Literary and General Lectures and Essays
Charles Kingsley

Part 5 out of 5

the place of his soul. To do that, one must feel and confess within
oneself the seed of the same errors which one reproves in him; one
must have passed more or less through his temptations, doubts, hunger
of heart and brain; and one cannot help questioning, as one reads Mr.
Vaughan's book, whether he has really done this in the case of those
of whom he writes. He should have remembered too how little any
young man can have experienced of the terrible sorrows which branded
into the hearts of these old devotees the truths to which they clung
more than to life, while they too often warped their hearts into
morbidity, and caused alike their folly and their wisdom. Gently
indeed should we speak even of the dreams of some self-imagined
"Bride of Christ," when we picture to ourselves the bitter agonies
which must have been endured ere a human soul could develop so
fantastically diseased a growth. "She was only a hysterical nun."
Well, and what more tragical object, to those who will look patiently
and lovingly at human nature, than a hysterical nun? She may have
been driven into a convent by some disappointment in love. And has
not disappointed affection been confessed, in all climes and ages, to
enshroud its victim ever after in a sanctuary of reverent pity? If
sorrow "broke her brains," as well as broke her heart, shall we do
aught but love her the more for her capacity of love? Or she may
have entered the convent, as thousands did, in girlish simplicity, to
escape from a world she had not tried, before she had discovered that
the world could give her something which the convent could not. What
more tragical than her discovery in herself of a capacity for love
which could never be satisfied within that prison? And when that
capacity began to vindicate itself in strange forms of disease,
seemingly to her supernatural, often agonising, often degrading, and
at the same time (strange contradiction) mixed itself up with her
noblest thoughts, to ennoble them still more, and inspire her not
only with a desire of physical self-torture, which would seem holy
both in her own eyes and her priest's, but with a love for all that
is fair and lofty, for self-devotion and self-sacrifice--shall we
blame her--shall we even smile at her if, after the dreadful
question: "Is this the possession of a demon?" had alternated with,
"Is this the inspiration of a god?" she settled down, as the only
escape from madness and suicide, into the latter thought and believed
that she found in the ideal and perfect manhood of One whom she was
told to revere and love as a God, and who had sacrificed His own life
for her, a substitute for that merely human affection from which she
was for ever debarred? Why blame her for not numbering that which
was wanting, or making straight that which was crooked? Let God
judge her, not we: and the fit critics of her conduct are not the
easy gentlemanlike scholars, like Mr. Vaughan's Athertons and Gowers,
discussing the "aberrations of fanaticism" over wine and walnuts; or
the gay girl, Kate; hardly even the happy mother, Mrs. Atherton; but
those whose hairs are gray with sorrow; who have been softened at
once and hardened in the fire of God; who have cried out of the
bottomless deep like David, while lover and friend were hid away from
them, and laid amid the corpses of their dead hopes, dead health,
dead joy, as on a ghastly battle-field, "stript among the dead, like
those who are wounded, and cut away from God's hands;" who have
struggled drowning in the horrible mire of doubt, and have felt all
God's billows and waves sweep over them, till they were weary of
crying, and their sight failed for waiting so long upon God; and all
the faith and prayer which was left was "Thou wilt not leave my soul
in hell, nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption." Be it
understood, however, for fear of any mistake, that we hold Mr.
Vaughan to be simply and altogether right in his main idea. His one
test for all these people, and all which they said or did, is--Were
they made practically better men and women thereby? He sees clearly
that the "spiritual" is none other than the "moral"--that which has
to do with right and wrong; and he has a righteous contempt for
everything and anything, however graceful and reverent, and artistic
and devout, and celestial and super-celestial, except in as far as he
finds it making better men and women do better work at every-day

But even on this ground we must protest against such a sketch as
this; even of one of the least honourable of the Middle-age saints:

ATHERTON. Angela de Foligni, who made herself miserable--I must say
something the converse of flourished--about the beginning of the
fourteenth century, was a fine model pupil of this sort, a genuine
daughter of St. Francis. Her mother, her husband, her children dead,
she is alone and sorrowful. She betakes herself to violent devotion-
-falls ill--suffers incessant anguish from a complication of
disorders--has rapturous consolations and terrific temptations--is
dashed in a moment from a seat of glory above the empyrean . . .

Very amusing, is it not? To have one's mother, husband, children
die--the most commonplace sort of things--what (over one's wine and
walnuts) one describes as being "alone and sorrowful." Men who
having tasted the blessings conveyed in those few words, have also
found the horror conveyed in them, have no epithets for the state of
mind in which such a fate would leave them. They simply pray that if
that hour came, they might just have faith enough left not to curse
God and die. Amusing, too, her falling ill, and suffering under a
complication of disorders, especially if those disorders were the
fruit of combined grief and widowhood. Amusing also her betaking
herself to violent devotion! In the first place, if devotion be a
good thing, could she have too much of it? If it be the way to make
people good (as is commonly held by all Christian sects), could she
become too good? The more important question which springs out of
the fact we will ask presently. "She has rapturous consolations and
terrific temptations." Did the consolations come first, and were the
temptations a revulsion from "spiritual" exaltation into "spiritual"
collapse and melancholy? or did the temptations come first, and the
consolations come after, to save her from madness and despair?
Either may be the case; perhaps both were: but somewhat more of care
should have been taken in expressing so important a spiritual
sequence as either case exhibits.

