Issues of Life
HENRY NELSON WIEMAN
Chaper IX: The Last Devotion
IN examining the process of growing up as we did in the first chapter we saw that it involves three phases, the third of which is to pass from the lure of established ideals and convictions to the lure of unexplored possibilities. This third state many people never reach, and it has not been so insistently demanded in the past as it is to-day. For many this devotion to unexplored possibilities of value is pure nonsense.
We seem to be entering a period in the world's history when this third stage of maturity will be demanded more insistently than ever before of everyone who will master the art of living. The reason for this may be that humanity itself is becoming more mature and hence the maturity of the individual must go to higher levels. Perhaps this stage through which the world's life is passing corresponds to adolescence. Heretofore humanity has been in its infancy. It was not fully self-conscious. It was not aware of its own uniqueness as over against the lower animals. It had not discerned the distinctive functions of its own way of life. It lived differently from the lower animals without clearly recognizing wherein that difference lay. But now it, is becoming self-conscious. It is beginning to distinguish this new way of life which it has brought into existence and which marks out its unique function in the cosmic totality of things. Perhaps in time it will settle down to concentrate and dedicate all its powers to the fulfillment of this function. Then it will be truly and fully mature. But in any case, however that may be, the present state of the world's existence is forcing upon men more extensively and insistently than ever before a certain unique way of life. Let us note some of the general features which characterize this changing life of modern man.
First, it should be observed that the age of fixed and certain belief is passing. It will not soon come again. It may never come again. There is much to indicate that the tentative, experimental attitude toward every belief and project will spread farther and farther throughout the whole range of human living. There are even now not alfew sophisticated and disillusioned individuals who assume as a matter of course that all beliefs must be held in this tentative manner, and every project undertaken must be subject to modification, subject even to discarding, in the light of further evidence. The world is changing and all our beliefs must change, they say. What seems to be most indubitable fact to-day, they declare, may tomorrow reveal itself to be a mirage or, at any
rate, very different from what we now think it to be. Therefore no belief is altogether secure. That, we say, is the attitude of some of the
most sophisticated people of our time. It is not yet, we believe, the attitude of the great majority. This majority, no doubt, still have an inner core
of belief which they think Is fixed and certain forever. They may admit that these central beliefs may be modified in some way, but in the
main they are true and in substance can never be doubted. But they find more and more of their peripheral beliefs becoming tentative and
insecure. Farther and farther inward toward that central core of fixed and changeless belief is creeping this "disease" of experimental tentativeness, infecting more and more of their beliefs.
It would seem that it is only a matter of time when this spreading instability and flux will eat its way into the last stronghold of certainty.
If it is true that all beliefs are bound to become uncertain-and even this belief that they are bound to become uncertain is itself an uncertain belief-if such is the case, a serious question arises: Is it possible to accept anything as object of supreme devotion if we cannot be absolutely sure about anything? Can we dedicate ourselves without reservation, with complete abandon, to any cause, if we cannot be sure that our belief concerning its worthiness is not mistaken? And if we cannot accept anything as object of supreme devotion, is high and noble
living possible? Can there be magnificence where there is no sovereign loyalty? Will not the zest and joy of life pass when every enthusiasm is haunted by the specter of doubt? Will not the thrust and drive of passionate striving grow weak and fail? Will not every love and loyalty be sickened with the disease of distrust? Will not there be a baneful ebbing of the surge and flood of life when all belief is sicklied o'er with such a pale caste? We have Joseph Wood Krutch, in his Modern Temper, to testify that such must be the outcome.
Our reply is that such inevitably must be the outcome of this spreading tentativeness and experimental attitude toward every project unless the last stage of maturity is reached and life is yielded to the last devotion. Unless men can find some compulsive lure engendering passion on beyond every specific belief and definite program of action, we have reached the end of the human trail. But there is such a lure on beyond, and not a few men have found it, even though many think it is nothing but nonsense because they have not yet reached that stage of maturity. It is the lure of undiscovered possibilities of value.
