[WilliamJames] Lectures 4-5, second chunk

Eric Purdy epurdy at uchicago.edu
Wed Feb 12 22:51:35 CST 2014


The deliberate adoption of an optimistic turn of mind thus makes its
entrance into philosophy. And once in, it is hard to trace its lawful
bounds. Not only does the human instinct for happiness, bent on
self-protection by ignoring, keep working in its favor, but higher inner
ideals have weighty words to say. The attitude of unhappiness is not only
painful, it is mean and ugly. What can be more base and unworthy than the
pining, puling, mumping mood, no matter by what outward ills it may have
been engendered? What is more injurious to others? What less helpful as a
way out of the difficulty? It but fastens and perpetuates the trouble which
occasioned it, and increases the total evil of the situation. At all costs,
then, we ought to reduce the sway of that mood; we ought to scout it in
ourselves and others, and never show it tolerance. But it is impossible to
carry on this discipline in the subjective sphere without zealously
emphasizing the brighter and minimizing the darker aspects of the objective
sphere of things at the same time. And thus our resolution not to indulge
in misery, beginning at a comparatively small point within ourselves, may
not stop until it has brought the entire frame of reality under a
systematic conception optimistic enough to be congenial with its needs.

In all this I say nothing of any mystical insight or persuasion that the
total frame of things absolutely must be good. Such mystical persuasion
plays an enormous part in the history of the religious consciousness, and
we must look at it later with some care. But we need not go so far at
present. More ordinary non-mystical conditions of rapture suffice for my
immediate contention. All invasive moral states and passionate enthusiasms
make one feelingless to evil in some direction. The common penalties cease
to deter the patriot, the usual prudences are flung by the lover to the
winds. When the passion is extreme, suffering may actually be gloried in,
provided it be for the ideal cause, death may lose its sting, the grave its
victory. In these states, the ordinary contrast of good and ill seems to be
swallowed up in a higher denomination, an omnipotent excitement which
engulfs the evil, and which the human being welcomes as the crowning
experience of his life. This, he says, is truly to live, and I exult in the
heroic opportunity and adventure.

The systematic cultivation of healthy-mindedness as a religious attitude is
therefore consonant with important currents in human nature, and is
anything but absurd. In fact, we all do cultivate it more or less, even
when our professed theology should in consistency forbid it. We divert our
attention from disease and death as much as we can; and the
slaughter-houses and indecencies without end on which our life is founded
are huddled out of sight and never mentioned, so that the world we
recognize officially in literature and in society is a poetic fiction far
handsomer and cleaner and better than the world that really
is.[12]<http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Varieties_of_Religious_Experience/Lectures_IV_%26_V#cite_note-p90-12>

The advance of liberalism, so-called, in Christianity, during the past
fifty years, may fairly be called a victory of healthy-mindedness within
the church over the morbidness with which the old hell-fire theology was
more harmoniously related. We have now whole congregations whose preachers,
far from magnifying our consciousness of sin, seem devoted rather to making
little of it. They ignore, or even deny, eternal punishment, and insist on
the dignity rather than on the depravity of man. They look at the continual
preoccupation of the old-fashioned Christian with the salvation of his soul
as something sickly and reprehensible rather than admirable; and a sanguine
and 'muscular' attitude, which to our forefathers would have seemed purely
heathen, has become in their eyes an ideal element of Christian character.
I am not asking whether or not they are right, I am only pointing out the
change.

The persons to whom I refer have still retained for the most part their
nominal connection with Christianity, in spite of their discarding of its
more pessimistic theological elements. But in that 'theory of evolution'
which, gathering momentum for a century, has within the past twenty-five
years swept so rapidly over Europe and America, we see the ground laid for
a new sort of religion of Nature, which has entirely displaced Christianity
from the thought of a large part of our generation. The idea of a universal
evolution lends itself to a doctrine of general meliorism and progress
which fits the religious needs of the healthy-minded so well that it seems
almost as if it might have been created for their use. Accordingly we find
'evolutionism' interpreted thus optimistically and embraced as a substitute
for the religion they were born in, by a multitude of our contemporaries
who have either been trained scientifically, or been fond of reading
popular science, and who had already begun to be inwardly dissatisfied with
what seemed to them the harshness and irrationality of the orthodox
Christian scheme. As examples are better than descriptions, I will quote a
document received in answer to Professor Starbuck's circular of questions.
The writer's state of mind may by courtesy be called a religion, for it is
his reaction on the whole nature of things, it is systematic and
reflective, and it loyally binds him to certain inner ideals. I think you
will recognize in him, coarse-meated and incapable of wounded spirit as he
is, a sufficiently familiar contemporary type.