It is twelve years and more since we studied the history of the "B.
Angela de Foligni," and many another kindred saint; and we cannot
recollect what were the terrific temptations, what was the floor of
hell which the poor thing saw yawning beneath her feet. But we must
ask Mr. Vaughan, has he ever read Boccaccio, or any of the Italian
novelists up to the seventeenth century? And if so, can he not
understand how Angela de Foligni, the lovely Italian widow of the
fourteenth century, had her terrific temptations, to which, if she
had yielded, she might have fallen to the lowest pit of hell, let
that word mean what it may; and temptations all the more terrific
because she saw every widow round her considering them no temptations
at all, but yielding to them, going out to invite them in the most
business-like, nay, duty-like, way? What if she had "rapturous
consolations"? What if she did pour out to One who was worthy not of
less but of more affection than she offered in her passionate
southern heart, in language which in our colder northerns would be
mere hypocrisy, yet which she had been taught to believe lawful by
that interpretation of the Canticles which (be it always remembered)
is common to Evangelicals and to Romanists? What if even, in reward
for her righteous belief, that what she saw all widows round her
doing was abominable and to be avoided at all risks, she were
permitted to enjoy a passionate affection, which after all was not
misplaced? There are mysteries in religion as in all things, where
it is better not to intrude behind the veil. Wisdom is justified of
all her children: and folly may be justified of some of her children

Equally unfair it seems to us is the notice of St. Brigitta--in our
eyes a beautiful and noble figure. A widow she, too--and what worlds
of sorrow are there in that word, especially when applied to the pure
deep-hearted Northern woman, as she was--she leaves her Scandinavian
pine-forests to worship and to give wherever she can, till she
arrives at Rome, the centre of the universe, the seat of Christ's
vicegerent, the city of God, the gate of Paradise. Thousands of
weary miles she travels, through danger and sorrow--and when she
finds it, behold it is a lie and a sham! not the gate of Paradise,
but the gate of Sodom and of hell. Was not that enough to madden
her, if mad she became? What matter after that her "angel dictated
discourses on the Blessed Virgin," "bombastic invocations to the
Saviour's eyes, ears, hair?"--they were at least the best objects of
worship which the age gave her. In one thing she was right, and kept
her first love. "What was not quite so bad, she gives to the world a
series of revelations, in which the vices of popes and prelates are
lashed unsparingly and threatened with speedy judgment." Not quite
so bad? To us the whole phenomenon wears an utterly different
aspect. At the risk of her life, at the risk of being burned alive--
did anyone ever consider what that means?--the noble Norse-woman,
like an Alruna maid of old, hurls out her divine hereditary hatred of
sin and filth and lies. At last she falls back on Christ Himself, as
the only home for a homeless soul in such an evil time. And she is
not burnt alive. The hand of One mightier than she is over her, and
she is safe under the shadow of His wings till her weary work is done
and she goes home, her righteousness accepted for His sake: her
folly, hysterics, dreams--call them by what base name we will--
forgiven and forgotten for the sake of her many sorrows and her
faithfulness to the end.

But whatever fault we can find with these sketches, we can find none
with Mr. Vaughan's reflections on them:

What a condemning comment on the pretended tender mercies of the
Church are those narratives which Rome delights to parade of the
sufferings, mental and bodily, which her devotees were instructed to
inflict upon themselves! I am reminded of the thirsting mule, which
has, in some countries, to strike with his hoof among the spines of
the cactus, and drink, with lamed foot and bleeding lips, the few
drops of milk which ooze from the broken thorns. Affectionate,
suffering natures came to Rome for comfort; but her scanty kindness
is only to be drawn with anguish from the cruel sharpness of
asceticism. The worldly, the audacious, escape easily; but these
pliant excitable temperaments, so anxiously in earnest, may be made
useful. The more dangerous, frightful, or unnatural their
performances, the more profit for their keepers. Men and women are
trained by torturing processes to deny their nature, and then they
are exhibited to bring grist to the mill--like birds and beasts
forced to postures and services against the laws of their being--like
those who must perform perilous feats on ropes or with lions, nightly
hazarding their lives to fill the pockets of a manager. The self-
devotedness of which Rome boasts so much is a self-devotion she has
always thus made the most of for herself. Calculating men who have
thought only of the interest of the priesthood, have known well how
best to stimulate and to display the spasmodic movements of a
brainsick disinterestedness. I have not the shadow of a doubt that,
once and again, some priest might have been seen, with cold gray eye,
endeavouring to do a stroke of diplomacy by means of the enthusiastic
Catherine, making the fancied ambassadress of Heaven in reality the
tool of a schemer. Such unquestionable virtues as these visionaries
may some of them have possessed cannot be fairly set down to the
credit of the Church, which has used them all for mercenary or
ambitious purposes, and infected them everywhere with a morbid
character. Some of these mystics, floating down the great
ecclesiastical current of the Middle Age, appear to me like the trees
carried away by the inundation of some mighty tropical river. They
drift along the stream, passive, lifeless, broken; yet they are
covered with gay verdure, the aquatic plants hang and twine about the
sodden timber and the draggled leaves, the trunk is a sailing garden
of flowers. But the adornment is that of Nature--it is the
decoration of another and a strange element: the roots are in the
air; the boughs which should be full of birds, are in the flood,
covered by its alien products, swimming side by side with the
alligator. So has this priestcraft swept its victims from their
natural place and independent growth, to clothe them in their
helplessness with a false spiritual adornment, neither scriptural nor
human, but ecclesiastical--the native product of that overwhelming
superstition which has subverted and enslaved their nature. The
Church of Rome takes care that while simple souls think they are
cultivating Christian graces they shall be forging their own chains;
that their attempts to honour God shall always dishonour, because
they disenfranchise themselves. To be humble, to be obedient, to be
charitable, under such direction, is to be contentedly ignorant,
pitiably abject, and notoriously swindled.

Mr. Vaughan cannot be too severe upon the Romish priesthood. But it
is one thing to dismiss with summary contempt men, who, as they do,
keep the keys of knowledge, and neither enter in themselves nor
suffer others to enter, and quite another thing to apply the same
summary jurisdiction to men who, under whatsoever confusions, are
feeling earnestly and honestly after truth. And therefore we regret
exceedingly the mock trial which he has introduced into his
Introduction. We regret it for his own sake; for it will drive away
from the book--indeed it has driven--thoughtful and reverent people
who, having a strong though vague inclination toward the Mystics,
might be very profitably taught by the after pages to separate the
evil from the good in the Bernards and Guyons whom they admire, they
scarce know why; and will shock, too, scholars, to whom Hindoo and
Persian thoughts on these subjects are matters not of ridicule but of
solemn and earnest investigation.

