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The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

Part 4 out of 11

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sees it swallowed up in supernatural good. The process is one of
redemption, not of mere reversion to natural health, and the
sufferer, when saved, is saved by what seems to him a second
birth, a deeper kind of conscious being than he could enjoy

We find a somewhat different type of religious melancholy
enshrined in literature in John Bunyan's autobiography. Tolstoy's
preoccupations were largely objective, for the purpose and
meaning of life in general was what so troubled him; but poor
Bunyan's troubles were over the condition of his own personal
self. He was a typical case of the psychopathic temperament,
sensitive of conscience to a diseased degree, beset by doubts,
fears and insistent ideas, and a victim of verbal automatisms,
both motor and sensory. These were usually texts of Scripture
which, sometimes damnatory and sometimes favorable, would come in
a half- hallucinatory form as if they were voices, and fasten on
his mind and buffet it between them like a shuttlecock. Added to
this were a fearful melancholy self-contempt and despair.

"Nay, thought I, now I grow worse and worse, now I am farther
from conversion than ever I was before. If now I should have
burned at the stake, I could not believe that Christ had love for
me; alas, I could neither hear him, nor see him, nor feel him,
nor savor any of his things. Sometimes I would tell my condition
to the people of God, which, when they heard, they would pity me,
and would tell of the Promises. But they had as good have told
me that I must reach the Sun with my finger as have bidden me
receive or rely upon the Promise. [Yet] all this while as to the
act of sinning, I never was more tender than now; I durst not
take a pin or stick, though but so big as a straw, for my
conscience now was sore, and would smart at every touch; I
could not tell how to speak my words, for fear I should misplace
them. Oh, how gingerly did I then go, in all I did or said! I
found myself as on a miry bog that shook if I did but stir; and
was as there left both by God and Christ, and the spirit, and all
good things.

"But my original and inward pollution, that was my plague and my
affliction. By reason of that, I was more loathsome in my own
eyes than was a toad; and I thought I was so in God's eyes too.
Sin and corruption, I said, would as naturally bubble out of my
heart as water would bubble out of a fountain. I could have
changed heart with anybody. I thought none but the Devil himself
could equal me for inward wickedness and pollution of mind.
Sure, thought I, I am forsaken of God; and thus I continued a
long while, even for some years together.

"And now I was sorry that God had made me a man. The beasts,
birds, fishes, etc., I blessed their condition, for they had not
a sinful nature; they were not obnoxious to the wrath of God;
they were not to go to hell-fire after death. I could therefore
have rejoiced, had my condition been as any of theirs. Now I
blessed the condition of the dog and toad, yea, gladly would I
have been in the condition of the dog or horse, for I knew they
had no soul to perish under the everlasting weight of Hell or
Sin, as mine was like to do. Nay, and though I saw this, felt
this, and was broken to pieces with it, yet that which added to
my sorrow was, that I could not find with all my soul that I did
desire deliverance. My heart was at times exceedingly hard. If
I would have given a thousand pounds for a tear, I could not shed
one; no, nor sometimes scarce desire to shed one.

"I was both a burthen and a terror to myself; nor did I ever so
know, as now, what it was to be weary of my life, and yet afraid
to die. How gladly would I have been anything but myself!
Anything but a man! and in any condition but my own."[81]

[81] Grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners: I have printed a
number of detached passages continuously.

Poor patient Bunyan, like Tolstoy, saw the light again, but we
must also postpone that part of his story to another hour. In a
later lecture I will also give the end of the
experience of Henry Alline, a devoted evangelist who worked in
Nova Scotia a hundred years ago, and who thus vividly describes
the high-water mark of the religious melancholy which formed its
beginning. The type was not unlike Bunyan's.

"Everything I saw seemed to be a burden to me; the earth seemed
accursed for my sake: all trees, plants, rocks, hills, and vales
seemed to be dressed in mourning and groaning, under the weight
of the curse, and everything around me seemed to be conspiring my
ruin. My sins seemed to be laid open; so that I thought that
every one I saw knew them, and sometimes I was almost ready to
acknowledge many things, which I thought they knew: yea
sometimes it seemed to me as if every one was pointing me out as
the most guilty wretch upon earth. I had now so great a sense of
the vanity and emptiness of all things here below, that I knew
the whole world could not possibly make me happy, no, nor the
whole system of creation. When I waked in the morning, the first
thought would be, Oh, my wretched soul, what shall I do, where
shall I go? And when I laid down, would say, I shall be perhaps
in hell before morning. I would many times look on the beasts
with envy, wishing with all my heart I was in their place, that I
might have no soul to lose; and when I have seen birds flying
over my head, have often thought within myself, Oh, that I could
fly away from my danger and distress! Oh, how happy should I be,
if I were in their place!"[82]

[82] The Life and Journal of the Rev. Mr. Henry Alline, Boston
1806, pp. 25, 26. I owe my acquaintance with this book to my
colleague, Dr. Benjamin Rand.

Envy of the placid beasts seems to be a very widespread affection
in this type of sadness.

The worst kind of melancholy is that which takes the form of
panic fear. Here is an excellent example, for permission to
print which I have to thank the sufferer. The original is in
French, and though the subject was evidently in a bad nervous
condition at the time of which he writes, his case has otherwise
the merit of extreme simplicity. I translate freely.

"Whilst in this state of philosophic pessimism and general
depression of spirits about my prospects, I went one evening into
a dressing-room in the twilight to procure some article that was
there; when suddenly there fell upon me without any warning, just
as if it came out of the darkness, a horrible fear of my own
existence. Simultaneously there arose in my mind the image of an
epileptic patient whom I had seen in the asylum, a black-haired
youth with greenish skin, entirely idiotic, who used to sit all
day on one of the benches, or rather shelves against the wall,
with his knees drawn up against his chin, and the coarse gray
undershirt, which was his only garment, drawn over them inclosing
his entire figure. He sat there like a sort of sculptured
Egyptian cat or Peruvian mummy, moving nothing but his black eyes
and looking absolutely non-human. This image and my fear entered
into a species of combination with each other THAT SHAPE AM I, I
felt, potentially. Nothing that I possess can defend me against
that fate, if the hour for it should strike for me as it struck
for him. There was such a horror of him, and such a perception
of my own merely momentary discrepancy from him, that it was as
if something hitherto solid within my breast gave way entirely,
and I became a mass of quivering fear. After this the universe
was changed for me altogether. I awoke morning after morning
with a horrible dread at the pit of my stomach, and with a sense
of the insecurity of life that I never knew before, and that I
have never felt since.[83] It was like a revelation; and although
the immediate feelings passed away, the experience has made me
sympathetic with the morbid feelings of others ever since. It
gradually faded, but for months I was unable to go out into the
dark alone.

[83] Compare Bunyan. "There was I struck into a very great
trembling, insomuch that at some times I could, for days
together, feel my very body, as well as my mind, to shake and
totter under the sense of the dreadful judgment of God, that
should fall on those that have sinned that most fearful and
unpardonable sin. I felt also such clogging and heat at my
stomach, by reason of this my terror, that I was, especially at
some times, as if my breast-bone would have split asunder. . . .
Thus did I wind, and twine, and shrink, under the burden that was
upon me; which burden also did so oppress me that I could neither
stand, nor go, nor lie, either at rest or quiet."

"In general I dreaded to be left alone. I remember wondering how
other people could live, how I myself had ever lived, so
unconscious of that pit of insecurity beneath the surface of
life. My mother in particular, a very cheerful person, seemed to
me a perfect paradox in her unconsciousness of danger, which you
may well believe I was very careful not to disturb by revelations
of my own state of mind (I have always thought that this
experience of melancholia of mine had a religious bearing."

On asking this correspondent to explain more fully what he meant
by these last words, the answer he wrote was this:--

"I mean that the fear was so invasive and powerful that if I had
not clung to scripture-texts like 'The eternal God is my refuge,'
etc., 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden,'
etc., 'I am the resurrection and the life,' etc., I think I
should have grown really insane."[84]

[84] For another case of fear equally sudden, see Henry James:
Society the Redeemed Form of Man, Boston, 1879, pp. 43 ff.

There is no need of more examples. The cases we have looked at
are enough. One of them gives us the vanity of mortal things;
another the sense of sin; and the remaining one describes the
fear of the universe;--and in one or other of these three ways it
always is that man's original optimism and self-satisfaction get
leveled with the dust.

In none of these cases was there any intellectual insanity or
delusion about matters of fact; but were we disposed to open the
chapter of really insane melancholia, with its <159>
hallucinations and delusions, it would be a worse story
still--desperation absolute and complete, the whole universe
coagulating about the sufferer into a material of overwhelming
horror, surrounding him without opening or end. Not the
conception or intellectual perception of evil, but the grisly
blood-freezing heart-palsying sensation of it close upon one, and
no other conception or sensation able to live for a moment in its
presence. How irrelevantly remote seem all our usual refined
optimisms and intellectual and moral consolations in presence of
a need of help like this! Here is the real core of the religious
problem: Help! help! No prophet can claim to bring a final
message unless he says things that will have a sound of reality
in the ears of victims such as these. But the deliverance must
come in as strong a form as the complaint, if it is to take
effect; and that seems a reason why the coarser religions,
revivalistic, orgiastic, with blood and miracles and supernatural
operations, may possibly never be displaced. Some constitutions
need them too much.

Arrived at this point, we can see how great an antagonism may
naturally arise between the healthy-minded way of viewing life
and the way that takes all this experience of evil as something
essential. To this latter way, the morbid-minded way, as we
might call it, healthy-mindedness pure and simple seems
unspeakably blind and shallow. To the healthy-minded way, on the
other hand, the way of the sick soul seems unmanly and diseased.
With their grubbing in rat-holes instead of living in the light;
with their manufacture of fears, and preoccupation with every
unwholesome kind of misery, there is something almost obscene
about these children of wrath and cravers of a second birth. If
religious intolerance and hanging and burning could again become
the order of the day, there is little doubt that, however it may
have been in the past, the healthy-minded would <160> at present
show themselves the less indulgent party of the two.

In our own attitude, not yet abandoned, of impartial onlookers,
what are we to say of this quarrel? It seems to me that we are
bound to say that morbid-mindedness ranges over the wider scale
of experience, and that its survey is the one that overlaps. The
method of averting one's attention from evil, and living simply
in the light of good is splendid as long as it will work. It
will work with many persons; it will work far more generally than
most of us are ready to suppose; and within the sphere of its
successful operation there is nothing to be said against it as a
religious solution. But it breaks down impotently as soon as
melancholy comes; and even though one be quite free from
melancholy one's self, there is no doubt that healthy-mindedness
is inadequate as a philosophical doctrine, because the evil facts
which it refuses positively to account for are a genuine portion
of reality; and they may after all be the best key to life's
significance, and possibly the only openers of our eyes to the
deepest levels of truth.

