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首页 » 英文宗教小说 » The Varieties of Religious Experience 宗教经验种种 » Lecture II CIRCUMSCRIPTION OF THE TOPIC
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Lecture II CIRCUMSCRIPTION OF THE TOPIC
  Most books on the philosophy of religion try to begin with a precise definition of what itsessence consists of. Some of these would-be definitions may possibly come before us in laterportions of this course, and I shall not be pedantic enough to enumerate any of them to you now.

Meanwhile the very fact that they are so many and so different from one another is enough toprove that the word "religion" cannot stand for any single principle or essence, but is rather acollective name. The theorizing mind tends always to the oversimplification of its materials. Thisis the root of all that absolutism and one-sided dogmatism by which both philosophy and religionhave been infested. Let us not fall immediately into a one-sided view of our subject, but let usrather admit freely at the outset that we may very likely find no one essence, but many characterswhich may alternately be equally important to religion. If we should inquire for the essence of"government," for example, one man might tell us it was authority, another submission, an otherpolice, another an army, another an assembly, an other a system of laws; yet all the while it wouldbe true that no concrete government can exist without all these things, one of which is moreimportant at one moment and others at another. The man who knows governments mostcompletely is he who troubles himself least about a definition which shall give their essence.

Enjoying an intimate acquaintance with all their particularities in turn, he would naturally regardan abstract conception in which these were unified as a thing more misleading than enlightening.

And why may not religion be a conception equally complex?[9]

[9] I can do no better here than refer my readers to the extended and admirable remarks on thefutility of all these definitions of religion, in an article by Professor Leuba, published in the Monistfor January, 1901, after my own text was written.

Consider also the "religious sentiment" which we see referred to in so many books, as if it were asingle sort of mental entity. In the psychologies and in the philosophies of religion, we find theauthors attempting to specify just what entity it is. One man allies it to the feeling of dependence;one makes it a derivative from fear; others connect it with the sexual life; others still identify itwith the feeling of the infinite; and so on. Such different ways of conceiving it ought of themselvesto arouse doubt as to whether it possibly can be one specific thing; and the moment we are willingto treat the term "religious sentiment" as a collective name for the many sentiments which religiousobjects may in alternation, that it probably contains nothing whatever of psychologicallyspec(arouse) ificnature.Thereis(we) relig(see) ious fear, religious love, religious awe, religious joy,(a) and so forth. But religious love is  only man's natural emotion of love directed to a religious object;religious fear is only the ordinary fear of commerce, so to speak, the common quaking of thehuman breast, in so far as the notion of divine retribution may arouse it; religious awe is the sameorganic thrill which we feel in a forest at twilight, or in a mountain gorge; only this time it comesover us at the thought of our supernatural relations; and similarly of all the various sentimentswhich may be called into play in the lives of religious persons. As concrete states of mind, madeup of a feeling PLUS a specific sort of object, religious emotions of course are psychic entitiesdistinguishable from other concrete emotions; but there is no ground for assuming a simpleabstract "religious emotion" to exist as a distinct elementary mental affection by itself, present inevery religious experience without exception.

As there thus seems to be no one elementary religious emotion, but only a common storehouse ofemotions upon which religious objects may draw, so there might conceivably also prove to he noone specific and essential kind of religious object, and no one specific and essential kind ofreligious act.

The field of religion being as wide as this, it is manifestly impossible that I should pretend tocover it. My lectures must be limited to a fraction of the subject. And, although it would indeed befoolish to set up an abstract definition of religion's essence, and then proceed to defend thatdefinition against all comers, yet this need not prevent me from taking my own narrow view ofwhat religion shall consist in FOR THE PURPOSE OF THESE LECTURES, or, out of the manymeanings of the word, from choosing the one meaning in which I wish to interest you particularly,and proclaiming arbitrarily that when I say "religion" I mean THAT. This, in fact, is what I mustdo, and I will now preliminarily seek to mark out the field I choose.

One way to mark it out easily is to say what aspects of the subject we leave out. At the outset weare struck by one great partition which divides the religious field. On the one side of it liesinstitutional, on the other personal religion. As M. P. Sabatier says, one branch of religion keepsthe divinity, another keeps man most in view. Worship and sacrifice, procedures for working onthe dispositions of the deity, theology and ceremony and ecclesiastical organization, are theessentials of religion in the institutional branch. Were we to limit our view to it, we should have todefine religion as an external art, the art of winning the favor of the gods. In the more personalbranch of religion it is on the contrary the inner dispositions of man himself which form the centerof interest, his conscience, his deserts, his helplessness, his incompleteness. And although thefavor of the God, as forfeited or gained, is still an essential feature of the story, and theology playsa vital part therein, yet the acts to which this sort of religion prompts are personal not ritual acts,the individual transacts the business by himself alone, and the ecclesiastical organization, with itspriests and sacraments and other go-betweens, sinks to an altogether secondary place. The relationgoes direct from heart to heart, from soul to soul, between man and his maker.

Now in these lectures I propose to ignore the institutional branch entirely, to say nothing of theecclesiastical organization, to consider as little as possible the systematic theology and the ideasabout the gods themselves, and to confine myself as far as I can to personal religion pure andsimple. To some of you personal religion, thus nakedly considered, will no doubt seem tooincomplete a thing to wear the general name. "It is a part of religion," you will say, "but only itsunorganized rudiment; if we are to name it by itself, we had better call it man's conscience ormorality than his religion. The name 'religion' should be reserved for the fully organized system offeeling, thought, and institution, for the Church, in short, of which this personal religion, so called,is but a fractional element."But if you say this, it will only show the more plainly how much the question of definition tendsto become a dispute about names.

Rather than prolong such a dispute, I am willing to accept almost any name for the personalreligion of which I propose to treat. Call it conscience or morality, if you yourselves prefer, andnot religion--under either name it will be equally worthy of our study. As for myself, I think it willprove to contain some elements which morality pure and simple does not contain, and theseelements I shall soon seek to point out; so I will myself continue to apply the word "religion" to it; and in the last lecture of all, I will bring in the theologies and the ecclesiasticisms, and saysomething of its relation to them.

In one sense at least the personal religion will prove itself more fundamental than either theologyor ecclesiasticism. Churches, when once established, live at second-hand upon tradition; but theFOUNDERS of every church owed their power originally to the fact of their direct personalcommunion with the divine. Not only the superhuman founders, the Christ, the Buddha, Ma