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HOME > Religious Fiction > The Varieties of Religious Experience > Lecture VIII THE DIVIDED SELF, AND THE PROCESS OF ITS UNIFICATION
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The last lecture was a painful one, dealing as it did with evil as a pervasive element of the worldwe live in. At the close of it we were brought into full view of the contrast between the two waysof looking at life which are characteristic respectively of what we called the healthy-minded, whoneed to be born only once, and of the sick souls, who must be twice-born in order to be happy. Theresult is two different conceptions of the universe of our experience. In the religion of the once-born the world is a sort of rectilinear or one-storied affair, whose accounts are kept in onedenomination, whose parts have just the values which naturally they appear to have, and of whicha simple algebraic sum of pluses and minuses will give the total worth. Happiness and religiouspeace consist in living on the plus side of the account. In the religion of the twice-born, on theother hand, the world is a double-storied mystery. Peace cannot be reached by the simple additionof pluses and elimination of minuses from life. Natural good is not simply insufficient in amountand transient, there lurks a falsity in its very being. Cancelled as it all is by death if not by earlierenemies, it gives no final balance, and can never be the thing intended for our lasting worship. Itkeeps us from our real good, rather; and renunciation and despair of it are our first step in thedirection of the truth. There are two lives, the natural and the spiritual, and we must lose the onebefore we can participate in the other. In their extreme forms, of pure naturalism and puresalvationism, the two types are violently contrasted; though here as in most other currentclassifications, the radical extremes are somewhat ideal abstractions, and the concrete humanbeings whom we oftenest meet are intermediate varieties and mixtures. Practically, however, youall recognize the difference: you understand, for example, the disdain of the methodist convert forthe mere sky-blue healthy-minded moralist; and you likewise enter into the aversion of the latter towhat seems to him the diseased subjectivism of the Methodist, dying to live, as he calls it, andmaking of paradox and the inversion of natural appearances the essence of God's truth.[86]

[86] E.g., "Our young people are diseased with the theological problems of original sin, origin ofevil, predestination, and the like. These never presented a practical difficulty to any man--neverdarkened across any man's road, who did not go out of his way to seek them. These are the soul'smumps, and measles, and whooping-coughs, etc. Emerson: Spiritual Laws.

The psychological basis of the twice-born character seems to be a certain discordancy orheterogeneity in the native temperament of the subject, an incompletely unified moral andintellectual constitution.

"Homo duplex, homo duplex!" writes Alphonse Daudet. "The first time that I perceived that Iwas two was at the death of my brother Henri, when my father cried out so dramatically, 'He isdead, he is dead!' While my first self wept, my second self thought, 'How truly given was that cry,how fine it would be at the theatre.' I was then fourteen years old.

"This horrible duality has often given me matter for reflection. Oh, this terrible second me,always seated whilst the other is on foot, acting, living, suffering, bestirring itself. This second methat I have never been able to intoxicate, to make shed tears, or put to sleep. And how it sees intothings, and how it mocks!"[87]

[87] Notes sur la Vie, p. 1.

Recent works on the psychology of character have had much to say upon this point.[88] Somepersons are born with an inner constitution which is harmonious and well balanced from the outset.

Their impulses are consistent with one another, their will follows without trouble the guidance oftheir intellect, their passions are not excessive, and their lives are little haunted by regrets. Othersare oppositely constituted; and are so in degrees which may vary from something so slight as toresult in a merely odd or whimsical inconsistency, to a discordancy of which the consequencesmay be inconvenient in the extreme. Of the more innocent kinds of heterogeneity I find a goodexample in Mrs. Annie Besant's autobiography.

[88] See, for example, F. Paulhan, in his book Les Caracteres, 1894, who contrasts lesEquilibres, les Unifies, with les Inquiets, les Contrariants, les Incoherents, les Emiettes, as so manydiverse psychic types.

