Page images

It might have been theory or dogma, it might have grown into a system of philosophy, but never into a religion, whether manifested by outward worship or by inward piety.

Religion as sentiment or knowledge. Most philosophers in attempting to define religion in its theoretic character, have explained it as a sentiment; few only as simple knowledge, like all other knowledge. Even in ancient times, sentiments, particularly the sentiments of fear or admiration or reverence, were supposed to form the very essence of religion. Fear, the ancients declared, made the gods, and even in modern Christian phraseology, the fear of God, Gottesfurcht, póßos Deoü, are often used as synonymous with religion.

Teichmüller. One of the most eminent of modern philosophers 1 who have lately been writing on the philosophy of religion, Professor Teichmüller of Dorpat, whose recent death has been a serious loss to our studies, combines the sentiments of fear and reverence in his definition of religion, and adds to it a third, namely the sentiment of moral goodness.

Religion, he says, consists, (1) Of personal feelings of fear, of complete dependence on unknown powers, which form a motive leading man to seek comfort in a view of the world not supported by experience.

(2) It consists of aesthetic feelings, which surrender themselves in admiration to the Beautiful, and lead to the erection of an ideal world. (3) It consists of moral feelings, which lead to an

Religionsphilosophie, Breslau, 1886.

attempt to construct such a system of the universe as should in turn make them (our moral feelings) intelligible 1

Author of Natural Religion. The author of Natural Religion, whoever he may be, lays the chief stress on the sentiment of admiration, defining religion as a habitual and permanent feeling of admiration.

Goethe. Goethe preferred reverence instead of admiration, though he speaks of the result rather than of the nature of religion. 'A threefold reverence,' he writes, “has to be called forth in man by religion : a reverence for what is above, for what is around, and for what is beneath us. The last is the most difficult, and has been realised by Christianity only, because it alone has been able to recognise even misery and poverty, scorn and contempt, shame and disgrace, suffering and death as divine ; nay to honour and cherish even sin and crime, not as impediments, but as helps to the Saint.'

Mill. Mill also, in his Three Essays on Religion, published after his death, in 1874, would seem to trace back religion to a feeling of admiration, or, as he expresses it, to a craving for an ideal object. So long as human life is insufficient,' he writes, “to satisfy human aspirations, so long there will be a craving for higher things which finds its most obvious satisfaction in religion.' And again : The essence of

Teichmüller, 1.c., p. 22. On page 91, he gives a more concise definition of religion as the disposition (Gesinnung) which, being joined to God-consciousness, symbolises itself in the common function of knowledge, feeling, and action.'

religion is the strong and earnest direction of the emotions and desires towards an ideal object, recognised as of the highest excellence, and as rightfully paramount over all selfish objects of desire 1!

After having examined these two classes of definitions, which look exclusively to either the practical or the theoretical side of religion, we have still to say a few words on the views taken of religion by one of the most theological of philosophers, Spinoza, and by one of the most philosophical of theologians, Schleiermacher.

Spinoza, 1632-77. Though Spinoza defines true religion and piety as love of God, founded on a knowledge of his divine perfections—a definition with which Leibniz seems to agree-yet he considers that with us practical religion should come first, should in fact remain the only religion for the majority of mankind, while a higher and philosophical faith should be reserved for the few. What Spinoza means by practical religion, is simple obedience to divine commands, while the higher religion consists in the intellectual love of God, inseparable from a true philosophical knowledge of God and man, and leading to that true blessedness which arises from the consciousness of our own God-given powers. The former he considers as based entirely on sacred books and historical revelation, the latter on the highest knowledge which can only be the work of our own mind. The former ought to be beneficial, the latter ought to be true ; the former is to serve for the public good, the latter is to lead to that peace and

1 Three Essays, p. 104.

love of God, which passeth all understanding. Spinoza's view of religion does not in this respect differ much from that of the Brâhmans. As they look upon the first and second period in a man's life as a discipline to subdue our human passions and weaknesses, Spinoza too expects practical religion to curb the passions and thus to prepare man for a higher life Only after this has been achieved is the mind prepared for a purer light. In India this progress from a lower to a higher religion was supposed to take place in the same individual, when passing through the four stages of his life, the four âsramas. In Spinoza's time, and in the society by which he was surrounded, such a hope was impossible. Few only might find the way to the highest beatitude; but even for those who rested half-way, practical religion supplied, as Spinoza thought, all those comforts which human nature requires in every stage of its growth. · This was the man who not more than 200 years ago was considered the most dangerous heretic by his Jewish co-religionists.

Schleiermacher, 1768-1834.

· Let us now hear what Schleiermacher has to say on religion, he who has likewise been spoken of as a most dangerous heretic by his Christian co-religionists. I mentioned already that he recognised true religion neither in thoughts nor in deeds, nor in both combined, but rather in a certain disposition or tone or character of the whole man, in what is called in German religiöse Stimmung. Religion was to him a kind of music pervading all our sentiments, our thoughts and our acts. 'Religion,' he says?, 'is neither knowing nor doing, but an inclination and determination of our sentiments, which manifests itself in an absolute feeling of dependence on God'Or again : 'Religion consists in our consciousness of absolute dependence on something which, though it determines us, we cannot determine in turn?

He tries to describe this feeling or this disposition and inclination of the mind or the heart in ever varying expressions. He calls it a sentiment, sense, taste of the Infinite.' In his Second Discourse on Religion, he is anxious to show that religion is neither metaphysics nor ethics, nor a mixture of both, though something of each is mixed up with all positive religions. “Religion is not knowledge, because the measure of knowledge is not the measure of piety. Observation may be said to belong to religion, but the observation of religion is different from that of science. It does not aim at knowing the finite in relation to the infinite, nor the nature of the highest cause by itself, or in relation to finite causes. It strives to view the universe, to watch it reverently in its own manifestations and acts, and to let itself be grasped and filled in childlike passivity by its immediate influences. Religion is the immediate consciousness of all that is finite within the infinite, of all that is temporal within the eternal.

This intuition, however, he adds, without sentiment would be nothing, and cannot have either the right origin or the right force. Sentiment also without intuition would be nothing, and both together are

1 Christliche Glaubenslehre, $ 3.

? Hibbert Lectures, p. 19.

« PreviousContinue »