How the Scientific and the Religious Interpretations of the World Differ[1]
Joel Hastings Metcalf, Winchester, MA
Berry Street Essay, 1916

Delivered at the Ministerial Conference

May 1916


[Metcalf delivered the 1916 essay. We have no source for the title. Metcalfe was a well known astronomer. (A number of comets are named after him.) It seems highly likely that the topic addressed in the essay posted is one he would have taken up with his colleagues in a Berry Street essay. It was found in his ministry file at Harvard.]

There are some ways in which science and religion occupy essentially the same ground and every advance for science is a gain for religion. Science postulates that the world is intelligible and every fulfillment of its principle is the discovery of mind at the heart of the universe.

As Robinson Crusoe knew, when he found foot prints in the sand that other human beings had visited his island, so every advance of science which shows that the world is intelligible is of the nature of the discovery of foot-prints of the Creator. The idealism of Science has reality only in the ideality of the Universe.

To find meaning in the book of nature is to reproduce the thought of its author.

It would be too much to say, however, that the point of view of science and religion in some of their aspects does not differ widely.

Science approaches the world and attempts to unravel its intricate secret by the method of analysis.

It would divide to conquer, taking things to pieces, simplifying, and then say the whole is the sum of all its parts.

But unfortunately for ease of understanding, the world is not so simple, for the universe is more than the sum of all its parts. It is the sum of all its parts plus the power which holds those parts together and plus what other ideal content it contains. Take, let us say, some work of art, some old masterpiece, like the Dresden Madonna. The scientific analysis of its various parts no doubt gives us an added knowledge. From a material point of view we know more when we are told about the structure of the canvas and the various pigments which are so brilliant after these many years. To know about its history as a painting and the place of Raphael in the development of Italian Art certainly adds to our appreciation, but in all this we have not reached the heart of the picture which is something "that hides in the parts and shines in the whole”.

Analysis can never give this for, having taken the work of art to pieces under the assumption that all the reality clings to the parts, the mind adds them up again and finds that the sum falls far short of its untouched completeness.

The same is true of the reality of the world. Analysis dissects, but it is only the dead body of reality which it can cut to pieces with its scalpel and analyze in its test tube. The older science attempted to explain the complex world by a few fundamental principles.

In old Greek times, philosophers reduced everything to air or fire or water or some other physical phenomenon.

In modern times they have thought to take the infinite variety out of reality by the use of some such abstraction as fixity or flux, matter, the unconscious, the absolute, or some kind of atomism. Whatever it is which they take for their starting point they strive to weave from their simple elements a world theory which all the universe mast obey.

What they are searching for by their analysis, since they always use the analytical method, is to find the principle or essence of reality.

By separation of what they call the essential from the non-essential, reality from its form or accident, they obtain results more and more abstract, by distillation and the boiling down process, until their residuum is certainly universal, but at the same time, usually meaningless and valueless.

Perhaps they took one point on the earth of fact like Cogito ergo Sum and then spun their intellectual cobwebs in the air of fancy until they glistened in the sun of their imagination and wove a gossamer bridge to the temple of reality above them. As Edward Roland Sill says,

"The philosopher his wheel of logic spun all day,
All day he held his system, grinding it finer and finer,
Till it was fined away”.

Or else in the interest of ease and simplicity they thought to explain things downward, moving, from the many to the one, from the concrete to the abstract, from the complex to the simple.

It is because science legitimately follows this method that it tends to materialism. Its analysis reduces the world to simplicity, and thereby destroys its real complexity.

In fact, materialism is a typical hard boiled philosophy of this sort. Its exponents start with a very few simple conceptions, like matter and motion, position and force and say they can reduce all the world to modes of these principles.

The abstraction and vagueness of their notions allow them to combine, organize and manipulate these supposed simplicities until they are so complex that they carry the potentiality of all the amazing variety of the world.

