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The Varieties Of Religious Experience, By William James
material of our study of human nature is now spread before
us; and in this parting hour, set free from the duty of
description, we can draw our theoretical and practical conclusions.
In my first lecture, defending the empirical method,
I foretold that whatever conclusions we might come to could
be reached by spiritual judgments only, appreciations of
the significance for life of religion, taken "on the
Our conclusions cannot be as sharp as dogmatic conclusions
would be, but I will formulate them, when the time comes,
as sharply as I can.
up in the broadest possible way the characteristics of the
religious life, as we have found them, it includes the following
That the visible world is part of a more spiritual
universe from which it draws its chief significance;
That union or harmonious relation with that higher
universe is our true end;
That prayer or inner communion with the spirit thereof--
be that spirit "God" or "law"--is a
process wherein work is really done, and spiritual energy
flows in and produces effects, psychological or material,
within the phenomenal world.
includes also the following psychological characteristics:--
A new zest which adds itself like a gift to life,
and takes the form either of lyrical enchantment or of appeal
to earnestness and heroism.
An assurance of safety and a temper of peace, and,
in relation to others, a preponderance of loving affections.
illustrating these characteristics by documents, we have
been literally bathed in sentiment.
In re-reading my manuscript, I am almost appalled
at the amount of emotionality which I find in it.
so much of this, we can afford to be dryer and less sympathetic
in the rest of the work that lies before us.
sentimentality of many of my documents is a consequence
of the fact that I sought them among the extravagances of
the subject. If any of you are enemies of what our ancestors used to brand
as enthusiasm, and are, nevertheless, still listening to
me now, you have probably felt my selection to have been
sometimes almost perverse, and have wished I might have
stuck to soberer examples.
I reply that I took these extremer examples as yielding
the profounder information.
To learn the secrets of any science, we go to expert
specialists, even though they may be eccentric persons,
and not to commonplace pupils.
We combine what they tell us with the rest of our
wisdom, and form our final judgment independently.
Even so with religion.
We who have pursued such radical expressions of it
may now be sure that we know its secrets as authentically
as anyone can know them who learns them from another; and
we have next to answer, each of us for himself, the practical
are the dangers in this element of life?
and in what proportion may it need to be restrained
by other elements, to give the proper balance?
this question suggests another one which I will answer immediately
and get it out of the way, for it has more than once already
vexed us. Ought it to be assumed that in all men the
mixture of religion with other elements should be identical?
Ought it, indeed, to be assumed that the lives of
all men should show identical religious elements?
In other words, is the existence of so many religious
types and sects and creeds regrettable?
For example, on pages 135, 160, 326 above.
these questions I answer "No" emphatically. And my reason is that I do not see how it is possible that
creatures in such different positions and with such different
powers as human individuals are, should have exactly the
same functions and the same duties.
No two of us have identical difficulties, nor should
we be expected to work out identical solutions.
Each, from his peculiar angle of observation, takes
in a certain sphere of fact and trouble, which each must
deal with in a unique manner.
One of us must soften himself, another must harden
himself; one must yield a point, another must stand firm--in
order the better to defend the position assigned him.
If an Emerson were forced to be a Wesley, or a Moody
forced to be a Whitman, the total human consciousness of
the divine would suffer.
The divine can mean no single quality, it must mean
a group of qualities, by being champions of which in alternation,
different men may all find worthy missions.
Each attitude being a syllable in human nature's
total message, it takes the whole of us to spell the meaning
out completely. So
a "god of battles" must be allowed to be the god
for one kind of person, a god of peace and heaven and home,
the god for another. We must frankly recognize the fact that we live in partial
systems, and that parts are not interchangeable in the spiritual
life. If we
are peevish and jealous, destruction of the self must be
an element of our religion; why need it be one if we are
good and sympathetic from the outset?
If we are sick souls, we require a religion of deliverance;
but why think so much of deliverance, if we are healthy-minded?
Unquestionably, some men have the
completer experience and the higher vocation, here
just as in the social world; but for each man to stay in
his own experience, whate'er it be, and for others to tolerate
him there, is surely best.
From this point of view, the contrasts between the healthy
and the morbid mind, and between the once-born and the twice-born
types, of which I spoke in earlier lectures (see pp. 159-164),
cease to be the radical antagonisms which many think them.
The twice-born look down upon the rectilinear consciousness
of life of the once-born as being "mere morality,"
and not properly religion.
"Dr. Channing," an orthodox minister is
reported to have said, "is excluded from the highest
form of religious life by the extraordinary rectitude of
It is indeed true that the outlook upon life of the
twice-born--holding as it does more of the element of evil
in solution--is the wider and completer.
The "heroic" or "solemn" way
in which life comes to them is a "higher synthesis"
into which healthy- mindedness and morbidness both enter
and combine. Evil
is not evaded, but sublated in the higher religious cheer
of these persons (see pp. 47-52, 354-357).
But the final consciousness which each type reaches
of union with the divine has the same practical significance
for the individual; and individuals may well be allowed
to get to it by the channels which lie most open to their
several temperaments. In the cases which were quoted in Lecture IV, of the mind-cure
form of healthy-mindedness, we found abundant examples of
The severity of the crisis in this process is a matter
of degree. How
long one shall continue to drink the consciousness of evil,
and when one shall begin to short-circuit and get rid of
it, are also matters of amount and degree, so that in many
instances it is quite arbitrary whether we class the individual
as a once-born or a twice-born subject.
you may now ask, would not this one-sidedness be cured if
we should all espouse the science of religions as our own
answering this question I must open again the general relations
of the theoretic to the active life.
about a thing is not the thing itself.
You remember what Al-Ghazzali told us in the Lecture
on Mysticism--that to understand the causes of drunkenness,
as a physician understands them, is not to be drunk.
A science might come to understand everything about
the causes and elements of religion, and might even decide
which elements were qualified, by their general harmony
with other branches of knowledge, to be considered true;
and yet the best man at this science might be the man who
found it hardest to be personally devout. Tout savoir c'est tout pardonner. The name of Renan would doubtless occur to many persons as
an example of the way in which breadth of knowledge may
make one only a dilettante in possibilities, and blunt the
acuteness of one's living faith.
If religion be a function by which either God's cause
or man's cause is to be really advanced, then he who lives
the life of it, however narrowly, is a better servant than
he who merely knows about it, however much.
Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation
of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through
your being, is another.
Compare, e.g., the quotation from Renan on p. 37, above.
this reason, the science of religions may not be an equivalent
for living religion; and if we turn to the inner difficulties
of such a science, we see that a point comes when she must
drop the purely theoretic attitude, and either let her knots
remain uncut, or have them cut by active faith.
To see this, suppose that we have our science of
religions constituted as a matter of fact. Suppose that she has assimilated all the necessary historical
material and distilled out of it as its essence the same
conclusions which I myself a few moments ago pronounced.
Suppose that she agrees that religion, wherever it
is an active thing, involves a belief in ideal presences,
and a belief that in our prayerful communion with them,
work is done, and something real comes to pass.
She has now to exert her critical activity, and to
decide how far, in the light of other sciences and in that
of general philosophy, such beliefs can be considered TRUE.
"Prayerful" taken in the broader sense explained
above on pp. 453 ff.
to decide this is an impossible task.
Not only are the other sciences and the philosophy
still far from being completed, but in their present state
we find them full of conflicts.
The sciences of nature know nothing of spiritual
presences, and on the whole hold no practical commerce whatever
with the idealistic conceptions towards which general philosophy
scientist, so-called, is, during his scientific hours at
least, so materialistic that one may well say that on the
whole the influence of science goes against the notion that
religion should be recognized at all.
And this antipathy to religion finds an echo within
the very science of religions itself.
The cultivator of this science has to become acquainted
with so many groveling and horrible superstitions that a
presumption easily arises in his mind that any belief that
is religious probably is false.
In the "prayerful communion" of savages
with such mumbo-jumbos of deities as they acknowledge, it
is hard for us to see what genuine spiritual work--even
though it were work relative only to their dark savage obligations--
can possibly be done.
consequence is that the conclusions of the science of religions
are as likely to be adverse as they are to be favorable
to the claim that the essence of religion is true.
There is a notion in the air about us that religion
is probably only an anachronism, a case of "survival,"
an atavistic relapse into a mode of thought which humanity
in its more enlightened examples has outgrown; and this
notion our religious anthropologists at present do little
view is so widespread at the present day that I must consider
it with some explicitness before I pass to my own conclusions. Let me call it the "Survival theory," for brevity's
pivot round which the religious life, as we have traced
it, revolves, is the interest of the individual in his private
Religion, in short, is a monumental chapter in the
history of human egotism.
The gods believed in--whether by crude savages or
by men disciplined intellectually--agree with each other
in recognizing personal calls.
