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The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

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beings who were there. At a certain moment a royal Bengal tiger
appeared swimming towards it, reached it, and lay panting like a
dog upon the ground in the midst of the people, still possessed
by such an agony of terror that one of the Englishmen could
calmly step up with a rifle and blow out its brains. The tiger's
habitual ferocity was temporarily quelled by the emotion of fear,
which became sovereign, and formed a new centre for his

Sometimes no emotional state is sovereign, but many contrary ones
are mixed together. In that case one hears both "yeses" and
"noes," and the "will" is called on then to solve the conflict.
Take a soldier, for example, with his dread of cowardice
impelling him to advance, his fears impelling him to run, and his
propensities to imitation pushing him towards various courses if
his comrades offer various examples. His person becomes the seat
of a mass of interferences; and he may for a time simply waver,
because no one emotion prevails. There is a pitch of intensity,
though, which, if any emotion reach it, enthrones that one as
alone effective and sweeps its antagonists and all their
inhibitions away. The fury of his comrades' charge, once entered
on, will give this pitch of courage to the soldier; the panic of
their rout will give this pitch of fear. In these sovereign
excitements, things ordinarily impossible grow natural because
the inhibitions are annulled. Their "no! no!" not only is not
heard, it does not exist. Obstacles are then like tissue-paper
hoops to the circus rider--no impediment; the flood is higher
than the dam they make.

"Lass sie betteln gehn wenn sie hungrig sind!" cries the
grenadier, frantic over his Emperor's capture, when his wife and
babes are suggested; and men pent into a burning theatre have
been known to cut their way through the crowd with knives.[144]

[144] "'Love would not be love,' says Bourget, 'unless it could
carry one to crime.' And so one may say that no passion would be
a veritable passion unless it could carry one to crime."
(Sighele: Psychollogie des sectes, p. 136.) In other words,
great passions annul the ordinary inhibitions set by
"conscience." And conversely, of all the criminal human beings,
the false, cowardly, sensual, or cruel persons who actually live,
there is perhaps not one whose criminal impulse may not be at
some moment overpowered by the presence of some other emotion to
which his character is also potentially liable, provided that
other emotion be only made intense enough. Fear is usually the
most available emotion for this result in this particular class
of persons. It stands for conscience, and may here be classed
appropriately as a "higher affection." If we are soon to die, or
if we believe a day of judgment to be near at hand, how quickly
do we put our moral house in order--we do not see how sin can
evermore exert temptation over us! Old-fashioned hell-fire
Christianity well knew how to extract from fear its full
equivalent in the way of fruits for repentance, and its full
conversion value.

One mode of emotional excitability is exceedingly important in
the composition of the energetic character, from its peculiarly
destructive power over inhibitions. I mean what in its lower
form is mere irascibility, susceptibility to wrath, the fighting
temper; and what in subtler ways manifests itself as impatience,
grimness, earnestness, severity of character. Earnestness means
willingness to live with energy, though energy bring pain. The
pain may be pain to other people or pain to one's self--it makes
little difference; for when the strenuous mood is on one, the aim
is to break something, no matter whose or what. Nothing
annihilates an inhibition as irresistibly as anger does it; for,
as Moltke says of war, destruction pure and simple is its
essence. This is what makes it so invaluable an ally of every
other passion. The sweetest delights are trampled on with a
ferocious pleasure the moment they offer themselves as checks to
a cause by which our higher indignations are elicited. It costs
then nothing to drop friendships, to renounce long-rooted
privileges and possessions, to break with social ties. Rather do
we take a stern joy in the astringency and desolation; and what
is called weakness of character seems in most cases to consist in
the inaptitude for these sacrificial moods, of which one's own
inferior self and its pet softnesses must often be the targets
and the victims.[145]

[145] Example: Benjamin Constant was often marveled at as an
extraordinary instance of superior intelligence with inferior
character. He writes (Journal, Paris, 1895, p. 56), "I am tossed
and dragged about by my miserable weakness. Never was anything
so ridiculous as my indecision. Now marriage, now solitude; now
Germany, now France hesitation upon hesitation, and all because
at bottom I am UNABLE TO GIVE UP ANYTHING." He can't "get mad"
at any of his alternatives; and the career of a man beset by such
an all-round amiability is hopeless.

So far I have spoken of temporary alterations produced by
shifting excitements in the same person. But the relatively
fixed differences of character of different persons are explained
in a precisely similar way. In a man with a liability to a
special sort of emotion, whole ranges of inhibition habitually
vanish, which in other men remain effective, and other sorts of
inhibition take their place. When a person has an inborn genius
for certain emotions, his life differs strangely from that of
ordinary people, for none of their usual deterrents check him.
Your mere aspirant to a type of character, on the contrary, only
shows, when your natural lover, fighter, or reformer, with whom
the passion is a gift of nature, comes along, the hopeless
inferiority of voluntary to instinctive action. He has
deliberately to overcome his inhibitions; the genius with the
inborn passion seems not to feel them at all; he is free of all
that inner friction and nervous waste. To a Fox, a Garibaldi, a
General Booth, a John Brown, a Louise Michel, a Bradlaugh, the
obstacles omnipotent over those around them are as if
non-existent. Should the rest of us so disregard them, there
might be many such heroes, for many have the wish to live for
similar ideals, and only the adequate degree of
inhibition-quenching fury is lacking.[146]

[146] The great thing which the higher excitabilities give is
COURAGE; and the addition or subtraction of a certain amount of
this quality makes a different man, a different life. Various
excitements let the courage loose. Trustful hope will do it;
inspiring example will do it; love will do it, wrath will do it.
In some people it is natively so high that the mere touch of
danger does it, though danger is for most men the great inhibitor
of action. "Love of adventure" becomes in such persons a ruling
passion. "I believe," says General Skobeleff, "that my bravery
is simply the passion and at the same time the contempt of
danger. The risk of life fills me with an exaggerated rapture.
The fewer there are to share it, the more I like it. The
participation of my body in the event is required to furnish me
an adequate excitement. Everything intellectual appears to me to
be reflex; but a meeting of man to man, a duel, a danger into
which I can throw myself headforemost, attracts me, moves me,
intoxicates me. I am crazy for it, I love it, I adore it. I run
after danger as one runs after women; I wish it never to stop.
Were it always the same, it would always bring me a new pleasure.

When I throw myself into an adventure in which I hope to find it,
my heart palpitates with the uncertainty; I could wish at once to
have it appear and yet to delay. A sort of painful and delicious
shiver shakes me; my entire nature runs to meet the peril with an
impetus that my will would in vain try to resist. (Juliette Adam:
Le General Skobeleff, Nouvelle Revue, 1886, abridged.) Skobeleff
seems to have been a cruel egoist; but the disinterested
Garibaldi, if one may judge by his "Memorie," lived in an
unflagging emotion of similar danger-seeking excitement.

The difference between willing and merely wishing, between having
ideals that are creative and ideals that are but pinings and
regrets, thus depends solely either on the amount of
steam-pressure chronically driving the character in the ideal
direction, or on the amount of ideal excitement transiently
acquired. Given a certain amount of love, indignation,
generosity, magnanimity, admiration, loyalty, or enthusiasm of
self-surrender, the result is always the same. That whole raft
of cowardly obstructions, which in tame persons and dull moods
are sovereign impediments to action, sinks away at once. Our
conventionality,[147] our shyness, laziness, and stinginess, our
demands for precedent and permission, for guarantee and surety,
our small suspicions, timidities, despairs, where are they now?
Severed like cobwebs, broken like bubbles in the sun--

"Wo sind die Sorge nun und Noth
Die mich noch gestern wollt' erschlaffen?
Ich scham' mich dess' im Morgenroth."

The flood we are borne on rolls them so lightly under that their
very contact is unfelt. Set free of them, we float and soar and
sing. This auroral openness and uplift gives to all creative
ideal levels a bright and caroling quality, which is nowhere more
marked than where the controlling emotion is religious. "The
true monk," writes an Italian mystic, "takes nothing with him but
his lyre."

[147] See the case on p. 69, above, where the writer describes
his experiences of communion with the Divine as consisting
which usually cover my life."

We may now turn from these psychological generalities to those
fruits of the religious state which form the special subject of
our present lecture. The man who lives in his religious centre
of personal energy, and is actuated by spiritual enthusiasms,
differs from his previous carnal self in perfectly definite ways.

The new ardor which burns in his breast consumes in its glow the
lower "noes" which formerly beset him, and keeps him immune
against infection from the entire groveling portion of his
nature. Magnanimities once impossible are now easy; paltry
conventionalities and mean incentives once tyrannical hold no
sway. The stone wall inside of him has fallen, the hardness in
his heart has broken down. The rest of us can, I think, imagine
this by recalling our state of feeling in those temporary
"melting moods" into which either the trials of real life, or the
theatre, or a novel sometimes throws us. Especially if we weep!
For it is then as if our tears broke through an inveterate inner
dam, and let all sorts of ancient peccancies and moral
stagnancies drain away, leaving us now washed and soft of heart
and open to every nobler leading. With most of us the customary
hardness quickly returns, but not so with saintly persons. Many
saints, even as energetic ones as Teresa and Loyola, have
possessed what the church traditionally reveres as a special
grace, the so-called gift of tears. In these persons the melting
mood seems to have held almost uninterrupted control. And as it
is with tears and melting moods, so it is with other exalted
affections. Their reign may come by gradual growth or by a
crisis; but in either case it may have "come to stay."

At the end of the last lecture we saw this permanence to be true
of the general paramountcy of the higher insight, even though in
the ebbs of emotional excitement meaner motives might temporarily
prevail and backsliding might occur. But that lower temptations
may remain completely annulled, apart from transient emotion and
as if by alteration of the man's habitual nature, is also proved
by documentary evidence in certain cases. Before embarking on
the general natural history of the regenerate character, let me
convince you of this curious fact by one or two examples. The
most numerous are those of reformed drunkards. You recollect the
case of Mr. Hadley in the last lecture; the Jerry McAuley Water
Street Mission abounds in similar instances.[148] You also
remember the graduate of Oxford, converted at three in the
afternoon, and getting drunk in the hay-field the next day,
but after that permanently cured of his appetite. "From that
hour drink has had no terrors for me: I never touch it, never
want it. The same thing occurred with my pipe. . . . the desire
for it went at once and has never returned. So with every known
sin, the deliverance in each case being permanent and complete.
I have had no temptations since conversion."

[148] Above, p. 200. "The only radical remedy I know for
dipsomania is religiomania," is a saying I have heard quoted from
some medical man.

