William Ralph Inge.

Faith and its psychology online

. (page 17 of 21)
Online LibraryWilliam Ralph IngeFaith and its psychology → online text (page 17 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


194 FAITH |CH.

escape from this law of his being by denying that there is
an Absolute. The opponent of absolutism generally sets
up an absolute of his own without knowing it : Kant
deifies the moral sense, Schopenhauer the irrational will,
Hartmann the unconscious, Spencer the unknowable.
Even the principle of relativity becomes, with some of
its advocates, a kind of absolute.

I must not anticipate the subject of my last lecture,
which will be devoted to showing how our conflicting
ideals may, as I think, be reconciled. But I wish to con-
sider rather more fully one or two of the reasons which
have put intellectualism out of fashion.

A consideration which weighs heavily with many
thinkers is connected with the conception of change. I
have already quoted the Modernists on this point. Scho-
lastic theology opposed the unchangeableness of the Deity
to the mutability of the world. But is an absolutely un-
changing ground of continuous change thinkable ? And
if in the real world in the mind of God there is no change,
what is the use of the time-process ? If nothing is ulti-
mately real but general laws, universals, which are merely
illustrated by happenings in time, is not the world a useless
and irrational thing ? Sub specie aeternitatis, the goal is
already attained ; sub specie temporis, it is unattainable.
Whichever way we look at it, activity seems to be useless.
In the universe of the intellectualist, they say, nothing
ever really happens. The eternal laws of God are eluci-
dated in a million concrete instances ; but why is all
this illustration necessary ? Is it a worthy occupation
for the Deity to be perpetually setting Himself easy
sums, of which he knows the answer beforehand ? Are
we to imagine Him playing an unending succession of
games of patience by Himself ? Does the order of the
time-series mean nothing ? Might it Just as well be read
backwards, like a reversed cinematograph ? Intellectual-
ism gives us a static universe ; and a static universe,


though not unthinkable, is absurd. Beings, such as God
has made us, claim to live in a world where things really
happen, where their energies really count for something
and determine something. And if this claim is conceded,
the static-intellectualist conception of reality must give
way. This claim is made not only in the interests of free-
will and morality, but of the rationality of the cosmos.

The difficulty about change and immutability has been
recognised by the clearer thinkers among the old philo-
sophers, but has been often forgotten by others who are
attracted by the idea of changeless being. Mere flux and
mere stationariness are both absurd, and neither can be
predicated of reality. The old notion of substance as the
unchanging substratum of change gives us no help. Reality
must somehow transcend the opposition of a-rao-is and
Aristotle tried to do this in his conception of
For him fvtpytia is a higher conception than : it is the actual functioning of a substance whose
real nature is only so revealed. He says that Kivrja-is is
imperfect ei/epyeia. God's energy involves no c move-
ment ' ; it is frictionless activity. ' Change is sweet to
us because of a certain defect,' he says : the Divine life
is one of unceasing and unchanging activity, which is also
an eternal consciousness of supreme happiness. This
Aristotle calls eVe/oyeia a/< 11/170-1 as. It is eternal, because it
precludes the conditions of the time-consciousness. For
time is the creature of motion (/aY>;o-is) : the perfecting of
cvcpyeia will thus involve the disappearance of time. Time
is the measure of the impermanence of the imperfect, and
the perfecting of the time-consciousness would carry us
into eternity. This conception of an evcpycia diai/qo-tas helps
us to overcome a very serious difficulty, which lies at the
root of many religious and philosophical perplexities.

Plotinus also says that in the world of reality, the Koo-fios
i/orjros, the opposition of thought and its object, of identity
and difference, of motion and stationariness, is transcended.

196 FAITH [CH.

It is quite untrue to say that he holds a static-intellectualist
view of reality. His intelligible world is not the world of
stationariness as opposed to motion, but the sphere where
the two are unified and harmonised. He knows, of course,
that discursive thought (Siat/oia) does not effect this
reconciliation ; but then he distinguishes voTs and Siai-oio,
as we ought to do. Thought is more than formal logic ;
reason is greater than reasons. In fact, it would be hardly
too much to say that the ' intellectualism ' of modern
voluntaristic polemic is a figment of the pragmatists. It
was not reserved for modern psychology to discover that
logic is not identical with reality. And then, having
created this bugbear of c intellectualism,' they proceed to
* empty out the child with the bath/ as the Germans say,
and construct their own system with the intellectual factor
contumeliously excluded.

