The Church of the Social Revolution
They have taken the tomb of our Comrade Christ-- Infidel hordes that believe not in man; Stable and stall for his birth sufficed, But his tomb is built on a kingly plan. They have hedged him round with pomp and parade, They have buried him deep under steel and stone-- But we come leading the great Crusade To give our Comrade back to his own. ~Waddell.
Christ and Caesar
In the most deeply significant of the legends concerning Jesus, we are told how the devil took him up into a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time; and the devil said unto him: "All this power will I give unto thee, and the glory of them, for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it. If thou, therefore, wilt worship me, all shall be thine." Jesus, as we know, answered and said "Get thee behind me, Satan!" And he really meant it; he would have nothing to do with worldly glory, with "temporal power;" he chose the career of a revolutionary agitator, and died the death of a disturber of the peace. And for two or three centuries his church followed in his footsteps, cherishing his proletarian gospel. The early Christians had "all things in common, except women;" they lived as social outcasts, hiding in deserted catacombs, and being thrown to lions and boiled in oil.
But the devil is a subtle worm; he does not give up at one defeat, for he knows human nature, and the strength of the forces which battle for him. He failed to get Jesus, but he came again, to get Jesus' church. He came when, through the power of the new revolutionary idea, the Church had won a position of tremendous power in the decaying Roman Empire; and the subtle worm assumed the guise of no less a person than the Emperor himself, suggesting that he should become a convert to the new faith, so that the Church and he might work together for the greater glory of God. The bishops and fathers of the Church, ambitious for their organization, fell for this scheme, and Satan went off laughing to himself. He had got everything he had asked from Jesus three hundred years before; he had got the world's greatest religion. How complete and swift was his success you may judge from the fact that fifty years later we find the Emperor Valentinian compelled to pass an edict limiting the donations of emotional females to the church in Rome!
From that time on Christianity has been what I have shown in this book, the chief of the enemies of social progress. From the days of Constantine to the days of Bismarck and Mark Hanna, Christ and Caesar have been one, and the Church has been the shield and armor of predatory economic might. With only one qualification to be noted: that the Church has never been able to suppress entirely the memory of her proletarian Founder. She has done her best, of course; we have seen how her scholars twist his words out of their sense, and the Catholic Church even goes so far as to keep to the use of a dead language, so that her victims may not hear the words of Jesus in a form they can understand.
'Tis well that such seditious songs are sung Only by priests, and in the Latin tongue!
But in spite of this, the history of the Church has been one incessant struggle with upstarts and rebels who have filled themselves with the spirit of the Magnificat and the Sermon on the Mount, and of that bitterly class-conscious proletarian, James, the brother of Jesus.
And here is the thing to be noted, that the factor which has given life to Christianity, which enables it to keep its hold on the hearts of men today, is precisely this new wine of faith and fervor which has been poured into it by generation after generation of poor men who live like Jesus as outcasts, and die like Jesus as criminals, and are revered like Jesus as founders and saints. The greatest of the early Church fathers were bitterly fought by the Church authorities of their own time. St. Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, was turned out of office, exiled and practically martyred; St. Basil was persecuted by the Emperor Valens; St. Ambrose excommunicated the tyrannical Emperor Theodosius; St. Cyprian gave all his wealth to the poor, and was exiled and finally martyred. In the same way, most of the heretics whom the Holy Inquisition tortured and burned were proletarian rebels; the saints whom the Church reveres, the founders of the orders which gave it life for century after century, were men who sought to return to the example of the carpenter's son. Let us hear a Christian scholar on this point, Prof. Rauschenbusch:
The movement of Francis of Assisi, of the Waldenses, of the Humiliati and Bons Hommes, were all inspired by democratic and communistic ideals. Wiclif was by far the greatest doctrinal reformer before the reformation; but his eyes, too, were first opened to the doctrinal errors of the Roman Church by joining in a great national and patriotic movement against the alien domination and extortion of the Church. The Bohemian revolt made famous by the name of John Huss, was quite as much political and social as religious. Savonarola was a great democrat as well as a religious prophet. In his famous interview with the dying Lorenzo de Medici he made three demands as a condition for granting absolution. Of the man he demanded a living faith in God's mercy. Of the millionaire he demanded restitution of his ill-gotten wealth. Of the political usurper he demanded the restoration of the liberties of the people of Florence. It is significant that the dying sinner found it easy to assent to the first, hard to assent to the second, and impossible to concede the last.
Locusts and Wild Honey
This proletarian strain in Christianity goes back to a time long before Jesus; it seems to have been inherent in the religious character of the Jews--that stubborn independence, that stiff-necked insistence on the right of a man to interview God for himself and to find out what God wants him to do; also the inclination to find that God wants him to oppose earthly rulers and their plundering of the poor. What is it that gives to the Bible the vitality it has today? Its literary style? To say that is to display the ignorance of the cultured; for elevation of style is a by-product of passionate conviction; it is what the Jewish writers had to say, and not the way they said it, that has given them their hold upon mankind. Was it their insistence upon conscience, their fear of God as the beginning of wisdom? But that same element appears in the Babylonian psalms, which are as eloquent and as sincere as those of the Hebrews, yet are read only by scholars. Was it their sense of the awful presence of divinity, of the soul immortal in its keeping? The Egyptians had that far more than the Hebrews, and yet we do not cherish their religious books. Or was it the love of man for all things living, the lesson of charity upon which the Catholics lay such stress? The gentle Buddha had that, and had it long before Christ; also his priests had metaphysical subtlety, greater than that of John the Apostle or Thomas Aquinas.
