The Varieties Of Religious Experience, By William James
Lectures XIV and XV
The Value Of Saintliness
have now passed in review the more important of the phenomena
which are regarded as fruits of genuine religion and characteristics
of men who are devout.
Today we have to change our attitude from that
of description to that of appreciation; we have to ask
whether the fruits in question can help us to judge the
absolute value of what religion adds to human life.
Were I to parody Kant, I should say that a "Critique
of pure Saintliness" must be our theme.
in turning to this theme, we could descend upon our subject
from above like Catholic theologians, with our fixed definitions
of man and man's perfection and our positive dogmas about
God, we should have an easy time of it.
Man's perfection would be the fulfillment of his
end; and his end would be union with his Maker. That union could be pursued by him along three paths, active,
purgative, and contemplative, respectively; and progress
along either path would be a simple matter to measure
by the application of a limited number of theological
and moral conceptions and definitions. The absolute significance and value of any bit of religious
experience we might hear of would thus be given almost
mathematically into our hands.
convenience were everything, we ought now to grieve at
finding ourselves cut off from so admirably convenient
a method as this. But we did cut ourselves off from it deliberately in those
remarks which you remember we made, in our first lecture,
about the empirical method; and it must be <321>
confessed that after that act of renunciation we can never
hope for clean-cut and scholastic results.
WE cannot divide man sharply into an animal and
a rational part.
WE cannot distinguish natural from supernatural
effects; nor among the latter know which are favors of
God, and which are counterfeit operations of the demon.
WE have merely to collect things together without
any special a priori theological system, and out of an
aggregate of piecemeal judgments as to the value of this
and that experience--judgments in which our general philosophic
prejudices, our instincts, and our common sense are our
only guides--decide that ON THE WHOLE one type of religion
is approved by its fruits, and another type condemned.
"On the whole"--I fear we shall never
escape complicity with that qualification, so dear to
your practical man, so repugnant to your systematizer!
also fear that as I make this frank confession, I may
seem to some of you to throw our compass overboard, and
to adopt caprice as our pilot.
Skepticism or wayward choice, you may think, can
be the only results of such a formless method as I have
taken up. A few remarks in deprecation of such an opinion,
and in farther explanation of the empiricist principles
which I profess, may therefore appear at this point to
be in place.
it would seem illogical to try to measure the worth of
a religion's fruits in merely human terms of value. How
CAN you measure their worth without considering whether
the God really exists who is supposed to inspire them?
If he really exists, then all the conduct instituted
by men to meet his wants must necessarily be a reasonable
fruit of his religion--it would be unreasonable only in
case he did not exist.
If, for instance, you were to condemn a religion
of human or animal sacrifices by virtue of your subjective
sentiments, and if all the while a deity were really there
demanding such sacrifices, you would be making a theoretical
mistake by tacitly assuming that the deity must be non-existent;
you would be setting up a theology of your own as much
as if you were a scholastic philosopher.
this extent, to the extent of disbelieving peremptorily
in certain types of deity, I frankly confess that we must
If disbeliefs can be said to constitute a theology,
then the prejudices, instincts, and common sense which
I chose as our guides make theological partisans of us
whenever they make certain beliefs abhorrent.
such common-sense prejudices and instincts are themselves
the fruit of an empirical evolution.
Nothing is more striking than the secular alteration
that goes on in the moral and religious tone of men, as
their insight into nature and their social arrangements
After an interval of a few generations the mental
climate proves unfavorable to notions of the deity which
at an earlier date were perfectly satisfactory:
the older gods have fallen below the common secular
level, and can no longer be believed in. Today a deity who should require bleeding sacrifices to placate
him would be too sanguinary to be taken seriously. Even if powerful historical credentials were put forward in
his favor, we would not look at them.
Once, on the contrary, his cruel appetites were
of themselves credentials.
positively recommended him to men's imaginations in ages
when such coarse signs of power were respected and no
others could be understood.
Such deities then were worshiped because such fruits
historic accidents always played some later part, but
the original factor in fixing the figure of the gods must
always have been psychological.
The deity to whom the prophets, seers, and devotees
who founded the particular cult bore witness was worth
something to them personally. They could use him.
He guided their imagination, warranted their hopes,
and controlled their will--or else they required him as
a safeguard against the demon and a curber of other people's
any case, they chose him for the value of the fruits he
seemed to them to yield.
soon as the fruits began to seem quite worthless; so soon
as they conflicted with indispensable human ideals, or
thwarted too extensively other values; so soon as they
appeared childish, contemptible, or immoral when reflected
on, the deity grew discredited, and was erelong neglected
and forgotten. It
was in this way that the Greek and Roman gods ceased to
be believed in by educated pagans; it is thus that we
ourselves judge of the Hindu, Buddhist, and Mohammedan
theologies; Protestants have so dealt with the Catholic
notions of deity, and liberal Protestants with older Protestant
notions; it is thus that Chinamen judge of us, and that
all of us now living will be judged by our descendants.
When we cease to admire or approve what the definition
of a deity implies, we end by deeming that deity incredible.
historic changes are more curious than these mutations
of theological opinion.
The monarchical type of sovereignty was, for example,
so ineradicably planted in the mind of our own forefathers
that a dose of cruelty and arbitrariness in their deity
seems positively to have been required by their imagination.
They called the cruelty "retributive justice,"
and a God without it would certainly have struck them
as not "sovereign" enough.
But today we abhor the very notion of eternal suffering
inflicted; and that arbitrary dealing-out of salvation
and damnation to selected individuals, of which Jonathan
Edwards could persuade himself that he had not only a
conviction, but a "delightful conviction," as
of a doctrine "exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet,"
appears to us, if sovereignly anything, sovereignly irrational
and mean. Not
only the cruelty, but the paltriness of character of the
gods believed in by earlier centuries also strikes later
centuries with surprise. We shall see examples of it from the annals of Catholic saintship
which makes us rub our Protestant eyes.
Ritual worship in general appears to the modern
transcendentalist, as well as to the ultra-puritanic type
of mind, as if addressed to a deity of an almost absurdly
childish character, taking delight in toy-shop furniture,
tapers and tinsel, costume and mumbling and mummery, and
finding his "glory" incomprehensibly enhanced
thereby:--just as on the other hand the formless spaciousness
of pantheism appears quite empty to ritualistic natures,
and the gaunt theism of evangelical sects seems intolerably
bald and chalky and bleak.
says Emerson, would have cut off his right hand rather
than nail his theses to the door at Wittenberg, if he
had supposed that they were destined to lead to the pale
negations of Boston Unitarianism.
far, then, although we are compelled, whatever may be
our pretensions to empiricism, to employ some sort of
a standard of theological probability of our own whenever
we assume to estimate the fruits of other men's religion,
yet this very standard has been begotten out of the drift
of common life.
It is the voice of human experience within us,
judging and condemning all gods that stand athwart the
pathway along which it feels itself to be advancing.
Experience, if we take it in the largest sense,
is thus the parent of those disbeliefs which, it was charged,
were inconsistent with the experiential method.
The inconsistency, you see, is immaterial, and
the charge may be neglected.
we pass from disbeliefs to positive beliefs, it seems
to me that there is not even a formal inconsistency to
be laid against our method. The gods we stand by are the gods we need and can use, the
gods whose demands on us are reinforcements of our demands
on ourselves and on one another. What I then propose to
do is, briefly stated, to test saintliness by common sense,
to use human standards to help us decide how far the religious
life commends itself as an ideal kind of human activity.
If it commends itself, then any theological beliefs
that may inspire it, in so far forth will stand accredited.
If not, then they will be discredited, and all
without reference to anything but human working principles.
It is but the elimination of the humanly unfit,
and the survival of the humanly fittest, applied to religious
beliefs; and if we look at history candidly and without
prejudice, we have to admit that no religion has ever
in the long run established or proved itself in any other
have APPROVED themselves; they have ministered to sundry
vital needs which they found reigning.
When they violated other needs too strongly, or
when other faiths came which served the same needs better,
the first religions were supplanted.
needs were always many, and the tests were never sharp.
So the reproach of vagueness and subjectivity and
"on the whole"-ness, which can with perfect
legitimacy be addressed to the empirical method as we
are forced to use it, is after all a reproach to which
the entire life of man in dealing with these matters is
religion has ever yet owed its prevalence to "apodictic
certainty." In a later lecture I will ask whether objective
certainty can ever be added by theological reasoning to
a religion that already empirically prevails.
word, also, about the reproach that in following this
sort of an empirical method we are handing ourselves over
to systematic skepticism.
it is impossible to deny secular alterations in our sentiments
and needs, it would be absurd to affirm that one's own
age of the world can be beyond correction by the next
cannot, therefore, be ruled out by any set of thinkers
as a possibility against which their conclusions are secure;
and no empiricist ought to claim exemption from this universal
to admit one's liability to correction is one thing, and
to embark upon a sea of wanton doubt is another.
Of willfully playing into the hands of skepticism
we cannot be accused.
He who acknowledges the imperfectness of his instrument,
and makes allowance <326> for it in discussing his
observations, is in a much better position for gaining
truth than if he claimed his instrument to be infallible.
Or is dogmatic or scholastic theology less doubted
in point of fact for claiming, as it does, to be in point
of right undoubtable?
And if not, what command over truth would this
kind of theology really lose if, instead of absolute certainty,
she only claimed reasonable probability for her conclusions?
If WE claim only reasonable probability, it will
be as much as men who love the truth can ever at any given
moment hope to have within their grasp. Pretty surely
it will be more than we could have had, if we were unconscious
of our liability to err.
dogmatism will doubtless continue to condemn us for this
mere outward form of inalterable certainty is so precious
to some minds that to renounce it explicitly is for them
out of the question.
They will claim it even where the facts most patently
pronounce its folly.
But the safe thing is surely to recognize that
all the insights of creatures of a day like ourselves
must be provisional. The wisest of critics is an altering
being, subject to the better insight of the morrow, and
right at any moment, only "up to date" and "on
When larger ranges of truth open, it is surely
best to be able to open ourselves to their reception,
unfettered by our previous pretensions. "Heartily
know, when half-gods go, the gods arrive."
fact of diverse judgments about religious phenomena is
therefore entirely unescapable, whatever may be one's
own desire to attain the irreversible.
