The Anaesthetic Revelation - Nitrous Oxide Metaphysics

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Jun 26, 2003, 1:49:37 PM6/26/03
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blackdog may be interested in this as Lord, Alfred Tennyson wrote some lengthy passages whilst
on nitrous oxide :)))))) good going!


http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/96may/nitrous/nitrous.htm

Do drugs make religious experience possible? They did for James and for other
philosopher-mystics of his day. James's experiments with psychoactive drugs
raise difficult questions about belief and its conditions

by Dmitri Tymoczko


E has short hair and a long brown beard. He is wearing a three-piece suit. One
imagines him slumped over his desk, giggling helplessly. Pushed to one side is
an apparatus out of a junior-high science experiment: a beaker containing some
ammonium nitrate, a few inches of tubing, a cloth bag. Under one hand is a piece
of paper, on which he has written, "That sounds like nonsense but it is pure on
sense!" He giggles a little more. The writing trails away. He holds his forehead
in both hands. He is stoned. He is William James, the American psychologist and
philosopher. And for the first time he feels that he is understanding religious
mysticism.

The psychedelia of the 1960s was foreshadowed by events in the waning years of
the nineteenth century. This first American psychedelic movement began with an
anonymous article published in 1874 in The Atlantic Monthly. The article, which
was in fact written by James, reviewed The Anaesthetic Revelation and the Gist
of Philosophy, a pamphlet arguing that the secrets of religion and philosophy
were to be found in the rush of nitrous oxide intoxication. Inspired by this
thought, James experimented with the drug, experiencing extraordinary
revelations that he immediately committed to paper.


What's mistake but a kind of take?
What's nausea but a kind of -ausea?
Sober, drunk, -unk , astonishment. . . .
Agreement--disagreement!!
Emotion--motion!!! . . .
Reconciliation of opposites; sober, drunk, all the same!
Good and evil reconciled in a laugh!
It escapes, it escapes!
But--
What escapes, WHAT escapes?

This experience, which in James's words involved "the strongest emotion" he had
ever had, remained with him throughout his life. In 1882 he first described his
experiments with the drug; in 1898 he published an article titled "Consciousness
Under Nitrous Oxide" in the Psychological Review ; in 1902 he recounted the
experience in his greatest work, The Varieties of Religious Experience ; and in
1910, in the last essay he completed, he implied that nitrous oxide had had an
abiding influence on his thinking.

When the drug wore off, James found that his mystical insights had disappeared.
What remained were incomprehensible words--"tattered fragments" that seemed like
"meaningless drivel." Being a philosophical visionary rather than a
garden-variety recreational drug user, however, James was not inclined to let
his sober consciousness have the final say. On the contrary, he took his
experiences with nitrous oxide as evidence that human life was more richly
varied than he had previously (and soberly) imagined. "Some years ago," he wrote
in Varieties ,


I myself made some observations on . . . nitrous oxide intoxication, and
reported them in print. One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and
my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our
normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one
special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the
filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely
different.


For James, these alternate forms of consciousness were accessible only by way of
artificial intoxicants. Others, he hypothesized, were able to reach them without
the aid of drugs: in his view the great religious mystics, and certain mystical
philosophers including Hegel, were "unusually susceptible" to these
extraordinary forms of consciousness.

James's experiences with nitrous oxide helped to crystallize some of the major
tenets of his philosophy. His writings emphasize, for instance, the notion of
pluralism, according to which "to the very last, there are various 'points of
view' which the philosopher must distinguish in discussing the world." Nitrous
oxide had revealed in the most dramatic way possible the existence of alternate
points of view. Which was the "real" William James--the drug-addled visionary
who spouted meaningless mystical drivel, or the sober, unmystical psychologist
whose researches brought him international fame? James's philosophy was based on
the thought that the good life--for society and, by extension, for an individual
as well--involves a plurality of perspectives, of which the mystical and the
scientific are only two. Equally important to the mature Jamesian outlook was
the thought that religious experiences are psychologically real--powerful and
palpable events that can have important long-term consequences whether the
beliefs to which they give rise are true or not . Drugs helped James to
understand what religious belief was like from the inside. When he took nitrous
oxide, he was for all intents and purposes a religious mystic. ("Thought deeper
than speech!" he wrote while on the drug. "Oh my God, oh God, oh God!") Nitrous
oxide was the passport that allowed James to see religion from the believer's
perspective, traveling between the worlds of science and faith.

Yet James's experiments with nitrous oxide, when they have been noticed at all,
have been variously derided. Even in the nineteenth century, skeptical
scientists found his interest in exotic mental phenomena misguided, if not
reckless. Religious believers tend to resent the comparison of intoxication to
religious inspiration. Veterans of the counterculture, who have all had similar
if not more-intense drug revelations, tend to think of James as a dabbler. These
criticisms are shortsighted, and slight the fact that James was America's first
philosophical genius. Perhaps more than any philosopher before him, he succeeded
in combining the skepticism of the empirical scientist, the form of
consciousness that "diminishes, discriminates, and says no," with the hyperbole
of the mystical visionary, the form of consciousness that "expands, unites, and
says yes." If drugs helped him to open the doors of consciousness in this
welcoming way, perhaps we should rethink some of our assumptions about drug use
and its possible role in human life. For example, can drugs play a role in
authentic religious experience? And if so, what should be the legal and moral
status of religious drug use?

These questions lead into a fascinating tangle of history and philosophy, much
of which has surprising relevance to contemporary policy. Indeed, for more than
thirty years courts, legislatures, and philosophers have been debating James's
questions, reaching a bewildering variety of incompatible conclusions. Some
courts have held that religious drug use is legitimate and even deserves
constitutional protection; others--including the Supreme Court--have rejected
these arguments. In 1993 Congress passed a law allowing for the sacramental use
of peyote, a powerful hallucinogen; yet politicians continue to excoriate "drug
use," as if "drugs" were a single sort of unequivocally bad thing. (One wonders
how many of the congressional representatives who passed the peyote law would be
willing to acknowledge publicly their support for hallucinogenic drug use.)
William James thought more clearly about these issues than we are able to think
today, and we may want to look to James as we consider the place of drugs in
contemporary life.


An "Adamic" Revelation


JAMES'S interest in nitrous oxide was prompted by a man named Benjamin Paul
Blood. Born in 1832, Blood --a farmer, philosopher, athletic strongman,
prodigious calculator, debunker, inventor, mystic, and forgotten visionary, and
the author of the pamphlet The Anaesthetic Revelation and the Gist of
Philosophy --is a classic figure of nineteenth-century America. By his own
confession an idler, a "fraud," haphazardly educated and with little gift for
sustained argument, Blood spent his eighty-six years in Amsterdam, a town in
upstate New York. But despite his limitations, or perhaps because of them, he
devoted his life to philosophy. The bulk of his writing consists of letters to
the editors of local papers: the Amsterdam Gazette and Recorder , the Utica
Herald , the Albany Times . (Some of these letters were amalgamated for the
Journal of Speculative Philosophy .) He published a few poems in Scribner's
Magazine . Eventually he wrote a book, Pluriverse: An Essay in the Philosophy of
Pluralism .

Blood could multiply large numbers in his head. He could demolish the itinerant
lecturers who were a staple of nineteenth-century American popular culture. On
one occasion he demonstrated to an astonished crowd how a visiting spiritualist
had produced apparently ghostly occurrences. On another he used the doctrines of
what was then called modern philosophy to challenge an astronomer's
glorification of space: Why, he asked, should we be impressed by the size of the
solar system if size is relative to the perceiver? Would not a giant find the
universe small? And is it not, therefore, we who make space large, since without
us it would be neither large nor small? Amsterdam was not always up to these
speculations, but it loved Blood nonetheless. Bewildered newspaper editors
cheerfully printed his grandiose contributions. Townspeople spoke in admiring
terms of Blood's letters from such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Grover
Cleveland, and William James. And, as Blood was not above mentioning, in a poll
conducted by one of the local papers he placed as "one of the twelve leading
citizens" of the town--number six, to be precise.

The outside world, however, was less kind. The portentous letters Blood directed
to innumerable nineteenth-century eminentos were for the most part met with
polite dismissal. One appeal, it is true, produced an invitation to visit Alfred
Lord Tennyson; another resulted in a lengthy and affectionate correspondence
with James. But in the main Blood lived his long life alone. Thumbing through
the detritus of his "papers," the inconsequential letters and crumbling
newspaper clippings that some admirer deposited in Harvard's Houghton Library,
one catches the unmistakable whiff of intellectual tragedy. Blood was the very
picture of the half-baked American eccentric, a snake-oil salesman with
philosophical pretensions. Born in the wrong place and at the wrong time, he
knew too little to put his talents to good use, and too much to let them atrophy
gracefully.

Blood's obsession with nitrous oxide began at a dentist's office. Nitrous oxide,
or "laughing gas," had been discovered in 1772 by Joseph Priestley. Its
distinctive psychoactive properties were noticed twenty-seven years later by Sir
Humphrey Davy, whose Researches, Chemical and Philosophical, Chiefly Concerning
Nitrous Oxide, or Dephlogisticated Nitrous Air, and Its Respiration records a
series of attempts to try to find a use for the new drug. Notwithstanding Davy's
efforts,the drug was used in the early half of the century primarily for
recreation. One nineteenth-century observer wrote that ether, which has similar
psychoactive properties, had "long been the toy of professors and students," and
noted that "the students at Cambridge [Harvard] used to inhale sulphuric ether
from their handkerchiefs, and that it intoxicated them, making them reel and
stagger." Ether was first put to its modern use in 1846, when, in one of the
major triumphs of nineteenth-century medicine, W.T.G. Morton, an American
dentist, "administered the vapor of sulphuric ether to a patient, and extracted
a tooth, the patient being in a state of entire insensibility." A similar result
followed shortly thereafter with nitrous oxide, and the modern practice of
anesthesia was born.

Enter Blood. In the preface to his book, Pluriverse, he wrote,


It was in the year 1860 that there came to me, through the necessary [medical]
use of anaesthetics, a Revelation or insight of the immemorial Mystery which
among enlightened peoples still persists as the philosophical secret or problem
of the world. . . . After fourteen years of this experience at varying
intervals, I published in 1874 "The Anaesthetic Revelation and the Gist of
Philosophy," not assuming to define therein the purport of the illumination, but
rather to signalize the experience, and in a résumé of philosophy to show
wherein that had come short of it.


Blood held that the great metaphysical philosophers, from Plato to Hegel, had
all experienced something like what he had experienced while on nitrous oxide.
This "anaesthetic revelation," he argued, was "primordial," "Adamic," and
incommunicable. He wrote to James, "Philosophy is past. It was the long endeavor
to logicize what we can only realize practically or in immediate experience."

Tireless proselytizing on behalf of his pamphlet--Blood sent copies to virtually
everyone he could think of--eventually resulted in the formation of a tiny group
of nitrous oxide philosophers, who agreed that the drug produced some sort of
incommunicable metaphysical illumination. One was Xenos Clark, a philosopher who
died young in Amherst, Massachusetts. (His last days were spent collecting his
writings on the "anaesthetic revelation," which he asked James to transmit to
posterity.) Other experimenters included some impressive figures: Edmund Gurney,
an English spiritualist who had written a heavy two-volume catalogue of
telepathic events, hauntings, and other ghostly occurrences (Phantasms of the
Living, 1886); J. A. Symonds, the poet, historian, and biographer; Professor
William Ramsay, a 1904 Nobel laureate and the discoverer of the inert gases;
and, of course, William James. All reported "metaphysical insights" under the
influence of nitrous oxide or similar drugs. Even Tennyson, while he was
recovering from an experience with ether, blurted out "a long metaphysical
term"--unfortunately not recorded.

Many of these figures were associated with the British Society for Psychical
Research. Founded in 1882, the society (which still exists) aimed to test with
an unbiased, scientific eye reports of a wide variety of unusual experiences not
recognized by the academic establishment. Its province was what we would now
call parapsychology: claims of hauntings, telepathy, spontaneous mental
healings, visions of the dead, and other supernatural occurrences. Members
conducted research, collected reports of paranormal activity, and published a
journal. Blood's claim--that nitrous oxide reliably produced the experience of
metaphysical illumination--engaged the society, and its members immediately set
about to verify or disprove it.

James was attracted to the society by its peculiar mixture of scientific caution
and romantic optimism. The son of a Swedenborgian, James was permanently
suspended between the poles of faith and reason. Although he was uncomfortable
with his father's visionary excess, he was scandalized by the neglect of this
very quality on the part of the more reputable sciences. He wrote in "What
Psychical Research Has Accomplished,"


No part of the unclassified residuum [of human experience] has usually been
treated with a more contemptuous scientific disregard than the mass of phenomena
generally called mystical. Physiology will have nothing to do with them.
Orthodox psychology turns its back on them. Medicine sweeps them out; or, at
most, when in an anecdotal vein, records a few of them as "effects of the
imagination"--a phrase of mere dismissal, whose meaning, in this connection, it
is impossible to make precise. All the while, however, the phenomena are there,
lying broadcast over the surface of history.


James even went so far as to compare this disregard to that of a religious
believer who refuses to acknowledge scientific considerations that weigh against
his or her cause: "Certain of our positivists keep chiming to us that, amid the
wreck of every other god and idol, one divinity still stands upright,--that his
name is Scientific Truth, and that he has but one commandment, but that one
supreme, saying, Thou shalt not be a theist." James wanted a more radical
empiricism, a science freed of preconceptions, for which the issue of religious
belief had not been foreclosed ahead of the evidence.

It was Blood, more than any other single figure, who embodied this attitude.
James's final published essay, "A Pluralist Mystic," was a sustained encomium of
Amsterdam's finest philosopher. Blood's work, he wrote, "fascinated me so
'weirdly' that I am conscious of its having been one of the stepping-stones of
my thinking ever since." Blood gave James confidence that empirical and mystical
sympathies could be combined. James wrote,


One cannot criticize the vision of a mystic--one can but pass it by, or else
accept it as having some amount of evidential weight. I felt unable to do either
with a good conscience until I met with Mr. Blood. . . . I confess that the
existence of this novel brand of mysticism has made my cowering mood depart.


Blood's was a "pluralist mysticism" because it presented his extraordinary
mystical experiences simply as experiences, without chaining them to a grand
systematic doctrine such as Christianity or Hegelian philosophy. Moreover, it
provided others with a key to those experiences, nitrous oxide, with which they
could test Blood's claims in controlled and scientific surroundings. It was, in
short, a mysticism without dogma or conclusions--just the thing for a Harvard
professor with strong religious sympathies.


Did Religion Begin With Drugs?


DRUGS have long been associated with religion. Psychedelic mushrooms were used
in Siberia more than 6,000 years ago. The ceremonial use of marijuana among the
Scythians dates back almost 2,500 years. Haoma, a sacred drink of the
Zoroastrians, and soma, an early Hindu analogue, are both presumed to have been
made from psychedelic plants; scriptural references to the drinking of "sacred
urine" have led some historians to propose that the plants in question may have
included the Amanita muscaria mushroom, whose active ingredient passes into
urine without a significant loss of potency. The ancient Greek cult of Dionysus
used wine to provoke visions, and other Greek mystery cults may have used
psychoactive substances. (The use of wine in Christian rituals may be a remnant
of similar practices.) In the New World the religious use of psychedelic
mushrooms has been widely practiced--among the Mayans, in the Aztec empire, and
today, by many members of the Native American Church. In view of this extensive
transcultural association between religion and drug use, at least one
scholar--R. Gordon Wasson, an authority on mushroom cults--has proposed that the
religious impulse itself originated with drugs, as a confused reaction to
intense experiences provoked by the accidental ingestion of psychoactive plants.

James's interest in the connection between drugs and religion was unusual in one
crucial respect. Unlike other drug-using mystics, he did not see drugs as a
means to understanding higher religious truths; on the contrary, he used drugs
because they provided him with access to beliefs that were potentially false. At
the time of his experiments with nitrous oxide James thought that religion,
though it might be based on untruth from the scientific point of view, was
nevertheless good for one. It had survival value: in the long run religion
helped human beings to live rich and happy lives. In "Is Life Worth Living?" he
offered the analogy of a mountain climber who is stuck in a tight place.


Suppose, for instance, that you are climbing a mountain, and have worked
yourself into a position from which the only escape is by a terrible leap. Have
faith that you can successfully make it, and your feet are nerved to its
accomplishment. But mistrust yourself, and think of all the sweet things you
have heard the scientists say of maybes, and you will hesitate so long that, at
last, all unstrung and trembling, and launching yourself in a moment of despair,
you roll in the abyss.


This analogy, which emphasizes belief's potential usefulness rather than its
truth, is utterly characteristic of James, a man who arrived at philosophy by
way of medicine and psychology rather than physical science and logic.

At the age of twenty-eight James had fallen into a period of deep depression.
Unable to see his way around the determinism of his materialist friends, he felt
pessimistic, not just about the possibility of human freedom in a world of
physical laws but also about his own aptitude for philosophy. The death of a
favorite cousin, coupled with repeated bouts of physical illness, exacerbated
his situation. Finally came a crisis. One night, walking into a darkened room,
James had a sudden hallucinatory vision: a young man he had once seen, a patient
at a mental hospital, black-haired, with "greenish" skin, sitting on a bench
against the wall, his legs pressed up against his chest, moving only his eyes.
"That shape am I," James wrote: a powerless waif, observing a world he could not
change. After this, he said, "the universe changed entirely." He began to wake
up each morning with dread in his stomach. For months he was afraid to go into
the dark alone. Concealing his condition from the people around him, James
quietly contemplated suicide.

Over the next few months his melancholia faded somewhat. Then, on April 30,
1870, a dam burst.


I think yesterday was a crisis in my life. I finished the first part of
Renouvier's 2nd Essay and saw no reason why his definition of free will--"the
sustaining of a thought because I choose to when I might have other
thoughts"--need be the definition of an illusion. At any rate I will assume for
the present--until next year--that it is no illusion. My first act of free will
shall be to believe in free will. For the remainder of the year, I will abstain
from the mere speculation & contemplative [meditation] in which my nature takes
most delight, and voluntarily cultivate the feeling of moral freedom, by reading
books favorable to it, as well as by acting.


James chose to believe in free will not because he thought it was true but
because it was necessary to his well-being. Like the mountain climber facing a
life-or-death jump, he simply screwed up his courage and told himself that he
was free. "In such a case," James wrote about the mountain climber, "(and it
belongs to an enormous class) the part of wisdom as well as of courage is to
believe what is in the line of your needs, for only by such belief is the need
fulfilled."

James's career involved a progressive generalization of this thought. What began
as a simple, almost physical necessity--a personal need to believe in free will
in order to escape crushing moral paralysis--blossomed into a full-fledged
philosophical doctrine. Beliefs, James eventually decided, were adaptations,
like the giraffe's long neck or the tiger's claws: they were justifiable only
insofar as they helped people to get around in the world. To believe what one
needed to believe was no mere sign of weakness, as some of James's
contemporaries contended. Rather, it showed a healthy understanding of what the
process of believing was all about. In particular James argued that we are not
obligated to be determinists, atheists, or materialists just because science
might say that those are the correct and true doctrines. Ultimately science
itself should be evaluated in terms of a higher moral question: To what extent
are scientific beliefs conducive to human happiness?


Positive Illusions


SOME remarkable work by psychologists has recently illuminated James's position.
Lyn Abramson, of the University of Wisconsin, and Lauren Alloy, of Temple
University, have uncovered a number of "cognitive illusions" to which normal,
healthy people are subject. Emotional health, they suggest, involves mildly
overoptimistic presumptions and a corresponding insensitivity to failure, which
result in a propensity to make straightforwardly false judgments. Perversely,
the clinically depressed are often free of these cognitive illusions--they are,
to use the subtitle of one of Abramson and Alloy's best-known papers, "Sadder
But Wiser." Likewise, Shelley Taylor, a social psychologist, has studied the use
of illusions by victims of trauma and illness. She found that like James's
mountaineer, those who are unjustifiably optimistic tend to live better-adjusted
and happier lives than people faced with similar situations who are thoroughly
realistic about their prospects. (Taylor's book, Positive Illusions, provides an
introduction to the subject of useful falsehoods.) Finally, Daniel Goleman, the
author of Vital Lies, Simple Truths, and other neo-Freudians have argued that
repression, the forgetting of unpleasant facts, plays a crucial role in
emotional health. Overall, the psychological consensus seems to be that there
can be a reasonably widespread conflict between truth and happiness. The best
beliefs, as James clearly intuited, are by no means the truest ones. (Toward the
end of his life James came to use "true" almost as a synonym for "useful," but
the early James had not yet taken this radical step.)

James's life was filled with eloquent demonstrations, both large and small, of
this principle. Testifying before the Massachusetts legislature, in 1898, he
opposed a bill that would have prohibited Christian Scientists from practicing
their "mind-cures." "You are not to ask yourselves whether these mind-curers
really achieve the successes that are claimed," he told the lawmakers. "It is
enough for you as legislators to ascertain that a large number of our citizens .
. . are persuaded that a valuable new department of medical experience is by
them opening up." On a more mundane level James supported the philosopher
Charles Sanders Peirce, his friend and mentor, with money that was from his own
pocket but that James claimed had been collected from Peirce's many "anonymous
admirers." This was an ordinary white lie, but in the context of James's
lifelong concern for the practical consequences of belief it resonates with
unusual grandeur. James's genius can be described as an unwillingness to
overlook the numerous instances of benign deception (and self-deception) that
mark human life. With inspired audacity he suggested a link between these banal
little deceptions and the grand, useful, and possibly false world views that
characterize religious belief.