The life of man upon this planet is young. He has scarcely begun his career. He is not yet beyond his infancy. This new way of life which is. an art rather than an urge, and which requires the exploratory transformation of desire rather
than the simple striving to fulfill present desire, and which releases imagination through the use of free symbols so that remote possibilities of the future and ancient heritage from the past can be integrated with present experience to lend a grandeur to the passing moment-this new way of life, we say, has not yet been explored. We are scarcely aware that we have entered into it or what it is that has come upon us-we who so recently were bound slavishly to the urge of the present desire and to the immediate situation, as are all the lower animals to-day. Scarcely the gray dawn of this new kind of life is now upon us. There is the lure of unexplored possibilities if we can catch it and yield ourselves to it and make it the inspiration of our lives and put it in the place of these crude and shabby beliefs and ideals which this animal that would be man has thus far been able to fabricate.
The prevalent tentative attitude of mind toward all specific ideals and beliefs, and the consequent necessity of passing on to the last devotion in order to have the driving propulsion which all masterful living requires, can be further exemplified by noting a further characteristic of our time.
The present age is distinguished from every other by the dominance of science, machinery and industry. These three have transformed the state of human existence more swiftly and radically, perhaps, than it was ever before trans-
formed in so short a length of time. Now, when the state of existence is radically changed, especially when the change includes a great modification in the habits of human behavior, something more is changed besides the state of existence. Possibilities are also changed. What was once possible is so no longer. And new possibilities arise. These new possibilities are there to be actualized or avoided whether we discern them or not. We may know nothing about them. We may not discover that the old have passed and the new arisen.
But when old possibilities pass and new ones arise, something happens to our ideals. An ideal as we are now considering it is our idea of some possibility of value which is worth striving for. But when possibilities change without us knowing that they change, our ideas of the most worthful possibilities remain the same because we do not know that what was once possible is so no longer; and we do not know that other possibilities of value have arisen, which may be even greater than the old possibilities. Thus it comes about that when the state of existence changes swiftly and radically, producing a like change in the possibilities of value, our ideals are likely to be maladjusted to the new situation. They fail to represent the genuine possibilities of value which the new situation presents. They represent the possibilities of value for which we rightly strove in a different state of existence,
but which are no longer the values of this new and radically different situation.
This lag in the transformation of our ideals, which makes the socially accepted ideals of our time unfitted to guide, illumine, and inspire our living, is further evidence that we in our present state of existence must look beyond these socially accepted ideals to the unexplored possibilities of value which have arisen with our new state of existence. Clinging to these outworn ideals and making them supreme over life simply adds to the confusion. It indicates a failure to grow up completely to the requirements of our time.
It is perfectly right and proper to have specific ideals. We must have them. They are indispensable to the conduct of life. The question at issue is not whether we shall have ideals or shall not have ideals. On the contrary, the question is whether our ideals shall be accepted as conclusive, final, and absolute or whether they shall be held subject to correction, transformation, and even discarding for the sake of other ideals when evidence points that way. If old possibilities have passed and new possibilities have emerged, then it is exceedingly important that we discover these new possibilities of great value and do not cling to,the old ideals which block the way to their discovery, as, for example, a certain kind of prevalent patriotism certainly does.
Since we cannot know what the unknown possibilities of great value may be, what use is there
in recognizing that there are such possibilities? If we do not know them and so cannot make any use of them, why give our devotion to them? The answer is, We cannot search and cannot bring to light unknown possibilities of value unless we believe there are such possibilities to be sought and found. If we do not give our devotion to unknown possibilities, we cannot make those observations and criticisms and experimental ventures which are necessary to discover them. We will not have that open and receptive mind to recognize them. when they become manifest if our supreme devotion is given to the old and established ideals.
We must have some passionate devotion to give us the necessary drive of life. If that passionate devotion is given to established and accepted ideals, we cannot seek and find the new possibilities that arise with changing conditions. Where, then, shall we find an object of passionate devotion? Such an object is that order of value which enters into our present state of existence, but which also includes the highest possibilities of value however unknown and undefined by us as yet. Without such a devotion, we maintain, maturity is not attained, the art of living is not mastered, and the way is blocked that leads to the good life in our present age of science, machinery, and industry when all things are changing so rapidly.
