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    Chapter 4

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    Attitude of Men of Science to Religions in General--What Religion
    is, and What is its Significance for the Life of Humanity--
    Three Conceptions of Life--Christian Religion the Expression of
    the Divine Conception of Life--Misinterpretation of
    Christianity by Men of Science, who Study it in its External
    Manifestations Due to their Criticising it from Standpoint of
    Social Conception of Life--Opinion, Resulting from this
    Misinterpretation, that Christ's Moral Teaching is Exaggerated
    and Cannot be put into Practice--Expression of Divine
    Conception of Life in the Gospel--False Ideas of Men of Science
    on Christianity Proceed from their Conviction that they have an
    Infallible Method of Criticism--From which come Two
    Misconceptions in Regard to Christian Doctrine--First
    Misconception, that the Teaching Cannot be put into Practice,
    Due to the Christian Religion Directing Life in a Way Different
    from that of the Social Theory of Life--Christianity holds up
    Ideal, does not lay down Rules--To the Animal Force of Man
    Christ Adds the Consciousness of a Divine Force--Christianity
    Seems to Destroy Possibility of Life only when the Ideal held
    up is Mistaken for Rule--Ideal Must Not be Lowered--Life,
    According to Christ's Teaching, is Movement--The Ideal and the
    Precepts--Second Misconception Shown in Replacing Love and
    Service of God by Love and Service of Humanity--Men of Science
    Imagine their Doctrine of Service of Humanity and Christianity
    are Identical--Doctrine of Service of Humanity Based on Social
    Conception of Life--Love for Humanity, Logically Deduced from
    Love of Self, has No Meaning because Humanity is a Fiction--
    Christian Love Deduced from Love of God, Finds its Object in
    the whole World, not in Humanity Alone--Christianity Teaches
    Man to Live in Accordance with his Divine Nature--It Shows that
    the Essence of the Soul of Man is Love, and that his Happiness
    Ensues from Love of God, whom he Recognizes as Love within

    Now I will speak of the other view of Christianity which hinders
    the true understanding of it--the scientific view.

    Churchmen substitute for Christianity the version they have framed
    of it for themselves, and this view of Christianity they regard as
    the one infallibly true one.

    Men of science regard as Christianity only the tenets held by the
    different churches in the past and present; and finding that these
    tenets have lost all the significance of Christianity, they accept
    it as a religion which has outlived its age.

    To see clearly how impossible it is to understand the Christian
    teaching from such a point of view, one must form for oneself an
    idea of the place actually held by religions in general, by the
    Christian religion in particular, in the life of mankind, and of
    the significance attributed to them by science.

    Just as the individual man cannot live without having some theory
    of the meaning of his life, and is always, though often
    unconsciously, framing his conduct in accordance with the meaning
    he attributes to his life, so too associations of men living in
    similar conditions--nations--cannot but have theories of the
    meaning of their associated life and conduct ensuing from those
    theories. And as the individual man, when he attains a fresh
    stage of growth, inevitably changes his philosophy of life, and
    the grown-up man sees a different meaning in it from the child, so
    too associations of men--nations--are bound to change their
    philosophy of life and the conduct ensuing from their philosophy,
    to correspond with their development.

    The difference, as regards this, between the individual man and
    humanity as a whole, lies in the fact that the individual, in
    forming the view of life proper to the new period of life on which
    he is entering and the conduct resulting from it, benefits by the
    experience of men who have lived before him, who have already
    passed through the stage of growth upon which he is entering. But
    humanity cannot have this aid, because it is always moving along a
    hitherto untrodden track, and has no one to ask how to understand
    life, and to act in the conditions on which it is entering and
    through which no one has ever passed before.

    Nevertheless, just as a man with wife and children cannot continue
    to look at life as he looked at it when he was a child, so too in
    the face of the various changes that are taking place, the greater
    density of population, the establishment of communication between
    different peoples, the improvements of the methods of the struggle
    with nature, and the accumulation of knowledge, humanity cannot
    continue to look at life as of old, and it must frame a new
    theory of life, from which conduct may follow adapted to the new
    conditions on which it has entered and is entering.

    To meet this need humanity has the special power of producing men
    who give a new meaning to the whole of human life--a theory of
    life from which follow new forms of activity quite different from
    all preceding them. The formation of this philosophy of life
    appropriate to humanity in the new conditions on which it is
    entering, and of the practice resulting from it, is what is called

    And therefore, in the first place, religion is not, as science
    imagines, a manifestation which at one time corresponded with the
    development of humanity, but is afterward outgrown by it. It is a
    manifestation always inherent in the life of humanity, and is as
    indispensable, as inherent in humanity at the present time as at
    any other. Secondly, religion is always the theory of the
    practice of the future and not of the past, and therefore it is
    clear that investigation of past manifestations cannot in any case
    grasp the essence of religion.