James's interest in drugs needs to be seen in this light. Although as a
philosopher James preached the "will to believe," as a man he was not always
able to put this idea into practice. Without nitrous oxide he was a cautious
scientist whose skeptical nature prevented him from experiencing the religious
joys that his philosophy celebrated. "My own constitution," he said, speaking of
mystical experiences, "shuts me out from their enjoyment almost entirely." With
the drug he became an inspired visionary whose rantings would surely turn a Beat
poet green with envy.


No verbiage can give it, because the verbiage is other.
Incoherent, coherent--same.
And it fades! And it's infinite! AND it's infinite! . . .
Don't you see the difference, don't you see the identity?
Constantly opposites united!
The same me telling you to write and not to write!
Extreme--extreme, extreme! . . .
Something, and other than that thing!
Intoxication, and otherness than intoxication.
Every attempt at betterment,--every attempt at otherment,
--is a--
It fades forever and forever as we move.


Drugs, in short, gave James the theorist who dared people to believe what
accorded with their needs the ability to do just that.


The Freedom to Believe


AMERICANS, it is often remarked, are confused about drugs. The image of William
Bennett giving up his cigarettes in order to lead the nation's War on Drugs
exemplifies this confusion. We tolerate cigarettes and alcohol but prohibit the
recreational use of similarly mild intoxicants, including marijuana. We pour
billions of dollars into law enforcement but devote only a tiny fraction of this
amount to the medical treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts. Courts
impose widely disparate punishments for the possession and use of chemically
similar substances, notably crack and powdered cocaine. But perhaps the most
egregious area of inconsistency involves religious drug use. Faced with the
claim that drug use contributes importantly to religious belief, courts have
made a number of confused and conflicting judgments.

In 1964 the California Supreme Court held that members of the Native American
Church, an association of Native American groups all of whom use peyote in their
religious rituals, had a First Amendment right to use the drug. In subsequent
years the Native American Church obtained religious exemption from peyote
restrictions in twenty-seven other states, though in a few instances, notably in
a case before the Oregon Supreme Court, its arguments were rejected. Meanwhile,
non-Native American requests for religious exemption from drug statutes have
repeatedly been denied--including those of the Neo-American Church, which in
1968 claimed 20,000 members; the Universal Church of Christ Light, which used
marijuana in its rituals; the Church of the Awakening, founded in 1963 by two
retired osteopaths; the Native American Church of New York (of whose 1,000
members only a few were in fact Native Americans); Timothy Leary; and the
Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, a syncretic Jamaican group. Finally, in 1990, the
U.S. Supreme Court rejected the claim that the First Amendment protected the
Native American Church's use of peyote--in part, no doubt, because of the
obvious double standard that was being applied. Congress retaliated in 1993 with
the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in effect reinstating both the Native
American Church's right to use drugs in its religious rituals and the disturbing
double standard.

The reasoning behind decisions that uphold the right to use drugs in a religious
context is obvious: drugs play an important, even essential, role in the
practice of many religious groups; the Constitution protects the free exercise
of religious belief; therefore the Constitution protects the use of drugs. The
reasoning behind decisions that reject the same right is that religious action,
unlike religious belief, is not absolutely protected by the Constitution. The
distinction was definitively articulated by Justice Owen Roberts in Cantwell v.
Connecticut (1940). "The [First] Amendment," he wrote, "embraces two
concepts--freedom to believe and freedom to act. The first is absolute but, in
the nature of things, the second cannot be." Thus the law, though it does not
seek to prevent people from having certain religious beliefs, may prevent them
from acting on those beliefs. Courts have held, for instance, that prohibitions
on polygamy apply to Mormons, and that even Christian snake-handling sects are
subject to regulations controlling the treatment of dangerous animals. Since
taking drugs is an action, it is thus subject to government regulation.

But is this the right way to look at the situation? William James used drugs not
because he had religious beliefs that encouraged him to do so but in order to
generate religious or mystical beliefs that he otherwise would not have had.


Looking back on my own experiences [with nitrous oxide], they all converge
towards a kind of insight to which I cannot help ascribing some metaphysical
significance. The keynote of it is invariably a reconciliation. It is as if the
opposites of the world, whose contradictoriness and conflict make all our
difficulties and troubles, were melted into unity. . . . This is a dark saying,
I know, when thus expressed in terms of common logic, but I cannot wholly escape
from its authority. I feel as if it must mean something, something like what the
hegelian philosophy means, if one could only lay hold of it more clearly. Those
who have ears to hear, let them hear; to me the living sense of its reality only
comes in the artificial mystic state of mind. [Italics added.]


If we take this claim seriously, and if we also take seriously Justice Roberts's
assertion that the "freedom to believe" is absolute, then we need to rethink the
prevailing consensus about religious drug use. Taking drugs is an action,
certainly, but actions that are necessary for the production of religious
beliefs should not be conflated with actions taken because of religious beliefs
that could exist regardless. James needed nitrous oxide in order to have his
mystical belief. Did he then have a constitutional right to use the drug? Just
how absolute is the freedom to believe?

More important, James's philosophy gives us a principled way to think about the
relation between religion and drugs. From a Jamesian perspective, religious
toleration represents not just a commitment to individual freedom, not simply a
hands-off policy on the part of the government toward questions of ultimate
truth, but rather an affirmative decision to shelter certain useful though
potentially false beliefs. Drug use, from this perspective, represents a similar
sort of decision, but on the level of the individual rather than of the society.
Just as a society might choose to nurture or tolerate certain sorts of
illusions, pluralistically embracing both atheistic and religious subcultures,
so, too, might an individual decide--as did James--to divide his or her life
into periods of sober rationality and ecstatic religious intoxication. Drugs can
allow even the most skeptical people, those who by constitution or upbringing
are not susceptible to religious insights, to experience temporary periods of
pleasing falsehood. Indeed, this is the real religious significance of drug use,
from the Jamesian point of view--that it lets us choose, if only vaguely and
temporarily, what to believe.

In 1977 Judge Jack Weinstein, of New York State, wrote,


Neither the trappings of robes, nor temples of stone, nor a fixed liturgy, nor
an extensive literature or history is required to meet the test of beliefs
cognizable under the Constitution as religious. So far as our law is concerned,
one person's religious beliefs held for one day are presumptively entitled to
the same protection as the beliefs of millions which have been shared for
thousands of years.


These are generous words, and they should make us ask whether James's
beliefs--held not for a day but for the mere minutes of his
intoxication--warrant comparable charity. Can we learn to look at drug-induced
illusion with enthusiastic Jamesian innocence? Is not the degree of self-control
that pharmacology has given us remarkable? Prozac promises to change the hand
that chemistry has dealt us, altering our moods to suit our needs. For James,
drugs served a similar function: using nitrous oxide, he altered the beliefs
that science had given him, experiencing if only for a brief time the pleasing
illusions of the religious visionary.

Drugs, of course, are dangerous. They can destroy lives, families, and even
whole communities. (James's own brother Robertson fought a long and losing
battle with alcoholism.) The story of William James shows us how drugs can also
contribute to human well-being, fulfilling in some instances an authentic
religious need. Of course, our political culture is unprepared to recognize
this. No doubt our courts will for the foreseeable future continue to deny that
seekers like James might have a compelling religious interest in the use of
drugs. Our politicians will continue to make perhaps unnaturally sharp
distinctions: between the pleasing illusions of religious belief and those of
intoxication; between the Native American's peyote and the non-Native American's
nitrous oxide. A century after William James we have yet to catch up with him
and his intoxicated nonsense.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright © 1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; May 1996; The Nitrous Oxide Philosopher; Volume 277, No.
5; pages 93-101.

===

Feisty


Zinj

unread,
Jun 26, 2003, 2:32:50 PM6/26/03
to
In article <RmGKa.1121$Va5.3...@dca1-nnrp1.news.algx.net>,
su...@skytoday.com says...

>
> blackdog may be interested in this as Lord, Alfred Tennyson wrote some lengthy passages whilst
> on nitrous oxide :)))))) good going!
>
>
> http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/96may/nitrous/nitrous.htm
>
> Do drugs make religious experience possible? They did for James and for other
> philosopher-mystics of his day. James's experiments with psychoactive drugs
> raise difficult questions about belief and its conditions
>
> by Dmitri Tymoczko

<snip>

from:
http://miraclevision.com/hubbard/secret-lives/secret-pg1.html

GERRY ARMSTRONG - Hubbard's household manager:
"There were two and a half versions of Excalibur. I read them and
I didn't go mad and didn't die. They also include the information
within related writings, that these came out of a nitrous oxide
incident. Hubbard had a couple of teeth extracted, and it was
while under the effect of nitrous oxide that he came up with
Excalibur."

Hubbard's 'death' was in fact an hallucination under the effects
of anaesthetic. So what was the intellectual dish he'd fed on?

GERRY ARMSTRONG:
"It was not anything particularly revolutionary. The key to
Excalibur was this great realisation, by Hubbard, of 'Survive' as
being the one command that all existence, and all life and all
people, have. That became the basis for a lot of Dianetics and a
lot of Scientology."

This idea had a profound impact on Hubbard. In a letter to Polly
he wrote 'I have high hopes of smashing my name into history so
violently that it will take a legendary form.'

The Second World War brought a new dimension to the Hubbard
legend. He said that while serving in the U.S. Navy he had been
blinded, but that inspired by the insights he had first glimpsed
when he died on the operating table he had dramatically been able
to cure himself.
--------------------------

From personal experience I've long suspected that Hubbard aquired
his conviction of the reality of 'exteriorization' (not in itself
in any way a 'new' concept) from either that or another nitrous
oxide experience.

It's interesting stuff, although, for anyone with more rigorous
standards than a Hubbard, not enough to qualify as 'scientific
evidence' of anything.

Zinj
--
You can't get your parking validated if you don't have a car

Dave Bird

unread,
Jun 27, 2003, 5:42:38 PM6/27/03
to
In article<RmGKa.1121$Va5.3...@dca1-nnrp1.news.algx.net>, Feisty
<su...@skytoday.com> writes:
>lackdog

There are various BBC programmes on this by Susan Greenfield,
also a recent series of lectures on BBC TV by a bloke
called (?) Ramachandran from (?) California.

You might like to do some more searching around yourself....?


http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/cis/jeeves/lecture4.html

Implications from neuropsychological research
for Christian beliefs and practices

(1) Beliefs - Whatever happened to the soul?
First, I am suggesting that statements about the physical nature of
human beings made from the perspective of biology or neuroscience refer
to exactly the same entity as statements made about the soulish or
spiritual nature of persons from the point review of theology or
religious traditions. This disavows the suggestion that human science
speaks about a physical being whilst theology and religion speak about a
non-material essence or soul. Perhaps a better way of saying this is
that when we talk of souls we are talking about whole persons: body,
mind and spirit. One might say "we are souls, we don't have souls". Such
a view contrasts sharply with views of soul and body in, for example,
Socrates discourse on death. He wrote "Does not death mean that the body
comes to exist by itself, separated from the soul, and that the soul
exists by herself, separated from the body? What is death but that?“
(Socrates, Plato's Phaedo, Fourth century BC). The idea of an immortal
soul arises not from the Bible but from Greek thought. In the end, Plato
records that Socrates lived out his own teaching by drinking the poison
hemlock in the serene conviction that his immortal soul would now find
release from its bodily prison. For Socrates and Plato, bodily death was
a welcome liberation. Indeed, it was actually not dying.

In the centuries after Christ, theologians combined this Greek doctrine
of the immortal soul with biblical images of human nature. When Origen,
a third century platonic philosopher, became the father of theology, he
built into Christian doctrine Plato's idea of the soul. In the early
fifth century, Augustine thought Plato to be the most bright in all of
philosophy. And in the sixteenth century, John Calvin, who was heavily
influenced by both Plato and Augustine, declared that Plato alone
"rightly affirmed" the immortal soul that "lies hidden in man separate
from body".

Second, whilst scriptural teachings about the image of God do not, by
their nature address directly any dualism-physicalism distinction, there
is at the same time nothing in their teachings that necessitates belief
in an ontologically distinct soul. What is clear from Scripture is that
the image of God is primarily relational. That is, it implies a capacity
to enter into a covenant relationship with God and with other humans.
Humans are considered unique from the rest of God's creation primarily
due to their capacity for covenant relationships.

Third, any ideas we have about the nature of persons ultimately affect
the way we treat one another. What we understand about human nature
impacts on our ethics. Are there any consequences of the views I am
putting forward which might start us on a slippery slope of ethical or
moral decline? In the past, dualist views have certainly sustained a
sense of caution about what can appropriately be done to besouled bodies
of other individuals. If an immmortal soul is present, doesn't this
force one to continue to honour and love the seriously mentally
defective or demented? The medical ethicist Stephen Post, whilst
recognizing that in the past dualism has played a protective role within
ethical systems, suggests that the fundamental biblical motive for the
care of those who have little ability to reciprocate is not to be found
in a dualist consideration of the soul of the other person. Rather, he
argues, it emerges from the ethos of bestowed love and from the
narratives of Jesus amongst the most vulnerable. Thus a narrative of
love and consideration to helpless, dying or deficient persons is
sufficient motive, and perhaps a more purely biblical motive, than the
consideration of a separate substantial soul.

(2) Practices-The Mind-Brain link and the Christian Life
By emphasising, in the way that I have, the unity of the human person, I
am, by implication, suggesting that the spiritual dimension to a
person's life is no more immune to changes in the brain than other
aspects of mental life. Such a suggestion, at times, seems to surprise
and trouble, some Christian people. I do not believe that it should and
may I now give you three brief examples to illustrate why I think this
is the case, There are a number of well documented cases of what happens
to devout Christians when they develop Alzheimer's disease. The
psychologist professor Glenn Weaver documents the spiritual pilgrimage
of a devout Christian lady who after a life of regular attendance at
church services where she was well known as a gentle Christian, with a
deep concern for her fellow Christians, she began to develop the tell
tale symptoms of increasing forgetfulness. She struggled with the
problem in the way that many people do but she was fighting a losing
battle. She found that she could no longer remember the names of those
she wanted to pray for and her letters became verbose and lost much of
their content. This in turn made her increasingly anxious; and her
anxiety led onto depression and the classical textbook description of
developing Alzheimer's disease became evident. Glenn Weaver, however,
points out that in her case there was much more to her experience than
the usual textbook account. She was deeply troubled about her
relationship with God. She felt she was personally responsible for
falling away from her former close walk with God ,and that she was
deserting her friends through her friendship and prayers. She concluded
that because of her lack of faith God was setting her aside because she
was no longer fit for his service. As she continued she became more
confused and began to lose control of her natural processes and away
from the security provided by her home and husband, she would wander
about violating the commands of her nurses and then describing bizarre
sexual disturbances in an explicit way. She came to believe she'd
committed sins that provoked God's wrath and the continued deterioration
of her condition and the fact that the doctors could not help her
confirmed her in her beliefs. Eventually she lost all interest in her
daily devotions and prayer. The main point here is quite simple; with
neural changes there are psychological consequences and these in turn
affect spiritual awareness. Such is the unity of the human person.

My second example is the attempts to explore the association of some
forms of religiosity and the occurrence of mystical experiences with
their possible neural substrates, an attempt which has continued from
time to time over the last thirty years. Many who write on the topic
begin with the apostle Paul's Damascus Road experience and then quickly
move on to talk about the religiosity of the typical epileptic patient,
something which has been recognised since at least 1838 by Esquirol. The
debate will continue as more evidence becomes available. However, as one
recent study by David Tucker and his associates has reported, "the data
indicate that hyper-religiosity is not a consistent interictal trait of
individuals with temporal lobe epilepsy. Further, although hyper-
religiosity and temporal lobe epilepsy may co-occur in a few
individuals, it does not appear to be a direct causal relationship
between repeated seizure discharge in the temporal lobes and hyper-
religiosity."

Third, I suggest that a return to a more holistic view of the human
person, prompted in part by recent developments in neuroscience has
helpful implications, I believe, for understanding the spiritual
distresses that are well documented in the experiences of Christian
leaders and from which we all, from time to time, suffer. It means that
the spiritual dimension to our personality is not immune to the changes
in our biological and neural substrates. I have already given you one
example of this in the specific instance of Altzheimers disease. The
psychiatrist Gaius Davies has documented how some of the outstanding men
and women of God whom all acknowledge have been greatly used by him are
also found on close study often to be those who have endured significant
swings in the immediacy of their felt awareness of the presence and
power of God. Davies shows how in the case of some of these people it is
possible for us, with the benefit of hindsight, and informed by the
advances in psychiatry at the end of the 20th-century, to be fairly sure
that some of their experiences were pathological in the sense that today
we would classify them in accepted categories of psychological illness.
Some were obsessive compulsive, some were manic depressive, some
struggled with specific phobias, and so on. Among those studied by Gaius
Davies were John Bunyan and Amy Carmichael, William Cowper, CS Lewis,
Martin Luther, Gerard Manley Hopkins and J. B. Phillips. The relevance
of his studies to us today is that there are those amongst them whose
illness probably had a significant biological and biochemical etiology
and these would include Luther, Cowper, Shaftesbury and Phillips. Luther
was probably an obsessive compulsive/depressive; Cowper suffered six
serious depressive breakdowns and made several suicide attempts;
Shaftesbury was probably a manic/depressive suffering from a bi-polar
affective disorder (he reported how his moods swung from ‘wild joy’ to
‘cruel despondency’. Phillips was probably an obsessive-compulsive.
Despite all these things they triumphed to our lasting benefit. We do
indeed ‘have this treasure in earthen vessels’.

Those of you, who like me enjoyed the fascinating BBC television series
by Susan Greenfield on the brain, may remember that in her first lecture
she made several references to the religious or spiritual dimension to a
person's life and personality. It is interesting that following her
presentation there were a number of letters to the press complaining
that she was attacking religion and the spiritual dimension to life.
While we can understand the sensitivity, for some people, of singling
out religion for reference in this way, a little thought would quickly
indicate that it was unjustified. To be more specific, Susan Greenfield
could as easily have indicated that in due time, using appropriate brain
imaging techniques, we may be able to say a little more about which
systems in the brain are most active when she is talking about brains
and their properties. No one, I think, would have then gone on to argue
that because we may understand something of brain mechanisms underlying
her fascinating presentations, therefore, we could give no validity to
the brain story that she was telling us. In a word, understanding
something about the brain mechanisms underlying mental life tells us
nothing, one way or the other about the truth claims of the statements
being made at the time. To be more specific because this is an important
point, she could as easily showed us a picture of Einstein's brain
drawing attention to some of its unusual features, but this would have
told us nothing at all, one way or the other about the truth of his
theories. What I believe is much more relevant is that by welcoming
every new bit of information about the neural substrates of
spirituality, should give us insights which will enable us to understand
ourselves better, but more importantly will enable us to show more
sympathy and compassion to those who may be going through what in past
centuries used to be called " the dark night of the soul".

--
FUCK THE SKULL OF HUBBARD, AND BUGGER THE DWARF HE RODE IN ON!!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
8====3 (O 0) GROETEN --- PRINTZ XEMU EXTRAWL no real OT has
|n| (COMMANDER, FIFTH INVADER FORCE) ever existed
.................................................................
A society without a religion is like a maniac without a chainsaw.

Dave Bird

unread,
Jun 28, 2003, 4:37:18 PM6/28/03
to
In article<RmGKa.1121$Va5.3...@dca1-nnrp1.news.algx.net>, Feisty
<su...@skytoday.com> writes:
>
>blackdog may be interested in this as Lord, Alfred Tennyson wrote some lengthy
>passages whilst
>on nitrous oxide :)))))) good going!

This may be marginally relevant because Hubbard wrote Excalibur
based on a nitrous oxide vision.


>
>http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/96may/nitrous/nitrous.htm
>
>Do drugs make religious experience possible? They did for James and for other
>philosopher-mystics of his day. James's experiments with psychoactive drugs
>raise difficult questions about belief and its conditions
>
>by Dmitri Tymoczko

It is beyond doubt that there are areas of the frontal lobe which
mediate religious-type experience. They can be activated by
psychedelic drugs, by temporal lobe epilepsy, by pulsing
magnetic fields etc. I would go on to say this shows that
religious feeling is just a dysfunction of those areas
but THAT IS NOT THE INEVITABLE CONCLUSION.

It can also be argued that god simply made us with a
"receiving aerial" to pick up his messages to us.

The common observation is that the discoveries we bring back
from drug-induced or epileptic visions turn out to be nonsense
much like we concoct in our dreams.

Normally we get the feeling that something is special and wonderful
when by rational judgement it is something very new and different.
LSD helps you feel that everything is wonderful. How? By turning
off the filter so that the feeling is wonderful all the time: the
mona lisa is wonderful, so is a dog turd, so is nothing in particular.


Of course some people may value it to know what that feeling is like
but, as far as learning anything useful, it is even more of a
waste of time than scientology.

