The Varieties of Religious Experience HTML version
Lecture 20. Conclusions
The material of our study of human nature is now spread before us; and in this parting
hour, set free from the duty of description, we can draw our theoretical and practical
conclusions. In my first lecture, defending the empirical method, I foretold that whatever
conclusions we might come to could be reached by spiritual judgments only,
appreciations of the significance for life of religion, taken "on the whole." Our
conclusions cannot be as sharp as dogmatic conclusions would be, but I will formulate
them, when the time comes, as sharply as I can.
Summing up in the broadest possible way the characteristics of the religious life, as we
have found them, it includes the following beliefs:--
1. That the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe from which it draws its chief
2. That union or harmonious relation with that higher universe is our true end;
3. That prayer or inner communion with the spirit thereof-- be that spirit "God" or "law"--
is a process wherein work is really done, and spiritual energy flows in and produces
effects, psychological or material, within the phenomenal world.
Religion includes also the following psychological characteristics:--
4. A new zest which adds itself like a gift to life, and takes the form either of lyrical
enchantment or of appeal to earnestness and heroism.
5. An assurance of safety and a temper of peace, and, in relation to others, a
preponderance of loving affections.
In illustrating these characteristics by documents, we have been literally bathed in
sentiment. In re-reading my manuscript, I am almost appalled at the amount of
emotionality which I find in it.
After so much of this, we can afford to be dryer and less sympathetic in the rest of the
work that lies before us.
The sentimentality of many of my documents is a consequence of the fact that I sought
them among the extravagances of the subject. If any of you are enemies of what our
ancestors used to brand as enthusiasm, and are, nevertheless, still listening to me now,
you have probably felt my selection to have been sometimes almost perverse, and have
wished I might have stuck to soberer examples. I reply that I took these extremer
examples as yielding the profounder information. To learn the secrets of any science, we
go to expert specialists, even though they may be eccentric persons, and not to
commonplace pupils. We combine what they tell us with the rest of our wisdom, and