The Element Of Fascination

Ti:e qualitative content of the numinous experience, to which ' the mysterious' stands as form, is in one of its aspects the element of daunting ' awefulness' and 'majesty', which has already b&en dealt with i'.i detail; but it is clear that it has at the same time another aspect, in which it shows itself as something uniquely attractive and fascinating.

These two qualities, the daunting and the fascinating, now combine iill a strange harmony of contrasts, and the resultant dual character of the numinous consciousness, to which the entire re'fgious development bears witness, at any rate from the level of the ' daemonic dread' onwards, is at once the strangest and most noteworthy phenomenon in the whole history of religion. The daemonic-divine object may appear to the mind an object of horror and dread, but at the same time it i, no less something that allures with a potent charm, and the creature, w ho trembles before it, utterly cowed and cast down, lias always at the same time the impulse to turn to it, nay even to make it somehow his own. The 'mystery ' is for him not merely something to be wondered at but something that entrances him ; and beside that ill it which bewilders and confounds, he feels a something that captivates and transports h:'m with a strange ravishment, rising often enough to the pitch of dizzy intoxication; :t is the Dionysiac-elfinent in the numen.

The ideas and concepts which are the parallels or ' schemata ' 011 the rational side of this non-rational element of 'fascination' are Love, Male}! Pity, Comfort; these are all 'natural' elements of the common p'.ychical life, only they are hero thought as absolute and i:i completeness. Put important as these are for the experience of religious bliss or felicity, they do not by any means exhaust it. It is just the same as with the opposite experience of religious infelicity— the experience of the opyrj or Wrath of God :—both alike contain fundamentally non-rational elements. Bliss or beatitude is more, far more, than the mere natural feeling of being comforted, of reliance, of the joy of love, however these may be heightened and enhanced. Just as ' Wrath', taken in a purely rational or a purely ethical sense, does not exhaust that profound element of mrefulness which is locked in the mystery of deity, so neither does ' Graciousness' exhaust the profound element of wonderfulness and rapture which lies in the mysterious beatific experience of deity. The term ' grace ' may indeed be taken as its aptest designation, but then only in the sense in which it is really applied in the language of the mystics, and in which not only the ' gracious intent' but ' something more' is meant by the word. This ' something more' has its antecedent phases very far back in the history of religions.

It may well be possible, it is even probable, that in the first stage of its development the religious consciousness started with only one of its poles—the ' daunting ' aspect of the numen —and so at first took shape only as ' daemonic dread '. But if this did not point to something beyond itself, if it were not but one ' moment' of a completer experience, pressing up gradually into consciousness, then no transition would be possible to the feelings of positive self-surrender to the numen. The only type of worship that could result from this ' dread ' alone would be that of ' dwaLTucrOai' and ' ¿.itotpinny', taking the form of expiation and propitiation, the averting or the appeasement of the ' wrath' of the numen. It can never explain how it is that ' the numinous' is the object of search and desire and yearning, and that too for its own sake and not only for the sake of the aid and backing that men expect from it in the natural sphere. It can never explain how this takes place, not only in the forms of ' rational' religious worship, but in those queer ' sacramental' observances and rituals and procedures of communion in which the human being seeks to get the numen into his possession.

Religious practice may manifest itself in those normal ami easily intelligible forms which occupy so prominent a place in the history of religion, such forms as Propitiation, Petition, Sacrifice, Thanksgi\ ing, Ax. But besides these there is a series of strange proceedings which are constantly attracting greater and greater attention, and in which it is claimed that we may recognize, besides mere religion in general, the particular roots of Mysticism. I refer to those numerous curious modes of behaviour and fantastic forms of mediation, by means of which the primitive religious man attempts to master 'the mysterious', and to fill himself and even to identify himself with it. These modes of behaviour fall apart into two classes. On the one hand the ' magical' identification of the self with the lumen proceeds by means of various transactions, at once magical and devotional in character—by formula, ordination adjuration,consecration, exorcism,&c.: on the other hand are the ' shamanistic ' ways of procedure, possession, indwelling, self-imbuement witlj the numen in exaltation and ecstasy. All these have, indeed, their starting-points simply in magic, and their intention at first was certainly simply to appropriate the prodigious forcc of the numen for the natural ends of man. But the process does not rest there. Possession of anil by the numen becomes an end in itself; it begins to be sought for its own sake ; and the wildest and most artificial methods of asceticism are put into practice to attain it. In a word, the 'vita religiosa' begins; and to remain in these strange and bizarre states of numinous possession becomes a good in itself, even a way of salvation, wholly different from the profane goods pursued by means of magic. Here, too, commences the process of development by which the experience is matured and purified, till finally it reaches its consummation in the sublimest anil purest states of the 'life within the Spirit' and in the noblest Mysticism. Widely various as these states are in themselves, yet they have this element in common that in them the ' mystcrium is experienced in its essential, positive, and «pacific character, as something that bestows upon man a beatitude beyond compare, but one whose real nature ho can neither proclaim in speech nor conceive in thought, but u may know only by a direct and living experience. It is a bliss which embraces all those blessings that are indicated or suggested in positive fashion by any ' doctrine of Salvation and it quickens all of them through and through; but these do not exhaust it. Rather by its all-pervading, penetrating glow it makes of these very blessings more than the intellect can conceive in them or afiirm of them. It gives the Peace that passes understanding, and of which the tongue can only stammer brokenly. Only from afar, by metaphors and analogies, do we come to apprehend what it is in itself, and even so our notion is but inadequate and confused.

' Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.' Who does not feel the exalted sound of these words and the ' Dionysiac ' element of transport and fervour in them ? It is instructive that in such phrases as these, in which consciousness would fain put its highest consummation into words, ' all images fall away' and the mind turns from them to grasp expressions that are purely negative. And it is still more instructive that in reading and hearing such words their merely negative character simply is not noticed ; that we can let whole chains of such negations enrapture, even intoxicate us, and that entire hymns—and deeply impressive hymns —have been composed, in which there is really nothing positive at all! All this teaches us the independence of the positive content of this experience from the implications of its overt conceptual expression, and how it can be firmly grasped, thoroughly understood, and profoundly appreciated, purely in with, and from the feeling itself.

Mere love, mere trust, for all the glory and happiness they bring, do not explain to us that moment of rapture that breathes in our tenderest and most heart-felt hymns of salvation, as also in such eschatological hymns of longing as that Rhyme of St. Bernard in which the very verses seem to dance.

Urbs Sion unica, rnansio mystica, condita caelo, Nunc tibi gaudeo, nunc tibi lugeo, tristor, anhelo, Te, quia corpore non queo, pcctore saepe penetro; Sed caro terrea, terraque carnea, mox cado retro.

Nome retexere, nemoque premiere sustinet- ore, Quo tua nioenia, quo capitolia plena nitore. Id queo dieere, quo niodo tangere pollice coelum, Ut mare currere, sieut in acre tigere telum. Opprimit omne cor ille tuns decor, 0 Sion, O Tax. Urbs sine tempore, nulla potest fore laus tibi mendax. O nova Biansio, te pia concio, gens pia munit, Proveliit, excitat, augct, identitat, eflieit, unit.1

This is where the living ' something more ' of the ' fascinans', the element of fascination, is to bo found. It lives no less in those tense extollings of the blessing of salvation, which recur in all religions of salvation, and stand in such remarkable contrast to the relatively meagre and frequently childish import of that which is revealed in them by concept or by image. E\ er\ where Salvation is something whose meaning is often ■ ery little apparent, is even wholly obscure, to the • natural' man; on the contrary, so far as he understands it, he tends to find it highly tedious and uninteresting, sometimes downright distasteful and repugnant to his nature, as he would for instance, find the beatific vision of God in our own doctrine of Salvation, or the 'Henosis' of 'God all in all' among the mystics. 'So far as he understands', be it noted; but then he does not understand it in the least. Because he lacks the inward teaching of the Spirit, he must needs confound what is offered him as an expression for the experience of salvation—a mere ideogram of what is felt, whose import it hints at by analogy—with 'natural' concepts, as though it were itself just such an one. And so he ' wanders ever further from the goal'.

1 '0 Zion, thou city pole and single, mystic mansion hidden away in the heavens, no» I rejoice in thee, now I moan for thee and mou.n and yearn for thee ; Thee often I pass through in the lieait, as I cannot in the body, but being but earthly flesh and fleshly earth Boon I fall bark. None can disclose or utter in speech what plenary radiance fills thy walls and thy citadel*. I can as little tell of it as 1 can touch the skies with my finger, or run upon the sea or make a dart stand still in the air. This thy si lendour overwhelms every heart, 0 Sion, 0 Peace ! 0 timeless City, no praise can belie thee. 0 new dwelling-place, thee the concourse and people of the. faithful erects and exalts, inspires and increases, joins to itself, and makes complete and one.'

