Info

But, when this is granted, we have to be on our guard against an error which would lead to a wrong and one-sided interpretation of religion. This is the view that the essence of deity can be given completely and exhaustively in such ' rational' attributions as have been referred to above and in others like them. It is not an unnatural misconception. We are prompted to it by the traditional language of edification, with its characteristic phraseology and ideas; by the learned treatment of religious themes in sermon and theological instruction; and further even by our Holy Scriptures themselves. In all these cases the 1 rational' element occupies the foreground, and often nothing else seems to be present at all. But this is after all to be expected. All language, in so far as it consists of words, purports to convey ideas or concepts;— that is what language means ;—and the more clearly and unequivocally it does so, the better the language. And hence expositions of religious truth in language inevitably tend to stress the ' rational' attributes of God.

But though the above mistake is thus a natural one enough, it is none the less seriously misleading. For so far are these ' rational' attributes from exhausting the idea of deity, that they in fact imply a non-rational or supra-rational Subject of which they are predicates. They are ' essential' (and not merely ' accidental') attributes of that subject, but they are also, it is important to notice, synthetic essential attributes. That is to say, we have to predicate them of a subject which they qualify, but which in its deeper essence is not, nor indeed can be, comprehended in them ; which rather requires comprehension of a quite different kind. Yet, though it eludes the conceptual way of understanding, it must be in some way or other within our grasp, else absolutely nothing could be asserted of it. And even Mysticism, in speaking of it as to app-qTov, the ineffable, does not really mean to imply that absolutely nothing can be asserted of the object of the religious consciousness; otherwise, Mysticism could exist only in unbroken silence, whereas what has generally been a characteristic of the mystics is their copious eloquence.

Here for the first time we come up against the contrast between Rationalism and profounder religion, and with this contrast and its signs we shall be repeatedly concerned in what follows. We have here in fact the tirst and most distinctive mark of Rationalism, with which all the rest are bound up. It is not that which is commonly asserted, that Rationalism is the denial, and its opposite the affirmation, of the miraculous. That is manifestly a wrong or at. least a \ ery superficial distinction. For the traditional theory of the miraculous as the occasional breach in the caudal nexus in nature by a Being who himself instituted and must therefore be master of it— this theory is itself as massively ' rational' as it is possible to be. Rationalists have often enough acquiesced in the possibility of the miraculuus in this sense ; they have even themselves contributed to frame a theory of it;—whereas anti-Rationalists have been often indifferent to the whole controversy alioul miracles. The dilference between Rationalism and its opposite is to be found elsewhere. It resolves itself rather into a peculiar difference of quality in the mental attitude ami emotional content of the religious life itself. All depends upon this: in our idea of God is the non-rational overborne, even perhaps wholly excluded, by the rational 1 Or conversely, does the non-rational itself preponderate over the rational I Looking at the matter thus, we see that the common dictum, that Orthodoxy itself has been the mother of Rationalism, is in some measure well founded. It is not simply that Orthodoxy v; as preoccupied with doctrine and the framing of dogma, for these have been no less a concern of the wildest mystics. It is rather that Orthodoxy found in the construction of dogma and doctrine no way to do justice to the non-rational aspect of its subject. So far from keeping the non rational element in religion alive in the heart of the religious experience, orthodox Christianity manifestly failed to recognize its \alue, and 1 y this failure gave to the idea of God a one-sidedly intellectualistic and rationalistic interpretation.

This bias to rationalization still prevails, not only in theology but in the science of comparative religion in general and from top to bottom of it. The modern students of mythology, and those who pursue research into the religion of ' primitive man '

is 2

anil attempt to reconstruct the ' bases' or ' sources' of religion, are all victims to it. Men do not, of course, in these cases employ those lofty ' rational' concepts which we took as our point of departure ; but they tend to take these concepts and their gradual ' evolution ' as setting the main problem of their inquiry, and fashion ideas and notions of lower value, which they regard as paving the way for them. It is always in terms of concepts and ideas that the subject is pursued, | natural' ones, moreover, such as have a place in the general sphere of man's ideational life, and are not specifically ' religious'. And then with a resolution and cunning which one can hardly help admiring, men shut their eyes to that which is quite unique in the religious experience, even in its most primitive manifestations. But it is rather a matter for astonishment than for admiration ! For if there be any single domain of human experience that presents us with something unmistakably spt cific and unique, peculiar to itself, assuredly it is that of the religious life. In truth the enemy has often a keener vision in this matter than either the champion of religion or the neutral and professedly impartial theorist. For the adversaries on their side know very well that the entire ' pother about mysticism' has nothing to do with ' reason ' and ' rationality'.

