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首页 » 英文宗教小说 » The Varieties of Religious Experience 宗教经验种种 » Lectures XI SAINTLINESS
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The last lecture left us in a state of expectancy. What may the practical fruits for life have been,of such movingly happy conversions as those we heard of? With this question the really importantpart of our task opens, for you remember that we began all this empirical inquiry not merely toopen a curious chapter in the natural history of human consciousness, but rather to attain a spiritualjudgment as to the total value and positive meaning of all the religious trouble and happinesswhich we have seen. We must, therefore, first describe the fruits of the religious life, and then we must judge them. This divides our inquiry into two distinct parts. Let us without further preambleproceed to the descriptive task.

It ought to be the pleasantest portion of our business in these lectures. Some small pieces of it, itis true, may be painful, or may show human nature in a pathetic light, but it will be mainlypleasant, because the best fruits of religious experience are the best things that history has to show.

They have always been esteemed so; here if anywhere is the genuinely strenuous life; and to call tomind a succession of such examples as I have lately had to wander through, though it has beenonly in the reading of them, is to feel encouraged and uplifted and washed in better moral air.

The highest flights of charity, devotion, trust, patience, bravery to which the wings of humannature have spread themselves have been flown for religious ideals. I can do no better than quote,as to this, some remarks which Sainte-Beuve in his History of Port-Royal makes on the results ofconversion or the state of grace.

"Even from the purely human point of view," Sainte-Beuve says, "the phenomenon of grace muststill appear sufficiently extraordinary, eminent, and rare, both in its nature and in its effects, todeserve a closer study. For the soul arrives thereby at a certain fixed and invincible state, a statewhich is genuinely heroic, and from out of which the greatest deeds which it ever performs areexecuted. Through all the different forms of communion, and all the diversity of the means whichhelp to produce this state, whether it be reached by a jubilee, by a general confession, by a solitaryprayer and effusion, whatever in short to be the place and the occasion, it is easy to recognize thatit is fundamentally one state in spirit and fruits. Penetrate a little beneath the diversity ofcircumstances, and it becomes evident that in Christians of different epochs it is always one andthe same modification by which they are affected: there is veritably a single fundamental andidentical spirit of piety and charity, common to those who have received grace; an inner statewhich before all things is one of love and humility, of infinite confidence in God, and of severityfor one's self, accompanied with tenderness for others. The fruits peculiar to this condition of thesoul have the same savor in all, under distant suns and in different surroundings, in Saint Teresa ofAvila just as in any Moravian brother of Herrnhut."[143]

[143] Sainte-Beuve: Port-Royal, vol. i. pp. 95 and 106, abridged.

Sainte-Beuve has here only the more eminent instances of regeneration in mind, and these are ofcourse the instructive ones for us also to consider. These devotees have often laid their course sodifferently from other men that, judging them by worldly law, we might be tempted to call themmonstrous aberrations from the path of nature. I begin therefore by asking a general psychologicalquestion as to what the inner conditions are which may make one human character differ soextremely from another.

I reply at once that where the character, as something distinguished from the intellect, isconcerned, the causes of human diversity lie chiefly in our differing susceptibilities of emotionalexcitement, and in the different impulses and inhibitions which these bring in their train. Let memake this more clear.