    The essence of every religious teaching lies not in the desire for
    a symbolic expression of the forces of nature, nor in the dread of
    these forces, nor in the craving for the marvelous, nor in the
    external forms in which it is manifested, as men of science
    imagine; the essence of religion lies in the faculty of men of
    foreseeing and pointing out the path of life along which humanity
    must move in the discovery of a new theory of life, as a result of
    which the whole future conduct of humanity is changed and
    different from all that has been before.

    This faculty of foreseeing the path along which humanity must
    move, is common in a greater or less degree to all men. But in
    all times there have been men in whom this faculty was especially
    strong, and these men have given clear and definite expression to
    what all men felt vaguely, and formed a new philosophy of life
    from which new lines of action followed for hundreds and thousands
    of years.

    Of such philosophies of life we know three; two have already been
    passed through by humanity, and the third is that we are passing
    through now in Christianity. These philosophies of life are three
    in number, and only three, not because we have arbitrarily brought
    the various theories of life together under these three heads, but
    because all men's actions are always based on one of these three
    views of life--because we cannot view life otherwise than in these
    three ways.

    These three views of life are as follows: First, embracing the
    individual, or the animal view of life; second, embracing the
    society, or the pagan view of life; third, embracing the whole
    world, or the divine view of life.

    In the first theory of life a man's life is limited to his one
    individuality; the aim of life is the satisfaction of the will of
    this individuality. In the second theory of life a man's life is
    limited not to his own individuality, but to certain societies and
    classes of individuals: to the tribe, the family, the clan, the
    nation; the aim of life is limited to the satisfaction of the will
    of those associations of individuals. In the third theory of life
    a man's life is limited not to societies and classes of
    individuals, but extends to the principle and source of life--to

    These three conceptions of life form the foundation of all the
    religious that exist or have existed.

    The savage recognizes life only in himself and his personal
    desires. His interest in life is concentrated on himself alone.
    The highest happiness for him is the fullest satisfaction of his
    desires. The motive power of his life is personal enjoyment. His
    religion consists in propitiating his deity and in worshiping his
    gods, whom he imagines as persons living only for their personal

    The civilized pagan recognizes life not in himself alone, but in
    societies of men--in the tribe, the clan, the family, the kingdom
    --and sacrifices his personal good for these societies. The
    motive power of his life is glory. His religion consists in the
    exaltation of the glory of those who are allied to him--the
    founders of his family, his ancestors, his rulers--and in
    worshiping gods who are exclusively protectors of his clan, his
    family, his nation, his government [see Footnote].

    [Footnote: The fact that so many varied forms of
    existence, as the life of the family, of the tribe,
    of the clan, of the state, and even the life of
    humanity theoretically conceived by the Positivists,
    are founded on this social or pagan theory of life,
    does not destroy the unity of this theory of life.
    All these varied forms of life are founded on the
    same conception, that the life of the individual is
    not a sufficient aim of life--that the meaning of
    life can be found only in societies of individuals.

    The man who holds the divine theory of life recognizes life not in
    his own individuality, and not in societies of individualities (in
    the family, the clan, the nation, the tribe, or the government),
    but in the eternal undying source of life--in God; and to fulfill
    the will of God he is ready to sacrifice his individual and family
    and social welfare. The motor power of his life is love. And his
    religion is the worship in deed and in truth of the principle of
    the whole--God.

    The whole historic existence of mankind is nothing else than the
    gradual transition from the personal, animal conception of life to
    the social conception of life, and from the social conception of
    life to the divine conception of life. The whole history of the
    ancient peoples, lasting through thousands of years and ending
    with the history of Rome, is the history of the transition from
    the animal, personal view of life to the social view of life. The
    whole of history from the time of the Roman Empire and the
    appearance of Christianity is the history of the transition,
    through which we are still passing now, from the social view of
    life to the divine view of life.

    This view of life is the last, and founded upon it is the
    Christian teaching, which is a guide for the whole of our life and
    lies at the root of all our activity, practical and theoretic.
    Yet men of what is falsely called science, pseudo-scientific men,
    looking at it only in its externals, regard it as something
    outgrown and having no value for us.

    Reducing it to its dogmatic side only--to the doctrines of the
    Trinity, the redemption, the miracles, the Church, the sacraments,
    and so on--men of science regard it as only one of an immense
    number of religions which have arisen among mankind, and now, they
    say, having played out its part in history, it is outliving its
    own age and fading away before the light of science and of true

    We come here upon what, in a large proportion of case, forms the
    source of the grossest errors of mankind. Men on a lower level of
    understanding, when brought into contact with phenomena of a
    higher order, instead of making efforts to understand them, to
    raise themselves up to the point of view from which they must look
    at the subject, judge it from their lower standpoint, and the less
    they understand what they are talking about, the more confidently
    and unhesitatingly they pass judgment on it.

