Lecture Thirteenth

dobs the primacy belong to theoretical or to practical reason ?

Aristotle's Exaltation of Theory contrasted with Kant's View of the Primacy of Practical Reason—Kant's View of Experience and its Relation to the Ideas of Reason—The Ideas of God, Freedom and Immortality—Knowledge and Belief— Belief founded on the Will to Believe—Likeness and Difference of the Kantian and the Aristotelian views—Insufficiency of Subjective Grounds of Belief—Kant's View of the Relation of Teleology and Mechanism—Teleological Conceptions in Modern Biology—How Kant supplies the Means of Transcending his own Conception of Knowledge—Relation of Consciousness and Self-consciousness—The Identity beneath the Difference of Reason and Will—Relativity of the Opposition of What Is to What Ought To Be—Aristotle's View of the Relation of Formal and Final to Efficient and Material Causes—The False Ideal of Exact Science—In what Sense the Highest Object is the Simplest—Why we find Contingency in the Lives of Animals and Men—The Unity of the Ideal and the Real—The Unity of the Theoretical and the Practical Consciousness, 350-382

what is the principle that underlies and finds expression in the religious life of man, or, in other words, whaf it is that makes him a religious being, a being who in all ages has been conscious of himself as standing in vital relation to a supreme object o! reverence and worship whom he calls God. In the second place, I tried to show that, while this consciousness of God finds an adequate expression only in the highest forms of religious thought and experience, we can detect the beginnings of it, under very crude and elementary forms, even in the superstitions of savages. And, though our knowledge does not yet enable us, if it ever will enable us, to solve many of the problems connected with the transmission and filiation of the religious movements of different times and nations, yet we can trace out a fairly distinct and continuous series of stages through which the religious life of man has passed.

There is, however, one aspect of this process of development which is worthy of special attention, and on which I could only touch incidentally in my former lectures. This is the great and growing importance of reflective thought—in other words, of the conscious reaction of mind upon the results of its own unconscious or obscurely conscious movements—in the sphere of religion. The impulse which makes man religious, and which determines the character of the object worshipped as well as the manner of worship, may be a rational one, but it is certainly not due in the first instance to the activity of conscious reason. As man thinks and argues, mak§s judgments and draws inferences, long before he begins to examine into the nature and laws of the logical process, as he builds up for himself some kind of social order and learns to observe moral rules and customs long before he thinks of asking for any ultimate principle of ethics, so he is a religious being long before he seeks to understand or to criticise, to maintain or to dispute the validity of the religious consciousness. Theology is not religion; it is at best the philosophy of religion, the reflective reproduction and explanation of it; and, as such, it is the product of a time that has outgrown simple faith and begun to feel the necessity of understanding what it believes. Early religion does not trouble itself about its own justification : it does not even seek to make itself intelligible. It manifests itself in a ritual rather than a creed. And even when, as in Greece, it becomes more articulate and rises to some imaginative expression of itself in a mythology which can furnish a theme for art and poetry, yet, even then, it does not ask for any reason for its own existence, or attempt to gather up its general meaning and purport in a doctrine. It is intuitive rather than reflective, practical rather than speculative, conscious rather than self-conscious. It has a vigorous life, which maintains itself against all the other interests of man and strives to subdue and assimilate them to itself; but it does not endeavour to formulate its own principle or estimate its relations to these other interests. We are a long way down the stream of religious history ere we meat with anything like a book-religion, ie, a religion that has a sufficiently definite view of itself to fix its own image in a sacred literature. And from that there is still a long way to traverse ere we find any attempt made to liberate the religious idea from its imaginative dress, to define the character of the object of worship» or to discuss its relations to nature and to man.

Nevertheless man is from the first self-conscious, and he is continually on the way to Income mom clearly conscious of himself and of all the chummta and phases of his being. Slow as may be the movement of his advance, the time must at last m come when he turns back in thought apon himself, to measure and criticise, to select and to reject, to reconsider and remould by reflexion the immediate products of his own religious life. And though he can never metaphorically, any more than literally, 'stand upon his head though the day will never come when, in Goothtfs satirical phrase, the world shall bo held together

philosophy and not by hunger and love; though, in short, man cannot lay the foundations of his existence in conscious reason, or build it up from beginning to end with deliberate plan and purpose; yet in the long process of his history the "part played by reflexion must become more, and more important. Even if we allow that reflective thought cannot originate any entirely new moral or religious movement, yet it is inevitable that it should become continually more powerful to disturb and to modify religious faith, and that, in consequence, man's hold of beliefs which he cannot justify to himself should become more and more relaxed. Nay, it is inevitable that the results of reflective criticism should enter more and more deeply into the very substance of religion itself, so that it becomes scarcely possible for those who hold it to avoid theorising it.

Thus, to take an obvious instance, the later religion of the Jews was no longer that simple religious sentiment which held the race of Israel together by binding them all to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, It had become enriched with wider thoughts by the chequered experiences of its national history, by the captivity and exile —which, as it were, tore it away from its natural root and forced it to seek a new and spiritual principle of life—by the manifold relations of sympathy and antagonism with other peoples into which the Hebrews were brought. Thus it was that the most narrowly national of all races gradually became the organ of a spirit of prophecy, which looked forward to the universal reign of a God of all men, whose worshippers should be distinguished not by race but only by the energy and purity of their moral life. For it may fairly be said that if the prophets still put forward a claim for the supremacy of Israel, it was rather as the leader of humanity in the path of spiritual progress than as a specially privileged and exclusive nationality. A religion that thus rose into the atmosphere of universality, freeing the spirits of its worshippers from the bonds of time and place, was iro product of mere feeling or unconscious reason. It showed in its inmost texture the working of reflexion, and its life could be sustained only by continued reflexion. It was so far lifted above all that was local and particular in Judaism that it could encounter the speculative thought of Greece almost upon equal terms. It had become itself something like a philosophy, and could, therefore, in Alexandria and elsewhere, easily make terms with another philosophy, and blend or coalesce with it into a new product.

And what is true of the religion of Israel is still more true of Christianity. Springing out of a Judaism which was already deeply tinged with Greek ideas, and developing itself under the constant pressure of Greek influences, Christianity was from the first what we may call a reflective re*

ligion, a religion which gathered into itself many of the results of both Eastern and Western thought Already in the New Testament, it is not only a religion, but it contains, especially in the writings of St Paul, the germs of a theology. Hence, strictly speaking, it has never been, and can never be, a religion of simple faith; or, if it ever relapses into such a faith, it immediately begins to lose its spiritual character, and to assimilate itself to religions that are lower in the scale. It is not merely that, as Anselm and the Schoolmen generally contended, it is allowable for the Christian to advance from faith to reason, from vmeratio to delectatio, but that, for him, not to do so is speedily to lose hold of that which is most valuable in his faith. And if he yields to a fear of the dangers of reflexion, with the doubt and perplexity which attend it, and declines into the easier path of reliance on some kind of authority, he will inevitably turn his creed into a dead formula and his worship into a superstition. This does not, of course, mean that a true Christian must be a philosopher—philosophy is a special department of activity like any other—but it means that the Christian cannot in the long run maintain his faith unless he is continually turning it into living thought, using it as a key to the difficulties of life, and endeavouring to realise what light it throws on

his own nature and on his relations to his fellow-men «and to God. And, if he does so, however

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment