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1. CHRISTIANITYLOeiC OF CREATION BY HENRY JAMES AUTHOR OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST NOT AN ECCLE8IASTIC1SM, ETC. Felix qui potait reTlirirTTiij^lllillrtiiTT fausas,…
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  • 1. CHRISTIANITYLOeiC OF CREATION BY HENRY JAMES AUTHOR OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST NOT AN ECCLE8IASTIC1SM," ETC. Felix qui potait reTlirirTTiij^lllillrtiiTT fausas, Atque metus omnes et inexorabile fatum Subjecit pedibus, strepitumque Acherontis avari." Virgil. JSEW YORKD. APPLETON & CO., 346 and 348 BROADWAY 1857
  • 2. J4 LONDONPEIKTED BY MITCHELL AND SON, WAEDOUR ST., OXFORD ST.
  • 3. PREFACE.The following Letters were actually written to afriend in London, and are published at his sugges-tion. They are themselves but a preface to a largerdiscourse upon the same theme, which the writerhopes some day to accomplish. Christianity wasthe revelation of an utterly unsuspected life of Godwithin the strictest limits of human nature ; . and,like all true revelation of spiritual things, was aninverse form of its own interior substance. Forthis is the distinction between revelation, properlyso called, and information, that the one constitutesan inverted image of the truth, the other a directimage; or that the one is symbolic and speaksmainly to the soul, while the other is purely sta-tistical and addresses chiefly the senses. Henceit is that revelation has always shielded and fos-tered human freedom, while mere information issure to crush it. None of the sects exhibit soservile a temper as those who pretend to the mostauthoritative information about spiritual things.Look at the Swedenborgians, for example. AndMediumshipj as it is called, is growing to be theaspiration and profession of thousands, who are P^<? D ^
  • 4. IV PREFACEnot ashamed to depose their proper human forceand faculty, in order to become the unresistingpuppets of a remorseless spiritual jugglery. The life which Christ revealed has of coursealways been operative in the unseen depths ofhuman experience, or in what we call the spiritualworld. But it is now becoming,* if not sensibly,at all events scientifically, discernible in the asto-nishing phenomena of mans aesthetic or sponta-neous action. This is the momentous lesson withwhich all history is fraught : yet none are soutterly inattentive to it as our ecclesiastics andpoliticians, who, of all living persons, should bethe most interested to give it diligent heed andfurtherance. The theory of their eminent placebinds them fairly to interpret history : if theypersistently fail to do this, it is only because his-tory has escaped from their keeping, and is trans-acting itself in far more hopeful and veraciousquarters. Only the craziest scafiblding of eccle-siastical and political routine still hides from ourgaze the majestic human house God has beensilently building up from the beginning: doubt-less some sharp revolutionary jolt will ere longprostrate that crazy scaffolding, and bring us faceto face with the kindly and eternal reality.Paris, July 1, 1857.
  • 5. LETTER I. Paris, Sept. lth, 1856.My dear W. I AM obliged to you for the pamphlets in rela-tion to the doctrine of Christs glorification ; • butit is very clear to me that the disputants have nojust conception of the spiritual scope of Chris-tianity. They appear both alike immersed in theclouds of the letter, and obviously regard Chris-tianity as concerned — even as to its spiritual con-tents — only with certain personal facts aboutChrist. The letter of revelation is of course con-stituted by those facts: but unless I am greatlydeceived, our disputants view its substance orspirit as somehow subject to the same limitation.If I should ask them what the Lord is accordingto the spiritual sense of the word, I fear that theywould feel logically bound to answer that " He isa finite person like you or me, only inconceivablyelevated and glorious, existing in the spiritualworld as a monarch exists in his kingdom, andthence ruling the natural world. But this is a total misconception of the true B
  • 6. Z THE LORD NOT A FINITEstate of the case. Viewed literally, the Lord wasan historic person, the most finite and dejected ofmen. Viewed spiritually, however, he is the lifeof universal man, existing nowhere but in theindividual soul conjoined with God. To the spi-ritual apprehension the Lord is not a finite his-toric person, capable of being outwardly discrimi-nated from other persons : He is the infinite Divinelove and wisdom in union with every soul of man.He has no existence or personality apart from suchunion. You Swedenborgians are wont to talk ofthe glorification of the human nature in the Christ,as of certain phenomena which transpired withinthe spatial limits of Christs body, and remainpermanently confined to those limits throughouteternity, thus practically turning the Christ into amere miracle, or Divine tour deforce, fit for Bar-nums museum of curiosities. I am persuadedthat nothing more baldly sensual exists out ofHeathendom, than much of this prevalent ortho-dox lore. Swedenborg tells us with all his mightthat timCy space and person, are unreal existencesthat real existence is of an intensely human qua-lity, being made up exclusively of affection, and ofthought derived from that affection : and yet hisreputed followers go on to cogitate the spiritualworld as compounded of space, time, and person, he had never uttered a word uponprecisely as ifthe subject." Not any person" says Swedenborg," named in the Word is perceived in heaven, but
