Life and Expression

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 an

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.