    To the majority of learned then, looking at the living, moral
    teaching of Christ from the lower standpoint of the conception of
    life, this doctrine appears as nothing but very indefinite and
    incongruous combination of Indian asceticism, Stoic and
    Neoplatonic philosophy, and insubstantial anti-social visions,
    which have no serious significance for our times. Its whole
    meaning is concentrated for them in its external manifestations--
    in Catholicism, Protestantism, in certain dogmas, or in the
    conflict with the temporal power. Estimating the value of
    Christianity by these phenomena is like a deaf man's judging of
    the character and quality of music by seeing the movements of the

    The result of this is that all these scientific men, from Kant,
    Strauss, Spencer, and Renan down, do not understand the meaning of
    Christ's sayings, do not understand the significance, the object,
    or the reason of their utterance, do not understand even the
    question to which they form the answer. Yet, without even taking
    the pains to enter into their meaning, they refuse, if unfavorably
    disposed, to recognize any reasonableness in his doctrines; or if
    they want to treat them indulgently, they condescend, from the
    height of their superiority, to correct them, on the supposition
    that Christ meant to express precisely their own ideas, but did
    not succeed in doing so. They behave to his teaching much as
    self-assertive people talk to those whom they consider beneath
    them, often supplying their companions' words: "Yes, you mean to
    say this and that." This correction is always with the aim of
    reducing the teaching of the higher, divine conception of life to
    the level of the lower, state conception of life.

    They usually say that the moral teaching of Christianity is very
    fine, but overexaggerated; that to make it quite right we must
    reject all in it that is superfluous and unnecessary to our manner
    of life. "And the doctrine that asks too much, and requires what
    cannot he performed, is worse than that which requires of men what
    is possible and consistent with their powers," these learned
    interpreters of Christianity maintain, repeating what was long ago
    asserted, and could not but be asserted, by those who crucified
    the Teacher because they did not understand him--the Jews.

    It seems that in the judgment of the learned men of our
    time the Hebrew law--a tooth for a tooth, and an eye for
    an eye--is a law of just retaliation, known to mankind five
    thousand years before the law of holiness which Christ
    taught in its place.

    It seems that all that has been done by those men who understood
    Christ's teaching literally and lived in accordance with such an
    understanding of it, all that has been said and done by all true
    Christians, by all the Christian saints, all that is now reforming
    the world in the shape of socialism and communism--is simply
    exaggeration, not worth talking about.

    After eighteen hundred years of education in Christianity the
    civilized world, as represented by its most advanced thinkers,
    holds the conviction that the Christian religion is a religion of
    dogmas; that its teaching in relation to life is unreasonable, and
    is an exaggeration, subversive of the real lawful obligations of
    morality consistent with the nature of man; and that very doctrine
    of retribution which Christ rejected, and in place of which he put
    his teaching, is more practically useful for us.

    To learned men the doctrine of non-resistance to evil by force is
    exaggerated and even irrational. Christianity is much better
    without it, they think, not observing closely what Christianity,
    as represented by them, amounts to.

    They do not see that to say that the doctrine of nonresistance to
    evil is an exaggeration in Christ's teaching is just like saying
    that the statement of the equality of the radii of a circle is an
    exaggeration in the definition of a circle. And those who speak
    thus are acting precisely like a man who, having no idea of what a
    circle is, should declare that this requirement, that every point
    of the circumference should be an equal distance from the center,
    is exaggerated. To advocate the rejection of Christ's command of
    non-resistance to evil, or its adaptation to the needs of life,
    implies a misunderstanding of the teaching of Christ.

    And those who do so certainly do not understand it. They do not
    understand that this teaching is the institution of a new theory
    of life, corresponding to the new conditions on which men have
    entered now for eighteen hundred years, and also the definition of
    the new conduct of life which results from it. They do not
    believe that Christ meant to say what he said; or he seems to them
    to have said what he said in the Sermon on the Mount and in other
    places accidentally, or through his lack of intelligence or of

    [Footnote: Here, for example, is a characteristic
    view of that kind from the American journal the ARENA
    (October, 1890): "New Basis of Church Life." Treating
    of the significance of the Sermon on the Mount and
    non-resistance to evil in particular, the author,
    being under no necessity, like the Churchmen, to
    hide its significance, says:

    "Christ in fact preached complete communism and
    anarchy; but one must learn to regard Christ always
    in his historical and psychological significance.
    Like every advocate of the love of humanity, Christ
    went to the furthest extreme in his teaching. Every
    step forward toward the moral perfection of humanity
    is always guided by men who see nothing but their
    vocation. Christ, in no disparaging sense be it
    said, had the typical temperament of such a reformer.
    And therefore we must remember that his precepts
    cannot be understood literally as a complete
    philosophy of life. We ought to analyze his words
    with respect for them, but in the spirit of criticism,
    accepting what is true," etc.