However, the objections just mentioned are valid against
exclusive intellectualism ; and they show how fatal it is
to separate any one of our faculties, and make it, by itself,
either the constitutive principle of reality, or the organ by
which we apprehend reality.

It has also been urged against intellectualism that know-
ledge cannot be ultimate, because it is always trying to
subvert the conditions of its own existence. An absolute
conclusion to knowledge would involve the annulling of the
distinction between knowing and being, between thought
and its object ; and it is precisely that distinction which
is the condition of knowledge.

This argument is admitted by Plotinus and all other
philosophical mystics. Discursive thought, seeking to find
unity in diversity, ends ideally in perfect knowledge i.e.
in the complete correspondence of thought with its object.
To the realist, this does not mean that the distinction
between thought and its object has wholly ceased. The
eternal world is not a world in which subject and object
have devoured each other, any more than it is a world


where rest and activity have devoured each other. In the
eternal world, according to Plotinus, the correspondence
of thought and its object is still the One-Many, not the One
by itself. It is no doubt true that thought in eternity has
passed into a higher mode, in which its objects are present
to it as a totality ; and in that sense the process of thought,
in completing, has terminated itself. But the same is
obviously true of the will, which in achieving any aim
thereby takes it out of the sphere of will ; for will requires
an unfulfilled end. In heaven, we may say, thought has
become knowledge, and morality goodness, though in some
way beyond our comprehension both remain activities.
In this transformation we may suppose that truth and
goodness are at last fully unified. The anti-intellectual
objection loses its force if we use intelligence, not of the
logic-chopping faculty, but of the whole personality become
self-conscious and self-directing, with a full realisation of
the grounds of will and feeling. If we must name this
highest state, we must call it intelligence rather than will,
because will is only conscious of the fact of desire, not of '
the reasons for it.

The real defect of rationalism or exclusive intellectualism
lies in its attempt to prove Faith, or, I should rather say,
in its belief that it has succeeded in demonstrating what
cannot be demonstrated. Rationalism tries to find a
place for God in its picture of the world. But God,
' whose centre is everywhere and His circumference no-
where,' cannot be fitted into a diagram. He is rather the
canvas on which the picture is painted, or the frame in
which it is set.

/^Reason, in the sense in which the word is used by
rationalists, is part of the material of Faith. J They forget
that this knowledge falls far short of the * gnosis,' which
is the ideal fulfilment and satisfaction of Faith. This
true gnosis is not to be attained by thinking only. Julius
Hare warns us very well that c the being able to give a

198 FAITH [CH.

reason for your Faith is a totally different thing from
having Faith ; and unless the Faith be really in you,
your being able to give a reason for it will only be a witness
against you for having it not.' Faith as a practical power
can only be strengthened practically. To put the same
thing rather differently, the old ' proofs ' of God's existence
claimed to have made the opposite view unthinkable or
illogical. But atheism is not unthinkable or illogical ;
it is only ' absurd,' in Lotze's sense of the word. It is
rejected by Faith as a hypothesis which would reduce the
world to a chaos, a malignant trick, or a sorry joke. Being
ourselves what God has made us, we have a right to call
this hypothesis absurd, and to let it go. But this is not
the rationalistic idea of proof.

