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gazing intently at a luminous chink or even on some part
of one's own body (the navel among the monks of Mount
Athos, the tip of the nose with some Indian contemplatives),
is one method of hypnotisation. Religious music and
orgiastic dancing are also very potent methods of achieving
this result. I will quote part of Rohde's description of the
Thracian worship of Dionysus. 1 * The rite was performed
on hilltops, in the darkness of night, by the doubtful light
of torches. Amid the sound of music, the clashing of
brazen cymbals, the rolling thunder of a great drum, and
the deep note of the flute " enticing to madness," the band
of worshippers danced over the hillside in a whirling,
raving, rushing circle. When their emotions were raised
to the highest pitch, they hurled themselves upon the
beast chosen for sacrifice. This powerful intensification
of feeling had a religious meaning, in that only through
such overstrain and expansion of his being did man feel
able to come into touch with the god and his attendant
spirits.' ' Emotion carries its own credentials with it ' ; 2
and by such methods the undifferentiated primary emotion
of Faith may be stimulated to a pitch which may leave
abiding traces on the mind.

This is one of the most important empirical discoveries
about the religious emotion which man has made. The
result of employing it is to arrest the development of Faith
at a very early stage. This kind of religion may be
intense ; it may become the predominant interest in life ;
but it can hardly produce any of the proper fruits of Faith :
it is an abortive Faith, a monstrosity and a perversion.
The undifferentiated Faith-state was not given us to use
or enjoy in this way. It must be developed, rendered
explicit, unravelled, as it were, through will, thought and
appropriate action.

The result of deliberately playing upon the emotions in

i Rohde, Psyche, ii. pp. 18-20.

Pratt, Psychology of Religious Belief, p. 62.



70 FAITH [CH.

the manner described is often seen in terrible reactions.
If the joys of the ecstatic state are (as is said by some who
have experienced them) too great to be described, so also
are the miseries of c dereliction,' and the hallucinations of
religious melancholy. Every fanatical ' revival ' produces
a crop of insanity. The normal development of religion
is calm and self-collected, though deep and strong. Re-
ligious feeling, if not abused, pricks us with a sense of our
imperfection, and forces us to seek, through thought and
will, for the cause of our disquiet and for a means of
satisfying our need.

r~ The normal history of religious feeling is summed up in
>.; the words, Fear, Dependence, Love. Assuredly none of
! the three is * pure feeling ' ; but I am protesting all through
these lectures against separating our faculties in this way.
Love is the crown of the soul's victory, and love, though
it contains intellectual and moral elements, is primarily
an emotion. Christianity has seemed to many to give the
last word to the affections or emotions, by its exaltation
of love as the only gift that * never faileth ' ; and certainly
love is the only virtue which we can imagine as persisting
without much change in the eternal world, when faith
shall have become sight, hope been turned into satis-
faction, and knowledge into contemplation.
^Love is implicit hi Faith from the first. As aesthetics is
\ a power of recognising beauty practically inseparable from
the love of beauty ; as ethics is a power of recognising the
morally right practically inseparable from the love of right,
so the aim of theology is an intellectual recognition of God
practically inseparable from the love of God. And so
Augustine is right when he says that a man's spiritual state
may be best gauged not by what he knows, but by what he
loves. 1

1 Pascal's ' Human things need only be known in order to be loved, but
divine things must first be loved in order to be known,' is valuable, but needi
safeguarding, as making the acquisition of divine knowledge too independent
of rational thought.




IT.] FAITH AS PURE FEELING 71



But if Faith thus loses itself at last in Love, Love must
not, like mere feeling, be immediate at a level below dis-
tinction and relation. The religion of feeling cannot be-
come true till it has passed through the crucible of the will
and the intellect. Our problem is to find the intellectual
and volitional equivalents of this vague religion of feeling,
certainly not to regard it as a third stage, destined to
override the intellect. 1

In the following lectures I shall try to consider in what
manner, and under what limitations, the activities of the
will and intellect, brought to bear upon the spontaneous
Faith-state, which Professor Baldwin calls ' reality-feeling '
as opposed to self-conscious belief, may conduct us towards
a unified spiritual experience, in which the contradictions
and divisions which analysis brings to light may be par-
tially reconciled. But there is one other principle, besides
the intellectual and practical, which is of immense import-
ance. This is the principle of Authority, the effect of which
as a secondary ground of Faith, determining its form and
content, can hardly be overestimated. Religion is a racial
affair, and authority is the principle of continuity, the
memory of the race. I think, therefore, that a discussion
of authority in relation to Faith should take precedence
even of the practical and intellectual grounds of belief.
* As (e.g.) Pratt does in his Psychology of Religious Belie/.



