You are here

Chapter II: Deity and the Religious Sentiment

The religious sentiment and its object.

The metaphysical notion of a reality which is the whole world in its endeavour towards a new and higher empirical quality than the highest we know is verified by the religious sentiment itself. Various emotions enter into the full constitution of the religious sentiment—fear, admiration, self-abasement—but its distinctive constituent is the feeling of our going out towards something not ourselves and greater and higher than ourselves, with which we are in communion; a feeling whose object is not that of any of these subsidiary or suggesting emotions, nor of any combination of them. Like the other sentiments, it is fed from many sources, but it gathers around some distinctive constituent as its primary nucleus. The nucleus of the sentiment of love is the tender emotion, around which gather in a system which is dominated by that emotion all manner of other emotions—fear for the safety of what is loved, anger against those who injure it, joy in its success, depression at its misfortunes.1 Even in the aesthetic, moral, and logical sentiments there is a dominating and distinctive passion—the passion for production, the passion of sociality, and the passion of curiosity. Without this distinctive element, a sentiment would be a mere composite without its peculiar flavour.2

Moreover, it is this distinctive religious appetite comparable to the appetite for food or drink, which though it does not make its object discovers it. Here too the religious sentiment is in line with the other emotional tendencies. We do not first learn to know the objects to which we respond, but in responding to objects we discover the properties which they possess. Knowledge comes with action or the response to the things which we know. The food is presented to us as flesh or grain through one sort of response; it is in another sort of response, the expression of the appetite which it arouses, that we discover it to be food and capable of satisfying our hunger. The child we love is presented to us as a small and perhaps helpless human being, but we cognise it as lovable in the caresses and tender care which it elicits from us by the instinctive reaction. Without the reaction which they provoke in us the objects of our emotions would not reveal to us the properties which make them into such objects. If we are inclined to overlook this truth, it is because, as experience grows, familiarity with things may bring about the reaction through a previous cognition. Thus I may dislike a person because I have first learnt he has certain qualities which in general excite repulsion. In the developed life cognition and emotion become intertwined, so that the cognition may seem to be the prior. But in our original experience it is the emotion which discovers the corresponding object of cognition.

Hence it is impossible to explain the religious sentiment as a composite of various emotions, not specifically religious, which we feel towards God. For this presumes that we can begin with a cognition of God and that towards the object so presented we feel these emotions. The question we have rather to ask is, how is the intellectual notion of God revealed to us? The fear of the thunderstorm is not the fear of God, though such fear may be the first channel by which the religious sentiment is provoked (primus fecit deos timor). It is merely the feeling that the thunder is terrible. That God is present in the thunderstorm is discovered only in the feeling which is our outgoing towards something or other which works through the thunderstorm or resides therein. That there is this something or other is not the discovery of reflection. The metaphysical interpretation of deity as that to which the world is tending, or any other metaphysical interpretation of God, is as far as possible from being an original discovery of knowledge; it is only possible to reflection working upon primitive notions already acquired. Even the idea that there is something mysterious which we fear or reverence is never in the first instance a piece of cognition; but is revealed to our wondering response, our uneasy astonishment and curiosity. It is the feeling or emotion which images the object, not the idea which induces the emotion. When we ask how we come by the cognition of God we must answer that, as with love and hate and appetite and aversion, it is because the world itself provokes in us a specific response which makes us aware, no matter in how primitive a form, of God, and this specific reaction is what has been described above as a going out to something in the world with which we are in communion.

The nature of its object.

In order further to explain the nature of this reaction and the object which excites it, I may refer to the conclusion of William James's famous inquiry. His method has been subjected to many criticisms, that he neglects the ordinary calm religious sentiment of the ordinary man in whom it does not usually rise into enthusiastic exaltation or fall into the complementary depression, and confines his attention to exaggerated or even pathological forms of the sentiment, and that his data are to a very large extent drawn from the records of evangelical protestantism. These criticisms have their weight, but at least it is true that truth is most likely to be found in the beginning in what Bacon calls flagrant instances. The gleams of religious feeling which the common man from time to time detects he may interpret by the experiences of mysticism or of conversion.

The conclusion James drew from his data was that in religion “the conscious person is continuous with a wider self through which saving experiences come”;3 and impressed by the automatisms of inspired leaders of religion, he supposes that it is from out the subliminal strata of our personality that the religious emotion arises into consciousness by a kind of uprush from below. Now without attributing to the subliminal any superiority over the conscious, and interpreting it rather, as has before been suggested,4 as in reality something physical or physiological into which the conscious sinks when it ceases to be conscious and out of which it can rise in turn, we may I think adopt this general conception and add to it that the world as a whole in its forward tendency acts upon our bodily organism and that the religious sentiment is the feeling for this whole. Parts as we are of Space-Time we throw out feelers towards the rest of it and we are accessible to its influences. The body of the universe affects our body, and the ultimate response in consciousness is this emotion. Like hungry appetite it is a conation whose object, God, is to it as food to hunger. The religious conation which sets us in search of God is our groping out to the reality which is God. This religious appetite may either be stirred in us directly by the impact of the world with its tendency to deity, or it may first be felt by us as a need of our nature; just as the appetite of hunger or the sexual impulse may be stirred by the presence of an appropriate object, but may also set the organism in search of satisfaction, though the object may not be definitely apprehended till it is found. In either case it is the world in its nisus forward that grips the finite conative complex which is fitted to it. It excites religion in us, and we in turn feel the need of it.

