The Inside of the Cup
THE RIDDLE OF CAUSATION
In order to portray this crisis in the life of Kate Marcy, the outcome of
which is still uncertain, other matters have been ignored.
How many persons besides John Hodder have seemed to read—in crucial periods—a
meaning into incidents having all the outward appearance of accidents! What is
it that leads us to a certain man or woman at a certain time, or to open a
certain book? Order and design? or influence?
The night when he had stumbled into the cafe in Dalton Street might well have
been termed the nadir of Hodder's experience. His faith had been blotted out,
and, with it had suddenly been extinguished all spiritual sense, The beast had
taken possession. And then, when it was least expected,—nay, when despaired of,
had come the glimmer of a light; distant, yet clear. He might have traced the
course of his disillusionment, perhaps, but cause and effect were not
They soon became so, and in the weeks that followed he grew to have the odd
sense of a guiding hand on his shoulder,—such was his instinctive interpretation
of it, rather than the materialistic one of things ordained. He might turn, in
obedience to what seemed a whim, either to the right or left, only to recognize
new blazes that led him on with surer step; and trivial accidents became events
charged with meaning. He lived in continual wonder.
One broiling morning, for instance, he gathered up the last of the books
whose contents he had a month before so feverishly absorbed, and which had
purged him of all fallacies. At first he had welcomed them with a fierce relief,
sucked them dry, then looked upon them with loathing. Now he pressed them
gratefully, almost tenderly, as he made his way along the shady side of the
street towards the great library set in its little park.
He was reminded, as he passed from the blinding sunlight into the cool
entrance hall, with its polished marble stairway and its statuary, that Eldon
Parr's munificence had made the building possible: that some day Mr. Parr's bust
would stand in that vestibule with that of Judge Henry Goodrich—Philip
Goodrich's grandfather—and of other men who had served their city and their
Upstairs, at the desk, he was handing in the volumes to the young woman whose
duty it was to receive them when he was hailed by a brisk little man in an
alpaca coat, with a skin like brown parchment.
"Why, Mr. Hodder," he exclaimed cheerfully, with a trace of German accent, "I
had an idea you were somewhere on the cool seas with our friend, Mr. Parr. He
spoke, before he left, of inviting you."
It had been Eldon Parr, indeed, who had first brought Hodder to the library,
shortly after the rector's advent, and Mr. Engel had accompanied them on a tour
of inspection; the financier himself had enjoined the librarian to "take good
care" of the clergyman. Mr. Waring, Mr. Atterbury; and Mr. Constable were
likewise trustees. And since then, when talking to him, Hodder had had a feeling
that Mr. Engel was not unconscious of the aura—if it may be called such—of his
Mr. Engel picked up one of the books as it lay on the counter, and as he read
the title his face betrayed a slight surprise.
"Modern criticism!" he exclaimed.
"You have found me out," the rector acknowledged, smiling.
"Came into my room, and have a chat," said the librarian, coaxingly.
It was a large chamber at the corner of the building, shaded by awnings,
against which brushed the branches of an elm which had belonged to the original
park. In the centre of the room was a massive oak desk, one whole side of which
was piled high with new volumes.
"Look there," said the librarian, with a quick wave of his hand, "those are
some which came in this week, and I had them put here to look over. Two-thirds
of 'em on religion, or religious philosophy. Does that suggest anything to you
"Do many persons read them, Mr. Engel?" said the rector, at length.
"Read them!" cried Mr. Engel, quizzically. "We librarians are a sort of
weather-vanes, if people only knew enough to consult us. We can hardly get a
sufficient number of these new religious books the good ones, I mean—to supply
the demand. And the Lord knows what trash is devoured, from what the booksellers
tell me. It reminds me of the days when this library was down on Fifth Street,
years ago, and we couldn't supply enough Darwins and Huxleys and Spencers and
popular science generally. That was an agnostic age. But now you'd be surprised
to see the different kinds of men and women who come demanding books on
religion—all sorts and conditions. They're beginning to miss it out of their
lives; they want to know. If my opinion's worth anything, I should not hesitate
to declare that we're on the threshold of a greater religious era than the world
has ever seen."
Hodder thrust a book back into the pile, and turned abruptly, with a manner
that surprised the librarian. No other clergyman to whom he had spoken on this
subject had given evidence of this strong feeling, and the rector of St. John's
was the last man from whom he would have expected it.
"Do you really think so?" Hodder demanded.
"Why, yes," said Mr. Engel, when he had recovered from his astonishment. "I'm
sure of it. I think clergymen especially—if you will pardon me—are apt to forget
that this is a reading age. That a great many people who used to get what
instruction they had—ahem—from churches, for instance, now get it from books. I
don't want to say anything to offend you, Mr. Hodder—"
"You couldn't," interrupted the rector. He was equally surprised at the
discovery that he had misjudged Mr. Engel, and was drawn towards him now with a
strong sympathy and curiosity.
"Well," replied Mr. Engel, "I'm glad to hear you say that." He restrained a
gasp. Was this the orthodox Mr. Hodder of St. John's?
"Why," said Hodder, sitting down, "I've learned, as you have, by experience.
Only my experience hasn't been so hopeful as yours—that is, if you regard yours
as hopeful. It would be hypocritical of me not to acknowledge that the churches
are losing ground, and that those who ought to be connected with them are not. I
am ready to admit that the churches are at fault. But what you tell me of people
reading these books gives me more courage than I have had for—for some time."
"Is it so!" ejaculated the little man, relapsing into the German idiom of his
"It is," answered the rector, with an emphasis not to be denied. "I wish you
would give me your theory about this phenomenon, and speak frankly."
"But I thought—" the bewildered librarian began. "I saw you had been reading
those books, but I thought—"
"Naturally you did," said Holder, smiling. His personality, his ascendency,
his poise, suddenly felt by the other, were still more confusing. "You thought
me a narrow, complacent, fashionable priest who had no concern as to what
happened outside the walls of his church, who stuck obstinately to dogmas and
would give nothing else a hearing. Well, you were right."