Besides, the question is not so easily settled. Putting aside the
flippancy of the passage, it involves something very like a petitio
principii to ask offhand: "Does the man mean a living union of heart
to Christ, a spiritual fellowship or converse with the Father, when
he talks of the union of the believer with God--participation in the
Divine nature?" For first, what we want to know is, the meaning of
the words--what means "living"? what "union"? what "heart"? They are
terms common to the Mystic and to the popular religionist, only
differently interpreted; and in the meanings attributed to them lies
nothing less than the whole world-old dispute between Nominalist and
Realist not yet to be settled in two lines by two gentlemen over
their wine, much less ignored as a thing settled beyond all dispute
already. If by "living union of heart with"--Mr. Vaughan meant
"identity of morals with"--he should have said so: but he should
have borne in mind that all the great evangelicals have meant much
more than this by those words; that on the whole, instead of
considering--as he seems to do, and we do--the moral and the
spiritual as identical, they have put them in antithesis to each
other, and looked down upon "mere morality" just because it did not
seem to them to involve that supernatural, transcendental, "mystic"
element which they considered that they found in Scripture. From
Luther to Owen and Baxter, from them to Wesley, Cecil, and Venn,
Newton, Bridges, the great evangelical authorities would (not very
clearly or consistently, for they were but poor metaphysicians, but
honestly and earnestly) have accepted some modified form of the
Mystic's theory, even to the "discerning in particular thoughts,
frames, impulses, and inward witnessings, immediate communications
from heaven." Surely Mr. Vaughan must be aware that the majority of
"vital Christians" on this ground are among his mystic offenders; and
that those who deny such possibilities are but too liable to be
stigmatised as "Pelagians," and "Rationalists." His friend Atherton
is bound to show cause why those names are not to be applied to him,
as he is bound to show what he means by "living union with Christ,"
and why he complains of the Mystic for desiring "participation in the
Divine nature." If he does so, he only desires what the New
Testament formally, and word for word, promises him; whatsoever be
the meaning of the term, he is not to be blamed for using it. Mr.
Vaughan cannot have forgotten the many expressions, both of St. Paul
and St. John, which do at first sight go far to justify the Mystic,
though they are but seldom heard, and more seldom boldly commented
on, in modern pulpits--of Christ being formed in men, dwelling in
men; of God dwelling in man and man in God; of Christ being the life
of men; of men living, and moving, and having their being in God; and
many another passage. If these be mere metaphors let the fact be
stated, with due reason for it. But there is no sin or shame in
interpreting them in that literal and realist sense in which they
seem at first sight to have been written. The first duty of a
scholar who sets before himself to investigate the phenomena of
"Mysticism" so called, should be to answer these questions: Can
there be a direct communication, above and beyond sense or
consciousness, between the human spirit and God the Spirit? And if
so, what are its conditions, where its limits, to transcend which is
to fall into "mysticism"?

And it is just this which Mr. Vaughan fails in doing. In his sketch,
for instance, of the Mysticism of India, he gives us a very clear and
(save in two points) sound summary of that "round of notions,
occurring to minds of similar make under similar circumstances,"
which is "common to Mystics in ancient India and in modern

Summarily, I would say this Hindoo mysticism--

(1) Lays claim to disinterested love as opposed to a mercenary

(2) Reacts against the ceremonial prescription and pedantic
literalism of the Vedas;

(3) Identifies, in its pantheism, subject and object, worshipper and

(4) Aims at ultimate absorption in the Infinite;

(5) Inculcates, as the way to this dissolution, absolute passivity,
withdrawal into the inmost self, cessation of all the powers: giving
recipes for procuring this beatific torpor or trance;

(6) Believes that eternity may thus be realised in time;

(7) Has its mythical miraculous pretensions, i.e. its theurgic

(8) And, finally, advises the learner in this kind of religion to
submit himself implicitly to a spiritual guide--his Guru.

Against the two latter articles we except. The theurgic department
of Mysticism--unfortunately but too common--seems to us always to
have been (as it certainly was in neo-Platonism) the despairing
return to that ceremonialism which it had begun by shaking off, when
it was disappointed in reaching its high aim by its proper method.
The use of the Guru, or Father Confessor (which Mr. Vaughan confesses
to be inconsistent with Mysticism), is to be explained in the same
way--he is a last refuge after disappointment.

But as for the first six counts. Is the Hindoo mystic a worse or a
better man for holding them? Are they on the whole right or wrong?
Is not disinterested love nobler than a mercenary religion? Is it
not right to protest against ceremonial prescriptions, and to say,
with the later prophets and psalmists of the Jews: "Thinkest thou
that He will eat bull's flesh, and drink the blood of goats.
Sacrifice and burnt-offering Thou wouldst not . . . I come to do thy
will, O God!" What is, even, if he will look calmly into it, the
"pantheistic identification of subject and object, worshipper and
worshipped," but the clumsy yet honest effort of the human mind to
say to itself: "Doing God's will is the real end and aim of man?"
The Yogi looks round upon his fellow-men, and sees that all their
misery and shame come from self-will; he looks within, and finds that
all which makes him miserable, angry, lustful, greedy after this and
that, comes from the same self-will. And he asks himself: How shall
I escape from this torment of self?--how shall I tame my wayward
will, till it shall become one with the harmonious, beautiful, and
absolute Will which made all things? At least I will try to do it,
whatever it shall cost me. I will give up all for which men live--
wife and child, the sights, scents, sounds of this fair earth, all
things, whatever they be, which men call enjoyment; I will make this
life one long torture, if need be; but this rebel will of mine I will
conquer. I ask for no reward. That may come in some future life.
But what care I? I am now miserable by reason of the lusts which war
in my members; the peace which I shall gain in being freed from them
will be its own reward. After all I give up little. All those
things round me--the primeval forest, and the sacred stream of Ganga,
the mighty Himalaya, mount of God, ay, the illimitable vault of
heaven above me, sun and stars--what are they but "such stuff as
dreams are made of"? Brahm thought, and they became something and
somewhere. He may think again, and they will become nothing and
nowhere. Are these eternal, greater than I, worth troubling my mind
about? Nothing is eternal, but the Thought which made them, and will
unmake them. They are only venerable in my eyes, because each of
them is a thought of Brahm's. And I too have thought; I alone of all
the kinds of living things. Am I not, then, akin to God? what better
for me than to sit down and think, as Brahm thinks, and so enjoy my
eternal heritage, leaving for those who cannot think the passions and
pleasures which they share in common with the beasts of the field?
So I shall become more and more like Brahm--will his will, think his
thoughts, till I lose utterly this house-fiend of self, and become
one with God.