The tramp who said he wished to make soup out of a stone began very modestly by asking the farmer's wife only for a kettle and a fire and some water, but ended by asking for some meat flavor it, some salt and pepper to make it tasty and some flour to thicken it. So the method of materialism is a similar chicanery.

If materialists are really going to make the world out of a stone and turn the heavens into a vast stone-quarry, they should keep to their contract. Certainly they should not be allowed to beg a little more and a little more.

They start with matter and motion. Then they ask a multitude of chemical and physical properties in no way involved in the original conception, and finally, to cap the climax, they ask as to give them a little life and mind to put into each atom.

J. S. Mill was certainly right when he said, speaking of certain arguments of natural theology, "Pepper in the soup does not imply pepper in the cook”, but it does involve the existence of pepper in something.

The tramp who makes soup out of a stone has an easy task compared with the materialist who would make life and mind a dance of atoms. It is one thing to look back at a primal nebula which but the clash of atoms under the Kinetic theory of gases. It is quite another to think of that nebula as containing the potentiality of all life and mind, for then the simple atoms one talks of so glibly are really germinal archangels rather than material points, and have all the functions usually attributed to Deity.

To see in this method any more than a piecemeal and deceptive begging of the universe, is a shear juggling with terms that go into the formulae as atoms and come out gods. It is like the Hindu fakir who takes a seed, seemingly out of the air, and with a few mystic passes turns it into a blooming rose bush.

So the materialist says, "Here is an 'atom', a 'vortex ring’ in the universal ether, 'a center of force', or an 'electron'. I mix a number of them together and they are hydrogen gas. I tie a few more by chemical affinity,--a very handy string for every purpose--and we have the other elements.

I mix them more intricately and they are a crystal. Now they are a living organism whose growing complexity finally manifests itself as a human being”.

There is no doubt that, by easy transitions, reality does manifest itself from the insensate clod to Shakespeare's brain, but to state the varieties of reality, and by by simply naming them to think that you have explained everything, is self-deception.

These supposed transformations are shear trickery to the intellect, as plausible as the work of a prestidigitator, but really involving the same substitutions.

"But nature does make such wonderful transformations”, you will say. Yes, nature, or God, does, but the atoms you have defined could not. No more than the magician can take anything from the borrowed hat except what he has surreptitiously put there.

No more will come out of your postulated primal nebula than you put into it, or else the axiom, "Ex nihilo nihil fit” is not true. Materialism is the extreme way of explaining things from below. It thinks of the higher as the lower, under the form of greater complexity. The motive of it lies in our intellectual demand for something that we can understand. But why should reality stoop to our mental infirmities and divest itself of value just to suit our poverty of thought. The way of materialism is to reduce the glorious tinted sunset of the world to a charcoal sketch, and then, examining with a microscope the little black particles of matter which smudge the paper, say that a sunset is nothing but coal dust.


One can escape many difficulties if for instance like Troilo one  defines religion as "The sadness of Sunset, the indefinable, fear of dawn, echoes of the past and tremblings of the future,  visions, hallucinations, and dreams.”  A thing so defined is not hard to explain away.

It is explained away for them for they think feelings need no explanations.

This is the fallacy of incomplete analyses which applies to all explanations from below.  They start by asking a very little in terms, but they soon beg a little more and the habit unconsciously grows upon them until in the end they have begged everything and have explained nothing with the atoms or principles they started with. But in their illusion they put on airs of superior truth and virtue against those more humble thinkers who with no false pretence came to accept at its face value all reality as it came to them, and did not attempt the impossible task of sanctifying explanations which only explained away, and were instead content to fulfill the humbler task of appreciating what the world is rather than reducing it to some unseen, impalpable powder force, beyond the reach of the senses.

The attempt to defy simplicity and explain the higher in terms of the lower is a fallacy which finds the deepest truth of things in their essences and has received a very practical repudiation in food analysis.

