6. Revelation and Religion
We shall be strongly confirmed in the view that history as well as nature is rooted in revelation and needs it for its explanation, if we fix our attention upon one of its most prominent motive powers, namely, religion. The bare fact that religion exists already means much. Demons have no religion; they are no doubt convinced that God exists, but the thought of God moves them only to fear and hatred. We cannot speak of religion in animals; the idea of God is indispensable to religion, and animals entirely lack this idea, as they lack all abstract conceptions. The veneration of a dog for his master may show some resemblance and likeness to what religion is in man, but analogy is not identity.168 On the other hand, religion is characteristic of all peoples and all men; however deeply a human being may be sunk in degradation, he is conscious of the existence of God and of his duty to worship him.
This fact is of extraordinary significance; however far man may wander from God, he remains bound to heaven; in the depths of his soul he is linked to a world of unseen and supernatural things; in his heart he is a supernatural being; his reason and conscience, his thinking and willing, his needs and affections have their ground in that which is eternal. And religion is the irrefutable proof of this. It is not thrust upon him by force or foisted upon him by deceit, but it rises spontaneously from his own nature, although it is nourished from without. The religion of man in the fallen state is no doubt always arbitrary, but at the same time also voluntary, service. Thereby every man acknowledges and confesses that he can be free only in absolute dependence; that he can be true to himself and he a human being only when serving God. The feeling of absolute dependence includes freedom; the subjection of man to God bears a character of its own, and is distinguished from that of demons and animals by being inseparably conjoined with his affinity to God. In religion these two things are always united, although sometimes the theocratic, and then again the theanthropic, element predominates.169
It is true there is an effort being made to remove religion from the central place which it occupies in the life of the individual as well as in the history of the race. This effort, however, is doomed from the outset to prove abortive, because it clashes with the unchangeable needs of human nature.
When the Mercure de France last year opened a discussion on the dissolution or evolution of religion, some, it is true, used the occasion to air their hatred of the church and religion or to predict their approaching disappearance. But even among those there were some who sought a substitute for religion in altruism and socialistically organized society, in morality, science, or spiritualism. And an overwhelming majority were convinced that religion, although its forms may change, nevertheless in its essential nature is ineradicable and will survive all the crises through which it may have to pass. They based their conviction especially upon these two considerations, that religion is deeply rooted in human nature,170 and that science, which can make known only the inter-relations of things, but never their origin, essence, and end, will never be able to satisfy the needs of the human heart.171 Beyond that from which science has drawn away the veil there always remains unexplored the domain, sublime, immense, and silent, where the supreme power dwells on which we depend; and from the innermost recesses of man’s personality religion always rises anew.172
What is thus said of the present and expected in the future finds its foundation and support in the past; there are no peoples without religion, and history takes us back to no past in which religion is not already the universal possession of man.173 And not only so, but from the beginning it has ever been the vitalizing element of all culture. Of course we must beware here of one-sidedness and take care not to construe actuality in the terms of a theory. From his origin man has been not only a religious, but also a moral and corporeal being; various wants and powers have been implanted in him from the beginning of his existence, which have worked together harmoniously. Morris Jastrow’s assertion that science, art, and morality have grown out of religion, is too strongly put; they rather have come forth together in intimate connection with one another, out of the several wants and inclinations of human nature as such.174 No monistic abstract principle, but the totality of human nature has been the starting-point of all development; just as little as the need of food and drink, shelter and raiment, have there been developed immediately from religion, agriculture, and industry, science and art and the several constituent parts of culture; every one of them has its own root in human nature, and hence its own particular character and life. But religion certainly belongs, and always has belonged, to the most intimate movements of the human heart, and has made its influence felt upon the whole life, with all its experiences and activities. Most certainly other agencies besides religion have been at work in the development of science, philosophy, art, etc., as, for instance, curiosity, desire for adornment and sport, and the like. But the more deeply we sink ourselves in the past, the more we find religion, morality, knowledge, art, in fact all the elements of civilization together, undivided and undifferentiated. They do not yet exist independently side by side with one another, but lie still undeveloped, enclosed in the same germ. A complex, a totality of experiences preceded the differentiation. And among these those of a religio-moral kind took the first place. In this sense it may be said that religion has been the deepest cause of the process of civilization, the mother of arts and of all sciences.175
This consideration of human nature is of great importance for the investigation of the origin of religion. At present there is a tendency among men of science first to dissolve the organic connections in which religion appears in life, and then to investigate its origin. They treat religion as a chemist does the substances, which he separates from their actual connections and then analyzes into their component parts. Scientifically this is of high value, if only we do not forget that the process to which science subjects its object differs entirely from that which happens in actuality. There is no proof at all that the elements have all existed originally in an unmixed state; and similarly there is no ground for asserting that the factors which we at present discover in the religious life ever existed separately. Actuality presents a different appearance from theory. Life, full, rich life, is always first; the abstractions of our thinking come only later. When science in its search for the origin of things allows itself to be exclusively guided by the idea of evolution, and therefore ever endeavors to go back to the most insignificant beginnings, to the most meagre principles, it simply elevates the abstractions of thought into concrete powers, and in its interpretation of things takes refuge in mythology. No abstract principle, however, no simple power has been the origin of human life in all its richness, and no rectilinear law of evolution has directed the development. When we go back in the actual as far as possible to the origins, we find a human nature which already contains everything which it later on produces out of itself. Natural and spiritual life, religion and morality, knowledge and art, sense of beauty and consciousness of values, have been united in man from the beginning. The experiences of life are the background of all development and civilization.176