But apart from that fact, a more fundamental question
awaits us, the question whether men's opinions ought to
be expected to be absolutely uniform in this field.
Ought all men to have the same religion? Ought
they to approve the same fruits and follow the same leadings?
Are they so like in their inner needs that, for
hard and soft, for proud and humble, for strenuous and
lazy, for healthy-minded and despairing, exactly the same
religious incentives are required?
Or are different functions in the organism of humanity
allotted to different types of man, so that some may really
be the better for a religion of consolation and reassurance,
whilst others are better for one of terror and reproof?
It might conceivably be so; and we shall, I think,
more and more suspect it to be so as we go on. And if
it be so, how can any possible judge or critic help being
biased in favor of the religion by which his own needs
are best met? He
aspires to impartiality; but he is too close to the struggle
not to be to some degree a participant, and he is sure
to approve most warmly those fruits of piety in others
which taste most good and prove most nourishing to HIM.
am well aware of how anarchic much of what I say may sound.
Expressing myself thus abstractly and briefly,
I may seem to despair of the very notion of truth.
But I beseech you to reserve your judgment until
we see it applied to the details which lie before us.
I do indeed disbelieve that we or any other mortal
men can attain on a given day to absolutely incorrigible
and unimprovable truth about such matters of fact as those
with which religions deal.
But I reject this dogmatic ideal not out of a perverse
delight in intellectual instability.
I am no lover of disorder and doubt as such.
Rather do I fear to lose truth by this pretension
to possess it already wholly.
That we can gain more and more of it by moving
always in the right direction, I believe as much as any
one, and I hope to bring you all to my way of thinking
before the termination of these lectures. Till then, do not, I pray you, harden your minds irrevocably
against the empiricism which I profess.
will waste no more words, then, in abstract justification
of my method, but seek immediately to use it upon the
critically judging of the value of religious phenomena,
it is very important to insist on the distinction between
religion as an individual personal function, and religion
as an institutional, corporate, or tribal product.
I drew this distinction, you may remember, in my
The word "religion," as ordinarily used,
is equivocal. A
survey of history shows us that, as a rule, religious
geniuses attract disciples, and produce groups of sympathizers.
When these groups get strong enough to "organize"
themselves, they become ecclesiastical institutions with
corporate ambitions of their own. The spirit of politics and the lust of dogmatic rule are then
apt to enter and to contaminate the originally innocent
thing; so that when we hear the word "religion"
nowadays, we think inevitably of some "church"
or other; and to some persons the word "church"
suggests so much hypocrisy and tyranny and meanness and
tenacity of superstition that in a wholesale undiscerning
way they glory in saying that they are "down"
on religion altogether. Even we who belong to churches do not exempt other churches
than our own from the general condemnation.
in this course of lectures ecclesiastical institutions
hardly concern us at all.
The religious experience which we are studying
is that which lives itself out within the private breast.
First-hand individual experience of this kind has
always appeared as a heretical sort of innovation to those
who witnessed its birth.
Naked comes it into the world and lonely; and it
has always, for a time at least, driven him who had it
into the wilderness, often into the literal wilderness
out of doors, where the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, St. Francis,
George Fox, and so many others had to go.
George Fox expresses well this isolation; and I
can do no better at this point than read to you a page
from his Journal, referring to the period of his youth
when religion began to ferment within him seriously.
fasted much," Fox says, "walked abroad in solitary
places many days, and often took my Bible, and sat in
hollow trees and lonesome places until night came on;
and frequently in the night walked mournfully about by
myself; for I was a man of sorrows in the time of the
first workings of the Lord in me.
all this time I was never joined in profession of religion
with any, but gave up myself to the Lord, having forsaken
all evil company, taking leave of father and mother, and
all other relations, and traveled up and down as a stranger
on the earth, which way the Lord inclined my heart; taking
a chamber to myself in the town where I came, and tarrying
sometimes more, sometimes less in a place:
for I durst not stay long in a place, being afraid
both of professor and profane, lest, being a tender young
man, I should be hurt by conversing much with either. For which reason I kept much as a stranger, seeking heavenly
wisdom and getting knowledge from the Lord; and was brought
off from outward things, to rely on the Lord alone.
As I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate
preachers also, and those called the most experienced
people; for I saw there was none among them all that could
speak to my condition.
And when all my hopes in them and in all men were
gone so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could
tell what to do; then, oh then, I heard a voice which
said, 'There is one, even Jesus Christ, that can speak
to thy condition.'
When I heard it, my heart did leap for joy.
Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon
the earth that could speak to my condition. I had not
fellowship with any people, priests, nor professors, nor
any sort of separated people.
I was afraid of all carnal talk and talkers, for
I could see nothing but corruptions.
When I was in the deep, under all shut up, I could
not believe that I should ever overcome; my troubles,
my sorrows, and my temptations were so great that I often
thought I should have despaired, I was so tempted.
But when Christ opened to me how he was tempted
by the same devil, and had overcome him, and had bruised
his head; and that through him and his power, life, grace,
and spirit, I should overcome also, I had confidence in
him. If I
had had a king's diet, palace, and attendance, all would
have been as nothing, for nothing gave me comfort but
the Lord by his power.
I saw professors, priests, and people were whole
and at ease in that condition which was my misery, and
they loved that which I would have been rid of.
But the Lord did stay my desires upon himself,
and my care was cast upon him alone."
George Fox: Journal,
Philadelphia, 1800, pp. 59-61, abridged.
genuine first-hand religious experience like this is bound
to be a heterodoxy to its witnesses, the prophet appearing
as a mere lonely madman.
If his doctrine prove contagious enough to spread
to any others, it becomes a definite and labeled heresy.
But if it then still prove contagious enough to
triumph over persecution, it becomes itself an orthodoxy;
and when a religion has become an orthodoxy, its day of
inwardness is over:
the spring is dry; the faithful live at second
hand exclusively and stone the prophets in their turn.
The new church, in spite of whatever human goodness
it may foster, can be henceforth counted on as a staunch
ally in every attempt to stifle the spontaneous religious
spirit, and to stop all later bubblings of the fountain
from which in purer days it drew its own supply of inspiration.
Unless, indeed, by adopting new movements of the spirit
it can make capital out of them and use them for its selfish
corporate designs! Of protective action of this politic
sort, promptly or tardily decided on, the dealings of
the Roman ecclesiasticism with many individual saints
and prophets yield examples enough for our instruction.
plain fact is that men's minds are built, as has been
often said, in water-tight compartments.
Religious after a fashion, they yet have many other
things in them beside their religion, and unholy entanglements
and associations inevitably obtain.
The basenesses so commonly charged to religion's
account are thus, almost all of them, not chargeable at
all to religion proper, but rather to religion's wicked
practical partner, the spirit of corporate dominion.
And the bigotries are most of them in their turn
chargeable to religion's wicked intellectual partner,
the spirit of dogmatic dominion, the passion for laying
down the law in the form of an absolutely closed-in theoretic
ecclesiastical spirit in general is the sum of these two
spirits of dominion; and I beseech you never to confound
the phenomena of mere tribal or corporate psychology which
it presents with those manifestations of the purely interior
life which are the exclusive object of our study.
The baiting of Jews, the hunting of Albigenses
and Waldenses, the stoning of Quakers and ducking of Methodists,
the murdering of Mormons and the massacring of Armenians,
express much rather that aboriginal human neophobia, that
pugnacity of which we all share the vestiges, and that
inborn hatred of the alien and of eccentric and non-conforming
men as aliens, than they express the positive piety of
the various perpetrators.
Piety is the mask, the inner force is tribal instinct.
You believe as little as I do, in spite of the
Christian unction with which the German emperor addressed
his troops upon their way to China, that the conduct which
he suggested, and in which other Christian armies went
beyond them, had anything whatever to do with the interior
religious life of those concerned in the performance.
no more for past atrocities than for this atrocity should
we make piety responsible.
At most we may blame piety for not availing to
check our natural passions, and sometimes for supplying
them with hypocritical pretexts. But hypocrisy also imposes
obligations, and with the pretext usually couples some
restriction; and when the passion gust is over, the piety
may bring a reaction of repentance which the irreligious
natural man would not have shown.
many of the historic aberrations which have been laid
to her charge, religion as such, then, is not to blame.
Yet of the charge that over-zealousness or fanaticism
is one of her liabilities we cannot wholly acquit her,
so I will next make a remark upon that point.
But I will preface it by a preliminary remark which
connects itself with much that follows. Our survey of the phenomena of saintliness has unquestionably
produced in your minds an impression of extravagance.
Is it necessary, some of you have asked, as one example
after another came before us, to be quite so fantastically
good as that? We
who have no vocation for the extremer ranges of sanctity
will surely be let off at the last day if our humility,
asceticism, and devoutness prove of a less convulsive
practically amounts to saying that much that it is legitimate
to admire in this field need nevertheless not be imitated,
and that religious phenomena, like all other human phenomena,
are subject to the law of the golden mean.
Political reformers accomplish their successive
tasks in the history of nations by being blind for the
time to other causes.
Great schools of art work out the effects which
it is their mission to reveal, at the cost of a one-sidedness
for which other schools must make amends.
We accept a John Howard, a Mazzini, a Botticelli,
a Michael Angelo, with a kind of indulgence.
We are glad they existed to show us that way, but
we are glad there are also other ways of seeing and taking
of many of the saints whom we have looked at.
We are proud of a human nature that could be so
passionately extreme, but we shrink from advising others
to follow the example. The conduct we blame ourselves for not following lies nearer
to the middle line of human effort. It is less dependent
on particular beliefs and doctrines.
It is such as wears well in different ages, such
as under different skies all judges are able to commend.
fruits of religion, in other words, are, like all human
products, liable to corruption by excess.
Common sense must judge them.
It need not blame the votary; but it may be able
to praise him only conditionally, as one who acts faithfully
according to his lights.
He shows us heroism in one way, but the unconditionally
good way is that for which no indulgence need be asked.