No, there is one thing and one only which distinguishes the Hebrew sacred writings from all others, and that is their insistent note of proletarian revolt, their furious denunciations of exploiters, and of luxury and wantonness, the vices of the rich. Of that note the Assyrian and Chaldean and Babylonian writing contain not a trace, and the Egyptian hardly enough to mention. The Hindoos had a trace of it; but the true, natural-born rebels of all time were the Hebrews. They were rebels against oppression in ancient Judea, as they are today in Petrograd and New York; the spirit of equality and brotherhood which spoke through Ezekiel and Amos and Isaiah, through John the Baptist and Jesus and James, spoke in the last century through Marx and Lassalle and Jaures, and speaks today through Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Kautsky and Israel Zangwill and Morris Hillquit and Abraham Cahan and Emma Goldman and the Joseph Fels endowment.
The legal rate of interest throughout the Babylonian Empire was 20%; the laws of Manu permitted 24%, while the laws of the Egyptians only stepped in to prevent more than 100%. But listen to this Hebrew law:
If thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee, then thou shalt relieve him, yea, though he be a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with thee: Take thou no interest of him, or increase; but fear thy God that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him any money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.
And so on, forbidding that Hebrews be sold as bond servants, and commanding that at the end of fifty years All debtors shall have their debts forgiven and their lands returned to them. And note that this is not the raving of agitators, the demand of a minority party; it is the law of the Hebrew land.
There has been of late a great deal of new discovery concerning the early Jews. Conrad Noel summarizes the results as follows:
The land-mark law, which sternly forbids encroachment upon peasant rights; consideration for the foreigner; additional sanitary and food laws; tithe regulations on behalf of widows, orphans, foreigners, etc.; that those who have no economic independence should eat and be satisfied; that loans should be given cheerfully, not only without any interest, but even at the risk of losing the principal. To withhold a loan because the year of release is at hand in which the principal is no longer recoverable, is described as a grave sin. When you are compelled to free your slaves, you must give them sufficient capital to embark upon some industry which shall prevent their falling back into slavery. A number of holidays are insisted upon. There must be no more crushing of the poor out of existence, for God cares for these people who have been driven to poverty, and they shall never cease out of the land. Howbeit there shall be no poor with you, for the Lord will bless you, if you will obey these laws.
But then prosperity came, and culture, which meant contact with the capitalist ideas of the heathen empires. The Jews fell from the stern justice of their fathers; and so came the prophets, wild-eyed men of the people, clad in camel's hair and living upon locusts and wild honey, breaking in upon priests and kings and capitalists with their furious denunciations. And always they incited to class war and social disturbance. I quote Conrad Noel again:
Nathan and Gad bad been David's political advisers, Abijah had stirred Jeroboam to revolt, Elijah had resisted Ahab, Elisha had fanned the rebellion of Jehu, Amos thunders against the misrule of the king of Israel, Isaiah denounces the landlords and the usurers, Micah charges them with blood-guiltiness; Jeremiah and the latter prophets, though they strike a more intimate note of personal repentance, strike it as the prelude to that national restoration for which they hunger as exiles.
The first chapters of Isaiah are typical of the Old Testament point of view. Just as the prophets of the nineteenth century thundered against the "Christian" employers of Lancashire, and told them their houses were cemented with the blood of little children, so Isaiah cries against his generation: "Your governing classes companion with thieves; behold you build up Sion with blood." Their ceremonial and their Sabbath keeping are an abomination to God. "When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you. Your hands are full of blood." The poor man is robbed. The rich exact usury. "Woe unto you that lay house to house and field to field, that ye may dwell alone in the midst of the land." "Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doing from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord. Though your sins be blood-colored, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured by the sword."
And nowadays we have the Socialist and Anarchist agitators, following the same tradition, possessed by the same dream as the ancient Hebrew prophets. I have mentioned Emma Goldman; it may be that the reader is not familiar with her writings, and does not realize how very Biblical she is, both in point of view and style. Let me quote a few sentences from a recent issue of her paper, "Mother Earth", on the subject of our ruling classes and their social responsibility:
Yes, you idle rich, you may howl about what we mean to do to you! Your riches are rotten and your fine clothes are falling from your backs. Your stocks and bonds are so tainted that the ink on them should turn to acid and eat holes in your pockets and your skins. You have piled up your dirty millions, but what wages have you paid to the poor devils of farm hands you have robbed? And do you imagine they won't remember it when the revolution comes? You loll on soft couches and amuse yourselves with your mistresses; you think you are "it" and the world is yours. You send militiamen and shoot down our organizers, and we are helpless. But wait, comrades, our time is coming.
Doubtless the reader is well satisfied that the author of this tirade is now in jail, where she can no longer defy the laws of good taste. They always put the ancient prophets in jail; that is the way to know a prophet when you meet him. Let me quote another prophet who is now behind bars--Alexander Berkman, in his "Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist", discussing the same subject of plutocratic pretension:
Tell me, you four hundred, where did you get it? Who gave it to you? Your grandfather, you say? Your father? Can you go all the way back and show there is no flaw anywhere in your title? I tell you that the beginning and the root of your wealth is necessarily in injustice. And why? Because Nature did not make this man rich and that man poor from the start. Nature does not intend for one man to have capital and another to be a wage-slave. Nature made the earth to be cultivated by all. The idea we Anarchists have of the rich is of highwaymen, standing in the street and robbing every one that passes.
Or take "Big Bill" Haywood, chief of the I. W. W. Hear what he has to say in a pamphlet addressed to the harvest-hands he is seeking to organize:
How much farther do you plutes expect to go with your grabbing? Do you want to be the only people left on earth? Why else do you drive out the workers from all share in Nature, and claim everything for yourselves? The earth was made for all, rich and poor alike; where do you get your title deeds to it? Nature gave everything for all men to use alike; it is only your robbery which makes your so-called "ownership". Capital has no rights. The land belongs to Nature, and we are all Nature's sons.
