The Faith of the Millions (2nd series)
by George Tyrrell
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XIII.—Juliana of Norwich XIV.—Poet and Mystic XV.—Two Estimates of Catholic Life XVI.—A Life of De Lamennais XVII.—Lippo, the Man and the Artist XVIII.—Through Art to Faith XIX.—Tracts for the Million XX.—An Apostle of Naturalism XXL.—"The Making of Religion" XXII.—Adaptability as a Proof of Religion XXIII.—Idealism in Straits



"One of the most remarkable books of the middle ages," writes Father Dalgairns, [1] "is the hitherto almost unknown work, titled, Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love made to a Devout Servant of God, called Mother Juliana, an Anchoress of Norwich" How "one of the most remarkable books" should be "hitherto almost unknown," may be explained partly by the fact to which the same writer draws attention, namely, that Mother Juliana lived and wrote at the time when a certain mystical movement was about to bifurcate and pursue its course of development, one branch within the Church on Catholic lines, the other outside the Church along lines whose actual issue was Wycliffism and other kindred forms of heterodoxy, and whose logical outcome was pantheism. Hence, between the language of these pseudo-mystics and that of the recluse of Norwich, "there is sometimes a coincidence ... which might deceive the unwary." It is almost necessarily a feature of every heresy to begin by using the language of orthodoxy in a strained and non-natural sense, and only gradually to develop a distinctive terminology of its own; but, as often as not, certain ambiguous expressions, formerly taken in an orthodox sense, are abandoned by the faithful on account of their ambiguity and are then appropriated to the expression of heterodoxy, so that eventually by force of usage the heretical meaning comes to be the principal and natural meaning, and any other interpretation to seem violent and non-natural. "The few coincidences," continues Father Dalgairns, "between Mother Juliana and Wycliffe are among the many proofs that the same speculative view often means different things in different systems. Both St. Augustine, Calvin, and Mahomet, believe in predestination, yet an Augustinian is something utterly different from a Scotch Cameronian or a Mahometan.... The idea which runs through the whole of Mother Juliana is the very contradictory of Wycliffe's Pantheistic Necessitarianism." Yet on account of the mere similarity of expression we can well understand how in the course of time some of Mother Juliana's utterances came to be more ill-sounding to faithful ears in proportion as they came to be more exclusively appropriated by the unorthodox. It is hard to be as vigilant when danger is remote as when it is near at hand; and until heresy has actually wrested them to its purpose it is morally impossible that the words of ecclesiastical and religious writers should be so delicately balanced as to avoid all ambiguities and inaccuracies. Still less have we a right to look for such exactitude in the words of an anchoress who, if not wholly uneducated in our sense of the word, yet on her own confession "could no letter," i.e., as we should say, was no scholar, and certainly made no pretence to any skill in technical theology. But however much some of her expressions may jar with the later developments of Catholic theology, it must be remembered, as has been said, that they were current coin in her day, common to orthodox and unorthodox; and that though their restoration is by no means desirable, yet they are still susceptive of a "benignant" interpretation. "I pray Almighty God," says Mother Juliana in concluding, "that this book come not but into the hands of those that will be His faithful lovers, and that will submit them to the faith of Holy Church." [2] And indeed such can receive no possible harm from its perusal, beyond a little temporary perplexity to be dispelled by inquiry; and this only in the case of those who are sufficiently instructed and reflective to perceive the discord in question. The rest are well used in their reading to take what is familiar and to leave what is strange, so that they will find in her pages much to ponder, and but a little to pass over.

It is, however, not only to these occasional obscurities and ambiguities that we are to ascribe the comparative oblivion into which so remarkable a book has fallen; but also to the fact that its noteworthiness is perhaps more evident and relative to us than to our forefathers. It cannot but startle us to find doubts that we hastily look upon as peculiarly "modern," set forth in their full strength and wrestled with and overthrown by an unlettered recluse of the fourteenth century. In some sense they are the doubts of all time, with perhaps just that peculiar complexion which they assume in the light of Christianity. Yet, owing to the modern spread of education, or rather to the indiscriminate divulgation of ideas, these problems are now the possession of the man in the street, whereas in former days they were exclusively the property of minds capable—not indeed of answering the unanswerable, but at least of knowing their own limitations and of seeing why such problems must always exist as long as man is man. Dark as the age of Mother Juliana was as regards the light of positive knowledge and information; yet the light of wisdom burned at least as clearly and steadily then as now; and it is by that light alone that the shades of unbelief can be dispelled. Of course, wisdom without knowledge must starve or prey on its own vitals, and this was the intellectual danger of the middle ages; but knowledge without wisdom is so much food undigested and indigestible, and this is the evil of our own day, when to be passably well-informed so taxes our time and energy as to leave us no leisure for assimilating the knowledge with which we have stuffed ourselves.

We must not, however, think of Mother Juliana as shut up within four walls of a cell, evolving all her ideas straight from her own inner consciousness without any reference to experience. Such a barren contemplation, tending to mental paralysis, belongs to Oriental pessimism, whose aim is the extinction of life, mental and physical, and reabsorption into that void whence, it is said, misfortune has brought us forth to troublous consciousness. The Christian contemplative knows no ascent to God but by the ladder of creatures; he goes to the book of Nature and of human life, and to the book of Revelation, and turns and ponders their pages, line by line and word by word, and so feeds and fills the otherwise thin and shadowy conception of God in his own soul, and ever pours new oil upon the flame of Divine love. Father Daigairns writes: "Juliana is a recluse very different from the creatures of the imagination of writers on comparative morals. So far from being cut off from sympathy with her kind, her mind is tenderly and delicately alive to every change in the spiritual atmosphere of England.... The four walls of her narrow home seem to be rent and torn asunder, and not only England but Christendom appears before her view;" and he is at pains to show how both anchorites and anchoresses were much-sought after by all in trouble, temporal or spiritual, and how abundant were their opportunities of becoming acquainted with human life and its burdens, and of more than compensating, through the confidences of others, whatever defect their minds might suffer through lack of personal experience. Even still, how many a priest or nun whose experience had else been narrowed to the petty domestic interests of a small family, is, in virtue of his or her vocation, put in touch with a far larger world, or with a far more important aspect of the world, than many who mingle with its every-day trivialities, and is thus made a partaker in some sense of the deeper life and experience of society and of the Universal Church! The anchoress "did a great deal more than pray. The very dangers against which the author of her rule [3] warns her, are a proof that she had many visitors. He warns her against becoming a 'babbling' or 'gossiping' anchoress, a variety evidently well-known; a recluse whose cell was the depository of all the news from the neighbourhood at a time when newspapers did not exist." Such abuses throw light upon the legitimate use of the anchoress's position in the mediaeval community.

And so, though Mother Juliana "could no letter," though she knew next to nothing of the rather worthless physical science of those times, and hardly more of philosophy or technical theology, yet she knew no little of that busy, sad, and sinful human life going on round her, not only at Norwich, but in England, and even in Europe; and rich with this knowledge, to which all other lore is subordinate and for whose sake alone it is valuable, she betook herself to prayer and meditation, and brought all this experience into relation with God, and drew from it an ever clearer understanding of Him and of His dealings with the souls that His Love has created and redeemed.

It is not then so wonderful that this wise and holy woman should have faced the problems presented by the apparent discord between the truths of faith and the facts of human life—a discord which is felt in every age by the observant and thoughtful, but which in our age is a commonplace on the lips of even the most superficial. But an age takes its tone from the many who are the children of the past, rather than from the few who are the parents of the future. Mother Juliana's book could hardly have been in any sense "popular" until these days of ours, in which the particular disease of mind to which it ministers has become epidemic.