Speaking generally, our moral and practical attitude, at any given time, is always a resultant oftwo sets of forces within us, impulses pushing us one way and obstructions and inhibitions holding us back. "Yes! yes!" say the impulses; "No! no!" say the inhibitions. Few people who have notexpressly reflected on the matter realize how constantly this factor of inhibition is upon us, how itcontains and moulds us by its restrictive pressure almost as if we were fluids pent within the cavityof a jar. The influence is so incessant that it becomes subconscious. All of you, for example, sithere with a certain constraint at this moment, and entirely without express consciousness of thefact, because of the influence of the occasion. If left alone in the room, each of you would probablyinvoluntarily rearrange himself, and make his attitude more "free and easy." But proprieties andtheir inhibitions snap like cobwebs if any great emotional excitement supervenes. I have seen adandy appear in the street with his face covered with shaving-lather because a house across theway was on fire; and a woman will run among strangers in her nightgown if it be a question ofsaving her baby's life or her own. Take a self-indulgent woman's life in general. She will yield toevery inhibition set by her disagreeable sensations, lie late in bed, live upon tea or bromides, keepindoors from the cold. Every difficulty finds her obedient to its "no." But make a mother of her,and what have you? Possessed by maternal excitement, she now confronts wakefulness, weariness,and toil without an instant of hesitation or a word of complaint. The inhibitive power of pain overher is extinguished wherever the baby's interests are at stake. The inconveniences which thiscreature occasions have become, as James Hinton says, the glowing heart of a great joy, andindeed are now the very conditions whereby the joy becomes most deep.

This is an example of what you have already heard of as the "expulsive power of a higheraffection." But be the affection high or low, it makes no difference, so long as the excitement itbrings be strong enough. In one of Henry Drummond's discourses he tells of an inundation in Indiawhere an eminence with a bungalow upon it remained unsubmerged, and became the refuge of anumber of wild animals and reptiles in addition to the human beings who were there. At a certainmoment a royal Bengal tiger appeared swimming towards it, reached it, and lay panting like a dogupon the ground in the midst of the people, still possessed by such an agony of terror that one ofthe Englishmen could calmly step up with a rifle and blow out its brains. The tiger's habitualferocity was temporarily quelled by the emotion of fear, which became sovereign, and formed anew centre for his character.

Sometimes no emotional state is sovereign, but many contrary ones are mixed together. In thatcase one hears both "yeses" and "noes," and the "will" is called on then to solve the conflict. Takea soldier, for example, with his dread of cowardice impelling him to advance, his fears impellinghim to run, and his propensities to imitation pushing him towards various courses if his comradesoffer various examples. His person becomes the seat of a mass of interferences; and he may for atime simply waver, because no one emotion prevails. There is a pitch of intensity, though, which,if any emotion reach it, enthrones that one as alone effective and sweeps its antagonists and alltheir inhibitions away. The fury of his comrades' charge, once entered on, will give this pitch ofcourage to the soldier; the panic of their rout will give this pitch of fear. In these sovereignexcitements, things ordinarily impossible grow natural because the inhibitions are annulled. Their"no! no!" not only is not heard, it does not exist. Obstacles are then like tissue-paper hoops to thecircus rider--no impediment; the flood is higher than the dam they make.

"Lass sie betteln gehn wenn sie hungrig sind!" cries the grenadier, frantic over his Emperor'scapture, when his wife and babes are suggested; and men pent into a burning theatre have beenknown to cut their way through the crowd with knives.[144]

[144] "'Love would not be love,' says Bourget, 'unless it could carry one to crime.' And so onemay say that no passion would be a veritable passion unless it could carry one to crime." (Sighele:

Psychollogie des sectes, p. 136.) In other words, great passions annul the ordinary inhibitions setby "conscience." And conversely, of all the criminal human beings, the false, cowardly, sensual, orcruel persons who actually live, there is perhaps not one whose criminal impulse may not be atsome moment overpowered by the presence of some other emotion to which his character is alsopotentially liable, provided that other emotion be only made intense enough. Fear is usually themost available emotion for this result in this particular class of persons. It stands for conscience,and may here be classed appropriately as a "higher affection." If we are soon to die, or if webelieve a day of judgment to be near at hand, how quickly do we put our moral house in order--wedo not see how sin can evermore exert temptation over us! Old-fashioned hell-fire Christianitywell knew how to extract from fear its full equivalent in the way of fruits for repentance, and itsfull conversion value.

