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首页 » 英文宗教小说 » The Varieties of Religious Experience 宗教经验种种 » Lectures VI THE SICK SOUL
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At our last meeting, we considered the healthy-minded temperament, the temperament which hasconstitutional incapacity for prolonged suffering, and in which the tendency to see thingso(a) ptimistically is like a water of crystallization in which the individual's character is set. We sawhow this temperament may become the basis for a peculiar type of religion, a religion in whichgood, even the good of this world's life, is regarded as the essential thing for a rational being toattend to. This religion directs him to settle his scores with the more evil aspects of the universe bysystematically declining to lay them to heart or make much of them, by ignoring them in hisreflective calculations, or even, on occasion, by denying outright that they exist. Evil is a disease;and worry over disease is itself an additional form of disease, which only adds to the originalcomplaint. Even repentance and remorse, affections which come in the character of ministers ofgood, may be but sickly and relaxing impulses. The best repentance is to up and act forrighteousness, and forget that you ever had relations with sin.

Spinoza's philosophy has this sort of healthy-mindedness woven into the heart of it, and this hasbeen one secret of its fascination. He whom Reason leads, according to Spinoza, is led altogetherby the influence over his mind of good. Knowledge of evil is an "inadequate" knowledge, fit onlyfor slavish minds. So Spinoza categorically condemns repentance. When men make mistakes, hesays-"One might perhaps expect gnawings of conscience and repentance to help to bring them on theright path, and might thereupon conclude (as every one does conclude) that these affections aregood things. Yet when we look at the matter closely, we shall find that not only are they not good,but on the contrary deleterious and evil passions. For it is manifest that we can always get alongbetter by reason and love of truth than by worry of conscience and remorse. Harmful are these andevil, inasmuch as they form a particular kind of sadness; and the disadvantages of sadness," hecontinues, "I have already proved, and shown that we should strive to keep it from our life. Just sowe should endeavor, since uneasiness of conscience and remorse are of this kind of complexion, toflee and shun these states of mind."[66]

[66] Tract on God, Man, and Happiness, Book ii. ch. x.

Within the Christian body, for which repentance of sins has from the beginning been the criticalreligious act, healthy-mindedness has always come forward with its milder interpretation.

Repentance according to such healthy-minded Christians means GETTING AWAY FROM thesin, not groaning and writhing over its commission. The Catholic practice of confession andabsolution is in one of its aspects little more than a systematic method of keeping healthymindednesson top. By it a man's accounts with evil are periodically squared and audited, so thathe may start the clean page with no old debts inscribed. Any Catholic will tell us how clean andfresh and free he feels after the purging operation. Martin Luther by no means belonged to thehealthy-minded type in the radical sense in which we have discussed it, and he repudiated priestlyabsolution for sin. Yet in this matter of repentance he had some very healthy-minded ideas, due inthe main to the largeness of his conception of God.

"When I was a monk," he says "I thought that I was utterly cast away, if at any time I felt the lustof the flesh: that is to say, if I felt any evil motion, fleshly lust, wrath, hatred, or envy against anybrother. I assayed many ways to help to quiet my conscience, but It would not be; for theconcupiscence and lust of my flesh did always return, so that I could not rest, but was continuallyvexed with these thoughts: This or that sin thou hast committed: thou art infected with envy, withimpatiency, and such other sins: therefore thou art entered into this holy order in vain, and all thygood works are unprofitable. But if then I had rightly understood these sentences of Paul: 'Theflesh lusteth contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit contrary to the flesh; and these two are oneagainst another, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would do,' I should not have so miserablytormented myself, but should have thought and said to myself, as now commonly I do, 'Martin,thou shalt not utterly be without sin, for thou hast flesh; thou shalt therefore feel the battle thereof.'

