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The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

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they should all come of themselves as accessory, and as the mere
outcome or natural result of a far higher life sunk deep in the
bosom of the spirit. This life is the real seeking of the
kingdom of God, the desire for his supremacy in our hearts, so
that all else comes as that which shall be 'added unto you'--as
quite incidental and as a surprise to us, perhaps; and yet it is
the proof of the reality of the perfect poise in the very centre
of our being.

"When I say that we commonly make the object of our life that
which we should not work for primarily, I mean many things which
the world considers praiseworthy and excellent, such as success
in business, fame as author or artist, physician or lawyer, or
renown in philanthropic undertakings. Such things should be
results, not objects. I would also include pleasures of many
kinds which seem harmless and good at the time, and are pursued
because many accept them--I mean conventionalities,
sociabilities, and fashions in their various development, these
being mostly approved by the masses, although they may be unreal,
and even unhealthy superfluities."

Here is another case, more concrete, also that of a woman. I read
you these cases without comment--they express so many varieties
of the state of mind we are studying.

"I had been a sufferer from my childhood till my fortieth year.
[Details of ill-health are given which I omit.] I had been in
Vermont several months hoping for good from the change of air,
but steadily growing weaker, when one day during the latter part
of October, while resting in the afternoon, I suddenly heard as
it were these words: 'You will be healed and do a work you never
dreamed of.' These words were impressed upon my mind with such
power I said at once that only God could have put them there. I
believed them in spite of myself and of my suffering and
weakness, which continued until Christmas, when I returned to
Boston. Within two days a young friend offered to take me to a
mental healer (this was January 7, 1881). The healer said:
'There is nothing but Mind; we are expressions of the One Mind;
body is only a mortal belief; as a man thinketh so is he.' I
could not accept all she said, but I translated all that was
there for ME in this way: 'There is nothing but God; I am
created by Him, and am absolutely dependent upon Him; mind is
given me to use; and by just so much of it as I will put upon the
thought of right action in body I shall be lifted out of bondage
to my ignorance and fear and past experience.' That day I
commenced accordingly to take a little of every food provided for
the family, constantly saying to myself: 'The Power that created
the stomach must take care of what I have eaten.' By holding
these suggestions through the evening I went to bed and fell
asleep, saying: 'I am soul, spirit, just one with God's Thought
of me,' and slept all night without waking, for the first time in
several years [the distress-turns had usually recurred about two
o'clock in the night]. I felt the next day like an escaped
prisoner, and believed I had found the secret that would in time
give me perfect health. Within ten days I was able to eat
anything provided for others, and after two weeks I began to have
my own positive mental suggestions of Truth, which were to me
like stepping-stones. I will note a few of them, they came about
two weeks apart.

"1st. I am Soul, therefore it is well with me.

"2d. I am Soul, therefore I am well.

"3d. A sort of inner vision of myself as a four-footed beast
with a protuberance on every part of my body where I had
suffering, with my own face, begging me to acknowledge it as
myself. I resolutely fixed my attention on being well, and
refused to even look at my old self in this form.

"4th. Again the vision of the beast far in the background, with
faint voice. Again refusal to acknowledge.

"5th. Once more the vision, but only of my eyes with the longing
look; and again the refusal. Then came the conviction, the inner
consciousness, that I was perfectly well and always had been, for
I was Soul, an expression of God's Perfect Thought. That was to
me the perfect and completed separation between what I was and
what I appeared to be. I succeeded in never losing sight after
this of my real being, by constantly affirming this truth, and by
degrees (though it took me two years of hard work to get there) I
expressed health continuously throughout my whole body.

"In my subsequent nineteen years' experience I have never known
this Truth to fail when I applied it, though in my ignorance I
have often failed to apply it, but through my failures I have
learned the simplicity and trustfulness of the little child."

But I fear that I risk tiring you by so many examples, and I must
lead you back to philosophic generalities again. You see already
by such records of experience how impossible it is not to class
mind-cure as primarily a religious movement. Its doctrine of the
oneness of our life with God's life is in fact quite
indistinguishable from an interpretation of Christ's message
which in these very Gifford lectures has been defended by some of
your very ablest Scottish religious philosophers.[52]

[52] The Cairds, for example. In Edward Caird's Glasgow Lectures
of 1890-92 passages like this abound:--

"The declaration made in the beginning of the ministry of Jesus
that 'the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven is at
hand,' passes with scarce a break into the announcement that 'the
kingdom of God is among you'; and the importance of this
announcement is asserted to be such that it makes, so to speak, a
difference IN KIND between the greatest saints and prophets who
lived under the previous reign of division, and 'the least in the
kingdom of heaven.' The highest ideal is brought close to men
and declared to be within their reach, they are called on to be
'perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect.' The sense of
alienation and distance from God which had grown upon the pious
in Israel just in proportion as they had learned to look upon Him
as no mere national divinity, but as a God of justice who would
punish Israel for its sin as certainly as Edom or Moab, is
declared to be no longer in place; and the typical form of
Christian prayer points to the abolition of the contrast between
this world and the next which through all the history of the Jews
had continually been growing wider: 'As in heaven, so on earth.'
The sense of the division of man from God, as a finite being from
the Infinite, as weak and sinful from the Omnipotent Goodness, is
not indeed lost; but it can no longer overpower the consciousness
of oneness. The terms 'Son' and 'Father' at once state the
opposition and mark its limit. They show that it is not an
absolute opposition, but one which presupposes an indestructible
principle of unity, that can and must become a principle of
reconciliation." The Evolution of Religion, ii. pp. 146, 147.

But philosophers usually profess to give a quasi-logical
explanation of the existence of evil, whereas of the general fact
of evil in the world, the existence of the selfish, suffering,
timorous finite consciousness, the mind-curers, so far as I am
acquainted with them, profess to give no speculative explanation
Evil is empirically there for them as it is for everybody, but
the practical point of view predominates, and it would ill agree
with the spirit of their system to spend time in worrying over it
as a "mystery" or "problem," or in "laying to heart" the lesson
of its experience, after the manner of the Evangelicals. Don't
reason about it, as Dante says, but give a glance and pass
beyond! It is Avidhya, ignorance! something merely to be
outgrown and left be hind, transcended and forgotten. Christian
Science so-called, the sect of Mrs. Eddy, is the most radical
branch of mind-cure in its dealings with evil. For it evil is
simply a LIE, and any one who mentions it is a liar. The
optimistic ideal of duty forbids us to pay it the compliment even
of explicit attention. Of course, as our next lectures will show
us, this is a bad speculative omission, but it is intimately
linked with the practical merits of the system we are examining.
Why regret a philosophy of evil, a mind-curer would ask us, if I
can put you in possession of a life of good?

After all, it is the life that tells; and mind-cure has developed
a living system of mental hygiene which may well claim to have
thrown all previous literature of the Diatetit der Seele into the
shade. This system is wholly and exclusively compacted of
optimism: "Pessimism leads to weakness. Optimism leads to
power." "Thoughts are things," as one of the most vigorous
mind-cure writers prints in bold type at the bottom of each of
his pages; and if your thoughts are of health, youth, vigor, and
success, before you know it these things will also be your
outward portion. No one can fail of the regenerative influence
of optimistic thinking, pertinaciously pursued. Every man owns
indefeasibly this inlet to the divine. Fear, on the contrary,
and all the contracted and egoistic modes of thought, are inlets
to destruction. Most mind-curers here bring in a doctrine that
thoughts are "forces," and that, by virtue of a law that like
attracts like, one man's thoughts draw to themselves as allies
all the thoughts of the same character that exist the world over.
Thus one gets, by one's thinking, reinforcements from elsewhere
for the realization of one's desires; and the great point in the
conduct of life is to get the heavenly forces on one's side by
opening one's own mind to their influx.

On the whole, one is struck by a psychological similarity between
the mind-cure movement and the Lutheran and Wesleyan movements.
To the believer in moralism and works, with his anxious query,
"What shall I do to be saved?" Luther and Wesley replied: "You
are saved now, if you would but believe it." And the mind-curers
come with precisely similar words of emancipation. They speak,
it is true, to persons for whom the conception of salvation has
lost its ancient theological meaning, but who labor nevertheless
with the same eternal human difficulty. THINGS ARE WRONG WITH
THEM; and "What shall I do to be clear, right, sound, whole,
well?" is the form of their question. And the answer is: "You
ARE well, sound, and clear already, if you did but know it."
"The whole matter may be summed up in one sentence," says one of
the authors whom I have already quoted, "GOD IS WELL, AND SO ARE
YOU. You must awaken to the knowledge of your real being."

The adequacy of their message to the mental needs of a large
fraction of mankind is what gave force to those earlier gospels.
Exactly the same adequacy holds in the case of the mind-cure
message, foolish as it may sound upon its surface; and seeing its
rapid growth in influence, and its therapeutic triumphs, one is
tempted to ask whether it may not be destined (probably by very
reason of the crudity and extravagance of many of its
manifestations[53]) to play a part almost as great in the
evolution of the popular religion of the future as did those
earlier movements in their day.

[53] It remains to be seen whether the school of Mr. Dresser,
which assumes more and more the form of mind-cure experience and
academic philosophy mutually impregnating each other, will score
the practical triumphs of the less critical and rational sects.

But I here fear that I may begin to "jar upon the nerves" of some
of the members of this academic audience. Such contemporary
vagaries, you may think, should hardly take so large a place in
dignified Gifford lectures. I can only beseech you to have
patience. The whole outcome of these lectures will, I imagine,
be the emphasizing to your mind of the enormous diversities which
the spiritual lives of different men exhibit. Their wants, their
susceptibilities, and their capacities all vary and must be
classed under different heads. The result is that we have really
different types of religious experience; and, seeking in these
lectures closer acquaintance with the healthy-minded type, we
must take it where we find it in most radical form. The
psychology of individual types of character has hardly begun even
to be sketched as yet--our lectures may possibly serve as a
crumb-like contribution to the structure. The first thing to
bear in mind (especially if we ourselves belong to the
clerico-academic-scientific type, the officially and
conventionally "correct" type, "the deadly respectable" type, for
which to ignore others is a besetting temptation) is that nothing
can be more stupid than to bar out phenomena from our notice,
merely because we are incapable of taking part in anything like
them ourselves.

Now the history of Lutheran salvation by faith, of methodistic
conversions, and of what I call the mind-cure movement seems to
prove the existence of numerous persons in whom--at any rate at a
certain stage in their development--a change of character for the
better, so far from being facilitated by the rules laid down by
official moralists, will take place all the more successfully if
those rules be exactly reversed. Official moralists advise us
never to relax our strenuousness. "Be vigilant, day and night,"
they adjure us; "hold your passive tendencies in check; shrink
from no effort; keep your will like a bow always bent." But the
persons I speak of find that all this conscious effort leads to
nothing but failure and vexation in their hands, and only makes
them twofold more the children of hell they were before. The
tense and voluntary attitude becomes in them an impossible fever
and torment. Their machinery refuses to run at all when the
bearings are made so hot and the belts so tight.

