Means Of Expression Of The Numinous

1. Direct Means

It may serve to make the essential nature of the numinous consciousness clearer if we call to mind the manner in which it expresses itself outwardly, and how it spreads and is transmitted from mind to mind. There is, of course, no ' transmission ' of it in the proper sense of the word ; it cannot he ' taught ', it must be ' awakened ' from the spirit. And this could not justly be asserted, as it often is, of religion as a whole and in general, for in religion there is very much that ccm be taught—that is, handed down in concepts and passed on in school instruction. What is incapable of being so handed down is this numinous basis and background to religion, which can only be induced, incited, and aroused. This is least of all possible by mere verbal phrase or external symbol ; rather we must have recourse to the way all other moods and feelings are transmitted, to a penetrative imaginative sympathy with what passes in the other person's mind. More of the experience lives in reverent attitude and gesture, in tone and voice and demeanour, expressing its momentousness, and the solemn devotional assembly of a congregation at prayer, than in all the phrases and negative nomenclature which we have found to designate it. Indeed, these never give a positivi suggestion of the object to which the religious consciousness refers ; they are only of assistance in so far as they profess to indicate an object, which they at the same time contrast with another, at once distinct from and inferior to it, e. g. ' the invisible ', ' the eternal ' (nontemporal), ' the supernatural ', ' the transcendent '. Or they nre «imply ideograms for the unique content of feeling, ideograms to understand which a man must already have had the experience himself. Far the best means are actual ' holy 1 situations or their representation in description. If a man does not fid v, hat the numinous is, when he reads the sixth chapter of Isaiah, then no 'preaching, singing, telling', in Luther's phrase, can avail him. Little of it can usually be noticed in theory and dogma, or even in exhortation, unless it is actually hmrd. Indeed no element in religion needs so much as this the ' vox '.transmission by living fellowship and the inspiration of personal contact.1

Put the mere word, even when it comes as a li\ing voice is pnwarless without the ' Spirit in the heart' of the hearer to move him to apprehension. And this Spirit, this inborn capacity to receive and understand, is the essential thing. It' that is there, very often only a very small incitement, a very remote stimulus, i-. needed to arouse the numinous consciousness. It is indeed astonishing to see how small a stimulus sulEces—and that too coming sometimes only in clumsy and bev.ddered guise- to raise the Spirit of itself to the strongest pitch of the most definitely religion-* excitement. But where the wind of the Spirit blows, there the mere ' rational' terms themselves are indued with power to arouse the feeling of the ' non-rational', and become adequate to tune the mood at once to the right tone. Here ' schematization' starts at once and needs no | rompting. He who 'in the Spirit' reads the written word lives in the numinous, though he may have neither notion of it nor name for it, nay, though he may be unable to analyse any feeling of his own and so make explicit

1 Suso Fay« of the transmission of fhe mystical experience : 'One thinu there may be known ; unlike as it is, when a man hear* th himself a dulcet instrument of strings sweetly sounding, compared to whoso hut heareth tell thereof, even so are the words which ate received in the purity of grace and flow forth out of a living heart by a i.\ing mouth unlike to those same words if they are beheld upon the dead parchment. . . . For there they grow c old, I know not how, and Wither away like roses that have been pi ,cked. For the lovely melody that above all toucheth the heart is then quenched to silence ; and in the waste places of the withered heart are they then received.'

to himself the nature of that numinous strand running through the religious experience.

2. Indirect Means

For the rest, the methods by which the numinous feeling is presented and evoked are indirect; i. e. they consist in those means by which we express kindred and similar feelings belonging to the ' natural' sphere. We have already become acquainted with these feelings, and we shall recognize them at once if we consider what are the means of expression which religion has employed in all s>ges and in every land.

One of the most primitive of these—which is later more anil more felt to be inadequate, until it is finally altogether discarded as ' unworthy'— is quite naturally the ' fearful' and horrible, and even at times the revolting and the loathsome. Inasmuch as the corresponding feelings are closely analogous to that of the ' tremendumtheir outlets and means of expression may become indirect modes of expressing the specific ' numinous awe' that cannot be expressed directly. And so it comes about that the horrible and dreadful character of primitive images and pictures of gods, which seems to us to-day frequently so repellent, has even yet among naive and primitive natures—nay, occasionally even among ourselves—the effect of arousing genuine feelings of authentic religious awe. And, vice versa, this awe operates as a supremely potent stimulus to express the element of terror in different forms of imaginative representation. The hard, stern, and somewhat grim pictures of the Madonna in ancient Byzantine art attract the worship of many Catholics more than the tender charm of the Madonnas of Raphael. This trait is most signally evident in the case of certain figures of gods in the Indian pantheon. Durga, the ' great Mother' of Bengal, whoso worship can appear steeped in an atmosphere of profoundest devotional awe, is represented in the orthodox tradition with the visage of a fiend. And this same blending of appalling frightfulness and most exalted holiness can perhaps be even more clearly studied in the eleventh book of the Bhagavad-Gita,1 in which Vishnu— who is yet to his votaries the very principle of goodness—displays himself to Aryuiia in the true height of his divinity. Here, too, the mind has recourse for mode of expression first to the fearful and dreadful, though this is at the same time permeated with that element of ' the grand to which we next turn.

This mode of expression, by way of 'grandeur' or 'sublimity', is found on higher levels, where it replaces mere ' terror' and ' dread'. We meet it in an unsurpassable form in the sixjff chapter of Isaiah, where there is sublimity alike in the lofty throne and the sovereign figure of God, the skirts of His raiment ' tilling the temple' and the solemn majesty of the attendant angels about Him. While the element of ' dread ' is gradually overborne, the connexion of ' the sublime ' and ' the holy ' becomes firmly established as a legitimate schematization and is carried on into the highest forms of religious consciousness—a proof that there exists a hidden kin hip between the numinous and the sublime, which is something more than a merely accidental analogy, and to which Kant's Critique of Judgement bears distant witness.

So far we have been concerned with that element or factor of the numinous which was the first our analysis noted and which we proposed to name symbolically 'the aweful' (tremeadum). We. pass now to consider the means by which the second—the element of ' the mysterious' (mysterium)—is expressed. Here we light upon the analogical mode of manifestation that in every religion occupies a foremost and extraordinary place, and the theory of which we are now in a position to give. I refer to mlra'ie. 'Miracle is the dearest child of Faith'; if the history of religions had not already taught us the truth of Schiller's saying, we might have reached it by anticipation a priori from the element of ' the mysterious', as already shown. Nothing can be found in all the world of 'natural' feelings bearing so immediate an analogy—mutatis mutandis— to the religious consciousness of ineffable, unutterable mystery,

1 See Appendix II. Nowhere can the non-rationa! element of ¿py,, be better studied than in this chapter, one. of the perfectly classical passages for the theory of Religion.

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