Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Schleiermacher - On Religion

1. First Speech: Defence

Where is there room for the eternal and holy Being that lies beyond the world in our worldly focus on the arts and sciences? Human beings are torn between striving to establish their individuality and longing to surrender themselves. The first leads to an insatiable sensuality (empiricism) and the second to abstract principles (rationalism). Both are distorted and smoothed away to a dull mediocrity in which no excess appears. Those who unite both impulses in experience are mediators between limited man and infinite humanity.

What is the origin of religion? Fear of eternal being and desire for immortality? Perhaps, but Schleiermacher wants to be clear that religion is not a system. Religion is discovered in the emotions, and not in the plastic spirit of high contemplation. In order to understand religion, one must transport oneself into the interior of a pious soul and seek to understand its inspiration (18). "I maintain that in all better souls piety springs necessarily by itself; that a province of its own in the mind belongs to it, in which it has unlimited sway; that it is worthy to animate most profoundly the noblest and best and to be fully accepted and known by them" (21).

2. Second Speech: The Nature of Religion

Religion is usually thought to be either a way of thinking or a way of acting, but it is not essentially either. One may say that religion is contemplative, "but this contemplation is not turned, as your knowledge of nature is, to the existence of a finite thing, combined and opposed to another finite thing. The contemplation of the pious is the immediate consciousness of the universal existence of all finite things, in and through the Infinite, and of all temporal things in and through the Eternal" (36). Religion in itself is affection, a revelation of the Infinite in the finite, God being seen in it and it in God. Morality is always manipulating, but piety can be passive. When one does not acknowledge religion as the third, knowledge and action are so much apart that you can discover no unity (38). If man is not one with the Eternal in the unity of intuition and feeling which is immediate, he remains, in the unity of consciousness which is derived, forever apart. "The inner sanctuary of life - there alone you discover the original relation of intuition and feeling from which alone this identity and difference is to be understood. Wherefore as soon as you have made any given definite activity of your soul an object of communication or of contemplation, you already begin to separate" (41).

Feeling = immediate, raised above all error and misunderstanding, lying directly on the bosom of the infinite world. This is the true sphere of religion. Your feeling is piety, in so far as it is the result of the operation of God in you by means of the operation of the world upon you (45). Schleiermacher makes an Impt. distinction between religion and knowledge about religion (theological principles). If theological ideas and principles are not from reflection on a man's own feeling, they must be learned by rote and are utterly void. Without feeling, religion is dead. To take what are meant as descriptions of our feelings for a science of the object necessarily leads to mysticism and vain mythology (49). The sum total of religion is to feel that, in its highest unity, all that moves us in feeling is one (50).

The essential oneness of religiousness spreads itself out in a great variety of provinces, and again, in each province it contracts itself (51). Religion thus fashions itself with endless variety, down even to the single personality. Religion is like music, one great whole; it is a special, self-contained revelation of the world. Everything is to be found immediately and not proved from something else (anti-Thomas) (53). The whole circumference of religion is infinite, and is not to be comprehended under one form, but only under the sum total of all forms. Consciousness of infinity accompanies religion.

So "what is it in religion about which men have quarrelled and made parties and kindled wars? About definitions, the practical sometimes, the theoretical always, both of which belong elsewhere. But religion does not, even once, desire to bring those who believe and feel to one belief and one feeling. Its endeavor is to open in those who are not yet capable of religious emotions, the sense for the unity of the original source of life. But just because each seer is a new priest, a new mediator, a new organ, he flees with repugnance the bald uniformity which would again destroy this divine abundance" (55). There is in religion such a capacity for unlimited manysidedness in judgment and in contemplation as is nowhere else to be found (56). Religion is the natural and sworn foe of all narrowmindedness. People who say otherwise confuse religion and the knowledge which belongs to theology (56). Religion by itself does not urge men to activity at all.

The whole religious life consists of two elements, that man surrender himself to the Universe and allow himself to be influenced by the side of it that is turned towards him is one part, and that he transplant this contact which is one definite feeling, within, and take it up into the inner unity of his life and being, is the other (58).