Under these circumstances the way to success, as vouched for by
innumerable authentic personal narrations, is by an
anti-moralistic method, by the "surrender" of which I spoke in my
second lecture. Passivity, not activity; relaxation, not
intentness, should be now the rule. Give up the feeling of
responsibility, let go your hold, resign the care of your destiny
to higher powers, be genuinely indifferent as to what becomes of
it all, and you will find not only that you gain a perfect inward
relief, but often also, in addition, the particular goods you
sincerely thought you were renouncing. This is the salvation
through self-despair, the dying to be truly born, of Lutheran
theology, the passage into NOTHING of which Jacob Behmen writes.
To get to it, a critical point must usually be passed, a corner
turned within one. Something must give way, a native hardness
must break down and liquefy; and this event (as we shall
abundantly see hereafter) is frequently sudden and automatic, and
leaves on the Subject an impression that he has been wrought on
by an external power.

Whatever its ultimate significance may prove to be, this is
certainly one fundamental form of human experience. Some say that
the capacity or incapacity for it is what divides the religious
from the merely moralistic character. With those who undergo it
in its fullness, no criticism avails to cast doubt on its
reality. They KNOW; for they have actually FELT the higher
powers, in giving up the tension of their personal will.

A story which revivalist preachers often tell is that of a man
who found himself at night slipping down the side of a precipice.

At last he caught a branch which stopped his fall, and remained
clinging to it in misery for hours. But finally his fingers had
to loose their hold, and with a despairing farewell to life, he
let himself drop. He fell just six inches. If he had given up
the struggle earlier, his agony would have been spared. As the
mother earth received him, so, the preachers tell us, will the
everlasting arms receive us if we confide absolutely in them, and
give up the hereditary habit of relying on our personal strength,
with its precautions that cannot shelter and safeguards that
never save.

The mind-curers have given the widest scope to this sort of
experience. They have demonstrated that a form of regeneration
by relaxing, by letting go, psychologically indistinguishable
from the Lutheran justification by faith and the Wesleyan
acceptance of free grace, is within the reach of persons who have
no conviction of sin and care nothing for the Lutheran theology.
It is but giving your little private convulsive self a rest, and
finding that a greater Self is there. The results, slow or
sudden, or great or small, of the combined optimism and
expectancy, the regenerative phenomena which ensue on the
abandonment of effort, remain firm facts of human nature, no
matter whether we adopt a theistic, a pantheistic-idealistic, or
a medical-materialistic view of their ultimate causal

[54] The theistic explanation is by divine grace, which creates a
new nature within one the moment the old nature is sincerely
given up. The pantheistic explanation (which is that of most
mind-curers) is by the merging of the narrower private self into
the wider or greater self, the spirit of the universe (which is
your own "subconscious" self), the moment the isolating barriers
of mistrust and anxiety are removed. The medico-materialistic
explanation is that simpler cerebral processes act more freely
where they are left to act automatically by the shunting-out of
physiologically (though in this instance not spiritually)
"higher" ones which, seeking to regulate, only succeed in
inhibiting results.--Whether this third explanation might, in a
psycho-physical account of the universe, be combined with either
of the others may be left an open question here.

When we take up the phenomena of revivalistic conversion, we
shall learn something more about all this. Meanwhile I will say
a brief word about the mind-curer's METHODS.

They are of course largely suggestive. The suggestive influence
of environment plays an enormous part in all spiritual education.

But the word "suggestion," having acquired official status, is
unfortunately already beginning to play in many quarters the part
of a wet blanket upon investigation, being used to fend off all
inquiry into the varying susceptibilities of individual cases.
"Suggestion" is only another name for the power of ideas, SO FAR
efficacious over some people prove inefficacious over others.
Ideas efficacious at some times and in some human surroundings
are not so at other times and elsewhere. The ideas of Christian
churches are not efficacious in the therapeutic direction to-day,
whatever they may have been in earlier centuries; and when the
whole question is as to why the salt has lost its savor here or
gained it there, the mere blank waving of the word "suggestion"
as if it were a banner gives no light. Dr. Goddard, whose candid
psychological essay on Faith Cures ascribes them to nothing but
ordinary suggestion, concludes by saying that "Religion [and by
this he seems to mean our popular Christianity] has in it all
there is in mental therapeutics, and has it in its best form.
Living up to [our religious] ideas will do anything for us that
can be done." And this in spite of the actual fact that the
popular Christianity does absolutely NOTHING, or did nothing
until mind-cure came to the rescue.[55]

[55] Within the churches a disposition has always prevailed to
regard sickness as a visitation; something sent by God for our
good, either as chastisement, as warning, or as opportunity for
exercising virtue, and, in the Catholic Church, of earning
"merit." "Illness," says a good Catholic writer P. Lejeune:
(Introd. a la Vie Mystique, 1899, p. 218), "is the most excellent
corporeal mortifications, the mortification which one has not
one's self chosen, which is imposed directly by God, and is the
direct expression of his will. 'If other mortifications are of
silver,' Mgr. Gay says, 'this one is of gold; since although it
comes of ourselves, coming as it does of original sin, still on
its greater side, as coming (like all that happens) from the
providence of God, it is of divine manufacture. And how just are
its blows! And how efficacious it is! . . . I do not hesitate to
say that patience in a long illness is mortification's very
masterpiece, and consequently the triumph of mortified souls.'"
According to this view, disease should in any case be
submissively accepted, and it might under certain circumstances
even be blasphemous to wish it away.

Of course there have been exceptions to this, and cures by
special miracle have at all times been recognized within the
church's pale, almost all the great saints having more or less
performed them. It was one of the heresies of Edward Irving, to
maintain them still to be possible. An extremely pure faculty of
healing after confession and conversion on the patient's part,
and prayer on the priest's, was quite spontaneously developed in
the German pastor, Joh. Christoph Blumhardt, in the early forties
and exerted during nearly thirty years. Blumhardt's Life by
Zundel (5th edition, Zurich, 1887) gives in chapters ix., x.,
xi., and xvii. a pretty full account of his healing activity,
which he invariably ascribed to direct divine interposition.
Blumhardt was a singularly pure, simple, and non-fanatical
character, and in this part of his work followed no previous
model. In Chicago to-day we have the case of Dr. J. A. Dowie, a
Scottish Baptist preacher, whose weekly "Leaves of Healing" were
in the year of grace 1900 in their sixth volume, and who,
although he denounces the cures wrought in other sects as
"diabolical counterfeits" of his own exclusively "Divine
Healing," must on the whole be counted into the mind-cure
movement. In mind-cure circles the fundamental article of faith
is that disease should never be accepted. It is wholly of the
pit. God wants us to be absolutely healthy, and we should not
tolerate ourselves on any lower terms.

An idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with the
force of a revelation. The mind-cure with its gospel of
healthy-mindedness has come as a revelation to many whose hearts
the church Christianity had left hardened. It has let loose
their springs of higher life. In what can the originality of any
religious movement consist, save in finding a channel, until then
sealed up, through which those springs may be set free in some
group of human beings?

The force of personal faith, enthusiasm, and example, and above
all the force of novelty, are always the prime suggestive agency
in this kind of success. If mind-cure should ever become
official, respectable, and intrenched, these elements of
suggestive efficacy will be lost. In its acuter stages every
religion must be a homeless Arab of the desert. The church knows
this well enough, with its everlasting inner struggle of the
acute religion of the few against the chronic religion of the
many, indurated into an obstructiveness worse than that which
irreligion opposes to the movings of the Spirit. "We may pray,"
says Jonathan Edwards, "concerning all those saints that are not
lively Christians, that they may either be enlivened, or taken
away; if that be true that is often said by some at this day,
that these cold dead saints do more hurt than natural men, and
lead more souls to hell, and that it would be well for mankind if
they were all dead."[56]

[56] Edwards, from whose book on the Revival in New England I
quote these words, dissuades from such a use of prayer, but it is
easy to see that he enjoys making his thrust at the cold dead
church members.

The next condition of success is the apparent existence, in large
numbers, of minds who unite healthy-mindedness with readiness for
regeneration by letting go. Protestantism has been too
pessimistic as regards the natural man, Catholicism has been too
legalistic and moralistic, for either the one or the other to
appeal in any generous way to the type of character formed of
this peculiar mingling of elements. However few of us here
present may belong to such a type, it is now evident that it
forms a specific moral combination, well represented in the

Finally, mind-cure has made what in our protestant countries is
an unprecedentedly great use of the subconscious life. To their
reasoned advice and dogmatic assertion, its founders have added
systematic exercise in passive relaxation, concentration, and
meditation, and have even invoked something like hypnotic
practice. I quote some passages at random:--

"The value, the potency of ideals is the great practical truth on
which the New Thought most strongly insists--the development
namely from within outward, from small to great.[57] Consequently
one's thought should be centred on the ideal outcome, even though
this trust be literally like a step in the dark.[58] To attain
the ability thus effectively to direct the mind, the New Thought
advises the practice of concentration, or in other words, the
attainment of self-control. One is to learn to marshal the
tendencies of the mind, so that they may be held together as a
unit by the chosen ideal. To this end, one should set apart
times for silent meditation, by one's self, preferably in a room
where the surroundings are favorable to spiritual thought. In
New Thought terms, this is called 'entering the silence.'"[59]

[57] H. W. DRESSER: Voices of Freedom, 46.

[58] Dresser: Living by the spirit, 58.

[59] Dresser: Voices of Freedom, 33.

"The time will come when in the busy office or on the noisy
street you can enter into the silence by simply drawing the
mantle of your own thoughts about you and realizing that there
and everywhere the Spirit of Infinite Life, Love, Wisdom, Peace,
Power, and Plenty is guiding, keeping, protecting, leading you.
This is the spirit of continual prayer.[60] One of the most
intuitive men we ever met had a desk at a city office where
several other gentlemen were doing business constantly, and often
talking loudly. Entirely undisturbed by the many various sounds
about him, this self-centred faithful man would, in any moment of
perplexity, draw the curtains of privacy so completely about him
that he would be as fully inclosed in his own psychic aura, and
thereby as effectually removed from all distractions, as though
he were alone in some primeval wood. Taking his difficulty with
him into the mystic silence in the form of a direct question, to
which he expected a certain answer, he would remain utterly
passive until the reply came, and never once through many years'
experience did he find himself disappointed or misled."[61]

[60] Trine: In Tune with the Infinite, p. 214

[61] Trine: p. 117.