I remember that Staupitz was wont to say, 'I have vowed unto God above a thousand times that Iwould become a better man: but I never performed that which I vowed. Hereafter I will make nosuch vow: for I have now learned by experience that I am not able to perform it. Unless, therefore,God be favorable and merciful unto me for Christ's sake, I shall not be able, with all my vows andall my good deeds, to stand before him.' This (of Staupitz's) was not only a true, but also a godlyand a holy desperation; and this must they all confess, both with mouth and heart, who will besaved. For the godly trust not to their own righteousness. They look unto Christ their reconcilerwho gave his life for their sins. Moreover, they know that the remnant of sin which is in their fleshis not laid to their charge, but freely pardoned. Notwithstanding, in the mean while they fight inspirit against the flesh, lest they should FULFILL the lusts thereof; and although they feel the fleshto rage and rebel, and themselves also do fall sometimes into sin through infirmity, yet are they notdiscouraged, nor think therefore that their state and kind of life, and the works which are doneaccording to their calling, displease God; but they raise up themselves by faith."[67]

[67] Commentary on Galatians, Philadelphia, 1891, pp. 510-514 (abridged).

One of the heresies for which the Jesuits got that spiritual genius, Molinos, the founder ofQuietism, so abominably condemned was his healthy-minded opinion of repentance:- "When thou fallest into a fault, in what matter soever it be do not trouble nor afflict thyself for it.

For they are effects of our frail Nature, stained by Original Sin. The common enemy will makethee believe, as soon as thou fallest into any fault, that thou walkest in error, and therefore art outof God and his favor, and herewith would he make thee distrust of the divine Grace, telling thee ofthy misery, and making a giant of it; and putting it into thy head that every day thy soul growsworse instead of better, whilst it so often repeats these failings. O blessed Soul, open thine eyes;and shut the gate against these diabolical suggestions, knowing thy misery, and trusting in themercy divine. Would not he be a mere fool who, running at tournament with others, and falling inthe best of the career, should lie weeping on the ground and afflicting himself with discourses uponhis fall? Man (they would tell him), lose no time, get up and take the course again, for he that risesagain quickly and continues his race is as if he had never fallen. If thou seest thyself fallen onceand a thousand times, thou oughtest to make use of the remedy which I have given thee, that is, aloving confidence in the divine mercy. These are the weapons with which thou must fight andconquer cowardice and vain thoughts. This is the means thou oughtest to use--not to lose time, notto disturb thyself, and reap no good."[68]

[68] Molinos: Spiritual Guide, Book II., chaps. xvii., xviii. abridged.

Now in contrast with such healthy-minded views as these, if we treat them as a way ofdeliberately minimizing evil, stands a radically opposite view, a way of maximizing evil, if youplease so to call it, based on the persuasion that the evil aspects of our life are of its very essence,and that the world's meaning most comes home to us when we lay them most to heart. We havenow to address ourselves to this <129> more morbid way of looking at the situation. But as Iclosed our last hour with a general philosophical reflection on the healthy-minded way of takinglife, I should like at this point to make another philosophical reflection upon it before turning tothat heavier task. You will excuse the brief delay.

If we admit that evil is an essential part of our being and the key to the interpretation of our life,we load ourselves down with a difficulty that has always proved burdensome in philosophies ofreligion. Theism, whenever it has erected itself into a systematic philosophy of the universe, hasshown a reluctance to let God be anything less than All-in-All. In other words, philosophic theismhas always shown a tendency to become pantheistic and monistic, and to consider the world as oneunit of absolute fact; and this has been at variance with popular or practical theism, which latterhas ever been more or less frankly pluralistic, not to say polytheistic, and shown itself perfectlywell satisfied with a universe composed of many original principles, provided we be only allowedto believe that the divine principle remains supreme, and that the others are subordinate. In thislatter case God is not necessarily responsible for the existence of evil; he would only beresponsible if it were not finally overcome. But on the monistic or pantheistic view, evil, likeeverything else, must have its foundation in God; and the difficulty is to see how this can possiblybe the case if God be absolutely good. This difficulty faces us in every form of philosophy inwhich the world appears as one flawless unit of fact. Such a unit is an INDIVIDUAL, and in it theworst parts must be as essential as the best, must be as necessary to make the individual what he is;since if any part whatever in an individual were to vanish or alter, it would no longer be THATindividual at all. The philosophy of absolute idealism, so vigorously represented both in Scotland and America to-day, has to struggle with this difficulty quite as <130> much as scholastic theismstruggled in its time; and although it would be premature to say that there is no speculative issuewhatever from the puzzle, it is perfectly fair to say that there is no clear or easy issue, and that theonly OBVIOUS escape from paradox here is to cut loose from the monistic assumption altogether,and to allow the world to have existed from its origin in pluralistic form, as an aggregate orcollection of higher and lower things and principles, rather than an absolutely unitary fact. For thenevil would not need to be essential; it might be, and may always have been, an independent portionthat had no rational or absolute right to live with the rest, and which we might conceivably hope tosee got rid of at last.

