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The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

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[313] Op. cit., p. 383, abridged.

When the supplies came in but slowly, Muller always considered
that this was for the trial of his faith and patience When his
faith and patience had been sufficiently tried, the Lord would
send more means. "And thus it has proved,"--I quote from his
diary--"for to-day was given me the sum of 2050 pounds, of which
2000 are for the building fund [of a certain house], and 50 for
present necessities. It is impossible to describe my joy in God
when I received this donation. I was neither excited nor
surprised; for I LOOK out for answers to my prayers. I BELIEVE
THAT GOD HEARS ME. Yet my heart was so full of joy that I could
only SIT before God, and admire him, like David in 2 Samuel vii.
At last I cast myself flat down upon my face and burst forth in
thanksgiving to God and in surrendering my heart afresh to him
for his blessed service."[314]

[314] Ibid., p. 323

George Muller's is a case extreme in every respect, and in no
respect more so than in the extraordinary narrowness of the man's
intellectual horizon. His God was, as he often said, his
business partner. He seems to have been for Muller little more
than a sort of supernatural clergyman interested in the
congregation of tradesmen and others in Bristol who were his
saints, and in the orphanages and other enterprises, but
unpossessed of any of those vaster and wilder and more ideal
attributes with which the human imagination elsewhere has
invested him. Muller, in short, was absolutely unphilosophical.
His intensely private and practical conception of his relations
with the Deity continued the traditions of the most primitive
human thought.[315] When we compare a mind like his with such a
mind as, for example, Emerson's or Phillips Brooks's, we see the
range which the religious consciousness covers.

[315] I cannot resist the temptation of quoting an expression of
an even more primitive style of religious thought, which I find
in Arber's English Garland, vol. vii. p. 440. Robert Lyde, an
English sailor, along with an English boy, being prisoners on a
French ship in 1689, set upon the crew, of seven Frenchmen,
killed two, made the other five prisoners, and brought home the
ship. Lyde thus describes how in this feat he found his God a
very present help in time of trouble:--

"With the assistance of God I kept my feet when they three and
one more did strive to throw me down. Feeling the Frenchman
which hung about my middle hang very heavy, I said to the boy,
'Go round the binnacle, and knock down that man that hangeth on
my back.' So the boy did strike him one blow on the head which
made him fall. . . . Then I looked about for a marlin spike or
anything else to strike them withal. But seeing nothing, I said,
'LORD! what shall I do?' Then casting up my eye upon my left
side, and seeing a marlin spike hanging, I jerked my right arm
and took hold, and struck the point four times about a quarter of
an inch deep into the skull of that man that had hold of my left
arm. [One of the Frenchmen then hauled the marlin spike away
from him.] But through GOD'S wonderful providence! it either
fell out of his hand, or else he threw it down, and at this time
the Almighty GOD gave me strength enough to take one man in one
hand, and throw at the other's head: and looking about again to
see anything to strike them withal, but seeing nothing, I said,
'LORD! what shall I do now?' And then it pleased GOD to put me
in mind of my knife in my pocket. And although two of the men
had hold of my right arm, yet GOD Almighty strengthened me so
that I put my right hand into my right pocket, drew out the knife
and sheath, . . . put it between my legs and drew it out, and
then cut the man's throat with it that had his back to my breast:
and he immediately dropt down, and scarce ever stirred after."--I
have slightly abridged Lyde's narrative.

There is an immense literature relating to answers to petitional
prayer. The evangelical journals are filled with such answers,
and books are devoted to the subject,[316] but for us Muller's
case will suffice.

[316] As, for instance, In Answer to Prayer, by the Bishop of
Ripon and others, London, 1898; Touching Incidents and Remarkable
Answers to Prayer, Harrisburg, Pa., 1898 (?); H. L. Hastings:
The Guiding Hand, or Providential Direction, illustrated by
Authentic Instances, Boston, 1898(?).

A less sturdy beggar-like fashion of leading the prayerful life
is followed by innumerable other Christians. Persistence in
leaning on the Almighty for support and guidance will, such
persons say, bring with it proofs, palpable but much more subtle,
of his presence and active influence. The following description
of a "led" life, by a German writer whom I have already quoted,
would no doubt appear to countless Christians in every country as
if transcribed from their own personal experience. One finds in
this guided sort of life, says Dr. Hilty--

"That books and words (and sometimes people) come to one's
cognizance just at the very moment in which one needs them; that
one glides over great dangers as if with shut eyes, remaining
ignorant of what would have terrified one or led one astray,
until the peril is past--this being especially the case with
temptations to vanity and sensuality; that paths on which one
ought not to wander are, as it were, hedged off with thorns; but
that on the other side great obstacles are suddenly removed; that
when the time has come for something, one suddenly receives a
courage that formerly failed, or perceives the root of a matter
that until then was concealed, or discovers thoughts, talents,
yea, even pieces of knowledge and insight, in one's self, of
which it is impossible to say whence they come; finally, that
persons help us or decline to help us, favor us or refuse us, as
if they had to do so against their will, so that often those
indifferent or even unfriendly to us yield us the greatest
service and furtherance. (God takes often their worldly goods,
from those whom he leads, at just the right moment, when they
threaten to impede the effort after higher interests.)

"Besides all this, other noteworthy things come to pass, of which
it is not easy to give account. There is no doubt whatever that
now one walks continually through 'open doors' and on the easiest
roads, with as little care and trouble as it is possible to

"Furthermore one finds one's self settling one's affairs neither
too early nor too late, whereas they were wont to be spoiled by
untimeliness, even when the preparations had been well laid. In
addition to this, one does them with perfect tranquillity of
mind, almost as if they were matters of no consequence, like
errands done by us for another person, in which case we usually
act more calmly than when we act in our own concerns. Again, one
finds that one can WAIT for everything patiently, and that is one
of life's great arts. One finds also that each thing comes duly,
one thing after the other, so that one gains time to make one's
footing sure before advancing farther. And then every thing
occurs to us at the right moment, just what we ought to do, etc.,
and often in a very striking way, just as if a third person were
keeping watch over those things which we are in easy danger of

"Often, too, persons are sent to us at the right time, to offer
or ask for what is needed, and what we should never have had the
courage or resolution to undertake of our own accord.

"Through all these experiences one finds that one is kindly and
tolerant of other people, even of such as are repulsive,
negligent, or ill-willed, for they also are instruments of good
in God's hand, and often most efficient ones. Without these
thoughts it would be hard for even the best of us always to keep
our equanimity. But with the consciousness of divine guidance,
one sees many a thing in life quite differently from what would
otherwise be possible.

"All these are things that every human being KNOWS, who has had
experience of them; and of which the most speaking examples could
be brought forward. The highest resources of worldly wisdom are
unable to attain that which, under divine leading, comes to us of
its own accord."[317]

[317] C. Hilty: Gluck, Dritter Theil, 1900, pp. 92 ff.

Such accounts as this shade away into others where the belief is,
not that particular events are tempered more towardly to us by a
superintending providence, as a reward for our reliance, but that
by cultivating the continuous sense of our connection with the
power that made things as they are, we are tempered more towardly
for their reception. The outward face of nature need not alter,
but the expressions of meaning in it alter. It was dead and is
alive again. It is like the difference between looking on a
person without love, or upon the same person with love. In the
latter case intercourse springs into new vitality. So when one's
affections keep in touch with the divinity of the world's
authorship, fear and egotism fall away; and in the equanimity
that follows, one finds in the hours, as they succeed each other,
a series of purely benignant opportunities. It is as if all
doors were opened, and all paths freshly smoothed. We meet a new
world when we meet the old world in the spirit which this kind of
prayer infuses.

Such a spirit was that of Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus.[318] It
is that of mind-curers, of the transcendentalists, and of the
so-called "liberal" Christians. As an expression of it, I will
quote a page from one of Martineau's sermons:--

[318] "Good Heaven!" says Epictetus, "any one thing in the
creation is sufficient to demonstrate a Providence, to a humble
and grateful mind. The mere possibility of producing milk from
grass, cheese from milk, and wool from skins; who formed and
planned it? Ought we not, whether we dig or plough or eat, to
sing this hymn to God? Great is God, who has supplied us with
these instruments to till the ground; great is God, who has given
us hands and instruments of digestion, who has given us to grow
insensibly and to breathe in sleep. These things we ought
forever to celebrate. . . . But because the most of you are
blind and insensible, there must be some one to fill this
station, and lead, in behalf of all men, the hymn to God; for
what else can I do, a lame old man, but sing hymns to God? Were
I a nightingale, I would act the part of a nightingale; were I a
swan, the part of a swan. But since I am a reasonable creature,
it is my duty to praise God . . . and I call on you to join the
same song." Works, book i. ch. xvi., Carter-Higginson
(translation) abridged.

"The universe, open to the eye to-day, looks as it did a thousand
years ago: and the morning hymn of Milton does but tell the
beauty with which our own familiar sun dressed the earliest
fields and gardens of the world. We see what all our fathers
saw. And if we cannot find God in your house or in mine, upon
the roadside or the margin of the sea; in the bursting seed or
opening flower; in the day duty or the night musing; in the
general laugh and the secret grief; in the procession of life,
ever entering afresh, and solemnly passing by and dropping off; I
do not think we should discern him any more on the grass of Eden,
or beneath the moonlight of Gethsemane. Depend upon it, it is
not the want of greater miracles, but of the soul to perceive
such as are allowed us still, that makes us push all the
sanctities into the far spaces we cannot reach. The devout feel
that wherever God's hand is, THERE is miracle: and it is simply
an indevoutness which imagines that only where miracle is, can
there be the real hand of God. The customs of Heaven ought
surely to be more sacred in our eyes than its anomalies; the dear
old ways, of which the Most High is never tired, than the strange
things which he does not love well enough ever to repeat. And he
who will but discern beneath the sun, as he rises any morning,
the supporting finger of the Almighty, may recover the sweet and
reverent surprise with which Adam gazed on the first dawn in
Paradise. It is no outward change, no shifting in time or place;
but only the loving meditation of the pure in heart, that can
reawaken the Eternal from the sleep within our souls: that can
render him a reality again, and reassert for him once more his
ancient name of 'the Living God.'"[319]

[319] James Martineau: end of the sermon "Help Thou Mine
Unbelief," in Endeavours after a Christian Life, 2d series.
Compare with this page the extract from Voysey on p. 270, above,
and those from Pascal and Madame Guyon on p. 281.

