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The Faith of the Millions (2nd series) by George Tyrrell

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(Matthew ix. 36.)

_Nil Obstat:_



XIII.--Juliana of Norwich
XIV.--Poet and Mystic
XV.--Two Estimates of Catholic Life
XVI.--A Life of De Lamennais
XVII.--Lippo, the Man and the Artist
XVIII.--Through Art to Faith
XIX.--Tracts for the Million
XX.--An Apostle of Naturalism
XXL.--"The Making of Religion"
XXII.--Adaptability as a Proof of Religion
XXIII.--Idealism in Straits



"One of the most remarkable books of the middle ages," writes Father
Dalgairns, [1] "is the hitherto almost unknown work, titled, _Sixteen
Revelations of Divine Love made to a Devout Servant of God, called
Mother Juliana, an Anchoress of Norwich_" How "one of the most
remarkable books" should be "hitherto almost unknown," may be explained
partly by the fact to which the same writer draws attention, namely,
that Mother Juliana lived and wrote at the time when a certain mystical
movement was about to bifurcate and pursue its course of development,
one branch within the Church on Catholic lines, the other outside the
Church along lines whose actual issue was Wycliffism and other kindred
forms of heterodoxy, and whose logical outcome was pantheism. Hence,
between the language of these pseudo-mystics and that of the recluse of
Norwich, "there is sometimes a coincidence ... which might deceive the
unwary." It is almost necessarily a feature of every heresy to begin by
using the language of orthodoxy in a strained and non-natural sense, and
only gradually to develop a distinctive terminology of its own; but, as
often as not, certain ambiguous expressions, formerly taken in an
orthodox sense, are abandoned by the faithful on account of their
ambiguity and are then appropriated to the expression of heterodoxy, so
that eventually by force of usage the heretical meaning comes to be the
principal and natural meaning, and any other interpretation to seem
violent and non-natural. "The few coincidences," continues Father
Dalgairns, "between Mother Juliana and Wycliffe are among the many
proofs that the same speculative view often means different things in
different systems. Both St. Augustine, Calvin, and Mahomet, believe in
predestination, yet an Augustinian is something utterly different from a
Scotch Cameronian or a Mahometan.... The idea which runs through the
whole of Mother Juliana is the very contradictory of Wycliffe's
Pantheistic Necessitarianism." Yet on account of the mere similarity of
expression we can well understand how in the course of time some of
Mother Juliana's utterances came to be more ill-sounding to faithful
ears in proportion as they came to be more exclusively appropriated by
the unorthodox. It is hard to be as vigilant when danger is remote as
when it is near at hand; and until heresy has actually wrested them to
its purpose it is morally impossible that the words of ecclesiastical
and religious writers should be so delicately balanced as to avoid all
ambiguities and inaccuracies. Still less have we a right to look for
such exactitude in the words of an anchoress who, if not wholly
uneducated in our sense of the word, yet on her own confession "could no
letter," i.e., as we should say, was no scholar, and certainly made no
pretence to any skill in technical theology. But however much some of
her expressions may jar with the later developments of Catholic
theology, it must be remembered, as has been said, that they were
current coin in her day, common to orthodox and unorthodox; and that
though their restoration is by no means desirable, yet they are still
susceptive of a "benignant" interpretation. "I pray Almighty God," says
Mother Juliana in concluding, "that this book come not but into the
hands of those that will be His faithful lovers, and that will submit
them to the faith of Holy Church." [2] And indeed such can receive no
possible harm from its perusal, beyond a little temporary perplexity to
be dispelled by inquiry; and this only in the case of those who are
sufficiently instructed and reflective to perceive the discord in
question. The rest are well used in their reading to take what is
familiar and to leave what is strange, so that they will find in her
pages much to ponder, and but a little to pass over.

It is, however, not only to these occasional obscurities and ambiguities
that we are to ascribe the comparative oblivion into which so remarkable
a book has fallen; but also to the fact that its noteworthiness is
perhaps more evident and relative to us than to our forefathers. It
cannot but startle us to find doubts that we hastily look upon as
peculiarly "modern," set forth in their full strength and wrestled with
and overthrown by an unlettered recluse of the fourteenth century. In
some sense they are the doubts of all time, with perhaps just that
peculiar complexion which they assume in the light of Christianity. Yet,
owing to the modern spread of education, or rather to the indiscriminate
divulgation of ideas, these problems are now the possession of the man
in the street, whereas in former days they were exclusively the property
of minds capable--not indeed of answering the unanswerable, but at least
of knowing their own limitations and of seeing why such problems must
always exist as long as man is man. Dark as the age of Mother Juliana
was as regards the light of positive knowledge and information; yet the
light of wisdom burned at least as clearly and steadily then as now; and
it is by that light alone that the shades of unbelief can be dispelled.
Of course, wisdom without knowledge must starve or prey on its own
vitals, and this was the intellectual danger of the middle ages; but
knowledge without wisdom is so much food undigested and indigestible,
and this is the evil of our own day, when to be passably well-informed
so taxes our time and energy as to leave us no leisure for assimilating
the knowledge with which we have stuffed ourselves.

We must not, however, think of Mother Juliana as shut up within four
walls of a cell, evolving all her ideas straight from her own inner
consciousness without any reference to experience. Such a barren
contemplation, tending to mental paralysis, belongs to Oriental
pessimism, whose aim is the extinction of life, mental and physical, and
reabsorption into that void whence, it is said, misfortune has brought
us forth to troublous consciousness. The Christian contemplative knows
no ascent to God but by the ladder of creatures; he goes to the book of
Nature and of human life, and to the book of Revelation, and turns and
ponders their pages, line by line and word by word, and so feeds and
fills the otherwise thin and shadowy conception of God in his own soul,
and ever pours new oil upon the flame of Divine love. Father Daigairns
writes: "Juliana is a recluse very different from the creatures of the
imagination of writers on comparative morals. So far from being cut off
from sympathy with her kind, her mind is tenderly and delicately alive
to every change in the spiritual atmosphere of England.... The four
walls of her narrow home seem to be rent and torn asunder, and not only
England but Christendom appears before her view;" and he is at pains to
show how both anchorites and anchoresses were much-sought after by all
in trouble, temporal or spiritual, and how abundant were their
opportunities of becoming acquainted with human life and its burdens,
and of more than compensating, through the confidences of others,
whatever defect their minds might suffer through lack of personal
experience. Even still, how many a priest or nun whose experience had
else been narrowed to the petty domestic interests of a small family,
is, in virtue of his or her vocation, put in touch with a far larger
world, or with a far more important aspect of the world, than many who
mingle with its every-day trivialities, and is thus made a partaker in
some sense of the deeper life and experience of society and of the
Universal Church! The anchoress "did a great deal more than pray. The
very dangers against which the author of her rule [3] warns her, are a
proof that she had many visitors. He warns her against becoming a
'babbling' or 'gossiping' anchoress, a variety evidently well-known; a
recluse whose cell was the depository of all the news from the
neighbourhood at a time when newspapers did not exist." Such abuses
throw light upon the legitimate use of the anchoress's position in the
mediaeval community.

And so, though Mother Juliana "could no letter," though she knew next to
nothing of the rather worthless physical science of those times, and
hardly more of philosophy or technical theology, yet she knew no little
of that busy, sad, and sinful human life going on round her, not only at
Norwich, but in England, and even in Europe; and rich with this
knowledge, to which all other lore is subordinate and for whose sake
alone it is valuable, she betook herself to prayer and meditation, and
brought all this experience into relation with God, and drew from it an
ever clearer understanding of Him and of His dealings with the souls
that His Love has created and redeemed.

It is not then so wonderful that this wise and holy woman should have
faced the problems presented by the apparent discord between the truths
of faith and the facts of human life--a discord which is felt in every
age by the observant and thoughtful, but which in our age is a
commonplace on the lips of even the most superficial. But an age takes
its tone from the many who are the children of the past, rather than
from the few who are the parents of the future. Mother Juliana's book
could hardly have been in any sense "popular" until these days of ours,
in which the particular disease of mind to which it ministers has become

If then these suggestions to some extent furnish an explanation of the
oblivion into which the revelations of Mother Juliana have fallen, they
also justify the following attempt to draw attention to them once more,
and to give some sort of analysis of their contents; more especially as
we have reason to believe that they are about to be re-edited by a
competent scholar and made accessible to the general public, which they
have not been since the comparative extinction of Richardson's edition
of 1877. Little is known of Mother Juliana's history outside what is
implied in her revelations; nor is it our purpose at present to go aside
in search of biographical details that will be of interest only after
their subject has become interesting. Suffice it here to say that she
was thirty at the time of her revelations, which she tells us was in
1373. Hence she was born in 1343, and is said to have been a
centenarian, in which case she must have died about 1443. She probably
belonged to the Benedictine nuns at Carrow, near Norwich, and being
called to a still stricter life, retired to a hermitage close by the
Church of St. Julian at Norwich. The details she gives about her own
sick-room exclude the idea of that stricter "reclusion" which is
popularly spoken of as "walling-up"--not of course in the mythical

With these brief indications sufficient to satisfy the craving of our
imagination for particulars of time and place, let us turn to her own
account of the circumstances of her visions, as well as of their nature.
She tells us that in her life previous to 1373, she had, at some time or
other, demanded three favours from God; first, a sensible appreciation
of Christ's Passion in such sort as to share the grace of Mary Magdalene
and others who were eye-witnesses thereof: "therefore I desired a bodily
sight wherein I might have more knowledge of the bodily pain of our
Saviour." And the motive of this desire was that she might "afterwards
because of that showing have the more true mind of the Passion of
Christ." Her aim was a deeper practical intelligence, and not the
gratification of mere emotional curiosity.

This grace she plainly recognizes as extraordinary; for she says: "Other
sight or showing of God asked I none, till when the soul was departed
from the body." Her second request was likewise for an extraordinary
grace; namely, for a bodily sickness which she and others might believe
to be mortal; in which she should receive the last sacraments, and
experience all the bodily pains, and all the spiritual temptations
incident to the separation of soul and body. And the motive of this
request was that she might be "purged by the mercy of God, and
afterwards live more to the worship of God because of that sickness." In
other words, she desired the grace of what we might call a
"trial-death," that so she might better meet the real death when it
came. Further, she adds, "this sickness I desired in my youth, that I
might have it when I was thirty years old." And "these two desires were
with a condition" (namely, if God should so will), "for methought this
was not the common use of prayer." But the third request she proffers
boldly "without any condition," since it was necessarily God's desire to
grant it and to be sued for it; namely, the grace of a three-fold wound:
the wound of true sorrow for sin; the wound of "kind compassion" with
Christ's sufferings; and the wound of "wilful belonging to God," that
is, of self-devotion.

