking of the old Catholic synthesis, narrow but admirable within its limits, took place at what we call the Renascence and Reformation; the linking up of a new one is the task of our own and many later generations. Let it not be thought that such a change involves the destruction of any vital element in the idea of progress already achieved; if true and vital, every element must survive. But it does involve an acceptance of the fact that progress, or humanity, or the evolution of the divine within us—however we prefer to phrase it—is a larger thing than any one organization or any one set of carefully harmonized doctrines. The truth, and the organ in which we enshrine it, must grow with the human minds who are collectively producing it. The new unity is itself progress.

It must give us confidence in facing such a prospect to observe that at each remove from the first appearance of the idea of progress in the world man's use of the word has carried more meaning and, though sometimes quieter in tone, as in recent times, is better grounded in the facts of life and history. Such an advance in our conceptions took place after the Renascence. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the art and science of the ancient world had been recovered, the word and the idea of progress started on a fresh course of unexampled vigour. The lines were closer to those of the pre-Christian than of the Catholic world, but it would be by no means true to call them pagan. When Bacon and Descartes begin to sound the modern note of progress, they think primarily of an advance in the arts and sciences, but there is a spiritual and human side to their ideal which could not be really paralleled in classical thought. The Spirit of[14] Man is now invoked, and this, not in the sense of an élite, the builders of the Greek State or the rulers of the Roman Empire, but of mankind as a whole. This is Christian, or perhaps we should say, Stoical-Christian. Thus Descartes tells us that he looks to science to furnish us ultimately with an art which will make us 'masters and possessors of nature ... and this not solely for the pleasure of enjoying with ease the good things of the world, but principally for the preservation and improvement of human health which is both the foundation of all other goods and the means of strengthening the spirit itself' ('Discours de la Méthode'). It is significant that the two words Progress and Humanity come into use in their modern sense side by side. The latter is the basis and the ideal of the former.

But the new thing which had come into the world at this point, and gives a fresh impulse and content to the idea of progress, is the development of science. The Greeks had founded it and, as we shall see in a later chapter, it was the recovery of the Greek thread which gave the moderns their clue. But no one before the sixteenth century, before the marvels revealed by Galileo's telescope and knit up by Newton's synthetic genius, could have conceived the visions of human regeneration by science which light up the pioneers of the seventeenth century and are the gospel of the eighteenth.

We turn to the eighteenth century, and primarily to the school of thinkers called 'philosophes' in France, for the fullest and most enthusiastic statement of progress as a gospel. It is, of course, European, as all the greatest advances of thought have been; and German thinkers, as well as English, stand with the French in the vanguard. Kant and Herder, from different points of view, thought it out perhaps more thoroughly than any one else at that time; but the French believed in it as a nation and were willing to stake their lives and souls on the belief. Thus Turgot,[15] before the Revolution, declared that 'the total mass of the human race marches continually though sometimes slowly towards an ever-increasing perfection'. And Condorcet, in the midst of the Revolution, while himself under its ban, painted a picture 'of the human race, freed from its chains, and marching with a firm tread on the road of truth and virtue and happiness'.

Here is the gospel in its purest and simplest form, and when we are inclined to think that the crimes and the partial failure of the Revolution discredit its principles, it is well to remember that the man who believed in them most systematically, expounded his belief with perfect calmness and confidence as he lay under sentence of death from a revolutionary tribunal.

If this enthusiasm is madness, we might all well wish to be possessed. The true line of criticism is different. At the Revolution, as before at the Renascence, the leaders of the new movement could not see all their debt to the past. Like the Renascence, they idealized certain features in classical antiquity, but they had not yet gained the notion of historical continuity; above all, they did not realize the value of the religious development of the Middle Ages. It was left for the nineteenth century and for us, its successors, to attempt the supreme task of seeing things steadily and seeing them whole.

For in spite of the capital contributions of the Renascence to progress and the idea of progress, especially by its scientific constructions, it is undeniable that a bias was then given to the course of Western civilization from which it has suffered ever since, and which it is now our urgent duty to correct. Two aspects of this may be specified. The old international unity which Rome had achieved, at least superficially, in the Mediterranean world, and which the Catholic Church had extended and deepened, was broken up in favour of a system of sovereign[16] and independent states controlling religion and influencing education on lines calculated to strengthen the national forces and the national forces alone. They even believed that, at any rate in trade and commerce, the interests of these independent states were rather rival than co-operative. The Revolution struck the note of human association clearly enough, but we have not yet learnt to set all our other tunes in accord with it. Another, and perhaps even more fundamental, weakness of the Renascence tradition was the stress it laid on the material, mechanical, external side of progress. On the one hand, the spiritual side of life tended to be identified with that system of thought and discipline which had been so rudely disrupted. On the other hand, the new advance in science brought quickly after it a corresponding growth of wealth and mechanical inventions and material comforts. The spirit of man was for the time impeded and half suffocated by its own productions.

The present war seems to many of us the supreme struggle of our better nature to gain the mastery over these obstructions, and freedom for its proper growth.

Now if this analysis be anywhere near the truth, it is clear that our task for the future is one of synthesis on the lines of social progress. Knowledge, power, wealth, increase of skill, increase of health, we have them all in growing measure, and Mr. Clutton Brock will tell us in his chapter in this volume that we may be able by an exercise of will to achieve even a new renascence in art. But we certainly do not yet possess these things fairly distributed or in harmony of mind.

The connexion therefore between progress as we now envisage it, and unity, both in ourselves and in society at large, becomes apparent. At each of the previous great moments in the history of the West development has been secured by emphasis on one side of our nature[17] at the expense of the rest. Visions of mankind in common progress have flashed on individual thinkers, a Roman Emperor, a Catholic Schoolman, a Revolutionary prophet. But the thing achieved has been one-sided, and the needed correction has been given by another movement more one-sided still. The greatest hope of the present day lies in the fact that in all branches of life, in government as well as in philosophy, in science as in social reform, in religion and in international politics, men are now striving with determination to bind the threads together.

There is no necessary opposition between the rival forces which have so often led to conflict. In all our controversies harmony can be reached and has often been reached by the application of patience, knowledge, and goodwill. And goodwill implies here the readiness to submit the particular issue to the arbitration of the general good. The international question has been so fully canvassed in these days that it would be superfluous to discuss it here. The moral is obvious, and abundant cases throughout the world illustrate the truth that well-organized nationalities contain in themselves nothing contrary to the ideal of international peace.[3] Nor is the still more persistent and universal opposition of capital and labour really less amenable to reconciliation, because in this case also the two factors in the problem are equally necessary to social progress, and we shall not enter on the various practical solutions—co-operation, co-partnership, partial state-socialism, &c.—which have been proposed for a problem which no one believes to be insoluble. The conflict in our own souls between the things of matter and sense and the life of the spirit, is more closely germane to the present argument, because ultimately this has to be resolved, if not in every mind yet in the dominant[18] mind of Europe, before the more practical questions can be generally settled. Harmony here is at the root of a sound idea of progress.

When the concluding chapters of this volume are reached it will be seen how fully the recent developments both in science and philosophy corroborate the line which is here suggested for the reconciliation of conflicts and the establishment of a stronger and more coherent notion of what we may rightly pursue as progress. For both in science and still more in philosophy attention is being more and more closely concentrated on the meaning of life itself, which science approaches by way of its physical concomitants, and philosophy from the point of view of consciousness. And while science has been analysing the characteristics of a living organism, philosophy finds in our consciousness just that element of community with others which an organic conception of progress demands. The only progress of which we can be certain, the philosopher tells us, is progress in our own consciousness, which becomes constantly fuller, more knowing, and more social, as time unfolds. This, he tells us, must endure, though the storms of passion and nature may fall upon us.

On such a firm basis we would all gladly build our faith. No unity can be perfect except that which we achieve in our own souls, and no progress can be relied on except that which we can know within, and can develop from, our own consciousness and our own powers. But we cannot rest in this. We are bound to look outside our own consciousness for some objective correspondence to that progress which our own nature craves; and history supplies this evidence. It is from history that we derive the first idea and the accumulating proofs of the reality of progress. Lucretius's first sketch is really his summary of social history up to that[19] point. The Catholic thinker had a wider scope. He was able to see that the whole course of Greco-Roman civilization was, from his point of view, a preparation for the Church which had the care of the spiritual life of man while on earth. And in the next stage, that in which we now live, we see all the interests of life taken back again into the completeness of human progress, and can trace that complete being, labouring slowly but unmistakably to a higher state, outside us in the world, as well as within our own consciousness, which is ready to expand if we will give it range.

On such lines we may sketch the historical aspect of progress on which the personal is based; and it is of the utmost importance to keep the two aspects before us concurrently, because reliance on the growing fullness of the individual life to the neglect of the social evolution is likely to empty that life itself of its true content, to leave the self-centred visionary absorbed in the contemplation of some ideal perfection within himself, while the world outside him from which he ultimately derives his notions, is toiling and suffering from the want of those very elements which he is best able to supply.

The succeeding chapters of this book will, it is hoped, supply some evidence of the concrete reality of progress, as well as of the tendency to greater coherence and purity in the ideal itself. It would have been easy to accumulate evidence; some sides of life are hardly touched on at all. The collective and the intellectual sides are fully dealt with both in this and in the volume on The Unity of Western Civilization. But if we make our survey over a sufficient space, coming down especially to our own days, our conclusion as to the advance made in the physical and moral well-being of mankind, will be hardly less emphatic. Our average lives are longer and continue to lengthen, and they are unquestionably spent with far[20] less physical suffering than was generally the case at any previous period. We are bound to give full weight to this, however much we rightly deplore the deadening effect of monotonous and mechanical toil on so large a part of the population. And even for these the opportunities for a free and improving life are amazingly enlarged. We groan and chafe at what remains to be done because of the unexampled size of the modern industrial populations with which we have to deal. But we know in some points very definitely what we want, and we are now all persuaded with John Stuart Mill that the remedy is in our own hands, 'that all the great sources of human suffering are in a great degree, many of them entirely, conquerable by human care and effort.' This conviction is perhaps the greatest step of all that we have gained. In morality some pertinent and necessary questions are raised in Chap. VI, but the general progress would be doubted by very few who have had the opportunity of comparing the evidence as to any previous state of morals, say in the Middle Ages or in the Elizabethan age—the crown of the Renascence in England—with that of the present day. The capital advance in morality, which by itself would be sufficient to justify our thesis, is the increase in the consciousness and the obligation of the 'common weal', that conception of which Government, increasingly better organized, is the most striking practical realization. It has its drawback in the spread of what we feel as a debasing 'vulgarity', but the general balance is overwhelmingly on the side of good. And in all such discussions we are apt to allow far too little weight to the change which the New World, and especially the United States, has brought about. In matters of personal prosperity and a high general standard of intellectual and moral competence, what has been achieved there would outweigh a good deal of our[21] Old World defects when we come to drawing up a world's balance-sheet.

It will be seen therefore that we dismiss altogether any doctrine of an 'illusion of progress' as a necessary decoy to progressive action. Progress is a fact as well as an ideal, and the ideal, though it springs from an objective reality, will always be in advance of it. So it is with all man's activities when he comes to man's estate. In science he has always an ideal of a more perfect knowledge before him though he becomes scientific by experience. In art he is always striving to idealize fresh things, though he first becomes an artist from the pure spontaneous pleasure of expressing what is in him. The deliberate projection of the ideal into the future, seeing how far it will take us and whether we are journeying in the right direction, is a late stage. As to progress, the largest general ideal which can affect man's action, it is only recently that mankind as a whole has been brought to grips with the conception, also enlarged to the full. He was standing, somewhat bewildered, somewhat dazzled, before it, when the war, like an eclipse of the sun, came suddenly and darkened the view. But an eclipse has been found an invaluable time for studying some of the problems of the sun's nature and of light itself.

One of the most acute critics of the mid-Victorian prophets of progress, Dr. John Grote, did very well in disentangling the ideal element which is inherent in every sound doctrine of progress as a guide to conduct. He took the theory of a continuous inevitable progress in human affairs, and showed how this by itself might lead to a weakening of the will, on which alone in his view progress in the proper sense depends. He took the mechanical theory of utilitarianism and subjected it to a similar analysis. We cannot evaluate progress as an increase in a sum-total of happiness. This is[22] incapable of calculation, and if we aim directly at it, we are likely to lose the higher things on which it depends, and which are capable of being made the objects of that direct striving which is essential to progress. Dr. Grote's analysis has long since passed into current philosophical teaching, but he will always be well worth reading for his fresh and vigorous reasoning and for the way in which he builds up his own position without denying the solid contributions of those whom he criticizes. Complete truth in the matter seems to us to involve a larger share for the historical element than Dr. Grote explicitly allows. We grant fully the paramount necessity for an ideal of progress and for constantly revising, purifying, and strengthening it. But in its formation we should trace more than he does to the collective forces of mankind as expressed in history. These have given us the ideal and will carry us on towards it by a force which is greater than, and in one sense independent of, any individual will. This is the cardinal truth of sociology, and is obvious if we consider how in matters of everyday experience we are all compelled by some social force not ourselves, as for instance in actions tending to maintain the family or in a national crisis such, as the war. This general will is not, of course, independent of all the wills concerned, but it acts more or less as an outside compelling force in the case of every one. Moreover our selves are composite as well as wholes, and parts of us are active in forming the general will, parts acquiesce and parts are overborne. Thus it is clear that a general tendency to progress in the human race may be well established—as we hold it to be—and yet go on in ways capable of infinite variation and at very various speed. We are all, let us suppose, being carried onward by one mighty and irresistible stream. We may combine our strength and skill and make the best use of[23] the surrounding forces. This is working and steering to the chosen goal. Or we may rest on our oars and let the stream take us where it will. This is drifting, and we shall certainly be carried on somewhere; but we may be badly bruised or even shipwrecked in the process, and in any case we shall have contributed nothing to the advance. Some few may even waste their strength in trying to work backwards against the stream. We seem to have reached the point in history when for the first time we are really conscious of our position, and the problem is now a possible and an urgent one to mark the goal clearly and unitedly and bend our common efforts to attaining it.

If this be so, the work of synthesis may be thought to have a higher practical value for the moment than the analysis which has prevailed in European thought for the last forty or fifty years. In the earlier part of the nineteenth century the great formative ideas which had been gathering volume and enthusiasm during the revolutionary period, took shape in complete systems of religious and philosophic truth—Kant, Hegel, Spencer, Comte. They have been followed by a period of criticism which has left none of them whole, but on the other hand has produced a mass of contradictions and specialisms highly confusing and even hopeless to the public mind and veiling the more important and profound agreements which have been growing all the time beneath. There are now abundant signs of a reaction towards unity and construction of a broad and solid kind. In no respect is such a knitting up more desirable than in this idea of progress itself. Are we to say that there is no such thing as all-round continuous progress, but only progress in definite branches of thought and activity, progress in science or in particular arts, social progress, physical progress, progress in popular education and the like, but that any two or more branches[24] only coincide occasionally and by accident, and that when working at one we can and should have no thought of working at them all? This is no doubt a prevalent view and we may hope that some things said in this book may modify it. Another school of critical thinkers, approaching the question from the point of view of the ultimate object of action, asks what is the one thing for which all others are to be pursued as means? Is increase of knowledge the absolute good or increase of happiness? Or if it is increase of love, is it quite indifferent what we love? A few words on this may fitly conclude this chapter.

The task of mankind, and of every one of us so far as he is able to enter into it, is to bring together these various aspects of human excellence, to see them as parts of one ideal and labour to approach it. This approach is progress, and if you say 'progress of what, and to what end', the answer can only be, the progress of humanity, and the end further progress. Some of the writers in this book will indicate the point at which in their view this progress is in contact with the infinite, with something not given in history; but, whatever our view of the transcendental problem may be, it is of the utmost importance for all of us to realize that we have given to us in the actual process of time, in concrete history, a development of humanity, a growth from a lower to a higher state of being, which may be most perfectly realized in the individual consciousness, fully awake and fully socialized, but is also clearly traceable in the doings of the human race as a whole. Such is in fact the uniting thread of these essays, and when we proceed to the converse of this truth and apply this ideal which we have shown to be the course of realization, as a governing motive in our lives, it is even more imperative to strive constantly to keep the whole to[25]gether, and not to regard either knowledge or power or beauty or even love as an ultimate and supreme thing to which all other ends are merely means. The end is a more perfect man, developed by the perfecting of all mankind.

Such a conception embraces all the separate aspects of our nature each in its place, and each from its own angle supreme. Love and knowledge inseparable and fundamental, freedom and happiness essential conditions of healthy growth, personality developed with the development of the greater personality in which we all live and grow. This greater personality is at its highest immeasurably above us, and has no assignable limits in time or in capacity to know, to love, or to enjoy. We cannot fix its origin at any known point in the birth of planets, nor does the cooling of our sun nor of all the suns seem to put any limit in our imagination to the continuous unfolding of life like our own. While thus practically infinite, the ideal of human nature is revealed to us concretely in countless types of goodness and truth and beauty which we may know and love and imitate. To all it is open to study the lineaments of this ideal in the records and figures of the past; to most it is revealed in some fellow beings known in life. From these, the human spirits which embody the strivings, the hopes, the conquered failings of the past, we may form our better selves and build the humanity of the future.

There is a famous and magnificent passage in Dante's Purgatorio which Catholic commentators interpret in sacramental terms but we may well apply in a wider sense to the progress of the human spirit towards the ideal. It occurs at that crucial point where the ascending poet leaves the circles of sad repentance to reach the higher regions of growing light.[26]

'And when we came there, to the first step, it was of white marble, so polished that I could see myself just as I am.

'And the second was coloured dark, a rugged stone, cracked lengthwise and across. And the third piled above it was flaming porphyry, red like the blood from a vein.

'Above this one was the angel of God, sitting on the threshold, bright as a diamond.

'Up the three steps my master led me with goodwill and then he said, "Beg humbly that he unlock the door."'[4]

Like this, the path man has to tread is not an easy progress. But he is rising all the time and he rises on steps of his own past. He sees reflected in them the image of himself, and he sees too the deep faults in his nature, and the rough surface of his path through time. The last step, tinged by his own blood, gives access to a higher dwelling, firm and bright and leading higher still. But it is open only after a long ascent, and to the human spirit that has worked faithfully, with love for his comrades and leaders, and reverence for the laws which bind both the world and him.

Books for Reference

John Grote, Examination of Utilitarian Philosophy.

Kant, Principles of Politics (translated by Hastie and published by Clark) contains his smaller works on Universal History, Perpetual Peace, and the Principle of Progress. See also the Essay on Herder.

Comte's Positive Polity, vols. i. and ii, passim.



'usus et impigrae simul experientia mentis
paulatim docuit pedetemtim progredientes.'

[2] Comte, Positive Polity, ii 116.

[3] See Delisle Burns, Morality of Nations, and The Unity of Western Civilization, passim.

[4] Purgatorio, ix. 94-108.




R. R. Marett

If I am unable to deliver this lecture in person, it will be because I have to attend in Jersey to the excavation of a cave once occupied by men of the Glacial Epoch. Now these men knew how to keep a good fire burning within their primitive shelter; their skill in the chase provided them with a well-assorted larder; their fine strong teeth were such as to make short work of their meals; lastly, they were clever artisans and one may even say artists in flint and greenstone, not only having the intelligence to make an economic use of the material at their disposal, but likewise having enough sense of form to endow their implements with more than a touch of symmetry and beauty. All this we know from what they have left behind them; and the rest is silence.

And now let us imagine ourselves possessed of one of those time-machines of which Mr. H. G. Wells is the inventor. Transported by such means to the Europe of that distant past, could we undertake to beat the record of those cave-men?

Clearly, all will depend on how many of us, and how much of the apparatus of civilization, our time-machine is able to accommodate. If it were simply to drop a pair of us, naked and presumably ashamed, into the midst of the rigours of the great Ice Age, the chances surely are that the unfortunate immigrants must perish within a week. Adam could hardly manage to kindle a fire without[28] the help of matches. Eve would be no less sorely troubled to make clothes without the help of a needle. On the other hand, if the time-machine were as capacious as Noah's Ark, the venture would undoubtedly succeed, presenting no greater difficulty than, let us say, the planting of a settlement in Labrador or on the Yukon. Given numbers, specialized labour, tools, weapons, books, domesticated animals and plants, and so forth, the civilized community would do more than hold its own with the prehistoric cave-man, devoid of all such aids to life. Indeed, it is tolerably certain that, willingly or unwillingly, our colonists would soon drive the ancient type of man clean out of existence.

On the face of it, then, it would seem that we, as compared with men of Glacial times, have decidedly 'progressed'. But it is not so easy to say off-hand in what precisely such progress consists.

Are we happier? As well ask whether the wild wolf or the tame dog is the happier animal. The truth would seem to be that wolf and dog alike can be thoroughly happy each in its own way; whereas each would be as thoroughly miserable, if forced to live the life of the other. In one of his most brilliant passages Andrew Lang, after contrasting the mental condition of one of our most distant ancestors with yours or mine, by no means to our disadvantage, concludes with these words: 'And after all he was probably as happy as we are; it is not saying much.'[5]

But, if not happier, are we nobler? If I may venture to speak as a philosopher, I should reply, confidently, 'Yes.' It comes to this, that we have and enjoy more soul. On the intellectual side, we see farther afield. On the moral side, our sympathies are correspondingly wider.[29] Imaginatively, and even to no small extent practically, we are in touch with myriads of men, present and past. We participate in a world-soul; and by so doing are advanced in the scale of spiritual worth and dignity as members of the human race. Yet this common soul of mankind we know largely and even chiefly as something divided against itself. Not only do human ideals contradict each other; but the ideal in any and all of its forms is contradicted by the actual. So it is the discontent of the human world-soul that is mainly borne in upon him who shares in it most fully. A possibility of completed good may glimmer at the far end of the quest; but the quest itself is experienced as a bitter striving. Bitter though it may be, however, it is likewise ennobling. Here, then, I find the philosophic, that is, the ultimate and truest, touchstone of human progress, namely, in the capacity for that ennobling form of experience whereby we become conscious co-workers and co-helpers in an age-long, world-wide striving after the good.

But to-day I come before you, not primarily as a philosopher, but rather as an anthropologist, a student of prehistoric man. I must therefore define progress, not in the philosophic or ultimate way, but simply as may serve the strictly limited aims of my special science. As an anthropologist, I want a workable definition—one that will set me working and keep me working on promising lines. I do not ask ultimate truth of my anthropological definition. For my science deals with but a single aspect of reality; and the other aspects of the real must likewise be considered on their merits before a final account can be rendered of it.

Now anthropology is just the scientific history of man; and I suppose that there could be a history of man that did without the idea of human progress altogether. Progress means, in some sense, change for the better.[30] But, strictly, history as such deals with fact; and is not concerned with questions of better or worse—in a word, with value. Hence, it must always be somewhat arbitrary on the part of an historian to identify change in a given direction with a gain or increase in value. Nevertheless, the anthropologist may do so, if he be prepared to take the risk. He sees that human life has on the whole grown more complex. He cannot be sure that it will continue to grow more complex. Much less has he a right to lay it down for certain that it ought to grow more complex. But so long as he realizes that he is thereby committing himself by implication to a prophetic and purposive interpretation of the facts, he need not hesitate to style this growth of complexity progress so far as man is concerned. For if he is an anthropologist, he is also a man, and cannot afford to take a wholly external and impartial view of the process whereby the very growth of his science is itself explained. Anthropologists though we be, we run with the other runners in the race of life, and cannot be indifferent to the prize to be won.

Progress, then, according to the anthropologist, is defined as increase in complexity, with the tacit assumption that this somehow implies betterment, though it is left with the philosopher to justify such an assumption finally and fully. Whereas in most cases man would seem to have succeeded in the struggle for existence by growing more complex, though in some cases survival has been secured by way of simplification, anthropology concentrates its attention on the former set of cases as the more interesting and instructive even from a theoretical point of view. Let biology by all means dispense with the notion of progress, and consider man along with the other forms of life as subject to mere process. But anthropology, though in a way it is a branch of biology, has a right to a special point of view. For it employs special methods[31] involving the use of a self-knowledge that in respect to the other forms of life is inevitably wanting. Anthropology, in short, like charity, begins at home. Because we know in ourselves the will to progress, we go on to seek for evidences of progress in the history of mankind. Nor need we cease to think of progress as something to be willed, something that concerns the inner man, even though for scientific purposes we undertake to recognize it by some external sign, as, for instance, by the sign of an increasing complexity, that is, such differentiation as likewise involves greater cohesion. All history, and more especially the history of early man, must deal primarily with externals. Thence it infers the inner life; and thereby it controls the tendency known as 'the psychologist's fallacy', namely, that of reading one's own mind into that of another man without making due allowance for differences of innate capacity and of acquired outlook. In what follows, then, let us, as anthropologists, be content to judge human progress in prehistoric times primarily by its external and objective manifestations; yet let us at no point in our inquiries forget that these ancient men, some of whom are our actual ancestors, were not only flesh of our flesh, but likewise spirit of our spirit.

A rapid sketch such as this must take for granted on the part of the audience some general acquaintance with that succession of prehistoric epochs which modern research has definitely established. Pre-history, as distinguished from proto-history, may, in reference to Europe as a whole, be made coextensive with the Stone Age. This divides into the Old Stone Age and the New. The Old Stone Age, or Palaeolithic Period, yields three well-marked subdivisions, termed Early, Middle, and Late. The New Stone Age, or Neolithic Period, includes two sub-periods, the Earlier or Transitional, and the Later or[32] Typical. Thus our historical survey will fall naturally into five chapters.

There are reasons, however, why it will be more convenient to move over the whole ground twice. The material on which our judgements must be founded is not all of one kind. Anthropology is the joint work of two departments, which are known as Physical Anthropology and Cultural Anthropology respectively. The former, we may say, deals with man as an organism, the latter with him as an organizer. Here, then, are very different standpoints. For, in a broad way of speaking, nature controls man through his physical organization, whereas through his cultural organization man controls nature. From each of these standpoints in turn, then, let us inquire how far prehistoric man can be shown to have progressed. First, did the breed improve during the long course of the Stone Age in Europe? Secondly, did the arts of life advance, so that by their aid man might establish himself more firmly in his kingdom?

Did the breed improve during prehistoric times? I have said that, broadly speaking, nature controls man as regards his physical endowment. Now in theory one must admit that it might be otherwise. If Eugenics were to mature on its purely scientific side, there is no reason why the legislator of the future should not try to make a practical application of its principles; and the chances are that, of many experiments, some would prove successful. But that conscious breeding was practised in prehistoric times is out of the question. The men of those days were one and all what we are ourselves—nature's mongrels, now broken up into varieties by casual isolation, and now by no less casual intermixture recompounded in a host of relatively unstable forms. Whatever progress, therefore, may have occurred in this respect has been unconscious. Man cannot take the credit for it, except in so[33] far as it is indirectly due to that increase and spread of the race which have been promoted by his achievements in the way of culture.

The barest outline of the facts must suffice. For the Early Pleistocene, apart from the Java fossil, Pithecanthropus erectus, a veritable 'missing link', whom we may here disregard as falling altogether outside our world of Europe, there are only two individuals that can with certainty be referred to this distant period. These are the Piltdown and the Heidelberg specimens. The former consists of a fragmentary brain-case, thick-boned and narrow-fronted, but typically human in its general characters, and of the greater part of a lower jaw, which, as regards both its own elongated and curiously flanged structure, and that of the teeth it contained, including an enormous pointed canine, is conversely more appropriate to an ape-like being than to a man. The latter consists only of a lower jaw, of which the teeth, even the canines, are altogether human, whereas the jaw itself is hardly less simian than that of the Sussex skull. If we add the Java example to the list of very primitive forms, it is remarkable to note how, though differing widely from each other, all alike converge on the ape. Nevertheless, even in Pithecanthropus, the brute is passing into the man. We note the erect attitude, to be inferred from his thigh-bone, and the considerably enlarged, though even so hardly human, brain. The Piltdown individual, on the other hand, has crossed the Rubicon. He has a brain-capacity entitling him to rank as a man and an Englishman. Such a brain, too, implies a cunning hand, which doubtless helped him greatly to procure his food, even if his massive jaw enabled him to dispose of the food in question without recourse to the adventitious aids of knife and fork. For the matter of that, if our knowledge made it possible to correlate these rare finds of bones more[34] exactly with the innumerable flint implements ascribable to this period (and, indeed, not without analogies among the spoil from the Piltdown gravels), it might turn out that even the equivalent of knife and fork was not wanting to the Early Pleistocene supper-party, or, at any rate, that the human hand was already advanced from the status of labourer to the more dignified position of superintendent of the tool.

The Middle Pleistocene Epoch belongs to the men of the Neanderthal type. Some thirty specimens, a few of them more or less complete, have come down to us, and we can form a pretty clear notion of the physical appearance of the race. Speaking generally, we may say that it marks a stage of progress as compared with the Piltdown type; though, if the jaw, heavy and relatively chinless as it is, has become less simian, the protruding brow-ridge lends a monstrous look to the face, while the forehead is markedly receding—a feature which turns out, however, to be not incompatible with a weight of brain closely approaching our own average. Whether this type has disappeared altogether from the earth, or survives in certain much modified descendants, is an open question. The fact remains that during the last throes of the Glacial Epoch this rough-hewn kind of man apparently had Northern Europe as his exclusive province; and it is by no means evident what Homo Sapiens, the supposed highly superior counterpart and rival of Homo Neanderthalensis, was doing with himself in the meantime. Moreover, not only in respect of space does the population of that frozen world show remarkable homogeneity; but also in respect of time must we allow it an undisputed sway extending over thousands of years, during which the race bred true. The rate of progress, whether reckoned in physical terms or otherwise, is so slow as to be almost imperceptible. A type suffices for an age. Whereas in[35] the life-history of an individual there is rapid development during youth, and after maturity a steadying down, it is the other way about in the life-history of the race. Man, so to speak, was born old and accommodated to a jog-trot. We moderns are the juveniles, and it is left for us to go the pace.

Yet Late Pleistocene Period introduces us to more diversity in the way of human types. Only one race, however, that named after the rock-shelter of Crô-Magnon in the Dordogne, is represented by a fair number of specimens, namely, about a dozen. At this point we come suddenly and without previous warning on as pretty a kind of man as ever walked this earth. In his leading characters he is remarkably uniform. Six feet high and long-legged, he likewise possessed a head well stocked with brains and a face that, if rather broad and short, was furnished by way of compensation with a long and narrow nose. If the present world can show nothing quite like him, it at least cannot produce anything more shapely in the way of the 'human form divine'. Apart from the Crô-Magnons, the remains of an old woman and a youth found at the lowest level of the Grotte des Enfants at Mentone are usually held to belong to a distinct stock known as the Grimaldi. The physical characters of the pair are regarded as negroid, verging on the Pygmy; but if we could study an adult male of the same stock, it might possibly turn out not to be so very divergent from the Crô-Magnon. Again, a single specimen does duty for the so-called Chancelade race. The skeleton is of comparatively low stature, and is deemed to show close affinities to the type of the modern Eskimo. Without being unduly sceptical, one may once more wonder if the Crô-Magnon stock may not have produced this somewhat aberrant form. Even on such a theory, however—and it is hardly orthodox—diversity of physical structure[36] would seem to be on the increase. On the other hand, there are reasons of considerable cogency for referring to the end of this period skeletons of what Huxley termed the 'River-bed type', the peculiarity of which consists in the fact that they are more or less indistinguishable from the later Neolithic men and indeed from any of those slight-built, shortish, long-headed folk who form the majority in the crowded cities of to-day. Some authorities would ascribe a far greater antiquity to this type, but, I venture to think, on the strength of doubtful evidence. The notorious Galley Hill skeleton, for instance, found more or less intact in an Early Pleistocene bed in which the truly contemporary animals are represented by the merest battered remnants, to my mind reeks of modernity. Be these things as they may, however, when we come to Neolithic times a race of similar physical characters has Europe to itself, though it would seem to display minor variations in a way that suggests that the reign of the mongrel has at length begun. And here we may close our enumeration of the earliest known branches of our family tree, since the coming of the broad-heads pertains to the history of the Bronze Age, and hence falls outside the scope of the present survey.

Now what is the bearing of these somewhat scanty data on the question of progress? It is not easy to extract from them more than the general impression that, as time went on, the breed made persistent headway as regards both the complexity of its organization and the profusion of its forms. After all, we must not expect too much from this department of the subject. For one thing, beyond the limits of North-western Europe the record is almost blank; and yet we can scarcely hope to discover the central breeding-place of man in what is, geographically, little more than a blind alley. In the next place, Physical Anthropology, not only in respect to[37] human palaeontology, but in general, is as barren of explanations as it is fertile in detailed observations. The systematic study of heredity as it bears on the history of the human organism has hardly begun. Hence, it would not befit one who is no expert in relation to such matters to anticipate the verdict of a science that needs only public encouragement in order to come into its own. Suffice it to suggest here that nature as she presides over organic evolution, that is, the unfolding of the germinal powers, may be conceived as a kindly but slow-going and cautious liberator. One by one new powers, hitherto latent, are set free as an appropriate field of exercise is afforded them by the environment. At first divergency is rarely tolerated. A given type is extremely uniform. On the other hand, when divergency is permitted, it counts for a great deal. The wider variations occur nearest the beginning, each for a long time breeding true to itself. Later on, such uncompromising plurality gives way to a more diffused multiplicity begotten of intermixture. Mongrelization has set in. Not but what there may spring up many true-breeding varieties among the mongrels; and these, given suitable conditions, will be allowed to constitute lesser types possessed of fairly uniform characters. Such at least is in barest outline the picture presented by the known facts concerning the physical evolution of man, if one observe it from outside without attempting to explore the hidden causes of the process. Some day, when these causes are better understood, man may take a hand in the game, and become, in regard to the infinite possibilities still sleeping in the transmitted germ, a self-liberator. Nature is but a figurative expression for the chances of life, and the wise man faces no more chances than he needs must. Scientific breeding is no mere application of the multiplication table to a system of items. We must make resolutely for the[38] types that seem healthy and capable, suppressing the defectives in a no less thorough, if decidedly more considerate, way than nature has been left to do in the past. Here, then, along physical lines is one possible path of human progress, none the less real because hitherto pursued, not by the aid of eyes that can look and choose, but merely in response to painful proddings at the tail-end.

Our remaining task is to take stock of that improvement in the arts of life whereby man has come gradually to master an environment that formerly mastered him. For the Early Palaeolithic Period our evidence in respect of its variety, if not of its gross quantity, is wofully disappointing. Not to speak of man's first and rudest experiments in the utilization of stone, which are doubtless scattered about the world in goodly numbers if only we could recognize them clearly for what they are, the Chellean industry by its wide distribution leads one to suppose that mankind in those far-off days was only capable of one idea at a time—a time, too, that lasted a whole age. Yet the succeeding Acheulean style of workmanship in flint testifies to the occurrence of progress in one of its typical forms, namely, in the form of what may be termed 'intensive' progress. The other typical form I might call 'intrusive' progress, as happens when a stimulating influence is introduced from without. Now it may be that the Acheulean culture came into being as a result of contact between an immigrant stock and a previous population practising the Chellean method of stone-work. We are at present far too ill-informed to rule out such a guess. But, on the face of it, the greater refinement of the Acheulean handiwork looks as if it had been literally hammered out by steadfastly following up the Chellean pattern into its further possibilities. Explain it as we will, this evolution of the so-called[39] coup-de-poing affords almost the sole proof that the human world of that remote epoch was moving at all. If we could see their work in wood, we might discern a more diversified skill or we might not. As it is, we can but conclude in the light of our very imperfect knowledge that in mind no less than in body mankind of Early Palaeolithic times displayed a fixity of type almost amounting to that of one of the other animal species.

During Middle Palaeolithic times the Mousterian culture rules without a rival. The cave-period has begun; and, thanks to the preservation of sundry dwelling-places together with a goodly assortment of their less perishable contents, we can frame a fairly adequate notion of the home-life of Neanderthal man. I have already alluded to my excavations in Jersey, and need not enter into fuller details here. But I should like to put on record the opinion borne in upon me by such first-hand experience as I have had that cultural advance in Mousterian days was almost as portentously slow as ever it had been before. The human deposits in the Jersey cave are in some places about ten feet thick, and the fact that they fall into two strata separated by a sterile layer that appears to consist of the dust of centuries points to a very long process of accumulation. Yet though there is one kind of elephant occurring amid the bone refuse at the bottom of the bed, and another and, it would seem, later kind at the top, one and the same type of flint instrument is found at every level alike; and the only development one can detect is a certain gain in elegance as regards the Mousterian 'point', the reigning substitute for the former coup-de-poing. Once more there is intensive progress only, so far at least as most of the Jersey evidence goes. One coup-de-poing, however, and that hardly Acheulean in conception but exactly what a hand accustomed to the fashioning of the Mousterian[40] 'point' would be likely to make by way of an imitation of the once fashionable pattern, lay at lowest floor-level; as if to remind one that during periods of transition the old is likely to survive by the side of the new, and may even survive in it as a modifying element. As a matter of fact, the coup-de-poing is frequent in the earliest Mousterian sites; so that we cannot but ask ourselves how it came to be in the end superseded. Whether the Mousterians were of a different race from the Acheuleans is not known. Certain it is, on the other hand, that the industry that makes its first appearance in their train represents a labour-saving device. The Mousterian had learned how to break up his flint-nodule into flakes, which simply needed to be trimmed on one face to yield a cutting edge. The Acheulean had been content to attain this result more laboriously by pecking a pebble on both faces until what remained was sharp enough for his purpose. Here, then, we are confronted with that supreme condition of progress, the inventor's happy thought. One of those big-brained Neanderthal men, we may suppose, had genius; nature, the liberator, having released some latent power in the racial constitution. Given such a culture-hero, the common herd was capable of carrying on more or less mechanically for an aeon or so. And so it must ever be. The world had better make the most of its geniuses; for they amount to no more than perhaps a single one in a million. Anyway, Neanderthal man never produced a second genius, so far as we can tell; and that is why, perhaps, his peculiar type of brow-ridge no longer adorns the children of men.

Before we leave the Mousterians, another side of their culture deserves brief mention. Not only did they provide their dead with rude graves, but they likewise furnished them with implements and food for use in a future life.[41] Herein surely we may perceive the dawn of what I do not hesitate to term religion. A distinguished scholar and poet did indeed once ask me whether the Mousterians, when they performed these rites, did not merely show themselves unable to grasp the fact that the dead are dead. But I presume that my friend was jesting. A sympathy stronger than death, overriding its grisly terror, and converting it into the vehicle of a larger hope—that is the work of soul; and to develop soul is progress. A religious animal is no brute, but a real man with the seed of genuine progress in him. If Neanderthal man belonged to another species, as the experts mostly declare and I very humbly beg leave to doubt, we must even so allow that God made him also after his own image, brow-ridges and all.

The presence of soul in man is even more manifest when we pass on to the Late Palaeolithic peoples. They are cave-dwellers; they live by the chase; in a word, they are savages still. But they exhibit a taste and a talent for the fine arts of drawing and carving that, as it were, enlarge human existence by a new dimension. Again a fresh power has been released, and one in which many would seem to have participated; for good artists are as plentiful during this epoch as ever they were in ancient Athens or mediaeval Florence. They must have married-in somewhat closely, one would think, for this special aptitude to have blossomed forth so luxuriantly. I cannot here dwell at length on the triumphs of Aurignacian and Magdalenian artistry. Indeed, what I have seen with my own eyes on the walls of certain French caves is almost too wonderful to be described. The simplicity of the style does not in the least detract from the fullness of the charm. On the contrary, one is tempted to doubt whether the criterion of complexity applies here—whether, in fact, progress has any meaning in relation to fine [42]art—since, whether attained by simple or by complex means, beauty is always beauty, and cannot further be perfected. Shall we say, then, with Plato that beauty was revealed to man from the first in its absolute nature, so that the human soul might be encouraged to seek for the real in its complementary forms of truth and goodness, such as are less immediately manifest? For the rest, the soul of these transcendently endowed savages was in other respects more imperfectly illuminated; as may be gathered from the fact that they carved and drew partly from the love of their art, but partly also, and, perhaps, even primarily, for luck. It seems that these delineations of the animals on which they lived were intended to help them towards good hunting. Such is certainly the object of a like custom on the part of the Australian aborigines; there being this difference, however, that the art of the latter considered as art is wholly inferior. Now we know enough about the soul of the Australian native, thanks largely to the penetrating interpretations of Sir Baldwin Spencer, to greet and honour in him the potential lord of the universe, the harbinger of the scientific control of nature. It is more than half the battle to have willed the victory; and the picture-charm as a piece of moral apparatus is therefore worthy of our deepest respect. The chariot of progress, of which the will of man is the driver, is drawn by two steeds, namely, Imagination and Reason harnessed together. Of the pair, Reason is the more sluggish, though serviceable enough for the heavy work. Imagination, full of fire as it is, must always set the pace. So the soul of the Late Palaeolithic hunter, having already in imagination controlled the useful portion of the animal world, was more than half-way on the road to its domestication. But in so far as he mistook the will for the accomplished deed, he was not getting the value out of his second horse; or, to drop metaphor,[43] the scientific reason as yet lay dormant in his soul. But his dream was to come true presently.

The Neolithic Period marks the first appearance of the 'cibi-cultural' peoples. The food-seekers have become food-raisers. But the change did not come all at once. The earlier Neolithic culture is at best transitional. There may even have been one of those set-backs in culture which we are apt to ignore when we are narrating the proud tale of human advance. Europe had now finally escaped from the last ravages of an Arctic climate; but there was cruel demolition to make good, and in the meantime there would seem, as regards man, to have been little doing. Life among the kitchen-middens of Denmark was sordid; and the Azilians who pushed up from Spain as far as Scotland did not exactly step into a paradise ready-made. Somewhere, however, in the far south-east a higher culture was brewing. By steps that have not yet been accurately traced legions of herdsmen and farmer-folk overspread our world, either absorbing or driving before them the roving hunters of the older dispensation. We term this, the earliest of true civilizations, 'neolithic', as if it mattered in the least whether your stone implement be chipped or polished to an edge. The real source of increased power and prosperity lay in the domestication of food-animals and food-plants. The man certainly had genius and pluck into the bargain who first trusted himself to the back of an unbroken horse. It needed hardly less genius to discover that it is no use singing charms over the seed-bearing grass in order to make it grow, unless some of the seed is saved to be sowed in due season. Society possibly brained the inventor—such is the way of the crowd; but, as it duly pocketed the invention, we have perhaps no special cause to complain.

By way of appreciating the conditions prevailing in[44] the Later Neolithic Age, let us consider in turn the Lake-dwellers of Switzerland and the Dolmen-builders of our Western coast-lands. I was privileged to assist, on the shore of the Lake of Neuchâtel, in the excavation of a site where one Neolithic village of pile-dwellings had evidently been destroyed by fire, and at some later date, just falling within the Stone Age, had been replaced by another. Here we had lighted on a crucial instance of the march of cultural progress. The very piles testified to it, those of the older settlement being ill-assorted and slight, whereas the later structure was regularly built and heavily timbered. It was clear, too, that the first set of inhabitants had lived narrow lives. All their worldly goods were derived from strictly local sources. On the other hand, their successors wore shells from the Mediterranean and amber beads from the Baltic among their numerous decorations; while for their flint they actually went as far afield as Grand Pressigny in West-Central France, the mines of which provided the butter-like nodules that represented the ne plus ultra of Neolithic luxury. Commerce must have been decidedly flourishing in those days. No longer was it a case of the so-called 'silent trade', which the furtive savage prosecutes with fear and trembling, placing, let us say, a lump of venison on a rock in the stream dividing his haunts from those of his dangerous neighbours, and stealing back later on to see if the red ochre for which he pines has been deposited in return on the primitive counter. The Neolithic trader, on the other side, must have pushed the science of barter to the uttermost limits short of the invention of a circulating medium, if indeed some crude form of currency was not already in vogue.

When we turn to the Dolmen-builders, and contemplate their hoary sanctuaries, we are back among the problems raised by the philosophic conception of progress as an[45] advance in soul-power. Is any religion better than none? Does it make for soul-power to be preoccupied with the cult of the dead? Does the imagination, which in alliance with the scientific reason achieves such conquests over nature, give way at times to morbid aberration, causing the chill and foggy loom of an after-life to obscure the honest face of the day? I can only say for myself that the deepening of the human consciousnesses due to the effort to close with the mystery of evil and death, and to extort therefrom a message of hope and comfort, seems to me to have been worth the achievement at almost any cost of crimes and follies perpetrated by the way. I do not think that progress in religion is progress towards its ultimate abolition. Rather, religion, if regarded in the light of its earlier history, must be treated as the parent source of all the more spiritual activities of man; and on these his material activities must depend. Else the machine will surely grind the man to death; and his body will finally stop the wheels that his soul originally set in motion.

The panorama is over. It has not been easy, at the rate of about a millennium to a minute, to present a coherent account of the prehistoric record, which at best is like a jig-saw puzzle that has lost most of the pieces needed to reconstitute the design. But, even on this hasty showing, it looks as if the progressive nature of man were beyond question. There is manifest gain in complexity of organization, both physical and cultural; and only less manifest, in the sense that the inwardness of the process cannot make appeal to the eye, is the corresponding gain in realized power of soul. In short, the men of the Stone Age assuredly bore their full share in the work of race-improvement; and the only point on which there may seem to be doubt is whether we of the age of metal are as ready and able to bear our share. But let[46] us be optimistic about ourselves. As long as we do not allow our material achievements to blind us to the need of an education that keeps the spiritual well to the fore, then progress is assured so far as it depends on culture.

Yet if we could likewise breed for spirituality, humanity's chances, I believe, would be bettered by as much again or more. But how is this to be done? Science must somehow find out. To leave it to nature is treason to the mind. Man may be an ass on the whole, but nature is even more of an ass, especially when it stands for human nature minus its saving grace of imaginative, will-directed intelligence. So let us hope that one day people will marry intelligently, and that the best marriages will be the richest in offspring. I believe that the spiritual is not born of the sickly; and at any rate should be prepared to make trial of such a working principle in my New Republic.

So much for the practical corollaries suggested by our flying visit to Prehistoric Europe. But, even if any detailed lessons to be drawn from such fragmentary facts have to be received with caution, you need not hesitate to pursue this branch of study for its own sake as part of the general training of the mind. Accustom yourselves to a long perspective. Cultivate the eagle's faculty of spacious vision. It is only thus that one can get the values right—see right and wrong, truth and error, beauty and ugliness in their broad and cumulative effects. Analytic studies, as they are termed, involving the exploration of the meaning of received ideas, must come first in any scheme of genuine education. We must learn to affirm before we can go on to learn how to criticize. But historical studies are a necessary sequel. Other people's received ideas turn out in the light of history to have sometimes worked well, and sometimes not so well; and we are thereupon led to revise our own opinions[47] accordingly. Now the history of man has hitherto stood almost exclusively for the history of European civilization. Being so limited, it loses most of its value as an instrument of criticism. For how can a single phase of culture criticize itself? How can it step out of the scales and assess its own weight? Anthropology, however, will never acquiesce in this parochial view of the province of history. History worthy of the name must deal with man universal. So I would have you all become anthropologists. Let your survey of human progress be age-long and world-wide. You come of a large family and an ancient one. Learn to be proud of it, and then you will seek likewise to be worthy of it.

Books for Reference

W. J. Sollas, Ancient Hunters and their Modern Representatives, 2nd edition, 1915.

E. A. Parkyn, Introduction to the study of Prehistoric Art.

R. R. Marett, Anthropology (Home University Library).

J. L. Myres, Dawn of History (Home University).


[5] Presidential Address to the International Folk-Lore Congress, 1891, p. 9.




F. Melian Stawell

To speak the truth about national characteristics it is often necessary to speak in paradoxes, for of all unities on earth nothing contains so many contradictions as a nation. So it is here: it may be said quite truly that the Greeks had at once the most profound conceptions about Progress and no faith in it: that they were at once the most hopeful and the most despairing of peoples. Let me try to explain. When we speak of a faith in Progress, whatever else we mean, we must mean, I take it, that there is a real advance in human welfare throughout time from the Past to the Future, that 'the best is yet to be', and that the good wine is kept to the last. But if we are to have a philosophy underlying that faith we must be able to say something more. What, in the first place, do we mean by 'a real advance'? Or by 'human welfare'? Progress, yes, but progress towards what? What is the standard? And if we cannot indicate a standard, what right have we to say that one life is any better than another? The life of the scientific man any better than the life of the South Sea Islander—content if only he has enough bananas to eat? Or than the life of a triumphant conqueror, a Zenghis Khan or a Tamberlaine—exultant if he has enough human heads before him? Or, indeed, any of these rather than the blank of Nirvana or the life of a vegetable?

Our first need, then, is the need of a standard for[49] good over and above the conflicting opinions of men, and some idea as to what that standard implies.

And the next question is, why we should hold that any of this good is going to be realized in human life at all? If it is, there must be some connexion of cause and effect between goodness and human existence. What is the nature of that connexion? Finally, why should we hope that this goodness is realized more and more fully as time goes on?

The Greeks faced these questions, as they faced so many, with extraordinary daring and penetration and with an intimate mixture of sadness and hope.

They themselves, of all nations known to us in history, had made the greatest progress in the shortest space of time. A long course of preparation, it is true, underlay that marvellous growth. The classical Greeks,—and when I speak of Hellenism I mean the flower of classical Greek culture,—the classical Greeks entered into the labours of the island peoples, who, whether kindred to them or not, had built up from neolithic times a great civilization, the major part of which they could, and did, assimilate. They found the soil already worked. None the less it is to their own original genius that we owe those great discoveries of the spirit which, to quote a recent writer, 'created a new world of science and art, established an ideal of the sane mind in the sane body and the perfect man in the perfect society, cut out a new line of progress between anarchy and despotism, and made moral ends supreme over national in the State.'[6]

But these practical achievements of theirs have been already summed up by Professor J. A. Smith in his lecture[7] at this school last year, and it is to that lecture that I would refer you. I will take it as a basis and proceed[50] for my own purposes to discuss the Greek conceptions about progress. Those conceptions were complex, and, speaking roughly, we may say this: if belief in real progress implies belief in three things, namely, (1) an absolute standard apprehended, however dimly, by man, (2) a causal connexion between existence and perfection, and (3) a persistent advance through time, then the Greeks held to the first two and doubted, or even denied, the third. Their two great thinkers, Plato and Aristotle, worked out systems based on the conviction that there really was an absolute standard of perfection, that man could really apprehend something of this perfection, and that the effort towards it was essential to the very existence of the world, part of the stuff, as it were, that made the universe. These systems have had an effect not to be exaggerated on the whole movement of thought since their day. Moreover, many of their fundamental conceptions are being revived in modern science and metaphysics. And the convictions that underlie them are calculated, one would say, to lead at once to a buoyant faith in progress. But with Plato, and Aristotle, and the Greeks generally, they did not so lead. The Greeks could not feel sure that this effort towards perfection, though it is part of existence, is strong enough to deliver man in this world from the web of evil in which also he is involved, nor even that he makes any approach on the whole towards the loosening of the toils. The spectre of world-destruction, as Whitman says of Carlyle, was always before them. And I wish to ask later on if we may not surmise definite reasons in their own history for this recurring note of discouragement. But let us first look at the positive side, and first in Plato. Plato came to his system by several lines of thought, and to understand it we ought to take account of all.