Now the gospel of healthy-mindedness, as we have described it, casts its vote distinctly for thispluralistic view. Whereas the monistic philosopher finds himself more or less bound to say, asHegel said, that everything actual is rational, and that evil, as an element dialectically required,must be pinned in and kept and consecrated and have a function awarded to it in the final system oftruth, healthy-mindedness refuses to say anything of the sort.[69] Evil, it says, is emphaticallyirrational, and NOT to be pinned in, or preserved, or consecrated in any final system of truth. It is apure abomination to the Lord, an alien unreality, a waste element, to be sloughed off and negated,and the very memory of it, if possible, wiped out and forgotten. The ideal, so far from being coextensivewith the whole actual, is a mere EXTRACT from the actual, marked by its deliverancefrom all contact with this diseased, inferior, and excrementitious stuff.

[69] I say this in spite of the monistic utterances of many mind-cure writers; for these utterancesare really inconsistent with their attitude towards disease, and can easily be shown not to belogically involved in the experiences of union with a higher Presence with which they connectthemselves. The higher Presence, namely, need not be the absolute whole of things, it is quitesufficient for the life of religious experience to regard it as a part, if only it be the most ideal part.

Here we have the interesting notion fairly and squarely presented to us, of there being elementsof the universe which may make no rational whole in conjunction with the other elements, andwhich, from the point of view of any system which those other elements make up, can only beconsidered so much irrelevance and accident--so much "dirt," as it were, and matter out of place. Iask you now not to forget this notion; for although most philosophers seem either to forget it or todisdain it too much ever to mention it, I believe that we shall have to admit it ourselves in the endas containing an element of truth. The mind-cure gospel thus once more appears to us as havingdignity and importance. We have seen it to be a genuine religion, and no mere silly appeal toimagination to cure disease; we have seen its method of experimental verification to be not unlikethe method of all science; and now here we find mind-cure as the champion of a perfectly definiteconception of the metaphysical structure of the world. I hope that, in view of all this, you will notregret my having pressed it upon your attention at such length.

Let us now say good-by for a while to all this way of thinking, and turn towards those personswho cannot so swiftly throw off the burden of the consciousness of evil, but are congenitally fatedto suffer from its presence. Just as we saw that in healthy-mindedness there are shallower andprofounder levels, happiness like that of the mere animal, and more regenerate sorts of happiness,so also are there different levels of the morbid mind, and the one is much more formidable than the other. There are people for whom evil means only a mal-adjustment with THINGS, a wrongcorrespondence of one's life with the environment. Such evil as this is curable, in principle at least,upon the natural plane, for merely by modifying either the self or the things, or both at once, thetwo terms may be made to fit, and all go merry as a marriage bell again. But there are others forwhom evil is no mere relation of the subject to particular outer things, but something more radicaland general, a wrongness or vice in his essential nature, which no alteration of the environment, orany superficial rearrangement of the inner self, can cure, and which requires a supernaturalremedy. On the whole, the Latin races have leaned more towards the former way of looking uponevil, as made up of ills and sins in the plural, removable in detail; while the Germanic races havetended rather to think of Sin in the singular, and with a capital S, as of something ineradicablyingrained in our natural subjectivity, and never to be removed by any superficial piecemealoperations.[70] These comparisons of races are always open to exception, but undoubtedly thenorthern tone in religion has inclined to the more intimately pessimistic persuasion, and this wayof feeling, being the more extreme, we shall find by far the more instructive for our study.

