20 DECEMBER 1930, Page 6

The Challenge To Religious Orthodoxy

[In this series men and women presenting the outlook of the younger generation have been invited to express their criticism of organized religion in order that their views may be answered from the Christian standpoint. Such criticism, well and ill-informed, is common, and we hold that it should bo met by those best qualified to do so. This week Rev. Fr. Cyril Martindale, S.J., answers Mr. C. E. M. Joad's article on " Is an Organized Church Necessary to Religion ? " Next week Miss Evelyn Underhill will write a half-time survey of this series.]

Vision versus Church


MR. JDAD, asking (in last week's Spectator) whether an " organized Church is necessary to religion," never really answered the question, for he at once substituted " religious experience " for " religion," whereas the two are different. Obviously plenty of men who have had " religious " experience have existed out- side of " churches " ; and plenty, to whom we would be sorry to deny the name " religious," deny that they have " experiences " worth talking about. As for " religious experience," Mr. Toad agrees that " mystics," biological " sports " with " precocious " minds, have " most in- dubitably " had it. What does it achieve for them, assuming its " validity," as he does ? It puts them " in touch with " and " gives information about " the uni- verse. What universe ? All that in any sense exists ? No. " Another " world, of which beauty and, "probably," truth and goodness are inhabitants, and these, " pos- sibly " merging into one, are what the mystic has a " confused awareness " of, and, in that sense, he sees " deity." Can then the mystic, can Churches, help us towards a similar awareness, if we say we don't possess it ?

Mystics, no : not unless we already have an inkling of it. To the ordinary man the mystic seems " totally " unable to express himself, to be " merely babbling," if not of green fields at least of delicious deserts." You cannot explain toothache to a man who has never had it. (But if he has had earache, he at least knows what pain is, and can argue by analogy. And Mr. Joad, " aestheti- cally obtuse to the graphic arts," can be helped by an artist to appreciate a picture. We ordinary men, there- fore, may cheer up. Perhaps more of us have our " ink- ling " than we imagine.)

But " organized churches " are as helpless as the Academy. Is symbolism, then, no use ? No ; either you know what the symbol means—then why use it ?—or you don't, and then it conveys nothing. . . . Why then have both ordinary men as well as mystics always used symbo- lism ? Eliminate it, and you eliminate all mathematics, and, indeed, good manners ! Obviously, it can lead from the more to the less obscure ; be vehicle no less than veil. It is not vision ; but it suggests something deeper than the superficial ; it provokes to research. But no ! cries Mr. Joad. Symbols " inevitably " tend to obscure what they stand for. (His words are so violent ! Totally; merely ; inevitably. We suspect them. They suggest the slapdash ; even timidity as to one's thesis. Knock your opponent out before he has time to think.) Symbols, in reality, " tend " both ways ; and where there is a strong intellectual control, symbols do not run amok, like, for example, Maeterlinck's, nor yet turn into mum- mies. Who has more strongly emphasized the doctrine

of the analogy of our purest knowledge of God than the Catholic Church ? The intellectual map she can make of her doctrine of the Eucharist has certainly prevented reality succumbing to symbolism—the Eucharist is not a " good " illustration of Mr. Joad's thesis, but a bad one.

To return to the mystic. Apparently he can't do much for us. Though his " serenity " of mind equips him with a perspective for " mundane " things, again we ask : " Which world ? " Not ours. The " only " thing that mattered to the mystic was the " incommunicable and unorganizable." His language, applicable to " another " world, is " inapplicable ". to ours. Above all, he can't fit into churches, as these have been less occupied with introducing men to that other world, than in making terms with this one. Have there then been no martyrs ? Turn the other cheek ! For men usually slap us because they hold we attend too much to " heaven " and too little to, say, housing. Mr. Joad thinks creeds and codes are a product of this-worldliness. Do not try, he warns us, to harmonize your creed with the " science " of to-day, for it would certainly be out of harmony with that of to-morrow. Well, only a Modernist values a thing because it is modern ; eminent men of science seem to prefer, in their increasing humility, to speak of " my endlessly corrigible hypothesis " rather than of " laws of nature " rigidly fixed : and the Church is glad when hypothesis is no more confused with demonstration, and content when the hypothesis does not clash with her doctrine ; but she does not dream of adapting the latter to suit the former. But, Mr. Joad thinks, this so fluid science and the " spread " of education are washing away the bases of those dogmas which belong to " the infantile stage " of religion, and are but " picturesque legends." 1 can think of no instance of this happening ; and I think poorly of modern education, especially qua "spread." But allowing that all dogma will liquefy, for what is Mr. Joad hoping ? For the day when the experience of the Great Mystics will be that of the man in the street. What street ? It would be awkward to have unorganizablc mystics wandering down these streets of ours : and in their world there aren't any streets. Without noticing it Mr. Joad is desiring a synthesis between their.experience and ours ; he believes in a heaven, and would like to have some.of it, after all, on earth.

