The Varieties of Religious Experience HTML version

Lecture 8. The Divided Self, And The Process Of Its
The last lecture was a painful one, dealing as it did with evil as a pervasive element of the
world we live in. At the close of it we were brought into full view of the contrast between
the two ways of looking at life which are characteristic respectively of what we called the
healthy-minded, who need to be born only once, and of the sick souls, who must be
twice-born in order to be happy. The result 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 one denomination, whose parts have just the
values which naturally they appear to have, and of which a simple algebraic sum of
pluses and minuses will give the total worth. Happiness and religious peace consist in
living on the plus side of the account. In the religion of the twice-born, on the other hand,
the world is a double-storied mystery. Peace cannot be reached by the simple addition of
pluses and elimination of minuses from life. Natural good is not simply insufficient in
amount and transient, there lurks a falsity in its very being. Cancelled as it all is by death
if not by earlier enemies, it gives no final balance, and can never be the thing intended for
our lasting worship. It keeps us from our real good, rather; and renunciation and despair
of it are our first step in the direction of the truth. There are two lives, the natural and the
spiritual, and we must lose the one before we can participate in the other.
In their extreme forms, of pure naturalism and pure salvationism, the two types are
violently contrasted; though here as in most other current classifications, the radical
extremes are somewhat ideal abstractions, and the concrete human beings whom we
oftenest meet are intermediate varieties and mixtures. Practically, however, you all
recognize the difference: you understand, for example, the disdain of the methodist
convert for the mere sky-blue healthy-minded moralist; and you likewise enter into the
aversion of the latter to what seems to him the diseased subjectivism of the Methodist,
dying to live, as he calls it, and making 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 of evil, predestination, and the like. These never presented a practical difficulty to
any man--never darkened across any man's road, who did not go out of his way to seek
them. These are the soul's mumps, and measles, and whooping-coughs, etc. Emerson:
Spiritual Laws.
The psychological basis of the twice-born character seems to be a certain discordancy or
heterogeneity in the native temperament of the subject, an incompletely unified moral
and intellectual constitution.
"Homo duplex, homo duplex!" writes Alphonse Daudet. "The first time that I perceived
that I was two was at the death of my brother Henri, when my father cried out so
dramatically, 'He is dead, he is dead!' While my first self wept, my second self thought,