Why not reduce our food to essences and by concentration provide for our physical needs by the use of vest pocket capsules? A Chicago beef trust tried it. They advertised that they had refined and boiled down the product of their business until they had "the essence of beef”. But the chemists investigated it and found that, with the exception of a small percentage of flavoring matter and some mineral salts, that it consisted principally of urea, the last product of decomposition.

Analysis always murders when it dissects. Botany is not all the truth of flowers. A herbarium is not a flower garden.

Everything in nature is more than the sum of its parts. Just as a painting is more than canvas and pigment, just as a cathedral is more than the stones that constitute it, the, deeper reality, like beauty, hides in the parts but shines in the whole.

I do not say that explanations from below have no value; they have great importance. I only say they are limited and partial. They only show the form and not the nature of things. It is the explanation from above that really illuminates reality. Life tells us more than matter, mind more than life.

The beginnings of life show us a reason for the physical. We know more about the oak when we know that it grew from an acorn, but the oak explains the acorn rather than the acorn the oak.

To see man at the head of the animal kingdom is the revelation of an important truth; but in the next breath to say that man is only an animal or a "mere animal” is to degrade man and add little to our knowledge of the brute.  On the other hand, to see that an animal is a partly developed, arrested, misdirected, or potential man is to give us means to come in sympathetic touch with our "poor cousins”.

To say that Human love is the instinct of the animal to propagate the species tells us little, at least, as to why the species should be propagated. But to see germs of the ideal love in the animal is to see the reason why the race should be preserved.

Ideally, it is much more significant to say that the perpetuation of the race is to give reality to love than that love is to perpetuate the race.

Science, some explain, only has value in so far as it serves the practical life, to have utility and give the world more food and comfort.

But it is much more valuable to see that the reason why people should have more food and comfort itself needs explanation. More food, more human life, you say. Carlyle said England had a population of thirty millions, mostly fools. Why should one seek sixty millions, mostly fools? Why are a billion or so human lives more important than so many shad flies? It can only be because we hope that more food and comfort, more human lives, would mean more science, more truth, more art, more moral idealism.

To say with the materialist, in his downward explanation, that all reality is material, is to degrade all but the lowest.

To say with Panpsychism, with its explanation from above, that everything, even the lowest matter, has a soul, is to raise matter to a potential highest.

But the chief objection to the exclusive explanation from below is that it does not really explain. To move from matter to life and mind is to state a sequence and not give an explanation.

The explanations from above must be real if evolution is true. If, as the embryologist says, the fetus recapitulates in brief the history of its ancestors, the higher can know and interpret the lower because the lower still exists in it, when the lower does not contain the higher. The full grown nautilus preserves its early habitations in its adult shell. But the young nautilus has no intimation of its later and "more stately mansions”.

I think I know something of how a fish feels when it swims.  I do it sometimes in my dreams, and my gill slits make the explanation plausible. But the fish can know nothing of human life. The man knows about the "long, long thoughts of youth”. But the youth knows nothing of the deeper experiences of manhood. The boy still exists in the man, but the man is not yet existent in the boy.

If evolution is true, final explanations from below are futile, but explanations or rather interpretations and appreciations from the higher life have truth in them through the recapitulation and actual existence of the lower reality in the higher reality, which life has outgrown, not by supplanting, but by fulfilling.

William James, in one of his books, speaks of the division of philosophies into hard and soft, thick and thin.

I desire to make a somewhat similar distinction. Philosophies are capable of the most significant criticism when they are discussed as upward or downward explanations.

The downward philosophies with their love of the simple and the primitive are analytical, and explain largely by explaining away. The upward philosophies, on the other hand, though they do not pretend to explain in the former sense, do view things from above in their flowering and fruitage in a way which gives them an insight into the nature of things--a process which finds its possibility in the reality of evolution. The first is exemplified by the ordinary scientific or intellectualistic attitude, the second par excellence by Henri Bergson.

Science would reduce things to their lowest and most abstract terms and explain the higher in terms of the lower; matter would be postulated, life looked upon as its higher refinement, mind as a sort of epiphenomenon or fifth wheel of the material universe.

