"The Quest of the Face." Stephen Graham.
Published by Macmillan & Co.
"It was Christ who discovered for us that there was only one law—love—and that all other true laws, though seen as separate were part of one and the same law.
In science a similar discovery was made by the Russian Mendeleev, namely that there was only one substance and that all the elements so definite in their separateness were aspects of one and the same substance, that all the elements in Nature are related to one another in a grand design, and that put into relationship in that design they make a unity. All the marvelous individuality of the elements can be accommodated in a higher collective unity. And that unity, when realized, covers all the diversity of the elements.
The time has come for the elements of humanity to realize the same. In a few living it is realized. Two things are needed: a love of the diversity and an understanding of the Unity."
I have quoted the foregoing from a remarkable book by Stephen Graham "The Quest of The Face" which is, as its title implies, the story of the quest for the face of Christ, or the ideal in all men’s faces. I have no purpose to attempt any critical review of the book, but I make it the theme of these notes because I find so much in it that seems to accord with the spirit that we pray is awaking to fuller life in the new day that is dawning for the world, even amid the strife and tumult, the agony and seeming chaos of this great war. The Spirit, towards whose fuller manifestation all our hearts are turning, is the very spirit of life, the changeless, yet ever changing, the old yet ever new as it is reborn in each individual soul, who awakens to consciousness of its blessed influence.
I think’ it is of this spirit that Stephen Graham has written and that it is the face of the universal Christ that he is seeking. The face that he finds less clearly manifested, yet the same in the dead outcast of the streets as in the pictured face of the historical Christ Jesus, by whom was made the great discovery of which the foregoing quotation tells, the discovery of the "One Law—and that Law—Love."
For while Stephen Graham writes of Christ Jesus as having made this greatest of all discoveries for us, the whole trend of his book leads to the belief that he would agree that the discovery can bring no true light to us until we make it for ourselves and the Christ spirit is born anew in us.
I have felt that to many the conception of a universal Christ and His eternal rebirth in individual humanity, may be somewhat difficult of comprehension and they may be inclined to say, as does the author of this study:
"I am losing sight of Christ, He is becoming too theoretical." The answer that Mr. Graham finds may help others even as it helped him, to simplify and make real the conception, "He is not theoretical, He is the ideal side of our personality and that is the greatest reality of our life."
The central idea of this essay or study (one cannot truly describe it as a story, though it is set in the form of one) is of the metaphysical and mystical unity of all time in the "Eternal Now" and the unity of the ideal personality of all mankind in the personality of Christ, and of the kingdom of Christ, or the Ideal as an inner and free society, unorganized and universal; realizable and only capable of full realization when it includes all humanity. But it is here presented with power and charm and with knowledge of the discoveries of recent science that throws new light upon it. While demonstrating the marvellous intuitional perception of the poets and seers, who through the ages, from the poet prophet Isaiah about two thousand four hundred and sixty years ago, to Walt Whitman and Edward Carpenter in our own time, have seen this vision of the Ideal, the Christ, "Who in all their afflictions was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in his love and his pity he redeemed them and He hare them and carried them all in the days of old."
While some may find fault with what may seem to them the too metaphysical character of its presentation by Mr. Graham and some may find ground for controversy in what may seem to them the too exclusive identification of Christ Jesus of Nazareth with the Christ Ideal (though I think the exclusiveness is more apparent than real). Unquestionably, this idea of Christ, the Ideal, the only Real-latent in each individual, the face of Christ looking out from all men’s faces; with its correlative and inevitably accompanying ideal of Christ-like tolerance for all varying expressions and all seeming failures to express that Ideal, (Or in the words of our quotation, "Love of the diversity understanding of the Unity.") Is not only the most important idea of the book, but the greatest and most important of all ideas for the help of our need today.
