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Lecture XVIII PHILOSOPHY
The subject of Saintliness left us face to face with the question, Is the sense of divine presence asense of anything objectively true? We turned first to mysticism for an answer, and found thatalthough mysticism is entirely willing to corroborate religion, it is too private (and also toovarious) in its utterances to be able to claim a universal authority. But philosophy publishes resultswhich claim to be universally valid if they are valid at all, so we now turn with our question tophilosophy. Can philosophy stamp a warrant of veracity upon the religious man's sense of thedivine?

I imagine that many of you at this point begin to indulge in guesses at the goal to which I amtending. I have undermined the authority of mysticism, you say, and the next thing I shall probablydo is to seek to discredit that of philosophy. Religion, you expect to hear me conclude, is nothingbut an affair of faith, based either on vague sentiment, or on that vivid sense of the reality of thingsunseen of which in my second lecture and in the lecture on Mysticism I gave so many examples. Itis essentially private and individualistic; it always exceeds our powers of formulation; andalthough attempts to pour its contents into a philosophic mould will probably always go on, menbeing what they are, yet these attempts are always secondary processes which in no way add to theauthority, or warrant the veracity, of the sentiments from which they derive their own stimulus andborrow whatever glow of conviction they may themselves possess.

In short, you suspect that I am planning to defend feeling at the expense of reason, to rehabilitatethe primitive and unreflective, and to dissuade you from the hope of any Theology worthy of thename.

To a certain extent I have to admit that you guess rightly. I do believe that feeling is the deepersource of religion, and that philosophic and theological formulas are secondary products, liketranslations of a text into another tongue. But all such statements are misleading from their brevity,and it will take the whole hour for me to explain to you exactly what I mean.

When I call theological formulas secondary products, I mean that in a world in which noreligious feeling had ever existed, I doubt whether any philosophic theology could ever have beenframed. I doubt if dispassionate intellectual contemplation of the universe, apart from innerunhappiness and need of deliverance on the one hand and mystical emotion on the other, wouldever have resulted in religious philosophies such as we now possess. Men would have begun withanimistic explanations of natural fact, and criticised these away into scientific ones, as theyactually have done. In the science they would have left a certain amount of "psychical research,"even as they now will probably have to re-admit a certain amount. But high-flying speculationslike those of either dogmatic or idealistic theology, these they would have had no motive toventure on, feeling no need of commerce with such deities. These speculations must, it seems tome, be classed as over-beliefs, buildings-out performed by the intellect into directions of whichfeeling originally supplied the hint.

But even if religious philosophy had to have its first hint supplied by feeling, may it not havedealt in a superior way with the matter which feeling suggested? Feeling is private and dumb, andunable to give an account of itself. It allows that its results are mysteries and enigmas, declines tojustify them rationally, and on occasion is willing that they should even pass for paradoxical andabsurd. Philosophy takes just the opposite attitude. Her aspiration is to reclaim from mystery andparadox whatever territory she touches. To find an escape from obscure and wayward personalpersuasion to truth objectively valid for all thinking men has ever been the intellect's mostcherished ideal. To redeem religion from unwholesome privacy, and to give public status anduniversal right of way to its deliverances, has been reason's task.

I believe that philosophy will always have opportunity to labor at this task.[288] We are thinkingbeings, and we cannot exclude the intellect from participating in any of our functions. Even insoliloquizing with ourselves, we construe our feelings intellectually. Both our personal ideals andour religious and mystical experiences must be interpreted congruously with the kind of scenerywhich our thinking mind inhabits. The philosophic climate of our time inevitably forces its ownclothing on us. Moreover, we must exchange our feelings with one another, and in doing so wehave to speak, and to use general and abstract verbal formulas. Conceptions and constructions arethus a necessary part of our religion; and as moderator amid the clash of hypotheses, and mediatoramong the criticisms of one man's constructions by another, philosophy will always have much todo.

It would be strange if I disputed this, when these very lectures which I am giving are (as you willsee more clearly from now onwards) a laborious attempt to extract from the privacies of religiousexperience some general facts which can be defined in formulas upon which everybody may agree.

[288] Compare Professor W. Wallace's Gifford Lectures, in Lectures and Essays, Oxford, 1898,pp. 17 ff.

Religious experience, in other words, spontaneously and inevitably engenders myths,superstitions, dogmas, creeds, and metaphysical theologies, and criticisms of one set of these bythe adherents of another. Of late, impartial classifications and comparisons have become possible,alongside of the denunciations and anathemas by which the commerce between creeds usedexclusively to be carried on. We have the beginnings of a "Science of Religions," so-called; and ifthese lectures could ever be accounted a crumb-like contribution to such a science, I should bemade very happy.

But all these intellectual operations, whether they be constructive or comparative and critical,presuppose immediate experiences as their subject-matter. They are interpretative and inductiveoperations, operations after the fact, consequent upon religious feeling, not coordinate with it, notindependent of what it ascertains.

The intellectualism in religion which I wish to discredit pretends to be something altogetherdifferent from this. It assumes to construct religious objects out of the resources of logical reasonalone, or of logical reason drawing rigorous inference from non-subjective facts. It calls itsconclusions dogmatic theology, or philosophy of the absolute, as the case may be; it does not callthem science of religions. It reaches them in an a priori way, and warrants their veracity.

