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The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

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view.[20] We shall see how in certain men and women it takes on
a monstrously ascetic form. There are saints who have literally
fed on the negative principle, on humiliation and privation, and
the thought of suffering and death--their souls growing in
happiness just in proportion as their outward state grew more
intolerable. No other emotion than religious emotion can bring a
man to this peculiar pass. And it is for that reason that when
we ask our question about the value of religion for human life, I
think we ought to look for the answer among these violenter
examples rather than among those of a more moderate hue.

[20] I owe this allegorical illustration to my lamented colleague
and Friend, Charles Carroll Everett.

Having the phenomenon of our study in its acutest possible form
to start with, we can shade down as much as we please later. And
if in these cases, repulsive as they are to our ordinary worldly
way of judging, we find ourselves compelled to acknowledge
religion's value and treat it with respect, it will have proved
in some way its value for life at large. By subtracting and
toning down extravagances we may thereupon proceed to trace the
boundaries of its legitimate sway.

To be sure, it makes our task difficult to have to deal so muck
with eccentricities and extremes. "How CAN religion on the whole
be the most important of all human functions," you may ask, "if
every several manifestation of it in turn have to be corrected
and sobered down and pruned away?"

Such a thesis seems a paradox impossible to sustain
reasonably--yet I believe that something like it will have to be
our final contention. That personal attitude which the
individual finds himself impelled to take up towards what he
apprehends to be the divine--and you will remember that this was
our definition--will prove to be both a helpless and a
sacrificial attitude. That is, we shall have to confess to at
least some amount of dependence on sheer mercy, and to practice
some amount of renunciation, great or small, to save our souls
alive. The constitution of the world we live in requires it:--

"Entbehren sollst du! sollst entbehren!
Das ist der ewige Gesang
Der jedem an die Ohren klingt,
Den, unser ganzes Leben lang
Uns heiser jede Stunde singt."

For when all is said and done, we are in the end absolutely
dependent on the universe; and into sacrifices and surrenders of
some sort, deliberately looked at and accepted, we are drawn and
pressed as into our only permanent positions of repose. Now in
those states of mind which fall short of religion, the surrender
is submitted to as an imposition of necessity, and the sacrifice
is undergone at the very best without complaint. In the
religious life, on the contrary, surrender and sacrifice are
positively espoused: even unnecessary givings-up are added in
order that the happiness may increase. Religion thus makes easy
and felicitous what in any case is necessary; and if it be the
only agency that can accomplish this result, its vital importance
as a human faculty stands vindicated beyond dispute. It becomes
an essential organ of our life, performing a function which no
other portion of our nature can so successfully fulfill. From
the merely biological point of view, so to call it, this is a
conclusion to which, so far as I can now see, we shall inevitably
be led, and led moreover by following the purely empirical method
of demonstration which I sketched to you in the first lecture.
Of the farther office of religion as a metaphysical revelation I
will say nothing now.

But to foreshadow the terminus of one's investigations is one
thing, and to arrive there safely is another. In the next
lecture, abandoning the extreme generalities which have engrossed
us hitherto, I propose that we begin our actual journey by
addressing ourselves directly to the concrete facts.

Lecture III


Were one asked to characterize the life of religion in the
broadest and most general terms possible, one might say that it
consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and that
our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves
thereto. This belief and this adjustment are the religious
attitude in the soul. I wish during this hour to call your
attention to some of the psychological peculiarities of such an
attitude as this, or belief in an object which we cannot see.
All our attitudes, moral, practical, or emotional, as well as
religious, are due to the "objects" of our consciousness, the
things which we believe to exist, whether really or ideally,
along with ourselves. Such objects may be present to our senses,
or they may be present only to our thought. In either case they
elicit from us a REACTION; and the reaction due to things of
thought is notoriously in many cases as strong as that due to
sensible presences. It may be even stronger. The memory of an
insult may make us angrier than the insult did when we received
it. We are frequently more ashamed of our blunders afterwards
than we were at the moment of making them; and in general our
whole higher prudential and moral life is based on the fact that
material sensations actually present may have a weaker influence
on our action than ideas of remoter facts.

The more concrete objects of most men's religion, the deities
whom they worship, are known to them only in idea. It has been
vouchsafed, for example, to very few Christian believers to have
had a sensible vision of their Saviour; though enough appearances
of this sort are on record, by way of miraculous exception, to
merit our attention later. The whole force of the Christian
religion, therefore, so far as belief in the divine personages
determines the prevalent attitude of the believer, is in general
exerted by the instrumentality of pure ideas, of which nothing in
the individual's past experience directly serves as a model.

But in addition to these ideas of the more concrete religious
objects, religion is full of abstract objects which prove to have
an equal power. God's attributes as such, his holiness, his
justice, his mercy, his absoluteness, his infinity, his
omniscience, his tri-unity, the various mysteries of the
redemptive process, the operation of the sacraments, etc., have
proved fertile wells of inspiring meditation for Christian
believers.[21] We shall see later that the absence of definite
sensible images is positively insisted on by the mystical
authorities in all religions as the sine qua non of a successful
orison, or contemplation of the higher divine truths. Such
contemplations are expected (and abundantly verify the
expectation, as we shall also see) to influence the believer's
subsequent attitude very powerfully for good.

[21] Example: "I have had much comfort lately in meditating on
the passages which show the personality of the Holy Ghost, and
his distinctness from the Father and the Son. It is a subject
that requires searching into to find out, but, when realized,
gives one so much more true and lively a sense of the fullness of
the Godhead, and its work in us and to us, than when only
thinking of the Spirit in its effect on us." Augustus Hare:
Memorials, i. 244, Maria Hare to Lucy H. Hare.

Immanuel Kant held a curious doctrine about such objects of
belief as God, the design of creation, the soul, its freedom, and
the life hereafter. These things, he said, are properly not
objects of knowledge at all. Our conceptions always require a
sense-content to work with, and as the words soul," "God,"
"immortality," cover no distinctive sense-content whatever, it
follows that theoretically speaking they are words devoid of any
significance. Yet strangely enough they have a definite meaning
FOR OUR PRACTICE. We can act AS IF there were a God; feel AS IF
we were free; consider Nature AS IF she were full of special
designs; lay plans AS IF we were to be immortal; and we find then
that these words do make a genuine difference in our moral life.
Our faith THAT these unintelligible objects actually exist proves
thus to be a full equivalent in praktischer Hinsicht, as Kant
calls it, or from the point of view of our action, for a
knowledge of WHAT they might be, in case we were permitted
positively to conceive them. So we have the strange phenomenon,
as Kant assures us, of a mind believing with all its strength in
the real presence of a set of things of no one of which it can
form any notion whatsoever.

My object in thus recalling Kant's doctrine to your mind is not
to express any opinion as to the accuracy of this particularly
uncouth part of his philosophy, but only to illustrate the
characteristic of human nature which we are considering, by an
example so classical in its exaggeration. The sentiment of
reality can indeed attach itself so strongly to our object of
belief that our whole life is polarized through and through, so
to speak, by its sense of the existence of the thing believed in,
and yet that thing, for purpose of definite description, can
hardly be said to be present to our mind at all. It is as if a
bar of iron, without touch or sight, with no representative
faculty whatever, might nevertheless be strongly endowed with an
inner capacity for magnetic feeling; and as if, through the
various arousals of its magnetism by magnets coming and going in
its neighborhood, it might be consciously determined to different
attitudes and tendencies. Such a bar of iron could never give you
an outward description of the agencies that had the power of
stirring it so strongly; yet of their presence, and of their
significance for its life, it would be intensely aware through
every fibre of its being.

It is not only the Ideas of pure Reason as Kant styled them, that
have this power of making us vitally feel presences that we are
impotent articulately to describe. All sorts of higher
abstractions bring with them the same kind of impalpable appeal.
Remember those passages from Emerson which I read at my last
lecture. The whole universe of concrete objects, as we know
them, swims, not only for such a transcendentalist writer, but
for all of us, in a wider and higher universe of abstract ideas,
that lend it its significance. As time, space, and the ether
soak through all things so (we feel) do abstract and essential
goodness, beauty, strength, significance, justice, soak through
all things good, strong, significant, and just.

Such ideas, and others equally abstract, form the background for
all our facts, the fountain-head of all the possibilities we
conceive of. They give its "nature," as we call it, to every
special thing. Everything we know is "what" it is by sharing in
the nature of one of these abstractions. We can never look
directly at them, for they are bodiless and featureless and
footless, but we grasp all other things by their means, and in
handling the real world we should be stricken with helplessness
in just so far forth as we might lose these mental objects, these
adjectives and adverbs and predicates and heads of classification
and conception.

This absolute determinability of our mind by abstractions is one
of the cardinal facts in our human constitution. Polarizing and
magnetizing us as they do, we turn towards them and from them, we
seek them, hold them, hate them, bless them, just as if they were
so many concrete beings. And beings they are, beings as real in
the realm which they inhabit as the changing things of sense are
in the realm of space.

Plato gave so brilliant and impressive a defense of this common
human feeling, that the doctrine of the reality of abstract
objects has been known as the platonic theory of ideas ever
since. Abstract Beauty, for example, is for Plato a perfectly
definite individual being, of which the intellect is aware as of
something additional to all the perishing beauties of the earth.
"The true order of going," he says, in the often quoted passage
in his "Banquet," "is to use the beauties of earth as steps along
which one mounts upwards for the sake of that other Beauty, going
from one to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair
forms to fair actions, and from fair actions to fair notions,
until from fair notions, he arrives at the notion of absolute
Beauty, and at last knows what the essence of Beauty is."[22] In
our last lecture we had a glimpse of the way in which a
platonizing writer like Emerson may treat the abstract divineness
of things, the moral structure of the universe, as a fact worthy
of worship. In those various churches without a God which to-day
are spreading through the world under the name of ethical
societies, we have a similar worship of the abstract divine, the
moral law believed in as an ultimate object. "Science" in many
minds is genuinely taking the place of a religion. Where this is
so, the scientist treats the "Laws of Nature" as objective facts
to be revered. A brilliant school of interpretation of Greek
mythology would have it that in their origin the Greek gods were
only half-metaphoric personifications of those great spheres of
abstract law and order into which the natural world falls
apart--the sky-sphere, the ocean-sphere, the earth-sphere, and
the like; just as even now we may speak of the smile of the
morning, the kiss of the breeze, or the bite of the cold, without
really meaning that these phenomena of nature actually wear a
human face.[23]

[22] Symposium, Jowett, 1871, i. 527.