"Ah, I didn't think all that," Mr. Engel protested, and his parchment skin
actually performed the miracle of flushing. "I am not so stupid. And once, long
ago when I was young, I was going to be a minister myself."
"What prevented you?" asked Holder, interested.
"You want me to be frank—yes, well, I couldn't take the vows." The brown eyes
of the quiet, humorous, self-contained and dried-up custodian of the city's
reading flamed up. "I felt the call," he exclaimed. "You may not credit it to
look at me now, Mr. Hodder. They said to me, 'here is what you must swear to
believe before you can make men and women happier and more hopeful, rescue them
from sin and misery!' You know what it was."
"It was a crime. It had nothing to do with religion. I thought it over for a
year—I couldn't. Oh, I have since been thankful. I can see now what would have
happened to me—I should have had fatty degeneration of the soul."
The expression was not merely forcible, it was overwhelming. It brought up
before Holder's mind, with sickening reality, the fate he had himself escaped.
Fatty degeneration of the soul!
The little man, seeing the expression on the rector's face, curbed his
excitement, and feared he had gone too far.
"You will pardon me!" he said penitently, "I forget myself. I did not mean
"I have never heard it put so well," Holder declared. "That is exactly what
occurs in many cases."
"Yes, it is that," said Engel, still puzzled, but encouraged, eyeing the
strong face of the other. "And they lament that the ministry hasn't more big
men. Sometimes they get one with the doctrinal type of mind—a Newman—but how
often? And even a Newman would be of little avail to-day. It is Eucken who says
that the individual, once released from external authority, can never be turned
back to it. And they have been released by the hundreds of thousands ever since
Luther's time, are being freed by the hundreds of thousands to-day. Democracy,
learning, science, are releasing them, and no man, no matter how great he may
be, can stem that tide. The able men in the churches now—like your Phillips
Brooks, who died too soon—are beginning to see this. They are those who
developed after the vows of the theological schools were behind them. Remove
those vows, and you will see the young men come. Young men are idealists, Mr.
Hodder, and they embrace other professions where the mind is free, and which are
not one whit better paid than the ministry.
"And what is the result," he cried, "of the senseless insistence on the
letter instead of the spirit of the poetry of religion? Matthew Arnold was a
thousand times right when he inferred that Jesus Christ never spoke literally
and yet he is still being taken literally by most churches, and all the literal
sayings which were put into his mouth are maintained as Gospel truth! What is
the result of proclaiming Christianity in terms of an ancient science and
theology which awaken no quickening response in the minds and hearts of to-day?
That!" The librarian thrust a yellow hand towards the pile of books. "The new
wine has burst the old skin and is running all over the world. Ah, my friend, if
you could only see, as I do, the yearning for a satisfying religion which exists
in this big city! It is like a vacuum, and those books are rushing to supply it.
I little thought," he added dreamily, "when I renounced the ministry in so much
sorrow that one day I should have a church of my own. This library is my church,
and men and women of all creeds come here by the thousands. But you must pardon
me. I have been carried away—I forgot myself."
"Mr. Engel," replied the rector, "I want you to regard me as one of your
The librarian looked at him mutely, and the practical, desiccated little
person seemed startlingly transformed into a mediaeval, German mystic.
"You are a great man, Mr. Hodder," he said. "I might have guessed it."
It was one of the moments when protest would have been trite, superfluous.
And Hodder, in truth, felt something great swelling within him, something that
was not himself, and yet strangely was. But just what—in view of his past strict
orthodoxy and limited congregation—Mr. Engel meant, he could not have said. Had
the librarian recognized, without confession on his part, the change in him?
divined his future intentions?
"It is curious that I should have met you this morning, Mr. Engel," he said.
"I expressed surprise when you declared this was a religious age, because you
corroborated something I had felt, but of which I had no sufficient proof. I
felt that a great body of unsatisfied men and women existed, but that I was
powerless to get in touch with them; I had discovered that truth, as you have so
ably pointed out, is disguised and distorted by ancient dogmas; and that the old
Authority, as you say, no longer carries weight."
"Have you found the new one?" Mr. Engel demanded.
"I think I have," the rector answered calmly, "it lies in personality. I do
not know whether you will agree with me that the Church at large has a future,
and I will confess to you that there was a time when I thought she had not. I
see now that she has, once given to her ministers that freedom to develop of
which you speak. In spite of the fact that truth has gradually been revealed to
the world by what may be called an Apostolic Succession of
Personalities,—Augustine, Dante, Francis of Assisi, Luther, Shakespeare, Milton,
and our own Lincoln and Phillips Brooks,—to mention only a few,—the Church as a
whole has been blind to it. She has insisted upon putting the individual in a
straitjacket, she has never recognized that growth is the secret of life, that
the clothes of one man are binding on another."
"Ah, you are right—a thousand times right," cried the librarian. "You have
read Royce, perhaps, when he says, 'This mortal shall put on individuality—'"
"No," said the rector, outwardly cool, but inwardly excited by the
coruscation of this magnificent paraphrase of Paul's sentence, by the
extraordinary turn the conversation had taken. "I am ashamed to own that I have
not followed the development of modern philosophy. The books I have just
returned, on historical criticism," he went on, after a moment's hesitation,
"infer what my attitude has been toward modern thought. We were made acquainted
with historical criticism in the theological seminary, but we were also taught
to discount it. I have discounted it, refrained from reading it,—until now. And
yet I have heard it discussed in conferences, glanced over articles in the
reviews. I had, you see, closed the door of my mind. I was in a state where
arguments make no impression."
The librarian made a gesture of sympathetic assent, which was also a tribute
to the clergyman's frankness.
