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ii8 The Value of Religious Facts

trust. But the issue is how these terms
correspond to inner processes, or how
the objects correspond to inner pro-
cesses, which could have definite mean-
ing to us. When we speak of national
feeling, one must feel that it corre-
sponds to something definite in us.
And this is absolutely necessary in
practical life and also in science, if it is
to have any value to us. The value is
real to us only so far as we compare the
imagined inner process with an experi-
ence which has been a part of our own
inner life.

If there is a difficulty, it is because
of the richness of the feelings which
are active in us. When we speak of
national feeling it means a most com-
plicated inner state. The remembrance
of what the United States has repre-
sented hitherto in the history of civic
equality and of popular education, the



The Values and the Standard 119'

memory of Washington, of Hawthorne,
of Sumner, the thought of the intel-
lectual and aesthetic and poHtical de-
gradation of masses of our citizens and
of the present efforts to humanize them,
the knowledge of the mistrust of our
motives with regard to Cuba and the
Philippines, and hundreds of other in-
tense experiences — all this, in clear,
individual expression is what our na-
tional feeling might mean to-day.

Are we, then, to call all this into con-
sciousness in order to complete the
conception of patriotic feeling ? Cer-
tainly not, for when our own patriotism
is immediately present, all the actual
situation, upon which the feeling de-
pends, need not be present. We
abstract from the whole list certain
aspects which are in more direct rela-
tion to a hypothetical, typically ex-
pressed situation and fix them in our



I20 The Value of Relio^ious Facts



&'



consciousness. We imagine how we
should react, if the nation were insulted
by foreigners, or if there ever should
be real need of a war.

In this hypothetical experience we
can construct the inner processes for
each one of these situations. And
after abstraction of details, the inner
process which is called patriotism is
still present to us in definite shape.

This is very far from being a general
conception of natural science. It is a
conception for comparison for the pur-
pose of understanding a foreign ex-
perience. We can thus measure the
patriotism of a German, for example,
by a comparison with this conception
which is abstracted from our own pa-
triotism. This patriotism of his is
bound up with a mass of historical, and
therefore individual, attitudes. This
historical aspect I can imagine, but



The Values and the Standard 121

cannot keep present in consciousness
except in fragments.

We are limited then to fixing in some
form an outline of our own national
feeling, and then, later, to make clear
by comparison the difference of the
German's in certain definite situations,
to discover how, under the same cir-
cumstances, my patriotism, similar
though it be, would react in a different
manner, or how, under the same condi-
tions in which I actually am, or in
which I imagine myself, the patriotism
of the German would react differently
from mine.

This conception of comparison indi-
cates how the inner process of another
may be hypothetically repeated in my-
self upon the basis of my own inner
processes. It makes inner life, which
is strange to us knowable, by giving us
a clue by which we may hypothetically



122 The Value of Religious Facts

live ourselves into the same. This
clue, a definite inner process of our
own, is the foundation for our repeti-
tion of the process strange to us.

This foundation, however, in case of
exact hypothetical repetition of the
strange life, must be modified in differ-
ent single features.

In daily life we use quantities of con-
ceptions of comparison of just this
kind. They rise into our minds in
countless numbers whenever we read a
historical book. We take up the first
book before our eyes and we read in
Bismdirck' s A zitodtograpkjy of his annoy-
ance and indignation at Gortschakow's
forcing him to pay for the numerous
telegrams from the Russian Foreign
Ofifice. A mass of conceptions of com-
parison break out within us as we recall
similar vivid inner states when we our-
selves were in other lands.



The Values and the Standard 123

If, now, we apply this result to two
cases in religious history into whose
inner Hfe we wish to penetrate, it will
be necessary for us to revivify the
memory of those inner experiences of
our own which are most like theirs,
and we must reproduce these pro-
cesses in more or less modified form
with regard to each one of the re-
ligions.

