This book has been called “The Life of the Spirit and the Life of To-day” in order to emphasize as much as possible the practical, here-and-now nature of its subject; and specially to combat the idea that the spiritual life—or the mystic life, as its more intense manifestations are sometimes called—is to be regarded as primarily a matter of history. It is not. It is a matter of biology. Though we cannot disregard history in our study of it, that history will only be valuable to us in so far as we keep tight hold on its direct connection with the present, its immediate bearing on our own lives: and this we shall do only in so far as we realize the unity of all the higher experiences of the race. In fact, were I called upon to choose a motto which should express the central notion of these chapters, that motto would be—“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” This declaration I would interpret in the widest possible sense; as suggesting the underlying harmony and single inspiration of all man’s various and apparently conflicting expressions of his instinct for fullness of life. For we shall not be able to make order, in any hopeful sense, of the tangle of material which is before us, until we have subdued it to this ruling thought: seen one transcendent Object towards which all our twisting pathways run, and one impulsion pressing us towards it.
As psychology is now teaching us to find, at all levels of our craving, dreaming, or thinking, the diverse expressions of one psychic energy; so that type of philosophy which comes nearest to the religion of the Spirit, invites us to find at all levels of life the workings and strivings of one Power: “a Reality which both underlies and crowns all our other, lesser strivings." Variously manifested in partial achievements of order and goodness, in diversities of beauty, and in our graded apprehensions of truth, this Spirit is yet most fully known to us in the transcendent values of holiness and love. The more deeply it is loved by man, the nearer he draws to its heart: and the greater his love, the more fully does he experience its transforming and energizing power. The words of Plotinus are still true for every one of us, and are unaffected by the presence or absence of creed:
“Yonder is the true object of our love, which it is possible to grasp and to live with and truly to possess, since no envelope of flesh separates us from it. He who has seen it knows what I say, that the soul then has another life, when it comes to God, and having come possesses Him, and knows when in that state that it is in the presence of the dispenser of true life and that it needs nothing further."
So, if we would achieve anything like a real integration of life—and until we have done so, we are bound to be restless and uncertain in our touch upon experience—we are compelled to press back towards contact with this living Reality, however conceived by us. And this not by way of a retreat from our actual physical and mental life, but by way of a fulfilment of it.