Q. *What does Religion mean to you?*

A. It means nothing; and it seems, so far as I can observe, useless to
others. I am sixty-seven years of age and have resided in X. fifty years,
and have been in business forty-five, consequently I have some little
experience of life and men, and some women too, and I find that the most
religious and pious people are as a rule those most lacking in uprightness
and morality. The men who do not go to church or have any religious
convictions are the best. Praying, singing of hymns, and sermonizing
are--pernicious they teach us to rely on some supernatural power, when we
ought to rely on ourselves. I *tee*totally disbelieve in a God. The
God-idea was begotten in ignorance, fear, and a general lack of any
knowledge of Nature. If I were to die now, being in a healthy condition for
my age, both mentally and physically, I would just as lief, yes, rather,
die with a hearty enjoyment of music, sport, or any other rational pastime.
As a timepiece stops, we die--there being no immortality in either case.

Q. *What comes before your mind corresponding to the words God, Heaven,
Angels, etc.?*

A. Nothing whatever. I am a man without a religion. These words mean so
much mythic bosh.

Q. *Have you had any experiences which appeared providential?*

A. None whatever. There is no agency of the superintending kind. A little
judicious observation as well as knowledge of scientific law will convince
any one of this fact.

Q. *What things work most strongly on your emotions?*

A. Lively songs and music; Pinafore instead of an Oratorio. I like Scott,
Burns, Byron, Longfellow, especially Shakespeare, etc., etc. Of songs, the
Star-spangled Banner, America, Marseillaise, and all moral and
soul-stirring songs, but wishy-washy hymns are my detestation. I greatly
enjoy nature, especially fine weather, and until within a few years used to
walk Sundays into the country, twelve miles often, with no fatigue, and
bicycle forty or fifty. I have dropped the bicycle. I never go to church,
but attend lectures when there are any good ones. All of my thoughts and
cogitations have been of a healthy and cheerful kind, for instead of doubts
and fears I see things as they are, for I endeavor to adjust myself to my
environment. This I regard as the deepest law. Mankind is a progressive
animal. I am satisfied he will have made a great advance over his present
status a thousand years hence.

Q. *What is your notion of sin?*

A. It seems to me that sin is a condition, a disease, incidental to man's
development not being yet advanced enough. Morbidness over it increases the
disease. We should think that a million of years hence equity, justice, and
mental and physical good order will be so fixed and organized that no one
will have any idea of evil or sin.

Q. *What is your temperament?*

A. Nervous, active, wide-awake, mentally and physically. Sorry that Nature
compels us to sleep at all.


If we are in search of a broken and a contrite heart, clearly we need not
look to this brother. His contentment with the finite incases him like a
lobster-shell and shields him from all morbid repining at his distance from
the Infinite. We have in him an excellent example of the optimism which may
be encouraged by popular science.

To my mind a current far more important and interesting religiously than
that which sets in from natural science towards healthy-mindedness is that
which has recently poured over America and seems to be gathering force
every day,--I am ignorant what foothold it may yet have acquired in Great
Britain,--and to which, for the sake of having a brief designation, I will
give the title of the 'Mind-cure movement.' There are various sects of this
'New Thought,' to use another of the names by which it calls itself; but
their agreements are so profound that their differences may be neglected
for my present purpose, and I will treat the movement, without apology, as
if it were a simple thing.

It is a deliberately optimistic scheme of life, with both a speculative and
a practical side. In its gradual development during the last quarter of a
century, it has taken up into itself a number of contributory elements, and
it must now be reckoned with as a genuine religious power. It has reached
the stage, for example, when the demand for its literature is great enough
for insincere stuff, mechanically produced for the market, to be to a
certain extent supplied by publishers,--a phenomenon never observed, I
imagine, until a religion has got well past its earliest insecure
beginning's.

