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The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

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He describes the absolute truth by negatives exclusively.

[263] Muller's translation, part ii. p. 180.

"The cause of all things is neither soul nor intellect; nor has
it imagination, opinion, or reason, or intelligence; nor is it
reason or intelligence; nor is it spoken or thought. It is
neither number, nor order, nor magnitude, nor littleness, nor
equality, nor inequality, nor similarity, nor dissimilarity. It
neither stands, nor moves, nor rests. . . . It is neither
essence, nor eternity, nor time. Even intellectual contact does
not belong to it. It is neither science nor truth. It is not
even royalty or wisdom; not one; not unity; not divinity or
goodness; nor even spirit as we know it," etc., ad libitum.[264]

[264] T. Davidson's translation, in Journal of Speculative
Philosophy, 1893, vol. xxii., p. 399.

But these qualifications are denied by Dionysius, not because the
truth falls short of them, but because it so infinitely excels
them. It is above them. It is SUPER-lucent, SUPER-splendent,
SUPER-essential, SUPER-sublime, SUPER EVERYTHING that can be
named. Like Hegel in his logic, mystics journey towards the
positive pole of truth only by the "Methode der Absoluten

[265] "Deus propter excellentiam non immerito Nihil vocatur."
Scotus Erigena, quoted by Andrew Seth: Two Lectures on Theism,
New York, 1897, p. 55.

Thus come the paradoxical expressions that so abound in mystical
writings. As when Eckhart tells of the still desert of the
Godhead, "where never was seen difference, neither Father, Son,
nor Holy Ghost, where there is no one at home, yet where the
spark of the soul is more at peace than in itself."[266] As when
Boehme writes of the Primal Love, that "it may fitly be compared
to Nothing, for it is deeper than any Thing, and is as nothing
with respect to all things, forasmuch as it is not comprehensible
by any of them. And because it is nothing respectively, it is
therefore free from all things, and is that only good, which a
man cannot express or utter what it is, there being nothing to
which it may be compared, to express it by."[267] Or as when
Angelus Silesius sings:--

"Gott ist ein lauter Nichts, ihn ruhrt kein Nun noch Hier;
Je mehr du nach ihm greiffst, je mehr entwind er dir."[268]

[266] J. Royce: Studies in Good and Evil, p. 282.

[267] Jacob Bellmen's Dialogues on the Supersensual Life,
translated by Bernard Holland, London, 1901, p. 48.

[268] Cherubinischer Wandersmann, Strophe 25.

To this dialectical use, by the intellect, of negation as a mode
of passage towards a higher kind of affirmation, there is
correlated the subtlest of moral counterparts in the sphere of
the personal will. Since denial of the finite self and its
wants, since asceticism of some sort, is found in religious
experience to be the only doorway to the larger and more blessed
life, this moral mystery intertwines and combines with the
intellectual mystery in all mystical writings.

"Love," continues Behmen, is Nothing, for "when thou art gone
forth wholly from the Creature and from that which is visible,
and art become Nothing to all that is Nature and Creature, then
thou art in that eternal One, which is God himself, and then thou
shalt feel within thee the highest virtue of Love. . . . The
treasure of treasures for the soul is where she goeth out of the
Somewhat into that Nothing out of which all things may be made.
The soul here saith, I HAVE NOTHING, for I am utterly stripped
and naked; I CAN DO NOTHING, for I have no manner of power, but
am as water poured out; I AM NOTHING, for all that I am is no
more than an image of Being, and only God is to me I AM; and so,
sitting down in my own Nothingness, I give glory to the eternal
Being, and WILL NOTHING of myself, that so God may will all in
me, being unto me my God and all things."[269]

[269] Op. cit., pp. 42, 74, abridged.

In Paul's language, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.
Only when I become as nothing can God enter in and no difference
between his life and mine remain outstanding.[270]

[270] From a French book I take this mystical expression of
happiness in God's indwelling presence:--

"Jesus has come to take up his abode in my heart. It is not so
much a habitation, an association, as a sort of fusion. Oh, new
and blessed life! life which becomes each day more luminous. . .
. The wall before me, dark a few moments since, is splendid at
this hour because the sun shines on it. Wherever its rays fall
they light up a conflagration of glory; the smallest speck of
glass sparkles, each grain of sand emits fire; even so there is a
royal song of triumph in my heart <410> because the Lord is
there. My days succeed each other; yesterday a blue sky; to day
a clouded sun; a night filled with strange dreams; but as soon as
the eyes open, and I regain consciousness and seem to begin life
again, it is always the same figure before me, always the same
presence filling my heart. . . . Formerly the day was dulled by
the absence of the Lord. I used to wake invaded by all sorts of
sad impressions, and I did not find him on my path. To-day he is
with me; and the light cloudiness which covers things is not an
obstacle to my communion with him. I feel the pressure of his
hand, I feel something else which fills me with a serene joy;
shall I dare to speak it out? Yes, for it is the true expression
of what I experience. The Holy Spirit is not merely making me a
visit; it is no mere dazzling apparition which may from one
moment to another spread its wings and leave me in my night, it
is a permanent habitation. He can depart only if he takes me
with him. More than that; he is not other than myself: he is
one with me. It is not a juxtaposition, it is a penetration, a
profound modification of my nature, a new manner of my being."
Quoted from the MS. of an old man by Wilfred Monod: II Vit:
six meditations sur le mystere chretien, pp. 280-283.

This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the individual
and the Absolute is the great mystic achievement. In mystic
states we both become one with the Absolute and we become aware
of our oneness. This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical
tradition, hardly altered by differences of clime or creed. In
Hinduism, in Neoplatonism, in Sufism, in Christian mysticism, in
Whitmanism, we find the same recurring note, so that there is
about mystical utterances an eternal unanimity which ought to
make a critic stop and think, and which brings it about that the
mystical classics have, as has been said, neither birthday nor
native land. Perpetually telling of the unity of man with God,
their speech antedates languages, and they do not grow old.[271]

[271] Compare M. Maeterlinck: L'Ornement des Noces spirituelles
de Ruysbroeck, Bruxelles, 1891, Introduction, p. xix.

"That art Thou!" say the Upanishads, and the Vedantists add:
"Not a part, not a mode of That, but identically That, that
absolute Spirit of the World." "As pure water poured into pure
water remains the same, thus, O Gautama, is the Self of
a thinker who knows. Water in water, fire in fire, ether in
ether, no one can distinguish them: likewise a man whose mind
has entered into the Self."[272] "'Every man,' says the Sufi
Gulshan-Raz, whose heart is no longer shaken by any doubt, knows
with certainty that there is no being save only One. . . . In
his divine majesty the ME, and WE, the THOU, are not found, for
in the One there can be no distinction. Every being who is
annulled and entirely separated from himself, hears resound
outside of him this voice and this echo: I AM GOD: he has an
eternal way of existing, and is no longer subject to
death.'"[273] In the vision of God, says Plotinus, "what sees is
not our reason, but something prior and superior to our reason. .
. . He who thus sees does not properly see, does not distinguish
or imagine two things. He changes, he ceases to be himself,
preserves nothing of himself. Absorbed in God, he makes but one
with him, like a centre of a circle coinciding with another
centre."[274] "Here," writes Suso, "the spirit dies, and yet is
all alive in the marvels of the Godhead . . . and is lost in the
stillness of the glorious dazzling obscurity and of the naked
simple unity. It is in this modeless WHERE that the highest bliss
is to be found."[275] "Ich bin so gross als Gott," sings Angelus
Silesius again, "Er ist als ich so klein; Er kann nicht uber
mich, ich unter ihm nicht sein."[276]

[272] Upanishads, M. Muller's translation, ii. 17, 334.

[273] Schmolders: Op. cit., p. 210.

[274] Enneads, Bouillier's translation. Paris, 1861, iii. 561.
Compare pp. 473-477, and vol. i. p. 27.

[275] Autobiography, pp. 309, 310.

[276] Op. cit., Strophe 10.

In mystical literature such self-contradictory phrases as
"dazzling obscurity," "whispering silence," "teeming desert," are
continually met with. They prove that not conceptual speech, but
music rather, is the element through which we are best spoken to
by mystical truth. Many mystical scriptures are indeed little
more than musical compositions.

"He who would hear the voice of Nada, 'the Soundless Sound,' and
comprehend it, he has to learn the nature of Dharana. . . . When
to himself his form appears unreal, as do on waking all the forms
he sees in dreams, when he has ceased to hear the many, he may
discern the ONE--the inner sound which kills the outer. . . .
For then the soul will hear, and will remember. And then to the
inner ear will speak THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE. . . . And now thy
SELF is lost in SELF, THYSELF unto THYSELF, merged in that SELF
from which thou first didst radiate. . . . Behold! thou hast
become the Light, thou hast become the Sound, thou art thy Master
and thy God. Thou art THYSELF the object of thy search: the
VOICE unbroken, that resounds throughout eternities, exempt from
change, from sin exempt, the seven sounds in one, the VOICE OF
THE SILENCE. Om tat Sat."[277]

[277] H. P. Blavatsky: The voice of the Silence.

These words, if they do not awaken laughter as you receive them,
probably stir chords within you which music and language touch in
common. Music gives us ontological messages which non-musical
criticism is unable to contradict, though it may laugh at our
foolishness in minding them. There is a verge of the mind which
these things haunt; and whispers therefrom mingle with the
operations of our understanding, even as the waters of the
infinite ocean send their waves to break among the pebbles that
lie upon our shores.

"Here begins the sea that ends not till the world's end. Where
we stand,
Could we know the next high sea-mark set beyond these waves
that gleam,
We should know what never man hath known, nor eye of man
hath scanned. . . .
Ah, but here man's heart leaps, yearning towards the gloom
with venturous glee,
From the shore that hath no shore beyond it, set in all the

[278] Swinburne: On the Verge, in "A Midsummer vacation."

That doctrine, for example, that eternity is timeless, that our
"immortality," if we live in the eternal, is not so much future
as already now and here, which we find so often expressed to-day
in certain philosophic circles, finds its support in a "hear,
hear!" or an "amen," which floats up from that mysteriously
deeper level.[279] We recognize the passwords to the mystical
region as we hear them, but we cannot use them ourselves; it
alone has the keeping of "the password primeval."[280]

[279] Compare the extracts from Dr. Bucke, quoted on pp. 398,

[280] As serious an attempt as I know to mediate between the
mystical region and the discursive life is contained in an
article on Aristotle's Unmoved Mover, by F. C. S. Schiller, in
Mind, vol. ix., 1900.