When we see all things in God, and refer all things to him, we
read in common matters superior expressions of meaning. The
deadness with which custom invests the familiar vanishes, and
existence as a whole appears transfigured. The state of a mind
thus awakened from torpor is well expressed in these words, which
I take from a friend's letter:--

"If we occupy ourselves in summing up all the mercies and
bounties we are privileged to have, we are overwhelmed by their
number (so great that we can imagine ourselves unable to give
ourselves time even to begin to review the things we may imagine
WE HAVE NOT). We sum them and realize that WE ARE ACTUALLY
KILLED WITH GOD'S KINDNESS; that we are surrounded by bounties
upon bounties, without which all would fall. Should we not love
it; should we not feel buoyed up by the Eternal Arms?"

Sometimes this realization that facts are of divine sending,
instead of being habitual, is casual, like a mystical experience.
Father Gratry gives this instance from his youthful melancholy

"One day I had a moment of consolation, because I met with
something which seemed to me ideally perfect. It was a poor
drummer beating the tattoo in the streets of Paris. I walked
behind him in returning to the school on the evening of a
holiday. His drum gave out the tattoo in such a way that, at that
moment at least, however peevish I were, I could find no pretext
for fault-finding. It was impossible to conceive more nerve or
spirit, better time or measure, more clearness or richness, than
were in this drumming. Ideal desire could go no farther in that
direction. I was enchanted and consoled; the perfection of this
wretched act did me good. Good is at least possible, I said.
since the ideal can thus sometimes get embodied."[320]

[320] Souvenirs de ma Jeunesse, 1897, p. 122.

In Senancour's novel of Obermann a similar transient lifting of
the veil is recorded. In Paris streets, on a March day, he comes
across a flower in bloom, a jonquil:

"It was the strongest expression of desire: it was the first
perfume of the year. I felt all the happiness destined for man.
This unutterable harmony of souls, the phantom of the ideal
world, arose in me complete. I never felt anything so great or
so instantaneous. I know not what shape, what analogy, what
secret of relation it was that made me see in this flower a
limitless beauty. . . . I shall never inclose in a conception
this power, this immensity that nothing will express; this form
that nothing will contain; this ideal of a better world which one
feels, but which, it seems, nature has not made actual."[321]

[321] Op. cit., Letter XXX.

We heard in previous lectures of the vivified face of the world
as it may appear to converts after their awakening.[322] As a
rule, religious persons generally assume that whatever natural
facts connect themselves in any way with their destiny are
significant of the divine purposes with them. Through prayer
the purpose, often far from obvious, comes home to them, and if
it be "trial," strength to endure the trial is given. Thus at
all stages of the prayerful life we find the persuasion that in
the process of communion energy from on high flows in to meet
demand, and becomes operative within the phenomenal world. So
long as this operativeness is admitted to be real, it makes no
essential difference whether its immediate effects be subjective
or objective. The fundamental religious point is that in prayer,
spiritual energy, which otherwise would slumber, does become
active, and spiritual work of some kind is effected really.

[322] Above, p. 243 ff. Compare the withdrawal of expression
from the world, in Melancholiacs, p. 148.

So much for Prayer, taken in the wide sense of any kind of
communion. As the core of religion, we must return to it in the
next lecture.

The last aspect of the religious life which remains for me to
touch upon is the fact that its manifestations so frequently
connect themselves with the subconscious part of our existence.
You may remember what I said in my opening lecture[323] about the
prevalence of the psychopathic temperament in religious
biography. You will in point of fact hardly find a religious
leader of any kind in whose life there is no record of
automatisms. I speak not merely of savage priests and prophets,
whose followers regard automatic utterance and action as by
itself tantamount to inspiration, I speak of leaders of thought
and subjects of intellectualized experience. Saint Paul had his
visions, his ecstasies, his gift of tongues, small as was the
importance he attached to the latter. The whole array of
Christian saints and heresiarchs, including the greatest, the
Barnards, the Loyolas, the Luthers, the Foxes, the Wesleys, had
their visions, voices, rapt conditions, guiding impressions, and
"openings." They had these things, because they had exalted
sensibility, and to such things persons of exalted sensibility
are liable. In such liability there lie, however, consequences
for theology. Beliefs are strengthened wherever automatisms
corroborate them. Incursions from beyond the transmarginal
region have a peculiar power to increase conviction. The
inchoate sense of presence is infinitely stronger than
conception, but strong as it may be, it is seldom equal to the
evidence of hallucination. Saints who actually see or hear their
Saviour reach the acme of assurance. Motor automatisms, though
rarer, are, if possible, even more convincing than sensations.
The subjects here actually feel themselves played upon by powers
beyond their will. The evidence is dynamic; the God or spirit
moves the very organs of their body.[324]

[323] Above, pp. 25, 26.

[324] A friend of mine, a first-rate psychologist, who is a
subject of graphic automatism, tells me that the appearance of
independent actuation in the movements of his arm, when he writes
automatically, is so distinct that it obliges him to abandon a
psychophysical theory which he had previously believed in, the
theory, namely, that we have no feeling of the discharge
downwards of our voluntary motor-centres. We must normally have
such a feeling, he thinks, or the SENSE OF AN ABSENCE would not
be so striking as it is in these experiences. Graphic automatism
of a fully developed kind is rare in religious history, so far as
my knowledge goes. Such statements as Antonia Bourignon's, that
"I do nothing but lend my hand and spirit to another power than
mine," is shown by the context to indicate inspiration rather
than directly automatic writing. In some eccentric sects this
latter occurs. The most striking instance of it is probably the
bulky volume called, "Oahspe, a new Bible in the Words of Jehovah
and his angel ambassadors," Boston and London, 1891, written and
illustrated automatically by Dr. Newbrough of New York, whom I
understand to be now, or to have been lately, at the head of the
spiritistic community of Shalam in New Mexico. The latest
automatically written book which has come under my notice is
"Zertouhem's Wisdom of the Ages," by George A. Fuller, Boston,

The great field for this sense of being the instrument of a
higher power is of course "inspiration." It is easy to
discriminate between the religious leaders who have been
habitually subject to inspiration and those who have not. In the
teachings of the Buddha, of Jesus, of Saint Paul (apart from his
gift of tongues), of Saint Augustine, of Huss, of Luther, of
Wesley, automatic or semi-automatic composition appears to have
been only occasional. In the Hebrew prophets, on the contrary,
in Mohammed, in some of the Alexandrians, in many minor Catholic
saints, in Fox, in Joseph Smith, something like it appears to
have been frequent, sometimes habitual. We have distinct
professions of being under the direction of a foreign power, and
serving as its mouthpiece. As regards the Hebrew prophets, it is
extraordinary, writes an author who has made a careful study of
them, to see--

"How, one after another, the same features are reproduced in the
prophetic books. The process is always extremely different from
what it would be if the prophet arrived at his insight into
spiritual things by the tentative efforts of his own genius.
There is something sharp and sudden about it. He can lay his
finger, so to speak, on the moment when it came. And it always
comes in the form of an overpowering force from without, against
which he struggles, but in vain. Listen, for instance, [to] the
opening of the book of Jeremiah. Read through in like manner the
first two chapters of the prophecy of Ezekiel.

"It is not, however, only at the beginning of his career that the
prophet passes through a crisis which is clearly not self-
caused. Scattered all through the prophetic writings are
expressions which speak of some strong and irresistible impulse
coming down upon the prophet, determining his attitude to the
events of his time, constraining his utterance, making his words
the vehicle of a higher meaning than their own. For instance,
this of Isaiah's: 'The Lord spake thus to me with a strong
hand,'--an emphatic phrase which denotes the overmastering nature
of the impulse--'and instructed me that I should not walk in the
way of this people.' . . . Or passages like this from Ezekiel:
'The hand of the Lord God fell upon me,' 'The hand of the Lord
was strong upon me.' The one standing characteristic of the
prophet is that he speaks with the authority of Jehovah himself.
Hence it is that the prophets one and all preface their addresses
so confidently, 'The Word of the Lord,' or 'Thus saith the Lord.'
They have even the audacity to speak in the first person, as if
Jehovah himself were speaking. As in Isaiah: 'Hearken unto me,
O Jacob, and Israel my called; I am He, I am the First, I also am
the last,'--and so on. The personality of the prophet sinks
entirely into the background; he feels himself for the time being
the mouthpiece of the Almighty."[325]

[325] W. Sanday: The Oracles of God, London, 1892, pp. 49-56,

"We need to remember that prophecy was a profession, and that the
prophets formed a professional class. There were schools of the
prophets, in which the gift was regularly cultivated. A group of
young men would gather round some commanding figure--a Samuel or
an Elisha--and would not only record or spread the knowledge of
his sayings and doings, but seek to catch themselves something of
his inspiration. It seems that music played its part in their
exercises. . . . It is perfectly clear that by no means all of
these Sons of the prophets ever succeeded in acquiring more than
a very small share in the gift which they sought. It was clearly
possible to 'counterfeit' prophecy. Sometimes this was done
deliberately. . . . But it by no means follows that in all cases
where a false message was given, the giver of it was altogether
conscious of what he was doing.[326]

[326] Op. cit., p. 91. This author also cites Moses's and
Isaiah's commissions, as given in Exodus, chaps. iii. and iv.,
and Isaiah, chap. vi.

Here, to take another Jewish case, is the way in which Philo of
Alexandria describes his inspiration:--

"Sometimes, when I have come to my work empty, I have suddenly
become full; ideas being in an invisible manner showered upon me,
and implanted in me from on high; so that through the influence
of divine inspiration, I have become greatly excited, and have
known neither the place in which I was, nor those who were
present, nor myself, nor what I was saying, nor what I was
writing, for then I have been conscious of a richness of
interpretation, an enjoyment of light, a most penetrating
insight, a most manifest energy in all that was to be done;
having such effect on my mind as the clearest ocular
demonstration would have on the eyes."[327]

[327] Quoted by Augustus Clissold: The Prophetic Spirit in
Genius and Madness, 1870, p. 67. Mr. Clissold is a
Swedenborgian. Swedenborg's case is of course the palmary one of
audita et visa, serving as a basis of religious revelation.

