The Second World War had begun in 1939, and the world was turned upside down. As normally happens during a war, people began to think more frequently about ultimate issues, life and death, good and evil, suffering and eternity, and the nature of reality. C. S. Lewis was not immune to such thinking, and during 1941 he addressed some of those ultimate issues in his writings. The Second World War began a year before the publication of The Problem of Pain (1940) and three years before the publication of The Screwtape Letters (1942). Justin Phillips commented, “But what is transparent is the parallel of Lewis writing his most convincing books dealing with evil, pain and the devil and all his works at the moment in the war when Britain was taking its biggest battering and was most at risk of enemy invasion.”
Lewis did not cease to be an English Fellow, and, as he had advised in his essay “Learning in War-Time,” he continued his academic pursuits in the area of his discipline. Like all of the war years, Lewis published a significant number of pieces this year, including two books and seven essays, in part, because the number of students dwindled, especially during the later part of the war. The papers or talks that Lewis gave which were most directly related to the Second World War were “The Weight of Glory,” “Evil and God,” and the first series of BBC talks which later became part of Mere Christianity. But Lewis waged two other wars at the same time, one within the larger circle of the Christian faith and one within the circle of his academic discipline of English.
Since some were advocating another political party through letters to The Guardian, Lewis wrote his brief essay, “Meditation on the Third Commandment,” for the January 10, 1941 issue of The Guardian. Some wanted a Christian political party, but Lewis cited Jacques Maritain’s Scholasticism and Politics (translated in 1940) against this idea because of two problems. First, Christians were not united on the means to accomplish various ends, some seeing democracy as a monster, others as the only hope, and still others seeing the need for revolution. Such a party could not speak for Christianity, but only for a part of Christianity. Then, by calling itself the Christian Party, it would claim to represent all Christians. The second problem was that a Christian Party would be tempted to justify whatever it wanted to do, utilizing its theology to justify even treachery and murder. Far better, Lewis argued, for Christians to influence politics by writing letters to Members of Parliament, and, best of all, by witnessing to their neighbors. The timing both of the letter and of Lewis’s article and the mention of both Fascists and Communists in the article suggests that the war heightened the issue in the minds of many Christians and resulted in this exchange of letters and article in The Guardian.
Lewis’s article for the Feb. 7, 1941 issue of The Spectator, “Evil and God,” carried the same title as that of Dr. C. E. M. Joad, whose article had appeared the previous week on January 31, 1941. In the face of the evil of Nazi genocide, the reality of evil, previously underestimated by Joad, came to the forefront of British life. In his article, Lewis anticipated some of the arguments that he would deliver over the BBC and that would later appear in Mere Christianity, such as the attraction of monotheism or dualism above creeds and the emergent evolution of Henri Bergson, both of which Joad had rejected in his article. Evil is parasitic, a corruption of the good and therefore not on the same level as good. Therefore, dualism should be rejected also. Although a rationalist and a socialist who once rejoiced that clergymen would be extinct by 1960, Joad himself later returned to the Christianity of his youth. That happened in part due to the influence of Lewis, including this exchange of articles in The Spectator.
Lewis carried on his own war against Freudianism in his March 29, 1941 essay in Time and Tide, “Bulverism,” or “The Foundation of 20th Century Thought.” With an allusion to “looking at,” which he later articulated more fully in his essay, “Meditation in a Toolshed,” Lewis challenged the perception of the Freudians, who “discovered” that people were bundles of complexes; the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach who “discovered” that religion was mere subjective feeling; and Karl Marx, who “discovered” that people were simply members of an economic class. Each of these three thinkers rejected the existence of God without offering any evidence for their position. These are the ones who “have had it all their own way,” as Lewis later wrote. They made these discoveries, including the assumption that they knew the real story behind the story, without refuting the systems of thought they challenged. From these discoveries, they proceeded to explain the errors of Christianity without demonstrating logically and rationally the alleged errors of Christianity. Bulverism, named after an imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, is the name Lewis gave to this system of thought that assumed, without proof, the error of another position. Lewis argued that before you can explain someone else’s errors, you must show that he is wrong. Bulverists don’t do this.
On Friday, May 2, the first Screwtape letter appeared in The Guardian. For thirty-one consecutive weeks one letter would appear every Friday through November 28. That these letters, imaginatively portrayed as letters of advice on the art of temptation from a senior devil to a junior devil, appeared during the war is no accident. One is tempted to say that the battles being fought on the Continent between the Allied powers and the Axis powers brought to the minds of many people another battle, a spiritual battle, that was daily being fought in the minds and hearts of every human being.
The university church, St. Mary the Virgin, where Lewis spoke on at least two occasions, held a weekly Sunday evening service. Lewis delivered his famous talk, “The Weight of Glory,” at St. Mary on Sunday evening, June 8, 1941, at a time when the Second World War was in full swing. In that talk, he held up the infinite worth of the individual human soul and our responsibility to care for it and to witness to it. Beauty turns out to be a pointer to something not yet experienced, an expression of a desire for heaven. There are no ordinary people. Since heaven is the ultimate goal, we need to recognize that every moment of every day, we are helping people toward that goal or away from it.
