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Life and Expression






From: Love Life Work

By exercise of its faculties the spirit grows, just as a muscle grows
strong thru continued use. Expression is necessary. Life is expression,
and repression is stagnation--death.

Yet, there can be right and wrong expression. If a man permits his life
to run riot and only the animal side of his nature is allowed to express
itself, he is repressing his highest and best, and the qualities not
used atrophy and die.

Men are punished by their sins, not for them. Sensuality, gluttony, and
the life of license repress the life of the spirit, and the soul never
blossoms; and this is what it is to lose one's soul. All adown the
centuries thinking men have noted these truths, and again and again we
find individuals forsaking in horror the life of the senses and devoting
themselves to the life of the spirit. This question of expression
through the spirit, or through the senses--through soul or body--has
been the pivotal point of all philosophy and the inspiration of
all religion.

Every religion is made up of two elements that never mix any more than
oil and water mix. A religion is a mechanical mixture, not a chemical
combination, of morality and dogma. Dogma is the science of the unseen:
the doctrine of the unknown and unknowable. And in order to give this
science plausibility, its promulgators have always fastened upon it
morality. Morality can and does exist entirely separate and apart from
dogma, but dogma is ever a parasite on morality, and the business of the
priest is to confuse the two.

But morality and religion never saponify. Morality is simply the
question of expressing your life forces--how to use them? You have so
much energy; and what will you do with it? And from out the multitude
there have always been men to step forward and give you advice for a
consideration. Without their supposed influence with the unseen we might
not accept their interpretation of what is right and wrong. But with the
assurance that their advice is backed up by Deity, followed with an
offer of reward if we believe it, and a threat of dire punishment if we
do not, the Self-appointed Superior Class has driven men wheresoever it
willed. The evolution of formal religions is not a complex process, and
the fact that they embody these two unmixable things, dogma and
morality, is a very plain and simple truth, easily seen, undisputed by
all reasonable men. And be it said that the morality of most religions
is good. Love, truth, charity, justice and gentleness are taught in them
all. But, like a rule in Greek grammar, there are many exceptions. And
so in the morality of religions there are exceptional instances that
constantly arise where love, truth, charity, gentleness and justice are
waived on suggestion of the Superior Class, that good may follow. Were
it not for these exceptions there would be no wars between
Christian nations.

The question of how to express your life will probably never down, for
the reason that men vary in temperament and inclination. Some men have
no capacity for certain sins of the flesh; others there be, who, having
lost their inclination for sensuality through too much indulgence, turn
ascetics. Yet all sermons have but one theme: how shall life be
expressed? Between asceticism and indulgence men and races swing.

Asceticism in our day finds an interesting manifestation in the
Trappists, who live on a mountain top, nearly inaccessible, and deprive
themselves of almost every vestige of bodily comfort, going without food
for days, wearing uncomfortable garments, suffering severe cold; and
should one of this community look upon the face of a woman he would
think he was in instant danger of damnation. So here we find the extreme
instance of men repressing the faculties of the body in order that the
spirit may find ample time and opportunity for exercise.

Somewhere between this extreme repression of the monk and the license of
the sensualist lies the truth. But just where is the great question; and
the desire of one person, who thinks he has discovered the norm, to
compel all other men to stop there, has led to war and strife untold.
All law centers around this point--what shall men be allowed to do? And
so we find statutes to punish "strolling play actors," "players on
fiddles," "disturbers of the public conscience," "persons who dance
wantonly," "blasphemers," and in England there were, in the year 1800,
thirty-seven offenses that were legally punishable by death. What
expression is right and what is not, is simply a matter of opinion. One
religious denomination that now exists does not allow singing;
instrumental music has been to some a rock of offense, exciting the
spirit through the sense of hearing, to improper thoughts--"through the
lascivious pleasing of the lute"; others think dancing wicked, while a
few allow pipe-organ music, but draw the line at the violin; while still
others use a whole orchestra in their religious service. Some there be
who regard pictures as implements of idolatry; while the Hook-and-Eye
Baptists look upon buttons as immoral.

Strange evolutions are often witnessed within the life of one
individual. For instance, Leo Tolstoy, a great and good man, at one time
a sensualist, has now turned ascetic; a common evolution in the lives of
the saints. But excellent as this man is, there is yet a grave
imperfection in his cosmos which to a degree vitiates the truth he
desires to teach: he leaves the element of beauty out of his formula.
Not caring for harmony as set forth in color, form and sweet sounds, he
is quite willing to deny all others these things which minister to
their well-being. There is in most souls a hunger for beauty, just as
there is physical hunger. Beauty speaks to their spirits through the
senses; but Tolstoy would have your house barren to the verge of
hardship. My veneration for Count Tolstoy is profound, yet I mention him
here to show the grave danger that lies in allowing any man, even one of
the wisest of men, to dictate to us what is best. We ourselves are the
better judges. Most of the frightful cruelties inflicted on men during
the past have arisen simply out of a difference of opinion that arose
through a difference in temperament. The question is as alive to-day as
it was two thousand years ago--what expression is best? That is, what
shall we do to be saved? And concrete absurdity consists in saying that
we must all do the same thing. Whether the race will ever grow to a
point where men will be willing to leave the matter of life-expression
to the individual is a question; but the millennium will never arrive
until men cease trying to compel all other men to live after
one pattern.

Most people are anxious to do what is best for themselves and least
harmful for others. The average man now has intelligence enough: Utopia
is not far off, if the self-appointed folk who rule us, and teach us for
a consideration, would only be willing to do unto others as they would
be done by, that is to say, mind their own business and cease coveting
things that belong to other people. War among nations and strife among
individuals is a result of the covetous spirit to possess.

A little more patience, a little more charity for all, a little more
love; with less bowing down to the past, and the silent ignoring of
pretended authority; a brave looking forward to the future, with more
self-confidence and more faith in our fellow men, and the race will be
ripe for a great burst of life and light.

[Illustration]





Next: Time and Chance

Previous: A Prayer



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