* * * * *
[Sidenote: A New Force.]
Of late years a new force has been discovered in the line of ethico-spiritual aid in the higher order of hypnotism, as discovered and practiced by Doctor Quackenbos, who may, indeed, without exaggeration, be called the discoverer of this higher phase of applied suggestion. "I have been brought," he says, "into closest touch with the human soul. First objectively; subsequently in the realm of subliminal life, where, practically liberated in the hypnotic slumber from its entanglement with a perishable body, it has been open to approach by the objective mind in which it elected to confide, dynamically absorptive of creative stimulation by that mind, and lavish in dispensing to the personality in rapport the suddenly apprehended riches of its own higher spiritual nature."
Of the nature of this power, we again find Doctor Quackenbos saying: "Hypnotic suggestion is a summoning into ascendancy of the true man; an accentuation of insight into life and its procedures; a revealing, in all its beauty and strength and significance, of absolute, universal, and necessary truth; and a portraiture of happiness as the assured outcome of living in consonance with this truth." The learned doctor regards hypnotism, indeed, as "a transfusion of personality."
The truth is that there lies in every nature forces which, if recognized and developed, would lift one to higher planes and induce in him such an accession of activities and energies as to fairly transform his entire being and achievement. This would be effected, too, on an absolutely normal plane. The development of the spiritual faculties is just as normal as is that of the intellectual. And it is to this development that we must look for the true communion with those who have passed into the Unseen. The objective life must be spiritualized. The soul can come into a deeper realization of its own dignity and the worth of its higher nature; can discern the spiritual efficiency, the energy commensurate to every draft upon it.
All, however, that is done by the highest phase of hypnotism, as exerted by Doctor Quackenbos, can be done by auto-suggestion. The soul has only to call upon its own higher forces. It has only to act from love and compassion,—from sympathy and generous aims, and all the infinite power of the Divine world is at its service.
* * * * *
[Sidenote: The Service of the Gods.]
"We had letters to send; couriers could not go fast enough, not far enough; broke their wagons, foundered their horses; bad roads in spring, snowdrifts in winter, heats in summer; could not get the horses out of a walk.
"But we found out that the air and earth were full of Electricity, and always going our way—just the way we wanted to send. Would he take a message? Just as lief as not; had nothing else to do; would carry it in no time. Only one doubt occurred one staggering objection—he had no carpet bag, no visible pockets, no hands, not so much as a mouth, to carry a letter. But, after much thought and many experiments, we managed to meet the conditions, and to fold up the letter in such invisible, compact form as he could carry in those invisible pockets of his, never wrought by needle and thread—and it went like a charm.
"Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star, and see his chores done by the gods themselves. That is the way we are strong, by borrowing the might of the elements. The forces of steam, gravity, galvanism, light, magnets, wind, fire, serve us day by day, and cost us nothing."
With his wonderful insight into conditions, Emerson thus expresses a provision of conditions that are now being realized to an even greater degree than he consciously knew, although he unconsciously foretold them. Now it is wireless telegraphy that is the ultimate fulfilment of what he saw,—the method that will reduce to practical realization his counsel to hitch one's wagon to a star, and "see his chores done by the gods themselves."
It is not only humanity—civilization—the onward sweep and march by the progress of the world, but the individual life also that can take advantage of "the might of the elements." The one irresistible element is the power of will, the power that results from the perfect uniting of the human will with the divine will. People talk of fate, and conditions, and burdens, and limitations. They are all merely negative, and are easily and instantly subject to the infinite and irresistible potency of the will brought to bear upon them.
On the threshold of any endeavor when one takes account of his possessions and conditions,—material and immaterial; when he again, from a new vantage ground, surveys his future, it is his salvation and success to realize the depth and height of his own personal power over his own life.
"There are points from which we may command our life, When the soul sweeps the future like a glass, And coming things, full freighted with our fate, Jut out on the dark offing of the mind."
But when these points appear they must be taken advantage of at the moment. They are the result of an occultation of events that may never occur again within the limits of a lifetime. The swift intuition that leaps over all conceivable processes is the heaven-appointed monitor. It is the divine voice speaking. It is the word which must be obeyed. When one
"... by the Vision splendid Is on his way attended,"
he must give heed to the vision or it vanishes and returns no more.
We need a new, a deeper, a far more practical realization that the ideals and visions which flash before us are the real mechanism of life; that they are the working model by which one is to pattern his experience, in outward selection and in grouping by means of his own force of will. Somewhere has Emerson said,—
"All is waste and worthless till Arrives the wise selecting will,"
which is, to the potential circumstances, like a magnet introduced among filings that suddenly attracts to itself and draws all into related and orderly groups. Circumstances are thus amenable to the power of will brought to bear that selects, arranges, combines, after the pattern of the revealed ideal held in view.
Each individual life may "borrow the might of the elements." Man is created, not only in the image of God, but with God-like faculties and potency, which, if he but truly relate them to the divine potency, if he unite his will with God's will, there is then no limit, no bound to that which he may achieve.
In one of the most wonderful creations of Vedder, the artist shows us the figure of a woman whose eyes are closed, and whose hands, lying in her lap, are inextricably entangled amid crewels and threads that bind and hold them. But one sees, also, that she has but to open her eyes, and lift her hands, and all the entanglement would fall off of itself. The picture offers the most typical lesson of life. All imprisonment of conditions is dissolved into thin air the instant one impresses his own will-power on the affairs and circumstances of his life. He can do that which he desires to do. The desire has only to be intensified into conscious, intelligent choice, into absolute will,—and all the minor barriers melt away and are no more. Every life may hitch its wagon to a star. It may borrow the might of the elements. It has but to resolve to hold its ideal firmly and clearly in mind, and it will then be realized as the sculptor's dream in clay is realized in the marble. "All things are yours," said Saint Paul. One has but to take his own; to wisely and clearly select the elements and combine them by that irresistible potency of mental magnetism and energy.
THE POWER OF THE EXALTED MOMENT.
"The salvation of Christ is the complete occupation of the human life by the divine life."
It is in our best moments, not in our worst moments, that we are most truly ourselves. Oh believe in your noblest impulses, in your purest instincts, in your most unworldly and spiritual thoughts! You see man most truly when he seems to you to be made for the best things. You see your true self when you believe that the best and purest and devoutest moment which ever came to you is only the suggestion of what you were meant to be and might be all the time. Believe that, O children of God! This is the way in which a soul lives forever in the light which first began to burn around it when it was with Jesus in the Holy Mount.—PHILLIPS BROOKS.
The power of the exalted moment is the very motor of human life. The exalted moment is the dynamo that generates the working energy. The moment itself fades; it passes into the region of memory where its true service is to shine, with the unfailing continuance of radium, as a perpetual illumination of life. It is the greatest, the saddest, the most hopelessly fatal error that can be made,—to cast away from one the exalted moment because it has not fulfilled itself in outer condition and circumstance. Vision and prophecy are given by God for a working model, which the long patient days—days of monotony, of trial, of commonplace work under commonplace conditions, amid commonplace people and events—are yet to fashion and fulfil. These are the material,—the ordinary events, the commonplace daily duty. The perplexity of problems rather than the clear grasping of their significance; the misunderstanding and the misconstruction of motive that make the tragedy of life; the interpretation of evil where one only meant all that was true, and sympathetic, and appreciative, and holy; the torture and trial, where should be only sweetness of spirit and true recognition,—of all these are the days made; all these are a part of "the flowing conditions of life," which it is the business, the responsibility, the personal duty, to transmute into noble living, into poetry and ecstasy and exaltation, and into that perfect faith in God that can truly say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." Though He slay all that made life seem worth the living; the enchantment, the response of sympathy; recognition rather than misconstruction,—though all these be obscured in what may seem a total eclipse,—still let one not forget "The Gleam;" still let one keep faith with the power of the exalted moment. It came from God and held its deep significance. It laid upon its beholder consecration of divinest aspiration and unfaltering effort. "If I could uncover the hearts of you who are listening to me this morning," said Phillips Brooks, in a memorable sermon, "I should find in almost all—perhaps in all—of them a sacred chamber where burns the bright memory of some loftiest moment, some supreme experience, which is your transfiguration time. Once on a certain morning you felt the glory of living, and the misery of life has never since that been able quite to take possession of your soul. Once for a few days you knew the delight of a perfect friendship. Once you saw for an inspired instant the idea of your profession blaze out of the midst of its dull drudgery. Once, just for a glorious moment, you saw the very truth, and believed it, without the shadow of a cloud. And so the question comes,—What do they mean? What value shall I give to those transformation experiences?"
On the personal answer to that question depends all the success or the failure; all the nobleness or the unworthiness of the individual life. No one can estimate too ardently, or too earnestly, the spiritual salvation of keeping faith with the exalted moment,—
"Delayed, it may be, for more lives yet, Through worlds I shall traverse—not a few, With much to learn and much to forget"—
ere the golden hour of fulfilment shall come; but faith in the exalted moment is but another name for faith in God.