Is this a man to be despised? Is he a sickly dreamer, or a too
valiant hero? and if any one be shocked at this last utterance, let
him consider carefully the words which he may hear on Sunday: "Then
we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and
Christ with us." That belief is surely not a false one. Shall we
abhor the Yogi because he has seen, sitting alone there amid idolatry
and licentiousness, despotism and priestcraft, that the ideal goal of
man is what we confess it to be in the communion service? Shall we
not rather wonder and rejoice over the magnificent utterance in that
Bhagavat-Gita which Mr. Vaughan takes for the text-book of Hindoo
Mysticism, where Krishna, the teacher human, and yet God himself,
speaks thus:

There is nothing greater than I; all things hang on me, as precious
gems upon a string. . . . . I am life in all things, and zeal in the
zealous. I am the eternal seed of nature: I am the understanding of
the wise, the glory of the proud, the strength of the strong, free
from lust and anger. . . . Those who trust in me know Brahm, the
supreme and incorruptible. . . . . In this body I am the teacher of
worship. He who thinks of me will find me. He who finds me returns
not again to mortal birth. . . . . I am the sacrifice, I am the
worship, I am the incense, I am the fire, I am the victim, I am the
father and mother of the world; I am the road of the good, the
comforter, the creator, the witness, the asylum, and the friend.
They who serve other Gods with a firm belief, involuntarily worship
me. I am the same to all mankind. They who serve me in adoration
are in me. If one whose ways are ever so evil serve me alone, he
becometh of a virtuous spirit and obtaineth eternal happiness. Even
women, and the tribes of Visya and Soodra, shall go the supreme
journey if they take sanctuary with me; how much more my holy
servants the Brahmins and the Ragarshees! Consider this world as a
finite and joyless place, and serve me.

There may be confused words scattered up and down here; there are
still more confused words--not immoral ones--round them, which we
have omitted; but we ask, once and for all, is this true, or is it
not? Is there a being who answers to this description, or is there
not? And if there be, was it not a light price to pay for the
discovery of Him "to sit upon the sacred grass called koos, with his
mind fixed on one object alone; keeping his head, neck, and body
steady, without motion; his eyes fixed upon the point of his nose,
looking at no other place around"--or any other simple, even
childish, practical means of getting rid of the disturbing bustle and
noise of the outward time-world, that he might see the eternal world
which underlies it? What if the discovery be imperfect, the figure
in many features erroneous? Is not the wonder to us, the honour to
him, that the figure should be there at all? Inexplicable to us on
any ground, save that one common to the Bhagavat-Gita, to the gospel.
"He who seeks me shall find me." What if he knew but in part, and
saw through a glass darkly? Was there not an inspired apostle, who
could but say the very same thing of himself, and look forward to a
future life in which he would "know even as he was known"?

It is well worth observing too, that so far from the moral of this
Bhagavat-Gita issuing in mere contemplative Quietism, its purpose is
essentially practical. It arises out of Arjoun's doubt whether he
shall join in the battle which he sees raging below him; it results
in his being commanded to join in it, and fight like a man. We
cannot see, as Mr. Vaughan does, an "unholy indifference" in the
moral. Arjoun shrinks from fighting because friends and relatives
are engaged on both sides, and he dreads hell if he kills one of
them. The answer to his doubt is, after all, the only one which
makes war permissible to a Christian, who looks on all men as his

"You are a Ksahtree, a soldier; your duty is to fight. Do your duty,
and leave the consequences of it to him who commanded the duty. You
cannot kill these men's souls any more than they can yours. You can
only kill their mortal bodies; the fate of their souls and yours
depends on their moral state. Kill their bodies, then, if it be your
duty, instead of tormenting yourself with scruples, which are not
really scruples of conscience, only selfish fears of harm to
yourself, and leave their souls to the care of Him who made them, and
knows them, and cares more for them than you do."

This seems to be the plain outcome of the teaching. What is it,
mutatis mutandis, but the sermon "cold-blooded" or not, which every
righteous soldier has to preach to himself, day by day, as long as
his duty commands him to kill his human brothers?

Yet the fact is undeniable that Hindoo Mysticism has failed of
practical result--that it has died down into brutal fakeerism. We
look in vain, however, in Mr. Vaughan's chapter for an explanation of
this fact, save his assertion, which we deny, that Hindoo Mysticism
was in essence and at its root wrong and rotten. Mr. Maurice ("Moral
and Metaphysical Philosophy," p. 46) seems to point to a more
charitable solution. "The Hindoo," he says, "whatsoever vast
discovery he may have made at an early period of a mysterious Teacher
near him, working on his spirit, who is at the same time Lord over
nature, began the search from himself--he had no other point from
whence to begin--and therefore it ended in himself. The purification
of his individual soul became practically his highest conceivable
end; to carry out that he must separate from society. Yet the more
he tries to escape self the more he finds self; for what are his
thoughts about Brahm, his thoughts about Krishna, save his own
thoughts? Is Brahm a projection of his own soul? To sink in him,
does it mean to be nothing? Am I, after all, my own law? And hence
the downward career into stupid indifferentism, even into Antinomian

The Hebrew, on the other hand, begins from the belief of an objective
external God, but One who cares for more than his individual soul; as
One who is the ever-present guide, and teacher, and ruler of his
whole nation; who regards that nation as a whole, a one person, and
that not merely one present generation, but all, past or future, as a
one "Israel"--lawgivers, prophets, priests, warriors. All classes
are His ministers. He is essentially a political deity, who cares
infinitely for the polity of a nation, and therefore bestows one upon
them--"a law of Jehovah." Gradually, under this teaching, the Hebrew
rises to the very idea of an inward teacher, which the Yogi had, and
to a far purer and clearer form of that idea; but he is not tempted
by it to selfish individualism, or contemplative isolation, as long
as he is true to the old Mosaic belief, that this being is the
Political Deity, "the King of Kings." The Pharisee becomes a selfish
individualist just because he has forgotten this; the Essene, a
selfish "mystic" for the same reason; Philo and the Jewish mystics of
Alexandria lose in like manner all notion that Jehovah is the
lawgiver, and ruler, and archetype of family and of national life.
Christianity retained the idea; it brought out the meaning of the old
Jewish polity in its highest form; for that very reason it was able
to bring out the meaning of the "mystic" idea in its highest form
also, without injury to men's work as members of families, as
citizens, as practical men of the world; and so to conquer at last
that Manichaean hatred of marriage and parentage, which from the
first to the sixteenth century shed its Upas shade over the Church.

