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chapter 28
It occurred neither to Hayward nor to Weeks that the conversations which helped them to pass an idle evening were being turned over afterwards in Philip’s active brain. It had never struck him before that religion was a matter upon which discussion was possible. To him it meant the Church of England, and not to believe in its tenets was a sign of wilfulness which could not fail of punishment here or hereafter. There was some doubt in his mind about the chastisement of unbelievers. It was possible that a merciful judge, reserving the flames of hell for the heathen—Mahommedans, Buddhists, and the rest—would spare Dissenters and Roman Catholics (though at the cost of how much humiliation when they were made to realise their error!), and it was also possible that He would be pitiful to those who had had no chance of learning the truth,—this was reasonable enough, though such were the activities of the Missionary Society there could not be many in this condition—but if the chance had been theirs and they had neglected it (in which category were obviously Roman Catholics and Dissenters), the punishment was sure and merited. It was clear that the miscreant was in a parlous state. Perhaps Philip had not been taught it in so many words, but certainly the impression had been given him that only members of the Church of England had any real hope of eternal happiness.

One of the things that Philip had heard definitely stated was that the unbeliever was a wicked and a vicious man; but Weeks, though he believed in hardly anything that Philip believed, led a life of Christian purity. Philip had received little kindness in his life, and he was touched by the American’s desire to help him: once when a cold kept him in bed for three days, Weeks nursed him like a mother. There was neither vice nor wickedness in him, but only sincerity and loving-kindness. It was evidently possible to be virtuous and unbelieving.

Also Philip had been given to understand that people adhered to other faiths only from obstinacy or self-interest: in their hearts they knew they were false; they deliberately sought to deceive others. Now, for the sake of his German he had been accustomed on Sunday mornings to attend the Lutheran service, but when Hayward arrived he began instead to go with him to Mass. He noticed that, whereas the Protestant church was nearly empty and the congregation had a listless air, the Jesuit on the other hand was crowded and the worshippers seemed to pray with all their hearts. They had not the look of hypocrites. He was surprised at the contrast; for he knew of course that the Lutherans, whose faith was closer to that of the Church of England, on that account were nearer the truth than the Roman Catholics. Most of the men—it was largely a masculine congregation—were South Germans; and he could not help saying to himself that if he had been born in South Germany he would certainly have been a Roman Catholic. He might just as well have been born in a Roman Catholic country as in England; and in England as well in a Wesleyan, Baptist, or Methodist family as in one that fortunately belonged to the church by law established. He was a little breathless at the danger he had run. Philip was on friendly terms with the little Chinaman who sat at table with him twice each day. His name was Sung. He was always smiling, affable, and polite. It seemed strange that he should frizzle in hell merely because he was a Chinaman; but if salvation was possible whatever a man’s faith was, there did not seem to be any particular advantage in belonging to the Church of England.

Philip, more puzzled than he had ever been in his life, sounded Weeks. He had to be careful, for he was very sensitive to ridicule; and the acidulous humour with which the American treated the Church of England disconcerted him. Weeks only puzzled him more. He made Philip acknowledge that those South Germans whom he saw in the Jesuit church were every bit as firmly convinced of the truth of Roman Catholicism as he was of that of the Church of England, and from that he led him to admit that the Mahommedan and the Buddhist were convinced also of the truth of their respective religions. It looked as though knowing that you were right meant nothing; they all knew they were right. Weeks had no intention of undermining the boy’s faith, but he was deeply interested in religion, and found it an absorbing topic of conversation. He had described his own views accurately when he said that he very earnestly disbelieved in almost everything that other people believed. Once Philip asked him a question, which he had heard his uncle put when the conversation at the vicarage had fallen upon some mildly rationalistic work which was then exciting discussion in the newspapers.

‘But why should you be right and all those fellows like St. Anselm and St. Augustine be wrong?’

‘You mean that they were very clever and learned men, while you have grave doubts whether I am either?’ asked Weeks.

‘Yes,’ answered Philip uncertainly, for put in that way his question seemed impertinent.

‘St. Augustine believed that the earth was flat and that the sun turned round it.’

‘I don’t know what that proves.’

‘Why, it proves that you believe with your generation. Your saints lived in an age of faith, when it was practically impossible to disbelieve what to us is positively incredible.’

‘Then how d’you know that we have the truth now?’

‘I don’t.’

Philip thought this over for a moment, then he said:

‘I don’t see why the things we believe absolutely now shouldn’t be just as wrong as what they believed in the past.’

‘Neither do I.’

‘Then how can you believe anything at all?’

‘I don’t know.’

Philip asked Weeks what he thought of Hayward’s religion.

