Page:The Idea of Progress.djvu/36

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THE IDEA

The well-known law that all institutions carry with them the seeds of their own dissolution is not so much an illustration of the law of cyclical revolution, as a proof that we have been carried to and fro by every wind of doctrine. What we need is a fixed and absolute standard of values, that we may know what we want to get and where we want to go. It is no answer to say that all values are relative and ought to change. Some values are not relative but absolute. Spiritual progress must be within the sphere of a reality which is progressing, or for which, in Milton’s grand words, 'progresses the dateless and irrevoluble circle of its own perfection, joining inseparable hands with joy and bliss in over-measure for ever'. Assuredly there must be advance in our apprehension of the ideal, which can never be fully realized because it belongs to the eternal world. We count not ourselves to have apprehended in aspiration any more than in practice. As Nicolas of Cusa says: 'To be able to know ever more and more without end, this is our likeness to the eternal Wisdom. Man always desires to know better what he knows, and to love more what he loves; and the whole world is not sufficient for him, because it does not satisfy his craving for knowledge.' But since our object is to enter within the realm of unchanging perfection, finite and relative progress cannot be our ultimate aim, and such progress, like everything else most worth having, must not be aimed at too directly. Our ultimate aim is to live in the knowledge and enjoyment of the absolute values, Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. If the Platonists are right, we shall shape our surroundings more effectively by this kind of idealism than by adopting the creed and the methods of secularism. I have suggested that our disappointments have been very largely due to the