''"Pure intellectualism of whatever kind ignores the neces-
sary place of Faith in religion. It confounds Faith with
knowledge. It is easy to recognise this type. Its God is
* the One.' He is triumphantly monistic, for that is
almost all that is required of Him. His worshippers easily
fall into a lofty disdain of the unphilosophic vulgar. This
was a weakness of Greek philosophy, and it has reappeared
wherever Faith and knowledge have been identified. In
the field of practice, we see from the history of the Italian
Renaissance how easily intellectual morality becomes
Machiavellian, and how, in the region of feeling, intellectual-
ism substitutes artistic sensibility for charity and affection.
It is never long before this type proves its unsoundness
by passing out of religion altogether. Thus the fatal
results of one-sidedness are once more brought home to us..
^*And yet some intellectual element is an essential con-
dition of the activity of Faith. Faith is a feeling of
certitude or positive assurance ; but this feeling cannot
exist without some notion, or idea, of that about which
certitude is felt. We might as well try to walk in the air,
as believe without an idea or thought for Faith to embrace.
The nebulous forms of incipient thought hardly deserve


the name of ideas ; they must be reduced to the semblance
of truth by mature reflection and experience. The great
end of the intellectual discipline of Faith is the formation
of true ideas of the things believed. This requires much
self-denial and honesty of purpose. Things are what they
are, not what we think them to be, or have made up our
minds that they must or ought to be. Faith loses all its
practical efficiency when it is associated with false ideas.
The true light saves, but the false light destroys. Much
depends on the ideas and objects to which we give our
love and trust. There is in operation a spiritual law or
* working of error,' of which St. Paul speaks, the inevitable
tendency of which is to cause men who hate the truth to
believe a lie. )

It is essential to Faith that we should believe in an
objective truth, independent of our thoughts and wishes.
It is unfortunately no longer a truism, but a controversial
statement, to say that facts are stubborn things, or that
things are what they are. But we must hold to this
rather obvious truth. The first aphorism of the Novum
Organum is that 'Man, the minister and interpreter of
Nature, does and understands as much as his observations
on the order of nature, either with regard to things or the
mind, permit him, and neither knows nor is capable of
more.' That is to say, it is not our business to create truth,
but to discover it. Faith believes in the independent
reality of its objects, and in the knowableness of truth.
The demand for internal consistency and correspondence
with external fact is peremptory : it cannot be silenced.
The belief in truth, and the reverent worship of it, are a
large part of religion with many men, and with a few
women. ' With certain persons,' says Mr. Bradley, * the
intellectual effort to understand the universe is a principal
way of experiencing the Deity.' Spinoza, whose personal
character was purely admirable, is a very good example
of this type of religion. ' Blessedness,' he says, * consists


in love towards God, and this arises from knowledge. And
the mind that rejoices in the divine love or blessedness
can control its emotions. The ignorant man is agitated
by external causes, and never obtains true peace of soul :
whereas the wise man, conscious, by a kind of eternal
necessity, of himself, of God, and of things, is always in
possession of true contentment.' He concludes, ' The way
must be arduous, for its discovery is so rare. If salvation
could be discovered without great toil, how could it be
neglected by nearly all men ? But all things excellent
are as difficult as they are rare.' Compare too, as a typical
example of scientific Faith, these words of Huxley : ' Sit
down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up
every preconceived notion, to follow humbly wherever
and to whatever abysses Nature leads you, or you shall
learn nothing. I have only begun to learn content and
peace of mind since I have resolved at all risks to do this.' 1
This calm cheerfulness and unshakable confidence that
the truth is salvation to him who can find it, seems to me
more Christian than such a mental attitude as is described
by Lecky : ' Young men discuss religious questions simply
as questions of truth or falsehood. In later life they more
frequently accept their creed as a working hypothesis,
as a consolation in calamities, as the indispensable
sanction of moral obligation, as the gratification of needs,
instincts, and longings which are planted in the deepest
recesses of human nature, as one of the chief pillars on
which human society rests.' The American Leuba says
rather irreverently that most people don't so much believe
in God as use Him. But God will not be ' used ' for other
ulterior ends He is either the ultimate End, or He is
C It seems to me that we must expect that if humanity is

1 So in art, J. F. Millet says : ' We ought to be steeped in Nature, saturated
with her, and careful only to think the thoughts whicn she inspires. All you
need is intelligence and a great desire. If you abandon yourself to her
service, she will give you of her store.'