Warranted systems have ever been the idols of aspiring souls. All-inclusive, yet simple; noble,clean, luminous, stable, rigorous, true;--what more ideal refuge could there be than such a systemwould offer to spirits vexed by the muddiness and accidentality of the world of sensible things?

Accordingly, we find inculcated in the theological schools of to-day, almost as much as in those ofthe fore-time, a disdain for merely possible or probable truth, and of results that only privateassurance can grasp. Scholastics and idealists both express this disdain. Principal John Caird, forexample, writes as follows in his Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion:-"Religion must indeed be a thing of the heart, but in order to elevate it from the region ofsubjective caprice and waywardness, and to distinguish between that which is true and false inreligion, we must appeal to an objective standard. That which enters the heart must first bediscerned by the intelligence to be TRUE. It must be seen as having in its own nature a RIGHT todominate feeling, and as constituting the principle by which feeling must be judged.[289] Inestimating the religious character of individuals, nations, or races, the first question is, not howthey feel, but what they think and believe--not whether their religion is one which manifests itselfin emotions, more or less vehement and enthusiastic, but what are the CONCEPTIONS of God anddivine things by which these emotions are called forth. Feeling is necessary in religion, but it is bythe CONTENT or intelligent basis of a religion, and not by feeling, that its character and worth areto be determined."[290]

[289] Op. cit., p. 174, abridged.

[290] Ibid., p. 186, abridged and italicized.

Cardinal Newman, in his work, The Idea of a University, gives more emphatic expression still tothis disdain for sentiment.[291] Theology, he says, is a science in the strictest sense of the word. Iwill tell you, he says, what it is not--not "physical evidences" for God, not "natural religion," forthese are but vague subjective interpretations:-[291] Discourse II. Section 7.

"If," he continues, "the Supreme Being is powerful or skillful, just so far as the telescope showspower, or the microscope shows skill, if his moral law is to be ascertained simply by the physicalprocesses of the animal frame, or his will gathered from the immediate issues of human affairs, ifhis Essence is just as high and deep and broad as the universe and no more if this be the fact, thenwill I confess that there is no specific science about God, that theology is but a name, and a protestin its behalf an hypocrisy. Then, pious as it is to think of Him while the pageant of experiment orabstract reasoning passes by, still such piety is nothing more than a poetry of thought, or anornament of language, a certain view taken of Nature which one man has and another has not,which gifted minds strike out, which others see to be admirable and ingenious, and which allwould be the better for adopting. It is but the theology of Nature, just we talk of the PHILOSOPHYortheROMANCEofhistory,orthePOETRYofchildhood,orth(as) e picturesque orthe sentimental or the humorous, or any other abstract quality which the genius or the caprice ofthe individual, or the fashion of the day, or the consent of the world, recognizes in any set ofobjects which are subjected to its contemplation. I do not see much difference between avowingthat there is no God, and implying that nothing definite can be known for certain about Him."What I mean by Theology, continues Newman, is none of these things: "I simply mean theSCIENCE OF GOD, or the truths we know about God, put into a system, just as we have a scienceof the stars and call it astronomy, or of the crust of the earth and call it geology."In both these extracts we have the issue clearly set before us: Feeling valid only for theindividual is pitted against reason valid universally. The test is a perfectly plain one of fact.

Theology based on pure reason must in point of fact convince men universally. If it did not,wherein would its superiority consist? If it only formed sects and schools, even as sentiment andmysticism form them, how would it fulfill its programme of freeing us from personal caprice andwaywardness? This perfectly definite practical test of the pretensions of philosophy to foundreligion on universal reason simplifies my procedure to-day. I need not discredit philosophy bylaborious criticism of its arguments. It will suffice if I show that as a matter of history it fails toprove its pretension to be "objectively" convincing. In fact, philosophy does so fail. It does notbanish differences; it founds schools and sects just as feeling does. I believe, in fact, that thelogical reason of man operates in this field of divinity exactly as it has always operated in love, orin patriotism, or in politics, or in any other of the wider affairs of life, in which our passions or ourmystical intuitions fix our beliefs beforehand. It finds arguments for our conviction, for indeed itHAS to find them. It amplifies and defines our faith, and dignifies it and lends it words andplausibility. It hardly ever engenders it; it cannot now secure it.[292]

[292] As regards the secondary character of intellectual constructions, and the primacy of feelingand instinct in founding religious beliefs see the striking work of H. Fielding, The Hearts of Men,London, 1902, which came into my hands after my text was written. "Creeds," says the author,"are the grammar of religion, they are to religion what grammar is to speech. Words are theexpression of our wants grammar is the theory formed afterwards. Speech never proceeded fromgrammar, but the reverse. As speech progresses and changes from unknown causes, grammar mustfollow" (p. 313). The whole book, which keeps unusually close to concrete facts, is little more thanan amplification of this text.

Lend me your attention while I run through some of the points of the older systematic theology.

You find them in both Protestant and Catholic manuals, best of all in the innumerable text-bookspublished since Pope Leo's Encyclical recommending the study of Saint Thomas. I glance first atthe arguments by which dogmatic theology establishes God's existence, after that at those bywhich it establishes his nature.[293]

[293] For convenience' sake, I follow the order of A. Stockl's Lehrbuch der Philosophie, 5teAutlage, Mainz, 1881, Band ii. B. Boedder's Natural Theology, London, 1891, is a handy EnglishCatholic Manual; but an almost identical doctrine is given by such Protestant theologians as C.