FAITH [CH.



CHAPTER V

AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH

To class Authority as a secondary ground of Faith is a
proceeding which needs some defence. For it is certain that
in individual experience Authority is the earliest ground
of belief. We are none of us born with a belief in God ;
but we are all born with a tendency to believe what we
are told. A child can be made to believe almost anything.
He does not believe because he wishes to believe, or
because the things presented to him for acceptance appear
to him to be useful or beautiful or desirable in any way.
He is quite as ready to believe in ghosts and hobgoblins as
in angels and good fairies. As he began to speak by parrot-
talk, so he begins to think by accepting facts without
criticising them, and assumes that whatever he hears and
understands has a place in the world of reality. It is only
after sad experience of the deceitfulness of appearances
that he unlearns his first confidence, and begins to doubt
and question and disbelieve.

This natural tendency to believe what we are told
remains with us, though more or less impaired by experi-
ence, through life. Some may protest that no one except
a young child believes anything merely because he is told,
without any thought of the trustworthiness of the author-
ity ; but I am convinced that this is a mistake. A great
many grown persons will accept almost any statements
put before them (not on all subjects, of course, but on some
subjects) from pure inertia, because it is easier for them to
believe than to disbelieve. Some popular superstitions,



v.] AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 73

which show such astonishing vitality, must be trans-
mitted and accepted in this lazy fashion. Such notions
as that it is unlucky to walk under a ladder, or to be
married in May, could not survive a moment's thought
about the value of the evidence in their favour. They
are simply taken at their face value, with no questions
asked.

If pure credulity is an actual cause of belief, even in
cases where disproof is possible and easy, we cannot be
surprised that it is largely instrumental in forming beliefs
about the unseen world, where no contradiction from
experience is possible. Among savages, myths about gods
and spirits are handed down from father to son, and
believed implicitly. They become part of the mental
capital of the tribe or nation, and any attempt to damage
their credit is visited with great indignation. This is quite
natural. When an * old master ' has been in a family for
generations, the owner is not likely to be grateful for being
told that it is a sham. Or if he has acquired it himself
without asking questions, and has frequently spoken of it
as undoubtedly genuine, he will be at least equally un-
willing to admit that he has been deceived. As a general
rule, we say a thing for the first time because we have heard
some one else say it, and stick to it because we have said
it ourselves.

It follows that the diffusion and persistence of a belief
is not always a presumption in favour of its truth. Many
beliefs, which are purely silly and destitute of any founda-
tion, have been kept alive by mere credulity, even in
Europe, for thousands of years. When a superstition once
establishes itself, it does not become any more respectable
by growing old. Its antiquity gives it a sort of prestige
which helps to keep it alive, but adds nothing to its weight.
For instance, all housemaids everywhere believe that you
can make a fire burn by tilting a poker against the bars.
I dare say this curious manoeuvre was originally an attempt



74 FAITH [en.

to make the sign of the cross, and so conjure the fire to
burn ; but for centuries it has been a purely irrational
superstition. Or take the cock-and-lion story, solemnly
told by Aristotle that the lion is afraid of the cock. This
superstition lasted till Cuvier at last thought of putting a
cock into a lion's cage, with results fatal to the cock. Intel-
lectual indolence has perpetuated a great many bits of
antiquated science. The history of popular quack remedies
supplies a mass of instances of a highly instructive kind ;
for the same mental attitude which leads uneducated
people to resort to quacks when they are ill makes them
victims of religious imposture when they are in trouble
about their souls.