"You will perhaps wonder how I could have lived these years in an atmosphere
of modern thought and have remained uninfluenced. Well, I have recently been
wondering—myself." Hodder smiled. "The name of Royce is by no means unfamiliar
to me, and he taught at Harvard when I was an undergraduate. But the prevailing
philosophy of that day among the students was naturalism. I represent a revolt
from it. At the seminary I imbibed a certain amount of religious philosophy—but
I did not continue it, as thousands of my more liberal fellow-clergymen have
done. My religion 'worked' during the time, at least, I remained in my first
parish. I had no interest in reconciling, for instance, the doctrine of
evolution with the argument for design. Since I have been here in this city," he
added, simply, "my days have been filled with a continued perplexity—when I was
not too busy to think. Yes, there was an unacknowledged element of fear in my
attitude, though I comforted myself with the notion that opinions, philosophical
and scientific, were in a state of flux."
"Yes, yes," said Mr. Engel, "I comprehend. But, from the manner in which you
spoke just now, I should have inferred that you have been reading modern
philosophy—that of the last twenty years. Ah, you have something before you, Mr.
Hodder. You will thank God, with me, for that philosophy. It has turned the
tide, set the current running the other way. Philosophy is no longer against
religion, it is with it. And if you were to ask me to name one of the greatest
religious teachers of our age, I should answer, William James. And there is
Royce, of whom I spoke,—one of our biggest men. The dominant philosophies of our
times have grown up since Arnold wrote his 'Literature and Dogma,' and they are
in harmony with the quickening social spirit of the age, which is a religious
spirit—a Christian spirit, I call it. Christianity is coming to its own. These
philosophies, which are not so far apart, are the flower of the thought of the
centuries, of modern science, of that most extraordinary of discoveries, modern
psychology. And they are far from excluding religion, from denying the essential
of Christ's teachings. On the other hand, they grant that the motive-power of
the world is spiritual.
"And this," continued Mr. Engel, "brings me to another aspect of authority. I
wonder if it has struck you? In mediaeval times, when a bishop spoke ex
cathedra, his authority, so far as it carried weight, came from two sources.
First, the supposed divine charter of the Church to save and damn. That
authority is being rapidly swept away. Second, he spoke with all the weight of
the then accepted science and philosophy. But as soon as the new science began
to lay hold on people's minds, as—for instance—when Galileo discovered that the
earth moved instead of the sun (and the pope made him take it back), that second
authority began to crumble too. In the nineteenth century science had grown so
strong that the situation looked hopeless. Religion had apparently irrevocably
lost that warrant also, and thinking men not spiritually inclined, since they
had to make a choice between science and religion, took science as being the
more honest, the more certain.
"And now what has happened? The new philosophies have restored your second
Authority, and your first, as you properly say, is replaced by the conception of
Personality. Personality is nothing but the rehabilitation of the prophet, the
seer. Get him, as Hatch says, back into your Church. The priests with their
sacrifices and automatic rites, the logicians, have crowded him out. Why do we
read the Old Testament at all? Not for the laws of the Levites, not for the
battles and hangings, but for the inspiration of the prophets. The authority of
the prophet comes through personality, the source of which is in what Myers
calls the infinite spiritual world—in God. It was Christ's own authority.
"And as for your other authority, your ordinary man, when he reads modern
philosophy, says to himself, this does not conflict with science? But he gets no
hint, when he goes to most churches, that there is, between the two, no real
quarrel, and he turns away in despair. He may accept the pragmatism of James,
the idealism of Royce, or even what is called neo realism. In any case, he gains
the conviction that a force for good is at worn in the world, and he has the
incentive to become part of it..... But I have given you a sermon!"
"For which I can never be sufficiently, grateful," said Hodder, with an
earnestness not to be mistaken.
The little man's eyes rested admiringly, and not without emotion, on the
salient features of the tall clergyman. And when he spoke again, it was in
acknowledgment of the fact that he had read Hodder's purpose.
"You will have opposition, my friend. They will fight you—some persons we
know. They do not wish—what you and I desire. But you will not surrender—I knew
it." Mr. Engel broke off abruptly, and rang a bell on his desk. "I will make out
for you a list. I hope you may come in again, often. We shall have other
talks,—yes? I am always here."
Then it came to pass that Hodder carried back with him another armful of
books. Those he had brought back were the Levellers of the False. These were the
Builders of the True.
Hodder had known for many years that the writings of Josiah Royce and of
William James had "been in the air," so to speak, and he had heard them
mentioned at dinner parties by his more intellectual parishioners, such as Mrs.
Constable and Martha Preston. Now he was able to smile at his former attitude
toward these moderns, whose perusal he had deprecated as treason to the saints!
And he remembered his horror on having listened to a fellow-clergyman discuss
with calmness the plan of the "Varieties of Religious Experiences." A
sacrilegious dissection of the lives of these very saints! The scientific
process, the theories of modern psychology applied with sang-froid to the
workings of God in the human soul! Science he had regarded as the proclaimed
enemy of religion, and in these days of the apotheosis of science not even
sacred things were spared.
Now Hodder saw what the little librarian had meant by an authority restored.
The impartial method of modern science had become so firmly established in the
mind of mankind by education and reading that the ancient unscientific science
of the Roman Empire, in which orthodox Christianity was clothed, no longer
carried authority. In so far as modern science had discovered truth, religion
had no quarrel with it. And if theology pretended to be the science of religion,
surely it must submit to the test of the new science! The dogged clinging to the
archaic speculations of apologists, saints, and schoolmen had brought religion
to a low ebb indeed.
One of the most inspiring books he read was by an English clergyman of his
own Church whom he had formerly looked upon as a heretic, with all that the word
had once implied. It was a frank yet reverent study of the self-consciousness of
Christ, submitting the life and teachings of Jesus to modern criticism and the
scientific method. And the Saviour's divinity, rather than being lessened, was
augmented. Hodder found it infinitely refreshing that the so-called articles of
Christian belief, instead of being put first and their acceptance insisted upon,
were made the climax of the investigation.
