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   Chapter 12 THE GOAL

The Ascent of the Soul By Amory H. Bradford Characters: 27732

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

If the cosmic process in the physical sphere culminated with the appearance of man, and if, since that culmination, its movement has been toward the perfection of the soul, it is fit and proper that this book should end with a study of the goal toward which the human spirit is pressing. Is it possible for us, with our limitations, to have an adequate conception of the man that is to be "when the times are ripe" and the "crowning race" walks this earth of ours?-or, if not this earth, at least, dwells in the spiritual city? The fascination of this subject has been widely recognized. The answer must be secured from many sources. Only in imagination can we follow the lines along which the spirit will move in the far-off ages, and yet our conclusions will not be wholly imaginative, for the direction in which those lines are tending is clearly perceived. Under the circumstances, therefore, imagination may not be an untrustworthy guide. We are now to deal with prophecies, some of them easy and some of them difficult to read. But reading prophecies is not prophesying. I shall not prophesy, but rather endeavor to understand and to interpret a few of the many voices which have spoken, and are speaking, on this subject.

The soul is itself a prediction of what it is to be. It utters a various language.

The growth of intelligence is prophetic. Savage tribes suggest the original condition of primitive man. The pigmies in Africa afford hints of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel. From such as they, and from lower types still, the race has slowly and painfully risen. In them a certain rude intelligence appears. They have cunning rather than reason. They are half akin to brute and half akin to man. A kind of selfish intelligence characterizes their thinking. They lack a sense of proportion and relation. Before the ant a man looms as large as a mountain before us. An insect does not see things as they are but as they seem to it. Growth in intelligence necessitates a truer appreciation of proportions and relations. The pigmy also sees little but himself, but years and experience leave behind them wisdom. The civilized races have all risen from barbarism and savagery-that is, from a state of imperfect thinking as well as of imperfect loving and choosing. Experience and culture bring larger knowledge and a more equable balance of the faculties. No man should be measured by his achievement in any one field of endeavor. He may paint like Titian and be as voluptuous; he may write tragedies like Shakespeare and have no logic; he may be a gatherer of facts like Darwin and have no power of philosophic analysis. The intellect grows steadily toward perfection of vision and logical strength, and also and quite as significantly, toward harmony in the development of all the powers of thought.

The contrast between the selfish cunning of an African pigmy and the large and noble minds which are steadily multiplying, is a prophecy of the man who will dwell on this earth when the vision is clear and the power of rational judgment is perfected.

The prophecy of the soul is not less evident in the emotional nature. At first the soul is either so imperfect, or so limited by the body, that it seems to be nothing but a creature of emotions. It loves, but its affections are selfish and egotistic. What may be called the epochs in its growth are finely treated by Coleridge in "The Ancient Mariner" and by Tennyson in "In Memoriam." The Ancient Mariner felt only selfish affection. He had no love for "being as being." He killed the albatross with as little heed as he disregarded his fellow-men; but the ministries of his misery were multiplied until, at length, he was able to see something beautiful even in the writhing green sea-serpents that followed the ship of death on which he sailed. That was the first sign of the larger interest which had long been growing within him, and which was to continue to grow until he could say,

"He prayeth best who loveth best

All things both great and small."

"In Memoriam" is the record of the expansion of a soul through its increase in love. At the beginning of his grief the poet sings, dolefully and hopelessly, through his tears,

"He is not here; but far away

The noise of life begins again,

And ghastly thro' the drizzling rain

On the bald street breaks the blank day."

But the soul is growing secretly and surely as wheat grows in winter. The Christmas bells ring out their music and at first are almost hated, but they break through the shell of sorrow and let in a faint echo of the world's great suffering and the world's great joy. Thus human sympathy is enlarged just a bit. In successive years the music of the Christmas bells is heard more distinctly, the sorrow of the world becomes more audible, sympathy reaches farther. At last the poem which began with a miserere ends with a marriage, and he who could at first write that dreary line,

"On the bald street breaks the blank day"

testifies to the beneficence of the path in which he had been led in this wise and beautiful stanza,

"Regret is dead, but love is more

Than in the summers that have flown,

For I myself with these have grown

To something greater than before."