Possibilities taken in the abstract are eternal
and changeless. They are eternal verities. But the possibility that can be realized under one set of conditions cannot be realized under another set. And the possibility that would be good in one siuation would not be good in another. If we make an ideal sufficiently abstract so that it does not give us any specific guidance for our conduct, then we can hold it unchanged, and it is always true. Such, for example, are the ideals of the good, the true, and the beautiful. But as soon as we specify what is the good or the true or the beautiful, then our specification must be different for different states of the world's existence. What is true of one situation is not true of another. What would be beautiful in one state of affairs is not in another. The act which would be morally good under one set of relations would not be in another. Therefore, just as soon as an ideal becomes sufficiently specific to give any direction at all to our way of living, it becomes something which must change when the state of existence changes. Our state of existence has changed most fully under the influence of modern machinery, science, and industry. Therefore our ideals, in so far as they specify what we shall think, say, do, feel, must also change.
The world has changed so rapidly and we have been so absorbed in mastering the technique of the new science, the new machinery, and the new industry, that our ideals have not kept pace.
Even where they have undergone change, what has taken their place has been not so much other ideals as uncertainties and perplexities. And where new ideals have arisen they conflict, being upheld by warring groups, instead of being the guiding lights of the age. In so far as ideals are dominant and widely accepted they generally represent the possibilities that pertained to a very different kind of world-the world of a bygone age. Presumably our modern world has possibilities of great value, just as most other periods in the world's history. Perhaps it has even greater possibilities of value. Our magnified power of control would suggest that. But these possibilities we miss, they slip through our fingers, as long as we are unable to search them out.
Thus we stand confused, with more power at our command to achieve possibilities of value than any people ever had, but without a guiding vision of the possibilities we should strive to bring into existence. So we follow various courses. Some ardently pursue the old ideals, quite unconscious of the fact that these traditional lights are irrelevant to our time and hence yield only a sentimental satisfaction without adequate control of conduct. Others serve new ideals -which are the products of speculation rather than observation and experimentation. But such ideals cannot guide us or unify us. Still others turn back to the glamorous past and
let their minds dwell upon "the olden golden glory of days gone by," even seeming to hope that this old time might come back again. Others cultivate a refined Tstheticism in which they cherish the beliefs, myths, and ideals handed down from the past not as truths, but as lovely illusions which serve to shut away the sordid world. Others plunge into the gaieties of the hour, glad for the moment to be free of all ideals and all thought of anything whatsoever beyond the transitory excitement of the fleeting present. Still others, who might have been our leaders, the most intelligent and sensitive of all, draw aside disillusioned, cynical, pessimistic.
But this age has its possibilities of value, as rich and high, perhaps, as any time in the history of the world. How can we find them? What must we do to bring them to light? There are two things we must do, or, rather, there are two things which must be combined into one. We must have, in the first place, a driving propulsion, a zest and a passion, which will enable us to undertake and carry through the laborious search by which these possibilities can be brought to light and established as specific objectives of human endeavor. But such a search requires such earnest examination such relentless criticism, and experimentation which is often so dangerous, with destruction of much we so fondly love, that we cannot undertake it or bring it to completion unless we know a lure that
awakens within us a passionate seeking. Where can we find, such a lure? It cannot be in any specific, established, and accepted ideal or System of ideals, for reasons already mentioned. Neither can it be found in those remote and bloodless abstractions which are eternally true and changeless, but specify nothing, such as the abstract notion of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Where, then, can it be found?
It must be found in that total order of value, veiled, but dimly discerned, which includes the highest possibilities of value that ever can be brought into concrete and specific existence, but which are as yet unknown. This order which operates in our present state of existence, but which includes in the form of possibility whatever unknown possibilities of higher value may ever be brought into existence, this order of existence and possibility, which is by no means the total order of nature or the total cosmic order, but which is one order of nature and one cosmic order-this order thus operative in the present and carrying utmost possibilities of value, can well be identified with God. This is the order which has the lure and can awaken the passionate quest in anyone who is sufficiently mature to give himself to the last devotion. This is the religious wayof living when religion assumes the form in which it is "invincible."
We said two things must be combined if the highest possibilities of value which this age
of science, machinery, and industry may provide, are to be made accessible to human experience. The, first of these two we have just described. The second is a negative requirement. It is simply the obverse of the first. It is the requirement that we cease to give our supreme allegiance to any known and accepted ideal or any system of such ideals or to any set of convictions which assume to specify just what the nature of existence and possibility may be.
We do not mean to deny the value of these ideals, beliefs, and programs of action handed down from the past. We could do nothing without them. They are indispensable tools in our search. We must "stand upon the proffered shoulders of the past" if we would get anywhere or do anything. We cannot set out to search for unknown possibilities of value blindly, without guidance, and without plan of any sort. On the contrary, we have our socially accepted ideals and we must use them. We have our beliefs, our techniques, our programs and we must make them our guides and torches. We must live in the light of them. Structures and projects of life which the past has handed down to us we must use in this way.
But there are two ways in which we can deal with these socially accepted Meals, these achieved structures of value and known possibilities. We can live with them as though they were final, as though they were the supreme
good, as though there were nothing on beyond them to seek and explore, or we can use them not as final goods, not as our home and resting place, but as merely torches and trails, leading on. In other words, there are two ways of life according to what we make supreme. We may give our highest allegiance to the socially accepted ideals, the known possibilities, the goods achieved, while the unknown possibilities are for us mere nebulosity and dreamland. Or, on the other hand, we may give our supreme loyalty to this realm of meanings yet to be achieved, these possible structures of value not yet defined and mastered, while the known possibilities and socially accepted ideals are for us mere tools and instruments to be used in this higher devotion. This is the contrast between religion forever on the defensive and in peril and religion invincible.
We have suggested that this attitude of responsiveness to undiscovered possibilities of value is a form of religion. It is a kind of mysticism. As a matter of fact, religion has always cultivated this attitude more or less. But all too frequently it has stopped with the mere emotional response to the fact that there are hidden possibilities of value which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have they entered into the heart of man. All too frequently it has refused to undertake the experimental ventures, analyses, and criticisms through which alone these possibilities can be made available for
practical living. This refusal is a perversion of religion. Also, to be blind to the savage cruelty of the world is just as disastrous as to be unresponsive to its hidden values. The practice of religious mysticism has often been used to induce this mood of Pollyanna. But that also is a perversion of religion.
High religion is the cultivation of an attitude which issues in the passionate search for the utmost possibilities of value which the present state of existence may yield. To arouse such an attitude and inspire such a search is the supreme function of religion to-day. It alone can deliver us from the present bafflement and stultifying confusion and cynicism and triviality which haunt the minds of many of the most intelligent. These intelligent and prosperous people have comfort and knowledge and skill and the resources and instruments of achievement, but they lack the lure that can lead them on. They see the inadequacy of all the old Meals, but none other ideals are available. The way of life and deliverance for them, we say, lies in this mystic devotion to that order of existence and possibility which mediates and includes all the undiscovered possibilities of utmost value which our present world affords. This order is God.
The persistent and costly search for unknown and unspecified possibilities by the method of observation, experimentation, analysis, and criticism can scarcely occur unless these possibilities,
prior to their discovery, can exercise a compulsive lure. To make known this lure and to make people feel it, is the great gospel and mission of invincible religion in the world to-day.
What are some of the attitudes and conditions which prevent people from feeling this lure and hence must be corrected before this search can be undertaken with any hope of success? There are six of these hindrances which block the way of high religion. There may be others, but these six we shall mention.
The first of these is the rapidity of the change which has been brought about through science, machinery, and industry. This change has been so swift and so revolutionary that it has made it impossible for many people to see that their cherished ideals no longer serve the purpose they once may have served. We have already noted this in the case of nationalistic patriotism. The same applies to many ideals of home and love. The idealof brotherhood, for example, which expresses itself in charity, is no longer an ideal adequate for dealing with present economic evils. The feudalistic ideal of loyalty in big industrial organizations is outworn and unfitted to our times. And so with many others that might be mentioned. But the change has been so rapid that many have not discovered this maladjustment of their ideals.