Anil so it is salutary that we should be incited to notice that Religion is not exclusively contained and exhaustively comprised in any series of ' rational' assertions ; and it is well worth while to attempt to bring the relation of the different ' moments ' of religion to one another clearly before the mind, so that its nature may become more manifest.

This attempt we are now to make with respect to the quite distinctive category of the holy or sacred.

'NUMEN ' AND THE 'NUMINOUS'

' Holiness '—'the holy' is a category of interpretation and valuation peculiar to the sphere of religion. It is, indeed, applied fey transference to another sphere—that of Ethics— hut it is not itself derived from this. While it is complex, it contains a quite specific element or 'moment', which sets it ™ art from 'the Rational' in the meaning we gave to that word above, and which remains inexpressible—an a'¡jprjroi' or iiU'jfubUe—in the sense that it completely eludes apprehension in terms of concepts. The same thing is true (to take a quite different region of experience) of the category of the beautiful.

Now these statements would be untrue from the outset if 'the holy' were merely what is meant by the word, not only in common parlance, but in pl.ilo-ophical, and generally even in theological usage. The fact is we have come to use the words holy, ¡-acred (heilig) in an entirely deri\ ative sense, quite different from that which they originally bore. We generally take ' holy ' as meaning ' completely good '; it is the absolute moral attribute, denoting the consummation of moral goodness. In this sense Kant calls the will which remains unwaveringly obedient to the moral law from the motive of duty a 'holy' will; here clearly we have simply the -perfectly moral will. In the same way we may speak of the holiness or sanctity of Duty or Law, meaning merely that they are imperative upon conduct and universally obligatory.

IJut this common usage of the term is inaccurate. It is true that all this moral significance is contained in the word 'holy', but it includes in addition—as even we cannot but feel—a clear overplus of meaning, and this it is now our task to isolate. Nor is this merely a later or acquired meaning; rather, 'holy', or at least the equivalent words in Latin and

Greek, in Semitic and other ancient languages, denoted first and foremost only this overplus: if the ethical element was present at all, at any rate it was not original and never constituted the whole meaning of the word. Any one who uses it to-day does undoubtedly always feel ' the morally good' to be implied in ' holy'; and accordingly in our inquiry into that element which is separate and peculiar to the idea of the holy it will be useful, at least for the temporary purpose of the investigation, to invent a special term to stand for ' the holy' minus its moral factor or 'moment', and, as we can now add, minus its 1 rational' aspect altogether.

It will be our endeavour to suggest this unnamed Something to the reader as far as we may, so that he may himself feel it. There is no religion in which it does not live as the real innermost core, and without it no religion would be worthy of the name. It is pre-eminently a living force in the Semitic religions, and of these again in none has it such vigour as in that of the Bible. Here, too, it has a name of its own, viz. the Hebrew qddosh, to which the Greek ayios and the Latin Hindus, and, more accurately still, sacer, are the corresponding terms. It is not, of course, disputed, that these terms in all three languages connote, as part of their meaning, good, absolute goodness, when, that is, the notion has ripened and reached the highest stage in its development. And we then use the word 'holy' to translate them. But this ' holy' then represents the gradual shaping and iilling in with ethical meaning, or what we shall call the ' schematization', of what was a unique original feeling-response, which can be in itself ethically neutral and claims consideration in its own right. And when this moment or element Art, emerges and begins its long development, all those expressions (qddosh, ayios, sacer, &c.) mean beyond all question something quite other than 'the good This is universally agreed by contemporary criticism, which rightly explains the rendering of qadvsh by ' good ' as a mistranslation and unwarranted ' rationalization' or ' moralization ' of the term.