Wherein, I should like to know, does this INTRINSICALLY differ
from the practice of "recollection" which plays so great a part
in Catholic discipline? Otherwise called the practice of the
presence of God (and so known among ourselves, as for instance in
Jeremy Taylor), it is thus defined by the eminent teacher Alvarez
de Paz in his work on Contemplation.

"It is the recollection of God, the thought of God, which in all
places and circumstances makes us see him present, lets us
commune respectfully and lovingly with him, and fills us with
desire and affection for him. . . . Would you escape from every
ill? Never lose this recollection of God, neither in prosperity
nor in adversity, nor on any occasion whichsoever it be. Invoke
not, to excuse yourself from this duty, either the difficulty or
the importance of your business, for you can always remember that
God sees you, that you are under his eye. If a thousand times an
hour you forget him, reanimate a thousand times the recollection.

If you cannot practice this exercise continuously, at least make
yourself as familiar with it as possible; and, like unto those
who in a rigorous winter draw near the fire as often as they can,
go as often as you can to that ardent fire which will warm your

[62] Quoted by Lejeune: Introd. a la vie Mystique, 1899, p. 66.

All the external associations of the Catholic discipline are of
course unlike anything in mind-cure thought, but the purely
spiritual part of the exercise is identical in both communions,
and in both communions those who urge it write with authority,
for they have evidently experienced in their own persons that
whereof they tell. Compare again some mind-cure utterances:--

"High, healthful, pure thinking can be encouraged, promoted, and
strengthened. Its current can be turned upon grand ideals until
it forms a habit and wears a channel. By means of such
discipline the mental horizon can be flooded with the sunshine of
beauty, wholeness, and harmony. To inaugurate pure and lofty
thinking may at first seem difficult, even almost mechanical, but
perseverance will at length render it easy, then pleasant, and
finally delightful.

"The soul's real world is that which it has built of its
thoughts, mental states, and imaginations. If we WILL, we can
turn our backs upon the lower and sensuous plane, and lift
ourselves into the realm of the spiritual and Real, and there
gain a residence. The assumption of states of expectancy and
receptivity will attract spiritual sunshine, and it will flow in
as naturally as air inclines to a vacuum. . . . Whenever the
though; is not occupied with one's daily duty or profession, it
should he sent aloft into the spiritual atmosphere. There are
quiet leisure moments by day, and wakeful hours at night, when
this wholesome and delightful exercise may be engaged in to great
advantage. If one who has never made any systematic effort to
lift and control the thought-forces will, for a single month,
earnestly pursue the course here suggested, he will be surprised
and delighted at the result, and nothing will induce him to go
back to careless, aimless, and superficial thinking. At such
favorable seasons the outside world, with all its current of
daily events, is barred out, and one goes into the silent
sanctuary of the inner temple of soul to commune and aspire. The
spiritual hearing becomes delicately sensitive, so that the
'still, small voice' is audible, the tumultuous waves of external
sense are hushed, and there is a great calm. The ego gradually
becomes conscious that it is face to face with the Divine
Presence; that mighty, healing, loving, Fatherly life which is
nearer to us than we are to ourselves. There is soul contact
with the Parent- Soul, and an influx of life, love, virtue,
health, and happiness from the Inexhaustible Fountain."[63]

[63] HENRY Wood: Ideal suggestion through Mental Photography,
pp. 51, 70 (abridged).

When we reach the subject of mysticism, you will undergo so deep
an immersion into these exalted states of consciousness as to be
wet all over, if I may so express myself; and the cold shiver of
doubt with which this little sprinkling may affect you will have
long since passed away-- doubt, I mean, as to whether all such
writing be not mere abstract talk and rhetoric set down pour
encourager les autres. You will then be convinced, I trust, that
these states of consciousness of "union" form a perfectly
definite class of experiences, of which the soul may occasionally
partake, and which certain persons may live by in a deeper sense
than they live by anything else with which they have
acquaintance. This brings me to a general philosophical
reflection with which I should like to pass from the subject of
healthy-mindedness, and close a topic which I fear is already
only too long drawn out. It concerns the relation of all this
systematized healthy-mindedness and mind-cure religion to
scientific method and the scientific life.

In a later lecture I shall have to treat explicitly of the
relation of religion to science on the one hand, and to primeval
savage thought on the other. There are plenty of persons
to-day--"scientists" or "positivists," they are fond of calling
themselves--who will tell you that religious thought is a mere
survival, an atavistic reversion to a type of consciousness which
humanity in its more enlightened examples has long since left
behind and out-grown. If you ask them to explain themselves more
fully, they will probably say that for primitive thought
everything is conceived of under the form of personality. The
savage thinks that things operate by personal forces, and for the
sake of individual ends. For him, even external nature obeys
individual needs and claims, just as if these were so many
elementary powers. Now science, on the other hand, these
positivists say, has proved that personality, so far from being
an elementary force in nature, is but a passive resultant of the
really elementary forces, physical, chemical, physiological, and
psycho-physical, which are all impersonal and general in
character. Nothing individual accomplishes anything in the
universe save in so far as it obeys and exemplifies some
universal law. Should you then inquire of them by what means
science has thus supplanted primitive thought, and discredited
its personal way of looking at things, they would undoubtedly say
it has been by the strict use of the method of experimental
verification. Follow out science's conceptions practically, they
will say, the conceptions that ignore personality altogether, and
you will always be corroborated. The world is so made that all
your expectations will be experientially verified so long, and
only so long, as you keep the terms from which you infer them
impersonal and universal.

But here we have mind-cure, with her diametrically opposite
philosophy, setting up an exactly identical claim. Live as if I
were true, she says, and every day will practically prove you
right. That the controlling energies of nature are personal,
that your own personal thoughts are forces, that the powers of
the universe will directly respond to your individual appeals and
needs, are propositions which your whole bodily and mental
experience will verify. And that experience does largely verify
these primeval religious ideas is proved by the fact that the
mind-cure movement spreads as it does, not by proclamation and
assertion simply, but by palpable experiential results. Here, in
the very heyday of science's authority, it carries on an
aggressive warfare against the scientific philosophy, and
succeeds by using science's own peculiar methods and weapons.
Believing that a higher power will take care of us in certain
ways better than we can take care of ourselves, if we only
genuinely throw ourselves upon it and consent to use it, it finds
the belief, not only not impugned, but corroborated by its

How conversions are thus made, and converts confirmed, is evident
enough from the narratives which I have quoted. I will quote yet
another couple of shorter ones to give the matter a perfectly
concrete turn. Here is one:--

"One of my first experiences in applying my teaching was two
months after I first saw the healer. I fell, spraining my right
ankle, which I had done once four years before, having then had
to use a crutch and elastic anklet for some months, and carefully
guarding it ever since. As soon as I was on my feet I made the
positive suggestion (and felt it through all my being): 'There
is nothing but God, and all life comes from him perfectly. I
cannot be sprained or hurt, I will let him take care of it.'
Well, I never had a sensation in it, and I walked two miles that

The next case not only illustrates experiment and verification,
but also the element of passivity and surrender of which awhile
ago I made such account.

"I went into town to do some shopping one morning, and I had not
been gone long before I began to feel ill. The ill feeling
increased rapidly, until I had pains in all my bones, nausea and
faintness, headache, all the symptoms in short that precede an
attack of influenza. I thought that I was going to have the
grippe, epidemic then in Boston, or something worse. The
mind-cure teachings that I had been listening to all the winter
thereupon came into my mind, and I thought that here was an
opportunity to test myself. On my way home I met a friend, I
refrained with some effort from telling her how I felt. That was
the first step gained. I went to bed immediately, and my husband
wished to send for the doctor. But I told him that I would
rather wait until morning and see how I felt. Then followed one
of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

"I cannot express it in any other way than to say that I did 'lie
down in the stream of life and let it flow over me.' I gave up
all fear of any impending disease; I was perfectly willing and
obedient. There was no intellectual effort, or train of thought.

My dominant idea was: 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it
unto me even as thou wilt,' and a perfect confidence that all
would be well, that all WAS well. The creative life was flowing
into me every instant, and I felt myself allied with the
Infinite, in harmony, and full of the peace that passeth
understanding. There was no place in my mind for a jarring body.
I had no consciousness of time or space or persons; but only of
love and happiness and faith.

"I do not know how long this state lasted, nor when I fell
asleep; but when I woke up in the morning, I WAS WELL."

These are exceedingly trivial instances,[64] but in them, if we
have anything at all, we have the method of experiment and
verification. For the point I am driving at now, it makes no
difference whether you consider the patients to be deluded
victims of their imagination or not. That they seemed to
THEMSELVES to have been cured by the experiments tried was enough
to make them converts to the system. And although it is evident
that one must be of a certain mental mould to get such results
(for not every one can get thus cured to his own satisfaction any
more than every one can be cured by the first regular
practitioner whom he calls in), yet it would surely be pedantic
and over-scrupulous for those who CAN get their savage and
primitive philosophy of mental healing verified in such
experimental ways as this, to give them up at word of command for
more scientific therapeutics.

What are we to think of all this? Has science made too wide a

[64] See Appendix to this lecture for two other cases furnished
me by friends.

I believe that the claims of the sectarian scientist are, to say
the least, premature. The experiences which we have been
studying during this hour (and a great many other kinds of
religious experiences are like them) plainly show the universe to
be a more many-sided affair than any sect, even the scientific
sect, allows for. What, in the end, are all our verifications
but experiences that agree with more or less isolated systems of
ideas (conceptual systems) that our minds have framed? But why
in the name of common sense need we assume that only one such
system of ideas can be true? The obvious outcome of our total
experience is that the world can be handled according to many
systems of ideas, and is so handled by different men, and will
each time give some characteristic kind of profit, for which he
cares, to the handler, while at the same time some other kind of
profit has to be omitted or postponed. Science gives to all of
us telegraphy, electric lighting, and diagnosis, and succeeds in
preventing and curing a certain amount of disease. Religion in
the shape of mind-cure gives to some of us serenity, moral poise,
and happiness, and prevents certain forms of disease as well as
science does, or even better in a certain class of persons.
Evidently, then, the science and the religion are both of them
genuine keys for unlocking the world's treasure-house to him who
can use either of them practically. Just as evidently neither is
exhaustive or exclusive of the other's simultaneous use. And
why, after all, may not the world be so complex as to consist of
many interpenetrating spheres of reality, which we can thus
approach in alternation by using different conceptions and
assuming different attitudes, just as mathematicians handle the
same numerical and spatial facts by geometry, by analytical
geometry, by algebra, by the calculus, or by quaternions, and
each time come out right? On this view religion and science,
each verified in its own way from hour to hour and from life to
life, would be co-eternal. Primitive thought, with its belief in
individualized personal forces, seems at any rate as far as ever
from being driven by science from the field to-day. Numbers of
educated people still find it the directest experimental channel
by which to carry on their intercourse with reality.[65]

[65] Whether the various spheres or systems are ever to fuse
integrally into one absolute conception, as most philosophers
assume that they must, and how, if so, that conception may best
be reached, are questions that only the future can answer. What
is certain now is the fact of lines of disparate conception, each
corresponding to some part of the world's truth, each verified in
some degree, each leaving out some part of real experience.

