The universal suffering is the anguish of all in seeking to be all else but without power to achieve it, the anguish of each in being he that he is, being at the same time all that he is not, and being so for ever. The essence of a being is not only its endeavour to persist for ever, as Spinoza taught us, but also its endeavour to universalize itself; it is the hunger and thirst for eternity and infinity. Every created being tends not only to preserve itself in itself, but to perpetuate itself, and, moreover, to invade all other beings, to be others without ceasing to be itself, to extend its limits to the infinite, but without breaking them. It does not wish to throw down its walls and leave everything laid flat, common and undefended, confounding and losing its own individuality, but it wishes to carry its walls to the extreme limits of creation and to embrace everything within them. It seeks the maximum of individuality with the maximum also of personality; it aspires to the identification of the Universe with itself; it aspires to God.
And this vast I, within which each individual I seeks to put the Universe—what is it but God? And because I aspire to God, I love Him; and this aspiration of mine towards God is my love for Him, and just as I suffer in being He, He also suffers in being I, and in being each one of us.
I am well aware that in spite of my warning that I am attempting here to give a logical form to a system of a-logical feelings, I shall be scandalizing not a few of my readers in speaking of a God who suffers, and in applying to God Himself, as God, the passion of Christ. The God of so-called rational theology excludes in effect all suffering. And the reader will no doubt think that this idea of suffering can have only a metaphorical value when applied to God, similar to that which is supposed to attach to those passages in the Old Testament which describe the human passions of the God of Israel. For anger, wrath, and vengeance are impossible without suffering. And as for saying that God suffers through being bound by matter, I shall be told that, in the words of Plotinus (Second Ennead, ix., 7), the Universal Soul cannot be bound by the very thing—namely, bodies or matter—which is bound by It.
Herein is involved the whole problem of the origin of evil, the evil of sin no less than the evil of pain, for if God does not suffer, He causes suffering; and if His life, since God lives, is not a process of realizing in Himself a total consciousness which is continually becoming fuller—that is to say, which is continually becoming more and more God—it is a process of drawing all things towards Himself, of imparting Himself to all, of constraining the consciousness of each part to enter into the consciousness of the All, which is He Himself, until at last He comes to be all in all—panta en paot, according to the expression of St. Paul, the first Christian mystic. We will discuss this more fully, however, in the next chapter on the apocatastasis or beatific union.
For the present let it suffice to say that there is a vast current of suffering urging living beings towards one another, constraining them to love one another and to seek one another, and to endeavour to complete one another, and to be each himself and others at the same time. In God everything lives, and in His suffering everything suffers, and in loving God we love His creatures in Him, just as in loving and pitying His creatures we love and pity God in them. No single soul can be free so long as there is anything enslaved in God's world, neither can God Himself, who lives in the soul of each one of us, be free so long as our soul is not free.
My most immediate sensation is the sense and love of my own misery, my anguish, the compassion I feel for myself, the love I bear for myself. And when this compassion is vital and superabundant, it overflows from me upon others, and from the excess of my own compassion I come to have compassion for my neighbours. My own misery is so great that the compassion for myself which it awakens within me soon overflows and reveals to me the universal misery.
And what is charity but the overflow of pity? What is it but reflected pity that overflows and pours itself out in a flood of pity for the woes of others and in the exercise of charity?
When the overplus of our pity leads us to the consciousness of God within us, it fills us with so great anguish for the misery shed abroad in all things, that we have to pour our pity abroad, and this we do in the form of charity. And in this pouring abroad of our pity we experience relief and the painful sweetness of goodness. This is what Teresa de Jesus, the mystical doctor, called "sweet-tasting suffering" (dolor sabroso), and she knew also the lore of suffering loves. It is as when one looks upon some thing of beauty and feels the necessity of making others sharers in it. For the creative impulse, in which charity consists, is the work of suffering love.
We feel, in effect, a satisfaction in doing good when good superabounds within us, when we are swollen with pity; and we are swollen with pity when God, filling our soul, gives us the suffering sensation of universal life, of the universal longing for eternal divinization. For we are not merely placed side by side with others in the world, having no common root with them, neither is their lot indifferent to us, but their pain hurts us, their anguish fills us with anguish, and we feel our community of origin and of suffering even without knowing it. Suffering, and pity which is born of suffering, are what reveal to us the brotherhood of every existing thing that possesses life and more or less of consciousness. "Brother Wolf" St. Francis of Assisi called the poor wolf that feels a painful hunger for the sheep, and feels, too, perhaps, the pain of having to devour them; and this brotherhood reveals to us the Fatherhood of God, reveals to us that God is a Father and that He exists. And as a Father He shelters our common misery.
Charity, then, is the impulse to liberate myself and all my fellows from suffering, and to liberate God, who embraces us all.
Suffering is a spiritual thing. It is the most immediate revelation of consciousness, and it may be that our body was given us simply in order that suffering might be enabled to manifest itself. A man who had never known suffering, either in greater or less degree, would scarcely possess consciousness of himself. The child first cries at birth when the air, entering into his lungs and limiting him, seems to say to him: You have to breathe me in order that you may live!
We must needs believe with faith, whatever counsels reason may give us, that the material or sensible world which the senses create for us exists solely in order to embody and sustain that other spiritual or imaginable world which the imagination creates for us. Consciousness tends to be ever more and more consciousness, to intensify its consciousness, to acquire full consciousness of its complete self, of the whole of its content. We must needs believe with faith, whatever counsels reason may give us, that in the depths of our own bodies, in animals, in plants, in rocks, in everything that lives, in all the Universe, there is a spirit that strives to know itself, to acquire consciousness of itself, to be itself—for to be oneself is to know oneself—to be pure spirit; and since it can only achieve this by means of the body, by means of matter, it creates and makes use of matter at the same time that it remains the prisoner of it. The face can only see itself when portrayed in the mirror, but in order to see itself it must remain the prisoner of the mirror in which it sees itself, and the image which it sees therein is as the mirror distorts it; and if the mirror breaks, the image is broken; and if the mirror is blurred, the image is blurred.
Spirit finds itself limited by the matter in which it has to live and acquire consciousness of itself, just as thought is limited by the word in which as a social medium it is incarnated. Without matter there is no spirit, but matter makes spirit suffer by limiting it. And suffering is simply the obstacle which matter opposes to spirit; it is the clash of the conscious with the unconscious.
Suffering is, in effect, the barrier which unconsciousness, matter, sets up against consciousness, spirit; it is the resistance to will, the limit which the visible universe imposes upon God; it is the wall that consciousness runs up against when it seeks to extend itself at the expense of unconsciousness; it is the resistance which unconsciousness opposes to its penetration by consciousness.
Although in deference to authority we may believe, we do not in fact know, that we possess heart, stomach, or lungs so long as they do not cause us discomfort, suffering, or anguish. Physical suffering, or even discomfort, is what reveals to us our own internal core. And the same is true of spiritual suffering and anguish, for we do not take account of the fact that we possess a soul until it hurts us.
Anguish is that which makes consciousness return upon itself. He who knows no anguish knows what he does and what he thinks, but he does not truly know that he does it and that he thinks it. He thinks, but he does not think that he thinks, and his thoughts are as if they were not his. Neither does he properly belong to himself. For it is only anguish, it is only the passionate longing never to die, that makes a human spirit master of itself.
Pain, which is a kind of dissolution, makes us discover our internal core; and in the supreme dissolution, which is death, we shall, at last, through the pain of annihilation, arrive at the core of our temporal core—at God, whom in our spiritual anguish we breathe and learn to love.
Even so must we believe with faith, whatever counsels reason may give us.
The origin of evil, as many discovered of old, is nothing other than what is called by another name the inertia of matter, and, as applied to the things of the spirit, sloth. And not without truth has it been said that sloth is the mother of all vices, not forgetting that the supreme sloth is that of not longing madly for immortality.
Consciousness, the craving for more, more, always more, hunger of eternity and thirst of infinity, appetite for God—these are never satisfied. Each consciousness seeks to be itself and to be all other consciousnesses without ceasing to be itself: it seeks to be God. And matter, unconsciousness, tends to be less and less, tends to be nothing, its thirst being a thirst for repose. Spirit says: I wish to be! and matter answers: I wish not to be!
And in the order of human life, the individual would tend, under the sole instigation of the instinct of preservation, the creator of the material world, to destruction, to annihilation, if it were not for society, which, in implanting in him the instinct of perpetuation, the creator of the spiritual world, lifts and impels him towards the All, towards immortalization. And everything that man does as a mere individual, opposed to society, for the sake of his own preservation, and at the expense of society, if need be, is bad; and everything that he does as a social person, for the sake of the society in which he himself is included, for the sake of its perpetuation and of the perpetuation of himself in it, is good. And many of those who seem to be the greatest egoists, trampling everything under their feet in their zeal to bring their work to a successful issue, are in reality men whose souls are aflame and overflowing with charity, for they subject and subordinate their petty personal I to the social I that has a mission to accomplish.
He who would tie the working of love, of spiritualization, of liberation, to transitory and individual forms, crucifies God in matter; he crucifies God who makes the ideal subservient to his own temporal interests or worldly glory. And such a one is a deicide.
The work of charity, of the love of God, is to endeavour to liberate God from brute matter, to endeavour to give consciousness to everything, to spiritualize or universalize everything; it is to dream that the very rocks may find a voice and work in accordance with the spirit of this dream; it is to dream that everything that exists may become conscious, that the Word may become life.
