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Lectures VII THE SICK SOUL
  Wherefore did I come? To pass away. How can I learn aught when naught I know? Being naught Icame to life: once more shall I be what I was. Nothing and nothingness is the whole race ofmortals."--"For death we are all cherished and fattened like a herd of hogs that is wantonlybutchered."The difference between Greek pessimism and the oriental and modern variety is that the Greekshad not made the discovery that the pathetic mood may be idealized, and figure as a higher form ofsensibility. Their spirit was still too essentially masculine for pessimism to be elaborated orlengthily dwelt on in their classic literature. They would have despised a life set wholly in a minorkey, and summoned it to keep within the proper bounds of lachrymosity. The discovery that theenduring emphasis, so far as this world goes, may be laid on its pain and failure, was reserved forraces more complex, and (so to speak) more feminine than the Hellenes had attained to being inthe classic period. But all the same was the outlook of those Hellenes blackly pessimistic.

Stoic insensibility and Epicurean resignation were the farthest advance which the Greek mindmade in that direction. The Epicurean said: "Seek not to be happy, but rather to escapeunhappiness; strong happiness is always linked with pain; therefore hug the safe shore, and do nottempt the deeper raptures. Avoid disappointment by expecting little, and by aiming low; and aboveall do not fret." The Stoic said: "The only genuine good that life can yield a man is the freepossession of his own soul; all other goods are lies." Each of these philosophies is in its degree aphilosophy of despair in nature's boons. Trustful self-abandonment to the joys that freely offer hasentirely departed from both Epicurean and Stoic; and what each proposes is a way of rescue from the resultant dust-and-ashes state of mind. The Epicurean still awaits results from economy ofindulgence and damping of desire. The Stoic hopes for no results, and gives up natural goodaltogether. There is dignity in both these forms of resignation. They represent distinct stages in thesobering process which man's primitive intoxication with sense-happiness is sure to undergo. Inthe one the hot blood has grown cool, in the other it has become quite cold; and although I havespoken of them in the past tense, as if they were merely historic, yet Stoicism and Epicureanismwill probably be to all time typical attitudes, marking a certain definite stage accomplished in theevolution of the world-sick soul.[75] They mark the conclusion of what we call the once-bornperiod, and represent the highest flights of what twice-born religion would call the purely naturalman --Epicureanism, which can only by great courtesy be called a religion, showing hisrefinement, and Stoicism exhibiting his moral will. They leave the world in the shape of anunreconciled contradiction, and seek no higher unity. Compared with the complex ecstasies whichthe supernaturally regenerated Christian may enjoy, or the oriental pantheist indulge in, theirreceipts for equanimity are expedients which seem almost crude in their simplicity.

[75] For instance, on the very day on which I write this page, the post brings me some aphorismsfrom a worldly-wise old friend in Heidelberg which may serve as a good contemporaneousexpression of Epicureanism: "By the word 'happiness' every human being understands somethingdifferent. It is a phantom pursued only by weaker minds. The wise man is satisfied with the moremodest but much more definite term CONTENTMENT. What education should chiefly aim at is tosave us from a discontented life. Health is one favoring condition, but by no means anindispensable one, of contentment. Woman's heart and love are a shrewd device of Nature, a trapwhich she sets for the average man, to force him into working. But the wise man will always preferwork chosen by himself."Please observe, however, that I am not yet pretending finally to JUDGE any of these attitudes. Iam only describing their variety. The securest way to the rapturous sorts of happiness of which thetwice-born make report has as an historic matter of fact been through a more radical pessimismthan anything that we have yet considered. We have seen how the lustre and enchantment may berubbed off from the goods of nature. But there is a pitch of unhappiness so great that the goods ofnature may be entirely forgotten, and all sentiment of their existence vanish from the mental field.

For this extremity of pessimism to be reached, something more is needed than observation of lifeand reflection upon death. The individual must in his own person become the prey of apathological melancholy. As the healthy-minded enthusiast succeeds in ignoring evil's veryexistence, so the subject of melancholy is forced in spite of himself to ignore that of all goodwhatever: for him it may no longer have the least reality. Such sensitiveness and susceptibility tomental pain is a rare occurrence where the nervous constitution is entirely normal; one seldomfinds it in a healthy subject even where he is the victim of the most atrocious cruelties of outwardfortune. So we note here the neurotic constitution, of which I said so much in my first lecture,making its active entrance on our scene, and destined to play a part in much that follows. Sincethese experiences of melancholy are in the first instance absolutely private and individual, I cannow help myself out with personal documents. Painful indeed they will be to listen to, and there isalmost an indecency in handling them in public. Yet they lie right in the middle of our path; and if we are to touch the psychology of religion at all seriously, we must be willing to forgetconventionalities, and dive below the smooth and lying official conversational surface.