Hodge: Systematic Theology, New York, 1873, or A. H. Strong: Systematic Theology, 5th edition,New York, 1896.

The arguments for God's existence have stood for hundreds of years with the waves ofunbelieving criticism breaking against them, never totally discrediting them in the ears of thefaithful, but on the whole slowly and surely washing out the mortar from between their joints. Ifyou have a God already whom you believe in, these arguments confirm you. If you are atheistic,they fail to set you right. The proofs are various. The "cosmological" one, so-called, reasons fromthe contingence of the world to a First Cause which must contain whatever perfections the worlditself contains. The "argument from design" reasons, from the fact that Nature's laws aremathematical, and her parts benevolently adapted to each other, that this cause is both intellectualand benevolent. The "moral argument" is that the moral law presupposes a lawgiver. The"argument ex consensu gentium" is that the belief in God is so widespread as to be grounded in therational nature of man, and should therefore carry authority with it.

As I just said, I will not discuss these arguments technically. The bare fact that all idealists sinceKant have felt entitled either to scout or to neglect them shows that they are not solid enough toserve as religion's all-sufficient foundation. Absolutely impersonal reasons would be in duty boundto show more general convincingness. Causation is indeed too obscure a principle to bear theweight of the whole structure of theology. As for the argument from design, see how Darwinianideas have revolutionized it. Conceived as we now conceive them, as so many fortunate escapesfrom almost limitless processes of destruction, the benevolent adaptations which we find in Naturesuggest a deity very different from the one who figured in the earlier versions of the argument.

[294] The fact is that these arguments do but follow the combined suggestions of the facts and ofour feeling. They prove nothing rigorously. They only corroborate our preexistent partialities.

[294] It must not be forgotten that any form of DISorder in the world might, by the designargument, suggest a God for just that kind of disorder. The truth is that any state of thingswhatever that can be named is logically susceptible of teleological interpretation. The ruins of theearthquake at Lisbon, for example: the whole of past history had to be planned exactly as it was tobring about in the fullness of time just that particular arrangement of debris of masonry, furniture,and once living bodies. No other train of causes would have been sufficient. And so of any otherarrangement, bad or good, which might as a matter of fact be found resulting anywhere fromprevious conditions. To avoid such pessimistic consequences and save its beneficent designer, thedesign argument accordingly invokes two other principles, restrictive in their operation. The first isphysical: Nature's forces tend of their own accord only to disorder and destruction, to heaps ofruins, not to architecture.

This principle, though plausible at first sight, seems, in the light of recent biology, to be moreand more improbable. The second principle is one of anthropomorphic interpretation. Noarrangement that for us is "disorderly" can possibly have been an object of design at all. Thisprinciple is of course a mere assumption in the interests of anthropomorphic Theism.

When one views the world with no definite theological bias one way or the other, one sees thatorder and disorder, as we now recognize them, are purely human inventions. We are interested incertain types of arrangement, useful, aesthetic, or moral--so interested that whenever we find themrealized, the fact emphatically rivets our attention. The result is that we work over the contents ofthe world selectively. It is overflowing with disorderly arrangements from our point of view, butorder is the only thing we care for and look at, and by choosing, one can always find some sort oforderly arrangement in the midst of any chaos. If I should throw down a thousand beans at randomupon a table, I could doubtless, by eliminating a sufficient number of them, leave the rest in almostany geometrical pattern you might propose to me, and you might then say that that pattern was the thing prefigured beforehand, and that the other beans were mere irrelevance and packing material.

Our dealings with Nature are just like this. She is a vast plenum in which our attention drawscapricious lines in innumerable directions. We count and name whatever lies upon the special lineswe trace, whilst the other things and the untraced lines are neither named nor counted. There are inreality infinitely more things "unadapted" to each other in this world than there are things"adapted"; infinitely more things with irregular relations than with regular relations between them.

But we look for the regular kind of thing exclusively, and ingeniously discover and preserve it inour memory. It accumulates with other regular kinds, until the collection of them fills ourencyclopaedias. Yet all the while between and around them lies an infinite anonymous chaos ofobjects that no one ever thought of together, of relations that never yet attracted our attention.

The facts of order from which the physico-theological argument starts are thus easily susceptibleof interpretation as arbitrary human products. So long as this is the case, although of course noargument against God follows, it follows that the argument for him will fail to constitute aknockdown proof of his existence. It will be convincing only to those who on other groundsbelieve in him already.

If philosophy can do so little to establish God's existence, how stands it with her efforts to definehis attributes? It is worth while to look at the attempts of systematic theology in this direction.

Since God is First Cause, this science of sciences says, he differs from all his creatures inpossessing existence a se. From this "a-se-ity" on God's part, theology deduces by mere logic mostof his other perfections. For instance, he must be both NECESSARY and ABSOLUTE, cannot notbe, and cannot in any way be determined by anything else. This makes Him absolutely unlimitedfrom without, and unlimited also from within; for limitation is non-being; and God is being itself.

This unlimitedness makes God infinitely perfect. Moreover, God is ONE, and ONLY, for theinfinitely perfect can admit no peer. He is SPIRITUAL, for were He composed of physical parts,some other power would have to combine them into the total, and his aseity would thus becontradicted. He is therefore both simple and non-physical in nature. He is SIMPLEMETAPHYSICALLY also, that is to say, his nature and his existence cannot be distinct, as theyare in finite substances which share their formal natures with one another, and are individual onlyin their material aspect. Since God is one and only, his essentia and his esse must be given at onestroke. This excludes from his being all those distinctions, so familiar in the world of finite things,between potentiality and actuality, substance and accidents, being and activity, existence andattributes. We can talk, it is true, of God's powers, acts, and attributes, but these discriminations areonly "virtual," and made from the human point of view. In God all these points of view fall into anabsolute identity of being.