Here is an analogous case from Starbuck's manuscript

"I went into the old Adelphi Theatre, where there was a Holiness
meeting, . . . and I began saying, 'Lord, Lord, I must have this
blessing.' Then what was to me an audible voice said: 'Are you
willing to give up everything to the Lord?' and question after
question kept coming up, to all of which I said: 'Yes, Lord;
yes, Lord!' until this came: 'Why do you not accept it NOW?' and
I said: 'I do, Lord.'--I felt no particular joy, only a trust.
Just then the meeting closed, and, as I went out on the street, I
met a gentleman smoking a fine cigar, and a cloud of smoke came
into my face, and I took a long, deep breath of it, and praise
the Lord, all my appetite for it was gone. Then as I walked
along the street, passing saloons where the fumes of liquor came
out, I found that all my taste and longing for that accursed
stuff was gone. Glory to God! . . . [But] for ten or eleven long
years [after that] I was in the wilderness with its ups and
downs. My appetite for liquor never came back."

The classic case of Colonel Gardiner is that of a man cured of
sexual temptation in a single hour. To Mr. Spears the colonel
said, "I was effectually cured of all inclination to that sin I
was so strongly addicted to that I thought nothing but shooting
me through the head could have cured me of it; and all desire and
inclination to it was removed, as entirely as if I had been a
sucking child; nor did the temptation return to this day." Mr.
Webster's words on the same subject are these: "One thing I have
heard the colonel frequently say, that he was much addicted to
impurity before his acquaintance with religion; but that, so soon
as he was enlightened from above, he felt the power of the Holy
Ghost changing his nature so wonderfully that his sanctification
in this respect seemed more remarkable than in any other."[149]

[149] Doddridge's Life of Colonel James Gardiner, London
Religious Tract Society, pp. 23-32.

Such rapid abolition of ancient impulses and propensities reminds
us so strongly of what has been observed as the result of
hypnotic suggestion that it is difficult not to believe that
subliminal influences play the decisive part in these abrupt
changes of heart, just as they do in hypnotism.[150] Suggestive
therapeutics abound in records of cure, after a few sittings, of
inveterate bad habits with which the patient, left to ordinary
moral and physical influences, had struggled in vain. Both
drunkenness and sexual vice have been cured in this way, action
through the subliminal seeming thus in many individuals to have
the prerogative of inducing relatively stable change. If the
grace of God miraculously operates, it probably operates through
the subliminal door, then. But just HOW anything operates in
this region is still unexplained, and we shall do well now to say
good-by to the PROCESS of transformation altogether--leaving it,
if you like, a good deal of a psychological or theological
mystery--and to turn our attention to the fruits of the religious
condition, no matter in what way they may have been

[150] Here, for example, is a case, from Starbuck's book, in
which a "sensory automatism" brought about quickly what prayers
and resolves had been unable to effect. The subject is a woman.
She writes:--

"When I was about forty I tried to quit smoking, but the desire
was on me, and had me in its power. I cried and prayed and
promised God to quit, but could not. I had smoked for fifteen
years. When I was fifty-three, as I sat by the fire one day
smoking, a voice came to me. I did not hear it with my ears, but
more as a dream or sort of double think. It said, 'Louisa, lay
down smoking.' At once I replied. 'Will you take the desire
away?' But it only kept saying: 'Louisa, lay down smoking.'
Then I got up, laid my pipe on the mantel-shelf, and never smoked
again or had any desire to. The desire was gone as though I had
never known it or touched tobacco. The sight of others smoking
and the smell of smoke never gave me the least wish to touch it
again." The Psychology of Religion, p. 142.

[151] Professor Starbuck expresses the radical destruction of old
influences physiologically, as a cutting off of the connection
between higher and lower cerebral centres. "This condition," he
says, "in which the association-centres connected with the
spiritual life are cut off from the lower, is often reflected in
the way correspondents describe their experiences. . . . For
example: 'Temptations from without still assail me, but there is
nothing WITHIN to respond to them.' The ego [here] is wholly
identified with the higher centres whose quality of feeling is
that of withinness. Another of the respondents says: 'Since
then, although Satan tempts me, there is as it were a wall of
brass around me, so that his darts cannot touch me.'"
--Unquestionably, functional exclusions of this sort must occur
in the cerebral organ. But on the side accessible to
introspection, their causal condition is nothing but the degree
of spiritual excitement, getting at last so high and strong as to
be sovereign, and it must be frankly confessed that we do not
know just why or how such sovereignty comes about in one person
and not in another. We can only give our imagination a certain
delusive help by mechanical analogies.

If we should conceive, for example, that the human mind, with its
different possibilities of equilibrium, might be like a
many-sided solid with different surfaces on which it could lie
flat, we might liken mental revolutions to the spatial
revolutions of such a body. As it is pried up, say by a lever,
from a position in which it lies on surface A, for instance, it
will linger for a time unstably halfway up, and if the lever
cease to urge it, it will tumble back or "relapse" under the
continued pull of gravity. But if at last it rotate far enough
for its centre of gravity to pass beyond surface A altogether,
the body will fall over, on surface B, say, and abide there
permanently. The pulls of gravity towards A have vanished, and
may now be disregarded. The polyhedron has become immune against
farther attraction from their direction.

In this figure of speech the lever may correspond to the
emotional influences making for a new life, and the initial pull
of gravity to the ancient drawbacks and inhibitions. So long as
the emotional influence fails to reach a certain pitch of
efficacy, the changes it produces are unstable, and the man
relapses into his original attitude. But when a certain intensity
is attained by the new emotion, a critical point is passed, and
there then ensues an irreversible revolution, equivalent to the
production of a new nature.

The collective name for the ripe fruits of religion in a
character is Saintliness.[152] The saintly character is the
character for which spiritual emotions are the habitual centre of
the personal energy; and there is a certain composite photograph
of universal saintliness, the same in all religions, of which the
features can easily be traced.[153]

[152] I use this word in spite of a certain flavor of
"sanctimoniousness" which sometimes clings to it, because no
other word suggests as well the exact combination of affections
which the text goes on to describe.

[153] "It will be found," says Dr. W. R. Inge (in his lectures on
Christian Mysticism, London, 1899, p. 326), "that men of
preeminent saintliness agree very closely in what they tell us.
They tell us that they have arrived at an unshakable conviction,
not based on inference but on immediate experience, that God is a
spirit with whom the human spirit can hold intercourse; that in
him meet all that they can imagine of goodness, truth, and
beauty; that they can see his footprints everywhere in nature,
and feel his presence within them as the very life of their life,
so that in proportion as they come to themselves they come to
him. They tell us what separates us from him and from happiness
is, first, self-seeking in all its forms; and secondly,
sensuality in all its forms; that these are the ways of darkness
and death, which hide from us the face of God; while the path of
the just is like a shining light, which shineth more and more
unto the perfect day."

They are these:--

1. A feeling of being in a wider life than that of this world's
selfish little interests; and a conviction, not merely
intellectual, but as it were sensible, of the existence of an
Ideal Power. In Christian saintliness this power is always
personified as God; but abstract moral ideals, civic or patriotic
utopias, or inner versions of holiness or right may also be felt
as the true lords and enlargers of our life, in ways which I
described in the lecture on the Reality of the Unseen.[154]

[154] The "enthusiasm of humanity" may lead to a life which
coalesces in many respects with that of Christian saintliness.
Take the following rules proposed to members of the Union pour
l'Action morale, in the Bulletin de l'Union, April 1-15, 1894.
See, also, Revue Bleue, August 13, 1892.

"We would make known in our own persons the usefulness of rule,
of discipline, of resignation and renunciation; we would teach
the necessary perpetuity of suffering, and explain the creative
part which it plays. We would wage war upon false optimism; on
the base hope of happiness coming to us ready made; on the notion
of a salvation by knowledge alone, or by material civilization
alone, vain symbol as this is of civilization, precarious
external arrangement ill-fitted to replace the intimate union and
consent of souls. We would wage war also on bad morals, whether
in public or in private life; on luxury, fastidiousness, and
over-refinement, on all that tends to increase the painful,
immoral, and anti-social multiplications of our wants; on all
that excites envy and dislike in the soul of the common people,
and confirms the notion that the chief end of life is freedom to
enjoy. We would preach by our example the respect of superiors
and equals, the respect of all men; affectionate simplicity in
our relations with inferiors and insignificant persons;
indulgence where our own claims only are concerned, but firmness
in our demands where they relate to duties towards others or
towards the public.

"For the common people are what we help them to become; their
vices are our vices, gazed upon, envied, and imitated; and if
they come back with all their weight upon us, it is but just.

2. A sense of the friendly continuity of the ideal power with
our own life, and a willing self-surrender to its control.

3. An immense elation and freedom, as the outlines of the
confining selfhood melt down.

4. A shifting of the emotional centre towards loving and
harmonious affections, towards "yes, yes," and away from "no,"
where the claims of the non-ego are concerned. These fundamental
inner conditions have characteristic practical consequences, as

a. Asceticism.--The self-surrender may become so passionate as
to turn into self-immolation. It may then so over-rule the
ordinary inhibitions of the flesh that the saint finds positive
pleasure in sacrifice and asceticism, measuring and expressing as
they do the degree of his loyalty to the higher power.

b. Strength of Soul.--The sense of enlargement of life may be so
uplifting that personal motives and inhibitions, commonly
omnipotent, become too insignificant for notice, and new reaches
of patience and fortitude open out. Fears and anxieties go, and
blissful equanimity takes their place. Come heaven, come hell, it
makes no difference now!

"We forbid ourselves all seeking after popularity, all ambition
to appear important. We pledge ourselves to abstain from
falsehood, in all its degrees. We promise not to create or
encourage illusions as to what is possible, by what we say or
write. We promise to one another active sincerity, which strives
to see truth clearly, and which never fears to declare what it

"We promise deliberate resistance to the tidal waves of fashion,
to the 'booms' and panics of the public mind, to all the forms of
weakness and of fear.

"We forbid ourselves the use of sarcasm. Of serious things we
will speak seriously and unsmilingly, without banter and without
the appearance of banter;--and even so of all things, for there
are serious ways of being light of heart.