The great truth of life—that which we may well hold as its central and controlling and dominating truth—is that "our best moments are not departures from ourselves, but are really the only moments in which we have truly been ourselves." These moments flash upon the horizon of the soul and vanish; they image themselves before us as in vision, and fade; but the fact of their appearance is its own proof of their deep reality. They are the substance compared with which all the lower and lesser experiences are mere phantasmagoria.
And this fulfilment is not found, but made. It is a spiritual achievement. So let one not reject, or ignore, or be despairing before undreamed-of, unexplained, and incomprehensible forms of trial, but know that it is trial that worketh patience; know that "no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
"It was given unto me," wrote Dante in the Vita Nuova, "to behold a very wonderful vision; wherein I saw things that determined me."
It may be given to any one at any time to behold the vision. Circumstances are fluidic and impressionable, and take on any form that the mental power has achieved sufficient strength to stamp, and because of this—which is the explanation of the outward phenomena whose significance, on the spiritual side, is all condensed in prayer—one need never despond or despair. At any instant he can so unite his own will with the divine will that new combinations of event and circumstance will appear in his life. A writer on this line of thought has recently said:—
"There is an elemental essence—a strange living essence—which surrounds us on every side, and which is singularly susceptible to the influence of human thought.
"This essence responds with the most wonderful delicacy to the faintest action of our minds or desires, and this being so, it is interesting to note how it is affected when the human mind formulates a definite, purposeful thought or wish."
There is a phase of occult thought represented at its best by Mr. C. W. Leadbeater of London, and at its worst by a host of miscellaneous writers, whose speculations are more or less grotesque and devoid of every claim to attention, who materialize thought and purpose, and invest it with an organism which they name "an elemental," and one finds Mr. Leadbeater saying things like this, of the results of an intensely held thought:—
"The effect produced is of the most striking nature. The thought seizes upon the plastic essence, and moulds it instantly into a living being of appropriate form,—a being which when once thus created is in no way under the control of its creator, but lives out a life of its own, the length of which is proportionate to the intensity of the thought or wish which called it into existence. It lasts, in fact, just as long as the thought force holds it together."
Mr. Leadbeater continues:—
"Still more pregnant of results for good or evil are a man's thought about other people, for in that case they hover not about the thinker, but about the object of the thought. A kindly thought about any person or any earnest wish for his good will form and project toward him a friendly artificial elemental; if the wish be a definite one, as, for example, that he may recover from some sickness, then the elemental will be a force ever hovering over him to promote his recovery, or to ward off any influence that might tend to hinder it, and in doing this it will display what appears like a very considerable amount of intelligence and adaptability, though really it is simply a force acting along the line of the least resistance—pressing steadily in one direction all the time, and taking advantage of any channel that it can find, just as the water in a cistern would in a moment find the one open pipe among a dozen closed ones, and proceed to empty itself through that."
This train of speculation, which if one is to reject he must first confront, is demoralizing. It leads nowhere save into mental quagmires and quicksands. It leads into materiality and not into spirituality. Of course with all this the one question is as to whether such conceptions are true; but judged by intuition, which is the Roentgen ray of spirit—judged by the data reached by scholars and thinkers, by psychologists and scientists—it has no claim to recognition. That thought is the most intense form of energy, its potency far exceeding that of even electricity, is certainly true, and that one can think himself—or another person—into new and different outward phases and circumstances is most true.
Tesla, in a paper discussing the problem of how to increase the sum of human energy, considers the possibility of the existence of organized beings under conditions impossible for us. "We cannot even positively assert that some are not present in this, our world, in the very midst of us," he says, "for their constitution and life manifestation may be such that we are unable to perceive them."
This speculative possibility opens the gate to the scientific recognition of the truth that "all the company of heaven" may companion us, here and now, in the terrestrial life, invisible, intangible, inaudible to the perceptions of sense. It may largely be through their ministry and mediation that the unforeseen and unexpected opportunities, privileges, gifts fall upon man,—gifts that the gods provide.
Dreams, visions, and ideals are given that they may be realized. The vision is projected from the higher spiritual realm as the working model, the pattern of the life here. A dream is something to be carried out; not put aside and neglected and lost in over-lying and ever-accumulating stratas of experience. The dream, once clearly recognized, becomes a personal responsibility. It has been revealed for a purpose. It is the Divine revelation to the individual life, and these visions are given to the individual as well as to humanity, and they are the most significant occurrences in the entire experience of life. To once clearly recognize this divine ideal, this glorious vision of possibilities that shines once and for all upon the individual, and then to turn away from it and leave it unrealized in the outward life: to put it by, because the effort to transform the vision into external and visible conditions is surrounded with difficulties and invested with perplexities, is to wander into the maze of confusion. Difficulties are merely incidental. They are neither here nor there. If God give the dream He will lead the way. If He gives it, He means something by it, and its significance should be appreciated and taken into life as a working energy. It is the will of the Lord, and to pray sincerely that the Divine will be done, is also to accept the obligation of entering into the doing of it. Indeed, difficulties and perplexities in the way do not count and should not. Briars and brambles there will always be, but one's path lies onward all the same. Who would relinquish a right purpose because its achievement were hard? All the more should he press on and gain the strength of the obstacles that he overcomes.
Doctor William T. Harris says, "Realize your ideals quickly." That is, an ideal is a responsibility; it is the working model that God has set before the individual; the pattern after which and by which he shall shape his life. If he accept and follow it with fidelity and energy; with that energy born of absolute faith in the Divine leading,—he will find himself miraculously led; he will find that the obstacle which appears so insurmountable in perspective vanishes as he comes near; that a way is made, a path appears.
It chanced to the writer of these papers to take a long day's stage drive one summer through the Colorado mountain region. For a distance of forty-five miles the solitary road wound on and on, ever ascending through the dreamy, purple mountains. The entire route was a series of vistas that apparently came to an abrupt end at the base of an insurmountable height. The mountain wall seemed to utterly arrest progress, as it rose across the ascending valley through which the driver urged his "four-in-hand," and no way to pass beyond the next mountain ahead could possibly be discerned. But as the stage drew near, a way, unseen before, revealed itself, and the winding road found its outlet and onward course in another valley opening by a natural pass between the hills, and one that apparently in its turn was as inevitably blocked at its end by another mountain range. It was a constant interest to watch the changing landscape and discover the new ways that constantly came in sight as fast as the need for them came. That day amid the dreamy purple of the Colorado mountains was one to translate itself into renewed trust in the Divine guidance on the journey of life. Some wonderful words of Phillips Brooks seemed to write themselves on the air:—
"Look up, poor soul, out of the valley and know that on the top of yonder shining mountain lies folded safe the secret of your life, the oracle which would, if you could read it, solve all your mysteries and tell you just exactly how you ought to live. Look up out of the valley and know that it is there; and then turn back again into the valley, for in the valley is the home where you must live, and you can never read the oracle which you know is there upon the mountain top."
That day, alone with the mountains and with God, was one to leave its impress forever upon life. It was a day of solutions as well as of impressions—of solutions of the problem of living. One has but to follow the path that God has revealed to him, and however insurmountable the difficulties that seem to hedge him in and to limit his progress, they vanish as they are drawn near, and a way is revealed.
[Sidenote: Obey the Vision.]
To forsake a dream as being impracticable and impossible of realization is to take the wrong turning in life, like one who leaves the mountain road,—which winds in and out of the passes, on and on, and leads to a definite place at last,—and, because he sees an apparently impassable mountain wall across the path, forsakes this and wanders off into some other valley and defile that looks more open, but in whose mazes he loses himself and makes no progress toward his true destination.
No,—when the vision shines suddenly upon one's life, it is God's call to him to realize in it outward expression. The difficulties that hedge it round about will vanish as he approaches them. A dream is given to be realized. It is the working model that God sends into one's life for that full expression which alone is at once his best service and truest success. It is the common daily work of fulfilling duties add meeting claims. "Not by the exceptional," says Maeterlinck, "shall the last word ever be spoken; and, indeed, what we call the sublime should be only a clearer, profounder insight into all that is perfectly normal." It is of service, often, to watch those on the peaks who do battle; but it is well, too, not to forget those in the valley below who fight not at all. As we see all that happens to these whose life knows no struggle; as we realize how much must be conquered in us before we can rightly distinguish their narrower joys from the joy known to them who are striving on high, then, perhaps does the struggle itself appear to become less important; but, for all that, we love it the more. This normal fulfilment of the due claims of ordinary life leads to that order of success which is a beautiful and desirable one, and which is almost a universal aim and purpose. Aspirations and energy are its factors, and these are of all various and varying degrees of excellence according to the specific aim in view. Success itself, therefore, is merely a representative term, and may be used regarding almost every variety of achievement, from the triumphant winning of a game of football, the making of a great fortune, the attainment of professional or political rank, the production of great art, the acquirement of world-wide fame, or the achievement of character that is potent for fine and ennobling influence. All these are typical of myriad forms of the thing the world calls success, and while it involves a vast amount of competition, of selfishness, of greed, of injustice, it is yet a matter of the progress of humanity that each individual should strive after the highest form of attainment that he is capable of conceiving. In the long run, and as a general principle, this is advantageous and desirable. It involves and indeed develops many of the lower and baser qualities; but these are the tares among the wheat, and the wheat is essential. The great enterprise that builds a railway across the continent, tunneling under mountains, or climbing the precipitous inclines; that inaugurates a new steamer line, or that exerts itself for the founding of institutions for culture or technical instruction; that concerns itself with municipal reforms and improvements,—all these expressions of energy are manifestations of successful effort, and are necessary to the onward march of civilization. Yet the visible achievement is not, after all, the realization of the highest ideal of success.
