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首页 » 英文宗教小说 » The Varieties of Religious Experience 宗教经验种种 » Lecture I RELIGION AND NEUROLOGY
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It is with no small amount of trepidation that I take my place behind this desk, and face thislearned audience. To us Americans, the experience of receiving instruction from the living voice,as well as from the books, of European scholars, is very familiar. At my own University ofHarvard, not a winter passes without its harvest, large or small, of lectures from Scottish, English,French, or German representatives of the science or literature of their respective countries whomwe have either induced to cross the ocean to address us, or captured on the wing as they werevisiting our land. It seems the natural thing for us to listen whilst the Europeans talk. The contraryhabit, of talking whilst the Europeans listen, we have not yet acquired; and in him who first makesthe adventure it begets certain of apology being due for presumptuous an act.

Particularlymustthisbet(a) hecaseona(sense) soilassacredtotheAmerican(so) imagination as that ofEdinburgh. The glories of the philosophic chair of this university were deeply impressed on myimagination in boyhood. Professor Fraser's Essays in Philosophy, then just published, was the firstphilosophic book I ever looked into, and I well remember the awestruck feeling I received from theaccount of Sir William Hamilton's classroom therein contained. Hamilton's own lectures were thefirst philosophic writings I ever forced myself to study, and after that I was immersed in DugaldStewart and Thomas Brown. Such juvenile emotions of reverence never get outgrown; and Iconfess that to find my humble self promoted from my native wilderness to be actually for the timean official here, and transmuted into a colleague of these illustrious names, carries with it a senseof dreamland quite as much as of reality.

But since I have received the honor of this appointment I have felt that it would never do todecline. The academic career also has its heroic obligations, so I stand here without furtherdeprecatory words. Let me say only this, that now that the current, here and at Aberdeen, hasbegun to run from west to east, I hope it may continue to do so. As the years go by, I hope thatmany of my countrymen may be asked to lecture in the Scottish universities, changing places withScotsmen lecturing in the United States; I hope that our people may become in all these highermatters even as one people; and that the peculiar philosophic temperament, as well as the peculiarpolitical temperament, that goes with our English speech may more and more pervade andinfluence the world.

As regards the manner in which I shall have to administer this lectureship, I am neither atheologian, nor a scholar learned in the history of religions, nor an anthropologist. Psychology isthe only branch of learning in which I am particularly versed. To the psychologist the religiouspropensities of man must be at least as interesting as any other of the facts pertaining to his mentalconstitution. It would seem, therefore, that, as a psychologist, the natural thing for me would be toinvite you to a descriptive survey of those religious propensities.

If the inquiry be psychological, not religious institutions, but rather religious feelings andreligious impulses must be its subject, and I must confine myself to those more developedsubjective phenomena recorded in literature produced by articulate and fully self-conscious men,in works of piety and autobiography. Interesting as the origins and early stages of a subject alwaysare, yet when one seeks earnestly for its full significance, one must always look to its morecompletely evolved and perfect forms. It follows from this that the documents that will mostconcern us will be those of the men who were most accomplished in the religious life and best ableto give an intelligible account of their ideas and motives. These men, of course, are eithercomparatively modern writers, or else such earlier ones as have become religious classics. Thedocuments humains which we shall find most instructive need not then be sought for in the hauntsof special erudition--they lie along the beaten highway; and this circumstance, which flows sonaturally from the character of our problem, suits admirably also your lecturer's lack of specialtheological learning. I may take my citations, my sentences and paragraphs of personal confession,from books that most of you at some time will have had already in your hands, and yet this will beno detriment to the value of my conclusions. It is true that some more adventurous reader andinvestigator, lecturing here in future, may unearth from the shelves of libraries documents that willmake a more delectable and curious entertainment to listen to than mine. Yet I doubt whether hewill necessarily, by his control of so much more out-of-the-way material, get much closer to theessence of the matter in hand.

The question, What are the religious propensities? and the question, What is their philosophicsignificance? are two entirely different orders of question from the logical point of view; and, as afailure to recognize this fact distinctly may breed confusion, I wish to insist upon the point a littlebefore we enter into the documents and materials to which I have referred.

In recent books on logic, distinction is made between two orders of inquiry concerning anything.

First, what is the nature of it? how did it come about? what is its constitution, origin, and history?

And second, What is its importance, meaning, or significance, now that it is once here? Theanswer to the one question is given in an existential judgment or proposition. The answer to theother is a proposition of value, what the Germans call a Werthurtheil, or what we may, if we like,denominate a spiritual judgment. Neither judgment can be deduced immediately from the other.

They proceed from diverse intellectual preoccupations, and the mind combines them only bymaking them first separately, and then adding them together.

