Exactly this is the problem of the first of the two large divisions of our inquiry. From the discussion of the reasons for the seeming unreality, we are then to turn, in the second division, in the light of the principles brought out in the first division, to a briefer consideration of the positive way to a convincing sense of reality in religious thought and life. The question is throughout both a theoretical one-of the possible full defense of the theistic view of the world, and a practical one-of the religious life.
From the beginning it seems clear that the reasons for the seeming unreality of the spiritual life would naturally include two classes of causes: those causes which are removable by us; and those causes which lie in the nature of the facts involved, and which while not removable by us, can be recognized and taken into account. That is, there are removable causes, and causes not removable but recognizable.
On the one hand, then, there is the unreality which is not due to the necessity of the facts, but to something removable in ourselves-the unreality that exists either because certain misconceptions are held which prevent our seeing the problem aright, or because certain conditions are not fulfilled, upon which alone the clearer vision could come. The removable causes, then, are misconceptions of the facts, and failure to fulfil the natural conditions of the spiritual life.
On the other hand, there are the causes which we cannot remove, but which we can recognize: the seeming unreality which is due to the inevitable limitations and fluctuations of our finite natures; and the seeming unreality which is needed for our moral training. While these causes cannot be removed, the clear recognition of them would do, perhaps, most of all to lift the burden of the sense of the unreality of the spiritual world.
We are to turn first, then, to the removable causes At bottom, both of the removable causes of the seeming unreality of the spiritual life-misconceptions, and failure to fulfil needed conditions-grow out of the deeper failure rightly to relate the spiritual life to the rest of life, to see both its likeness and its difference.
For, it is to be carefully noted, a thing may be unreal to us either because it seems to have no living connection with the rest of our life, or because it seems to have no special contribution to make to life. Some will feel one difficulty most, others the other; but all of us probably feel both difficulties in some degree. So, if the spiritual life is to have reality for us, on the one hand, it must be seen to be of a piece with all life, bound up with the indubitably real world; and yet, on the other hand, it must have individuality-its own reason for being-in its unique and valuable point of view and contribution. That is, the spiritual life must have the reality of connection with all other reals, and the reality of individuality in its own specific contribution to the meaning of life. It must not be so different that it cannot be believed to belong to the same world, and to the same human nature, and to the same God, as the rest of life; and yet it must be seen to be different enough to have a genuine and indispensable contribution of its own to make.
The radical liberal-if I may so call him-feels most the first difficulty, and everywhere has done most to solve it. What Pfleiderer calls the "abstract supernatural" is to this radical liberal a perpetual stumbling-block, and he is ever pointing out the connection, the likeness, and the unity of things. The immanence of God is his one great insistence. The radical orthodox-as perhaps the other temperament may be called-feels most the other difficulty, and has done most for its solution. His great insistence is the transcendence of God. The liberal has done most to establish the likeness; the orthodox, the individuality of religion. And yet, for a man who is willing to see the whole problem, both difficulties are equally real; both solutions are needed; they cannot be thought of as antagonistic. Both the misconceptions of the spiritual life, therefore, and the failure to fulfil its natural conditions, may come from ignoring either the likeness or the difference of the spiritual life.
The two classes of misconceptions of the spiritual life which so arise are particularly plain. Men stumble at the spiritual life, that is, either because it seems so unlike the rest of their life, its conditions all so different; or because they do not see that it has anything of indispensable value to give.
Sometimes the solution of the difficulty of unlikeness seems to have proved too much. It has made religion so like all the rest of life, that religion itself seems to have disappeared in the process. Thus arises the frequent barrenness of the liberal defense of religion. On the other hand, one may seem to make religion so unique as to make it unbelievable, an absolute miracle, with no possible tie of connection with the world we know-an error into which the Ritschlian seems sometimes likely to fall. We shall be guarded against these opposite errors, only by recognizing frankly and fully both needs from the start.
We begin, then, with the misconceptions which come from ignoring the likeness of the spiritual life to the rest of life-its close-knit connections with the whole of existence.
If the spiritual life is a reality at all, we must expect to find it so closely connected with the rest of our life that conditions which hold in all the other realms of our experience will not be without their effect in the spiritual realm. We may not safely forget or ignore, therefore, in the religious life, those great common conditions of all our living which are always at work. Much of our disappointment in spiritual things comes either from quietly ignoring circumstances which we constantly take into account as matters of course in other spheres of life; or from carrying over into the religious life without question certain common fallacies or unwarranted assumptions of ordinary crude thinking, which are felt to be necessarily unspiritual in their implications. Against both mistakes, we have to emphasize the likeness of all the spheres of life: to see, on the one hand, that the spiritual life cannot be set free from the conditions involved in its connection with the rest of life; and, on the other hand, that the fundamental implications of the other spheres of life are not anti-spiritual, as common and cruder views often tacitly assume.
And, first, we need to take into account the effects of the great common conditions of all our living-bodily and psyschical.