The conditions of success may best be approached by a clearly defined idea of what success itself means, what it stands for to us, what proportion of our real life it represents. Success is the watchword of American life—one might almost, indeed, say that it is made the test of our national life to a far greater degree than in any other country. The elements are well defined in Emerson's phrase of "the flowing conditions of life." They are, indeed, more than merely plastic and malleable; they are fluid, flowing, and the constant advance into higher states of life is precisely in proportion to the mental and moral force of the individual brought to bear upon them. Even this assertion, however, is to hold in the light of the true conception of success itself. We see a man whose life is conspicuously that of mental and moral force, working faithfully and ably day by day, year by year, and yet never being free from certain financial anxieties, if not financial needs; while his neighbor, who is neither very learned nor able, nor yet in any wise remarkable in his moral development, is living much after the fashion of Midas, whose touch turned everything to gold. But is gold the test of success?
The panorama of life is a complicated one. It used to be the fashion of the novelists to represent the world of riches and fashion as the world devoid of sympathy and love, and often, indeed, as devoid even of moral principle; while the world of poverty and toil was held up as composed of men and women whose lives were all unselfishness and sacrifice, and as those who truly followed the example of Him who was meek and lowly of heart. But the panorama of actual life reveals no such sharply defined divisions as that. Virtue and vice are not checked off into special and separate regions; wealth has its greatness of mind and beneficence of sympathy and love, and poverty has its selfishness and cruelty and injustice. Other things being equal, the command of unlimited means may be so used as to make it one of the great blessings of life, and this fact is attended and illustrated by such an increasing array of evidence as to make the statement merely the trite one of every-day fact. Again, that prominence in affairs that we call position is good if rightly used, and to an increasing degree it is so used. Noblesse oblige is the watchword of modern life.
"Success in thyself, which is best of all."
That line from a poem of Emerson's most clearly defines true success. The "power of conduct, the power of intellect and knowledge, the power of beauty, and the power of social life and manners,"—to achieve such power as is thus enumerated by Matthew Arnold, and adding to it that which is greater than all, and that without which all else is useless and unvitalized, the power of the Divine energy received through prayer,—these are the powers and achievements that tend to the true and only success,—the success of character.
New conceptions of the old watchwords of life are in the air. In "Culture" President Eliot of Harvard sees new points of view; he finds a new definition of the cultivated man, who is not, in this Twentieth-Century reading of the term, to be "a weak, critical, fastidious creature, vain of a little exclusive information or of an uncommon knack in Latin verse or mathematical logic; he is to be a man of quick perceptions, broad sympathies, and wide affinities, responsive but independent, self-reliant but deferential, loving truth and candor, but also moderation and proportion, courageous but gentle, not finished but perfecting."
"The situation that has not its ideal was never yet occupied by man," well said Goethe; and perhaps one of the greatest aids to both achievement and happiness would be to recognize this ideal as the standard placed before one, the model after which he is to fashion his life, because he is, now and here, in the Divine Presence, because now and here he "stands before God." Nor is this too sublime a test for the trivialities of every day. As a matter of truth, nothing is trivial that has to do with the life of the spirit. The petty irritations, impatience, vexations, and disappointments of life are things that affect one's spiritual quality, that make or mar his higher self, that accelerate or retard his progress in the upward way, according as these feelings are allowed to take control or are resolutely conquered. The occurrences that excite them are, to the life of the spirit, like the "gifts" in a kindergarten,—they are the object lessons by means of which growth and progress are attained. Now, if one can conceive of his life, every day, every hour, as lived in the very presence of the Divine; if he can realize himself at all times as "standing before God," how this recognition transforms all the conditions and circumstances! The drama of living is instantly lifted up to a higher plane. That which was hard becomes easy; that which was sad, or dull, or unattractive, becomes invested with interest. One is living, not unto himself, but unto God. He is living within that marvellous, all-enfolding charm and radiance. He is an actor in the great spiritual drama, and he feels the stimulus of playing his part nobly and well.
And they who have gone behind the curtain come forth and minister to him. He is aware of the courage of companionship.
"'Mortal,' they softly say, 'Peace to thy heart. We, too, yes, mortal, Have been as thou art.'"
Voices unheard by the outer ear speak to the soul; presences unseen by the eye are yet felt, giving their sympathy and stimulus.
It is good to remember that it is not only after death that the soul stands before God; that here and now is the heavenly test to which life must be held amenable; here and now must one make his thought and his acts those that know only the ideals of love and generosity and sweetness and courage. One may thus call up all his higher forces to meet misunderstandings with patience and with love: to meet adverse fortune with courage and with stronger and more intense endeavor; to live above the tide of jar or fret so as to dwell in perpetual radiance and sunshine of spirit. This is to "stand before God" here and now, through the days and the experiences of the life that is, as well as to anticipate standing before His Presence in that which is to come.
* * * * *
[Sidenote: The Open Door.]
Visions and enthusiasms are the only true guides in life. To keep true to the ideal dream that in some rare and exalted moment falls upon the soul, is to set one's steps toward that success which lies in fulfilment. Such dreams may be obscured by passing clouds; they may become entangled with the transient and the trivial; but nothing that is temporary holds over them any power to disintegrate or to destroy, for they are made of heavenly revealings and illuminations.
The ideal that reveals itself in a sudden vision of the higher harmonies and achievements possible to human life is but another name for the Opportunity which Shakespeare defines,—the opportunity that, if one fail to accept it, vanishes, to leave all the remainder of life "bound in shallows and in miseries."
There is something about hesitation and reconsiderations that is curiously fatal to successful achievement. Good fortune is in going on,—not in going back. The parable of Lot's wife, who turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back, is by no means inapplicable to the life of to-day. Let one on whom the vision has shone look backward instead of forward and he becomes paralyzed and immovable. He has invoked inimical influences. He is impeded by the shallows and the miseries. He has withdrawn himself from all the heavenly forces that lead him on. The fidelity to the vision is the vital motor. It gives that exhilaration of energy which makes possible the impossible.
"The Americans have many virtues," said Emerson, "but they have not Faith and Hope. I know no two words whose meaning is more lost sight of. We use these words as if they were as obsolete as Selah. And yet they have the broadest meaning and the most cogent application. The opening of the spiritual senses," continues Emerson, "disposes men even to greater sacrifices, to leave their signal talents, their means and skill of procuring a present success, their power and their fame,—to cast all things behind in the insatiable thirst for divine communications. A purer fame, a greater power, rewards the sacrifice."
Each recurring New Year is an open door. However arbitrary are the divisions of Time, there is inspiration and exaltation in standing on the threshold of an untried year, with its fresh pages awaiting record. It is, again, the era of possibilities. The imaginative faculty of the soul must, indeed, be "fed with objects immense and eternal." Life stretches before one in its diviner unity,—even in the wholeness of the life that is and that which is to come. There is not one set of motives and purposes to be applied to this life, and another set to that which awaits us. This is the spiritual world, here and now, and it is the business of man to live divinely in it; to be responsive to the enthusiasms that enchant his thought; to be faithful to the vision that beckons him on. It is well to drop the old that one may seize the new. Progress lies in a successive series of new conditions. Let one give all and ask for nothing,—let him yield himself wholly to the overpowering enthusiasm; let him not look backward from his vision of the Morning Star and the Promised Land, and thus shall the New Year fulfil itself in ever widening glory and that enchanting loveliness which invests the higher fulfilments of life.
* * * * *
[Sidenote: Interruptions as Opportunities.]
"To work, to help and to be helped, to learn sympathy through suffering, to learn faith by perplexity, to reach truth through wonder,—behold! this is what it is to prosper, this is what it is to live," said Phillips Brooks. When Herbert Spencer produced his great "Data of Ethics" he did not consider in it the ethics of interruptions which sometimes assume a formidable place in the strenuous life. One is perhaps exceptionally patient and tolerant when it is a question of great trial or calamity, and not infrequently very impatient with the trifling annoyances and demands and interruptions that occur. Yet, is there not just here a richness of opportunity in the aim to "do good to all men" that may often be unrecognized? A writer who may be pressed for time finds in his mail-matter a number of personal requests from strangers. One package contains manuscripts, perhaps, which a woman in Montana entreats shall be read and returned with advice or suggestion. Some one in Texas wants a paragraph copied that he may use it in compiling a calendar. An individual in Indiana has a collection of autographs for sale and begs to know of the ways and means for disposing of them. And an author in Arizona desires that a possible publisher be secured for her novel; and so the requests run on. Strictly speaking, perhaps, no one of these has any real right to thus tax the time and energy of a stranger; but is there not another side to it? Here are an array of interruptions, but why not give them another name—that of opportunities? One has, perhaps, his theories and his convictions regarding the service of humanity. He holds it to be a duty,—a privilege. He believes that it is through entering into this service that he may even co-operate with God in the onward progress. To "help humanity" is a very attractive and high-sounding term. But what is humanity? Is it not, after all, composed of individuals? And here are individuals to be helped; here they are, with their several individual requests, and the injunction of the apostle suggests itself, "As ye have therefore opportunity, ... do good unto all men." Do not the interruptions assume a new form, and are they not, thereby, transfigured into glad and golden opportunity?