If we turn to Islam, we find that Mohammed's revelations all came
from the subconscious sphere. To the question in what way he got

"Mohammed is said to have answered that sometimes he heard a
knell as from a bell, and that this had the strongest effect on
him; and when the angel went away, he had received the
revelation. Sometimes again he held converse with the angel as
with a man, so as easily to understand his words. The later
authorities, however, . . . distinguish still other kinds. In
the Itgan (103) the following are enumerated: 1, revelations
with sound of bell, 2, by inspiration of the holy spirit in M.'s
heart, 3, by Gabriel in human form, 4, by God immediately, either
when awake (as in his journey to heaven) or in dream. . . . In
Almawahib alladuniya the kinds are thus given: 1, Dream, 2,
Inspiration of Gabriel in the Prophet's heart, 3, Gabriel taking
Dahya's form, 4, with the bell-sound, etc., 5, Gabriel in propria
persona (only twice), 6, revelation in heaven, 7, God appearing
in person, but veiled, 8, God revealing himself immediately
without veil. Others add two other stages, namely: 1, Gabriel
in the form of still another man, 2, God showing himself
personally in dream."[328]

[328] Noldeke, Geschichte des Qorans, 1860, p. 16. Compare the
fuller account in Sir William Muir's: Life of Mahomet, 3d ed.,
1894, ch. iii.

In none of these cases is the revelation distinctly motor. In the
case of Joseph Smith (who had prophetic revelations innumerable
in addition to the revealed translation of the <472> gold plates
which resulted in the Book of Mormon), although there may have
been a motor element, the inspiration seems to have been
predominantly sensorial. He began his translation by the aid of
the "peep-stones" which he found, or thought or said that he
found, with the gold plates --apparently a case of "crystal
gazing." For some of the other revelations he used the
peep-stones, but seems generally to have asked the Lord for more
direct instruction.[329]

[329] The Mormon theocracy has always been governed by direct
revelations accorded to the President of the Church and its
Apostles. From an obliging letter written to me in 1899 by an
eminent Mormon, I quote the following extract:--

"It may be very interesting for you to know that the President
[Mr. Snow] of the Mormon Church claims to have had a number of
revelations very recently from heaven. To explain fully what
these revelations are, it is necessary to know that we, as a
people, believe that the Church of Jesus Christ has again been
established through messengers sent from heaven. This Church has
at its head a prophet seer, and revelator, who gives to man God's
holy will. Revelation is the means through which the will of God
is declared directly and in fullness to man. These revelations
are got through dreams of sleep or in waking visions of the mind,
by voices without visional appearance or by actual manifestations
of the Holy Presence before the eye. We believe that God has
come in person and spoken to our prophet and revelator."

Other revelations are described as "openings"--Fox's, for
example, were evidently of the kind known in spiritistic circles
of to-day as "impressions." As all effective initiators of
change must needs live to some degree upon this psychopathic
level of sudden perception or conviction of new truth, or of
impulse to action so obsessive that it must be worked off, I will
say nothing more about so very common a phenomenon.

When, in addition to these phenomena of inspiration, we take
religious mysticism into the account, when we recall the striking
and sudden unifications of a discordant self which we saw in
conversion, and when we review the extravagant obsessions of
tenderness, purity, and self-severity met with in saintliness, we
cannot, I think, avoid the conclusion that in religion we have a
department of human nature with unusually close relations to the
transmarginal or subliminal region. If the word "subliminal" is
offensive to any of you, as smelling too much of psychical
research or other aberrations, call it by any other name you
please, to distinguish it from the level of full sunlit
consciousness. Call this latter the A-region of personality, if
you care to, and call the other the B-region. The B-region,
then, is obviously the larger part of each of us, for it is the
abode of everything that is latent and the reservoir of
everything that passes unrecorded or unobserved. It contains,
for example, such things as all our momentarily inactive
memories, and it harbors the springs of all our obscurely motived
passions, impulses, likes, dislikes, and prejudices. Our
intuitions, hypotheses, fancies, superstitions, persuasions,
convictions, and in general all our non-rational operations, come
from it. It is the source of our dreams, and apparently they may
return to it. In it arise whatever mystical experiences we may
have, and our automatisms, sensory or motor; our life in hypnotic
and "hypnoid" conditions, if we are subjects to such conditions;
our delusions, fixed ideas, and hysterical accidents, if we are
hysteric subjects; our supra-normal cognitions, if such there be,
and if we are telepathic subjects. It is also the fountain-head
of much that feeds our religion. In persons deep in the religious
life, as we have now abundantly seen--and this is my
conclusion--the door into this region seems unusually wide open;
at any rate, experiences making their entrance through that door
have had emphatic influence in shaping religious history.

With this conclusion I turn back and close the circle which I
opened in my first lecture, terminating thus the review which I
then announced of inner religious phenomena as we find them in
developed and articulate human individuals. I might easily, if
the time allowed, multiply both my documents and my
discriminations, but a broad treatment is, I believe, in itself
better, and the most important characteristics of the subject
lie, I think, before us already. In the next lecture, which is
also the last one, we must try to draw the critical conclusions
which so much material may suggest.

Lecture XX


The material of our study of human nature is now spread before
us; and in this parting hour, set free from the duty of
description, we can draw our theoretical and practical
conclusions. In my first lecture, defending the empirical
method, I foretold that whatever conclusions we might come to
could be reached by spiritual judgments only, appreciations of
the significance for life of religion, taken "on the whole."
Our conclusions cannot be as sharp as dogmatic conclusions would
be, but I will formulate them, when the time comes, as sharply as
I can.

Summing up in the broadest possible way the characteristics of
the religious life, as we have found them, it includes the
following beliefs:--

1. That the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe
from which it draws its chief significance;

2. That union or harmonious relation with that higher universe
is our true end;

3. That prayer or inner communion with the spirit thereof-- be
that spirit "God" or "law"--is a process wherein work is really
done, and spiritual energy flows in and produces effects,
psychological or material, within the phenomenal world.

Religion includes also the following psychological

4. A new zest which adds itself like a gift to life, and takes
the form either of lyrical enchantment or of appeal to
earnestness and heroism.

5. An assurance of safety and a temper of peace, and, in
relation to others, a preponderance of loving affections.

In illustrating these characteristics by documents, we have been
literally bathed in sentiment. In re-reading my manuscript, I am
almost appalled at the amount of emotionality which I find in it.

After so much of this, we can afford to be dryer and less
sympathetic in the rest of the work that lies before us.

The sentimentality of many of my documents is a consequence of
the fact that I sought them among the extravagances of the
subject. If any of you are enemies of what our ancestors used to
brand as enthusiasm, and are, nevertheless, still listening to me
now, you have probably felt my selection to have been sometimes
almost perverse, and have wished I might have stuck to soberer
examples. I reply that I took these extremer examples as
yielding the profounder information. To learn the secrets of any
science, we go to expert specialists, even though they may be
eccentric persons, and not to commonplace pupils. We combine
what they tell us with the rest of our wisdom, and form our final
judgment independently. Even so with religion. We who have
pursued such radical expressions of it may now be sure that we
know its secrets as authentically as anyone can know them who
learns them from another; and we have next to answer, each of us
for himself, the practical question: what are the dangers in
this element of life? and in what proportion may it need to be
restrained by other elements, to give the proper balance?

But this question suggests another one which I will answer
immediately and get it out of the way, for it has more than once
already vexed us.[330] Ought it to be assumed that in all men the
mixture of religion with other elements should be identical?
Ought it, indeed, to be assumed that the lives of all men should
show identical religious elements? In other words, is the
existence of so many religious types and sects and creeds

[330] For example, on pages 135, 160, 326 above.

To these questions I answer "No" emphatically. And my reason is
that I do not see how it is possible that creatures in such
different positions and with such different powers as human
individuals are, should have exactly the same functions and the
same duties. No two of us have identical difficulties, nor
should we be expected to work out identical solutions. Each,
from his peculiar angle of observation, takes in a certain sphere
of fact and trouble, which each must deal with in a unique
manner. One of us must soften himself, another must harden
himself; one must yield a point, another must stand firm--in
order the better to defend the position assigned him. If an
Emerson were forced to be a Wesley, or a Moody forced to be a
Whitman, the total human consciousness of the divine would
suffer. The divine can mean no single quality, it must mean a
group of qualities, by being champions of which in alternation,
different men may all find worthy missions. Each attitude being
a syllable in human nature's total message, it takes the whole of
us to spell the meaning out completely. So a "god of battles"
must be allowed to be the god for one kind of person, a god of
peace and heaven and home, the god for another. We must frankly
recognize the fact that we live in partial systems, and that
parts are not interchangeable in the spiritual life. If we are
peevish and jealous, destruction of the self must be an element
of our religion; why need it be one if we are good and
sympathetic from the outset? If we are sick souls, we require a
religion of deliverance; but why think so much of deliverance, if
we are healthy-minded?[331] Unquestionably, some men have the
completer experience and the higher vocation, here just as in the
social world; but for each man to stay in his own experience,
whate'er it be, and for others to tolerate him there, is surely

[331] From this point of view, the contrasts between the healthy
and the morbid mind, and between the once-born and the twice-born
types, of which I spoke in earlier lectures (see pp. 159-164),
cease to be the radical antagonisms which many think them. The
twice-born look down upon the rectilinear consciousness of life
of the once-born as being "mere morality," and not properly
religion. "Dr. Channing," an orthodox minister is reported to
have said, "is excluded from the highest form of religious life
by the extraordinary rectitude of his character." It is indeed
true that the outlook upon life of the twice-born--holding as it
does more of the element of evil in solution--is the wider and
completer. The "heroic" or "solemn" way in which life comes to
them is a "higher synthesis" into which healthy- mindedness and
morbidness both enter and combine. Evil is not evaded, but
sublated in the higher religious cheer of these persons (see pp.
47-52, 354-357). But the final consciousness which each type
reaches of union with the divine has the same practical
significance for the individual; and individuals may well be
allowed to get to it by the channels which lie most open to their
several temperaments. In the cases which were quoted in Lecture
IV, of the mind-cure form of healthy-mindedness, we found
abundant examples of regenerative process. The severity of the
crisis in this process is a matter of degree. How long one shall
continue to drink the consciousness of evil, and when one shall
begin to short-circuit and get rid of it, are also matters of
amount and degree, so that in many instances it is quite
arbitrary whether we class the individual as a once-born or a
twice-born subject.

But, you may now ask, would not this one-sidedness be cured if we
should all espouse the science of religions as our own religion?
In answering this question I must open again the general
relations of the theoretic to the active life.

Knowledge about a thing is not the thing itself. You remember
what Al-Ghazzali told us in the Lecture on Mysticism--that to
understand the causes of drunkenness, as a physician understands
them, is not to be drunk. A science might come to understand
everything about the causes and elements of religion, and might
even decide which elements were qualified, by their general
harmony with other branches of knowledge, to be considered true;
and yet the best man at this science might be the man who found
it hardest to be personally devout. Tout savoir c'est tout
pardonner. The name of Renan would doubtless occur to many
persons as an example of the way in which breadth of knowledge
may make one only a dilettante in possibilities, and blunt the
acuteness of one's living faith.[332] If religion be a function
by which either God's cause or man's cause is to be really
advanced, then he who lives the life of it, however narrowly, is
a better servant than he who merely knows about it, however much.
Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a
place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your
being, is another.