‘Men have always formed gods in their own image,’ said Weeks. ‘He believes in the picturesque.’

Philip paused for a little while, then he said:

‘I don’t see why one should believe in God at all.’

The words were no sooner out of his mouth than he realised that he had ceased to do so. It took his breath away like a plunge into cold water. He looked at Weeks with startled eyes. Suddenly he felt afraid. He left Weeks as quickly as he could. He wanted to be alone. It was the most startling experience that he had ever had. He tried to think it all out; it was very exciting, since his whole life seemed concerned (he thought his decision on this matter must profoundly affect its course) and a mistake might lead to eternal damnation; but the more he reflected the more convinced he was; and though during the next few weeks he read books, aids to scepticism, with eager interest it was only to confirm him in what he felt instinctively. The fact was that he had ceased to believe not for this reason or the other, but because he had not the religious temperament. Faith had been forced upon him from the outside. It was a matter of environment and example. A new environment and a new example gave him the opportunity to find himself. He put off the faith of his childhood quite simply, like a cloak that he no longer needed. At first life seemed strange and lonely without the belief which, though he never realised it, had been an unfailing support. He felt like a man who has leaned on a stick and finds himself forced suddenly to walk without assistance. It really seemed as though the days were colder and the nights more solitary. But he was upheld by the excitement; it seemed to make life a more thrilling adventure; and in a little while the stick which he had thrown aside, the cloak which had fallen from his shoulders, seemed an intolerable burden of which he had been eased. The religious exercises which for so many years had been forced upon him were part and parcel of religion to him. He thought of the collects and epistles which he had been made to learn by heart, and the long services at the Cathedral through which he had sat when every limb itched with the desire for movement; and he remembered those walks at night through muddy roads to the parish church at Blackstable, and the coldness of that bleak building; he sat with his feet like ice, his fingers numb and heavy, and all around was the sickly odour of pomatum. Oh, he had been so bored! His heart leaped when he saw he was free from all that.

He was surprised at himself because he ceased to believe so easily, and, not knowing that he felt as he did on account of the subtle workings of his inmost nature, he ascribed the certainty he had reached to his own cleverness. He was unduly pleased with himself. With youth’s lack of sympathy for an attitude other than its own he despised not a little Weeks and Hayward because they were content with the vague emotion which they called God and would not take the further step which to himself seemed so obvious. One day he went alone up a certain hill so that he might see a view which, he knew not why, filled him always with wild exhilaration. It was autumn now, but often the days were cloudless still, and then the sky seemed to glow with a more splendid light: it was as though nature consciously sought to put a fuller vehemence into the remaining days of fair weather. He looked down upon the plain, a-quiver with the sun, stretching vastly before him: in the distance were the roofs of Mannheim and ever so far away the dimness of Worms. Here and there a more piercing glitter was the Rhine. The tremendous spaciousness of it was glowing with rich gold. Philip, as he stood there, his heart beating with sheer joy, thought how the tempter had stood with Jesus on a high mountain and shown him the kingdoms of the earth. To Philip, intoxicated with the beauty of the scene, it seemed that it was the whole world which was spread before him, and he was eager to step down and enjoy it. He was free from degrading fears and free from prejudice. He could go his way without the intolerable dread of hell-fire. Suddenly he realised that he had lost also that burden of responsibility which made every action of his life a matter of urgent consequence. He could breathe more freely in a lighter air. He was responsible only to himself for the things he did. Freedom! He was his own master at last. From old habit, unconsciously he thanked God that he no longer believed in Him.

Drunk with pride in his intelligence and in his fearlessness, Philip entered deliberately upon a new life. But his loss of faith made less difference in his behaviour than he expected. Though he had thrown on one side the Christian dogmas it never occurred to him to criticise the Christian ethics; he accepted the Christian virtues, and indeed thought it fine to practise them for their own sake, without a thought of reward or punishment. There was small occasion for heroism in the Frau Professor’s house, but he was a little more exactly truthful than he had been, and he forced himself to be more than commonly attentive to the dull, elderly ladies who sometimes engaged him in conversation. The gentle oath, the violent adjective, which are typical of our language and which he had cultivated before as a sign of manliness, he now elaborately eschewed.