"I have ever been the queerest mixture of weakness and strength, and have paid heavily for theweakness. As a child I used to suffer tortures of shyness, and if my shoe-lace was untied wouldfeel shamefacedly that every eye was fixed on the unlucky string; as a girl I would shrink awayfrom strangers and think myself unwanted and unliked, so that I was full of eager gratitude to anyone who noticed me kindly, as the young mistress of a house I was afraid of my servants, andwould let careless work pass rather than bear the pain of reproving the ill-doer; when I have beenlecturing and debating with no lack of spirit on the platform, I have preferred to go without what Iwanted at the hotel rather than to ring and make the waiter fetch it. Combative on the platform indefense of any cause I cared for, I shrink from quarrel or disapproval in the house, and am acoward at heart in private while a good fighter in public. How often have I passed unhappyquarters of an hour screwing up my courage to find fault with some subordinate whom my dutycompelled me to reprove, and how often have I jeered myself for a fraud as the doughty platformcombatant, when shrinking from blaming some lad or lass for doing their work badly. An unkindlook or word has availed to make me shrink into myself as a snail into its shell, while, on theplatform, opposition makes me speak my best."[89]

[89] Annie Besant: an Autobiography, p. 82.

This amount of inconsistency will only count as amiable weakness; but a stronger degree ofheterogeneity may make havoc of the subject's life. There are persons whose existence is littlemore than a series of zig-zags, as now one tendency and now another gets the upper hand. Theirspirit wars with their flesh, they wish for incompatibles, wayward impulses interrupt their mostdeliberate plans, and their lives are one long drama of repentance and of effort to repairmisdemeanors and mistakes.

Heterogeneous personality has been explained as the result of inheritance--the traits of characterof incompatible and antagonistic ancestors are supposed to be preserved alongside of each other.

[90] This explanation may pass for what it is worth--it certainly needs corroboration. But whateverthe cause of heterogeneous personality may be, we find the extreme examples of it in thepsychopathic temperament, of which I spoke in my first lecture. All writers about thattemperament make the inner heterogeneity prominent in their descriptions. Frequently, indeed, it isonly this trait that leads us to ascribe that temperament to a man at all. A "degenere superieur" is simply a man of sensibility in many directions, who finds more difficulty than is common inkeeping <167> his spiritual house in order and running his furrow straight, because his feelingsand impulses are too keen and too discrepant mutually. In the haunting and insistent ideas, in theirrational impulses, the morbid scruples, dreads, and inhibitions which beset the psychopathictemperament when it is thoroughly pronounced, we have exquisite examples of heterogeneouspersonality. Bunyan had an obsession of the words, "Sell Christ for this, sell him for that, sell him,sell him!" which would run through his mind a hundred times together, until one day out of breathwith retorting, "I will not, I will not," he impulsively said, "Let him go if he will," and this loss ofthe battle kept him in despair for over a year. The lives of the saints are full of such blasphemousobsessions, ascribed invariably to the direct agency of Satan. The phenomenon connects itself withthe life of the subconscious self, so-called, of which we must erelong speak more directly.

[90] Smith Baker, in Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, September, 1893.

Now in all of us, however constituted, but to a degree the greater in proportion as we are intenseand sensitive and subject to diversified temptations, and to the greatest possible degree if we aredecidedly psychopathic, does the normal evolution of character chiefly consist in the straighteningout and unifying of the inner self. The higher and the lower feelings, the useful and the erringimpulses, begin by being a comparative chaos within us--they must end by forming a stable systemof functions in right subordination. Unhappiness is apt to characterize the period of order-makingand struggle. If the individual be of tender conscience and religiously quickened, the unhappinesswill take the form of moral remorse and compunction, of feeling inwardly vile and wrong, and ofstanding in false relations to the author of one's being and appointer of one's spiritual fate. This isthe religious melancholy and "conviction of sin" that have played so large a part in the history ofProtestant Christianity. The man's interior is a battle-ground for what he feels to be two deadlyhostile selves, one actual, the other ideal. As Victor Hugo makes his Mahomet say:-"Je suis le champ vil des sublimes combats: Tantot l'homme d'en haut, et tantot l'homme d'enbas; Et le mal dans ma bouche avec le bien alterne, Comme dans le desert le sable et la citerne."Wrong living, impotent aspirations; "What I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I," asSaint Paul says; self-loathing, self-despair; an unintelligible and intolerable burden to which one ismysteriously the heir.