And here let us say boldly to Mr. Vaughan and to our readers: As
long as "the salvation of a man's own soul" is set forth in all
pulpits as the first and last end and aim of mortal existence; as
long as Christianity is dwelt on merely as influencing individuals
each apart--as "brands plucked, one here and another there, from the
general burning"--so long will Mysticism, in its highest form be the
refuge of the strongest spirits, and in its more base and diseased
forms the refuge of the weak and sentimental spirits. They will say,
each in his own way: "You confess that there can be a direct
relation, communion, inspiration, from God to my soul, as I sit alone
in my chamber. You do not think that there is such between God and
what you call the world; between Him and nations as wholes--families,
churches, schools of thought, as wholes; that He does not take a
special interest, or exercise a special influence, over the ways and
works of men--over science, commerce, civilisation, colonisation, all
which affects the earthly destinies of the race. All these you call
secular; to admit His influence over them for their own sake (though
of course He overrules them for the sake of His elect) savours of
Pantheism. Is it so? Then we will give up the world. We will cling
to the one fact which you confess to be certain about us--that we can
take refuge in God, each in the loneliness of his chamber, from all
the vain turmoil of a race which is hastening heedless into endless
misery. You may call us Mystics, or what you will. We will possess
our souls in patience, and turn away our eyes from vanity. We will
commune with our own hearts in solitude, and be still. We will not
even mingle in your religious world, the world which you have
invented for yourselves, after denying that God's human world is
sacred; for it seems to us as full of intrigue, ambition, party-
spirit, falsehood, bitterness, and ignorance, as the political world,
or the fashionable world, or the scientific world; and we will have
none of it. Leave us alone with God."

This has been the true reason of mystical isolation in every age and
country. So thought Macarius and the Christian fakeers of the
Thebaid. So thought the medieval monks and nuns. So thought the
German Quietists when they revolted from the fierce degradation of
decaying Lutheranism. So are hundreds thinking now; so may thousands
think ere long. If the individualising phase of Christianity which
is now dominant shall long retain its ascendancy, and the creed of
Dr. Cumming and Mr. Spurgeon become that of the British people, our
purest and noblest spirits will act here, with regard to religion, as
the purest and noblest in America have acted with regard to politics.
They will withdraw each into the sanctuary of his own heart, and
leave the battle-field to rival demagogues. They will do wrong, it
may be. Isolation involves laziness, pride, cowardice; but if sober
England, during the next half-century, should be astonished by an
outburst of Mysticism, as grand in some respects, as fantastic in
others, as that of the thirteenth or the seventeenth centuries, the
blame, if blame there be, will lie with those leaders of the public
conscience who, after having debased alike the Church of England and
the dissenting sects with a selfish individualism which was as
foreign to the old Cromwellite Ironside as to the High Church divine,
have tried to debar their disciples from that peaceful and graceful
Mysticism which is the only excusable or tolerable form, of religion
beginning and ending in self.

Let it be always borne in mind, that Quakerism was not a protest
against, or a revulsion from, the Church of England, but from
Calvinism. The steeple-houses, against which George Fox testified,
were not served by Henry Mores, Cudworths, or Norrises: not even by
dogmatist High-Churchmen, but by Calvinist ministers, who had ejected
them. George Fox developed his own scheme, such as it was, because
the popular Protestantism of his day failed to meet the deepest wants
of his heart; because, as he used to say, it gave him "a dead
Christ," and he required "a living Christ." Doctrines about who
Christ is, he held, are not Christ Himself. Doctrines about what He
has done for man, are not He himself. Fox held, that if Christ be a
living person, He must act (when He acted) directly on the most
inward and central personality of him, George Fox; and his desire was
satisfied by the discovery of the indwelling Logos, or rather by its
re-discovery, after it had fallen into oblivion for centuries.
Whether he were right or wrong, he is a fresh instance of a man's
arriving, alone and unassisted, at the same idea at which Mystics of
all ages and countries have arrived: a fresh corroboration of our
belief, that there must be some reality corresponding to a notion
which has manifested itself so variously, and among so many thousands
of every creed, and has yet arrived, by whatsoever different paths,
at one and the same result.

That he was more or less right--that there is nothing in the essence
of Mysticism contrary to practical morality, Mr. Vaughan himself
fully confesses. In his fair and liberal chapters on Fox and the
Early Quakers, he does full justice to their intense practical
benevolence; to the important fact that Fox only lived to do good, of
any and every kind, as often as a sorrow to be soothed, or an evil to
be remedied, crossed his path. We only wish that he had also brought
in the curious and affecting account of Fox's interview with
Cromwell, in which he tells us (and we will take Fox's word against
any man) that the Protector gave him to understand, almost with
tears, that there was that in Fox's faith which he was seeking in
vain from the "ministers" around him.

All we ask of Mr. Vaughan is, not to be afraid of his own evident
liking for Fox; of his own evident liking for Tauler and his school;
not to put aside the question which their doctrines involve, with
such half-utterances as--

The Quakers are wrong, I think, in separating particular movements
and monitions as Divine. But, at the same time, the "witness of the
Spirit," as regards our state before God, is something more, I
believe, than the mere attestation to the written word.

As for the former of these two sentences, he may be quite right, for
aught we know. But it must be said on the other hand, that not
merely Quakers, but decent men of every creed and age, have--we may
dare to say, in proportion to their devoutness--believed in such
monitions; and that it is hard to see how any man could have arrived
at the belief that a living person was working on him, and not a mere
impersonal principle, law, or afflatus--(spirit of the universe, or
other metaphor for hiding materialism)--unless by believing, rightly
or wrongly, in such monitions. For our only inductive conception of
a living person demands that that person shall make himself felt by
separate acts.