She is careful to tell us that while she ever continued to urge the
unconditional third request, the two first passed completely out of her
head in the course of years, until she was reminded of them by their
simultaneous and remarkable fulfilment. "For when I was thirty years old
and a half, God sent me a bodily sickness in which I lay three days and
three nights; and on the fourth night I took all my rites of Holy
Church, and weened not to have lived till day. And after this I lay two
days and two nights, and on the third night I weened oftentimes to have
passed, and so weened they that were with me.... And I understood in my
reason, and by the feeling of my pains that I should die, and I assented
fully with all the will of my heart, to be at God's will. Thus I endured
till day, and by then, was my body dead to all feeling from the midst
down." She is then raised up in a sitting position for greater ease, and
her curate is sent for, as the end is supposed to be near. On arrival,
he finds her speechless and with her eyes fixed upwards towards heaven,
"where I trusted to come by the mercy of God." He places the crucifix
before her, and bids her bend her eyes upon it. "I assented to set my
eyes in the face of the crucifix if I could; and so I did; for methought
I could endure longer to look straight in front of me than right up"--a
touch that shows the previous upturning of the eyes to have been
voluntary and not cataleptic. At this moment we seem to pass into the
region of the abnormal: "After this my sight began to fail; it waxed as
dark about me in the chamber as if it had been night, save in the image
of the cross, wherein I beheld a common light, and I wist not how. And
all that was beside the cross was ugly and fearful to me, as it had been
much occupied with fiends." Then the upper part of her body becomes
insensible, and the only pain left is that of weakness and
breathlessness. Suddenly she is totally eased and apparently quite
cured, which, however, she regards as a momentary miraculous relief, but
not as a deliverance from death. In this breathing space it suddenly
occurs to her to beg for the second of those three wounds which were the
matter of her unconditional third request; namely, for a deepened sense
and sympathetic understanding of Christ's Passion. "But in this I never
desired any bodily sight, or any manner of showing from God; but such
compassion as I thought that a kind soul might have with our Lord
Jesus." In a word, the remembrance of her two conditional and
extraordinary requests of bygone years was not in her mind at the time.
"And in this, suddenly I saw the red blood trickling down from under the
garland;"--and so she passes from objective to subjective vision;[4] and
the first fifteen revelations follow, as she tells us later, one after
another in unbroken succession, lasting in all some few hours.

"I had no grief or no dis-ease," she tells us later, "as long as the
fifteen showings lasted in showing. And at the end all was close, and I
saw no more; and soon I felt that I should live longer." Presently all
her pains, bodily and spiritual, return in full force; and the
consolation of the visions seems to her as an idle dream and delusion;
and she answers to the inquiries of a Religious at her bedside, that she
had been raving: "And he laughed loud and drolly. And I said: 'The cross
that stood before my face, methought it bled fast.'" At which the other
looked so serious and awed that she became ashamed of her own
incredulity. "I believed Him truly for the time that I saw Him. And so
it was then my will and my meaning to do, ever without end--but, as a
fool, I let it pass out of my mind. And lo! how wretched I was," &c.
Then she falls asleep and has a terrifying dream of the Evil One, of
which she says: "This ugly showing was made sleeping and so was none
other," whence it seems that her self-consciousness was unimpaired in
the other visions; that is, she was aware at the time that they were
visions, and did not confound them with reality as dreams are
confounded. Then follows the sixteenth and last revelation; ending with
the words: "Wit well it was no raving thou sawest to-day: but take it,
and believe it, and keep thee therein, and comfort thee therewith and
trust thereto, and thou shalt not be overcome." Then during the rest of
the same night till about Prime next morning she is tempted against
faith and trust by the Evil One, of whose nearness she is conscious; but
comes out victorious after a sustained struggle. She understands from
our Lord, that the series of showings is now closed; "which blessed
showing the faith keepeth, ... for He left with me neither sign nor
token whereby I might know it." Yet for her personally the obligation
not to doubt is as of faith: "Thus am I bound to keep it in my faith;
for on the same day that it was showed, what time the sight was passed,
as a wretch I forsook it and openly said that I raved."

Fifteen years later she gets an inward response as to the general gist
and unifying purport of the sixteen revelations. "Wit it well; love was
His meaning. Who showed it thee? Love. Wherefore showed He it thee? For

Having thus sketched the circumstances of the revelations, we may now
address ourselves to their character and substance.

There is nothing to favour and everything to disfavour the notion that
Mother Juliana was an habitual visionary, or was the recipient of any
other visions, than those which she beheld in her thirty-first year; and
of these, she tells us herself, the whole sixteen took place within a
few hours. "Now have I told you of fifteen showings, ... of which
fifteen showings, the first began early in the morning about the hour of
four, ... each following the other till it was noon of the day or past,
... and after this the Good Lord showed me the sixteenth revelation on
the night following." Speaking of them all as one, she tells us: "And
from the time it was showed I desired oftentimes to wit what was in our
Lord's meaning; and fifteen years after and more I was answered in
ghostly understanding, saying thus: 'What! wouldst thou wit thy Lord's
meaning in this thing? Wit it well: Love was His meaning.'" But this
"ghostly understanding" can hardly be pressed into implying another
revelation of the evidently supernormal type.

We rather insist on this point, as indicating the habitual healthiness
of Mother Juliana's soul--a quality which is also abundantly witnessed
by the unity and coherence of the doctrine of her revelations, which
bespeaks a mind well-knit together, and at harmony with itself. The
hysterical mind is one in which large tracts of consciousness seem to
get detached from the main body, and to take the control of the subject
for the time being, giving rise to the phenomena rather foolishly called
double or multiple "personality." This is a disease proper to the
passive-minded, to those who give way to a "drifting" tendency, and
habitually suffer their whole interests to be absorbed by the strongest
sensation or emotion that presents itself. Such minds are generally
chaotic and unorganized, as is revealed in the rambling, involved,
interminably parenthetical and digressive character of their
conversation. But when, as with Mother Juliana, we find unity and
coherence, we may infer that there has been a life-long habit of active
mental control, such as excludes the supposition of an hysterical

Perhaps the similarity of the phenomena which attend both on
extraordinary psychic weakness and passivity, and on extraordinary
energy and activity may excuse a confusion common enough, and which we
have dwelt on elsewhere. But obviously as far as the natural
consequences of a given psychic state are concerned, it is indifferent
how that state is brought about. Thus, that extreme concentration of the
attention, that perfect abstraction from outward things, which in
hysterical persons is the effect of weakness and passive-mindedness--of
the inability to resist and shake off the spell of passions and
emotions; is in others the effect of active self-control, of voluntary
concentration, of a complete mastery over passions and emotions. Yet
though the causes of the abnormal state are different, its effects may
well be the same.

In thus maintaining the healthiness and vigour of Mother Juliana's mind,
we may seem to be implicitly treating her revelation, not as coming from
a Divine source, but simply as an expression of her own habitual line of
thought--as a sort of pouring forth of the contents of her subconscious
memory. Our direct intention, however, is to show how very unlikely it
is antecedently that one so clear-headed and intelligent should be the
victim of the common and obvious illusions of the hysterical visionary.
For her book contains not only the matter of her revelations, but also
the history of all the circumstances connected with them, as well as a
certain amount of personal comment upon them, professedly the fruit of
her normal mind; and best of all, a good deal of analytical reflection
upon the phenomena which betrays a native psychological insight not
inferior to that of St. Teresa. From these sources we could gather the
general sobriety and penetration of her judgment, without assuming the
actual teaching of the revelations to be merely the unconscious
self-projection of her own mind. But in so much as many of these
revelations were professedly Divine answers to her own questions, and
since the answer must ever be adapted not merely to the question
considered in the abstract, but as it springs from its context in the
questioner's mind; we are not wrong, on this score alone, in arguing
from the character of the revelation to the character of the mind to
which it was addressed. Fallible men may often speak and write above or
beside the intelligence of their hearers and readers; but not so He who
reads the heart He has made. Now these revelations were not addressed to
the Church through Mother Juliana; but, as she says, were addressed to
herself and were primarily for herself, though most that was said had
reference to the human soul in general. They were adapted therefore to
the character and individuality of her mind; and are an index of its
thoughts and workings. For her they were a matter of faith; but, as she
tells us, she had no token or outward proof wherewith to convince others
of their reality. Those who feel disposed, as we ourselves do, to place
much confidence in the word of one so perfectly sane and genuinely holy,
may draw profit from the message addressed to her need; but never can it
be for them a matter of faith as in a Divine message addressed directly
or indirectly to themselves. So far as these revelations are a clear and
noble expression of truths already contained implicitly in our faith and
reason, which it brings into more explicit consciousness and vitalizes
with a new power of stimulus, they may be profitable to us all; but they
must be received with due criticism and discernment as themselves
subject to a higher rule of truth--namely, the teaching of the Universal

But to determine, with respect to these and kindred revelations, how far
they may be regarded as an expression of the recipient's own mind and
latent consciousness, will need a digression which the general interest
of the question must excuse.

There is a tendency in the modern philosophy of religion (for example,
in Mr. Balfour's _Foundations of Belief_) to rationalize inspired
revelation and to explain it as altogether kindred to the apparently
magical intuitions of natural genius in non-religious matters; as the
result, in other words, of a rending asunder of the veil that divides
what is called "super-liminal" from "subliminal" consciousness; to find
in prophecy and secret insight the effect of a flash of unconscious
inference from a mass of data buried in the inscrutable darkness of our
forgotten self. Together with this, there is also a levelling-up
philosophy, a sort of modernized ontologism, which would attribute all
natural intuition to a more immediate self-revelation on God's part than
seems quite compatible with orthodoxy.

But neither of these philosophies satisfy what is vulgarly understood by
"revelation," and therefore both use the word in a somewhat strained
sense. For certainly the first sense of the term implies a consciousness
on the part of the recipient of being spoken to, of being related
through such speech to another personality, whereas the flashes and
intuitions of natural genius, however they may resemble and be called
"inspirations" because of their exceeding the known resources of the
thinker's own mind, yet they are consciously autochthonous; they are
felt to spring from the mind's own soil; not to break the soul's
solitude with the sense of an alien presence. Such interior
illuminations, though doubtless in a secondary sense derived from the
"True Light which enlightens every man coming into this world,"
certainly do not fulfil the traditional notion of revelation as
understood, not only in the Christian Church, but also in all ethnic
religions. For common to antiquity is the notion of some kind of
possession or seizure, some usurpation of the soul's faculties by an
external personality, divine or diabolic, for its own service and as its
instrument of expression--a phenomenon, in fact, quite analogous, if not
the same in species, with that of hypnotic control and suggestion, where
the thought and will of the subject is simply passive under the thought
and will of the agent.

Saints and contemplatives are wont--not without justification--to speak
of their lights in prayer, and of the ordinary intuitions of their mind,
under the influence of grace, as Divine utterances in a secondary sense;
to say, "God said to me," or "seemed to say to me," or "God showed me,"
and so on. But to confound these products of their own mind with
revelation is the error only of the uninstructed or the wilfully
self-deluded. Therefore, as commonly understood, "revelation" implies
the conscious control of the mind by another mind; just as its usual
correlative, "inspiration," implies the conscious control of the will by
another will.

There can be no doubt whatever but that Mother Juliana of Norwich
considered her revelations to be of this latter description, and not to
have been merely different in degree from those flashes of spiritual
insight with which she was familiar in her daily contemplations and
prayers. How far, then, her own mind may have supplied the material from
which the tissues were woven, or lent the colours with which the
pictures were painted, or supplied the music to which the words were
set, is what we must now try to determine.


Taking the terms "revelation" and "inspiration" in the unsophisticated
sense which they have borne not only in the Judaeo-Christian tradition,
but in almost all the great ethnic religions as well, we may inquire
into the different sorts and degrees of the control exercised by the
presumably supernatural agents over the recipient of such influence. For
clearness' sake we may first distinguish between the control of the
cognitive, the volitional, and the executive faculties. For our present
inquiry we may leave aside those cases where the control of the
executive faculties, normally subject to the will and directed by the
mind, seem to be wrested from that control by a foreign agent possessed
of intelligence and volition, as, for example, in such a case as is
narrated of the false prophet Balaam, or of those who at the Pentecostal
outpouring spoke correctly in languages unintelligible to themselves, or
of the possessed who were constrained in spite of themselves to confess
Christ. In these and similar cases, not only is the action involuntary
or even counter to the will, but it manifests such intelligent purpose
as seemingly marks it to be the effect of an alien will and
intelligence. Of this kind of control exercised by the agent over the
outer actions of the patient, it may be doubted if it be ever effected
except through the mediation of a suggestion addressed to the mind, in
such sort that though not free, the resulting action is not wholly
involuntary. Be this as it may, our concern at present is simply with
control exercised over the will and the understanding.