Let me quote from some typical cases of discordant personality, with melancholy in the form ofself-condemnation and sense of sin. Saint Augustine's case is a classic example. You all rememberhis half-pagan, half-Christian bringing up at Carthage, his emigration to Rome and Milan, hisadoption of Manicheism and subsequent skepticism, and his restless search for truth and purity oflife; and finally how, distracted by the struggle between the two souls in his breast and ashamed ofhis own weakness of will, when so many others whom he knew and knew of had thrown off theshackles of sensuality and dedicated themselves to chastity and the higher life, he heard a voice inthe garden say, "Sume, lege" (take and read), and opening the Bible at random, saw the text, "notin chambering and wantonness," etc., which seemed directly sent to his address, and laid the innerstorm to rest forever.[91] Augustine's psychological genius has given an account of the trouble ofhaving a divided self which has never been surpassed.

[91] Louis Gourdon (Essai sur la Conversion de Saint Augustine, Paris, Fischbacher, 1900) hasshown by an analysis of Augustine's writings immediately after the date of his conversion (A. D.

386) that the account he gives in the Confessions is premature. The crisis in the garden marked adefinitive conversion from his former life, but it was to the neo-platonic spiritualism and only ahalfway stage toward Christianity. The latter he appears not fully and radically to have embraceduntil four years more had passed.

"The new will which I began to have was not yet strong enough to overcome that other will,strengthened by long indulgence. So these two wills, one old, one new, one carnal, the otherspiritual, contended with each other and disturbed my soul. I understood by my own experiencewhat I had read, 'flesh lusteth against spirit, and spirit against flesh.' It was myself indeed in boththe wills, yet more myself in that which I approved in myself than in that which I disapproved inmyself. Yet it was through myself that habit had attained so fierce a mastery over me, because Ihad willingly come whither I willed not. Still bound to earth, I refused, O God, to fight on thy side,as much afraid to be freed from all bonds, as I ought to have feared being trammeled by them.

"Thus the thoughts by which I meditated upon thee were like the efforts of one who wouldawake, but being overpowered with sleepiness is soon asleep again. Often does a man when heavysleepiness is on his limbs defer to shake it off, and though not approving it, encourage it; even so Iwas sure it was better to surrender to thy love than to yield to my own lusts, yet though the formercourse convinced me, the latter pleased and held me bound. There was naught in me to answer thycall 'Awake, thou sleeper,' but only drawling, drowsy words, 'Presently; yes, presently; wait a littlewhile.' But the 'presently' had no 'present,' and the 'little while' grew long. . . . For I was afraid thouwouldst hear me too soon, and heal me at once of my disease of lust, which I wished to satiaterather than to see extinguished. With what lashes of words did I not scourge my own soul. Yet itshrank back; it refused, though it had no excuse to offer. . . . I said within myself: 'Come, let it bedone now,' and as I said it, I was on the point of the resolve. I all but did it, yet I did not do it. AndI made another effort, and almost succeeded, yet I did not reach it, and did not grasp it, hesitatingto die to death, and live to life, and the evil to which I was so wonted held me more than the betterlife I had not tried."[92]

[92] Confessions, Book VIII., Chaps. v., vii., xi., abridged.

There could be no more perfect description of the divided will, when the higher wishes lack justthat last acuteness, that touch of explosive intensity, of dynamogenic quality (to use the slang ofthe psychologists), that enables them to burst their shell, and make irruption efficaciously into lifeand quell the lower tendencies forever. In a later lecture we shall have much to say about thishigher excitability.

I find another good description of the divided will in the autobiography of Henry Alline, theNova Scotian evangelist, of whose melancholy I read a brief account in my last lecture. The pooryouth's sins were, as you will see, of the most harmless order, yet they interfered with what provedto be his truest vocation, so they gave him great distress.