The normal process of life contains moments as bad as any of
those which insane melancholy is filled with, moments in which
radical evil gets its innings and takes its solid turn. The
lunatic's visions of horror are all drawn from the material of
daily fact. Our civilization is founded on the shambles, and
every individual existence goes out in a lonely spasm of helpless
agony. If you protest, my friend, wait till you arrive there
yourself! To believe in the carnivorous reptiles of geologic
times is hard for our imagination--they seem too much like mere
museum specimens. Yet there is no tooth in any one of those
museum-skulls that did not daily through long years of the
foretime hold fast to the body struggling in despair of some
fated living victim. Forms of horror just as dreadful to the
victims, if on a smaller spatial scale, fill the world about us
to-day. Here on our very <161> hearths and in our gardens the
infernal cat plays with the panting mouse, or holds the hot bird
fluttering in her jaws. Crocodiles and rattlesnakes and pythons
are at this moment vessels of life as real as we are; their
loathsome existence fills every minute of every day that drags
its length along; and whenever they or other wild beasts clutch
their living prey, the deadly horror which an agitated
melancholiac feels is the literally right reaction on the

[85] Example: "It was about eleven o'clock at night . . . but I
strolled on still with the people. . . . Suddenly upon the left
side of our road, a crackling was heard among the bushes; all of
us were alarmed, and in an instant a tiger, rushing out of the
jungle, pounced upon the one of the party that was foremost, and
carried him off in the twinkling of an eye. The rush of the
animal, and the crush of the poor victim's bones in his mouth,
and his last cry of distress, 'Ho hai!' involuntarily reechoed by
all of us, was over in three seconds; and then I know not what
happened till I returned to my senses, when I found myself and
companions lying down on the ground as if prepared to be devoured
by our enemy the sovereign of the forest. I find my pen
incapable of describing the terror of that dreadful moment. Our
limbs stiffened, our power of speech ceased, and our hearts beat
violently, and only a whisper of the same 'Ho hai!' was heard
from us. In this state we crept on all fours for some distance
back, and then ran for life with the speed of an Arab horse for
about half an hour, and fortunately happened to come to a small
village. . . . After this every one of us was attacked with
fever, attended with shivering, in which deplorable state we
remained till morning."--Autobiography of Lutullah a Mohammedan
Gentleman, Leipzig, 1857, p. 112.

It may indeed be that no religious reconciliation with the
absolute totality of things is possible. Some evils, indeed, are
ministerial to higher forms of good; but it may be that there are
forms of evil so extreme as to enter into no good system
whatsoever, and that, in respect of such evil, dumb submission or
neglect to notice is the only practical resource. This question
must confront us on a later day. But provisionally, and as a
mere matter of program and method, since the evil facts are as
genuine parts of nature as the good ones, the philosophic
presumption should be that they have some rational significance,
and that systematic healthy-mindedness, failing as it does to
accord to sorrow, pain, and death any positive and active
attention whatever, is formally less complete than systems
that try at least to include these elements in their scope.

The completest religions would therefore seem to be those in
which the pessimistic elements are best developed. Buddhism, of
course, and Christianity are the best known to us of these. They
are essentially religions of deliverance: the man must die to an
unreal life before he can be born into the real life. In my next
lecture, I will try to discuss some of the psychological
conditions of this second birth. Fortunately from now onward we
shall have to deal with more cheerful subjects than those which
we have recently been dwelling on.

Lecture VIII


The last lecture was a painful one, dealing as it did with evil
as a pervasive element of the world we live in. At the close of
it we were brought into full view of the contrast between the two
ways of looking at life which are characteristic respectively of
what we called the healthy-minded, who need to be born only once,
and of the sick souls, who must be twice-born in order to be
happy. The result is two different conceptions of the universe
of our experience. In the religion of the once-born the world is
a sort of rectilinear or one-storied affair, whose accounts are
kept in one denomination, whose parts have just the values which
naturally they appear to have, and of which a simple algebraic
sum of pluses and minuses will give the total worth. Happiness
and religious peace consist in living on the plus side of the
account. In the religion of the twice-born, on the other hand,
the world is a double-storied mystery. Peace cannot be reached
by the simple addition of pluses and elimination of minuses from
life. Natural good is not simply insufficient in amount and
transient, there lurks a falsity in its very being. Cancelled as
it all is by death if not by earlier enemies, it gives no final
balance, and can never be the thing intended for our lasting
worship. It keeps us from our real good, rather; and renunciation
and despair of it are our first step in the direction of the
truth. There are two lives, the natural and the spiritual, and
we must lose the one before we can participate in the other.

In their extreme forms, of pure naturalism and pure salvationism,
the two types are violently contrasted; though here as in most
other current classifications, the radical extremes are somewhat
ideal abstractions, and the concrete human beings whom we
oftenest meet are intermediate varieties and mixtures.
Practically, however, you all recognize the difference: you
understand, for example, the disdain of the methodist convert for
the mere sky-blue healthy-minded moralist; and you likewise enter
into the aversion of the latter to what seems to him the diseased
subjectivism of the Methodist, dying to live, as he calls it, and
making of paradox and the inversion of natural appearances the
essence of God's truth.[86]

[86] E.g., "Our young people are diseased with the theological
problems of original sin, origin of evil, predestination, and the
like. These never presented a practical difficulty to any
man--never darkened across any man's road, who did not go out of
his way to seek them. These are the soul's mumps, and measles,
and whooping-coughs, etc. Emerson: Spiritual Laws.

The psychological basis of the twice-born character seems to be a
certain discordancy or heterogeneity in the native temperament of
the subject, an incompletely unified moral and intellectual

"Homo duplex, homo duplex!" writes Alphonse Daudet. "The first
time that I perceived that I was two was at the death of my
brother Henri, when my father cried out so dramatically, 'He is
dead, he is dead!' While my first self wept, my second self
thought, 'How truly given was that cry, how fine it would be at
the theatre.' I was then fourteen years old.

"This horrible duality has often given me matter for reflection.
Oh, this terrible second me, always seated whilst the other is on
foot, acting, living, suffering, bestirring itself. This second
me that I have never been able to intoxicate, to make shed tears,
or put to sleep. And how it sees into things, and how it

[87] Notes sur la Vie, p. 1.

Recent works on the psychology of character have had much to say
upon this point.[88] Some persons are born with an inner
constitution which is harmonious and well balanced from the
outset. Their impulses are consistent with one another, their
will follows without trouble the guidance of their intellect,
their passions are not excessive, and their lives are little
haunted by regrets. Others are oppositely constituted; and are
so in degrees which may vary from something so slight as to
result in a merely odd or whimsical inconsistency, to a
discordancy of which the consequences may be inconvenient in the
extreme. Of the more innocent kinds of heterogeneity I find a
good example in Mrs. Annie Besant's autobiography.

[88] See, for example, F. Paulhan, in his book Les Caracteres,
1894, who contrasts les Equilibres, les Unifies, with les
Inquiets, les Contrariants, les Incoherents, les Emiettes, as so
many diverse psychic types.

"I have ever been the queerest mixture of weakness and strength,
and have paid heavily for the weakness. As a child I used to
suffer tortures of shyness, and if my shoe-lace was untied would
feel shamefacedly that every eye was fixed on the unlucky string;
as a girl I would shrink away from strangers and think myself
unwanted and unliked, so that I was full of eager gratitude to
any one who noticed me kindly, as the young mistress of a house I
was afraid of my servants, and would let careless work pass
rather than bear the pain of reproving the ill-doer; when I have
been lecturing and debating with no lack of spirit on the
platform, I have preferred to go without what I wanted at the
hotel rather than to ring and make the waiter fetch it.
Combative on the platform in defense of any cause I cared for, I
shrink from quarrel or disapproval in the house, and am a coward
at heart in private while a good fighter in public. How often
have I passed unhappy quarters of an hour screwing up my courage
to find fault with some subordinate whom my duty compelled me to
reprove, and how often have I jeered myself for a fraud as the
doughty platform combatant, when shrinking from blaming some lad
or lass for doing their work badly. An unkind look or word has
availed to make me shrink into myself as a snail into its shell,
while, on the platform, opposition makes me speak my best."[89]

[89] Annie Besant: an Autobiography, p. 82.

This amount of inconsistency will only count as amiable weakness;
but a stronger degree of heterogeneity may make havoc of the
subject's life. There are persons whose existence is little more
than a series of zig-zags, as now one tendency and now another
gets the upper hand. Their spirit wars with their flesh, they
wish for incompatibles, wayward impulses interrupt their most
deliberate plans, and their lives are one long drama of
repentance and of effort to repair misdemeanors and mistakes.

Heterogeneous personality has been explained as the result of
inheritance--the traits of character of incompatible and
antagonistic ancestors are supposed to be preserved alongside of
each other.[90] This explanation may pass for what it is
worth--it certainly needs corroboration. But whatever the cause
of heterogeneous personality may be, we find the extreme examples
of it in the psychopathic temperament, of which I spoke in my
first lecture. All writers about that temperament make the inner
heterogeneity prominent in their descriptions. Frequently,
indeed, it is only this trait that leads us to ascribe that
temperament to a man at all. A "degenere superieur" is simply a
man of sensibility in many directions, who finds more difficulty
than is common in keeping <167> his spiritual house in order and
running his furrow straight, because his feelings and impulses
are too keen and too discrepant mutually. In the haunting and
insistent ideas, in the irrational impulses, the morbid scruples,
dreads, and inhibitions which beset the psychopathic temperament
when it is thoroughly pronounced, we have exquisite examples of
heterogeneous personality. Bunyan had an obsession of the words,
"Sell Christ for this, sell him for that, sell him, sell him!"
which would run through his mind a hundred times together, until
one day out of breath with retorting, "I will not, I will not,"
he impulsively said, "Let him go if he will," and this loss of
the battle kept him in despair for over a year. The lives of the
saints are full of such blasphemous obsessions, ascribed
invariably to the direct agency of Satan. The phenomenon
connects itself with the life of the subconscious self,
so-called, of which we must erelong speak more directly.

[90] Smith Baker, in Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases,
September, 1893.

Now in all of us, however constituted, but to a degree the
greater in proportion as we are intense and sensitive and subject
to diversified temptations, and to the greatest possible degree
if we are decidedly psychopathic, does the normal evolution of
character chiefly consist in the straightening out and unifying
of the inner self. The higher and the lower feelings, the useful
and the erring impulses, begin by being a comparative chaos
within us--they must end by forming a stable system of functions
in right subordination. Unhappiness is apt to characterize the
period of order-making and struggle. If the individual be of
tender conscience and religiously quickened, the unhappiness will
take the form of moral remorse and compunction, of feeling
inwardly vile and wrong, and of standing in false relations to
the author of one's being and appointer of one's spiritual fate.
This is the religious melancholy and "conviction of sin" that
have played so large a part in the history of Protestant
Christianity. The man's interior is a battle-ground for what he
feels to be two deadly hostile selves, one actual, the other
ideal. As Victor Hugo makes his Mahomet say:--

"Je suis le champ vil des sublimes combats:
Tantot l'homme d'en haut, et tantot l'homme d'en bas;
Et le mal dans ma bouche avec le bien alterne,
Comme dans le desert le sable et la citerne."