We find that error by excess is exemplified by
every saintly virtue.
Excess, in human faculties, means usually one-sidedness
or want of balance; for it is hard to imagine an essential
faculty too strong, if only other faculties equally strong
be there to cooperate with it in action.
Strong affections need a strong will; strong active
powers need a strong intellect; strong intellect needs
strong sympathies, to keep life steady.
If the balance exist, no one faculty can possibly
be too strong--we only get the stronger all-round character.
In the life of saints, technically so called, the
spiritual faculties are strong, but what gives the impression
of extravagance proves usually on examination to be a
relative deficiency of intellect.
Spiritual excitement takes pathological forms whenever
other interests are too few and the intellect too narrow.
We find this exemplified by all the saintly attributes
in turn--devout love of God, purity, charity, asceticism,
all may lead astray.
I will run over these virtues in succession.
of all let us take Devoutness.
When unbalanced, one of its vices is called Fanaticism. Fanaticism (when not a mere expression of ecclesiastical ambition)
is only loyalty carried to a convulsive extreme.
When an intensely loyal and narrow mind is once
grasped by the feeling that a certain superhuman person
is worthy of its exclusive devotion, one of the first
things that happens is that it idealizes the devotion
adequately realize the merits of the idol gets to be considered
the one great merit of the worshiper; and the sacrifices
and servilities by which savage tribesmen have from time
immemorial exhibited their faithfulness to chieftains
are now outbid in favor of the deity.
Vocabularies are exhausted and languages altered
in the attempt to praise him enough; death is looked on
as gain if it attract his grateful notice; and the personal
attitude of being his devotee becomes what one might almost
call a new and exalted kind of professional specialty
within the tribe. The legends that gather round the
lives of holy persons are fruits of this impulse to celebrate
and glorify. The
Buddha and Mohammed and their companions and
many Christian saints are incrusted with a heavy jewelry
of anecdotes which are meant to be honorific, but are
simply abgeschmackt and silly, and form a touching expression
of man's misguided propensity to praise.
Christian saints have had their specialties of devotion,
Saint Francis to Christ's wounds; Saint Anthony of Padua
to Christ's childhood; Saint Bernard to his humanity;
Saint Teresa to Saint Joseph, etc. The Shi-ite Mohammedans venerate Ali, the Prophet's son-in-law,
instead of Abu-bekr, his brother-in-law.
Vambery describes a dervish whom he met in Persia,
"who had solemnly vowed, thirty years before, that
he would never employ his organs of speech otherwise but
in uttering, everlastingly, the name of his favorite,
Ali, Ali. He
thus wished to signify to the world that he was the most
devoted partisan of that Ali who had been dead a thousand
his own home, speaking with his wife, children, and friends,
no other word but 'Ali!' ever passed his lips.
If he wanted food or drink or anything else, he
expressed his wants still by repeating 'Ali!'
Begging or buying at the bazaar, it was always
ill or generously, he would still harp on his monotonous
his zeal assumed such tremendous proportions that, like
a madman, he would race, the whole day, up and down the
streets of the town, throwing his stick high up into the
air, and shriek our, all the while, at the top of his
voice, 'Ali!' This
dervish was venerated by everybody as a saint, and received
everywhere with the greatest distinction." Arminius Vambery, his Life and Adventures, written by Himself,
London, 1889, p. 69.
On the anniversary of the death of Hussein, Ali's
son, the Shi-ite Moslems still make the air resound with
cries of his name and Ali's.
Compare H. C. Warren:
Buddhism in Translation, Cambridge, U.S., 1898,
Compare J. L. Merrick:
The Life and Religion of Mohammed, as contained
in the Sheeah traditions of the Hyat-ul-Kuloob, Boston.
immediate consequence of this condition of mind is jealousy
for the deity's honor.
How can the devotee show his loyalty better than
by sensitiveness in this regard? The slightest affront or neglect must be resented, the deity's
enemies must be put to shame.
In exceedingly narrow minds and active wills, such
a care may become an engrossing preoccupation; and crusades
have been preached and massacres instigated for no other
reason than to remove a fancied slight upon the God.
Theologies representing the gods as mindful of
their glory, and churches with imperialistic policies,
have conspired to fan this temper to a glow, so that intolerance
and persecution have come to be vices associated by some
of us inseparably with the saintly mind. They are unquestionably
its besetting sins.
The saintly temper is a moral temper, and a moral
temper has often to be cruel.
It is a partisan temper, and that is cruel.
Between his own and Jehovah's enemies a David knows
no difference; a Catherine of Siena, panting to stop the
warfare among Christians which was the scandal of her
epoch, can think of no better method of union among them
than a crusade to massacre the Turks; Luther finds no
word of protest or regret over the atrocious tortures
with which the Anabaptist leaders were put to death; and
a Cromwell praises the Lord for delivering his enemies
into his hands for "execution."
Politics come in in all such cases; but piety finds
the partnership not quite unnatural. So, when "freethinkers" tell us that religion and
fanaticism are twins, we cannot make an unqualified denial
of the charge.
must then be inscribed on the wrong side of religion's
account, so long as the religious person's intellect is
on the stage which the despotic kind of God satisfies.
But as soon as the God is represented as less intent
on his own honor and glory, it ceases to be a danger.
is found only where the character is masterful and aggressive.
In gentle characters, where devoutness is intense
and the intellect feeble, we have an imaginative absorption
in the love of God to the exclusion of all practical human
interests, which, though innocent enough, is too one-sided
to be admirable. A mind too narrow has room but for one kind of affection.
When the love of God takes possession of such a
mind, it expels all human loves and human uses.
There is no English name for such a sweet excess
of devotion, so I will refer to it as a theopathic condition.
blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque may serve as an example.
be loved here upon the earth," her recent biographer
be loved by a noble, elevated, distinguished being; to
be loved with fidelity, with devotion--what enchantment!
But to be loved by God! and loved by him to distraction
[aime jusqu'a la folie]!--Margaret melted away with love
at the thought of such a thing.
Like Saint Philip of Neri in former times, or like
Saint Francis Xavier, she said to God:
'Hold back, O my God, these torrents which overwhelm
me, or else enlarge my capacity for their reception."
de la bienheureuse Marguerite Marie, Paris, 1894, p. 145.
most signal proofs of God's love which Margaret Mary received
were her hallucinations of sight, touch, and hearing,
and the most signal in turn of these were the revelations
of Christ's sacred heart, "surrounded with rays more
brilliant than the Sun, and transparent like a crystal.
The wound which he received on the cross visibly
appeared upon it.
There was a crown of thorns round about this divine
Heart, and a cross above it."
At the same time Christ's voice told her that,
unable longer to contain the flames of his love for mankind,
he had chosen her by a miracle to spread the knowledge
of them. He
thereupon took out her mortal heart, placed it inside
of his own and inflamed it, and then replaced it in her
"Hitherto thou hast taken the name of my slave,
hereafter thou shalt be called the well-beloved disciple
of my Sacred Heart."
a later vision the Saviour revealed to her in detail the
"great design" which he wished to establish
through her instrumentality.
"I ask of thee to bring it about that every
first Friday after the week of holy Sacrament shall be
made into a special holy day for honoring my Heart by
a general communion and by services intended to make honorable
amends for the indignities which it has received.
And I promise thee that my Heart will dilate to
shed with abundance the influences of its love upon all
those who pay to it these honors, or who bring it about
that others do the same."
revelation," says Mgr. Bougaud, "is unquestionably
the most important of all the revelations which have illumined
the Church since that of the Incarnation and of the Lord's
Supper. . . . After
the Eucharist, the supreme effort of the Sacred Heart."
Well, what were its good fruits for Margaret Mary's
little else but sufferings and prayers and absences of
mind and swoons and ecstasies.
She became increasingly useless about the convent,
her absorption in Christ's love--
grew upon her daily, rendering her more and more incapable
of attending to external duties.
They tried her in the infirmary, but without much
success, although her kindness, zeal, and devotion were
without bounds, and her charity rose to acts of such a
heroism that our readers would not bear the recital of
tried her in the kitchen, but were forced to give it up
as hopeless--everything dropped out of her hands.
The admirable humility with which she made amends
for her clumsiness could not prevent this from being prejudicial
to the order and regularity which must always reign in
a community. They put her in the school, where the little
girls cherished her, and cut pieces out of her clothes
[for relics] as if she were already a saint, but where
she was too absorbed inwardly to pay the necessary attention.
Poor dear sister, even less after her visions than
before them was she a denizen of earth, and they had to
leave her in her heaven."
de la bienheureuse Marguerite Marie, Paris, 1894, pp.
cit., p. 267.
dear sister, indeed! Amiable and good, but so feeble of
intellectual outlook that it would be too much to ask
of us, with our Protestant and modern education, to feel
anything but indulgent pity for the kind of saintship
which she embodies.
A lower example still of theopathic saintliness
is that of Saint Gertrude, a Benedictine nun of the thirteenth
century, whose "Revelations," a well-known mystical
authority, consist mainly of proofs of Christ's partiality
for her undeserving person.
Assurances of his love, intimacies and caresses
and compliments of the most absurd and puerile sort, addressed
by Christ to Gertrude as an individual, form the tissue
of this paltry-minded recital. In reading such a
narrative, we realize the gap between the thirteenth and
the twentieth century, and we feel that saintliness of
character may yield almost absolutely worthless fruits
if it be associated with such inferior intellectual sympathies.
What with science, idealism, and democracy, our
own imagination has grown to need a God of an entirely
different temperament from that Being interested exclusively
in dealing out personal favors, with whom our ancestors
were so contented.