Religion, he began to perceive, was an undertaking, are attempt to find unity
and harmony of the soul by adopting, after mature thought, a definite principle
in life. If harmony resulted,—if the principle worked, it was true. Hodder kept
an open mind, but he became a pragmatist so far. Science, on the other hand, was
in a sphere by herself, and need have no conflict with religion; science was not
an undertaking, but an impartial investigation by close observation of facts in
nature. Her object was to discover truths by these methods alone. She had her
theories, indeed, but they must be submitted to rigorous tests. This from a book
by Professor Perry, an advocate of the new realism.
On the other hand there were signs that modern science, by infinitesimal
degrees, might be aiding in the solution of the Mystery....
But religion, Hodder saw, was trusting. Not credulous, silly trusting, but
thoughtful trusting, accepting such facts as were definitely known. Faith was
trusting. And faith without works was dead simply because there could be no
faith without works. There was no such thing as belief that did not result in
A paragraph which made a profound impression on Hodder at that time occurs in
James's essay, "Is life worth living?"
"Now-what do I mean by I trusting? Is the word to carry with it license to
define in detail an invisible world, and to authorize and excommunicate those
whose trust is different?... Our faculties of belief were not given us to make
orthodoxies and heresies withal; they were given us to live by. And to trust our
religions demands men first of all to live in the light of them, and to act as
if the invisible world which they suggest were real. It is a fact of human
nature that man can live and die by the help of a sort of faith that goes
without a single dogma and definition."
Yet it was not these religious philosophies which had saved him, though the
stimulus of their current had started his mind revolving like a motor. Their
function, he perceived now, was precisely to compel him to see what had saved
him, to reenforce it with the intellect, with the reason, and enable him to save
others. The current set up,—by a thousand suggestions of which he made notes,—a
personal construction, coordination, and he had the exhilaration of feeling,
within him, a creative process all his own. Behold a mystery 'a paradox'—one of
many. As his strength grew greater day by day, as his vision grew clearer, he
must exclaim with Paul: "Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me!"
He, Hodder, was but an instrument transmitting power. And yet—oh paradox!—the
instrument continued to improve, to grow stronger, to develop individuality and
personality day by day! Life, present and hereafter, was growth, development,
the opportunity for service in a cause. To cease growing was to die.
He perceived at last the form all religion takes is that of consecration to a
Cause,—one of God's many causes. The meaning of life is to find one's Cause, to
lose one's self in it. His was the liberation of the Word,—now vouchsafed to
him; the freeing of the spark from under the ashes. The phrase was Alison's. To
help liberate the Church, fan into flame the fire which was to consume the
injustice, the tyranny, the selfishness of the world, until the Garvins, the
Kate Marcys, the stunted children, and anaemic women were no longer possible.
It was Royce who, in one illuminating sentence, solved for him the puzzle,
pointed out whence his salvation had come. "For your cause can only be revealed
to you through some presence that first teaches you to love the unity of the
spiritual life... You must find it in human shape."
He, Hodder, had known this, but known it vaguely, without sanction. The light
had shone for him even in the darkness of that night in Dalton Street, when he
thought to have lost it forever. And he had awakened the next morning,
safe,—safe yet bewildered, like a half drowned man on warm sands in the sun.
"The will of the spiritual world, the divine will, revealed in man." What
sublime thoughts, as old as the Cross itself, yet continually and eternally new!
There was still another whose face was constantly before him, and the
reflection of her distressed yet undaunted soul,—Alison Parr. The contemplation
of her courage, of her determination to abide by nothing save the truth, had had
a power over him that he might not estimate, and he loved her as a man loves a
woman, for her imperfections. And he loved her body and her mind.
One morning, as he walked back from Mrs. Bledsoe's through an unfrequented,
wooded path of the Park, he beheld her as he had summoned her in his visions.
She was sitting motionless, gazing before her with clear eyes, as at the
She started on suddenly perceiving him, but it was characteristic of her
greeting that she seemed to feel no surprise at the accident which had brought
"I am afraid," he said, smiling, "that I have broken in on some profound
She did not answer at once, but looked up at him, as he stood over her, with
one of her strange, baffling gazes, in which there was the hint of a welcoming
"Reflection seems to be a circular process with me," she answered. "I never
get anywhere—like you."
"Like me!" he exclaimed, seating himself on the bench. Apparently their
intercourse, so long as it should continue, was destined to be on the basis of
intimacy in which it had begun. It was possible at once to be aware of her
disturbing presence, and yet to feel at home in it.
"Like you, yes," she said, continuing to examine him. "You've changed
In his agitation, at this discovery of hers he again repeated her words.
"Why, you seem happier, you look happier. It isn't only that, I can't explain
how you impress me. It struck me when you were talking to Mr. Bentley the other
day. You seem to see something you didn't see when I first met you, that you
didn't see the first time we were at Mr. Bentley's together. Your attitude is
fixed—directed. You have made a decision of some sort—a momentous one, I rather
"Yes," he replied, "you are right. It's more than remarkable that you should
have guessed it."
She remained silent
"I have decided," he found himself saying abruptly, "to continue in the
Still she was silent, until he wondered whether she would answer him. He had
often speculated to himself how she would take this decision, but he could make
no surmise from her expression as she stared off into the wood. Presently she
turned her head, slowly, and looked into his face. Still she did not speak.
"You are wondering how I can do it," he said.
"Yes," she acknowledged, in a low voice.
"I should like you to know—that is why I spoke of it. You have never asked
me, and I have never told you that the convictions I formerly held I lost. And
with them, for a while, went everything. At least so I believed."
"I knew it," she answered, "I could see that, too."
"When I argued with you, that afternoon,—the last time we talked together
alone,—I was trying to convince myself, and you—" he hesitated, "—that there was
something. The fact that you could not seem to feel it stimulated me."
He read in her eyes that she understood him. And he dared not, nor did he
need to emphasize further his own intense desire that she should find a solution
of her own.
"I wish you to know what I am telling you for two reasons," he went on. "It
was you who spoke the words that led to the opening of my eyes to the situation
into which I had been drifting for two years, who compelled me to look upon the
inconsistencies and falsities which had gradually been borne in upon me. It was
you, I think, who gave me the courage to face this situation squarely, since you
possess that kind of courage yourself."