>
>
>
>This experience, which in James's words involved "the strongest emotion" he had
>ever had, remained with him throughout his life. In 1882 he first described his
>experiments with the drug; in 1898 he published an article titled "Consciousness
>Under Nitrous Oxide" in the Psychological Review ; in 1902 he recounted the
>experience in his greatest work, The Varieties of Religious Experience ; and in
>1910, in the last essay he completed, he implied that nitrous oxide had had an
>abiding influence on his thinking.
>
>When the drug wore off, James found that his mystical insights had disappeared.
>What remained were incomprehensible words--"tattered fragments" that seemed like
>"meaningless drivel." Being a philosophical visionary rather than a
>garden-variety recreational drug user, however, James was not inclined to let
>his sober consciousness have the final say. On the contrary, he took his
>experiences with nitrous oxide as evidence that human life was more richly
>varied than he had previously (and soberly) imagined. "Some years ago," he wrote
>in Varieties ,
>
>
>I myself made some observations on . . . nitrous oxide intoxication, and
>reported them in print. One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and
>my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our
>normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one
>special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the
>filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely
>different.

This does not impress. By me, you can be rationally conscious,
and you can be impaired or temporarily brain damaged in various
ways that make you perceive rubbish.

This sounds to me like vexatious sophistry. We know the rules which
make stars the kind of object they are, and conscious animals the kind
of object THEY are. The sizes will, objectively, be very different.
Whether we choose to find this remarkable is really our choice.

Possibly e.g. delusions induced by fasting. So what?

Yes, I can sympathise: someone who says truth is truth and nonsense
is nonsense, that shit is not shinola, and it is not a mere matter
of taste or opinion which is which.

OK, so, religion might be a delusory belief but a useful one in that
it motivates us to do difficult things; much like drinking half a
bottle of whiskey might give you dutch courage to do difficult things
though it does little for our rational judgement. I can live with that.
Eric Hoffer says much the same thing about revolutionary delusions.
This may be what an evolutionary psychology approach says about the
development of religious belief.

>
>
>Suppose, for instance, that you are climbing a mountain, and have worked
>yourself into a position from which the only escape is by a terrible leap. Have
>faith that you can successfully make it, and your feet are nerved to its
>accomplishment. But mistrust yourself, and think of all the sweet things you
>have heard the scientists say of maybes, and you will hesitate so long that, at
>last, all unstrung and trembling, and launching yourself in a moment of despair,
>you roll in the abyss.

This phenomenon is called "depressive realism". Ask a depressive
person whether a sports game will be rained off and he will say
(accurately) "the chances are about one in four". Ask a healthy
person and they will say "oh, it's not likely to rain, let's
go ahead and take the chance."

Oh yawn. For what it's worth, I think there is one pre-existing
time track, but no physical way to know what the future in fact is.
Therefore you might as well act as if you are making free choices.


>
>
>James chose to believe in free will not because he thought it was true but
>because it was necessary to his well-being. Like the mountain climber facing a
>life-or-death jump, he simply screwed up his courage and told himself that he
>was free. "In such a case," James wrote about the mountain climber, "(and it
>belongs to an enormous class) the part of wisdom as well as of courage is to
>believe what is in the line of your needs, for only by such belief is the need
>fulfilled."
>
>James's career involved a progressive generalization of this thought. What began
>as a simple, almost physical necessity--a personal need to believe in free will
>in order to escape crushing moral paralysis--blossomed into a full-fledged
>philosophical doctrine. Beliefs, James eventually decided, were adaptations,
>like the giraffe's long neck or the tiger's claws: they were justifiable only
>insofar as they helped people to get around in the world. To believe what one
>needed to believe was no mere sign of weakness, as some of James's
>contemporaries contended.

Well, it's like drinking lots of whiskey to get dutch courage:
not the most rational course in the world, but sometimes it works.

I responded to this earlier.

Yes

>William James used drugs not
>because he had religious beliefs that encouraged him to do so but in order to
>generate religious or mystical beliefs that he otherwise would not have had.

It makes eminent sense to say that actions motivated by religion must
obey necessary laws made for the general good (and not simply directed
out of prejudice against their belief). For example, if doctrine says
that animals must be sacrificed in what is generally felt to be a
seriously cruel way, it is perfectly reasonable to ban that.


>
>
>Looking back on my own experiences [with nitrous oxide], they all converge
>towards a kind of insight to which I cannot help ascribing some metaphysical
>significance. The keynote of it is invariably a reconciliation. It is as if the
>opposites of the world, whose contradictoriness and conflict make all our
>difficulties and troubles, were melted into unity. . . . This is a dark saying,
>I know, when thus expressed in terms of common logic, but I cannot wholly escape
>from its authority. I feel as if it must mean something, something like what the
>hegelian philosophy means, if one could only lay hold of it more clearly. Those
>who have ears to hear, let them hear; to me the living sense of its reality only
>comes in the artificial mystic state of mind. [Italics added.]
>
>
>If we take this claim seriously, and if we also take seriously Justice Roberts's
>assertion that the "freedom to believe" is absolute, then we need to rethink the
>prevailing consensus about religious drug use. Taking drugs is an action,
>certainly, but actions that are necessary for the production of religious
>beliefs should not be conflated with actions taken because of religious beliefs
>that could exist regardless.

Hum, sounds like sophistry to me. In practice the reasons you will
never get this accepted is that none of the large mainstream religions
approve of it either, it is only a few small unpopular groups who do.

-- . . : : ,; . : ' ___.
uno, dos, tres, |FUEGO| .:. .:. .:': :' .:':' :. . : (") #oH|
' ' :' : :' : .::. H_ ~~~|
< > __ ,;;,. \\::// R_) |
'-|"""(") {__}::===== ....'''' ' ' ' ___..\||/....L\. ...|
____||--|_'--/__\___ '' .--''':::::::::::::::::::::
\ / /////////////S.Coronado/////
;'^';-._.-;'^';-._.-;'^';-._.-;'^';-._;'^';-._.-;'^';-._.-;'^';-._.-;'^
LRonHubbard is shelled byGoats inHell.READ http://www.ronthewarhero.org

Feisty

unread,
Jul 8, 2003, 7:02:46 PM7/8/03
to

Dave Bird <da...@xemu.demon.co.uk> wrote in message news:YIYUnjA+xf$+E...@xemu.demon.co.uk...

> In article<RmGKa.1121$Va5.3...@dca1-nnrp1.news.algx.net>, Feisty
> <su...@skytoday.com> writes:
> >
> >blackdog may be interested in this as Lord, Alfred Tennyson wrote some lengthy
> >passages whilst
> >on nitrous oxide :)))))) good going!
>
> This may be marginally relevant because Hubbard wrote Excalibur
> based on a nitrous oxide vision.


Found a writing with a bit more elaborating on the nitrous oxide under the title of "Mysticism"
from William James. Never really read much under these topics.

There is another site I'll get that has more James writings. Seems as though he had researched
with a galvanometer as well.

http://www.psychwww.com/psyrelig/james/james12.htm#414

Back to Table of Contents for The Varieties of Religious Experience

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

LECTURES XVI AND XVII
MYSTICISM

OVER and over again in these lectures I have raised points and left them open and unfinished
until we should have come to the subject of Mysticism. Some of you, I fear, may have smiled as
you noted my reiterated postponements. But now the hour has come when mysticism must be faced
in good earnest, and those broken threads wound up together. One may say truly, I think, that
personal religious experience has its root and centre in mystical states of consciousness; so
for us, who in these lectures are treating personal experience as the exclusive subject of our
study, such states of consciousness ought to form the vital chapter from which the other
chapters get their light. Whether my treatment of mystical states will shed more light or
darkness, I do not know, for my own constitution shuts me out from their enjoyment almost
entirely, and I can speak of them only at second hand. But though forced to look upon the
subject so externally, I will be as objective and receptive as I can; and I think I shall at
least succeed in convincing you of the reality of the states in question, and of the paramount
importance of their function.

First of all, then, I ask, What does the expression 'mystical states of consciousness' mean?
How do we part off mystical states from other states?

The words 'mysticism' and 'mystical' are often used as terms of mere reproach, to throw at any
opinion which we regard as vague and vast and sentimental, and without a base in either facts
or logic. For some writers a 'mystic' is any person who believes in thought-transference, or
spirit-return. Employed in this way the word has little value: there are too many less
ambiguous synonyms. So, to keep it useful by restricting it, I will do what I did in the case
of the word 'religion,' and simply propose to you four marks which, when an experience has
them, may justify us in calling it mystical for the purpose of the present lectures. In this
way we shall save verbal disputation, and the recriminations that generally go therewith.

1. Ineffability.- The handiest of the marks by which I classify a state of mind as mystical is
negative. The subject of it immediately says that it defies expression, that no adequate report
of its contents can be given in words. It follows from this that its quality must be directly
experienced; it cannot be imparted or transferred to others. In this peculiarity mystical
states are more like states of feeling than like states of intellect. No one can make clear to
another who has never had a certain feeling, in what the quality or worth of it consists. One
must have musical ears to know the value of a symphony; one must have been in love one's self
to understand a lover's state of mind. Lacking the heart or ear, we cannot interpret the
musician or the lover justly, and are even likely to consider him weak-minded or absurd. The
mystic finds that most of us accord to his experiences an equally incompetent treatment.

2. Noetic quality.- Although so similar to states of feeling, mystical states seem to those who
experience them to be also states of knowledge. They are states of insight into depths of truth
unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of
significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with
them a curious sense of authority for after-time.

These two characters will entitle any state to be called mystical, in the sense in which I use
the word. Two other qualities are less sharply marked, but are usually found. These are:

3. Transiency.- Mystical states cannot be sustained for long. Except in rare instances, half an
hour, or at most an hour or two, seems to be the limit beyond which they fade into the light of
common day. Often, when faded, their quality can but imperfectly be reproduced in memory; but
when they recur it is recognized; and from one recurrence to another it is susceptible of
continuous development in what is felt as inner richness and importance.

4. Passivity.- Although the oncoming of mystical states may be facilitated by preliminary
voluntary operations, as by fixing the attention, or going through certain bodily performances,
or in other ways which manuals of mysticism prescribe; yet when the characteristic sort of
consciousness once has set in, the mystic feels as if his own will were in abeyance, and indeed
sometimes as if he were grasped and held by a superior power. This latter peculiarity connects
mystical states with certain definite phenomena of secondary or alternative personality, such
as prophetic speech, automatic writing, or the mediumistic trance. When these latter conditions
are well pronounced, however, there may be no recollection whatever of the phenomenon and it
may have no significance for the subject's usual inner life, to which, as it were, it makes a
mere interruption. Mystical states, strictly so called, are never merely interruptive. Some
memory of their content always remains, and a profound sense of their importance. They modify
the inner life of the subject between the times of their recurrence. Sharp divisions in this
region are, however, difficult to make, and we find all sorts of gradations and mixtures.

These four characteristics are sufficient to mark out a group of states of consciousness
peculiar enough to deserve a special name and to call for careful study. Let it then be called
the mystical group.

Our next step should be to gain acquaintance with some typical examples. Professional mystics
at the height of their development have often elaborately organized experiences and a
philosophy based thereupon. But you remember what I said in my first lecture: phenomena are
best understood when placed within their series, studied in their germ and in their over-ripe
decay, and compared with their exaggerated and degenerated kindred. The range of mystical
experience is very wide, much too wide for us to cover in the time at our disposal. Yet the
method of serial study is so essential: for interpretation that if we really wish to reach
conclusions we must use it. I will begin, therefore, with phenomena which claim no special
religious significance, and end with those of which the religious pretensions are extreme.

The simplest rudiment of mystical experience would seem to be that deepened sense of the
significance of a maxim or formula which occasionally sweeps over one. "I've heard that said
all my life," we exclaim, "but I never realized its full meaning until now." "When a
fellow-monk," said Luther, "one day repeated the words of the Creed: 'I believe in the
forgiveness of sins,' I saw the Scripture in an entirely new light; and straightway I felt as
if I were born anew. It was as if I had found the door of paradise thrown wide open." * This
sense of deeper significance is not confined to rational propositions. Single words, *(2) and
conjunctions of words, effects of light on land and sea, odors and musical sounds, all bring it
when the mind is tuned aright. Most of us can remember the strangely moving power of passages
in certain poems read when we were young, irrational doorways as they were through which the
mystery of fact, the wildness and the pang of life, stole into our hearts and thrilled them.
The words have now perhaps become mere polished surfaces for us; but lyric poetry and music are
alive and significant only in proportion as they fetch these vague vistas of a life continuous
with our own, beckoning and inviting, yet ever eluding our pursuit. We are alive or dead to the
eternal inner message of the arts according as we have kept or lost this mystical
susceptibility.

* Newman's Securus judicat orbis terrarum is another instance.

*(2) 'Mesopotamia' is the stock comic instance.- An excellent old German lady, who had done
some traveling in her day, used to describe to me her Sehnsucht that she might yet visit
'Philadelphia,' whose wondrous name had always haunted her imagination. Of John Foster it is
said that "single words (as chalcedony), or the names of ancient heroes, had a mighty
fascination over him. 'At any time the word hermit was enough to transport him.' The words
woods and forests would produce the most powerful emotion." Foster's Life, by RYLAND, New York,
1846, p. 3.

A more pronounced step forward on the mystical ladder is found in an extremely frequent
phenomenon, that sudden feeling, namely, which sometimes sweeps over us, of having 'been here
before,' as if at some indefinite past time, in just this place, with just these people, we
were already saying just these things. As Tennyson writes:

"Moreover, something is or seems,

That touches me with mystic gleams,

Like glimpses of forgotten dreams- -

"Of something felt, like something here;

Of something done, I know not where;

Such as no language may declare." *

Sir James Crichton-Browne has given the technical name of 'dreamy states' to these sudden
invasions of vaguely reminiscent consciousness. *(2) They bring a sense of mystery and of the
metaphysical duality of things, and the feeling of an enlargement of perception which seems
imminent but which never completes itself. In Dr. Crichton-Browne's opinion they connect
themselves with the perplexed and scared disturbances of self-consciousness which occasionally
precede epileptic attacks. I think that this learned alienist takes a rather absurdly alarmist
view of an intrinsically insignificant phenomenon. He follows it along the downward ladder, to
insanity; our path pursues the upward ladder chiefly. The divergence shows how important it is
to neglect no part of a phenomenon's connections, for we make it appear admirable or dreadful
according to the context by which we set it off.

* The Two Voices. In a letter to Mr. B.P. Blood, Tennyson reports of himself as follows:

"I have never had any revelations through anaesthetics, but a kind of waking trance- this for
lack of a better word- I have frequently had, quite up from boyhood, when I have been all
alone. This has come upon me through repeating my own name to myself silently, till all at
once, as it were out of the intensity of the consciousness of individuality, individuality
itself seemed to dissolve and fade away into boundless being, and this not a confused state but
the clearest, the surest of the surest, utterly beyond words- where death was an almost
laughable impossibility- the loss of personality (if so it were) seeming no extinction, but the
only true life. I am ashamed of my feeble description. Have I not said the state is utterly
beyond words?"

Professor Tyndall, in a letter, recalls Tennyson saying of this condition: "By God Almighty!
there is no delusion in the matter! It is no nebulous ecstasy, but a state of transcendent
wonder, associated with absolute clearness of mind." Memoirs of Alfred Tennyson, ii. 473.

*(2) The Lancet, July 6 and 13, 1895, reprinted as the Cavendish Lecture, on Dreamy Mental
States, London, Bailliere, 1895. They have been a good deal discussed of late by psychologists.
See, for example, BERNARD-LEROY: L'Illusion de Fausse Reconnaissance, Paris, 1898.

Somewhat deeper plunges into mystical consciousness are met with in yet other dreamy states.
Such feelings as these which Charles Kingsley describes are surely far from being uncommon,
especially in youth:- -

"When I walk the fields, I am oppressed now and then with an innate feeling that everything I
see has a meaning, if I could but understand it. And this feeling of being surrounded with
truths which I cannot grasp amounts to indescribable awe sometimes.... Have you not felt that
your real soul was imperceptible to your mental vision, except in a few hallowed moments?" *

* Charles Kingsley's Life, i. 55, quoted by INGE: Christian Mysticism, London, 1899, p. 341.

A much more extreme state of mystical consciousness is described by J.A. Symonds; and probably
more persons than we suspect could give parallels to it from their own experience.

"Suddenly," writes Symonds, "at church, or in company, or when I was reading, and always, I
think, when my muscles were at rest, I felt the approach of the mood. Irresistibly it took
possession of my mind and will, lasted what seemed an eternity, and disappeared in a series of
rapid sensations which resembled the awakening from anaesthetic influence. One reason why I
disliked this kind of trance was that I could not describe it to myself. I cannot even now find
words to render it intelligible. It consisted in a gradual but swiftly progressive obliteration
of space, time, sensation, and the multitudinous factors of experience which seem to qualify
what we are pleased to call our Self. In proportion as these conditions of ordinary
consciousness were subtracted, the sense of an underlying or essential consciousness acquired
intensity. At last nothing remained but a pure, absolute, abstract Self. The universe became
without form and void of content. But Self persisted, formidable in its vivid keenness, feeling
the most poignant doubt about reality, ready, as it seemed, to find existence break as breaks a
bubble round about it. And what then? The apprehension of a coming dissolution, the grim
conviction that this state was the last state of the conscious Self, the sense that I had
followed the last thread of being to the verge of the abyss, and had arrived at demonstration
of eternal Maya or illusion, stirred or seemed to stir me up again. The return to ordinary
conditions of sentient existence began by my first recovering the power of touch, and then by
the gradual though rapid influx of familiar impressions and diurnal interests. At last I felt
myself once more a human being; and though the riddle of what is meant by life remained
unsolved, I was thankful for this return from the abyss- this deliverance from so awful an
initiation into the mysteries of skepticism.

"This trance recurred with diminishing frequency until I reached the age of twenty-eight. It
served to impress upon my growing nature the phantasmal unreality of all the circumstances
which contribute to a merely phenomenal consciousness. Often have I asked myself with anguish,
on waking from that formless state of denuded, keenly sentient being, Which is the unreality?-
the trance of fiery, vacant, apprehensive, skeptical Self from which I issue, or these
surrounding phenomena and habits which veil that inner Self and build a self of flesh-and-blood
conventionality? Again, are men the factors of some dream, the dream-like unsubstantiality of
which they comprehend at such eventful moments? What would happen if the final stage of the
trance were reached?" *

* H.F. BROWN: J.A. Symonds, a Biography, London, 1895, pp. 29-31, abridged.

In a recital like this there is certainly something suggestive of pathology. * The next step
into mystical states carries us into a realm that public opinion and ethical philosophy have
long since branded as pathological, though private practice and certain lyric strains of poetry
seem still to bear witness to its ideality. I refer to the consciousness produced by
intoxicants and anaesthetics, especially by alcohol. The sway of alcohol over mankind is
unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually
crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour. Sobriety diminishes,
discriminates and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes. It is in fact the great
exciter of the Yes function in man. It brings its votary from the chill periphery of things to
the radiant core. It makes him for the moment one with truth. Not through mere perversity do
men run after it. To the poor and the unlettered it stands in the place of symphony concerts
and of literature; and it is part of the deeper mystery and tragedy of life that whiffs and
gleams of something that we immediately recognize as excellent should be vouchsafed to so many
of us only in the fleeting earlier phases of what in its totality is so degrading a poisoning.
The drunken consciousness is one bit of the mystic consciousness, and our total opinion of it
must find its place in our opinion of that larger whole. -

* Crichton-Browne expressly says that Symonds's "highest nerve centres were in some degree
enfeebled or damaged by these dreamy mental states which afflicted him so grievously." Symonds
was, however, a perfect monster of many-sided cerebral efficiency, and his critic gives no
objective grounds whatever for his strange opinion, save that Symonds complained occasionally,
as all susceptible and ambitious men complain, of lassitude and uncertainty as to his life's
mission.

Nitrous oxide and ether, especially nitrous oxide, when sufficiently diluted with air,
stimulate the mystical consciousness in an extraordinary degree. Depth beyond depth of truth
seems revealed to the inhaler. This truth fades out, however, or escapes, at the moment of
coming to; and if any words remain over in which it seemed to clothe itself, they prove to be
the veriest nonsense. Nevertheless, the sense of a profound meaning having been there persists;
and I know more than one person who is persuaded that in the nitrous oxide trance we have a
genuine metaphysical revelation.

Some years ago I myself made some observations on this aspect of nitrous oxide intoxication,


and reported them in print. One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my
impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking
consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness,
whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of

consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence;
but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness,
definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and
adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other
forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question,- for they are so
discontinuous with ordinary consciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes though they cannot
furnish formulas, and open a region though they fail to give a map. At any rate, they forbid a
premature closing of our accounts with reality. Looking back on my own experiences, they all


converge towards a kind of insight to which I cannot help ascribing some metaphysical
significance. The keynote of it is invariably a reconciliation. It is as if the opposites of
the world, whose contradictoriness and conflict make all our difficulties and troubles, were

melted into unity. Not only do they, as contrasted species, belong to one and the same genus,
but one of the species, the nobler and better one, is itself the genus, and so soaks up and
absorbs its opposite into itself This is a dark saying, I know, when thus expressed in terms of


common logic, but I cannot wholly escape from its authority. I feel as if it must mean
something, something like what the hegelian philosophy means, if one could only lay hold of it
more clearly. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear; to me the living sense of its reality

only comes in the artificial mystic state of mind. *

* What reader of Hegel can doubt that that sense of a perfected Being with all its otherness
soaked up into itself, which dominates his whole philosophy, must have come from the prominence
in his consciousness of mystical moods like this, in most persons kept subliminal? The notion
is thoroughly characteristic of the mystical level, and the Aufgabe of making it articulate was
surely set to Hegel's intellect by mystical feeling.

