In the Same Depths

From Mens Creatrix, 363-364 (1917)

By power and by love God would deliver us from pride, which is the one poison of the soul, and brings us into union with himself. This union, however, means something more than the divine control of our conscious wills and affections. In such union our whole nature becomes receptive, and deep in the subconscious nature divinely given thoughts are planted, even as in the same depths of the selfish nature other evil spirits, human or diabolic, plant the thoughts of which it is receptive.

All living thought, or almost all, is subconscious. We hardly ever know the origin of those thoughts which we call our own, as distinct from those which others have given us by speech or writing. Probably it is by suggesting thoughts to the subconscious minds of his servants that God most normally directs the course of history, even as by similar suggestion the evil powers try to thwart his purpose. Probably the good seed and the bad are sown by the Sower in all hearts; but only those grow to conscious thoughts or plans of action which have found congenial soil. But the evil device, as we have seen, always leads to its own defeat and the greater exaltation of good, while the good will possess the one supreme and lasting joy of union with the eternal God.

At every moment God is controlling the results of human choice and turning them to the fulfillment of his own purpose; but the choice is human and the wrong choice is an evil thing. But if the whole of history is indeed an ordered system such as the intellect demands for the satisfaction of its ideal of coherence, we are led of necessity to believe in an eternal knowledge to which the whole process, endless though it may possibly be, is present in a single apprehension. For the omniscient mind every episode is grasped as an element in that glorious whole of which it is a constituent part. Everlastingly in the life of God death is swallowed up in victory. It is in the absolute perfection of that eternal experience, in which the whole process of time is grasped in a single apprehension, that the ultimate ground of all that happens in history is to be found. To those who have seen in the life and death and resurrection of Christ the manifestation of the eternal omnipotence, this experience can already be in a small measure shared through faith.

William Temple (1881-1944) was an English Anglican archbishop and theologian, and an influential advocate for ecumenism and social reform. He taught at Oxford before serving as a headmaster and a canon of Westminster Abbey, and then was Bishop of Manchester and Archbishop of York, and, finally, Canterbury. Mens Creatrix, a study of anthropology and ethics, is his major work of philosophical theology. Temple is commemorated on November 6 on the liturgical calendars of several Anglican churches.


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