The researches of recent years into the origin of things, of religion and morality, science and art, family, society, and state, have put this in the clearest light. Of course we cannot speak here in the strict sense of the word of a scientific investigation, whether naturalistic or historical, for the elements of culture we have mentioned have always existed, as far as history carries us back. When Lubbock tried to prove that all peoples have passed through a phase of atheism,177 he not only overstepped the limits of our empirical knowledge, but he also invented a condition which, if it ever had existed, would be totally unintelligible to us, in whose life religion forms an essential part.178 We can form no conception of beings which are not animals, but men, and which yet wholly lack religion; they are unthinkable and impossible. The case is, in fact, the same with all the component parts of human civilization; men are not thinkable without some knowledge and art, without some kind of family and social life, without some conception of morality and justice. If, notwithstanding all this, science continues to attempt to penetrate behind all culture and to form a conception of the way in which all these phenomena arose in human life, it is in the nature of the case shut up to conjectures and guesses. Thia is frankly acknowledged by many. For instance, Oscar Hertwig, speaking generally of descent in the past, says: “When we try to trace the genealogical chains of the mammals, amphibians, and fishes in primitive times, we launch into a darkness which even the bright light of science cannot penetrate with a single ray, and scientific research is accordingly exposed to the danger of deviating from that path in which alone it can reach knowledge of the truth and consequently permanent results.” 179 It is “a fatal and yet unavoidable necessity for the science which investigates the origins of the family, property, society, etc.,” says Ludwig Stein, “that it is compelled to operate with hypotheses.”180 And with respect to the origin of religion it is agreed by Lehmann and Troeltsch, Tiele and Pfleiderer, and many others, that it is as impossible now as in former days to speak of a knowledge of these things, and we have to be content with conjectures and hypotheses.181
That these hypotheses may not hang wholly in the air an attempt is made to support them with data derived from embryology and anthropology, from palaeontology and ethnography. Study of the animal and the child on the one hand, and on the other study of the so-called nature-peoples, is pressed into service in order to form in some sense an idea of primitive man still wholly without culture. But the method which is thus employed, and the results which some think they have obtained, inspire little confidence, and on better acquaintance evacuate the hope that along this road we shall ever reach any certainty about man’s original condition.
Commonly the truth of the doctrine of the descent of man is tacitly presupposed. In Darwin himself this assumption had at least the foundation that he could explain it by means of “natural selection” and “the struggle for existence;” but although many have now discarded Darwinism in its original form, either altogether or in part, as an explanation of the development of living beings, they still hold the theory of descent unimpaired. As a working hypothesis the idea of evolution undoubtedly is of undeniable significance; it leads to the discovery of analogies which otherwise probably would not have been noticed, and offers a clue which opens a way through the labyrinth of phenomena. Nevertheless, science must never lose sight of the fact that it is dealing in it with an hypothesis and not, as Haeckel supposes,182 with a “firmly established fact.” Sober naturalists, who give ear to facts alone, express themselves differently, not only formerly through the lips of Virchow, but now also through the lips of Branco, Reinke, Wasmann, and others. Reinke, for example, acknowledged in 1900 : “We must confess unreservedly that there is not at our disposal a single unexceptionable proof of its correctness.” Two years later, in still stronger language, he affirmed that science knows nothing about the origin of man. And at the International Congress of Zoologists at Berlin, in 1901, Branco bore witness that palaeontology knows no ancestors of man, but that man suddenly and immediately appears before us in the diluvial age as a perfect homo sapiens.183 The mental and physical gap between animal and man remains at present as wide as it ever was. In the structure of the skull and brains, for example, the interval between the other mammals and the apes may possibly be bridged over, but not between the apes and man. Among all the mammals now existing there is not one which in this respect can be compared with man. Stanley Hall also has to acknowledge that what intervenes between the highest anthropoid brain of 500 cubic centimeters and that of the lowest man, 1150 cubic centimeters, is almost as lost as a sunken Atlantis. When he adds that all the ancestors of man have been accidentally extirpated, this is nothing but a make-shift, entirely without scientific value.184 The common ancestor of ape and man is a mere invention of the mind.185 All inferences from the animal to the original man lack thus firm scientific foundation. It is not without significance that many adherents of the doctrine of descent have recently turned their backs upon historical zoology and look for their salvation to experimental morphology.186
It may be doubted, however, whether this new science will be able to shed more light on the subject. The opposition to Haeckel’s biogenetic law is growing in strength day by day. Geganbaur and Oscar Hertwig both intimate that ontogeny is a sphere where a lively imagination may no doubt carry on a perilous game in seeking phylogenetic relations, but where assured results are by no means easy to get at; and they warn against the false paths which lead to the construction of fictitious conditions, or even of entirely fictitious organisms.187 The embryological forms of the mammals show, it is true, correspondences with amphibians and fishes, but this “ancestral similarity” does not, according to Professor Emery, authorize an inference to “ancestral inheritance.” The simple germ cell is already a life-form, which comprehends a fulness beyond belief of great and small varieties, and which already is the product of a phylogenetic process of development. Further, the fertilized germ cells of the several species of animals differ as much from each other in their nature as the individuals which come forth from these germ cells. And finally, there is a very great essential difference between the stages of ontogenesis which pass into one another and the forms of an ancestral series which do not pass into one another at all. This is the reason why Hertwig finds the hypothesis improbable that our earth in a former period produced only one kind of cells; and in view of the hundreds of thousands of species of animals and plants prefers the polyphyletic supposition, according to which the organisms now living are not derived from one primitive cell, but from a large number of cells, which are already differently organized, and which in a former period have been produced in some way or other by the creative power of nature. Closer study thus leads in this domain not to uniformity, but to multiformity. Nature is far from being as simple as the advocates of the mechanical theory conceive it to be. There was not in the beginning the poverty of the monistic principle, but the fulness and wealth of created life.