Smitten as we are with the vision of social righteousness,
a God indifferent to everything but adulation, and full
of partiality for his individual favorites, lacks an essential
element of largeness; and even the best professional sainthood
of former centuries, pent in as it is to such a conception,
seems to us curiously shallow and unedifying.
from a headache, she sought, for the glory of God, to
relieve herself by holding certain odoriferous substances
in her mouth, when the Lord appeared to her to lean over
towards her lovingly, and to find comfort Himself in these
having gently breathed them in, He arose, and said with
a gratified air to the Saints, as if contented with what
He had done: 'see the new present which my betrothed has
day, at chapel, she heard supernaturally sung the words
'Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.' The son of God leaning towards
her like a sweet lover, and giving to her soul the softest
kiss, said to her at the second Sanctus:
'In this Sanctus addressed to my person, receive
with this kiss all the sanctity of my divinity and of
my humanity, and let it be to thee a sufficient preparation
for approaching the communion table.' And the next following
Sunday, while she was thanking God for this favor, behold
the Son of God, more beauteous than thousands of angels,
takes her in His arms as if He were proud of her and presents
her to God the Father, in that perfection of sanctity
with which He had dowered her.
And the Father took such delight in this soul thus
presented by His only son, that, as if unable longer to
restrain Himself, He gave her, and the Holy Ghost gave
her also, the sanctity attributed to each by His own Sanctus--and
thus she remained endowed with the plenary fullness of
the blessing of Sanctity, bestowed on her by Omnipotence,
by Wisdom, and by Love."
Revelations de Sainte Gertrude, Paris, 1898, i.
Saint Teresa, for example, one of the ablest women, in
many respects, of whose life we have the record.
She had a powerful intellect of the practical order.
She wrote admirable descriptive psychology, possessed
a will equal to any emergency, great talent for politics
and business, a buoyant disposition, and a first-rate
She was tenaciously aspiring, and put her whole
life at the service of her religious ideals.
Yet so paltry were these, according to our present
way of thinking, that (although I know that others have
been moved differently) I confess that my only feeling
in reading her has been pity that so much vitality of
soul should have found such poor employment.
spite of the sufferings which she endured, there is a
curious flavor of superficiality about her genius.
A Birmingham anthropologist, Dr. Jordan, has divided
the human race into two types, whom he calls "shrews"
and "nonshrews" respectively. The shrew-type
is defined as possessing an "active unimpassioned
In other words, shrews are the "motors,"
rather than the "sensories," and their
expressions are as a rule more energetic than the feelings
which appear to prompt them.
Saint Teresa, paradoxical as such a judgment may
sound, was a typical shrew, in this sense of the term.
The bustle of her style, as well as of her life,
proves it. Not
only must she receive unheard-of personal favors and spiritual
graces from her Saviour, but she must immediately write
about them and exploiter them professionally, and use
her expertness to give instruction to those less privileged.
Her voluble egotism; her sense, not of radical
bad being, as the really contrite have it, but of her
"faults" and "imperfections" in the
plural; her stereotyped humility and return upon herself,
as covered with "confusion" at each new manifestation
of God's singular partiality for a person so unworthy,
are typical of shrewdom:
a paramountly feeling nature would be objectively
lost in gratitude, and silent.
She had some public instincts, it is true; she
hated the Lutherans, and longed for the church's triumph
over them; but in the main her idea of religion seems
to have been that of an endless amatory flirtation--if
one may say so without irreverence-- between the devotee
and the deity; and apart from helping younger nuns to
go in this direction by the inspiration of her example
and instruction, there is absolutely no human use in her,
or sign of any general human interest.
Yet the spirit of her age, far from rebuking her,
exalted her as superhuman.
Furneaux Jordan: Character in Birth and Parentage, first edition. Later editions
change the nomenclature.
As to this distinction, see the admirably practical account
in J. M. Baldwin's little book, The Story of the Mind,
have to pass a similar judgment on the whole notion of
saintship based on merits.
Any God who, on the one hand, can care to keep
a pedantically minute account of individual shortcomings,
and on the other can feel such partialities, and load
particular creatures with such insipid marks of favor,
is too small-minded a God for our credence.
When Luther, in his immense manly way, swept off
by a stroke of his hand the very notion of a debit and
credit account kept with individuals by the Almighty,
he stretched the soul's imagination and saved theology
So much for mere devotion, divorced from the intellectual
conceptions which might guide it towards bearing useful
next saintly virtue in which we find excess is Purity.
In theopathic characters, like those whom we have
just considered, the love of God must not be mixed with
any other love.
Father and mother, sisters, brothers, and friends
are felt as interfering distractions; for sensitiveness
and narrowness, when they occur together, as they often
do, require above all things a simplified world to dwell
and confusion are too much for their powers of comfortable
whereas your aggressive pietist reaches his unity objectively,
by forcibly stamping disorder and divergence out, your
retiring pietist reaches his subjectively, leaving disorder
in the world at large, but making a smaller world in which
he dwells himself and from which he eliminates it altogether. Thus, alongside of the church militant with its prisons, dragonnades,
and inquisition methods, we have the church fugient, as
one might call it, with its hermitages, monasteries, and
sectarian organizations, both churches pursuing the same
object--to unify the life, and simplify the spectacle
presented to the soul.
A mind extremely sensitive to inner discords will
drop one external relation after another, as interfering
with the absorption of consciousness in spiritual things.
Amusements must go first, then conventional "society,"
then business, then family duties, until at last seclusion,
with a subdivision of the day into hours for stated religious
acts, is the only thing that can be borne.
The lives of saints are a history of successive
renunciations of complication, one form of contact with
the outer life being dropped after another, to save the
purity of inner tone. "Is it not better," a young sister asks her Superior,
"that I should not speak at all during the hour of
recreation, so as not to run the risk, by speaking, of
falling into some sin of which I might not be conscious?"
If the life remains a social one at all, those
who take part in it must follow one identical rule.
in this monotony, the zealot for purity feels clean and
free once more.
The minuteness of uniformity maintained in certain
sectarian communities, whether monastic or not, is something
almost inconceivable to a man of the world.
Costume, phraseology, hours, and habits are absolutely
stereotyped, and there is no doubt that some persons are
so made as to find in this stability an incomparable kind
of mental rest.
On this subject I refer to the work of M. Murisier (Les
Maladies du sentiment Religieux, Paris, 1901), who makes
inner unification the mainspring of the whole religious
ALL strongly ideal interests, religious or irreligious,
unify the mind and tend to subordinate everything to themselves.
One would infer from M. Murisier's pages that this
formal condition was peculiarly characteristic of religion,
and that one might in comparison almost neglect material
content, in studying the latter. I trust that the present work will convince the reader that
religion has plenty of material content which is characteristic
and which is more important by far than any general psychological
spite of this criticism, I find M. Murisier's book highly
the first beginning of the Servitor's [Suso's] interior
life, after he had purified his soul properly by confession,
he marked out for himself, in thought, three circles,
within which he shut himself up, as in a spiritual intrenchment.
The first circle was his cell, his chapel, and
the choir. When
he was within this circle, he seemed to himself in complete
security. The second circle was the whole monastery as far as the outer
third and outermost circle was the gate itself, and here
it was necessary for him to stand well upon his guard.
When he went outside these circles, it seemed to
him that he was in the plight of some wild animal which
is outside its hole, and surrounded by the hunt, and therefore
in need of all its cunning and watchfulness."
The Life of the Blessed Henry Suso, by Himself,
translated by Knox, London, 1865, p. 168.
Vie des premieres Religieuses Dominicaines de la Congregation
de St. Dominique, a Nancy; Nancy, 1896, p. 129.
have no time to multiply examples, so I will let the case
of Saint Louis of Gonzaga serve as a type of excess in
think you will agree that this youth carried the elimination
of the external and discordant to a point which we cannot
At the age of ten, his biographer says:--
inspiration came to him to consecrate to the Mother of
God his own virginity--that being to her the most agreeable
of possible presents.
Without delay, then, and with all the fervor there
was in him, joyous of heart, and burning with love, he
made his vow of perpetual chastity.
Mary accepted the offering of his innocent heart,
and obtained for him from God, as a recompense, the extraordinary
grace of never feeling during his entire life the slightest
touch of temptation against the virtue of purity. This was an altogether exceptional favor, rarely accorded even
to Saints themselves, and all the more marvelous in that
Louis dwelt always in courts and among great folks, where
danger and opportunity are so unusually frequent.
It is true that Louis from his earliest childhood
had shown a natural repugnance for whatever might be impure
or unvirginal, and even for relations of any sort whatever
between persons of opposite sex.
But this made it all the more surprising that he
should, especially since this vow, feel it necessary to
have recourse to such a number of expedients for protecting
against even the shadow of danger the virginity which
he had thus consecrated.
One might suppose that if any one could have contented
himself with the ordinary precautions, prescribed for
all Christians, it would assuredly have been he.
But no! In the use of preservatives and means of
defense, in flight from the most insignificant occasions,
from every possibility of peril, just as in the mortification
of his flesh, he went farther than the majority of saints.
He, who by an extraordinary protection of God's
grace was never tempted, measured all his steps as if
he were threatened on every side by particular dangers.
Thenceforward he never raised his eyes, either
when walking in the streets, or when in society.
Not only did he avoid all business with females
even more scrupulously than before, but he renounced all
conversation and every kind of social recreation with
them, although his father tried to make him take part;
and he commenced only too early to deliver his innocent
body to austerities of every kind."
Meschler's Life of Saint Louis of Gonzaga, French translation
by Lebrequier, 1891, p. 40.
the age of twelve, we read of this young man that "if
by chance his mother sent one of her maids of honor to
him with a message, he never allowed her to come in, but
listened to her through the barely opened door, and dismissed
He did not like to be alone with his own mother,
whether at table or in conversation; and when the rest
of the company withdrew, he sought also a pretext for
retiring. . . .
Several great ladies, relatives of his, he avoided
learning to know even by sight; and he made a sort of
treaty with his father, engaging promptly and readily
to accede to all his wishes, if he might only be excused
from all visits to ladies." 
Ibid., p. 71.
he was seventeen years old Louis joined the Jesuit order,
against his father's passionate entreaties, for he was
heir of a princely house; and when a year later the father
died, he took the loss as a "particular attention"
to himself on God's part, and wrote letters of stilted
good advice, as from a spiritual superior, to his grieving
soon became so good a monk that if any one asked him the
number of his brothers and sisters, he had to reflect
and count them over before replying.
A Father asked him one day if he were never troubled
by the thought of his family, to which, "I never
think of them except when praying for them," was
his only answer.