If then these suggestions to some extent furnish an explanation of the oblivion into which the revelations of Mother Juliana have fallen, they also justify the following attempt to draw attention to them once more, and to give some sort of analysis of their contents; more especially as we have reason to believe that they are about to be re-edited by a competent scholar and made accessible to the general public, which they have not been since the comparative extinction of Richardson's edition of 1877. Little is known of Mother Juliana's history outside what is implied in her revelations; nor is it our purpose at present to go aside in search of biographical details that will be of interest only after their subject has become interesting. Suffice it here to say that she was thirty at the time of her revelations, which she tells us was in 1373. Hence she was born in 1343, and is said to have been a centenarian, in which case she must have died about 1443. She probably belonged to the Benedictine nuns at Carrow, near Norwich, and being called to a still stricter life, retired to a hermitage close by the Church of St. Julian at Norwich. The details she gives about her own sick-room exclude the idea of that stricter "reclusion" which is popularly spoken of as "walling-up"—not of course in the mythical sense.

With these brief indications sufficient to satisfy the craving of our imagination for particulars of time and place, let us turn to her own account of the circumstances of her visions, as well as of their nature. She tells us that in her life previous to 1373, she had, at some time or other, demanded three favours from God; first, a sensible appreciation of Christ's Passion in such sort as to share the grace of Mary Magdalene and others who were eye-witnesses thereof: "therefore I desired a bodily sight wherein I might have more knowledge of the bodily pain of our Saviour." And the motive of this desire was that she might "afterwards because of that showing have the more true mind of the Passion of Christ." Her aim was a deeper practical intelligence, and not the gratification of mere emotional curiosity.

This grace she plainly recognizes as extraordinary; for she says: "Other sight or showing of God asked I none, till when the soul was departed from the body." Her second request was likewise for an extraordinary grace; namely, for a bodily sickness which she and others might believe to be mortal; in which she should receive the last sacraments, and experience all the bodily pains, and all the spiritual temptations incident to the separation of soul and body. And the motive of this request was that she might be "purged by the mercy of God, and afterwards live more to the worship of God because of that sickness." In other words, she desired the grace of what we might call a "trial-death," that so she might better meet the real death when it came. Further, she adds, "this sickness I desired in my youth, that I might have it when I was thirty years old." And "these two desires were with a condition" (namely, if God should so will), "for methought this was not the common use of prayer." But the third request she proffers boldly "without any condition," since it was necessarily God's desire to grant it and to be sued for it; namely, the grace of a three-fold wound: the wound of true sorrow for sin; the wound of "kind compassion" with Christ's sufferings; and the wound of "wilful belonging to God," that is, of self-devotion.

She is careful to tell us that while she ever continued to urge the unconditional third request, the two first passed completely out of her head in the course of years, until she was reminded of them by their simultaneous and remarkable fulfilment. "For when I was thirty years old and a half, God sent me a bodily sickness in which I lay three days and three nights; and on the fourth night I took all my rites of Holy Church, and weened not to have lived till day. And after this I lay two days and two nights, and on the third night I weened oftentimes to have passed, and so weened they that were with me.... And I understood in my reason, and by the feeling of my pains that I should die, and I assented fully with all the will of my heart, to be at God's will. Thus I endured till day, and by then, was my body dead to all feeling from the midst down." She is then raised up in a sitting position for greater ease, and her curate is sent for, as the end is supposed to be near. On arrival, he finds her speechless and with her eyes fixed upwards towards heaven, "where I trusted to come by the mercy of God." He places the crucifix before her, and bids her bend her eyes upon it. "I assented to set my eyes in the face of the crucifix if I could; and so I did; for methought I could endure longer to look straight in front of me than right up"—a touch that shows the previous upturning of the eyes to have been voluntary and not cataleptic. At this moment we seem to pass into the region of the abnormal: "After this my sight began to fail; it waxed as dark about me in the chamber as if it had been night, save in the image of the cross, wherein I beheld a common light, and I wist not how. And all that was beside the cross was ugly and fearful to me, as it had been much occupied with fiends." Then the upper part of her body becomes insensible, and the only pain left is that of weakness and breathlessness. Suddenly she is totally eased and apparently quite cured, which, however, she regards as a momentary miraculous relief, but not as a deliverance from death. In this breathing space it suddenly occurs to her to beg for the second of those three wounds which were the matter of her unconditional third request; namely, for a deepened sense and sympathetic understanding of Christ's Passion. "But in this I never desired any bodily sight, or any manner of showing from God; but such compassion as I thought that a kind soul might have with our Lord Jesus." In a word, the remembrance of her two conditional and extraordinary requests of bygone years was not in her mind at the time. "And in this, suddenly I saw the red blood trickling down from under the garland;"—and so she passes from objective to subjective vision;[4] and the first fifteen revelations follow, as she tells us later, one after another in unbroken succession, lasting in all some few hours.

"I had no grief or no dis-ease," she tells us later, "as long as the fifteen showings lasted in showing. And at the end all was close, and I saw no more; and soon I felt that I should live longer." Presently all her pains, bodily and spiritual, return in full force; and the consolation of the visions seems to her as an idle dream and delusion; and she answers to the inquiries of a Religious at her bedside, that she had been raving: "And he laughed loud and drolly. And I said: 'The cross that stood before my face, methought it bled fast.'" At which the other looked so serious and awed that she became ashamed of her own incredulity. "I believed Him truly for the time that I saw Him. And so it was then my will and my meaning to do, ever without end—but, as a fool, I let it pass out of my mind. And lo! how wretched I was," &c. Then she falls asleep and has a terrifying dream of the Evil One, of which she says: "This ugly showing was made sleeping and so was none other," whence it seems that her self-consciousness was unimpaired in the other visions; that is, she was aware at the time that they were visions, and did not confound them with reality as dreams are confounded. Then follows the sixteenth and last revelation; ending with the words: "Wit well it was no raving thou sawest to-day: but take it, and believe it, and keep thee therein, and comfort thee therewith and trust thereto, and thou shalt not be overcome." Then during the rest of the same night till about Prime next morning she is tempted against faith and trust by the Evil One, of whose nearness she is conscious; but comes out victorious after a sustained struggle. She understands from our Lord, that the series of showings is now closed; "which blessed showing the faith keepeth, ... for He left with me neither sign nor token whereby I might know it." Yet for her personally the obligation not to doubt is as of faith: "Thus am I bound to keep it in my faith; for on the same day that it was showed, what time the sight was passed, as a wretch I forsook it and openly said that I raved."

Fifteen years later she gets an inward response as to the general gist and unifying purport of the sixteen revelations. "Wit it well; love was His meaning. Who showed it thee? Love. Wherefore showed He it thee? For love."

Having thus sketched the circumstances of the revelations, we may now address ourselves to their character and substance.

There is nothing to favour and everything to disfavour the notion that Mother Juliana was an habitual visionary, or was the recipient of any other visions, than those which she beheld in her thirty-first year; and of these, she tells us herself, the whole sixteen took place within a few hours. "Now have I told you of fifteen showings, ... of which fifteen showings, the first began early in the morning about the hour of four, ... each following the other till it was noon of the day or past, ... and after this the Good Lord showed me the sixteenth revelation on the night following." Speaking of them all as one, she tells us: "And from the time it was showed I desired oftentimes to wit what was in our Lord's meaning; and fifteen years after and more I was answered in ghostly understanding, saying thus: 'What! wouldst thou wit thy Lord's meaning in this thing? Wit it well: Love was His meaning.'" But this "ghostly understanding" can hardly be pressed into implying another revelation of the evidently supernormal type.

We rather insist on this point, as indicating the habitual healthiness of Mother Juliana's soul—a quality which is also abundantly witnessed by the unity and coherence of the doctrine of her revelations, which bespeaks a mind well-knit together, and at harmony with itself. The hysterical mind is one in which large tracts of consciousness seem to get detached from the main body, and to take the control of the subject for the time being, giving rise to the phenomena rather foolishly called double or multiple "personality." This is a disease proper to the passive-minded, to those who give way to a "drifting" tendency, and habitually suffer their whole interests to be absorbed by the strongest sensation or emotion that presents itself. Such minds are generally chaotic and unorganized, as is revealed in the rambling, involved, interminably parenthetical and digressive character of their conversation. But when, as with Mother Juliana, we find unity and coherence, we may infer that there has been a life-long habit of active mental control, such as excludes the supposition of an hysterical temperament.