The case of mind-cure lay so ready to my hand that I could not
resist the temptation of using it to bring these last truths home
to your attention, but I must content myself to-day with this
very brief indication. In a later lecture the relations of
religion both to science and to primitive thought will have to
receive much more explicit attention.


(See note [64].)

CASE I. "My own experience is this: I had long been ill, and
one of the first results of my illness, a dozen years before, had
been a diplopia which deprived me of the use of my eyes for
reading and writing almost entirely, while a later one had been
to shut me out from exercise of any kind under penalty of
immediate and great exhaustion. I had been under the care of
doctors of the highest standing both in Europe and America, men
in whose power to help me I had had great faith, with no or ill
result. Then, at a time when I seemed to be rather rapidly
losing ground, I heard some things that gave me interest enough
in mental healing to make me try it; I had no great hope of
getting any good from it--it was a CHANCE I tried, partly
because my thought was interested by the new possibility it
seemed to open, partly because it was the only chance I then
could see. I went to X in Boston, from whom some friends of mine
had got, or thought they had got, great help; the treatment was a
silent one; little was said, and that little carried no
conviction to my mind, whatever influence was exerted was that of
another person's thought or feeling silently projected on to my
unconscious mind, into my nervous system as it were, as we sat
still together. I believed from the start in the POSSIBILITY of
such action, for I knew the power of the mind to shape, helping
or hindering, the body's nerve-activities, and I thought
telepathy probable, although unproved, but I had no belief in it
as more than a possibility, and no strong conviction nor any
mystic or religious faith connected with my thought of it that
might have brought imagination strongly into play.

"I sat quietly with the healer for half an hour each day, at
first with no result; then, after ten days or so, I became quite
suddenly and swiftly conscious of a tide of new energy rising
within me, a sense of power to pass beyond old halting-places, of
power to break the bounds that, though often tried before, had
long been veritable walls about my life, too high to climb. I
began to read and walk as I had not done for years, and the
change was sudden, marked, and unmistakable. This tide seemed to
mount for some weeks, three or four perhaps, when, summer having
come, I came away, taking the treatment up again a few months
later. The lift I got proved permanent, and left me slowly
gaining ground instead of losing, it but with this lift the
influence seemed in a way to have spent itself, and, though my
confidence in the reality of the power had gained immensely from
this first experience, and should have helped me to make further
gain in health and strength if my belief in it had been the
potent factor there, I never after this got any result at all as
striking or as clearly marked as this which came when I made
trial of it first, with little faith and doubtful expectation.
It is difficult to put all the evidence in such a matter into
words, to gather up into a distinct statement all that one bases
one's conclusions on, but I have always felt that I had abundant
evidence to justify (to myself, at least) the conclusion that I
came to then, and since have held to, that the physical change
which came at that time was, first, the result of a change
wrought within me by a change of mental state; and secondly, that
that change of mental state was not, save in a very secondary
way, brought about through the influence of an excited
imagination, or a CONSCIOUSLY received suggestion of an hypnotic
sort. Lastly, I believe that this change was the result of my
receiving telephathically, and upon a mental stratum quite below
the level of immediate consciousness, a healthier and more
energetic attitude, receiving it from another person whose
thought was directed upon me with the intention of impressing the
idea of this attitude upon me. In my case the disease was
distinctly what would be classed as nervous, not organic; but
from such opportunities as I have had of observing, I have come
to the conclusion that the dividing line that has been drawn is
an arbitrary one, the nerves controlling the internal activities
and the nutrition of the body throughout; and I believe that the
central nervous system, by starting and inhibiting local centres,
can exercise a vast influence upon disease of any kind, if it can
be brought to bear. In my judgment the question is simply how to
bring it to bear, and I think that the uncertainty and remarkable
differences in the results obtained through mental healing do but
show how ignorant we are as yet of the forces at work and of the
means we should take to make them effective. That these results
are not due to chance coincidences my observation of myself and
others makes me sure; that the conscious mind, the imagination,
enters into them as a factor in many cases is doubtless true, but
in many others, and sometimes very extraordinary ones, it hardly
seems to enter in at all. On the whole I am inclined to think
that as the healing action, like the morbid one, springs from the
plane of the normally UNconscious mind, so the strongest and most
effective impressions are those which IT receives, in some as yet
unknown subtle way, DIRECTLY from a healthier mind whose state,
through a hidden law of sympathy, it reproduces."

CASE II. "At the urgent request of friends, and with no faith
and hardly any hope (possibly owing to a previous unsuccessful
experience with a Christian Scientist), our little daughter was
placed under the care of a healer, and cured of a trouble about
which the physician had been very discouraging in his diagnosis.
This interested me, and I began studying earnestly the method and
philosophy of this method of healing. Gradually an inner peace
and tranquillity came to me in so positive a way that my manner
changed greatly. My children and friends noticed the change and
commented upon it. All feelings of irritability disappeared.
Even the expression of my face changed noticeably.

"I had been bigoted, aggressive, and intolerant in discussion,
both in public and private. I grew broadly tolerant and
receptive toward the views of others. I had been nervous and
irritable, coming home two or three times a week with a sick
headache induced, as I then supposed, by dyspepsia and catarrh.
I grew serene and gentle, and the physical troubles entirely
disappeared. I had been in the habit of approaching every
business interview with an almost morbid dread. I now meet every
one with confidence and inner calm.

"I may say that the growth has all been toward the elimination of
selfishness. I do not mean simply the grosser, more sensual
forms, but those subtler and generally unrecognized kinds, such
as express themselves in sorrow, grief, regret, envy, etc. It has
been in the direction of a practical, working realization of the
immanence of God and the Divinity of man's true, inner self.

Lectures VI and VII


At our last meeting, we considered the healthy-minded
temperament, the temperament which has a constitutional
incapacity for prolonged suffering, and in which the tendency to
see things optimistically is like a water of crystallization in
which the individual's character is set. We saw how this
temperament may become the basis for a peculiar type of religion,
a religion in which good, even the good of this world's life, is
regarded as the essential thing for a rational being to attend
to. This religion directs him to settle his scores with the more
evil aspects of the universe by systematically declining to lay
them to heart or make much of them, by ignoring them in his
reflective calculations, or even, on occasion, by denying
outright that they exist. Evil is a disease; and worry over
disease is itself an additional form of disease, which only adds
to the original complaint. Even repentance and remorse,
affections which come in the character of ministers of good, may
be but sickly and relaxing impulses. The best repentance is to
up and act for righteousness, and forget that you ever had
relations with sin.

Spinoza's philosophy has this sort of healthy-mindedness woven
into the heart of it, and this has been one secret of its
fascination. He whom Reason leads, according to Spinoza, is led
altogether by the influence over his mind of good. Knowledge of
evil is an "inadequate" knowledge, fit only for slavish minds.
So Spinoza categorically condemns repentance. When men make
mistakes, he says--

"One might perhaps expect gnawings of conscience and repentance
to help to bring them on the right path, and might thereupon
conclude (as every one does conclude) that these affections are
good things. Yet when we look at the matter closely, we shall
find that not only are they not good, but on the contrary
deleterious and evil passions. For it is manifest that we can
always get along better by reason and love of truth than by worry
of conscience and remorse. Harmful are these and evil, inasmuch
as they form a particular kind of sadness; and the disadvantages
of sadness," he continues, "I have already proved, and shown that
we should strive to keep it from our life. Just so we should
endeavor, since uneasiness of conscience and remorse are of this
kind of complexion, to flee and shun these states of mind."[66]

[66] Tract on God, Man, and Happiness, Book ii. ch. x.

Within the Christian body, for which repentance of sins has from
the beginning been the critical religious act, healthy-mindedness
has always come forward with its milder interpretation.
Repentance according to such healthy- minded Christians means
GETTING AWAY FROM the sin, not groaning and writhing over its
commission. The Catholic practice of confession and absolution
is in one of its aspects little more than a systematic method of
keeping healthy- mindedness on top. By it a man's accounts with
evil are periodically squared and audited, so that he may start
the clean page with no old debts inscribed. Any Catholic will
tell us how clean and fresh and free he feels after the purging
operation. Martin Luther by no means belonged to the
healthy-minded type in the radical sense in which we have
discussed it, and he repudiated priestly absolution for sin. Yet
in this matter of repentance he had some very healthy- minded
ideas, due in the main to the largeness of his conception of God.

"When I was a monk," he says "I thought that I was utterly cast
away, if at any time I felt the lust of the flesh: that is to
say, if I felt any evil motion, fleshly lust, wrath, hatred, or
envy against any brother. I assayed many ways to help to quiet
my conscience, but It would not be; for the concupiscence and
lust of my flesh did always return, so that I could not rest, but
was continually vexed with these thoughts: This or that sin thou
hast committed: thou art infected with envy, with impatiency,
and such other sins: therefore thou art entered into this holy
order in vain, and all thy good works are unprofitable. But if
then I had rightly understood these sentences of Paul: 'The
flesh lusteth contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit contrary to
the flesh; and these two are one against another, so that ye
cannot do the things that ye would do,' I should not have so
miserably tormented myself, but should have thought and said to
myself, as now commonly I do, 'Martin, thou shalt not utterly be
without sin, for thou hast flesh; thou shalt therefore feel the
battle thereof.' I remember that Staupitz was wont to say, 'I
have vowed unto God above a thousand times that I would become a
better man: but I never performed that which I vowed. Hereafter
I will make no such vow: for I have now learned by experience
that I am not able to perform it. Unless, therefore, God be
favorable and merciful unto me for Christ's sake, I shall not be
able, with all my vows and all my good deeds, to stand before
him.' This (of Staupitz's) was not only a true, but also a godly
and a holy desperation; and this must they all confess, both with
mouth and heart, who will be saved. For the godly trust not to
their own righteousness. They look unto Christ their reconciler
who gave his life for their sins. Moreover, they know that the
remnant of sin which is in their flesh is not laid to their
charge, but freely pardoned. Notwithstanding, in the mean while
they fight in spirit against the flesh, lest they should FULFILL
the lusts thereof; and although they feel the flesh to rage and
rebel, and themselves also do fall sometimes into sin through
infirmity, yet are they not discouraged, nor think therefore that
their state and kind of life, and the works which are done
according to their calling, displease God; but they raise up
themselves by faith."[67]

[67] Commentary on Galatians, Philadelphia, 1891, pp. 510-514

One of the heresies for which the Jesuits got that spiritual
genius, Molinos, the founder of Quietism, so abominably condemned
was his healthy-minded opinion of repentance:--

"When thou fallest into a fault, in what matter soever it be do
not trouble nor afflict thyself for it. For they are effects of
our frail Nature, stained by Original Sin. The common enemy will
make thee believe, as soon as thou fallest into any fault, that
thou walkest in error, and therefore art out of God and his
favor, and herewith would he make thee distrust of the divine
Grace, telling thee of thy misery, and making a giant of it; and
putting it into thy head that every day thy soul grows worse
instead of better, whilst it so often repeats these failings. O
blessed Soul, open thine eyes; and shut the gate against these
diabolical suggestions, knowing thy misery, and trusting in the
mercy divine. Would not he be a mere fool who, running at
tournament with others, and falling in the best of the career,
should lie weeping on the ground and afflicting himself with
discourses upon his fall? Man (they would tell him), lose no
time, get up and take the course again, for he that rises again
quickly and continues his race is as if he had never fallen. If
thou seest thyself fallen once and a thousand times, thou
oughtest to make use of the remedy which I have given thee, that
is, a loving confidence in the divine mercy. These are the
weapons with which thou must fight and conquer cowardice and vain
thoughts. This is the means thou oughtest to use--not to lose
time, not to disturb thyself, and reap no good."[68]

[68] Molinos: Spiritual Guide, Book II., chaps. xvii., xviii.