progressing, the intellect must play a larger part in the life
of Faith in the future than it has done in the past. In the
brute creation, instinct does the work of reason sufficiently
for the very simple conditions in which the animal creation
lives. And so in the spiritual life, it is natural to suppose
that a kind of instinct of the Divine is implanted in the
human mind as soon as it becomes human. But as
humanity advances to a more complex life, and has to
adjust itself to new conditions, instinct becomes unequal
to the tasks laid upon it. And then appears the new
faculty of reason, which acts at first haltingly and un-
certainly enough, often failing us where instinct would
have guided us rightly. But we must accept these diffi-
culties of adjustment. We cannot choose to continue to
be guided by instinct ; for instinct begins to fail and grow
weaker, wherever the potentiality of reason exists. We
see it in the case of the child. The human infant is far
more helpless than the young of other animals. Where
instinct keeps them alive, it leaves the human child to die,
unless it has guardians to take care of it, and bestow upon
it an amount of attention which would be utterly impossible
hi the lower ranks of creation. And yet the human child
is destined to advance far beyond the most intelligent of
the brutes, by the aid of the faculty of reason, which is so
slow to develop, and so unsafe a protector until it is more
or less mature. We can trace the same law by comparing
civilised man with savages. Our instincts are decidedly
weaker and less protective than theirs, though our reason
is so much stronger. Is it not likely that the analogy holds
good in the spiritual life ? The will may be more ' primary '
and more powerful than the intelligence ; it does not
follow that we ought to make the will rather than the
intelligence our guide. Reason, when it has come into its
own, is a far finer instrument than blind will, or instinct.
When we know why a certain course is right or wrong ;
when we have a clear idea of what we are aiming at in our

202 FAITH [CH.

actions, we are not less likely to act morally, and we are
much more likely not to act foolishly. It seems to me
that this has a practical bearing on social morality. The
great danger, in this country at all events, is that we are
so prone to be guided by sentiment and wilfulness instead
of by reason. We may be told that this is a penalty that
must be paid for popular government, since the masses
will always be swayed by their emotions and desires, and
never by their intellect. To this we can only answer that,
if so, we are likely to find that we have paid too high a price
for a political theory.

I should also like to remind the Voluntarists that desire,
even more than speculative thought, is never for its own
continuance, but always for its own satisfaction and conse-
quent cessation. Unless, therefore, the will is eternally
self-stultifying, eternally and necessarily disappointed
which is the creed of Pessimism the heaven of the will
is always static in respect of its present object. In other
words, the will, in seeking its own fulfilment, seeks to pass
into that higher sphere where it cannot remain will pure
and simple, but must pass into some higher mode of

The danger of Intellectualism, as of other one-sided ideas
of Faith, is that it tempts us to make a premature synthesis,
perhaps leaving us in bondage to the lower categories of
mechanism. There are very deep antinomies which we
must accept as existing for our minds at present, though
we know that they are not real or fundamental. We must
take no short cuts to self-consistency by suppressing half
the truth. God, for us, is both changing and unchanging,
blessed and suffering, eternal and becoming. These are
just the antitheses which, according to Plotinus, are trans-
cended in the intelligible world, but not in the world of
our common experience.





BEAUTY is a quality which the Creator has impressed, in
various degrees, upon nearly all His works ; and the recog-
nition of beauty is a faculty with which very many conscious
creatures are endowed. We are often surprised at the
symmetry and beauty which appear in the constructions of
animals for example, in the nests of birds and the honey-
combs of bees ; and the sexual ornaments which many
birds and beasts exhibit to win the favour of their mates
prove both the important part which aesthetic taste plays
in modifying species, and the delicate appreciation of beau-
tiful forms and colours which makes these elaborate dec-
orations necessary. Examples of ornaments which to our
taste are grotesque, such as the bright colours of the male
mandrill in the breeding-season, are so rare as to be negli-
gible exceptions ; far more significant is the exquisite
sheen of the humming-bird's wing, or the glory of the
peacock's tail. Nor is the aesthetic sense of the lower
animals confined to form and colour. The song of the
nightingale proves that some birds are no mean musicians ;
and even among insects, some spiders, we are told, have
to please the female by an exhibition of elegant dancing.
Moreover, inanimate nature is everywhere beautiful.
Even decay and corruption, which in the animal world are
repulsive, are beautiful in things without sentient life.