"We will put ourselves forward always for what we are, simply and
without false humility, as well as without pedantry, affectation,
or pride."

c. Purity.--The shifting of the emotional centre brings with it,
first, increase of purity. The sensitiveness to spiritual
discords is enhanced, and the cleansing of existence from brutal
and sensual elements becomes imperative. Occasions of contact
with such elements are avoided: the saintly life must deepen its
spiritual consistency and keep unspotted from the world. In some
temperaments this need of purity of spirit takes an ascetic turn,
and weaknesses of the flesh are treated with relentless severity.

d. Charity.--The shifting of the emotional centre brings,
secondly, increase of charity, tenderness for fellow-creatures.
The ordinary motives to antipathy, which usually set such close
bounds to tenderness among human beings, are inhibited. The saint
loves his enemies, and treats loathsome beggars as his brothers.

I now have to give some concrete illustrations of these fruits of
the spiritual tree. The only difficulty is to choose, for they
are so abundant.

Since the sense of Presence of a higher and friendly power seems
to be the fundamental feature in the spiritual life, I will begin
with that.

In our narratives of conversion we saw how the world might look
shining and transfigured to the convert,[155] and, apart from
anything acutely religious, we all have moments when the
universal life seems to wrap us round with friendliness. In youth
and health, in summer, in the woods or on the mountains, there
come days when the weather seems all whispering with peace, hours
when the goodness and beauty of existence enfold us like a dry
warm climate, or chime through us as if our inner ears were
subtly ringing with the world's security. Thoreau writes:--

[155] Above, pp. 243 ff.

"Once, a few weeks after I came to the woods, for an hour I
doubted whether the near neighborhood of man was not essential to
a serene and healthy life. To be alone was somewhat unpleasant.
But, in the midst of a gentle rain, while these thoughts
prevailed, I was suddenly sensible of such sweet and beneficent
society in Nature, in the very pattering of the drops, and in
<270> every sight and sound around my house, an infinite and
unaccountable friendliness all at once, like an atmosphere,
sustaining me, as made the fancied advantages of human
neighborhood insignificant, and I have never thought of them
since. Every little pine-needle expanded and swelled with
sympathy and befriended me. I was so distinctly made aware of
the presence of something kindred to me, that I thought no place
could ever be strange to me again."[156]

[156] H. Thoreau: Walden, Riverside edition, p. 206, abridged.

In the Christian consciousness this sense of the enveloping
friendliness becomes most personal and definite. "The
compensation," writes a German author,--"for the loss of that
sense of personal independence which man so unwillingly gives up,
is the disappearance of all FEAR from one's life, the quite
indescribable and inexplicable feeling of an inner SECURITY,
which one can only experience, but which, once it has been
experienced, one can never forget."[157]

[157] C. H. Hilty: Gluck, vol. i. p. 85.

I find an excellent description of this state of mind in a sermon
by Mr. Voysey:--

"It is the experience of myriads of trustful souls, that this
sense of God's unfailing presence with them in their going out
and in their coming in, and by night and day, is a source of
absolute repose and confident calmness. It drives away all fear
of what may befall them. That nearness of God is a constant
security against terror and anxiety. It is not that they are at
all assured of physical safety, or deem themselves protected by a
love which is denied to others, but that they are in a state of
mind equally ready to be safe or to meet with injury. If injury
befall them, they will be content to bear it because the Lord is
their keeper, and nothing can befall them without his will. If
it be his will, then injury is for them a blessing and no
calamity at all. Thus and thus only is the trustful man
protected and shielded from harm. And I for one--by no means a
thick-skinned or hard-nerved man-am absolutely satisfied with
this arrangement, and do not wish for any other kind of immunity
from danger and catastrophe. Quite as sensitive to pain as the
most highly strung organism, I yet feel that the worst of it is
conquered, and the sting taken out of it altogether, by the
thought that God is our loving and sleepless keeper, and that
nothing can hurt us without his will."[158]

[158] The Mystery of Pain and Death, London, 1892, p. 258.

More excited expressions of this condition are abundant in
religious literature. I could easily weary you with their
monotony. Here is an account from Mrs. Jonathan Edwards:--

"Last night," Mrs. Edwards writes, "was the sweetest night I
ever had in my life. I never before, for so long a time
together, enjoyed so much of the light and rest and sweetness of
heaven in my soul, but without the least agitation of body during
the whole time. Part of the night I lay awake, sometimes asleep,
and sometimes between sleeping and waking. But all night I
continued in a constant, clear, and lively sense of the heavenly
sweetness of Christ's excellent love, of his nearness to me, and
of my dearness to him; with an inexpressibly sweet calmness of
soul in an entire rest in him. I seemed to myself to perceive a
glow of divine love come down from the heart of Christ in heaven
into my heart in a constant stream, like a stream or pencil of
sweet light. At the same time my heart and soul all flowed out
in love to Christ, so that there seemed to be a constant flowing
and reflowing of heavenly love, and I appeared to myself to float
or swim, in these bright, sweet beams, like the motes swimming in
the beams of the sun, or the streams of his light which come in
at the window. I think that what I felt each minute was worth
more than all the outward comfort and pleasure which I had
enjoyed in my whole life put together. It was pleasure, without
the least sting, or any interruption. It was a sweetness, which
my soul was lost in; it seemed to be all that my feeble frame
could sustain. There was but little difference, whether I was
asleep or awake, but if there was any difference, the sweetness
was greatest while I was asleep.[159] As I awoke early the next
morning, it seemed to me that I had entirely done with myself. I
felt that the opinions of the world concerning me were nothing,
and that I had no more to do with any outward interest of my own
than with that of a person whom I never saw. The glory of God
seemed to swallow up every wish and desire of my heart. . . .
After retiring to rest and sleeping a little while, I awoke, and
was led to reflect on God's mercy to me, in giving me, for many
years, a willingness to die; and after that, in making me willing
to live, that I might do and suffer whatever he called me to
here. I also thought how God had graciously given me an entire
resignation to his will, with respect to the kind and manner of
death that I should die; having been made willing to die on the
rack, or at the stake, and if it were God's will, to die in
darkness. But now it occurred to me, I used to think of living
no longer than to the ordinary age of man. Upon this I was led
to ask myself, whether I was not willing to be kept out of heaven
even longer; and my whole heart seemed immediately to reply:
Yes, a thousand years, and a thousand in horror, if it be most
for the honor of God, the torment of my body being so great,
awful, and overwhelming that none could bear to live in the
country where the spectacle was seen, and the torment of my mind
being vastly greater. And it seemed to me that I found a perfect
willingness, quietness, and alacrity of soul in consenting that
it should be so, if it were most for the glory of God, so that
there was no hesitation, doubt, or darkness in my mind. The
glory of God seemed to overcome me and swallow me up, and every
conceivable suffering, and everything that was terrible to my
nature, seemed to shrink to nothing before it. This resignation
continued in its clearness and brightness the rest of the night,
and all the next day, and the night following, and on Monday in
the forenoon, without interruption or abatement."[160]

[159] Compare Madame Guyon: "It was my practice to arise at
midnight for purposes of devotion. . . . It seemed to me that
God came at the precise time and woke me from sleep in order that
I might enjoy him. When I was out of health or greatly fatigued,
he did not awake me, but at such times I felt, even in my sleep,
a singular possession of God. He loved me so much that he seemed
to pervade my being, at a time when I could be only imperfectly
conscious of his presence. My sleep is sometimes broken--a sort
of half sleep; but my soul seems to be awake enough to know God,
when it is hardly capable of knowing anything else." T. C.
Upham: The Life and Religious Experiences of Madame de la Mothe
Guyon, New York, 1877, vol. i. p. 260.

[160] I have considerably abridged the words of the original,
which is given in Edwards's Narrative of the Revival in New

The annals of Catholic saintship abound in records as ecstatic or
more ecstatic than this. "Often the assaults of the divine
love," it is said of the Sister Seraphique de la Martiniere,
"reduced her almost to the point of death. She used tenderly to
complain of this to God. 'I cannot support it,' she used to say.

'Bear gently with my weakness, or I shall expire under the
violence of your love.'"[161]

[161] Bougaud: Hist. de la Bienheureuse Marguerite Marie, 1894,
p. 125.

Let me pass next to the Charity and Brotherly Love which are a
usual fruit of saintliness, and have always been reckoned
essential theological virtues, however limited may have been the
kinds of service which the particular theology enjoined.
Brotherly love would follow logically from the assurance of God's
friendly presence, the notion of our brotherhood as men being an
immediate inference from that of God's fatherhood of us all.
When Christ utters the precepts: "Love your enemies, bless them
that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them
which despitefully use you, and persecute you," he gives for a
reason: "That ye may be the children of your Father which is in
heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the
good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." One
might therefore be tempted to explain both the humility as to
one's self and the charity towards others which characterize
spiritual excitement, as results of the all-leveling character of
theistic belief. But these affections are certainly not mere
derivatives of theism. We find them in Stoicism, in Hinduism,
and in Buddhism in the highest possible degree. They HARMONIZE
with paternal theism beautifully; but they harmonize with all
reflection whatever upon the dependence of mankind on general
causes; and we must, I think, consider them not subordinate but
coordinate parts of that great complex excitement in the study of
which we are engaged. Religious rapture, moral enthusiasm,
ontological wonder, cosmic emotion, are all unifying states of
mind, in which the sand and grit of the selfhood incline to
disappear, and tenderness to rule. The best thing is to describe
the condition integrally as a characteristic affection to which
our nature is liable, a region in which we find ourselves at
home, a sea in which we swim; but not to pretend to explain its
parts by deriving them too cleverly from one another. Like love
or fear, the faith-state is a natural psychic complex, and
carries charity with it by organic consequence. Jubilation is an
expansive affection, and all expansive affections are
self-forgetful and kindly so long as they endure.

We find this the case even when they are pathological in origin.
In his instructive work, la Tristesse et la Joie,[162] M. Georges
Dumas compares together the melancholy and the joyous phase of
circular insanity, and shows that, while selfishness
characterizes the one, the other is marked by altruistic
impulses. No human being so stingy and useless as was Marie in
her melancholy period! But the moment the happy period begins,
"sympathy and kindness become her characteristic sentiments. She
displays a universal goodwill, not only of intention, but in act.
. . . She becomes solicitous of the health of other patients,
interested in getting them out, desirous to procure wool to knit
socks for some of them. Never since she has been under my
observation have I heard her in her joyous period utter any but
charitable opinions."[163] And later, Dr. Dumas says of all such
joyous conditions that "unselfish sentiments and tender emotions
are the only affective states to be found in them. The subject's
mind is closed against envy, hatred, and vindictiveness, and
wholly transformed into benevolence, indulgence, and mercy."[164]

[162] Paris, 1900.

[163] Page 130.

[164] Page 167.