Perhaps the similarity of the phenomena which attend both on extraordinary psychic weakness and passivity, and on extraordinary energy and activity may excuse a confusion common enough, and which we have dwelt on elsewhere. But obviously as far as the natural consequences of a given psychic state are concerned, it is indifferent how that state is brought about. Thus, that extreme concentration of the attention, that perfect abstraction from outward things, which in hysterical persons is the effect of weakness and passive-mindedness—of the inability to resist and shake off the spell of passions and emotions; is in others the effect of active self-control, of voluntary concentration, of a complete mastery over passions and emotions. Yet though the causes of the abnormal state are different, its effects may well be the same.

In thus maintaining the healthiness and vigour of Mother Juliana's mind, we may seem to be implicitly treating her revelation, not as coming from a Divine source, but simply as an expression of her own habitual line of thought—as a sort of pouring forth of the contents of her subconscious memory. Our direct intention, however, is to show how very unlikely it is antecedently that one so clear-headed and intelligent should be the victim of the common and obvious illusions of the hysterical visionary. For her book contains not only the matter of her revelations, but also the history of all the circumstances connected with them, as well as a certain amount of personal comment upon them, professedly the fruit of her normal mind; and best of all, a good deal of analytical reflection upon the phenomena which betrays a native psychological insight not inferior to that of St. Teresa. From these sources we could gather the general sobriety and penetration of her judgment, without assuming the actual teaching of the revelations to be merely the unconscious self-projection of her own mind. But in so much as many of these revelations were professedly Divine answers to her own questions, and since the answer must ever be adapted not merely to the question considered in the abstract, but as it springs from its context in the questioner's mind; we are not wrong, on this score alone, in arguing from the character of the revelation to the character of the mind to which it was addressed. Fallible men may often speak and write above or beside the intelligence of their hearers and readers; but not so He who reads the heart He has made. Now these revelations were not addressed to the Church through Mother Juliana; but, as she says, were addressed to herself and were primarily for herself, though most that was said had reference to the human soul in general. They were adapted therefore to the character and individuality of her mind; and are an index of its thoughts and workings. For her they were a matter of faith; but, as she tells us, she had no token or outward proof wherewith to convince others of their reality. Those who feel disposed, as we ourselves do, to place much confidence in the word of one so perfectly sane and genuinely holy, may draw profit from the message addressed to her need; but never can it be for them a matter of faith as in a Divine message addressed directly or indirectly to themselves. So far as these revelations are a clear and noble expression of truths already contained implicitly in our faith and reason, which it brings into more explicit consciousness and vitalizes with a new power of stimulus, they may be profitable to us all; but they must be received with due criticism and discernment as themselves subject to a higher rule of truth—namely, the teaching of the Universal Church.

But to determine, with respect to these and kindred revelations, how far they may be regarded as an expression of the recipient's own mind and latent consciousness, will need a digression which the general interest of the question must excuse.

There is a tendency in the modern philosophy of religion (for example, in Mr. Balfour's Foundations of Belief) to rationalize inspired revelation and to explain it as altogether kindred to the apparently magical intuitions of natural genius in non-religious matters; as the result, in other words, of a rending asunder of the veil that divides what is called "super-liminal" from "subliminal" consciousness; to find in prophecy and secret insight the effect of a flash of unconscious inference from a mass of data buried in the inscrutable darkness of our forgotten self. Together with this, there is also a levelling-up philosophy, a sort of modernized ontologism, which would attribute all natural intuition to a more immediate self-revelation on God's part than seems quite compatible with orthodoxy.

But neither of these philosophies satisfy what is vulgarly understood by "revelation," and therefore both use the word in a somewhat strained sense. For certainly the first sense of the term implies a consciousness on the part of the recipient of being spoken to, of being related through such speech to another personality, whereas the flashes and intuitions of natural genius, however they may resemble and be called "inspirations" because of their exceeding the known resources of the thinker's own mind, yet they are consciously autochthonous; they are felt to spring from the mind's own soil; not to break the soul's solitude with the sense of an alien presence. Such interior illuminations, though doubtless in a secondary sense derived from the "True Light which enlightens every man coming into this world," certainly do not fulfil the traditional notion of revelation as understood, not only in the Christian Church, but also in all ethnic religions. For common to antiquity is the notion of some kind of possession or seizure, some usurpation of the soul's faculties by an external personality, divine or diabolic, for its own service and as its instrument of expression—a phenomenon, in fact, quite analogous, if not the same in species, with that of hypnotic control and suggestion, where the thought and will of the subject is simply passive under the thought and will of the agent.

Saints and contemplatives are wont—not without justification—to speak of their lights in prayer, and of the ordinary intuitions of their mind, under the influence of grace, as Divine utterances in a secondary sense; to say, "God said to me," or "seemed to say to me," or "God showed me," and so on. But to confound these products of their own mind with revelation is the error only of the uninstructed or the wilfully self-deluded. Therefore, as commonly understood, "revelation" implies the conscious control of the mind by another mind; just as its usual correlative, "inspiration," implies the conscious control of the will by another will.

There can be no doubt whatever but that Mother Juliana of Norwich considered her revelations to be of this latter description, and not to have been merely different in degree from those flashes of spiritual insight with which she was familiar in her daily contemplations and prayers. How far, then, her own mind may have supplied the material from which the tissues were woven, or lent the colours with which the pictures were painted, or supplied the music to which the words were set, is what we must now try to determine.


Taking the terms "revelation" and "inspiration" in the unsophisticated sense which they have borne not only in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, but in almost all the great ethnic religions as well, we may inquire into the different sorts and degrees of the control exercised by the presumably supernatural agents over the recipient of such influence. For clearness' sake we may first distinguish between the control of the cognitive, the volitional, and the executive faculties. For our present inquiry we may leave aside those cases where the control of the executive faculties, normally subject to the will and directed by the mind, seem to be wrested from that control by a foreign agent possessed of intelligence and volition, as, for example, in such a case as is narrated of the false prophet Balaam, or of those who at the Pentecostal outpouring spoke correctly in languages unintelligible to themselves, or of the possessed who were constrained in spite of themselves to confess Christ. In these and similar cases, not only is the action involuntary or even counter to the will, but it manifests such intelligent purpose as seemingly marks it to be the effect of an alien will and intelligence. Of this kind of control exercised by the agent over the outer actions of the patient, it may be doubted if it be ever effected except through the mediation of a suggestion addressed to the mind, in such sort that though not free, the resulting action is not wholly involuntary. Be this as it may, our concern at present is simply with control exercised over the will and the understanding.

With regard to the will, it is a commonplace of mystical theology that God, who gave it its natural and essential bent towards the good of reason, i.e., towards righteousness and the Divine will; who created it not merely as an irresistible tendency towards the happiness and self-realization of the rational subject, but as a resistible tendency towards its true, happiness and true self-realization—that this same God can directly modify the will without the natural mediation of some suggested thought. We ourselves, by the laborious cultivation of virtue, gradually modify the response of our will to certain suggestions, making it more sensitive to right impulses, more obtuse to evil impulses. According to mystic theology, it is the prerogative of God to dispense with this natural method of education, and, without violating that liberty of choice (which no inclination can prejudice), to incline the rational appetite this way or that; not only in reference to some suggested object, but also without reference to any distinct object whatsoever, so that the soul should be abruptly filled with joy or sadness, with fear or hope, with desire or aversion, and yet be at a loss to determine the object of these spiritual passions. St. Ignatius Loyola, in his "Rules for Discerning Spirits," borrowed no doubt from the current mystical theology of his day, makes this absence of any suggested object a criterion of "consolation" coming from God alone—a criterion always difficult to apply owing to the lightning subtlety of thoughts that flash across the soul and are forgotten even while their emotional reverberation yet remains. Where there was a preceding thought to account for the emotion, he held that the "consolation" might be the work of spirits (good or evil) who could not influence the will directly, but only indirectly through the mind; or else it might be the work of the mind itself, whose thoughts often seem to us abrupt through mere failure of self-observation.