One can distinguish many kinds of pathological depression. Sometimes it is mere passivejoylessness and dreariness. discouragement, dejection, lack of taste and zest and spring. <143>

Professor Ribot has proposed the name anhedonia to designate this condition.

"The state of anhedonia, if I may coin a new word to pair off with analgesia," he writes, "hasbeen very little studied, but it exists. A young girl was smitten with a liver disease which for sometime altered her constitution. She felt no longer any affection for her father and mother. She wouldhave played with her doll, but it was impossible to find the least pleasure in the act. The samethings which formerly convulsed her with laughter entirely failed to interest her now. Esquirolobserved the case of a very intelligent magistrate who was also a prey to hepatic disease. Everyemotion appeared dead within him. He manifested neither perversion nor violence, but completeabsence of emotional reaction. If he went to the theatre, which he did out of habit, he could find nopleasure there. The thought of his house of his home, of his wife, and of his absent children movedhim as little, he said, as a theorem of Euclid."[76]

[76] Ribot: Psychologie des sentiments, p. 54.

Prolonged seasickness will in most persons produce a temporary condition of anhedonia. Everygood, terrestrial or celestial, is imagined only to be turned from with disgust. A temporarycondition of this sort, connected with the religious evolution of a singularly lofty character, bothintellectual and moral, is well described by the Catholic philosopher, Father Gratry, in hisautobiographical recollections. In consequence of mental isolation and excessive study at thePolytechnic school, young Gratry fell into a state of nervous exhaustion with symptoms which hethus describes:-"I had such a universal terror that I woke at night with a start, thinking that the Pantheon wastumbling on the Polytechnic school, or that the school was in flames, or that the Seine was pouringinto the Catacombs, and that Paris was being swallowed up. And when these impressions werepast, all day long without respite I suffered an incurable and intolerable desolation, verging ondespair. I thought myself, in fact, rejected by God, lost, damned! I felt something like the sufferingof hell. Before that I had never even thought of hell. My mind had never turned in that direction.

Neither discourses nor reflections had impressed me in that way. I took no account of hell. Now,and all at once, I suffered in a measure what is suffered there.

"But what was perhaps still more dreadful is that every idea of heaven was taken away from me:

I could no longer conceive of anything of the sort. Heaven did not seem to me worth going to. Itwas like a vacuum; a mythological elysium, an abode of shadows less real than the earth. I couldconceive no joy, no pleasure in inhabiting it. Happiness, joy, light, affection, love-- all these wordswere now devoid of sense. Without doubt I could still have talked of all these things, but I hadbecome incapable of feeling anything in them, of understanding anything about them, of hopinganything from them, or of believing them to exist. There was my great and inconsolable grief! Ineither perceived nor conceived any longer the existence of happiness or perfection. An abstractheaven over a naked rock. Such was my present abode for eternity."[77]

[77] A. Gratry: Souvenirs de ma jeunesse, 1880, pp. 119-121, abridged. Some persons areaffected with anhedonia permanently, or at any rate with a loss of the usual appetite for life. Theannals of suicide supply such examples as the following:-Anuneducated domestic servant, aged nineteen, poisons herself, and leaves two lettersexpressing her motive for the act. To her parents she writes:-"Life is sweet perhaps to some, but I prefer what is sweeter than life, and that is death. So good-by forever, my dear parents. It is nobody's fault, but a strong desire of my own which I havelonged to fulfill for three or four years. I have always had a hope that some day I might have anopportunity of fulfilling it, and now it has come. . . . It is a wonder I have put this off so long, but Ithought perhaps I should cheer up a bit and put all thought out of my head." To her brother shewrites: "Good-by forever, my own dearest brother. By the time you get this I shall be gone forever.

I know, dear love, there is no forgiveness for what I am going to do. . . . I am tired of living, so amwilling to die. . . . Life may be sweet to some, but death to me is sweeter." S. A. K. Strahan:

Suicide and Insanity, 2d edition, London, 1894, p. 131.

So much for melancholy in the sense of incapacity for joyous feeling. A much worse form of it ispositive and active anguish, a sort of psychical neuralgia wholly unknown to healthy life. Suchanguish may partake of various characters, having sometimes more the quality of loathing;sometimes that of irritation and exasperation; or again of self-mistrust and self-despair; or ofsuspicion, anxiety, trepidation, fear. The patient may rebel or submit; may accuse himself, oraccuse outside powers; and he may or he may not be tormented by the theoretical mystery of whyhe should so have to suffer. Most cases are mixed cases, and we should not treat our classificationswith too much respect. Moreover, it is only a relatively small proportion of cases that connectthemselves with the religious sphere of experience at all. Exasperated cases, for instance, as a ruledo not. I quote now literally from the first case of melancholy on which I lay my hand. It is a letterfrom a patient in a French asylum.