(Photo: Lewis with Paddy Moore during the War) “The Weight of Glory” was delivered less than a month after the end of the London Blitz. During World War Two, the London Blitz of 1940-1941 was Germany’s attempt to bring England to its knees. In July 1940, Hitler had given Hermann Goering the task of destroying British air power before invading Britain. In August the Battle of Britain began, and on September 7 German bombers struck London. The Blitz struck London for fifty-seven consecutive days and then off and on until May 10 and 11, 1941, the worst part of the Blitz, just a few days after Lewis had his microphone test in preparation for his first series of BBC broadcasts. Beginning in April, Lewis had begun to lecture on weekends for the RAF, giving theological talks to pilots on a lay level, a practice which continued through July 1945. These pilots were crucial to the defense of the British Isles, and Lewis helped maintain their morale.
Lewis began his BBC radio talks on August 6. Lewis had been invited by Rev. James Welch, Director of Religious Broadcasting for the BBC. Welch had been so impressed by Lewis’s book The Problem of Pain that he concluded that Lewis was the clear voice he had been seeking to champion Christianity. Welch wrote to Lewis on Feb. 7, 1941 to ask him to consider a series of radio talks on the BBC. Lewis agreed and gave five talks under the title “Right and Wrong: A Clue to the Meaning of the Universe.” The second series “What Christians Believe” was arranged in 1941 and given in the following year. These two series were published together under the title Broadcast Talks and later as the first half of Mere Christianity.
In the fall of 1941, Lewis’s essay “Religion: Reality or Substitute?” again took aim at Freud’s theories. Lewis admitted that the psychologists appeared at first glance to have a good case. But a closer look at realities and substitutes suggested that it was often difficult to tell the difference between the reality and the substitute. His own experience as a boy with the gramophone, in comparison to a live orchestra, taught him that musical miseducation could lead one, as it did him, to think the reality to be a substitute and the substitute to be a reality. A father could just as easily be a substitute for God, who is the reality, instead of Freud’s view that God is a substitute for a father figure. One must learn from one of three sources—authority, reason, or experience—and link that source to faith.
On Dec. 1, 2, and 3, 1941, Lewis gave the Ballard Matthews lectures at the University College of North Wales in Bangor, Wales (now Bangor University). If World War Two was the first war going on at this time and theology was the playing field for the second war, this was Lewis’s third war, the one that was taking place in the field of English literature. These lectures were later published as A Preface to “Paradise Lost.” Lewis had been lecturing on Milton for some time, so this series of lectures in Wales was a revision of those Oxford lectures.
In these lectures, Lewis challenged the notions that Satan was the hero of Paradise Lost (as Blake and Shelley held), that Adam and Eve were naïve in Eden, and that Paradise Lost was a monument to dead ideas (as Sir Walter Raleigh thought). In addition, Lewis further responded to I. A. Richards. Richards taught that literature produced “a wholesome equilibrium of our psychological attitudes,” and Lewis agreed, and Richards regarded literature that drew out stock responses as bad literature, but Lewis disagreed. Lewis said that certain stock responses were “the first necessities of human life,” coming from “a delicate balance of trained habits, laboriously acquired and easily lost.” Those stock responses are a part of the education that young people need, because they develop trained emotions, virtue, and morality, something that Lewis especially encouraged in The Abolition of Man. In The Abolition of Man Lewis later defended the value of classical literature and philosophy, thereby supporting traditional ideas of the Beautiful, the Good, and the True (all characteristics of the Tao) and opposing the errors of Richards and others that would lead to men without chests and, indeed, to the end of man as we know him.
In A Preface, Lewis also expressed his dissatisfaction with the quest for the historical Jesus, which created a Jesus completely different from that of the Gospels. In addition to agreeing with parts of the writings of Richards, Lewis also wrote affirmatively of David G. James (1905-1968). James agreed with Richards, that poetry produced a wholesome equilibrium of our attitudes, and offered his own idea that poetry produced a secondary imagination, which gives us a view of the world.
One of Lewis’s chief objections to the interpretation of Paradise Lost came in Prof. Denis Saurat, who had suggested that it was necessary to disentangle Milton’s thought from “theological rubbish.” You wouldn’t have John Milton, claimed Lewis, if you removed his theology from his poetry. Saurat was apparently unhappy with the profound Christian theology that appears in Paradise Lost, as also was Dr. F. R. Leavis, whom Lewis mentioned later in the book. Lewis and Leavis differed on the nature of man, Lewis wrote, rather than the properties of Milton’s poetry. Lewis also mentioned Henry More six times in this book for his belief that the writings of the Pagans contained a good deal of truth and that aerial spirits or daemons, which appeared in Paradise Lost, existed. More, a seventeenth-century Cambridge Platonist, was the philosopher about whom Lewis had at one point entertained the possibility of writing a doctoral dissertation.
In A Preface, Lewis also gave a passing reference to several authors. First, he wrote favorably about Charles Williams’s Introduction to the 1940 work, The English Poems of John Milton, which helped readers to understand Milton’s Messiah. Williams wrote that we should see the Messiah in Milton’s work as a cosmic Son rather than the incarnate Lord. Secondly, he mentioned James Joyce’s novel Ulysses for its popularity based on its disorganized stream-of-consciousness technique, stating that Milton must not be criticized for failing to write in Joyce’s manner. In Chapter II, he also disagreed with Eliot’s position that only poets can judge poetry. Thirdly, he mentioned T. S. Eliot’s dislike of epic poetry, stating that Eliot must not conclude that all poetry should have the qualities that Eliot’s has. Finally, Lewis mentioned Mr. Brian Hone (1907-1978), a Rhodes Scholar of New College, Oxford (1932) approvingly for his comment about needing notes for reading Milton much like Milton would need notes if he read a modern book. Hone, later a teacher and schoolmaster, had been tutored in English by Lewis.