We have but to look at the eucharistic symbol to see an instance of it. The Word has been imprisoned in a piece of material bread, and it has been imprisoned therein to the end that we may eat it, and in eating it make it our own, part and parcel of our body in which the spirit dwells, and that it may beat in our heart and think in our brain and be consciousness. It has been imprisoned in this bread in order that, after being buried in our body, it may come to life again in our spirit.
And we must spiritualize everything. And this we shall accomplish by giving our spirit, which grows the more the more it is distributed, to all men and to all things. And we give our spirit when we invade other spirits and make ourselves the master of them.
All this is to be believed with faith, whatever counsels reason may give us.
* * * * *
And now we are about to see what practical consequences all these more or less fantastical doctrines may have in regard to logic, to esthetics, and, above all, to ethics—their religious concretion, in a word. And perhaps then they will gain more justification in the eyes of the reader who, in spite of my warnings, has hitherto been looking for the scientific or even philosophic development of an irrational system.
I think it may not be superfluous to recall to the reader once again what I said at the conclusion of the sixth chapter, that entitled "In the Depths of the Abyss"; but we now approach the practical or pragmatical part of this treatise. First, however, we must see how the religious sense may become concrete in the hopeful vision of another life.
 Reinold Seeberg, Christliche-protestantische Ethik in Systematische christliche Religion, in Die Kultur der Gegenwart series.
 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, secunda secundae, quaestio iv., art. 2.
 "Que es Verdad?" ("What is truth?"), published in La Espana Moderna, March, 1906, vol. 207 (reprinted in the edition of collected Ensayos, vol. vi., Madrid, 1918).
RELIGION, THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE BEYOND AND THE APOCATASTASIS
Kai gar isos kai malista prepei mellonta echeise apodemein diaskopein te kai muthologein peri tes apodemias tes echei, poian tina auten oiometha einai.—PLATO: Phaedo.
Religion is founded upon faith, hope, and charity, which in their turn are founded upon the feeling of divinity and of God. Of faith in God is born our faith in men, of hope in God hope in men, and of charity or piety towards God—for as Cicero said, est enim pietas iustitia adversum deos—charity towards men. In God is resumed not only Humanity, but the whole Universe, and the Universe spiritualized and penetrated with consciousness, for as the Christian Faith teaches, God shall at last be all in all. St. Teresa said, and Miguel de Molinos repeated with a harsher and more despairing inflection, that the soul must realize that nothing exists but itself and God.
And this relation with God, this more or less intimate union with Him, is what we call religion.
What is religion? In what does it differ from the religious sense and how are the two related? Every man's definition of religion is based upon his own inward experience of it rather than upon his observation of it in others, nor indeed is it possible to define it without in some way or another experiencing it. Tacitus said (Hist. v. 4), speaking of the Jews, that they regarded as profane everything that the Romans held to be sacred, and that what was sacred to them was to the Romans impure: profana illic omnia quae apud nos sacra, rursum conversa apud illos quae nobis incesta. Therefore he, the Roman, describes the Jews as a people dominated by superstition and hostile to religion, gens superstitioni obnoxia, religionibus adversa, while as regards Christianity, with which he was very imperfectly acquainted, scarcely distinguishing it from Judaism, he deemed it to be a pernicious superstition, existialis superstitio, inspired by a hatred of mankind, odium generis humani (Ab excessu Aug., xv., 44). And there have been many others who have shared his opinion. But where does religion end and superstition begin, or perhaps rather we should say at what point does superstition merge into religion? What is the criterion by means of which we discriminate between them?
It would be of little profit to recapitulate here, even summarily, the principal definitions, each bearing the impress of the personal feeling of its definer, which have been given of religion. Religion is better described than defined and better felt than described. But if there is any one definition that latterly has obtained acceptance, it is that of Schleiermacher, to the effect that religion consists in the simple feeling of a relationship of dependence upon something above us and a desire to establish relations with this mysterious power. Nor is there much amiss with the statement of W. Hermann that the religious longing of man is a desire for truth concerning his human existence. And to cut short these extraneous citations, I will end with one from the judicious and perspicacious Cournot: "Religious manifestations are the necessary consequence of man's predisposition to believe in the existence of an invisible, supernatural and miraculous world, a predisposition which it has been possible to consider sometimes as a reminiscence of an anterior state, sometimes as an intimation of a future destiny" (Traite de l'enchainement des idees fondamentales dans les sciences et dans l'histoire, Sec. 396). And it is this problem of human destiny, of eternal life, or of the human finality of the Universe or of God, that we have now reached. All the highways of religion lead up to this, for it is the very essence of all religion.
Beginning with the savage's personalization of the whole Universe in his fetich, religion has its roots in the vital necessity of giving human finality to the Universe, to God, and this necessity obliges it, therefore, to attribute to the Universe, to God, consciousness of self and of purpose. And it may be said that religion is simply union with God, each one interpreting God according to his own sense of Him. God gives transcendent meaning and finality to life; but He gives it relatively to each one of us who believe in Him. And thus God is for man as much as man is for God, for God in becoming man, in becoming human, has given Himself to man because of His love of him.
And this religious longing for union with God is a longing for a union that cannot be consummated in science or in art, but only in life. "He who possesses science and art, has religion; he who possesses neither science nor art, let him get religion," said Goethe in one of his frequent accesses of paganism. And yet in spite of what he said, he himself, Goethe...?
And to wish that we may be united with God is not to wish that we may be lost and submerged in Him, for this loss and submersion of self ends at last in the complete dissolution of self in the dreamless sleep of Nirvana; it is to wish to possess Him rather than to be possessed by Him. When his disciples, amazed at his saying that it was impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, asked Jesus who then could be saved, the Master replied that with men it was impossible but not with God; and then said Peter, "Behold, we have forsaken all and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?" And the reply of Jesus was, not that they should be absorbed in the Father, but that they should sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. xix. 23-26).
It was a Spaniard, and very emphatically a Spaniard, Miguel de Molinos, who said in his Guia Espiritual that "he who would attain to the mystical science must abandon and be detached from five things: first, from creatures; second, from temporal things; third, from the very gifts of the Holy Spirit; fourth, from himself; and fifth, he must be detached even from God." And he adds that "this last is the completest of all, because that soul only that knows how to be so detached is that which attains to being lost in God, and only the soul that attains to being so lost succeeds in finding itself." Emphatically a true Spaniard, Molinos, and truly Spanish is this paradoxical expression of quietism or rather of nihilism—for he himself elsewhere speaks of annihilation—and not less Spanish, nay, perhaps even more Spanish, were the Jesuits who attacked him, upholding the prerogatives of the All against the claims of Nothingness. For religion is not the longing for self-annihilation, but for self-completion, it is the longing not for death but for life. "The eternal religion of the inward essence of man ... the individual dream of the heart, is the worship of his own being, the adoration of life," as the tortured soul of Flaubert was intimately aware (Par les champs et par les greves, vii.).
When at the beginning of the so-called modern age, at the Renaissance, the pagan sense of religion came to life again, it took concrete form in the knightly ideal with its codes of love and honour. But it was a paganism Christianized, baptized. "Woman—la donna—was the divinity enshrined within those savage breasts. Whosoever will investigate the memorials of primitive times will find this ideal of woman in its full force and purity; the Universe is woman. And so it was in Germany, in France, in Provence, in Spain, in Italy, at the beginning of the modern age. History was cast in this mould; Trojans and Romans were conceived as knights-errant, and so too were Arabs, Saracens, Turks, the Sultan and Saladin.... In this universal fraternity mingle angels, saints, miracles and paradise, strangely blended with the fantasy and voluptuousness of the Oriental world, and all baptized in the name of Chivalry." Thus, in his Storia della Letteratura italiana, ii., writes Francesco de Sanctis, and in an earlier passage he informs us that for that breed of men "in paradise itself the lover's delight was to look upon his lady—Madonna—and that he had no desire to go thither if he might not go in his lady's company." What, in fact, was Chivalry—which Cervantes, intending to kill it, afterwards purified and Christianized in Don Quixote—but a real though distorted religion, a hybrid between paganism and Christianity, whose gospel perhaps was the legend of Tristan and Iseult? And did not even the Christianity of the mystics—those knights-errant of the spirit—possibly reach its culminating-point in the worship of the divine woman, the Virgin Mary? What else was the Mariolatry of a St. Bonaventura, the troubadour of Mary? And this sentiment found its inspiration in love of the fountain of life, of that which saves us from death.
But as the Renaissance advanced men turned from the religion of woman to the religion of science; desire, the foundation of which was curiosity, ended in curiosity, in eagerness to taste of the fruit of the tree of good and evil. Europe flocked to the University of Bologna in search of learning. Chivalry was succeeded by Platonism. Men sought to discover the mystery of the world and of life. But it was really in order to save life, which they had also sought to save in the worship of woman. Human consciousness sought to penetrate the Universal Consciousness, but its real object, whether it was aware of it or not, was to save itself.
For the truth is that we feel and imagine the Universal Consciousness—and in this feeling and imagination religious experience consists—simply in order that thereby we may save our own individual consciousnesses. And how?
