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Lecture 10 The Place of Religion in Spiritual Life

Lecture 10
The Place of Religion in Spiritual Life
WE have endeavoured to discover the origin of religion the actual fountainhead from which it springs; and we came to the conclusion that it is to be found in man's more or less unconscious sense of the Infinite within him or of his participation in the Infinite. We did not however examine the mode in which religion emanates thence. The only question we attempted to answer was how man comes to be religious. But how religion is born within him is a somewhat different question. Strictly speaking it belongs rather to the morphological part of our science; but it is so closely bound up with the ontological part and is so entirely determined by the main question that we have been unable to discuss it sooner while it is too important to be passed over in silence now.

And here we again encounter those principles in which thinkers of different schools erroneously in our opinion have sought for the origin of religion but which undoubtedly contribute to its birth—namely man's instinct of causality his dissatisfaction with the worldly and the transitory and his moral consciousness or in other words his sense of truth his sense of the beautiful and his sense of duty. But while all contribute their action is joint and mutual and we are unable to assign the foremost place to any one of them. At a very early period man gains the experience that although the aspirations he cherishes are infinite it is beyond his power in this world at least to realise them. Although his mind brooks no limits and although he is the microcosm in which he sees the macrocosm reflected he soon becomes aware that he only knows in part; and he becomes more aware of it as he advances in knowledge. Ever more clearly in the school of life he becomes acquainted with the limitations of his powers. For his welfare his livelihood his very existence he feels that he is dependent physically and morally on a variety of external circumstances. The world he perceives corresponds in its reality but little with the ideal world created by his imagination; and the more his experience of life increases and the more deeply he reflects the less is he satisfied with the real world. Not only he himself but all around him is limited imperfect transient. His intercourse with his fellow-men with friends and enemies and the social life from which he cannot escape impose limitations upon him and make him feel that he cannot control his own destinies that they are partly in other hands and that he is a mere atom in a community to whose demands his will must bow. In many respects society disappoints him. If he had his own way he would order it otherwise he would thoroughly reform or perhaps subvert it; but he feels that he is powerless. Powerless without he is almost equally powerless within. He has a conception of goodness a sense of duty he may perhaps have formed an ideal of self-denial and self-consecration; he is conscious that he possesses powers and talents and that it is his life's vocation to cultivate and develop them; yet how lamentably does his practice fall short of his theory; how inferior to his good intentions is his power to carry them out! Where is he to look for support in this struggle? Whom can he trust if he has lost trust in himself? Has he no friends or powerful protectors? Alas! they too have sadly disappointed him. In moments of enthusiasm we sometimes speak of eternal friendship and love or of eternal vows and we often hear of perpetual peace and perpetual edicts and treaties; but what has become of them all? How brief has their existence often been! How frail are often the ties that were intended to bind for ever; how many solemn treaties and edicts turn out to be as valueless and perishable as the paper on which they are written!

And so overwhelming may a man's disappointments be that in vexation bitterness and despair he loses all belief in the reality of the Infinite and pronounces all his ceaseless longings to be idle dreams and delusions. There always have been such doubters. Even in the Ṛgveda the pious man complains that he has been mockingly asked “Where is Indra now? What has become of his succour?” And the same question is asked by the Hebrew Psalmist “Where is now thy God?”1 Such unbelievers are even to be found among primitive peoples as missionaries assure us. They are commonest however in times when intellect and material interests are so highly prized that the dictates of the emotions are disregarded. But in the case of the majority of mankind this belief in the Infinite is too firmly rooted too inseparably interwoven with their spiritual life to be discarded in deference to mere perceptions of the finite. This belief gives them a happy sense of being special objects of the care of the beneficent spirits whom in their childlike philosophy they have personified as beings after their own image; and when they have reached a higher stage of progress they believe in the protection of that Almighty God against whom all powers in heaven and earth are powerless. This belief also teaches them to regard these spirits or that Holy One as the vindicators of truth and justice the antagonists of the unbelief and deceit of which they are the victims the avengers of forgotten promises and broken vows and (when a higher plane of religious culture has been reached) as the supreme lawgivers from whom the whole moral law derives its origin. And so too when they contemplate the world of perishable things with all its limits its sins and its miseries it is the same faith that makes them dream of a perfect state which they have forfeited by their transgressions and makes them hope for nay confidently believe in the existence of a better world where all these limitations imperfections and sorrows shall be no more—a kingdom of God finally triumphant on earth and in heaven alike a kingdom to which they themselves belong. And lastly well knowing their own weakness and having learned by experience how vain is the help of man they are prompted by the same belief to seek for strength and support in communion with the higher world whether they regard it as peopled by a plurality of powers or have advanced so far as to sum up superhuman power in one infinite eternal Being. Religion is thus generated by the co-operation of several different factors while the source from which it springs (psychologically not metaphysically speaking) must ever lie deep in the inmost recesses of the human soul.
