Conception Aim and Method of the Science of Religion
IT is now more than twenty-five years since my distinguished friend Professor F. Max Müller of Oxford gave four lectures in the Royal Institution of London which he published a few years later under the title ‘Introduction to the Science of Religion.’
My task is a similar one and yet different. The word “Introduction” has a very flexible meaning. Intro does not mean merely “up to” but “across and within” the threshold. We must however at first be content merely to conduct the inquirer into the building and there to leave him to the guidance of others or to his own resources. This was all that Professor Max Müller could do at that time. He had no alternative. As the foundation of this new science had only just been laid he could but submit the plan of the building to his readers and hearers. How powerfully he afterwards himself contributed to the building up of our science I need hardly remind you; and of this his Gifford Lectures recently delivered in the University of Glasgow afford the last and most conclusive proof. We must cordially appreciate his work even where we sometimes differ from him in method and point of view. Twenty-five years ago however his ‘Introduction of the Science of Religion’ to his hearers and readers necessarily dealt with the preliminaries rather than with the results of the science and was an apology for it more than an initiation into it. We are now farther advanced. The last twenty-five years have been specially fruitful for the scientific study of religion. That study has now secured a permanent place among the various sciences of the human mind. We do not now require to apologise for it by using the timid—or shall I say sceptical?—epithet “so-called” as the distinguished American scholar the late W. Dwight Whitney has done in an otherwise admirable article. Even Governments which are not generally inclined to countenance innovation and the less so if it threatens to burden their budgets have recognised our science as a necessary branch of education. My own little Holland generally accustomed to wait with patient deliberation until her bigger sisters have set the example has in this case taken the lead and founded special chairs for the history and philosophy of religion. Republican France has behaved in princely fashion and has founded not only a chair in the Collége de France but also a well-organised “École d'Études religieuses.” Others have followed these examples. The German universities did not at first regard the young aspirant with favour but German scholars of repute soon discovered that what seemed an ugly duckling was really a swan and offered it their powerful support. That the new studies at once aroused keen interest in Great Britain and a little later in the United States of America I need not remind you; and of this fact Lord Gifford's bequest affords splendid evidence. For by “natural theology studied in a scientific method” he doubtless meant precisely what we are now accustomed to call the science of religion. This science therefore requires no further apology in appearing before you in full consciousness of its rights; nor need I apologise for attempting to make you better acquainted with its rudiments its method the results it has attained its aim and its fruits. I have a deep sense of the difficulties of my vast undertaking which are increased by the fact that I address you in a language other than my own; but I have devoted the whole of my powers and the greater part of my life to these favourite studies of mine and I am encouraged by the confidence which the honoured Senate of this university has reposed in me. I shall do my best to merit that confidence and shall reckon on your indulgence. I would only further remark that I shall confine myself exclusively to scientific ground. And while I shall not conceal my own sincere convictions I have too much respect for true piety in whatever form to wound any man's conscientious beliefs.
First of all it is necessary to state what we understand by science of religion and what right we have to call it a science. We shall not begin as is so often done by formulating a preconceived ideal of religion; if we attempted to do so we should move in a circle. What religion really is in its essence can only be ascertained as the result of our whole investigation. By religion we mean for the present nothing different from what is generally understood by that term—that is to say the aggregate of all those phenomena which are invariably termed religious in contradistinction to ethical æsthetical political and others. I mean those manifestations of the human mind in words deeds customs and institutions which testify to man's belief in the superhuman and serve to bring him into relation with it. Our investigation will itself reveal the foundation of those phenomena which are generally called religious. If it is maintained that the superhuman falls beyond the range of the perceptible and that its existence cannot be proved by scientific or philosophical reasoning we have our answer ready. The question whether philosophy or metaphysics has any right to judge as to the reality of the objects of faith does not concern us here. We therefore leave the question open. The object of our science is not the superhuman itself but religion based on belief in the superhuman; and the task of investigating religion as a historical-psychological social and wholly human phenomenon undoubtedly belongs to the domain of science.