From dwelling in a prison with grief as a jailer he has caught a vision of the,

"One far off divine event

To which the whole creation moves."

This expansion of the soul is not difficult to follow. Traces of it may be seen in the enlarged sympathy, the growing brotherhood, and in the rapidly increasing conviction that even nationalities are only temporary expedients for bringing the day when love shall be the universal law. The charities and philanthropies which are blossoming in every city and country district, the consciousness of responsibility for the poor and weak, the angel songs which are heard in the midst of battle, and the gradual disappearance of war, are all vague but true prophecies of what the soul will be when love is perfected. The knowledge of past progress is an inspiration, and the imagination of what will be a glorious hope.

A single clause in the Apocalypse has long seemed to me as fine a statement of the condition which will prevail, when this prophecy is a reality, as could be phrased,-"The Lamb is the light thereof." Light is the medium in which objects are visible, and the Lamb is the symbol of sacrificial love. The great dreamer, in his vision, beheld a time when spirits would see in sacrificial love as now we see physical objects in the medium of light. To those who have studied the expansion of individual souls, and who then have contrasted the selfishness of earlier social conditions with the love of men as it is revealed in the laws, institutions, ministries of to-day, this dream of the Apostle rises in the distance as a new continent to a voyager over the wide and desolate ocean.

Equally prophetic is the advance which has been made from the passion of savage barbarism, or infantile wilfulness, to the moral reason of the present day as seen in the highest types of humanity in civilized lands. Wilfulness characterizes the childish nature and passion the savage nature. But with the growth of the soul choices are differentiated from impulses, and more and more regularly are inspired by intelligence and unselfish affection. This progress toward intelligent and unselfish choice distinguishes the movement toward civilization. Here, again, the advance made by the individual soul and by the race are equally prophetic. With the years the choices become more rational and loving. Time mellows all men somewhat, and forces a little wisdom into the hardest heads. Even slight growth prophesies that which shall be swifter when conditions are more favorable.

The soul is a prediction of clearer vision, truer thought, more unselfish love and wiser choices. It is a prophecy of the perfect man.

History is also prophetic of larger souls. The stream of human history, after it has been followed backward a few thousand years, leads into the region of legend and myth-that is, to a time when history could not be written because there was no writing, and when all truth was conveyed in symbolical forms. That means toward a time of narrow experience, and of knowledge far more limited than the present. Memory, in those days, was enormously and abnormally capacious and retentive, but there was no appreciation of humanity. Few lessons from the experiences of others were possible, because the mind was filled with merely tribal legends. What was called early civilization was only relatively splendid. There was unsurpassed poetry but no science, ample brawn but diminutive brain, much passion but little love. Out of the darkness of the past the stream of history, very narrow and shallow at first, has emerged and steadily expanded and deepened. Men are now equally intense but far clearer in vision, nobler in purpose, and purer in character. Their laws year by year have become more humane, their sympathies less contracted, their institutions more civilized. Nature's secret drawers have been unlocked. We are sometimes told that science has added much to the store of man's knowledge but nothing to the strength of his mind or the nobility of his character. That is a serious mistake. With the enlarged visions of the universe, with clearer conceptions of our cosmic relations, with the national neighborliness which is now a necessity, the capacity and the quality of the soul must change. Nay, it has already changed, for we inhabit the same lands over which savages formerly roamed, and we find in the earth and air what they never found; and when we look up into the great wide sky and say, "The Heavens declare the glory of God," we are not thinking of a tribal Deity, or a partial, and more or less passionate, monarch enthroned in the midst of his splendors, but of the King Eternal, immortal, invisible. Knowledge tends to enlarge the mind by which it is acquired. All faculties are strengthened by use.

History has moved along a bloody pathway, or, to revert to the figure of a stream, is indeed a river of "tears and blood." The horrors of the process by which the race has been lifted can hardly be exaggerated. I do not forget them while I put stronger emphasis on the fact that the outcome of all the struggle of individuals, the conflict of classes, and the wars of nations has been a nobler and purer quality of soul,-not less heroic but more sacrificial, not less strong but far more virtuous.

