17 OCTOBER 1931, Page 15


[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]

Sra,—Those of us who are aware in a vague way of new lines of thought opening out before us as the result of various dis- coveries in different departments of scientific investigation, will' eel deeply indebted to General Smuts for his brilliant and illuminating sketch of a new " world-view " suggested by modern Science. Under his guidance something in the nature of a synoptic view of the new world suggested by Einstein, Eddington, Whitehead and the exponents of the New Physics is made accessible to the thinking laymen who have emanci- pated themselves from a discredited nineteenth-century materialism, but are still bewildered and uncertain as to the direction to which Science is now pointing us, whether to a wider Agnosticism or a richer world beyond Agnosticism. It is therefore a source of some comfort to find the President of the British Association concluding his survey of the more pro- minent recent tendencies in science with a world-picture fuller of mystery than ever—a world in which " the ancient spiritual goods and heirlooms of our race need not be ruthlessly scrapped."

A meaningless world is a stupid world, and in it men can only affect boredom and be content to drift from a youth of frolics to an old age of cards. If, however, science can in this twentieth century assure us that the world in which we live is as they see it, one in which " the great values and ideals obtain their unfading glory and derive new interest and force from a cosmic setting," we may once more take heart of grace and 'insist upon these absolute values, truth, beauty, goodness, as of the very essence of ultimate reality and as therefore giving us the key to the true meaning of our life and destiny.

With true philosophical insight General Smuts has put his finger upon the weak spot in all our recent progress—a weak. ness which accounts for the pitiable condition in which our Western civilization finds itself. We have witnessed an enor- mous advance in the conquest of man over the forces of Nature, but no corresponding ethical and spiritual growth. " A serious lag," Smuts tells us, " has already developed between our rapid scientific advance and our stationary ethical development, a lag which has already found expression in the greatest tragedy of history."

In other words, there has been, in the case of man, an enormous development in body but no corresponding expan- sion in mental and spiritual equipment. Man finds himself thus, at the dawn of a new age, a giant in physical structure and resources, but with the soul of a pigmy. Here at once we see his capacity for using the results of his new scientific know- ledge, not for the advancement of ethical and spiritual values, but for the ultimate disruption of our civilization and the decay of our species. Science, he sees clearly, must itself help to close this dangerous gap in our advance. In all this the scientist is but echoing the warning again and again repeated by our more responsible religious leaders, who have clearly seen that behind and beneath our present social and economic upheavals lies the disregard for and neglect of moral and spiritual laws. A nobler patriotism and a return to simpler habits of living can only arise from a loftier idealism.

A people misled by a false theory of life, and now realizing the fatal consequences of an orgy of pleasure-seeking and over- spending, is summoned painfully to retrace its steps and to accept a programme of heavier taxation and cuts and sacrifice as the condition of a restoration of our financial stability and a balanced Budget, which alone will secure for us again the confidence of the world. A hard path indeed to have to tread, but imperatively necessary if we are to retain our place in the sun. We can only hope to tread this path successfully if we regain confidence in ourselves and replace the spirit of defeatism by a mood invigorated through spiritual renewal.

General Smuts has assured us that we have scientific war- rant for a belief in this world as a vale of whole-making. The religious world-view enables us to penetrate deeper and regard it, in Keats's phrase, as a " vale of soul-making." Here we come in sight of the work which religious forces can still do in ministering to our present distress. Christianity catue and still comes to a sick world. That " ethical lag " speaks its own significant message to our day and generation. It is an indictment of the Church's failure and a challenge to our religious leaders to mobilize the spiritual resources of the nation in an effort after a spiritual revival and renewal. Only so may we hope to rise above the slogan of equality of sacrifice for all to a nobler vision suggested by the glorious inequality of the cross. That was the vision which enabled our nation and Empire to pull through the years from 1914 to 1918. It is still that vision which contains the key to our difficulties, and in it is the inspiration by which alone we can hope to shoulder the burdens imposed upon us as the aftermath of the Great War. A Holistic universe needs the chemistry of that salva- tion to cure it of its many diseases and to make it truly whole.

We should welcome a day of national re-dedication and re- consecration to the higher ideals to which we are committed as a Christian nation. And the form which the intercessions of the more devout religious people might take would be to double their subscriptions to church funds and charitable objects ; to lead in the campaign for voluntary service ; to set an example of simpler living, and to practise economy not at the expense of other people but by real sacrifice of bodily comfort and the forgoing of much in the way of personal gratification which, however legitimate in normal times of prosperity, is quite out of place at a time of national emergency. —I am, Sir, &c., H. MAURICE RELTON, D.D.

Professor of Dogmatic Theology, King's College, and Vicar of All Saints. Ennismore Gardens, SW. 7.