Monday, November 5, 2007

Rufus Jones

In the pamphlet Religion As Reality, Life and Power Rufus Jones makes an eloquent case for a mystical approach to religion. Familiar with the questions often raised by young college students, he addresses the Young Friends Association in Philadelphia in 1918 about truth, life, beauty and meaning.

Rufus Jones, professor of philosophy at Haverford College, is not one to mince his words, to couch his thoughts in vanilla-flavored jargon. Even in a small lecture like this Dr. Jones goes straight to the point without evasions. Here he addresses the essential question 'What is Religion?'
"I shall consider religion in this lecture as a way of realizing and fulfilling life, a way of finding the whole of oneself. Life is ... the discovery of infinite interior dimensions and possibilities, the finding of almost inexhaustible resources and supplies of power for the continual expansion of personal capacity and so the constant winning of unwon goals and the perennial acquisition of joy. … As the word implies, religion binds back the soul into union with realities which refresh it, restore it, vivify it, and integrate it and complete it; i.e., put it in possession of the whole of itself."
Religion is considered from the vantage point of Truth, where the context includes the Eternal, and Beauty, where "we suddenly become aware of free and spontaneous powers, of something unfathomable within ourselves.", and Service, where altruism is as essential to life as is an ever-present egoism. Yet considered by themselves none of these agencies of life are sufficient. "The most striking thing about the type of human life which I should suppose is normal is its infinite reach."

Jones is especially convinced of the enormous capabilities of the human self, especially concerned that youth has lost its way, has lost sight of the possibilities, has become separated from the potential fulfillment of life.
"Most of the tragedies of human life are these tragedies of separation and division. The divided self, sundered from its fellowship and companionship for which it was made, is always a sick and feeble soul. The way of health and healing is a way of union and correspondence with those necessary realities from which we have become isolated and we shall find that religion is one of the mightiest of all the constructive, unifying forces we know. As the word implies, religion binds back the soul into union with realities which refresh it, restore it, vivify it, and integrate it and complete it; i.e., put it in possession of the whole of itself."
Comparing his stunning vision of a nearby mountain being slowly revealed by the rising mist, Jones waxes poetic about the internal realities and the potential for true revelation:
"Sometimes - Oh joy! when the inward weather is just right; when selfish impulse has been hushed; when the clouds and shadows, which sin makes, are swept away and genuine love makes the whole inner atmosphere pure and free from haze, then I know that I find a beyond which before was nowhere in sight and might easily not have been suspected. I can not decide whether this extended range of sight is due to alterations in myself or whether it is due to some sudden increase of spiritual visibility in the great reality itself. I only know the fact. Before, I was occupied with things; now, I commune with God and am as sure of Him as I am of the mountains beyond my lake, which my skeptical visitor has not yet seen."
Do we remain Jones' skeptical visitors, or will we join him when the 'inward weather is just right' in the pursuit of his visions, his convictions, his mystical approach to the life and power of religion?



View the complete 1918 William Penn Lecture:Religion As Reality, Life and Power

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