Or, in general terms, we may say:
in natural science the inductive method
aims at forming a connection between
many facts or occurrences by proving
that calculable relations of quantity
prevail between them, which relations
reoccur in many other cases ; but in the
science of religion, induction is com-
pelled to make a connection between
many other cases by arranging those
which are similar with regard to a con-
ception of comparison, as clearly de-



124 The Value of Religious Facts

fined as is possible by hypothetical
repetition.

Proceeding now with this inductive
method to religion as a whole, we com-
pare the common traits of all religions.

We fix, by means of a standard of
comparison or a group of standards,
such an inner state of our own or our
hypothetical experiences, from which
we may start when we wish to put our-
selves in the spirit of any other religion.

Suppose we start with a conception
of religion as an inner experience in
which the struggle for life, in face of
impassable limits, strives to find satis-
faction with the help of a power which
gives the highest good. What would
be the meaning of this conception ?
So far as it has any religious meaning
it must take a personal form. If it is
to help me to reach the religious atti-
tude of any strange religion, the strug-



The Values and the Standard 125

gle must be felt as my own struggle,
the life must be one with a definite
series of incidents for me, the limits
must be thought as barriers to my own
efforts, the satisfaction must be attained
by the thought of a causality which re-
veals the highest happiness within my
own self.

In all these inner experiences the
experience is individual, and bound up
with personal feelings of self. But the
connection of such experiences with the
individual self is by no means common
to all religions. In many of them per-
sonal feelings are repressed so far as
possible, even to the point of exter-
mination. The feeling of limitation
then would have a decidedly different
meaning. In fact all the inner pro-
cesses which have been mentioned
would have different bearings in other
religions.



126 The Value of Religious Facts

Hence, when we try to penetrate
into the will-attitudes of another re-
ligion, it cannot be by a single re-
production of our own individual
experience, but by a comparison of
the individual qualities of the religious
processes which we are trying to under-
stand. Suppose it be granted that such
a method gives precision and vividness
to our understanding of other religions.
Would the objection be valid that it is
a good practical procedure, but undis-
ciplined and therefore unscientific ?

Would not a scientific method consist
just in this, that it omits the individual
aspects of one's own experience which
have been obtained by standards of
comparison such as are in daily use,
and that it reproduces whatever in our
own experience remains ? We should
make use of the conception of com-
parison by reducing it to what is the



The Values and the Standard 127

same in the different cases with which
it is compared. This would be a re-
turn, as a matter of principle, to the
ideal of the general conceptions of
natural science.

It must certainly be admitted that
forms of psychical life are the same in
all men, although developed in differ-
ent degrees of fineness. The convic-
tion that the race is a psychical unity
leads us to this conclusion, and also
the fact that it is impossible to make
the inner lives of other men compre-
hensible on any other supposition.
Further than this, we do as a matter
of experience understand the lives of
other men upon the basis of this as-
sumption.

Wherever the inner processes, which
we define in our conceptions of com-
parison, are those sensations, emotions,
and efforts which arise out of the im-



128 The Value of Religious Facts

pressions of the external world upon
our bodily organism, we may assume
an identity between the kind of these
inner processes in others and in our-
selves. When we feel thirst or hunger,
and cold or heat, we need not hav^e
conscientious doubts whether others
feel as we do under similar bodily con-
ditions. There are then tracts of inner
life, which so far as they concern con-
ceptions of comparison, may be treated
as identical, as much so as if we com-
pare them by rules of natural science,
with the only exception that we start
from our own experience.

Whenever, however, we enter those
inner experiences which are the life of
the real subject, his desires, his wishes,
his purposes, his reflections, his deci-
sions, his enthusiasms, his pleasures
and pains, his joys and hopes and ex-
pectations, his attentions and imagina-



The Values and the Standard 129

tions, all that affects his self, all that
brings him into intercourse with other
men, the whole situation changes.