Religious thought is carried on in terms of personality,
this being, in the world of religion, the one fundamental
quite as much as at any previous age, the religious individual
tells you that the divine meets him on the basis of his
on the other hand, has ended by utterly repudiating the
personal point of view.
She catalogues her elements and records her laws
indifferent as to what purpose may be shown forth by them,
and constructs her theories quite careless of their bearing
on human anxieties and fates. Though the scientist may individually
nourish a religion, and be a theist in his irresponsible
hours, the days are over when it could be said that for
Science herself the heavens declare the glory of God and
the firmament showeth his handiwork.
Our solar system, with its harmonies, is seen now
as but one passing case of a certain sort of moving equilibrium
in the heavens, realized by a local accident in an appalling
wilderness of worlds where no life can exist. In a span
of time which as a cosmic interval will count but as an
hour, it will have ceased to be.
The Darwinian notion of chance production, and subsequent
destruction, speedy or deferred, applies to the largest
as well as to the smallest facts.
It is impossible, in the present temper of the scientific
imagination, to find in the driftings of the cosmic atoms,
whether they work on the universal or on the particular
scale, anything but a kind of aimless weather, doing and
undoing, achieving no proper history, and leaving no result.
Nature has no one distinguishable ultimate tendency with
which it is possible to feel a sympathy.
In the vast rhythm of her processes, as the scientific
mind now follows them, she appears to cancel herself.
The books of natural theology which satisfied the
intellects of our grandfathers seem to us quite grotesque,
representing, as they did, a God who conformed the largest
things of nature to the paltriest of our private wants.
The God whom science recognizes must be a God of
universal laws exclusively, a God who does a wholesale,
not a retail business.
He cannot accommodate his processes to the convenience
of individuals. The
bubbles on the foam which coats a stormy sea are floating
episodes, made and unmade by the forces of the wind and
water. Our private selves are like those bubbles--epiphenomena, as
Clifford, I believe, ingeniously called them; their destinies
weigh nothing and determine nothing in the world's irremediable
currents of events.
How was it ever conceivable, we ask, that a man like Christian
Wolff, in whose dry-as-dust head all the learning of the
early eighteenth century was concentrated, should have preserved
such a baby-like faith in the personal and human character
of Nature as to expound her operations as he did in his
work on the uses of natural things?
This, for example, is the account he gives of the
sun and its utility:--
see that God has created the sun to keep the changeable
conditions on the earth in such an order that living creatures,
men and beasts, may inhabit its surface.
Since men are the most reasonable of creatures, and
able to infer God's invisible being from the contemplation
of the world, the sun in so far forth contributes to the
primary purpose of creation:
without it the race of man could not be preserved
or continued. . . . The sun makes daylight, not only on
our earth, but also on the other planets; and daylight is
of the utmost utility to us, for by its means we can commodiously
carry on those occupations which in the night-time would
either be quite impossible.
Or at any rate impossible without our going to the
expense of artificial light.
The beasts of the field can find food by day which
they would not be able to find at night.
Moreover we owe it to the sunlight that we are able
to see everything that is on the earth's surface, not only
near by, but also at a distance, and to recognize both near
and far things according to their species, which again is
of manifold use to us not only in the business necessary
to human life, and when we are traveling, but also for the
scientific knowledge of Nature, which knowledge for the
most part depends on observations made with the help of
sight, and without the sunshine, would have been impossible.
If any one would rightly impress on his mind the
great advantages which he derives from the sun, let him
imagine himself living through only one month, and see how
it would be with all his undertakings, if it were not day
but night. He
would then be sufficiently convinced out of his own experience,
especially if he had much work to carry on in the street
or in the fields. . . . From the sun we learn to recognize
when it is midday, and by knowing this point of time exactly,
we can set our clocks right, on which account astronomy
owes much to the sun. . . . By help of the sun one can find
the meridian. . . . But the meridian is the basis of our
sun-dials, and generally speaking, we should have no sun-dials
if we had no sun." Vernunftige Gedanken von den Absichter
der naturlichen Dinge, 1782. pp.74-84.
read the account of God's beneficence in the institution
of "the great variety throughout the world of men's
faces, voices, and hand-writing," given in Derham's
Physico-theology, a book that had much vogue in the eighteenth
Man's body," says Dr. Derham, "been made according
to any of the Atheistical Schemes, or any other Method than
that of the infinite Lord of the World, this wise Variety
would never have been:
but Men's Faces would have been cast in the same,
or not a very different Mould, their Organs of Speech would
have sounded the same or not so great a Variety of Notes,
and the same Structure of Muscles and Nerves would have
given the Hand the same Direction in Writing.
And in this Case what Confusion, what Disturbance,
what Mischiefs would the world eternally have lain under!
No Security could have been to our persons; no Certainty,
no Enjoyment of our Possessions; no Justice between Man
and Man, no Distinction between Good and Bad, between Friends
and Foes, between Father and Child, Husband and Wife, Male
or Female; but all would have been turned topsy-turvy, by
being exposed to the Malice of the Envious and ill-Natured,
to the Fraud and Violence of Knaves and Robbers, to the
Forgeries of the crafty Cheat, to the Lusts of the Effeminate
and Debauched, and what not!
Our Courts of Justice can abundantly testify the
dire Effects of Mistaking Men's Faces, of counterfeiting
their Hands, and forging Writings.
now as the infinitely wise Creator and Ruler hath ordered
the Matter, every man's Face can distinguish him in the
Light, and his Voice in the Dark, his Hand-writing can speak
for him though absent, and be his Witness, and secure his
Contracts in future Generations.
A manifest as well as admirable Indication of the
divine Superintendence and Management."
God so careful as to make provision even for the unmistakable
signing of bank checks and deeds was a deity truly after
the heart of eighteenth century Anglicanism.
subjoin, omitting the capitals, Derham's "Vindication
of God by the Institution of Hills and Valleys," and
Wolff's altogether culinary account of the institution of
uses," says Wolff, "which water serves in human
life are plain to see and need not be described at length.
Water is a universal drink of man and beasts. Even though men have made themselves drinks that are artificial,
they could not do this without water.
Beer is brewed of water and malt, and it is the water
in it which quenches thirst.
Wine is prepared from grapes, which could never have
grown without the help of water; and the same is true of
those drinks which in England and other places they produce
from fruit. . . . Therefore since God so planned the world
that men and beasts should live upon it and find there everything
required for their necessity and convenience, he also made
water as one means whereby to make the earth into so excellent
a dwelling. And
this is all the more manifest when we consider the advantages
which we obtain from this same water for the cleaning of
our household utensils, of our clothing, and of other matters.
. . . When one goes into a grinding-mill one sees that the
grindstone must always be kept wet and then one will get
a still greater idea of the use of water."
the hills and valleys, Derham, after praising their beauty,
discourses as follows:
"Some constitutions are indeed of so happy a
strength, and so confirmed an health, as to be indifferent
to almost any place or temperature of the air.
But then others are so weakly and feeble, as not
to be able to bear one, but can live comfortably in another
some the more subtle and finer air of the hills doth best
agree, who are languishing and dying in the feculent and
grosser air of great towns, or even the warmer and vaporous
air of the valleys and waters.
But contrariwise, others languish on the hills, and
grow lusty and strong in the warmer air of the valleys.
that this opportunity of shifting our abode from the hills
to the vales, is an admirable easement, refreshment, and
great benefit to the valetudinarian, feeble part of mankind;
affording those an easy and comfortable life, who would
otherwise live miserably, languish, and pine away.
this salutary conformation of the earth we may add another
great convenience of the hills, and that is affording commodious
places for habitation, serving (as an eminent author wordeth
it) as screens to keep off the cold and nipping blasts of
the northern and easterly winds, and reflecting the benign
and cherishing sunbeams and so rendering our habitations
both more comfortable and more cheerly in winter.
it is to the hills that the fountains owe their rise and
the rivers their conveyance, and consequently those vast
masses and lofty piles are not, as they are charged such
rude and useless excrescences of our ill-formed globe; but
the admirable tools of nature, contrived and ordered by
the infinite Creator, to do one of its most useful works.
For, was the surface of the earth even and level,
and the middle parts of its islands and continents not mountainous
and high as now it is, it is most certain there could be
no descent for the rivers, no conveyance for the waters;
but, instead of gliding along those gentle declivities which
the higher lands now afford them quite down to the sea,
they would stagnate and perhaps stink, and also drown large
tracts of land.
the hills and vales, though to a peevish and weary traveler
they may seem incommodious and troublesome, yet are a noble
work of the great Creator, and wisely appointed by him for
the good of our sublunary world."
see how natural it is, from this point of view, to treat
religion as a mere survival, for religion does in fact perpetuate
the traditions of the most primeval thought.