The biogenetic law grows still more improbable when it is applied in detail, and the conditions of the life of the embryo, of childhood and of youth are considered a recapitulation of those of the ancestors of men and of the first men themselves. The small stature of human beings in youth certainly ought to prove that the original men were very small; but, according to Stanley Hall and others, they were rather of gigantic stature.188 The late appearance of the teeth in children ought to be considered a proof that original men were toothless, but this also is not at all acknowledged.189 In the man of our time the brain is of early growth, and has reached its full size at the age of about fourteen years, but the doctrine of the descent of man postulates, on the contrary, a very late development for it in the phylogenesis.190 The heart develops before the blood-vessels, but in the history of the human race the reverse must have taken place.191 If the rudimentary tail of man is to be looked upon as an argument for his animal descent, then certainly the breasts of the male should be a reminder and a remainder of the period when man was androgynal; but few are inclined to draw this conclusion.192 It is no wonder that Stanley Hall, having in mind all these considerations, reaches the conclusion that there are “many inversions” in the ontogenetic law: “ontogeny often reverses the order of phylogeny.”193
A similar change is noticeable also with regard to the notion that the nature-peoples afford us the means of learning to know primitive man. The name itself is misleading; nature-peoples are nowhere to be found, any more than wild or cultureless peoples. The cultured peoples are no less dependent on nature than the so-called nature-peoples; the difference between the two is not to be sought in the degree, but in the character of their relation to nature.194 And wild or cultureless peoples do not exist either. The ridiculous fancies about men who formerly or even now clamber up into the trees like apes, covered over the whole of their bodies with hair, knowing nothing of fire, without language or religion, reappear, it is true, now and then; but they are antiquated. All men and peoples, though they may be poor in culture, yet possess at least its fundamental elements, the crest walk, the average weight of brain, the hand and the thumb, fire and light, language and religion, family and society.195 Furthermore, the nature-peoples do not form a separate group, and do not all stand on the same level; they cannot be dealt with all alike, nor brought together under a common name.196 They are related to higher peoples by means of all kinds of links, and upon better acquaintance do not seem to be nearly so barbarous and uncivilized as at first they were thought to be. The savage of Australia does not stand intellectually below the level of other peoples of little culture. The decision about the Batakudes and other South American peoples is on the whole favorable. Among the Bushmen and the Esquimaux the imagination exhibited in their drawings, toys, fairy tales, and legends, is a clear proof of their capabilities.197 There can then be no question of nature-peoples and civilized nations differing in fundamental endowment, as if the one were predestinated to barbarism and destruction, the other to progress and high culture. Repeated instances have occurred of transitions from the one group to the other. The Bedouins of Arabia, Syria, and Mesopotamia live now just as they did hundreds of years ago, but they have produced civilized races. Finns and Magyars have recently become cultured peoples, while their kindred are still living in the barbaric state. The Japanese have all of a sudden accepted Western culture, while the Mongols and the Kalmucks remain stationary at the old stage of civilization. Thus it has repeatedly happened that nature-peoples have become culture-peoples.198 Missions, especially, furnish abundant proofs of this fact.199
While the nature-peoples are thus again being gradually looked upon as men, our eyes are being opened on the other side to the sins and imperfections of the culture-peoples. Experience has taught us that even here it is far from everything that glitters that is gold. Not only were the ancestors of the culture-peoples of today, for instance the Germans and the Gauls, who were idealized by Caesar and Tacitus, poor in culture, but also with regard to many peoples, for instance the Chinese, the Mongols, the Thibetans, the Russians, it is a question to which of the two groups they ought to be reckoned. Rude and barbarous customs still prevail among the Russians, Letts, Bulgars, Magyars, etc.; and in general the so-called culture-peoples, when carefully considered, are far from standing on the high level which many ascribe to them. The percentage of those who occupy the highest round of the ladder is very low. Many individuals and circles among the culture-peoples fall below the nature-peoples in civilization. Vagabonds and pariahs, the enfeebled and deficient, such as we meet with in our large cities, are all but never found among the nature-peoples. The mass among those peoples is more intelligent than with us. Animism, spiritism, superstition, sorcery, belief in witches and ghosts, prostitution and alcoholism, crimes and unnatural sins, occur among the culture-peoples no less, and sometimes in more aggravated forms, than among the nature-peoples. When the nature-peoples become civilized, they gain much, but lose no less. Many beautiful qualities, such as faithfulness, truthfulness, simplicity, artlessness, sincerity, ingenuousness, are lost in civilization.200 There are many today who are not far from thinking of the nature-peoples after the idyllic fashion of the age of Rousseau. Tolstoi and Nietzsche return along different paths to nature ; in literature and art there is a reaction against the conventional, and a recurrence to the unconscious, instinctive, passionate life. Stanley Hall describes savages as amiable children: “Most savages in most respects are children, or because of their sexual maturity, more properly adolescents of adult size. Their faults and their virtues are those of childhood and youth. He, who knows them, loves them.”201
Yet both theories are one-sided: equally that according to which the nature-peoples are semi-animals and that according to which they are innocent children. The notion that all peoples are on the road to progress is as incorrect as that they are continuously declining and degenerating. Neither development nor degeneracy covers the course of history; this is wider than our thinking, and is not disturbed by the logic of our reasoning. There are peoples who have developed and have attained a high level of civilization ; it may even be not impossible that this development in some cases, as, for instance, in Peru and Mexico, has been autochthonous. But it is no less evident that a number of peoples have declined from a more or less high degree of civilization. This has been the case with many peoples of antiquity in Asia and North Africa, which have either totally disappeared or sunk into complete insignificance.202 Virchow called the Laplanders and the Bushmen even “pathologically degraded, degenerated races,” and Darwin, Spencer, Tylor, Wallace, Max Müller, and many others, have acknowledged the decline and ruin of many peoples.203 Environment has had a great deal to do with degeneracy. “It is of great importance for the development of a people, whether it dwells in the midst of the inhabited world, where it is exposed to numerous influences, or near its margin; peoples living on the margin of the inhabited world are mostly poor in culture and few in numbers.”204 The peoples cannot, therefore, be arranged in succession, one after the other; it is arbitrary to place the nature-peoples at the beginning of the genealogical table of the human race and to represent their condition as the original condition of mankind.205 The theory of development which in every case maintains apriori, “that the human race only knows aspiration, progress, development, and no retrogression, decline and decay,”206 is just as one-sided as the theory of degeneracy. History declines to follow in its course a single straight line. Every people and every group of peoples, spread over the globe, has its own life, and continues it in the midst of the others.207 We must return from the “after-one-another” to the “by-the-side-of-one-another,” from uniformity to multiformity, from the abstract theory of monism to the f ulness of life.