There is thus an organic affinity between joyousness and
tenderness, and their companionship in the saintly life need in
no way occasion surprise. Along with the happiness, this
increase of tenderness is often noted in narratives of
conversion. "I began to work for others";--"I had more tender
feeling for my family and friends";--"I spoke at once to a person
with whom I had been angry";--"I felt for every one, and loved my
friends better";--"I felt every one to be my friend";--these are
so many expressions from the records collected by Professor

[165] Op. cit., p. 127.

"When," says Mrs. Edwards, continuing the narrative from which I
made quotation a moment ago, "I arose on the morning of the
Sabbath, I felt a love to all mankind, wholly peculiar in its
strength and sweetness, far beyond all that I had ever felt
before. The power of that love seemed inexpressible. I thought,
if I were surrounded by enemies, who were venting their malice
and cruelty upon me, in tormenting me, it would still be
impossible that I should cherish any feelings towards them but
those of love, and pity, and ardent desires for their happiness.
I never before felt so far from a disposition to judge and
censure others, as I did that morning. I realized also, in an
unusual and very lively manner, how great a part of Christianity
lies in the performance of our social and relative duties to one
another. The same joyful sense continued throughout the day--a
sweet love to God and all mankind."

Whatever be the explanation of the charity, it may efface all
usual human barriers.[166]

[166] The barrier between men and animals also. We read of
Towianski, an eminent Polish patriot and mystic, that "one day
one of his friends met him in the rain, caressing a big dog which
was jumping upon him and covering him horribly with mud. On
being asked why he permitted the animal thus to dirty his
clothes, Towianski replied: 'This dog, whom I am now meeting for
the first time, has shown a great fellow-feeling for me, and a
great joy in my recognition and acceptance of his greetings.
Were I to drive him off, I should wound his feelings and do him a
moral injury. It would be an offense not only to him, but to all
the spirits of the other world who are on the same level with
him. The damage which he does to my coat is as nothing in
comparison with the wrong which I should inflict upon him, in
case I were to remain indifferent to the manifestations of his
friendship. We ought,' he added, 'both to lighten the condition
of animals, whenever we can, and at the same time to facilitate
in ourselves that union of the world of all spirits, which the
sacrifice of Christ has made possible.'" Andre Towianski,
Traduction de l'Italien, Turin, 1897 (privately printed). I owe
my knowledge of this book and of Towianski to my friend Professor
W. Lutoslawski, author of "Plato's Logic."

Here, for instance, is an example of Christian non-resistance
from Richard Weaver's autobiography. Weaver was a collier, a
semi-professional pugilist in his younger days, who became a much
beloved evangelist. Fighting, after drinking, seems to have been
the sin to which he originally felt his flesh most perversely
inclined. After his first conversion he had a backsliding, which
consisted in pounding a man who had insulted a girl. Feeling
that, having once fallen, he might as well be hanged for a sheep
as for a lamb, he got drunk and went and broke the jaw of another
man who had lately challenged him to fight and taunted him with
cowardice for refusing as a Christian man;--I mention these
incidents to show how genuine a change of heart is implied in the
later conduct which he describes as follows:--

"I went down the drift and found the boy crying because a
fellow-workman was trying to take the wagon from him by force. I
said to him:--

"'Tom, you mustn't take that wagon.'

"He swore at me, and called me a Methodist devil. I told him
that God did not tell me to let him rob me. He cursed again, and
said he would push the wagon over me.

"'Well,' I said, 'let us see whether the devil and thee are
stronger than the Lord and me.'

"And the Lord and I proving stronger than the devil and he, he
had to get out of the way, or the wagon would have gone over him.

So I gave the wagon to the boy. Then said Tom:--

"'I've a good mind to smack thee on the face.'

"'Well,' I said, 'if that will do thee any good, thou canst do
it.' So he struck me on the face.

"I turned the other cheek to him, and said, 'Strike again.'

"He struck again and again, till he had struck me five times. I
turned my cheek for the sixth stroke; but he turned away cursing.

I shouted after him: 'The Lord forgive thee, for I do, and the
Lord save thee.'

"This was on a Saturday; and when I went home from the coal-pit
my wife saw my face was swollen, and asked what was the matter
with it. I said: 'I've been fighting, and I've given a man a
good thrashing.'

"She burst out weeping, and said, 'O Richard, what made you
fight?' Then I told her all about it; and she thanked the Lord I
had not struck back.

"But the Lord had struck, and his blows have more effect than
man's. Monday came. The devil began to tempt me, saying: 'The
other men will laugh at thee for allowing Tom to treat thee as he
did on Saturday.' I cried, 'Get thee behind me, Satan;'--and went
on my way to the coal-pit.

"Tom was the first man I saw. I said 'Good-morning,' but got no

"He went down first. When I got down, I was surprised to see him
sitting on the wagon-road waiting for me. When I came to him he
burst into tears and said: 'Richard, will you forgive me for
striking you?'

"'I have forgiven thee,' said I; 'ask God to forgive thee. The
Lord bless thee.' I gave him my hand, and we went each to his

[167] J. Patterson's Life of Richard Weaver, pp. 66-68, abridged.

"Love your enemies!" Mark you, not simply those who happen not
to be your friends, but your ENEMIES, your positive and active
enemies. Either this is a mere Oriental hyperbole, a bit of
verbal extravagance, meaning only that we should, as far as we
can, abate our animosities, or else it is sincere and literal.
Outside of certain cases of intimate individual relation, it
seldom has been taken literally. Yet it makes one ask the
question: Can there in general be a level of emotion so
unifying, so obliterative of differences between man and man,
that even enmity may come to be an irrelevant circumstance and
fail to inhibit the friendlier interests aroused? If positive
well-wishing could attain so supreme a degree of excitement,
those who were swayed by it might well seem superhuman beings.
Their life would be morally discrete from the life of other men,
and there is no saying, in the absence of positive experience of
an authentic kind--for there are few active examples in our
scriptures, and the Buddhistic examples are legendary,[168]--what
the effects might be: they might conceivably transform the

[168] As where the future Buddha, incarnated as a hare, jumps
into the fire to cook himself for a meal for a beggar--having
previously shaken himself three times, so that none of the
insects in his fur should perish with him.

Psychologically and in principle, the precept "Love your enemies"
is not self-contradictory. It is merely the extreme limit of a
kind of magnanimity with which, in the shape of pitying tolerance
of our oppressors, we are fairly familiar. Yet if radically
followed, it would involve such a breach with our instinctive
springs of action as a whole, and with the present world's
arrangements, that a critical point would practically be passed,
and we should be born into another kingdom of being. Religious
emotion makes us feel that other kingdom to be close at hand,
within our reach.

The inhibition of instinctive repugnance is proved not only by
the showing of love to enemies, but by the showing of it to any
one who is personally loathsome. In the annals of saintliness we
find a curious mixture of motives impelling in this direction.
Asceticism plays its part; and along with charity pure and
simple, we find humility or the desire to disclaim distinction
and to grovel on the common level before God. Certainly all
three principles were at work when Francis of Assisi and Ignatius
Loyola exchanged their garments with those of filthy beggars.
All three are at work when religious persons consecrate their
lives to the care of leprosy or other peculiarly unpleasant
diseases. The nursing of the sick is a function to which the
religious seem strongly drawn, even apart from the fact that
church traditions set that way. But in the annals of this sort
of charity we find fantastic excesses of devotion recorded which
are only explicable by the frenzy of self-immolation
simultaneously aroused. Francis of Assisi kisses his lepers;
Margaret Mary Alacoque, Francis Xavier, St. John of God, and
others are said to have cleansed the sores and ulcers of their
patients with their respective tongues; and the lives of such
saints as Elizabeth of Hungary and Madame de Chantal are full of
a sort of reveling in hospital purulence, disagreeable to read
of, and which makes us admire and shudder at the same time.

So much for the human love aroused by the faith-state. Let me
next speak of the Equanimity, Resignation, Fortitude, and
Patience which it brings.

"A paradise of inward tranquillity" seems to be faith's usual
result; and it is easy, even without being religious one's self,
to understand this. A moment back, in treating of the sense of
God's presence, I spoke of the unaccountable feeling of safety
which one may then have. And, indeed, how can it possibly fail
to steady the nerves, to cool the fever, and appease the fret, if
one be sensibly conscious that, no matter what one's difficulties
for the moment may appear to be, one's life as a whole is in the
keeping of a power whom one can absolutely trust? In deeply
religious men the abandonment of self to this power is
passionate. Whoever not only says, but FEELS, "God's will be
done," is mailed against every weakness; and the whole historic
array of martyrs, missionaries, and religious reformers is there
to prove the tranquil-mindedness, under naturally agitating or
distressing circumstances, which self-surrender brings.

The temper of the tranquil-mindedness differs, of course,
according as the person is of a constitutionally sombre or of a
constitutionally cheerful cast of mind. In the sombre it
partakes more of resignation and submission; in the cheerful it
is a joyous consent. As an example of the former temper, I quote
part of a letter from Professor Lagneau, a venerated teacher of
philosophy who lately died, a great invalid, at Paris:--

"My life, for the success of which you send good wishes, will be
what it is able to be. I ask nothing from it, I expect nothing
from it. For long years now I exist, think, and act, and am
worth what I am worth, only through the despair which is my sole
strength and my sole foundation. May it preserve for me, even in
these last trials to which I am coming, the courage to do without
the desire of deliverance. I ask nothing more from the Source
whence all strength cometh, and if that is granted, your wishes
will have been accomplished."[169]

[169] Bulletin de l'Union pour l'Action Morale, September, 1894.

There is something pathetic and fatalistic about this, but the
power of such a tone as a protection against outward shocks is
manifest. Pascal is another Frenchman of pessimistic <281>
natural temperament. He expresses still more amply the temper of
self-surrendering submissiveness:--

"Deliver me, Lord," he writes in his prayers, "from the sadness
at my proper suffering which self-love might give, but put into
me a sadness like your own. Let my sufferings appease your
choler. Make them an occasion for my conversion and salvation. I
ask you neither for health nor for sickness, for life nor for
death; but that you may dispose of my health and my sickness, my
life and my death, for your glory, for my salvation, and for the
use of the Church and of your saints, of whom I would by your
grace be one. You alone know what is expedient for me; you are
the sovereign master; do with me according to your will. Give to
me, or take away from me, only conform my will to yours. I know
but one thing, Lord, that it is good to follow you, and bad to
offend you. Apart from that, I know not what is good or bad in
anything. I know not which is most profitable to me, health or
sickness, wealth or poverty, nor anything else in the world.
That discernment is beyond the power of men or angels, and is
hidden among the secrets of your Providence, which I adore, but
do not seek to fathom."[170]

[170] B. Pascal: Prieres pour les Maladies, Sections xiii.,
xiv., abridged.