    Christ would have been happy to say what he ought, but
    he was not able to express himself as exactly and
    clearly as we can in the spirit of criticism, and
    therefore let us correct him. All that he said about
    meekness, sacrifice, lowliness, not caring for the
    morrow, was said by accident, through lack of knowing
    how to express himself scientifically.]

    Matt. vi. 25-34: "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for
    your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for
    your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat,
    and the body than rainment? Behold the fouls of the air; for they
    sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your
    heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
    Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit onto his stature?
    And why take ye thought for rainment? Consider the lilies of the
    field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet
    I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed
    like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the
    field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall
    he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take
    no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink?
    or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things
    do the Gentiles seek), for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye
    have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of
    God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added
    unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the
    morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient
    unto the day is the evil thereof." Luke xii. 33-34: "Sell that ye
    have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a
    treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief
    approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is,
    there will your heart be also." Sell all thou hast and follow me;
    and he who will not leave father, or mother, or children, or
    brothers, or fields, or house, he cannot be my disciple. Deny
    thyself, take up thy cross each day and follow me. My meat is to
    do the will of him that sent me, and to perform his works. Not my
    will, but thine be done; not what I will, but as thou wilt. Life
    is to do not one's will, but the will of God.

    All these principles appear to men who regard them from the
    standpoint of a lower conception of life as the expression of an
    impulsive enthusiasm, having no direct application to life. These
    principles, however, follow from the Christian theory of life,
    just as logically as the principles of paying a part of one's
    private gains to the commonwealth and of sacrificing one's life in
    defense of one's country follow from the state theory of life.

    As the man of the stale conception of life said to the savage:
    Reflect, bethink yourself! The life of your individuality cannot
    be true life, because that life is pitiful and passing. But the
    life of a society and succession of individuals, family, clan,
    tribe, or state, goes on living, and therefore a man must
    sacrifice his own individuality for the life of the family or the
    state. In exactly the same way the Christian doctrine says to the
    man of the social, state conception of life, Repent ye--[GREEK
    WORD]-i. e., bethink yourself, or you will be ruined. Understand
    that this casual, personal life which now comes into being and to-
    morrow is no more can have no permanence, that no external means,
    no construction of it can give it consecutiveness and permanence.
    Take thought and understand that the life you are living is not
    real life--the life of the family, of society, of the state will
    not save you from annihilation. The true, the rational life is
    only possible for man according to the measure in which he can
    participate, not in the family or the state, but in the source of
    life--the Father; according to the measure in which he can merge
    his life in the life of the Father. Such is undoubtedly the
    Christian conception of life, visible in every utterance of the

    [TRANSCRIBIST'S NOTE: The GREEK WORD above used Greek letters,
    spelled: mu-epsilon-tau-alpha-nu-omicron-zeta-epsilon-tau-

    One may not share this view of life, one may reject it, one may
    show its inaccuracy and its erroneousness, but we cannot judge of
    the Christian teaching without mastering this view of life. Still
    less can one criticise a subject on a higher plane from a lower
    point of view. From the basement one cannot judge of the effect
    of the spire. But this is just what the learned critics of the
    day try to do. For they share the erroneous idea of the orthodox
    believers that they are in possession of certain infallible means
    for investigating a subject. They fancy if they apply their so-
    called scientific methods of criticism, there can be no doubt of
    their conclusion being correct.

    This testing the subject by the fancied infallible method of
    science is the principal obstacle to understanding the Christian
    religion for unbelievers, for so-called educated people. From
    this follow all the mistakes made by scientific men about the
    Christian religion, and especially two strange misconceptions
    which, more than everything else, hinder them from a correct
    understanding of it. One of these misconceptions is that the
    Christian moral teaching cannot be carried out, and that therefore
    it has either no force at all--that is, it should not be accepted
    as the rule of conduct--or it must be transformed, adapted to the
    limits within which its fulfillment is possible in our society.
    Another misconception is that the Christian doctrine of love of
    God, and therefore of his service, is an obscure, mystic
    principle, which gives no definite object for love, and should
    therefore be replaced by the more exact and comprehensible
    principles of love for men and the service of humanity.