Excessive reverence for tradition, deference to the
opinions of our forefathers, ' who had more wit and wisdom
than we/ must be distinguished from mere credulity. This
reverence for the supposed wisdom of the past, which we
find everywhere in primitive societies, must have been very
useful in the early stages of civilisation, when the difficulty
of preserving the hardly-won gains of humanity was far
greater than at present. The tendency to put the golden
age in the past may have been caused partly by a con-
sciousness of the real sacrifices which civilisation entails.
The fruit of the tree of knowledge, as I have said elsewhere, 1
always expels us from some paradise or other, even if it
be only the paradise of fools. And when the art of writing
was discovered, a superstitious veneration for the written
word was universal, and so persistent that I do not think
it is extinct yet. If the words of wisdom were enshrined
in verse, that made the glamour even more potent. The
old Greek sentiment about the inspiration of poets sur-
vived to the end of the classical period. ' To the poets
sometimes/ says Dion Chrysostom, ' I mean the very
ancient poets there came a brief utterance from the
Muses, a kind of inspiration of the divine nature and truth,

* Truth and Falsehood in Religion, p. 153.



v.] AUTHOEITY AS A GKOUND OF FAITH 75

like a flash of light from an unseen fire.' l It was thus
that the belief in an infallible literature grew up, of which
I must say more in a later lecture. To-day my subject is
Authority in general, its meaning and significance for
Faith. And I have to justify my classification of it as a
secondary ground of belief.

Authority is defined by Professor Gwatkin 2 as ' all
weight allowed to the beliefs of persons or the teachings of
institutions beyond their reasonable value as personal
testimony.' The phrase ' reasonable value ' raises at once
the question as to the relation of authority to reason.
* Reason ' is one of those ambiguous words which have
been the cause of endless controversies, because the com-
batants have not been careful enough to define their terms.
It is a pity, I think, that we have not accepted Coleridge's
distinction between reason and understanding, correspon-
ding to the German words Vernunft and Verstand, and
(less exactly) to the Greek vous and Siavoia as used by
Platonists. ' Reason ' would then be used for a philosophy
of life based on full experience, a synthesis doing Justice to
the claims of the moral and aesthetic consciousness, while
' understanding ' would be reserved for logical reasoning
of a more abstract kind. We should then have been
spared such confused arguments as are found, for example,
in Mr. Balfour's Foundations of Belief (in which, as Leslie
Stephen said, the foundations are ingeniously supported
by the superstructure), or Mr. Kidd's Social Evolution.

It is by no means certain that we are right in looking
for the ' Foundations of Belief.' The metaphor may be
a misleading one. Some things have no foundations. An
organism, for instance, has no foundations. Perhaps
rational Faith may prove to be part of the life of the
universe, in which case we need not look for its foundations
outside of itself. Perhaps there is no ' elephant ' to hold

1 Dion Chrysostom, Orat. 36, vol. ii. p. 59; Hatch, Hibbert Lectures, p. 51.

2 Gwatkin, The Knowledge of God, vol. i. p. 3.



76 FAITH [en.

up the world of ideas, and no ' tortoise ' to support th6
elephant. 1

Mr. Kidd is anxious to prove that there is * no rational
sanction for progress,' and he chooses to regard * reason '
as a shortsighted, selfish faculty, which has nothing to do
with any existence but the present, which, it insists, it is
our duty to ourselves to make the most of. 2 Professor
Wallace, usually the most courteous of critics, is for once
goaded into using a sharp expression. ' It is simply
impossible to allow any one thus to play the fool with
language.' 3 Similarly for Mr. Balfour, authority is called

* the rival and opponent of reason.' Authority ' stands
for that group of non-rational causes, moral, social, and
educational, which produces its results by psychic processes
other than reasoning.' 4 To authority, he considers, we
owe the order and stability of the moral world ; by it the
operations of reason are ' coerced to a fore-ordained issue ' ;
it generates ' psychological climates ' (like the ' atmosphere '
of Church schools, I suppose, about which we heard so
much two years ago), that is, habits of belief which reason
has no power to influence. Indeed, * it is from authority
that reason itself draws its most important premises.' ' To
authority, in the main, we owe, not religion only, but ethics
and politics.' * Reasoning is a force most apt to divide
and disintegrate.'

