Science of Religion

 Vol. II (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1899)

First AMS edition published in 1979

[Translation of Inleiding tot de godsdienst wetenschap.]

Reprint of the 1897-1899 ed. published by W. Blackwood, Edinburg, in series: The Gifford lectures, 1896 and 1898.


         [2] Can we discover, among religious phenomena, any that recur so invariably that we are justified in regarding them as necessary manifestations of religious conscious[3]ness, whatever stage of development the religion may have attained? Or, in other words, Does religion contain any constant elements, none of which it can lack without injuring it and rendering it imperfect, and which therefore belong to every sound and normal religion?

         [3] In every religion, from the lowest to the highest, we find certain conceptions regarding the supernatural powers upon which men feel their dependence, certain sentiments they cherish towards them, and certain observances they perform in their honour. This common and popular view, although inexact as we shall afterwards see, corresponds fairly well with reality. It has been countenanced by scientific authors, and adopted in various handbooks. Professor Rhys Davids,[1] for example, has recently defined the word religion as “a convenient expression for a very complex set of mental conditions, including, firstly, beliefs as to internal and external mysteries (souls and gods); secondly, the mental attitude induced by those beliefs; and thirdly, the actions and conduct depend[4]ent on both.”   Others again mention only two constituents of religion, conceptions and ritual, with the religious community founded upon these; but they regard both as manifestations of religious faith, and they deem the relation between the worshipper and his god as essential in every religion (Rauwenhoff);[2] or, like the philosopher Teichmüller, they resolve every imaginable form of religion into Dogmatic, Ethic, and Cult;[3] or lastly, according to the most recent theory, they explain this threefold basis by saying that religion consists in a direction of the will coincident with a conception of the deity, and that sentiment is the badge of its real existence.[4]

         [5] Pfleiderer’s view that the essence of religion consists in a direction of the will coinciding with certain conceptions of the deity, and that sentiment is merely a badge of its real existence. [6] … The true-constituents of religion are emotions, conceptions, and sentiments, of which words and deeds are at once the [7] offspring and the index. …

         [14] Religion therefore, which is a mental condition, manifests itself in all kinds of words and deeds. …

         [15] Religion always begins with an emotion. Strictly speaking, an emotion is simply the result of something that moves us, the effect of some external agency. But I use the word here in the more general sense in which it is commonly understood. And in this sense every emotion embraces three elements: (1) a predisposition, in the form of certain longings or aspirations, as yet partly unconscious, and certain latent and vague conceptions, differing according to the temperament and inclination of the individual, which may be described as a mood; (2) an impression produced upon us from without, or the affection itself; and (3) the fact of becoming conscious of such affection, or the perception of such affection. …  [19] But in the sphere of region the emotion consists in the consciousness that we are in the power of a Being whom we revere as the highest, and to whom we feel attracted and related; it consists in the adoration which impels us to dedicate ourselves entirely to the adored object, yet also to possess it and to be in union with it. …

         [25] Every living religion that bears fruit in human life – that is, every religion rooted in faith—begins with emotion, whether produced by teaching and preaching, or by our own contemplation of nature around us, or by our wrestling with it and with our lot in life. …

         [67] Religion beings with conceptions awakened by emotions and experiences, and these conceptions produce definite sentiments, which were already present in germ in the first religious emotions, but which can only be aroused to consciousness by these conceptions; and these sentiments manifest themselves in actions….

         [194] He [Hermann Siebeck in his Lehrbuch der Religionsphilosophie, p. 263] regards religion as a conviction that God and a super-terrestrial world exist, and that redemption is possible—a conviction to which heart and mind alike contribute, and which is practically oper[195]ative. And in the determination of religious consciousness, faith is the essential psychological moment. Faith, in this highest sense, he describes as an act performed by the freewill of the individual. This act consists, in the first place, in an affirmative answer being given by the believer, with regard to the idea of the Good, to the question whether the existence of a highest goodness and a highest worth should be admitted or denied—a question which, in view of the doubts begotten by experience and reflection, cannot be solved theoretically; but the act is, at the same time, a postulation of the super-terrestrial personality of God as the profoundest guarantee and the all-sufficient foundation of the continuous realization of goodness. …

[196] Religion is essentially a frame of mind in which all its various elements have their source. Religion is piety, manifesting itself in word and deed, in conceptions and observances, in doctrine and in life. …

         [197] That religion is really piety is no new discovery. … For, unless we would rest satisfied with using one term in place of another, we must further determine what piety really means. We need not trouble ourselves much about etymologies; for we must bear in mind that the German fromm, the Dutch vroom, and the Latin pius are no longer used in their original senses, but now possess a different and deeper significance. Fromm or vroom originally meant what is “useful, profitable, or salutary,’ and pius meant “dutiful or loyal.” We have ceased to use the word “pious” in any of these senses. Piety is now practically synonymous with “devotion, or consecration,” because it involves the idea of self-dedication and personal [198] sacrifice, which is one of the root-ideas of religion….

         [198] Now, wherever I discover piety, as manifested in different stages of religious progress, and particularly as exhibited in full in the highest stage as yet attained, I maintain that its essence, and therefore the essence of religion itself, is adoration. In adoration are united those two phases of religion which are termed by the schools “transcendent” and “immanent” respectively, or which, in religious language, represent the believer as “looking up to God as the Most High,” and “feeling himself akin to God as his Father.” For adoration necessarily involves the elements of holy awe, humble reverence, grateful acknowledgment of every token of love, hopeful confidence, lowly self-abasement, a deep sense of one’s own unworthiness and shortcomings, total self-abnegation, and unconditional consecration of one’s whole life and [199] one’s whole faculties. To adore is to love “with all one’s heart and soul and mind and strength.” To adore is to give oneself, with all that one has and holds dearest. But at the same time—and herein consists its other phase—adoration includes a desire to possess the adored object, to call it entirely one’s own, and conversely a longing on the part of the adorer to feel that he belongs to the adored one for ever, in joy and in sorrow, in life and in death.


[Submitted by James A. Santucci]


[1] Buddhism, its History and Literature: New York and London, 1896, p. 4.

[2] Wijsbegeerte van den Godsdienst; Leiden, 1887.

[3] Religionsphilosophie; Breslau, 1886.

[4] O. Pfleiderer, Religionsgeschichte auf geschichtlicher Grundlage, 3te neu bearbeitete Ausgabe; Berlin, 1896.