"I was now very moral in my life, but found no rest of conscience. I now began to be esteemed inyoung company, who knew nothing of my mind all this while, and their esteem began to be a snareto my soul, for I soon began to be fond of carnal mirth, though I still flattered myself that if I didnot get drunk, nor curse, nor swear, there would be no sin in frolicking and carnal mirth, and Ithought God would indulge young people with some (what I called simple or civil) recreation. Istill kept a round of duties, and would not suffer myself to run into any open vices, and so gotalong very well in time of health and prosperity, but when I was distressed or threatened bysickness, death, or heavy storms of thunder, my religion would not do, and I found there wassomething wanting, and would begin to repent my going so much to frolics, but when the distresswas over, the devil and my own wicked heart, with the solicitations of my associates, and myfondness for young company, were such strong allurements, I would again give way, and thus I gotto be very wild and rude, at the same time kept up my rounds of secret prayer and reading; butGod, not willing I should destroy myself, still followed me with his calls, and moved with suchpower upon my conscience, that I could not satisfy myself with my diversions, and in the midst ofmy mirth sometimes would have such a sense of my lost and undone condition, that I would wishmyself from the company, and after it was over, when I went home, would make many promisesthat I would attend no more on these frolics, and would beg forgiveness for hours and hours; butwhen I came to have the temptation again, I would give way: no sooner would I hear the music anddrink a glass of wine, but I would find my mind elevated and soon proceed to any sort ofmerriment or diversion, that I thought was not debauched or openly vicious; but when I returnedfrom my carnal mirth I felt as guilty as ever, and could sometimes not close my eyes for somehours after I had gone to my bed. I was one of the most unhappy creatures on earth.

"Sometimes I would leave the company (often speaking to the fiddler to cease from playing, as ifI was tired), and go out and walk about crying and praying, as if my very heart would break, andbeseeching God that he would not cut me off, nor give me up to hardness of heart. Oh, whatunhappy hours and nights I thus wore away! When I met sometimes with merry companions, andmy heart was ready to sink, I would labor to put on as cheerful a countenance as possible, that theymight not distrust anything, and sometimes would begin some discourse with young men or youngwomen on purpose, or propose a merry song, lest the distress of my soul would be discovered, ormistrusted, when at the same time I would then rather have been in a wilderness in exile, than withthem or any of their pleasures or enjoyments. Thus for many months when I was in company? Iwould act the hypocrite and feign a merry heart but at the same time would endeavor as much as Icould to shun their company, oh wretched and unhappy mortal that I was! Everything I did, andwherever I went, I was still in a storm and yet I continued to be the chief contriver and ringleaderof the frolics for many months after; though it was a toil and torment to attend them; but the deviland my own wicked heart drove me about like a slave, telling me that I must do this and do that,and bear this and bear that, and turn here and turn there, to keep my credit up, and retain theesteem of my associates: and all this while I continued as strict as possible in my duties, and left nostone unturned to pacify my conscience, watching even against my thoughts, and prayingcontinually wherever I went: for I did not think there was any sin in my conduct, when I wasamong carnal company, because I did not take any satisfaction there, but only followed it, Ithought, for sufficient reasons.

"But still, all that I did or could do, conscience would roar night and day."Saint Augustine and Alline both emerged into the smooth waters of inner unity and peace, and Ishall next ask you to consider more closely some of the peculiarities of the process of unification,when it occurs. It may come gradually, or it may occur abruptly; it may come through alteredfeelings, or through altered powers of action; or it may come through new intellectual insights, orthrough experiences which we shall later have to designate as 'mystical.' However it come, itbrings a characteristic sort of relief; and never such extreme relief as when it is cast into thereligious mould. Happiness! happiness! religion is only one of the ways in which men gain thatgift. Easily, permanently, and successfully, it often transforms the most intolerable misery into theprofoundest and most enduring happiness.

But to find religion is only one out of many ways of reaching unity; and the process ofremedying inner incompleteness and reducing inner discord is a general psychological process,which may take place with any sort of mental material, and need not necessarily assume thereligious form. In judging of the religious types of regeneration which we are about to study, it isimportant to recognize that they are only one species of a genus that contains other types as well.