The religious emotion or appetite has no specific organ through which it works. Other appetites have, and even the other emotions depend upon specific mental and bodily reactions. But the religious appetite or emotion depends upon the whole make-up or constitution of the mind and body, and is the response of it to the whole of reality in its nisus towards a new quality. In that forward movement due to the onward sweep of Time our minds with their substructure of body are caught, and our religious response is at once the mark that we are involved in that nisus, and that our minds contribute in their part towards it. The world in its bearing towards a new empirical quality may be concealed from the cognitive mind, for though we are always in cognitive compresence with what is outside us, neither can the new empirical quality be contemplated, for we know not what it is, nor even enjoyed, since it is higher than mind. It makes itself felt in the religious sense, which thus discovers the world it sees to be clothed with divinity. For the world is not merely what it is for intellect alone; its nisus towards what is higher enters into its constitution, and as impregnated with this tendency it affects the mind by ways other than cognition, though interpretable in the ways of cognition. The whole world with its real tendency to deity stirs in us from the depths of our nature a vague endeavour or desire which shadows forth its object. Then intellect comes into play, and discovers in detail the characters of this object, and finds at last what it truly is, the tendency of the world forwards towards a new quality.

Not a mere imagination.

Thus, if this interpretation be correct, the object of religious sentiment is no mere imagination which corresponds to a subjective and possibly illusory movement of mind. We are in perpetual presence of this object, which stimulates us, some of us more, some less; is sometimes felt and sometimes left unexperienced according to our condition, just as the most appetising luxuries leave us cold when we are satisfied. It may be entirely absent from some who are insensitive to its peculiar flavour or only faintly sensitive; a man may be partially or wholly deity-blind, as he is tone-deaf, or has no attunement with scientific truth: he may lack the emotional suggestibility for deity. Yet most are suggestible to it in their degree, as most see colours and not mere greys. Of this world with its deity in advance it is true to say what James says of “the mystical or the supernatural region”: “the unseen region in question is not merely ideal, for it produces effects in this world. When we commune with it, work is actually done upon our finite personality, for we are turned into new men, and consequences in the way of conduct follow in the natural world upon our regenerative change. But that which produces effects within another reality must be termed a reality itself, so I feel as if we had no philosophical excuse for calling the unseen or mystical world unreal.”5 I only demur to calling the mystical world unseen or even mystical. It is partly seen and partly object of thought, but it is its new quality, which is higher than anything we know, that cannot be seen or understood, though its presence in reality is forced upon us both in philosophical conception and in the feeling it evokes in us of itself.

Thus religious feeling itself suggests the notion of God which when elaborated by reflection is discovered to be that of the world big with deity. And in turn when we start with this notion which is forced upon us speculatively by the behaviour of the world, we verify it in its effects, as we verify the existence of ions, or observe a predicted comet or planet through our telescopes, by finding what element it is in our human experience which corresponds to it, and indeed in practice discovers it.

How a future quality can affect us.

Only one point seems to me obscure in this account of how God's deity makes itself felt in the individual soul. Deity is some quality not realised but in process of realisation, is future and not present. How then, it may be asked, can the future make itself felt energetically in our minds, draw them towards itself and satisfy them? Now we must remember that deity is not as such cognised, is not before our minds as a matter of contemplation. The reflective contemplation embodies the feeling and follows on it. All that we have for cognition is the world of cognition interpreted by the notion of infinitude and of its tendency to deity. The world which works upon our religious suggestibility is the actual world, but that actual world contains the seed of its future, though what future forms it will assume is hidden from us, except so far as we can forecast them in spatio-temporal terms. What acts upon us is what is to bring forth deity. I may illustrate by reference to clairvoyance. I do not raise the question whether there are or have been persons who can foresee the future. Yet at least I see nothing (consistently with what was said in a previous chapter about the limits of prevision of the future) extravagant or startling in the claim. The future will be what it will. But since it will be the causal outcome of what is present actually, there may be minds so sensitive to the influences at work in the world that they may divine certain future events. What seems to me open to the gravest question is that any character of the future which transcends our hitherto experienced orders of fact should be foreseen. Yet the clairvoyant might be like a person of genius—more sensitive to things than the ordinary run of persons. Imposture to some limited extent, and to a very large extent suggestion from subtle sources of knowledge, perhaps not clearly known to the person himself, arising perhaps from telepathic communication from those who have experience, play so great a part in these phenomena that we may well suspend judgment. But there is no intrinsic impossibility or even improbability in the alleged powers. In the same way we may suppose that in religious experience the vague future quality of deity is felt, not in its quality, for that cannot be known, but as giving a flavour to the experience of the whole world which it does not possess as merely an object of sense or thought.

Assurance of God and of foreign minds.

In a famous passage, Berkeley affirms that we know God by evidence of the same sort, but wider, as we know each other. The world of nature is the external sign, the divine visual language, by which we know God's mind, as we know each other's minds by their gestures. How entirely the alleged inference of other minds from their bodily gestures fails to account for our belief in them we have already seen. The notion of a foreign mind would on this showing be a miraculous invention. Berkeley was so far right that our apprehensions of other minds and of deity are nearly related, because in both cases we go beyond sight. But he did not recognise that in the end, alike in sensation and in faith, it is our mental responses to objects that discover the objects to us as objects of cognition: that there is no apprehension distinct from our conations, but only objects which as apprehended through our responses to them are cognita.

It is of greater importance to dwell upon the difference in our apprehension of other minds and of deity, which is not mind at all but a higher quality. We are assured of other minds through the social emotion,6 and of deity through a different response, the religious emotion. Each of them is specific to the object it discovers, which in both cases is neither contemplated nor enjoyed, but is that which corresponds to assurance, or faith. Faith in other minds may be called practical assurance. Faith in God we may be content to describe simply as faith. Now we are sure of one another's minds because we are social beings; but the social instinct is satisfied only by reciprocal actions on the part of others. There is no such reciprocal action from God. For though we speak, as we inevitably must, in human terms of God's response to us, there is no direct experience of that response except through our own feeling that devotion to God or worship carries with it its own satisfaction. The universe does not answer to our prayers by overt external actions as our fellows respond to our social approaches to them, but in the strength and sustainment which in its tendency to deity it gives to our minds. In both cases it is intercourse with the object which discovers it to us, but religious intercourse is different from social intercourse, and only called such by a metaphor. In this respect our faith in God is nearer to simple sensation than our assurance of other minds. The assurance of the reality of God we cannot call surer than our assurance of each other's minds; both are equally sure; but it is simpler. Moreover, being infinite, God has the wider and deeper attachments in the nature of things, as Berkeley recognised.