One of the doctrinal sources of Mind-cure is the four Gospels; another is
Emersonianism or New England transcendentalism; another is Berkeleyan
idealism; another is spiritism, with its messages of 'law' and 'progress'
and 'development'; another the optimistic popular science evolutionism of
which I have recently spoken; and, finally, Hinduism has contributed a
strain. But the most characteristic feature of the mind-cure movement is an
inspiration much more direct. The leaders in this faith have had an
intuitive belief in the all-saving power of healthy-minded attitudes as
such, in the conquering efficacy of courage, hope, and trust, and a
correlative contempt for doubt, fear, worry, and all nervously
precautionary states of
mind.[13]<http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Varieties_of_Religious_Experience/Lectures_IV_%26_V#cite_note-13>Their
belief has in a general way been corroborated by the practical
experience of their disciples; and this experience forms to-day a mass
imposing in amount.

The blind have been made to see, the halt to walk; lifelong invalids have
had their health restored. The moral fruits have been no less remarkable.
The deliberate adoption of a healthy-minded attitude has proved possible to
many who never supposed they had it in them; regeneration of character has
gone on on an extensive scale; and cheerfulness has been restored to
countless homes. The indirect influence of this has been great. The
mind-cure principles are beginning so to pervade the air that one catches
their spirit at second-hand. One hears of the 'Gospel of Relaxation,' of
the 'Don't Worry Movement,' of people who repeat to themselves, 'Youth,
health, vigor!' when dressing in the morning, as their motto for the day.
Complaints of the weather are getting to be forbidden in many households;
and more and more people are recognizing it to be bad form to speak of
disagreeable sensations, or to make much of the ordinary inconveniences and
ailments of life. These general tonic effects on public opinion would be
good even if the more striking results were non-existent. But the latter
abound so that we can afford to overlook the innumerable failures and
self-deceptions that are mixed in with them (for in everything human
failure is a matter of course), and we can also overlook the verbiage of a
good deal of the mind-cure literature, some of which is so moonstruck with
optimism and so vaguely expressed that an academically trained intellect
finds it almost impossible to read it at all.

The plain fact remains that the spread of the movement has been due to
practical fruits, and the extremely practical turn of character of the
American people has never been better shown than by the fact that this,
their only decidedly original contribution to the systematic philosophy of
life, should be so intimately knit up with concrete therapeutics. To the
importance of mind-cure the medical and clerical professions in the United
States are beginning, though with much recalcitrancy and protesting, to
open their eyes. It is evidently bound to develop still farther, both
speculatively and practically, and its latest writers are far and away the
ablest of the group.[14]<http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Varieties_of_Religious_Experience/Lectures_IV_%26_V#cite_note-14>It
matters nothing that, just as there are hosts of persons who cannot
pray, so there are greater hosts who cannot by any possibility be
influenced by the mindcurers' ideas. For our immediate purpose, the
important point is that so large a number should exist who *can* be so
influenced. They form a psychic type to be studied with
respect.[15]<http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Varieties_of_Religious_Experience/Lectures_IV_%26_V#cite_note-p96-15>

To come now to a little closer quarters with their creed. The fundamental
pillar on which it rests is nothing more than the general basis of all
religious experience, the fact that man has a dual nature, and is connected
with two spheres of thought, a shallower and a profounder sphere, in either
of which he may learn to live more habitually. The shallower and lower
sphere is that of the fleshly sensations, instincts, and desires, of
egotism, doubt, and the lower personal interests. But whereas Christian
theology has always considered *frowardness* to be the essential vice of
this part of human nature, the mind-curers say that the mark of the beast
in it is *fear;* and this is what gives such an entirely new religious turn
to their persuasion.
"Fear," to quote a writer of the school, "has had its uses in the
evolutionary process, and seems to constitute the whole of forethought in
most animals; but that it should remain any part of the mental equipment of
human civilized life is an absurdity. I find that the fear element of
forethought is not stimulating to those more civilized persons to whom duty
and attraction are the natural motives, but is weakening and deterrent. As
soon as it becomes unnecessary, fear becomes a positive deterrent, and
should be entirely removed, as dead flesh is removed from living tissue. To
assist in the analysis of fear, and in the denunciation of its expressions,
I have coined the word *fearthought* to stand for the unprofitable element
of forethought, and have defined the word 'worry' as *fearthought in
contradistinction to forethought*. I have also defined fearthought as
the *self-imposed
or self-permitted suggestion of inferiority*, in order to place it where it
really belongs, in the category of harmful, unnecessary, and therefore not
respectable things."[16]<http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Varieties_of_Religious_Experience/Lectures_IV_%26_V#cite_note-16>