The nature-peoples supply us, therefore, just as little as embryos and children with the desired material for the construction of original man. The primitive man, wherewith the historian of our day operates, is nothing but a fiction208 of the same kind as the contrat social, of which Rousseau made use in order to explain the origin of society, and as the ape-man, who is placed by zoology at the beginning as our common ancestor, and, according as circumstances require, is thought of sometimes as an ape and sometimes as a man. In the same manner Wundt says: “It is impossible to exaggerate the enormousness of the gap which separates the man of today from primitive man. But we must not think of this gap in such a way, as if no connection existed any longer between them, or as if the narrow path of a single thought were the only one to lead from one side to the other. . . . Every view which conceives of primitive man in a one-sided manner puts itself self not only in contradiction with the facts, but deprives itself also of the possibility of comprehending a psychological development. For every change of motive, however vast it may be in some cases, presupposes at least this, that some germs of the motives which come into activity later on, were already present originally.”209 Primitive man, in other words, must be constructed physically and psychologically in such a manner that an ape and a man can be derived from him. Thus you can make whatever use of him you like; you wield a two-edged sword. If you desire to explain the animal or the animal character in man, you asscribe to primitive man the qualities of the ape; if, on the contrary, you wish to explain man, you acknowledge in him as easily the necessary human qualities.210 Primitive man accordingly is a worthy counterpart of the animated atoms, the personified powers of nature, the apotheosized natural laws, the deified evolution idea. In reality he has never existed; he is nothing but a poetical creation of monistic imagination.
This is gradually becoming understood by many. We have already remarked that Oscar Hertwig looks upon the polyphyletic hypothesis as much more probable than the monophyletic, and thus assumes that the creative power of nature in the beginning produced at once a great number of variously organized primitive cells. Just as Haeckel, not being able to give a satisfactory explanation of them, declares matter and force, motion and life, consciousness and will to be eternal, so Hertwig places the idea of species already in the very first cells which were produced by the creative power of nature. Whether, however, we assign priority to the cells or to the organisms proceeding from them, or, in other words, to the egg or to the chicken, amounts to much the same thing. The starting-point in both cases is not a monistic principle, but the multiformity of life, and the miracle, and faith in miracles as well, remains in either case equally great. Sociology also is beginning to see, now and again, that the sociological problem cannot be solved by the single formula of imitation (Tarde), local association or clan (Mucke), division of labor (Durkheim), struggle of the classes (Gumplowicz), blood-relationships (Morgan), or consociation (Schurtz).211 Many accordingly assume the existence from the beginning of what lies to be explained. Gustav Ratzenhofer, for example, maintains that society has not in the strict sense of the word been originated : man did not create society, but society man; the human race was from the beginning subject to its social nature, the social is what is original, the individual is derived.212 According to Zenker even property did not gradually come into existence, but existed from the beginning. “Without social life and self-consciousness, that is, with common life and without personal work, the pithecoanthropos would never have been able to lift himself out of his animal state.”213 The theory of original promiscuity, which was advocated by Lewis Morgan and found favor with many, has later on been strongly contradicted by Westermarck, Starcke, Grosse, and others.214 Among economists, according to Schmoller, a conviction is growing more and more towards unanimity, that a psychologico-ethical view of social life is necessary which shall recognize not only the emotions and passions, but also the ethical powers in man, and shall investigate political economy in connection with the state, religion and morals; “all great social communities are a result of human nature in general, founded on language and writing, on custom, law, morals, religion, and intercourse.”215 In general men have become more cautious in the application of the theory of evolution along single- and straight-lined processes of developments.216
This is also apparent in the investigation of the origin of religion. History does not lead us back in this domain, either, to the beginnings; all beginnings, said Schelling, are from darkness to light. If we are nevertheless determined to seek out a beginning, we are driven to conjectures which endeavor to support themselves upon the psychology of the child and the savage. Nature-peoples furnish us, however, very little material for the investigation of the origin of religion, because religion has already long existed among them all and is intimately interwoven with their whole life. Instead of offering a solution of the problems which the man of culture proposes to himself, the savage is himself a problem. This is also the case with the children; no more than the animal can the child serve to explain the adult; the adult, on the contrary, is needed to explain the child. It is extremely difficult, accordingly, to penetrate into the life of the child soul and to understand it truly.217 Moreover it will not do to compare present-day children with, and to take them as an example of, original adult men. For our children on the one hand have advantages far above any enjoyed by primitive men, by their birth and education in the midst of a rich, cultured life; and yet on the other hand they, as children, are far behind the adults of the past ages in the development of bodily and spiritual powers. If the comparison contained any truth and entitled us to a conclusion, it could only be that primitive men received and learned their language and religion by communication from others; that is, ultimately by revelation of God.218
The many and manifold theories which have been presented as an explanation of religion have all again been abandoned one after the other. They all have the defect that they derive religion from non-religious factors, and either cannot find the transition, or, if they indicate such a transition, always presuppose religion; they thus oscillate between a metabasis eis allo genos and a petitio principii. The result of all the research is accordingly the humble confession, ignoramus, we do not know. How religion arose, and out of what causes, “is entirely unknown to us,” says Troeltsch, “and just as in the case of morals and logic, will always remain unknown to us. An absolute equivocal generation is denied to us.”219 Openly or secretly all turn back to an inborn disposition, to a religio insita. Just as matter and force, life and consciousness, society and state, so also the religion which is to be explained is already assumed in the explanation. Troeltsch does this, but also Schroeder, who is certainly an adherent of the doctrine of descent, and speaks, therefore, of Untermenschen (“undermen”), but nevertheless presupposes already in them a divine spark, which develops them into men. Tiele goes back to an inborn feeling and need of the infinite, and even Hugo de Vries speaks of the need of religion as an inborn quality of man.220 In the beginning, therefore, there did not reign the dead unity of monism but the totality of human nature.