One mode of emotional excitability is exceedingly important in the composition of the energeticcharacter, from its peculiarly destructive power over inhibitions. I mean what in its lower form ismere irascibility, susceptibility to wrath, the fighting temper; and what in subtler ways manifestsitself as impatience, grimness, earnestness, severity of character. Earnestness means willingness tolive with energy, though energy bring pain. The pain may be pain to other people or pain to one'sself--it makes little difference; for when the strenuous mood is on one, the aim is to breaksomething, no matter whose or what. Nothing annihilates an inhibition as irresistibly as anger doesit; for, as Moltke says of war, destruction pure and simple is its essence. This is what makes it soinvaluable an ally of every other passion. The sweetest delights are trampled on with a ferociouspleasure the moment they offer themselves as checks to a cause by which our higher indignationsare elicited. It costs then nothing to drop friendships, to renounce long-rooted privileges andpossessions, to break with social ties. Rather do we take a stern joy in the astringency anddesolation; and what is called weakness of character seems in most cases to consist in theinaptitude for these sacrificial moods, of which one's own inferior self and its pet softnesses mustoften be the targets and the victims.[145]

[145] Example: Benjamin Constant was often marveled at as an extraordinary instance ofsuperior intelligence with inferior character. He writes (Journal, Paris, 1895, p. 56), "I am tossedand dragged about by my miserable weakness. Never was anything so ridiculous as my indecision.

Now marriage, now solitude; now Germany, now France hesitation upon hesitation, and allbecause at bottom I am UNABLE TO GIVE UP ANYTHING." He can't "get mad" at any of hisalternatives; and the career of a man beset by such an all-round amiability is hopeless.

So far I have spoken of temporary alterations produced by shifting excitements in the sameperson. But the relatively fixed differences of character of different persons are explained in aprecisely similar way. In a man with a liability to a special sort of emotion, whole ranges of inhibition habitually vanish, which in other men remain effective, and other sorts of inhibition taketheir place. When a person has an inborn genius for certain emotions, his life differs strangely fromthat of ordinary people, for none of their usual deterrents check him. Your mere aspirant to a typeof character, on the contrary, only shows, when your natural lover, fighter, or reformer, with whomthe passion is a gift of nature, comes along, the hopeless inferiority of voluntary to instinctiveaction. He has deliberately to overcome his inhibitions; the genius with the inborn passion seemsnot to feel them at all; he is free of all that inner friction and nervous waste. To a Fox, a Garibaldi,a General Booth, a John Brown, a Louise Michel, a Bradlaugh, the obstacles omnipotent overthose around them are as if non-existent. Should the rest of us so disregard them, there might bemany such heroes, for many have the wish to live for similar ideals, and only the adequate degreeof inhibition-quenching fury is lacking.[146]

[146] The great thing which the higher excitabilities give is COURAGE; and the addition orsubtraction of a certain amount of this quality makes a different man, a different life. Variousexcitements let the courage loose. Trustful hope will do it; inspiring example will do it; love willdo it, wrath will do it. In some people it is natively so high that the mere touch of danger does it,though danger is for most men the great inhibitor of action. "Love of adventure" becomes in suchpersons a ruling passion. "I believe," says General Skobeleff, "that my bravery is simply thepassion and at the same time the contempt of danger. The risk of life fills me with an exaggeratedrapture. The fewer there are to share it, the more I like it. The participation of my body in the eventis required to furnish me an adequate excitement. Everything intellectual appears to me to bereflex; but a meeting of man to man, a duel, a danger into which I can throw myself headforemost,attracts me, moves me, intoxicates me. I am crazy for it, I love it, I adore it. I run after danger asone runs after women; I wish it never to stop. Were it always the same, it would always bring me anew pleasure.

When I throw myself into an adventure in which I hope to find it, my heart palpitates with theuncertainty; I could wish at once to have it appear and yet to delay. A sort of painful and deliciousshiver shakes me; my entire nature runs to meet the peril with an impetus that my will would invain try to resist. (Juliette Adam: Le General Skobeleff, Nouvelle Revue, 1886, abridged.)Skobeleff seems to have been a cruel egoist; but the disinterested Garibaldi, if one may judge byhis "Memorie," lived in an unflagging emotion of similar danger-seeking excitement.

