Auguste Sabatier (1839-1901)

Outlines of a Philosophy of Religion

New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d. , 27-28

 [Esquisse d'une philosophie de la religion d'aprs la psychologie et l'histoire, Paris, Fischbacher, 1897.]


[27] We shall now be able to define the essence of religion.  It is a commerce, a conscious and willed relation into which the soul in distress enters with the mysterious power on which it feels that it and its destiny depend.  This commerce with God is realised by prayer.  Prayer is religion in act—that is to say, real religion.  It is prayer which distinguishes religious phenomena from all those which resemble them or lie near to them, [28] from the moral sense, for instance, or aesthetic feeling.  If religion is a practical need, the response to it can only be a practical action.  No theory would suffice.  Religion is nothing if it is not the vital act by which the whole spirit seeks to save itself by attaching itself to its principle.  This act is prayer, by which I mean, not an empty utterance of words, not the repetition of certain sacred formulas, but the movement of the soul putting itself into personal relation and contact with the mysterious power whose presence it feels even before it is able to give it a name. Where this inward prayer is wanting there is no religion; on the other hand, wherever this prayer springs up in the soul and moves it, even in the absence of all form and doctrine clearly defined, there is true religion, living piety.


[Submitted by Kenneth A. Locke]