Lewis’s short essay, “Edmund Spenser,” later retitled “On Reading The Faerie Queene,” first appeared in Fifteen Poets from Oxford University Press (1941). In it, he discussed the young reader of The Faerie Queene (Lewis first read Spenser as a young reader), the mature reader, and the ideal reader. Spenser was the last of the medieval poets, even though The Faerie Queene was not really medieval, and the first of the romantic medievalists. His hope was to encourage the modern reader to read Spenser, even though it differed greatly from the usual reading fare. By encouraging the reading of Spenser Lewis was helping to rehabilitate the attitude of the Middle Ages with its old school values, including chivalry, the love of God, courage, honor, and hospitality.
The year 1941 was the second most prolific year in Lewis’s life up to this point in his career. Little did he know that in future years he would surpass this total of nine publications in one year twelve times and match it twice. While World War Two would end in 1945, the wars being fought about the Christian faith and various aspects of the academic discipline of English would continue to the end of Lewis’s life.
Appendix I: Lewis Publications: 1941 (nine published pieces in approximate chronological order)
“Meditation on the Third Commandment” from The Guardian on January 10, 1941 (Christian Reunion and Other Essays, 15; also God in the Dock)
“Evil and God” in The Spectator, Vol. CLXVI, on February 7, 1941 (Christian Reunion and Other Essays, 15; also God in the Dock)
“‘Bulverism’” (as “Notes on the Way”) in Time and Tide, Vol. XXII, on March 29, 1941 (God in the Dock, 16)
“Psychoanalysis and Literary Criticism” was published in Essays and Studies, Vol. XXVII (1941, probably June; originally delivered on Jan. 28, 1940 to the English Adventurers Society) (Selected Literary Essays, xix) Originally read to a literary society at Westfield College and elsewhere.
“The Weight of Glory” was preached in St. Mary the Virgin Church, Oxford, on June 8, 1941 (The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, 18)
Broadcast Talks (‘Right and Wrong: A Clue to the Meaning of the Universe’ and ‘What Christians Believe’, given on August 6, 13, 20, and 27, and Sept. 3, 1941) (Bles 1942; as The Case for Christianity, Macmillan 1943) (in Mere Christianity)
“Religion: Reality or Substitute” (Christian Reflections, xiii) appeared in World Dominion (September-October 1941)
A Preface to ‘Paradise Lost’ (“Being the Ballard Matthews Lectures Delivered at University College, North Wales, Dec. 1, 2, and 3, 1941, Revised and Enlarged”) (Oxford 1942)
“On Reading The Fairie Queene” first appeared in Fifteen Poets under the title “Edmund Spenser” (Oxford University Press, 1941) (Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, ix).
Since 1998, Rev. Dr. Joel D. Heck has served Concordia University at Austin as Professor of Theology. He teaches courses in Old Testament, New Testament, Reformation history, and the life and writings of C. S. Lewis. Read more about Dr. Heck.
OR JAEL'S HAMMER LAID ASIDE, AND THE MILK
OF HUMAN KINDNESS BEATEN UP INTO BUTTER
AND SERVED IN A LORDLY DISH
It is now generally conceded, that those differences, which were once held to divide the Christian sects from one another, (as whether or not Confirmation were a necessary ordinance of the Church), can no longer be thought to place any obstacle against unity and charity between Christians; rather, the more of them we find to exist, the more laudable a thing it is that Christian men should stomach, now and again, these uneasy scruples, and worship together for all the world as if they had never existed. There is no progress in Humanity, without the surmounting of obstacles; thus, we are all now agreed that Satan, far from meaning any harm to our Race when he brought sin into the world, was most excellently disposed towards us, and desired nothing better than that we, having some good stout sins to overcome, should attain an eventful and exciting sort of virtue, instead of languishing for ever in that state of respectable innocence, which is so little creditable to the angels, who alone practice it. In like manner, all heresies and schisms are the very condition of Christian unity, and were doubtless designed to supply a kind of zest to the tedious business of Church-going, on the same principle that the digestion of poultry is improved, if they be allowed to have a little grit or gravel in their crops to assist them. So that there can be no more edifying spectacle, to the rightly-constituted mind, than that of two fellow-worshippers, one of whom is saying in his heart, great is Diana of the Ephesians and the other, O Baal, hear us, both which inward intentions they express by a common formula, when they profess openly with their lips, that honesty is the best policy.