It is not only in the religious feeling of longing that the moment of fascination is a living factor. It is already alive and present in the moment of ' solemnity', both in the gathered concentration and humble abasement of private devotion, when the mind is exalted to the holy, and in the common worship of the congregation, where this is practised with earnestness and deep sincerity, as, it is to be feared, is with us a thing rather desired than realized. It is this and nothing else that in the solemn moment can fill the soul so full and keep it so inexpressibly tranquil. Schleiermacher's assertion 1 is perhaps true of it, as of the numinous consciousness in general, viz. that it cannot really occur alone on its own account, or except combined and penetrated with rational elements. But, if this be admitted, it is upon other grounds than those adduced by Schleiermacher; while, on the other hand, it may occupy a more or less predominant place and lead to states of calm (-qavyia-) as well as of transport, in which it almost of itself wholly fills the soul. But in all the manifold forms in which it is aroused in us, whether in eschatological promise of the coming kingdom of God and the transcendent bliss of Paradise, or in the guise of an entry into that beatific Reality that is ' above the world '; whether it come first in expectancy or preintimation or in a present experience (' When I but have Thee, I ask no question of heaven and earth '); in all these forms, outwardly diverse but inwardly akin, it appears as a strange and mighty propulsion toward an ideal good known only to religion and in its nature fundamentally non-rational, which the mind knows of in yearning and presentiment, recognizing it for what it is behind the obscure and inadequate symbols which are its only expression. And this shows that above and beyond our rational being lies hidden the ultimate and highest part of our nature, which can find no satisfaction in the mere allaying of the needs of our sensuous, psychical, or intellectual impulses and cravings. The mystics called it the basis or ground of the soul.

"We saw that in the case of the element of the mysterious the 1 Glaubenslehre, § 5.

1 wholly other' led on to the supernatural and transcendent an 1 that above these appeared the 'beyond ' (tVtVeica) of Mystic; nil through the non-rational side of religion beintr raised to

1 ~ o o its highest power and stressed to excess. It is the same in the case of the element of ' fascination'; here, too, is possible a transition into Mysticism. At its highest point of stress the fascinating becomes the ' overabounding ',' the mystical 'moment' whielv exactly corresponds upon this line to the ¿tzeBira upon the other line of approach, and which is to be understood accordingly. But while this feeling of the 'over aboun ling' is specially characteristic of Mystic: m, a trace of it survives in ail truly felt, states of religious beatitude, however restrained and kept within measure by other factors. This is seen most clearly from the psychology of those great experiences—of grace, conversion, second birth -in which the religious experience appears in its pure intrinsic nature and in liei Jitened activity, so as to be more clearly grasped than in the less typical form of piety instilled by education. The hard core of suss experiences in their Christian form consists of the redemption from guilt and bondage to sin, and we shall have presently to see that this also does not occur without a participation of non rational elements. But leaving thii out of account, wfiat we have here to point out is the unutter-ableness of what has been yet genuinely experienced, and how such an experience may pass into blissful excitement, rapture, and exaltation verging often on the bizarre and tlie abnormal." This is vouched for by the autobiographical testimony of tlie 'converted' from St. l'aul onward. William James has collected a great Dumber of these, without, however,

1 Oa$ Cbt rschtc, jig!ichp.

2 This may lie found fatal to the attcm] t to construct a ' Kiligii n withio the limits of pure reason ' or ' of limn wity' ; liut, none the iwa, the matter is as we h.ive described it, as far as concerns the psychological ill juiry into religion, which asks, not what it ij within the aforfc-mentiom-d limits, but what it is in its own CBSent. d nature. And fur matter this pro eeding of constructing a 'humanity' prior to ami apart from the most central and potent of hum n capacities is like nothing "o milch as the attempt to frame a standard idea of the human body after having previously cut oii the head.

himself noticing the non-rational element that thrills in them.

Thus, one writes

"... For the moment nothing but an ineffable joy and exaltation remained. It is impossible fully to describe the experience. It was like the cfl'ect of some great orchestra, when all the separate notes have melted into one swelling harmony, that leaves the listener conscious of nothing save that his soul is being wafted upwards and almost bursting with its own emotion.' (Varieties, &c., p. OG.)

And another :

'. . . The more I seek w ords to express this intimate intercourse, the more I feel the impossibility of describing the thing by any of our usual images.' (Ibid., p. 08.)

And almost with the precision of dogma, a third (Jonathan Edwards) indicates the qualitative difference of the experience of beatitude from other ' rational' joy :

' The conceptions which the saints have of tho loveliness of God and that kind of delight which they experience in it are quite peculiar and entirely different from anything which a natural man can possess or of which he can form any proper notion.' (Ibid., p. 229.)

Cf. also pp. 192, 225; and the testimony of Jacob Boelime given on p. 417. Also this of Boehme :

' But I can neither write nor tell of what sort of Exaltation the triumphing in the Spirit is. It can be compared with nought, but that when in the midst of death life is born, and it is like the resurrection of the dead.'

"With the mystics these experiences pass up wholly into the 'over-abounding'. '0 that I could tell you \\hat the heart feels, how it burns and is consumed inwardly! Only, I find no words to express it. I can but say: Might but one little drop of what I feci fall into Hell, Hell would be transformed into a Paradise.' So saj-s St. Catherine of Genoa : and all the multitude of her spiritual kindred testify to the same effect.