There is a further difference between the two. Were it not for the social experience, we could not speculatively invent the idea of another mind than our own, the one which we enjoy. Analogy does not help us speculatively. Now, the notion of God comes to us also through emotion or instinct, and it is only subsequently that we are led to look for a speculative statement of the object which corresponds to it. Yet it remains true, that speculatively, even without the practical revelation of God, we can arrive at the postulate of a world tending to deity, though we could not discover it to be worshipful. There is no such miracle as is involved in the speculative or intellectual discovery of a foreign mind in conceiving a higher type of empirical quality than mind, provided only we do not attempt to describe what it is. For we become familiar with levels of different quality, and we may by analogy conceive a higher type unfolded by the onward pressure of Time. There is no invention here, but only extension of a series whose principle is known, to another term. Even without the religious emotion, we could on purely speculative evidence postulate deity, on the ground of the general plan on which Space-Time works. Thus we are sure of other minds only on the ground of specific experience; we are assured of God's reality on the ground both of specific experience and speculative evidence, derived from experience itself. The belief reposes on this double basis; or at least when emotion assures us of God, we can look for speculative evidence of him in experience, and the direct experience and the speculative one support and supplement each other.

Religious criteria of the conception of God.

So far then the speculative conception of God satisfies the requirement of the religious sentiment in its unquestioning faith in the reality of its object. If religion is a man's outgoing to the whole in its divine quality, felt unreflectively in the peculiar flavour of that sentiment, it is justified of philosophy, and the ground is cut from the feet of any attempt to treat religion as a mere practical necessity of man's nature, which might have no foundation in fact and yet might be precious because of the contentment it brings, or as some have thought, because of the usefulness of the belief for securing morality. The feeling for the whole in its divine quality is a feeling whose object is postulated by philosophical experience. Some of the tests by which the sufficience of a philosophical conception of God for the religious sentiment itself are judged have been already included more or less explicitly in this exposition. To speak roughly, there are four such criteria. The religious sentiment requires of God that he should be greater than man, a ‘universal’ or all-inclusive being, different in quality from man, and, finally, responsive to man, so that he offers us, in W. James's language, “a solution of our uneasiness,” whether that uneasiness is derived from our feebleness and finitude or from the more intimate sense of our shortcomings and sin.

(1) God greater than man:

Of the first two of these criteria little need now be said. Even the blind fear of natural forces, which is declared to be in part the origin of primitive religion, and remains an element in the most advanced religion, attests the religious conviction of some overpowering thing in the world. Magic, which is so closely allied with religion, is in the first instance the arts by which it is supposed that this mighty being may be persuaded or cajoled into satisfying the wishes of his worshippers. It has been said to be the foundation of science which acquires power for man over nature by obedience to her, by searching out her secrets. But I do not enter into the controversial question whether for this reason magic is to be. sharply distinguished from religion, any more than into the old controversy, now surely grown somewhat tedious and obsolete, whether science and religion are irreconcilable or harmonious—as if in the end a just conception of what is true about one element in the universe could be at variance with a just conception about what is true of another element in it.

(2) universal;

Not only is God a mightier being than man; his empire, whether directed by a single God or put into commission as in polytheism, is extended over the whole universe. In some sense God acts through the whole—we have said that the whole of Space-Time with its finites engendered within it is the body of God; or if there are many gods they act through allotted parts of it—fire or storm or even minute departments like mildew or rust; they have domains allotted to them as in Greek mythology, where the idea of fate or moira is that of allotment.7

(3) different in quality from man;

The other two tests are for developed religions the more significant, and I am speaking of the developed religious consciousness, though there is a certain temerity and at any rate difficulty, for a person who does not possess it in a marked degree or except fitfully at all, in the undertaking. Sympathetic intelligence may to some extent in such a person take the place of direct and vivid experience. In the first place, the religious consciousness recognises that God's divinity is not merely a higher humanity but something different in kind. Omniscience, omnipotence, infinite goodness, eternity, which popular religious reflection attributes to God, are, as Hegel observed, the figurative disguises of a faith in something of a different order from man. Omniscience does not so much mean a vastly extended knowledge. Infinite wisdom is not merely a wisdom greater than any conceivable wisdom; nor infinite goodness merely a thoroughgoing morality, but a new strain of character. But since we cannot picture this higher quality to ourselves but only have faith that there is such, we satisfy our pictorial and mythologising instinct by imagining a man or personality of vaster power, intelligence, wisdom and goodness than ours. Men have even been persecuted for holding that eternity of punishment meant not a punishment indefinitely continued but some new flavour of retribution. Now we have seen that deity in a monotheistic God, though lodged in a portion only of the universe, is lodged in an infinite portion and is therefore eternal, but that this conception is valid only so long as deity is in process and not actually realised. On the other hand omniscience and perfect goodness do not belong to deity at all. Deity does not know, but only the minds know which are included in the body of God. Deity knows only in the extended sense of knowing which is not human knowing nor any extension of it. God's ‘knowing’ is his contemplation of things, his ‘knowledge’ the objects of his acts of enjoying his deity. Moreover, infinitely as his deity is extended in space and time, and though he contemplates the whole of Space-Time, even deity contemplates only those qualities which have been hitherto developed within Space-Time, and he cannot foretell the quality which shall in good time supersede his deity, any more than we humans can foretell what qualities shall supersede mind. There is always impending over him the menace which Prometheus levels against Zeus of supersession by a higher God. In this way God's ‘knowledge’ is limited and it is something higher than knowledge. In the same way all goodness is included in the body of God, for goodness belongs to the minds which are within that body. But for those minds there is no perfect goodness, no limit to perfection in conduct; while on the other hand, deity being raised above willing is not goodness at all. These discussions belong, however, to a later stage of our exposition where the relation of deity to value is discussed.