Wrong living, impotent aspirations; "What I would, that do I not;
but what I hate, that do I," as Saint Paul says; self-loathing,
self-despair; an unintelligible and intolerable burden to which
one is mysteriously the heir.

Let me quote from some typical cases of discordant personality,
with melancholy in the form of self-condemnation and sense of
sin. Saint Augustine's case is a classic example. You all
remember his half-pagan, half-Christian bringing up at Carthage,
his emigration to Rome and Milan, his adoption of Manicheism and
subsequent skepticism, and his restless search for truth and
purity of life; and finally how, distracted by the struggle
between the two souls in his breast and ashamed of his own
weakness of will, when so many others whom he knew and knew of
had thrown off the shackles of sensuality and dedicated
themselves to chastity and the higher life, he heard a voice in
the garden say, "Sume, lege" (take and read), and opening the
Bible at random, saw the text, "not in chambering and
wantonness," etc., which seemed directly sent to his address, and
laid the inner storm to rest forever.[91] Augustine's
psychological genius has given an account of the trouble of
having a divided self which has never been surpassed.

[91] Louis Gourdon (Essai sur la Conversion de Saint Augustine,
Paris, Fischbacher, 1900) has shown by an analysis of Augustine's
writings immediately after the date of his conversion (A. D. 386)
that the account he gives in the Confessions is premature. The
crisis in the garden marked a definitive conversion from his
former life, but it was to the neo-platonic spiritualism and only
a halfway stage toward Christianity. The latter he appears not
fully and radically to have embraced until four years more had

"The new will which I began to have was not yet strong enough to
overcome that other will, strengthened by long indulgence. So
these two wills, one old, one new, one carnal, the other
spiritual, contended with each other and disturbed my soul. I
understood by my own experience what I had read, 'flesh lusteth
against spirit, and spirit against flesh.' It was myself indeed
in both the wills, yet more myself in that which I approved in
myself than in that which I disapproved in myself. Yet it was
through myself that habit had attained so fierce a mastery over
me, because I had willingly come whither I willed not. Still
bound to earth, I refused, O God, to fight on thy side, as much
afraid to be freed from all bonds, as I ought to have feared
being trammeled by them.

"Thus the thoughts by which I meditated upon thee were like the
efforts of one who would awake, but being overpowered with
sleepiness is soon asleep again. Often does a man when heavy
sleepiness is on his limbs defer to shake it off, and though not
approving it, encourage it; even so I was sure it was better to
surrender to thy love than to yield to my own lusts, yet though
the former course convinced me, the latter pleased and held me
bound. There was naught in me to answer thy call 'Awake, thou
sleeper,' but only drawling, drowsy words, 'Presently; yes,
presently; wait a little while.' But the 'presently' had no
'present,' and the 'little while' grew long. . . . For I was
afraid thou wouldst hear me too soon, and heal me at once of my
disease of lust, which I wished to satiate rather than to see
extinguished. With what lashes of words did I not scourge my own
soul. Yet it shrank back; it refused, though it had no excuse to
offer. . . . I said within myself: 'Come, let it be done now,'
and as I said it, I was on the point of the resolve. I all but
did it, yet I did not do it. And I made another effort, and
almost succeeded, yet I did not reach it, and did not grasp it,
hesitating to die to death, and live to life, and the evil to
which I was so wonted held me more than the better life I had not

[92] Confessions, Book VIII., Chaps. v., vii., xi., abridged.

There could be no more perfect description of the divided will,
when the higher wishes lack just that last acuteness, that touch
of explosive intensity, of dynamogenic quality (to use the slang
of the psychologists), that enables them to burst their shell,
and make irruption efficaciously into life and quell the lower
tendencies forever. In a later lecture we shall have much to say
about this higher excitability.

I find another good description of the divided will in the
autobiography of Henry Alline, the Nova Scotian evangelist, of
whose melancholy I read a brief account in my last lecture. The
poor youth's sins were, as you will see, of the most harmless
order, yet they interfered with what proved to be his truest
vocation, so they gave him great distress.

"I was now very moral in my life, but found no rest of
conscience. I now began to be esteemed in young company, who
knew nothing of my mind all this while, and their esteem began to
be a snare to my soul, for I soon began to be fond of carnal
mirth, though I still flattered myself that if I did not get
drunk, nor curse, nor swear, there would be no sin in frolicking
and carnal mirth, and I thought God would indulge young people
with some (what I called simple or civil) recreation. I still
kept a round of duties, and would not suffer myself to run into
any open vices, and so got along very well in time of health and
prosperity, but when I was distressed or threatened by sickness,
death, or heavy storms of thunder, my religion would not do, and
I found there was something wanting, and would begin to repent my
going so much to frolics, but when the distress was over, the
devil and my own wicked heart, with the solicitations of my
associates, and my fondness for young company, were such strong
allurements, I would again give way, and thus I got to be very
wild and rude, at the same time kept up my rounds of secret
prayer and reading; but God, not willing I should destroy myself,
still followed me with his calls, and moved with such power upon
my conscience, that I could not satisfy myself with my
diversions, and in the midst of my mirth sometimes would have
such a sense of my lost and undone condition, that I would wish
myself from the company, and after it was over, when I went home,
would make many promises that I would attend no more on these
frolics, and would beg forgiveness for hours and hours; but when
I came to have the temptation again, I would give way: no
sooner would I hear the music and drink a glass of wine, but I
would find my mind elevated and soon proceed to any sort of
merriment or diversion, that I thought was not debauched or
openly vicious; but when I returned from my carnal mirth I felt
as guilty as ever, and could sometimes not close my eyes for some
hours after I had gone to my bed. I was one of the most unhappy
creatures on earth.

"Sometimes I would leave the company (often speaking to the
fiddler to cease from playing, as if I was tired), and go out and
walk about crying and praying, as if my very heart would break,
and beseeching God that he would not cut me off, nor give me up
to hardness of heart. Oh, what unhappy hours and nights I thus
wore away! When I met sometimes with merry companions, and my
heart was ready to sink, I would labor to put on as cheerful a
countenance as possible, that they might not distrust anything,
and sometimes would begin some discourse with young men or young
women on purpose, or propose a merry song, lest the distress of
my soul would be discovered, or mistrusted, when at the same time
I would then rather have been in a wilderness in exile, than with
them or any of their pleasures or enjoyments. Thus for many
months when I was in company? I would act the hypocrite and
feign a merry heart but at the same time would endeavor as much
as I could to shun their company, oh wretched and unhappy mortal
that I was! Everything I did, and wherever I went, I was still
in a storm and yet I continued to be the chief contriver and
ringleader of the frolics for many months after; though it was a
toil and torment to attend them; but the devil and my own wicked
heart drove me about like a slave, telling me that I must do this
and do that, and bear this and bear that, and turn here and turn
there, to keep my credit up, and retain the esteem of my
associates: and all this while I continued as strict as possible
in my duties, and left no stone unturned to pacify my conscience,
watching even against my thoughts, and praying continually
wherever I went: for I did not think there was any sin in my
conduct, when I was among carnal company, because I did not take
any satisfaction there, but only followed it, I thought, for
sufficient reasons.

"But still, all that I did or could do, conscience would roar
night and day."

Saint Augustine and Alline both emerged into the smooth waters of
inner unity and peace, and I shall next ask you to consider more
closely some of the peculiarities of the process of unification,
when it occurs. It may come gradually, or it may occur abruptly;
it may come through altered feelings, or through altered powers
of action; or it may come through new intellectual insights, or
through experiences which we shall later have to designate as
'mystical.' However it come, it brings a characteristic sort of
relief; and never such extreme relief as when it is cast into the
religious mould. Happiness! happiness! religion is only one of
the ways in which men gain that gift. Easily, permanently, and
successfully, it often transforms the most intolerable misery
into the profoundest and most enduring happiness.

But to find religion is only one out of many ways of reaching
unity; and the process of remedying inner incompleteness and
reducing inner discord is a general psychological process, which
may take place with any sort of mental material, and need not
necessarily assume the religious form. In judging of the
religious types of regeneration which we are about to study, it
is important to recognize that they are only one species of a
genus that contains other types as well. For example, the new
birth may be away from religion into incredulity; or it may be
from moral scrupulosity into freedom and license; or it may be
produced by the irruption into the individual's life of some new
stimulus or passion, such as love, ambition, cupidity, revenge,
or patriotic devotion. In all these instances we have precisely
the same psychological form of event,--a firmness, stability, and
equilibrium <173> succeeding a period of storm and stress and
inconsistency. In these non-religious cases the new man may also
be born either gradually or suddenly.

The French philosopher Jouffroy has left an eloquent memorial of
his own "counter-conversion," as the transition from orthodoxy to
infidelity has been well styled by Mr. Starbuck. Jouffroy's
doubts had long harassed him; but he dates his final crisis from
a certain night when his disbelief grew fixed and stable, and
where the immediate result was sadness at the illusions he had

"I shall never forget that night of December," writes Jouffroy,
"in which the veil that concealed from me my own incredulity was
torn. I hear again my steps in that narrow naked chamber where
long after the hour of sleep had come I had the habit of walking
up and down. I see again that moon, half-veiled by clouds,
which now and again illuminated the frigid window-panes. The
hours of the night flowed on and I did not note their passage.
Anxiously I followed my thoughts, as from layer to layer they
descended towards the foundation of my consciousness, and,
scattering one by one all the illusions which until then had
screened its windings from my view, made them every moment more
clearly visible.

"Vainly I clung to these last beliefs as a shipwrecked sailor
clings to the fragments of his vessel; vainly, frightened at the
unknown void in which I was about to float, I turned with them
towards my childhood, my family, my country, all that was dear
and sacred to me: the inflexible current of my thought was too
strong--parents, family, memory, beliefs, it forced me to let go
of everything. The investigation went on more obstinate and more
severe as it drew near its term, and did not stop until the end
was reached. I knew then that in the depth of my mind nothing
was left that stood erect.

"This moment was a frightful one; and when towards morning I
threw myself exhausted on my bed, I seemed to feel my earlier
life, so smiling and so full, go out like a fire, and before me
another life opened, sombre and unpeopled, where in future I must
live alone, alone with my fatal thought which had exiled me
thither, and which I was tempted to curse. The days which
followed this discovery were the saddest of my life."[93]

[93] Th. Jouffroy: Nouveaux Melanges philosophiques, 2me
edition, p. 83. I add two other cases of counter-conversion
dating from a certain moment. The first is from Professor
Starbuck's manuscript collection, and the narrator is a woman.