In the matter of religions it is particularly easy to distinguish the two orders of question. Everyreligious phenomenon has its history and its derivation from natural antecedents. What isnowadays called the higher criticism of the Bible is only a study of the Bible from this existentialpoint of view, neglected too much by the earlier church. Under just what biographic conditions didthe sacred writers bring forth their various contributions to the holy volume? And what had theyexactly in their several individual minds, when they delivered their utterances? These aremanifestly questions of historical fact, and one does not see how the answer to them can decideoffhand the still further question: of what use should such a volume, with its manner of cominginto existence so defined, be to us as a guide to life and a revelation? To answer this other questionwe must have already in our mind some sort of a general theory as to what the peculiarities in athing should be which give it value for purposes of revelation; and this theory itself would be what I just called a spiritual judgment. Combining it with our existential judgment, we might indeeddeduce another spiritual judgment as to the Bible's worth. Thus if our theory of revelation-valuewere to affirm that any book, to possess it, must have been composed automatically or not by thefree caprice of the writer, or that it must exhibit no scientific and historic errors and express nolocal or personal passions, the Bible would probably fare ill at our hands. But if, on the other hand,our theory should allow that a book may well be a revelation in spite of errors and passions anddeliberate human composition, if only it be a true record of the inner experiences of great-souledpersons wrestling with the crises of their fate, then the verdict would be much more favorable. Yousee that the existential facts by themselves are insufficient for determining the value; and the bestadepts of the higher criticism accordingly never confound the existential with the spiritualproblem. With the same conclusions of fact before them, some take one view, and some another,of the Bible's value as a revelation, according as their spiritual judgment as to the foundation ofvalues differs.

I make these general remarks about the two sorts of judgment, because there are many religiouspersons--some of you now present, possibly, are among them--who do not yet make a working useof the distinction, and who may therefore feel first a little startled at the purely existential point ofview from which in the following lectures the phenomena of religious experience must beconsidered. When I handle them biologically and psychologically as if they were mere curiousfacts of individual history, some of you may think it a degradation of so sublime a subject, andmay even suspect me, until my purpose gets more fully expressed, of deliberately seeking todiscredit the religious side of life.

Such a result is of course absolutely alien to my intention; and since such a prejudice on yourpart would seriously obstruct the due effect of much of what I have to relate, I will devote a fewmore words to the point.

There can be no doubt that as a matter of fact a religious life, exclusively pursued, does tend tomake the person exceptional and eccentric. I speak not now of your ordinary religious believer,who follows the conventional observances of his country, whether it be Buddhist, Christian, orMohammedan. His religion has been made for him by others, communicated to him by tradition,determined to fixed forms by imitation, and retained by habit. It would profit us little to study thissecond-hand religious life. We must make search rather for the original experiences which werethe pattern-setters to all this mass of suggested feeling and imitated conduct. These experiences wecan only find in individuals for whom religion exists not as a dull habit, but as an acute feverrather. But such individuals are "geniuses" in the religious line; and like many other geniuses whohave brought forth fruits effective enough for commemoration in the pages of biography, suchreligious geniuses have often shown symptoms of nervous instability. Even more perhaps thanother kinds of genius, religious leaders have been subject to abnormal psychical visitations.

Invariably they have been creatures of exalted emotional sensibility. Often they have led adiscordant inner life, and had melancholy during a part of their career. They have known nomeasure, been liable to obsessions and fixed ideas; and frequently they have fallen into trances,heard voices, seen visions, and presented all sorts of peculiarities which are ordinarily classed aspathological. Often, moreover, these pathological features in their career have helped to give themtheir religious authority and influence.

If you ask for a concrete example, there can be no better one than is furnished by the person ofGeorge Fox. The Quaker religion which he founded is something which it is impossible tooverpraise. In a day of shams, it was a religion of veracity rooted in spiritual inwardness, and areturn to something more like the original gospel truth than men had ever known in England. Sofar as our Christian sects today are evolving into liberality, they are simply reverting in essence tothe position which Fox and the early Quakers so long ago assumed. No one can pretend for amoment that in point of spiritual sagacity and capacity, Fox's mind was unsound. Everyone whoconfronted him personally, from Oliver Cromwell down to county magistrates and jailers, seems tohave acknowledged his superior power. Yet from the point of view of his nervous constitution, Foxwas a psychopath or detraque of the deepest dye. His Journal abounds in entries of this sort:-"As I was walking with several friends, I lifted up my head and saw three steeple-house spires,and they struck at my life. I asked them what place that was? They said, Lichfield. Immediately theword of the Lord came to me, that I must go thither. Being come to the house we were going to, Iwished the friends to walk into the house, saying nothing to them of whither I was to go. As soonas they were gone I stept away, and went by my eye over hedge and ditch till I came within a mileof Lichfield where, in a great field, shepherds were keeping their sheep. Then was I commandedby the Lord to pull off my shoes. I stood still, for it was winter: but the word of the Lord was like afire in me. So I put off my shoes and left them with the shepherds; and the poor shepherdstrembled, and were astonished. Then I walked on about a mile, and as soon as I was got within thecity, the word of the Lord came to me again, saying: Cry, 'Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield!' So Iwent up and down the streets, crying with a loud voice, Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield! It beingmarket day, I went into the market-place, and to and fro in the several parts of it, and made stands,crying as before, Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield! And no one laid hands on me. As I went thuscrying through the streets, there seemed to me to be a channel of blood running down the streets,and the market-place appeared like a pool of blood. When I had declared what was upon me, andfelt myself clear, I went out of the town in peace; and returning to the shepherds gave them somemoney, and took my shoes of them again. But the fire of the Lord was so on my feet, and all overme, that I did not matter to put on my shoes again, and was at a stand whether I should or no, till Ifelt freedom from the Lord so to do: then, after I had washed my feet, I put on my shoes again.