But while we have thus endeavoured to trace religion to its source and to examine the process of its genesis there still remains this important question to be answered: What place does religion occupy in our spiritual life? In what relation does it stand to the various other manifestations of that life? This is perhaps the most difficult question of all. Let me however again emphasise the fact that my sole object throughout has been to sketch an Introduction to the science of religion—that is to say to indicate the lines upon which a thorough study of it ought to proceed. What is the relation between religion on the one hand and science art and the ethical life in all its departments on the other? Such is the problem which I propose to glance at to-day. I cannot claim to have finally solved it; but I am at least bound to submit it to you and to state my views on the subject.
Religion has sometimes been described as either a kind of science or philosophy or as a kind of poetry or as a heteronomous system of morality or perhaps as a compound of two or more of these elements. It would in that case belong either to the intellectual or to the æsthetic or to the ethical domain or it might be regarded as a transition from one of these domains to another. When Vinet somewhere calls religion a science we must not take this in its literal sense. Others however regard the doctrines of religion as a primitive kind of philosophy which has survived from an earlier period but which must gradually be superseded by the fruits of maturer reflection. The theological period of the world as the Positivists teach will be succeeded by the purely philosophical and with the latter religion will come to an end. According to Karl Schwartz2 dogma and cult are merely two imperfect and intermediate forms of knowing and acting being transitional to the pure knowledge of science and the pure action of concrete morality. He does not of course mean by this that religion is only a passing phenomenon in the development of mankind for no one has striven more earnestly than he to confirm and strengthen religious life. But he doubtless means that the conceptions of faith in the form of dogmas and religious observances as an organised system of worship are mere transitory phenomena while religion itself will still continue to exist partly as a science and partly as a moral rule of life.
Others again regard religion as a manifestation of the æsthetic sentiment as a kind of poetry. According to the esprits d'élite the value of religion consists not in the cruder externals in which the vulgar delight but solely in its poetic or æsthetic element. “Si vous étiez chrétien” as Ernest Renan once wrote to his friend Bertholet3 “la partie esthétique du christianisme vraiment saisie suffirait pour satisfaire à ce besoin. Car au fait la religion n'est que cela la part de l'idéal dans la vie humaine une façon moins épurée mais plus originale et plus populaire d'adorer.” And it is well known that Professor E. F. Apelt of Jena a disciple of Fries the philosopher actually built up some forty years ago a whole system of the philosophy of religion upon æsthetic ideas.4
But there is a far greater number of persons who if they do not entirely identify religion with morality regard the former as a manifestation of moral consciousness which corresponds with a certain stage of development and is alone adapted to that stage. They look upon religion as practically amounting to a recognition of the moral laws within us as identical with the commands of a Lawgiver above us. And in their view the religious life is merely an imperfect form of the moral life; while the moral life is destined when it attains its highest development to rise superior to all heteronomous dictation obeying no law from without or from above but governed solely by the law written in our hearts. The classical expression for this view is Matthew Arnold's definition of religion as “morality touched by emotion.”