"Away down in the bottom of my heart, I believe I was always more
or less skeptical about 'God;' skepticism grew as an
undercurrent, all through my early youth, but it was controlled
and covered by the emotional elements in my religious growth.
When I was sixteen I joined the church and was asked if I loved
God. I replied 'Yes,' as was customary and expected. But
instantly with a flash something spoke within me, 'No, you do
not.' I was haunted for a long time with shame and remorse for
my falsehood and for my wickedness in not loving God, mingled
with fear that there might be an avenging God who would punish me
in some terrible way. . . . At nineteen, I had an attack of
tonsilitis. Before I had quite recovered, I heard told a story
of a brute who had kicked his wife down-stairs, and then
continued the operation until she became insensible. I felt the
horror of the thing keenly. Instantly this thought flashed
through my mind: 'I have no use for a God who permits such
things.' This experience was followed by months of stoical
indifference to the God of my previous life, mingled with
feelings of positive dislike and a somewhat proud defiance of
him. I still thought there might be a God. If so he would
probably damn me, but I should have to stand it. I felt very
little fear and no desire to propitiate him. I have never had
any personal relations with him since this painful experience."

The second case exemplifies how small an additional stimulus will
overthrow the mind into a new state of equilibrium when the
process of preparation and incubation has proceeded far enough.
It is like the proverbial last straw added to the camel's burden,
or that touch of a needle which makes the salt in a
supersaturated fluid suddenly begin to crystallize out.

Tolstoy writes: "S., a frank and intelligent man, told me as
follows how he ceased to believe:--

"He was twenty-six years old when one day on a hunting
expedition, the time for sleep having come, he set himself to
pray according to the custom he had held from childhood.

"His brother, who was hunting with him, lay upon the hay and
looked at him. When S. had finished his prayer and was turning
to sleep, the brother said, 'Do you still keep up that thing?'
Nothing more was said. But since that day, now more than thirty
years ago, S. has never prayed again; he never takes communion,
and does not go to church. All this, not because he became
acquainted with convictions of his brother which he then and
there adopted; not because he made any new resolution in his
soul, but merely because the words spoken by his brother were
like the light push of a finger against a leaning wall already
about to tumble by its own weight. These words but showed him
that the place wherein he supposed religion dwelt in him had long
been empty, and that the sentences he uttered, the crosses and
bows which he made during his prayer, were actions with no inner
sense. Having once seized their absurdity, he could no longer
keep them up." Ma Confession, p. 8.

I subjoin an additional document which has come into my
possession, and which represents in a vivid way what is probably
a very frequent sort of conversion, if the opposite of 'falling
in love,' falling out of love, may be so termed. Falling in love
also conforms frequently to this type, a latent process of
unconscious preparation often preceding a sudden awakening to the
fact that the mischief is irretrievably done. The free and easy
tone in this narrative gives it a sincerity that speaks for

"For two years of this time I went through a very bad experience,
which almost drove me mad. I had fallen violently in love with a
girl who, young as she was, had a spirit of coquetry like a cat.
As I look back on her now, I hate her, and wonder how I could
ever have fallen so low as to be worked upon to such an extent by
her attractions. Nevertheless, I fell into a regular fever,
could think of nothing else; whenever I was alone, I pictured her
attractions, and spent most of the time when I should have been
working, in recalling our previous interviews, and imagining
future conversations. She was very pretty, good humored, and
jolly to the last degree, and intensely pleased with my
admiration. Would give me no decided answer yes or no and the
queer thing about it was that whilst pursuing her for her hand, I
secretly knew all along that she was unfit to be a wife for me,
and that she never would say yes. Although for a year we took
our meals at the same boarding-house, so that I saw her
continually and familiarly, our closer relations had to be
largely on the sly, and this fact, together with my jealousy of
another one of her male admirers and my own conscience despising
me for my uncontrollable weakness, made me so nervous and
sleepless that I really thought I should become insane. I
understand well those young men murdering their sweethearts,
which appear so often in the papers. Nevertheless I did love her
passionately, and in some ways she did deserve it.

"The queer thing was the sudden and unexpected way in which it
all stopped. I was going to my work after breakfast one morning,
thinking as usual of her and of my misery, when, just as if some
outside power laid hold of me, I found myself turning round and
almost running to my room, where I immediately got out all the
relics of her which I possessed, including some hair, all her
notes and letters and ambrotypes on glass. The former I made a
fire of, the latter I actually crushed beneath my heel, in a sort
of fierce joy of revenge and punishment. I now loathed and
despised her altogether, and as for myself I felt as if a load of
disease had suddenly been removed from me. That was the end. I
never spoke to her or wrote to her again in all the subsequent
years, and I have never had a single moment of loving thought
towards one for so many months entirely filled my heart. In
fact, I have always rather hated her memory, though now I can see
that I had gone unnecessarily far in that direction. At any
rate, from that happy morning onward I regained possession of my
own proper soul, and have never since fallen into any similar

This seems to me an unusually clear example of two different
levels of personality, inconsistent in their dictates, yet so
well balanced against each other as for a long time to fill the
life with discord and dissatisfaction. At last, not gradually,
but in a sudden crisis, the unstable equilibrium is resolved, and
this happens so unexpectedly that it is as if, to use the
writer's words, "some outside power laid hold."

Professor Starbuck gives an analogous case, and a converse case
of hatred suddenly turning into love, in his Psychology of
Religion, p. 141. Compare the other highly curious instances
which he gives on pp. 137-144, of sudden non-religious
alterations of habit or character. He seems right in conceiving
all such sudden changes as results of special cerebral functions
unconsciously developing until they are ready to play a
controlling part when they make irruption into the conscious
life. When we treat of sudden 'conversion,' I shall make as much
use as I can of this hypothesis of subconscious incubation.

<175> In John Foster's Essay on Decision of Character, there is
an account of a case of sudden conversion to avarice, which is
illustrative enough to quote:--

A young man, it appears, "wasted, in two or three years, a large
patrimony in profligate revels with a number of worthless
associates who called themselves his friends, and who, when his
last means were exhausted, treated him of course with neglect or
contempt. Reduced to absolute want, he one day went out of the
house with an intention to put an end to his life, but wandering
awhile almost unconsciously, he came to the brow of an eminence
which overlooked what were lately his estates. Here he sat down,
and remained fixed in thought a number of hours, at the end of
which he sprang from the ground with a vehement, exulting
emotion. He had formed his resolution, which was, that all these
estates should be his again; he had formed his plan, too, which
he instantly began to execute. He walked hastily forward,
determined to seize the first opportunity, of however humble a
kind, to gain any money, though it were ever so despicable a
trifle, and resolved absolutely not to spend, if he could help
it, a farthing of whatever he might obtain. The first thing that
drew his attention was a heap of coals shot out of carts on the
pavement before a house. He offered himself to shovel or wheel
them into the place where they were to be laid, and was employed.

He received a few pence for the labor; and then, in pursuance of
the saving part of his plan requested some small gratuity of meat
and drink, which was given <176> him. He then looked out for
the next thing that might chance; and went, with indefatigable
industry, through a succession of servile employments in
different places, of longer and shorter duration, still
scrupulous in avoiding, as far as possible, the expense of a
penny. He promptly seized every opportunity which could advance
his design, without regarding the meanness of occupation or
appearance. By this method he had gained, after a considerable
time, money enough to purchase in order to sell again a few
cattle, of which he had taken pains to understand the value. He
speedily but cautiously turned his first gains into second
advantages; retained without a single deviation his extreme
parsimony; and thus advanced by degrees into larger transactions
and incipient wealth. I did not hear, or have forgotten, the
continued course of his life, but the final result was, that he
more than recovered his lost possessions, and died an inveterate
miser, worth L60,000."[94]

[94] Op. cit., Letter III., abridged.

Let me turn now to the kind of case, the religious case, namely,
that immediately concerns us. Here is one of the simplest
possible type, an account of the conversion to the systematic
religion of healthy-mindedness of a man who must already have
been naturally of the healthy-minded type. It shows how, when
the fruit is ripe, a touch will make it fall.

Mr. Horace Fletcher, in his little book called Menticulture,
relates that a friend with whom he was talking of the
self-control attained by the Japanese through their practice of
the Buddhist discipline said:--

"'You must first get rid of anger and worry.' 'But,' said I,
'is that possible?' 'Yes,' replied he; 'it is possible to the
Japanese, and ought to be possible to us.'

"On my way back I could think of nothing else but the words get
rid, get rid'; and the idea must have continued to possess me
during my sleeping hours, for the first consciousness in the
morning brought back the same thought, with the revelation of a
discovery, which framed itself into the reasoning, 'If it is
possible to get rid of anger and worry, why is it necessary to
have them at all?' I felt the strength of the argument, and at
once accepted the reasoning. The baby had discovered that it
could walk. It would scorn to creep any longer.

"From the instant I realized that these cancer spots of worry and
anger were removable, they left me. With the discovery of their
weakness they were exorcised. From that time life has had an
entirely different aspect.

"Although from that moment the possibility and desirability of
freedom from the depressing passions has been a reality to me, it
took me some months to feel absolute security in my new position;
but, as the usual occasions for worry and anger have presented
themselves over and over again, and I have been unable to feel
them in the slightest degree, I no longer dread or guard against
them, and I am amazed at my increased energy and vigor of mind,
at my strength to meet situations of all kinds and at my
disposition to love and appreciate everything.

"I have had occasion to travel more than ten thousand miles by
rail since that morning. The same Pullman porter, conductor,
hotel-waiter, peddler, book-agent, cabman, and others who were
formerly a source of annoyance and irritation have been met, but
I am not conscious of a single incivility. All at once the whole
world has turned good to me. I have become, as it were,
sensitive only to the rays of good.

"I could recount many experiences which prove a brand-new
condition of mind, but one will be sufficient. Without the
slightest feeling of annoyance or impatience, I have seen a train
that I had planned to take with a good deal of interested and
pleasurable anticipation move out of the station without me,
because my baggage did not arrive. The porter from the hotel
came running and panting into the station just as the train
pulled out of sight. When he saw me, he looked as if he feared a
scolding. and began to tell of being blocked in a crowded street
and unable to get out. When he had finished, I said to him: 'It
doesn't matter at all, you couldn't help it, so we will try again
to-morrow. Here is your fee, I am sorry you had all this trouble
in earning it.' The look of surprise that came over his face was
so filled with pleasure that I was repaid on the spot for the
delay in my departure. Next day he would not accept a cent for
the service, and he and I are friends for life.