A second attitude that must be corrected is absorption in the vesthetic appreciation of old
illusions. There are an increasing number of people to-day with fine sensibilities and high intelligence who see that the old ideals and beliefs do not fit our time, but they cherish them for the sake of their tender beauty. They are so devoted to the loveliness of old traditional beliefs and are so insistent on preserving their wsthetic value that they resent any effort to reinterpret and reconstruct such ideals and beliefs in a way that will make them serviceable to our time. They have nothing but scorn and hate for anyone who would put the hand of utility upon this sacred heritage of beauty. It is a sacrilege, they cry, to use these ideals and beliefs as tools for searching out unknown possibilities of value and thus transforming them into something different from their ancient loveliness.
This aestheticism is deadly. It is suicide. Yet many sophisticated and literary people today are doing all in their power to preserve ancient religious beliefs and ideals as you would preserve fine works of art in a museum, for a-sthetic enjoyment alone. Hence they are ready to support the Roman Catholic Church because it does not disturb the ancient form of these beliefs. But they fight the modernist in religion or anyone else who would try to change that which seems to them so beautiful. They are having considerable influence in the world to-day for they belong to the comfortable and well-educated intelligentsia. Indeed, no one save a well-
fed person whose desire for social prestige and other urgent wants are satisfied, could ever take this attitude toward the beliefs and ideals which at the time they were brought into being were the desperate ventures and mighty strivings of men for the breath of a larger life. These sophisticated and oesthetic intelligentsia are, perhaps, among the greatest evils in the world at the present time, and their baleful influence must be fought as we fight a pestilence. They would make our religious heritage a pleasant work of art for the dalliance of an hour, an added ornament to the luxuries of life. They represent the creeping dry-rot of decadence.
A further obstacle to the great search for the highest possibilities of value which science and machinery may yield is presented by a group which are just the opposite to the refined and conservative wsthetes just mentioned. They are intensely earnest and are working with all their might to achieve the good life for all men in a practical way. But they have no use for undiscovered possibilities of value. "Here," they say, "are the goods we want. We know what we want. All men know what they want. Let us apply our techniques to get it." They have some very specific and practical ideal. It may be Marxian socialism. It may be prohibition. It may be some other economic or political reform. But they will not search. They claim they have already found. What we want is action, they
say. Do something. Get something done. All this tentativeness, mysticism, exploration of hidden possibilities of value is nonsense and moonshine.
Still another attitude that is obstructive is found in many specialists and those who are influenced by them. These experts in pure or applied science are so absorbed in their new techDique and in their very specialized kind of achievement that they are blind to any larger problems. They cannot see that anything else is needed except to further their special kind of research or other work. A great many who are not experts are so fascinated by some new technique, be it radio or aviation or what not, that they have no time or thought or feeling for anything else. The inclusive problem of human living passes them by. They are so narrowly focused on a special interest that the major issues of life lie beyond their vision and concern.
There is a fifth obstacle to the way of deliverance, and it is perhaps more important, more pernicious and deep rooted than any we have thus far mentioned. It is the lure of wealth made accessible to great numbers by modern science, machinery and industry. Not everyone can have wealth in our modern world. There is dire need enough. But the opportunity is here as it never was before. He who makes the pursuit of wealth the chief endeavor of his life can often get it in enormous quantities such as was
never dreamed before this century. This is due to the control of nature which science and machinery have given us, with the consequent complexity of the economicsystem which rolls into the pockets of anyone who is strategically situated a river of wealth without, necessarily, any great effort on his part, although the individual who gets it is very likely to credit it to his unique abilities. Certainly, many others will so credit him and will give him high acclaim in consequence.
Wealth is rightly judged to be the means for attaining almost every good thing in life provided (1) we know what these possible good things are, and (2) know how to use our wealth, and (3) how to produce our wealth so as to achieve them. But these three kinds of knowledge, or, rather, these two arts directed by this kind of knowledge, are precisely what our age lacks, as we have been trying to demonstrate through this chapter. We do not know what are those possibilities of value at which to aim by the use of our wealth and by the control of the process of economic production. It is just these possibilities which, we say, must be sought and found and which cannot be sought and found unless we make them objects of our devotion. But the lure of great wealth is what to,-day is making many people wholly unresponsive to the lure of undiscovered possibilities of value. It turns them away from that search which is high reli-
gion and keeps them from ever attaining that maturity which is found in the last devotion.
