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CHAPTER XXIV
THE MESSIANIC KINGDOM

"It is a slight thing that thou shouldest restore Israel; I will set thee for a Light to the Gentiles."—Isaiah xlix. 6.

The words "Exodus" and "Reform" have a natural and vital connection; the founders of the Mosaic system intended to prepare a standing council of reformers, a body capable of quietly reforming all the thought-material of the world, by introducing into intellectual life that rhythmic motion which is characteristic of physical life.

The true Re-former is distinguished not by any particular opinions or practices, but by a something, impossible to define, the very presence of which makes stagnant thought uncomfortable. He possesses faculties which orthodoxy lacks; he has intuitions the source of which is unknown to it, the purpose and meaning of which it fails to conceive, and about which it only understands, vaguely, that they threaten danger to its stability and peace. When the young Mazzini was thrown, innocent, into prison, officialism gave this account of the motives for his arrest:—

"He is a young man of remarkable talent; very fond of solitary zvalks by night; and habitually silent about his meditations. The government does not like young men of talent the subject of whose meditations is unknown to it."

The instinct of the Austrian government had discovered that when Genius goes forth alone to listen to the Voices of Nature, events are likely to occur soon afterwards calculated to disturb the peace of stagnation. And, as usual, tyranny forgot to inquire whether imprisoning Genius is likely to cure it of a taste for liberty!

Just so, tyranny has, on many occasions, forgotten to inquire whether trying to cramp the Theistic Seer-hood of Judaism is likely to cure it of the habit of seeing God.

The function of Reform has hitherto been carried on for the Gentile world, episodically and violently, by a succession of such men as Savonarola, Bruno, Luther, Cromwell, Wesley, Mazzini, Maurice, Renan and Hinton. The intention of the founders of Mosaism was to organize a body which should (after some centuries of preliminary discipline) acquire the power of accustoming the whole world to having that function performed for it as regularly, quietly and constantly as the lungs reform the blood.

Judaism, as a sect, far from becoming more intelligible and more tolerated because of the progress of liberality and culture, must, on the contrary, become more impossible and more intolerable with every advance in civilization. It has no place in the modern world, unless it is the intellectual heart-and-lungs of Humanity, viz., an organ whose function is to receive all the thought-material gathered by the Gentile world; purify and aerate it by submitting it to the action of that circulating rhythm which is characteristic of Nature's vital processes and of the Jewish discipline; and give it back to Gentiles in the form of pure religion. Humanity can become an organic body only when its circulatory apparatus becomes well established.

The possibility of performing the true function of the Reformer does not depend on any particular opinion about the Bible, or any other book. Nor does it depend on either following or abjuring any given mode of conducting ritual, nor on the possession of any special item of knowledge. No persons ever performed that function more efficiently than did the compilers of the Pentateuch (whoever they may have been); in their day there was no Bible, either to believe or to disbelieve. Jesus performed it; and if any fact is known about him, it is that he took the ritual just as he found it; conforming to established custom whenever his doing so did not interfere with honesty or charity, and laying no great stress on any details. Moses Mendelssohn may be said to have been actually the heart and lungs of the Berlin thought-life of his day. Now he was a learned Talmudist, and his co-religionists had no fault to find with his ideas of ritual.

The possibility of being a true world-reformer does not depend on occupying any particular position in the thought-world. The possibility of performing that function at all depends on having ideas about the nature of truth which are living, in contradistinction to such as are dead. The possibility of performing it properly depends on having ideas which are rhythmic, in contradistinction to such as are jerky or lawless. The nearer a man approaches to the possibility of having ideas which combine the characteristics of being living and of being orderly, the more clearly he sees that the main object of the founders of Mosaism was to prepare a race capable of perennially keeping up those quiet alternations of mental attitude which are the natural purifiers of all scientific and artistic ideas, and the thought-equivalent of the rhythmic movements of the physical heart.