But whilst admitting this some writers have felt an insuperable dislike to the term “science of religion” and have attempted to substitute some more modest term. For my part I see nothing presumptuous in the word science. It does not mean that we know everything about a subject but simply that we investigate it in order to learn something about it in accordance with a sound and critical method appropriate to each department. It cannot therefore be doubted that such an investigation of religion can claim the name of science and that the science of religion has a right to rank as an independent study and not merely as one of a group. What then are the characteristics that constitute a science? I cannot answer this question better than in the words of Whitney when he is vindicating the rights of the science of language. The characteristics are—a wide extent of domain; a unity which embraces the multiplicity of facts belonging to that domain; an inward connection of these facts which enables us to subject them to careful classification and to draw fruitful inferences from them; and lastly the importance of the results attained and of the truth which reasoning has brought to light from the ascertained facts. Now if the science of language can stand this test and need not fear comparison with any other recognised science the same holds true of the science of religion. This surely requires no lengthy demonstration. It is obvious to every one. The province of our investigation is sufficiently extensive—all religions of the civilised and uncivilised world dead and living and all the religious phenomena which present themselves to our observation. The unity which combines the multiplicity of these phenomena is the human mind which reveals itself nowhere so completely as in these and whose manifestations however different the forms they assume on different planes of development always spring from the same source. This unity renders a scientific classification of religions quite as justifiable as that of language. And it is self-evident that the results of such a science must be of the utmost importance in the study of man and his history of his individual social and above all his religious life.
Need we be surprised that such a science is not immediately welcomed by all; that her very right of existence is denied by many; and that she has long had to encounter fierce opposition? She is no worse off than her predecessors. What new science—not to speak of philosophy—has ever had a better reception? I need only mention anatomy physics chemistry astronomy—all denounced at first as harmful dangerous and impious; and have they not all had their martyrs just like new religions and heresies? The monks in the days of Erasmus thought the study of Hebrew most pernicious for Christian divines and preachers and the austere Calvinists of the seventeenth century were quite as bitterly opposed to the study of Greek. How did the Orientalists of the old school greet the appearance of Assyriology which certainly at first deserved a little censure on account of her youthful pranks and follies? How did classic philologists receive the budding science of language? I think I hear our old friend Cobet the gifted Hellenist making merry at the expense of the comparativi as he called them. And moreover religion is a very delicate matter. To make it the subject of a science seems like desecration. I admit that many champions of the science of religion and many who hailed it with acclamation had themselves to blame for the indignation they aroused—enemies of religion who endeavoured in the name of what they were pleased to call science and philosophy to do away with it altogether and whose Ecrasez l'infâme alarmed persons of weak faith and angered those of strong. But blind hatred and prejudice exclude both science which investigates with calm impartiality and philosophy which strives to comprehend and explain earnestly and lovingly all that is human. We have also to contend against misapprehension. I have pointed out that the popular dread of our science proceeds largely from a mistaken idea of science in general and of this science in particular. When the latter keeps within the limits assigned to all sciences religion will incur no danger but rather derive great benefit. Our science does not presume and it is well aware that it is powerless to create a religion just as the science of language has neither desire nor power to produce new languages to proclaim new laws of language or to uproot existing languages. Neither languages nor religions are created by science; their life and aims their growth and decay go on independently of science and obey laws which she can discover but cannot impose. All she desires and all she is entitled to do is to subject religion as a human and therefore historical and psychological phenomenon to unprejudiced investigation in order to ascertain how it arises and grows and what are its essentials and in order thoroughly to understand it.
It may perhaps be thought that the votary of our science cannot be restrained in his criticisms and judgments and that the science is therefore fraught with danger. But here again we must carefully distinguish. He judges in so far as his task is to compare the different manifestations of religious belief and life and the different religious communities in order to classify them in accordance with the stage and direction of their development. He criticises in so far as he points out where there has been retrogression from a higher to a lower plane in so far as he scrutinises so-called religious facts which really belong to a different domain (such as that of art philosophy or politics) and pathological phenomena (such as intellectualism sentimentalism or moralism) and distinguishes all these from sound and living religion. He takes up if we may use the favourite philosophical term an entirely objective position towards all forms of religion but distinguishes them carefully from religion itself. Religion reveals itself in every one of these forms more or less imperfectly—and so he studies them all. No religion is beneath his notice: on the contrary the deeper he digs the nearer he gets to religion's source. He follows the example of the philologist who does not despise the language of Mlecchas or barbarians or whatever other nickname be given to people speaking a language one does not understand and who takes as great an interest in the Hottentot or Australian dialects as in Sanscrit or Arabic. He knows nothing of heretics schismatics or heathens; to him as a man of science all religious forms are simply objects of investigation different languages in which the religious spirit expresses itself means which enable him to penetrate to a knowledge of religion itself supreme above all. It is not his vocation to champion any of these forms as the best or perhaps the only true form—he leaves that to the apologists. Nor does he attempt to purify reform or develop religion itself—that is the task of the divine and the prophet. And this scientific investigation is certainly not without practical benefit. It may bring to light the superiority of one cult to another; it may have a powerful influence on the purification and development of religion itself; it may by showing religion to be rooted in man's inmost nature vindicate its right to exist better than any long philosophical arguments; and such testimony is all the more valuable because unsought unbiassed and undesigned. For this neither is nor can be the goal of the science of religion. If such were its practical aim the fruits which it now yields for practice and for religious thought and life would lose their value. For genuine science which seeks nothing but the truth is a light by which truth is made manifest; and therefore all that is good and true genuine and beautiful all that supplies actual wants and is therefore wholesome for humanity need never fear the light. The rights of the religious conscience must not be limited; but science too vindicates her right to extend her investigations over everything human and therefore over so important and mighty a manifestation of man's inmost nature as religion has ever been and ever will be.