1. In the first place no thinker, I suppose, ever felt more keenly than he felt the desire for an absolute standard of truth, especially in matters of right and wrong, if only to decide between the disputes of men. And, in Greece men disputed so boldly and so incessantly that there was no possibility of forgetting the clash of opinion in any 'dogmatic slumber'. Thus Plato is always asking, like Robert Browning in 'Rabbi Ben Ezra',—

Now, who shall arbitrate?
Ten men love what I hate,
Shun what I follow, slight what I receive;
Ten who in ears and eyes
Match me: we all surmise,
They this thing, and I that; whom shall my soul believe?

In one of his very earliest dialogues, the 'Euthyphro', Plato puts the question almost in so many words. What is it, he asks (7 a-e), that men quarrel over most passionately when they dispute? Is it not over the great questions of justice and injustice, of beauty, goodness, and the like? They do not quarrel thus over a question of physical size, simply because they can settle such a dispute by reference to an unquestioned standard, a standard measure, let us say.

If there is no corresponding standard for right and wrong, if each man is really the judge and the measure for himself, then there is no sense, Plato feels, in claiming that one man is wiser than another in conduct, or indeed any man wiser than a dog-faced baboon (Theaet. 161 c-e).

2. Again, Plato feels most poignantly the inadequacy of all the goodness and beauty we have ever actually seen in this world of space and time, compared with the ideal we have of them in their perfection. How can we have this sense of deficiency, he asks, unless somehow we apprehend something supreme, over and above all the approaches to it that have as yet appeared? (Phaedo, 74 e).[52]

This vision of an absolute perfection, as yet unrealized on earth, so dominates all his thinking, and has such peculiar features of its own, that even familiar quotations must be quoted here. You will find an exquisite translation of a typical passage in our Poet Laureate's Anthology, The Spirit of Man (No. 37). Specially to be noted here is the stress on the unchanging character of this eternal perfection and the suggestion that it cannot be fully realized in the world. At the same time, Plato is equally sure that it is only through the study of this world that our apprehension of that perfection is awakened at all:—

'He who has thus been instructed in the science of Love, and has been led to see beautiful things in their due order and rank, when he comes toward the end of his discipline, will suddenly catch sight of a wondrous thing, beautiful with the absolute Beauty ... he will see a Beauty eternal, not growing or decaying, not waxing or waning, nor will it be fair here and foul there ... as if fair to some and foul to others ... but Beauty absolute, separate, simple, and everlasting; which lending of its virtue to all beautiful things that we see born to decay, itself suffers neither increase nor diminution, nor any other change' (Symp. 211).

All beautiful things remind man, Plato tells us in his mythological fashion, of this perfect Beauty, because we had seen it once before in another life, before our souls were born into this world, 'that blissful sight and spectacle' (Phaedrus, 250 b) when we followed Zeus in his winged car and all the company of the gods, and went out into the realm beyond the sky, a realm 'of which no mortal poet has ever sung or ever will sing worthily'.

3. But, beside this passion for the ideal, Plato was intensely interested in our knowledge of the actual world of appearances around us. And one of the prime questions with which he was then concerned was the question, what we mean when we talk about the nature or character[53] of the things we see, a plant, say, or an animal, or a man. We must mean something definite, otherwise we could not recognize, for example, that a plant is a plant through all its varieties and all the different stages of its growth. Plato's answer was, that in all natural things there is a definite principle that copies, as it were, a definite Type or Form, and this Type he calls an Idea. Thus in some sense it is this Type, this Idea, this Form, that brings the particular thing into being.

4. But it was not enough for Plato to say that every natural thing had in some sense a certain type for its basis, unless he could believe that this type was good, and that all the types were harmonious with each other. He could only be satisfied with the world, in short, if he could feel that it came about through a movement towards perfection. He makes his Socrates say that in asking about 'the causes of things, what it is that makes each thing come into being', it was not enough for him if he could only see that the thing was there because something had put it there: he also wanted to see that it was good for it to be there. Socrates tells us that what he needed he thought he had found in a book by Anaxagoras, which announced 'that Mind was the disposer and cause of all' because, 'I said to myself, If this be so—if Mind is the orderer, it will have all in order, and put every single thing in the place that is best for it'.[8]

It is the same feeling as that which underlies the words of Genesis about the Creation, 'And God saw that it was good'. And there is no doubt that such a view of the world would be supremely satisfying if we could count it true. There may be considerable intellectual satisfaction, no doubt, in merely solving a puzzle as to how things come about, but it is as nothing compared to the joy there would be in contemplating their goodness.


5. But is it true? Can we possibly say so in view of the hideous imperfection round us? The writers of Genesis spoke of a Fall. Plato, in his own way, speaks of a Fall himself. He never gives up the belief in an Absolute Perfection, a system of Perfect Types somehow—he does not say exactly how—influencing the structure of things in this world. But he holds that on earth this perfection is always thwarted by a medium which prevents its full manifestation. This medium is the medium of Space and Time, and therefore the medium of history—and therefore history is always and inevitably a record of failure. 'While we are in the body,' Plato writes, 'and while the soul is contaminated with its evils, our desire will never be thoroughly satisfied.'[9] 'The body is a tomb,' he writes elsewhere, quoting a current phrase.

This is sad enough: yet if we put against it Plato's vision of what Man might be, we get as inspiring words as ever were written:

'We have spoken of Man', he says at the end of the Republic, 'as he appears to us now, but now he looks as Glaucus looked after he had been cast into the sea, and his original nature was scarcely to be discerned, for his limbs were broken and crushed and defaced by the waters, and strange things had grown round him, shells and seaweed and stones, so that he was more like a beast than a man. That is how the soul looks to us now encompassed by all her evils. It is elsewhere, my friend, that we ought to look.' Where? asks Plato's friend, and Plato answers, 'We should look to her love of wisdom and realize what she clings to, what company she desires, for she is akin to the Divine and Immortal and Eternal, and we should understand what she would become if she followed after it, with all her strength, and were lifted by that effort[55] out of the sea where she now lies.... Then we should understand her real nature.' (Republic, 611.)

Somewhere, Plato believes, this true nature of man may be realized. The Principle of Good is something active, not a dead helpless thing, with no effect on the rest of the universe (Sophist, 248, 249); it is a living power, which desires that everything everywhere should be as glorious as possible (Tim. 29 d). There is no envy, Plato says, in the Divine, that grudging spirit has no part in the heavenly company. Only it is not on earth that the glory can be realized. It is towards the life after death that Plato's real hopes are directed.

None the less, and this is important, this world does not cease to be significant for him. He does not turn aside,—as some souls, intoxicated with the Divine, have done,—from this world altogether.

Because he holds that man can only advance by struggling to make this world better. Man's ordinary life may be like the life in a cave, as he says in his famous myth, but the true philosopher who has once risen out of the cave must go back into it again and teach the prisoners there what the universe really is (Republic, Book vi, fin.; vii, init.). The very passage that I quoted about man's real nature comes at the end of the Republic. Now the Republic is a Utopia, and no one writes a Utopia unless he believes that the effort to reach it is of prime importance to man and helps him to advance.

Only, for Plato, the advance is not marked in the successive stages of history, as the modern faith in progress asserts. The life on earth, for Plato, is like a school through which men pass and in which they may learn and grow, but the school itself does not go on growing. It is not that he does not envisage change in history, but what he seems to hope for at the best is nothing more hopeful than recurring cycles of better and worse. He tells a fable,[56] in his dialogue 'The Statesman', of how at one time the world is set spinning in the right direction by God and then all goes well, and again how God ceases to control it, and then it gradually forgets the divine teaching and slips from good to bad and from bad to worse, until at last God takes pity on it once more to save it from utter destruction (Polit. 269 ff.). No doubt in this idea of cycles Plato is influenced by the popular thought of his time: this feeling that there had been a lost Golden Age in the past was deeply rooted in Greek mythology. We get it long before Plato, in Hesiod, and there are similar touches in Homer, and once men believe that they have sunk from glory, there is always the dread that if ever they recover it they will lose it again. And with Plato this dread is reinforced by his sense of something incurable in the world, the thwarting influence of spatial and temporal matter (Theaet. 176 a).

It is strange that, though he is always thinking of the individual soul as learning through experience in its passage from one life to another, Plato does not seem to have the idea of mankind learning by the lessons of history, of knowledge being handed down from one age to another, and growing in the process. That is one of the most inspiring ideas in modern thought: a German writer has spoken of history as the long Odyssey of the human spirit, the common mind of Man coming at last through its wanderings to find out what it really wants, and where its true home lies.

And here, significantly enough, we find we are brought back in our modern way to something very like Plato's own conception of an eternal unchanging Reality. There are endless problems in the whole conception of the Eternal that I am quite unable even to attempt; but this much at least seems clear to me, that the whole idea of mankind learning by the experience of History, implies[57] something of permanent value running through that experience. The very thought of continued progress implies that man can look back at the successive stages of the Past and say of each: In that lay values which I, to-day and always, can recognize as good, although I believe we have more good now. Seeley speaks in a noble passage of how religion might conceive a progressive revelation which was, in a sense, the same through all its stages, and yet was a growing thing:—'each new revelation asserts its own superiority to those which went before,' but the superiority is 'not of one thing to another thing—but of the developed thing to the undeveloped'. 'It is thus', he writes, 'that the ages should behave to one another.' This is the true 'understanding and concert with time'.[10] And though Plato does not live in the thought of historic progress, yet such a conception of progress which recognizes at different stages different expressions, more or less adequate, of one eternal value, such a way of thinking is entirely Platonic. When we look back at history in this mood we think not only of grasping the right principles for the Future, but of rejoicing in the definite achievements of the Past, and we feel this most poignantly, I think, of the achievements won by the spirit of Beauty. Great works of Art we are accustomed actually to call immortal, and we mean by this not merely that we think they will always be famous, but that there is something in them that makes it impossible for them ever to be superseded. In themselves they are inexhaustible: if they cease to interest us, it is our fault and not theirs. We may want more, we do want more, where they came from, but we never want to lose them, any more than we could bear to lose our old friends, though we may desire to make new ones. Of all the divine Ideas, said Plato, Beauty is the one that shows itself most plainly[58] in the world of sense and speaks to us most plainly of the eternal realities.

This, however, is perhaps trenching on the subject of Progress in Art, and I should like to return to the general Greek conception of the tendency in all nature towards the Good, the perfect realization of perfect types.

Plato does not expressly insist that this tendency is of the nature of effort, though I think that is involved in his view. But Aristotle does. Following Plato in essentials, he makes bold to say outright that every natural thing in its own way longs for the divine and desires to share in the divine life, so far as it can.[11] Every such thing in this world of space and time has to cope with difficulties and is imperfect, but everything struggles towards the good. That good is in the life of God, a thinking life, an activity of thought, existing in some sense beyond this imperfect world; and this life is so supremely desirable that it makes everything else struggle to reach it. It moves the whole world, Aristotle says, in a famous passage, because it is loved. It is the world's desire.[12]

Now this idea of effort—or of something analogous to effort—constituting the inner nature of every natural thing reappears, with pregnant consequences, in modern thought, though seldom with these vast theological consequences. The idea of an upward effort through nature lies at the base of our most hopeful theories of evolution, and forms the true support of our modern faith in progress. Broadly speaking, our evolutionists are now divided into two schools: the adherents of the one believe that variations are purely accidental, and may occur in any direction whatsoever, the useful ones being preserved only because they happen to be useful for the life of the species, while the adherents of the [59]other—the school that I would call the school of hope—believe that accident, even with natural selection to aid it, is utterly inadequate to account for the ordered beauty and harmony that we do see in natural things. They admit, as Plato and Aristotle admit, imperfection and difficulty in the world, but they insist on a movement towards value: in short, they conceive an order emerging that is brought about, to quote a modern writer, both in nature and in society, by 'a principle of movement and progress conflicting with a principle of inertia.'[13]

Aristotle, in words that are strikingly modern, raises the very question at issue here.[14] He asks whether we can suppose that nature does not aim at the good at all, but that variations arise by chance and are preserved just because they are useful, and he scouts the idea that chance could do more, as Zeller says, than 'bring about isolated and abnormal results'. He chooses instead the conception of purpose and effort, and this in spite of the difficulties in conceiving a purpose and an effort that are not definitely conscious. The sort of thing that is in Aristotle's mind when he speaks of nature aiming at the good, comes out in a passage by Edward Carpenter in his little book The Art of Creation. Carpenter plunges boldly and compares the principle that makes a tree grow and propagate its kind with the impulse that makes a man express himself. Man, he says,

has a Will and Purpose, a Character, which, do what you will, tends to push outwards towards expression. You put George Fox in prison, you flog and persecute him, but the moment he has a chance he goes and preaches just the same as before.... But take a Tree and you notice exactly the same thing. A dominant Idea informs the life of the Tree; persisting, it forms the tree. You may snip the leaves as much as you like to a certain pattern, but they will only grow in their own shape. Finally, you[60] may cut the tree down root and branch and burn it, but, if there is left a single seed, within that seed ... lurks the formative ideal, which under proper conditions will again spring into life and expression.[15]

Aristotle would have endorsed almost every word of this. In his pithy way, speaking of the distinction between natural and artificial objects, he says himself that if you planted a wooden bed and the wood could still grow, it would grow up, not a bed, but a tree.[16]

He would not have gone so far as to talk about the Will of a tree, but he would have admitted that what made the tree grow was the same sort of thing as Will. And in one respect he goes farther than Edward Carpenter does. For he considers that not only growth but even the movement of natural things through space is somehow an expression of a tendency towards the good and the divine, a tendency which, when consciousness supervenes, we can call effort, an activity, even though, at its best, only an imperfect activity. He looks up at the splendour of the circling stars and asks if it is possible that so glorious an order can be anything but a manifestation of something akin to the divine. Here indeed he is speaking of movements made by existences he reckoned among the highest in the world, for he thought the stars were living beings higher than man. But he recognized a rudimentary form of such activity even in what we now call inanimate matter. Here we come to a leading conception of Aristotle's, and one most important for our purpose: the conception of a hierarchy of natural existences, all of them with some value, less or more. When Aristotle is truest to himself, he will tell us not to be afraid of studying the meanest forms of natural existence, because in everything there is something marvellous and divine. He quotes with much satisfaction the story of Heracleitus, who[61] welcomed his friends into the bakehouse with the saying that 'there were gods in the bakehouse too'.[17]

Thus, at the lowest end of the scale, we have what we call inanimate matter, which Aristotle thinks of much as we do, namely, as something occupying space, the different parts of it being endowed with different powers of movement, and with different properties, such as warmth or coldness, wetness or dryness. A natural thing, he says, is a thing that has a principle of activity in itself, something that makes it act in a definite way, whenever it is not interfered with by anything else.[18] Aristotle speaks, for example, of fire having a natural tendency to mount up, much as we might speak of solids having a natural tendency to gravitate towards one another. Go back as far as we like, and, Aristotle thinks, we still find certain primitive differences which constitute what we call the primitive elements. This, I imagine, is much the point of view of modern science.

And these primitive elements in Aristotle's view influence each other, unite with each other, or change into each other. As a rule, however, they exhibit no new powers. But given a happy concurrence of qualities, say a certain union of heat and cold, and a new power does become manifest: the power of life. Thus, in a sense, Aristotle does envisage the spontaneous generation of life; and he knows, roughly, what he means by life. The living thing can go through far more changes than the non-living, while yet remaining recognizably the same thing. For example, it shows in itself a greater advance to richness and also a decline, it uses other things to foster this advance, and it sends out fresh things, like itself, but independent of itself: in short, it grows, decays, feeds itself, and propagates its kind.[19]


As I understand Aristotle, for him there is not an entire and absolute difference between ordinary matter and living things, and yet there is a real difference, and one not to be explained away, for there is a new manifestation of active energy. And if we consider life of more value than mere motion, then we are right in saying there is a higher energy. The quality of growth is a quality which could not be deduced from the quality of warmth or from the quality of mere movement in space, and yet all three qualities are alike in this, that they are all manifestations of an energy which is somehow inherent in things, and not merely imposed on them from without. The manifestations of life are started, in a sense, by the different movements, 'mechanical', if you like to call them so, in the rudimentary forms of matter, the elements meeting each other in space. The process of life could not have begun without such movements. But neither could it have begun if the elements, just as they appear, had been all there was. There had to be latent, that is, the possibility of a different and higher mode of action. This higher mode of action Aristotle calls a higher Form, a higher Idea. And I think it is true to him to say that he believes the lower Forms, the lower Ideas, do their most perfect work when they bring about the conditions under which the higher ones can operate. For when he speaks of that concurrence of elements that conditions life he speaks of the 'warmth and cold' as 'having mastered the matter'.[20]

In any case he conceives a whole series of higher and lower Forms, the higher coming nearer and nearer to that full and glorious activity which he conceives to be the life of God. Above the power of the thing to grow as a plant grows appears the power of sensation as it is[63] present in animals, and above that again the power, first seen in man, of living the life of thought, perceiving what is beautiful and true in the 'forms', the characters, of all the things around him, and with this that further power of setting consciously before himself what he really wants to be and to do, the power of moral action strictly so-called.

Throughout this series, in every higher stage the lower is present as a kind of basis. In the man who thinks there is active not only the power of thought, but also the power of sensation, the faculty of growth, and the physical properties of the body. It would seem that Aristotle has only to take one step, and he would be a thoroughgoing evolutionist. He has only to say that the different stages are successive in time, the lower regularly preceding the higher. But this step he hesitates to take.

He often comes very near it. He speaks of nature passing gradually from inanimate things through living things to living animals. He speaks of what is first in itself, first inherently, 'prior' in the logical sense because it is the goal and the completion of the thing, as appearing later in time. For instance, he believes that man can only find his real happiness and develop his real nature in the State, but the State appears later in time than the primitive associations of the household and the family.[21] What came earlier in history were barbarous communities such as those of the Cyclopes, where 'each man laid down the law for his wife and children and obeyed no other law'.

But Aristotle does not go on from this belief to the belief in a universal upward process throughout all history. The developed State, it is true, may always have been preceded by a lower form, but that lower form may itself have been preceded by a higher.

Aristotle, in short, is haunted, like Plato, by the idea[64] of cycles, alternations, decline and progress, progress and decline. He feels this both in the life of States and in the whole life of the world. He speaks of the same discoveries being made over and over again, an infinite number of times, in the history of civilization. And his words recall the sad passage in Plato's Laws (676) referring to the numberless nations and states, ten thousand times ten thousand, that had risen and fallen all over the world, passing from worse to better and from better to worse. Similarly Aristotle will speak of degraded animal forms, and sometimes write as though the animal world could sink back into the vegetable altogether.

Admitting, however, something like progress within the different cycles, we must ask a little more about the kind of progress which Aristotle would have desired. (I take Aristotle again as a typical Greek.) Man at his best, he clearly holds, in trying to realize his true nature should aim at a happiness which involves a harmony of all his faculties, a harmony inspired and led by the highest faculty of all, the Reason which rejoices in the contemplation of what is at once true and good and beautiful.

Now in this aim, we must ask, does a man need other men and other creatures, and in what sense does he need them? Here, I think, we come on two inconsistent tendencies in Aristotle's thought, connected with two different ways of regarding the hierarchy of existences. We say that one existence is higher than another. Does this mean that what we call the lower are only so many blundering attempts to reach the higher? That every creature, for example, which is not a thinking man is, on the whole, a mistake? Aristotle often does speak like that. Woman, he says in one passage, is only a mutilated male.[22] The principle which ought to develop into the active power of thought could not, he explains, in women[65] master the recalcitrant element which is always thwarting perfection, and thus woman is man manqué. On these lines of thought it is easy to slip into looking on all other forms of existence as merely valuable in so far as they serve the direct purposes of men, and indeed only of a few men, those namely who are able to think as philosophers. This is the kind of view according to which, as the satirist suggests, cork-trees only grow in order to make corks for champagne-bottles, and the inferior races of mankind only exist to furnish slaves for the higher. And Aristotle does, on occasion, lend himself to such a view: he justifies a slavery in which, as he says, some men are to be treated merely as living tools. And yet on his own principles every man ought to aim at realizing his own end, and not merely the ends of others.

But there is a widely different view, also present in Aristotle, and truer to the essence of his thought. It is a view instinct with that reverence for all existence of which I spoke at first, and it holds that all the different natural types, high or low, could all be united in one harmony, like an ordered army, as Aristotle himself would say, in which the divine spirit was present even as the spirit of a general is present in his men. The greatest thing in man, Aristotle thinks, is the godlike power of apprehending the different characters of all the things around him, and this of itself suggests the belief that all these characters have a value of their own, unique and indispensable, each aiming at a distinct aspect of the Divine, each, if it fulfilled its inner nature, finding, as Plato might have said, the place where it was best for it to be. Again, it is clear from Aristotle's whole treatment of the State, that when he wrote his famous phrase, 'Man is by nature a political animal', he meant that man, as we should say, is essentially social. It is part of man's goal to live with others; it is not merely a means to the goal. His highest[66] happiness lies in the contemplation of the good, and the good, Aristotle says, can be contemplated far better in others than in ourselves. This is a profound saying, and from this thought springs the deep significance of friendship in Aristotle's system. The crown of the civic life he takes to be the community of friends who recognize the good in each other, and enjoy each other through this. The wider this community, then, we must surely say, the better.

For Aristotle then, man's perfection ought to mean the perfection of every individual, and progress, so far as he conceives it, involve progress towards this end. This should lead on to belief in the supreme importance of the individual soul, and to Kant's great principle that we should always treat each man as an end in himself.

Thus, if we concentrate on the hopeful elements in Plato and Aristotle, we may fairly say, I think, that we can see outlined in their philosophies something like the following belief: every natural thing in this world, and every natural creature, so far as it is good,—and all are more or less good,—tends to express some distinct aspect of a perfect harmony: we human beings are the first on earth to be definitely conscious of such a tendency, the first to be able definitely to direct it to its true goal, and our business in life is therefore threefold: to make actual our own function in this harmony, to help other creatures to actualize theirs, and to contemplate every such manifestation, in men or in things, with reverence and rejoicing.

The harmony, if complete, would be a manifestation of a divine reality, and thus the love of God, the love of our neighbour, the love of nature, self-development, political life, scientific study, poetic contemplation, and philosophic speculation, would all unite in one comprehensive and glorious task.[67]

This, surely, is hopeful enough. But the Greek hope faltered and sank. Could this harmony ever be realized? Would not the thwarting element in the world always drag it down again and again, and drag some men down always, so that after all progress was impossible, and for some men should not even be attempted? As a matter of fact, Plato and Aristotle do limit their exhortations to a narrow circle of cultured Greeks, and even with them they doubt of success.

Now this despondency came partly, I think, through the very sensitiveness of the Hellenic nature. The spectacle of the ever-baffled struggle in Nature and Man they felt at times almost intolerable. Aristotle saw that this perpetual failure in the heart of glorious good made the very essence of tragedy. The tragic hero is the man of innate nobleness who yet has some one defect that lays him open to ruin. Man is set in a world full of difficulties, a world much of which is dark and strange to him: his action and those of others have results which he did not, and in his ignorance could not, foresee; he is not strong enough for his great task.

All the Greek poets have this deep sadness. Homer has it, in and through his intense feeling for the beauty and energy of life. There has never been such war-poetry as Homer's, and yet there has never been any which felt more poignantly the senselessness in war. 'And I must come here', Achilles says to his noble enemy at the close, 'to torture you and your children.'

In the next place, the sadness of the world could not be lightened for the Greeks by the vision that the modern theory of evolution has opened up to us of the long advance in the history of life on the planet. Even their knowledge of history in the strict sense was scanty, and it is only a long view of history that is likely to be comforting. What history they did know could bring them little[68] comfort. In the first place it showed them a series of great civilizations, rising and falling, and those that had fallen seemed at least as good as those that followed them. A Greek like Plato knew of the Homeric civilization, simpler indeed, but fresher and purer than his own. And he believed, what we now know to be the fact, that even before the Homeric there had been a wonderful island-culture, what we call the Minoan, flourishing before the Homeric. 'There had been kings before Agamemnon.'

And behind Minos and Agamemnon lay the great, and by that time the ossifying, kingdom of Egypt, compared to which the Greeks were, and felt themselves to be, but children. Plato had seen, finally, the degeneration of the Persian Empire—once so magnificent and mighty.

This fact of recurrent decay is one of the heaviest that the human spirit can shoulder. Any theory of progress must come to terms with it, for Progress through history is certainly not an uninterrupted ascent; a spiral is the better image. And the weight must lie most heavily on a generation which feels its own self to be in peril of decay. Now Plato and Aristotle lived at such a period. Greece had gone through the bitter experiences of the Peloponnesian War, and the shadow of it lay on them, as on its historian Thucydides. In that fratricidal conflict Greece tore herself to pieces. It was a struggle between the two leaders of the then civilized world, and it has a terrible likeness to the struggle that is going on now. From its devastating influence Greece never recovered. Historians still dispute, and always will, as to the exact proportion of praise and blame between the two. But Thucydides himself, a true-hearted Athenian, brings out the tyrannical side in the Athenian temper. Not indeed towards her own people, but towards all who were not of her own immediate stock. Because Athens thought herself[69] the fairest city in the world, as indeed she was, because she thought herself menaced by Sparta, and menaced she was, she allowed herself to tyrannize and lightly took up the burden of war between brethren. There are few passages in history more stately than the Funeral Oration of Pericles in which he calls Athens the School of Hellas, but even in it there is a certain deadly coldness of heart. And few things are more terrible than the coarsening of temper which Thucydides depicts as the war goes on and Pericles is succeeded by his caricature Cleon, the man who means to prosecute the war vigorously, and by vigour means ruthlessness. Nor was there ever a sterner indictment of aggression than that given in the dialogue between the spokesmen of Melos, the little island that desired to stand out of the conflict, and the Athenian representatives who were determined to force her into their policy. And after that dialogue comes, in Thucydides' great drama, the fall of Athens.

The city recovered in some measure from her fall, but only to face another disaster. If she sinned in the Peloponnesian War through the spirit of aggression, she sinned in the struggle with Macedon through slackness and cowardice. In the one struggle she lost comradeship; in the other she lost liberty. And with the loss of the two she lost buoyancy. In a deeper sense than Pericles used the phrase, 'the springtime went out of her year'. Ultimately, perhaps, we cannot explain why this should be so. Other nations have had as disheartening experiences and yet risen above them. Some of the most inspired prophecies in the Hebrew writings came after the tiny state of Judaea had been torn in pieces by the insensate conflict between North and South, and after the whole people had been swept into captivity. But whatever the ultimate reason, Athens did not recover. We must not end, however, on a note of despair. Far from it. The work of Aristotle[70] and Plato and of the Greeks generally, was cramped for lack of sympathy and lack of hope, and, strangely enough, it was after they had passed and their glory with them that sympathy grew in the world, and after sympathy grew, hope returned.

For it is exactly in those failing years, when the Hellenic gave way to the Hellenistic, that men first grasped, and grasped so firmly that it could hardly be lost again, one of the fundamental principles on which the whole fabric of our later civilization has rested, or ought to rest, the great principle of personal equality, the claim of every individual to transcendent value, irrespective of race and creed and endowment. The conquering rule of Alexander, whatever else it did, broke down the barriers of the little city-states and made men of different races feel themselves members of mankind. There rose among the Stoics the conviction that all men do belong together and are all made for each other. And with the advent of Christianity came the belief that every man, however mean and unworthy, can receive a power that will make him all he ought to be. The highest is within his reach. There is no reason now why the glorious life that Hellenism conceived for a few should not lie open to all men.

Finally, we might say, and truly, that the vast political organization built up by Rome gave us Europeans, once and for all, the vision of a united Europe.

That dream has never left it. Even to-day, here and now, in spite of our disasters, our blunders, and our crimes, let us not forget it, that dream which is 'not all a dream', the dream of once again constructing a system in which we might, all of us, all nations and all men and women, make progress together in the common task.

Books for Reference


G. L. Dickinson, The Greek View of Life.

Zeller, Aristotle and the Earlier Peripatetics.

Edited by Evelyn Abbott, Hellenica.

Bury, History of Greece.

Davies and Vaughan, Plato's Republic.

Welldon, Aristotle's Politics.

Peters, Aristotle's Ethics.

Bridges, The Spirit of Man.


[6] G. H. Perris, History of War and Peace, p. 54.

[7] 'The Unity of Western Civilization,' c. iii.

[8] The Spirit of Man, 40; Phaedo, 96.

[9] The Spirit of Man, 16; Phaedo, 66.

[10] Natural Religion, part ii, c. 5.

[11] De An. ii. 4, 415, p. 35.

[12] The Spirit of Man, 39; Aristotle, Met. 10.

[13] T. W. Rolleston, Parallel Paths.

[14] Phys. ii. 8, 198 16-34.

[15] Pp. 28-9.

[16] Phys. ii, c. i.

[17] De Part. An., Bk. i, c. 5.

[18] Phys. ii. i, init.

[19] De Anima, init.

[20] Meteor, iv. 1. 378. See Zeller's Aristotle, vol. i, fin.

[21] Polit. 1253 a; Eth. 1162 a.

[22] Gen. An. ii. 3. 737.




A. J. Carlyle

There still survives, not indeed among students of history, but among some literary persons, the notion that the civilization of the Middle Ages was fixed and unprogressive; that the conditions of these centuries were wholly different from those of the ancient world and of modern time; that there was little continuity with the ancient world, and little connexion with the characteristic aspects of progress in the modern world.

The truth is very different. It may be doubted whether at any other time, except perhaps in those two marvellous centuries of the flower of Greek civilization, there has been a more rapid development of the most important elements of civilization than in the period from the end of the tenth to the end of the thirteenth centuries. While it is true that much was lost in the ruin of the ancient world, much also survived, and there was a real continuity of civilization; indeed some of the greatest conceptions of the later centuries of the ancient world are exactly those upon which mediaeval civilization was built. And again, it was in the Middle Ages that the foundations were laid upon which the most characteristic institutions of the modern world have grown.

Indeed this notion that the civilization of the Middle Ages was fixed and unprogressive is a mere literary superstition, and its origin is to be found in the ignorance and perversity of the men of the Renaissance; and[73] hardly less, it must be added, in the foolishness of many of the conceptions of the Romantic revival.

There are, indeed, excuses for these mistakes and confusions. The Renaissance represents, among other things, a great and necessary movement of revolt against a religious and intellectual civilization which had once been living and moving, but had tended from the latter years of the thirteenth century to grow stiff and rigid. It was probably a real misfortune that the great thinkers and scholars of the thirteenth century, like Alexander of Hales and Thomas Aquinas, had embarked upon what was a premature attempt at the systematization of all knowledge; they made the same mistake as the Encyclopaedists of the eighteenth century or Herbert Spencer in the nineteenth, but with more disastrous results. For this work unhappily encouraged the mediaeval Church in its most fatal mistake, its tendency to suspect and oppose the apprehensions of new aspects of truth.

The men of the Renaissance had to break the forms under which the schoolmen had thought to express all truth, they had to carry forward the great enterprise and adventure of the discovery of truth, and they had to do this in the teeth of a violent resistance on the part of those who thought themselves the representatives of the mediaeval civilization. There are, therefore, excuses for them in their contempt for the intellectual life of the past; but there is no real excuse for them in their contempt for mediaeval art and literature. When they turned their back upon the immediate past, and endeavoured pedantically to reproduce the ancient world, they were guilty of an outrageous ignorance and stupidity, a stupidity which is expressed in that unhappy phrase of Pope, the 'Gothic night'. Happily neither the great artists of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries nor the great poets of England and Spain were much affected[74] by the classical pedantry of which unhappily Petrarch was the begetter.

It is this foolishness of the Renaissance which is the best excuse for the foolishness of the Romantic revival; the new classical movement had in such a degree interrupted the continuity of European art that it was very difficult for men in the eighteenth century to recover the past, and we must make allowance for the often ludicrous terms and forms of the new mediaevalism. Indeed it is a strange and often absurd art—the half-serious, half-parodying imitations of Thomson and Walpole and Wieland, this ludicrous caricature Gothic of Strawberry Hill and All Souls, the notion of Gothic architecture as a mass of crockets, battlements, crypts, and dungeons—and all in ruins. Indeed, the Romantic conception of the Middle Ages was often as absurd as that of the Renaissance, and if we are to get at the truth, if we are to make any serious attempt to understand the Middle Ages, we must clear our minds of two superstitions; the one, which we derive from the Renaissance, that mediaeval civilization was sterile, ignorant, and content to be ignorant; the other, which survives from the Romantic movement, that it was essentially religious, chivalrous and adventurous, that men spent their time in saying their prayers, making reverent love to their ladies, or carving the heads of the infidel.

What I should desire to do is to persuade you that the more you study the Middle Ages the more you will see that these men and women were really very much like ourselves, ignorant, no doubt, of much which is to us really or superficially important, gifted on the other hand with some qualities which for the time we seem to have in a large measure lost, but substantially very like ourselves, neither very much better nor very much worse. Let me illustrate this by considering for a moment the figure[75] which to us is typical of the Middle Ages. What was the mediaeval knight? We think of him as a courteous, chivalrous person of a romantic and adventurous temper, whose business it was to fight for his lady or in the service of religion against the infidel. In reality he was usually a small landowner, who held his land on condition of military service to some lord; the title 'knight' means in its Latin form (miles), simply a soldier, in its Germanic form a servant, and distinguishes him from the older type of landowner who held his land in absolute ownership and free of all service except of a national kind. In virtue of his holding a certain amount of land he had to present himself for military service on those occasions and for those periods for which he could be legally summoned. But even this description implies a wholly wrong emphasis, for he was not primarily a soldier, but a small landowner and cultivator, very much what we should call a squireen. He was normally much more concerned about his crops, his cattle and pigs, than about his lord's affairs and his lord's quarrels. He was ignorant, often rather brutal, and turbulent, very ready for a quarrel with his neighbour, but with no taste for national wars, and the prolonged absence from his home which they might involve, unless indeed there was a reasonable prospect of plunder. Indeed, he was a very matter-of-fact person, with very little sense of romance, and little taste for adventure unless there was something to be got out of it. We must dismiss from our minds the pretty superstitions of romance from Chaucer and Spenser to the time of the Romantic revival, and we must understand that the people of the Middle Ages were very much like ourselves; the times were rougher, more disorderly, there was much less security, but on the whole the character of human life was not very different.

What was it, then, that happened with the end of the[76] ancient world? Well, the civilization of the Roman Empire was overthrown by our barbarous ancestors, the old order, and tranquillity, and comfort disappeared, and the world fell back into discomfort and turbulence, and disorder; the roads fell into disrepair and were not mended, the drains were neglected, and the towns dwindled and shrank. We must remember, however, that this great civilization was dying out, was failing by some internal weakness, and that the barbarians only hastened the process.

Much of the achievement of Greece and Rome was lost, much both material and intellectual, but not all, and the new civilization which began rapidly to grow up on the ruins of the old was in many respects continuous with it. In order, however, that we may understand this we must remember that the form of civilization with which the Middle Ages were continuous was the Graeco-Roman civilization of the later Empire, and not the great Hellenic civilization itself. What the Middle Ages knew was primarily that which the Christian Fathers like St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great, St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nazianzus learned at their schools and universities. Some of these Fathers were educated at the great universities, like Athens, others at comparatively humble provincial institutions; some of them were men of powerful intellect, while others were more commonplace. What they learned was the general intellectual system of the late Empire, and what they learned they handed on to the Middle Ages; but it was not the great intellectual culture of Greece. We have still too strong an inclination to think of the ancient world as one and homogeneous; we have not yet sufficiently apprehended the great changes both in the form and in the temper of that world. And yet the varieties, the changes, are very diverse, the outlook, the artistic methods of the Homeric poetry are very different from the[77] emotional and intellectual modernity of Euripides. The philosophy of Plato and Aristotle is very different from that of the Stoics and Neoplatonists. In that picturesque but perhaps not very felicitous phrase which Mr. Murray has borrowed from Mr. Cornford, there was a 'failure of nerve' which separates the earlier from the later stages of the moral and intellectual culture of the ancient world. However this may be, and we shall have more to say about this presently, the civilization of the Middle Ages was made up on the one hand of elements drawn from the later Empire, and on the other of characteristics and principles which seem to have belonged to the Barbarian races themselves.

With the end of the sixth century the ancient world had passed away and the mediaeval world had begun, and we have to consider the nature and movement of the new order, or rather we have to consider some of its elements, and their development, especially during the period from the end of the tenth century to the end of the thirteenth, during which it reached its highest level. We have to pass over the great attempt of the ninth century, for we can only deal with a small part of a large subject, and we shall only deal with a few aspects of it, and chiefly with the development of the spiritual conception of life which we call religion, with the reconstruction of the political order of society, with the beginning of a new intellectual life and the pursuit of truth, and with the development under new forms of the passion for beauty.

I have been compelled to warn you against the romantic superstition that the Middle Ages were specifically religious, and yet it is quite true that the first aspect of mediaeval life which compels our attention is exactly the development of the sense of the significance of the spiritual quality of life. This was the first great task of[78] the men of the Middle Ages, and this was in a real sense their achievement; but not as contradicting the characteristic developments of the Hellenic civilization, but rather as completing and fulfilling it. It is indeed a singular superstition that the Hellenic world was lacking in spiritual insight, but I need only refer you to Miss Stawell's lecture, as serving to show you how great and how real this was. It really was not a mistake when an honest but rather stupid man like Justin Martyr, and the more acute and penetrating minds of the Alexandrian Fathers like Clement and Origen, thought that they heard the authentic accents of the 'Word' of God in the great philosophers of Greece, and especially in Plato.

The apprehension of the spiritual element in human experience was not wanting in Hellenic civilization, but it needed a further development and especially in relation to those new apprehensions of personality and individuality, whose appearance we can trace both in the post-Aristotelian philosophy, and in the later Hebrew prophets and poets, which Christianity found in the world, and to which in its conception of the human in the Divine, and the Divine in the human, it gave a new force and breath. It is easy for us to smile at what may well be the over-rhetorical phrases of Seneca when he speaks of the self-sufficingness (αυταρκεια) of the wise man, or when he says that the wise man is, but for his mortality, like God himself; and yet these rhetorical phrases are, after all, the forms of an apprehension which has changed and is changing the world. And, it must be remembered that to understand the full significance of these phrases, we must bear in mind that the men of the Graeco-Roman civilization had put aside once and for all the 'natural' distinction between the 'Greek' and the 'Barbarian', had recognized that men were equal and alike, not different and unequal, that all men were possessed of[79] reason, and all were capable of virtue,[23] or, in the Christian terms, all men are the children of God and capable of communion with Him.

It is this new apprehension of life for which the Middle Ages found a new form in the great organization of the Church, and it is this which justifies our sense of the great and permanent significance of the tremendous conflict of the Papacy and the Empire. It is true that at times some of the representatives of the Church seem to have fallen into the mistake of aiming at a tyranny of the Church over the State, which would have been in the end as disastrous to the Church itself as to the State. But the normal principle of the Church was that which was first fully stated by Pope Gelasius I in the fifth century, that the two great authorities, the spiritual and the temporal, are each divine, each draws its authority ultimately from God himself, each is supreme and independent in its own sphere, while each recognizes the authority of the other within its proper sphere.

It is, indeed, the freedom of the spiritual life which the mediaeval Church was endeavouring to defend; it was the apprehension that there was some ultimate quality in human nature which stands and must stand outside of the direct or coercive control of society, which lies behind all the confused clamour of the conflicts of Church and State.

It is true that in this great and generous effort to secure the freedom of the human soul men in some measure lost their way. They demanded and in a measure they succeeded in asserting the freedom of the religious organization, as against the temporal organization, but in doing this they went perilously near to denying the freedom of the individual spiritual experience. They went perilously near to denying it, but they never wholly[80] forgot it. The Church claimed and exercised an immense authority in religion, so immense an authority that it might easily seem as though there were no place left for the freedom of the individual judgement and conscience. And yet that was not the case. The theory of excommunication that is set out in the canonical literature of the Middle Ages has generally been carelessly studied and imperfectly understood. It was the greatest and most masterful of the Popes, Innocent III, who laid down in memorable phrases which are embodied in the great collection of the Decretals, that if a Christian man or woman is convinced in his own mind and conscience that it would be a mortal sin to do or to leave undone some action, he must follow his own conscience even against the command of the authorities of the Church, and must submit patiently to Church censures and even excommunication; for it may well happen that the Church may condemn him whom God approves, or approve him whom God condemns.[24] This is no isolated or exceptional opinion, but is the doctrine which is constantly laid down in the canonical literature.[25] It is, I think, profoundly true to say that when men at last revolted against what seemed to them the exaggerated claims of the Church, when they slowly fought their way towards toleration and religious freedom, they were only asserting and carrying out its one most vital principle, the principle of the independence or autonomy of the spiritual life; the modern world is only fulfilling the Middle Ages.

I do not continue to develop this aspect of the progress of western civilization, not because it is unimportant, for indeed it is perhaps the greatest and most significant aspect of mediaeval life, but because it is well known[81] to you, and indeed, it has generally been insisted on to such a degree as to obscure the other aspects of progress in the Middle Ages, with which we must deal.

And first I would ask you to observe that it was in these centuries that there were laid over again the foundations of the social and political order of civilization, and that there were devised those forms of the political order upon which the structure of modern society is founded.

We are familiar with the conception of the divine nature of political authority, the normal and fundamental mediaeval view of the State. If we translate this into more general terms we shall find that its meaning is that the State has an ethical or moral purpose or function; the State exists to secure and to maintain justice. You must not, indeed, confuse this great conception with that foolish perversion of it which was suggested, I think, by some characteristically reckless phrases of St. Augustine, stated in set terms by St. Gregory the Great, almost forgotten in the Middle Ages, and unhappily revived by the perversity of some Anglicans and Gallicans in the seventeenth century. This foolish perversion, which we know as the theory of the 'Divine Right of Kings', is indeed the opposite of the great Pauline and mediaeval conception of the divine nature of political authority, for to St. Paul, to the more normal Fathers like St. Ambrose, and to the political theory of the Middle Ages authority is divine just because, and only in so far as, its aim and purpose is the attainment and maintenance of justice. Indeed, it is not only the notion of the 'Divine Right' which was inconsistent with the mediaeval conception of the State, but the notion of an absolute sovereignty inherent in the State, that notion with which some eccentric or ignorant modern political theorists, ignorant of Rousseau as well as of Aristotle, have played, to the great[82] danger of society; we have, indeed, got beyond the theory of the sovereignty of the king, but we are in some danger of being hag-ridden by the imposture of the sovereignty of the majority. Whatever mistakes the people of the Middle Ages may have made, they were, with rare exceptions, clear that there was no legitimate authority which was not just, and which did not make for justice.

It is here that we find the real meaning of the second great political principle of the Middle Ages, that is the supremacy of law; that it is the law which is the supreme authority in the State, the law which is over every person in the State. When John of Salisbury, the secretary of Thomas à Becket, wishes to distinguish between the prince and the tyrant, he insists that the prince is one who rules according to law, while the tyrant is one who ignores and violates the law.[26] And in a memorable phrase, Bracton, the great English jurist of the latter part of the thirteenth century, lays it down dogmatically that the king has two superiors, God and the law.[27] There is an absurd notion still current among more ignorant persons—I have even heard some theologians fall into the mistake—that men in the Middle Ages thought of authority as something arbitrary and unintelligible, while the truth is that such a conception was wholly foreign to the temper of that time. It is quite true that the political life of the Middle Ages seems constantly to oscillate between anarchy and despotism, but this is not because the men of those days did not understand the meaning of law and of freedom, but because they were only slowly working out the organization through which these can be secured. The supreme authority in the mediaeval state was the law, and it was supreme because it was taken by them to be the embodiment of justice.


It is again out of this principle that there arose another great conception which is still often thought to be modern, but which is really mediaeval, the conception that the authority of the ruler rests upon and is conditioned by an agreement or contract between him and the people. For this agreement was not an abstract conception, but was based upon the mutual oaths of the mediaeval coronation ceremony, the oath of the king to maintain the law, and to administer justice, and the oath of the people to serve and obey the king whom they had recognized or elected. The people do, indeed, owe the king honour and loyal service, but only on the condition that he holds inviolable his oath. The ruler who breaks this is a tyrant, and for him there was no place in mediaeval political theory. This conception was expressed in very plain and even crude terms by Manegold in the eleventh century when he said that the king was in the same relation to the community as the man who is hired to keep the pigs to his master. If the swineherd fails to do his work the master turns him off and finds another. And if the king or prince refuses to fulfil the conditions on which he holds his power he must be deposed.[28] John of Salisbury in the twelfth century expressed this in even stronger terms when he said that if the prince became a tyrant and violated the laws, he had no rights, and should be removed, and if there were no other way to do it, it was lawful for any citizen to slay him.[29]

These are, no doubt, extreme forms of the mediaeval conception, but the principle that the authority of the ruler was conditioned by his faithful discharge of his obligations is the normal doctrine of the Middle Ages, is maintained by the compilers of the feudal law-books of[84] the Kingdom of Jerusalem, by the great English jurist Bracton, by St. Thomas Aquinas, and even by some of the most representative of the Roman jurists of Bologna, like Azo.

These were the fundamental principles of the conception of the nature of political authority whose development we can trace in the Middle Ages, and it is out of these conceptions that there grew the system of the control of the common affairs of the community by means of the representation of the community. For it should be more clearly understood than it is, that the representative system was the creation of the mediaeval political genius, it was these men—to whom even yet the more ignorant would deny the true political instinct—it was these men who devised that method upon which the structure of modern civilized government has been built up.

There is, however, yet another aspect of the development of political civilization which deserves our attention if we are to understand the nature of political progress in the Middle Ages. It was in these centuries that there were created the elementary forms of the administrative system of government. And indeed, there is perhaps no clearer distinction between a barbarian and a civilized government than this, that while the barbarian government hangs precariously on the life of the capable king, the civilized government is carried on continuously by an organized civil service. It would be impossible here to discuss the earlier forms of this in the organization of government by Charles the Great, or the very interesting developments of the royal or imperial chapel as the nucleus of a civil service in Germany, it is enough here to remind ourselves that it is the creation of this organized administration by Henry I and Henry II of England which laid the foundations of our national order. Enough has, I think, been said to illustrate the reality and significance[85] of the progressive reconstruction of the political order of Western society in the Middle Ages.

It may, however, be said that this may all be true, but that in all this we have after all only an example of the preoccupation of the Middle Ages with conduct and religion. I must, therefore, ask you to consider the character and development of the intellectual movement of the Middle Ages. And here, fortunately, we can find the best of guidance in Dr. Rashdall's great work on The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, and in Dr. R. L. Poole's Illustrations of Mediaeval Thought. Indeed I could wish that a little more attention was given to the history and character of the intellectual movement which the Universities represent, and perhaps a little less to reading and discussing the great scholastic works of the thirteenth century, which are almost impossible to understand except in relation to the intellectual movements of the twelfth century.

The new intellectual movement came very suddenly in the last years of the eleventh century; why it should have come then is hard to determine, but it seems reasonable to say that it represents the reawakening of the desire for knowledge which had been in abeyance during the stormy centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, when men had little leisure for anything but the constant labour to secure a little decent order and peace. For a few years, indeed, in the ninth century the genius of Charlemagne had almost restored the order of civilization, and even in those few years the human mind reasserted itself, and for a moment the learning and culture which had been preserved mainly by the Irish and their pupils in Britain, and in Central Europe, flowered and bore fruit; but with his death Western Europe plunged again into anarchy and misery, and it was only slowly that the genius of the great German emperors[86] in Central Europe, and of the Norman settlers in France and England, rebuilt the commonwealth of European civilization. By the end of the eleventh century the work was not indeed done, but was being done, and men had again a little leisure, and the desire for knowledge reawakened, but indeed it was no mere gentle desire, but a veritable passion which possessed the men of the twelfth century, and it was this spontaneous passion which produced the universities.

The first thing, indeed, which we must observe about the oldest universities of Europe, especially Bologna, Paris, and Oxford, is just this, that they were not made by any external authority, that they did not derive their being from Church or State, from pope or king, but that they were formed by the enthusiasm and passion which drew men from every quarter of Europe to sit at the feet of some man or another who could give them the knowledge which they desired, and, in their turn, to become teachers. It is quite true that as time went on, and they found that popes and kings were friendly and interested, these groups of students procured for themselves bulls and charters of recognition and protection, but while later universities may trace their foundation to these respectable patrons, the older universities recognize them indeed as benefactors and friends, but not as founders, but rather claim that they grew out of men's desire for knowledge, and that they were recognized by the general consent of the civilized world.

In the second place it is important, and especially I think in these days, to understand that the men who thus created the universities in their eagerness to learn, were of every class and condition, rich and poor, noble and simple, and they lived as they could, in comfortable quarters if they were wealthy men, or in the garrets and cellars of the citizens if they were poor, and for the most[87] part they were poor; but neither poverty nor riches could destroy their noble thirst for knowledge. The life of the universities was indeed turbulent and disorderly, the students were always at war with the citizens, and, when they were not breaking the heads of the citizens or having their heads broken by them, they were at war with each other, the men of the north with the southerners, the western with the eastern; for the universities were not local or national institutions, but were made up of a cosmopolitan crowd of men of every nation in Europe, intelligible to each other, as unhappily we are not, by the universal knowledge and use of that mediaeval Latin, which might distress the Ciceronian ears of a pedant of the Renaissance, but was a good, useful, and adaptable language. It was a turbulent, disorderly, brutal, profligate, and drunken world, for the students were as hard drinkers as the citizens, but it was animated, it was made alive by a true passion for knowledge, by an unwearied and never satisfied intellectual curiosity.

But it will be asked, what did they learn? Well, the only answer that one can give is that they learned whatever there was to learn. Our literary friends have often still the impression that in the Middle Ages men spent their whole time in learning theology, and were afraid of other forms of knowledge, but this is a singular delusion. As the universities developed a system, their studies were arranged in the main under four heads, the general studies of what came to be called the Faculty of Arts, and the professional studies of the three superior Faculties of Law, Medicine, and Theology, but the student was not normally allowed to study in the three superior Faculties until he had spent some years in the studies of the Faculty of Arts. It is therefore with this latter that we are primarily occupied. The studies in the Faculty of Arts consisted, to use our modern terminology, of literature, philosophy,[88] and science, and the accomplished mediaeval student was expected to know whatever there was to know.

And this means—what is strangely often forgotten—that the studies of the mediaeval universities were primarily based upon the literature which had survived from the ancient world. The Latin poets and orators were their models of literary art, the surviving treatises of the ancients their text-books in medicine, and the Greek philosophers in Latin translations, or in Latin works founded on them, their masters in thought. To understand the extent of the influence and the knowledge of antiquity of a twelfth-century scholar we need only turn again to John of Salisbury, and we shall find him as familiar as any Renaissance scholar with Latin literature, and possessing a very considerable acquaintance with Greek literature so far as it could be obtained through the Latin.[30] Indeed, so much is he possessed by the literature of antiquity that in works like the Policraticus he can hardly write two lines together without a quotation from some classical author. This type of literary scholarship has been too much overlooked, and, as I said before, too exclusive an attention has been given to the thirteenth-century schoolmen, who are neither from a literary nor from a philosophical point of view as representative of mediaeval scholars, and philosophically they are often really unmediaeval, for the general quality of mediaeval thought is its Platonism: the Aristotelian logic was indeed known to the Middle Ages through Bœthius, but the other Aristotelian works were not known till towards the middle of the thirteenth century.