With regard to the will, it is a commonplace of mystical theology that
God, who gave it its natural and essential bent towards the good of
reason, i.e., towards righteousness and the Divine will; who created
it not merely as an irresistible tendency towards the happiness and
self-realization of the rational subject, but as a resistible tendency
towards its _true_, happiness and _true_ self-realization--that this
same God can directly modify the will without the natural mediation of
some suggested thought. We ourselves, by the laborious cultivation of
virtue, gradually modify the response of our will to certain
suggestions, making it more sensitive to right impulses, more obtuse to
evil impulses. According to mystic theology, it is the prerogative of
God to dispense with this natural method of education, and, without
violating that liberty of choice (which no inclination can prejudice),
to incline the rational appetite this way or that; not only in reference
to some suggested object, but also without reference to any distinct
object whatsoever, so that the soul should be abruptly filled with joy
or sadness, with fear or hope, with desire or aversion, and yet be at a
loss to determine the object of these spiritual passions. St. Ignatius
Loyola, in his "Rules for Discerning Spirits," borrowed no doubt from
the current mystical theology of his day, makes this absence of any
suggested object a criterion of "consolation" coming from God alone--a
criterion always difficult to apply owing to the lightning subtlety of
thoughts that flash across the soul and are forgotten even while their
emotional reverberation yet remains. Where there was a preceding thought
to account for the emotion, he held that the "consolation" might be the
work of spirits (good or evil) who could not influence the will
directly, but only indirectly through the mind; or else it might be the
work of the mind itself, whose thoughts often seem to us abrupt through
mere failure of self-observation.

Normally what is known as an "actual grace" involves both an
illustration of the mind, and an enkindling of the will; but though
supernatural, such graces are not held to be miraculous or
preternatural, or to break the usual psychological laws of cause and
effect; like the ordinary answers to prayer, they are from God's
ordinary providence in that supernatural order which permeates but does
not of itself interfere with the natural. But over and above what,
relatively to our observation, we call the "ordinary" course, there is
the extraordinary, whose interference with it is apparent, though of
course not absolute or real--since nothing can be out of harmony with
the first and highest law, which is God Himself. And to the category of
the extraordinary must be assigned such inspirations and direct
will-movements as we here speak of. [5]

Yet not altogether; for in the natural order, too, we have the
phenomenon of instinct to consider--both spiritual and animal. Giving
heredity all the credit we can for storing up accumulated experience in
the nervous system of each species, there remains a host of fundamental
animal instincts which that law is quite inadequate to explain; those,
for example, which govern the multiplication of the species and secure
the conditions under which alone heredity can work. Such cannot be at
once the effect and the essential condition of heredity; and yet they
are, of all instincts, the most complex and mysterious. Indeed, it seems
more scientific to ascribe other instincts to the same known and
indubitable, if mysterious, cause, than to seek explanation in causes
less known and more hypothetical. In the case of many instincts, it
would seem that the craving for the object precedes the distinct
cognition of it; that the object is only ascertained when, after various
tentative gropings, it is stumbled upon, almost, it might seem, by
chance. And this seems true, also, of some of our fundamental spiritual
instincts; for example, that craving of the mind for an unified
experience, which is at the root of all mental activity, and whose
object is ever approached yet never attained; or, again, there is the
social and political instinct, which has not yet formed a distinct and
satisfying conception of what it would be at. Or nearer still to our
theme, is the natural religious instinct which seeks interpretations and
explanatory hypotheses in the various man-made religions of the race,
and which finds itself satisfied and transcended by the Christian

In these and like instances, we find will-movements not caused by the
subjects' own cognitions and perceptions, but contrariwise, giving birth
to cognitions, setting the mind to work to interpret the said movements,
and to seek out their satisfying objects.

This is quite analogous to certain phenomena of the order of grace. St.
Ignatius almost invariably speaks, not, as we should, of thoughts that
give rise to will-states of "consolation" or "desolation," but
conversely, of these will-states giving rise to congruous thoughts.
Indeed, nothing is more familiar to us than the way in which the mind is
magnetized by even our physical states of elation or depression, to
select the more cheerful or the gloomier aspects of life, according as
we are under one influence or the other; and in practice, we recognize
the effect of people's humours on their opinions and decisions, and
would neither sue mercy nor ask a favour of a man in a temper. In short,
it is hardly too much to say, that our thoughts are more dependent on
our feelings than our feelings on our thoughts. This, then, is one
possible method of supernatural guidance which we shall call "blind
inspiration"--for though the feeling or impulse is from God, the
interpretation is from the subject's own mind. It is curious how St.
Ignatius applies this method to the determining of the Divine will in
certain cases--as it were, by the inductive principle of "concomitant
variation." A suggestion that always comes and grows with a state of
"consolation," and whose negative is in like manner associated with
"desolation," is presumably the right interpretation of the blind
impulse. [6] And perhaps this is one of the commonest subjective
assurances of faith, namely, that our faith grows and declines with what
we know intuitively to be our better moods; that when lax we are
sceptical, and believing when conscientious.

Another species of will-guidance recognized by saints, is not so much by
way of a vague feeling seeking interpretation, as by way of a sort of
enforced decision with regard to some naturally suggested course of
conduct. And this, perhaps, is what is more technically understood by an
inspiration; as, for example, when the question of writing or not
writing something publicly useful, say, the records of the Kings of
Israel, rises in the mind, and it is decided for and in the subject, but
not by him. Of course this "inspiration" is a common but not essential
accompaniment of "revelation" or "mind-control,"--in those cases,
namely, where the communicated information is for the good of others;
as, also, where it is for the guidance of the practical conduct of the
recipient. Such "inspiration" at times seems to be no more than a strong
inclination compatible with liberty; at other times it amounts to such a
"fixing" of the practical judgment as would ordinarily result from a
determination of the power of choice--if that were not a contradiction.
Better to say, it is a taking of the matter out of the jurisdiction of
choice, by the creation of an _idee fixe_ [7] in the subject's mind.

Turning now to "revelation" in the stricter sense of a preternatural
enlightenment of the mind, it might conceivably be either by way of a
real accretion of knowledge--an addition to the contents of the mind--or
else by way of manipulating contents already there, as we ourselves do
by reminiscence, by rumination, comparison, analysis, inference. Thus we
can conceive the mind being consciously controlled in these operations,
as it were, by a foreign will; being reminded of this or that; being
shown new consequences, applications, and relations of truths already

When, however, there is a preternatural addition to the sum total of the
mind's knowledge, we can conceive the communication to be effected
through the outer senses, as by visions seen (real or symbolic), or
words heard; or through the imagination--pictorial, symbolic, or verbal;
visual or auditory; or, finally, in the very reason and intelligence
itself, whose ideas are embodied in these images and signs, and to whose
apprehension they are all subservient.

Now from all this tedious division and sub-division it may perhaps be
clear in how many different senses the words of such a professed
revelation as Mother Juliana has left on record can be regarded as
preternatural utterances; or rather, in how many different ways she
herself may have considered them such, and wished them so to be
considered. Indeed, as we shall see, she has done a good deal more to
determine this, in regard to the various parts of her record, than most
have done, and it is for that reason that we have taken the opportunity
to open up the general question. Such a record might then be, either
wholly or in part:

(a) The work of religious "inspiration" or genius, in the sense
in which rationalists use the word, levelling the idea down to the same
plane as that of artistic inspiration.

(b) Or else it might be "inspired" as mystic philosophy or
ontologism uses the expression, when it ascribes all natural insight to
a more or less directly divine enlightenment.

(c) Or, taking the word more strictly as implying the influence
of a distinct personal agency over the soul of the writer, it might be
that the record simply expresses an attempted interpretation, an
imaginary embodiment, of some blind preternatural stirring of the
writer's affections--analogous to the romances and dreams created in the
imagination at the first awakening of the amatory affections.

(d) Or, the matter being in no way from preternatural sources,
the strong and perhaps irresistible impulse to record and publish it,
might be preternatural.

(e) Or (in addition to or apart from such an impulse), it might
be a record of certain truths already contained implicitly in the
writer's mind, but brought to remembrance or into clear recognition, not
by the ordinary free activity of reason, but, as it were, by an alien
will controlling the mind.

(f) Or, if really new truths or facts are communicated to the mind
from without, this may be effected in various ways: (i) By the way of
verbal "inspiration," as when the very words are received apparently
through the outer senses; or else put together in the imagination.
(ii) Or, the matter is presented pictorially (be it fact or symbol)
to the outer senses or to the imagination; and then described or
"word-painted" according to the writer's own ability. (iii) Or, the
truth is brought home directly to the intelligence; and gets all its
imaginative and verbal clothing from the recipient.

Many other hypotheses are conceivable, but most will be reducible to one
or other of these. We may perhaps add that, when the revelation is given
for the sake of others, this purpose might be frustrated, were not a
substantial fidelity of expression and utterance also secured. This
would involve, at least, that negative kind of guidance of the tongue or
pen, known technically as "assistance."

Mother Juliana gives us some clue in regard to her own revelations where
she says: [8] "All this blessed showing of our Lord God was showed in
three parts; that is to say, by bodily sight; and by words formed in my
understanding; and by ghostly sight. For the bodily sight, I have said
as I saw, as truly as I can" (that is, the appearances were, she
believed, from God, but the description of them was her own). "And for
the words I have said them right as our Lord showed them to me" (for
here nothing was her own, but bare fidelity of utterance). "And for the
ghostly sight I have said some deal, but I may never full tell it" (that
is to say, no language or imagery of her own can ever adequately express
the spiritual truths revealed to her higher reason). As a rule she makes
it quite clear throughout, which of these three kinds of showing is
being described. We have an example of bodily vision when she saw "the
red blood trickling down from under the garland," and in all else that
seemed to happen to the crucifix on which her open eyes were set. And of
all this she says: "I conceived truly and mightily that it was Himself
that showed it me, without any mean between us;" that is, she took it as
a sort of pictorial language uttered directly by Christ, even as if He
had addressed her in speech; she took it not merely as _having_ a
meaning, but as designed and uttered to _convey_ a meaning--for to speak
is more than to let one's mind appear. Or again, it is by bodily vision
she sees a little hasel-nut in her hand, symbolic of the "naughting of
all that is made." Of words formed in her imagination she tells us, for
example, "Then He (i.e., Christ as seen on the crucifix) without voice
and opening of lips formed in my soul these words: _Herewith is the
fiend overcome_." Of "ghostly sight," or spiritual intuition, we have an
instance when she says: "In the same time that I saw (i.e., visually)
this sight of the Head bleeding, our good Lord showed a ghostly sight of
His homely loving. I saw that He is to us everything that is comfortable
to our help; He is our clothing, that for love wrappeth us," &c.--where,
in her own words and imagery, she is describing a divine-given insight
into the relation of God and the soul. Or again, when she is shown our
Blessed Lady, it is no pictorial or bodily presentment, "but the virtues
of her blissful soul, her truth, her wisdom, her charity." "And Jesus
... showed me a _ghostly_ sight of her, right as I had seen her before,
little and simple and pleasing to Him above all creatures."

