Chapter V from
"Normative Psychology of Religion"
by Henry and Regina Wieman
Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1935
THE CULTUS AND ITS EMOTIONAL
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CULTUS
The cultus is the symbolism by which loyalties and sentiments are stimulated, fostered and sustained. Every long-continuing social group develops a cultus. It is sensed strongly in "old families", long-established universities and churches, and in racial groups that have remained in one territory. Grandmother's house where there are a myriad of things, each with some particular significance or office, Oxford University, Notre Dame in Paris and Oberammergau are places where the impact of a particular cultus affects him who approaches in sincerity. But even new groups soon feel the need of a cultus. They begin, blindly or deliberately, to grope their way toward those silent powerful symbols which establish bonds to the end of supporting ideals and sentiments. The gang of boys who set up the ceremony of a blood brotherhood and have their pass-words, initiation tests, and, above all, their pledge, be it barbaric or noble, are establishing their cultus. And unless their cultus is sufficiently true to the nature and needs of the members to exert power over them, the galng will dwindle into nothingness. The Soviets have sanctified the tomb of Lenin, couched their goals into slogans for flaming banners, and glorified the ordeals of struggle toward victory as altar service for the cause. How else could they have made misery and deprivation acceptable?
Each family has its cultus. Everyone experiences this. Our
first act as guests in a home, if we would be gracious, is to try
The chief function of a cultus is to foster the emotions with which the beliefs and ideals are charged. It is a carrier of sentiments, beliefs, ideals, loyalties. All these must be nourished and nurtured else they become meagre, vapid; else they fade and fail. Even political parties sense this. Think of the vivid, vital symbolism of the Progressive party under Theodore Roosevelt--Teddy's smile, the slogan, "I'm delighted," even the Teddy Bears! Or review in your memory that dramatized travesty of sentimental patriotism, "Of Thee I Sing." The alumni organizations of colleges purpose this nurturing of loyalties, however defeating their methods or ulterior their ends.
One of the chief attractions of the cultus is that it belongs to the group, and often to the ages that have gone before. It gives the members a sense of belonging, of shared affections, loyalties and sentiments. Each individual is significant, not just in himself, but in and through all the group--the living, the dead and the yet to be born--who belong in the cultus. That this sense of belonging to the group of a certain cultus is held a very precious value in human living, is markedly evident. On the one hand, there is felt some degree of reverent glory or of pride in the symbols of the cultus among the members. On the other hand, there is a striving on the part of those who feel outside of a particular cultus to imitate it. This striving is a subject for public ridicule of the resultant material forms--the commercially antiqued houses of the nouveau riche, the elaborate and artificial rituals of some large city churches, and the cheap bohemianism of certain "colonies". Clever leaders of a group spare no pains to elaborate a cultus and superimpose it upon their constituency. Aimee Semple McPherson through wide use of symbolism has built a powerfully bonded group around her enterprise. Visitors have commented on how skillfully they are encouraged to feel panicky over their being "outside the fold".
Where the cultus is a pseudo-cultus, that is, artificially evidenced or deliberately built, its power depends upon its artificer and his constant promotion. Where it is genuine, that is, grown through human experiences, it has tremendous power within itself over the participants in the experiences.
Cultus has the greatest hold upon human beings where they are not conscious of it. It is as much an uncriticised and essential part of living for them as is the very air they breathe. The patterning of their living takes form through it. It develops, and constantly fosters and sustains those urges and sentiments which they believe their ideal'situation in life requires. It establishes bonds sometimes which are stronger even than personal affection. The rarity of the love of Ruth for Naomi was measured largely through the fact that she would leave her own cultus, as symbolized in many things and relationships, to go with Naomi into what would be for her a meaningless life situation.