It is an error to suppose that one cannot take up such an impartial scientific position without being a sceptic; that one is disqualified for an impartial investigation if one possesses fixed and earnest religious convictions of one's own; that a man is incapable of appreciating other forms of religion if he is warmly attached to the Church or religious community in which he has been brought up. Do we love our parents to whom we owe so much the less because when we have come to years of discretion we have discovered some of their faults and foibles? Does our mother-tongue sound less pleasantly in our ears because we have made acquaintance with the beauty and vigour of other languages? I at least do not love the religious community to which I belong the less because I strive to appreciate by the light of our science what is truly religious in other forms.
From other quarters also the new science is regarded with suspicion. The old theology is afraid that our science will try to supersede it. Let us consider this from two different points of view. We may understand the term “science of religion” in a wider or in a narrower sense. If we regard it as destined to unite all the studies which have the investigation of religion for their object and which therefore also include Christian theology (excluding always practical theology which being the theory of a practice cannot really be called a science) it will by no means supersede theology but will embrace it and though theology has hitherto thought itself independent will make it a mere province albeit the chief in its vast domains. This sounds all very well in the abstract and seems perfectly logical; but it would be entirely unpractical and would only injure both branches of study. And the reason is not only that we can hardly regard a knowledge of our own religion whatever it may be as a mere department of a science embracing all religions—just as little as we can treat the history of our own country as a mere chapter of general history or place the study of our mother-tongue on a level with that of all the rich and varied languages of the world—the reason is that theology and the science of religion differ in kind. There are just as many theologies as there are ethical religions or what their votaries deem revealed religions; but there is only one science of religion although like other sciences and indeed every different theology it embraces different schools. The business of the science of religion is to investigate and to explain; it desires to know what religion is and why we are religious; but the task of theology is to study explain justify and if possible to purify one given form of religion by fathoming its oldest records by reforming by harmonising it with new needs and thus furthering its development.
Let me again illustrate my meaning from the science of language. It is certain that special linguistic studies and philology are in a sense independent of that science and have their own methods and aims. I would even go a step further and distinguish the general and historical study of religions which observes collects combines compares and classifies facts in their order of development as well as all special theologies from the science of religion which founds upon the results of these investigations and utilises them for its purpose of determining what the religion manifested in all these phenomena essentially is and whence it proceeds. And so like the science of language in relation to grammatical lexicographical and philological studies the science of religion recognises the independence of the special branches which provide her with material for her speculation and of theology likewise each within its respective sphere while she herself forms the crown or rather the centre to which they all converge.
For however sovereign each of these two branches of study may be in its own domain they cannot possibly be independent of each other without great injury to both. The one could not exist without the other. Our science could not exist; for without the materials supplied by anthropology and history she could do nothing more than erect a specious edifice of mere hypotheses and fancies an amusement by no means harmless in which the speculative philosophers of a former generation used to delight. Nor could theology whether comparative or special exist alone; for it is only when continuing in touch with the science of religion that theology deserves the name of science and becomes a scientia instead of a mere eruditio. Facts accurately observed and faithfully recorded may be very curious; but if not explained not correlated they are curious and nothing more. Theology indeed teaches what a certain religion is what it demands of its adherents how it has arisen and attained its present condition and even what it ought really to be in accordance with its own principles; but if it does not compare its religious system with others and above all test it by the laws of the evolution of religious life which the science of religion alone can reveal it can neither wholly comprehend nor fully appreciate its own religion. It may then be a branch of knowledge not without practical use but it is not a science.