After this a deep consideration came upon me, for what reason I should be sent to cry against thatcity, and call it The bloody city! For though the parliament had the minister one while, and theking another, and much blood had been shed in the town during the wars between them, yet therewas no more than had befallen many other places. But afterwards I came to understand, that in theEmperor Diocletian's time a thousand Christians were martyr'd in Lichfield. So I was to go,without my shoes, through the channel of their blood, and into the pool of their blood in themarket-place, that I might raise up the memorial of the blood of those martyrs, which had beenshed above a thousand years before, and lay cold in their streets. So the sense of this blood wasupon me, and I obeyed the word of the Lord."Bent as we are on studying religion's existential conditions, we cannot possibly ignore thesepathological aspects of the subject.

We must describe and name them just as if they occurred in non-religious men. It is true that weinstinctively recoil from seeing an object to which our emotions and affections are committed handled by the intellect as any other object is handled. The first thing the intellect does with anobject is to class it along with something else. But any object that is infinitely important to us andawakens our devotion feels to us also as if it must be sui generis and unique. Probably a crabwould be filled with a sense of personal outrage if it could hear us class it without ado or apologyas a crustacean, and thus dispose of it. "I am no such thing, it would say; I am MYSELF, MYSELFalone.

The next thing the intellect does is to lay bare the causes in which the thing originates. Spinozasays: "I will analyze the actions and appetites of men as if it were a question of lines, of planes,and of solids." And elsewhere he remarks that he will consider our passions and their propertieswith the same eye with which he looks on all other natural things, since the consequences of ouraffections flow from their nature with the same necessity as it results from the nature of a trianglethat its three angles should be equal to two right angles. Similarly M. Taine, in the introduction tohis history of English literature, has written: "Whether facts be moral or physical, it makes nomatter. They always have their causes. There are causes for ambition, courage, veracity, just asthere are for digestion, muscular movement, animal heat. Vice and virtue are products like vitrioland sugar." When we read such proclamations of the intellect bent on showing the existentialconditions of absolutely everything, we feel--quite apart from our legitimate impatience at thesomewhat ridiculous swagger of the program, in view of what the authors are actually able toperform--menaced and negated in the springs of our innermost life. Such cold-bloodedassimilations threaten, we think, to undo our soul's vital secrets, as if the same breath which shouldsucceed in explaining their origin would simultaneously explain away their significance, and makethem appear of no more preciousness, either, than the useful groceries of which M. Taine speaks.

Perhaps the commonest expression of this assumption that spiritual value is undone if lowlyorigin be asserted is seen in those comments which unsentimental people so often pass on theirmore sentimental acquaintances. Alfred believes in immortality so strongly because histemperament is so emotional. Fanny's extraordinary conscientiousness is merely a matter ofoverinstigated nerves. William's melancholy about the universe is due to bad digestion--probablyhis liver is torpid. Eliza's delight in her church is a symptom of her hysterical constitution. Peterwould be less troubled about his soul if he would take more exercise in the open air, etc. A morefully developed example of the same kind of reasoning is the fashion, quite common nowadaysamong certain writers, of criticizing the religious emotions by showing a connection between themand the sexual life. Conversion is a crisis of puberty and adolescence. The macerations of saints,and the devotion of missionaries, are only instances of the parental instinct of self-sacrifice goneastray. For the hysterical nun, starving for natural life, Christ is but an imaginary substitute for amore earthly object of affection. And the like.[1]

