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SCENE: A London Drawing-room. Time:
5 o'clock P.M.
The afternoon tea apparatus in one corner of the room, and Lady Fritterly on a couch in another. The Hon. Mrs. Allmash is announced.
Lady Fritterly. How too kind, dear, of you to come, and so early, too! I've got such a lot of interesting people coming and we are going to discuss the religion of the future.
Mrs. Allmash. How quite delightful! I do so long for something more substantial than the theologies of the past! It is becoming quite puzzling to know what to teach one's children; mine are getting old enough now to understand about things, and one ought to teach them something. I was talking about it to that charming Professor Germsell last night.
Lady F. Well, I hope he is coming presently, so you will be able to continue your conversation. Then there is Mr. Coldwaite, the celebrated Comtist; and NEW SERIES.-VOL. XL., No. I
Mr. Fussle, who writes those delightful articles on prehistoric æsthetic evolution; and Mr. Drygull, the eminent theosophist, whose stories about esoteric Buddhism are quite too extraordinary, and who has promised to bring a Khoja.
a most interesting moral specimen, my dear-who has just arrived from Bombay; and Lord Fondleton.
Mrs. A. Lord Fondleton ! I did not know that he was interested in such subjects.
Lady F. He says he is, dear; between ourselves but this, of course, is strictly entre nous-I rather think that it is I who interests him but I encourage him, poor fellow; it may wean him from the unprofitable life he is leading, and turn his mind to higher things. Oh! I almost forgot then there is my new beauty!
Mrs. A. Your new beauty!
Lady F. Yes; if you could only have dined with me the other night, you would have met her. I had such a per
fect little dinner. Just think! A poet, an actor, a journalist, a painter, a wit, and a new beauty. I'll tell you how I found her. She really belongs at present to Lady Islington and myself; but of course, now we have started her, all the other people will snap her up. We found that we both owed that vulgar upstart, Mrs. Houndsley, a visit, and went there together-because I always think two people are less easily bored than one-when suddenly the most per fect apparition you ever beheld stood before us an old master dress, an immense pattern, a large hat rim encircling a face, some rich auburn hair inside, and the face a perfect one. Well, you know, it turned out that she was not born in the purple-her husband is just a clerk in Burley's Bank; but we both insisted on being introduced to her -for, you see, my dear, there is no doubt about it, she is a ready-made. beauty. The same idea occurred to Lady Islington, so we agreed as drove away that we would bring her out. The result is, that she went to Islington House on Tuesday, and came to me on Thursday, and created a perfect furor on both occasions; so now she is fairly started.
Mrs. A. How wonderfully clever and fortunate you are, dear! What is her name?
Lady F. Mrs. Gloring.
Mrs. A. Oh yes; everybody was talking about her at the Duchess's last night. I am dying to see her; but they say that she is rather a fool.
Lady F. Pure spite and jealousy. Yet that is the way these Christian women of society obey the precept of their religion, and love their neighbors as themselves.
[Lord Fondleton is announced, accompanied by a stranger.
Lord Fondleton. How d'ye do, Lady Fritterly? I am sure you will excuse my taking the liberty of introducing Mr. Rollestone, a very old friend of mine, to you; he has only just returned to England, after an absence of so many years that he is quite a stranger in London.
just telling Lady Fritterly what an interesting conversation we were having last night when it was unfortunately interrupted. I shall be so glad if you would explain more fully now what you were telling me. I am sure everybody would be interested.
Lady F. Oh do, Mr. Germsell, it would be quite too nice of you. And, Mr. Drygull, will you ask the Khoja to-?
Mr. Drygull. My friend's name is Ali Seyyid, Lady Fritterly.
Lady F. Pray excuse my stupidity, Mr. Allyside, and come and sit near me. Lord Fondleton, find Mrs. Gloring a chair.
Lord F. [aside to Mrs. Gloring]. Who's our black friend?
Mrs. G. I am sure I don't know. I think Lady Fritterly called him a codger.
Lord F. Ah, he looks like it-and a rum one at that, as our American cousins say.
Mrs. G. Hush! Mr. Germsell is going to begin.
Mr. Germsell. Mrs. Allmash asked me last night whether my thoughts had been directed to the topic which is uppermost just now in so many minds in regard to the religion of the future, and I ventured to tell her .that it would be found to be contained in the generalized expediency of the past.
Mr. Fussle. Pardon me, but the religion of the future must be the result of an evolutionary process, and I don't see how generalizations of past expediency are to help the evolution of humanity.
G. They throw light upon it; and the study of the evolutionary process so far teaches us how we may evolve in the future. For instance, you have only got to think of evolution as divided into moral, astronomic, geologic, biologic, psychologic, sociologic, aesthetic, and so forth, and you will find that there is always an evolution of the parts into which it divides itself, and that therefore there is but one evolution going on everywhere after the same manner. The work of science has been not to extend our experience, for that is impossible, but to systematize it; and in that systematization of it will be found the religion of which we are in search.