The 'misery-habit,' the 'martyr-habit,' engendered by the prevalent
'fearthought,' get pungent criticism from the mind-cure writers:--

"Consider for a moment the habits of life into which we are born. There are
certain social conventions or customs and alleged requirements, there is a
theological bias, a general view of the world. There are conservative ideas
in regard to our early training, our education, marriage, and occupation in
life. Following close upon this, there is a long series of anticipations,
namely, that we shall suffer certain children's diseases, diseases of
middle life, and of old age; the thought that we shall grow old, lose our
faculties, and again become childlike; while crowning all is the fear of
death. Then there is a long line of particular fears and trouble-bearing
expectations, such, for example, as ideas associated with certain articles
of food, the dread of the east wind, the terrors of hot weather, the aches
and pains associated with cold weather, the fear of catching cold if one
sits in a draught, the coming of hay-fever upon the 14th of August in the
middle of the day, and so on through a long list of fears, dreads,
worriments, anxieties, anticipations, expectations, pessimisms,
morbidities, and the whole ghostly train of fateful shapes which our
fellow-men, and especially physicians, are ready to help us conjure up, an
array worthy to rank with Bradley's 'unearthly ballet of bloodless
categories.'

"Yet this is not all. This vast array is swelled by innumerable volunteers
from daily life,--the fear of accident, the possibility of calamity, the
loss of property, the chance of robbery, of fire, or the outbreak of war.
And it is not deemed sufficient to fear for ourselves. When a friend is
taken ill, we must forthwith fear the worst and apprehend death. If one
meets with sorrow ... sympathy means to enter into and increase the
suffering."[17]<http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Varieties_of_Religious_Experience/Lectures_IV_%26_V#cite_note-17>

"Man," to quote another writer," often has fear stamped upon him before his
entrance into the outer world; he is reared in fear; all his life is passed
in bondage to fear of disease and death, and thus his whole mentality
becomes cramped, limited, and depressed, and his body follows its shrunken
pattern and specification. ... Think of the millions of sensitive and
responsive souls among our ancestors who have been under the dominion of
such a perpetual nightmare! Is it not surprising that health exists at all?
Nothing but the boundless divine love, exuberance, and vitality, constantly
poured in, even though unconsciously to us, could in some degree neutralize
such an ocean of
morbidity."[18]<http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Varieties_of_Religious_Experience/Lectures_IV_%26_V#cite_note-18>

Although the disciples of the mind-cure often use Christian terminology,
one sees from such quotations how widely their notion of the fall of man
diverges from that of ordinary
Christians.[19]<http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Varieties_of_Religious_Experience/Lectures_IV_%26_V#cite_note-19>

Their notion of man's higher nature is hardly less divergent, being
decidedly pantheistic. The spiritual in man appears in the mind-cure
philosophy as partly conscious, but chiefly subconscious; and through the
subconscious part of it we are already one with the Divine without any
miracle of grace, or abrupt creation of a new inner man. As this view is
variously expressed by different writers, we find in it traces of Christian
mysticism, of transcendental idealism, of vedantism, and of the modern
psychology of the subliminal self. A quotation or two will put us at the
central point of view:

"The great central fact of the universe is that spirit of infinite life and
power that is back of all, that manifests itself in and through all. This
spirit of infinite life and power that is back of all is what I call God. I
care not what term you may use, be it Kindly Light, Providence, the
Over-Soul, Omnipotence, or whatever term may be most convenient, so long as
we are agreed in regard to the great central fact itself. God then fills
the universe alone, so that all is from Him and in Him, and there is
nothing that is outside. He is the life of our life, our very life itself.
We are partakers of the life of God; and though we differ from Him in that
we are individualized spirits, while He is the Infinite Spirit, including
us, as well as all else beside, yet in essence the life of God and the life
of man are identically the same, and so are one. They differ not in essence
or quality; they differ in degree.