The hold of an unconscious cultus may be so great that the participants cannot conceive of any other possible situation which would meet the requirements of what they have come to feel is their ideal situation for living. They may vaguely sense that there are those of mankind who live otherwise, and feel that these wandering or lost souls must be strange, indeed. We could all experience the status of "heathen" or "foreigner" or "bounder", if we chose certain social locations for residence. And it should be remarked that there is apt to be beauty and goodness of some sort or degree where the group lives within a genuine cultus of which it is unconscious. A harmony of sentiments and loyalties works into a harmony of standards and beliefs. The bonds grow deep, grow powerful, grow warm.
When this happens, there develops one of the greatest obstacles for social reconstruction. The cultus so completely nurtures and preserves the established loyalties, sentiments and beliefs as to resist change. To the participants in the cultus, change would seem synonymous to the tragic loss of meaning in living. The instigators of social reconstruction may look upon these participants within the impeding cultus as selfish, provincial, narrow-minded, ignorant, superstitious, ignoble human beings. They may fail to realize that the participants are resisting what they believe are evil forces to which the same list of adjectives are meritoriously applicable. Each feels that this way lies salvation. The continuing impasse between capital and labor illustrates the condition. So also does the persistence of certain tribes of American Indians in holding to the ways of their fathers in the face of the educative efforts of missionaries and government agents. The martyrs of the Christian church gave up life rather than break the bonds of their religious loyalty.
Cultus, then, can pass beyond the promotive function and become conformative, even to the point of physical, intellectual, social or spiritual martyrdom. It tends so to do where its growth continues undisturbed by serious challenge in the form of maladjustments of its participants within, or disruptive intrusions from without. Only when the growth of the cultus is periodically examined in the light of the highest realities and possibilities accessible to the group, can it be kept in its place as a means of promotion. It is not a self-critical or self-corrective force. Nor does it stimulate criticism. Quite the opposite. Yet, withal, it is a forceful educative influence.
THE FAILURE OF THE RELIGIOUS CULTUS OF TODAY
The cultus of religion today is not fulfilling its function. Because of this, communicants cannot get an adequate symbol of the Cause they serve. There are many stranded individuals who no longer feel that they do belong, or can belong. For them, there is no adequate living symbolism which lights the way toward the highest accessible Cause and which develops sentiments of sufficient emotional power to lead to devoted action. Indeed, the development of an effective cultus in any religion today is a very serious problem. Our society is swiftly moving, swiftly changing. This is true not only in the larger aspects that have to do with national enterprises and international relationships, but also in the individual aspects that have to do with types of jobs open, population shift, cosmopolitan contacts and many other matters. Rootage takes time and a furtherance of the conditions for its growth. A religious cultus must grow. And there must be constant renewings in the light of the nature and needs of the situations in the lives of the participants. Modern living has been too speedy, shifting and preoccupied to give consideration to the culture of effective symbols.
We have the remnants of the older religious cultus with us. It was built upon the nature and needs of the life of another era. The security of the individual, "his salvation", was the central issue in the cultus of the Christian religion. This religion will be used here to exemplify the modern breaking down of religious cultus. Since individual salvation was the great issue, fear was, for many, the major emotional drive. And this fear was specific. It was the fear of eternal damnation or of the loss of heaven. Graphic portrayals of the devil, of hell, of angels, of heaven, even of God were frequent stimuli. The old beliefs about the improvement of persons were based upon a faculty psychology or else upon inferences from certain theological concepts. Original sin must be washed in the "blood of 'the Lamb". There must be some breaking in from the outside of something supernatural to redeem the individual. Waiting for this impression, and celebration of the fact of its coming, were great emotional periods. These religious events became ritualized in a "coming to the altar", baptism and other ceremonies. "The Lord's Supper" is a symbolic partaking of the body and blood of Jesus Christ which has its deeper rootage in this belief in ingression.
All these and more made up the very rich and powerful Christian cultus. Those of us who were nurtured in it can testify as to its significance and potency in the individual life. To this day there stands in my memory, as clear as reality, the cross which loving hands had interwoven from branches and hung high above the altar of the simple, dignified church where Ty family worshipped. Under it, fashioned in the same way, were letters that spelled the words, "Jesus only". The cross and the words were interwoven, also, with quite definite ideals and standards for religious living through being kept a vital part of certain church ceremonies. I can recall, as no doubt can many others of that group of worshippers, certain vital experiences into which these symbols entered. The symbols and ceremonies of that little, New England type church were very precious and deeply potent.