It would follow Tyndall in seeing in the primal nebula the potentiality of all the higher, but it would have no idea of what potential mind or consciousness really is, for it would inhabit the [nether] region where actuality and nonentity border.

Each step of evolution therefore, which in the beginning would be unforeseen and unpredictable would be an actual miracle. But Bergson on the other hand, would work the other way. He would interpret downward. Life would be the starting Point, but seen from our highest intuitions. Therefore, matter becomes crystallized or mechanized life.

The unconscious is a consciousness "relapsed” or "gone to sleep”. Matter is not the source but the obstacle of life, which it has fought against and partly conquered. Life has produced the body, not the body, the life, and the brain becomes the instrument of forgetfulness and not of memory.

Perhaps one might think at first that this tour de force, spiking as it does the enemy's guns by carrying the principles to the opposite extreme, because guilty of the opposite error, would be as unreasonable and ineffectual as the theory it combats, and it would be so, unless one could take the larger view where both forms of explanation have truth in them because of the real organic continuity of existence which gives truth to both forms of explanation because it is greater than both.

The difference is, that in materialism there is no true place for imagination and insight into the lower by the higher, but in Bergson there is. It is always difficult to interpret variety but there is much more chance when you begin by firmly implanting yourself in the one place where there is any possibility of success. Now it is just this point of view that not only Bergson, but other philosophers who have felt a call of the true spirit have made their great contribution to current discussions.

They see clearly that the abstract methods of intellectualistic system-makers have failed and they have sought a position nearer to experience where the attempt is to appreciate from above. The old method said that philosophy should explain the world by going back to primeval chaos. The new method says primeval chaos does not contain or at least, does not reveal the innermost reality of things. What we must do is to go forward to the revelation of the Day of Judgment, in the end, and not the beginning, in the higher life and not the lower life, in God and not in matter.

I need hardly say that to the old intellectualistic metaphysics the new tendencies are "The great bad”. What are we coming to, they say, when you substitute intuition for logic, imagination for argument, insight for reason. You are turning things upside down and balancing the pyramid of reality on its apex.

Yes, let us admit the mild impeachment, but answer them by inquiring what they actually came to by the old methods. One million and one philosophies and systems all based on logic and reason and declared in the name of the Absolute, but each differing from the other so that an Absolute that could contain them all would hold all conceivable contradictions.

If that is reason what could be more confounded?

This new spirit that is coming over modern thinking, as a complement to analytical thought, is well illustrated by the recent discussions of Arthur Balfour, who is certainly not a conservative in philosophy.

He has had the temerity to more than suggest that perhaps the solution of some of our logical and metaphysical difficulties may be found in hypnotism, dissociated personality, subliminal consciousness, but particularly telepathy.

Just see the hair rise on the heads of the old metaphysicians!

For centuries they have tried to purify the problem and make it capable of explanation by ruling out all abnormal experiences, or by explaining them away so they should not return to haunt and plague them. Yet here is a man who, in the name of philosophy, actually uses these things to understand reality. Indeed then have the stones which the builders rejected become head of the corner.

But why not give the new method a chance?

Perhaps the use of the abnormal psychology is analogous to the use of experiment in science; cases where we go behind the scenes so to speak, and for the first time, see the wires by which the show is run.      If two minds are to know the same thing, then perhaps telepathy explains how. We are subjective idealists and solipsists, if minds are as discrete and separate as we idealistically imagine. But if truth is possible and things are as we think them, two or more minds must be aware of the same thing. When we think truly and alike it is not sufficient that we have similar thoughts that represent reality.

We must have identically the same thought. But how can this be if each man's thought is in his own separate head? Evidently true thoughts are not private. We have a community of thought just as more than one, yes, an infinity of lines can run through the same identical point. Something then like telepathy, which is awareness of the same thought, cannot be the exceptional, but the ordinary experience, and we have in the world common to us all not "Two souls with a single thought, two hearts that beat as one”, but, when we attain truth, millions of souls with the same thought, and millions of hearts at one with the over soul.