Just as in the setting forth of these spiritual apprehensions, the words
and imagery are usually her own, so in the description of bodily vision
she uses her own language and comparisons. For example, the following
realism: "The great drops of blood fell down from under the garland like
pellets, seeming as it had come out of the veins; and in coming out they
were brown red, for the Blood was full thick, and in spreading abroad
they were bright red.... The plenteousness is like to drops of water
that fall off the eavings after a great shower of rain.... And for
roundness they were like to the scales of herrings in the spreading of
the forehead," &c. These similes, she tells us, "came to my mind in the
time." In other instances, the comparisons and illustrations of what she
saw with her eyes or with her understanding, were suggested to her; so
that she received the expression, as well as the matter expressed, from

But besides the records of the sights, words, and ideas revealed to her,
we have many things already known to her and understood, yet "brought to
her mind," as it were, preternaturally. Also, various paraphrases and
elaborate exegeses of the words spoken to her; a great abundance of
added commentary upon what she saw inwardly or outwardly. Now and then
it is a little difficult to decide whether she is speaking for herself,
or as the exponent of what she has received; but, on the whole, she
gives us abundant indications. Perhaps the following passage will
illustrate fairly the diverse elements of which the record is woven:

With good cheer our Lord looked into His side and beheld with joy
[_bodily vision_]: and with His sweet looking He led forth the
understanding of His creature, by the same wound, into His side within
[_her imagination is led by gesture from one thought to another_]. [9]
And then He showed a fair and delectable place, and large enough for all
mankind that should be saved, and rest in peace and love [_a conception
of the understanding conveyed through the symbol of the open wound in
the Heart_]. And therewith He brought to my mind His dear worthy Blood
and the precious water which He let pour out for love [_a thought
already contained in the mind, but brought to remembrance by Christ_].
And with His sweet rejoicing Pie showed His blessed Heart cloven in two
[_bodily or imaginative vision_], and with His rejoicing He showed to my
understanding, in part, the Blissful Godhead as far forth as He would at
that time strengthen the poor soul for to understand [_an enlightening
of the reason to the partial apprehension of a spiritual mystery_]. And
with this our Good Lord said full blissfully: "Lo! how I love thee!"
[_words formed in the imagination or for the outer hearing_], as if He
had said: "My darling, behold, and see thy Lord," &c. [_her own
paraphrase and interpretation of the said words_].

Rarely, however, are the different modes so entangled as here, and for
the most part we have little difficulty in discerning the precise origin
to which she wishes her utterances to be attributed--a fact that makes
her book an unusually interesting study in the theory of inspiration.

Thus, in provisionally answering the problem proposed at the beginning
of this article, as to how far Mother Juliana supplied from her own mind
the canvas and the colours for this portrayal of Divine love, and as to
how far therefore it may be regarded as a product of and a key to her
inner self, we are inclined to say that, a comparison of her own style
of thought and sentiment and expression as exhibited in her paraphrases
and expositions of the things revealed to her, with the substance and
setting of the said revelations, points to the conclusion that God spoke
to her soul in its own language and habitual forms of thought; and that
if the "content" of the revelation was partly new, yet it was harmonious
with the previous "content" of her mind, being, as it were, a congruous
development of the same--not violently thrust into the soul, but set
down softly in the appointed place already hollowed for it and, so to
say, clamouring for it as for its natural fulfilment. This, of course,
is not a point for detailed and rigorous proof, but represents an
impression that gathers strength the oftener we read and re-read Mother
Juliana's "showings."

_Jan. Mar._ 1900.


[Footnote 1: Prefatory Essay to Walter Hilton's _Scale of Perfection._]

[Footnote 2: The Protestant editor of the Leicester edition (of 1845),
not understanding that an appreciation of difficulties, far from being
incompatible with faith, is a condition of the higher and more
intelligent faith, would fain credit Mother Juliana with a secret
disaffection towards the Church's authority. How far he is justif may be
gathered from such passages as these: "In this way was I taught by the
grace of God that I should steadfastly hold me fast in the faith, as I
had before understood." "It was not my meaning to take proof of anything
that belongeth to our faith, for I believed truly that Hell and
Purgatory is for the same end that Holy Church teacheth." "And I was
strengthened and learned generally to keep me in the faith in every
point ... that I might continue therein to my life's end." "God showed
full great pleasaunce that He hath in all men and women, that mightily
and wisely take the preaching and teaching of Holy Church; for it is His
Holy Church; He is the ground; He is the substance; He is the teaching;
He is the teacher," &c.]

[Footnote 3: _Ancren Riwle_.]

[Footnote 4: It is clear from many little touches and allusions that
throughout the "showings" Mother Juliana considers herself to be gazing,
not on a vision of Calvary, but on the illuminated crucifix hung before
her by her attendants, in which crucifix these appearances of bleeding,
suffering, movement, and speech take place. All else is shrouded in
darkness. Yet she never loses the consciousness that she is in her bed
and surrounded by others. Notice, for instance: "After this, I saw with
bodily sight in the face _of the crucifix that hung before me_," &c.
"The cross that stood before my face, methought it bled fast." "This
[bleeding] was so plenteous, to my sight, that methought if it had been
so in nature and substance" (i.e., in reality and not merely in
appearance), "it should have made the bed all a-blood, and have passed
over all about." "For this sight I laughed mightily, and made them to
laugh that were about me." Evidently she is quite awake, is well
conscious of her state and surroundings, and distinguishes appearance
from reality, shadow from substance. There is no dream-like illusion in
all this. Appearances presented to the outer senses are commonly spoken
of as "hallucinations;" but it seems to me that this word were better
reserved for those cases where appearance is mistaken for reality; and
where consequently there is illusion and deception. Mother Juliana is
aware that the crucifix is not really bleeding, as it seems to do, and
she explicitly distinguishes such a vision from her later illusory
dream-presentment of the Evil One. This dream while it lasted was, like
all dreams, confounded with reality; whereas the other phenomena, even
if made of "dream-stuff," were rated at their true value. Hence it seems
to me that if such things have any outward independent reality, to see
them is no more an hallucination than to see a rainbow. Even if they are
projected from the beholder's brain, there is no hallucination if they
are known for such; but only when they are confounded with reality, as
it were, in a waking-dream. As we are here using the word, an experience
is "real" which fits in with, and does not contradict the totality of
our experiences; which does not falsify our calculation or betray our
expectancy. If I look at a fly through a magnifying medium of whose
presence I am unconscious, its size is apparent, or illusory, and not
real; for being unaware of the unusual condition of my vision, I shall
be thrown out in my calculations, and the harmony of my experiences will
be upset by seeming contradictions. If, however, I am aware of the
medium and its nature, then I am not deceived, and what I see is
"reality," since it is as natural and real for the fly to look larger
through the optician's lense, as to look smaller through the optic
lense. I cannot call one aspect more "real" than the other, for both are
equally right and true under the given conditions. For these reasons I
should object to consider Mother Juliana's "bodily showings" as
hallucinations, so far as the term seems to imply illusion.]

[Footnote 5: For those therefore who make an act of faith in the
absolute universality and supremacy of the laws of physics and
chemistry, and find in them the last reason of all things, these
phenomena are interesting only as studies in the mechanics of illusion.]

[Footnote 6: It was largely by this method, supplemented no doubt by
that of reasoned discussion, that St. Ignatius guided himself in
determining points connected with the constitution of his Order,
according to the journal he has left us of his "experiences," which is
simply a record of "consolations" and "desolations."]

[Footnote 7: i.e., A kinaesthetic idea, as it is called, an idea of
something to be done in the given conditions.]

[Footnote 8: P. 272 in Richardson's Edit., from which I usually quote as
being the readiest available.]

[Footnote 9: On another occasion, by looking down to the right of His
Cross, He brought to her mind, "where our Lady stood in the time of His
Passion and said: 'Wilt Thou see her?'" leading her by gesture from the
seen to the not seen.]



A biographer who has any other end in view, however secondary and
incidental, than faithfully to reproduce in the mind of his readers his
own apprehension of the personality of his subject, will be so far
biassed in his task of selection; and, without any conscious deviation
from truth, will give that undue prominence to certain features and
aspects which in extreme cases may result in caricature. A Catholic
biographer of Coventry Patmore would have been tempted to gratify the
wish of a recent critic of Mr. Champneys' very efficient work, [1] and
to devote ten times as much space as has been given to the account of
his conversion, and a good deal, no doubt, to the discussion and
correction of his eccentric views in certain ecclesiastical matters;
thus giving us the history of an illustrious convert, and not that of a
poet and seer whose conversion, however intimately connected with his
poetical and intellectual life, was but an incident thereof. On the
other hand, one less intelligently sympathetic with the more spiritual
side of Catholicism than Mr. Champneys, would have lacked the principal
key to the interpretation of Patmore's highest aims and ideals, towards
which the whole growth and movement of his mind was ever tending, and by
which its successive stages of evolution are to be explained. Again,
with all possible respect for the feelings of the living, the biographer
has wisely suppressed nothing needed to bring out truthfully the
ruggednesses and irregularities that characterize the strong and
somewhat one-sided development of genius as contrasted with the regular
features and insipid perfectness of things wrought on a small scale. If
idealizing means the filing-away of jagged edges--and surely it does
not--Mr. Champneys has left us to do our own idealizing. The faults that
marred Purcell's _Life of Manning_ are here avoided, and yet truth is no
whit the sufferer in consequence.

In speaking of Patmore as a thinker and a poet, we do not mean to
dissociate these two functions in his case, but only to classify him
(according to his own category) with those "masculine" poets whose power
lies in a beautiful utterance of the truth, rather than in a truthful
utterance of the beautiful.

We propose, however, to occupy ourselves with the matter rather than the
mode of Patmore's utterance; with that truth which he conceived himself
to have apprehended in a newer and clearer light than others before him;
and this, because he does not stand alone, but is the representative and
exponent of a certain school of ascetic thought whose tendency is
diametrically contrary to that pseudo-mysticism which we have dealt with
elsewhere, and have ascribed to a confusion of neo-platonic and
Christian principles. This counter-tendency misses the Catholic mean in
other respects and owes its faultiness, as we shall see, to some very
analogous fallacies. If in our chapter on "The True and the False
Mysticism," it was needful to show that the principles of Christian
monasticism and contemplative life, far from in any way necessarily
retarding, rather favour and demand the highest natural development of
heart and mind; it is no less needful to assign to this thought its true
limits, and to show that the noblest expansion of our natural faculties
does not conflict with or exclude the principles of monasticism. I think
it is R.H. Hutton who remarks that it is not "easy to give us a firm
grasp of any great class of truths without loosening our grasp on some
other class of truths perhaps nobler and more vital;" and undoubtedly
Patmore and his school in emphasizing the fallacies of neo-platonic
asceticism are in danger of precipitating us into fallacies every whit
as uncatholic. It is therefore as professedly formulating the principles
of a certain school that we are interested in the doctrine of which
Patmore constitutes himself the apostle.

Lights are constantly breaking in upon me [he
writes] and convincing me more and more that the
singular luck has fallen to me of having to write, for
the first time that any one even attempted to do so
with any fulness, on simply the greatest and most
exquisite subject that ever poet touched since the
beginning of the world.

The more I consider the subject of the marriage of
the Blessed Virgin, the more clearly I see that it is the
_one_ absolutely lovely and perfect subject for poetry.
Perfect humanity, verging upon, but never entering the
breathless region of the Divinity, is the real subject of
_all_ true love-poetry; but in all love-poetry hitherto, an
"ideal" and not a reality has been the subject, more
or less.

Taking the "Angel of the House" as representing the earlier, and the
"Odes" the later stage of the development which this theme received
under his hands, it seems as though he passes from the idealization and
apotheosis of married love to the conception of it as being in its
highest form, not merely the richest symbol, but even the most
efficacious sacrament of the mystical union between God and the soul. He
is well aware--though not fully at first--that these conceptions were
familiar to St. Bernard and many a Catholic mystic; it was for the
poetic apprehension and expression of them that he claimed originality;
or, at least, for their unification and systematic development. "That
his apprehensions were based generally--almost exclusively, on the
fundamental idea of nuptial love must," as Mr. Champneys says, "be
admitted." This was the governing category of his mind; the mould into
which all dualities naturally fell; it was to his philosophy what love
and hate, light and dark, form and matter, motion and atoms, have been
to others.

