All our knowing, then, once more is necessarily bound up with the whole man and with the whole of life. And this must mean that in religion, certainly, no merely theoretical solution of our problem is possible. Everything that has been said in recent psychological literature as to the importance of action and of the practical interests, particularly in their relation to the solution of all our ultimate problems, shows this.[6] If, in body and in mind alike, we are made for action, if we ourselves are prevailingly practical, it need not seem so strange that our solutions of ultimate questions must depend perhaps mainly on practical considerations. And if we are made for action, it is most fitting, moreover, that those convictions, which are to give support to action, should themselves be wrought out in action. The principle of the laboratory method would be justified here most of all. "In truth, when one thinks deeply enough about it, he must see, further, that for the most fundamental problems no other than a practical solution is possible in the nature of the case. There can be no mere theoretical proof or disproof of the trustworthiness of our faculties, for example. One could only use the very faculties in question in such a proof. The only proof possible is the practical power to use them."[7]

To these more fundamental considerations it may be worth while to add a number of brief suggestions that naturally connect themselves with this discussion of the practical nature of our knowledge, and that meet certain common difficulties of faith.

Mathematics has been so often extolled as the ideal of reasoning, and is so commonly held to be a peculiarly good training for the reasoning powers, that it is well worth insisting that there is no such thing as mathematical demonstration possible in the world of concrete realities. Indeed, the mathematician, on the contrary, is likely to be a particularly poor reasoner in practical matters, if he allows his mathematical point of view to dominate, just because his prevailing habit of thought is abstract. Demonstration is possible, even in mathematics, only because the mind itself makes the concepts with which it deals; they are abstracts, capable of definition in a finite number of terms. In every sphere of actual life, on the other hand, we are shut up to concretes that cannot be so defined, and therefore are limited to probable reasoning. To ask for overwhelming evidence in the sense of demonstration in the spiritual life, then, is to ask for that which never can be given us in any realm of the concrete.

Sometimes the demand for "overwhelming evidence" in the spiritual life means that one wishes the conviction that comes from personal experience, before fulfilling the conditions upon which alone that experience can come. It seems to be true that we come into all the higher experiences of life in one of two ways:[8] either the necessary course of our lives thrusts the experience upon us, and though we did not choose it and would not have chosen it, we find the actual experience meaning to us what we could not have guessed beforehand, and then choose it for its own sake; or, we have to make the venture with a kind of desperate faith that the experience will be to us what others have found it, for the highest things everywhere require the complete commitment,—they give themselves only where all is risked. No temporizing, half-hearted experiment here will give results. The meaning of a genuinely unselfish love, for example, does not yield itself to any calculating experiment. Either one is surprised into it, or he must voluntarily venture all in complete self-abandonment, burning all his bridges behind him. It should be no surprise to us, therefore, that in the highest sphere of value, that of religion, with its preeminently ethical and personal emphasis, there should be no way of getting the conviction of individual experience before experience. There are, then, two temperaments, and two ways of coming into the great values of life; but there is no way of avoiding the need of experience.

A closely related suggestion needs also to be heeded if we are really to recognize how impossible a merely theoretical solution is in religion; though here, too, religion makes no peculiar demand. Throughout life we are continually encountering experiences of which we instinctively realize that it is useless to speak, except to those who have had a like experience. It is useless to talk of color to a man born blind, or of beauty to a man who never had the living emotion of the beautiful. Our words in all such cases are only the names for experiences; they cannot disclose the experiences themselves. The very meaning of the words here is not chiefly a thought product at all. We have lived the meaning, and know it only so far as we have lived it. After all, the one great teacher is life, and our best words to another of even the deepest in us must fall resultless, until life has brought to the other the experience out of which the words can be interpreted. We can only bear witness. How impossible, then, is it by any logical means to bring home the full reality of the spiritual world, where the conditions of the possible experience are not fulfilled! In Whitman's putting:


"No one can acquire for another—not one,
 No one can grow for another—not one.
 The song is to the singer, and comes back
            most to him.
 The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back
            most to him.
And no man understands any greatness or
goodness but his own, or the indication
            of his own."


We cannot inherit the sense of reality in the spiritual world. There is no reality in religion without a living experience of our own.

So, too, one cannot thoughtfully face the broad facts of human experience without feeling how unreasonable is the seeming expectation, frequently cherished, of ability to meet all the difficulties of the reality of the spiritual world at once and out of hand. The considerations just passed over show how often one must wait for the interpreting power of experience. Moreover, even when our conclusions are really sound, we may be quite unable fully to state the reasons. The grounds of our faith, we have seen, the whole trend of modern psychology shows to be not merely intellectual, but interwoven with a great complex of human interests, only slowly appreciated. The truth is, probably, always greater than our reasons for holding it.