  • 7. BUT A GLORIFIED PERSON 3instead thereof the thing which is represented bythat person/—^. C, 5225. "There are threethings/^ he says, "which perish from the literalsense of the Word, while the spiritual sense isevolving, namely whatsoever pertains to timey tospace, and to person. The conception of time andspace perishes, because these things are peculiarto nature, and spiritual thought is not determinedto person, because a view to person in discoursecontracts or limits the thought, and doth notrender it unlimited : whereas what is extendedand unlimited in discourse gives it universality,and fits it to express things innumerable and inef-fable. Angelic discourse, especially that of thecelestial angels, is of this character, being com-paratively unlimited, and hence it connects itselfwith the infinite and eternal, or the Divine of theLord."—^. C, 5253. See also 5287, 5434. Yours truly. B 2
  • 8. CHRIST REJECTS ALL LETTER II. Paria, Sept. nth, 1856.My dear W. You ask me to be a little more explicit instating my views of New Church truth. I am notaware that there is anything recondite in myviews. Ever since I knew Swedenborgs books Ihave of course been put upon my guard againstmy naturally sensuous and irrational views of cre-ation. No doubt one learns wisdom slowlv, but Imay truly say that I no longer incline to regardcreation as a physical act of God, and have ceasedattributing to Him material modes of being. Ifeel, indeed, a hearty disrelish of the popular cantwhich, while professing to maintain the spiritualcontents of the Scriptures, perpetually degradesthe Divine creation, redemption, and providence,into mere historic problems like the French Revo-lution or the Battle of Waterloo. If the design ofthe New Testament be to give us historical infor-mation, no book was ever more undivinely con-structed. Robinson Crusoe is a masterpiece ofskill beside it, and the American spuks and table-
  • 9. PERSONAL HOMAGE 5tippers, though their talk be only of the dreariestmillinery and mud of things, are yet more lumi-nous than evangelists and apostles. No doubt allspiritual truth falls at last into the historic plane,in order that it may become cognizable in thatdisguise to imspiritual or natural eyes. And theDivine creation, redemption, and providence, obeyof course this universal law. But how base mustwe deem the intelligence, which insists upon view-ing the spiritual truth as identical with its historicultimation ! How base, in other words, must weconsider that spiritual state which regards a Divineoperation as observing strictly personal limits, orshutting itself up to the experience of an individualbosom. Thus I have often been checked, in speak-ing of the Incarnation as a scientific verity, by thesuggestion that " the Incarnation took place onlyin the Christ, and could be true therefore only ofhis experienced^ But those who talk in this way, under the im-pression that they are honouring the Lord, mightmuch more profitably employ their energies in^ whistling jigs to a milestone." Depend upon it,the milestone will up and dance, long before any angel will be caught in that foolish trap. It is a trap, and nothing more. The idea is that in ho- nouring Christ personally we honour Him spiritu- ally, and so shall get to be honoured by Him. There is no persuasion more puerile. We honour Christ spiritually only by forgetting every personal
  • 10. 6 THE SPIRITUAL FORCEand limitary fact about Him^ or rather by seeingin these facts only their universal spiritual mean-ing, the meaning they reflect upon universal manin relation to God. All the literal facts Christ^s —life^ death, and resurrection, — are unspeakably pre-cious —why? Because they contain some magicalvirtue? Assuredly not, but only because theyreveal a truth which they do not constitute, atruth which relates universal man to God. Spi-ritual Christianity drops out the carnal Jesus, orno longer sees Christ after the flesh. It drops theman born of the virgin Mary, six feet high moreor less, of an uncomely aspect, bent and seamedwith sorrow, to see henceforth the glorified or Di-vine Man who is the intimate and omnipresentsecret of creation. Spiritually viewed, Christ isthe inmost and vital selfhood of every individualbosom, bond or free, rich or poor, good or evil,whether such bosom be reflectively conscious ofthe truth or not. But in saying this I should bevery sorry to be understood as saying, that theliteral Man Jesus of Nazareth becomes lifted outof His native environment, and personally insertedin every individual bosom. This would be tooabsurd. What then do I mean ? I mean simplyto indicate the spiritual significance of the Christ.I mean to say that the birth, life, death and glori-fication of Christ spiritually imply, that infinitelove and wisdom constitute the inmost and insepa-rable life of man, and will ultimately vindicate