And it is the will of God,—that great, resistless, and unceasing force, working underneath all our human wills—it is the will of God manifesting itself in small things as well as in those that seem outwardly more important, that has grouped all these special things together and sent them on an especially busy morning. Shall not one rejoice and recognize that the need of another is brought as a privilege to himself? The blessedness of giving is not limited to cheques and bank-bills. There are gifts that far transcend these,—gifts of patience, sympathy, thought, and counsel, and (such is the blessedness of the Divine Law) these are gifts that the poorest can give. The need on the one side may be the luxury on the other, for it invites sympathetic comprehension and the enlargement of friendly relations. And as for one's time,—even in a full and busy life,—it is not so much time that one requires as it is right conditions. An hour will do the work of a day, when the conditions are harmonious; and nothing so increases the degree of spiritual energy as the glow and ardor and joy of doing some little service for another. In this lies the real blessedness, the real luxury of life, and one reads the profound significance in the words of Maeterlinck: "It is well to believe that there needs but a little more courage, more love, more devotion to life, a little more eagerness, one day to fling open wide the portals of joy and truth." These qualities redeem the temporal to the immortal, for immortality is a condition of the soul, not a definite period in time. The soul, now and here, may put on immortality. Life is, after all, an affair of the immortal self, and it is the invisible powers which are its stay, its guide, and its inspiration. We live and move and have our being on the divine side of things. We only live—in any true sense—as we are filled with the heavenly magnetism. "Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance," says the apostle. Here is the true gospel to live by. There are "ways of life;" even through toil and trial they shall be reached. The one is eternal, the other temporal. It is unwise to lay too much stress on the infelicities of the moment. Exaltation alone is real; depression is unreal. The obstacle before one is not intended to stop progress, but to stimulate new energies to the overcoming.
"By living so purely in thought and in deed as to prevent the interposition of any barrier between his phenomenal and substantial self; and by steadfastly cultivating harmonious relations between these two,—by substantiating the whole of his system to the Divine Central Will, whose seat is in the soul,—the man gains full access to the stores of knowledge laid up in his soul, and attains to the cognition of God and the universe."
Among the "devastators of a day" there is encountered, however, a vast army of persons who advertise themselves vociferously as being wonder-workers of human life. According to their insistent proclamations, poverty is a "disease," and is to be cured by a course of correspondence lessons; beauty, address, gifts and graces and power, are secrets of which they hold the key; even death, too, is but another mental malady and is easily to be overcome by their recipes. All these fraudulent representations—as absurd as they are false—are but the gross distortion of the underlying truth that thought creates conditions and controls results. Thought cannot transform poverty into wealth by means of six lessons; but the right quality of thought can set in motion the causes which, carried on to fulfilment, result in an increasing prosperity and welfare. One may thus achieve the top of his condition through serenity and poise of spirit, and thus be enabled to see events and combinations in their true perspective. He is not overwhelmed and swept into abysses of despair because some momentary disaster has occurred, but he regards it in its relative significance to the general trend of matters, and thus remains master of the situation.
Still, if there are spurious claims to the power of the magician, and if these claims, paraded by the idle, invade disastrously the realms of the industrious in a continual procession of interruptions, there is something, too, to be said on the side of another—and a very genuine sort of wonder-working,—to transmute these interruptions into opportunities.
Individuality is the incalculable factor in life, and it is one, too, that must be fully allowed for, if one would proceed as harmoniously as possible among the unseen brambles and pitfalls that may beset his onward pathway. A very large proportion of the discords of life arise from the failure to take into consideration the special qualities in their special grouping that determine the person with whom one has to do,—qualities which are, practically, unalterable, and must simply be accepted and borne with as best one may. There is the person, for instance, who is always and invariably behind time in every movement of his life. He leaves undone the things that ought to be done, until there is little use in doing them at all. He exhausts the patience and excites the irritability of his friend, who is, by nature, prompt and always up with the hour. There is the person who, from some latent cause in his character, always manages badly; who reduces all his own affairs to confusion; who contrives to waste more money, time, and energy than industry and energy can produce; whose normal condition is a crisis of disaster, and who, if extricated from this seventy times seven, will contrive to fall into it again. All these, and a thousand variations on characters of this type, we see around us, or within ourselves, constantly, and a liberal proportion of the trial or discord incident to family life, or to friendship and companionship, is simply in constantly demanding of another that which he cannot give, which he does not possess. To ask of the habitual procrastinator that he shall be prompt; or of the defective manager that he shall keep his affairs in order and make the most and the best out of his possessions, is totally useless. In the evolutionary progress of life, he will probably, sometime and somewhere, learn wisdom and do better; but habit and temperament are not liable to meet a sea change into something new and strange all in the flash of a moment, and it is worse than useless to demand this, or to be irritated, or impatient, or even too sorrowful, because of this fact. There are things that cannot be cured,—at least, not immediately. Therefore they must be endured. When one once makes up his mind to the acceptance of this theory it is astonishing to see how it simplifies the problem. The philosophy is merely to do one's own part, but not to make any superhuman effort to do the other person's part also. Let it go. There is no use in making a casus belli of the matter. Nothing is ever helped by irritation over it,—even the irritation of generosity and love, which seeks only the good of the other.
There is, for instance, the procrastinating correspondent. You write, and you want a reply, and you want it straightway. On your own part you would make it with the promptness and despatch of the United States mail itself, but your correspondent is not constructed after the fashion of a galvanic battery, and although he means to respond at once, he doesn't. He has not the temperamental apparatus that works in that way. He has, perhaps, a thousand qualities that are better, finer, more important, but he does not happen to have that particular one. What then? Shall you make his life and your own a burden with complaint and reproach? By no means. Let it pass. It is a part of his individuality, and cannot—at the moment, at least—be altered. This one must frankly accept as the defect of his friend. But recognizing the defect need not blind one to the thousand virtues that his friend possesses.
In fact, as we have each and all our individual sins, negligences, and weaknesses, we may well limit our zeal for reform to our own needs, at least until we have achieved such perfection that we are entitled to require perfection on the part of our associates.
To the orderly, thrifty type of New England temperament nothing is more incompatible with sympathy than the bad management of the person not endowed with "faculty," as Mrs. Stowe well expresses it. And it must be conceded that a lack of the power essential to dominate the general affairs of life and keep them in due subordination and order, is an unmistakable draft on the affections. It is a problem as to just how far aid and sympathy do any good, and not infrequently the greater the real care and affection, the greater, too, is the irritation and the annoyance. But even the annoyance born of tender interest and love, it is better not to feel too keenly. Let one do what he can,—do all that is reasonable and right to assist in counterbalancing the ills that arise from defective management, and then let it pass, and not take it into his mind as a source of constant anxiety. We have all our lessons to learn, and every failure brings its own discipline as the inevitable result. "Regret calamities if you can thereby help the sufferer," as Emerson so well says; "if not, attend to your own work, and already the evil begins to be repaired."
* * * * *
[Sidenote: The Charm of Companionship.]
Of society, in the true sense, social life offers comparatively little. In the midst of ceremonial assembling one is starved for companionship. One may live in the very heart of what is held to be a brilliant social season and be as unutterably lonely as if in a desert solitude. Indeed, the latter offers compensations which the former denies. There is a great deal of companionship, however unrecognized, in the cloud of witnesses that encompass us round about, and whose presence is less vividly felt in the gleam and glitter of ceremonial society. The more general assemblages of clubs, teas, and receptions are so incorporated into the social system that no one could cancel these if he would, nor would he if he could. They have their uses. All exchange of human sympathies is good, even if it be somewhat superficial and spectacular. The more exclusive dinners are not without their special charm as occasions when conversation becomes possible on a less unsatisfactory scale than the exchange of inanities in crowded receptions. Yet, with due recognition of the stimulus and the brilliancy that may flash from a select group of people, the deeper truth remains that it is only in a more personal companionship that is found the supreme luxury of life, and that companionship is a relation existing solely between two, refusing its spell when that number is increased.