Or take Eugene V. Debs, three times candidate of the Socialist Party for President. I quote from one of his pamphlets:
The propertied classes are like people who go into a public theatre and refuse to let anyone else come in, treating as private property what is meant for social use. If each man would take only what he needs, and leave the balance to those who have nothing, there would be no rich and no poor. The rich man is a thief.
I might go on citing such quotations for many pages; but I know that Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman and Bill Haywood and Gene Debs may read this book, and I don't want them to close it in the middle and throw it at me. Therefore let me hasten to explain my poor joke; the sentiments I have been quoting are not those of our modern agitators, but of another group of ancient ones. The first is not from Emma Goldman, nor did I find it in "Mother Earth". I found it in the Epistle of James, believed by orthodox authorities to have been James, the brother of Jesus. It is exactly what he wrote--save that I have put it into modern phrases, and changed the swing of the sentences, in order that those familiar with the Bible might read it without suspicion. The second passage is not in the writings of Alexander Berkman, but in those of St. John Chrysostom, most famous of the early fathers, who lived 374-407. The third is not from the pen of "Big Bill" but from that of St. Ambrose, a father of the Latin Church, 340-397, and the fourth is not by Comrade Debs, but by St. Basil of the Greek Church, 329-379. And if the reader objects to my having fooled him for a minute or two, what will he say to the Christian Church, which has been fooling him for sixteen hundred years?
The Soap Box
This book will be denounced from one end of Christendom to the other as the work of a blasphemous infidel. Yet it stands in the direct line of the Christian tradition: written by a man who was brought up in the Church, and loved it with all his heart and soul, and was driven out by the formalists and hypocrites in high places; a man who thinks of Jesus more frequently and with more devotion than he thinks of any other man that lives or has ever lived on earth; and who has but one purpose in all that he says and does, to bring into reality the dream that Jesus dreamed of peace on earth and good will toward men.
I will go farther yet and say that not merely is this book written for the cause of Jesus, but it is written in the manner of Jesus. We read his bitter railings at the Pharisees, and miss the point entirely, because the word Pharisee has become to us a word of reproach. But this is due solely to Jesus; in his time the word was a holy word, it meant the most orthodox and respectable, the ultra high-church devotees of Jerusalem. The way to get the spirit of the tirades of Jesus is to do with him what we did with the early church fathers--translate him into American. This time, since the reader shares the secret, it will not be necessary to disguise the Bible style, and we may follow the text exactly. Let me try the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, omitting seven verses which refer to subtleties of Hebrew casuistry, for which we should have to go to Lyman Abbott or St. Alphonsus to find a parallel:
Then Jesus mounted upon a soap-box, and began a speech, saying, The doctors of divinity and Episcopalians fill the Fifth Avenue churches; and it would be all right if you were to listen to what they preach, and do that; but don't follow their actions, for they never practice what they preach. They load the backs of the working-classes with crushing burdens, but they themselves never move a finger to carry a burden, and everything they do is for show. They wear frock-coats and silk hats on Sundays, and they sit at the speakers' table at the banquets of the Civic Federation, and they occupy the best pews in the churches, and their doings are reported in all the papers; they are called leading citizens and pillars of the church. But don't you be called leading citizens, for the only useful man is the man who produces. (Applause). And whoever exalts himself shall be abased, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
Woe unto you, doctors of divinity and Catholics, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of Heaven against men; you don't go in yourself and you don't let others go in. Woe unto you, doctors of divinity and Presbyterians, hypocrites! for you foreclose mortgages on widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers. For this you will receive the greater damnation! Woe unto you, doctors of divinity and Methodists, hypocrites! for you send missionaries to Africa to make one convert, and when you have made him, he is twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Applause). Woe unto you, blind guides, with your subtleties of doctrine, your transubstantiation and consubstantiation and all the rest of it; you fools and blind! Woe unto you, doctors of divinity and Episcopalians, hypocrites! for you drop your checks into the collection-plate and you pay no heed to the really important things in the Bible, which are justice and mercy and faith in goodness. You blind guides, who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel! (Laughter). Woe unto you, doctors of divinity and Anglicans, hypocrites! for you bathe yourselves and dress in immaculate clothing but within you are full of extortion and excess. You blind high churchmen, clean first your hearts, so that the clothes you wear may represent you. Woe unto you, doctors of divinity and Baptists, hypocrites! for you are like marble tombs which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Applause). Woe unto you, doctors of divinity and Unitarians, hypocrites! because you erect statues to dead reformers, and put wreathes upon the tombs of old-time martyrs. You say, if we had been alive in those days, we would not have helped to kill those good men. That ought to show you how to treat us at present. (Laughter). But you are the children of those who killed the good men; so go ahead and kill us too! You serpents, you generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell?
At this point, according to the report published in the Jerusalem "Times", a police sergeant stepped up to the orator and notified him that he was under arrest; he submitted quietly, but one of his followers attempted to use a knife, and was severely clubbed. Jesus was taken to the station-house followed by a riotous throng, and held upon a charge of disorderly conduct. Next morning the Rev. Dr. Caiaphas of Old Trinity appeared against him, and Magistrate Pilate sentenced him to six months on Blackwell's Island, remarking that from this time on he proposed to make an example of those soap-box orators who persist in using threatening and abusive language. Just as the prisoner was being led away, a detective appeared with a requisition from the Governor, ordering that Jesus be taken to San Francisco, where he is under indictment for murder in the first degree, it being charged that his teachings helped to incite the Preparedness Day explosion.
