THE BEST FROM THE CURRENT MAGAZINES

“A Fossil, A Freak and A Fanatic”

August 1 1911
THE BEST FROM THE CURRENT MAGAZINES

“A Fossil, A Freak and A Fanatic”

August 1 1911

“A Fossil, A Freak and A Fanatic”

THE world lost three remarkable teachers during the year 1910. It may seem strange to group the names of Professor Goldwin Smith, Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy and Count Lyoff Tolstoi, for three persons whose characters, aims and methods were more dissimlar could not well be brought together, and a cynic might dismiss them curtly as a fossil, a freak and a fanatic. But at least all of them were notable as interpreters of tendencies of thought in the civilized world, and to that may be added another minor point of resemblance. It was not the philosophy or religious teaching of any one of them which formed the principal foundation for fame, and it is even possible that Goldwin

Smith, Mrs. Eddy and Tolstoi might never have been known outside of a small circle, but for other gifts which won for them the attention of Christendom.

If Professor Goldwin Smith had not ranked among the most brilliant essayists of the century, his unobtrusive personality would never have wielded an influence in public life, but he was fitted to become the mouthpiece of a type of man which, though some regard it as existing merely to disturb the complacency of the multitude, nevertheless exerts an influence on the country as a whole. The nobility of the enthusiasms of Goldwin Smith can never be assailed, even by those who considered him misguided. He puzzled men who could only think nationally, for liis lirst concern was with humanity in the large and he made himself a servant of truth, freedom and justice. in his effort to do away with prejudices and similar handicaps of ditferent races, the sage of the Grange frequently took an unpopular stand, and even while people admired the man they execrated his views. Because he could not make them see down to the bed-rock of righteousness on which he sought to build, they considered him merely negative and destructive. Yet they knew him to be a man who had devoted his gifts and his riches to the service of mankind when he might have lived a life of idle ease.

The religious position taken by Professor Goldwm Smith was as difficult for most persons to understand as his consistent championship of unpopular political views, and he seemed always to be arguing against the cheering. It must be borne in mind that his religious views were formed in the days when literalists had command of the situation, and he never completely cleared his mind of the impression that to admit a Üaw was the same thing as admitting that the whole of the religion of Western civilization was wrong. The theology of the churches seemed to him to be embalmed in tradition, but he recognized that as organizations they stood for the essential things in both public and private life. Philosophially his religious stand may have been negative, but the important part of the life of Goldwin Smith as a teacher is that practically it was positive.

For many years Professor Goldwin Smith attended a little church near his historic home, and there was a touch of pathos and nobility about the old man worshipping out into the darkness of his uncertainty while hundreds of pulpits in the land thundered against things which he had written. This position was not the result of intellectual insincerity, but showed that one of the greatest humanitarians of the century endorsed the work being done by the Christian Church as an organization. It is also a significant indication of the expansiveness of modern religious life, when not dominated by religious hierarchies, for surely the church ought to be the first to recognize that

man's chief test lies in his character and his sincerity. The value of Goldwin Smith as a teacher doubtless lay largely in his example. During his lifetime, theologians found that the destructive work of critical minds had to be done so that the constructive work might be commenced on firm foundations which had never ceased to exist. The battles which accompany the blending of theology, science and social economy may well puzzle and dismay many a lay mind, but the Goldwin Smiths of recent generations have at least tried to preserve their grip on that central truth for which, when all is said and done, the churches stood—that fundamental thing which the prophets called righteousness. Is there a congregation in Christendom which does not contain some members whose theology is hazy, but whose characters are staunch? Such a condition of tilings is sure to exist in an age of development and fortunately such men as Professor Goldwin Smith have shown that such a stand may be sincere.

it may seem at first glance a mistake to class Mrs. Eddy as a person who was not primarily a religious teacher, but a very brief study of her philosophy and life makes the reason for doing so quite apparent. It was not “Christian Science” that made her one of the greatest women of the century, in fact one of the most remarkable of the world's daughters, for without her splendid ability as an organizer, she might have remained as little known as Quimby. She gave the greatest practical demonstration ever presented of the value of the centralization of power, and she showed her genius in realizing things of which other ambitious persons have only been able to dream. Other popes have made their infallibility a dogma, but Mrs. Eddy's became a fact. She left no loop-hole through which heresy could creep, for she and “Science and Health" were supreme, the only voices and the only authorities in the church. If any of her followers desired a new deity, Mrs. Eddy was willing to assume that role as well, but above all she asserted her position as the sole guardian of truth, which in her case was synonymous with cash. Even the wealth of the sect was so centralized that the church at Boston has become possibly the most powerful single organization on the continent. There are those who see in it a political menace in the future, but the danger hardly seems imminent in a country where the bitter sentiment against trusts, either political or religious, is steadily growing. A contemplation of the church must indicate that Mrs. Eddy is great chiefly in her ability to acquire and manipulate power.