    The first misconception in regard to the impossibility of
    following the principle is the result of men of the state
    conception of life unconsciously taking that conception as the
    standard by which the Christian religion directs men, and taking
    the Christian principle of perfection as the rule by which that
    life is to be ordered; they think and say that to follow Christ's
    teaching is impossible, because the complete fulfillment of all
    that is required by this teaching would put an end to life. "If a
    man were to carry out all that Christ teaches, he would destroy
    his own life; and if all men carried it out, then the human race
    would come to an end," they say.

    "If we take no thought for the morrow, what we shall eat and what
    we shall drink, and wherewithal we shall be clothed, do not defend
    our life, nor resist evil by force, lay down our life for others,
    and observe perfect chastity, the human race cannot exist," they

    And they are perfectly right if they take the principle of
    perfection given by Christ's teaching as a rule which everyone is
    bound to fulfill, just as in the state principles of life everyone
    is bound to carry out the rule of paying taxes, supporting the
    law, and so on.

    The misconception is based precisely on the fact that the teaching
    of Christ guides men differently from the way in which the
    precepts founded on the lower conception of life guide men. The
    precepts of the state conception of life only guide men by
    requiring of them an exact fulfillment of rules or laws. Christ's
    teaching guides men by pointing them to the infinite perfection of
    their heavenly Father, to which every man independently and
    voluntarily struggles, whatever the degree of his imperfection in
    the present.

    The misunderstanding of men who judge of the Christian principle
    from the point of view of the state principle, consists in the
    fact that on the supposition that the perfection which Christ
    points to, can be fully attained, they ask themselves (just as
    they ask the same question on the supposition that state laws will
    be carried out) what will be the result of all this being carried
    out? This supposition cannot be made, because the perfection held
    up to Christians is infinite and can never be attained; and Christ
    lays down his principle, having in view the fact that absolute
    perfection can never be attained, but that striving toward
    absolute, infinite perfection will continually increase the
    blessedness of men, and that this blessedness may be increased to
    infinity thereby.

    Christ is teaching not angels, but men, living and moving in the
    animal life. And so to this animal force of movement Christ, as it
    were, applies the new force-the recognition of Divide perfection-
    and thereby directs the movement by the resultant of these two

    To suppose that human life is going in the direction to which
    Christ pointed it, is just like supposing that a little boat
    afloat on a rabid river, and directing its course almost exactly
    against the current, will progress in that direction.

    Christ recognizes the existence of both sides of the
    parallelogram, of both eternal indestructible forces of which the
    life of man is compounded: the force of his animal nature and the
    force of the consciousness of Kinship to God. Saying nothing of
    the animal force which asserts itself, remains always the same,
    and is therefore independent of human will, Christ speaks only of
    the Divine force, calling upon a man to know it more closely, to
    set it more free from all that retards it, and to carry it to a
    higher degree of intensity.

    In the process of liberating, of strengthening this force, the
    true life of man, according to Christ's teaching, consists. The
    true life, according to preceding religions, consists in carrying
    out rules, the law; according to Christ's teaching it consists in
    an ever closer approximation to the divine perfection hell up
    before every man, and recognized within himself by every man, in
    an ever closer and closer approach to the perfect fusion of his
    will in the will of God, that fusion toward which man strives, and
    the attainment of which would be the destruction of the life me

    The divine perfection is the asymptote of human life to which it
    is always striving, and always approaching, though it can only be
    reached in infinity.

    The Christian religion seems to exclude the possibility life only
    when men mistake the pointing to an ideal as the laying down of a
    rule. It is only then that the principles presented in Christ's
    teaching appear to be destructive of life. These principles, on
    the contrary, are the only ones that make true life possible.
    Without these principles true life could not be possible.

    "One ought not to expect so much," is what people usually say in
    discussing the requirements of the Christian religion. "One
    cannot expect to take absolutely no thought for the morrow, as is
    said in the Gospel, but only not to take too much thought for it;
    one cannot give away all to the poor, but one must give away a
    certain definite part; one need not aim at virginity, but one must
    avoid debauchery; one need not forsake wife and children, but one
    must not give too great a place to them in one's heart," and so

    But to speak like this is just like telling a man who is
    struggling on a swift river and is directing his course against
    the current, that it is impossible to cross the river rowing
    against the current, and that to cross it he must float in the
    direction of the point he wants to reach.

    In reality, in order to reach the place to which he wants to go,
    he must row with all his strength toward a point
    much higher up.

    To let go the requirements of the ideal means not only to diminish
    the possibility of perfection, but to make an end of the ideal
    itself. The ideal that has power over men is not an ideal
    invented by someone, but the ideal that every man carries within
    his soul. Only this ideal of complete infinite perfection has
    power over men, and stimulates them to action. A moderate
    perfection loses its power of influencing men's hearts.