Accordingly, it is worth while, as we have said, to find a word to stand for this element in isolation, this ' extra' in the meaning of 'holy' above and beyond the meaning of goodness. By means of a special term we shall the better be able, first, to keep the meaning clearly apart and distinct, and second, to apprehend and classify connectedly whatever subordinate forms or stages of development it may show. For this purpose I adopt a word coined from the I^atin numtn. Omen has given us ominous, and there is no reason why from Auviea we should not similarly form a word 'numinous'. I shall speak then of a unique 'numinous' category of value and of a definitely 'numinous ' state of mind, which is always found 'w herever the category is applied. This mental state is perfectly mi generis and irreducible to any other; and therefore, like every absolutely primary and elementary datum, while it admits of being discussed, it cannot be strictly defined. There is only one way to help another to an understanding of it. He must be guided and led on by consideration and discussion of the matter through the ways of his own mind, until he reach the point at w hicli 'the numinous' in him perforce begins to stir, to start into life and into consciousness. Wo can co-operate in this process by bringing before his notice all that can be found in other regions of the mind already known and familiar, to resemble, or again to afford some special contrast to, the particular experience we wish to elucidate. Then we must add: ' This A' of ours is not precisely this experience, but akin to this one and the opposite of that other. Cannot you now realize for yourself what it is?' In other words our X cannot, strictly speaking, be taught, it can only be evoked, awakened in the mind; as everything that comes 'of the spirit' must be awukened.

THE ELEMENTS IN THE 'NUMINOUS'

Creature-Feeling.

The reader is invited to direct his mind to a moment of deeply-felt religious experience, as little as possible qualified by other forms of consciousness. Whoever cannot do this, whoever knows no such moments in his experience, is requested to read no further; for it is not easy to discuss questions of religious psychology with one who can recollect the emotions of his adolescence, the discomforts of indigestion, or, say, social feelings, but cannot recall any intrinsically religious feelings. We do not blame such an one, when he tries for himself to advance as far as he can with the help of such principles of explanation as he knows, interpreting ' Aesthetics ' in terms of sensuous pleasure, and ' Religion ' as a function of the gregarious instinct and social standards, or as something more primitive still. But the artist, who for his part has an intimate personal knowledge of the distinctive element in the aesthetic experience, will decline his theories with thanks, and the religious man will reject them even more uncompromisingly.

Next, in the probing and analysis of such states of the soul as that of solemn worship, it will be well if regard be paid to what is unique in them rather than to what they have in common with other similar states. To be rapt in worship is one thing; to be morally uplifted by the contemplation of a good deed is another ; and it is not to their common features, but to those elements of emotional content peculiar to the first that we would have attention directed as precisely as possible. As Christians we undoubtedly here first meet with feelings familiar enough in a weaker form in other departments of experience, such as feelings of gratitude, trust, love, reliance, humble submission, and dedication. But this does not by any means exhaust the content of religious worship. Not in any of these have we got the special features of the quite unique awl incomparable experience of solemn worship. In w hat does this consist i

Schleiermacher has the credit of isolating a very important element in such an experience. This is the ' feeling of dependence '. But this important discovery of Schleiermacher is open to criticism in more than one respect.