"I suffer too much in this hospital, both physically and morally. Besides the burnings and thesleeplessness (for I no longer sleep since I am shut up here, and the little rest I get is broken by baddreams, and I am waked with a jump by night mares dreadful visions, lightning, thunder, and therest), fear, atrocious fear, presses me down, holds me without respite, never lets me go. Where isthe justice in it all! What have I done to deserve this excess of severity? Under what form will thisfear crush me? What would I not owe to any one who would rid me of my life! Eat, drink, lieawake all night, suffer without interruption--such is the fine legacy I have received from mymother! What I fail to understand is this abuse of power. There are limits to everything, there is amiddle way. But God knows neither middle way nor limits. I say God, but why? All I have knownso far has been the devil. After all, I am afraid of God as much as of the devil, so I drift along,thinking of nothing but suicide, but with neither courage nor means here to execute the act. As youread this, it will easily prove to you my insanity. The style and the ideas are incoherent enough--Ican see that myself. But I cannot keep myself from being either crazy or an idiot; and, as thingsare, from whom should I ask pity? I am defenseless against the invisible enemy who is tighteninghis coils around me. I should be no better armed against him even if I saw him, or had seen him.

Oh, if he would but kill me, devil take him! Death, death, once for all! But I stop. I have raved to you long enough. I say raved, for I can write no otherwise, having neither brain nor thoughts left.

O God! what a misfortune to be born! Born like a mushroom, doubtless between an evening and amorning; and how true and right I was when in our philosophy-year in college I chewed the cud ofbitterness with the pessimists. Yes, indeed, there is more pain in life than gladness--it is one longagony until the grave. Think how gay it makes me to remember that this horrible misery of mine,coupled with this unspeakable fear, may last fifty, one hundred, who knows how many moreyears!"[78]

[78] Roubinovitch et Toulouse: La Melancolie, 1897, p. 170, abridged.

This letter shows two things. First, you see how the entire consciousness of the poor man is sochoked with the feeling of evil that the sense of there being any good in the world is lost for himaltogether. His attention excludes it, cannot admit it: the sun has left his heaven. And secondly yousee how the querulous temper of his misery keeps his mind from taking a religious direction.

Querulousness of mind tends in fact rather towards irreligion; and it has played, so far as I know,no part whatever in the construction of religious systems.

Religious melancholy must be cast in a more melting mood. Tolstoy has left us, in his bookcalled My Confession, a wonderful account of the attack of melancholy which led him to his ownreligious conclusions. The latter in some respects are peculiar; but the melancholy presents twocharacters which make it a typical document for our present purpose. First it is a well-marked caseof anhedonia, of passive loss of appetite for all life's values; and second, it shows how the alteredand estranged aspect which the world assumed in consequence of this stimulated Tolstoy's intellectto a gnawing, carking questioning and effort for philosophic relief. I mean to quote Tolstoy atsome length; but before doing so, I will make a general remark on each of these two points.

First on our spiritual judgments and the sense of value in general.

It is notorious that facts are compatible with opposite emotional comments, since the same factwill inspire entirely different feelings in different persons, and at different times in the sameperson; and there is no rationally deducible connection between any outer fact and the sentiments itmay happen to provoke. These have their source in another sphere of existence altogether, in theanimal and spiritual region of the subject's being. Conceive yourself, if possible, suddenly strippedof all the emotion with which your world now inspires you, and try to imagine it AS IT EXISTS,purely by itself, without your favorable or unfavorable, hopeful or apprehensive comment. It willbe almost impossible for you to realize such a condition of negativity and deadness. No oneportion of the universe would then have importance beyond another; and the whole collection of itsthings and series of its events would be without significance, character, expression, or perspective.

Whatever of value, interest, or meaning our respective worlds may appear endued with are thuspure gifts of the spectator's mind. The passion of love is the most familiar and extreme example ofthis fact. If it comes, it comes; if it does not <148> come, no process of reasoning can force it. Yetit transforms the value of the creature loved as utterly as the sunrise transforms Mont Blanc from acorpse-like gray to a rosy enchantment; and it sets the whole world to a new tune for the lover andgives a new issue to his life. So with fear, with indignation, jealousy, ambition, worship. If they arethere, life changes. And whether they shall be there or not depends almost always upon nonlogical,often on organic conditions. And as the excited interest which these passions put into the world is our gift to the world, just so are the passions themselves GIFTS--gifts to us, from sourcessometimes low and sometimes high; but almost always nonlogical and beyond our control. Howcan the moribund old man reason back to himself the romance, the mystery, the imminence ofgreat things with which our old earth tingled for him in the days when he was young and well?

