” It is written of Cain that he founded a commonwealth; but Abel –true to the type of the pilgrim and sojourner that he was– did not do the like. For the Commonwealth of the Saints is not of this world, though it does give birth to citizens here in whose persons it performs its pilgrimage until the time of its kingdom shall come–the time when it will gather them all together.” (Saint Augustine: De Civitate Dei, Book XV, chap. i 13)
This brings me in conclusion to the last of the topics on which I am going to touch, that of the relation between Christianity and progress.
If it is true, as I think it is, that the Church on Earth will never be a perfect embodiment of the Kingdom of Heaven, in what sense can we say the words of the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in Earth as it is in Heaven’? Have we been right, after all, in coming to the conclusion that –in contrast to the cyclic movement of the rises and falls of civilizations– the history of religion on Earth is a movement in a single continuous upward line? What are the matters in which there has been, in historical times, a continuous religious advance? And have we any reason to think that this advance will continue without end? Even if the species of societies called civilizations does give way to a historically younger and perhaps spiritually higher species embodied in a single world- wide and enduring representative in the shape of the Christian Church, may there not come a time when the tug of war between Christianity and original sin will settle down to a static balance of spiritual forces?
Let me put forward one or two considerations in reply to these questions.
In the first place, religious progress means spiritual progress, and spirit means personality. Therefore religious progress must take place in the spiritual lives of personalities –it must show itself in their rising to a spiritually higher state and achieving a spiritually finer activity.
Now, in assuming that this individual progress is what spiritual progress means, are we after all admitting Frazer’s thesis that the higher religions are essentially and incurably anti-social? Does a shift of human interests and energy from trying to create the values aimed at in the civilizations to trying to create the values aimed at in the higher religions mean that the values for which the civilizations stand are bound to suffer? Are spiritual and social values antithetical and inimical to each other? Is it true that the fabric of civilization is undermined if the salvation of the individual soul is taken as being the supreme aim of life?
Frazer answers these questions in the affirmative. If his answer were right it would mean that human life was a tragedy without a catharsis. But I personally believe that Frazer’s answer is not right, because I think it is based on a fundamental misconception of what the nature of souls or personalities is.