    Christ's teaching only has power when it demands absolute
    perfection--that is, the fusion of the divine nature which exists
    in every man's soul with the will of God--the union of the Son
    with the Father. Life according to Christ's teaching consists of
    nothing but this setting free of the Son of God, existing in every
    man, from the animal, and in bringing him closer to the Father.

    The animal existence of a man does not constitute human life
    alone. Life, according to the will of God only, is also not
    human life. Human life is a combination of the animal life and
    the divine life. And the more this combination approaches to the
    divine life, the more life there is in it.

    Life, according to the Christian religion, is a progress toward
    the divine perfection. No one condition, according to this
    doctrine, can be higher or lower than another. Every condition,
    according to this doctrine, is only a particular stage, of no
    consequence in itself, on the way toward unattainable perfection,
    and therefore in itself it does not imply a greater or lesser
    degree of life. Increase of life, according to this, consists in
    nothing but the quickening of the progress toward perfection. And
    therefore the progress toward perfection of the publican Zaccheus,
    of the woman that was a sinner, and of the robber on the cross,
    implies a higher degree of life than the stagnant righteousness of
    the Pharisee. And therefore for this religion there cannot be
    rules which it is obligatory to obey. The man who is at a lower
    level but is moving onward toward perfection is living a more
    moral, a better life, is more fully carrying out Christ's
    teaching, than the man on a much higher level of morality who is
    not moving onward toward perfection.

    It is in this sense that the lost sheep is dearer to the Father
    than those that were not lost. The prodigal son, the piece of
    money lost and found again, were more precious than those that
    were not lost.

    The fulfillment of Christ's teaching consists in moving away from
    self toward God. It is obvious that there cannot be definite laws
    and rules for this fulfillment of the teaching. Every degree of
    perfection and every degree of imperfection are equal in it; no
    obedience to laws constitutes a fulfillment of this doctrine, and
    therefore for it there can be no binding rules and laws.

    From this fundamental distinction between the religion of Christ
    and all preceding religions based on the state conception of life,
    follows a corresponding difference in the special precepts of the
    state theory and the Christian precepts. The precepts of the
    state theory of life insist for the most part on certain practical
    prescribed acts, by which men are justified and secure of being
    right. The Christian precepts (the commandment of love is not a
    precept in the strict sense of the word, but the expression of the
    very essence of the religion) are the five commandments of the
    Sermon on the Mount--all negative in character. They show only
    what at a certain stage of development of humanity men may not do.

    These commandments are, as it were, signposts on the endless road
    to perfection, toward which humanity is moving, showing the point
    of perfection which is possible at a certain period in the
    development of humanity.

    Christ has given expression in the Sermon on the Mount to the
    eternal ideal toward which men are spontaneously struggling, and
    also the degree of attainment of it to which men may reach in our

    The ideal is not to desire to do ill to anyone, not to provoke ill
    will, to love all men. The precept, showing the level below which
    we cannot fall in the attainment of this ideal, is the prohibition
    of evil speaking. And that is the first command.

    The ideal is perfect chastity, even in thought. The precept,
    showing the level below which we cannot fall in the attainment of
    this ideal, is that of purity of married life, avoidance of
    debauchery. That is the second command.

    The ideal is to take no thought for the future, to live in the
    present moment. The precept, showing the level below which we
    cannot fall, is the prohibition of swearing, of promising anything
    in the future. And that is the third command.

    The ideal is never for any purpose to use force. The precept,
    showing the level below which we cannot fall is that of returning
    good for evil, being patient under wrong, giving the cloak also.
    That is the fourth command.

    The ideal is to love the enemies who hate us. The precept,
    showing the level below which we cannot fall, is not to do evil to
    our enemies, to speak well of them, and to make no difference
    between them and our neighbors.

    All these precepts are indications of what, on our journey to
    perfection, we are already fully able to avoid, and what we must
    labor to attain now, and what we ought by degrees to translate
    into instinctive and unconscious habits. But these precepts, far
    from constituting the whole of Christ's teaching and exhausting
    it, are simply stages on the way to perfection. These precepts
    must and will be followed by higher and higher precepts on the way
    to the perfection held up by the religion.

    And therefore it is essentially a part of the Christian religion
    to make demands higher than those expressed in its precepts; and
    by no means to diminish the demands either of the ideal itself, or
    of the precepts, as people imagine who judge it from the
    standpoint of the social conception of life.

    So much for one misunderstanding of the scientific men, in
    relation to the import and aim of Christ's teaching. Another
    misunderstanding arising from the same source consists in
    substituting love for men, the service of humanity, for the
    Christian principles of love for God and his service.

    The Christian doctrine to love God and serve him, and only as a
    result of that love to love and serve one's neighbor, seems to
    scientific men obscure, mystic, and arbitrary. And they would
    absolutely exclude the obligation of love and service of God,
    holding that the doctrine of love for men, for humanity alone, is
    far more clear, tangible, and reasonable.

