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  In writing my concluding lecture I had to aim so much at simplification that I fear that mygeneral philosophic position received so scant a statement as hardly to be intelligible to some ofmy readers. I therefore add this epilogue, which must also be so brief as possibly to remedy butlittle the defect. In a later work I may be enabled to state my position more amply andconsequently more clearly.

Originality cannot be expected in a field like this, where all the attitudes and tempers that arepossible have been exhibited in literature long ago, and where any new writer can immediately beclassed under a familiar head. If one should make a division of all thinkers into naturalists andsupernaturalists, I should undoubtedly have to go, along with most philosophers, into thesupernaturalist branch. But there is a crasser and a more refined supernaturalism, and it is to therefined division that most philosophers at the present day belong. If not regular transcendentalidealists, they at least obey the Kantian direction enough to bar out ideal entities from interferingcausally in the course of phenomenal events. Refined supernaturalism is universalisticsupernaturalism; for the "crasser" variety "piecemeal" supernaturalism would perhaps be the bettername. It went with that older theology which to-day is supposed to reign only among uneducatedpeople, or to be found among the few belated professors of the dualisms which Kant is thought tohave displaced. It admits miracles and providential leadings, and finds no intellectual difficulty inmixing the ideal and the real worlds together by interpolating influences from the ideal regionamong the forces that causally determine the real world's details. In this the refinedsupernaturalists think that it muddles disparate dimensions of existence. For them the world of theideal has no efficient causality, and never bursts into the world of phenomena at particular points.

The ideal world, for them, is not a world of facts, but only of the meaning of facts; it is a point ofview for judging facts. It appertains to a different "-ology," and inhabits a different dimension ofbeing altogether from that in which existential propositions obtain. It cannot get down upon the flatlevel of experience and interpolate itself piecemeal between distinct portions of nature, as thosewho believe, for example, in divine aid coming in response to prayer, are bound to think it must.

Notwithstanding my own inability to accept either popular Christianity or scholastic theism, Isuppose that my belief that in communion with the Ideal new force comes into the world, and newdepartures are made here below, subjects me to being classed among the supernaturalists of thepiecemeal or crasser type. Universalistic supernaturalism surrenders, it seems to me, too easily tonaturalism. It takes the facts of physical science at their face-value, and leaves the laws of life justas naturalism finds them, with no hope of remedy, in case their fruits are bad.

It confines itself to sentiments about life as a whole, sentiments which may be admiring andadoring, but which need not be so, as the existence of systematic pessimism proves. In thisuniversalistic way of taking the ideal world, the essence of practical religion seems to me toevaporate. Both instinctively and for logical reasons, I find it hard to believe that principles canexist which make no difference in facts.[362] But all facts are particular facts, and the wholeinterest of the question of God's existence seems to me to lie in the consequences for particularswhich that existence may be expected to entail. That no concrete particular of experience shouldalter its complexion in consequence of a God being there seems to me an incredible proposition,and yet it is the thesis to which (implicitly at any rate) refined supernaturalism seems to cling. It isonly with experience en bloc, it says, that the Absolute maintains relations. It condescends to notransactions of detail.

[362] Transcendental idealism, of course, insists that its ideal world makes THIS difference, thatfacts EXIST. We owe it to the Absolute that we have a world of fact at all. "A world" of fact!--thatexactly is the trouble. An entire world is the smallest unit with which the Absolute can work,whereas to our finite minds work for the better ought to be done within this world, setting in atsingle points. Our difficulties and our ideals are all piecemeal affairs, but the Absolute can do nopiecework for us; so that all the interests which our poor souls compass raise their heads too late.

We should have spoken earlier, prayed for another world absolutely, before this world was born. Itis strange, I have heard a friend say, to see this blind corner into which Christian thought hasworked itself at last, with its God who can raise no particular weight whatever, who can help uswith no private burden, and who is on the side of our enemies as much as he is on our own. Oddevolution from the God of David's psalms!