I just now spoke of friends who believe in the anaesthetic revelation. For them too it is a
monistic insight, in which the other in its various forms appears absorbed into the One.

"Into this pervading genius," writes one of them, "we pass, forgetting and forgotten, and
thenceforth each is all, in God. There is no higher, no deeper, no other, than the life in
which we are founded. 'The One remains, the many change and pass;' and each and every one of us
is the One that remains.... This is the ultimatum.... As sure as being- whence is all our care-
so sure is content, beyond duplexity, antithesis, or trouble, where I have triumphed in a
solitude that God is not above." *

* BENJAMIN PAUL BLOOD: The Anaesthetic Revelation and the Gist of Philosophy, Amsterdam, N. Y.,
1874, pp. 35, 36. Mr. Blood has made several attempts to adumbrate the anaesthetic revelation,
in pamphlets of rare literary distinction, privately printed and distributed by himself at
Amsterdam. Xenos Clark, a philosopher, who died young at Amherst in the '80's, much lamented by
those who knew him, was also impressed by the revelation. "In the first place," he once wrote
to me, "Mr. Blood and I agree that the revelation. is, if anything, non-emotional. It is
utterly flat. It is, as Mr. Blood says, 'the one sole and sufficient insight why, or not why,
but how, the present is pushed on by the past, and sucked forward by the vacuity of the future.
Its inevitableness defeats all attempts at stopping or accounting for it. It is all precedence
and presupposition, and questioning is in regard to it forever too late. It is an initiation of
the past.' The real secret would be the formula by which the 'now' keeps exfoliating out of
itself, yet never escapes. What is it, indeed, that keeps existence exfoliating? The formal
being of anything, the logical definition of it, is static. For mere logic every question
contains its own answer- we simply fill the hole with the dirt we dug out. Why are twice two
four? Because, in fact, four is twice two. Thus logic finds in life no propulsion, only a
momentum. It goes because it is a-going. But the revelation adds: it goes because it is and was
a-going. You walk, as it were, round yourself in the revelation. Ordinary philosophy is like a
hound hunting his own trail. The more he hunts the farther he has to go, and his nose never
catches up with his heels, because it is forever ahead of them. So the present is already a
foregone conclusion, and I am ever too late to understand it. But at the moment of recovery
from anaesthesis, just then, before starting on life, I catch, so to speak, a glimpse of my
heels, a glimpse of the eternal process just in the act of starting. The truth is that we
travel on a journey that was accomplished before we set out; and the real end of philosophy is
accomplished, not when we arrive at, but when we remain in, our destination (being already
there),- which may occur vicariously in this life when we cease our intellectual questioning.
That is why there is a smile upon the face of the revelation, as we view it. It tells us that
we are forever half a second too late- that's all. 'You could kiss your own lips, and have all
the fun to yourself,' it says, if you only knew the trick. It would be perfectly easy if they
would just stay there till you got round to them. Why don't you manage it somehow?"

Dialectically minded readers of this farrago will at least recognize the region of thought of
which Mr. Clark writes, as familiar. In his latest pamphlet, 'Tennyson's Trances and the
Anaesthetic Revelation,' Mr. Blood describes its value for life as follows:

"The Anaesthetic Revelation is the Initiation of Man into the Immemorial Mystery of the Open
Secret of Being, revealed as the Inevitable Vortex of Continuity. Inevitable is the word. Its
motive is inherent- it is what has to be. It is not for any love or hate, nor for joy nor
sorrow, nor good nor ill. End, beginning, or purpose, it knows not of.

"It affords no particular of the multiplicity and variety of things; but it fills appreciation
of the historical and the sacred with a secular and intimately personal illumination of the
nature and motive of existence, which then seems reminiscent- as if it should have appeared, or
shall yet appear, to every participant thereof.

"Although it is at first startling in its solemnity, it becomes directly such a matter of
course- so old-fashioned, and so akin to proverbs, that it inspires exultation rather than
fear, and a sense of safety, as identified with the aboriginal and the universal. But no words
may express the imposing certainty of the patient that he is realizing the primordial, Adamic
surprise of Life.

"Repetition of the experience finds it ever the same, and as if it could not possibly be
otherwise. The subject resumes his normal consciousness only to partially and fitfully remember
its occurrence, and to try to formulate its baffling import,- with only this consolatory
afterthought: that he has known the oldest truth, and that he has done with human theories as
to the origin, meaning, or destiny of the race. He is beyond instruction in 'spiritual things.'

"The lesson is one of central safety: the Kingdom is within. All days are judgment days: but
there can be no climacteric purpose of eternity, nor any scheme of the whole. The astronomer
abridges the row of bewildering figures by increasing his unit of measurement: so may we reduce
the distracting multiplicity of things to the unity for which each of us stands.

"This has been my moral sustenance since I have known of it. In my first printed mention of it
I declared: 'The world is no more the alien terror that was taught me. Spurning the
cloud-grimed and still sultry battlements whence so lately Jehovan thunders boomed, my gray
gull lifts her wing against the nightfall, and takes the dim leagues with a fearless eye.' And
now, after twenty-seven years of this experience, the wing is grayer, but the eye is fearless
still, while I renew and doubly emphasize that declaration. I know- as having known- the
meaning of Existence: the sane centre of the universe- at once the wonder and the assurance of
the soul- for which the speech of reason has as yet no name but the Anaesthetic Revelation."- I
have considerably abridged the quotation.

This has the genuine religious mystic ring! I just now quoted J.A. Symonds. He also records a
mystical experience with chloroform, as follows:- -

"After the choking and stifling had passed away, I seemed at first in a state of utter
blankness; then came flashes of intense light, alternating with blackness, and with a keen
vision of what was going on in the room around me, but no sensation of touch. I thought that I
was near death; when, suddenly, my soul became aware of God, who was manifestly dealing with
me, handling me, so to speak, in an intense personal present reality. I felt him streaming in
like light upon me.... I cannot describe the ecstasy I felt. Then, as I gradually awoke from
the influence of the anesthetics, the old sense of my relation to the world began to return,
the new sense of my relation to God began to fade. I suddenly leapt to my feet on the chair
where I was sitting, and shrieked out, 'It is too horrible, it is too horrible, it is too
horrible,' meaning that I could not bear this disillusionment. Then I flung myself on the
ground, and at last awoke covered with blood, calling to the two surgeons (who were
frightened), 'Why did you not kill me? Why would you not let me die?' Only think of it. To have
felt for that long dateless ecstasy of vision the very God, in all purity and tenderness and
truth and absolute love, and then to find that I had after all had no revelation, but that I
had been tricked by the abnormal excitement of my brain.

"Yet, this question remains, Is it possible that the inner sense of reality which succeeded,
when my flesh was dead to impressions from without, to the ordinary sense of physical
relations, was not a delusion but an actual experience? Is it possible that I, in that moment,
felt what some of the saints have said they always felt, the undemonstrable but irrefragable
certainty of God?" *

* Op. cit., pp. 78-80, abridged. I subjoin, also abridging it, another interesting anaesthetic
revelation communicated to me in manuscript by a friend in England. The subject, a gifted
woman, was taking ether for a surgical operation.

"I wondered if I was in a prison being tortured, and why I remembered having heard it said that
people 'learn through suffering,' and in view of what I was seeing, the inadequacy of this
saying struck me so much that I said, aloud, 'to suffer is to learn.'

"With that I became unconscious again, and my last dream immediately preceded my real coming
to. It only lasted a few seconds, and was most vivid and real to me, though it may not be clear
in words.

"A great Being or Power was traveling through the sky, his foot was on a kind of lightning as a
wheel is on a rail, it was his pathway. The lightning was made entirely of the spirits of
innumerable people close to one another, and I was one of them. He moved in a straight line,
and each part of the streak or flash came into its short conscious existence only that he might
travel. I seemed to be directly under the foot of God, and I thought he was grinding his own
life up out of my pain. Then I saw that what he had been trying with all his might to do was to
change his course, to bend the line of lightning to which he was tied, in the direction in
which he wanted to go. I felt my flexibility and helplessness, and knew that he would succeed.
He bended me, turning his corner by means of my hurt, hurting me more than I had ever been hurt
in my life, and at the acutest point of this, as he passed, I saw, I understood for a moment
things that I have now forgotten, things that no one could remember while retaining sanity. The
angle was an obtuse angle, and I remember thinking as I woke that had he made it a right or
acute angle, I should have both suffered and 'seen' still more, and should probably have died.

"He went on and I came to. In that moment the whole of my life passed before me, including each
little meaningless piece of distress, and I understood them. This was what it had all meant,
this was the piece of work it had all been contributing to do. I did not see God's purpose, I
only saw his intentness and his entire relentlessness towards his means. He thought no more of
me than a man thinks of hurting a cork when he is opening wine, or hurting a cartridge when he
is firing. And yet, on waking, my first feeling was, and it came with tears, 'Domine non sum
digna,' for I had been lifted into a position for which I was too small. I realized that in
that half hour under ether I had served God more distinctly and purely than I had ever done in
my life before, or than I am capable of desiring to do. I was the means of his achieving and
revealing something, I know not what or to whom, and that, to the exact extent of my capacity
for suffering.

"While regaining consciousness, I wondered why, since I had gone so deep, I had seen nothing of
what the saints call the love of God, nothing but his relentlessness. And then I heard an
answer, which I could only just catch, saying, 'Knowledge and Love are One, and the measure is
suffering'- I give the words as they came to me. With that I came finally to (into what seemed
a dream world compared with the reality of what I was leaving), and I saw that what would be
called the 'cause' of my experience was a slight operation under insufficient ether, in a bed
pushed up against a window, a common city window in a common city street. If I had to formulate
a few of the things I then caught a glimpse of, they would run somewhat as follows:

"The eternal necessity of suffering and its eternal vicariousness. The veiled and
incommunicable nature of the worst sufferings; the passivity of genius, how it is essentially
instrumental and defenseless, moved, not moving, it must do what it does;- the impossibility of
discovery without its price;- finally, the excess of what the suffering 'seer' or genius pays
over what his generation gains. (He seems like one who sweats his life out to earn enough to
save a district from famine, and just as he staggers back, dying and satisfied, bringing a lac
of rupees to buy grain with, God lifts the lac away, dropping one rupee, and says, 'That you
may give them. That you have earned for them. The rest is for ME.') I perceived also in a way
never to be forgotten, the excess of what we see over what we can demonstrate.

"And so on!- these things may seem to you delusions, or truisms; but for me they are dark
truths, and the power to put them into even such words as these has been given me by an ether
dream." -

With this we make connection with religious mysticism pure and simple. Symonds's question takes
us back to those examples which you will remember my quoting in the lecture on the Reality of
the Unseen, of sudden realization of the immediate presence of God. The phenomenon in one shape
or another is not uncommon.

"I know," writes Mr. Trine, "an officer on our police force who has told me that many times
when off duty, and on his way home in the evening, there comes to him such a vivid and vital
realization of his oneness with this Infinite Power, and this Spirit of Infinite Peace so takes
hold of and so fills him, that it seems as if his feet could hardly keep to the pavement, so
buoyant and so exhilarated does he become by reason of this inflowing tide." *

* In Tune with the Infinite, p. 137.

Certain aspects of nature seem to have a peculiar power of awakening such mystical moods. *
Most of the striking cases which I have collected have occurred out of doors. Literature has
commemorated this fact in many passages of great beauty- this extract, for example, from
Amiel's Journal Intime:- -

"Shall I ever again have any of those prodigious reveries which sometimes came to me in former
days? One day, in youth, at sunrise, sitting in the ruins of the castle of Faucigny; and again
in the mountains, under the noonday sun, above Lavey, lying at the foot of a tree and visited
by three butterflies; once more at night upon the shingly shore of the Northern Ocean, my back
upon the sand and my vision ranging through the milky way;- such grand and spacious, immortal,
cosmogonic reveries, when one reaches to the stars, when one owns the infinite! Moments divine,
ecstatic hours; in which our thought flies from world to world, pierces the great enigma,
breathes with a respiration broad, tranquil, and deep as the respiration of the ocean, serene
and limitless as the blue firmament;... instants of irresistible intuition in which one feels
one's self great as the universe, and calm as a god.... What hours, what memories! The vestiges
they leave behind are enough to fill us with belief and enthusiasm, as if they were visits of
the Holy Ghost." *(2) -

* The larger God may then swallow, up the smaller one. I take this from Starbuck's manuscript
collection:

"I never lost the consciousness of the presence of God until I stood at the foot of the
Horseshoe Falls, Niagara. Then I lost him in the immensity of what I saw. I also lost myself,
feeling that I was an atom too small for the notice of Almighty God."

I subjoin another similar case from Starbuck's collection:

"In that time the consciousness of God's nearness came to me sometimes. I say God, to describe
what is indescribable. A presence, I might say, yet that is too suggestive of personality, and
the moments of which I speak did not hold the consciousness of a personality, but something in
myself made me feel myself a part of something bigger than I, that was controlling. I felt
myself one with the grass, the trees, birds, insects, everything in Nature. I exulted in the
mere fact of existence, of being a part of it all- the drizzling rain, the shadows of the
clouds, the tree-trunks, and so on. In the years following, such moments continued to come, but
I wanted them constantly. I knew so well the satisfaction of losing self in a perception of
supreme power and love, that I was unhappy because that perception was not constant." The cases
quoted in my third lecture, are still better ones of this type. In her essay, The Loss of
Personality, in The Atlantic Monthly (vol. lxxxv. p. 195), Miss Ethel D. Puffer explains that
the vanishing of the sense of self, and the feeling of immediate unity with the object, is due
to the disappearance, in these rapturous experiences, of the motor adjustments which habitually
intermediate between the constant background of consciousness (which is the Self) and the
object in the foreground, whatever it may be. I must refer the reader to the highly instructive
article, which seems to me to throw light upon the psychological conditions, though it fails to
account for the rapture or the revelation-value of the experience in the Subject's eyes.

*(2) Op. cit., i. 43-44.

Here is a similar record from the memoirs of that interesting German idealist, Malwida von
Meysenbug:- -

"I was alone upon the seashore as all these thoughts flowed over me, liberating and
reconciling; and now again, as once before in distant days in the Alps of Dauphine, I was
impelled to kneel down, this time before the illimitable ocean, symbol of the Infinite. I felt
that I prayed as I had never prayed before, and knew now what prayer really is: to return from
the solitude of individuation into the consciousness of unity with all that is, to kneel down
as one that passes away, and to rise up as one imperishable. Earth, heaven, and sea resounded
as in one vast world-encircling harmony. It was as if the chorus of all the great who had ever
lived were about me. I felt myself one with them, and it appeared as if I heard their greeting:
Thou too belongest to the company of those who overcome.'" *

* Memoiren einer Idealistin, 5te Auflage, 1900, iii. 166. For years she had been unable to
pray, owing to materialistic belief.

The well-known passage from Walt Whitman is a classical expression of this sporadic type of
mystical experience.

"I believe in you, my Soul...

Loaf with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat;...

Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.

I mind how once we lay, such a transparent summer morning.

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the
earth,

And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,

And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,

And that all the men ever born are also my brothers and the women my sisters and lovers,

And that a kelson of the creation is love." *

* Whitman in another place expresses in a quieter way what was probably with him a chronic
mystical perception: "There is," he writes, "apart from mere intellect, in the make-up of every
superior human identity, a wondrous something that realizes without argument, frequently
without what is called education (though I think it the goal and apex of all education
deserving the name), an intuition of the absolute balance, in time and space, of the whole of
this multifariousness, this revel of fools, and incredible make-believe and general
unsettledness, we call the world; a soul-sight of that divine clue and unseen thread which
holds the whole congeries of things, all history and time, and all events, however trivial,
however momentous, like a leashed dog in the hand of the hunter. [Of] such soul-sight and
root-centre for the mind mere optimism explains only the surface." Whitman charges it against
Carlyle that he lacked this perception. Specimen Days and Collect, Philadelphia, 1882, p. 174.

I could easily give more instances, but one will suffice. I take it from the Autobiography of
J. Trevor. *

* My Quest for God, London, 1897, pp. 268, 269, abridged.

"One brilliant Sunday morning, my wife and boys went to the Unitarian Chapel in Macclesfield. I
felt it impossible to accompany them- as though to leave the sunshine on the hills, and go down
there to the chapel, would be for the time an act of spiritual suicide. And I felt such need
for new inspiration and expansion in my life. So, very reluctantly and sadly, I left my wife
and boys to go down into the town, while I went further up into the hills with my stick and my
dog. In the loveliness of the morning, and the beauty of the hills and valleys, I soon lost my
sense of sadness and regret. For nearly an hour I walked along the road to the 'Cat and
Fiddle,' and then returned. On the way back, suddenly, without warning, I felt that I was in
Heaven- an inward state of peace and joy and assurance indescribably intense, accompanied with
a sense of being bathed in a warm glow of light, as though the external condition had brought
about the internal effect- a feeling of having passed beyond the body, though the scene around
me stood out more clearly and as if nearer to me than before, by reason of the illumination in
the midst of which I seemed to be placed. This deep emotion lasted, though with decreasing
strength, until I reached home, and for some time after, only gradually passing away."

The writer adds that having had further experiences of a similar sort, he now knows them well.

"The spiritual life," he writes, "justifies itself to those who live it; but what can we say to
those who do not understand? This, at least, we can say, that it is a life whose experiences
are proved real to their possessor, because they remain with him when brought closest into
contact with the objective realities of life. Dreams cannot stand this test. We wake from them
to find that they are but dreams. Wanderings of an overwrought brain do not stand this test.
These highest experiences that I have had of God's presence have been rare and brief- flashes
of consciousness which have compelled me to exclaim with surprise- God is here!- or conditions
of exaltation and insight less intense, and only gradually passing away. I have severely
questioned the worth of these moments. To no soul have I named them, lest I should be building
my life and work on mere phantasies of the brain. But I find that, after every questioning and
test, they stand out to-day as the most real experiences of my life, and experiences which have
explained and justified and unified all past experiences and all past growth. Indeed, their
reality and their far-reaching significance are ever becoming more clear and evident. When they
came, I was living the fullest, strongest, sanest, deepest life. I was not seeking them. What I
was seeking, with resolute determination, was to live more intensely my own life, as against
what I knew would be the adverse judgment of the world. It was in the most real seasons that
the Real Presence came, and I was aware that I was immersed in the infinite ocean of God." *

* Op. cit., pp. 256, 257, abridged.

Even the least mystical of you must by this time be convinced of the existence of mystical
moments as states of consciousness of an entirely specific quality, and of the deep impression
which they make on those who have them. A Canadian psychiatrist, Dr. R.M. Bucke, gives to the
more distinctly characterized of these phenomena the name of cosmic consciousness. "Cosmic
consciousness in its more striking instances is not," Dr. Bucke says, "simply an expansion or
extension of the self-conscious mind with which we are all familiar, but the superaddition of a
function as distinct from any possessed by the average man as self-consciousness is distinct
from any function possessed by one of the higher animals."

"The prime characteristic of cosmic consciousness is a consciousness of the cosmos, that is, of
the life and order of the universe. Along with the consciousness of the cosmos there occurs an
intellectual enlightenment which alone would place the individual on a new plane of existence-
would make him almost a member of a new species. To this is added a state of moral exaltation,
an indescribable feeling of elevation, elation, and joyousness, and a quickening of the moral
sense, which is fully as striking, and more important than is the enhanced intellectual power.
With these come what may be called a sense of immortality, a consciousness of eternal life, not
a conviction that he shall have this, but the consciousness that he has it already." * -

* Cosmic Consciousness: a study in the evolution of the human Mind, Philadelphia, 1901, p. 2.

It was Dr. Bucke's own experience of a typical onset of cosmic consciousness in his own person
which led him to investigate it in others. He has printed his conclusions in a highly
interesting volume, from which I take the following account of what occurred to him:- -

"I had spent the evening in a great city, with two friends, reading and discussing poetry and
philosophy. We parted at midnight. I had a long drive in a hansom to my lodging. My mind,
deeply under the influence of the ideas, images, and emotions called up by the reading and
talk, was calm and peaceful. I was in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment, not actually
thinking, but letting ideas, images, and emotions flow of themselves, as it were, through my
mind. All at once, without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped in a flame-colored
cloud. For an instant I thought of fire, an immense conflagration somewhere close by in that
great city; the next, I knew that the fire was within myself. Directly afterward there came
upon me a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an
intellectual illumination impossible to describe. Among other things, I did not merely come to
believe, but I saw that the universe is not composed of dead matter, but is, on the contrary, a
living Presence; I became conscious in myself of eternal life. It was not a conviction that I
would have eternal life, but a consciousness that I possessed eternal life then; I saw that all
men are immortal; that the cosmic order is such that without any peradventure all things work
together for the good of each and all; that the foundation principle of the world, of all the
worlds, is what we call love, and that the happiness of each and all is in the long run
absolutely certain. The vision lasted a few seconds and was gone; but the memory of it and the
sense of the reality of what it taught has remained during the quarter of a century which has
since elapsed. I knew that what the vision showed was true. I had attained to a point of view
from which I saw that it must be true. That view, that conviction, I may say that
consciousness, has never, even during periods of the deepest depression, been lost." *

* Loc. cit., pp. 7, 8. My quotation follows the privately printed pamphlet which preceded Dr.
Bucke's larger work, and differs verbally a little from the text of the latter.