(4) responsive to man,

The responsiveness of God to man is the most vital and distinctive feature in the religious sentiment, most patent in the higher religions, but traceable faintly throughout the history of religion. Even in elementary religion, though there is so large an ingredient of fear or awe, there is also the dependence of man upon God. At a more advanced stage we have the consciousness which is described in the language of philosophy or theology as the sense of identity of God and man: “that art thou” in Brahmanism. The current notion represented by T. H. Green in this country of a divine mind which makes human minds organic to itself and works through them (a notion affiliated historically to Kant's doctrine of mind or “consciousness as such” (ueberhaupt) which is objective, as contrasted with the empirical mind which in Kant's conception is psychological), is not far removed from this older philosophy. This is the pantheistic sense of the divine response, and it tends towards the feeling of absorption in the divine. In the more theistic religious consciousness this responsiveness culminates in the fatherhood of God. In this conception may be traced the primaeval mystery which is the root of religion; for to the child the father is the mysterious something which he discovers to be like himself, a person by whom he is sustained but who issues arbitrary commands which the child must obey. When religion deepens and is moralised, the apparently arbitrary interpositions of God are attributed humbly not to caprice but to good reasons on the part of God, inscrutable still, but a wise and just providence. But also in the feeling of God's fatherhood, the sense of mystery is coupled with and overshadowed by the sense of sustaining love in his relation to his children and of trustful dependence on their part which is not disappointed but, rather, relieved. Whatever God is, and however he is conceived, there is then this affinity between him and us, and in its higher moods the religious mind conceives itself as doing God's work in doing best the work of man (“then most godlike, being most a man”), and conceives God as speaking to man in his conscience or in his passion for truth or beauty.

and worthy of man's trust.

But the community is one of co-operation. The individual is sustained by trust in God but he wants and claims the help of God as a child his father's, and in turn God reciprocates the worship man pays him and the confidence he reposes in him. There is always the double relationship of need. If man wants God and depends upon him, God wants man, and is so far dependent. Or the same thing may be put otherwise in respect of our feeling of dependence upon God. That feeling is not simply one of helplessness. It is the claim we make for some one to help us. In his admirable book, The Philosophy of Religion, Mr. H. Höffding, criticising Schleiermacher's famous reduction of religion to the feeling of dependence, observes that “he does not sufficiently emphasise the point that this dependence is conditioned by an activity, and that it appears at the limits of this activity. Nor does he make it sufficiently obvious that this dependence makes itself felt in the struggle for those values which appear to man to be the highest.”8 In other words, if I understand aright, our dependence is not merely the sense of our feebleness which we discover to be relieved by God, but it is the demand on our part for relief from some one who fulfils our needs and is perfect where we are imperfect. I shall have to speak in the next chapter of whether God is most fitly conceived in the language of values, but apart from this question the above observation appears most just. Even in mysticism this claim for God to satisfy us is retained. Mysticism does not mean utter self-abandonment. It contains, as I remember is remarked somewhere in the book I have been referring to, an element of egotism, which is apparent in the records by St. Theresa of her ecstasies. And indeed a self-abandonment in which there was on one side complete loss and on the other side no gain is scarcely conceivable.

Thus in the more developed religious mind our trust in God is given freely, and the obedience to him is a “dignified obedience,”9 rendered by a person, in his limited and imperfect fashion independent, with his standards of what is great and highest, to a higher being who sustains him but whom he regards as worthy of such trust. There is not merely reliance upon God but co-operation between the two parties to the religious transaction. We do not merely resign ourselves to something greater, but that something is a partner with us. Mr. Höffding traces the growth of polytheism to “this need of feeling that in the midst of the struggle we have a fellow struggler by our side, a fellow struggler who knows from his own experience what it is to suffer and to meet resistance.”10 I cannot judge how far this motive can be said to be the principal root of polytheism. But monotheism admits the same feeling of fellowship between God and man. At any rate what is important for our purpose is that the religious consciousness involves this element as well as that of dependence. Doubtless the feeling that what we are matters to God, and that by our action we may affect him, is the less prominent in the religious mind. The primitive crudity of religion and magic still attaches to the most developed beliefs of God. The being to whom men pray may be prayed to in the spirit of the naïve mind which calls upon his God to help him to secure his ends: the spirit which is ridiculed in Sheridan's play. In a more exalted but still primitive spirit two warring nations fighting for opposed ideals may call for support upon God, a God whom they believe to be the same God in both cases. Such appeals for aid are different from the mere prayer for selfish ends, because God is thought of as the supporter of the right, and each side claims his own ideal as the right. Yet inconspicuous as it may be, the higher element is still present in the religious consciousness: that our trust is given to what we ourselves approve and that God is not merely a being whom we find and have to placate or win over but whom we desire. It appears in the consciousness that goodness or even a certain ritual is not merely demanded by God but pleasing to him. It is seen inversely in the despair which overcomes certain minds, and is a kind of negative religious feeling, that if certain misfortunes can attend us or certain kinds of wickedness be allowed there can be no God. And it is, I believe, felt (though perhaps I am misled by philosophical prepossessions) as the sense that we also help to maintain and sustain the nature of God and are not merely his subjects; that God himself is involved in our acts and their issues, or, as it was put above, not only does he matter to us, but we matter to him.

So far as this is the case, the religious consciousness attests the philosophical conception that God's deity is the issue in Time of a tendency or nisus in the world, of which our minds and everything else of the nature of mind is the proximate highest outcome—an issue which is dependent on the nature of things lower than itself.

