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thoughts which are the controlling motives underlying even the apparent discord of individual passions; we need an unprejudiced appreciation of the necessity even of the oppositions and conflicts, the errors and passions of men, because, as Hegel says, following Heracleitus, strife is the father of all things, and only through the strife of partial rights and one-sided truths can the whole truth of God struggle into existence; we need an intelligent reverence for the heroic figures in history, in whom is embodied the genius of nations or ages, who as instruments of a higher Power have roused the thought slumbering in the souls of all, have given it clear expression, and in mighty deeds have summoned it to life.
The conflict of beliefs, then, is not between the true on one side and the false on the other, but between partial truths, each mingled with partial errors. The question is never, Which of these two opposite beliefs is right, and which wrong? but, What is the truth and error in each ? And to answer this question, we have to find a point of view above both the conflicting principles, from which to criticise them ; that is, we need a principle containing more truth than either of them. Were it not for this contradiction and opposition, the higher principle could never emerge—even
1 Development of Theology, p. 70.
the mere need for it could never be felt. The attainment of truth is only possible because different human thinkers defend different and conflicting beliefs and theories —so that here one thing is upheld, there the opposite. It counts for nothing that this or that individual man gives up the effort, and despairs of real knowledge, falling back on Scepticism or Credulity; human Reason is possessed of immortal energy, and attacks its problems again and ever again, with irresistible, undying confidence in itself and in its power of attaining to real knowledge at last.
There is a very significant form which the conflict among beliefs may take, and often has taken. We know how often it happens that in the history of human thought two extreme conclusions on some important question are formed and maintained in opposition to one another. This is especially the case in questions of theology and philosophy, and political and social ethics. Now in such cases Aristotle gives a profound meaning to the old Greek maxim undèv ayav (“ nothing in excess”), by teaching that what is re
quired is tò duopíselv, the rational discrimination which enables us to find a middle way between the two extremes. I hasten to add an explanation, lest this should seem the merest barren commonplace. There are two ways of finding a mean between two extremes. One of them is simply to take what the two extreme views have in common, and throw away all their differences. As a general rule, the differences are so extensive -as between the extreme form of Statesocialism and the extreme form of Individualism — that the only “mean” which we can get between them by this way amounts to nothing at all: we have only a barren “suspense of judgment." This is sometimes treated as if it were the special mark of profound thought and of a mind free from prejudice. I fear that in many cases it is only the mark of intellectual indolence or cowardice. But there is another method of finding a middle way, — a middle way which does not contain less than either of the extremes, but more than either. This was the “mean” that Aristotle had in view ; and to reach it, it is essential that we should
be reasonable or rational. This does not mean that we should always be arguing,– endeavouring to pass from premises to conclusions by discursive argument; the most reasonable portion of the community does not consist of the people who are constantly engaged in reasoning. It is the best result of a genuine education—a genuine training of the mind-s0 to widen the mind on all its sides that it is capable of this kind of rational discrimination. It takes the whole man — not merely the logical faculty – to find the true mean between the extremes. To do this we must rise above them both, find the truth that there is in each, and include it in a higher truth. It is never easy to do this; but whenever we can do it with two opposing doctrines or beliefs, we may be sure we have gone beyond them both to a deeper truth. The value of their conflict and their opposition is just to suggest the need for the deeper truth, and sometimes also to suggest the way to reach it. Hence sometimes the most instructive criticism of beliefs is simply to compare them. In the sequel we shall often have
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to contrast various views and attitudes of mind with one another, and the one will throw light on the other.
If now we try to put into one question the essence of our modern demand upon religious thought-the point which is the focus of all prevailing perplexities — the question will be this : What or where is the depository of truth or certainty ? What can we definitely rely upon? If we could reach this “Seat of Authority” and rest upon it, we should know where we are; but as it is, the various religious bodies not only are ignorant of their real position, but are almost afraid to inquire into it. To some minds, perhaps, the outcome of the doctrines on which we have been dwelling — that Truth always has degrees, is always growing from less to more in History, and at the best is stained by error — will seem far from satisfactory. They will appear to imply that everything must be left an open question. It is well to have a general trust in Reason; but if everything is thus left an “indeterminate equation,” the old question recurs, Where