If, however, religion as religio insita is an essential element of human nature, it points directly back to revelation. We stand here before essentially the same dilemma as in the case of self-consciousness. If this is not a delusion or imagination, the reality of the self is necessarily included in it; hence religion is either a pathology of the human spirit, or it postulates the existence, the revelation, and the knowableness of God. It is, as we have seen, necessary because of the peculiarity of human nature; and it is universal, as is apparent from the history of the human race and all the peoples. And wheresoever it manifests itself it is a relation of man, not to his neighbor or to the world in general, or to one of its parts, but to a personal being, who stands above nature and the world, and is therefore able to raise man above them and to unite him to himself. Religion is always a service of God, and hence it is either folly or necessarily implies the existence of God. Furthermore, faith in the knowability of God is inseparable from the existence of God, which is pre-supposed in and with the truth of religion; for a God who is wholly unknowable is practically for us a God who does not exist. Consistent agnosticism amounts practically to atheism. And finally, if God, even in however small a measure, is knowable, there can be no explanation of this except that he has revealed himself; for what we cannot perceive at all cannot be known, and what we cannot know at all we cannot love and serve, ignoti nulla capido. All who recognize and defend religion as truth believe accordingly, whether they are willing to confess it or not, in the existence, knowableness, and revelation of God. Naturalism in the strict sense and religion are irreconcilable. All religion is supernatural, and rests upon the presupposition that God is distinct from the world and yet works in the world. Men may impose limits on revelation and not recognize it in nature and history, but only in their own consciousness; the thing itself remains in principle the same: religion has its foundation in revelation and derives from it its origin.221
The investigation into the essence of religion has led to the same result as that into its origin. When the study of religions came into vogue, it was thought that by means of comparative research the essence of religion might be determined, and thus the value of all forms of religion be estimated. But so many and such serious difficulties have been met with in the prosecution of this task that it may be reasonably maintained that it has now come to the dead point. It is undoubtedly impracticable for any one to obtain a thorough knowledge of all religions, or even of the principal religions, and to compare them with one another. Religion is of such a complex nature that it is scarcely possible to characterize accurately the essence of a single religion, or even of the religion of a single person. Very various opinions obtain among us of the essence of Christianity, of Romanism and of Protestantism; how, then, would it be possible to penetrate into the essence of all the different religions and to compare them with one another? To this must be added, that the study of the history of religions professes no doubt to be undertaken without any prejudice whatever, but facts disprove the assertion. Even the idea, from which it as a rule proceeds, that religion is neither an illusion nor a disease, but a necessary element of man’s nature, a habitus and a virtue which has a right and reason to exist,—even this idea, I say, is an assumption of such importance that it is impossible to speak here of unprejudiced investigation; it is an assumption which from the outset binds and dominates the entire science. But every student of the history of religions approaches his task, whether he intends it or not, with his own conception of religion, which guides him in his investigation and serves him as a rule. If he proceeds, let us say, merely from the view that that religion is true which lies at the basis of all and manifests itself more or less purely in each, he thereby puts forth a dogma which is derived from philosophy and has far-reaching results for his investigation. Already in the case of the physical sciences, and yet more so in the case of the sciences of the mind, it is impossible to begin investigation without assumptions, for they all are founded on ideas and canons which have their basis in the rational and moral nature of man.222 This explains the fact that the search for the essence of religion has ended by resolving it into a vague, indefinite formula which is intended to embrace all religions, but cannot do justice to a single one of them, and which, as far as it contains anything positive, has given expression only to the notion which each investigator had formed beforehand of the essence of religion.223
Many have for this reason turned their backs upon this comparative historical investigation of the essence of religion, and have even run into the opposite extreme. They say there is no universal, objective religion valid for all, and there is no essence which is everywhere the same and only clothes itself in different forms. But religion is always something thoroughly personal,—a thing which concerns the individual man, and hence it is endlessly variant and incapable of being comprehended in a general definition. He who desires to know it must watch it in particular men, and especially in the splendid specimens, the geniuses and heroes of religion, the mystics, the enthusiasts, the fanatics; they are the classics of religion. It is not history but psychology which will tell us what religion really is.224 Even a man like Troeltsch, who persists in maintaining the historical point of view, and upbraids the psychology of religion with the lack of an epistemology, is compelled to confess that the expression “essence of religion” leads into error on account of its obscurity, and creates the false impression that it is possible “to answer with one stroke the different questions which are bound up with it in one and the same investigation.”225 As it was in the case of the origin, so again in the consideration of the essence, of religion, many turn back from abstract monism to the totality of religious life. There is not one principle which governs all religions and religious phenomena, and there is not one formula under which they all can be summed up. The investigation of the essence of religion has, however, by no means been unfruitful. On the contrary, it has made as clear as the day that religion and revelation are bound together very intimately, and that they cannot be separated. All religion is supernatural in the sense that it is based on faith in a personal God, who is transcendently exalted above the world, and nevertheless is active in the world and thereby makes himself known and communicates himself to man. Let it remain for the present undetermined whereby and how God reveals himself, whether in nature or in history, through mind or heart, along ordinary or extraordinary ways. Certain it is that all religions, in harmony with their own idea, rest upon conscious and spontaneous revelation of God. This is confirmed by the consideration of what man seeks in religion. Siebeck divides religions into nature-, morality-, and redemption-religions. Tiele, however, rightly observes that, in a wide sense, the idea of redemption is common to all religions, and therefore all religions are redemption-religions. As to the evil from which redemption is sought, and the supreme good which men desire to obtain, their conceptions diverge widely. But all religions are concerned with redemption from an evil and the attainment of a supreme good. The first question always is, What must I do to be saved?226 This being so, religion everywhere, by virtue of its very nature, carries along with it the idea of revelation. Religion and science differ in many things, and in this too, that the one owes the contents of its knowledge to divine revelation, the other to human investigations.227