Theism for religion and speculation.

It is natural to turn from this imperfect statement of what the religious consciousness contains to the comparison of our metaphysical conception with pantheism and theism respectively. For though these conceptions may be treated as purely metaphysical, they belong also to the philosophy of religion; they are a blending of data derived both from philosophy and religious experience. They appeal to different elements in the religious experience, and their merits and defects as philosophical conceptions of God and his relation to the universe are paralleled by their merits and defects as attempts to satisfy the religious demand. I shall first of all compare them in these respects with one another before proceeding to compare the conception of God as the whole world tending to deity with either of them.11

For theism, God is an individual being distinct from the finite beings which make up the world; whether as in the popular theistic belief he is regarded as their creator or as in the doctrine of Aristotle moves them from without as the object of their love, as a man's good sets his appetite into operation. In either case he transcends finite things. For pantheism, on the contrary, God is immanent in the universe of finite things. In the more popular or easy-going form of it, which has received classical expression in the famous passage of Pope (“warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze, etc.”), God is a pervading presence. In the profounder forms of it, as in Spinoza, everything is a fragment or mode of God, is unreal or only relatively real apart from God, and finds its reality in God. It is not so much that God is in everything but rather (I am again quoting Hegel) that everything is in God. The Absolute in the current idealism takes the place of God in pantheistic metaphysics, while God himself becomes an appearance, and that is the reason at once why the name of pantheism is not applicable to such a system of thought and why the position of God in the system is so indefinite.12

Theism: its strength,

Theism makes appeal to the personal or egotistic side of the religious consciousness, the feeling that in surrender the worshipper still retains his individuality and achieves it in the surrender; much as in pursuing truth it is still the supreme effort of the investigator to depersonalise himself—so that the candid recognition of facts and the putting aside of prejudice or pettiness are at once a surrender to things and the fulfilment of the truth-seeking personality. It is the religion of the ‘free’ man, who consorts with God on terms which still leave the creature independent according to his finite measure. God is the divine individual, awfully removed from man, with a quality which man does not possess, and who yet does not so much engulph as fulfil man, standing by him as a helper and sustaining him as a father. Its speculative weakness has always lain in its detachment of God from the finites in his world, and more particularly from the world of nature. Continuous as God is felt to be with man, his continuity is only felt and not clearly conceived. This continuity is in fact just the element in religion which is pantheistic in its tendency. Most often God is conceived by theism as a creator, existing before the world in his perfection and bringing the world to birth by his will as guided by his intelligence. “The worlds were made by the word of God.” But this is understood sometimes in a more obvious, sometimes in a profounder sense. The materials out of which things are made may be supposed to be already in existence, and God shapes them, as in Genesis or the Timaeus of Plato. God becomes then an artificer shaping or imposing form upon what is not a part of himself; he is what Kant, speaking of this conception, called aptly but slightingly an architect-god.

and weakness.

On the other hand, if God's word is at the same time the coming into being of the material as well as the form of his creatures; if the theism becomes according to the current phrase an immanent one, we are at a loss to understand how this God, whose acts are his creatures, can also lead an existence separate from them, and can ever have been, as he is supposed to have been, without them. The transcendence and immanence of God are postulated together without reconciliation. Theism endeavours by this device to satisfy the other side of the requirements of religion, its demand for unity of substance of man with God. But the speculative transcendence conflicts with the speculative immanence, when God is understood to be both transcendent and immanent in respect of his whole nature, that is to say, if his deity at once permeates his creatures and transcends them. To come to speculative systems, it is this difficulty which besets the student of Leibniz, for whom God is himself a monad, supreme among the monads, and yet the monads other than God are created by God and the world as it exists is selected by God out of the infinite possibilities of worlds open to God to create. The monads at once mirror God and are his creations. Thus the so-called immanent theism has never, so far as I know, been clearly distinguished from pantheism; there is always lingering about the conception a suspicion that without much regard for consistency it seeks to combine the religious attraction of theism with the speculative attraction of pantheism. If theism is to contain and include immanence it cannot remain a simple doctrine of creation.

The God of a strict theism is therefore artificially related to his creatures. He is one of a multitude of beings, infinite while they are finite, but does not live their life (as in some sense the pantheistic God does), but remains outside them, ruling them by his power or wise governance or attracting them through love for him. Hence the need that is felt of mediators between the creatures and God which bridge the interval between him and them.13 God may be conceived embodied in some perfect type of manhood who is at once both human and divine. And if the relation of man with the perfect and unchanging individual God is artificial, still more so is the connection of God with nature. All the perplexities which experience makes us so familiar with of the imperfect subjugation of nature to the purposes of man,14 arise in respect of the God of theism. The god-man is finite and dies. Even God's control over nature though complete is arbitrary, obeys no principle, and is postulated rather than explained. He binds the sweet influence of the Pleiades; but they are not part of him, and neither do they appear necessitated by him nor he by them. Hence the God of undiluted theism becomes merely the greatest thing in a universe of things and tends consequently in the mythologising imagination, which the religious sentiment naturally and inevitably employs, to be dowered not with a new and divine quality but with finite qualities on a vaster scale.


Pantheism, on the other hand, is strong where theism is weak and weak where that is strong. It appeals to the self-surrendering element in the religious mind, but its defect is the difficulty that it offers when strictly understood to the retention of independence or freedom in the attitude of the worshipper. For the individual is lost in God, and the religious feeling of trustful dependence on a greater sympathetic power, which in some types of religion is normal, is either absent or is replaced by mystical ecstasy. “The imperfect offices of prayer and praise” are transcended in the feeling of “blessedness and love.” With that unconscious blending of theistic and pantheistic elements by which the western mind saves itself from the speculative fascination of pantheism, Wordsworth describes this feeling as being still a “thanksgiving to the power that made him.”15

It is characteristic of pantheism that the individual demands no return from God. Spinoza's intellectual love of God is part of the infinite love with which God loves himself, and asks nothing for itself. It was this which recommended it to the mind of Goethe.16 But not merely does it demand no return in the sense that it seeks no reward; it makes no claim that the individual in his devotion should matter to God or help him to be what he is; and yet this relation is implied in the religious service of the man who is truly free.