I am ignorant of Buddhism and speak under correction, and merely in order the better to describemy general point of view; but as I apprehend the Buddhistic doctrine of Karma, I agree in principlewith that. All supernaturalists admit that facts are under the judgment of higher law; but forBuddhism as I interpret it, and for religion generally so far as it remains unweakened bytranscendentalistic metaphysics, the word "judgment" here means no such bare academic verdict orplatonic appreciation as it means in Vedantic or modern absolutist systems; it carries, on thecontrary, EXECUTION with it, is in rebus as well as post rem. and operates "causally" as partialfactor in the total fact. The universe becomes a gnosticism[363] pure and simple on any otherterms. But this view that judgment and execution go together is that of the crasser supernaturalistway of thinking, so the present volume must on the whole be classed with the other expressions ofthat creed.

[363] See my Will to Believe and other Essays in popular Philosophy. 1897, p. 165.

I state the matter thus bluntly, because the current of thought in academic circles runs against me,and I feel like a man who must set his back against an open door quickly if he does not wish to seeit closed and locked. In spite of its being so shocking to the reigning intellectual tastes, I believethat a candid consideration of piecemeal supernaturalism and a complete discussion of all itsmetaphysical bearings will show it to be the hypothesis by which the largest number of legitimaterequirements are met. That of course would be a program for other books than this; what I now saysufficiently indicates to the philosophic reader the place where I belong.

If asked just where the differences in fact which are due to God's existence come in, I shouldhave to say that in general I have no hypothesis to offer beyond what the phenomenon of"prayerful communion," especially when certain kinds of incursion from the subconscious regiontake part in it, immediately suggests. The appearance is that in this phenomenon something ideal,which in one sense is part of ourselves and in another sense is not ourselves, actually exerts aninfluence, raises our centre of personal energy, and produces regenerative effects unattainable inother ways. If, then, there be a wider world of being than that of our every-day consciousness, if init there be forces whose effects on us are intermittent, if one facilitating condition of the effects bethe openness of the "subliminal" door, we have the elements of a theory to which the phenomenaof religious life lend plausibility. I am so impressed by the importance of these phenomena that Iadopt the hypothesis which they so naturally suggest. At these places at least, I say, it would seemas though transmundane energies, God, if you will, produced immediate effects within the naturalworld to which the rest of our experience belongs.

The difference in natural "fact" which most of us would assign as the first difference which theexistence of a God ought to make would, I imagine, be personal immortality. Religion, in fact, forthe great majority of our own race MEANS immortality, and nothing else. God is the producer ofimmortality; and whoever has doubts of immortality is written down as an atheist without farthertrial. I have said nothing in my lectures about immortality or the belief therein, for to me it seems asecondary point. If our ideals are only cared for in "eternity," I do not see why we might not bewilling to resign their care to other hands than ours. Yet I sympathize with the urgent impulse to bepresent ourselves, and in the conflict of impulses, both of them so vague yet both of them noble, Iknow not how to decide. It seems to me that it is eminently a case for facts to testify. Facts, I think,are yet lacking to prove "spirit-return," though I have the highest respect for the patient labors ofMessrs. Myers, Hodgson, and Hyslop, and am somewhat impressed by their favorable conclusions.

I consequently leave the matter open, with this brief word to save the reader from a possibleperplexity as to why immortality got no mention in the body of this book.

The ideal power with which we feel ourselves in connection, the "God" of ordinary men, is, bothby ordinary men and by philosophers, endowed with certain of those metaphysical attributes whichin the lecture on philosophy I treated with such disrespect. He is assumed as a matter of course tobe "one and only" and to be "infinite"; and the notion of many finite gods is one which hardly anyone thinks it worth while to consider, and still less to uphold. Nevertheless, in the interests ofintellectual clearness, I feel bound to say that religious experience, as we have studied it, cannot becited as unequivocally supporting the infinitist belief. The only thing that it unequivocally testifiesto is that we can experience union with SOMETHING larger than ourselves and in that union findour greatest peace. Philosophy, with its passion for unity, and mysticism with its monoideisticbent, both "pass to the limit" and identify the something with a unique God who is the all-inclusivesoul of the world. Popular opinion, respectful to their authority, follows the example which theyset.