I have now sketched with extreme brevity and insufficiency, but
as fairly as I am able in the time allowed, the general traits of
the mystic range of consciousness. It is on the whole
pantheistic and optimistic, or at least the opposite of
pessimistic. It is anti-naturalistic, and harmonizes best with
twice-bornness and so-called other-worldly states mind.

My next task is to inquire whether we can invoke it as
authoritative. Does it furnish any WARRANT FOR THE TRUTH of the
twice-bornness and supernaturality and pantheism which it favors?

I must give my answer to this question as concisely as I can. In
brief my answer is this--and I will divide it into three parts:--

(1) Mystical states, when well developed, usually are, and have
the right to be, absolutely authoritative over the individuals to
whom they come.

(2) No authority emanates from them which should make it a duty
for those who stand outside of them to accept their revelations

(3) They break down the authority of the non-mystical or
rationalistic consciousness, based upon the understanding and the
senses alone. They show it to be only one kind of consciousness.

They open out the possibility of other orders of truth, in which,
so far as anything in us vitally responds to them, we may freely
continue to have faith.

I will take up these points one by one.

As a matter of psychological fact, mystical states of a
well-pronounced and emphatic sort ARE usually authoritative over
those who have them.[281] They have been "there," and know. It
is vain for rationalism to grumble about this. If the mystical
truth that comes to a man proves to be a force that he can live
by, what mandate have we of the majority to order him to live in
another way? We can throw him into a prison or a madhouse, but
we cannot change his mind--we commonly attach it only the more
stubbornly to its beliefs.[282] It mocks our utmost efforts, as a
matter of fact, and in point of logic it absolutely escapes our
jurisdiction. Our own more "rational" beliefs are based on
evidence exactly similar in nature to that which mystics quote
for theirs. Our senses, namely, have assured us of certain
states of fact; but mystical experiences are as direct
perceptions of fact for those who have them as any sensations
ever were for us. The records show that even though the five
senses be in abeyance in them, they are absolutely sensational in
their epistemological quality, if I may be pardoned the barbarous
expression--that is, they are face to face presentations of what
seems immediately to exist. [281] I abstract from weaker states,
and from those cases of which the books are full, where the
director (but usually not the subject) remains in doubt whether
the experience may not have proceeded from the demon.

[282] Example: Mr. John Nelson writes of his imprisonment for
preaching Methodism: "My soul was as a watered garden, and I
could sing praises to God all day long; for he turned my
captivity into joy, and gave me to rest as well on the boards, as
if I had been on a bed of down. Now could I say, 'God's service
is perfect freedom,' and I was carried out much in prayer that my
enemies might drink of the same river of peace which my God gave
so largely to me." Journal, London, no date, p. 172.

The mystic is, in short, INVULNERABLE, and must be left, whether
we relish it or not, in undisturbed enjoyment of his creed.
Faith, says Tolstoy, is that by which men live. And faith-state
and mystic state are practically convertible terms.

But I now proceed to add that mystics have no right to claim that
we ought to accept the deliverance of their peculiar experiences,
if we are ourselves outsiders and feel no private call thereto.
The utmost they can ever ask of us in this life is to admit that
they establish a presumption. They form a consensus and have an
unequivocal outcome; and it would be odd, mystics might say, if
such a unanimous type of experience should prove to be altogether
wrong. At bottom, however, this would only be an appeal to
numbers, like the appeal of rationalism the other way; and the
appeal to numbers has no logical force. If we acknowledge it, it
is for "suggestive," not for logical reasons: we follow the
majority because to do so suits our life.

But even this presumption from the unanimity of mystics is far
from being strong. In characterizing mystic states an
pantheistic, optimistic, etc., I am afraid I over-simplified the
truth. I did so for expository reasons, and to keep the closer
to the classic mystical tradition. The classic religious
mysticism, it now must be confessed, is only a "privileged case."

It is an EXTRACT, kept true to type by the selection of the
fittest specimens and their preservation in "schools." It is
carved out from a much larger mass; and if we take the larger
mass as seriously as religious mysticism has historically taken
itself, we find that the supposed unanimity largely disappears.
To begin with, even religious mysticism itself, the kind that
accumulates traditions and makes schools, is much less unanimous
than I have allowed. It has been both ascetic and antinomianly
self-indulgent within the Christian church.[283] It is dualistic
in Sankhya, and monistic in Vedanta philosophy. I called it
pantheistic; but the great Spanish mystics are anything but
pantheists. They are with few exceptions non-metaphysical minds,
for whom "the category of personality" is absolute. The "union"
of man with God is for them much more like an occasional miracle
than like an original identity.[284] How different again, apart
from the happiness common to all, is the mysticism of Walt
Whitman, Edward Carpenter, Richard Jefferies, and other
naturalistic pantheists, from the more distinctively Christian
sort.[285] The fact is that the mystical feeling of enlargement,
union, and emancipation has no specific intellectual content
whatever of its own. It is capable of forming matrimonial
alliances with material furnished by the most diverse
philosophies and theologies, provided only they can find a place
in their framework for its peculiar emotional mood. We have no
right, therefore, to invoke its prestige as distinctively in
favor of any special belief, such as that in absolute idealism,
or in the absolute monistic identity, or in the absolute
goodness, of the world. It is only relatively in favor of all
these things--it passes out of common human consciousness in the
direction in which they lie.

[283] Ruysbroeck, in the work which Maeterlinck has translated,
has a chapter against the antinomianism of disciples. H.
Delacroix's book (Essai sur le mysticisme speculatif en Allemagne
au XIVme Siecle, Paris, 1900) is full of antinomian material.
compare also A. Jundt: Les Amis de Dieu au XIV Siecle, These de
Strasbourg, 1879.

[284] Compare Paul Rousselot: Les Mystiques Espagnols, Paris,
1869, ch. xii.

[285] see Carpenter's Towards Democracy, especially the latter
parts, and Jefferies's wonderful and splendid mystic rhapsody,
The Story of my Heart.

So much for religious mysticism proper. But more remains to be
told, for religious mysticism is only one half of mysticism. The
other half has no accumulated traditions except those which the
text-books on insanity supply. Open any one of these, and you
will find abundant cases in which "mystical ideas" are cited as
characteristic symptoms of enfeebled or deluded states of mind.
In delusional insanity, paranoia, as they sometimes call it, we
may have a DIABOLICAL mysticism, a sort of religious mysticism
turned upside down. The same sense of ineffable importance in the
smallest events, the same texts and words coming with new
meanings, the same voices and visions and leadings and missions,
the same controlling by extraneous powers; only this time the
emotion is pessimistic: instead of consolations we have
desolations; the meanings are dreadful; and the powers are
enemies to life. It is evident that from the point of view of
their psychological mechanism, the classic mysticism and these
lower mysticisms spring from the same mental level, from that
great subliminal or transmarginal region of which science is
beginning to admit the existence, but of which so little is
really known. That region contains every kind of matter:
"seraph and snake" abide there side by side. To come from thence
is no infallible credential. What comes must be sifted and
tested, and run the gauntlet of confrontation with the total
context of experience, just like what comes from the outer world
of sense. Its value must be ascertained by empirical methods, so
long as we are not mystics ourselves.

Once more, then, I repeat that non-mystics are under no
obligation to acknowledge in mystical states a superior authority
conferred on them by their intrinsic nature.[286]

[286] In chapter i. of book ii. of his work Degeneration, "Max
Nordau" seeks to undermine all mysticism by exposing the weakness
of the lower kinds. Mysticism for him means any sudden
perception of hidden significance in things. He explains such
perception by the abundant uncompleted associations which
experiences may arouse in a degenerate brain. These give to him
who has the experience a vague and vast sense of its leading
further, yet they awaken no definite or useful consequent in his
thought. The explanation is a plausible one for certain sorts of
feeling of significance, and other alienists (Wernicke, for
example, in his Grundriss der Psychiatrie, Theil ii., Leipzig,
1896) have explained "paranoiac" conditions by a laming of the
association-organ. But the higher mystical flights, with their
positiveness and abruptness, are surely products of no such
merely negative condition. It seems far more reasonable to
ascribe them to inroads from the subconscious life, of the
cerebral activity correlative to which we as yet know nothing.

Yet, I repeat once more, the existence of mystical states
absolutely overthrows the pretension of non-mystical states to be
the sole and ultimate dictators of what we may believe. As a
rule, mystical states merely add a supersensuous meaning to the
ordinary outward data of consciousness. They are excitements
like the emotions of love or ambition, gifts to our spirit by
means of which facts already objectively before us fall into a
new expressiveness and make a new connection with our active
life. They do not contradict these facts as such, or deny
anything that our senses have immediately seized.[287] It is the
rationalistic critic rather who plays the part of denier in the
controversy, and his denials have no strength, for there never
can be a state of facts to which new meaning may not truthfully
be added, provided the mind ascend to a more enveloping point of
view. It must always remain an open question whether mystical
states may not possibly be such superior points of view, windows
through which the mind looks out upon a more extensive and
inclusive world. The difference of the views seen from the
different mystical windows need not prevent us from entertaining
this supposition. The wider world would in that case prove to
have a mixed constitution like that of this world, that is all.
It would have its celestial and its infernal regions, its
tempting and its saving moments, its valid experiences and its
counterfeit ones, just as our world has them; but it would be a
wider world all the same. We should have to use its experiences
by selecting and subordinating and substituting just as is our
custom in this ordinary naturalistic world; we should be liable
to error just as we are now; yet the counting in of that wider
world of meanings, and the serious dealing with it, might, in
spite of all the perplexity, be indispensable stages in our
approach to the final fullness of the truth.

[287] They sometimes add subjective audita et visa to the facts,
but as these are usually interpreted as transmundane, they oblige
no alteration in the facts of sense.

In this shape, I think, we have to leave the subject. Mystical
states indeed wield no authority due simply to their being
mystical states. But the higher ones among them point in
directions to which the religious sentiments even of non-
mystical men incline. They tell of the supremacy of the ideal,
of vastness, of union, of safety, and of rest. They offer us
HYPOTHESES, hypotheses which we may voluntarily ignore, but which
as thinkers we cannot possibly upset. The supernaturalism and
optimism to which they would persuade us may, interpreted in one
way or another, be after all the truest of insights into the
meaning of this life.