To a considerable extent religion and science (philosophy) stand in relation to the same objects. To separate between religion and metaphysics, however often it may have been attempted, is impossible; religion is not merely a certain frame of mind, an emotion of the heart, but it always includes certain conceptions, and the emotions are modified in accordance with the nature of these conceptions. These conceptions of religion extend to man, the world, and God, and hence enter the same domain which science also tries to cultivate. But religion gives to its conceptions the character of dogmas which it accepts on divine authority; science endeavors to obtain its conceptions by means of independent investigation, and has no other authority except reasoning and proof. Now, according to Tiele, all religious conceptions move around three centres,—God, man, and the way of salvation.228 All these three elements are most intimately connected with the idea of revelation. Regarding the first element, the doctrine concerning God (theology proper), this is clear; there is no knowledge concerning God, except so far as he has revealed himself ; the distinction of nature- and revelation-religions, in the sense that religions may exist without appealing to revelation, is untenable. But also in the case of the other two elements, the connection with the idea of revelation is clearly traceable. For when religion carries along with it a distinct conception of man, it soars far above experience. The religious anthropology speaks of man’s origin and destination, of his needs and ideals, of his disobedience and communion with God, of his sin and atonement,229 —all of which are elements that cannot be obtained by means of empirical investigation and scientific reflection, but can be known, so far as they are true, only by means of revelation. Nearly all the religions have their reminiscences of paradise and their expectations of the future, and trace them back to revelation. And regarding the third element, soteriology, this also is either untrue or derived from revelation. For this part of religious dogmatics indicates the means by which communion with God can be restored, the power of evil broken, a new life begun, and the hope of abiding happiness realized.230 Among these means a chief place is assigned in all religions to mediators, sacrifices, and prayer. Those persons are considered mediators through whom the Godhead makes known its revelations to man. Sacrifices, whatever theory of their origin and purpose may be favored, always include the idea that man is dependent upon God, owes everything to him, and is acceptable in his sight through a special service (cultus) distinguished from the ordinary ethical life. And prayer, which forms the heart of religion, has its ground in the belief that God is not only a personal being, but also is able to govern the world by his power, wisdom, and goodness, and make it subservient to man’s salvation. Prayer never, not even in its highest form, loses this character; the petition for the remission of sins, for a pure heart, for communion with God, is as supernaturalistic as that for the healing of the sick or for deliverance from some danger to life.231 Revelation is the foundation of all religion, the presupposition of all its conceptions, emotions, and actions.
Finally, all the attempts to classify the religions have led to the acknowledgment of the necessity of revelation. All the proposed divisions—into such as have grown and such as have been founded, into nature- and revelation- religions, into polytheistic and monotheistic, into particular and universal religions, etc.,— suffer, according to the increasing conviction of many, from excessive one-sidedness; they ignore other elements, do no justice to the richness and variety of religious life, and all proceed tacitly from the Hegelian notion that the chapters which successively treat of the several religions represent so many steps in the development of religion. No one, however, believes that a satisfactory distribution has been found.232 As little as natural phenomena, societies, and the peoples, can the religions be ranged one after the other in a formal system without violence to reality.
In view of this it is worthy of remark that the old distribution of religions into true and false has been revived in a new form. The more accurately the nature of the conceptions of the peoples was investigated, the clearer it became that they contain various elements which cannot be derived from one single principle. Thus it appeared that their religious conceptions are essentially distinct, not only from legends and fables, but also from myths. In the beginning of the last century, under the influence of the romantic school, the idea prevailed, and through the Grimm brothers found acceptance almost everywhere, that mythology was the real science of religion. This mythology accordingly arose out of nature- myths, was to be looked upon as the embodiment of religious, often sublime, ideas, but afterwards had faded into hero-sagas and fables. But deeper study has led to a different view. Myths, sagas, and fables no doubt often bear relation to one another; originally, however, they are distinct in origin and aim. “Myths axe primitive philosophy, the most simple intuitive form of thought, a series of attempts to understand the world, to explain life and death, fate and nature, gods and cults. Sagas are primitive history, artlessly shaped in hatred and love, unconsciously formed and simplified. Fables, on the contrary, have grown out of and serve only the need of entertainment.”233 Religion is always distinguished from all these in that it is always connected with a cult.234
It is of still greater importance to observe that religion is more and more being recognized as distinct from magic. J. G. Fraser has no doubt attempted to explain religion just by means of magic,235 and with him K. Ph. Preuss is of the opinion “that primitive human stupidity is the original source of religion and art;—for both proceed directly from sorcery, which on its part is the immediate result of that prudence which proceeds from instinct.”236 This theory, however, is very strenuously opposed by Andrew Lang and others; we gather, says Tiele, no figs from thistles; superstition cannot be the mother of religion.237 Superstition and magic are indeed often connected with religion, but they are neither the source nor the essence of it. They are rather to be regarded as morbid phenomena, which occur by no means only among the lowest, but also among the most advanced peoples and religions; and even in the present time, in Christendom, not only among the common people,—but relatively more markedly among the cultured and educated, where they number their adherents by the thousands; they are not “a lower stage or a first step of a religious development, but under-currents of real religion.”238 If this distinction is correctly drawn, it follows immediately that it is impossible to reduce the religions and the religious phenomena among the different peoples to one head and to derive them from one principle. Monism as truly as the doctrine of evolution is contradicted by the facts. The religions have no common root; various factors, fetichism, animism, ancestor-worship, etc., have worked together in bringing them into existence.239 Particularly have religion and magic different sources and must receive distinct explanations.