It would be impossible here, even if I were competent, which I am not, to discuss the character of mediaeval thought, but one thing we can observe, one aspect of the intellectual method which may serve to clear away some confusion. The great intellectual master of the Middle Ages was Abelard, and the method which he elaborated in his Sic et Non is the method which imposed itself upon all aspects of mediaeval thought.

It has often been supposed that mediaeval thinkers were in such a sense the creatures of authority that it was impossible for them to exercise any independent judgement; how far this may have been true of the decadent scholasticism of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries I do not pretend to say, but such a judgement is a ludicrous caricature of the living and active thought of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and a little consideration of the critical method which Abelard developed is sufficient to correct this. This is as follows: first some general principle is enunciated for consideration, then all the authorities which may seem to support it are cited, then all the authorities against, and finally the writer delivers his own judgement, criticizing and explaining the opinions which may seem contrary to it. The method has its defects and its limitations, but its characteristic is rather that of scepticism than of credulity. And it is on this method that the most important systems of knowledge of the Middle Ages are constructed. It was applied by Gratian in his Decretum, the first great reasoned treatise on Church law, and leads there often to somewhat unexpected conclusions, such as that even the legislative authority of the Pope is limited by the consenting custom of the Christian people;[31] and it is this method upon which the great systematic treatises, like the Suma[90] Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, were constructed in the thirteenth century. Whatever its defects may be the method cannot fairly be accused of ignoring difficulties and of a submission to authority which leaves no place for the critical reason.

I have, I hope, said enough to make it clear that there was a real and living intellectual movement in the Middle Ages, and that even in those days men had resumed the great adventure of the pursuit of truth.

We can only for a moment consider the significance and the character of mediaeval civilization as it expresses itself in Art, and we must begin by noticing a distinction between mediaeval art and mediaeval learning, which is of the first importance.

The intellectual movement of the Middle Ages was related to the ancient world, both in virtue of that continuity which was mediated by the Christian Fathers, whose education was that of the later Empire, and also in virtue of the intense and eager care with which mediaeval scholars studied all that they possessed of ancient literature. The relation of the art of the Middle Ages to the ancient world was quite different. There was no continuity between the vernacular poetry of the Middle Ages and that of the ancient world, and while there was a certain continuity in architecture and in mosaic painting, this amounted to little more than that the mediaeval artists took the formal structure or method as the starting-point of their own independent and original work. For the western art of the third and fourth centuries was conventional and decadent, and had apparently lost its power of recovery, while the art of the centuries which followed was at first rude and imperfect, but was full of new life, determined in its reality and dominated by some intimate sense of beauty; it was in no sense imitative of[91] ancient art, but grew and changed under the terms of its own inherent life and power.

Mediaeval art, whatever else is to be said about it, was new and independent, and it had all the variety, the audacious experiments, characteristic of a living art. Nothing is so foolish as to imagine that it was uniform and unchanging. Indeed, from the historical point of view, the interest of the study of it is curiously contrasted with that of the art of the ancient world. There we have only an imperfect and fragmentary knowledge of the earlier and ruder form; its history, as we know it, might almost be said to begin with the perfection of the sixth and fifth centuries, and what we know after that is the history of a long decadence, not indeed without new developments of importance, as for instance in the architectural structure of Roman building, and perhaps in the sculpture of the Early Empire on one side, and in certain aspects of Latin literature on another. The history of mediaeval art is the history of the long development from what are generally rude forms to the highly developed art of the thirteenth century, a development full of incidents and experiments and variety. I have called the early form rude, but the phrase is not very happy, as those who know either the early mosaic or the early epic will understand.

There are still some people, I suppose, who think that mediaeval poetry was all of one kind, cast in one mould, but the truth is that it is of every form and character. It ranges from the bold imaginative realism of the Epic of England, Iceland, Germany, and France, to the exquisite and gracious but somewhat artificial allegory of the Romance of the Rose. It includes the first great emotional poetry of the modern world—the sense of the greatness and tragedy of human passion has perhaps never been expressed in more moving terms than in the Tristan and[92] Iseult of Thomas or Beroul—but it also includes the mordant satire of the Renard poetry and of Jean de Meun, and the gross realistic humour of the Fabliaux. The mediaeval drama, in whose complex development we have to trace many strands, probably represents in its oldest forms the coarse farcical buffoonery which may be related to the last fashions of the ancient world; it received a new impulse from the dramatization of scripture history in the twelfth century; but in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, at least in France, it had already become substantially a drama of romantic or contemporary life, as we can see in Jean Bodel's Jeu de St. Nicholas, in Adam de la Halle's Jeu de la Feuillée and Robin et Marion, and in dramas like the Empress of Rome or the Otho. Whatever criticism we might want to make on mediaeval literature, at least we cannot say that it was of one type and of one mood.

It is hardly necessary to point out the movement and changes in the other forms of art in the Middle Ages; it is only necessary to remind ourselves that, while we can see that the artists were often hampered by inadequate technical knowledge, they were not conventional or merely imitative.

It would be impossible here to consider the history of mosaic painting, and its development from the decadent Graeco-Roman work of Santa Pudenziana in Rome, to the magnificent and living decorations of St. Mark's in Venice, or of the cathedral of Monreale. It is enough to remind ourselves of the immense interval which lies between the rude but living sculpture of the ninth century, and the exquisite grace of Chester or Wells, and of that development of architecture which culminates in the majesty of Durham, and in the beauty of Chartres and Westminster Abbey.

It is doubtful if we have yet at all fully or correctly[93] appreciated the nature of mediaeval art; there has been a good deal of foolish talk about 'primitives', which usually goes with a singular ignorance of mediaeval civilization; the one thing which is already clear, and which grows clearer, is that the men of those ages had an instinct and a passion for beauty which expressed itself in almost every thing that they touched; and, whatever we have gained, we have in a large measure lost this.

The mediaeval world was then a living growing world, neither cut off from the past, nor unrelated to the future. It was a rough and turbulent world, our ancestors were dogged, quarrelsome, and self-assertive, and the first task of civilization was to produce some sort of decent order. The world was a long way off from the firm urbanity of the English policeman. And yet the men of the Middle Ages never fell into that delusion which, as it would seem, has ruined other civilizations; the great effort for order was not in their mind to be fulfilled by any mere mechanical discipline, by any system imposed from outside, the only system of order which they were prepared to accept was one which should express the character, the tradition, and finally the will of the whole community. The great phrase of Edward I's summons to Parliament, 'Quod omnes tangit, ab omnibus approbetur' (That which concerns all, must be approved by all), was not a mere tag, as some foolish people have thought, but expressed the character and the genius of a living political civilization.

And this rough turbulent world was inspired by a great breath of spiritual and intellectual and artistic life and freedom.

It might well seem as though the Church and religion were merely a new bondage, and in part that is true, but it is not the whole truth. With all its mistakes the religion[94] of the Middle Ages meant the growing apprehension of the reality of that 'love which moves the sun and other stars', it meant the growth of reverence for that which is beyond and above humanity and which is also within it. For it is the last truth of the Christian faith that we know God only under the terms of human life and nature. And with all the cruelty and brutality of the Middle Ages they taught men love as well as obedience.

Again, it was in these ages, as soon as the confusion of the outer world was a little reduced, that the passion for knowledge awoke again in men's hearts. It is true that some were afraid lest the eager inquiry of men's minds should destroy the foundations of that order which men were slowly achieving, but still the passionate pursuit of knowledge has rarely been more determined. And once again the world was rough, but these men had an instinct, a passion for beauty which expressed itself in almost everything which they touched. They had not, indeed, the almost miraculous sense and mastery of the great artists of Greece, that did not come again till the time of the great Italian artists of the fifteenth century. But they were free from pedantry, from formalism, they left the dying art of the ancient world and made their own way. Their sense of colour was almost infallible, as those who have seen the mosaics of the older Roman basilicas and of St. Mark's in Venice will know; but, indeed, we have only to look at the illuminated manuscripts which are to be found in all our libraries. And in that great art in which, above all perhaps, they expressed themselves, in their great architecture, we see the growth of a constructive genius which is only overshadowed by the superb beauty of its form.

A rough, disorderly, turbulent, greedy, cruel world, but it knew the human soul, and it knew the human heart. The ancient world had ended in a great destruction, but[95] the sadness and emptiness of its last days compel us to feel that it was well that it should end. And the new world was a world of life, of crude force and restless energy, and from it we have received the principles and the forms of a great civilization, and the temper which is never satisfied, for there is no end to life.

Books for Reference

H. W. C. Davis, Mediaeval Europe (Home University Library).

Lord Bryce, History of Roman Empire.

Rashdall, Universities of Empire in the Middle Ages.

R. L. Poole, Illustrations of Mediaeval Thought.

Gierke, Political Theories of the Middle Ages.

W. P. Ker, Epic and Romance.


[23] Cf. Cicero, De Legibus, i. 10-12; and Seneca, De Beneficiis, iii. 18.

[24] Cf. Decretals, v. 39. 44, 28.

[25] Cf. Carlyle, Mediaeval Political Theory, vol. ii. pp. 244-9.

[26] Cf. John of Salisbury, Policraticus, iv. 1.

[27] Cf. Bracton, De Legibus et Consuetudinibus, i. 8, 5.

[28] Cf. Manegold, Ad Gebehardum, c. xxx.

[29] Cf. John of Salisbury, Policraticus, iii. 15, viii. 17, 18, 20.

[30] Cf. C. C. J. Webb's edition of John of Salisbury's Policraticus, introduction.

[31] Cf. Gratian, Decretum, D. iv. c. 3.




Baron Friedrich von Hügel

The difficulties are deep and delicate which confront any man at all well acquainted with the fuller significance of Religion and of Progress, who attempts clearly and shortly to describe or define the ultimate relations between these two sets of fact and conviction. It is plain that Religion is the deeper and richer of the two terms; and that we have here, above all, to attempt to fathom the chief elements and forces of Religion as such, and then to see whether Progress is really traceable in Religion at all. And again it is clear that strongly religious souls will, as such, hold that Religion answers to, and is occasioned by, the action, within our human life and needs, of great, abiding, living non-human Realities; and yet, if such souls are at all experienced and sincere, they will also admit—as possibly the most baffling of facts—that the human individuals, families, races, are relatively rare in whom this sense and need of Religion is strongly, sensitively active. Thus the religion of most men will either all but completely wither or vanish before the invasion of other great facts and interests of human life—Economics or Politics or Ethics, or again, Science, Art, Philosophy; or it will, more frequently, become largely assimilated, in its conception, valuation, and practice, to the quite distinct, and often subtly different, conceptions, valuations, and practices pertaining to such of these other ranges and levels of human life as happen here to be[97] vigorously active. And such assimilations are, of course, effected with a particular Philosophy or Ethic, mostly some passing fashion of the day, which does not reach the deepest laws and standards even of its own domain, and which, if taken as Religion, will gravely numb and mar the power and character of such religious perception as may still remain in this particular soul.

I will, then, first attempt some discriminations in certain fundamental questions concerning the functioning of our minds, feelings, wills. I will next attempt short, vivid descriptions of the chief stages in the Jewish and Christian Religions, with a view to tracing here what may concern their progress; and will very shortly illustrate the main results attained by the corresponding main peculiarities of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Mohammedanism. And I will finally strive to elucidate and to estimate, as clearly as possible, the main facts in past and present Religion which concern the question of religious 'Progressiveness'.


I begin with insisting upon some seven discriminations which, even only forty years ago, would have appeared largely preposterous to the then fashionable philosophy.

First, then, our Knowledge is always wider and deeper than is our Science. I know my mother, I know my dog, I know my favourite rose-tree; and this, although I am quite ignorant of the anatomical differences between woman and man; of the psychological limits between dog and human being; or of the natural or artificial botanical order to which my rose-plant belongs. Any kind or degree of consciousness on my part as to these three realities is a knowledge of their content. 'Knowledge is not simply the reduction of phenomena to law and their resolution into abstract elements; since thus[98] the unknowable would be found well within the facts of experience itself, in so far as these possess a concrete character which refuses translation into abstract relations.' So Professor Aliotta urges with unanswerable truth.[32]

And next, this spontaneous awareness of other realities by myself, the reality Man, contains always, from the first, both matter and form, and sense, reason, feeling, volition, all more or less in action. Sir Henry Jones insists finely: 'The difference between the primary and elementary data of thought on the one hand, and the highest forms of systematized knowledge on the other, is no difference in kind, analogous to a mere particular and a mere universal; but it is a difference of articulation.'[33]

Thirdly, direct, unchallengeable Experience is always only experience of a particular moment; only by means of Thought, and trust in Thought, can such Experience be extended, communicated, utilized. The sceptic, to be at all effective, practises this trust as really as does his opponent. Thought, taken apart from Experience, is indeed artificial and arid; but Experience without Thought, is largely an orderless flux. Philosophers as different as the Neo-Positivist Mach and the Intuitionist Bergson, do indeed attempt to construct systems composed solely of direct Experience and pure Intuition; and, at the same time, almost ceaselessly insist upon the sheer novelty, the utter unexpectedness of all direct Experience, and the entire artificiality of the constructions of Thought—constructions which alone adulterate our perceptions of reality with the non-realities repetition, uniformity, foreseeableness. Yet the amazing success of the application of such constructions to actual Nature stares us all in the face. 'It is, indeed, strange,' if that contention be right, 'that facts behave as if they too had a turn for[99] mathematics.' Assuredly 'if thought, with its durable and coherent structure, were not the reflection of some order of stable relations in the nature of things, it would be worthless as an organ of life'.[34]

Fourthly, both Space and Time are indeed essential constituents of all our perceptions, thoughts, actions, at least in this life. Yet Time is perhaps the more real, and assuredly the richer, constituent of the two. But this rich reality applies only to Concrete or Filled Time, Duration, in which our experiences, although always more or less successive, interpenetrate each other in various degrees and ways, and are thus more or less simultaneous. An absolutely even flow of equal, mutually exclusive moments, on the contrary, exists only for our theoretical thinking, in Abstract, Empty, or Clock time. Already, in 1886, Professor James Ward wrote: 'In time, conceived as physical, there is no trace of intensity; in time, as psychically experienced, duration is primarily an intensive magnitude.'[35] And in 1889 Professor Bergson, in his Essai sur les Données Immédiates de la Conscience, gave us exquisite descriptions of time as we really experience it, of 'duration strictly speaking', which 'does not possess moments that are identical or exterior to each other'.[36] Thus all our real soul life, in proportion to its depth, moves in Partial Simultaneity; and it apprehends, requires and rests, at its deepest, in an overflowingly rich Pure Simultaneity.

Fifthly, Man is Body as well as Soul, and the two are closely interrelated. The sensible perception of objects, however humble, is always necessary for the beginning, and (in the long run) for the persistence and growth, of the more spiritual apprehensions of man. Hence Historical[100] Persons and Happenings, Institutions, affording Sensible Acts and Contacts, and Social Corporations, each different according to the different ranges and levels of life, can hardly fail to be of importance for man's full awakening—even ethical and spiritual. Professor Ernst Troeltsch, so free from natural prejudice in favour of such a Sense-and-Spirit position, has become perhaps the most adequate exponent of this great fact of life, which is ever in such danger of evaporation amidst the intellectual and leading minority of men.

Sixthly, the cultivated modern man is still largely arrested and stunted by the spell of Descartes, with his insistence upon immediate unity of outlook and perfect clearness of idea as the sole, universal tests, indeed constituents, of truth. 'I judged that I could take for my general rule that the things which we conceive very clearly and very distinctly are all true'—these and these alone.[37] Thus thenceforth Mathematics and Mechanics have generally been held to be the only full and typical sciences, and human knowledge to be co-extensive with such sciences alone. Yet Biology and Psychology now rightly claim to be sciences, each with its own special methods and tests distinct from those of Mathematics and Mechanics. Indeed, the wisest and most fruitful philosophy is now coming to see that 'Reality generally eludes our thought, when thought is reduced to mathematical formulas'.[38] Concrete thought, contrariwise, finds full room also for History, Philosophy, Religion, for each as furnishing rich subject-matters for Knowledge or Science, of a special but true kind.

Seventhly. Already Mathematics and Mechanics absolutely depend, for the success of their applications to actual Nature, upon a spontaneous correspondence[101] between the human reason and the Rationality of Nature. The immensity of this success is an unanswerable proof that this rationality is not imposed, but found there, by man. But Thought without a Thinker is an absurd proposition. Thus faith in Science is faith in God. Perhaps the most impressive declaration of this necessary connexion between Knowledge and Theism stands at the end of that great work, Christoph Sigwart's Logik. 'As soon as we raise the question as to the real right', the adequate reason, 'of our demands for a correspondence, within our several sciences, between the principles and the objects of the researches special to each, there emerges the need for the Last and Unconditional Reason. And the actual situation is not that this Reason appears only on the horizon of our finite knowledge,' as Kant would have it. 'Not in thus merely extending our knowledge lies the significance of the situation, but in the fact that this Unconditional Reason constitutes the presupposition without which no desire for Knowledge (in the proper and strict sense of the word) is truly thinkable.'[39]

And lastly, all this and more points to philosophical Agnosticism as an artificial system, and one hopelessly inadequate to the depths of human experience. Assuredly Bossuet is right: 'man knows not the whole of anything'; and mystery, in this sense, is also of the essence of all higher religion. But what man knows of anything is that thing manifested, not essentially travestied, in that same thing's appearances. We men are most assuredly realities forming part of a real world-whole of various realities; those other realities continuously affect our own reality; we cannot help thinking certain things about these other realities; and these things, when accepted and pressed home by us in action or in science, turn out, by our success in this their utilization, to be rightly[102] apprehended by us, as parts of interconnected, objective Nature. Thus our knowledge of Reality is real as far as it goes, and philosophical Agnosticism is a doctrinaire position. We can say with Herbert Spencer, in spite of his predominant Agnosticism, that 'the error' committed by philosophers intent upon demonstrating the limits and conditions of consciousness 'consists in assuming that consciousness contains nothing but limits and conditions, to the entire neglect of that which is limited and conditioned'. In reality 'there is some thing which alike forms the raw material of definite thought and remains after the definiteness, which thinking gave to it, has been destroyed'.[40]


Let us next consider five of the most ancient and extensively developed amongst the still living Religions: the Israelitish-Jewish and the Christian religions shall, as by far the best known to us and as the most fully articulated, form the great bulk of this short account; the Confucian, Buddhist, and Mohammedan religions will be taken quite briefly, only as contrasts to, or elucidations of, the characteristics found in the Jewish and Christian faiths. All this in view of the question concerning the relations between Religion and Progress.

1. We can roughly divide the Israelitish-Jewish religion into three long periods; in each the points that specially concern us will greatly vary in clearness, importance, and richness of content.

The first period, from the time of the founder Moses and the Jewish exodus out of Egypt to the appearance of the first great prophet Elijah (say 1300 b.c. to about 860 b.c.) is indeed but little known to us; yet it gives us the great historical figure of the initial lawgiver, the[103] recipient and transmitter of deep ethical and religious experiences and convictions. True, the code of King Hammurabi of Babylon (in 1958 to 1916 b.c.; or, according to others, in about 1650) anticipates many of the laws of the Book of the Covenant (Exod. xx, 22-xxiii. 33), the oldest amongst the at all lengthy bodies of laws in the Pentateuch; and, again, this covenant appears to presuppose the Jewish settlement in Canaan (say in 1250 b.c.) as an accomplished fact. And, indeed, the Law and the books of Moses generally have undoubtedly passed through a long, deep, wide, and elaborate development, of which three chief stages, all considerably subsequent to the Covenant-Book, have, by now, been established with substantial certainty and precision. The record of directly Mosaic sayings and writings is thus certainly very small. Yet it is assuredly a gross excess to deny the historical reality of Moses, as even distinguished scholars such as Edward Meyer and Bernhard Stade have done. Far wiser here is Wellhausen, who finds, in the very greatness and fixity of orientation of the development in the Law and in the figure of the Lawgiver, a conclusive proof of the rich reality and greatness of the Man of God, Moses. Yet it is Hermann Gunkel, I think, who has reached the best balanced judgement in this matter. With Gunkel we can securely hold that Moses called God Yahweh, and proclaimed Him as the national God of Israel; that Moses invoked Him as 'Yahweh is my banner'—the divine leader of the Israelites in battle (Exod. xvii. 15); and that Yahweh is for Moses a God of righteousness—of the right and the law which he, Moses, brought down from Mount Sinai and published at its foot. Fierce as may now appear to us the figure of Yahweh, thus proclaimed, yet the soul's attitude towards Him is already here, from the first, a religion of the will: an absolute trust in God ('Yahweh shall fight for you,[104] and ye shall hold your peace,' Exod. xiv. 14), and a terrible relentlessness in the execution of His commands—as when Moses orders the sons of Levi to go to and fro in the camp, slaying all who, as worshippers of the Golden Calf, had not been 'on Yahweh's side' (Exod. xxxii. 25-29); and when the chiefs, who had joined in the worship of Baal-Peor, are 'hung up unto Yahweh before the sun' (Num. xxv. 1-5). Long after Moses the Jews still believed in the real existence of the gods of the heathen; and the religion of Moses was presumably, in the first instance, 'Monolatry' (the adoration of One God among many); but already accompanied by the conviction that Yahweh was mightier than any other god—certainly Micah, 'Who is like Yahweh?,' is a very ancient Israelitish name. And if Yahweh is worshipped by Moses on a mountain (Sinai) and His law is proclaimed at a spring, if Moses perhaps himself really fashioned the brazen serpent as a sensible symbol of Yahweh, Yahweh nevertheless remains without visible representation in or on the Ark; He is never conceived as the sheer equivalent of natural forces; and all mythology is absent here—the vehement rejection of the calf-worship shows this strikingly. Michael Angelo, himself a soul of fire, understood Moses well, Gunkel thinks.[41]

The second period, from Elijah's first public appearance (about 860 b.c.) to the Dedication of the Second Temple (516 b.c.), and on to the public subscription to the Law of Moses, under Ezra (in 444 b.c.), is surpassed, in spiritual richness and importance, only by the classical times of Christianity itself. Its beginning, its middle, and its end each possess distinctive characters.

The whole opens with Elijah, 'the grandest heroic figure in all the Bible,' as it still breathes and burns in[105] the First Book of Kings. 'For Elijah there existed not, in different regions, forces possessed of equal rights and equal claims to adoration, but everywhere only one Holy Power that revealed Itself, not like Baal, in the life of Nature, but like Yahweh, in the moral demands of the Spirit' (Wellhausen).

And then (in about 750 b.c.) appears Amos, the first of the noble 'storm-birds' who herald the coming national destructions and divine survivals. 'Yahweh was for these prophets above all the god of justice, and God of Israel only in so far as Israel satisfied His demands of justice. And yet the special relation of Yahweh to Israel is still recognized as real; the ethical truth, which now stood high above Israel, had, after all, arisen within Israel and could still only be found within it.' The two oldest lengthy narrative documents of the Pentateuch—the Yahwist (J) and the Ephraemite (E)—appear to have been composed, the first in Judah in the time of Elijah, the second in Israel in the time of Amos. J gives us the immortal stories of Paradise and the Fall, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood; E, Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac; and the documents conjointly furnish the more naïve and picturesque parts of the grand accounts of the Patriarchs generally—the first great narrative stage of the Pentateuch. God here gives us some of His most exquisite self-revelations through the Israelitish peasant-soul. And Isaiah of Jerusalem, successful statesman as well as deep seer, still vividly lives for us in some thirty-six chapters of that great collection the 'Book of Isaiah' (i-xii, xv-xx, xxii-xxxix). There is his majestic vocation in about 740 b.c., described by himself, without ambiguity, as a precise, objective revelation (chap. vi); and there is the divinely impressive close of his long and great activity, when he nerves King Hezekiah to refuse the surrender of the Holy City to the all-powerful Sennacherib, King of Assyria:[106] that Yahweh would not allow a single arrow to be shot against it, and would turn back the Assyrian by the way by which he came—all which actually happens as thus predicted (chap. xxxvii).

The middle of this rich second period is filled by a great prophet-priest's figure, and a great prophetical priestly reform. Jeremiah is called in 628 b.c., and dies obscurely in Egypt in about 585 b.c.; and the Deuteronomic Law and Book is found in the Temple, and is solemnly proclaimed to, and accepted by, the people, under the leadership of the High Priest Hilkiah and King Josiah, 'the Constantine of the Jewish Church,' in 628 b.c. Jeremiah and Deuteronomy (D) are strikingly cognate in style, temper, and injunctions; and especially D contrasts remarkably in all this with the documents J and E. We thus have here the second great development of the Mosaic Law. Both Jeremiah and Deuteronomy possess a deeply interior, tenderly spiritual, kernel and a fiercely polemical husk—they both are full of the contrast between the one All-Holy God to be worshipped in the one Holy Place, Jerusalem, and the many impure heathen gods worshipped in so many places by the Jewish crowd. Thus in Jeremiah Yahweh declares: 'This shall be my covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: I will write my law in their hearts: and they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest: for I will remember their sin no more' (xxxi. 33, 34). And Yahweh exclaims: 'My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewn out cisterns that can hold no water.' 'Lift up thine eyes unto the high places ... thou hast polluted the land with thy wickedness.' 'Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me: My Father, thou art the guide of my youth?' (ii. 13, iii. 2, 4). And Deuteronomy teaches magnificently: 'This commandment which I command you this day, is[107] not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say: Who shall go up for us to heaven or over the sea, and bring it unto us? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it' (xxx. 11-14). And there are here exquisite injunctions—to bring back stray cattle to their owners; to spare the sitting bird, where eggs or fledglings are found; to leave over, at the harvest, some of the grain, olives, grapes, for the stranger, the orphan, the widow; and not to muzzle the ox when treading out the corn (xxii. 1, 6, 7; xxiv. 19; xxv. 4). Yet the same Deuteronomy ordains: 'If thine own brother, son, daughter, wife, or bosom friend entice thee secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods, thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death.' Also 'There shall not be found with thee any consulter with a familiar spirit ... or a necromancer. Yahweh thy God doth drive them out before thee.' And, finally, amongst the laws of war, 'of the cities of these people (Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, Jebusite) thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth, as Yahweh thy God hath commanded thee' (xii. 2-5; xiii. 6, 9; xviii. 10-13; xx. 16, 17). Here we must remember that the immorality of these Canaanitish tribes and cults was of the grossest, indeed largely unnatural, kind; that it had copiously proved its terrible fascination for their kinsmen, the Jews; that these ancient Easterns, e.g. the Assyrians, were ruthlessly cruel at the storming of enemy cities; and especially that the morality and spirituality, thus saved for humanity from out of a putrid flood, was (in very deed) immensely precious. One point here is particularly far-sighted—the severe watchfulness against all animism, spiritualism, worship of the dead, things in which the environing world of the Jews' fellow Semites was steeped. The Israelitish-Jewish prophetic[108] movement did not first attain belief in a Future Life, and then, through this, belief in God; but the belief in God, strongly hostile to all those spiritualisms, only very slowly, and not until the danger of any infusion of those naturalisms had become remote, led on the Jews to a realization of the soul's survival with a consciousness at least equal to its earthly aliveness. The Second Book of Kings (chaps. xxii, xxiii) gives a graphic account of King Josiah's rigorous execution of the Deuteronomic law.

The end of this most full second period is marked by the now rapid predominance of a largely technical priestly legislation and a corresponding conception of past history; by the inception of the Synagogue and the religion of the Book; but also by writings the most profound of any in the Old Testament, all presumably occasioned by the probing experiences of the Exile. In 597 and 586 b.c. Jerusalem is destroyed and the majority of the Jews are taken captives to Babylon; and in between (in 593) occurs the vocation of the prophet-priest Ezekiel, and his book is practically complete by 573 b.c. Here the prophecies as to the restoration are strangely detailed and schematic—already somewhat like the apocalyptic writers. Yet Ezekiel reveals to us deathless truths—the responsibility of the individual soul for its good and its evil, and God Himself as the Good Shepherd of the lost and the sick (xviii. 20-32; xxxiv. 1-6); he gives us the grand pictures of the resurrection unto life of the dead bones of Israel (chap. xxxvii), and of the waters of healing and of life which flow forth, ever deeper and wider, from beneath the Temple, and by their sweetness transform all sour waters and arid lands that they touch (xlvii. 1-12). A spirit and doctrine closely akin to those of Ezekiel produced the third, last, and most extensive development of the Pentateuchal legislation and doctrinal history—in about 560 b.c., the Law of Holiness (Lev., chaps. xvii[109]-xxvi); and in about 500 b.c., the Priestly Code. As with Ezekiel's look forward, so here with these Priests' look backward, we have to recognize much schematic precision of dates, genealogies, and explanations instinct with technical interests. The unity of sanctuary and the removal from the feasts and the worship of all traces of naturalism, which in Jeremiah, Deuteronomy, and the Second Book of Kings appear still as the subject-matters of intensest effort and conflict, are here assumed as operative even back to patriarchal times. Yet it can reasonably be pleaded that the life-work of Moses truly involved all this development; and even that Monotheism (at least, for the times and peoples here concerned) required some such rules as are assumed by P throughout.

And P gives us the great six days' Creation Story with its splendid sense of rational order pervasive of the Universe, the work of the all-reasonable God—its single parts good, its totality very good; and man and woman springing together from the Creator's will. But the writer nowhere indicates that he means long periods by the 'days'; each creation appears as effected in an instant, and these instants as separated from each other by but twenty-four hours.

In between Deuteronomy and the Priestly Code, or a little later still, lies probably the composition of three religious works full, respectively, of exultant thanksgiving, of the noblest insight into the fruitfulness of suffering, and of the deepest questionings issuing in childlike trust in God. For an anonymous writer composes (say, in 550 b.c.) the great bulk of the magnificent chapters forty to fifty-five of our Book of Isaiah—a paean of spiritual exultation over the Jews' proximate deliverance from exile by the Persian King Cyrus. In 538 b.c. Cyrus issues the edict for the restoration to Judaea, and in 516 the Second Temple is dedicated. Within this[110] great Consolation stand (xlii. 1-4; xlix. 1-6; l. 4-9; lii. 13-liii. 12) the four poems on the Suffering Servant of Yahweh—the tenderest revelation of the Old Testament—apparently written previously in the Exile, say in 570-560 b.c. The Old Law here reaches to the very feet of the New Law—to the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world. And the Book of Job, in its chief constituents (chaps. i-xxxi, xxxviii-xlii), was probably composed when Greek influences began—say in about 480 b.c., the year of the battle of Thermopylae. The canonization of this daringly speculative book indicates finely how sensitive even the deepest faith and holiness can remain to the apparently unjust distribution of man's earthly lot.

Our second period ends in 444 b.c., when the priest and scribe Ezra solemnly proclaims, and receives the public subscription to, the Book of the Law of Moses—the Priestly Code, brought by him from Babylon.

The Jewish last period, from Ezra's Proclamation 444 b.c. to the completion of the Fourth Book of Ezra, about a.d. 95, is (upon the whole) derivative. Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah were absorbed in the realities of their own epoch-making times, and of God's universal governance of the world past and future; Daniel now, with practically all the other Apocalyptic writers in his train, is absorbed in those earlier prophecies, and in ingenious speculations and precise computations as to the how and the when of the world's ending. The Exile had given rise to the Synagogue, and had favoured the final development and codifying of the Mosaic law; the seventy years intermission of the Temple sacrifices and symbolic acts had turned the worship, which had been so largely visible, dramatic, social, into the praying, singing, reading, preaching of extant texts, taken as direct and final rules for all thought and action, and as incapable of additions[111] or interpretations equal in value to themselves. Yet thus priceless treasures of spiritual truth and light were handed down to times again aglow with great—the greatest religious gifts and growths; and indeed this literature itself introduced various conceptions or images destined to form a largely fitting, and in the circumstances attractive, garment for the profound further realities brought by Christianity.

In the Book of Daniel (written somewhere between 163 and 165 b.c.) all earthly events appear as already inscribed in the heavenly books (vii. 10), and the events which have still really to come consist in the complete and speedy triumph of the Church-State Israel against King Antiochus Epiphanes. But here we get the earliest clear proclamation of a heightened life beyond death—though not yet for all (xii. 2). The noble vision of the four great beasts that came up from the sea, and of one like unto a Son of Man that came with the clouds of heaven (chap. vii), doubtless here figures the earthly kingdoms, Babel, Media, Persia, Greece (Alexander), and God's kingdom Israel. The Psalter appears to have been closed as late as 140 b.c.; some Psalms doubtless date back to 701—a few perhaps to David himself, about 1000 b.c. The comminatory Psalms, even if spoken as by representatives of God's Church and people, we cannot now echo within our own spiritual life; any heightened consciousness after death is frequently denied (e.g. vi. 5: 'in the grave who shall give thee thanks?' and cxv. 17: 'the dead praise not the Lord')—we have seen the impressive reason of this; and perhaps a quarter of the Psalms are doubles, or pale imitations of others. But, for the rest, the Psalter remains as magnificently fresh and powerful as ever: culminating in the glorious self-commitment (Ps. lxxiii), 'I was as a beast before Thee. Nevertheless I am continually with Thee. Whom have[112] I in heaven but Thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.' The keen sense, present throughout this amazingly rich collection, of the reality, prevenience, presence, protection—of the central importance for man, of God, the All-Abiding, finds thus its full, deathless articulation.

Religiously slighter, yet interesting as a preparation for Christian theology, are the writings of Philo, a devout, Greek-trained Jew of Alexandria, who in a.d. 40 appeared before the Emperor Caligula in Rome. Philo does not feel his daringly allegorical sublimations as any departures from the devoutest Biblical faith. Thus 'God never ceases from action; as to burn is special to fire, so is action to God'—this in spite of God's rest on the seventh day (Gen. ii. 2). 'There exist two kinds of men: the heavenly man and the earthly man.'[42] The long Life of Moses[43] represents him as the King, Lawgiver, High Priest, Prophet, Mediator. The Word, the Logos (which here everywhere hovers near, but never reaches, personality) is 'the firstborn son of God', 'the image of God'[44]; its types are 'the Rock', the Manna, the High Priest's Coat; it is 'the Wine Pourer and Master of the Drinking Feast of God'.[45] The majority of the Jews, who did not accept Jesus as the Christ, soon felt they had no need for so much allegory, and dropped it, with advantage upon the whole, to the Jewish faith. But already St. Paul and the Fourth Gospel find here noble mental raiment for the great new facts revealed by Jesus Christ.

2. The Christian Religion we will take, as to our points, at four stages of its development—Synoptic, Johannine, Augustinian, Thomistic.

The Synoptic material here specially concerned we[113] shall find especially in Mark i. 1 to xv. 47; but also in Matt. iii. 1 to xxvii. 56, and in Luke iii. 1 to xxiii. 56. Within the material thus marked off, there is no greater or lesser authenticity conferred by treble, or double, or only single attestation; for this material springs from two original sources—a collection primarily of doings and sufferings, which our Mark incorporates with some expansions; and a collection primarily of discourses, utilized especially by Matthew and Luke in addition to the original Mark. Both these sources contain the records of eyewitnesses, probably Saints Peter and Matthew.

The chronological order and the special occasions of the growths in our Lord's self-manifestation, or in the self-consciousness of His human soul, are most carefully given by Mark and next by Luke. Matthew largely ignores the stages and occasions of both these growths, and assumes, as fully explicit from the beginning of the Ministry, what was manifested only later on or at the last; and he already introduces ecclesiastical and Christological terms and discriminations which, however really implicit as to their substance in Jesus's teaching, or inevitable (as to their particular form) for the maintenance and propagation of Christianity in the near future, are nevertheless still absent from the accounts of Mark and Luke.

The chief rules for the understanding of the specific character of our Lord's revelation appear to be the following. The life and teaching must be taken entire; and, within this entirety, each stage must be apprehended in its own special peculiarities. The thirty years in the home, the school, the synagogue, the workshop at Nazareth, form a profoundly important constituent of His life and teaching—impressively contrasted, as they are, with the probably not full year of the Public Ministry, even though we are almost completely bereft of all details for those years of silent preparation.[114]

The Public Ministry, again, consists of two strongly contrasted stages, divided by the great scene of Jesus with the Apostles alone at Caesarea Philippi (Mark viii. 27-33; Luke ix. 18-22; Matt. xvi. 13-23). The stage before is predominantly expansive, hopeful, peacefully growing; the stage after, is concentrated, sad, in conflict, and in storm. To the first stage belong the plant parables, full of exquisite sympathy with the unfolding of natural beauty and of slow fruitfulness; to the second stage belong the parables of keen watchfulness and of the proximate, sudden second coming. Both movements are essential to the physiognomy of our Lord. And they are not simply differences in self-manifestation; they represent a growth, a relatively new element, in His human soul's experience and outlook.

The central doctrine in the teaching is throughout the Kingdom of God. But in the first stage this central doctrine appears as especially upheld by Jesus's fundamental experience—the Fatherhood of God. In the second stage the central doctrine appears as especially coloured by Jesus's other great experience—of Himself as the Son of Man. In the earlier stage the Kingdom is presented more in the spirit of the ancient prophets, as predominantly ethical, as already come in its beginnings, and as subject to laws analogous to those obtaining in the natural world. In the second stage the coming of the Kingdom is presented more with the form of the apocalyptic writers, in a purely religious, intensely transcendent, and dualistic outlook—especially this also in the Parables of Immediate Expectation—as not present but future (Matt. xix. 28); not distant but imminent (Matt. xvi. 28; xxiv. 33; xxvi. 64); not gradual but sudden (Matt. xxiv. 27, 39, 43); not at all achieved by man but purely given by God (so still in Rev. xxi. 10).

To the earlier stage belongs the great Rejoicing of Jesus[115] (Matt. xi. 25-30; Luke x. 21, 22). The splendid opening, 'I thank Thee, Father—for so it hath seemed good in Thy sight', and the exquisite close, special to Matthew, 'Come unto Me—and my burthen is light', raise no grave difficulty. But the intermediate majestic declaration, 'All things are delivered unto Me by the Father—neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him', causes critical perplexities.

I take this declaration to be modelled upon actual words of Jesus, which genuinely implied rather than clearly proclaimed a unique relation between the Father and Himself. Numerous other words and acts involve such a relation and Jesus's full consciousness of it. His first public act, His baptism, is clearly described by Mark as a personal experience, 'He saw the heavens opened' and heard a heavenly voice 'Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased' (i. 10, 11). Already in the first stage Jesus declares the Baptist to be 'more than a prophet' (Matt. xi. 9), yet claims superiority over him and over Solomon (xi. 11; xii. 42). His doctrine is new wine requiring new bottles (Mark ii. 22); indeed His whole attitude towards the law is that of a superior, who most really exhorts all, 'Learn of Me'. And soon after Caesarea Philippi He insists to the people: 'Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me in this generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of the Father' (Mark viii. 38). The most numerous cures, physical, psychical, moral, certainly performed by Him, appear as the spontaneous effect of a unique degree and kind of spiritual authority; and the sinlessness attributed to Him throughout by the apostolic community (2 Cor. v. 21; Heb. iv. 15; John viii. 46; 1 John ii. 29) entirely corresponds to the absence, in the records of Him, of all traits indicating troubles of conscience and[116] the corresponding fear of God. And this His unique Sonship is conjoined, in the earliest picture of Him, with an endless variety and combination of all the joys, admirations, affections, disappointments, desolations, temptations possible to such a stainless human soul and will. We thus find here a comprehensiveness unlike the attitude of the Baptist or St. Paul, and like, although far exceeding, the joy in nature and the peace in suffering of St. Francis of Assisi.

The Second Stage opens with the great scene at Caesarea Philippi and its sequel (given with specially marked successiveness in Mark viii. 27-x. 45), when, for the first time in a manner beyond all dispute, Mark represents Jesus as adopting the designation 'the Son of Man' in a Messianic and eschatological sense. For our Lord here promptly corrects Peter's conception of 'Messiah' by repeated insistence upon 'the Son of Man'—His glory yet also His sufferings. Thus Jesus adopts the term of Daniel vii. 13 (which already the Apocalypse of Enoch had understood of a personal Messiah) as a succinct description of His specific vocation—its heavenly origin and difference from all earthly Messianism; its combination of the depths of human weakness, dereliction, sufferings with the highest elevation in joy, power and glory; and its connexion of that pain with this triumph as strictly interrelated—only with and through the Cross, was there here the offer and acceptance of the Crown.

As to the Passion and Death, and the Risen Life, four points appear to be central and secured. Neither the Old Testament nor Jewish Theology really knew of a Suffering Messiah. Jesus Himself clearly perceived, accepted, and carried out this profound new revelation. This suffering and death were conceived by Him as the final act and crown of His service—so in Mark x. 44, 45[117] and Luke xxii. 24-7. (All this remains previous to, and independent of, St. Paul's elaborated doctrine as to the strictly vicarious and juridical character of the whole.) And the Risen Life is an objectively real, profoundly operative life—the visions of the Risen One were effects of the truly living Jesus, the Christ.

The Second Christian Stage, the Johannine writings, are fully understandable only as posterior to St. Paul—the most enthusiastic and influential, indeed, of all our Lord's early disciples, but a convert, from the activity of a strict persecuting Pharisee, not to the earthly Jesus, of soul and body, whom he never knew, but to the heavenly Spirit-Christ, whom he had so suddenly experienced. Saul, the man of violent passions and acute interior conflicts, thus abruptly changed in a substantially pneumatic manner, is henceforth absorbed, not in the past Jewish Messiah, but in the present universal Christ; not in the Kingdom of God, but in Pneuma, the Spirit. Christ, the second Adam, is here a life-giving Spirit, an element that surrounds and penetrates the human spirit; we are baptized, dipped, into Christ, Spirit; we can drink Christ, the Spirit. And this Christ-Spirit effects and maintains the universal brotherhood of mankind, and articulates in particular posts and functions the several human spirits, as variously necessary members of the one Christian society and Church.

Now the Johannine Gospel indeed utilizes considerable Synoptic materials, and does not, as St. Paul, restrict itself to the Passion and Resurrection. Yet it gives us, substantially, the Spirit-Christ, the Heavenly Man; and the growth, prayer, temptation, appeal for sympathy, dereliction, agony, which, in the Synoptists, are still so real for the human soul of Jesus Himself, appear here as sheer condescensions, in time and space, of Him who, as all things good, descends from the Eternal Above, so[118] that we men here below may ascend thither with Him. On the other hand, the Church and the Sacraments, still predominantly implicit in the Synoptists, and the subjects of costly conflict and organization in the Pauline writings, here underlie, as already fully operative facts, practically the entire profound work. The great dialogue with Nicodemus concerns Baptism; the great discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum, the Holy Eucharist—in both cases, the strict need of these Sacraments. And from the side of the dead Jesus flow blood and water, as those two great Sacraments flow from the everliving Christ; whilst at the Cross's foot He leaves His seamless coat, symbol of the Church's indivisible unity. The Universalism of this Gospel is not merely apparent: 'God so loved the world' (iii. 16), 'the Saviour of the world' (iv. 42)—this glorious teaching is traceable in many a passage. Yet Christ here condemns the Jews—in the Synoptists only the Pharisees; He is from above, they are from below; all those that came before Him were thieves and robbers; He will not pray for the world—'ye shall die in your sins' (xvii. 9; viii. 24); and the commandment, designated here by Jesus as His own and as new, to 'love one another', is for and within the community to which He gives His 'example' (xv. 12; xiii. 34)—in contrast with the great double commandment of love proclaimed by Him, in the Synoptists, as already formulated in the Mosaic Law (Mark xii. 28-34), and as directly applicable to every fellow-man—indeed, a schismatic Samaritan is given as the pattern of such perfect love (Luke x. 25-37).

Deuteronomy gained its full articulation in conflict with Canaanite impurity; the Johannine writings take shape during the earlier battles of the long war with Gnosticism—the most terrible foe ever, so far, encountered by the Catholic Church, and conquered by her in open[119] and fair fight. Also these writings lay much stress upon Knowing and the Truth: 'this is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent' (xvii. 3); symbolism and mysticism prevail very largely; and, in so far as they are not absorbed in an Eternal Present, the reception of truth and experience is not limited to Christ's earthly sojourn—'the Father will give you another Helper, the spirit of truth who will abide with you forever' (xiv. 16). Yet here the knowing and the truth are also deeply ethical and social: 'he who doeth the truth cometh to the light' (iii. 21); and Christ has a fold, and other sheep not of this fold—them also He must bring, there will be one fold, one Shepherd; indeed, ministerial gradations exist in this one Church (so in xiii. 5-10; xx. 3-8; xxi. 7-19). And the Mysticism here is but an emotional intuitive apprehension of the great historical figure of Jesus, and of the most specifically religious of all facts—of the already overflowing operative existence, previous to all our action, of God, the Prevenient Love. 'Not we loved God (first), but He (first) loved us,' 'let us love Him, because He first loved us,' 'no man can come to Me, unless the Father draw him'—a drawing which awakens a hunger and thirst for Christ and God (1 John iv. 10, 19; John vi. 44; iv. 14; vi. 35).

The Third Stage we can find in St. Augustine, who, born a North African Roman (a.d. 354) and a convert from an impure life and Manichaeism, with its spatially extended God (a.d. 386), wrote his Confessions in 397, lived to experience the capture and sack of Rome by Alaric the Goth, 410, composed his great work, The City of God, amidst the clear dissolution of a mighty past and the dim presage of a problematical future, and died at Hippo, his episcopal city, in 430, whilst the Vandals were besieging it. St. Augustine is more largely a convert and a rigorist even than St. Paul when St. Paul is most incisive. But[120] here he shall testify only to the natures of Eternity and of real time, a matter in which he remains unequalled in the delicate vividness and balance of his psychological analysis and religious perception. 'Thou, O God, precedest all past times by the height of Thine ever-present Eternity; and Thou exceedest all future times, since they are future, and, once they have come, will be past times. All thy years abide together, because they abide; but these our years will all be, only when they all will have ceased to be. Thy years are but One Day—not every day, but To-Day. This Thy To-Day is Eternity'.[46] The human soul, even in this life, has moments of a vivid apprehension of Eternity, as in the great scene of Augustine and Monica at the window in Ostia.[47] And this our sense of Eternity, Beatitude, God, proceeds at bottom from Himself, immediately present in our lives; the succession, duration of man is sustained by the Simultaneity, the Eternity of God: 'this day of ours does pass within Thee, since all these things' of our deeper experience 'have no means of passing unless, somehow, Thou dost contain them all'. 'Behold, Thou wast within, and I was without ... Thou wast with me, but I was not with Thee.' 'Is not the blessed life precisely that life which all men desire? Even those who only hope to be blessed would not, unless they in some manner already possessed the blessed life, desire to be blessed, as, in reality, it is most certain that they desire to be.'[48] Especially satisfactory is the insistence upon the futility of the question as to what God was doing in Time before He created. Time is only a quality inherent in all creatures; it never existed of itself.[49]

And our fourth, last Christian Stage shall be represented by St. Thomas Aquinas (a.d. 1225-74), in the one[121] great question where this Norman-Italian Friar Noble, a soul apparently so largely derivative and abstractive, is more complete and balanced, and penetrates to the specific genius of Christianity more deeply, than Saints Paul and Augustine with all their greater directness and intensity. We saw how the deepest originality of our Lord's teaching and temper consisted in His non-rigoristic earnestness, in His non-Gnostic detachment from things temporal and spatial. The absorbing expectation of the Second Coming, indeed the old, largely effete Graeco-Roman world, had first to go, the great Germanic migrations had to be fully completed, the first Crusades had to pass, before—some twelve centuries after Nazareth and Calvary—Christianity attained in Aquinas a systematic and promptly authoritative expression of this its root-peculiarity and power. No one has put the point better than Professor E. Troeltsch: 'The decisive point here is the conception, peculiar to the Middle Ages, of what is Christian as Supernatural, or rather the full elaboration of the consequences involved in the conception of the Supernatural. The Supernatural is now recognized not only in the great complicated miracle of man's redemption from out of the world corrupted by original sin. But the Supernatural now unfolds itself as an autonomous principle of a logical, religious and ethical kind. The creature, even the perfect creature, is only Natural—is possessed of only natural laws and ends; God alone is Supernatural. Hence the essence of Christian Supernaturalism consists in the elevation of the creature, above this creature's co-natural limitations, to God's own Supernature'. The distinction is no longer, as in the Ancient Church, between two kinds (respectively perfect and relative) of the one sole Natural Law; the distinction here is between Natural Law in general and Supernature generally. 'The Decalogue, in strictness,[122] is not yet the Christian Ethic. "Biblical" now means revealed, but not necessarily Christian; for the Bible represents, according to Aquinas, a process of development which moves through universal history and possesses various stages. The Decalogue is indeed present in the legislation of Christ, but as a stage preliminary to the specifically Christian Ethic. The formula, on the contrary, for the specifically Christian Moral Law is here the Augustinian definition of the love of God as the highest and absolute, the entirely simple, Moral end—an end which contains the demand of the love of God in the stricter sense (self-sanctification, self-denial, contemplation) and the demand of the love of our neighbour (the active relating of all to God, the active interrelating of all in God, and the most penetrating, mutual self-sacrifice for God). This Ethic, a mystical interpretation of the Evangelical Preaching, forms indeed a strong contrast to the This-World Ethic of the Natural Law, Aristotle, the Decalogue and Natural Prosperity; but then this cannot fail to be the case, given the entire fundamental character of the Christian Ethic'.[50]

Thus the widest and most primitive contrasts here are, not Sin and Redemption (though these, of course, remain) but Nature (however good in its kind) and Supernature. The State becomes the complex of that essentially good thing, Nature; the Church the complex of that different, higher good, Supernature; roughly speaking, where the State leaves off, the Church begins.

It lasted not long, before the Canonists and certain ruling Churchmen helped to break up, in the consciousness of men at large, this noble perception of the two-step ladder from God to man and from man to God. And the Protestant Reformers, as a whole, went even beyond[123] Saints Paul and Augustine in exclusive preoccupation with Sin and Redemption. Henceforth the single-step character of man's call now more than ever predominates. The Protestant Reformation, like the French Revolution, marks the existence of grave abuses, the need of large reforms, and, especially on this point, the all but inevitable excessiveness of man once he is aroused to such 'reforming' action. Certainly, to this hour, Protestantism as such has produced, within and for religion specifically, nothing that can seriously compare, in massive, balanced completeness, with the work of the short-lived golden Middle Ages of Aquinas and Dante. Hence, for our precise present purpose, we can conclude our Jewish and Christian survey here.

3. Only a few words about Confucianism, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, as these, in some of their main outlines, illustrate the points especially brought out by the Jewish Christian development.

Confucianism admittedly consists, at least as we have it, in a greatly complicated system of the direct worship of Nature (Sun, Moon, Stars especially) and of Ancestors, and of a finely simple system of ethical rules for man's ordinary social intercourse. That Nature-worship closely resembles what the Deuteronomic reform fought so fiercely in Israel; and the immemorial antiquity and still vigorous life of such a worship in China indicates impressively how little such Nature-worship tends, of itself, to its own supersession by a definite Theism. And the Ethical Rules, and their very large observance, illustrate well how real can be the existence, and the goodness in its own kind, of Natural, This-World morality, even where it stands all but entirely unpenetrated or supplemented by any clear and strong supernatural attraction or conviction.