For example, the new birth may be away from religion into incredulity; or it may be from moralscrupulosity into freedom and license; or it may be produced by the irruption into the individual'slife of some new stimulus or passion, such as love, ambition, cupidity, revenge, or patrioticdevotion. In all these instances we have precisely the same psychological form of event,--afirmness, stability, and equilibrium <173> succeeding a period of storm and stress andinconsistency. In these non-religious cases the new man may also be born either gradually orsuddenly.

The French philosopher Jouffroy has left an eloquent memorial of his own "counter-conversion,"as the transition from orthodoxy to infidelity has been well styled by Mr. Starbuck. Jouffroy'sdoubts had long harassed him; but he dates his final crisis from a certain night when his disbeliefgrew fixed and stable, and where the immediate result was sadness at the illusions he had lost.

"I shall never forget that night of December," writes Jouffroy, "in which the veil that concealedfrom me my own incredulity was torn. I hear again my steps in that narrow naked chamber wherelong after the hour of sleep had come I had the habit of walking up and down. I see again thatmoon, half-veiled by clouds, which now and again illuminated the frigid window-panes. The hoursof the night flowed on and I did not note their passage. Anxiously I followed my thoughts, as fromlayer to layer they descended towards the foundation of my consciousness, and, scattering one byone all the illusions which until then had screened its windings from my view, made them everymoment more clearly visible.

"Vainly I clung to these last beliefs as a shipwrecked sailor clings to the fragments of his vessel;vainly, frightened at the unknown void in which I was about to float, I turned with them towardsmy childhood, my family, my country, all that was dear and sacred to me: the inflexible current ofmy thought was too strong--parents, family, memory, beliefs, it forced me to let go of everything.

The investigation went on more obstinate and more severe as it drew near its term, and did not stopuntil the end was reached. I knew then that in the depth of my mind nothing was left that stooderect.

"This moment was a frightful one; and when towards morning I threw myself exhausted on mybed, I seemed to feel my earlier life, so smiling and so full, go out like a fire, and before meanother life opened, sombre and unpeopled, where in future I must live alone, alone with my fatalthought which had exiled me thither, and which I was tempted to curse. The days which followedthis discovery were the saddest of my life."[93]

[93] Th. Jouffroy: Nouveaux Melanges philosophiques, 2me edition, p. 83. I add two other casesof counter-conversion dating from a certain moment. The first is from Professor Starbuck'smanuscript collection, and the narrator is a woman.

"Away down in the bottom of my heart, I believe I was always more or less skeptical about'God;' skepticism grew as an undercurrent, all through my early youth, but it was controlled andcovered by the emotional elements in my religious growth. When I was sixteen I joined the churchand was asked if I loved God. I replied 'Yes,' as was customary and expected. But instantly with aflash something spoke within me, 'No, you do not.' I was haunted for a long time with shame andremorse for my falsehood and for my wickedness in not loving God, mingled with fear that theremight be an avenging God who would punish me in some terrible way. . . . At nineteen, I had anattack of tonsilitis. Before I had quite recovered, I heard told a story of a brute who had kicked hiswife down-stairs, and then continued the operation until she became insensible. I felt the horror ofthe thing keenly. Instantly this thought flashed through my mind: 'I have no use for a God whopermits such things.' This experience was followed by months of stoical indifference to the God ofmy previous life, mingled with feelings of positive dislike and a somewhat proud defiance of him.

I still thought there might be a God. If so he would probably damn me, but I should have to standit. I felt very little fear and no desire to propitiate him. I have never had any personal relations withhim since this painful experience."The second case exemplifies how small an additional stimulus will overthrow the mind into anew state of equilibrium when the process of preparation and incubation has proceeded far enough.

It is like the proverbial last straw added to the camel's burden, or that touch of a needle whichmakes the salt in a supersaturated fluid suddenly begin to crystallize out.

Tolstoy writes: "S., a frank and intelligent man, told me as follows how he ceased to believe:-"He was twenty-six years old when one day on a hunting expedition, the time for sleep............
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