Now in contrast with such healthy-minded views as these, if we
treat them as a way of deliberately minimizing evil, stands a
radically opposite view, a way of maximizing evil, if you please
so to call it, based on the persuasion that the evil aspects of
our life are of its very essence, and that the world's meaning
most comes home to us when we lay them most to heart. We have
now to address ourselves to this <129> more morbid way of
looking at the situation. But as I closed our last hour with a
general philosophical reflection on the healthy-minded way of
taking life, I should like at this point to make another
philosophical reflection upon it before turning to that heavier
task. You will excuse the brief delay.

If we admit that evil is an essential part of our being and the
key to the interpretation of our life, we load ourselves down
with a difficulty that has always proved burdensome in
philosophies of religion. Theism, whenever it has erected itself
into a systematic philosophy of the universe, has shown a
reluctance to let God be anything less than All-in-All. In other
words, philosophic theism has always shown a tendency to become
pantheistic and monistic, and to consider the world as one unit
of absolute fact; and this has been at variance with popular or
practical theism, which latter has ever been more or less frankly
pluralistic, not to say polytheistic, and shown itself perfectly
well satisfied with a universe composed of many original
principles, provided we be only allowed to believe that the
divine principle remains supreme, and that the others are
subordinate. In this latter case God is not necessarily
responsible for the existence of evil; he would only be
responsible if it were not finally overcome. But on the monistic
or pantheistic view, evil, like everything else, must have its
foundation in God; and the difficulty is to see how this can
possibly be the case if God be absolutely good. This difficulty
faces us in every form of philosophy in which the world appears
as one flawless unit of fact. Such a unit is an INDIVIDUAL, and
in it the worst parts must be as essential as the best, must be
as necessary to make the individual what he is; since if any part
whatever in an individual were to vanish or alter, it would no
longer be THAT individual at all. The philosophy of absolute
idealism, so vigorously represented both in Scotland and America
to-day, has to struggle with this difficulty quite as <130>
much as scholastic theism struggled in its time; and although it
would be premature to say that there is no speculative issue
whatever from the puzzle, it is perfectly fair to say that there
is no clear or easy issue, and that the only OBVIOUS escape from
paradox here is to cut loose from the monistic assumption
altogether, and to allow the world to have existed from its
origin in pluralistic form, as an aggregate or collection of
higher and lower things and principles, rather than an absolutely
unitary fact. For then evil would not need to be essential; it
might be, and may always have been, an independent portion that
had no rational or absolute right to live with the rest, and
which we might conceivably hope to see got rid of at last.

Now the gospel of healthy-mindedness, as we have described it,
casts its vote distinctly for this pluralistic view. Whereas the
monistic philosopher finds himself more or less bound to say, as
Hegel said, that everything actual is rational, and that evil, as
an element dialectically required, must be pinned in and kept and
consecrated and have a function awarded to it in the final system
of truth, healthy-mindedness refuses to say anything of the
sort.[69] Evil, it says, is emphatically irrational, and NOT to
be pinned in, or preserved, or consecrated in any final system of
truth. It is a pure abomination to the Lord, an alien unreality,
a waste element, to be sloughed off and negated, and the very
memory of it, if possible, wiped out and forgotten. The ideal,
so far from being co-extensive with the whole actual, is a mere
EXTRACT from the actual, marked by its deliverance from all
contact with this diseased, inferior, and excrementitious stuff.

[69] I say this in spite of the monistic utterances of many
mind-cure writers; for these utterances are really inconsistent
with their attitude towards disease, and can easily be shown not
to be logically involved in the experiences of union with a
higher Presence with which they connect themselves. The higher
Presence, namely, need not be the absolute whole of things, it is
quite sufficient for the life of religious experience to regard
it as a part, if only it be the most ideal part.

Here we have the interesting notion fairly and squarely presented
to us, of there being elements of the universe which may make no
rational whole in conjunction with the other elements, and which,
from the point of view of any system which those other elements
make up, can only be considered so much irrelevance and
accident--so much "dirt," as it were, and matter out of place. I
ask you now not to forget this notion; for although most
philosophers seem either to forget it or to disdain it too much
ever to mention it, I believe that we shall have to admit it
ourselves in the end as containing an element of truth. The
mind-cure gospel thus once more appears to us as having dignity
and importance. We have seen it to be a genuine religion, and no
mere silly appeal to imagination to cure disease; we have seen
its method of experimental verification to be not unlike the
method of all science; and now here we find mind- cure as the
champion of a perfectly definite conception of the metaphysical
structure of the world. I hope that, in view of all this, you
will not regret my having pressed it upon your attention at such

Let us now say good-by for a while to all this way of thinking,
and turn towards those persons who cannot so swiftly throw off
the burden of the consciousness of evil, but are congenitally
fated to suffer from its presence. Just as we saw that in
healthy-mindedness there are shallower and profounder levels,
happiness like that of the mere animal, and more regenerate sorts
of happiness, so also are there different levels of the morbid
mind, and the one is much more formidable than the other. There
are people for whom evil means only a mal-adjustment with THINGS,
a wrong correspondence of one's life with the environment. Such
evil as this is curable, in principle at least, upon the
natural plane, for merely by modifying either the self or the
things, or both at once, the two terms may be made to fit, and
all go merry as a marriage bell again. But there are others for
whom evil is no mere relation of the subject to particular outer
things, but something more radical and general, a wrongness or
vice in his essential nature, which no alteration of the
environment, or any superficial rearrangement of the inner self,
can cure, and which requires a supernatural remedy. On the
whole, the Latin races have leaned more towards the former way of
looking upon evil, as made up of ills and sins in the plural,
removable in detail; while the Germanic races have tended rather
to think of Sin in the singular, and with a capital S, as of
something ineradicably ingrained in our natural subjectivity, and
never to be removed by any superficial piecemeal operations.[70]
These comparisons of races are always open to exception, but
undoubtedly the northern tone in religion has inclined to the
more intimately pessimistic persuasion, and this way of feeling,
being the more extreme, we shall find by far the more instructive
for our study.

[70] Cf. J. Milsand: Luther et le Serf-Arbitre, 1884, passim.

Recent psychology has found great use for the word "threshold" as
a symbolic designation for the point at which one state of mind
passes into another. Thus we speak of the threshold of a man's
consciousness in general, to indicate the amount of noise,
pressure, or other outer stimulus which it takes to arouse his
attention at all. One with a high threshold will doze through an
amount of racket by which one with a low threshold would be
immediately waked. Similarly, when one is sensitive to small
differences in any order of sensation, we say he has a low
"difference- threshold"--his mind easily steps over it into the
consciousness of the differences in question. And just so we
might speak of a "pain-threshold," a "fear-threshold," a
"misery-threshold," and find it quickly overpassed by the
consciousness of some individuals, but lying too high in others
to be often reached by their consciousness. The sanguine and
healthy-minded live habitually on the sunny side of their
misery-line, the depressed and melancholy live beyond it, in
darkness and apprehension. There are men who seem to have
started in life with a bottle or two of champagne inscribed to
their credit; whilst others seem to have been born close to the
pain-threshold, which the slightest irritants fatally send them

Does it not appear as if one who lived more habitually on one
side of the pain-threshold might need a different sort of
religion from one who habitually lived on the other? This
question, of the relativity of different types of religion to
different types of need, arises naturally at this point, and will
became a serious problem ere we have done. But before we
confront it in general terms, we must address ourselves to the
unpleasant task of hearing what the sick souls, as we may call
them in contrast to the healthy-minded, have to say of the
secrets of their prison-house, their own peculiar form of
consciousness. Let us then resolutely turn our backs on the
once-born and their sky-blue optimistic gospel; let us not simply
cry out, in spite of all appearances, "Hurrah for the
Universe!--God's in his Heaven, all's right with the world."
Let us see rather whether pity, pain, and fear, and the sentiment
of human helplessness may not open a profounder view and put into
our hands a more complicated key to the meaning of the situation.

To begin with, how CAN things so insecure as the successful
experiences of this world afford a stable anchorage? A chain is
no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain.

In the healthiest and most prosperous existence, how many links
of illness, danger, and disaster are always interposed?
Unsuspectedly from the bottom of every fountain of pleasure, as
the old poet said, something bitter rises up: a touch of nausea,
a falling dead of the delight, a whiff of melancholy, things that
sound a knell, for fugitive as they may be, they bring a feeling
of coming from a deeper region and often have an appalling
convincingness. The buzz of life ceases at their touch as a
piano-string stops sounding when the damper falls upon it.

Of course the music can commence again;--and again and again--at
intervals. But with this the healthy-minded consciousness is
left with an irremediable sense of precariousness. It is a bell
with a crack; it draws its breath on sufferance and by an

Even if we suppose a man so packed with healthy-mindedness as
never to have experienced in his own person any of these sobering
intervals, still, if he is a reflecting being, he must generalize
and class his own lot with that of others; and, doing so, he must
see that his escape is just a lucky chance and no essential
difference. He might just as well have been born to an entirely
different fortune. And then indeed the hollow security! What
kind of a frame of things is it of which the best you can say is,
"Thank God, it has let me off clear this time!" Is not its
blessedness a fragile fiction? Is not your joy in it a very
vulgar glee, not much unlike the snicker of any rogue at his
success? If indeed it were all success, even on such terms as
that! But take the happiest man, the one most envied by the
world, and in nine cases out of ten his inmost consciousness is
one of failure. Either his ideals in the line of his
achievements are pitched far higher than the achievements
themselves, or else he has secret ideals of which the world knows
nothing, and in regard to which he inwardly knows himself to be
found wanting.