Never was he seen to hold in his hand a flower
or anything perfumed, that he might take pleasure in it.
On the contrary, in the hospital, he used to seek
for whatever was most disgusting, and eagerly snatch the
bandages of ulcers, etc., from the hands of his companions.
He avoided worldly talk, and immediately tried
to turn every conversation on to pious subjects, or else
he remained silent.
He systematically refused to notice his surroundings.
Being ordered one day to bring a book from the
rector's seat in the refectory, he had to ask where the
rector sat, for in the three months he had eaten bread
there, so carefully did he guard his eyes that he had
not noticed the place.
One day, during recess, having looked by chance
on one of his companions, he reproached himself as for
a grave sin against modesty.
He cultivated silence, as preserving from sins
of the tongue; and his greatest penance was the limit
which his superiors set to his bodily penances. He sought after false accusations and unjust reprimands as
opportunities of humility; and such was his obedience
that, when a room-mate, having no more paper, asked him
for a sheet, he did not feel free to give it to him without
first obtaining the permission of the superior, who, as
such, stood in the place of God, and transmitted his orders.
In his boyish note-book he praises the monastic life for
its freedom from sin, and for the imperishable treasures,
which it enables us to store up, "of merit in God's
eyes which makes of Him our debtor for all Eternity."
Loc. cit., p. 62.
can find no other sorts of fruit than these of Louis's
died in 1591, in his twenty-ninth year, and is known in
the Church as the patron of all young people.
On his festival, the altar in the chapel devoted
to him in a certain church in Rome "is embosomed
in flowers, arranged with exquisite taste; and a pile
of letters may be seen at its foot, written to the Saint
by young men and women, and directed to 'Paradiso.' They
are supposed to be burnt unread except by San Luigi, who
must find singular petitions in these pretty little missives,
tied up now with a green ribbon, expressive of hope, now
with a red one, emblematic of love," etc.
Mademoiselle Mori, a novel quoted in Hare's Walks in Rome,
1900, i. 55.
cannot resist the temptation to quote from Starbuck's
book, p. 388, another case of purification by elimination.
It runs as follows:--
signs of abnormality which sanctified persons show are
of frequent occurrence.
They get out of tune with other people; often they
will have nothing to do with churches, which they regard
as worldly; they become hypercritical towards others;
they grow careless of their social, political, and financial
an instance of this type may be mentioned a woman of sixty-eight
of whom the writer made a special study.
She had been a member of one of the most active
and progressive churches in a busy part of a large city.
Her pastor described her as having reached the
She had grown more and more out of sympathy with
the church; her connection with it finally consisted simply
in attendance at prayer-meeting, at which her only message
was that of reproof and condemnation of the others for
living on a low plane.
At last she withdrew from fellowship with any church.
The writer found her living alone in a little room
on the top story of a cheap boarding-house quite out of
touch with all human relations, but apparently happy in
the enjoyment of her own spiritual blessings.
Her time was occupied in writing booklets on sanctification--page
after page of dreamy rhapsody.
She proved to be one of a small group of persons
who claim that entire salvation involves three steps instead
of two; not only must there be conversion and sanctification,
but a third, which they call 'crucifixion' or 'perfect
redemption,' and which seems to bear the same relation
to sanctification that this bears to conversion.
She related how the Spirit had said to her, 'Stop
going to church.
Stop going to holiness meetings.
Go to your own room and I will teach you.' She
professes to care nothing for colleges, or preachers,
or churches, but only cares to listen to what God says
to her. Her
description of her experience seemed entirely consistent;
she is happy and contented, and her life is entirely satisfactory
to herself. While
listening to her own story, one was tempted to forget
that it was from the life of a person who could not live
by it in conjunction with her fellows."
final judgment of the worth of such a life as this will
depend largely on our conception of God, and of the sort
of conduct he is best pleased with in his creatures.
The Catholicism of the sixteenth century paid little
heed to social righteousness; and to leave the world to
the devil whilst saving one's own soul was then accounted
no discreditable scheme.
To-day, rightly or wrongly, helpfulness in general
human affairs is, in consequence of one of those secular
mutations in moral sentiment of which I spoke, deemed
an essential element of worth in character; and to be
of some public or private use is also reckoned as a species
of divine service. Other early Jesuits, especially the missionaries among them,
the Xaviers, Brebeufs, Jogues, were objective minds, and
fought in their way for the world's welfare; so their
lives to-day inspire us.
But when the intellect, as in this Louis, is originally
no larger than a pin's head, and cherishes ideas of God
of corresponding smallness, the result, notwithstanding
the heroism put forth, is on the whole repulsive.
Purity, we see in the object-lesson, is NOT the
one thing needful; and it is better that a life should
contract many a dirt-mark, than forfeit usefulness in
its efforts to remain unspotted.
onwards in our search of religious extravagance, we next
come upon excesses of Tenderness and Charity.
Here saintliness has to face the charge of preserving
the unfit, and breeding parasites and beggars.
"Resist not evil," "Love your enemies,"
these are saintly maxims of which men of this world find
it hard to speak without impatience. Are the men of this
world right, or are the saints in possession of the deeper
range of truth?
simple answer is possible.
Here, if anywhere, one feels the complexity of
the moral life, and the mysteriousness of the way in which
facts and ideals are interwoven.
conduct is a relation between three terms:
the actor, the objects for which he acts, and the
recipients of the action.
In order that conduct should be abstractly perfect,
all three terms, intention, execution, and reception,
should be suited to one another.
The best intention will fail if it either work
by false means or address itself to the wrong recipient.
Thus no critic or estimator of the value of conduct
can confine himself to the actor's animus alone, apart
from the other elements of the performance.
As there is no worse lie than a truth misunderstood
by those who hear it, so reasonable arguments, challenges
to magnanimity, and appeals to sympathy or justice, are
folly when we are dealing with human crocodiles and boa-constrictors.
The saint may simply give the universe into the
hands of the enemy by his trustfulness.
He may by non-resistance cut off his own survival.
Spencer tells us that the perfect man's conduct will appear
perfect only when the environment is perfect:
to no inferior environment is it suitably adapted.
We may paraphrase this by cordially admitting that
saintly conduct would be the most perfect conduct conceivable
in an environment where all were saints already; but by
adding that in an environment where few are saints, and
many the exact reverse of saints, it must be ill adapted. We must frankly confess, then, using our empirical common sense
and ordinary practical prejudices, that in the world that
actually is, the virtues of sympathy, charity, and non-resistance
may be, and often have been, manifested in excess.
powers of darkness have systematically taken advantage
of them. The
whole modern scientific organization of charity is a consequence
of the failure of simply giving alms.
The whole history of constitutional government
is a commentary on the excellence of resisting evil, and
when one cheek is smitten, of smiting back and not turning
the other cheek also.
will agree to this in general, for in spite of the Gospel,
in spite of Quakerism, in spite of Tolstoi, you believe
in fighting fire with fire, in shooting down usurpers,
locking up thieves, and freezing out vagabonds and swindlers.
yet you are sure, as I am sure, that were the world confined
to these hard-headed, hard-hearted, and hard-fisted methods
exclusively, were there no one prompt to help a brother
first, and find out afterwards whether he were worthy;
no one willing to drown his private wrongs in pity for
the wronger's person; no one ready to be duped many a
time rather than live always on suspicion; no one glad
to treat individuals passionately and impulsively rather
than by general rules of prudence; the world would be
an infinitely worse place than it is now to live in.
The tender grace, not of a day that is dead, but
of a day yet to be born somehow, with the golden rule
grown natural, would be cut out from the perspective of
saints, existing in this way, may, with their extravagances
of human tenderness, be prophetic.
Nay, innumerable times they have proved themselves
those whom they met, in spite of the past, in spite of
all appearances, as worthy, they have stimulated them
to BE worthy, miraculously transformed them by their radiant
example and by the challenge of their expectation.
this point of view we may admit the human charity which
we find in all saints, and the great excess of it which
we find in some saints, to be a genuinely creative social
force, tending to make real a degree of virtue which it
alone is ready to assume as possible.
The saints are authors, auctores, increasers, of
potentialities of development in human souls are unfathomable.
So many who seemed irretrievably hardened have
in point of fact been softened, converted, regenerated,
in ways that amazed the subjects even more than they surprised
the spectators, that we never can be sure in advance of
any man that his salvation by the way of love is hopeless.
We have no right to speak of human crocodiles and
boa-constrictors as of fixedly incurable beings.
We know not the complexities of personality, the
smouldering emotional fires, the other facets of the character-polyhedron,
the resources of the subliminal region.
St. Paul long ago made our ancestors familiar with
the idea that every soul is virtually sacred.
Since Christ died for us all without exception,
St. Paul said, we must despair of no one. This belief in the essential sacredness of every one expresses
itself to-day in all sorts of humane customs and reformatory
institutions, and in a growing aversion to the death penalty
and to brutality in punishment.
The saints, with their extravagance of human tenderness,
are the great torch-bearers of this belief, the tip of
the wedge, the clearers of the darkness.
Like the single drops which sparkle in the sun
as they are flung far ahead of the advancing edge of a
wave-crest or of a flood, they show the way and are forerunners.
The world is not yet with them, so they often seem
in the midst of the world's affairs to be preposterous.
Yet they are impregnators of the world, vivifiers
and animaters of potentialities of goodness which but
for them would lie forever dormant.
It is not possible to be quite as mean as we naturally
are, when they have passed before us.
One fire kindles another; and without that over-trust
in human worth which they show, the rest of us would lie
in spiritual stagnancy.
considered, then, the saint may waste his tenderness and
be the dupe and victim of his charitable fever, but the
general function of his charity in social evolution is
vital and essential.
If things are ever to move upward, some one must
be ready to take the first step, and assume the risk of
it. No one
who is not willing to try charity, to try non-resistance
as the saint is always willing, can tell whether these
methods will or will not succeed.
When they do succeed, they are far more powerfully
successful than force or worldly prudence. Force destroys enemies; and the best that can be said of prudence
is that it keeps what we already have in safety. But non-resistance, when successful, turns enemies into friends;
and charity regenerates its objects.