Normally what is known as an "actual grace" involves both an illustration of the mind, and an enkindling of the will; but though supernatural, such graces are not held to be miraculous or preternatural, or to break the usual psychological laws of cause and effect; like the ordinary answers to prayer, they are from God's ordinary providence in that supernatural order which permeates but does not of itself interfere with the natural. But over and above what, relatively to our observation, we call the "ordinary" course, there is the extraordinary, whose interference with it is apparent, though of course not absolute or real—since nothing can be out of harmony with the first and highest law, which is God Himself. And to the category of the extraordinary must be assigned such inspirations and direct will-movements as we here speak of. [5]

Yet not altogether; for in the natural order, too, we have the phenomenon of instinct to consider—both spiritual and animal. Giving heredity all the credit we can for storing up accumulated experience in the nervous system of each species, there remains a host of fundamental animal instincts which that law is quite inadequate to explain; those, for example, which govern the multiplication of the species and secure the conditions under which alone heredity can work. Such cannot be at once the effect and the essential condition of heredity; and yet they are, of all instincts, the most complex and mysterious. Indeed, it seems more scientific to ascribe other instincts to the same known and indubitable, if mysterious, cause, than to seek explanation in causes less known and more hypothetical. In the case of many instincts, it would seem that the craving for the object precedes the distinct cognition of it; that the object is only ascertained when, after various tentative gropings, it is stumbled upon, almost, it might seem, by chance. And this seems true, also, of some of our fundamental spiritual instincts; for example, that craving of the mind for an unified experience, which is at the root of all mental activity, and whose object is ever approached yet never attained; or, again, there is the social and political instinct, which has not yet formed a distinct and satisfying conception of what it would be at. Or nearer still to our theme, is the natural religious instinct which seeks interpretations and explanatory hypotheses in the various man-made religions of the race, and which finds itself satisfied and transcended by the Christian revelation.

In these and like instances, we find will-movements not caused by the subjects' own cognitions and perceptions, but contrariwise, giving birth to cognitions, setting the mind to work to interpret the said movements, and to seek out their satisfying objects.

This is quite analogous to certain phenomena of the order of grace. St. Ignatius almost invariably speaks, not, as we should, of thoughts that give rise to will-states of "consolation" or "desolation," but conversely, of these will-states giving rise to congruous thoughts. Indeed, nothing is more familiar to us than the way in which the mind is magnetized by even our physical states of elation or depression, to select the more cheerful or the gloomier aspects of life, according as we are under one influence or the other; and in practice, we recognize the effect of people's humours on their opinions and decisions, and would neither sue mercy nor ask a favour of a man in a temper. In short, it is hardly too much to say, that our thoughts are more dependent on our feelings than our feelings on our thoughts. This, then, is one possible method of supernatural guidance which we shall call "blind inspiration"—for though the feeling or impulse is from God, the interpretation is from the subject's own mind. It is curious how St. Ignatius applies this method to the determining of the Divine will in certain cases—as it were, by the inductive principle of "concomitant variation." A suggestion that always comes and grows with a state of "consolation," and whose negative is in like manner associated with "desolation," is presumably the right interpretation of the blind impulse. [6] And perhaps this is one of the commonest subjective assurances of faith, namely, that our faith grows and declines with what we know intuitively to be our better moods; that when lax we are sceptical, and believing when conscientious.

Another species of will-guidance recognized by saints, is not so much by way of a vague feeling seeking interpretation, as by way of a sort of enforced decision with regard to some naturally suggested course of conduct. And this, perhaps, is what is more technically understood by an inspiration; as, for example, when the question of writing or not writing something publicly useful, say, the records of the Kings of Israel, rises in the mind, and it is decided for and in the subject, but not by him. Of course this "inspiration" is a common but not essential accompaniment of "revelation" or "mind-control,"—in those cases, namely, where the communicated information is for the good of others; as, also, where it is for the guidance of the practical conduct of the recipient. Such "inspiration" at times seems to be no more than a strong inclination compatible with liberty; at other times it amounts to such a "fixing" of the practical judgment as would ordinarily result from a determination of the power of choice—if that were not a contradiction. Better to say, it is a taking of the matter out of the jurisdiction of choice, by the creation of an idee fixe [7] in the subject's mind.

Turning now to "revelation" in the stricter sense of a preternatural enlightenment of the mind, it might conceivably be either by way of a real accretion of knowledge—an addition to the contents of the mind—or else by way of manipulating contents already there, as we ourselves do by reminiscence, by rumination, comparison, analysis, inference. Thus we can conceive the mind being consciously controlled in these operations, as it were, by a foreign will; being reminded of this or that; being shown new consequences, applications, and relations of truths already possessed.

When, however, there is a preternatural addition to the sum total of the mind's knowledge, we can conceive the communication to be effected through the outer senses, as by visions seen (real or symbolic), or words heard; or through the imagination—pictorial, symbolic, or verbal; visual or auditory; or, finally, in the very reason and intelligence itself, whose ideas are embodied in these images and signs, and to whose apprehension they are all subservient.

Now from all this tedious division and sub-division it may perhaps be clear in how many different senses the words of such a professed revelation as Mother Juliana has left on record can be regarded as preternatural utterances; or rather, in how many different ways she herself may have considered them such, and wished them so to be considered. Indeed, as we shall see, she has done a good deal more to determine this, in regard to the various parts of her record, than most have done, and it is for that reason that we have taken the opportunity to open up the general question. Such a record might then be, either wholly or in part:

(a) The work of religious "inspiration" or genius, in the sense in which rationalists use the word, levelling the idea down to the same plane as that of artistic inspiration.

(b) Or else it might be "inspired" as mystic philosophy or ontologism uses the expression, when it ascribes all natural insight to a more or less directly divine enlightenment.

(c) Or, taking the word more strictly as implying the influence of a distinct personal agency over the soul of the writer, it might be that the record simply expresses an attempted interpretation, an imaginary embodiment, of some blind preternatural stirring of the writer's affections—analogous to the romances and dreams created in the imagination at the first awakening of the amatory affections.

(d) Or, the matter being in no way from preternatural sources, the strong and perhaps irresistible impulse to record and publish it, might be preternatural.

(e) Or (in addition to or apart from such an impulse), it might be a record of certain truths already contained implicitly in the writer's mind, but brought to remembrance or into clear recognition, not by the ordinary free activity of reason, but, as it were, by an alien will controlling the mind.

(f) Or, if really new truths or facts are communicated to the mind from without, this may be effected in various ways: (i) By the way of verbal "inspiration," as when the very words are received apparently through the outer senses; or else put together in the imagination. (ii) Or, the matter is presented pictorially (be it fact or symbol) to the outer senses or to the imagination; and then described or "word-painted" according to the writer's own ability. (iii) Or, the truth is brought home directly to the intelligence; and gets all its imaginative and verbal clothing from the recipient.

Many other hypotheses are conceivable, but most will be reducible to one or other of these. We may perhaps add that, when the revelation is given for the sake of others, this purpose might be frustrated, were not a substantial fidelity of expression and utterance also secured. This would involve, at least, that negative kind of guidance of the tongue or pen, known technically as "assistance."