The Christian cultus had already, in that day, reached the conformative stage where the behavior of the individual was a responding to the cultus primarily. At the opening of the present century the average community lived in this cultus. The devotees shared much of their living under the potency of a common symbolism. There was the Central Symbol, Jesus, around which their idealistic concepts and purposes were gathered. Then, those that follow were also potent--the symbolic myth concerning the order of the universe; the holy authority of their priests or officers of religion; their ceremonies and rituals of worship and service; their sense of fellowship in the security of salvation; their outreach toward supplementary, supernatural power; their fears and hopes as symbolically objectified; their compensations and sublimations as ritualized; and their harmonious, or at least related, interpretations of life, with its good and evil, joy and sorrow, deprivation and glory, suffused with the illumination of the treasured words of Jesus, their Central Symbol. All this community in the area of the deepest issues of life as then conceived gave direction and values to living, brought light and color and warmth.
Why cannot such a cultus remain? Because certain events have disturbed the bases upon which much of its symbolism was developed, and hence have de-vitalized and de-powered it. A deeper and truer understanding of the processes through which persons are improved, a socialization of outlook which interprets individual salvation through considerations of social interdependence and constructiveness, critical examination of the tenets of the Christian religion and its sources through the instrumentality of modern scientific methods, the revelations of modern science concerning the universe, the breakdown of the old religious sanctions dependent upon specific fears, the cosmopolitan contacts between those of the Christian cultus and those of other cults, the increase in the number and variety of population shifts which repeatedly break into the growth of communities--these and other forces have come as disruptive intrusions from without to disturb and devitalize the passing Christian cultus.
The maladjustments of the devotees have brought disruptions from within, also. There is much open discussion today as to whether the Christian religion, as presented through the Bible and creeds, provides the ideals and standards necessary, pertinent and constructive in a modern society quite different from the simple, pastoral one of the time of the Christian leader. These great doubts have come to light through the problems of living encountered by Christian persons. So long as there are these grave doubts as to the ideals and standards themselves, the cultus which was developed to charge these with emotional dynamic cannot function adequately.
Current use of this largely devitalized symbolism weakens religion. The very deliberateness with which many groups are setting about building forms of worship through ritual and ceremony is a telling symptom of the low vitality of the cultus. It is being artificially nourished and nurtured. In many religious groups today symbolism is introduced primarily to give a pleasing emotional glow or stir. Some of it subtly serves to sustain the easy security of those either who are prosperous or who feel their salvation is sure. Part of it reverberates with reminiscent emotions of ancient childhood experiences. Again, its appeal is an aesthetic one and the resultant subjective warmth is vaguely interpreted as religious. Or it moves through giving a sense that this, however different in semblance, is the true way our fathers trod. Occasionally, it descends to being merely sugary attractiveness, designed to be delectable to the communicants. At times the effort is made to augment its weakness by combining its symbolism with that of other causes which are commanding the interest of the people. Alarm over this state of the Christian cultus has been strong enough to become vocal. This is shown by the great emphasis worship has been given in the formulated programs of various religious bodies.
Many individualswho feel that religion is a truly vital process are at a loss today because the old cultus does not function effectively. They are bewildered in regard to the adequate bases for religious living. In a society largely trained in conformative response to a cultus, they are not prepared for more constructive responding. It is a deeply creative undertaking for devotees in a transition period to give expression to their own vital religion. It is difficult for them to discover, each for himself, what his own essential and actual religion is. There is a question, oftentimes, of allegiance in turning from the religion of the cultus to the religion of intelligent, genuine loyalty. Some few can meet and surmount these difficulties. Among them are those who can express their emergent concepts and loyalties in a philosophy of religion or in a program for religious guidance and education. But always for the great mass of persons, religion becomes vital, potent, significant only through a cultus in and through which they can live out their lives day by day. Through the cultus the loyalties and ideals, standards and beliefs, are made available to them. Through it they gain access to what they hold as supremely worthful.