Gifts, either of the flesh or of the spirit; and the spirit bloweth where it listeth; and the world'smaterials lend their surface passively to all the gifts alike, as the stage-setting receives indifferentlywhatever alternating colored lights may be shed upon it from the optical apparatus in the gallery.

Meanwhile the practically real world for each one of us, the effective world of the individual, isthe compound world, the physical facts and emotional values in indistinguishable combination.

Withdraw or pervert either factor of this complex resultant, and the kind of experience we callpathological ensues.

In Tolstoy's case the sense that life had any meaning whatever was for a time wholly withdrawn.

The result was a transformation in the whole expression of reality. When we come to study thephenomenon of conversion or religious regeneration, we shall see that a not infrequentconsequence of the change operated in the subject is a transfiguration of the face of nature in hiseyes. A new heaven seems to shine upon a new earth. In melancholiacs there is usually a similarchange, only it is in the reverse direction. The world now looks remote, strange, sinister, uncanny.

Its color is gone, its breath is cold, there is no speculation in the eyes it glares with. "It is as if Ilived in another century," says one asylum patient.--"I see everything through a cloud," saysanother, "things are not as they were, and I am changed."--"I see," says a third, "I touch, but thethings do not come near me, a thick veil alters the hue and look of everything."--"Persons movelike shadows, and sounds seem to come from a distant world."--"There is no longer any past forme; people appear so strange; it is as if I could not see any reality, as if I were in a theatre; as ifpeople were actors, and everything were scenery; I can no longer find myself; I walk, but why?

Everything floats before my eyes, but leaves no impression."--"I weep false tears, I have unrealhands: the things I see are not real things."--Such are expressions that naturally rise to the lips ofmelancholy subjects describing their changed state.[79]

[79] I cull these examples from the work of G. Dumas: La Tristesse et la Joie, 1900.

Now there are some subjects whom all this leaves a prey to the profoundest astonishment. Thestrangeness is wrong. The unreality cannot be. A mystery is concealed, and a metaphysicalsolution must exist. If the natural world is so double-faced and unhomelike, what world, whatthing is real? An urgent wondering and questioning is set up, a poring theoretic activity, and in thedesperate effort to get into right relations with the matter, the sufferer is often led to what becomesfor him a satisfying religious solution.

At about the age of fifty, Tolstoy relates that he began to have moments of perplexity, of what hecalls arrest, as if he knew not "how to live," or what to do. It is obvious that these were moments inwhich the excitement and interest which our functions naturally bring had ceased. Life had beenenchanting, it was now flat sober, more than <150> sober, dead. Things were meaningless whosemeaning had always been self-evident. The questions "Why?" and "What next?" began to besethim more and more frequently. At first it seemed as if such questions must be answerable, and as ifhe could easily find the answers if he would take the time; but as they ever became more urgent, he perceived that it was like those first discomforts of a sick man, to which he pays but little attentiontill they run into one continuous suffering, and then he realizes that what he took for a passingdisorder means the most momentous thing in the world for him, means his death.

These questions "Why?" "Wherefore?" "What for?" found no response.

"I felt," says Tolstoy, "that something had broken within me on which my life had always rested,that I had nothing left to hold on to, and that morally my life had stopped. An invincible forceimpelled me to get rid of my existence, in one way or another. It cannot be said exactly that IWISHED to kill myself, for the force which drew me away from life was fuller, more powerful,more general than any mere desire. It was a force like my old aspiration to live, only it impelledme in the opposite direction. It was an aspiration of my whole being to get out of life.

"Behold me then, a man happy and in good health, hiding the rope in order not to hang myself tothe rafters of the room where every night I went to sleep alone; behold me no longer goingshooting, lest I should yield to the too easy temptation of putting an end to myself with my gun.

"I did not know what I wanted. I was afraid of life; I was driven to leave it; and in spite of that Istill hoped something from it.

"All this took place at a time when so far as all my outer circumstances went, I ought to havebeen completely happy. I had a good wife who loved me and whom I loved; good children and alarge property which was increasing with no pains taken on my part. I was more respected by mykinsfolk and acquaintance than I had ever been; I was loaded with praise by strangers; and withoutexaggeration I could believe my name already famous. Moreover I was neither insane nor ill. Onthe contrary, I possessed a physical and mental strength which I have rarely met in persons of myage. I could mow as well as the peasants, I could work with my brain eight hours uninterruptedlyand feel no bad effects.

"And yet I could give no reasonable meaning to any actions of my life. And I was surprised that Ihad not understood this from the very beginning. My state of mind was as if some wicked andstupid jest was being played upon me by some one. One can live only so long as one is intoxicated,drunk with life; but when one grows sober one cannot fail to see that it is all a stupid cheat.

What is truest about it is that there is nothing even funny or silly in it; it is cruel and stupid,purely and simply.

"The oriental fable of the traveler surprised in the desert by a wild beast is very old.

"Seeking to save himself from the fierce animal, the traveler jumps into a well with no water init; but at the bottom of this well he sees a dragon waiting with open mouth to devour him. And theunhappy man, not daring to go out lest he should be the prey of the beast, not daring to jump to thebottom lest he should be devoured by the dragon, clings to the branches of a wild bush whichgrows out of one of the cracks of the well. His hands weaken, and he feels that he must soon giveway to certain fate; but still he clings, and see two mice, one white, the other black, evenly movinground the bush to which he hangs, and gnawing off its roots"The traveler sees this and knows that he must inevitably perish; but while thus hanging he looksabout him and finds on the leaves of the bush some drops of honey. These he reaches with histongue and licks them off with rapture.

"Thus I hang upon the boughs of life, knowing that the inevitable dragon of death is waitingready to tear me, and I cannot comprehend why I am thus made a martyr. I try to suck the honeywhich formerly consoled me; but the honey pleases me no longer, and day and night the whitemouse and the black mouse gnaw the branch to which I cling. I can see but one thing: theinevitable dragon and the mice--I cannot turn my gaze away from them.

"This is no fable, but the literal incontestable truth which every one may understand. What willbe the outcome of what I do to-day? Of what I shall do to-morrow? What will be the outcome ofall my life? Why should I live? Why should I do anything? Is there in life any purpose which theinevitable death which awaits me does not undo and destroy?

"These questions are the simplest in the world. From the stupid child to the wisest old man, theyare in the soul of every human being. Without an answer to them, it is impossible, as Iexperienced, for life to go on.

"'But perhaps,' I often said to myself, 'there may be something I have failed to notice or tocomprehend. It is not possible that this condition of despair should be natural to mankind.' And Isought for an explanation in all the branches of knowledge acquired by men. I questioned painfullyand protractedly and with no idle curiosity. I sought, not with indolence, but laboriously andobstinately for days and nights together. I sought like a man who is lost and seeks to save himself-andI found nothing. I became convinced, moreover, that all those who before me had sought foran answer in the sciences have also found nothing. And not only this, but that they have recognizedthat the very thing which was leading me to despair--the meaningless absurdity of life--is the onlyincontestable knowledge accessible to man."To prove this point, Tolstoy quotes the Buddha, Solomon, and Schopenhauer. And he finds onlyfour ways in which men of his own class and society are accustomed to meet the situation. Eithermere animal blindness, sucking the honey without seeing the dragon or the mice--"and from such away," he says, "I can learn nothing, after what I now know;" or reflective epicureanism, snatchingwhat it can while the day lasts--which is only a more deliberate sort of stupefaction than the first;or manly suicide; or seeing the mice and dragon and yet weakly and plaintively clinging to thebush of life. Suicide was naturally the consistent course dictated by the logical intellect.

"Yet," says Tolstoy, "whilst my intellect was working, something else in me was working too,and kept me from the deed--a consciousness of life, as I may call it, which was like a force thatobliged my mind to fix itself in another direction and draw me out of my situation of despair. . . .

During the whole course of this year, when I almost unceasingly kept asking myself how to endthe business, whether by the rope or by the bullet, during all that time, alongside of all thosemovements of my ideas and observations, my heart kept languishing with another pining emotion.

I can call this by no other name than that of a thirst for God. This craving for God had nothing todo with the movement of my ideas--in fact, it was the direct contrary of that movement--but itcame from my heart. It was like a feeling of dread that made me seem like an orphan and isolatedin the midst of all these things that were so foreign. And this feeling of dread was mitigated by thehope of finding the assistance of some one."[80]

[80] My extracts are from the French translation by "Zonia." In abridging I have taken the libertyof transposing one passage.

Of the process, intellectual as well as emotional, which, starting from this idea of God, led toTolstoy's recovery, I will say nothing in this lecture, reserving it for a later hour. The only thingthat need interest us now is the phenomenon of his absolute disenchantment with ordinary life, andthe fact that the whole range of habitual values may, to a man as powerful and full of faculty as hewas, come to appear so ghastly a mockery.

When disillusionment has gone as far as this, there is seldom a restitutio ad integrum. One hastasted of the fruit of the tree, and the happiness of Eden never comes again. The happiness thatcomes, when any does come--and often enough it fails to return in an acute form, though its formis sometimes very acute--is not the simple, ignorance of ill, but something vastly more complex,including natural evil as one of its elements, but finding natural evil no such stumbling-block andterror because it now sees it swallowed up in supernatural good. The process is one of redemption,not of mere reversion to natural health, and the sufferer, when saved, is saved by what seems tohim a second birth, a deeper kind of conscious being than he could enjoy before.