Mother Juliana gives us some clue in regard to her own revelations where she says: [8] "All this blessed showing of our Lord God was showed in three parts; that is to say, by bodily sight; and by words formed in my understanding; and by ghostly sight. For the bodily sight, I have said as I saw, as truly as I can" (that is, the appearances were, she believed, from God, but the description of them was her own). "And for the words I have said them right as our Lord showed them to me" (for here nothing was her own, but bare fidelity of utterance). "And for the ghostly sight I have said some deal, but I may never full tell it" (that is to say, no language or imagery of her own can ever adequately express the spiritual truths revealed to her higher reason). As a rule she makes it quite clear throughout, which of these three kinds of showing is being described. We have an example of bodily vision when she saw "the red blood trickling down from under the garland," and in all else that seemed to happen to the crucifix on which her open eyes were set. And of all this she says: "I conceived truly and mightily that it was Himself that showed it me, without any mean between us;" that is, she took it as a sort of pictorial language uttered directly by Christ, even as if He had addressed her in speech; she took it not merely as having a meaning, but as designed and uttered to convey a meaning—for to speak is more than to let one's mind appear. Or again, it is by bodily vision she sees a little hasel-nut in her hand, symbolic of the "naughting of all that is made." Of words formed in her imagination she tells us, for example, "Then He (i.e., Christ as seen on the crucifix) without voice and opening of lips formed in my soul these words: Herewith is the fiend overcome." Of "ghostly sight," or spiritual intuition, we have an instance when she says: "In the same time that I saw (i.e., visually) this sight of the Head bleeding, our good Lord showed a ghostly sight of His homely loving. I saw that He is to us everything that is comfortable to our help; He is our clothing, that for love wrappeth us," &c.—where, in her own words and imagery, she is describing a divine-given insight into the relation of God and the soul. Or again, when she is shown our Blessed Lady, it is no pictorial or bodily presentment, "but the virtues of her blissful soul, her truth, her wisdom, her charity." "And Jesus ... showed me a ghostly sight of her, right as I had seen her before, little and simple and pleasing to Him above all creatures."

Just as in the setting forth of these spiritual apprehensions, the words and imagery are usually her own, so in the description of bodily vision she uses her own language and comparisons. For example, the following realism: "The great drops of blood fell down from under the garland like pellets, seeming as it had come out of the veins; and in coming out they were brown red, for the Blood was full thick, and in spreading abroad they were bright red.... The plenteousness is like to drops of water that fall off the eavings after a great shower of rain.... And for roundness they were like to the scales of herrings in the spreading of the forehead," &c. These similes, she tells us, "came to my mind in the time." In other instances, the comparisons and illustrations of what she saw with her eyes or with her understanding, were suggested to her; so that she received the expression, as well as the matter expressed, from without.

But besides the records of the sights, words, and ideas revealed to her, we have many things already known to her and understood, yet "brought to her mind," as it were, preternaturally. Also, various paraphrases and elaborate exegeses of the words spoken to her; a great abundance of added commentary upon what she saw inwardly or outwardly. Now and then it is a little difficult to decide whether she is speaking for herself, or as the exponent of what she has received; but, on the whole, she gives us abundant indications. Perhaps the following passage will illustrate fairly the diverse elements of which the record is woven:

With good cheer our Lord looked into His side and beheld with joy [bodily vision]: and with His sweet looking He led forth the understanding of His creature, by the same wound, into His side within [her imagination is led by gesture from one thought to another]. [9] And then He showed a fair and delectable place, and large enough for all mankind that should be saved, and rest in peace and love [a conception of the understanding conveyed through the symbol of the open wound in the Heart]. And therewith He brought to my mind His dear worthy Blood and the precious water which He let pour out for love [a thought already contained in the mind, but brought to remembrance by Christ]. And with His sweet rejoicing Pie showed His blessed Heart cloven in two [bodily or imaginative vision], and with His rejoicing He showed to my understanding, in part, the Blissful Godhead as far forth as He would at that time strengthen the poor soul for to understand [an enlightening of the reason to the partial apprehension of a spiritual mystery]. And with this our Good Lord said full blissfully: "Lo! how I love thee!" [words formed in the imagination or for the outer hearing], as if He had said: "My darling, behold, and see thy Lord," &c. [her own paraphrase and interpretation of the said words].

Rarely, however, are the different modes so entangled as here, and for the most part we have little difficulty in discerning the precise origin to which she wishes her utterances to be attributed—a fact that makes her book an unusually interesting study in the theory of inspiration.

Thus, in provisionally answering the problem proposed at the beginning of this article, as to how far Mother Juliana supplied from her own mind the canvas and the colours for this portrayal of Divine love, and as to how far therefore it may be regarded as a product of and a key to her inner self, we are inclined to say that, a comparison of her own style of thought and sentiment and expression as exhibited in her paraphrases and expositions of the things revealed to her, with the substance and setting of the said revelations, points to the conclusion that God spoke to her soul in its own language and habitual forms of thought; and that if the "content" of the revelation was partly new, yet it was harmonious with the previous "content" of her mind, being, as it were, a congruous development of the same—not violently thrust into the soul, but set down softly in the appointed place already hollowed for it and, so to say, clamouring for it as for its natural fulfilment. This, of course, is not a point for detailed and rigorous proof, but represents an impression that gathers strength the oftener we read and re-read Mother Juliana's "showings."

Jan. Mar. 1900.


[Footnote 1: Prefatory Essay to Walter Hilton's Scale of Perfection.]

[Footnote 2: The Protestant editor of the Leicester edition (of 1845), not understanding that an appreciation of difficulties, far from being incompatible with faith, is a condition of the higher and more intelligent faith, would fain credit Mother Juliana with a secret disaffection towards the Church's authority. How far he is justif may be gathered from such passages as these: "In this way was I taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly hold me fast in the faith, as I had before understood." "It was not my meaning to take proof of anything that belongeth to our faith, for I believed truly that Hell and Purgatory is for the same end that Holy Church teacheth." "And I was strengthened and learned generally to keep me in the faith in every point ... that I might continue therein to my life's end." "God showed full great pleasaunce that He hath in all men and women, that mightily and wisely take the preaching and teaching of Holy Church; for it is His Holy Church; He is the ground; He is the substance; He is the teaching; He is the teacher," &c.]

[Footnote 3: Ancren Riwle.]

[Footnote 4: It is clear from many little touches and allusions that throughout the "showings" Mother Juliana considers herself to be gazing, not on a vision of Calvary, but on the illuminated crucifix hung before her by her attendants, in which crucifix these appearances of bleeding, suffering, movement, and speech take place. All else is shrouded in darkness. Yet she never loses the consciousness that she is in her bed and surrounded by others. Notice, for instance: "After this, I saw with bodily sight in the face of the crucifix that hung before me," &c. "The cross that stood before my face, methought it bled fast." "This [bleeding] was so plenteous, to my sight, that methought if it had been so in nature and substance" (i.e., in reality and not merely in appearance), "it should have made the bed all a-blood, and have passed over all about." "For this sight I laughed mightily, and made them to laugh that were about me." Evidently she is quite awake, is well conscious of her state and surroundings, and distinguishes appearance from reality, shadow from substance. There is no dream-like illusion in all this. Appearances presented to the outer senses are commonly spoken of as "hallucinations;" but it seems to me that this word were better reserved for those cases where appearance is mistaken for reality; and where consequently there is illusion and deception. Mother Juliana is aware that the crucifix is not really bleeding, as it seems to do, and she explicitly distinguishes such a vision from her later illusory dream-presentment of the Evil One. This dream while it lasted was, like all dreams, confounded with reality; whereas the other phenomena, even if made of "dream-stuff," were rated at their true value. Hence it seems to me that if such things have any outward independent reality, to see them is no more an hallucination than to see a rainbow. Even if they are projected from the beholder's brain, there is no hallucination if they are known for such; but only when they are confounded with reality, as it were, in a waking-dream. As we are here using the word, an experience is "real" which fits in with, and does not contradict the totality of our experiences; which does not falsify our calculation or betray our expectancy. If I look at a fly through a magnifying medium of whose presence I am unconscious, its size is apparent, or illusory, and not real; for being unaware of the unusual condition of my vision, I shall be thrown out in my calculations, and the harmony of my experiences will be upset by seeming contradictions. If, however, I am aware of the medium and its nature, then I am not deceived, and what I see is "reality," since it is as natural and real for the fly to look larger through the optician's lense, as to look smaller through the optic lense. I cannot call one aspect more "real" than the other, for both are equally right and true under the given conditions. For these reasons I should object to consider Mother Juliana's "bodily showings" as hallucinations, so far as the term seems to imply illusion.]