These saintly methods are, as I said, creative
energies; and genuine saints find in the elevated excitement
with which their faith endows them an authority and impressiveness
which makes them irresistible in situations where men
of shallower nature cannot get on at all without the use
of worldly prudence.
This practical proof that worldly wisdom may be
safely transcended is the saint's magic gift to mankind.
Not only does his vision of a better world console us
for the generally prevailing prose and barrenness; but
even when on the whole we have to confess him ill adapted,
he makes some converts, and the environment gets better
for his ministry.
He is an effective ferment of goodness, a slow
transmuter of the earthly into a more heavenly order.
The best missionary lives abound in the victorious
combination of non-resistance with personal authority.
John G. Paton,
for example, in the New Hebrides, among brutish Melanesian
cannibals, preserves a charmed life by dint of it. When it comes to the point, no one ever dares actually to strike
converts, inspired by him, showed analogous virtue.
"One of our chiefs, full of the Christ-kindled
desire to seek and to save, sent a message to an inland
chief, that he and four attendants would come on Sabbath
and tell them the gospel of Jehovah God.
The reply came back sternly forbidding their visit,
and threatening with death any Christian that approached
their village. Our chief sent in response a loving message, telling them that
Jehovah had taught the Christians to return good for evil,
and that they would come unarmed to tell them the story
of how the Son of God came into the world and died in
order to bless and save his enemies. The heathen chief sent back a stern and prompt reply once more:
'If you come, you will be killed.' On Sabbath morn
the Christian chief and his four companions were met outside
the village by the heathen chief, who implored and threatened
them once more. But the former said:--
come to you without weapons of war! We come only to tell
you about Jesus.
We believe that He will protect us to-day.'
they pressed steadily forward towards the village, spears
began to be thrown at them.
Some they evaded, being all except one dexterous
warriors; and others they literally received with their
bare hands, and turned them aside in an incredible manner.
The heathen, apparently thunderstruck at these
men thus approaching them without weapons of war, and
not even flinging back their own spears which they had
caught, after having thrown what the old chief called
'a shower of spears,' desisted from mere surprise.
Our Christian chief called out, as he and his companions
drew up in the midst of them on the village public ground:--
thus protects us.
He has given us all your spears! Once we would
have thrown them back at you and killed you.
But now we come, not to fight but to tell you about
has changed our dark hearts.
He asks you now to lay down all these your other
weapons of war, and to hear what we can tell you about
the love of God, our great Father, the only living God.'
heathen were perfectly overawed.
They manifestly looked on these Christians as protected
by some Invisible One.
They listened for the first time to the story of
the Gospel and of the Cross.
We lived to see that chief and all his tribe sitting
in the school of Christ.
And there is perhaps not an island in these southern
seas, amongst all those won for Christ, where similar
acts of heroism on the part of converts cannot be recited."
John G. Paton, Missionary to the New Hebrides,
An Autobiography, second part, London, 1890, p. 243.
this respect the Utopian dreams of social justice in which
many contemporary socialists and anarchists indulge are,
in spite of their impracticability and non-adaptation
to present environmental conditions, analogous to the
saint's belief in an existent kingdom of heaven.
They help to break the edge of the general reign
of hardness and are slow leavens of a better order.
next topic in order is Asceticism, which I fancy you are
all ready to consider without argument a virtue liable
to extravagance and excess.
The optimism and refinement of the modern imagination
has, as I have already said elsewhere, changed the attitude
of the church towards corporeal mortification, and a Suso
or a Saint Peter of Alcantara appear to us to-day
rather in the light of tragic mountebanks than of sane
men inspiring us with respect.
If the inner dispositions are right, we ask, what
need of all this torment, this violation of the outer
keeps the outer nature too important. Any one who is genuinely emancipated from the flesh will look
on pleasures and pains, abundance and privation, as alike
irrelevant and indifferent.
He can engage in actions and experience enjoyments
without fear of corruption or enslavement.
As the Bhagavad-Gita says, only those need renounce
worldly actions who are still inwardly attached thereto.
If one be really unattached to the fruits of action,
one may mix in the world with equanimity. I quoted in a former lecture Saint Augustine's antinomian saying:
If you only love God enough, you may safely follow
all your inclinations.
"He needs no devotional practices," is
one of Ramakrishna's maxims, "whose heart is moved
to tears at the mere mention of the name of <354>
And the Buddha, in pointing out what he called
"the middle way" to his disciples, told them
to abstain from both extremes, excessive mortification
being as unreal and unworthy as mere desire and pleasure.
The only perfect life, he said, is that of inner
wisdom, which makes one thing as indifferent to us as
another, and thus leads to rest, to peace, and to Nirvana.
Saint Peter, Saint Teresa tells us in her autobiography
(French translation, p. 333), "had passed forty years
without ever sleeping more than an hour and a half a day.
Of all his mortifications, this was the one that
had cost him the most.
To compass it, he kept always on his knees or on
his feet. The
little sleep he allowed nature to take was snatched in
a sitting posture, his head leaning against a piece of
wood fixed in the wall.
Even had he wished to lie down, it would have been
impossible, because his cell was only four feet and a
half long. In
the course of all these years he never raised his hood,
no matter what the ardor of the sun or the rain's strength. He never put on a shoe.
He wore a garment of coarse sackcloth, with nothing
else upon his skin.
This garment was as scant as possible, and over
it a little cloak of the same stuff.
When the cold was great he took off the cloak and
opened for a while the door and little window of his cell.
Then he closed them and resumed the mantle--his
way, as he told us, of warming himself, and making his
body feel a better temperature.
It was a frequent thing with him to eat once only
in three days; and when I expressed my surprise, he said
that it was very easy if one once had acquired the habit.
One of his companions has assured me that he has
gone sometimes eight days without food. . . . His poverty
was extreme; and his mortification, even in his youth,
was such that he told me he had passed three years in
a house of his order without knowing any of the monks
otherwise than by the sound of their voice, for he never
raised his eyes, and only found his way about by following
the others. He
showed this same modesty on public highways.
He spent many years without ever laying eyes upon
a woman; but he confessed to me that at the age he had
reached it was indifferent to him whether he laid eyes
on them or not.
He was very old when I first came to know him,
and his body so attenuated that it seemed formed of nothing
so much as of so many roots of trees. With all this sanctity
he was very affable.
He never spoke unless he was questioned, but his
intellectual right-mindedness and grace gave to all his
words an irresistible charm."
F. Max Muller: Ramakrishna,
his Life and sayings, 1899, p. 180.
translated by W. Hoey, London, 1882, p. 127.
find accordingly that as ascetic saints have grown older,
and directors of conscience more experienced, they usually
have shown a tendency to lay less stress on special bodily
Catholic teachers have always professed the rule
that, since health is needed for efficiency in God's service,
health must not be sacrificed to mortification.
The general optimism and healthy-mindedness of
liberal Protestant circles to-day makes mortification
for mortification's sake repugnant to us.
We can no longer sympathize with cruel deities,
and the notion that God can take delight in the spectacle
of sufferings self-inflicted in his honor is abhorrent.
In consequence of all these motives you probably
are disposed, unless some special utility can be shown
in some individual's discipline, to treat the general
tendency to asceticism as pathological.
I believe that a more careful consideration of the whole
matter, distinguishing between the general good intention
of asceticism and the uselessness of some of the particular
acts of which it may be guilty, ought to rehabilitate
it in our esteem.
For in its spiritual meaning asceticism stands
for nothing less than for the essence of the twice-born
symbolizes, lamely enough no doubt, but sincerely, the
belief that there is an element of real wrongness in this
world, which is neither to be ignored nor evaded, but
which must be squarely met and overcome by an appeal to
the soul's heroic resources, and neutralized and cleansed
away by suffering. As against this view, the ultra-optimistic form of the once-born
philosophy thinks we may treat evil by the method of ignoring.
Let a man who, by fortunate health and circumstances,
escapes the suffering of any great amount of evil in his
own person, also close his eyes to it as it exists in
the wider universe outside his private experience, and
he will be quit of it altogether, and can sail through
life happily on a healthy-minded basis. But we saw in our lectures on melancholy how precarious this
attempt necessarily is.
Moreover it is but for the individual; and leaves
the evil outside of him, unredeemed and unprovided for
in his philosophy.
such attempt can be a GENERAL solution of the problem;
and to minds of sombre tinge, who naturally feel life
as a tragic mystery, such optimism is a shallow dodge
or mean evasion.
It accepts, in lieu of a real deliverance, what
is a lucky personal accident merely, a cranny to escape
by. It leaves the general world unhelped and still in
the clutch of Satan.
The real deliverance, the twice-born folk insist,
must be of universal application.
Pain and wrong and death must be fairly met and
overcome in higher excitement, or else their sting remains
If one has ever taken the fact of the prevalence
of tragic death in this world's history fairly into his
mind--freezing, drowning entombment alive, wild beasts,
worse men, and hideous diseases--he can with difficulty,
it seems to me, continue his own career of worldly prosperity
without suspecting that he may all the while not be really
inside the game, that he may lack the great initiation.
this is exactly what asceticism thinks; and it voluntarily
takes the initiation.
Life is neither farce nor genteel comedy, it says,
but something we must sit at in mourning garments, hoping
its bitter taste will purge us of our folly. The wild
and the heroic are indeed such rooted parts of it that
healthy-mindedness pure and simple, with its sentimental
optimism, can hardly be regarded by any thinking man as
a serious solution.
Phrases of neatness, cosiness, and comfort can
never be an answer to the sphinx's riddle.
these remarks I am leaning only upon mankind's common
instinct for reality, which in point of fact has always
held the world to be essentially a theatre for heroism.
In heroism, we feel, life's supreme mystery is
tolerate no one who has no capacity whatever for it in
any direction. On
the other hand, no matter what a man's frailties otherwise
may be, if he be willing to risk death, and still more
if he suffer it heroically, in the service he has chosen,
the fact consecrates him forever.
Inferior to ourselves in this or that way, if yet
we cling to life, and he is able "to fling it away
like a flower" as caring nothing for it, we account
him in the deepest way our born superior.