ABOLISHING OF BISHOPS
Further, it has come to be seen that Bishops and Archbishops are not, as was commonly supposed hitherto, the vehicles of any extraordinary grace, which they passed on one to another, like a contagion, by the laying on of hands, but only another of these obstacles, which make the race of life so agreeable a pursuit. They exist to supervise our doctrines, and find them unscriptural, to control our religious practices, and forbid their continuance, thus enabling us to snatch a fearful joy while we are about them: in short to give the Christian profession that spice of martyrdom, which it has so sorely lacked since the abolition of the amphitheatre. However salutary this interference be, it is plain that it is of the nature of a luxury; and we shall, therefore, be content to forgo the enjoyment of it, if the non-conformists should demand the sacrifice as a condition of reunion with themselves
THE LAST JUDGEMENT POSTPONED
I conceive, then, that within a few years from the present date, the division of Christians into sects for purposes of worship will have utterly disappeared, and we shall find one great United Protestant Church existing throughout the civilized world. I would not deny but there might be some few difficulties of adjustment attending the venture; as, that the Fifth Monarchy men might withhold their assent from the scheme, unless we would all make it a matter of doctrine, that the Last Judgement is to be presently expected; which knowledge would cast an intolerable gloom over the more part of our pleasures, and create a lack of public confidence on the Exchange. But I cannot doubt, upon a little cool reflection, we should rid ourselves of these fanciful megrims of sectarian particularity; and there is gain to be shown on the other side; for example, it may be anticipated the Seventh Day Adventists will demand the observance of Saturday as well as Sunday as a feast of the Church; and we shall thus have two days instead of one in every seven on which we can lie abed till noon, over-eat ourselves, go out driving in the country, and dine away from home under colour of sparing trouble to our domestics.
PROPOSAL FOR A SYMPHORODOX. CHURCH
There is some doubt in this connection, whether or not the churches of Russia and Greece, arrogantly styled Orthodox, can have any part in the Church of the future. Their very title is, it must be confessed, most horrid and repellent to our ears; for how can a man proclaim his own tenets to be orthodox, without thereby implying, that other people's opinions are less likely to be true, than his own? We must have no more of this; I leave it to themselves to pitch upon a new designation, with the suggestion that they would do well to alter their present style to that of symphorodox, which is to assert no more, than that they find their own doctrines helpful. As to our old quarrel about the clause Filioque, it will clearly have disappeared at the time of which we speak: for, as tradition avers that the Apostles, when they first formed a creed, did not all profess it together, but each supplied his contribution, Peter leading the way with I believe in God, so in this new Church nobody will be expected to recite the whole creed, but only such clauses as he finds relish in; it being anticipated that, with good fortune, a large congregation will usually manage in this way to recite the whole formula between them. And indeed these oriental Christians already enjoy to the full, in Russia at any rate, one of the most blessed privileges of our own Church, which is, to have their religious affairs entirely controlled by the State; and this will prove undoubtedly a great bond of union, when the Greeks have been induced to assign the same position in the management of their religion to the Sultan of Turkey, as the Russians assign to the Czar.
But it is not to be supposed that such an arrangement can be entered into without some undertaking from the eastern Churches to set their own house in order: to translate, for example, their liturgy into the modern vernacular tongue; or at least to provide that it is, like our own, not more than three hundred years out of date: to dispense with all mumblings, bobbings, bearings, shutting and opening of doors, kissings, gesticulatings, etc.; to put all their icons high up on the wall, so as to destroy all peril of worship; and, finally, if they cannot but let off fireworks on Easter Day, (as their present beastly custom is), to make sure that they do it only for purposes of illumination.
THE UNITARIANS SET ASIDE
Thus it may be hoped we shall complete the reunion of all Christians; the considerations so far brought forward are so obvious and plain to all men of sense that I am well-nigh ashamed to have dwelt so long upon them; the question to be raised in the present treatise is rather, whether we do right to confine these beneficent operations to the Christian or Trinitarian sects only, or whether we cannot advantageously extend them to other religious systems which have, till now, from a lack of proper reflection, been held to be incompatible with Christianity. And here I do not refer to the Unitarians; for it is to be feared that if these persons have gone out of their way to separate themselves from the other sects on the ground of a doctrine so little taught in our Church, and so little believed in, as that of the Trinity, they must be a pettifogging, cantankerous set of fellows, that prize their own opinions too highly, to become parties to our policy of reunion. But where disagreement from ourselves about the nature of God arises, not from any wilful spirit of dissension, but from difference of early or national tradition, nay, of climate, atmosphere, and geographic conditions; where there are people in the world, who have enjoyed so little the advantages of our modern enlightenment, as to be unaware that it is not religion, or patriotism, but only the prospect of commercial advantage, that justifies a nation in going to war; there, I would humbly venture to urge, there may still be hopes of a good understanding, when a few scruples have been removed, and a few doubts explained away.
MAHOMET A GOOD PROTESTANT
It was customary with our ancestors, to designate Mahomet by the title of The False Prophet. A more modern and more temperate judgement will not allow us to contend further, than that he was unduly positive in his assertions. And there is this to be said for him at least, that he was a good, sound Protestant and that his quarrel with the debased Church of his time was mainly about its heathenish Mariolatry, and the unduly strict views it held about marriage; all which should make us conceive a sympathy and respect for him, as in some ways the forerunner of our own Reformation. Further, it cannot be denied, that the Mahometans admit the historical truth of many of those fads, upon which the Christian religion is, or was until the last half-century, supposed to be founded. True, they have hitherto failed to invest the facts with the same theological colouring we are accustomed to put on them, and it must be confessed they show a certain reluctancy to avow the most elementary articles of our Faith. But is this difficulty final? Let five Christian, and five Mahometan Theologians be closeted together for a week to discuss these controverted doctrines, the Christians explaining to their less enlightened coassessors what sense such doctrines are really meant to convey; and I for one shall be vastly surprised if, at the end of the week, the Mahometans are not prepared to accept the Athanasian Creed in the same sense, in which it is maintained by some of the most highly placed Ecclesiastics of our own Country.
