The spirit of forgiveness pours out like a precious balm on a wounded soul. To be forgiven is the first step, and this requires first a candid admission that we were wrong in our attitudes and behaved wrongly in consequence. The soul expands in the warmth of a relief that, although it was culpable, it is nevertheless embraced in a love that will never depart from it. Love, as we discussed in Chapter 7, is a way of willed response which desires the persons to be themselves as God would have them be, and acts accordingly. The action is firstly pure silent prayer, in the course of which the inspiration of the Holy Spirit touches the depths and guides one into the proper way of action. The action that follows is no more one's personal response with its inevitably selfish component no matter how detached one feels, but rather the Spirit of God working through a cleansed individual, a true instrument of grace and peace, whose labours bring reassurance and calm delight to the one to whom service is expended. Forgiveness comes from God not the human; in the words of Alexander Pope's cliche, "To err is human, to forgive divine".

On the surface this seems a rather extreme view until we examine ourselves and our motives in detached clarity. Forgiveness in its real, embracing sense is not something that we can produce at a pinch, it is not an attitude that we can forthwith assume by a simple act of will, for we cannot come down to the position of the sinner, the one who has erred against us. We will inevitably approach him or her from a summit of rectitude, bestowing our pardon on them, but not really relating as person to person. What we are actually doing is pardoning the other individual, who in turn may be mightily relieved inasmuch as any impending punishment has passed mercifully from them like a menacing cloud in a pleasant, coolly blue summer sky with its threat of a shower just when we were organizing some outdoor activity. But there is no real relationship with the offender any more than there would have been in a court of law: the magistrate may be especially considerate, but the legal distance between him or her and the defendant makes any really human contact well nigh impossible.

I pardon from a situation of advantage, whether social, legal or moral; I forgive as person to person. My own heart is strangely warmed by an affection that has an interesting element of relief in it. As I am open to forgiving my fellow human, so the forgiveness that flows through my soul and informs my intellect with its bodily response assures me inwardly that I too have been forgiven. One begins to see how much unpleasant emotional debris resides in oneself, and the act of God's pure love cleanses one of much resentment, and not a little sinfulness also, as the love radiates to the person due to be forgiven. No wonder the relevant clause in the Lord's Prayer speaks of God forgiving us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. If we are to be forgiven it is not sufficient to confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness; we have also to open ourselves to the masked resentment we entertain against others and ask that this too may be expunged. True forgiveness has a transforming effect on the character both of the sinner and the one sinned against.

As long as we hold doggedly on to past associations, we close ourselves to God's renewing love. We remain in statu quo, and our responses have something of a perpetual gramophone record about them. But once we can let go of the past in faith, a new spiritual consciousness will infuse our being; where there was a frigid inactivity there is now a warm flowing out to the moment at hand. If I pardon you I may well not completely trust you; I shall be careful not to put you into any position wherein you may injure or betray me in the future. On the other hand, my forgiveness starts a new relationship between us; bygones are really bygones, and I start from a fresh beginning. Can the same be true of a criminal who has paid the price of their crime and misdemeanour? This is a very hard question, inasmuch as it might be wrong to tempt a frail brother with the world's goods, especially in the face of poverty such as most of the world's population have to confront. In a situation like this it seems that common sense should prevail in respect of the weakness of the offending party, but one should always remember one's own frailties and flow out to our weaker friend in love. A very disordered personality may fling our concern in our faces, and here the assistance of professional carers is well nigh essential for the well-being of us both. If truth is evaded, one moves from love to sentimentality, and considerable harm may accrue not only to us but to society as a whole. St Paul writes, "We are to maintain the truth in a spirit of love; so shall we fully grow up into Christ" (Ephesians 4.15).

This rather agonized discussion shows us that forgiveness comes from God but it is to be tempered by the human according to experience and wisdom. The circumstances determine our reaction, and we should not be influenced by a feeling of guilt because we cannot do more than our share at any one time. But the really important matter is harbouring an attitude of forgiveness even when we are dealing with incorrigible people. What we may not be able to effect directly can still be set in action by the power of prayer. Such prayer does not attempt to enlist God's intervention - he surely is aware of the fundamental problem more than we can ever hope to be - but to transmit God's love to the person for whom we intercede. A great deal depends on how receptive he or she is as to the possibility of a response, as well as its nature and magnitude; these are aspects of prayer that do not lie in our control. If forgiveness is to have a real effect, the one who has caused the trouble should emit humility and gratitude; if this response is forthcoming we both can start from a fresh footing and work towards becoming firm friends.