When we reach more optimistic temperaments, the resignation grows
less passive. Examples are sown so broadcast throughout history
that I might well pass on without citation. As it is, I snatch
at the first that occurs to my mind. Madame Guyon, a frail
creature physically, was yet of a happy native disposition. She
went through many perils with admirable serenity of soul. After
being sent to prison for heresy--

"Some of my friends," she writes, "wept bitterly at the hearing
of it, but such was my state of acquiescence and resignation that
it failed to draw any tears from me. . . . There appeared to be
in me then, as I find it to be in me now, such an entire loss of
what regards myself, that any of my own interests gave me little
pain or pleasure; ever wanting to will or wish for myself only
the very thing which God does." In another place she writes:
"We all of us came near perishing in a river which we found it
necessary to pass. The carriage sank in the quicksand. Others
who were with us threw themselves out in excessive fright. But I
found my thoughts so much taken up with God that I had no
distinct sense of danger. It is true that the thought of being
drowned passed across my mind, but it cost no other sensation or
reflection in me than this--that I felt quite contented and
willing it were so, if it were my heavenly Father's choice."
Sailing from Nice to Genoa, a storm keeps her eleven days at sea.

"As the irritated waves dashed round us," she writes, "I could
not help experiencing a certain degree of satisfaction in my
mind. I pleased myself with thinking that those mutinous
billows, under the command of Him who does all things rightly,
might probably furnish me with a watery grave. Perhaps I carried
the point too far, in the pleasure which I took in thus seeing
myself beaten and bandied by the swelling waters. Those who were
with me took notice of my intrepidity."[171]

[171] From Thomas C. Upham's Life and Religious Opinions and
Experiences of Madame de la Mothe Guyon, New York, 1877, ii. 48,
i. 141, 413, abridged.

The contempt of danger which religious enthusiasm produces may be
even more buoyant still. I take an example from that charming
recent autobiography, "With Christ at Sea," by Frank Bullen. A
couple of days after he went through the conversion on shipboard
of which he there gives an account--

"It was blowing stiffly," he writes, "and we were carrying a
press of canvas to get north out of the bad weather. Shortly
after four bells we hauled down the flying-jib, and I sprang out
astride the boom to furl it. I was sitting astride the boom when
suddenly it gave way with me. The sail slipped through my
fingers, and I fell backwards, hanging head downwards over the
seething tumult of shining foam under the ship's bows, suspended
by one foot. But I felt only high exultation in my certainty
of eternal life. Although death was divided from me by a hair's
breadth, and I was acutely conscious of the fact, it gave me no
sensation but joy. I suppose I could have hung there no longer
than five seconds, but in that time I lived a whole age of
delight. But my body asserted itself, and with a desperate
gymnastic effort I regained the boom. How I furled the sail I
don't know, but I sang at the utmost pitch of my voice praises to
God that went pealing out over the dark waste of waters."[172]

[172] Op. cit., London, 1901, p. 230.

The annals of martyrdom are of course the signal field of triumph
for religious imperturbability. Let me cite as an example the
statement of a humble sufferer, persecuted as a Huguenot under
Louis XIV:--

"They shut all the doors," Blanche Gamond writes, "and I saw six
women, each with a bunch of willow rods as thick as the hand
could hold, and a yard long. He gave me the order, 'Undress
yourself,' which I did. He said, 'You are leaving on your shift;
you must take it off.' They had so little patience that they
took it off themselves, and I was naked from the waist up. They
brought a cord with which they tied me to a beam in the kitchen.
They drew the cord tight with all their strength and asked me,
'Does it hurt you?' and then they discharged their fury upon me,
exclaiming as they struck me, 'Pray now to your God.' It was the
Roulette woman who held this language. But at this moment I
received the greatest consolation that I can ever receive in my
life, since I had the honor of being whipped for the name of
Christ, and in addition of being crowned with his mercy and his
consolations. Why can I not write down the inconceivable
influences, consolations, and peace which I felt interiorly? To
understand them one must have passed by the same trial; they were
so great that I was ravished, for there where afflictions abound
grace is given superabundantly. In vain the women cried, 'We
must double our blows; she does not feel them, for she neither
speaks nor cries.' And how should I have cried, since I was
swooning with happiness within?"[173]

[173] Claparede et Goty: Deux Heroines de la Foi, Paris, 1880,
p. 112.

The transition from tenseness, self-responsibility, and worry, to
equanimity, receptivity, and peace, is the most wonderful of all
those shiftings of inner equilibrium, those changes of the
personal centre of energy, which I have analyzed so often; and
the chief wonder of it is that it so often comes about, not by
doing, but by simply relaxing and throwing the burden down. This
abandonment of self-responsibility seems to be the fundamental
act in specifically religious, as distinguished from moral
practice. It antedates theologies and is independent of
philosophies. Mind-cure, theosophy, stoicism, ordinary
neurological hygiene, insist on it as emphatically as
Christianity does, and it is capable of entering into closest
marriage with every speculative creed.[174] Christians who have
it strongly live in what is called "recollection," and are never
anxious about the future, nor worry over the outcome of the day.
Of Saint Catharine of Genoa it is said that "she took cognizance
of things, only as they were presented to her in succession,
MOMENT BY MOMENT." To her holy soul, "the divine moment was the
present moment, . . . and when the present moment was estimated
in itself and in its relations, and when the duty that was
involved in it was accomplished, it was permitted to pass away as
if it had never been, and to give way to the facts and duties of
the moment which came after."[175] Hinduism, mind-cure, and
theosophy all lay great emphasis upon this concentration of the
consciousness upon the moment at hand.

[174] Compare these three different statements of it: A. P.
Call: As a Matter of Course, Boston, 1894; H. W. Dresser:
Living by the Spirit, New York and London, 1900; H. W. Smith:
The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, published by the Willard
Tract Repository, and now in thousands of hands.

[175] T. C. Upham: Life of Madame Catharine Adorna, 3d ed.,
New York, 1864, pp. 158, 172-74.

The next religious symptom which I will note is what have called
Purity of Life. The saintly person becomes exceedingly sensitive
to inner inconsistency or discord, and mixture and confusion grow
intolerable. All the mind's objects and occupations must be
ordered with reference to the special spiritual excitement which
is now its keynote. Whatever is unspiritual taints the pure
water of the soul and is repugnant. Mixed with this exaltation
of the moral sensibilities there is also an ardor of sacrifice,
for the beloved deity's sake, of everything unworthy of him.
Sometimes the spiritual ardor is so sovereign that purity is
achieved at a stroke --we have seen examples. Usually it is a
more gradual conquest. Billy Bray's account of his abandonment
of tobacco is a good example of the latter form of achievement.

"I had been a smoker as well as a drunkard, and I used to love my
tobacco as much as I loved my meat, and I would rather go down
into the mine without my dinner than without my pipe. In the
days of old, the Lord spoke by the mouths of his servants, the
prophets; now he speaks to us by the spirit of his Son. I had
not only the feeling part of religion, but I could hear the
small, still voice within speaking to me. When I took the pipe
to smoke, it would be applied within, 'It is an idol, a lust;
worship the Lord with clean lips.' So, I felt it was not right
to smoke. The Lord also sent a woman to convince me. I was one
day in a house, and I took out my pipe to light it at the fire,
and Mary Hawke--for that was the woman's name--said, 'Do you not
feel it is wrong to smoke?' I said that I felt something inside
telling me that it was an idol, a lust, and she said that was the
Lord. Then I said, 'Now, I must give it up, for the Lord is
telling me of it inside, and the woman outside, so the tobacco
must go, love it as I may.' There and then I took the tobacco
out of my pocket, and threw it into the fire, and put the pipe
under my foot, 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust.' And I have not
smoked since. I found it hard to break off old habits, but I
cried to the Lord for help, and he gave me strength, for he has
said, 'Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver
thee.' The day after I gave up smoking I had the toothache so
bad that I did not know what to do. I thought this was owing to
giving up the pipe, but I said I would never smoke again, if I
lost every tooth in my head. I said, 'Lord, thou hast told us My
yoke is easy and my burden is light,' and when I said that, all
the pain left me. Sometimes the thought of the pipe would come
back to me very strong; but the Lord strengthened me against the
habit, and, bless his name, I have not smoked since."

Bray's biographer writes that after he had given up smoking, he
thought that he would chew a little, but he conquered this dirty
habit, too. "On one occasion," Bray said, "when at a prayer-
meeting at Hicks Mill, I heard the Lord say to me, 'Worship me
with clean lips.' So, when we got up from our knees, I took the
quid out of my mouth and 'whipped 'en' [threw it] under the form.

But, when we got on our knees again, I put another quid into my
mouth. Then the Lord said to me again, 'Worship me with clean
lips.' So I took the quid out of my mouth, and whipped 'en under
the form again, and said, 'Yes, Lord, I will.' From that time I
gave up chewing as well as smoking, and have been a free man."

The ascetic forms which the impulse for veracity and purity of
life may take are often pathetic enough. The early Quakers, for
example, had hard battles to wage against the worldliness and
insincerity of the ecclesiastical Christianity of their time.
Yet the battle that cost them most wounds was probably that which
they fought in defense of their own right to social veracity and
sincerity in their thee-ing and thou-ing, in not doffing the hat
or giving titles of respect. It was laid on George Fox that these
conventional customs were a lie and a sham, and the whole body of
his followers thereupon renounced them, as a sacrifice to truth,
and so that their acts and the spirit they professed might be
more in accord.

"When the Lord sent me into the world," says Fox in his Journal,
"he forbade me to put off my hat to any, high or low: and I was
required to 'thee' and 'thou' all men and women, without any
respect to rich or poor, great or small. And as I traveled up
and down, I was not to bid people Good-morning or Good-evening,
neither might I bow or scrape with my leg to any one. This made
the sects and professions rage. Oh! the rage that was in the
priests, magistrates, professors, and people of all sorts: and
especially in priests and professors: for though 'thou' to a
single person was according to their accidence and grammar rules,
and according to the Bible, yet they could not bear to hear it:
and because I could not put off my hat to them, it set them all
into a rage. . . . Oh! the scorn, heat, and fury that arose! Oh!
the blows, punchings, beatings, and imprisonments that we
underwent for not putting off our hats to men! Some had their
hats violently plucked off and thrown away, so that they quite
lost them. The bad language and evil usage we received on this
account is hard to be expressed, besides the danger we were
sometimes in of losing our lives for this matter, and that by the
great professors of Christianity, who thereby discovered they
were not true believers. And though it was but a small thing in
the eye of man, yet a wonderful confusion it brought among all
professors and priests: but, blessed be the Lord, many came to
see the vanity of that custom of putting off hats to men, and
felt the weight of Truth's testimony against it."