A PROPOSAL FOR UNIVERSAL BIGAMY
It is, I apprehend, in matters of discipline rather than of doctrine we shall need a certain amount of give and take before our differences can be settled. Christian Men are accustomed to be content with one wife, and even in America with one at a time; whereas in Turkey he would be thought a very chicken-hearted Husband who had not endowed four ladies simultaneously with his own surname. This might seem to be an irreconcilable difference of principle; but fortunately, where numbers are concerned mathematics provides us with a ready solution of the difficulty, by the method of averages. Nor does it need the brain of a profound scholar to determine, that in the Church of the future we shall all be conscientious bigamists; thereby avoiding at once the expense of a harem, and the monotony of our present European system. We shall also obviate at one blow the difficulty of finding wives in Baghdad, and the difficulty of finding Husbands in Balham. We shall, of course, adopt at the same time the Mahometan rule, by which a man may at any time turn his wife out of doors, upon finding her displeasing to himself, and take a new one, modifying
so far, as to extend the privilege equally to the wife, as to the husband: in this way we shall meet a long-felt demand on the part of the lower classes in our country, as well as recognizing an existing practice in the case of their superiors in social rank. At the same time, we shall abolish those accounts of Divorce Court proceedings in our news sheets, which are admitted by everyone to be injurious to public morals.
NECESSITY OF DOORMATS
The same principle will naturally rule our dispositions about the sacred hierarchy. Mahometans, as well as Christians, have their several grades of clergy, and it is to be supposed that we should avoid all invidiousness and suspicion of favouritism here, if we called the ministers of the new Church alternately, according to their rank, by Western and Eastern designations. Thus, for example, we might call them (in descending Order):
Pashas (corresponding to Bishops)
Mullahs (corresponding to Rural Deans)
Hadjis (corresponding to Unbeneficed Clergy).
The services in our Churches (or Mosques) would be characterized by a like spirit of accommodation. It would be plainly impossible, to ask Christian men to remove their boots on entering the building, like the Moslems; but we could make a point of having a substantial mat at the door, so that they could at least wipe them; and it would be a pretty conceit to have the word, salve, worked on the mat, in token of our readiness to welcome all, whatever their opinions, to public worship. On the other hand, reciprocity demands, that we should not put any yoke on the conscience of the Oriental, by insisting on his taking off his turban: we should expect him instead to carry in his Hand a second Hat, (preferably a silk one), so that when he reached his pew he might not be without something to pray into.
Some dissensions might be expected to arise about the reading of the first lesson. It is an unfortunate mark of the barbarism, which still triumphs in the East that the Mahometans have a very considerable respect for their sacred book, the Koran; and treat it with a reverence, which our Western enlightenment has long outgrown. Our plea is, that since we have nowadays so little use for the Old Testament readings, the Koran should be substituted for it in Divine Service. And if any man object, that this might lead to a superstitious belief in the facts therein alleged I would point out for his comfort that in a very short time that critical study will come to be expended on the latter book, which has hitherto investigated the former, with such happy results; and consequently within twenty years time we should be in no more danger of giving credit to the miracles of Mahomet, than we are in now, of stomaching the history of Joshua.
AND OF JOINT-STOOLS
It is a degraded practice of the Mahometans, at certain fixed hours of the day to bring out a little praying-carpet, and kneel on it with the face turned eastward, to engage in prayer. It is manifest that any Christian man would sooner die than be seen at his devotions, unless it were at the time of public service. This custom, then, would of necessity be disallowed especially as in great cities it would have the effect of continually obstructing the traffic. But if any felt it difficult to break themselves of this untidy Habit, I would not deal harshly with them; rather, they should be suffered to carry about a small joint-stool and be allowed thus to meditate in any of the less thickly populated districts, under colour of admiring the scenery.
But this is not all: for the Mahometans obstinately insist when performing such devotions, on turning towards the east, that is, towards the sunrising; towards the beginnings or origins of things, in short, towards the dispiriting recollection of the past. This, (thank God!), is not our way in Europe; if any of us should be so strangely affected, as to want to pray in one direction more than another, it would certainly be towards the West, the land of the sunset, the glorious prospect of the remote future which is, by all accounts, to be a time of great happiness, virtue, and prosperity. We should substitute for orientation, what we might call Occidentation; and address ourselves, not towards Mecca, but towards Chicago. The spirit of our religious compromise thus plainly demands, that every such devotee should carry a compass about with him; and when the time came for his superstitious observances, face as nearly as possible in the direction of the magnetic pole.
THE MUEZZIN MUZZLED
There is another custom prevailing in Mahometan countries, of such doubtful advantage that we could not agree to conform to it without earnest consideration; I mean, the custom by which people are woken in the morning by a fellow bawling out from the top of a Minaret, to the effect, (unless my memory plays me false), that Allah is great. It will seem shocking to minds habituated to our Western standards of taste that these Muezzins, as they are called, should give a pronouncement so public to so controversial a statement. We could not allow it; for it would manifestly cause the most grievous distress of conscience to any atheist or agnostic who happened to be within earshot. Yet is something to be said for the practice in general outline; who has not wished, as he turned over in bed at eight of the clock on a Sunday morning, that there were some less noisy means of awakening a few devout women, than making a great clanging of bells, as if the whole city were afire? Would it not be well to introduce the Muezzin into our Church-towers, and at the same time to see to it that his announcement was both less provocative, and more appropriate; that he should either shout out, the early bird catches the worm, or, if he were musical, even intone to some simple Anglican chant the words:
There are besides one or two particular sects among the Mahometans, who might give us trouble; as the dancing Dervishes who insist upon making dancing into a sort of religious ceremony. We should have to show these very plainly, that the exercising of the soul is one thing, and the exercising of the legs another. It might even be well to forbid their executing any dance except the Russian ones; if they only practised these it would speedily rid their dancing from any association of religion, or even of morality.
