Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
At the outset of The Double Search, Rufus M. Jones invokes the myth in Plato’s Symposion (c. 399-390 b.c.e.; Symposium, 1701) that man in his original nature was a round being with four legs, four arms, one head, and two faces. Plato defines love between humans as the longing to return to this original state, in which each human was perfectly joined to another. While Plato argues that there is a higher love—namely, the soul’s longing to return to eternal Truth—Jones believes that our love for God is radically similar to our love for other people. Thus Plato’s parable of human love can also be taken as a parable of religious love. God and humanity were originally one, a “divine whole” divided at human birth by the emergence of our individuality. God longs to be reunited with us as much as we long to be reunited with God. Christ represents the fulfillment of this double search; Christ is the round man in whom God and humanity are one.
Jones believes that his view of Christ is not undermined by modern science or biblical criticism. While other views of Christ are called into question by scientific rejections of supernatural claims and by literary critical rejections of the simple unity of biblical texts, Jones believes that his approach avoids these problems. His approach to Christ is an expression of the psychology of New Thought that began to be popular in America in the mid-nineteenth century. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson, the father of New Thought, Jones regards the historical Christ primarily as an example of how persons can realize the presence of God in their own lives. He believes that the outward, historical revelation of Christ is an important guide to God, much as Ludwig van Beethoven is an important instructor in music. Christ, however, is fundamentally an inward reality for Jones. The incarnation is an ongoing psychological event.
Like founder of Christian Science Mary Baker Eddy, the most famous proponent of New Thought, Jones understands Christ as the idea of divine love. He further believes that having the idea of divine love enables human beings to represent Christ to others. Also like Eddy, Jones believes that religious idealism amplifies without contradicting modern science. However, while Eddy focused on the health-giving effects of Christian idealism, in The Double Search Jones is primarily interested in reflecting on the role that God and Christ play in the human psyche. He defines God as the spiritual personality that human persons develop through their love of God. He uses the term “Christ” as a means of discussing the evolution of the human personality.
Viewed in relation to the evolution of human society, Christ represents the historical moment when humankind became fully aware of God as the ideal toward which it should rightly strive. Jones believes that the Hebrew prophets were dimly aware of this Christ ideal but that their primitive culture prevented them from fully realizing this ideal. The birth of Christ represents a new era of cultural maturity. Christ is the great divide in the history of human evolution. He embodies humanity’s successful striving for the ideal self that pulls it out of its lower nature.
The spiritual evolution of humankind is the result of cooperating forces. On one side, as we strive for an ideal self, we push ourselves upward. God is this ideal self. On the other, by opening ourselves to the compelling force of our ideal self, we are drawn upward by its embrace. This is the point Jones continually reiterates: the uplifting pull of the ideal self cooperates with our effort to push ourselves upward from below. Human beings’ efforts to improve themselves are met by spiritual cooperation from above; God is always reaching down to draw us upward. Jones pictures God as a universal force permeating human personalities, much as sunlight permeates the natural world, infusing all organisms with the power of life. Just as in the natural world the capacity to absorb sunlight differentiates a giant oak from a daisy, so in the human world, persons who open themselves fully to God and his uplifting love grow spiritually stronger and more...
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Sources for Further Study
Fuller, Robert C. Mesmerism and the American Cure of Souls. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982. An excellent study of the close relationship between psychological theory and American religious thought in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Hedstrom, Matthew S. “Rufus Jones and Mysticism for the Masses.” Cross Currents 54, no. 2 (Summer, 2004): 31-44. A fourteen-page essay that addresses Jones’s efforts to bring spirituality to everyday people and their problems.
Jones, Rufus M. The Later Periods of Quakerism. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1970. An important study of the history of Quaker spirituality.
Jones, Rufus M. Rufus Jones Speaks to Our Time: An Anthology. Edited by Harry Emerson Fosdick. New York: Macmillan, 1951. A good collection of excerpts from Jones’s writings organized by religious themes.
Jones, Rufus M. Social Law in the Spiritual World: Studies in Human and Divine Inter-Relationship. New York: George H. Doran, 1923. A pioneer study in New Thought exploring the relationship between mysticism and social life.
Meyer, Donald. The Positive Thinkers: Popular Religious Psychology from Mary Baker Eddy to Norman Vincent Peale and Ronald Reagan. 1965. Rev. ed., with a new introduction. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1988. A good overview of the history and issues involved in the New Thought tradition from Emerson to Norman Vincent Peale.