"During the first weeks of my experience I was on guard only
against worry and anger; but, in the mean time, having noticed
the absence of the other depressing and dwarfing passions, I
began to trace a relationship, until I was convinced that they
are all growths from the two roots I have specified. I have felt
the freedom now for so long a time that I am sure of my relation
toward it; and I could no more harbor any of the thieving and
depressing influences that once I nursed as a heritage of
humanity than a fop would voluntarily wallow in a filthy gutter.

"There is no doubt in my mind that pure Christianity and pure
Buddhism, and the Mental Sciences and all Religions fundamentally
teach what has been a discovery to me; but none of them have
presented it in the light of a simple and easy process of
elimination. At one time I wondered if the elimination would not
yield to indifference and sloth. In my experience, the contrary
is the result. I feel such an increased desire to do something
useful that it seems as if I were a boy again and the energy for
play had returned. I could fight as readily as (and better than)
ever, if there were occasion for it. It does not make one a
coward. It can't, since fear is one of the things eliminated. I
notice the absence of timidity in the presence of any audience.
When a boy, I was standing under a tree which was struck by
lightning, and received a shock from the effects of which I never
knew exemption until I had dissolved partnership with worry.
Since then, lightning and thunder have been encountered under
conditions which would formerly have caused great depression and
discomfort, without [my] experiencing a trace of either.
Surprise is also greatly modified, and one is less liable to
become startled by unexpected sights or noises.

"As far as I am individually concerned, I am not bothering myself
at present as to what the results of this emancipated condition
may be. I have no doubt that the perfect health aimed at by
Christian Science may be one of the possibilities, for I note a
marked improvement in the way my stomach does its duty in
assimilating the food I give it to handle, and I am sure it works
better to the sound of a song than under the friction of a frown.
Neither am I wasting any of this precious time formulating an
idea of a future existence or a future Heaven. The Heaven that I
have within myself is as attractive as any that has been promised
or that I can imagine; and I am willing to let the growth lead
where it will, as long as the anger and their brood have no part
in misguiding it."[95]

[95] H. Fletcher: Menticulture, or the A-B-C of True Living, New
York and Chicago, 1899, pp. 26, 36, abridged.

The older medicine used to speak of two ways, lysis and crisis,
one gradual, the other abrupt, in which one might recover from a
bodily disease. In the spiritual realm there are also two ways,
one gradual, the other sudden, in which inner unification may
occur. Tolstoy and Bunyan may again serve us as examples,
examples, as it happens, of the gradual way, though it must be
confessed at the outset that it is hard to follow these windings
of the hearts of others, and one feels that their words do not
reveal their total secret.

Howe'er this be, Tolstoy, pursuing his unending questioning,
<181> seemed to come to one insight after another. First he
perceived that his conviction that life was meaningless took only
this finite life into account. He was looking for the value of
one finite term in that of another, and the whole result could
only be one of those indeterminate equations in mathematics which
end with infinity. Yet this is as far as the reasoning intellect
by itself can go, unless irrational sentiment or faith brings in
the infinite. Believe in the infinite as common people do, and
life grows possible again.

"Since mankind has existed, wherever life has been, there also
has been the faith that gave the possibility of living. Faith is
the sense of life, that sense by virtue of which man does not
destroy himself, but continues to live on. It is the force
whereby we live. If Man did not believe that he must live for
something, he would not live at all. The idea of an infinite
God, of the divinity of the soul, of the union of men's actions
with God--these are ideas elaborated in the infinite secret
depths of human thought. They are ideas without which there
would be no life, without which I myself," said Tolstoy, "would
not exist. I began to see that I had no right to rely on my
individual reasoning and neglect these answers given by faith,
for they are the only answers to the question."

Yet how believe as the common people believe, steeped as they are
in grossest superstition? It is impossible--but yet their life!
their life! It is normal. It is happy! It is an answer to the

Little by little, Tolstoy came to the settled conviction--he says
it took him two years to arrive there--that his trouble had not
been with life in general, not with the common life of common
men, but with the life of the upper, intellectual, artistic
classes, the life which he had personally always led, the
cerebral life, the life of conventionality, artificiality, and
personal ambition. He had been living wrongly and must change.
To work for animal needs, to abjure lies and vanities, to relieve
common wants, to be simple, to believe in God, therein lay
happiness again.

"I remember," he says, "one day in early spring, I was alone in
the forest, lending my ear to its mysterious noises. I listened,
and my thought went back to what for these three years it always
was busy with--the quest of God. But the idea of him, I said,
how did I ever come by the idea?

"And again there arose in me, with this thought, glad aspirations
towards life. Everything in me awoke and received a meaning. .
. .Why do I look farther? a voice within me asked. He is there:

he, without whom one cannot live. To acknowledge God and to live
are one and the same thing. God is what life is. Well, then!
live, seek God, and there will be no life without him. . . .

"After this, things cleared up within me and about me better than
ever, and the light has never wholly died away. I was saved from
suicide. Just how or when the change took place I cannot tell.
But as insensibly and gradually as the force of life had been
annulled within me, and I had reached my moral death-bed, just as
gradually and imperceptibly did the energy of life come back.
And what was strange was that this energy that came back was
nothing new. It was my ancient juvenile force of faith, the
belief that the sole purpose of my life was to be BETTER. I
gave up the life of the conventional world, recognizing it to be
no life, but a parody on life, which its superfluities simply
keep us from comprehending,"--and Tolstoy thereupon embraced the
life of the peasants, and has felt right and happy, or at least
relatively so, ever since.[96]

[96] I have considerably abridged Tolstoy's words in my

As I interpret his melancholy, then, it was not merely an
accidental vitiation of his humors, though it was doubtless also
that. It was logically called for by the clash between his inner
character and his outer activities and aims. Although a literary
artist, Tolstoy was one of those primitive oaks of men to whom
the superfluities and insincerities, the cupidities,
complications, and cruelties of our polite civilization are
profoundly unsatisfying, and for whom the eternal veracities lie
with more natural and animal things. His crisis was the getting
of his soul in order, the discovery of its genuine habitat and
vocation, the escape from falsehoods into what for him were ways
of truth. It was a case of heterogeneous personality tardily and
slowly finding its unity and level. And though not many of us can
imitate Tolstoy, not having enough, perhaps, of the aboriginal
human marrow in our bones, most of us may at least feel as if it
might be better for us if we could.

Bunyan's recovery seems to have been even slower. For years
together he was alternately haunted with texts of Scripture, now
up and now down, but at last with an ever growing relief in his
salvation through the blood of Christ.

"My peace would be in and out twenty times a day; comfort now and
trouble presently; peace now and before I could go a furlong as
full of guilt and fear as ever heart could hold." When a good
text comes home to him, "This," he writes, "gave me good
encouragement for the space of two or three hours"; or "This was
a good day to me, I hope I shall not forget it", or "The glory of
these words was then so weighty on me that I was ready to swoon
as I sat; yet, not with grief and trouble, but with solid joy and
peace"; or "This made a strange seizure on my spirit; it brought
light with it, and commanded a silence in my heart of all those
tumultuous thoughts that before did use, like masterless
hell-hounds, to roar and bellow and make a hideous noise within
me. It showed me that Jesus Christ had not quite forsaken and
cast off my Soul."

Such periods accumulate until he can write: "And now remained
only the hinder part of the tempest, for the thunder was gone
beyond me, only some drops would still remain, that now and then
would fall upon me";--and at last: "Now did my chains fall off
my legs indeed; I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; my
temptations also fled away; so that from that time, those
dreadful Scriptures of God left off to trouble me; now went I
also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God. . . . Now
could I see myself in Heaven and Earth at once; in Heaven by my
Christ, by my Head, by my Righteousness and Life, though on
Earth by my body or person. . . . Christ was a precious Christ
to my soul that night; I could scarce lie in my bed for joy and
peace and triumph through Christ."

Bunyan became a minister of the gospel, and in spite of his
neurotic constitution, and of the twelve years he lay in prison
for his non-conformity, his life was turned to active use. He
was a peacemaker and doer of good, and the immortal Allegory
which he wrote has brought the very spirit of religious patience
home to English hearts.

But neither Bunyan nor Tolstoy could become what we have called
healthy-minded. They had drunk too deeply of the cup of
bitterness ever to forget its taste, and their redemption is into
a universe two stories deep. Each of them realized a good which
broke the effective edge of his sadness; yet the sadness was
preserved as a minor ingredient in the heart of the faith by
which it was overcome. The fact of interest for us is that as a
matter of fact they could and did find SOMETHING welling up in
the inner reaches of their consciousness, by which such extreme
sadness could be overcome. Tolstoy does well to talk of it as
THAT BY WHICH MEN LIVE; for that is exactly what it is, a
stimulus, an excitement, a faith, a force that re-infuses the
positive willingness to live, even in full presence of the evil
perceptions that erewhile made life seem unbearable. For
Tolstoy's perceptions of evil appear within their sphere to have
remained unmodified. His later works show him implacable to the
whole system of official values: the ignobility of fashionable
life; the infamies of empire; the spuriousness of the church, the
vain conceit of the professions; the meannesses and cruelties
that go with great success; and every other pompous crime and
lying institution of this world. To all patience with such
things his experience has been for him a perroanent ministry of

Bunyan also leaves this world to the enemy.

"I must first pass a sentence of death," he says, "upon
everything that can properly be called a thing of this life, even
to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyments,
and all, as dead to me, and myself as dead to them; to trust in
God through Christ, as touching the world to come, and as
touching this world, to count the grave my house, to make my bed
in darkness, and to say to corruption, Thou art my father and to
the worm, Thou art my mother and sister. . . . The parting with
my wife and my poor children hath often been to me as the pulling
of my flesh from my bones, especially my poor blind child who lay
nearer my heart than all I had besides. Poor child, thought I,
what sorrow art thou like to have for thy portion in this world!
Thou must be beaten, must beg, suffer hunger, cold, nakedness,
and a thousand calamities, though I cannot now endure that the
wind should blow upon thee. But yet I must venture you all with
God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you."[97]

[97] In my quotations from Bunyan I have omitted certain
intervening portions of the text.

The "hue of resolution" is there, but the full flood of ecstatic
liberation seems never to have poured over poor John Bunyan's

These examples may suffice to acquaint us in a general way with
the phenomenon technically called "Conversion." In the next
lecture I shall invite you to study its peculiarities and
concomitants in some detail.

Lecture IX


To be converted, to be regenerated, to receive grace, to
experience religion, to gain an assurance, are so many phrases
which denote the process, gradual or sudden, by which a self
hitherto divided, and consciously wrong inferior and unhappy,
becomes unified and consciously right superior and happy, in
consequence of its firmer hold upon religious realities. This at
least is what conversion signifies in general terms, whether or
not we believe that a direct divine operation is needed to bring
such a moral change about.