There are the Assassins too, who hold it to be just and lawful to kill a man in virtue of a disagreement about religion, and did lately murder a man very horribly, in the city of Paris. Yet these should be surely treated, not as public enemies, but as erring brethren: that is, they should be admitted to full communion, but we should, lose no opportunity of advertising them of the disadvantages of their peculiar tenets, by means of preaching to them in sermons: reminding them, I mean, that the practice of murder frequently begets dangerous consequences for the perpetrator of it, by the establishing of blood-feuds; and (taking even a higher ground) that where the practice becomes common it creates a general uncertainty about the tenure of life, and renders the maintenance of public peace and order a far more difficult affair than it would otherwise be. Doubtless in a very short time they would have learned to take a more lenient view of doctrinal irregularities.
BEER AND BACON VERY DESIRABLE
There is one obstacle to reunion with the Mahometans still remaining, which I confess at first fight seems wholly insuperable viz., that the Mahometans hold it sinful and unclean to eat the flesh of the pig, or to drink fermented liquours. And though our countrymen might be prevailed upon to abandon whatsoever else in the interests of peace, there are two privileges they will never relinquish except at the sword's point, and namely, bacon and beer. Such practical considerations as these mean very much more, to a business like nation such as we are, than any abstract theory or any matter of ecclesiastical principle.
PORK FORBIDDEN BY RUBRIC
Yet even here there is a via media to be thought upon, which I very earnestly recommend to the attention of all those who have the best interests of religion at heart. Would it not be possible to add a rubric in the Book of Common Prayer, following immediately upon the rubric which directs abstinence on Fridays, and fasting during the forty days of Lent, to this effect: "And note, that in no circumstances whatever is it permissible on any day of the year to eat bacon, ham,
pork, or sausages, or to drink any kind of fermented liquor; and if the Curate find his people so doing, he shall present them to the Bishop as contumacious sinners and rotten members of the Church of Christ.'' This will surely be calculated to ease the consciences of our Eastern brethren, since it will show them clearly what the mind of our Church is upon this matter; whereas on the other hand, we shall have no scruple at all about the eating of the pig, but will continue to eat our pork chops on every day in the year, with the same assurance as we eat mutton on all Fridays: in short, no one will be at all affected in his manner of life, except a few scurvy Highchurchmen, who impiously try to gain merit in the fight of Heaven by observing these and other like ordinances imposed by the founders of our Church, instead of contenting themselves with a spiritual fast, which is far more acceptable to God, and far less prejudicial to the digestion.
REPEAL OF THE HIERUSALEM DECREES
This same prescription would, it is clear, vastly lessen our quarrel with another religious sect - I mean, the ancient people of the Jews. Although it is to be doubted, whether the stubborn prejudices of this nation would be wholly satisfied even by so signal a mark of our determination to sacrifice everything in the cause of Unity. Yet I would not despair, even here, of some better understanding. For myself, I cannot praise the suggestion of my friend Dr. Honeybotham, that we should endeavour to bring them to a more Christian mind, by explaining to them (what is now proved to the satisfaction of all our scholars) that the Law was not given to Moses by the dispensation of Angels upon Sinai, but rather botched together by an ignorant fellow, who had nothing better to do, at the time of the Babylonish captivity: that it is no business of ours, to conform ourselves to the fanciful scruples begot in the brain of such an one by an attack of the spleen. This whole proposal has an air of propagandism about it, which can commend it very little to the enlightenment of the present age, since it might be misconstrued into a declaration, that one man's religious opinions are in some way better than another's.
It would be more congruous with the principles on which we have hitherto proceeded, if we would undertake to make further concessions on our own part. It is a commonplace of theologians in these days, that in all cases of schism and division among Christians either party is right in what it asserts, and wrong in what it denies. And it is plain that in the first great schism of the Christian Church, an account of which is set down in the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, the denials were all on Saint Paul's part, and the affirmations on the part of his adversaries. Nor am I afraid of any taint of unorthodoxy, when I humbly submit the propriety of rescinding the Decrees of the first Council of Hierusalem, as we have to all intents already rescinded those of Chalcedon, Ephesus, Constantinople, and Nicea.