"Oh, the little more, and how much it is; and the little less,
and what worlds away!" It may be that possibility and permission
of this sort are all that are religious consciousness requires to
live on. In my last lecture I shall have to try to persuade you
that this is the case. Meanwhile, however, I am sure that for
many of my readers this diet is too slender. If supernaturalism
and inner union with the divine are true, you think, then not so
much permission, as compulsion to believe, ought to be found.
Philosophy has always professed to prove religious truth by
coercive argument; and the construction of philosophies of this
kind has always been one favorite function of the religious life,
if we use this term in the large historic sense. But religious
philosophy is an enormous subject, and in my next lecture I can
only give that brief glance at it which my limits will allow.

Lecture XVIII


The subject of Saintliness left us face to face with the
question, Is the sense of divine presence a sense of anything
objectively true? We turned first to mysticism for an answer,
and found that although mysticism is entirely willing to
corroborate religion, it is too private (and also too various) in
its utterances to be able to claim a universal authority. But
philosophy publishes results which claim to be universally valid
if they are valid at all, so we now turn with our question to
philosophy. Can philosophy stamp a warrant of veracity upon the
religious man's sense of the divine?

I imagine that many of you at this point begin to indulge in
guesses at the goal to which I am tending. I have undermined the
authority of mysticism, you say, and the next thing I shall
probably do is to seek to discredit that of philosophy.
Religion, you expect to hear me conclude, is nothing but an
affair of faith, based either on vague sentiment, or on that
vivid sense of the reality of things unseen of which in my second
lecture and in the lecture on Mysticism I gave so many examples.
It is essentially private and individualistic; it always exceeds
our powers of formulation; and although attempts to pour its
contents into a philosophic mould will probably always go on, men
being what they are, yet these attempts are always secondary
processes which in no way add to the authority, or warrant the
veracity, of the sentiments from which they derive their own
stimulus and borrow whatever glow of conviction they may
themselves possess.

In short, you suspect that I am planning to defend feeling at the
expense of reason, to rehabilitate the primitive and
unreflective, and to dissuade you from the hope of any Theology
worthy of the name.

To a certain extent I have to admit that you guess rightly. I do
believe that feeling is the deeper source of religion, and that
philosophic and theological formulas are secondary products, like
translations of a text into another tongue. But all such
statements are misleading from their brevity, and it will take
the whole hour for me to explain to you exactly what I mean.

When I call theological formulas secondary products, I mean that
in a world in which no religious feeling had ever existed, I
doubt whether any philosophic theology could ever have been
framed. I doubt if dispassionate intellectual contemplation of
the universe, apart from inner unhappiness and need of
deliverance on the one hand and mystical emotion on the other,
would ever have resulted in religious philosophies such as we now
possess. Men would have begun with animistic explanations of
natural fact, and criticised these away into scientific ones, as
they actually have done. In the science they would have left a
certain amount of "psychical research," even as they now will
probably have to re-admit a certain amount. But high-flying
speculations like those of either dogmatic or idealistic
theology, these they would have had no motive to venture on,
feeling no need of commerce with such deities. These
speculations must, it seems to me, be classed as over-beliefs,
buildings-out performed by the intellect into directions of which
feeling originally supplied the hint.

But even if religious philosophy had to have its first hint
supplied by feeling, may it not have dealt in a superior way with
the matter which feeling suggested? Feeling is private and dumb,
and unable to give an account of itself. It allows that its
results are mysteries and enigmas, declines to justify them
rationally, and on occasion is willing that they should even
pass for paradoxical and absurd. Philosophy takes just the
opposite attitude. Her aspiration is to reclaim from mystery and
paradox whatever territory she touches. To find an escape from
obscure and wayward personal persuasion to truth objectively
valid for all thinking men has ever been the intellect's most
cherished ideal. To redeem religion from unwholesome privacy,
and to give public status and universal right of way to its
deliverances, has been reason's task.

I believe that philosophy will always have opportunity to labor
at this task.[288] We are thinking beings, and we cannot exclude
the intellect from participating in any of our functions. Even
in soliloquizing with ourselves, we construe our feelings
intellectually. Both our personal ideals and our religious and
mystical experiences must be interpreted congruously with the
kind of scenery which our thinking mind inhabits. The
philosophic climate of our time inevitably forces its own
clothing on us. Moreover, we must exchange our feelings with one
another, and in doing so we have to speak, and to use general and
abstract verbal formulas. Conceptions and constructions are thus
a necessary part of our religion; and as moderator amid the clash
of hypotheses, and mediator among the criticisms of one man's
constructions by another, philosophy will always have much to do.

It would be strange if I disputed this, when these very lectures
which I am giving are (as you will see more clearly from now
onwards) a laborious attempt to extract from the privacies of
religious experience some general facts which can be defined in
formulas upon which everybody may agree.

[288] Compare Professor W. Wallace's Gifford Lectures, in
Lectures and Essays, Oxford, 1898, pp. 17 ff.

Religious experience, in other words, spontaneously and
inevitably engenders myths, superstitions, dogmas, creeds, and
metaphysical theologies, and criticisms of one set of these by
the adherents of another. Of late, impartial classifications and
comparisons have become possible, alongside of the denunciations
and anathemas by which the commerce between creeds used
exclusively to be carried on. We have the beginnings of a
"Science of Religions," so-called; and if these lectures could
ever be accounted a crumb-like contribution to such a science, I
should be made very happy.

But all these intellectual operations, whether they be
constructive or comparative and critical, presuppose immediate
experiences as their subject-matter. They are interpretative and
inductive operations, operations after the fact, consequent upon
religious feeling, not coordinate with it, not independent of
what it ascertains.

The intellectualism in religion which I wish to discredit
pretends to be something altogether different from this. It
assumes to construct religious objects out of the resources of
logical reason alone, or of logical reason drawing rigorous
inference from non-subjective facts. It calls its conclusions
dogmatic theology, or philosophy of the absolute, as the case may
be; it does not call them science of religions. It reaches them
in an a priori way, and warrants their veracity.

Warranted systems have ever been the idols of aspiring souls.
All-inclusive, yet simple; noble, clean, luminous, stable,
rigorous, true;--what more ideal refuge could there be than such
a system would offer to spirits vexed by the muddiness and
accidentality of the world of sensible things? Accordingly, we
find inculcated in the theological schools of to-day, almost as
much as in those of the fore-time, a disdain for merely possible
or probable truth, and of results that only private assurance can
grasp. Scholastics and idealists both express this disdain.
Principal John Caird, for example, writes as follows in his
Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion:--

"Religion must indeed be a thing of the heart, but in order to
elevate it from the region of subjective caprice and waywardness,
and to distinguish between that which is true and false in
religion, we must appeal to an objective standard. That which
enters the heart must first be discerned by the intelligence to
be TRUE. It must be seen as having in its own nature a RIGHT to
dominate feeling, and as constituting the principle by which
feeling must be judged.[289] In estimating the religious
character of individuals, nations, or races, the first question
is, not how they feel, but what they think and believe--not
whether their religion is one which manifests itself in emotions,
more or less vehement and enthusiastic, but what are the
CONCEPTIONS of God and divine things by which these emotions are
called forth. Feeling is necessary in religion, but it is by the
CONTENT or intelligent basis of a religion, and not by feeling,
that its character and worth are to be determined."[290]

[289] Op. cit., p. 174, abridged.

[290] Ibid., p. 186, abridged and italicized.

Cardinal Newman, in his work, The Idea of a University, gives
more emphatic expression still to this disdain for
sentiment.[291] Theology, he says, is a science in the strictest
sense of the word. I will tell you, he says, what it is not--
not "physical evidences" for God, not "natural religion," for
these are but vague subjective interpretations:--

[291] Discourse II. Section 7.

"If," he continues, "the Supreme Being is powerful or skillful,
just so far as the telescope shows power, or the microscope shows
skill, if his moral law is to be ascertained simply by the
physical processes of the animal frame, or his will gathered from
the immediate issues of human affairs, if his Essence is just as
high and deep and broad as the universe and no more if this be
the fact, then will I confess that there is no specific science
about God, that theology is but a name, and a protest in its
behalf an hypocrisy. Then, pious as it is to think of Him while
the pageant of experiment or abstract reasoning passes by, still
such piety is nothing more than a poetry of thought, or an
ornament of language, a certain view taken of Nature which one
man has and another has not, which gifted minds strike out, which
others see to be admirable and ingenious, and which all would be
the better for adopting. It is but the theology of Nature, just
as we talk of the PHILOSOPHY or the ROMANCE of history, or the
POETRY of childhood, or the picturesque or the sentimental or the
humorous, or any other abstract quality which the genius or the
caprice of the individual, or the fashion of the day, or the
consent of the world, recognizes in any set of objects which are
subjected to its contemplation. I do not see much difference
between avowing that there is no God, and implying that nothing
definite can be known for certain about Him."

What I mean by Theology, continues Newman, is none of these
things: "I simply mean the SCIENCE OF GOD, or the truths we know
about God, put into a system, just as we have a science of the
stars and call it astronomy, or of the crust of the earth and
call it geology."

In both these extracts we have the issue clearly set before us:
Feeling valid only for the individual is pitted against reason
valid universally. The test is a perfectly plain one of fact.
Theology based on pure reason must in point of fact convince men
universally. If it did not, wherein would its superiority
consist? If it only formed sects and schools, even as sentiment
and mysticism form them, how would it fulfill its programme of
freeing us from personal caprice and waywardness? This perfectly
definite practical test of the pretensions of philosophy to found
religion on universal reason simplifies my procedure to-day. I
need not discredit philosophy by laborious criticism of its
arguments. It will suffice if I show that as a matter of history
it fails to prove its pretension to be "objectively" convincing.
In fact, philosophy does so fail. It does not banish
differences; it founds schools and sects just as feeling does. I
believe, in fact, that the logical reason of man operates in this
field of divinity exactly as it has always operated in love, or
in patriotism, or in politics, or in any other of the wider
affairs of life, in which our passions or our mystical intuitions
fix our beliefs beforehand. It finds arguments for our
conviction, for indeed it HAS to find them. It amplifies and
defines our faith, and dignifies it and lends it words and
plausibility. It hardly ever engenders it; it cannot now secure

[292] As regards the secondary character of intellectual
constructions, and the primacy of feeling and instinct in
founding religious beliefs see the striking work of H. Fielding,
The Hearts of Men, London, 1902, which came into my hands after
my text was written. "Creeds," says the author, "are the grammar
of religion, they are to religion what grammar is to speech.
Words are the expression of our wants grammar is the theory
formed afterwards. Speech never proceeded from grammar, but the
reverse. As speech progresses and changes from unknown causes,
grammar must follow" (p. 313). The whole book, which keeps
unusually close to concrete facts, is little more than an
amplification of this text.

