The Benedictine Network

Source Document II: Religious Unification

The Only Possible Method of Religious Unification of the Human Race by The Reverend William R. Alger of New York The World Congress of Religions, ed. J.W. Hanson. W.W. Houston & Co., 1884.

In considering the subject that now asks your attention, "The Only Possible Method of Religious Unification," we must work our way to the solution of the problems by defining our terms and distinguishing the steps. What is unity? The most authoritative speculative thinker that ever lived has given the only possible definition of unity that ever has or ever can be given: Unity is the measure of genus and the head or principle. Unity, therefore, is not oneness within itself, a series of self-distinction in a free whole. No unity can be divided, but every unity can be indefinitely multiplied. There is no real unity except a person, a free spirit. The genus of that order of individuals is God.

God is the measure of all personalities. God is Himself an absolute, self-determined and free self-consciousness; that is, the measure of genus and the head of the innumerable number of its representatives. Unification is the taking up of many into an already existing unity and the pervasion of the many by the one. All unities are derived from God, the absolute unity.

Fourteen hundred million human beings represent a generic unity of (human)kind. How can they be united? Never by any mere struggles of their own, but just in proportion as they face their egoistic wills and replace them with the divine will they become unified. The ideal unity of the human race already exists in the mind and purpose of God and in the developing destiny of the human race. But alas! it is not consciously recognized by the component individuals who represent it, and is not manifested by them in their own voluntary activity.

Why? The reason is this cosmic spirit, of which Professor Huxley has so recently spoken,  the insurrectionary spirit of the parts, the rebellion of the parts against the whole. This insurrectionary spirit is a personification, a collectivity of a person, an act of sin-guilt. It is evil, but not guilt. Guilt comes in with the voluntary rebellion of the individual free spirit. Liberals have rebelled, but they simply blink the whole problem of evil and assert there is no evil, humans are) divine. (The human) is not divine in actuality; (s/he) is in potentiality. (The human) is a rational animal. (S/he) is a divine animal. The animality is actual, until (s/he) develops the potentiality by voluntary co-operation with divine grace.

The  first form of partial unification of the human  race is the aesthetic unification. The second step is the scientific unification; the third is the essential; the fourth is the political unification by the establishment of an international code for the settlement of all disputes by reason.The fifth will be the commercial and social, the free circulation of all the component items of humanity through the whole of humanity. Our commerce, steamships, telegraphs and telephone, and so forth; the ever increasing travel is rapidly bringing that about, but the commercial spirit, as such, is cosmic, is selfish. They seek to make money out of others by the principle of profit, getting more than they should.

The next partial form of unification is the economic. The economic unification of the human race will be what? The transfer of civilization from its pecuniary basis to the basis of labor.The whole effort of the human race must not be to purchase goods and sell them in order to make money.It must be to produce goods and distribute them on the principles of justice for the supply of human wants, without any profit.The pursuit of money is cosmic and hostile.The money I get nobody else can have, but the spirit of cooperation is unifying and universal because in the spiritual order there is no division; there is nothing but wholes. The  knowledge I have all may have, without division. And when we work in co-operation, instead of antagonism, in producing and distributing the goods of this life, the interest of all (humans) will be one, namely, to reduce cost to the minimum and increase product to the maximum.That will abolish waste and make the whole earth one in interest, while now they are bristling with hostility.

There are three in unity, if I may so speak, unification of the whole race, for which seven is whole, the whole made up of the six preceding distinctions. Now the seventh is a trinity. Let us see what are the three.We have the philosophical unification and the theological unification, and the unity of those is the religious unification. Let me define. Philosophy is the science of ultimate ground. Theology is the science of the first principle.The unity of those  two, transfused through the whole personality and applied as the dominant spirit of life in the regulation of conduct through all its demands, is religion. That is the pure, absolute, universal religion in which all can agree.

The first great obstacle to overcome is our environment — our social environment. Our social environment, instead of being redeemed, instead of representing the archetype mind of God, the redemptive, is cosmic. It is utterly vain for us to go and preach Christianity when just as fast as we utter these precepts they are neutralized by the atmospheric environments in which they pass. The great anti-Christ of the world is the unchristian character and conduct of Christendom. All through Christendom we preach and profess one set of precepts and practice the opposite. We say,

Seek ye first the kingdom of haven and righteousness, and all else shall be added unto us.
We put the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness in the background and work like so many incarnate devils for every form of self-gratification.

The great obstacle to the religious unification of the human race is the irreligious always associated and often identified with the religious. There are three great specifications of that. First, hatred is a made religion. Did not the Brahmans and the Mohammedans slaughter each other in the streets of Bombay a few days ago, hating each other more than they loved the generic humanity or God? Did not the Catholics and Protestants struggle together furiously and come to near committing murder in Montreal and Toronto a few days ago? All over the world the hatred of the professors of religion for one another is irreligion injected into the very core of religion. That is fatal.

Rites and ceremonies are not religion. A (person) may repeat the soundest creed verbally a hundred times a day for twenty years. (S/he) may cross (him)self three times and bend (her) knee and bow (his) head, and still be full of pride and vanity. S/he may omit those ceremonies and retreat to (her)self into his closet and shut the door, and in struggle with God efface (her) egoism and receive the divine spirit. That is religion, and so on through other manifestations. We must arrive at a pure, rational, universal interpretation of all the dogmas of theology. We must interpret every dogma in such a way that it will agree with all other dogmas in a free circulation of the distinctions through the unity.

The  human race can be united on that.They never can on the  other. We must put the prepondering emphasis, without any division, on the ethical aspects of religion instead of on the speculative. Formerly, it was just the other way. We are rapidly coming to that. The liberalists began their protests against the Catholic and evangelical theology by supporting the ethical, emphasizing character and conduct.But all the churches now recognize that a (human) must have a good character, that (s/he) must behave himself properly, morally. There is not one that doubts or questions it. These  have become commonplaces, and yet liberals stay right there and don't move a step.

Liberalism thus far has been ethical and shallow. Evangelicanism has been dogmatic, tyrannical and cruel, to some extent irrational, but it has always been profound. It has battled with the real problems which the liberalists have simply blinked at, and settled these problems in universal agreement. For example, the doctrine of the fall of Adam. There was a real problem. The world is full of evil; God is perfect; he could not create imperfections. How happened it? Why, man was created all right, but he fell. It was an amazingly original, subtle and profound stroke to settle a real problem. The liberals came up and, saying it was not the true solution, they blinked at the problem and denied that it existed. Now the real solution seems to me is not the evils in the universe have come from a fall.

The fall of an archdemoniac spirit in heaven does not settle the problem; it only moves it back one step. How did he fall? Why did he  fall? There can be no fall in the archetypal of God. Creatures were created in freedom to choose between good and evil in order that through their freedom and the discipline of struggle with evil they might become the perfected and redeemed images of God. That settles the problem and we can all agree on that. Of course, you want an hour to expound it. This hint may seem absurd, but there is more in it.

Finally, I want to say we must change the emphasis, from the world of death to this world. Redemption must not be postponed to the future. It must be realized on earth. I don't think it is heresy to say that we must not confine the idea of Christ to the mere historic individual, Jesus of Nazareth. We must consider that Christ is not merely the individual. He is the completed genus incarnate. He is the absolute generic unity of the human race in manifestation. Therefore, he is not the follower of other (humans), but their exemplar.

We must not limit our worship of Christ to the mere historic person, but must see in the individual person the perfected genus of the divine humanity which is God Himself, and realize that that is to be multiplied. It cannot be divided, but it may be multiplied commensurately with the dimensions of the whole human race.


Peace be with you and yours.

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