"The great central fact in human life is the coming into a conscious vital
realization of our oneness with this Infinite Life, and the opening of
ourselves fully to this divine inflow. In just the degree that we come into
a conscious realization of our oneness with the Infinite Life, and open
ourselves to this divine inflow, do we actualize in ourselves the qualities
and powers of the Infinite Life, do we make ourselves channels through
which the Infinite Intelligence and Power can work. In just the degree in
which you realize your oneness with the Infinite Spirit, you will exchange
dis-ease for ease, in harmony for harmony, suffering and pain for abounding
health and strength. To recognize our own divinity, and our intimate
relation to the Universal, is to attach the belts of our machinery to the
powerhouse of the Universe. One need remain in hell no longer than one
chooses to; we can rise to any heaven we ourselves choose; and when we
choose so to rise, all the higher powers of the Universe combine to help us
heavenward."[20]<http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Varieties_of_Religious_Experience/Lectures_IV_%26_V#cite_note-20>

Let me now pass from these abstracter statements to some more concrete
accounts of experience with the mind-cure religion. I have many answers
from correspondents--the only difficulty is to choose. The first two whom I
shall quote are my personal friends. One of them, a woman, writing as
follows, expresses well the feeling of continuity with the Infinite Power,
by which all mind-cure disciples are inspired.

"The first underlying cause of all sickness, weakness, or depression
is the *human
sense of separateness* from that Divine Energy which we call God. The soul
which can feel and affirm in serene but jubilant confidence, as did the
Nazarene: 'I and my Father are one,' has no further need of healer, or of
healing. This is the whole truth in a nutshell, and other foundation for
wholeness can no man lay than this fact of impregnable divine union.
Disease can no longer attack one whose feet are planted on this rock, who
feels hourly, momently, the influx of the Deific Breath. If one with
Omnipotence, how can weariness enter the consciousness, how illness assail
that indomitable spark?

"This possibility of annulling forever the law of fatigue has been
abundantly proven in my own case; for my earlier life bears a record of
many, many years of bedridden invalidism, with spine and lower limbs
paralyzed. My thoughts were no more impure than they are to-day, although
my belief in the necessity of illness was dense and unenlightened; but
since my resurrection in the flesh, I have worked as a healer unceasingly
for fourteen years without a vacation, and can truthfully assert that I
have never known a moment of fatigue or pain, although coming in touch
constantly with excessive weakness, illness, and disease of all kinds. For
how can a conscious part of Deity be sick?--since 'Greater is he that is
*with* us than all that can strive against us.'"

My second correspondent, also a woman, sends me the following statement:--

"Life seemed difficult to me at one time. I was always breaking down, and
had several attacks of what is called nervous prostration, with terrible
insomnia, being on the verge of insanity; besides having many other
troubles, especially of the digestive organs. I had been sent away from
home in charge of doctors, had taken all the narcotics, stopped all work,
been fed up, and in fact knew all the doctors within reach. But I never
recovered permanently till this New Thought took possession of me.

"I think that the one thing which impressed me most was learning the fact
that we must be in absolutely constant relation or mental touch (this word
is to me very expressive) with that essence of life which permeates all and
which we call God. This is almost unrecognizable unless we live it into
ourselves *actually*, that is, by a constant turning to the very innermost,
deepest consciousness of our real selves or of God in us, for illumination
from within, just as we turn to the sun for light, warmth, and invigoration
without. When you do this consciously, realizing that to turn inward to the
light within you is to live in the presence of God or your divine self, you
soon discover the unreality of the objects to which you have hitherto been
turning and which have engrossed you without.