To coerce the spiritual powers, or to square them
and get them on our side, was, during enormous tracts of
time, the one great object in our dealings with the natural
world. For our ancestors, dreams, hallucinations, revelations, and
cock-and-bull stories were inextricably mixed with facts.
Up to a comparatively recent date such distinctions
as those between what has been verified and what is only
conjectured, between the impersonal and the personal aspects
of existence, were hardly suspected or conceived.
Whatever you imagined in a lively manner, whatever
you thought fit to be true, you affirmed confidently; and
whatever you affirmed, your comrades believed.
Truth was what had not yet been contradicted, most
things were taken into the mind from the point of view of
their human suggestiveness, and the attention confined itself
exclusively to the aesthetic and dramatic aspects of events.
Until the seventeenth century this mode of thought prevailed.
One need only recall the dramatic treatment even of mechanical
questions by Aristotle, as, for example, his explanation
of the power of the lever to make a small weight raise a
larger one. This
is due, according to Aristotle, to the generally miraculous
character of the circle and of all circular movement.
The circle is both convex and concave; it is made
by a fixed point and a moving line, which contradict each
other; and whatever moves in a circle moves in opposite
movement in a circle is the most "natural" movement;
and the long arm of the lever, moving, as it does, in the
larger circle, has the greater amount of this natural motion,
and consequently requires the lesser force.
Or recall the explanation by Herodotus of the position
of the sun in winter:
It moves to the south because of the cold which drives
it into the warm parts of the heavens over Libya.
Or listen to Saint Augustine's speculations:
"Who gave to chaff such power to freeze that
it preserves snow buried under it, and such power to warm
that it ripens green fruit?
Who can explain the strange properties of fire itself,
which blackens all that it burns, though itself bright,
and which, though of the most beautiful colors, discolors
almost all that it touches and feeds upon, and turns blazing
fuel into grimy cinders? . . . Then what wonderful properties
do we find in charcoal, which is so brittle that a light
tap breaks it, and a slight pressure pulverizes it, and
yet is so strong that no moisture rots it, nor any time
causes it to decay."
City of God, book xxi, ch. iv.
aspects of things as these, their naturalness and unnaturalness
the sympathies and antipathies of their superficial qualities,
their eccentricities, their brightness and strength and
destructiveness, were inevitably the ways in which they
originally fastened our attention.
you open early medical books, you will find sympathetic
magic invoked on every page.
Take, for example, the famous vulnerary ointment
attributed to Paracelsus.
For this there were a variety of receipts, including
usually human fat, the fat of either a bull, a wild boar,
or a bear, powdered earthworms, the usnia, or mossy growth
on the weathered skull of a hanged criminal, and other materials
equally unpleasant--the whole prepared under the planet
Venus if possible, but never under Mars or Saturn.
Then, if a splinter of wood, dipped in the patient's
blood, or the bloodstained weapon that wounded him, be immersed
in this ointment, the wound itself being tightly bound up,
the latter infallibly gets well--I quote now Van Helmont's
account--for the blood on the weapon or splinter, containing
in it the spirit of the wounded man, is roused to active
excitement by the contact of the ointment, whence there
results to it a full commission or power to cure its cousin-german
the blood in the patient's body.
This it does by sucking out the dolorous and exotic
impression from the wounded part.
But to do this it has to implore the aid of the bull's
fat, and other portions of the unguent.
The reason why bull's fat is so powerful is that
the bull at the time of slaughter is full of secret reluctancy
and vindictive murmurs, and therefore dies with a higher
flame of revenge about him than any other animal.
And thus we have made it out, says this author, that
the admirable efficacy of the ointment ought to be imputed,
not to any auxiliary concurrence of Satan, but simply to
the energy of the posthumous character of Revenge remaining
firmly impressed upon the blood and concreted fat in the
unguent. J. B. Van Helmont: A
Ternary of Paradoxes, translated by Walter Charleton, London,
1650.--I much abridge the original in my citations.
author goes on to prove by the analogy of many other natural
facts that this sympathetic action between things at a distance
is the true rationale of the case.
"If," he says, "the heart of a horse
slain by a witch, taken out of the yet reeking carcase,
be impaled upon an arrow and roasted, immediately the whole
witch becomes tormented with the insufferable pains and
cruelty of the fire, which could by no means happen unless
there preceded a conjunction of the spirit of the witch
with the spirit of the horse.
In the reeking and yet panting heart, the spirit
of the witch is kept captive, and the retreat of it prevented
by the arrow transfixed.
Similarly hath not many a murdered carcase at the
coroner's inquest suffered a fresh haemorrhage or cruentation
at the presence of the assassin?--the blood being, as in
a furious fit of anger, enraged and agitated by the impress
of revenge conceived against the murderer, at the instant
of the soul's compulsive exile from the body.
So, if you have dropsy, gout, or jaundice, by including
some of your warm blood in the shell and white of an egg,
which, exposed to a gentle heat, and mixed with a bait of
flesh, you shall give to a hungry dog or hog, the disease
shall instantly pass from you into the animal, and leave
you entirely. And
similarly again, if you burn some of the milk either of
a cow or of a woman, the gland from which it issued will
dry up. A gentleman
at Brussels had his nose mowed off in a combat, but the
celebrated surgeon Tagliacozzus digged a new nose for him
out of the skin of the arm of a porter at Bologna.
About thirteen months after his return to his own
country, the engrafted nose grew cold, putrefied, and in
a few days dropped off, and it was then discovered that
the porter had expired, near about the same punctilio of
are still at Brussels eye-witnesses of this occurrence,"
says Van Helmont; and adds, "I pray what is there in
this of superstition or of exalted imagination?"
mind-cure literature--the works of Prentice Mulford, for
example--is full of sympathetic magic.
indeed could it be otherwise? The
extraordinary value, for explanation and prevision, of those
mathematical and mechanical modes of conception which science
uses, was a result that could not possibly have been expected
in advance. Weight,
movement, velocity, direction, position, what thin, pallid,
How could the richer animistic aspects of Nature,
the peculiarities and oddities that make phenomena picturesquely
striking or expressive, fail to have been first singled
out and followed by philosophy as the more promising avenue
to the knowledge of Nature's life?
Well, it is still in these richer animistic and dramatic
aspects that religion delights to dwell.
It is the terror and beauty of phenomena, the "promise"
of the dawn and of the rainbow, the "voice" of
the thunder, the "gentleness" of the summer rain,
the "sublimity" of the stars, and not the physical
laws which these things follow, by which the religious mind
still continues to be most impressed; and just as of yore,
the devout man tells you that in the solitude of his room
or of the fields he still feels the divine presence, that
inflowings of help come in reply to his prayers, and that
sacrifices to this unseen reality fill him with security
anachronism! says the survival-theory;--anachronism for
which deanthropomorphization of the imagination is the remedy
less we mix the private with the cosmic, the more we dwell
in universal and impersonal terms, the truer heirs of Science
spite of the appeal which this impersonality of the scientific
attitude makes to a certain magnanimity of temper, I believe
it to be shallow, and I can now state my reason in comparatively
few words. That
reason is that, so long as we deal with the cosmic and the
general, we deal only with the symbols of reality, but as
soon as we deal with private and personal phenomena as such,
we deal with realities in the completest sense of the term.
I think I can easily make clear what I mean by these
world of our experience consists at all times of two parts,
an objective and a subjective part, of which the former
may be incalculably more extensive than the latter, and
yet the latter can never be omitted or suppressed.
The objective part is the sum total of whatsoever
at any given time we may be thinking of, the subjective
part is the inner "state" in which the thinking
comes to pass. What
we think of may be enormous--the cosmic times and spaces,
for example-- whereas the inner state may be the most fugitive
and paltry activity of mind.
Yet the cosmic objects, so far as the experience
yields them, are but ideal pictures of something whose existence
we do not inwardly possess but only point at outwardly,
while the inner state is our very experience itself; its
reality and that of our experience are one.
A conscious field PLUS its object as felt or thought
of PLUS an attitude towards the object PLUS the sense of
a self to whom the attitude belongs--such a concrete bit
of personal experience may be a small bit, but it is a solid
bit as long as it lasts; not hollow, not a mere abstract
element of experience, such as the "object" is
when taken all alone.
It is a FULL fact, even though it be an insignificant
fact; it is of the KIND to which all realities whatsoever
must belong; the motor currents of the world run through
the like of it; it is on the line connecting real events
with real events. That unsharable feeling which each one of us has of the pinch
of his individual destiny as he privately feels it rolling
out on fortune's wheel may be disparaged for its egotism,
may be sneered at as unscientific, but it is the one thing
that fills up the measure of our concrete actuality, and
any would-be existent that should lack such a feeling, or
its analogue, would be a piece of reality only half made
Compare Lotze's doctrine that the only meaning we can attach
to the notion of a thing as it is "in itself"
is by conceiving it as it is FOR itself, i.e., as a piece
of full experience with a private sense of "pinch"
or inner activity of some sort going with it.
this be true, it is absurd for science to say that the egotistic
elements of experience should be suppressed.