By this way of looking at it, and something like it is absolutely necessary for an adequate epistemology, telepathy, long rejected as false, comes to occupy the same position in the spiritual world that gravitation occupies in the natural world, as Frederic Meyer asserted. I do not wish to press the telepathic explanation here, except as an illustration of a tendency. I do not know whether there is such a mystical power of mind, but if there is such a power, it has metaphysical significance of first importance. It would give us our first insight into "the community of minds”. It would lie at the foundation of a true theory of knowledge, and it would be a very different kind of epistemology from that formerly taught in the schools.

The use of the higher as interpreter is well illustrated in the case of feeling. Intellectual advocates who love syllogism and logic have little respect for the vaguer experiences which we usually speak of as feelings. To them they have no essential reality. They only color things and not always rightly. They are therefore shy of their leadings as demoralizing to the intellect.

As a matter of fact, however, the division of consciousness into thought and feeling is only a practical distinction and facts of consciousness are never exclusively thought or feeling. There is no pure thought, neither is there any pure feeling.

The most rationalistic philosophies are always based upon feelings, values or interests, if not prejudices. Rationality is an emotion that expresses a mood of the human soul. On the other hand, yet in the same way, our feelings are never exclusively feelings. We objectify them all, more or less, and must do so if we have them at all.


So it is that our higher feelings are not only experiences; they are revelations of the truth of things. They deepen reality as though something like the moon, thought of before as a flat object for the first time, turned into a solid globe. It would be futile to argue about it to anyone who never had the feelings, just as an argument about color, with a man who is color-blind, is silly, but if one has the feelings and takes them at their face value without intellectually explaining them away, they go deep into the nature of things.

To one who, as Tennyson says, "has felt”, "Knowledge is the swallow on the lake that sees and stirs the surface shadow there, but never yet has dipped into the abyss”. It is this quality of the higher feelings that makes anyone who has had them sure that they help interpret the world and that they have importance for philosophy in the ontological conclusions they contain. To lack these higher feelings is to miss the best interpretative things in life.

One can strip himself of them if he chooses, but the man who has never felt any astonishment at being here nor been drawn by the enticing mystery of things, who has heard no riddle from the sphinx, who laughs at the higher pretensions and the deeper feelings, who has no best moments and no gleams and flashes of insight, has not only lost his human birthright, but has lost all means of truly solving the philosophic and religious problem.

It matters not what you call these experiences, "Feelings”, or a "heightened sense of consciousness”, they add dimension to the reality of the world. Not more truly do the new mathematics deepen our hold upon the physical world than this effort of our moral and aesthetic sense to see into the heart of things.

Wordsworth calls the higher forms of it that "Blessed Mood in which the burden of the mystery of all this weary weight of all this unintelligible world is lightened. Until the breath of this corporeal frame and even the motion of our blood almost suspended, we are laid asleep in body and become a living soul, while with an eye made quiet with the power of harmony and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things”.

Tennyson bears witness to the same, when speaking of waking trances in which his individuality faded away, he declared it was no nebulous ecstasy, but a state of transcendent wonder associated with absolute clearness of mind.

But this, I hear some say, is mysticism. Yes, I hate the name, as mysticism has so many false connotations, but the thing for which it stands is real. Any philosophy that goes beyond reason is mystical. True mysticism is not so much the use of a higher faculty as the use of all the higher faculties of a higher man.

The only thing for a science or philosophy to do that does not accept their spiritual interpretation of reality is to rule them out of court and explain them away. Following the analogy of those who dissect and explain downward, the appeal will be to the subconscious, but this is entirely gratuitous, for it will be doing what someone suggested that Gladstone should do with a disturbing pretender to the throne. "Explain her away”.