We have now seen enough of this cosmic or mystic consciousness, as it comes sporadically. We
must next pass to its methodical cultivation as an element of the religious life. Hindus,
Buddhists, Mohammedans, and Christians all have cultivated it methodically.

In India, training in mystical insight has been known from time immemorial under the name of
yoga. Yoga means the experimental union of the individual with the divine. It is based on
persevering exercise; and the diet, posture, breathing, intellectual concentration, and moral
discipline vary slightly in the different systems which teach it. The yogi, or disciple, who
has by these means overcome the obscurations of his lower nature sufficiently, enters into the
condition termed samadhi, "and comes face to face with facts which no instinct or reason can
ever know." He learns- -

"That the mind itself has a higher state of existence, beyond reason, a superconscious state,
and that when the mind gets to that higher state, then this knowledge beyond reasoning
comes.... All the different steps in yoga are intended to bring us scientifically to the
superconscious state or samadhi.... Just as unconscious work is beneath consciousness, so there
is another work which is above consciousness, and which, also, is not accompanied with the
feeling of egoism.... There is no feeling of I, and yet the mind works, desireless, free from
restlessness, objectless, bodiless. Then the Truth shines in its full effulgence, and we know
ourselves- for Samadhi lies potential in us all- for what we truly are, free, immortal,
omnipotent, loosed from the finite, and its contrasts of good and evil altogether, and
identical with the Atman or Universal Soul." *

* My quotations are from VIVEKANANDA, Raja Yoga, London, 1896. The completest source of
information on Yoga is the work translated by VIHARI LALA MITRA: Yoga Vasishta Maha Ramayana, 4
vols., Calcutta. 1891-99.

The Vedantists say that one may stumble into super-consciousness sporadically, without the
previous discipline, but it is then impure. Their test of its purity, like our test of
religion's value, is empirical: its fruits must be good for life. When a man comes out of
Samadhi, they assure us that he remains "enlightened, a sage, a prophet, a saint, his whole
character changed, his life changed, illumined." *

* A European witness, after carefully comparing the results of Yoga with those of the hypnotic
or dreamy states artificially producible by us, says: "It makes of its true disciples good,
healthy, and happy men.... Through the mastery which the yogi attains over his thoughts and his
body, he grows into a 'character.' By the subjection of his impulses and propensities to his
will, and the fixing of the latter upon the ideal of goodness, be becomes a 'personality' hard
to influence by others, and thus almost the opposite of what we usually imagine a 'medium'
so-called, or 'psychic subject' to be." KARL KELLNER: Yoga: Eine Skizze, Munchen, 1896, p. 21.

The Buddhists use the word 'samadhi' as well as the Hindus; but 'dhyana' is their special word
for higher states of contemplation. There seem to be four stages recognized in dhyana. The
first stage comes through concentration of the mind upon one point. It excludes desire, but not
discernment or judgment: it is still intellectual. In the second stage the intellectual
functions drop off, and the satisfied sense of unity remains. In the third stage the
satisfaction departs, and indifference begins, along with memory and self-consciousness. In the
fourth stage the indifference, memory, and self-consciousness are perfected. [Just what
'memory' and 'self-consciousness' mean in this connection is doubtful. They cannot be the
faculties familiar to us in the lower life.] Higher stages still of contemplation are
mentioned- a region where there exists nothing, and where the meditator says: "There exists
absolutely nothing," and stops. Then he reaches another region where he says: "There are
neither ideas nor absence of ideas," and stops again. Then another region where, "having
reached the end of both idea and perception, he stops finally." This would seem to be, not yet
Nirvana, but as close an approach to it as this life affords. *

* I follow the account in C.F. KOEPPEN: Die Religion des Buddha, Berlin, 1857, i. 585 ff.

In the Mohammedan world the Sufi sect and various dervish bodies are the possessors of the
mystical tradition. The Sufis have existed in Persia from the earliest times, and as their
pantheism is so at variance with the hot and rigid monotheism of the Arab mind, it has been
suggested that Sufism must have been inoculated into Islam by Hindu influences. We Christians
know little of Sufism, for its secrets are disclosed only to those initiated. To give its
existence a certain liveliness in your minds, I will quote a Moslem document, and pass away
from the subject.

Al-Ghazzali, a Persian philosopher and theologian, who flourished in the eleventh century, and
ranks as one of the greatest doctors of the Moslem church, has left us one of the few
autobiographies to be found outside of Christian literature. Strange that a species of book so
abundant among ourselves should be so little represented elsewhere- the absence of strictly
personal confessions is the chief difficulty to the purely literary student who would like to
become acquainted with the inwardness of religions other than the Christian.

M. Schmolders has translated a part of Al-Ghazzali's autobiography into French:- *

* For a full account of him, see D.B. MACDONALD: The Life of Al-Ghazzali, in the Journal of the
American Oriental Society, 1899, vol. xx p. 71.

"The Science of the Sufis," says the Moslem author, "aims at detaching the heart from all that
is not God, and at giving to it for sole occupation the meditation of the divine being. Theory
being more easy for me than practice, I read [certain books] until I understood all that can be
learned by study and hearsay. Then I recognized that what pertains most exclusively to their
method is just what no study can grasp, but only transport, ecstasy, and the transformation of
the soul. How great, for example, is the difference between knowing the definitions of health,
of satiety, with their causes and conditions, and being really healthy or filled. How different
to know in what drunkenness consists,- as being a state occasioned by a vapor that rises from
the stomach,- and being drunk effectively. Without doubt, the drunken man knows neither the
definition of drunkenness nor what makes it interesting for science. Being drunk, he knows
nothing; whilst the physician, although not drunk, knows well in what drunkenness consists, and
what are its predisposing conditions. Similarly there is a difference between knowing the
nature of abstinence, and being abstinent or having one's soul detached from the world.- Thus I
had learned what words could teach of Sufism, but what was left could be learned neither by
study nor through the ears, but solely by giving one's self up to ecstasy and leading a pious
life.

"Reflecting on my situation, I found myself tied down by a multitude of bonds- temptations on
every side. Considering my teaching, I found it was impure before God. I saw myself struggling
with all my might to achieve glory and to spread my name. [Here follows an account of his six
months' hesitation to break away from the conditions of his life at Bagdad, at the end of which
he fell ill with a paralysis of the tongue.] Then, feeling my own weakness, and having entirely
given up my own will, I repaired to God like a man in distress who has no more resources. He
answered, as he answers the wretch who invokes him. My heart no longer felt any difficulty in
renouncing glory, wealth, and my children. So I quitted Bagdad, and reserving from my fortune
only what was indispensable for my subsistence, I distributed the rest. I went to Syria, where
I remained about two years, with no other occupation than living in retreat and solitude,
conquering my desires, combating my passions, training myself to purify my soul, to make my
character perfect, to prepare my heart for meditating on God- all according to the methods of
the Sufis, as I had read of them.

"This retreat only increased my desire to live in solitude, and to complete the purification of
my heart and fit it for meditation. But the vicissitudes of the times, the affairs of the
family, the need of subsistence, changed in some respects my primitive resolve, and interfered
with my plans for a purely solitary life. I had never yet found myself completely in ecstasy,
save in a few single hours; nevertheless, I kept the hope of attaining this state. Every time
that the accidents led me astray, I sought to return; and in this situation I spent ten years.
During this solitary state things were revealed to me which it is impossible either to describe
or to point out. I recognized for certain that the Sufis are assuredly walking in the path of
God. Both in their acts and in their inaction, whether internal or external, they are illumined
by the light which proceeds from the prophetic source. The first condition for a Sufi is to
purge his heart entirely of all that is not God. The next key of the contemplative life
consists in the humble prayers which escape from the fervent soul, and in the meditations on
God in which the heart is swallowed up entirely. But in reality this is only the beginning of
the Sufi life, the end of Sufism being total absorption in God. The intuitions and all that
precede are, so to speak, only the threshold for those who enter. From the beginning,
revelations take place in so flagrant a shape that the Sufis see before them, whilst wide
awake, the angels and the souls of the prophets. They hear their voices and obtain their
favors. Then the transport rises from the perception of forms and figures to a degree which
escapes all expression, and which no man may seek to give an account of without his words
involving sin.

"Whoever has had no experience of the transport knows of the true nature of prophetism nothing
but the name. He may meanwhile be sure of its existence, both by experience and by what he
hears the Sufis say. As there are men endowed only with the sensitive faculty who reject what
is offered them in the way of objects of the pure understanding, so there are intellectual men
who reject and avoid the things perceived by the prophetic faculty. A blind man can understand
nothing of colors save what he has learned by narration and hearsay. Yet God has brought
prophetism near to men in giving them all a state analogous to it in its principal characters.
This state is sleep. If you were to tell a man who was himself without experience of such a
phenomenon that there are people who at times swoon away so as to resemble dead men, and who
[in dreams] yet perceive things that are hidden, he would deny it [and give his reasons].
Nevertheless, his arguments would be refuted by actual experience. Wherefore, just as the
understanding is a stage of human life in which an eye opens to discern various intellectual
objects uncomprehended by sensation; just so in the prophetic the sight is illumined by a light
which uncovers hidden things and objects which the intellect fails to reach. The chief
properties of prophetism are perceptible only during the transport, by those who embrace the
Sufi life. The prophet is endowed with qualities to which you possess nothing analogous, and
which consequently you cannot possibly understand. How should you know their true nature, since
one knows only what one can comprehend? But the transport which one attains by the method of
the Sufis is like an immediate perception, as if one touched the objects with one's hand." *

* A. SCHMOLDERS: Essai sur les ecoles philosophiques chez les Arabes, Paris, 1842, pp. 54-68,
abridged.

This incommunicableness of the transport is the keynote of all mysticism. Mystical truth exists
for the individual who has the transport, but for no one else. In this, as I have said, it
resembles the knowledge given to us in sensations more than that given by conceptual thought.
Thought, with its remoteness and abstractness, has often enough in the history of philosophy
been contrasted unfavorably with sensation. It is a commonplace of metaphysics that God's
knowledge cannot be discursive but must be intuitive, that is, must be constructed more after
the pattern of what in ourselves is called immediate feeling, than after that of proposition
and judgment. But our immediate feelings have no content but what the five senses supply; and
we have seen and shall see again that mystics may emphatically deny that the senses play any
part in the very highest type of knowledge which their transports yield.

In the Christian church there have always been mystics. Although many of them have been viewed
with suspicion, some have gained favor in the eyes of the authorities. The experiences of these
have been treated as precedents, and a codified system of mystical theology has been based upon
them, in which everything legitimate finds its place. * The basis of the system is 'orison' or
meditation, the methodical elevation of the soul towards God. Through the practice of orison
the higher levels of mystical experience may be attained. It is odd that Protestantism,
especially evangelical Protestantism, should seemingly have abandoned everything methodical in
this line. Apart from what prayer may lead to, Protestant mystical experience appears to have
been almost exclusively sporadic. It has been left to our mind-curers to reintroduce methodical
meditation into our religious life.

* GORRES'S Christliche Mystik gives a full account of the facts. So does RIBET's Mystique
Divine, 2 vols., Paris, 1890. A still more methodical modern work is the Mystica Theologia of
VALLGORNERA, 2 vols., Turin, 1890.

The first thing to be aimed at in orison is the mind's detachment from outer sensations, for
these interfere with its concentration upon ideal things. Such manuals as Saint Ignatius's
Spiritual Exercises recommend the disciple to expel sensation by a graduated series of efforts
to imagine holy scenes. The acme of this kind of discipline would be a semi-hallucinatory
mono-ideism- an imaginary figure of Christ, for example, coming fully to occupy the mind.
Sensorial images of this sort, whether literal or symbolic, play an enormous part in mysticism.
* But in certain cases imagery may fall away entirely, and in the very highest raptures it
tends to do so. The state of consciousness becomes then insusceptible of any verbal
description. Mystical teachers are unanimous as to this. Saint John of the Cross, for instance,
one of the best of them, thus describes the condition called the 'union of love,' which, he
says, is reached by 'dark contemplation.' In this the Deity compenetrates the soul, but in such
a hidden way that the soul- -

"finds no terms, no means, no comparison whereby to render the sublimity of the wisdom and the
delicacy of the spiritual feeling with which she is filled.... We receive this mystical
knowledge of God clothed in none of the kinds of images, in none of the sensible
representations, which our mind makes use of in other circumstances. Accordingly in this
knowledge, since the senses and the imagination are not employed, we get neither form nor
impression, nor can we give any account or furnish any likeness, although the mysterious and
sweet-tasting wisdom comes home so clearly to the inmost parts of our soul. Fancy a man seeing
a certain kind of thing for the first time in his life. He can understand it, use and enjoy it,
but he cannot apply a name to it, nor communicate any idea of it, even though all the while it
be a mere thing of sense. How much greater will be his powerlessness when it goes beyond the
senses! This is the peculiarity of the divine language. The more infused, intimate, spiritual,
and supersensible it is, the more does it exceed the senses, both inner and outer, and impose
silence upon them.... The soul then feels as if placed in a vast and profound solitude, to
which no created thing has access, in an immense and boundless desert, desert the more
delicious the more solitary it is. There, in this abyss of wisdom, the soul grows by what it
drinks in from the well-springs of the comprehension of love,... and recognizes, however
sublime and learned may be the terms we employ, how utterly vile, insignificant, and improper
they are, when we seek to discourse of divine things by their means." *(2)

* M. RECEJAC, in a recent volume, makes them essential. Mysticism he defines as "the tendency
to draw near to the Absolute morally, and by the aid of Symbols." See his Fondements de la
Connaissance mystique, Paris, 1897, p. 66. But there are unquestionably mystical conditions in
which sensible symbols play no part.

*(2) Saint John of the Cross: The Dark Night of the Soul, book ii. ch. xvii., in Vie et
Oeuvres, 3me edition, Paris, 1893, iii. 428-432. Chapter xi. of book ii. of Saint John's Ascent
of Carmel is devoted to showing the harmfulness for the mystical life of the use of sensible
imagery.

I cannot pretend to detail to you the sundry stages of the Christian mystical life. * Our time
would not suffice, for one thing; and moreover, I confess that the subdivisions and names which
we find in the Catholic books seem to me to represent nothing objectively distinct. So many
men, so many minds: I imagine that these experiences can be as infinitely varied as are the
idiosyncrasies of individuals.

* In particular I omit mention of visual and auditory hallucinations, verbal and graphic
automatisms, and such marvels as 'levitation,' stigmatization, and the healing of disease.
These phenomena, which mystics have often presented (or are believed to have presented), have
no essential mystical significance, for they occur with no consciousness of illumination
whatever, when they occur, as they often do, in persons of non-mystical mind. Consciousness of
illumination is for us the essential mark of 'mystical' states.

The cognitive aspects of them, their value in the way of revelation, is what we are directly
concerned with, and it is easy to show by citation how strong an impression they leave of being
revelations of new depths of truth. Saint Teresa is the expert of experts in describing such
conditions, so I will turn immediately to what she says of one of the highest of them, the
'orison of union.'

"In the orison of union," says Saint Teresa, "the soul is fully awake as regards God, but
wholly asleep as regards things of this world and in respect of herself. During the short time
the union lasts, she is as it were deprived of every feeling, and even if she would, she could
not think of any single thing. Thus she needs to employ no artifice in order to arrest the use
of her understanding: it remains so stricken with inactivity that she neither knows what she
loves, nor in what manner she loves, nor what she wills. In short, she is utterly dead to the
things of the world and lives solely in God.... I do not even know whether in this state she
has enough life left to breathe. It seems to me she has not; or at least that if she does
breathe, she is unaware of it. Her intellect would fain understand something of what is going
on within her, but it has so little force now that it can act in no way whatsoever. So a person
who falls into a deep faint appears as if dead....

"Thus does God, when he raises a soul to union with himself, suspend the natural action of all
her faculties. She neither sees, hears, nor understands, so long as she is united with God. But
this time is always short, and it seems even shorter than it is. God establishes himself in the
interior of this soul in such a way, that when she returns to herself, it is wholly impossible
for her to doubt that she has been in God, and God in her. This truth remains so strongly
impressed on her that, even though many years should pass without the condition returning, she
can neither forget the favor she received, nor doubt of its reality. If you, nevertheless, ask
how it is possible that the soul can see and understand that she has been in God, since during
the union she has neither sight nor understanding, I reply that she does not see it then, but
that she sees it clearly later, after she has returned to herself, not by any vision, but by a
certitude which abides with her and which God alone can give her. I knew a person who was
ignorant of the truth that God's mode of being in everything must be either by presence, by
power, or by essence, but who, after having received the grace of which I am speaking, believed
this truth in the most unshakable manner. So much so that, having consulted a half-learned man
who was as ignorant on this point as she had been before she was enlightened, when he replied
that God is in us only by 'grace,' she disbelieved his reply, so sure she was of the true
answer; and when she came to ask wiser doctors, they confirmed her in her belief, which much
consoled her....

"But how, you will repeat, can one have such certainty in respect to what one does not see?
This question, I am powerless to answer. These are secrets of God's omnipotence which it does
not appertain to me to penetrate. All that I know is that I tell the truth; and I shall never
believe that any soul who does not possess this certainty has ever been really united to God."
* -

* The Interior Castle, Fifth Abode, ch. i., in Oeuvres, translated by BOUIX, iii. 421-424.

The kinds of truth communicable in mystical ways, whether these be sensible or supersensible,
are various. Some of them relate to this world,- visions of the future, the reading of hearts,
the sudden understanding of texts, the knowledge of distant events, for example; but the most
important revelations are theological or metaphysical. - -

"Saint Ignatius confessed one day to Father Laynez that a single hour of meditation at Manresa
had taught him more truths about heavenly things than all the teachings of all the doctors put
together could have taught him.... One day in orison, on the steps of the choir of the
Dominican church, he saw in a distinct manner the plan of divine wisdom in the creation of the
world. On another occasion, during a procession, his spirit was ravished in God, and it was
given him to contemplate, in a form and images fitted to the weak understanding of a dweller on
the earth, the deep mystery of the holy Trinity. This last vision flooded his heart with such
sweetness, that the mere memory of it in after times made him shed abundant tears." *

* BARTOLI-MICHEL: Vie de Saint Ignace de Loyola, i. 34-36. Others have had illuminations about
the created world, Jacob Boehme, for instance. At the age of twenty-five he was surrounded by
the divine light, and replenished with the heavenly knowledge; insomuch as going abroad into
the fields to a green, at Gorlitz, he there sat down, and viewing the herbs and grass of the
field, in his inward light he saw into their essences, use, and properties, which was
discovered to him by their lineaments, figures, and signatures." Of a later period of
experience he writes: "In one quarter of an hour I saw and knew more than if I had been many
years together at an university. For I saw and knew the being of all things, the Byss and the
Abyss, and the eternal generation of the holy Trinity, the descent and original of the world
and of all creatures through the divine wisdom. I knew and saw in myself all the three worlds,
the external and visible world being of a procreation or extern birth from both the internal
and spiritual worlds; and I saw and knew the whole working essence, in the evil and in the
good, and the mutual original and existence; and likewise how the fruitful bearing womb of
eternity brought forth. So that I did not only greatly wonder at it, but did also exceedingly
rejoice, albeit I could very hardly apprehend the same in my external man and set it down with
the pen. For I had a thorough view of the universe as in a chaos, wherein all things are
couched and wrapt up, but it was impossible for me to explicate the same." Jacob Behmen's
Theosophic Philosophy, etc., by EDWARD TAYLOR, London, 1691, pp. 425, 427, abridged. So George
Fox: "I was come up to the state of Adam in which he was before he fell. The creation was
opened to me; and it was showed me, how all things had their names given to them, according to
their nature and virtue. I was at a stand in my mind, whether I should practice physic for the
good of mankind, seeing the nature and virtues of the creatures were so opened to me by the
Lord." Journal, Philadelphia, no date, p. 69. Contemporary 'Clairvoyance' abounds in similar
revelations. Andrew Jackson Davis's cosmogonies, for example, or certain experiences related in
the delectable 'Reminiscences and Memories of Henry Thomas Butterworth,' Lebanon, Ohio, 1886.

Similarly with Saint Teresa. "One day, being in orison," she writes, "it was granted me to
perceive in one instant how all things are seen and contained in God. I did not perceive them
in their proper form, and nevertheless the view I had of them was of a sovereign clearness, and
has remained vividly impressed upon my soul. It is one of the most signal of all the graces
which the Lord has granted me.... The view was so subtile and delicate that the understanding
cannot grasp it." *

* Vie, pp. 581, 582.

She goes on to tell how it was as if the Deity were an enormous and sovereignly limpid diamond,
in which all our actions were contained in such a way that their full sinfulness appeared
evident as never before. On another day, she relates, while she was reciting the Athanasian
Creed,- -

"Our Lord made me comprehend in what way it is that one God can be in three Persons. He made me
see it so clearly that I remained as extremely surprised as I was comforted, and now, when I
think of the holy Trinity, or hear It spoken of, I understand how the three adorable Persons
form only one God and I experience an unspeakable happiness."

On still another occasion, it was given to Saint Teresa to see and understand in what wise the
Mother of God had been assumed into her place in Heaven. *

* Loc. cit., p. 574.