THE BLESSED HOPE OF ANNIHILATION
It may be thought by the careless observer, that we shall have even less difficulty in arranging our terms of peace and amity with the religions of the further East as Buddhism, Brahmanism, and the like. For already in our own time we see many men and women of fashion showing a tenderness for the mystical doctrines of these sects, keeping Mahatmas instead of domestic Chaplains, and cultivating the inner life
so far as the pursuit does not interfere with pleasure, wealth, and the enjoyment of polite society. Already we see Ganges flowing into the Medway, and it is the part of every philosophic mind to discern these signs of the times. For we are all accustomed to comfort ourselves with the reflection, Magna est Veritas et praevalebit; is it not then plain, that the prevalence of any idea is the measure of its truth? Thus it might well be thought that all this cult of oriental poetry, and conjuring, and fortune-telling, which is now only practised by Mistress Chloe in her closet must contain such a groundwork of truth as to be like to commend itself in a few years, to Dryasdust in his study. There are, indeed, very comfortable doctrines to be found in these systems; as that what a man is, is conditioned for the most part, by what he was in a previous Incarnation: this quits us of much moral responsibility; and there are not many men so sensitive as to feel bound to defend the honour of a former self. And again, that all existence tends ultimately to Annihilation; which prospect is a deal more comforting to most of our university professors, merchant princes, and company promoters, than anything which was promised them by traditional Christianity.
MATTER WHY AGREEABLE
But it is to be observed that all these doctrines rest on a most disquieting major premise very much adhered to; in the East viz., that all matter is evil. Such a position will hardly commend itself to the thinkers of our time. For, if matter be evil, how can it be that among an enlightened people like ourselves, as is very obviously the case, the exploits men can achieve with their fists, their feet, or their muscles are far more anxiously recorded and read of than any activity of their brains? That we undergo exercises every morning for the perfecting of our bodies, and never reflect from one week's end to another, upon the case of our souls? That we seek bodily Health by every possible means, and plead it upon every possible occasion as an excuse for our derelictions? That our eating and drinking become every day the subject of more anxious cogitation? That the getting of riches is our passion from birth, our ruling principle in marriage, and our only hope for the respect of posterity after our death? All these considerations will prove to the satisfaction of any philosophers that if Christians have given up every other Article of the Creed, we have still a lively hope in the resurrection of the body.
OF NECESSARY EVILS
How then are we to come to any agreement with those who openly profess that the body is something to be neglected and mortified, and that matter is an evil? I answer, that where there's a will there's a way; and that if we will only consent to admit, for the sake of charity, that all matter is evil, we can quite easily safeguard ourselves against any untoward consequences that might follow from the doctrine, by adding, that it is a necessary evil. The horrors of war, poverty, and ill-paid labour; the delays and expense of the law; the party-system; the licentiousness of the press, the unequal distribution of stipends among the clergy - these and a hundred other such features of our polity we all confess with one voice, to be evils; but we go on to add, that they are necessary evils, meaning thereby that the speaker (for one) has no intention of moving a finger to amend them. If this were clearly understood, I cannot see that we should be much the losers by the adoption of an Eastern way of thinking.
Yet, God forbid that we should encourage in our own country any of those barbarous institutions, by which these benighted enthusiasts attempt to rid themselves of the body, and. its very agreeable encumbrances; as, by the institution of monasteries, which have made the religion of the Buddhists almost as much suspect as the corrupt Church of the Middle Ages, and, in fact, little better than it; or by allowing crackbrained fellows called fakirs to sit by the roadside with no visible means of subsistence begging their bread, scantily clothed and afflicting themselves with lying upon beds of spikes, as if they would rebuke the more common-sense manners of the passers-by. We might indeed allow them to ask for money, if they would proffer laces and almanacs in return for it, and so conform to the regulations of the Police; but spike-beds I would have altogether forbidden: and as for the monks, if they would not come out again into the world, I would shut them up for their lives in mad-houses, to cure them of this arrogant craving for silence, confinement, and solitude.
THE IDOLATERS, ESPECIALLY PAPISTS
"But, someone will urge, "if we hope to persuade those who at present disagree with us to forgo their superstitious practices for the sake of reunion with the Church of England, we are surely transgressing outside the range of practical politics into sanguine and visionary hopes, not likely to be realized. If the Buddhists could be so far prevailed upon, is there not some prospect of reunion with the idolaters, fetish-worshippers, and believers in mumbo jumbo; nay, even with the papists themselves? And here, I conceive we have arrived at the very pith of our present contention. We have much to look for from the gradual softening influence of time, from the progress of civilized ideas, and the wider diffusion of knowledge. And I (for one) am so persuaded of the mission of our Church to unite all the religions of the world under its own auspices, that I do not hesitate to assert what may seem at first sight a very distasteful possibility namely, that at some time it will be our duty to consider on what terms we shall accept the submission even of the Church of Rome. And I would beg of my readers, not to be unduly prejudiced beforehand; but to take a lenient view of the abominable history of that institution, and as far as possible to reconcile themselves to the prospect of a closer relation with those who are at present tainted by the infection of its impious tenets.
SHOCKING FECUNDITY OF THE IRISH
I know we are commonly told, that this will never be achieved, by reason of the extreme obstinacy and perversity of this sect, which will never allow them to come to any conditions. But this obstinacy, I apprehend, is nothing else than the confidence of numbers: they are at present a pretty numerous body; and they will soon be brought to see reason when they find their own adherents becoming rarer every day. That this will speedily happen, science itself gives us warrant to avow; for we know now. that all survival in the world is a survival of the fittest, and that two instincts chiefly make an organism fit to survive namely the will to live, and the desire to propagate its kind. The Church of Rome pays the highest veneration to martyrs and to celibates or virgins, thereby attesting its contempt for these two great instincts which alone enable a race to persist; it might, therefore, be allowed to become extinct by the force of its own ignorant delusions; but I hold it a more charitable thing to arrest this decline, when it has once fairly set in, and invite the survivors, many of them good enough fellows at heart, into the all embracing unity of our national establishments.