What we Christians know as the experiences of grace and the second birth have their parallels also in the religions of high spiritual rank beyond the borders of Christianity. Such are the breaking out of the saving ' Bodhithe opening of the 'heavenly eye', the J nana hy Hvaras prasad which is victorious over the darkness of nescience and shines out in an experience with which no other can be measured. And in all these the entirely non-rational and specific element in the beatific experience is immediately noticeable. The qualitative character of it varies widely in all these cases, and is again in them all very dill'ersnt from its parallels in Christianity; still in all it is very similar in intensity, and in all it is a' salvation ' and an absolute' fascination ', which in contrast to all that admits of 'natural' expression or comparison is deeply imbued with the ' over-abounding ' nature of the numen.

And this is also entirely true of the rapture of Nirvan* which Is only in appearance a cold and negative state. It is only conceptually that 'Nil", ana' is a negation; it is felt in consciousness as in the strongest degree positive; it exercises a ' fascination ' by which its votaries are as much carried away as are the. Hindu or the Christian by the corresponding objects of their worship. I recall vi\idly a conversation I had w itli a Buddhist monk. He had been putting before me methodically and pertinaciously the arguments for the Iluddhist ' theology of negation', the doctrine of Anatman and 'entire emptiness'. When he had made an end, I asked him, what then Nirvana itself is ; and after a long pause came at last the single answ er, low and restrained : ' Miss— unspeakable '. And the hushed restraint of that answer, the solemnity of his voice, demeanour, and gesture, made more clear what was meant than the Words themselves.

And so we maintain, on the one hand, following the ' via eminentiac et causalitatis ', that the di\ ine is indeed the highest, strongest, best, loveliest, and dearest that man can think of; but we assert on the other, follow ing the ' via negationis ', that God is not merely the ground and superlative of all that can be thought; He is in Himself a subject on His own account and in Himself.

In the adjective Suvos the Greek language possesses a word peculiarly difficult to translate, and standing for an idea peculiarly difficult to grasp in all its strange variations. And if we ask whence this difficulty arises, the answer is plain; it is because Seivos is simply the numinous (mostly of course at a lower level, in an arrested form, attenuated by rhetorical or poetic usage). Consequently Savoy is the equivalent of ' dirus' and ' tremendusIt may mean evil or imposing, potent and strange, queer and marvellous, horrifying and fascinating, divine and daemonic, and a source of ' energy'. Sophocles means to awaken the feeling of ' numinous awe ' through the whole gamut of its phases at the contemplation of man, the creature of marvel, in the chorie song of the A ntigone:

7i-oXXa ra Szii'a, KovSev dv9pu>nov SavoTtpov ntXei.

This line defies translation, just because our language has no term that can isolate distinctly and gather into one word the total numinous impression a thing may make on the mind. The nearest that German can get to it is in the expression ' das Ungeheuere' (monstrous), while in English * weird ' is perhaps the closest rendering possible. The mood and attitude represented in the foregoing verse might then be fairly well rendered by such a translation as :

' Much there is that is weird ; but nought i3 weirder than man.'

The German ungeheuer is not by derivation simply ' huge', in quantity or quality;—this, its common meaning, is in fact a rationalizing interpretation of the real idea ; it is that which is not 'geheuer '¿i.e., approximately, the uncanny—in a word, the numinous. And it is just this clement of the uncanny in man that Sophocles has in mind. If this, its fundamental meaning, be really and thoroughly felt in consciousness, then the word could be taken as a fairly exact expression for the numinous in its aspects of mystery, awefulness, majesty, augustness, and 'energy'; nay, even the aspect of fascination is dimly felt in it.

The variations of meaning in the German word ungeheuer can be well illustrated from Goethe.1 He, too, uses the word

1 Of. If llhehn Masters Wundeijahre, Bk. I, cli. 10; Wahhev,candtschaf-ten. 2. 15 ; Vichtunq una Wahrheit, 2. 9 ; 4. 20.

first to denote the huge in size—what is too vast for our faculty of space-perception, such as the immeasurable vault of the night sky. In other passages the word retains its original non-rational colour inore markedly; it conies to mean the uncanny, the fearful, the dauntingly ' other'and incomprehensible, that which arouses in us 'stupor' and ' 6'ifißos'; and finally, in the wonderful words of Faust which I have put upon my title-page, it becomes an almost exact synonym for our ' numinous ' under all its aspects.

Das Schaudern ist der Menschheit bestes Teil. Wie auch die Welt ihm das Gefühl verteuere, Er gritieA fühlt er tief das Ungeheuere.1

1 Awe in tlie best of man: howe'er the world's Misprizing of the feeling would prevent us, Deeply we leel, once gripped, the weird Portentous.

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