Once again I must repeat that the longing for the immortality of the soul, for the permanence, in some form or another, of our personal and individual consciousness, is as much of the essence of religion as is the longing that there may be a God. The one does not exist apart from the other, the reason being that fundamentally they are one and the same thing. But as soon as we attempt to give a concrete and rational form to this longing for immortality and permanence, to define it to ourselves, we encounter even more difficulties than we encountered in our attempt to rationalize God.
The universal consent of mankind has again been invoked as a means of justifying this immortal longing for immortality to our own feeble reason. Permanere animos arbitratur consensu nationum omnium, said Cicero, echoing the opinion of the ancients (Tuscul. Quaest., xvi., 36). But this same recorder of his own feelings confessed that, although when he read the arguments in favour of the immortality of the soul in the Phaedo of Plato he was compelled to assent to them, as soon as he put the book aside and began to revolve the problem in his own mind, all his previous assent melted away, assentio omnis illa illabitur (cap. xi., 25). And what happened to Cicero happens to us all, and it happened likewise to Swedenborg, the most daring visionary of the other world. Swedenborg admitted that he who discourses of life after death, putting aside all erudite notions concerning the soul and its mode of union with the body, believes that after death he shall live in a glorious joy and vision, as a man among angels; but when he begins to reflect upon the doctrine of the union of the soul with the body, or upon the hypothetical opinion concerning the soul, doubts arise in him as to whether the soul is thus or otherwise, and when these doubts arise, his former idea is dissipated (De caelo et inferno, Sec. 183). Nevertheless, as Cournot says, "it is the destiny that awaits me, me or my person, that moves, perturbs and consoles me, that makes me capable of abnegation and sacrifice, whatever be the origin, the nature or the essence of this inexplicable bond of union, in the absence of which the philosophers are pleased to determine that my person must disappear" (Traite, etc., Sec. 297).
Must we then embrace the pure and naked faith in an eternal life without trying to represent it to ourselves? This is impossible; it is beyond our power to bring ourselves or accustom ourselves to do so. And nevertheless there are some who call themselves Christians and yet leave almost altogether on one side this question of representation. Take any work of theology informed by the most enlightened—that is, the most rationalistic and liberal—Protestantism; take, for instance, the Dogmatik of Dr. Julius Kaftan, and of the 668 pages of which the sixth edition, that of 1909, consists, you will find only one, the last, that is devoted to this problem. And in this page, after affirming that Christ is not only the beginning and middle but also the end and consummation of History, and that those who are in Christ will attain to fullness of life, the eternal life of those who are in Christ, not a single word as to what that life may be. Half a dozen words at most about eternal death, that is, hell, "for its existence is demanded by the moral character of faith and of Christian hope." Its moral character, eh? not its religious character, for I am not aware that the latter knows any such exigency. And all this inspired by a prudent agnostic parsimony.
Yes, the prudent, the rational, and, some will say, the pious, attitude, is not to seek to penetrate into mysteries that are hidden from our knowledge, not to insist upon shaping a plastic representation of eternal glory, such as that of the Divina Commedia. True faith, true Christian piety, we shall be told, consists in resting upon the confidence that God, by the grace of Christ, will, in some way or another, make us live in Him, in His Son; that, as our destiny is in His almighty hands, we should surrender ourselves to Him, in the full assurance that He will do with us what is best for the ultimate end of life, of spirit and of the universe. Such is the teaching that has traversed many centuries, and was notably prominent in the period between Luther and Kant.
And nevertheless men have not ceased endeavouring to imagine to themselves what this eternal life may be, nor will they cease their endeavours so long as they are men and not merely thinking machines. There are books of theology—or of what passes for theology—full of disquisitions upon the conditions under which the blessed dead live in paradise, upon their mode of enjoyment, upon the properties of the glorious body, for without some form of body the soul cannot be conceived.
And to this same necessity, the real necessity of forming to ourselves a concrete representation of what this other life may be, must in great part be referred the indestructible vitality of doctrines such as those of spiritualism, metempsychosis, the transmigration of souls from star to star, and the like; doctrines which as often as they are pronounced to be defeated and dead, are found to have come to life again, clothed in some more or less new form. And it is merely supine to be content to ignore them and not to seek to discover their permanent and living essence. Man will never willingly abandon his attempt to form a concrete representation of the other life.
But is an eternal and endless life after death indeed thinkable? How can we conceive the life of a disembodied spirit? How can we conceive such a spirit? How can we conceive a pure consciousness, without a corporal organism? Descartes divided the world into thought and extension, a dualism which was imposed upon him by the Christian dogma of the immortality of the soul. But is extension, is matter, that which thinks and is spiritualized, or is thought that which is extended and materialized? The weightiest questions of metaphysics arise practically out of our desire to arrive at an understanding of the possibility of our immortality—from this fact they derive their value and cease to be merely the idle discussions of fruitless curiosity. For the truth is that metaphysics has no value save in so far as it attempts to explain in what way our vital longing can or cannot be realized. And thus it is that there is and always will be a rational metaphysic and a vital metaphysic, in perennial conflict with one another, the one setting out from the notion of cause, the other from the notion of substance.
And even if we were to succeed in imagining personal immortality, might we not possibly feel it to be something no less terrible than its negation? "Calypso was inconsolable at the departure of Ulysses; in her sorrow she was dismayed at being immortal," said the gentle, the mystical Fenelon at the beginning of his Telemaque. Was it not a kind of doom that the ancient gods, no less than the demons, were subject to—the deprivation of the power to commit suicide?
When Jesus took Peter and James and John up into a high mountain and was transfigured before them, his raiment shining as white as snow, and Moses and Elias appeared and talked with him, Peter said to the Master: "Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee and one for Moses and one for Elias," for he wished to eternalize that moment. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them that they should tell no man what they had seen until the Son of Man should have risen from the dead. And they, keeping this saying to themselves, questioned one with another what this rising from the dead should mean, as men not understanding the purport of it. And it was after this that Jesus met the father whose son was possessed with a dumb spirit and who cried out to him, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" (Mark ix.).
Those three apostles did not understand what this rising from the dead meant. Neither did those Sadducees who asked the Master whose wife she should be in the resurrection who in this life had had seven husbands (Matt. xxii.); and it was then that Jesus said that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And the other life is not, in fact, thinkable to us except under the same forms as those of this earthly and transitory life. Nor is the mystery at all clarified by that metaphor of the grain and the wheat that it bears, with which Paul answers the question, "How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come?" (1 Cor. xv. 35).
How can a human soul live and enjoy God eternally without losing its individual personality—that is to say, without losing itself? What is it to enjoy God? What is eternity as opposed to time? Does the soul change or does it not change in the other life? If it does not change, how does it live? And if it changes, how does it preserve its individuality through so vast a period of time? For though the other life may exclude space, it cannot exclude time, as Cournot observes in the work quoted above.
If there is life in heaven there is change. Swedenborg remarked that the angels change, because the delight of the celestial life would gradually lose its value if they always enjoyed it in its fullness, and because angels, like men, love themselves, and he who loves himself experiences changes of state; and he adds further that at times the angels are sad, and that he, Swedenborg, discoursed with some when they were sad (De Caelo et Inferno, Sec.Sec. 158, 160). In any case, it is impossible for us to conceive life without change, change of growth or of diminution, of sadness or of joy, of love or of hate.
In effect, an eternal life is unthinkable and an eternal life of absolute felicity, of beatific vision, is more unthinkable still.
And what precisely is this beatific vision? We observe in the first place that it is called vision and not action, something passive being therefore presupposed. And does not this beatific vision suppose loss of personal consciousness? A saint in heaven, says Bossuet, is a being who is scarcely sensible of himself, so completely is he possessed by God and immerged in His glory.... Our attention cannot stay on the saint, because one finds him outside of himself, and subject by an unchangeable love to the source of his being and his happiness (Du culte qui est du a Dieu). And these are the words of Bossuet, the antiquietist. This loving vision of God supposes an absorption in Him. He who in a state of blessedness enjoys God in His fullness must perforce neither think of himself, nor remember himself, nor have any consciousness of himself, but be in perpetual ecstasy (ekstasis) outside of himself, in a condition of alienation. And the ecstasy that the mystics describe is a prelude of this vision.