Each of us in his own person feels that a high-hearted
indifference to life would expiate all his shortcomings.
metaphysical mystery, thus recognized by common sense,
that he who feeds on death that feeds on men possesses
life supereminently and excellently, and meets best the
secret demands of the universe, is the truth of which
asceticism has been the faithful champion.
The folly of the cross, so inexplicable by the
intellect, has yet its indestructible vital meaning.
then, and symbolically, and apart from the vagaries into
which the unenlightened intellect of former times may
have let it wander, asceticism must, I believe, be acknowledged
to go with the profounder way of handling the gift of
optimism is mere syllabub and flattery and sponge-cake
in comparison. The practical course of action for us,
as religious men, would therefore, it seems to me, not
be simply to turn our backs upon the ascetic impulse,
as most of us to-day turn them, but rather to discover
some outlet for it of which the fruits in the way of privation
and hardship might be objectively useful.
The older monastic asceticism occupied itself with
pathetic futilities, or terminated in the mere egotism
of the individual, increasing his own perfection. But is it not possible for us to discard most of these older
forms of mortification, and yet find saner channels for
the heroism which inspired them?
"The vanities of all others may die out, but the
vanity of a saint as regards his sainthood is hard indeed
to wear away." Ramakrishna his Life and Sayings,
1899, p. 172.
not, for example, the worship of material luxury and wealth,
which constitutes so large a portion of the "spirit"
of our age, make somewhat for effeminacy and unmanliness?
Is not the exclusively sympathetic and facetious
way in which most children are brought up to-day--so different
from the education of a hundred years ago, especially
in evangelical circles--in danger, in spite of its many
advantages, of developing a certain trashiness of fibre?
Are there not hereabouts some points of application
for a renovated and revised ascetic discipline?
of you would recognize such dangers, but would point to
athletics, militarism, and individual and national enterprise
and adventure as the remedies.
These contemporary ideals are quite as remarkable
for the energy with which they make for heroic standards
of life, as contemporary religion is remarkable for the
way in which it neglects them.
War and adventure assuredly keep all who engage
in them from treating themselves too tenderly.
They demand such incredible efforts, depth beyond
depth of exertion, both in degree and in duration, that
the whole scale of motivation alters.
Discomfort and annoyance, hunger and wet, pain
and cold, squalor and filth, cease to have any deterrent
Death turns into a commonplace matter, and its
usual power to check our action vanishes. With the annulling
of these customary inhibitions, ranges of new energy are
set free, and life seems cast upon a higher plane of power.
"When a church has to be run by oysters, ice-cream,
and fun," I read in an American religious paper,
"you may be sure that it is running away from Christ."
Such, if one may judge by appearances, is the present
plight of many of our churches.
beauty of war in this respect is that it is so congruous
with ordinary human nature.
Ancestral evolution has made us all potential warriors;
so the most insignificant individual, when thrown into
an army in the field, is weaned from whatever excess of
tenderness toward his precious person he may bring with
him, and may easily develop into a monster of insensibility.
when we compare the military type of self-severity with
that of the ascetic saint, we find a world-wide difference
in all their spiritual concomitants.
and let live,'" writes a clear-headed Austrian officer,
"is no device for an army.
Contempt for one's own comrades, for the troops
of the enemy, and, above all, fierce contempt for one's
own person, are what war demands of every one. Far better is it for an army to be too savage, too cruel, too
barbarous, than to possess too much sentimentality and
the soldier is to be good for anything as a soldier, he
must be exactly the opposite of a reasoning and thinking
measure of goodness in him is his possible use in war.
War, and even peace, require of the soldier absolutely
peculiar standards of morality.
The recruit brings with him common moral notions,
of which he must seek immediately to get rid.
For him victory, success, must be EVERYTHING.
The most barbaric tendencies in men come to life
again in war, and for war's uses they are incommensurably
C. V. B. K.: Friedens-und
Kriegs-moral der Heere.
Quoted by Hamon:
Psychologie du Militaire professional, 1895, p.
words are of course literally true.
The immediate aim of the soldier's life is, as
Moltke said, destruction, and nothing but destruction;
and whatever constructions wars result in are remote and
the soldier cannot train himself to be too feelingless
to all those usual sympathies and respects, whether for
persons or for things, that make for conservation.
Yet the fact remains that war is a school of strenuous
life and heroism; and, being in the line of aboriginal
instinct, is the only school that as yet is universally
when we gravely ask ourselves whether this wholesale organization
of irrationality and crime be our only bulwark against
effeminacy, we stand aghast at the thought, and think
more kindly of ascetic religion.
One hears of the mechanical equivalent of heat.
What we now need to discover in the social realm
is the moral equivalent of war:
something heroic that will speak to men as universally
as war does, and yet will be as compatible with their
spiritual selves as war has proved itself to be incompatible.
I have often thought that in the old monkish poverty-worship,
in spite of the pedantry which infested it, there might
be something like that moral equivalent of war which we
are seeking. May
not voluntarily accepted poverty be "the strenuous
life," without the need of crushing weaker peoples?
indeed IS the strenuous life--without brass bands or uniforms
or hysteric popular applause or lies or circumlocutions;
and when one sees the way in which wealth- getting enters
as an ideal into the very bone and marrow of our generation,
one wonders whether a revival of the belief that poverty
is a worthy religious vocation may not be "the transformation
of military courage," and the spiritual reform which
our time stands most in need of.
us English-speaking peoples especially do the praises
of poverty need once more to be boldly sung.
We have grown literally afraid to be poor.
We despise any one who elects to be poor in order
to simplify and save his inner life.
If he does not join the general scramble and pant
with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and
lacking in ambition.
We have lost the power even of imagining what the
ancient idealization of poverty could have meant:
the liberation from material attachments, the unbribed
soul, the manlier indifference, the paying our way by
what we are or do and not by what we have, the right to
fling away our life at any moment irresponsibly--the more
athletic trim, in short, the moral fighting shape.
When we of the so-called better classes are scared
as men were never scared in history at material ugliness
and hardship; when we put off marriage until our house
can be artistic, and quake at the thought of having a
child without a bank-account and doomed to manual labor,
it is time for thinking men to protest against so unmanly
and irreligious a state of opinion.
is true that so far as wealth gives time for ideal ends
and exercise to ideal energies, wealth is better than
poverty and ought to be chosen.
But wealth does this in only a portion of the actual
the desire to gain wealth and the fear to lose it are
our chief breeders of cowardice and propagators of corruption.
There are thousands of conjunctures in which a
wealth-bound man must be a slave, whilst a man for whom
poverty has no terrors becomes a freeman.
Think of the strength which personal indifference
to poverty would give us if we were devoted to unpopular
need no longer hold our tongues or fear to vote the revolutionary
or reformatory ticket. Our stocks might fall, our hopes of promotion vanish, our salaries
stop, our club doors close in our faces; yet, while we
lived, we would imperturbably bear witness to the spirit,
and our example would help to set free our generation.
The cause would need its funds, but we its servants
would be potent in proportion as we personally were contented
with our poverty.
recommend this matter to your serious pondering, for it
is certain that the prevalent fear of poverty among the
educated classes is the worst moral disease from which
our civilization suffers.
have now said all that I can usefully say about the several
fruits of religion as they are manifested in saintly lives,
so I will make a brief review and pass to my more general
question, you will remember, is as to whether religion
stands approved by its fruits, as these are exhibited
in the saintly type of character.
Single attributes of saintliness may, it is true,
be temperamental endowments, found in non-religious individuals.
But the whole group of them forms a combination
which, as such, is religious, for it seems to flow from
the sense of the divine as from its psychological centre. Whoever possesses strongly this sense comes naturally to think
that the smallest details of this world derive infinite
significance from their relation to an unseen divine order.
The thought of this order yields him a superior
denomination of happiness, and a steadfastness of soul
with which no other can compare.
In social relations his serviceability is exemplary;
he abounds in impulses to help. His help is inward as
well as outward, for his sympathy reaches souls as well
as bodies, and kindles unsuspected faculties therein.
Instead of placing happiness where common men place
it, in comfort, he places it in a higher kind of inner
excitement, which converts discomforts into sources of
cheer and annuls unhappiness.
So he turns his back upon no duty, however thankless;
and when we are in need of assistance, we can count upon
the saint lending his hand with more certainty than we
can count upon any other person.
Finally, his humble-mindedness and his ascetic
tendencies save him from the petty personal pretensions
which so obstruct our ordinary social intercourse, and
his purity gives us in him a clean man for a companion.
Felicity, purity, charity, patience, self-severity--these
are splendid excellencies, and the saint of all men shows
them in the completest possible measure.
as we saw, all these things together do not make saints
their intellectual outlook is narrow, they fall into all
sorts of holy excesses, fanaticism or theopathic absorption,
self-torment, prudery, scrupulosity, gullibility, and
morbid inability to meet the world.
By the very intensity of his fidelity to the paltry
ideals with which an inferior intellect may inspire him,
a saint can be even more objectionable and damnable than
a superficial carnal man would be in the same situation.
We must judge him not sentimentally only, and not
in isolation, but using our own intellectual standards,
placing him in his environment, and estimating his total
in the matter of intellectual standards, we must bear
in mind that it is unfair, where we find narrowness of
mind, always to impute it as a vice to the individual,
for in religious and theological matters he probably absorbs
his narrowness from his generation.
Moreover, we must not confound the essentials of
saintliness, which are those general passions of which
I have spoken, with its accidents, which are the special
determinations of these passions at any historical moment.
In these determinations the saints will usually
be loyal to the temporary idols of their tribe.
Taking refuge in monasteries was as much an idol
of the tribe in the middle ages, as bearing a hand in
the world's work is to-day.
Saint Francis or Saint Bernard, were they living
to-day, would undoubtedly be leading consecrated lives
of some sort, but quite as undoubtedly they would not
lead them in retirement. Our
animosity to special historic manifestations must not
lead us to give away the saintly impulses in their essential
nature to the tender mercies of inimical critics.
most inimical critic of the saintly impulses whom I know
is Nietzsche. He
contrasts them with the worldly passions as we find these
embodied in the predaceous military character, altogether
to the advantage of the latter.