The Church Machine
The Catholics of His time came to Jesus and said, "Master, we would have a sign of Thee"--meaning that they wanted him to do some magic, to prove to their vulgar minds that his power came from God. He answered by calling them an evil and adulterous generation--which is exactly what I have said about the Papal machine. The Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians and other book-worshippers of his time accused him of violating the sacred commands so definitely set down in their ancient texts, and to them he answered that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath; he called them hypocrites, and quoted Karl Marx at them--"This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." Because he despised the company of the respectables, and went among the humble and human folk of his own class in the places where they gathered--the public houses--the churchly scandal-mongers called him "a man gluttonous and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners"--precisely as in the old days they used to sneer at the Socialists for having their meetings in the back-rooms of saloons, and precisely as they still denounce us as free-lovers and atheists.
But the longing for justice between man and man, which is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, is the deepest instinct of the human heart, and the voice of the carpenter cannot be confined within the thickest church-walls, nor drowned by all the pealing organs in Christendom. Even in these days, when the power of Mammon is more widespread, more concentrated and more systematized than ever before in history--even in these days of Morgan and Rockefeller, there are Christian clergymen who dare to preach as Jesus preached. One by one they are cast out of the Church--Father McGlynn, George D. Herron, Alexander Irvine, J. Stitt Wilson, Austin Adams, Algernon Crapsey, Bouck White; but their voices are not silenced they are like the leaven, to which Jesus compared the kingdom of God--a woman took it and hid it in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened. The young theological students read, and some of them understand; I know three brothers in one family who have just gone into the Church, and are preaching straight social revolution--and the scribes and the pharisees have not yet dared to cast them out.
In this book I have portrayed the Christian Church as the servant and henchman of Big Business, a part of the system of Mammon. Every church is necessarily a money machine, holding and administering property. And it is not alone the Catholic Church which is in politics, seeking favors from the state--the exemption of church property from taxation, exemption of ministers from military service, free transportation for them and their families on the railroads, the control of charity and education, laws to deprive people of amusements on Sunday--so on through a long list. As the churches have to be built with money, you find that in them the rich possess the control and demand the deference, while the poor are humble, and in their secret hearts jealous and bitter; in other words, the class struggle is in the churches, as everywhere else in the world, and the social revolution is coming in the churches, just as it is coming in industry.
It is a fact of deep significance that the majority of ministers are proletarians, eking out their existence upon a miserable salary, and beholden in all their comings and goings to the wealthy holders of privilege. Even in the Roman Catholic Church that is true. The ordinary priest is a man of the working class, and knows what working people suffer and feel. So in the Catholic Church there are proletarian rebellions; there is many a priest who does not carry out the political orders of his superiors, but goes to the polls and votes for his class instead of for his pope. In Ireland, as I write, the young priests are defying their bishops and joining the Sinn Fein, a non-religious movement for an Irish Republic.
What is it that keeps the average workingman in subjection to the exploiter? Simply terror, the terror of losing his job. And if you could get into the inmost soul of Christian ministers, you would find that precisely the same force is keeping many of them slaves to Tradition. They are educated men, and thousands of them must resent the dilemma which compels them to be either fools or hypocrites. They have caught enough of the spirit of their time not to enjoy having to pose as miracle-mongers, rain-makers and witch-doctors; they would like to say frankly that they do not believe that Jonah ever swallowed the whale, and even that they are dubious about Hercules and Achilles and other demigods. But they are part of a machine, and the old men and the rich men who run the machine have laid down the law. Those who find themselves tempted to think, remember suddenly that they have wives and children; they have only one profession, they have been unfitted for any other by a life-time of study of dead things, as well as by the practice of altruism.
But now the Social Revolution is coming; coming upon swift wings--it may be here before this book sees the light. And who knows but then we may see in America that wonderful sight which we saw in Russia, when Christian monks assembled and burned their holy books, and petitioned the state to take them in as citizens and human beings? It is my belief that when the power of exploitation is broken, we shall see the Dead Hand crumble into dust, as a mummy crumbles when it is exposed to the air. All those men who stay in the Church and pretend to believe nonsense, because it affords an easy way to earn a living, will suddenly realize that it is possible to earn a living outside; that any man can go into a factory, clean and well-ventilated and humanly run, and by four hours work can earn the purchasing power of ten or fifteen dollars. Do you not think that there may be some who will choose freedom and self-respect on those terms?
And what of those thousands and tens of thousands who join the church because it is a part of the regime of respectability, a way to make the acquaintance of the rich, to curry favor and obtain promotion, to get customers if you are a tradesman, to extend your practice if you are a professional man? And what about the millions who go to church because they are poor, and because life is a desperate struggle, and this is one way to keep the favor of the boss, to get a little better chance for the children, to get charity if you fall into need; in short, to acquire influence with the well-to-do and powerful, who stand together, and like to see the poor humble and reverent, contented in that state of life to which it has pleased God to call them?
The Church Redeemed
Do I mean that I expect to see the Church--all churches--perish and pass away? I do not, for I believe that the Church answers one of the fundamental needs of man. The Social Revolution will abolish poverty and parasitism, it will make temptations fewer, and the soul's path through life much easier; but it will not remove the necessity of struggle for individual virtue, it will only clear the way for the discovery of newer and higher types of virtue. Men will gather more than ever in beautiful places to voice their love of life and of one another; but the places in which they gather will be places swept clean of superstition and tyranny. As the Reformation compelled the Catholic Church to cleanse itself and abolish the grossest of its abuses, so the Social Revolution will compel it to repudiate its defense of parasitism and exploitation. I will record the prophecy that by the year 1950 all Catholic authorities will be denying that the Church ever opposed Socialism--true Socialism; just as today they deny that the Church ever tortured Galileo, ever burned men for teaching that the earth moves around the sun, ever sold the right to commit crime, ever gave away the New World to Spain and Portugal, ever buried newly-born infants in the cellars of nunneries.
