Chapter I The Capacities Of The Soul

Step by step, we have tried to gather together the little knowledge that is open to us about Body, Mind and Heart1,  Will and Conscience. We have seen that no clear definition of either of these is possible, and that there is no rigid boundary-line between any two. The powers of Mansoul are many, but they are one; and, by careful scrutiny, we gather hints enough from the behaviour of each to help us in discerning those laws of our being whereby we must order ourselves.

We leave now the outer courts of Mind and Body, the holy places of the Affections and the Will, and enter that holy of holies where man performs his priestly functions; for every man is of necessity a priest, bound to officiate in his most holy place.

In every Mansoul, the 'Soul' is the temple dedicate to the service of the living God. How wonderful is the Soul of man! We commonly speak of ourselves as finite beings; but whoever has experienced the rush of the Soul upon a great thought will wonder whether we are indeed finite creatures, or whether it is not because we have touch with the infinite that we have capacity for God.

What is there that baffles the understanding of a man, or that is out of the range of his thoughts, the reach of his aspirations? He is, it is true, baffled on all hands by his ignorance, the illimitable ignorance of the wisest: but ignorance is not incapacity; and the wings of a man's Soul beat with impatience against the bars of this ignorance; he would out, out, into the universe of infinite thought and infinite possibilities. How is the Soul of a man to be satisfied? Crowned kings have thrown up dominion because they want that which is greater than kingdoms. Profound scholars fret under the limitations which keep them playing upon the margin of the unsounded ocean of knowledge. No great love can satisfy itself in loving. There is no satisfaction for the Soul of a man, save one, because the things about him are finite, measurable, incomplete; and his reach is beyond his grasp; he has an urgent, incessant, irrepressible need of the infinite.

Even we lesser people, who are not kings or poets or scholars, are eager and content enough in pursuit; but we know well that when we have attained, be it place or power, love or wealth, the old insatiable hunger will be upon us: we shall still want––we know not what!

St Augustine knew, when he said that the Soul of man was made for God, and could never be satisfied until it found Him. But our religious thought has become so poor and commonplace, so self-concerned, that we interpret this saying of the sainted man's to mean, we shall not be satisfied till we find all the good we include in the name, salvation. We belie and belittle ourselves by this thought: it is not anything for ourselves we want; and the sops that we throw to our souls, in the way of one success after another, fail to keep us quiet.

'I want, am made for, and must have a God.' We have within us an infinite capacity for love, loyalty, and service; but we are deterred, checked on every hand, by limitations in the objects of our love and service. It is only to our God that we can give the whole, and only from Him can we get the love we exact; a love which is like the air, an element to live in, out of which we gasp and perish. Where, but in our God, the Maker of heaven and earth, shall we find the key to all knowledge? Where, but in Him, whose is the power, the secret of dominion? And, our search and demand for goodness and beauty baffled here, disappointed there––it is only in our God we find the whole. The Soul is for God, and God is for the Soul, as light is for the eye, and the eye is for light. And, seeing that the Soul of the poorest and most ignorant has capacity for God, and can find no way of content without Him, is it wholly true to say that man is a finite being? But words are baffling; we cannot tell what we mean by finite and infinite.

We say there is no royal road to learning; but this highest attainment of man is for the simple and needy; it is reached by the road in which the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err. In this fact, also, we get a glimpse of the infinite for which we hunger. How strange it is to our finite notions that ALL should be offered to the grasp of the simplest and the least! 


1See Book I., 'Self-Knowledge.