After all that I have said about the essence of religion does it need detailed argument to show that those who reason thus are on a wrong track? There are of course points of contact between religion and the other activities of man's spiritual life. How can it be otherwise? For the human spirit is one and indivisible though revealing itself in different ways. Nay there is more than contact there is kinship between the religious the philosophical the poetical and the moral principles within us. How close this relationship is will appear immediately. Man's eagerness to know and to penetrate to the very root of things and his longing to soar upon the wings of imagination to the world of the ideal are shared by all truly religious people and by every philosopher and every poet alike. Nor can it be denied that religion has its own ethics and its doctrines of life and that true piety is displayed not merely in rites and ceremonies but in the believer's whole life. As our study of religious development has already satisfied us religion requires for the promotion of its growth to assimilate certain elements from science and philosophy from æsthetics and ethics: how could it do so unless it were akin to them? The fact is that morality art and science cannot be severed from religion except to their mutual injury; but it is equally certain that they ought not to be confounded with one another.
They differ essentially. But in the objects at which they respectively aim they differ less than one would suppose. The differences might be stated thus. What the religious man strives for is peace of soul the true and eternal life unity with God. With him the paramount question is “What shall I do to be saved?” The philosopher and the man of science on the other hand are solely concerned with gaining knowledge. The poet finds happiness in his ideals. Like every artist he is satisfied if he succeeds in animating his creations with the beautiful that he has met with in the world around him or that lives within himself. Lastly the moral law only requires us within the limits of our earthly existence to perform faithfully all our duties to our fellow-men whether as members of the family society or the State or to walk uprightly honestly and purely. Yet while we have stated these differences there is in reality no sharp demarcation between these departments of spiritual life. For in the ethical life as in the religious peace of mind is one of the objects sought for and it is only to be found in a state of unceasing development. Nor does the man of science rest satisfied with knowing. He desires also to understand and to systematise and unify his knowledge. The philosopher tries to fathom the origin of things but he also expects that philosophy will reconcile him with himself and the world. So that scientists and philosophers alike to a certain extent also seek for contentment of soul. And does the artist never aim in the pursuit of his art at something beyond æsthetic enjoyment? Does he not often throw his whole soul into his works and thus stake his happiness upon their success?
The difference must be sought for elsewhere. It consists chiefly in this that while science art and morality yield a certain satisfaction or even a considerable measure of happiness they never produce that perfect peace of mind that entire reconciliation with one's self and one's worldly lot which are the fruits of religion and have ever characterised the truly pious of all ages. The greatest genius the acutest investigator and the profoundest thinker who have studied the most difficult of problems and have made darkness light for themselves and others will be the first to confess the limitations of their knowledge and the insolubility of many of their problems and to admit that faith alone can answer the momentous and vital questions—Whence and whither? Poetry and art may brighten this earthly life with their lustre they may mitigate sorrow and soothe the troubled mind; but they can only give true rest to the soul when they serve to bring home to it some great religious truth in a beautiful and striking form. And even the strictly moral man who can boast of having kept all the commandments from his youth upwards—unless utterly deluded by self-satisfaction—must often feel that he lacks something the one thing needful. And further while no single function of man's inner life is exclusively active in science art and morality yet one or more is generally predominant—in one case the will in another the intellect and judgment in a third the imagination and emotions. In religion on the other hand as we have already observed none of these functions can have the mastery as otherwise religion would degenerate into intellectualism fanaticism mysticism moralism or some other craze. In religion all one's faculties must work together in harmony none being entitled to precedence. The old sayings that “religion embraces the whole man” and that “religion occupies the central place in man's spirit” are not perhaps strictly accurate and at all events the important conclusions they involve have not been drawn from them; but they bear witness to the fact that men have long been convinced of the many-sided character of religion. The proposition that religion is the essential in man has been admirably maintained by the distinguished Dutch poet-theologian Abraham des Amorie van der Hoeven jun. It is certain at all events that religion along with all that is truly great in man's aims and actions emanates directly from the distinctive badge of his humanity—the Infinite within him.