But even if the problem be regarded in a given case as purely intellectual, it must still be remembered that real speculative power is neither very common, nor is it developed early in life. It is peculiarly appropriate, therefore, to suggest to the young that unrest must naturally be the result of a large reading of speculative authors before there have been acquired such mental development and dialectic skill as will enable one to overcome the pressure of the author in hand. Why should one expect, without very wide and special training in these themes, at once and out of hand to meet and settle all the points a subtle mind can raise in a labored work? Is it sensible to suppose that there is no answer to our difficulty, because an answer is not immediately suggested? The universal human interest in these deeper questions involved in the religious life must of course lead to much general thinking; but there seems still dire need of reminding many that men are not born philosophers and born theologians any more than born botanists. However reluctantly, one is simply compelled to recognize sometimes colossal ignorance in this sphere on the part of men otherwise well educated. Let the young, at least, be content to let the philosophers devour one another for the time being, while they go on with their living. One may well remind himself, here, of Augustine Birrell's dictum that "the verdict to be striven for is not 'well-guessed', but 'well-done.'"

Again, many seem to think it incumbent upon them, when overtaken by doubts in the religious life, to begin their inquiry as if the questions were wholly new, to be solved by them from the beginning; although they would hardly dream of taking such a course in other matters. Is it true, indeed, that nothing has been proved so far? Are the history and experience of the centuries to count for nothing? The man, for example, who takes up Christianity to-day, as a new problem, to be solved by him as if Christ had just come, it is manifest, deliberately throws away a very large factor in the solution of the problem.

It is a perfectly legitimate use of the appeal to consequences which Newman Smyth makes, when he urges, "Not growing discord, which betrays a method which is wrong, but growing peace, which shows that the method of life is right, is the world's experience of Christianity." This broader appeal to what the consequences are in the long run—like the scientific verifying of an hypothesis by appeal to experience—is rightly insisted upon in present-day philosophy, and can be logically set aside only by one, who is willing to deny the fundamental assumption of our thinking,—that we are dealing with an honest world. "For," as Professor Seth Pattison contends,[9] "the ultima ratio of every creed, the ultima ratio of truth itself, is that it works; and no greater condemnation can be passed upon a doctrine or system than that, if it were true, human life, as it has been lived by the best of the race, would cease to be reasonable, or rather, would become a phenomenon whose emergence it was impossible to explain."

Mr. Shorthouse, in his Spiritual Romance of John Inglesant, has made his seeker after truth reach this final conclusion: "We find ourselves immersed in physical and psychological laws, in accordance with which we act, or from which we diverge. Whether we are free to act or not, we can at least fancy we resolve. Let us cheat ourselves, if it be a cheat, with this fancy, for we shall find that by so doing we actually attain the end we seek. . . . . We shall find man has attained any position of vantage he may occupy by following the laws, which our instinct and conscience tell us are Divine." The argument is a good one against the confirmed and persistent doubter. But on what possible scheme of thought, pray, can that freedom, and those laws, by means of which it is granted we obtain whatever of value life possesses, be regarded as "cheats"? It is pure illusion to talk of proofs at all, if freedom were not so proved. The healthful mind cannot be brought to believe in any such hideous discord in the nature of things. Augustine Birrell speaks of sentimental sceptics "who, after laboring to demolish what they call the chimera of superstition, fall to weeping as they remember they have now no lies to teach their children."

In any case, it is particularly true in the matter of the religious life, that the questions are not new. Entirely decisive and universally convincing answers, doubtless, we are still unable to give; but, even if no reasons can be suggested why our answers are not more decisive, we may at least recognize that the difficulties, also, are not essentially new. We need to learn the calm and patience of history. No generation has had to face a greater intellectual revolution than our own; and yet it cannot be honestly said that the religious questions and difficulties of our time are greatly different in their essence from those of other days. The contrary assumption is often made, and proves a real hindrance; but we have a right to urge, particularly with the young, that the way to a reasonable religious faith is not more difficult now than at any previous time, but rather is in all probability easier than ever, as it ought to be, if men are profiting at all by the experience of the past.