One consequence of this characteristic of pantheism is that the transition between God's divinity and human morality is made difficult for reflection. We shall see that deity and goodness are indeed notions of a different kind, but there is at least an intimate connection between them, and reflection may trace this connection. In pantheism the links are neglected or broken.. For if everything finite is a mode of God, good and evil are alike contained in him. But it is an old familiar difficulty, that if the evil belongs to God as well as the good he cannot be worshipped, God being at least in the line of what is highest. Hence it is easy to understand why persons who cannot reconcile pure theism with their speculative convictions, and at the same time lack the religious passion which finds its satisfaction in absorption into God, should substitute enthusiastic devotion to goodness for religion proper.

From the speculative point of view, on the other hand, pantheism supplies that unlaboured connection of God and nature and man which theism as such fails satisfactorily to supply. But it does so at the price of merging individuality into the nebulous whole; a speculative defect which lies at the root of its religious insufficiency. This has been expressed in a well-known fashion in the statement that while we can understand upon the pantheistic metaphysics how all things are contained in God, we cannot equally well understand how they proceed from him. It is true that pantheism may stoutly proclaim that absorption in the Absolute leaves the individual self-sufficient and independent so far as that is possible for finite creatures (and therefore not truly or ultimately). Yet in doing so it rather postulates something which human practice requires than is consistent with itself; and it becomes obnoxious to the same reproach as theism when, with a principle of transcendence, theism saves itself for religion by postulating immanence as well.

Is the present conception theistic or pantheistic? Transcendence and immanence of God.

If the question is asked, whether the speculative conception of God or deity which has been advanced here as part of the empirical treatment of Space-Time and has appeared to be verified by religious experience belongs to theism or pantheism, the answer must be that it is not strictly referable to either of them, taken by itself; that in different respects it belongs to both; and that if a choice must be made it is theistic. For God for us is conceived as built on the same pattern as every finite, and as the whole of Space-Time, and of the particular finite which is the human being. He is both body and soul, and his soul is his deity. Since God's body is the whole of Space-Time, God in respect of his body is all inclusive, and all finites are included in him, and in their continuous connection as pieces of Space-Time and linked by spatio-temporal continuity they are fragments of God's body, though their individuality is not lost in it. But in respect of his deity the conception of God is theistic, and since his deity is what is distinctive of him, this notion of God remains predominantly theistic.

Deity according to our conclusion from the empirical order of qualities is an empirical quality and is not a priori or categorial; and it does not belong to the whole world, as if every part of that world were permeated with deity, as it must be in a strict pantheism, but only to that part of it (infinite though that part is) which is fitted to carry the empirical quality. In the picture which was drawn, in concession to the mythologising habit, of this infinite being as realised, we had to think of God's deity as carried by some differentiation of the stuff of mind, belonging to a certain portion of the universe. In reality, God is never thus realised in the contradictory form of an infinite qualitied individual, but he is in process towards this quality of deity; and if we conceived deity realised in a finite god or angel, deity was finitely extended in space and time. Since then deity is carried only by a portion of the universe, God is so far an individual being just as man or any other finite is, only that he is infinite. But since his distinctive quality is not mind but the next higher quality, he is not a being on the level of man, with personality and mental powers like man's, raised only to a higher pitch, but transcends all finites, because he is the whole world as tending to a higher order of finites. In this, which is the more important respect, the conception is theistic.

On the other hand, though he transcends all finites in quality, his deity remains within the world and he is in no sense outside it. Yet his deity is not localised in any special class of finites, as they suppose who treat a theistic God as also immanent because they find God in the region of values. Since his deity depends on mind, and this in turn on finites of a lower order, until ultimately we reach the simple matrix of Space-Time; there is no part of the universe which is not used up to sustain the deity of God. Everything in the world is represented (in the physiological sense of that term) in his deity, and we and all finites are, in the phrase we have used, comparable to organic sensa which God contemplates in enjoying his deity. Once again the theistic dualism of a God whose deity is compresent, whose divine enjoyments are compresent, with the things which are his objects, reappears. But all these things are part of his body and belong to himself. He possesses therefore the totality which pantheism assigns to God. But while, as above observed, the finites which are included in his body are not lost or absorbed therein, so as to lose their identity, there is an intelligible connection between these finites and his deity,—the connection which pantheism finds so difficult to make clear. For his deity is the outgrowth in Time of the preceding qualities of existence as contained within Space-Time, and while his deity is fed by lower finites, he himself not only transcends them in quality but, including them all within his body and representing in his deity the goal of their efforts, releases them from their isolation as individuals and sustains them and gives them a significance which as mere individuals they do not possess.

God is thus immanent in a different respect from that in which he is transcendent. The phrase immanent theism seems to me to cover so much obscurity of thinking that I prefer to avoid it altogether. Theism and pantheism, transcendence and immanence are two extremes of thought about the divine. They are rarely found in complete purity, but are combined in practical religious beliefs in various proportions. They represent the two essential characters which God shares with all other things and with Space-Time itself, of being both body and soul. God is immanent in respect of his body, but transcendent in respect of his deity.

Reflective notions of religion.