All the mental and moral faculties are thus different and yet akin—akin to one another and akin to religion also. How far is this the case? Are they akin solely because they are all manifestations of one and the same spirit or is their relationship still closer? May not science art and morality possibly have sprung from religion; may they not be cuttings from the same parent stem which have grown up as independent trees? This proposition has lately been emphatically affirmed.5 Religion say the advocates of this theory is the mother of all civilisation having alone given it the first impulse. It was religion that educated man to be a moral being having first awakened his moral sense. Religion alone having taught him obedience to the powers above him likewise taught him to use self-control and to sacrifice self and selfish aims for the purpose of attaining objects of higher value. It was religion that gave him an ideal and ceaseless aim beyond his mere struggle for existence. It was religion too that gave birth to art and letters. The earliest works of art are attempts on the part of half-civilised man to give a dignified form to the creations of his religious imagination and to provide splendid and permanent dwellings for the beings whom he worships. While he himself lives in a poor hut the temples he erects in honour of his gods bear striking testimony to his ability and perseverance and they are enriched with the most beautiful decoration that his barbaric taste can suggest. The earliest literature is purely religious and later literature too. The whole of the literature of antiquity from the Egyptian Babylonian Indian and Persian down to the Greek and a large proportion of the Roman is as it were saturated with religion. And the same remark applies to the Middle Ages. The poetry and the history usually termed profane are of comparatively late origin and even in them the influence of religion is still traceable. And may not science too in all its branches be fairly described as the offspring of religion? Priests or religious men at least were the first teachers of mankind and they were the first to administer justice in the name of the gods. All the earliest princes had a sacerdotal character and as we still say of our modern monarchs they ruled by the grace of God. The gods themselves according to the unanimous belief of the ancients were the first law-givers. Astrology has given birth to astronomy sorcery and witchcraft to medicine and natural history and religious contemplation to all philosophy. The oldest philosophy of the Indians as embodied in the Upanishads is rooted in the sacred Veda and is even called Vedānta or the end of Veda. And what is the philosophy of the Greeks as represented in its first rudiments by the Ionian school but mythology translated into abstract ideas? On all sides in short we find abundant evidence in support of the theory that art science and philosophy law ethics and politics though now separate and independent departments were all originally offshoots of religion.
Such is the theory. I cannot however see my way to indorse it except perhaps to a limited extent. In the first place to begin with the last of the arguments stated mythology was not originally and properly a religious doctrine any more than the animism with which it is so closely connected; it was simply a crude form of philosophy an explanation of those phenomena which struck man's dawning apprehensions as requiring to be accounted for. Religious doctrine doubtless borrowed much of its material from mythology and blended it with its own purely religious speculations; but it certainly cannot be called the source of mythology. It is true that the priesthood or rather certain religious castes gradually monopolised scriptural learning literature art every branch of knowledge and even the public administration of justice and usurped an overweening authority both in and over the state. But this occurred only after long struggles for the mastery. Sacerdotal castes are not to be found in the infancy of history. We know their origin and we can trace their growth.
