The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 18

CHAPTER XVIII

THE PILGRIM BEHOLDS THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION

And seeing that I was terrified, my guide said: "Now let us go forth, and I will show thee the Christian religion, which, founded as it is on the certain revelations of God, satisfies both the simplest and the wisest; just as it brings heavenly truth clearly to the light, so also it defeats hostile errors, and it glories in concord and love. In the midst of countless adversities, it has remained unconquered, and will continue so. From this wilt thou readily be able to understand that the origin of this religion must proceed from God, and that here thou canst obtain true solace." And I rejoiced over this speech, and we went further.

(Baptism.)

2. And when we arrive, I see that they had a gate through which all had to pass. The gate stood in the water, and each one had to ford it, to wash himself, and assume the badge of these men, which was of white and red colour, and to swear that he would stand by their rights and rules, believe as they did, pray as they did, observe the same commands as they did. And this pleased me as somewhat of a beginning of a noble order of things.

3. When I had passed through the portal, I see large crowds of men, and some of them different from the others by the vestments that they wore. These stood apart in a recess, and showed the people what appeared an image, painted so daintily that the more a man gazed at it, the more he found in it to admire; but as it was adorned neither with gold nor with glittering colours, it was not very visible from a distance. Therefore I saw that those who stood at a distance were not so much charmed by its beauty, but that those who were nearer were never satiated beholding it.

(The Image of Christ.)

4. Those, then, who carried this image praised it exceedingly, calling it the Son of God, and saying that in it all virtues were pictured, and that it had been sent from heaven to earth that men might find in it an example of how they should practise virtue among themselves. And there was gladness and rejoicing; falling on their knees, they lifted their hands heavenward and praised God. And seeing this, I added my voice to theirs, and praised God that He had allowed me to arrive at this spot.

(The Spiritual Feasts of the Christians.)

5. Meanwhile, I hear many and divers admonitions that everyone should conform to this image, and I see that they meet together at various places, and that those to whom the image was entrusted, make small counterfeits of it, and distribute them to all, as it were, in a covering, and they with piety take them into their mouths. Then I ask: "What are they doing here?" The answer was that it sufficed not merely to behold the often-named image outwardly, but that one must also enter into its innermost, so that a man could transform himself into its beauty. For all sins, they said, must vanish before this celestial medicine. And I, relying on this message, praised within myself the Christians as blessed men, who possessed among themselves such remedies and such help against evil.

(Dissoluteness among the Christians.)

6. Meanwhile, looking at some of those who had recently—as they said—received God, gave themselves up one after the other to drunkenness, quarrelling, impurity, thieving, and robbing. But I, trusting not mine eyes, gaze yet more carefully, and I see in truest truth that they drink and vomit, quarrel and fight, rob and pillage one another both by cunning and by violence, neigh and skip from wantonness, shout and whistle, commit fornication and adultery worse than any of the others I had seen; briefly, everything they did was in contradiction to the admonitions they had received and to their own promises. Therefore was I troubled, and mournfully I said: "But what, in the name of the Lord God, are they doing here?" Here I sought something different. "Wonder not so much," answered the interpreter. "That which is set forth to all men as an example is the degree of perfection which earthly weakness cannot always attain; those who lead the others are, indeed, more perfect, but the ordinary men, occupied with many concerns, cannot equal them." "Let us, then," I said, "go among these leaders, that I may behold them."

(On the Barrenness of Preachers.)

7. And my guide then led me to those who stood on the steps; and these, indeed, exhorted the people to love the image, but, as it seemed to me, but feebly. For if one listened and obeyed, well and good; if he did not do so, it was well also. Some clanked keys, saying they had the power to close on those who did not obey them the gate by which man reaches God; but meanwhile they closed it on no man, or, at least, when they did so, they did it as it were in jest. Indeed, I saw that they dared not do this very daringly; for if one attempted to speak somewhat sharply, they reviled him, saying that he preached against persons. Therefore some, daring not to do so by word of mouth, in writing raged against sin; but they screamed against these also, saying that they spread lampoons. Therefore, they either turned away from these men or threw them down the steps, replacing them by other more moderate men. Seeing this, I said: "This is folly that, as their leaders and councillors, they wish to have followers and flatterers." "That is the way of the world," said the interpreter, "and it harms not. If these criers were given entire freedom, who knows what they would not dare to do. A line must be drawn for them beyond which they cannot go."

(The Carnality of Clerical People among the Christians.)

8. "Let us, then," I said, "go to the spot where they[1] are, so that I may see them alone, and discover how they manage their affairs outside of their pulpits; there, at least, I know that no one measures their steps or hinders them." And we enter there where priests only dwelt, and I, who think that I shall find them praying and studying the mysteries of religion, also found that some snored, wallowing on feather-beds; others feasted, seated at divers tables, cramming and pouring down things till they became speechless; others performed dances and leaps; others crammed with treasures pouches, chests, and chambers; others pass their time in love-making and wantonness; others employ themselves in fastening on spurs, daggers, swords, muskets; others bestirred themselves with dogs and hares, so that they spent the least part of their time with the Bible; indeed, some hardly ever took it in their hand, although they called themselves teachers of the Gospel. Seeing this, I said: "Alas! oh my grief! these, then, are to be men's leaders heavenward and their models of virtue. Shall I then never find anything in this world that is free from fraud and deceit?" Hearing this, and understanding that I was complaining of their irregular life, some of those present looked askance [askew] at me, and began to mutter: "If I was seeking hypocrites and superficial devotees, I was to seek them elsewhere; they knew how to do their duty in church, and at home, and in the world to behave in a worldly fashion." Then I was obliged to be silent, though I clearly saw that it is monstrous to wear a coat of mail over a surplice, a helmet over a barat, to hold the Word of God in one hand, a sword in the other; to carry Peter's keys in front and Judas's wallet behind; to have a mind educated by Scripture and a heart practised in fraud, a tongue full of piety and eyes full of wantonness.

(By Heavenly Gifts they help others, but not themselves.)

9. Then I see some especially who, in the pulpits, held forth in a very learned and pious fashion, and pleased themselves and others no less than if they had been angels; but their life was just as wild as that of the others, and I could not refrain from saying: "Lo! here are trumpets through which good things flow, but they themselves retain them not." The interpreter said: "This also is a gift of God, to speak prettily of divine matters." "It is indeed a gift of God, but is it to stop at mere words?"

(Disorder among the Bishops.)

10. Meanwhile, seeing that all these men have over them their elders (called bishops, archbishops, abbots, provosts, deans, superintendents, inspectors, and so forth) weighty and worthy men, to whom all rendered much honour, and I thought: "Why, then, do not these restrain those of inferior rank?" And wishing to discover the cause of this I follow one of them into his chamber; then a second, a third, a fourth one, and so forth. And I find them all so busy that they had no time to watch the others. Except some things that they had in common with the others, they seemed to be occupied with counting their revenues and their church treasures (as they called them). And I said: "By mistake, I think, they call these men spiritual[2] fathers; they should be called fathers who receive revenue." The interpreter answered: "Yet care must be taken that the Church loseth not what God grants her, and what the pious forefathers have given her." Meanwhile, one stepped up to us who had two keys hanging from his girdle (he was called Peter), and he said: "Men and brethren, it is not seemly that, neglecting the Word of God, we should labour at desks and chests. Let us then choose men of good repute, and make over this work to them, while we ourselves are diligent at prayer and the service of the Word of God." And hearing this I rejoiced, for according to my mind this was good counsel. But hardly any agreed to this. They continued to add up accounts themselves, paid out and received money, while they either left prayer and the service of God's Word to others or performed these duties but hastily.

11. When one of them died and the cares of leadership had to be transferred to another, I saw much striving for favour, much searching and endeavouring to obtain patronage; each one struggled for a place before even the seat was cold. But he who had to confer it received judgments from them, and of them that differed greatly. One man claimed to be a kinsman; another a relation of the giver's wife; a third said that he had long served the elders and therefore hoped for a reward; a fourth, that he had a promise on which he relied; a fifth claimed to be placed in an honourable office because of his descent from honourable parents; the sixth brought forward the praise that he had obtained from others; the seventh offered gifts; the eighth, being a man of deep, high, and broad thoughts, claimed for himself a place where he could yet further enlarge his mind; and I know not what more. And seeing this, I said: "This assuredly is not beseeming, to thrust yourself forward for the purpose of obtaining such dignities; they should indeed wait till they are called." The interpreter answers: "Should then the unwilling ones he called? He who seeks dignities should make his name known." "I verily believed," quoth I, "that we must here await God's call." Then he again: "Dost thou then think that God will call someone from heaven? God's call is the favour of the elders, which everyone who prepares himself for the calling is free to obtain." "I see, then," quoth I, "that it is not necessary to seek for men, or drive them into the service of the Church; rather to drive them from it! Rather, if favour should be sought at all, it should be sought therein, that each man should by his humility, quietude, endear himself to the Church, and not by such means as I see here employed. Be it as it may, such things are disorderly."

(The Christians' Trust in Faith without Works.)

12. Now, when my interpreter saw that I insisted on this matter, he said to me: "It is true that among Christians, even theologians, there is more that is unbeseeming than elsewhere; but this also is true, that even Christians of evil life die well. For the salvation of man dependeth not on deeds, but on faith; if this, then, is true, they cannot fail to achieve salvation; if but their faith is certain, it is enough."

(There are Disputes also concerning Faith.The Holy Gospel is the Touchstone.)

13. "Do all, then, agree as to their faith?" quoth I. He answered: "There is indeed somewhat of difference; but all have the same foundation." Then they lead me behind a railing into the centre of a large church, where I behold a large, round stone that hung downward by a chain. They called it the touchstone. The foremost men walked up to this stone, each one carrying somewhat in his hand, such things, for instance, as a morsel of gold, silver, iron, lead or sand, chaff, or so forth. Then each one touched the stone with that which he had brought, and praised it, saying that it had stood the test; others who looked on said that it had not done so. Then they wrangled among themselves, for no one allowed his goods to be defamed, nor would he approve of the goods of another. They then reviled and cursed each other, tearing and pulling each other's caps, ears, and whatever part they could seize. Others wrangled about the stone itself, and about its colour. Some said that it was blue; others that it was green; others that it was black. At last some were found who said it was of changeable colour, and that according to the thing that touched it, it appeared differently. Some advised that the stone should be broken up into bits; when it had been pulverised, then could one see its essence. Others allowed not this. Others, going farther, said that this stone caused but strife. It should be taken down and removed; then would they more easily compose their differences. To this a large number, even of the foremost, agreed. Others opposed this, saying that they would rather lay down their lives than allow it; and indeed, when the strife and the skirmishing increased, no few were killed, but the stone yet remained; for it was round and very slippery. He who stretched out his hand towards it could not grasp it, and it continued as before.

(The Christians are divided into Sects.)

14. Then going outside of this railing, lo! I see that this church had many little chapels, to which those went who had not been able to agree when before this touchstone, and behind each of them followed a number of men. They gave the people rules as to how they should differ from the others; some said that one should be marked by water or fire; others, that one should always have the sign ready at hand and in the pocket; others said that beside the principal image, at which all should gaze, men should, for greater perfection, carry with them also as many small ones as was possible; others said that when praying one should not kneel, for that was a thing of the Pharisees; others, again, said that they would not endure music among them, as it was a wanton thing; others, again, said that one should accept the teaching of no man, and be content with the innermost revelation of the spirit. When gazing at these chapels, I beheld somewhat wondrous regulations.

(Of these Chapels, one is the most wondrous.)

15. Now one of these chapels was the largest and finest, gleaming with gold and precious stones; and in it was heard the sound of gay instruments. Into this one I was carefully led, and I was admonished to look around me, for here was a religious service more delightful than any other. And behold, along the walls there were everywhere images showing how a man could attain heaven. Here some were depicted who had made themselves ladders, set them heavenward and climbed up them; others piled up hills and mountains one on the other, that they might rise upward by such means; others fashioned for themselves wings and fastened them on; others caught up some winged creatures, tied them together, attached themselves to them, hoping with them thus to fly upward, and so forth. There were also many priests of divers shape, who showed these images to the people and praised them; at the same time, they taught them to distinguish themselves from the others by divers ceremonies. Now one clothed in gold and purple sat on a high throne distributing rare gifts to the followers and councillors who were his intimates. And it seemed to me that this was right orderly and more merry than anything else. But when I had visited the other sections, and saw that these attacked them, severely censured and blamed these things,[3] I became suspicious; particularly when I saw that they answered and defended themselves but timidly, while by means of stoning, water, fire and the sword, and on the other hand by means of gold, they enticed to them the misled people. Also did I behold among them much discord, disputes, hatred, striving to thrust others from their offices, and other disorders. Thence I went forth from here to behold those who are called reformed.

(These others endeavour vainly to unite.)

16. And I hear and see that some of these chapels (two or three that were near to each other) deliberated as to how they could become one;[4] but they could find no compromise. Everyone maintained that which was in his own head, and endeavoured to persuade the others to agree to it. Some foolish ones took up at random any doctrine that came in their way; others more cunningly entered or left the divers chapels according to what appeared to them advantageous; and at last I was displeased by the confusion and wavering among these dear Christians.

(The true Christians.[5]The Pilgrim recognises them not.)

17. Among these men there were some who said they had no concern with this strife; they walked on silently, quietly, as in thought, looking heavenward, and bearing themselves affably towards all, and they were insignificant and ragged, exhausted by fasting and thirst; but the others but laughed at them, cried shame on them, hissed them, scratched and toused them, pointed at them with their fingers, tripped them up, and mocked them. But they, enduring everything, went their way, as if they had been blind, deaf, dumb. Now when I saw them come forth from behind the railing and enter the choir, I wished to enter there also and see what they had there. But the interpreter pulled me back. "What dost thou wish to do there? Dost thou desire to become a laughing-stock? That were indeed a desirable thing!" So I entered not, and, alas! I overlooked this spot, deceived by my evil companion, Falsehood. I missed here the centre of heaven and earth, and the road leading to the place where man is saturated with joy. I was again led into the turmoil of the labyrinth of the world, till my God saved me and guided me back again to the path which I had left at this spot. What then befell,[6] and how it befell, I shall tell later; but at the time I judged not thus, for seeking but outward peace and comfort, I hastened away to gape at other things.

(An Accident befalls the Pilgrim while in the Estate of the Clergy.)

18. I will not pass over in silence what further befell me in this street. My friend Impudence had persuaded me to join the estate of the ecclesiastics, saying that it was my destiny to belong to it; and, indeed, I confess that this was according to my wishes, though not everything in that estate pleased me. And I allow myself to be inveigled; I assume cap and cowl, and step with others into divers side chapels till a separate one was allotted unto me. But looking back at those behind me, I see that one turned his back on me; another shook his head over me; a third winked with his eye at me evilly; a fourth threatened me with his fist; a fifth pointed at me with his finger. At last,[7] some rushing at me, push me away and put another in my place, threatening that they would do yet worse; and I was afeard and ran away, saying to my guides: "Oh, over this most wretched world, one thing after the other fails!" "No doubt," said the interpreter. "Why takest thou not heed not to incite men against thee? He who would be among men must accommodate himself to men, not behave like a fool, as thou always dost." "I know now naught but to abandon everything," I said. "Not so, not so," said Impudence; "we must not despair. If thou art not fit for this, thou wilt be fit for somewhat else. Come but on, and we will see other things," and taking me by the hand, he led me on.

  1. I.e., the priests.
  2. This pun is untranslatable. In Bohemian, "spiritual" is "duchovni," while "duchodni" signifies a collector of rents or revenues.
  3. I.e., the ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church.
  4. In Germany, and in Bohemia up to the suppression of all Protestant sects, the Lutherans, Calvinists, and brethren of the Unity (Komensky's own church) frequently endeavoured to formulate a joint profession of faith. This attempt met with little success. In Bohemia such a profession, the "Confessio Bohemica," was actually drawn up. (See my "Bohemia: an Historical Sketch," pp. 274-287, and elsewhere.)
  5. Komensky here gives under this name a perhaps slightly idealised description of the community to which he himself belonged; he has dealt with the same motif somewhat more extensively in the last chapters of this book. As so many passages in Komensky's masterpiece have an autobiographic character, it may be well to mention that he is in this chapter referring to the imaginary "pilgrim." Komensky himself belonged to the Unity during his whole life.
  6. Komensky here refers to his mystical union with God, which he describes in those chapters of his book, the last ones, that are entitled the "Paradise of the Heart."
  7. Though this is a mere conjecture, I think that, in distinction to the earlier part of this chapter, Komensky here writes autobiographically. Komensky's dissensions with members of his community were, indeed, later than the year 1623, in which he wrote the "Labyrinth." But it is known that the later editions, particularly that of Amsterdam, 1663, from which I translate, contains additions. A full commentary on the "Labyrinth" and thoroughly critical edition of the book have, unfortunately, not yet been published in Bohemia.