Nothing is less considered by society than companionship. It is considered an unheard-of waste of time to devote an entire evening to one guest, when, indeed, five, ten, or fifty might be warmed, lighted, and fed in the same time. The fashionable hostess invites her friends to pay off her social debts. If she can pay off fifty or five hundred—in the time that she would give to one, she felicitates herself on her clever management. The idea of inviting her friends because she really wishes to talk with them would bewilder her. She does not converse; she "receives." She arrays herself in her smartest gown, and her social interchange with each guest consists in a graceful greeting and a no less graceful adieu, followed by an epoch of private gratitude that the required entertainment is over. She consults her visiting list and conscientiously arranges for her next reception, or dinner, or dance, in the fulfilment of what she is pleased to call her social duties. And all this, however superficial or spectacular it may be, has its place, and serves, with more or less success, to promote social meeting, preliminary acquaintance, out of which the choicest friendships sometimes spring. But it is quite possible to concede that certain formalities and ceremonial observances have their legitimate place without conceding that they monopolize the resources of social enjoyment. When one comes to that—it is quite another matter.
The supreme gift and grace and enchantment of life is in sympathetic companionship. And this, in its truer sense, is a relation of spirit, an elective affinity, rather than a mere concurrence of intellectual or artistic tastes. It is quite possible for two persons to like Sargent's pictures, or to draw the line at the inane "society" play without, after all, finding themselves in any relations of especial sympathy. "Only that soul can be my friend," said Emerson, "which I encounter on the line of my own march; that soul to which I do not decline, and which does not decline to me, but, native of the same celestial latitude, repeats in its own all my experience." Margaret Fuller defined this sympathy as that of beings born under the same star. But phrases are of little worth,—the experience eludes all definitions and defies all phrasings. It exists by divine right, or it does not exist at all. It is a law unto itself. It is a recognition that has to do with the inward springs of thought and action.
Companionship is the inflorescence of social life,—its finest result, its most exquisite and perfect ideal. But it requires a certain degree of fitness. It requires the choice organization, the nobler and the finer degree of spiritual development. The crude person can pass well enough in a social assemblage, but only the choicer individuality is fit for that finer and more subtle relation of companionship.
Yet this highest realization of social enjoyment is, for the most part, relegated to shreds and patches of time. The mornings must be given to lectures, readings, receptions, clubs, and teas; the evenings must be devoted to dinners, dances, opera, concerts, plays, or musicales. For communion of friend with friend, spirit with spirit, there is no time. The crowning joy of life, in its possibilities for sympathetic companionship, is ignored. For companionship is a spiritual joy, and society recognizes only the spectacular pleasures. The finer order of social life for which the world were well lost, awaits its evolution.
* * * * *
"The life a man lives and the life he ought to live belong together. The real and the ideal lie side by side in the thought of God."
The distractions of life are every day's tragedy. The mutilation of purpose, the disintegration of time, the neutralization of all endeavor, which result from the perpetual occurrence of the unforeseen, cannot but prefigure itself as a theme for meditation to the worker who looks back on a day, a week, a month, an entire season, in which "the flighty purpose" has never been overtaken. The calendar has the inexorableness of fate. The day, the month, goes by, unrelenting. It may be shattered with feeble and inexpressive demands, but all the same it is gone, and it is unreturning. Whether freighted richly with the essential, or merely burdened with the ineffectual, it is equally irretrievable.
This involves a problem of life full of spiritual perplexity. Certainly, no man liveth to himself, or, if he does, his living is a selfish and worthless thing. Certainly a man is his brother's keeper—to a degree. The poet whose dream is about to crystallize in verse is assured that life is more than art, and that to sustain the spirits of the depressed caller who appears at that precise instant, with the unfailing instinct with which the depressed do invariably appear at a literary crisis,—he is assured that this act is a "nobler poem" than any he could write. And such is the tremendous impression that the gospel in the air of the service of humanity makes on us all, that he dare not disregard this possibility. He is not absolutely sure, it is true, that he is "serving humanity" in this individual instance, but he is not at all sure that it is not true; and he reflects that other days are coming, when, perhaps, by some divine dispensation, the depressed caller will not appear! But there are no days on which he, or his prototype, is not on hand, and so the problem ever remains a present, an immediate, and, alas! an insoluble one. For this is an age when the depressed, who have nothing to do, require, to sustain their drooping spirits, the sympathetic ministrations of those who are too busy to indulge in the languid luxury of gentle and romantic sadness. In fact, they feel a certain inalienable right to demand that current of sympathetic interest which otherwise would express itself in the specific work in which one is engaged. "You desire to 'serve humanity,' do you?" the depressed caller says, virtually, as he fixes the mere worker with his glittering eye. "Well, I am Humanity. What is a book compared to a human soul? Here, before you, in living personality, is a need. Can you forsake it for abstract literature?"
If the unfortunate worker has any species of the New England conscience he is at a disadvantage. He has nothing to say for himself. There are behind him more than two centuries of his ancestors who have preached and practiced self-sacrifice, generosity, love. In one sense he is even enfeebled by his ethical nature. It possesses him, rather than enables him to clearly and consciously possess it. He feels a certain magnetic attraction to the fulfilment of a definite purpose; but after all, the world is full of purposes and of far greater and abler persons than himself to carry them on; and perhaps this particular appeal is from one of those "little ones" whom the Christ he holds in reverence bids him care for first of all. Perhaps the immediate human need should take precedence over specific work. Perhaps it is a real human need. "Treat the people as if they were real," said Emerson; "perhaps they are so." And so he becomes the victim rather than the master of his own diviner life. He sees through a glass darkly. He is not in the least sure that he can do any good, but he is fearful he may do evil. And so he espouses what is really a negative side; a side of blind chance; a mere spiritual gambling, so to speak, and throws his stakes on the side of what may be useful, as he cannot prove to himself that it is not, and his life becomes a poor, mean, weak, ineffectual thing. He recalls Sir Hugo's counsel to Daniel Deronda: "Be courteous, be obliging, Dan; but don't give yourself over to be melted down for the tallow trade." He becomes sadly conscious that his entire time, purpose, energies are being simply, with his own dull consent, "melted down for the tallow trade," and that he himself is by way of being on a far more perilous margin than that of any one of the gently depressed spirits who devastate his days, and command him to create for them,—not energy, purpose, will,—but, instead, external conditions in which they may more luxuriously enjoy their romantic languor and their comforting consciousness of superior qualities.
Now is it not more than an open question that when temptation assumes the masque of "service," it is no less temptation, and that it is evil disguised as good? The woman who reads the infinitely uplifting sermons of Rev. Doctor Charles G. Ames; who solaces what she is pleased to call her soul in that marvelously great work, "The Expansion of Religion," by Rev. Doctor E. Winchester Donald; who is excited—and mistakes it for being aroused—by Rev. Doctor Philip Moxom's noble book called "The Religion of Hope;" or who entertains similar emotions over recent new and great and uplifting books by Rev. Doctor George A. Gordon or Rev. Doctor Lyman Abbott, or many another, often evolves the pleasing fantasy that all she requires for producing the same quality of work is the illumination of personal interviews or personal correspondence with them. "Surely," she reasons, "these men are servants of the Lord, and I am one of the least of these whose needs they are divinely commanded to serve. Is not the life more than meat? Should not the minister break off his morning meditation—an abstract thing, at best—to see me, who needs an immediate infusion of encouragement?"
And the tragedy of this is that the worker, who is true to his own purpose,—through good report or through ill report,—to the duties he is divinely commissioned to perform, is not infrequently entirely misunderstood. The woman who sends him a voluminous manuscript, accompanying pretty phrasings regarding his work, and modestly requesting that he shall read it, give his "views" on it, and decide just what editor or publisher will be rejoiced to issue it,—and who receives her pages of outpouring back by return mail with a note, however courteous, expressing his inability to fulfil this commission,—this woman becomes, as a rule, the enemy of the person who declines to be "melted down for the tallow trade." She may do no particular harm, but the antagonism is there. This, however, could be borne; but the nature sensitive to shades of human need is always liable to torture itself because of any failure to meet a specific demand. And this torture is disintegrating to that force of positive energy which a special work requires.
Is there not, then, a need for the gospel of one's own endeavor? that a given line of work, plainly revealed in hours of mystic communion with the Divine, indicated by the subtle trend of circumstance and condition,—is there not a need of realizing so clearly that it is the duty apportioned to the one fitted for it, that it shall inspire fidelity and reverence,—even at the risk of what the unthinking may describe as selfish absorption? For there are vast varieties of ministering for ministering spirits. The work of the social settlement is divine; but the poet and the painter, if they produce poems and paintings, cannot devote their time to its work. And the poems and the pictures have their value, as well as service in giving food and clothing to those in need. The special gift does require special conditions, and it is not selfish to insist on those conditions, when the special work is held as unto the Lord. It often requires more heroism, more faith, more love to deny than to accede to a given request. To yield is often easy; to be steadfast to one's own purpose, shining like a star upon the horizon, is not infrequently very difficult.
* * * * *
[Sidenote: A Summer Pilgrimage in Arizona.]