The axis of reality runs solely through the egotistic
places--they are strung upon it like so many beads.
To describe the world with all the various feelings
of the individual pinch of destiny, all the various spiritual
attitudes, left out from the description--they being as
describable as anything else --would be something like offering
a printed bill of fare as the equivalent for a solid meal.
Religion makes no such blunder.
The individual's religion may be egotistic, and those
private realities which it keeps in touch with may be narrow
enough; but at any rate it always remains infinitely less
hollow and abstract, as far as it goes, than a science which
prides itself on taking no account of anything private at
bill of fare with one real raisin on it instead of the word
"raisin," with one real egg instead of the word
"egg," might be an inadequate meal, but it would
at least be a commencement of reality. The contention of the survival-theory that we ought to stick
to non-personal elements exclusively seems like saying that
we ought to be satisfied forever with reading the naked
bill of fare. I
think, therefore, that however particular questions connected
with our individual destinies may be answered, it is only
by acknowledging them as genuine questions, and living in
the sphere of thought which they open up, that we become
to live thus is to be religious; so I unhesitatingly repudiate
the survival-theory of religion, as being founded on an
It does not follow, because our ancestors made so
many errors of fact and mixed them with their religion,
that we should therefore leave off being religious at all. By being religious we establish ourselves in possession of
ultimate reality at the only points at which reality is
given us to guard.
Our responsible concern is with our private destiny,
Even the errors of fact may possibly turn out not to be
as wholesale as the scientist assumes.
We saw in Lecture IV how the religious conception
of the universe seems to many mind-curers "verified"
from day to day by their experience of fact.
"Experience of fact" is a field with so
many things in it that the sectarian scientist methodically
declining, as he does, to recognize such "facts"
as mind-curers and others like them experience, otherwise
than by such rude heads of classification as "bosh,"
"rot," "folly," certainly leaves out
a mass of raw fact which, save for the industrious interest
of the religious in the more personal aspects of reality,
would never have succeeded in getting itself recorded at
all. We know
this to be true already in certain cases; it may, therefore,
be true in others as well.
Miraculous healings have always been part of the
supernaturalist stock in trade, and have always been dismissed
by the scientist as figments of the imagination. But the scientist's tardy education in the facts of hypnotism
has recently given him an apperceiving mass for phenomena
of this order, and he consequently now allows that the healings
may exist, provided you expressly call them effects of "suggestion."
Even the stigmata of the cross on Saint Francis's
hands and feet may on these terms not be a fable.
Similarly, the time-honored phenomenon of diabolical
possession is on the point of being admitted by the scientist
as a fact, now that he has the name of "hystero-demonopathy"
by which to apperceive it.
No one can foresee just how far this legitimation
of occultist phenomena under newly found scientist titles
may proceed--even "prophecy," even "levitation,"
might creep into the pale.
the divorce between scientist facts and religious facts
may not necessarily be as eternal as it at first sight seems,
nor the personalism and romanticism of the world, as they
appeared to primitive thinking, be matters so irrevocably
final human opinion may, in short, in some manner now impossible
to foresee, revert to the more personal style, just as any
path of progress may follow a spiral rather than a straight
line. If this
were so, the rigorously impersonal view of science might
one day appear as having been a temporarily useful eccentricity
rather than the definitively triumphant position which the
sectarian scientist at present so confidently announces
it to be.
see now why I have been so individualistic throughout these
lectures, and why I have seemed so bent on rehabilitating
the element of feeling in religion and subordinating its
Individuality is founded in feeling; and the recesses
of feeling, the darker, blinder strata of character, are
the only places in the world in which we catch real fact
in the making, and directly perceive how events happen,
and how work is actually done.
Compared with this world of living individualized
feelings, the world of generalized objects which the intellect
contemplates is without solidity or life.
As in stereoscopic or kinetoscopic pictures seen
outside the instrument, the third dimension, the movement,
the vital element, are not there.
We get a beautiful picture of an express train supposed
to be moving, but where in the picture, as I have heard
a friend say, is the energy or the fifty miles an hour?
Hume's criticism has banished causation from the world of
physical objects, and "Science" is absolutely
satisfied to define cause in terms of concomitant change-read
Mach, Pearson, Ostwald. The "original" of the
notion of causation is in our inner personal experience,
and only there can causes in the old-fashioned sense be
directly observed and described.
When I read in a religious paper words like these: "Perhaps the best thing we can say of God is that he is
THE INEVITABLE INFERENCE," I recognize the tendency
to let religion evaporate in intellectual terms.
Would martyrs have sung in the flames for a mere
inference, however inevitable it might be?
Original religious men, like Saint Francis, Luther,
Behmen, have usually been enemies of the intellect's pretension
to meddle with religious things.
Yet the intellect, everywhere invasive, shows everywhere
its shallowing effect.
See how the ancient spirit of Methodism evaporates
under those wonderfully able rationalistic booklets (which
every one should read) of a philosopher like Professor Bowne
(The Christian Revelation, The Christian Life The Atonement:
Cincinnati and New York, 1898, 1899, 1900). See the positively expulsive purpose of philosophy properly
writes M. Vacherot
(La Religion, Paris, 1869, pp. 313, 436, et passim), "answers
to a transient state or condition, not to a permanent determination
of human nature, being merely an expression of that stage
of the human mind which is dominated by the imagination.
. . . Christianity has but a single possible final heir
to its estate, and that is scientific philosophy."
a still more radical vein, Professor Ribot (Psychologie
des Sentiments, p. 310) describes the evaporation of religion.
He sums it up in a single formula--the ever-growing
predominance of the rational intellectual element, with
the gradual fading out of the emotional element, this latter
tending to enter into the group of purely intellectual sentiments.
"Of religious sentiment properly so called,
nothing survives at last save a vague respect for the unknowable
x which is a last relic of the fear, and a certain attraction
towards the ideal, which is a relic of the love, that characterized
the earlier periods of religious growth.
state this more simply, religion tends to turn into religious
philosophy.--These are psychologically entirely different
things, the one being a theoretic construction of ratiocination,
whereas the other is the living work of a group of persons,
or of a great inspired leader, calling into play the entire
thinking and feeling organism of man."
find the same failure to recognize that the stronghold of
religion lies in individuality in attempts like those of
Professor Baldwin (Mental Development, Social and Ethical
Interpretations, ch. x) and Mr. H. R. Marshall (Instinct
and Reason, chaps.
viii. to xii.) to make it a purely "conservative
us agree, then, that Religion, occupying herself with personal
destinies and keeping thus in contact with the only absolute
realities which we know, must necessarily play an eternal
part in human history. The next thing to decide is what she reveals about those destinies,
or whether indeed she reveals anything distinct enough to
be considered a general message to mankind.
We have done as you see, with our preliminaries,
and our final summing up can now begin.
am well aware that after all the palpitating documents which
I have quoted, and all the perspectives of emotion-inspiring
institution and belief that my previous lectures have opened,
the dry analysis to which I now advance may appear to many
of you like an anti-climax, a tapering-off and flattening
out of the subject, instead of a crescendo of interest and
result. I said
awhile ago that the religious attitude of Protestants appears
poverty-stricken to the Catholic imagination.
Still more poverty-stricken, I fear, may my final
summing up of the subject appear at first to some of you.
On which account I pray you now to bear this point
in mind, that in the present part of it I am expressly trying
to reduce religion to its lowest admissible terms, to that
minimum, free from individualistic excrescences, which all
religions contain as their nucleus, and on which it may
be hoped that all religious persons may agree.
That established, we should have a result which might
be small, but would at least be solid; and on it and round
it the ruddier additional beliefs on which the different
individuals make their venture might be grafted, and flourish
as richly as you please.
I shall add my own over-belief (which will be, I
confess, of a somewhat pallid kind, as befits a critical
philosopher), and you will, I hope, also add your over-beliefs,
and we shall soon be in the varied world of concrete religious
constructions once more.
For the moment, let me dryly pursue the analytic
part of the task.
thought and feeling are determinants of conduct, and the
same conduct may be determined either by feeling or by thought.
When we survey the whole field of religion, we find
a great variety in the thoughts that have prevailed there;
but the feelings on the one hand and the conduct on the
other are almost always the same, for Stoic, Christian,
and Buddhist saints are practically indistinguishable in
their lives. The
theories which Religion generates, being thus variable,
are secondary; and if you wish to grasp her essence, you
must look to the feelings and the conduct as being the more
It is between these two elements that the short circuit
exists on which she carries on her principal business, while
the ideas and symbols and other institutions form loop-lines
which may be perfections and improvements, and may even
some day all be united into one harmonious system, but which
are not to be regarded as organs with an indispensable function,
necessary at all times for religious life to go on.