To deny the reality of these feelings, though you remember I deny they are exclusively feelings, by saying that they come from below the threshold, that they are of the nature of ancestral remembrances, atavistic survivals or what not, is to get your verdict by excluding evidence. Mysticism like anything else will lose its value by dissection. To reduce it to simpler and less troublesome elements has only the wisdom of a petty fogging lawyer who would win his case regardless of the facts.

To relegate these higher experiences to the realm of the subconscious would be as disastrous and as untrue as the statement of the child who said that a caterpillar was just skin and squash.

This constant appeal to the subconscious is vicious, for if we are not at the end of our development, there must not only be the subliminal but the superliminal, not only the subconscious, but the superconsciousness.

The present consciousness is like an island of the sea with clouds about its mountainous summits. We see only the part above the sea and below the clouds. Our consciousness is, no doubt, connected with life below us as the island extends down to the ocean bottom and is united with all other islands and the great continents through its invisible foundations. We know directly only through consciousness. But the state of our blood and the various organs are revealed by our organic feelings in consciousness. Some of us even carry good barometers in the excrescences of our feet.

But not everything that comes to us rises from below the sea line. There are many things we get from above.


How far above the clouds the island of our life ascends we can not tell for we have never reached its summit, but from time to time the clouds lift a little and reveal not only still higher peaks, but other worlds. All the creation of genius is of this sort. How could ancestral remembrance give a man something that his ancestors never knew? How could that be a survival that was like the poet's dream, never before on sea or land?

Poincaré, the great French mathematician, who was as far ahead of La Place as La Place was superior to Newton, tells how his great thought came to him in February, 1881, as he was putting his foot on the step of an omnibus. He says, "I had left Caen and the changes of travel made me forget my mathematical work. Having reached Coutanees we entered an omnibus. At the moment when I put my foot on the step the idea came to me, without anything in my former thoughts seeming to have paved the way for it, that the Transformations I had used to define the Fuchsian functions were identical with those of non-Euclidian geometry”.

All his later glory as a mathematician was nothing more than a commentary and development of the intuition that came to him then, like a revelation from Heaven. And it must have been a revelation from Heaven because no one had ever thought it before.

Mr. Moody used to say, "I was born February 5, 1837 and born again May 16, 1855”. Poincaré could have said something similar. It is entirely irrational to try to explain these things from below, for they are manifestly from above.

The threshold of consciousness can not only be lowered, but also raised beyond a point which neither the individual nor the race has reached before. The superliminal consciousness in genius, in the inspiration of poets and the consciousness of religious men lies at the top of the scale of evolution and there can be no true and complete interpretation of the world that neglects them.

Because they are a part of nature they are important. Because they are the highest expression of nature they are the most significant part and reveal with the greatest fullness that power, which beginning low down in the matter gradually increased and deepened in its expression. It was hardly born in the stone. It slept in the plant. It dreamed in the animal. It is still drowsy in man and becomes fully awake and then only for an instant in genius. It will be this consciousness which will be the final interpreter of the World and when it comes it will be God coming to his own.

It goes without saying that the philosophy with which an intuitionalist will be satisfied will be very different from that which a naturalist or a materialist will construct, but the contrast will not be so much in their mental differences as the number and variety of the facts they will take to explain. It will consist in the amount and kind of evidence which each allows to come before the court.

To say that "This is a world of atoms and there is no room for ghosts”, all you have to do is to deny the existence of anything ghostly or mysterious and explain away all the more spiritual aspects of the world. But for those who are not afraid of ghosts, even when they come, like Banquo to the scientific feast, these higher experiences will not only be significant in themselves inasmuch as they show how wonderfully deep and dark the great world of reality is, but they will become guides and interpreters to that which was before without purpose or meaning.