[23] Example: "Nature is always so interesting, under whatever
aspect she shows herself, that when it rains, I seem to see a
beautiful woman weeping. She appears the more beautiful, the
more afflicted she is." B. de St. Pierre.

As regards the origin of the Greek gods, we need not at present
seek an opinion. But the whole array of our instances leads to a
conclusion something like this: It is as if there were in the
human consciousness a sense of reality, a feeling of objective
presence, a perception of what we may call "something there,"
more deep and more general than any of the special and particular
"senses" by which the current psychology supposes existent
realities to be originally revealed. If this were so, we might
suppose the senses to waken our attitudes and conduct as they so
habitually do, by first exciting this sense of reality; but
anything else, any idea, for example, that might similarly excite
it, would have that same prerogative of appearing real which
objects of sense normally possess. So far as religious
conceptions were able to touch this reality-feeling, they would
be believed in in spite of criticism, even though they might be
so vague and remote as to be almost unimaginable, even though
they might be such non-entities in point of WHATNESS, as Kant
makes the objects of his moral theology to be.

The most curious proofs of the existence of such an
undifferentiated sense of reality as this are found in
experiences of hallucination. It often happens that an
hallucination is imperfectly developed: the person affected will
feel a "presence" in the room, definitely localized, facing in
one particular way, real in the most emphatic sense of the word,
often coming suddenly, and as suddenly gone; and yet neither
seen, heard, touched, nor cognized in any of the usual "sensible"
ways. Let me give you an example of this, before I pass to the
objects with whose presence religion is more peculiarly

An intimate friend of mine, one of the keenest intellects I know,
has had several experiences of this sort. He writes as follows
in response to my inquiries:--<59>

"I have several times within the past few years felt the so-
called 'consciousness of a presence.' The experiences which I
have in mind are clearly distinguishable from another kind of
experience which I have had very frequently, and which I fancy
many persons would also call the 'consciousness of a presence.'
But the difference for me between the two sets of experience is
as great as the difference between feeling a slight warmth
originating I know not where, and standing in the midst of a
conflagration with all the ordinary senses alert.

"It was about September, 1884, when I had the first experience.
On the previous night I had had, after getting into bed at my
rooms in College, a vivid tactile hallucination of being grasped
by the arm, which made me get up and search the room for an
intruder; but the sense of presence properly so called came on
the next night. After I had got into bed and blown out the
candle, I lay awake awhile thinking on the previous night's
experience, when suddenly I FELT something come into the room and
stay close to my bed. It remained only a minute or two. I did
not recognize it by any ordinary sense and yet there was a
horribly unpleasant 'sensation' connected with it. It stirred
something more at the roots of my being than any ordinary
perception. The feeling had something of the quality of a very
large tearing vital pain spreading chiefly over the chest, but
within the organism--and yet the feeling was not PAIN so much as
ABHORRENCE. At all events, something was present with me, and I
knew its presence far more surely than I have ever known the
presence of any fleshly living creature. I was conscious of its
departure as of its coming: an almost instantaneously swift
going through the door, and the 'horrible sensation' disappeared.

"On the third night when I retired my mind was absorbed in some
lectures which I was preparing, and I was still absorbed in these
when I became aware of the actual presence (though not of the
COMING) of the thing that was there the night before, and of the
'horrible sensation.' I then mentally concentrated all my effort
to charge this 'thing,' if it was evil to depart, if it was NOT
evil, to tell me who or what it was, and if it could not explain
itself, to go, and that I would compel it <60> to go. It went
as on the previous night, and my body quickly recovered its
normal state.

"On two other occasions in my life I have had precisely the same
'horrible sensation.' Once it lasted a full quarter of an hour.
In all three instances the certainty that there in outward space
there stood SOMETHING was indescribably STRONGER than the
ordinary certainty of companionship when we are in the close
presence of ordinary living people. The something seemed close
to me, and intensely more real than any ordinary perception.
Although I felt it to be like unto myself so to speak, or finite,
small, and distressful, as it were, I didn't recognize it as any
individual being or person."

Of course such an experience as this does not connect itself with
the religious sphere. Yet it may upon occasion do so; and the
same correspondent informs me that at more than one other
conjuncture he had the sense of presence developed with equal
intensity and abruptness, only then it was filled with a quality
of joy.

"There was not a mere consciousness of something there, but fused
in the central happiness of it, a startling awareness of some
ineffable good. Not vague either, not like the emotional effect
of some poem, or scene, or blossom, of music, but the sure
knowledge of the close presence of a sort of mighty person, and
after it went, the memory persisted as the one perception of
reality. Everything else might be a dream, but not that."

My friend, as it oddly happens, does not interpret these latter
experiences theistically, as signifying the presence of God. But
it would clearly not have been unnatural to interpret them as a
revelation of the deity's existence. When we reach the subject
of mysticism, we shall have much more to say upon this head.

Lest the oddity of these phenomena should disconcert you, I will
venture to read you a couple of similar narratives, much shorter,
merely to show that we are dealing with a well-marked natural
kind of fact. In the first case, which I <61> take from the
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, the sense of
presence developed in a few moments into a distinctly
visualized hallucination--but I leave that part of the story out.

"I had read," the narrator says, "some twenty minutes or so, was
thoroughly absorbed in the book, my mind was perfectly quiet, and
for the time being my friends were quite forgotten, when suddenly
without a moment's warning my whole being seemed roused to the
highest state of tension or aliveness, and I was aware, with an
intenseness not easily imagined by those who had never
experienced it, that another being or presence was not only in
the room, but quite close to me. I put my book down, and
although my excitement was great, I felt quite collected, and not
conscious of any sense of fear. Without changing my position,
and looking straight at the fire, I knew somehow that my friend
A. H. was standing at my left elbow but so far behind me as to be
hidden by the armchair in which I was leaning back. Moving my
eyes round slightly without otherwise changing my position, the
lower portion of one leg became visible, and I instantly
recognized the gray-blue material of trousers he often wore, but
the stuff appeared semitransparent, reminding me of tobacco smoke
in consistency,"[24]-- and hereupon the visual hallucination

[24] Journal of the S. P. R., February, 1895, p. 26.

Another informant writes:--

"Quite early in the night I was awakened. . . . I felt as if I
had been aroused intentionally, and at first thought some one was
breaking into the house. . . . I then turned on my side to go to
sleep again, and immediately felt a consciousness of a presence
in the room, and singular to state, it was not the consciousness
of a live person, but of a spiritual presence. This may provoke
a smile, but I can only tell you the facts as they occurred to
me. I do not know how to better describe my sensations than by
simply stating that I felt a consciousness of a spiritual
presence. . . . I felt also at the same time a strong feeling of
superstitious dread, as if something strange and fearful were
about to happen."[25]

[25] E. Gurney: Phantasms of the Living, i. 384.

Professor Flournoy of Geneva gives me the following testimony of
a friend of his, a lady, who has the gift of automatic or
involuntary writing:--

"Whenever I practice automatic writing, what makes me feel that
it is not due to a subconscious self is the feeling I always have
of a foreign presence, external to my body. It is sometimes so
definitely characterized that I could point to its exact
position. This impression of presence is impossible to describe.
It varies in intensity and clearness according to the personality
from whom the writing professes to come. If it is some one whom
I love, I feel it immediately, before any writing has come. My
heart seems to recognize it."

In an earlier book of mine I have cited at full length a curious
case of presence felt by a blind man. The presence was that of
the figure of a gray-bearded man dressed in a pepper and salt
suit, squeezing himself under the crack of the door and moving
across the floor of the room towards a sofa. The blind subject
of this quasi-hallucination is an exceptionally intelligent
reporter. He is entirely without internal visual imagery and
cannot represent light or colors to himself, and is positive that
his other senses, hearing, etc., were not involved in this false
perception. It seems to have been an abstract conception rather,
with the feelings of reality and spatial outwardness directly
attached to it--in other words, a fully objectified and
exteriorized IDEA.

Such cases, taken along with others which would be too tedious
for quotation, seem sufficiently to prove the existence in our
mental machinery of a sense of present reality more diffused and
general than that which our special senses yield. For the
psychologists the tracing of the organic seat of such a feeling
would form a pretty problem--nothing could be more natural than
to connect it with the muscular sense, with the feeling that our
muscles were innervating themselves for action. Whatsoever thus
innervated our activity, or "made our flesh creep"--our senses
are what do so oftenest--might then appear real and present, even
though it were but an abstract idea. But with such vague
conjectures we have no concern at present, for our interest lies
with the faculty rather than with its organic seat.

Like all positive affections of consciousness, the sense of
reality has its negative counterpart in the shape of a feeling of
unreality by which persons may be haunted, and of which one
sometimes hears complaint:--

"When I reflect on the fact that I have made my appearance by
accident upon a globe itself whirled through space as the sport
of the catastrophes of the heavens," says Madame Ackermann; "when
I see myself surrounded by beings as ephemeral and
incomprehensible as I am myself, and all excitedly pursuing pure
chimeras, I experience a strange feeling of being in a dream. It
seems to me as if I have loved and suffered and that erelong I
shall die, in a dream. My last word will be, 'I have been

[26] Pensees d'un Solitaire, p. 66.

In another lecture we shall see how in morbid melancholy this
sense of the unreality of things may become a carking pain, and
even lead to suicide.

We may now lay it down as certain that in the distinctively
religious sphere of experience, many persons (how many we cannot
tell) possess the objects of their belief, not in the form of
mere conceptions which their intellect accepts as true, but
rather in the form of quasi-sensible realities directly
apprehended. As his sense of the real presence of these objects
fluctuates, so the believer alternates between warmth and
coldness in his faith. Other examples will bring this home to
one better than abstract description, so I proceed immediately to
cite some. The first example is a negative one, deploring the
loss of the sense in question. I have extracted it from an
account given me by a scientific man of my acquaintance, of his
religious life. It seems to me to show clearly that the feeling
of reality may be something more like a sensation than an
intellectual operation properly so-called.