This is a return to a long discredited method of apolo-
getics. In the Middle Ages John of Salisbury wrote :

* As both the senses and human reason frequently go
astray, God has laid in Faith the first foundation for the
knowledge of truth.' So Bayle, the French Encyclopaedist,
says, not very sincerely, perhaps : ' Human reason is a
principle of destruction, not of construction ; it is capable
solely of raising questions, and of doubling about to make

i Cf. Professor H. Jones in Hibbert Journal (Jan. 1906), p. 801,

* Kidd, Social Evolution, p. 73.

W. Wallace, Lectures and Essays, p. 104.
4 Balfour, Foundations of Belief, p. 219.



v.j AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 77

a controversy endless. The best use that can be made of
philosophy is to acknowledge that it can only lead us
astray, and that we must seek another guide, which is the
light of revelation.' 1

I shall have occasion to show that religious belief is
largely affected by * psychic processes other than reason-
ing.' But why these should be grouped together under
the name ' authority,' I cannot imagine. We believe, as
I shall show, partly on practical grounds, because we find
that a certain mental attitude towards the unseen and
unknown works, helps us to live as we wish to live, and
since we believe that the world is all of one piece, it is
reasonable to assume that what is true for us is true for
all ; and partly also (in many cases) on aesthetic grounds,
since order and beauty seem to be part of the Creator's
design, and ends in themselves.

These may be called non-rational grounds of belief
(using rational in the lower sense), because reason (in the
higher sense) has to find room for them, and cannot pro-
nounce them invalid. Irrational they are not. And they
have nothing, so far as I can see, to do with authority.
The passage about ' coercing the operations of reason to a
fore-ordained issue ' seems 1 to be a dignified phrase for the
operation which schoolboys call ' fudging ' their sums.
Unless the world is purely irrational, such a manoeuvre is
a wilful deception practised at our own expense or at that
of others. There is nothing more harmful to the cause of
truth than a lip-service to logic or science, when we have
predetermined in our own minds the conclusion at which
we mean to arrive. If we have decided to accept our
opinions at second-hand, it is most candid to say so, and
abstain from arguments which have nothing to do with our
position.

If by all this opposition of authority and reason it is
simply meant that there are some things which we dis-

i Quoted by Rickaby, First Principles, p. 191.



78 FAITH [CH.

cover for ourselves, and other things which we accept
because we have every reason to believe that our inform-
ants are trustworthy, or because we have not the leisure or
ability to test them for ourselves, that is a very obvious
truism. I accept the fact that Buenos Ayres is the capital
of the Argentine Republic because the evidence for the
statement seems to me sufficient, because there is nothing
intrinsically improbable hi it, because I can think of no
reason why there should be a conspiracy to deceive me on
such a point, and because there is no testimony on the
other side. I accept without question anything that a
distinguished mathematician tells me about the higher
mathematics because I am incapable of following his
calculations, and because I have generally found mathe-
maticians honourable men. But acceptances of this kind
are really intellectual processes. I have my reasons for
believing, or disbelieving, in each case. This is, as I have
said, psychologically quite different from bare credulity,
which is a thoughtless condition.

Once more, I may accept certain traditions, principles,
and maxims as embodying the stored wisdom of the race,
the racial instinct. But this, I contend, is again accept-
ance on intellectual grounds. My studies of sociology and
biology, we will suppose, have led me to attach a great
importance to these traditions, as embodying a deeper
practical wisdom than mankind has been able to make
explicit and justify by argument, or, at any rate, deeper
than I could hope to arrive at by my own wisdom and
experience ; and therefore I submit to the authority of the
race as exercised in these social or religious traditions. This
is a very wise and respectable line to take, but it is purely
intellectual and reasonable, and to class it as non-rational
betrays a mere confusion of thought.

Nor is there anything non-rational in the respect and
homage which we pay to men of deep spiritual insight.
* Our weak Faith may at times be permitted to look




AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 79

through the eyes of some strong soul, and may thereby
gain a sense of the certainty of spiritual things which before
we had not, and which we lose when we return within
ourselves.' l We do not pay this deference unless we have
reason to think that our guide has indeed ' a strong soul ' ;
and this is why personal influence is so potent in religion.
Our reason tells us that much religious eloquence is mere
professional advocacy ; we do not trust our guide until we
feel that we know him.