Where now among all it produces is religion chiefly to be sought -> feeling (63). The outward nature is little else than the outer court (Tillich's worry) (63). One can have joy in nature, but the truly religious joy in nature is not it itself, but the essence of it, the external law in virtue of which nature is wondrous and beautiful. The religious sense corresponds not to the masses in the outer world, but to their eternal laws. The multitude of forms of life and the enormous mass of material which each uses in turn, there is enough for all. What a feeling of endless fullness and superabundant riches! See how attraction and repulsion everywhere and always active, determine everything.

The sense of the Whole must not primarily be found in nature but rather in our own minds, the nearest world is the seat of religion (71). But this does not mean that one must go it alone; one must rejoice in everything and share with a found humanity by accepting a mediator between our normal limited way of thinking and the eternal laws of the world. Each individual has a necessary complement of a complete intuition of humanity because each individual has a connection to the Whole.

Schleiermacher then describes a few stages on the path to consciousness of the infinite: 1) We start as crude empiricists, who seek to conduct our own existence according to own self-will and not be disturbed by the eternal current of the world (78). 2) Then the ego vanishes into nothingness, and 3) the Whole becomes clear to us in fellowship with others. 4) Finally, one realizes that "You are a compendium of humanity. Your Ego, being multiplied and more clearly outlined, is in all its smallest and swiftest changes immortalized in the manifestations of human nature" (79).

In religion, history is not science, but prophecy. What is finest and tenderest in history cannot be communicated scientifically, but can only be comprehended in the feeling of a religious disposition (80).

In religion, the universe is not the moral world, which cannot include immediate feeling without at once having its original power and purity disturbed. Nonetheless, religion is for morality an indispensable friend.

Religion is a necessary complement to our existence as imperfect, finite creatures. Individuals can pursue excellence, but only in certain spheres...hence most virtuosos are one-sided and defective, or at least, outside of their own sphere, they sink into an inferior kind of life (86). The only remedy is for each man to allow himself to be affected by the Infinite (86). Man sets alongside of the finite that he concentrates on, an Infinite; alongside of the contracting endeavor for something definite and complete, expansive soaring in the Whole and the Inexhaustible. In this way he restores the balance and harmony of his nature (87).

Religion leaves physics untouched. A miracle = the religious name for an event. Every event, even the most natural and usual, becomes a miracle, as soon as the religious view of it can be dominant (88). Revelation = that which proceeds from every intuition and every original feeling. Inspiration = the general expression for the feeling of true morality and freedom. Prophecy = religious anticipation of the other half of a religious event. Grace = the common expression for revelation and inspiration, for interchange between the entrance of the world into man, through intuition and feeling, and the outgoing of man into the world, through action and culture (90).

To wish to have and hold a faith that is an echo, proves that a man is incapable of religion; to demand it of others, shows that there is no understanding of religion (91). "You must belong to yourselves. This is an indispensable condition of having any part in religion. Not every person has religion who believes in a sacred writing, but only the man who has a lively and immediate understanding of it, and who, therefore could most easily do without it."

So what about God and immortality? They are ideas, and as ideas can have no greater value in religion than ideas generally (93). But the divine in us is immediately affected and called forth by feeling -> God! The proper standard of religiousness is a sense for the Deity. But to which idea he will attach himself depends purely on what he requires it for, and whether his imagination chiefly inclines towards existence and nature or consciousness and thought. Imagination is the free generation of thoughts, whereby you come to a conception of the world; such a conception you cannot receive from without, nor compound from inferences (98). In religious life then we may well say we have already offered up and disposed of all that is mortal, and that we are actually enjoying immortality (100). By focusing on an afterlife, people lose the immortality that they could always have, and their mortal life in addition, by thought that distress and torture them in vain. The usual conception of God as one single being outside of the world and behind the world is not the beginning and the end of religion. It is only one manner of expressing God, seldom entirely pure and always inadequate. Religion is in the midst of finitude to be one with the Infinite and in every moment to be eternal in the immortality of religion (101).

3. Third Speech: The Cultivation of Religion

Religious people desire to make proselytes from unbelievers, but they should remember that one can only communicate conceptions; no one can arrive at the point of making others think what thoughts he will (121). Schleiermacher intends to show that the cultivation of religion is like the cultivation of an artistic sense: "The whole world is a gallery of religious scenes, and every man finds himself in the midst of them." How then does the Universe train its own observers?