"Oh, no," she cried. "You would have done it anyway."
He paused a moment, to get himself in hand.
"For this reason, I owed it to you to speak—to thank you. I have realized,
since that first meeting, that you became my friend then, and that you spoke as
a friend. If you had not believed in my sincerity, you would not have spoken. I
wish you to know that I am fully aware and grateful for the honour you did me,
and that I realize it is not always easy for you to speak so—to any one."
She did not reply.
"There is another reason for my telling you now of this decision of mine to
remain a clergyman," he continued. "It is because I value your respect and
friendship, and I hope you will believe that I would not take this course unless
I saw my way clear to do it with sincerity."
"One has only to look at you to see that you are sincere," she said gently,
with a thrill in her voice that almost unmanned him. "I told you once that I
should never have forgiven myself if I had wrecked your life. I meant it. I am
It was his turn to be silent.
"Just because I cannot see how it would be possible to remain in the Church
after one had been—emancipated, so to speak,"—she smiled at him,—"is no reason
why you may not have solved the problem."
Such was the superfine quality of her honesty. Yet she trusted him! He was
made giddy by a desire, which he fought down, to justify himself before her. His
eye beheld her now as the goddess with the scales in her hand, weighing and
accepting with outward calm the verdict of the balance .... Outward calm, but
"It makes no difference," she pursued evenly, bent on choosing her words,
"that I cannot personally understand your emancipation, that mine is different.
I can only see the preponderance of evil, of deception, of injustice—it is that
which shuts out everything else. And it's temperamental, I suppose. By looking
at you, as I told you, I can see that your emancipation is positive, while mine
remains negative. You have somehow regained a conviction that the good is
predominant, that there is some purpose in the universe."
He assented. Once more she relapsed into thought, while he sat contemplating
her profile. She turned to him again with a tremulous smile.
"But isn't a conviction that the good is predominant, that there is a purpose
in the universe, a long way from the positive assertions in the Creeds?" she
asked. "I remember, when I went through what you would probably call
disintegration, and which seemed to me enlightenment, that the Creeds were my
first stumbling-blocks. It seemed wrong to repeat them."
"I am glad you spoke of this," he replied gravely. "I have arrived at many
answers to that difficulty—which did not give me the trouble I had anticipated.
In the first place, I am convinced that it was much more of a difficulty ten,
twenty, thirty years ago than it is to-day. That which I formerly thought was a
radical tendency towards atrophy, the drift of the liberal party in my own
Church and others, as well as that which I looked upon with some abhorrence as
the free-thinking speculation of many modern writers, I have now come to see is
reconstruction. The results of this teaching of religion in modern terms are
already becoming apparent, and some persons are already beginning to see that
the Creeds express certain elemental truths in frankly archaic language. All
this should be explained in the churches and the Sunday schools,—is, in fact,
being explained in some, and also in books for popular reading by clergymen of
my own Church, both here and in England. We have got past the critical age."
She followed him closely, but did not interrupt.
"I do not mean to say that the Creeds are not the sources of much
misunderstanding, but in my opinion they do not constitute a sufficient excuse
for any clergyman to abandon his Church on account of them. Indeed there are
many who interpret them by modern thought—which is closer to the teachings of
Christ than ancient thought—whose honesty cannot be questioned. Personally, I
think that the Creeds either ought to be taken out of the service; or changed,
or else there should be a note inserted in the service and catechism definitely
permitting a liberal interpretation which is exactly what so many clergymen,
candidly, do now.
"When I was ordained a deacon, and then a priest, I took vows which would
appear to be literally conflicting. Compelled to choose between these vows, I
accept that as supreme which I made when I affirmed that I would teach nothing
which I should be persuaded might not be concluded and affirmed by the
Scripture. The Creeds were derived from the Scripture—not the Scripture from the
Creeds. As an individual among a body of Christians I am powerless to change
either the ordinal vows or the Creeds, I am obliged to wait for the consensus of
opinion. But if, on the whole, I can satisfy my conscience in repeating the
Creeds and reading the service, as other honest men are doing—if I am convinced
that I have an obvious work to do in that Church, it would be cowardly for me to
abandon that work."
Her eyes lighted up.
"I see what you mean," she said, "by staying in you can do many things that
you could not do, you can help to bring about the change, by being frank. That
is your point of view. You believe in the future of the Church."
"I believe in an universal, Christian organization," he replied.
"But while stronger men are honest," she objected, "are not your ancient vows
and ancient Creeds continually making weaker men casuists?"
"Undoubtedly," he agreed vigorously, and thought involuntarily of Mr. Engel's
phrased fatty degeneration of the soul. "Yet I can see the signs, on all sides,
of a gradual emancipation, of which I might be deemed an example." A smile came
into his eyes, like the sun on a grey-green sea.
"Oh, you could never be a casuist!" she exclaimed, with a touch of vehemence.
"You are much too positive. It is just that note, which is characteristic of so
many clergymen, that note of smoothing-over and apology, which you lack. I could
never feel it, even when you were orthodox. And now—" words failed her as she
inspected his ruggedness.
"And now," he took her up, to cover his emotion, "now I am not to be
Still examining him, she reflected on this.
"Classified? Isn't it because you're so much of an individual that one fails
to classify you? You represent something new to my experience, something which
seems almost a contradiction—an emancipated Church."
"You imagined me out of the Church,—but where?" he demanded.
"That's just it," she wondered intimately, "where? When I try, I can see no
other place for you. Your place as in the pulpit."
He uttered a sharp exclamation, which she did not heed.
"I can't imagine you doing institutional work, as it is called,—you're not
fitted for it, you'd be wasted in it. You gain by the historic setting of the
Church, and yet it does not absorb you. Free to preach your convictions,
unfettered, you will have a power over people that will be tremendous. You have
a very strong personality."