WHENCE COMES AN ADEQUATE
It grows up through the devotional experience of the devotees, through their adoration and service. It must be true to the nature and needs of the situations of life of these devotees. It must be a living and growing symbolism through which they sense The Highest, and through which they dedicate their living to The Highest. This means that no two groups will develop an identical symbolism, though there will be some basic similarities among groups who serve the same dominant loyalty, The religious cultus evolves.
WHAT MUST BE THE FUNCTION OF A NEW RELIGIOUS CULTUS?
It stimulates, fosters and sustains the sentiments and loyalties with which the religious beliefs and ideals must be charged if religion is to function vitally and effectively. It must make available the highest realities and possibilities accessible to the particular group, in such a way that the members are stirred to adoration and service. It thus reveals a patterning for living, and develops and constantly fosters and sustains those urges and sentiments which they believe their ideal situation in life under their dominant loyalty requires. It builds bonds that gradually grow stronger and more deeply rooted. It is the chief means of religious education, the means through which the immature or the novitiate are inducted into the distinctively religious way of life. The particular system of religious education, with its curricula and methods, is an outgrowth of the cultus. The religious cultus is the symbolism which is the carrier of religious beliefs.
WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIAL
ELEMENTS IN AN EFFECTIVE
First there will be presented some of the more significant elements which have characterized an effective cultus through much of the past. Then a factor new in a cultus but essential in this day will be given consideration.
1. The cultus must symbolize that which is permanent in the midst of change. It must point ever to that which is held to be Supremely Worthful, so that this will be the great central ideal through all the changes which may take place in the immediate and concrete situations of living. It must facilitate the illumination of all routine and constructive activities by the splendor of The Highest.
2. There must be continuity in the material cultus, a strong warp running through to give a sense of unity to the woof of variety. This is achieved partly through the first element given. It is furthered, also, by allowing the symbols to remain the same, or, if changed, reconstructed by a slow modifying. In such a way, the new becomes thoroughly conditioned by what has already been established and so is able to carry this heritage in addition to whatever new functions may be added. The potency of a symbol depends upon the amount and significance of the experience which has been incorporated into it. Continuity gives stability to the cultus.
3. Beauty must be there, but cannot be introduced deliberately if it is to be of greatest effectiveness. Everywhere about us, in this mechanical age, we see beauty being overworked as applied decoration or exploiting lure. Synthetic beauty is only a sort of prettiness of surface. Deep, genuine beauty develops through sincerity and harmony in functioning. It is spontaneous in this sense. The symbolism of the cultus automatically incorporates beauty whenever the devotees, with all their hearts, adore and serve. It is cumulative. Once beauty is there, more beauty comes.
4. Another element in the effective cultus is interpretation of the glory of the mystery. Beyond the Most Worthful, as men can at any one time apprehend it, there lie possibilities, vast, magnificent, sublime. The apprehension of these emerges gradually through consecrated religious living, but always there are further unexplored, and at present uncomprehended, worths. The sense of this existent and potential "on beyond" is a vital and poweriul lure in the adventure of high living. The mysterious Higher is a reality: it is always there, though the conceptions of it change. The cultus must bring to the devotees a vivid sense of this precious reality "on beyond".
5. The symbolism must consist of factors, elements, signs, which have psychological association with great experiences. Some of these experiences may be significant to the individual, some to the group. Those which have deep meaning for the group will be the more powerful. To be most powerful of all, these great experiences must be concerned with a timeless entity.
6. The cultus must include forms which the individual can carry out significantly on his own initiative. The Roman Catholic Church has provided generously for this element of the cultus, with such ceremonies as are associated with the rosary of beads, votive candles and the twelve stations of the cross. Each individual must have, in some sense and form, his own altar. When two children participate in the lighting of the first fire on the hearth of the new family house, that hearth forevermore carries significance for them, even though the specific event be forgotten. The individual must be stimulated and sustained through rituals of self dedication.