But the science of religion is far from imposing its laws upon the preparatory studies or dictating to them the issue of their researches. On the contrary it fully recognises their liberty of action and simply awaits the results. It accepts them always reserving its right to test them and to examine the ground on which they rest and then utilises them in its own way. But it indicates the direction in which the investigation must move in order to yield fruit for science. It lights a beacon which enables historians and theologians to observe better and understand better the facts they deal with. And then in its turn it hands over the result of its study to the central science—that general philosophy which strives to explain the unity of all creation.
We have thus defined the character of our science. It is a special science or branch of study and does not belong to general philosophy; but it is the philosophical part of the investigation of religious phenomena—a study which seeks to penetrate to their foundations. It is not a philosophic creed or a dogmatic system of what is commonly called natural theology or a philosophy with a religious tinge and still less a philosophy regarding God Himself. All this is beyond its province. It leaves these matters to theologians and metaphysicians. It is in fact literally the philosophy of religion according to the present use of that term which is deservedly gaining ground: a philosophy which we must have the courage to reform in accordance with the demands of science in its present state of development.
I cannot therefore include it among the natural sciences however high be the authority of those who assign it such a position. We should in that case be obliged to stretch the conception of natural science so far as to deprive it of all precise meaning. Religion is certainly rooted in man's nature—that is it springs from his inmost soul. But we may truly say of religion as it has been said of language that it is neither entirely a natural nor an artificial product. It would be idle to attempt to apply the exact methods of the natural sciences to our science; such an attempt would only expose one to self-deception and grievous disappointment.
Nor is our science historical in the usual sense of the term. A good deal of the material that it uses is historical for it must strive to understand religion as it now exists by studying what it formerly was. We shall soon see that its first task is to trace the evolution of religion and it is needless to say that this cannot be done without historical research. The time has long since passed when people fancied they could philosophise about religion without caring for its history. The relation between the philosophy and the history of religion was eloquently and cogently expounded some years ago in this very city of Edinburgh by Principal John Caird in the last of his Croall Lectures.1
In Germany the home of speculative philosophy Hegel endeavoured in his own way to make the history of religion the handmaid of philosophy but the materials at his command were necessarily scanty. With ampler materials Pfleiderer has built his philosophy of religion on historical foundations. And how vigorously Professor Max Müller in his recent Gifford Lectures has emphasised the importance and the absolute indispensability of historical studies I need not remind you. I should be the last to dispute this as I should then have to disavow my own past. I have been engaged in historical inquiries more than anything else and all the more considerable works I have published have been of a historical kind. My late friend Kuenen used to say “I am nothing if not critical.” I would venture to say of myself “I am nothing if not historical.” Yet I believe that the science of religion requires a broader foundation than history in the ordinary sense of the word. Historical research must precede and pave the way for our science; but it does not belong to it. If I have minutely described all the religions in existence their doctrines myths customs the observances they inculcate and the organisation of their adherents besides tracing the different religious forms their origin bloom and decay I have merely collected the materials with which the science of religion works. And indispensable as this is it is not enough. Anthropology or the science of man sociology or the science of our social relations psychology or the science of man's inmost being and perhaps other sciences besides must yield their contributions in order to help us to learn the true nature and origin of religion and thus to reach our goal.
I have said that the exact method of natural science is not applicable to the science of religion; nor do I think that the historical method will suffice. I agree with Professor Flint that by the historical method we obtain only history. But we want more than that; we wish to understand and to explain. The strict historians have no right to ridicule what is called philosophic history as they are fond of doing; but they are right in maintaining that this is not proper history but a chapter in philosophy and they are quite right in repudiating any obligation to add philosophical speculation to what we demand of them.