The great question in the history of religions is thus no longer, How in general did religion originate? but Whence dosuperstition and magic derive their origin? This is the problem that confronts us, namely, the old question, Pothen to kakon? Existence, the good, the true, the beautiful are eternal and have no beginning; but becoming, error, false-hood, sin, shame, cannot be eternal and must have been originated in time. In superstition and magic ignorance in general and lack of knowledge of nature in particular certainly play a ro1e. And yet “original stupidity” cannot be their only source. For not only do these morbid phenomena finer credence in the highest circles of civilization even to-day, but even the most artless man distinguishes emphatically between the natural and the supernatural, although he draws his line of demarcation differently from us; and recognizes a domain which is subject to himself and governed by his knowledge and action.240 To this must be added, that superstition and magic bear not only an intellectual, but also a moral character; they are errors of the head, but more especially errors of the heart. They furnish us proof that nature, but equally that God, is not known. The knowledge of nature and history also is intimately conjoined with that of God. Prophets and apostles had no knowledge of natural science, as it has been developed in these later centuries, but they had a very sound conception of nature, because they knew God and saw in the world his handiwork, and they left no room for superstition and magic. So soon, however, as the pure knowledge of God disappears, nature too in its true character is disowned, and either exalted into the sphere of the godhead or degraded to the sphere of a demoniacal power. And this mixture of God and the world, which results from vain speculations of the mind and a darkening of the heart, always was and still remains the origin of all superstition and magic.
But as sickness reminds us of former health, and aberration calls to remembrance the right path, so these phenomena of superstition point back to the original image of religion. Superstition and magic could not have arisen if the idea of another world than this world of nature had not been deeply imprinted on man’s self-consciousness. They themselves are of a later origin, but they presuppose religion, which is inherent in human nature, having its foundation and principle in the creation of man in the image of God. Hence religion is, not only with reference to its origin and essence, but also with reference to its truth and validity, founded in revelation. Without revelation religion sinks back into a pernicious superstition.
168George Trumbull Ladd, The Philosophy of Religion, London, I, 1905, pp.138ff. Gutberlet, Der Mensch, sein Ursprung und seine Entwicklung, Paderborn, 1903, pp.522 ff.
169Tiele, Inl. tot de Godsdienstwet., I, pp.141 ff.
170Het Vraagstuk van den Godsdienst, Ontbindin of Evolutie, beantwoord door de grootste Denkers der Wereld, Amsterdam, 1908, pp.5, 10, 79, 80, 84, 90, 106, 115, 117, 119, 121, 197, 289, 316.
171Ibid., pp.13, 21, 57, 59, 99, 212, 252, 290, 301.
172Ibid., pp.21, 79.
173Ladd, op. cit., I, pp.120 ff.
174Morris Jastrow, in Tiele, Inleiding tot de Godsdienstwet., II, pp.219.
175Het Vraagstuk van den Godsdienst, etc., pp.34, 112 ff.
176Dilthey, Einl. in die Geisteswiss., pp.170, 184, 185.
177Lubbock, Entstehung der Civilisation. Deutsche Ausgabe, 1875, p.172.
178Dilthey, op. cit., pp.168, 172.
179Oscar Hertwig, Das biogenetische Grundgesetz, Intern. Wochenschrift f. Wissenschaft, Kunst und Technik, April 20, 1907, pp.97, 98.
180L. Stein, Die soziale Frage, pp.38, 63, 105, 107.
181Lehmann, Die Anfänge der Religion und die Religion der primitives Völker, in Die Kultur der Gegenwart, I, III, p.1. Troeltsch, Die Christl. Religion, ib., p. 483. Tiele, Inleiding, II, p. 183. Pfleiderer, Religion und Religionen, München, 1906, p. 53.
182Haeckel, Der Kampf um den Entwickelungsgedanken, pp.56, 70. Haeckel is sometimes more modest and refers to his “Stammesgeschichte” as an “hypothetical structure,” because the empirical records underlying it remain to a high degree defective; comp. H. Meyer, Der gegenwärtige Stand der Entwickelungslehre, pp. 59, 60.
183Reinke, Die Entw. der Naturwiss. insbes. der Biologie im 19 Jahrh., 1900, pp.19, 20. Id., Die Natur und Wir, Berlin, 1907, pp.151 ff. Branco in Wasmann, Die moderne Biologie und die Entwickelungslehre, 1904, pp.302, 304.
184Stanley Hall, Adolescence, II, p.91. H. Meyer, op. cit., p.71. Lankester, Natur und Mensch, p.24. Dr. H. C. Stratz, Wij stammen niet van de apen af. Baarn, 1907, p. 23.
185Wasmann, op. cit., p.295.
186Prof. Dr. C. Ph. Sluiter, Het Experiment in Dienst der Morphologie, Amsterdam, 1907.
187Oscar Hertwig, Das biogenetische Grundgesetz nach dem heutigen Stand der Biologie, Intern. Wochenschrift, April 13 and 20, 1907, p.93. Most botanists, zoologists, and palaeontologists are at present believers in polyphyletic development. H. Meyer, Der gegenw. Stand der Entwickelungslehre, pp.50 ff. Reinke, Die Natur und Wir, pp.126 ff., 139 ff. Wasmann, Der Kampf um das Entwickelungsproblem in Berlin, Freiburg, 1907.
188Stanley Hall, Adolescence, pp.35,45,49. Stratz, op. cit., p.17.