True, hitherto these symptoms of decline have been slow to manifest themselves, and it is even alleged that Popery is on the increase in certain parts of the world, notably in our own island, in America, in Australia, in France, and in Holland. But it is not to be supposed, that any such observed augmentation of numbers is due to conversions; on the contrary, it has been repeatedly proved, that nobody is ever converted to the Roman Catholic religion; in England, America, and Australia the whole cause of increase is the immigration of Irishmen, and it cannot be doubted but that a few more statistics would show to everybody's satisfaction that Irishmen are emigrating in very great quantities both to France and to Holland. These melancholy facts bear testimony both to the prolific character of a race, which can thus stock five countries with papists from year to year; and also to its singular obstinacy and bigotry, in that it carries its religion about with it, like a part, of its luggage, and must needs attempt to transplant it into an alien soil, where it was never meant to flourish. Such opinionated arrogance must be firmly dealt with; and I would therefore suggest, in the interests of the reunion of religions, that upon his conquest of Ireland our great Commander Sir E. C., should put all papist children to the sword, and we should make it a criminal offence for the future, that any papist should be allowed to marry, or have issue: the offence itself to be punished with death, and the resulting issue to be exposed on some hillside, lest it should grow up infected with the gross superstition of its parents.
THE SUBMISSION OF THE POPE
The Hibernian hydra thus amputated, the remaining papists of the world, seeing their numbers daily dwindle and decrease would speedily come crying to us for admission; and it is here that I would appeal to my countrymen not to use any undue harshness in receiving their allegiance. I would not, I mean, altogether treat their orders as null and void, but only degrade their clergy by a single step in the hierarchy; their Bishops to count as Priests, their Priests as Deacons, their Deacons as Lay-readers. Nor would I extract from these by way of a declaration of loyalty to our Church, anything more than an affirmation of general dissent from the doctrine contained in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion. The Pope himself I would allow to take rank as a retired missionary Bishop, thus leaving him the insignia of power without any sphere in which to exercise or income with which to abuse it. The Cardinals I would disperse among the common-rooms of Oxford and Cambridge, where they could exercise to the full their talent for intrigue without having any serious effect, for good or ill, upon the destinies of the nation. In discipline, doctrine, and devotion, we should of course compel our newly returned prodigal brethren to conform entirely to the Book of Common Prayer, and, for fear of any recrudescence of superstitious orthodoxy among us as the result of their inclusion, take an oath of them that they unfeignedly disbelieved all the scriptures of the Old and New Testament.
I cannot apprehend any grave consequences following from such a course of enlightened charity upon our part; and if any should still have scruples about the wisdom of it, I would mention that the sum of money we should add to our revenues as well by the increased sale of Bibles, prayer-books, and hymn-books, as by the proceeds of the dismantling of Cathedrals, Churches, and Monasteries would amply suffice to form a Fund for a public training of athletes.
THE ATHEISTS, RECONCILED
The differences at present existing between the various persons who believe in a God being thus happily ended, we should be the more free, finally, to consider the problem of reunion with the atheists. And here it is to be noticed, that whereas the sectaries of one religion differ from those of another over a whole multitude of points, as niceties of ritual, quibbles of doctrine, forms and postures in the recitation of prayer, etc.; in the case of the atheists we have only one single quarrel to patch up, namely, as to whether any God exists or not. If we could but ease their consciences on this matter, it is clear they would have no difficulty in accepting our forms and fashions of worship, having no inherited prejudice in favour of any other. There would be no straining at gnats, if they could but be brought to swallow the camel. I submit it, therefore, with all deference to our theologians, whether they could not find it possible to allow, that as God is immanent and yet transcendent so we cannot see the whole truth, but only an aspect of the truth, until we have reconciled ourselves to the last final Antinomy, that God is both existent and non-existent? We, who are conscious of the supreme being as existent, and those others who are conscious of Him as non existent, are each of us looking at only one half of the truth, one side, as it were, of the shield; and we can surely hope that when we have studied each other's points of view, and come to understand them a little better, by common discussion and common worship, we shall all of us recognize the Divine Governor of the Universe as One who exists, yet does not exist, causes sin, yet hates it, hates it, yet does not punish it, and promises us in Heaven a happiness, which we shall not have any consciousness to enjoy.
A CHARGE TO THE PUBLIC
It would be superfluous to add, what great advantage will be derived from the absence of any religious dissensions whatever in the world; as, that there will be no division within families, no tests in the appointment of Ministers, and no religious matter to offend the eye in our daily news-sheets. I commend these considerations very earnestly to the attention of the public, calling upon them in the name of Humanity and Progress to see that this scheme is carried out, whether or no any of the various sectaries concerned like the proposal made; and not to allow the fact that they do not happen to have any religion or any morality of their own make them in any way backward to arrange the moral and religious affairs of other people. Thank God, in these days of enlightenment and establishment, everyone has a right to his own opinions, and chiefly to the opinion, that nobody else has a right to theirs. It shall go hard, but within a century at most we shall make the Church of England true to her Catholic vocation, which is, plainly, to include within her borders every possible shade of belief, Quod umquam quod usquam quod ab ullis.