Here the author departs widely from the primary theme of much of his earlier works, taking a much more philosophical perspective than his studies on near-ancient Eastern religions. Yet he demands that the study of religion is neither dogmatic nor apologetic and that it sticks as near as possible to the strict rules set within other fields of scientific study. In this volume, the author lays out the rudiments of religion that are permanent. For Tiele, the ‘manifestations’ of religion (‘words and deeds’) stem from ‘constituents’ (‘emotions, conceptions and sentiments’) experienced personally, internalized and then expressed in practice. As a result, religion, as it is practised, is the expression of internalized experience. While critics of the lectures argued that such a definition approached an overly psychological definition of both religion and the role of science of religion in understanding religious belief, Tiele carefully expresses that only the manifestations are capable of being broken down by psychological evaluation. For him, religion originates in emotion and at its core is the expression of piety in adoration of the Other. Thus, he does not question how religion takes form, but rather what is the source (‘whence’) and what is the ultimate aim (‘whither’). He argues that all religious practice originates in an inherent human belief in the infinite, and its ultimate purpose is the ‘entire reconciliation with one’s self and one’s worldly lot, which are the fruits of religion’. Establishing any validity in such beliefs is not the responsibility of science of religion.
Lecture 1, ‘The Manifestations and Constituents of Religion’, suggests emotion, conception and sentiment are the three necessary elements for a religion to grow. Lecture 2, ‘Genesis and Value of Conceptions of Faith’, expresses the value of faith and dismisses arguments that it can be defined in a solid scientific manner, because what religion declares are eternal and transient truths which are incapable of being adequately described in language. Lecture 3, ‘Philosophy and Religious Doctrine’, states all religions comprise three elements: a belief in divine power upon which we are dependent, a belief in a high origin and destiny of humanity, and the possibility of salvation. Lecture 4, ‘The Constant Element in All Conceptions of God’, declares humanity through the ages has conceived of the divine as operating free from the laws that bind humanity and as possessing supernatural powers made manifest in the natural world. Lecture 5, ‘The Relationship between God and Man’, argues that religious traditions generally strive for the union between humanity and the divine, which Tiele suggests stems from the needs of the human soul. Lecture 6, ‘Worship, Prayers and Offerings’, discusses these phenomena as the variety of ways in which the finite human strives for union with God. Lecture 7, ‘Religion as a Social Phenomenon—The Church’, expresses the purely religious remit of the church, and rejects any other functions. The church is a purely spiritual institution. Lecture 8, ‘Inquiry into the Being or Essence of Religion’, deduces that the fundamental essence of religion is the adoration of the divine. In Lecture 9, ‘Inquiry into the Origin of Religion’, Tiele elucidates his belief that religion originates in the actual presence of the ‘Infinite’ within humans. Lecture 10, ‘The Place of Religion in Spiritual Life’, discusses the necessity of religion to advance the ethical.