Lend me your attention while I run through some of the points of
the older systematic theology. You find them in both Protestant
and Catholic manuals, best of all in the innumerable text-books
published since Pope Leo's Encyclical recommending the study of
Saint Thomas. I glance first at the arguments by which dogmatic
theology establishes God's existence, after that at those by
which it establishes his nature.[293]

[293] For convenience' sake, I follow the order of A. Stockl's
Lehrbuch der Philosophie, 5te Autlage, Mainz, 1881, Band ii. B.
Boedder's Natural Theology, London, 1891, is a handy English
Catholic Manual; but an almost identical doctrine is given by
such Protestant theologians as C. Hodge: Systematic Theology,
New York, 1873, or A. H. Strong: Systematic Theology, 5th
edition, New York, 1896.

The arguments for God's existence have stood for hundreds of
years with the waves of unbelieving criticism breaking against
them, never totally discrediting them in the ears of the
faithful, but on the whole slowly and surely washing out the
mortar from between their joints. If you have a God already whom
you believe in, these arguments confirm you. If you are
atheistic, they fail to set you right. The proofs are various.
The "cosmological" one, so-called, reasons from the contingence
of the world to a First Cause which must contain whatever
perfections the world itself contains. The "argument
from design" reasons, from the fact that Nature's laws are
mathematical, and her parts benevolently adapted to each other,
that this cause is both intellectual and benevolent. The "moral
argument" is that the moral law presupposes a lawgiver. The
"argument ex consensu gentium" is that the belief in God is so
widespread as to be grounded in the rational nature of man, and
should therefore carry authority with it.

As I just said, I will not discuss these arguments technically.
The bare fact that all idealists since Kant have felt entitled
either to scout or to neglect them shows that they are not solid
enough to serve as religion's all-sufficient foundation.
Absolutely impersonal reasons would be in duty bound to show more
general convincingness. Causation is indeed too obscure a
principle to bear the weight of the whole structure of theology.
As for the argument from design, see how Darwinian ideas have
revolutionized it. Conceived as we now conceive them, as so many
fortunate escapes from almost limitless processes of destruction,
the benevolent adaptations which we find in Nature suggest a
deity very different from the one who figured in the earlier
versions of the argument.[294] The fact is that these arguments
do but follow the combined suggestions of the facts and of our
feeling. They prove nothing rigorously. They only corroborate
our preexistent partialities.

[294] It must not be forgotten that any form of DISorder in the
world might, by the design argument, suggest a God for just that
kind of disorder. The truth is that any state of things whatever
that can be named is logically susceptible of teleological
interpretation. The ruins of the earthquake at Lisbon, for
example: the whole of past history had to be planned exactly as
it was to bring about in the fullness of time just that
particular arrangement of debris of masonry, furniture, and once
living bodies. No other train of causes would have been
sufficient. And so of any other arrangement, bad or good, which
might as a matter of fact be found resulting anywhere from
previous conditions. To avoid such pessimistic consequences and
save its beneficent designer, the design argument accordingly
invokes two other principles, restrictive in their operation.
The first is physical: Nature's forces tend of their own accord
only to disorder and destruction, to heaps of ruins, not to

This principle, though plausible at first sight, seems, in the
light of recent biology, to be more and more improbable. The
second principle is one of anthropomorphic interpretation. No
arrangement that for us is "disorderly" can possibly have been an
object of design at all. This principle is of course a mere
assumption in the interests of anthropomorphic Theism.

When one views the world with no definite theological bias one
way or the other, one sees that order and disorder, as we now
recognize them, are purely human inventions. We are interested
in certain types of arrangement, useful, aesthetic, or moral--so
interested that whenever we find them realized, the fact
emphatically rivets our attention. The result is that we work
over the contents of the world selectively. It is overflowing
with disorderly arrangements from our point of view, but order is
the only thing we care for and look at, and by choosing, one can
always find some sort of orderly arrangement in the midst of any
chaos. If I should throw down a thousand beans at random upon a
table, I could doubtless, by eliminating a sufficient number of
them, leave the rest in almost any geometrical pattern you might
propose to me, and you might then say that that pattern was the
thing prefigured beforehand, and that the other beans were mere
irrelevance and packing material. Our dealings with Nature are
just like this. She is a vast plenum in which our attention
draws capricious lines in innumerable directions. We count and
name whatever lies upon the special lines we trace, whilst the
other things and the untraced lines are neither named nor
counted. There are in reality infinitely more things "unadapted"
to each other in this world than there are things "adapted";
infinitely more things with irregular relations than with regular
relations between them. But we look for the regular kind of
thing exclusively, and ingeniously discover and preserve it in
our memory. It accumulates with other regular kinds, until the
collection of them fills our encyclopaedias. Yet all the while
between and around them lies an infinite anonymous chaos of
objects that no one ever thought of together, of relations that
never yet attracted our attention.

The facts of order from which the physico-theological argument
starts are thus easily susceptible of interpretation as arbitrary
human products. So long as this is the case, although of course
no argument against God follows, it follows that the argument for
him will fail to constitute a knockdown proof of his existence.
It will be convincing only to those who on other grounds believe
in him already.

If philosophy can do so little to establish God's existence, how
stands it with her efforts to define his attributes? It is worth
while to look at the attempts of systematic theology in this

Since God is First Cause, this science of sciences says, he
differs from all his creatures in possessing existence a se.
From this "a-se-ity" on God's part, theology deduces by mere
logic most of his other perfections. For instance, he must be
both NECESSARY and ABSOLUTE, cannot not be, and cannot in any way
be determined by anything else. This makes Him absolutely
unlimited from without, and unlimited also from within; for
limitation is non-being; and God is being itself. This
unlimitedness makes God infinitely perfect. Moreover, God is
ONE, and ONLY, for the infinitely perfect can admit no peer. He
is SPIRITUAL, for were He composed of physical parts, some other
power would have to combine them into the total, and his aseity
would thus be contradicted. He is therefore both simple and
non-physical in nature. He is SIMPLE METAPHYSICALLY also, that
is to say, his nature and his existence cannot be distinct, as
they are in finite substances which share their formal natures
with one another, and are individual only in their material
aspect. Since God is one and only, his essentia and his esse
must be given at one stroke. This excludes from his being all
those distinctions, so familiar in the world of finite things,
between potentiality and actuality, substance and accidents,
being and activity, existence and attributes. We can talk, it is
true, of God's powers, acts, and attributes, but these
discriminations are only "virtual," and made from the human point
of view. In God all these points of view fall into an absolute
identity of being.

This absence of all potentiality in God obliges Him to be
IMMUTABLE. He is actuality, through and through. Were there
anything potential about Him, He would either lose or gain by its
actualization, and either loss or gain would contradict his
perfection. He cannot, therefore, change. Furthermore, He is
IMMENSE, BOUNDLESS; for could He be outlined in space, He would
be composite, and this would contradict his indivisibility. He is
therefore OMNIPRESENT, indivisibly there, at every point of
space. He is similarly wholly present at every point of time--in
other words ETERNAL. For if He began in time, He would need a
prior cause, and that would contradict his aseity. If He ended
it would contradict his necessity. If He went through any
succession, it would contradict his immutability.

He has INTELLIGENCE and WILL and every other creature-
perfection, for we have them, and effectus nequit superare
causam. In Him, however, they are absolutely and eternally in
act, and their OBJECT, since God can be bounded by naught that is
external, can primarily be nothing else than God himself. He
knows himself, then, in one eternal indivisible act, and wills
himself with an infinite self-pleasure.[295] Since He must of
logical necessity thus love and will himself, He cannot be called
"free" ad intra, with the freedom of contrarieties that
characterizes finite creatures. Ad extra, however, or with
respect to his creation, God is free. He cannot NEED to create,
being perfect in being and in happiness already. He WILLS to
create, then, by an absolute freedom.

[295] For the scholastics the facultas appetendi embraces
feeling, desire, and will.

Being thus a substance endowed with intellect and will and
freedom, God is a PERSON; and a LIVING person also, for He is
both object and subject of his own activity, and to be this
distinguishes the living from the lifeless. He is thus
both of them infinite and adequate, and need no extraneous
conditions to perfect them.

He is OMNISCIENT, for in knowing himself as Cause He knows all
creature things and events by implication. His knowledge is
previsive, for He is present to all time. Even our free acts are
known beforehand to Him, for otherwise his wisdom would admit of
successive moments of enrichment, and this would contradict his
immutability. He is OMNIPOTENT for everything that does not
involve logical contradiction. He can make BEING --in other
words his power includes CREATION. If what He creates were made
of his own substance, it would have to be infinite in essence, as
that substance is; but it is finite; so it must be non-divine in
substance. If it were made of a substance, an eternally existing
matter, for example, which God found there to his hand, and to
which He simply gave its form, that would contradict God's
definition as First Cause, and make Him a mere mover of something
caused already. The things he creates, then, He creates ex
nihilo, and gives them absolute being as so many finite
substances additional to himself. The forms which he imprints
upon them have their prototypes in his ideas. But as in God
there is no such thing as multiplicity, and as these ideas for us
are manifold, we must distinguish the ideas as they are in God
and the way in which our minds externally imitate them. We must
attribute them to Him only in a TERMINATIVE sense, as differing
aspects, from the finite point of view, of his unique essence.

God of course is holy, good, and just. He can do no evil, for He
is positive being's fullness, and evil is negation. It is true
that He has created physical evil in places, but only as a means
of wider good, for bonum totius praeeminet bonum partis. Moral
evil He cannot will, either as end or means, for that would
contradict his holiness. By creating free beings He PERMITS it
only, neither his justice nor his goodness obliging Him to
prevent the recipients of freedom from misusing the gift.

As regards God's purpose in creating, primarily it can only have
been to exercise his absolute freedom by the manifestation to
others of his glory. From this it follows that the others must
be rational beings, capable in the first place of knowledge,
love, and honor, and in the second place of happiness, for the
knowledge and love of God is the mainspring of felicity. In so
far forth one may say that God's secondary purpose in creating is

I will not weary you by pursuing these metaphysical
determinations farther, into the mysteries of God's Trinity, for
example. What I have given will serve as a specimen of the
orthodox philosophical theology of both Catholics and
Protestants. Newman, filled with enthusiasm at God's list of
perfections, continues the passage which I began to quote to you
by a couple of pages of a rhetoric so magnificent that I can
hardly refrain from adding them, in spite of the inroad they
would make upon our time.[296] He first enumerates God's
attributes sonorously, then celebrates his ownership of
everything in earth and Heaven, and the dependence of all that
happens upon his permissive will. He gives us scholastic
philosophy "touched with emotion," and every philosophy should be
touched with emotion to be rightly understood. Emotionally,
then, dogmatic theology is worth something to minds of the type
of Newman's. It will aid us to estimate what it is worth
intellectually, if at this point I make a short digression.