It was, at all events, the predominance of this conception
which bound together his whole life's work,
rendering coherent and individualizing all which he
thought, wrote, or uttered, and those who study
Patmore without this key are little likely to understand

And it is the persistent and not always sufficiently restrained use of
this category that made much of his writing just a trifle shocking to
sensitive minds.

These latter will have "closed his works far too promptly to discover
that far from gainsaying the Catholic instinct which prefers virginity
to marriage" (not a strictly accurate statement) he makes virginity a
condition of the idealized marriage-relation, and finds its realization
in her who was at once matron and virgin. Following the fragmentary
hints to be found here and there in patristic and mystical theology, he
assumes that virgin-spousals and virgin-birth were to have been the law
in that Paradise from which man lapsed back into natural conditions
through sin; that in the case of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph the
paradisaic law was but resumed in this respect. Accordingly, he writes
of Adam and Eve in "The Contract,"

Thus the first Eve
With much enamoured Adam did enact
Their mutual free contract
Of virgin spousals, blissful beyond flight
Of modern thought, with great intention staunch,
Though unobliged until that binding pact.

To their infidelity to this contract he ascribes the subsequent
degradation of human love through sensuality; and all the sin and
selfishness thence deriving to our fallen race:

Whom nothing succour can
Until a heaven-caress'd and happier Eve
Be joined with some glad Saint
In like espousals, blessed upon Earth,
And she her fruit forth bring;

No numb chill-hearted shaken-witted thing,
'Plaining his little span.
But of proud virgin joy the appropriate birth,
The Son of God and Man.

The rationalistic objection to this suppression of what seems to be of
the essence or integrity of matrimony is obvious enough, and yet finds
many a retort even in the realm of nature, where the passage to a higher
grade of life so often means the stultifying of functions proper to the
lower. As to the pre-eminence of that state in which the spiritual
excellencies of marriage and virginity are combined, Catholic teaching
is quite clear and decided; in this, as in other points, Patmore's
untaught intuitions, and instincts--his _mens naturaliter
catholica_--had led him, whither the esoteric teaching of the Church had
led only the more appreciatively sympathetic of her disciples, from time
to time, as it were, up into that mountain of which St. Ambrose says:
"See, how He goes up with the Apostles and comes down to the crowds. For
how could the crowds see Christ save in a lowly spot? They do not follow
Him to the heights, nor rise to sublimities"--a notion altogether
congenial to Patmore's aristocratic bias in religion as in everything
else. Undoubtedly it was this mystical aspect of Catholic doctrine that
appealed to his whole personality, offering as it did an authoritative
approval, and suggesting an infinite realization, of those dreams that
were so sacred to him. As far as the logic of the affections goes, it
was for the sake of this that he held to all the rest; for indeed the
deeper Catholic truths are so internetted that he who seizes one, drags
all the rest along with it under pain of self-contradiction.

No one knew better than Patmore the infinite insufficiency of the
highest created symbols to equal the eternal realities which it is their
whole purpose to set forth; he fully realized that as the lowliest
beginnings of created love seem to mock, rather than to foreshadow, the
higher forms of which they are but the failure and botched essay, so the
very highest conceivable, taken as more than a metaphor, were an
irreverent parody of the Divine love for the human soul. It is not the
_same_ relationship on an indefinitely extended scale, but only a
somewhat _similar_ relationship, the limits of whose similarity are
hidden in mystery. But when a man is so thoroughly in love with his
metaphor as Patmore was, he is tempted at times to press it in every
detail, and to forget that it is "but one acre in the infinite field of
spiritual suggestion;" that, less full and perfect metaphors of the same
reality, may supply some of its defects and correct some of its
redundancies. We should do unwisely to think of the Kingdom of Heaven
only as a kingdom, and not also as a marriage-feast, a net, a treasure,
a mustard-seed, a field, and so forth, since each figure supplies some
element lost in the others, and all together are nearer to the truth
than any one: and so, although the married love of Mary and Joseph is
one of the fullest revealed images of God's relation to the soul, we
should narrow the range of our spiritual vision, were we to neglect
those supplementary glimpses at the mystery afforded by other figures
and shadowings.

And this leads us to the consideration of a difficulty connected with
another point of Patmore's doctrine of divine love. He held that the
idealized marriage relationship was not merely the symbol, but the most
effectual sacrament and instrument of that love; "yet the world," he
complains, "goes on talking, writing, and preaching as if there were
some essential contrariety between the two," the disproof of which "was
the inspiring idea at the heart of my long poem (the 'Angel')." Now,
although in asserting that the most absorbing and exclusive form of
human affection is not only compatible with, but even instrumental to
the highest kind of sanctity and divine love, Patmore claimed to be at
one, at least in principle, with some of the deeper utterances of the
Saints and Fathers of the Christian Church; it cannot be denied that the
assertion is _prima facie_ opposed to the common tradition of Catholic
asceticism; and to the apparent _raison d'etre_ of every sort of
monastic institution.

It must be confessed that, in regard to the reconciliation of the claims
of intense human affection with those of intense sanctity, there have
been among all religious teachers two distinct conceptions struggling
for birth, often in one and the same mind, either of which taken as
adequate must exclude the other. It would not be hard to quote the
utterances of saints and ascetics for either view; or to convict
individual authorities of seeming self-contradiction in the matter. The
reason of this is apparently that neither view is or can be adequate;
that one is weak where the other is strong; that they are both imperfect
analogies of a relationship that is unique and _sui generis_--the
relationship between God and the soul. Hence neither hits the centre of
truth, but glances aside, one at the right hand, the other at the left.
Briefly, it is a question of the precise sense in which God is "a
jealous God" and demands to be loved alone. The first and easier mode of
conception is that which is implied in the commoner language of saints
and ascetics--language perhaps consciously symbolic and defective in its
first usage, but which has been inevitably literalised and hardened when
taken upon the lips of the multitude. God is necessarily spoken of and
imagined in terms of the creature, and when the analogical character of
such expression slips from consciousness, as it does almost instantly,
He is spoken of, and therefore thought of, as the First of Creatures
competing with the rest for the love of man's heart. He is placed
alongside of them in our imagination, not behind them or in them. Hence
comes the inference that whatever love they win from us in their own
right, by reason of their inherent goodness, is taken from Him. Even
though He be loved better than all of them put together, yet He is not
loved perfectly till He be loved alone. Their function is to raise and
disappoint our desire time after time, till we be starved back to Him as
to the sole-satisfying--everything else having proved _vanitas
vanitatum_. Then indeed we go back to them, not for their own sakes, but
for His; not attracted by our love of them, but impelled by our love of

This mode of imagining the truth, so as to explain the divine jealousy
implied in the precept of loving God exclusively and supremely, is, for
all its patent limitations, the most generally serviceable. Treated as a
strict equation of thought to fact, and pushed accordingly to its utmost
logical consequences, it becomes a source of danger; but in fact it is
not and will not be so treated by the majority of good Christians who
serve God faithfully but without enthusiasm; whose devotion is mainly
rational and but slightly affective; who do not conceive themselves
called to the way of the saints, or to offer God that all-absorbing
affection which would necessitate the weakening or severing of natural
ties. In the event, however, of such a call to perfect love, the logical
and practical outcome of this mode of imagining the relation of God to
creatures is a steady subtraction of the natural love bestowed upon
friends and relations, that the energy thus economized may be
transferred to God. This concentration may indeed be justified on other
and independent grounds; but the implied supposition that, the highest
sanctity is incompatible with any pure and well-ordered natural
affection, however intense, is certainly ill-sounding, and hardly
reconcilable with the divinest examples and precepts.

The limitations of this simpler and more practical mode of imagining the
matter are to some extent supplemented by that other mode for which
Patmore found so much authority in St. Bernard, St. Francis, St. Teresa,
and many another, and which he perhaps too readily regarded as
exhaustively satisfactory.

In this conception, God is placed, not alongside of creatures, but
behind them, as the light which shines through a crystal and lends it
whatever it has of lustre. In recognizing whatever true brilliancy or
beauty creatures possess as due to His inbiding presence, the love which
they excite in us passes on to Him, through them. As He is the primary
Agent and Mover in all our action and movement, the primary Lover in all
our pure and well-ordered love; and we, but instruments of His action,
movement, and love; so, in whatever we love rightly and divinely for its
true merit and divinity, it is He who is ultimately loved. Thus in all
pure and well-ordered affection it is, ultimately, God who loves and God
who is loved; it is God returning to Himself, the One to the One.
According to this imagery, God is viewed as the First Efficient and the
ultimate Final Cause in a circular chain of causes and effects of which
He is at once the first link and the last--a conception which, in so far
as it brings God inside the system of nature as part thereof, is, like
the last, only analogously true, and may not be pressed too far in its

In this view, to love God supremely and exclusively means practically,
to love only the best things in the best way, recognizing God both in
the affection and in its object. God is not loved apart from creatures,
or beside them; but through them and in them. Hence if only the
affection be of the right kind as to mode and object, the more the
better; nor can there be any question of crowding other affections into
a corner in order to make more room for the love of God in our hearts.
The love of Him is the "form," the principle of order and harmony; our
natural affections are the "matter," harmonized and set in order; it is
the soul, they are the body, of that one Divine Love whose adequate
object is God in, and not apart from, His creatures.

It would not perhaps be hard to reconcile this view with some utterances
in the Gospel of seemingly opposite import; or to find it often implied
in the words and actions of Catholic Saints; but to square it with the
general ascetic traditions of the faithful at large is exceedingly
difficult. Patmore would no doubt have allowed the expediency of
celibacy in the case of men and women devoted to the direct ministry of
good works, spiritual and corporal: a devotion incompatible with
domestic cares; he could and did allow the superiority of voluntary
virginity and absolute chastity over the contrary state of lawful use;
but he could hardly have justified--hardly not have condemned those who
leave father, friend, or spouse, not merely externally in order to be
free for good works, but internally in order that their hearts may be
free for the contemplation and love of God viewed apart from creatures
and not merely in them. He might perhaps say that, as we cannot go to
God through all creatures, but only through some (since we are not each
in contact with all), we must select according to our circumstances
those which will give the greatest expansion and elevation to our
natural affections; and that for some, the home is wisely sacrificed for
the community or the church. Yet this hardly consists with the
pre-eminence he gives to married love as the nearest symbol and
sacrament of divine.

Both these modes of imagining the truth, whatever their inconveniences,
are helpful as imperfect formulations of Catholic instinct; both
mischievous, if viewed as adequate and close-fitting explanations.
Patmore was characteristically enthusiastic for his own aspect of the
truth; and characteristically impatient of the other. Thus, of a Kempis
he says:

There is much that is quite unfit for, and untrue of, people who live in
the ordinary relations of life. I don't think I like the book quite so
much as I did. There is a hot-house, egotistical air about much of its
piety. Other persons are, ordinarily, the appointed means of learning
the love of God; and to stifle human affections must be very often to
render the love of God impossible.

In other words, the further he pushed the one conception the further he
diverged from a Kempis, whose asceticism was built almost purely on the

Most probably a reconciliation of these two conceptions will be found in
a clear recognition of the two modes in which God is apprehended and
consequently loved by the human mind and heart; the one concrete and
experimental, accessible to the simplest and least cultured, and of
necessity for all; the other, abstract in a sense--a knowledge through
the ideas and representations of the mind, demanding a certain degree of
intelligence and studious contemplation, and therefore not necessary, at
least in any high degree, for all. The difference is like that between
the knowledge of salt as tasted in solution and the knowledge of it as
seen apart in its crystallized state; or between the knowledge and love
of a musical composer as known in his compositions, and as known in
himself, from his compositions. The latter needs a not universal power
of inference which the most sympathetic musical expert may entirely

Of these two approaches to Divine love and union, the former is
certainly compatible with, and conducive to, the unlimited fulness of
every well-ordered natural affection; but the latter--a life of more
conscious, reflex, and actual attention to God--undoubtedly does require
a certain abstraction and concentration of our limited spiritual
energies, and can only be trodden at the cost of a certain inward
seclusion of which outward seclusion is normally a condition.
Instinctively, Catholic tradition has regarded it as a vocation
apart--as, like the life of continence, a call to something more than
human, and demanding a sacrifice or atrophy of functions proper to
another grade of spirituality. Even what is called a "life of thought"
makes a similar demand to a great extent; it involves a narrowing of
other interests; a departure from the conditions of ordinary practical
life. The "contemplative life" is inclusively all this and more; it is a
sort of anticipation of the future life of vision. Still, though for a
few it may be the surest or the only approach to sanctity, yet there is
no degree of Divine love that may not be reached by the commoner and
normal path; there have been saints outside the cloister as well as
inside. One could hardly offend the first principles of the Gospel more
grievously than by making intelligence, culture, and contemplative
capacity conditions of a nearer approach to Christ.