When such a conquering optimist as Goethe can express himself in
this wise, how must it be with less successful men? <135>

"I will say nothing," writes Goethe in 1824, "against the course
of my existence. But at bottom it has been nothing but pain and
burden, and I can affirm that during the whole of my 75 years, I
have not had four weeks of genuine well-being. It is but the
perpetual rolling of a rock that must be raised up again

What single-handed man was ever on the whole as successful as
Luther? Yet when he had grown old, he looked back on his life as
if it were an absolute failure.

"I am utterly weary of life. I pray the Lord will come forthwith
and carry me hence. Let him come, above all, with his last
Judgment: I will stretch out my neck, the thunder will burst
forth, and I shall be at rest."--And having a necklace of white
agates in his hand at the time he added: "O God, grant that it
may come without delay. I would readily eat up this necklace
to-day, for the Judgment to come to-morrow."--The Electress
Dowager, one day when Luther was dining with her, said to him:
"Doctor, I wish you may live forty years to come." "Madam,"
replied he, "rather than live forty years more, I would give up
my chance of Paradise."

Failure, then, failure! so the world stamps us at every turn. We
strew it with our blunders, our misdeeds, our lost opportunities,
with all the memorials of our inadequacy to our vocation. And
with what a damning emphasis does it then blot us out! No easy
fine, no mere apology or formal expiation, will satisfy the
world's demands, but every pound of flesh exacted is soaked with
all its blood. The subtlest forms of suffering known to man are
connected with the poisonous humiliations incidental to these

And they are pivotal human experiences. A process so ubiquitous
and everlasting is evidently an integral part of life. "There is
indeed one element in human destiny," Robert Louis Stevenson
writes, "that not blindness itself can controvert. Whatever else
we are intended to do, we are not intended to succeed; failure
is the fate allotted."[71] And our nature being thus rooted in
failure, is it any wonder that theologians should have held it to
be essential, and thought that only through the personal
experience of humiliation which it engenders the deeper sense of
life's significance is reached?[72]

[71] He adds with characteristic healthy-mindedness: "Our
business is to continue to fail in good spirits."

[72] The God of many men is little more than their court of
appeal against the damnatory judgment passed on their failures by
the opinion of this world. To our own consciousness there is
usually a residuum of worth left over after our sins and errors
have been told off--our capacity of acknowledging and regretting
them is the germ of a better self in posse at least. But the
world deals with us in actu and not in posse: and of this hidden
germ, not to be guessed at from without, it never takes account.
Then we turn to the All-knower, who knows our bad, but knows this
good in us also, and who is just. We cast ourselves with our
repentance on his mercy only by an All-knower can we finally be
judged. So the need of a God very definitely emerges from this
sort of experience of life.

But this is only the first stage of the world-sickness. Make the
human being's sensitiveness a little greater, carry him a little
farther over the misery-threshold, and the good quality of the
successful moments themselves when they occur is spoiled and
vitiated. All natural goods perish. Riches take wings; fame is
a breath; love is a cheat; youth and health and pleasure vanish.
Can things whose end is always dust and disappointment be the
real goods which our souls require? Back of everything is the
great spectre of universal death, the all-encompassing

"What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under
the Sun? I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought,
and behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit. For that
which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; as the one
dieth, so dieth the other, all are of the dust, and all turn to
dust again. . . . The dead know not anything, neither have they
any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also
their love and their hatred and their envy is now perished;
neither have they any more a portion for ever in anything that is
done under the Sun. . . . Truly the light is sweet, and a
pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the Sun: but if a
man live many years and rejoice in them all, yet let him remember
the days of darkness; for they shall be many."

In short, life and its negation are beaten up inextricably
together. But if the life be good, the negation of it must be
bad. Yet the two are equally essential facts of existence; and
all natural happiness thus seems infected with a contradiction.
The breath of the sepulchre surrounds it.

To a mind attentive to this state of things and rightly subject
to the joy-destroying chill which such a contemplation engenders,
the only relief that healthy-mindedness can give is by saying:
"Stuff and nonsense, get out into the open air!" or "Cheer up,
old fellow, you'll be all right erelong, if you will only drop
your morbidness!" But in all seriousness, can such bald animal
talk as that be treated as a rational answer? To ascribe
religious value to mere happy-go-lucky contentment with one's
brief chance at natural good is but the very consecration of
forgetfulness and superficiality. Our troubles lie indeed too
deep for THAT cure. The fact that we CAN die, that we CAN be ill
at all, is what perplexes us; the fact that we now for a moment
live and are well is irrelevant to that perplexity. We need a
life not correlated with death, a health not liable to illness, a
kind of good that will not perish, a good in fact that flies
beyond the Goods of nature.

It all depends on how sensitive the soul may become to discords.
"The trouble with me is that I believe too much in common
happiness and goodness," said a friend of mine whose
consciousness was of this sort, "and nothing can console me for
their transiency. I am appalled and disconcerted at its being
possible." And so with most of us: a little cooling down of
animal excitability and instinct, a little loss of animal
toughness, a little irritable weakness and descent of the
pain-threshold, will bring the worm at the core of all our usual
springs of delight into full view, and turn us into melancholy
metaphysicians. The pride of life and glory of the world will
shrivel. It is after all but the standing quarrel of hot youth
and hoary eld. Old age has the last word: the purely
naturalistic look at life, however enthusiastically it may begin,
is sure to end in sadness.

This sadness lies at the heart of every merely positivistic,
agnostic, or naturalistic scheme of philosophy. Let sanguine
healthy-mindedness do its best with its strange power of living
in the moment and ignoring and forgetting, still the evil
background is really there to be thought of, and the skull will
grin in at the banquet. In the practical life of the individual,
we know how his whole gloom or glee about any present fact
depends on the remoter schemes and hopes with which it stands
related. Its significance and framing give it the chief part of
its value. Let it be known to lead nowhere, and however
agreeable it may be in its immediacy, its glow and gilding
vanish. The old man, sick with an insidious internal disease,
may laugh and quaff his wine at first as well as ever, but he
knows his fate now, for the doctors have revealed it; and the
knowledge knocks the satisfaction out of all these functions.
They are partners of death and the worm is their brother, and
they turn to a mere flatness.

The lustre of the present hour is always borrowed from the
background of possibilities it goes with. Let our common
experiences be enveloped in an eternal moral order; let our
suffering have an immortal significance; let Heaven smile upon
the earth, and deities pay their visits; let faith and hope be
the atmosphere which man breathes in;--and his days pass by with
zest; they stir with prospects, they thrill with remoter values.
Place round them on the contrary the curdling cold and gloom and
absence of all permanent meaning which for pure naturalism and
the popular science evolutionism of our time are all that is
visible ultimately, and the thrill stops short, or turns rather
to an anxious trembling.

For naturalism, fed on recent cosmological speculations, mankind
is in a position similar to that of a set of people living on a
frozen lake, surrounded by cliffs over which there is no escape,
yet knowing that little by little the ice is melting, and the
inevitable day drawing near when the last film of it will
disappear, and to be drowned ignominiously will be the human
creature's portion. The merrier the skating, the warmer and more
sparkling the sun by day, and the ruddier the bonfires at night,
the more poignant the sadness with which one must take in the
meaning of the total situation.

The early Greeks are continually held up to us in literary works
as models of the healthy-minded joyousness which the religion of
nature may engender. There was indeed much joyousness among the
Greeks--Homer's flow of enthusiasm for most things that the sun
shines upon is steady. But even in Homer the reflective passages
are cheerless,[73] and the moment the Greeks grew systematically
pensive and thought of ultimates, they became unmitigated
pessimists.[74] The jealousy of the gods, the nemesis that
follows too much happiness, the all-encompassing death, fate's
dark opacity, the ultimate and unintelligible cruelty, were the
fixed background of their imagination. The beautiful joyousness
of their polytheism is only a poetic modern fiction. They knew
no joys comparable in quality of preciousness to those which we
shall erelong see that Ilrahmans, Buddhists, Christians,
Mohammedans, twice-born people whose religion is
non-naturalistic, get from their several creeds of mysticism and

[73] E.g., Iliad XVII. 446: "Nothing then is more wretched
anywhere than man of all that breathes and creeps upon this

[74] E.g., Theognis, 425-428: "Best of all for all things upon
earth is it not to be born nor to behold the splendors of the
sun; next best to traverse as soon as possible the gates of
Hades." See also the almost identical passage in Oedipus in
Colonus, 1225.--The Anthology is full of pessimistic utterances:
"Naked came I upon the earth, naked I go below the ground--why
then do I vainly toil when I see the end naked before me?"--"How
did I come to be? Whence am l? Wherefore did I come? To pass
away. How can I learn aught when naught I know? Being naught I
came to life: once more shall I be what I was. Nothing and
nothingness is the whole race of mortals."--"For death we are all
cherished and fattened like a herd of hogs that is wantonly

The difference between Greek pessimism and the oriental and
modern variety is that the Greeks had not made the discovery that
the pathetic mood may be idealized, and figure as a higher form
of sensibility. Their spirit was still too essentially masculine
for pessimism to be elaborated or lengthily dwelt on in their
classic literature. They would have despised a life set wholly
in a minor key, and summoned it to keep within the proper bounds
of lachrymosity. The discovery that the enduring emphasis, so far
as this world goes, may be laid on its pain and failure, was
reserved for races more complex, and (so to speak) more feminine
than the Hellenes had attained to being in the classic period.
But all the same was the outlook of those Hellenes blackly

Stoic insensibility and Epicurean resignation were the farthest
advance which the Greek mind made in that direction. The
Epicurean said: "Seek not to be happy, but rather to escape
unhappiness; strong happiness is always linked with pain;
therefore hug the safe shore, and do not tempt the deeper
raptures. Avoid disappointment by expecting little, and by
aiming low; and above all do not fret." The Stoic said: "The
only genuine good that life can yield a man is the free
possession of his own soul; all other goods are lies." Each of
these philosophies is in its degree a philosophy of despair in
nature's boons. Trustful self-abandonment to the joys that
freely offer has entirely departed from both Epicurean and Stoic;
and what each proposes is a way of rescue from the resultant
dust-and-ashes state of mind. The Epicurean still awaits results
from economy of indulgence and damping of desire. The Stoic
hopes for no results, and gives up natural good altogether.
There is dignity in both these forms of resignation. They
represent distinct stages in the sobering process which man's
primitive intoxication with sense-happiness is sure to undergo.
In the one the hot blood has grown cool, in the other it has
become quite cold; and although I have spoken of them in the past
tense, as if they were merely historic, yet Stoicism and
Epicureanism will probably be to all time typical attitudes,
marking a certain definite stage accomplished in the evolution of
the world-sick soul.[75] They mark the conclusion of what we call
the once-born period, and represent the highest flights of what
twice-born religion would call the purely natural man
--Epicureanism, which can only by great courtesy be called a
religion, showing his refinement, and Stoicism exhibiting his
moral will. They leave the world in the shape of an unreconciled
contradiction, and seek no higher unity. Compared with the
complex ecstasies which the supernaturally regenerated Christian
may enjoy, or the oriental pantheist indulge in, their receipts
for equanimity are expedients which seem almost crude in their

[75] For instance, on the very day on which I write this page,
the post brings me some aphorisms from a worldly-wise old friend
in Heidelberg which may serve as a good contemporaneous
expression of Epicureanism: "By the word 'happiness' every human
being understands something different. It is a phantom pursued
only by weaker minds. The wise man is satisfied with the more
modest but much more definite term CONTENTMENT. What education
should chiefly aim at is to save us from a discontented life.
Health is one favoring condition, but by no means an
indispensable one, of contentment. Woman's heart and love are a
shrewd device of Nature, a trap which she sets for the average
man, to force him into working. But the wise man will always
prefer work chosen by himself."