But now suppose that the tradition relates to some fact
in the past or future, for which the personal testimony of
my teacher is obviously an insufficient warrant, and which
is not recommended to me by any of the considerations
just mentioned. Is it unreasonable for me to believe it ?
The answer is No, if I believe that the doctrine in question
was supernaturally imparted, or that it is supernaturally
guaranteed.

If I accept a theological proposition as supernaturally
revealed, then I am really believing on authority Divine,
eiuthorityj. The question is, whether Divine authority is
or can be independent of what we have called the primary
ground of Faith^hejnr^r, personal attraction towards the
good, the true, and the beautiful.

A purely external revelation of truths, which are not
related in any way to our own consciousness, would of
course be impossible. You cannot teach a blind man by
showing him pictures, nor a deaf man by talking to him,
because there is no communication with him through the
sense which he has lost. And we may say reverently that
God could make no revelation in such a way to man, with-
out breaking the laws under which He governs the universe.
Revelation must be either of truths which are at present
unknown to us, but which when imparted to us are intel-
ligible, and carry conviction with them by their agreement
with the rest of our experience ; or else, there must be an

i Stanton, The Place of Authority in P^eliyious Belief, p. 32.



80 FAITH [CH.

inward revelation, parallel to the outward, and assuring
us of its trustworthiness.

Now any revelation of facts which, though they are
within our comprehension, are unverifiable, must be guaran-
teed in some way. This obviously applies to all historical
facts which are presented to us as having a significance
for Faith. No inner light can re-create the past. Lessing,
like many others since, found this difficulty insurmountable.
' Contingent truths of history,' he said, ' can never be made
the proof of necessary truths of reason. That is the ugly
ditch which I cannot get over, though I have often and
earnestly attempted the leap.' We are not, however,
called upon to attempt this salto mortale. It is enough if
the historical facts fall naturally into their place in the
scheme of the world as it reveals itself to Faith.

Now, what kinds of guarantee are possible, when a
prophet comes to me, saying, ' Thus saith the Lord ' ?
What credentials is it possible for him to produce ?

The most primitive kind of prophet seems generally to
say : ' God is the Lord of nature, and makes its laws bend
to His will. Through His power, I will do the same ; and
then you will know that He has sent me. I will call down
rain by my incantations, or I will smite an unbeliever with
grievous sickness.' But if God does not act in this way,
if He does not suspend or interfere with the operations of
nature by way of giving signs to men, this proof is wholly
worthless. And it remains wholly worthless even if rain
does follow the prophet's prayer, and if the sceptic goes
home sick unto death.

Or the prophet may seek to establish his credit by pre-
dicting the future. Maeterlinck has argued that it is one
of the most mysterious things about human nature that
we cannot predict the future that, while the past is partly
open to us, the future is a closed book. No doubt it is
strange, but such do seem to be the limitations of our
nature ; and there is no evidence at all convincing to the







AUTHORITY AS A GROUND OF FAITH 81



modern mind that those who are entrusted with a message
by God have any supernatural powers of foretelling future
events. The old Jewish prophets no doubt had a very
clear insight into the issues of national policy. They saw
that Egypt was likely to prove a broken reed, and that the
cruel and barbarous empire of Assyria could not long
terrorise the continent of Asia. But it is an inexcusable
obscuring of issues to confound this kind of penetration
with the old idea of prophecy, which made it possible to
accept a verse in which Cyrus is mentioned by name, as
having been written generations before the birth of that
prince.

The famous arguments from miracles and prophecy are
in principle condemned by our Lord, whose warnings against
seeking after a sign have been preserved by the candour
of His biographers, though they themselves attached great
value to such evidence. They are no longer arguments
for us.

It remains that the prophet should commend his
message to us by awaking a response in our own hearts.
This is in reality the only way in which a revelation is or
can be made to us. The revelation comes to us with
authority from outside, as the voice of God. The true
prophet at any rate believes sincerely that God is speak-


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Online LibraryWilliam Ralph IngeFaith and its psychology → online text (page 7 of 21)