The two emotions that spark off forgiveness are guilt, which we have already considered, and anger. This is classified as one of the seven deadly sins, the others being pride, covetousness, lust, gluttony, envy and sloth. In everyday life anger requires a more profound analysis than merely to be called a sin; it may be less categorically condemned, for it is a spontaneous response to injustice whether this be real or merely imaginary. Anger can be regarded as a natural defence against destructive people who would otherwise trample over us. Such an anti-social attitude may be quite deliberate or blandly unwitting, but the effect is similar. There is therefore a legitimate place for anger in our psychological make-up, but it must be released with circumspection; above all it must never take control, otherwise the personality rapidly becomes isolated in a darkness which excludes any reflection other than the cause of the anger. This soon becomes a focus of destruction that affords us great satisfaction, comparable with sexual stimulation and sometimes providing it quite unobtrusively. Meanwhile the other, and far more important, problems of life are hidden beneath the acrid fumes of smouldering anger. Indeed, when anger takes over our life's concern, it rapidly obliterates all our finer feelings, in this way diverting our attention from the essential work of service with its attendant growth of the personality, so that we become prisoners in a static self-absorption that alienates us progressively from the lives of our friends and colleagues.

In this way anger which commences as a natural response to injustice can rapidly assert a pernicious control over us that seeks to eliminate anything that blocks its way. We are charting the rapid unfolding of anger to hatred; it is a characteristic of those political and religious movements that refuse to tolerate any dissident voices in their midst. These are easily magnified as enemies of society by angry fanatics. The witness of history bears a bitter record of such hatred finding its outlet in actions of terrifying destructiveness like the genocidal atrocities of our century. There is always a cause for anger, whether personal, communal or national, however childish and ill-informed it may appear to detached outsiders. As we read in Proverbs 14.10, "The heart knows its own bitterness, and in its joy a stranger has no part". When one investigates the cause of the bitterness that overflows in passionate anger, one is well advised to suspend judgement and rather enter into the inner life of the individual or the group. The gift of empathy, being able to project our personality into that of the person or group we are attempting to comprehend, is very valuable in such an undertaking. The basic emotion that precipitates anger is often fear, which in turn shows itself in a belief that injustice, even to a criminal extent, is being practised upon us. Some fear is clearly justified, but often it is quite plainly baseless and morbid, coming into the psychiatric category of paranoia, a state of mental ill-health in which the victim has delusions of being persecuted. A delusion is a false belief that is held despite all contrary evidence, and when it is extended into a system of ideas that influences the entire way of life, it not only excludes the person progressively from the company of their fellows but can also lead to violent exchanges as their anger mounts and can find no relief in normal social intercourse.

When such fears and delusions affect only one person, their error is obvious enough to the outsider, and the appropriate action may be taken, but when an entire community is similarly afflicted the national and international consequences may be of cataclysmic extent. In this way a vanquished nation may refuse to accept its defeat and adapt itself to the new situation in which it finds itself. Instead of this it is liable to look for scapegoats who can be blamed for the defeat, and even worse, for snatching the food from the remainder of the community. The scapegoat may differ in religious tradition from the majority of the people, practise a less acceptable life-style or be of demonstrably different ethnic origin from the native inhabitants of the country. Such "deviants" are frequently more prosperous than many of their indigenous neighbours, in which case it is easy enough for the national paranoia to attribute exclusive practices to the materially successful ones in the midst of the honest community, succeeding, as it were, by defrauding the others. As anyone with historical knowledge can see, all this happened to Germany during the Nazi regime; if only Germany had been treated more magnanimously at the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the First World War, the terrible sequence of national events that ended with Hitler and all that came from him might have been averted. The lesson was far better learned at the end of the Second World War, when Germany was treated much more kindly. Now we know that war has no victors, though it may still have to be waged against a country that starts hostilities in order to gain territorial advantage at the expense of its neighbours.