It seems to us then that Patmore failed to get at the root of the
neglected truth after which he was groping, and thereby fell into a
one-sidedness just as real as that against which his chief work was a
revolt and protest.

As a convert, Patmore is most uninteresting to the controversialist. His
mind was altogether concrete, affirmative, and synthetic, with a
profound distrust of abstract and analytical reasoning. As we have said,
Christianity and, later, Catholicism appealed profoundly to his
intellectual imagination in virtue of some of their deeper tenets, for
whose sake he took over all the rest _per modum unius_.

The idea [of the Incarnation] no sooner flashed upon me as a possible
reality than it became, what it has ever since remained, ... the only
reality worth seriously caring for; a reality so clearly seen and
possessed that the most irrefragable logic of disproof has always
affected me as something trifling and irrelevant.

Again: "Christianity is not an 'historical religion,' but a revelation
which is renewed in every receiver of it." "My heart loves that of whose
existence my intellect allows the probability, and my will puts the seal
to the blessed compact which produces faith"--an ingenious application
of his favourite category.

Of the efforts of Manning and de Vere to proselytize him, he says:

Their position seemed to me to be so logically perfect that I was long
repelled by its perfection. I felt, half unconsciously, that a living
thing ought not to be so spick and span in its external evidence for
itself, and that what I wanted for conviction was not the sight of a
faultless intellectual superficies, but the touch and pressure of a
moral solid.

Whatever some may think or have thought of his theology, none who knew
him could have any doubt as to the robust and uncompromising character
of his faith. It was because he felt so sure of his footing that he
allowed himself a liberty of movement perplexing to those whose position
was one of more delicate balance. He had a ruthlessness in tossing aside
what might be called "non-essentials," that was dictated not so much by
an under-estimate of their due importance, as by an impatience with
those who over-estimated them, confounding the vessel with its contained

When he says: "I believe in Christianity as it will be ten thousand
years hence," it would be a grave misinterpretation to suppose that he
implied any lack of belief in the Christianity of to-day. It is but
another assertion of his claim to be in sympathy with the esoteric
rather than the exoteric teaching of the present; to be on the mount
with the few and not on the plain with the many. For as the glacier
formed on the mountain slips slowly down to the plain, so, he held, the
esoteric teaching of to-day will be the popular teaching of future ages.
However little we may relish this distinction between "aristocratic" and
vulgar belief; however strongly we may hold that best knowledge of
God--that, namely, which is experimental and tactual rather than
intellectual or imaginative--is equally accessible to all; yet just so
far as there is question of the intellectual and imaginative forms in
which the faith is apprehended, the distinction does and must exist, not
only in religion but in every department of belief, as long as there are
different levels of culture in the same body of believers. It is, after
all, a much more superficial difference than it sounds--a difference of
language and symbolism for the same realities. Where language fits
close, as it does to things measurable by our senses, divergency makes
the difference between truth and error; but where it is question of the
substitution of one analogy or symbol for another, the more elegant is
not necessarily the more truthful; nor when we consider the infinite
inadequacy of even the noblest conceivable finite symbolism to bring God
down to our level, need we pride ourselves much for being on a mountain
whose height is perceptible from the plain but imperceptible from the

Hence to say that the distinction between esoteric and exoteric teaching
means that the Church has two creeds, one for the simple, another for
the educated, is a thoughtless criticism which overlooks the necessarily
symbolic nature of all language concerning the "eternities," and
confounds a different mode of expression with a difference of the facts
and realities expressed.

Matthew Arnold, too, believed in the Catholicism of the future; but in
how different a sense! What he hoped for was, roughly speaking, the
preservation of the ancient and beautiful husk after the kernel had been
withered up and discarded; what Patmore looked forward to was the
expansion of the kernel bursting one involucre after another, and ever
clamouring for fairer and more adequate covering. With one, the language
of religion was all too wide; with the other, all too narrow, for its
real signification. Arnold belongs to the first, Patmore to the last of
those three stages of religious thought of which Mr. Champneys writes:

The first is represented by those whose creed is so simple as to afford
little or no ground for contention; the second by such as in their
search for greater precision enlarge the domain of dogma, but fail to
pass beyond its mere technical aspect; the third consists of those who
rise from the technical to the spiritual, and without repudiating or
disparaging dogma, use it mainly as a guide and support to thought which
transcends mere definition.

_Dec._ 1900.


[Footnote 1: _Coventry Patmore_. By Basil Champneys. Geo. Bell and Sons,



Dealing as both do so largely with the inner life of English Catholic
society, it is hardly possible to avoid comparing and contrasting _One
Poor Scruple_ [1] with _Helbeck of Bannisdale_,--one the work of a
Catholic who knows the matter she is handling, almost experimentally;
the other the work of a gifted outsider whose singular talent, careful
observation, and studious endeavour to be fair-minded, fail to save her
altogether from that unreality and _a priori_ extravagance which
experience alone can correct. To the non-Catholic, Mrs. Humphrey Ward's
book will appear a marvel of insight and acute analysis; for it will fit
in with, and explain his outside observation of those Catholics with
whom he has actually come in contact, far better than the preposterous
notions that were in vogue fifty years ago. It represents them not as
monstrously wicked and childishly idolatrous; but as narrow,
extravagant, out-of-date, albeit, well-meaning folk--more pitiable than

Formerly when they lived secret and unknown, anything might safely be
asserted about them; nothing was too wild or improbable. In those days
"Father Clement" was the issue of a superhuman effort at charity and
fairness; and the author almost seemed to think an apology was needed
for such temerarious liberalism. But when Catholics began to breathe a
little more freely and to creep out of their burrows somewhat less
nervously; when, in fact, they were seen to be, at least in outward
semblance, much as other men; some regard had to be paid to statements
that could be checked by observation; and the Papist's disappointing
ordinariness had to be attributed to dissimulation or to be otherwise
interpreted into accord with the preposterous principles by which their
lives were thought to be governed.

Mrs. Humphrey Ward represents the furthest advance of this reform. She
at least has spared no pains to acquaint herself with facts, to gather
information, to verify statements. She is never guilty of the grotesque
blunders that other high-class novelists fall into about Catholic
beliefs, practices, and habits, simply because they are dealing with
what is to their readers a _terra incognita,_ and can, therefore, afford
to be loose and inaccurate. An artistic conscientiousness which values
truth and honesty in every detail, saves her from this too common snare.
But it does not and cannot save her in the work of selection, synthesis,
and interpretation of instances, which has to be guided, not by
objective facts, but by subjective opinions and impressions. History
written in a purely positivist spirit, _ad narrandum_, and in no sense
_ad docendum_, is a chimerical notion by which Renan beguiled himself
into thinking that his _Vie de Jesus_ was a bundle of facts and nothing
more. And Mrs. Humphrey Ward is no less beguiled, if she is unaware that
in threading together, classifying and explaining the results of her
conscientious observation and inquiry, she is governed by an _a priori_
conception of Catholicism hardly different from that which inspired the
author of "Father Clement." Hence, to us Catholics, though her evident
desire to be critical and impartial is gratifying, yet her failure is
none the less conspicuous. Dr. Johnson once observed, that what might be
wonderful dancing for a dog would be a very poor performance for a
Christian; and so, to us, "Helbeck" as a presentment of Catholic life is
wonderful as coming from an outsider, and, perhaps, especially from Mrs.
Humphrey Ward, but in itself it is grotesque enough--not through any
culpable infidelity to facts, but through lack of the visual power, the
guiding idea, whereby to read them aright.

In _One Poor Scruple_, Mrs. Wilfrid Ward brings to bear upon a somewhat
similar task, an equal fidelity of observation supplemented by a
first-hand, far wider, and more intimate experience of Catholics and
their ways, and, above all, by that key which a share in their faith and
beliefs alone furnishes to the right understanding of their conduct.
Here too, no doubt, a contrary bias is to be suspected, nor is a purely,
"positive" treatment of the subject conceivable or desirable. The view
of an insider is as partial as the view of an outsider, though less
viciously so; nor can we get at truth by the simple expedient of fitting
the two together. The best witness is the rare individual who to an
inside and experimental knowledge, adds the faculty of going outside and
taking an objective and disinterested view. In truth this needs an
amount of intellectual self-denial seldom realized to any great degree;
but we venture to say that Mrs. Wilfrid Ward proves herself very worthy
of confidence in this respect. There is certainly no artistic idealizing
of Catholics, such as we are accustomed to in books written for the
edification of the faithful. There is the same almost merciless realism
which we find in "Helbeck" in dealing with certain trivialities and
narrownesses of piety--defects common to all whom circumstances confine
to a little world, but more incongruous and conspicuous as contrasted
with the dignity of Catholic ideals. Without conscious departure from
truth, Mrs. Humphrey Ward is evidently influenced in her selection and
manipulation of facts by the impression of Catholicism she already
possesses and wants to illustrate and convey; but Mrs. Wilfrid Ward has,
we think, risen above this weakness very notably, and should accordingly
merit greater attention.

It may well be that this judicial impartiality may meet with its usual
reward of pleasing neither side altogether. Some will complain that she
brings no idealizing love to her subject, and does little to bring out
the greatness and glory of her religion. Yet this would be a hasty and
ill-judging criticism; for our faith is no less to be commended for the
restraint it exercises over the multitude of ordinary men and women,
than for the effect it produces in souls of a naturally heroic type.
That it should bring a certain largeness into the smallest life, that it
should impart a strange stability to a naturally unstable and frivolous
character; that it should check the worldly-minded with a sense of the
superior claims of the other world--all this impresses us, if not with
the sublimity or mystic beauty, at least with the solid reality and
penetrating power of the Catholic faith.

The most loyal and deep-seated love needs not to shut its eyes to all
defects and limitations, but can face them unchilled; and similarly
there is often more faith and reverence and quiet enthusiasm in this
seemingly cold and critical attitude towards the cause or party we love,
than in the extravagant idealism that depends for its maintenance on an
ignoring of things as they are.

Nothing perhaps is more unintelligible to the Protestant critic of
Catholicism, nothing more needs to be brought out prominently, than the
firm hold our religion can exercise over souls that are naturally

This very phrase "naturally irreligious" will fall with a shock on
sensitive Protestant ears; yet we use it advisedly. While all men are
capable of faith and of substantial fidelity to the law of God, it is
undeniable that but few are by natural inclination "religious" in the
common acceptation of the term. As there is a poetic or mystical
temperament, so also there is a religious temperament--not quite so
rare, but still something exceptional.

We find it so in all ages, ancient and modern; in all religions,
Christian and non-Christian--nay, even amid agnostics and unbelievers we
often detect the now aimless, unused faculty. But most men have,
naturally, no ardent spiritual sympathy with holiness, or mysticism, or
heroism; their interests are elsewhere; and even where there are latent
capacities of that kind, they are not usually developed until life's
severest lessons have been learnt. Thus the young, who have just left
the negative faith and innocence of the nursery behind them and stand
inexperienced on the threshold of life, are not normally religious;
whereas we naturally expect those who have passed through the ordeal,
and been disillusioned, to begin to think about their souls, since there
is nothing else left to think about.