Man is born with religious capacity, but a sense for the profoundest depths of his own nature is crushed out by the rage for calculating and explaining, which seeks to bind man to a very small part of the finite. Schleiermacher reverently regards the longing of young minds for the supernatural and laments the way in which they are cheated of their natural sense by a hostile intellectualism, "whereby a world does not disclose itself (130).

Religious man is tempted toward two poles: one is to focus exclusively on the world, the other is to focus too much on the self. The former detaches the religious person from the Infinite; the latter do not open themselves to nature and are compelled to circulate eternally in an all too narrow sphere.

An end must be made to the slavery in which the sense of man is held, for the benefit of exercisings of the understanding whereby nothing is exercised (136). We are tired of seeing barren, encyclopedia versatility. Everyone should seek something definite, and follow something with steadfastness and concentration. Art more than anything else can combine a sense of ego and world. Religion and art stand together like kindred beings. To unite their waters in one channel, is the sole means for bringing religion to completion. When religion is accorded its proper place, philosophy, ethics and natural science are all allowed to proceed with their individual tasks successfully.

4. Association in Religion, or Church and Priesthood

There are many corruptions in the outward manifestation of religion, the church, but religion must be social if it is to be religion at all. This socialness stems from the vivid feeling of man's utter incapacity ever to exhaust the religious feeling for himself alone. This urges him to give his religion full expression and, seeking his own perfection, to listen to every note that he can recognize as religious. Yet religion is not just sociality; it withdraws itself from mirth and laughing, from too wide circles. Religious men seek the melodies of thought and feeling interchange and give mutual support (152). Religion in this way seeks unification, the Whole, and not division. "If unconstrained universality of the sense is the first and original condition of religion, you can surely see that the whole religious world must appear as an indivisible whole" (154). It is thus out of desire for wholeness that religion seeks extension, and not in order to divide into sects.

The great association which is the object of so much criticism is the counterpart of the true church (157). The visible church is without knowledge or guess of true religion. They desire ideas, opinions, dogmas, not religion. Their services have a school-mastering, mechanical nature, which indicates that they merely seek to import religion from without.

Nonetheless, this visible church should not be destroyed, but reorganized and seen in its relation to the true church. The problem with the visible church is that it seeks to decorate the simple grandeur of the heavenly structure with rags from earthly splendour; instead of fulfilling holy vows, they have left worldly gifts as offerings to the Highest. The visible church melds together political ambitions and pride and covetousness, thus forcing out the truly pious. The state also plays a large role in dividing the visible church from the true church; it pollutes religious fellowship by introducing into its deepest mysteries its own interests (169).

So what form should the church take? The priest should seek an assembly, not a congregation. He should want an open fellowship, to speak for all to hear. The visible religious society can only be brought nearer the universal freedom and majestic unity of the true church by becoming a mobile mass, having no distinct outlines, but each part being now here, now there, and all peacefully mingling together. The hateful sectarian and proselytizing spirit which leads ever farther astray from the essentials of religion, can only be extinguished when no one, any more, is informed that he belongs to a distinct circle, and is for other circles of a different faith (176). Besides closed fellowships, mechanical labor also keeps people from religion: "there is no greater hindrance to religion than that we must be our own slaves, and everyone is a slave who must execute something it ought to be possible to do by dead force" (178).

The more everyone approaches the Universe and the more they communicate to one another, the more perfectly they all become one. No one has a consciousness for himself, each has also that of his neighbor" (180).

5. The Religions

It is in the nature of religion that it be multiple. No man can perfectly possess all religion because men are determined in one special way and religion is endlessly determinable (212). But plurality of religions is another thing than plurality of the church. The essence of the church is fellowship. Its limit, therefore, cannot be the uniformity of religious persons. It is just difference that should be brought into fellowship. We must abandon the vain and foolish wish that there should only be one religion (214).

Schleiermacher opts to support the diversity of antagonistic positive religions over the so-called "natural religions" which blur distinctions. "The whole of religion is nothing but the sum of all relations of man to God, apprehended in all the possible ways in which any man can be immediately conscious in his life. In this sense there is but one religion, for it would be but a poverty-stricken and halting life, if all these relations did not exist wherever religion ought to be" (217). "You are wrong therefore with your universal religion that is natural to all, for no one will have his own true and right religion, if it is the same for all" (217). As long as we are individuals, every man has greater receptiveness for some religious experience and feelings than others. In this way everything is different. Manifestly then, no single relation can accord to every feeling its due (218).

