Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria, Wellington. Vol. 22, No. 9. Thursday, August 13, 1959
—In reply to your correspondent R. H. C. Stewart, I have long since rejected Christ and eternal life in Mr Stewart's use of these terms. This does not mean that I say man is not immortal.
I simply do not know and I am quite content to wait till death to find out.
Nor does it imply a rejection of Christ as a very great and influential man, but merely the rejection of the theology created around him and his teachings.
Though I think Christ was more often right than wrong, I think He was wrong at times, the same as any other man, however great.
The error lies in raising man into a position of infallible omnisience. The statements or actions which may be wrong for me, may have been quite right for him and he may have believed them as Keats believed his statements on Truth and Beauty in the "Grecian Urn" ode.
These latter statements were undoubtedly true for Keats and probably for all artists, but not for all men, in all places, at all times.
While I realise that many men must have such props as infallible dogma and eternal life to enable them to cope with life, such men can command only my sympathy not my admiration.
I made it quite clear in my letter that I regarded fulfilment and satisfaction as legitimate ends, the primary ones of life, in fact.
My quarrel is with the humbug which endeavours to clothe these drives in false garments of altruism.
Undoubtedly we get great satisfaction from serving others, but it is the satisfaction that first concerns us, that warm glow of righteousness. A genuine concern for others exists, of course, but secondarily.
Your correspondent seems to suffer from an impression that I have not studied the Gospels or Christianity. On the contrary it is because I spent many years studying not only the Bible, the Upanishads, Lao Tze and others, but also entering myself as the member of succession of various congregations and groups (I expect I am still on the books as a member of the Presbyterian Church) that I have reached my present position.
As I came to appreciate the limitations of one group or teaching, so I discarded it to examine another and I trust that my mind will ever remain flexible and adventurous to always see more truth and more light.
This idea that the message (or the poem, say) is something apart from the man is a very seductive one, I know, but any careful study of a man and his works will show how inextricably they are intertwined and interrelated.
How could it possibly be otherwise unless you think a man can be merely an instrument through which a transcendental outside power can speak and it should be clear that I do not think this.