[Footnote 5: For those therefore who make an act of faith in the absolute universality and supremacy of the laws of physics and chemistry, and find in them the last reason of all things, these phenomena are interesting only as studies in the mechanics of illusion.]

[Footnote 6: It was largely by this method, supplemented no doubt by that of reasoned discussion, that St. Ignatius guided himself in determining points connected with the constitution of his Order, according to the journal he has left us of his "experiences," which is simply a record of "consolations" and "desolations."]

[Footnote 7: i.e., A kinaesthetic idea, as it is called, an idea of something to be done in the given conditions.]

[Footnote 8: P. 272 in Richardson's Edit., from which I usually quote as being the readiest available.]

[Footnote 9: On another occasion, by looking down to the right of His Cross, He brought to her mind, "where our Lady stood in the time of His Passion and said: 'Wilt Thou see her?'" leading her by gesture from the seen to the not seen.]



A biographer who has any other end in view, however secondary and incidental, than faithfully to reproduce in the mind of his readers his own apprehension of the personality of his subject, will be so far biassed in his task of selection; and, without any conscious deviation from truth, will give that undue prominence to certain features and aspects which in extreme cases may result in caricature. A Catholic biographer of Coventry Patmore would have been tempted to gratify the wish of a recent critic of Mr. Champneys' very efficient work, [1] and to devote ten times as much space as has been given to the account of his conversion, and a good deal, no doubt, to the discussion and correction of his eccentric views in certain ecclesiastical matters; thus giving us the history of an illustrious convert, and not that of a poet and seer whose conversion, however intimately connected with his poetical and intellectual life, was but an incident thereof. On the other hand, one less intelligently sympathetic with the more spiritual side of Catholicism than Mr. Champneys, would have lacked the principal key to the interpretation of Patmore's highest aims and ideals, towards which the whole growth and movement of his mind was ever tending, and by which its successive stages of evolution are to be explained. Again, with all possible respect for the feelings of the living, the biographer has wisely suppressed nothing needed to bring out truthfully the ruggednesses and irregularities that characterize the strong and somewhat one-sided development of genius as contrasted with the regular features and insipid perfectness of things wrought on a small scale. If idealizing means the filing-away of jagged edges—and surely it does not—Mr. Champneys has left us to do our own idealizing. The faults that marred Purcell's Life of Manning are here avoided, and yet truth is no whit the sufferer in consequence.

In speaking of Patmore as a thinker and a poet, we do not mean to dissociate these two functions in his case, but only to classify him (according to his own category) with those "masculine" poets whose power lies in a beautiful utterance of the truth, rather than in a truthful utterance of the beautiful.

We propose, however, to occupy ourselves with the matter rather than the mode of Patmore's utterance; with that truth which he conceived himself to have apprehended in a newer and clearer light than others before him; and this, because he does not stand alone, but is the representative and exponent of a certain school of ascetic thought whose tendency is diametrically contrary to that pseudo-mysticism which we have dealt with elsewhere, and have ascribed to a confusion of neo-platonic and Christian principles. This counter-tendency misses the Catholic mean in other respects and owes its faultiness, as we shall see, to some very analogous fallacies. If in our chapter on "The True and the False Mysticism," it was needful to show that the principles of Christian monasticism and contemplative life, far from in any way necessarily retarding, rather favour and demand the highest natural development of heart and mind; it is no less needful to assign to this thought its true limits, and to show that the noblest expansion of our natural faculties does not conflict with or exclude the principles of monasticism. I think it is R.H. Hutton who remarks that it is not "easy to give us a firm grasp of any great class of truths without loosening our grasp on some other class of truths perhaps nobler and more vital;" and undoubtedly Patmore and his school in emphasizing the fallacies of neo-platonic asceticism are in danger of precipitating us into fallacies every whit as uncatholic. It is therefore as professedly formulating the principles of a certain school that we are interested in the doctrine of which Patmore constitutes himself the apostle.

Lights are constantly breaking in upon me [he writes] and convincing me more and more that the singular luck has fallen to me of having to write, for the first time that any one even attempted to do so with any fulness, on simply the greatest and most exquisite subject that ever poet touched since the beginning of the world.

The more I consider the subject of the marriage of the Blessed Virgin, the more clearly I see that it is the one absolutely lovely and perfect subject for poetry. Perfect humanity, verging upon, but never entering the breathless region of the Divinity, is the real subject of all true love-poetry; but in all love-poetry hitherto, an "ideal" and not a reality has been the subject, more or less.

Taking the "Angel of the House" as representing the earlier, and the "Odes" the later stage of the development which this theme received under his hands, it seems as though he passes from the idealization and apotheosis of married love to the conception of it as being in its highest form, not merely the richest symbol, but even the most efficacious sacrament of the mystical union between God and the soul. He is well aware—though not fully at first—that these conceptions were familiar to St. Bernard and many a Catholic mystic; it was for the poetic apprehension and expression of them that he claimed originality; or, at least, for their unification and systematic development. "That his apprehensions were based generally—almost exclusively, on the fundamental idea of nuptial love must," as Mr. Champneys says, "be admitted." This was the governing category of his mind; the mould into which all dualities naturally fell; it was to his philosophy what love and hate, light and dark, form and matter, motion and atoms, have been to others.

It was, at all events, the predominance of this conception which bound together his whole life's work, rendering coherent and individualizing all which he thought, wrote, or uttered, and those who study Patmore without this key are little likely to understand him.

And it is the persistent and not always sufficiently restrained use of this category that made much of his writing just a trifle shocking to sensitive minds.

These latter will have "closed his works far too promptly to discover that far from gainsaying the Catholic instinct which prefers virginity to marriage" (not a strictly accurate statement) he makes virginity a condition of the idealized marriage-relation, and finds its realization in her who was at once matron and virgin. Following the fragmentary hints to be found here and there in patristic and mystical theology, he assumes that virgin-spousals and virgin-birth were to have been the law in that Paradise from which man lapsed back into natural conditions through sin; that in the case of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph the paradisaic law was but resumed in this respect. Accordingly, he writes of Adam and Eve in "The Contract,"

Thus the first Eve With much enamoured Adam did enact Their mutual free contract Of virgin spousals, blissful beyond flight Of modern thought, with great intention staunch, Though unobliged until that binding pact.

To their infidelity to this contract he ascribes the subsequent degradation of human love through sensuality; and all the sin and selfishness thence deriving to our fallen race:

Whom nothing succour can Until a heaven-caress'd and happier Eve Be joined with some glad Saint In like espousals, blessed upon Earth, And she her fruit forth bring;

No numb chill-hearted shaken-witted thing, 'Plaining his little span. But of proud virgin joy the appropriate birth, The Son of God and Man.

The rationalistic objection to this suppression of what seems to be of the essence or integrity of matrimony is obvious enough, and yet finds many a retort even in the realm of nature, where the passage to a higher grade of life so often means the stultifying of functions proper to the lower. As to the pre-eminence of that state in which the spiritual excellencies of marriage and virginity are combined, Catholic teaching is quite clear and decided; in this, as in other points, Patmore's untaught intuitions, and instincts—his mens naturaliter catholica—had led him, whither the esoteric teaching of the Church had led only the more appreciatively sympathetic of her disciples, from time to time, as it were, up into that mountain of which St. Ambrose says: "See, how He goes up with the Apostles and comes down to the crowds. For how could the crowds see Christ save in a lowly spot? They do not follow Him to the heights, nor rise to sublimities"—a notion altogether congenial to Patmore's aristocratic bias in religion as in everything else. Undoubtedly it was this mystical aspect of Catholic doctrine that appealed to his whole personality, offering as it did an authoritative approval, and suggesting an infinite realization, of those dreams that were so sacred to him. As far as the logic of the affections goes, it was for the sake of this that he held to all the rest; for indeed the deeper Catholic truths are so internetted that he who seizes one, drags all the rest along with it under pain of self-contradiction.