This diversion into the realms of recent history as well as the consideration of a more private, personal type of anger shows us how important it is that feelings of anger should be acknowledged at once, and the cause of that anger dealt with expeditiously. Apart from anger flaring up into a mighty conflagration of lethal hatred, it may also be dangerously repressed and eat cancerously into the soul. In such a case there is an initial injustice that has to be borne with an attitude of hopeless resignation. This is the typical response of people who are weak and are obliged to accept physical or mental abuse, and tolerate it indefinitely. If they were temerarious enough to resist and fight back, they could be severely manhandled and sustain serious injuries. The unfortunate child who is subjected to abuse, usually physically and sometimes sexually, is a typical example of the effects of this form of cruelty. The poor child's self-esteem is flattened, and beneath this psychological mutilation there festers a veritable sea of anger that cannot be readily expressed. Instead of outward expression, the anger eats into the personality where it produces a feeling of impotence both in the management of the person's own life and in participation in the world's greater affairs. The despondency may deepen and broaden progressively into a mounting depression that may assume clinical proportions in the type of individual predisposed to really severe depression as contrasted with a persistent despondency that recovers once the cause of the trouble has been removed.

Unsatisfied ambitions lead to another deadly sin, envy and its close relative, jealousy. I prefer to understand envy as a state of mind in which one covets other people's possessions or personal qualities like beauty or intelligence. Jealousy seems to proceed further: the fortunate person is disliked on account of their gifts to the extent of wanting to diminish that individual up to the point of their total destruction. This is achieved not so much by an act of physical violence that might kill as by speech which first casts aspersions upon the moral character of the person, then their skills and talents are subtly denigrated until in the end they are reduced to the level of sheer nonentity, which is, of course, the exact replica of the aggrieved party. Slander claims many more victims than does physical violence. The pen and its articulating organ, the tongue, are indeed mightier than the sword, as Edward George Bulwer-Lytton wrote in his poem "Richelieu", except that he did not include the tongue in his celebrated observation. His omission is made good in James 3.6-10, which begins, "The tongue is like a fire, representing in our body the whole wicked world. It pollutes our whole being, it sets the whole course of our existence alight, and its flames are fed by hell." The writer also observes that no one can subdue the tongue, which is an evil thing, restless and charged with deadly venom. Fortunately the tongue can also speak kindly and with generosity, but only when the spirit of goodwill informs its action. This is not compatible with jealousy or anger.

When we consider the hatred of communities against deviant groups, there is usually an odour of jealousy that inflames the latent force of fear and incapacity. Whatever we especially denounce or deride not infrequently covers a weak spot in our own character; thus the seeker after social advancement may attack the upper classes and those who covet wealth not infrequently deride rich people. Snobbery does not lose its humour by being inverted by unconscious jealousy.

All these aberrations of character, hatred, jealousy, snobbery and covetousness, speak of an inner anger that has not been properly confronted let alone assuaged. When we have been denied the self-esteem which is the due of any sensitive person, we seek to attain it in various subterfuges which build up the ego structure on airy fantasies. When the fall comes, as it does without fail, the collapse of the person may be well nigh complete. It is evident that anger has to be confronted directly, without either approval or condemnation, and its source uncovered. Much anger follows the gross injustice of abuse when we were helpless children. In the same fashion various religious and ethnic groups have been subjected to virulent cruelty throughout the centuries, but in none more systematically than our own. Those who have perished can at least carry their secret with them to the after-life, however we may conceive this, but the survivors have a terrible burden of implicit or explicit injustice to carry. While their contemporaries elsewhere are apparently living prosperous, fertile lives, they themselves are placed in the shadows of a broken personality, not infrequently accompanied by a ruined body also, the victim of cruel torture. One can hardly forget Job putting his case desperately before an ominously silent God, or the Psalmist not infrequently telling God to get moving in helping his chosen people. Some suffering is clearly well deserved, but much pain comes to people who have not been conspicuously remiss in their social and religious duties.

There are two thoughts that may extend our anguish about the unmerited suffering visited on luckless individuals or ethnic groups: firstly there is a belief in retribution and healing visited on the personality in the life beyond death. I personally accept the premise underlying this comforting reflection, but I cannot still my conscience with its outraged sense of decency by ruminating on a hypothesis that will not face the immediate inadequacy of the world's present state. It is far too easy a "cop out", a means of evading present disorder with visions of pie (or decayed meat for the evil doers in society) in the sky. Religion that stresses a working out of present distress in terms of rewards and punishments in our posthumous existence does not ring completely true, inasmuch as those retributions are contingent on the life we have led in this world. The occasional saint will have transcended all the grievances of the present in a vision of God that is of eternal quality, but most of us lesser beings will take our misery with us, a misery that prevents proper fellowship with those around us in any society, whether mundane or on the other side of physical death.