In the autobiography of Thomas Elwood, an early Quaker, who at
one time was secretary to John Milton, we find an exquisitely
quaint and candid account of the trials he underwent both at home
and abroad, in following Fox's canons of sincerity. The
anecdotes are too lengthy for citation; but Elwood sets down his
manner of feeling about these things in a shorter passage, which
I will quote as a characteristic utterance of spiritual

"By this divine light, then," says Elwood, "I saw that though I
had not the evil of the common uncleanliness, debauchery,
profaneness, and pollutions of the world to put away, because I
had, through the great goodness of God and a civil education,
been preserved out of those grosser evils, yet I had many other
evils to put away and to cease from; some of which were not by
the world, which lies in wickedness (I John v. 19), accounted
evils, but by the light of Christ were made manifest to me to be
evils, and as such condemned in me.

"As particularly those fruits and effects of pride that discover
themselves in the vanity and superfluity of apparel; which I took
too much delight in. This evil of my doings I was required to
put away and cease from; and judgment lay upon me till I did so.

"I took off from my apparel those unnecessary trimmings of lace,
ribbons, and useless buttons, which had no real service, but were
set on only for that which was by mistake called ornament; and I
ceased to wear rings.

"Again, the giving of flattering titles to men between whom and
me there was not any relation to which such titles could be
pretended to belong. This was an evil I had been much addicted
to, and was accounted a ready artist in; therefore this evil also
was I required to put away and cease from. So that thenceforward
I durst not say, Sir, Master, My Lord, Madam (or My Dame); or say
Your Servant to any one to whom I did not stand in the real
relation of a servant, which I had never done to any.

"Again, respect of persons, in uncovering the head and bowing the
knee or body in salutation, was a practice I had been much in the
use of; and this, being one of the vain customs of the world,
introduced by the spirit of the world, instead of the true honor
which this is a false representation of, and used in deceit as a
token of respect by persons one to another, who bear no real
respect one to another; and besides this, being a type and a
proper emblem of that divine honor which all ought to pay to
Almighty God, and which all of all sorts, who take upon them the
Christian name, appear in when they offer their prayers to him,
and therefore should not be given to men;--I found this to be one
of those evils which I had been too long doing; therefore I was
now required to put it away and cease from it.

"Again, the corrupt and unsound form of speaking in the plural
number to a single person, YOU to one, instead of THOU, contrary
to the pure, plain, and single language of truth, THOU to one,
and YOU to more than one, which had always been used by God to
men, and men to God, as well as one to another, from the oldest
record of time till corrupt men, for corrupt ends, in later and
corrupt times, to flatter, fawn, and work upon the corrupt nature
in men, brought in that false and senseless way of speaking you
to one, which has since corrupted the modern languages, and hath
greatly debased the spirits and depraved the manners of
men;--this evil custom I had been as forward in as others, and
this I was now called out of and required to cease from.

"These and many more evil customs which had sprung up in the
night of darkness and general apostasy from the truth and true
religion were now, by the inshining of this pure ray of divine
light in my conscience, gradually discovered to me to be what I
ought to cease from, shun, and stand a witness against."[176]

[176] The History of Thomas Elwood, written by Himself, London,
1885, pp. 32-34

These early Quakers were Puritans indeed. The slightest
inconsistency between profession and deed jarred some of them to
active protest. John Woolman writes in his diary:--

"In these journeys I have been where much cloth hath been dyed;
and have at sundry times walked over ground where much of their
dyestuffs has drained away. This hath produced a longing in my
mind that people might come into cleanness of spirit, cleanness
of person, and cleanness about their houses and garments. Dyes
being invented partly to please the eye, and partly to hide dirt,
I have felt in this weak state, when traveling in dirtiness, and
affected with unwholesome scents, a strong desire that the nature
of dyeing cloth to hide dirt may be more fully considered.

"Washing our garments to keep them sweet is cleanly, but it is
the opposite to real cleanliness to hide dirt in them. Through
giving way to hiding dirt in our garments a spirit which would
conceal that which is disagreeable is strengthened. Real
cleanliness becometh a holy people; but hiding that which is not
clean by coloring our garments seems contrary to the sweetness of
sincerity. Through some sorts of dyes cloth is rendered less
useful. And if the value of dyestuffs, and expense of dyeing, and
the damage done to cloth, were all added together, and that cost
applied to keeping all sweet and clean, how much more would real
cleanliness prevail.

"Thinking often on these things, the use of hats and garments
dyed with a dye hurtful to them, and wearing more clothes in
summer than are useful, grew more uneasy to me; believing them to
be customs which have not their foundation in pure wisdom. The
apprehension of being singular from my beloved friends was a
strait upon me; and thus I continued in the use of some things,
contrary to my judgment, about nine months. Then I thought of
getting a hat the natural color of the fur, but the apprehension
of being looked upon as one affecting singularity felt uneasy to
me. On this account I was under close exercise of mind in the
time of our general spring meeting in 1762, greatly desiring to
be rightly directed; when, being deeply bowed in spirit before
the Lord, I was made willing to submit to what I apprehended was
required of me; and when I returned home, got a hat of the
natural color of the fur.

"In attending meetings, this singularity was a trial to me, and
more especially at this time, as white hats were used by some who
were fond of following the changeable modes of dress, and as some
friends, who knew not from what motives I wore it, grew shy of
me, I felt my way for a time shut up in the exercise of the
ministry. Some friends were apprehensive that my wearing such a
hat savored of an affected singularity: those who spoke with me
in a friendly way, I generally informed in a few words, that I
believed my wearing it was not in my own will."

When the craving for moral consistency and purity is developed to
this degree, the subject may well find the outer world too full
of shocks to dwell in, and can unify his life and keep his soul
unspotted only by withdrawing from it. That law which impels the
artist to achieve harmony in his composition by simply dropping
out whatever jars, or suggests a discord, rules also in the
spiritual life. To omit, says Stevenson, is the one art in
literature: "If I knew how to omit, I should ask no other
knowledge." And life, when full of disorder and slackness and
vague superfluity, can no more have what we call character than
literature can have it under similar conditions. So monasteries
and communities of sympathetic devotees open their doors, and in
their changeless order, characterized by omissions quite as much
as constituted of actions, the holy-minded person finds that
inner smoothness and cleanness which it is torture to him to feel
violated at every turn by the discordancy and brutality of
secular existence.

That the scrupulosity of purity may be carried to a fantastic
extreme must be admitted. In this it resembles Asceticism, to
which further symptom of saintliness we had better turn next.
The adjective "ascetic" is applied to conduct originating on
diverse psychological levels, which I might as well begin by
distinguishing from one another.

1. Asceticism may be a mere expression of organic hardihood,
disgusted with too much ease.

2. Temperance in meat and drink, simplicity of apparel,
chastity, and non-pampering of the body generally, may be fruits
of the love of purity, shocked by whatever savors of the sensual.

3. They may also be fruits of love, that is, they may appeal to
the subject in the light of sacrifices which he is happy in
making to the Deity whom he acknowledges.

4. Again, ascetic mortifications and torments may be due to
pessimistic feelings about the self, combined with theological
beliefs concerning expiation. The devotee may feel that he is
buying himself free, or escaping worse sufferings hereafter, by
doing penance now.

5. In psychopathic persons, mortifications may be entered on
irrationally, by a sort of obsession or fixed idea which comes as
a challenge and must be worked off, because only thus does the
subject get his interior consciousness feeling right again.

6. Finally, ascetic exercises may in rarer instances be prompted
by genuine perversions of the bodily sensibility, in consequence
of which normally pain-giving stimuli are actually felt as

I will try to give an instance under each of these heads in turn;
but it is not easy to get them pure, for in cases pronounced
enough to be immediately classed as ascetic, several of the
assigned motives usually work together. Moreover, before citing
any examples at all, I must invite you to some general
psychological considerations which apply to all of them alike.

A strange moral transformation has within the past century swept
over our Western world. We no longer think that we are called on
to face physical pain with equanimity. It is not expected of a
man that he should either endure it or inflict much of it, and to
listen to the recital of cases of it makes our flesh creep
morally as well as physically. The way in which our ancestors
looked upon pain as an eternal ingredient of the world's order,
and both caused and suffered it as a matter-of-course portion of
their day's work, fills us with amazement. We wonder that any
human beings could have been so callous. The result of this
historic alteration is that even in the Mother Church herself,
where ascetic discipline has such a fixed traditional prestige as
a factor of merit, it has largely come into desuetude, if not
discredit. A believer who flagellates or "macerates" himself
today arouses more wonder and fear than emulation. Many Catholic
writers who admit that the times have changed in this respect do
so resignedly; and even add that perhaps it is as well not to
waste feelings in regretting the matter, for to return to the
heroic corporeal discipline of ancient days might be an

Where to seek the easy and the pleasant seems instinctive
--and instinctive it appears to be in man; any deliberate
tendency to pursue the hard and painful as such and for their own
sakes might well strike one as purely abnormal. Nevertheless, in
moderate degrees it is natural and even usual to human nature to
court the arduous. It is only the extreme manifestations of the
tendency that can be regarded as a paradox.

The psychological reasons for this lie near the surface. When we
drop abstractions and take what we call our will in the act, we
see that it is a very complex function. It involves both
stimulations and inhibitions; it follows generalized habits; it
is escorted by reflective criticisms; and it leaves a good or a
bad taste of itself behind, according to the manner of the
performance. The result is that, quite apart from the immediate
pleasure which any sensible experience may give us, our own
general moral attitude in procuring or undergoing the experience
brings with it a secondary satisfaction or distaste. Some men
and women, indeed, there are who can live on smiles and the word
"yes" forever. But for others (indeed for most), this is too
tepid and relaxed a moral climate. Passive happiness is slack
and insipid, and soon grows mawkish and intolerable. Some
austerity and wintry negativity, some roughness, danger,
stringency, and effort, some "no! no!" must be mixed in, to
produce the sense of an existence with character and texture and
power. The range of individual differences in this respect is
enormous; but whatever the mixture of yeses and noes may be, the
person is infallibly aware when he has struck it in the right
proportion FOR HIM. This, he feels, is my proper vocation, this
is the OPTIMUM, the law, the life for me to live. Here I find
the degree of equilibrium, safety, calm, and leisure which I
need, or here I find the challenge, passion, fight, and hardship
without which my soul's energy expires.