Schleiermacher spends some time rejecting the "natural religions," from naturalism to pantheism, polytheism and deism, for they all lack what individual religions lack, which is the great relation of mankind to the HIghest Being. "Where religion is so moulded that everything is seen and felt in connection with one relation to the Deity that mediates it or embraces it, it matters not in what place or in what man it is formed or what relation is selected, it is a strictly positive religion" (223). Religion can only be exhibited in definite form, and only those who pitch their camp there have the well-earned right of citizenship in that world. But must every pious person associate with some religion? No. But his religion must be developed in himself characteristically and definitely. Whosoever does not find himself at home in an existing religion must belong to none but should be held bound to produce a new one for himself (224). The existing forms of religion should not in themselves hinder any man from developing a religion suitable to his own nature and his own religious sense.

In religious life, a definite connection with a past, a present and a future is made (227). Every subsequent moment after someone enters the religious life displays the purest expression of the whole nature. A new man arises, a peculiar nature. Every intelligent finite being announces its spiritual nature and individuality by taking you back to what I may call a previous marriage in him of the Infinite with the finite, and your imagination refuses to explain it from any single prior factor, whether caprice or nature (228). All this being considered, it is hard to complain against the positive religions.

Positive religion is a reflection of our situatedness: by the very fact of a man's existence he is set in a world, in a definite order or things, and becomes an object among other objects, and a religious man, by attaining his individual life, enters by this very fact into a common life, which is to say into some definite form of religion (230). Against the calm rationalists who argue against baleful enthusiasm and slow progress, Schleiermacher claims that they have mixed religion with metaphysics and morals. The religion of men of this kind is an inarticulate echo of the piety around them. The essence of natural religion consists almost entirely in denying everything positive and characteristic in religion and in violent polemics (233). It springs from wretched generality and vain soberness (234). Their resistance to the positive and arbitrary is a resistance to the definite and real. Positive religion on the other hand has a holy zeal with which it is contemplated, communicated and enjoyed, a child-like longing with which new revelations of heavenly power are expected (235). It asks you to dig deeper where your magic rod has once pointed, and without fail you will bring forth the heavenly stream to the light of day (what is the psychoanalytic reading of this?).

But it also asks you to regard the human which is to receive the divine. Do not forget that religion bears traces of the culture of every age and of the history of every race of men. Never forget the difference between the essence of religion and its historical forms. Religious men are throughout historical. Never forget that the fundamental intuition of a religion must be some intuition of the Infinite in the finite, some one universal religious relation, found in every other religion that would be complete, but in this one only placed in the centre (237). Guard yourself from both rigid systematizers and shallow indifferentists.

The whole idea of Judaism is childlike. The original intuition of Christianity is more glorious, more sublime, more worthy of adult humanity, penetrates deeper into the spirit of systematic religion and extends itself further over the whole Universe. It is just the intuition of the Universal resistance of finite things to the unity of the Whole, and of the way the Deity treats this resistance -> sin and grace (241). Corruption and redemption, hostility and mediation, are the two indivisibly united, fundamental elements of this type of feeling (241). Just because religion is nowhere so fully idealized as in Christianity, perpetual warfare against all that is actual in religion is presented as a duty that can never be sufficiently fulfilled (243). An infinite holiness is the aim of Christianity. If the mind is for a moment without intuition and feeling of the Infinite, it at once becomes conscious of hostility and remoteness. Christianity demands that piety be a constant state (245). With Christians, holy sadness is not occasional, but is the dominant tone of all their religious feelings. The truly divine element of Christianity is the idea that all that is finite requires a higher mediation to be in accord with the Deity (246). No man knoweth the father but the son, and he to whom the son shall reveal him.

But Christ never maintained that he is the only mediator. His disciples too were far from confusing his school with his religion. He always pointed to the living truth which would come after him. The BIble should not be regarded as a finished, fixed work. A time will come, it says, when there shall no more be any mediator, but the Father shall be all in all. But when shall this time come? I, at least, can only believe that it lies beyond all time.

Christianity scorns the idea that it is the only type of religion. Not only would it produce in itself variety to infinity, but would willingly see even outside all that it cannot produce from itself. As nothing is more irreligious than to demand general uniformity in mankind, so nothing is more unchristian than to see uniformity in religion (252).

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