D. May I ask why you deem it impossible that our experience can be extended?
G. Because it has itself defined its limits. The combined experience of humanity, so far as its earliest records go, has been limited by laws, the nature of which have been ascertained: it is impossible that it should be transcended without violation of the conclusions arrived at by positive science.
D. I can more easily understand that the conclusions arrived at by men of science should be limited, than that the experience of humanity should be confined by those conclusions; but I fail to perceive why those philosophers should deny the existence of certain human faculties, because they don't happen to possess them themselves. think I know a Rishi who can produce experiences which would scatter all their conclusions to the winds, when the whole system which is built upon them would collapse.
Mrs. A. Oh, how awfully interesting! Dear Mr. Drygull, do tell us some of the extraordinary things the Rishi can do.
D. If you will only all of you listen attentively, and if Mr. Germsell will have the goodness to modify to some degree the prejudiced attitude of mind common to all men of science, you will hear him as plainly as I can at this moment beating a tom-tom in his cottage in the Himalayas.
[Mr. G. gets up impatiently, and walks to the other end of the back drawing
D. [casting a compassionate glance after him]. Perhaps it is better so. Now please, Lady Fritterly, I must request a few moments of the most profound silence on the part of all. You will not hear the sound as though coming from a distance, but it will seem rather like a muffled drumming taking
place inside your head, scarcely perceptible at first, when its volume will gradually increase.
Lord F. [aside to Mrs. G.] Some bad champagne produced the same phenomenon in my head last night.
Lady F. [severely]. Hush! Lord Fondleton.
[There is a dead silence for some minutes.
Mrs. G. [excitedly]. Oh, I hear it; it is something like a woodpecker inside of one.
D. Not a word, my dear madam, if you please.
Lady F. [after a long pause]. I imagine I hear a very faint something; there it goes-boom, boom, boom-at the back of my tympanum. Lord F. pecker. Mrs. G. like tic-tic-tic.
'That's not like a wood
No; it seems to me more
Lady F. There, it is getting louder, like the distant artillery, and yet so near. Oh, Mr. Drygull, what a wonderful man the Rishi must be !
D. Yes; he knew that at this hour to-day I should need an illustration of his power, and he is kindly furnishing us with one. This is an experience which I think our friend over there [looking toward Mr. Germsell] would find it difficult to classify.
G. Fussle, have the goodness to step here for a moment-[points to a woman beating a carpet in the back yard of an adjoining house]. That is the tom tom in the Himalayas they are listening to.
F. Well, now, do you know, I don't feel quite sure of that. I was certainly conscious of a sort of internal hearing of something when you called me, which
was not that; it was as though I had fiddlestrings in my head and somebody was beginning to strum upon them.
G. Fiddlestrings indeed-say rather fiddlesticks. I am surprised at a sensible man like yourself listening to such
F. [testily]. It is much greater nonsense for you to tell me I don't hear something I do hear, than for me to hear something you can't hear. You may be deaf, while my sense of hearing may be evolving. Can you hear what Lord Fondleton is saying to Mrs. Gloring at this moment?
G. No, and I don't want to. F. Ah, there it is. You won't hear anything you don't want to. Now I can, and he ought not to say it-look how she is blushing. Oh, I forgot you are short-sighted. Well, you see. I can hear farther than you, and see farther than you. Why should you set a limit on the evolution of the senses, and say that no man in the future can ever hear or see farther than men have in the past? How dare you, sir, with your imperfect faculties and your perfunctory method of research, which can only cover an infinitesimal period in the existence of this planet, venture to limit the potentialities of those laws which have already converted us from ascidians into men, and which may as easily evolve in us the faculty of hearing tomtoms in the Himalayas while we are sitting here, as of that articulate speech or intelligent reasoning which, owing to their operation, we now possess.
G. Pardon me, you do not possess them, Mr. Fussle.
Lady F. Mr. Fussle, might I ask you to take this cup of tea to Mrs. Allmash? Mr. Germsell, it would be too kind of you to hand Mrs. Gloring the cake.
F. [savagely]. We will continue this conversation at the Minerva.
Mrs. A. [apart to the Khoja]. Oh, Mr. Allyside, I am so glad to hear that you speak English so perfectly! I want you to tell me all about your religion; perhaps it may help us, you know, to find the religion of the future, which we are all longing for. And I am so interested in oriental religions! there is something so charmingly picturesque about them. I quite dote on
those dear old Shastras, and Vedas, and Puranas; they contain such a lot of beautiful things, you know.
Ali Seyyid. I know as little, madam, of the Indian books you mention as I do of the Bible, which I have always heard was a very good book, and contained also a great many beautiful things. I am neither a Hindoo nor a Buddhist-in fact, it is forbidden to me by my religion to tell you exactly what I am.