This life is history, a gradually un-
folding quantity of relations of inner
lives. The share in this life is propor-
tional to the richness of the individual
inner life in its reactions upon the
multitude of impressions from other in-
dividuals. Here conceptions of compar-
ison are constantly arising in order to
estimate the individual qualities of the
unexplored inner lives of other persons.

If we approach that activity of the
inner life which is religious, the indi-
vidual attitudes become enormous and
the conceptions of comparison indefi-
nitely great. There are such extreme
discrepancies from our own attitude as
the Buddhist with his renunciation of
individual desire, or as the believer

in priestly authority who believes in
9



130 The Value of Religious Facts

gods because of confidence in other
men's conceptions of comparison. Con-
ceivably, one might rule that these are
not strictly religions, as natural science
rejects from a certain group all phe-
nomena which do not conform to the
laws which prevail in that group. But
what would be the gain ? Are not all
other religions full of individual points
of view ? And if these be eliminated,
what would be left ? The alternative
would then be either sharply to define
each religion, giving it its individual
values, which are far from coinciding
with the values of other religions, or to
allow the conception of comparison
to become so vague that it becomes
worthless. There is then no possibility
in the comparison of religions, so to
arrange the conception of comparison
that it contains only what is everywhere
identical.



The Values and the Standard 131

One possible evasion of the difficulty
there might be. The confusion might
be thought to come from the complex-
ity of the conception of comparison,
due to the highly organized character
of our own inner processes. Might
the method be more successful if we
substitute for our own experience an
experience as simple as that of the
Indian of the Vedic period, who joy-
fully entreats Varuna for the dark rain
and promises in return the sacrifice ?

The scale would start with the most
elementary form and progress from a
fixed historical point. But is it so sure
that, because these religions are the
simplest, they would be comparable in
all respects to intricate forms ? Would
there not be individual aspects of the
desire for life, of trust, and of the
other subjective attitudes, which would
differentiate them from any other re-



132 The Value of Religious Facts

ligions ? Would there be any use for a
conception of comparison ?

Definite objections prevent the use
of rudimentary religions as standards of
comparison. It would be by no means
easy to make completely clear the
peculiar inner processes of such a re-
ligion, just because our life is so far
more intense and reflective and so more
extended in its causes and effects. Be-
fore such could be a standard it would
itself need to be explained. Another
objection is the difificulty of deciding
upon any one particular religion when
once one's own is discarded. One
fixes upon the Vedas, another upon
the Sumerian, a third upon the Bantus
and their fetishes, or upon the totem-
ists as the simplest form.

In any case, then, there would be
disagreement about the particular con-
ception of comparison which would be



The Values and the Standard 133

applied. But this difficulty is common
to all sciences which treat of will-atti-
tudes in any but purely psychological
terms. If these conceptions lead us to
inner processes which we ourselves ex-
perience, the contents will differ in
proportion to the varying complexity
and varying depth of the inner life.

We take up a book of subtle insight
like Maurice Maeterlinck's La Sagesse
et la Destm^e and try to interpret what
he means by " bonte'" or " douleur.'*
We are sure that the inner life which
these words symbolize is of different
quality from any that most of us have
felt with any permanence or intensity.
And all the wealth of our own life and
of our share in others' lives does not
exhaust the full significance of the
words. The conception of comparison
betrays its variability. This uncer-
tainty is never completely destroyed.



134 The Value of Religious Facts

One can only expect a certain unity of
conceptions of comparison, by which
we make our inner life intelligible to
others, among persons of similar edu-
cation, who are in active exchange
of mental products. However, not
only compulsory intercourse, but the
thought that there are standards for
the inner life which are valid for all
men, equalizes differences of training
and therefore differences of concep-
tions. Not satisfied with the fact
that a certain unity has established
itself among men, we ask what is the
right life, the normal life, the perfect
life. It need not here be inquired
to what extent the thought of uni-
versal standards controls men, and
to what extent within human life a
region remains where individual in-
clination and the power of natural im-
pulses is supreme, and where universal



The Values and the Standard 135

standards have no authority. It is
enough to state that standards actually
control a wide territory among men,
that moral standards are recognized
without exceptions and enforced to the
point of the penalty of death, that the
sense of beauty is opposed to individual
peculiarities of taste, and that true
knowledge is contrasted with perver-
sions of fact.