[70] Cf. J. Milsand: Luther et le Serf-Arbitre, 1884, passim.

Recent psychology has found great use for the word "threshold" as a symbolic designation forthe point at which one state of mind passes into another. Thus we speak of the threshold of a man'sconsciousness in general, to indicate the amount of noise, pressure, or other outer stimulus which ittakes to arouse his attention at all. One with a high threshold will doze through an amount of racketby which one with a low threshold would be immediately waked. Similarly, when one is sensitiveto small differences in any order of sensation, we say he has a low "difference-threshold"--hismind easily steps over it into the consciousness of the differences in question. And just so wemight speak of a "pain-threshold," a "fear-threshold," a "misery-threshold," and find it quicklyoverpassed by the consciousness of some individuals, but lying too high in others to be oftenreached by their consciousness. The sanguine and healthy-minded live habitually on the sunny sideof their misery-line, the depressed and melancholy live beyond it, in darkness and apprehension.

There are men who seem to have started in life with a bottle or two of champagne inscribed to theircredit; whilst others seem to have been born close to the pain-threshold, which the slightestirritants fatally send them over.

Does it not appear as if one who lived more habitually on one side of the pain-threshold mightneed a different sort of religion from one who habitually lived on the other? This question, of therelativity of different types of religion to different types of need, arises naturally at this point, andwill became a serious problem ere we have done. But before we confront it in general terms, wemust address ourselves to the unpleasant task of hearing what the sick souls, as we may call themin contrast to the healthy-minded, have to say of the secrets of their prison-house, their ownpeculiar form of consciousness. Let us then resolutely turn our backs on the once-born and theirsky-blue optimistic gospel; let us not simply cry out, in spite of all appearances, "Hurrah for theUniverse!--God's in his Heaven, all's right with the world." Let us see rather whether pity, pain,and fear, and the sentiment of human helplessness may not open a profounder view and put intoour hands a more complicated key to the meaning of the situation.

To begin with, how CAN things so insecure as the successful experiences of this world afford astable anchorage? A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain.

In the healthiest and most prosperous existence, how many links of illness, danger, and disasterare always interposed? Unsuspectedly from the bottom of every fountain of pleasure, as the oldpoet said, something bitter rises up: a touch of nausea, a falling dead of the delight, a whiff ofmelancholy, things that sound a knell, for fugitive as they may be, they bring a feeling of comingfrom a deeper region and often have an appalling convincingness. The buzz of life ceases at theirtouch as a piano-string stops sounding when the damper falls upon it.

Of course the music can commence again;--and again and again--at intervals. But with this thehealthy-minded consciousness is left with an irremediable sense of precariousness. It is a bell witha crack; it draws its breath on sufferance and by an accident.

Even if we suppose a man so packed with healthy-mindedness as never to have experienced inhis own person any of these sobering intervals, still, if he is a reflecting being, he must generalizeand class his own lot with that of others; and, doing so, he must see that his escape is just a luckychance and no essential difference. He might just as well have been born to an entirely differentfortune. And then indeed the hollow security! What kind of a frame of things is it of which the bestyou can say is, "Thank God, it has let me off clear this time!" Is not its blessedness a fragilefiction? Is not your joy in it a very vulgar glee, not much unlike the snicker of any rogue at hissuccess? If indeed it were all success, even on such terms as that! But take the happiest man, theone most envied by the world, and in nine cases out of ten his inmost consciousness is one offailure. Either his ideals in the line of his achievements are pitched far higher than theachievements themselves, or else he has secret ideals of which the world knows nothing, and inregard to which he inwardly knows himself to be found wanting.

When such a conquering optimist as Goethe can express himself in this wise, how must it bewith less successful men? <135>

"I will say nothing," writes Goethe in 1824, "against the course of my existence. But at bottom ithas been nothing but pain and burden, and I can affirm that during the whole of my 75 years, Ihave not had four weeks of genuine well-being. It is but the perpetual rolling of a rock that must beraised up again forever."What single-handed man was ever on the whole as successful as Luther? Yet when he had grownold, he looked back on his life as if it were an absolute failure.