[332] Compare, e.g., the quotation from Renan on p. 37, above.

For this reason, the science of religions may not be an
equivalent for living religion; and if we turn to the inner
difficulties of such a science, we see that a point comes when
she must drop the purely theoretic attitude, and either let her
knots remain uncut, or have them cut by active faith. To see
this, suppose that we have our science of religions constituted
as a matter of fact. Suppose that she has assimilated all the
necessary historical material and distilled out of it as its
essence the same conclusions which I myself a few moments ago
pronounced. Suppose that she agrees that religion, wherever it
is an active thing, involves a belief in ideal presences, and a
belief that in our prayerful communion with them,[333] work is
done, and something real comes to pass. She has now to exert her
critical activity, and to decide how far, in the light of other
sciences and in that of general philosophy, such beliefs can be
considered TRUE.

[333] "Prayerful" taken in the broader sense explained above on
pp. 453 ff.

Dogmatically to decide this is an impossible task. Not only are
the other sciences and the philosophy still far from being
completed, but in their present state we find them full of
conflicts. The sciences of nature know nothing of spiritual
presences, and on the whole hold no practical commerce whatever
with the idealistic conceptions towards which general philosophy
inclines. The scientist, so-called, is, during his scientific
hours at least, so materialistic that one may well say that on
the whole the influence of science goes against the notion that
religion should be recognized at all. And this antipathy to
religion finds an echo within the very science of religions
itself. The cultivator of this science has to become acquainted
with so many groveling and horrible superstitions that a
presumption easily arises in his mind that any belief that is
religious probably is false. In the "prayerful communion" of
savages with such mumbo-jumbos of deities as they acknowledge, it
is hard for us to see what genuine spiritual work--even though it
were work relative only to their dark savage obligations-- can
possibly be done.

The consequence is that the conclusions of the science of
religions are as likely to be adverse as they are to be favorable
to the claim that the essence of religion is true. There is a
notion in the air about us that religion is probably only an
anachronism, a case of "survival," an atavistic relapse into a
mode of thought which humanity in its more enlightened examples
has outgrown; and this notion our religious anthropologists at
present do little to counteract.

This view is so widespread at the present day that I must
consider it with some explicitness before I pass to my own
conclusions. Let me call it the "Survival theory," for brevity's

The pivot round which the religious life, as we have traced it,
revolves, is the interest of the individual in his private
personal destiny. Religion, in short, is a monumental chapter in
the history of human egotism. The gods believed in--whether by
crude savages or by men disciplined intellectually--agree with
each other in recognizing personal calls. Religious thought is
carried on in terms of personality, this being, in the world of
religion, the one fundamental fact. To-day, quite as much as at
any previous age, the religious individual tells you that the
divine meets him on the basis of his personal concerns.

Science, on the other hand, has ended by utterly repudiating the
personal point of view. She catalogues her elements and records
her laws indifferent as to what purpose may be shown forth by
them, and constructs her theories quite careless of their bearing
on human anxieties and fates. Though the scientist may
individually nourish a religion, and be a theist in his
irresponsible hours, the days are over when it could be said that
for Science herself the heavens declare the glory of God and the
firmament showeth his handiwork. Our solar system, with its
harmonies, is seen now as but one passing case of a certain sort
of moving equilibrium in the heavens, realized by a local
accident in an appalling wilderness of worlds where no life can
exist. In a span of time which as a cosmic interval will count
but as an hour, it will have ceased to be. The Darwinian notion
of chance production, and subsequent destruction, speedy or
deferred, applies to the largest as well as to the smallest
facts. It is impossible, in the present temper of the scientific
imagination, to find in the driftings of the cosmic atoms,
whether they work on the universal or on the particular scale,
anything but a kind of aimless weather, doing and undoing,
achieving no proper history, and leaving no result. Nature has no
one distinguishable ultimate tendency with which it is possible
to feel a sympathy. In the vast rhythm of her processes, as the
scientific mind now follows them, she appears to cancel herself.
The books of natural theology which satisfied the intellects of
our grandfathers seem to us quite grotesque,[334] representing,
as they did, a God who conformed the largest things of nature to
the paltriest of our private wants. The God whom science
recognizes must be a God of universal laws exclusively, a God who
does a wholesale, not a retail business. He cannot accommodate
his processes to the convenience of individuals. The bubbles on
the foam which coats a stormy sea are floating episodes, made and
unmade by the forces of the wind and water. Our private selves
are like those bubbles--epiphenomena, as Clifford, I believe,
ingeniously called them; their destinies weigh nothing and
determine nothing in the world's irremediable currents of events.

[334] How was it ever conceivable, we ask, that a man like
Christian Wolff, in whose dry-as-dust head all the learning of
the early eighteenth century was concentrated, should have
preserved such a baby-like faith in the personal and human
character of Nature as to expound her operations as he did in his
work on the uses of natural things? This, for example, is the
account he gives of the sun and its utility:--

"We see that God has created the sun to keep the changeable
conditions on the earth in such an order that living creatures,
men and beasts, may inhabit its surface. Since men are the most
reasonable of creatures, and able to infer God's invisible being
from the contemplation of the world, the sun in so far forth
contributes to the primary purpose of creation: without it the
race of man could not be preserved or continued. . . . The sun
makes daylight, not only on our earth, but also on the other
planets; and daylight is of the utmost utility to us, for by its
means we can commodiously carry on those occupations which in the
night-time would either be quite impossible. Or at any rate
impossible without our going to the expense of artificial light.
The beasts of the field can find food by day which they would not
be able to find at night. Moreover we owe it to the sunlight
that we are able to see everything that is on the earth's
surface, not only near by, but also at a distance, and to
recognize both near and far things according to their species,
which again is of manifold use to us not only in the business
necessary to human life, and when we are traveling, but also for
the scientific knowledge of Nature, which knowledge for the most
part depends on observations made with the help of sight, and
without the sunshine, would have been impossible. If any one
would rightly impress on his mind the great advantages which he
derives from the sun, let him imagine himself living through only
one month, and see how it would be with all his undertakings, if
it were not day but night. He would then be sufficiently
convinced out of his own experience, especially if he had much
work to carry on in the street or in the fields. . . . From the
sun we learn to recognize when it is midday, and by knowing this
point of time exactly, we can set our clocks right, on which
account astronomy owes much to the sun. . . . By help of the sun
one can find the meridian. . . . But the meridian is the basis
of our sun-dials, and generally speaking, we should have no
sun-dials if we had no sun." Vernunftige Gedanken von den
Absichter der naturlichen Dinge, 1782. pp.74-84.

Or read the account of God's beneficence in the institution of
"the great variety throughout the world of men's faces, voices,
and hand-writing," given in Derham's Physico-theology, a book
that had much vogue in the eighteenth century. "Had Man's body,"
says Dr. Derham, "been made according to any of the Atheistical
Schemes, or any other Method than that of the infinite Lord of
the World, this wise Variety would never have been: but Men's
Faces would have been cast in the same, or not a very different
Mould, their Organs of Speech would have sounded the same or not
so great a Variety of Notes, and the same Structure of Muscles
and Nerves would have given the Hand the same Direction in
Writing. And in this Case what Confusion, what Disturbance, what
Mischiefs would the world eternally have lain under! No Security
could have been to our persons; no Certainty, no Enjoyment of our
Possessions; no Justice between Man and Man, no Distinction
between Good and Bad, between Friends and Foes, between Father
and Child, Husband and Wife, Male or Female; but all would have
been turned topsy-turvy, by being exposed to the Malice of the
Envious and ill-Natured, to the Fraud and Violence of Knaves and
Robbers, to the Forgeries of the crafty Cheat, to the Lusts of
the Effeminate and Debauched, and what not! Our Courts of
Justice can abundantly testify the dire Effects of Mistaking
Men's Faces, of counterfeiting their Hands, and forging Writings.

But now as the infinitely wise Creator and Ruler hath ordered the
Matter, every man's Face can distinguish him in the Light, and
his Voice in the Dark, his Hand-writing can speak for him though
absent, and be his Witness, and secure his Contracts in future
Generations. A manifest as well as admirable Indication of the
divine Superintendence and Management."

A God so careful as to make provision even for the unmistakable
signing of bank checks and deeds was a deity truly after the
heart of eighteenth century Anglicanism.

I subjoin, omitting the capitals, Derham's "Vindication of God by
the Institution of Hills and Valleys," and Wolff's altogether
culinary account of the institution of Water:--

"The uses," says Wolff, "which water serves in human life are
plain to see and need not be described at length. Water is a
universal drink of man and beasts. Even though men have made
themselves drinks that are artificial, they could not do this
without water. Beer is brewed of water and malt, and it is the
water in it which quenches thirst. Wine is prepared from grapes,
which could never have grown without the help of water; and the
same is true of those drinks which in England and other places
they produce from fruit. . . . Therefore since God so planned the
world that men and beasts should live upon it and find there
everything required for their necessity and convenience, he also
made water as one means whereby to make the earth into so
excellent a dwelling. And this is all the more manifest when we
consider the advantages which we obtain from this same water for
the cleaning of our household utensils, of our clothing, and of
other matters. . . . When one goes into a grinding-mill one sees
that the grindstone must always be kept wet and then one will get
a still greater idea of the use of water."

Of the hills and valleys, Derham, after praising their beauty,
discourses as follows: "Some constitutions are indeed of so
happy a strength, and so confirmed an health, as to be
indifferent to almost any place or temperature of the air. But
then others are so weakly and feeble, as not to be able to bear
one, but can live comfortably in another place. With some the
more subtle and finer air of the hills doth best agree, who are
languishing and dying in the feculent and grosser air of great
towns, or even the warmer and vaporous air of the valleys and
waters. But contrariwise, others languish on the hills, and grow
lusty and strong in the warmer air of the valleys.

"So that this opportunity of shifting our abode from the hills to
the vales, is an admirable easement, refreshment, and great
benefit to the valetudinarian, feeble part of mankind; affording
those an easy and comfortable life, who would otherwise live
miserably, languish, and pine away.