"I have come to disregard the meaning of this attitude for bodily health *as
such*, because that comes of itself, as an incidental result, and cannot be
found by any special mental act or desire to have it, beyond that general
attitude of mind I have referred to above. That which we usually make the
object of life, those outer things we are all so wildly seeking, which we
so often live and die for, but which then do not give us peace and
happiness, they should all come of themselves as accessory, and as the mere
outcome or natural result of a far higher life sunk deep in the bosom of
the spirit. This life is the real seeking of the kingdom of God, the desire
for his supremacy in our hearts, so that all else comes as that which shall
be 'added unto you'--as quite incidental and as a surprise to us, perhaps;
and yet it is the proof of the reality of the perfect poise in the very
centre of our being.

"When I say that we commonly make the object of our life that which we
should not work for primarily, I mean many things which the world considers
praiseworthy and excellent, such as success in business, fame as author or
artist, physician or lawyer, or renown in philanthropic undertakings. Such
things should be results, not objects. I would also include pleasures of
many kinds which seem harmless and good at the time, and are pursued
because many accept them--I mean conventionalities, sociabilities, and
fashions in their various development, these being mostly approved by the
masses, although they may be unreal, and even unhealthy superfluities."

Here is another case, more concrete, also that of a woman. I read you these
cases without comment, they express so many varieties of the state of mind
we are studying.

"I had been a sufferer from my childhood till my fortieth year. [Details of
ill-health are given which I omit.] I had been in Vermont several months
hoping for good from the change of air, but steadily growing weaker, when
one day during the latter part of October, while resting in the afternoon,
I suddenly heard as it were these words: 'You will be healed and do a work
you never dreamed of.' These words were impressed upon my mind with such
power I said at once that only God could have put them there. I believed
them in spite of myself and of my suffering and weakness, which continued
until Christmas, when I returned to Boston. Within two days a young friend
offered to take me to a mental healer (this was January 7, 1881). The
healer said: 'There is nothing but Mind; we are expressions of the One
Mind; body is only a mortal belief; as a man thinketh so is he.' I could
not accept all she said, but I translated all that was there for *me* in
this way: 'There is nothing but God; I am created by Him, and am absolutely
dependent upon Him; mind is given me to use; and by just so much of it as I
will put upon the thought of right action in body I shall be lifted out of
bondage to my ignorance and fear and past experience.' That day I commenced
accordingly to take a little of every food provided for the family,
constantly saying to myself: 'The Power that created the stomach must take
care of what I have eaten.' By holding these suggestions through the
evening I went to bed and fell asleep, saying: 'I am soul, spirit, just one
with God's Thought of me,' and slept all night without waking, for the
first time in several years [the distress-turns had usually recurred about
two o'clock in the night]. I felt the next day like an escaped prisoner,
and believed I had found the secret that would in time give me perfect
health. Within ten days I was able to eat anything provided for others, and
after two weeks I began to have my own positive mental suggestions of
Truth, which were to me like stepping-stones. I will note a few of them;
they came about two weeks apart.

"1st. I am Soul, therefore it is well with me.

"2d. I am Soul, therefore I *am* well.

"3d. A sort of inner vision of myself as a four-footed beast with a
protuberance on every part of my body where I had suffering, with my own
face, begging me to acknowledge it as myself. I resolutely fixed my
attention on being well, and refused to even look at my old self in this
form.

"4th. Again the vision of the beast far in the background, with faint
voice. Again refusal to acknowledge.

"5th. Once more the vision, but only of my eyes with the longing look; and
again the refusal. Then came the conviction, the inner consciousness, that
I was perfectly well and always had been, for I was Soul, an expression of
God's Perfect Thought. That was to me the perfect and completed separation
between what I was and what I appeared to be. I succeeded in never losing
sight after this of my real being, by constantly affirming this truth, and
by degrees (though it took me two years of hard work to get there) *I
expressed health continuously throughout my whole body*.

"In my subsequent nineteen years' experience I have never known this Truth
to fail when I applied it, though in my ignorance I have often failed to
apply it, but through my failures I have learned the simplicity and
trustfulness of the little child."