"Between twenty and thirty I gradually became more and more
agnostic and irreligious, yet I cannot say that I ever lost that
'indefinite consciousness' which Herbert Spencer describes so
well, of an Absolute Reality behind phenomena. For me this
Reality was not the pure Unknowable of Spencer's philosophy, for
although I had ceased my childish prayers to God, and never
prayed to IT in a formal manner, yet my more recent experience
shows me to have been in a relation to IT which practically was
the same thing as prayer. Whenever I had any trouble, especially
when I had conflict with other people, either domestically or in
the way of business, or when I was depressed in spirits or
anxious about affairs, I now recognize that I used to fall back
for support upon this curious relation I felt myself to be in to
this fundamental cosmical IT. It was on my side, or I was on Its
side, however you please to term it, in the particular trouble,
and it always strengthened me and seemed to give me endless
vitality to feel its underlying and supporting presence. In
fact, it was an unfailing fountain of living justice, truth, and
strength, to which I instinctively turned at times of weakness,
and it always brought me out. I know now that it was a personal
relation I was in to it, because of late years the power of
communicating with it has left me, and I am conscious of a
perfectly definite loss. I used never to fail to find it when I
turned to it. Then came a set of years when sometimes I found
it, and then again I would be wholly unable to make connection
with it. I remember many occasions on which at night in bed, I
would be unable to get to sleep on account of worry. I turned
this way and that in the darkness, and groped mentally for the
familiar sense of that higher mind of my mind which had always
seemed to be close at hand as it were, closing the passage, and
yielding support, but there was no electric current. A blank was
there instead of IT: I couldn't find anything. Now, at the age
of nearly fifty, my power of getting into connection with it has
entirely left me; and I have to confess that a great help has
gone out of my life. Life has become curiously dead and <65>
indifferent; and I can now see that my old experience was
probably exactly the same thing as the prayers of the orthodox,
only I did not call them by that name. What I have spoken of as
'It' was practically not Spencer's Unknowable, but just my own
instinctive and individual God, whom I relied upon for higher
sympathy, but whom somehow I have lost."

Nothing is more common in the pages of religious biography than
the way in which seasons of lively and of difficult faith are
described as alternating. Probably every religious person has
the recollection of particular crisis in which a directer vision
of the truth, a direct perception, perhaps, of a living God's
existence, swept in and overwhelmed the languor of the more
ordinary belief. In James Russell Lowell's correspondence there
is a brief memorandum of an experience of this kind:--

"I had a revelation last Friday evening. I was at Mary's, and
happening to say something of the presence of spirits (of whom, I
said, I was often dimly aware), Mr. Putnam entered into an
argument with me on spiritual matters. As I was speaking, the
whole system rose up before me like a vague destiny looming from
the Abyss. I never before so clearly felt the Spirit of God in
me and around rue. The whole room seemed to me full of God. The
air seemed to waver to and fro with the presence of Something I
knew not what. I spoke with the calmness and clearness of a
prophet. I cannot tell you what this revelation was. I have not
yet studied it enough. But I shall perfect it one day, and then
you shall hear it and acknowledge its grandeur."[27]

[27] Letters of Lowell, i. 75.

<66> Here is a longer and more developed experience from a
manuscript communication by a clergyman--I take it from
Starbuck's manuscript collection:--

"I remember the night, and almost the very spot on the hill-top,
where my soul opened out, as it were, into the Infinite, and
there was a rushing together of the two worlds, the inner and the
outer. It was deep calling unto deep--the deep that my own
struggle had opened up within being answered by the unfathomable
deep without, reaching beyond the stars. I stood alone with Him
who had made me, and all the beauty of the world, and love, and
sorrow, and even temptation. I did not seek Him, but felt the
perfect unison of my spirit with His. The ordinary sense of
things around me faded. For the moment nothing but an ineffable
joy and exultation remained. It is impossible fully to describe
the experience. It was like the effect of some great orchestra
when all the separate notes have melted into one swelling harmony
that leaves the listener conscious of nothing save that his soul
is being wafted upwards, and almost bursting with its own
emotion. The perfect stillness of the night was thrilled by a
more solemn silence. The darkness held a presence that was all
the more felt because it was not seen. I could not any more have
doubted that HE was there than that I was. Indeed, I felt myself
to be, if possible, the less real of the two.

"My highest faith in God and truest idea of him were then born in
me. I have stood upon the Mount of Vision since, and felt the
Eternal round about me. But never since has there come quite the
same stirring of the heart. Then, if ever, I believe, I stood
face to face with God, and was born anew of his spirit. There
was, as I recall it, no sudden change of thought or of belief,
except that my early crude conception, had, as it were burst into
flower. There was no destruction of the old, but a rapid,
wonderful unfolding. Since that time no discussion that I have
heard of the proofs of God's existence has been able to shake my
faith. Having once felt the presence of God's spirit, I have
never lost it again for long. My most assuring evidence of his
existence is deeply rooted in that hour of vision in the memory
of that supreme experience, and in the conviction, gained from
reading and reflection, that something the same has come to all
who have found God. I am aware that it may justly be called
mystical. I am not enough acquainted with philosophy to defend
it from that or any other charge. I feel that in writing of it I
have overlaid it with words rather than put it clearly to your
thought. But, such as it is, I have described it as carefully as
I now am able to do."

Here is another document, even more definite in character, which,
the writer being a Swiss, I translate from the French

[28] I borrow it, with Professor Flournoy's permission, from his
rich collection of psychological documents.

"I was in perfect health: we were on our sixth day of tramping,
and in good training. We had come the day before from Sixt to
Trient by Buet. I felt neither fatigue, hunger, nor thirst, and
my state of mind was equally healthy. I had had at Forlaz good
news from home; I was subject to no anxiety, either near or
remote, for we had a good guide, and there was not a shadow of
uncertainty about the road we should follow. I can best describe
the condition in which I was by calling it a state of
equilibrium. When all at once I experienced a feeling of being
raised above myself, I felt the presence of God--I tell of the
thing just as I was conscious of it--as if his goodness and his
power were penetrating me altogether. The throb of emotion was
so violent that I could barely tell the boys to pass on and not
wait for me. I then sat down on a stone, unable to stand any
longer, and my eyes overflowed with tears. I thanked God that in
the course of my life he had taught me to know him, that he
sustained my life and took pity both on the insignificant
creature and on the sinner that I was. I begged him ardently
that my life might be consecrated to the doing of his will. I
felt his reply, which was that I should do his will from day to
day in humility and poverty, leaving him, the Almighty God, to be
judge of whether I should some time be called to bear witness
more conspicuously. Then, slowly, the ecstasy left my heart;
that is, I felt that God had withdrawn the communion which he had
granted, and I was able to walk on, but very slowly, so strongly
was I still possessed by the interior emotion. Besides, I had
wept uninterruptedly for several minutes, my eyes were swollen,
and I did not wish my companions to see me. The state of ecstasy
may have lasted four or five minutes, although it seemed at the
time to last much longer. My comrades waited for me ten minutes
at the cross of Barine, but I took about twenty-five or thirty
minutes to join them, for as well as I can remember, they said
that I had kept them back for about half an hour. The impression
had been so profound that in climbing slowly the slope I asked
myself if it were possible that Moses on Sinai could have had a
more intimate communication with God. I think it well to add
that in this ecstasy of mine God had neither form, color, odor,
nor taste; moreover, that the feeling of his presence was
accompanied with no determinate localization. It was rather as if
my personality had been transformed by the presence of a
SPIRITUAL SPIRIT. But the more I seek words to express this
intimate intercourse, the more I feel the impossibility of
describing the thing by any of our usual images. At bottom the
expression most apt to render what I felt is this: God was
present, though invisible; he fell under no one of my senses, yet
my consciousness perceived him."

The adjective "mystical" is technically applied, most often. to
states that are of brief duration. Of course such hours of
rapture as the last two persons describe are mystical
experiences, of which in a later lecture I shall have much to
say. Meanwhile here is the abridged record of another mystical
or semi-mystical experience, in a mind evidently framed by nature
for ardent piety. I owe it to Starbuck's collection. The lady
who gives the account is the daughter of a man well known in his
time as a writer against Christianity. The suddenness of her
conversion shows well how native the sense of God's presence must
be to certain minds. She relates that she was brought up in
entire ignorance of Christian doctrine, but, when in Germany,
after being talked to by Christian friends, she read the Bible
and prayed, and finally the plan of salvation flashed upon her
like a stream of light.

<69> "To this day," she writes, "I cannot understand dallying
with religion and the commands of God. The very instant I heard
my Father's cry calling unto me, my heart bounded in recognition.

I ran, I stretched forth my arms, I cried aloud, 'Here, here I
am, my Father.' Oh, happy child, what should I do? 'Love me,'
answered my God. 'I do, I do,' I cried passionately. 'Come unto
me,' called my Father. 'I will,' my heart panted. Did I stop to
ask a single question? Not one. It never occurred to me to ask
whether I was good enough, or to hesitate over my unfitness, or
to find out what I thought of his church, or . . . to wait until
I should be satisfied. Satisfied! I was satisfied. Had I not
found my God and my Father? Did he not love me? Had he not
called me? Was there not a Church into which I might enter? . .
. Since then I have had direct answers to prayer--so significant
as to be almost like talking with God and hearing his answer.
The idea of God's reality has never left me for one moment."

Here is still another case, the writer being a man aged
twenty-seven, in which the experience, probably almost as
characteristic, is less vividly described:--

"I have on a number of occasions felt that I had enjoyed a period
of intimate communion with the divine. These meetings came
unasked and unexpected, and seemed to consist merely in the
temporary obliteration of the conventionalities which usually
surround and cover my life. . . . Once it was when from the
summit of a high mountain I looked over a gashed and corrugated
landscape extending to a long convex of ocean that ascended to
the horizon, and again from the same point when I could see
nothing beneath me but a boundless expanse of white cloud, on the
blown surface of which a few high peaks, including the one I was
on, seemed plunging about as if they were dragging their anchors.

What I felt on these occasions was a temporary loss of my own
identity, accompanied by an illumination which revealed to me a
deeper significance than I had been wont to attach to life. It
is in this that I find my justification for saying that I have
enjoyed communication with God. Of course the absence of such a
being as this would be chaos. I cannot conceive of life without
its presence."

Of the more habitual and so to speak chronic sense of God's
presence the following sample from Professor Starbuck's
manuscript collection may serve to give an idea. It is from a
man aged forty-nine--probably thousands of unpretending
Christians would write an almost identical account.

"God is more real to me than any thought or thing or person. I
feel his presence positively, and the more as I live in closer
harmony with his laws as written in my body and mind. I feel him
in the sunshine or rain; and awe mingled with a delicious
restfulness most nearly describes my feelings. I talk to him as
to a companion in prayer and praise, and our communion is
delightful. He answers me again and again, often in words so
clearly spoken that it seems my outer ear must have carried the
tone, but generally in strong mental impressions. Usually a text
of Scripture, unfolding some new view of him and his love for me,
and care for my safety. I could give hundreds of instances, in
school matters, social problems, financial difficulties, etc.
That he is mine and I am his never leaves me, it is an abiding
joy. Without it life would be a blank, a desert, a shoreless,
trackless waste."