Here, then, is our present situation. On the one side the world is suddenly transformed by science and machinery so that almost everyone in the middle class as well as the aristocracyif there is one-is justified in thinking that he has at least a chance for wealth. Great numbers actually win it in sufficient quantity to demonstrate that almost anybody can if he is lucky enough to place himself where the funnels empty their golden stream. On the other side is a set of ideals which are thought to be sufficient to guide us in the use of wealth and in the production of it--but are not. The wealth produced under the control of these ideals makes us think the ideals are right and good. The ideals make us think the wealth is producedand used in the best way. This combination is what prevents us from recognizing that there may be possibilities constituting values far superior to anything we now endeavor to achieve; and it prevents us from making those observations and experiments which would bring such possibilities to light. Any such experiments would interfere with the chief end of life, which is to produce wealth.
As long as men think their traditional ideals represent the genuine possibilities of value in the world to-day, and that all they need is the wealth to bring them to pass, and as long as the chance to make wealth continues to offer itself, men are likely to be blind to the values which might be theirs through the proper use of machinery and scientific control. They will continue to hurl themselves into the effort to make money, doing so for the sake of their ideals of service, or whatever they may call them, and so fail to discover what truly are the possibilities of value. If the chances to make wealth were not so abundant and the whole of life were not so shackled to the industrial order, we might pause to reconsider our ideals. Or if we were not so cocksure about our ideals, we might pause to reconsider our industrial system. But with greater wealth always just around the corner, and with ideals which are generally considered quite adequate, requiring only to be more strictly enforced, we do not pause to settle such metaphysical questions. (We call such questions "metaphysical" in this "practical" age.) We think we know what we want. All we lack is the means to get it. Wealth is the means and wealth is just ahead. So on with the game. The technique, the machinery, the wealth--these alone are the important questions. Our ideals we already have. So let us not stop to talk about unknown possibilities of value when the golden store is almost in our reach.
Thus wealth has made us blind. So it comes about that instead of wealth serving life, life serves wealth to no great end at all. Meanwhile wealth and power mount higher and higher while
the crowd goes milling round and round and the more sensitive individuals who might have been our prophets and leaders draw aside in perplexity and cynicism. What we have just stated may perhaps be somewhat of a caricature. Some values are realized in our time. Great numbers have comforts that no people ever had before. Furthermore, there is a quickening and widening interest in and enjoyment of science, art, and philosophy.
These comforts and these ornaments of life are being multiplied and our capacity to appreciate them is being cultivated. But there are greater
values of life than mere comforts and ornaments. And surely anyone who is critical and observant of the modern situation must detect that there
is a peculiar confusion and bafflement with respect to the high ends of endeavor. Life has not the reach and magnificence that it might have and that it has had at certain times in the past, and which it would have if we undertook the great quest of high religion.
There is a sixth trait of our life which makes us unresponsive to high possibilities of value yet to be discovered and so prevents us from searching for them. It is the glorificaiton of human desires as the chief guides to value. Instead of recognizing an objective order of possibility and existence as constituting value, the satisfaciton of our desires and the realization of our ideals are held to constitute all the value there is and all the value there ever can be. This is one kind of humanism.
This glorification of our desires and ideals brings us to consideration of what we shall call the vicious circle of disillusionment. Disillusionment, understood literally, is an escape from illusion, and that is one of the best things which can happen to a man. But we are thinking of something more than that. We are thinking of that state of mind which ensues when a man has once experienced satisfaction of his dcesires and has achieved his ideals in so far as there is any possibility of achieving them, and has discovered how small and worthless that experience is, and yet believes that the sole guide to any value whatsoever consists in satisfaction of his desires and achievement of his ideals. After having once experienced this satisfaction and this achievement such a man is unable to believe in any values worth seeking. So he enters the vicious circle of disillusionment.
If the facts are to be clearly discerned and the highest function of life is not to be lost in a blur of confusion, it is very important that we see that the supreme object of devotion must not be human ideals and the chief goal of life must not be to satisfy human desires. A human ideal, in the sense we are now considering it, is a human idea of what the value in any possible situation may be. If human ideas were infallible, then human ideals might be made the supreme objects
of devotion. But human ideals are not infallible. Human ideals are exceedingly important. Human hopes and dreams are very important. But they are merely groping, searching headlights by which we seek to discover just what those possible structures of existence may be which constitute value. To assume that our ideals are identical with such structures is the height of folly. It is one of the extreme examples of wishful thinking.