This absence of all potentiality in God obliges Him to be IMMUTABLE. He is actuality, throughand through. Were there anything potential about Him, He would either lose or gain by itsactualization, and either loss or gain would contradict his perfection. He cannot, therefore, change.

Furthermore, He is IMMENSE, BOUNDLESS; for could He be outlined in space, He would becomposite, and this would contradict his indivisibility. He is therefore OMNIPRESENT,indivisibly there, at every point of space. He is similarly wholly present at every point of time--inother words ETERNAL. For if He began in time, He would need a prior cause, and that wouldcontradict his aseity. If He ended it would contradict his necessity. If He went through anysuccession, it would contradict his immutability.

He has INTELLIGENCE and WILL and every other creature-perfection, for we have them, andeffectus nequit superare causam. In Him, however, they are absolutely and eternally in act, andtheir OBJECT, since God can be bounded by naught that is external, can primarily be nothing elsethan God himself. He knows himself, then, in one eternal indivisible act, and wills himself with aninfinite self-pleasure.[295] Since He must of logical necessity thus love and will himself, Hecannot be called "free" ad intra, with the freedom of contrarieties that characterizes finite creatures.

Ad extra, however, or with respect to his creation, God is free. He cannot NEED to create, beingperfect in being and in happiness already. He WILLS to create, then, by an absolute freedom.

[295] For the scholastics the facultas appetendi embraces feeling, desire, and will.

Being thus a substance endowed with intellect and will and freedom, God is a PERSON; and aLIVING person also, for He is both object and subject of his own activity, and to be thisdistinguishes the living from the lifeless. He is thus absolutely SELF-SUFFICIENT: his SELFKNOWLEDGEand SELF-LOVE are both of them infinite and adequate, and need no extraneousconditions to perfect them.

He is OMNISCIENT, for in knowing himself as Cause He knows all creature things and eventsby implication. His knowledge is previsive, for He is present to all time. Even our free acts areknown beforehand to Him, for otherwise his wisdom would admit of successive moments ofenrichment, and this would contradict his immutability. He is OMNIPOTENT for everything thatdoes not involve logical contradiction. He can make BEING --in other words his power includesCREATION. If what He creates were made of his own substance, it would have to be infinite inessence, as that substance is; but it is finite; so it must be non-divine in substance. If it were madeof a substance, an eternally existing matter, for example, which God found there to his hand, and towhich He simply gave its form, that would contradict God's definition as First Cause, and makeHim a mere mover of something caused already. The things he creates, then, He creates ex nihilo,and gives them absolute being as so many finite substances additional to himself. The forms whichhe imprints upon them have their prototypes in his ideas. But as in God there is no such thing asmultiplicity, and as these ideas for us are manifold, we must distinguish the ideas as they are inGod and the way in which our minds externally imitate them. We must attribute them to Him onlyin a TERMINATIVE sense, as differing aspects, from the finite point of view, of his uniqueessence.

God of course is holy, good, and just. He can do no evil, for He is positive being's fullness, andevil is negation. It is true that He has created physical evil in places, but only as a means of widergood, for bonum totius praeeminet bonum partis. Moral evil He cannot will, either as end ormeans, for that would contradict his holiness. By creating free beings He PERMITS it only, neitherhis justice nor his goodness obliging Him to prevent the recipients of freedom from misusing thegift.

As regards God's purpose in creating, primarily it can only have been to exercise his absolutefreedom by the manifestation to others of his glory. From this it follows that the others must berational beings, capable in the first place of knowledge, love, and honor, and in the second place ofhappiness, for the knowledge and love of God is the mainspring of felicity. In so far forth one maysay that God's secondary purpose in creating is LOVE.

I will not weary you by pursuing these metaphysical determinations farther, into the mysteries ofGod's Trinity, for example. What I have given will serve as a specimen of the orthodoxphilosophical theology of both Catholics and Protestants. Newman, filled with enthusiasm at God'slist of perfections, continues the passage which I began to quote to you by a couple of pages of arhetoric so magnificent that I can hardly refrain from adding them, in spite of the inroad theywould make upon our time.[296] He first enumerates God's attributes sonorously, then celebrateshis ownership of everything in earth and Heaven, and the dependence of all that happens upon hispermissive will. He gives us scholastic philosophy "touched with emotion," and every philosophyshould be touched with emotion to be rightly understood. Emotionally, then, dogmatic theology isworth something to minds of the type of Newman's. It will aid us to estimate what it is worthintellectually, if at this point I make a short digression.

[296] Op. cit., Discourse III. Section 7.

What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. The Continental schools of philosophyhave too often overlooked the fact that man's thinking is organically connected with his conduct. Itseems to me to be the chief glory of English and Scottish thinkers to have kept the organicconnection in view. The guiding principle of British philosophy has in fact been that everydifference must MAKE a difference, every theoretical difference somewhere issue in a practicaldifference, and that the best method of discussing points of theory is to begin by ascertaining whatpractical difference would result from one alternative or the other being true. What is the particulartruth in question KNOWN AS? In what facts does it result? What is its cash-value in terms ofparticular experience? This is the characteristic English way of taking up a question. In this way,you remember, Locke takes up the question of personal identity. What you mean by it is just yourchain of particular memories, says he. That is the only concretely verifiable part of its significance.

