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The Reality of God 1924–1926

Friedrich von Hugel

The present volume contains portions of one, and all that remains of another, of two books that Baron von Hügel left unfinished at the end of his earthly life.
In June 1922 the Baron accepted the invitation of the Senate of Edinburgh University to occupy the Gifford Lectureship for the two sessions 1924–5 and 1925–6. The appointment to what, he says in a letter, “is certainly the finest Lectureship on these great subjects in the world,” was a source of great gratification to him. He had already in mind a book upon the subject of Realities, the Reality of Finites and the Reality of God, and he now decided to work out this in the form of the twenty lectures that he would be called upon to deliver. Unhappily, a nervous breakdown followed, and in November he informed the University that he would not have sufficient physical strength to carry out the duties of the Lectureship. Nevertheless, in spite of failing health, he continued—with some short intervals and interruptions—to work upon the book for the little more than two years of life that remained to him. The Baron generally called it simply The Reality of God; but, at the head of the first part, he set the fuller title: “Concerning the Reality of Finites and the Reality of God: a Study of their Inter—relations and their Effects and Requirements within the Human Mind.” It was to be “dedicated, in deep respect and with the sincerest gratitude for the encouragement derived, to the Academic Senates of the Universities of St. Andrews and of Oxford for the Honorary Degrees conferred upon the Author respectively of LL.D. and D.D. in 1914 and 1921.”
The book was to be divided into three great sections, dealing with the subject from the standpoint of Epistemology, Ethics, and Institutional Religion respectively. It has been stated that, at the time of the author's death, the work was almost completed. This, unfortunately, was far from being the case. As it came into the hands of the present editor, whom the Baron had appointed his literary executor, it was, for the most part, in a formless and tentative condition that the author would assuredly never have contemplated giving to the public.
Of the First Section, the Baron wrote: “We are here throughout going to be busy, not with ethical requirements and their implications, nor with the facts and history of great religious personalities and what these may and do mean, but simply with existences not of a directly moral or religious complexion, and with the processes, conditions, constituents and implications of our belief in such existences.” It was to contain the following ten chapters:
I. Introduction; II. Realities as distinct from Moral and Religious Values; III. The Mediaeval Controversy concerning Universals: the battle between certain kinds of Realism and Nominalism; IV. Descartes and Locke; V. Berkeley, Fechner, James Ward, and Hume; VI. Kant; VII. Hegel and Darwin; VIII. Intimations of the Reality of God and Nature in the Human Mind; IX. Substitutes for Theism (Spinoza and Jacobi); X. Substitutes for Theism (Gentile and Bergson).
These chapters were left in different states of completion and revision, the tenth, for instance, being little more than a rough sketch. The author was not satisfied with any portion of the section, save perhaps the Introduction, and intended to make considerable alterations. Indeed, as they stood, the chapters were little more than masses of quotations, mere matter to serve for the author's subsequent treatment of the subject, and it was only here and there that they contained anything characteristic of the Baron himself. The only possible course for the editor, after taking counsel with a scholar immeasurably better qualified to judge than himself, seemed to be to preserve the entire Introduction, the greater part of Chapter VIII, and a few pages from other chapters that reflected the author's personality.
The Second Section of the work was to be entitled “The Intimations conveyed by Ethics.” After a general introduction, “Looking back upon Part I and looking forward to Part II” (Chapter XI), it was made up as follows:
XII. On the Moral Apprehensions, as distinct from Perceptions of Facts as such and of the Beauty of Facts; XIII. The Conservation of Ethical Values: How far does this Conception adequately formulate Intimations to be found in the Ethical Life?; XIV. Morality and Happiness; XV. Moral Perfection conceived as a becoming like to God: How and in what sense this can be true.