The growth of the individual soul is mirrored in the progress of the race. When we have learned to read aright the history of the world, we are informed as to the interior forces which have made civilization. Events are expressions of thoughts; institutions are manifestations of soul. If there has been progress in institutions there must have been an equal progress in the souls which are the real forces by which progress is always won. As history has been the evolution of humanity toward finer forms, so it is the assurance that the forces which have been at work in the past will not cease, but steadily continue until "the pile is complete." The perfect society will be composed of perfected individuals. History as prophecy is harmonious with soul as prophecy.

The future state of the soul has been the subject of rare fascination for the world's great thinkers. Nearly all religions have a forward look. "The Golden Age" lies far in the distance, but it has commanded the faith of all the seers. It has sometimes been a dream concerning individuals, and again a vision of the perfected society, but in reality the two are one, for the social organism is but a congeries of individuals. Bacon dreamed of New Atlantis, Sir Thomas More saw the fair walls of Utopia rising in the future, Plato defined the boundaries of the ideal Republic, Augustine wrote of the glories of the Civitate Dei, and Tennyson with matchless music has sung of the crowning race:-

"Ring out old shapes of foul disease;

Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

Ring out the thousand wars of old,

Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,

The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be."

The common characteristic of these social ideals is their dependence on the culture of individuals. With the incoming of "the valiant man and free," the man of "larger heart and kindlier hand," there is a reasonable hope that the darkness of the land will disappear.

With that deep look into the inmost secrets of human experience which sounds strangely autobiographical, Browning wrote in "Rabbi Ben Ezra,"

"Praise be thine!

I see the whole design,

I, who saw power, see love now perfect too;

Perfect I call thy plan;

Thanks that I was a man!

Maker, remake, complete,-I trust what Thou shalt do!"

"Therefore I summon age

To grant youth's heritage,

Life's struggle having so far reached its term;

Thence shall I pass, approved

A man, for aye removed

From the developed brute; a god though in the germ."

Those last lines condense Browning's creed concerning man. He is "for aye removed from the developed brute," and is "a god in the germ." Browning holds that while in the future there will surely be expansion of soul, evolution as a physical process is at an end. Henceforward there will be no passing from one species to another. Species have to do with physical organisms, not with spirits. Soul in man is but God "in the germ."

Emerson and Matthew Arnold have written much about education. The one foretells a day when the soul, after mounting and meliorating, finds that even the hells are turned into benefit; and the other makes his own the thought of Bishop Wilson that culture is a st

udy of perfection, and that the soul must ever seek increased life, increased light, and increased power.

Education is the word of the hour and of the century. It is believed to be the panacea for all ills, individual and social. But, precisely, what does this passion for education signify if not that, either intelligently or otherwise, all believe in the perfectibility of the soul, and that it will have all the time that it needs for the process. The absorbing devotion to intellectual training suggests the inquiry as to whether many who affirm that they are agnostic concerning immortality are not in reality earnest in their faith; for why should they seek the culture of that which fades, as the flowers fade; when it approaches life's winter? But, whether faith in continuance of being is firm or frail, few doubt the perfectibility of spirit, because, beyond almost all things, they are seeking its perfection. Literature, which is but the thoughts of the great souls of successive periods recorded, prophesies a day when all that hinders or taints shall be done away, and when the divine in the germ shall have grown to large and fair proportions. If there were no other light the outlook would still be inspiring. It is well sometimes to ask ourselves what we were made to be-not these bodies which are clearly decaying-but these spirits which seem to grow younger with the passage of time. I have sometimes thought that the very idea of second childhood is itself a prophecy of the soul's eternal youth. Certain it is that we are the masters of the years. The oldest persons that we know are usually the youngest in their sympathies and ideals. Sorrow and opposition should not destroy, but only strengthen the spiritual powers. Intelligence grows from more to more. The sure reward of love is the capacity and opportunity for larger love. Virtuous choices gradually become the law of liberty. These facts are index fingers pointing toward large and loving, strenuous and sympathetic manhood. And toward such human types, as a matter of fact, the race has been moving. The expectation of the seers and prophets, also, has been of a golden age in which all souls will have had time, and opportunity, of reaching the far-off but splendid goal. Believing, as we do, that death is never a finality, but that it is only an incident in progress; that instead of being an end it is only freedom from limitation, we find ourselves often vaguely, but ever eagerly, asking, To what are all these souls tending? Toward a state glorious beyond language to utter we deeply feel. But has no clearer voice spoken? At last we have reached the end of our inquiry. If any other voices speak they must sound from above. We stand by the unseen like children by the ocean's shore. They know that beyond the storms and waves lie fair and wealthy lands, but the waters separate and their eyes are weak. So we stand before the future, and ask, Toward what goal are all this education, experience and discipline tending? Are they perfecting souls which at last are to be laid away with the bodies which were fortunate enough to win an earlier death? It would be impiety to believe that. Then indeed should we be put to "permanent intellectual confusion." If all the voices of the soul are mockeries, then life is worse than a mistake-it is a crime.