    Scientific men teach in theory that the only good and rational
    life is that which is devoted to the service of the whole of
    humanity. That is for them the import of the Christian doctrine,
    and to that they reduce Christ's teaching. They seek confirmation
    of their own doctrine in the Gospel, on the supposition that the
    two doctrines are really the same.

    This idea is an absolutely mistaken one. The Christian doctrine
    has nothing in common with the doctrine of the Positivists,
    Communists, and all the apostles of the universal brotherhood of
    mankind, based on the general advantage of such a brotherhood.
    They differ from one another especially in Christianity's having a
    firm and clear basis in the human soul, while love for humanity is
    only a theoretical deduction from analogy.

    The doctrine of love for humanity alone is based on the social
    conception of life.

    The essence of the social conception of life consists in the
    transference of the aim of the individual life to the life of
    societies of individuals: family, clan, tribe, or state. This
    transference is accomplished easily and naturally in its earliest
    forms, in the transference of the aim of life from the individual
    to the family and the clan. The transference to the tribe or the
    nation is more difficult and requires special training. And the
    transference of the sentiment to the state is the furthest limit
    which the process can reach.

    To love one's self is natural to everyone, and no one needs any
    encouragement to do so. To love one's clan who support and
    protect one, to love one's wife, the joy and help of one's
    existence, one's children, the hope and consolation of one's life,
    and one's parents, who have given one life and education, is
    natural. And such love, though far from being so strong as love
    of self, is met with pretty often.

    To love--for one's own sake, through personal pride--one's tribe,
    one's nation, though not so natural, is nevertheless common. Love
    of one's own people who are of the same blood, the same tongue,
    and the same religion as one's self is possible, though far from
    being so strong as love of self, or even love of family or clan.
    But love for a state, such as Turkey, Germany, England, Austria,
    or Russia is a thing almost impossible. And though it is
    zealously inculcated, it is only an imagined sentiment; it has no
    existence in reality. And at that limit man's power of
    transferring his interest ceases, and he cannot feel any direct
    sentiment for that fictitious entity. The Positivists, however,
    and all the apostles of fraternity on scientific principles,
    without taking into consideration the weakening of sentiment in
    proportion to the extension of its object, draw further deductions
    in theory in the same direction. "Since," they say, "it was for
    the advantage of the individual to extend his personal interest to
    the family, the tribe, and subsequently to the nation and the
    state, it would be still more advantageous to extend his interest
    in societies of men to the whole of mankind, and so all to live
    for humanity just as men live for the family or the state."

    Theoretically it follows, indeed, having extended the love and
    interest for the personality to the family, the tribe, and thence
    to the nation and the state, it would be perfectly logical for men
    to save themselves the strife and calamities which result from the
    division of mankind into nations and states by extending their
    love to the whole of humanity. This would be most logical, and
    theoretically nothing would appear more natural to its advocates,
    who do not observe that love is a sentiment which may or may not
    he felt, but which it is useless to advocate; and moreover, that
    love must have an object, and that humanity is not an object. It
    is nothing but a fiction.

    The family, the tribe, even the state were not invented by men,
    but formed themselves spontaneously, like ant-hills or swarms of
    bees, and have a real existence. The man who, for the sake of his
    own animal personality, loves his family, knows whom he loves:
    Anna, Dolly, John, Peter, and so on. The man who loves his tribe
    and takes pride in it, knows that he loves all the Guelphs or all
    the Ghibellines; the man who loves the state knows that he loves
    France bounded by the Rhine, and the Pyrenees, and its principal
    city Paris, and its history and so on. But the man who loves
    humanity--what does he love? There is such a thing as a state, as
    a nation; there is the abstract conception of man; but humanity as
    a concrete idea does not, and cannot exist.

    Humanity! Where is the definition of humanity? Where does it end
    and where does it begin? Does humanity end with the savage, the
    idiot, the dipsomaniac, or the madman? If we draw a line
    excluding from humanity its lowest representatives, where are we
    to draw the line? Shall we exclude the negroes like the
    Americans, or the Hindoos like some Englishmen, or the Jews like
    some others? If we include all men without exception, why should
    we not include also the higher animals, many of whom are superior
    to the lowest specimens of the human race.

    We know nothing of humanity as an eternal object, and we know
    nothing of its limits. Humanity is a fiction, and it is
    impossible to love it. It would, doubtless, be very advantageous
    if men could love humanity just as they love their family. It
    would be very advantageous, as Communists advocate, to replace the
    competitive, individualistic organization of men's activity by a
    social universal organization, so that each would be for all and
    all for each.