Psychology's rightful recognition of the practical and of the whole man, may remind us again that, in finding our way into satisfactory religious living and thinking, there is real danger of over-rating intellectual difficulties and particularly merely negative criticism. A single difficulty is sometimes made the end of all faith. But we may be sure that no single difficulty, like that of the relativity of human knowledge, for example, easily phrased and still more easily misapplied, sums up all of philosophy or of life, or furnishes reason for forthwith setting aside all hitherto held as true. The great broad teaching of human life and experience may not be so easily nullified. We need not be in haste. There is particular danger here for those of the preeminently practical temperament, and especially where strong desire or passion is involved. As soon as the full reason for a hitherto trusted moral or religious principle is not immediately forthcoming, the desire, held in leash by the principle, is given full rein. I think it was Clerk Maxwell, who wrote in a private letter, after various intellectual excursions of this kind: Old Chap! I have read up many queer religions; there is nothing like the old thing after all. I have looked into most philosophical systems, and I have seen that none will work without a God." It is easy to overestimate the difficulties.

An incidental suggestion of Lotze's may well be added here. "We are accustomed," he says, "to estimate one and the same idea very differently when it comes before us as a conjecture, and when it is offered as the expression of a fact."[10] We may scout a view as utterly preposterous and unthinkable beforehand, that, as a proved fact, we later find wholly reasonable, and assimilate with entire equanimity. Let one think, for example, of the fact of alternate generation among some of the lower animals, and of the now undoubted parthenogenesis of the drone bees. So, in much of our thinking, especially along the lines of ultimate philosophical and religious inquiry, quite too great weight may be easily given to a priori objections.

And it needs also clearly to be recognized that we can nowhere rest in merely negative criticism. A quite unreasonable importance, it is certain, has been accorded in theistic argument to this kind of criticism. What Professor Bowne says so vigorously of philosophical scepticism holds of all merely negative criticism: "The sceptic acquires importance, not through the doubts he utters, but through those which he rationally justifies. The judicial critic, therefore, must compel the sceptic to take his place along with other theorists, and give reasons for the unfaith that is in him. Until he does this, his position is arbitrary, capricious, and irrational. Strangely enough, this manifest dictate of logic has often been overlooked in the history of speculation; and dogmatic denial, especially if it be of some important practical interest, has been judged to have high speculative significance. The ease with which good people have been stampeded by unsupported denial is one of the humorous features of the history of philosophy."[11] The serious thinker, says Seth Pattison, "will always repeat the words of Kant, that in itself doubt is not a permanent resting place for human reason. Its justification is relative, and its function transitional."[12]

Once more, in considering the psychological conditions of the sense of reality in the spiritual life, we may not forget the natural results that come from a long ignoring of facts. Here, too, the religious life is not at all peculiar. The law is one common to all the spheres of our living. Our entire consciousness is characterized, the Psychologists tell us, by a constant selective activity. To certain elements in our environment we attend; certain others we persistently ignore. These ignored elements practically drop out of our life; they have for us no real existence. For all practical purposes, they have ceased to be. So too, no doubt, the seeming unreality of the spiritual world in the case of many is due, in no small degree, to the long ignoring of the facts of the spiritual world in their previous lives and habits of thought. "We hear much," writes Professor Peabody, "of the reasons which lead men to abandon prayer, but in most such instances the loss of the prayer habit does not happen because of profound philosophizing or serious conviction, but through sheer inertia. There are so many other things to do, that, as a young man once said, 'One does not get around to his prayers!' "[13] The fact of the existence of God, as he is revealed to us in Christ, is no barren truth. The rational inferences to be drawn from it will bear on every detail of life. But here is a man, perhaps, (I am very far from believing that this is a universal explanation) into whose life for years no conscious recognition of God and the spiritual life has come; who has acted precisely as if they were not; who has thus virtually denied their existence in every act; whose thoughts, plans, purposes, have been all apart from God; who has settled habits of thought and life, that are logically consistent only with denial of the existence of God and a spiritual life. Will those habits have no influence on his spiritual insight? Is he to come now, at one bound, into the clear and simple vision of God and divine truth, which may have belonged to his childhood? And shall he refuse to have patience to take the toilsome way back to those early convictions from which his lack of earnestness, his carelessness, his indifference, his neglect, his worldliness, and his sin have separated him? Verily, I sometimes think, it were a strange thing, if the spiritual life were not obscure to many of us. If the voice within us were not indeed divine, long since would it have been smothered under the heaped up rubbish of the years.

[6] Cf. King: Rational Living, pp. 154 ff.

[7] King: Rational Living, pp. 165-166.

[8] Cf. King: Personal and Ideal Elements in Education, pp. 151 ff.

[9] Man's Place in the Cosmos, p. 307.

[10] Microcosmus, Vol. II, p. 140.

[11] Theory of Thought and Knowledge, p. 269.

[12] Encyclopaedia Britannica. Article, Scepticism.

[13] Mornings in the College Chapel. Second Series, p. 9.