No one knew better than Patmore the infinite insufficiency of the highest created symbols to equal the eternal realities which it is their whole purpose to set forth; he fully realized that as the lowliest beginnings of created love seem to mock, rather than to foreshadow, the higher forms of which they are but the failure and botched essay, so the very highest conceivable, taken as more than a metaphor, were an irreverent parody of the Divine love for the human soul. It is not the same relationship on an indefinitely extended scale, but only a somewhat similar relationship, the limits of whose similarity are hidden in mystery. But when a man is so thoroughly in love with his metaphor as Patmore was, he is tempted at times to press it in every detail, and to forget that it is "but one acre in the infinite field of spiritual suggestion;" that, less full and perfect metaphors of the same reality, may supply some of its defects and correct some of its redundancies. We should do unwisely to think of the Kingdom of Heaven only as a kingdom, and not also as a marriage-feast, a net, a treasure, a mustard-seed, a field, and so forth, since each figure supplies some element lost in the others, and all together are nearer to the truth than any one: and so, although the married love of Mary and Joseph is one of the fullest revealed images of God's relation to the soul, we should narrow the range of our spiritual vision, were we to neglect those supplementary glimpses at the mystery afforded by other figures and shadowings.

And this leads us to the consideration of a difficulty connected with another point of Patmore's doctrine of divine love. He held that the idealized marriage relationship was not merely the symbol, but the most effectual sacrament and instrument of that love; "yet the world," he complains, "goes on talking, writing, and preaching as if there were some essential contrariety between the two," the disproof of which "was the inspiring idea at the heart of my long poem (the 'Angel')." Now, although in asserting that the most absorbing and exclusive form of human affection is not only compatible with, but even instrumental to the highest kind of sanctity and divine love, Patmore claimed to be at one, at least in principle, with some of the deeper utterances of the Saints and Fathers of the Christian Church; it cannot be denied that the assertion is prima facie opposed to the common tradition of Catholic asceticism; and to the apparent raison d'etre of every sort of monastic institution.

It must be confessed that, in regard to the reconciliation of the claims of intense human affection with those of intense sanctity, there have been among all religious teachers two distinct conceptions struggling for birth, often in one and the same mind, either of which taken as adequate must exclude the other. It would not be hard to quote the utterances of saints and ascetics for either view; or to convict individual authorities of seeming self-contradiction in the matter. The reason of this is apparently that neither view is or can be adequate; that one is weak where the other is strong; that they are both imperfect analogies of a relationship that is unique and sui generis—the relationship between God and the soul. Hence neither hits the centre of truth, but glances aside, one at the right hand, the other at the left. Briefly, it is a question of the precise sense in which God is "a jealous God" and demands to be loved alone. The first and easier mode of conception is that which is implied in the commoner language of saints and ascetics—language perhaps consciously symbolic and defective in its first usage, but which has been inevitably literalised and hardened when taken upon the lips of the multitude. God is necessarily spoken of and imagined in terms of the creature, and when the analogical character of such expression slips from consciousness, as it does almost instantly, He is spoken of, and therefore thought of, as the First of Creatures competing with the rest for the love of man's heart. He is placed alongside of them in our imagination, not behind them or in them. Hence comes the inference that whatever love they win from us in their own right, by reason of their inherent goodness, is taken from Him. Even though He be loved better than all of them put together, yet He is not loved perfectly till He be loved alone. Their function is to raise and disappoint our desire time after time, till we be starved back to Him as to the sole-satisfying—everything else having proved vanitas vanitatum. Then indeed we go back to them, not for their own sakes, but for His; not attracted by our love of them, but impelled by our love of Him.

This mode of imagining the truth, so as to explain the divine jealousy implied in the precept of loving God exclusively and supremely, is, for all its patent limitations, the most generally serviceable. Treated as a strict equation of thought to fact, and pushed accordingly to its utmost logical consequences, it becomes a source of danger; but in fact it is not and will not be so treated by the majority of good Christians who serve God faithfully but without enthusiasm; whose devotion is mainly rational and but slightly affective; who do not conceive themselves called to the way of the saints, or to offer God that all-absorbing affection which would necessitate the weakening or severing of natural ties. In the event, however, of such a call to perfect love, the logical and practical outcome of this mode of imagining the relation of God to creatures is a steady subtraction of the natural love bestowed upon friends and relations, that the energy thus economized may be transferred to God. This concentration may indeed be justified on other and independent grounds; but the implied supposition that, the highest sanctity is incompatible with any pure and well-ordered natural affection, however intense, is certainly ill-sounding, and hardly reconcilable with the divinest examples and precepts.

The limitations of this simpler and more practical mode of imagining the matter are to some extent supplemented by that other mode for which Patmore found so much authority in St. Bernard, St. Francis, St. Teresa, and many another, and which he perhaps too readily regarded as exhaustively satisfactory.

In this conception, God is placed, not alongside of creatures, but behind them, as the light which shines through a crystal and lends it whatever it has of lustre. In recognizing whatever true brilliancy or beauty creatures possess as due to His inbiding presence, the love which they excite in us passes on to Him, through them. As He is the primary Agent and Mover in all our action and movement, the primary Lover in all our pure and well-ordered love; and we, but instruments of His action, movement, and love; so, in whatever we love rightly and divinely for its true merit and divinity, it is He who is ultimately loved. Thus in all pure and well-ordered affection it is, ultimately, God who loves and God who is loved; it is God returning to Himself, the One to the One. According to this imagery, God is viewed as the First Efficient and the ultimate Final Cause in a circular chain of causes and effects of which He is at once the first link and the last—a conception which, in so far as it brings God inside the system of nature as part thereof, is, like the last, only analogously true, and may not be pressed too far in its consequences.

In this view, to love God supremely and exclusively means practically, to love only the best things in the best way, recognizing God both in the affection and in its object. God is not loved apart from creatures, or beside them; but through them and in them. Hence if only the affection be of the right kind as to mode and object, the more the better; nor can there be any question of crowding other affections into a corner in order to make more room for the love of God in our hearts. The love of Him is the "form," the principle of order and harmony; our natural affections are the "matter," harmonized and set in order; it is the soul, they are the body, of that one Divine Love whose adequate object is God in, and not apart from, His creatures.

It would not perhaps be hard to reconcile this view with some utterances in the Gospel of seemingly opposite import; or to find it often implied in the words and actions of Catholic Saints; but to square it with the general ascetic traditions of the faithful at large is exceedingly difficult. Patmore would no doubt have allowed the expediency of celibacy in the case of men and women devoted to the direct ministry of good works, spiritual and corporal: a devotion incompatible with domestic cares; he could and did allow the superiority of voluntary virginity and absolute chastity over the contrary state of lawful use; but he could hardly have justified—hardly not have condemned those who leave father, friend, or spouse, not merely externally in order to be free for good works, but internally in order that their hearts may be free for the contemplation and love of God viewed apart from creatures and not merely in them. He might perhaps say that, as we cannot go to God through all creatures, but only through some (since we are not each in contact with all), we must select according to our circumstances those which will give the greatest expansion and elevation to our natural affections; and that for some, the home is wisely sacrificed for the community or the church. Yet this hardly consists with the pre-eminence he gives to married love as the nearest symbol and sacrament of divine.