All further ideas about it, such as the oneness or manyness of the spiritual substance on which it isbased, are therefore void of intelligible meaning; and propositions touching such ideas may beindifferently affirmed or denied. So Berkeley with his "matter."The cash-value of matter is our physical sensations. That is what it is known as, all that weconcretely verify of its conception. That, therefore, is the whole meaning of the term "matter"--anyother pretended meaning is mere wind of words. Hume does the same thing with causation. It isknown as habitual antecedence, and as tendency on our part to look for something definite tocome. Apart from this practical meaning it has no significance whatever, and books about it maybe committed to the flames, says Hume. Dugald Stewart and Thomas Brown, James Mill, JohnMill, and Professor Bain, have followed more or less consistently the same method; andShadworth Hodgson has used the principle with full explicitness. When all is said and done, it wasEnglish and Scotch writers, and not Kant, who introduced "the critical method" into philosophy,the one method fitted to make philosophy a study worthy of serious men. For what seriousness canpossibly remain in debating philosophic propositions that will never make an appreciabledifference to us in action? And what could it matter, if all propositions were practically indifferent,which of them we should agree to call true or which false?

An American philosopher of eminent originality, Mr. Charles Sanders Peirce, has renderedthought a service by disentangling from the particulars of its application the principle by whichthese men were instinctively guided, and by singling it out as fundamental and giving to it a Greekname. He calls it the principle of PRAGMATISM, and he defends it somewhat as follows:[297]-[297] In an article, How to make our Ideas Clear, in the Popular Science Monthly for January,1878, vol. xii. p. 286.

Thought in movement has for its only conceivable motive the attainment of belief, or thought atrest. Only when our thought about a subject has found its rest in belief can our action on thesubject firmly and safely begin. Beliefs, in short, are rules for action; and the whole function ofthinking is but one step in the production of active habits. If there were any part of a thought thatmade no difference in the thought's practical consequences, then that part would be no properelement of the thought's significance. To develop a thought's meaning we need therefore onlydetermine what conduct it is fitted to produce; that conduct is for us its sole significance; and thetangible fact at the root of all our thought-distinctions is that there is no one of them so fine as toconsist in anything but a possible difference of practice. To attain perfect clearness in our thoughtsof an object, we need then only consider what sensations, immediate or remote, we areconceivably to expect from it, and what conduct we must prepare in case the object should be true.

Our conception of these practical consequences is for us the whole of our conception of the object,so far as that conception has positive significance at all.

This is the principle of Peirce, the principle of pragmatism. Such a principle will help us on thisoccasion to decide, among the various attributes set down in the scholastic inventory of God'sperfections, whether some be not far less significant than others.

If, namely, we apply the principle of pragmatism to God's metaphysical attributes, strictly socalled, as distinguished from his moral attributes, I think that, even were we forced by a coercivelogic to believe them, we still should have to confess them to be destitute of all intelligiblesignificance. Take God's aseity, for example; or his necessariness; his immateriality; his"simplicity" or superiority to the kind of inner variety and succession which we find in finitebeings, his indivisibility, and lack of the inner distinctions of being and activity, substance andaccident, potentiality and actuality, and the rest; his repudiation of inclusion in a genus; hisactualized infinity; his "personality," apart from the moral qualities which it may comport; hisrelations to evil being permissive and not positive; his self-sufficiency, self-love, and absolutefelicity in himself:--candidly speaking, how do such qualities as these make any definiteconnection with our life? And if they severally call for no distinctive adaptations of our conduct,what vital difference can it possibly make to a man's religion whether they be true or false?

For my own part, although I dislike to say aught that may grate upon tender associations, I mustfrankly confess that even though these attributes were faultlessly deduced, I cannot conceive of itsbeing of the smallest consequence to us religiously that any one of them should be true. Pray, whatspecific act can I perform in order to adapt myself the better to God's simplicity? Or how does it assist me to plan my behavior, to know that his happiness is anyhow absolutely complete? In themiddle of the century just past, Mayne Reid was the great writer of books of out-of-dooradventure. He was forever extolling the hunters and field-observers of living animals' habits, andkeeping up a fire of invective against the "closet-naturalists," as he called them, the collectors andclassifiers, and handlers of skeletons and skins. When I was a boy, I used to think that a closet-naturalist must be the vilest type of wretch under the sun. But surely the systematic theologians arethe closet-naturalists of the deity, even in Captain Mayne Reid's sense. What is their deduction ofmetaphysical attributes but a shuffling and matching of pedantic dictionary-adjectives, aloof frommorals, aloof from human needs, something that might be worked out from the mere word "God"by one of those logical machines of wood and brass which recent ingenuity has contrived as wellas by a man of flesh and blood. They have the trail of the serpent over them. One feels that in thetheologians' hands, they only set of titles obtained by a mechanical manipulation ofsynonyms;verbalityhasstepp(are) edinto(a) the place of vision, professionalism into that of life. Insteadof bread we have a stone; instead of a fish, a serpent. Did such a conglomeration of abstract termsgive really the gist of our knowledge of the deity, schools of theology might indeed continue toflourish, but religion, vital religion, would have taken its flight from this world. What keepsreligion going is something else than abstract definitions and systems of concatenated adjectives,and something different from faculties of theology and their professors. All these things are aftereffects,secondary accretions upon those phenomena of vital conversation with the unseen divine,of which I have shown you so many instances, renewing themselves in saecula saeculorum in thelives of humble private men.