This seems to me the first conclusion which we are
entitled to draw from the phenomena we have passed in review.
next step is to characterize the feelings.
To what psychological order do they belong?
resultant outcome of them is in any case what Kant calls
a "sthenic" affection, an excitement of the cheerful,
expansive, "dynamogenic" order which, like any
tonic, freshens our vital powers.
In almost every lecture, but especially in the lectures
on Conversion and on Saintliness, we have seen how this
emotion overcomes temperamental melancholy and imparts endurance
to the Subject, or a zest, or a meaning, or an enchantment
and glory to the common objects of life.
The name of "faith-state," by which Professor
Leuba designates it, is a good one.
It is a biological as well as a psychological condition,
and Tolstoy is absolutely accurate in classing faith among
the forces BY WHICH MEN LIVE.
The total absence of it, anhedonia, means collapse.
Compare, for instance, pages 200, 215, 219, 222, 244-250,
American Journal of Psychology, vii. 345.
Above, p. 181.
Above, p. 143.
faith-state may hold a very minimum of intellectual content.
We saw examples of this in those sudden raptures
of the divine presence, or in such mystical seizures as
Dr. Bucke described.
It may be a mere vague enthusiasm, half spiritual,
half vital, a courage, and a feeling that great and wondrous
things are in the air.
Above, p. 391.
Perreyve writes to Gratry:
"I do not know how to deal with the happiness
which you aroused in me this morning. It overwhelms me;
I want to DO something, yet I can do nothing and am fit
for nothing. . . . I would fain do GREAT THINGS."
Again, after an inspiring interview, he writes:
"I went homewards, intoxicated with joy, hope,
and strength. I
wanted to feed upon my happiness in solitude far from all
men. It was late; but, unheeding that, I took a mountain path and
went on like a madman, looking at the heavens, regardless
of earth. Suddenly
an instinct made me draw hastily back --I was on the very
edge of a precipice, one step more and I must have fallen.
I took fright and gave up my nocturnal promenade."
Henri Perreyve, London, 1872, pp. 92, 89.
primacy, in the faith-state, of vague expansive impulse
over direction is well expressed in Walt Whitman's lines
(Leaves of Grass, 1872, p. 190):--
to confront night, storms, hunger,ridicule, accidents,
rebuffs, as the trees and animals do. . . .
Dear Camerado! I confess I have urged you onward
with me, and
still urge you, without the least idea what is our
Or whether we shall be victorious, or utterly quell'd
readiness for great things, and this sense that the world
by its importance, wonderfulness, etc., is apt for their
production, would seem to be the undifferentiated germ of
all the higher faiths.
Trust in our own dreams of ambition, or in our country's
expansive destinies, and faith in the providence of God,
all have their source in that onrush of our sanguine impulses,
and in that sense of the exceedingness of the possible over
however, a positive intellectual content is associated with
a faith-state, it gets invincibly stamped in upon belief,
and this explains the passionate loyalty of religious persons
everywhere to the minutest details of their so widely differing
creeds and faith-state together, as forming "religions,"
and treating these as purely subjective phenomena, without
regard to the question of their "truth," we are
obliged, on account of their extraordinary influence upon
action and endurance, to class them amongst the most important
biological functions of mankind.
Their stimulant and anaesthetic effect is so great
that Professor Leuba, in a recent article, goes so
far as to say that so long as men can USE their God, they
care very little who he is, or even whether he is at all.
"The truth of the matter can be put," says
Leuba, "in this way:
GOD IS NOT KNOWN, HE IS NOT UNDERSTOOD; HE IS USED--sometimes
as meat-purveyor, sometimes as moral support, sometimes
as friend, sometimes as an object of love.
If he proves himself useful, the religious consciousness
asks for no more than that.
Does God really exist?
How does he exist? What is he? are
so many irrelevant questions.
Not God, but life, more life, a larger, richer, more
satisfying life, is, in the last analysis, the end of religion.
The love of life, at any and every level of development,
is the religious impulse."
Compare Leuba: Loc.
cit., pp. 346-349.
The Contents of Religious Consciousness, in The Monist,
xi. 536, July 1901.
 Loc. cit., pp. 571, 572, abridged.
See, also, this writer's extraordinarily true criticism
of the notion that religion primarily seeks to solve the
intellectual mystery of the world.
Compare what W. Bender says (in his Wesen der Religion,
Bonn, 1888, pp. 85, 38):
"Not the question about God, and not the inquiry
into the origin and purpose of the world is religion, but
the question about Man.
All religious views of life are anthropocentric." "Religion is that activity of the human impulse towards
self-preservation by means of which Man seeks to carry his
essential vital purposes through against the adverse pressure
of the world by raising himself freely towards the world's
ordering and governing powers when the limits of his own
strength are reached."
The whole book is little more than a development
of these words.
this purely subjective rating, therefore, Religion must
be considered vindicated in a certain way from the attacks
of her critics. It
would seem that she cannot be a mere anachronism and survival,
but must exert a permanent function, whether she be with
or without intellectual content, and whether, if she have
any, it be true or false.
must next pass beyond the point of view of merely subjective
utility, and make inquiry into the intellectual content
is there, under all the discrepancies of the creeds, a common
nucleus to which they bear their testimony unanimously?
second, ought we to consider the testimony true?
will take up the first question first, and answer it immediately
in the affirmative.
The warring gods and formulas of the various religions
do indeed cancel each other, but there is a certain uniform
deliverance in which religions all appear to meet.
It consists of two parts:--
An uneasiness; and
The uneasiness, reduced to its simplest terms, is
a sense that there is SOMETHING WRONG ABOUT US as we naturally
The solution is a sense that WE ARE SAVED FROM THE
WRONGNESS by making proper connection with the higher powers.
those more developed minds which alone we are studying,
the wrongness takes a moral character, and the salvation
takes a mystical tinge.
I think we shall keep well within the limits of what
is common to all such minds if we formulate the essence
of their religious experience in terms like these:--
individual, so far as he suffers from his wrongness and
criticises it, is to that extent consciously beyond it,
and in at least possible touch with something higher, if
anything higher exist.
Along with the wrong part there is thus a better
part of him, even though it may be but a most helpless germ.
With which part he should identify his real being
is by no means obvious at this stage; but when stage 2 (the
stage of solution or salvation) arrives, the man identifies
his real being with the germinal higher part of himself;
and does so in the following way.
He becomes conscious that this higher part is conterminous
and continuous with a MORE of the same quality, which is
operative in the universe outside of him, and which he can
keep in working touch with, and in a fashion get on board
of and save himself when all his lower being has gone to
pieces in the wreck.
Remember that for some men it arrives suddenly, for others
gradually, whilst others again practically enjoy it all
seems to me that all the phenomena are accurately describable
in these very simple general terms.
They allow for the divided self and the struggle;
they involve the change of personal centre and the surrender
of the lower self; they express the appearance of exteriority
of the helping power and yet account for our sense of union
with it; and they fully justify our feelings of security
and joy. There
is probably no autobiographic document, among all those
which I have quoted, to which the description will not well
need only add such specific details as will adapt it to
various theologies and various personal temperaments, and
one will then have the various experiences reconstructed
in their individual forms.
The practical difficulties are:
1, to "realize the reality" of one's higher
part; 2, to identify one's self with it exclusively; and
3, to identify it with all the rest of ideal being.
"When mystical activity is at its height, we find consciousness
possessed by the sense of a being at once EXCESSIVE and
IDENTICAL with the self:
great enough to be God; interior enough to be ME.
The "objectivity" of it ought in that case
to be called EXCESSIVITY, rather, or exceedingness."
sur les fondements de la conscience mystique, 1897, p. 46.
far, however, as this analysis goes, the experiences are
only psychological phenomena.
They possess, it is true, enormous biological worth.
Spiritual strength really increases in the subject
when he has them, a new life opens for him, and they seem
to him a place of conflux where the forces of two universes
meet; and yet this may be nothing but his subjective way
of feeling things, a mood of his own fancy, in spite of
the effects produced.
I now turn to my second question:
What is the objective "truth" of their
The word "truth" is here taken to mean something
additional to bare value for life, although the natural
propensity of man is to believe that whatever has great
value for life is thereby certified as true.
part of the content concerning which the question of truth
most pertinently arises is that "MORE of the same quality"
with which our own higher self appears in the experience
to come into harmonious working relation.
Is such a "more" merely our own notion,
or does it really exist?
If so, in what shape does it exist?
Does it act, as well as exist?
And in what form should we conceive of that "union"
with it of which religious geniuses are so convinced?
is in answering these questions that the various theologies
perform their theoretic work, and that their divergencies
most come to light.