Now, the Catholic religion clearly recognizes these facts of human
nature, and accommodates herself to them. However frankly it may be
acknowledged that a religious temperament--a certain complexus of
mental, moral, and even physical dispositions--is a condition favourable
to heroic sanctity, it must be emphatically denied that to be
"religious," in the Protestant sense of the word, is requisite for
salvation. And this denial the Church enforces by her recognition of the
"religious state" [2] as an extraordinary vocation. The purpose of
"orders" and "congregations" is to provide a suitable environment for
people of a religious temperament whose circumstances permit them to
attend to its development in a more exclusive and, as it were,
professional way. Not, indeed, that all religious-minded persons do, or
ought to, enter into that external state of life; nor that all who so
enter are by temperament and sympathy fitted for it, but that the
institution points to the Church's recognition of what is technically
called the "way of perfection" as something exceptional and

But the Church has a wider vocation than to provide hot-houses for the
forcing of these rare exotics, whom the rough climate of a worldly life
would either stunt or kill. Her first thought is for the multitudes of
average humanity, who are not, and cannot be, in intelligent sympathy
with many of the commands she lays upon them. They are but as children
in religious matters--however cultivated they may chance to be in other
concerns. From such souls God requires faith, and obedience to the
commandments--a due, which, in certain rare crises, may mean heroism and
martyrdom; but He does not expect of them that refinement of sanctity,
that sustained attention to divine things, which depends so largely on
one's natural cast of mind and disposition; and may even be found where
the martyr's temper is altogether wanting. We recognize that there is
certain serviceable, fustian, every-day piety, where, together with a
great deal of spiritual coarseness, insensibility to venial sin and
imperfection, there exists a firm faith that would go cheerfully to the
stake rather than deny God, or offend Him in any grave point that might
be considered a _casus belli_. And on the other hand a certain nicety of
ethical discernment and delicacy of devotion, an anxiety about points of
perfection, is a guarantee rather of the quality of one's piety than of
its depth or strength. The saint is usually one whose piety excels both
in quality and strength; the martyr is often enough a man of many
imperfections and sins, veiling an unsuspected, deep-reaching faith. The
day of persecution has ever been a day of revelation in this respect--a
day when the seemingly perfect have been scattered like chaff before the
wind, while the once thoughtless and careless have stood stubborn before
the blast.

Protestantism of the Calvinistic or Puritan type shows little
consciousness of the distinction we are insisting upon. It is disposed
to draw a hard-and-fast line between the "converted" and the reprobate.
Those who are not religious-minded, or who do not take a serious turn,
are scarcely recognized as "saved" although they may not be convicted of
any very flagrant or definite breach of the divine law. Their morality
or their "good works" go for little if they do not experience that sense
of goodness, or of being saved, which is called faith. Much stress is
laid on "feeling good" and little value allowed to what we might call an
unsympathetic and grudging keeping of God's law--however much more it
may cost, from the very fact that it is in some way unsympathetic, and
against the grain. The service of fear and reverence, which Catholicism
regards as the basis and back-bone of love, is held to be abject and
unworthy--almost sinful.

Hence it befalls that no place is found in the Protestant heaven for the
great majority of ordinary people who do not feel a bit good or
religious, who rather dislike going to church and keeping the
commandments, and yet who keep them all the same, because they believe
in God and fear His judgments and honour His law, and even love Him in
the solid, undemonstrative way in which a naughty and troublesome child
loves its parents.

That such a character as Madge Riversdale's should cover a small, firm
core of faith and fear under a cortex of worldliness and frivolity; that
religion should have such a hold on one so entirely irreligious by
nature, is something quite inconceivable to a mind like, let us say,
Mrs. Humphrey Ward's; and yet absolutely intelligible to the ordinary

The Church to us, is not what it is to the Protestant--a sort of pasture
land in which we are at liberty to browse if we are piously disposed. It
is not merely a convenient environment for the development of the
religious faculty. She stands to us in the relation of shepherd, with a
more than parental authority to feed and train our souls through infancy
to maturity; that is, from the time when we do not know or like what is
good for us, to the time when we begin to appreciate and spontaneously
follow her directions. Just then as a child, however naturally
recalcitrant and ill-disposed, retains a certain fundamental goodness
and root of recovery so long as it acknowledges and obeys the authority
of its father and mother; so the ordinary unreligious Catholic, who has
been brought up to believe in the divine authority of the Church, finds
therein all the protection that obedience offers to those who are
incapable of self-government. "In Madge's eyes the woman who married an
innocent divorcee was no more than his mistress." Had Madge been a pious
Protestant she naturally might have examined the question of divorce on
its own merits; she might have weighed the pros and cons of the problem;
she might have consulted God in prayer, and have listened to this
clergyman on one side; and to that, on the other: but eventually she
would have been thrown upon herself; she would have had no one whose
decision she was bound to obey. But wild and lawless as she is, yet
being a Catholic there is one voice on earth which she fears to
disbelieve or disobey. Looked at even from a human standpoint, the
consensus of a world-wide, ancient, organized society like the Roman
Church cannot but exert a powerful pressure on the minds of its
individual members. It would need no ordinary rebellion of the will for
a thoughtless girl to shake her mind so free of that influence as to
live happily in the state of revolt. But where in addition to this the
Church is viewed as speaking in the name of God, and as so representing
Him on earth that her ban or blessing is inseparable from His, it is
obvious that such a belief in her claims will give her a power for good
over the unreligious majority analogous to that possessed by a parent
over an untrained child--a power, that is, of discipline and external
motive which serves to supplement or supply for the present defect of
internal motive.

Thus it is that the Church reckons among her obedient children thousands
of very imperfect and non-religious people for whom Protestantism can
find no place among the elect.

Again, the solid faith of men with so little intellectual or emotional
interest in religion as Squire Riversdale or Marmaduke Lemarchant is
something very puzzling to the Protestant critic who, for the reasons
just insisted on, can have nothing corresponding to it in his own
experience. It is a psychological state of which his own religious
system takes no account. Where there is no intermediating Church, the
soul is either in direct and mystical union with God or else wholly
estranged and indifferent. A man is either serious and religious-minded,
or he is nothing. Like an untutored child, if he is not naturally good,
there is no one to make him so. But when the Church is acknowledged as
our tutor under God, as empowered by Him to lead us to Him; a middle
condition is found of those who are not naturally disposed to religion,
and yet who are submissive to that divine authority whose office it is
to shape their souls to better sympathies. Riversdale is a far truer
type of the Catholic country squire of the old school than the somewhat
morbid and impossible Helbeck of Bannisdale. With her preconceived
notions, Mrs. Humphrey Ward could not imagine any alternative between
'religious' and 'irreligious' in the Puritan sense. If Helbeck was to be
a good Catholic at all he must of necessity be fanatically devoted to
the propagation of the faith and offer his fortune and energies to the
service of an unscrupulous clergy only too ready to play upon his
credulous enthusiasm. His is represented as being naturally a religious
and mystical soul, but blighted and narrowed through the influence of
Catholicism. We are made to feel that the only thing the matter with him
is his creed--"all those stifling notions of sin, penance, absolution,
direction, as they were conventionalized in Catholic practice and
chattered about by stupid and mindless people."

On the other hand, in Squire Riversdale and Marmaduke Lemarchant there
is by nature nothing but healthy humanity, no mystic or religious strain
whatever; they are not semi-ecclesiastics like Helbeck; and yet we feel
that their prosaic lives are governed, restrained, and rectified by a
deep-rooted faith in the authority of the Catholic Church. "The
qualities most obvious are not those of the mystic, but of the manly
out-of-door sportsman who may seem to be nothing more than a bluff
Englishman who rides to the hounds and does his ordinary duties. Yet one
of these red-coated cavaliers would, I have not the least doubt, if
occasion called for it, show himself capable of the very highest
heroism. Men of action, I should say, and not of reflection--a race of
few words but of brave deeds."

It was just men of this unromantic type, men of solid but unostentatious
faith, given wholly to the business of this life save for one sovereign
secret reserve, who in time of persecution stood fast "ready any day to
be martyred for the faith and to regard it as the performance of a
simple duty and nothing to boast of." And if there is in the type a
certain narrowness of sympathy and lack of intelligent interest which
offends us, we may ask whether, with our human limitations, narrowness
is not to some extent the price we pay for strength; whether where
decision of judgment and energy of action is demanded, as in times of
persecution, width of view and multiplicity of sympathies may not be a
source of weakness. Contrast, for example, the character of Mark Fieldes
with that of Marmaduke Lemarchant, and it will be clear that the
strength and straightness of the latter is closely associated with the
absence of that versatility of intellect and affection which make the
former a more interesting but far less lovable and estimable
personality. To see all sides and issues of a question, is a
speculative, but not always a practical advantage; to have many
diversified tastes and affections helps to enlarge our sympathies, but
not to concentrate our energies.

Of course great minds and strong hearts can afford to be comprehensive
without loss of depth and intensity; but our present interest is with
ordinary mortals and average powers. A man who has all his life
unreflectingly adopted the traditional principle that death is
preferable to dishonour, that a lie is essentially dishonourable, will
be far more likely to die for the truth, than one who has philosophized
much about honour and veracity, and whose resolution is enfeebled by the
consciousness of the weak and flimsy support which theory lends to these
healthy and universally received maxims. And similarly those who have
received the faith by tradition, who for years have assumed it in their
daily conduct as a matter of course, in whom therefore it has become an
ingrained psychological habit, who hold it, in what might be condemned
as a narrow, unintellectual fashion, are just the very people who will
fight and die for it, when its more cultivated and reflective professors
waver, temporize, and fall away. Taking human nature as it is, who can
doubt but that this is the way in which the majority are intended to
hold their religious, moral, philosophical, and political convictions;
that reflex thought is, must, and ought to be confined to a small
minority whose function is slowly to shape and correct that great body
of public doctrine by which the beliefs of the multitude are ruled? We
do not mean to say that such prosaic "narrowness" as we speak of, is
essential to strength; but only that a habit of theoretical speculation
and a continual cultivation of delicate sensibility is a source of
enervation which needs some compensating corrective. This corrective is
found in the exalted idealism which characterizes the great saints and
reformers, such as Augustine, or Francis, or Teresa, or Ignatius--souls
at once mystical and energetically practical to the highest degree. It
is something of this temper which is parodied in Alan Helbeck. But the
Church's mission is not merely to those rare souls whose sympathy with
her own mind and will is intelligent and spontaneous; but at least as
much to the multitudes who have to be guided more or less blindly by
obedience to tradition and authority, or else let wander as sheep having
no shepherd. These considerations explain why _One Poor Scruple_ seems
to us so far truer a presentment of Catholic life than _Helbeck of
Bannisdale_--the difference lying in the incommunicable advantage which
an insider possesses over an outsider in understanding the spirit and
principles by which the members of any social body are governed. Of all
religions, Catholicism which represents the accumulated results of two
thousand years' worldwide experience of human nature applied to the
principles of the Gospel, is least likely to be comprehended by an
outsider, however observant and fair-minded.