In the first place, the feeling or emotion which he really has in mind in this phrase is in its specific quality not a 1 feeling of dependence' in the 'natural' sen-.e of the word. As sueh, other domains of life and other regions of experience than the religious occasion the feeling, as a sense of personal iii-u:lieieiicy and impotence, a consciousness of being determined by circumstances and environment. The feeling of which Sehbiermaeher wrote has an undeniable analogy with these states of mind : they serve as an indication to it, and its nature may be elucidated by them, so that, by following the direction in which they point, the feeling itself may be spontaneously felt. But the feeling is at the same time also qualitatively different from such analogous states of mind. Schleiermacher himself, in a way, recognizes this by distinguishing the feeling of pious or religious dependence from all other feelings of dependence. His mistake is in making the distinction merely that between ' absolute ' and ' relati\ e ' dependence, and therefore a difference of degree and not of intrinsic quality. What he overlooks is that, in giving the feeling the name ' feeling of dependence' at all, we are really employing what is no more than a very close analogy. Any one who compares and contrasts the two states of mind introspectively will find out, 1 think what I mean. It cannot be expressed ly means of anything else, just because it is so primary and elementary a datum in our psychical life, and therefore only definable through itself. It may perhaps help him if I cite a well-known example, in which the precise ' moment ' or element of religious feeling of which we are. speaking is most actively present. \\ hen Abraham ventures to plead w ith God for the men of Sodom, he sajs (Genesis x\iii. 27) : ' Behold now I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes.' There you have a self-confessed ' feeling of dependence', which is yet at the same time far more than, and something other than, merely a feeling of dependence. Desiring to give it a name of its own, I propose to call it ' creature-consciousness ' or creature-feeling. It is the emotion of a creature, abased and overwhelmed by its own nothingness in contrast to that which is supreme above all creatures.

It is a®«ily seen that, once again, this phrase, whatever it is, is not a conceptual explanation of the matter. All that this new term, 'creature-feeling', can express, is the note of self-abasement into nothingness before an overpowering, absolute might of some kind; whereas everything turns upon the character of this overpowering might, a character which cannot be expressed verbally, and can only be suggested indirectly through the tone and content of a man's feeling-response to it. And this response must be directly experienced in oneself to be understood.

We have now to note a second defect in the formulation of Schleiermacher's principle. The religious category discovered by him, by whose means he professes to determine the real content of the religious emotion, is merely a category of aelf-valuation, in the sense of self-depreciation. According to him the religious emotion would be directly and primarily a sort of 8e//-consciousncss, a feeling concerning one's self in a special, determined relation, viz. one's dependence. Thus, according to Schleiermacher, I can only come upon the very fact of God as the result of an inference, that is, by reasoning to a cause beyond myself to account for my 1 feeling of dependence But this is entirely opposed to the psychological facts of the case. Rather, the ' creature-feeling' is itself a first subjective concomitant and effect of another feeling-element, which casts it like a shadow, but which in itself indubitably has immediate and primary reference to an object outside the self.1

1 This ia go manifestly borne out by experience that it must be about the first thing to force itself upon the notice of psychologists analysing the facts of religion. There is a certain naivete in the following passage from William James's Varieties of Religious Experience (p. 58),

Now this object is just w hat we have already spoken of as 'the numinous'. For the 'creature-feeling' and the sense of dependence to arise in the mind the ' numen' must be experienced as present, a ' numen praesens', as in the case of Abraham. There must be felt a something 'numinous', something bearing the character of a ' numen ', to which the mind turns spontaneously; or (which >s the sainc thing in other words) these feelings can only arise in the mind as accompanying emotions when the category of 'the numinous' is called into play.

The numinous is thus felt as objective and outside the self. We have now to inquire more closely into its nature and the modes of its manifestation.

■where, alludiug to the origin of the Grecian representations of the gods, he Says : 'As regards the origin of the Greek gods, we need not at pre-bi'iife * k an opinion, liut the whole array of our instances leads to a conclusion something like this: It is as if there were in the human consciousness a sense of reality, a <eel hi;/ of objective presence, a pmeption of what we may call "something there", more deep and more general than any of the special and particular " senses" by which the current psy lio-logy supposes existent realities to be originally revealed.' (The italics are James's own.) James is debarred by his empiricist and pragmatist stand-point from coming to a recognition of faculties of knowledge and potentialities of thought in the spirit itself, and he is therefore obliged to have recourse to somewhat singular and mysterious hypotheso« to explain this fact. Iiut he grasps the fact itself clearly enough and is sufficient of a realist n t to explain it away. But this ' feeling of reality ', the feeling of a 'numinous ' ohjict objectively givir., must be posited as a primary immediate datum of consciousness, and the ' feeling of dependence ' is then a consequence, following very closely upon it, viz. a depreciation of the subject in his own eyes. The latter presupposes the former,

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment