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6.3.17

Part of an essay by Rev S. Baring Gould

The existence of anti-Law of Moses (the Oral and Written Law) in the Churches of Greece
and Asia Minor, beginning with their foundation, comes from from the letters of St. Paul. It was an open sore in the life-time of the Twelve; it was a sorrow weighing daily on the great soul of the Apostle of the Gentiles. It called forth the indignant thunder of Jude and Peter, and the awful denunciations in the charges to the Seven Churches. The apocryphal literature of the sub-apostolic period carries on the sad story. Under St. John's presiding care, the gross scandals which defiled Gentile Christianity were purged out, and antinomian Christianity deserted Asia Minor for Alex
andria. There it made head again, as revealed to us by the controversialists of the third century. And there it disappeared for a while. Yet the disease was never eradicated. Its poison still
lurked in the veins of the Church, and again and again throughout the Middle Ages heretics emerged fitfully, true successors of Nicolas, Cerdo, Marcion and Valentine, shaking off the trammels of the moral law, and seeking justification through mystic exaltation or spiritual emotion. The Papacy trod down these ugly heretics with ruthless heel. But at the Reformation, when the restraint was removed, the disease brokj forth in a multitude of obscene sects spotting the fair face of Protestantism. Nor has the virus exhausted itself. Its baleful workings, if indistinct, are still present and threatening. But how comes it that Christianity has thus its dark  shadow constantly haunting it ? The cause is to be sought in the constitution of man. Man, moving in his little orbit, has ever a face turned away from the earth and all that is material, looking out into infinity, —a dark, unknown side, about whose complexion we may speculate, but which we can never map. It is a face which must ever remain mysterious, and ever radiate into mystery. As the eye and ear are bundles of nerves through which the inner man goes out into, and receives impressions from, the material world, so is the soul a marvellous tissue of fibres through which man is placed
en rapport with the spiritual world, God and infinity. It is the existence of this face, these fibres —take which simile you like—which has constituted mystics in every age all over the world : Schamans in frozen Siberia, Fakirs in burning India, absorbed Buddhists, ecstatic Saints, Essenes, Witches, Anchorites, Swedenbofgians, modern Spiritualists.
Man, double-faced by nature, is placed by Revelation under a sharp, precise external rule, controlling his actions
and his thoughts. To this rule spirit and body are summoned to do homage. But the spirit has an inherent tendency towards the un limited, by virtue of its nature, which places it on the confines of the infinite. Consequently it is never easy under a
rule which is imposed on it conjointly with the body ; it strains after emancipation, strives to assert its independence
of what is external, and to establish its claim to obey only the movements in the spiritual world. It throbs sympatheti
cally with the auroral flashes in that realm of mystery, like the flake of gold-leaf in the magnetometer.
To be bound to the body, subjected to its laws, is degrading ; to be unbounded, unconditioned, is its aspiration and
supreme felicity. Thus the incessant effort of the spirit is to establish its
law in the inner world of feeling, and remove it from the material world without.
Moreover, inasmuch as the spirit melts into the infinite, cut off from it by no sharply-defined fine, it is disposed to
regard itself as a part of God, a creek of the great Ocean of Divinity, and to suppose that all its emotions are the pulsa
tions of the tide in the all-embracing Spirit. It loses the consciousness of its individuality; it deifies itself.
A Suffee fable representing God and the human soul illustrates this well. " One knocked at the Beloved's door, and
a voice from within cried, ' Who is there V Then the soul answered, ' It is I.' And the voice of God said, ' This house
will not hold me and thee.' So the door remained shut. Then the soul went away into a wilderness, and after long
fasting and prayer it returned, and knocked once again at the door. And again the voice demanded, 'Who is there?'
Then he said, ' It is Thou,' and at once the door opened to him."
Thus the mystic always regards his unregulated wishes as divine revelations, his random impulses as heavenly inspirations. He has no law but his own will ; and therefore, in mysticism, there is no curb against the grossest licence.
The existence of that evil which, knowing the constitution of man, we should expect to find prevalent in mysticism, the
experience of all ages has shown following, dogging its steps inevitably. So slight is the film that separates religious from
sensual passion, that uncontrolled spiritual fervour roars readily into a blaze of licentiousness.
It is this which makes revivalism of every description so dangerous. It is a two-edged weapon that cuts the hand
which holds it. Yet the spiritual, religious element in man is that which is most beautiful and pure, when passionless. It is like those placid tarns, crystal clear and icy cold, in Auvergne and the Eifel, which lie in the sleeping vents of old volcanoes. We
love to linger by them, yet never with security, for we know that a throb, a shock, may at any moment convert them into
boiling geysirs or raging craters. So well is this fact known in the Roman Church, that a
mystic is inexorably shut up in a convent, or cast out as a heretic. The more spiritual a religion is, the more apt it is to lurch and let in a rush of immorality ;