Now, all these six elements in an effective and mature religious cultus can be studied in religious living of the past. They are ancient and potent. They still stand as essential elements. But we have said that a new element has come into religious living. Therefore, a new element must come into the religious cultus. A more worthful loyalty has emerged and is being apprehended--the salvation of all mankind through intelligent and noble social reconstruction. The cultus must stimulate, foster and sustain the sentiments and loyalties which the promoting of this Highest Value requires. So we add one new element to the list, not only to care for this new type of objective, but also for the emergence of other and greater objectives as they are apprehended. This new element must function effectively in those areas of religious living which promote growth in keeping with the emergence of higher objectives.
7. The cultus must symbolize dynamically the increase of value. It must keep in the consciousness of the devotees a moving sense of that which functions in our midst for the reconstruction of society for the good. A religion with an outworn theology cannot do this. There is an actually operative, creative growth of value. It takes strong loyalty to discover the conditions for this growth of good, and to set up those required conditions. The theory of religion must illuminate this growth, so that loyalties will be adequately stirred to serve it. A religion which effectively incorporates into its symbolism such clarified theory and potent cultus would insure its own perpetual renewal. Out of the consequent progression of loyalties would come the incorporation of new significance into the established symbols, and of new experiential elements into the total cultus. This would give a new quality to the cultus, qualify it for today and the new days to come.
These seven are significant elements to be incorporated in a modern religious cultus.
THE DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY
OF A NEW RELIGIOUS
It becomes clear that a new religious cultus cannot be developed as the passing cultus was, through decades and centuries of accumulation of symbolism undisturbed by radically crucial disruptions from within the culture or from without. We have cited some of the conditions of modern living which interfere with the development of a religious cultus in the old sense. The old cultus in tempo and type was an outgrowth of the old life. All the old symbolism was designed to celebrate established law and order. It has been used in the past for social conservation of the established social status. The new cultus must be an integral part of life and growth today. It must be of a new tempo and type consonant with the requirements of the realities and possibilities of human living in this present.
An enormous difficulty at once presents itself. Until this century, social change has come so slowly or in such a scattered way, as a rule, that mankind has not felt his whole world changing at once. There has been time for accommodation to change through a process of almost imperceptible modification of what-has-been into what-is-becoming. Even when the changes in the past have been more catastrophic, the situation was neither so complex nor so essentially interdependent as now. Also, there was, for most persons, room and right to seek new situations for living. There was not, as today, a closing in of the world of things and of thinking upon the individuals. When this closing in occurs, it tends to force a solution of the problems of change within the situations where the change is taking place.
This present condition of things makes the whole process of adjustment to swift change a more conscious one. There is more realization that something must be done about it all. The timid and dependent grow panicky. They clutch back at old securities in ancient or modernized forms. Those whose age or, geographical location or intellectual habits protect them from forceful facing of the impact of change tighten their hold of the old cultus. Many flounder, and for their sakes or for the advantage of opportunistic founders a myriad of new cults spring up, each seeking sincerely or profitably to furnish soil for the uprooted. All such as these are hindering factors in the growing of a new cultus in so far as their action is individually motivated. There can be no marked movement in any one direction when many parts are pulling in numerous and varying directions. The old concept of individual salvation is still the motivation. That lesson of seeking one's own salvation was all too thoroughly learned.
Another difficulty is that no central ideal or dominant loyalty as symbolic of what is supremely worthful for all human living will be accepted widely today unless it can withstand the scrutiny of thorough examination and the testing of critical experience. We have come to the place where no new Messiah with a new Revelation, nor no new reformer with a new interpretation of the old word, can precipitate all the floating elements into the compound of a new religious doctrine around which will grow a new cultus. Modern methods of investigation and evaluation will examine whatever is set forth in the name of religion. This difficulty is at the same time a great good, for, while it slows the process of religious discovery and organization, it tends to insure it against perversion and error, at least in terms of the highest culture of the period. Nevertheless, this is a suddenly new basis for religion.