"To this salutary conformation of the earth we may add another
great convenience of the hills, and that is affording commodious
places for habitation, serving (as an eminent author wordeth it)
as screens to keep off the cold and nipping blasts of the
northern and easterly winds, and reflecting the benign and
cherishing sunbeams and so rendering our habitations both more
comfortable and more cheerly in winter.

"Lastly, it is to the hills that the fountains owe their rise and
the rivers their conveyance, and consequently those vast masses
and lofty piles are not, as they are charged such rude and
useless excrescences of our ill-formed globe; but the admirable
tools of nature, contrived and ordered by the infinite Creator,
to do one of its most useful works. For, was the surface of the
earth even and level, and the middle parts of its islands and
continents not mountainous and high as now it is, it is most
certain there could be no descent for the rivers, no conveyance
for the waters; but, instead of gliding along those gentle
declivities which the higher lands now afford them quite down to
the sea, they would stagnate and perhaps stink, and also drown
large tracts of land.

"[Thus] the hills and vales, though to a peevish and weary
traveler they may seem incommodious and troublesome, yet are a
noble work of the great Creator, and wisely appointed by him for
the good of our sublunary world."

You see how natural it is, from this point of view, to treat
religion as a mere survival, for religion does in fact perpetuate
the traditions of the most primeval thought. To coerce the
spiritual powers, or to square them and get them on our side,
was, during enormous tracts of time, the one great object in our
dealings with the natural world. For our ancestors, dreams,
hallucinations, revelations, and cock-and-bull stories were
inextricably mixed with facts. Up to a comparatively recent date
such distinctions as those between what has been verified and
what is only conjectured, between the impersonal and the personal
aspects of existence, were hardly suspected or conceived.
Whatever you imagined in a lively manner, whatever you thought
fit to be true, you affirmed confidently; and whatever you
affirmed, your comrades believed. Truth was what had not yet
been contradicted, most things were taken into the mind from the
point of view of their human suggestiveness, and the attention
confined itself exclusively to the aesthetic and dramatic aspects
of events.[335]

[335] Until the seventeenth century this mode of thought
prevailed. One need only recall the dramatic treatment even of
mechanical questions by Aristotle, as, for example, his
explanation of the power of the lever to make a small weight
raise a larger one. This is due, according to Aristotle, to the
generally miraculous character of the circle and of all circular
movement. The circle is both convex and concave; it is made by a
fixed point and a moving line, which contradict each other; and
whatever moves in a circle moves in opposite directions.
Nevertheless, movement in a circle is the most "natural"
movement; and the long arm of the lever, moving, as it does, in
the larger circle, has the greater amount of this natural motion,
and consequently requires the lesser force. Or recall the
explanation by Herodotus of the position of the sun in winter:
It moves to the south because of the cold which drives it into
the warm parts of the heavens over Libya. Or listen to Saint
Augustine's speculations: "Who gave to chaff such power to
freeze that it preserves snow buried under it, and such power to
warm that it ripens green fruit? Who can explain the strange
properties of fire itself, which blackens all that it burns,
though itself bright, and which, though of the most beautiful
colors, discolors almost all that it touches and feeds upon, and
turns blazing fuel into grimy cinders? . . . Then what wonderful
properties do we find in charcoal, which is so brittle that a
light tap breaks it, and a slight pressure pulverizes it, and yet
is so strong that no moisture rots it, nor any time causes it to
decay." City of God, book xxi, ch. iv.

Such aspects of things as these, their naturalness and
unnaturalness the sympathies and antipathies of their superficial
qualities, their eccentricities, their brightness and strength
and destructiveness, were inevitably the ways in which they
originally fastened our attention.

If you open early medical books, you will find sympathetic magic
invoked on every page. Take, for example, the famous vulnerary
ointment attributed to Paracelsus. For this there were a variety
of receipts, including usually human fat, the fat of either a
bull, a wild boar, or a bear, powdered earthworms, the usnia, or
mossy growth on the weathered skull of a hanged criminal, and
other materials equally unpleasant--the whole prepared under the
planet Venus if possible, but never under Mars or Saturn. Then,
if a splinter of wood, dipped in the patient's blood, or the
bloodstained weapon that wounded him, be immersed in this
ointment, the wound itself being tightly bound up, the latter
infallibly gets well--I quote now Van Helmont's account--for the
blood on the weapon or splinter, containing in it the spirit of
the wounded man, is roused to active excitement by the contact of
the ointment, whence there results to it a full commission or
power to cure its cousin-german the blood in the patient's body.
This it does by sucking out the dolorous and exotic impression
from the wounded part. But to do this it has to implore the aid
of the bull's fat, and other portions of the unguent. The reason
why bull's fat is so powerful is that the bull at the time of
slaughter is full of secret reluctancy and vindictive murmurs,
and therefore dies with a higher flame of revenge about him than
any other animal. And thus we have made it out, says this
author, that the admirable efficacy of the ointment ought to be
imputed, not to any auxiliary concurrence of Satan, but simply to
the energy of the posthumous character of Revenge remaining
firmly impressed upon the blood and concreted fat in the unguent.
J. B. Van Helmont: A Ternary of Paradoxes, translated by Walter
Charleton, London, 1650.--I much abridge the original in my

The author goes on to prove by the analogy of many other natural
facts that this sympathetic action between things at a distance
is the true rationale of the case. "If," he says, "the heart of
a horse slain by a witch, taken out of the yet reeking carcase,
be impaled upon an arrow and roasted, immediately the whole witch
becomes tormented with the insufferable pains and cruelty of the
fire, which could by no means happen unless there preceded a
conjunction of the spirit of the witch with the spirit of the
horse. In the reeking and yet panting heart, the spirit of the
witch is kept captive, and the retreat of it prevented by the
arrow transfixed. Similarly hath not many a murdered carcase at
the coroner's inquest suffered a fresh haemorrhage or cruentation
at the presence of the assassin?--the blood being, as in a
furious fit of anger, enraged and agitated by the impress of
revenge conceived against the murderer, at the instant of the
soul's compulsive exile from the body. So, if you have dropsy,
gout, or jaundice, by including some of your warm blood in the
shell and white of an egg, which, exposed to a gentle heat, and
mixed with a bait of flesh, you shall give to a hungry dog or
hog, the disease shall instantly pass from you into the animal,
and leave you entirely. And similarly again, if you burn some of
the milk either of a cow or of a woman, the gland from which it
issued will dry up. A gentleman at Brussels had his nose mowed
off in a combat, but the celebrated surgeon Tagliacozzus digged a
new nose for him out of the skin of the arm of a porter at
Bologna. About thirteen months after his return to his own
country, the engrafted nose grew cold, putrefied, and in a few
days dropped off, and it was then discovered that the porter had
expired, near about the same punctilio of time. There are still
at Brussels eye-witnesses of this occurrence," says Van Helmont;
and adds, "I pray what is there in this of superstition or of
exalted imagination?"

Modern mind-cure literature--the works of Prentice Mulford, for
example--is full of sympathetic magic.

How indeed could it be otherwise? The extraordinary value, for
explanation and prevision, of those mathematical and mechanical
modes of conception which science uses, was a result that could
not possibly have been expected in advance. Weight, movement,
velocity, direction, position, what thin, pallid, uninteresting
ideas! How could the richer animistic aspects of Nature, the
peculiarities and oddities that make phenomena picturesquely
striking or expressive, fail to have been first singled out and
followed by philosophy as the more promising avenue to the
knowledge of Nature's life? Well, it is still in these richer
animistic and dramatic aspects that religion delights to dwell.
It is the terror and beauty of phenomena, the "promise" of the
dawn and of the rainbow, the "voice" of the thunder, the
"gentleness" of the summer rain, the "sublimity" of the stars,
and not the physical laws which these things follow, by which the
religious mind still continues to be most impressed; and just as
of yore, the devout man tells you that in the solitude of his
room or of the fields he still feels the divine presence, that
inflowings of help come in reply to his prayers, and that
sacrifices to this unseen reality fill him with security and

Pure anachronism! says the survival-theory;--anachronism for
which deanthropomorphization of the imagination is the remedy
required. The less we mix the private with the cosmic, the more
we dwell in universal and impersonal terms, the truer heirs of
Science we become.

In spite of the appeal which this impersonality of the scientific
attitude makes to a certain magnanimity of temper, I believe it
to be shallow, and I can now state my reason in comparatively few
words. That reason is that, so long as we deal with the cosmic
and the general, we deal only with the symbols of reality, but as
soon as we deal with private and personal phenomena as such, we
deal with realities in the completest sense of the term. I think
I can easily make clear what I mean by these words.

The world of our experience consists at all times of two parts,
an objective and a subjective part, of which the former may be
incalculably more extensive than the latter, and yet the latter
can never be omitted or suppressed. The objective part is the
sum total of whatsoever at any given time we may be thinking of,
the subjective part is the inner "state" in which the thinking
comes to pass. What we think of may be enormous--the cosmic
times and spaces, for example-- whereas the inner state may be
the most fugitive and paltry activity of mind. Yet the cosmic
objects, so far as the experience yields them, are but ideal
pictures of something whose existence we do not inwardly possess
but only point at outwardly, while the inner state is our very
experience itself; its reality and that of our experience are
one. A conscious field PLUS its object as felt or thought of
PLUS an attitude towards the object PLUS the sense of a self to
whom the attitude belongs--such a concrete bit of personal
experience may be a small bit, but it is a solid bit as long as
it lasts; not hollow, not a mere abstract element of experience,
such as the "object" is when taken all alone. It is a FULL fact,
even though it be an insignificant fact; it is of the KIND to
which all realities whatsoever must belong; the motor currents of
the world run through the like of it; it is on the line
connecting real events with real events. That unsharable feeling
which each one of us has of the pinch of his individual destiny
as he privately feels it rolling out on fortune's wheel may be
disparaged for its egotism, may be sneered at as unscientific,
but it is the one thing that fills up the measure of our concrete
actuality, and any would-be existent that should lack such a
feeling, or its analogue, would be a piece of reality only half
made up.[336]

[336] Compare Lotze's doctrine that the only meaning we can
attach to the notion of a thing as it is "in itself" is by
conceiving it as it is FOR itself, i.e., as a piece of full
experience with a private sense of "pinch" or inner activity of
some sort going with it.

If this be true, it is absurd for science to say that the
egotistic elements of experience should be suppressed. The axis
of reality runs solely through the egotistic places--they are
strung upon it like so many beads. To describe the world with
all the various feelings of the individual pinch of destiny, all
the various spiritual attitudes, left out from the
description--they being as describable as anything else --would
be something like offering a printed bill of fare as the
equivalent for a solid meal. Religion makes no such blunder.
The individual's religion may be egotistic, and those private
realities which it keeps in touch with may be narrow enough; but
at any rate it always remains infinitely less hollow and
abstract, as far as it goes, than a science which prides itself
on taking no account of anything private at all.