They all agree that the "more" really exists;
though some of them hold it to exist in the shape of a personal
god or gods, while others are satisfied to conceive it as
a stream of ideal tendency embedded in the eternal structure
of the world. They
all agree, moreover, that it acts as well as exists, and
that something really is effected for the better when you
throw your life into its hands.
It is when they treat of the experience of "union"
with it that their speculative differences appear most clearly.
Over this point pantheism and theism, nature and
second birth, works and grace and karma, immortality and
reincarnation, rationalism and mysticism, carry on inveterate
the end of my lecture on Philosophy I held out the
notion that an impartial science of religions might sift
out from the midst of their discrepancies a common body
of doctrine which she might also formulate in terms to which
<501> physical science need not object.
This, I said, she might adopt as her own reconciling
hypothesis, and recommend it for general belief.
I also said that in my last lecture I should have
to try my own hand at framing such an hypothesis.
Above, p. 445.
time has now come for this attempt.
Who says "hypothesis" renounces the ambition
to be coercive in his arguments. The most I can do is, accordingly,
to offer something that may fit the facts so easily that
your scientific logic will find no plausible pretext for
vetoing your impulse to welcome it as true.
"more," as we called it, and the meaning of our
"union" with it, form the nucleus of our inquiry.
Into what definite description can these words be
translated, and for what definite facts do they stand?
It would never do for us to place ourselves offhand
at the position of a particular theology, the Christian
theology, for example, and proceed immediately to define
the "more" as Jehovah, and the "union"
as his imputation to us of the righteousness of Christ.
That would be unfair to other religions, and, from
our present standpoint at least, would be an over-belief.
must begin by using less particularized terms; and, since
one of the duties of the science of religions is to keep
religion in connection with the rest of science, we shall
do well to seek first of all a way of describing the "more,"
which psychologists may also recognize as real.
The subconscious self is nowadays a well-accredited
psychological entity; and I believe that in it we have exactly
the mediating term required.
Apart from all religious considerations, there is
actually and literally more life in our total soul than
we are at any time aware of.
The exploration of the transmarginal field has hardly
yet been seriously undertaken, but what Mr. Myers said in
1892 in his essay on the Subliminal Consciousness is
as true as when it was first written:
"Each of us is in reality an abiding psychical
entity far more extensive than he knows--an individuality
which can never express itself completely through any corporeal
Self manifests through the organism; but there is always
some part of the Self unmanifested; and always, as it seems,
some power of organic expression in abeyance or reserve."
Much of the content of this larger background against
which our conscious being stands out in relief is insignificant.
Imperfect memories, silly jingles, inhibitive timidities,
"dissolutive" phenomena of various sorts, as Myers
calls them, enters into it for a large part.
But in it many of the performances of genius seem
also to have their origin; and in our study of conversion,
of mystical experiences, and of prayer, we have seen how
striking a part invasions from this region play in the religious
Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol.
vii. p. 305. For a full statement of Mr. Myers's views,
I may refer to his posthumous work, "Human Personality
in the Light of Recent Research," which is already
announced by Messrs.
Longmans, Green & Co. as being in press.
Mr. Myers for the first time proposed as a general
psychological problem the exploration of the subliminal
region of consciousness throughout its whole extent, and
made the first methodical steps in its topography by treating
as a natural series a mass of subliminal facts hitherto
considered only as curious isolated facts and subjecting
them to a systematized nomenclature. How important this exploration will prove, future work upon
the path which Myers has opened can alone show.
compare my paper:
"Frederic Myers's services to Psychology,"
in the said Proceedings, part xlii., May, 1901.
Compare the inventory given above on pp. 472-4, and also
what is said of the subconscious self on pp. 228-231, 235-236.
me then propose, as an hypothesis, that whatever it may
be on its FARTHER side, the "more" with which
in religious experience we feel ourselves connected is on
its HITHER side the subconscious continuation of our conscious
life. Starting thus with a recognized psychological fact
as our basis, we seem to preserve a contact with "science"
which the ordinary theologian lacks.
At the same time the theologian's contention that
the religious man is moved by an external power is vindicated,
for it is one of the peculiarities of invasions from the
subconscious region to take on objective appearances, and
to suggest to the Subject an external control.
In the religious life the control is felt as "higher";
but since on our hypothesis it is primarily the higher faculties
of our own hidden mind which are controlling, the sense
of union with the power beyond us is a sense of something,
not merely apparently, but literally true.
doorway into the subject seems to me the best one for a
science of religions, for it mediates between a number of
different points of view.
Yet it is only a doorway, and difficulties present
themselves as soon as we step through it, and ask how far
our transmarginal consciousness carries us if we follow
it on its remoter side.
Here the over-beliefs begin:
here mysticism and the conversion-rapture and Vedantism
and transcendental idealism bring in their monistic interpretations
and tell us that the finite self rejoins the absolute self,
for it was always one with God and identical with the soul
of the world.
Here the prophets of all the different religions
come with their visions, voices, raptures, and other openings,
supposed by each to authenticate his own peculiar faith.
Compare above, pp. 410 ff.
One more expression of this belief, to increase the reader's
familiarity with the notion of it:--
this room is full of darkness for thousands of years, and
you come in and begin to weep and wail, 'Oh, the darkness,'
will the darkness vanish?
Bring the light in, strike a match, and light comes
in a moment. So
what good will it do you to think all your lives, 'Oh, I
have done evil, I have made many mistakes'?
It requires no ghost to tell us that.
Bring in the light, and the evil goes in a moment.
Strengthen the real nature, build up yourselves,
the effulgent, the resplendent, the ever pure, call that
up in every one whom you see.
I wish that every one of us had come to such a state
that even when we see the vilest of human beings we can
see the God within, and instead of condemning, say, 'Rise,
thou effulgent One, rise thou who art always pure, rise
thou birthless and deathless, rise almighty, and manifest
your nature.' . . . This is the highest prayer that the
Advaita teaches. This
is the one prayer:
remembering our nature.". . . "Why does
man go out to look for a God? . . . It is your own heart
beating, and you did not know, you were mistaking it for
He, nearest of the near, my own self, the reality
of my own life, my body and my soul.--I am Thee and Thou
art Me. That
is your own nature.
Assert it, manifest it.
Not to become pure, you are pure already.
You are not to be perfect, you are that already.
Every good thought which you think or act upon is
simply tearing the veil, as it were, and the purity, the
Infinity, the God behind, manifests itself--the eternal
Subject of everything, the eternal Witness in this universe,
your own Self. Knowledge
is, as it were, a lower step, a degradation.
We are It already; how to know It?"
Swami Viverananda: Addresses, No. XII., Practical
Vedanta, part iv. pp. 172, 174, London, 1897; and Lectures,
The Real and the Apparent Man, p. 24, abridged.
of us who are not personally favored with such specific
revelations must stand outside of them altogether and, for
the present at least, decide that, since they corroborate
incompatible theological doctrines, they neutralize one
another and leave no fixed results.
If we follow any one of them, or if we follow philosophical
theory and embrace monistic pantheism on non-mystical grounds,
we do so in the exercise of our individual freedom, and
build out our religion in the way most congruous with our
Among these susceptibilities intellectual ones play
a decisive part. Although
the religious question is primarily a question of life,
of living or not living in the higher union which opens
itself to us as a gift, yet the spiritual excitement in
which the gift appears a real one will often fail to be
aroused in an individual until certain particular intellectual
beliefs or ideas which, as we say, come home to him, are
touched. These ideas will thus be essential to that
individual's religion;--which is as much as to say that
over-beliefs in various directions are absolutely indispensable,
and that we should treat them with tenderness and tolerance
so long as they are not intolerant themselves. As I have
elsewhere written, the most interesting and valuable things
about a man are usually his over-beliefs.
For instance, here is a case where a person exposed from
her birth to Christian ideas had to wait till they came
to her clad in spiritistic formulas before the saving experience
myself I can say that spiritualism has saved me. It was revealed to me at a critical moment of my life, and
without it I don't know what I should have done. It has taught me to detach myself from worldly things and to
place my hope in things to come.
Through it I have learned to see in all men, even
in those most criminal, even in those from whom I have most
suffered, undeveloped brothers to whom I owed assistance,
love, and forgiveness.
I have learned that I must lose my temper over nothing
despise no one, and pray for all.
Most of all I have learned to pray!
And although I have still much to learn in this domain,
prayer ever brings me more strength, consolation, and comfort.
I feel more than ever that I have only made a few
steps on the long road of progress; but I look at its length
without dismay, for I have confidence that the day will
come when all my efforts shall be rewarded.
So Spiritualism has a great place in my life, indeed
it holds the first place there."
the over beliefs, and confining ourselves to what is common
and generic, we have in the fact that the conscious person
is continuous with a wider self through which saving experiences
come, a positive content of religious experience which,
it seems to me, is literally and objectively true as far
as it goes.