For these reasons there can be no formulation or even fairly formed projection as to what this new cultus will be. It must grow out of religious living. There is one avenue that does not seem wholly closed to thought and imagination in regard to it, however, and it may be profitable to explore somewhat in that direction.
As has been said, the great issue underlying and pervading the old Christian cultus was the salvation of the devotee as an individual. Indeed, for some time, there has been a glorification of individualism in religion. Now, forces beyond the direction and control of men have developed conditions of group living which throw new light upon the matter of individual salvation. It is no wonder that Christians have begun to inquire if their particularized ideals and principles could be promoted and lived in this civilization. It has come about that no man can live unto himself, even in trying to live "the good life". His behavior is an integral part of the social situation in which he is a participant. Conversely, the total of his social situation is an integral part of his behavior. They are truly two aspects of the same process. Modern man can find his salvation only in and through the social situation in which he is a participant. His high purposes and noble intentions will often miscarry or fail in a situation which is not organized to foster the best that man can know. He will suffer pain and loss through the actions of others whom he may never have seen. The thrusts of injustice, malice, cruelty, intolerance, avarice, and all the evil from a society which is organized in the exploitive interests of certain powerful persons, reach him through a succession of intermediary blows and thrusts leveled at his fellow men. He may find himself faced even with the choice of criminal behavior or forceful deprivation of means of livelihood. In other words, social conditions have become such that man must seek his salvation through continuing social reconstruction.
In such a situation the essence of religion is no longer to be looked for in the subjective states of devotees, but in the direction and character of their loyalty to that objective which best represents the supremely worthful for human living. Now for the great majority of persons, the directions of loyalty are not yet clearly and convincingly discerned. They cannot start with a central symbolic ideal and build their cultus around it. They are not ready.
If, then, there is now no central, widely recognized, symbolic ideal around which a new cultus can grow, how is it to come about?
THE FOSTERING OF A NEW TYPE OF CULTUS
The urgent question at the heart of the problem centers in the social procedure which will be efficacious in developing new and potent symbols, and in fostering emotional response to all symbols carrying new meanings. Practically speaking, the question stands: what may be done to promote the growth of a new type of cultus which will stimulate and develop sentiments and loyalties, which in turn will give direction to social reconstruction as a religious function within the social process? How can a growing religious cultus be used to give direction and power to the human effort of serving the highest cause of which modern man in the modern world can be conscious today? How can the fostering and sustaining of the emotions be so carried on that the Supremely Worthful, in terms of a present dominant objective, will claim their dynamic devotion?
In setting the religious cultus into effective functioning in connection with present day living, we have said that we cannot begin with any widely shared idea of what is Supremely Worthful. There is none. We can begin only with what we have. We must search appreciatively and critically for suitable nuclei. Since these cannot be found in the matured forms of fully and richly developed loyalties, we must turn back to search for possible generative sources.
There are already certain sentiments which have received sufficient validation to warrant their being stimulated, fostered and maintained. Some of these are strongly manifested in current life, such as;
1. A rising sense of the need of reconstruction in the economic order.2. Demand for the abolition of war.3. A drive toward peaceful means of international adjustment.4. A reaching out for some reasonable basis for a planetary community.5. A strong sense of the need of adequate education for all children.6. Concern to establish family life upon a more stable and effective basis which will foster genuine fellowship and a spiritual community within it.7. A demand for universal conditions of physical and mental health.8. A growing need to discover something dependable about which to organize one's living.
It is with such as these that we can begin. Clearly, they are not those traditional religious, emotional complexes which have been treasured as sacred and holy sentiments. Rather, they are new ideas emotionally charged with clustering feelings which are being engendered by those processes of living which seem to carry, and to lead on to, higher possibilities of value.