Stephen Graham tells us in his prefatory note that "The Quest of The Face" "is in part a record of actual life and seeking" and he leaves us with the impression that Dushan, the Serb who is described as taking part with him in the Quest and being with him. "A spiritual mason in the building of the City," is a real person. I do not know whether this is fact or if it is part of the artistry of the story; but certainly the invitation to the readers to "become builders of the City (referred to throughout the book except in the preface as the Kingdom) is well worthy of response, and the "Quest of the Face" "should do much to gain members of the "society" whose purpose is the realization of the "Kingdom of Heaven on Earth." The society that must remain "unorganized, with no list of members, no subscriptions, no president or committee, no patrons, vice patrons, no publicity or appeals to the Press."
"The new society is consciousness. It is the mutual knowledge of Christian people that one and another have the Kingdom in their heart and eyes and the will to the building of it in their hands and feet. lt is brotherhood and friendship and faith in an illimitable, unseen brotherhood. It is the discovery of that which is even now existent in its beginnings but not visible. The Kingdom of Heaven at present latent in space, latent in society and in the universe. It is held negatively in the air. What we have to do is to bring it on the positive side, develop it."
While Mr. Graham with something of the poet’s vision—if less than a poet’s skill in the use of words—gives us his conception of the Kingdom, he would be less than the true guide and teacher he is, if he failed to show us the things that hold us from its realization. Therefore we find much kindly criticism of existing customs and conditions in the world. Amongst these he speaks of "A type of paralysis which he says is called the 'English disease abroad' a type of paralysis of will, perhaps, accompanied with a mania for being a looker-on. a watcher and critic not a doer and maker in the realm of the mind and the heart."
His criticism is severe, but as in the sentence I have last quoted there is never condemnation of the bad without guidance for the better way and certain hope that it is to be found. For "In every man the face of Christ is to be descried. It follows therefore, that every man is on his ideal side qualified to enter this society and be part of the sacred communion of the universal and intangible Christendom.
I am tempted to quote even more extensively from these pages; but space will not permit nor would it be fair to a book which is so exceedingly well worth reading in its entirety for its optimism and its clear vision of the Kingdom of the Ideal, even in this actual world of sorrow and wrong and trial.
I have said that "The Quest of The Face" is remarkable, it is for this very optimism that I have found it so. For the Kingdom of which it calls us to be builders is not set in sonic far off land of dream and reveries, it is real and solid, with foundations based firmly on the common earth of our everyday life. Already amongst those who jostle him amid the crowds of any city street, has the author seen the types of those who have their true home in this Kingdom.
"In the great community of humanity," he says "I do not mean merely the crowd but in the great community of which the passing crowd is a part there is a becoming, a changing. New types are being cast up and may he found. These new types are not the superman so confidently expected a while ago, but Christ types. I do not mean prophet types though the character and life of these new types has something in it of the prophetical. The types of which I speak are those we seek, the men the women whose steps are turning naturally along the new path. For instance, all who make spiritual choice are of the new; those who cling to the comfort of the obvious are of the old. Those who take their stand as animals, even cheerful and intellectual animals, are of the old; but those who deny the animal are of the new. The egoist is of the old, the altruist of the new: the narrow family man and family woman are of the old, the one who can extend his kinship is of the new; the merely national is of the old, the universal of the new. Those who hate, separate off, standardize human beings for commercial or military ends are of the old; those who love, join together, and delight in diversity are of the new. Those who stand on their human dignity are of the old; those who understand their spiritual dignity are of the new.
Those who blame others or seek to exonerate themselves are of the old; those who take sins upon themselves are of the new. Those who wish the world to be controlled by justice are of the old, those who are ready to solve any legal count against them by love and sacrifice are of the new. "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." And out of all the new the invisible company of the Church is forming, coming into being, into a mutual consciousness; and I see the old receding and the new increasing, as it were morning light pouring into a night which has been partly of sleep and partly of troubled dreams and meditations."
"The Quest of The Face" is illustrated by reproductions of pictures by Russian artists of the face of Jesus Christ, the study gives its name to a volume of eleven studies and sketches of Russian life and character of which Mr. Graham is a most sympathetic and loving student.