I subjoin some more examples from writers of different ages and
sexes. They are also from Professor Starbuck's collection, and
their number might be greatly multiplied. The first is from a
man twenty-seven years old:--

"God is quite real to me. I talk to him and often get answers.
Thoughts sudden and distinct from any I have been entertaining
come to my mind after asking God for his direction. Something
over a year ago I was for some weeks in the direst perplexity.
When the trouble first appeared before me I was dazed, but before
long (two or three hours) I could hear distinctly a passage of
Scripture: 'My grace is sufficient for thee.' Every time my
thoughts turned to the trouble I could hear this quotation. I
don't think I ever doubted the existence of God, or had him drop
out of my consciousness. God has frequently stepped into my
affairs very perceptibly, and I feel that he directs many little
details all the time. But on two or three occasions he has
ordered ways for me very contrary to my ambitions and plans."

Another statement (none the less valuable psychologically for
being so decidedly childish) is that of a boy of seventeen:--

"Sometimes as I go to church, I sit down, join in the service,
and before I go out I feel as if God was with me, right side of
me, singing and reading the Psalms with me. . . . And then again
I feel as if I could sit beside him, and put my arms around him,
kiss him, etc. When I am taking Holy Communion at the altar, I
try to get with him and generally feel his presence."

I let a few other cases follow at random:--

"God surrounds me like the physical atmosphere. He is closer to
me than my own breath. In him literally I live and move and have
my being."--

"There are times when I seem to stand in his very presence, to
talk with him. Answers to prayer have come, sometimes direct and
overwhelming in their revelation of his presence and powers.
There are times when God seems far off, but this is always my own

"I have the sense of a presence, strong, and at the same time
soothing, which hovers over me. Sometimes it seems to enwrap me
with sustaining arms."

Such is the human ontological imagination, and such is the
convincingness of what it brings to birth. Unpicturable beings
are realized, and realized with an intensity almost like that of
an hallucination. They determine our vital attitude as
decisively as the vital attitude of lovers is determined by the
habitual sense, by which each is haunted, of the other being in
the world. A lover has notoriously this sense of the continuous
being of his idol, even when his attention is addressed to other
matters and he no longer represents her features. He cannot
forget her; she uninterruptedly affects him through and through.
I spoke of the convincingness of these feelings of reality, and I
must dwell a moment longer on that point. They are as convincing
to those who have them as any direct sensible experiences can be,
and they are, as a rule, much more convincing than results
established by mere logic ever are. One may indeed be entirely
without them; probably more than one of you here present is
without them in any marked degree; but if you do have them, and
have them at all strongly, the probability is that you cannot
help regarding them as genuine perceptions of truth, as
revelations of a kind of reality which no adverse argument,
however unanswerable by you in words, can expel from your belief.

The opinion opposed to mysticism in philosophy is sometimes
spoken of as RATIONALISM. Rationalism insists that all our
beliefs ought ultimately to find for themselves articulate
grounds. Such grounds, for rationalism, must consist of four
things: (1) definitely statable abstract principles; (2)
definite facts of sensation; (3) definite hypotheses based on
such facts; and (4) definite inferences logically drawn. Vague
impressions of something indefinable have no place in the
rationalistic system, which on its positive side is surely a
splendid intellectual tendency, for not only are all our
philosophies fruits of it, but physical science (amongst other
good things) is its result.

Nevertheless, if we look on man's whole mental life as it exists,
on the life of men that lies in them apart from their learning
and science, and that they inwardly and privately follow, we have
to confess that the part of it of which rationalism can give an
account is relatively superficial. It is the part that has the
prestige undoubtedly, for it has the loquacity, it can challenge
you for proofs, and chop logic, and put you down with words. But
it will fail to convince or convert you all the same, if your
dumb intuitions are opposed to its conclusions. If you have
intuitions at all, they come from a deeper level of your nature
than the loquacious level which rationalism inhabits. Your whole
subconscious life, your impulses, your faiths, your needs, your
divinations, have prepared the premises, of which your
consciousness now feels the weight of the result; and something
in you absolutely KNOWS that that result must be truer than any
logic-chopping rationalistic talk, however clever, that may
contradict it. This inferiority of the rationalistic level in
founding belief is just as manifest when rationalism argues for
religion as when it argues against it. That vast literature of
proofs of God's existence drawn from the order of nature, which a
century ago seemed so overwhelmingly convincing, to-day does
little more than gather dust in libraries, for the simple reason
that our generation has ceased to believe in the kind of God it
argued for. Whatever sort of a being God may be, we KNOW to-day
that he is nevermore that mere external inventor of
"contrivances" intended to make manifest his "glory" in which our
great-grandfathers took such satisfaction, though just how we
know this we cannot possibly make clear by words either to others
or to ourselves. I defy any of you here fully to account for
your persuasion that if a God exist he must be a more cosmic and
tragic personage than that Being.

The truth is that in the metaphysical and religious sphere,
articulate reasons are cogent for us only when our inarticulate
feelings of reality have already been impressed in favor of the
same conclusion. Then, indeed, our intuitions and our reason
work together, and great world-ruling systems, like that of the
Buddhist or of the Catholic philosophy, may grow up. Our
impulsive belief is here always what sets up the original body of
truth, and our articulately verbalized philosophy is but its
showy translation into formulas. The unreasoned and immediate
assurance is the deep thing in us, the reasoned argument is but a
surface exhibition. Instinct leads, intelligence does but
follow. If a person feels the presence of a living God after the
fashion shown by my quotations, your critical arguments, be they
never so superior, will vainly set themselves to change his

Please observe, however, that I do not yet say that it is BETTER
that the subconscious and non-rational should thus hold primacy
in the religious realm. I confine myself to simply pointing out
that they do so hold it as a matter of fact.

So much for our sense of the reality of the religious objects.
Let me now say a brief word more about the attitudes they
characteristically awaken.

We have already agreed that they are SOLEMN; and we have seen
reason to think that the most distinctive of them is the sort of
joy which may result in extreme cases from absolute
self-surrender. The sense of the kind of object to which the
surrender is made has much to do with determining the precise
complexion of the joy; and the whole phenomenon is more complex
than any simple formula allows. In the literature of the
subject, sadness and gladness have each been emphasized in turn.
The ancient saying that the first maker of the Gods was fear
receives voluminous corroboration from every age of religious
history; but none the less does religious history show the part
which joy has evermore tended to play. Sometimes the joy has
been primary; sometimes secondary, being the gladness of
deliverance from the fear. This latter state of things, being the
more complex, is also the more complete; and as we proceed, I
think we shall have abundant reason for refusing to leave out
either the sadness or the gladness, if we look at religion with
the breadth of view which it demands. Stated in the completest
possible terms, a man's religion involves both moods of
contraction and moods of expansion of his being. But the
quantitative mixture and order of these moods vary so much from
one age of the world, from one system of thought, and from one
individual to another, that you may insist either on the dread
and the submission, or on the peace and the freedom as the
essence of the matter, and still remain materially within the
limits of the truth. The constitutionally sombre and the
constitutionally sanguine onlooker are bound to emphasize
opposite aspects of what lies before their eyes.

The constitutionally sombre religious person makes even of his
religious peace a very sober thing. Danger still hovers in the
air about it. Flexion and contraction are not wholly checked.
It were sparrowlike and childish after our deliverance to explode
into twittering laughter and caper-cutting, and utterly to forget
the imminent hawk on bough. Lie low, rather, lie low; for you
are in the hands of a living God. In the Book of Job, for
example, the impotence of man and the omnipotence of God is the
exclusive burden of its author's mind. "It is as high as heaven;
what canst thou do?--deeper than hell; what canst thou know?"
There is an astringent relish about the truth of this conviction
which some men can feel, and which for them is as near an
approach as can be made to the feeling of religious joy.

"In Job," says that coldly truthful writer, the author of Mark
Rutherford, "God reminds us that man is not the measure of his
creation. The world is immense, constructed on no plan or theory
which the intellect of man can grasp. It is TRANSCENDENT
everywhere. This is the burden of every verse, and is the secret
if there be one, of the poem. Sufficient or insufficient, there
is nothing more. . . . God is great, we know not his ways. He
takes from us all we have, but yet if we possess our souls in
patience, we MAY pass the valley of the shadow, and come out in
sunlight again. We may or we may not! . . . What more have we to
say now than God said from the whirlwind over two thousand five
hundred years ago?"[29]

[29] Mark Rutherford's Deliverance, London, 1885, pp. 196, 198.

If we turn to the sanguine onlooker, on the other hand, we find
that deliverance is felt as incomplete unless the burden be
altogether overcome and the danger forgotten. Such onlookers
give us definitions that seem to the sombre minds of whom we have
just been speaking to leave out all the solemnity that makes
religious peace so different from merely animal joys. In the
opinion of some writers an attitude might be called religious,
though no touch were left in it of sacrifice or submission, no
tendency to flexion, no bowing of the head. Any "habitual and
regulated admiration," says Professor J. R. Seeley,[30] "is
worthy to be called a religion"; and accordingly he thinks that
our Music, our Science, and our so-called "Civilization," as
these things are now organized and admiringly believed in, form
the more genuine religions of our time. Certainly the
unhesitating and unreasoning way in which we feel that we must
inflict our civilization upon "lower" races, by means of
Hotchkiss guns, etc., reminds one of nothing so much as of the
early spirit of Islam spreading its religion by the sword.

[30] In his book (too little read, I fear), Natural Religion, 3d
edition, Boston, 1886, pp. 91, 122.

In my last lecture I quoted to you the ultra-radical opinion of
Mr. Havelock Ellis, that laughter of any sort may be considered a
religious exercise, for it bears witness to the soul's
emancipation. I quoted this opinion in order to deny its
adequacy. But we must now settle our scores more carefully with
this whole optimistic way of thinking. It is far too complex to
be decided off-hand. I propose accordingly that we make of
religious optimism the theme of the next two lectures.