So much for the metaphysical attributes of God! From the point of view of practical religion, themetaphysical monster which they offer to our worship is an absolutely worthless invention of thescholarly mind.

What shall we now say of the attributes called moral? Pragmatically, they stand on an entirelydifferent footing. They positively determine fear and hope and expectation, and are foundations forthe saintly life. It needs but a glance at them to show how great is their significance.

God's holiness, for example: being holy, God can will nothing but the good. Being omnipotent,he can secure its triumph. Being omniscient, he can see us in the dark. Being just, he can punish usfor what he sees. Being loving, he can pardon too. Being unalterable, we can count on himsecurely. These qualities enter into connection with our life, it is highly important that we shouldbe informed concerning them. That God's purpose in creation should be the manifestation of hisglory is also an attribute which has definite relations to our practical life. Among other things it hasgiven a definite character to worship in all Christian countries. If dogmatic theology really doesprove beyond dispute that a God with characters like these exists, she may well claim to give asolid basis to religious sentiment. But verily, how stands it with her arguments?

It stands with them as ill as with the arguments for his existence. Not only do post-Kantianidealists reject them root and branch, but it is a plain historic fact that they never have convertedany one who has found in the moral complexion of the world, as he experienced it, reasons fordoubting that a good God can have framed it. To prove God's goodness by the scholastic argumentthat there is no non-being in his essence would sound to such a witness simply silly.

No! the book of Job went over this whole matter once for all and definitively. Ratiocination is arelatively superficial and unreal path to the deity: "I will lay mine hand upon my mouth; I haveheard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee." An intellect perplexed andbaffled, yet a trustful sense of presence--such is the situation of the man who is sincere withhimself and with the facts, but who remains religious still.[298]

[298] Pragmatically, the most important attribute of God is his punitive justice. But who, in thepresent state of theological opinion on that point, will dare maintain that hell fire or its equivalentin some shape is rendered certain by pure logic? Theology herself has largely based this doctrineupon revelation, and, in discussing it, has tended more and more to substitute conventional ideas ofcriminal law for a priori principles of reason. But the very notion that this glorious universe, withplanets and winds, and laughing sky and ocean, should have been conceived and had its beams andrafters laid in technicalities of criminality, is incredible to our modern imagination. It weakens areligion to hear it argued upon such a basis.

We must therefore, I think, bid a definitive good-by to dogmatic theology. In all sincerity ourfaith must do without that warrant. Modern idealism, I repeat, has said goodby to this theologyforever. Can modern idealism give faith a better warrant, or must she still rely on her poor self forwitness?

The basis of modern idealism is Kant's doctrine of the Transcendental Ego of Apperception. Bythis formidable term Kant merely meant the fact that the consciousness "I think them" must(potentially or actually) accompany all our objects. Former skeptics had said as much, but the "I"in question had remained for them identified with the personal individual. Kant abstracted anddepersonalized it, and made it the most universal of all his categories, although for Kant himselfthe Transcendental Ego had no theological implications.

It was reserved for his successors to convert Kant's notion of Bewusstsein uberhaupt, or abstractconsciousness, into an infinite concrete self-consciousness which is the soul of the world, and inwhich our sundry personal self-consciousnesses have their being. It would lead me intotechnicalities to show you even briefly how this transformation was in point of fact effected.

Suffice it to say that in the Hegelian school, which to-day so deeply influences both British andAmerican thinking, two principles have borne the brunt of the operation.

The first of these principles is that the old logic of identity never gives us more than a postmortemdissection of disjecta membra, and that the fullness of life can be construed to thoughtonly by recognizing that every object which our thought may propose to itself involves the notionof some other object which seems at first to negate the first one.

The second principle is that to be conscious of a negation is already virtually to be beyond it. Themere asking of a question or expression of a dissatisfaction proves that the answer or thesatisfaction is already imminent; the finite, realized as such, is already the infinite in posse.

Applying these principles, we seem to get a propulsive force into our logic which the ordinarylogic of a bare, stark self-identity in each thing never attains to. The objects of our thought nowACT within our thought, act as objects act when given in experience. They change and develop.

They introduce something other than themselves along with them; and this other, at first only idealor potential, presently proves itself also to be actual. It supersedes the thing at first supposed, andboth verifies and corrects it, in developing the fullness of its meaning.

The program is excellent; the universe IS a place where things are followed by other things thatboth correct and fulfill them; and a logic which gave us something like this movement of factwould express truth far better than the traditional school-logic, which never gets of its own accordfrom anything to anything else, and registers only predictions and subsumptions, or staticresemblances and differences. Nothing could be more unlike the methods of dogmatic theologythan those of this new logic. Let me quote in illustration some passages from the Scottishtranscendentalist whom I have already named.