Both these modes of imagining the truth, whatever their inconveniences, are helpful as imperfect formulations of Catholic instinct; both mischievous, if viewed as adequate and close-fitting explanations. Patmore was characteristically enthusiastic for his own aspect of the truth; and characteristically impatient of the other. Thus, of a Kempis he says:

There is much that is quite unfit for, and untrue of, people who live in the ordinary relations of life. I don't think I like the book quite so much as I did. There is a hot-house, egotistical air about much of its piety. Other persons are, ordinarily, the appointed means of learning the love of God; and to stifle human affections must be very often to render the love of God impossible.

In other words, the further he pushed the one conception the further he diverged from a Kempis, whose asceticism was built almost purely on the other.

Most probably a reconciliation of these two conceptions will be found in a clear recognition of the two modes in which God is apprehended and consequently loved by the human mind and heart; the one concrete and experimental, accessible to the simplest and least cultured, and of necessity for all; the other, abstract in a sense—a knowledge through the ideas and representations of the mind, demanding a certain degree of intelligence and studious contemplation, and therefore not necessary, at least in any high degree, for all. The difference is like that between the knowledge of salt as tasted in solution and the knowledge of it as seen apart in its crystallized state; or between the knowledge and love of a musical composer as known in his compositions, and as known in himself, from his compositions. The latter needs a not universal power of inference which the most sympathetic musical expert may entirely lack.

Of these two approaches to Divine love and union, the former is certainly compatible with, and conducive to, the unlimited fulness of every well-ordered natural affection; but the latter—a life of more conscious, reflex, and actual attention to God—undoubtedly does require a certain abstraction and concentration of our limited spiritual energies, and can only be trodden at the cost of a certain inward seclusion of which outward seclusion is normally a condition. Instinctively, Catholic tradition has regarded it as a vocation apart—as, like the life of continence, a call to something more than human, and demanding a sacrifice or atrophy of functions proper to another grade of spirituality. Even what is called a "life of thought" makes a similar demand to a great extent; it involves a narrowing of other interests; a departure from the conditions of ordinary practical life. The "contemplative life" is inclusively all this and more; it is a sort of anticipation of the future life of vision. Still, though for a few it may be the surest or the only approach to sanctity, yet there is no degree of Divine love that may not be reached by the commoner and normal path; there have been saints outside the cloister as well as inside. One could hardly offend the first principles of the Gospel more grievously than by making intelligence, culture, and contemplative capacity conditions of a nearer approach to Christ.

It seems to us then that Patmore failed to get at the root of the neglected truth after which he was groping, and thereby fell into a one-sidedness just as real as that against which his chief work was a revolt and protest.

As a convert, Patmore is most uninteresting to the controversialist. His mind was altogether concrete, affirmative, and synthetic, with a profound distrust of abstract and analytical reasoning. As we have said, Christianity and, later, Catholicism appealed profoundly to his intellectual imagination in virtue of some of their deeper tenets, for whose sake he took over all the rest per modum unius.

The idea [of the Incarnation] no sooner flashed upon me as a possible reality than it became, what it has ever since remained, ... the only reality worth seriously caring for; a reality so clearly seen and possessed that the most irrefragable logic of disproof has always affected me as something trifling and irrelevant.

Again: "Christianity is not an 'historical religion,' but a revelation which is renewed in every receiver of it." "My heart loves that of whose existence my intellect allows the probability, and my will puts the seal to the blessed compact which produces faith"—an ingenious application of his favourite category.

Of the efforts of Manning and de Vere to proselytize him, he says:

Their position seemed to me to be so logically perfect that I was long repelled by its perfection. I felt, half unconsciously, that a living thing ought not to be so spick and span in its external evidence for itself, and that what I wanted for conviction was not the sight of a faultless intellectual superficies, but the touch and pressure of a moral solid.

Whatever some may think or have thought of his theology, none who knew him could have any doubt as to the robust and uncompromising character of his faith. It was because he felt so sure of his footing that he allowed himself a liberty of movement perplexing to those whose position was one of more delicate balance. He had a ruthlessness in tossing aside what might be called "non-essentials," that was dictated not so much by an under-estimate of their due importance, as by an impatience with those who over-estimated them, confounding the vessel with its contained treasure.

When he says: "I believe in Christianity as it will be ten thousand years hence," it would be a grave misinterpretation to suppose that he implied any lack of belief in the Christianity of to-day. It is but another assertion of his claim to be in sympathy with the esoteric rather than the exoteric teaching of the present; to be on the mount with the few and not on the plain with the many. For as the glacier formed on the mountain slips slowly down to the plain, so, he held, the esoteric teaching of to-day will be the popular teaching of future ages. However little we may relish this distinction between "aristocratic" and vulgar belief; however strongly we may hold that best knowledge of God—that, namely, which is experimental and tactual rather than intellectual or imaginative—is equally accessible to all; yet just so far as there is question of the intellectual and imaginative forms in which the faith is apprehended, the distinction does and must exist, not only in religion but in every department of belief, as long as there are different levels of culture in the same body of believers. It is, after all, a much more superficial difference than it sounds—a difference of language and symbolism for the same realities. Where language fits close, as it does to things measurable by our senses, divergency makes the difference between truth and error; but where it is question of the substitution of one analogy or symbol for another, the more elegant is not necessarily the more truthful; nor when we consider the infinite inadequacy of even the noblest conceivable finite symbolism to bring God down to our level, need we pride ourselves much for being on a mountain whose height is perceptible from the plain but imperceptible from the heavens.

Hence to say that the distinction between esoteric and exoteric teaching means that the Church has two creeds, one for the simple, another for the educated, is a thoughtless criticism which overlooks the necessarily symbolic nature of all language concerning the "eternities," and confounds a different mode of expression with a difference of the facts and realities expressed.

Matthew Arnold, too, believed in the Catholicism of the future; but in how different a sense! What he hoped for was, roughly speaking, the preservation of the ancient and beautiful husk after the kernel had been withered up and discarded; what Patmore looked forward to was the expansion of the kernel bursting one involucre after another, and ever clamouring for fairer and more adequate covering. With one, the language of religion was all too wide; with the other, all too narrow, for its real signification. Arnold belongs to the first, Patmore to the last of those three stages of religious thought of which Mr. Champneys writes:

The first is represented by those whose creed is so simple as to afford little or no ground for contention; the second by such as in their search for greater precision enlarge the domain of dogma, but fail to pass beyond its mere technical aspect; the third consists of those who rise from the technical to the spiritual, and without repudiating or disparaging dogma, use it mainly as a guide and support to thought which transcends mere definition.

Dec. 1900.


[Footnote 1: Coventry Patmore. By Basil Champneys. Geo. Bell and Sons, 1900.]



Dealing as both do so largely with the inner life of English Catholic society, it is hardly possible to avoid comparing and contrasting One Poor Scruple [1] with Helbeck of Bannisdale,—one the work of a Catholic who knows the matter she is handling, almost experimentally; the other the work of a gifted outsider whose singular talent, careful observation, and studious endeavour to be fair-minded, fail to save her altogether from that unreality and a priori extravagance which experience alone can correct. To the non-Catholic, Mrs. Humphrey Ward's book will appear a marvel of insight and acute analysis; for it will fit in with, and explain his outside observation of those Catholics with whom he has actually come in contact, far better than the preposterous notions that were in vogue fifty years ago. It represents them not as monstrously wicked and childishly idolatrous; but as narrow, extravagant, out-of-date, albeit, well-meaning folk—more pitiable than dangerous.

Formerly when they lived secret and unknown, anything might safely be asserted about them; nothing was too wild or improbable. In those days "Father Clement" was the issue of a superhuman effort at charity and fairness; and the author almost seemed to think an apology was needed for such temerarious liberalism. But when Catholics began to breathe a little more freely and to creep out of their burrows somewhat less nervously; when, in fact, they were seen to be, at least in outward semblance, much as other men; some regard had to be paid to statements that could be checked by observation; and the Papist's disappointing ordinariness had to be attributed to dissimulation or to be otherwise interpreted into accord with the preposterous principles by which their lives were thought to be governed.

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