She set his heart, his mind, to leaping by this unexpected confirmation on
her part of his hopes, and yet the man in him was intent upon the woman. She had
now the air of detached judgment, while he could not refrain from speculating
anxiously on the effect of his future course on her and on their intimate
relationship. He forbore from thinking, now, of the looming events which might
thrust them apart,—put a physical distance between them,—his anxiety was
concerned with the possible snapping of the thread of sympathy which had bound
them. In this respect, he dreaded her own future as much as his own. What might
she do? For he felt, in her, a potential element of desperation; a capacity to
commit, at any moment, an irretrievable act.
"Once you have made your ideas your own," she mused, "you will have the power
of convincing people."
"And yet"—she seized his unfinished sentence, "you are not at all positive of
convincing me. I'll give you the credit of forbearing to make proselytes." She
smiled at him.
Thus she read him again.
"If you call making proselytes a desire to communicate a view of life which
gives satisfaction—" he began, in his serious way.
"Oh, I want to be convinced!" she exclaimed, penitently, "I'd give anything
to feel as you feel. There's something lacking in me, there must be, and I have
only seen the disillusionizing side. You infer that the issue of the Creeds will
crumble,—preach the new, and the old will fall away of itself. But what is the
new? How, practically, do you deal with the Creeds? We have got off that
"You wish to know?" he asked.
"Yes—I wish to know."
"The test of any doctrine is whether it can be translated into life, whether
it will make any difference to the individual who accepts it. The doctrines
expressed in the Creeds must stand or fall by the test. Consider, for instance,
the fundamental doctrine in the Creeds, that of the Trinity, which has been much
scoffed at. A belief in God, you will admit, has an influence on conduct, and
the Trinity defines the three chief aspects of the God in whom Christians
believe. Of what use to quarrel with the word Person if God be conscious? And
the character of God has an influence on conduct. The ancients deemed him
wrathful, jealous, arbitrary, and hence flung themselves before him and
propitiated him. If the conscious God of the universe be good, he is spoken of
as a Father. He is as once, in this belief, Father and Creator. And inasmuch as
it is known that the divine qualities enter into man, and that one Man, Jesus,
whose composite portrait—it is agreed—could not have been factitiously invented,
was filled with them, we speak of God in man as the Son. And the Spirit of God
that enters into the soul of man, transforming, inspiring, and driving him, is
the Third Person, so-called. There is no difficulty so far, granted the initial
belief in a beneficent God.
"If we agree that life has a meaning, and, in order to conform to the purpose
of the Spirit of the Universe, must be lived in one way, we certainly cannot
object to calling that right way of living, that decree of the Spirit, the Word.
"The Incarnate Word, therefore, is the concrete example of a human being
completely filled with the Spirit, who lives a perfect life according to its
decree. Ancient Greek philosophy called this decree, this meaning of life, the
Logos, and the Nicene Creed is a confession of faith in that philosophy.
Although this creed is said to have been, scandalously forced through the
council of Nicaea by an emperor who had murdered his wife and children, and who
himself was unbaptized, against a majority of bishops who would, if they had
dared Constantine's displeasure, have given the conscience freer play, to-day
the difficulty has, practically disappeared. The creed is there in the prayer
book, and so long as it remains we are at liberty to interpret the ancient
philosophy in which it is written—and which in any event could not have been
greatly improved upon at that time—in our own modern way, as I am trying to
explain it to you.
"Christ was identified with the Logos, or Word, which must have had a meaning
for all time, before and after its complete revelation. And this is what the
Nicene Creed is trying to express when it says, 'Begotten of his Father before
all worlds.' In other words, the purpose which Christ revealed always existed.
The awkward expression of the ancients, declaring that he 'came down' for our
salvation (enlightenment) contains a fact we may prove by experience, if we
accept the meaning he put upon existence, and adopt this meaning as our scheme
of life. But we: must first be quite clear, as: to this meaning. We may and do
express all this differently, but it has a direct bearing on life. It is the
doctrine of the Incarnation. We begins to perceive through it that our own
incarnations mean something, and that our task is to discover what they do
mean—what part in the world purpose we are designed to play here.
"Incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary is an emphasis on the fact
that man born of woman may be divine. But the ignorant masses of the people of
the Roman Empire were undoubtedly incapable of grasping a theory of the
Incarnation put forward in the terms of Greek philosophy; while it was easy for
them, with their readiness to believe in nature miracles, to accept the
explanation of Christ's unique divinity as due to actual, physical generation by
the Spirit. And the wide belief in the Empire in gods born in this way aided
such a conception. Many thousands were converted to Christianity when a place
was found in that religion for a feminine goddess, and these abandoned the
worship of Isis, Demeter, and Diana for that of the Virgin Mary. Thus began an
evolution which is still going on, and we see now that it was impossible that
the world should understand at once the spiritual meaning of life as Christ
taught it—that material facts merely symbolize the divine. For instance, the
Gospel of John has been called the philosophical or spiritual gospel. And in
spite of the fact that it has been assailed and historically discredited by
modern critics, for me it serves to illuminate certain truths of Christ's
message and teaching that the other Gospels do not. Mark, the earliest Gospel,
does not refer to the miraculous birth. At the commencements of Matthew and Luke
you will read of it, and it is to be noted that the rest of these narratives
curiously and naively contradict it. Now why do we find the miraculous birth in
these Gospels if it had not been inserted in order to prove, in a manner
acceptable to simple and unlettered minds, the Theory of the Incarnation,
Christ's preexistence? I do not say the insertion was deliberate. And it is
difficult for us moderns to realize the polemic spirit in which the Gospels were
written. They were clearly not written as history. The concern of the authors, I
think, was to convert their readers to Christ.
"When we turn to John, what do we find? In the opening verses of this Gospel
the Incarnation is explained, not by a virgin birth, but in a manner acceptable
to the educated and spiritually-minded, in terms of the philosophy of the day.
And yet how simply! 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.' I prefer John's explanation.
"It is historically true that, in the earlier days when the Apostles' Creed
was put forth, the phrase 'born of they Virgin Mary' was inserted for the
distinct purpose of laying stress on the humanity of Christ, and to controvert
the assertion of the Gnostic sect that he was not born at all, but appeared in
the world in some miraculous way.