Having settled the whole matter to his satisfaction he sought to put it out of his mind, but that was more easily said than done; and he could not prevent the regrets nor stifle the misgivings which sometimes tormented him. He was so young and had so few friends that immortality had no particular attractions for him, and he was able without trouble to give up belief in it; but there was one thing which made him wretched; he told himself that he was unreasonable, he tried to laugh himself out of such pathos; but the tears really came to his eyes when he thought that he would never see again the beautiful mother whose love for him had grown more precious as the years since her death passed on. And sometimes, as though the influence of innumerable ancestors, Godfearing and devout, were working in him unconsciously, there seized him a panic fear that perhaps after all it was all true, and there was, up there behind the blue sky, a jealous God who would punish in everlasting flames the atheist. At these times his reason could offer him no help, he imagined the anguish of a physical torment which would last endlessly, he felt quite sick with fear and burst into a violent sweat. At last he would say to himself desperately:

‘After all, it’s not my fault. I can’t force myself to believe. If there is a God after all and he punishes me because I honestly don’t believe in Him I can’t help it.’

 

第二十八章

海沃德也好,维克斯也好,全没想到他们借以消磨无聊黄昏的那些饭后清谈,竟会在菲利普灵活的头脑里引起好大一番折腾。菲利普以前从没想到宗教竟是件可以随意探讨的事儿。对他来说,宗教就是英国国教,不相信该教的教义乃是任性妄为的表现,不是今生就是来世,迟早要受到惩罚。关于不信国教者要受惩罚这一点,他脑子里也有一些怀疑。说不定有这么一位慈悲为怀的判官,专把地狱之火用来对付那些相信伊斯兰教、佛教以及其他宗教的异教徒,而对非国教派的基督徒和罗马天主教徒则可能高抬贵手,网开一面。(不过这可得付出代价--他们在被迫承认错误的时候得蒙受什么样的屈辱!)说不定上帝本人也可能动恻隐之心,宽宥那些没有机会了解真相的人--这也言之成理,因为尽管布道团四下活动,其活动范围毕竟有限-一不过,倘若他们明明有这样的机会却偏偏置若罔闻(罗马天主教徒和非国教派教徒显然属于这一范畴),他们就逃脱不了应得的惩罚。不用说,信奉异端邪说者,处境危如累卵。由许并没有人拿这些话来开导过菲利普,但是,他无疑得到了这样的印象:唯有英国国教派的教友,才真正可望获得永恒的幸福。

有一点菲利普倒是听人明确提起过的,这就是:不从国教者,尽是此邪恶、凶险之徒。可这位维克斯,尽管对他菲利普所信仰的一切事物几乎全表示怀疑,却过着基督徒纯洁无暇的生活。菲利普并没有从生活中得到多少温暖友爱,而现在倒是被这个美国人乐于助人的精神深深打动了。有一次,他因患感冒在床上整整躺了三天,维克斯像慈母一般在旁悉心照料。在维克斯身上,没有半点邪恶和凶险的影子,唯见一片赤诚和仁爱。显然,一个人完全有可能做到既有德行,而又不信从国教。

另外,菲利普从他人的言谈中也了解到,有些人之所以死抱住其他信仰不放,若不是由于冥顽不化,就是出于私利的考虑:他们心里明知那些信仰纯属虚妄,但仍有意装模作样来蒙骗他人。为了学习德语,菲利普本来已习惯于主日上午去路德会教堂做礼拜,自从海沃德来到这儿以后,又开始跟他一起去做弥撒。他注意到新教堂内门庭冷落,做礼拜的教友都显得没精打采;而另一方,耶稣会教堂内却是人头攒动,座无虚席,善男信女祷告时似乎虔诚到了极点。他们看上去也不像是一伙伪君子。见到如此鲜明的对比,菲利普不由暗暗吃惊,不用说,他知道路德会的教义较接近于英国国教,所以比罗马天主教会更贴近真理。大部分信徒(做礼拜的基本上都是男信徒)是德国南部人士,菲利普不禁暗自嘀咕,要是自己出生在德国南部,也肯定会成为天主教徒的。诚然,他生于英国,但也完全有可能出生在某个天主教国家;就是在英国,他诞生在一个幸好是遵奉法定国教的家庭,但也完全可能诞生在某个美以美教友、浸礼会教友或卫理会教友的家庭。好险啊,差点儿投错了娘胎!想到这儿,菲利普还真舒了一口气。菲利普扣那位身材矮小的中国人相处得很融洽,每天要和他同桌共餐两次。此人姓宋,总是笑眯眯的,为人和善,举止文雅。要是仅仅因为他是个中国人就非得下地狱受煎熬,岂不奇哉怪也?反之,要是一个人不问有何信仰,灵魂都能获得拯救,那么信奉英国国教似乎也谈不上有什么得天独厚之处了。