Likewise in the religious life the con-
viction prevails that one form of re-
ligion must be the true, the right, the
beautiful, and that this religion should
be contrasted with others. Whatever
be said of the right of these convictions
to existence, they are certainly useful to
procure unified conceptions of com-
parison.

If there are standards which are valid
for the inner life, recognized as normal
in great tracts of human society, they



136 The Value of Religious Facts

are more fit than the wavering state of
actual opinion to be applied as the
criteria of the different concrete cases.

Instead then of adopting any kind of
an elementary religion, or the present
state of our own religious life, which in
its imperfection often appears to our-
selves as foreign, we choose as our point
of departure that form of religious life
which, according to our own convic-
tion, is normal, and which we are striv-
ing to make real in our own inner life.

Thus we free ourselves from the aim-
lessness and futility of the conception
of comparison, and we express in the
clearest possible outlines a standard of
comparison. From this point we pro-
ceed to understand the forms which
differ from it, and we proceed to give
to the facts their values. In this way
religions may be arranged in a scale.
And their rank in this scale would be



The Values and the Standard 137

determined by the answer to this ques-
tion : are the characteristics of the
standard religion clear and controlling
in the single religions ?

This conclusion that religions are
comparable with reference to their
agreement to a norm will be met with
distrust from more than one side. One
might fear that the concrete religions
would be stripped of their historical
character and trimmed down to normal
abstractions. But rather the contrary
is the case. The thought that the
characteristics of the normal religion
are nowhere present in equal comple-
tion, purity, clearness, and force would
tend to emphasize the peculiarities and
lay bare all the individual imperfections.
A general concept of science would be
far more likely to ignore or violate
historical facts.

Another objection is weightier : that,



138 The Value of Religious Facts

since the standard rehgion is the com-
plete religion of our own conviction,
we should substitute the Christian re-
ligion. But certainly a part only of
students of religion believe that the
Christian religion is the complete re-
ligion. Many representatives of the
science of religion substitute some
modern religion, or, like Renan, some
individual sesthetical revelling in subtle
thoughts as the perfect faith. The
scale of values is changed, and univer-
sality, the mark of science, lost. But
that need be no ground for despair of
success in coming to an understanding.
As the Christian religion frees itself
from accretions and increases its inten-
sifying of the moral life, more serious
persons will submit to its influence than
ever. And the admission that it is the
complete religion may also come from
those outside its life, who hypotheti-



The Values and the Standard 139

cally live themselves into it. And, in
the second place, even if there be con-
flicts with regard to the standard, there
may be common scientific work with
those from whom we dissent. In spite
even of conflict we may learn from
each other. I may compare their con-
ception of complete rehgion with mine ;
I may appropriate their results and in-
terpret them into my own language. I
can calculate how the relative position
of certain points from one point of
view seems to change when a point
at a distance is taken by another ob-
server. The procedure becomes ex-
tremely complicated. But, after all, is
it so very uncommon ? Does it not
happen whenever we read with insight
a book written by one from whom we
differ or by one into whose attitude
towards life we must project our im-
agination ? The task becomes easier



140 The Value of Religious Facts

then in proportion as each one speaks
out clearly and describes the stand-
ard towards which he himself is work-
ing.

In spite of these objections, then,
one may insist upon ranking religions
in conformity to a conception of a
normal religion. The object of the
science is the religious life of human-
ity. Religious science shares in all the
difficulties and all the dignities of the
other normative sciences.

A classification of human knowledge
with references to these sciences might
make the result which we have reached
more clear. The first group would
consist of all sciences which consider
events in time and space, in measuring
size, duration, position, and degree, in
discovering causal relations which may
be described in definite numerical quan-
tities. By the establishment of such



The Values and the Standard 141

laws we make our world into a scien-
tifically measurable world.