The deliciousness of some of these states seems to be beyond anything known in ordinary
consciousness. It evidently involves organic sensibilities, for it is spoken of as something
too extreme to be borne, and as verging on bodily pain. * But it is too subtle and piercing a
delight for ordinary words to denote. God's touches, the wounds of his spear, references to
ebriety and to nuptial union have to figure in the phraseology by which it is shadowed forth.
Intellect and senses both swoon away in these highest states of ecstasy. "If our understanding
comprehends," says Saint Teresa, "it is in a mode which remains unknown to it, and it can
understand nothing of what it comprehends. For my own part, I do not believe that it does
comprehend, because, as I said, it does not understand itself to do so. I confess that it is
all a mystery in which I am lost." *(2) In the condition called raptus or ravishment by
theologians, breathing and circulation are so depressed that it is a question among the doctors
whether the soul be or be not temporarily dissevered from the body. One must read Saint
Teresa's descriptions and the very exact distinctions which she makes, to persuade one's self
that one is dealing, not with imaginary experiences, but with phenomena which, however rare,
follow perfectly definite psychological types.

* Saint Teresa discriminates between pain in which the body has a part and pure spiritual pain
(Interior Castle, 6th Abode, ch. xi.). As for the bodily part in these celestial joys, she
speaks of it as "penetrating to the marrow of the bones, whilst earthly pleasures affect only
the surface of the senses. I think," she adds, "that this is a just description, and I cannot
make it better." Ibid., 5th Abode, ch. i.

*(2) Vie, p. 198.

To the medical mind these ecstasies signify nothing but suggested and imitated hypnoid states,
on an intellectual basis of superstition, and a corporeal one of degeneration and hysteria.
Undoubtedly these pathological conditions have existed in many and possibly in all the cases,
but that fact tells us nothing about the value for knowledge of the consciousness which they
induce. To pass a spiritual judgment upon these states, we must not content ourselves with
superficial medical talk, but inquire into their fruits for life.

Their fruits appear to have been various. Stupefaction, for one thing, seems not to have been
altogether absent as a result. You may remember the helplessness in the kitchen and schoolroom
of poor Margaret Mary Alacoque. Many other ecstatics would have perished but for the care taken
of them by admiring followers. The 'other. worldliness' encouraged by the mystical
consciousness makes this over-abstraction from practical life peculiarly liable to befall
mystics in whom the character is naturally passive and the intellect feeble; but in natively
strong minds and characters we find quite opposite results. The great Spanish mystics, who
carried the habit of ecstasy as far as it has often been carried, appear for the most part to
have shown indomitable spirit and energy, and all the more so for the trances in which they
indulged.

Saint Ignatius was a mystic, but his mysticism made him assuredly one of the most powerfully
practical human engines that ever lived. Saint John of the Cross, writing of the intuitions and
'touches' by which God reaches the substance of the soul, tells us that- -

"They enrich it marvelously. A single one of them may be sufficient to abolish at a stroke
certain imperfections of which the soul during its whole life had vainly tried to rid itself,
and to leave it adorned with virtues and loaded with supernatural gifts. A single one of these
intoxicating consolations may reward it for all the labors undergone in its life- even were
they numberless. Invested with an invincible courage, filled with an impassioned desire to
suffer for its God, the soul then is seized with a strange torment- that of not being allowed
to suffer enough." *

* Oeuvres, ii. 320.

Saint Teresa is as emphatic, and much more detailed. You may perhaps remember a passage I
quoted from her in my first lecture. There are many similar pages in her autobiography. Where
in literature is a more evidently veracious account of the formation of a new centre of
spiritual energy, than is given in her description of the effects of certain ecstasies which in
departing leave the soul upon a higher level of emotional excitement?

"Often, infirm and wrought upon with dreadful pains before the ecstasy, the soul emerges from
it full of health and admirably disposed for action... as if God had willed that the body
itself, already obedient to the soul's desires, should share in the soul's happiness.... The
soul after such a favor is animated with a degree of courage so great that if at that moment
its body should be torn to pieces for the cause of God, it would feel nothing but the liveliest
comfort. Then it is that promises and heroic resolutions spring up in profusion in us, soaring
desires, horror of the world, and the clear perception of our proper nothingness.... What
empire is comparable to that of a soul who, from this sublime summit to which God has raised
her, sees all the things of earth beneath her feet, and is captivated by no one of them? How
ashamed she is of her former attachments! How amazed at her blindness! What lively pity she
feels for those whom she recognizes still shrouded in the darkness!... She groans at having
ever been sensitive to points of honor, at the illusion that made her ever see as honor what
the world calls by that name. Now she sees in this name nothing more than an immense lie of
which the world remains a victim. She discovers, in the new light from above, that in genuine
honor there is nothing spurious, that to be faithful to this honor is to give our respect to
what deserves to be respected really, and to consider as nothing, or as less than nothing,
whatsoever perishes and is not agreeable to God.... She laughs when she sees grave persons,
persons of orison, caring for points of honor for which she now feels profoundest contempt. It
is suitable to the dignity of their rank to act thus, they pretend, and it makes them more
useful to others. But she knows that in despising the dignity of their rank for the pure love
of God they would do more good in a single day than they would effect in ten years by
preserving it.... She laughs at herself that there should ever have been a time in her life
when she made any case of money, when she ever desired it.... Oh! if human beings might only
agree together to regard it as so much useless mud, what harmony would then reign in the world!
With what friendship we would all treat each other if our interest in honor and in money could
but disappear from earth! For my own part, I feel as if it would be a remedy for all our ills."
*

* Vie, pp. 229, 200, 231-233, 243.

Mystical conditions may, therefore, render the soul more energetic in the lines which their
inspiration favors. But this could be reckoned an advantage only in case the inspiration were a
true one. If the inspiration were erroneous, the energy would be all the more mistaken and
misbegotten. So we stand once more before that problem of truth which confronted us at the end
of the lectures on saintliness. You will remember that we turned to mysticism precisely to get
some light on truth. Do mystical states establish the truth of those theological affections in
which the saintly life has its root?

In spite of their repudiation of articulate self-description, mystical states in general assert
a pretty distinct theoretic drift. It is possible to give the outcome of the majority of them
in terms that point in definite philosophical directions. One of these directions is optimism,
and the other is monism. We pass into mystical states from out of ordinary consciousness as
from a less into a more, as from a smallness into a vastness, and at the same time as from an
unrest to a rest. We feel them as reconciling, unifying states. They appeal to the yes-function
more than to the no-function in us. In them the unlimited absorbs the limits and peacefully
closes the account. Their very denial of every adjective you may propose as applicable to the
ultimate truth,- He, the Self, the Atman, is to be described by 'No! no!' only, say the
Upanishads,- * though it seems on the surface to be a no-function, is a denial made on behalf
of a deeper yes. Whoso calls the Absolute anything in particular, or says that it is this,
seems implicitly to shut it off from being that- it is as if he lessened it. So we deny the
'this,' negating the negation which it seems to us to imply, in the interests of the higher
affirmative attitude by which we are possessed. The fountain-head of Christian mysticism is
Dionysius the Areopagite. He describes the absolute truth by negatives exclusively.

* MULLER'S translation, part ii. p. 180.

"The cause of all things is neither soul nor intellect; nor has it imagination, opinion, or
reason, or intelligence; nor is it reason or intelligence; nor is it spoken or thought. It is
neither number, nor order, nor magnitude, nor littleness, nor equality, nor inequality, nor
similarity, nor dissimilarity. It neither stands, nor moves, nor rests.... It is neither
essence, nor eternity, nor time. Even intellectual contact does not belong to it. It is neither
science nor truth. It is not even royalty or wisdom; not one; not unity; not divinity or
goodness; nor even spirit as we know it," etc., ad libitum. *

* T. DAVIDSON'S translation, in Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 1893, vol. xxii. p. 399.

But these qualifications are denied by Dionysius, not because the truth falls short of them,
but because it so infinitely excels them. It is above them. It is super-lucent,
super-splendent, super-essential, super-sublime, super everything that can be named. Like Hegel
in his logic, mystics journey towards the positive pole of truth only by the 'Methode der
Absoluten Negativitat.' *

* "Deus propter excellentiam non immerito Nihil vocatur." Scotus Erigena, quoted by ANDREW
SETH: Two Lectures on Theism, New York, 1897, p. 55.

Thus come the paradoxical expressions that so abound in mystical writings. As when Eckhart
tells of the still desert of the Godhead, "where never was seen difference, neither Father,
Son, nor Holy Ghost, where there is no one at home, yet where the spark of the soul is more at
peace than in itself." * As when Boehme writes of the Primal Love, that "it may fitly be
compared to Nothing, for it is deeper than any Thing, and is as nothing with respect to all
things, forasmuch as it is not comprehensible by any of them. And because it is nothing
respectively, it is therefore free from all things, and is that only good, which a man cannot
express or utter what it is, there being nothing to which it may be compared, to express it
by." *(2) Or as when Angelus Silesius sings:- -

"Gott ist ein lauter Nichts, ihn ruhrt kein Nun noch Hier;

Je mehr du nach ihm greiffst, je mehr entwind er dir." *(3) -

* J. ROYCE: Studies in Good and Evil, p. 282.

*(2) Jacob Behmen's Dialogues on the Supersensual Life, translated by BERNARD HOLLAND, London,
1901, p. 48.

*(3) Cherubinischer Wandersmann, Strophe 25.

To this dialectical use, by the intellect, of negation as a mode of passage towards a higher
kind of affirmation, there is correlated the subtlest of moral counterparts in the sphere of
the personal will. Since denial of the finite self and its wants, since asceticism of some
sort, is found in religious experience to be the only doorway to the larger and more blessed
life, this moral mystery intertwines and combines with the intellectual mystery in all mystical
writings.

"Love," continues Behmen, is Nothing, for "when thou art gone forth wholly from the Creature
and from that which is visible, and art become Nothing to all that is Nature and Creature, then
thou art in that eternal One, which is God himself, and then thou shalt feel within thee the
highest virtue of Love.... The treasure of treasures for the soul is where she goeth out of the
Somewhat into that Nothing out of which all things may be made. The soul here saith, I have
nothing, for I am utterly stripped and naked; I can do nothing, for I have no manner of power,
but am as water poured out; I am nothing, for all that I am is no more than an image of Being,
and only God is to me I AM; and so, sitting down in my own Nothingness, I give glory to the
eternal Being, and will nothing of myself, that so God may will all in me, being unto me my God
and all things." *

* Op. cit., pp. 42, 74, abridged.

In Paul's language, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. Only when I become as nothing
can God enter in and no difference between his life and mine remain outstanding. *

* From a French book I take this mystical expression of happiness in God's indwelling presence:

"Jesus has come to take up his abode in my heart. It is not so much a habitation, an
association, as a sort of fusion. Oh, new and blessed life! life which becomes each day more
luminous.... The wall before me, dark a few moments since, is splendid at this hour because the
sun shines on it. Wherever its rays fall they light up a conflagration of glory; the smallest
speck of glass sparkles, each grain of sand emits fire; even so there is a royal song of
triumph in my heart because the Lord is there. My days succeed each other; yesterday a blue
sky; to-day a clouded sun; a night filled with strange dreams; but as soon as the eyes open,
and I regain consciousness and seem to begin life again, it is always the same figure before
me, always the same presence filling my heart.... Formerly the day was dulled by the absence of
the Lord. I used to wake invaded by all sorts of sad impressions, and I did not find him on my
path. To-day he is with me; and the light cloudiness which covers things is not an obstacle to
my communion with him. I feel the pressure of his hand, I feel something else which fills me
with a serene joy; shall I dare to speak it out? Yes, for it is the true expression of what I
experience. The Holy Spirit in not merely making me a visit; it is no mere dazzling apparition
which may from one moment to another spread its wings and leave me in my night, it is a
permanent habitation. He can depart only if he takes me with him. More than that; he is not
other than myself: he is one with me. It is not a juxtaposition, it is a penetration, a
profound modification of my nature, a new manner of my being." Quoted from the MS. 'of an old
man' by WILFRED MONOD: Il Vit: six meditations sur le mystere chretien, pp. 280-283.

This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the individual and the Absolute is the great
mystic achievement. In mystic states we both become one with the Absolute and we become aware
of our oneness. This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition, hardly altered by
differences of clime or creed. In Hinduism, in Neoplatonism, in Sufism, in Christian mysticism,
in Whitmanism, we find the same recurring note, so that there is about mystical utterances an
eternal unanimity which ought to make a critic stop and think, and which brings it about that
the mystical classics have, as has been said, neither birthday nor native land. Perpetually
telling of the unity of man with God, their speech antedates languages, and they do not grow
old. * -

* Compare M. MAETERLINCK: L'Ornament des Noces spirituelles de Ruysbroeck, Bruxelles, 1891,
Introduction, p. xix.

'That art Thou!' say the Upanishads, and the Vedantists add: 'Not a part, not a mode of That,
but identically That, that absolute Spirit of the World.' "As pure water poured into pure water
remains the same, thus, O Gautama, is the Self of a thinker who knows. Water in water, fire in
fire, ether in ether, no one can distinguish them; likewise a man whose mind has entered into
the Self." * "'Every man,' says the Sufi Gulshan-Raz, 'whose heart is no longer shaken by any
doubt, knows with certainty that there is no being save only One.... In his divine majesty the
me, the we, the thou, are not found, for in the One there can be no distinction. Every being
who is annulled and entirely separated from himself, hears resound outside of him this voice
and this echo: I am God: he has an eternal way of existing, and is no longer subject to
death.'" *(2) In the vision of God, says Plotinus, "what sees is not our reason, but something
prior and superior to our reason.... He who thus sees does not properly see, does not
distinguish or imagine two things. He changes, he ceases to be himself, preserves nothing of
himself. Absorbed in God, he makes but one with him, like a centre of a circle coinciding with
another centre." *(3) "Here," writes Suso, "the spirit dies, and yet is all alive in the
marvels of the Godhead... and is lost in the stillness of the glorious dazzling obscurity and
of the naked simple unity. It is in this modeless where that the highest bliss is to be found."
*(4) "Ich bin so gross als Gott," sings Angelus Silesius again, "Er ist als ich so klein; Er
kann nicht uber mich, ich unter ihm nicht sein." *(5) -

* Upanishads, M. MULLER'S translation, ii. 17, 334.

*(2) SCHMOLDERS: Op. cit., p. 210.

*(3) Enneads, BOUILLIER'S translation, Paris, 1861, iii. 561. Compare pp. 473-477, and vol. i.
p. 27.

*(4) Autobiography, pp. 309, 310.

*(5) Op. cit., Strophe 10.

In mystical literature such self-contradictory phrases as 'dazzling obscurity,' 'whispering
silence,' 'teeming desert,' are continually met with. They prove that not conceptual speech,
but music rather, is the element through which we are best spoken to by mystical truth. Many
mystical scriptures are indeed little more than musical compositions.

"He who would hear the voice of Nada, 'the Soundless Sound,' and comprehend it, he has to learn
the nature of Dharana.... When to himself his form appears unreal, as do on waking all the
forms he sees in dreams; when he has ceased to hear the many, he may discern the ONE- the inner
sound which kills the outer.... For then the soul will hear, and will remember. And then to the
inner ear will speak THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE.... And now thy Self is lost in SELF, thyself
unto THYSELF, merged in that SELF from which thou first didst radiate.... Behold! thou hast
become the Light, thou hast become the Sound, thou art thy Master and thy God. Thou art THYSELF
the object of thy search: the VOICE unbroken, that resounds throughout eternities, exempt from
change, from sin exempt, the seven sounds in one, the VOICE OF THE SILENCE. Om tat Sat." *

* H.P. BLAVATSKY: The Voice of the Silence.

These words, if they do not awaken laughter as you receive them, probably stir chords within
you which music and language touch in common. Music gives us ontological messages which
non-musical criticism is unable to contradict, though it may laugh at our foolishness in
minding them. There is a verge of the mind which these things haunt; and whispers therefrom
mingle with the operations of our understanding, even as the waters of the infinite ocean send
their waves to break among the pebbles that lie upon our shores.

"Here begins the sea that ends not till the world's end. Where we stand,

Could we know the next high sea-mark set beyond these waves that gleam,

We should know what never man hath known, nor eye of man hath scanned....

Ah, but here man's heart leaps, yearning towards the gloom with venturous glee,

From the shore that hath no shore beyond it, set in all the sea." *

* SWINBURNE: On the Verge, in 'A Midsummer Vacation.'

That doctrine, for example, that eternity is timeless, that our 'immortality,' if we live in
the eternal, is not so much future as already now and here, which we find so often expressed
to-day in certain philosophic circles, finds its support in a 'hear, hear!' or an 'amen,' which
floats up from that mysteriously deeper level. * We recognize the passwords to the mystical
region as we hear them, but we cannot use them ourselves; it alone has the keeping of 'the
password primeval.' *(2)

* Compare the extracts from Dr. Bucke, quoted earlier in this lecture.

*(2) As serious an attempt as I know to mediate between the mystical region and the discursive
life is contained in an article on Aristotle's Unmoved Mover, by F.C.S. SCHILLER, in Mind, vol.
ix., 1900.

I have now sketched with extreme brevity and insufficiency, but as fairly as I am able in the
time allowed, the general traits of the mystic range of consciousness. It is on the whole
pantheistic and optimistic, or at least the opposite of pessimistic. It is anti-naturalistic,
and harmonizes best with twice-bornness and so-called other-worldly states of mind.

My next task is to inquire whether we can invoke it as authoritative. Does it furnish any
warrant for the truth of the twice-bornness and supernaturality and pantheism which it favors?
I must give my answer to this question as concisely as I can.

In brief my answer is this,- and I will divide it into three parts:

(1) Mystical states, when well developed, usually are, and have the right to be, absolutely
authoritative over the individuals to whom they come.

(2) No authority emanates from them which should make it a duty for those who stand outside of
them to accept their revelations uncritically.

(3) They break down the authority of the non-mystical or rationalistic consciousness, based
upon the understanding and the senses alone. They show it to be only one kind of consciousness.
They open out the possibility of other orders of truth, in which, so far as anything in us
vitally responds to them, we may freely continue to have faith.

I will take up these points one by one.

1.

As a matter of psychological fact, mystical states of a well-pronounced and emphatic sort are
usually authoritative over those who have them. * They have been 'there,' and know. It is vain
for rationalism to grumble about this. If the mystical truth that comes to a man proves to be a
force that he can live by, what mandate have we of the majority to order him to live in another
way? We can throw him into a prison or a madhouse, but we cannot change his mind- we commonly
attach it only the more stubbornly to its beliefs. *(2) It mocks our utmost efforts, as a
matter of fact, and in point of logic it absolutely escapes our jurisdiction. Our own more
'rational' beliefs are based on evidence exactly similar in nature to that which mystics quote
for theirs. Our senses, namely, have assured us of certain states of fact; but mystical
experiences are as direct perceptions of fact for those who have them as any sensations ever
were for us. The records show that even though the five senses be in abeyance in them, they are
absolutely sensational in their epistemological quality, if I may be pardoned the barbarous
expression,- that is, they are face to face presentations of what seems immediately to exist.

* I abstract from weaker states, and from those cases of which the books are full, where the
director (but usually not the subject) remains in doubt whether the experience may not have
proceeded from the demon.

*(2) Example: Mr. John Nelson writes of his imprisonment for preaching Methodism: "My soul was
as a watered garden, and I could sing praises to God all day long; for he turned my captivity
into joy, and gave me to rest as well on the boards, as if I had been on a bed of down. Now
could I say, 'God's service is perfect freedom,' and I was carried out much in prayer that my
enemies might drink of the same river of peace which my God gave so largely to me." Journal,
London, no date, p. 172.

The mystic is, in short, invulnerable, and must be left, whether we relish it or not, in
undisturbed enjoyment of his creed. Faith, says Tolstoy, is that by which men live. And
faith-state and mystic state are practically convertible terms.

2.

But I now proceed to add that mystics have no right to claim that we ought to accept the
deliverance of their peculiar experiences, if we are ourselves outsiders and feel no private
call thereto. The utmost they can ever ask of us in this life is to admit that they establish a
presumption. They form a consensus and have an unequivocal outcome; and it would be odd,
mystics might say, if such a unanimous type of experience should prove to be altogether wrong.
At bottom, however, this would only be an appeal to numbers, like the appeal of rationalism the
other way; and the appeal to numbers has no logical force. If we acknowledge it, it is for
'suggestive,' not for logical reasons: we follow the majority because to do so suits our life.

But even this presumption from the unanimity of mystics is far from being strong. In
characterizing mystic states as pantheistic, optimistic, etc., I am afraid I over-simplified
the truth. I did so for expository reasons, and to keep the closer to the classic mystical
tradition. The classic religious mysticism, it now must be confessed, is only a 'privileged
case.' It is an extract, kept true to type by the selection of the fittest specimens and their
preservation in 'schools.' It is carved out from a much larger mass; and if we take the larger
mass as seriously as religious mysticism has historically taken itself, we find that the
supposed unanimity largely disappears. To begin with, even religious mysticism itself, the kind
that accumulates traditions and makes schools, is much less unanimous than I have allowed. It
has been both ascetic and antinomianly self-indulgent within the Christian church. * It is
dualistic in Sankhya, and monistic in Vedanta philosophy, I called it pantheistic; but the
great Spanish mystics are anything but pantheists. They are with few exceptions
non-metaphysical minds, for whom 'the category of personality' is absolute. The 'union' of man
with God is for them much more like an occasional miracle than like an original identity. *(2)
How different again, apart from the happiness common to all, is the mysticism of Walt Whitman,
Edward Carpenter, Richard Jefferies, and other naturalistic pantheists, from the more
distinctively Christian sort. *(3) The fact is that the mystical feeling of enlargement, union,
and emancipation has no specific intellectual content whatever of its own. It is capable of
forming matrimonial alliances with material furnished by the most diverse philosophies and
theologies, provided only they can find a place in their framework for its peculiar emotional
mood. We have no right, therefore, to invoke its prestige as distinctively in favor of any
special belief, such as that in absolute idealism, or in the absolute monistic identity, or in
the absolute goodness, of the world. It is only relatively in favor of all these things- it
passes out of common human consciousness in the direction in which they lie.