菲利普一生中,从未像现在这样迷惘惶惑,他去试探维克斯对这事的看法。他得慎之又慎,因为他对别人的嘲弄颇为敏感,而那个美国人谈论英国国教时的尖酸口吻,弄得菲利普狼狈不堪。维克斯反而使他越发迷惑不解。他迫使菲利普承认:他在耶稣会教堂看到的那些德国南部人士,他们笃信罗马天主教,就像他笃信英国国教一样至诚。维克斯进而又使他承认,伊斯兰教徒和佛教徒也同样对各自的宗教教义坚信不疑。由此看来,自认为正确并不说明任何问题,大家都自认为正确得很。维克斯无意破坏这孩子的信仰,只不过是因为自己对宗教深感兴趣,觉得宗教是个引人入胜的话题罢了。他说过,凡是他人信仰的事物,他差不多一概加以怀疑,这话倒也精确无误地表达了他自己的观点。有一回,菲利普问了他一个问题,那是菲利普以前听到他大伯提出来的,当时报纸正在热烈讨论某部温和的唯理主义作品,而他大伯也在家里同人谈起了这部作品。

"请问,为什么偏偏是你对,而像圣安塞姆和圣奥古斯丁那样一些人物倒错了呢?"

"你的意思是说,他们是聪明绝顶,博学多才的圣人。而对于我呢,你很有怀疑,觉得我既不聪明,又无学问,是吗?"

"嗯,"菲利普支支吾吾,不知说什么是好,自己刚才那样提出问题,未免有点儿唐突失礼。

"圣奥古斯丁认为地球是平的,而且太阳是绕着地球转动的。"

"我不懂这话说明什么问题。"

"嘿,这证明一代人有着一代人的信仰。您的那些圣人生活在信仰的年代里,在他们那种时代,那些在我们看来绝对无法置信的事物,他们却几乎不能不奉为玉律金科。"

"那么,您又怎么知道我们现在掌握了真理呢?"

"我并没这么说。"

菲利普沉思片刻之后说:

"我不明白,为什么我们今天置信不疑的事物,就不会像过去他们所相信的事物那样,同样也是错误的呢?"

"我也不明白。"

"那您怎么还可能有信仰呢?"

"我说不上来。"

菲利普又问维克斯对海沃德所信奉的宗教有何看法。

"人们总是按照自身的形象来塑造神抵的,"维克斯说,"他信奉生动别致的事物。"

菲利普沉思了半晌,又说:

"我不明白一个人干吗非得信奉上帝。"

话刚一出口,他顿时意识到自己已不再信奉上帝了。他好似一头栽进了冷水里,气也透不过来。他瞪着惊恐的双眼望着维克斯,突然害怕起来,赶紧离开了维克斯。他希望独自冷静一下。这是他有生以来最触目惊心的际遇。菲利普想把这件事通盘思考一下;这件事使他激动不已,因为它关系到他的整个一生(他觉得在这个问题上所作出的决定,势必深刻影响到他今后一辈子的生活历程),只要偶一失足,就可能沉沦万世,永劫不复。然而,他越是前思后想,主意就越坚定;尽管在以后的几个星期里,他如饥似渴地研读了几本帮助了解怀疑主义的书籍,结果无非是进一步坚定了他本能感受到的东西。事实是,他已不再相信上帝了,这并非出于这层或那层理由,而在于他天生没有笃信宗教的气质。信仰是外界强加给他的。这完全是环境和榜样在起作用。新的环境和新的榜样,给了他认识自我的机会。抛弃童年时代形成的信仰,毫不费事,就像脱掉一件他不再需要的斗篷一样。抛弃信仰以后,一上来,生活似乎显得陌生而孤独,尽管他一直没意识到,信仰毕竟是他生活中的可靠支柱。他感到自己像个一向依赖拐杖走路的人,现在突然被迫要独立跨步了。说真的,白天似乎更加寒冷,夜晚似乎越发凄凉。但是内心的激动在支撑着他,这一来,生活似乎成了一场更加惊心动魄的冒险;不久以后,那根被他扔在一边的拐棍,那件从他肩头滑落的斗篷,就像难以忍受的重担,永远从他身上卸去了。多年来一直强加在他身上的那一套宗教仪式,已成了他宗教信仰的一个重要组成部分。他不时想到那些过去要他死记硬背的祈祷文和使徒书,想到大教堂里所举行的那些冗长的礼拜仪式--从开始到结束就那么坐着,四肢发痒,巴不得能松动一下。他回忆起当年夜间如何沿着泥泞的道路走向布莱克斯泰勃的教区礼拜堂,那幢暗淡的建筑物里多么阴冷,他坐着坐着,双脚冻得像冰一般,手指又僵又重,无法动弹,而周围还弥漫着一股令人恶心的润发油的腻味,真是无聊透了。明白到自己已永远摆脱了所有这一切时,他的心房止不住跳荡起来。