The Social Revolution will compel all churches, Christian, Hebrew, Buddhist, Confucian, or what you will, to drive out their formalists and traditionalists. If there is any church that refuses so to adapt itself, the swift progress of enlightenment and freedom will leave it without followers. But in the great religions, which have a soul of goodness and sincerity, we may be sure that reformers will arise, prophets and saints who, as of old, will preach the living word of God. In many churches today we can see the beginning of that new Counter-Reformation. Even in the Catholic Church there is a "modernist" rebellion; read the books of the "Sillon", and Fogazzaro's trilogy of novels, "The Saint", and you will see a genuine and vital protest against the economic corruption of the Church. In America, the "Knights of Slavery" have been forced by public pressure to support a "War for Democracy", and even to compete with the Y. M. C. A. in the training camps. They are doing good work, I am told.
This gradual conquest of the old religiosity by the spirit of modern common sense is shown most interestingly in the Salvation Army. William Booth was a man with a great heart, who took his life into his hands and went out with a bass-drum to save the lost souls of the slums. He was stoned and jailed, but he persisted, and brought his captives to Jesus--
Vermin-eaten saints with mouldy breath, Unwashed legions with the ways of death.
Incidentally the "General" learned to know his slum population. He had not wanted to engage in charity and material activities; he feared hypocrisy and corruption. But in his writings he lets us see how utterly impossible it is for a man of real heart to do anything for the souls of the slum-dwellers without at the same time helping their diseased and hunger-racked bodies. So the Salvation army was forced into useful work--old clothes depots, nights lodgings, Christmas dinners, farm colonies--until today the bare list of the various kinds of enterprises it carries on fills three printed pages. It is all done with the money of the rich, and is tainted by subservience to authority, but no one can deny that it is better than "Gibson's Preservative", and the fox-hunting parsons filling themselves with port.
And in Protestant Churches the advance has been even greater. Here and there you will find a real rebel, hanging onto his job and preaching the proletarian Jesus; while even the great Fifth Avenue churches are making attempts at "missions" and "settlements" in the slums. The more vital churches are gradually turning themselves into societies for the practical betterment of their members. Their clergy are running boys clubs and sewing-schools for girls, food conservation lectures for mothers, social study clubs for men. You get prayer-meetings and psalm-singing along with this; but here is the fact that hangs always before the clergyman's face--that with prayer-meetings and psalm-singing alone he has a hard time, while with clubs and educational societies and social reforms he thrives.
And now the War has broken upon the world, and caught the churches, like everything else, in its mighty current; the clergy and the congregations are confronted by pressing national needs, they are forced to take notice of a thousand new problems, to engage in a thousand practical activities. No one can see the end of this--any more than he can see the end of the vast upheaval in politics and industry. But we who are trained in revolutionary thought can see the main outlines of the future. We see that in these new church activities the clergy are inspired by things read, not in ancient Hebrew texts, but in the daily newspapers. They are responding to the actual, instant needs of their boys in the trenches and the camps; and this is bound to have an effect upon their psychology. Just as we can say that an English girl who leaves the narrow circle of her old life, and goes into a munition factory and joins a union and takes part in its debates, will never after be a docile home-slave; so we can say that the clergyman who helps in Y. M. C. A. work in France, or in Red Cross organization in America, will be less the bigot and formalist forever after. He will have learned, in spite of himself, to adjust means to ends; he will have learned co-operation and social solidarity by the method which modern educators most favor--by doing. Also he will have absorbed a mass of ideas in news despatches from over the world. He is forced to read these despatches carefully, because the fate of his own boys is involved; and we Socialists will see to it that the despatches are well filled with propaganda!
The Desire of Nations
So the churches, like all the rest of the world, are caught in the great revolutionary current, and swept on towards a goal which they do not forsee, and from which they would shrink in dismay: the Church of the future, the Church redeemed by the spirit of Brotherhood, the Church which we Socialists will join. They call us materialists, and say that we think about nothing but the belly--and that is true, in a way; because we are the representatives of a starving class, which thinks about its belly precisely as does any individual who is ravening with hunger. But give us what that arrant materialist, James, the brother of Jesus, calls "those things which are needful to the body," and then we will use our minds, and even discover that we have souls; whereas at present we are led to despise the very word "spiritual", which has become the stock-in-trade of parasites and poseurs.
We have children, whom we love, and whose future is precious to us. We would be glad to have them trained in ways of decency and self-control, of dignity and grace. It would make us happy if there were in the world institutions conducted by men and women of consecrated life who would specialize in teaching a true morality to the young. But it must be a morality of freedom, not of slavery; a morality founded upon reason, not upon superstition. The men who teach it must be men who know what truth is, and the passionate loyalty which the search for truth inspiries. They cannot be the pitiful shufflers and compromisers we see in the churches today, the Jowetts who say they used to believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Rather than trust our children to such shameless cynics, we will make shift to train them ourselves--we amateurs, not knowing much about children, and absorbed in the desperate struggle against organized wrong.
It is a statement which many revolutionists would resent, yet it is a fact nevertheless, that we need a new religion, need it just as badly as any of the rest of our pitifully groping race. That we need it is proven by the rivalries and quarrels in our midst--the schisms which waste the greater part of our activities, and which are often the result of personal jealousies and petty vanities. To lift men above such weakness, to make them really brothers in a great muse--that is the work of "personal religion" in the true and vital sense of the words.