Lectures IV and V


If we were to ask the question: "What is human life's chief
concern?" one of the answers we should receive would be: "It is
happiness." How to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness,
is in fact for most men at all times the secret motive of all
they do, and of all they are willing to endure. The hedonistic
school in ethics deduces the moral life wholly from the
experiences of happiness and unhappiness which different kinds of
conduct bring; and, even more in the religious life than in the
moral life, happiness and unhappiness seem to be the poles round
which the interest revolves. We need not go so far as to say with
the author whom I lately quoted that any persistent enthusiasm
is, as such, religion, nor need we call mere laughter a religious
exercise; but we must admit that any persistent enjoyment may
PRODUCE the sort of religion which consists in a grateful
admiration of the gift of so happy an existence; and we must also
acknowledge that the more complex ways of experiencing religion
are new manners of producing happiness, wonderful inner paths to
a supernatural kind of happiness, when the first gift of natural
existence is unhappy, as it so often proves itself to be.

With such relations between religion and happiness, it is perhaps
not surprising that men come to regard the happiness which a
religious belief affords as a proof of its truth. If a creed
makes a man feel happy, he almost inevitably adopts it. Such a
belief ought to be true; therefore it is true--such, rightly or
wrongly, is one of the "immediate inferences" of the religious
logic used by ordinary men.

"The near presence of God's spirit," says a German writer,[31]
"may be experienced in its reality--indeed ONLY experienced. And
the mark by which the spirit's existence and nearness are made
irrefutably clear to those who have ever had the experience is
the utterly incomparable FEELING OF HAPPINESS which is connected
with the nearness, and which is therefore not only a possible and
altogether proper feeling for us to have here below, but is the
best and most indispensable proof of God's reality. No other
proof is equally convincing, and therefore happiness is the point
from which every efficacious new theology should start."

[31] C. Hilty: Gluck, dritter Theil, 1900, p. 18.

In the hour immediately before us, I shall invite you to consider
the simpler kinds of religious happiness, leaving the more
complex sorts to be treated on a later day.

In many persons, happiness is congenital and irreclaimable.
"Cosmic emotion" inevitably takes in them the form of enthusiasm
and freedom. I speak not only of those who are animally happy.
I mean those who, when unhappiness is offered or proposed to
them, positively refuse to feel it, as if it were something mean
and wrong. We find such persons in every age, passionately
flinging themselves upon their sense of the goodness of life, in
spite of the hardships of their own condition, and in spite of
the sinister theologies into which they may he born. From the
outset their religion is one of union with the divine. The
heretics who went before the reformation are lavishly accused by
the church writers of antinomian practices, just as the first
Christians were accused of indulgence in orgies by the Romans.
It is probable that there never has been a century in which the
deliberate refusal to think ill of life has not been idealized by
a sufficient number of persons to form sects, open or secret, who
claimed all natural things to be permitted. Saint Augustine's
maxim, Dilige et quod vis fac--if you but love [God], you may do
as you incline--is morally one of the profoundest of
observations, yet it is pregnant, for such persons, with
passports beyond the bounds of conventional morality. According
to their characters they have been refined or gross; but their
belief has been at all times systematic enough to constitute a
definite religious attitude. God was for them a giver of
freedom, and the sting of evil was overcome. Saint Francis and
his immediate disciples were, on the whole, of this company of
spirits, of which there are of course infinite varieties.
Rousseau in the earlier years of his writing, Diderot, B. de
Saint Pierre, and many of the leaders of the eighteenth century
anti-Christian movement were of this optimistic type. They owed
their influence to a certain authoritativeness in their feeling
that Nature, if you will only trust her sufficiently, is
absolutely good.

It is to be hoped that we all have some friend, perhaps more
often feminine than masculine, and young than old, whose soul is
of this sky-blue tint, whose affinities are rather with flowers
and birds and all enchanting innocencies than with dark human
passions, who can think no ill of man or God, and in whom
religious gladness, being in possession from the outset, needs no
deliverance from any antecedent burden.

"God has two families of children on this earth," says Francis W.
Newman,[32] "the once-born and the twice-born," and the once-born
he describes as follows: "They see God, not as a strict Judge,
not as a Glorious Potentate; but as the animating Spirit of a
beautiful harmonious world, Beneficent and Kind, Merciful as well
as Pure. The same characters generally have no metaphysical
tendencies: they do not look back into themselves. Hence they
are not distressed by their own imperfections: yet it would be
absurd to call them self-righteous; for they hardly think of
themselves AT ALL. This childlike quality of their nature makes
the opening of religion very happy to them: for they no more
shrink from God, than a child from an emperor, before whom the
parent trembles: in fact, they have no vivid conception of ANY
of the qualities in which the severer Majesty of God
consists.[33] He is to them the impersonation of Kindness and
Beauty. They read his character, not in the disordered world of
man, but in romantic and harmonious nature. Of human sin they
know perhaps little in their own hearts and not very much in the
world; and human suffering does but melt them to tenderness.
Thus, when they approach God, no inward disturbance ensues; and
without being as yet spiritual, they have a certain complacency
and perhaps romantic sense of excitement in their simple

[32] The Soul; its Sorrows and its Aspirations, 3d edition, 1852,
pp. 89, 91.

[33] I once heard a lady describe the pleasure it gave her to
think that she "could always cuddle up to God."

In the Romish Church such characters find a more congenial soil
to grow in than in Protestantism, whose fashions of feeling have
been set by minds of a decidedly pessimistic order. But even in
Protestantism they have been abundant enough; and in its recent
"liberal" developments of Unitarianism and latitudinarianism
generally, minds of this order have played and still are playing
leading and constructive parts. Emerson himself is an admirable
example. Theodore Parker is another--here are a couple of
characteristic passages from Parker's correspondence.[34]

[34] John Weiss: Life of Theodore Parker, i. 152, 32.

"Orthodox scholars say: 'In the heathen classics you find no
consciousness of sin.' It is very true--God be thanked for it.
They were conscious of wrath, of cruelty, avarice, drunkenness,
lust, sloth, cowardice, and other actual vices, and struggled and
got rid of the deformities, but they were not conscious of
'enmity against God,' and didn't sit down and whine and groan
against non-existent evil. I have done wrong things enough in my
life, and do them now; I miss the mark, draw bow, and try again.
But I am not conscious of hating God, or man, or right, or love,
and I know there is much 'health in me', and in my body, even
now, there dwelleth many a good thing, spite of consumption and
Saint Paul." In another letter Parker writes: "I have swum in
clear sweet waters all my days; and if sometimes they were a
little cold, and the stream ran adverse and something rough, it
was never too strong to be breasted and swum through. From the
days of earliest boyhood, when I went stumbling through the
grass, . . . up to the gray-bearded manhood of this time, there
is none but has left me honey in the hive of memory that I now
feed on for present delight. When I recall the years . . . I am
filled with a sense of sweetness and wonder that such little
things can make a mortal so exceedingly rich. But I must confess
that the chiefest of all my delights is still the religious."

Another good expression of the "once-born" type of consciousness,
developing straight and natural, with no element of morbid
compunction or crisis, is contained in the answer of Dr. Edward
Everett Hale, the eminent Unitarian preacher and writer, to one
of Dr. Starbuck's circulars. I quote a part of it:--

"I observe, with profound regret, the religious struggles which
come into many biographies, as if almost essential to the
formation of the hero. I ought to speak of these, to say that
any man has an advantage, not to be estimated, who is born, as I
was, into a family where the religion is simple and rational; who
is trained in the theory of such a religion, so that he never
knows, for an hour, what these religious or irreligious struggles
are. I always knew God loved me, and I was always grateful to
him for the world he placed me in. I always liked to tell him
so, and was always glad to receive his suggestions to me. . . . I
can remember perfectly that when I was coming to manhood, the
half-philosophical novels of the time had a deal to say about the
young men and maidens who were facing the 'problem of life.' I
had no idea whatever what the problem of life was. To live with
all my might seemed to me easy; to learn where there was so much
to learn seemed pleasant and almost of course; to lend a hand, if
one had a chance, natural; and if one did this, why, he enjoyed
life because he could not help it, and without proving to himself
that he ought to enjoy it. . . . A child who is early taught that
he is God's child, that he may live and move and have his being
in God, and that he has, therefore, infinite strength at hand for
the conquering of any difficulty, will take life more easily, and
probably will make more of it, than one who is told that he is
born the child of wrath and wholly incapable of good."[35]

[35] Starbuck: Psychology of Religion, pp. 305, 306.

One can but recognize in such writers as these the presence of a
temperament organically weighted on the side of cheer and fatally
forbidden to linger, as those of opposite temperament linger,
over the darker aspects of the universe. In some individuals
optimism may become quasi-pathological. The capacity for even a
transient sadness or a momentary humility seems cut off from them
as by a kind of congenital anaesthesia.[36]

[36] "I know not to what physical laws philosophers will some day
refer the feelings of melancholy. For myself, I find that they
are the most voluptuous of all sensations," writes Saint Pierre,
and accordingly he devotes a series of sections of his work on
Nature to the Plaisirs de la Ruine, Plaisirs des Tombeaux, Ruines
de la Nature, Plaisirs de la Solitude--each of them more
optimistic than the last.

This finding of a luxury in woe is very common during
adolescence. The truth-telling Marie Bashkirtseff expresses it

"In his depression and dreadful uninterrupted suffering, I don't
condemn life. On the contrary, I like it and find it good. Can
you believe it? I find everything good and pleasant, even my
tears, my grief. I enjoy weeping, I enjoy my despair. I enjoy
being exasperated and sad. I feel as if these were so many
diversions, and I love life in spite of them all. I want to live
on. It would be cruel to have me die when I am so accommodating.

I cry, I grieve, and at the same time I am pleased--no, not
exactly that--I know not how to express it. But everything in
life pleases me. I find everything agreeable, and in the very
midst of my prayers for happiness, I find myself happy at being
miserable. It is not I who undergo all this--my body weeps and
cries; but something inside of me which is above me is glad of it
all." [37]

[37] Journal de Marie Bashkirtseff, i. 67.

The supreme contemporary example of such an inability to feel
evil is of course Walt Whitman.

"His favorite occupation," writes his disciple, Dr. Bucke "seemed
to be strolling or sauntering about outdoors by himself, looking
at the grass, the trees, the flowers, the vistas of light, the
varying aspects of the sky, and listening to the birds, the
crickets, the tree frogs, and all the hundreds of natural sounds.