Every individual soul, in short, like every individual machine
or organism, has its own best conditions of efficiency. A given
machine will run best under a certain steam-pressure, a certain
amperage; an organism under a certain diet, weight, or exercise.
You seem to do best, I heard a doctor say to a patient, at about
140 millimeters of arterial tension. And it is just so with our
sundry souls: some are happiest in calm weather; some need the
sense of tension, of strong volition, to make them feel alive and
well. For these latter souls, whatever is gained from day to day
must be paid for by sacrifice and inhibition, or else it comes
too cheap and has no zest.

Now when characters of this latter sort become religious, they
are apt to turn the edge of their need of effort and negativity
against their natural self; and the ascetic life gets evolved as
a consequence.

When Professor Tyndall in one of his lectures tells us that
Thomas Carlyle put him into his bath-tub every morning of a
freezing Berlin winter, he proclaimed one of the lowest grades of
asceticism. Even without Carlyle, most of us find it necessary
to our soul's health to start the day with a rather cool
immersion. A little farther along the scale we get such
statements as this, from one of my correspondents, an agnostic:--

"Often at night in my warm bed I would feel ashamed to depend so
on the warmth, and whenever the thought would come over me I
would have to get up, no matter what time of night it was, and
stand for a minute in the cold, just so as to prove my manhood."

Such cases as these belong simply to our head 1. In the next
case we probably have a mixture of heads 2 and 3-- the asceticism
becomes far more systematic and pronounced. The writer is a
Protestant, whose sense of moral energy could doubtless be
gratified on no lower terms, and I take his case from Starbuck's
manuscript collection.

"I practiced fasting and mortification of the flesh. I secretly
made burlap shirts, and put the burrs next the skin, and wore
pebbles in my shoes. I would spend nights flat on my back on the
floor without any covering."

The Roman Church has organized and codified all this sort of
thing, and given it a market-value in the shape of "merit."
But we see the cultivation of hardship cropping out under every
sky and in every faith, as a spontaneous need of character. Thus
we read of Channing, when first settled as a Unitarian minister,

"He was now more simple than ever, and seemed to have become
incapable of any form of self-indulgence. He took the smallest
room in the house for his study, though he might easily have
commanded one more light, airy, and in every way more suitable;
and chose for his sleeping chamber an attic which he shared with
a younger brother. The furniture of the latter might have
answered for the cell of an anchorite, and consisted of a hard
mattress on a cot-bedstead, plain wooden chairs and table, with
matting on the floor. It was without fire, and to cold he was
throughout life extremely sensitive; but he never complained or
appeared in any way to be conscious of inconvenience. 'I
recollect,' says his brother, 'after one most severe night, that
in the morning he sportively thus alluded to his suffering: "If
my bed were my country, I should be somewhat like Bonaparte: I
have no control except over the part which I occupy, the instant
I move, frost takes possession."' In sickness only would he
change for the time his apartment and accept a few comforts. The
dress too that he habitually adopted was of most inferior
quality; and garments were constantly worn which the world would
call mean, though an almost feminine neatness preserved him from
the least appearance of neglect."[177]

[177] Memoirs of W. E. Channing, Boston, 1840, i. 196.

Channing's asceticism, such as it was, was evidently a compound
of hardihood and love of purity. The democracy which is an
offshoot of the enthusiasm of humanity, and of which I will speak
later under the head of the cult of poverty, doubtless bore also
a share. Certainly there was no pessimistic element in his case.

In the next case we have a strongly pessimistic element, so that
it belongs under head 4. John Cennick was Methodism's first lay
preacher. In 1735 he was convicted of sin, while walking in

"And at once left off sing-singing, card-playing, and attending
theatres. Sometimes he wished to go to a popish monastery, to
spend his life in devout retirement. At other times he longed to
live in a cave, sleeping on fallen leaves, and feeding on forest
fruits. He fasted long and often, and prayed nine times a day. .
. . Fancying dry bread too great an indulgence for so great a
sinner as himself, he began to feed on potatoes, acorns, crabs,
and grass; and often wished that he could live on roots and
herbs. At length, in 1737, he found peace with God, and went on
his way rejoicing."[178]

[178] L. Tyerman: The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, i.

In this poor man we have morbid melancholy and fear, and the
sacrifices made are to purge out sin, and to buy safety. The
hopelessness of Christian theology in respect of the flesh and
the natural man generally has, in systematizing fear, made of it
one tremendous incentive to self-mortification. It would be
quite unfair, however, in spite of the fact that this incentive
has often been worked in a mercenary way for hortatory purposes,
to call it a mercenary incentive. The impulse to expiate and do
penance is, in its first intention, far too immediate and
spontaneous an expression of self-despair and anxiety to be
obnoxious to any such reproach. In the form of loving sacrifice,
of spending all we have to show our devotion, ascetic discipline
of the severest sort may be the fruit of highly optimistic
religious feeling.

M. Vianney, the cure of Ars, was a French country priest, whose
holiness was exemplary. We read in his life the following
account of his inner need of sacrifice:--

"'On this path,' M. Vianney said, "it is only the first step
that costs. There is in mortification a balm and a savor without
which one cannot live when once one has made their acquaintance.
There is but one way in which to give one's self to God-- that
is, to give one's self entirely, and to keep nothing for one's
self. The little that one keeps is only good to trouble one and
make one suffer.' Accordingly he imposed it on himself that he
should never smell a flower, never drink when parched with
thirst, never drive away a fly, never show disgust before a
repugnant object, never complain of anything that had to do with
his personal comfort, never sit down, never lean upon his elbows
when he was kneeling. The Cure of Ars was very sensitive to
cold, but he would never take means to protect himself against
it. During a very severe winter, one of his missionaries
contrived a false floor to his confessional and placed a metal
case of hot water beneath. The trick succeeded, and the Saint
was deceived: 'God is very good,' he said with emotion. 'This
year, through all the cold, my feet have always been warm.'

[179] A. Mounin: Le Cure d'Ars, vie de M. J. B. M. Vianney,
1864, p. 545, abridged.

In this case the spontaneous impulse to make sacrifices for the
pure love of God was probably the uppermost conscious motive. We
may class it, then, under our head 3. Some authors think that
the impulse to sacrifice is the main religious phenomenon. It is
a prominent, a universal phenomenon certainly, and lies deeper
than any special creed. Here, for instance, is what seems to be
a spontaneous example of it, simply expressing what seemed right
at the time between the individual and his Maker. Cotton Mather,
the New England Puritan divine, is generally reputed a rather
grotesque pedant; yet what is more touchingly simple than his
relation of what happened when his wife came to die?

"When I saw to what a point of resignation I was now called of
the Lord," he says, "I resolved, with his help, therein to
glorify him. So, two hours before my lovely consort expired, I
kneeled by her bedside, and I took into my two hands a dear hand,
the dearest in the world. With her thus in my hands, I solemnly
and sincerely gave her up unto the Lord: and in token of my real
RESIGNATION, I gently put her out of my hands, and laid away a
most lovely hand, resolving that I would never touch it more.
This was the hardest, and perhaps the bravest action that ever I
did. She . . . told me that she signed and sealed my act of
resignation. And though before that she called for me
continually, she after this never asked for me any more."[180]

[180] B. Wendell: Cotton Mather, New York, no date, p. 198.

Father Vianney's asceticism taken in its totality was simply the
result of a permanent flood of high spiritual enthusiasm, longing
to make proof of itself. The Roman Church has, in its
incomparable fashion, collected all the motives towards
asceticism together, and so codified them that any one wishing to
pursue Christian perfection may find a practical system mapped
out for him in any one of a number of ready-made manuals.[181]
The dominant Church notion of perfection is of course the
negative one of avoidance of sin. Sin proceeds from
concupiscence, and concupiscence from our carnal passions and
temptations, chief of which are pride, sensuality in all its
forms, and the loves of worldly excitement and possession. All
these sources of sin must be resisted; and discipline and
austerities are a most efficacious mode of meeting them. Hence
there are always in these books chapters on self-mortification.
But whenever a procedure is codified, the more delicate spirit of
it evaporates, and if we wish the undiluted ascetic spirit--the
passion of self-contempt wreaking itself on the poor flesh, the
divine irrationality of devotion making a sacrificial gift of all
it has (its sensibilities, namely) to the object of its
adoration--we must go to autobiographies, or other individual

[181] That of the earlier Jesuit, Rodriguez, which has been
translated into all languages, is one of the best known. A
convenient modern manual, very well put together, is L'Ascetique
Chretienne, by M. J. Ribet, Paris, Poussielgue, nouvelle edition,

Saint John of the Cross, a Spanish mystic who flourished--or
rather who existed, for there was little that suggested
flourishing about him--in the sixteenth century, will supply a
passage suitable for our purpose.

"First of all, carefully excite in yourself an habitual
affectionate will in all things to imitate Jesus Christ. If
anything agreeable offers itself to your senses, yet does not at
the same time tend purely to the honor and glory of God, renounce
it and separate yourself from it for the love of Christ, who all
his life long had no other taste or wish than to do the will of
his Father whom he called his meat and nourishment. For example,
you take satisfaction in HEARING of things in which the glory of
God bears no part. Deny yourself this satisfaction, mortify your
wish to listen. You take pleasure in SEEING objects which do not
raise your mind to God: refuse yourself this pleasure, and turn
away your eyes. The same with conversations and all other
things. Act similarly, so far as you are able, with all the
operations of the senses, striving to make yourself free from
their yokes.

"The radical remedy lies in the mortification of the four great
natural passions, joy, hope, fear, and grief. You must seek to
deprive these of every satisfaction and leave them as it were in
darkness and the void. Let your soul therefore turn always:

"Not to what is most easy, but to what is hardest;

"Not to what tastes best, but to what is most distasteful;

"Not to what most pleases, but to what disgusts;

"Not to matter of consolation, but to matter for desolation

"Not to rest, but to labor;

"Not to desire the more, but the less;

"Not to aspire to what is highest and most precious, but to what
is lowest and most contemptible;

"Not to will anything, but to will nothing;

"Not to seek the best in everything, but to seek the worst, so
that you may enter for the love of Christ into a complete
destitution, a perfect poverty of spirit, and an absolute
renunciation of everything in this world.

"Embrace these practices with all the energy of your soul and you
will find in a short time great delights and unspeakable

"Despise yourself, and wish that others should despise you;

"Speak to your own disadvantage, and desire others to do the

"Conceive a low opinion of yourself, and find it good when others
hold the same;

"To enjoy the taste of all things, have no taste for anything.

