Reform implies power, and power begins not with externals, but in the source. All proceeds from spirit to realization by agents that must be made receptive. We desire water, and we go to the source, and construct from it an aqueduct. We desire a certain effect, and must thereto create the appropriate atmosphere, and then the means whereby it may concrete itself in event. All going, all process, all Nature (or Becoming) is from spirit to matter, by an intermediary. In the partial analysis of everyday thought, and of science also, the intermediary is called the cause. The original cause is beyond this cause, and causes it.
All the seen facts of any individual life, all the phenomena of a society, proceed from a spiritual Invisible peculiar to it. It is the Chinese spirit that produces the facts of Chinese society, the English spirit the facts of English social life, and so on. In each case the seen facts are related to each other, being the outcome of a central unity of spirit. The character of the central spirit determines the outcome. Men do not gather grapes of thorns. The cry, the eggs, the feathers, the habits of the cuckoo are all the same word in different languages; are all parts of a system, and the system takes grip of the world, or strives to do so, in its own peculiar way, because it is organized and holds together. So, in that special way, the equation is answered in that case.
Life-systems of plants, animals and societies are always changing. Everything is on its trial. When the system can no longer answer requirements, it dies, the infinite Power and life organizes itself elsewhere anew. Incalculable forces build up, and break down. There are futile survivals, foredoomed prolongations of old forms and old ways and old externalities, out of which life has departed. The workshop of Nature has plenty of chips and rubbish, not all useless.
Reform the individual, says one, and all social reform will follow. There is sense in the saying, but it tends sometimes also to complacency and sauve qui peut. A society, too, has a life to be reformed. All its phenomena are related. Ritual, dogma, commercialism, agricultural and social systems, custom, law,-—all these in any given case are strictly related and interdependent. They are the leaves and blossoms and lichens on a single tree.
The first step to reform today is simplification. Our civilization is called "artificial," but the stigma implied is that it is often contra natural. Men increasingly need contact with the primal things—sun, air, earth, water and the spirit of Truth. To restore these things is the task of all true reform. It is usual to give hospitals to a sun-starved population rather than to give sun. Specifics are given, or an occasional dose of air, instead of a life in fresh air; access to earth is hampered by decadent agrarian systems; occasional doles supply the place of just organization and control. Churches have largely agreed that Heaven and its help are Past and Future, remote and external. Theory is everywhere divorced from practice, the speculative from the actual. Labor and recreation, work and play, are organized into wasteful, elaborate and cumbrous complexities. Word ceases to represent fact. Doubtless there is good in many systems. But the line of true reform is not along the line of increasing complexity.
The teacher in some religions is erected into a formal divinity often in proportion to men's failure to recognize the true divineness of his human life; and a formal and even pompous worship insidiously replaces the reverence due to worth. Yet it would seem that with explicit care, one Teacher at least, when questioned by the keen representative of secular power, simply stated that he had come into being in order to speak truth. "Truth, but what truth?" was the further question. ("What is Truth?" is one translation). "What creed is it that you hold?" It was perhaps no creed in the limited sense that was meant, but the recognition of the primal facts of Life, and especially the fact that Man is Mind, Thought, Spirit.
Thought is the most powerful thing in the world. It is potentiality, power. Nothing prevents, and nothing can prevent, the session of that great judgment-hall of all men's intelligences, where the shows and forms of these our continents of earth are perpetually passed in survey, and wherein are hung the balances of doom, trying and finding true, trying and finding wanting. But yet by no majority there is the decision passed. The new thought, the return to primal fact, spreads to its related few, and these see, against all appearances of the current world and all acclaim of loud voices, what is the judgment. The world around them they see fallen into debris, its science engrossed with sectional spheres of external phenomena, its spiritual specialists occupied with isolated epochs of a past Time, and repeating into conventional formulas the words that once sprang from its Life. And yet "the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose," (that is, as the abundance of beauty where before there was the excess of sterility), and the church, or ecclesia, or organization yet in the heart shall stand—not necessarily in stone, but in flesh—on the earth and say, even to the humblest persons: "Here is practical help for you whom (though amidst all human error) God called into being from the dark; for you who strive to do your duty, as parent, child, relation, friend, master, servant; that you may know and enter upon more of your spiritual heritage in the mind, and of your human heritage on the earth, and fulfill the divine purposes of your life."