"How are we to conceive," Principal Caird writes, "of the reality in which all intelligence rests?"He replies: "Two things may without difficulty be proved, viz., that this reality is an absoluteSpirit, and conversely that it is only in communion with this absolute Spirit or Intelligence that thefinite Spirit can realize itself. It is absolute; for the faintest movement of human intelligence wouldbe arrested, if it did not presuppose the absolute reality of intelligence, of thought itself. Doubt ordenial themselves presuppose and indirectly affirm it. When I pronounce anything to be true, Ipronounce it, indeed, to be relative to thought, but not to be relative to my thought, or to thethought of any other individual mind. From the existence of all individual minds as such I canabstract; I can think them away. But that which I cannot think away is thought or self-consciousness itself, in its independence and absoluteness, or, in other words, an Absolute Thoughtor Self-Consciousness."Here, you see, Principal Caird makes the transition which Kant did not make: he converts theomnipresence of consciousness in general as a condition of "truth" being anywhere possible, intoan omnipresent universal consciousness, which he identifies with God in his concreteness. He nextproceeds to use the principle that to acknowledge your limits is in essence to be beyond them; andmakes the transition to the religious experience of individuals in the following words:-"If [Man] were only a creature of transient sensations and impulses, of an ever coming and goingsuccession of intuitions, fancies, feelings, then nothing could ever have for him the character ofobjective truth or reality. But it is the prerogative of man's spiritual nature that he can yield himselfup to a thought and will that are infinitely larger than his own. As a thinking self-conscious being,indeed, he may be said, by his very nature, to live in the atmosphere of the Universal Life.

As a thinking being, it is possible for me to suppress and quell in my consciousness everymovement of self-assertion, every notion and opinion that is merely mine, every desire thatbelongs to me as this particular Self, and to become the pure medium of a thought that isuniversal--in one word, to live no more my own life, but let my consciousness be possessed andsuffused by the Infinite and Eternal life of spirit. And yet it is just in this renunciation of self that Itruly gain myself, or realize the highest possibilities of my own nature. For whilst in one sense wegive up self to live the universal and absolute life of reason, yet that to which we thus surrenderourselves is in reality our truer self. The life of absolute reason is not a life that is foreign to us."Nevertheless, Principal Caird goes on to say, so far as we are able outwardly to realize thisdoctrine, the balm it offers remains incomplete. Whatever we may be in posse, the very best of usin actu falls very short of being absolutely divine. Social morality, love, and self-sacrifice even,merge our Self only in some other finite self or selves. They do not quite identify it with theInfinite. Man's ideal destiny, infinite in abstract logic, might thus seem in practice foreverunrealizable.

"Is there, then," our author continues, "no solution of the contradiction between the ideal and theactual? We answer, There is such a solution, but in order to reach it we are carried beyond thesphere of morality into that of religion. It may be said to be the essential characteristic of religionas contrasted with morality, that it changes aspiration into fruition, anticipation into realization;that instead of leaving man in the interminable pursuit of a vanishing ideal, it makes him the actualpartaker of a divine or infinite life. Whether we view religion from the human side or the divine-asthe surrender of the soul to God, or as the life of God in the soul--in either aspect it is of its veryessence that the Infinite has ceased to be a far-off vision, and has become a present reality. Thevery first pulsation of the spiritual life, when we rightly apprehend its significance, is theindication that the division between the Spirit and its object has vanished, that the ideal hasbecome real, that the finite has reached its goal and become suffused with the presence and life ofthe Infinite.

"Oneness of mind and will with the divine mind and will is not the future hope and aim ofreligion, but its very beginning and birth in the soul. To enter on the religious life is to terminatethe struggle. In that act which constitutes the beginning of the religious life--call it faith, or trust, orself-surrender, or by whatever name you will--there is involved the identification of the finite witha life which is eternally realized. It is true indeed that the religious life is progressive; butunderstood in the light of the foregoing idea, religious progress is not progress TOWARDS, butWITHIN the sphere of the Infinite. It is not the vain attempt by endless finite additions orincrements to become possessed of infinite wealth, but it is the endeavor, by the constant exerciseof spiritual activity, to appropriate that infinite inheritance of which we are already in possession.

The whole future of the religious life is given in its beginning, but it is given implicitly. Theposition of the man who has entered on the religious life is that evil, error, imperfection, do notreally belong to him: they are excrescences which have no organic relation to his true nature: theyare already virtually, as they will be actually, suppressed and annulled, and in the very process ofbeing annulled they become the means of spiritual progress. Though he is not exempt fromtemptation and conflict, [yet] in that inner sphere in which his true life lies, the struggle is over, thevictory already achieved. It is not a finite but an infinite life which the spirit lives. Every pulse-beatof its [existence] is the expression and realization of the life of God."[299]

[299] John Caird: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion London and New York, 1880,pp. 243-250, and 291-299, much abridged.

You will readily admit that no description of the phenomena of the religious consciousness couldbe better than these words of your lamented preacher and philosopher. They reproduce the veryrapture of those crises of conversion of which we have been hearing; they utter what the mystic feltbut was unable to communicate; and the saint, in hearing them, recognizes his own experience. Itis indeed gratifying to find the content of religion reported so unanimously. But when all is saidand done, has Principal Caird--and I only use him as an example of that whole mode of thinking-transcendedthe sphere of feeling and of the direct experience of the individual, and laid thefoundations of religion in impartial reason? Has he made religion universal by coercive reasoning,transformed it from a private faith into a public certainty? Has he rescued its affirmations fromobscurity and mystery?