Mrs. A. But indeed I won't tell anybody, if you will only confide in me. Oh, this mystery is too exquisitely delicious! Who knows, perhaps you might make a convert of me?
Ali S. [with an admiring gaze]. Madam, you would be a prize so well worth winning, that you almost tempt The first of our secrets is that we are all things to all men, until we are quite sure of the sympathy of the listener; then we venture a step farther.
Mrs. A. How wise that is! and how unlike the system adopted by Christians ! You may be sure of my most entire sympathy.
Ali S. The next principle is-but this is a profound secret, which you must promise not to repeat-the rejection of all fixed rules of religion or morality. It really does not matter in the least what you do the internal disposition is the only thing of any value. Now, as far as I understand, you have already got rid of the religion, or you would not be looking for a new one; all you have to do is to get rid of the morality and there you are.
Mrs. A. [with an expression of horror and alarm]. Yes, there I should be indeed. Oh, Mr. Allyside, what dreadful man you are! Who started such an extraordinary doctrine?
Ali S. Well, his name was Hassanbin Saba-commonly known among Westerns as the Old Man of the
Mountain. His followers, owing to the value they attached to murder as a remedial agent, have been known by the name of the Assassins.'
Mrs. A. Oh, good gracious!
Lady F. My dear Louisa, what is the matter? You look quite frightened.
Ali S. Mrs. Allmash is a little alarmed because I proposed a new morality for the future, as well as a new religion.
Mr. Coldwaite. Excuse me; but in discussions of this sort, I think it is most important that we should clearly understand the meanings of the terms we employ. Now I deny that any difference subsists between religion and morality. That any such distinction should exist in men's minds is due to the fact that dogma is inseparably connected with religion. If you eliminate dogma, what does religion consist of but morality? Substitute the love of Humanity for the love of the Unknowable-which is the subject of worship. of Mr. Germsell; or of the Deity, who is the object of worship of the majority of mankind--and you obtain a stimulus to morality which will suffice for all human need. It is in this great emotion, as it seems to me, that you will find at once the religion and the morality of the future.
G. From what source do you get the force which enables you to love humanity with a devotion so intense that it shall elevate your present moral standard?
C. From humanity itself. I am not going to be entrapped into getting it from any unknowable source; the love of humanity, whether it be humanity as existing, or when absorbed by death into the general mass, is perpetually generating itself.
Mrs. A. Then it must produce itself from what was there before; therefore it must be the same love, which keeps on going round and round.
Lord F. A sort of circular love, in fact. I've often felt it; but I didn't think it right to encourage it.
Lady F. Lord Fondleton, how can you be so silly? Don't pay attention to him, Mr. Coldwaite. I confess I still don't see how you can get a higher love out of humanity than humanity has already got in it, unless you are to look to some other source for it.
C. Why, mayn't it evolve from itself? G. How can it evolve without a propulsive force behind it? The thing is too papable an absurdity to need argument. You can no more fix limits to the origin of force than you can destroy its persistency.
Lord F. [aside]. That seems to me one of those sort of things no fellow can understand.
G. All you can say of it is that it is a conditioned effect of an unconditioned cause. That no idea or feeling arises, save as a result of some physical force expended in producing it, is fast becoming a commonplace of science; and whoever duly weighs the evidence will see that nothing but an overwhelming bias in favor of a preconceived theory can explain its nonacceptance. I think my friend, Mr. Herbert Spencer, has demonstrated this conclusively.
C. Pardon me; do I understand you to say that the mental process which enabled Mr. Spencer to elaborate his system of philosophy, or that the pro-' found emotion which finds its expression in a love for humanity, are the result of physical force alone?
G. He says so himself, and he ought to know. His whole system of philosophy is nothing more nor less than the result of the liberation of certain forces produced by chemical action in the brain.
D. Then, if I understand you rightly, if the chemical changes which have been taking place for some years past in his brain had liberated a different set of forces, we should have had altogether a different philosophy.
G. The chemical changes would in that case have been different. D. But the changes must be produced by forces acting on them.
G. Exactly a force which has its source in the Unknowable produces a certain chemical action in the brain by which it becomes converted into thought or emotion, into love or philosophy into art or religion, as the case may be what the nature of that love or philosophy, or art or religion, may be must depend entirely on the nature of the chemical change.
Lord F. [aside to Mrs. Gloring]. I feel the most delightful chemical changes taking place now in my brain, dear Mrs. Gloring. May I explain to you the exquisite nature of the forces that are being liberated, and which produce emotions of the most tender character.
Lady F. [sharply]. What are you saying, Lord Fondleton ?
Lord F. Ahem-I was saying-ahem -I was saying that we shall be having some Yankee inventing steam-thinking