* RUYSBROECK, in the work which Maeterlinck has translated, has a chapter against the
antinomianism of disciples. H. DELACROIX'S book (Essai sur le mysticisme speculatif en
Allemagne au XIVme Siecle, Paris, 1900) is full of antinomian material. Compare also A. JUNDT:
Les Amis de Dieu au XIVme Siecle, These de Strasbourg, 1879.

*(2) Compare PAUL ROUSSELOT: Les Mystiques Espagnols, Paris, 1869, ch. xii.

*(3) See CARPENTER'S Towards Democracy, especially the latter parts, and JEFFERIES'S wonderful
and splendid mystic rhapsody, The Story of my Heart.

So much for religious mysticism proper. But more remains to be told, for religious mysticism is
only one half of mysticism. The other half has no accumulated traditions except those which the
text-books on insanity, supply. Open any one of these, and you will find abundant cases in
which 'mystical ideas' are cited as characteristic symptoms of enfeebled or deluded states of
mind. In delusional insanity, paranoia, as they sometimes call it, we may have a diabolical
mysticism, a sort of religious mysticism turned upside down. The same sense of ineffable
importance in the smallest events, the same texts and words coming with new meanings, the same
voices and visions and leadings and missions, the same controlling by extraneous powers; only
this time the emotion is pessimistic: instead of consolations we have desolations; the meanings
are dreadful; and the powers are enemies to life. It is evident that from the point of view of
their psychological mechanism, the classic mysticism and these lower mysticisms spring from the
same mental level, from that great subliminal or transmarginal region of which science is
beginning to admit the existence, but of which so little is really known. That region contains
every kind of matter: 'seraph and snake' abide there side by side. To come from thence is no
infallible credential. What comes must be sifted and tested, and run the gauntlet of
confrontation with the total context of experience, just like what comes from the outer world
of sense. Its value must be ascertained by empirical methods, so long as we are not mystics
ourselves.

Once more, then, I repeat that non-mystics are under no obligation to acknowledge in mystical
states a superior authority conferred on them by their intrinsic nature. *

* In chapter i. of book ii. of his work Degeneration, 'MAX NORDAU' seeks to undermine all
mysticism by exposing the weakness of the lower kinds. Mysticism for him means any sudden
perception of hidden significance in things. He explains such perception by the abundant
uncompleted associations which experiences may arouse in a degenerate brain. These give to him
who has the experience a vague and vast sense of its leading further, yet they awaken no
definite or useful consequent in his thought. The explanation is a plausible one for certain
sorts of feeling of significance; and other alienists (WERNICKE, for example, in his Grundriss
der Psychiatrie, Theil ii., Leipzig, 1896) have explained 'paranoiac' conditions by a laming of
the association-organ. But the higher mystical flights, with their positiveness and abruptness,
are surely products of no such merely negative condition. It seems far more reasonable to
ascribe them to inroads from the subconscious life, of the cerebral activity correlative to
which we as yet know nothing. -

3.

Yet, I repeat once more, the existence of mystical states absolutely overthrows the pretension
of non-mystical states to be the sole and ultimate dictators of what we may believe. As a rule,
mystical states merely add a supersensuous meaning to the ordinary outward data of
consciousness. They are excitements like the emotions of love or ambition, gifts to our spirit
by means of which facts already objectively before us fall into a new expressiveness and make a
new connection with our active life. They do not contradict these facts as such or deny
anything that our senses have immediately seized. * It is the rationalistic critic rather who
plays the part of denier in the controversy, and his denials have no strength, for there never
can be a state of facts to which new meaning may not truthfully be added, provided the mind
ascend to a more enveloping point of view. It must always remain an open question whether
mystical states may not possibly be such superior points of view, windows through which the
mind looks out upon a more extensive and inclusive world. The difference of the views seen from
the different mystical windows need not prevent us from entertaining this supposition. The
wider world would in that case prove to have a mixed constitution like that of this world, that
is all. It would have its celestial and its infernal regions, its tempting and its saving
moments, its valid experiences and its counterfeit ones, just as our world has them; but it
would be a wider world all the same. We should have to use its experiences by selecting and
subordinating and substituting just as is our custom in this ordinary naturalistic world; we
should be liable to error just as we are now; yet the counting in of that wider world of
meanings, and the serious dealing with it, might, in spite of all the perplexity, be
indispensable stages in our approach to the final fullness of the truth.

* They sometimes add subjective audita et visa to the facts, but as these are usually
interpreted as transmundane, they oblige no alteration in the facts of sense.

In this shape, I think, we have to leave the subject. Mystical states indeed wield no authority
due simply to their being mystical states. But the higher ones among them point in directions
to which the religious sentiments even of non-mystical men incline. They tell of the supremacy
of the ideal, of vastness, of union, of safety, and of rest. They offer us hypotheses,
hypotheses which we may voluntarily ignore, but which as thinkers we cannot possibly upset. The
supernaturalism and optimism to which they would persuade us may, interpreted in one way or
another, be after all the truest of insights into the meaning of this life.

"Oh, the little more, and how much it is; and the little less, and what worlds away!" It may be
that possibility and permission of this sort are all that the religious consciousness requires
to live on. In my last lecture I shall have to try to persuade you that this is the case.
Meanwhile, however, I am sure that for many of my readers this diet is too slender. If
supernaturalism and inner union with the divine are true, you think, then not so much
permission, as compulsion to believe, ought to be found. Philosophy has always professed to
prove religious truth by coercive argument; and the construction of philosophies of this kind
has always been one favorite function of the religious life, if we use this term in the large
historic sense. But religious philosophy is an enormous subject, and in my next lecture I can
only give that brief glance at it which my limits will allow.

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LECTURE XX
CONCLUSIONS

THE material of our study of human nature is now spread before us; and in this parting hour,
set free from the duty of description, we can draw our theoretical and practical conclusions.
In my first lecture, defending the empirical method, I foretold that whatever conclusions we
might come to could be reached by spiritual judgments only, appreciations of the significance
for life of religion, taken 'on the whole.' Our conclusions cannot be as sharp as dogmatic
conclusions would be, but I will formulate them, when the time comes, as sharply as I can.

Summing up in the broadest possible way the characteristics of the religious life, as we have
found them, it includes the following beliefs:

1. That the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe from which it draws its chief
significance;

2. That union or harmonious relation with that higher universe is our true end;

3. That prayer or inner communion with the spirit thereof- be that spirit 'God' or 'law'- is a
process wherein work is really done, and spiritual energy flows in and produces effects,
psychological or material, within the phenomenal world.

Religion includes also the following psychological characteristics:

4. A new zest which adds itself like a gift to life, and takes the form either of lyrical
enchantment or of appeal to earnestness and heroism.

5. An assurance of safety and a temper of peace, and, in relation to others, a preponderance of
loving affections.

In illustrating these characteristics by documents, we have been literally bathed in sentiment.
In re-reading my manuscript, I am almost appalled at the amount of emotionality which I find in
it. After so much of this, we can afford to be dryer and less sympathetic in the rest of the
work that lies before us.

The sentimentality of many of my documents is a consequence of the fact that I sought them
among the extravagances of the subject. If any of you are enemies of what our ancestors used to
brand as enthusiasm, and are, nevertheless, still listening to me now, you have probably felt
my selection to have been sometimes almost perverse, and have wished I might have stuck to
soberer examples. I reply that I took these extremer examples as yielding the profounder
information. To learn the secrets of any science, we go to expert specialists, even though they
may be eccentric persons, and not to commonplace pupils. We combine what they tell us with the
rest of our wisdom, and form our final judgment independently. Even so with religion. We who
have pursued such radical expressions of it may now be sure that we know its secrets as
authentically as any one can know them who learns them from another; and we have next to
answer, each of us for himself, the practical question: what are the dangers in this element of
life? and in what proportion may it need to be restrained by other elements, to give the proper
balance?

But this question suggests another one which I will answer immediately and get it out of the
way, for it has more than once already vexed us. Ought it to be assumed that in all men the
mixture of religion with other elements should be identical? Ought it, indeed, to be assumed
that the lives of all men should show identical religious elements? In other words, is the
existence of so many religious types and sects and creeds regrettable?

To these questions I answer 'No' emphatically. And my reason is that I do not see how it is
possible that creatures in such different positions and with such different powers as human
individuals are, should have exactly the same functions and the same duties. No two of us have
identical difficulties, nor should we be expected to work out identical solutions. Each, from
his peculiar angle of observation, takes in a certain sphere of fact and trouble, which each
must deal with in a unique manner. One of us must soften himself, another must harden himself;
one must yield a point, another must stand firm,- in order the better to defend the position
assigned him. If an Emerson were forced to be a Wesley, or a Moody forced to be a Whitman, the
total human consciousness of the divine would suffer. The divine can mean no single quality, it
must mean a group of qualities, by being champions of which in alternation, different men may
all find worthy missions. Each attitude being a syllable in human nature's total message, it
takes the whole of us to spell the meaning out completely. So a 'god of battles' must be
allowed to be the god for one kind of person, a god of peace and heaven and home, the god for
another. We must frankly recognize the fact that we live in partial systems, and that parts are
not interchangeable in the spiritual life. If we are peevish and jealous, destruction of the
self must be an element of our religion; why need it be one if we are good and sympathetic from
the outset? If we are sick souls, we require a religion of deliverance; but why think so much
of deliverance, if we are healthy-minded? * Unquestionably, some men have the completer
experience and the higher vocation, here just as in the social world; but for each man to stay
in his own experience, whate'er it be, and for others to tolerate him there, is surely best.

* From this point of view, the contrasts between the healthy and the morbid mind, and between
the once-born and the twice-born types, of which I spoke in earlier lectures cease to be the
radical antagonisms which many think them. The twice-born look down upon the rectilinear
consciousness of life of the once-born as being 'mere morality,' and not properly religion.
"Dr. Channing," an orthodox minister is reported to have said, "is excluded from the highest
form of religious life by the extraordinary rectitude of his character." It is indeed true that
the outlook upon life of the twice-born- holding as it does more of the element of evil in
solution- is the wider and completer. The 'heroic' or 'solemn' way in which life comes to them
is a 'higher synthesis' into which healthy-mindedness and morbidness both enter and combine.
Evil is not evaded, but sublated in the higher religious cheer of these persons. But the final
consciousness which each type reaches of union with the divine has the same practical
significance for the individual; and individuals may well be allowed to get to it by the
channels which lie most open to their several temperaments. In the cases which were quoted in
Lecture IV, of the mind-cure form of healthy-mindedness, we found abundant examples of
regenerative process. The severity of the crisis in this process is a matter of degree. How
long one shall continue to drink the consciousness of evil, and when one shall begin to
short-circuit and get rid of it, are also matters of amount and degree, so that in many
instances it is quite arbitrary whether we class the individual a once-born or a twice-born
subject.

But, you may now ask, would not this one-sidedness be cured if we should all espouse the
science of religions as our own religion? In answering this question I must open again the
general relations of the theoretic to the active life.

Knowledge about a thing is not the thing itself. You remember what Al-Ghazzali told us in the
Lecture on Mysticism,- that to understand the causes of drunkenness, as a physician understands
them, is not to be drunk. A science might come to understand everything about the causes and
elements of religion, and might even decide which elements were qualified, by their general
harmony with other branches of knowledge, to be considered true; and yet the best man at this
science might be the man who found it hardest to be personally devout. Tout savoir c'est tout
pardonner. The name of Renan would doubtless occur to many persons as an example of the way in
which breadth of knowledge may make one only a dilettante in possibilities, and blunt the
acuteness of one's living faith. * If religion be a function by which either God's cause or
man's cause is to be really advanced, then he who lives the life of it, however narrowly, is a
better servant than he who merely knows about it, however much. Knowledge about life is one
thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your
being, is another.

* Compare, e.g., the quotation from Renan in Lecture II, above.

For this reason, the science of religions may not be an equivalent for living religion; and if
we turn to the inner difficulties of such a science, we see that a point comes when she must
drop the purely theoretic attitude, and either let her knots remain uncut, or have them cut by
active faith. To see this, suppose that we have our science of religions constituted as a
matter of fact. Suppose that she has assimilated all the necessary historical material and
distilled out of it as its essence the same conclusions which I myself a few moments ago
pronounced. Suppose that she agrees that religion, wherever it is an active thing, involves a
belief in ideal presences, and a belief that in our prayerful communion with them, * work is
done, and something real comes to pass. She has now to exert her critical activity, and to
decide how far, in the light of other sciences and in that of general philosophy, such beliefs
can be considered true.

* 'Prayerful' taken in the broader sense explained above in Lecture XIX.

Dogmatically to decide this is an impossible task. Not only are the other sciences and the
philosophy still far from being completed, but in their present state we find them full of
conflicts. The sciences of nature know nothing of spiritual presences, and on the whole hold no
practical commerce whatever with the idealistic conceptions towards which general philosophy
inclines. The scientist, so-called, is, during his scientific hours at least, so materialistic
that one may well say that on the whole the influence of science goes against the notion that
religion should be recognized at all. And this antipathy to religion finds an echo within the
very science of religions itself. The cultivator of this science has to become acquainted with
so many groveling and horrible superstitions that a presumption easily arises in his mind that
any belief that is religious probably is false. In the 'prayerful communion' of savages with
such mumbo-jumbos of deities as they acknowledge, it is hard for us to see what genuine
spiritual work- even though it were work relative only to their dark savage obligations- can
possibly be done.

The consequence is that the conclusions of the science of religions are as likely to be adverse
as they are to be favorable to the claim that the essence of religion is true. There is a
notion in the air about us that religion is probably only an anachronism, a case of 'survival,'
an atavistic relapse into a mode of thought which humanity in its more enlightened examples has
outgrown; and this notion our religious anthropologists at present do little to counteract.

This view is so widespread at the present day that I must consider it with some explicitness
before I pass to my own conclusions. Let me call it the 'Survival theory,' for brevity's sake.

The pivot round which the religious life, as we have traced it, revolves, is the interest of
the individual in his private personal destiny. Religion, in short, is a monumental chapter in
the history of human egotism. The gods believed in- whether by crude savages or by men
disciplined intellectually- agree with each other in recognizing personal calls. Religious
thought is carried on in terms of personality, this being, in the world of religion, the one
fundamental fact. To-day, quite as much as at any previous age, the religious individual tells
you that the divine meets him on the basis of his personal concerns.

Science, on the other hand, has ended by utterly repudiating the personal point of view. She
catalogues her elements and records her laws indifferent as to what purpose may be shown forth
by them, and constructs her theories quite careless of their bearing on human anxieties and
fates. Though the scientist may individually nourish a religion, and be a theist in his
irresponsible hours, the days are over when it could be said that for Science herself the
heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Our solar system,
with its harmonies, is seen now as but one passing case of a certain sort of moving equilibrium
in the heavens, realized by a local accident in an appalling wilderness of worlds where no life
can exist. In a span of time which as a cosmic interval will count but as an hour, it will have
ceased to be. The Darwinian notion of chance production, and subsequent destruction, speedy or
deferred, applies to the largest as well as to the smallest facts. It is impossible, in the
present temper of the scientific imagination, to find in the driftings of the cosmic atoms,
whether they work on the universal or on the particular scale, anything but a kind of aimless
weather, doing and undoing, achieving no proper history, and leaving no result. Nature has no
one distinguishable ultimate tendency with which it is possible to feel a sympathy. In the vast
rhythm of her processes, as the scientific mind now follows them, she appears to cancel
herself. The books of natural theology which satisfied the intellects of our grandfathers seem
to us quite grotesque, * representing, as they did, a God who conformed the largest things of
nature to the paltriest of our private wants. The God whom science recognizes must be a God of
universal laws exclusively, a God who does a wholesale, not a retail business. He cannot
accommodate his processes to the convenience of individuals. The bubbles on the foam which
coats a stormy sea are floating episodes, made and unmade by the forces of the wind and water.
Our private selves are like those bubbles,- epiphenomena, as Clifford, I believe, ingeniously
called them; their destinies weigh nothing and determine nothing in the world's irremediable
currents of events.

* How was it ever conceivable, we ask, that a man like Christian Wolff, in whose dry-as-dust
head all the learning of the early eighteenth century was concentrated, should have preserved
such a baby-like faith in the personal and human character of Nature as to expound her
operations as he did in his work on the uses of natural things? This, for example, is the
account he gives of the sun and its utility:

"We see that God has created the sun to keep the changeable conditions on the earth in such an
order that living creatures, men and beasts, may inhabit its surface. Since men are the most
reasonable of creatures, and able to infer God's invisible being from the contemplation of the
world, the sun in so far forth contributes to the primary purpose of creation: without it the
race of man could not be preserved or continued.... The sun makes daylight, not only on our
earth, but also on the other planets; and daylight is of the utmost utility to us; for by its
means we can commodiously carry on those occupations which in the night-time would either be
quite impossible, or at any rate impossible without our going to the expense of artificial
light. The beasts of the field can find food by day which they would not be able to find at
night. Moreover we owe it to the sunlight that we are able to see everything that is on the
earth's surface, not only near by, but also at a distance, and to recognize both near and far
things according to their species, which again is of manifold use to us not only in the
business necessary to human life, and when we are traveling, but also for the scientific
knowledge of Nature, which knowledge for the most part depends on observations made with the
help of sight, and, without the sunshine, would have been impossible. If any one would rightly
impress on his mind the great advantages which he derives from the sun, let him imagine himself
living through only one mouth, and see how it would be with all his undertakings, if it were
not day but night. He would then be sufficiently convinced out of his own experience,
especially if he had much work to carry on in the street or in the fields.... From the sun we
learn to recognize when it is midday, and by knowing this point of time exactly, we can set our
clocks right, on which account astronomy owes much to the sun.... By help of the sun one can
find the meridian.... But the meridian is the basis of our sun-dials, and generally speaking,
we should have no sun-dials if we had no sun." Vernunftige Gedanken von den Absichten der
naturlichen Dinge, 1782, pp. 74-84.

Or read the account of God's beneficence in the institution of "the great variety throughout
the world of men's faces, voices, and handwriting," given in Derham's Physico-theology, a book
that had much vogue in the eighteenth century. "Had Man's body," says Dr. Derham, "been made
according to any of the Atheistical Schemes, or any other Method than that of the infinite Lord
of the World, this wise Variety would never have been: but Men's Faces would have been cast in
the same, or not a very different Mould, their Organs of Speech would have sounded the same or
not so great a Variety of Notes; and the same Structure of Muscles and Nerves would have given
the Hand the same Direction in Writing. And in this Case, what Confusion, what Disturbance,
what Mischiefs would the world eternally have lain under! No Security could have been to our
persons; no Certainty, no Enjoyment of our Possessions; no Justice between Man and Man; no
Distinction between Good and Bad, between Friends and Foes, between Father and Child, Husband
and Wife, Male or Female; but all would have been turned topsy-turvy, by being exposed to the
Malice of the Envious and ill-Natured, to the Fraud and Violence of Knaves and Robbers, to the
Forgeries of the crafty Cheat, to the Lusts of the Effeminate and Debauched, and what not! Our
Courts of Justice can abundantly testify the dire Effects of Mistaking Men's Faces, of
counterfeiting their Hands, and forging Writings. But now as the infinitely wise Creator and
Ruler hath ordered the Matter, every man's Face can distinguish him in the Light, and his Voice
in the Dark; his Hand-writing can speak for him though absent, and be his Witness, and secure
his Contracts in future Generations. A manifest as well as admirable Indication of the divine
Superintendence and Management."

A God so careful as to make provision even for the unmistakable signing of bank checks and
deeds was a deity truly after the heart of eighteenth century Anglicanism.

I subjoin, omitting the capitals, Derham's 'Vindication of God by the Institution of Hills and
Valleys,' and Wolff's altogether culinary account of the Institution of Water:

"The uses," says Wolff, "which water serves in human life are plain to see and need not be
described at length. Water is a universal drink of man and beasts. Even though men have made
themselves drinks that are artificial, they could not do this without water. Beer is brewed of
water and malt, and it is the water in it which quenches thirst. Wine is prepared from grapes,
which could never have grown without the help of water; and the same is true of those drinks
which in England and other places they produce from fruit.... Therefore since God so planned
the world that men and beasts should live upon it and find there everything required for their
necessity and convenience, he also made water as one means whereby to make the earth into so
excellent a dwelling. And this is all the more manifest when we consider the advantages which
we obtain from this same water for the cleaning of our household utensils, of our clothing, and
of other matters.... When one goes into a grinding-mill one sees that the grindstone must
always be kept wet and then one will get a still greater idea of the use of water."