We find a somewhat different type of religious melancholy enshrined in literature in JohnBunyan's autobiography. Tolstoy's preoccupations were largely objective, for the purpose andmeaning of life in general was what so troubled him; but poor Bunyan's troubles were over thecondition of his own personal self. He was a typical case of the psychopathic temperament,sensitive of conscience to a diseased degree, beset by doubts, fears and insistent ideas, and a victimof verbal automatisms, both motor and sensory. These were usually texts of Scripture which,sometimes damnatory and sometimes favorable, would come in a half-hallucinatory form as ifthey were voices, and fasten on his mind and buffet it between them like a shuttlecock. Added tothis were a fearful melancholy self-contempt and despair.

"Nay, thought I, now I grow worse and worse, now I am farther from conversion than ever I wasbefore. If now I should have burned at the stake, I could not believe that Christ had love for me;alas, I could neither hear him, nor see him, nor feel him, nor savor any of his things. Sometimes Iwould tell my condition to the people of God, which, when they heard, they would pity me, andwould tell of the Promises. But they had as good have told me that I must reach the Sun with myfinger as have bidden me receive or rely upon the Promise. [Yet] all this while as to the act ofsinning, I never was more tender than now; I durst not take a pin or stick, though but so big as astraw, for my conscience now was sore, and would smart at every touch; I could not tell how tospeak my words, for fear I should misplace them. Oh, how gingerly did I then go, in all I did orsaid! I found myself as on a miry bog that shook if I did but stir; and was as there left both by Godand Christ, and the spirit, and all good things.

"But my original and inward pollution, that was my plague and my affliction. By reason of that, Iwas more loathsome in my own eyes than was a toad; and I thought I was so in God's eyes too. Sinand corruption, I said, would as naturally bubble out of my heart as water would bubble out of afountain. I could have changed heart with anybody. I thought none but the Devil himself couldequal me for inward wickedness and pollution of mind. Sure, thought I, I am forsaken of God; andthus I continued a long while, even for some years together.

"And now I was sorry that God had made me a man. The beasts, birds, fishes, etc., I blessed theircondition, for they had not a sinful nature; they were not obnoxious to the wrath of God; they were not to go to hell-fire after death. I could therefore have rejoiced, had my condition been as any oftheirs. Now I blessed the condition of the dog and toad, yea, gladly would I have been in thecondition of the dog or horse, for I knew they had no soul to perish under the everlasting weight ofHell or Sin, as mine was like to do. Nay, and though I saw this, felt this, and was broken to pieceswith it, yet that which added to my sorrow was, that I could not find with all my soul that I diddesire deliverance. My heart was at times exceedingly hard. If I would have given a thousandpounds for a tear, I could not shed one; no, nor sometimes scarce desire to shed one.

"I was both a burthen and a terror to myself; nor did I ever so know, as now, what it was to beweary of my life, and yet afraid to die. How gladly would I have been anything but myself!

Anything but a man! and in any condition but my own."[81]

[81] Grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners: I have printed a number of detached passagescontinuously.

Poor patient Bunyan, like Tolstoy, saw the light again, but we must also postpone that part of hisstory to another hour. In a later lecture I will also give the end of the experience of Henry Alline, adevoted evangelist who worked in Nova Scotia a hundred years ago, and who thus vividlydescribes the high-water mark of the religious melancholy which formed its beginning. The typewas not unlike Bunyan's.

"Everything I saw seemed to be a burden to me; the earth seemed accursed for my sake: all trees,plants, rocks, hills, and vales seemed to be dressed in mourning and groaning, under the weight ofthe curse, and everything around me seemed to be conspiring my ruin. My sins seemed to be laidopen; so that I thought that every one I saw knew them, and sometimes I was almost ready toacknowledge many things, which I thought they knew: yea sometimes it seemed to me as if everyone was pointing me out as the most guilty wretch upon earth. I had now so great a sense of thevanity and emptiness of all things here below, that I knew the whole world could not possiblymake me happy, no, nor the whole system of creation. When I waked in the morning, the firstthought would be, Oh, my wretched soul, what shall I do, where shall I go? And when I laid down,would say, I shall be perhaps in hell before morning. I would many times look on the beasts withenvy, wishing with all my heart I was in their place, that I might have no soul to lose; and when Ihave seen birds flying over my head, have often thought within myself, Oh, that I could fly awayfrom my danger and distress! Oh, how happy should I be, if I were in their place!"[82]

[82] The Life and Journal of the Rev. Mr. Henry Alline, Boston 1806, pp. 25, 26. I owe myacquaintance with this book to my colleague, Dr. Benjamin Rand.