Buddhism, in its original form, consisted neither in[124] the Wheel of Reincarnation alone, nor in Nirvana alone, but precisely in the combination of the two; for that ceaseless flux of reincarnation was there felt with such horror, that the Nirvana—the condition in which that flux is abolished—was hailed as a blessed release. The judgement as to the facts—that all human experience is of sheer, boundless change—was doubtless excessive; but the value-judgement—that if life be such pure shiftingness, then the cessation of life is the one end for man to work and pray for—was assuredly the authentic cry of the human soul when fully normal and awake. This position thus strikingly confirms the whole Jewish and Christian persistent search for permanence in change—for a Simultaneity, the support of our succession.

And Mohammedanism, both in its striking achievements and in its marked limitations, indeed also in the presentations of it by its own spokesmen, appears as a religion primarily not of a special pervasive spirit and of large, variously applicable maxims, but as one of precise, entirely immutable rules. Thus we find here something not all unlike, but mostly still more rigid than, the post-Exilic Jewish religion—something doubtless useful for certain times and races, but which could not expand and adapt itself to indefinite varieties of growths and peoples without losing that interior unity and self-identity so essential to all living and powerful religion.


Let us now attempt, in a somewhat loose and elastic order, a short allocation and estimate of the facts in past and present religion which mainly concern the question of Religion and Progress.

We West Europeans have apparently again reached the fruitful stage when man is not simply alive to this[125] or that physical or psychic need, nor even to the practical interest and advantage of this or that Art, Science, Sociology, Politics, Ethics; but when he awakens further to the question as to why and how these several activities, all so costly where at all effectual, can deserve all this sacrifice—can be based in anything sufficiently abiding and objective. The history of all the past efforts, and indeed all really adequate richness of immediate outlook, combine, I think, to answer that only the experience and the conviction of an Objective Reality distinct from, and more than, man, or indeed than the whole of the world apprehended by man as less than, or as equal to, man himself, can furnish sufficiently deep and tenacious roots for our sense and need of an objective supreme Beauty, Truth, and Goodness—of a living Reality already overflowing that which, in lesser degrees and ways, we small realities cannot altogether cease from desiring to become. It is Religion which, from first to last, but with increasing purity and power, brings with it this evidence and conviction. Its sense of the Objective, Full Reality of God, and its need of Adoration are quite essential to Religion, although considerable systems, which are largely satisfactory in the more immediate questions raised by Aesthetics and even by Ethics, and which are sincerely anxious to do justice also to the religious sense, are fully at work to explain away these essential characteristics of all wideawake Religion. Paul Natorp, the distinguished Plato-scholar in Germany, the short-lived pathetically eloquent M. Guyau in France, and, above all, Benedetto Croce, the large encyclopaedic mind in Italy, have influenced or led much of this movement, which, in questions of Religion, has assuredly not reached the deepest and most tenacious teachings of life.

The intimations as to this deepest Reality certainly arise within my own mind, emotion, will; and these my[126] faculties cannot, upon the whole, be constrained by my fellow mortals; indeed, as men grow more manysidedly awake, all attempts at any such constraint only arrest or deflect the growth of these intimations. Yet the dispositions necessary for the sufficient apprehension of these religious intimations—sincerity, conscientiousness, docility—are not, even collectively, already Religion, any more than they are Science or Philosophy. With these dispositions on our part, objective facts and living Reality can reach us—and, even so, these facts reach us practically always, at first, through human teachers already experienced in these things. The need of such facts and such persons to teach them are, in the first years of every man, and for long ages in the history of mankind, far more pressing than any question of toleration. Even vigorous persecution or keen exclusiveness of feeling have—pace Lord Acton—saved for mankind, at certain crises of its difficult development, convictions of priceless worth—as in the Deuteronomic Reform and the Johannine Writings. In proportion as men become more manysidedly awake, they acquire at least the capacity for greater sensitiveness concerning the laws and forces intrinsic to the various ranges and levels of life; and, where such sensitiveness is really at work, it can advantageously replace, by means of the spontaneous acceptance of such objective realities, the constraints of past ages—constraints which now, in any case, have become directly mischievous for such minds. None the less will men, after this change as before, require the corporate experience and manifestation of religion as, in varying degrees and ways, a permanent necessity for the vigorous life of religion. Indeed, such corporate tradition operates strongly even where men's spiritual sense seems most individual, or where, with the retention of some ethical nobility of outlook, they most[127] keenly combat all and every religious institution. So with George Fox's doctrine of the Divine Enlightenment of every soul separately and without mediation of any kind, a doctrine derived by him from that highly ecclesiastical document, the Gospel of St. John; and with many a Jacobin's fierce proclamation of the rights of Man, never far away from reminiscences of St. Paul.

This permanent necessity of Religious Institutions is primarily a need for men to teach and exemplify, not simply Natural, This-World Morality, but a Supernatural, Other-World Ethic; and not simply that abstraction, Religion in General or a Religious Hypothesis, but that rich concretion, this or that Historical Religion. In proportion as such an Historical Religion is deep and delicate, it will doubtless contain affinities with all that is wholesome and real within the other extant historical religions. Nevertheless, all religions are effectual through their special developments, where these developments remain true at all. As well deprive a flower of its 'mere details' of pistil, stamen, pollen, or an insect of its 'superfluous' antennae, as simplify any Historical Religion down to the sorry stump labelled 'the religion of every honest man'. We shall escape all bigotry, without lapsing into such most unjust indifferentism, if we vigorously hold and unceasingly apply the doctrine of such a Church theologian as Juan de Lugo. De Lugo (a.d. 1583-1660), Spaniard, post-Reformation Roman Catholic, Jesuit, Theological Professor, and a Cardinal writing in Rome under the eyes of Pope Urban VIII, teaches that the members of the various Christian sects, of the Jewish and Mohammedan communions, and of the heathen religions and philosophical schools, who achieve their salvation, do so, ordinarily, simply through the aid afforded by God's grace to their good faith in its instinctive concentration upon, and in its practice of, those[128] elements in their respective community's worship and teaching, which are true and good and originally revealed by God.[51] Thus we escape all undue individualism and all unjust equalization of the (very variously valuable) religious and philosophical bodies; and yet we clearly hold the profound importance of the single soul's good faith and religious instinct, and of the worship or school, be they ever so elementary and imperfect, which environ such a soul.

A man's religion, in proportion to its depth, will move in a Concrete Time which becomes more and more a Partial Simultaneity. And these his depths then more and more testify to, and contrast with, the Fully Simultaneous, God. Because man thus lives, not in an ever-equal chain of mutually exclusive moments, in Clock Time, but in Duration, with its variously close interpenetrations of the successive parts; and because these interpenetrations are close in proportion to the richness and fruitfulness of the durations he lives through; he can, indeed he must, conceive absolutely perfect life as absolutely simultaneous. God is thus not Unending, but Eternal; the very fullness of His life leaves no room or reason for succession and our poor need of it. Dr. F. C. S. Schiller has admirably drawn out this grand doctrine, with the aid of Aristotle's Unmoving Action, in Humanism, 1903, pp. 204-27. We need only persistently apprehend this Simultaneity as essential to God, and Succession as varyingly essential to all creatures, and there remains no difficulty—at least as regards the Time-element—in the doctrine of Creation. For only with the existence of creatures does Time thus arise at all—it exists only in and through them. And assuredly all finite things, that we know at all, bear traces of a history involving a beginning and an end. Professor Bernardino Varisco, in his[129] great Know Thyself, has noble pages on this large theme.[52] In any case we must beware of all more or less Pantheistic conceptions of the simultaneous life of God and the successive life of creatures as but essential and necessary elements of one single Divine-Creaturely existence, in the manner, e.g., of Professor Josiah Royce, in his powerful work The World and the Individual, 2nd series, 1901. All such schemes break down under an adequate realization of those dread facts error and evil. A certain real independence must have been left by God to reasonable creatures. And let it be noted carefully: the great difficulty against all Theism lies in the terrible reality of Evil; and the deepest adequacy of this same Theism, especially of Christianity, consists in its practical attitude towards, and success against, this most real Evil. But Pantheism increases, whilst seeming to surmount, the theoretical difficulty, since the world as it stands, and not an Ultimate Reality behind it, is held to be perfect; and it entirely fails really to transmute Evil in practice. Theism, no more than any other outlook, really explains Evil; but it alone, in its fullest, Jewish-Christian forms, has done more, and better, than explain Evil: it has fully faced, it has indeed greatly intensified, the problem, by its noble insistence upon the reality and heinousness of Sin; and it has then overcome all this Evil, not indeed in theory, but in practice, by actually producing in the midst of deep suffering, through a still deeper faith and love, souls the living expression of the deepest beatitude and peace.

The fully Simultaneous Reality awakens and satisfies man's deepest, most nearly simultaneous life, by a certain adaptation of its own intrinsic life to these human spirits. In such varyingly 'incarnational' acts or action the non-successive God Himself condescends to a certain[130] successiveness; but this, in order to help His creatures to achieve as much simultaneity as is compatible with their several ranks and calls. We must not wonder if, in the religious literature, these condescensions of God largely appear as though they themselves were more or less non-successive; nor, again, if the deepest religious consciousness tends usually to conceive God's outward action, if future, then as proximate, and, if present, then as strictly instantaneous. For God in Himself is indeed Simultaneous; and if we try to picture Simultaneity by means of temporal images at all, then the instant, and not any period long or short, is certainly nearest to the truth—as regards the form and vehicle of the experience.

The greater acts of Divine Condescension and Self-Revelation, our Religious Accessions, have mostly occurred at considerable intervals, each from the other, in our human history. After they have actually occurred, these several acts can be compared and arranged, according to their chief characteristics, and even in a series of (upon the whole) growing content and worth—hence the Science of Religion. Yet such Science gives us no power to produce, or even to foresee, any further acts. These great Accessions of Spiritual Knowledge and Experience are not the simple result of the conditions obtaining previously in the other levels of life, or even in that of religion itself; they often much anticipate, they sometimes greatly lag behind, the rise or decline of the other kinds of life. And where (as with the great Jewish Prophets, and, in some degree, with John the Baptist and Our Lord) these Accessions do occur at times of national stress, these several crises are, at most, the occasion for the demand, not the cause of the supply.

The mostly long gaps between these Accessions have been more or less filled up, amongst the peoples concerned,[131] by varyingly vigorous and valuable attempts to articulate and systematize, to apply in practice, and rightly to place (within the other ranges of man's total life) these great, closely-packed masses of spiritual fact; or to elude, to deflect, or directly to combat them, or some of their interpretations or applications. Now fairly steady improvement is possible, desirable, and largely actual, in the critical sifting and appraisement, as to the dates and the actual reality, of the historical documents and details of these Accessions; in the philosophical articulation of their doctrinal and evidential content; in the finer understanding and wider application of their ethical demands; and in the greater adequacy (both as to firmness and comprehensiveness) of the institutional organs and incorporations special to these same Accessions. All this can and does progress, but mostly slowly, intermittently, with short violent paroxysms of excess and long sleepy reactions of defect, with one-sidedness, travesties, and—worst of all—with worldly indifference and self-seeking. The grace and aid of the Simultaneous Richness are here also always necessary; nor can these things ever really progress except through a deep religious sense—all mere scepticism and all levelling down are simply so much waste. Still, we can speak of progress in the Science of Religion more appropriately than we can of progress in the Knowledge of Religion.

The Crusades, the Renaissance, the Revolution, no doubt exercised, in the long run, so potent a secularizing influence, because men's minds had become too largely other-worldly—had lost a sufficient interest in this wonderful world; and hence all those new, apparently boundless outlooks and problems were taken up largely as a revolt and escape from what looked like a prison-house—religion. Yet through all these violent oscillations[132] there persisted, in human life, the supernatural need and call. In this God is the great central interest, love and care of the soul. We must look to it that both these interests and Ethics are kept awake, strong and distinct within a costingly rich totality of life: the Ethic of the honourable citizen, merchant, lawyer—of Confucius and Socrates; and the Ethic of the Jewish Prophets at their deepest, of the Suffering Servant, of our Lord's Beatitudes, of St. Paul's great eulogy of love, of Augustine and Monica at the window in Ostia, of Father Damian's voluntarily dying a leper amidst the lepers. The Church is the born incorporation of this pole, as the State is of the other. The Church indeed should, at its lower limit, also encourage the This-world Stage; the State, at its higher limit, can, more or less consciously, prepare us for the Other-World Stage. Both spring from the same God, at two levels of His action; both concern the same men, at two stages of their response and need. Yet the primary duty of the State is turned to this life; the primary care of the Church, to that life—to life in its deepest depths.

Will men, after this great war, more largely again apprehend, love, and practise this double polarity of their lives? Only thus will the truest progress be possible in the understanding, the application, and the fruitfulness of Religion, with its great central origin and object, God, the beginning and end of all our true progress, precisely because He Himself already possesses immeasurably more than all He helps us to become,—He Who, even now already, is our Peace in Action, our Joy even in the Cross.

Books for Reference


I.1. Oswold Külpe, The Philosophy of the Present in Germany, English translation. London: George Allen, 1913, 3s. 6d. net.
2. J. McKeller Stewart, A Critical Exposition of Bergon's Philosophy. London: Macmillan, 1913, 6s. net.
II.1. R. H. Charles, A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life. London: A. & C. Black, 1899, 10s. 6d. net.
2. Ernest T. Scott, The Fourth Gospel. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1906, 6s. net.
III.1. Aliotta, The Idealistic Reaction against Science. English translation. Macmillan, 1914, 12s. net.
2. F. C. Schiller, Humanism, Macmillan, 1903, 7s. 6d. net.
3. C. C. J. Webb, Group Theories of Religion and the Individual, Allen and Unwin, 1916, 5s. net.


[32] The Idealistic Reaction against Science, Engl. tr. 1914, pp. 6, 7.

[33] A Critical Account of the Philosophy of Lotze, 1895, p. 104.

[34] Aliotta, op. cit., pp. 89, 187.

[35] Encyl. Brit., 'Psychology,' 11th ed., p. 577.

[36] Ed. 1898, p. 90.

[37] Discours sur la Méthode, 1637, IVe Partie.

[38] Aliotta, op. cit., p. 408.

[39] Ed. 1893, vol. ii, p. 759.

[40] First Principles, 6th ed., 1900, vol. i, p. 67.

[41] Article, 'Moses,' in Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 1913.

[42] Ed. Mangey, vol. i, pp. 44, 49.

[43] Ibid., pp. 80-179.

[44] Ibid., pp. 308, 427.

[45] Ibid., pp. 213, 121, 562, 691.

[46] Conf. x, 13, 2.

[47] Autumn, 387.

[48] Conf. 1, 6, 3; x, 27; x, 20.

[49] Conf. xi, 13.

[50] Die Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen und Gruppen, 1912, pp. 263-5.

[51] De Fide, Disp. xix, 7, 10; xx, 107, 194.

[52] Cognosci Te Stesso, 1912, pp. 144-7.




L. P. Jacks

From the syllabus of all the lectures in this course I gather that every lecturer on the programme is dealing with the question of moral progress. This is inevitable. Each lecturer must show that the particular sort of progress he is dealing with is real or genuine progress, and this it cannot be unless it is moral. That is itself a significant fact and throws a valuable light on our subject. It shows that progress, as it is studied throughout the course, is not progress in the abstract, whatever that may mean, but progress for us constituted as we are; and since our constitution is essentially moral all progress that we can recognize as such must be moral also. Science, Industry, Government, might all claim progress on their own ground and in their own nature, but this would not prove progress as we understand the word, unless it could be shown further that these things contribute to human betterment in the highest sense of the word. Their progress might conceivably involve our regress.

To believe in moral progress as an historical fact, as a process that has begun, and is going on, and will be continued—that is one thing, and it is my own position. To believe that this progress is far advanced is another thing, and is not my position. While believing in Moral Progress as a fact, I also believe that we are much nearer to the beginnings of it than the end. We should do well to accustom ourselves to this thought. Many of our despairs,[135] lamentations, and pessimisms are disappointments which arise from our extravagant notions of the degree of progress already attained. There has been a great deal of what I have called philosophic pharisaism. Perhaps it would be better called aeonic pharisaism. I mean the spirit in the present age which seems to say 'I thank thee, O God, that I am not as former ages: ignorant, barbaric, cruel, unsocial; I read books, ride in aeroplanes, eat my dinner with a knife and fork, and cheerfully pay my taxes to the State; I study human science, talk freely about humanity, and spend much of my time in making speeches on social questions'. Now there is truth in all this, but not the kind of truth which should lead us to self-flattery. A good rule for optimists would be this: 'Believe in moral progress, but do not believe in too much of it.' I think there would be more optimists in the world, more cheerfulness, more belief in moral progress, if we candidly faced the fact that morally considered we are still in a neolithic age, not brutes indeed any longer, and yet not so far outgrown the brutish stage as to justify these trumpetings. One of the beneficent lessons of the present war has been to moderate our claims in this respect. It has revealed us to ourselves as nothing else in history has ever done, and it has revealed, among other things, that moral progress is not nearly so advanced as we thought it was. It has been a terrible blow to the pharisaism of which I have just spoken. It has not discredited science, nor philosophy, nor government, nor anything else that we value, but it has shown that these things have not brought us as far as we thought. That very knowledge, when you come to think of it, is itself a very distinct step in moral progress. Before the war we were growing morally conceited; we thought ourselves much better, more advanced in morality, than we really were, and this conceit was acting as a real barrier to our farther advance. A sharp lesson was needed[136] to take this conceit out of us—to remind us that as yet we are only at the bare beginnings of moral advance—and not, as some of us fondly imagined, next door to the goal. This sudden awakening to the truth is full of promise for the future.

And now what is the cause of these exaggerated notions which so many of us have entertained? I think they arise from our habit of letting ourselves be guided by words rather than by realities, by what men are saying rather than by what they are doing, by what teachers are teaching than by what learners are learning. If you take your stand in the realm of words, of doctrines, of theories, of philosophies, of books, preachings, and uttered ideals, you might make out a strong case for a high degree of moral progress actually attained. But if you ask how much of this has been learnt by mankind at large, and learnt in such a way as to issue in practice, you get a different story. We have attached too much importance to the first story and too little to the second. There has been a great deal of false emphasis in consequence. This false emphasis is especially prominent in the education controversy which is now going on—and the question of moral progress, by the way, is the question of education in the widest and highest sense of the term. People seem quite content so long as they can get the right thing taught. They don't always see that unless the right thing is taught by the right people and in the right way it will not be learnt. Now education is ultimately a question of what is being learnt, not of what is being taught. The process of learning is a very curious and complicated one, and it often happens that what goes in at the teacher's end comes out at the pupil's end in a wholly different form and with a wholly different value; and we have the highest authority for believing that what really counts is not so much that which goeth into a man[137] but that which cometh out of him. That applies to all education—especially moral education. So that if you argue from what has gone into the human race in the way of moral teaching you may be greatly surprised and perhaps disappointed when you compare it with what has come out of the human race in the meantime. What has been taught is not what has been learnt. It has suffered a sea change in the process. Nor is the question wholly one of learning. There is the further question of remembering. I believe that a candid examination of the facts would convince us that the human race has proved itself a forgetful pupil. It has not always retained what it has learnt. Emerson has said that no account of the Holy Ghost has been lost. But how did Emerson find that out? The only accents Emerson knew of were those which the world happened to have remembered. If any had been lost in the meantime Emerson naturally would not know of their existence. I have heard of a functionary, whose precise office I am not able to define, called 'the Lord's Remembrancer'. It would be a great help to Moral Progress if we had in modern life a People's Remembrancer. His place is occupied to some extent by the study of history, and for that reason one could wish for the sake of Moral Progress that the study of history were universal. For my own part I seldom open a book of history without recovering what for me is a lost account of the Holy Ghost. Next to conceit I reckon forgetfulness as the greatest enemy of Moral Progress. I suppose Rudyard Kipling had something of this in mind when he wrote his poem—

Lord God of Hosts be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget.

Another cause of our over-estimate of Moral Progress is that we have thought too much of the abstract State and too little of the actual States now in being. Our[138] devotion to 'the' State as an ideal has led us to overlook the fact that many actual States represent a form of morality so low that it is doubtful if it can be called morality at all. In their relations with one another they display qualities which would disgrace the brutes. And the worst of it is that at times these States drag down to their own low level the morality of the individuals belonging to them. Thus at the present moment we see quite decent Englishmen and quite decent Germans tearing one another to pieces like mad dogs, a thing they would never dream of doing as between man and man, and which they do only because they are in the grip of forces alien to their own nature. We have overestimated Progress by thinking only of what is happening inside each of the States. We have forgotten to consider the bearing of the States to one another, which remains on a level lower than that of individuals.

The impression has gone abroad that the nations of the world need to take only one step from the position where they now stand to accomplish the final unity of all mankind. Taking any one of these nations—our own for example—we can trace the steps by which the warring elements within it have become reconciled, until finally there has emerged that vast unitary corporation—the British Empire. So with all the others. What more is required therefore than one step further in the same direction, to join up all the States into a single world State. But I am bound to think we are too hasty in treating the unity of mankind as needing only one step more. It is not so easy as all that. When you study the process by which unity has been brought about in the various European communities you find that motives of conquest and corresponding motives of defence have had a great deal to do with it. Germany, for example, was built up and now holds together as a fighting unit. Whether[139] Germany and the other States would still maintain their cohesion when they were no longer fighting units, and when the motives of conquest and defence were no longer in operation, is a question on which I should not like to dogmatize either way. Certainly we have no right to assume offhand that the unifying process which has given the nations the mass cohesion and efficiency they require for holding their own against enemy States would still remain in full power when there were no longer any enemy States to be considered.

But what do we mean by Progress?

Progress may be defined as that process by which a thing advances from a less to a more complete state of itself. Now whether this process is a desirable one or not obviously depends on the nature of the thing which is progressing. Take the largest and most inclusive of all things—the whole world. And now suppose philosophy to have proved that the world, the whole world, is advancing from a less to a more complete state of itself—which as a matter of fact is what the doctrine of evolution claims to have proved. Ought I to rejoice in this discovery? Will it give me satisfaction? That clearly depends on the nature of the world. If I am antecedently assured that the world is good, I shall naturally rejoice on hearing that it is advancing from a less to a more complete state of itself. But if the nature of the world is evil, what reason can I possibly have for rejoicing in its evolution? Assuming the world to be evil in its essential nature, I for my part, if I were consulted in the matter, would certainly give my vote against its being allowed to advance from a less to a more complete state of itself. The less such a world progresses the easier it will be for moral beings to live in it. Our interest lies in its remaining as undeveloped as possible.

Obvious as this seems there are some evolutionists who[140] take a rather different view. They seem to think that any sort of world, no matter what its nature might be, would ultimately become a good world if it were allowed to develop its nature far enough. It is just the fact of its continually becoming more of itself that makes it good. But this would compel us to abandon our definition that progress is the advance of a thing from a less to a more complete state of itself. For if itself were a bad self to begin with all such advance of itself would only make it worse. It is possible that an essentially bad man like Iago might be converted into a good one, but not by advancing from a less to a more complete state of himself as he originally was—unless indeed we change the hypothesis and suppose that he was not essentially bad to begin with. So with the world at large. Our nature being what it is, namely moral, we must first be convinced that the world is in principle good before we can derive the least satisfaction from knowing that it is advancing from a less to a more complete state of itself. The alternative doctrine makes a breach in the doctrine of progress which is inconsistent with its original form. A thing develops by retaining its essential nature—that is the original form. But a bad world which develops into a good one doesn't retain its essential nature. There comes a point somewhere when the next step of progress can be achieved only by the thing dropping its original nature—a point at which the thing is no longer becoming more of its former self, which was bad, but is ceasing to be its former self altogether and becoming something else, which is good.

Let us apply this to progress in three specific directions—Science, the Mechanical Arts, and Government.

We find that the progress of science has enormously increased man's power over the forces of nature. Is it a good thing that man's power over the forces of nature[141] should be increased? That surely depends on the manner in which this power is used, and this depends again on the moral nature of man. When we observe, as we may truly observe, especially at the present time, that of all the single applications which man has made of science, the most extensive and perhaps the most efficient is that of devising implements for destroying his brother man, it is at least permissible to raise the question whether the progress of science has contributed on the whole to the progress of humanity. Had it not been for the progress of science, which has enormously increased the wealth of the world, it is doubtful if this war, which is mainly a war about wealth, would have taken place at all. Or if a war had broken out, it would not have involved the appalling destruction of human life and property we are now witnessing—such that, within a space of two years, about six million human beings have been killed, thirty-five millions wounded, and wealth destroyed to the extent of about fifteen thousand millions sterling—though some say it is very much more. Science taught us to make this wealth: science has also taught us how to destroy it. When one thinks of how much of this is attributable to the progress of science, I say it is permissible to raise the question whether man is a being who can safely be entrusted with that control over the forces of nature which science gives him. What if he uses this power, as he plainly can do, for his own undoing? To ask this, as we can hardly help asking, is to transfer the question of scientific progress into the sphere of morality. It is conceivable that the progress of science might involve for us no progress at all. It might be, and some have feared that it may become, a step towards the self-destruction of the human race.

Take the mechanical arts. The chief effects of progress in the mechanical arts have been an enormous increase[142] in the material wealth of mankind, and, partly consequent upon this, a parallel growth of population in the industrial countries of the world. It is by no means clear that either of these things constitutes a definite step in human progress. Consider the growth of population—the immense increase in the total bulk and volume of the human race. Whether this constitutes a clear gain to humanity obviously cannot be answered without reference to moral considerations. To increase the arithmetical quantity of life in the world can be counted a gain only if the general tendencies of life are in the right direction. If they are in the wrong direction, then the more lives there are to yield to these tendencies the less reason has the moralist to be satisfied with what is happening. No one, so far as I know, has ever seriously maintained that the end and aim of progress is to increase the number of human beings up to the limit which the planet is able to support; though some doctrines if pressed to their conclusion would lead to that, notably the doctrine that all morality rests ultimately on the instinct for the preservation and the reproduction of life. We have first to be convinced that the human race is not on the wrong road before we can look with complacency on the increase of its numbers. We may note in this connexion that mankind possesses no sort of collective control over its own mass or volume. The mass or total number of lives involved is determined by forces which are not subject to the unitary direction of any existing human will either individual or collective. This applies not only to the human race as a whole, but to particular communities. Their growth is unregulated. They just come to be what they are in point of size. This fact seems to me a very important one to bear in mind when we talk of the progress of science giving us control over the forces of nature. So far no state, no government, no community[143] has won any effective control over that group of the forces of nature which determine the total size of the community in question. It is an aspect of human destiny which appears to be left to chance; and yet when we consider what it means, is there any aspect of human destiny on which such tremendous consequences depend? And ought we not to consider this before claiming, as we so often claim, that the progress of science has given us control of the forces of nature? It is strange that this point has not been more considered, especially by thinkers who are fond of the word 'humanity'—'the good of humanity'—or the 'greatest happiness of the greatest number'. Humanity has an arithmetical or quantitative side, and the good of humanity surely depends, to some extent, on how much humanity there is. I can imagine many things which might be good for a Greek city state of 10,000 souls which would not be good, or not good in the same sense, for a community of 100,000,000 souls. Surely it needs no reasoning to prove that our power to do our duty to others is affected by the number of others to whom duty has to be done—it makes a difference where there are 10,000 of men or 100,000,000. Similarly with the greatest happiness of the greatest number. What is the greatest number? A great deal that has been said about this would not have been said if we had considered that the greatest number itself is left at the disposal of forces outside the present scope of our own will. Even the proposal to sell our goods and give the proceeds to the poor would surely be affected, from the moral point of view, by the number of the poor who were to receive the distribution. Were this so small that the poor would get five pounds apiece it would be one question; were it so large that they would receive a halfpenny apiece it would be another question. Thus we may conclude that the progress of the mechanical arts with the consequent[144] increase in the bulk of the human race has not solved the problem of moral progress, but only placed that problem in a new and more perplexing context. A similar conclusion would meet us if we were to consider the parallel increase of the wealth of the world. The moral question is not about the amount of wealth the world possesses, but about the way men spend it and the use they make of it. Industrially speaking, the human race has made its fortune during the last hundred years. But has it made up its mind what to do with the fortune? And has its mind been made up in the right way? To raise these questions is to see that progress from the economic point of view may be the reverse of progress from the moral. But I shall not further enlarge upon this—the theme being too familiar.

The third question which relates itself to moral progress is that of Government. Now Government, I need hardly say, is not an end in itself. It is a device which man has set up to help him in attaining the true end of his life. To make up our minds how we ought to be governed is therefore impossible unless we have previously made up our minds how we ought to live. What might be a good government for a people whose end is industrial success might be a very bad one for a people who had some other end in view. Well, then, are we well governed at the present time? Are we better governed than we were? Has progress taken place in this department? Plainly we cannot answer these questions unless we have chosen our end in life and are morally satisfied with it. In the history of modern states we discover a tendency, more strongly marked in some quarters than in others, towards that form of democracy which is called responsible self-government. Government of the people, for the people, by the people. The people are going to govern themselves. But they may do so in a thousand different [145]ways—each of which has a different moral value. A people may go wrong just as fatally in governing itself as in being governed by some external authority. I confess that nothing I can learn from the history of government entirely reassures me on this point. I see everywhere progress towards organization, but then one is bound to ask on what ulterior end is this organization directed? I see everywhere a growing subordination of the individual to the State. This may or may not be a very good thing. What kind of State is it to which the individual is becoming subordinated? There are great differences among them—some seem to me, one in particular at the present time, thoroughly bad, and I cannot see that the individual gains morally by being subordinated to such a State—at least if he gains in one direction he loses more in another.

Even the social unity which Governments are capable of achieving must not be too hastily translated into moral progress. We are entitled to ask several questions before the one can be equated with the other. To begin with, do men know what they want to achieve by their unified life? And if they do know what they want, have we not still the right to criticize its moral value and say 'this is right' or this is wrong? Should the time ever come when the common will of mankind should get itself expressed by the decrees of a universal democracy, would moral criticism be at an end so far as the said decrees were concerned? For my part I cannot see that it would. Perhaps it were truer to say that only then would moral criticism effectively begin. As things now are, we are prevented from criticizing the common will because none of us knows what exactly the common will demands. But if it could get itself expressed and defined by the decrees of a perfect democracy we should know. Those decrees would reveal the human community to itself, and it is[146] possible that the revelation would not be altogether agreeable to our moral sense. We might then discover that the common will is capable of being grossly immoral. So far it has been impossible for us to make this discovery because no organ exists for expressing the common will on the human scale, and even those which express it on the national scale are not perfect. I am far from saying the discovery would be made; but I know of no line of argument which rules it out as impossible. Meanwhile we are scarcely justified in regarding the common will as necessarily moral until we know more than we do of what precisely it is that the common will aims at and intends to achieve. To back the common will through thick and thin, as some of our philosophers seem disposed to do, is a dangerous speculation—it might perhaps be described as putting your money on a dark horse.

This leads me to say a word concerning a phrase which has been much in use of late—the Collective Wisdom of Mankind, or the Collective Wisdom of the State. Progress is sometimes defined as a gradual approach to a state of things where this collective wisdom rules the course of events. And collective wisdom is sometimes represented as vastly wiser than that possessed by any individual, even the wisest.

Now if this really is so it seems pretty obvious that, when the collective wisdom speaks, no individual can have the right of appeal. What are you, what am I, that either of us should set up our private intelligence against the intelligence of forty million of our fellow citizens? That surely would be a preposterous claim. The collective wisdom must know best: at least it knows much better than you or I.

But is the collective wisdom of the State so immensely superior to that of the individual, and of necessity so? Have we any means of bringing the matter to the test?[147] It is extremely difficult to do so. Not until we make the experiment do we find how rare are the occasions of which we can say that then and there the collective wisdom of the community fairly and fully expressed itself. Acts of Parliament are not good examples. They usually represent not the collective wisdom of the whole community, but the wisdom of the majority after it has been checked, modified, and perhaps nullified by the opposing wisdom of an almost equal minority. Take as an example the history of the Irish Question. How difficult it is to put one's finger on any moment in that tangled story and say that then and there the collective wisdom of the community knew what it wanted to do and did it! So with almost everything else.

Now if there be such a thing as the collective wisdom of the State I suppose that the moment when we are most likely to find it in action is the moment when one State has dealings with another State. That surely is a fair test. If States possess collective wisdom they ought to show its existence and measure when they confront one another as States—when State calls to State across the great deeps of international policy. What should we say of any State which claimed collective wisdom only when dealing with its own individual members—with you and me—but dropped the claim when the question was one of reasonable intercourse with another State similarly endowed? This we should say is a very dubious claim.

Well, how stands the matter when this test is applied? The present war provides the answer. The war arose out of a type of quarrel which, had it occurred between half a dozen individuals of average intelligence, would have been amicably settled, by reasonable human intercourse, in twenty minutes. Does not this afford a rough measure of the collective wisdom of such States as at present exist in this world? Does it not suggest that they have little[148] faculty of reasonable intercourse with one another? And when you say that of any being, or any collection of beings, do you not put it pretty low down in the scale of intelligence? It is literally true that these States do not understand one another. Thus we are driven back upon a plain alternative; either the States do not represent collective wisdom, or else this collective wisdom is one of the lowest forms of wisdom now extant on this planet. In either case we must be very cautious in our use of the phrase. We must not infer moral progress from the reign of collective wisdom until we are assured that collective wisdom is really as wise as some of its devotees assume it to be.

About the idea of moral progress, which is only another name for the idea of progress in its widest form, I need say little, the question having been adequately treated by other lecturers. But I will add this. Belief in moral progress is a belief which no man can live without, and, at the same time, a belief which cannot be proved by any appeal to human experience. We cannot live without it, because life is just the process of reaching forward to a better form of itself. Were a man to say that since the world began no moral progress has taken place he would thereby show his latent belief in moral progress. For no man would take the trouble to deny moral progress unless he believed that the world would in some way be made better by his denial. He would not even trouble to come to a private conclusion in the matter unless he believed that his private conclusion was something to the good. In that sense perhaps we may say that moral progress is proved, for the best proof of any belief is that it remains indispensable to the life we have to live. But the appeal to experience would not prove it—and for this reason. A progressive world is a world which not only makes gains, but keeps its gains when they[149] are made. If the Kingdom of Heaven were to become a fact to-morrow, that of itself would not prove progress, if you admit the possibility that the world might hereafter retreat from the position it had won. That possibility you could never rule out—except by an appeal to faith. A world which attained the goal and then lost it would be a greater failure, from the point of view of moral progress, than one which never attained the goal at all. The doctrine that the gains of morality can never be lost is widely held; but it does not rest on a philosophic or a scientific basis. As Hume taught long ago, you cannot infer an infinite conclusion from finite data—and in this case the conclusion is infinite and the data are finite. They are not only finite but various: some pointing one way, some another.

Finally we cannot prove moral progress by appeal to any objective standard, such as the amount of happiness existing in the world at successive dates. Suppose you were able to show that, up to date, the amount of happiness in the world has shown a steady increase until it has reached the grand sum total now existing. Now suppose that you were transferred to another planet where the conditions were the exact opposite: where the inhabitants ages ago started with the happiness we now possess, and gradually declined until, at the present moment, they are no happier than the human race was at the first stage of its career. Now add together the totals of happiness for both your worlds, the ascending world which starts with the minimum and ends with the maximum, the declining world which starts with the maximum and ends with the minimum. The grand totals in both cases are exactly the same. So far as the total result is concerned, the declining world has just as much to show for itself as the ascending. Valued in terms of happiness, the one world would be worth as much as the other.[150]

And yet we know that the value of these two worlds is not the same. The ascending is worth a lot more than the descending. Why? I leave you with that conundrum. Answer it, and you have the key to the meaning of Moral Progress.

Books for Reference

T. H. Green, Prolegomena to Ethics, Book III, ch. 3.

Lecky, History of European Morals, ch. 1.

Spencer, Data of Ethics, ch. 13 to 14.




A. E. Zimmern

When I was asked to speak to you on the subject of Progress in Government I gladly accepted, for it is a subject on which I have reflected a good deal. But when I came to think over what I should say, I saw that you had asked me for the impossible. For what is Government? I do not know whether there are any here for whom Government means no more than a policeman, or a ballot-box, or a list of office-holders. The days of such shallow views are surely over. Government is the work of ordering the external affairs and relationships of men. It covers all the activities of men as members of a community—social, industrial, and religious as well as political in the narrower sense. It is concerned, as the ancients had it, with 'that which is public or common', what the Greeks called τὸ κοινόν and the Romans res publica. The Old English translation of these classical terms is 'The Commonwealth' or Common Weal; and I do not see that we can do better than adopt that word, with its richness of traditional meaning and its happy association of the two conceptions, too often separated in modern minds, of Wealth and Welfare.

Our subject then is the Progress of the Commonwealth or, in other words, the record of the course of the common life of mankind in the world. It is a theme which really underlies all the other subjects of discussion at this week's meetings: for it is only the existence of the Commonwealth[152] and its organized efforts to preserve and sustain the life of the individuals composing it, which have made possible the achievements of mankind in the various separate fields of effort which are claiming your attention. Lord Acton spent a lifetime collecting material for a History of Liberty. He never wrote it: but, if he had, it would have been a History of Mankind. A History of Government or of the Commonwealth would be nothing less. Such is the nature of the invitation so kindly given to me and so cheerfully accepted. If you could wait a lifetime for the proper treatment of the subject I would gladly give the time; for, in truth, it is worth it.

What is the nature of this common life of mankind and with what is it concerned? The subjects of its concern are as wide as human nature itself. We cannot define them in a formula: for human nature overleaps all formulas. Whenever men have tried to rule regions of human activity and aspiration out of the common life of mankind, and to hedge them round as private or separate or sacred or by any other kind of taboo, human nature has always ended by breaking through the hedges and invading the retreat. Man is a social animal. If he retires to a monastery he finds he has carried problems of organization with him, as the promoters of this gathering would confess you have brought with you here. If he shuts himself up in his home as a castle, or in a workshop or factory as the domain of his own private power, social problems go with him thither, and the long arm of the law will follow after. If he crosses the seas like the Pilgrim Fathers, to worship God unmolested in a new country, or, like the merchant-venturers, to fetch home treasure from the Indies, he will find himself unwittingly the pioneer of civilization and the founder of an Empire or a Republic. In the life of our fellows, in the Common Weal, we live and move and have our being. Let us recall some wise words on this[153] subject from the Master of Balliol's book on the Middle Ages. 'The words "Church" and "State"', he writes,

represent what ought to be an alliance, but is, in modern times, at best a dualism and often an open warfare.... The opposition of Church and State expresses an opposition between two sides of human nature which we must not too easily label as good and evil, the heavenly and the earthly, the sacred and the profane. For the State, too, is divine as well as the Church, and may have its own ideals and sacramental duties and its own prophets, even its own martyrs. The opposition of Church and State is to be regarded rather as the pursuit of one great aim, pursued by contrasted means. The ultimate aim of all true human activity must be in the noble words of Francis Bacon 'the glory of God and the relief of man's estate'.[53]

Bacon's words form a fitting starting-point for our reflections: for they bring vividly before us both the idealism which should inspire all who labour at the task of government and the vastness and variety of the field with which they are concerned. Looked at in this broad light, the history of man's common life in the world will, I think, show two great streams of progress—the progress of man over Nature, or, as we say to-day, in the control of his environment, and the progress of man in what is essentially a moral task—the art of living together with his fellows. These two aspects of human activity and effort are in constant contact and interaction. Studied together, they reveal an advance which, in spite of man's ever-present moral weakness, may be described as an advance from Chaos to Cosmos in the organization of the world's common life; yet they are so distinct in method and spirit that they can best be described separately.

Let us first, then, consider the history of Government, as a record of the progress of man's power over Nature.


Human history, in this sphere, is the story of man making himself at home in the world. When human history begins we find men helpless, superstitious, ignorant, the plaything of blind powers in the natural and animal world. Superstitious because he was helpless, helpless because he was ignorant, he eked out a bare existence rather by avoiding than controlling the forces in the little world by which he found himself surrounded. Human life in its earliest stages is, as Hobbes described it, nasty, brutish, and short. Man was the slave of his environment. He has risen to become its master. The world, as the prophetic eye of Francis Bacon foretold, has become 'The Kingdom of Man'.

How complete this conquest is, can best be realized perhaps by considering man's relation to the lower animals. When history opens, the animals are in their element; it is man who is the interloper. Two thousand years ago it was not the Society of Friends but wolves and wild boars who felt themselves at home on the site of Bournville Garden Village. To-day we are surprised when we read that in remote East Africa lions and giraffes venture occasionally to interfere in the murderous warfare between man and man. Man has imposed himself on the animals, by dint of his gradual accumulation of knowledge and his consequent power of organization and government. He has destroyed the conditions under which the animals prospered. He has, as we might say, destroyed their home life, exposing them to dangers of his own making against which they are now as powerless as he was once against them. 'It is a remarkable thing,' writes Sir E. Ray Lankester,

which possibly may be less generally true than our present knowledge seems to suggest—that the adjustment of organisms to their surroundings is so severely complete in Nature apart from Man, that diseases are unknown as[155] constant and normal phenomena under those conditions. It is no doubt difficult to investigate this matter, since the presence of Man as an observer itself implies human intervention. But it seems to be a legitimate view that every disease to which animals (and probably plants also) are liable, excepting as a transient and very exceptional occurrence, is due to Man's interference. The diseases of cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses are not known except in domesticated herds and those wild creatures to which Man's domesticated productions have communicated them. The trypanosome lives in the blood of wild game and of rats without producing mischief. The hosts have become tolerant of the parasite. It is only when man brings his unselected, humanly-nurtured races of cattle and horses into contact with the parasite, that it is found to have deadly properties. The various cattle-diseases which in Africa have done so much harm to native cattle, and have in some regions exterminated big game, have per contra been introduced by man through his importation of diseased animals of his own breeding from Europe. Most, if not all, animals in extra-human conditions, including the minuter things such as insects, shellfish, and invisible aquatic organisms, have been brought into a condition of 'adjustment' to their parasites as well as to the other conditions in which they live: it is this most difficult and efficient balance of Nature which Man everywhere upsets.[54]

And Sir E. Ray Lankester goes on to point out the moral to be drawn from this development. He points out that

civilized man has proceeded so far in his interference with extra-human nature, has produced for himself and the living organisms associated with him such a special state of things by his rebellion against natural selection and his defiance of Nature's pre-human dispositions, that he must either go on and acquire firmer control of the conditions, or perish miserably by the vengeance certain to fall on the half-hearted meddler in great affairs. We may indeed compare civilized man to a successful rebel[156] against Nature, who, by every step forward, renders himself liable to greater and greater penalties, and so cannot afford to pause or fail in one single step. Or again we may think of him as the heir to a vast and magnificent kingdom, who has been finally educated so as to take possession of his property, and is at length left alone to do his best; he has wilfully abrogated, in many important respects, the laws of his mother Nature by which the kingdom was hitherto governed; he has gained some power and advantage by so doing, but is threatened on every hand by dangers and disasters hitherto restrained: no retreat is possible—his only hope is to control, as he knows that he can, the sources of these dangers and disasters.

The time will come, not too long hence, as I believe, when men have realized, with the scientists, that the world is one kingdom not many, and these problems of man's relation to his non-human environment will be the first concern of statesmen and governors. In some of our tropical colonies they have, perforce, become so already. If you live on the Gold Coast, the war against malaria cannot help seeming more important to you than the war against German trade: and in parts of Central Africa the whole possibility of continued existence centres round the presence or absence of the tsetse fly which is the carrier of sleeping sickness. Some day, when means have been adopted for abating our fiercer international controversies, we shall discover that in these and kindred matters lies the real province of world-politics. When that day comes the chosen representatives of the human race will see their constituents, as only philosophers see them now, as the inheritors of a great tradition of service and achievement, and as trustees for their successors of the manifold sources of human happiness which the advance of knowledge has laid open to us.

If the first and most important of these sources is the[157] discovery of the conditions of physical well-being, the second is the discovery of means of communication between the widely separate portions of man's kingdom. The record of the process of bringing the world under the control of the organized government of man is largely the record of the improvement of communications. Side by side with the unending struggle of human reason against cold and hunger and disease we can watch the contest against distance, against ocean and mountain and desert, against storms and seasons. There can be few subjects more fascinating for a historian to study than the record of the migrations of the tribes of men. He might begin, if he wished, with the migrations of animals and describe the westward progress of the many species whose course can be traced by experts along the natural highways of Western Europe. Some of them, so the books tell us, reached the end of their journey while Britain was still joined to the continent. Others arrived too late and were cut off by the straits of Dover. I like to form an imaginary picture, which the austerity of the scientific conscience will, I know, repudiate with horror, of the unhappy congregation, mournfully assembled bag and baggage on the edge of the straits and gazing wistfully across at the white cliffs of England, which they were not privileged to reach—tendentesque manus ripae ulterioris amore, 'stretching out their paws in longing for the further bank.'

Our historian would then go on to describe the early 'wanderings of peoples' (Völkerwanderungen) how whole tribes would move off in the spring-time in the search for fresh hunting-grounds or pasture. He would trace the course of that westward push which, starting from somewhere in Asia, brought its impact to bear on the northern provinces of the Roman Empire and eventually loosened its whole fabric. He would show how Europe,[158] as we know it, was welded into unity by the attacks of migratory warriors on three flanks—the Huns and the Tartars, a host of horsemen riding light over the steppes of Russia and Hungary: the Arabs, bearing Islam with them on their camels as they moved westward along North Africa and then pushing across into Spain: and the Northmen of Scandinavia, those carvers of kingdoms and earliest conquerors of the open sea, who left their mark on England and northern France, on Sicily and southern Italy, on the Balkan Peninsula, on Russia, on Greenland, and as far as North America. Then, passing to Africa and Asia, he would describe the life of the pack-saddle and the caravan, the long and mysterious inland routes from the Mediterranean to Nubia and Nigeria, or from Damascus with the pilgrims to Medina, and the still longer and more mysterious passage through the ancient oases of Turkestan, now buried in sand, along which, as recent discoveries have shown us, Greece and China, Christianity and Buddhism, exchanged their arts and ideas and products. Then he would tell of the great age of maritime discovery, of the merchant-adventurers and buccaneers, of their gradual transformation into trading companies, in the East and in the West, from companies to settlements, from settlements to colonies. Then perhaps he would close by casting a glimpse at the latest human migration of all, that which takes place or took place up to 1914, at the rate of a million a year from the Old World into the United States. He would take the reader to Ellis Island in New York harbour, where the immigrants emerge from the steerage to face the ordeal of the Immigration Officer. He would show how the same causes, hunger, fear, persecution, restlessness, ambition, love of liberty, which set the great westward procession in motion in the early days of tribal migration, are still alive and at work to-day among the populations of[159] Eastern Europe. He would look into their minds and read the story of the generations of their nameless fore-runners; and he would ask himself whether rulers and statesmen have done all that they might to make the world a home for all its children, for the poor as for the rich, for the Jew as for the Gentile, for the yellow and dark-skinned as for the white.

Let us dwell for a moment more closely on one phase of this record of the conquest of distance. The crucial feature in that struggle was the conquest of the sea. The sea-surface of the world is far greater than its land-surface, and the sea, once subdued, is a far easier and more natural means of transport and communication. For the sea, the uncultivable sea, as Homer calls it, is itself a road, whereas on earth, whether it be mountain or desert or field, roads have first painfully to be made. Man's definitive conquest of the sea dates from the middle of the fifteenth century when, by improvements in the art of sailing and by the extended use of the mariner's compass, it first became possible to undertake long voyages with assurance. These discoveries are associated with the name of Prince Henry of Portugal, whose life-long ambition it was, to quote the words engraved on his monument at the southern extremity of Portugal, 'to lay open the regions of West Africa across the sea, hitherto not traversed by man, that thence a passage might be made round Africa to the most distant parts of the East.'

The opening of the high seas which resulted from Prince Henry's activities is one of the most momentous events in human history. Its effect was, sooner or later, to unite the scattered families of mankind, to make the problems of all the concern of all: to make the world one place. Prince Henry and his sailors were, in fact, the pioneers of internationalism, with all the many and varied[160] problems that internationalism brings with it. 'In 1486,' says the most recent history of this development,

Bartholomew Dias was carried by storm beyond the sight of land, round the southern point of Africa, and reached the Great Fish River, north of Algoa Bay. On his return journey he saw the promontory which divides the oceans, as the narrow waters of the Bosphorus divide the continents, of the East and West. As in the crowded streets of Constantinople, so here, if anywhere, at this awful and solitary headland the elements of two hemispheres meet and contend. As Dias saw it, so he named it, 'The Cape of Storms'. But his master, John II, seeing in the discovery a promise that India, the goal of the national ambition, would be reached, named it with happier augury 'The Cape of Good Hope'. No fitter name could have been given to that turning-point in the history of mankind. Europe, in truth, was on the brink of achievements destined to breach barriers, which had enclosed and diversified the nations since the making of the World, and commit them to an intercourse never to be broken again so long as the World endures. That good rather than evil may spring therefrom is the greatest of all human responsibilities.[55]

The contrast between Constantinople and the Cape, so finely drawn in these lines, marks the end of the age when land-communications and land-power were predominant over sea-power. The Roman Empire was, and could only be, a land-power. It is no accident that the British Commonwealth is, as the American Commonwealth is fast becoming, predominantly a sea-power.

How was 'the greatest of all human responsibilities', arising from this new intercourse of races, met? Knowledge, alas, is as much the devil's heritage as the angels': it may be used for ill, as easily as for good. The first explorers, and the traders who followed them, were not idealists but rough adventurers. Breaking in, with the[161] full tide of western knowledge and adaptability, to the quiet backwaters of primitive conservatism, they brought with them the worse rather than the better elements of the civilization, the control of environment, of which they were pioneers. To them Africa and the East represented storehouses of treasure, not societies of men; and they treated the helpless natives accordingly.

England and Holland as well as the Latin monarchies treated the natives of Africa as chattels without rights and as instruments for their own ends, and revived slavery in a form and upon a scale more cruel than any practised by the ancients. The employment of slaves on her own soil has worked the permanent ruin of Portugal. The slave trade with America was an important source of English wealth, and the philosopher John Locke did not scruple to invest in it. There is no European race which can afford to remember its first contact with the subject peoples otherwise than with shame, and attempts to assess their relative degrees of guilt are as fruitless as they are invidious. The question of real importance is how far these various states were able to purge themselves of the poison, and rise to a higher realization of their duty towards their races whom they were called by the claims of their own superior civilization to protect. The fate of that civilization itself hung upon the issue.[56]

The process by which the Western peoples have risen to a sense of their duty towards their weaker and more ignorant fellow citizens is indeed one of the chief stages in that progress of the common life of mankind with which we are concerned.

How is that duty to be exercised? The best way in which the strong can help the weak is by making them strong enough to help themselves. The white races are not strong because they are white, or virtuous because they are strong. They are strong because they have acquired, through a long course of thought and work, a mastery[162] over Nature and hence over their weaker fellow men. It is not virtue but knowledge to which they owe their strength. No doubt much virtue has gone to the making of that knowledge—virtues of patience, concentration, perseverance, unselfishness, without which the great body of knowledge of which we are the inheritors could never have been built up. But we late-born heirs of the ages have it in our power to take the knowledge of our fathers and cast away any goodness that went to its making. We have come into our fortune: it is ours to use it as we think best. We cannot pass it on wholesale, and at one step, to the more ignorant races, for they have not the institutions, the traditions, the habits of mind and character, to enable them to use it. Those too we must transmit or develop together with the treasure of our knowledge. For the moment we stand in the relation of trustees, teachers, guides, governors, but always in their own interest and not ours, or rather, in the interest of the commonwealth of which we and they, since the opening of the high seas, form an inseparable part.