But against the second sentence we must protest. The question in
hand is not whether this "witness of the Spirit" "is something more"
than, anything else, but whether it exists at all, and what it is.
Why was the book written, save to help toward the solution of this
very matter? The question all through has been: Can an immediate
influence be exercised by the Spirit of God on the spirit of man?
Mr. Vaughan assents, and says (we cannot see why) that there is no
mysticism in such a belief. Be that as it may, what that influence
is, and how exercised, is all through the de quo agitur of Mysticism.
Mr. Vaughan, however, seems here for awhile to be talking realism
through an admirable page, well worth perusal (pp. 264, 265). Yet
his grasp is not sure. We soon find him saying what More and Fox
would alike deny, that "The story of Christ's life and death is our
soul's food." No; Christ Himself is--would the Catholic Church and
the Mystic alike answer. And here again the whole matter in dispute
is (unconsciously to Mr. Vaughan) opened up in one word. And if this
sentence does not bear directly on that problem, on what does it
bear? It was therefore with extreme disappointment that on reading
this, and saying to ourselves: "Now we shall hear at last what Mr.
Vaughan himself thinks on the matter," we found that he literally
turned the subject off, as if not worth investigation, by making the
next speaker answer, apropos of nothing, that "the traditional
ascetism of the Friends is their fatal defect as a body."

Why, too, has Mr. Vaughan devoted a few lines only to the great
English Platonists, More, Norris, Smith of Jesus, Gale, and Cudworth?
He says, indeed, that they are scarcely Mystics, except in as far as
Platonism is always in a measure mystical. In our sense of the word
they were all of them Mystics, and of a very lofty type; but surely
Henry More is a Mystic in Mr. Vaughan's sense also. If the author of
"Conjectura Cabbalistica" be not a mystical writer (he himself uses
the term without shame), who is?

We hope to see much in this book condensed, much modified, much
worked out, instead of being left fragmentary and embryotic; but
whether our hope be fulfilled or not, a useful and honourable future
is before the man who could write such a book as this is, in spite of
all defects.


Since the above was written, Mr. Vaughan's premature death has robbed
us of a man who might have done brave work, by lessening, through his
own learning, the intellectual gulf which now exists between English
Churchmen and Dissenters. Dis aliter visum. But Mr. Vaughan's death
does not, I think, render it necessary for me to alter any of the
opinions expressed here; and least of all that in the last sentence,
fulfilled now more perfectly than I could have foreseen.


On Friday, the fifth of April, a noteworthy assemblage gathered round
an open vault in a corner of Highgate Cemetery. Some hundreds of
persons, closely packed up the steep banks among the trees and
shrubs, had found in that grave a common bond of brotherhood. I say,
in that grave. They were no sect, clique, or school of disciples,
held together by community of opinions. They were simply men and
women, held together, for the moment at least, by love of a man, and
that man, as they had believed, a man of God. All shades of opinion,
almost of creed, were represented there; though the majority were
members of the Church of England--many probably reconciled to that
Church by him who lay below. All sorts and conditions of men, and
indeed of women, were there; for he had had a word for all sorts and
conditions of men. Most of them had never seen each other before--
would never see each other again. But each felt that the man,
however unknown to him who stood next him, was indeed a brother in
loyalty to that beautiful soul, beautiful face, beautiful smile,
beautiful voice, from which, in public or in secret, each had
received noble impulses, tender consolation, loving correction, and
clearer and juster conceptions of God, of duty, of the meaning of
themselves and of the universe. And when they turned and left his
body there, the world--as one said who served him gallantly and long-
-seemed darker now he had left it; but he had stayed here long enough
to do the work for which he was fitted. He had wasted no time, but
died, like a valiant man, at his work, and of his work.

He might have been buried in Westminster Abbey. There was no lack of
men of mark who held that such a public recognition of his worth was
due, not only to the man himself, but to the honour of the Church of
England. His life had been one of rare sanctity; he was a
philosopher of learning and acuteness, unsurpassed by any man of his
generation; he had done more than any man of that generation to
defend the Church's doctrines; to recommend her to highly-cultivated
men and women; to bring within her pale those who had been born
outside it, or had wandered from it; to reconcile the revolutionary
party among the workmen of the great cities with Christianity, order,
law; to make all ranks understand that if Christianity meant
anything, it meant that a man should not merely strive to save his
own soul after death, but that he should live here the life of a true
citizen, virtuous, earnest, helpful to his human brethren. He had
been the originator of, or at least the chief mover in, working-men's
colleges, schemes for the higher education of women, for the
protection of the weak and the oppressed. He had been the champion,
the organiser, the helper with his own money and time, of that co-
operative movement--the very germ of the economy of the future--which
seems now destined to spread, and with right good results, to far
other classes, and in far other forms, than those of which Mr.
Maurice was thinking five-and-twenty years ago. His whole life had
been one of unceasing labour for that which he believed to be truth
and right, and for the practical amelioration of his fellow-
creatures. He had not an enemy, unless it were here and there a
bigot or a dishonest man--two classes who could not abide him,
because they knew well that he could not abide them. But for the
rest, those from whom he had differed most, with whom he had engaged,
ere now, in the sharpest controversy, had learned to admire his
sanctity, charity, courtesy--for he was the most perfect of
gentlemen--as well as to respect his genius and learning. He had
been welcomed to Cambridge, by all the finer spirits of the
University, as Professor of Moral Philosophy; and as such, and as the
parish priest of St. Edward's, he had done his work--as far as
failing health allowed--as none but he could do it. Nothing save his
own too-scrupulous sense of honour had prevented him from accepting
some higher ecclesiastical preferment--which he would have used,
alas! not for literary leisure, nor for the physical rest which he
absolutely required, but merely as an excuse for greater and more
arduous toil. If such a man was not the man whom the Church of
England would delight to honour, who was the man? But he was gone;
and a grave among England's worthies was all that could be offered
him now; and it was offered. But those whose will on such a point
was law, judged it to be more in keeping with the exquisite modesty
and humility of Frederick Denison Maurice, that he should be laid out
of sight, though not out of mind, by the side of his father and his
mother. Well: be it so. At least that green nook at Highgate will
be a sacred spot to hundreds--it may be to thousands--who owe him
more than they will care to tell to any created being.