Before entering upon a minuter study of the process, let me
enliven our understanding of the definition by a concrete
example. I choose the quaint case of an unlettered man, Stephen
H. Bradley, whose experience is related in a scarce American

[98] A sketch of the life of Stephen H. Bradley, from the age of
five to twenty four years, including his remarkable experience of
the power of the Holy Spirit on the second evening of November,
1829. Madison, Connecticut, 1830.

I select this case because it shows how in these inner
alterations one may find one unsuspected depth below another, as
if the possibilities of character lay disposed in a series of
layers or shells, of whose existence we have no premonitory

Bradley thought that he had been already fully converted at the
age of fourteen.

"I thought I saw the Saviour, by faith, in human shape, for about
one second in the room, with arms extended, appearing to say to
me, Come. The next day I rejoiced with trembling; soon after, my
happiness was so great that I said that I wanted to die; this
world had no place in my affections, as I knew of, and every day
appeared as solemn to me as the Sabbath. I had an ardent desire
that all mankind might feel as I did; I wanted to have them all
love God supremely. Previous to this time I was very selfish and
self-righteous; but now I desired the welfare of all mankind, and
could with a feeling heart forgive my worst enemies, and I felt
as if I should be willing to bear the scoffs and sneers of any
person, and suffer anything for His sake, if I could be the means
in the hands of God, of the conversion of one soul."

Nine years later, in 1829, Mr. Bradley heard of a revival of
religion that had begun in his neighborhood. "Many of the young
converts," he says, "would come to me when in meeting and ask me
if I had religion, and my reply generally was, I hope I have.
This did not appear to satisfy them; they said they KNEW THEY had
it. I requested them to pray for me, thinking with myself, that
if I had not got religion now, after so long a time professing to
be a Christian, that it was time I had, and hoped their prayers
would be answered in my behalf.

"One Sabbath, I went to hear the Methodist at the Academy. He
spoke of the ushering in of the day of general judgment; and he
set it forth in such a solemn and terrible manner as I never
heard before. The scene of that day appeared to be taking place,
and so awakened were all the powers of my mind that, like Felix,
I trembled involuntarily on the bench where I was sitting, though
I felt nothing at heart. The next day evening I went to hear him
again. He took his text from Revelation: 'And I saw the dead,
small and great, stand before God.' And he represented the
terrors of that day in such a manner that it appeared as if it
would melt the heart of stone. When he finished his discourse,
an old gentleman turned to me and said 'This is what I call
preaching.' I thought the same, but my feelings were still
unmoved by what he said, and I did not enjoy religion, but I
believe he did.

"I will now relate my experience of the power of the Holy Spirit
which took place on the same night. Had any person told
me previous to this that I could have experienced the power of
the Holy Spirit in the manner which I did, I could not have
believed it, and should have thought the person deluded that told
me so. I went directly home after the meeting, and when I got
home I wondered what made me feel so stupid. I retired to rest
soon after I got home, and felt indifferent to the things of
religion until I began to be exercised by the Holy Spirit, which
began in about five minutes after, in the following manner:--

"At first, I began to feel my heart beat very quick all on a
sudden, which made me at first think that perhaps something is
going to ail me, though I was not alarmed, for I felt no pain.
My heart increased in its beating, which soon convinced me that
it was the Holy Spirit from the effect it had on me. I began to
feel exceedingly happy and humble, and such a sense of
unworthiness as I never felt before. I could not very well help
speaking out, which I did, and said, Lord, I do not deserve this
happiness, or words to that effect, while there was a stream
(resembling air in feeling) came into my mouth and heart in a
more sensible manner than that of drinking anything, which
continued, as near as I could judge, five minutes or more, which
appeared to be the cause of such a palpitation of my heart. It
took complete possession of my soul, and I am certain that I
desired the Lord, while in the midst of it, not to give me any
more happiness, for it seemed as if I could not contain what I
had got. My heart seemed as if it would burst, but it did not
stop until I felt as if I was unutterably full of the love and
grace of God. In the mean time while thus exercised, a thought
arose in my mind, what can it mean? and all at once, as if to
answer it, my memory became exceedingly clear, and it appeared to
me just as if the New Testament was placed open before me, eighth
chapter of Romans, and as light as if some candle lighted was
held for me to read the 26th and 27th verses of that chapter, and
I read these words: 'The Spirit helpeth our infirmities with
groanings which cannot be uttered.' And all the time that my
heart was a-beating, it made me groan like a person in distress,
which was not very easy to stop, though I was in no pain at all,
and my brother being in bed in another room came and opened the
door, and asked me if I had got the toothache. I told him no,
and that he might get to sleep. I tried to stop. I felt
unwilling to go to sleep myself, I was so happy, fearing I should
lose it-- thinking within myself

'My willing soul would stay
In such a frame as this.'

And while I lay reflecting, after my heart stopped beating,
feeling as if my soul was full of the Holy Spirit, I thought that
perhaps there might be angels hovering round my bed. I felt just
as if I wanted to converse with them, and finally I spoke, saying
'O ye affectionate angels! how is it that ye can take so much
interest in our welfare, and we take so little interest in our
own.' After this, with difficulty I got to sleep; and when I
awoke in the morning my first thoughts were: What has become of
my happiness? and, feeling a degree of it in my heart, I asked
for more, which was given to me as quick as thought. I then got
up to dress myself, and found to my surprise that I could but
just stand. It appeared to me as if it was a little heaven upon
earth. My soul felt as completely raised above the fears of
death as of going to sleep; and like a bird in a cage, I had a
desire, if it was the will of God, to get released from my body
and to dwell with Christ, though willing to live to do good to
others, and to warn sinners to repent. I went downstairs feeling
as solemn as if I had lost all my friends, and thinking with
myself, that I would not let my parents know it until I had first
looked into the Testament. I went directly to the shelf and
looked into it, at the eighth of Romans, and every verse seemed
to almost speak and to confirm it to be truly the Word of God,
and as if my feelings corresponded with the meaning of the word.
I then told my parents of it, and told them that I thought that
they must see that when I spoke, that it was not my own voice,
for it appeared so to me. My speech seemed entirely under the
control of the Spirit within me; I do not mean that the words
which I spoke were not my own, for they were. I thought that I
was influenced similar to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost
(with the exception of having power to give it to others, and
doing what they did). After breakfast I went round to converse
with my neighbors on religion, which I could not have been
hired to have done before this, and at their request I prayed
with them, though I had never prayed in public before.

"I now feel as if I had discharged my duty by telling the truth,
and hope by the blessing of God, it may do some good to all who
shall read it. He has fulfilled his promise in sending the Holy
Spirit down into our hearts, or mine at least, and I now defy all
the Deists and Atheists in the world to shake my faith in

So much for Mr. Bradley and his conversion, of the effect of
which upon his later life we gain no information. Now for a
minuter survey of the constituent elements of the conversion

If you open the chapter on Association, of any treatise on
Psychology, you will read that a man's ideas, aims, and objects
form diverse internal groups and systems, relatively independent
of one another. Each 'aim' which he follows awakens a certain
specific kind of interested excitement, and gathers a certain
group of ideas together in subordination to it as its associates;
and if the aims and excitements are distinct in kind, their
groups of ideas may have little in common. When one group is
present and engrosses the interest, all the ideas connected with
other groups may be excluded from the mental field. The
President of the United States when, with paddle, gun, and
fishing-rod, he goes camping in the wilderness for a vacation,
changes his system of ideas from top to bottom. The presidential
anxieties have lapsed into the background entirely; the official
habits are replaced by the habits of a son of nature, and those
who knew the man only as the strenuous magistrate would not "know
him for the same person" if they saw him as the camper.

If now he should never go back, and never again suffer political
interests to gain dominion over him, he would be for practical
intents and purposes a permanently transformed being. Our
ordinary alterations of character, as we pass from one of our
aims to another, are not commonly called transformations, because
each of them is so rapidly succeeded by another in the reverse
direction; but whenever one aim grows so stable as to expel
definitively its previous rivals from the individual's life, we
tend to speak of the phenomenon, and perhaps to wonder at it, as
a "transformation."

These alternations are the completest of the ways in which a self
may be divided. A less complete way is the simultaneous
coexistence of two or more different groups of aims, of which one
practically holds the right of way and instigates activity,
whilst the others are only pious wishes, and never practically
come to anything. Saint Augustine's aspirations to a purer life,
in our last lecture, were for a while an example. Another would
be the President in his full pride of office, wondering whether
it were not all vanity, and whether the life of a wood-chopper
were not the wholesomer destiny. Such fleeting aspirations are
mere velleitates, whimsies. They exist on the remoter outskirts
of the mind, and the real self of the man, the centre of his
energies, is occupied with an entirely different system. As life
goes on, there is a constant change of our interests, and a
consequent change of place in our systems of ideas, from more
central to more peripheral, and from more peripheral to more
central parts of consciousness. I remember, for instance, that
one evening when I was a youth, my father read aloud from a
Boston newspaper that part of Lord Gifford's will which founded
these four lectureships. At that time I did not think of being a
teacher of philosophy, and what I listened to was as remote from
my own life as if it related to the planet Mars. Yet here I am,
with the Gifford system part and parcel of my very self, and all
my energies, for the time being, devoted to successfully
identifying myself with it. My soul stands now planted in what
once was for it a practically unreal object, and speaks from it
as from its proper habitat and centre.

When I say "Soul," you need not take me in the ontological sense
unless you prefer to; for although ontological language is
instinctive in such matters, yet Buddhists or Humians can
perfectly well describe the facts in the phenomenal terms which
are their favorites. For them the soul is only a succession of
fields of consciousness: yet there is found in each field a
part, or sub-field, which figures as focal and contains the
excitement, and from which, as from a centre, the aim seems to be
taken. Talking of this part, we involuntarily apply words of
perspective to distinguish it from the rest, words like "here,"
"this," "now," "mine," or "me"; and we ascribe to the other parts
the positions "there," "then," "that," "his" or "thine," "it,"
"not me." But a "here" can change to a "there," and a "there"
become a "here," and what was "mine" and what was "not mine"
change their places.

What brings such changes about is the way in which emotional
excitement alters. Things hot and vital to us to-day are cold
to-morrow. It is as if seen from the hot parts of the field that
the other parts appear to us, and from these hot parts personal
desire and volition make their sallies. They are in short the
centres of our dynamic energy, whereas the cold parts leave us
indifferent and passive in proportion to their coldness.

Whether such language be rigorously exact is for the present of
no importance. It is exact enough, if you recognize from your
own experience the facts which I seek to designate by it.