他对自己感到吃惊,竟如此轻而易举地抛弃了上帝。他进入了心明神清的不惑之境,将此归因于自己的小聪明,殊不知他之所以会有这样的感受,乃是由于内在性格的微妙作用。他飘飘然有点忘乎所以。菲利普少年气盛,缺乏涵养,看不惯任何不同于自己的处世态度。他对维克斯和海沃德颇有几分鄙夷之意,因为他们满足于那种被称之为上帝的模糊感情,逡巡不前,不原跨出在菲利普看来似乎是非跨不可的那一步。一天,他为了登高远望,饱餐秀色,独自来到某座山岗。他自己也不明白,为什么野外景色总能使他心旷神怡,充满腾云飞天似的狂喜之情。眼下已入秋季,还经常是万里无云的大好天气,天幕上似乎闪烁着更加璀璨的光芒:大自然好似有意识要把更饱满的激情,倾注在所剩无几的晴朗日子里。菲利普俯视着眼前那一大片在阳光下微微颤抖的广阔平原,远处隐隐可见曼海姆的楼房屋顶,而那朦胧迷离的沃尔姆斯显得分外邈远。更为光耀夺目的,则是那横贯平原的莱茵河。宽阔的河面,华波涌涌,浮光闪金。菲利普伫立在山头,心儿不住欢快地跳动,他想象着魔鬼是如何同耶稣一块儿站在高山之巅,指给他看人世间的天堂。菲利普陶醉在眼前的绮丽风光之中,对他来说,似乎整个世界都展示在他面前,他急不可待地要飞步下山,去尽情领略尘世的欢乐。他摆脱了对沉沦堕落的恐惧,摆脱了世俗偏见的羁绊。他尽可以走自己的路,不必再害怕地狱之火的无情折磨。他猛地意识到自己同时也摆脱了责任的重负,以往由于这一重负压肩,他对自己生活中的一举一动,都得考虑其后果,不敢掉以轻心。现在,他可以在无拘无束的气氛中自由地呼吸。他的一言一行只需对自己负责就行了。自由!他终于摆脱了一切羁绊,成了自己的主宰。出于原有的习惯,他又不知不觉地为此而感谢那位他已不再信奉的上帝。

菲利普一面陶醉在自己的智慧和勇气之中,一面从容不迫地开始了新的生活。但是信仰的丧失,并没像他预期的那样明显地影响到自己的言谈举止。尽管他把基督教的信条扔到了一边,但他从未想到要去批评基督教的伦理观;他接受了基督教倡导的各种美德,并且进而认为,要是能因其本身的价值而身体力行,并不顾及报偿或惩罚,那倒也不失为好事。在教授太太的家里,很少有实践这些美德的用武之地。不过,他还是原意表现得比以往更诚实些,强迫自己对那几位枯燥乏味的老太太更殷勤些。有时她们想跟他攀谈,而他呢,只是一般性地敷衍几句。文雅的诅咒语,激烈的形容词,这些体现我们英国语言特色的东西,菲利普一向视为男子气的象征,努力修习,可现在则是煞费苦心地戒绝不说了。

既然已把这件事一劳永逸地圆满解决了,菲利普便想把它抛置脑后。不过,嘴上说说很容易,做起来可不简单哪:他无法排除那些后悔的念头,也不能抑制那此不时折磨着自己的疑虑情绪。菲利普毕竟年纪尚轻,结交的朋友又不多,所以灵魂的永生不灭对他并无特别的吸引力,说不信也就不信了,没什么大不了的。但是有一件事情使他黯然伤神。菲利普暗暗责备自己太不近情理,试图借嘲笑自己来排遣这种悲怆之情。可是,每当他想到这一来将永远见不着那位美丽的母亲了,总忍不住热泪盈眶。他母亲死后,随着岁月的流逝,他越来越觉得母爱的珍贵。似乎是由于无数虔诚、敬神的先人在冥冥中对他施加影响,他有时会陷于莫名其妙的恐惧之中而不能自拔:说不定这一切竟是真的呢,在那儿,蓝色的天幕后面,藏着一位生性忌妒的上帝,他将用永不熄灭的烈火来惩罚无神论者。逢到这种时候,理智也帮不了他什么忙,他想象着无休止的肉体折磨会给人带来什么样的巨大痛苦,吓得浑身冷汗淋漓,差不多要晕了过去。最后,他绝望地自言自语说:

"这毕竟不是我的过错。我不能强迫自己去相信。若是果真有个上帝,而且就因为我老实表示不相信他而一定要惩罚我,那我也只得随他去了。"


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