The view taken in these lectures is that Beauty is one
of the fundamental attributes of God, which He has there-
fore impressed upon His world. I hold it to be a quality

204 FAITH [CH.

residing in the objects, and not imparted to them by the
observer. I hold Beauty to be, like Truth and Goodness,
an end in itself, for God's creation. If so, it is right and
natural for Faith to acknowledge beauty, and to strengthen
itself by the contemplation and practice of the beautiful.
To this view two objections may be made. First, it
has been argued that our enjoyment of the beautiful is
nothing more than a pleasant feeling arising from our per-
ception of usefulness. For instance, the points of beauty
in a human face and figure are all signs of health, strength,
intelligence, and character. In the case of a woman, those
lines are also thought beautiful which indicate that she is
well suited for her special functions. But this theory does
not fit the facts. Many of the animal decorations, to which
we have just alluded, are apparently ' useless,' except to
give pleasure by their form and colour. And the same
impossibility of reducing the beautiful to the useful is
apparent throughout human experience. Illustrations of
this will occur to everybody. Beauty is clearly something
sui generis. Secondly, we are told that the enjoyment of
beauty is purely subjective. Not only does the beautiful
object require a beholder, and one who has a seeing eye,
but the beauty is in our own mind, and not in what we see.
Now it would be a bold theory that the beauties of a play
of Shakespeare are put there by us his commonplace
readers. Is it not even more absurd to suppose that our
minds create the beauty of a sunset, or of a glorious action
in history ? Again, if the appreciation of beauty is merely
subjective, there is no appeal from individual taste. It is
then an impertinence to speak of good or bad taste, for
there is no standard to which taste can be referred. But
no one can seriously maintain that the proverb De gustibus
non est disputandum has any validity in the higher regions
of art, of natural beauty, or of seemliness and propriety of
conduct. Moreover, the strong protest of our own con-
sciousness against theories of subjectivity ought to be


given due weight. When we admire anything or anybody,
we invariably believe that the qualities which we admire
are really there, and if we find that we have been deceived,
our admiration vanishes at once. * All the objects we call
beautiful,' says Reid, * agree in two things, which seem to
concur in our sense of beauty. First, when they are per-
ceived or even imagined, they produce a certain agreeable
emotion or feeling in the mind ; and secondly, this agree-
able emotion is accompanied with an opinion or belief of
their having some perfection or excellence belonging to
them.' 1 The subjective and objective side are both neces-
sary ; but assuredly philosophy does not require us to
refuse the name of beautiful to natural objects which man
has never beheld.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear.

Some have even found in this thought an argument for
the existence of God, whose eye sees and enjoys what
otherwise would be wasted for want of a beholder.

We may then, I think, assert the independence of the
Beautiful as a revelation of the Eternal distinct from other
revelations which come to us through science and the
moral sense. And since Beauty is thus conceived to have
an absolute value, the natural instinct of mankind has led
us to connect Beauty with the object and mode of wor-
ship. Whatever men have thought most beautiful they
have brought and offered to their gods. And since the
religious instinct, in all its forms, finds satisfaction in
creation and production more than in mere receptivity,
art has from the first been consecrated to worship. Paint-
ing, sculpture, architecture, music, poetry, and ritual are
varying expressions of this tendency. The noblest works

1 Intellectual Powers, Essay viii. ; quoted by Caldecott, The Philosophy oj
Religion, p. 55.

206 FAITH [CH.

of imaginative genius have been either partially or entirely
inspired by religious Faith.

The spirit of worship is somewhat jealous of association
with utility. Utility tends to cramp the free exercise of
the creative imagination, and forces us to divide our atten-
tion between the universal and the particular. Thus
religious cultus has always contained ceremonies which
have no bearing on practical life, and within the sphere of
ordinary conduct religion has usually issued some com-
mands and prohibitions which have no rational sanction.
Just because the spirit of worship rejects indignantly the

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21

Online LibraryWilliam Ralph IngeFaith and its psychology → online text (page 17 of 21)