It has often been thought that the relation of the advanced and backward races should be one purely of philanthropy and missionary enterprise rather than of law and government. It is easy to criticize this by pointing to the facts of the world as we know it—to the existing colonial empires of the Great Powers and to the vast extension of the powers of civilized governments which they represent. But it may still be argued that the question is not Have the civilized powers annexed large empires? but Ought they to have done so? Was such an extension of governmental authority justifiable or inevitable? Englishmen in the nineteenth century, like Americans in the twentieth, were slow to admit that it was; just as the exponents of laissez-faire were[163] slow to admit the necessity for State interference with private industry at home. But in both cases they have been driven to accept it by the inexorable logic of facts. What other solution of the problem, indeed, is possible? 'Every alternative solution', as a recent writer remarks,[57]

breaks down in practice. To stand aside and do nothing under the plea that every people must be left free to manage its own affairs, and that intervention is wicked, is to repeat the tragic mistake of the Manchester School in the economic world which protested against any interference by the State to protect workmen ... from the oppression and rapacity of employers, on the ground that it was an unwarranted interference with the liberty of the subject and the freedom of trade and competition. To prevent adventurers from entering the territory is impossible, unless there is some civilized authority within it to stop them through its police. To shut off a backward people from all contact with the outside world by a kind of blockade is not only unpracticable, but is artificially to deny them the chances of education and progress. The establishment of a genuine government by a people strong enough and liberal enough to ensure freedom under the law and justice for all is the only solution.... They must undertake this duty, not from any pride of dominion, or because they wish to exploit their resources, but in order to protect them alike from oppression and corruption, by strict laws and strict administration, which shall bind the foreigner as well as the native, and then they must gradually develop, by education and example, the capacity in the natives to manage their own affairs.

Thus we see that the progress in knowledge and in the control of their environment made by the civilized peoples has, in fact and inevitably, led to their leadership in government also, and given them the predominant voice in laying down the lines along which the common[164] life of mankind is to develop. If we are to look for the mainspring of the world's activities, for the place where its new ideas are thought out, its policies framed, its aspirations cast into practical shape, we must not seek it in the forests of Africa or in the interior of China, but in those busy regions of the earth's surface where the knowledge, the industries, and all the various organizations of government and control find their home. Because organization is embodied knowledge, and because knowledge is power, it is the Great Powers, as we truly name them,[58] who are predominantly responsible for the government of the world and for the future of the common life of mankind.

In the exercise of this control the world has already, in many respects, become a single organism. The conquest of distance in the fifteenth century was the beginning of a process which led, slowly but inevitably, to the widening of the boundaries of government. Two discoveries made about the same time accentuated the same tendency. By the invention of gunpowder the people of Europe were given an overwhelming military superiority over the dwellers in other continents. By the invention of printing, knowledge was internationalized for all who had the training to use it. Books are the tools of the brain-worker all the world over; but, unlike the file and the chisel, the needle and the hammer, books not only create, but suggest. A new idea is like an electric current set running throughout the world, and no man can say into what channels of activity it may not be directed.

But neither travel nor conquest nor books and the spread of ideas caused so immense a transformation in the common life of mankind as the process beginning at the end of the eighteenth century which is known to historians as the Industrial Revolution. As we have spoken of the con[165]quest of distance perhaps a better name for the Industrial Revolution would be the Conquest of Organization. For it was not the discovery of the steam-engine or the spinning-jenny which constituted the revolution: it was the fact that men were now in a position to apply these discoveries to the organization of industry. The ancient Greeks played with the idea of the steam-engine: it was reserved for eighteenth-century England to produce a generation of pioneers endowed with the knowledge, the power, the foresight, and the imagination to make use of the world-transforming potentialities of the idea. The Industrial Revolution, with its railways and steamships, telegraphs and telephones, and now its airships and submarines and wireless communication, completed the conquest of distance. Production became increasingly organized on international lines. Men became familiar with the idea of an international market. Prices and prospects, booms and depressions, banking and borrowing, became international phenomena. The organization of production led to an immensely rapid increase of wealth in Western Europe. The application of that wealth to the development of the world's resources in and outside Europe led to a correspondingly huge advance in trade and intercourse. The breakfast-table in an ordinary English home to-day is a monument to the achievements of the Industrial Revolution and to the solid reality of the economic internationalism which resulted from it. There is still poverty in Western Europe, but it is preventable poverty. Before the Industrial Revolution, judged by a modern standard, there was nothing but poverty. The satisfying physical and economic condition which we describe by the name of comfort did not exist. The Italian historian Ferrero, in one of his essays, recommends those who have romantic yearnings after the good old times to spend one night on what our forefathers[166] called a bed. Mr. Coulton, in his books on the Middle Ages, has used some very plain language on the same text. And Professor Smart, in his recently published posthumous work, pointing a gentle finger of rebuke at certain common Socialist fantasies, remarks:

There never was a golden age of equality of wealth: there was rather a leaden one of inequality of poverty.... We should speak more guardedly of the riches of the old world. A careful examination of any old book would show that the most splendid processions of pomp and luxury in the Middle Ages were poor things compared to the parade of a modern circus on its opening day.[59]

Such prosperity as we enjoy to-day, such a scene as we can observe on these smiling outskirts of Birmingham, is due to man's Conquest of Organization and to the consequent development and linking-up, by mutual intercourse and exchange, of the economic side of the world's life.

So far we have been watching the progress of man in his efforts to 'make himself at home' in the world. We have seen him becoming more skilful and more masterful century by century, till in these latter days the whole world is, as it were, at his service. He has planted his flag at the two poles: he has cut a pathway for his ships between Asia and Africa, and between the twin continents of America: he has harnessed torrents and cataracts to his service: he has conquered the air and the depths of the sea: he has tamed the animals: he has rooted out pestilence and laid bare its hidden causes: and he is penetrating farther and ever farther in the discovery of the causes of physical and mental disease. He has set his foot on the neck of Nature. But the last and greatest conquest is yet before him. He has yet to conquer himself. Victorious against Nature, men are still at war,[167] nay, more than ever at war, amongst themselves. How is it that the last century and a half, which have witnessed so unparalleled an advance in the organization of the common life of man on the material side, should have been an age of wars and rumours of wars, culminating in the vastest and most destructive conflict that this globe of ours has ever witnessed? What explanation could we give of this to a visitor from the moon or to those creatures of inferior species whom, as Sir E. Ray Lankester has told us, it is our function, thanks to our natural superiority, to command and control?

This brings us to the second great branch of our subject—the progress of mankind in the art of living together in the world.

Government, as we have seen, covers the whole social life of man: for the principles that regulate human association are inherent in the nature of man. But in what follows we shall perforce confine ourselves mainly to the sphere of what is ordinarily called politics, that is to the recognized and authoritative form of human association called the State, as opposed to the innumerable subordinate or voluntary bodies and relationships, which pervade every department of man's common life.

The progress of Government in this second sphere may be defined as the deepening and extension of man's duty towards his neighbour. It is to be reckoned, not in terms of knowledge and organization, but of character. The ultimate goal of human government, in the narrower sense, as of all social activity—let us never forget it—is liberty, to set free the life of the spirit. 'Liberty,' said Lord Acton, who could survey the ages with a wealth of knowledge to which no other man, perhaps, ever attained, 'Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end. It is not for the sake of a good public administration that it is required[168] but for security in the pursuit of the highest objects of civil society and of private life.'[60] Government is needed in order to enable human life to become, not efficient or well-informed or well-ordered, but simply good; and Lord Acton believed, as the Greeks and generations of Englishmen believed before him, that it is only in the soil of liberty that the human spirit can grow to its full stature, and that a political system based upon any other principle than that of responsible self-government acts as a bar at the outset to the pursuit of what he called 'the highest objects of civil society or of private life'. For though a slave, or a man living under a servile political system, may develop many fine qualities of character: yet such virtues will, in Milton's words, be but 'fugitive and cloistered', 'unexercised and unbreathed'. For liberty, and the responsibilities that it involves, are the school of character and the appointed means by which men can best serve their neighbours. A man deprived of such opportunities, cut off from the quickening influence of responsibility, has, as Homer said long ago 'lost half his manhood'. He may be a loyal subject, a brave soldier, a diligent and obedient workman: but he will not be a full-grown man. Government will have starved and stunted him in that which it is the supreme object of government to develop and set free.

It is idle, then, to talk in general terms about the extension of government as a good thing, whether in relation to the individual citizen or to the organization of the world into an international State. We have always first to ask: What kind of Government? On what principles will it be based? What ideal will it set forth? What kind of common life will it provide or allow to its citizens? If the whole world were organized into one single State, and that State, supreme in its control over Nature, were[169] armed with all the knowledge and organization that the ablest and most farseeing brains in the world could supply, yet mankind might be worse off under its sway, in the real essentials of human life, than if they were painted savages. 'Though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge: and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.' Government may be the organization of goodness, or the organization of evil. It may provide the conditions by which the common life of society can develop along the lines of man's spiritual nature: or it may take away the very possibility of such a development. Till we know what a Government stands for, do not let us judge it by its imposing externals of organization. The Persian Empire was more imposing than the Republics of Greece: Assyria and Babylon than the little tribal divisions of Palestine: the Spanish Empire than the cities of the Netherlands. There is some danger that, in our new-found sense of the value of knowledge in promoting happiness, we should forget what a tyrant knowledge, like wealth, can become. No doubt, just as we saw that moral qualities, patience and the like, are needed for the advancement of knowledge, so knowledge is needed, and greatly needed, in the task of extending and deepening the moral and spiritual life of mankind. But we cannot measure that progress in terms of knowledge or organization or efficiency or culture. We need some other standard by which to judge between Greece and Persia, between Israel and Babylon, between Spain and the Netherlands, between Napoleon and his adversaries, and between contending powers in the modern world. What shall that standard be?

It must be a similar standard—let us boldly say it—to that by which we judge between individuals. It must be a standard based on our sense of right and wrong. But[170] right and wrong in themselves will not carry us very far, any more than they will carry the magistrate on the bench or the merchant in his counting-house. Politics, like business, is not the whole of life—though some party politicians and some business men think otherwise—but a department of life: both are means, not ends; and as such they have developed special rules and codes of their own, based on experience in their own special department. In so far as they are framed in accordance with man's spiritual nature and ideals these rules may be considered to hold good and to mark the stage of progress at which Politics and Business have respectively arrived in promoting the common weal in their own special sphere. With the rules of business, or what is called Political Economy, we have at the moment no concern. It is the rules of politics, or the working experience of rulers, crystallized in what is called Political Science or Political Philosophy, to which we must devote a few moments' attention.

We are all of us, of course, political philosophers. Whether we have votes or not, whether we are aware of it or not, we all have views on political philosophy and we are all constantly making free use of its own peculiar principles and conceptions. Law, the State, Liberty, Justice, Democracy are words that are constantly on our lips. Let us try to form a clear idea of the place which these great historic ideals occupy in the progress of mankind.

The great political thinkers of the world have always been clear in their own minds as to the ultimate goal of their own particular study. Political thought may be said to have originated with the Jewish prophets, who were the first to rebuke kings to their faces and to set forth the spiritual aims of politics—to preach Righteousness and Mercy as against Power and Ambition and Self-[171]interest. Their soaring imagination, less systematic than the Greek intellect, was wider in its sweep and more farseeing in its predictions. 'As the earth bringeth forth her bud and as the garden causeth the things sown in it to spring forth', says Isaiah, in magnificent anticipation of the doctrine of Natural Law, 'so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.' 'Peace, peace, to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord, and I will heal him: but the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, for the wicked.' 'Out of Zion shall go forth the Law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge between the nations and shall reprove many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.'[61]

It was, however, Plato and Aristotle who first made politics a branch of separate study: and, unlike many of their modern successors, they pursued it throughout in close connexion with the kindred studies of ethics and psychology. Their scope was, of course, confined to the field of their own experience, the small self-contained City-States of Greece, and it did not fall within their province to foreshadow, like the Jewish Prophets, the end of warfare, or to speculate on the ultimate unity of mankind. Their task was to interpret the work of their own fellow-countrymen on the narrow stage of Greek life. Their lasting achievement is to have laid down for mankind what a State is, as compared with other forms of human association, and to have proclaimed, once and for all, in set terms, that its object is to promote the 'good life' of its members. 'Every State', says Aristotle in[172] the opening words of his Politics, 'is a community of some kind.' That is to say, States belong to the same genus, as it were, as political parties, trade unions, cricket clubs, business houses, or such gatherings as ours. What, then, is the difference between a State and a political party? 'If all communities', he goes on, 'aim at some good, the State or political community, which is the highest of all and which embraces all the rest, aims, and in a greater degree than any other, at the highest good.'

Why is the State the highest of all forms of association? Why should our citizenship, for instance, take precedence of our trade unionism or our business obligations? Aristotle replies, and in spite of recent critics I think the reply still holds good: because, but for the existence of the State and the reign of law maintained by it, none of these associations could have been formed or be maintained. 'He who first founded the State was the greatest of benefactors. For man, when protected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and righteousness, he is the worst of all.' Or, to put it in the resounding Elizabethan English of Hooker: 'The public power of all societies is above every soul contained in the same societies. And the principal use of that power is to give laws to all that are under it; which laws, in such case, we must obey, unless there be reason showed which may necessarily enforce that the law of Reason or of God doth enjoin the contrary. Because except our own private and probable resolutions be by the law of public determinations overruled, we take away all possibility of social life in the world.'[62] The Greeks did not deny, as the example of Socrates shows, the right of private judgement on the question of obedience to law, or the duty of respect for what Hooker calls the Law of Reason or of God. Against the authentic voice of con[173]science no human authority can or should prevail. But Aristotle held, with Hooker, that obedience to law and faithful citizenship are themselves matters normally ordained by the law of Reason or of God and that, as against those of any other association (κοινωνία), the claims of the State are paramount. In other words, he would deny what is sometimes loosely called the right of rebellion, whilst not closing the door to that duty of rebellion which has so often advanced the cause of liberty. When Aristotle speaks of the State, moreover, he does not mean a sovereign authority exercising arbitrary power, as in Persia or Babylon: he means an authority administering Law and Justice according to recognized standards: and he is thinking of Law and Justice, not simply as part of the apparatus of government but as based upon moral principles. 'Righteousness', he says, 'is the bond of men in States and the administration of Justice, which is the determination of what is righteous, is the principle of order in political society.' 'Of Law', says Hooker,[63] here as elsewhere echoing the ancients, 'there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world.' The State takes precedence of the party or the trade union because, however idealistic in their policy these latter may be, the State covers all, not merely a section of the community, and is able not merely to proclaim but to enforce the rule of law and justice. Put in modern language, one might define the Greek idea of the State as the Organization of Mutual Aid.

The Greek States did not remain true to this high ideal. Faced with the temptations of power they descended almost to the level of the oriental monarchies with which they were contrasted. But even had they remained faithful to their philosophers' ideal of public service they[174] would not have survived. Unable to transcend the limits of their own narrow State-boundaries and to merge their ideals with those of their neighbours, they were helpless in the face of the invader. First Macedonia and then Rome swept over them, and political idealism slumbered for many centuries. Rome gave the world, what it greatly needed, centuries of peace and order and material prosperity: it built up an enduring fabric of law on principles of Reason and Humanity: it did much to give men, what is next to the political sense, the social sense. It made men members of one another from Scotland to Syria and from Portugal to Baghdad. But it did not give them 'the good life' in its fullness: for it did not, perhaps it could not, give them liberty. Faced with the choice between efficiency and the diffusion of responsibility, the rulers of the Roman Empire unhesitatingly chose efficiency. But the atrophy of responsibility proved the canker at the heart of the Empire. Deprived of the stimulus that freedom and the habit of responsibility alone can give, the Roman world sank gradually into the morass of Routine. Life lost its savour and grew stale, flat and unprofitable, as in an old-style Government office. 'The intolerable sadness inseparable from such a life', says Renan, 'seemed worse than death.' And when the barbarians came and overturned the whole fabric of bureaucracy, though it seemed to educated men at the time the end of civilization, it was in reality the beginning of a new life.

Amid the wreckage of the Roman Empire, one governing institution alone remained upright—the Christian Church with its organization for ministering to the spiritual needs of its members. With the conversion of the barbarians to Christianity the governing functions and influence of the Church became more and more important; and it was upon the basis of Church government that[175] political idealism, so long in abeyance, was reawakened. The thinkers who took up the work of Plato and Aristotle on the larger stage of the Holy Roman Empire boldly looked forward to the time when mankind should be united under one government and that government should embody the highest ideals of mankind. Such an ideal seemed indeed to many one of the legacies of the Founder of Christianity. The familiar petition in the Lord's Prayer: thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven sounded, in the ears of Dante and Thomas Aquinas and innumerable theologians and canonists, as a prayer and a pledge for the ultimate political unity of mankind on the basis of Christian Law. Such a belief was indeed the bedrock of mediaeval political thought. To devout Christians, brought up in the oecumenical traditions of the Roman Empire,

'every ordering of a human community must appear as a component part of that ordering of the world which exists because God exists, and every earthly group must appear as an organic member of that Civitas Dei, that God-State, which comprehends the heavens and the earth.[1] ... Thus the Theory of Human Society must accept the divinely created organization of the Universe as a prototype of the first principles which govern the construction of human communities.... Therefore, in all centuries of the Middle Age, Christendom, which in destiny is identical with Mankind, is set before us as a single, universal Community, founded and governed by God Himself. Mankind is one "mystical body"; it is one single and internally connected "people" or "folk"; it is an all-embracing corporation, which constitutes that Universal Realm, spiritual and temporal, which may be called the Universal Church, or, with equal propriety, the Commonwealth of the Human Race. Therefore, that it may attain its one purpose, it needs One Law and One Government.'[64]


But the mediaeval ideal, like the Greek, broke down in practice. 'Where the Middle Ages failed', says the Master of Balliol, continuing a passage already quoted, 'was in attempting ... to make politics the handmaid of religion, to give the Church the organization and form of a political State, that is, to turn religion from an indwelling spirit into an ecclesiastical machinery.' In other words, the mediaeval attempt broke down through neglecting the special conditions and problems of the political department of life, through declining, as it were, to specialize. While men were discussing the Theory of the Two Swords, whether the Emperor derived his power directly from God or indirectly through the Pope, or whether the sword should be used at all, the actual work of government in laying the foundations of the good life was neglected. Not only Liberty but Justice and Order were largely in abeyance and the range of State action which we to-day describe as 'social legislation' was not even dreamed of. Absorbed in theory or wrapped in ignorance, men forget the practical meaning of Statehood and its responsibilities. Central Europe languished for centuries, under a sham Empire, in the unprogressive anarchy of feudalism. 'The feudal system', it has been said,[65] 'was nothing more nor less than the attempt of a society which had failed to organize itself as a State, to make contract do the work of patriotism.' It is the bitter experience which Germany went through under the anarchy of feudalism and petty governments, lasting to well within living memory, which by a natural reaction has led the German people, under Prussian tutelage, to cling to the conception of the State as Power and nothing more.

The study of politics had to become secular before it could once more become practical, and, by being practical, ministering to practical ideals and enlisting practical[177] devotion, become, as it were, sacred once more. Where the well-being of our fellow men is concerned it is not enough to be well-meaning. Government is an art, not an aspiration: and those who are concerned with it, whether as rulers or voters, should have studied its problems, reflected on its possibilities and limitations, and fitted themselves to profit by its accumulated experience.

Since the close of the Middle Ages, when politics became secular, the art of government has advanced by giant strides. Invention has followed invention, and experiment experiment, till to-day skilled specialists in the Old World and the New are at hand to watch and to record the latest devices for dealing with a hundred difficult special problems—whether it be the administration of justice or patronage, the organization of political parties, the fixing of Cabinet responsibility, the possibilities and limits of federalism, the prevention of war. There has, indeed, been as great an advance in the political art in the last four centuries and particularly in the last century, as in the very kindred art of medicine. The wonderful concentration of energy which the various belligerent powers have been able to throw into the present war is at once the best and the most tragic illustration of this truth. Man's common life in the State is more real, more charged with meaning and responsibility, more potent for good or for ill than it has ever been before—than our predecessors even in the time of Napoleon could have dreamed of.

The greatest inventors and most skilful practitioners of the political art in the modern world have been the English, for it is the English who, of all nations, have held closest to the ideal of freedom in its many and various manifestations. Superficially regarded, the English are a stupid people, and so their continental neighbours[178] have often regarded them. But their racial heritage and their island situation seem to have given them just that combination of experience and natural endowment necessary to success in the task of government. Taken as a whole, the English are not brilliant, but they are clear-headed: they are not far-sighted, but they can see the fact before their eyes: they are ill equipped with theoretical knowledge, but they understand the working of institutions and have a good eye for judging character: they have little constructive imagination of the more grandiose sort, but they have an instinct for the 'next step' which has often set them on paths which have led them far further than they dreamed; above all, they have a relatively high standard of individual character and public duty, without which no organization involving the free co-operation of man and man can hope to be effective. It is this unique endowment of moral qualities and practical gifts, coupled with unrivalled opportunities, which has made the English the pioneers in modern times in the art of human association. Englishmen, accustomed to what eighteenth-century writers used to call 'the peculiar felicity of British freedom', do not always remember how far their own experience has carried them on the road of political progress. They do not realize how many problems they have solved and abolished, as the art of medicine has abolished diseases. When they hear speak of the eternal conflict between Nationality and Nationality, they often forget that a war between England and Scotland has long since become unthinkable and that the platitudes of St. Andrew's Day are still paradoxes in Central and Eastern Europe. When they are told of States where the spontaneous manifestations of group-life, non-conforming sects, workmen's associations, and ordinary social clubs, are driven underground and classed as dangerous secret societies, they should realize how precious a thing is that[179] freedom of association which is one of the dearest attributes of English liberty. So too when they read of monarchical and military supremacy in a country like Germany, which is still politically speaking in the stage of England under the Tudors, or of Russian autocracy, or of the struggle over the King's prerogative which has been taking place in Greece. If we believe, as we must, in the cause of liberty, let us not be too modest to say that nations which have not yet achieved responsible self-government, whether within or without the British Commonwealth, are politically backward, and let us recall the long stages of political invention by which our own self-government has been achieved. Representation, trial by jury, an independent judiciary, equality before the law, habeas corpus, a limited monarchy, the practice of ministerial responsibility, religious toleration, the freedom of printing and association, colonial autonomy—all these are distinctly English inventions, but time has shown that most of them are definite additions to the universal art of government. We can survey the Balkans, for instance, and say with confidence that one thing, amongst others, that those nations are in need of is toleration, both in the sphere of nationality and of religion: or declare of the United States that their industrial future will be menaced till they have freed Trade Unionism from the threat of the so-called law of Conspiracy: or ask of our own so-called self-governing Dominions whether they are content with a system that concedes them no responsible control over the issues of peace and war. This is not to say that our own governmental machinery is perfect. Far from it. It was never in greater need of overhauling. It is only to reaffirm the belief, which no temporary disillusionment can shake, that it is founded on enduring principles which are not political but moral. To compare a system which aims at freedom and seeks to attain[180] that aim through the working of responsible self-government with systems, however logically perfect or temporarily effective, which set no value on either, is, as it were, to compare black with white. It is to go back on the lessons of centuries of experience and to deny the cause, not of liberty alone, but of that progress of the spirit of man which it is the highest object of liberty to promote.

We have no time here to discuss in detail the various English inventions in the art of politics, but we must pause to consider two of the most important, because they are typical of British methods. The first is the invention called the Principle of Representation. Representation is a device by which, and by which alone, the area of effective government can be extended without the sacrifice of liberty. It is a device by which the scattered many can make their will prevail over the few at the centre. Under any non-representative system, whether in a State or a Church or a Trade Union or any other association, men always find themselves set before the inexorable dilemma between freedom and weakness on the one hand and strength and tyranny on the other. Either the State or the association has to be kept small, so that the members themselves can meet and keep in touch with all that goes on. Or it is allowed to expand and grow strong, in which case power becomes concentrated at the centre and the great body of members loses all effective control. The ancient world saw no way out of this dilemma. The great Oriental monarchies never contemplated even the pretence of popular control. The city-states of Greece, where democracy originated, set such store in consequence by the personal liberty of the individual citizen, that they preferred to remain small, and suffered the inevitable penalty of their weakness. Rome, growing till she overshadowed the world, sacrificed liberty in the process. Nor was the Christian Church, when it became a large-scale[181] organization, able to overcome the dilemma. It was not till thirteenth-century England that a way out was found. Edward I in summoning two burgesses from each borough and two knights from each shire to his model Parliament in 1295, hit on a method of doing business which was destined to revolutionize the art of government. He stipulated that the men chosen by their fellows to confer with him must come, to quote the exact words of the summons, armed with 'full and sufficient power for themselves and for the community of the aforesaid county, and the said citizens and burgesses for themselves and the communities of the aforesaid cities and boroughs separately, there and then, for doing what shall then be ordained according to the Common Council in the premises, so that the aforesaid business shall not remain unfinished in any way for defect of this power'. In other words, the members were to come to confer with the king not as individuals speaking for themselves alone, but as representatives. Their words and acts were to bind those on whose behalf they came, and those who chose them were to do so in the full knowledge that they would be so bound. In choosing them the electors deliberately surrendered their own share of initiative and sovereignty and combined to bestow it on a fellow citizen whom they trusted. In this way, and in this way alone, the people of Cornwall and of Northumberland could bring their wishes to bear and play their part, together with the people at the centre, in the government of a country many times the size of a city-state of ancient Greece. There had been assemblies before in all ages of history: but this was something different. It was a Parliament.

Representation seems to us such an obvious device that we often forget how comparatively modern it is and what a degree of responsibility and self-control it demands both in the representative and in those whom he represents.[182] It is very unpleasant to hear of things done or acquiesced in by our representatives of which we disapprove, and to have to remember that it is our own fault for not sending a wiser or braver man to Westminster in his place. It is still more unpleasant for a representative to feel, as he often must, that his own honest opinion and conscience draw him one way on a matter of business and the opinions of most of his constituents another. But these are difficulties inherent in the system, and for which there is no remedy but sincerity and patience. It is part of the bargain that a constituency should not be able to disavow a representative: and that a representative should feel bound to use his own best judgement on the issues put before him. To turn the representative, as there is a tendency to do in some quarters, into a mere mouthpiece with a mandate, is to ignore the very problem which made representation necessary, and to presume that a local mass-meeting can be as well informed or take as wide a view as those who have all the facts before them at the centre. The ancient Greeks, who had a strong sense of individuality, were loth to believe that any one human being could make a decision on behalf of another. In the deepest sense of course they were right. But government, as has been said, is at best a rough business. Representation is no more than a practical compromise: but it is a compromise which has been found to work. It has made possible the extension of free government to areas undreamed of. It has enabled the general sense of the inhabitants of the United States, an area nearly as large as Europe, to be concentrated at Washington, and it may yet make it possible to collect the sense of self-governing Dominions in four continents in a Parliament at London. All this lay implicit in the practical instructions sent by the English king to his sheriffs; but its development would only have been possible in a community[183] where the general level of character was a high one and where men were, therefore, in the habit of placing implicit trust in one another. The relationship of confidence between a member of Parliament and his constituents, or a Trade Union leader and his rank and file, is a thing of which public men are rightly proud: for it reflects honour on both parties and testifies to an underlying community of purpose which no passing disagreement on details can break down.

Representation paved the way for the modern development of responsible self-government. But it is important to recognize that the two are not the same thing. Responsible self-government, in its modern form, is a separate and more complex English invention in the art of government. A community may be decked out with a complete apparatus of representative institutions and yet remain little better than an autocracy. Modern Germany is a case in point. The parliamentary suffrage for the German Reichstag is more representative than that for the British House of Commons. The German workman is better represented in his Parliament than the British workman is in ours. But the German workman has far less power to make his will effective in matters of policy than the British, because the German constitution does not embody the principle of responsible self-government. Sovereignty still rests with the Kaiser as it rested in the thirteenth century with Edward I. The Imperial Chancellor is not responsible to the Reichstag but to the Kaiser, by whom he is appointed and whose personal servant he remains. The Reichstag can discuss the actions of the Chancellor: it can advise him, or protest to him, or even pass votes of censure against him; but it cannot make its will effective. We can observe the working of similar representative institutions in different parts of the British Commonwealth. The provinces of India and many British[184] Colonies have variously composed representative assemblies, but in all cases without the power to control their executives. The self-governing Dominions, on the other hand, do enjoy responsible self-government, but in an incomplete form, because the most vital of all issues of policy are outside their control. On questions of foreign policy, and the issues of war and peace, the Parliaments of the Dominions, and the citizens they represent, are, constitutionally speaking, as helpless as the most ignorant native in the humblest dependency. Representative institutions in themselves thus no more ensure real self-government than the setting up of a works committee of employees in a factory would ensure that the workmen ran the factory. The distinction between representation and effective responsibility is so simple that it seems a platitude to mention it. Yet it is constantly ignored, both in this country by those who speak of Colonial self-government as though the Dominions really enjoyed the same self-government as the people of these islands, and by the parties in Germany whose programme it is, not to make Germany a truly constitutional country, but to assimilate the retrograde Prussian franchise to the broader representation of the Reichstag.

Wherein does the transition from representation to full responsibility consist? It came about in England when Parliament, instead of merely being consulted by the sovereign, felt itself strong enough to give orders to the sovereign. The sovereign naturally resisted, as the Kaiser and the Tsar will resist in their turn; but in this country the battle was fought and won in the seventeenth century. Since that time, with a few vacillations, Parliament has been the sovereign power. But once this transfer of sovereignty has taken place, a new problem arises. A Parliament of several hundred members, even though[185] it meets regularly, is not competent to transact the multitudinous and complex and highly specialized business of a modern State. The original function of Parliament was to advise, to discuss, and to criticize. It is not an instrument fit for the work of execution and administration. Having become sovereign, its first business must be to create out of its own members an instrument which should carry out its own policy and be responsible to itself for its actions. Hence arose the Cabinet. The Cabinet is, as it were, a distillation of Parliament, just as Parliament itself is a distillation of the country. It consists of members of Parliament and it is in constant touch with Parliament; but its methods are not the methods of Parliament but of the older, more direct, organs of government which Parliament superseded. It meets in secret: it holds all the strings of policy: it has almost complete control of political and legislative initiative: it decides what is to be done and when and how: it has its own staff of agents and confidential advisers in the Departments and elsewhere whose acts are largely withdrawn from the knowledge and criticism of Parliament. A modern Cabinet in fact is open to the charge of being autocracy in a new guise. Such a charge would, of course, be a gross overstatement. But there is no doubt that the increasing complexity in the tasks of government has led to a corresponding growth of power and organization at the centre which has strengthened the Cabinet immeasurably of recent years at the expense of the direct representatives of the people. There are, however, powerful influences at work in the opposite direction, towards decentralization and new forms of representation, which there is no space to touch on here. Suffice it to say that here, as elsewhere, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

England, then, and all who enjoy the full privileges[186] of British citizenship have been placed by the progress of events in a position of peculiar responsibility. The twentieth century finds us the centre of the widest experiment of self-government which the world has ever seen; for the principles of liberty, first tested in this island, have approved themselves on the soil of North America, Australasia, and South Africa. It finds us also responsible for the government and for the training in responsibility of some 350,000,000 members of the more politically inexperienced and backward races of mankind, or about one-fifth of the human race. The growth of the British Commonwealth, about which so astonishingly little is known either by ourselves or by other peoples, is not a mere happy or unhappy accident. It is one of the inevitable and decisive developments in the history of mankind. It is the direct result of that widening of intercourse, that internationalizing of the world, to which reference has already been made. It represents the control of law and organized government over the blind and selfish forces of exploitation. In the exercise of this control we have often ourselves been blind and sometimes selfish. But 'the situation of man', as Burke finely said of our Indian Empire, 'is the preceptor of his duty'. The perseverance of the British character, its habit of concentration on the work that lies to hand, and the influence of our traditional social and political ideals, have slowly brought us to a deeper insight, till to-day the Commonwealth is becoming alive to the real nature of its task—the extension and consolidation of liberty. If it has thus taken up, in part, the work of the mediaeval Empire and has had a measure of success where the other failed, it is because of the character of its individual citizens, because despite constant and heart-breaking failures in knowledge and imagination, we are a people who, in the words of a stern, if friendly, critic, 'with great self-assertion and a bull-[187]dog kind of courage, have yet a singular amount of gentleness and tenderness'.[66]

We have come to the end of our long survey. Some of you may feel that I have fetched too wide a compass and given too wide an extension to the meaning of government. But if I have sinned I have sinned of set purpose. I refuse to confine government within the limits of what is ordinarily called politics, or to discuss the association called the State in isolation from other sides of man's community life. To do so, I feel, is to lay oneself open to one of two opposite errors: the error of those for whom the State is the Almighty, and who invest it with a superhuman morality and authority of its own; and the error of those who draw in their skirts in horror from the touch of what Nietzsche called this 'cold monster' and take refuge in monastic detachment from the political responsibilities of their time. We must be able to see politics as a part of life before we can see it steadily and see it whole. We must be able to see it in relation to the general ordering of the world and to connect it once more, as in the Middle Ages, with religion and morality. No thinking man can live through such a time as this and preserve his faith unless he is sustained by the belief that the clash of States which is darkening our generation is not a mere blind collision of forces, but has spiritual bearings which affect each individual living soul born or to be born in the world. It is not for us to anticipate the verdict of history. But what we can do is to bear ourselves worthily, in thought and speech, like our soldiers in action, of the times in which we live—to testify, as it were, in our own lives, to that for which so many of our friends have laid down theirs. We are met at a culminating moment of human [188]fate—when, so far as human judgement can discern, the political destinies of this planet are being settled for many generations to come—perhaps for good. If the task of leadership in the arts of government remains with us, let us face the responsibility conscious of the vast spiritual issues which it involves, and let us so plan and act that history, looking back on these years of blood, may date from them a new birth of freedom and progress, not for ourselves in this country alone but throughout that kingdom of Man which must one day, as we believe, become in very truth the kingdom of God.

Books for Reference

1.Man's Control over Nature:
Ray Lankester, The Kingdom of Man, and other essays. 1912.
Demolins, Comment la route crée le type social.
Curtis (ed. by), The Commonwealth of Nations. Vol. i, 1916.
Murphy, The Basis of Ascendancy. 1909.
Introduction to the Study of International Relations (Greenwood and others). 1916.
2.Political Ideals:
The Jews: Todd, Politics and Religion in Ancient Israel. 1904.
Greece: Aristotle's Politics, translated by B. Jowett. 1908.
Dickinson, The Greek View of Life. 1909.
Barker, The Political thought of Plato and Aristotle. 1908.
Rome: H. Stuart Jones, The Roman Empire. (Story of the Nations.) 1908. Warde Fowler, Rome (Home University Series).
The Middle Ages: A. L. Smith, Church and State in the Middle Ages. 1911.
Gierke, Political Theories of the Middle Ages (introduction by Maitland). 1900.
Miscellaneous: Wallas, Human Nature in Politics. 1908.
Acton, The History of Freedom, and other essays. 1909.
Lowell, The Government of England.
Bülow, Imperial Germany. 1916.


[53] A. L. Smith, Church and State in the Middle Ages, pp. 207-8.

[54] Lankester, Nature and Man, Romanes Lecture, 1905, pp. 27-9.

[55] The Commonwealth of Nations, edited by L. Curtis, Part I, p. 130.

[56] Ibid., p. 166.

[57] P. H. Kerr in An Introduction to the Study of International Relations, 1915, p. 149.

[58] A still better name would be the Great Responsibilities.

[59] Second Thoughts of an Economist, 1916, pp. 17-18, 22.

[60] Freedom and other Essays, p. 22.

[61] Isaiah lxvi. 2; lvii. 19, 21; ii. 3, 4.

[62] Ecclesiastical Polity, Book I, ch. xvi. 5.

[63] End of Book I of the Ecclesiastical Polity.

[64] Gierke, Political Theories of the Middle Age, pp. 8 and 10.

[65] The Commonwealth of Nations, Part I, p. 73.

[66] Memoirs and letters of Sir Robert Morier, ii. 276.




A. E. Zimmern

In our study of Government we traced the upward course of the common life of mankind in the world. We saw it in the increasing control of Man over his physical environment, and we saw it also in his clearer realization of the ultimate ideal of government—the ordering of the world's affairs on the basis of liberty. We have now to turn aside from this main stream of social development to watch one particular branch of it—to survey man's record in the special department of economics. We shall no longer be studying human history, or the history of human society, as a whole, but what is known as economic or industrial history.

It is important to be clear at the outset that economic or industrial history is a tributary stream and not the main stream: for there are a number of people who are of the contrary opinion. There has been an increasing tendency of recent years to write human history in terms of economic or industrial progress. 'Tell me what men ate or wore or manufactured,' say historians of this school, 'and we will tell you what stage of civilization he had reached. We will place him in his proper pigeonhole in our arrangement of the record of human progress.' Did he use flint implements or fight with nothing but a bow and arrow? Did he use a canoe with a primitive pole which he had not even the sense to flatten so as to make it into a serviceable paddle? Then our sociologist[190] will put him very low down on his list of the stages of human progress. For the modern sociologist is a confirmed plutocrat. He measures the character of men and races by their wealth. Just as old-fashioned people still think of the society of our own country as a hierarchy, in which the various classes are graded according to their social prestige and the extent of their possessions: so students of primitive civilization classify races according to their material equipment, and can hardly help yielding to the temptation of reckoning their stage of progress as a whole by the only available test. Thus it is common, especially in Germany and the United States, to find histories of what purports to be the progress of mankind which show man first as a hunter and a fisherman, then as a shepherd, then as a tiller of the soil, and then work upwards to the complicated industrial system of to-day. We are asked to accept the life of Abraham or David among the sheepfolds as the bottom of the ladder, and the life of a modern wage-earner under the smoky sky of a manufacturing area as the top; and when we complain and say, as men like William Morris and Stephen Graham are always saying, that we would far prefer to live in David's world, in spite of all its discomforts, we are told that we have no right to quarrel with the sacred principle of Evolution.

To interpret human history in this way is, of course, to deny its spiritual meaning, to deny that it is a record of the progress of the human spirit at all. It is to read it as a tale of the improvement, or rather the increasing complication, of things, rather than of the advance of man. It is to view the world as a Domain of Matter, not as the Kingdom of Man—still less, as the Kingdom of God. It is to tie us helplessly to the chariot wheels of an industrial Juggernaut which knows nothing of moral values. Let the progress of industry make life noisy and ugly and anxious and unhappy: let it engross the great[191] mass of mankind in tedious and uncongenial tasks and the remainder in the foolish and unsatisfying activities of luxurious living; let it defile the green earth with pits and factories and slag-heaps and the mean streets of those who toil at them, and dim the daylight with exhalations of monstrous vapour. It is not for us to complain or to resist: for we are in the grip of a Power which is greater than ourselves, a Power to which mankind in all five continents has learnt to yield—that Economic Process which is, in truth, the God, or the Devil, of the modern world.

No thinking man dare acquiesce in such a conclusion or consent to bow the head before such fancied necessities. The function of industry, he will reply, is to serve human life not to master it: to beautify human life not to degrade it: to set life free not to enslave it. Economics is not the whole of life: and when it transgresses its bounds and exceeds its functions it must be controlled and thrust back into its place by the combined activities of men. The soul is higher than the body, and life is more than housekeeping. Liberty is higher than Riches, and the welfare of the community more important than its economic and material progress. These great processes, which the increase of man's knowledge has set in motion, are not impersonal inhuman forces: Men originated them: men administer them: and men must control them. Against economic necessity let us set political necessity: and let the watchword of that political necessity, here as always, be the freedom and the well-being of mankind.

With this caution in mind, then, let us approach our subject.

What is Economics? Economics is simply the Greek for 'house-keeping'. If writers and thinkers on the subject had only kept this simple fact in mind, or used[192] the English word instead of the Greek, the world would have been saved much misery and confusion. Political economy is not, what Mill and other writers define it to be, 'the Science of Wealth'. It is the art of community-housekeeping, and community-housekeeping, as every woman knows, is a very important if subsidiary branch of the art of community-management or government.

Housekeeping, of course, is not a selfish but a social function. Housewives do not lay in bread and cheese simply to gratify their own desire to be possessors of a large store, but for the sake of their household. The true housekeeper or economic man is the man who is consciously ministering to the real needs of the community. Like the ruler or minister in the political sphere, he is a man who is performing a public service.

This is equally true whether the housekeeper has a monopoly of the purchase of bread and cheese for the household, or whether he or she has to compete with others as to which is to be allowed to serve the public in that particular transaction. Just as, under the party system, which seems to be inseparable from the working of democratic institutions, men stand for Parliament and compete for the honour of representing their neighbours, so in most systems of industry men compete for the honour of supplying the public. Competition in industry is practically as old as industry. In the earliest picture that has come down to us of Greek village life we read of the competition between potter and potter and between minstrel and minstrel—a competition as keen and as fierce, we may be sure, as that between rival shopkeepers to-day. For the opposite of competition, as has been truly said, is not co-operation but monopoly or bureaucracy: and there is no short and easy means of deciding between the rival systems. Sometimes the community is better served by entrusting one department wholly to one[193] purveyor or one system of management—as in the Postal Service, or the Army and Navy. Sometimes it is clearly better to leave the matter open to competition. Nobody, for instance, would propose to do with only one minstrel, and seal the lips of all poets but the Poet Laureate. Sometimes, as in the case of the organized professions and the liquor trade, a strictly regulated system of competition has been considered best. No doubt the tendency at the present time is setting strongly against competition and towards more unified and more closely organized systems of doing business. But it is important to make quite clear that there is nothing immoral or anti-social about the fact of competition itself, and nothing inconsistent with the idea of service and co-operation which should underlie all social and economic activity. It is not competition itself, as people often wrongly think, which is the evil, but the shallow and selfish motives and the ruthless trampling down of the weak that are too often associated with it. When we condemn the maxim 'the Devil take the hindmost', it is not because we think we ought to treat the hindmost as though he were the foremost—to buy cracked jars or patronize incapable minstrels. It is because we feel that there is a wrong standard of reward among those who have pushed to the front, and that the community as a whole cannot ignore its responsibility towards its less fortunate and capable members.

It is, indeed, quite impossible to abolish competition for the patronage of the household without subjecting its members to tyranny or tying them down to an intolerable uniformity—forcing them to suppress their own temporary likes or dislikes and to go on taking in the same stuff in the same quantities world without end. For the most serious and permanent competition is not that between rival purveyors of the same goods, between[194] potter and potter and minstrel and minstrel, but between one set of goods and another: between the potter and the blacksmith, the minstrel and the painter. If we abolished competition permanently between the British railways we could not make sure that the public would always use them as it does now. People would still be at liberty to walk or to drive or to bicycle or to fly, or, at the very worst, to stay at home. Competition, as every business man knows, sometimes arises from the most unexpected quarters. The picture-house and the bicycle have damaged the brewer and the publican. Similarly the motor-car and the golf links have spoilt the trade in the fine china ornaments such as used to be common in expensively furnished drawing-rooms. People sit less in their rooms, so spend less on decorating them. The members of the household always retain ultimate control over their economic life, if they care to exercise it. 'Whoso has sixpence,' as Carlyle said, 'is sovereign (to the length of sixpence), over all men; commands Cooks to feed him, Philosophers to teach him, Kings to mount guard over him,'—to the length of sixpence. Passive resistance and the boycott are always open to the public in the last resort against any of their servants who has abused the powers of his position. A good instance of this occurred in the events which led to the so-called Tobacco riots in Milan in 1848. The Austrians thought they could force the Italians in their Lombard provinces to pay for a government they hated by putting a heavy tax on tobacco. But the Italians, with more self-control than we have shown in the present war, with one accord gave up smoking. Here was a plain competition between a monopoly and the consumer, between tobacco and patriotism: between a united household and an unpopular servant: and the household won, as it always can unless its members are incapable of combined action or have[195] been deprived by governmental tyranny of all power to associate and to organize.

We are faced then with a community or household which has certain wants that need to be supplied. The individual members of the community are justified, within the limits of general well-being,[67] in deciding what are their own wants and how to satisfy them. They claim the right to demand, as the economists put it, the goods and services they require, bread and cheese, poetry, tobacco, motor-bicycles, china ornaments. In order to meet those demands, which are stable in essentials but subject to constant modification in detail, there is ceaseless activity, rivalry, competition, on the part of the purveyors—on the side of what economists call supply. The business of housekeeping, or what is called the economic process, is that of bringing this demand and this supply into relation with one another. If the members of the household said they wanted to eat the moon instead of sugar, their demand would not be an economic demand: for no housekeeper could satisfy it. Similarly on the supply side: if the baker insisted on bringing round bad epics instead of bread and the grocer bad sonatas instead of sugar, the supply, however good it might seem to the baker and the grocer, and however much satisfaction they might personally have derived from their work, would not be an economic supply: for the housekeeper, acting on behalf of the household, would not take it in. But if the demand was for something not yet available, but less impossibly remote than the moon, the housekeeper might persuade the purveyors to cudgel their brains till they had met the need. For, as we know, Necessity, which is another word for Demand, is the mother of invention. Similarly, if a purveyor supplied[196] something undreamed of by the household, but otherwise good of its kind, he might succeed in persuading the household to like it—in other words, in creating a demand. The late Sir Alfred Jones, by putting bananas cheap on the market, persuaded us that we liked them. Similarly Mr. Marvin, who deals in something better than bananas, has persuaded us all to come here, though most of us would never have thought of it unless he had created the demand in us.

Economic Progress, then, is progress both on the side of demand and on the side of supply. It is a progress in wants as well as in their means of satisfaction: a progress in the aspirations of the household as well as in the contrivances of its purveyors: a progress in the sense of what life might be, as well as in the skill and genius and organizing powers of those to whom the community looks for help in the realization of its hopes. It is important that this double aspect of our subject should be realized, for in what follows we shall have no opportunity to dwell further upon it. Space compels us to leave the household and its wants and aspirations out of account and to direct our attention solely to the side of supply; although it must always be remembered that no real and permanent progress in the organization of production is possible without improvements in the quality and reduction in the number of the requirements of what is called civilization.[68] What we have to watch, in our study of progress in industry, is the history of man as a purveyor of the household: in other words, as a producer of goods and services: from the days of the primitive savage with his bark canoe to the gigantic industrial enterprises of our own time.

We can best do so by dividing our subject into two on[197] somewhat similar lines to the division in our study of government. Let us consider industry, first as an activity involving a relationship between man and Nature; secondly, as involving what may be called a problem of industrial government, a problem arising out of the co-operation between man and man in industrial work. In the first of these aspects we shall see man as a maker, an inventor, an artist; in the second as a subject or a citizen, a slave or a free man, in the Industrial Commonwealth.

Man as a maker or producer carries us back to the dawn of history. Man is a tool-using animal and the early stages of human history are a record of the elaboration of tools. The flint axes in our museums are the earliest monuments of the activity of the human spirit. We do not know what the cave men of the Old Stone Age said or thought, or indeed whether they did anything that we should call speaking or thinking at all; but we know what they made. Centuries and millenniums elapsed between them and the first peoples of whom we have any more intimate record—centuries during which the foundations of our existing industrial knowledge and practice were being steadily laid. 'One may say in general,' says Mr. Marvin,[69]

that most of the fruitful practical devices of mankind had their origin in prehistoric times, many of them existing then with little essential difference. Any one of them affords a lesson in the gradual elaboration of the simple. A step minute in itself leads on and on, and so all the practical arts are built up, a readier and more observant mind imitating and adapting the work of predecessors, as we imagined the first man making his first flint axe. The history of the plough goes back to the elongation of a bent stick. The wheel would arise from cutting out the middle of a trunk used as a roller. House architecture is the imitation with logs and mud of the natural shelters[198] of the rocks, and begins its great development when men have learnt to make square corners instead of a rough circle. And so on with all the arts of life or pleasure, including clothing, cooking, tilling, sailing, and fighting.

How did this gradual progress come about? Mr. Marvin himself supplies the answer. Through the action of the 'readier and more observant minds'—in other words, through specialization and the division of labour. As far back as we can go in history we find a recognition that men are not all alike, that some have one gift and some another, and that it is to the advantage of society to let each use his own gift in the public service. Among primitive peoples there has indeed often been a belief that men are compensated for physical weakness and disability by peculiar excellence in some sphere of their own. Hephaestos among the Greek gods was lame: so he becomes a blacksmith and uses his arms. Homer is blind: so instead of fighting he sings of war. They would not go so far as to maintain that all lame men must be good blacksmiths or all blind men good poets: but at least they recognized that there was room in the community for special types and that the blacksmith and the poet were as useful as the ordinary run of cultivators and fighting men. The Greek word for craftsman—δημιουργός—'worker for the people,' shows how the Greeks felt on this point. To them poetry and craftsmanship were as much honourable occupations or, as we should say, professional activities as fighting and tilling. Whether Homer took to poetry because he could not fight or because he had an overwhelming poetic gift, he had justified his place in the community.

Specialization is the foundation of all craftsmanship and therefore the source of all industrial progress. We recognize this, of course, in common speech. 'Practice makes perfect,' 'Genius is an infinite capacity for[199] taking pains,' are only different ways of saying that it is not enough to be 'ready' and 'observant', but that continued activity and concentration are necessary. A perfect industrial community would not be a community where everybody was doing the same thing: nor would it be a community where every one was doing just what he liked at the moment: it would be a community where every one was putting all his strength into the work which he was by nature best qualified to do—where, in the words of Kipling:

No one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
Shall draw the thing as he sees it for the God of Things as They Are.

Progress in industry, then, on this side, consists in increasing specialization and in the perfection of the relationship between the workman and his work. Man in this world is destined to labour, and labour is often described as the curse of Adam. But in reality, as every one knows who has tried it, or observed the habits of those who have, idleness is far more of a curse than labour. Few men—at any rate in the temperate zone—can be consistently idle and remain happy. The born idler is almost as rare as the born poet. Most men, and, it must be added, most women, are happier working. If holidays were the rule and work the exception the world would be a much less cheerful place than it is even to-day. Purposeful activity is as natural to man as playing is to a kitten. From a purely natural point of view, no one has ever given a better definition of happiness than Aristotle when he defined it as an activity of the soul in the direction of excellence in an unhampered life. By excellence, of course, in this famous definition, Aristotle does not mean simply[200] virtue: he means excellence in work. It is impossible, as we all know, to be good in the abstract. We must be good in some particular directions, at some particular thing. And the particular thing that we are good at is our work, our craft, our art—or, to use our less aesthetic English word, for which there is no equivalent in Greek, our duty. If happiness is to be found in doing one's duty, it does not result from doing that duty badly, but from doing it well—turning out, as we say, a thoroughly good piece of work, whether a day's work or a life work. There is a lingering idea, still held in some quarters, that the more unpleasant an activity is the more virtuous it is. This is a mere barbarous survival from the days of what Nietzsche called slave-morality. We are each of us born with special individual gifts and capacities. There is, if we only knew it, some particular kind or piece of work which we are pre-eminently fitted to do—some particular activity or profession, be it held in high or in low repute in the world of to-day, in which we can win the steady happiness of purposeful labour. Shall we then say that it ministers to human progress and to the glory of God deliberately to bury our talent out of sight and to seek rather work which, because it is irksome and unpleasant to us, we can never succeed in doing either easily or really well? No one who knows anything of education or of the training of the young, no one, indeed, who has any love for children, would dare to say that we should. Our State educational system, miserably defective though it is in this regard, is based upon the idea of ministering to the special gifts of its pupils—of trying by scholarships, by Care Committees, by the institution of schools with a special 'bias', to meet the needs of different kinds of young people and to set them in the path on which they are best fitted to travel.