A bill of fare with one real raisin on it instead of the word
"raisin," with one real egg instead of the word "egg," might be
an inadequate meal, but it would at least be a commencement of
reality. The contention of the survival-theory that we ought to
stick to non-personal elements exclusively seems like saying that
we ought to be satisfied forever with reading the naked bill of
fare. I think, therefore, that however particular questions
connected with our individual destinies may be answered, it is
only by acknowledging them as genuine questions, and living in
the sphere of thought which they open up, that we become
profound. But to live thus is to be religious; so I
unhesitatingly repudiate the survival-theory of religion, as
being founded on an egregious mistake. It does not follow,
because our ancestors made so many errors of fact and mixed them
with their religion, that we should therefore leave off being
religious at all.[337] By being religious we establish ourselves
in possession of ultimate reality at the only points at which
reality is given us to guard. Our responsible concern is with
our private destiny, after all.

[337] Even the errors of fact may possibly turn out not to be as
wholesale as the scientist assumes. We saw in Lecture IV how the
religious conception of the universe seems to many mind-curers
"verified" from day to day by their experience of fact.
"Experience of fact" is a field with so many things in it that
the sectarian scientist methodically declining, as he does, to
recognize such "facts" as mind-curers and others like them
experience, otherwise than by such rude heads of classification
as "bosh," "rot," "folly," certainly leaves out a mass of raw
fact which, save for the industrious interest of the religious in
the more personal aspects of reality, would never have succeeded
in getting itself recorded at all. We know this to be true
already in certain cases; it may, therefore, be true in others as
well. Miraculous healings have always been part of the
supernaturalist stock in trade, and have always been dismissed by
the scientist as figments of the imagination. But the
scientist's tardy education in the facts of hypnotism has
recently given him an apperceiving mass for phenomena of this
order, and he consequently now allows that the healings may
exist, provided you expressly call them effects of "suggestion."
Even the stigmata of the cross on Saint Francis's hands and feet
may on these terms not be a fable. Similarly, the time-honored
phenomenon of diabolical possession is on the point of being
admitted by the scientist as a fact, now that he has the name of
"hystero-demonopathy" by which to apperceive it. No one can
foresee just how far this legitimation of occultist phenomena
under newly found scientist titles may proceed--even "prophecy,"
even "levitation," might creep into the pale.

Thus the divorce between scientist facts and religious facts may
not necessarily be as eternal as it at first sight seems, nor the
personalism and romanticism of the world, as they appeared to
primitive thinking, be matters so irrevocably outgrown. The
final human opinion may, in short, in some manner now impossible
to foresee, revert to the more personal style, just as any path
of progress may follow a spiral rather than a straight line. If
this were so, the rigorously impersonal view of science might one
day appear as having been a temporarily useful eccentricity
rather than the definitively triumphant position which the
sectarian scientist at present so confidently announces it to be.

You see now why I have been so individualistic throughout these
lectures, and why I have seemed so bent on rehabilitating the
element of feeling in religion and subordinating its intellectual
part. Individuality is founded in feeling; and the recesses of
feeling, the darker, blinder strata of character, are the only
places in the world in which we catch real fact in the making,
and directly perceive how events happen, and how work is actually
done.[338] Compared with this world of living individualized
feelings, the world of generalized objects which the intellect
contemplates is without solidity or life. As in stereoscopic or
kinetoscopic pictures seen outside the instrument, the third
dimension, the movement, the vital element, are not there. We
get a beautiful picture of an express train supposed to be
moving, but where in the picture, as I have heard a friend say,
is the energy or the fifty miles an hour?[339]

[338] Hume's criticism has banished causation from the world of
physical objects, and "Science" is absolutely satisfied to define
cause in terms of concomitant change-read Mach, Pearson, Ostwald.
The "original" of the notion of causation is in our inner
personal experience, and only there can causes in the
old-fashioned sense be directly observed and described.

[339] When I read in a religious paper words like these:
"Perhaps the best thing we can say of God is that he is THE
INEVITABLE INFERENCE," I recognize the tendency to let religion
evaporate in intellectual terms. Would martyrs have sung in the
flames for a mere inference, however inevitable it might be?
Original religious men, like Saint Francis, Luther, Behmen, have
usually been enemies of the intellect's pretension to meddle with
religious things. Yet the intellect, everywhere invasive, shows
everywhere its shallowing effect. See how the ancient spirit of
Methodism evaporates under those wonderfully able rationalistic
booklets (which every one should read) of a philosopher like
Professor Bowne (The Christian Revelation, The Christian Life The
Atonement: Cincinnati and New York, 1898, 1899, 1900). See the
positively expulsive purpose of philosophy properly so called:--

"Religion," writes M. Vacherot (La Religion, Paris, 1869, pp.
313, 436, et passim), "answers to a transient state or condition,
not to a permanent determination of human nature, being merely an
expression of that stage of the human mind which is dominated by
the imagination. . . . Christianity has but a single possible
final heir to its estate, and that is scientific philosophy."

In a still more radical vein, Professor Ribot (Psychologie des
Sentiments, p. 310) describes the evaporation of religion. He
sums it up in a single formula--the ever-growing predominance of
the rational intellectual element, with the gradual fading out of
the emotional element, this latter tending to enter into the
group of purely intellectual sentiments. "Of religious sentiment
properly so called, nothing survives at last save a vague respect
for the unknowable x which is a last relic of the fear, and a
certain attraction towards the ideal, which is a relic of the
love, that characterized the earlier periods of religious growth.

To state this more simply, religion tends to turn into religious
philosophy.--These are psychologically entirely different things,
the one being a theoretic construction of ratiocination, whereas
the other is the living work of a group of persons, or of a great
inspired leader, calling into play the entire thinking and
feeling organism of man."

I find the same failure to recognize that the stronghold of
religion lies in individuality in attempts like those of
Professor Baldwin (Mental Development, Social and Ethical
Interpretations, ch. x) and Mr. H. R. Marshall (Instinct and
Reason, chaps. viii. to xii.) to make it a purely "conservative
social force."

Let us agree, then, that Religion, occupying herself with
personal destinies and keeping thus in contact with the only
absolute realities which we know, must necessarily play an
eternal part in human history. The next thing to decide is what
she reveals about those destinies, or whether indeed she reveals
anything distinct enough to be considered a general message to
mankind. We have done as you see, with our preliminaries, and
our final summing up can now begin.

I am well aware that after all the palpitating documents which I
have quoted, and all the perspectives of emotion-inspiring
institution and belief that my previous lectures have opened, the
dry analysis to which I now advance may appear to many of you
like an anti-climax, a tapering-off and flattening out of the
subject, instead of a crescendo of interest and result. I said
awhile ago that the religious attitude of Protestants appears
poverty-stricken to the Catholic imagination. Still more
poverty-stricken, I fear, may my final summing up of the subject
appear at first to some of you. On which account I pray you now
to bear this point in mind, that in the present part of it I am
expressly trying to reduce religion to its lowest admissible
terms, to that minimum, free from individualistic excrescences,
which all religions contain as their nucleus, and on which it may
be hoped that all religious persons may agree. That established,
we should have a result which might be small, but would at least
be solid; and on it and round it the ruddier additional beliefs
on which the different individuals make their venture might be
grafted, and flourish as richly as you please. I shall add my
own over-belief (which will be, I confess, of a somewhat pallid
kind, as befits a critical philosopher), and you will, I hope,
also add your over-beliefs, and we shall soon be in the varied
world of concrete religious constructions once more. For the
moment, let me dryly pursue the analytic part of the task.

Both thought and feeling are determinants of conduct, and the
same conduct may be determined either by feeling or by thought.
When we survey the whole field of religion, we find a great
variety in the thoughts that have prevailed there; but the
feelings on the one hand and the conduct on the other are almost
always the same, for Stoic, Christian, and Buddhist saints are
practically indistinguishable in their lives. The theories which
Religion generates, being thus variable, are secondary; and if
you wish to grasp her essence, you must look to the feelings and
the conduct as being the more constant elements. It is between
these two elements that the short circuit exists on which she
carries on her principal business, while the ideas and symbols
and other institutions form loop-lines which may be perfections
and improvements, and may even some day all be united into one
harmonious system, but which are not to be regarded as organs
with an indispensable function, necessary at all times for
religious life to go on. This seems to me the first conclusion
which we are entitled to draw from the phenomena we have passed
in review.

The next step is to characterize the feelings. To what
psychological order do they belong?

The resultant outcome of them is in any case what Kant calls a
"sthenic" affection, an excitement of the cheerful, expansive,
"dynamogenic" order which, like any tonic, freshens our vital
powers. In almost every lecture, but especially in the lectures
on Conversion and on Saintliness, we have seen how this emotion
overcomes temperamental melancholy and imparts endurance to the
Subject, or a zest, or a meaning, or an enchantment and glory to
the common objects of life.[340] The name of "faith-state," by
which Professor Leuba designates it, is a good one.[341] It is a
biological as well as a psychological condition, and Tolstoy is
absolutely accurate in classing faith among the forces BY WHICH
MEN LIVE.[342] The total absence of it, anhedonia,[343] means

[340] Compare, for instance, pages 200, 215, 219, 222,
244-250, 270-273.

[341] American Journal of Psychology, vii. 345.

[342] Above, p. 181.

[343] Above, p. 143.

The faith-state may hold a very minimum of intellectual content.
We saw examples of this in those sudden raptures of the divine
presence, or in such mystical seizures as Dr. Bucke
described.[344] It may be a mere vague enthusiasm, half
spiritual, half vital, a courage, and a feeling that great and
wondrous things are in the air.[345]

[344] Above, p. 391.

[345] Example: Henri Perreyve writes to Gratry: "I do not know
how to deal with the happiness which you aroused in me this
morning. It overwhelms me; I want to DO something, yet I can do
nothing and am fit for nothing. . . . I would fain do GREAT
THINGS." Again, after an inspiring interview, he writes: "I
went homewards, intoxicated with joy, hope, and strength. I
wanted to feed upon my happiness in solitude far from all men.
It was late; but, unheeding that, I took a mountain path and went
on like a madman, looking at the heavens, regardless of earth.
Suddenly an instinct made me draw hastily back --I was on the
very edge of a precipice, one step more and I must have fallen.
I took fright and gave up my nocturnal promenade." A. Gratry:
Henri Perreyve, London, 1872, pp. 92, 89.