I therefore think that we need not hesitate openly to proclaim the philosophical character of our science and to apply to it the method adapted to all philosophical branches of science—namely the deductive. Not the one-sided empirical method which culminates in positivism and only ascertains and classifies facts but is powerless to explain them. Nor the one-sided historical method which yields exclusively historical results. Nor again the so-called genetic-speculative method a mixture of history and philosophy which lacks all unity. Still less I must hasten to add the warped speculative method which has no foothold on earth but floats in the clouds. For when I speak of the deductive method I mean this speculative method least of all. On the contrary our deductive reasoning must start from the results yielded by induction by empirical historical and comparative methods. What religion is and whence it arises we can only ascertain from religious phenomena. Our inmost being can only be known by its outward manifestations. To wander in our speculations away from what has been discovered and established by anthropological and historical research is to enter on a false path. To start from any a priori position and to erect a system upon it is a waste of time and leads to nothing. There must of course be a division of labour. None of us can do everything. One can hardly be at once an anthropologist a historian a psychologist and a philosopher. Even in a single branch of science it is but few who are entirely at home. He who wishes to study the science of religion roust survey the whole region and must have traversed it in every direction; he must know what the researches of anthropologists and historians and the discoveries of archæologists have yielded for the history of religion what is merely probable and what still uncertain or positively false. In short he must be master of the material with which he has to work although others have discovered it for him. And it is not only desirable but I believe indispensable that he should have taken part himself for a time at least in exploring and clearing the ground and have studied at least two religions in the original sources. It is a long process but it is the only way to achieve lasting results. People often think that much less will suffice. Nowadays there is probably no one who would venture to create a system out of mere poetic imagination. But not a few fancy that it is enough to consult the best authorities—or at least those reputed the best which are often untrustworthy—and by reading these books to gain some idea of religion and thus lay a foundation upon which to build. Others still more foolish content themselves with studying a single manual of religions and then seriously imagine that their philosophy stands on historic ground. Nay I even know a case in which the author of a philosophy of religion “auf modern-wissenschaftlicher Grundlage” had consulted no history of religions beyond a sketch of mine published many years ago a mere outline without light or shade at all events without colour but which left all the freer scope to the philosopher's imagination. However flattering it was for me to be chosen by this author as his guide he would have been wiser to consult others also and above all to use his own eyes. Can we wonder that when one is content with so superficial a preparation his slight and airy structure is speedily superseded by another and that each advance made by research each new discovery renders his work more and more useless? Can we wonder that many a meritorious work on the morphology or on the ontology of religion or in other words on the evolution or on the origin and essence of religion however profoundly and vigorously conceived however ingeniously composed yet leaves us unsatisfied because solid facts rise to our minds which are not explained by our author and which even contradict his conclusions? Though it is not always possible and therefore not obligatory that we should ourselves dig up and collect the materials with which we build we must at all events be able to judge of them and they must be solid and sufficient.
The next question is how we are to handle our material and make it serviceable for the great object of our science—that of studying religion in its life and growth in its nature and its origin. We are confronted with innumerable phenomena: religious conceptions and doctrines which are gathered from hymns and proverbs from books of the law and confessions of faith from preachings and prophesyings; religious observances and ordinances which together constitute the cult and in which the devout express their disposition towards the Deity; religious communities of all kinds either connected with the State or more or less independent of it; a great and imposing Church with a single visible head extending over the whole world yet one in him and one in sacred language rite and doctrine; then besides the Oriental rival which has separated from her a number of Protestant Churches mostly national differing widely in doctrine and point of view differing also in form of government; and further various sects small but often very influential; Orders working in secret but all the more powerful; parties and schools in conflict with each other whence new communions sometimes arise—not to mention many other phenomena more remote from our observation. Such an embarrassing wealth of materials must be sifted and classified. What is serviceable and what is not? Where shall we find most light? What is our best building material?
Opinions differ as to how this question should be answered. Some think that the nature of religion is best learned from mythology and from doctrine and that the inquirer should therefore direct his attention mainly though not exclusively to these. Others maintain that the essentials of religion are to be sought for in the Church its ordinances and ritual and that dogma must only be regarded as a basis for union and for religious education. Others again though not unconditionally agreeing with these last think that a study of the cult of traditional rites and usages just because they remain longest in force and unaltered bring us nearer to the oldest religion and the beginning of the evolution than the doctrine which is ever changing.