The other thought that may extend our anguish about the unmerited suffering visited upon unfortunate people is the deeper reflection that we are all parts of the one body of humanity, indeed of creation. We cannot expect to remain untouched even if our own lives have been of exemplary virtue. The same thought applies to the suffering and pain of little children and infants who fall victim to lethal diseases and die either rapidly or else after a period of painful encounter with the forces of darkness that so frequently seem to govern our little world. It has been my painful duty to attend the families of a number of such small children who have succumbed to cancers of the brain. In each case I have been humbled by the advanced state of understanding shown by the little ones, who know quite clearly what is in store for them in this life, and are more concerned about their parents' grief than their own condition. They seem to possess a preternatural sense of their future in the eternity of life, and seek to give some guidance to those who are mourning around them. Little people like these - and their simple adult representatives by extension - not only chasten my own self-centredness but also give me immense respect for the human race, and seem to illuminate the way ahead for us all once we begin to lose self-consciousness with all its obstacles. It was the same selfish ignorance that interfered with Peter's being able to accept the full nature of Christ's impending sacrifice after he had confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God (the sequence of Matthew 16.13-23 describes the full episode, Peter as usual clouding his spark of cosmic vision by thoughts of his own vulnerability, which he projects on to his Master). St Paul puts the matter in a somewhat comparable light when he writes in Colossians 1.24, "It is now my joy to suffer for you; for the sake of Christ's body, the church, I am completing what still remains for Christ to suffer in my own person".

No cruelty committed in this world is without its future repercussions. To be sure, the perpetrators have the primary price to pay, but society itself dare not wash its hands of the matter and claim virtuous exemption from the fruits of individual misdemeanour. It too was involved in the education and welfare of the miscreant, who was in all probability badly treated in their childhood and youth. The tendency for child abusers to have been similarly treated when they were young is very well recognized; this does not exonerate the present crime, but it does show us all how careful we have to be in our attitudes to other people. As Jesus would say to us, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. For as you judge others, so you will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out to others will be dealt to you" (Matthew 7.1-2). It is my belief that the world's saints help to lift up the world from the slough of despair that seems to enclose us all when we read of the many cruelties that humans are so adept at visiting on their fellow kind and on creation as a whole. These saints include the nameless ones also who live decent lives and serve the community by their example of patience and courage in the face of destructive disease, no less than those who live more actively in the world and may sacrifice their lives for their fellows in circumstances of destruction and terror.

Such suffering brings us all to a higher regard for our sacred calling to be God's priests, and I believe can produce a real change in the character of the person as well as an inspiration of their mind to a nobler way of living. The mind tends to play down the inspiration in the course of time whereas a real change in the character persists. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus is a case in point: the Jewish persecutor of the early Christians became the great St Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles primarily within the great Roman Empire but subsequently throughout the world as a result of his letters. His sufferings for the church, well documented in his letters to the Corinthians, have been the prototype of the sufferings of humanity as a whole for the better life in Christ, which, when properly practised, will change the whole face of humanity. We still await that day, but only when we all have come through the sufferings of body and mind, will we be able to play our part in the completion of a transformed world.

The burning question remains: how is the unjustly injured person to deal with their resentment, their burning anger, their flaming hatred? As I have already said, it is far better for these destructive emotions to be brought to the surface than lie buried deep in the psyche where they fester and lead to a crippling depression. The answer, of course, is by the practice of forgiveness, but this is not so easily effected. The situation bears some resemblance to bereavement with its emotional concomitant of grieving for the beloved. After an immediate period of shock there follows a prolonged emotional trough of sorrow, anger, guilt and shame, all of which have to be worked through without evading their harrowing inner desolation or their possibly embarrassing communal manifestations of tears and bitterness. It may take up to two years for a normal emotional life to be resumed. (A dead child is never replaced in its mother's or father's thoughts, but the parents have to proceed with the demands of common life, since time does not stand still to fit in with our moods of desolation.)

The same approach is useful in communicating with people who are consumed with anger and hatred. There is a time for the outer display to be faced with complete acceptance. Meanwhile time passes by, the memories of those supporting the person become increasingly dulled as they of necessity resume their own lives, and they rather impatiently expect the victim to follow in the same direction, as indeed the wise and self-controlled do. "For mortals depart to their everlasting home, and the mourners go about the street" (Ecclesiastes 12.5). Soon the mourners are obliged to return to their own private lives and businesses, but whereas the one who has died proceeds to the life beyond death, those they have left behind will have to play the game of life with their friends and colleagues, otherwise they will find themselves left behind with few to care about them. In respect of getting back on to one's own feet we can do no better than consider the positive life-affirmation characteristic of the Jews. One of the most inspiring features of their painful history of persecution and attempted destruction has been their capacity to come up to the surface and resume their interesting, rewarding and highly constructive lives despite continuing anti-Semitic prejudice. Their unique contribution to the affairs of the mind and the spirit has remained undulled despite even the radical attempt at their total annihilation practised by the Nazis in our own century.