Let us next test the theory in the case of architecture. Although it is not absolutely certain I believe that further investigation will establish the fact that the oldest buildings known to history were castles or strongholds which indeed often contained a chamber dedicated to the deity but which were assuredly not temples. It is certain at any rate that in India in Hellas and in Italy the temple proper is of comparatively late origin making its appearance long after other important buildings had been erected. From the Bible we learn that David possessed his castle and his cedar palace while Yahve still dwelt in the tabernacle. The tombs of the kings and magnates of Egypt are older than any of the temples we know although according to some vague traditions there are temples which trace their origin to the remotest antiquity. It is specially noteworthy that the oldest sculptures of Egypt and perhaps those of Babylonia also are far superior both in point of artistic ability and in freedom and truth of conception to the works produced by later ages in those countries as the artists were then tied down by priestly tradition to certain rigid conventional forms in their delineation of the human figure. Again in the case of literature it is a mistake to say that the oldest literature is exclusively religious in the sense that its object was solely to extol the gods or to minister to their ritual. I will not insist on the fact that the maxims of Ptahhotep (the Prisse Papyrus) which is reputed the oldest book in the world is a collection of moral sentiments somewhat in the style of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament; for it was preceded by other writings in the shape of inscriptions engraved in stone such as the Pyramid texts which being destined to equip the deceased for his struggles in the lower world naturally partook of a magical mythical or semi-religious character. But beside these texts there are others equally old which are non-religious such as the biographical inscriptions in the tomb of Una of the sixth Dynasty. Nor do I insist on the fact that the earliest Assyrian texts we are acquainted with while not omitting to do homage to the gods always gave precedence to the great military exploits of the kings after which they narrate how these monarchs built or restored the sanctuaries of their gods; for the Assyrian civilisation is either an offshoot of the Babylonian or a graft upon it while the origins of the latter far back as its records extend are still undiscovered. And after all when we desire to trace the course of the earliest civilisation we are hardly justified in appealing to the oldest civilised states such as Babylon Egypt and China; for when these appeared on the scene they had already reached a high state of culture which implied long ages of previous development. Nor will India serve our purpose for the Ṛgveda itself as a collection and a sacred text is relatively modern and moreover contains several purely secular hymns. But let us rather turn our attention to nations which we have seen emerging from barbarism and gradually ascending in the scale of civilisation. In the case of Hellas for example the earliest great work handed down to us is an epic poem which preceded the Homeric hymns and the Theogony of Hesiod. Again in the case of Israel the triumph-song of Deborah and David's lament over Saul and Jonathan are among the oldest specimens of Hebrew poetry while the references contained in the sacerdotal and prophetic Scriptures show that they must have been preceded by purely secular histories. From such instances as these it is abundantly clear that from the remotest antiquity there has existed a purely secular literature parallel with the purely religious but quite distinct from it while there is absolutely no evidence to show that the religious is the older of the two.
Nor is there any better evidence to support the theory however attractive it may seem that religion is the mother of all civilisation. Philosophy and science poetry and art ethics and law all flow from man's spiritual life but from distinct sources to which they must be traced by other sciences than ours. Yet the theory which in its general application I have felt bound to oppose contains a great truth. For it shows at least that religion responds to the most widely prevalent and predominant need of the human soul; it shows that religion though not the mother of civilisation exerts the profoundest and mightiest influence over it while in turn it gains sustenance from civilisation borrowing from it and assimilating whatever may conduce to its own growth. Religion is so intimately bound up with man's personality that it wields a kind of central authority over all the other activities of his spiritual life. It is in fact the great motive power of all higher development and progress. If it slumbers or is altogether dead poor man drifts about like a helpless log on the ocean of life. If a man thirsts for knowledge and especially if he is earnestly in search of truth religion impels him to dig deeper or to climb higher; it inspires the poet and the artist to make the best use of their powers and to cultivate their noblest gifts; it will not suffer us to rest complacently content with the observance of social or churchly morality but constantly holds up before our eyes the loftier aim “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect!” Everything finite it places in the light of the Infinite. All the great epochs in human history have been the outcome of some religious reform. Nothing can be more absurd or rather nothing sadder than an attempt to ignore religion in the writing of history. Whether we love or hate it prize or despise it we must needs reckon with it. If as Mr Morris Jastrow has finely said you turn your back upon religion you will see it facing you from the opposite direction. And if you try to shut your eyes to it you will get no peace because it dwells within you.