It was evident that these things gave him a pleasure far beyond
what they give to ordinary people. Until I knew the man,"
continues Dr. Bucke, "it had not occurred to me that any one
could derive so much absolute happiness from these things as he
did. He was very fond of flowers, either wild or cultivated;
liked all sorts. I think he admired lilacs and sunflowers just
as much as roses. Perhaps, indeed, no man who ever lived liked
so many things and disliked so few as Walt Whitman. All natural
objects seemed to have a charm for him. All sights and sounds
seemed to please him. He appeared to like (and I believe he did
like) all the men, women, and children he saw (though I never
knew him to say that he liked any one), but each who knew him
felt that he liked him or her, and that he liked others also. I
never knew him to argue or dispute, and he never spoke about
money. He always justified, sometimes playfully, sometimes quite
seriously, those who spoke harshly of himself or his writings,
and I often thought he even took pleasure in the opposition of
enemies. When I first knew [him], I used to think that he
watched himself, and would not allow his tongue to give
expression to fretfulness, antipathy, complaint, and
remonstrance. It did not occur to me as possible that these
mental states could be absent in him. After long observation,
however, I satisfied myself that such absence or unconsciousness
was entirely real. He never spoke deprecatingly of any
nationality or class of men, or time in the world's history, or
against any trades or occupations--not even against any animals,
insects, or inanimate things, nor any of the laws of nature, nor
any of the results of those laws, such as illness, deformity, and
death. He never complained or grumbled either at the weather,
pain, illness, or anything else. He never swore. He could not
very well, since he never spoke in anger and apparently never was
angry. He never exhibited fear, and I do not believe he ever
felt it."[38]

[38] R. M. Bucke: Cosmic consciousness, pp. 182-186, abridged.

Walt Whitman owes his importance in literature to the systematic
expulsion from his writings of all contractile elements. The
only sentiments he allowed himself to express were of the
expansive order; and he expressed these in the first person, not
as your mere monstrously conceited individual might so express
them, but vicariously for all men, so that a passionate and
mystic ontological emotion suffuses his words, and ends by
persuading the reader that men and women, life and death, and all
things are divinely good.

Thus it has come about that many persons to-day regard Walt
Whitman as the restorer of the eternal natural religion. He has
infected them with his own love of comrades, with his own
gladness that he and they exist. Societies are actually formed
for his cult; a periodical organ exists for its propagation, in
which the lines of orthodoxy and heterodoxy are already beginning
to be drawn;[39] hymns are written by others in his peculiar
prosody; and he is even explicitly compared with the founder of
the Christian religion, not altogether to the advantage of the

[39] I refer to The Conservator, edited by Horace Traubel, and
published monthly at Philadelphia.

Whitman is often spoken of as a "pagan." The word nowadays means
sometimes the mere natural animal man without a sense of sin;
sometimes it means a Greek or Roman with his own peculiar
religious consciousness. In neither of these senses does it
fitly define this poet. He is more than your mere animal man who
has not tasted of the tree of good and evil. He is aware enough
of sin for a swagger to be present in his indifference towards
it, a conscious pride in his freedom from flexions and
contractions, which your genuine pagan in the first sense of the
word would never show.

"I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and
I stand and look at them long and long;
They do not sweat and whine about their condition.
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins.
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of

owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands

of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth."[40]

[40] Song of Myself, 32.

No natural pagan could have written these well-known lines. But
on the other hand Whitman is less than a Greek or Roman; for
their consciousness, even in Homeric times, was full to the brim
of the sad mortality of this sunlit world, and such a
consciousness Walt Whitman resolutely refuses to adopt. When,
for example, Achilles, about to slay Lycaon, Priam's young son,
hears him sue for mercy, he stops to say:--

"Ah, friend, thou too must die: why thus lamentest thou?
Patroclos too is dead, who was better far than thou. . . . Over
me too hang death and forceful fate. There cometh morn or eve or
some noonday when my life too some man shall take in battle,
whether with spear he smite, or arrow from the string."[41]

[41] Iliad, XXI., E. Myers's translation.

Then Achilles savagely severs the poor boy's neck with his sword,
heaves him by the foot into the Scamander, and calls to the
fishes of the river to eat the white fat of Lycaon. Just as here
the cruelty and the sympathy each ring true, and do not mix or
interfere with one another, so did the Greeks and Romans keep all
their sadnesses and gladnesses unmingled and entire. Instinctive
good they did not reckon sin; nor had they any such desire to
save the credit of the universe as to make them insist, as so
many of US insist, that what immediately appears as evil must be
"good in the making," or something equally ingenious. Good was
good, and bad just bad, for the earlier Greeks. They neither
denied the ills of nature--Walt Whitman's verse, "What is called
good is perfect and what is called bad is just as perfect," would
have been mere silliness to them--nor did they, in order to
escape from those ills, invent "another and a better world" of
the imagination, in which, along with the ills, the innocent
goods of sense would also find no place. This integrity of the
instinctive reactions, this freedom from all moral sophistry and
strain, gives a pathetic dignity to ancient pagan feeling. And
this quality Whitman's outpourings have not got. His optimism is
too voluntary and defiant; his gospel has a touch of bravado and
an affected twist,[42] and this diminishes its effect on many
readers who yet are well disposed towards optimism, and on the
whole quite willing to admit that in important respects Whitman
is of the genuine lineage of the prophets.

[42] "God is afraid of me!" remarked such a titanic-optimistic
friend in my presence one morning when he was feeling
particularly hearty and cannibalistic. The defiance of the
phrase showed that a Christian education in humility still
rankled in his breast.

If, then, we give the name of healthy-mindedness to the tendency
which looks on all things and sees that they are good, we find
that we must distinguish between a more involuntary and a more
voluntary or systematic way of being healthy-minded. In its
involuntary variety, healthy-mindedness is a way of feeling happy
about things immediately. In its systematical variety, it is an
abstract way of conceiving things as good. Every abstract way of
conceiving things selects some one aspect of them as their
essence for the time being, and disregards the other aspects.
Systematic healthy-mindedness, conceiving good as the essential
and universal aspect of being, deliberately excludes evil from
its field of vision; and although, when thus nakedly stated, this
might seem a difficult feat to perform for one who is
intellectually sincere with himself and honest about facts, a
little reflection shows that the situation is too complex to lie
open to so simple a criticism.

In the first place, happiness, like every other emotional state,
has blindness and insensibility to opposing facts given it as its
instinctive weapon for self-protection against disturbance. When
happiness is actually in possession, the thought of evil can no
more acquire the feeling of reality than the thought of good can
gain reality when melancholy rules. To the man actively happy,
from whatever cause, evil simply cannot then and there be
believed in. He must ignore it; and to the bystander he may then
seem perversely to shut his eyes to it and hush it up.

But more than this: the hushing of it up may, in a perfectly
candid and honest mind, grow into a deliberate religious policy,
or parti pris. Much of what we call evil is due entirely to the
way men take the phenomenon. It can so often be converted into a
bracing and tonic good by a simple change of the sufferer's inner
attitude from one of fear to one of fight; its sting so often
departs and turns into a relish when, after vainly seeking to
shun it, we agree to face about and bear it cheerfully, that a
man is simply bound in honor, with reference to many of the facts
that seem at first to disconcert his peace, to adopt this way of
escape. Refuse to admit their badness; despise their power;
ignore their presence; turn your attention the other way; and so
far as you yourself are concerned at any rate, though the facts
may still exist, their evil character exists no longer. Since
you make them evil or good by your own thoughts about them, it is
the ruling of your thoughts which proves to be your principal

The deliberate adoption of an optimistic turn of mind thus makes
its entrance into philosophy. And once in, it is hard to trace
its lawful bounds. Not only does the human instinct for
happiness, bent on self-protection by ignoring, keep working in
its favor, but higher inner ideals have weighty words to say.
The attitude of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and
ugly. What can be more base and unworthy than the pining,
puling, mumping mood, no matter by what outward ills it may have
been engendered? What is more injurious to others? What less
helpful as a way out of the difficulty? It but fastens and
perpetuates the trouble which occasioned it, and increases the
total evil of the situation. At all costs, then, we ought to
reduce the sway of that mood; we ought to scout it in ourselves
and others, and never show it tolerance. But it is impossible to
carry on this discipline in the subjective sphere without
zealously emphasizing the brighter and minimizing the darker
aspects of the objective sphere of things at the same time. And
thus our resolution not to indulge in misery, beginning at a
comparatively small point within ourselves, may not stop until it
has brought the entire frame of reality under a systematic
conception optimistic enough to be congenial with its needs.

In all this I say nothing of any mystical insight or persuasion
that the total frame of things absolutely must be good. Such
mystical persuasion plays an enormous part in the history of the
religious consciousness, and we must look at it later with some
care. But we need not go so far at present. More ordinary
non-mystical conditions of rapture suffice for my immediate
contention. All invasive moral states and passionate enthusiasms
make one feelingless to evil in some direction. The common
penalties cease to deter the patriot, the usual prudences are
flung by the lover to the winds. When the passion is extreme,
suffering may actually be gloried in, provided it be for the
ideal cause, death may lose its sting, the grave its victory. In
these states, the ordinary contrast of good and ill seems to be
swallowed up in a higher denomination, an omnipotent excitement
which engulfs the evil, and which the human being welcomes as the
crowning experience of his life. This, he says, is truly to
live, and I exult in the heroic opportunity and adventure.

The systematic cultivation of healthy-mindedness as a religious
attitude is therefore consonant with important currents in human
nature, and is anything but absurd. In fact. we all do cultivate
it more or less, even when our professed theology should in
consistency forbid it. We divert our attention from disease and
death as much as we can; and the slaughter-houses and indecencies
without end on which our life is founded are huddled out of sight
and never mentioned, so that the world we recognize officially in
literature and in society is a poetic fiction far handsomer and
cleaner and better than the world that really is.[43]

[43] "As I go on in this life, day by day, I become more of a
bewildered child; I cannot get used to this world, to
procreation, to heredity, to sight, to hearing, the commonest
things are a burthen. The prim, obliterated, polite surface of
life, and the broad, bawdy and orgiastic--or
maenadic--foundations, form a spectacle to which no habit
reconciles me. R. L. Stevenson: Letters, ii. 355.