[1] As with many ideas that float in the air of one's time, this notion shrinks from dogmaticgeneral statement and expresses itself only partially and by innuendo. It seems to me that fewconceptions are less instructive than this re-interpretation of religion as perverted sexuality. Itreminds one, so crudely is it often employed, of the famous Catholic taunt, that the Reformationmay be best understood by remembering that its fons et origo was Luther's wish to marry a nun:-theeffects are infinitely wider than the alleged causes, and for the most part opposite in nature. Itis true that in the vast collection of religious phenomena, some are undisguisedly amatory--e.g., sex-deities and obscene rites in polytheism, and ecstatic feelings of union with the Savior in a fewChristian mystics. But then why not equally call religion an aberration of the digestive function,and prove one's point by the worship of Bacchus and Ceres, or by the ecstatic feelings of someother saints about the Eucharist? Religious language clothes itself in such poor symbols as our lifeaffords, and the whole organism gives overtones of comment whenever the mind is strongly stirredto expression. Language drawn from eating and drinking is probably as common in religiousliterature as is language drawn from the sexual life. We "hunger and thirst" after righteousness; we"find the Lord a sweet savor;" we "taste and see that he is good." "Spiritual milk for Americanbabes, drawn from the breasts of both testaments," is a sub-title of the once famous New EnglandPrimer, and Christian devotional literature indeed quite floats in milk, thought of from the point ofview, not of the mother, but of the greedy babe.

Saint Francois de Sales, for instance, thus describes the "orison of quietude": "In this state thesoul is like a little child still at the breast, whose mother to caress him whilst he is still in her armsmakes her milk distill into his mouth without his even moving his lips. So it is here. . . . Our Lorddesires that our will should be satisfied with sucking the milk which His Majesty pours into ourmouth, and that we should relish the sweetness without even knowing that it cometh from theLord." And again: "Consider the little infants, united and joined to the breasts of their nursingmothers you will see that from time to time they press themselves closer by little starts to whichthe pleasure of sucking prompts them. Even so, during its orison, the heart united to its Godoftentimes makes attempts at closer union by movements during which it presses closer upon thedivine sweetness." Chemin de la Perfection, ch. xxxi.; Amour de Dieu, vii. ch. i.

In fact, one might almost as well interpret religion as a perversion of the respiratory function.

The Bible is full of the language of respiratory oppression: "Hide not thine ear at my breathing; mygroaning is not hid from thee; my heart panteth, my strength faileth me; my bones are hot with myroaring all the night long; as the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so my soul panteth after thee,O my God:" God's Breath in Man is the title of the chief work of our best known American mystic(Thomas Lake Harris), and in certain non-Christian countries the foundation of all religiousdiscipline consists in regulation of the inspiration and expiration.

These arguments are as good as much of the reasoning one hears in favor of the sexual theory.

But the champions of the latter will then say that their chief argument has no analogue elsewhere.

The two main phenomena of religion, namely, melancholy and conversion, they will say, areessentially phenomena of adolescence, and therefore synchronous with the development of sexuallife. To which the retort again is easy. Even were the asserted synchrony unrestrictedly true as afact (which it is not), it is not only the sexual life, but the entire higher mental life which awakensduring adolescence. One might then as well set up the thesis that the interest in mechanics, physics,chemistry, logic, philosophy, and sociology, which springs up during adolescent years along withthat in poetry and religion, is also a perversion of the sexual instinct:--but that would be too absurd.

Moreover, if the argument from synchrony is to decide, what is to be done with the fact that thereligious age par excellence would seem to be old age, when the uproar of the sexual life is past?

The plain truth is that to interpret religion one must in the end look at the immediate content ofthe religious consciousness. The moment one does this, one sees how wholly disconnected it is in the main from the content of the sexual consciousness. Everything about the two things differs,objects, moods, faculties concerned, and acts impelled to. Any GENERAL assimilation is simplyimpossible: what we find most often is complete hostility and contrast. If now the defenders of thesex-theory say that this makes no difference to their thesis; that without the chemical contributionswhich the sex-organs make to the blood, the brain would not be nourished so as to carry onreligious activities, this final proposition may be true or not true; but at any rate it has becomeprofoundly uninstructive: we can deduce no consequences from it which help us to interpretreligion's meaning or value. In this sense the religious life depends just as much upon the spleen,the pancreas, and the kidneys as on the sexual apparatus, and the whole theory has lost its point inevaporating into a vague general assertion of the dependence, SOMEHOW, of the mind upon thebody.

We are surely all familiar in a general way with this method of discrediting states of mind forwhich we have an antipathy. We all use it to some degree in criticizing persons whose states ofmind we regard as overstrained. But when other people criticize our own more exalted soul-flightsby calling them 'nothing but' expressions of our organic disposition, we feel outraged and hurt, forwe know that, whatever be our organism's peculiarities, our mental states have their substantivevalue as revelations of the living truth; and we wish that all this medical materialism could bemade to hold its tongue.