  • 11. OF THE CHRISTIAN FACTS 7their creative presence and power by bringing themost degraded and contemned forms of humanityinto rapturous conscious conjunction with them.When I think spiritually of the Christian truth, Ido not think of Jesus personally, except as it wereto anchor or define my thought. I think quiteaway from Him personally indeed, and fix myattention upon what is universal to man, or uponthe life of universal human fellowship which theDivine love is now engendering in your bosomand mine, and that of all other men, by the stu-pendous ministry of science. The Christian factsattest, reveal, predict this universal spiritual life ofman, this redemption of the natural mind, becausethey are a real ultimation of it. Every incident ofChrists personal historygrew out of this unseenand unknown Divine operation in humanity, andwere thus a mystical and endless revelation of it,such a revelation as human intelligence permitted.There could have been no scientific informationupon the subject of course, because no angel evenknew the wonders of the Divine love implied inthe intimacy of His conjunction with humannature. By the very necessity of the case, there-fore,* the great and inscrutable truth could onlylook forth under a veil, and wait for the gradualunfolding of human reason to be discerned in itsjust spiritual proportions. That just discernmentis now taking place. Men are everywhere nowbeginning to drop the tedious cant of mere jfer-
  • 12. 8 THE SPIRITUAL WORLD ISsonal homage -to Christy and insist upon finding auniversalhumanitary meaning in His truth, ameaning which shall vitally associate with Godevery man of woman born, whatever be his naturallimitations and infirmities. Thus the Divine Incarnation is with me a spi-ritual truth before — or, in order to its —becominga natural one. I value the natural facts onlybecause they contain something higher and betterthan themselves, something which relates you andme and all mankind to the inmost and exhaust-less heart of God. The entire history of thechurch from Adam to Christ inclusive, is only aseries of effects from a real Divine operation inthe spiritual world, which is the universal mind ofman ; and your and my spiritual experience withthat of our remotest natural descendants, con-stitute the substance of that world, quite as muchas does that of Moses or David. The spiritualworld, or the mind of man, is out of space andtime; and all Gods alleged spiritual judgmentswhich were expressed or ultimated in the life ofChrist, claim your and my bosom for their veri-table ground or arena, quite as much as they dothat of any one who died before Christ. Thus wecan spiritually understand Christianity only in sofar aswe rightly apprehend the life which is takingplace in our own bosoms and that of our con-temporaries. All the Swedenborgs who ever livedwill not avail us here, but only the clear and
  • 13. THE UNIVERSAL HUB4flfJ^^^IN» r^-i ^ 0 TUKJVEEfclTY )reverential insight into what Go^iaC^jj^effec^ff^in the universal mind of man. I for myx^i?tp^^,very clearly, that God is begetting by the ministryof science such a recognition of human society,fellowship, or equality in the bosom man, as ofthat bosom has never conceived, much less known,and can never again lose sight of: such a recog-nition, indeed, as must ere long prostrate everythrone and altar now erected upon the twindogmas of human inequality and depravity, andby means of such prostration bring the wholedisunited family of man into conditions of mutualknowledge, love and reverence. And seeing this,I see that such and no less is the spritual forceof Christianity : that this boundless blessing ofGod upon mans natural life, and by means ofthat upon his spiritual life, is the great anduniversal burden of the Christian letter, and Iconsequently value that letter not with any ser-vile estimation, but with the hearty relish of onewho has tasted its endless and ineffable spiritualcontents. Yours truly. B 3
  • 14. 10 THE OLD IDEA OF RELIGION LETTER III. Paris, Oct. ].My dear W. The great disease of the religious mind at pre-sent is, that it obstinately persists in looking uponreligion as a private question instead of a publicone, as an affair of the individual conscience in-stead of the associated one. One is not surprisedat the old sects continuing in this traditional way,but I am surprised that you, who read Sweden-borg, should not have begun to get out of it, forSwedenborg shews us in every page of his books,that revelation proceeds upon strictly universalprinciples, and that not one single word of it isto be spiritually interpreted in a private or per-sonal sense. The old theory of religion is that God is arespecter of persons, that He approves one sort,the morally good, and saves them; and disap-proves another sort, the morally evil, and damnsthem. Viewed spiritually, of course this is arrantsuperstition, because all men are alike worthlessin the Divine sight, the morally good and the
