Inevitably the earnest reformer arrives at the conclusion that the greatest need of the future, the basis of all external reforms, is a "new spirit." That is the final note of almost all the more serious attempts to reconstruct the machinery of civilization which the War has wrecked. And to all those who work for a better world the conclusion seems as obvious as it is inevitable.
Why then, in view of this almost universally recognized importance, have we so few books dealing specially with the new spirit? Presumably it has its own laws governing its coming and going, and there are ways of life in which it finds freedom of expression and "atmosphere" in which it thrives? How few are those friendly philosophers who can guide us in the way of the spirit. We have volumes of books running into vast libraries dealing with the thousand land one details of the reform of human government and social relations: where are the books that lead us into the freedom of our true spiritual relations with men, that give us the open-sesame to the heart of all enduring reform?
Their very rarity adds to the joy of their appearance. It was with a feeling of gratitude akin. to that which one experiences when, after toiling up the dark mountain side, one suddenly emerges at the summit in full command of the surrounding peaks that I read through the opening paragraphs of Richard Whitwell’s latest book "The Cloud and the Fire." Undeniably through its pages there breathes the essential "new spirit" that, in one way or another, we all are seeking, Here are truths, the full acceptance of which would render numerous far-reaching reforms inevitable. One enters through these brief simple paragraphs into the power-house of a new World Order.
Whoever works for the future "City Beautiful" will find new inspiration here: whoever does not will surely be inspired to start.
Cover thy mantle over thy face
To hide thy shame!
Canst thou think of evil and not feel ashamed?
Canst thou read of a brother's woe and be indifferent?
Canst thou witness a sister’s shame without thy spirit crying unto the heavens?
And if thou seest the suffering of innocent creatures, canst thou contain thyself?
Of thyself say "l too am responsible inasmuch as I accept these things and make no murmur."
Do not accept aught that shames thee as a man!
Be alive unto the whole of life, and recognize thy oneness with thy brother!
If thy brother is less than a man, does it not hurt thee?
And if thy sister is less than a woman, does it not wound thee?
And seekest thou not to combat the cause thereof?
Let thy duty be heroic.
Whoever loves freedom will find here the spirit of freedom in its highest sense enshrined in words. What problems of government, industrial, national, and international would be solved for all time if this spirit were universal!
When freedom is assailed!
A free word and a true, let it come forth resonant, whereso’er thou art, yea, and whomsoever thou dost meet.
Make thy habitation in the heights where freedom dwells.
Thy life will be as running waters, fresh and clear and laughing.
It is only upon the plain that the waters become turbid and stagnant.
But the new spirit, if indeed it be fundamental and not merely ephemeral, should do more than give us a vision of a new civilization: it should reveal the cause of failure in the old.
'Yet is our life as a wild hurrying after phantasms. It is no more like the true life that might be ours than our reflected image cast on the white pavement on a moonlight night is like our 'bodily form; it is a blur, a likeness all distorted.'
‘The rich man bound to his possessions is a slave.
The poor man bound to the desire of possessions is a slave. They understand life not at all, what it is and what it means.’
'It is said that the war has shaken the faith of many.
Is faith an outward thing to be shaken?
Did these enquire ever into the conditions of human life in our great cities?
And did they ever ponder as to the reason of the vast army of prostitutes in our cities, an infernal necessity as it is falsely thought, resulting in the great misuse of man’s creative energy, in that the true outlet that lies in right living, in high and pure thinking, in duty rendered, or in honest toil is checked or thwarted?
As if purity, continence, self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control were impossible things:
As if there were not that in man that can transform the power which turned downwards in animalism, into spiritual strength.
Did not this shake their faith?
And why should war shake their faith?
*"The Cloud and the Fire" Richard Whitwell. Fifield, 2/6.