Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh

53. CHAPTER LIII (continued)

To his friend Dawson I find him saying a little later on: "Pryer and I continue our walks, working out each other's thoughts. At first he used to do all the thinking, but I think I am pretty well abreast of him now, and rather chuckle at seeing that he is already beginning to modify some of the views he held most strongly when I first knew him.

"Then I think he was on the high road to Rome; now, however, he seems to be a good deal struck with a suggestion of mine in which you, too, perhaps may be interested. You see we must infuse new life into the Church somehow; we are not holding our own against either Rome or infidelity." (I may say in passing that I do not believe Ernest had as yet ever seen an infidel--not to speak to.) "I proposed, therefore, a few days back to Pryer--and he fell in eagerly with the proposal as soon as he saw that I had the means of carrying it out--that we should set on foot a spiritual movement somewhat analogous to the Young England movement of twenty years ago, the aim of which shall be at once to outbid Rome on the one hand, and scepticism on the other. For this purpose I see nothing better than the foundation of an institution or college for placing the nature and treatment of sin on a more scientific basis than it rests at present. We want--to borrow a useful term of Pryer's--a College of Spiritual Pathology where young men" (I suppose Ernest thought he was no longer young by this time) "may study the nature and treatment of the sins of the soul as medical students study those of the bodies of their patients. Such a college, as you will probably admit, will approach both Rome on the one hand, and science on the other--Rome, as giving the priesthood more skill, and therefore as paving the way for their obtaining greater power, and science, by recognising that even free thought has a certain kind of value in spiritual enquiries. To this purpose Pryer and I have resolved to devote ourselves henceforth heart and soul.

"Of course, my ideas are still unshaped, and all will depend upon the men by whom the college is first worked. I am not yet a priest, but Pryer is, and if I were to start the College, Pryer might take charge of it for a time and I work under him nominally as his subordinate. Pryer himself suggested this. Is it not generous of him?

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