I believe that he has done nothing of the kind, but that he has simply reaffirmed the individual'sexperiences in a more generalized vocabulary. And again, I can be excused from provingtechnically that the transcendentalist reasonings fail to make religion universal, for I can point tothe plain fact that a majority of scholars, even religiously disposed ones, stubbornly refuse to treatthem as convincing. The whole of Germany, one may say, has positively rejected the Hegelianargumentation. As for Scotland, I need only mention Professor Fraser's and Professor PringlePattison'smemorable criticisms, with which so many of you are familiar.[300] Once more, I ask, iftranscendental idealism were <445> as objectively and absolutely rational as it pretends to be,could it possibly fail so egregiously to be persuasive?

[300] A. C. Fraser: Philosophy of Theism, second edition, Edinburgh and London, 1899,especially part ii, chaps. vii. and viii. A. Seth [Pringle-Pattison]: Hegelianism and Personality,Ibid., 1890, passim.

The most persuasive arguments in favor of a concrete individual Soul of the world, with which Iam acquainted, are those of my colleague, Josiah Royce, in his Religious Aspect of Philosophy,Boston, 1885; in his Conception of God, New York and London, 1897; and lately in his AberdeenGifford Lectures, The World and the Individual, 2 vols., New York and London, 1901-02. Idoubtless seem to some of my readers to evade the philosophic duty which my thesis in this lectureimposes on me, by not even attempting to meet Professor Royce's arguments articulately. I admitthe momentary evasion. In the present lectures, which are cast throughout in a popular mould,there seemed for subtle metaphysical discussion, and for tactical purposes it was sufficientthecont(no) ention(room) of philosophy being what it is (namely, that religion can be transformedinto a universally convincing science), to point to the fact that no religious philosophy has actuallyconvinced the mass of thinkers. Meanwhile let me say that I hope that the present volume may befollowed by another, if I am spared to write it, in which not only Professor Royce's arguments, butothers for monistic absolutism shall be considered with all the technical fullness which their greatimportance calls for. At present I resign myself to lying passive under the reproach ofsuperficiality.

What religion reports, you must remember, always purports to be a fact of experience: the divineis actually present, religion says, and between it and ourselves relations of give and take are actual.

If definite perceptions of fact like this cannot stand upon their own feet, surely abstract reasoningcannot give them the support they are in need of. Conceptual processes can class facts, definethem, interpret them; but they do not produce them, nor can they reproduce their individuality.

There is always a PLUS, a THISNESS, which feeling alone can answer for. Philosophy in thissphere is thus a secondary function, unable to warrant faith's veracity, and so I revert to the thesiswhich I announced at the beginning of this lecture.

In all sad sincerity I think we must conclude that the attempt to demonstrate by purelyintellectual processes the truth of the deliverances of direct religious experience is absolutelyhopeless.

It would be unfair to philosophy, however, to leave her under this negative sentence. Let meclose, then, by briefly enumerating what she CAN do for religion. If she will abandon metaphysicsand deduction for criticism and induction, and frankly transform herself from theology into scienceof religions, she can make herself enormously useful.

The spontaneous intellect of man always defines the divine which it feels in ways that harmonizewith its temporary intellectual prepossessions. Philosophy can by comparison eliminate the localand the accidental from these definitions. Both from dogma and from worship she can removehistoric incrustations. By confronting the spontaneous religious constructions with the results ofnatural science, philosophy can also eliminate doctrines that are now known to be scientificallyabsurd or incongruous. Sifting out in this way unworthy formulations, she can leave a residuum ofconceptions that at least are possible. With these she can deal as HYPOTHESES, testing them inall the manners, whether negative or positive, by which hypotheses are ever tested. She can reducetheir number, as some are found more open to objection. She can perhaps become the champion ofone which she picks out as being the most closely verified or verifiable. She can refine upon thedefinition of this hypothesis, distinguishing between what is innocent over-belief and symbolism inthe expression of it, and what is to be literally taken. As a result, she can offer mediation betweendifferent believers, and help to bring about consensus of opinion. She can do this the moresuccessfully, the better she discriminates the common and essential from the individual and localelements of the religious beliefs which she compares.

I do not see why a critical Science of Religions of this sort might not eventually command asgeneral a public adhesion as is commanded by a physical science. Even the personally nonreligiousmight accept its conclusions on trust, much as blind persons now accept the facts ofoptics--it might appear as foolish to refuse them. Yet as the science of optics has to be fed in thefirst instance, and continually verified later, by facts experienced by seeing persons; so the scienceof religions would depend for its original material on facts of personal experience, and would haveto square itself with personal experience through all its critical reconstructions. It could never getaway from concrete life, or work in a conceptual vacuum. It would forever have to confess, asevery science confesses, that the subtlety of nature flies beyond it, and that its formulas are butapproximations. Philosophy lives in words, but truth and fact well up into our lives in ways thatexceed verbal formulation. There is in the living act of perception always something that glimmersand twinkles and will not be caught, and for which reflection comes too late. No one knows this aswell as the philosopher. He must fire his volley of new vocables out of his conceptual shotgun, forhis profession condemns him to this industry, but he secretly knows the hollowness andirrelevancy. His formulas are like stereoscopic or kinetoscopic photographs seen outside theinstrument; they lack the depth, the motion, the vitality. In the religious sphere, in particular, beliefthat formulas are true can never wholly take the place of personal experience.

In my next lecture I will try to complete my rough description of religious experience; and in thelecture after that, which is the last one, I will try my hand at formulating conceptually the truth towhich it is a witness.


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