[296] Op. cit., Discourse III. Section 7.

What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. The
Continental schools of philosophy have too often overlooked the
fact that man's thinking is organically connected with his
conduct. It seems to me to be the chief glory of English and
Scottish thinkers to have kept the organic connection in view.
The guiding principle of British philosophy has in fact been that
every difference must MAKE a difference, every theoretical
difference somewhere issue in a practical difference, and that
the best method of discussing points of theory is to begin by
ascertaining what practical difference would result from one
alternative or the other being true. What is the particular
truth in question KNOWN AS? In what facts does it result? What
is its cash-value in terms of particular experience? This is the
characteristic English way of taking up a question. In this way,
you remember, Locke takes up the question of personal identity.
What you mean by it is just your chain of particular memories,
says he. That is the only concretely verifiable part of its
significance. All further ideas about it, such as the oneness or
manyness of the spiritual substance on which it is based, are
therefore void of intelligible meaning; and propositions touching
such ideas may be indifferently affirmed or denied. So Berkeley
with his "matter."

The cash-value of matter is our physical sensations. That is
what it is known as, all that we concretely verify of its
conception. That, therefore, is the whole meaning of the term
"matter"--any other pretended meaning is mere wind of words.
Hume does the same thing with causation. It is known as habitual
antecedence, and as tendency on our part to look for something
definite to come. Apart from this practical meaning it has no
significance whatever, and books about it may be committed to the
flames, says Hume. Dugald Stewart and Thomas Brown, James Mill,
John Mill, and Professor Bain, have followed more or less
consistently the same method; and Shadworth Hodgson has used the
principle with full explicitness. When all is said and done, it
was English and Scotch writers, and not Kant, who introduced "the
critical method" into philosophy, the one method fitted to make
philosophy a study worthy of serious men. For what seriousness
can possibly remain in debating philosophic propositions that
will never make an appreciable difference to us in action? And
what could it matter, if all propositions were practically
indifferent, which of them we should agree to call true or which

An American philosopher of eminent originality, Mr. Charles
Sanders Peirce, has rendered thought a service by disentangling
from the particulars of its application the principle by which
these men were instinctively guided, and by singling it out as
fundamental and giving to it a Greek name. He calls it the
principle of PRAGMATISM, and he defends it somewhat as

[297] In an article, How to make our Ideas Clear, in the Popular
Science Monthly for January, 1878, vol. xii. p. 286.

Thought in movement has for its only conceivable motive the
attainment of belief, or thought at rest. Only when our thought
about a subject has found its rest in belief can our action on
the subject firmly and safely begin. Beliefs, in short, are
rules for action; and the whole function of thinking is but one
step in the production of active habits. If there were any part
of a thought that made no difference in the thought's practical
consequences, then that part would be no proper element of the
thought's significance. To develop a thought's meaning we need
therefore only determine what conduct it is fitted to produce;
that conduct is for us its sole significance; and the tangible
fact at the root of all our thought-distinctions is that there is
no one of them so fine as to consist in anything but a possible
difference of practice. To attain perfect clearness in our
thoughts of an object, we need then only consider what
sensations, immediate or remote, we are conceivably to expect
from it, and what conduct we must prepare in case the object
should be true. Our conception of these practical consequences
is for us the whole of our conception of the object, so far as
that conception has positive significance at all.

This is the principle of Peirce, the principle of pragmatism.
Such a principle will help us on this occasion to decide, among
the various attributes set down in the scholastic inventory of
God's perfections, whether some be not far less significant than

If, namely, we apply the principle of pragmatism to God's
metaphysical attributes, strictly so called, as distinguished
from his moral attributes, I think that, even were we forced by a
coercive logic to believe them, we still should have to confess
them to be destitute of all intelligible significance. Take God's
aseity, for example; or his necessariness; his immateriality; his
"simplicity" or superiority to the kind of inner variety and
succession which we find in finite beings, his indivisibility,
and lack of the inner distinctions of being and activity,
substance and accident, potentiality and actuality, and the rest;
his repudiation of inclusion in a genus; his actualized infinity;
his "personality," apart from the moral qualities which it may
comport; his relations to evil being permissive and not positive;
his self-sufficiency, self-love, and absolute felicity in
himself:--candidly speaking, how do such qualities as these
make any definite connection with our life? And if they
severally call for no distinctive adaptations of our conduct,
what vital difference can it possibly make to a man's religion
whether they be true or false?

For my own part, although I dislike to say aught that may grate
upon tender associations, I must frankly confess that even though
these attributes were faultlessly deduced, I cannot conceive of
its being of the smallest consequence to us religiously that any
one of them should be true. Pray, what specific act can I
perform in order to adapt myself the better to God's simplicity?
Or how does it assist me to plan my behavior, to know that his
happiness is anyhow absolutely complete? In the middle of the
century just past, Mayne Reid was the great writer of books of
out-of-door adventure. He was forever extolling the hunters and
field-observers of living animals' habits, and keeping up a fire
of invective against the "closet-naturalists," as he called them,
the collectors and classifiers, and handlers of skeletons and
skins. When I was a boy, I used to think that a closet-
naturalist must be the vilest type of wretch under the sun. But
surely the systematic theologians are the closet-naturalists of
the deity, even in Captain Mayne Reid's sense. What is their
deduction of metaphysical attributes but a shuffling and matching
of pedantic dictionary-adjectives, aloof from morals, aloof from
human needs, something that might be worked out from the mere
word "God" by one of those logical machines of wood and brass
which recent ingenuity has contrived as well as by a man of flesh
and blood. They have the trail of the serpent over them. One
feels that in the theologians' hands, they are only a set of
titles obtained by a mechanical manipulation of synonyms;
verbality has stepped into the place of vision, professionalism
into that of life. Instead of bread we have a stone; instead of
a fish, a serpent. Did such a conglomeration of abstract terms
give really the gist of our knowledge of the deity, schools of
theology might indeed continue to flourish, but religion, vital
religion, would have taken its flight from this world. What keeps
religion going is something else than abstract definitions and
systems of concatenated adjectives, and something different from
faculties of theology and their professors. All these things are
after-effects, secondary accretions upon those phenomena of vital
conversation with the unseen divine, of which I have shown you so
many instances, renewing themselves in saecula saeculorum in the
lives of humble private men.

So much for the metaphysical attributes of God! From the point
of view of practical religion, the metaphysical monster which
they offer to our worship is an absolutely worthless invention of
the scholarly mind.

What shall we now say of the attributes called moral?
Pragmatically, they stand on an entirely different footing. They
positively determine fear and hope and expectation, and are
foundations for the saintly life. It needs but a glance at them
to show how great is their significance.

God's holiness, for example: being holy, God can will nothing
but the good. Being omnipotent, he can secure its triumph.
Being omniscient, he can see us in the dark. Being just, he can
punish us for what he sees. Being loving, he can pardon too.
Being unalterable, we can count on him securely. These qualities
enter into connection with our life, it is highly important that
we should be informed concerning them. That God's purpose in
creation should be the manifestation of his glory is also an
attribute which has definite relations to our practical life.
Among other things it has given a definite character to worship
in all Christian countries. If dogmatic theology really does
prove beyond dispute that a God with characters like these
exists, she may well claim to give a solid basis to religious
sentiment. But verily, how stands it with her arguments?

It stands with them as ill as with the arguments for his
existence. Not only do post-Kantian idealists reject them root
and branch, but it is a plain historic fact that they never have
converted any one who has found in the moral complexion of the
world, as he experienced it, reasons for doubting that a good God
can have framed it. To prove God's goodness by the scholastic
argument that there is no non-being in his essence would sound
to such a witness simply silly.

No! the book of Job went over this whole matter once for all and
definitively. Ratiocination is a relatively superficial and
unreal path to the deity: "I will lay mine hand upon my mouth; I
have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye
seeth Thee." An intellect perplexed and baffled, yet a
trustful sense of presence--such is the situation of the man who
is sincere with himself and with the facts, but who remains
religious still.[298]

[298] Pragmatically, the most important attribute of God is his
punitive justice. But who, in the present state of theological
opinion on that point, will dare maintain that hell fire or its
equivalent in some shape is rendered certain by pure logic?
Theology herself has largely based this doctrine upon revelation,
and, in discussing it, has tended more and more to substitute
conventional ideas of criminal law for a priori principles of
reason. But the very notion that this glorious universe, with
planets and winds, and laughing sky and ocean, should have been
conceived and had its beams and rafters laid in technicalities of
criminality, is incredible to our modern imagination. It weakens
a religion to hear it argued upon such a basis.

We must therefore, I think, bid a definitive good-by to dogmatic
theology. In all sincerity our faith must do without that
warrant. Modern idealism, I repeat, has said goodby to this
theology forever. Can modern idealism give faith a better
warrant, or must she still rely on her poor self for witness?

The basis of modern idealism is Kant's doctrine of the
Transcendental Ego of Apperception. By this formidable term Kant
merely meant the fact that the consciousness "I think them" must
(potentially or actually) accompany all our objects. Former
skeptics had said as much, but the "I" in question had remained
for them identified with the personal individual. Kant
abstracted and depersonalized it, and made it the most universal
of all his categories, although for Kant himself the
Transcendental Ego had no theological implications.

It was reserved for his successors to convert Kant's notion of
Bewusstsein uberhaupt, or abstract consciousness, into an
infinite concrete self-consciousness which is the soul of the
world, and in which our sundry personal self-consciousnesses
have their being. It would lead me into technicalities to show
you even briefly how this transformation was in point of fact
effected. Suffice it to say that in the Hegelian school, which
to-day so deeply influences both British and American thinking,
two principles have borne the brunt of the operation.

The first of these principles is that the old logic of identity
never gives us more than a post-mortem dissection of disjecta
membra, and that the fullness of life can be construed to thought
only by recognizing that every object which our thought may
propose to itself involves the notion of some other object which
seems at first to negate the first one.

The second principle is that to be conscious of a negation is
already virtually to be beyond it. The mere asking of a question
or expression of a dissatisfaction proves that the answer or the
satisfaction is already imminent; the finite, realized as such,
is already the infinite in posse.