In doing this the modern State is only trying to carry[201] out the principle laid down in the greatest book ever written on education—Plato's Republic. Plato's object was to train every citizen to fill the one position where he could lead the best life for the good of the State. His aim was not to make his citizens happy but to promote goodness; but he had enough faith in human nature—and who can be an educational thinker without having faith in human nature?—to be convinced that to enable men to 'do their bit', as we say to-day, was to assure them of the truest happiness. We of this generation know how abundantly that faith has been confirmed. And indeed we can appeal in this matter not only to the common sense of Education Authorities or to the philosophy of the ancients, but to the principles of the Christian religion. The late Professor Smart, who was not only a good economist but a good man; has some very pertinent words on this subject. 'If for some reason that we know not of,' he remarks,[70]

this present is merely the first stage in being; if we are all at school, and not merely pitched into the world by chance to pick up our living as best we can ... it seems to me that we have reason enough to complain of the existing economic system.... I imagine that many of our churchgoing people, if they ever get to the heaven they sing about, will find themselves most uncomfortable, if it be a place for which they have made no preparation but in the 'business' in which they have earned their living.... A man's daily work is a far greater thing towards the development of the God that is in him than his wealth. And, however revolutionary the idea is, I must say that all our accumulations of wealth are little to the purpose of life if they do not tend towards the giving to all men the opportunity of such work as will have its reward in the doing.

And of his own particular life-work, teaching, he remarks, in words that testify to his own inner peace[202] and happiness, that 'some of us have got into occupations which almost seem to guarantee immortality'.

Let us, then, boldly lay it down that the best test of progress in industry and the best measure of success in any industrial system is the degree to which it enables men to 'do their bit' and so to find happiness in their daily work, or if you prefer more distinctively religious language, the degree to which it enables men to develop the God that is in them. Let us have the courage to say that in the great battle which Ruskin and William Morris fought almost single-handed against all the Philistines of the nineteenth century, Ruskin and Morris, however wrong they may have been on points of practical detail, were right in principle. Let us make up our minds that a world in which men have surrendered the best hours of the day to unsatisfying drudgery, and banished happiness to their brief periods of tired leisure, is so far from civilized that it has not even made clear to itself wherein civilization consists. And when we read such a passage as the following from a leading modern economist, let us not yield to the promptings of our lower nature and acquiesce in its apparent common sense, but remember that economists, like all workmen, are bounded by the limits of their own particular craft or study. 'The greater part of the world's work,' says Professor Taussig,[71] the leading exponent of Economics at Harvard,

is not in itself felt to be pleasurable. Some reformers have hoped to reach a social system under which all work would be in itself a source of satisfaction. It is probable that such[203] persons are made optimistic by the nature of their own doings. They are writers, schemers, reformers; they are usually of strongly altruistic character, and the performance of any duty or set task brings to them the approval of an exacting conscience; and they believe that all mankind can be brought to labour in their own spirit. The world would be a much happier place if their state of mind could be made universal. But the great mass of men are of a humdrum sort, not born with any marked bent or any loftiness of character. Moreover, most of the world's work for the satisfaction of our primary wants must be of a humdrum sort, and often of a rough and coarse sort. There must be ditching and delving, sowing and reaping, hammering and sawing, and all the severe physical exertion which, however lightened by tools and machinery, yet can never be other than labour in the ordinary sense of the word.

When Professor Taussig assures us that 'the great mass of men are of a humdrum sort, not born with any marked bent or loftiness of character' he is simply denying the Christian religion. To argue the point with him would carry us too far. We will do no more here than remind him that the people to whom the Founder of Christianity preached, and even those who were chosen to be its first disciples, were, like this audience, distinctly humdrum, and that assuredly the American Professor would not have discerned in them promising material for a world-transforming religious movement. What people see in others is often a mirror of themselves. Perhaps Professor Taussig, in spite of his excellent book, is rather a humdrum person himself.

When, however, Professor Taussig declares that 'the greater part of the world's work is not in itself felt to be pleasurable' he is saying what, under existing conditions, we must all recognize to be true. A year or two ago Mr. Graham Wallas made an investigation into this very question, the results of which confirmed the general[204] impression that modern workmen find little happiness in their work.[72] But two of the conclusions which he reached conflict in a rather curious way with the statement of Professor Taussig. Mr. Wallas's evidence, which was largely drawn from students of Ruskin College, led him to the conclusion 'that there is less pleasantness or happiness in work the nearer it approaches the fully organized Great Industry'. The only workman who spoke enthusiastically of his work was an agricultural labourer who 'was very emphatic with regard to the pleasure to be obtained from agricultural work'. Professor Taussig, on the other hand, selects four agricultural occupations, ditching, delving, sowing, and reaping, as characteristically unpleasant and looks to machinery and the apparatus of the Industrial Revolution to counteract this unpleasantness. But the most interesting evidence gathered by Mr. Wallas was that relating to women workers. He had an opportunity of collecting the views of girls employed in the laundries and poorer kind of factories in Boston. 'The answers', he says,[73] 'surprised me greatly. I expected to hear those complaints about bad wages, hard conditions and arbitrary discipline which a body of men working at the same grade of labour would certainly have put forward. But it was obvious that the question "Are you happy?" meant to the girls "Are you happier than you would have been if you had stayed at home instead of going to work?" And almost every one of them answered "Yes".' Why were they unhappy at home? Let Professor Taussig reflect on the answer. Not[205] because they had 'rough' or 'coarse' or 'humdrum' work to do, as in a factory or laundry, but because they had nothing to do, and they had found idleness unbearable. 'One said that work "took up her mind", she had been awfully discontented'. Another that 'you were of some use'. Another thought 'it was because the hours went so much faster. At home one could read, but only for a short time, there was the awful lonesome afternoon ahead of you.' 'Asked a little girl with dyed hair but a good little heart. She enjoyed her work. It made her feel she was worth something.' And Mr. Wallas concludes that it is just because 'everything that is interesting, even though it is laborious, in the women's arts of the old village is gone': because 'clothes are bought ready-made, food is bought either ready-cooked, like bread and jam and fish, or only requiring the simplest kind of cooking': in fact just because physical exertion has been lightened by books and machinery, that 'there results a mass of inarticulate unhappiness whose existence has hardly been indicated by our present method of sociological enquiry'.

It would seem then that the task of associating modern industrial work with happiness is not impossible, if we would only set ourselves to the task. And the task is a two-fold one. It is, first, to make it possible for people to follow the employment for which they are by nature best fitted; and secondly, to study much more closely than heretofore, from the point of view of happiness, the conditions under which work is done. The first task involves a very considerable reversal of current educational and social values. It does not simply mean paving the way for the son of an engine-driver to become a doctor or a lawyer or a cavalryman. It means paving the way for the son of a duke to become, without any sense of social failure, an engine-driver or a merchant seaman or[206] a worker on the land—and to do so not, as to-day, in the decent seclusion of British Columbia or Australia, but in our own country and without losing touch, if he desires it, with his own natural circle of friends. The ladder is an old and outworn metaphor in this connexion. Yet it is still worth remembering that the Angels whom Jacob observed upon it were both ascending and descending. It is one of the fallacies of our social system to believe that a ladder should only be used in one direction—and that the direction which tends to remove men from contact and sympathy with their fellows. But in truth we need to discard the metaphor of the ladder altogether, with its implied suggestion that some tasks of community-service are more honourable and involve more of what the world calls 'success' than others. We do not desire a system of education which picks out for promotion minds gifted with certain kinds of capacity and stimulates them with the offer of material rewards, while the so-called humdrum remainder are left, with their latent talents undiscovered and undeveloped.

Recent educational experiments,[74] and not least that most testing of all school examinations, the war, have shown us that we must revise all our old notions as to cleverness and stupidity. We know now that, short of real mental deficiency, there is or ought to be no such personage as the dunce. Just as the criminal is generally a man of unusual energy and mental power directed into wrong channels, so the dunce is a pupil whose special powers and aptitudes have not revealed themselves in the routine of school life. And just as the criminal points to serious defects in our social system, so the dunce points to serious defects in our educational system. The striking record of our industrial schools and reformatories in the[207] war shows what young criminals and dunces can do when they are given a fair field for their special gifts. One of the chief lessons to be drawn from the war is the need for a new spirit and outlook in our national education from the elementary school to the University. We need a system which treats every child, rich or poor, as a living and developing personality, which enables every English boy and girl to stay at school at least up to the time when his or her natural bent begins to disclose itself, which provides for all classes of the community skilled guidance in the choice of employment based upon psychological study of individual gifts and aptitude,[75] which sets up methods of training and apprenticeship in the different trades—or, as I would prefer to call them the different professions—such as to counteract the deadening influence of premature specialization, and which ensures good conditions and a sense of self-respect and community-service to all in their self-chosen line of life, whether their bent be manual or mechanical or commercial or administrative, or for working on the land or for going to sea, or towards the more special vocations of teaching or scholarship or the law or medicine or the cure of souls. No one can estimate how large a share of the unhappiness associated with our existing social system is due to the fact that, owing to defects in our education and our arrangements for the choice of employment, there are myriads of square pegs in round holes. This applies with especial force to women, to whom many of the square holes are still inaccessible, not simply owing to the lack of opportunities for individuals, but owing to the inhibitions of custom and, in some cases, to narrow and retrograde professional enactments. The war has brought women their chance, not only in the office and the work[208]shop, but in higher administrative and organizing positions, and not the least of its results is the revelation of undreamt-of capacities in these directions.

In the second task, that of perfecting the adaptation between men and their tools, we have much to learn from the industrial history of the past. It is natural for men to enjoy 'talking shop', and this esoteric bond of union has existed between workmen in all ages. We may be sure that there were discussions amongst connoisseurs in the Stone Age as to the respective merits of their flint axes, just as there are to-day between golfers about niblicks and putters, and between surgeons as to the technique of the extraction of an appendix. A good workman loves his tools. He is indeed inseparable from them, as our law acknowledges by forbidding a bankrupt's tools to be sold up. Give a good workman, in town or country, a sympathetic listener and he is only too ready to expatiate on his daily work. This sense of kinship between men and their tools and material is so little understood by some of our modern expert organizers of industry that it is worth while illustrating it at some length. I make no apology, therefore, for quoting a striking passage from an essay by Mr. George Bourne, who is not a trade unionist or a student of Labour politics but an observer of English village life, who has taken the trouble to penetrate the mind of what is commonly regarded as the stupidest and most backward—as it is certainly the least articulate—class of workmen in this country, the agricultural labourer in the southern counties. 'The men', he writes,

are commonly too modest about their work, and too unconscious that it can interest an outsider, to dream of discussing it. What they have to say would not therefore by itself go far in demonstration of their acquirements in technique. Fortunately, for proof of that we are not[209] dependent on talk. Besides talk there exists another kind of evidence open to every one's examination, and the technical skill exercised in country labours may be purely deduced from the aptness and singular beauty of sundry country tools.

The beauty of tools is not accidental, but inherent and essential. The contours of a ship's sail bellying in the wind are not more inevitable, nor more graceful, than the curves of an adze-head or of a plough-share. Cast in iron or steel, the gracefulness of a plough-share is more indestructible than the metal, yet pliant (in the limits of its type) as a line of English blank verse. It changes for different soils: it is widened out or narrowed; it is deep-grooved or shallow; not because of caprice at the foundry or to satisfy an artistic fad, but to meet the technical demands of the expert ploughman. The most familiar example of beauty indicating subtle technique is supplied by the admired shape of boats, which, however, is so variable (the statement is made on the authority of an old coast-guardsman) that the boat best adapted for one stretch of shore may be dangerous, if not entirely useless, at another stretch ten miles away. And as technique determines the design of a boat, or of a waggon, or of a plough-share, so it controls absolutely the fashioning of tools, and is responsible for any beauty of form they may possess. Of all tools none, of course, is more exquisite than a fiddle-bow. But the fiddle-bow never could have been perfected, because there would have been no call for its tapering delicacy, its calculated balance of lightness and strength, had not the violinist's technique reached such marvellous fineness of power. For it is the accomplished artist who is fastidious as to his tools; the bungling beginner can bungle with anything. The fiddle-bow, however, affords only one example of a rule which is equally well exemplified by many humbler tools. Quarryman's peck, coachman's whip, cricket-bat, fishing-rod, trowel, all have their intimate relation to the skill of those who use them; and like animals and plants, adapting themselves each to its own place in the universal order, they attain to beauty by force of being fit. That law of adaptation which shapes the wings of a swallow and prescribes the poise and elegance of the branches of trees[210] is the same that demands symmetry in the corn-rick and convexity in the beer-barrel; the same that, exerting itself with matchless precision through the trained senses of haymakers and woodmen, gives the final curve to the handles of their scythes and the shafts of their axes. Hence the beauty of a tool is an unfailing sign that in the proper handling of it technique is present ...

'It is not the well-informed and those eager to teach', he says in another passage,

who know the primitive necessary lore of civilization; it is the illiterate. In California, Louis Stevenson found men studying the quality of vines grown on different pockets of earth, just as the peasants of Burgundy and the Rhine have done for ages. And even so the English generations have watched the produce of their varying soils. When or how was it learnt—was it at Oxford or at Cambridge?—that the apples of Devonshire are so specially fit for cider? Or how is it that hops are growing—some of them planted before living memory—all along the strip of green sand which encircles the Weald—that curious strip to which text-books at last point triumphantly as being singularly adapted for hops? Until it got into the books, this piece of knowledge was not thought of as learning; it had merely been acted upon during some centuries. But such knowledge exists, boundless, in whatever direction one follows it: the knowledge of fitting means to ends: excellent rule-of-thumb knowledge, as good as the chemist uses for analyzing water. When the peculiar values of a plot of land have been established—as, for instance, that it is a clay 'too strong' for bricks—then further forms of localized knowledge are brought to supplement this, until at last the bricks are made. Next, they must be removed from the field; and immediately new problems arise. The old farm-cart, designed for roots or manure, has not the most suitable shape for brick-carting. Probably, too, its wide wheels, which were intended for the softness of ploughed land, are needlessly clumsy for the hard road. Soon, therefore, the local wheelwright begins to lighten his spokes and felloes, and to make the wheels a trifle less[211] 'dished'; while his blacksmith binds them in a narrower but thicker tyre, to which he gives a shade more tightness. For the wheelwright learns from the carter—that ignorant fellow—the answer to the new problems set by a load of bricks. A good carter, for his part, is able to adjust his labour to his locality. A part of his duty consists in knowing what constitutes a fair load for his horse in the district where he is working. So many hundred stock bricks, so many more fewer of the red or wire-cut, such and such a quantity of sand, or timber, or straw, or coal, or drain-pipes, or slates, according to their kinds and sizes, will make as much as an average horse can draw in this neighbourhood; but in London the loads are bigger and the vehicles heavier; while in more hilly parts (as you may see any day in the West Country) two horses are put before a cart and load which the London carter would deem hardly too much for a costermonger's donkey.

So it goes throughout civilization: there is not an industry but produces its own special knowledge relating to unclassified details of adjustment.[76]

It is this craft-knowledge and common professional feeling which is at the basis of all associations of workpeople, from the semi-religious societies of ancient times, which met in secret to worship their patron-god—Hephaestos, the god of the metal-workers, or Asclepios, the god of the doctors—through the great guilds of the Middle Ages to the trade unions and professional organizations of to-day. Trade unions do not exist simply to raise wages or to fight the capitalist, any more than the British Medical Association exists simply to raise fees and to bargain with the Government. They exist to serve a professional need: to unite men who are doing the same work and to promote the welfare and dignity of that work. It is this which renders so difficult the problems of adjustment which arise owing to the introduction of new and unfamiliar processes. Professional associations[212] are, and are bound to be, conservative: their conservatism is honourable and to their credit: for they are the transmitters of a great tradition. The problem in every case is to ensure the progress necessary to the community without injury to that sense of 'fellowship in the mystery' on which the social spirit of the particular class of workmen depends. It is from this point of view that recent American proposals in the direction of 'scientific management' are most open to criticism: for they involve the break-up of the craft-spirit without setting anything comparable in its place. In fact, Mr. F. W. Taylor, one of the inventors of what is called the 'system' of scientific management, frankly ignores or despises the craft-spirit and proposes to treat the workman as a being incapable of understanding the principles underlying the practice of his art. He goes so far as to lay it down as a general principle that 'in almost all the mechanic arts the science which underlies each act of each workman is so great and amounts to so much that the workman who is best suited to actually doing the work is incapable of fully understanding this science, without the guidance and help of those who are working with him or over him, either through lack of education or through insufficient mental capacity'.[77] Along the lines of this philosophy no permanent industrial advance is possible. It may improve the product for a time, but only at the cost of degrading the producer. If we are to make happiness our test, and to stand by our definition of happiness as involving free activity, such a system, destructive as it is of any real or intense relationship between the workman and his work, stands self-condemned. If we are looking for real industrial progress it is elsewhere that we must turn.


This leads us naturally on to the second great division of our subject: progress in the methods of co-operation between man and man in doing industrial work. For if man is a social animal his power to do his bit and his consequent happiness must be derived, in part at least, from his social environment. The lonely craftsman perfecting his art in the solitude of a one-man workshop does not correspond with our industrial ideal any more than the hermit or the monk corresponds with our general religious ideal. It was the great apostle of craftsmanship, William Morris, who best set forth the social ideal of industry in his immortal sentence: 'Fellowship is Life and lack of Fellowship is Death.' Our study of the workman, then, is not complete when we have seen him with his tools: we must see him also among his workmates. We must see industry not simply as a process of production but as a form of association; and we must realize that the association of human beings for the purpose of industrial work involves what is just as much a problem of government as their association in the great political community which we call the State.

It is difficult to see the record of the progress of industrial government in clear perspective for the simple reason that the world is still so backward as regards the organization of this side of its common life. The theory and practice of industrial government is generations, even centuries, behind the theory and practice of politics. We are still accustomed in industry to attitudes of mind and methods of management which the political thought of the Western World has long since discarded as incompatible with its ideals. Two instances must suffice to illustrate this. It is constantly being said, both by employers and by politicians, and even by writers in sympathy with working-class aspirations, that all that the workman needs in his life is security. Give him work under decent conditions,[214] runs the argument, with reasonable security of tenure and adequate guarantees against sickness, disablement and unemployment, and all will be well. This theory of what constitutes industrial welfare is, of course, when one thinks it out, some six centuries out of date. It embodies the ideal of the old feudal system, but without the personal tie between master and man which humanized the feudal relationship. Feudalism, as we saw in our study of political government, was a system of contract between the lord and the labourer by which the lord and master ran the risks, set on foot the enterprises (chiefly military), and enjoyed the spoils, incidental to mediaeval life, while the labourer stuck to his work and received security and protection in exchange. Feudalism broke down because it involved too irksome a dependence, because it was found to be incompatible with the personal independence which is the birthright of a modern man. So it is idle to expect that the ideal of security will carry us very far by itself towards the perfect industrial commonwealth.

Take a second example of the wide gulf that still subsists between men's ideas of politics and men's ideas of industry. It is quite common, even in these latter days, and among those who have freely sacrificed their nearest and dearest to the claims of the State, to hear manufacturers and merchants say that they have a 'right to a good profit'. The President of the Board of Trade remarked openly in the House of Commons after many months of war that it was more than one could expect of human nature for coal-owners not to get the highest price they could. Such a standpoint is not merely indecent: it is hopelessly out-of-date. Looked at from the political point of view it is a pure anachronism. There used to be times when men made large fortunes out of the service of government, as men still make them[215] out of the service of the community in trade and industry to-day. In the days of St. Matthew, when tax-gathering was let out by contract, the apostle's partners would probably have declared, as Mr. Runciman does to-day, that it was more than one could expect of human nature that a publican who had a government contract for the collection of the taxes should not get all he could out of the tax-payer. It is, indeed, little more than a century ago since it was a matter of course in this country to look upon oversea colonies merely as plantations—that is, as business investments rather than as communities of human beings. The existence of Chartered Company government marks a survival of this habit of mind. The old colonial system, which embodied this point of view, proved demoralizing not only to the home government but to the colonists, as a similar view is to the working class, and it led to the loss of the American colonies as surely as a similar attitude on the part of employers leads to unrest and rebellion among workpeople to-day.

We have thus a long way to travel before the ideals of politics have been assimilated into the industrial life of the community and have found fitting embodiment in its kindred and more complex problems. But at least we have reached a point where we can see what the problem of industrial government is. We can say with assurance that a system which treats human beings purely as instruments or as passive servants, and atrophies their self-determination and their sense of individual and corporate responsibility, is as far from perfection in industry as the Roman Empire was in politics. Renan's words about 'the intolerable sadness' incidental to such a method of organization apply with redoubled force to occupations which take up the best part of the day of the mass of the working population. The bleak and loveless buildings, with their belching chimneys, which[216] arrest the eye of the thoughtful traveller in the industrial districts of England are not prisons or workhouses. But they often look as if they were, and they resemble them in this—that they too often stand for similarly authoritarian ideas of government and direction. Industry is still an autocracy, as politics was in the days before the supremacy of Parliament. Power still descends from above instead of springing from below. It is a power limited no doubt by trade union action and parliamentary and administrative control: but it is in essence as autocratic as the government of England used to be before the transference of sovereignty from the monarch to the representatives of his subjects. It was recently announced in the press that Lord Rhondda had bought a group of Welsh collieries for 2 millions, and that as a result 'Lord Rhondda now controls over 3-1/2 millions of capital, pays 2-1/2 millions in wages every year, and is virtually the dictator of the economic destiny of a quarter of a million miners. Rumours are also current', the extract continues, 'that Lord Rhondda is extending his control over the press of Wales'.[78] The existence of such power in this twentieth century in the hands of single individuals, not selected from the mass for their special wisdom or humanity, is a stupendous fact which must give pause to any one who is inclined to feel complacent about modern industrial progress. In days gone by political power was as irresponsible as the economic power wielded to-day by Lord Rhondda; and it descended from father to son by hereditary right in the same way as the control over the lives of countless American workers descends to-day as a matter of course from John D. Rockefeller senior to John D. Rockefeller junior. If there is any reality at all in our political faith we must believe that a similar development towards self-government can and must take place in industry.[217] It may be that generations will elapse before the problems of industrial government find a final and satisfactory constitutional solution. But at least we can say that there is only one basis for that solution which is compatible with a sound ideal of government, or indeed with any reasoned view of morality or religion—the basis of individual and corporate freedom with its corresponding obligations of responsibility and self-respect. No nation, as Abraham Lincoln said, can remain half-slave and half-free: and it was a greater than Lincoln who warned us that we cannot serve both God and Mammon. It is this underlying conflict of ideals in the organization of our existing economic system which is the real cause of the 'Labour unrest' of which we have heard so much in recent years.

With this warning in our minds as to the imperfections of our modern industrial organization, let us briefly survey the record of the forms of economic association which preceded it.

The earliest form of industrial grouping is, of course, the family; and the family, as we all know, still retains its primitive character in some occupations as a convenient form of productive association. This is particularly the case in agriculture in communities where peasant holdings prevail. But the family is so much more than an industrial group that it hardly falls to us to consider it further here.

Outside the family proper, industrial work among primitive peoples is often carried on by slaves. It was a step forward in human progress when primitive man found that it was more advantageous to capture his enemies than to kill or eat them; and it was a still greater step forward when he found that there was more to be got out of slaves by kind treatment than by compulsion. This is not the place in which to go into the vexed questions connected with various forms of slavery. Suffice[218] it to say that it is a profound mistake to dismiss the whole system in one undiscriminating condemnation. Slavery involves the denial of freedom, and as such it can never be good. But other systems besides slavery implicitly involve the denial of freedom. Some of the finest artistic work in the world has been done by slaves—and by slaves not working under compulsion but in the company of free men and on terms of industrial equality with them. This should serve to remind us that, in judging of systems of industry, we must look behind the letter of the law to the spirit of the times and of social institutions. Slavery at its best merges insensibly into wage-labour at its lower end. Many of the skilled slaves of ancient Greece and Rome are hardly distinguishable in status from a modern workman bound by an unusually long and strict indenture and paid for his work not only in money but partly in truck. In order to stimulate their productive capacity it was found necessary in Greece and Rome to allow skilled slaves to earn and retain money—although in the eye of the law they were not entitled to do so; and they were thus frequently in a position to purchase their own freedom and become independent craftsmen. Slavery in the household and in small workshops is open to many and serious dangers, which need not be particularized here; but the worst abuses of slavery have always taken place where slaves have been easily recruited, as in the early days of European contact with Africa, and when there were large openings for their employment in gangs on work of a rough and unskilled character. The problem of slavery in its worse forms is thus at bottom a cheap-labour problem analogous to that which confronts North America and South Africa to-day; and there is an essential difference which is often ignored between the educated slave in a Roman Government office who did the work of a First Division Civil Servant for his imperial[219] master and his compeer working in the fields of South Italy: and between the household servants of a Virginian family and the plantation-slaves of the farther South. Let us remember, in passing judgement on what is admittedly an indefensible system, that during the war which resulted in the freeing of the American slaves the slaveholders of the South trusted their household slaves to protect the women and children during their absence from home and that that trust was nowhere betrayed. There is another side to Uncle Tom's Cabin as surely as there is another side to Mr. Carnegie's paean of modern industrialism in his Triumphant Democracy.

Systems of serfdom or caste which bind the workman to his work without permitting him to be sold like a slave may be regarded as one step higher than slavery proper. Such systems are common in stable and custom-bound countries, and persisted throughout the European Middle Ages. We need not describe how the rising tide of change gradually broke up the system in this country and left the old-time villein a free but often a landless and property less man. The transition from serfdom to the system of wage-labour which succeeded it was a transition from legal dependence to legal freedom, and as such it marked an advance. But it was also a transition from a fixed and, as it were, a professional position of service to the community to a blind and precarious individualism. It was a transition, as Sir Henry Maine put it, from status to contract. This famous nineteenth-century aphorism is eloquent of the limitations of that too purely commercial age. Every thinking man would admit to-day that status at its best is a better thing than contract at its best—that the soldier is a nobler figure than the army contractor, and that corporate feeling and professional honour are a better stimulus to right action than business competition and a laudable keenness to give satisfaction[220] to a valuable customer. We have always suffered from the temptation in this country of adapting business methods and ideals to politics rather than political ideals and methods to business. Our eighteenth-century thinkers explained citizenship itself, not as a duty to our neighbours but as the fulfilment of an unwritten contract. Our nineteenth-century legal writers elevated the idea of free contract almost to an industrial ideal; while, in somewhat the same spirit, the gutter journalists of to-day, when they are at a loss for a popular watchword, call for a business government. Such theories and battle-cries may serve for a 'nation of shopkeepers'; but that opprobrious phrase has never been true of the great mass of the English people, and it was never less true than to-day.

The idea of industrial work as the fulfilment of a contract, whether freely or forcibly made, is thus essentially at variance with the ideal of community service. It is difficult for a man who makes his livelihood by hiring himself out as an individual for what he can get out of one piece of work after another to feel the same sense of community service or professional pride as the man who is serving a vocation and has dedicated his talents to some continuous and recognized form of work. It is this which makes the system of wage-labour so unsatisfactory in principle compared with the guilds of the town workmen in the Middle Ages and with the organized professions of to-day; and it is this which explains why trade unions of recent years have come to concern themselves more and more with questions of status rather than of wages and to regard the occupation which they represent more and more as a profession rather than a trade. No one has laid bare the deficiencies of the wage-system more clearly than Adam Smith in the famous chapter in which he foreshadows the principle of collective[221] bargaining. 'What are the common wages of labour', he there remarks,[79]

'depends everywhere upon the contract usually made between those two parties, whose interests are by no means the same. The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little, as possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the latter in order to lower, the wages of labour.... We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit but constant and uniform combination not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and one may say, the natural state of things which nobody ever hears of. Masters, too, sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labour even below this rate. These are always conducted with the utmost secrecy till the moment of execution; and, when the workmen yield, as they sometimes do without resistance, though severely felt by them, they are never heard of by other people. Such combinations, however, are frequently resisted by a contrary defensive combination of the workmen, who sometimes, too, without any provocation of this kind, combine of their own accord to raise the price of labour. Their usual pretences are, sometimes the high price of provisions, sometimes the great profit which their masters make by their work.'

These words were written 140 years ago, but, as we all know, they are still true of the working of the system to-day. Indeed the war has served to emphasize their truth by showing us how deeply entrenched are the habits of bargaining and of latent antagonism which the working[222] of the wage-system has engendered. It is the defect of the wage-system, as Adam Smith makes clear to us, that it lays stress on just those points in the industrial process where the interests of employers and workpeople run contrary to one another, whilst obscuring those far more important aspects in which they are partners and fellow-workers in the service of the community. This defect cannot be overcome by strengthening one party to the contract at the expense of the other, by crushing trade unions or dissolving employers' combinations, or even by establishing the principle of collective bargaining. It can only be overcome by the recognition on both sides that industry is in essence not a matter of contract and bargaining at all, but of mutual interdependence and community service: and by the growth of a new ideal of status, a new sense of professional pride and corporate duty and self-respect among all who are engaged in the same function. No one can say how long it may take to bring about such a fundamental change of attitude, especially among those who have most to lose, in the material sense, by an alteration in the existing distribution of economic power. But the war has cleared away so much of prejudice and set so much of our life in a new light that the dim ideals of to-day may well be the realities of to-morrow. This at least we can say: that no country in the world is in a better position than we are to redeem modern industry from the reproach of materialism and to set it firmly upon a spiritual basis, and that the country which shall first have had the wisdom and the courage to do so will be the pioneer in a vast extension of human liberty and happiness and will have shown that along this road and no other lies the industrial progress of mankind.

Books for Reference


H. Clay, Economics for the General Reader. 1916.
Ruskin, Unto this last.
Smart, Second Thoughts of an Economist. 1916.
2.Man and his Tools:
Marvin, The Living Past. 1913.
F. W. Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management. 1911.
Hoxie, Scientific Management and Labour. 1916.
3.Industrial Government:
Aristotle, Politics (Book I, chapters on Slavery).
Zimmern, The Greek Commonwealth (chapters on Slavery). 1911.
Ashley, The Economic Organization of England. 1914.
Unwin, Industrial Organization in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.
S. and B. Webb, The History of Trade Unionism.
Macgregor, The Evolution of Industry (Home University Library).
Wallas, The Great Society. 1914.
G. D. H. Cole, The World of Labour. 1915.
Round Table, June 1916 (Article on the Labour Movement and the Future of British Industry).


[67] Including the well-being of the producers—a point which is too often overlooked.

[68] On this point see Poverty and Waste, by Hartley Withers, 1914, written before the war, which has driven its lessons home.

[69] The Living Past, pp. 20, 21.

[70] Second Thoughts of an Economist, p. 89.

[71] Principles of Economics, vol. i, p. 11. It is interesting to note that in his latest book, Inventors and Money-making, lectures on some relations between Economics and Psychology (1915), Professor Taussig to some extent goes back upon the point of view of the extract given above.

[72] A similar inquiry on a much larger scale was made by Adolf Levinstein in his book Die Arbeiterfrage (Munich, 1910). He examined 4,000 workpeople, consisting of coalminers, cotton operatives, and engineers. With the exception of a few turners and fitters almost all replied that they found little or no pleasure in their work.

[73] The Great Society, p. 363.

[74] Especially the wonderful results obtained from the young criminals at the Little Commonwealth in Dorsetshire.

[75] See Readings in Vocational Guidance by Meyer Bloomfield (Boston, 1915).

[76] Lucy Bettesworth, pp. 178-80, and 214-16.

[77] This sentence is practically an unconscious paraphrase of a passage from Aristotle's defence of slavery.

[78] The Welsh Outlook, August 1916, p. 272.

[79] Wealth of Nations, Book I, ch. viii.




A. Clutton Brock

It is often said that there can be no such thing as progress in art. At one time the arts flourish, at another they decay: but, as Whistler put it, art happens as men of genius happen; and men cannot make it happen. They cannot discover what circumstances favour art, and therefore they cannot attempt to produce those circumstances. There are periods of course in which the arts, or some one particular art, progress. One generation may excel the last; through several generations an art may seem to be rushing to its consummation. This happened with Greek sculpture and the Greek drama in the sixth and fifth centuries; with architecture and all kindred arts in western Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and at the same time with many arts in China. It happened with painting and sculpture in Italy in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, with literature in England in the sixteenth century, with music in Germany in the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth. But in all these cases there followed a decline, often quite unconscious at the time and one of which we cannot discover the causes. Attempts are made by historians of the arts to state the causes; but they satisfy only those who make them, for they are, in fact, only statements of the symptoms of decline. They tell us what happened, not why it happened. And they all seem to point to two conclusions about the[225] course of the arts, both of which would make us despair of any settled progress in them. The first is that the practice of any art by any particular people always follows a certain natural course of growth, culmination, and decay. At least it always follows this course where an art is practised naturally and therefore with success. Art in fact, in its actual manifestations, is like the life of an individual human being and subject to inexorable natural laws. It is born, as men are born, without the exercise of will; and in the same way it passes through youth, maturity, and old age. The second conclusion follows from this, and it is that one nation or age cannot take up an art where another has left it. That is where art seems to differ from science. The mass of knowledge acquired in one country can, if that country loses energy to apply or increase it, be utilized by another. But we cannot so make use of the art of the Greeks or of the Italian Renaissance or of our own Middle Ages. In the Gothic revival we tried to make use of the art of the Middle Ages and we failed disastrously. We imitated without understanding, and we could not understand because we were not ourselves living in the Middle Ages. Art, in fact, is always a growth of its own time which cannot be transplanted, and no one can tell why it grows in one time and among one people and not in another.

That is what we are always told, and yet we never quite believe all of it. For, as art is a product of the human mind, it must also be a product of the human will, unless it is altogether unconscious like a dream. But that it is not; for men produce it in their waking hours and with the conscious exercise of their faculties. If a man paints a picture he does so because he wants to paint one. He exercises will and choice in all his actions, and the man who buys a picture does the same. We talk of inspiration[226] in the arts as something that cannot be commanded, but there is also inspiration in the sciences. No man can make a scientific discovery by the pure exercise of his will. It jumps into one mind and not into another just like an artistic inspiration. And further we are taught and trained in the arts as in the sciences; and success in both depends a great deal upon the nature of the training. In both good training will not give genius or inspiration to those who are without it; but it will enable those who possess it to make the most of it; and, what is more, it will enable even the mediocre to produce work of some value. What strikes us most about the Florentine school of painting of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is the fact that its second-rate painters are so good, that we can enjoy their works even when they are merely imitative. But the Florentine school excelled all others of the time in its teaching; most painters of other schools in Italy learnt from Florence; and the inspiration came to them from Florence, they were quickened from Florence, however much their art kept its own natural character. But this school which had the best teaching also produced the most painters of genius. Its level was higher and its heights were higher; and for this reason, that the whole Florentine intellect went both into the teaching and into the practice of painting and sculpture. The Florentine was able to put all his mind, the scientific faculties as well as the aesthetic, into his art. He never relied merely on his temperament or his mood. He was eager for knowledge. It was not enough for him to paint things as he saw them; he tried to discover how they were made, what were the laws of their growth and construction; and his knowledge of these things changed the character of his vision, made him see the human body, for instance, as no mediaeval artist had ever seen it; made him see it as an engineer sees a machine. Just[227] as an engineer sees more in a machine than a man who does not understand its working, so the Florentine saw more in the human body than a mediaeval artist. He saw it with a scientific as well as an aesthetic passion, and all this science of his enriched his art so that there has never since been drawing like the Florentine, drawing at once so logical and so expressive.

The Florentines in fact did exercise their will upon their art more than any other modern artists, more, perhaps, than any other artists known to us, and their painting and sculpture were the greatest of the modern world. Yet the fact remains that Florentine art declined suddenly and irresistibly, and that all the Florentine intellect, which still remained remarkable and produced men of science like Galileo, could not arrest that decline. Indeed the Florentines themselves seem not to have been conscious of it. They thought that the dull imitators of Michelangelo were greater than his great predecessors. As we say, their taste became bad, their values were perverted; and with that perversion all their natural genius for the arts was wasted. To this day Carlo Dolci is the favourite painter of the ordinary Florentine. He was a man of some ability, and he painted pictures at once feeble and revolting because he himself and his public liked such pictures.

There is no accounting for tastes, we say, and in saying that we despair of progress in the arts. For it is ultimately this unaccountable thing called taste, and not the absence or presence of genius, which determines whether the arts shall thrive or decay in any particular age or country. People often say that they know nothing about art, but that they do know what they like; and what they imply is that there is nothing to be known about art except your own likes and dislikes, and further that no man can control those. The Florentines of the seventeenth century[228] happened to like Carlo Dolci, where the Florentines of the fifteenth had liked Botticelli. That is the only explanation we can give of the decline of Florentine painting.

It is of course no explanation; and because no explanation beyond it has been given, we are told that there can be no such thing as progress in the arts. That is the lesson of history. We are far beyond the Egyptians in science, but certainly not beyond them in art. Indeed one might say that there has been a continual slow decline in all the arts of Europe, except music, since the year 1500, and that music itself has been slowly declining since the death of Beethoven. But with this slow inexorable decline of the arts there has been a great advance in nearly everything else, in knowledge, in power, even in morality. Upon everything man has been able to exercise his will except upon the arts. Where he has really wished for progress there he has got it, except in this one case. Therefore it seems that upon the arts he cannot exercise his will, and that they alone of all his activities are not capable of progress. What do we mean by progress except the successful exercise of the human will in a right direction? That is what distinguishes progress from natural growth; that alone can preserve it from natural processes of decay. There are people who say that it does not exist, that everything which happens to man is a natural process of growth or decay. Whether that is so or not, we do mean by progress something different from these natural processes. When we speak of it we do imply the exercise of the human will, man's command over circumstances; and those who deny progress altogether deny that man has any will or any command over circumstances. For them things happen to man and that is all, it is not man's will that makes things happen. But if we use the word progress at all, we imply that it is man's will that makes things happen.[229] And since man is evidently liable to decline as well as progress, it follows that if we believe man to be capable of exercising his will in a right direction we must also believe that he can and does exercise it in a wrong direction. I assume that man has this power both for good and for evil. If I did not, I should not be addressing you upon the question whether man is capable of progress in the arts, but upon the question whether he is capable of progress at all. And I should be trying to prove that he is not.

As it is, the question I have to discuss is whether he has the power of exercising for good or evil his will upon the arts as upon other things; and hitherto I have been giving you certain facts in the history of the arts which seem to prove that he is not. They all amount to this—that man has not hitherto succeeded in exercising his will upon the arts; that he has not produced good art because he wished to produce it. We, for instance, wish to excel in the arts; we have far more power than the ancient Greeks or Egyptians; but we have not been able to apply that power to the arts. In them we are conscious of a strange impotence. We cannot build like our forefathers of the Middle Ages, we cannot make furniture like our great-grandfathers of the eighteenth century. Go into an old churchyard and look at the tombstones of the past and present. You will see that the lettering is always fine up to the first generation of the nineteenth century. In that generation there is a rapid decline; and since about 1830 there has been no decent lettering upon tombstones except what has been produced in the last ten years or so by the conscious effort of a few individual artists of great natural talent and high training. If I want good lettering on a tombstone I have to employ one of these artists and to pay him a high price for his talent and his training. But that is only one example of a[230] universal decline in all the arts of use, a decline which happened roughly between the years 1800 and 1830. And the significant fact about it is that when it happened no one was aware of it. So far as I know, this artistic catastrophe, far the swiftest and most universal known to us in the whole course of history, was never even mentioned in contemporary literature. The poets, the lovers of beauty, did not speak of it. They talked about nature, not about art. There is not a hint of it in the letters of Shelley or Keats. There is just a hint of it in some sayings of Blake; but that is all. One would suppose that such a catastrophe would have filled the minds of all men who were not entirely occupied with the struggle for life, that all would have seen that a glory was passing away from the earth, and would have made some desperate struggle to preserve it. But, as I say, they saw nothing of it. They were not aware that a universal ugliness was taking the place of beauty in all things made by man; and therefore the new ugliness must have pleased them as much as the old beauty. So it appears once again that there is no accounting for tastes, and no test that we can apply to them. When science declines, men at least know that they have less power. They are more subject to pestilence when they forget medicine and sanitation; their machines become useless to them when they no longer know how to work them; there is anarchy when they lose their political goodwill. But when their taste decays they do not know that it has decayed. And with it decays their artistic capacity, so that, quite complacently, they lose the power of doing decently a thousand things that their fathers did excellently.

But here suddenly I am brought to a stop by a new fact in human history. The arts have declined, but our complacency over their decline has ceased. The first[231] man who disturbed it was Ruskin. It was he who saw the catastrophe that had happened. Suddenly he was aware of it; suddenly he escaped from the universal tyranny of the bad taste of his time. He was the first to deny that there was no accounting for tastes; the first to deny, indeed, that the ordinary man did know what he liked. And he was followed with more knowledge and practical power, in fact with more science, by William Morris. What both of these great men really said was that taste is not unaccountable; that the mass of men do not know what they like, that they do not apply their intellect and will to what they suppose to be their likes and dislikes, and that they could apply their intellect and will to these things if they chose.

When we say that there is no accounting for tastes we imply that tastes are always real, that, whether good or bad, they happen to men without any exercise of their will. But Ruskin and Morris implied that we must exercise our will and our intelligence to discover what our tastes really are; that this discovery is not at all easy, but that, if we do not make it, we are at the mercy, not of our own real tastes, but of an unreal thing which is called the public taste, or of equally unreal reactions against it. We think that we like what we suppose other people to like, and these other people too think that they like what no one really likes. Or in mere blind reaction we think that we dislike what the mob likes. But in either case our likes and dislikes are not ours at all and, what is more, they are no one's. Taste in fact is bad because it is not any one's taste, because no one's will is exercised in it or upon it. When it is good, it is always real taste, that is to say some real person's taste. In the work of art the artist does what he really likes to do and expresses some real passion of his own, not some passion which he believes that he, as an artist, ought to[232] express. Art, said Morris, is the expression of the workman's pleasure in his work. It cannot be real art unless it is a real pleasure. And so the public will not demand real art unless they too take a real pleasure in it. If they do not know what they really like, they will not demand of the artist what they really like or what he really likes. They will demand something tiresome and insincere, and by the tyranny of their demand will set him to produce it.

That was what happened at the beginning of the nineteenth century in nearly all the arts and especially in the arts of use. It had happened before in different ages and countries, especially in painting, sculpture, architecture, and the arts of use as they were patronized by the vulgar rich, such as the court of Louis XV. But now it happened suddenly and universally to all arts. There were no longer vulgar rich only but also vulgar poor and vulgar middle-classes. Everywhere there spread a kind of aesthetic snobbery which obscured real tastes. Of this I will give one simple and homely example. The beautiful flowers of the cottage garden were no longer grown in the gardens of the well-to-do, because they were the flowers of the poor. Instead were grown lobelias, geraniums, and calceolarias, combined in a hideous mixture, not because any one thought them more beautiful, but because, since they were grown in green-houses, they implied the possession of green-houses and so of wealth. They did not, of course, even do that, since they could be bought very cheaply from nurserymen. They implied only the bad taste of snobbery which is the absence of all real taste. For it is physically impossible for any one to like such a combination of plants better than larkspurs and lilies and roses. What they did enjoy was not the flowers themselves but their association with gentility. But so strong was the contagion of this associa[233]tion that cottagers themselves began to throw away their beautiful cottage-garden flowers and to grow these plants, so detestable in combination. And to this day one can see often in cottage gardens pathetic imitations of a taste that never was real and which now is discredited among the rich, so that a border of lobelias, calceolarias, and geraniums has become a mark of social inferiority as it was once one of social superiority. But what it never was and never could be was an expression of a genuine liking.

Now I owe the very fact that I am able to give this account of a simple perversion of taste to Ruskin and Morris. It was they who first made the world aware that its taste was perverted and that most of its art was therefore bad. It was they who filled us with the conviction of artistic sin, and who also in a manner entirely scientific tried to discover what was the nature of this sin and how it had come about. First Ruskin tentatively, and afterwards Morris systematically and out of his own vast artistic experience, connected this decay of the arts with certain social conditions. It was not merely that taste had decayed or that the arts had developed to a point beyond which there was nothing for them but decline. Morris insisted that there were causes for the decay of taste and the decline of the arts, causes as much subject to the will of man as the causes of any kind of social decay or iniquity. He insisted that a work of art is not an irrational mystery, not something that happens and may happen well or ill; but that all art is intimately connected with the whole of our social well-being. It is in fact an expression of what we value, and if we value noble things it will be noble, if we pretend to value base things it will be base.

Whistler said that this was not so. He insisted that genius is born, not made, and that some peoples have[234] artistic capacity, some have not. Now it is true that nations vary very much in their artistic capacity and in the strength of their desire to produce art. But even the nations which have little artistic capacity and little desire to produce art have in their more primitive state produced charming works of real art. Whistler gave the case of the Swiss as an excellent people with little capacity for art. But the old Swiss chalets are full of character and beauty, and there are churches in Switzerland which have all the beauty of the Middle Ages. The cuckoo clocks and other Swiss articles of commerce which Whistler despised are contemptible, not because they are Swiss, but because they are tourist trash produced by workmen who express no pleasure of their own in them for visitors who buy them only because they think they are characteristic of Switzerland. They are, in fact, not the expression of any genuine taste or liking whatever, like the tourist trash that is sold in the Rue de Rivoli. Probably the Swiss would never be capable of producing works of art like Chartres Cathedral or Don Giovanni, but they have in the past possessed a genuine and delightful art of their own like nearly every European nation in the Middle Ages.

So, though genius is born, it is also made, and though nations differ in artistic capacity, they all have some artistic capacity so long as they know what they like and express only their own liking in their art, so long as they are not infected with artistic snobbism or commercialism. This we know now, and we have developed a new and remarkable power of seeing and enjoying all the genuine art of the past. This power is part of the historical sense which is itself modern. In the past, until the nineteenth century, very few people could see any beauty or meaning in any art of the past that did not resemble the art of their own time and country. The whole art of the Middle Ages, for instance, was thought to be merely[235] barbarous until the Gothic revival, and so was the art of all the past so far as it was known, except the later art of Greece and Rome. For our ancestors' taste did indeed happen as art happened, and they could not escape from the taste which circumstances imposed on them; any art that was not according to that taste was for them as it were in an unknown tongue. But we have made this great progress in taste, at least, if not in the production of art, that we can understand nearly all artistic languages, and that what used to be called classical art has lost its old superstitious prestige for us. Not only can we enjoy the art of our own Middle Ages; but many of us can enjoy and understand just as well the great art of Egypt and China, and can see as clearly when that art is good or bad as if it were of our own time. We have, in fact, in the matter of artistic appreciation gained the freedom of all the ages, and this is a thing that has never, so far as we know, happened before in the history of the human mind.

But still this freedom of all the ages has not enabled us to produce a great art of our own. There are some, indeed, who think that it has hindered us from doing so, that we are becoming merely universal connoisseurs who can criticize anything and produce nothing. We have the most wonderful museums that ever were, and the most wonderful power of enjoying all that is in them, but, with all our riches from the past, our present is barren; and it is barren because our rich men would rather pay great prices for past treasures than encourage artists to produce masterpieces now. If that is so, if that is all that is coming to us from our freedom of all the ages, there is certainly not progress in it. Better that we should produce and enjoy the humblest genuine art of our own than that we should continue in this learned impotence.

But this power of enjoying the art of all ages, though it[236] certainly has had some unfortunate results, must be good in itself. It is sympathy, and that is always better than indifference or antipathy. It is knowledge, and that is always better than ignorance. And we have to remember that it has existed only for a short time and is, therefore, not yet to be judged by its fruits. We are still gasping at all the artistic treasures of the past that have been revealed to us like a new world; and still they are being revealed to our new perceptions. Only in the last ten years, for instance, have we discovered that Chinese painting is the rival of Italian, or that the golden age of Chinese pottery was centuries before the time of that Chinese porcelain which we have hitherto admired so much. The knowledge, the delight, is still being gathered in with both hands. It is too soon to look for its effects upon the mind of Europe.

But it is not the result of mere barren connoisseurship or scholasticism. Rather it is a new renaissance, a new effort of the human spirit, and an effort after what? An effort to exert the human will in the matter of art far more consciously than it has exerted ever before. It is to be noted that Morris himself, the man who first told us that we must exert our wills in art, was also himself eager in the discovery and enjoyment of all kinds of art in the past. He had his prejudices, the prejudices of a very wilful man and a working artist. 'What can I see in Rome,' he said, 'that I cannot see in Whitechapel?' But he enjoyed the art of most ages and countries more than he enjoyed his prejudices. He had the historical sense in art to a very high degree. He knew what the artist long dead meant by his work as if it were a poem in his own language, and from the art of the past which he loved he saw what was wrong with the art of our time. So did Ruskin and so do many now. Further we are not in the least content to admire the art of the past without[237] producing any of our own. There is incessant restless experiment, incessant speculation about aesthetics, incessant effort to apply them to the actual production of art, in fact to exert the conscious human will upon art as it has never been exerted before.

So, if one wished in a sentence to state the peculiarity of the last century in the history of art, one would say that it is the first age in which men have rebelled against the process of decadence in art, in which they have been completely conscious of that process and have tried to arrest it by a common effort of will. We cannot yet say that that effort has succeeded, but we cannot say either that it has failed. We may be discontented with the art of our own time, but at least we must allow that it is, with all its faults, extravagances, morbidities and blind experiments, utterly unlike the art of any former age of decadence known to us. There may be confusion and anarchy, but there is not mere pedantry and stagnation. Artists perhaps are over-conscious, always following some new prophet, but at least there is the conviction of sin in them, which is exactly what all the decadent artists of the past have lacked.

The artistic decadence of the past which is most familiar to us is that of the later Graeco-Roman art. It was a long process which began at least as early as the age of Alexander and continued until the fall of the Western Roman Empire and afterwards, until, indeed, the decadent classical art was utterly supplanted by the art which we call Romanesque and Byzantine, and which seems to us now at its best to be as great as any art that has ever been.

But a hundred years ago this Romanesque and Byzantine art was thought to be only a barbarous corruption of the classical art. For then the classical art even in its last feebleness still kept its immense and unique[238] prestige. Shelley said that the effect of Christianity seemed to have been to destroy the last remains of pure taste, and he said this when he had been looking at the great masterpieces of Byzantine mosaic at Ravenna. Now we know with an utter certainty that he was wrong. He was himself a great artist, but to him there was only one rational and beautiful and civilized art, and that was the decadent Graeco-Roman art. To him works like the Apollo Belvedere were the masterpieces of the world, and all other art was good as it resembled them. He and in fact most people of his time were still overawed by the immense complacency of that art. They had not the historical sense at all. They had no notion of certain psychological facts about art which are now familiar to every educated man. They did not know that art cannot be good unless it expresses the character of the people who produce it; that characterless art, however accomplished, is uninteresting; that there may be more life and so more beauty in the idol of an African savage than in the Laocoon.