Medical materialism seems indeed a good appellation for the too simple-minded system ofthought which we are considering. Medical materialism finishes up Saint Paul by calling his visionon the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex, he being an epileptic. It snuffsout Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint Francis of Assisi as an hereditary degenerate. George Fox'sdiscontent with the shams of his age, and his pining for spiritual veracity, it treats as a symptom ofa disordered colon. Carlyle's organ-tones of misery it accounts for by a gastro-duodenal catarrh.

All such mental overtensions, it says, are, when you come to the bottom of the matter, mere affairsof diathesis (auto-intoxications most probably), due to the perverted action of various glands whichphysiology will yet discover. And medical materialism then thinks that the spiritual authority of allsuch personages is successfully undermined.[2]

[2] For a first-rate example of medical-materialist reasoning, see an article on "les varietes duType devot," by Dr. Binet-Sangle, in the Revue de l'Hypnotisme, xiv. 161.

Let us ourselves look at the matter in the largest possible way. Modern psychology, findingdefinite psycho-physical connections to hold good, assumes as a convenient hypothesis that thedependence of mental states upon bodily conditions must be thoroughgoing and complete. If weadopt the assumption, then of course what medical materialism insists on must be true in a generalway, if not in every detail: Saint Paul certainly had once an epileptoid, if not an epileptic seizure;George Fox was an hereditary degenerate; Carlyle was undoubtedly auto-intoxicated by someorgan or other, no matter which--and the rest. But now, I ask you, how can such an existentialaccount of facts of mental history decide in one way or another upon their spiritual significance?

According to the general postulate of psychology just referred to, there is not a single one of ourstates of mind, high or low, healthy or morbid, that has not some organic process as its condition.

Scientific theories are organically conditioned just as much as religious emotions are; and if we only knew the facts intimately enough, we should doubtless see "the liver" determining the dicta ofthe sturdy atheist as decisively as it does those of the Methodist under conviction anxious about hissoul. When it alters in one way the blood that percolates it, we get the methodist, when in anotherway, we get the atheist form of mind. So of all our raptures and our drynesses, our longings andpantings, our questions and beliefs. They are equally organically founded, be they religious or ofnon-religious content.

To plead the organic causation of a religious state of mind, then, in refutation of its claim topossess superior spiritual value, is quite illogical and arbitrary, unless one has already worked outin advance some psycho-physical theory connecting spiritual values in general with determinatesorts of physiological change. Otherwise none of our thoughts and feelings, not even our scientificdoctrines, not even our DIS-beliefs, could retain any value as revelations of the truth, for every oneof them without exception flows from the state of its possessor's body at the time.

It is needless to say that medical materialism draws in point of fact no such sweeping skepticalconclusion. It is sure, just as every simple man is sure, that some states of mind are inwardlysuperior to others, and reveal to us more truth, and in this it simply makes use of an ordinaryspiritual judgment. It has no physiological theory of the production of these its favorite states, bywhich it may accredit them; and its attempt to discredit the states which it dislikes, by vaguelyassociating them with nerves and liver, and connecting them with names connoting bodilyaffliction, is altogether illogical and inconsistent.

Let us play fair in this whole matter, and be quite candid with ourselves and with the facts. Whenwe think certain states of mind superior to others, is it ever because of what we know concerningtheir organic antecedents? No! it is always for two entirely different reasons. It is either becausewe take an immediate delight in them; or else it is because we believe them to bring us goodconsequential fruits for life. When we speak disparagingly of "feverish fancies," surely the fever-process as such is not the ground of our disesteem--for aught we know to the contrary, 103 degreesor 104 degrees Fahrenheit might be a much more favorable temperature for truths to germinate andsprout in, than the more ordinary blood-heat of 97 or 98 degrees. It is either the disagreeablenessitself of the fancies, or their inability to bear the criticisms of the convalescent hour. When wepraise the thoughts which health brings, health's peculiar chemical metabolisms have nothing to dowith determining our judgment. We know in fact almost nothing about these metabolisms. It is thecharacter of inner happiness in the thoughts which stamps them as good, or else their consistencywith our other opinions and their serviceability for our needs, which make them pass for true in ouresteem.

Now the more intrinsic and the more remote of these criteria do not always hang together. Innerhappiness and serviceability do not always agree. What immediately feels most "good" is notalways most "true," when measured by the verdict of the rest of experience. The differencebetween Philip drunk and Philip sober is the classic instance in corroboration. If merely "feelinggood" could decide, drunkenness would be the supremely valid human experience. But itsrevelations, however acutely satisfying at the moment, are inserted into an environment whichrefuses to bear them out for any length of time. The consequence of this discrepancy of the twocriteria is the uncertainty which still prevails over so many of our spiritual judgments. There aremoments of sentimental and mystical experience--we shall hereafter hear much of them--that carry an enormous sense of inner authority and illumination with them when they come. But they comeseldom, and they do not come to everyone; and the rest of life makes either no connection withthem, or tends to contradict them more than it confirms them. Some persons follow more the voiceof the moment in these cases, some prefer to be guided by the average results. Hence the saddiscordancy of so many of the spiritual judgments of human beings; a discordancy which will bebrought home to us acutely enough before these lectures end.