He who sees God shall die, say the Scriptures (Judg. xiii. 22); and may it not be that the eternal vision of God is an eternal death, a swooning away of the personality? But St. Teresa, in her description of the last state of prayer, the rapture, transport, flight, or ecstasy of the soul, tells us that the soul is borne as upon a cloud or a mighty eagle, "but you see yourself carried away and know not whither," and it is "with delight," and "if you do not resist, the senses are not lost, at least I was so much myself as to be able to perceive that I was being lifted up "—that is to say, without losing consciousness. And God "appears to be not content with thus attracting the soul to Himself in so real a way, but wishes to have the body also, though it be mortal and of earth so foul." "Ofttimes the soul is absorbed—or, to speak more correctly, the Lord absorbs it in Himself; and when He has held it thus for a moment, the will alone remains in union with Him"—not the intelligence alone. We see, therefore, that it is not so much vision as a union of the will, and meanwhile, "the understanding and memory are distraught ... like one who has slept long and dreamed and is hardly yet awake." It is "a soft flight, a delicious flight, a noiseless flight." And in this delicious flight the consciousness of self is preserved, the awareness of distinction from God with whom one is united. And one is raised to this rapture, according to the Spanish mystic, by the contemplation of the Humanity of Christ—that is to say, of something concrete and human; it is the vision of the living God, not of the idea of God. And in the 28th chapter she tells us that "though there were nothing else to delight the sight in heaven but the great beauty of the glorified bodies, that would be an excessive bliss, particularly the vision of the Humanity of Jesus Christ our Lord...." "This vision," she continues, "though imaginary, I did never see with my bodily eyes, nor, indeed, any other, but only with the eyes of the soul." And thus it is that in heaven the soul does not see God only, but everything in God, or rather it sees that everything is God, for God embraces all things. And this idea is further emphasized by Jacob Boehme. The saint tells us in the Moradas Setimas (vii. 2) that "this secret union takes place in the innermost centre of the soul, where God Himself must dwell." And she goes on to say that "the soul, I mean the spirit of the soul, is made one with God ..."; and this union may be likened to "two wax candles, the tips of which touch each other so closely that there is but one light; or again, the wick, the wax, and the light become one, but the one candle can again be separated from the other, and the two candles remain distinct; or the wick may be withdrawn from the wax." But there is another more intimate union, and this is "like rain falling from heaven into a river or stream, becoming one and the same liquid, so that the river and the rain-water cannot be divided; or it resembles a streamlet flowing into the sea, which cannot afterwards be disunited from it; or it may be likened to a room into which a bright light enters through two windows—though divided when it enters, the light becomes one and the same." And what difference is there between this and the internal and mystical silence of Miguel de Molinos, the third and most perfect degree of which is the silence of thought? (Guia Espiritual, book i., chap. xvii., Sec. 128). Do we not here very closely approach the view that "nothingness is the way to attain to that high state of a mind reformed"? (book iii., chap. xx., Sec. 196). And what marvel is it that Amiel in his Journal Intime should twice have made use of the Spanish word nada, nothing, doubtless because he found none more expressive in any other language? And nevertheless, if we read our mystical doctor, St. Teresa, with care, we shall see that the sensitive element is never excluded, the element of delight—that is to say, the element of personal consciousness. The soul allows itself to be absorbed in God in order that it may absorb Him, in order that it may acquire consciousness of its own divinity.
A beatific vision, a loving contemplation in which the soul is absorbed in God and, as it were, lost in Him, appears either as an annihilation of self or as a prolonged tedium to our natural way of feeling. And hence a certain feeling which we not infrequently observe and which has more than once expressed itself in satires, not altogether free from irreverence or perhaps impiety, with reference to the heaven of eternal glory as a place of eternal boredom. And it is useless to despise feelings such as these, so wholly natural and spontaneous.
It is clear that those who feel thus have failed to take note of the fact that man's highest pleasure consists in acquiring and intensifying consciousness. Not the pleasure of knowing, exactly, but rather that of learning. In knowing a thing we tend to forget it, to convert it, if the expression may be allowed, into unconscious knowledge. Man's pleasure, his purest delight, is allied with the act of learning, of getting at the truth of things, of acquiring knowledge with differentiation. And hence the famous saying of Lessing which I have already quoted. There is a story told of an ancient Spaniard who accompanied Vasco Nunez de Balboa when he climbed that peak in Darien from which both the Atlantic and the Pacific are visible. On beholding the two oceans the old man fell on his knees and exclaimed, "I thank Thee, God, that Thou didst not let me die without having seen so great a wonder." But if this man had stayed there, very soon the wonder would have ceased to be wonderful, and with the wonder the pleasure, too, would have vanished. His joy was the joy of discovery. And perhaps the joy of the beatific vision may be not exactly that of the contemplation of the supreme Truth, whole and entire (for this the soul could not endure), but rather that of a continual discovery of the Truth, of a ceaseless act of learning involving an effort which keeps the sense of personal consciousness continually active.
It is difficult for us to conceive a beatific vision of mental quiet, of full knowledge and not of gradual apprehension, as in any way different from a kind of Nirvana, a spiritual diffusion, a dissipation of energy in the essence of God, a return to unconsciousness induced by the absence of shock, of difference—in a word, of activity.
May it not be that the very condition which makes our eternal union with God thinkable destroys our longing? What difference is there between being absorbed by God and absorbing Him in ourself? Is it the stream that is lost in the sea or the sea that is lost in the stream? It is all the same.
Our fundamental feeling is our longing not to lose the sense of the continuity of our consciousness, not to break the concatenation of our memories, the feeling of our own personal concrete identity, even though we may be gradually being absorbed in God, enriching Him. Who at eighty years of age remembers the child that he was at eight, conscious though he may be of the unbroken chain connecting the two? And it may be said that the problem for feeling resolves itself into the question as to whether there is a God, whether there is a human finality to the Universe. But what is finality? For just as it is always possible to ask the why of every why, so it is also always possible to ask the wherefore of every wherefore. Supposing that there is a God, then wherefore God? For Himself, it will be said. And someone is sure to reply: What is the difference between this consciousness and no-consciousness? But it will always be true, as Plotinus has said (Enn., ii., ix., 8), that to ask why God made the world is the same as to ask why there is a soul. Or rather, not why, but wherefore (dia ti).
For him who places himself outside himself, in an objective hypothetical position—which is as much as to say in an inhuman position—the ultimate wherefore is as inaccessible—and strictly, as absurd—as the ultimate why. What difference in effect does it make if there is not any finality? What logical contradiction is involved in the Universe not being destined to any finality, either human or superhuman? What objection is there in reason to there being no other purpose in the sum of things save only to exist and happen as it does exist and happen? For him who places himself outside himself, none; but for him who lives and suffers and desires within himself—for him it is a question of life or death. Seek, therefore, thyself! But in finding oneself, does not one find one's own nothingness? "Having become a sinner in seeking himself, man has become wretched in finding himself," said Bossuet (Traite de la Concupiscence, chap. xi.). "Seek thyself" begins with "Know thyself." To which Carlyle answers (Past and Present, book iii., chap. xi.): "The latest Gospel in this world is, Know thy work and do it. 'Know thyself': long enough has that poor 'self' of thine tormented thee; thou wilt never get to 'know' it, I believe! Think it not thy business, this of knowing thyself; thou art an unknowable individual: know what thou canst work at; and work at it, like a Hercules. That will be thy better plan."
Yes, but what I work at, will not that too be lost in the end? And if it be lost, wherefore should I work at it? Yes, yes, it may be that to accomplish my work—and what is my work?—without thinking about myself, is to love God. And what is it to love God?
And on the other hand, in loving God in myself, am I not loving myself more than God, am I not loving myself in God?
What we really long for after death is to go on living this life, this same mortal life, but without its ills, without its tedium, and without death. Seneca, the Spaniard, gave expression to this in his Consolatio ad Marciam (xxvi.); what he desired was to live this life again: ista moliri. And what Job asked for (xix. 25-7) was to see God in the flesh, not in the spirit. And what but that is the meaning of that comic conception of eternal recurrence which issued from the tragic soul of poor Nietzsche, hungering for concrete and temporal immortality?
And this beatific vision which is the primary Catholic solution of the problem, how can it be realized, I ask again, without obliteration of the consciousness of self? Will it not be like a sleep in which we dream without knowing what we dream? Who would wish for an eternal life like that? To think without knowing that we think is not to be sensible of ourselves, it is not to be ourselves. And is not eternal life perhaps eternal consciousness, not only seeing God, but seeing that we see Him, seeing ourselves at the same time and ourselves as distinct from Him? He who sleeps lives, but he has no consciousness of himself; and would anyone wish for an eternal sleep? When Circe advised Ulysses to descend to the abode of the dead in order to consult the soothsayer Teiresias, she told him that Teiresias alone among the shades of the dead was possessed of understanding, for all the others flitted about like shadows (Odyssey, x., 487-495). And can it be said that the others, apart from Teiresias, had really overcome death? Is it to overcome death to flit about like shadows without understanding?
And on the other hand, may we not imagine that possibly this earthly life of ours is to the other life what sleep is to waking? May not all our life be a dream and death an awakening? But an awakening to what? And supposing that everything is but the dream of God and that God one day will awaken? Will He remember His dream?
Aristotle, the rationalist, tells in his Ethics of the superior happiness of the contemplative life, bios theoretikos; and all rationalists are wont to place happiness in knowledge. And the conception of eternal happiness, of the enjoyment of God, as a beatific vision, as knowledge and comprehension of God, is a thing of rationalist origin, it is the kind of happiness that corresponds with the God-Idea of Aristotelianism. But the truth is that, in addition to vision, happiness demands delight, and this is a thing which has very little to do, with rationalism and is only attainable when we feel ourselves distinct from God.
Our Aristotelian Catholic theologian, the author of the endeavour to rationalize Catholic feeling, St. Thomas Aquinas, tells us in his Summa (prima secundae partis, quaestio iv., art. i) that "delight is requisite for happiness. For delight is caused by the fact of desire resting in attained good. Hence, since happiness is nothing but the attainment of the Sovereign Good, there cannot be happiness without concomitant delight." But where is the delight of him who rests? To rest, requiescere—is not that to sleep and not to possess even the consciousness that one is resting? "Delight is caused by the vision of God itself," the theologian continues. But does the soul feel itself distinct from God? "The delight that accompanies the activity of the understanding does not impede, but rather strengthens that activity," he says later on. Obviously! for what happiness were it else? And in order to save delectation, delight, pleasure, which, like pain, has always something material in it, and which we conceive of only as existing in a soul incarnate in a body, it was necessary to suppose that the soul in a state of blessedness is united with its body. Apart from some kind of body, how is delight possible? The immortality of the pure soul, without some sort of body or spirit-covering, is not true immortality. And at bottom, what we long for is a prolongation of this life, this life and no other, this life of flesh and suffering, this life which we imprecate at times simply because it comes to an end. The majority of suicides would not take their lives if they had the assurance that they would never die on this earth. The self-slayer kills himself because he will not wait for death.
