Of social Hierarchies, and Religions the parent of these, why speak, in presence of social Anarchy such as is here symbolised! The Apotheosis of Hudson beckons to still deeper gulfs on the religious side of our affairs; into which one shudders to look down. For the eye rests only on the blackness of darkness; and, shrunk to hissing whispers, inaudible except to the finer ear, come moanings of the everlasting tempest, and tones of alti guai. Nor is a certain vertigo quite absent from the strongest heads; a mad impulse to take the leap, then, and dwell with Eternal Death, since it seems to be the rule at present! One hurried glance or two, — holding well by what parapets-there still are; — and then let us hasten to begone.
Worship, what we call human religion, has undergone various phases in the history of mankind. To the primitive man all Forces of Nature were divine: either for propitiation or for admiration, many things, and in a sense all things, demanded worship from him. But especially the Noble Human Soul was divine to him; and announced, as it ever does, with direct impressiveness the Inspiration of the Highest; demanding worship from the primitive man. Whereby, as has been explained elsewhere, this latter form of worship, hero-worship as we call it, did, among the ancient peoples, attract and subdue to itself all other forms of human worship; irradiating them all with its own perennial worth, which indeed is all the worth they had, or that any worship can have. Human worship everywhere, so far as there lay any worth in it, was of the nature of a Hero-worship; this Universe wholly, this temporary Flame-image of the Eternal, was one beautiful and terrible Energy of Heroisms, presided over by a Divine Nobleness or Infinite Hero. Divine Nobleness forever friendly to the noble, forever hostile to the ignoble: all manner of "moral rules,"and well "sanctioned" too, flowed naturally out of this primeval Intuition into Nature; — which, I believe, is still the true fountain of moral rules, though a much-forgotten one at present; and indeed it seems to be the one unchangeable, eternally indubitable "Intuition into Nature" we have yet heard of in these parts.
To the primitive man, whether he looked at moral rule, or even at physical fact, there was nothing not divine. Flame was the God Loki, &c.; this visible Universe was wholly the vesture of an Invisible Infinite; every event that occurred in it a symbol of the immediate presence of God. Which it intrinsically is, and forever will be, let poor stupid mortals remember or forget it! The difference is, not that God has withdrawn; but that men's minds have fallen hebetated, stupid, that their hearts are dead, awakening only to some life about meal-time and cookery-time; and their eyes are grown dim, blinkard, a kind of horn-eyes like those of owls, available chiefly for catching mice.
Most excellent Fitzsmithytrough, it is a long time since I have stopped short in admiring your stupendous railway miracles. I was obliged to strike work, and cease admiring in that direction. Very stupendous indeed; considerable improvement in old roadways and wheel and-axle carriages; velocity unexpectedly great, distances attainable ditto ditto: all this is undeniable. But, alas, all this is still small deer for me, my excellent Fitzsmithytrough; truly nothing more than an unexpected take of mice for the owlish part of you and me. The distances, you unfortunate Fitz? The distances of London to Aberdeen, to Ostend, to Vienna, are still infinitely inadequate to me! Will you teach me the winged flight through Immensity, up to the Throne dark with excess of bright? You unfortunate, you grin as an ape would at such a question; you do not know that unless you can reach thither in some effectual most veritable sense, you are a lost Fitzsmithytrough, doomed to Hela's death-realm and the Abyss where mere brutes are buried. I do not want cheaper cotton, swifter railways; I want what Novalis calls "God, Freedom, Immortality": will swift railways, and sacrifices to Hudson, help me towards that?
As propitiation or as admiration, "worship" still continues among men, will always continue; and the phase it has in ally given epoch may be taken as the ruling phenomenon which determines all others in that epoch. If Odin, who "invented runes," or literatures, and rhythmic logical speech, and taught men to despise death, is worshiped in one epoch; and if Hudson, who conquered railway directors, and taught men to become suddenly rich by scrip, is worshiped in another, — the characters of these two epochs must differ a good deal! Nay, the worst of some epochs is, they have along with their real worship an imaginary, and are conscious only of the latter as worship. They keep a set of gods or fetishes, reckoned respectable to which they mumble prayers, asking themselves and others triumphantly, " Are not these respectable gods?" and all the while their real worship, or heart's love and admiration, which alone is worship, concentrates itself on quite other gods and fetishes, — on Hudsons and scrips, for instance, Thus is the miserable epoch rendered twice and tenfold miserable, and in a manner lost beyond redemption; having superadded to its stupid Idolatries, and brutish forgettings of the true God, which are leading it down daily towards ruin, an immense Hypocrisy which is the quintessence of all idolatries and misbeliefs and unbeliefs, and taken refuge under that, as under a thing safe! Europe generally has lain there a long time; England I think for about two hundred years, spinning certain cottons notably the while, and thinking it all right, — which it was very far from being. But the time of accounts, slowly advancing, has arrived at last for Europe, and is knocking at the door of England too; and it will be seen whether universal Make-belief can be the rule in English or human things; whether respectable Hebrew and other fetishes, combined with real worship of Yorkshire and other scrip, will answer the purpose here below or not!