To those for whom the lawfulness of re-marriage for an innocent divorcee
is, like the rest of their religious beliefs, a matter of opinion, the
scruple of a character like Madge Riversdale is unthinkable and
incredible. Such women do not trouble their heads about theological
points; still less, make heroic sacrifices for their private and
peculiar convictions. But those for whom the Church is a definite
concrete reality--almost a person--governing and teaching with divine
authority, will easily understand the firm grip she can and does exert
on those who have no other internal principle of restraint; who would
shake themselves free if they dared. Let those who despise the results
of such a constraint be consistent and abolish all parental and tutorial
control; all educative government of whatsoever description; nay, the
imperious restraint of conscience itself, which is often obeyed but

While some features of this portrait of Catholic life are common to all
its phases, others are peculiar to the aspect it presents in England,
where Catholics being a small and weak minority are, so to say,
self-conscious in their faith--continually aware that they are not as
the rest of men; disposed therefore to be apologetic or aggressive or
defensive. Again, the circumstance of their long exclusion from the
social and intellectual life of their country is accountable for other
undesirable peculiarities which Mrs. Wilfrid Ward sees no reason to

We have not, however, attempted anything like a literary estimate of
this interesting, altogether readable work, but have only endeavoured to
draw attention to an important point, which, whether intentionally or
unintentionally, it illustrates very admirably.

_May_, 1899.


[Footnote 1: _One Poor Scruple._ By Mrs. Wilfrid Ward. London: Longmans,

[Footnote 2: We do not mean to imply that there is any close
etymological relation between these two uses of the term.]



The appearance of a work by the Hon. W. Gibson on _The Abbe de
Lamennais, and the Catholic Liberal Movement in France_, invites us to a
new attempt to grapple with a problem which has so far met with no
satisfactory solution, and probably never will. Up to a certain point we
seem to follow more or less intelligently the working of the restless
soul of De Lamennais; but at the last and great crisis of his life we
find all our calculations at fault; "we try to understand him; we wish
that penetrating into the inmost recesses of his wounded soul, we could
force it to yield up its secret, and once more sympathize with him,
perhaps console him; but we cannot. He is an enigma, as impenetrable as
the rocks on his native shore."

From whatever point of view the story of his life is regarded, it
presents itself as a tragedy. The believing Catholic sees there the ruin
of a vocation to such a work as only a few souls in the history of the
Church are called to accomplish--a ruin desperate and deplorable in
proportion to the force of the talents and energies diverted from the
right path. The non-Catholic or unbeliever cannot fail to be moved by
contemplating the fruitless struggles of a mind so keen, a heart so
enthusiastic in the cause of light and liberty--struggles ending in
failure, perplexity, confusion, and misery. But while we allow a large
element of mystery in his character which will never be eliminated, yet
as we return time after time to gaze upon the picture of his life, as a
whole, and in its details, the seemingly discordant items begin quietly
to drop into their places one after another, and to exhibit unnoticed
connections; and the idea of his distinctive personality begins to shape
itself into a coherent unity.

It is not our purpose here to summarize Mr. Gibson's admirable work, or
to give even an outline of so well-known a history; but rather to
attempt some brief criticism of the man himself, and incidentally of his

Temperament and early education are among the principal determinants of
character; and certainly when we contrast Feli with his brother Jean,
who presumably received the same home-training, we see how largely he
was the creature of temperament. Jean was by nature the "good boy,"
tractable and docile; Feli, the unmanageable, the lawless, the violent.
While Jean was dutifully learning his lessons to order, Feli, the
obstreperous, imprisoned in the library, was feeding his tender mind
with Diderot, Montaigne, Pascal, Voltaire, Rousseau, and similar diet,
and at twelve exhibited such infidel tendencies as made it prudent to
defer his first Communion for some ten years.

From first to last, whether we consider his childish waywardness and
outbreaks of violent passion, which persevered in a less childish form
through manhood; or the fits of intense depression and melancholy,
alternating with spells of high nerve-tension and feverish excitement;
or the restlessness and impatient energy which showed themselves always
and everywhere, and at times drove him like a wild man into the woods,
"seeking rest and finding none;" or the prophetic, not to say, the
fanatical strain which breaks out in so much of his writing, especially
in the _Paroles d'un Croyant_,--in all alike there is evident that
predominance of the imaginative and emotional elements which, combined
with intellectual gifts, constitute genius as commonly understood. For
such a character the training which would suffice for half a dozen good
little Jeans would be wholly inadequate. So much fire and feeling ill
submits to the yoke of self-restraint in matters moral or intellectual.
The mind is apt to be fascinated by the brilliant pictures of the
imagination and to become a slave to the tyranny of a fixed idea; while
the strength of passionate desire paralyzes the power of free
deliberation. It is precisely this self-restraint, the fruit of a
careful education given and responded to, that we miss in De Lammenais
both in his moral character and in his mind. Peace and tranquillity of
soul are essential to successful thinking, more especially in
philosophy; and in proportion as a brilliant imagination is a help, it
is also a danger if let run riot. At times, wearied out with himself, he
seems to have felt the need of retreat and quiet; but he was almost as
constitutionally incapable of keeping still, as certain modern statesmen
in their retirement from public life. We smile when we hear him in the
violent first fervour of his conversion, talking about becoming a
Trappist, and, later, a Jesuit. He knew himself better when he shrank so
long and persistently from the yoke of priesthood, and when, having
yielded against his truer instincts to the indiscreet zeal of pious
friends, he experienced an agony of repugnance at his first Mass. With
different antecedents he might have profited by the yoke, but as things
stood it could but gall him.

In spite of Mr. Gibson's contention to the contrary, it can hardly be
maintained that De Lamennais was well educated in the strict sense of
the expression. The evidence he adduces points to a marvellous diversity
of interests, and even to close and careful reading. But on the whole he
was self-taught, and a self-taught man is never educated. Without
intercourse with other living minds, education is impossible. This is
indeed hoisting De Lammenais with his own petard. For, according to
"Traditionalism," the mind is paralyzed by isolation, and can be duly
developed only in society. An overweening self-confidence and slight
regard for the labours of other thinkers usually characterizes
self-taught genius. This it was that led him to cut all connection with
the philosophy of the past, and to attempt to build up, single-handed, a
new system to supplant that which had been the fruit of the collective
mind-labour of centuries. "I shall work out," he writes calmly to the
Abbe Brute, "a new system for the defence of Christianity against
infidels and heretics, a very simple system, in which the proofs will be
so rigorous that unless one is prepared to give up the right of saying
_I am_, it will be necessary to say _Credo_ to the very end." Only a man
with a very slight and superficial acquaintance with the endeavours of
previous apologists, and the extreme difficulty of the problem, could
speak with such portentous self-confidence. And the result bears out
this remark. For grand and imposing as is the structure of the _Essai
sur l'Indifference,_ it rests on fallacies so patent that none but a man
of no philosophical training could have failed to perceive them. Here it
is that the self-taught man comes to grief and often misses the mere
truisms of traditional teaching.

Doubtless ecclesiastical philosophy and theology was then more than ever
painfully fossilized, and altogether lifeless and out of sympathy with
the spirit of the age. It needed to be quickened, adapted and applied to
modern exigencies. The undue intrusion of metaphysics into the domain of
positive knowledge needed checking; the value of _consensus communis_ as
a criterion required to be insisted on, defended, and exactly defined.
With characteristic impetuosity, De Lamennais, like Comte, must bundle
metaphysics out of doors altogether as a merely provisional but illusory
synthesis, necessary for the human intellect in its adolescence, but to
be discarded in its maturity; and thereupon he proceeds to erect his
system of Traditionalism mid-air, quite unconscious that in clearing
away metaphysics he has deprived the structure of its only possible
foundation. But this is the man all over. Because there is a truth in
Traditionalism, therefore, it is the whole and only truth; because
metaphysics alone can do little, it is therefore unnecessary and
worthless. Had he spent but a fraction of the time and trouble he gave
to the elaboration of his own system, in a liberal and critical study of
that which he desired to supersede, his genius might have accomplished a
work for the Church which is still halting badly on its way to
perfection. One feels something like anger in contemplating such
hot-headed zeal standing continually in its own light, and frustrating
with perverse ingenuity the very end which it was most desirous to
realize. For no one can deny that from his first conversion to his
unhappy death De Lamennais was dominated by the highest and noblest and
most unselfish motives; that he was a man of absolute sincerity of

His earliest enthusiasm was for the defence and exaltation of the
Catholic Faith, for the liberation of the Church from the bonds of
nationalism and Erastianism. Even those who repudiate altogether the
extreme Ultramontanism of De Maistre and De Lamennais must allow their
conception to be one of the boldest and grandest which has inspired the
mind of man. He realized more vividly than many that the cause of the
Church and of society, of Catholicism and humanity, were one and the
same. It was the very intensity and depth of his convictions that made
him so importunate in pressing them on others, so intolerant of delay,
so infuriated by opposition. For indeed nothing is more common than to
find a thousand selfishnesses co-existing and interfering with a
dominant unselfishness, lessening or totally destroying its fruitfulness
for good. A man who is unselfish enough to devote his fortune to charity
will not necessarily be free from faults which may more than undo the
good he proposes.

The same hastiness of thought which moved him to a wholesale,
indiscriminate condemnation of metaphysics, led him to conclude that
because hitherto no happy adjustment of the relations between Church and
State had been devised, there could be no remedy save in their total
severance. Doubtless such a severance would be better, if Gallicanism
were the only alternative; or if the Church's liberty and efficiency
were to be seriously curtailed. A superficial glance might fancy a
fundamental discrepancy in this matter, as well as in the questions of
toleration, and of the freedom of the press, between the official
teaching of Gregory XVI. and Pius IX., and that of Leo XIII. But a
closer inspection shows no alteration of principle, and only a
recognition of altered circumstances, either necessitating a connivance
at inevitable evils, or totally changing the aspect of the question. But
De Lamennais should have learnt from his own teaching that liberty does
not mean the independence of isolation, but the full enjoyment of all
the means necessary for perfect self-development; that it does not mean
the weakness of dissociation, but the strength of a perfectly organized
association for mutual help and protection. And this holds good, not for
individuals alone, but for societies, and for Church and State. Aiming
at one common end, the perfection of humanity, they cannot but gain by
association and lose by dissociation. Each is weaker even, in its own
sphere, apart from the other. It is an unreal abstraction that splits
man into two beings--a body and a soul; that draws a clean,
hard-and-fast line between his temporal and eternal welfare; that
commits the former interest to one society, the latter to another,
absolutely distinct and unconnected. But all this holds true only in the
hypothesis of a nation of Christians or Theists.

When a large fraction of the community has ceased to believe in
Christianity and the Church, the demands of justice and reason are
different. It may well be allowed that, to determine the exact relation
of the Catholic Church and Christian State, and the law of their
organization into one complex society, is a problem for whose perfect
solution we must wait the further development of the ideas of
ecclesiastical and civil society. But to wait for growth of subjective
truth was just what De Lamennais could not do. He saw that past
solutions of the problem had been unsuccessful; that in most cases the
Church was eventually drawn into bondage under the State as its creature
and instrument in the cause of tyranny and oppression; that it was
insensibly permeated with the local and national spirit, differentiated
from Catholic Christendom, and severed from the full influence of its
head, the Vicar of Christ. The independence of the Church he rightly
judged to be the great safeguard of the people against the tyranny of
their temporal rulers. In the face of that world-wide spiritual society,
whose voice was at once the voice of humanity and the voice of God, he
felt that "iniquity would stop its mouth," and injustice be put to
shame. Yet all this seemed to him impossible so long as the Church
depended on the State for temporalities, and because he could devise no
form of association that would be guarantee against all abuses, he
therefore insisted on total, severance, not merely as expedient for the
present pressure, but as a divine and eternal principle.

When, therefore, it seemed to him that Gregory XVI. had condemned
Ultramontanism, it was, to De Lamennais, as though he had condemned the
cause of the Church and of humanity, and thrown the weight of his
authority into that of Gallicanism. Here again we see how his mental
intensity and impatience reduced him to the dilemma which found solution
in his apostasy. Holding as he did to the Papal infallibility in a form
far more extreme than that subsequently approved by the Vatican Council,
he was bound in consistency to accept the Pope's decision as infallible

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