When in the thirty-third canto of the Paradiso, Dante relates how he attained to the vision of God, he tells us that just as a man who beholds somewhat in his sleep retains on awakening nothing but the impression of the feeling in his mind, so it was with him, for when the vision had all but passed away the sweetness that sprang from it still distilled itself in his heart.
Cotal son to, che quasi tutta cessa mia visione ed ancor mi distilla nel cuor lo dulce che nacque da essa
like snow that melts in the sun—
cosi la neve al sol si disigilla.
That is to say, that the vision, the intellectual content, passes, and that which remains is the delight, the passione impressa, the emotional, the irrational—in a word, the corporeal.
What we desire is not merely spiritual felicity, not merely vision, but delight, bodily happiness. The other happiness, the rationalist beatitude, the happiness of being submerged in understanding, can only—I will not say satisfy or deceive, for I do not believe that it ever satisfied or deceived even a Spinoza. At the conclusion of his Ethic, in propositions xxxv. and xxxvi. of the fifth part, Spinoza, affirms that God loves Himself with an infinite intellectual love; that the intellectual love of the mind towards God is the selfsame love with which God loves Himself, not in so far as He is infinite, but in so far as He can be manifested through the essence of the human mind, considered under the form of eternity—that is to say, that the intellectual love of the mind towards God is part of the infinite love with which God loves Himself. And after these tragic, these desolating propositions, we are told in the last proposition of the whole book, that which closes and crowns this tremendous tragedy of the Ethic, that happiness is not the reward of virtue, but virtue itself, and that our repression of our desires is not the cause of our enjoyment of virtue, but rather because we find enjoyment in virtue we are able to repress our desires. Intellectual love! intellectual love! what is this intellectual love? Something of the nature of a red flavour, or a bitter sound, or an aromatic colour, or rather something of the same sort as a love-stricken triangle or an enraged ellipse—a pure metaphor, but a tragic metaphor. And a metaphor corresponding tragically with that saying that the heart also has its reasons. Reasons of the heart! loves of the head! intellectual delight! delicious intellection!—tragedy, tragedy, tragedy!
And nevertheless there is something which may be called intellectual love, and that is the love of understanding, that which Aristotle meant by the contemplative life, for there is something of action and of love in the act of understanding, and the beatific vision is the vision of the total truth. Is there not perhaps at the root of every passion something of curiosity? Did not our first parents, according to the Biblical story, fall because of their eagerness to taste of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and to be as gods, knowers of this knowledge? The vision of God—that is to say, the vision of the Universe itself, in its soul, in its inmost essence—would not that appease all our longing? And this vision can fail to satisfy only men of a gross mind who do not perceive that the greatest joy of man is to be more man—that is, more God—and that man is more God the more consciousness he has.
And this intellectual love, which is nothing but the so-called platonic love, is a means to dominion and possession. There is, in fact, no more perfect dominion than knowledge; he who knows something, possesses it. Knowledge unites the knower with the known. "I contemplate thee and in contemplating thee I make thee mine"—such is the formula. And to know God, what can that be but to possess Him? He who knows God is thereby himself God.
In La Degradation de l'energie (iv^e partie, chap. xviii., 2) B. Brunhes relates a story concerning the great Catholic mathematician Cauchy, communicated to him by M. Sarrau, who had it from Pere Gratry. While Cauchy and Pere Gratry were walking in the gardens of the Luxumbourg, their conversation turned upon the happiness which those in heaven would have in knowing at last, without any obscurity or limitation, the truths which they had so long and so laboriously sought to investigate on earth. In allusion to the study which Cauchy had made of the mechanistic theory of the reflection of light, Pere Gratry threw out the suggestion that one on the greatest intellectual joys of the great geometrician in the future life would be to penetrate into the secret of light. To which Cauchy replied that it did not appear to him to be possible to know more about this than he himself already knew, neither could he conceive how the most perfect intelligence could arrive at a clearer comprehension of the mystery of reflection than that manifested in his own explanation of it, seeing that he had furnished a mechanistic theory of the phenomenon. "His piety," Brunhes adds, "did not extend to a belief that God Himself could have created anything different or anything better."
From this narrative two points of interest emerge. The first is the idea expressed in it as to what contemplation, intellectual love, or beatific vision, may mean for men of a superior order of intelligence, men whose ruling passion is knowledge; and the second is the implicit faith shown in the mechanistic explanation of the world.
This mechanistic tendency of the intellect coheres with the well-known formula, "Nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything is transformed"—a formula by means of which it has been sought to interpret the ambiguous principle of the conservation of energy, forgetting that practically, for us, for men, energy is utilizable energy, and that this is continually being lost, dissipated by the diffusion of heat, and degraded, its tendency being to arrive at a dead-level and homogeneity. That which has value, and more than value, reality, for us, is the differential, which is the qualitative; pure, undifferentiated quantity is for us as if it did not exist, for it does not act. And the material Universe, the body of the Universe, would appear to be gradually proceeding—unaffected by the retarding action of living organisms or even by the conscious action of man—towards a state of perfect stability, of homogeneity (vide Brunhes, op. cit.) For, while spirit tends towards concentration, material energy tends towards diffusion.
And may not this have an intimate relation with our problem? May there not be a connection between this conclusion of scientific philosophy with respect to a final state of stability and homogeneity and the mystical dream of the apocatastasis? May not this death of the body of the Universe be the final triumph of its spirit, of God?
It is manifest that there is an intimate relation between the religious need of an eternal life after death and the conclusions—always provisional—at which scientific philosophy arrives with respect to the probable future of the material or sensible Universe. And the fact is that just as there are theologians of God and the immortality of the soul, so there are also those whom Brunhes calls (op. cit., chap. xxvi., Sec. 2) theologians of monism, and whom it would perhaps be better to call atheologians, people who pertinaciously adhere to the spirit of a priori affirmation; and this becomes intolerable, Brunhes adds, when they harbour the pretension of despising theology. A notable type of these gentlemen may be found in Haeckel, who has succeeded in solving the riddles of Nature!
These atheologians have seized upon the principle of the conservation of energy, the "Nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything is transformed" formula, the theological origin of which is seen in Descartes, and have made use of it as a means whereby we are able to dispense with God. "The world built to last," Brunhes comments, "resisting all wear and tear, or rather automatically repairing the rents that appear in it—what a splendid theme for oratorical amplification! But these same amplifications which served in the seventeenth century to prove the wisdom of the Creator have been used in our days as arguments for those who presume to do without Him." It is the old story: so-called scientific philosophy, the origin and inspiration of which is fundamentally theological or religious, ending in an atheology or irreligion, which is itself nothing else but theology and religion. Let us call to mind the comments of Ritschl upon this head, already quoted in this work.
To-day the last word of science, or rather of scientific philosophy, appears to be that, by virtue of the degradation of energy, of the predominance of irreversible phenomena, the material, sensible world is travelling towards a condition of ultimate levelness, a kind of final homogeneity. And this brings to our mind the hypothesis, not only so much used but abused by Spencer, of a primordial homogeneity, and his fantastic theory of the instability of the homogeneous. An instability that required the atheological agnosticism of Spencer in order to explain the inexplicable transition from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous. For how, without any action from without, can any heterogeneity emerge from perfect and absolute homogeneity? But as it was necessary to get rid of every kind of creation, "the unemployed engineer turned metaphysician," as Papini called him, invented the theory of the instability of the homogeneous, which is more ... what shall I say? more mystical, and even more mythological if you like, than the creative action of God.
The Italian positivist, Roberto Ardigo, was nearer the mark when, objecting to Spencer's theory, he said that the most natural supposition was that things always were as they are now, that always there have been worlds in process of formation, in the nebulous stage, worlds completely formed and worlds in process of dissolution; that heterogeneity, in short, is eternal. Another way, it will be seen, of not solving the riddle.
Is this perhaps the solution? But in that case the Universe would be infinite, and in reality we are unable to conceive a Universe that is both eternal and limited such as that which served as the basis of Nietzsche's theory of eternal recurrence. If the Universe must be eternal, if within it and as regards each of its component worlds, periods in which the movement is towards homogeneity, towards the degradation of energy, must alternate with other periods in which the movement is towards heterogeneity, then it is necessary that the Universe should be infinite, that there should be scope, always and in each world, for some action coming from without. And, in fact, the body of God cannot be other than eternal and infinite.
But as far as our own world is concerned, its gradual levelling-down—or, we might say, its death—appears to be proved. And how will this process affect the fate of our spirit? Will it wane with the degradation of the energy of our world and return to unconsciousness, or will it rather grow according as the utilizable energy diminishes and by virtue of the very efforts that it makes to retard this degradation and to dominate Nature?—for this it is that constitutes the life of the spirit. May it be that consciousness and its extended support are two powers in contraposition, the one growing at the expense of the other?