This later Greek and Graeco-Roman art was doomed to inevitable decay because of its immense complacency. The artists had discovered, as they thought, the right way to produce works of art, and they went on producing them in that way without asking themselves whether they meant anything by them or whether they enjoyed them. They knew, in fact, what was the proper thing to do just as conventional people now know what is the proper thing to talk about at a tea party; and their art was as uninteresting as the conversation of such people. In both the talk and the art there is no expression of real values and so no expression of real will. The past lies heavy upon both. So people have talked, so artists have worked, and so evidently people must talk and artists must work for evermore.[239]

Now we have been threatened with just the same kind of artistic decadence, and we are still threatened with it; so that it would be very easy to argue that, when men reach a certain stage in that organization of their lives which we call civilization, they must inevitably fall into artistic decadence. The Roman Empire did attain to a high stage of such organization, and all the life went out of its art. We have reached perhaps a still higher or at least more elaborate stage of it, and the life has gone or is going out of our art. It has become even more mechanical than the Graeco-Roman. We, too, have lost the power of expressing ourselves, our real values, our real will, in it; and we had better submit to that impotence and not make a fuss about it. Indeed art really is an activity proper to a more childish stage of the human mind, and we shall do well not to waste our time and energy upon it. That is the only way in which we can be superior to the Graeco-Roman world in the matter of art. We can give it up altogether or rather put it all into museums as a curiosity of the past to be studied for historical and scientific purposes.

But I have only to say that to prove that we will not be contented with such a counsel of despair. The Romans went on producing art, even if it was bad art, and we shall certainly go on producing art whether it is good or bad. We have produced an immense mass of bad art, worse perhaps than any that the Roman world produced. But there is this difference between us and the Romans, that we are not content with it. We have the conviction of artistic sin and they had not. Therefore we do not think that their example need make us despair. They were not exercising their will on their art. It was to them what a purely conventional morality is to a morally decadent people. It went from bad to worse, just as conventional morals do, when no man arises and says:[240] 'This is wrong, although you think it right. I know what is right from my own sense of values, and I will do it in spite of you.' So far as we know, there were no rebels of that kind in the art of the Graeco-Roman world. But our world of art is full of such rebels and has been ever since the artistic debacle at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In fact the chief and the unique characteristic of the art of the last hundred years has been the constant succession of artistic rebels. All our greatest artists have been men who were determined to exercise their own wills in their art, whatever the mass of men might think of it. And what has always happened is that they have been first bitterly abused and then passionately praised. This, so far as I know, has never happened before. There have been rebel artists like Rembrandt, but only a few of them. Most great artists before the nineteenth century have been admired in their own time. But in the nineteenth century, and more and more towards the end of it, the great artists have had to conquer the world with their rebellion, they have had to exercise their own individual wills against the common convention. And it seems to us now the mark of the great artist so to exercise his individual will, so to rebel and conquer the world with his rebellion, even if he kills himself in the process. Think of Constable and even Turner, of our pre-Raphaelites, and above all of nearly all the great French artists, of Millet, of Manet, of Cezanne, Gauguin, of Rodin himself, who has conquered the world now, but only in his old age. Think of Beethoven, of Schubert, of Wagner, and of all the rebel musicians of to-day. But in the past the great artists, Michelangelo, Titian, even the great innovator Giorgione; Mozart, Bach, Handel; none of these were thought of as rebels. They had not to conquer the world against its will. They came into the world, and the world knew[241] them. So, we may be sure, the decadent artists of the Graeco-Roman world were not rebels. There they were like Michelangelo and Raphael, if they were like them in nothing else. If they had been rebels we might not yawn at their works now.

Now, clearly, this rebellion is not so good a thing as the harmony between the artist and his public which has prevailed in all great ages of art. But it is better than the harmony of dull and complacent convention which prevailed in the Graeco-Roman decadence. For it means that our artists are not content with such complacence, that they will not accept decadence as an inevitable process. And the fact that we do passionately admire them for their rebellion as soon as we understand what it means, that this rebellion seems to us a glorious and heroic thing, is a proof that we, the public, also are not content to sink into the Graeco-Roman complacency. We may stone our prophets at first, but like the Hebrews, we produce prophets as well as priests, that is to say academicians. And we treasure their works as the Hebrews treasured the books of the prophets.

Art, in fact, is a human activity in which we try to exercise our wills. We are aware that it is threatened with decadence by the mere process of our civilization, that it is much more difficult for us to produce living art than it was for our forefathers of the Middle Ages. But still we are not content to produce dead art. Half unconsciously we are making the effort to exercise our wills upon our art, as upon our science, our morals, our politics, to avoid decadence in art as we try to avoid it in other human activities; and this effort is the great experiment, the peculiar feature, of the art of the last century.

It is an effort not merely aesthetic but also intellectual. There is a great interest in aesthetics and a constant and[242] growing effort to charge them with actual experience and to put them to some practical end. In the past they have been the most backward, the most futile and barren, kind of philosophy because men wrote about them who had never really experienced works of art and who saw no connexion between their philosophy and the production of works of art. They talked about the nature of the beautiful, as schoolmen talked about the nature of God. And they knew no more about the nature of the beautiful from their own experience of it than schoolmen knew about the nature of God. But now men are interested in the beautiful because they miss it so much in the present works of men and because they so passionately desire it; and their speculation has the aim of recovering it. So aesthetics, whatever some artists in their peculiar and pontifical narrowness may say, is of great importance now; they are part of the effort which the modern world is making to exercise its will in the production of works of art, and they are bound, if that effort is successful, to have more and more effect upon that production.

But is that effort going to be successful? That is a question which no one can answer yet. But my object is to insist that in our age, because of its effort, an effort which has never been made so consciously and resolutely before, there is a possibility of a progress in art of the same nature as progress in other human activities. If we can escape from what has seemed to some men this inexorable process of decadence in art, we shall have accomplished one of the greatest achievements of the human will. We shall have redeemed art from the tyranny of mere fate.

What we have to do now is to understand what it is that causes decadence in art, we have to apply a conscious science to the production of it. We have to see what are[243] the social causes that produce excellence and decay in it. And we have made a great beginning in this. For we are all aware that art is not an isolated thing, that it does not merely happen, as Whistler said. We know that it is a symptom of something right or wrong with the whole mind of man and with the circumstances that affect that mind. We know at last that there is a connexion between the art of man and his intellect and his conscience. It was because William Morris saw that connexion that he, from being a pure artist, became a socialist and spoke at street corners. Such a change, such a waste and perversion as it seemed to many, would have been impossible in any former age. It was possible and inevitable, it was a natural process for Morris in the nineteenth century, because he was determined to exercise his will upon art, just as men in the past had exercised their will upon religion or politics; because he no longer believed that art happened as the weather happens and that the artist is a charming but irresponsible child swayed merely by the caprices of his own private subconsciousness. Was he right or wrong? I myself firmly believe that he was right. That if man has a will at all, if he is not a mere piece of matter moulded by circumstances, he has a will in art as in all other things. And, further, if he has a common will which can express itself in his other activities, in religion or politics, that common will must also be able to express itself in art. It has not hitherto done so consciously, because man in all periods of artistic success has been content to succeed without asking why he succeeded, and in all periods of artistic failure he has been content to fail without asking why he has failed. We have been for long living in a period of artistic failure, but we have asked, we are asking always more insistently, why we fail. And that is where our time differs from any former period of artistic deca[244]dence, why, I believe, it is not a period of decadence but one of experiment, and of experiment which will not be wasted, however much it may seem at the moment to fail. But if out of all this conscious effort and experiment we do arrest the process of decadence, if we do pass from failure to success, then we shall have accomplished a progress in art such as has never been accomplished before even in the greatest ages. For whereas men have never been able to learn from the experience of those ages, whereas the Greeks and the men of the thirteenth century have not taught men how to avoid decadence in art, we and our children will teach them how to avoid it. We shall then have given a security to art such as it has never enjoyed before; and we shall do that by applying science to it, by using the conscious intelligence upon it.

We may fail, of course, but even so our effort will not have been in vain. And some future age in happier circumstances may profit by it, and achieve that progress, that application of science to art, which we are now attempting.

Many people, especially artists, tell us that the attempt is a mere absurdity. But ignorance even about art need not be eternal. Ignorance is eternal only when it is despairing or contented. Twenty years ago many people said that men never would be able to fly, yet they are flying now because they were resolved to fly. So we are more and more resolved to have great art. Every year we feel the lack of it more and more. Every year more people exercise their wills more and more consciously in the effort to achieve it. This, I repeat, has never happened before in the history of the world. And the consequence is that our art, what real art we have, is unlike any that there has been in the world before. It is so strange and so rebellious that we ourselves are shocked and amazed[245] by it. Much of it, no doubt, is merely strange and rebellious, as much of early Christianity was merely strange and rebellious and so provoked the resentment and persecution of self-respecting pagans. Every great effort of the human mind attracts those who merely desire their own salvation, and so it is with the artistic effort now. There are cubists and futurists and post-impressionists who are as silly as human beings can be, because they hope to attain to artistic salvation by rushing to extremes. They are religious egotists, in fact, and nothing can be more disagreeable than a religious egotist. But there were no doubt many of them among the early Christians. Yet Christianity was a great creative religious effort which came because life and truth had died out of the religions of the past, and men could not endure to live without life and truth in their religion. So now they cannot endure to live without life and truth in their art. They are determined to have an art which shall express all that they have themselves experienced of the beauty of the universe, which shall not merely utter platitudes of the past about that beauty.

So far perhaps there is little but the effort at expression, an effort strange, contorted, self-conscious. You can say your worst about it and laugh at all its failures. Yet they are failures different in kind from the artistic failures of the past, for they are failures of the conscious will, not of mere complacency. And it is such failures in all human activities that prepare the way for successes.

Let us remember then, always, that art is a human activity, not a fairy chance that happens to the mind of man now and again. And let us remember, too, that it does not consist merely of pictures or statues or of music performed in concert-rooms. It is, indeed, rather a quality of all things made by man, a quality that may be good or bad but which is always in them. That is one of the[246] facts about art that was discovered in the nineteenth century, when men began to miss the excellence of art in all their works and to wish passionately that its excellence might return to them. And this discovery which was then made about art was of the greatest practical importance. For then men became aware that they could not have good pictures or architecture or sculpture unless the quality of art became good again in all their works. So much they learnt about the science of art. They began, or some of them did, to think about their furniture and cottages and pots and pans and spoons and forks, and even about their tombstones, as well as about what had been called their works of art. And in all these humbler things an advance, a conscious resolute wilful advance, has been made. We begin to see when and also why spoons and forks and pots and pans are good or bad. We are less at the mercy of chance or blind fashion in such things than our fathers were. We know our vulgarity and the naughtiness of our own hearts. The advance, the self-knowledge, is not general yet, but it grows more general every year and the conviction of sin spreads. No doubt, like all conviction of sin, it often produces unpleasant results. The consciously artistic person often has a more irritating house than his innocently philistine grandfather had. So, no doubt, many simple pagan people were much nicer than those early Christians who were out for their own salvation. But there was progress in Christianity and there was none in paganism.

The title of this book is Progress and History, and it may justly be complained that the progress of which I have been talking is not historic, but a progress that has not yet happened and may never happen at all. But that I think is a defect of my particular branch of the subject. Progress in art, if progress is anything more than a natural process of growth to be followed inevitably[247] by a natural process of decay, has never yet happened in art; but there is now an effort to make it happen, an effort to exercise the human will in art more completely and consciously than it has ever been exercised before. Therefore I could do nothing but attempt to describe that effort and to speculate upon its success.




F.S. Marvin

'L'Esprit travaillant sur les données de l'expérience.'

The French phrase, neater as usual than our own, may be taken as the starting-point in our discussion. We shall put aside such questions as what an experience is, or how much the mind itself supplies in each experience, or what, if anything, is the not-mind upon which the mind works. We must leave something for the chapter on philosophy; and the present chapter is primarily historical. Having defined what we mean by science, we are to consider at what stage in history the working of the mind on experience can be called scientific, in what great strides science has leapt forward since its definite formation, and in what ways this growth of science has affected general progress, both by its action on the individual and on the welfare and unity of mankind.

Our French motto must be qualified in order to give us precision in our definition and a starting-point in history for science in the strict sense. In a general sense the action of the mind upon the given in experience has been going on from the beginning of animal life. But science, strictly so-called, does not appear till men have been civilized and settled in large communities for a considerable time. We cannot ascribe 'science' to the isolated savage gnawing bones in his cave, though the germs are there, in every observation that he makes of the world around him and every word that he utters to[249] his mates. But we may begin to speak of science when we reach those large and ordered societies which are found in the great river-basins and sedentary civilizations of East and West, especially in Egypt and Chaldea.

When we turn to the quality of the thing itself, we note in the first place that while science may be said to begin with mere description, it implies from the first a certain degree of order and accuracy, and this order and accuracy increase steadily as science advances. It is thus a type of progress, for it is a constant growth in the fullness, accuracy and simplification of our experience. From the dawn of science, therefore, man must have acquired standards and instruments of measurement and means of handing on his observations to others. Thus writing must have been invented. But in the second place, there is always involved in this orderly description, so far as it is scientific, the element of prediction. The particular description is not scientific. 'I saw a bird fly' is not a scientific description, however accurate; but 'The bird flies by stretching out its wings' is. It contains that causal connexion or element of generality which enables us to predict.

Before entering on a historical sketch of the most perfect example of human progress, it is of the first importance to realize its social foundation. This is the key-note, and it connects science throughout with the other aspects of our subject. Knowledge depends upon the free intercourse of mind with mind, and man advances with the increase and better direction of his knowledge. But when we consider the implications of any generalization which we can call 'a law of nature' the social co-operation involved becomes still more apparent. Geometry and astronomy—the measurement of the earth and the measurement of the heavens—dispute the honour of the first place in the historical order. Both, of course, involved the still more fundamental conception of number and the acceptance[250] of some unit for measurement. Now in each case and at every step a long previous elaboration is implied of intellectual conventions and agreements—conscious and unconscious—between many minds stretching back to the beginnings of conscious life: the simplest element of thought involves the co-operation of individual minds in a common product. Language is such a common product of social life and it prepares the ground for science. But science, as the exact formulation of general truths, attains a higher degree of social value, because it rises above the idioms of person or race and is universally acceptable in form and essence. Such is the intrinsic nature of the process, and the historical circumstances of its beginnings make it clear. It was the quick mind of the Greek which acted as the spark to fire the trains of thought and observation which had been accumulating for ages through the agency of the priests in Egypt and Babylonia. The Greeks lived and travelled between the two centres, and their earliest sages and philosophers were men of the most varied intercourse and occupation. Their genius was fed by a wide sympathy and an all-embracing curiosity. No other people could have demonstrated so well the social nature of science from its inception, and they were planting in a soil well prepared. In Egypt conspicuously and in Chaldea also to a less extent there had been a social order which before the convulsions of the last millennium b.c. had lasted substantially unchanged for scores of centuries. This order was based upon a religious discipline which connected the sovereigns on earth with the divine power ruling men from the sky. Hence the supreme importance of the priesthood and their study of the movements of the heavenly bodies. The calendar, which they were the first to frame, was thus not only or even primarily a work of practical utility but of religious meaning and obligation.[251] The priests had to fix in advance the feast days of gods and kings by astronomical prediction. Their standards and their means of measurement were rough approximations. Thus the 360 degrees into which the Babylonians taught us to divide the circle are thought to have been the nearest round number to the days of the year. The same men were also capable of the more accurate discovery that the side of a hexagon inscribed in a circle was equal to the radius and gave us our division of sixty minutes and sixty seconds with all its advantages for calculation. In Egypt, if the surveyors were unaware of the true relation between a triangle and the rectangle on the same base, they had yet established the carpenter's rule of 3, 4 and 5 for the sides of a right-angled triangle.

How much the Greeks drew from the ancient priesthoods we shall never know, nor how far the priests had advanced in those theories of general relations which we call scientific. But one or two general conclusions as to this initial stage of scientific preparation may well be drawn.

One is that a certain degree of settlement and civilization was necessary for the birth of science. This we find in these great theocracies, where sufficient wealth enabled a class of leisured and honoured men to devote themselves to joint labour in observing nature and recording their observations. Another point is clear, namely, that the results of these early observations, crude as they were, contributed powerfully to give stability to the societies in which they arose. The younger Pliny points out later the calming effect of Greek astronomy on the minds of the Eastern peoples, and we are bound to carry back the same idea into the ancient settled communities where astronomy began and where so remarkable an order prevailed for so long during its preparation.[252]

But however great the value we allow to the observations of the priests, it is to the Ionian Greeks that we owe the definite foundation of science in the proper sense; it was they who gave the raw material the needed accuracy and generality of application, A comparison of the societies in the nearer East to which we have referred, with the history of China affords the strongest presumption of this. In the later millenniums b.c. the Chinese were in many points ahead of the Babylonians and Egyptians. They had made earlier predictions of eclipses and more accurate observations of the distance of the sun from the zenith at various places. They had, too, seen the advantages of a decimal system both in weights and measures and in the calculations of time. But no Greek genius came to build the house with the bricks that they had fashioned, and in spite of the achievements of the Chinese they remained until our own day the type in the world of a settled and contented, although unprogressive, conservatism.

Science then among its other qualities contains a force of social movement, and our age of rapid transformation has begun to do fuller justice to the work of the Greeks, the greatest source of intellectual life and change in the world. We are now fully conscious of the defects in their methods, the guesses which pass for observations, the metaphysical notions which often take the place of experimental results.[80] But having witnessed the latest strides in the unification of science on mathematical lines, we are more and more inclined to prize the geometry and astronomy of the Greeks, who gave us the first constructions on which the modern mechanical theories of the universe are based. We shall quote from them here only sufficient illustrations to explain and justify this statement.

The first shall be what is called Euclidean geometry, but[253] which is in the main the work of the Pythagorean school of thinkers and social reformers who flourished from the seventh to the fifth centuries b.c. This formed the greater part of the geometrical truth known to mankind until Descartes and the mathematicians recommenced the work in the seventeenth century. The second greatest contribution of the Greeks was the statics and the conics of which Archimedes was the chief creator in the third century b.c. In his work he gave the first sketch of an infinitesimal calculus and in his own way performed an integration. The third invaluable construction was the trigonometry by which Hipparchus for the first time made a scientific astronomy possible. The fourth, the optics of Ptolemy based on much true observation and containing an approximation to the general law.

These are a few outstanding landmarks, peaks in the highlands of Greek science, and nothing has been said of their zoology or medicine. In all these cases it will be seen that the advance consisted in bringing varying instances under the same rule, in seeing unity in difference, in discovering the true link which held together the various elements in the complex of phenomena. That the Greek mind was apt in doing this is cognate to their idealizing turn in art. In their statues they show us the universal elements in human beauty; in their science, the true relations that are common to all triangles and all cones.

Ptolemy's work in optics is a good example of the scientific mind at work.[81] The problem is the general relation which holds between the angles of incidence and of refraction when a ray passes from air into water or from air into glass. He groups a series of the angles with a close approximation to the truth, but just misses the perception which would have turned his excellent raw[254] material into the finished product of science. His brick does not quite fit its place in the building. His formula i (the angle of incidence) = nr (the angle of refraction) only fits the case of very small angles for which the sine is negligible, though it had the deceptive advantage of including reflexion as one case of refraction. He did not pursue the argument and make his form completely general. Sin i = n sin r escaped him, though he had all the trigonometry of Hipparchus behind him, and it was left for Snell and Descartes to take the simple but crucial step at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

The case is interesting for more than one reason. It shows us what is a general form, or law of nature in mathematical shape, and it also illustrates the progress of science as it advances from the most abstract conceptions of number and geometry, to more concrete phenomena such as physics. The formula for refraction which Ptolemy helped to shape, is geometrical in form. With him, as with the discoverer of the right angle in a semicircle, the mind was working to find a general ideal statement under which all similar occurrences might be grouped. Observation, the collection of similar instances, measurement, are all involved, and the general statement, law or form, when arrived at, is found to link up other general truths and is then used as a starting-point in dealing with similar cases in future. Progress in science consists in extending this mental process to an ever-increasing area of human experience. We shall see, as we go on, how in the concrete sciences the growing complexity and change of detail make such generalizations more and more difficult. The laws of pure geometry seem to have more inherent necessity and the observations on which they were originally founded have passed into the very texture of our minds. But the work[255] of building up, or, perhaps better, of organizing our experience remains fundamentally the same. Man is throughout both perceiving and making that structure of truth which is the framework of progress.

Ptolemy's work brings us to the edge of the great break which occurred in the growth of science between the Greek and the modern world. In the interval, the period known as the Middle Ages, the leading minds in the leading section of the human race were engaged in another part of the great task of human improvement. For them the most incumbent task was that of developing the spiritual consciousness of men for which the Catholic Church provided an incomparable organization. But the interval was not entirely blank on the scientific side. Our system of arithmetical notation, including that invaluable item the cipher, took shape during the Middle Ages at the hands of the Arabs, who appear to have derived it in the main from India. Its value to science is an excellent object-lesson on the importance of the details of form. Had the Greeks possessed it, who can say how far they might have gone in their applications of mathematics?

Yet in spite of this drawback the most permanent contribution of the Greeks to science was in the very sphere of exact measurement where they would have received the most assistance from a better system of calculation had they possessed it. They founded and largely constructed both plane and spherical geometry on the lines which best suit our practical intelligence. They gave mankind the framework of astronomy by determining the relative positions of the heavenly bodies, and they perceived and correctly stated the elementary principles of equilibrium. At all these points the immortal group of men who adopted the Copernican theory at the Renascence, began again where the Greeks had left off. But modern science[256] starts with two capital improvements on the work of the Greeks. Measurement there had been from the first, and the effort to find the constant thing in the variable flux; and from the earliest days of the Ionian sages the scientific mind had been endeavouring to frame the simplest general hypothesis or form which would contain all the facts. But the moderns advanced decisively, in method, by experimenting and verifying their hypotheses, and in subject-matter, by applying their method to phenomena of movement, which may theoretically include all facts biological as well as physical. Galileo, the greatest founder of modern science, perfectly exemplifies both these new departures.

It is, perhaps, the most instructive and encouraging thing in the whole annals of progress to note how the men of the Renascence were able to pick up the threads of the Greeks and continue their work. The texture held good. Leonardo da Vinci, whose birth coincides with the invention of the printing-press, is the most perfect reproduction in modern times of the early Greek sophos, the man of universal interests and capacity. He gave careful and admiring study to Archimedes, the greatest pure man of science among the Greeks, the one man among them whose works, including even his letters, have come down to us practically complete. A little later, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, Copernicus gained from the Pythagoreans the crude notion of the earth's movement round a great central fire, and from it he elaborated the theory which was to revolutionize thought. Another half-century later the works of Archimedes were translated into Latin and for the first time printed. They thus became well known before the time of Galileo, who also carefully studied them. At the beginning of the seventeenth century Galileo made the capital discoveries which established both the Copernican[257] theory and the science of dynamics. Galileo's death in 1642 coincides with the birth of Sir Isaac Newton.

Such is the sequence of the most influential names at the turning-point of modern thought.

Galileo's work, his experiments with falling bodies and the revelations of his telescope, carried the strategic lines of Greek science across the frontiers of a New World, and Newton laid down the lines of permanent occupation and organized the conquest. Organization, the formation of a network of lines connected as a whole, and giving access to different parts of the world of experience, is perhaps the best image of the growth of science in the mind of mankind. It will be seen that it does not imply any exhaustion of the field, nor any identification of all knowledge with exact or systematic knowledge. The process is rather one of gradual penetration, the linking up and extension of the area of knowledge by well-defined and connected methods of thought. No all-embracing plan thought out beforehand by the first founders of science, or any of their successors, can be applied systematically to the whole range of our experience. It has not been so in the past; still less does it seem possible in the future. For the most part the discoverer works on steadily in his own plot, occupying the nearest places first, and observing here and there that one of his lines runs into some one else's. Every now and then a greater and more comprehensive mind appears, able to treat several systems as one whole, to survey a larger area and extend that empire of the mind which, as Bacon tells us, is nobler than any other.

Of such conquerors Newton was the greatest we have yet known, because he brought together into one system more and further-reaching lines of communication than any one else. He unified the forms of measurement which had previously been treated as the separate subjects[258] of geometry, astronomy, and the newly-born science of dynamics. Celestial mechanics embraces all three, and is a fresh and decisive proof of the commanding influence of the heavenly bodies on human life and thought. Not by a horoscope, but by continued and systematic thought, humanity was unravelling its nature and destiny in the stars as well as in itself. These are the two approaches to perfect knowledge which are converging more and more closely in our own time. Newton's work was the longest step yet taken on the mechanical side, and we must complete our notice of it by the briefest possible reference to the later workers on the same line, before turning to the sciences of life which began their more systematic evolution with the discovery of Harvey, a contemporary of Newton.

The seventeenth century, with Descartes' application of algebra to geometry, and Newton's and Leibnitz's invention of the differential and integral calculus, improved our methods of calculation to such a point that summary methods of vastly greater comprehensiveness and elasticity can be applied to any problem of which the elements can be measured. The mere improvement in the method of describing the same things (cf. e.g. a geometrical problem as written down by Archimedes with any modern treatise) was in itself a revolution. But the new calculus went much farther. It enabled us to represent, in symbols which may be dealt with arithmetically, any form of regular movement.

As movement is universal, and the most obvious external manifestation of life itself, the hopes of a mathematical treatment of all phenomena are indefinitely enlarged, for all fresh laws or forms might conceivably be expressed as differential equations. So to the vision of a Poincaré the human power of prediction appears to have no assignable theoretical limit.[259]

The seventeenth century which witnessed this momentous extension of mathematical methods, also contains the cognate foundation of scientific physics. Accurate measurement began to be applied to the phenomena of light and heat, the expansion of gases, the various changes in the forms of matter apart from life. The eighteenth century which continued this work, is also and most notably marked by the establishment of a scientific chemistry. In this again we see a further extension of accurate measurement: another order of things different in quality began to be treated by a quantitative analysis. Lavoisier's is the greatest name. He gave a clear and logical classification of the chemical elements then known, which served as useful a purpose in that science, as classificatory systems in botany and zoology have done in those cases. But the crucial step which established chemistry, a step also due to Lavoisier, was making the test of weight decisive. 'The balance was the ultima ratio of his laboratory.' His first principle was that the total weight of all the products of a chemical process must be exactly equal to the total weight of the substances used. From this, and rightly disregarding the supposed weight of heat, he could proceed to the discovery of the accurate proportions of the elements in all the compounds he was able to analyse.

Since then the process of mathematical synthesis in science has been carried many stages further. The exponents of this aspect of scientific progress, of whom we may take the late M. Henri Poincaré as the leading representative in our generation, are perfectly justified in treating this gradual mathematical unification of knowledge with pride and confidence. They have solid achievement on their side. It is through science of this kind that the idea of universal order has gained its sway in man's mind. The occasional attacks on scientific method, the[260] talk one sometimes hears of 'breaking the fetters of Cartesian mechanics', seem to suggest that the great structure which Galileo, Newton, and Descartes founded is comparable to the false Aristotelianism which they destroyed. The suggestion is absurd: its chief excuse is the desire to defend the autonomy of the sciences of life, about which we have a word to say later on. But we must first complete our brief mention of the greatest stages on the mechanical side, of which a full and vivid account may be found in such a book as M. Poincaré's Science et Hypothèse.

Early in the nineteenth century a trio of discoverers, a Frenchman, a German, and an Englishman, established the theory of the conservation of energy. To the labours of Sadi Carnot, Mayer, and Joule is due our knowledge of the fact that heat which, as a supposed entity, had disturbed the physics and chemistry of the earlier centuries, was itself another form of mechanical energy and could be measured like the rest. Later in the century another capital step in synthesis was taken by the foundation of astrophysics, which rests on the identity of the physics and chemistry of the heavenly bodies with those of the earth.

The known universe thus becomes still more one. Later researches again, especially those of Maxwell, tend to the identification of light and heat with electricity, and in the last stage matter as a whole seems to be swallowed up in motion. It is found that similar equations will express all kinds of motion; that all are really various forms of the motion of something which the mind postulates as the thing in motion; we have in each case to deal with wave-movements of different length. The broad change, therefore, which has taken place since the mechanics of Newton is the advance from the consideration of masses to that of molecules of smaller and[261] smaller size, and the truth of the former is not thereby invalidated. Newton, Descartes, Fresnel, Carnot, Joule, Mayer, Faraday, Helmholtz, Maxwell appear as one great succession of unifiers. All have been engaged in the same work of consolidating thought at the same time that they extended it. Their conceptions of force, mass, matter, ether, atom, molecule have provisional validity as the imagined objective substratum of our experience, and the fact that we analyse these conceptions still further and sometimes discard them, does not in any way invalidate the law or general form in which they have enabled us to sum up our experience and predict the future.

But now we turn to the other side. In spite of the continued progress noted on the mechanical side, it is true that the predominant scientific interest changed in the nineteenth century from mechanics to biology, from matter to life, from Newton to Darwin. Darwin was born in 1809, the year in which Lamarck, who invented the term biology, published his Philosophie Zoologique. The Origin of Species appeared in 1858 after the conservation of energy had been established, and the range and influence of evolutionary biology have grown ever since.

Before anything can be said of the conclusions in this branch of science one preliminary remark has to be made. From the philosophical point of view the science of life includes all other, for man is a living animal, and science is the work of his co-operating mind, one of the functions of his living activity. What this involves on the philosophical side does not concern us here, but it is necessary to indicate here the nature of the contact between the two great divisions of science, the mechanical and the biological, considered purely as sciences. For, though we know that our consciousness as a function of life must in some form come into the science of life, and is, in a sense, above it all, we are yet able to draw con[262]clusions, apparently of infinite scope, about the behaviour of all living things around us and including ourselves, just as we do about a stone or a star. And we are interested in this chapter in seeing how this drawing of general conclusions keeps growing with regard to the phenomena of life, just as it has grown with regard to all other phenomena, and we have to consider what sort of difference there is between the one class of generalizations and the other.

For those of us who are content to rest their conclusions on the positively known, who, while not setting any limits to the possible extension of knowledge, are not prepared to dogmatize about it, it is still necessary to draw a line. A dualism remains, name and fact alike abhorrent to the completely logical philosophic mind. On the one hand the ordinary laws of physical science are constantly extending their sphere; on the other, the fact of life still remains unexplained by them, and becomes in itself more and more marvellous as we investigate it. The general position remains much as Johannes Müller expressed it about the middle of the last century, himself sometimes described as the central figure in the history of modern physiology. 'Though there appears to be something in the phenomena of living beings which cannot be explained by ordinary mechanical, physical, or chemical laws, much may be so explained, and we may without fear push these explanations as far as we can, so long as we keep to the solid ground of observation and experiment.' Since this was written the double process has gone on apace. The chemistry and physics of living matter are being sketched, and biologists are more and more inclined to study the mechanical expression of the facts of life. Mr. Bateson, for instance, tells us that the greatest advance that we can foresee will be made 'when it is possible to connect the geometrical phenomena of development with[263] the chemical'. The process of applying physical laws to life follows, it would seem, the reverse order of their original development. First the chemistry of organic matter was investigated, then the physical attraction of their molecules, and now their geometry is in question. So, says Professor Bateson, the 'geometrical symmetry of living things is the key to a knowledge of their regularity and the forces which cause it. In the symmetry of the dividing cell the basis of that resemblance which we call Heredity is contained'.

But such work as this is still largely speculative and in the future. It does not solve the secret of life. It does not affect the fact of consciousness which we are free to conceive, if we will, as the other side of what we call matter, evolving with it from the most rudimentary forms into the highest known form in man, or still further into some super-personal or universal form. This, however, is philosophy or metaphysics. We are here concerned with the progress of science, in one of its two great departments, i.e. knowledge about life and all its known manifestations, which from Aristotle onwards have been subjected to a scrutiny similar to that which has been given to the physical facts of the universe and with results in many points similar also. But the facts, although superficially more familiar, are infinitely more complicated, and the scrutiny has only commenced in earnest some hundred years ago. Considering the short space for this concentrated and systematic study, the results are at least as wonderful as those achieved by the physicists. Two or three points of suggestive analogy between the courses of the two great branches of science may here be mentioned.

We will put first the fundamental question on which, as we have seen, no final answer has yet been reached: What is life, and is there any evidence of life arising from[264] the non-living? Now this baffling and probably unanswerable question—unanswerable, that is, in terms which go beyond the physical concomitants of life—has played the part in biology which the alchemists' quest played in chemistry. It led by the way to a host of positive discoveries. Aristotle, the father of biology, believed in spontaneous generation. He was puzzled by the case of parasites, especially in putrefying matter. Even Harvey, who made the first great definite discovery about the mechanism of the body, agreed with Aristotle in this error. It was left for the minute and careful inquirers of the nineteenth century to dispose of the myth. It was only after centuries of inquiry that the truth was established that life, as we know it, only arises from life. But the whole course of the inquiry had illuminated the nature of life and had brought together facts as to living things of all kinds, plants and animals, great and small, which show superficially the widest difference. Illumination by unification is here the note, as clearly as in the mathematical-physical sciences. All living things are found to be built up from cells and each cell to be an organism, a being, that is, with certain qualities belonging to it as a whole, which cannot be predicated of any collection of parts not an organism. The cell is such an organism, just as the animal is an organism, and among its qualities as an organism is the power of growth by assimilating material different from itself. Yet, in spite of this assimilation and constant change, it grows and decays as one whole and reproduces its like.

Another point of analogy between the animate and the inanimate sphere is that the process of study in both has been from the larger to the smaller elements. The microscope has played at least as decisive a part as the telescope, and it dates from about the same time, at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Since then it has penetrated[265] farther and farther into the infinitesimal elements of life and matter, and in each case there seems to be no assignable limit to our analysis. The cell is broken up into physiological units to which almost every investigator gives a new name. We are now confronted by the fascinating theory of Arrhenius of an infinite universe filled with vital spores, wafted about by radio-activity, and beginning their upward course of evolution wherever they find a kindly soil on which to rest. To such a vision the hopes and fears of mortal existence, catastrophes of nature or of society, even the decay of man, seem transient and trivial, and the infinities embrace.

A third point, perhaps the most important in the comparison, is the way by which the order of science has entered into our notions of life, through a great theory, the theory of evolution or the doctrine of descent. In this we find a solid basis for the co-ordination of facts: it was the rise of this theory in the hands of one thinker of unconquerable patience and love of truth which has put the study of biology in the pre-eminent position which it now holds. But it is necessary to consider the evolution theory as something both older and wider than Darwin's presentation of it. Darwin's work was to suggest a vera causa for a process which earlier philosophers had imagined almost from the beginning of abstract thought. He observed and collected a multitude of facts which made his explanations of the change of species—within their limits—as convincing as they are plausible. But the idea that species change, by slow and regular steps, was an old one, and his particular explanations, natural and sexual selection, are seen on further reflection to have only a limited scope.

This is no place, of course, to discuss the details of the greatest and most vexed question in the whole science of life. But it belongs to our argument to consider it from one or two general points of view. Its analogies with,[266] and its differences from, the great generalizations of mathematical physics, are both highly instructive. The first crude hypothesis of the gradual evolution of various vegetable and animal forms from one another may be found in the earliest Greek thinkers, just as Pythagoras and Aristarchus anticipated the Copernican theory. Aristotle gave the idea a philosophic statement which only the fuller knowledge of our own time enables us to appreciate. He traced the gradual progression in nature from the inorganic to the organic, and among living things from the simpler to the higher forms. But his knowledge of the facts was insufficient: the Greeks had no microscope, and the dissecting knife was forbidden on the human subject. Then, as these things were gradually added to science from the seventeenth century onwards, and the record of the rocks gave the confirmation of palaeontology, the whole realm of living nature was gradually unfolded before us, every form connected both in function and in history with every other, every organ fulfilling a necessary part, either now or in the past, and growing and changing to gain a more perfect accord with its environment. Such is the supreme conception which now dominates biological science much as the Newtonian theory has dominated physics for two hundred years; and it is idle to debate whether this new idea is different in kind or only in degree from the great law of physics. It is a general notion or law which brings together and explains myriads of hitherto unrelated particulars; it has been established by observation and experiment working on a previous hypothesis; it involves measurement, as all accurate observation must, and it gives us an increasing power of prediction. So far, therefore, we must class it with the great mathematical laws and dissent from M. Bergson. But seeing that the multitudinous facts far surpass our powers of complete colli[267]gation, that much in the vital process is still obscure, that we are conscious in ourselves of a power of shaping circumstances which we are inclined in various degrees to attribute to other living things, so far we recognize a profound difference between the laws of life and the laws of physics, and pay our respects to M. Bergson and his allies of the neo-vitalist school. Not for the first time in history we have to seek the truth in the reconciliation, or at least the cohabitation, of apparent contradictories.

To us who are concerned in tracing the progress of mankind as a whole, and constantly find the roots of progress in the growth of the social spirit, the development, that is, of unity of spirit and of action on a wider and deeper scale, there is one aspect of biological truth, as the evolutionists have lately revealed it, which is of special interest. The living thing is an organism of which the characteristic is the constant effort to preserve its unity. This is in fact the definition of an organism. It only dies or suffers diminution in order to reproduce itself, and the new creature repeats by some sort of organic memory the same preservative acts that its parents did. We recognize life by these manifestations. A merely material, non-living thing, such as a crystal, cannot thus make good its loss, nor can it assimilate unlike substance and make it a part of itself. But these things are of the nature of life. Now mankind, as a whole, has, if our argument is correct, this characteristic of an organism: it is bound together by more than mechanical or accidental links. It is one by the nature of its being, and the study of mankind, the highest branch of the science of life, rests, or should rest, upon the basis of those common functions by which humanity is held together and distinguished from the rest of the animate world.

Just as in passing from the mechanical sciences to that of life, we noticed that the general laws of the lower[268] sphere still held good, but that new factors not analysable into those of the former had to be reckoned with, so in passing from the animate realm, as a whole, to man its highest member, we find that, while animal, and subject to the general laws of animality, he adds features which distinguish him as another order and cannot be found elsewhere. His unity as an organism has a progressive quality possessed by no other species. Step by step his mind advances into the recesses of time and space, and makes the farthest objects that his mind can reach a part of his being. His unity of organization, of which the humblest animalcule is a simple type, goes far beyond the preservation or even the improvement of his species: it touches the infinite though it cannot contain it. To trace this widening process is the true key to progress, the idée-mère of history. For while man's evolution has its practical side, like that of other species,—the needs of nutrition, of reproduction, of adapting himself to his environment,—with man this is the basis and not the end. The end is, first the organization of himself as a world-being, conscious of his unity, and then the illimitable conquest of truth and goodness as far as his ever-growing powers extend.

Man's reason is thus, as philosophers have always taught, his special characteristic, and takes the place for him, on a higher plane, of the law of organic growth common to all living things. In this we join hands, across two thousand years, with Aristotle: he would have understood us and used almost identical language. But the content of the words as we use them and their applications are immeasurably greater.

The content is the mass of knowledge which man's reason has accumulated and partly put in order since Aristotle taught. It is now so great that thoroughly to master a single branch is arduous labour for a lifetime[269] of concentrated toil, and at the end of it new discoveries will crowd upon the worker and he will die with all his earlier notions crying for revision. No case so patent, so conclusive, of the reality of human unity and the paramount need of organization. The individual here can only thrive and only be of service as a small member of a great whole, one atom in a planet, one cell in a body. The demand which Comte raised more than fifty years ago for another class of specialists, the specialists in generalities, is now being taken up by men of science themselves. But the field has now so much extended and is so much fuller in every part, that it would seem that nothing less than a committee of Aristotles could survey the whole. And even this is but one aspect of the matter. Just as the genesis of science was in the daily needs of men—the cultivators whose fields must be re-measured after the flooding, the priests who had to fix the right hour for sacrifice—so all through its history science has grown and in the future will grow still more by following the suggestions of practice. It gathers strength by contact with the world and life, and it should use its strength in making the world more fit to live in. Thus our committee of scientific philosophers needs to have constantly in touch with it not one but many boards of scientific practitioners.

The past which has given us this most wonderful of all the fruits of time, does not satisfy us equally as to the use that has been made of it. Our crowded slums do not proclaim the glory of Watt and Stephenson as the heavens remind us of Kepler and Newton. Selfishness has grown fat on ill-paid labour, and jealous nations have sharpened their weapons with every device that science can suggest. But a sober judgement, as well as the clearest evidence of history, dictates a more hopeful conclusion. Industry, the twin brother of science, has vastly increased our wealth,[270] our comfort, and our capacity for enjoyment. Medicine, the most human of her children, has lengthened our lives, fortified our bodies, and alleviated our suffering. Every chapter in this volume gives some evidence of the beneficent power of science. For religion, government, morality, even art, are all profoundly influenced by the knowledge that man has acquired of the world around him and his practical conclusions from it. These do not, with the possible exception of art, contradict the thesis of a general improvement of mankind, and science must therefore claim a share—it would seem the decisive share—in the result. We speak, of course, of science in the sense which has been developed in this essay, of the bright well-ordered centre to our knowledge which is always spreading and bringing more of the surrounding fringe, which is also spreading, into the well-defined area. In this sense religion, morality and government have all within historic times come within the range of clear and well-ordered thought: and mankind standing thus within the light, stands more firmly and with better hope. He sees the dark spots and the weaknesses. He knows the remedies, though his will is often unequal to applying them. And even with this revelation of weakness and ignorance, he is on the whole happier and readier to grapple with his fate.

If this appears a fair diagnosis of the Western mind in the midst of its greatest external crisis, the reason for this amazing firmness of mind and stability of society must be sought in the structure which science and industry combined have built around us. The savage, untutored in astronomy, may think that an eclipse betokens the end of the world. Science convinces him that it will pass. Just so the modern world trained to an order of thought and of society which rests on world-wide activities elaborated through centuries of common effort, awaits[271] the issue of our darkened present calmly and unmoved. The things of the mind on which all nations have co-operated in the past will re-assert their sway. Fundamentally this is a triumph for the scientific spirit, the order which man has now succeeded in establishing between himself and his surroundings.

The country is demanding—and rightly—a stronger bias in our educational system for teaching of a scientific kind; but teachers and professors are not unnaturally perplexed. They see the immeasurable scope of the new knowledge; they know the labour, often ineffective, that has been expended in teaching the rudiments of the old 'humanities'. And now a task is propounded to them before which the old one with all its faults seems definite, manageable and formative of character. The classical world which has been the staple of our education for 400 years is a finished thing and we can compass it in thought. It lives indeed, but unconsciously, in our lives, as we go about our business. This new world into which our youth has now to enter, rests also on the past, but it is still more present; it grows all round us faster than we can keep pace with its earlier stages. How then can such a thing be used as an instrument of education where above all something is needed of clear and definite purpose, stimulating in itself and tending to mental growth and activity in after life? We could not, even if we would, offer any satisfactory answer here to one of the most troubled questions of the day. Decades of experiments will be needed before even a tolerable solution can be reached. But the argument pursued in this and other essays may suggest a line of approach. This must lie in a reconciliation between science and history, or rather in the recognition that science rightly understood is the key to history, and that the history best worth study is the record of man's collective thought in face of the infinite[272] complexities, the barriers and byways, the lights and shadows of life and nature. From the study of man's approach to knowledge and unity in history each new-coming student may shape his own. He sees a unity of thought not wholly unattainable, a foundation laid beneath the storms of time. To a mind thus trained should come an eagerness to carry on the conquests of the past and to apply the lessons gained to the amelioration of the present.

This we may hope from the well-disposed. But for all, the contemplation of a universe where man's mind has worked for ages in unravelling its secrets and describing its wonders, must bring a sense of reverence as well as trust. It is no dry category of abstract truths to which we turn and would have others turn, but a world as bright and splendid as the rainbow to the savage or the forest to the poet or the heavens to the lonely watcher on the Babylonian plain. The glories and the depths remain, deeper and more glorious, with all the added marvels of man's exploring thought. The seeing eye which a true education will one day give us, may read man's history in the world we live in, and read the world with the full illumination of a united human vision—the eyes of us all.

Books for Reference

Alcan, De la méthode dans les Sciences.

Mach, History of Mechanics, Kegan Paul.

Thomson, Science of Life, Blackie.

Thomson, Science in the Nineteenth Century, Chambers.

New Calendar of Great Men, Macmillan.

The Darwin Centenary Volume.

Bergson, Creative Evolution.


[80] See Lewes, 'Aristotle, a chapter in the History of Science'.

[81] H. Bouasse, La Méthode dans les Sciences, Alcan.




J.A. Smith

To contend that there has been progress in Philosophy may seem but a desperate endeavour. For the reproach against it of unprogressiveness is of long standing: where other forms of human knowledge have undoubtedly advanced, Philosophy, in modern times at any rate, has (so it is said) remained stationary, propounding its outworn problems, its vain and empty solutions. Because of this failure it has by common consent been deposed from its once proud position at the head of the sciences and obliged to confess, in the words of the Trojan queen:

modo maxima rerum
Nunc trahor exul inops.

The charge of unprogressiveness is not made against it by its foes alone; the truth of it is admitted by some of its best friends. If Voltaire exclaims 'O métaphysique, métaphysique, nous sommes aussi avancés qu'aux temps des Druides', Kant sadly admits the fact, sets himself to diagnose its cause, and if possible to discover or devise a remedy. Yet we must remember that it was philosophers who first descried those currents in the world of events which the non-philosophic, borrowing the name from them, call Progress, who first attempted to determine their direction and the possible goal of their convergence, and laboured to clear their own and others' minds in regard to the meaning, to capture which the name was[274] thrown out as a net into the ocean of experience. Nor must we forget that it was in their own chosen field—the world of human thoughts and actions—that they from the beginning seemed to themselves to find the surest evidence of the reality of Progress. While the world that surrounded and hemmed them and their fellows in might or must be regarded as unchanging and unchangeable, doomed for ever to reproduce and monotonously reiterate whatsoever it had once done and been, the mind or spirit of Man in its own realm seemed capable of going beyond all its past achievements and rising to new heights, not merely here and there or in isolated instances but in such numbers or masses as to raise for long periods of history the general level of human efficiency and welfare. It is true that many of those who noted these advances or profited by them did not always admit that they took place in, or were due to the agency of, Philosophy. The advances were most often credited to other powers and the new territory claimed by their representatives. The contributions made by Philosophy to the general improvement of human life were and are obscure, difficult to trace, easily missed or forgotten. It came about that the philosopher was misconceived as one indifferent to ordinary human interests and disdainful of the more obvious advantages secured by others, pressing and urging forward and upward into a cloudland where the light was too dim for the eyes of man and the paths too uncertain for his feet. Unsatisfied with the region where Man had learned by the slow and painful lessons of experience to build himself a habitable city he dreamed of something higher, aspiring to explore beyond and above where the light of that experience shone and illuminated. Perhaps the main idea that the name of Philosophy now to most suggests is that of a Utopian ideal of knowledge so wide and so high that it must be by sane and sober minds[275] pronounced for ever set beyond the reach of human faculty, an ideal which perhaps we cannot help forming and which constantly tempts us forward like a mirage, but which like a mirage leads us into waste and barren places, so much so that it is no small part of human wisdom to resist its subtle seductions and to confine our efforts to the pursuit of such ends as we may reasonably regard as well within the compass of our powers of thought and action. It is folly, we are told, to adventure ourselves upon the uncharted seas into which philosophers invite us, to waste our lives and perhaps break our hearts in the vain search for a knowledge that is for ever denied us. After all, there is much that we can know, and in the knowledge of which we can better the estate of Man, relieving him from many of his most pressing terrors and distresses. To cherish other hopes is to deceive ourselves to our own and our fellows' undoing, to refuse them our help and fail to play our part in the common business of mankind. There is surely in the world enough suffering and sorrow and sin to engage all our energies in dealing with them, nor are our endeavours to do so so plainly fruitless as to discourage from perseverance in them. Where in this task our hearts do faint and fail, are there not other means than the discredited nostrum of Philosophy to revive our hopes and recruit our forces? It was only, we are sometimes reminded, in the darkest days of human history that men turned desperately to Philosophy for comfort and consolation—how surely and demonstrably, we are told, in vain! When other duties are so urgent and immediate, have we even the right to consume our energies otherwise than in their direct discharge? And is it not presumption to ask for any further light than that which is vouchsafed to us in the ordinary course of experience or, if that is insufficient, in and by Religion?[276]

Much in this plea for a final relinquishment of aid from Philosophy in the furtherance of human progress is plausible and more than plausible. Yet the hope or, if you will, the dream of attaining some form or kind or degree of knowledge which the sciences do not and cannot supply and perhaps deny to be possible, some steadiness and firmness of assurance other and beyond the confidence of religious faith, is not yet extinct, is perhaps inextinguishable, and though it often takes extravagant and even morbid and repulsive forms, still haunts and tantalizes many, nor these the least wise or sane of our kind, so that they count all the labour they spend upon its search worth all the pains. Not for themselves alone do they seek it; they view themselves as not alone in the quest, but engaged in a matter of universally human moment. In the measure in which they count themselves to have attained any result they do not hoard it or grudge it to others. The notion of philosophic truth as something to be shared and enjoyed only by a few—as what is called 'esoteric'—is no longer in vogue and is indeed felt to involve an essential self-contradiction; rather it is conceived as something the value of which is assured and enhanced by being imparted. Those who believe themselves to be by nature or (it may be) accident appointed to the office of its quest, by no means feel that they are thereby divided from their fellows as a peculiar people or a privileged and exclusive priesthood, but much rather as fellow servants enlisted and engaged in the public service of mankind. Least of all do they believe that their efforts are foredoomed to inevitable failure, that progress therein is not to be looked for, or that they and their predecessors have hitherto made no advance towards what they and, as they also believe, all men sought and still seek. To them the history of Philosophy for say the last two thousand years is not the dreary and dispiriting[277] narrative of repeated error and defeat, but the record of a slow but secure and steady advance in which, as nowhere else, the mind of Man celebrates and enjoys triumphs over the mightiest obstacles, kindling itself to an ever-brightening flame. Reviewing its own past in history the spirit of Philosophy sees its own inner light, which is its act and its essence, constantly increasing, spreading ever wider into the circumambient dark, and touching far-off and hitherto undiscovered peaks with the fire of a coming dawn. In place of the starlight of Science or the moonlight of Religion it sees a sun arise flooding the world with light and warmth and life. High hopes, high claims; but can they be made good, or even rationally entertained? Suffice it here that they be openly avowed and proclaimed to be laid up in the heart of the philosophic spirit, 'dreaming', and yet with waking eyes, 'of things to come'. Or rather shall we not say, seeing that its eyes are unsealed and the vision therefore no dream, beholding a present—an ever-present—Reality?

It was Philosophy, or philosophers, as I have said, that first discerned the fact of Progress, named it, and divined its lineaments. To Philosophy the name and notion of Progress belongs as of right—the right of first occupation. Merely to have invented a name for the fact is no small service, for thus the fact was fixed for further study and examination. But with the name Philosophy gave us the idea, the notion, and therewith the fact began to be understood and to become amenable to further and further explanation. To this further explanation Philosophy gave notable assistance. To 'elaborate our concepts' has been said to be the whole business of Philosophy, that is, to arrest the vague and shifting meanings that float before our minds loosely attached to the words of ordinary careless speech, to fix their outlines, distinguishing, defining, ordering and organizing until each mass of mean[278]ing is improved and refined into a thought worthy to be called a notion, a fit member of the world of mind, a seat and source of intellectual light. In this work Philosophy proceeds and succeeds simply by reflecting on whatever meaning it has in whatever manner already acquired; it employs no strange apparatus or recondite methods, only continues more thoughtfully and conscientiously to use the familiar means by which the earlier simpler meanings were appropriated and developed, following the beaten tracks of the mind's native and spontaneous movement. Much more rarely than the sciences has it recourse to a technical vocabulary, being content to express itself in ordinary words though using them and their collocations with a careful delicacy and painstaking adroitness. To follow it in these uses demands an effort, for nothing is perhaps more difficult than to force our thoughts to run counter to our customary heedless use of words and to learn to employ them even for a short time with a steady precision of significance. Yet unless this effort is resolutely made we must remain the easy prey of manifold confusions and errors which trip us in the dark. Our words degrade into tokens which experience will not cash—tangles of symbols which we cannot retranslate.