"Thus to-day, by the aid of historical research, we are enabled to regard the
Creeds in the light of their usefulness to life. The myth of the virgin birth
probably arose through the zeal of some of the writers of the Gospels to prove
that the prophecy of Isaiah predicted the advent of the Jewish Messiah who
should be born of a virgin. Modern scholars are agreed that the word Olmah which
Isaiah uses does not mean virgin, but young woman. There is quite a different
Hebrew word for 'virgin.' The Jews, at the time the Gospels were written, and
before, had forgotten their ancient Hebrew. Knowing this mistake, and how it
arose, we may repeat the word Virgin Mary in the sense used by many early
Christians, as designating the young woman who was the mother of Christ.
"I might mention one or two other phrases, archaic and obscure. 'The
Resurrection of the Body' may refer to the phenomenon of Christ's reappearance
after death, for which modern psychology may or may not account. A little
reflection, however, convinces one that the phenomenon did take place in some
manner, or else, I think, we should never have heard of Christ. You will
remember that the Apostles fled after his death on the cross, believing what he
had told them was all only a dream. They were human, literal and cowardly, and
they still needed some kind of inner, energizing conviction that the
individuality persisted after death, that the solution of human life was victory
over it, in order to gain the courage to go out and preach the Gospel and face
death themselves. And it was Paul who was chiefly instrumental in freeing the
message from the narrow bounds of Palestine and sending it ringing down the ages
to us. The miracle doesn't lie in what Paul saw, but in the whole man
transformed, made incandescent, journeying tirelessly to the end of his days up
and down the length and breadth of the empire, labouring, as he says, more
abundantly than they all. It is idle to say that the thing which can transform a
man's entire nature and life is not a reality."
She had listened, motionless, as under the spell of his words.
Self-justification, as he proceeded, might easily have fused itself into a
desire to convince her of the truth of his beliefs. But he was not deceived, he
knew her well enough to understand, to feel the indomitable spirit of resistance
in her. Swayed she could be, but she would mot easily surrender.
"There is another phrase," she said after a moment, "which I have never heard
explained, 'descended into hell.'"
"It was merely a matter of controverting those who declared Christ was taken
from the cross before he died. In the childish science of the time, to say that
one descended into hell was to affirm that he was actually dead, since the souls
of the departed were supposed to go at once to hell. Hell and heaven were
definite places. To say that Christ ascended to heaven and sat on the right hand
of the Father is to declare one's faith that his responsible work in the
spiritual realm continues."
"And the Atonement? doesn't that imply a sacrifice of propitiation?"
"Atonement may be pronounced At-one-ment," Hodder replied. "The old idea,
illustrated by a reference to the sacrifice of the ancients, fails to convey the
truth to modern minds. And moreover, as I have inferred, these matters had to be
conveyed in symbols until mankind were prepared to grasp the underlying
spiritual truths which Christ sought to convey. Orthodox Christianity has been
so profoundly affected by the ancient Jewish religion that the conception of God
as wrathful and jealous—a God wholly outside—has persisted to our times. The
Atonement means union with the Spirit of the Universe through vicarious
suffering, and experience teaches us that our own sufferings are of no account
unless they be for a cause, for the furtherance of the design of the beneficent
Spirit which is continually at work. Christ may be said to have died for
humanity because he had to suffer death itself in order to reveal the complete
meaning of life. You once spoke to me about the sense of sin—of being unable to
She glanced at him quickly, but did not speak.
"There is a theory concerning this," he continued, "which has undoubtedly
helped many people, and which may be found in the writings of certain modern
psychologists. It is that we have a conscious, or lower, human self, and a
subconscious, or better self. This subconscious self stretches down, as it were,
into the depths of the universe and taps the source of spiritual power. And it
is through the subconscious self that every man is potentially divine.
Potentially, because the conscious self has to reach out by an effort of the
will to effect this union with the spiritual in the subconscious, and when it is
effected, it comes from the response of the subconscious. Apparently from
without, as a gift, and therefore, in theological language, it is called grace.
This is what is meant by being born again, the incarnation of the Spirit in the
conscious, or human. The two selves are no longer divided, and the higher self
assumes control,—takes the reins, so to speak.
"It is interesting, as a theory. And the fact that it has been seriously
combated by writers who deny such a function of the subconscious does not at all
affect the reality of the experience.
"Once we have had a vision of the true meaning of life a vision which stirs
the energies of our being, what is called 'a sense of sin' inevitably follows.
It is the discontent, the regret, in the light of a higher knowledge, for the
lost opportunities, for a past life which has been uncontrolled by any unifying
purpose, misspent in futile undertakings, wasted, perhaps, in follies and
selfish caprices which have not only harmed ourselves but others. Although we
struggle, yet by habit, by self-indulgence, by lack of a sustained purpose, we
have formed a character from which escape seems hopeless. And we realize that in
order to change ourselves, an actual regeneration of the will is necessary. For
awhile, perchance, we despair of this. The effort to get out of the rut we have
made for ourselves seems of no avail. And it is not, indeed, until we arrive,
gradually or otherwise, and through a proper interpretation of the life of
Christ, at the conviction that we may even never become useful in the divine
scheme that we have a sense of what is called 'the forgiveness of sins.' This
conviction, this grace, this faith to embark on the experiment accomplishes of
itself the revival of the will, the rebirth which we had thought impossible. We
discover our task, high or humble,—our cause. We grow marvellously at one with
God's purpose, and we feel that our will is acting in the same direction as his.
And through our own atonement we see the meaning of that other Atonement which
led Christ to the Cross. We see that our conviction, our grace, has come through
him, and how he died for our sins."
"It's quite wonderful how logical and simple you make it, how thoroughly you
have gone into it. You have solved it for yourself—and you will solve it for
others many others."