We may now revert to the religious consciousness itself. Though our conception satisfies that consciousness, it seems to contain features incompatible with the philosophical or rather theological and traditional or conventional formulae which are inevitably mingled with the unreflective deliverances of religious feeling. Hence it was better to test our metaphysical conception in the first instance without reference to these other notions. But we may now ask ourselves two questions which the current reflective theism would answer affirmatively: Is God a creator? and the second question, which has already been answered, Is God in Space and Time or beyond them, so that he exists independently of the process in Time? In comparing the speculative answers to these questions we have only to remember that while the immediate deliverances of the religious emotion as to what it feels are data for science, the same value cannot be set on its semi-speculative conceptions about these data. The plain man's attempts at a theory of his experiences have indeed a certain value just because they are attempts at a theory. But they are not entitled to particular respect because they are the plain man's beliefs. Thus, if a man tells me his God is terrible and demands the sacrifice of children to appease him, I know what he means by God, what kind of an object it is which satisfies his religious need. Or if he tells me that God is the father in whom he trusts and on whom he leans, I know what he means by God. But if he tells me that God existed before the world and created it in so many days in a certain order, I recognise here only attempts to formulate in scientific terms his conception of the relation of God to the universe. Such attempts may vary in value from the crudest imaginations of mythology to the profoundest doctrines of theology. Moreover, these theories are affected in all manner of ways by tradition and even by customs which may have survived when their religious meaning has been sublimated. At any rate they are theories about God, not facts about what God is felt to be, facts comparable to the green which we see in leaves or to the fragrance of mignonette. In the same way it is of the last importance to know men wish to be immortal, and why they wish it, that they may be reunited with those they love, that they may have the opportunity of growing better, that their life and its work and happiness may not be snapped off, and the like. But it is of comparatively little importance to know that they think their soul must be immortal because it is immaterial. Thus a metaphysical theory, we may be prepared to find, may satisfy religious feeling and yet not altogether satisfy the current reflective conceptions about God; and at the same time we may find that in spite of this it may offer a better hope of solution of some of the practical difficulties of the religious mind.

Is God creative?

Turning then to the first question, whether God is a creator, we must say that as being the whole universe God is creative, but his distinctive character of deity is not creative but created. As embracing the whole of Space-Time he is creative; because Time is the moving principle that brings out that constant redistribution in the matrix which is equivalent to the birth of finite forms. Even then it is, properly speaking, Space-Time itself which is the creator and not God. The body of God includes all the finites which have hitherto been evolved in the lapse of time, and what God is creative of is not these finites but the next empirical quality of deity. It is only when we look back and identify God's body with its previous stages and ultimately with Space-Time itself that we can speak of him as a creator. God himself, that is the universe as tending to deity, is creative only of deity. On the other hand, deity owes its being to the pre-existing finites with their empirical qualities, and is their outcome. God then, like all things in the universe—for Space-Time itself is not in the universe, whereas God, since his deity is a part of the universe, is in it—is in the strictest sense not a creator but a creature. I need hardly say I do not mean that he is a creature of our imagination or of our thought. He is an infinite creature of the universe of Space-Time.

God's fatherhood.

It was this generation of deity from lower stages of existence that made intelligible to us the mutual responsiveness of man and God which religion demands. On the one hand, we finites reach out to God, who is the goal of our desire; on the other hand, God who is sustained by us17 meets us with support and the “solution of our uneasiness.” Worship is co-operation; and if our sentiment proceeds from a conation adapted to the universe in its forward tendency, God in his turn is adapted to that conation and satisfies it, and it is as satisfying it that we discover his deity. But if this were the whole case the fatherhood of God, though it would describe the relation of love between the two parties to the religious transaction, would be a singularly inappropriate expression of God's relation to us. It becomes appropriate when we reflect that God's deity is sustained by the whole world, and that the contribution of the individual to it is infinitesimal. Our dependence on God, which partly makes us think of him under the figure of a father, is our sense of how God gathers up for us in his person the whole infinite world to which we belong, so that in trusting ourselves to his divinity we are aware of our continuity with the whole in its divine quality. This is the meaning which may be attached to such phrases as being lifted up in the arms of God or lying in Abraham's bosom. It is the sense of resolution into this infinite deity, which represents the whole, that lies at the basis of such ideas (I speak diffidently as wholly deficient in theology) as grace and redemption or forgiveness of sins. At any rate it is this mysterious largeness of sustainment in virtue of which God is felt as a father where he is so felt. It is not with any glance at the order of generation, or if this is so, it is either a pictorial representation or a naïve reflective theory. When we think of God as that to which all things owe their existence we are reversing the order of fact and are regarding the universe of Space-Time, which does create all things, in the light of its highest empirical quality, which is not first but last in the order of generation. The notion of a creator God is a hybrid blending of the creative Space-Time with the created deity. It searches for deity by a backward instead of a forward view. Accordingly, in its relation to conduct, religion does not so much command us to perform our duties with the consciousness that they are the commands of God, as rather it is religion to do our duty with the consciousness of helping to create his deity.

God's supposed timelessness;

The question whether God is in Time or out of it has been answered explicitly, and is answered implicitly by the whole tenor of the inquiry. God's body is not spaceless nor timeless, for it is Space-Time itself. His deity is located in an infinite portion of Space-Time, and it is in fact essentially in process and caught in the general movement of Time.

its difficulties for theism;