Envy of the placid beasts seems to be a very widespread affection in this type of sadness.

The worst kind of melancholy is that which takes the form of panic fear. Here is an excellentexample, for permission to print which I have to thank the sufferer. The original is in French, andthough the subject was evidently in a bad nervous condition at the time of which he writes, his casehas otherwise the merit of extreme simplicity. I translate freely.

"Whilst in this state of philosophic pessimism and general depression of spirits about myprospects, I went one evening into a dressing-room in the twilight to procure some article that was there; when suddenly there fell upon me without any warning, just as if it came out of thedarkness, a horrible fear of my own existence. Simultaneously there arose in my mind the image ofan epileptic patient whom I had seen in the asylum, a black-haired youth with greenish skin,entirely idiotic, who used to sit all day on one of the benches, or rather shelves against the wall,with his knees drawn up against his chin, and the coarse gray undershirt, which was his onlygarment, drawn over them inclosing his entire figure. He sat there like a sort of sculpturedEgyptian cat or Peruvian mummy, moving nothing but his black eyes and looking absolutely nonhuman.

This image and my fear entered into a species of combination with each other THATSHAPE AM I, I felt, potentially. Nothing that I possess can defend me against that fate, if the hourfor it should strike for me as it struck for him. There was such a horror of him, and such aperception of my own merely momentary discrepancy from him, that it was as if somethinghitherto solid within my breast gave way entirely, and I became a mass of quivering fear. After thisthe universe was changed for me altogether. I awoke morning after morning with a horrible dreadat the pit of my stomach, and with a sense of the insecurity of life that I never knew before, andthat I have never felt since.[83] It was like a revelation; and although the immediate feelingspassed away, the experience has made me sympathetic with the morbid feelings of others eversince. It gradually faded, but for months I was unable to go out into the dark alone.

[83] Compare Bunyan. "There was I struck into a very great trembling, insomuch that at sometimes I could, for days together, feel my very body, as well as my mind, to shake and totter underthe sense of the dreadful judgment of God, that should fall on those that have sinned that mostfearful and unpardonable sin. I felt also such clogging and heat at my stomach, by reason of thismy terror, that I was, especially at some times, as if my breast-bone would have split asunder. . . .

Thus did I wind, and twine, and shrink, under the burden that was upon me; which burden also didso oppress me that I could neither stand, nor go, nor lie, either at rest or quiet.""In general I dreaded to be left alone. I remember wondering how other people could live, how Imyself had ever lived, so unconscious of that pit of insecurity beneath the surface of life. Mymother in particular, a very cheerful person, seemed to me a perfect paradox in herunconsciousness of danger, which you may well believe I was very careful not to disturb byrevelations of my own state of mind (I have always thought that this experience of melancholia ofmine had a religious bearing."On asking this correspondent to explain more fully what he meant by these last words, theanswer he wrote was this:-"I mean that the fear was so invasive and powerful that if I had not clung to scripture-texts like'The eternal God is my refuge,' etc., 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden,' etc., 'Iam the resurrection and the life,' etc., I think I should have grown really insane."[84]

[84] For another case of fear equally sudden, see Henry James: Society the Redeemed Form ofMan, Boston, 1879, pp. 43 ff.

There is no need of more examples. The cases we have looked at are enough. One of them givesus the vanity of mortal things; another the sense of sin; and the remaining one describes the fear of the universe;--and in one or other of these three ways it always is that man's original optimism andself-satisfaction get leveled with the dust.

In none of these cases was there any intellectual insanity or delusion about matters of fact; butwere we disposed to open the chapter of really insane melancholia, with its <159> hallucinationsand delusions, it would be a worse story still--desperation absolute and complete, the wholeuniverse coagulating about the sufferer into a material of overwhelming horror, surrounding himwithout opening or end. Not the conception or intellectual perception of evil, but the grisly blood-freezing heart-palsying sensation of it close upon one, and no other conception or sensation able tolive for a moment in its presence. How irrelevantly remote seem all our usual refined optimismsand intellectual and moral consolations in presence of a need of help like this! Here is the real coreof the religious problem: Help! help! No prophet can claim to bring a final message unless he saysthings that will have a sound of reality in the ears of victims such as these. But the deliverancemust come in as strong a form as the complaint, if it is to take effect; and that seems a reason whythe coarser religions, revivalistic, orgiastic, with blood and miracles and supernatural operations,may possibly never be displaced. Some constitutions need them too much.