"I am utterly weary of life. I pray the Lord will come forthwith and carry me hence. Let himcome, above all, with his last Judgment: I will stretch out my neck, the thunder will burst forth,and I shall be at rest."--And having a necklace of white agates in his hand at the time he added: "OGod, grant that it may come without delay. I would readily eat up this necklace to-day, for theJudgment to come to-morrow."--The Electress Dowager, one day when Luther was dining withher, said to him: "Doctor, I wish you may live forty years to come." "Madam," replied he, "ratherthan live forty years more, I would give up my chance of Paradise."Failure, then, failure! so the world stamps us at every turn. We strew it with our blunders, ourmisdeeds, our lost opportunities, with all the memorials of our inadequacy to our vocation. Andwith what a damning emphasis does it then blot us out! No easy fine, no mere apology or formal expiation, will satisfy the world's demands, but every pound of flesh exacted is soaked with all itsblood. The subtlest forms of suffering known to man are connected with the poisonoushumiliations incidental to these results.

And they are pivotal human experiences. A process so ubiquitous and everlasting is evidently anintegral part of life. "There is indeed one element in human destiny," Robert Louis Stevensonwrites, "that not blindness itself can controvert. Whatever else we are intended to do, we are notintended to succeed; failure is the fate allotted."[71] And our nature being thus rooted in failure, isit any wonder that theologians should have held it to be essential, and thought that only through thepersonal experience of humiliation which it engenders the deeper sense of life's significance isreached?[72]

[71] He adds with characteristic healthy-mindedness: "Our business is to continue to fail in goodspirits."[72] The God of many men is little more than their court of appeal against the damnatoryjudgment passed on their failures by the opinion of this world. To our own consciousness there isusually a residuum of worth left over after our sins and errors have been told off--our capacity ofacknowledging and regretting them is the germ of a better self in posse at least. But the world dealswith us in actu and not in posse: and of this hidden germ, not to be guessed at from without, itnever takes account. Then we turn to the All-knower, who knows our bad, but knows this good inus also, and who is just. We cast ourselves with our repentance on his mercy only by an All-knower can we finally be judged. So the need of a God very definitely emerges from this sort ofexperience of life.

But this is only the first stage of the world-sickness. Make the human being's sensitiveness alittle greater, carry him a little farther over the misery-threshold, and the good quality of thesuccessful moments themselves when they occur is spoiled and vitiated. All natural goods perish.

Riches take wings; fame is a breath; love is a cheat; youth and health and pleasure vanish. Canthings whose end is always dust and disappointment be the real goods which our souls require?

Back of everything is the great spectre of universal death, the all-encompassing blackness:-"What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the Sun? I looked on all theworks that my hands had wrought, and behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit. For that whichbefalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; as the one dieth, so dieth the other, all are of the dust,and all turn to dust again. . . . The dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward;for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love and their hatred and their envy is nowperished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in anything that is done under the Sun. . . .

Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the Sun: but if a man livemany years and rejoice in them all, yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall bemany."In short, life and its negation are beaten up inextricably together. But if the life be good, thenegation of it must be bad. Yet the two are equally essential facts of existence; and all naturalhappiness thus seems infected with a contradiction. The breath of the sepulchre surrounds it.

To a mind attentive to this state of things and rightly subject to the joy-destroying chill whichsuch a contemplation engenders, the only relief that healthy-mindedness can give is by saying:

"Stuff and nonsense, get out into the open air!" or "Cheer up, old fellow, you'll be all right erelong,if you will only drop your morbidness!" But in all seriousness, can such bald animal talk as that betreated as a rational answer? To ascribe religious value to mere happy-go-lucky contentment withone's brief chance at natural good is but the very consecration of forgetfulness and superficiality.

Our troubles lie indeed too deep for THAT cure. The fact that we CAN die, that we CAN be ill atall, is what perplexes us; the fact that we now for a moment live and are well is irrelevant to thatperplexity. We need a life not correlated with death, a health not liable to illness, a kind of goodthat will not perish, a good in fact that flies beyond the Goods of nature.