The Pentateuch is the formal ark, which contains, as a Shekinah, the essential ideas of Mosaism. But one can never learn any science or art by any amount of study of even the best text-book, without at least attempting to work some examples; least of all can that most glorious of all arts, the art of organizing thought, be so learned. A child's first breath is an effort, and perhaps a painful one; but after one full inhalation, the process goes on easily enough! A rhythm is always delightful to those who have once got into the swing of it. A Jew only needs to get one true conception of what living truth means; he may then attend to any honest vocation to which he is adapted; he simply cannot help purifying the thought-life of every one around him; the hereditary faculty for doing it is so ingrained that it goes on without his consciousness. Orthodox people never seem to see that their singular dislike to Reformers is of the very same nature as the dislike of the Egyptians to Moses; of the professional scribes to the young teacher who wanted to throw on old prophecy the light of a living experience gained by the attempt to realize the prophetic ideal. It is the dislike of the Inquisition to Galileo; of the medical profession in Harvey's time to the doctrine of the circulation of the blood; the dislike of the stagnant mind to whatever forces it to recognize throughout creation the existence of that incessant rhythmic pulsation which is the appointed purifier of all that is foul, the liberator of all that is enslaved. Only those who doubt the power given to the Ark to keep its own place as the Centre of the world's march, need fear to see its accessories move round it as the earth moves round the Sun.

The method suggested in the Pentateuch for the cultivation of the rhythmic condition of the brain is marvellous in its naive beauty, and whenever it has been followed in its simplicity, according to the spirit of the Founders, it has produced results of which it is not too much to say that they are properly "miraculous," i.e., they are beyond anything which can be explained in words, even by the person who produces them. The essence of the rhythmic method consisted in accustoming the consciousness of man to follow, by alternations of thought and emotion, the rhythm of all the discoverable periodicities of Nature; especially those which affect the human organization.

Many Eastern religions embodied this principle to some extent, by reverently following certain of the Nature-rhythms. The founders of Judaism, true to their worship of Unity, seem to have aimed to embody in the education of the people all that were discoverable. The solar and lunar periods were, of course, to be followed. Then, as the Founders knew (what many good hygienists in various ages and countries have discovered) that the human mind requires, for health, a change of occupation and of attitude once in seven days, they did not merely say, as modern doctors do, "Take a rest regularly once a week"; they thought:

"The fact that there is a need for a seven days' rhythm in the human organization proves that there is some seven days' rhythm in the creative agency by which man was brought into being." Therefore they made it a matter not only of hygiene but of religion to mark the seven days' rhythm by arousing, each week, impressive and solemn forms of consciousness, as a counter-action to the mechanical drudgery of the other six days. They also utilized, in a similar manner, the changes in family life and the epochs of National history. They felt that as to a man is the regular pulsation of his heart and lungs, so is, to creative wisdom, the complex rhythm of Nature; and they thought too (and were they not right in so thinking?) that nothing is more likely to put man into rapport with living truth than getting his mind to beat in unison with the heart-beats of the unseen Father.

The effect, in those comparatively rare instances in which the discipline was carried out in the true spirit of the Founders, was something like that which is produced in the wood of a violin by the constant repetition of musical notes, or in iron by lying along a magnetic current. The brain of the best kind of Jew is an instrument which catches the property of rhythmic thought by constant contact with the periodic movements of Nature; and at last it becomes an instrument which, when a set of facts is presented to it, the special laws of which are as yet unknown, proceeds to deal with them, spontaneously, according to the laws of Nature and of Logic. It repeats, at every slightest touch, the true rhythm of creative truth. Such a real Jew was called, in old days, a "Prophet." Moses wished that all the Lord's people should be Prophets. There was a hope that some day the education of Prophets should be complete; that absolute incarnation of rhythmic grace and Logic should become possible. But the idea of so tuning feeling and thought into harmony with natural law, that rhythmic laws, hitherto unknown, should re-echo, or reveal themselves, within the brain, was too overwhelming a conception to enter the average Jewish mind; and unfortunately the rhythmic mode of education is liable to become mechanical. The majority of Jews, in all ages, have supposed that there was some special duty or virtue in observing this or that festival. And, of course, any idolatrous over-tension of this kind impairs mental elasticity, and does away with much of the good result of Jewish discipline. Therefore Judaism has always hitherto been as a frost-bound landscape, illuminated by a few prophetic stars. But modern Science seems now touching it with her magic wand, and crying: "Arise, Shine, for God hath said: 'Let light be'; and the Shekinah of the Lord shall be revealed."