But I fear that I risk tiring you by so many examples, and I must lead you
back to philosophic generalities again. You see already by such records of
experience how impossible it is not to class mind-cure as primarily a
religious movement. Its doctrine of the oneness of our life with God's life
is in fact quite indistinguishable from an interpretation of Christ's
message which in these very Gifford lectures has been defended by some of
your very ablest Scottish religious
philosophers.[21]<http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Varieties_of_Religious_Experience/Lectures_IV_%26_V#cite_note-p105-21>

But philosophers usually profess to give a quasi-logical explanation of the
existence of evil, whereas of the general fact of evil in the world, the
existence of the selfish, suffering, timorous finite consciousness, the
mind-curers, so far as I am acquainted with them, profess to give no
speculative explanation. Evil is empirically there for them as it is for
everybody, but the practical point of view predominates, and it would ill
agree with the spirit of their system to spend time in worrying over it as
a 'mystery' or 'problem,' or in 'laying to heart' the lesson of its
experience, after the manner of the Evangelicals. Don't reason about it, as
Dante says, but give a glance and pass beyond! It is Avidhya, ignorance!
something merely to be outgrown and left behind, transcended and forgotten.
Christian Science so-called, the sect of Mrs. Eddy, is the most radical
branch of mind-cure in its dealings with evil. For it evil is simply a *lie*,
and any one who mentions it is a liar. The optimistic ideal of duty forbids
us to pay it the compliment even of explicit attention. Of course, as our
next lectures will show us, this is a bad speculative omission, but it is
intimately linked with the practical merits of the system we are examining.
Why regret a philosophy of evil, a mind-curer would ask us, if I can put
you in possession of a life of good?

After all, it is the life that tells; and mind-cure has developed a living
system of mental hygiene which may well claim to have thrown all previous
literature of the *Diätetik der Seele* into the shade. This system is
wholly and exclusively compacted of optimism: 'Pessimism leads to weakness.
Optimism leads to power.' 'Thoughts are things,' as one of the most
vigorous mind-cure writers prints in bold type at the bottom of each of his
pages; and if your thoughts are of health, youth, vigor, and success,
before you know it these things will also be your outward portion. No one
can fail of the regenerative influence of optimistic thinking,
pertinaciously pursued. Every man owns indefeasibly this inlet to the
divine. Fear, on the contrary, and all the contracted and egoistic modes of
thought, are inlets to destruction. Most mind-curers here bring in a
doctrine that thoughts are 'forces,' and that, by virtue of a law that like
attracts like, one man's thoughts draw to themselves as allies all the
thoughts of the same character that exist the world over. Thus one gets, by
one's thinking, reinforcements from elsewhere for the realization of one's
desires; and the great point in the conduct of life is to get the heavenly
forces on one's side by opening one's own mind to their influx.

On the whole, one is struck by a psychological similarity between the
mind-cure movement and the Lutheran and Wesleyan movements. To the believer
in moralism and works, with his anxious query, 'What shall I do to be
saved?' Luther and Wesley replied: 'You are saved now, if you would but
believe it.' And the mind-curers come with precisely similar words of
emancipation. They speak, it is true, to persons for whom the conception of
salvation has lost its ancient theological meaning, but who labor
nevertheless with the same eternal human difficulty. *Things are wrong with
them;* and 'What shall I do to be clear, right, sound, whole, well?' is the
form of their question. And the answer is: 'You are well, sound, and clear
already, if you did but know it.'" The whole matter may be summed up in one
sentence," says one of the authors whom I have already quoted, "*God is
well, and so are you*. You must awaken to the knowledge of your real being."

The adequacy of their message to the mental needs of a large fraction of
mankind is what gave force to those earlier gospels. Exactly the same
adequacy holds in the case of the mind-cure message, foolish as it may
sound upon its surface; and seeing its rapid growth in influence, and its
therapeutic triumphs, one is tempted to ask whether it may not be destined
(probably by very reason of the crudity and extravagance of many of its
manifestations[22]<http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Varieties_of_Religious_Experience/Lectures_IV_%26_V#cite_note-22>)
to play a part almost as great in the evolution of the popular religion of
the future as did those earlier movements in their day.


