Where Christendom Is Deceived
Perhaps the greatest failure to make the great discrimination with which we are concerned is in relation to the difference between mysticism and spirituality. It is here that not only the world is mistaken but Christendom is deceived. Indeed, an overwhelmingly large proportion of those who would regard themselves as Christians are unable to distinguish between mysticism (pertaining to the sense of the beautiful_ or asceticism (the practice of self-denial) on the one hand and spirituality on the other. The fact is that these belong to two entirely different realms, and the Word of God cuts clean in between them, dividing them asunder.
When we speak of Cain and "the way of Cain," we are accustomed to recall immediately his act of murder, born of jealousy and malice. We remember his peevish, querulous, petulant, ill-tempered or even insolent manner with God. But there is another side to remember, and we must be fair to Cain, or we miss the whole point. Cain did not exclude or ignore God. He was not in the usual sense of the word a godless man. He acknowledged God. Then he built an altar to God. Further, he no doubt selected the best of the products of his hard toil as worthy of God, and brought them. Here was devoutness in religion. Cain worshiped with his whole aesthetic sense, and Cain - murdered his brother! The Jews did the same in Christ's day. Christendom is largely constituted by this sense - its architecture, its ritual, its music, its adornment, its lighting (or lack of it), its tone, its atmosphere, its vestments and so forth. All are of the soul. But Cain did not get through to God! Neither did the Jews! Spiritual death marks that realm, and while there may be intense emotions which make for resolves, 'high' thoughts and desires, there is no genuine change in the nature of those concerned, and repeated doses of this must be taken to maintain any measure of soul-self-satisfaction which makes them feel good. All religions have this soulish feature in common, more or less, and it is here that the fatal blunder has been made by many religious people who contend that other religions, which are undoubtedly devout and sincere, should not be interfered with, but the good in them should be recognized and accepted. It is the confusing of religion with what the Bible means by being spiritual. Religion can rise to high levels and sink to terrible depths. It is the same thing which does both. But that thing never rises above the human level; it never really reaches God. Religion can be the greatest enemy of God's true thought, because it is satan's best deception. Asceticism is no more truly spiritual than aestheticism. There is no more a brief with God for rigors, denials, fastings, puritanic iciness, etc., as such, than for the opposite. Simplicity may give God a chance, but it is not necessarily spiritual. It may be a matter of taste. What sublime thoughts and ideas, in poetry, music and art often can go hand in hand with moral degeneracy and profligacy!
How near to the truth in perception and interpretation can the mystical go! What wonderful things can the imagination see, even in the Bible! What thrills of aw, amazement, ecstasy, can be shot through an audience or congregation by a master soul! But it may all be a false world with no Divine and eternal issues. It may all go to make up this life here, and relieve it of its drabness, but it ends thee. What an artificial world we live in! When the music is progressing and the romantic elements are in evidence - the dress and tinsel - and human personalities are parading, see how pride and rivalry assert themselves, and what a power of make believe enters the atmosphere! Yes, an artificial world. We have been in it and know the reactions afterward.
How hollow, how empty; Dead Sea fruit! The tragedy in this melodrama is that it is 'real life' to so many. This soul-world is the devil's imitation. It is all false, wherever we may find it, whether associated with religion or not.
Those of us who have tasted of this world's springs have recognized the kinship between what is there and what is in religion so far as that soul-nature is concerned. It is only a matter of difference of realm not of nature. What the music and drama of the world produce in one way - the soul-stirring, rousing, craving: the pathos, tears, contempt, hatred, anger, melancholy, pleasure, etc. - are all the same, only under different auspices and in a different setting, and the fact is, that it passes and we are really no further on. A little better music, a change of preacher, a less familiar place, a few more thrills, will perhaps stimulate our souls, but where are we, after all? How satan must laugh behind his mask! Oh, for reality, the reality of the eternal! Oh, that men might see that, while a highly cultured soul with a keen sense of the beautiful and sublime is immeasurably preferable to a sordid one so far as this world is concerned, it is not necessarily a criterion that such has a personal living knowledge of God - of God as a Person - and has really been born anew! Occultism - the power to see deeper than the average, to sense what most do not sense, to handle the abstruse, to touch unseen forces, - is not spirituality in the Divine sense. The soul realm is a complex and dangerous one, and can take most people out of their depths, but then land them into moral, mental and physical ruin, with all hope gone.
When we pray for 'Revival' let us be careful as to what we are after and as to what means we use to promote it, or carry it on.
Having been more precise as to the functions of the soul, we must go a little further at this point, as to those of the spirit.
(continued with # 13 - "The Attributes of the Human Spirit")