We pioneers and propagandists may not live to see the birth of the new Church of Humanity; but our children will see it, and the dream of it is in our hearts; our poets have sung of it with fervor and conviction. Read these lines from "The Desire of Nations," by Edwin Markham, in which he tells of the new Redeemer who is at hand:
And when he comes into the world gone wrong, He will rebuild her beauty with a song. To every heart he will its own dream be: One moon has many phantoms in the sea. Out of the North the norns will cry to men: "Baldur the Beautiful has come again!" The flutes of Greece will whisper from the dead: "Apollo has unveiled his sunbright head!" The stones of Thebes and Memphis will find voice: "Osiris comes: Oh tribes of Time, rejoice!" And social architects who build the State, Serving the Dream at citadel and gate, Will hail Him coming through the labor-hum. And glad quick cries will go from man to man: "Lo, He has come, our Christ the artisan, The King who loved the lilies, He has come!"
The new religion will base itself upon the facts of life, as demonstrated by experience and reason; for to the modern thinker the basis of all interest is truth, and the wonders of the microscope and the telescope, of the new psychology and the new sociology are more wonderful than all the magic recorded in ancient Mythologies. And even if this were not so, the business of the thinker is to follow the facts. The history of all philosophy might be summed up in this simile: The infant opens his eyes and sees the moon, and stretches out his hands and cries for it, but those in charge do not give it to him, and so after a while the infant tires of crying, and turns to his mother's breast and takes a drink of milk.
Man demands to know the origin of life; it is intolerable for him to be here, and not know how, or whence, or why. He demands the knowledge immediately and finally, and invents innumerable systems and creeds. He makes himself believe them, with fire and torture makes other men believe them; until finally, in the confusion of a million theories, it occurs to him to investigate his instruments, and he makes the discovery that his tools are inadequate, and all their products worthless. His mind is finite, while the thing he seeks is infinite; his knowledge is relative, while the First Cause is absolute.
This realization we owe to Immanuel Kant, the father of modern philosophy. In his famous "antinomies", he proved four propositions: first, that the universe is limitless in time and space; second, that matter is composed of simple, indivisible elements; third, that free will is impossible; and fourth, that there must be an absolute or first cause. And having proven these things, he turned round and proved their opposites, with arguments exactly as unanswerable. Any one who follows these demonstrations and understands them, takes all his metaphysical learning and lays it on the shelf with his astrology and magic.
It is a fact, which every one who wishes to think must get clear, that when you are dealing with absolutes and ultimates, you can prove whatever you want to prove. Metaphysics is like the fourth dimension; you fly into it and come back upside down, hindside foremost, inside out; and when you get tired of this condition, you take another flight, and come back the way you were before. So metaphysical thinking serves the purpose of Catholic cheats like Cardinal Newman and Professor Chatterton-Hill; it serves hysterical women like "Mother" Eddy; it serves the New-thoughters, who wish to fill their bellies with wind; it serves the charlatans and mystagogs who wish to befuddle the wits of the populace. Real thinkers avoid it as they would a bottomless swamp; they avoid, not merely the idealism of Platonists and Hegelians, but the monism of Haeckel, and the materialism of Buechner and Jacques Loeb. The simple fact is that it is as impossible to prove the priority of origin and the ultimate nature of matter as it is of mind; so that the scientist who lays down a materialist dogma is exactly as credulous as a Christian.
How then are we to proceed? Shall we erect the mystery into an Unknowable, like Spencer, and call ourselves Agnostics with a capital letter, like Huxley? Shall we follow Frederic Harrison, making an inadequate divinity out of our impotence? I have read the books of the "Positivists", and attended their imitation church in London, but I did not get any satisfaction from them. In the midst of their dogmatic pronouncements I found myself remembering how the egg falls apart and reveals a chicken, how the worm suddenly discovers itself a butterfly. The spirit of man is a breaker of barriers, and it seems a futile occupation to set limits upon the future. Our business is not to say what men will know ten thousand years from now, but to content ourselves with the simple statement of what men know now. What we know is a procession of phenomena called an environment; our life being an act of adjustment to its changes, and our faith being the conviction that this adjustment is possible and worth while.
In the beginning the guide is instinct, and the act of trust is automatic. But with the dawn of reason the thinker has to justify his faith; to convince himself that life is sincere, that there is worth-whileness in being, or in seeking to be; that there is order in creation, laws which can be discovered, processes which can be applied. Just as the babe trusts life when it gropes for its mother's breast, so the most skeptical of scientists trusts it when he declares that water is made of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, and sets it down for a certainty that this will always be so--that he is not being played with by some sportive demon, who will today cause H2O to behave like water, and tomorrow like benzine.
Nature's Insurgent Son
Life has laws, which it is possible to ascertain; and with each bit of knowledge acquired, the environment is changed, the life becomes a new thing. Consider, for example, what a different place the world became to the man who discovered that the force which laid the forest in ashes could be tamed and made to warm a cave and make wild grains nutritious! In other words, man can create life, he can make the world and himself into that which his reason decides it ought to be. The means by which he does this is the most magical of all the tools he has invented since his arboreal ancestor made the first club; the tool of experimental science--and when one considers that this weapon has been understood and deliberately employed for but two or three centuries, he realizes that we are indeed only at the beginning of human evolution.