Applying these principles, we seem to get a propulsive force into
our logic which the ordinary logic of a bare, stark self-identity
in each thing never attains to. The objects of our thought now
ACT within our thought, act as objects act when given in
experience. They change and develop. They introduce something
other than themselves along with them; and this other, at first
only ideal or potential, presently proves itself also to be
actual. It supersedes the thing at first supposed, and both
verifies and corrects it, in developing the fullness of its

The program is excellent; the universe IS a place where things
are followed by other things that both correct and fulfill them;
and a logic which gave us something like this movement of fact
would express truth far better than the traditional school-logic,
which never gets of its own accord from anything to anything
else, and registers only predictions and subsumptions, or static
resemblances and differences. Nothing could be more unlike the
methods of dogmatic theology than those of this new logic. Let
me quote in illustration some passages from the Scottish
transcendentalist whom I have already named.

"How are we to conceive," Principal Caird writes, "of the reality
in which all intelligence rests?" He replies: "Two things may
without difficulty be proved, viz., that this reality is an
absolute Spirit, and conversely that it is only in communion with
this absolute Spirit or Intelligence that the finite Spirit can
realize itself. It is absolute; for the faintest movement of
human intelligence would be arrested, if it did not presuppose
the absolute reality of intelligence, of thought itself. Doubt
or denial themselves presuppose and indirectly affirm it. When I
pronounce anything to be true, I pronounce it, indeed, to be
relative to thought, but not to be relative to my thought, or to
the thought of any other individual mind. From the existence of
all individual minds as such I can abstract; I can think them
away. But that which I cannot think away is thought or
self-consciousness itself, in its independence and absoluteness,
or, in other words, an Absolute Thought or Self-Consciousness."

Here, you see, Principal Caird makes the transition which Kant
did not make: he converts the omnipresence of consciousness in
general as a condition of "truth" being anywhere possible, into
an omnipresent universal consciousness, which he identifies with
God in his concreteness. He next proceeds to use the principle
that to acknowledge your limits is in essence to be beyond them;
and makes the transition to the religious experience of
individuals in the following words:--

"If [Man] were only a creature of transient sensations and
impulses, of an ever coming and going succession of intuitions,
fancies, feelings, then nothing could ever have for him the
character of objective truth or reality. But it is the
prerogative of man's spiritual nature that he can yield himself
up to a thought and will that are infinitely larger than his own.
As a thinking self-conscious being, indeed, he may be said, by
his very nature, to live in the atmosphere of the Universal Life.

As a thinking being, it is possible for me to suppress and quell
in my consciousness every movement of self-assertion, every
notion and opinion that is merely mine, every desire that belongs
to me as this particular Self, and to become the pure medium of a
thought that is universal--in one word, to live no more my own
life, but let my consciousness be possessed and suffused by the
Infinite and Eternal life of spirit. And yet it is just in this
renunciation of self that I truly gain myself, or realize the
highest possibilities of my own nature. For whilst in one sense
we give up self to live the universal and absolute life of
reason, yet that to which we thus surrender ourselves is in
reality our truer self. The life of absolute reason is not a
life that is foreign to us."

Nevertheless, Principal Caird goes on to say, so far as we are
able outwardly to realize this doctrine, the balm it offers
remains incomplete. Whatever we may be in posse, the very best
of us in actu falls very short of being absolutely divine. Social
morality, love, and self-sacrifice even, merge our Self only in
some other finite self or selves. They do not quite identify it
with the Infinite. Man's ideal destiny, infinite in abstract
logic, might thus seem in practice forever unrealizable.

"Is there, then," our author continues, "no solution of the
contradiction between the ideal and the actual? We answer, There
is such a solution, but in order to reach it we are carried
beyond the sphere of morality into that of religion. It may be
said to be the essential characteristic of religion as contrasted
with morality, that it changes aspiration into fruition,
anticipation into realization; that instead of leaving man in the
interminable pursuit of a vanishing ideal, it makes him the
actual partaker of a divine or infinite life. Whether we view
religion from the human side or the divine--as the surrender of
the soul to God, or as the life of God in the soul--in either
aspect it is of its very essence that the Infinite has ceased to
be a far-off vision, and has become a present reality. The very
first pulsation of the spiritual life, when we rightly apprehend
its significance, is the indication that the division between the
Spirit and its object has vanished, that the ideal has become
real, that the finite has reached its goal and become suffused
with the presence and life of the Infinite.

"Oneness of mind and will with the divine mind and will is not
the future hope and aim of religion, but its very beginning and
birth in the soul. To enter on the religious life is to
terminate the struggle. In that act which constitutes the
beginning of the religious life--call it faith, or trust, or
self-surrender, or by whatever name you will--there is involved
the identification of the finite with a life which is eternally
realized. It is true indeed that the religious life is
progressive; but understood in the light of the foregoing idea,
religious progress is not progress TOWARDS, but WITHIN the sphere
of the Infinite. It is not the vain attempt by endless finite
additions or increments to become possessed of infinite wealth,
but it is the endeavor, by the constant exercise of spiritual
activity, to appropriate that infinite inheritance of which we
are already in possession. The whole future of the religious
life is given in its beginning, but it is given implicitly. The
position of the man who has entered on the religious life is that
evil, error, imperfection, do not really belong to him: they are
excrescences which have no organic relation to his true nature:
they are already virtually, as they will be actually, suppressed
and annulled, and in the very process of being annulled they
become the means of spiritual progress. Though he is not exempt
from temptation and conflict, [yet] in that inner sphere in which
his true life lies, the struggle is over, the victory already
achieved. It is not a finite but an infinite life which the
spirit lives. Every pulse-beat of its [existence] is the
expression and realization of the life of God."[299]

[299] John Caird: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion
London and New York, 1880, pp. 243-250, and 291-299, much

You will readily admit that no description of the phenomena of
the religious consciousness could be better than these words of
your lamented preacher and philosopher. They reproduce the very
rapture of those crises of conversion of which we have been
hearing; they utter what the mystic felt but was unable to
communicate; and the saint, in hearing them, recognizes his own
experience. It is indeed gratifying to find the content of
religion reported so unanimously. But when all is said and done,
has Principal Caird--and I only use him as an example of that
whole mode of thinking--transcended the sphere of feeling and of
the direct experience of the individual, and laid the foundations
of religion in impartial reason? Has he made religion universal
by coercive reasoning, transformed it from a private faith into a
public certainty? Has he rescued its affirmations from obscurity
and mystery?

I believe that he has done nothing of the kind, but that he has
simply reaffirmed the individual's experiences in a more
generalized vocabulary. And again, I can be excused from proving
technically that the transcendentalist reasonings fail to make
religion universal, for I can point to the plain fact that a
majority of scholars, even religiously disposed ones, stubbornly
refuse to treat them as convincing. The whole of Germany, one
may say, has positively rejected the Hegelian argumentation. As
for Scotland, I need only mention Professor Fraser's and
Professor Pringle-Pattison's memorable criticisms, with which so
many of you are familiar.[300] Once more, I ask, if
transcendental idealism were <445> as objectively and absolutely
rational as it pretends to be, could it possibly fail so
egregiously to be persuasive?

[300] A. C. Fraser: Philosophy of Theism, second edition,
Edinburgh and London, 1899, especially part ii, chaps. vii. and
viii. A. Seth [Pringle-Pattison]: Hegelianism and Personality,
Ibid., 1890, passim.

The most persuasive arguments in favor of a concrete individual
Soul of the world, with which I am acquainted, are those of my
colleague, Josiah Royce, in his Religious Aspect of Philosophy,
Boston, 1885; in his Conception of God, New York and London,
1897; and lately in his Aberdeen Gifford Lectures, The World and
the Individual, 2 vols., New York and London, 1901-02. I
doubtless seem to some of my readers to evade the philosophic
duty which my thesis in this lecture imposes on me, by not even
attempting to meet Professor Royce's arguments articulately. I
admit the momentary evasion. In the present lectures, which are
cast throughout in a popular mould, there seemed no room for
subtle metaphysical discussion, and for tactical purposes it was
sufficient the contention of philosophy being what it is (namely,
that religion can be transformed into a universally convincing
science), to point to the fact that no religious philosophy has
actually convinced the mass of thinkers. Meanwhile let me say
that I hope that the present volume may be followed by another,
if I am spared to write it, in which not only Professor Royce's
arguments, but others for monistic absolutism shall be considered
with all the technical fullness which their great importance
calls for. At present I resign myself to lying passive under the
reproach of superficiality.

What religion reports, you must remember, always purports to be a
fact of experience: the divine is actually present, religion
says, and between it and ourselves relations of give and take are
actual. If definite perceptions of fact like this cannot stand
upon their own feet, surely abstract reasoning cannot give them
the support they are in need of. Conceptual processes can class
facts, define them, interpret them; but they do not produce them,
nor can they reproduce their individuality. There is always a
PLUS, a THISNESS, which feeling alone can answer for. Philosophy
in this sphere is thus a secondary function, unable to warrant
faith's veracity, and so I revert to the thesis which I announced
at the beginning of this lecture.

In all sad sincerity I think we must conclude that the attempt to
demonstrate by purely intellectual processes the truth of the
deliverances of direct religious experience is absolutely

It would be unfair to philosophy, however, to leave her under
this negative sentence. Let me close, then, by briefly
enumerating what she CAN do for religion. If she will abandon
metaphysics and deduction for criticism and induction, and
frankly transform herself from theology into science of
religions, she can make herself enormously useful.

The spontaneous intellect of man always defines the divine which
it feels in ways that harmonize with its temporary intellectual
prepossessions. Philosophy can by comparison eliminate the local
and the accidental from these definitions. Both from dogma and
from worship she can remove historic incrustations. By
confronting the spontaneous religious constructions with the
results of natural science, philosophy can also eliminate
doctrines that are now known to be scientifically absurd or

Sifting out in this way unworthy formulations, she can leave a
residuum of conceptions that at least are possible. With these
she can deal as HYPOTHESES, testing them in all the manners,
whether negative or positive, by which hypotheses are ever
tested. She can reduce their number, as some are found more open
to objection. She can perhaps become the champion of one which
she picks out as being the most closely verified or verifiable.
She can refine upon the definition of this hypothesis,
distinguishing between what is innocent over-belief and symbolism
in the expression of it, and what is to be literally taken. As a
result, she can offer mediation between different believers, and
help to bring about consensus of opinion. She can do this the
more successfully, the better she discriminates the common and
essential from the individual and local elements of the religious
beliefs which she compares.