Please observe, however, that I am not yet pretending finally to
JUDGE any of these attitudes. I am only describing their
variety. The securest way to the rapturous sorts of happiness of
which the twice-born make report has as an historic matter of
fact been through a more radical pessimism than anything that we
have yet considered. We have seen how the lustre and enchantment
may be rubbed off from the goods of nature. But there is a pitch
of unhappiness so great that the goods of nature may be entirely
forgotten, and all sentiment of their existence vanish from the
mental field. For this extremity of pessimism to be reached,
something more is needed than observation of life and reflection
upon death. The individual must in his own person become the
prey of a pathological melancholy. As the healthy-minded
enthusiast succeeds in ignoring evil's very existence, so the
subject of melancholy is forced in spite of himself to ignore
that of all good whatever: for him it may no longer have the
least reality. Such sensitiveness and susceptibility to mental
pain is a rare occurrence where the nervous constitution is
entirely normal; one seldom finds it in a healthy subject even
where he is the victim of the most atrocious cruelties of outward
fortune. So we note here the neurotic constitution, of which I
said so much in my first lecture, making its active entrance on
our scene, and destined to play a part in much that follows.
Since these experiences of melancholy are in the first instance
absolutely private and individual, I can now help myself out with
personal documents. Painful indeed they will be to listen to,
and there is almost an indecency in handling them in public. Yet
they lie right in the middle of our path; and if we are to touch
the psychology of religion at all seriously, we must be willing
to forget conventionalities, and dive below the smooth and lying
official conversational surface.

One can distinguish many kinds of pathological depression.
Sometimes it is mere passive joylessness and dreariness.
discouragement, dejection, lack of taste and zest and spring.
<143> Professor Ribot has proposed the name anhedonia to
designate this condition.

"The state of anhedonia, if I may coin a new word to pair off
with analgesia," he writes, "has been very little studied, but it
exists. A young girl was smitten with a liver disease which for
some time altered her constitution. She felt no longer any
affection for her father and mother. She would have played with
her doll, but it was impossible to find the least pleasure in the
act. The same things which formerly convulsed her with laughter
entirely failed to interest her now. Esquirol observed the case
of a very intelligent magistrate who was also a prey to hepatic
disease. Every emotion appeared dead within him. He manifested
neither perversion nor violence, but complete absence of
emotional reaction. If he went to the theatre, which he did out
of habit, he could find no pleasure there. The thought of his
house of his home, of his wife, and of his absent children moved
him as little, he said, as a theorem of Euclid."[76]

[76] Ribot: Psychologie des sentiments, p. 54.

Prolonged seasickness will in most persons produce a temporary
condition of anhedonia. Every good, terrestrial or celestial, is
imagined only to be turned from with disgust. A temporary
condition of this sort, connected with the religious evolution of
a singularly lofty character, both intellectual and moral, is
well described by the Catholic philosopher, Father Gratry, in his
autobiographical recollections. In consequence of mental
isolation and excessive study at the Polytechnic school, young
Gratry fell into a state of nervous exhaustion with symptoms
which he thus describes:--

"I had such a universal terror that I woke at night with a start,
thinking that the Pantheon was tumbling on the Polytechnic
school, or that the school was in flames, or that the Seine was
pouring into the Catacombs, and that Paris was being swallowed
up. And when these impressions were past, all day long without
respite I suffered an incurable and intolerable desolation,
verging on despair. I thought myself, in fact, rejected by God,
lost, damned! I felt something like the suffering of hell. Before
that I had never even thought of hell. My mind had never turned
in that direction. Neither discourses nor reflections had
impressed me in that way. I took no account of hell. Now, and
all at once, I suffered in a measure what is suffered there.

"But what was perhaps still more dreadful is that every idea of
heaven was taken away from me: I could no longer conceive of
anything of the sort. Heaven did not seem to me worth going to.
It was like a vacuum; a mythological elysium, an abode of shadows
less real than the earth. I could conceive no joy, no pleasure
in inhabiting it. Happiness, joy, light, affection, love-- all
these words were now devoid of sense. Without doubt I could
still have talked of all these things, but I had become incapable
of feeling anything in them, of understanding anything about
them, of hoping anything from them, or of believing them to
exist. There was my great and inconsolable grief! I neither
perceived nor conceived any longer the existence of happiness or
perfection. An abstract heaven over a naked rock. Such was my
present abode for eternity."[77]

[77] A. Gratry: Souvenirs de ma jeunesse, 1880, pp. 119-121,
abridged. Some persons are affected with anhedonia permanently,
or at any rate with a loss of the usual appetite for life. The
annals of suicide supply such examples as the following:--

An uneducated domestic servant, aged nineteen, poisons herself,
and leaves two letters expressing her motive for the act. To her
parents she writes:--

"Life is sweet perhaps to some, but I prefer what is sweeter than
life, and that is death. So good-by forever, my dear parents.
It is nobody's fault, but a strong desire of my own which I have
longed to fulfill for three or four years. I have always had a
hope that some day I might have an opportunity of fulfilling it,
and now it has come. . . . It is a wonder I have put this off so
long, but I thought perhaps I should cheer up a bit and put all
thought out of my head." To her brother she writes: "Good-by
forever, my own dearest brother. By the time you get this I
shall be gone forever. I know, dear love, there is no
forgiveness for what I am going to do. . . . I am tired of
living, so am willing to die. . . . Life may be sweet to some,
but death to me is sweeter." S. A. K. Strahan: Suicide and
Insanity, 2d edition, London, 1894, p. 131.

So much for melancholy in the sense of incapacity for joyous
feeling. A much worse form of it is positive and active anguish,
a sort of psychical neuralgia wholly unknown to healthy life.
Such anguish may partake of various characters, having sometimes
more the quality of loathing; sometimes that of irritation and
exasperation; or again of self-mistrust and self-despair; or of
suspicion, anxiety, trepidation, fear. The patient may rebel or
submit; may accuse himself, or accuse outside powers; and he may
or he may not be tormented by the theoretical mystery of why he
should so have to suffer. Most cases are mixed cases, and we
should not treat our classifications with too much respect.
Moreover, it is only a relatively small proportion of cases that
connect themselves with the religious sphere of experience at
all. Exasperated cases, for instance, as a rule do not. I quote
now literally from the first case of melancholy on which I lay my
hand. It is a letter from a patient in a French asylum.

"I suffer too much in this hospital, both physically and morally.
Besides the burnings and the sleeplessness (for I no longer sleep
since I am shut up here, and the little rest I get is broken by
bad dreams, and I am waked with a jump by night mares dreadful
visions, lightning, thunder, and the rest), fear, atrocious fear,
presses me down, holds me without respite, never lets me go.
Where is the justice in it all! What have I done to deserve this
excess of severity? Under what form will this fear crush me?
What would I not owe to any one who would rid me of my life! Eat,
drink, lie awake all night, suffer without interruption--such is
the fine legacy I have received from my mother! What I fail to
understand is this abuse of power. There are limits to
everything, there is a middle way. But God knows neither middle
way nor limits. I say God, but why? All I have known so far has
been the devil. After all, I am afraid of God as much as of the
devil, so I drift along, thinking of nothing but suicide, but
with neither courage nor means here to execute the act. As you
read this, it will easily prove to you my insanity. The style
and the ideas are incoherent enough--I can see that myself. But
I cannot keep myself from being either crazy or an idiot; and, as
things are, from whom should I ask pity? I am defenseless
against the invisible enemy who is tightening his coils around
me. I should be no better armed against him even if I saw him,
or had seen him. Oh, if he would but kill me, devil take him!
Death, death, once for all! But I stop. I have raved to you long
enough. I say raved, for I can write no otherwise, having
neither brain nor thoughts left. O God! what a misfortune to be
born! Born like a mushroom, doubtless between an evening and a
morning; and how true and right I was when in our philosophy-year
in college I chewed the cud of bitterness with the pessimists.
Yes, indeed, there is more pain in life than gladness--it is one
long agony until the grave. Think how gay it makes me to
remember that this horrible misery of mine, coupled with this
unspeakable fear, may last fifty, one hundred, who knows how many
more years!"[78]

[78] Roubinovitch et Toulouse: La Melancolie, 1897, p. 170,

This letter shows two things. First, you see how the entire
consciousness of the poor man is so choked with the feeling of
evil that the sense of there being any good in the world is lost
for him altogether. His attention excludes it, cannot admit it:
the sun has left his heaven. And secondly you see how the
querulous temper of his misery keeps his mind from taking a
religious direction. Querulousness of mind tends in fact rather
towards irreligion; and it has played, so far as I know, no part
whatever in the construction of religious systems.

Religious melancholy must be cast in a more melting mood.
Tolstoy has left us, in his book called My Confession, a
wonderful account of the attack of melancholy which led him to
his own religious conclusions. The latter in some respects are
peculiar; but the melancholy presents two characters which make
it a typical document for our present purpose. First it is a
well-marked case of anhedonia, of passive loss of appetite for
all life's values; and second, it shows how the altered and
estranged aspect which the world assumed in consequence of this
stimulated Tolstoy's intellect to a gnawing, carking questioning
and effort for philosophic relief. I mean to quote Tolstoy at
some length; but before doing so, I will make a general remark on
each of these two points.