As a woman she does not inspire the world at large with a desire to worship or even admire her. In the first place the man on the street doubts her sincerity, and everyone who takes an unprejudiced stand retains a slight suspicion that her ‘discovery’ was stolen from her former friend Quimby. She may have taken the manuscript or she may have only carried off the idea—in which case she apparently secured assistance in the use of it, for anyone who reads the shallow pretentious writings of Mrs. Eddy such as her letters and autobiography will doubt that she penned the stately English of “Science and Health,” Mark Twain has proved this conclusively in his literary analysis of her work. The controversy over the question ‘Where did the idea come from?’ may rage for generations without either side being convinced, but Mrs. Eddy’s claims to inspiration are discredited by her own acts. She stands alone in history as a prophet who copyrighted the divine message and sold it at a margin of five hundred per cent. Her followers regard such reflections upon her sincerity as blasphemy, but these are just a few of the reasons why the ‘Mother Mary’ of the Christian Scientist does not win respect from the average passer-by. Her talents were not the kind which conquer the human heart.

Yet the truth which lay at the root of her success and which she garbled and twisted in her teaching is bound to have a far reaching effect during the present century. Miracles have been wrought by the bones of saints, by sacred pools, by witch doctors and by faith healers for centuries, and in all these cases the same power was exercised as Mrs. Eddy used in her science. The workers of the miracles accounted for them to the best of their ability, but there can be no doubt that

the success of Christian Science hastened the discovery of the wonders which can be accomplished by mental suggestion. The men behind the Emanuel Movement are making use of it, and it is being given scientific application in other quarters. If half of the illness of the world results from imagination and morbid mental conditions, then it stands to reason that physicians will accomplish much by toning up the mind. In Mrs. Eddy’s teaching there was one important factor which the miracle workers who preceded her had overlooked. Christian Science demanded an optimism which was carried to the edge of the ridiculous, but this compulsory cheerfulness played an important part in the permanency of the success of the cures. When people moved from shadow into sunlight—real or imaginary—and thereafter refuse to recognize the existence of anything but brightness, it is not surprising that they will consent to worship the woman who led them. It is this healthy outlook that the men who are using mental suggestion desire to attain. It will mean a great deal to the world, but the progress towards it must be slow, for mankind yields obedience less readily to a science than to a religion.

Count Lyoff Tolstoi resembled Professor Goldwin Smith in his splendid sincerity and he also possessed Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy’s power of arresting attention. These two characteristicshardly seem combinable, but in the case of the Russian philosopher his actions were not calculated for effect, but it so happened that the logical outcome of his beliefs were acts which appealed to the imagination. The greatest indication of his sincerity is the reverence which the whole world felt for him.

It has been declared that Tolstoi can only claim immortality as a literary artist. Such critics as Edmund Gosse and Matthew Arnold marvelled at the wonderful accuracy of his realism, and accurate realism is, oh, so rare. Arnold described ‘Anna Karenina’ as a ‘piece of life’ and Gosse said of the writer, “There is no other author whose name I can recall who gives anything like his presentment of all that moves beneath the scope of heaven.” Still it is just possible that the literary artist may be almost forgotten in days when his theories of conduct will be attracting general attention.

Although he waged a war against the Orthodox Greek Church, Tolstoi believed devoutly in Christ, but he wanted to expound the Nazarene anew for the benefit of the world. He had faith in the spiritual insight of Jesus and wanted to apply the precepts which He taught to modern conditions. Even the most ardent admirers of Tolstoi find it difficult to follow him through the maze of his philosophic wanderings, but the industrious W. T. Stead attempted to formulate the creed of the great Russian and found that it was based on a conception of Christ embodied in five commandments. First, “Live in peace with all men; treat no one as contemptible and beneath you. Not only allow yourself no anger, but do not rest until you have dissipated anger in others against yourself.

Second. No libertinage and no divorce; let every man have one wife and every woman one husband.

Third. Never on any pretext take an oath of service of any kind ; all such oaths are imposed for a bad purpose.

Fourth. Never employ force against an evil-doer; bear whatever wrong is done to you without opposing the wrong-doer or seeking to have him punished.

Fifth. Renounce all distinction of nationality; do not admit that men of another nation may ever be treated bv you as enemies; love all men alike as alike near to you ; do good to all alike.

Even though this summary may be incomplete, it serves to indicate that Tolstoi was what most of us would call a dreamer, but dreamers are often in reality the men who see farther than the next step to be taken towards the perfecting of civilization. Theories which appear Uto-

pian to-day may have a very wide application a century hence. The five commandments of the Russian mystic strike the reader at once as idealistic but impracticable, and though a few individuals might advocate them, not even the nations which count themselves to be the most advanced would attempt to inculcate such ideas in the youth of the land. There are prominent public men in Canada who could be counted upon to fight them as imbecile and suicidal. Imagine Colonel G. T. Denison turned loose among his theories of universal peace. But when all is said and done, Tolstoi merely advocated a more complete application of principles which Chrstendom has acknowledged for a long time to be fundamental. Is it, therefore, very daring or optimistic to prophecy that time will find the world following Tolstoi? Not perhaps in his entirety, but much that he has taught will be found so practical that future generations will wonder why he was ever considered a lone voice crying in the wilderness.

These teachers, representing three widely different types, with widely different aims, passed out of their activity at a ripe old age and two of them lived to see much of the fruit of their work. Professor Goldwin Smith might be described as a man of the past, whose influence was needed in an age of reconstruction which seemed to the world to be an age of destruction. Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy served her purpose as a teacher in the present by calling attention to useful little truths which were being overlooked and having done that, she ceased to be important save as a founder of a wonderful organization. Tolstoi holds the mind longer for ne is not yet fully understood and in him one may be admiring a great prophet of the future.