I have no doubt as to which of these parties I should join. Strictly speaking none of them. For I think we should neglect nothing but welcome everything that may give light. But if I must needs choose I have no hesitation in joining the first of these parties. For in the doctrine whatever be its form mythological and poetical or dogmatical and philosophical I recognise the fountainhead of each religion. The chief thing of all in religion is doubtless its spirit yet it is the doctrine that affords us most light. Through it alone we learn what man thinks of his God and of his relation to Him. Cult ritual and ceremonies teach me nothing when I contemplate them unless I have some explanation of their meaning. That they mean something that they therefore had a definite significance when first introduced is certain. People may however forget the significance and retain the custom alone because it has been handed down to them; but in that case they are wont to attach a newly devised meaning to it. It is possible that Professor Hopkins is right in his valuable work on ‘The Religions of India’ in saying of the Brahmanic rites: “A minute description of these ceremonies would do little to further his [the curious reader's] knowledge of the religion when once he grasps the fact that the sacrifice is but show. Symbolism without folk-lore only with the imbecile imaginings of a daft mysticism is the soul of it; and its outer form is a certain number of formulæ mechanical movements oblations and slaughterings.”2
Once this was not the case once the symbolism had a meaning the formulæ were understood the ceremonies were not merely mechanical. If we wish to learn that meaning we must consult the mythology of which these forms and ceremonies were the reflection and the reproduction3
Or shall we reverse the natter and maintain that the mythology and doctrine must be ascertained from the ceremonial because they are derived from the latter because they are a symbolic-mystic description of it? It seems incredible that so strange a proposition which is indeed somewhat of a mystification should be laid down and even stoutly defended by a scholar with a reputation to lose. Yet it is persistently advocated by M. Paul Regnaud a French Sanscritist who perhaps has a right to call himself a disciple of the lamented Bergaigne but has no right to appeal to him for support in this instance. It is strange at the end of this nineteenth century how often we have to practise the Horatian nil admirari. What has become of the vaunted bon sens of the French? No doubt many a bold assertion received at first with absolute incredulity has ultimately turned out to be a truth discovered by the genius of a great thinker and triumphantly confirmed by further research. But I venture to say that this is not the case here that the assertion is bold indeed but that it will never find a place in science. One need only read half-a-dozen pages in which M. Regnaud states his argument in order to see that he can only maintain his thesis by explanations of texts and words which really obscure the former and distort the latter. The best refutation of this still-born doctrine is indeed the argument by which he attempts to support it.
In order to make acquaintance with religion itself which is a frame of mind adapted to the relation between man and his God and thus becomes a definite sentiment towards God we must attend to everything in which this frame of mind finds vent and this sentiment utters itself—to words as well as deeds which together constitute the language of religion. But it is evident that observances have value for our research only where we know the conception attached to them by believers and thus learn their significance. If that conception has not been handed down either in the doctrine in general or in special records or if it does not appear in the prayers and hymns associated with the observance or in the attendant ceremonies we then are confronted with a riddle the solution of which we can only guess. The old axiom that when two or more persons do the same thing yet it is not the same thing is here verified. A Sumerian text of the ancient Babylonian period says that the father lays down his son's life for his own. Thus did King Mesha of Moab when in view of the Jewish and Israelitish camp he sacrificed his first-born son on the ramparts. And there is more than one Aryan tradition to the same effect resting on similar views. An entirely different view is presented by the well-known narrative of Genesis. There Abraham is not required to sacrifice his son to save himself but in order to show his steadfast faith and obedience. Or to take another example in the New Testament Jesus is said to have been anointed by two women and some exegetes consider the two narratives to be different versions of the same event. Now although both pour costly perfume over the Master's body the one does it with the reverential love of a penitent sinner while the other not only shows the overflowing love of a grateful friend but as she anoints the head and not the feet of Jesus she at the same time foreshadows His consecration as the Messiah whereas Jesus though greatly commending her disclaims the augury and accepts the anointment as for His burial for His consecration to death.
Or take an observance which is intended to be a repetition of the symbolical act performed by Christ in the midst of His disciples on the last evening of His life and which according to the apostolic tradition He commanded them to continue in His memory—the last Supper. The whole of Christendom with a few slight exceptions has kept up this observance. The Reformers have rejected several sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church; but this sacrament along with that of baptism they and their Churches have retained. Need I add that the observance is only outwardly and historically the same and that the widely different significance attached to it by Catholics Lutherans and Evangelicals by Zwingli Luther and Calvin renders it a very different ceremony in each case? In short in the science as well as in the history of religion those observances whose religious significance can be discovered and traced are alone valuable. Conceptions mythically or dogmatically symbolically or philosophically expressed must ever be the fountainhead of our knowledge of that religious spirit which is the true essence of religion.
These are merely introductory reflections in which I have endeavoured to convey my conception of the science of religion and of the method applicable to it. In the following lectures I shall try to develop the principles of the science to indicate how it works and to state the general results it has yielded. As already pointed out the task of our science is to make us acquainted with religion to enable us to trace its life and growth and thus to penetrate to its origin and its inmost nature. Our study thus naturally divides itself into two main parts—(1) the morphological which is concerned with the constant changes of form resulting from an ever-progressing evolution; and (2) the ontological which treats of the permanent elements in what is changing the unalterable element in transient and ever-altering forms—in a word the origin and the very nature and essence of religion. The first of these parts will be the subject of the present course. The ontological part will be reserved for the Second Course and if God vouchsafes me health and strength will form the conclusion of the task I have to-day begun.