We have as nuclei, then, those sentiments and loyalties, already functioning in some degree, which seem to point on to richer fulfillment of life and to the emergence of meanings not now fully discernible. Certain ideals have forced the attention of mankind in no doubtful fashion. Certain loyalties are emerging which command our devotion. Certain social objectives give promise in the light of those principles of evaluation which are in slow process of being clarified.
We can start here with these drives. We will test them by these emerging principles of evaluation to ascertain if they point toward the increasingly worthful. To those which pass the test we can devote ourselves and serve their growth. Gradually there will emerge larger objectives. And, in turn, through these, a socially functioning idea of the Supremely Worthful will steadily become clearer to perception. This will become the central symbol of our devotion until, through that devotion, in turn, we perceive emerging an ever more comprehensive objective. Thus, there will be a progression of objectives which claim our highest loyalty. By this stairway of objectives, man ascends towards The Highest.
SOME POSSIBLE STARTING POINTS
A new and effective cultus can grow through stimulating, fostering and sustaining of these sentiments, loyalties and objectives. Since the church is the community institution which is in the most strategic place for nurturing this cultus, the illustrative suggestions will involve the church as the initiating agency. Other groups outside the church are building up a new cultus. The church is chosen for discussion, however, because of its position of advantage in the matter. Ideally the membership of the church includes the whole family, and this ideal is somewhat approximated. This adds potency to whatever the church can achieve in this direction.
One area of human living where already there are likely to be strong sentiments and loyalties which need sustaining and directing, is in the love life of the family. Organized religion has usually shown a marked interest in this area, and certain ceremonies have grown up in the church which symbolize some of its values--the wedding ceremony, christening of infants, and the burial of the dead among these. Many of these ceremonies, though, have lost their former depth of significance. Further, some of the most important values have never been potently symbolized. The chief reason this is so, we venture, is that the emphasis has come to be placed upon events rather than upon growth. If the cultus had fostered the growth of this love life, there would be much more vigor in it. Our present practice emphasizes culminating events and products. It is the increase of value which needs promoting and celebrating.
Thereare several values or objectives in this growth of the love life of the family that need the support of a beautiful and potent religious symbolism. The intermediary success of parenthood is one of these. Most other professions experience rather concrete and fairly immediate social returns and recognition for achievement. The nature of the vocation of parenthood is such, however, that it is difficult for parents to know whether their devotion to the growth of the love life is succceding or not. Indeed the mother who makes her first business that of parenthood is apt to suffer a degree of social neglect, however fine a person she may be. The sentiments and loyalties entering into the promotion of the growth of the love life of the home are certainly in line with the larger objectives concerned with noble social reconstruction. A rich and potent symbolism for the nourishing and nurturing of these scntiments, ideals and loyalties would be a truly great contribution to the worth of human living.
The functioning of such a symbolism may make use of many avenues and means. There is drama which may celebrate glowingly what has been done to promote this growth of the love life. Perhaps a periodic production worked out by parents themselves as an avenue of expression of their discoveries, problems and victories might be one specific element. There are the preparatory rites, definitely educative, by which the young may be made ready for new experiences of social affiliation: starting to school; club membership; community participation at a definite level, such as citizenship. The total sacrament of betrothing, which should cover weeks certainly, perhaps months, is a crucial experience which needs a powerful and moving symbolism.
Families need leadership in developing the religious symbolism of those intimate and precious family experiences which make living significant. The seeds of the symbolism are there in plenty. Ignorance, or competitive interests, or nonsensitivity, often interfere. Group pressure as expressed in an effective religious cultus would be a tremendous force in vitalizing the loyalties involved in promoting the growth of the love life of the home. It could develop in people an appreciation of, and a cooperative participation in, this area of growing good.
In the larger community of which the home is a part there are also nuclei of sentiments which need fostering. There may be evidences of the dawning of a larger group consciousness in community attitudes on inter-racial or economic issues. Again, it may be that there is a growing anxiety toward one focal point where the widening community threatens to break down. However and wherever sentiments and loyalties are functioning, there needs to be a symbolism to catch these up and build them through enduring bonds into the total growing good. To illustrate more concretely; pageantry may interpret the moving community sentiments in regard to some one crucial focal point, such as getting a school established or a needed law passed. There may be an annual ceremony of appraisal of community social progress for the year, with meaningful processional songs and presentations of progress. There are already hymns that symbolize the movements of community life. Or again, there may be an annual ritual of working out the group's manifesto for the new year in which hopes and purposes evolve into defined expression, and loyalties are repledged.