No pilgrimage of the Crusaders of old could be more impressive in its spiritual results than that which can be made to-day to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado in Arizona. The majesty and sublimity of the scene suggest another world, not, indeed, an "Inferno," but a "Paradiso." It is a sea of color, a very New Jerusalem, on which one looks down from the rim of this Titanic chasm. It is a vision not less wonderful than that beheld by Saint John in the Isle of Patmos.
The term "canyon" is a misnomer for this supreme marvel of earth. One journeys to it anticipating a colossal variation on Cheyenne Canon or the Royal Gorge. Instead, what does the tourist see?
The ridge of a vast mountain-chain over two hundred miles in length split asunder in a yawning chasm eighteen miles in width and over seven thousand feet deep; one in which a thousand Niagaras would be lost; in which a cliff that, relatively to the scene, does not impress one as especially lofty, yet which exceeds in height the Eiffel Tower in Paris; and another which does not arrest special attention, yet is taller than the Washington Monument. But the splendor of apparent architectural creations arrests the eye. "Solomon's Temple," the "Temple of Vishnu," and altars, minarets, towers, pagodas, colonnades, as if designed by architectural art, lie grouped in wonderful combinations of form and color.
"An Inferno, swathed in soft, celestial fires; a whole chaotic underworld, just emptied of primeval floods, and waiting for a new creative word; a boding, terrible thing, unflinchingly real, yet spectral as a dream, eluding all sense of perspective or dimension, outstretching the faculty of measurement, overlapping the confines of definite apprehension. The beholder is at first unimpressed by any detail; he is overwhelmed by the ensemble of a stupendous panorama, a thousand square miles in extent, that lies wholly beneath the eye, as if he stood upon a mountain peak instead of the level brink of a fearful chasm in the plateau whose opposite shore is thirteen miles away. A labyrinth of huge architectural forms, endlessly varied in design, fretted with ornamental devices, festooned with lace-like webs formed of talus from the upper cliffs, and painted with every color known to the palette in pure transparent tones of marvellous delicacy. Never was picture more harmonious, never flower more exquisitely beautiful. It flashes instant communication of all that architecture and painting and music for a thousand years have gropingly striven to express. It is the soul of Michael Angelo and of Beethoven.
"The spectacle is so symmetrical, and so completely excludes the outside world and its accustomed standards, it is with difficulty one can acquire any notion of its immensity. Were it half as deep, half as broad, it would be no less bewildering, so utterly does it baffle human grasp. Something may be gleaned from the account given by geologists. What is known to them as the Grand Canyon district lies principally in northwestern Arizona, its length from northwest to southeast in a straight line being about one hundred and eighty miles, its width one hundred and twenty-five miles, and its total area some fifteen thousand square miles. Its northerly beginning, at the high plateaus in southern Utah, is a series of terraces, many miles broad, dropping like a stairway step by step to successively lower geological formations, until in Arizona the platform is reached which borders the real chasm and extends southward beyond, far into the central part of that territory. It is the theory of geologists that ten thousand feet of strata have been swept by erosion from the surface of this entire platform, whose present uppermost formation is the Carboniferous; the deduction being based upon the fact that the missing Permian, Mesozoic, and Tertiary formations, which belong above this Carboniferous in the series, are found in their place at the beginning of the northern terraces referred to. The theory is fortified by many evidences supplied by examination of the district, where, more than anywhere else, mother earth has laid bare the secrets of her girlhood. The climax in this extraordinary example of erosion is, of course, the chasm of the Grand Canyon proper, which, were the missing strata restored to the adjacent plateau, would be sixteen thousand feet deep. The layman is apt to stigmatize such an assertion as a vagary of theorists, and until the argument has been heard it does seem incredible that water should have carved such a trough in solid rock. It is easier for the imagination to conceive it as a work of violence, a sudden rending of earth's crust in some huge volcanic fury; but it appears to be true that the whole region was repeatedly lifted and submerged, both under the ocean and under a fresh-water sea, and that during the period of the last upheaval the river cut its gorge. Existing as the drainage system of a vast territory, it had the right of way, and as the plateau deliberately rose before the pressure of the internal forces, slowly, as grinds the mills of the gods, through a period to be measured by thousands of centuries, the river kept its bed worn down to the level of erosion; sawed its channel free, as the saw cuts the log that is thrust against it. Tributaries, traceable now only by dry lateral gorges, and the gradual but no less effective process of weathering, did the rest."
In the innermost depths of this colossal chasm runs the Colorado River. Descending the stupendous crags and terraces by one of the two or three "trails," the traveller at last stands upon a sandy rift confronted by nearly vertical walls many hundred feet high, at whose base a black torrent pitches in a giddying onward slide that gives him momentarily the sensation of slipping into an abyss.
"With so little labor may one come to the Colorado River in the heart of its most tremendous channel, and gaze upon a sight that heretofore has had fewer witnesses than have the wilds of Africa. Dwarfed by such prodigious mountain shores, which rise immediately from the water at an angle that would deny footing to a mountain sheep, it is not easy to estimate confidently the width and volume of the river. Choked by the stubborn granite at this point, its width is probably between two hundred and fifty and three hundred feet, its velocity fifteen miles an hour, and its volume and turmoil equal to the Whirlpool Rapids of Niagara. Its rise in time of heavy rain is rapid and appalling, for the walls shed almost instantly all the water that falls upon them. Drift is lodged in the crevices thirty feet overhead."
Descending to this ledge the tourist "can hardly credit Powell's achievement, in spite of its absolute authenticity. Never was a more magnificent self-reliance displayed than by the man who not only undertook the passage of the Colorado River, but won his way. And after viewing a fraction of the scene at close range, one cannot hold it to the discredit of three of Major Powell's companions that they abandoned the undertaking not far below this point. The fact that those who persisted got through alive is hardly more astonishing than that any should have had the hardihood to persist. For it could not have been alone the privation, the infinite toil, the unending suspense in constant menace of death that assaulted their courage; these they had looked for; it was rather the unlifted gloom of those tartarean depths, the unspeakable horrors of an endless valley of the shadow of death, in which every step was irrevocable....
"Not the most fervid pictures of a poet's fancy could transcend the glories revealed in the depths of the Canyon; inky shadows, pale gildings of lofty spires, golden splendors of sun beating full on facades of red and yellow, obscurations of distant peaks by veils of transient shower, glimpses of white towers half drowned in purple haze, suffusions of rosy light blended in reflection from a hundred tinted walls. Caught up to exalted emotional heights, the beholder becomes unmindful of fatigue. He mounts on wings. He drives the chariot of the sun."
The language is not yet invented that can suggest any adequate idea of the Grand Canyon. Nor can it be painted or photographed, or in any way pictorially reproduced in a manner to afford any suggestion, even, of its sublimity in design and its perpetual enchantment of color. One beholds the temples and towers and mosques and pagodas glowing in rose-red, sapphire blue, with emerald and amber and amethyst, all blending, and swimming, apparently, in a sea of purple, or of pearl gray mist, the colors flashing through like flame under alabaster. The sunlight changes as the day wears on, and so this play of color changes,—glowing, fading, paling, flaming. Watching these magical effects from dawn to sunset, watching the panorama of color as it deepens into mysterious shadows and spectral illusions under the moonlight, one can only say, "What hath God wrought!" To contemplate this marvellous and sublime spectacle is to come into a new perception of the Divine creation.
* * * * *
Formerly almost as inaccessible as the Himalayas, the Grand Canyon in Arizona can now be reached by the most luxurious methods of modern travelling. From Williams, on the Santa Fe road, a branch line of sixty miles runs over the rolling mesas to the "Bright Angel" hotel at the "Bright Angel Trail." The journey is enchanted by beautiful views of the San Francisco mountains seen through a purple haze.
The entire journey through Arizona offers one of the most unique experiences of a lifetime. Is this "The Country God Forgot"? The vast stretch of the plains offer effects as infinite as the sea. The vista includes only land and sky. The cloud forms and the atmospheric effects are singularly beautiful. As one flies on into Arizona this wonderful color effect in the air becomes more vivid. Mountains appear here and there: the journey is up a high grade, and one realizes that he is entering the altitudes.
A special feature of interest in Arizona is the town of Flagstaff, famous for the great Lowell Observatory, established there by Percival Lowell, a nephew of the noble John Lowell, who founded the Lowell Institute in Boston. Professor Percival Lowell is a man of broad and varied culture, a great traveller, who has familiarized himself with most things worth seeing in this sublunary sphere, and has only failed to explore Mars from reasons quite beyond his own control. At his own expense he has founded here an Observatory, with a telescope of great power, by means of which he is making astronomical researches of the greatest value to science. The special advantage of Arizona in astronomical study is not the altitude, but in the fact that there is the least possible vibration in the air here. Mr. Lowell's work makes Flagstaff a scientific centre of cosmopolitan importance, and scholars and great scientists from all over the world are constantly arriving in the little Arizona mountain town to visit the Observatory.