This does not imply that a terrible racial memory of injustice and cruelty can be simply erased. It remains ineradicably fixed to warn the people to take good care in the future, but meanwhile their precious life has to be preserved and enjoyed while their faculties are in good order. There are some of us who find it almost impossible to let go of the past, letting bygones be bygones; they live in a constant atmosphere of grief and hatred, with desires for revenge lurking not too far in the background of their thoughts. It seems that little can be done to expunge their memories other than by the grace of God; even this cannot effect a foothold until the person's will is motivated towards a change in perspective with a deep desire to start a new life. The way in which we can be of most use is by listening in quiet sympathy to their repeated accounts of past events and assimilating the bitterness that pours out from them. A communicative silence is of vital importance, not the dead silence of helplessness but the living silence of deep participation, during which the Holy Spirit is liable to inspire us with conciliatory words. Patience may become strained, because many such people revel in their grievances, positively enjoying being miserable. These are beyond human help until the Holy Spirit works through their damaged minds. Sometimes a change in attitude may follow a serious accident or illness, in the course of which the individual is obliged to face a critical situation of life and death as immediate as that of the concentration camps of long ago. Once the overriding value of simply being alive has been recognized, however fleetingly, there is a small opening for kindness and concern to enter the hard shell, the carapace, of the soul.

The alternative response to injustice and cruelty is a mounting depression. It is here that psychotherapy can be of great value in disclosing the source of the trouble, which is often related to abuse during childhood. It is not without significance that a number of distinguished Jewish victims of the Holocaust who survived and seemed to have come to terms with the terrible events, suddenly committed suicide many years after the end of the Second World War. It could well be that they simply could not tolerate or cope with the memories of the past when these came flooding relentlessly into consciousness once more. There has been a notorious tendency of late for some people to deny, or at least to play down, the enormity of the Nazi death camps. While the main factor in this denial has undoubtedly been neo-Nazism, or fascism, among the determined promulgators of this unhistorical view, there has possibly been another factor at work as well: the difficulty that uncommitted people may have in accepting, let alone assimilating, the evil in question. What is morally repugnant can easily be ignored while we lead comfortable suburban lives replete with the good things that encompass us. It is questioned nowadays whether it would indeed be a sensible thing to dwell less conscientiously on the Holocaust and to move on to more constructive contemporary matters.

I believe that history plays a vital part in showing us the way in which the human psyche works over the many centuries of recorded events. We turn our backs on history to our own grave disadvantage. But the horrors of the past, of which the fascist concentration camps are merely items, albeit terrifying ones, in a long pageant stretching from the earliest records until our tragic century, are not to be forgotten. They also illustrate the nobility of individual sacrifice amid the carnage of the multitudes. On the other hand, it is unwise to dwell on these matters. They simply arouse hatred and a desire for revenge when they are concentrated upon to the virtual exclusion of the concurrent world situation. If any of us were to reflect on the sins that were committed against us during our life up to the present time, we might lose ourselves in bitterness and schemes of vengeance. Fortunately if we have a spiritual background, one in which God is the central presence of our lives, our attention is soon directed inwards to the less acceptable elements of our own character, and then we begin to seek forgiveness even more than justice for our own claims.

Terrible cruelty like that visited upon the victims of concentration camps and similar places of torture is not subject to human forgiveness except in the wake of a great downpouring of divine love that transforms our ego-centred personality to a soul-directed creature full of love and compassion. St Paul writes, ""Vengeance is mine," says the Lord, "I will repay"" (Romans 12.19, quoting Deuteronomy 32.35). Even this great truth can be a snare if we wait impatiently for God's justice to be visited on the objects of our own wrath. We have to learn to let go of the past, of the present too, and indeed of everything that appertains to us personally. It is a matter of considering the dictum we have already noticed: "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8.35). If one looks down upon cruelty and suffering from a purely personal point of view, the one advantage that strikes one is the gift of discrimination, of being able to disentangle the ego life that is due for destruction no matter how well it is crammed with good things, and the soul life that triumphs over all adversity to know the kingdom of God in its very midst but usually obscured by misconceptions that masquerade as the truth. It is sad that the unthinking practice of religion can easily degenerate into one of these misconceptions.

