Retrospect and Some Conclusions
T h e ancient Hebrew believed that happiness, the aim of man, could be obtained only through spiritual peace. In his striving for the attainment of his aim, he met with two invaders, with two forces destructive of peace-brains and sex-sym bolized by the Tree of Knowledge and the serpent of lust, which were shutting him off from the serene life in the Garden of Eden. He finally found spiritual peace in religion, which disciplined his function of thinking and his function of procreation. And those who remained within the limits set by religion were happy and restful. Their mind was taken off the immediate turmoil of thought and sex, and directed towards the law of God, towards something outside man, towards something objective, with sanctions to guard it. Their wrestling was thus primarily, not with their bodies, but with commandments, with sin. They found a helper to lift them over the pitfalls of sensual life. In my boyhood I lived in that serene atmosphere of un
disturbed peace, in the shelter of faith, in the centre of which was God-a real, living, personal God, and not a pantheistic, ambient, amorphous spiritual essence. He protected, guided, and disciplined the children of man, and was ever near us. However, the attribute of abounding love was not primarily connected with my thought of God, the emotion of awe predominated. Still, I felt safe under his all-seeing eye, until the waves of modem civilization swept me into German philosophy and finally into Spinozism. And the end of it was that the Infinite became indefinite. Having eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, restlessness gripped me, and I said with Lessing: I f God held truth in His right hand and error in His left, I would choose error, so that I might arrive at truth by my own effort. Reviewing at the age of seventy my search
for truth, I find in Judaism a code of laws designed to produce a firmly knit community o f men and women, pure in body, peaceful in spirit, and prosperous in their common work. They were great legislators, those Hebrews, ripe in experience and wisdom which aeons of oriental life had accumulated. History destroyed their work. It needed rebuilding and rejuve nating with the best elements which the West has since accumulated. Even at the beginning of my long pilgrimage I felt dimly the need of such work, and it drove me onwards. Within a decade I passed from Hebrew antiquity through mediaevalism to modem times, or from theology and scholas ticism through moral philosophy to economics and Socialism, which I finally thought to be my haven of rest. Here I found, indeed, satisfaction and scope for the practice of social ethics and work for social justice.