It is, however, a discordancy that can never be resolved by any merely medical test. A goodexample of the impossibility of holding strictly to the medical tests is seen in the theory of thepathological causation of genius promulgated by recent authors. "Genius," said Dr. Moreau, "is butone of the many branches of the neuropathic tree." "Genius," says Dr. Lombroso, "is a symptom ofhereditary degeneration of the epileptoid variety, and is allied to moral insanity." "Whenever aman's life," writes Mr. Nisbet, "is at once sufficiently illustrious and recorded with sufficientfullness to be a subject of profitable study, he inevitably falls into the morbid category. . . . And itis worthy of remark that, as a rule, the greater the genius, the greater the unsoundness."[3]

[3] J. F. Nisbet: The Insanity of Genius, 3d ed., London, 1893, pp. xvi., xxiv.

Now do these authors, after having succeeded in establishing to their own satisfaction that theworks of genius are fruits of disease, consistently proceed thereupon to impugn the VALUE of thefruits? Do they deduce a new spiritual judgment from their new doctrine of existential conditions?

Do they frankly forbid us to admire the productions of genius from now onwards? and say outrightthat no neuropath can ever be a revealer of new truth?

No! their immediate spiritual instincts are too strong for them here, and hold their own againstinferences which, in mere love of logical consistency, medical materialism ought to be only tooglad to draw. One disciple of the school, indeed, has striven to impugn the value of works ofgenius in a wholesale way (such works of contemporary art, namely, as he himself is unable toenjoy, and they are many) by using medical arguments.[4] But for the most part the masterpiecesare left unchallenged; and the medical line of attack either confines itself to such secularproductions as everyone admits to be intrinsically eccentric, or else addresses itself exclusively toreligious manifestations. And then it is because the religious manifestations have been alreadycondemned because the critic dislikes them on internal or spiritual grounds.

[4] Max Nordau, in his bulky book entitled Degeneration.

In the natural sciences and industrial arts it never occurs to anyone to try to refute opinions byshowing up their author's neurotic constitution. Opinions here are invariably tested by logic and byexperiment, no matter what may be their author's neurological type. It should be no otherwise withreligious opinions. Their value can only be ascertained by spiritual judgments directly passed uponthem, judgments based on our own immediate feeling primarily; and secondarily on what we canascertain of their experiential relations to our moral needs and to the rest of what we hold as true.

Immediate luminousness, in short, philosophical reasonableness, and moral helpfulness are theonly available criteria. Saint Teresa might have had the nervous system of the placidest cow, and itwould not now save her theology, if the trial of the theology by these other tests should show it to be contemptible. And conversely if her theology can stand these other tests, it will make nodifference how hysterical or nervously off her balance Saint Teresa may have been when she waswith us here below.

You see that at bottom we are thrown back upon the general principles by which the empiricalphilosophy has always contended that we must be guided in our search for truth. Dogmaticphilosophies have sought for tests for truth which might dispense us from appealing to the future.

Some direct mark, by noting which we can be protected immediately and absolutely, now andforever, against all mistake--such has been the darling dream of philosophic dogmatists. It is clearthat the ORIGIN of the truth would be an admirable criterion of this sort, if only the variousorigins could be discriminated from one another from this point of view, and the history ofdogmatic opinion shows that origin has always been a favorite test. Origin in immediate intuition;origin in pontifical authority; origin in supernatural revelation, as by vision, hearing, orunaccountable impression; origin in direct possession by a higher spirit, expressing itself inprophecy and warning; origin in automatic utterance generally--these origins have been stockwarrants for the truth of one opinion after another which we find represented in religious history.

The medical materialists are therefore only so many belated dogmatists, neatly turning the tableson their predecessors by using the criterion of origin in a destructive instead of an accreditive way.

They are effective with their talk of pathological origin only so long as supernatural origin ispleaded by the other side, and nothing but the argument from origin is under discussion. But theargument from origin has seldom been used alone, for it is too obviously insufficient. Dr.

Maudsley is perhaps the cleverest of the rebutters of supernatural religion on grounds of origin.

Yet he finds himself forced to write:-"What right have we to believe Nature under any obligation to do her work by means ofcomplete minds only? She may find an incomplete mind a more suitable instrument for a particularpurpose. It is the work that is done, and the quality in the worker by which it was done, that isalone of moment; and it may be no great matter from a cosmical standpoint, if in other qualities ofcharacter he was singularly defective--if indeed he were hypocrite, adulterer, eccentric, or lunatic. .