The solution of the mystery is now before us. The man that is to be has walked this earth, and wrought with human hands, and lived and labored and loved, and passed into the silent land. Is Jesus the unique revelation of the divine? There may be many to question that, but there are few, indeed, who doubt that He embodied all of the perfect humanity which could be expressed within the limitations of the body. He represented Himself as essential truth and very life. He condensed duty into such love as He manifested toward men. He embodied the heroism of meekness, the courage of self-sacrifice, the vision of goodness. He was an example of all that is strong, serene, sacrificial, in the midst of the lowest and most unresponsive conditions. So much we see, and the rest we dimly, but surely, feel.

It was reserved for Paul, in a moment of inspiration, to put into a single phrase a description of the goal of the human spirit, as something which may be forever approached but never reached, in these words, "Till we all attain unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." The fullness of Christ! That is the soul's final destiny. It was the far call of that goal which it faintly heard at its first awakening and which has never entirely ceased to sound in his ears. Who shall explore the contents of that great phrase? It is a subject for meditation, for prayer, but never for discussion. He who approaches it in a controversial spirit never understands it. What are the qualities of the character of Christ? Some of them lie on the surface of the story. He never doubted God, or, if so, but for a single moment; He was unselfish; He lived to love and to express love; He had some mysterious preternatural power over nature-such, perhaps, as science is approaching in later times; kindness, sympathy, helpfulness, purity, shone from His words and actions. He declared that the privilege of dying to save those who despised Him was a joy. He lived in the limitations of the human condition and, therefore, on the earth only hints of "His fullness" are discernible. The full revelation is to be the endless study of those who are able to see and to appreciate things as they are. But we may ask ourselves whither these lines tend. When the intelligence, the love, the compassion, the mercy, the purity, the moral power and spiritual grandeur which only in dim outline are revealed in the Christ, have perfect manifestations, what will the vision be? The very thought transcends the farthest flights of the poet's imagination and the most daring speculations of philosophers. In "the fullness of Christ" is the soul's true goal. For that all men, and not the elect few, were created. That is the revelation of the divine plan for humanity. Toward that evolution has been slowly, and often painfully, pressing from those dim ?ons when the earth was without form and void. When man appeared as the flower of all the cosmic process he started at once toward this goal. And with great modesty, and simply because I believe in God and that His love cannot be defeated, I dare to hope that, sometime and somehow, after all the pains of retribution and moral discipline have done their inevitable work, after all the fires of Gehenna have consumed the desire to sin, after Hades and Purgatory have been passed, the souls which, for a time, have dwelt in these mortal bodies, purified and without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, will be given the beatific vision and permitted to realize the height and depth, the length and breadth of "the fullness of Christ."

"That one Face, far from vanish, rather grows,

Or decomposes but to recompose,

Become my universe that feels and knows."

* * *


[1] W.R. Alger, "History of the Doctrine of a Future Life," page 10.