I do not see why a critical Science of Religions of this sort
might not eventually command as general a public adhesion as is
commanded by a physical science. Even the personally
non-religious might accept its conclusions on trust, much as
blind persons now accept the facts of optics--it might appear as
foolish to refuse them. Yet as the science of optics has to be
fed in the first instance, and continually verified later, by
facts experienced by seeing persons; so the science of religions
would depend for its original material on facts of personal
experience, and would have to square itself with personal
experience through all its critical reconstructions. It could
never get away from concrete life, or work in a conceptual
vacuum. It would forever have to confess, as every science
confesses, that the subtlety of nature flies beyond it, and that
its formulas are but approximations. Philosophy lives in words,
but truth and fact well up into our lives in ways that exceed
verbal formulation. There is in the living act of perception
always something that glimmers and twinkles and will not be
caught, and for which reflection comes too late. No one knows
this as well as the philosopher. He must fire his volley of new
vocables out of his conceptual shotgun, for his profession
condemns him to this industry, but he secretly knows the
hollowness and irrelevancy. His formulas are like stereoscopic or
kinetoscopic photographs seen outside the instrument; they lack
the depth, the motion, the vitality. In the religious sphere, in
particular, belief that formulas are true can never wholly take
the place of personal experience.

In my next lecture I will try to complete my rough description of
religious experience; and in the lecture after that, which is the
last one, I will try my hand at formulating conceptually the
truth to which it is a witness.

Lecture XIX


We have wound our way back, after our excursion through mysticism
and philosophy, to where we were before: the uses of religion,
its uses to the individual who has it, and the uses of the
individual himself to the world, are the best arguments that
truth is in it. We return to the empirical philosophy: the true
is what works well, even though the qualification "on the whole"
may always have to be added. In this lecture we must revert to
description again, and finish our picture of the religious
consciousness by a word about some of its other characteristic
elements. Then, in a final lecture, we shall be free to make a
general review and draw our independent conclusions.

The first point I will speak of is the part which the aesthetic
life plays in determining one's choice of a religion. Men, I
said awhile ago, involuntarily intellectualize their religious
experience. They need formulas, just as they need fellowship in
worship. I spoke, therefore, too contemptuously of the pragmatic
uselessness of the famous scholastic list of attributes of the
deity, for they have one use which I neglected to consider. The
eloquent passage in which Newman enumerates them[301] puts us on
the track of it. Intoning them as he would intone a cathedral
service, he shows how high is their aesthetic value. It enriches
our bare piety to carry these exalted and mysterious verbal
additions just as it enriches a church to have an organ and old
brasses, marbles and frescoes and stained windows. Epithets lend
an atmosphere and overtones to our devotion. They are like a
hymn of praise and service of glory, and may sound the more
sublime for being incomprehensible. Minds like Newman's[302]
grow as jealous of their credit as heathen priests are of that of
the jewelry and ornaments that blaze upon their idols.

[301] Idea of a University, Discourse III. Section 7.

[302] Newman's imagination so innately craved an ecclesiastical
system that he can write: "From the age of fifteen, dogma has
been the fundamental principle of my religion: I know no other
religion; I cannot enter into the idea of any other sort of
religion." And again speaking of himself about the age of
thirty, he writes: "I loved to act as feeling myself in my
Bishop's sight, as if it were the sight of God." Apologia, 1897,
pp. 48, 50.

Among the buildings-out of religion which the mind spontaneously
indulges in, the aesthetic motive must never be forgotten. I
promised to say nothing of ecclesiastical systems in these
lectures. I may be allowed, however, to put in a word at this
point on the way in which their satisfaction of certain aesthetic
needs contributes to their hold on human nature. Although some
persons aim most at intellectual purity and simplification, for
others RICHNESS is the supreme imaginative requirement.[303] When
one's mind is strongly of this type, an individual religion will
hardly serve the purpose. The inner need is rather of something
institutional and complex, majestic in the hierarchic
interrelatedness of its parts, with authority descending from
stage to stage, and at every stage objects for adjectives of
mystery and splendor, derived in the last resort from the Godhead
who is the fountain and culmination of the system. One feels
then as if in presence of some vast incrusted work of jewelry or
architecture; one hears the multitudinous liturgical appeal; one
gets the honorific vibration coming from every quarter. Compared
with such a noble complexity, in which ascending and descending
movements seem in no way to jar upon stability, in which no
single item, however humble, is insignificant, because so many
august institutions hold it in its place, how flat does
evangelical Protestantism appear, how bare the atmosphere of
those isolated religious lives whose boast it is that "man in the
bush with God may meet."[304] What a pulverization and leveling
of what a gloriously piled-up structure! To an imagination used
to the perspectives of dignity and glory, the naked gospel scheme
seems to offer an almshouse for a palace.

[303] The intellectual difference is quite on a par in practical
importance with the analogous difference in character. We saw,
under the head of Saintliness, how some characters resent
confusion and must live in purity, consistency, simplicity
(above, p. 275 ff.). For others, on the contrary,
superabundance, over-pressure, stimulation, lots of superficial
relations, are indispensable. There are men who would suffer a
very syncope if you should pay all their debts, bring it about
that their engagements had been kept, their letters answered
their perplexities relieved, and their duties fulfilled, down to
one which lay on a clean table under their eyes with nothing to
interfere with its immediate performance. A day stripped so
staringly bare would be for them appalling. So with ease,
elegance, tributes of affection, social recognitions--some of us
require amounts of these things which to others would appear a
mass of lying and sophistication.

[304] In Newman's Lectures on Justification Lecture VIII.
Section 6, there is a splendid passage expressive of this
aesthetic way of feeling the Christian scheme. It is
unfortunately too long to quote.

It is much like the patriotic sentiment of those brought up in
ancient empires. How many emotions must be frustrated of their
object, when one gives up the titles of dignity, the crimson
lights and blare of brass, the gold embroidery, the plumed
troops, the fear and trembling, and puts up with a president in a
black coat who shakes hands with you, and comes, it may be, from
a "home" upon a veldt or prairie with one sitting-room and a
Bible on its centre-table. It pauperizes the monarchical

The strength of these aesthetic sentiments makes it rigorously
impossible, it seems to me, that Protestantism, however superior
in spiritual profundity it may be to Catholicism, should at the
present day succeed in making many converts from the more
venerable ecclesiasticism. The latter offers a so much richer
pasturage and shade to the fancy, has so many cells with so many
different kinds of honey, is so indulgent in its multiform
appeals to human nature, that Protestantism will always show to
Catholic eyes the almshouse physiognomy. The bitter negativity
of it is to the Catholic mind incomprehensible. To intellectual
Catholics many of the antiquated beliefs and practices to which
the Church gives countenance are, if taken literally, as childish
as they are to Protestants. But they are childish in the
pleasing sense of "childlike"--innocent and amiable, and worthy
to be smiled on in consideration of the undeveloped condition of
the dear people's intellects. To the Protestant, on the
contrary, they are childish in the sense of being idiotic
falsehoods. He must stamp out their delicate and lovable
redundancy, leaving the Catholic to shudder at his literalness.
He appears to the latter as morose as if he were some hard-eyed,
numb, monotonous kind of reptile. The two will never understand
each other--their centres of emotional energy are too different.
Rigorous truth and human nature's intricacies are always in need
of a mutual interpreter.[305] So much for the aesthetic
diversities in the religious consciousness.

[305] Compare the informality of Protestantism, where the "meek
lover of the good," alone with his God, visits the sick, etc.,
for their own sakes, with the elaborate "business" that goes on
in Catholic devotion, and carries with it the social excitement
of all more complex businesses. An essentially worldly-minded
Catholic woman can become a visitor of the sick on purely
coquettish principles, with her confessor and director, her
"merit" storing up, her patron saints, her privileged relation to
the Almighty, drawing his attention as a professional devote, her
definite "exercises," and her definitely recognized social pose
in the organization.

In most books on religion, three things are represented as its
most essential elements. These are Sacrifice, Confession, and
Prayer. I must say a word in turn of each of these elements,
though briefly. First of Sacrifice.

Sacrifices to gods are omnipresent in primeval worship; but, as
cults have grown refined, burnt offerings and the blood of
he-goats have been superseded by sacrifices more spiritual in
their nature. Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism get along without
ritual sacrifice; so does Christianity, save in so far as the
notion is preserved in transfigured form in the mystery of
Christ's atonement. These religions substitute offerings of the
heart, renunciations of the inner self, for all those vain
oblations. In the ascetic practices which Islam, Buddhism, and
the older Christianity encourage we see how indestructible is the
idea that sacrifice of some sort is a religious exercise. In
lecturing on asceticism I spoke of its significance as symbolic
of the sacrifices which life, whenever it is taken strenuously,
calls for.[306] But, as I said my say about those, and as these
lectures expressly avoid earlier religious usages and questions
of derivation, I will pass from the subject of Sacrifice
altogether and turn to that of Confession.

[306] Above, p. 354 ff.

In regard to Confession I will also be most brief, saying my word
about it psychologically, not historically. Not nearly as
widespread as sacrifice, it corresponds to a more inward and
moral stage of sentiment. It is part of the general system of
purgation and cleansing which one feels one's self in need of, in
order to be in right relations to one's deity. For him who
confesses, shams are over and realities have begun; he has
exteriorized his rottenness. If he has not actually got rid of
it, he at least no longer smears it over with a hypocritical show
of virtue--he lives at least upon a basis of veracity. The
complete decay of the practice of confession in Anglo-Saxon
communities is a little hard to account for. Reaction against
popery is of course the historic explanation, for in popery
confession went with penances and absolution, and other
inadmissible practices. But on the <453> side of the sinner
himself it seems as if the need ought to have been too great to
accept so summary a refusal of its satisfaction. One would think
that in more men the shell of secrecy would have had to open, the
pent-in abscess to burst and gain relief, even though the ear
that heard the confession were unworthy. The Catholic church,
for obvious utilitarian reasons, has substituted auricular
confession to one priest for the more radical act of public
confession. We English-speaking Protestants, in the general
self-reliance and unsociability of our nature, seem to find it
enough if we take God alone into our confidence.[307]

[307] A fuller discussion of confession is contained in the
excellent work by Frank Granger: The Soul of a Christian,
London, 1900, ch. xii.

The next topic on which I must comment is Prayer--and this time
it must be less briefly. We have heard much talk of late against
prayer, especially against prayers for better weather and for the
recovery of sick people. As regards prayers for the sick, if any
medical fact can be considered to stand firm, it is that in
certain environments prayer may contribute to recovery, and
should be encouraged as a therapeutic measure. Being a normal
factor of moral health in the person, its omission would be
deleterious. The case of the weather is different.
Notwithstanding the recency of the opposite belief,[308] every
one now knows that droughts and storms follow from physical
antecedents, and that moral appeals cannot avert them. But
petitional prayer is only one department of prayer; and if we
take the word in the wider sense as meaning every kind of inward
communion or conversation with the power recognized as divine, we
can easily see that scientific criticism leaves it untouched.