I now proceed to state my own hypothesis about the farther
limits of this extension of our personality, I shall be
offering my own over-belief-- though I know it will appear
a sorry under-belief to some of you--for which I can only
bespeak the same indulgence which in a converse case I should
accord to yours.
"The influence of the Holy Spirit, exquisitely called
the Comforter, is a matter of actual experience, as solid
a reality as that of electro magnetism."
W. C. Brownell, Scribner's Magazine, vol. xxx. p.
The further limits of our being plunge, it seems to me,
into an altogether other dimension of existence from the
sensible and merely "understandable" world.
Name it the mystical region, or the supernatural
region, whichever you choose.
So far as our ideal impulses originate in this region
(and most of them do originate in it, for we find them possessing
us in a way for which we cannot articulately account), we
belong to it in a more intimate sense than that in which
we belong to the visible world, for we belong in the most
intimate sense wherever our ideals belong.
Yet the unseen region in question is not merely ideal,
for it produces effects in this world. When we commune with it, work is actually done upon our finite
personality, for we are turned into new men, and consequences
in the way of conduct follow in the natural world upon our
regenerative change. But that which produces effects
within another reality must be termed a reality itself,
so I feel as if we had no philosophic excuse for calling
the unseen or mystical world unreal.
That the transaction of opening ourselves, otherwise called
prayer, is a perfectly definite one for certain persons,
appears abundantly in the preceding lectures.
I append another concrete example to rein force the
impression on the reader's mind:--
can learn to transcend these limitations [of finite thought]
and draw power and wisdom at will. . . . The divine presence
is known through experience.
The turning to a higher plane is a distinct act of
is not a vague, twilight or semi-conscious experience.
It is not an ecstasy, it is not a trance. It is not super-consciousness in the Vedantic sense.
It is not due to self-hypnotization.
It is a perfectly calm, sane, sound, rational, common-sense
shifting of consciousness from the phenomena of sense-perception
to the phenomena of seership, from the thought of self to
a distinctively higher realm. . . . For example, if the
lower self be nervous, anxious, tense, one can in a few
moments compel it to be calm.
This is not done by a word simply.
Again I say, it is not hypnotism.
It is by the exercise of power.
One feels the spirit of peace as definitely as heat
is perceived on a hot summer day.
The power can be as surely used as the sun s rays
can be focused and made to do work, to set fire to wood."
The Higher Law, vol. iv. pp. 4, 6, Boston, August,
is the natural appellation, for us Christians at least,
for the supreme reality, so I will call this higher part
of the universe by the name of God.
We and God have business with each other; and in
opening ourselves to his influence our deepest destiny is
universe, at those parts of it which our personal being
constitutes, takes a turn genuinely for the worse or for
the better in proportion as each one of us fulfills or evades
God's demands. As
far as this goes I probably have you with me, for I only
translate into schematic language what I may call the instinctive
belief of mankind:
God is real since he produces real effects.
Transcendentalists are fond of the term "Over-soul,"
but as a rule they use it in an intellectualist sense, as
meaning only a medium of communion.
"God" is a causal agent as well as a medium
of communion, and that is the aspect which I wish to emphasize.
real effects in question, so far as I have as yet admitted
them, are exerted on the personal centres of energy of the
various subjects, but the spontaneous faith of most of the
subjects is that they embrace a wider sphere than this.
Most religious men believe (or "know,"
if they be mystical) that not only they themselves, but
the whole universe of beings to whom the God is present,
are secure in his parental hands.
There is a sense, a dimension, they are sure, in
which we are ALL saved, in spite of the gates of hell and
all adverse terrestrial appearances.
God's existence is the guarantee of an ideal order
that shall be permanently preserved.
This world may indeed, as science assures us, some
day burn up or freeze; but if it is part of his order, the
old ideals are sure to be brought elsewhere to fruition,
so that where God is, tragedy is only provisional and partial,
and shipwreck and dissolution are not the absolutely final
when this farther step of faith concerning God is taken,
and remote objective consequences are predicted, does religion,
as it seems to me, get wholly free from the first immediate
subjective experience, and bring a REAL HYPOTHESIS into
play. A good
hypothesis in science must have other properties than those
of the phenomenon it is immediately invoked to explain,
otherwise it is not prolific enough.
God, meaning only what enters into the religious
man's experience of union, falls short of being an hypothesis
of this more useful order.
He needs to enter into wider cosmic relations in
order to justify the subject's absolute confidence and peace.
the God with whom, starting from the hither side of our
own extra-marginal self, we come at its remoter margin into
commerce should be the absolute world-ruler, is of course
a very considerable over-belief.
Over-belief as it is, though, it is an article of
almost every one's religion.
Most of us pretend in some way to prop it upon our
philosophy, but the philosophy itself is really propped
upon this faith. What is this but to say that Religion,
in her fullest exercise of function, is not a mere illumination
of facts already elsewhere given, not a mere passion, like
love, which views things in a rosier light.
It is indeed that, as we have seen abundantly.
But it is something more, namely, a postulator of
new FACTS as well.
The world interpreted religiously is not the materialistic
world over again, with an altered expression; it must have,
over and above the altered expression, a natural constitution
different at some point from that which a materialistic
world would have.
It must be such that different events can be expected
in it, different conduct must be required.
thoroughly "pragmatic" view of religion has usually
been taken as a matter of course by common men.
They have interpolated divine miracles into the field
of nature, they have built a heaven out beyond the grave.
It is only transcendentalist metaphysicians who think
that, without adding any concrete details to Nature, or
subtracting any, but by simply calling it the expression
of absolute spirit, you make it more divine just as it stands.
I believe the pragmatic way of taking religion to
be the deeper way.
It gives it body as well as soul, it makes it claim,
as everything real must claim, some characteristic realm
of fact as its very own. What the more characteristically
divine facts are, apart from the actual inflow of energy
in the faith-state and the prayer-state, I know not.
But the over-belief on which I am ready to make my
personal venture is that they exist.
The whole drift of my education goes to persuade
me that the world of our present consciousness is only one
out of many worlds of consciousness that exist, and that
those other worlds must contain experiences which have a
meaning for our life also; and that although in the main
their experiences and those of this world keep discrete,
yet the two become continuous at certain points, and higher
energies filter in.
By being faithful in my poor measure to this over-belief,
I seem to myself to keep more sane and true.
I CAN, of course, put myself into the sectarian scientist's
attitude, and imagine vividly that the world of sensations
and of scientific laws and objects may be all.
But whenever I do this, I hear that inward monitor
of which W. K. Clifford once wrote, whispering the word
Humbug is humbug, even though it bear the scientific
name, and the total expression of human experience, as I
view it objectively, invincibly urges me beyond the narrow
Assuredly, the real world is of a different temperament--more
intricately built than physical science allows.
my objective and my subjective conscience both hold me to
the over-belief which I express.
Who knows whether the faithfulness of individuals
here below to their own poor over-beliefs may not actually
help God in turn to be more effectively faithful to his
own greater tasks?
writing my concluding lecture I had to aim so much at simplification
that I fear that my general philosophic position received
so scant a statement as hardly to be intelligible to some
of my readers. I therefore add this epilogue, which must also be so brief
as possibly to remedy but little the defect.
In a later work I may be enabled to state my position
more amply and consequently more clearly.
cannot be expected in a field like this, where all the attitudes
and tempers that are possible have been exhibited in literature
long ago, and where any new writer can immediately be classed
under a familiar head.
If one should make a division of all thinkers into
naturalists and supernaturalists, I should undoubtedly have
to go, along with most philosophers, into the supernaturalist
there is a crasser and a more refined supernaturalism, and
it is to the refined division that most philosophers at
the present day belong.
If not regular transcendental idealists, they at
least obey the Kantian direction enough to bar out ideal
entities from interfering causally in the course of phenomenal
supernaturalism is universalistic supernaturalism; for the
"crasser" variety "piecemeal" supernaturalism
would perhaps be the better name.
It went with that older theology which to-day is
supposed to reign only among uneducated people, or to be
found among the few belated professors of the dualisms which
Kant is thought to have displaced.
It admits miracles and providential leadings, and
finds no intellectual difficulty in mixing the ideal and
the real worlds together by interpolating influences from
the ideal region among the forces that causally determine
the real world's details.
In this the refined supernaturalists think that it
muddles disparate dimensions of existence. For them the world of the ideal has no efficient causality,
and never bursts into the world of phenomena at particular
ideal world, for them, is not a world of facts, but only
of the meaning of facts; it is a point of view for judging
facts. It appertains
to a different "-ology," and inhabits a different
dimension of being altogether from that in which existential
It cannot get down upon the flat level of experience
and interpolate itself piecemeal between distinct portions
of nature, as those who believe, for example, in divine
aid coming in response to prayer, are bound to think it
my own inability to accept either popular Christianity or
scholastic theism, I suppose that my belief that in communion
with the Ideal new force comes into the world, and new departures
are made here below, subjects me to being classed among
the supernaturalists of the piecemeal or crasser type.
