Immortality in the Light of Synechism

First Selection, pp. 1-3.
MS 886. [First published in CP 7.565-578.]

1. Summary of Text's History.

This is an article Peirce sent to Paul Carus on 4 May 1893, hoping to have it published in the Open Court but suggesting that it was "almost worth keeping it for the Monist." Carus agreed to publish it in the Monist, but a series of misunderstandings between the two men arose at the same time concerning both a matter of honorarium and Peirce's refusal to let Carus publish a private letter about the efficiency of prayer. Peirce was mistakenly led to believe that Carus did not want to publish his article, and he effectively withdrew it when he broke off correspondence in June 1893.

2. Origin of the Text

On April 9, 1893, Peirce wrote to Paul Carus, Open Court editor, a long letter criticizing the latter's "homiletic writing" and discussing the efficiency of prayer. Carus, who loved a good controversy, decided to publish the letter; he had it set into type, and sent a galley to Peirce at the beginning of May, while working himself on a reply, the 9-page penciled draft of which is in the archives of Southern Illinois University (Carbondale). In a letter dated May 5, Peirce thanked Carus for his flattering gesture, but asked him not to publish the letter, principally because it was exaggerated in tone and not fit for publication. A few days earlier Peirce had sent Carus an article entitled "What is Christian Faith?" to be published in the Open Court, which Peirce thought bore on pretty much the same subject, and the day before, on May 4, Peirce had sent another article, also intended for the Open Court, entitled "Immortality in the Light of Synechism." In the same May 5 letter to Carus, Peirce wrote (L77): "I have besides lately sent you two pieces for the Open Court. One of them ["What is Christian Faith?"] says pretty much the same as this [April 9] letter; and the other which I sent yesterday ["Immortality in the Light of Synechism"] contains some valuable matter,—almost worth keeping for the Monist." Carus acknowledged receipt of the "What is Christian Faith?" article in a May 4 letter (which Peirce received on May 10), and told Peirce that Hegeler wanted to know what the honorarium would be for it. On May 9, 1893, Carus acknowledged receipt of both the article on Synechism and the 5 May letter, and agreed that the Synechism article was suited for The Monist (L77: 74). He also expressed his disappointment at Peirce's refusal to have his April 9 letter published, telling Peirce he liked the directness of it. On May 10 Peirce received Carus's letter of May 4 and replied immediately, taking umbrage at Hegeler's asking what would be the honorarium for the "Christian Faith" article. Peirce thought Hegeler was recanting the terms agreed upon regarding the articles in the "Critic of Argument" series. Apparently, Peirce thought that any article he would submit to the Open Court, whether as part of the "Critic of Arguments" series or not, would be paid on the same terms. This must not have been Hegeler's understanding. Peirce wrote "I infer that the terms hitherto agreed upon for the Critic of Arguments no longer meet his [Hegeler's] views. In that case, it will only be necessary to return to me the two articles sent. I was to have mailed you today two more papers for the Critic of Arguments; but I can print them elsewhere." It thus seems that Peirce's short temper gave rise to a misunderstanding between him and Carus. [Peirce had many dealings with the Open Court going on at the same time; one was the translation of Mach's Mechanics in collaboration with Thomas McCormack; another was his dealings with Hegeler regarding the publication of an elementary arithmetic, and also of two other books, one a collection of his logic papers, and another a reprinting of his "Illustrations of the Logic of Science." Yet another matter had been the discussion with Carus about the printing of the article "Reply to the Necessitarians," written in a very frank, irritated style.] On May 13 Peirce received Carus's May 9 letter and wrote back a long and irate reply, accusing Carus and Hegeler of sectarianism. The letter ended thus: "I should have no objection to expressing my ideas about prayer for the Open Court, should it be decided that I write for it any more. Mr. Hegeler has to decide whether he wishes to pay the same price as heretofore. If so, and if you want articles from me on religious topics, I will give my views on prayer. But my private letters are hastily written and are not intended for the public." Carus replied on May 19, obviously irritated but trying to appease Peirce, that Peirce was right and that his letter better remained unpublished: "it is better to confine myself only to the matured productions of your pen. Perhaps I am to be blamed that I have taken your letter too seriously. Concerning the honorarium for your articles Mr. Hegeler will write you himself." [Note that through this entire episode Peirce was conducting a separate correspondence with Hegeler about the production of his arithmetic book, and Hegeler was sending Peirce several $250.00 checks as advances for it.] Not really appeased, Peirce wrote back on May 23, asking bluntly (1) whether or not the Open Court desired his exposition of the philosophy of prayer on the same terms as before, and (2) whether or not he could submit a series of four articles for the Monist in continuation of the exposition of his philosophy, these articles to appear within five numbers with the advanced agreement that they shall appear. Carus replied on May 27. An unsent letter so dated in the SIU archives simply stated the following: "Having come to the conclusion not to publish your articles in The Open Court, I take the liberty to return them to you." But before signing it Carus had a change of heart (maybe because he received Peirce's letter later that day) and wrote instead that (1) he had to decline (without elaboration) Peirce's offer of a new Monist series of articles, and that (2) he did not want Peirce to write on the philosophy of prayer on the grounds that Peirce had refused the printing of his April 9 letter where his philosophy of prayer was set forth already (L77: 83). But Carus kept the two articles on Christian faith and on Synechism, "which do not touch upon the subject of prayer." On June 5 Peirce wrote a letter to Hegeler (no longer extant) in which he asked whether the Open Court desired further articles in the "Critic of Arguments" series. Hegeler passed the letter on to Carus, who replied on June 10 that Peirce could send articles, but that the Open Court preserved the liberty of rejecting them. Carus added that he intended to publish "Immortality in the Light of Synechism" in the Monist, that "What is Christian Faith" was in the hands of the compositors, and that a third paper, "The Critic of Arguments," which Peirce had sent to Hegeler simply for inspection and not for publication, could be published in two months if it could be shortened a little. Carus enclosed the first and third articles with his letter, asking Peirce to return them in case he was satisfied with the proposed arrangement (L77: 87). Peirce may not have read Carus's good letter carefully and may have thought that the two articles had simply been rejected. He broke off correspondence, never sending back the articles. "What is Christian Faith" appeared in the Open Court on July 27, 1893, and "Reply to the Necessitarians," which had been ready by March, appeared in the July Monist. Correspondence resumed only one year later, with Peirce sending a confidential letter on June 25, 1894, asking Carus the reason of his rancor against him (Carus had just published a satire on "circle-squarers" which Peirce mistakenly thought was aimed at him) and with Carus acknowledging Peirce's "enigmatic letter" and telling him "I cherish not the slightest animosity toward you and on the contrary am very sorry that you broke off our correspondence so suddenly. . . . My last letter had reference to several MSS of yours which we accepted, one for The Monist, the others for the Open Court. I returned the MSS to you at Mr. Hegeler's suggestion, so as to have you at liberty to keep or return them. I told you so in my letter. I have neither received the MSS back, nor did I hear from you again" (July 1st, 1894, L77: 97). Encouraged by this reply, Peirce submitted new manuscripts to Carus, but by this time Hegeler, who owned both The Monist and the Open Court, felt some animosity toward Peirce (who never finished his arithmetic book) and told Carus to refuse any manuscript from Peirce. Carus announced this to Peirce on July 16th, 1894, adding "I must return your MSS and can do nothing except to hope that you will pull through" (L77: 103).