Книга The Land Of Mist. Содержание - 15. In Which Traps are Laid for a Great Quarry

«Yes, yes, that is true,» said the young doctor. «It seemed to me to open the door to all the quackery in the Universe – indeed it does, but the fact remains.»

«' One thing I know that whereas I was blind now I see',» quoted Miss Delicia. «Ah, Professor, you may raise your eyebrows and shrug your shoulders, but we've dropped something into your big mind this afternoon which will grow and grow until no man can see the end of it.» She dived into the bag. «There is a little slip here 'Brain versus Soul'. I do hope, dear Professor, that you will read it and then pass it on.»

15. In Which Traps are Laid for a Great Quarry

MALONE was bound in honour not to speak of love to Enid Challenger, but looks can speak, and so their communications had not broken down completely. In all other ways he adhered closely to the agreement, though the situation was a difficult one. It was the more difficult since he was a constant visitor to the Professor, and now that the irritation of the debate was over, a very welcome one. The one object of Malone's life w as to get the great man's sympathetic consideration of those psychic subjects which had gained such a hold upon himself. This he pursued with assiduity, but also with great caution, for he knew that the lava was thin, and that a fiery explosion was always possible. Once or twice it came and caused Malone to drop the subject for a week or two, until the ground seemed a little more firm.

Malone developed a remarkable cunning in his approaches. One favourite device was to consult Challenger upon some scientific point – on the zoological importance of the Straits of Banda, for example, or the Insects of the Malay Archipelago, and lead him on until Challenger in due course would explain that our knowledge on the point was due to Alfred Russel Wallace. «Oh, really! To Wallace the Spiritualist!» Malone would say in an innocent voice, on which Challenger would glare and change the topic.

Sometimes it was Lodge that Malone would use as a trap. «I suppose you think highly of him.»

«The first brain in Europe,» said Challenger.

«He is the greatest authority on ether, is he not?»


«Of course, I only know him by his psychic works.»

Challenger would shut up like a clam. Then Malone would wait a few days and remark casually: «Have you ever met Lombroso!»

«Yes, at the Congress at Milan.»

«I have been reading a book of his.»

«Criminology, I presume?»

«No, it was called After Death – What?»

«I have not heard of it.»

«It discusses the psychic question.»

«Ah, a man of Lombroso's penetrating brain would make short work of the fallacies of these charlatans.»

«No, it is written to support them.»

«Well, even the greatest mind has its inexplicable weakness.» Thus, with infinite patience and cunning did Malone drop his little drops of reason in the hope of slowly wearing away the casing of prejudice, but no very visible effects could be seen. Some stronger measure must be adopted, and Malone determined upon direct demonstration. But how, when, and where? Those were the all-important points upon which he determined to consult Algernon Mailey. One spring afternoon found him back in that drawing-room where he had once rolled upon the carpet in the embrace of Silas Linden. He found the Reverend Charles Mason, and Smith, the hero of the Queen's Hall debate, in deep consultation with Mailey upon a subject which may seem much more important to our descendants than those topics which now bulk large in the eyes of the public. It was no less than whether the psychic movement in Britain was destined to take a Unitarian or a Trinitarian course. Smith had always been in favour of the former, as had the old leaders of the movement and the present organized Spiritualist Churches. On the other hand, Charles Mason was a loyal son of the Anglican Church, and was the spokesman of a host of others, including such weighty names as Lodge and Barrett among the laymen, or Wilberforce, Haweis and Chambers among the clergy, who clung fast to the old teachings while admitting the fact of spirit communication. Mailey stood between the two parties, and, like the zealous referee in a boxing-match who separates the two combatants, he always took a chance of getting a knock from each. Malone was only too glad to listen, for now that he realized that the future of the world might be bound up in this movement, every phase of it was of intense interest to him. Mason was holding forth in his earnest but good-humoured way as he entered.

«The people are not ready for a great change. It is not necessary. We have only to add our living knowledge and direct communion of the saints to the splendid liturgy and traditions of the Church, and you will have a driving force which will revitalize all religion. You can't pull a thing up from the roots like that. Even the early Christians found that they could not, and so they made all sorts of concessions to the religions around them.»

«Which was exactly what ruined them,» said Smith.

«That was the real end of the Church in its original strength and purity.»

«It lasted, anyhow.»

«But it was never the same from the time that villain Constantine laid his hands on it.»

«Oh, come!» said Mailey. «You must not write down the first Christian emperor as a villain.»

But Smith was a forthright, uncompromising, bull-doggy antagonist. «What other name will you give to a man who murdered half his own family?»

«Well, his personal character is not the question. We were talking of the organization of the Christian Church.»

«You don't mind my frankness, Mr. Mason?»

Mason smiled his jolly smile. «So long as you grant me the existence of the New Testament I don't care what you do. If you were to prove that our Lord was a myth, as that German Drews tried to do, it would not in the least affect me so long as I could point to that body of sublime teaching. It must have come from somewhere, and I adopt it and say, 'That is my creed'.»

«Oh, well, there is not so much between us on that point,» said Smith. «If there is any better teaching I have not seen it. It is good enough to go on with, anyhow. But we want to cut out the frills and superfluities. Where did they all come from? They were compromises with many religions, so that our friend C. could get uniformity in his world-wide Empire. He made a patchwork quilt of it. He took an Egyptian ritual – vestments, mitre, crozier, tonsure, marriage ring – all Egyptian. The Easter ceremonies are pagan and refer to the vernal equinox. Confirmation is mithraism. So is baptism, only it was blood instead of water. As to the sacrificial meal . . .»

Mason put his fingers in his ears. «This is some old lecture of yours,» he laughed. «Hire a hall, but don't obtrude it in a private house. But, seriously, Smith, all this is beside the question. If it is true it will not affect my position at all, which is that we have a great body of doctrine which is working well, and which is regarded with veneration by many people, your humble servant included, and that it would be wrong and foolish to scrap it. Surely you must agree.»

«No, I don't,» Smith answered, setting his obstinate jaw. «You are thinking too much of the feelings of your blessed church-goers. But you have also to think of the nine people out of ten who never enter into a church. They have been choked off by what they, including your humble servant, consider to be unreasonable and fantastic. How will you gain them while you continue to offer them the same things, even though you mix spirit-teaching with it? If, however, you approach these agnostic or atheistic ones, and say to them: 'I quite agree that all this is unreal and is tainted by a long history of violence and reaction. But here we have something pure and new. Come and examine it!' In that way I could coax them back into a belief in God and in all the fundamentals of religion without their having to do violence to their reason by accepting your theology.»

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