This section, again, was nowhere in the condition in which the author would have chosen to give it to the world; but, while so dissatisfied with Chapters XI and XIII that he afterwards thought to attempt an alternative scheme for this middle section, he was not displeased with the rest. I feel, therefore, justified in here publishing in their entirety the three chapters that thus received his qualified approval, while preserving only a portion of the other two. To Chapter XV (here numbered XI) I have appended a passage that the Baron had marked as “for Section II,” as it seems more or less thus to fall into place. When resuming work after his serious illness in the spring of 1924, the Baron sketched out a totally different scheme, to be made up of five chapters: “Indications of God in the Family”; “Indications of God in Economics”; “Indications of God in Politics”; “Intimations of God in Art”; “Intimations of God in Philosophy.” No part of this had been seen by him after its first dictation, and it contains nothing that is possible here to publish. He intended to complete this section with three chapters that should lead up to the Third Section or, perhaps, be incorporated in it. One of these, “The Need of Body and Soul in the Emotions,” is here printed in full, and a portion of another (which the author had here and there retouched), on the “Need of Institutional Religion.” He had not himself given any titles to these chapters.
The Third Section was to be composed of six long chapters, to which the author had given no titles, but which dealt with the Reality of God as evidenced by the Old and the New Testament; conceptions concerning the Reality of God in St. Augustine, St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, and St. Teresa; “Difficulties and complications brought to Religion by our binding it up with any historical happenings and with the critical historical questions and misgivings which such happenings arouse”; the relations between Institutional Religion and non—Christian believers. It was to conclude with a shorter chapter, “The Future of Theism.” These chapters were left as a mass of formless and unrevised material, at times a repetition of what had been already said elsewhere in the book itself. They were dictated by the Baron and taken down in shorthand by his devoted secretary in the last months of his life, at a time when, in spite of increasing weakness, he was forcing himself to the task of composition. None of it ever passed under the author's eyes or received any sort of revision from him. It was the struggling utterance of a wearied man who had already given his message to the world, and it would be an injustice to the memory of this great teacher, scholar, and thinker if any of it were now to be published. But, in uttering the final sentence, his old vigour and enthusiasm suddenly for a moment returned, and I give here the words as he dictated them:
“What a happiness, what a joy it is to be quite sure that there is a God, not anything built up by mere human reasoning, no clever or subtle hypothesis, nothing particularly French or German or English, but something as infinitely more real than the air around us, and the pollen of the flowers, and the flight of the birds, and the trials and troubles and the needs of our little lives stimulated and enriched by the lives of creatures so different from ourselves, touching us continually all round; and the fundamental assurance is not simply one of variety or even of richness, it is an assurance accompanying and crowning all such sense of variety, of a reality, of the Reality, one and harmonious, strong and self—sufficing, of God.”
The other book left uncompleted was the study of Alfred Comyn Lyall. It was begun by the Baron in 1912, after the publication of Eternal Life, and was laid aside in 1915 (though retouched here and there later), when, after the outbreak of the Great War, the author's mind was inevitably turned into other channels, and he wrote his work entitled The German Soul Bernard Holland tells us that the Lyall book was to be entitled: “Agnosticism and Faith, as exemplified in the religious opinions and writings of Sir Alfred Lyall.” The corrected draft in my possession bears the somewhat different title here given, to which I have prefixed “Religion and Agnosticism,” as these are the words used by the Baron at the end of the Introduction. It will be seen that this Introduction, written at the beginning of 1915, assumes the completion of the book; but only the First Part and three of the projected four sections of the Second were actually written. In the preliminary draft, the section on Euhemerism was followed by one dealing with “Lyall's delicate sympathy with, and vivid presentation of, the general Oriental—especially the Indian—attitude or temper, at their best, towards the now predominant features of our West European civilisation generally, and, in particular, towards the question as to the natural and right relations between the State and Religion.” This was not included in the revised copy to which the Baron prefixed his Introduction: it was not in any way corrected or retouched with the rest, and had apparently been definitely rejected by him with the intention of substituting for it the section analysing Lyall's “attitude towards the Brahma Samaj, and the general question of the need and difficulty of contingent facts and happenings for and in religion.” This promised section was never written. The work thus remains a fragment, but these extant portions had been revised at least twice by the author himself; they represent him at the height of his powers and mental activity; and they are therefore here published in their entirety, with the sole omission of a passage in the Introduction, concerning the present editor, which would be of no interest to the reader.
I cannot conclude this preface without expressing my deep indebtedness to Miss Adrienne Tuck, who was the Baron's secretary during the last year of his life, and without whose care and assistance this volume could not have been published.
University College, London,
27th December, 1930.
Templeton Press