It is certain, whatever gods or fetishes a man may have about him, and pay tithes to, and mumble prayers to, the real "religion" that is in him is his practical Hero-Worship. Whom or what do you in your very soul admire, and strive to imitate and emulate; is it God's servant or the Devil's? Clearly this is the whole question. There is no other religion in the man which can be of the slightest consequence in comparison. Theologies, doxologies, orthodoxies, heterodoxies, are not of moment except as subsidiary towards a good issue in this; if they help well in it, they are good; if not well or at all, they are nothing or bad.
This also is certain, Nations that do their Hero-worship well are blessed and victorious; Nations that do it ill are accursed, and in all fibres of their business grow daily more so, till their miserable afflictive and offensive situation becomes a last unendurable to Heaven and to Earth, and the so-called Nation, now an unhappy Populace of Misbelievers (miscreants was the old name) bursts into revolutionary tumult, and either reforms or else annihilates itself. How otherwise? Know whom to honour and emulate and follow, know whom to dishonour and avoid, and coerce under, hatches, as a foul rebellious thing: this is all the Law and all the Prophets. All conceivable evangels, bibles, homiletics, liturgies and litanies, and temporal and spiritual law-books for a man or a people, issue practically there. Be right in that, essentially you are not wrong in anything; you read this Universe tolerably aright, and are in the way to interpret well what the will of its Maker is. Be wrong in that, had you liturgies the recommendablest in Nature, and bodies of divinity as big as an Indiaman, it helps you not a whit; you are wrong in all things.
How in anything can you be right? You read this Universe in the inmost meaning of it wrong: gross idolatrous Misbelief is what I have to recognise in you; and, superadded, such a faith in the saving virtue of that deadliest of vices, Hypocrisy, as no People ever had before! Beautiful recommendable liturgies? Your liturgies, the recommendablest in Nature, are to me alarming and distressing; a turning of the Calmuck Prayer-mill, not my way of praying. This immense asthmatic spiritual Hurdygurdy, issuing practically in a set of demigods like Hudson, what is the good of it; why will you keep grinding it under poor men's windows? Since Hudson is Vishnu, let the Shasters and Vedas be conformable to him. Why chant divine psalms which belonged to a different Dispensation, and are now become idle and far worse? Not melodious to me, such a chant, in such a time! The sound of it, if you are not yet quite dead to spiritual sounds, is frightful and bodeful. I say, this litany of yours, were the wretched populace and population never so unanimous and loud in it, is a thing no God can hear; your miserable "religion," as you call it, is an idolatry of the name of Mumbojumbo, and I would advise you to discontinue it rather. You are infidels, persons without faith; not believing, what is true but what is untrue; Miscreants, as the old fathers well called you, — appointed too inevitably, unless you can repent and alter soon (of which I see no symptoms), to a fearful doom.
"It was always so," you indolently say? No, Friend Heavyside. it was not always so, and even till lately was never so; and I would much recommend you to sweep that foolish notion, which you often din at me, and always keep about you as one of your main consolations, quite out of your head. Once the notion was my own too; I know the notion very well! And I will invite you to ask yourself in all ways, Whether it is not possibly a rather torpid and poisonous, and likewise an altogether incorrect and delusive notion? capable, I assure you, of being quite swept out of a man's head; and greatly needing to be so, if the man would do any "reform," or other useful work, in this his day!