The supposed timelessness of God is responsible for certain difficulties in ordinary theism as soon as it becomes a little reflective. For God is for it a being, not caught in the machinery of the world, but a spectator who directs from without. The religious consciousness is always troubled with the spectacle of apparently futile suffering endured perhaps by the just. If God precedes the world (to use a useful but inexact phrase) and all things are determined by his will, why should a benevolent being not take a course which spares his creatures pain? The atheistic or anti-theistic chorus in Atalanta in Calydon (“All we are against thee, against thee, O God, most high”) is a classical expression of the human revolt against these unintelligible miseries. The believer can only shut his door against reflection: “He hath made man thus and he doeth right.” The struggle for mastery between two ideals of civilisation has been carried on before our eyes at the cost of endless sacrifice of precious lives which might we must think have made the world better and accelerated knowledge. For those who have lived in the midst of this disaster, however much illumined on either side by the most exalted and conflicting hopes, how is it possible to rest content with the idea of a God who does not share these vicissitudes of his creatures but suffers them to exist? The case is changed if deity itself is the outcome of the world's movement and in particular, to the extent of their value, of the efforts of human beings. It is not God then who allows the struggle, but the struggle which is to determine, it may be not at once but in the end, what deity is to be; which ideal if either is on the side of the divine. God is then not responsible for the miseries endured in working out his providence, but rather we are responsible for our acts, seeing that on the issue of them depends in their measure the character of God. Nor is it otherwise than natural that men so engaged should send up their prayers to a God whom they suppose to be already in being and to favour their particular ideals. They embody the forecast of what they hope in a present form. The God they pray to is the God to whose nature they contribute, but the call of their ideal is the call of the universe as a whole as it appeals to them. God may be conceived as a being liberated from the course of events only because his deity is the tendency of the whole world towards which the individual goes out in religion as he conceives the outcome of that tendency. A created deity makes our human position more serious but frees it from the reproach of subjection to arbitrary providence.

and for pantheism.

Not only is the supposed timelessness of God accountable for these obvious perplexities of the theistic religious mind in its reflective moods; it accounts also for the purely speculative difficulties of pantheism which we have mentioned before. For Spinoza, for instance, infinite Space is an attribute of God, and Extension is part of God's constitution. But the other attribute which our minds can know of God is not Time but Thought. Hence since Time is not an essential part of God's constitution, no satisfactory account can be given of how finite things come into existence. We understand why they are resolved into God but not how they issue from him. God is the reason or ground of finite things, but causality in the proper sense which requires Time subsists only in the concatenation of finite things with one another, not in their relation to God. Whereas if in this scheme we substitute Time for mind, the world of finites arises out of the mere restlessness of Space-Time. Mind then becomes nothing but a finite of a particular empirical rank. It is true also that the God or Substance which is Space-Time ceases also to be the object of worship—that is, ceases as such with mere attributes of Space and Time to be God. He needs the empirical quality of deity. The extent of such modifications shows how much a great speculative system like Spinoza's is disturbed by the alteration of a single item.18

  • 1.

    The doctrine that a sentiment is a system of emotions is due to Mr. A. Shand (Mind, 1896, and Foundations of Character, 1914). My statement is closer, I think, to the version of Mr. M'Dougall in his Social Psychology, though I cannot enter into the controversy between these writers. But in what is said later on the specific element of the religious sentiment I find myself at variance with Mr. M's Dougall's account in the same work (ch. xiii.).

  • 2.

    The religious sentiment is however unlike the sentiments of the tertiary qualities that the religious response does not create its object, in the sense explained in Bk. III. ch. ix., but finds it. In this respect it is like appetite or simple emotion, or the other sentiments, such as love.

  • 3.

    Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 515.

  • 4.

    Compare above, Bk. III. ch. i. A. pp. 25 ff.

  • 5.

    Loc. cit. p. 516.

  • 6.

    Above, Bk. III. ch. i. B.

  • 7.

    Cp. F. H. Cornford, From Religion to Philosophy (London, 1912), ch. i. § 6.

  • 8.

    Philosophy of Religion (London, 1908; Eng. trans.), p. 115.

  • 9.

    The phrase is of course Burke's.

  • 10.

    Loc. cit. pp. 162–3.

  • 11.

    In the following pages I am giving theism a twist in the direction of deism, or rather I am neglecting the distinction between the two, as I am reminded by reading Mr. Sorley's recent work, Moral Values and the Idea of God (Cambridge, 1918). Theism, it is said, means not merely transcendence but immanence. Not every form of theism can be said to assert immanence. And it is precisely the possibility of immanence along with transcendence that has to be explained (see later). If immanence means simply working in some department of creation, as in human values, this is not immanence in the natural sense which pantheism attaches to the conception, that of working in every part of creation. I leave the passage therefore unaltered. Theism, any how, is at least what I describe.

  • 12.

    “We may say that God is not God till he has become all in all, and that a God which is all in all is not the God of religion. God is but an aspect, and that must mean an appearance of the Absolute” (Appearance and Reality, p. 448).

  • 13.
    But O th' exceeding grace,

    Of highest God, that loves his creatures so,

    And all his workes with mercy doth embrace,

    That blessed angels he sends to and fro,

    To serve to wicked man, to serve his wicked foe.

    Faery Queene, II. canto viii.

  • 14.

    Compare the famous passage in Newman's Apologia, ch. v. (ed. 1908): “To consider the world in its length and breadth, etc.”

  • 15.
    In such access of mind, in such high hour

    Of visitation from the living God,

    Thought was not: in enjoyment it expired.

    No thanks he breathed, he proffered no request.

    Rapt into still communion that transcends

    The imperfect offices of prayer and praise,

    His mind was a thanksgiving to the power

    That made him; it was blessedness and love.

    Excursion, Bk. I.

  • 16.

    Goethe refers to Philine's saying to Wilhelm, “Wenn ich dich liebe was geht's dich an?”—“If I love you, what is that to you?”

  • 17.
    Cp. the lines of the song to Italy sung by Vittoria, in Meredith's novel, in the theatre at Milan:

    “You dedicate your lives

    To her, and you will be

    The food on which she thrives,

    Till her great day arrives.”

  • 18.

    Perhaps the reader will allow me to suggest to him to consider two other illustrations of this truth. Let him in the doctrine of the Platonic Timaeus introduce Time into the Space of which things are made by the Creator. Or let him take Kant's conception of a pure manifold of intuition, and consider what changes are made in it if Space and Time cease to be contributions of the mind and forms of sense but are constituents, a priori constituents, of things.