So also with human desires. We desire all sorts of things. But to satisfy desire is by no means invariably and infallibly to attain the greatest values or even very mediocre values. Some desires when satisfied yield great values. Other desires when satis,fied yield only trivial values. If a man does not have the right kind of desires, then satisfaction of his desires will never yield value of any importance or magnitude. Any man who assumes that all he needs to attain the great values is to satisfy his desires is suffering from a very dangerous kind of immaturity. The first requirement is to have our desires transformed into that kind of desire which can enter into an experience of the great values. This transformation is, doubtless., a continuous re-education of our desires, a reinterpretation of our wants and a reconstruction of our total personalities.
It is the mistake of some to talk as though our ideals were the supreme objects of devotion.
Ideals are important factors, to be sure, along with biological organisms, although the biological organism is more important than the ideal.. But the chief function of an ideal is to guide us in experimental ventures by which we search out those mutual adjustments of organisms, meanings and physical conditions which constitute greatest value. As soon as the ideal is set up as most important, it becomes an obstacle to the experimental search for that order which constitutes greatest value. Ideals are tools, that is all. They are means, not ends. They must be held subject to the order of value. He who tries to make the order of value subject to ideals, is hindering and crippling human life in fulfilling its supreme function. As soon as anyone tries to make the order of value in the image of his own ideal, rather than using his ideal to explore the order of value, he is making a disastrous blunder. His idealism becomes one of the chief obstacles to progress. We can see this plainly enough in the hopes and dreams of the man we oppose-for example, the hope and dream of a grand and glorious war in which the United States will conquer the world. But it is probable that our own ideals are somewhat less than perfect and need examination and reconstruction.
The great issue is this: Shall we try to use the order of value as an instrument to achieve our ideals or shall we use our ideals as instruments to achieve the order of value? Plainly, it is
nothing but intellectual confusion that could ever lead us deliberately to subordinate the order of value to our idea * Is, making our ideals supreme. But the sad fact is that such intellectual confusion is widespread and thick as a London fog. The culmination of man's. quest through the ages, if ever there is a culmination, will not be to build the house of his dreams. It will be to climb above the fog of his dreams and see that the greatest values are shining summits very different from his dreams.
But, someone may object, suppose these undiscovered values are not worth the cost? The answer to that question is that these undiscovered possibilities are the best that is in all the total realm of actual and possible reality. There is nothing to which this best can be compared which can make it seem unworthy or less than infinitely good. It is invaluable because it is the best there is. He who devotes himself to the best there is, since it cannot be compared disparagingly with something better, cannot find it unworthy of his utmost devotion.
Another question may be asked: May not our discovered values be as good as, or better than, the undiscovered? The answer is that the goods we now possess and know, have not been discovered to be the ultimate good until we have demonstrated that they are better than anything else that can ever be achieved. Until we demonstrate that fact, we have not discovered the
greatest value, even though when it is discovered it should prove to be what we already have. The supreme value of what we now possess, if it is supreme, is yet to be discovered as constituting the invaluable good. But anyone who is able to discern how new and unexplored is the human way of living, can scarcely think that we have yet reached the highest possibilities of value which this human way may afford. Rathe'r, he will think that we have scarcely begun. The great discoveries, the great achievements, the great values, and the great dangers are still ahead.
There must be wreckage, sorrow, and great suffering before our feet find that trail which leads the farthest and the highest. The experimental operations necessary to construct at the level of richest values a system of control analogous to what we have in physics will be far more costly and painful than anything mankind has thus far voluntarily attempted. The Russian experiment is a hint of it. To undergo great suffering and turn it to profit by making it a medium for discovery requires an enormous zest for life. There are some individuals who have this zest. They are so voracious for life that any amount of suffering, defeat, and loss leaves them undaunted and daring still. They wade through blood, whether it be their own or their foe's or their beloved's. This voraciousness is found at two levels. It is found among lower animals
which have great biological vitality. It is also found among some men who are so, unreflective and so endowed with abounding vitality that nothing can subdue the animal urge that is in them as long as the heart continues to beat. But this same zest is also found at another level where it is not due to mere biological vitality at all. There it is due to a passion awakened by a lure and not by an urge. Religion which is response to the compulsive lure of God gives such zest at the high level of personality.