The interpretation of the world depends not alone on what the world is, but also in the consciousness which interprets it. At the same time the consciousness interprets, it is a part of the world to be interpreted. Two ways are therefore open: one is by intellectually attacking the world to make it give up its secrets, by the method of analysis, and the other is to raise the consciousness of the mind so that the problem vanishes or solves itself. It would not be strange if the stage of consciousness which puts the questions should fail to be able to answer them, just as a child can ask questions which no philosopher can answer. We are not astonished that the philosophical problem does not arise to the clam. Perhaps we ought not to be surprised that we, from our vantage point, cannot answer all life's questions. If we were all true Christian Scientists there would be no moral problem and if we all lived in an atmosphere of nitrous oxide we would, as William James has shown, all be Hegelians. If we were all of the same mind as Francis of Assisi or Christ we would not only interpret the world differently, but from the standpoint of the higher consciousness it would be a very different world we would interpret.

For in our best moments and in our higher moods we realize that we are not only at the top of a great ascent looking down, an ascent which in some way we ourselves have traveled and so are able to know and appreciate by sympathetic insight what part of it still remains existent in us, but we are also at a bottom and looking up at a life which we cannot yet understand, but which we know that when we experience it, will explain all our past better than we know and find possible and will equally well explain our present which now is beyond our power. "The gain of such a life as matched with ours were sun to spark”.

Sir Oliver Lodge, in his address before the British Association concluded by saying that "most of all is he impressed with the fearful majesty of the still higher aspects of the universe infinitely beyond our utmost possibility of thought”. It is that higher when it becomes the actual experience of the soul that will be the highest and final interpretation of the world and of itself. This will be the ultimate insight. 

Thus the future belongs to that philosophy which takes account of all experience and adds religious insight to scientific knowledge, and here philosophy and religion coalesce; philosophy becomes religious. The spiritual man from his highest experiences and intuitions interprets the world in terms of spirit. The final explanation and the highest explanation of the world is God.

But will such an undertaking, as a practical venture, ever be a complete success? I suppose not. It is an ever retreating and ever ascending ideal which we follow. Just as science twists and turns and imagines and computes to make the world a predictable mechanism, so religious feeling and imagination should be daringly used to fulfill its postulates.

The adventures and speculations of science, however, with their superb idealism, ought to shame us to make great adventures for the faith of our hearts. We are so afraid of overbelief and of the charge of being obscure and visionary that we do not try to interpret the world from the standpoint of the higher consciousness.

If pragmatism has taught us anything it is that this interpretation will never be true or final without effort and striving on our part. Even the world of the scientist is not a passively conceived world. He is going to make the world fluid to his formulae, if not in one way, then in another, and none who would be the interpreters and conservators of the spiritual life can expect to have the great result handed to them on a silver platter, regardless of what they have thought and done and labored and prayed for its realization.

If the world is to become spiritual in the highest sense and bring its satisfying interpretations, it will be not so much by our finding these deeper experiences in science, in philosophy and in art, but in our making them real by our own lives, by all sorts of effort, imagination, trust and longing.

The world will never become very deeply spiritual until we make ourselves spirits.

If there is truth in what I have said it has in it one big duty and inspiration. It shows that it is never so important to reason about and argue for the higher life as it is to arouse and inspire it. The facts that break down a narrow and mechanical philosophy are the spiritual experiences of men.

Those who have them are not only the best interpreters of the world but they give a world most worth interpreting.

High over all in the realm of the philosophy I am advocating is the ability to see and experience reality which in the narrow sense we cannot understand and yet exists in and over all as "The fountain-light of all our day, the master-light of all our seeing”.

It is as true in this philosophy of the higher intuitions as it is in religion, which is only the highest and most moral interpretation of it. We must be born "from above” else we cannot see the Kingdom of God.

Life is its own interpretation and the solution of its problems lies in the higher life to which we aspire.


[1] Andover Harvard Library, Manuscripts and Archives, bMS 01446, "Unitarian Universalist Association. Inactive Minister Files, 1825-1999.,” Joel H. Metcalf.  This was not specifically marked as a Berry Street Essay, but was the only essay appearing in Metcalf’s files, which makes it likely that it was placed there because of its significance to the Association. [Paul Sprecher]