189Gutberlet, Der Mensch, sein Ursprung und seine Entwickelung. Paderborn, 1903.
190Stanley Hall, Adolescence, I, p.107; II, p.67.
191Ibid., I, p.55.
192Ibid., II, p.568.
193Ibid., I, p.241.
194Fr. Ratzel, Völkerkunde, 3 Bde. Leipzig, 1885, I, p.5.
195Schneider, Die Naturvö1ker, 2 Bde., 1885, 1886. Gutberiet, op. cit., pp. 380 ff., 412 ff. 474 ff. Froberger, Die Schöpfungsgeseh. der Menschheit in der voraussetzungslosen Völkerpsychologie, Trier, 1903.
196Steinmetz, De Studie der Volkenkunde, p.31.
197Wundt, Völkerpsychologie, II, 2, 1906, p.150.
198Steinmetz, op. cit., p.41.
199Orr, God’s Image in Man, London, 1906, pp.163 ff.
200Steinmetz, op. cit., pp.32 ff. Fr. Ratzel, op. cit., I, p.10. H. J. Koenen, Het Recht in den Kring van het Gezin., Rotterdam, 1900, pp.65, 69.
201Stanley Hall, Adolescence, II, pp.649-650, 685, 713 ff., 726 ff.
202Korte Beschouwingen over Bloei en Verval der Natiën, Wetensch. Bladen, July, 1904, pp.117-128.
203Zöckler, Die Lehre vom Urstand des Menschen, Gütersloh, 1879, pp.140 ff. Orr, God’s Image in Man, p.301.
204H. Schurtz, Völkerkunde, 1903, p.25. Stoinmetz, op. cit., p.49. Orr, op. cit., p. 186. Zöckler, op. cit., p.135.
205Fr. Ratzel, Vö1kerkunde, I, p. 14.
207Steinmetz, pp. 45, 54.
208Dilthey, Einleitung, pp.38, 39.
209Wundt, Völkerpsychologie, II, p.428.
210Gutberlet, Der Mensch.
211L. Stein, Der Sinn des Daseins, pp.220-239.
212G. Ratzenhofer, Die soziologische Erkenntniss. Leipzig, 1898, p.125. Comp. L. Stein, op. cit., p.226.
213In L. Stein, op. cit., pp.227 ff.
214Dr. Joseph Müller, Das sexuelle Leben der Naturvölker. Leipzig, 1906.
215Schmoller, Grundriss der allgem. Volkswirtschaftslehre, Leipzig, 1901, I, p.122; II, p.654.
216Steinmetz, op. cit., p.54.
217Wundt, Völkerpsychologie, II, 1, Leipzig, 1905, pp.64, 85, 335. II, 2, p.165. Id., Vorlesungen über die Menschen und Tierseele, 1906, p.17. Fr. Ratzel, Vö1kerkunde, I, p.13. Gwatkin, The Knowledge of God, I, pp.253 ff. Reinke, Die Natur und Wir. 1908, p.84.
218Wundt, Völkerpsychologie, II, 2, p.165. Gutberlet, Der Mensch., pp.398 ff.
219Troeltsch, Die Christ. Religion in Die Kultur der Gegenwart, p.483.
220Schroeder in Beiträge zur Weiterentw. der Christl. Religion, 1905, p.8. Tiele, Inleiding, II, pp.108, 202, 204. H. de Vries, Afstammings- en Mutatieleer, p.36.
221Garvie, art. “Revelation,” in Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible.
222Comp. the author’s address: Christelijke Wetenschap, 1904, pp. 73 ff. Bertholet, Religion und Geisteskultur, II, pp.1 ff.
223Flournoy, Les Principes de la Psychologie religieuse. Genève, 1903, pp.8, 9. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, pp.26, 27.
224Comp. the author’s Psychologie der Religie, Versl. en Meded. der Kon. Ak. v. Wet., Afd. Lett., 1907, pp. 1-32.
225Troeltsch, op. cit., p.481.
226Tiele, Inleiding, I, p.61; II, pp.66, 110, 214, 215.
227Dilthey, Einl. in die Geisteswiss., pp. 167 ff.
228Tiele, Inleiding, II, pp.64 ff.
229Ibid., p. 65.
231Pierson, Gods Wondermacht en ons Geestelijk Leven, 1867, p. 42. W. Sanday, The Life of Christ in Recent Research, Oxford, 1907, pp. 204 ff. The Nature of Prayer, by the Rev. Lyman Abbott, Moncure D. Conway, the Rev. Dr. W. R. Huntingdon, North American Review, Nov., 1907, pp.337-348.
232Ch. de la Saussaye, Lehrbuch der Religionsgeschichte, I, 1905, p.6.
233Bethe, Mythus, Sage, Märchen,<.I> Leipzig, 1905, pp.43, 44.
234R. C. Boer, Heldensage en Mythologie, Gids, Jan., 1907, p. 84. Comp. also Steinthal, Zu Bibel und Religionsphilos., pp.127, 150. Dilthey, Einl., pp.169, 171, 174 ff., 178. Wundt, Vö1kerpsych., II, pp.551 ff. De historische achtergrond der Europeesche sprookjeswereld, Wet. Bladen, July, 1908, pp.1-16, after an article by A. S. Herbert, in The Nineteenth Century, Febr., 1908.
235J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough. Comp. Ladd, I, pp.144 ff.
236 Preuss, Der Ursprung der Religion und Kunst, Globus Bd, 86, 87, p. 249.
237Tiele, Inl., II, 120. Ladd, I, pp.103, 144. Gwatkin, The Knowledge of God, I, pp.249, 252, 263.
238Jeremias, Die Panbabylonisten, Leipzig, 1907, p. 17.
239Bethe, op. cit., p.40.
240Dilthey, Einl., pp.178 ff.