Meanwhile the practical needs and experiences of religion seem to me sufficiently met by thebelief that beyond each man and in a fashion continuous with him there exists a larger powerwhich is friendly to him and to his ideals. All that the facts require is that the power should be bothother and larger than our conscious selves. Anything larger will do, if only it be large enough totrust for the next step. It need not be infinite, it need not be solitary. It might conceivably even beonly a larger and more godlike self, of which the present self would then be but the mutilatedexpression, and the universe might conceivably be a collection of such selves, of different degreesof inclusiveness, with no absolute unity realized in it at all.[364] Thus would a sort of polytheismreturn upon us--a polytheism which I do not on this occasion defend, for my only aim at present isto keep the testimony of religious experience clearly within its proper bounds. [Compare p. 130above.]

[364] Such a notion is suggested in my Ingersoll Lecture On Human Immortality, Boston andLondon, 1899.

Upholders of the monistic view will say to such a polytheism (which, by the way, has alwaysbeen the real religion of common people, and is so still to-day) that unless there be one all-inclusive God, our guarantee of security is left imperfect. In the Absolute, and in the Absoluteonly, ALL is saved. If there be different gods, each caring for his part, some portion of some of usmight not be covered with divine protection, and our religious consolation would thus fail to becomplete. It goes back to what was said on pages 129-131, about the possibility of there beingportions of the universe that may irretrievably be lost. Common sense is less sweeping in itsdemands than philosophy or mysticism have been wont to be, and can suffer the notion of thisworld being partly saved and partly lost. The ordinary moralistic state of mind makes the salvationof the world conditional upon the success with which each unit does its part. Partial andconditional salvation is in fact a most familiar notion when taken in the abstract, the only difficultybeing to determine the details. Some men are even disinterested enough to be willing to be in theunsaved remnant as far as their persons go, if only they can be persuaded that their cause willprevail--all of us are willing, whenever our activity-excitement rises sufficiently high. I think, infact, that a final philosophy of religion will have to consider the pluralistic hypothesis moreseriously than it has hitherto been willing to consider it. For practical life at any rate, the CHANCEof salvation is enough. No fact in human nature is more characteristic than its willingness to liveon a chance. The existence of the chance makes the difference, as Edmund Gurney says, between alife of which the keynote is resignation and a life of which the keynote is hope.[365] But all thesestatements are unsatisfactory from their brevity, and I can only say that I hope to return to the samequestions in another book.

[365] Tertium Quid, 1887, p. 99. See also pp. 148, 149.

WILLIAM JAMES (1842-1910)A NOTE ON THE AUTHOR OF "THE VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE"The road by which William James arrived at his position of leadership among Americanphilosophers was, during his childhood, youth and early maturity, quite as circuitous andunpredictable as were his father's ideas on the training of his children. That Swedenborgiantheologian foresaw neither the career of novelist for his son Henry, nor that of pragmatistphilosopher for the older William. The father's migrations between New York, Europe andNewport meant that William's education had variety if it did not have fixed direction. From 13 to18 he studied in Europe and returned to Newport, Rhode Island, to study painting under theguidance of John La Farge. After a year, he gave up art for science and entered HarvardUniversity, where his most influential teachers were Louis Agassiz and Charles W. Eliot. In 1863,William James began the study of medicine, and in 1865 he joined an expedition to the Amazon.

Before long, he wrote: "If there is anything I hate, it is collecting." His studies constantlyinterrupted by ill health, James returned to Germany and began hearing lectures and readingvoluminously in philosophy. He won his medical degree at Harvard in 1870. For four years he wasan invalid in Cambridge, but finally, in 1873, he passed his gravest physical and spiritual crisesand began the career by which he was to influence so profoundly generations of Americanstudents. From 1880 to 1907 he was successively assistant professor of philosophy, professor ofpsychology and professor of philosophy at Harvard. In 1890, the publication of his Principles ofPsycholog brought him the acknowledged leadership in the field of functional psychology. Theselection of William James to deliver the Gifford lectures in Edinburgh was at once a tribute tohim and a reward for the university that sponsored the undertaking. These lectures, collected in thisvolume, have since become famous as the standard scientific work on the psychology of thereligious impulse. Death ended his career on August 27th, 1910.

The End


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