    Only there are no motives to lead men to do this. The
    Positivists, the Communists, and all the apostles of fraternity on
    scientific principles advocate the extension to the whole of
    humanity of the love men feel for themselves, their families, and
    the state. They forget that the love which they are discussing is
    a personal love, which might expand in a rarefied form to embrace
    a man's native country, but which disappears before it can embrace
    an artificial state such as Austria, England, or Turkey, and which
    we cannot even conceive of in relation to all humanity, an
    absolutely mystic conception.

    "A man loves himself (his animal personality), he loves his
    family, he even loves his native country. Why should he not love
    humanity? That would be such an excellent thing. And by the way,
    it is precisely what is taught by Christianity." So think the
    advocates of Positivist, Communistic, or Socialistic fraternity.

    It would indeed be an excellent thing. But it can never be, for
    the love that is based on a personal or social conception of life
    can never rise beyond love for the state.

    The fallacy of the argument lies in the fact that the social
    conception of life, on which love for family and nation is
    founded, rests itself on love of self, and that love grows weaker
    and weaker as it is extended from self to family, tribe,
    nationality, and slate; and in the state we reach the furthest
    limit beyond which it cannot go.

    The necessity of extending the sphere of love is beyond dispute.
    But in reality the possibility of this love is destroyed by the
    necessity of extending its object indefinitely. And thus the
    insufficiency of personal human love is made manifest.

    And here the advocates of Positivist, Communistic, Socialistic
    fraternity propose to draw upon Christian love to make up the
    default of this bankrupt human love; but Christian love only in
    its results, not in its foundations. They propose love for
    humanity alone, apart from love for God.

    But such a love cannot exist. There is no motive to produce it.
    Christian love is the result only of the Christian conception of
    life, in which the aim of life is to love and serve God.

    The social conception of life has led men, by a natural transition
    from love of self and then of family, tribe, nation, and state, to
    a consciousness of the necessity of love for humanity, a
    conception which has no definite limits and extends to all living
    things. And this necessity for love of what awakens no kind of
    sentiment in a man is a contradiction which cannot be solved by
    the social theory of life.

    The Christian doctrine in its full significance can alone solve
    it, by giving a new meaning to life. Christianity recognizes love
    of self, of family, of nation, and of humanity, and not only of
    humanity, but of everything living, everything existing; it
    recognizes the necessity of an infinite extension of the sphere of
    love. But the object of this love is not found outside self in
    societies of individuals, nor in the external world, but within
    self, in the divine self whose essence is that very love, which
    the animal self is brought to feel the need of through its
    consciousness of its own perishable nature.

    The difference between the Christian doctrine and those which
    preceded it is that the social doctrine said: "Live in opposition
    to your nature [understanding by this only the animal nature],
    make it subject to the external law of family, society, and
    state." Christianity says: "Live according to your nature
    [understanding by this the divine nature]; do not make it subject
    to anything--neither you (an animal self) nor that of others--and
    you will attain the very aim to which you are striving when you
    subject your external self."

    The Christian doctrine brings a man to the elementary
    consciousness of self, only not of the animal self, but of the
    divine self, the divine spark, the self as the Son of God, as much
    God as the Father himself, though confined in an animal husk. The
    consciousness of being the Son of God, whose chief characteristic
    is love, satisfies the need for the extension of the sphere of
    love to which the man of the social conception of life had been
    brought. For the latter, the welfare of the personality demanded
    an ever-widening extension of the sphere of love; love was a
    necessity and was confined to certain objects--self, family,
    society. With the Christian conception of life, love is not a
    necessity and is confined to no object; it is the essential
    faculty of the human soul. Man loves not because it is his
    interest to love this or that, but because love is the essence of
    his soul, because he cannot but love.

    The Christian doctrine shows man that the essence of his soul is
    love--that his happiness depends not on loving this or that
    object, but on loving the principle of the whole--God, whom he
    recognizes within himself as love, and therefore he loves all
    things and all men.

    In this is the fundamental difference between the Christian
    doctrine and the doctrine of the Positivists, and all the
    theorizers about universal brotherhood on non-Christian

    Such are the two principal misunderstandings relating to the
    Christian religion, from which the greater number of false
    reasonings about it proceed. The first consists in the belief
    that Christ's teaching instructs men, like all previous religions,
    by rules, which they are bound to follow, and that these rules
    cannot be fulfilled. The second is the idea that the whole
    purport of Christianity is to teach men to live advantageously
    together, as one family, and that to attain this we need only
    follow the rule of love to humanity, dismissing all thought of
    love of God altogether.

    The mistaken notion of scientific men that the essence of
    Christianity consists in the supernatural, and that its moral
    teaching is impracticable, constitutes another reason
    of the failure of men of the present day to understand
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