[308] Example: "The minister at Sudbury, being at the Thursday
lecture in Boston, heard the officiating clergyman praying for
rain. As soon as the service was over, he went to the petitioner
and said 'You Boston ministers, as soon as a tulip wilts under
your windows, go to church and pray for rain, until all Concord
and Sudbury are under water.'" R. W. Emerson: Lectures and
Biographical Sketches, p. 363.

Prayer in this wide sense is the very soul and essence of
religion. "Religion," says a liberal French theologian, "is an
intercourse, a conscious and voluntary relation, entered into by
a soul in distress with the mysterious power upon which it feels
itself to depend, and upon which its fate is contingent. This
intercourse with God is realized by prayer. Prayer is religion
in act; that is, prayer is real religion. It is prayer that
distinguishes the religious phenomenon from such similar or
neighboring phenomena as purely moral or aesthetic sentiment.
Religion is nothing if it be not the vital act by which the
entire mind seeks to save itself by clinging to the principle
from which it draws its life. This act is prayer, by which term
I understand no vain exercise of words, no mere repetition of
certain sacred formula, but the very movement itself of the soul,
putting itself in a personal relation of contact with the
mysterious power of which it feels the presence--it may be even
before it has a name by which to call it. Wherever this interior
prayer is lacking, there is no religion; wherever, on the other
hand, this prayer rises and stirs the soul, even in the absence
of forms or of doctrines, we have living religion. One sees from
this why "natural religion, so-called, is not properly a
religion. It cuts man off from prayer. It leaves him and God in
mutual remoteness, with no intimate commerce, no interior
dialogue, no interchange, no action of God in man, no return of
man to God. At bottom this pretended religion is only a
philosophy. Born at epochs of rationalism, of critical
investigations, it never was anything but an abstraction. An
artificial and dead creation, it reveals to its examiner hardly
one of the characters proper to religion."[309]

[309] Auguste Sabatier: Esquisse d'une Philosophie de la
Religion. 2me ed., 1897, pp. 24-26, abridged.

It seems to me that the entire series of our lectures proves the
truth of M. Sabatier's contention. The religious phenomenon,
studied as in Inner fact, and apart from ecclesiastical or
theological complications, has shown itself to consist
everywhere, and at all its stages, in the consciousness which
individuals have of an intercourse between themselves and higher
powers with which they feel themselves to be related. This
intercourse is realized at the time as being both active and
mutual. If it be not effective; if it be not a give and take
relation; if nothing be really transacted while it lasts; if the
world is in no whit different for its having taken place; then
prayer, taken in this wide meaning of a sense that SOMETHING IS
TRANSACTING, is of course a feeling of what is illusory, and
religion must on the whole be classed, not simply as containing
elements of delusion--these undoubtedly everywhere exist--but as
being rooted in delusion altogether, just as materialists and
atheists have always said it was. At most there might remain,
when the direct experiences of prayer were ruled out as false
witnesses, some inferential belief that the whole order of
existence must have a divine cause. But this way of
contemplating nature, pleasing as it would doubtless be to
persons of a pious taste, would leave to them but the spectators'
part at a play, whereas in experimental religion and the
prayerful life, we seem ourselves to be actors, and not in a
play, but in a very serious reality.

The genuineness of religion is thus indissolubly bound up with
the question whether the prayerful consciousness be or be not
deceitful. The conviction that something is genuinely transacted
in this consciousness is the very core of living religion. As to
what is transacted, great differences of opinion have prevailed.
The unseen powers have been supposed, and are yet supposed, to do
things which no enlightened man can nowadays believe in. It may
well prove that the sphere of influence in prayer is subjective
exclusively, and that what is immediately changed is only the
mind of the praying person. But however our opinion of prayer's
effects may come to be limited by criticism, religion, in the
vital sense in which these lectures study it, must stand or fall
by the persuasion that effects of some sort genuinely do occur.
Through prayer, religion insists, things which cannot be realized
in any other manner come about: energy which but for prayer
would be bound is by prayer set free and operates in some part,
be it objective or subjective, of the world of facts.

This postulate is strikingly expressed in a letter written by the
late Frederic W. H. Myers to a friend, who allows me to quote
from it. It shows how independent the prayer-instinct is of
usual doctrinal complications. Mr. Myers writes:--

"I am glad that you have asked me about prayer, because I have
rather strong ideas on the subject. First consider what are the
facts. There exists around us a spiritual universe, and that
universe is in actual relation with the material. From the
spiritual universe comes the energy which maintains the material;
the energy which makes the life of each individual spirit. Our
spirits are supported by a perpetual indrawal of this energy, and
the vigor of that indrawal is perpetually changing, much as the
vigor of our absorption of material nutriment changes from hour
to hour.

"I call these 'facts' because I think that some scheme of this
kind is the only one consistent with our actual evidence; too
complex to summarize here. How, then, should we ACT on these
facts? Plainly we must endeavor to draw in as much spiritual
life as possible, and we must place our minds in any attitude
which experience shows to be favorable to such indrawal. PRAYER
is the general name for that attitude of open and earnest
expectancy. If we then ask to whom to pray, the answer
(strangely enough) must be that THAT does not much matter. The
prayer is not indeed a purely subjective thing;--it means a real
increase in intensity of absorption of spiritual power or
grace;--but we do not know enough of what takes place in the
spiritual world to know how the prayer operates;--WHO is
cognizant of it, or through what channel the grace is given.
Better let children pray to Christ, who is at any rate the
highest individual spirit of whom we have any knowledge. But it
would be rash to say that Christ himself HEARS US; while to say
that GOD hears us is merely to restate the first principle--that
grace flows in from the infinite spiritual world."

Let us reserve the question of the truth or falsehood of the
belief that power is absorbed until the next lecture, when our
dogmatic conclusions, if we have any, must be reached. Let this
lecture still confine itself to the description of phenomena; and
as a concrete example of an extreme sort, of the way in which the
prayerful life may still be led, let me take a case with which
most of you must be acquainted, that of George Muller of Bristol,
who died in 1898. Muller's prayers were of the crassest
petitional order. Early in life he resolved on taking certain
Bible promises in literal sincerity, and on letting himself be
fed, not by his own worldly foresight, but by the Lord's hand.
He had an extraordinarily active and successful career, among the
fruits of which were the distribution of over two million copies
of the Scripture text, in different languages; the equipment of
several hundred missionaries; the circulation of more than a
hundred and eleven million of scriptural books, pamphlets, and
tracts; the building of five large orphanages, and the keeping
and educating of thousands of orphans; finally, the establishment
of schools in which over a hundred and twenty-one thousand
youthful and adult pupils were taught. In the course of this work
Mr. Muller received and administered nearly a million and a half
of pounds sterling, and traveled over two hundred thousand miles
of sea and land.[310] During the sixty-eight years of his
ministry, he never owned any property except his clothes and
furniture, and cash in hand; and he left, at the age of
eighty-six, an estate worth only a hundred and sixty pounds.

[310] My authority for these statistics is the little work on
Muller, by Frederic G. Warne, New York, 1898.

His method was to let his general wants be publicly known, but
not to acquaint other people with the details of his temporary
necessities. For the relief of the latter, he prayed directly to
the Lord, believing that sooner or later prayers are always
answered if one have trust enough. "When I lose such a thing as
a key," he writes, "I ask the Lord to direct me to it, and I look
for an answer to my prayer; when a person with whom I have made
an appointment does not come, according to the fixed time, and I
begin to be inconvenienced by it, I ask the Lord to be pleased to
hasten him to me, and I look for an answer; when I do not
understand a passage of the word of God, I lift up my heart to
the Lord that he would be pleased by his Holy Spirit to instruct
me, and I expect to be taught, though I do not fix the time when,
and the manner how it should be; when I am going to minister in
the Word, I seek help from the Lord, and . . . am not cast down,
but of good cheer because I look for his assistance."

Muller's custom was to never run up bills, not even for a week.
"As the Lord deals out to us by the day, . . . the week's payment
might become due and we have no money to meet it; and thus those
with whom we deal might be inconvenienced by us, and we be found
acting against the commandment of the Lord: 'Owe no man
anything.' From this day and henceforward whilst the Lord gives
to us our supplies by the day, we purpose to pay at once for
every article as it is purchased, and never to buy anything
except we can pay for it at once, however much it may seem to be
needed, and however much those with whom we deal may wish to be
paid only by the week."

The articles needed of which Muller speaks were the food, fuel,
etc., of his orphanages. Somehow, near as they often come to
going without a meal, they hardly ever seem actually to have done
so. "Greater and more manifest nearness of the Lord's presence I
have never had than when after breakfast there were no means for
dinner for more than a hundred persons; or when after dinner
there were no means for the tea, and yet the Lord provided the
tea; and all this without one single human being having been
informed about our need. . . . Through Grace my mind is so fully
assured of the faithfulness of the Lord, that in the midst of the
greatest need, I am enabled in peace to go about my other work.
Indeed, did not the Lord give me this, which is the result of
trusting in him, I should scarcely be able to work at all; for it
is now comparatively a rare thing that a day comes when I am not
in need for one or another part of the work."[311]

[311] The Life of Trust; Being a Narrative of the Lord's Dealings
with George Muller, New American edition, N. Y., Crowell, pp.
228, 194, 219.

In building his orphanages simply by prayer and faith, Muller
affirms that his prime motive was "to have something to point to
as a visible proof that our God and Father is the same faithful
God that he ever was--as willing as ever to prove himself the
living God, in our day as formerly, to all that put their trust
in him."[312] For this reason he refused to borrow money for any
of his enterprises. "How does it work when we thus anticipate
God by going our own way? We certainly weaken faith instead of
increasing it; and each time we work thus a deliverance of our
own we find it more and more difficult to trust in God, till at
last we give way entirely to our natural fallen reason and
unbelief prevails. How different if one is enabled to wait God's
own time, and to look alone to him for help and deliverance! When
at last help comes, after many seasons of prayer it may be, how
sweet it is, and what a present recompense! Dear Christian
reader, if you have never walked in this path of obedience
before, do so now, and you will then know experimentally the
sweetness of the joy which results from it."[313]

[312] Ibid., p. 126.

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