Flagstaff has no little archaeological interest, also; the famous cliff dwellings of the Zuni tribe, which Frank Cushing explored and studied so deeply, are within a few miles of the town, located on the summit and sides of an extinct volcano. They now present the appearance of black holes, a few yards deep, often surrounded with loose and broken stone walls, and broken pottery abounds all over the vicinity. The most remarkable group of the cliff dwellers is to be seen in Walnut Canyon, eight miles from Flagstaff. This is one of the deep gorges, the cliffs rising several hundred feet above the valley; and they are sheer terraced walls of limestone, running for over three miles. In these terraces, in the most singularly inaccessible places, are dozens of the cliff dwellings. Some of them are divided into compartments by means of cemented walls, and they retain traces of quite a degree of civilization.
The petrified forests of Arizona are a most extraordinary spectacle, with its acres of utter desolation in its giant masses of dead trees lying prostrate on the ground. Arizona is a land of the most mysterious charm. The Grand Canyon alone is worth a pilgrimage around the world to see,—a spectacle so bewildering that words are powerless to suggest the living, changing picture. "Long may the visitor loiter upon the rim, powerless to shake loose from the charm, tirelessly intent upon the silent transformations until the sun is low in the west. Then the canyon sinks into mysterious purple shadow, the far Shinumo Altar is tipped with a golden ray, and against a leaden horizon the long line of the Echo Cliffs reflects a soft brilliance of indescribable beauty, a light that, elsewhere, surely never was on sea or land. Then darkness falls, and should there be a moon, the scene in part revives in silver light, a thousand spectral forms projected from inscrutable gloom; dreams of mountains, as in their sleep they brood on things eternal."
[Sidenote: A Tragic Idyl of Colorado.]
I hung my verses in the wind, Time and tide their faults may find. All were winnowed through and through, Five lines lasted sound and true; Five were smelted in a pot Than the South more fierce and hot; These the siroc could not melt, Fire their fiercer flaming felt, And the meaning was more white Than July's meridian light. Sunshine cannot bleach the snow, Nor time unmake what poets know. Have you eyes to find the five Which five hundred did survive?
Not only verses, but lives, are "winnowed through and through," and time and tide reveal their faults and their virtues. In the history of the State of Colorado there is one man whose life and work stand out in noble pre-eminence; whose character is one to inspire and to reward study as an example of intellectual and moral greatness. This man is Nathan Cook Meeker, the founder of the town of Greeley, Colorado; the founder and for many years the editor of the Greeley "Tribune;" later appointed by President Hayes, in a somewhat confidential capacity, the Indian Commissioner at White River, where he died the death of a hero, and where, marking the spot of the tragic massacre, the town of Meeker now stands, among the mountains of the Snowy Range.
Mr. Meeker, who is one of the heroes of pioneer civilization, founded this town in the very desert of sand and sage-brush. Its first inception is a wonderful idyl of the extension of progress into the unknown West. The vision of the bands of singing angels in the air that fell upon the shepherds in the Judean plains was hardly more wonderful than the vision out of which the town of Greeley arose from the desert. On a December night in the late sixties Mr. Meeker found himself one evening standing under the brilliant starry skies of Colorado near the foot of Pike's Peak. The marvellous splendor of the scene filled his mind with sublime picturings. In the very air before him he seemed to see a city arise in the desert—a city of beautiful ideals, of high purposes, of temperance, education, culture, and religion. The vision made upon him that permanent impression which the heavenly vision, revealed for one instant to a life, forever makes, however swiftly it may be withdrawn; however deep and dark the eclipse into which it fades and seems forever lost.
To Mr. Meeker had been granted the angelic vision. The ideal had been revealed, and it was revealed in order that it might be realized in the outer and actual world. He felt the power, the nameless thrill of enchantment that pervades this wonderful country. One who is a poet in heart and soul has said of this Pike's Peak region:—
"Over the range is another world—a happy valley hundreds of miles in extent, fenced in with beauty and joy; palisaded with God's own temples; roofed with crystal and gold, and afloat in dream life; perpetual youth in thought and growth—all of it life to the soul; music and rapture to the weary traveller of earth. Oh, the leaping ecstasy of it by day and by night, and at the dawn!"
This indescribable ecstasy of the Colorado air communicated itself to Mr. Meeker. He went home to New York; he called a meeting in Cooper Institute; Horace Greeley presided, and Mr. Meeker outlined his plans to the large audience. He presented them, also, in full detail in the columns of the "Tribune," and the result was that in 1870 he led a colony of some seven hundred to this most favorable site—now mid-way between two state capitols—fifty miles north of Denver and fifty miles south of Cheyenne; he laid out the town with broad boulevards and double rows of shade-trees while yet they lived in tents, and the shade-trees seen in his imagination are now an established fact. Greeley is to-day a town embowered in trees. The first work was to dig a canal at a cost of sixty thousand dollars, this being the initial experiment of upland irrigation. Such is, in outline, the history of Greeley, which the colony desired to name Meeker—for its founder—but which Horace Greeley's friend and associate editor insisted should bear its present name. Greeley is known as the "garden city" of Colorado, and that it was founded in faith and in ideals has been a determining fact in its quality of life and its phenomenal progress.
Nathan Cook Meeker was born in the "Western Reserve," in Ohio, in 1814, coming of the order of people whom Emerson characterized as those "who go without the new carpet and send the boy to college." Behind him were a long list of distinguished ancestry, men who through successive generations had stood for achievements. Mr. Meeker in his youth taught school, went into journalism, was connected with the New York "Mirror," and later was associated with George D. Prentice on the Louisville "Journal," now the "Courier-Journal," edited by the brilliant Henry Watterson. A versatile writer in both prose and verse, he wrote two or three books, one of which he dedicated to President Pierce. He married a woman of great force and exaltation of character, a native of Connecticut, and a descendant of Elder Brewster. She shared his aims and ideals.
In the decade of 1860-70 Horace Greeley, who was always waving his divining rod to see if it indicated the proximity of genius, discovered Mr. Meeker, and invited him to become the agricultural editor of the "Tribune," succeeding Solon Robinson. Mr. Meeker's work made a strong impression on the reading public of the day, and even Emerson inquired as to the authorship of some of Mr. Meeker's editorial work, which won the appreciation of the Concord seer.
In 1868 Mr. Meeker made a trip to the West for the "Tribune," writing a series of valuable letters embodying his observations of the country. It was during this journey that the night came which lends itself to imaginative picturing with dramatic vividness when, just after Christmas, he stood in the Garden of the Gods near the foot of Pike's Peak, while the stars of the Colorado skies blazed above him, and, as if by a flash of vision saw a town arise in the desert. The vision fell upon him like an inspiration. Founding towns seemed, indeed, to run in the family, as one of his ancestors had founded the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey, naming it after his wife.
Mr. Meeker returned to the Tribune office with his dream of a beautiful city to arise out of the sand and sage-brush of the desert. An idealist himself, Mr. Meeker had also the good fortune of having married a woman capable of sharing ideal dreams and of rising to the heights of sacrifice, and she, too, embraced his new enthusiasm.
"Go ahead," replied Mr. Greeley, when Mr. Meeker mentioned his new project, "the 'Tribune' will back you."
A meeting was then called in Cooper Institute, as before stated, Horace Greeley presiding, and John Russell Young entering into the idea with sympathy. Mr. Meeker presented his project of a Union colony to establish itself in Colorado. Of the conditions he said:—
"The persons with whom I would be willing to associate must be temperance men and ambitious to establish good society, and among as many as fifty, ten should have as much as ten thousand dollars each, or twenty should have five thousand dollars each, while others may have from two thousand to one thousand dollars and upward. For many to go so far without means could only result in disaster."
The members were to each contribute one hundred and fifty-five dollars to a fund to purchase and prepare the land. It was in April of 1869 that the committee made the purchase of forty thousand acres, located between the Cache la Poudre and the South Platte rivers, twenty-five miles from the Rocky Mountains and in full sight of Long's Peak. Greeley has a beautiful situation, and a perfection of climate that perhaps exists hardly anywhere else in all Colorado. Whatever the heat of the day, the nights are cool. The days are so bright, so beautiful, that they seem a very foretaste of paradise.
In the spring of 1870 the seven hundred members of Union Colony, with their families, arrived.
Mr. Meeker further stipulated:—
"In particular should moral and religious sentiments prevail, for without these qualities man is nothing. At the same time tolerance and liberality should also prevail. One thing more is equally important. Happiness, wealth, and the glory of a state spring from the family, and it should be our aim and a high ambition to preserve the family pure in all its relations, and to labor with the best efforts life and strength can give to make the home comfortable, to beautify and to adorn it, and to supply it with whatever will make it attractive and loved."
He added: "I make the point that two important objects will be gained by such a colony. First, schools, refined society, and all the advantages of life in an old country; while, on the contrary, where settlements are made by the old method, people are obliged to wait twenty, forty, or more years. Second, with free homesteads as a basis, with the sale of reserved lots for the general good, the greatly increased value of real estate will be for the benefit of all the people, and not for schemers and speculators. In the success of this colony a model will be presented for settling the remainder of the vast territory of our country."