Now there may be great oscillation in the emotional interest, and
the hot places may shift before one almost as rapidly as the
sparks that run through burnt-up paper. Then we have the
wavering and divided self we heard so much of in the previous
lecture. Or the focus of excitement and heat, the point of view
from which the aim is taken, may come to lie permanently within a
certain system; and then, if the change be a religious one, we
call it a CONVERSION, especially if it be by crisis, or sudden.

Let us hereafter, in speaking of the hot place in a man's
consciousness, the group of ideas to which he devotes himself,
and from which he works, call it THE HABITUAL CENTRE OF HIS
PERSONAL ENERGY. It makes a great difference to a man whether
one set of his ideas, or another, be the centre of his energy;
and it makes a great difference, as regards any set of ideas
which he may possess, whether they become central or remain
peripheral in him. To say that a man is "converted" means, in
these terms, that religious ideas, previously peripheral in his
consciousness, now take a central place, and that religious aims
form the habitual centre of his energy.

Now if you ask of psychology just HOW the excitement shifts in a
man's mental system, and WHY aims that were peripheral become at
a certain moment central, psychology has to reply that although
she can give a general description of what happens, she is unable
in a given case to account accurately for all the single forces
at work. Neither an outside observer nor the Subject who
undergoes the process can explain fully how particular
experiences are able to change one's centre of energy so
decisively, or why they so often have to bide their hour to do
so. We have a thought, or we perform an act, repeatedly, but on
a certain day the real meaning of the thought peals through us
for the first time, or the act has suddenly turned into a moral
impossibility. All we know is that there are dead feelings, dead
ideas, and cold beliefs, and there are hot and live ones; and
when one grows hot and alive within us, everything has to
re-crystallize about it. We may say that the heat and liveliness
mean only the "motor efficacy," long deferred but now operative,
of the idea; but such talk itself is only circumlocution, for
whence the sudden motor efficacy? And our explanations then get
so vague and general that one realizes all the more the intense
individuality of the whole phenomenon.

In the end we fall back on the hackneyed symbolism of a
mechanical equilibrium. A mind is a system of ideas, each with
the excitement it arouses, and with tendencies impulsive and
inhibitive, which mutually check or reinforce one another. The
collection of ideas alters by subtraction or by addition in the
course of experience, and the tendencies alter as the organism
gets more aged. A mental system may be undermined or weakened by
this interstitial alteration just as a building is, and yet for a
time keep upright by dead habit. But a new perception, a sudden
emotional shock, or an occasion which lays bare the organic
alteration, will make the whole fabric fall together; and then
the centre of gravity sinks into an attitude more stable, for the
new ideas that reach the centre in the rearrangement seem now to
be locked there, and the new structure remains permanent.

Formed associations of ideas and habits are usually factors of
retardation in such changes of equilibrium. New information,
however acquired, plays an accelerating part in the changes; and
the slow mutation of our instincts and propensities, under the
"unimaginable touch of time" has an enormous influence.
Moreover, all these influences may work subconsciously or half
unconsciously.[99] And when you get a Subject in whom the
subconscious life--of which I must speak more fully soon--is
largely developed, and in whom motives habitually ripen in
silence, you get a case of which you can never give a full
account, and in which, both to the Subject and the onlookers,
there may appear an element of marvel. Emotional occasions,
especially violent ones, are extremely potent in precipitating
mental rearrangements. The sudden and explosive ways in which
love, jealousy, guilt, fear, remorse, or anger can seize upon one
are known to everybody.[100] Hope, happiness, security, resolve,
emotions characteristic of conversion, can be equally explosive.
And emotions that come in this explosive way seldom leave things
as they found them.

[99] Jouffroy is an example: "Down this slope it was that my
intelligence had glided, and little by little it had got far from
its first faith. But this melancholy revolution had not taken
place in the broad daylight of my consciousness; too many
scruples, too many guides and sacred affections had made it
dreadful to me, so that I was far from avowing to myself the
progress it had made. It had gone on in silence, by an
involuntary elaboration of which I was not the accomplice; and
although I had in reality long ceased to be a Christian, yet, in
the innocence of my intention, I should have shuddered to suspect
it, and thought it calumny had I been accused of such a falling
away." Then follows Jouffroy's account of his
counter-conversion, quoted above on p. 173.

[100] One hardly needs examples; but for love, see p. 176, note,
for fear, p. 161 ; for remorse, see Othello after the murder;
for anger see Lear after Cordelia's first speech to him; for
resolve, see p. 175 (J. Foster case). Here is a pathological
case in which GUILT was the feeling that suddenly exploded: "One
night I was seized on entering bed with a rigor, such as
Swedenborg describes as coming over him with a sense of holiness,
but over me with a sense of GUILT. During that whole night I lay
under the influence of the rigor, and from its inception I felt
that I was under the curse of God. I have never done one act of
duty in my life--sins against God and man beginning as far as my
memory goes back--a wildcat in human shape."

In his recent work on the Psychology of Religion, Professor
Starbuck of California has shown by a statistical inquiry how
closely parallel in its manifestations the ordinary "conversion"
which occurs in young people brought up in evangelical circles is
to that growth into a larger spiritual life which is a normal
phase of adolescence in every class of human beings. The age is
the same, falling usually between fourteen and seventeen. The
symptoms are the same,--sense of incompleteness and imperfection;
brooding, depression, morbid introspection, and sense of sin;
anxiety about the hereafter; distress over doubts, and the like.
And the result is the same--a happy relief and objectivity, as
the confidence in self gets greater through the adjustment of the
faculties to the wider outlook. In spontaneous religious
awakening, apart from revivalistic examples, and in the ordinary
storm and stress and moulting-time of adolescence, we also may
meet with mystical experiences, astonishing the subjects by their
suddenness, just as in revivalistic conversion. The analogy, in
fact, is complete; and Starbuck's conclusion as to these ordinary
youthful conversions would seem to be the only sound one:
Conversion is in its essence a normal adolescent phenomenon,
incidental to the passage from the child's small universe to the
wider intellectual and spiritual life of maturity.

"Theology," says Dr. Starbuck, "takes the adolescent tendencies
and builds upon them; it sees that the essential thing in
adolescent growth is bringing the person out of childhood into
the new life of maturity and personal insight. It accordingly
brings those means to bear which will intensify the normal
tendencies. It shortens up the period of duration of storm and
stress." The conversion phenomena of "conviction of sin" last,
by this investigator's statistics, about one fifth as long as the
periods of adolescent storm and stress phenomena of which he also
got statistics, but they are very much more intense. Bodily
accompaniments, loss of sleep and appetite, for example, are much
more frequent in them. "The essential distinction appears to be
that conversion intensifies but shortens the period by bringing
the person to a definite crisis."[101]

[101] E. D. Starbuck: The Psychology of Religion, pp. 224, 262.

The conversions which Dr. Starbuck here has in mind are of course
mainly those of very commonplace persons, kept true to a
pre-appointed type by instruction, appeal, and example. The
particular form which they affect is the result of suggestion and
imitation.[102] If they went through their growth-crisis in other
faiths and other countries, although the essence of the change
would be the same (since it is one in the main so inevitable),
its accidents would be different. In Catholic lands, for example,
and in our own Episcopalian sects, no such anxiety and conviction
of sin is usual as in sects that encourage revivals. The
sacraments being more relied on in these more strictly
ecclesiastical bodies, the individual's personal acceptance of
salvation needs less to be accentuated and led up to.

[102] No one understands this better than Jonathan Edwards
understood it already. Conversion narratives of the more
commonplace sort must always be taken with the allowances which
he suggests:

"A rule received and established by common consent has a very
great, though to many persons an insensible influence in forming
their notions of the process of their own experience. I know
very well how they proceed as to this matter, for I have had
frequent opportunities of observing their conduct. Very often
their experience at first appears like a confused chaos, but then
those parts are selected which bear the nearest resemblance to
such particular steps as are insisted on; and these are dwelt
upon in their thoughts, and spoken of from time to time, till
they grow more and more conspicuous in their view, and other
parts which are neglected grow more and more obscure. Thus what
they have experienced is insensibly strained, so as to bring it
to an exact conformity to the scheme already established in their
minds. And it becomes natural also for ministers, who have to
deal with those who insist upon distinctness and clearness of
method, to do so too." Treatise on Religious Affections.

But every imitative phenomenon must once have had its original,
and I propose that for the future we keep as close as may be to
the more first-hand and original forms of experience. These are
more likely to be found in sporadic adult cases.

Professor Leuba, in a valuable article on the psychology of
conversion,[103] subordinates the theological aspect of the
religious life almost entirely to its moral aspect. The
religious sense he defines as "the feeling of unwholeness, of
moral imperfection, of sin, to use the technical word,
accompanied by the yearning after the peace of unity." "The word
'religion,'" he says, "is getting more and more to signify the
conglomerate of desires and emotions springing from the sense of
sin and its release"; and he gives a large number of examples, in
which the sin ranges from drunkenness to spiritual pride, to show
that the sense of it may beset one and crave relief as urgently
as does the anguish of the sickened flesh or any form of physical

[103] Studies in the Psychology of Religious Phenomena, American
Journal of Psychology, vii. 309 (1896).

Undoubtedly this conception covers an immense number of cases. A
good one to use as an example is that of Mr. S. H. Hadley, who
after his conversion became an active and useful rescuer of
drunkards in New York. His experience runs as follows:--

"One Tuesday evening I sat in a saloon in Harlem, a homeless,
friendless, dying drunkard. I had pawned or sold everything that
would bring a drink. I could not sleep unless I was dead drunk.
I had not eaten for days, and for four nights preceding I had
suffered with delirium tremens, or the horrors, from midnight
till morning. I had often said, 'I will never be a tramp. I
will never be cornered, for when that time comes, if ever it
comes, I will find a home in the bottom of the river.' But the
Lord so ordered it that when that time did come I was not able to
walk one quarter of the way to the river. As I sat there
thinking, I seemed to feel some great and mighty presence. I did
not know then what it was. I did learn afterwards that it was
Jesus, the sinner's friend. I walked up to the bar and pounded
it with my fist till I made the glasses rattle. Those who stood
by drinking looked on with scornful curiosity. I said I would
never take another drink, if I died on the street, and really I
felt as though that would happen before morning. Something said,
'If you want to keep this promise, go and have yourself locked
up.' I went to the nearest station-house and had myself locked

"I was placed in a narrow cell, and it seemed as though all the
demons that could find room came in that place with me. This was
not all the company I had, either. No, praise the Lord: that
dear Spirit that came to me in the saloon was present, and
said, Pray. I did pray, and though I did not feel any great
help, I kept on praying. As soon as I was able to leave my cell
I was taken to the police court and remanded back to the cell. I
was finally released, and found my way to my brother's house,
where every care was given me. While lying in bed the
admonishing Spirit never left me, and when I arose the following
Sabbath morning I felt that day would decide my fate, and toward
evening it came into my head to go to Jerry M'Auley's Mission. I
went. The house was packed, and with great difficulty I made my
way to the space near the platform. There I saw the apostle to
the drunkard and the outcast--that man of God, Jerry M'Auley. He
rose, and amid deep silence told his experience. There was a
sincerity about this man that carried conviction with it, and I
found myself saying, 'I wonder if God can save me?' I listened
to the testimony of twenty-five or thirty persons, every one of
whom had been saved from rum, and I made up my mind that I would
be saved or die right there. When the invitation was given, I
knelt down with a crowd of drunkards. Jerry made the first
prayer. Then Mrs. M'Auley prayed fervently for us. Oh, what a
conflict was going on for my poor soul! A blessed whisper said,
'Come'; the devil said, 'Be careful.' I halted but a moment, and
then, with a breaking heart, I said, 'Dear Jesus, can you help
me?' Never with mortal tongue can I describe that moment.
Although up to that moment my soul had been filled with
indescribable gloom, I felt the glorious brightness of the
noonday sun shine into my heart. I felt I was a free man. Oh,
the precious feeling of safety, of freedom, of resting on Jesus!
I felt that Christ with all his brightness and power had come
into my life; that, indeed, old things had passed away and all
things had become new.