To take command of life, to replace instincts by reasoned and deliberate acts, to make the world a conscious and ordered product--that is the task of man. Sir Ray Lankester has set this forth with beautiful precision in his book, "The Kingdom of Man". We are, at this time, in an uncomfortable and dangerous transition stage, as a child playing with explosives. This child has found out how to alter his environment in many startling ways, but he does not yet know why he wishes to alter it, nor to what purpose. He finds that certain things are uncomfortable, and these he proceeds immediately to change. Discovering that grain fermented dispels boredom, he creates a race of drunkards; discovering that foods can be produced in profusion, and prepared in alluring combinations, he makes himself so many diseases that it takes an encyclopedia to tell about them. Discovering that captives taken in war can be made to work, he makes a procession of empires, which are eaten through with luxury and corruption, and fall into ruins again.
This is Nature's way; she produces without limit, groping blindly, experimenting ceaselessly, eliminating ruthlessly. It takes a million eggs to produce one salmon; it has taken a million million men to produce one idea--algebra, or the bow and arrow, or democracy. Nature's present impulse appears as a rebellion against her own methods; man, her creature, will emancipate himself from her law, will save himself from her blindness and her ruthlessness. He is "Nature's insurgent son"; but, being the child of his mother, goes at the task in her old blundering way. Some men are scheduled to elimination because of defective eyesight; they are furnished with glasses, and the breeding of defective eyes begins. The sickly or imbecile child would perish at once in the course of Nature; it is saved in the name of charity, and a new line of degenerates is started.
What shall we do? Return to the method of the Spartans, exposing our sickly infants? We do not have to do anything so wasteful, because we can replace the killing of the unfit by a scientific breeding which will prevent the unfit from getting a chance at life. We can replace instinct by self-discipline. We can substitute for the regime of "Nature red in tooth and claw with ravin" the regime of man the creator, knowing what he wishes to be and how to set about to be it. Whether this can happen, whether the thing which we call civilization is to be the great triumph of the ages, or whether the human race is to go back into the melting pot, is a question being determined by an infinitude of contests between enlightenment and ignorance: precisely such a contest as occurs now, when you, the reader, encounter a man who has thought his way out to the light, and comes to urge you to perform the act of self-emancipation, to take up the marvellous new tools of science, and to make yourself, by means of exact knowledge, the creator of your own life and in part of the life of the race.
The New Morality
Life is a process of expansion, of the unfoldment of new powers; driven by that inner impulse which the philosophers of Pragmatism call the elan vital. Whenever this impulse has its way, there is an emotion of joy; whenever it is balked, there is one of distress. So pleasure and pain are the guides of life, and the final goal is a condition of free and constantly accelerating growth, in which joy is enduring.
That man will ever reach such a state is more than we can say. It is a perfectly conceivable thing that tomorrow a comet may fall upon the earth and wipe out all man's labor's. But on the other hand, it is a conceivable thing that man may some day learn to control the movements of comets, and even of starry systems. It seems certain that if he is given time, he will make himself master of the forces of his immediate environment--
The untamed giants of nature shall bow down-- The tides, the tempest and the lightning cease From mockery and destruction, and be turned Unto the making of the soul of man.
It is a conceivable thing that man may learn to create his food from the elements without the slow processes of agriculture; it is conceivable that he may master the bacteria which at present prey upon his body, and so put an end to death. It is certain that he will ascertain the laws of heredity, and create human qualities as he has created the spurs of the fighting-cock and the legs of the greyhound. He will find out what genius is, and the laws of its being, and the tests whereby it may be recognized. In the new science of psycho-analysis he has already begun the work of bringing an infinity of subconsciousness into the light of day; it may be that in the evidence of telepathy which the psychic researchers are accumulating, he is beginning to grope his way into a universal consciousness, which may come to include the joys and griefs of the inhabitants of Mars, and of the dark stars which the spectroscope and the telescope are disclosing.
All these are fascinating possibilities. What stands in the way of their realization? Ignorance and superstition, fear and submission, the old habits of rapine and hatred which man has brought with him from his animal past. These make him a slave, a victim of himself and of others; to root them out of the garden of the soul is the task of the modern thinker.
The new morality is thus a morality of freedom. It teaches that man is the master, or shall become so; that there is no law, save the law of his own being, no check upon his will save that which he himself imposes.
The new morality is a morality of joy. It teaches that true pleasure is the end of being, and the test of all righteousness.
The new morality is a morality of reason. It teaches that there is no authority above reason; no possibility of such authority, because if such were to appear, reason would have to judge it, and accept or reject it.
The new morality is a morality of development. It teaches that there can no more be an immutable law of conduct, than there can be an immutable position for the steering-wheel of an aeroplane. The business of the pilot of an aeroplane is to keep his machine aloft amid shifting currents of wind. The business of a moralist is to adjust life to a constantly changing environment. An action which was suicide yesterday becomes heroism today, and futility or hypocrisy tomorrow.
This new morality, like all things in a world of strife, is fighting for existence, using its own weapons, which are reason and love. Obviously it can use no others, without self-destruction; yet it has to meet enemies who fight with the old weapons of force and fraud. Whether it will prevail is more than any prophet can say. Perhaps it is too much to ask that it should succeed--this insolent effort of the pigmy man to leap upon the back of his master and fit a bridle into his mouth. Perhaps it is nothing but a dream in the minds of a few, the scientists and poets and inventors, the dreamers of the race. Perhaps the nerve of the pigmy will fail him at the critical moment, and he will fall from the back of his master, and under his master's hoofs.