But perhaps wise people will shake their heads and ask with a superior smile whether all this is ideal or reality fact or fiction. Actual history they will perhaps say gives a very different account of the matter. Religion the mainspring of progress and culture! Surely the reverse is the case. On one side we see religion at deadly enmity with science and philosophy or at least dictating to them the result of their researches and coercing its adherents into obedience or persecuting them to the death if they presume to rebel against the tyranny of dogmas. Is it not the irreconcilable enemy of free impartial and unprejudiced research whose wings it always tries to clip? And it is not only owing to special causes in the case of Christianity during the last four centuries as has sometimes been maintained but in all ages from West to far East that religion has been hostile to the boldest thinkers and investigators. In another direction we see religion bridling poetry and art imposing laws upon there which they dare not transgress hampering them in their free development and even denouncing them as temptations of the Devil. On moral life in particular it has had a baneful influence. While true morality incites us to seek and embrace the good for its own sake and because we love it and to reject the evil because we abhor it religion comes with its promises of reward and threats of punishment and thus taints pure morality with selfish motives. Nay have there not even been persons who have seriously as far at least as their limited observation would permit tried to collect statistics regarding religious and moral life in order to prove that the further religion progresses in power and influence the more morality declines? Paris the modern Babylon as it has been called—though I am not sure that either Paris or Babylon would suffer much from a comparison with other capitals great or small—Paris we are told is plunging ever more deeply into a sink of iniquity and yet Paris is daily becoming more pious! At all events it is a well-known fact that religion often serves as a cloak for all kinds of sins and misdeeds.
While I admit most of these facts I demur to the manner in which they are grouped and to the conclusions drawn from them. Assuming it to be the case that morality declines as the influence of religion increases and that the converse is also true this would prove nothing to the detriment of religion unless it could be proved that it was the same individuals who became at once less moral and more pious or more moral and less pious whereas the individuals are certainly different. If there is any real connection between the two phenomena it may possibly be the case that an increasing number of persons are prompted to seek strength and comfort in religious observances partly as a protest against increasing immorality and partly from real penitence and contrition. But it is obviously only possible to compare persons who are outwardly religious with those whose outward conduct is bad; it is obviously impossible to reduce true piety and morality to the form of a table of statistics.
The view that religion promotes and hallows all civilisation seems irreconcilable with the view that it is hostile to free development in every sphere. But this is not really the case. There is no real antagonism because the disputants are at cross purposes. For here as so often happens there is a confusion or rather a double confusion of terms. The terms religion and civilisation are both used by the disputants in different senses. One man means religion in general as a frame of mind an emotion and at the same time as the inspiration of a higher spirit; his opponent speaks of a religion meaning one of those transient forms of religious life which having served its time and fallen into decay cannot tolerate those revelations of progress in the spiritual domain which mark the awakening of a new life. One man is speaking of true science which confines itself to its own sphere; his opponent refers to that arrogant and presumptuous though very superficial science which arguing from a few isolated data would deny the existence of one of the elements probably the most important element in human nature. One man is referring to that art which seeks nothing but what is noble and beautiful; another is thinking of that depraved art which ministers to base and sordid objects and is worse than brutal. In this matter therefore we must refrain from premature generalisations. If religious persons or those who are called upon to act as representatives of religious life oppose a science or philosophy which denies to religion any right of existence they are perfectly justified in doing so; for such science or philosophy exceeds its authority and usurps a right of judgment which does not belong to it. If they find that art or poetry instead of ennobling mankind has a degrading and depraving influence they rightly denounce it not from narrow-mindedness but because it is in their sacred duty. They will not on the other hand oppose or persecute those who open up new paths the greatest thinkers and the most gifted artists and poets; nor will they for the sake of maintaining some narrow old view of life seek to prevent ethical science from developing freely in accordance with its own principles. All this they leave to be done by the representatives of some form of religion which has outlived its time whose doctrine represents the views of life and the world held at the time of its foundation and which has thus fallen far below the level of the science and philosophy the knowledge of the world and the civilisation of a later age. Fancying that with their doctrine religion itself must stand or fall the champions of an effete system stoutly oppose all dangerous innovations. They act in good faith but they are wrong. Religion is not threatened. Although certain religious views may conflict with scientific facts religion itself is not endangered by any legitimate result of scientific research by any utterance of true art or by any philosophical or ethical system thoughtfully based on sound principles. On the contrary all this promotes the growth of religion compelling it to remould antiquated forms which injure it by clinging to old errors and to bring them into harmony with the needs of the age.