The advance of liberalism, so-called, in Christianity, during the
past fifty years, may fairly be called a victory of
healthy-mindedness within the church over the morbidness with
which the old hell-fire theology was more harmoniously related.
We have now whole congregations whose preachers, far from
magnifying our consciousness of sin, seem devoted rather to
making little of it. They ignore, or even deny, eternal
punishment, and insist on the dignity rather than on the
depravity of man. They look at the continual preoccupation of
the old-fashioned Christian with the salvation of his soul as
something sickly and reprehensible rather than admirable; and a
sanguine and "muscular" attitude. which to our forefathers would
have seemed purely heathen, has become in their eyes an ideal
element of Christian character. I am not asking whether or not
they are right, I am only pointing out the change. The persons
to whom I refer have still retained for the most part their
nominal connection with Christianity, in spite of their
discarding of its more pessimistic theological elements. But in
that "theory of evolution" which, gathering momentum for a
century, has within the past twenty-five years swept so rapidly
over Europe and America, we see the ground laid for a new sort of
religion of Nature, which has entirely displaced Christianity
from the thought of a large part of our generation. The idea of
a universal evolution lends itself to a doctrine of general
meliorism and progress which fits the religious needs of the
healthy-minded so well that it seems almost as if it might have
been created for their use. Accordingly we find "evolutionism"
interpreted thus optimistically and embraced as a substitute for
the religion they were born in, by a multitude of our
contemporaries who have either been trained scientifically, or
been fond of reading popular science, and who had already begun
to be inwardly dissatisfied with what seemed to them the
harshness and irrationality of the orthodox Christian scheme. As
examples are better than descriptions, I will quote a document
received in answer to Professor Starbuck's circular of questions.

The writer's state of mind may by courtesy be called a religion,
for it is his reaction on the whole nature of things, it is
systematic and reflective and it loyally binds him to certain
inner ideals. I think you will recognize in him, coarse-meated
and incapable of wounded spirit as he is, a sufficiently familiar
contemporary type.

Q. What does Religion mean to you?

A. It means nothing; and it seems, so far as I can observe
useless to others. I am sixty-seven years of age and have
resided in X fifty years, and have been in business forty-five,
consequently I have some little experience of life and men, and
some women too, and I find that the most religious and pious
people are as a rule those most lacking in uprightness and

The men who do not go to church or have any religious convictions
are the best. Praying, singing of hymns, and sermonizing are
pernicious--they teach us to rely on some supernatural power,
when we ought to rely on ourselves. I TEEtotally disbelieve in a
God. The God-idea was begotten in ignorance, fear, and a general
lack of any knowledge of Nature. If I were to die now, being in
a healthy condition for my age, both mentally and physically, I
would just as lief, yes, rather, die with a hearty enjoyment of
music, sport, or any other rational pastime. As a timepiece
stops, we die--there being no immortality in either case.

Q. What comes before your mind corresponding to the words God,
Heaven, Angels, etc?

A. Nothing whatever. I am a man without a religion. These
words mean so much mythic bosh.

Q. Have you had any experiences which appeared providential?

A. None whatever. There is no agency of the superintending
kind. A little judicious observation as well as knowledge of
scientific law will convince any one of this fact.

Q. What things work most strongly on your emotions?

A. Lively songs and music; Pinafore instead of an Oratorio. I
like Scott, Burns, Byron, Longfellow, especially Shakespeare,
etc., etc. Of songs, the Star-Spangled Banner, America,
Marseillaise, and all moral and soul-stirring songs, but
wishy-washy hymns are my detestation. I greatly enjoy nature,
especially fine weather, and until within a few years used to
walk Sundays into the country, twelve miles often, with no
fatigue, and bicycle forty or fifty. I have dropped the bicycle.

I never go to church, but attend lectures when there are any good
ones. All of my thoughts and cogitations have been of a healthy
and cheerful kind, for instead of doubts and fears I see things
as they are, for I endeavor to adjust myself to my environment.
This I regard as the deepest law. Mankind is a progressive
animal. I am satisfied he will have made a great advance over
his present status a thousand years hence.

Q. What is your notion of sin?

A. It seems to me that sin is a condition, a disease, incidental
to man's development not being yet advanced enough. Morbidness
over it increases the disease. We should think that a million of
years hence equity, justice, and mental and physical good order
will be so fixed and organized that no one will have any idea of
evil or sin.

Q. What is your temperament?

A. Nervous, active, wide-awake, mentally and physically. Sorry
that Nature compels us to sleep at all.

If we are in search of a broken and a contrite heart, clearly we
need not look to this brother. His contentment with the finite
incases him like a lobster-shell and shields him from all morbid
repining at his distance from the infinite. We have in him an
excellent example of the optimism which may be encouraged by
popular science.

To my mind a current far more important and interesting
religiously than that which sets in from natural science towards
healthy-mindedness is that which has recently poured over America
and seems to be gathering force every day--I am ignorant what
foothold it may yet have acquired in Great Britain--and to which,
for the sake of having a brief designation, I will give the title
of the "Mind-cure movement." There are various sects of this
"New Thought," to use another of the names by which it calls
itself; but their agreements are so profound that their
differences may be neglected for my present purpose, and I will
treat the movement, without apology, as if it were a simple

It is a deliberately optimistic scheme of life, with both a
speculative and a practical side. In its gradual development
during the last quarter of a century, it has taken up into itself
a number of contributory elements, and it must now be reckoned
with as a genuine religious power. It has reached the stage, for
example, when the demand for its literature is great enough for
insincere stuff, mechanically produced for the market, to be to a
certain extent supplied by publishers--a phenomenon never
observed, I imagine, until a religion has got well past its
earliest insecure beginnings.

One of the doctrinal sources of Mind-cure is the four Gospels;
another is Emersonianism or New England transcendentalism;
another is Berkeleyan idealism; another is spiritism, with its
messages of "law" and "progress" and "development"; another the
optimistic popular science evolutionism of which I have recently
spoken; and, finally, Hinduism has contributed a strain. But the
most characteristic feature of the mind-cure movement is an
inspiration much more direct. The leaders in this faith have had
an intuitive belief in the all-saving power of healthy-minded
attitudes as such, in the conquering efficacy of courage, hope,
and trust, and a correlative contempt for doubt, fear, worry, and
all nervously precautionary states of mind.[44] Their belief has
in a general way been corroborated by the practical experience of
their disciples; and this experience forms to-day a mass imposing
in amount.

[44] "Cautionary Verses for Children": this title of a much used
work, published early in the nineteenth century, shows how far
the muse of evangelical protestantism in England, with her mind
fixed on the idea of danger, had at last drifted away from the
original gospel freedom. Mind-cure might be briefly called a
reaction against all that religion of chronic anxiety which
marked the earlier part of our century in the evangelical circles
of England and America.

The blind have been made to see, the halt to walk; life-long
invalids have had their health restored. The moral fruits have
been no less remarkable. The deliberate adoption of a
healthy-minded attitude has proved possible to many who never
supposed they had it in them; regeneration of character has gone
on on an extensive scale; and cheerfulness has been restored to
countless homes. The indirect influence of this has been great.
The mind-cure principles are beginning so to pervade the air that
one catches their spirit at second-hand. One hears of the
"Gospel of Relaxation," of the "Don't Worry Movement," of people
who repeat to themselves, "Youth, health, vigor!" when dressing
in the morning, as their motto for the day.

Complaints of the weather are getting to be forbidden in many
households; and more and more people are recognizing it to be bad
form to speak of disagreeable sensations, or to make much of the
ordinary inconveniences and ailments of life. These general
tonic effects on public opinion would be good even if the more
striking results were non-existent. But the latter abound so
that we can afford to overlook the innumerable failures and
self-deceptions that are mixed in with them (for in everything
human failure is a matter of course), and we can also overlook
the verbiage of a good deal of the mind-cure literature, some of
which is so moonstruck with optimism and so vaguely expressed
that an academically trained intellect finds it almost impossible
to read it at all.

The plain fact remains that the spread of the movement has been
due to practical fruits, and the extremely practical turn of
character of the American people has never been better shown than
by the fact that this, their only decidedly original contribution
to the systematic philosophy of life, should be so intimately
knit up with concrete therapeutics. To the importance of
mind-cure the medical and clerical professions in the United
States are beginning, though with much recalcitrancy and
protesting, to open their eyes. It is evidently bound to develop
still farther, both speculatively and practically, and its latest
writers are far and away the ablest of the group.[45] It matters
nothing that, just as there are hosts of persons who cannot pray,
so there are greater hosts who cannot by any possibility be
influenced by the mind-curers' ideas. For our immediate purpose,
the important point is that so large a number should exist who
CAN be so influenced. They form a psychic type to be studied
with respect.[46]

[45] I refer to Mr. Horatio W. Dresser and Mr. Henry Wood,
especially the former. Mr. Dresser's works are published by G.
P. Putnam's Sons, New York and London; Mr. Wood's by Lee &
Shepard Boston.

[46] Lest my own testimony be suspected, I will quote another
reporter, Dr. H. H. Goddard, of Clark University, whose thesis on
"the Effects of Mind on Body as evidenced by Faith Cures" is
published in the American Journal of Psychology for 1899 (vol.
x.). This critic, after a wide study of the facts, concludes
that the cures by mind-cure exist, but are in no respect
different from those now officially recognized in medicine as
cures by suggestion; and the end of his essay contains an
interesting physiological speculation as to the way in which the
suggestive ideas may work (p. 67 of the reprint). As regards the
general phenomenon of mental cure itself, Dr. Goddard writes:
"In spite of the severe criticism we have made of reports of
cure, there still remains a vast amount of material, showing a
powerful influence of the mind in disease. Many cases are of
diseases that have been diagnosed and treated by the best
physicians of the country, or which prominent hospitals have
tried their hand at curing, but without success. People of
culture and education have been treated by this method with
satisfactory results. Diseases of long standing have been
ameliorated, and even cured. . . . We have traced the mental
element through primitive medicine and folk-medicine of to-day,
patent medicine, and witchcraft. We are convinced that it is
impossible to account for the existence of these practices, if
they did not cure disease, and that if they cured disease, it
must have been the mental element that was effective. The same
argument applies to those modern schools of mental therapeutics--
Divine Healing and Christian Science. It is hardly conceivable
that the large body of intelligent people who comprise the body
known distinctively as Mental Scientists should continue to exist
if the whole thing were a delusion. It is not a thing of a day;
it is not confined to a few; it is not local. It is true that
many failures are recorded, but that only adds to the argument.
There must be many and striking successes to counterbalance the
failures, otherwise the failures would have ended the delusion. .
. . Christian Science, Divine Healing, or Mental Science do not,
and never can in the very nature of things, cure all diseases;
nevertheless, the practical applications of the general
principles of the broadest mental science will tend to prevent
disease. . . . We do find sufficient evidence to convince us
that the proper reform in mental attitude would relieve many a
sufferer of ills that the ordinary physician cannot touch; would
even delay the approach of death to many a victim beyond the
power of absolute cure, and the faithful adherence to a truer
philosophy of life will keep many a man well, and give the doctor
time to devote to alleviating ills that are unpreventable" (pp.
33, 34 of reprint).