But Philosophy is more than the attempt to refine and subtilize our ordinary words so as to fit them for the higher service of interpretative thought, more even than the endeavour to improve the stock of ideas no matter how come by, by which we interpret to ourselves whatever it imports us to understand. All this it is and does, or strives to do, but only as subsidiary to its true business and real aim. All this it might do and do successfully, and yet make or bring about no substantial progress in itself or elsewhere. And when progress in Philosophy is spoken of, it is not either such improvement in language[279] nor such improvement in ideas that alone or mainly is meant.

What is claimed for (or denied to it) under the name of Progress is an advance in knowledge, knowledge clear-sighted, grounded, and assured, knowledge of some authentic and indubitable reality. It is by the attainment of such knowledge, by progress in and towards it, that the claim of Philosophy to be progressive must stand or fall. To the question whether it can make good its claim to the possession and increase of this knowledge we must give special attention, for if Philosophy fails in this it fails in all.

The oldest name for the knowledge in question was simply Wisdom and, in some ways, in spite of its apparent arrogance this is the best name for what is sought—or missed. Yet from the beginning the name was felt not sufficiently to distinguish what was meant from the high skill of the cunning craftsman and the worldly wisdom of the man of affairs, the statesman or soldier or trader. In the case of all these it was difficult to disengage the knowledge involved from natural or trained practical dexterity. What was desired and required was knowledge distinguished but not divorced from practice and application—'pure knowledge' as it was sometimes called; not divorced, I repeat, for it was not conceived as without bearing upon the conduct of life, but still distinguished, as furnishing light rather than profit. For good or evil Philosophy began by considering what it sought and hoped to reach as pre-eminently knowledge in some distinctive sense, and having so begun it turned to reflect once more upon what it meant by so conceiving it and to make this meaning more precise and clear. So it came to present to itself as its aim or goal a special kind or degree of knowledge, to be inspired and guided by the hope of that. Practical as in many ways was the concern of ancient[280] philosophy—its whole bent was towards the bettering of human life—it sought to achieve this by the extension and deepening of knowledge, and not either through the cultivation or refinement of emotion or the organization of practical, civil or social or philanthropic activities. It laboured—and laboured not in vain—to further the increase of knowledge by defining to itself in advance the kind or degree of knowledge which would accomplish the ultimate aim of its endeavour or subserve its accomplishment. Hence we must learn to view with a sympathetic eye its repeated essays to give precision and detail to the conception or ideal of knowledge.

In form the answer rendered to its request to itself for a definition, was determined by the principle that the knowledge which was sought and alone, if found, could satisfy, was knowledge of the real, or as it was at first more simply expressed, of what is, or what really and veritably is. Refusing the name of knowledge except to what had this as its object, men turned to consider the nature of the object which stood or could stand in this relation. With this they contrasted what we, after them, call the phenomena, the appearances, the manifold aspects, constantly shifting with the shifting points of view of the observer or many observers of it, inconstant, unsteady, superficial, mirrored through the senses and imagination, multiplied and distorted in divergent and changing opinions, or misrepresented and even caricatured in the turbid medium of ordinary speech, like a clouded image on the broken waters of a rushing stream. 'It'—so at first they spoke of the object of true or 'philosophic' knowledge—was one and single, eternal and unchangeable, a universe or world-order of parts fixed for ever in their external relations and inward structure. In each and all of us there was, as it were, a tiny mirror that could be cleared so as to reflect all this, and in so far as such[281] reflection took place an inner light was kindled in each which was a lamp to his path. Knowing—for to know was so to reflect the world as it really was—knowing, man came to self-possession and self-satisfaction—to peace and joy—and was even 'on this bank and shoal of time' raised beyond the reach of all accidents and evils of mortal existence—looking around and down upon all that could harm or hurt him and seeing it to be in its law-abiding orderliness and eternal changelessness the embodiment of good. So viewing it, man learned to feel the Universe his true home, and was inspired not only with awe but with a high loyalty and public spirit. 'The poet says "Dear City of Cecrops", and shall I not say "Dear City of God"?'

The knowledge thus reached or believed to be attainable was more and more discriminated from what was offered or supplied by Art or Science or Religion, though it was still often confused with each and all of them. As opposed to that of Art, it was not direct or immediate vision flashed as it were upon the inner eye in moments of inspiration or excitement; as opposed to that of Science, it was a knowledge that pierced below the surface and the seeming of Nature and History; as opposed to that of Religion (which was rather faith than knowledge), it was sober, unimaginative, cleansed of emotional accompaniment and admixture, the 'dry light' of the wise soul. True to the principle which I have stated, ancient Philosophy proclaimed that the only knowledge in the end worth having was knowledge of Fact—of what lay behind all seeming however fair—Fact unmodified and unmodifiable by human wish or will; it bade us know the world in which we live and move and have our being, know it as it is truly and in itself, and knowing it love it, loyally acquiescing in its purposes and subserving its ends. In all this there was progress (was there not?) to a view, to[282] a truth (how else shall we speak of it?) which has always, when apprehended, begotten a high temper in heroic hearts. Surely in having reached in thought so high and so far the mind of man had progressed in knowledge and in wisdom.

But now a change took place, from which we must date the rise or birth of modern philosophy. Hitherto on the whole the mind of man had looked outward and sought knowledge of what lay or seemed to lie outside itself. So looking and gazing ever deeper it had encountered a spectacle of admirable and awe-compelling order, yet one which for that very reason seemed appallingly remote from, if not alien to, all human businesses and concerns. Now it turned inward and found within itself not only matter of more immediate or pressing interest, but a world that compelled attention, excited curiosity, rewarded study. Slowly and gradually the knowledge of this, the inner world—the world of the thinker's self—became the central object of philosophic reflection. The knowledge that was most required—that was all-important and indispensable (so man began explicitly to realize)—was knowledge of the Self, not of the outer world that at best could never be more than known, but of the self that knew or could know it, that could both know and be known. Henceforward what is studied is not knowledge of reality—of any and every reality—or of external reality, but knowledge of the Self which can know as well as be known. And the process by which it is sought is reflection, for the self-knowledge is not the knowledge of other selves, but the knowledge of just that Self which knows itself and no other. Thus the knowledge sought is once more and now finally distinguished from the knowledge offered or supplied by Art or Science or Religion: not by Art, for the Self cannot appear and has no seeming nor can it any way be pictured[283] or described or imagined; not by Science, for it lies beyond and beneath and behind all observation, nor can it be counted or measured or weighed; not by Religion, for knowledge of it comes from within and the disclosure of its nature is by the self-witness of the Self to its self, not by revelation of any other to it. Thus there is disclosed the slowly-won and slowly-revealed secret of modern Philosophy, that the knowledge which is indispensable, which is necessary as the consummation and key-stone of all other knowledge, is knowledge of the knowing-self, self-knowledge, or, as it is sometimes more technically called, self-consciousness, with the corollary that this knowledge cannot be won by any methods known to or specially characteristic of Science or Art or Religion. To become self-conscious, to progress in self-consciousness is the end, and the way or means to it is by reflection—the special method of Philosophy.

This is the step in advance made by the modern spirit beyond all discoveries of the ancients; it is the truth by the apprehension of which the modern spirit and its world is made what it is. Not outside us lies Truth or the Truth: Truth dwelleth in the inner man—in interiore hominis habitat veritas. Is this not progress, progress in wisdom, and to what else can we ascribe the advance save to Philosophy?

It was one of the earliest utterances of modern Philosophy, and one which it has never found reason to retract, that the Self which knows can and does know itself better than aught else whatsoever, and in that knowledge can without end make confident and sure-footed advance. To itself the Self is the most certain and the most knowable of all realities—with this it is most acquainted, this it has light in itself to explore, of this it can confidently foresee and foretell the method of advance to further and further knowledge. It knows not only its existence but[284] its essence, its nature, and it knows by what procedure, by what ordered effort or exercise of will it can progress to height beyond height of its self-knowledge. I say, it knows it, but it also knows that that knowledge cannot be attained all at once or taken complete and ready-made, for it is itself a progress, a self-created and self-determined progress, and on that condition progress alone is or is real. For it to be is not to be at the beginning or at the end of this process, but to be always coming to be, coming to be what it is not and yet also what it has in it to be. Of nothing else is Progress so intimately the essence and very being; if we ask 'What progresses or evolves?', the most certain answer is 'The spirit which is in man, and what it progresses in, is knowledge of itself, which is wisdom'. Speaking of and for Philosophy I venture to maintain that nothing is more certain than that that spirit which has created it has grown, is growing, and will ever grow in wisdom, and that by reflection upon itself and its history—nor can the gates of darkness and error prevail against the irresistible march of its triumphant progress.

As we look back the history of Philosophy seems strewn with the debris of outworn or outlived errors, but out of them all emerges this clear and assured truth, that in self-knowledge lies the master-light of all our seeing, inexhaustibly casting its rays into the retreating shadow world that now surrounds us, melting all mists and dispelling all clouds, and that the way to it is unveiled, mapped and charted in advance so that henceforward we can walk sure-footedly therein. Yet that does not mean that the work of Philosophy is done, that it can fold its hands and sit down, for only in the seeking is its prize found and there is no goal or end other than the process itself. For this too is its discovery, that not by, but in, endless reflection is the Truth concerning it known, the Truth that each generation must ever anew win and earn[285] it for itself. The result is not without the process, nor the end without the means: the fact is the process and other fact there is none. In other forms of so-called 'knowledge' we can sever the conclusion from its premisses, and the result can be given without the process, but with self-knowledge it is not so and no generation, or individual, can communicate it ready-made to another, but can only point the way and bid others help themselves. And if this, so put, seems hard doctrine, I can only remind you that to philosophize has always meant 'to think by and for oneself'.

It is perhaps more necessary to formulate the warning that what is here called self-knowledge and pronounced to constitute the very essence of the spirit that is in man, is far removed from what sometimes bears its name, the extended and minute acquaintance by the individual mind with its individual peculiarities or idiosyncrasies, its weaknesses and vanities, its whims and eccentricities; nor is it to be confused with the still wider acquaintance with those that make up our common human nature in all its folly and frailty which is sometimes called 'knowledge of human nature'; no, nor with such knowledge as psychological science, with its methods of observation and induction and experiment, offers or supplies. It is knowledge of something that lies far deeper within us—'the inward man', which is not merely alike or akin but is the same in all of us; beneath all our differences, strong against all our weaknesses, wise against all our follies, what each of us rightly calls his true self and yet what is not his alone, but all men's also. As we reflect upon it duly, what discloses or reveals itself to us is a self which is both our very own and yet common or universal, the self of each and yet the self of all. The more we get to apprehend and understand it, the more we become and know ourselves, not so much as being but as becoming[286] one with one another; the differences that sunder us in feeling and thought and action melting away like mist. The removal of these differences is just the unveiling of it, in which it at once comes to be and to be known. In coming to know it we create it. The unity of the spirit thus becomes and is known as indubitable fact, or rather (I must repeat) not as fact, as if it were or were anything before being known, but as something which is ever more and more coming to be, in the measure in which it is coming to be known—known to itself. For this is the hard lesson of modern philosophy, that our inmost nature and most genuine self is not aught ready-made or given, but something which is created in and by the process of our coming to know it, which progresses in existence and substantiality and value as our knowledge of it progresses in width and depth and self-assurance. The process is one of creative—self-creative—evolution, in which each advance deposits a result which prescribes the next step and supplies all the conditions for it, and so constantly furnishes all that is required for an endless progress in reality and worth. This is the process in which the spirit of man capitalizes and substantiates its activities, committing its gains to secure custody, amassing and using them for its self-enrichment—in which it depends on no other than itself and is sovereign master of its future and its fate. This is the way in which selves are made, or rather, make themselves.

This is the discovery of modern Philosophy, the now patent secret which it offers for the interpretation of all mysteries and the solving of all problems—and it offers it with unquestioning assurance, for it has explored the ground and has awakened to the true method of progress within it. And as I have said or implied, to the reflective mind regress is impossible, it cannot go back upon itself, and with due tenderness and gratitude it has set behind[287] it the things of its unreflective childhood. It stands on the stable foundation of the witness of the spirit within us to itself, to its own nature, its own powers and its own rights; it knows itself as the knower, the interpreter, the teacher, and therefore the master and maker of itself. Yet we must not identify or confuse this our deeper or deepest self which we thus create with the separate selves or souls which each of us is; it is not any one of them nor all of them together, unless we give to the word 'together' a new and more pregnant sense than it has yet come to bear. It is not the 'tribal' or 'collective' or 'social' self, for it is not made by congregation or collection or association, but by some far more intimate unification than is signified by any of these terms, namely by coming together in and by knowledge. It is the spirit which is in us all and in which we all are, which is more yet not other than we, without which we are nothing and do nothing and yet which is veritably the spirit of man, the immortal hero of all the tragedy and comedy—the whole drama—of human history; it is of this spirit as it is by it, that Philosophy has in repeated and resolute reflection come to know the nature and the method of its progress. Such knowledge has come into the world and prevails more widely and more potently than ever before; possessed in fullness by but a few, it is open and available to all and radiates as from a beacon light over the whole field of human experience; at that fire every man can light his candle. This is the light in which alone the record of man's thoughts and achievements can be construed and which exhibits them as steps and stages on that triumphant march to higher and higher levels such as alone we can rightly name Progress. Where else than in History, and, above all, in the History of Knowledge, is Progress manifested, and in that where more certainly than in the unretreating and unrevoked advance towards[288] a deeper, a truer, a wiser knowledge of itself by the spirit that is in and is, Man?

Yes, such knowledge, truth and wisdom now exists and is securely ours, though to inherit it each generation and each individual must win it afresh and having won it must develop and promote it, or it ceases not only to work but to be. For it exists only as it is made or rather only in the act and fact of its progress, and so for it not to progress is at once to return to impotence and nothingness. And it is we who maintain it in being, maintaining it by endless reiterated efforts of reflection, and so maintaining it we maintain ourselves, resting or relying upon it and using it as a source of strength and a fulcrum or a platform for further effort. Upon self-knowledge in this sense all other 'knowledge' reposes; upon it and the knowledge of other selves and the world, which flows from it, depends the possibility of all practical advance. In the dark all progress is impossible.

But since this discovery was made and made good, the spirit of Philosophy has not stood still; it has gone on, and is still going on, to extend and deepen and secure its conquests. Once more it has turned from its fruitful and enlightening concentration on the inner self and its life to review what lies or seems to lie around and outside it. It finds that those who have stayed, or fallen, behind its audacious but justified advance in self-knowledge, still cherish a view of what is external to this (the true or real self so now made patent), thoughts or fancies which misconceive and misrepresent it—thoughts persisted in against the feebler protesting voices of Art and Religion and so held precariously and unstably though apparently grounded upon the authority of Science. To the unphilosophic or not yet philosophic mind the spirit of man, already in imagination multiplied and segregated into individual 'souls', appears to be surrounded with an environment[289] of alien character, often harsh to man's emotions, often rebellious or untractable to his purposes, often impenetrable to his understanding, and in a word indifferent or hostile to his ideals and aspirations after progress and good. Nay, the individual souls seem to act towards one another separately and collectively as such hindrances, and again, each individual soul seems to be encrusted with insuperable impediments. Even the light within is enclosed in an opaque screen which prevents or counteracts its outflow, so that the spirit within is as it were entombed or imprisoned. 'Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems us in,' we cannot communicate with one another or join with one another in thought or deed; and the hope of progress seems defeated by the recalcitrant matter that shell upon shell encases us. The world of our bodies, of the bodies and spirits of others, and all the vast compages of things and forces which we call 'Nature' blinds and baffles us, mocks our hopes and breaks our hearts. How idle to dream that amidst and against all this neutrality or hostility any substantial or secure advance can be made!

In answer to all these thoughts, these doubts and fears, Philosophy is beginning with increasing boldness to speak a word, not of mere comfort and consolation, but of secure and confident wisdom. All this so-called 'external' nature and environment is not hostile or alien to the self or spirit which is in man, it is akin and allied to it as we now know it to be. Whatever is real and not merely apparent in History or Nature is rational, is of the same stuff and character as that which is within us. It too is spiritual, the appearance and embodiment of what is one in nature and mode of being with what lies deepest and is most potent in us. So far as it is not that, it is appearance and not reality, woven like a dream by imagination or endowed with an unstable and shifting quasi-reality by our thoughts and suppositions and[290] fancies about we know not what. Not that it is an illusion, still less a delusion, rather what it is is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual reality, a symbol beautiful, orderly, awe-inspiring yet mutilated, partial, confused, of something deeper and more real, the expression, the face and gesture, of a spirit that, as ours does, knows itself, its own profound being and meaning, and does what it does in the light of such knowledge, a spirit which above all progresses endlessly towards and in a richer and fuller knowledge of itself. What we call Fact—historical or natural—is essentially such an expression, on the one hand a finished expression, set in the past and therefore for ever beyond the possibility of change and so of progress, an exhausted or dead expression, on the other hand a passing into the light of what was before unknown even to the expresser's self, an act by which was made and secured a self-discovery or self-revelation, a creative act of self-knowledge and so significant and interpretable. This double character of events in History and Nature is dimly descried in what we specially call 'nature', but comes more fully into view in the sphere of human history, where each step is at once a deed and a discovery, a contribution to the constitution of the world of fact and a fulguration of the light within illuminating facts as the condition of its own inexhaustible continuance. The world of Fact, artistic or aesthetic, scientific, moral, political, economic, is what the spirit builds round itself, creating it out of its own substance, while it itself in creating it grows within, evolving out of itself into itself and advancing in knowledge or wisdom and power. And out of its now securely won self-knowledge it declares that it—itself—is the source and spring of all real fact whatsoever, which is its self-created expression, made by it in its own interests, and for its own good, the better[291] and better to know itself. Nothing is or can be alien, still less hostile to it, for 'in wisdom has it made them all'. Looking back and around it re-reads in all fact the results of its own power of self-expression. Nothing is but what it has made.

All this might perhaps have been put very simply by saying that ever since man has set himself to know his own mind in the right way, he has succeeded better and better, and that in knowing his own mind he has come to know and is still coming to know all else beside, including all that at first sight seems other than, or even counter to, his own mind. He has learned what manner of being he is, how that being has been made and how it continues to be made and developed, and again, how in the course of its self-creation and self-advance it deposits itself in 'fact' and reflecting on that fact rises beyond and above itself in knowledge and power. He is mind or spirit, and what lies behind and around him is spiritual. As he reflects upon this the meaning of it becomes ever more clear and distinct, ordered and organized, and at the same time more substantial, more real, more lively and potent. In becoming known what was before dead and dark and threatening or obstructive or hostile is made transparent, alive, utilisable, contributing to the constantly growing self that knows and is known. Here is the growing point of reality, the fons emanationis of truth and worth and being, evidencing its power not as it were in increase of bulk, but in the enhancing of value. And surely here is Progress, which consists not in mere enlargement or expansion but in the heightening of forces to a new power—in a word, in their elevation to a more spiritual, a more intelligent and therefore more potent, level.

To the artistic eye the universe presents itself as a vast and moving spectacle, to the scientific mind as the theatre of forces which repeat their work with a mechanical[292] uniformity or perhaps fatally run down to a predestined and predictable final arrest, to the devout or religious soul as the constant efflux of a beneficent will, unweariedly kind, caring for the humblest of its creatures, august, worshipful, deserving of endless adoration and love, while to the philosophic mind it is known and ever more to be known as the self-expression of a mind in essence one with all minds that know it in knowing themselves, know it as the work or product of a mind engaged or absorbed in knowing itself, and so creating itself and all that is requisite that it may learn more and more what is hidden or stored from all eternity within its plenitude. At least we may say that the conception of a Mind which in order to know itself creates the conditions of such knowledge, which wills to learn whatever can be learned of itself from whatever it does, supplies the best pattern or original after which to model our vaguer and more blurred conceptions of progressive existence and being elsewhere. It furnishes to us an ideal of a progress which realizes or maintains and advances itself, for it is independent upon external conditions. The Progress of Philosophy or of Wisdom is a palmary instance of progress achieved out of the internal resources of that which progresses. And after this pattern we least untruly and least unworthily conceive the mode of that eternal and universal Progress which is the life of the Whole within and as part of which we live.

The aim of Philosophy is not edification but the possession and enjoyment of Truth, and the Truth may wear an aspect which, while it enlightens, also blinds or even at first appals and paralyses. And certainly Reality or Philosophy as has come to know it and proclaims it to be, is not such as either directly to warm our hearts or stimulate our energies. Not to do either has Philosophy come into the world, nor so does it help to bring Progress about; nor does it offer prizes to those who pursue either[293] moral improvement or business success, nor again does it increase that information concerning 'nature' and men which is the condition of the one and the other, yet to those who love Truth and who will buy no good at the sacrifice of it, what it offers is enough, and to progress towards and in it is for them worth all the world beside; it is, if not the only real progress, that in the absence of which all other progress is without worth or substance or reality. In the end, if any advance anywhere is claimed or asserted, must we not ask: Is the claim founded on truth, is the good or profit seemingly attained a (or the) true good? To whom or to what is it good? Can we stop short of the endeavour to assure ourselves beyond question or doubt that we are right in what answers we render? And where or by what means can we reach this save by turning inward on meditation or reflection, that is by philosophizing? Εἰ φιλοσοφητέον φιλοσοφητεον, εἰ δὲ μή, φιλοσοφητέον; πάντως ἄρα φιλοσοφητέον. Thither the mind of man has always turned when the burden of the mystery of its nature and fate has weighed all but intolerably upon it, and turning has never found itself betrayed, but from knowledge of itself has drawn fresh hope and strength to resume the uninterrupted march of Progress which is its life and its history, its being, its self-formation, in courage moving forwards in and towards the light. It is as if such light were not merely the condition of its welfare, but the food on which it lived, the stuff which it transmuted into substance and energy, out of it making, maintaining and building its very self. So under whatever name, whether we call what we are doing Philosophy or something else, the search for more and more light upon ourselves and our world is the most indispensable activity to which the leagued and co-operative powers of Man can be devoted. Fortunately it is also that in which success or failure depends most certainly upon ourselves and in[294] which Progress can with most confidence be looked for. In it we cannot fail if we will to take sufficient trouble; the means to it are open and available; it is our fault if we do not employ them and profit by them. If we have less wisdom than we might have, it is never any one's fault but our own. The door of the treasure-house of Wisdom stands ever open.

Books for Reference

C. C. J. Webb, History of Philosophy (Home University Library).

Burnet, History of Greek Philosophy.

E. J. Bevan, Stoics and Sceptics.

Höffding, History of Modern Philosophy (translated).

Royce, The Spirit of Philosophy.

Merz, History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century.




J. A. Smith

Throughout this course of lectures, now come to its close, we have together been engaged in a theoretical inquiry. We have been looking mainly towards the past, to something therefore for ever and in its very nature set beyond the possibility of alteration by us or indeed at all. 'What is done not even God can make to be undone.' Were it otherwise it could not be fact or reality and so not capable of being theorized or studied. In the words of our programme we have analysed what is involved in the conception of Progress, shown when it became prominent in the consciousness of mankind and how far the idea has been realized—that is has become fact—in the different departments of life. We have taken Progress as a fact, something accomplished, and have attempted so taking it to explain or understand it. We have not indeed assumed that it is confined to the past, but have at times enlarged our consideration so as to recognize its continuance in the present and to justify the hope of its persistence in the future. Some of us would perhaps go further and hold that it has, by these and similar reflections, come to be part of our assured knowledge that it must so continue and persist. But however we have widened our purview, what we call Progress has remained to us a course or movement which still presents the appearance of a fact which is largely, if not wholly, independent of us—a fact because independent of us—to which we can[296] occupy no other attitude than that of interested spectators, interested and concerned, moved or conditioned by it but not active or co-operative in it. So far as it is in process of realization in the vast theatre of nature, inorganic or organic, dead or living, that surrounds us, it pursues its course in virtue of powers not ours and unamenable to our control. And even when we view it within the closer environment of human history its current seems to carry us irresistibly with it. Its existence is indeed of very practical concern to us, but apparently all we can do is to come to know it, and knowing it to allow for it as or among the set conditions of our self-originated or self-governed actions if such actions there be.

The clearer we have become as to the nature of Progress, the more it would appear that it must be for us, because it is in itself, a fact to be recognized in theory, taken into account and reckoned with. It is or it is not, comes to be or does not come to be, and what we have first and foremost to seek, is light upon its existence and character as it is or occurs. Light, we hope, has been cast upon it. We have learned that in its inmost essence and to its utmost bounds Reality—what lies outside and around us—is not fixed, rigid, immobile, was not and is not and cannot be as the ancient or mediaeval mind feigned or fabled, something beyond the reach of time and change—static or stationary—but is itself a process of ceaseless alteration. We have learned also to be dissatisfied with the compromise which, while acknowledging such alteration, all but withdraws it in effect by asserting it to be either in gross or in detail a process of mere repetition. The system of laws which science had taught us to consider as the truth of nature is itself now known to be caught in the evolutionary process, and to be undergoing a constant modification. As in the modern state, so in Nature, the legislative power is not exhausted but incessantly embodies itself in novel[297] forms. Nature itself—natura naturans—is now conceived, and rightly conceived, as a power not bound to laws other than those which it makes for or imposes on itself, and as in its operations at least analogous to a will self-determined, self-governing, creative of the ways and means by which its purpose or purposes are achieved. What that purpose is we have begun to apprehend, and to see its various processes as converging or co-operating towards its fulfilment. In the mythological language which even Science is still obliged to use, we now speak of Nature as 'selecting' or 'devising', and we ascribe to it a large freedom of choice wisely used. We can already at least define the process as guided towards a greater variety and fullness and harmony of life, or (with a larger courage) as pointed towards a heightening or potentiation of life. So defining its goal we can sympathize with and welcome the successful efforts made toward it, and so feel ourselves at heart one with the power that carries on the process in its aspirations and its efforts. But still, we cannot help feeling, it and all its ways lie outside us, and to us it remains an alien or foreign power. I venture to repeat my contention that this is so just because, however much we come to learn of its ways, we do not feel that we are coming to understand it any better, getting inside it, as we do get inside and understand human nature. Its progress is a change, perhaps a betterment, in our environment—in externals—and takes place very largely whether we will and act or no. The larger our acquaintance with it, the more does its action seem to encroach upon the domain within which our volitions and acts can make any difference. Even in social life we seem in the grip and grasp of forces which carry us towards evil or good whether we will or no. Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt. The whole known universe outside and around us presents to us the spectacle[298] of what has been called a de facto teleology, and just because it is so, and so widely and deeply so, it leaves little or no room for us to set up our ideals within it and to work for their realization. The fact that the laws which prevail in it are modifiable and modified makes no difference; they modify themselves, and in their different forms still constrain us. And no matter how increasingly beneficent they may in their action appear, they are still despotic and we unfree. The rule of laws which Science discovers encroaches upon our liberties and privacies. What we had hitherto thought our very own, the movement of our impulses and desires and imaginations, are reported by science to be subject to 'laws of association', and we are borne onwards even if also at times upwards on an irresistible flood. We remain bound by the iron necessity of a fate that invades our inmost being—which will not let us anywhere securely alone. I repeat that it matters not how certainly the trend of the tide, which sets everywhere around and outside us, is towards what is good or best for us, it still is the case that it presents itself as neither asking for from us nor permitting to us the formation of any ideals of ours nor any prospect of securing them by our efforts. Were the fact of Progress established and conclusively shown to be all-pervasive and eternal, it still would bear to us the aspect of a paternal government which did good to and for us, but all the more left less and less to ourselves.

This will doubtless be pronounced an exaggeration, and we may weakly refuse to face the impression naturally consequent upon the progress we have made in the ascertainment of the facts concerning the world in which we live. But does not the impression exist? The hateful and desolating impression made on us earlier by the thought of a 'block' universe, once for all and rigidly fixed in unalterable and uniform subjection to eternal[299] and omnipresent law, has dissolved like the baseless fabric of a vision. And why? Just because being found intolerable it was faced and put to the question. Now that there has been substituted for it the spectacle of a universe necessarily or fatally evolving—or, as we have said, progressing—does it not, while still evoking the old awe or reverence, do anything but still daunt and dishearten us? What is our part, we ask, our very own part within all this? What can we within it do? And the answer, that it is ours, if we will, to enter into and live in the contemplation of all this no longer appeals to us. In such a progressive universe we can no longer feel ourselves 'at home'. In it our active nature would seem to exist only to be disappointed and rebuffed.

The only progress which we can care for is the progress which we ourselves bring about, or can believe that we bring about, in ourselves or our fellows or in the world immediately around us. So long as what is so named is something devised and executed by a power not our own—not the same as our own—it may call out from us gratitude and reverence, but the spectacle of the reality of such Progress cannot exercise the attractive force nor, so far as it is realized, beget that creative joy which accompanies even humble acts in which we set an ideal of our own before ourselves, and see it through our efforts emerge into actual existence. A practical ideal must be through and through of our own making. It must be devised by us and set to ourselves for our pursuit, and its coming to be, or be real, must be our doing. The very idea of it must be our own, not given or prescribed, still less imposed, and the process towards it must be our doing too. That there should, on their view of it, ever be protest and rebellion against its tyrannous demands appears to me reasonable and right, and those who make it to be guarding the immediate jewel of man's nature. We should, we might say, if this[300] were the whole truth about the universe, acknowledge ourselves as its sons bound to gratitude and obedience because of the fatherly care for us, but it would be an essential complement to our family loyalty that we should insist upon and make good our claims to be grown-up sons and fellow citizens, declining to pronounce it wholly good, if those claims were denied to us. Now all these conditions seem to make straight against the possibility of regarding Progress, in the view of it we have hitherto taken, as an ideal of our action.

In view of this character of the known fact of Progress, so discouraging and disabling to our active or practical nature, certain suggestions have been made which are thought to relieve us from these effects. It is said sometimes that this fatal—if beneficent or beneficial, still fatal—progress leaves as it were certain interstices in the universe within which it loses its constraining force, petty provinces but sufficient, where man is master and determines all events, from which even, it is sometimes conceded, some obscure but important influences are permitted to flow, modifying his immediate surroundings, little sanctuaries where the spirit that is in him and is his devises and realizes ideals of its own. But the notion of such sacrosanct and inviolable autonomies is being steadily undermined, and they are felt, as science becomes more dominant over our imaginations and emotions, to be no more than eddies in the universal stream, only apparently distinct and self-maintained, means made and broken for its purpose, really products and instruments of the world-progress. At any rate, it has been denied that they can rightfully be thought to stand outside it or themselves to exercise any effect upon their fortunes and their fate, still less upon their environment. Another suggestion fully and frankly acknowledges this, but though denying to us any power to affect either the form[301] or the direction of the currents on which we are borne along, declares still open to us the possibility of affecting their speed, and bids us find satisfaction in the thought that by taking thought or resolve we can hasten or delay their and the universal movement. Still another view, abandoning even that hope, proclaims one last choice open to us, namely, that of sullen submission to, or glad and loyal acquiescence in, its irresistible sway. But surely all these suggestions are idle, and but for a moment conceal or postpone the inevitable conclusion that if Progress was, is and must or will be, that is, is necessary, what we think or do makes no difference, and can make no difference to or in it. Whether or no we convert the fact into an ideal, whether or no we set it before as our aim and exert ourselves to work for it, it goes on its way all the same. Either then it is not a fact, never was, and never will be a fact, or it is no possible ideal for which we can act. To be or become a fact, it must be independent of our action or our consent or our liking; if it is not all these it is not an ideal of action, or at any rate not so for us. I must repeat that what is or can be an ideal of action for us must be wholly and solely of our making, the very thought of it self-begotten in our mind, every step to its actual existence the self-created deed of our will. Not that either idea or act comes into being in a void or without suggestion and assistance from without us, but still so that the initiative lies in what we think or do, and so that without us it is unreal and impossible. It is enough, indeed, that we should be contributory, but the ideal must be such that without our irreplaceable co-operation it must fail. The only Progress in which we can take an active interest or make an ideal of action, is one which we conceive and execute, and that the fact we call Progress is not.

So far we have found much argument to show that[302] what we have hitherto called Progress is not and cannot be an ideal of action, or at least of our action. And now we must face another argument more plain and apparently fatal, indeed, specially or peculiarly fatal. For the very notion of Progress is of a process which continues without end, or we have the dilemma that it is either endless or runs to an end in which there is no longer Progress but something else. In either case it is not itself an end or the end, and whatever an ideal of action is, it must be an end—something beyond which there is nothing, which has no Beyond at all. To set before oneself as an ideal of action what one certainly knows to be incapable of attainment or accomplishment, incapable of coming to an end—that is surely futile and vain. Without a best, better or better-and-better has no meaning, and when the best is reached Progress is no more.

The objection may be put in various ways, as thus. What we seek or want or work for, is to be satisfied, and satisfaction is a state, not a process or a progress. Or again, acting is a process of seeking, seeking and striving for something, and surely the seeking cannot itself be the object of the search. Or once more, what we act for is, as we must conceive it, something complete, finished, perfect, but Progress is essentially something incomplete, unfinished, imperfect. We all feel this, and at times at least the thought that what we seek flies ever before, affrights and paralyses: recoiling from such a prospect, we set before our imaginations as the reward or result of our labours, not movement but rest, not creation or production but consumption and fruition. We dream of one day coming to participate in a life or experience so good that there is no change from less good to more good possible within it, and which, if it can be said to progress at all, only, in Milton's magnificent words, 'progresses the dateless and irrevoluble circle of its own[303] perfections, joining inseparable hands with joy and bliss in over-measure for ever'. Once this ideal has presented itself to our hopes or desires, it degrades by comparison with it to a second-best, the former ideal of endless development from lower to higher. What we want and seek is to be there, to have done with getting there. 'Here is the house of fulfilment of craving, this is the cup with the roses around it.' Compared with this, how disconsolate a prospect is that 'of the sea that hath no shore beyond it, set in all the sea'—the endless voyage or quest. Not Progress is or can be the end, but achievement and the enjoyment of it. The progress is towards and for the end; the end is the supreme good and the progress is only good because of it, because it is on the way that leads to it, the way we are content to travel only because it leads there. Once more, and on still surer grounds, we must pronounce what we have come to know as Progress to be no possible ideal of action. What draws us on is the hope of something to be attained in and by the progress. To take Progress, which on the one hand is a fact and on the other is an incomplete fact, to be the end of our striving and our doing is to acquiesce in a self-contradiction.

Yet the counter-ideal of a state in which we shall simply rest from our labours and sit down to enjoy the fruits of them does not promise satisfaction either, and so cannot be the end or ideal. Our desire and our endeavour is not for a moveless, changeless, undeveloping perfection. In fact, so often as the dream of such a state attained has presented itself, it has to thoughtful minds appeared anything but attractive or desirable. Our desire is to go on, and for that we are willing to pay a price—nay, it is for more than merely to go on, it is to advance and increase in perfection, so much so that the ideal itself once more slews round into its opposite and the search[304] appears worth more than the attainment. It seems that we were not on the other view so wholly wrong, but must try so to frame our ideal of action as to unite both characters and satisfy both demands at once, so that it shall be at once a state and a movement or process, an achievement and a progress, a rest or quiet and a striving after it, a perfection and a perfecting. The combination at first sight appears impossible. Yet both characters it must combine. Here again, I must confess that the idea of mere Progress, even as achieved by our own efforts, seems to me to omit something essential to an ideal of action—of what is worth while our acting for. What is to be an ideal of action must have the character of a fulfilment—something to be consumed, not merely eternally added to. For this character of the (or any) ideal of action the best name is fruition or enjoyment. And the defect in the conception of it as Progress is that it seems to postpone this without a date.

Let us put this truth which we have discovered concerning Progress in a nutshell, hiding or disregarding the internal contradiction. What is the nature, what is the kind of reality, which we have learned to ascribe to Progress (for we did pronounce it real and essentially capable of being realized)? It is that it is fact, yet fact not made but in the making; it is just the name for what is real only through and in the process of becoming real or being realized. Now I have already elsewhere pointed out that while a realization which is also a reality, or a reality which is also a realization, is in nature or what is external to us a mystery and a puzzle, it is just when we look inwards the open secret of our being; in our life or action regarded from within, it appears as something which is only dark because it is so close and familiar to us that inspection of it is difficult, not because it is in itself opaque or unintelligible. To its exemplifi[305]cation or illustration there we must turn for light upon our problem.

Let us for the time disregard the pressure exercised upon us by the suggestions of physical science, or even, I may add, popular and imaginative or opinionative—which is Latin for 'dogmatic'—Religion, and examine how Progress takes place, or is realized and real, within our spirits, or that spirit which is within us. The inward process is one by which that spirit is or is real only in the act or fact of being or coming to be realized, or rather of realizing itself, and the way in which it so becomes or makes itself real is by acknowledging its own past, treating it as fact, recognizing its failures or imperfections therein, projecting on the future an idea or ideal of itself, suggested by those apprehended wants or defects, of what it might be, and using that to supply itself with both energy and guidance, drawing from its own past both strength and light. In all this it acts autonomously, out of itself, and creates both the requisite light and the indispensable force, making its very limitations into new sources and reservoirs of both.

We do not sufficiently note and hold and use the indubitable truth that, in contradistinction to what we call Nature, the forces of the spirit reinforce and re-create themselves in their use, are in their use not consumed but reinvigorated, not dissipated or degraded but recollected and elevated, not expended but enhanced. There is in the realm of spirit which is our nature and our world no law of either the conservation or the degradation of energy. We must not allow ourselves to be brow-beaten by arguments drawn from the obscurer region of physical and external nature. We know ourselves to be energies or energizing powers which increase and do not waste by exercise. That is what we ought to mean by saying that we are wills and not forces,[306] spiritual not physical or natural beings. If need be to confirm ourselves in this knowledge, let us think of what takes place, has taken place in the advance of knowledge, and particularly of the most important kind of knowledge, viz. self-knowledge, how we make it by our reflection upon what we have already in respect of it achieved, recognize how it or we have fallen short or over-shot our mark, define what is required to make good its deficiencies, and find ourselves thereby already in actual possession of the preconceived supplement. The real, the fact, what is attained or accomplished in and by us, prescribes and facilitates, or rather supplies, its own missing complement of perfection. The process carries itself on, the progress realizes itself, the ideal translates itself into the fact or actuality: it accomplishes itself and yet it is the doing of our very self, of the spirit within us. All this is not merely our doing, it is our being, it is the process by which we make our minds, our souls, our very selves or self.

That man is essentially an, or rather the, ideal-forming animal (or rather spirit) has long been noted, and also that the formation of ideals is an indispensable factor in his progress, which is his life and very being. But all the same, this is sometimes put in such a way as to make action, or at least human action, a dispensable accident in the universe, an ineffective and unsubstantial unreality, while at the same time those who put it thus, profess to see through the illusion and to enjoy moments of insight which recognize its nullity. This way of putting it in my judgement intolerably misconceives and misrepresents the truth.

Our ideals of action must be self-made or self-begotten, but yet they must be congruent with known fact; but the manner of such congruence is hard to see, hard to express. Ideals cannot be themselves facts, and therefore[307] cannot be known, but on the other hand they cannot be mere imaginations or suppositions or beliefs, still less, of course, illusions or delusions. They are not visionary, and the apprehension of them is a sort or degree of perception. They point beyond themselves to some higher fact which is not cognizable by our senses or perhaps our understanding, but which is yet genuinely cognizable and so in some high sense fact. Yet they are not, as we envisage them, the fact to which they point, but a substitute for or representative of that—an anticipation of or prevision of it, a symbol of a fact. Their own kind or degree of reality is sometimes called 'validity'—a term I do not like: it might be more simply named 'rightness' with the connotation of a certain incumbency and imperativeness as well as of an appeal or adjustment to our nature as we know it; or perhaps all we can say is that their reality—it seems a paradox that an ideal should possess 'reality'—consists in their suggestiveness of modes of action and their applicability to it, all this being supported by the conception of a state of affairs beyond and around us which makes it 'right'.

If all this is so, Progress as an ideal of action cannot be precisely identical with Progress as a fact or object of actual or possible knowledge. We can never know what we are aiming at. But though different, the two are and must be congruent, and this may be enough to justify us in using the one name for the two. Unless there were Progress as fact everywhere and always in the universe—outside us—in Nature and History, and unless we took ourselves genuinely to apprehend this, we could not form the practical ideal of Progress, or at least the ideal could not be right. But the difference remains, and we must be prepared for and allow for it; though we can use the knowledge we obtain of the fact of Progress to control and guide our formulation of the practical ideal, we cannot[308] identify the one with the other. Our imagining and our supposing of what is best for or obligatory upon us to do or work for, must go on under conditions—the conditions of what we know as to the nature of ourselves and our surroundings—and yet under these conditions has a very large liberty or autonomy.

The Progress which is to serve as a practical ideal is not and cannot be the Progress that we know, but must be the result of imagination or supposition, and it is high and necessary wisdom to trust our imaginations and aspirations. The forms which it rightly takes cannot be determined by what we have learned in or from the past; it cometh not with observation, and the sources of experience cannot of themselves supply us with it, and though it comes in and with experience, it does not come from or out of it. Yet it is due to an impression made upon us by the Universe as we by our faculties apprehend it, and is not merely subjective or of subjective origin. Begotten of the imagination, it is appearance, not ultimate reality, and it cannot be thought out or wholly evacuated of mystery and perplexity. Is this not involved in the language we use of it, proclaiming it practical and therefore not theoretical?

Nevertheless, while I must acknowledge this insuperable difference between the Progress we can make our end or ideal and the Progress we believe that in ourselves and around us we apprehend, I still would lay renewed stress upon the congruence and affinity of the two, and urge that the perception of the one—the Progress without us—and the pursuit of the other—the Progress within us—support and fertilize each the other. The more we know or can learn of the one the more effectively do we pursue the other, and conversely. The light and the fruits are bound together: the theory and the practice of Progress cannot be dissevered without the ruin of both.[309]

The ideal of Progress which we present to ourselves is and must be one which is partly determined or limited by past achievement and partly enlarged by the study of what powers higher than our own have accomplished and are accomplishing. The formation of it must move constantly between a respect for what has been achieved and a worship, so to speak, for what is far better than anything that yet has been or become fact, and therefore incumbent or imperative upon us.

The mode and manner of the Progress which is achieved in the Universe has become in various ways clearer to us and opens out undreamt-of possibilities, and our assurance of its reality is ever more and more confirmed, while on the other hand its actual or past results at the lower level of nature have grown and are growing more familiar. We see that Progress is the essential and therefore eternal form of life and spiritual being, which endows it everywhere with worth and substance. With this comes the conviction that the source of all this lies inward, in that inwardness where our true selves lie and springs from the very nature of that. The spirit which is within us is not other than the spirit which upholds and maintains the whole Universe and works after the same fashion. And with regard to this its manner of working, we have learned that it proceeds by taking account of its own past achievements, imagining or conceiving for itself tasks relevant to these but not limited by them, and finds in that the conditions and stimulus to their actualization. It is our business to imitate this procedure and so to contribute to the advance of the whole. No work so done is or can be lost. We are justified in supposing that in so doing we are leagued together in effective co-operation with one another and with all other forces at work in the whole. In and through us, though not in and through us only, Progress goes on, drawing us along with it. Inner and outer Progress, free[310] allegiance and loyal subjection concur and do not clash, and the world in which we live and act appears to us as it is—a city of God which is also a self-governed and self-administered city of free men.

But above all, what it prescribes to us is the duty—another name for 'the ideal of action'—to seek first light as to the true nature of our world and ourselves, dismissing and disregarding all appearance, however charming or seductive. Unless we learn to see Progress as universal and omnipresent and omnipotent, we shall set before ourselves ideals of action which are false and treacherous. We must exert ourselves not merely to apprehend, but to dwell in the apprehension and vision of it.

And if there were no other reason, we should know it for the right ideal—this command first to seek light—because it is the hardest thing that can be asked of us or that we can ask of ourselves. But what is thus asked is not mere Faith and Hope, but a loyal adherence to the knowledge which is within us.

Is this not the hardest? To-day, when over there in France and Flanders, and indeed almost all over Europe, as in a sort of Devil's smithy, men are busied in the most horrid self-destruction. The accumulated stores of age-long and patient industry are being consumed and annihilated; the works and monuments of civilized life are laid low: all physical and intellectual energies are bent to the service of destruction. The very surface of the kindly and fertile earth is seamed and scarred and wasted. And the human beings who live and move in this inferno, are jerked like puppets hither and thither by the operation of passions to which we dare not venture to give names, lest we be found either not condemning what defiles and imbrutes our nature or denying our meed of praise and gratitude to what ennobles it. All this portentous activity and business flows from no other fount and is[311] fed by no other spring than the spirit which is within us, that spirit which has created that wealth, material, artistic, spiritual, which it is so busily engaged in wrecking and undoing. It is still as of old, making History, making it in the old fashion with the old ends in view and by the exercise of its old familiar powers. And if in this tragic scene or episode we cannot still read the features of Progress, our theory is a baseless dream, and we can frame no valid or 'right' ideal of action. For except to an environment known to be still, because always, the work and self-expression of a spirit akin to, and indeed identical with our own, and except as knowing ourselves to be still, because always, in all our ways of working its vehicles and instruments, we can neither define nor realize any ideals of action at all. This war is not an accident, nor an outburst of subterranean natural forces, but the act and deed of human will, and being so it cannot be merely evil.

What, then, can we read not into, but out of, the tragic spectacle now being enacted, not merely before but in, through, and by us? Unless we have all along been mistaken, the victims of mere delusion and error, here, too, there has been and still is Progress. Primarily and principally what is taking place, is a tremendous revelation of the potencies which in our nature—in that which makes us men—have escaped our notice and therefore, because unseen or ignored, working in the dark, have not yet been drawn upon and utilized. There has been and still is going on, an enormous increase of self-knowledge. At first sight this seems wholly an opening up of undreamt-of evil. Side by side there has come to us a parallel revelation of undreamt-of good. I must bear witness to my conviction that we are beholding a tremendous inrush or uprush of good into man and his world. But what I wish to dwell upon is the growing and ever-confirmed[312] revelation of an intimate relation or connexion between the two which is the very spring of Progress, viz. that the supply of good is not only adequate and more than adequate to the utmost demand made upon it, in the combating of the evil, and that for this reason, that while on the one hand the evil that impedes or counter-works the good is itself of spiritual origin, its existence and power is conditioned by the law that it must evoke and stimulate the very power which it attempts to crush and defeat. This is, as I have said, the now discovered and known spring of Progress both within and without us, that whatsoever is evil, evil just because it is enacted and does not merely occur, passes within the reach of knowledge and understanding, and in the measure that it passes into the light, not merely loses its sting and its force, but is convertible and converted into a strengthening condition of that which in its first appearance it seemed merely to thwart. Even regress is seen to be a necessary incident in progress, and the seasons which we call periods of decadence to be occasions in which the spirit progresses in secret, recruiting itself not by idleness or rest, but genuinely refreshing and recreating itself.

The view here suggested is no sentimental optimism. The drama of the universe is no comedy or even melodrama, but a tragedy or epic of heroism, and more especially is this the character of the history of the spirit which is in Man and is Man. The evil we enact is real evil, the only real evil, the checks which our disobedience or disloyalty imposes upon the course of good, are genuine retardations or frustrations; nevertheless they are not wholly evil, for nothing is such, but are the means which the spirit that has begotten them, utilizes in its eternal Progress and wins out of them a richness, a complex and varied harmony to which they are compelled to contribute. Our ideal of action must therefore in principle[313] acknowledge as essential, what I have called the 'tragic' character suggested by the spectacle of the war, the fear and agony which we imagine in Nature and comprehendingly discern in human history. The Progress which we can achieve or contribute to—which we can make our ideal of action—is one which cannot rightly be conceived otherwise than in its essence a victory over evil, and that it may be evil, it must come and be done in the dark. For the spirit in progressing deposits what, being abandoned by it, corrupts into venomous evil, but except in meeting and combating that, it cannot progress. And it can only combat it by getting to know it, for in darkness and ignorance it can make no secure advance.

It has been profoundly said that to know all is to forgive all. Let us rather say that in coming to know its own past, the Spirit which is in Man can without undoing it—that it cannot—make it contributory to its own wealth of being, can, as I have said, utilize it for its own purposes, which are summed up in the knowing of itself. There is and can be nothing in its deeds which it cannot know, and so digest and assimilate and absorb into its own substance.

In this interpretation of the meaning—the veiled but not hidden meaning of what has taken place and is taking place in the world—or rather in us and enacted by us, I seem to myself not to be expressing any private imagination or supposition which may or may not be so, but a certainty that it must be so. Either it is so or 'the pillared firmament is rottenness and earth's base built on stubble'. And this means that everywhere and always, but most specially and centrally and potently in man's spirit, there is Progress, in spite of checks and hindrances which come from within it, a constant if chequered advance in true worth or value. And that knowledge I build on grounded and reasoned hope that it will and[314] must continue—how, I do not know, but can only surmise and conjecture and imagine.

To the question, What, then, ought we to do? I can only reply first and foremost, Labour to retain this truth, fostering and developing it, verifying it as we have been doing in all the varied departments of human experience, exercising our imaginations while at the same time sobering and controlling them by the light that comes from it. If we are true to it and do not through slackness forget and lose it, we shall find arising spontaneously out of the depths of our self worthy and feasible ideals of action, the pursuit of which will not betray us or leave us without an ever-growing assurance that in bending and directing all our powers to their realization we are the agents of that Progress which is the source of all being and all worth whatsoever. If we will to learn from our own past, we can convert anything that is evil in it into an occasion, an opportunity, a means to good which without it were not possible. Thus we can even do what seems utterly impossible, for we can without forgetting or ignoring or denying, forgive ourselves even the evil which we have done. Yes, even the darkest and worst evil, the disloyalty to ourselves, to the best and deepest within us, which all but achieved the impossibility of finally defeating the march of Progress. For the basis and ground of our belief in the reality, and therefore the eternity, of Progress lies in this, that the now known nature of the Spirit which is in Man and not in Man alone, is that it can heal any wounds that it can inflict upon itself, can find in its own errors and failures, in its own mistakes and misdeeds, if it only will, the materials of richer and fuller and worthier life.

Transcriber's Notes

Page 26: Opening and closing quotes added to "Beg humbly that he unlock the door."

Page 89: Suma Theologica sic

Page 92: course amended to coarse

Page 165: preventible amended to preventable

Page 299: missing word "is" added ("so far as it is realized")

The footnote number is for footnote 81 is missing in the original text. The location of the number that has been added is only an assumption.

Discrepancies between the Table of Contents and chapter headings ("Government"/"Progress in Government"; "Industry"/"Progress in Industry"; "Art"/"Progress in Art"; "Science"/"Progress in Science" and "Philosophy"/"Progress in Philosophy") have been retained.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Progress and History, by Various


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