First on our spiritual judgments and the sense of value in

It is notorious that facts are compatible with opposite emotional
comments, since the same fact will inspire entirely different
feelings in different persons, and at different times in the same
person; and there is no rationally deducible connection between
any outer fact and the sentiments it may happen to provoke.
These have their source in another sphere of existence
altogether, in the animal and spiritual region of the subject's
being. Conceive yourself, if possible, suddenly stripped of all
the emotion with which your world now inspires you, and try to
imagine it AS IT EXISTS, purely by itself, without your favorable
or unfavorable, hopeful or apprehensive comment. It will be
almost impossible for you to realize such a condition of
negativity and deadness. No one portion of the universe would
then have importance beyond another; and the whole collection of
its things and series of its events would be without
significance, character, expression, or perspective. Whatever of
value, interest, or meaning our respective worlds may appear
endued with are thus pure gifts of the spectator's mind. The
passion of love is the most familiar and extreme example of this
fact. If it comes, it comes; if it does not <148> come, no
process of reasoning can force it. Yet it transforms the value
of the creature loved as utterly as the sunrise transforms Mont
Blanc from a corpse-like gray to a rosy enchantment; and it sets
the whole world to a new tune for the lover and gives a new issue
to his life. So with fear, with indignation, jealousy, ambition,
worship. If they are there, life changes. And whether they
shall be there or not depends almost always upon non-logical,
often on organic conditions. And as the excited interest which
these passions put into the world is our gift to the world, just
so are the passions themselves GIFTS--gifts to us, from sources
sometimes low and sometimes high; but almost always nonlogical
and beyond our control. How can the moribund old man reason back
to himself the romance, the mystery, the imminence of great
things with which our old earth tingled for him in the days when
he was young and well? Gifts, either of the flesh or of the
spirit; and the spirit bloweth where it listeth; and the world's
materials lend their surface passively to all the gifts alike, as
the stage-setting receives indifferently whatever alternating
colored lights may be shed upon it from the optical apparatus in
the gallery.

Meanwhile the practically real world for each one of us, the
effective world of the individual, is the compound world, the
physical facts and emotional values in indistinguishable
combination. Withdraw or pervert either factor of this complex
resultant, and the kind of experience we call pathological

In Tolstoy's case the sense that life had any meaning whatever
was for a time wholly withdrawn. The result was a transformation
in the whole expression of reality. When we come to study the
phenomenon of conversion or religious regeneration, we shall see
that a not infrequent consequence of the change operated in the
subject is a transfiguration of the face of nature in his eyes.
A new heaven seems to shine upon a new earth. In melancholiacs
there is usually a similar change, only it is in the reverse
direction. The world now looks remote, strange, sinister,
uncanny. Its color is gone, its breath is cold, there is no
speculation in the eyes it glares with. "It is as if I lived in
another century," says one asylum patient.--"I see everything
through a cloud," says another, "things are not as they were, and
I am changed."--"I see," says a third, "I touch, but the things
do not come near me, a thick veil alters the hue and look of
everything."--"Persons move like shadows, and sounds seem to come
from a distant world."--"There is no longer any past for me;
people appear so strange; it is as if I could not see any
reality, as if I were in a theatre; as if people were actors, and
everything were scenery; I can no longer find myself; I walk, but
why? Everything floats before my eyes, but leaves no
impression."--"I weep false tears, I have unreal hands: the
things I see are not real things."--Such are expressions that
naturally rise to the lips of melancholy subjects describing
their changed state.[79]

[79] I cull these examples from the work of G. Dumas: La
Tristesse et la Joie, 1900.

Now there are some subjects whom all this leaves a prey to the
profoundest astonishment. The strangeness is wrong. The
unreality cannot be. A mystery is concealed, and a metaphysical
solution must exist. If the natural world is so double-faced and
unhomelike, what world, what thing is real? An urgent wondering
and questioning is set up, a poring theoretic activity, and in
the desperate effort to get into right relations with the matter,
the sufferer is often led to what becomes for him a satisfying
religious solution.

At about the age of fifty, Tolstoy relates that he began to have
moments of perplexity, of what he calls arrest, as if he knew not
"how to live," or what to do. It is obvious that these were
moments in which the excitement and interest which our functions
naturally bring had ceased. Life had been enchanting, it was now
flat sober, more than <150> sober, dead. Things were
meaningless whose meaning had always been self-evident. The
questions "Why?" and "What next?" began to beset him more and
more frequently. At first it seemed as if such questions must be
answerable, and as if he could easily find the answers if he
would take the time; but as they ever became more urgent, he
perceived that it was like those first discomforts of a sick man,
to which he pays but little attention till they run into one
continuous suffering, and then he realizes that what he took for
a passing disorder means the most momentous thing in the world
for him, means his death.

These questions "Why?" "Wherefore?" "What for?" found no

"I felt," says Tolstoy, "that something had broken within me on
which my life had always rested, that I had nothing left to hold
on to, and that morally my life had stopped. An invincible force
impelled me to get rid of my existence, in one way or another. It
cannot be said exactly that I WISHED to kill myself, for the
force which drew me away from life was fuller, more powerful,
more general than any mere desire. It was a force like my old
aspiration to live, only it impelled me in the opposite
direction. It was an aspiration of my whole being to get out of

"Behold me then, a man happy and in good health, hiding the rope
in order not to hang myself to the rafters of the room where
every night I went to sleep alone; behold me no longer going
shooting, lest I should yield to the too easy temptation of
putting an end to myself with my gun.

"I did not know what I wanted. I was afraid of life; I was
driven to leave it; and in spite of that I still hoped something
from it.

"All this took place at a time when so far as all my outer
circumstances went, I ought to have been completely happy. I had
a good wife who loved me and whom I loved; good children and a
large property which was increasing with no pains taken on my
part. I was more respected by my kinsfolk and acquaintance than
I had ever been; I was loaded with praise by strangers; and
without exaggeration I could believe my name already famous.
Moreover I was neither insane nor ill. On the contrary, I
possessed a physical and mental strength which I have rarely met
in persons of my age. I could mow as well as the peasants, I
could work with my brain eight hours uninterruptedly and feel no
bad effects.

"And yet I could give no reasonable meaning to any actions of my
life. And I was surprised that I had not understood this from
the very beginning. My state of mind was as if some wicked and
stupid jest was being played upon me by some one. One can live
only so long as one is intoxicated, drunk with life; but when one
grows sober one cannot fail to see that it is all a stupid cheat.

What is truest about it is that there is nothing even funny or
silly in it; it is cruel and stupid, purely and simply.

"The oriental fable of the traveler surprised in the desert by a
wild beast is very old.

"Seeking to save himself from the fierce animal, the traveler
jumps into a well with no water in it; but at the bottom of this
well he sees a dragon waiting with open mouth to devour him. And
the unhappy man, not daring to go out lest he should be the prey
of the beast, not daring to jump to the bottom lest he should be
devoured by the dragon, clings to the branches of a wild bush
which grows out of one of the cracks of the well. His hands
weaken, and he feels that he must soon give way to certain fate;
but still he clings, and see two mice, one white, the other
black, evenly moving round the bush to which he hangs, and
gnawing off its roots

"The traveler sees this and knows that he must inevitably perish;
but while thus hanging he looks about him and finds on the leaves
of the bush some drops of honey. These he reaches with his
tongue and licks them off with rapture.

"Thus I hang upon the boughs of life, knowing that the inevitable
dragon of death is waiting ready to tear me, and I cannot
comprehend why I am thus made a martyr. I try to suck the honey
which formerly consoled me; but the honey pleases me no longer,
and day and night the white mouse and the black mouse gnaw the
branch to which I cling. I can see but one thing: the
inevitable dragon and the mice--I cannot turn my gaze away from

"This is no fable, but the literal incontestable truth which
every one may understand. What will be the outcome of what I do
to-day? Of what I shall do to-morrow? What will be the outcome
of all my life? Why should I live? Why should I do anything?
Is there in life any purpose which the inevitable death which
awaits me does not undo and destroy?

"These questions are the simplest in the world. From the stupid
child to the wisest old man, they are in the soul of every human
being. Without an answer to them, it is impossible, as I
experienced, for life to go on.

"'But perhaps,' I often said to myself, 'there may be something
I have failed to notice or to comprehend. It is not possible
that this condition of despair should be natural to mankind.' And
I sought for an explanation in all the branches of knowledge
acquired by men. I questioned painfully and protractedly and
with no idle curiosity. I sought, not with indolence, but
laboriously and obstinately for days and nights together. I
sought like a man who is lost and seeks to save himself--and I
found nothing. I became convinced, moreover, that all those who
before me had sought for an answer in the sciences have also
found nothing. And not only this, but that they have recognized
that the very thing which was leading me to despair--the
meaningless absurdity of life--is the only incontestable
knowledge accessible to man."

To prove this point, Tolstoy quotes the Buddha, Solomon, and
Schopenhauer. And he finds only four ways in which men of his
own class and society are accustomed to meet the situation.
Either mere animal blindness, sucking the honey without seeing
the dragon or the mice--"and from such a way," he says, "I can
learn nothing, after what I now know;" or reflective
epicureanism, snatching what it can while the day lasts--which is
only a more deliberate sort of stupefaction than the first; or
manly suicide; or seeing the mice and dragon and yet weakly and
plaintively clinging to the bush of life. Suicide was naturally
the consistent course dictated by the logical intellect.

"Yet," says Tolstoy, "whilst my intellect was working, something
else in me was working too, and kept me from the deed--a
consciousness of life, as I may call it, which was like a force
that obliged my mind to fix itself in another direction and draw
me out of my situation of despair. . . . During the whole course
of this year, when I almost unceasingly kept asking myself how to
end the business, whether by the rope or by the bullet, during
all that time, alongside of all those movements of my ideas and
observations, my heart kept languishing with another pining
emotion. I can call this by no other name than that of a thirst
for God. This craving for God had nothing to do with the
movement of my ideas--in fact, it was the direct contrary of that
movement--but it came from my heart. It was like a feeling of
dread that made me seem like an orphan and isolated in the midst
of all these things that were so foreign. And this feeling of
dread was mitigated by the hope of finding the assistance of some

[80] My extracts are from the French translation by "Zonia."
In abridging I have taken the liberty of transposing one passage.

Of the process, intellectual as well as emotional, which,
starting from this idea of God, led to Tolstoy's recovery, I will
say nothing in this lecture, reserving it for a later hour. The
only thing that need interest us now is the phenomenon of his
absolute disenchantment with ordinary life, and the fact that the
whole range of habitual values may, to a man as powerful and full
of faculty as he was, come to appear so ghastly a mockery.

When disillusionment has gone as far as this, there is seldom a
restitutio ad integrum. One has tasted of the fruit of the tree,
and the happiness of Eden never comes again. The happiness that
comes, when any does come--and often enough it fails to return in
an acute form, though its form is sometimes very acute--is not
the simple, ignorance of ill, but something vastly more complex,
including natural evil as one of its elements, but finding
natural evil no such stumbling-block and terror because it now

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