Perhaps this makes up for what seems to us his first error—the absolute divorce which he places between the mystic's " world " and the " ordinary " one. His second mistake is to speak wholly in terms of our reaction towards " deity," and never of its action upon us. .Mean- while we are grateful that he does recognize that " further," indeed that " ultimate," which human

nature can reason upon but analogically. This disavows materialism and mechanism. But only the inferior mystic puts that bridgeless chasm between the ".two worlds." I doubt if the noblest Mohammedans or even Indians did ; certainly St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross did not. Teresa would have bartered all her mystical experiences for the merit of one act of virtue ; on her deathbed she murmured the Miserere for her sins and thanked God that she died a daughter of the Church. She could construe all her life's experience, " from holy water to the Trinity." She would have regarded one who had a " complete " inability to under- stand ecclesiastical forms as to that extent a defective. The great mystics, like her, have to recover from the paralysis of ecstasy ; St. John compared ecstasies to a dislocation of the bones. Does Mr. Joad guess how scientifically mysticism has been studied, and how thin his thesis, insisting on incompatibilities, seems alongside of quite " popular " books like M. Bremond's Prayer and Poetry, or even M. Claudel's Soulier de Satin? It was the Gnostic and the Manichee who cleft chasms, condemned the " flesh," and then relapsed into sensuality —not the. Carmelite. Yet Mr. Joad does deprecate such chasms ! He has said that on entering a church you left your intelligence in the porch. No more than on entering a lecture-room, you leave your morals in the vestibule I Man's total good estate ignores no element or activity of his nature in favour of one unde- finable mystic function acting on a who-knows-what ? You must always distrust a mystic who isn't beefy !

Religion can be called the totality of man's reaction upon his Ultimate, in response to the original activity of that Ultimate upon him. God, even defined as Mr. Joad defines Him (I think), may be the last thing our " experience " reaches, but is the first thing, in Himself, all along the line ; nor can truth, goodness, and beauty issue into anything that we may dare to flout. Hence religion is positive, constructive, and synthetizing. It concerns man's body, and puts right order into his instincts : a true ethic is possible, and stateable in a code. It disdains no emotions, though it subordinates them to right reason, and makes full use of reason, too. So there is full scope for a religious art (and symbolism) and for a right theology. Short of crippling mankind, religion must cater for his social instinct ; hence religious societies, churches, are not only justifiable, but inevitable. And in all societies there is room for authority, and, as things are, all must contain some measure and sort of authority. And in proportion as we realize that man's possibilities are not exhausted by his normal functioning, we must be prepared for abnormal or super-normal human activities, which religion will not neglect, but Will utilize and make perfect without dreaming of denying the validity of any of the others, each in its hierarchic place. This view seems to me to permit of far more men being truly " religious " than Mr. Joad's view does ; and of the whole man being activated, developed, and made the most of, which does not happen if we split off religion from every faculty save one, even though that one be the " highest." This is not to " come to terms " with " this world," as though some compromise were implied, due to each side jettisoning something ; nor is any condemnation of the " lower," as though it were " bad," involved ; nor is any smudgy sort of fusion of parts being aimed at ; but a true harmony and organic and vital unity is foreseen. To this " uni- versal " view of religion, Catholic religion gives both approbation and assistance. God, prime agent in all departments, can, and we hold does, offer spontaneous help in view of all those human departments. What is absolutely true and right affirms itself as true and right on every plane, in the measure and manner appropriate to what exists on that plane. Far, then, from a divine revelation being an incubus or inhibition, it is a stimulus ; far from an " infallible Church " being patron of stag- nation, it incites continually to what is both higher and more deep. Within the Church's doctrine exists a whole realm concerned with grace, with the supernatural, and, ultimately, with the beatific vision. All that Mr. Joad desires is included in that ; far more than he has suggested is affirmed by it. I look in vain for anything ever asserted or surmised by anyone, in the line of truth and good, which is excluded from the theological system itself that the Catholic Faith has formed : you cannot add to it new " items "—they are there already. But since, under the tremendous dynamic impetus constantly given by the Church's " method," a deepening and a sublimation of knowledge and will are continually made accessible to each soul, there is nothing " final " in the sense of " dead " in the Res Catholica. " Due nos quo tendimus," sang Aquinas, " ad Lucem quam inhahitas." Life, energy, tendency, purpose, vocation. Vision, there- fore, in such a whole, is in conflict with nothing at all. Vision versus Church is, for the Catholic, nonsense. Bishop Barnes, whose state of mind seems to me violently opposed to Mr. Joad's (for the Bishop is no philosopher, while Mr. Joad is a distinguished one), sweeps aside the supernatural as roughly as Mr. Joad wants to discard the contents, not merely the limitations, of our " natural " : the Bishop cannot quite mock at mysticism, but is as nervous of it as Mr. Joad is enamoured of it. But the Bishop quite rightly holds that no doctrine, however super-rational, must ever be anti-rational : Mr. Joad, I fear, does not yet admit that it can be anything else. Mr. Joad is on a far better_ track, and has advanced enormously farther than the Bishop has or can ; for he must be seen as in search of what Catholics call the beatific vision, when, indeed, there will be no more popes or sacraments or ritual. But Catholics attach quite a real meaning to the " Resurrection of the Body," alike that of Christ, and that of each of us, and to the full formation of that Church which is nothing less than the Body of Him Who, having incorporated us into Himself, can truly be called the All in all.