A second group would discover yet
other laws beside causal laws, laws
which rearrange facts with reference to
the adjustment of parts to a whole.
Every whole is regarded as an end to
which a series of events works together.
Events are classed in so far as they aid
or obstruct this end. When this con-
ception of purpose is applied to nature
the whole arouses not only our desire
for knowledge but our interest and
sympathy. We rearrange nature with
reference to our own interests.

A third group brings us to the inner
life wherein we take attitudes towards
all that is causal or suited to a purpose.
We compare the endless variety with
our own self. We judge each detail
with reference to a standard higher
than ourselves. All the countless ob-



142 The Value of Religious Facts

jects which mankind in the course of
history has found to be of worth, we
ourselves estimate with regard to what
we deem precious for our own life.
From the higher point of view we judge
them with reference to the standards
by which we decide what the complete
inner life must be which ought to be
realized concretely among men. Thus
we attain to a scale for human values.

It is a special case of this last class
when we measure the different histori-
cal forms of religious life by compari-
son with that which belongs to normal
religious life, or, more accurately, with
that which, in our conviction, is char-
acteristic of the full, harmonious re-
ligious life.

If this method be applied in the
science of religion it ought not to seem
a strange procedure. We are perfectly
familiar with it in popular usage. Out



The Values and the Standard 143

of what we know of religious life in
our own experience we decide what in
the life of humanity deserves this
name, and this we never succeed in
doing unless we make some kind of
a scale.

If it be objected that this popular
method should be discouraged and re-
pressed and that religious science must
give up any attempt to work with ar-
rangements of a normal kind, the an-
swer is that there is a science which,
by nearly universal acknowledgment,
must proceed in the same way, — the
science of ethics. One could scarcely
maintain that one ought to construct a
general conception of morality, to be
obtained by induction, which should
combine the common factors out of the
chaos of moral intuitions of different
times and races. If, however, it be
asked, what is the characteristic of



144 The Value of Religious Facts

morality as the result of the normative
method, the answer is more clear. The
conviction that there is a law for willing
and acting and the acknowledgment of
its unconditional validity would be the
mark of moral life. And inner pro-
cesses which submit to this law become
moral facts. With the thought of such
a rule of action, known to us in our
own inner life, which we acknowledge,
not to obtain satisfaction of our im-
pulses and inclinations, but to subject
our life to a law of obligation, we ven-
ture into the confusion of the history
of morals. We cannot expect to find
this thought clear and distinct in all
periods of history. It is concealed or
polluted by thoughts of other laws, by
threats of punishment, by custom, by
loss of social popularity. And the
feelings which accompany the thought
of the law, guilt, shame, remorse, ex-



The Values and the Standard 145

altation, are rarely found unmixed with
other feelings.

But the moral thought does free Itself
from the competing thoughts, and the
moral feelings do conflict with hostile
feelings ; and whenever we find volun-
tary subjection to a law loftier than
mere balancing of pleasures, we may
speak of morality. Whenever this is
the case, a scale of historical morals may
be made.

If this method be applied to re-
ligions, or rather to a particular religion
as normal, must not all the character-
istics of that religious life be included
in the conception of the norm ? Would
it not otherwise be emptied or crippled ?
Would not the thought of the normal
religion become lost in indefiniteness ?
Would not one, after all, be forced to
return to an induction of different re-
ligious beliefs ?



146 The Value of Religious Facts

This latter, certainly, would not be
a successful method in the comparison
of morals. If we assume that Christian
or Greek morality is that which we have
made our own ideal, one would not de-
scribe details. Rather one limits one's
self to a few characteristics, or even to
one which gives it its distinction over
other systems. And this might be
found by an analysis of our conception
of the normal moral life, an analysis


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Online LibraryJames Haughton WoodsThe value of religious facts; a study of some aspects of the science of religion → online text (page 5 of 6)