But I here fear that I may begin to 'jar upon the nerves' of some of the
members of this academic audience. Such contemporary vagaries, you may
think, should hardly take so large a place in dignified Gifford lectures. I
can only beseech you to have patience. The whole outcome of these lectures
will, I imagine, be the emphasizing to your mind of the enormous
diversities which the spiritual lives of different men exhibit. Their
wants, their susceptibilities, and their capacities all vary and must be
classed under different heads. The result is that we have really different
types of religious experience; and, seeking in these lectures closer
acquaintance with the healthy-minded type, we must take it where we find it
in most radical form. The psychology of individual types of character has
hardly begun even to be sketched as yet--our lectures may possibly serve as
a crumb-like contribution to the structure. The first thing to bear in mind
(especially if we ourselves belong to the clerico-academic-scientific type,
the officially and conventionally 'correct' type, 'the deadly respectable'
type, for which to ignore others is a besetting temptation) is that nothing
can be more stupid than to bar out phenomena from our notice, merely
because we are incapable of taking part in anything like them ourselves.

Now the history of Lutheran salvation by faith, of methodistic conversions,
and of what I call the mind-cure movement seems to prove the existence of
numerous persons in whom--at any rate at a certain stage in their
development--a change of character for the better, so far from being
facilitated by the rules laid down by official moralists, will take place
all the more successfully if those rules be exactly reversed. Official
moralists advise us never to relax our strenuousness. "Be vigilant, day and
night," they adjure us; "hold your passive tendencies in check; shrink from
no effort; keep your will like a bow always bent." But the persons I speak
of find that all this conscious effort leads to nothing but failure and
vexation in their hands, and only makes them two-fold more the children of
hell they were before. The tense and voluntary attitude becomes in them an
impossible fever and torment. Their machinery refuses to run at all when
the bearings are made so hot and the belts are so tightened.

Under these circumstances the way to success, as vouched for by innumerable
authentic personal narrations, is by an anti-moralistic method, by the
'surrender' of which I spoke in my second lecture. Passivity, not activity;
relaxation, not intentness, should be now the rule. Give up the feeling of
responsibility, let go your hold, resign the care of your destiny to higher
powers, be genuinely indifferent as to what becomes of it all, and you will
find not only that you gain a perfect inward relief, but often also, in
addition, the particular goods you sincerely thought you were renouncing.
This is the salvation through self-despair, the dying to be truly born, of
Lutheran theology, the passage into *nothing* of which Jacob Behmen writes.
To get to it, a critical point must usually be passed, a corner turned
within one. Something must give way, a native hardness must break down and
liquefy; and this event (as we shall abundantly see hereafter) is
frequently sudden and automatic, and leaves on the Subject an impression
that he has been wrought on by an external power.

Whatever its ultimate significance may prove to be, this is certainly one
fundamental form of human experience. Some say that the capacity or
incapacity for it is what divides the religious from the merely moralistic
character. With those who undergo it in its fullness, no criticism avails
to cast doubt on its reality. They *know;* for they have actually
*felt*the higher powers, in giving up the tension of their personal
will.

A story which revivalist preachers often tell is that of a man who found
himself at night slipping down the side of a precipice. At last he caught a
branch which stopped his fall, and remained clinging to it in misery for
hours. But finally his fingers had to loose their hold, and with a
despairing farewell to life, he let himself drop. He fell just six inches.
If he had given up the struggle earlier, his agony would have been spared.
As the mother earth received him, so, the preachers tell us, will the
everlasting arms receive *us* if we confide absolutely in them, and give up
the hereditary habit of relying on our personal strength, with its
precautions that cannot shelter and safeguards that never save.

The mind-curers have given the widest scope to this sort of experience.
They have demonstrated that a form of regeneration by relaxing, by letting
go, psychologically indistinguishable from the Lutheran justification by
faith and the Wesleyan acceptance of free grace, is within the reach of
persons who have no conviction of sin and care nothing for the Lutheran
theology. It is but giving your little private convulsive self a rest, and
finding that a greater Self is there. The results, slow or sudden, or great
or small, of the combined optimism and expectancy, the regenerative
phenomena which ensue on the abandonment of effort, remain firm facts of
human nature, no matter whether we adopt a theistic, a
pantheistic-idealistic, or a medical-materialistic view of their ultimate
causal explanation.[23]<http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Varieties_of_Religious_Experience/Lectures_IV_%26_V#cite_note-p111-23>


-- 
-Eric
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