The fact is that the best of our scientific work, the best of our industry (that part of it I mean—and it is a large part—that does not tend to destruction), is directed towards retarding this fatal process of the degradation of energy. And organic life, the support of our consciousness, is itself an effort to avoid, so far as it is possible, this fatal period, to postpone it.
It is useless to seek to deceive ourselves with pagan paeans in praise of Nature, for as Leopardi, that Christian atheist, said with profound truth in his stupendous poem La Ginestra, Nature "gives us life like a mother, but loves us like a step-mother." The origin of human companionship was opposition to Nature; it was horror of impious Nature that first linked men together in the bonds of society. It is human society, in effect, the source of reflective consciousness and of the craving for immortality, that inaugurates the state of grace upon the state of Nature; and it is man who, by humanizing and spiritualizing Nature by his industry, supernaturalizes her.
In two amazing sonnets which he called Redemption, the tragic Portuguese poet, Antero de Quental, embodied his dream of a spirit imprisoned, not in atoms or ions or crystals, but—as is natural in a poet—in the sea, in trees, in the forest, in the mountains, in the wind, in all material individualities and forms; and he imagines that a day may come when all these captive souls, as yet in the limbo of existence, will awaken to consciousness, and, emerging as pure thought from the forms that imprisoned them, they will see these forms, the creatures of illusion, fall away and dissolve like a baseless vision. It is a magnificent dream of the penetration of everything by consciousness.
May it not be that the Universe, our Universe—who knows if there are others?—began with a zero of spirit—and zero is not the same as nothing—and an infinite of matter, and that its goal is to end with an infinite of spirit and a zero of matter? Dreams!
May it be that everything has a soul and that this soul begs to be freed?
Oh tierras de Alvargonzalez, en el corazon de Espana, tierras pobres, tierras tristes, tan tristes que tienen alma!
sings our poet Antonio Machado in his Campos de Castilla. Is the sadness of the field in the fields themselves or in us who look upon them? Do they not suffer? But what can an individual soul in a world of matter actually be? Is it the rock or the mountain that is the individual? Is it the tree?
And nevertheless the fact always remains that spirit and matter are at strife. This is the thought that Espronceda expressed when he wrote:
Aqui, para vivir en santa calma, o sobra la materia, o sobra el alma.
And is there not in the history of thought, or of human imagination if you prefer it, something that corresponds to this process of the reduction of matter, in the sense of a reduction of everything to consciousness?
Yes, there is, and its author is the first Christian mystic, St. Paul of Tarsus, the Apostle of the Gentiles, he who because he had never with his bodily eyes looked upon the face of the fleshly and mortal Christ, the ethical Christ, created within himself an immortal and religious Christ—he who was caught up into the third heaven and there beheld secret and unspeakable things (2 Cor. xii.). And this first Christian mystic dreamed also of a final triumph of spirit, of consciousness, and this is what in theology is technically called the apocatastasis or restitution.
In 1 Cor. xv. 26-28 he tells us that "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death, for he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all": hina he ho theos panta en pasin—that is to say, that the end is that God, Consciousness, will end by being all in all.
This doctrine is completed by Paul's teaching, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, with regard to the end of the whole history of the world. In this Epistle, as you know, he represents Christ—by whom "were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible" (Col. i. 16)—as the head over all things (Eph. i. 22), and in him, in this head, we all shall be raised up that we may live in the communion of saints and that we "may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge" (Eph. iii. 18, 19). And this gathering of us together in Christ, who is the head and, as it were, the compendium, of Humanity, is what the Apostle calls the gathering or collecting together or recapitulating of all things in Christ, anakephalaiosthai ta panta en Christo. And this recapitulation—anakephalaiosis, anacefaleosis—the end of the world's history and of the human race, is merely another aspect of the apocatastasis. The apocatastasis, God's coming to be all in all, thus resolves itself into the anacefaleosis, the gathering together of all things in Christ, in Humanity—Humanity therefore being the end of creation. And does not this apocatastasis, this humanization or divinization of all things, do away with matter? But if matter, which is the principle of individuation, the scholastic principium individuationis, is once done away with, does not everything return to pure consciousness, which, in its pure purity, neither knows itself nor is it anything that can be conceived or felt? And if matter be abolished, what support is there left for spirit?
Thus a different train of thought leads us to the same difficulties, the same unthinkabilities.
It may be said, on the other hand, that the apocatastasis, God's coming to be all in all, presupposes that there was a time when He was not all in all. The supposition that all beings shall attain to the enjoyment of God implies the supposition that God shall attain to the enjoyment of all beings, for the beatific vision is mutual, and God is perfected in being better known, and His being is nourished and enriched with souls.
Following up the track of these wild dreams, we might imagine an unconscious God, slumbering in matter, and gradually wakening into consciousness of everything, consciousness of His own divinity; we might imagine the whole Universe becoming conscious of itself as a whole and becoming conscious of each of its constituent consciousnesses, becoming God. But in that case, how did this unconscious God begin? Is He not matter itself? God would thus be not the beginning but the end of the Universe; but can that be the end which was not the beginning? Or can it be that outside time, in eternity, there is a difference between beginning and end? "The soul of all things cannot be bound by that very thing—that is, matter—which it itself has bound," says Plotinus (Enn. ii., ix. 7). Or is it not rather the Consciousness of the Whole that strives to become the consciousness of each part and to make each partial consciousness conscious of itself—that is, of the total consciousness? Is not this universal soul a monotheist or solitary God who is in process of becoming a pantheist God? And if it is not so, if matter and pain are alien to God, wherefore, it will be asked, did God create the world? For what purpose did He make matter and introduce pain? Would it not have been better if He had not made anything? What added glory does He gain by the creation of angels or of men whose fall He must punish with eternal torment? Did He perhaps create evil for the sake of remedying it? Or was redemption His design, redemption complete and absolute, redemption of all things and of all men? For this hypothesis is neither more rational nor more pious than the other.
In so far as we attempt to represent eternal happiness to ourselves, we are confronted by a series of questions to which there is no satisfactory—that is, rational—answer, and it matters not whether the supposition from which we start be monotheist, or pantheist, or even panentheist.
Let us return to the Pauline apocatastasis.
Is it not possible that in becoming all in all God completes Himself, becomes at last fully God, an infinite consciousness embracing all consciousnesses? And what is an infinite consciousness? Since consciousness supposes limitation, or rather since consciousness is consciousness of limitation, of distinction, does it not thereby exclude infinitude? What value has the notion of infinitude applied to consciousness? What is a consciousness that is all consciousness, without anything outside it that is not consciousness? In such a case, of what is consciousness the consciousness? Of its content? Or may it not rather be that, starting from chaos, from absolute unconsciousness, in the eternity of the past, we continually approach the apocatastasis or final apotheosis without ever reaching it?
May not this apocatastasis, this return of all things to God, be rather an ideal term to which we unceasingly approach—some of us with fleeter step than others—but which we are destined never to reach? May not the absolute and perfect eternal happiness be an eternal hope, which would die if it were to be realized? Is it possible to be happy without hope? And there is no place for hope when once possession has been realized, for hope, desire, is killed by possession. May it not be, I say, that all souls grow without ceasing, some in a greater measure than others, but all having to pass some time through the same degree of growth, whatever that degree may be, and yet without ever arriving at the infinite, at God, to whom they continually approach? Is not eternal happiness an eternal hope, with its eternal nucleus of sorrow in order that happiness shall not be swallowed up in nothingness?
Follow more questions to which there is no answer. "He shall be all in all," says the Apostle. But will His mode of being in each one be different or will it be the same for all alike? Will not God be wholly in one of the damned? Is He not in his soul? Is He not in what is called hell? And in what sense is He in hell?
Whence arise new problems, those relating to the opposition between heaven and hell, between eternal happiness and eternal unhappiness.
May it not be that in the end all shall be saved, including Cain and Judas and Satan himself, as Origen's development of the Pauline apocatastasis led him to hope?
When our Catholic theologians seek to justify rationally—or in other words, ethically—the dogma of the eternity of the pains of hell, they put forward reasons so specious, ridiculous, and childish, that it would appear impossible that they should ever have obtained currency. For to assert that since God is infinite, an offence committed against Him is infinite also and therefore demands an eternal punishment, is, apart from the inconceivability of an infinite offence, to be unaware that, in human ethics, if not in the human police system, the gravity of the offence is measured not by the dignity of the injured person but by the intention of the injurer, and that to speak of an infinite culpable intention is sheer nonsense, and nothing else. In this connection those words which Christ addressed to His Father are capable of application: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," and no man who commits an offence against God or his neighbour knows what he does. In human ethics, or if you like in human police regulations—that which is called penal law and is anything but law eternal punishment is a meaningless phrase.
"God is just and punishes us; that is all we need to know; as far as we are concerned the rest is merely curiosity." Such was the conclusion of Lamennais (Essai, etc., iv^e partie, chap, vii.), an opinion shared by many others. Calvin also held the same view. But is there anyone who is content with this? Pure curiosity!—to call this load that wellnigh crushes our heart pure curiosity!
May we not say, perhaps, that the evil man is annihilated because he wished to be annihilated, or that he did not wish strongly enough to eternalize himself because he was evil? May we not say that it is not believing in the other life that makes a man good, but rather that being good makes him believe in it? And what is being good and being evil? These states pertain to the sphere of ethics, not of religion: or, rather, does not the doing good though being evil pertain to ethics, and the being good though doing evil to religion?