Arrived at this point, we can see how great an antagonism may naturally arise between thehealthy-minded way of viewing life and the way that takes all this experience of evil as somethingessential. To this latter way, the morbid-minded way, as we might call it, healthy-mindedness pureand simple seems unspeakably blind and shallow. To the healthy-minded way, on the other hand,the way of the sick soul seems unmanly and diseased. With their grubbing in rat-holes instead ofliving in the light; with their manufacture of fears, and preoccupation with every unwholesomekind of misery, there is something almost obscene about these children of wrath and cravers of asecond birth. If religious intolerance and hanging and burning could again become the order of theday, there is little doubt that, however it may have been in the past, the healthy-minded would<160> at present show themselves the less indulgent party of the two.

In our own attitude, not yet abandoned, of impartial onlookers, what are we to say of thisquarrel? It seems to me that we are bound to say that morbid-mindedness ranges over the widerscale of experience, and that its survey is the one that overlaps. The method of averting one'sattention from evil, and living simply in the light of good is splendid as long as it will work. It willwork with many persons; it will work far more generally than most of us are ready to suppose; andwithin the sphere of its successful operation there is nothing to be said against it as a religioussolution. But it breaks down impotently as soon as melancholy comes; and even though one bequite free from melancholy one's self, there is no doubt that healthy-mindedness is inadequate as aphilosophical doctrine, because the evil facts which it refuses positively to account for are agenuine portion of reality; and they may after all be the best key to life's significance, and possiblythe only openers of our eyes to the deepest levels of truth.

The normal process of life contains moments as bad as any of those which insane melancholy isfilled with, moments in which radical evil gets its innings and takes its solid turn. The lunatic'svisions of horror are all drawn from the material of daily fact. Our civilization is founded on theshambles, and every individual existence goes out in a lonely spasm of helpless agony. If youprotest, my friend, wait till you arrive there yourself! To believe in the carnivorous reptiles ofgeologic times is hard for our imagination--they seem too much like mere museum specimens. Yet there is no tooth in any one of those museum-skulls that did not daily through long years of theforetime hold fast to the body struggling in despair of some fated living victim. Forms of horrorjust as dreadful to the victims, if on a smaller spatial scale, fill the world about us to-day. Here onour very <161> hearths and in our gardens the infernal cat plays with the panting mouse, or holdsthe hot bird fluttering in her jaws. Crocodiles and rattlesnakes and pythons are at this momentvessels of life as real as we are; their loathsome existence fills every minute of every day that dragsits length along; and whenever they or other wild beasts clutch their living prey, the deadly horrorwhich an agitated melancholiac feels is the literally right reaction on the situation.[85]

[85] Example: "It was about eleven o'clock at night . . . but I strolled on still with the people. . . .

Suddenly upon the left side of our road, a crackling was heard among the bushes; all of us werealarmed, and in an instant a tiger, rushing out of the jungle, pounced upon the one of the party thatwas foremost, and carried him off in the twinkling of an eye. The rush of the animal, and the crushof the poor victim's bones in his mouth, and his last cry of distress, 'Ho hai!' involuntarily reechoedby all of us, was over in three seconds; and then I know not what happened till I returned to mysenses, when I found myself and companions lying down on the ground as if prepared to bedevoured by our enemy the sovereign of the forest. I find my pen incapable of describing the terrorof that dreadful moment. Our limbs stiffened, our power of speech ceased, and our hearts beatviolently, and only a whisper of the same 'Ho hai!' was heard from us. In this state we crept on allfours for some distance back, and then ran for life with the speed of an Arab horse for about halfan hour, and fortunately happened to come to a small village. . . . After this every one of us wasattacked with fever, attended with shivering, in which deplorable state we remained tillmorning."--Autobiography of Lutullah a Mohammedan Gentleman, Leipzig, 1857, p. 112.

It may indeed be that no religious reconciliation with the absolute totality of things is possible.

Some evils, indeed, are ministerial to higher forms of good; but it may be that there are forms ofevil so extreme as to enter into no good system whatsoever, and that, in respect of such evil, dumbsubmission or neglect to notice is the only practical resource. This question must confront us on alater day. But provisionally, and as a mere matter of program and method, since the evil facts areas genuine parts of nature as the good ones, the philosophic presumption should be that they havesome rational significance, and that systematic healthy-mindedness, failing as it does to accord tosorrow, pain, and death any positive and active attention whatever, is formally less complete thansystems that try at least to include these elements in their scope.

The completest religions would therefore seem to be those in which the pessimistic elements arebest developed. Buddhism, of course, and Christianity are the best known to us of these. They areessentially religions of deliverance: the man must die to an unreal life before he can be born intothe real life. In my next lecture, I will try to discuss some of the psychological conditions of thissecond birth. Fortunately from now onward we shall have to deal with more cheerful subjects thanthose which we have recently been dwelling on.


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