  • 15. ITS SPIRITUAL DESTINY 11morally evil; and God would quite as gladly,therefore, bless one as the other, only that themorally good man, in consequence of the conceithe derives from the general estimation in whichhe is held, will not permit himself to be blessed.These are they, who being secure of the honourthat comes from men, do not aspire after thatwhich comes solely from God. " It is easier fora camel to go through a needles eye, than for arich man to enter the Divine kingdom. ^ AndSwedenborg shews you that no angel in heavenever feels himself rich in comparison with others,without, ipso fact Of tumbling into infernal com-pany. Still the church has maintained itself inthe world hitherto on this most sandy foundation.It has always been thought that there was anessential difference between the saint and thesinner, and that the distinction between heavenand hell was measured by that difference so that:practically what we have all sought to do in orderto merit heaven has been, to make ourselves dif-ferent from certain other people, whom the worldcheerfully consigns to hell.In this manner the temper has proved to be one ofecclesiasticalintense Pharisaism and self-righteousness, fillingthe world of spirits with all manner of flatulentfalsity and obstruction. The last judgment, asSwedenborg proves, had exclusive reference tothese pestilent and cruel moralists. See his littlebook on the Last Judgment, 69, with the Con-
  • 16. 12 NO ESSENTIAL DIFFERENCEtinuation, 10, 16 : and also the Doctrine of Faithof the New Jerusalem, 64. No intelligent reader of Swedenborg ought tofail to perceive how low this temper is, and howutterly repugnant to the genius of the spiritualdispensation. According to Swedenborg, there isno essential diflPerence between saint and sinner,angel and devil ; in fact, there is no actual differ-ence, even, savewhat is made by the one acknow-ledging the Lord and the other not doing so.According to the unvarying testimony of thisenlightened man, it is the Lord alone who, by Hispresence inwardly in the angel, causeshim to bean angel, and by His absence inwardly from thedevil, suffers him to be a devil. Now what doesSwedenborg mean when he speaks in this way?What does he mean by theLord who is inwardlypresent or absent from man? Does he mean aliteral person, capable of outward or sensiblediscrimination from other persons? Surely thiswould be ridiculous, for no man nor angel couldpossibly exist with an additional person to himselfincluded in his own skin. By the Lord regardedspiritually or rationally, then, we do not meanany literal or personal man, capable of being sen-sibly comprehended; but we mean that Divineand universal life in man, which grows out of theconjunction of the infinite Divine Love with ourfinite natural loves, and which was perfectly mani-fested and ultimated in the Christ, considered as
  • 17. BETWEEN ANGEL AND DEVIL 13the end of the old or carnal economy, and thebeginning of the new or spiritual one. Christwas conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of thevirgin mother, lived, died, and rose again, onlyby virtue of this latent Divine life in humanitywaiting to develop itself in the fulness of time,and seeking meanwhile to give itself intellectualanchorage or projection by all those literal facts.Had there not been a realm of life stored away inthe still unsunned depths of human nature, un-perverted by human folly, unstained by humansin, a realm of life in which the Divine Lovereigns supreme, attracting the cordial, and glad,and boundless homage even of our most na-tural and selfish loves, then Christianity musthave proved an illusion and abortion. For theglorification of the Christ, which is its great truth,obviously pre-supposes the spontaneous subjectionof self-love to charity, or hell to heaven, and ofheaven to the Divine : and when self-love is spon-taneously subject to brotherly love, human natureis redeemed, and every man becomes thenceforthnaturally conjoined with God. I do not say thatevery one thereby becomes spiritually regenerate,for spiritual regeneration, or new birth, impliesthe existing disjunction of the Divine and humannatures, and has never taken place except by theDivine power constraining man^s obedience. Ionly say that he becomes naturally redeemed, sothat his nature will no longer prove an obstacle.
  • 18. 14 REGENERATION BUT A TYPEbut only a help to his spiritual progress. In thepast history of the world, men have been regene-rated only by the Lords power, working in oppo-sition to their nature and very few, consequently, ;have been regenerated. And the heights to whichthe regenerate have attained, no doubt have beencomparativ
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