William Blake's poem, "A Poison Tree", one of the Songs of Experience, shows how the repression of anger can breed malevolence. It is written as a sharp warning.

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see,
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

It is evident that forgiveness stands in a direct relationship with love: both come from God, and both bring us closer to him and to our fellows. Forgiveness precedes love in a situation of anger and resentment. We know that we have really forgiven the other person or the injustice of the past when we feel an inner expansion of the soul. The really unpleasant aspect of anger and resentment is the closed effect they have on us; they imprison us in an attitude of defensiveness and suspicion that will not let us be really free to communicate with other people. These must first be on our side before we can relate fully to them. Of course our friends should be both with us and beyond us in their own concerns and aspirations. If we demand absolute loyalty from them we limit their own relationships with other people, including those with whom we are in enmity. But once the spirit of forgiveness touches our soul, we can let go of the past, not ceasing to remember it but, far more important, ceasing to care overmuch about it. At last we can begin to live full lives, imbibing the waters of renewal and inspiring the air of freedom. This inner expansion is one of the greatest experiences of God's grace that we may know, and our hearts sing a jubilant song of gratitude. Joy reigns supreme in little jets of humour and love that cannot be suppressed. And what we send out is returned to us in full measure by all those around us, themselves wondering why they feel so happy and contented. The reason is that in the presence of God's love all their perennial worries and fears are taken up into God's presence, where they are resurrected to the light rather like the resurrection of Jesus' own disfigured body after the trial of its crucifixion.

When we are forgiven our own sins, we know of the relief and joy as a new life opens for us, and we enter the company of our peers as if nothing adverse had happened. Our gratitude is beyond description. When we in turn experience a sense of forgiveness for all the suffering we have been obliged to undergo, the new life rejoices in paeans of praise to God, the supreme Creator always making the old order new. In this way we have no doubt either that we are forgiven for our past sins or that we have completely forgiven the past for the injustice we have been obliged to bear. The two are closer together than would be apparent at first sight, for God forgives us when we sincerely want to forgive the other person. The clause in the Lord's Prayer referred to earlier on in the chapter is thus fulfilled, except that our forgiveness extends beyond personal matters to the world situation at large. The anger that we justly register in the face of cruelty is assuaged in a larger vision of wholeness of which forgiveness is the portal of entry.

We may end with some celebrated words of William Blake from his "Auguries of Innocence":

A Robin Redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage . . .
A dog starv'd at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the State,
A horse misus'd upon the road
Calls to Heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain doth tear,
A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing . . .
The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won't believe.

And so the indictment of human cruelty to the defenceless animal kingdom proceeds. Blake would be pleased that his protests against unkindness to animals are now taken so seriously that cruelty to them is currently a penal offence in many of the developed countries. Here is a good example of strong, poetic anger leading the way to a more civilized attitude to animal welfare. But if the concern goes out of hand, destructive "animal rights" groups develop and flourish, which, apart from antagonizing society as a whole, strive to forbid the use of animals for experimental purposes. The loss to scientific research could be profound were these valuable procedures to be abandoned. On the other hand, meticulous care needs to be used in determining how far any procedure may be used. In a spirit of goodwill real advances can be made, which would be impossible in an atmosphere of prejudice and animosity. One longs for the day when all animal research will be unnecessary, but at present we have to be guided by what is expedient to our current needs.

All these sentiments, it could be argued, are admirable enough from the human point of view, albeit a trifle smug, but what about the animals? If their mental apparatus were advanced enough to retain memories such as we humans do, would they forgive us the suffering inflicted on their kind by the early vivisectors, who worked before general anaesthetics were known of or, in a later time, fully perfected in respect of putting the experimental animal out of all pain during the procedure? Living as we do in a pragmatic society, one which is not ashamed to see the end as justifying the means, most of us would regard the animals as necessary sacrifices for the advancement of scientific knowledge, whose aim is the relief of disease in both humans and animals. Those of a more cynical turn of mind would also see an ulterior aim: the publication of papers on scientific research as aiding the ambitions of young workers with an eye to professorships and international glory. Fortunately animal experimentation is much more closely monitored nowadays than in the past, a result of those groups who have the care of animals as their principal concern.

One hopes that, if those animals could understand what they were undergoing, they would give of themselves freely as sacrifices in humble imitation of Jesus Christ himself. This, I suppose, is how all human victims are best inspired in their own cruel pain as they move from this harsh world to what lies ahead for us all.

Chapter 11
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