The difference between willing and merely wishing, between having ideals that are creative andideals that are but pinings and regrets, thus depends solely either on the amount of steam-pressurechronically driving the character in the ideal direction, or on the amount of ideal excitementtransiently acquired. Given a certain amount of love, indignation, generosity, magnanimity,admiration, loyalty, or enthusiasm of self-surrender, the result is always the same. That whole raftof cowardly obstructions, which in tame persons and dull moods are sovereign impediments toaction, sinks away at once. Our conventionality,[147] our shyness, laziness, and stinginess, ourdemands for precedent and permission, for guarantee and surety, our small suspicions, timidities,despairs, where are they now? Severed like cobwebs, broken like bubbles in the sun-"Wo sind die Sorge nun und Noth Die mich noch gestern wollt' erschlaffen? Ich scham' michdess' im Morgenroth."The flood we are borne on rolls them so lightly under that their very contact is unfelt. Set free ofthem, we float and soar and sing. This auroral openness and uplift gives to all creative ideal levelsa bright and caroling quality, which is nowhere more marked than where the controlling emotion isreligious. "The true monk," writes an Italian mystic, "takes nothing with him but his lyre."[147] See the case on p. 69, above, where the writer describes his experiences of communionwith the Divine as consisting "merely in the TEMPORARY OBLITERATION OF THECONVENTIONALITIES which usually cover my life."We may now turn from these psychological generalities to those fruits of the religious statewhich form the special subject of our present lecture. The man who lives in his religious centre ofpersonal energy, and is actuated by spiritual enthusiasms, differs from his previous carnal self inperfectly definite ways.

The new ardor which burns in his breast consumes in its glow the lower "noes" which formerlybeset him, and keeps him immune against infection from the entire groveling portion of his nature.

Magnanimities once impossible are now easy; paltry conventionalities and mean incentives oncetyrannical hold no sway. The stone wall inside of him has fallen, the hardness in his heart hasbroken down. The rest of us can, I think, imagine this by recalling our state of feeling in thosetemporary "melting moods" into which either the trials of real life, or the theatre, or a novelsometimes throws us. Especially if we weep! For it is then as if our tears broke through aninveterate inner dam, and let all sorts of ancient peccancies and moral stagnancies drain away,leaving us now washed and soft of heart and open to every nobler leading. With most of us thecustomary hardness quickly returns, but not so with saintly persons. Many saints, even as energeticones as Teresa and Loyola, have possessed what the church traditionally reveres as a special grace,the so-called gift of tears. In these persons the melting mood seems to have held almostuninterrupted control. And as it is with tears and melting moods, so it is with other exaltedaffections. Their reign may come by gradual growth or by a crisis; but in either case it may have"come to stay."At the end of the last lecture we saw this permanence to be true of the general paramountcy ofthe higher insight, even though in the ebbs of emotional excitement meaner motives mighttemporarily prevail and backsliding might occur. But that lower temptations may remaincompletely annulled, apart from transient emotion and as if by alteration of the man's habitualnature, is also proved by documentary evidence in certain cases. Before embarking on the generalnatural history of the regenerate character, let me convince you of this curious fact by one or twoexamples. The most numerous are those of reformed drunkards. You recollect the case of Mr.

Hadley in the last lecture; the Jerry McAuley Water Street Mission abounds in similar instances.

[148] You also remember the graduate of Oxford, converted at three in the afternoon, and gettingdrunk in the hay-field the next day, but after that permanently cured of his appetite. "From thathour drink has had no terrors for me: I never touch it, never want it. The same thing occurred withmy pipe. . . . the desire for it went at once and has never returned. So with every known sin, thedeliverance in each case being permanent and complete. I have had no temptations sinceconversion."[148] Above, p. 200. "The only radical remedy I know for dipsomania is religiomania," is asaying I have heard quoted from some medical man.


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