. . Home we come again, then, to the old and last resort of certitude--namely the common assent ofmankind, or of the competent by instruction and training among mankind."[5]

[5] H. Maudsley: Natural Causes and Supernatural Seemings, 1886, pp. 256, 257.

In other words, not its origin, but THE WAY IN WHICH IT WORKS ON THE WHOLE, is Dr.

Maudsley's final test of a belief. This is our own empiricist criterion; and this criterion the stoutestinsisters on supernatural origin have also been forced to use in the end. Among the visions andmessages some have always been too patently silly, among the trances and convulsive seizuressome have been too fruitless for conduct and character, to pass themselves off as significant, stillless as divine. In the history of Christian mysticism the problem how to discriminate between suchmessages and experiences as were really divine miracles, and such others as the demon in hismalice was able to counterfeit, thus making the religious person twofold more the child of hell hewas before, has always been a difficult one to solve, needing all the sagacity and experience of thebest directors of conscience. In the end it had to come to our empiricist criterion: By their fruits yeshall know them, not by their roots. Jonathan Edwards's Treatise on Religious Affections is an elaborate working out of this thesis. The ROOTS of a man's virtue are inaccessible to us. Noappearances whatever are infallible proofs of grace. Our practice is the only sure evidence, even toourselves, that we are genuinely Christians.

"In forming a judgment of ourselves now," Edwards writes, we should certainly adopt thatevidence which our supreme Judge will chiefly make use of when we come to stand before him atthe last day. . . . There is not one grace of the Spirit of God, of the existence of which, in anyprofessor of religion, Christian practice is not the most decisive evidence. . . . The degree in whichour experience is productive of practice shows the degree in which our experience is spiritual anddivine."Catholic writers are equally emphatic. The good dispositions which a vision, or voice, or otherapparent heavenly favor leave behind them are the only marks by which we <22> may be sure theyare not possible deceptions of the tempter. Says Saint Teresa:-"Like imperfect sleep which, instead of giving more strength to the head, doth but leave it themore exhausted, the result of mere operations of the imagination is but to weaken the soul. Insteadof nourishment and energy she reaps only lassitude and disgust: whereas a genuine heavenly visionyields to her a harvest of ineffable spiritual riches, and an admirable renewal of bodily strength. Ialleged these reasons to those who so often accused my visions of being the work of the enemy ofmankind and the sport of my imagination. . . . I showed them the jewels which the divine hand hadleft with me:--they were my actual dispositions. All those who knew me saw that I was changed;my confessor bore witness to the fact; this improvement, palpable in all respects, far from beinghidden, was brilliantly evident to all men. As for myself, it was impossible to believe that if thedemon were its author, he could have used, in order to lose me and lead me to hell, an expedient socontrary to his own interests as that of uprooting my vices, and filling me with masculine courageand other virtues instead, for I saw clearly that a single one of these visions was enough to enrichme with all that wealth."[6]

[6] Autobiography, ch. xxviii.

I fear I may have made a longer excursus than was necessary, and that fewer words would havedispelled the uneasiness which may have arisen among some of you as I announced mypathological programme. At any rate you must all be ready now to judge the religious life by itsresults exclusively, and I shall assume that the bugaboo of morbid origin will scandalize your pietyno more.

Still, you may ask me, if its results are to be the ground of our final spiritual estimate of areligious phenomenon, why threaten us at all with so much existential study of its conditions? Whynot simply leave pathological questions out?

To this I reply in two ways. First, I say, irrepressible curiosity imperiously leads one on; and Isay, secondly, that it always leads to a better understanding of a thing's significance to consider itsexaggerations and perversions its equivalents and substitutes and nearest relatives elsewhere. Notthat we may thereby swamp the thing in the wholesale condemnation which we pass on its inferiorcongeners, but rather that we may by contrast ascertain the more precisely in what its merits consist, by learning at the same time to what particular dangers of corruption it may also beexposed.

Insane conditions have this advantage, that they isolate special factors of the mental life, andenable us to inspect them unmasked by their more usual surroundings. They play the part in mentalanatomy which the scalpel and the microscope play in the anatomy of the body. To understand athing rightly we need to see it both out of its environment and in it, and to have acquaintance withthe whole range of its variations. The study of hallucinations has in this way been for psychologiststhe key to their comprehension of normal sensation, that of illusions has been the key to the rightcomprehension of perception. Morbid impulses and imperative conceptions, "fixed ideas," socalled, have thrown a flood of light on the psychology of the normal will; and obsessions anddelusions have performed the same service for that of the normal faculty of belief.