[2] W.R. Alger, "History of the Doctrine of a Future Life," page 10.

[3] Confessions. Book I, 1.

[4] Addison's translation, Book III, pages 188-198.

[5] Essay on Compensation.

[6] Quoted by Emerson in Essay on Compensation.

[7] Revelation 2:7.

[8] Distinctive Messages of the Old Religions, p. 9.

[9] Quoted in Welldon's "Hope of Immortality," page 332.

[10] The Hope of Immortality, page 337.

* * *


Achilles, 74.

Act?on, 82.

Adam's fall, 142.

Adjustment to environment, 50, 52.

Adjustment to knowledge of freedom, 58.

?schylus, 129.

Ambrose, 140.

Ancient Mariner, 295.

Angelo, Michael, 48, 182.

Animal entail, 79.

Arnold, Matthew, 72, 98, 226, 306.

Atmosphere in nurture, 215.

Attraction vs. Compulsion, 216.

Augustine, 34, 35, 140, 196, 199, 304.

Austere experiences, 97.

Awakening vs. Re-awakening, 147.

Bacon, Lord, 304.

Bernard, St., 90.

Books, The most vital, 229.

Browning, Robert, 26, 113, 129, 152, 238, 305, 314.

Browning, Mrs. E.B., 113.

Byron, Lord, 74.

Bunyan, John, 16.

Bushnell, Horace, 37.

Buxton, Sir Thomas Fowell, 220.

Cenci, Beatrice, 129.

Chatterton, 74.

Circe, 83.

Comforter, The, 205.

Companionship, Spiritual, 183.

Comus, 81, 92.

Conscience, 67, 187.

Conversion, 133.

Creationism, 11.

Crisis in Ascent of the Soul, 134.

Cross, The revelation of divine sacrifice, 175.

Culture, 212.

Culture, a study of perfection, 226.

Culture and life, 227.

Cultured man, The, 231.

Dante, 6.

Death, Light on, 176.

Death of the body, 239.

Diana, 82.

Donatello, 137.

DuBois-Reymond, 55.

Edinburgh, Incident in, 186.

Education, prophecy of soul's growth, 306.

Emerson, 214, 215, 306.

Emanation, 10.

Environment, Influence of, 218.

Environment, of what composed, 222.

Epictetus, 111.

Evolution and Immortality, 241.

Experience, Individual, 150.

Expiation, 155.

Falconer, Robert, 143.

Faust, 5, 35, 129.

Fetish worship, 245.

Fiske, John, 5.

Fliedner, Pastor, 220.

Freedom, Realization of, 54.

Galahad, Sir, 85.

Garrison, William Lloyd, 220.

God, Rational doctrine of, 157.

God revealed in Christ, 161.

God cannot be defeated, 136.

Goethe, 5.

Golden Age, 303.

Grace, Falling from, impossible, 145.

Grail, The Holy, 126.

Growth a means of knowledge, 61.

Guardian angels, 88, 201.

Guinevere, 129, 143, 144.

Hale, Nathan, 219.

Hamlet, 129.

Hannibal, 74.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 36, 137.

Helps in trial, 195.

Heredity, 56.

Heroism in silence, 198.

Hesperus, 2.

Hindu Swami, 64.

Hindu mother, 66.

Hindrances, Ministry of, 89.

History, Prophetic, 300.

Hope for all, 32.

Hugo, Victor, 36, 86.

Hunt, Holman, Light of the World, 163.

Ideals, Influence of, 218.

Ideal Man seen in Jesus Christ, 164.

Idylls of the King, 142.

Immortality, Ode to, Wordsworth, 10.

Immortality in the New Testament, 242.

Immortality in the ethnic religions, 242.

Immortality, belief in, innate, 244.

Immortality, belief in, universal, 245.

Immortality, unbelief in, irrational, 247.

Immortality and the great teachers, 252.

Inequalities in human condition, 249.

In Memoriam and Growth of the Soul, 295.

Intelligence, Growth in, prophetic, 292.

Isaiah, 142.

Jesus the Soul's goal, 310.

Jesus the Supreme Optimist, 169.

Judson, Adoniram, 137.

Kaiserwerth, 220.

Lanier, Sidney, 290.

Learning by experience should be unnecessary, 148.

Life the best teacher, 228.

Life, Unity of, 284.

Life's mystery illumined, 171.

Light of the World, Hunt's, 163.

Luther, Martin, 138.

Macbeth, 129.

Macdonald, George, 143.

Mahomet, 111.

Malthus, 118.

Man, light on his nature, 163.

Manhood, The ideal, 166.

Marble Faun, 137.

Marseillaise, The, 219.

Matthewson, Dr. Geo., 245.

Marguerite, 35.

Melchizedek, 133.

Milton, John, 82, 83, 92, 255.

Moral order, 51.

Morally excellent, the, how discern, 63.

Moral failure, 73, 129.

Moral evil inexplicable, 173.

More, Sir Thomas, 304.

Napoleon, 74.

Nelson, Lord, 220.

New College, Oxford, 70.

Newton, Sir Isaac, 202.

Ney, Marshal, 219.

Nightingale, Florence, 220.

Nurture, 211.

Nurture, part of parents in, 214.

Nurture, vitally important, 224, 225.

Optimism, 105.

Optimism, Rational basis of, 113.

Over-soul, 94, 184.

Ovid, Metamorphoses, 82.

Parents' duty to children, 149.

Pascal, 21.

Paul, 80.

Pearson, Bishop, 272.

Personality, 29, 270.

Pigmies, 293.

Pilgrim's Progress, 6.

Plato, 140.

Plan of salvation, 155.

Poe, Edgar A., 74.

Prayer, 276.

Prayers for the dead, objections, 269.

Prayers for the dead, definition, 270.

Prayers for the dead, how justified, 272.

Pre?xistence, 10.

Prodigal Son, 27, 28.

Prometheus, 12.

Prophecy, 121.

Protestants and doctrine of prayers for the dead, 269.

Rabbi Ben Ezra, 305.

Re-awakening of the Soul, 130.

Re-awakening vs. Awakening, 147.

Responsibility, 30.

Resurrection of Christ, 14.

Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 79.

Ring and the Book, 129.

Roman Church and prayers for the dead, 282.

Sakya Muni, 199.

Santiago, 196.

Satisfaction, 155.

Saul, Browning's, 152.

Scarlet Letter, The, 137.

Self-realization, 31.

Shakespeare, 112, 129, 255.

Shelley, 74, 129.

Siddhartha, 111.

Sin always evil, 119.

Sin a reality, 127.

Sin, Mystery of, 172.

Socrates, 74, 111, 199, 253.

Sophocles, 129.

Soul, Solitary, 87.

Souls in society, 103.

Soul, what awakens, 34.

Soul, definition, 7.

Soul, origin, 9.

Soul, limited by body, 77.

Soul, full of prophecies, 257.

Spartans, 65.

Spirit evidence of being of God, 20.

Spiritual protection, 188.

Spirits attract spirits, 194.

Spirit, The Eternal, 206.

Spitta, Karl J.P., 210.

Subconscious action, 20.

Sympathy, definition, 106.

Sympathy, results from severe experience, 109.

Suffering no mistake, 116.

Suffering made endurable, 167.

Temptations of saints, 84.

Tennyson, 85, 113, 126, 129, 274.

Thoughts important in character, 230.

Training an element in nurture, 220.

Transfiguration of Christ, 14.

Truth, Search for, 191.

Truth finds those prepared for it, 269.

Ulysses, 83.

Universe, Moral, 93.

Universe, The idea of, 159.

Utopia, 304.

Vedas, Hymns of, 114.

Warning voices, 187.

Watch on the Rhine, 219.

Welldon, 273, 280, 281.

Whittier, John G., 220.

Wilberforce, William, 140, 220.

Wilson, Bishop, 226, 306.

Wingfold, Thomas, 143.

Wordsworth, 2, 10, 48, 182.

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