I do not therefore in the least apprehend that the conflict between the different spheres of spiritual life and particularly between civilisation and the various religions will either lead to the entire subjection of all intellect land talent of all research and thought to the dictates of any sacerdotal caste or theological school or else end in the complete extinction of religion. It will rather lead to a fuller development of religious life to a nobler revelation of the religious spirit. During the last fifty or sixty years a theory which the boldest free-thinker once scarcely dared to utter has been pretty loudly proclaimed in various quarters—the theory that mankind may henceforth live quite happily nay more happily than ever without religion. Art according to some would offer what was formerly expected of religion. But this view has found few adherents because the worship of the beautiful is necessarily possible for a few privileged persons only and is beyond the reach of the poor careworn toiling millions struggling for bare existence. According to a much commoner theory science might take the place of religion. Science the great liberator of the human mind was thought to be capable of ensuring the welfare and happiness of mankind. Diffused among all classes of society it would deliver the lowly and ignorant from oppression it would solve the social question and cure all social evils! Surely this was a delusion though its object was a generous one. And am I not right in saying that the fond expectations of those who were led away by this theory have been grievously disappointed by its results? Science has indeed worked marvels during the present century in every department and has thus yielded a rich harvest for our social life and earned our gratitude. We who love it and devote our lives to it can but rejoice that its light shines around us more brightly than at any previous period in the world's history. That light is essential to our very lives; but light is not the only essential—we also require warmth for our souls and science has no warmth to offer. Nor can a strictly moral life provide us with that warmth. I quite admit that our age has progressed in general morality. I am not one of those laudatores temporis acti who extol the virtues of their forefathers and deplore the moral degeneracy of their contemporaries. History teaches otherwise. Our manners have been softened and our moral insight refined. Nor is any religion possible nowadays unless united with the purest ethics. But conversely without the inspiring breath of religion ethics must languish and sink to the level of a mere commonplace social morality. Among other things our science has demonstrated by historical and psychological research that the religious need is a general human need. And the more we study religion the further we penetrate into its history the better we understand the nature of its doctrines so much the more clearly we shall see that it is entitled to precedence in our spiritual life because the religious need is the mightiest profoundest and most overmastering of all. Let no dread of ecclesiastical ambition and sacerdotal tyranny prevent us from recognising this; for they are powerless except when true religion languishes or slumbers. Once awaken religion to full life and activity and their influence is gone. Will it now reawake?
Our brilliant nineteenth century has achieved wonders but it has been disappointed in its expectation of such a reawakening. The waning century seems weary and almost despairing. It sometimes speaks of the bankruptcy of science and the illusions of philosophy. There are even persons who in their despair are willing to be fettered anew with the shackles from which the courage and perseverance the toil and strife of saints and heroes have freed them. Others however are reluctant to throw away a single precious conquest of the century or to give up the smallest fragment of their dearly bought liberty; and they therefore decline to surrender to those who would at once deprive them of all these blessings. And others again are convinced by their study of religious life and of the laws which govern it that the substance of these conquests and the maintenance of that liberty can only be guaranteed provided they lead to a new manifestation of religious life. Our science cannot call forth such a manifestation but it may pave the way for it by tracing the evolution of religion explaining its essentials and showing where its origin is to be sought for. Let it do its own duty in throwing light upon the part that religion has ever played in the history of mankind and still plays in every human soul. And then without preaching or special pleading or apologetic argument but solely by means of the actual facts it reveals our beloved science will help to bring home to the restless spirits of our time the truth that there is no rest for them unless “they arise and go to their Father.”