She rose, and he, too, got to his feet with a medley of feelings. The path
along which they walked was already littered with green acorns. A gray squirrel
darted ahead of them, gained a walnut and paused, quivering, halfway up the
trunk, to gaze back at them. And the glance she presently gave him seemed to
partake of the shyness of the wild thing.
"Thank you for explaining it to me," she said.
"I hope you don't think—" he began.
"Oh, it isn't that!" she cried, with unmistakable reproach. "I asked you—I
made you tell me. It hasn't seemed at all like—the confessional," she added, and
smiled and blushed at the word. "You have put it so nicely, so naturally, and
you have given me so much to think about. But it all depends—doesn't it?—upon
whether one can feel the underlying truth of which you spoke in the first place;
it rests upon a sense of the prevailing goodness of things. It seems to me cruel
that what is called salvation, the solution of the problem of life, should
depend upon an accidental discovery. We are all turned loose with our animal
passions and instincts, of self-preservation, by an indifferent Creator, in a
wilderness, and left to find our way out as best we can. You answer that Christ
showed us the way. There are elements in his teaching I cannot accept—perhaps
because I have been given a wrong interpretation of them. I shall ask you more
questions some day.
"But even then," she continued, "granted that Christ brought the complete
solution, as you say, why should so many millions have lived and died, before
and after his coming, who had suffered so, and who had never heard of him? That
is the way my reason works, and I can't help it. I would help it if I could."
"Isn't it enough," he asked, "to know that a force is at work combating
evil,—even if you are not yet convinced that it is a prevailing force? Can you
not trust that it will be a prevailing force, if your sympathies are with it,
without demanding a revelation of the entire scheme of the universe? Of what use
is it to doubt the eternal justice?"
"Oh, use!" she cried, "I grant you its uselessness. Doubt seems an ingrained
quality. I can't help being a fatalist."
"And yet you have taken your life in your own hands," he reminded her,
"Only to be convinced of its futility," she replied.
Again, momentarily thrust back into himself, he wondered jealously once more
what the disillusionments had been of that experience from before which she
seemed, at times, ready to draw back a little the veil.
"A sense of futility is a sense of incompleteness," he said, "and generally
precedes a sense of power."
"Ah, you have gained that! Yet it must always have been latent in you—you
make one feel it. But now!" she exclaimed, as though the discovery had just
dawned on her, "now you will need power, now you will have to fight as you have
never fought in your life."
He found her enthusiasm as difficult to withstand as her stoicism.
"Yes, I shall have to fight," he admitted. Her partisanship was sweet.
"When you tell them what you have told me," she continued, as though working
it out in her own mind, "they will never submit to it, if they can help it. My
father will never submit to it. They will try to put you out, as a
"I have an idea that they will," he conceded, with a smile.
"And won't they succeed? Haven't they the power?"
"It depends,—in the first place, on whether the bishop thinks me a heretic."
"Have you asked him?"
"But can't they make you resign?"
"They can deprive me of my salary."
She did not press this.
"You mustn't think me a martyr," he pleaded, in a lighter tone.
She paid no heed to this protest, but continued to regard him with a face
lighted by enthusiasm.
"Oh, that's splendid of you!" she cried. "You are going to speak the truth as
you see it, and let them do their worst. Of course, fundamentally, it isn't
merely because they're orthodox that they won't like it, although they'll say
so, and perhaps think so. It will be because if you have really found the
truth—they will instinctively, fear its release. For it has a social bearing,
too—hasn't it?—although you haven't explained that part of it."
"It has a distinct social bearing," he replied, amazed at the way her mind
flew forward and grasped the entire issue, in spite of the fact that her honesty
still refused to concede his premises. Such were the contradictions in her that
he loved. And, though she did not suspect it, she had in her the Crusader's
spirit. "I have always remembered what you once said, that many who believed
themselves Christians had an instinctive feeling that there is a spark in
Christianity which, if allowed to fly, would start a conflagration beyond their
control. And that they had covered the spark with ashes. I, too," he added
whimsically, "was buried under the ashes."
"And the spark," she demanded, "is not Socialism—their nightmare?"
"The spark is Christianity itself—but I am afraid they will not be able to
distinguish it from Socialism. The central paradox in Christianity consists in
the harmonizing of the individual and socialistic spirit, and this removes it as
far from the present political doctrine of socialism as it is possible to be.
Christianity, looked at from a certain viewpoint,—and I think the proper
viewpoint,—is the most individualistic of religions, since its basic principle
is the development of the individual into an autonomous being."
They stood facing each other on an open stretch of lawn. The place was
deserted. Through the trees, in the near distance, the sightless front of the
Ferguson mansion blazed under the September sun.
"Individualistic!" she repeated, as though dazed by the word applied to the
religion she had discarded. "I can't understand. Do you think I ever can
understand?" she asked him, simply.
"It seems to me you understand more than you are willing to give yourself
credit for," he answered seriously. "You don't take into account your attitude."
"I see what you mean—a willingness to take the right road, if I can find it.
I am not at all sure that I want to take it. But you must tell me more—more of
what you have discovered. Will you?"
He just hesitated. She herself appeared to acknowledge no bar to their
further intimacy—why should he?
"I will tell you all I know," he said.
Suddenly, as if by a transference of thought, she voiced what he had in mind.
"You are going to tell them the truth about themselves!" she exclaimed.
"—That they are not Christians!"
His silence was an admission.
"You must see," he told her, after the moment they had looked into each
other's faces, "that this is the main reason why I must stay at St. John's, in
the Church, if I conscientiously can."
"I see. The easier course would be to resign, to have scruples. And you
believe there is a future for the Church."
"I believe it," he assented.
She still held his eyes.
"Yes, it is worth doing. If you see it that way it is more worth doing than
anything else. Please don't think," she said, "that I don't appreciate why you
have told me all this, why you have given me your reasons. I know it hasn't been
easy. It's because you wish me to have faith in you for my own sake, not for
yours. And I am grateful."
"And if that faith is justified, as you will help to justify it, that it may
be transferred to a larger sphere," he answered.
She gave him her hand, but did not reply.