Nourishment for the Heart Side of Humanism, by Edwin H. Wilson

With much current talk about the divided brain, with one side affecting the emotions, the other the reason, a review of Humanist efforts to meet the needs of “the heard side” of imagination, feeling and creativity may be helpful.  My interpretation will be strongly weighted with the experiences of early Unitarian Humanist ministers.  A parallel story could be told by an ethical leader as indeed it has been approached by Algernon Black in his valuable book Without Burnt Offerings: Ceremonies of Humanism (Viking Press), The New Humanist,  predecessor of The Humanist,  but also to concern by Dr. Vogt for humanistic material which appeared in the Unitarian Hymns of the Spirit.

Humanist Counseling of the AHA also tend toward the secular side.

Obviously my characterization of “the heart side” and “the reason side” of Humanists is not that of a psychologist, but suggests analysis and guidance from one competent in the psychology of religious experience.  We need a contemporary humanist equivalent of William James, James H. Leuba or Edward Scribner Ames.

With effort to gather inspirational material ideologically in accord with naturalistic Humanism began as a struggle for inner integrity.  The second issue of The New Humanist  (May 1928) contained a section called “The Humanist Pulpit,” a term possibly borrowed from John Dietrich whose bound sermons appeared under that title in seven volumes.  The editor stated: “Our purpose is. . .to list books, periodicals, hymns, meditations, poems, responsive readings etc. that are in keeping with the ideals of Humanism.”  Appeal was made in the same issue for “a sufficient quantity of such materials to furnish a genuinely Humanist service for every Sunday in the year.”  Harold Lawrence as column Editor later published a Litany of Thanksgiving arranged by Von bgen Vogt, Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Chicago at that time.  A revolt in 1927 by students at the Meadville Theological Schools against the required use of “the bloody Psalms” led not only to the organization of the Humanist Fellowship and its publication The New Humanist,  predecessor of The Humanist  but also to concern by Dr. Vogt for humanistic material which appeared in the Unitarian Hymns of the Spirit.

The first issue of The New Humanist cited Ernest Caldecott, then minister of All Souls Unitarian Church of Schenectady.  In that church the words of Felix Adler had been inscribed in the Chancel’s archway indicating influence of the Ethical Movement on Caldecott: “The Place Where men meet to Seek the Highest is Holy Ground.” (Note the word: “men”; Humanist awareness of the feminist rejection of male chauvinist words had not yet penetrated the Humanist controversy.)  It is certain that liberal ministers seeking useable material turned to the Ethical Societies to learn how they met the need.  A two volume edition of Social Worship for Congregational Use  (Macmillan Co., 1914), compiled and edited by Stanton Coit, British Ethical Leader with many ties in the U.S.A. was used.  The Schenectady item, probably written by Dr. Caldecott, read, “It is frankly recognized that in a liberal religious society, different types of intelligence require different stimulation, a wider variety of Sunday morning service does not yet seem practicable.  On the other hand devotional and formal services are not agreeable to all.”  The Schenectady congregation met their needs by providing good instrumental music without the impediment of words.  Ernest Caldecott’s suggestion of two types of services to meet different needs was not adopted.