The essence of Religion


The deepest heart, the inmost essence of religion, apart from

its outward machinery of creed, cult, ceremony and symbol, is

the search for God and the finding of God. Its aspiration is to

discover the Infinite, the Absolute, the One, the Divine, who is

all these things and yet no abstraction but a Being. Its work is

a sincere living out of the true and intimate relations between

man and God, relations of unity, relations of difference, relations

of an illuminated knowledge, an ecstatic love and delight,

an absolute surrender and service, a casting of every part of our

existence out of its normal status into an uprush of man towards

the Divine and a descent of the Divine into man. All this has

nothing to do with the realm of reason or its normal activities;

its aim, its sphere, its process is suprarational. The knowledge

of God is not to be gained by weighing the feeble arguments

of reason for or against his existence: it is to be gained only by

a self-transcending and absolute consecration, aspiration and

experience. Nor does that experience proceed by anything like

rational scientific experiment or rational philosophic thinking.

Even in those parts of religious discipline which seem most to

resemble scientific experiment, the method is a verification of

things which exceed the reason and its timid scope. Even in those

parts of religious knowledge which seem most to resemble intellectual

operations, the illuminating faculties are not imagination,

logic and rational judgment, but revelations, inspirations, intuitions,

intuitive discernments that leap down to us from a plane

of suprarational light. The love of God is an infinite and absolute

feeling which does not admit of any rational limitation and does

not use a language of rational worship and adoration; the delight

in God is that peace and bliss which passes all understanding.

The surrender to God is the surrender of the whole being to a

suprarational light, will, power and love and his service takes

no account of the compromises with life which the practical

reason of man uses as the best part of its method in the ordinary

conduct of mundane existence. Wherever religion really finds

itself, wherever it opens itself to its own spirit,—there is plenty

of that sort of religious practice which is halting, imperfect, halfsincere,

only half-sure of itself and in which reason can get in a

word,—its way is absolute and its fruits are ineffable.






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