"From that moment till now I have never wanted a drink of
whiskey, and I have never seen money enough to make me take one.
I promised God that night that if he would take away the appetite
for strong drink, I would work for him all my life. He has done
his part, and I have been trying to do mine."[104]

[104] I have abridged Mr. Hadley's account. For other
conversions of drunkards, see his pamphlet, Rescue Mission Work,
published at the Old Jerry M'Auley Water Street Mission, New York
City. A striking collection of cases also appears in the
appendix to Professor Leuba's article.

<200> Dr. Leuba rightly remarks that there is little doctrinal
theology in such an experience, which starts with the absolute
need of a higher helper, and ends with the sense that he has
helped us. He gives other cases of drunkards' conversions which
are purely ethical, containing, as recorded, no theological
beliefs whatever. John B. Gough's case, for instance, is
practically, says Dr. Leuba, the conversion of an
atheist--neither God nor Jesus being mentioned.[105] But in spite
of the importance of this type of regeneration, with little or no
intellectual readjustment, this writer surely makes it too
exclusive. It corresponds to the subjectively centered form of
morbid melancholy, of which Bunyan and Alline were examples. But
we saw in our seventh lecture that there are objective forms of
melancholy also, in which the lack of rational meaning of the
universe, and of life anyhow, is the burden that weighs upon
one--you remember Tolstoy's case.[106] So there are distinct
elements in conversion, and their relations to individual lives
deserve to be discriminated.[107]

[105] A restaurant waiter served provisionally as Gough's
'Saviour.' General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army,
considers that the first vital step in saving outcasts consists
in making them feel that some decent human being cares enough for
them to take an interest in the question whether they are to rise
or sink.

[106] The crisis of apathetic melancholy--no use in life--into
which J. S. Mill records that he fell, from which he emerged by
the reading of Marmontel's Memoirs (Heaven save the mark!) and
Wordsworth's poetry, is another intellectual and general
metaphysical case. See Mill's Autobiography, New York, 1873, pp.
141, 148.

[107] Starbuck, in addition to "escape from sin," discriminates
"spiritual illumination" as a distinct type of conversion
experience. Psychology of Religion, p. 85.

Some persons, for instance, never are, and possibly never under
any circumstances could be, converted. Religious ideas cannot
become the centre of their spiritual energy. They may be
excellent persons, servants of God in practical ways, but they
are not children of his kingdom. They are either incapable of
imagining the invisible; or else, in the language of devotion,
they are life-long subjects of "barrenness" and "dryness."
Such inaptitude for religious faith may in some cases be
intellectual in its origin. Their religious faculties may be
checked in their natural tendency to expand, by beliefs about the
world that are inhibitive, the pessimistic and materialistic
beliefs, for example, within which so many good souls, who in
former times would have freely indulged their religious
propensities, find themselves nowadays, as it were, frozen; or
the agnostic vetoes upon faith as something weak and shameful,
under which so many of us today lie cowering, afraid to use our
instincts. In many persons such inhibitions are never overcome.
To the end of their days they refuse to believe, their personal
energy never gets to its religious centre, and the latter remains
inactive in perpetuity.

In other persons the trouble is profounder. There are men
anaesthetic on the religious side, deficient in that category of
sensibility. Just as a bloodless organism can never, in spite of
all its goodwill, attain to the reckless "animal spirits" enjoyed
by those of sanguine temperament; so the nature which is
spiritually barren may admire and envy faith in others, but can
never compass the enthusiasm and peace which those who are
temperamentally qualified for faith enjoy. All this may,
however, turn out eventually to have been a matter of temporary
inhibition. Even late in life some thaw, some release may take
place, some bolt be shot back in the barrenest breast, and the
man's hard heart may soften and break into religious feeling.
Such cases more than any others suggest the idea that sudden
conversion is by miracle. So long as they exist, we must not
imagine ourselves to deal with irretrievably fixed classes.
Now there are two forms of mental occurrence in human beings,
which lead to a striking difference in the conversion process, a
difference to which Professor Starbuck has called attention. You
know how it is when you try to recollect a forgotten name.
Usually you help the recall by working for it, by mentally
running over the places, persons, and things with which the word
was connected. But sometimes this effort fails: you feel then
as if the harder you tried the less hope there would be, as
though the name were JAMMED, and pressure in its direction only
kept it all the more from rising. And then the opposite expedient
often succeeds. Give up the effort entirely; think of something
altogether different, and in half an hour the lost name comes
sauntering into your mind, as Emerson says, as carelessly as if
it had never been invited. Some hidden process was started in
you by the effort, which went on after the effort ceased, and
made the result come as if it came spontaneously. A certain
music teacher, says Dr. Starbuck, says to her pupils after the
thing to be done has been clearly pointed out, and unsuccessfully
attempted: "Stop trying and it will do itself!"[108]

[108] Psychology of Religion, p. 117.

There is thus a conscious and voluntary way and an involuntary
and unconscious way in which mental results may get accomplished;
and we find both ways exemplified in the history of conversion,
giving us two types, which Starbuck calls the volitional type and
the type by self-surrender respectively.

In the volitional type the regenerative change is usually
gradual, and consists in the building up, piece by piece, of a
new set of moral and spiritual habits. But there are always
critical points here at which the movement forward seems much
more rapid. This psychological fact is abundantly illustrated by
Dr. Starbuck. Our education in any practical accomplishment
proceeds apparently by jerks and starts just as the growth of our
physical bodies does.

"An athlete . . . sometimes awakens suddenly to an understanding
of the fine points of the game and to a real enjoyment of it,
just as the convert awakens to an appreciation of religion. If he
keeps on engaging in the sport, there may come a day when all at
once the game plays itself through him--when he loses himself in
some great contest. In the same way, a musician may suddenly
reach a point at which pleasure in the technique of the art
entirely falls away, and in some moment of inspiration he becomes
the instrument through which music flows. The writer has chanced
to hear two different married persons, both of whose wedded lives
had been beautiful from the beginning, relate that not until a
year or more after marriage did they awake to the full
blessedness of married life. So it is with the religious
experience of these persons we are studying."[109]

[109] Psychology of Religion, p. 385. Compare, also, pp. 137-144
and 262.

We shall erelong hear still more remarkable illustrations of
subconsciously maturing processes eventuating in results of which
we suddenly grow conscious. Sir William Hamilton and Professor
Laycock of Edinburgh were among the first to call attention to
this class of effects; but Dr. Carpenter first, unless I am
mistaken, introduced the term "unconscious cerebration," which
has since then been a popular phrase of explanation. The facts
are now known to us far more extensively than he could know them,
and the adjective "unconscious," being for many of them almost
certainly a misnomer, is better replaced by the vaguer term
"subconscious" or "subliminal."

Of the volitional type of conversion it would be easy to give
examples,[110] but they are as a rule less interesting than
those of the self-surrender type, in which the subconscious
effects are more abundant and often startling. I will therefore
hurry to the latter, the more so because the difference between
the two types is after all not radical. Even in the most
voluntarily built-up sort of regeneration there are passages of
partial self-surrender interposed; and in the great majority of
all cases, when the will had done its uttermost towards bringing
one close to the complete unification aspired after, it seems
that the very last step must be left to other forces and
performed without the help of its activity. In other words,
self-surrender becomes then indispensable. "The personal will,"
says Dr. Starbuck, "must be given up. In many cases relief
persistently refuses to come until the person ceases to resist,
or to make an effort in the direction he desires to go."

[110] For instance, C. G. Finney italicizes the volitional
element: "Just at this point the whole question of Gospel
salvation opened to my mind in a manner most marvelous to me at
the time. I think I then saw, as clearly as I ever have in my
life, the reality and fullness of the atonement of Christ.
Gospel salvation seemed to me to be an offer of something to be
accepted, and all that was necessary on my part to get my own
consent to give up my sins and accept Christ. After this
distinct revelation had stood for some little time before my
mind, the question seemed to be put, 'will you accept it now,
to-day?' I replied, 'Yes; I will accept it to-day, or I will die
in the attempt!'" He then went into the woods, where he
describes his struggles. He could not pray, his heart was
hardened in its pride. "I then reproached myself for having
promised to give my heart to God before I left the woods. When I
came to try, I found I could not. . . . My inward soul hung
back, and there was no going out of my heart to God. The thought
was pressing me, of the rashness of my promise that I would give
my heart to God that day, or die in the attempt. It seemed to me
as if that was binding on my soul; and yet I was going to break
my vow. A great sinking and discouragement came over me, and I
felt almost too weak to stand upon my knees. Just at this moment
I again thought I heard some one approach me, and I opened my
eyes to see whether it were so. But right there the revelation
of my pride of heart, as the great difficulty that stood in the
way, was distinctly shown to me. An overwhelming sense of my
wickedness in being ashamed to have a human being see me on my
knees before God took such powerful possession of me, that I
cried at the top of my voice, and exclaimed that I would not
leave that place if all the men on earth and all the devils in
hell surrounded me. 'What!' I said, 'such a degraded sinner as I
am, on my knees confessing my sins to the great and holy God; and
ashamed to have any human being, and a sinner like myself, find
me on my knees endeavoring to make my peace with my offended
God!' The sin appeared awful, infinite. It broke me down before
the Lord." Memoirs, pp. 14-16, abridged.

"I had said I would not give up; but when my will was broken, it
was all over," writes one of Starbuck's correspondents.-- Another
says: "I simply said: 'Lord, I have done all I can; I leave the
whole matter with Thee,' and immediately there came to me a great
peace."--Another: "All at once it occurred to me that I might be
saved, too, if I would stop trying to do it all myself, and

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