When the time comes to the individual or to the race when the old order or disorder becomes impossible and a new order must be won and the price of this transition must be paid, some will commit suicide, some will die of boredom or despair or a broken heart, and some will be destroyed. But if the new way of life is ever achieved, It will be because there are some who have an insatiable appetite for life and so can keep going when every established interest and known good is insufficient to sustain the vital striving. They must have an undying fire which failure, frustration, and disaster cannot quench, nor lack of known objective subdue. People who have this unlimited life-hunger are of two sorts. Some have it because they do not think or, if they think, life for them is not dependent on what they think, hence they live automatically like the excised heart. They are sustained by the animal urge. Others have the undying fire
because of their complete dedication to the best there is, however unknown. This mystic devotion to the order of God when still unknown, as in great part it always is unknown, engenders a striving that nothing can daunt.
Why does dedication to the supreme and unknown good engender a striving so invincible? For three reasons. First, because the object of devotion which then inspires the striving is invaluable, being the best there is in all reality actual and possible, and hence worth everything that may be endured or given. Second, because it is not irrevocably identified with any known object or undertaking, these all being more or less tentative and exploratory; hence failure or disaster to any of these does not blot out from life the star of value which leads on. Third, under the dominance of such a devotion all experience becomes a seeking of this highest value, an adoration of it and a reaching after it. Hence all experience becomes a way of experiencing the best there is in all reality. Even failure of any specific enterprise, even pain and all evil, since these along with pleasure and successful fulfillments make up the medium of experience in which we seek for and reach after the supreme
good, are ways of experiencing this object of our supreme devotion.
Some may be unable to see how it can be said that we ever experience an unknown good. We experience it as we experience anything for
which we seek. All seeking, especially a passionate and all-absorbing quest, is a way of exPeriencing that for which we seek. When Ben Hur devoted his life to seeking his lost mother and sister, his life became shot through with the experience of them even while they still were lost.
When a child is lost or kidnaped and the parent spends the rest of his life seeking for the child, all experience becomes for that parent an experience of the child, not directly, not as though the child were physically present, but as having the significance of possibly leading on to the child. We previously referred to Jacob serving seven years for Rachel. All this experience of seven years of labor took on for Jacob a certain meaning. Its' meaning was Rachel. Whenever experience has a meaning, it is the experience of that which is meant. To experience the touch of a hand is to experience the personality who touches me if the touch means to me that personality. So likewise if all experience has for me the meaning of a quest and of a devotion, and if the object of that quest and of that devotion is the supreme good, however otherwise unspecified its -nature may be, then experience is for me the experience of that supreme good. When all experience is suggestive of that for which I seek, and when that for which I seek is the supreme good, then all experience has for me the meaning of the supreme good. Then in all things I experience the supreme good. All
experience becomes transfused with a light, the light of an invisible sun.
If this is mysticism, so be It. If it is not mysticism, then call it by another name. But whatever we call it, one thing is sure: It is the essence of that heroic religion which has made the men who possessed it inconquerable and blessed through all things.
"The strong men keep coming on." These strong men have the insatiable appetite for life, either because of the animal urge or because of the religious passion. The great question is, Which will it be, the urge or the passion, that leads us through the murk? If it is the urge, we shall become better animals than we now are. If it is the passion, we shall become greater personalities. But if it is neither, if we lack both the urge and the passion, if our intelligence stulti-fies both, then we shall decline and become less than we are, both as animals and as personalities.
There is a kind of religion which engenders a vital striving that is invincible. It is invincible because it feeds on pain and failure and all manner of trouble with almost as much gusto and nourishment as it finds in comforts and successes. The psychology and the rationality of such a religion are exceedingly difficult to make plain in an age which identifies all value with comforts, pleasures, and successful achievements. Some would classify such religious living with
the irrationality of the animal urge. But it is just the opposite. It is life sustained and inspired by that order of unexplored possibilities which constitutes the invaluable object of devotion for all human living.