Your born saint, it must be confessed, has something
about him which often makes the gorge of a carnal man
rise, so it will be worth while to consider the contrast
in question more fully.
of the saintly nature seems to be a negative result of
the biologically useful instinct of welcoming leadership,
and glorifying the chief of the tribe.
The chief is the potential, if not the actual tyrant,
the masterful, overpowering man of prey.
We confess our inferiority and grovel before him.
We quail under his glance, and are at the same
time proud of owning so dangerous a lord. Such instinctive and submissive hero-worship must have been
indispensable in primeval tribal life.
In the endless wars of those times, leaders were
absolutely needed for the tribe's survival.
If there were any tribes who owned no leaders,
they can have left no issue to narrate their doom.
The leaders always had good consciences, for conscience
in them coalesced with will, and those who looked on their
face were as much smitten with wonder at their freedom
from inner restraint as with awe at the energy of their
with these beaked and taloned graspers of the world, saints
are herbivorous animals, tame and harmless barn-yard poultry.
There are saints whose beard you may, if you ever
care to, pull with impunity.
Such a man excites no thrills of wonder veiled
in terror; his conscience is full of scruples and returns;
he stuns us neither by his inward freedom nor his outward
power; and unless he found within us an altogether different
faculty of admiration to appeal to, we should pass him
by with contempt.
point of fact, he does appeal to a different faculty.
Reenacted in human nature is the fable of the wind, the
sun, and the traveler. The sexes embody the discrepancy. The woman loves the man the more admiringly the stormier he
shows himself, and the world deifies its rulers the more
for being willful and unaccountable.
But the woman in turn subjugates the man by the
mystery of gentleness in beauty, and the saint has always
charmed the world by something similar.
Mankind is susceptible and suggestible in opposite
directions, and the rivalry of influences is unsleeping.
The saintly and the worldly ideal pursue their
feud in literature as much as in real life.
Nietzsche the saint represents little but sneakingness
He is the sophisticated invalid, the degenerate
par excellence, the man of insufficient vitality.
His prevalence would put the human type in danger.
sick are the greatest danger for the well.
The weaker, not the stronger, are the strong's
is not FEAR of our fellow-man, which we should wish to
see diminished; for fear rouses those who are strong to
become terrible in turn themselves, and preserves the
hard-earned and successful type of humanity. What is to
be dreaded by us more than any other doom is not fear,
but rather the great disgust, not fear, but rather the
great pity--disgust and pity for our human fellows. .
. . The MORBID
are our greatest peril--not the 'bad' men, not the predatory
born wrong, the miscarried, the broken-- they it is, the
WEAKEST who are undermining the vitality of the race,
poisoning our trust in life, and putting humanity in question.
Every look of them is a sigh--'Would I were something
am sick and tired of what I am.'
In this swamp-soil of self-contempt, every poisonous
weed flourishes, and all so small, so secret, so dishonest,
and so sweetly rotten.
Here swarm the worms of sensitiveness and resentment,
here the air smells odious with secrecy, with what is
not to be acknowledged; here is woven endlessly the net
of the meanest of conspiracies, the conspiracy of those
who suffer against those who succeed and are victorious;
here the very aspect of the victorious is hated--as if
health, success, strength, pride, and the sense of power
were in themselves things vicious, for which one ought
eventually to make bitter expiation.
Oh, how these people would themselves like to inflict
the expiation, how they thirst to be the hangmen!
And all the while their duplicity never confesses
their hatred to be hatred."
Zur Genealogie der Moral, Dritte Abhandlung, Section 14.
I have abridged, and in one place transposed, a
Nietzsche's antipathy is itself sickly enough, but we
all know what he means, and he expresses well the clash
between the two Ideals.
The carnivorous-minded "strong man,"
the adult male and cannibal, can see nothing but mouldiness
and morbidness in the saint's gentleness and self-severity,
and regards him with pure loathing.
The whole feud revolves essentially upon two pivots:
seen world or the unseen world be our chief sphere of
must our means of adaptation in this seen world be aggressiveness
debate is serious.
In some sense and to some degree both worlds must
be acknowledged and taken account of; and in the seen
world both aggressiveness and non-resistance are needful.
It is a question of emphasis, of more or less.
Is the saint's type or the strong-man's type the
has often been supposed, and even now, I think, it is
supposed by most persons, that there can be one intrinsically
ideal type of human character.
A certain kind of man, it is imagined, must be
the best man absolutely and apart from the utility of
his function, apart from economical considerations.
The saint's type, and the knight's or gentleman's
type, have always been rival claimants of this absolute
ideality; and in the ideal of military religious orders
both types were in a manner blended.
According to the empirical philosophy, however,
all ideals are matters of relation.
It would be absurd, for example, to ask for a definition
of "the ideal horse," so long as dragging drays
and running races, bearing children, and jogging about
with tradesmen's packages all remain as indispensable
differentiations of equine function.
You may take what you call a general all-round
animal as a compromise, but he will be inferior to any
horse of a more specialized type, in some one particular
direction. We must not forget this now when, in discussing
saintliness, we ask if it be an ideal type of manhood.
We must test it by its economical relations.
think that the method which Mr. Spencer uses in his Data
of Ethics will help to fix our opinion.
Ideality in conduct is altogether a matter of adaptation.
A society where all were invariably aggressive
would destroy itself by inner friction, and in a society
where some are aggressive, others must be non-resistant,
if there is to be any kind of order. This is the present
constitution of society, and to the mixture we owe many
of our blessings.
But the aggressive members of society are always
tending to become bullies, robbers, and swindlers; and
no one believes that such a state of things as we now
live in is the millennium.
It is meanwhile quite possible to conceive an imaginary
society in which there should be no aggressiveness, but
only sympathy and fairness--any small community of true
friends now realizes such a society.
Abstractly considered, such a society on a large
scale would be the millennium, for every good thing might
be realized there with no expense of friction.
To such a millennial society the saint would be
His peaceful modes of appeal would be efficacious
over his companions, and there would be no one extant
to take advantage of his non-resistance.
The saint is therefore abstractly a higher type
of man than the "strong man," because he is
adapted to the highest society conceivable, whether that
society ever be concretely possible or not.
The strong man would immediately tend by his presence
to make that society deteriorate.
It would become inferior in everything save in
a certain kind of bellicose excitement, dear to men as
they now are.
if we turn from the abstract question to the actual situation,
we find that the individual saint may be well or ill adapted,
according to particular circumstances.
There is, in short, no absoluteness in the excellence
of sainthood. It
must be confessed that as far as this world goes, anyone
who makes an out-and-out saint of himself does so at his
peril. If he is not a large enough man, he may appear more insignificant
and contemptible, for all his saintship, than if he had
remained a worldling.
Accordingly religion has seldom been so radically
taken in our Western world that the devotee could not
mix it with some worldly temper. It has always found good
men who could follow most of its impulses, but who stopped
short when it came to non-resistance.
Christ himself was fierce upon occasion.
Cromwells, Stonewall Jacksons, Gordons, show that
Christians can be strong men also.
We all know DAFT saints, and they inspire a queer kind
of aversion. But in comparing saints with strong men we
must choose individuals on the same intellectual level.
The under-witted strong man homologous in his sphere
with the under-witted saint, is the bully of the slums,
the hooligan or rowdy.
Surely on this level also the saint preserves a
is success to be absolutely measured when there are so
many environments and so many ways of looking at the adaptation?
It cannot be measured absolutely; the verdict will
vary according to the point of view adopted.
From the biological point of view Saint Paul was
a failure, because he was beheaded.
Yet he was magnificently adapted to the larger
environment of history; and so far as any saint's example
is a leaven of righteousness in the world, and draws it
in the direction of more prevalent habits of saintliness,
he is a success, no matter what his immediate bad fortune
may be. The
greatest saints, the spiritual heroes whom every one acknowledges,
the Francises, Bernards, Luthers, Loyolas, Wesleys, Channings,
Moodys, Gratrys, the Phillips Brookses, the Agnes Joneses,
Margaret Hallahans, and Dora Pattisons, are successes
from the outset.
They show themselves, and there is no question;
every one perceives their strength and stature.
Their sense of mystery in things, their passion,
their goodness, irradiate about them and enlarge their
outlines while they soften them.
They are like pictures with an atmosphere and background;
and, placed alongside of them, the strong men of this
world and no other seem as dry as sticks, as hard and
crude as blocks of stone or brick-bats.
a general way, then, and "on the whole,"
our abandonment of theological criteria, and our testing
of religion by practical common sense and the empirical
method, leave it in possession of its towering place in
the saintly group of qualities is indispensable to the
The great saints are immediate successes; the smaller
ones are at least heralds and harbingers, and they may
be leavens also, of a better mundane order.
Let us be saints, then, if we can, whether or not
we succeed visibly and temporally.
But in our Father's house are many mansions, and
each of us must discover for himself the kind of religion
and the amount of saintship which best comports with what
he believes to be his powers and feels to be his truest
mission and vocation.
There are no successes to be guaranteed and no
set orders to be given to individuals, so long as we follow
the methods of empirical philosophy.
 See above, p. 321.
is my conclusion so far.
I know that on some of your minds it leaves a feeling
of wonder that such a method should have been applied
to such a subject, and this in spite of all those remarks
about empiricism which I made at the beginning of Lecture
XIII. How, you say, can religion, which believes
in two worlds and an invisible order, be estimated by
the adaptation of its fruits to this world's order alone?
It is its truth, not its utility, you insist, upon
which our verdict ought to depend. If religion is true, its fruits are good fruits, even though
in this world they should prove uniformly ill adapted
and full of naught but pathos.
It goes back, then, after all, to the question
of the truth of theology. The plot inevitably thickens
upon us; we cannot escape theoretical considerations.
I propose, then, that to some degree we face the
Religious persons have often, though not uniformly,
professed to see truth in a special manner.
That manner is known as mysticism.
I will consequently now proceed to treat at some
length of mystical phenomena, and after that, though more
briefly, I will consider religious philosophy.
Above, pp. 321-327