Messiah's Kingdom cannot mean the rule of any one Incarnation, past, present, or to come; the possibility of any such autocracy being a source of permanent health or prosperity is precluded by the very form of those equations according to which (whether we are aware of it or not) we must think whenever we think sanely. An embodied perfection, who shall spare other people the trouble of thinking for themselves, by telling them what they are to do and to believe, may be a suitable ideal for cowards; but no such anomaly can be the Messiah, or will be tolerated by the leaders of living Science.

The vicious habit of trying to make God in the likeness of phenomena, instead of remembering that the human mind was created in the likeness of God in order that it might compare and organize and thus master phenomena, has led to this among other grotesque and. horrible results:—That because we happen to live in a planetary system, in which only one focal luminary has succeeded in struggling out of the condition of nebulous potentiality into that of coherent fact, men have jumped to the conclusion that this abortive condition of our own home is a law for the whole possible range of Being. Jews in old times, instead of faithfully proclaiming the doctrine of Invisible Unity, with all its logical consequences, invented the idea that all Israël, and indeed all Humanity, is to be ruled by one Messiah! and Christians, following suit, have improved on the absurdity of their former teachers, by desiring to extend the dominion of their Messiah to the whole Universe, and make of him the equivalent of God Almighty! Mathematicians, however, who are beginning to spend much of their thought-life in solar systems more complete than our own, the source of whose force is a polar-relation between more than one sun, are beginning to find that the belief in a phenomenal Almighty is out of line with the most elementary properties of matter and of force, with the first principles of Logic and of Hygiene. The whole idea of sacred phenomena is revolting to the fine mathematical instinct. Love is sacred; and whoever can make himself loved is legitimately sacred to those who love him. Not any one human King, but Love the Inspirer, shall reign for ever and ever. The Messianic Kingdom will come, when in every town in the world there is some beloved teacher holding a divine commission to give his blessing urbi et orbi, by opening the Ark of the Shemang Israël, and revealing the living Shekinah, the rhythmic pulsation of all life and truth. For from Zion shall the Law go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And there is no superstition in believing that a man is divinely commissioned to do that which we find him doing unconsciously; no progress in Science need make us doubt that a baby's heart has a divine commission to keep up circulation and vital heat. Wherever a man is found, whose own thought-sequences have caught the true rhythm of the Shemang Israël, other men are found clinging lovingly round him. The time comes, at last, when even the orthodox, weary of the cramping fetters of a system of interpretation untrue to the Laws of Nature, are ready to cry to such a teacher: "Master, to whom should we go? thou hast the words of Eternal Life." And if coming to him is only allowed to mean a temporary rest for the weary and heavy laden, he is as willing to bid them come as the sun is to attract and to enlighten. But his hold on their allegiance will be not static and dead, but living and dynamic. The moment that any idolatrous tension on his personality or his characteristics is set up, the true teacher gives new impulsion to his pupils, sending them forth on their appointed path: "Why call ye me good? There is none good but One, that is God. Call no man your Master on earth; for One is your Master, even The Unseen Unity. And greater work than mine shall my successors do, when I have gone to the Father."

Let us choose this day whom we will serve. Phenomena, classifications, fixed rules, have proved that they are powerless to unify and heal; if The Unseen Unity be God, let us worship Him, and Him only, with all our hearts. The standards of the creeds have been warring against each other, because they have emancipated themselves from their rightful ruler. The Crescent, the symbol of the fatality of Natural Law; the Torah, the standard of obedience to rule; the Trinity, the Ideal of metaphysical classification; the Cross, the witness to the elevation of the despised; the Crucifix, the sublimization of utter adoration; each has aspired to create man in its own image; but man, who is made in the Image of God, has escaped from the control of them all. But now, as in the days of Moses, Science is raising those Natural Symbols which are the pledge of God's power to reveal the law of continuity, and of man's power to reverse the lines of Separation. The Trumpet has sounded to herald the Festival of Nature, when God shall be sought under no roof made with hands, but under the trees which He hath planted. The Water is being poured forth abundantly from the golden ewer.[1] The Spirit of Progress and the Church of Truth say come; let whoever understandeth help to spread the Good News. And let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take the Water of Life freely.

  1. This refers to some ceremonies of the Feast of Tabernacles.