Till such notion go about its business, there cannot even be the attempt towards reform. Not so much as the pulling down, and melting into warming-pans, of those poor Brazen Representatives of Anarchy can be accomplished, but they will stand there prophesying as now, "Here is the 'New Aristocracy' you want; down on your knees, ye Christian souls!" — O my friend, and after Hudson and the other Idols have quite gone to warming-pans, have you computed what agonistic centuries await us, before any "New Aristocracy" worth calling by the name of "real," can by likelihood prove attainable? From the stormful trampling down of Sham Human Worth, and casting it with wrath and scorn into the meltingpot, onward to the silent sad repentant recognition of Real Human Worth, and the capability of again doing that some pious reverence, some reverence which were not practically worse than none: have you measured what an interval is there? centuries of desperate wrestle against Earth and Hell, on the part of all the brave men that are born. Too true this, though figuratively spoken! Perilous tempestuous struggle and pilgrimage, continual marching battle with the mud-serpents of this Earth and the demons of the Pit — centuries of such a marching fight (continually along the edge of Red Republic, too, and the Abyss) as brave men were not often called to in History before! — And the brave men will not yet so much as gird on their harness? They sit indolently saying, "It is already all as it can be, as it was wont to be; and universal suffrage and tremendous cheers will manage it!" —
Collins's old Peerage-Book, a dreadfully dull production, fills one with unspeakable reflections. Beyond doubt a most dull production, one of the darkest in the book kind ever realiscd by Chaos and man's brain; and it is properly all we English have for a Biographical Dictionary; — nay, if you think farther of it, for a National Bible. Friend Heavyside is much astonished; but I see what I mean here, and have long seen. Clear away the dust from your eyes, and you will ask this question, What is the Bible of a Nation, the practically credited God's-Message to a Nation? Is it not, beyond all else, the authentic Biography of its Heroic Souls? This is the real record of the Appearances of God in the History of a Nation; this, which all men to the very marrow of their bones can believe, and which teaches all men what the nature of the Universe, when you go to work in it, really is What the Universe was thought to be in Judea and other places, this too may be very interesting to know: but what it is in England here where we live and have our work to do, thiat is the interesting point. — "The Universe?" M'Croudy answers. "It is a huge dull Cattle-stall and St. Catherine's Wharf; with a few pleasant apartments upstairs for those that can make money. Make money; and don't bother about the Universe!" That is M'Croudy's notion; reckoned a quiet, innocent and rather wholesome notion just now; yet clearly fitter for a reflective pig than for a man; — working continual damnation, therefore, however quiet it be; and indeed I perceive it is one of the damnablest notions that ever came into the head of any two-legged animal without feathers in this world. That is M'Croudy's Bible; his Apology, poor fellow, for the Want of a Bible.
But how, among so many Shakspeares, and thinkers, and heroic singers, our National Bible should be in such a state; and how a poor dull Bookseller should have been left, — not to write in rhythmic coherency, worthy of a Poet and of all our, Poets, — but to shovel together, or indicate, in huge rubbish mountains incondite as Chaos, the materials for writing such a Book; of Books for England: this is abundantly amazing to me, and I wish much it could duly amaze us all. Literature has no nobler task; — in fact it has that one task, and except it be idle rope-dancing, no other. "The highest problem of Literature, "says Novalis, very justly, "is the Writing of a Bible."
Nevertheless, among these dust-mountains, with their antiquarian excerpts and sepulchral brasses, it is astonishing what strange fragments you do turn up, miraculous talismans to a reader that will think, — windows through which an old sunk world, as yet all built upon veracity, and full of rugged nobleness, becomes visible; to the mute wonder of the modern mind. It struck me much, that of these ancient peerages a very great majority had visibly had authentic "heroes" for their founders; noble men, of whose worth no clearsighted King could be in doubt; and that, in their descendants too, there did not cease a strain of heroism for some time, — the peership generally dying out, and disappearing, not long after that ceased. What a world, that old sunk one; Real Governors governing in it; Shams not yet anywhere recognised as tolerable in it! A world whose practical president was not Chaos with ballot-boxes, whose outcome was not Anarchy plus a street-constable. In how high and true a sense, the Almighty with continual enforcement of his Laws still presided there; and in all things as yet there was some degree of blessedness and nobleness there!
One's heart is sore to think how far, how very far all this has vanished from us; how the very tradition of it has disappeared; and it has ceased to be credible, to seem desirable. Till the like of it return, — yes, my constitutional friend, such is the sad fact, till the like of it, in new form, adapted to the new times, be again achieved by us; we are not properly a society at all; we are a lost gregarious horde, with Kings of Scrip on this hand, and Famishing Connaughts and Distressed Needlewomen on that, — presided over by the Anarch Old. A lost horde, — who, in bitter feeling of the intolerable injustice that presses upon all men, will not long be able to continue even gregarious; but will have to split into street-barricades, and internecine battle with one another; and to fight, if wisdom for some new real Peerage be not granted us, till we all die, mutually butchered, and so rest, — so if not otherwise!
Till the time of James the First, I find that real heroic merit more or less was actually the origin of peerages; never, till towards the end of that bad reign were peerages bargained for, or bestowed on men palpably of no worth except their money or connexion. But the evil practice, once begun, spread rapidly; and now the Peerage-Book is what we see; — a thing miraculous in the other extreme. A kind of Proteus' flock, very curious to meet upon the lofty mountains, so many of them being natives of the deep! — Our menagerie of live Peers in Parliament is like that of our Brazen Statues in the market-place; the selection seemingly is made much in the same way, and with the same degree of felicity, and succcssful accuracy in choice. Our one steady regulated supply is the class definable as Supreme Stump-Orators in the Lawyer department: the class called Chancellors flows by something like fixed conduits towards the Peerage; the rest, like our Brazen Statues, come by popular rule-of-thumb.