It was, after all, in this--in his personal influence--that Mr.
Maurice was greatest. True, he was a great and rare thinker. Those
who wish to satisfy themselves of this should measure the
capaciousness of his intellect by studying--not by merely reading--
his Boyle Lectures on the Religions of the world; and that Kingdom of
Christ, the ablest "Apology" for the Catholic Faith which England has
seen for more than two hundred years. The ablest, and perhaps
practically the most successful; for it has made the Catholic Faith
look living, rational, practical, and practicable, to hundreds who
could rest neither in modified Puritanism nor modified Romanism, and
still less in scepticism, however earnest. The fact that it is
written from a Realist point of view, as all Mr. Maurice's books are,
will make it obscure to many readers. Nominalism is just now so
utterly in the ascendant, that most persons seem to have lost the
power of thinking, as well as of talking, by any other method. But
when the tide of thought shall turn, this, and the rest of Mr.
Maurice's works, will become not only precious but luminous, to a
generation which will have recollected that substance does not mean
matter, that a person is not the net result of his circumstances, and
that the real is not the visible Actual, but the invisible Ideal.

If anyone, again, would test Mr. Maurice's faculty as an interpreter
of Scripture, let him study the two volumes on the Gospel and the
Epistles of St. John; and study, too, the two volumes on the Old
Testament, which have been (as a fact) the means of delivering more
than one or two from both the Rationalist and the Mythicist theories
of interpretation. I mention these only as peculiar examples of Mr.
Maurice's power. To those who have read nothing of his, I would say:
"Take up what book you will, you will be sure to find in it something
new to you, something noble, something which, if you can act on it,
will make you a better man." And if anyone, on making the trial,
should say: "But I do not understand the book. It is to me a new
world;" then it must be answered: "If you wish to read only books
which you can understand at first sight, confine yourself to
periodical literature. As for finding yourself in a new world, is it
not good sometimes to do that?--to discover how vast the universe of
mind, as well as of matter, is; that it contains many worlds; and
that wise and beautiful souls may and do live in more worlds than
your own?" Much has been said of the obscurity of Mr. Maurice's
style. It is a question whether any great thinker will be anything
but obscure at times; simply because he is possessed by conceptions
beyond his powers of expression. But the conceptions may be clear
enough; and it may be worth the wise man's while to search for them
under the imperfect words. Only thus--to take an illustrious
instance--has St. Paul, often the most obscure of writers, become
luminous to students; and there are those who will hold that St. Paul
is by no means understood yet; and that the Calvinistic system which
has been built upon his Epistles, has been built up upon a total
ignoring of the greater part of them, and a total misunderstanding of
the remainder: yet, for all that, no Christian man will lightly shut
up St. Paul as too obscure for use. Really, when one considers what
worthless verbiage which men have ere now, and do still, take
infinite pains to make themselves fancy that they understand, one is
tempted to impatience when men confess that they will not take the
trouble of trying to understand Mr. Maurice.

Yet after all, I know no work which gives a fairer measure of Mr.
Maurice's intellect, both political and exegetic, and a fairer
measure likewise, of the plain downright common sense which he
brought to bear on each of so many subjects, than his Commentary on
the very book which is supposed to have least connection with common
sense, and on which common sense has as yet been seldom employed--
namely, the Apocalypse of St. John. That his method of
interpretation is the right one can hardly be doubted by those who
perceive that it is the one and only method on which any fair
exegesis is possible--namely, to ask: What must these words have
meant to those to whom they were actually spoken? That Mr. Maurice
is more reverent, by being more accurate, more spiritual, by being
more practical, in his interpretation than commentators on this book
have usually been, will be seen the more the book is studied, and
found to be what any and every commentary on the Revelation ought to
be--a mine of political wisdom. Sayings will be found which will
escape the grasp of most readers, as indeed they do mine, so pregnant
are they, and swift revealing, like the lightning-flash at night, a
whole vision: but only for a moment's space. The reader may find
also details of interpretation which are open to doubt; if so, he
will remember that no man would have shrunk with more horror than Mr.
Maurice from the assumption of infallibility. Meanwhile, that the
author's manly confidence in the reasonableness of his method will be
justified hereafter, I must hope, if the Book of Revelation is to
remain, as God grant it may, the political text-book of the Christian

On one matter, however, Mr. Maurice is never obscure--on questions of
right and wrong. As with St. Paul, his theology, however seemingly
abstruse, always results in some lesson of plain practical morality.
To do the right and eschew the wrong, and that not from hope of
reward or fear of punishment--in which case the right ceases to be
right--but because a man loves the right and hates the wrong; about
this there is no hesitation or evasion in Mr. Maurice's writings. If
any man is in search of a mere philosophy, like the neo-Platonists of
old, or of a mere system of dogmas, by assenting to which he will
gain a right to look down on the unorthodox, while he is absolved
from the duty of becoming a better man than he is and as good a man
as he can be--then let him beware of Mr. Maurice's books, lest, while
searching merely for "thoughts that breathe," he should stumble upon
"words that burn," and were meant to burn. His books, like himself,
are full of that [Greek], that capacity of indignation, which Plato
says is the root of all virtues. "There was something," it has been
well said, "so awful, and yet so Christ-like in its awful sternness,
in the expression which came over that beautiful face when he heard
of anything base or cruel or wicked, that it brought home to the
bystander our Lord's judgment of sin."