Of the hills and valleys, Derham, after praising their beauty, discourses as follows: "Some
constitutions are indeed of so happy a strength, and so confirmed an health, as to be
indifferent to almost any place or temperature of the air. But then others are so weakly and
feeble, as not to be able to bear one, but can live comfortably in another place. With some the
more subtle and finer air of the hills doth best agree, who are languishing and dying in the
feculent and grosser air of great towns, or even the warmer and vaporous air of the valleys and
waters. But contrariwise, others languish on the hills, and grow lusty and strong in the warmer
air of the valleys.

"So that this opportunity of shifting our abode from the hills to the vales, is an admirable
easement, refreshment, and great benefit to the valetudinarian, feeble part of mankind;
affording those an easy and comfortable life, who would otherwise live miserably, languish, and
pine away.

"To this salutary conformation of the earth we may add another great convenience of the hills,
and that is affording commodious places for habitation, serving (as an eminent author wordeth
it) as screens to keep off the cold and nipping blasts of the northern and easterly winds, and
reflecting the benign and cherishing sunbeams, and so rendering our habitations both more
comfortable and more cheerly in winter.

"Lastly, it is to the hills that the fountains owe their rise and the rivers their conveyance,
and consequently those vast masses and lofty piles are not, as they are charged, such rude and
useless excrescences of our ill-formed globe; but the admirable tools of nature, contrived and
ordered by the infinite Creator, to do one of its most useful works. For, was the surface of
the earth even and level, and the middle parts of its islands and continents not mountainous
and high as now it is, it is most certain there could be no descent for the rivers, no
conveyance for the waters; but, instead of gliding along those gentle declivities which the
higher lands now afford them quite down to the sea, they would stagnate and perhaps stink, and
also drown large tracts of land.

"[Thus] the hills and vales, though to a peevish and weary traveler they may seem incommodious
and troublesome, yet are a noble work of the great Creator, and wisely appointed by him for the
good of our sublunary world."

You see how natural it is, from this point of view, to treat religion as a mere survival, for
religion does in fact perpetuate the traditions of the most primeval thought. To coerce the
spiritual powers, or to square them and get them on our side, was, during enormous tracts of
time, the one great object in our dealings with the natural world. For our ancestors, dreams,
hallucinations, revelations, and cock-and-bull stories were inextricably mixed with facts. Up
to a comparatively recent date such distinctions as those between what has been verified and
what is only conjectured, between the impersonal and the personal aspects of existence, were
hardly suspected or conceived. Whatever you imagined in a lively manner, whatever you thought
fit to be true, you affirmed confidently; and whatever you affirmed, your comrades believed.
Truth was what had not yet been contradicted, most things were taken into the mind from the
point of view of their human suggestiveness, and the attention confined itself exclusively to
the aesthetic and dramatic aspects of events. *

* Until the seventeenth century this mode of thought prevailed. One need only recall the
dramatic treatment even of mechanical questions by Aristotle, as, for example, his explanation
of the power of the lever to make a small weight raise a larger one. This is due, according to
Aristotle, to the generally miraculous character of the circle and of all circular movement.
The circle is both convex and concave; it is made by a fixed point and a moving line, which
contradict each other; and whatever moves in a circle moves in opposite directions.
Nevertheless, movement in a circle is the most 'natural' movement; and the long arm of the
lever, moving, as it does, in the larger circle, has the greater amount of this natural motion,
and consequently requires the lesser force. Or recall the explanation by Herodotus of the
position of the sun in winter: It moves to the south because of the cold which drives it into
the warm parts of the heavens over Libya. Or listen to Saint Augustine's speculations: "Who
gave to chaff such power to freeze that it preserves snow buried under it, and such power to
warm that it ripens green fruit? Who can explain the strange properties of fire itself, which
blackens all that it burns, though itself bright, and which, though of the most beautiful
colors, discolors almost all that it touches and feeds upon, and turns blazing fuel into grimy
cinders?... Then what wonderful properties do we find in charcoal, which is so brittle that a
light tap breaks it, and a alight pressure pulverizes it, and yet is so strong that no moisture
rots it, nor any time causes it to decay." City of God, book xxi. ch. iv.

Such aspects of things as these, their naturalness and unnaturalness, the sympathies and
antipathies of their superficial qualities, their eccentricities, their brightness and strength
and destructiveness, were inevitably the ways in which they originally fastened our attention.

If you open early medical books, you will find sympathetic magic invoked on every page. Take,
for example, the famous vulnerary ointment attributed to Paracelaus. For this there were a
variety of receipts, including usually human fat, the fat of either a bull, a wild boar, or a
bear; powdered earthworms, the usnia, or mossy growth on the weathered skull of a hanged
criminal, and other materials equally unpleasant- the whole prepared under the planet Venus if
possible, but never under Mars or Saturn. Then, if a splinter of wood, dipped in the patient's
blood, or the bloodstained weapon that wounded him, be immersed in this ointment, the wound
itself being tightly bound up, the latter infallibly gets well,- I quote now Van Helmont's
account,- for the blood on the weapon or splinter, containing in it the spirit of the wounded
man, is roused to active excitement by the contact of the ointment, whence there results to it
a full commission or power to cure its cousin-german, the blood in the patient's body. This it
does by sucking out the dolorous and exotic impression from the wounded part. But to do this it
has to implore the aid of the bull's fat, and other portions of the unguent. The reason why
bull's fat is so powerful is that the bull at the time of slaughter is full of secret
reluctancy and vindictive murmurs, and therefore dies with a higher flame of revenge about him
than any other animal. And thus we have made it out, says this author, that the admirable
efficacy of the ointment ought to be imputed, not to any auxiliary concurrence of Satan, but
simply to the energy of the posthumous character of Revenge remaining firmly impressed upon the
blood and concreted fat in the unguent. J.B. VAN HELMONT: A Ternary of Paradoxes, translated by
WALTER CHARLETON, London, 1650.- I much abridge the original in my citations.

The author goes on to prove by the analogy of many other natural facts that this sympathetic
action between things at a distance is the true rationale of the case. "If," he says, "the
heart of a horse, slain by a witch, taken out of the yet reeking carcase, be impaled upon an
arrow and roasted, immediately the whole witch becomes tormented with the insufferable pains
and cruelty of the fire, which could by no means happen unless there preceded a conjunction of
the spirit of the witch with the spirit of the horse. In the reeking and yet panting heart, the
spirit of the witch is kept captive, and the retreat of it prevented by the arrow transfixed.
Similarly hath not many a murdered carcase at the coroner's inquest suffered a fresh hemorrhage
or cruentation at the presence of the assassin?- the blood being, as in a furious fit of anger,
enraged and agitated by the impress of revenge conceived against the murderer, at the instant
of the soul's compulsive exile from the body. So, if you have dropsy, gout, or jaundice, by
including some of your warm blood in the shell and white of an egg, which, exposed to a gentle
heat, and mixed with a bait of flesh, you shall give to a hungry dog or hog, the disease shall
instantly pass from you into the animal, and leave you entirely. And similarly again, if you
burn some of the milk either of a cow or of a woman, the gland from which it issued will dry
up. A gentleman at Brussels had his nose mowed off in a combat, but the celebrated surgeon
Tagliacozzus digged a new nose for him out of the skin of the arm of a porter at Bologna. About
thirteen months after his return to his own country, the engrafted nose grew cold, putrefied,
and in a few days dropped off, and it was then discovered that the porter had expired, near
about the same punctilio of time. There are still at Brussels eye-witnesses of this
occurrence," says Van Helmont; and adds, "I pray what is there in this of superstition or of
exalted imagination?"

Modern mind-cure literature- the works of Prentice Mulford, for example- of sympathetic magic.

How indeed could it be otherwise? The extraordinary value, for explanation and prevision, of
those mathematical and mechanical modes of conception which science uses, was a result that
could not possibly have been expected in advance. Weight, movement, velocity, direction,
position, what thin, pallid, uninteresting ideas! How could the richer animistic aspects of
Nature, the peculiarities and oddities that make phenomena picturesquely striking or
expressive, fail to have been first singled out and followed by philosophy as the more
promising avenue to the knowledge of Nature's life? Well, it is still in these richer animistic
and dramatic aspects that religion delights to dwell, It is the terror and beauty of phenomena,
the 'promise' of the dawn and of the rainbow, the 'voice' of the thunder, the 'gentleness' of
the summer rain, the 'sublimity' of the stars, and not the physical laws which these things
follow, by which the religious mind still continues to be most impressed; and just as of yore,
the devout man tells you that in the solitude of his room or of the fields he still feels the
divine presence, that inflowings of help come in reply to his prayers, and that sacrifices to
this unseen reality fill him with security and peace.

Pure anachronism! says the survival-theory;- anachronism for which deanthropomorphization of
the imagination is the remedy required. The less we mix the private with the cosmic, the more
we dwell in universal and impersonal terms, the truer heirs of Science we become.

In spite of the appeal which this impersonality of the scientific attitude makes to a certain
magnanimity of temper, I believe it to be shallow, and I can now state my reason in
comparatively few words. That reason is that, so long as we deal with the cosmic and the
general, we deal only with the symbols of reality, but as soon as we deal with private and
personal phenomena as such, we deal with realities in the completest sense of the term. I think
I can easily make clear what I mean by these words.

The world of our experience consists at all times of two parts, an objective and a subjective
part, of which the former may be incalculably more extensive than the latter, and yet the
latter can never be omitted or suppressed. The objective part is the sum total of whatsoever at
any given time we may be thinking of, the subjective part is the inner 'state' in which the
thinking comes to pass. What we think of may be enormous, the cosmic times and spaces, for
example,- whereas the inner state may be the most fugitive and paltry activity of mind. Yet the
cosmic objects, so far as the experience yields them, are but ideal pictures of something whose
existence we do not inwardly possess but only point at outwardly, while the inner state is our
very experience itself; its reality and that of our experience are one. A conscious field plus
its object as felt or thought of plus an attitude towards the object plus the sense of a self
to whom the attitude belongs- such a concrete bit of personal experience may be a small bit,
but it is a solid bit as long as it lasts; not hollow, not a mere abstract element of
experience, such as the 'object' is when taken all alone. It is a full fact, even though it be
an insignificant fact; it is of the kind to which all realities whatsoever must belong; the
motor currents of the world run through the like of it; it is on the line connecting real
events with real events. That unsharable feeling which each one of us has of the pinch of his
individual destiny as he privately feels it rolling out on fortune's wheel may be disparaged
for its egotism, may be sneered at as unscientific, but it is the one thing that fills up the
measure of our concrete actuality, and any would-be existent that should lack such a feeling,
or its analogue, would be a piece of reality only half made up. *

* Compare Lotze's doctrine that the only meaning we can attach to the notion of a thing as it
is 'in itself' is by conceiving it as it is for itself; i. e., as a piece of full experience
with a private sense of 'pinch' or inner activity of some sort going with it.

If this be true, it is absurd for science to say that the egotistic elements of experience
should be suppressed. The axis of reality runs solely through the egotistic places,- they are
strung upon it like so many beads. To describe the world with all the various feelings of the
individual pinch of destiny, all the various spiritual attitudes, left out from the
description- they being as describable as anything else- would be something like offering a
printed bill of fare as the equivalent for a solid meal. Religion makes no such blunder. The
individual's religion may be egotistic, and those private realities which it keeps in touch
with may be narrow enough; but at any rate it always remains infinitely less hollow and
abstract, as far as it goes, than a science which prides itself on taking no account of
anything private at all.

A bill of fare with one real raisin on it instead of the word 'raisin,' with one real egg
instead of the word 'egg,' might be an inadequate meal, but it would at least be a commencement
of reality. The contention of the survival-theory that we ought to stick to non-personal
elements exclusively seems like saying that we ought to be satisfied forever with reading the
naked bill of fare. I think, therefore, that however particular questions connected with our
individual destinies may be answered, it is only by acknowledging them as genuine questions,
and living in the sphere of thought which they open up, that we become profound. But to live
thus is to be religious; so I unhesitatingly repudiate the survival-theory of religion, as
being founded on an egregious mistake. It does not follow, because our ancestors made so many
errors of fact and mixed them with their religion, that we should therefore leave off being
religious at all. * By being religious we establish ourselves in possession of ultimate reality
at the only points at which reality is given us to guard. Our responsible concern is with our
private destiny, after all.

* Even the errors of fact may possibly turn out not to be as wholesale as the scientist
assumes. We saw in Lecture IV how the religious conception of the universe seems to many
mind-curers 'verified' from day to day by their experience of fact. 'Experience of fact' is a
field with so many things in it that the sectarian scientist, methodically declining, as he
does, to recognize such 'facts' as mind-curers and others like them experience, otherwise than
by such rude heads of classification as 'bosh,' 'rot,' 'folly,' certainly leaves out a mass of
raw fact which, save for the industrious interest of the religious in the more personal aspects
of reality, would never have succeeded in getting itself recorded at all. We know this to be
true already in certain cases; it may, therefore, be true in others as well. Miraculous
healings have always been part of the supernaturalist stock in trade, and have always been
dismissed by the scientist as figments of the imagination. But the scientist's tardy education
in the facts of hypnotism has recently given him an apperceiving mass for phenomena of this
order, and he consequently now allows that the healings may exist, provided you expressly call
them effects of 'suggestion.' Even the stigmata of the cross on Saint Francis's hands and feet
may on these terms not be a fable. Similarly, the time-honored phenomenon of diabolical
possession is on the point of being admitted by the scientist as a fact, now that he has the
name of 'hystero-demonopathy' by which to apperceive it. No one can foresee just how far this
legitimation of occultist phenomena under newly found scientist titles may proceed- even
'prophecy,' even 'levitation,' might creep into the pale.

Thus the divorce between scientist facts and religious facts may not necessarily be as eternal
as it at first sight seems, nor the personalism and romanticism of the world, as they appeared
to primitive thinking, be matters so irrevocably outgrown. The final human opinion may, in
short, in some manner now impossible to foresee, revert to the more personal style, just as any
path of progress may follow a spiral rather than a straight line. If this were so, the
rigorously impersonal view of science might one day appear as having been a temporarily useful
eccentricity rather than the definitively triumphant position which the sectarian scientist at
present so confidently announces it to be.

You see now why I have been so individualistic throughout these lectures, and why I have seemed
so bent on rehabilitating the element of feeling in religion and subordinating its intellectual
part. Individuality is founded in feeling; and the recesses of feeling, the darker, blinder
strata of character, are the only places in the world in which we catch real fact in the
making, and directly perceive how events happen, and how work is actually done. * Compared with
this world of living individualized feelings, the world of generalized objects which the
intellect contemplates is without solidity or life. As in stereoscopic or kinetoscopic pictures
seen outside the instrument, the third dimension, the movement, the vital element, are not
there. We get a beautiful picture of an express train supposed to be moving, but where in the
picture, as I have heard a friend say, is the energy or the fifty miles an hour? *(2)

* Hume's criticism has banished causation from the world of physical objects, and 'Science' is
absolutely satisfied to define cause in terms of concomitant change- read Mach, Pearson,
Ostwald. The 'original' of the notion of causation is in our inner personal experience, and
only there can causes in the old-fashioned sense be directly observed and described.

*(2) When I read in a religious paper words like these: "Perhaps the best thing we can say of
God is that he is the Inevitable Inference," I recognize the tendency to let religion evaporate
in intellectual terms. Would martyrs have sung in the flames for a mere inference, however
inevitable it might be? Original religious men, like Saint Francis, Luther, Behmen, have
usually been enemies of the intellect's pretension to meddle with religious things. Yet the
intellect, everywhere invasive, shows everywhere its shallowing effect. See how the ancient
spirit of Methodism evaporates under those wonderfully able rationalistic booklets (which every
one should read) of a philosopher like Professor Bowne (The Christian Revelation, The Christian
Life, The Atonement: Cincinnati and New York, 1898, 1899, 1900). See the positively expulsive
purpose of philosophy properly so called:

"Religion," writes M. Vacherot (La Religion, Paris, 1869, pp. 313, 436, et passim), "answers to
a transient state or condition, not to a permanent determination of human nature, being merely
an expression of that stage of the human mind which is dominated by the imagination....
Christianity has but a single possible final heir to its estate, and that is scientific
philosophy."

In a still more radical vein, Professor Ribot (Psychologie des Sentiments, p. 310) describes
the evaporation of religion. He sums it up in a single formula- the ever-growing predominance
of the rational intellectual element, with the gradual fading out of the emotional element,
this latter tending to enter into the group of purely intellectual sentiments. "Of religions
sentiment properly so called, nothing survives at last save a vague respect for the unknowable
x which is a last relic of the fear, and a certain attraction towards the ideal, which is a
relic of the love, that characterized the earlier periods of religious growth. To state this
more simply, religion tends to turn into religious philosophy.- These are psychologically
entirely different things, the one being a theoretic construction of ratiocination, whereas the
other is the living work of a group of persons, or of a great inspired leader, calling into
play the entire thinking and feeling organism of man."

I find the same failure to recognize that the stronghold of religion lies in individuality in
attempts like those of Professor Baldwin (Mental Development, Social and Ethical
Interpretations, ch. x.) and Mr. H. R. Marshall (Instinct and Reason, chaps. viii. to xii.) to
make it a purely 'conservative social force.'

Let us agree, then, that Religion, occupying herself with personal destinies and keeping thus
in contact with the only absolute realities which we know, must necessarily play an eternal
part in human history. The next thing to decide is what she reveals about those destinies, or
whether indeed she reveals anything distinct enough to be considered a general message to
mankind. We have done as you see, with our preliminaries, and our final summing up can now
begin.

I am well aware that after all the palpitating documents which I have quoted, and all the
perspectives of emotion-inspiring institution and belief that my previous lectures have opened,
the dry analysis to which I now advance may appear to many of you like an anti-climax, a
tapering-off and flattening out of the subject, instead of a crescendo of interest and result.
I said awhile ago that the religious attitude of Protestants appears poverty-stricken to the
Catholic imagination. Still more poverty-stricken, I fear, may my final summing up of the
subject appear at first to some of you. On which account I pray you now to bear this point in
mind, that in the present part of it I am expressly trying to reduce religion to its lowest
admissible terms, to that minimum, free from individualistic excrescences, which all religions
contain as their nucleus, and on which it may be hoped that all religious persons may agree.
That established, we should have a result which might be small, but would at least be solid;
and on it and round it the ruddier additional beliefs on which the different individuals make
their venture might be grafted, and flourish as richly as you please. I shall add my own
over-belief (which will be, I confess, of a somewhat pallid kind, as befits a critical
philosopher), and you will, I hope, also add your over-beliefs, and we shall soon be in the
varied world of concrete religious constructions once more. For the moment, let me dryly pursue
the analytic part of the task.

Both thought and feeling are determinants of conduct, and the same conduct may be determined
either by feeling or by thought. When we survey the whole field of religion, we find a great
variety in the thoughts that have prevailed there; but the feelings on the one hand and the
conduct on the other are almost always the same, for Stoic, Christian, and Buddhist saints are
practically indistinguishable in their lives. The theories which Religion generates, being thus
variable, are secondary; and if you wish to grasp her essence, you must look to the feelings
and the conduct as being the more constant elements. It is between these two elements that the
short circuit exists on which she carries on her principal business, while the ideas and
symbols and other institutions form loop-lines which may be perfections and improvements, and
may even some day all be united into one harmonious system, but which are not to be regarded as
organs with an indispensable function, necessary at all times for religious life to go on. This
seems to me the first conclusion which we are entitled to draw from the phenomena we have
passed in review.

The next step is to characterize the feelings. To what psychological order do they belong?

The resultant outcome of them is in any case what Kant calls a 'sthenic' affection, an
excitement of the cheerful, expansive, 'dynamogenic' order which, like any tonic, freshens our
vital powers. In almost every lecture, but especially in the lectures on Conversion and on
Saintliness, we have seen how this emotion overcomes temperamental melancholy and imparts
endurance to the Subject, or a zest, or a meaning, or an enchantment and glory to the common
objects of life. The name of 'faith-state,' by which Professor Leuba designates it, is a good
one. * It is a biological as well as a psychological condition, and Tolstoy is absolutely
accurate in classing faith among the forces by which men live. *(2) The total absence of it,
anhedonia, *(3) means collapse.

* American Journal of Psychology, vii. 345.

*(2) Above, Lecture VIII.

*(3) Above, Lectures VI and VII.

The faith-state may hold a very minimum of intellectual content. We saw examples of this in
those sudden raptures of the divine presence, or in such mystical seizures as Dr. Bucke
described. * It may be a mere vague enthusiasm, half spiritual, half vital, a courage, and a
feeling that great and wondrous things are in the air. *(2)

* Above, Lectures XVI and XVII.

*(2) Example: Henri Perreyve writes to Gratry: "I do not know how to deal with the happiness
which you aroused in me this morning. It overwhelms me; I want to do something, yet I can do
nothing and am fit for nothing.... I would fain do great things." Again, after an inspiring
interview, he writes: "I went homewards, intoxicated with joy, hope, and strength. I wanted to
feed upon my happiness in solitude, far from all men. It was late; but, unheeding that, I took
a mountain path and went on like a madman, looking at the heavens, regardless of earth.
Suddenly an instinct made me draw hastily back- I was on the very edge of a precipice, one step
more and I must have fallen. I took fright and gave up my nocturnal promenade." A. GRATRY


==

Feisty


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