It all depends on how sensitive the soul may become to discords. "The trouble with me is that Ibelieve too much in common happiness and goodness," said a friend of mine whose consciousnesswas of this sort, "and nothing can console me for their transiency. I am appalled and disconcertedat its being possible." And so with most of us: a little cooling down of animal excitability andinstinct, a little loss of animal toughness, a little irritable weakness and descent of the pain-threshold, will bring the worm at the core of all our usual springs of delight into full view, and turnus into melancholy metaphysicians. The pride of life and glory of the world will shrivel. It is afterall but the standing quarrel of hot youth and hoary eld. Old age has the last word: the purelynaturalistic look at life, however enthusiastically it may begin, is sure to end in sadness.

This sadness lies at the heart of every merely positivistic, agnostic, or naturalistic scheme ofphilosophy. Let sanguine healthy-mindedness do its best with its strange power of living in themoment and ignoring and forgetting, still the evil background is really there to be thought of, andthe skull will grin in at the banquet. In the practical life of the individual, we know how his wholegloom or glee about any present fact depends on the remoter schemes and hopes with which itstands related. Its significance and framing give it the chief part of its value. Let it be known tolead nowhere, and however agreeable it may be in its immediacy, its glow and gilding vanish. Theold man, sick with an insidious internal disease, may laugh and quaff his wine at first as well asever, but he knows his fate now, for the doctors have revealed it; and the knowledge knocks thesatisfaction out of all these functions. They are partners of death and the worm is their brother, andthey turn to a mere flatness.

The lustre of the present hour is always borrowed from the background of possibilities it goeswith. Let our common experiences be enveloped in an eternal moral order; let our suffering havean immortal significance; let Heaven smile upon the earth, and deities pay their visits; let faith andhope be the atmosphere which man breathes in;--and his days pass by with zest; they stir withprospects, they thrill with remoter values. Place round them on the contrary the curdling cold andgloom and absence of all permanent meaning which for pure naturalism and the popular scienceevolutionism of our time are all that is visible ultimately, and the thrill stops short, or turns ratherto an anxious trembling.

For naturalism, fed on recent cosmological speculations, mankind is in a position similar to thatof a set of people living on a frozen lake, surrounded by cliffs over which there is no escape, yetknowing that little by little the ice is melting, and the inevitable day drawing near when the lastfilm of it will disappear, and to be drowned ignominiously will be the human creature's portion.

The merrier the skating, the warmer and more sparkling the sun by day, and the ruddier thebonfires at night, the more poignant the sadness with which one must take in the meaning of thetotal situation.

The early Greeks are continually held up to us in literary works as models of the healthy-mindedjoyousness which the religion of nature may engender. There was indeed much joyousness amongthe Greeks--Homer's flow of enthusiasm for most things that the sun shines upon is steady. Buteven in Homer the reflective passages are cheerless,[73] and the moment the Greeks grewsystematically pensive and thought of ultimates, they became unmitigated pessimists.[74] Thejealousy of the gods, the nemesis that follows too much happiness, the all-encompassing death,fate's dark opacity, the ultimate and unintelligible cruelty, were the fixed background of theirimagination. The beautiful joyousness of their polytheism is only a poetic modern fiction. Theyknew no joys comparable in quality of preciousness to those which we shall erelong see thatIlrahmans, Buddhists, Christians, Mohammedans, twice-born people whose religion is non-naturalistic, get from their several creeds of mysticism and renunciation.

[73] E.g., Iliad XVII. 446: "Nothing then is more wretched anywhere than man of all thatbreathes and creeps upon this earth."[74] E.g., Theognis, 425-428: "Best of all for all things upon earth is it not to be born nor tobehold the splendors of the sun; next best to traverse as soon as possible the gates of Hades." Seealso the almost identical passage in Oedipus in Colonus, 1225.--The Anthology is full ofpessimistic utterances: "Naked came I upon the earth, naked I go below the ground--why then do Ivainly toil when I see the end naked before me?"--"How did I come to be? Whence am l?


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