Shall we not perhaps be told, on the other hand, that if the sinner suffers an eternal punishment, it is because he does not cease to sin?—for the damned sin without ceasing. This, however, is no solution of the problem, which derives all its absurdity from the fact that punishment has been conceived as vindictiveness or vengeance, not as correction, has been conceived after the fashion of barbarous peoples. And in the same way hell has been conceived as a sort of police institution, necessary in order to put fear into the world. And the worst of it is that it no longer intimidates, and therefore will have to be shut up.
But, on the other hand, as a religious conception and veiled in mystery, why not—although the idea revolts our feelings—an eternity of suffering? why not a God who is nourished by our suffering? Is our happiness the end of the Universe? or may we possibly sustain with our suffering some alien happiness? Let us read again in the Eumenides of that terrible tragedian, AEschylus, those choruses of the Furies in which they curse the new gods for overturning the ancient laws and snatching Orestes from their hands—impassioned invectives against the Apollinian redemption. Does not redemption tear man, their captive and plaything, from the hands of the gods, who delight and amuse themselves in his sufferings, like children, as the tragic poet says, torturing beetles? And let us remember the cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Yes, why not an eternity of suffering? Hell is an eternalization of the soul, even though it be an eternity of pain. Is not pain essential to life?
Men go on inventing theories to explain what they call the origin of evil. And why not the origin of good? Why suppose that it is good that is positive and original, and evil that is negative and derivatory? "Everything that is, in so far as it is, is good," St. Augustine affirmed. But why? What does "being good" mean? Good is good for something, conducive to an end, and to say that everything is good is equivalent to saying that everything is making for its end. But what is its end? Our desire is to eternalize ourselves, to persist, and we call good everything that conspires to this end and bad everything that tends to lessen or destroy our consciousness. We suppose that human consciousness is an end and not a means to something else which may not be consciousness, whether human or superhuman.
All metaphysical optimism, such as that of Leibnitz, and all metaphysical pessimism, such as that of Schopenhauer, have no other foundation than this. For Leibnitz this world is the best because it conspires to perpetuate consciousness, and, together with consciousness, will, because intelligence increases will and perfects it, because the end of man is the contemplation of God; while for Schopenhauer this world is the worst of all possible worlds, because it conspires to destroy will, because intelligence, representation, nullifies the will that begot it.
And similarly Franklin, who believed in another life, asserted that he was willing to live this life over again, the life that he had actually lived, "from its beginning to the end"; while Leopardi, who did not believe in another life, asserted that nobody would consent to live his life over again. These two views of life are not merely ethical, but religious; and the feeling of moral good, in so far as it is a teleological value, is of religious origin also.
And to return to our interrogations: Shall not all be saved, shall not all be made eternal, and eternal not in suffering but in happiness, those whom we call good and those whom we call bad alike?
And as regards this question of good and evil, does not the malice of him who judges enter in? Is the badness in the intention of him who does the deed or is it not rather in that of him who judges it to be bad? But the terrible thing is that man judges himself, creates himself his own judge.
Who then shall be saved? And now the imagination puts forth another possibility—neither more nor less rational than all those which have just been put forward interrogatively—and that is that only those are saved who have longed to be saved, that only those are eternalized who have lived in an agony of hunger for eternity and for eternalization. He who desires never to die and believes that he shall never die in the spirit, desires it because he deserves it, or rather, only he desires personal immortality who carries his immortality within him. The man who does not long passionately, and with a passion that triumphs over all the dictates of reason, for his own immortality, is the man who does not deserve it, and because he does not deserve it he does not long for it. And it is no injustice not to give a man that which he does not know how to desire, for "ask, and it shall be given you." It may be that to each will be given that which he desired. And perhaps the sin against the Holy Ghost—for which, according to the Evangelist, there is no remission—is none other than that of not desiring God, not longing to be made eternal.
As is your sort of mind So is your sort of search; you'll find What you desire, and that's to be A Christian,
said Robert Browning in Christmas Eve and Easter Day.
In his Inferno Dante condemned the Epicureans, those who did not believe in another life, to something more terrible than the not having it, and that is the consciousness of not having it, and this he expressed in plastic form by picturing them shut up in their tombs for all eternity, without light, without air, without fire, without movement, without life (Inferno, x., 10-15).
What cruelty is there in denying to a man that which he did not or could not desire? In the sixth book of his AEneid (426-429) the gentle Virgil makes us hear the plaintive voices and sobbing of the babes who weep upon the threshold of Hades,
Continuo auditae voces, vagitus et ingens, Infantumque animae flentes in limine primo,
unhappy in that they had but entered upon life and never known the sweetness of it, and whom, torn from their mothers' breasts, a dark day had cut off and drowned in bitter death—
Quos dulcis vitae exsortes et at ubere raptos Abstulit atra dies et funere mersit acerbo.
But what life did they lose, if they neither knew life nor longed for it? And yet is it true that they never longed for it?
It may be said that others craved life on their behalf, that their parents longed for them to be eternal to the end that they might be gladdened by them in paradise. And so a fresh field is opened up for the imagination—namely, the consideration of the solidarity and representivity of eternal salvation.
There are many, indeed, who imagine the human race as one being, a collective and solidary individual, in whom each member may represent or may come to represent the total collectivity; and they imagine salvation as something collective. As something collective also, merit, and as something collective sin, and redemption. According to this mode of feeling and imagining, either all are saved or none is saved; redemption is total and it is mutual; each man is his neighbour's Christ.
And is there not perhaps a hint of this in the popular Catholic belief with regard to souls in purgatory, the belief that the living may devote suffrages and apply merits to the souls of their dead? This sense of the transmission of merits, both to the living and the dead, is general in popular Catholic piety.
Nor should it be forgotten that in the history of man's religious thought there has often presented itself the idea of an immortality restricted to a certain number of the elect, spirits representative of the rest and in a certain sense including them; an idea of pagan derivation—for such were the heroes and demi-gods—which sometimes shelters itself behind the pronouncement that there are many that are called and few that are chosen.
Recently, while I was engaged upon this essay, there came into my hands the third edition of the Dialogue sur la vie et sur la mort, by Charles Bonnefon, a book in which imaginative conceptions similar to those that I have been setting forth find succinct and suggestive expression. The soul cannot live without the body, Bonnefon says, nor the body without the soul, and thus neither birth nor death has any real existence—strictly speaking, there is no body, no soul, no birth, no death, all of which are abstractions and appearances, but only a thinking life, of which we form part and which can neither be born nor die. Hence he is led to deny human individuality and to assert that no one can say "I am" but only "we are," or, more correctly, "there is in us." It is humanity, the species, that thinks and loves in us. And souls are transmitted in the same way that bodies are transmitted. "The living thought or the thinking life which we are will find itself again immediately in a form analogous to that which was our origin and corresponding with our being in the womb of a pregnant woman." Each of us, therefore, has lived before and will live again, although he does not know it. "If humanity is gradually raised above itself, when the last man dies, the man who will contain all the rest of mankind in himself, who shall say that he may not have arrived at that higher order of humanity such as exists elsewhere, in heaven?... As we are all bound together in solidarity, we shall all, little by little, gather the fruits of our travail." According to this mode of imagining and thinking, since nobody is born, nobody dies, no single soul has finished its struggle but many times has been plunged into the midst of the human struggle "ever since the type of embryo corresponding with the same consciousness was represented in the succession of human phenomena." It is obvious that since Bonnefon begins by denying personal individuality, he leaves out of account our real longing, which is to save our individuality; but on the other hand, since he, Bonnefon, is a personal individual and feels this longing, he has recourse to the distinction between the called and the chosen, and to the idea of representative spirits, and he concedes to a certain number of men this representative individual immortality. Of these elect he says that "they will be somewhat more necessary to God than we ourselves." And he closes this splendid dream by supposing that "it is not impossible that we shall arrive by a series of ascensions at the supreme happiness, and that our life shall be merged in the perfect Life as a drop of water in the sea. Then we shall understand," he continues, "that everything was necessary, that every philosophy and every religion had its hour of truth, and that in all our wanderings and errors and in the darkest moments of our history we discerned the light of the distant beacon, and that we were all predestined to participate in the Eternal Light. And if the God whom we shall find again possesses a body—and we cannot conceive a living God without a body—we, together with each of the myriads of races that the myriads of suns have brought forth, shall be the conscious cells of his body. If this dream should be fulfilled, an ocean of love would beat upon our shores and the end of every life would be to add a drop of water to this ocean's infinity." And what is this cosmic dream of Bonnefon's but the plastic representation of the Pauline apocatastasis?
Yes, this dream, which has its origin far back in the dawn of Christianity, is fundamentally the same as the Pauline anacefaleosis, the fusion of all men in Man, in the whole of Humanity embodied in a Person, who is Christ, and the fusion not only of all men but of all things, and the subsequent subjection of all things to God, in order that God, Consciousness, may be all in all. And this supposes a collective redemption and a society beyond the grave.
