The Fundamental Answer

How can the religious conception of the world justify itself and maintain

its freedom in face of such views of spirit and spiritual being? It is

questionable whether it is worth while attempting to do so. Is not the

essence of the validity and freedom of spirit made most certain simply

through the fact that it is able to inquire into it? If we leave popular

naturalism out of the question, is not the attempt made by scientific

naturalism the best witness against itself? For scientific study, and the

establishment of fundamental conceptions and guiding principles are only

possible if mind and thought are free and active and creative. The direct

experience that spirit has of itself, of its individuality and freedom, of

its incomparability with all that is beneath it, is far too constant and

genuine to admit of its being put into a difficulty by a doctrine which it

has itself established. And this doctrine has far too much the character

of a "fixed theory" to carry permanent inward conviction with it. Here

again, the mistake made is in starting with scepticism and with the fewest

and simplest assumptions. It is by no means the case that in order to

discover the truth we must start always from a position of scepticism,

instead of from calm confidence in ourselves and in our conviction that we

possess in direct experience the best guarantee of truth. For we

experience nothing more certainly than the content and riches of our own

mind, its power of acting and creating, and all its great capacities. And

it is part of the duty laid upon us by the religious conception of the

universe, as well as by all other idealistic conceptions, to follow this

path of self-assurance alone, that is, through self-development and

self-deepening, through self-realisation and self-discipline, to use to

the full in our lives all that we have in heart and mind as possibilities,

tendencies, content, and capacities, and so practically to experience the

reality and power of the spiritual that the mood of suspicion and distrust

of it must disappear. The validity of this method is corroborated by all

the critical insight into the nature of our knowledge that we have gained

in the course of our study, and it might be deepened in regard to this

particular case. For here, if anywhere, we must recognise the limitations

of our knowledge; the impossibility of attaining to a full understanding

of the true nature and depths of things applies to the inquiring mind and

its hidden nature. From Descartes to Leibnitz, Kant, and Fries, down to

the historian of materialism itself, F. A. Lange, it has been an axiom of

the idealistic philosophy, expressed now in dogmatic, now in critical

form, that the mathematical-mechanical outlook and causal interpretation

of things, not excluding a naturalistic psychology, is thoroughly

justifiable as a method of arranging scientifically the phenomena

accessible to us and of penetrating more deeply towards an understanding

of these. It is, indeed, justifiable, so long as it does not profess to

reveal the true nature of things, but remains conscious of the free

spirit, whose own work and undertaking the whole is.

Yet here again it is by no means necessary to surrender to naturalism a

field which it has tried to take possession of, but is certainly unable to

hold. We need not try to force naturalism to read out of empirical

psychology the high conclusions as to human nature and spirit which

pertain to the religious outlook, or to find in the "simplicity" of the

"soul monad" a kind of physical proof of its indestructibility, or

anything of that kind. We maintain that to comprehend the true inwardness

of the vitality, freedom, dignity, and power of the spirit is not the

business of psychology at all, but may perhaps be dealt with in ethics, if

it be not admitted that with these concepts one has already entered the

realm of religious experience, and that they are the very centre of

religious theory. But undoubtedly we must reject in great measure the

claims which naturalism makes upon our domain, and maintain that the most

important starting-points for the higher view are to be found in the

priority of everything spiritual over everything material, in the

underivability of the spiritual and the impossibility of describing it in

corporeal-mathematical terms and concepts.