"To know all things, learn to know nothing.

"To possess all things, resolve to possess nothing.

"To be all things, be willing to be nothing.

"To get to where you have no taste for anything, go through
whatever experiences you have no taste for.

"To learn to know nothing, go whither you are ignorant.

"To reach what you possess not, go whithersoever you own nothing.

"To be what you are not, experience what you are not."

These later verses play with that vertigo of self-contradiction
which is so dear to mysticism. Those that come next are
completely mystical, for in them Saint John passes from God to
the more metaphysical notion of the All.

"When you stop at one thing, you cease to open yourself to the

"For to come to the All you must give up the All.

"And if you should attain to owning the All, you must own it,
desiring Nothing.

"In this spoliation, the soul finds its tranquillity and rest.
Profoundly established in the centre of its own nothingness, it
can be assailed by naught that comes from below; and since it no
longer desires anything, what comes from above cannot depress it;
for its desires alone are the causes of its woes."[182]

[182] Saint Jean de la Croix, vie et Oeuvres, Paris, 1893, ii.
94, 99, abridged.

And now, as a more concrete example of heads 4 and 5, in fact of
all our heads together, and of the irrational extreme to which a
psychopathic individual may go in the line of bodily austerity, I
will quote the sincere Suso's account of his own self-tortures.
Suso, you will remember, was one of the fourteenth century German
mystics; his autobiography, written in the third person, is a
classic religious document.

"He was in his youth of a temperament full of fire and life; and
when this began to make itself felt, it was very grievous to him;
and he sought by many devices how he might bring his body into
subjection. He wore for a long time a hair shirt and an iron
chain, until the blood ran from him, so that he was obliged to
leave them off. He secretly caused an undergarment to be made
for him; and in the undergarment he had strips of leather fixed,
into which a hundred and fifty brass nails, pointed and filed
sharp, were driven, and the points of the nails were always
turned towards the flesh. He had this garment made very tight,
and so arranged as to go round him and fasten in front in order
that it might fit the closer to his body, and the pointed nails
might be driven into his flesh; and it was high enough to reach
upwards to his navel. In this he used to sleep at night. Now in
summer, when it was hot, and he was very tired and ill from his
journeyings, or when he held the office of lecturer, he would
sometimes, as he lay thus in bonds, and oppressed with toil, and
tormented also by noxious insects, cry aloud and give way to
fretfulness, and twist round and round in agony, as a worm does
when run through with a pointed needle. It often seemed to him
as if he were lying upon an ant-hill, from the torture caused by
the insects; for if he wished to sleep, or when he had fallen
asleep, they vied with one another.[183] Sometimes he cried to
Almighty God in the fullness of his heart: Alas! Gentle God,
what a dying is this! When a man is killed by murderers or
strong beasts of prey it is soon over; but I lie dying here under
the cruel insects, and yet cannot die. The nights in winter were
never so long, nor was the summer so hot, as to make him leave
off this exercise. On the contrary, he devised something farther
--two leathern loops into which he put his hands, and fastened
one on each side his throat, and made the fastenings so secure
that even if his cell had been on fire about him, he could not
have helped himself. This he continued until his hands and arms
had become almost tremulous with the strain, and then he devised
something else: two leather gloves; and he caused a brazier to
fit them all over with sharp-pointed brass tacks, and he used to
put them on at night, in order that if he should try while asleep
to throw off the hair undergarment, or relieve himself from the
gnawings of the vile insects, the tacks might then stick into his
body. And so it came to pass. If ever he sought to help himself
with his hands in his sleep, he drove the sharp tacks into his
breast, and tore himself, so that his flesh festered. When after
many weeks the wounds had healed, he tore himself again and made
fresh wounds.

[183] "Insects," i.e. lice, were an unfailing token of mediaeval
sainthood. We read of Francis of Assisi's sheepskin that "often a
companion of the saint would take it to the fire to clean and
dispediculate it, doing so, as he said, because the seraphic
father himself was no enemy of pedocchi, but on the contrary kept
them on him (le portava adosso) and held it for an honor and a
glory to wear these celestial pearls in his habit. Quoted by P.
Sabatier: Speculum Perfectionis, etc., Paris, 1898, p. 231,

"He continued this tormenting exercise for about sixteen years.
At the end of this time, when his blood was now chilled, and the
fire of his temperament destroyed, there appeared to him in a
vision on Whitsunday, a messenger from heaven, who told him that
God required this of him no longer. Whereupon he discontinued
it, and threw all these things away into a running stream."

Suso then tells how, to emulate the sorrows of his crucified
Lord, he made himself a cross with thirty protruding iron needles
and nails. This he bore on his bare back between his shoulders
day and night. "The first time that he stretched out this cross
upon his back his tender frame was struck with terror at it, and
blunted the sharp nails slightly against a stone. But soon,
repenting of this womanly cowardice, he pointed them all again
with a file, and placed once more the cross upon him. It made
his back, where the bones are, bloody and seared. Whenever he
sat down or stood up, it was as if a hedgehog-skin were on him.
If any one touched him unawares, or pushed against his clothes,
it tore him."

Suso next tells of his penitences by means of striking this cross
and forcing the nails deeper into the flesh, and likewise of his
self-scourgings--a dreadful story--and then goes on as follows:
"At this same period the Servitor procured an old castaway door,
and he used to lie upon it at night without any bedclothes to
make him comfortable, except that he took off his shoes and
wrapped a thick cloak round him. He thus secured for himself a
most miserable bed; for hard pea-stalks lay in humps under his
head, the cross with the sharp nails stuck into his back, his
arms were locked fast in bonds, the horsehair undergarment was
round his loins, and the cloak too was heavy and the door hard.
Thus he lay in wretchedness, afraid to stir, just like a log, and
he would send up many a sigh to God.

"In winter he suffered very much from the frost. If he stretched
out his feet they lay bare on the floor and froze, if he gathered
them up the blood became all on fire in his legs, and this was
great pain. His feet were full of sores, his legs dropsical, his
knees bloody and seared, his loins covered with scars from the
horsehair, his body wasted, his mouth parched with intense
thirst, and his hands tremulous from weakness. Amid these
torments he spent his nights and days; and he endured them all
out of the greatness of the love which he bore in his heart to
the Divine and Eternal Wisdom, our Lord Jesus Christ, whose
agonizing sufferings he sought to imitate. After a time he gave
up this penitential exercise of the door, and instead of it he
took up his abode in a very small cell, and used the bench, which
was so narrow and short that he could not stretch himself upon
it, as his bed. In this hole, or upon the door, he lay at night
in his usual bonds, for about eight years. It was also his
custom, during the space of twenty-five years, provided he was
staying in the convent, never to go after compline in winter into
any warm room, or to the convent stove to warm himself, no matter
how cold it might be, unless he was obliged to do so for other
reasons. Throughout all these years he never took a bath, either
a water or a sweating bath; and this he did in order to mortify
his comfort-seeking body. He practiced during a long time such
rigid poverty that he would neither receive nor touch a penny,
either with leave or without it. For a considerable time he
strove to attain such a high degree of purity that he would
neither scratch nor touch any part of his body, save only his
hands and feet."[184]

[184] The Life of the Blessed Henry Suso, by Himself, translated
by T. F. Knox, London, 1865, pp. 56-80, abridged.

I spare you the recital of poor Suso's self-inflicted tortures
from thirst. It is pleasant to know that after his fortieth
year, God showed him by a series of visions that he had
sufficiently broken down the natural man, and that he might leave
these exercises off. His case is distinctly pathological, but he
does not seem to have had the alleviation, which some ascetics
have enjoyed, of an alteration of sensibility capable of actually
turning torment into a perverse kind of pleasure. Of the founder
of the Sacred Heart order, for example, we read that

"Her love of pain and suffering was insatiable. . . . She said
that she could cheerfully live till the day of judgment, provided
she might always have matter for suffering for God; but that to
live a single day without suffering would be intolerable. She
said again that she was devoured with two unassuageable fevers,
one for the holy communion, the other for suffering, humiliation,
and annihilation. 'Nothing but pain,' she continually said in
her letters, 'makes my life supportable.'"[185]

[185] Bougaud: Hist de la bienheureuse Marguerite Marie, Paris,
1894, pp. 265, 171. Compare, also, pp. 386, 387.

So much for the phenomena to which the ascetic impulse will in
certain persons give rise. In the ecclesiastically consecrated
character three minor branches of self-mortification have been
recognized as indispensable pathways to perfection. I refer to
the chastity, obedience, and poverty which the monk vows to
observe; and upon the heads of obedience and poverty I will make
a few remarks.

First, of Obedience. The secular life of our twentieth century
opens with this virtue held in no high esteem. The duty of the
individual to determine his own conduct and profit or suffer by
the consequences seems, on the contrary, to be one of our best
rooted contemporary Protestant social ideals. So much so that it
is difficult even imaginatively to comprehend how men possessed
of an inner life of their own could ever have come to think the
subjection of its will to that of other finite creatures
recommendable. I confess that to myself it seems something of a
mystery. Yet it evidently corresponds to a profound interior
need of many persons, and we must do our best to understand it.

On the lowest possible plane, one sees how the expediency of
obedience in a firm ecclesiastical organization must have led to
its being viewed as meritorious. Next, experience shows that
there are times in every one's life when one can be better
counseled by others than by one's self. Inability to decide is
one of the commonest symptoms of fatigued nerves; friends who see
our troubles more broadly, often see them more wisely than we do;
so it is frequently an act of excellent virtue to consult and
obey a doctor, a partner, or a wife. But, leaving these lower
prudential regions, we find, in the nature of some of the
spiritual excitements which we have been studying, good reasons
for idealizing obedience. Obedience may spring from the general
religious phenomenon of inner softening and self-surrender and
throwing one's self on higher powers. So saving are these
attitudes felt to be that in themselves, apart from utility, they
become ideally consecrated; and in obeying a man whose
fallibility we see through thoroughly, we, nevertheless, may feel
much as we do when we resign our will to that of infinite wisdom.
Add self-despair and the passion of self-crucifixion to this, and
obedience becomes an ascetic sacrifice, agreeable quite
irrespective of whatever prudential uses it might have.

It is as a sacrifice, a mode of "mortification," that obedience
is primarily conceived by Catholic writers, a "sacrifice which
man offers to God, and of which he is himself both the priest and
the victim. By poverty he immolates his exterior possessions; by
chastity he immolates his body; by obedience he completes the
sacrifice, and gives to God all that he yet holds as his own, his
two most precious goods, his intellect and his will. The

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