Every deed granted forbade the sale of intoxicating liquors. The town was founded in the purest moral ideals of education, culture, faith, and prayer, and Greeley is everywhere pointed out to the tourist in Colorado as one of the most interesting features of the Centennial state.
Of the town Mr. Meeker himself said in one of his letters to the "Tribune": "Individuals may rise or fall, may live or die; property may be lost or gained; but the colony as a whole will prosper, and the spot on which we labor so long as the world stands will be a centre of intelligence and activity."
In 1876 Mr. Meeker was appointed commissioner from Colorado to the Centennial Exposition. He was strongly talked of for Congress, but his destiny led elsewhere.
Early in the seventies he founded "The Greeley Tribune," which he edited with conspicuous ability, making it the leading country paper of that part of the state.
The Indian troubles became a prominent problem of the government in the decade of the seventies, and this question deeply engaged Mr. Meeker's attention. He had his own theories regarding their treatment—ideas much in advance of his time, and which in some respects have been adopted in the best Indian legislation in Washington within the past two years. One point in Mr. Meeker's policy was that "work should go hand in hand and to some extent precede school education"—an insight comprising much of the truth taught to-day by the more eminent leaders of industrial education, and one which the recent Indian legislation, during the fifty-seventh Congress, has recognized. Mr. Meeker believed that the Indian could be advanced into the peaceful arts of civilized life, and this aim he held with conspicuous courage and fidelity.
With a desire to carry out these theories, Mr. Meeker applied for and received, under President Hayes, the post of commissioner to the Utes on White River in Colorado, his appointment being, as before stated, of a somewhat confidential nature, and charged with more important responsibilities than are usually included in this office. Mr. Meeker entered on the duties of this position with much that same high and noble purpose that inspired General Armstrong in his work at Hampton.
General Hall of Colorado, who is said to be the most authoritative historian of that state, thus wrote of Mr. Meeker's entrance on the agency at White River.
"In the spring of 1878 Mr. Meeker, founder of Union Colony and the now beautiful city of Greeley, at his own solicitation was appointed resident agent, succeeding several who had attempted to carry this benevolent enterprise into effect, but without material success. He was a venerable philanthropist, eminently representing the humanitarian school of the Atlantic seaboard, under the example of Horace Greeley, whom he revered above all the public men of his time.
"Thoroughly imbued with the purpose of educating, refining, and Christianizing the wild rovers of the mountains, and longing for an opportunity to put his cherished theories into practice, confident of his ability to bring about a complete transformation of their lives and character, he entered upon the work with deep enthusiasm. His ideals were splendid, eminently worthy of the man and the cause; but, unhappily, he had to deal with savages, of whose natures he was profoundly ignorant. He took with him his wife and youngest daughter, Josephine, and also a number of mechanics from Union Colony to aid in the great work of regeneration and redemption."
The Honorable Alva Adams of Pueblo, Colorado, ex-Governor of the state, writing of Nathan Cook Meeker, said:—
"Meeker was a patriot, and no soldier upon the field of battle was more loyal, and no one in the annals of our country has ever made a more awful sacrifice than the Meekers. But I need not tell the story. Back of it is the incompetent treatment of the Indians that was responsible for the Meeker massacre. Upon the government rests the blood and outrage of the Meekers. Nor can I recall that the Indians were ever adequately punished for the crime. It is a black spot."
Mrs. Meeker entered into the views and the work of her husband in this new field with sympathetic comprehension and sustaining aid. Their youngest daughter, Josephine, who shared the idealism of the family, opened a free school for the Indians.
Mr. Meeker encountered peculiar difficulties over a period of several months, during which he appealed, unsuccessfully, for government aid and protection. General William T. Sherman, in his report (1879) to the Secretary of War, alludes to these troubles; General Pope was familiar with the situation, and Major Thornburg, at Fort Steele, held himself ready to send protection to Mr. Meeker at a day's notice; but the government failed to give that notice.
The tragedy came swiftly and suddenly, like the fates in a Greek drama, and on September 29, 1879, Mr. Meeker was brutally massacred, his wife and daughter were taken into captivity, where, for twenty-three days, until rescued by General Adams, they endured unspeakable sufferings, and the agency buildings and their contents were burned.
To the awful spectacle of her husband's mutilated body, his wife—a woman of gentle birth and breeding—was led by the Indians, in their savage cruelty, to thus first learn of the tragedy. Through her agony of tears she pleaded to be allowed to stop and kiss the cold lips of him whose faithful, tender companion and wife she had been for thirty-five years. This last sacred consolation was denied her. With diabolical glee they reviled her tears and her prayers.
Her daughter Josephine, a girl of twenty, with the Evangeline type of face, was torn from her arms and hurried away into a deep, lonely canyon, which is now called "Josephine Valley." Mrs. Meeker herself was shot in her hip and left lame for life. She was thrust on a horse without even a saddle and carried off into the lonely mountains in this terrible captivity. Yet so sublime is the character of Mrs. Meeker in her deep religious feeling that in this moment of supreme desolation,—her husband's murdered body left alone on the ground; her daughter snatched from her arms; her home in smoking ruins behind her,—so remarkable is her character in its religious exaltation, that even in this hour of supreme agony she could say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!"
A little mountain town of some five hundred inhabitants, named Meeker, for the heroic man who there met his tragic death, now marks the site of the massacre. Even at this day it is forty-five miles from the nearest railroad station, Rifle, on the Denver and Rio Grand scenic route. The little town reminds one of Florence, Italy, in the way it is surrounded by amethyst mountains, and the White River on which it is located is far more beautiful than the turbid Arno. The name of Nathan Cook Meeker is held in the greatest reverence by the people of the entire region.
On an August afternoon more than twenty years after this tragedy a visitor to Colorado stood on the site of the massacre under a sky whose intense blue rivalled that of Italy. With the peaceful flow of the river murmuring in the air and the hum of insects in the purple-flowered alfalfa, the tragic scene seemed to rise again and impressed its lesson,—the ethical lesson of apparent defeat, disaster, and death in the outer and temporal world, while, on the spiritual side, it was triumph and glory and the entrance to the life more abundant. The man might be massacred,—the idea for which he stood cannot die. It rises from the apparent death and is resurrected in the form of new and nobler and more widely pervading ideals which communicate their inspiration to all humanity.
In the cemetery of Greeley lie buried the body of Mr. Meeker and of his daughter Josephine, whose early death followed close upon the tragedy. The aged widow, now in her eighty-ninth year, still survives, occupying her home in this Colorado town. Mrs. Meeker retains all her clearness of intellect; all her keen interest in the affairs of the day. She reads her daily newspapers, writes letters that are models of beautiful thought and exquisite feeling, and still continues to write the verse which through life has been the natural expression of her poetic nature. Mrs. Meeker writes verses as a bird sings—with a natural gift full of spontaneous music.
The work of Nathan Cook Meeker in all that makes for industrial and social progress and moral ideals contributed incalculable aid to Colorado. All over the state the tourist is asked, "Have you seen Greeley? That is our ideal town."
During all the years of Mr. Meeker's residence in Colorado he remained a staff correspondent of the "Tribune." Horace Greeley went to the West and visited the Colony; and in the fine high school building of Greeley to-day, there hang, side by side, the portraits of Horace Greeley and Nathan Cook Meeker.
In this world in which we live events are not finished when they have receded into the past. They persist in the texture of life. They stand for certain fulfilments, and, like Banquo's ghost, they will "not down" until their complete significance is worked out to its final conclusion.
"Say not the struggle naught availeth."
It always avails. It matters little as to amassing of possessions; but it matters greatly as to the purity of a man's motives and the degree to which he keeps faith with his ideals. Unfalteringly, even unto death, did Nathan Cook Meeker keep faith with those ideals that revealed themselves to him.
A noble work like that of Mr. Meeker is like the seed sown which is not quickened except it die. Sown in weakness, it is raised in power; sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. The three years of the ministry of Jesus on earth ended in defeat, disaster, and death. Was his life thereby a failure? Who has won the triumph's evidence—Pilate or Christ? Lincoln had to die that the nation might live. Heroism is forever being crowned with martyrdom.
All life is better to-day for every noble individual life that has been lived in the world. Nathan Cook Meeker was one who literally gave his life to lofty ideals, and this hero whom the Silver State holds in honor and reverence merits the recognition of the nation.
* * * * *
[Sidenote: A Remarkable Mystic.]
"The only affections which live eternally are those of the soul—those which have struck deep into the man and made part of his inmost being. The loves of the earthly mind die with it and form no part of the permanent man.... To enter the heavenly sphere and to come into communion with souls a generated state is necessary. There are four atmospheres surrounding us, and only in the highest of these do we find the freed soul. Interior knowledge, earnest aspiration, and purity of thought and life, are the keys by which alone can be opened the gates of the inmost and highest sphere. The lowest is enlightened by the natural sun. It is that of the present life of the body. The next is enlightened by the astral or magnetic light, and it is that of the sidereal body. The next is that of the soul, and it is enlightened by the spiritual sun. And the highest is the immediate presence of God."