This primacy, in the faith-state, of vague expansive impulse over
direction is well expressed in Walt Whitman's lines (Leaves of
Grass, 1872, p. 190):--

"O to confront night, storms, hunger,ridicule, accidents,
rebuffs, as the trees and animals do. . . .
Dear Camerado! I confess I have urged you onward with me, and
still urge you, without the least idea what is our
Or whether we shall be victorious, or utterly quell'd and

This readiness for great things, and this sense that the world by
its importance, wonderfulness, etc., is apt for their production,
would seem to be the undifferentiated germ of all the higher
faiths. Trust in our own dreams of ambition, or in our country's
expansive destinies, and faith in the providence of God, all have
their source in that onrush of our sanguine impulses, and in that
sense of the exceedingness of the possible over the real.

When, however, a positive intellectual content is associated with
a faith-state, it gets invincibly stamped in upon belief,[346]
and this explains the passionate loyalty of religious persons
everywhere to the minutest details of their so widely differing
creeds. Taking creeds and faith-state together, as forming
"religions," and treating these as purely subjective phenomena,
without regard to the question of their "truth," we are obliged,
on account of their extraordinary influence upon action and
endurance, to class them amongst the most important biological
functions of mankind. Their stimulant and anaesthetic effect is
so great that Professor Leuba, in a recent article,[347] goes so
far as to say that so long as men can USE their God, they care
very little who he is, or even whether he is at all. "The truth
of the matter can be put," says Leuba, "in this way: GOD IS NOT
meat-purveyor, sometimes as moral support, sometimes as friend,
sometimes as an object of love. If he proves himself useful, the
religious consciousness asks for no more than that. Does God
really exist? How does he exist? What is he? are so many
irrelevant questions. Not God, but life, more life, a larger,
richer, more satisfying life, is, in the last analysis, the end
of religion. The love of life, at any and every level of
development, is the religious impulse."[348]

[346] Compare Leuba: Loc. cit., pp. 346-349.

[347] The Contents of Religious Consciousness, in The Monist, xi.
536, July 1901.

[348] Loc. cit., pp. 571, 572, abridged. See, also, this
writer's extraordinarily true criticism of the notion that
religion primarily seeks to solve the intellectual mystery of the
world. Compare what W. Bender says (in his Wesen der Religion,
Bonn, 1888, pp. 85, 38): "Not the question about God, and not
the inquiry into the origin and purpose of the world is religion,
but the question about Man. All religious views of life are
anthropocentric." "Religion is that activity of the human
impulse towards self-preservation by means of which Man seeks to
carry his essential vital purposes through against the adverse
pressure of the world by raising himself freely towards the
world's ordering and governing powers when the limits of his own
strength are reached." The whole book is little more than a
development of these words.

At this purely subjective rating, therefore, Religion must be
considered vindicated in a certain way from the attacks of her
critics. It would seem that she cannot be a mere anachronism and
survival, but must exert a permanent function, whether she be
with or without intellectual content, and whether, if she have
any, it be true or false.

We must next pass beyond the point of view of merely subjective
utility, and make inquiry into the intellectual content itself.

First, is there, under all the discrepancies of the creeds, a
common nucleus to which they bear their testimony unanimously?

And second, ought we to consider the testimony true?

I will take up the first question first, and answer it
immediately in the affirmative. The warring gods and formulas of
the various religions do indeed cancel each other, but there is a
certain uniform deliverance in which religions all appear to
meet. It consists of two parts:--

1. An uneasiness; and

2. Its solution.

1. The uneasiness, reduced to its simplest terms, is a sense
that there is SOMETHING WRONG ABOUT US as we naturally stand.

2. The solution is a sense that WE ARE SAVED FROM THE WRONGNESS
by making proper connection with the higher powers.

In those more developed minds which alone we are studying, the
wrongness takes a moral character, and the salvation takes a
mystical tinge. I think we shall keep well within the limits of
what is common to all such minds if we formulate the essence of
their religious experience in terms like these:--

The individual, so far as he suffers from his wrongness and
criticises it, is to that extent consciously beyond it, and in at
least possible touch with something higher, if anything higher
exist. Along with the wrong part there is thus a better part of
him, even though it may be but a most helpless germ. With which
part he should identify his real being is by no means obvious at
this stage; but when stage 2 (the stage of solution or salvation)
arrives,[349] the man identifies his real being with the germinal
higher part of himself; and does so in the following way. He
becomes conscious that this higher part is conterminous and
continuous with a MORE of the same quality, which is operative in
the universe outside of him, and which he can keep in working
touch with, and in a fashion get on board of and save himself
when all his lower being has gone to pieces in the wreck.

[349] Remember that for some men it arrives suddenly, for others
gradually, whilst others again practically enjoy it all their

It seems to me that all the phenomena are accurately describable
in these very simple general terms.[350] They allow for the
divided self and the struggle; they involve the change of
personal centre and the surrender of the lower self; they express
the appearance of exteriority of the helping power and yet
account for our sense of union with it;[351] and they fully
justify our feelings of security and joy. There is probably no
autobiographic document, among all those which I have quoted, to
which the description will not well apply. One need only add
such specific details as will adapt it to various theologies and
various personal temperaments, and one will then have the various
experiences reconstructed in their individual forms.

[350] The practical difficulties are: 1, to "realize the
reality" of one's higher part; 2, to identify one's self with it
exclusively; and 3, to identify it with all the rest of ideal

[351] "When mystical activity is at its height, we find
consciousness possessed by the sense of a being at once EXCESSIVE
and IDENTICAL with the self: great enough to be God; interior
enough to be ME. The "objectivity" of it ought in that case to
be called EXCESSIVITY, rather, or exceedingness." ReCeJac: Essai
sur les fondements de la conscience mystique, 1897, p. 46.

So far, however, as this analysis goes, the experiences are only
psychological phenomena. They possess, it is true, enormous
biological worth. Spiritual strength really increases in the
subject when he has them, a new life opens for him, and they seem
to him a place of conflux where the forces of two universes meet;
and yet this may be nothing but his subjective way of feeling
things, a mood of his own fancy, in spite of the effects
produced. I now turn to my second question: What is the
objective "truth" of their content?[352]

[352] The word "truth" is here taken to mean something additional
to bare value for life, although the natural propensity of man is
to believe that whatever has great value for life is thereby
certified as true.

The part of the content concerning which the question of truth
most pertinently arises is that "MORE of the same quality" with
which our own higher self appears in the experience to come into
harmonious working relation. Is such a "more" merely our own
notion, or does it really exist? If so, in what shape does it
exist? Does it act, as well as exist? And in what form should
we conceive of that "union" with it of which religious geniuses
are so convinced?

It is in answering these questions that the various theologies
perform their theoretic work, and that their divergencies most
come to light. They all agree that the "more" really exists;
though some of them hold it to exist in the shape of a personal
god or gods, while others are satisfied to conceive it as a
stream of ideal tendency embedded in the eternal structure of the
world. They all agree, moreover, that it acts as well as exists,
and that something really is effected for the better when you
throw your life into its hands. It is when they treat of the
experience of "union" with it that their speculative differences
appear most clearly. Over this point pantheism and theism,
nature and second birth, works and grace and karma, immortality
and reincarnation, rationalism and mysticism, carry on inveterate

At the end of my lecture on Philosophy[353] I held out the notion
that an impartial science of religions might sift out from the
midst of their discrepancies a common body of doctrine which she
might also formulate in terms to which <501> physical science
need not object. This, I said, she might adopt as her own
reconciling hypothesis, and recommend it for general belief. I
also said that in my last lecture I should have to try my own
hand at framing such an hypothesis.

[353] Above, p. 445.

The time has now come for this attempt. Who says "hypothesis"
renounces the ambition to be coercive in his arguments. The most
I can do is, accordingly, to offer something that may fit the
facts so easily that your scientific logic will find no plausible
pretext for vetoing your impulse to welcome it as true.

The "more," as we called it, and the meaning of our "union" with
it, form the nucleus of our inquiry. Into what definite
description can these words be translated, and for what definite
facts do they stand? It would never do for us to place ourselves
offhand at the position of a particular theology, the Christian
theology, for example, and proceed immediately to define the
"more" as Jehovah, and the "union" as his imputation to us of the
righteousness of Christ. That would be unfair to other
religions, and, from our present standpoint at least, would be an

We must begin by using less particularized terms; and, since one
of the duties of the science of religions is to keep religion in
connection with the rest of science, we shall do well to seek
first of all a way of describing the "more," which psychologists
may also recognize as real. The subconscious self is nowadays a
well-accredited psychological entity; and I believe that in it we
have exactly the mediating term required. Apart from all
religious considerations, there is actually and literally more
life in our total soul than we are at any time aware of. The
exploration of the transmarginal field has hardly yet been
seriously undertaken, but what Mr. Myers said in 1892 in his
essay on the Subliminal Consciousness[354] is as true as when it
was first written: "Each of us is in reality an abiding
psychical entity far more extensive than he knows--an
individuality which can never express itself completely through
any corporeal manifestation. The Self manifests through the
organism; but there is always some part of the Self unmanifested;
and always, as it seems, some power of organic expression in
abeyance or reserve."[355] Much of the content of this larger
background against which our conscious being stands out in relief
is insignificant. Imperfect memories, silly jingles, inhibitive
timidities, "dissolutive" phenomena of various sorts, as Myers
calls them, enters into it for a large part. But in it many of
the performances of genius seem also to have their origin; and in
our study of conversion, of mystical experiences, and of prayer,
we have seen how striking a part invasions from this region play
in the religious life.

[354] Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol.
vii. p. 305. For a full statement of Mr. Myers's views, I may
refer to his posthumous work, "Human Personality in the Light of
Recent Research," which is already announced by Messrs.
Longmans, Green & Co. as being in press. Mr. Myers for the
first time proposed as a general psychological problem the
exploration of the subliminal region of consciousness throughout
its whole extent, and made the first methodical steps in its
topography by treating as a natural series a mass of subliminal
facts hitherto considered only as curious isolated facts and
subjecting them to a systematized nomenclature. How important
this exploration will prove, future work upon the path which
Myers has opened can alone show. compare my paper: "Frederic
Myers's services to Psychology," in the said Proceedings, part
xlii., May, 1901.

[355] Compare the inventory given above on pp. 472-4, and also
what is said of the subconscious self on pp. 228-231, 235-236.

