<p>Private property has crushed true Individualism, and set up an Individualism
that is false. It has debarred one part of the community from
being individual by starving them. It has debarred the other part
of the community from being individual by putting them on the wrong
road, and encumbering them. Indeed, so completely has man’s
personality been absorbed by his possessions that the English law has
always treated offences against a man’s property with far more
severity than offences against his person, and property is still the
test of complete citizenship. The industry necessary for the making
money is also very demoralising. In a community like ours, where
property confers immense distinction, social position, honour, respect,
titles, and other pleasant things of the kind, man, being naturally
ambitious, makes it his aim to accumulate this property, and goes on
wearily and tediously accumulating it long after he has got far more
than he wants, or can use, or enjoy, or perhaps even know of.
Man will kill himself by overwork in order to secure property, and really,
considering the enormous advantages that property brings, one is hardly
surprised. One’s regret is that society should be constructed
on such a basis that man has been forced into a groove in which he cannot
freely develop what is wonderful, and fascinating, and delightful in
him—in which, in fact, he misses the true pleasure and joy of
living. He is also, under existing conditions, very insecure.
An enormously wealthy merchant may be—often is—at every
moment of his life at the mercy of things that are not under his control.
If the wind blows an extra point or so, or the weather suddenly changes,
or some trivial thing happens, his ship may go down, his speculations
may go wrong, and he finds himself a poor man, with his social position
quite gone. Now, nothing should be able to harm a man except himself.
Nothing should be able to rob a man at all. What a man really
has, is what is in him. What is outside of him should be a matter
of no importance.</p>
<p>With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true,
beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in
accumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live.
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that
<p>It is a question whether we have ever seen the full expression of
a personality, except on the imaginative plane of art. In action,
we never have. Caesar, says Mommsen, was the complete and perfect
man. But how tragically insecure was Caesar! Wherever there
is a man who exercises authority, there is a man who resists authority.
Caesar was very perfect, but his perfection travelled by too dangerous
a road. Marcus Aurelius was the perfect man, says Renan.
Yes; the great emperor was a perfect man. But how intolerable
were the endless claims upon him! He staggered under the burden
of the empire. He was conscious how inadequate one man was to
bear the weight of that Titan and too vast orb. What I mean by
a perfect man is one who develops under perfect conditions; one who
is not wounded, or worried or maimed, or in danger. Most personalities
have been obliged to be rebels. Half their strength has been wasted
in friction. Byron’s personality, for instance, was terribly
wasted in its battle with the stupidity, and hypocrisy, and Philistinism
of the English. Such battles do not always intensify strength:
they often exaggerate weakness. Byron was never able to give us
what he might have given us. Shelley escaped better. Like
Byron, he got out of England as soon as possible. But he was not
so well known. If the English had had any idea of what a great
poet he really was, they would have fallen on him with tooth and nail,
and made his life as unbearable to him as they possibly could.
But he was not a remarkable figure in society, and consequently he escaped,
to a certain degree. Still, even in Shelley the note of rebellion
is sometimes too strong. The note of the perfect personality is
not rebellion, but peace.</p>
<p>It will be a marvellous thing—the true personality of man—when
we see it. It will grow naturally and simply, flowerlike, or as
a tree grows. It will not be at discord. It will never argue
or dispute. It will not prove things. It will know everything.
And yet it will not busy itself about knowledge. It will have
wisdom. Its value will not be measured by material things.
It will have nothing. And yet it will have everything, and whatever
one takes from it, it will still have, so rich will it be. It
will not be always meddling with others, or asking them to be like itself.
It will love them because they will be different. And yet while
it will not meddle with others, it will help all, as a beautiful thing
helps us, by being what it is. The personality of man will be
very wonderful. It will be as wonderful as the personality of
<p>In its development it will be assisted by Christianity, if men desire
that; but if men do not desire that, it will develop none the less surely.
For it will not worry itself about the past, nor care whether things
happened or did not happen. Nor will it admit any laws but its
own laws; nor any authority but its own authority. Yet it will
love those who sought to intensify it, and speak often of them.
And of these Christ was one.</p>
<p>‘Know thyself’ was written over the portal of the antique
world. Over the portal of the new world, ‘Be thyself’
shall be written. And the message of Christ to man was simply
‘Be thyself.’ That is the secret of Christ.</p>
<p>When Jesus talks about the poor he simply means personalities, just
as when he talks about the rich he simply means people who have not
developed their personalities. Jesus moved in a community that
allowed the accumulation of private property just as ours does, and
the gospel that he preached was not that in such a community it is an
advantage for a man to live on scanty, unwholesome food, to wear ragged,
unwholesome clothes, to sleep in horrid, unwholesome dwellings, and
a disadvantage for a man to live under healthy, pleasant, and decent
conditions. Such a view would have been wrong there and then,
and would, of course, be still more wrong now and in England; for as
man moves northward the material necessities of life become of more
vital importance, and our society is infinitely more complex, and displays
far greater extremes of luxury and pauperism than any society of the
antique world. What Jesus meant, was this. He said to man,
‘You have a wonderful personality. Develop it. Be
yourself. Don’t imagine that your perfection lies in accumulating
or possessing external things. Your affection is inside of you.
