Skip to main content

Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

See other formats

such a power; the actual gods of historical religions are only the
personifications of impersonal facts of nature and of facts of our inner
mental life.
Similarly with immortality. With our present faculties we have no
means of giving a categorical answer to the question whether we
survive death, much less the question of what any such life after death
will be like. That being so, it is a waste of time and energy to devote
ourselves to the problem of achieving salvation in the life to come.
However, just as the idea of god is built out of bricks of real experi-
ence, so too is the idea of salvation. If we translate salvation into
terms of this world, we find that it means achieving harmony between
different parts of our nature, including its subconscious depths and its
rarely touched heights, and also achieving some satisfactory adjust-
ment between ourselves and the outer world, including not only the
world of nature but the social world of man. I believe it to be pos-
sible to "achieve salvation" in this sense, and right to aim at doing so,
just as I believe it possible and valuable to achieve a sense of union
with something bigger than our ordinary selves, even if that something
be not a god but an extension of our narrow core to include in a single
grasp ranges of outer experience and inner nature on which we do uot
ordinarily draw.
But if God and immortality be repudiated, what is left? Thai is
the question usually thrown at the atheist's head. The orthodox
believer likes to think that nothing is left. That, however, is because
he has only been accustomed to think in terms of his orthodoxy.
In point of fact, a great deal is left.
That is immediately obvious from the fact that many men and
women have led active, or self-sacrificing, or noble, or devoted lives
without any belief in God or immortality. Buddhism in its uncor-
rupted form has no such belief; nor did the great nineteenth-cenlury
agnostics; nor do the' orthodox Russian Communists; nor did the
Stoics. Of course, the unbelievers have often been guilty of selfish or
wicked actions; but so have the believers. And in any case that is
not the fundamental point. The point: is that without these beliefs
men and women may yet possess the mainspring of full and purposive
living, and just as strong a sense that existence can be worth while as
is possible to the most devout believers.
I would say that this is much more readily possible to-day than in
any previous age. The reason lies in the advances of science.
No longer are we forced to accept the external catastrophes and
miseries of existence as inevitable or mysterious; no longer are we
obliged to live in a world without history, where change is only mean-