Let me then propose, as an hypothesis, that whatever it may be on
its FARTHER side, the "more" with which in religious experience
we feel ourselves connected is on its HITHER side the
subconscious continuation of our conscious life. Starting thus
with a recognized psychological fact as our basis, we seem to
preserve a contact with "science" which the ordinary theologian
lacks. At the same time the theologian's contention that the
religious man is moved by an external power is vindicated, for it
is one of the peculiarities of invasions from the subconscious
region to take on objective appearances, and to suggest to the
Subject an external control. In the religious life the control
is felt as "higher"; but since on our hypothesis it is primarily
the higher faculties of our own hidden mind which are
controlling, the sense of union with the power beyond us is a
sense of something, not merely apparently, but literally true.

This doorway into the subject seems to me the best one for a
science of religions, for it mediates between a number of
different points of view. Yet it is only a doorway, and
difficulties present themselves as soon as we step through it,
and ask how far our transmarginal consciousness carries us if we
follow it on its remoter side. Here the over-beliefs begin:
here mysticism and the conversion-rapture and Vedantism and
transcendental idealism bring in their monistic
interpretations[356] and tell us that the finite self rejoins the
absolute self, for it was always one with God and identical with
the soul of the world.[357] Here the prophets of all the
different religions come with their visions, voices, raptures,
and other openings, supposed by each to authenticate his own
peculiar faith.

[356] Compare above, pp. 410 ff.

[357] One more expression of this belief, to increase the
reader's familiarity with the notion of it:--

"If this room is full of darkness for thousands of years, and you
come in and begin to weep and wail, 'Oh, the darkness,' will the
darkness vanish? Bring the light in, strike a match, and light
comes in a moment. So what good will it do you to think all your
lives, 'Oh, I have done evil, I have made many mistakes'? It
requires no ghost to tell us that. Bring in the light, and the
evil goes in a moment. Strengthen the real nature, build up
yourselves, the effulgent, the resplendent, the ever pure, call
that up in every one whom you see. I wish that every one of us
had come to such a state that even when we see the vilest of
human beings we can see the God within, and instead of
condemning, say, 'Rise, thou effulgent One, rise thou who art
always pure, rise thou birthless and deathless, rise almighty,
and manifest your nature.' . . . This is the highest prayer that
the Advaita teaches. This is the one prayer: remembering our
nature.". . . "Why does man go out to look for a God? . . . It is
your own heart beating, and you did not know, you were mistaking
it for something external. He, nearest of the near, my own self,
the reality of my own life, my body and my soul.--I am Thee and
Thou art Me. That is your own nature. Assert it, manifest it.
Not to become pure, you are pure already. You are not to be
perfect, you are that already. Every good thought which you
think or act upon is simply tearing the veil, as it were, and the
purity, the Infinity, the God behind, manifests itself--the
eternal Subject of everything, the eternal Witness in this
universe, your own Self. Knowledge is, as it were, a lower step,
a degradation. We are It already; how to know It?" Swami
Viverananda: Addresses, No. XII., Practical Vedanta, part iv. pp.
172, 174, London, 1897; and Lectures, The Real and the Apparent
Man, p. 24, abridged.

Those of us who are not personally favored with such specific
revelations must stand outside of them altogether and, for the
present at least, decide that, since they corroborate
incompatible theological doctrines, they neutralize one another
and leave no fixed results. If we follow any one of them, or if
we follow philosophical theory and embrace monistic pantheism on
non-mystical grounds, we do so in the exercise of our individual
freedom, and build out our religion in the way most congruous
with our personal susceptibilities. Among these susceptibilities
intellectual ones play a decisive part. Although the religious
question is primarily a question of life, of living or not living
in the higher union which opens itself to us as a gift, yet the
spiritual excitement in which the gift appears a real one will
often fail to be aroused in an individual until certain
particular intellectual beliefs or ideas which, as we say, come
home to him, are touched.[358] These ideas will thus be essential
to that individual's religion;--which is as much as to say that
over-beliefs in various directions are absolutely indispensable,
and that we should treat them with tenderness and tolerance so
long as they are not intolerant themselves. As I have elsewhere
written, the most interesting and valuable things about a man are
usually his over-beliefs.

[358] For instance, here is a case where a person exposed from
her birth to Christian ideas had to wait till they came to her
clad in spiritistic formulas before the saving experience set

"For myself I can say that spiritualism has saved me. It was
revealed to me at a critical moment of my life, and without it I
don't know what I should have done. It has taught me to detach
myself from worldly things and to place my hope in things to
come. Through it I have learned to see in all men, even in those
most criminal, even in those from whom I have most suffered,
undeveloped brothers to whom I owed assistance, love, and
forgiveness. I have learned that I must lose my temper over
nothing despise no one, and pray for all. Most of all I have
learned to pray! And although I have still much to learn in this
domain, prayer ever brings me more strength, consolation, and
comfort. I feel more than ever that I have only made a few steps
on the long road of progress; but I look at its length without
dismay, for I have confidence that the day will come when all my
efforts shall be rewarded. So Spiritualism has a great place in
my life, indeed it holds the first place there." Flournoy

Disregarding the over beliefs, and confining ourselves to what is
common and generic, we have in the fact that the conscious person
is continuous with a wider self through which saving experiences
come,[359] a positive content of religious experience which, it
seems to me, is literally and objectively true as far as it goes.

If I now proceed to state my own hypothesis about the farther
limits of this extension of our personality, I shall be offering
my own over-belief-- though I know it will appear a sorry
under-belief to some of you--for which I can only bespeak the
same indulgence which in a converse case I should accord to

[359] "The influence of the Holy Spirit, exquisitely called the
Comforter, is a matter of actual experience, as solid a reality
as that of electro magnetism." W. C. Brownell, Scribner's
Magazine, vol. xxx. p. 112.

<506> The further limits of our being plunge, it seems to me,
into an altogether other dimension of existence from the sensible
and merely "understandable" world. Name it the mystical region,
or the supernatural region, whichever you choose. So far as our
ideal impulses originate in this region (and most of them do
originate in it, for we find them possessing us in a way for
which we cannot articulately account), we belong to it in a more
intimate sense than that in which we belong to the visible world,
for we belong in the most intimate sense wherever our ideals
belong. Yet the unseen region in question is not merely ideal,
for it produces effects in this world. When we commune with it,
work is actually done upon our finite personality, for we are
turned into new men, and consequences in the way of conduct
follow in the natural world upon our regenerative change.[360]
But that which produces effects within another reality must be
termed a reality itself, so I feel as if we had no philosophic
excuse for calling the unseen or mystical world unreal.

[360] That the transaction of opening ourselves, otherwise called
prayer, is a perfectly definite one for certain persons, appears
abundantly in the preceding lectures. I append another concrete
example to rein force the impression on the reader's mind:--

"Man can learn to transcend these limitations [of finite thought]
and draw power and wisdom at will. . . . The divine presence is
known through experience. The turning to a higher plane is a
distinct act of consciousness. It is not a vague, twilight or
semi-conscious experience. It is not an ecstasy, it is not a
trance. It is not super-consciousness in the Vedantic sense. It
is not due to self-hypnotization. It is a perfectly calm, sane,
sound, rational, common-sense shifting of consciousness from the
phenomena of sense-perception to the phenomena of seership, from
the thought of self to a distinctively higher realm. . . . For
example, if the lower self be nervous, anxious, tense, one can in
a few moments compel it to be calm. This is not done by a word
simply. Again I say, it is not hypnotism. It is by the exercise
of power. One feels the spirit of peace as definitely as heat is
perceived on a hot summer day. The power can be as surely used
as the sun s rays can be focused and made to do work, to set fire
to wood." The Higher Law, vol. iv. pp. 4, 6, Boston, August,

God is the natural appellation, for us Christians at least, for
the supreme reality, so I will call this higher part of the
universe by the name of God.[361] We and God have business with
each other; and in opening ourselves to his influence our deepest
destiny is fulfilled. The universe, at those parts of it which
our personal being constitutes, takes a turn genuinely for the
worse or for the better in proportion as each one of us fulfills
or evades God's demands. As far as this goes I probably have you
with me, for I only translate into schematic language what I may
call the instinctive belief of mankind: God is real since he
produces real effects.

[361] Transcendentalists are fond of the term "Over-soul," but as
a rule they use it in an intellectualist sense, as meaning only a
medium of communion. "God" is a causal agent as well as a medium
of communion, and that is the aspect which I wish to emphasize.

The real effects in question, so far as I have as yet admitted
them, are exerted on the personal centres of energy of the
various subjects, but the spontaneous faith of most of the
subjects is that they embrace a wider sphere than this. Most
religious men believe (or "know," if they be mystical) that not
only they themselves, but the whole universe of beings to whom
the God is present, are secure in his parental hands. There is a
sense, a dimension, they are sure, in which we are ALL saved, in
spite of the gates of hell and all adverse terrestrial
appearances. God's existence is the guarantee of an ideal order
that shall be permanently preserved. This world may indeed, as
science assures us, some day burn up or freeze; but if it is part
of his order, the old ideals are sure to be brought elsewhere to
fruition, so that where God is, tragedy is only provisional and
partial, and shipwreck and dissolution are not the absolutely
final things. Only when this farther step of faith concerning
God is taken, and remote objective consequences are predicted,
does religion, as it seems to me, get wholly free from the first
immediate subjective experience, and bring a REAL HYPOTHESIS into
play. A good hypothesis in science must have other properties
than those of the phenomenon it is immediately invoked to
explain, otherwise it is not prolific enough. God, meaning only
what enters into the religious man's experience of union, falls
short of being an hypothesis of this more useful order. He needs
to enter into wider cosmic relations in order to justify the
subject's absolute confidence and peace.

That the God with whom, starting from the hither side of our own
extra-marginal self, we come at its remoter margin into commerce
should be the absolute world-ruler, is of course a very
considerable over-belief. Over-belief as it is, though, it is an
article of almost every one's religion. Most of us pretend in
some way to prop it upon our philosophy, but the philosophy
itself is really propped upon this faith. What is this but to say
that Religion, in her fullest exercise of function, is not a mere
illumination of facts already elsewhere given, not a mere
passion, like love, which views things in a rosier light. It is
indeed that, as we have seen abundantly. But it is something
more, namely, a postulator of new FACTS as well. The world
interpreted religiously is not the materialistic world over
again, with an altered expression; it must have, over and above
the altered expression, a natural constitution different at some
point from that which a materialistic world would have. It must
be such that different events can be expected in it, different
conduct must be required.

This thoroughly "pragmatic" view of religion has usually been

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