If only you could realise that, you would not want to be rich.
Ordinary riches can be stolen from a man. Real riches cannot.
In the treasury-house of your soul, there are infinitely precious things,
that may not be taken from you. And so, try to so shape your life
that external things will not harm you. And try also to get rid
of personal property. It involves sordid preoccupation, endless
industry, continual wrong. Personal property hinders Individualism
at every step.’ It is to be noted that Jesus never says
that impoverished people are necessarily good, or wealthy people necessarily
bad. That would not have been true. Wealthy people are,
as a class, better than impoverished people, more moral, more intellectual,
more well-behaved. There is only one class in the community that
thinks more about money than the rich, and that is the poor. The
poor can think of nothing else. That is the misery of being poor.
What Jesus does say is that man reaches his perfection, not through
what he has, not even through what he does, but entirely through what
he is. And so the wealthy young man who comes to Jesus is represented
as a thoroughly good citizen, who has broken none of the laws of his
state, none of the commandments of his religion. He is quite respectable,
in the ordinary sense of that extraordinary word. Jesus says to
him, ‘You should give up private property. It hinders you
from realising your perfection. It is a drag upon you. It
is a burden. Your personality does not need it. It is within
you, and not outside of you, that you will find what you really are,
and what you really want.’ To his own friends he says the
same thing. He tells them to be themselves, and not to be always
worrying about other things. What do other things matter?
Man is complete in himself. When they go into the world, the world
will disagree with them. That is inevitable. The world hates
Individualism. But that is not to trouble them. They are
to be calm and self-centred. If a man takes their cloak, they
are to give him their coat, just to show that material things are of
no importance. If people abuse them, they are not to answer back.
What does it signify? The things people say of a man do not alter
a man. He is what he is. Public opinion is of no value whatsoever.
Even if people employ actual violence, they are not to be violent in
turn. That would be to fall to the same low level. After
all, even in prison, a man can be quite free. His soul can be
free. His personality can be untroubled. He can be at peace.
And, above all things, they are not to interfere with other people or
judge them in any way. Personality is a very mysterious thing.
A man cannot always be estimated by what he does. He may keep
the law, and yet be worthless. He may break the law, and yet be
fine. He may be bad, without ever doing anything bad. He
may commit a sin against society, and yet realise through that sin his
<p>There was a woman who was taken in adultery. We are not told
the history of her love, but that love must have been very great; for
Jesus said that her sins were forgiven her, not because she repented,
but because her love was so intense and wonderful. Later on, a
short time before his death, as he sat at a feast, the woman came in
and poured costly perfumes on his hair. His friends tried to interfere
with her, and said that it was an extravagance, and that the money that
the perfume cost should have been expended on charitable relief of people
in want, or something of that kind. Jesus did not accept that
view. He pointed out that the material needs of Man were great
and very permanent, but that the spiritual needs of Man were greater
still, and that in one divine moment, and by selecting its own mode
of expression, a personality might make itself perfect. The world
worships the woman, even now, as a saint.</p>
<p>Yes; there are suggestive things in Individualism. Socialism
annihilates family life, for instance. With the abolition of private
property, marriage in its present form must disappear. This is
part of the programme. Individualism accepts this and makes it
fine. It converts the abolition of legal restraint into a form
of freedom that will help the full development of personality, and make
the love of man and woman more wonderful, more beautiful, and more ennobling.
Jesus knew this. He rejected the claims of family life, although
they existed in his day and community in a very marked form. ‘Who
is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ he said, when he was
told that they wished to speak to him. When one of his followers
asked leave to go and bury his father, ‘Let the dead bury the
dead,’ was his terrible answer. He would allow no claim
whatsoever to be made on personality.</p>
<p>And so he who would lead a Christlike life is he who is perfectly
and absolutely himself. He may be a great poet, or a great man
of science; or a young student at a University, or one who watches sheep
upon a moor; or a maker of dramas, like Shakespeare, or a thinker about
God, like Spinoza; or a child who plays in a garden, or a fisherman
who throws his net into the sea. It does not matter what he is,
as long as he realises the perfection of the soul that is within him.
All imitation in morals and in life is wrong. Through the streets
of Jerusalem at the present day crawls one who is mad and carries a
wooden cross on his shoulders. He is a symbol of the lives that
are marred by imitation. Father Damien was Christlike when he
went out to live with the lepers, because in such service he realised
fully what was best in him. But he was not more Christlike than
Wagner when he realised his soul in music; or than Shelley, when he
realised his soul in song. There is no one type for man.
There are as many perfections as there are imperfect men. And
while to the claims of charity a man may yield and yet be free, to the
claims of conformity no man may yield and remain free at all.</p>
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