To come now to a little closer quarters with their creed. The
fundamental pillar on which it rests is nothing more than the
general basis of all religious experience, the fact that man has
a dual nature, and is connected with two spheres of thought, a
shallower and a profounder sphere, in either of which he may
learn to live more habitually. The shallower and lower sphere is
that of the fleshly sensations, instincts, and desires, of
egotism, doubt, and the lower personal interests. But whereas
Christian theology has always considered FROWARDNESS to be the
essential vice of this part of human nature, the mind-curers say
that the mark of the beast in it is FEAR; and this is what gives
such an entirely new religious turn to their persuasion.

"Fear," to quote a writer of the school, "has had its uses in the
evolutionary process, and seems to constitute the whole of
forethought in most animals; but that it should remain any part
of the mental equipment of human civilized life is an absurdity.
I find that the fear clement of forethought is not stimulating to
those more civilized persons to whom duty and attraction are the
natural motives, but is weakening and deterrent. As soon as it
becomes unnecessary, fear becomes a positive deterrent, and
should be entirely removed, as dead flesh is removed from living
tissue. To assist in the analysis of fear and in the
denunciation of its expressions, I have coined the word
fearthought to stand for the unprofitable element of forethought,
and have defined the word 'worry' as fearthought in
contradistinction to forethought. I have also defined
fearthought as the self-imposed or self-permitted suggestion of
inferiority, in order to place it where it really belongs, in the
category of harmful, unnecessary, and therefore not respectable

[47] Horace Fletcher: Happiness as found in Forethought Minus
Fearthought, Menticulture Series, ii. Chicago and New York,
Stone. 1897, pp. 21-25, abridged.

The "misery-habit," the "martyr-habit," engendered by the
prevalent "fearthought," get pungent criticism from the mind-cure

"Consider for a moment the habits of life into which we are born.

There are certain social conventions or customs and alleged
requirements, there is a theological bias, a general view of the
world. There are conservative ideas in regard to our early
training, our education, marriage, and occupation in life.
Following close upon this, there is a long series of
anticipations, namely, that we shall suffer certain children's
diseases, diseases of middle life, and of old age; the thought
that we shall grow old, lose our faculties, and again become
childlike; while crowning all is the fear of death. Then there
is a long line of particular tears and trouble-bearing
expectations, such, for example, as ideas associated with certain
articles of food, the dread of the east wind, the terrors of hot
weather, the aches and pains associated with cold weather, the
fear of catching cold if one sits in a draught, the coming of
hay-fever upon the 14th of August in the middle of the day, and
so on through a long list of fears, dreads, worriments,
anxieties, anticipations, expectations, pessimisms, morbidities,
and the whole ghostly train of fateful shapes which our
fellow-men, and especially physicians, are ready to help us
conjure up, an array worthy to rank with Bradley's 'unearthly
ballet of bloodless categories.'

"Yet this is not all. This vast array is swelled by innumerable
volunteers from daily life--the fear of accident, the possibility
of calamity, the loss of property, the chance of robbery, of
fire, or the outbreak of war. And it is not deemed sufficient to
fear for ourselves. When a friend is taken ill, we must forth
with fear the worst and apprehend death. If one meets with
sorrow . . . sympathy means to enter into and increase the

[48] H. W. Dresser: Voices of Freedom, New York, 1899, p. 38.

"Man," to quote another writer, "often has fear stamped upon him
before his entrance into the outer world; he is reared in fear;
all his life is passed in bondage to fear of disease and death,
and thus his whole mentality becomes cramped, limited, and
depressed, and his body follows its shrunken pattern and
specification . . . Think of the millions of sensitive and
responsive souls among our ancestors who have been under the
dominion of such a perpetual nightmare! Is it not surprising that
health exists at all? Nothing but the boundless divine love?
exuberance, and vitality, constantly poured in, even though
unconsciously to us, could in some degree neutralize such an
ocean of morbidity."[49]

[49] Henry Wood: Ideal Suggestion through Mental Photography.
Boston, 1899, p. 54.

Although the disciples of the mind-cure often use Christian
terminology, one sees from such quotations how widely their
notion of the fall of man diverges from that of ordinary

[50] Whether it differs so much from Christ's own notion is for
the exegetists to decide. According to Harnack, Jesus felt about
evil and disease much as our mind-curers do. "What is the answer
which Jesus sends to John the Baptist?" asks Harnack, and says it
is this: "'The blind see, and the lame walk, the lepers are
cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead rise up, and the gospel is
preached to the poor.' That is the 'coming of the kingdom,' or
rather in these saving works the kingdom is already there. By
the overcoming and removal of misery, of need, of sickness, by
these actual effects John is to see that the new time has
arrived. The casting out of devils is only a part of this work
of redemption, but Jesus points to that as the sense and seal of
his mission. Thus to the wretched, sick, and poor did he address
himself, but not as a moralist, and without a trace of
sentimentalism. He never makes groups and departments of the
ills, he never spends time in asking whether the sick one
'deserves' to be cured; and it never occurs to him to sympathize
with the pain or the death. He nowhere says that sickness is a
beneficent infliction, and that evil has a healthy use. No, he
calls sickness sickness and health health. All evil, all
wretchedness, is for him something dreadful; it is of the great
kingdom of Satan; but he feels the power of the saviour within
him. He knows that advance is possible only when weakness is
overcome, when sickness is made well." Das Wesen des
Christenthums, 1900, p. 39.

Their notion of man's higher nature is hardly less divergent,
being decidedly pantheistic. The spiritual in man appears
in the mind-cure philosophy as partly conscious, but chiefly
subconscious; and through the subconscious part of it we are
already one with the Divine without any miracle of grace, or
abrupt creation of a new inner man. As this view is variously
expressed by different writers, we find in it traces of Christian
mysticism, of transcendental idealism, of vedantism, and of the
modern psychology of the subliminal self. A quotation or two
will put us at the central point of view:--

"The great central fact of the universe is that spirit of
infinite life and power that is back of all, that manifests
itself in and through all. This spirit of infinite life and
power that is back of all is what I call God. I care not what
term you may use, be it Kindly Light, Providence, the Over-Soul,
Omnipotence, or whatever term may be most convenient, so long as
we are agreed in regard to the great central fact itself. God
then fills the universe alone, so that all is from Him and in
Him, and there is nothing that is outside. He is the life of our
life our very life itself. We are partakers of the life of God;
and though we differ from Him in that we are individualized
spirits, while He is the Infinite Spirit, including us, as well
as all else beside, yet in essence the life of God and the life
of man are identically the same, and so are one. They differ not
in essence or quality; they differ in degree.

"The great central fact in human life is the coming into a
conscious vital realization of our oneness with this Infinite
Life and the opening of ourselves fully to this divine inflow.
In just the degree that we come into a conscious realization of
our oneness with the Infinite Life, and open ourselves to this
divine inflow, do we actualize in ourselves the qualities and
powers of the Infinite Life, do we make ourselves channels
through which the Infinite Intelligence and Power can work. In
just the degree in which you realize your oneness with the
Infinite Spirit, you will exchange dis-ease for ease, inharmony
for harmony, suffering and pain for abounding health and
strength. To recognize our own divinity, and our intimate
relation to the Universal, is to attach the belts of our
machinery to the powerhouse of the Universe. One need remain in
hell no longer than one chooses to; we can rise to any heaven we
ourselves choose; and when we choose so to rise, all the higher
powers of the Universe combine to help us heavenward."[51]

[51] R. W. Trine: In Tune with the Infinite, 26th thousand, N.Y.
1899. I have strung scattered passages together.

Let me now pass from these abstracter statements to some more
concrete accounts of experience with the mind-cure religion. I
have many answers from correspondents--the only difficulty is to
choose. The first two whom I shall quote are my personal
friends. One of them, a woman, writing as follows, expresses
well the feeling of continuity with the Infinite Power, by which
all mind-cure disciples are inspired.

"The first underlying cause of all sickness, weakness, or
depression is the human sense of separateness from that Divine
Energy which we call God. The soul which can feel and affirm in
serene but jubilant confidence, as did the Nazarene: 'I and my
Father are one,' has no further need of healer, or of healing.
This is the whole truth in a nutshell, and other foundation for
wholeness can no man lay than this fact of impregnable divine
union. Disease can no longer attack one whose feet are planted
on this rock, who feels hourly, momently, the influx of the
Deific Breath. If one with Omnipotence, how can weariness enter
the consciousness, how illness assail that indomitable spark?

"This possibility of annulling forever the law of fatigue has
been abundantly proven in my own case; for my earlier life bears
a record of many, many years of bedridden invalidism, with spine
and lower limbs paralyzed. My thoughts were no more impure than
they are to-day, although my belief in the necessity of illness
was dense and unenlightened; but since my resurrection in the
flesh, I have worked as a healer unceasingly for fourteen years
without a vacation, and can truthfully assert that I have never
known a moment of fatigue or pain, although coming in touch
constantly with excessive weakness, illness, and disease of all
kinds. For how can a conscious part of Deity be sick?--since
'Greater is he that is with us than all that can strive against

My second correspondent, also a woman, sends me the following

"Life seemed difficult to me at one time. I was always breaking
down, and had several attacks of what is called nervous
prostration, with terrible insomnia, being on the verge of
insanity; besides having many other troubles, especially of the
digestive organs. I had been sent away from home in charge of
doctors, had taken all the narcotics, stopped all work, been fed
up, and in fact knew all the doctors within reach. But I never
recovered permanently till this New Thought took possession of

"I think that the one thing which impressed me most was learning
the fact that we must be in absolutely constant relation or
mental touch (this word is to me very expressive) with that
essence of life which permeates all and which we call God. This
is almost unrecognizable unless we live it into ourselves
ACTUALLY, that is, by a constant turning to the very innermost,
deepest consciousness of our real selves or of God in us, for
illumination from within, just as we turn to the sun for light,
warmth, and invigoration without. When you do this consciously,
realizing that to turn inward to the light within you is to live
in the presence of God or your divine self, you soon discover the
unreality of the objects to which you have hitherto been turning
and which have engrossed you without.

"I have come to disregard the meaning of this attitude for bodily
health AS SUCH, because that comes of itself, as an incidental
result, and cannot be found by any special mental act or desire
to have it, beyond that general attitude of mind I have referred
to above. That which we usually make the object of life, those
outer things we are all so wildly seeking, which we so often live
and die for, but which then do not give us peace and happiness,

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