In the middle of the eighteenth century, two pietists of Protestant origin, Johann Jakob Moser and Friedrich Christoph Oetinger, gave a new force and value to the Pauline anacefaleosis. Moser "declared that his religion consisted not in holding certain doctrines to be true and in living a virtuous life conformably therewith, but in being reunited to God through Christ. But this demands the thorough knowledge—a knowledge that goes on increasing until the end of life—of one's own sins and also of the mercy and patience of God, the transformation of all natural feelings, the appropriation of the atonement wrought by the death of Christ, the enjoyment of peace with God in the permanent witness of the Holy Spirit to the remission of sins, the ordering of life according to the pattern of Christ, which is the fruit of faith alone, the drawing near to God and the intercourse of the soul with Him, the disposition to die in grace and the joyful expectation of the Judgement which will bestow blessedness in the more intimate enjoyment of God and in the commerce with all the saints" (Ritschl, Geschichte des Pietismus, vol. iii., Sec. 43). The commerce with all the saints—that is to say, the eternal human society. And for his part, Oetinger considers eternal happiness not as the contemplation of God in His infinitude, but, taking the Epistle to the Ephesians as his authority, as the contemplation of God in the harmony of the creature with Christ. The commerce with all the saints was, according to him, essential to the content of eternal happiness. It was the realization of the kingdom of God, which thus comes to be the kingdom of Man. And in his exposition of these doctrines of the two pietists, Ritschl confesses (op. cit., iii., Sec. 46) that both witnesses have with these doctrines contributed something to Protestantism that is of like value with the theological method of Spener, another pietist.
We see, therefore, that the Christian, mystical, inward longing ever since St. Paul, has been to give human finality, or divine finality, to the Universe, to save human consciousness, and to save it by converting all humanity into a person. This longing is expressed in the anacefaleosis, the gathering together of all things, all things in earth and in heaven, the visible and the invisible, in Christ, and also in the apocatastasis, the return of all things to God, to consciousness, in order that God may be all in all. And does not God's being all in all mean that all things shall acquire consciousness and that in this consciousness everything that has happened will come to life again, and that everything that has existed in time will be eternalized? And within the all, all individual consciousnesses, those which have been, those that are, and those that will be, and as they have been, as they are, and as they will be, will exist in a condition of society and solidarity.
But does not this awakening to consciousness of everything that has been, necessarily involve a fusion of the identical, an amalgamation of like things? In this conversion of the human race into a true society in Christ, a communion of saints, a kingdom of heaven, will not individual differences, tainted as they are with deceit and even with sin, be obliterated, and in the perfect society will that alone remain of each man which was the essential part of him? Would it not perhaps result, according to Bonnefon's supposition, that this consciousness that lived in the twentieth century in this corner of this earth would feel itself to be the same with other such consciousnesses as have lived in other centuries and perhaps in other worlds?
And how can we conceive of an effective and real union, a substantial and intimate union, soul with soul, of all those who have been?
If any two creatures grew into one They would do more than the world has done,
said Browning in The Flight of the Duchess; and Christ has told us that where two or three are gathered together in His name, there is He in the midst of them.
Heaven, then, so it is believed by many, is society, a more perfect society than that of this world; it is human society fused into a person. And there are not wanting some who believe that the tendency of all human progress is the conversion of our species into one collective being with real consciousness—is not perhaps an individual human organism a kind of confederation of cells?—and that when it shall have acquired full consciousness, all those who have existed will come to life again in it.
Heaven, so many think, is society. Just as no one can live in isolation, so no one can survive in isolation. No one can enjoy God in heaven who sees his brother suffering in hell, for the sin and the merit were common to both. We think with the thoughts of others and we feel with the feelings of others. To see God when God shall be all in all is to see all things in God and to live in God with all things.
This splendid dream of the final solidarity of mankind is the Pauline anacefaleosis and apocatastasis. We Christians, said the Apostle (I Cor. xii. 27) are the body of Christ, members of Him, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone (Eph. v. 30), branches of the vine.
But in this final solidarization, in this true and supreme Christination of all creatures, what becomes of each individual consciousness? what becomes of Me, of this poor fragile I, this I that is the slave of time and space, this I which reason tells me is a mere passing accident, but for the saving of which I live and suffer and hope and believe? Granting that the human finality of the Universe is saved, that consciousness is saved, would I resign myself to make the sacrifice of this poor I, by which and by which alone I know this finality and this consciousness?
And here, facing this supreme religious sacrifice, we reach the summit of the tragedy, the very heart of it—the sacrifice of our own individual consciousness upon the altar of the perfected Human Consciousness, of the Divine Consciousness.
But is there really a tragedy? If we could attain to a clear vision of this anacefaleosis, if we could succeed in understanding and feeling that we were going to enrich Christ, should we hesitate for a moment in surrendering ourselves utterly to Him? Would the stream that flows into the sea, and feels in the freshness of its waters the bitterness of the salt of the ocean, wish to flow back to its source? would it wish to return to the cloud which drew its life from the sea? is not its joy to feel itself absorbed?
Yes, in spite of everything, this is the climax of the tragedy.
And the soul, my soul at least, longs for something else, not absorption, not quietude, not peace, not appeasement, it longs ever to approach and never to arrive, it longs for a never-ending longing, for an eternal hope which is eternally renewed but never wholly fulfilled. And together with all this, it longs for an eternal lack of something and an eternal suffering. A suffering, a pain, thanks to which it grows without ceasing in consciousness and in longing. Do not write upon the gate of heaven that sentence which Dante placed over the threshold of hell, Lasciate ogni speranza! Do not destroy time! Our life is a hope which is continually converting itself into memory and memory in its turn begets hope. Give us leave to live! The eternity that is like an eternal present, without memory and without hope, is death. Thus do ideas exist, but not thus do men live. Thus do ideas exist in the God-Idea, but not thus can men live in the living God, in the God-Man.
An eternal purgatory, then, rather than a heaven of glory; an eternal ascent. If there is an end of all suffering, however pure and spiritualized we may suppose it to be, if there is an end of all desire, what is it that makes the blessed in paradise go on living? If in paradise they do not suffer for want of God, how shall they love Him? And if even there, in the heaven of glory, while they behold God little by little and closer and closer, yet without ever wholly attaining to Him, there does not always remain something more for them to know and desire, if there does not always remain a substratum of doubt, how shall they not fall asleep?
Or, to sum up, if in heaven there does not remain something of this innermost tragedy of the soul, what sort of a life is that? Is there perhaps any greater joy than that of remembering misery—and to remember it is to feel it—in time of felicity? Does not the prison haunt the freed prisoner? Does he not miss his former dreams of liberty?
* * * * *
Mythological dreams! it will be said. And I have not pretended that they are anything else. But has not the mythological dream its content of truth? Are not dream and myth perhaps revelations of an inexpressible truth, of an irrational truth, of a truth that cannot be proven?
Mythology! Perhaps; but, as in the days of Plato, we must needs mythologize when we come to deal with the other life. But we have just seen that whenever we seek to give a form that is concrete, conceivable, or in other words, rational, to our primary, primordial, and fundamental longing for an eternal life conscious of itself and of its personal individuality, esthetic, logical, and ethical absurdities are multiplied and there is no way of conceiving the beatific vision and the apocatastasis that is free from contradictions and inconsistencies.
Nevertheless, yes, we must needs long for it, however absurd it may appear to us; nay, more, we must needs believe in it, in some way or another, in order that we may live. In order that we may live, eh? not in order that we may understand the Universe. We must needs believe in it, and to believe in it is to be religious. Christianity, the only religion which we Europeans of the twentieth century are really capable of feeling, is, as Kierkegaard said, a desperate sortie (Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift, ii., i., cap. i.), a sortie which can be successful only by means of the martyrdom of faith, which is, according to this same tragic thinker, the crucifixion of reason.
Not without reason did he who had the right to do so speak of the foolishness of the cross. Foolishness, without doubt, foolishness. And the American humorist, Oliver Wendell Holmes, was not altogether wide of the mark in making one of the characters in his ingenious conversations say that he thought better of those who were confined in a lunatic asylum on account of religious mania than of those who, while professing the same religious principles, kept their wits and appeared to enjoy life very well outside of the asylums. But those who are at large, are they not really, thanks to God, mad too? Are there not mild madnesses, which not only permit us to mix with our neighbours without danger to society, but which rather enable us to do so, for by means of them we are able to attribute a meaning and finality to life and society themselves?
And after all, what is madness and how can we distinguish it from reason, unless we place ourselves outside both the one and the other, which for us is impossible?
Madness perhaps it is, and great madness, to seek to penetrate into the mystery of the Beyond; madness to seek to superimpose the self-contradictory dreams of our imagination upon the dictates of a sane reason. And a sane reason tells us that nothing can be built up without foundations, and that it is not merely an idle but a subversive task to fill the void of the unknown with fantasies. And nevertheless....
We must needs believe in the other life, in the eternal life beyond the grave, and in an individual and personal life, in a life in which each one of us may feel his consciousness and fed that it is united, without being confounded, with all other consciousnesses in the Supreme Consciousness, in God; we must needs believe in that other life in order that we may live this life, and endure it, and give it meaning and finality. And we must needs believe in that other life, perhaps, in order that we may deserve it, in order that we may obtain it, for it may be that he neither deserves it nor will obtain it who does not passionately desire it above reason and, if need be, against reason.
And above all, we must feel and act as if an endless continuation of our earthly life awaited us after death; and if it be that nothingness is the fate that awaits us we must not, in the words of Obermann, so act that it shall be a just fate.