Similarly, the nature of genius has been illuminated by the attempts, of which I already mademention, to class it with psychopathical phenomena. Borderland insanity, crankiness, insanetemperament, loss of mental balance, psychopathic degeneration (to use a few of the manysynonyms by which it has been called), has certain peculiarities and liabilities which, whencombined with a superior quality of intellect in an individual, make it more probable that he willmake his mark and affect his age, than if his temperament were less neurotic. There is of course nospecial affinity between crankiness as such and superior intellect,[7] for most psychopaths havefeeble intellects, and superior intellects more commonly have normal nervous systems. But thepsychopathic temperament, whatever be the intellect with which it finds itself paired, often bringswith it ardor and excitability of character. The cranky person has extraordinary emotionalsusceptibility. He is liable to fixed ideas and obsessions. His conceptions tend to pass immediatelyinto belief and action; and when he gets a new idea, he has no rest till he proclaims it, or in someway "works it off." "What shall I think of it?" a common person says to himself about a vexedquestion; but in a "cranky" mind "What must I do about it?" is the form the question tends to take.

In the autobiography of that high-souled woman, Mrs. Annie Besant, I read the following passage:

"Plenty of people wish well to any good cause, but very few care to exert themselves to help it, andstill fewer will risk anything in its support. 'Someone ought to do it, but why should I?' is the everreechoed phrase of weak-kneed amiability. 'Someone ought to do it, so why not I?' is the cry ofsome earnest servant of man, eagerly forward springing to face some perilous duty. Between thesetwo sentences lie whole centuries of moral evolution." True enough! and between these twosentences lie also the different destinies of the ordinary sluggard and the psychopathic man. Thus,when a superior intellect and a psychopathic temperament coalesce--as in the endless permutationsand combinations of human faculty, they are bound to coalesce often enough--in the sameindividual, we have the best possible condition for the kind of effective genius that gets into the<25> biographical dictionaries. Such men do not remain mere critics and understanders with theirintellect. Their ideas possess them, they inflict them, for better or worse, upon their companions ortheir age. It is they who get counted when Messrs. Lombroso, Nisbet, and others invoke statisticsto defend their paradox.

[7] Superior intellect, as Professor Bain has admirably shown, seems to consist in nothing somuch as in a large development of the faculty of association by similarity.

To pass now to religious phenomena, take the melancholy which, as we shall see, constitutes anessential moment in every complete religious evolution. Take the happiness which achievedreligious belief confers. Take the trancelike states of insight into truth which all religious mysticsreport.[8] These are each and all of them special cases of kinds of human experience of muchwider scope. Religious melancholy, whatever peculiarities it may have qua religious, is at any ratemelancholy. Religious happiness is happiness. Religious trance is trance. And the moment werenounce the absurd notion that a thing is exploded away as soon as it is classed with others, or itsorigin is shown; the moment we agree to stand by experimental results and inner quality, injudging of values--who does not see that we are likely to ascertain the distinctive significance ofreligious melancholy and happiness, or of religious trances, far better by comparing them asconscientiously as we can with other varieties of melancholy, happiness, and trance, than byrefusing to consider their place in any more general series, and treating them as if they wereoutside of nature's order altogether?

I hope that the course of these lectures will confirm us in this supposition. As regards thepsychopathic origin of so many religious phenomena, that would not be in the least surprising ordisconcerting, even were such phenomena certified from on high to be the most precious of humanexperiences. No one organism can possibly yield to its owner the whole body of truth. Few of usare not in some way infirm, or even diseased; and our very infirmities help us unexpectedly. In thepsychopathic temperament we have the emotionality which is the sine qua non of moralperception; we have the intensity and tendency to emphasis which are the essence of practicalmoral vigor; and we have the love of metaphysics and mysticism which carry one's interestsbeyond the surface of the sensible world. What, then, is more natural than that this temperamentshould introduce one to regions of religious truth, to corners of the universe, which your robustPhilistine type of nervous system, forever offering its biceps to be felt, thumping its breast, andthanking Heaven that it hasn't a single morbid fiber in its composition, would be sure to hideforever from its self-satisfied possessors?

[8] I may refer to a criticism of the insanity theory of genius in the Psychological Review, ii. 287(1895).

If there were such a thing as inspiration from a higher realm, it might well be that the neurotictemperament would furnish the chief condition of the requisite receptivity. And having said thusmuch, I think that I may let the matter of religion and neuroticism drop.

The mass of collateral phenomena, morbid or healthy, with which the various religiousphenomena must be compared in order to understand them better, forms what in the slang ofpedagogics is termed "the apperceiving mass" by which we comprehend them. The only noveltythat I can imagine this course of lectures to possess lies in the breadth of the apperceiving mass. Imay succeed in discussing religious experiences in a wider context than has been usual inuniversity courses.


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