The hour of the decision is now; for this we can see plainly, and as scientists we can proclaim it--the human race is in a swift current of degeneration, which a new morality alone can check. The struggle is at its height in our time; if it fails, if the fibre of the race continues to deteriorate, the soul of the race to be eaten out by poverty and luxury, by insanity and disease, by prostitution, crime and war--then mankind will slip back into the abyss, the untamed giants of Nature will resume their ancient sway, and the tides, the tempest and the lightning will sweep the earth clean again. I do not believe that this calamity will befall us. I know that in the diseased social body the forces of resistance are gathering--the Socialist movement, in the broad sense--the activities of all who believe in the possibility of reconstructing society upon a basis of reason, justice and love. To such people this book goes out: to the truly religious people, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness here and now, who believe in brotherhood as a reality, and are willing to bear pain and ridicule and privation for the sake of its ultimate achievement.
From the edge of harsh derision, From discord and defeat, From doubt and lame division, We pluck the fruit and eat; And the mouth finds it bitter, and the spirit sweet.... O sorrowing hearts of slaves, We heard you beat from far! We bring the light that saves, We bring the morning star; Freedom's good things we bring you, whence all good things are...
I have come to the end of my task; but one question troubles me. I think of the "young men and maidens meek" who will read this book, and I wonder what they will make of it. We have had a lark together; we have gone romping down the vista of the ages, swatting*, every venerable head that showed itself, beating the dust out of ancient delusions. You would like all your life to be that kind of lark; but you may not find it so, and perhaps you will suffer disillusionment and vexation.
I have known hundreds of young radicals in my life; they have nearly all been gallant and honest, but they have not all been wise, and therefore not so happy as they might have been. In the course of time I have formulated to myself the peril to which young radicals are exposed. We see so much that is wrong in ancient things, it gets to be a habit with us to reject them. We have only to know that a thing is old to feel an impulse of impatient scorn; on the other hand, we are tempted to welcome anything which can prove itself to be unprecedented. There is a common type of radical whose aim in life is to be several jumps ahead of mankind; whose criterion of conduct is that it shocks the bourgeois. If you do not know that type, you may find him--and her--in the newest of the Bohemian cafes, drinking the newest red chemicals, smoking the newest brand of cigarettes, and discussing the newest form of psycopathia sexualis. After you have watched them a while, you realize that these ultra-new people have fallen victim to the oldest form of logical fallacy, the non sequitur, and likewise to the oldest form of slavery, which is self-indulgence.
If it is true that much in the old moral codes is based upon ignorance, and cultivated by greed, it is also true that much in the old moral codes is based upon facts which will not change so long as man is what he is--a creature of impulses, good and bad, wise and foolish, selfish and generous, and compelled to make choice between these impulses; so long as he is a material body and a personal consciousness, obliged to live in society and adjust himself to the rights of others. What I would like to say to young radicals--if there is any way to say it without seeming a prig--is that in choosing their own path through life, they will need not merely enthusiasm and radical fervor, but wisdom and judgment and hard study.
It is our fundamental demand that society shall cease to repeat over and over the blunders of the past, the blunders of tyranny and slavery, of luxury and poverty, which wrecked the ancient societies; and surely it is a poor way to begin by repeating in our own persons the most ancient blunders of the moral life. To light the fires of lust in our hearts, and let them smoulder there, and imagine we are trying new experiments in psychology! Who does not know the radical woman who demonstrates her emancipation from convention by destroying her nerves with nicotine? Who does not know the genius of revolt who demonstrates his repudiation of private property by permitting his lady loves to support him? Who does not know the man who finds in the phrases of revolution the most effective devices for the seducing of young girls?
You will have read this book to ill purpose if you draw the conclusion that there is anything in it to spare you the duty of getting yourself moral standards and holding yourself to them. On the contrary, because your task is the highest and hardest that man has yet undertaken--for this reason you will need standards the most exacting ever formulated. Let me quote some words from a teacher you will not accuse of holding to the slave-moralities:
Free dost thou call thyself? Thy ruling thoughts will I hear, and not that thou hast escaped a yoke.
Art thou such a one that can escape a yoke?
Free from what? What is that to Zarathustra! Clear shall your eye tell me: free to what?
Canst thou give to thyself thy good and thine evil, and hang thy will above thee as thy law? Canst thou be thine own judge, and avenger of thy law?
Fearful it is to be alone with the judge and the avenger of thy law. So is a stone flung out into empty space and into the icy breath of isolation.
Out of the pit of ignorance and despair we emerge into the sunlight of knowledge, to take control of a world, and to make it over, not according to the will of any gods, but according to the law in our own hearts. For that task we have need of all the resources of our being; of courage and high devotion, of faith in ourselves and our comrades, of clean, straight thinking, of discipline both of body and mind. We go to this task with a knowledge as old as the first moral impulse of mankind--the knowledge that our actions determine the future of life, not merely for ourselves but for all the race. For this is one of the laws of the ancient Hebrews which modern science has not repealed, but on the contrary has reinforced with a thousand confirmations--that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generations.
I get letters from the readers of my books; nearly always they are young people, so I feel like the father of a large family. I gather them now about my knee, and pronounce upon them a benediction in the ancient patriarchal style. Children and grandchildren of my hopes, for ages men suffered and fought, so that the world might be turned over to you. Now the day is coming, the glad, new day which blinds us with the shining of its wings; it is coming so swiftly that I am afraid of it. I thought we should have more time to get ready for the taking over of the world! But the old managers of it went insane, they took to tearing each other's eyes out, and now they lie dead about us. So, whether we will or not, we have to take charge of the world; we have to decide what to do with it, even while we are doing it. Let us not fail, young comrades; let us not write on the scroll of history that mankind had to go through yet new generations of wars and tumults and enslavements, because the youth of the international revolution could not lift themselves above those ancient personal vices which wrecked the fair hopes of their fathers--bigotry and intolerance, vindictiveness and vanity, envy, hatred and malice and all uncharitableness!
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