Universalistic supernaturalism surrenders, it seems
to me, too easily to naturalism.
It takes the facts of physical science at their face-value,
and leaves the laws of life just as naturalism finds them,
with no hope of remedy, in case their fruits are bad.
confines itself to sentiments about life as a whole, sentiments
which may be admiring and adoring, but which need not be
so, as the existence of systematic pessimism proves.
In this universalistic way of taking the ideal world,
the essence of practical religion seems to me to evaporate.
Both instinctively and for logical reasons, I find
it hard to believe that principles can exist which make
no difference in facts.
But all facts are particular facts, and the whole
interest of the question of God's existence seems to me
to lie in the consequences for particulars which that existence
may be expected to entail. That no concrete particular of
experience should alter its complexion in consequence of
a God being there seems to me an incredible proposition,
and yet it is the thesis to which (implicitly at any rate)
refined supernaturalism seems to cling.
It is only with experience en bloc, it says, that
the Absolute maintains relations.
It condescends to no transactions of detail.
Transcendental idealism, of course, insists that its ideal
world makes THIS difference, that facts EXIST.
We owe it to the Absolute that we have a world of
fact at all. "A world" of fact!--that exactly is the trouble.
An entire world is the smallest unit with which the
Absolute can work, whereas to our finite minds work for
the better ought to be done within this world, setting in
at single points.
Our difficulties and our ideals are all piecemeal
affairs, but the Absolute can do no piecework for us; so
that all the interests which our poor souls compass raise
their heads too late.
We should have spoken earlier, prayed for another
world absolutely, before this world was born. It is strange, I have heard a friend say, to see this blind
corner into which Christian thought has worked itself at
last, with its God who can raise no particular weight whatever,
who can help us with no private burden, and who is on the
side of our enemies as much as he is on our own.
Odd evolution from the God of David's psalms!
am ignorant of Buddhism and speak under correction, and
merely in order the better to describe my general point
of view; but as I apprehend the Buddhistic doctrine of Karma,
I agree in principle with that.
All supernaturalists admit that facts are under the
judgment of higher law; but for Buddhism as I interpret
it, and for religion generally so far as it remains unweakened
by transcendentalistic metaphysics, the word "judgment"
here means no such bare academic verdict or platonic appreciation
as it means in Vedantic or modern absolutist systems; it
carries, on the contrary, EXECUTION with it, is in rebus
as well as post rem. and operates "causally" as
partial factor in the total fact. The universe becomes a
gnosticism pure and simple on any other terms.
But this view that judgment and execution go together
is that of the crasser supernaturalist way of thinking,
so the present volume must on the whole be classed with
the other expressions of that creed.
See my Will to Believe and other Essays in popular Philosophy.
1897, p. 165.
state the matter thus bluntly, because the current of thought
in academic circles runs against me, and I feel like a man
who must set his back against an open door quickly if he
does not wish to see it closed and locked.
In spite of its being so shocking to the reigning
intellectual tastes, I believe that a candid consideration
of piecemeal supernaturalism and a complete discussion of
all its metaphysical bearings will show it to be the hypothesis
by which the largest number of legitimate requirements are
met. That of
course would be a program for other books than this; what
I now say sufficiently indicates to the philosophic reader
the place where I belong.
asked just where the differences in fact which are due to
God's existence come in, I should have to say that in general
I have no hypothesis to offer beyond what the phenomenon
of "prayerful communion," especially when certain
kinds of incursion from the subconscious region take part
in it, immediately suggests.
The appearance is that in this phenomenon something
ideal, which in one sense is part of ourselves and in another
sense is not ourselves, actually exerts an influence, raises
our centre of personal energy, and produces regenerative
effects unattainable in other ways.
If, then, there be a wider world of being than that
of our every-day consciousness, if in it there be forces
whose effects on us are intermittent, if one facilitating
condition of the effects be the openness of the "subliminal"
door, we have the elements of a theory to which the phenomena
of religious life lend plausibility.
I am so impressed by the importance of these phenomena
that I adopt the hypothesis which they so naturally suggest.
At these places at least, I say, it would seem as
though transmundane energies, God, if you will, produced
immediate effects within the natural world to which the
rest of our experience belongs.
difference in natural "fact" which most of us
would assign as the first difference which the existence
of a God ought to make would, I imagine, be personal immortality.
Religion, in fact, for the great majority of our own race
MEANS immortality, and nothing else.
God is the producer of immortality; and whoever has
doubts of immortality is written down as an atheist without
farther trial. I
have said nothing in my lectures about immortality or the
belief therein, for to me it seems a secondary point.
If our ideals are only cared for in "eternity,"
I do not see why we might not be willing to resign their
care to other hands than ours.
Yet I sympathize with the urgent impulse to be present
ourselves, and in the conflict of impulses, both of them
so vague yet both of them noble, I know not how to decide.
It seems to me that it is eminently a case for facts
to testify. Facts,
I think, are yet lacking to prove "spirit-return,"
though I have the highest respect for the patient labors
of Messrs. Myers, Hodgson, and Hyslop, and am somewhat impressed
by their favorable conclusions.
I consequently leave the matter open, with this brief
word to save the reader from a possible perplexity as to
why immortality got no mention in the body of this book.
ideal power with which we feel ourselves in connection,
the "God" of ordinary men, is, both by ordinary
men and by philosophers, endowed with certain of those metaphysical
attributes which in the lecture on philosophy I treated
with such disrespect.
He is assumed as a matter of course to be "one
and only" and to be "infinite"; and the notion
of many finite gods is one which hardly any one thinks it
worth while to consider, and still less to uphold.
Nevertheless, in the interests of intellectual clearness,
I feel bound to say that religious experience, as we have
studied it, cannot be cited as unequivocally supporting
the infinitist belief. The only thing that it unequivocally testifies to is that we
can experience union with SOMETHING larger than ourselves
and in that union find our greatest peace.
Philosophy, with its passion for unity, and mysticism
with its monoideistic bent, both "pass to the limit"
and identify the something with a unique God who is the
all-inclusive soul of the world.
Popular opinion, respectful to their authority, follows
the example which they set.
the practical needs and experiences of religion seem to
me sufficiently met by the belief that beyond each man and
in a fashion continuous with him there exists a larger power
which is friendly to him and to his ideals.
All that the facts require is that the power should
be both other and larger than our conscious selves.
Anything larger will do, if only it be large enough
to trust for the next step. It need not be infinite, it
need not be solitary.
It might conceivably even be only a larger and more
godlike self, of which the present self would then be but
the mutilated expression, and the universe might conceivably
be a collection of such selves, of different degrees of
inclusiveness, with no absolute unity realized in it at
all. Thus would a sort of polytheism return upon us--a
polytheism which I do not on this occasion defend, for my
only aim at present is to keep the testimony of religious
experience clearly within its proper bounds.
[Compare p. 130 above.]
Such a notion is suggested in my Ingersoll Lecture On Human
Immortality, Boston and London, 1899.
of the monistic view will say to such a polytheism (which,
by the way, has always been the real religion of common
people, and is so still to-day) that unless there be one
all-inclusive God, our guarantee of security is left imperfect.
In the Absolute, and in the Absolute only, ALL is
saved. If there
be different gods, each caring for his part, some portion
of some of us might not be covered with divine protection,
and our religious consolation would thus fail to be complete.
It goes back to what was said on pages 129-131, about
the possibility of there being portions of the universe
that may irretrievably be lost. Common sense is less sweeping in its demands than philosophy
or mysticism have been wont to be, and can suffer the notion
of this world being partly saved and partly lost.
The ordinary moralistic state of mind makes the salvation
of the world conditional upon the success with which each
unit does its part. Partial and conditional salvation is in fact a most familiar
notion when taken in the abstract, the only difficulty being
to determine the details.
Some men are even disinterested enough to be willing
to be in the unsaved remnant as far as their persons go,
if only they can be persuaded that their cause will prevail--all
of us are willing, whenever our activity-excitement rises
I think, in fact, that a final philosophy of religion
will have to consider the pluralistic hypothesis more seriously
than it has hitherto been willing to consider it.
For practical life at any rate, the CHANCE of salvation
is enough. No
fact in human nature is more characteristic than its willingness
to live on a chance.
The existence of the chance makes the difference,
as Edmund Gurney says, between a life of which the keynote
is resignation and a life of which the keynote is hope.
But all these statements are unsatisfactory from
their brevity, and I can only say that I hope to return
to the same questions in another book.
Tertium Quid, 1887, p. 99.
See also pp. 148, 149.