And here, perhaps, lay the secret of the extraordinary personal
influence which he exercised; namely, in that truly formidable
element which underlaid a character which (as one said of him)
"combined all that was noblest in man and woman; all the tenderness
and all the strength, all the sensitiveness and all the fire, of
both; and with that a humility which made men feel the utter
baseness, meanness, of all pretension." For can there be true love
without wholesome fear? And does not the old Elizabethan "My dear
dread" express the noblest voluntary relation in which two human
souls can stand to each other? Perfect love casteth out fear. Yes:
but where is love perfect among imperfect beings, save a mother's for
her child? For all the rest, it is through fear that love is made
perfect; fear which bridles and guides the lover with awe--even
though misplaced--of the beloved one's perfections; with dread--never
misplaced--of the beloved one's contempt. And therefore it is that
souls who have the germ of nobleness within, are drawn to souls more
noble than themselves, just because, needing guidance, they cling to
one before whom they dare not say or do, or even think, an ignoble
thing. And if these higher souls are--as they usually are--not
merely formidable, but tender likewise, and true, then the influence
which they may gain is unbounded, for good--or, alas! for evil--both
to themselves and to those that worship them. Woe to the man who,
finding that God has given him influence over human beings for their
good, begins to use it after awhile, first only to carry out through
them his own little system of the Universe, and found a school or
sect; and at last by steady and necessary degradation, mainly to feed
his own vanity and his own animal sense of power.

But Mr. Maurice, above all men whom I have ever met, conquered both
these temptations. For, first, he had no system of the Universe. To
have founded a sect, or even a school, would be, he once said, a sure
sign that he was wrong and was leading others wrong. He was a
Catholic and a Theologian, and he wished all men to be such likewise.
To be so, he held, they must know God in Christ. If they knew God,
then with them, as with himself, they would have the key which would
unlock all knowledge, ecclesiastical, eschatological (religious, as
it is commonly called), historic, political, social. Nay even, so he
hoped, that knowledge of God would prove at last to be the key to the
right understanding of that physical science of which he,
unfortunately for the world, knew but too little, but which he
accepted with a loyal trust in God, and in fact as the voice of God,
which won him respect and love from men of science to whom his
theology was a foreign world. If he could make men know God, and
therefore if he could make men know that God was teaching them; that
no man could see a thing unless God first showed it to him--then all
would go well, and they might follow the Logos, with old Socrates,
whithersoever he led. Therefore he tried not so much to alter men's
convictions, as, like Socrates, to make them respect their own
convictions, to be true to their own deepest instincts, true to the
very words which they used so carelessly, ignorant alike of their
meaning and their wealth. He wished all men, all churches, all
nations, to be true to the light which they had already, to
whatsoever was godlike, and therefore God-given, in their own
thoughts; and so to rise from their partial apprehensions, their
scattered gleams of light, toward that full knowledge and light which
was contained--so he said, even with his dying lips--in the orthodox
Catholic faith. This was the ideal of the man and his work; and it
left him neither courage nor time to found a school or promulgate a
system. God had His own system: a system vaster than Augustine's,
vaster than Dante's, vaster than all the thoughts of all thinkers,
orthodox and heterodox, put together; for God was His own system, and
by Him all thing's consisted, and in Him they lived and moved and had
their being; and He was here, living and working, and we were living
and working in Him, and had, instead of building systems of our own,
to find out His eternal laws for men, for nations, for churches; for
only in obedience to them is Life. Yes, a man who held this could
found no system. "Other foundation," he used to say, "can no man
lay, save that which is laid, even Jesus Christ." And as he said it,
his voice and eye told those who heard him that it was to him the
most potent, the most inevitable, the most terrible, and yet the most
hopeful, of all facts.

As for temptations to vanity, and love of power--he may have had to
fight with them in the heyday of youth, and genius, and perhaps
ambition. But the stories of his childhood are stories of the same
generosity, courtesy, unselfishness, which graced his later years.
At least, if he had been tempted, he had conquered. In more than
five-and-twenty years, I have known no being so utterly unselfish, so
utterly humble, so utterly careless of power or influence, for the
mere enjoyment--and a terrible enjoyment it is--of using them.
Staunch to his own opinion only when it seemed to involve some moral
principle, he was almost too ready to yield it, in all practical
matters, to anyone whom he supposed to possess more practical
knowledge than he. To distrust himself, to accuse himself, to
confess his proneness to hard judgments, while, to the eye of those
who knew him and the facts, he was exercising a splendid charity and
magnanimity; to hold himself up as a warning of "wasted time," while
he was, but too literally, working himself to death--this was the
childlike temper which made some lower spirits now and then glad to
escape from their consciousness of his superiority by patronising and
pitying him; causing in him--for he was, as all such great men are
like to be, instinct with genial humour--a certain quiet good-natured
amusement, but nothing more.

But it was that very humility, that very self-distrust, combined so
strangely with manful strength and sternness, which drew to him
humble souls, self-distrustful souls, who, like him, were full of the
"Divine discontent;" who lived--as perhaps all men should live--angry
with themselves, ashamed of themselves, and more and more angry and
ashamed as their own ideal grew, and with it their consciousness of
defection from that ideal. To him, as to David in the wilderness,
gathered those who were spiritually discontented and spiritually in
debt; and he was a captain over them, because, like David, he talked
to them, not of his own genius or his own doctrines, but of the
Living God, who had helped their forefathers, and would help them
likewise. How great his influence was; what an amount of teaching,
consolation, reproof, instruction in righteousness, that man found
time to pour into heart after heart, with a fit word for man and for
woman; how wide his sympathies, how deep his understanding of the
human heart; how many sorrows he has lightened; how many wandering
feet set right, will never be known till the day when the secrets of
all hearts are disclosed. His forthcoming biography, if, as is
hoped, it contains a selection from his vast correspondence, will
tell something of all this: but how little! The most valuable of
his letters will be those which were meant for no eye but the
recipient's, and which no recipient would give to the world--hardly
to an ideal Church; and what he has done will have to be estimated by
wise men hereafter, when (as in the case of most great geniuses) a
hundred indirect influences, subtle, various, often seemingly
contradictory, will be found to have had their origin in Frederick

And thus I end what little I have dared to say. There is much
behind, even more worth saying, which must not be said. Perhaps some
far wiser men than I will think that I have said too much already,
and be inclined to answer me as Elisha of old answered the over-
meddling sons of the prophets:

"Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head

"Yea, I know it: hold ye your peace."


{0} The edition of "Literary and General Essays" that this
transcription was taken from also contained "Phaethon; or, Loose
Thoughts for Loose Thinkers" as the final part. This has been


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