The still larger communities of the nation and the world need consideration, too. Perhaps at first this will be most difficult, for it is hard to feel their nearness and hence the urgency of their call upon the loyalties of those who would adore and serve the growing good. The beginning may have to be made by some simple service of directed meditation each Sunday morning when specific symbols of the experiences of others of mankind who are far away bring to the devotees vividly the living issues of their situations.
To make this more specific, a possible symbol for such a service is here suggested. Symbols, as have been said, cannot be merely designed and superimposed; they must grow out of the devotional activities. This example, then, is an illustration of a possibility. The simple service of meditation may be opened by a reverent presentation of the symbol of a circle of clasped hands, hands of quite different skin tones and indications of use in work. This may be shown on some beautifully wrought banner or other insignia which is hung during the service. Or it may be worked into a ritual of clasping of hands in which persons take part, either a few or the larger group, while speaking some dedicatory meditation. Songs and guided meditation may accompany the presentation of the symbol. And then the new and immediately present issue of far away men, women and children, can be introduced in vivid and stirring ways so that the devotees can vicariously appreciate their needs and aspirations. The same symbol and ritual, used in connection with successively new but related issues will tend to foster more meaningful sentiments and purposes for action. These symbols may be presented in many, many ways--will have to be, for different persons are stirred by quite different elements.
Russia furnishes a vivid example of the manner in which a vast human enterprise can be symbolized. The emotional life of a nation was transformed in a relatively short time. The five year plan was presented in such a way as to inspire sacrifice and devotion among great masses of people. Nazi Germany, for less worthy purposes, has inspired the German people to ardent loyalty by means of slogans, ceremonies, analogy and metaphor. No mass movement is possible until some great project can be so presented as to fire the imagination of the people. If the New Deal had been able to clarify important objectives this might have happened in the United States. Then we could have clothed this project with potent symbolism.
These are times in which, at almost any moment, an objective with a program of endeavor may capture the hearts and minds of the people. The manner of its presentation will be a source of its potency, but the main factor will be the promise it seems to carry of actualizing the possibilities of value which all feel are imminent. The religious institutions must be equipped and ready to adjudicate this objective and its program in respect to its validity as a representative of the values for which religion stands. In so far as it proves valid, a rich and effective cultus can be developed around it. In fact, the church should thus adjudicate all living issues and foster those which carry religious values. In this way, the beginnings of an effective cultus can grow and will be powerful in shaping the nation and the world.
We might go on, but these will be sufficiently illustrative.
Out of these occasions and beginnings there will develop the rudiments of a permanent cultus as fine for the day at hand as any which has gone before was effective in its day. The cultus will grow to the extent that those sentiments and loyalties which do or can sustain worthy causes are fostered.
The cultus is the very heart of religion. It is what fosters religion more than anything else. If religion is to function effectively it must develop a symbolism which will keep its devotees alert and cognizant of the fact that the established system of law and order must be continuously reconstructed, at times perhaps even catastrophically. Progressive reconstruction is necessary in order to release the widening and integrating community of life. The cultus must foster the emotion's which charge men's ideals with the power necessary to growth.
Two things are permanent today--change and growth. These we shall have with us always. The Christian leader, Jesus Christ, stated this graphically when He symbolized the widening community by means of a mustard seed. The enlarging life that acts under loyalty to the supremely worthful must be promoted and celebrated. The cultus must foster, whether through evolution or revolution, that growth which is essential in a progression of objectives toward the Supremely Worthful. This includes a basic truth which must be applied to any religious cultus which would be effective, precious and potent. The cultus must provide for the change, be it evolution or revolution, in its own religion.