Stump-orators, supreme or other, are not beautiful to me in these days: but the immense power of Lawyers among us is sufficiently intelligible. I perceive, it proceeds from two causes. First, they preside over the management and security of "Property," which is our God at present; they are thus properly our Pontiffs, the highest Priests we have. Then furthermore, they possess the talent most valued, that of the Tongue; and seem to us the most gifted of our intelligences, thereby provoking a spontaneous loyalty and worship.
What think you of a country whose kings go by genealogy, and are the descendants of successful Lawyers? A poor weather-worn, tanned, curried, wind-dried human creature, called a Chancellor, all or almost all gone to horsehair and officiality; the whole existence of him tanned, by long maceration, public exposure, tugging and manipulation, to the toughness of Yorkshire leather, — meseems I have seen a beautifuller man! Not a leather man would I by preference appoint to beget my kings. Not lovely to me is the leather species of men; to whose tanned soul God's Universe has become a jangling logic-cockpit and little other. If indeed it have not become far less and worse: for the wretched tanned Chancellor, I am told, is usually acquainted with the art of lying too, — considerable part of his trade, as I have been informed, is the talent of lying in a way that cannot be laid hold of; a dreadful trick to learn! Out of such a man there cannot be expected much "revelation of the Beautiful," I should say. — O Bull, were I in your place, I would try either to get other Peers or else to abolish the concern, — which latter indeed, by your acquiescence in such nominations, and by many other symptoms, I judge to be unconsciously your fixed intention
You have seen many Chancellors made Peers in these late generations, Mr. Bull. And now tell me, Which was the Chancellor you did really love or honour, to any remarkable degree? Alas, you never within authentic memory loved any of them; you couldn't, no man could! You lazily stared with some semblance of admiration at the big wig, huge purse, reputation for divine talent, and sublime proficiency in the art of tongue-fence: but to love him, — that, Mr. Bull, was once for all a thing you could not manage. Who of the seed of Adam could? From the time of Chancellor Bacon downwards (and beyond that your Chancellors are dark to you as the Muftis of Constantinople), I challenge you to show me one Chancellor for whom, had the wigs, purses, reputations &c. been peeled off him, who would have given his weight in Smithfield beef sinking offal. You unhappy Bull, governed by Kings you have not the smallest regard for, wandering in an extinct world of wearisome, oppressive and expensive shadows, — nothing real in it but the Smithfield beef, nothing preternatural in it but the Chartisms and threatened street-barricades, and this not celestial but infernal!
Sure enough, I find, O Heavyside, England once was a Hierarchy; as every Human Society, not either dead or else hastening towards death, always is: but it has long ceased to be so to any tolerable degree of perfection; and is now, by its Hudson and other Testimonials, testifying in a silent way to the thoughtful, what otherwise, by its thousandfold anarchic depravities, miseries, god-forgettings and open devil-worships it has long loudly taught them to expect, that we are now wending towards the culmination in this particular. That to the modern English populations, Supreme Hero and Supreme Scoundrel are, perhaps as nearly as is possible to human creatures, indistinguishable. That it is totally uncertain, perhaps even the odds against you, whether the figure whom said population mount to the place of honour, is not in Nature and Fact dishonourable; whether the man to whom they raise a column does not deserve a coal-shaft. And in fine, poor devils, that their universal suffrage, as spoken, as acted, meditated, and imagined; universal suffrage, — I do not say ballot-boxed and cunningly constitutionalised, but boiled, distilled, digested, quintessenced, till you get into the very heart's heart of it, — is, to the rational soul, except for stock-exchange, and the like very humble practical purposes, worth express zero, or nearly so. I think probably as near zero as the unassisted human faculties and destinies ever came, or are like to come.
Hierarchy? O Heaven! If Chaos himself sat umpire, what better could he do? Here are a set of human demigods, as if chosen to his hand. Hierarchy with a vengeance; — if instead of God, a vulpine beggarly Beelzebub or swollen Mammon were our Supreme Hieros or Holy, this would be a Hierarchy! I say, if you want Chaos for your master, adopt this; — if you don't, I beg you make haste to adopt some other; for this is the broad way to him! The Eternal Anarch, with his old waggling addlehead full of mere windy rumour, and his old insatiable paunch full of mere hunger and indigestion tragically blended, and the hissing discord of all the Four Elements persuasively pleading to him; — he, set to choose, would be vote apt to vote for such a set of demigods to you.
Last modified 25 September 2003